It’s going backward.

I think this explains my bad luck lately:

From the irreplaceable Is Mercury in Retrograde, of course.

And my luck isn’t bad, I’m just crabby about perfectly normal, and not at all terrible, bumps in the road. If you haven’t figured it out yet, I can be a whiner.

Another bananas week that appears to be front-loaded through …Thursday afternoon, which makes it just a stupid week. It’s the evening obligations that end up making you feel nuts, although it’s the evening obligations that make you feel alive, too. At least if you’re an extrovert. And they’re not, strictly speaking, obligations.

So what happened today? Are we closer to war in North Korea? Bombing anyone in the Middle East? How’d the egg roll go yesterday? Did the first lady bring her special brand of frosty, astringent sunshine to the White House?

Speaking of which, much of this analysis is bananas, but when a person doesn’t give you much to work with, some critics have to reach a little — a dissection of Melania Trump’s Twitter photos.

I see my autocorrect is no longer changing Melania to Melanie. Do I have to stop calling her Natasha now?

Just a bit of bloggage: A history of how human beings have treated Yellowstone’s thermal features. (Badly.) Geysers weren’t meant to be washing machines, it turns out.

Don’t think much of George Schultz, but setting aside an hour a day week to stare out the window or at the ceiling isn’t worst idea in the world.

And then, of course, there’s Facebook, which issued everyone in the world a sword and appears astonished that some chose not to beat them into plowshares:

Even as it has become a forum for more sensational events, live and otherwise, it has said it does not want to be a media company that overly arbitrates what is posted on its site. But the more reluctant it is to intervene or the slower it is to respond, the more it may open itself to the posting of killings, sexual assaults and other crimes.

“Any of these platforms — especially live ones — encourages users to perform,” said Elizabeth Joh, a law professor at the University of California, Davis. “Should Facebook have a duty to rescue a crime victim? Should we, or is it O.K. for thousands or millions of people to watch a crime unfold without doing anything except sharing it?”

God, these people.

Posted at 10:01 pm in Current events | 63 Comments
 

Anti-syllables.

I just want to take a minute up front here to say how glad I am how well you guys keep this site afloat when I don’t have the strength or interest. Last week was really a tough one, and the one before that, ditto. And yet, has the world slowed down in his headlong rush to the abyss? No, I don’t think so. In fact, it’s rushing ever-faster. So I’m glad someone else here can keep the cocktail party buoyed with effervescence and, y’know, keening and moaning.

The Berkeley protests in particular seem almost impenetrable, although I have to admit, Twitter does a serviceable job of sketching out the particulars. Correct me if I’m wrong: There was a protest on Saturday, traditional tax day, as there was around the country. And the people in black showed up, and they’re called antifa, apparently because saying “anti-fascist” is too much work for Twitter. And the Nazi-symp shitheads showed up, and there were scuffles, and now there are GIFs all over of some guy punching a woman, and some other stuff, and it seems to portend something bigger, but as usual, much of the media is missing the whole thing.

On the other hand, this might be the greatest photo caption ever:

There was other stuff, too. I tried to stay away from the internet to the best of my ability, but my ability wasn’t entirely up to snuff. I caught the carriage story, which made me smash my head against the wall. But then the weather changed – abruptly, as in 30 degrees warmer in three hours – and so I just went for a bike ride. Fuck all this shit on the weekend when we celebrate the world’s return, is what I say.

In other news, we went to Ann Arbor to have brunch Sunday, and someone had painted the rock with “Christ is risen” in Russian, and I was able to read it, mainly because the phrase is the word for Sunday. We went to a vegetarian restaurant, and it was very fine, if a little too dependent on the cheeses and fats. But what is Sunday without some cheese and fat, I always say?

Feeling better, by the way. Let’s hope it lasts this time. Ten days of a 50 percent cold is no fun at all.

Not much bloggage today, just this: Remember Janesville, Fort Wayners? The place that gave us all the workers for the FW GM plant? It’s all over now, baby blue.

And into the week we go.

Posted at 8:59 pm in Current events | 75 Comments
 

Cold for Easter.

My god, this cold. It won’t knock me flat, but it won’t let me stand all the way upright. We’re going on day nine, and it shows no sign of leaving. And I’m pissed. Tomorrow I plan to sleep late, finish my taxes and write.

At some point I’m going to have to replenish the tissue stocks, too. What a way to go into a holiday weekend — snotty and headachy.

But it’s just a cold. This is just whining.

Right now, I want to go into the weekend with something new, and as has been the case for months now, the news just keeps on coming. We’re bombing Afghanistan. There’s the seeds of a backlash in Kansas. And in Syria? Oopsie!

And locally? A doctor of immediately indeterminate Middle Eastern heritage is charged with female genital mutiliation. Man, if that’s not a don’t-read-the-comments story, I don’t know what is.

(I just read one. Backing away slowly.)

Have a great weekend, all. Happy Easter. I hope I’m feeling better by the end of it.

Posted at 9:03 pm in Current events | 76 Comments
 

So, this happened.

New thread, and this picture of me and Pilot JoeK after lunch today:

Today was also J.C.’s birthday, so let’s wish him a happy one.

Me, I went to the Schvitz tonight and am too relaxed and warm to do much of anything other than go to bed.

Posted at 10:24 pm in Same ol' same ol' | 94 Comments
 

Flying the brutal skies.

It’s 76 degrees outside as I write this, which strikes me as the perfect outside temperature. You can go for a nice walk without sweating. Shorts are comfortable, but if your legs are still Michigan-winter white and dotted with yellowing bruises from that unfortunate business with the pedal clips last weekend, jeans are fine, too. You can open the windows and listen to the birdies tweeting outside, lie on your bed and catch up on the news without needing a blanket. You can wear flip-flops. You can make your dinner hearty or light, and both will work.

Tonight will be perfect for sleeping. It’s a good day.

Back to the pool this morning, which was closed last week while the schools were on spring break. They didn’t leave the heater on, and the water was? Yes, 76 degrees. Which is a bit chilly, gotta tell ya. It’s fine once you get moving, even refreshing — nothing worse than an overheated pool when you’re working hard — but oh my was there bitching from the peanut gallery as the dawn patrol got wet again.

I posted this story in our — the swimmers’ — Facebook group to cheer us all up. So far, zero comments, zero likes. I thought it was hilarious:

An Australian rapper called 2pec racked up a large bill in a seafood restaurant, before running into the sea to avoid paying, a Queensland court has heard.

Police set off in hot pursuit on jetskis for the man, who later claimed he ran to help a friend give birth on the beach, according to local media.

His bill was over A$600 (£360, $450).

Terry Peck, who has been charged with theft and assault, later said the lobsters were overcooked.

It actually continues to improve from there.

Not everyone had a good day, of course. There was that poor man dragged, literally, off a United flight for the crime of refusing to accept a later flight, a travel voucher plus $800. Yes, fresh off Leggingsgate, United chooses to send goons on board to treat a 69-year-old doctor — who said he had to get back to see patients — like a criminal. One of my social-media network observed that the airline’s explanation, which used the Orwellian phrase “re-accommodate these customers,” might have passed muster if only a dozen passengers hadn’t been recording the whole disgraceful incident on their phones. White people are learning what black people learned a while ago: This communication device is a weapon in the right hands. Use it wisely.

Speaking of flying, my friend Dave Jones had a different experience, on Southwest, the airline where you expect to be uncomfortable. If you’re feeling grim about humanity after United’s disgraceful conduct, read that.

And then the Pulitzers. Fahrenthold! Well-deserved! Noonan! Um, no. But that’s always how it is. I’m glad that left-wing blog, ProPublica, scooped one, too.

Because take it from us, guys: The pursuit of truth had never been harder, or more important. (That’s a scary-ass story to read, folks.)

And now we’re having a nice, gentle thunderstorm. What a day. Let’s hope the rest of the week continues in this vein.

Posted at 6:29 pm in Current events | 80 Comments
 

Frog music.

Grocery shopping is suddenly so complicated. Remember being able to buy a whole chicken, cut up? My local Kroger no longer carries this exotic fare, just the beloved-by-yoga-moms boneless, skinless chicken breasts; chicken “tenderloins,” i.e., fingers; and once in a while there will be a sale on whole thighs. Even drumsticks are something you have to hunt for. And so now my food shopping expands to three venues — Eastern Market for vegetables, Kroger for yogurt and canned stuff and vegetables like onions and potatoes, because while I’m sure Alice Waters can tell me there’s a reason I need to fill my farmers-market bags with artisanal onions and extra-special potatoes, to my proletarian mouth regular old white onions and Yukon Gold potatoes do pretty well for almost everything. My third stop is to the specialty grocery here in G.P. that has better-than-Kroger-grade meat.

It must have been a grumpy weekend, you’re thinking. Yes, sorta. But this helped:

That’s Kate, playing the MacBook Air and Ableton, and her classmates, playing similar machines, except for the guy on the right, who was playing a theremin.

The puppetry procession was Julie Taymor-type big-ass puppets on sticks, the music the final product of Kate’s electronic chamber-music class. The weather was perfect, and we found a parking place. Can’t complain about Saturday.

Sunday brought this, however:

When the Obama administration launched a sweeping policy to reduce harsh prison sentences for nonviolent drug offenders, rave reviews came from across the political spectrum. Civil rights groups and the Koch brothers praised Obama for his efforts, saying he was making the criminal justice system more humane.

But there was one person who watched these developments with some horror. Steven H. Cook, a former street cop who became a federal prosecutor based in Knoxville, Tenn., saw nothing wrong with how the system worked — not the life sentences for drug charges, not the huge growth of the prison population. And he went everywhere — Bill O’Reilly’s show on Fox News, congressional hearings, public panels — to spread a different gospel.

“The federal criminal justice system simply is not broken. In fact, it’s working exactly as designed,” Cook said at a criminal justice panel at The Washington Post last year.

Yes, back by (unpopular) demand — the war on drugs!

Law enforcement officials say that Sessions and Cook are preparing a plan to prosecute more drug and gun cases and pursue mandatory minimum sentences. The two men are eager to bring back the national crime strategy of the 1980s and ’90s from the peak of the drug war, an approach that had fallen out of favor in recent years as minority communities grappled with the effects of mass incarceration.

Because it worked so, so well the first time, right?

I can’t even. Let’s hope the week goes better than last.

Posted at 9:39 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 72 Comments
 

So, so done.

Great googly moogly, what a week. Illness, lots of work and here, at week’s end, my lovely daughter in the house, for band practice. She’s just staying the night, leaving in the a.m., but it’s nice to see her. We’re going to Ann Arbor this weekend to hear a brief bit of her original composition, which is on my calendar as “frog music.” Formal name: “The River in Our City, the River in Our Veins,” which the Facebook event page informs me is “processional puppetry.” Kate wrote 10 minutes of electronic music for the frog portion, which was supposed to play behind puppets depicting the lifespan of a frog, but not all the phases got made, so the piece got trimmed. I hope I get to see a tadpole puppet at the very least.

I’m looking forward to this.

The weather is supposed to cooperate, and IT FUCKING BETTER. We’re currently dodging a major snowstorm in northern Michigan, but enduring chill sideways rain that really sucks ass and I for one am so done with winter. The Tigers opening day is Friday, so all the happy baseball drunks will likely be enduring what’s known around here as “wintry mix.”

Fortunately, if you choose to stay in, there’s plenty to read. Shall we begin?

Mike Pence, gutted and filleted:

He began as a talk show host in 1994 in small-town Indiana, fulminating about the global warming “myth,” the perfidy of Washington, and the verities of an evangelical Christianity menaced by cosmopolites. Piety swiftly merged with pragmatism: ambitious for office, Pence learned what worked — an antichoice, antigay agenda served up with reckless rhetoric couched in a pose of rectitude. He informed his audience that Clarence Thomas was being “lynched,” and that “despite the hysteria from the political class and the media, smoking doesn’t kill.” A quarter-century later, Pence remains as small as his beginnings.

The flexibility of his conscience surfaced in his first race for Congress. He used campaign funds to pay for his mortgage, car, credit card, golf, and groceries. To smear his opponent, he sent a mailer depicting lines of cocaine; ran an ad portraying an Arab sheik; and spread a story that the Democrat was selling his farm to a nuclear waste facility. Only after losing, did Pence deploy an ostentatious show of guilt.

Only Richard North Patterson, who divides his time between Martha’s Vineyard and California (according to his Twitter bio) could call Indianapolis a small town, but we’ll give him that. Because otherwise, he’s dead-on.

A truly weird and dispiriting Columbia Journalism Review piece about a recent panel on “the new White House correspondents,” i.e., the alt-whatever freak show that Sean Spicer is making room for in the briefings:

(Gateway Pundit’s Lucian) Wintrich played the ringleader of his own one-man circus. He boasted of his big recent scoop, a supposed run-in with Malia Obama at a Manhattan club, where the underage former first daughter allegedly accosted him. “As a black belt, according to the American Taekwondo Association, I will never refuse a fight,” Wintrich said. The event moderator, Columbia Journalism School Professor Ari Goldman, pushed back that Wintrich’s culminating report, which included a picture of a woman’s shoulder, wasn’t matched by other news organizations.

“It was picked up by every major gossip site, thank you very much,” Wintrich said. “That picture of Malia Obama’s shoulder was shared over 100,000 times. That’s why I’m a good reporter. I will publish those Malia Obama shoulder pics. Whatever pics sort of enter into my peripheral, I will publish.”

Are you nauseous yet? No. This audio clip will take two minutes of your time — or you can read the transcript — and should do the trick: A couple of companies eager for that border-wall contract pitch what makes their wall plan great enough to be part of great-again America. I don’t want to spoil the punchline but what the hell, here you go:

Then there’s a Pennsylvania company which proposes a nuclear waste wall. Wall jumpers would encounter a 100-foot deep trench with the waste at the bottom.

I was screaming by that point. I need me this weekend, and I need it bad. I hope yours is lovely.

Posted at 8:33 pm in Current events | 111 Comments
 

Step into my bubble.

Gotta love a sick day when you barely leave your bed, but still get as much done as you would on those when you shower, get dressed, make up your face and interact with your co-workers in the flesh, rather than via the various electronic channels. And now more stuff awaits, a rewrite I would happily suffer a broken collarbone to get out of, but OK, not really.

Anyway, I put together a couple of links I hope you like, and I’m timing this to publish after they go live in the early morning hours Thursday.

As you may have noticed, Bridge is doing a yearlong Divided Michigan project, and Thursday’s installment is entertaining, if nothing else: We persuaded two parties, a gay couple in Ann Arbor and a rock-ribbed Trump voter in Troy, to switch their news bubbles for a week. The gay guys agreed to read the Drudge Report and listen to a talk-radio station called The Patriot, and the Trump voter was subjected to NPR, the New York Times and Jezebel. (Yeah, I know — a couple of dudes who read Jezebel? It is entertaining, I guess.)

I’ll let you ponder how it turned out. Spoiler: Not well. But it’s a good read.

And in the same spirit, there’s this Alex Pareene essay from one of the former Gawkers — Fusion, I guess. He points out the obvious, which anyone who’s had an older relative skate off the cliff will recognize:

If you want to understand intra-GOP warfare, the decision-making process of our president, the implosion of the Republican healthcare plan, and the rest of the politics of the Trump era, you don’t need to know about Russian espionage tactics, the state of the white working class, or even the beliefs of the “alt-right.” You pretty much just need to be in semi-regular contact with a white, reasonably comfortable, male retiree. We are now ruled by men who think and act very much like that ordinary man you might know, and if you want to know why they believe so many strange and terrible things, you can basically blame the fact that a large and lucrative industry is dedicated to lying to them.

Because there was a lot of money in it for various hucksters and moguls and authors and politicians, the conservative movement spent decades building up an entire sector of the economy dedicated to scaring and lying to older white men. For millions of members of that demographic, this parallel media dedicated to lying to them has totally supplanted the “mainstream” media. Now they, and we, are at the mercy of the results of that project. The inmates are running the asylum, if there is a kind of asylum that takes in many mostly sane people and then gradually, over many years, drives one subset of its inmates insane, and also this asylum has the largest military in the world.

Long, but absolutely worth your time. Gotta get on that rewrite at this end. Enjoy.

Posted at 6:30 am in Current events | 50 Comments
 

Dispatch from bed-desk.

I should have known this week was cursed on Monday. It took forever to get out of the house — forgot this, oops I need to put something in the crockpot, etc. And I lost my wallet. It fell out of my pocket as I was putting the dry cleaning into the car, part of my super-efficient early-Monday, after-workout routine. The good news is, it was found by a nice older man who was trying to find me in the White Pages (HA HA HA HA HA) when I realized what I’d done and raced back to the dry cleaner.

Some would see that as a glass-half-full good omen for the week, along with the chicken soup that turned out fine after I threw it together in the crockpot practically on my way out the door.

But I woke up Tuesday sick, and remain sick. Half a cold, kinda-fever, GI discomfort, nothing specific, just general malaise. (I’m the only person in the world who gets sick after eating chicken soup, evidently.) I relocated to Kate’s bed when Alan woke me at 3 a.m. to inform me I was snoring loud enough to wake the dead in cemeteries miles away. It was Kate’s bed instead of the guest room, because that bed is still strewn with tax documents, for the returns I have yet to finish.

So not a great week. so far. I have hopes for the remainder, as soon as I get this little mixed salad of bloggage served:

The Trumps — and the U.S. government, because who are we kidding about who paid for this — have access to the greatest photographers on the planet, and this is what some Belgian guy woman serves up for the first lady’s official portrait:

Of course Twitter is beside itself over this. Glamour Shots has been invoked, as has Olan Mills. I keep looking at it, wondering why a 46-year-old woman with classic Slavic bone structure and piercing blue eyes, not to mention access to the finest makeup and makeup artists in New York City, would approve a soft-lens product that you’d use on a pimply 17-year-old for her senior picture. I wonder if that’s a layer of subtext, the fogging of the lens that symbolizes her fundamental iciness and, shall we say, lack of enthusiasm for her new job. I’m fascinated by the background, which doesn’t say White House at all. (Although I think it is the White House; that looks like the window over the door on the Pennsylvania Avenue side.) And of course I see that Natasha always puts her hands in show-the-diamond position, her way of saying it was all worth it, all the humiliation, all the cheating, all the nights spent next to an old man who, having caught you, now barely acknowledges your existence, because this is her ring, and not yours.

Like I said, I’ve been sick. My mind gets sorta weird when its feverish. UPDATE: As usual, Robin Givhan has something smarter to say.

Also, there is this, and it is funny.

Back to work. Yes, I’m working. You think a sick day means couch time and Netflix? Ha ha ha ha ha.

Posted at 10:57 am in Current events | 44 Comments
 

Pratfall.

A glorious weekend, gloriousness mitigated only somewhat by having to spend 50 percent of it at workish activity, but oh well. I’ll just have to finish my taxes during the week sometime. But I got in the first bike ride of the season, which was preceded by a humiliating fall.

I pumped up the tires in both bikes and took them for around-the-block spins, just to see if there was anything that required immediate attention. Both were fine, but as I brought the road bike in for a landing, I realized too late that I’d clipped in, which meant my feet were attached to the pedals and I couldn’t twist them free in time to get one down. When this happens you basically fall over on your side, which is not as scary or disaster-tempting as going over the handlebars, but still hurts, especially when you fall onto your garage floor. I’m going to have at least one bruise tomorrow, maybe a few.

No one was there to witness my humiliation except Wendy. And she can’t talk.

Let’s hope that’s the worst the season has to offer me. I went down to the river on my usual one-hour circuit and checked out the creeping gentrification in the Jefferson-Chalmers neighborhood. A co-working space opened over the winter, a sure sign that the hipsters are coming. But there’s still a great bar I discovered only recently, so fingers crossed all is not lost yet, even if they now have a coffee shop and bike lanes.

And on the drive to Lansing, I started the S-town podcast, about which I will surely have more to say, eventually.

But not before I say something about Bill O’Reilly, serial sexual harasser, whose sordid history with female underlings was covered rather comprehensively in the NYT over the weekend. I will say what I’ve been saying a lot lately: These are repulsive people, and seeing O’Reilly’s smug face on the same page with Roger Ailes’ jowls only serves to remind me what these guys’ world is: Powerful, rich, awful men and their cocktail-dress brigade of sweet young things, mostly mistresses and side pieces. Reading it made me mad at everybody — O’Reilly, Ailes, every lawyer involved, the women who walk willingly into these jobs for whatever reason. May they all fall into the abyss.

Things aren’t going so well for the young and used-up down in Trump country, but they have their fingers crossed they can get on disability. A sad story.

With that, our day begins…with rain. Fine. At least we got two days of sun, going into it.

Have a good one, all.

Posted at 8:56 pm in Current events | 65 Comments