I mentioned, in what I hope was a certain woe-is-me tone yesterday, how I overcooked my New York strip night before last. It was still very good, because I did what I do from time to time and splurged on the really good USDA Prime that my meat market has on offer, most weeks. They display the Choice and Prime steaks right next to each other, and the difference is apparent to all but the fat-phobic yoga moms in their XS Lululemons — notable marbling in the Prime, little in the Choice. The flareups that overdid the steak would have reduced the Choice to leather.

The Choice steaks were $14.99 a pound, the Prime $19.99. Alan and I split one, for the standard deck-of-cards-size serving. I don’t feel guilty, because eating is something you have to do at least twice a day, and beef is something I might eat twice a week, so no biggie.

Sometimes I wish I’d gone into food journalism. Although by now I’d probably be a vegetarian. Feedlots are not nice places.

Can you see how hard I am trying not to talk about current events? I have to go back to reading novels instead of Twitter. “The Underground Railroad” is on the coffee table, “Lincoln in the Bardo” is on its way via Amazon (thanks, users of the Kickback Lounge!). I have to take more breaks from this insanity. Think about steak and cooking and the prose of George Sauders.

But we have to get to it sometime. I guess the story of the day is Milo. You only need to read two pieces, Roy’s

Milo tried to do that with his pedo-tapes (in “a note for idiots” — ha, that Milo!) — but found that he was suddenly no longer the Right’s sassy gay friend. Not because he had sex with children himself — there’s no evidence he did; interestingly, it seems he was the one exploited as a child — but because, from the conservatives’ perspective, he did something worse: He embarrassed them. It was fine when he was whooping up those wanton cruelties and bigotries a normal American can get away with. But pedophilia is a Hard Limit, at least socially.

Conservatives could have done a love-the-sinner, hate-the-sin thing, but that would have required charity, and bitter experience has taught us all that in America this is not a Christian precept. They could have said that though Yiannopoulos had put himself beyond the pale, his principles were still sound, and they could put aside his failings the way intellectuals put aside the anti-Semitism of Mencken or the racism of Larkin, and cleave instead to his aesthetic legacy; but when his book deal and CPAC spot evaporated, it became obvious that there was nothing like a principle or an aesthetic legacy at all left to defend — just a savage clown show that no one wanted to see anymore. (Even Soave is edging away from him. Did I say “even”? Ha, I meant “of course.”)

…and this one, from Slate:

You can thank Steve Bannon, now a central figure in Donald Trump’s administration, for making the clownish hustler Milo Yiannopoulos a star. As the editor of Breitbart, Bannon recruited Yiannopoulos to the site, where he published columns like “No, J.C. Penney, Fat People Should Absolutely Hate Themselves” and “Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy.” If Trump is a poor person’s idea of a rich person, Yiannopoulos is a Trump voter’s fantasy of a decadent gay sophisticate. His shtick is to wrap various shades of reaction – anti-feminism, racism, anti-Semitism, hatred of Muslims – in camp, to sell bigotry as cheeky provocation. He and co-author Allum Bokhari put it this way, in a Breitbart ode to the alt-right: “Just as the kids of the 60s shocked their parents with promiscuity, long hair and rock’n’roll, so too do the alt-right’s young meme brigades shock older generations with outrageous caricatures, from the Jewish ‘Shlomo Shekelburg’ to ‘Remove Kebab,’ an internet in-joke about the Bosnian genocide.”

Yiannopoulos uses his gayness to grant absolution to his mostly straight right-wing audiences, telling them that by reveling in prejudice they are bravely flouting taboos. During the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, an at event billed as an America First Unity Rally, Yiannopoulos told a crowd full of bikers and Alex Jones acolytes: “I might be a dick-sucking faggot, but I fucking hate the left…the left in this country is a cancer that you need to eradicate.” As a gay man, he added, he aims to be “transgressive, to be naughty, to be mischievous. And today in America that means being right-wing.”

And that’s about all the Milo I can handle at the moment. Time to start “The Underground Railroad.” Good Wednesday, all.

Posted at 9:34 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 46 Comments

Where’d you rather be?

I was scanning the stories from the past weekend about the president’s inability to spend a single weekend in Washington recently. Has anyone noticed his tweets about Mar-a-Lago? He started calling it the “Winter White House,” now it’s the “Southern White House.” It’s an arriviste’s idea of a Real Klassy Klub, but never mind that.

Of course, the president already has a perfectly fine weekend getaway at Camp David. Has he even been there yet? Sure, the weather isn’t what it is in Florida at this time of year, but there’s plenty of things to do, lots of places to put guests – it’s really ideal.

Ah, but then, it’s not …Mar-a-Lago, is it?

Mr. Trump appears to enjoy presenting the spectacle of his presidency to those at his privately held club, where members pay $200,000 to join.

So. President’s Day. Just yet another of those days when you realize that for the rest of our history, the composite photo of our presidents will contain a photo of 45. Also, there’s a certain exhaustion spoken of here:

(Russian dissident and journalist Masha) Gessen’s family immigrated to the United States when she was a teenager, and she later returned to Russia but then moved back to America three years ago to escape mounting anti-gay persecution by Vladimir Putin’s government. “In the last three years, since I got to this country, I realized what a mental price I had paid for living in a state of siege and a state of battle for a decade and a half,” she told me. At times, she said, being part of the righteous opposition was exhilarating, “but it’s intellectually deadening. When you are fighting, you stop learning. You stop reading theory. You stop reading about things that aren’t part of the immediate fight.”

The country will never be the same, will it? But I guess it’s never the same. Day by day, it’s not the same.

Although this is some scary shit.

And wonderful things are happening all over, really:

President Trump’s embrace of discredited theories linking vaccines to autism has energized the anti-vaccine movement. Once fringe, the movement is becoming more popular, raising doubts about basic childhood health care among politically and geographically diverse groups.

Public health experts warn that this growing movement is threatening one of the most successful medical innovations of modern times. Globally, vaccines prevent the deaths of about 2.5 million children every year, but deadly diseases such as measles and whooping cough still circulate in populations where enough people are unvaccinated.

It wasn’t a terrible day, really. Work at home, lunch out, steak for dinner. It was overdone by a too many flareups, but not tragically so. And Wendy got a piece of steak fat that fell on the floor. Everyone went home happy.

Considering that it was Presidents Day and all. Happy Tuesday, all. The week is underway.

Posted at 9:34 pm in Current events | 46 Comments

The swing of things.

OK, I think normalcy is returning. Still weak and dizzy from time to time, but I’m chalking that up to Girl Scout cookies.

I’m speaking, of course, of normalcy only in my own body. Outside, abnormalcy — I just invented that word, pay me the royalty — continues to reign. Do we even need to go over the events of the weekend? In the year since we dumped cable, I’ve missed it only a couple times, and this weekend wasn’t one of them – you get on Twitter, and you can experience pretty much any big national event in more or less real time. And truth be told, I have better things to do on a Saturday evening than watch the president start his 2020 campaign three years early, because he’s so insecure he needs to. So some guy came onstage to say he prays to a cardboard Trump cutout every night? Am I getting that right? If so: Wonderful. In the interest of looking on the bright side, let me just say that if we all survive this era, several things will not, one of them being the lectures we can depend on from our religious friends. They no longer have any moral high ground; in fact, they now occupy the religious low ground, if they’re OK with a guy actually praying to a cardboard idol.

Actual quote from a Freep story today about a far-right Catholic group in Detroit: “The personal proclivities, the personal sins or life of a particular leader is a separate discussion from how that man’s view of the world might influence his policies. And if that policy is favorable to the church, well then, very good.”

Like I said, that’ll be outta here soon enough.

How was everyone’s weekend? We had spectacular, early-May temperatures, and everyone was out riding bikes, running, what-have-you. I stayed indoors and mostly cleaned, experiencing the glory in short bits. There will be more beautiful days. But the house was ready for a hazmat team, and I now feel better in my dust-free home than I would if I’d run around all weekend. And the forecast says the week ahead won’t be terrible at all.

Oh, bloggage? OK, here’s a really stupid NYT piece about how liberals are “helping” Trump:

Mrs. O’Connell feels hopeless. She has deleted all her news feeds on Facebook and she tries to watch less TV. But politics keeps seeping in.

“I love Meryl Streep, but you know, she robbed me of that wonderful feeling when I go to the movies to be entertained,” she said. “I told my husband, I said, ‘Ed, we have to be a little more flexible, or we’re going to run out of movies!’ ”

Mrs. O’Connell, who claims to be a Democrat but voted for Trump, now finds Democrats “scarier than Islamic terrorists,” to which I’d say: Congratulations, Mrs. O’Connell, you’re actually a Republican now. Enjoy!

If you want a brighter view, try Neil Steinberg’s Saturday piece. Of the Mrs. O’Connells of the world:

They were tired of the old ways, the business-as-usual politics. It wasn’t that they didn’t have a valid complaint, they did. It’s just that their solution will make the problem, make all of our problems, so much worse. America is like a man who burns his house down to get rid of the mice. Like a person who has a genuine ailment—say cancer—and then hires a shaman to spray fragrant oils on the soles of his feet. You’re sorry they’re sick. You understand the fear in that. But they’re embracing a quack and don’t know it. I’d add “yet,” but that would be wistful. If we know one thing about error is that it tends to compound. The majority of people would much rather dwell in wrongness than admit being mistaken.

Finally: Borden! RIP, Junie Morrison. Damn. The world is a little less funky today.

Posted at 6:45 pm in Current events | 67 Comments

A bit better.

Well, I think there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Woke up feeling much improved, enough so that I made my Bed of Suffering, i.e., the guest room/office, emptied the wastebasket full of sodden tissue and might even go for a walk later.

I got out to meet a new colleague last night. That helped, although it was touch and go just getting vertical yesterday.

That said, here’s a new thread for comments on…everything, I guess. One little head cold, and I feel like I’m already miles behind. Kind of like Congress.

Carry on.

Posted at 9:16 am in Same ol' same ol' | 111 Comments

Unconquered, as it turns out.

Remember that cold I thought I had vanquished? Yeah, turns out that was an alternate-facts deal. Woke up Monday with a head full of snot and the usual miseries. Nothing all that bad, but enough I was happy to work from home yesterday. And today.

I threw a bunch of links into an empty post yesterday, so let’s get to them, as the rest of my update would consist only of “used enough tissue to reverse-engineer a tree” and “discovered why you shouldn’t take Sudafed at bedtime.”

The Washington Post does a travel piece on the ol’ hometown:

I have a terrible confession: I never saw Ohio’s capitol. A weekend in Columbus and not even a glimpse of the rotunda. But I have a very good excuse. I was lost in a 32-room bookstore. Well, that’s not entirely true. I was also preoccupied with selecting a writing utensil from a lifestyle store founded by a guy with a beard and an office-supply obsession. And drinking hand-poured coffee from a cafe named after a Belle and Sebastian song. And sizing up turquoise bulldog bookends from a shop in an emerging neighborhood. And watching a diner stuff a skyscraper-tall burger into his mouth. And drinking more coffee, this time made of Fair Trade-certified beans from Guatemala. And I’m not even a coffee person; I drink tea, except when I am in Columbus.

That doesn’t exactly make it sound like Paris, but it’s fair. The thing about Columbus, the thing that never bugged me until I left, is its utter lack of natural features. Its two rivers are muddy brown trenches, there are few if any hills, no lakes to speak of (besides Buckeye, which is manmade and so shallow that if your boat breaks down in the middle you can push it home, like in “The African Queen”). So I guess it’s all about that burger, then, described and pictured later in the piece — “two 12-ounce burger patties — among other delights,” which appear to include both bacon and ham. As Jim Harrison once said, only in the Midwest is overeating seen as something heroic.

We read a lot about Betsy DeVos and school choice recently, but here is how it’s lived out in Detroit, where charter schools open and close like doors in a French farce. Parents whose children are in failing schools slated for possible closure are sent helpful letters detailing which districts will let the kids transfer in – some of them an hour’s drive away. Market efficiency!

This story has already been partially overtaken by events with the firing of Michael Flynn, but I’m posting this passage about Reince Priebus because it may be one case where an exclamation point is actually called for in a new story:

Trump has already consulted friends about his next chief of staff. I’m told that to avoid admitting error, Trump plans a smooth transition from Priebus, perhaps by making him a Cabinet secretary!


Nothing this administration does should surprise me anymore, but this at least made me chuckle, coming as it did on the heels of the giant typo in the official inauguration poster.

I’ve got a few more, but I think I’ll save them for tomorrow, just in case I feel even worse then. Enjoy Tuesday.

Posted at 9:16 am in Current events | 119 Comments

A cold, conquered? Fingers crossed.

I woke up one day last weekend with the beginnings of a cold sore, and the whole week felt like a struggle – slow in the pool, messing up appointment times because I didn’t read the email closely enough, that sort of thing. No disaster, just the sort of thing that happens when your immune system appears to be working overtime to hold something at bay. I thought it had finally arrived on Friday, and spent half of Saturday lolling in bed, but here it is Sunday, and I’m sorta feeling myself again.

The cold sore has left the building, too.

What goes on in our bodies during weeks like these? What does “feeling run-down” really mean, at the cellular level? It is to puzzle.

So that’s why no update on Friday, sorry. Just wasn’t feeling it, or anything like it.

One of the things I saw while I was being lazy Saturday was this remarkable clip from CNN, in which a local GOP county official tries to revive the death-panels thing, and the crowd lights him up like a Christmas tree. It almost felt like 2009 again when the WashPost looked into his social-media accounts and found the stuff we’ve been seeing from these folks for years. But this time, it feels like an antique. That crowd just wasn’t having it.

Not that we should count them out entirely, of course. But just today I read a column in the local paper about how mean “the left” is being to Ivanka Trump, whom they should be supporting, because she’s such an ally, you know. There was some random bloviage about liberal attacks, etc.:

Boycotts are the favorite weapon of the resistance movement. Anyone who suggests affinity for Donald Trump or cooperates with his administration or fails to speak out against him on command (see Tom Brady) faces being ostracized or having their livelihoods threatened and their names smeared.

The left’s demand for conformity in loathing Trump is creating a blacklist to rival that of Joe McCarthy’s Red Scare.

Which I found amusing, as I had just read this piece, about what happens with the Breitbart constituency identifies you as an enemy:

New America, the think tank where I am a fellow, got a similar influx of nasty calls and messages. “You’re a fucking cunt! Piece of shit whore!” read a typical missive.

I’ve spent time on Ivanka Trump’s website, and see a “line” of basic sheath dresses, sweater dresses and other ho-hum designs. I’m no fashion plate myself, and in fact I generally appreciate a decent sheath dress, but I can find the same thing on 6pm.com and other discount sites for about a third the price. Be advised.

A bit more bloggage:

Dr. Mona, as one hero of the Flint water crisis is known around here, points to her own status as a first-generation Iraqi immigrant to ask the obvious question about the travel and immigration ban. I don’t know what it’s like where you live, but around here it’s almost impossible to get through a hospital visit without being seen by a doctor of Middle Eastern lineage. I hate to think what we’d do without them, particularly in non-garden spot cities like Flint.

Everybody’s talking about “Saturday Night Live” again, and posting the best bits on social media afterward. You can have the Sean Spicer cold open and the People’s Court satire from this week, but I’m going for Kate McKinnon as Alex Forrest/Kellyanne Conway in this genius piece.

We went to a party Saturday night, a fundraiser, and I bought some tickets for the raffle. And whaddaya know, I won a weekend at a lodge in northern Michigan. I’m taking it as evidence my luck has changed. Onward to Monday.

Posted at 12:32 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 45 Comments

Laugh tracks.

Are we feeling sad these days? I know I am. Not stick-my-head-in-the-oven sad, but more like gray-bowl-of-Michigan-winter sad, mixed with I-need-to-read-more-novels-and-less-Twitter sad and orange-elephant-in-the-room sad. If I were wealthier, I’d book a flight to Havana and do the major change of scenery thing. Can’t do that either? Then maybe this will help, a two-parter from New York magazine on the jokes that shaped modern comedy.

It’s not actually a two-parter, just a piece that was published last year, and the new one, dropped in the last couple of days. I like both, because you can really get lost in them, and then you find yourself laughing, and soon it’s as though you aren’t living in the first months of 2017, but in some bubbly comedy land.

Until you hit 1988:

The most influential magazine of its era left a mark on every other: complicated tiny typography, kitschy clip art, little floating heads as illustrations, charts and graphs analyzing everything it covered, and big memorable stories told with an ironic sensibility and unironic rigor. But clearly its single device with the longest legs was the compound hyphenated pejorative epithet, an update of the old Time house style. “Churlish dwarf billionaire Laurence Tisch,” “sex-kittenish Vanity Fair model Diane Sawyer,” “musky, supersuave love man Billy Dee Williams”: Spy’s editors had a knack for summing up an entire person in three or four words. Including one “short-fingered vulgarian Donald Trump,” whose rage at this characterization continues to this day, and who now has his tiny, tiny finger on the button. (Sad!) Their glib irreverence would continue well beyond the magazine’s final issue in 1998; it’s almost impossible to find a funny blog that doesn’t at least somewhat depend on Spy’s voice and tone.

Oh, well. Nothing lasts forever. It’s still funny.

I remember that era at Spy. Tisch had his lawyer send a letter that explained Tisch was not “medically, technically a dwarf,” and cease calling him one. So they started ID’ing him as “Churlish billionaire Laurence Tisch, who is not medically, technically a dwarf.” Good times.

We need more use of the word “churl” and all of its variations.

So, what else happened today? The president got into a pissing match with a department store, that’s what. Something I didn’t know:

Last week, T.J. Maxx and Marshalls stores sent a note to employees — a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times — telling them to throw away signs for Ivanka Trump products.

“Effective immediately, please remove all Ivanka Trump merchandise from features and mix into” the racks where most products hang, the note read. “All Ivanka Trump signs should be discarded.”

The instruction was to eliminate special displays for the merchandise, “not to remove it from the sales floor,” said Doreen Thompson, a spokeswoman for the TJX Companies, the retailers’ parent corporation.

And no one even called the first daughter an escort to wreck her brand. Maybe something else is at work here. Hmm, what could it be?

Finally, no less a writer than Hank Stuever decreed this story the best feature story about life in 2017, an account of Milo Yiannopoulos’ visit to the University of Washington, and the events that flowed from it. I’d say it’s right up there, and totally worth your time, Sherri and others.

Who’s ready for a measles outbreak? Because it’s coming.

Posted at 8:34 pm in Current events, Popculch | 101 Comments

Who is shooting this train wreck?

Question for the room: Does Donald Trump have his Pete Souza yet? That is to say, has he chosen a White House photographer? The only pix from the White House I’m seeing are the ones of him signing executive orders with his flunkies arrayed in a half-circle behind him. Pence always stands on his right, and applauds like the toady he is.

The pictures are unremarkable, wire-service stuff. The White House’s Flickr photo stream is empty, so I have to assume that this is one of those still-unfilled positions, like most of the East Wing staff.

And if you’re one of those people who doesn’t know who Pete Souza is, here’s part of his 2016 White House portfolio. I don’t recommend it if you’re feeling …emotional.

Especially this week, when yet another of the 10,000 veils dropped between the American public and the Trump administration. Yes, I’m talking about Natasha, makin’ money. I just can’t believe this stuff; I’m almost literally open-mouthed when I read it. What is wrong with these people? How is it even possible to be this crass?

Change of subject: Wendy was lying next to me the other day when she did something she’s never done before: Farted, audibly. There was a funny little toot, like the horn on a Fisher Price clown car, and then? Mustard gas. Do any of you have those dogs that bark at their own farts? Because that would be hilarious.

This little dickens:

She who smelt it absolutely didn’t deal it.

Posted at 9:30 pm in Current events | 82 Comments

Go Falcons.

I am watching the Super Bowl right now. The ads so far have been unremarkable. The game so far hasn’t — the Falcons are winning, and anything that ruins Tom Brady’s perfect little world can’t be all bad, can it?

Man, defensive linemen look like big fat guys, even in the championship game. I know everyone on a team has their own job to do, but I’d hate to have one of those behemoths fall on me.

I should watch football more often if I want to have opinions about it, so I’ll shut up now.

Another Atlanta touchdown! This could be pretty good. But I’m basically here for Lady Gaga.

Did you know Detroit has a gay sports bar? It does. I’ve never been there, but I should. Winter bucket-list item, maybe.

This was a weekend for winter bucket lists. Got to Belle Isle for a Wendy walk and to look at the ice, because it looks like the chances of a polar vortex long enough for serious ice are fading, so no ice walk this year. Instead, we watched it float by:

This may sound a little disjointed today, and it is. I have a million things to do early in the week, and I can’t think of much else. So, have a link? Post it. I’ll be back later.

Posted at 7:55 pm in Same ol' same ol' | 83 Comments


How many people are upset about the violence in Berkeley last night? For the record, I disapprove. Violence is only the answer when it’s Richard Spencer taking a … nope, not even then. That was a sucker punch, and sucker punches are cowardly. Call him out, tell him to put his hands up, and then punch him. Not upsetting.

Wednesday night, though — that was a trap. Why is this so hard to see? This is exactly what the Young Americans for Wearing Rep Ties, or whatever their name is, did in Grosse Pointe, when they invited sparking intellectual Rick Santorum to come speak at one of the high schools, and insisted it be during school hours. The administration waffled, and then it became whassamatter, don’t you believe in free speech? and Game Over for the grownups.

Milo what’s-his-name doesn’t have anything to say. He’s a troll. He styles himself as a “dangerous faggot,” goes onstage and calls Trump “daddy,” all that lame shit, and that’s his act. If you’re willing to go onstage and say women, boy they stink at math and I bet their pussies stink, too, then you’re going to get attention. But sensible people shouldn’t allow themselves to be baited so easily. When I woke up this morning, all the liberals were tweeting about the presidential insults to Mexico and Australia — I’m still stunned to write that — and the conservatives were acting like the Berkeley demonstration was the sack of Rome, and not a few scuffles and vandalism in a city most of them wouldn’t visit at gunpoint.

So yeah, I agree with this: Don’t give him what he wants.

God, this shit is exhausting. It’s all Tom & Lorenzo for the rest of the evening. Have a great weekend, all, and let’s hope the world doesn’t end before Monday.

Posted at 9:12 pm in Current events | 77 Comments