Blue collar.

God bless this nice lady, Heather Bryant for falling for, and marrying, a truck mechanic. As someone who did what lots of journalists do — marry a co-worker — I could have spared myself a lot of grief over the last 15 years if I’d done the same. As it is, our two-income household is a very fragile thing, and likely will remain so until we collapse, exhausted, into retirement like a couple of people outrunning zombies in a horror movie. A truck mechanic likely out-earns both of us, and maybe both of us together.

And of course, all journalists love a good essay, especially one that tells us how much we suck. I’d have probably given her a version of the look she describes, too:

While they didn’t explicitly say it, the person was very much thrown off by the nature of my husband’s work. I was left with a very strong feeling they were expecting a more middle-class answer than a garbage worker. Their facial reaction has been stuck in my head for a while now. Surprise. A little confusion. And just enough distaste to notice.

Face it, you just don’t meet many Stanford Fellow/truck mechanic couples these days. And lady, that’s a hell of a lot of subtext to read into one facial expression, but never mind that.

Because I agree with her: Journalism would be better if we hired more people who had the basic skills, or a trainable aptitude for the job, but no college degree. As she puts it:

That person was genuinely surprised that the spouse of a journalist had such a blue collar job. The reaction makes me wonder how badly our industry really lacks for people with more diverse socioeconomic backgrounds. Our journalism would be better if we were a better representation of the backgrounds and experiences our audiences have.

From time to time during my career, I’ve heard of various programs to do just that. All collapsed, or graduated trainees into jobs at such insultingly low salaries (because that was the motivation for starting it in the first place — to snag candidates without an expectation of ever making a college graduate’s living) that they failed to sustain themselves.

I remember one at my alma mater, and can’t remember if it was for non-grads or just those with no journalism classes or experience. It was specifically for racial minorities, because the lack of diversity in the newsroom was and remains a stubborn problem. I’m not sure how it turned out, because its big splash was ruined by one of its leaders calling it a six-week journalism boot camp, and someone else informed the world that “boot” was an obscure, but definite, racial slur. (Yeah, I’d never heard it either, and I thought I’d heard them all. I think the etymology is shoeshine boy > boot black > boot.)

Another I remember was started by a chain of weeklies whose bosses simply couldn’t get people to work for the poverty-level wages they were offering, and I thought I’d seen most of those, too (the lousy salaries, that is). Many of the younger staffers in Fort Wayne had second jobs, if not to make ends meet, then at least to have a little bit of extra spending money. Fort Wayne is a cheap city to live in, and a running joke — which was actually true — was that the bosses lured potential hires by mentioning that all the grocery stores doubled coupons, and sometimes tripled them.

I don’t think that training program worked, either. Probably the chain went under, or was sold to an even more chintzy owner. Even in rural Kansas, even in double-coupon Fort Wayne, being a journalist is a hard choice these days; the pay isn’t great, the hours are long and the president rains contempt on the whole craft with every tweet. You’d think being an enemy of the people would pay better.

Michael Moore hired a guy, Ben Hamper, off the line at some GM factory to be a columnist, first for the Flint weekly he ran, then for Mother Jones. I think I read a couple of his pieces, and they were pretty good — one took aim at Bruce Springsteen, Troubadour of the Working Class — but Moore didn’t last at MJ, and neither did Hamper. I just checked, and his home page is dead. Facebook says he lives in northern Michigan now, and works for a public radio station. Talk about frying pan to fire.

There are some lucky people who can make a decent living, and I count our co-prosperity sphere among them. But as I said before, it’s a creaky arrangement and has been for a while. I’ll be honest: If Kate told me she wanted to change her major to journalism, I’d cry, then tell her to reconsider.

So yeah, sure, let’s get some blue collars in the newsroom. I knew one at WANE-TV, in the early ’90s. He’d been a union electrician in Michigan, a very smart guy who decided one day he was tired of wiring buildings, put himself through Michigan State and graduated into a sub-100 media market, i.e. Fort Wayne.

I went to his going-away party. I asked what he planned to do next.

“Get re-certified as an electrician,” he said. “I found some of my tax returns a few months ago. I was making more money in 1973 than I am today.” This was 20 years later.

God bless him, too.

So, bloggage:

Someone on Twitter remarked that she’d been trying to figure out who in the Trump family was Fredo, then realized they’re all Fredo. Yes, I’d say so:

President Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., was promised damaging information about Hillary Clinton before agreeing to meet with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer during the 2016 campaign, according to three advisers to the White House briefed on the meeting and two others with knowledge of it.

The meeting was also attended by his campaign chairman at the time, Paul J. Manafort, and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Mr. Manafort and Mr. Kushner only recently disclosed the meeting, though not its content, in confidential government documents described to The New York Times.

The Times reported the existence of the meeting on Saturday. But in subsequent interviews, the advisers and others revealed the motivation behind it.

“Game of Thrones” fan, are you? The definitive essay on George R.R. Martin’s fondness for soup.

Happy week ahead, all.

Posted at 12:01 am in Current events, Media | 86 Comments

Saturday morning market.

And you know what? It really does. 

Posted at 7:44 am in Uncategorized | 31 Comments

That’ll do, pig.

Question for the room: Is there an actress as fantastic in every sense as Tilda Swinton? I don’t think so, so let’s close the discussion on that one right here, and instead speak of the glory available to all Netflix subscribers, which is to say “Okja,” streaming now.

I heard an interview with the co-screenwriter, Jon Ronson, on the way back from Columbus. The role of Netflix in producing films isn’t without controversy; hardcore film fans want films to be films, projected in theaters and watched by audiences. Netflix makes films to be streamed on televisions, which is where most Americans watch movies, these days.

I guess, when a Netflix-produced film debuted at the Cannes film festival, the audience booed. I’ll leave that debate for those who care about such things. But I was struck by something Ronson said in the interview, about how often film studios say no, but Netflix says yes. And in this case, the “yes” was to an action comedy that isn’t for children, with plenty of social commentary, and half its dialogue in Korean, with subtitles.

But it’s so! Fabulous! And funny, and warm, and touching, and a satire of modern life, spectacle and…TED talks, I guess. Tilda plays the CEO of a rapacious, relentlessly greenwashed Monsanto-like company that is breeding a super-pig to feed the world. It’s a 10-year project, with specimens distributed all over the world. The Korean pig is the Okja of the title, and boy, is she cute. What’s more, she’s spent the last 10 years becoming best friends with an even cuter girl, who is now a young teen. With the decade up, the company is coming for its property, trailed by a film crew making propaganda to flatter it.

Things get complicated from there. But it’s a wonderful journey, with what you’d expect — chases, jeopardy, complications — but produced with wit and verve and all very fun to watch. Even the soundtrack is surprising. When was the last time you heard “Annie’s Song,” really?

The following night we watched something very different, also on Netflix — “American Anarchist,” the story of how a 19-year-old working out his anger at the government wrote “The Anarchist Cookbook” and opened Pandora’s box in the process. Since 1970, the book has been found in the possession of school shooters, terrorists and ne’er-do-wells of all stripes.

The author, William Powell, went on to do real good with his life, as a teacher of special-needs children all over the world. But the book trailed after him like a demon, coming up time and again. The most powerful scene in the film is when director Charlie Siskel, who comes off as a bit of a scold here, lays out all the cases, many of which Powell appears to not even know about. He cops to Columbine, but there were more, many more, and you can see Powell deflating as it goes on. Powell was (he died last year) clearly highly intelligent, and as he points out in the story, all the information was freely available in the New York City public library, on open shelves. (He mainly used military manuals.) But his story is the 1.0 version of today’s social-media nightmares, where nothing ever goes away, no matter how much your repudiate and walk back and deny.

Should a man be held accountable throughout his life for something he wrote when he was 19? That’s the question.

And that concludes today’s movie reviews. What happened in the world today?

Eh, who cares? The president is in Europe, and doom will surely follow.

Have a swell weekend!

Posted at 12:09 am in Movies | 50 Comments

RIP, Michael G.

I just saw this on my Facebook. I’m cutting and pasting it here. It’s written by his friend Teresa Rodrigues:

It is with a heavy heart and deep sadness that I inform you that our dear friend Michael has succumbed to his illness. Michael died on June 6th.

Michael was diagnosed with stage 4 Osteosarcoma right before retiring, March of 2014. After going through an initial brutal chemo treatment which nearly killed him and took 5 to 6 months to recover, Michael started his last journey in this world with gusto, and a ferocious appetite for life!

He traveled, mostly to Barcelona, his very favorite spot. Discovered and enjoyed the best art, wines, food, restaurants. Looked forward to and enjoyed immensely socializing with his friends, made new friends and of course read many many many books.

He accepted his fate with resignation but never lost hope. Michael remained active till the very end, trying his best to enjoy life and his friends in the most normal and casual way. Despite his terrible illness Michael was not in excruciating pain and despite discomfort was able to remain independent. At the end, life was soft and gentle on him.

I lost and will forever miss my very dear old friend. I would like to thank all of those who stood by him and were part of his life. You made it all so much better and were the source of great joy and comfort to him.

RIP Michael…

On edit: Me again. I believe, although I’m not sure, that Teresa is “T,” whom he referred to regularly. I think she might be his wife, from whom he was legally separated for years, but never divorced, so as to keep her on his excellent state medical benefits. That’s what you call a good man.

Posted at 1:34 pm in Housekeeping | 45 Comments

The slough.

Well, I’ll tell you one thing that Patty Hearst book — and the study of history in general — has been good for: It’s convinced me the current era isn’t the darkest in our recent history. In the ’70s, during the Hearst kidnapping era, Kathy Soliah worked with a small group that placed bombs around the Bay area, set to explode during evening hours, when no one would be around. Just, y’know, to make a statement.

I’ve been tipping toward despair with regard to our current situation. It’s temporary, I’m sure, but after reading this regarding the Joe-Mika-POTUS affair, which already seems like it happened two years ago, despair seemed the only option:

According to three sources familiar with the private conversations, what happened was this: After the inauguration, Morning Joe’s coverage of Trump turned sharply negative. “This presidency is fake and failed,” Brzezinski said on March 6, for example. Around this time, Scarborough and Brzezinski found out the Enquirer was preparing a story about their affair. While Scarborough and Brzezinski’s relationship had been gossiped about in media circles for some time, it was not yet public, and the tabloid was going to report that they had left their spouses to be together.

In mid-April, Scarborough texted with Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner about the pending Enquirer story. Kushner told Scarborough that he would need to personally apologize to Trump in exchange for getting Enquirer owner David Pecker to stop the story. (A spokesperson for Kushner declined to comment.) Scarborough says he refused, and the Enquirer published the story in print on June 5, headlined “Morning Joe Sleazy Cheating Scandal!”

David Pecker was, perhaps not coincidentally, profiled last week in the New Yorker. Talk about depressing:

Throughout the 2016 Presidential race, the Enquirer embraced Trump with sycophantic fervor. The magazine made its first political endorsement ever, of Trump, last spring. Cover headlines promised, “DONALD TRUMP’S REVENGE ON HILLARY & HER PUPPETS” and “TOP SECRET PLAN INSIDE: HOW TRUMP WILL WIN DEBATE!” The publication trashed Trump’s rivals, running a dubious cover story on Ted Cruz that described him as a philanderer and another highly questionable piece that linked Cruz’s father to the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

It was even tougher on Hillary Clinton, regularly printing such headlines as “ ‘SOCIOPATH’ HILLARY CLINTON’S SECRET PSYCH FILES EXPOSED!” A 2015 piece began, “Failing health and a deadly thirst for power are driving Hillary Clinton to an early grave, The National Enquirer has learned in a bombshell investigation. The desperate and deteriorating 67-year-old won’t make it to the White House—because she’ll be dead in six months.” On election eve, the Enquirer offered a special nine-page investigation under the headline “HILLARY: CORRUPT! RACIST! CRIMINAL!” This blatantly skewed coverage continued after Trump took office. Post-election cover stories included “TRUMP TAKES CHARGE! SUCCESS IN JUST 36 DAYS!” and “PROOF OBAMA WIRETAPPED TRUMP! LIES, LEAKS & ILLEGAL BUGGING.”

Pecker and Trump have been friends for decades—their professional and personal lives have intersected in myriad ways—and Pecker acknowledges that his tabloids’ coverage of Trump has a personal dimension. All Presidents seek to influence the media, but Trump enjoys unusual advantages in this regard. He is also in close contact with Rupert Murdoch, whose empire includes Fox News and the Wall Street Journal. (While the Times and the Washington Post have produced repeated scoops about Trump and Russia, the Journal, which employs a large investigative staff, has largely been silent on the issue.)

So that’s why we don’t have Middle East peace or a fix for the opioid crisis: The 36-year-old dilettante in charge of both projects is trying to broker an apology to his father-in-law from two cable-TV personalities.

Despair, despair, despair.

Then there was Saturday. I went to Columbus for fewer than 24 hours, to attend a high-school reunion one-off, for our 60th birthdays. I had been chatting cordially with one guy off and on all night when the health-care bill came up. The situation escalated so quickly that I picked up an empty beer bottle between us, pressed the bottom to his chest and gave him a little push, to let him know I found his leaning in almost physically threatening. (I didn’t think a jab-cross-hook combination was called for just yet.) When he finally hissed, “Barack Obama! He’s the biggest racist in the world,” I stood up, announced I had to pee and was not going to listen to any more of this bullshit anyway, and left. I did pee, but I didn’t go back to the party. And I think it’s safe to say that’s the last reunion I’ll be attending, too.

Despair. Oh, woe.

Neil Steinberg appears to be in a similar frame of mind:

The first 4th of July under the Trump presidency. A buffoon king propped up by his court of cringing underlings, flattering toadies, traitors, psychopaths and henchmen. The first of four, or eight, depending on how things go. And we really have no idea how that will unfold. Are we in the lull before the true calamity starts? Is it spring 1914? August 1939? Where all the elements of disaster are in place, waiting for the spark to touch it off. Half the nation is already in lingering shock that we could have elected someone so unfit. Will the other half quickly learn the cost of their folly, when some irreparable harm is done? Will they never learn, and race off toward calamity with an enthusiastic whoop?

Has that harm already happened? Are we on the other side of the mirror now, bouncing down the proverbial slippery slope, watching mileposts of the unimaginable, boundaries of the unacceptable, flash past as we tumble into our new world? Will we look back on Trump with nostalgia as we squirm under the boot of a true tyrant?

But rallies in his final grafs:

With a conscienceless buffoon swinging a pick axe daily, if not hourly, at our institutions, nothing is certain. The battle is going on right now, today, this minute. Anyone who ever wished they could have been there at the nation’s birth, a cobbler in Lexington, a baker in Concord, so he could have heard the call, set down his hammer, his bowl, taken up his flintlock and rose to the defense of our aborning country, has to be a little grateful to be alive at this moment, this 4th, when the country needs every sound head and every stout heart it can muster. Every man and woman who believes in the United States of America at its best, not at its worst. This is the gravest sort of crisis—one self-imposed, by the cowardice of our leaders, the selfishness of our electorate, the loss of faith in ourselves and in each other. People have never needed an America more, and America has never needed her people more.

So, that’s my head on the Fourth. My body? This helped a lot:

Wendy the photobomber. It was a good day to be out. We had dinner later that night at an old-fashioned ’50s drive-in, so she could come along and help us eat the french fries. The place appears to be a hangout for hotrod people, all of whom appeared to be at least 60. One had a convertible Corvair, the car I learned to drive on, a model my mother believes was the victim of a great, great injustice thanks to Ralph Nader. All I know is, it went well in the snow.

So, change of subject? Change of subject. You might as well get your knees replaced, although I’m holding out. The pain’s not that bad. Yet.

Oh, and some data. Gotta love data. American carnage? No, Latin American carnage. U.S. cities are still pretty safe, as any city resident could tell you.

Finally, this is a few days old and you may have seen it, but no one writes better about internet trolling than Lindy West, and she did so over the weekend in the NYT.

Back in two days, then. Don’t despair.

Posted at 12:02 am in Current events | 30 Comments

Desperate daring devils.

Thirteen years ago we took our first and only trip to Niagara Falls. Never say never – I guess circumstance could bring me back one day – but once is enough for that place, and having seen Iceland’s great waterfalls, none of which have a casino overlooking them, I see no reason to go back to Niagara.

Of course we checked out the gift shop. I believe I bought a tacky spoon rest which has never been used, and a book. Not much of a book, more like a fat pamphlet, self-published and titled something like “Daredevils of the Falls.” It might have been the only item in the store that addressed the thing everyone knows about Niagara Falls: People have been trying to “conquer” them forever. The falls generally remain unconquered.

I read the book on the drive back to Toronto, and a theme quickly emerged: The people who take on Niagara, almost to a man or woman, are desperate. They’re out of money, out of options, and think that one spectacular stunt will lift them out of their rut once and for all. Even the town itself has a certain desperation to it (the casino, just so no tourist dollar remains un-angled-for). It’s as though they arrive at the falls thinking here’s where the road ends for you, but maybe it doesn’t, and if it doesn’t, won’t you have a story to tell. There was a little tourist boom in the 19th century, when people were amused and amazed at daredevils who would cross the river gorge on a tightrope. Then that got old, and the devils had to get more daring. They began to grapple with the falls themselves.

Humans have dreamed up and built all sorts of conveyances meant to carry them over the drop and let them live through it. We speak of “going over Niagara Falls in a barrel,” but that was only the beginning. Barrel after barrel has smashed on the rocks below, killing the occupants, as humans tried to improve the concept.

That’s not to say some people didn’t make it. A few did, and the Wikipedia entry is sort of a Cliff’s notes of “Daredevils of the Falls,” starting with Annie Edson Taylor in 1901, the first to do it and live.

The list of attempts reads like grim comedy:

1920 – On July 11, Charles Stephens from Bristol went over the falls in a barrel. Bobby Leach and William “Red” Hill, Sr. urged Stephens to test his barrel over the falls before attempting the stunt, but he refused. When the barrel was recovered at the foot of the falls, the ballast had pulled Stephen’s body out of the barrel, leaving just his right arm in the safety harness.

1930 – On July 4, George Stathakis, a Greek immigrant working as a chef in Buffalo, New York, went over the falls in a barrel. Upon impact, the barrel was stuck behind a curtain of water and could not be recovered for 18 hours. Stathakis had an air supply of up to eight hours – although he had survived the initial fall, he died of suffocation. Stathakis took the plunge with his pet turtle, which was said to be around 150 years old. The turtle survived the ordeal.

1990 – On June 5, Jessie Sharp went over the falls in a kayak. He intended to continue paddling downriver after the fall, and had made dinner reservations at a restaurant in Lewiston, 4 miles downstream. After beginning the plunge he quickly disappeared into the falls and although his kayak was later found, his body was never recovered. Sharp decided not to wear a life jacket in case it impeded an escape should he get trapped under the falls, and refused to wear a helmet in order to keep his face recognizable to cameras.

My all-time favorite, though, was Karel Soucek, a career stuntman. He crafted a special, high-tech barrel, and made it in one piece and with only a minor injury, caused by his own wristwatch hitting his face. He sought to capitalize on his fame with a tour re-enacting the feat. How do you do such a thing away from the falls? He rented the Houston Astrodome and installed a tank on the field, that’s how, and then had himself and his barrel winched 180 feet up to the ceiling, about the height of Niagara. Thirty-five thousand people bought tickets to watch this spectacle. The barrel started to spin as it fell, clipped the edge of the tank and killed its occupant.

Yes, he survived Niagara Falls, but not the Houston Astrodome. This was in 1985. I have to assume video of it exists somewhere, but it’s not immediately available on YouTube.

I was studying screenwriting at the time, and thought these stories would make a wonderful movie. A Robert Altman movie, to be precise.

I also recalled that a few months before our trip, right after we moved to Ann Arbor, a Metro Detroit man named Kirk Jones had gone over the falls and lived. He claimed it was a suicide attempt, although some dispute this, but it wasn’t his turn to die, and he lived through it without maiming or serious injury, only the second person to do so without any protective gear or conveyance. (The other was a boy who’d fallen from a fishing boat in 1960.) Within a few months he had joined a traveling circus. Adrianne? Fort Wayne peeps from the ’80s? He joined the Toby Tyler Circus, which is a whole other story. He didn’t have to drop from the top of the tent or anything, but was featured in a segment where he basically just told his story and, if I’m remembering correctly, gave the glory to God.

(I’ll tell the Toby Tyler Circus story some other day. Promise.)

So this long story brings us up to Thursday, and guess what I read yesterday morning: Kirk Jones is dead, killed by Niagara Falls. And because this is Niagara Falls, the story is extra-weird:

A man who died going down Niagara Falls in a plastic ball may have taken a seven-foot snake down with him.

The body of Kirk Jones was discovered below the falls on June 2, and authorities now believe he may have put a boa constrictor inside an inflatable ball with him.

Following Jones’ death, police discovered a website called “Kirk Jones Niagara Falls Daredevil” in which he shared his plans for going down the falls with the seven-foot snake named Misty, the Associated Press reported.

Who knows, maybe Misty killed him. I’d be one pissed-off snake if I knew some unstable asshole had sealed me into a plastic ball and intended to take us both over a 200-foot waterfall. I might give him a good squeeze and hope he cushioned the blow for both of us.

If I’d met an actual Icelandic person at Gullfoss or Go∂afoss or one of their spectacular falls, I might have asked if that country had a tradition of idiots and famewhores trying to conquer their natural beauty. Somehow, I doubt it. This seems a peculiarly American pursuit.

So, a little bloggage beyond Kirk? Rex Tillerson threw a fit at the White House recently, but it doesn’t matter because the State Department is pretty much screwed, anyway.

And finally, a note about Trump’s tweets about Mika Brzezinski: I think these are flat-out lies. Not that a TV newswoman would never have a facelift, but when women in her position do have that sort of thing done, they don’t go out to dinner, even at a private club, when they’re still “bleeding badly,” or whatever. There are high-end spas and recovery centers for just this purpose, where you lie around in a robe and maybe get your toenails painted and eat dinner in your suite. Have you ever seen a woman’s face immediately after a lift? They look like they’ve been in a car accident — black eyes, puffy everything, the works. No woman would risk having her photo taken by a Mar-a-lago guest, or a paparazzo. I speculated on Facebook that maybe she got caught by Joe’s backswing on the golf course, and the president just made an assumption.

OK, then. Long weekend ahead for many of us. Enjoy.

Posted at 12:01 am in Current events | 124 Comments

Down days.

First, just a bit of housekeeping: For the remainder of the summer, I’m taking the blog down to a M/W/F schedule. I realize it’s been erratic for a while, pretty much a four-times-a-week thing unless it’s three times a week, so why not just do it? Three times a week it is, through Labor Day. Perhaps beyond, if the quality picks up, which I hope it does.

I dunno what’s behind this, except that I’m tired, and feel like there’s a new direction to take this thing, but I’m not sure what it is, yet. It’s not shutting down, it’s just slowing down. After all, I never promised to blog Every Goddamn Day, only most goddamn days.

Not shutting down, nosirree. Rest easy. We’ll just have some longer comment threads.

So. Today the indispensable David Fahrenthold dropped this lovely item into the mix: At at least four different Trump golf clubs, there’s a framed Time magazine cover on the wall. With Trump out front, of course. And it’s fake. Of course.

There was no March 1, 2009, issue of Time magazine. And there was no issue at all in 2009 that had Trump on the cover.

In fact, the cover on display at Trump’s clubs, observed recently by a reporter visiting one of the properties, contains several small but telling mistakes. Its red border is skinnier than that of a genuine Time cover, and, unlike the real thing, there is no thin white border next to the red. The Trump cover’s secondary headlines are stacked on the right side — on a real Time cover, they would go across the top.

And it has two exclamation points. Time headlines don’t yell.

“I can confirm that this is not a real TIME cover,” Kerri Chyka, a spokeswoman for Time Inc., wrote in an email to The Washington Post.

I don’t know what to think anymore. The country is caught in some sort of horrible vortex. Why aren’t we running down the middle of the street, screaming?

If I’d been to Seth Mnuchin’s wedding, I’d sure be doing that.

Wellness: Such a goddamn scam. Thanks, Gwyneth:

When Gwyneth Paltrow first launched Goop in 2008, it was a great place to find out where to eat the best tapas in Barcelona. It was straight-up celebrity-lifestyle voyeurism, and Paltrow, with her long blonde hair and aura of complete self-satisfaction, was irresistible. There’s the expression “living your best life,” and then there is Paltrow: best life manifest.

But then Goop’s focus started to shift. Paltrow began to describe in detail her exercise regimen with her trainer Tracy Anderson, who believes one should work out two hours a day, six days a week. Then she began providing information on a cleanse she does each January. The mission became less about revealing the trappings of the good life and more about the notion that the really good life is internal. Rich and beautiful people don’t just go to nicer places, their organs work better. They even know how to breathe better, with more oxygen per ounce. They’re not afraid to try fecal transplants, with really top-notch, vegan-only feces. Goop became less about hotels and restaurants and more about chakras and thyroids, with the implication that maybe what’s actually standing between you and your inner Gwyneth is some mysterious virus that your overextended, pharmaceutically corrupt doctor is too narrow-minded to address.

If you spend even a minute of your day thinking, “Should I get a fecal transplant?” and you’re not in the hospital with C.diff, you need more things to worry about. Maybe the wrong fecal transplant will give them to you.

See you Friday.

Posted at 9:23 pm in Current events, Housekeeping | 91 Comments

Rainbow connection.

City life: I took the dog for a walk close to 7 p.m., and even though it wasn’t raining here at all, there was a pretty grand rainbow in the east, which we enjoyed until it disappeared. For a while it was doubled. Very nice.

A while later Alan pulled into the driveway.

“See the rainbow?” I asked.

“Yes. And I think someone on I-94 saw it, because he’d run his car up the embankment and rolled back down. He was standing outside smoking a cigarette, and grocery bags full of his crap were all over.”

Just another Monday evening. An exhausting one, for me — slept badly and had a series of frustrating blah-blahs, but oh well. A couple squares of dark chocolate and a glass of wine should do it.

So, a little bloggage?

Your daily presidential embarrassment, via Haberman at the NYT:

In the span of 72 hours, President Trump described the email hacking that roiled the 2016 campaign as a Democratic “hoax” and as clear aggression by Russia that his predecessor, President Barack Obama, failed to address.

Other times, Mr. Trump has said the hacking might have been done by China.

Or, as he claimed during the first general election debate, the hacking could have been the work of a lone wolf weighing 400 pounds, sitting on his bed at home.

Then there was the time Mr. Trump blamed “some guy in his home in New Jersey.”

Or, as Mr. Trump has also suggested, there might not even have been hacking at all…

Twenty-two million more uninsured. MAGA, mofos.

I think I need to see “Wonder Woman” or something. Happy Tuesday to all.

Posted at 9:04 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 59 Comments

One busy weekend.

Welcome back, hostess-with-the-leastest. This has been a hectic past few days, but at the end of it:

1) I am a lifeguard. There will be no drowning if I have anything to say about it.

2) I nearly drowned my phone, but it recovered.

3) I attended an iftar on the last night of Ramadan.

4) I missed the Cannabis Cup.

I guess the catch-up begins on Thursday night, when a fundraiser I helped organize was held — it was a bikes-and-beer pub crawl/poker run, i.e, a visit to five closely adjacent historic taverns, on bicycles. The day was hot-hot-hot and sticky until it wasn’t, which in summer in the Midwest means we were all dying of sweatiness until a massive thunderstorm blew through. We were on stop no. 2 when it hit (the one with the best jukebox, I’m relieved to report), and it pinned us down past our departure time, and sundown. Finally, we made the executive decision to dash two blocks to the next place in a light shower, and things were pretty OK for a while.

I was riding what I called Bike Uber, our old Schwinn Twinn, a c. 1971 tandem that has a curb weight about half that of my car. I always liken its ride to that of a Soviet limousine; it takes its time getting up to cruising speed, but once it’s there, it has a spectacularly solid momentum that’s truly a pleasure to pilot.

We scratched the fourth bar and I was headed for the final stop, alone on the bike, in a light drizzle. And the skies opened. By “opened” I mean all the water in the world fell on my head for about two minutes. I was already damp, but now I was well and truly soaked to the skin. I checked in at the last bar, made sure I had no chores to do on the fundraiser, and left for home – air conditioning is nearly intolerable when you’re that wet.

But by then the rain had stopped for good, and the ride home was kinda magical. The pedaling banished the chill, and Grosse Pointe was reflecting light from every wet surface in the face of inky darkness. All the storm drains were gurgling; hardly anyone was out and about. When a car’s headlights appeared in front or behind me, I just turned a corner and adjusted the route home, noticing which blocks had the new LED streetlights and which still had the old ones. The Soviet-limousine ride was pleasant. I made it home in about 15-20 minutes, and didn’t even have the brown stripe of muddy water up my back, because old bike = fenders.

The only casualty was my phone, which had its ports facing up during the downpour, and the mic/speaker stopped working. But Alan put it in a bag of desiccant in the hot sun, and it healed itself.

Lo, I have a lucky star.

Saturday was more lifeguarding class. We practiced all our saves and had our water test, which we all passed. I still don’t feel competent, but I’m less incompetent. Sunday was the written test. The instructor plugged some gaps in our instruction, including the dreaded AFR — accidental fecal release. We were told the sanitation procedures for both the Baby Ruth variety and the chocolate-milk spill, and she revealed that some years ago, her lowest-performing guard arranged just such an event to force a closure and an early quitting time for himself.

Reader, I cannot tell a lie: My first thought was, I bet I know who he voted for.

And Saturday night was a big feed for the final night of Ramadan. Dearborn was popping. Fireworks and food trucks all over, once the sun went down. There were Eid gifts for the children, and for once, I went home from a dinner party with no wine in my belly and woke up Sunday feeling just fine, although not capable of driving 70 miles north to the Cannabis Cup, where LAMary’s son was selling swag. I should’ve, but it just felt like a bridge too far.

So sorry, Pete.

I didn’t have time to do more than glance at the Sunday papers. What did I miss?

Posted at 8:38 pm in Same ol' same ol' | 58 Comments

Midweek. More week.

There are times, in the middle of a busy week, when only “The Great British Baking Show” and a glass of wine will work to calm one’s shattered, or at least frayed, nerves.

Frayed. Yes, that’s it. It’s been a long one, and it won’t stop until…a few more days. I have weekend stuff, too. But there’s a long weekend coming up eventually, and it’s not like I’m digging coal here.

Lifeguard training is going well, in the sense that no one has actually drowned. I had difficulty doing the deep-water rescues, as either the victim or the saver, because I float like a cork. I think it’s Charlotte who has difficulty floating? I can’t sink.

“Adipose tissue,” I said as I failed to touch the bottom of the deep end yet again. “I’m a manatee.”

But little by little, we four are getting it. You wouldn’t necessarily want to hire us at your water park, but we can certainly be useful assistants in an emergency. At least I hope so.

Man, water parks. I’ve been to the one at Cedar Point a time or three, when Kate was at an age to enjoy it. I always liked the lazy rivers, and could have stayed in one all day, if I were allowed a cocktail every third circuit or so. But guarding them must be maddening; so many people simply don’t know what they don’t know. (How to swim, for starters.) Not that this keeps anyone out of the water. I’d go nuts in 15 minutes.

So. Shame about Ossoff, although I wasn’t getting my hopes up. I’m done with that. Grim resignation, that’s my new default. Pendulums swing. Let’s just hang on for the ride.

In the meantime, some bloggage: A WashPost story about Kosciusko County, Ind., just west of the Fort, where the demand for skilled factory workers to fill the artificial-joint plants is acute and not being met by the market:

Kosciusko is only one of 73 counties in the United States with unemployment rates of 2 percent or lower, according to the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Many are in ­energy-rich counties in the Midwest and Colorado, where the fracking and natural gas booms have vacuumed up the workforce.

They also include communities that defy the heartland stereotype of industrial decay — like Warsaw, in northern Indiana, and Columbus, about three hours south.

Cummins, a global engine builder based in Columbus, recently opted to open its new distribution center an hour north in Indianapolis, where the labor market is much larger. (Columbus is the seat of Bartholomew County, which also has a 2 percent unemployment rate.)

Companies in Warsaw probably would not move manufacturing jobs abroad, said (economist Michael) Hicks, who follows the region. Firms are more likely to transition to Indianapolis or Chicago, he said, since quality control is crucial for medical implants, and businesses want to protect their designs from foreign competitors.

This is where the importance of talent comes in. And that is where the importance of good schools comes in. I’ve been gone from Indiana long enough that I can’t recall the quality of the schools in rural Indiana, but I think it’s safe to say they’re hit-or-miss. And the legislature has been working mightily to strip the public districts of funding, so that vouchers can be issued for religious schools. Dunno how they do in preparing the workforce of tomorrow. They need to be good. They better be good.

(We talk about this issue in Michigan a lot. Safe to say the legislature is not entirely in agreement.)

And the Senate health-care bill is set for its big reveal. Discuss.

Posted at 10:03 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 95 Comments