Beep torture.

Being a terrier, Wendy is a little high-strung, although not overly so. But today she came upstairs where I was working, jumped up next to me and cuddled up, trembling like a leaf. It took me a while, but I figured it out: There was a smoke alarm chirping with a dying battery, down in the basement. Spriggy was also high-strung, but brave as a mongoose, and chirping smoke alarms had the same effect. One day I came home and found him in an absolute lather — trotting from one end of the house to the other, panting, frantic. All over a little beeping.

And that? Was pretty much the extent of the news developments at this end today. That, and the usual household annoyances, plus 7,000 emails.

God, I can’t wait for warm weather. Thirty-seven degrees today was the best it got. Worst cabin fever I’ve had since…last year.

So a quick stop by the bloggage, and I’m headed to bed.

This site has been around for a while, but I’m just finding it: The Reductress, the Onion of women’s magazines. Case in point: Local woman wins stress-eating contest:

The third annual Häagen Dazs-Frito Lay Stress-Eating Contest was held this weekend at Morgantown County Fair in Morgantown, West Virginia. Eight competitors from the area took their places on the stage with one goal in mind: to stress-eat heaping piles of food until their feelings went away. But only one woman would come out on top: head server at Rocky’s Water Hole and recent, Mica Sullivan.

“I fucking deserve better, you know?” said Sullivan, in a rambling Facebook status posted at 3:14 this morning as she scraped the bottom of a bag of chips. “He’s trash.”

It appears Ben Carson is crazier — or just more offensive, in every way — than we thought. Here’s Carson and Armstrong Williams watching the SOTU:

“He looks good,” Williams said. “He looks clean. Shirt’s white. The tie. He looks elegant.”

“Like most psychopaths,” Carson grumbled. “That’s why they’re successful. That’s the way they look. They all look great.”

For those unfamiliar with the mood of America’s far right, casually branding the president a psychopath is exactly the sort of talk that strikes a chord—and just the thing that has made Carson a sensation in the GOP. Today the former pediatric neurosurgeon—who’s never run for elected office—is suddenly besting candidates like Jeb, Marco, and Rand in some 2016 polls and preparing to announce his campaign for the White House. As for the current resident, well, Carson is sometimes encouraged to cut him just a little slack before he hands over the keys.

Psychopath. Good one. Keep it up, guys. This is a winning strategy if there ever was one.

Facebook as the great publisher of the future. Oh, joy.

Killer Wednesday ahead. Expect…not much posting until Thursday.

Posted at 12:24 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 127 Comments

We dance just as good as we walk.

It’s strange around my house these days. After years of Kate turning up her nose at every album I ever loved, including the Beatles and Stones, suddenly we’re drowning in it here. The other day she stayed in bed with a sore tummy for the first hour of school. I stuck my head in to ask how she was doing and heard Neil Young singing “The Loner.” This was after the previous week, when it was “Volunteers,” on vinyl of course, a record I once knew by heart but haven’t heard in at least a quarter century. All those deep cuts came back to me like old friends.

But all this was topped this weekend, when I heard her in the bathroom, with her music of course — it goes everywhere with her — putting on makeup to Archie Bell and the Drells’ “Tighten Up.”

“You’re joking, right?”

“No! We listened to it over and over last weekend in Chicago,” she said. They were there playing a gig. Unchaperoned. Hey, they gotta grow up sometime, and they already did this once last fall, in Grand Rapids. The thought of these four teenagers cruising around Chicago listening to “Tighten Up” on a loop is sufficiently amusing that I choose not to be alarmed. (Although maybe I should be.)

“Fun fact: Your uncle served in the army with Archie Bell,” I said. “He was drafted. They both were stationed in Germany.” Family history.

She came home from Chicago with a few records, including the Mamas and the Papas’ “If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears” and the Stones’ “Between the Buttons.”

Her boyfriend’s favorite band is Buffalo Springfield. Kids these days.

How was your Monday? Mine was back to the mangle, i.e. the gym, then drive to Ann Arbor, drive home, make a million phone calls, collapse. Along the way I found a li’l bit of bloggage:

It’s all over for Jackie no-last-name and her ridiculous tale of gang rape at the University of Virginia. Rolling Stone’s own independent inquiry will be reporting soon, and that should be an interesting read.

A great story about the prison-written history of the Indiana Women’s Prison. Fascinating. It turns out the Hoosier state likely had its own Magdalene laundries.

As for Ted Cruz? I can’t even. Can you?

Posted at 12:14 am in Same ol' same ol' | 66 Comments

The b.j. queen.

I see Monica Lewinsky has started her big comeback tour. As Jeff the mild-mannered likes to say, grace and peace to her. You can’t say this poor woman ever tried to cash in on her bad luck, and in fact has really suffered for it. Imagine being her, carrying that name and face around for the last 18 years. Imagine going on a date. (Imagine being the guy who dates her.) Imagine just walking down the street, with her famous, fabulous mane of hair. And imagine introducing yourself: Hi, I’m Monica. Better that she be named Kate or Heather or any other, more common young-woman name. Anyone who lived through Lewinsky 1.0 would know her instantly.

I just can’t imagine. All for a little fling with a married man who flung with so, so many. The wheel spins around and you, yes you are the one who gets to pay. And pay and pay and pay.

Funny that she’s apparently chosen cyberbullying as her issue, when her ordeal happened largely before cyber was a thing — her shaming was more old-school. But she can certainly speak with authority about what it’s like to see your privacy go up in smoke, justlikethat. I’m glad the NYT story didn’t skimp on the fact this was a story in which both left and right disgraced themselves:

Ms. Lewinsky was quickly cast by the media as a “little tart,” as The Wall Street Journal put it. The New York Post nicknamed her the “Portly Pepperpot.” She was described by Maureen Dowd in The New York Times as “ditsy” and “predatory.”

And other women — self-proclaimed feminists — piled on. “My dental hygienist pointed out she had third-stage gum disease,” said Erica Jong. Betty Friedan dismissed her as “some little twerp.”

“It’s a sexual shaming that is far more directed at women than at men,” Gloria Steinem wrote me in an email, noting that in Ms. Lewinsky’s case, she was also targeted by the “ultraright wing.” “I’m grateful to [her],” Ms. Steinem said, “for having the courage to return to the public eye.”

Yep. She was collateral damage in the right’s effort to destroy Bill Clinton, and in their reflexive defense of him, the left lined up to kick her, too. Besides, isn’t she what every married woman fears? The office girl with the glossy hair and the big boobs, lingering by the copier to bat her eyes at your husband? We don’t blame him, we blame her. I know I did, and I hadn’t been married five years yet. I took my turn putting her through the wringer; they’d have pulled my columnist card otherwise.

I still don’t think young single women should go putting the make on older married men, but I’m older myself now, and I no longer see her as the villain. I recall my friend Lance Mannion fuming, “I can forgive him the sex, but not the stupidity. It’s not like Washington isn’t full of beautiful, promiscuous, discreet thirtysomething adulteresses; he could have had anyone he wanted. But he picks an intern.” Yep, exactly. For a man so practiced in the art of extramarital stepping out, he really, really should have known better.

And while Monica bore the brunt of all of this, the whole country was put through the wringer. The impeachment was a nightmare of comic misery; I remember sitting in the Meijer parking lot, my chin on my chest, listening to …who was it? Larry Flynt? Talking about the dirt he had on Bob Barr? I think so, but it could have been any number of other freeze-frame moments from that very weird interlude that gave us Linda Tripp, Linda Tripp’s plastic surgery, Lucianne Goldberg and her spawn, a million pearl-clutching mommies moaning about having to explain oral sex to middle schoolers, Ken Starr and his ewwww report, blue Gap dresses and Maureen Dowd’s Pulitzer and all the rest of it. I loved the ’90s as much as anyone, but not that part of it.

So, some bloggage:

Congratulations, white guys! You win the race again! In the age of exquisite sensitivity to diversity, how the hell does this happen?

Dahlia Lithwick looks at the demented decision to try 12-year-olds as adults. One our own juvie-justice guy, whose name has already been dropped once, might like to read.

I haven’t finished this Michael Kruse piece on Jeb Bush and his problems on the GOP right, but I will. The first third looks pretty good.

So! Let’s have us a week, why don’t we? Hope yours is great.

Posted at 12:25 am in Current events | 41 Comments

Low-rent lunch.

Today at work we had a lunch meeting with some important people, and we ordered in subs from a well-known national chain that, I guess I should say, is not Subway. My bun was stale and the cookie was cold, which made it tough and not particularly good. Of course, even with these shortcomings, I pretty much ate it all, because that’s the way I was raised. Leave edible food on your plate? Unless you’re gagging or maggots are crawling on it, you clean your plate, girlie.

Hard to break those habits, isn’t it? But we filled out a very sternly worded feedback form on the website.

Are French children taught to clean their plate because of the starving ones in China? Good question. Answer: Probably not.

The food was bad, the meeting was better, the day was a parade of sniffles, but! Fewer sniffles than yesterday. The corner may have been turned, and I feel better, although my voice is worse. So what, I don’t work in radio. But let’s skip to the bloggage.

Eric Zorn looks at the Michael Brown/Ferguson situation and observes the truth is complicated:

Yes, Brown never even said nor pantomimed “hands up, don’t shoot.” But Wilson’s exoneration is not tantamount to an exoneration of American law enforcement in how it interacts with minority communities.

Yes, the explosion of destructive rage in Ferguson was rooted in a lie, a lie that advocates should disown, as Capehart did. But that lie is rooted in a broader truth.

A lie can reveal a truth — such an ironic message, and it’s the one many are missing about Ferguson. Brown may not have done what we’d like him to have done, but the incident didn’t touch off weeks and months of protests over nothing, which is what the DoJ report revealed.

I’m beginning to think of “Empire” as the guy you fall madly in love with for three days and then wake up, climb out of bed and say, “What was I thinking?” Tom and Lorenzo at least partially agree. Great fun, but the season is over, and you just know they’re gonna fuck it all up next year.

At least John McCain tried gentle correction. Rick Santorum just stands there. What a profile in courage.

Have a great weekend, all. I’m-a try to get better.

Posted at 12:29 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol', Television | 67 Comments

St. Blah’s Day.

Day two of the cold was no better. The first Sudafed I took had little effect, so I popped another at bedtime, only to learn anew why pseudo ephedrine is a base ingredient of crystal meth — if there’s anything more miserable than having a cold, it’s having a sleepless cold. Tonight it’s a double shot of Nyquil, plus melatonin.

Maybe some whiskey, too. My own little St. Patrick’s Day celebration.

How was yours? I spent part of it reading about Aaron Schock, whose existence hadn’t really hit my radar screen yet. What a train wreck. The mad redecorating had to be a giveaway of something seriously wrong. Downton Abbey? That show is so OVER.

Cathy Cambridge does her duchess-y duty in a spectacular coat. I was buying a coat for Kate last winter, and thought I’d found the perfect one, at Nordstrom. It was well-cut, buttoned up well, even showed off her figure a little. I was ready to order it wrapped up when I thought to grope for the tag: $900. Um, no. Cathy Cambridge’s coat is way more than $900.

Privatization means rodent cake for prisoners. Eh, they just nibbled one side — the rest of the cake is perfectly fine.

Back to bed.

Posted at 12:20 am in Same ol' same ol' | 63 Comments

Crumpled tissues.

Sorry for the no-show yesterday. Work intruded, and I planned to update Monday morning, but alas — I woke up with a cold, which will teach me to make plans for what promised to be (and was) the warmest day of the year so far.

I’m not a good cold sufferer. I’m very whiny. If I didn’t have another big project due in two weeks, I’d have taken the day off and mainlined “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” all afternoon. You shouldn’t take sick days for a cold, though — it’s burning your sick-days seed corn.

So I worked. But I’m watching “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” now. And enjoying it very much.

Can’t say so much for “House of Cards,” which has already lost me, but I may power through anyway. It has skated so far from Realityville that it’s not even fun to hate-watch anymore. However, Claire and her wardrobe — actually, everybody and their wardrobe — never fails to entertain. I’ve never seen a show where everyone dresses to match the sofas.

“Who are you wearing?”

“Restoration Hardware!”

So, as you can tell, I’m pretty tapped out. Not much bloggage, either. There’s this very good story from the NYT’s ongoing occupation of Detroit’s North End neighborhood, a look at the city’s scrapping economy, and the parties who oppose one another in it. It’s very good — glosses over a few fine points, but for a national audience? First class. Recommended.

Me, I’m going to bed. Happy St. Patrick’s Day. Maybe a shot of whiskey will cure me.

Posted at 12:30 am in Same ol' same ol', Television | 30 Comments

Blinded by the light.

I lived in Indiana for 20 years, a state that didn’t observe daylight saving time, and ached for it. Part of it was the simple embarrassment of living in a backwater, one of two states in the union that didn’t observe it; Indiana was fond of dumbshit policies like that, like keeping its welfare system not at the state or even county level, but townships. People in Indiana, as charming and down-to-earth as they are, could also be stubborn in truly unique ways.

The problem, we were told twice a year, was that the state lies at the western edge of the eastern time zone, and the line kept getting fiddled with. At one time it was in the Central zone, then the line ran through Indianapolis, bisecting the state. Now it’s the western border, except for carve-outs around Evansville in the southwest and Chicago in the northwest. So those practical Hoosiers threw up their hands and said enough, and opted out.

Oh, but we’ve been through this many, many times. Indiana now observes DST, adopted the year after we left. And now it would seem Hoosiers were ahead of their time.

This week a Michigan lawmaker introduced a bill to end DST in Michigan. It’s not going anywhere, but it accompanies a wave of anti-DST blah-blah, the two previous links coming from Slate mainly because I’m too lazy to dive deeper.

This happens more often in recent years, I’ve noticed, and only in the spring. No one ever complains about getting an extra hour of sleep in the fall, even when it means gloomy evening commutes and grilling dinner by flashlight. When did we get so soft? It takes a couple days to adjust, but before long we’re all enjoying the long evenings and warm nights in the yard and bike rides after work. Aren’t we? I do, anyway. I can’t recall a single thumb-sucker about how stressful DST was until fairly recently.

Of course, that might be because there weren’t a million websites looking for clickbait, too.

So we limp into the weekend. I’m feeling my general energy return, probably because the light is returning, too. I’m even cleaning the house again. Woot.

Bloggage? Hmm.

Me, on Michigan’s aging northern region.

If you missed it in the comments yesterday, Bob Pence, a now-deceased member of our readership (but who only rarely commented) was revealed to have left $1 million to the ACRES land trust, sort of a local Nature Conservancy in northeast Indiana, dedicated to preserving natural areas. Good old Bob.

And while we’re on sort of a Hoosier kick, it looks like Fort Wayne daughter Nancy Snyderman is out of work at NBC News. I talked to her a few times and always liked her, but to judge from the comments, many, many others did not. She’ll land on her feet. But still.

Have a good weekend, folks.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events | 96 Comments

The wrap, nearly wrapped.

Sometimes I think this blog is reaching its sell-by date, and then we push past it and find a new sell-by date. Seriously, though, it’s been 15 years now. How much longer can it go on?

Long enough to warrant another two-pack of Costco plastic wrap, maybe. Yes, those of you who’ve been marking days on your calendar and wondering who will win the Nancy-and-Alan bet on the longevity of the Costco two-pack? I think those who chose Alan will get this one, because the second roll is dwindling.

This all started when the first two-pack ran out, and I said, “Jeez, I think I bought this not long after we moved here. That means it lasted almost five years. So this two-pack will last until, what? Kate’s senior year in high school.” At least, that’s how I remember the conversation: Kate’s senior year in high school. The blog reveals I said, “Kate’s freshman year in college.” But they will both happen in 2015, won’t they? I’m considering this a draw. Alan differs.

Neither of us remembers what the stakes are. Probably best that it’s lost to the mists of time.


Another interesting piece by Conor Friedersdorf on the Ferguson case, posting a key question, i.e., why aren’t conservatives more incensed about the Justice Department report on the little kingdom of official larceny by the Mississip’? After all, a founding principle of the movement is that government will naturally overreach, and that it should be resisted. But this virtual definition of government overreach has been greeted by…not exactly crickets, but certainly not a unified front of resistance.

If nothing else, it gives you a sense of what a hack factory the National Review is these days.

Any “Game of Thrones” fans in the house? Then you’ll be interested in this Zapruder-esque fly-specking of the latest Season 5 trailer, with all sorts of fly-specky details.

What else do I have? Not much. It was a deadline day, and my energy was elsewhere. We’ll try tomorrow.

Posted at 12:30 am in Same ol' same ol' | 97 Comments

Yuk yak.

Before we start, a few arty shots by the professional who photographed the show Friday night. The first one is helpfully annotated:


And this one has some fancy Photoshop filters, but I don’t know what they are. J.C. probably does.


That’s Kate with her hair all over her face. Nice pix, Brian Rozman Photography.

And so, we move on.

I think one of the things that drives me insane about the way my industry has been destroyed is the way it’s changed the public’s view of what constitutes publication. People my age came up in the newspaper business after the time of the big press moguls; the chains were ascendant, but the old principles were still in place. Publishing was a sacred trust, with ethics and responsibilities, and while this was a spectacularly flawed group of people trying to carry them out, we made a stab at it.

A few weeks ago I mentioned my troll, about how trying to get some of the shit he wrote about me taken down was a futile exercise, because no one seemed to be in control of a huge platform used all over the world to publish stuff.

But that, it turns out, is like talking to Watergate-era Ben Bradlee compared to trying to get some accountability out of today’s young tech millionaires. A front-page NYT story on Yik Yak today made my blood run cold, then a little hot with rage, although why bother? Why get upset? Nothing seems to bother them:

Like Facebook or Twitter, Yik Yak is a social media network, only without user profiles. It does not sort messages according to friends or followers but by geographic location or, in many cases, by university. Only posts within a 1.5-mile radius appear, making Yik Yak well suited to college campuses. Think of it as a virtual community bulletin board — or maybe a virtual bathroom wall at the student union. It has become the go-to social feed for college students across the country to commiserate about finals, to find a party or to crack a joke about a rival school.

Much of the chatter is harmless. Some of it is not.

“Yik Yak is the Wild West of anonymous social apps,” said Danielle Keats Citron, a law professor at University of Maryland and the author of “Hate Crimes in Cyberspace.” “It is being increasingly used by young people in a really intimidating and destructive way.”

Colleges are largely powerless to deal with the havoc Yik Yak is wreaking. The app’s privacy policy prevents schools from identifying users without a subpoena, court order or search warrant, or an emergency request from a law-enforcement official with a compelling claim of imminent harm.

Yes, that’s Yik Yak — an anonymous, micro-local slam book. A slam book that feeds on itself and fuels itself, and would it surprise you to learn it was founded by two frat boys, who zealously defend its anonymity and think the answer to hate speech, etc., is for individual posts to be “uprooted” or “downvoted.” God, I hate this bullshit:

ALEX GOLDMAN: Colgate University is a tiny private liberal arts school – just 3,000 students, way up in the mountains in Hamilton New York. It’s the most beautiful college campus in America, according to the Princeton Review, located in the 11th friendliest town in America, according to Forbes. But not according to Melissa Melendez, who is a student at Colgate.

MELISSA MELENDEZ: one of the first things I saw about me, was “bash that bitch’s head in.”

ALEX: Melissa saw that comment — and much worse — on an anonymous social media app called Yik Yak. Yik Yak lets you see posts or “yaks” as they’re called from users within a 10-mile radius. So it’s no surprise that it’s really popular at college campuses. People can post anonymously on yik yak about lame frat parties, or hot RAs or boring classes. But at Colgate last semester, the site also became a screen onto which the student body’s ugliest, most bigoted and violent thoughts were projected, for everyone to see. And Melissa Melendez and her friends were target of those thoughts.

That’s from a podcast transcript on the same subject. And here’s an Atlanta magazine story, ditto. The founders of Yik Yak – whose names are, I’m not kidding, Tyler Droll and Brooks Buffington, sound like two of the most entitled, miserable little brats in western civilization, and I hope someone sues them back to the stone age. People too stupid to understand that a totally anonymous communications platform might be used for racism, threats and hatred? They belong there.

All of which put me in a wonderful mood to read this Conor Friedersdorf explication of the Ferguson report. I haven’t read the source material yet, mainly because just the excerpts are enough to make the top of your head blow off:

We spoke… with an African-American woman who has a still-pending case stemming from 2007, when, on a single occasion, she parked her car illegally. She received two citations and a $151 fine, plus fees. The woman, who experienced financial difficulties and periods of homelessness over several years, was charged with seven Failure to Appear offenses for missing court dates or fine payments on her parking tickets between 2007 and 2010. For each Failure to Appear, the court issued an arrest warrant and imposed new fines and fees.

From 2007 to 2014, the woman was arrested twice, spent six days in jail, and paid $550 to the court for the events stemming from this single instance of illegal parking. Court records show that she twice attempted to make partial payments of $25 and $50, but the court returned those payments, refusing to accept anything less than payment in full. One of those payments was later accepted, but only after the court’s letter rejecting payment by money order was returned as undeliverable. This woman is now making regular payments on the fine. As of December 2014, over seven years later, despite initially owing a $151 fine and having already paid $550, she still owed $541.

And that’s only the cash-chiseling part of the police department. There was also this stuff:

… in August 2010, a lieutenant used an ECW in drive-stun mode against an African-American woman in the Ferguson City Jail because she had refused to remove her bracelets. The lieutenant resorted to his ECW even though there were five officers present and the woman posed no physical threat.

This is simply too much outrage for a Monday. So let’s try again tomorrow.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events | 27 Comments

A burden, lifted.

Not a great weekend, but a productive one. Taxes, filed. (REFUND!) FAFSA, updated. (LESS EXPECTED FAMILY CONTRIBUTION!) And after it was all over, I stood up and put my hands on my hips and felt infrastructure.

I should explain. Six months ago I started adding side planks to my workout. One minute each side, three times a week at the end of the session. Today? Infrastructure. So y’all run out and start doing some side planks. Your waistline will thank you.

Seriously, though, there’s something about shoveling this great chore into the Outbox that just feels like springtime. A few years ago, I filed and immediately went on Craigslist and bought a Tiffany chain — this one, although not this one — from a woman, exchanging goods for cash in a Costco parking lot. I wear that chain several times a month and don’t regret a penny of the $75 I paid for it. (“My grandmother bought it for me, and I just…don’t like it,” she said. Excellent. She wasn’t the plain-silver-chain type, anyway.)

And why do I do the taxes? Because Alan does stuff like paint the dining room and bleach the mold out of the washer, which was his weekend project.

There was some fun, too: The Deadly Vipers played Friday night at the Hamtramck Music Festival. They were the last act at one of the venues, and the crowd seemed to dig it. I shot a bunch of hail mary pix with my phone, and they were the usual mixed bag. I was trying to capture the moshing, which was too close to the band for my comfort, but that’s how it goes in bars:


And then every so often you got a fun moment. BUDWEISER:


We also watched “Foxcatcher” because I was too tired to go out Saturday night, and it was, what’s the word? Disappointing. Tonally self-important, and the story was just sort of boring. Vanessa Redgrave, meanwhile, has three scenes as a nearly-dead WASP dowager, and manages to steal every one. Because she’s Vanessa Redgrave.

And now the winds have finally shifted and a breeze is blowing out of the southwest, and by Wednesday we are promised 50 degrees. Mirabile dictu.

So, did you catch the president’s speech at Selma? If you have only one thing to read about it, make it this. It was such a great speech; I can’t wait to see what the lunatics find to hate about it.

Comic relief: Tom and Lorenzo and a million pictures of “fashion clown Kim Kardashian,” who looks incredibly weird. (That said, I’m adding some blonde chunks to my hair the next touch-up I get, because why the hell not.)

Seems a good note to start Monday. Enjoy yours.

Posted at 12:17 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 34 Comments