Whining again.

I really do apologize for being such a craptastic blogger of late. It’s not going to get better for a while, but it will get better. This has truly been the week from purgatory, and simply unrelenting. Lots of tasks, normally something I like, but it was a big pile and I didn’t get the most important ones done, which means – well, you know what it means. More work.

But it’s purgatory, not hell. Like wearing an itchy sweater. Although it didn’t help that I got rained on during my afternoon dog-walk. The sun stayed out the whole time, but it rained pretty hard. Hollywood rain, but no rainbow.

So, then:

Here’s Charlotte’s neighbor, the famous poet. Boy, does he look every day of his 75 years or so. I’ve grown exasperated with Jim Harrison in recent years, but there are some good lines in a breezy read. Worth a click.

We have a proposal on the August ballot, what should be a simple approval of an allegedly revenue-neutral change in the tax laws. There’s no opposition, both D’s and R’s agree, and? It’s not doing so well. I liked this comment from a local expert:

The fact that almost all the politicians in the state are supporting the proposal might have been valuable 40 years ago, when many people genuinely trusted state government. But today, it’s more like hearing that all the mafia families have gotten together and are hatching big plans.

And that’s about all I have. Let’s get through the weekend and see what happens.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 76 Comments

Lavender lake.

What am I doing here? It’s one of those hurrier-I-go-the-behinder-I-get sorts of weeks, but we all need a fresh thread from time to time.

At least I’m making time for exercise, y’know? Today was a crisp morning, very unseasonable for July, but I was out early on the bike and rode as hard and fast as I dared for 50 minutes. The reward was this:


Seconds before this shot, the rising sun was peeking out of the clouds, reflected in a pink stripe on the water. In the time it took me to fumble my camera out of my saddlebag, it was gone. Still, a very pretty morning. Not one regret about getting up at 5:45 a.m.

So, you’re a millionaire rock star, playing a triumphant sold-out show at a beautiful theater in your hometown, where the fans love you and all the rest of it. So what do you do? If you’re Jack White, complain:

Having launched the evening with a typically scorching roar, depositing hot, gnarled guitar into the one-two punch of “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground” and the new “High Ball Stepper,” White soon became visibly displeased with the standing crowd’s lack of intensity in what he wanted to be a symbiotic affair.

Road manager Lalo Medina had already pleaded the case before show time, taking the stage and asking fans not to sit down or distract themselves with cell phone cameras.

Sure enough, just a half-hour in — after trying everything from a galloping “Hotel Yorba” to an acoustic reading of “Temporary Ground” with Lillie Mae Rische on harmony and Dominic Suchyta on upright bass — White summoned his stagehands. And with a quick “Thanks, God bless you,” he had the curtains pulled.

Several restless minutes passed before White and his five-piece band returned, ripping into “Fell in Love With a Girl” as White gestured at the crowd to engage. He soon paused to alternately tease and cajole the audience in the ornate room.

“I know as Detroiters you can overcome comfortable seating and beautiful lighting to make something as real as possible,” he said.

I guess it got better from there, but man, what a control freak.

Open thread today, obviously. (What am I saying? It’s open every day.) And happy Wednesday. I remembered this time.

Posted at 12:30 am in Detroit life, iPhone, Same ol' same ol' | 63 Comments

One chilly day.

Where is July these days? It barely scraped 70 degrees today, and then only when the sun was out, and it wasn’t out much. I was in the office in no sleeves, and practically froze to death.

It’s shaping up to be an insane week — deadlines, deadlines and…houseguests! Plus we have a failing car; the Passat now requires a repair that will cost more than its value, and it’s just sitting in its parking spot, being disappointing. I really hoped it would go well past 165K, but it doesn’t look to be in the cards. So we spent the weekend trying to find a used wagon (has to hold an acoustic bass, or bass/amp/drum set, the standard rhythm-section quandary). We think we found one in an eight-year-old Volvo wagon, but it won’t be paid for for a few days, which means…complications.

So, some links:

These anti-vax people. I have no words.

Those of you who remember the towering documentary “Streetwise” from 1993 might be interested in how it turned out for the filmmakers, and Tiny, the central character of the film about Seattle street kids. A nice column.

A fascinating explanation of how the FDA approves, or fails to approve, sunscreen. Yes, sunscreen.

Happy Monday, all.

Posted at 12:29 am in Same ol' same ol' | 35 Comments

Summer snapshots.

I said expect some photo posts this summer, so here you go.

I found this video on my phone, having utterly forgotten it from a couple of weeks ago. It’s from Port Huron, at the start of the Mackinac race. When the boats start to make their way out of the river to the starting line, the Port Huron Yacht Club hosts a troupe of pipers to send them off. Sort of cool. Click here if you want to watch it.

The Deadly Viper Assassination Squad had a big weekend — five gigs in four days, one of them on the University of Michigan student radio station. It was to promote some local-music festival. They made the Metro Times listings:


Look at Justin Timberlake, checkin’ out my girls. Step off, pop star. You can’t handle the DVAS.

The best gig of the weekend was Thursday’s, at the Magic Stick. The theme was Space Jam, so decorations were in order:


They were very energetic. I will say, that after years of dragging Kate around to jazz gigs and other music lessons, six months with this band has done far more for her confidence than all that sophisticated repertoire she played with various ensembles. She’s having a ball, and so a ball she will continue to have.

How was y’all’s weekend? I spent it working on the book, and was rewarded with a strongly ass-smelling Mitch Albom column. The past week included Detroit’s 313th birthday, and if you’ve ever called someone here, you know that’s the city’s area code. So there were a number of parties, festivals, throwdowns and the like going on all week. These included: A “body-positive,” i.e. semi-nude bike ride, a street-band festival, about a million other things. A guy I know who’s involved with the people who own and operate Gon KiRin, aka the dragon art car that shoots actual fire out of her nostrils, got her out and about. They got pulled over by the cops. Let me just set up the punchline by sketching out what this thing offers:

The beast is 22-1/2 feet tall and about 80 feet long, weighing in at 8 tons. It’s an “art car,” built onto the frame of an old Dodge W-300 Power Wagon with a 318 engine. There’s a 1,500-pound second-story DJ booth encased in steel wicker, mounted on a Marine Zodiac attack boat under the monster’s spine. The whole contraption can carry more than a dozen riders, with seats in the mouth and in a party couch on the back, where riders can make the tail sway back and forth.

So guess what the offense was? One of the artists had his 2-year-old son with him, and he wasn’t in a child safety seat. On a dragon.

With all this going on, with this vast buffet of snacks and bonbons to choose from, here’s part of Mitch’s offering on the 313 celebration:

What we are — what we remain — is a place that celebrates things like its 313th birthday. A place that immortalizes an annual car cruise down Woodward Avenue. That treats Opening Day of the baseball season as a religious experience. That considers walking around new cars in tuxedos and black dresses the biggest party of the year.

We are resilient in our traditions. Fiercely proud of own. We act as if Tim Allen still walks down our streets and Bob Seger is releasing a top 10 song this week, as if Motown is a thriving business, not a museum, and Gordie Howe could lace them up and play a few shifts if he wanted to.

Tim Allen. Bob Seger. Motown. The Dream Cruise (which doesn’t come near Detroit). If this guy were any more out of touch, he’d be living in California. All of the above details about the goings-on could have been gleaned from a cursory run through the free weekly’s listings. I can’t stand it.

OK, then. I just sent this David Carr column to my colleagues. It’s about the use of immediate social-media technology to report on breaking news, and the complications and rule-bending it brings with it:

Tyler Hicks, a longtime photographer for The Times, was at a hotel in Gaza City across from the beach where the four Palestinian boys died. He tweeted the news immediately, took a photo that was hard to glance at and then wrote about what it was like to be standing there.

He said that he felt horrified, but that in a clinical sense, he also felt exposed. “If children are being killed, what is there to protect me, or anyone else?”

The act of witness, a foundation of war reporting, has been democratized and disseminated in new ways. The same device that carries photos of your mother’s new puppy or hosts aimless video games also serves up news from the front.

Are you middle-class? Feeling poorer today? There’s a reason.

OK, I’m outta here. Have a great week, everyone. Expect more spotty service.

Posted at 12:30 am in Detroit life, Media, Same ol' same ol' | 40 Comments

Cliff’s Notes theater.

I’ll give Mitch Albom this: The guy has no shame whatsoever, and a nearly Oprah-perfect common touch. Another writer, tasked with a play about a beloved baseball announcer, might have searched for a little chiaroscuro, a few shadows, something, anything to give all that lovin’ a little dimension. Not Mitch. For “Ernie,” his tribute to Detroit’s late and beloved Ernie Harwell, he will have no truck with shadows, nor shades of gray, nor anything that might taint the rosy picture so many Detroiters have of their late hero. The worst thing “Ernie” says about Ernie is that he worked very hard, and his beloved wife Lulu had to spend a lot of nights alone.

And so it was that my friend Dustin and I took in this dose of Albom, something I never thought I’d do. But I park in the garage attached to the theater, and when the posters went up for this annual cash-extraction exercise for sentimental Tigers fans, conveniently scheduled on game days, now in its four year, I had a change of heart.

“Dustin,” I said. “It’s time for us to see ‘Ernie.’”

“OK,” he said.

I was hoping he’d put up more of a fight. But I bought the tickets.

The play, like Mitch’s books, seems a bare minimum of effort (85 minutes; you get the idea it was kept short to eliminate the need for embarrassing bathroom breaks by its elderly audience). It’s set on a nearly-bare stage, with two characters – Ernie and “the boy.” The boy wears knickers, knee socks, high shoes and a newsboy’s cap. I think of him as the personification of the author’s belief that everything was better in the world when times were simpler and boys wore knickers. He’s played by TJ Corbett, with lots of jazz-handsy, run-around-the-stage energy. Ernie is played by Peter Carey with a Georgia accent and an old man’s shuffle that keeps threatening to reveal the younger one beneath.

It’s set in a tunnel at Comerica Park, just offstage, as Ernie prepares to receive an accolade from the organization that employed him for so long. But there’s a rain delay, and the kid in knickers shows up to prompt Ernie through “a broadcast of his life” in “nine innings,” and no, I’m not kidding. So we’re basically talking a monologue, interrupted by the knickers kid, and that’s a heavy lift for an actor, so respect.

Along the way, and this should not surprise you, we learn a lot about the playwright. The phrase “kids today” is repeated more than once. There’s a sneering reference to “Faceplace,” i.e., that website my daughter wouldn’t be caught dead on. The World Series-winning ’68 Tigers “really pulled us all together,” after “the racial strife and riots,” which are given exactly that much attention – five words. There’s reference to fans doing the wave, something I’ve only seen at football games, but what do I know? I’m no sportswriter.

I started jotting down random platitudes lines: “Never judge a man by what others say about him.” “None of them are texting.” “Believe in yourself; God has a plan for everyone.”

I have a friend who reveres Harwell, and on any given day, he can summon up half a dozen lines of his radio patter, the pitcher who “kicks and delivers,” the batter walked for “excessive window shopping.” The ones that turn up in every nostalgia story are the ones we hear here: “Loooong gone,” and the one about “standing like a house by the side of the road.” Similarly ignored is any mention of how the game changed toward the end of Harwell’s career; while Mark Fidrych gets in there, the story about him having sex with a girl on the pitcher’s mound, needless to say, doesn’t make it. Hey, family audiences. Even his firing, during the Monaghan era, is glossed over.

There’s nothing new here, no particular insight into the man’s character, no message about the human condition you could name, other than here was a really nice man and we all wish he were still alive, so here’s a guy to impersonate him for 85 minutes. It’s theater for the Faceplace age.

So at the end of an hour and a half, what you’re left with is an extended version of the Albom obit that is helpfully included in the program, all sweetness and light and puppies and goo. We were probably the youngest people in the house.

A little bloggage to get us into the weekend? Well, OK:

The director of the Ohio State marching band gets cashiered after an internal investigation showed the place featured only slightly less over-the-top, sexually themed harassment than a strip bar next to an oil field. If your team ever played Ohio State, you’ll want to check this handy songbook and learn what they were singing about your band in the locker room.

Tom & Lorenzo do the important work of summer fashion blogging, i.e., putting together a few snaps of Taylor Swift leaving the gym.

Dahlia! Dahlia! Dahlia takes on the two-hour execution in Arizona this week.

On Wednesday afternoon, in a ritual that has become increasingly—indeed almost numbingly—familiar, the state of Arizona administered a secret drug protocol that took almost two hours to kill a man. Joseph R. Wood III was sentenced to death in 1991 for shooting and killing his ex-girlfriend Debra Dietz and her father, Eugene. The murder was gruesome, and Wood was guilty. He shot his victims in the chest at close range. The only question that remains, as yet another state botches yet another execution, is whether the two hours of gasping and snorting by the accused before he finally died is excessive, or whether it sounds about right to us.

Love me some Dahlia. And now I love me some weekend, and I hope you do, too.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events, Detroit life | 76 Comments

Everyone forgets you but the pigeons.

Today’s Snapshot of Blogging Laziness is Gov. Stevens Mason, Michigan’s first. He stands in a park in Detroit and birds poop on his head.


And for those of you who don’t follow the comments, but who did follow our brief chat a few months back about Ben Stein’s weird column in the American Spectator, this story, about some fairly run-of-the-mill skeeviness on Stein’s part, is for you. You know the sick making passage? This one, from Stein’s own version of what happened when he met a pregnant escort and tried to get her to let him “touch and kiss” her for money. They’re talking about her now-estranged baby daddy:

“I really didn’t like him that much,” she texted me. “I just wasn’t into him that much.”

“Well, you must have been into him pretty much and he must have been very much into you because you’re carrying his baby.”

“I know,” she said, “but I’ll just be a single mom. Will you help me out?”

I am so pro-life that I can never say no in these cases but I am worried about it.

He gives her money because he is so pro-life. I can’t stand it.

Anyone else? Tony Dungy takes the easy way out on welcoming Michael Sam to the NFL. Which is to say, he doesn’t.

No blog tomorrow, but! I think you might enjoy Thursday’s — a friend and I are going to see a Mitch Albom play today. JUST BECAUSE.

Happy hump day, all. Over and out.

Posted at 12:30 am in Uncategorized | 56 Comments

Back to the grind.

I bused it into work today — ozone action alert — to find myself all alone in our little office. First day back from vacation, and apparently I missed the memo about everybody working in Ann Arbor today. No problem. It was a hot day, and I had a lot to do. So I sat in the air-conditioning and went for a short bike ride at lunch and that was that.

Actually, as working Mondays go, it’s pretty good. I love summer, riding past the baseball stadium on the way to lunch, where my favorite pizzeria was CLOSED?!? Well, damn. It was still a lovely day. And there were some good links. This one was horrifying:

Vassar — When people opposed to housing young Central American immigrants here claimed the youths worked for drug cartels, Adam Barden was frustrated.

When the opponents attended demonstrations armed with semi-automatic rifles, he was perplexed.

And when they threatened to boycott his hardware store for not agreeing with them, he got angry.

Yep, the debate over the Central American children has washed up in Michigan. It’s happening everywhere. And the protestors are open-carrying. This will surely work out wonderfully.

So, change of subject? How about this one? I swear, I don’t know why any of the big billionaires waste their money in Washington; the real power can be wielded in state legislatures, and the prices are so much lower:

Missouri is the only state in America that has declined to keep a prescription drug database — the primary tool the other 49 states use to identify people who acquire excess prescriptions for addictive painkillers and tranquilizers, as well as the physicians who overprescribe them. …But while proponents say the vast majority of the Legislature supports the measure, it has been blocked by a small group of lawmakers led by State Senator Rob Schaaf, a family physician who argues that allowing the government to keep prescription records violates personal privacy. After successfully sinking a 2012 version of the bill, Mr. Schaaf said of drug abusers, “If they overdose and kill themselves, it just removes them from the gene pool.”

See how easy? One guy can gum up the works.

And speaking of one guy, how about a Kennedy? RFK Jr. and his mad crusade against thimerosol, the boogieman chemical of the anti-vaxxers:

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Institute of Medicine, no evidence supports a link between thimerosal and any brain disorders, including autism. But parental concerns of such an association in the 1990s spurred vaccine fears. This owed to a confluence of factors: highly publicized warnings of mercury-contaminated fish; rising awareness and diagnoses of autism; and vaccines added to the childhood schedule. The CDC urged vaccine makers to remove thimerosal as a precautionary measure.

Some parents took this as proof of thimerosal’s harm. The controversy, which Kennedy helped fuel in the 2000s with a notorious, widely publicized article, prompted additional vaccine fears that linger to this day.

The greatness was rinsed out the Kennedys a generation back, but the publicity remains.

A new week! It’s going to be a hot one. Enjoy yours.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events | 31 Comments

Cultural exchange.

When we travel, we make plans to see national landmarks, great museums, the crown jewels. And then we get there, and we remember things like one of our German guests last week, who, when asked about her impressions of America so far, mentioned the toilets.

Apparently they have a button system in Germany – one button for liquids, another for solids. Kate immediately chimed in, having traveled there last summer: “Yes! The buttons!”

So I guess that’s how memories are made: In the room you visit multiple times a day.

Later in the week, Johanna showed us an aerial photo of her house, and I asked what the crops were in the surrounding fields. “I don’t know the word,” she said. “It is a seed for making oil.”

Soy? No. Canola? No. She reached for her translator, pecked out the word and blanched.

“Oh, rapeseed,” I said. You can imagine how awkward.

Speaking of Germans, here are ours:


Johanna and Henrike are the ones on the outside – ours. The inner pair stayed with a friend, and this was the day we took them to Comerica Park, duh, where they capered under the big Tiger and took many pictures. We didn’t take them to the game, because they would have been bored, so we took them to the mall, where everything is so cheap! Their suitcases were already hernia bait when they arrived, and that was before two shopping trips, with Windsor and Boston still on the itinerary.

So it was a fun trip for them, I hope. The first night we went to a bar in Hamtramck where Kate’s band was playing, but the music was delayed and the bar is one that doesn’t enforce the smoking law, so they mostly stared at their phones.

“I dunno, I thought a couple of German kids might want to see an authentic Detroit rock club,” I told a friend afterward.

“Oh, come on,” he said. “You know there are pictures of that place all over German Twitter hashtagged #fuckyeahdetroit.”

If only. They mostly seemed to enjoy the shopping, and watching “Mean Girls” on Netflix. (German-dubbed name: “Girls Club.”)

And that was just one part of the last action-packed week. There were also trips to and from Port Huron and Mackinac for the race. Kate took off for the weekend, so there was an airport stop-off. Essentially, this weekend was the first down time I’ve had. Did some yoga — man, did that feel good after a few hundred miles of driving — and took a long bike ride. We ended up at the Eastern Market’s new Sunday market, where the vegetable stalls are replaced by crafts and other summer-festival sorts of stuff. I had a booze-infused popsicle and headed for home.

This week, and the next few, threaten to be just as crazed, but I will strive to keep up here. Thanks for being such great commenters in my absence. You all are the best.

In the meantime…

Pro-Russian separatists are said to be collecting the bodies of the dead plane-crash victims and? Holding them. Who ARE these people?

I can’t stop watching this Elaine Stritch performance of “The Ladies Who Lunch,” and I thank Roy for finding it:

And another crazy week begins. In English.

Posted at 12:30 am in Same ol' same ol' | 31 Comments

I been workin’.

Sorry no post for a while; in the past few days I’ve been up and back to Port Huron twice, then up and back from Mackinac. I have a freelance assignment to write/edit the 100th anniversary book for the local yacht club that sponsors the Port Huron-to-Mackinac race, and it was last weekend. Today, two German teenagers are arriving for a few days; we’re a host family for their summer-camp arts tour, a way to close the circle on Kate’s trip to Europe last year.

So it’s been one of those weeks, and will continue to be so.

But here’s what the sunset over St. Ignace looked like on Monday. As the kids say, it’s all good:


Carry on. I’ll be in and out as circumstances allow.

Posted at 11:27 am in Housekeeping | 103 Comments

Saturday afternoon sailing.

I scored a spot on one of the press boats for the start of the Bayview/Bell’s Brewing Port Huron-to-Mackinac race.

It’s a downwind start. Very spinnaker-y. Pret-ty sweet.


Posted at 12:33 pm in Uncategorized | 73 Comments