Summer slowness.

Monday might be my least-favorite blogging day of the week. Nothing ever happens to me on a Monday. Usually I go to the downtown office, so that’s something. But usually nothing interesting happens there, either. You see movies about journalists, and you think it’s all running around to fires and stuff, and there’s some of that, or used to be. For me and my colleagues, it’s mostly talking on the phone and staring at a computer screen.

I once had lunch with an editor who worked in the same office complex, or cluster, or whatever, as the Wall Street Journal editorial page. He could walk by and see them at work. What did he observe, you might wonder? Spells being cast, raucous staff meetings, Nerf basketball?

“Emails,” he said. “Lots and lots of emails.” That’s journalism today.

And since I brown-bagged it, I didn’t even get the fun of going out onto the sweaty streets to see what’s up. Except at the bus stop, which was pretty quiet. I think the whole world goes on vacation in July and August.

I did get a road report from the Deadly Vipers: The three shows so far have been in small spaces that were tightly packed with sweaty, moshing, toilet paper roll-throwing celebrants. They’ve been called back for encores all three shows, and “we’re selling a lot of tapes.” Yes, tapes, because some guy in Brooklyn is releasing their music on cassette. As I recall, the last time I was there people were gathering under a tent at a street festival to take a turn working on that wacky wayback machine known as a typewriter.

The rest of you can check out two tracks from the four-track EP via Soundcloud.

I know Americans have hardly covered themselves with glory abroad. I know idiots have scratched Ryan + Amber 4Ever on the Stonehenge monuments, touched stuff they were told not to and otherwise stumbled and bumbled their way through the world’s glories — don’t even get me started on that stupid locks-on-the-bridge thing in Paris — but honestly, there’s something about the lead of this story that makes me want to drop a bomb on France, just to get this guy:

Andre Saraiva is an internationally known graffiti artist. He owns nightclubs in Paris and New York, works as a top editor of the men’s fashion magazine L’Officiel Hommes and has appeared in countless glossy magazines as a tastemaker and bon vivant.

Two months ago he showed up on the decidedly un-fashionista website Modern Hiker, along with a photo of a boulder he tagged in Joshua Tree National Park. Since then, Saraiva, who lives in France and is known by his fans as Mr. Andre and Mr. A., has been scorned by American nature lovers and thrust into a highly charged debate.

Saraiva is of a new generation of graffiti artists who regard nature — not just the built environment — as their canvas. They tag national parks, then post photos of their work on the Internet.

The next bomb goes on the front office of the magazine whose editor offered this priceless observation:

“This is a very complex issue,” said Casey Schreiner, editor of Modern Hiker. “How different is graffiti in national parks than street art? If street art is OK, is this OK? Is there a correlation?”

Answers, in order: Very, no, no. Next question.

This is an interesting piece to consider, as demographics and trends move the wheel around. Remember the anonymous suburban office park in “Office Space?” Remember how you thought, “God, there are a million of those in my city alone?” Well, there are. And they’re falling out of favor:

The building in North Bethesda has eight floors. It is 98.7 percent vacant. There is one life form within its nearly 210,000 square feet — not counting the lobby fern on life support — and she wears a security uniform, sits at the front desk and listens to the muffled whine of a faulty alarm for hours at a time, every day between 6 a.m. and 2 p.m.

“It’s quite annoying,” say Lum Tumentang, the guard. The building engineer sometimes stops by and turns it off, but it inevitably trips again. There’s one or two IT people who do IT stuff one flight up, but they’re not here right now. The building was built in 1989, and it shows: a mountain of tinted glass and beige concrete in commercial dullsville. Over the past decade, its value dropped by 64 percent. The largest tenant, the National Institutes of Health and its contractors, started packing up two years ago as leases expired. By 2014, the owner reported cash-flow problems, foreclosure arrived this past January, and that was it for 6116 Executive Blvd.

That’s in D.C. Your town is likely not far behind.

So, then, Monday is in the books and Tuesday lies ahead. Enjoy whatever it holds for you.

Posted at 12:20 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 47 Comments
 

The horn section.

The Detroit “scene” — yes, air quotes are definitely called for here — has been growing so quickly that it’s sometimes hard to tell the New Detroit weekend activities from the earlier, more organic and fun variety. One year you’re going on a group bike ride and it’s just a good time, two years later you have thousands of fellow riders and corporate/foundation sponsorship and all the rest of it.

So lately, when I hear that something’s going on somewhere in the central part of town, I’m less likely to think hey, fun and more likely to think parking’s gonna be a four-legged bitch, no doubt.

It was a pleasant surprise to drop by the second annual Crash Detroit festival in its waning hours Saturday and see it was still fun. This is a brass-band gathering, very much in the New Orleans tradition of fun and partying and spontaneity, and we arrived for the last act, the hometown Detroit Party Marching Band:

partymarchingband

A little dark, I know, but I wanted you to get the idea of how they work — no stage, just gather up and start playing. And they play hard. The trombonist nearest to me shed his jacket halfway through the show, but I bet he wished he could shed more. Most of these folks play hard, and it was hot.

Still, in the depths of summer, a good news Sunday. There’s the Bill Cosby story, so much ick in one package:

He was not above seducing a young model by showing interest in her father’s cancer. He promised other women his mentorship and career advice before pushing them for sex acts. And he tried to use financial sleight of hand to keep his wife from finding out about his serial philandering.

Bill Cosby admitted to all of this and more over four days of intense questioning 10 years ago at a Philadelphia hotel, where he defended himself in a deposition for a lawsuit filed by a young woman who accused him of drugging and molesting her.

Even as Mr. Cosby denied he was a sexual predator who assaulted many women, he presented himself in the deposition as an unapologetic, cavalier playboy, someone who used a combination of fame, apparent concern and powerful sedatives in a calculated pursuit of young women — a profile at odds with the popular image he so long enjoyed, that of father figure and public moralist.

Man, I’m not one for idolizing celebrities (with some exceptions), and this is not Monday-morning hindsight, but there was always something off-putting about his Doctor Cosby, American Dad act I found off-putting. I should trust my instinct more often.

Brian Dickerson, my No. 1 reason for reading the Sunday Free Press, had a thoughtful column about the pressures on liberal arts educations these days. I think he nails it — business is trying to outsource its training onto higher ed — and have been saddened at the idea that studying something other than finance, marketing, math and business is somehow worthless. I’ve known many liberal-arts majors who are brilliant business people; knowing Iago’s motivation might be a useful skill in business, in my opinion, but what do I know.

A long read, but absolutely worth it: A long NYT project on crime on the high seas, Pulitzer-worthy, that reminds me to read William Langewiesche’s book on the same subject. A sobering reminder of the cost of civilization, a connection I probably drew from my liberal-arts education.

Oh, and also, this weekend? There was a pie:

cherry

I’m-a eat a piece. Right now. Enjoy the upcoming week.

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

Not what you think it is.

My comments on “Go Set a Watchman” come from a place of near-total ignorance of the text itself. I read the reviews and the first chapter online, and that’s it. So that’s your serving of salt grains with this, and here goes:

The only reason to read this book is as a case study in the power of a good editor. It’s not a lesson every reader wants to learn, or even cares about. Of all the movie fans in the world, how many want to learn about depth of field, how different lenses and film stocks work, the director’s art, or the color timer’s? They just want to enjoy the story unfolding in the dark. But in the case of these two books, all the evidence points to a single truth: This publication is an object lesson in the need for rock-solid estate planning and the need to appoint trustworthy guardians who will carry out your wishes, wishes you express when you still have the vigor to do so.

So when I hear Jeff say that lots of older people grow rigid and crabbed in their beliefs, and this is not a ridiculous turn of events for Atticus Finch, it makes me sad. Of course it’s true. But the Atticus of Watchman is not the same man of Mockingbird, for a very good reason: He’s a fictional character, and in her rewrite, Lee essentially crumpled up the paper she was sketching him on and started from scratch. Just because he has the same name doesn’t make him the same person, because he isn’t a person at all.

Although I will admit chuckling over a tweet I saw earlier today (and didn’t note the provenance of, sorry) something about of course Atticus is a bitter old racist 20 years after Mockingbird, because he’s been watching Fox News.

Speaking of estate planning… or rather, not speaking of it, because this story has nothing to do with it. Rather, it’s one of those stories we should all read from time to time, because it drives home just what real poverty is, how many poor families live in Detroit. And everywhere:

Oscar Edwards was born mentally disabled. He’s gentle, speaks only to his family and has the mind of a child.

For his whole life, the 68-year-old has had relatives taking care of him — feeding him, bathing him, keeping him company. And for most of that life he’s lived in an old house on Petoskey Street on the city’s west side; first with his parents, who died long ago, then with his two brothers, who both passed away recently.

Now, the house is falling apart. The warm air inside reeks of mold. The ceiling in his bedroom collapsed. The repair estimates are skyrocketing. And nobody in the family has any money to fix any of it.

So the family set up a GoFundMe site, hoping to raise enough money to make the repairs. It included a video of the interior of the house. Which is not pretty:

Evans was invited on an AM talk radio show, where the host called her a scammer and urged listeners to report the family to the state. A local TV station did a couple of stories about Uncle Oscar, and viewers posted comments online accusing the family of being negligent. A racist website stumbled on the fund-raising page and posted an unflattering photo of Uncle Oscar and mocked him and the family.

“They called us ‘silverbacks’ and ‘gorillas,’ things like that,” Evans said.

The family sought $30,000 in donations. In three months only $2,787 came in.

Another great, nuanced look by John Carlisle.

Now, back to reading the scariest article I’ve read in a long damn while. I bid farewell to our readers in Seattle, Portland and other places in the Pacific Northwest, should the big one, or the really big one, hit before we speak again.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events, Popculch | 85 Comments
 

Widely scattered.

I know we have readers here from all over, and some of you have perhaps never traveled to the nation’s breadbasket, where many of us live. Perhaps you’re not familiar with the weather condition the meteorologists call “widely scattered thundershowers.” Here’s what it looks like on the radar:

widelyscattered

It’s the thing every Midwesterner notices sooner or later, where you call someone who lives a mile away and say, “Too bad it’s raining, or we could go for a run or something,” and your friend says, “What are you talking about? It’s so sunny.” Sometimes you live right on the literal edge of a shower, and can see dry sidewalks on the other side of the street. Rarer still is Hollywood rain, where it’s pouring, but the sun is out, like in those movies shot in Los Angeles sunshine under rain sprinklers. (You know what I always notice about those scenes? It rains HARD under those sprinklers, but no one ever says, “Maybe we should go inside.” Perhaps because those are the scenes where someone is expressing eternal love, five minutes before the credits.)

Anyway. That’s the kind of day it was. Rode my bike to the dentist and regretted not bringing sunglasses. Came out and had to dry off the seat, then race another cell home. Walked the dog 30 minutes later, wishing I had sunglasses. But it was real pretty, with everything all drippy in the sunshine. I kept looking around for Brad Pitt. So I could kiss him and express eternal love.

I rode my bike to the dentist because the office is half a mile away, but also because I didn’t have a car, it being in the shop for the usual ruinously expensive Volvo service interval (timing chain = bread and water for a month). Kate and her bandmates are borrowing it for a week, for a little tour they booked themselves. Me, worried? Ha ha ha ha ha [takes three giant glugs of wine] ha ha ha. The Cataclysmic Events tour kicks off in Brooklyn Friday night and plays a number of closet-sized DIY venues before concluding in St. Louis (oy) a week later, then home. I’m sure they will have the time of their lives. Those of you who are the praying sorts, feel free to include them in your dailies. ALSO INCLUDE MY CAR.

So, a bit of bloggage today. This has been one newsy year, hasn’t it?

If you’re going to do sex work, make serious bank at it, the way the wait staff at Las Vegas pools do:

Vegas’s hot summers are slow for tourism, but in the past decade, resorts have transformed the generic poolside experience into a lavish party scene. This has spawned a pool-industrial complex, where attendees, even guests who once enjoyed free entrance to a hotel pool, now pay into the thousands for general admittance per day, shaded cabanas and private bottle service at parties featuring daylong drinking and celebrity D.J.s.

Inside the parties, a class structure prevails: The proletariat use towels to claim spots around the pool, the bourgeoisie reserve $1,000 cabanas and aristocrats fork over up to $15,000 for private bungalows equipped with televisions and temperature-controlled climates. Add in food and drink minimums, and these clubs, combined with their night-life counterparts, now surpass the longtime king of casino revenue — gambling.

For the tipped worker, the appeal is obvious. Checks can spike into the tens of thousands, and with an automatic 18 percent gratuity, few service jobs can compete. No wonder people fly in from around the country to apply for them.

Could this story of civil protest in Dent County, Mo., pop. 15,000, be more predictable? The county commission voted to lower flags to half-staff for one day a month (the 26th, because that was the day in June that SCOTUS let the homos get married) for a year, then walked it back “out of respect for veterans,” but not before it yielded this priceless quote:

“It ain’t what our Bible tells us. It’s against God’s plan,” County Commissioner Gary Larson said.

Whenever I read a quote like that, I think of the gray areas of cleaning up bad grammar in quotes, a subject that journalists around the world can no doubt chew your ear off and bore you to death, discussing. I tend to leave it intact except in cases where the speaker’s meaning might be misunderstood, but if you look at stories from many Ohio newspapers during the governorship of Jim Rhodes, the guy sounds like an Oxford don, and friends? He was not.

The Onion swings the sword of truth, regrettably.

Which takes us all the way to the week’s hump. How’d that happen?

Posted at 12:34 am in Current events, Media, Same ol' same ol' | 42 Comments
 

Blueberries and blues.

I’ve missed going to the market the last couple of weeks, but I went Saturday, and man, is it ever on. Pre-tomatoes, pre-peaches, but the greens are greenin’, the sugar snaps snappin’, and of course the blueberries and cherries are in. I couldn’t decide what kind of pie I wanted this week, so I got both. In trying to preserve my weight loss, I will generally make a whole pie but take half to my office. However, we hit that poor thing like a tackling dummy; I might have to do a backup pie tonight for the co-workers.

Mmmm, backup pie. Blueberry backup pie. Yummers.

blueberrypie

Tonight, I’m thinking pizza on the grill.

In between there was a bike ride, something I’m doing less of. Not for any particular reason, only that I’m trying not to get bored, so I’m juggling boxing, swimming, yoga and weights in the mix, and there just isn’t as much time for the bike. But I got out there on Sunday. Stopped and listened to five minutes of a sermon outside a church (with organ stings!), passed a couple splitting a joint on a park bench, observed a man sitting on his porch with a sign at the curb reading, “Barber on deck, 8am-8pm.” Just another Sunday noontime in Detroit.

Oh, and we saw a movie — “The Wolfpack,” now on iTunes and in theaters. Recommended, especially if you liked “Crumb,” as it basically hits the same theme. Which is? That art saves, and sometimes transgressive art saves the most. A review, by David Edelstein.

It’s bummer day in bloggage, but all of it good reading:

First, the most infuriating, a WashPost look at Tunica, Miss., an early gambling adoptee that somehow managed to squander a few hundred million in proceeds to local governments and still leave its people as poor and screwed-over as any in the U.S. How? By leaving the usual suspects in control of the purse, and what did they do?

What went wrong in Tunica is a matter of perspective. For many African Americans — and the county’s current officials — it was a story of a largely white political leadership that did not grasp the depths of poverty facing many black residents and did not choose to use the casino revenues that flowed into the county in an equitable way. So instead of funding skills training and providing programs for the vulnerable, they poured money into a riverfront wedding hall, an Olympic-size indoor swimming pool and a golf course designed by a former PGA Tour pro — all while implementing a massive tax cut that primarily benefited the wealthy.

Tax cuts. How bad could taxes have possibly been in a largely rural county known for its extreme (56 percent) poverty rate? I wonder if somewhere in the next world, Ronald Reagan is being roasted over a fire of dollar bills. He can give up his place on the spit when Grover Norquist joins him.

Moving on. This story is a heller to read, about how Matthew Teague’s wife died of cancer and his best friend helped him through it — for two years. I can tell you that it made me think we need better options to help people, and help the people who help them, through the last days of their lives. I know I would have called Dr. Kevorkian well before I reached about the midpoint in Nicole’s story.

If you can’t stand that, how about a DOG dying? Dooce.

Finally, a nice bit of essayin’ on something I feel I was the very last to learn: “Looking for Mr. Goodbar,” the great fear novel of my young single life, was based on a real murder, of a woman with a similar name as the main character in the book, and not too many changes. The victim taught deaf children in real life, which explains why Diane Keaton’s character did in the movie adaptation, a change from the book I found jarring. Some things slide right past you; this was one of mine.

So now the week begins. I’m hoping to see half my street paved by the end of it. We’ll see.

Posted at 12:14 am in Same ol' same ol' | 81 Comments
 

The trench out front.

In addition to all the usual post-graduation, pre-college confusion going on hereabouts now, this is our street these days:

street

Our street was in desperate need of resurfacing; it hadn’t been done, as near as anyone can tell, since it was built in 1947. We passed a road bond for $10 million a year or so ago, and ours was among the first streets on the priority list, so yay! We get a new street! Then they came to do the work, and the asphalt came up, and then they dug one side down to the Indian burial-ground level, and then the gas lines were a problem and then the rains came. We already lost one park-strip tree. The guy from the gas company rang the doorbell and said, “I have good news. You’re going to get more sunshine in your yard. Because we’re taking down that maple. Its roots are right over a break in the gas line.” Well, we never liked it that much anyway, fewer leaves to rake and no gas explosions = big plus.

Last night, I heard someone knocking around in the bathroom at 2 a.m. It was Kate, coming in, elated, from seeing the Rolling Stones at Comerica Park. My first question: How was the show? Answer: Amazing. My second: Where did you park the car? Two blocks away, because that’s what we do when the road is nearly unnavigable. Then I went back to bed.

I’ll be relieved when all this is over.

Bloggage:

Doesn’t this sound like a fun read?

You don’t need to be a speechwriter to realize that the phrase “I won’t begin in any particular spot” is a wretched way to start a public address. Yet those were the opening words of one of the more remarkable political spectacles in recent years: Mark Sanford’s rambling and teary news conference of June 24, 2009, in which South Carolina’s then-governor confessed that rather than hiking the Appalachian Trail, he’d been hooking up with his Argentine mistress.

In the crowd that afternoon at the statehouse rotunda in Columbia, S.C., was the man responsible for crafting Sanford’s speeches. People still ask Barton Swaim, “Did you write that speech?” He can’t even answer. “I just chuckle miserably,” he explains.

No, Swaim didn’t write that speech, but now he has authored something just as revealing and unusual: a political memoir that traffics in neither score-settling nor self-importance but that shares, in spare, delightful prose, what the author saw and learned. “The Speechwriter” feels like “Veep” meets “All the King’s Men” — an entertaining and engrossing book not just about the absurdities of working in the press shop of a Southern governor but also about the meaning of words in public life.

Read the review. It sounds hilarious:

He learned the boss’s tics. Sanford liked to have three points in a speech, never two. Never. “I’m not getting out there to talk about two stupid points,” the governor said when presented with a pair of rebuttals to a bill. “I need three points, first, second, third. Got that?” He loved referring to an amorphous “larger notion” in his remarks. Larger than what? It didn’t matter. “When we drafted a release or a press statement and weren’t sure if he would approve it, someone would say, ‘Stick a “larger notion” in there and it should be fine.’ ” The governor would often deploy an “indeed” when trying to rescue a trite phrase, as in “we’re indeed mortgaging our children’s future.” Also, Sanford always looked for chances to mention Rosa Parks in a speech. He just really wanted to do that.

I always thought it might be fun to be a speechwriter. Obama’s speechwriter, maybe. Sanford’s? Eh…

A good profile of the Awl, a website I find myself paying more attention to lately. This passage hit me:

In 2003, Gawker’s Nick Denton hired Sicha to run Fleshbot, the company’s now-abandoned porn site, then Gawker itself. Meanwhile, Balk was in advertising and writing a culture blog on the side; he landed at Gawker a few years later. Sicha left for The Observer after a year, then returned briefly in 2007. The style that he developed at Gawker, conversational with bursts of enthusiasm and ironic swerves, exerted a deep influence on the voice of the early web.

“That style became internet parlance,” says Andrew Womack of The Morning News, where Sicha freelanced while at Gawker. “You almost can’t think of a bigger effect. I can’t look at anyone type an exclamation point without thinking of Choire’s first stint at Gawker. It wasn’t snarky; it was honest and had this fuck-it-all attitude I think we’ve all had.”

Voice is one of those things I find most intriguing about writing. It’s the voodoo magic, hard to teach, sometimes hard to even describe. I wasn’t enough of a fan of early Gawker to describe Sicha’s voice with any authority, but now that I think of it, voice is one of those things that drives me most insane about Mitch Albom — that plodding, early-newspaper, listen-to-me-for-I-know-all voice that hasn’t changed since he first dipped his quill into an ink pot. Some day, when I have the time and inclination, I’ll do an explication de texte on a sample and try to show you what I mean.

But for now, it’s getting on towards Friday, and I’m-a gonna turn in. Happy weekend to all of you.

Posted at 12:29 am in Media, Same ol' same ol' | 67 Comments
 

One great lunch.

Well, thank y’all for the kind comments. I’m not going away, but I might take a few days off from time to time. I’m just feeling the need for the well to refill a little. But I will probably be here, compulsively, until kingdom come or, y’know, the alternative.

Today I was reading a story, a fairly straightforward news story, that referred to so-and-so’s “passing.” Um, OK. I prefer “died,” myself, but that’s the alternative I’m talking about.

Let’s not talk about that.

Lunch in Ann Arbor with my editor and a source. The source picked the restaurant. Very interesting menu. Short, simple, Asian-y but not. I got roasted cauliflower because I was feeling like I should eat my vegetables, and would you look at this plate of vegan loveliness?

cauliflower

I thought $14 was a bit steep for a couple bucks’ worth of in-season vegetables, but whoever assembled that plate is an artist. The colors, the fragrance, the taste — all exquisite. In addition to the main ingredient, there’s broccolini, roasted carrots, a little white onion stewed to the consistency of butter with some curried coconut sauce. And a few raisins scattered about. Yum.

Nothing like a good meal to improve your day. My editor kept sneering because he hates cauliflower. He got some chicken schnitzel thing, but I say I got the better bargain.

Dinner tonight was skirt steak on the grill, rice and now we’re watching “When We Were Kings” on the big screen via YouTube. Love summer.

One thing about being tied up most of the day in driving and lunching and more driving? I missed the panic over the stock exchange and whatever else the world was on about today. I was just thinking…cauliflower. Yeahhhh.

Now Kate is at the Stones concert and so are a few of my friends, and I’m enjoying it via social media. That’s the way to enjoy a Stones concert, if you ask me. All the fun, none of the traffic.

A little bloggage, then?

Donald Trump is the monster the GOP created:

One big Republican donor this week floated to the Associated Press the idea of having candidates boycott debates if the tycoon is onstage. Jeb Bush, Lindsey Graham and other candidates have lined up to say, as Rick Perry put it, that “Donald Trump does not represent the Republican Party.”

But Trump has merely held up a mirror to the Republican Party. The man, long experience has shown, believes in nothing other than himself. He has, conveniently, selected the precise basket of issues that Republicans want to hear — or at least a significant proportion of Republican primary voters. He may be saying things more colorfully than others when he talks about Mexico sending rapists across the border, but his views show that, far from being an outlier, he is hitting all the erogenous zones of the GOP electorate.

Anti-immigrant? Against Common Core education standards? For repealing Obamacare? Against gay marriage? Antiabortion? Anti-tax? Anti-China? Virulent in questioning President Obama’s legitimacy? Check, check, check, check, check, check, check and check.

Again from the WashPost, an interesting piece, pegged to the Jared-Subway story, about our misconceptions about pedophiles:

The public typically maintains a highly stereotypical and largely inaccurate view of pedophiles, defined as adults or teens 16 and up who are sexually stimulated by pre-pubescent children (typically 11 and under). We imagine pedophiles as creepy men with shifty eyes, stubble and a trench coat. We think they lurk around schools and playgrounds, waiting to snatch children. We think of these men as despicable lowlifes whom we can spot when we meet them, which is why news of sex crimes against children are invariably met with disbelief. “Stunned” parents and community members say the same thing: “He never seemed like that type of person.” In my three decades working with many men who sexually violate children and teens, I’ve never met one person who fit “that type.”

Women and heroin, a growing romance. Alas.

Good Thursday, all.

Posted at 12:07 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 41 Comments
 

Things can’t stay the same forever.

I’m thinking lately of making some changes here. Not shutting down the blog, no, but I’m trying to figure out a way to re-fit it into my life. It seems, night after night, I find myself sitting in front of this screen, trying to think of something to write about, tapped out. Sometimes this goes on for far longer than it should. A hobby shouldn’t be frustrating, and it shouldn’t consume this much time on the way to being frustrating.

It’s not that I lack opinions. I have them. My job doesn’t allow me to express (many of) them (publicly). It’s not that I lack links; I have those, too, but Jolene usually beats me to them. No, what I’m lacking these days is the energy and time to post those long, meandering column-like things that built whatever readership this blog once had, and maybe still has, but probably doesn’t. Honestly, I haven’t checked my traffic in years, because I fear what I might find. This was never a big-readership blog, but it had some fans.

So I thought, hell, treat it like social media — a post here, a post there, and let the comments coalesce around them. Then I consider how our commenting community here is very much like a family, and I fear what would happen if there were three posts a day here instead of one. Then I think, is that my problem? and I’m afraid the answer is yes, it is. I am my blogger’s keeper. To mangle a phrase.

All of which boils down to this, I think: Maybe we’re in a dry patch, maybe I’m sapped by too much stuff here and there, maybe it’s just one of those things I have to ride out. I’m not sure now. What I am sure of is, I don’t want to be staring at my laptop screen for hours after the work day is done. I may have to trim here and there. I’m asking for forbearance.

The blog can’t go away. Because otherwise, where would I share gems like this?

fifthwettest

(THAT’S WHAT JUNE SAID, as Jim Romenesko noted.)

Here’s the story of the day for me, about how Colorado took a bold chance on sharply reducing unplanned pregnancies in the state, and damn if it didn’t work. The magic formula: Long-acting birth control, provided free of charge to anyone who wanted it. And holy shit, look at these numbers:

The birthrate among teenagers across the state plunged by 40 percent from 2009 to 2013, while their rate of abortions fell by 42 percent, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. There was a similar decline in births for another group particularly vulnerable to unplanned pregnancies: unmarried women under 25 who have not finished high school.

“Our demographer came into my office with a chart and said, ‘Greta, look at this, we’ve never seen this before,’” said Greta Klingler, the family planning supervisor for the public health department. “The numbers were plummeting.”

White House Warns Insurers About Surcharges and Gaps for ContraceptionMAY 11, 2015
The changes were particularly pronounced in the poorest areas of the state, places like Walsenburg, a small city in southern Colorado where jobs are scarce and many young women have unplanned pregnancies. Taking advantage of the free program, Hope Martinez, a 20-year-old nursing home receptionist here, recently had a small rod implanted under the skin of her upper arm to prevent pregnancy for three years. She has big plans — to marry, to move farther west and to become a dental hygienist.

“I don’t want any babies for a while,” she said.

It’s not just birth control, it’s good, long-term, safe and free birth control. Spend a dollar there, save $6 in Medicaid funding. What a radical idea. And it worked. Amazing.

Do I have anything else?

No, I don’t. Onward to a new era. Or maybe not.

Posted at 12:30 am in Housekeeping | 57 Comments
 

Better than the finale.

Every year you hear fireworks horror stories. They’re still coming in, but I doubt any will top this one:

Residents at the party began shooting off fireworks in the street — which is illegal — when someone accidentally knocked over an explosive that was supposed to shoot skyward.

Instead of going up, the explosive launched sideways into a party-goer’s 2005 Ford Escape with the hatchback open and right into an arsenal of fireworks in the trunk estimated to be worth between $2,000 and $3,000, according to police.

That set off all of the fireworks inside of the vehicle, setting the car on fire, and shot a large mortar at the house across the street, crashing through the front window.

This is the fruit of a relaxed fireworks law that passed a few years back. Although I must admit, it might have been fun to see that.

So the week is underway — hot weather, storms on the way, followed by storms and cooler. The narrative of the summer. Spent the first day of the week in Ann Arbor, the office mostly deserted, the chickadees singing in the trees. Not a bad Monday.

Some bloggage:

Nighty-night, Bill Cosby. These quaaludes will help you sleep. Deadpan is digging up the documents, and it’s every bit as squicky as you’d expect:

(The alleged victim, the plaintiff) didn’t ask for any money—only an apology—but Cosby still offered her money, according to his testimony, for her “education.” He also offered money to another woman. From the same plaintiff’s motion (emphasis added is mine):

Defendant testified that even though both Plaintiff and her mother told him that all they wanted was an apology, he called Plaintiff’s home and spoke to her mother to offer money for Plaintiff’s “education.” The following occurred during questioning about that event:

Q. So, are you saying that Andrea would have to prove to you that she got a 3.0 average wherever she went in order for you to pay for her education?

A. She would have to prove to me that while she was at said university that she was maintaining a 3.0.

Now there’s a conscience laundry, eh?

“True Detective” fans might enjoy this take on the obvious model for fictional Vinci, California — Vernon, California. A bad place.

I wish I had more, but alas. Let’s try for better tomorrow.

Posted at 12:45 am in Current events | 23 Comments
 

I was so much older then.

I think everything you need to know about my 40th high school reunion last weekend can be summed up in this scene from its final moments, when I was invited to judge the quality of my oldest friend’s boob job with a friendly squeeze.

Also, this: The boob job was a restoration following a double mastectomy, which itself followed a second bout of the big C in a decade. Because of the previous treatment, the restoration was no simple matter, requiring skin stretchers and all sorts of gruesome-sounding shit. But my friend, Cindy, and her husband Mark, are amazingly upbeat about it all. I think the reason I was invited to handle the goods was because, she said, they didn’t really feel like breasts anymore, with all their sensitivity and tingliness, which I guess stands to reason.

Reader, I cannot deny it: I honked the horns. They felt fine.

“Now all we have to do is shop for nipples!” Mark reported. Evidently that’s the final step.

So that’s life in the late 50s, I guess: Boob jobs, but not for the typical reasons. Grandchildren. Older but wiser. There was a memorial video for the ones who are permanently off the mailing list, so to speak. One word: AIDS. A little more kindness all around. The head cheerleader, apparently the only member of the class with a child younger than mine, explained the circumstances of his debut — 40s, no man on the horizon, sperm bank. A guy I’d always assumed was a drug casualty was finally revealed as an obvious psychiatric case. The funny pot dealers were there, still funny, still probably holding. (I didn’t ask.) At least one pill refused to wear the event T-shirt because the theme was “Forty Shades of Gray” and wearing that on your chest would be counter to God’s law. If he’d said, “Because God disapproves of lousy fiction,” I could get behind that, but I don’t think that’s what he meant.

My class reunites every five years, which always struck me as way too often. It was also a group of nearly 800 souls, which is way too big. You’re lucky to have known a quarter of them, and if 10 percent of them show up at a reunion, you’re lucky. I went to the five, 10, 15, 20 and 25-year events, and said after the last one that I was done forever. So did Cindy; she said that after battling cancer she was in no mood to waste time with vague acquaintances. But this year they roped her onto the committee, and she roped me into going.

Another thing that happened as I was making my way to the door, after the boob squeeze: I was drafted to work on the next committee. There’s a price for everything, I guess.

And that was most of my holiday weekend. How was yours? I’m writing this a few hours before leaving for a backyard barbecue. I was kind of thinking I’d see “Magic Mike XXL” today, but give it a few more days and another all-day rain will roll in, and that’ll be much better weather for it. Barbecue while you can, because you can’t do that via Netflix.

Not much bloggage today, but there’s this:

BASTROP, Texas — The office of the Bastrop County Republican Party is in an old lumber mill on Main Street, with peeling brown paint and a sign out front that captures the party’s feelings about the Obama administration: “WISE UP AMERICA!”

Inside, county Chairman Albert Ellison pulled out a yellow legal pad on which he had written page after page of reasons why many Texans distrust President Obama, including the fact that, “in the minds of some, he was raised by communists and mentored by terrorists.”

So it should come as no surprise, Ellison said, that as the U.S. military prepares to launch one of the largest training exercises in history later this month, many Bastrop residents might suspect a secret Obama plot to spy on them, confiscate their guns and ultimately establish martial law in one of America’s proudly free conservative states.

I wouldn’t live in Texas for all the money in the world.

Also this, Neil Sternberg’s valedictory for the open-outcry system at the Chicago Board of Trade, which I’m glad I got to see before it went away, because it was something to see.

And finally this, Frank Bruni’s backhand to the Kennedy spawn spreading vaccine alarmism:

If you had told me a while back that I’d someday dread, dodge and elect not to return phone calls from a prominent member of the Kennedy dynasty, I would have said you were nuts.

Then Robert Kennedy Jr. started reaching out.

Not just reaching out, mind you, but volunteering to educate me. To illuminate me. That was his tone of voice, somewhat pitying and vaguely patronizing, the one time we talked at length, after he’d left messages and before he left more.

Midsummer starts now.

Posted at 12:25 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 40 Comments