Raw powerless.

Alex said something in the previous post about idioms and language that gets lost between generations. Forte was his example, which became “Ford tape” in another’s ear/speech. It so happens I was editing a piece the other day and came across the phrase “like a broken record,” thought for a minute, and struck it. Who even knows what that means? How long has it been since vinyl records were in common enough use, and that particular defect well-known enough, to understand the reference?

Truth be told, when my records were scratched enough for it to be audible — and (she said modestly) I always took excellent care of my records, handling them by the edges and using that Discwasher stuff pretty often — the worst I heard was a pop or skip. The defect that makes them actually repeat, which is what the idiom refers to? I can’t even remember when that happened (although I’ve heard it). Must be a Victrola thing.

Once you start noticing them, you can’t stop. I had a boss who was obsessed with visual shorthand, like depicting a doctor wearing a head mirror. Is there a soul alive who has ever seen a doctor wearing a head mirror? (And yet, apparently they’re still a thing, maybe in places where they don’t have electricity or batteries.) Why is a cartoon dead person drawn with Xs for eyes?

These are Tuesday thoughts. Today it’s Wednesday. Sorry for two nights of no-show. Last night we went to an early screening of “Gimme Danger,” the Stooges documentary by Jim Jarmusch, with special guest Iggy Himself. It was good falling short of great, a touch over-long, but an otherwise enjoyable experience. Iggy walks as though his hip is bothering him. [Pause.] I wonder how many times I’ll write a version of that sentence before all these guys are planted.

Actually, I find his bandmate James Williamson’s story more interesting. Click that link and listen to the KQED podcast “The Leap,” about him.

So. Two more weeks to the election, and we seem to have entered a lull. After the rat-in-Skinner-box feeling of the last months, it’s a little strange. Well, there’s Newt Gingrich telling Megyn Kelly she’s “fascinated by sex,” which is simply too pot-kettle for words.

I cannot tell a lie: When this election season is over, I’ll be relieved, of course. But also kind of deflated. You?

Posted at 9:36 am in Current events, Movies | 59 Comments

Black reflections.

Finally, an actual weekend, full of weekend-y things — exercise, reading, shopping, day-drinking. Also: “Black Mirror,” of which I knew nothing before reading something good about the new season (the third) in the NYT recently. Although the show isn’t episodic, I figured it’s best to start with Season 1, Episode 1, which was…

The U.K. prime minister gets a pre-dawn call that summons him to his office, where a grim-faced cadre of aides plays a video for him. Princess Susannah, a mashup of Diana and Kate Middleton, has been kidnapped. The ransom demand: That the P.M. have sex with a pig on live television at 4 p.m. that afternoon.

Now that’s what you call a shirt-grabber, I’d say. This episode is five years old, and came to the U.S. three years ago, and this is the first I’m hearing of it.

Well, it’s impossible to keep up.

The hip-pocket description of the show would be this: A creepier, more disturbing “Twilight Zone,” with the underlying theme of technology, and how we interact with it. So far — we’re in the second season — it’s fantastic. Hour-long episodes. British. And everyone who’s known about it, and hasn’t sent a telegram to me insisting that I watch the whole thing in a mad stretch, is dead to me.

So I guess you know what we did Saturday night. There was a vegetarian meal involved, too.

Now it’s Sunday, and time for the week-ahead prep. In addition to the (vague) meal ideas and (hopeful) workout plans, there’s the Halloween-season (also vague) plans to get the holiday season edging toward front-of-mind. In other words: Shopping, or at least some ideas for it. Ergh. Another year, at least approaching the final turn.

In the meantime? Bloggage:

Yes, late-term abortions are done for the health of the mother. Here’s one story. Foul-mouthed, but effective.

The Republicans are eating their own, particularly in Michigan:

“[I]t won’t be just Trump that drives me from this party. I’m disgusted with the male leaders of the Republican party,” Texas right-wing activist Brittany Pounders wrote on Oct. 18. “They may not be sexual predators; they may not be sexist or misogynist—but they are clearly okay with others in our party who are.” On Oct. 21, Nancy French, a conservative who has co-authored books with Sarah Palin and Bristol Palin, wrote in the Washington Post about her own childhood history of sexual assault; her essay implied that the GOP itself has become a sort of sleazy predator in the age of Trump. “My party—which should’ve been a place of a certain set of values—now shelters an abuser,” she writes. “I’m thinking of this when the GOP presses against me and asks me to close my eyes just one more time.”

Time for “Westworld.” Enjoy the week ahead.

Posted at 9:05 pm in Television | 65 Comments

The mop-up.

State of mind:


Jeebus, what a shitshow that was last night. One of the other panelists on the radio today said the debates descended down a three-step staircase to end at Depressing, and brothers and sisters, that is so true. I love how Hillary showed up in a white pantsuit, looking great, like an elder on a very advanced planet. And yet, I hate that we had to go through this ghastly election year, and that there’s more of it to come.

The host and I were chatting before we went on the air, and he marveled that debate after debate, she spent her early comments laying traps, which Trump then congenially blundered through, one by one. Which is why, as soon as I read, “he was winning until X,” I just chortle and turn the page.

I was listening to “Keepin’ it 1600” on the way home, and the guest, Kristen Soltis Anderson, a Republican pollster, was talking about her work with Republican voters. She’s been asking the “rigged election” questions, and her remarks struck me: Voters have a wide variety of interpretations of what “rigged” means. Some think the media is biased = rigged. Some think it’s more specific, i.e., that there’s widespread voter fraud. Some think something in between. So that’s where we are: We have a failure of vocabulary. Or of explanation. We don’t even speak the same fucking language. We use words like “bigly” on national television and aren’t even embarrassed by it.

Talk about depressing.

I’m cutting out for the weekend and plan to just chill, for a change. I just looked at my work schedule and see only normal-size fences for the rest of the year, not giant oxers, so that’s good.

Also, I’m going to watch “Westworld.” Have a good one yourselves.

Posted at 8:12 pm in Current events | 85 Comments

In the grinder.

Wasn’t I just saying I hoped this week would be a little easier than last? Guess what? It’s not. Nothing horrible, just a fairly blistering pace. Plus, Alan’s sick — came home with a sore throat and a canker sore, the latter of which seems to be bothering him more than the other. I hate canker sores so bad, so I get it. Probably shouldn’t have made ribs with so much chipotle pepper in the rub, however.

But once the weekly menu is set in this household, it is set. No substitutions!

Now it’s Wednesday, and things are finally slowing to a nice, steady trot. Have some lines to re-bait, and an application for a workshop/conference next spring in Columbus, spaces in which are to be awarded on a competitive basis. That means I must start the bullshit machine that lives deep in my chest, so a nice steamy batch can be perked up when I start to write.

The spot includes a week of lodging in my ol’ hometown. That’ll be fun. I’ll invite all my friends over to trash the hotel, Led Zep-style.

Before I go on, though, I want to make a book recommendation. (I haven’t changed the On the Nightstand feature in close to a year, but I have been reading, promise.) I recently finished “In the Darkroom,” Susan Faludi’s memoir about the last year’s of her father’s life, after he underwent a sex change in Thailand and emerged as Stefanie. I bought it on the advice of Hank Stuever, mainly in an attempt to sort out my frankly confused thoughts about transgenderism. I lie somewhere between full-and-open-embrace and the position laid down by more radical feminists, who reject transwomen as having a claim on the gender at all.

I don’t come to the debate with animus, however. I’m just very confused.

Faludi came to the reopened relationship with her parent — they had been estranged — as a middle-aged woman and an incisive journalist. And she misses very little about the tangle of contradictions that Istvan Friedman, who became Steven Faludi, who became Stephanie, presents to the world. A man who’s had three names and two genders in the course of a lifetime will have an interesting life’s story, and s/he is no exception. Istvan Friedman was a Jew in WWII Budapest, which meant he was no safer than Jews anywhere else in Europe. Born to a wealthy family that was atomized by the Holocaust, Istvan survived on luck and hustle, shape-shifting his identity and front to match the occasion, many of them perilous to his health. He later emigrated to Brazil and then to the U.S., where he became Steven Faludi (“a good Hungarian name”), married and became a father. But that didn’t work out, and he repatriated to Hungary and eventually shed another skin, emerging as Stefanie. His tale is only reluctantly told by the septuagenarian matron that was his final identity, but his daughter is relentless in her pursuit of her parent’s true nature. The picture that emerges — the title is a play on both her father’s occupation as a photographer and photo processor and the nature of his manipulated self — is hardly sharp. People are complicated, and some people are really complicated.

But the book is wonderful. It’s in Alex’s hands now; his father was a Hungarian immigrant, and Stephanie’s story is of a piece with her native land, itself a bundle of contradictions. I thought I knew my Holocaust history, but I knew little of Hungary’s role in it, it turns out. The details were appalling and dispiriting in the age of Trump, and the behavior of Istvan/Steven/Stephanie, both then and in the contemporary era, are baffling and revelatory. (Stephanie votes with the far-right party, the one that teeters on the edge of ethnic cleansing.)

I don’t really understand transgenderism that much better now, but I’m enlightened about one of its story threads now, and I recommend “In the Darkroom” to anyone in search of a good read on this or any of its related topics.

So, a new thread for us to chat about the final debate, and some bloggage: I’m appearing on WDET tomorrow to trade snappy banter about it with two other panelists; I’ll be the one with the higher voice and XX chromosomes. Listen live in the 9 a.m. hour Thursday, if you’re so inclined.

Last week I went to Flint and stared into a hole, watching a typical pipe replacement, a huge project just getting ramped up. Read this thrilling tale of mud and infrastructure, here, after it goes live at 6:10 a.m., EDT.

The catastrophe of citizen journalism, from NYMag.

“Mulatto cock.” OK, I’m done.

Posted at 5:50 pm in Current events, Media, Same ol' same ol' | 53 Comments

The red zone.

This was one of the season’s big weekends for us — Tox-away day at our local public-works department AND Theatre Bizarre.

We missed Tox-away day; it finished at 1 p.m., and we weren’t ready until 1:30. That left Theatre Bizarre, which did not disappoint. The event is now spread into four nights over two weekends, and I really hope the cash flow works out on this arrangement — even with the high ticket prices, it’s an event that barely breaks even, or so I’m told — because I like it a lot better. The last time we went, every inch of the Masonic Temple was elbow-to-elbow. There was a lot more breathing room this year, and that made for a more pleasant experience for me and my date:


I wish I had more pictures to show you, but that’s the other thing about the TB: It’s a very red-lit event. (Except in the bathrooms, which are green.) If I’d had time to really mess with the exposure and use flash and so on, I might have gotten some better shots, but I’m increasingly unwilling to interrupt my experience of life by worrying that I should be Instagramming something. Sorry.

Of course, we were there to support these girls:


Not a bad gig for them, although they were staged in one of the smaller spaces within the Temple. (There are several.) But so, so red. Kate was having a fit over her costume beforehand; the one she’d ordered didn’t arrive in time, so she had to scrounge one up from the thrift store. I should have told her no one would notice. Either that, or my old eyes are just incapable of seeing in this light range, which is entirely possible.

Anyway, the artist behind TB describes it less as a party but as an immersive, participatory art installation, and that is absolutely correct. Every room is done to a T; every detail is considered. Even the tickets are beautiful. My favorites were these taxidermy displays:


The wolf had a bird in its mouth:


I should have taken more pictures of the guests, if only for Brian, who approves heartily of boobs. I told Alan when we were leaving that every year we attend, I’m astonished anew at how many women seem to own corsets. There were some amazing boobage displays via corset, I must say, some left to simply take the air on their whalebone shelf.

Next year, maybe.

I’m really, really hoping next week is less crazed than last, although I did get a lot done. But I’m ready to move at a more reasonable pace for a while. Bloggage?

Nope. I’ve been so immersed in Trump for so long all I want to read about is makeup, cheap overseas travel, food, music and culture. Have a good week, all.

Posted at 4:27 pm in Detroit life | 97 Comments

Turning the pack loose.

Today was the last warm day for a while — 20-degree drop coming in the next 24 hours — so at quittin’ time, I took Wendy to the dog park.

We don’t go there often, although it’s my favorite one. Grosse Pointe dog parks require advance registration, proof of $100,000 liability in one’s homeowners’ insurance, vaccinations, and a pass, so that the Wrong Sort of Dog doesn’t get in. Detroit dog parks require that you show up with a dog. The Detroit park is even closer. Guess which one we go to.

But Wendy isn’t really a dog-park dog. She gets along fine with other pups, but basically, all she wants from life is to be with us, and life off the leash isn’t a huge priority. Ten minutes is about all she needs to sniff the perimeter and then return to our side and ask where we’re going next.

Today, three guys were there, with three dogs — another Jack Russell, more mutty than Wendy; a Staffordshire bull terrier; and a 9-month-old German shepherd. Male, female, male, respectively. The four of them sorted out their pecking order and started to run around, while I joined the guys. They had a cooler of Bass Ale and were passing around a joint. (I declined both.) All blue-collar dudes in the great Detroit tradition of skilled labor. The conversation was all over the map, perhaps because of the weed — work, the dogs, their friends, the variations on legal weed at the dispensary, and poetry. Yes, poetry. Not dirty limericks, this one, which one of the guys was looking up on his phone.

It reminded me not to get too judgey, to assume you know everything about a person because you noticed something about their hair or clothing or language.

The German shepherd began hassling Wendy, not aggressively, but he wanted her to pay attention to him and play, and she wasn’t into it. He’d face her, and touch her head with his paw. All, I should mention, with his red dog penis in full flower.

“Hey, who do you think you are, Donald Trump?” the dog’s owner called to him. The dog was named for a Mexican drug lord. The owner was the one with the weed (and a card to buy it legally, ankle pain). He also had a large cross on a chain around his neck.

We stayed about 45 minutes, then came home to read the latest NYT story about Donald Trump. Man, this part:

“None of this ever took place,” said Mr. Trump, who began shouting at the Times reporter who was questioning him. He said that The Times was making up the allegations to hurt him and that he would sue the news organization if it reported them.

“You are a disgusting human being,” he told the reporter as she questioned him about the women’s claims.

Oy. And then this:

A senior Trump adviser says the campaign will soon bring forward new accusers: “Women are coming to us who have been groped or sexually abused by Bill Clinton.” Trump is considering featuring these women at campaign rallies to “give witness to what Hillary Clinton actually did.” The Republican nominee’s decision to close out his campaign by attacking what he alleges to be the Clintons’ history of sexual violence suggests the next few weeks could be among the ugliest in modern presidential history.

And then this, from either Uday or Qusay Trump, I can’t recall which:

“I think sometimes when guys are together they get carried away, and sometimes that’s what happens when alpha personalities are in the same presence. At the same time, I’m not saying it’s right. It’s not the person that he is.”

In the world of men’s rights, everyone’s an alpha, kind of like in the ’80s when Shirley MacLaine was running around talking about past lives. No one was a reincarnated scullery maid or shopgirl; everyone was Cleopatra or Marie Antoinette. Betas do mass shootings; alphas have “game” and get laid by grabbing pussies.

God, I’m growing to despise these people. I want Ivanka selling cubic zirconia on QVC after this shitshow is over.

As for Roger Stone, Steve Bannon, et al? I want them sleeping in doorways. They’re that bad.

Don’t let me leave you on a bummer note, though. Here’s Wendy, with Donald Trump in hot pursuit:


Have a great Thursday. I’m going to be running from pre-dawn to well after dark. Might not get back with y’all until Friday or Saturday, but we’ll see.

Posted at 9:41 pm in Current events, Detroit life | 123 Comments

Sorta speechless.

I think John Scalzi says it best:

Like many of you, I watched Sunday night’s debacle with my jaw in my lap. I’m honestly out of words, other than various versions of “what the–?” This is the culmination — or the closest version on a culmination, surely to be topped later — of something that has never been hidden. While the rest of you were passing around yet another Charles Pierce essay, I was struck by the headline for an adjacent blog. I won’t even look it up, but it read something like, “This all happened because Trump wanted to be on ‘Days of Our Lives.'”

And that’s it, isn’t it? A man for whom millions will cast their vote for president in about a month once appeared, purely out of vanity or “brand-building” or whatever bullshit reason he had, on a soap opera. No, this is not like Bill Clinton playing sax for Arsenio Hall or Barack Obama appearing on “Between Two Ferns.” This is not only a soap opera, but one of the absolute worst ones ever. (My neighbor/sitter used to watch it, begrudgingly. Her mother-in-law loved it, and it was one safe thing they could talk about. She said it was so awful you could generally get away with watching two days a week and be entirely up to speed.)

There was also his appearance in the professional wrestling ring, can’t forget that. Something about shaving Vince McMahon’s head, or something. Of the 14 seasons of “The Apprentice” I don’t have much to say, other than this: I tried to watch it once, and lasted maybe 12 minutes.

It’s mind-boggling, jaw-dropping, when you think of it. Politics and the public face of campaigns have changed a great deal in my lifetime, but this is a step beyond. This is a clown threatening tinpot-dictator justice on his running mate, on national television.

This is the alt-right. Good job, guys.

I’m not usually this gloomy, and I’m not, really. It’s just that every so often it hits me.

My neighbor and her mother called “Days of Our Lives” DOOL, for short. Dool. Like drool.

Just a little bloggage today. On the upside, a charming piece, by Hank, on the TV angle to the last three days:

(Billy) Bush, who is the nephew and cousin of the 41st and 43rd U.S. presidents, ascended from movie-junket gnat to a more lofty role reserved for the kings of infotainment — the Ryan Seacrests and Carson Dalys, whose superhuman work schedules and ability to yammer on camera never abate. They host music competition shows, New Year’s Eve countdowns, red-carpet shows, morning talk shows, Olympic Games, radio shows. They exist in a ubiquitous, onanistic state of lifestyle and entertainment worship, and they do it for so long that they eventually become the bolder name among the gaggles of barely boldface names that they “interview.” But what is their job, really? Part of me wants to call these rarefied creatures yanchors. Part of me wants to call them brosts.

They’re successful because we so rarely, truly think about them. We reward them with the same mindlessness they serve to us, a daily exchange of pablum. To think that the outcome of this election could have somehow, all this time, hinged on Billy Bush, who exists mostly because America leaves the TV on all day so the dog won’t feel lonely.

Finally, a rather startling collection of 30-second spots on workplace safety, and the necessity of vigilance, etc. Surprisingly graphic, and Canadian. Who knew?

Onward the week lurches.

Posted at 4:04 pm in Current events | 77 Comments

Round 2.

You know how we keep saying, “I wish this election were over, I’m growing to hate my fellow American”? I feel ya — I say it myself about 60 times a day. On the other hand, when confronted with video evidence that your fellow American shouldn’t be allowed to drive a car, much less vote, isn’t that a perfectly normal reaction?

Eh, it’s all but over now. Alan and I went out for our customary Friday-night dinner, talking a bout what-else, when I speculated that if nothing else, this election would reduce the Trump “empire,” such as it is, to ruin. Who would want to do business with this guy now, other than other sleazebags? Even in New York society, which I suspect is far less genteel than they might have us believe, the had-it-up-to-here factor has to be strong by now. I told some friends that I didn’t just want Trump defeated and his “brand,” such as it is, destroyed, I wanted all his children likewise and all his acreage sowed with salt.

Nothing personal. I’m just tired of hearing about what a sweet, poised socialite Ivanka is, and all the rest of the tribe’s b.s. Not that I am extreme about it or anything.

Anyway, to our disagreement. I think Trump is not only toast for now, but toast forever, that he’ll look back on his deathbed and see June 2015 as the place when he lit the match that burned everything down. His wife will leave him, quietly, in a few months. His creditors will demand full payment, and when it isn’t forthcoming, liquidation of his assets. I think this is it.

Alan disagrees, and thinks he has a bright future – of more grifting, basically. His loyal fans will follow him to whatever tar-stained beach he washes up on.

But the second presidential debate is nigh. Let’s get the popcorn and see how it goes, eh?

Posted at 8:54 pm in Current events | 62 Comments

Saturday morning market.

My fruit guy sold me half a dozen Mutsu apples, and threw this in, gratis. #customersatisfaction

Posted at 11:30 am in Uncategorized | 50 Comments

A little light reading?

Friends, I have another insane evening and busy day tomorrow, and I have simply no time to blog here. Part of the reason is, I spent most of the day at a local hospital, waiting on Alan as his designated driver for a little outpatient stuff — nothing worrisome, but even with a wifi connection, phone and laptop, I didn’t get much done, not with the TV and the various incarnations of the Loud family who filtered in and out.

I considered working in the chapel but figured that wouldn’t be included in the practice of a respectful agnostic.

Not that there wasn’t lots to read for when I simply had to shut down and reboot my brain. Like this:


And this:


I kept looking at that U.S. News, thinking of the cleaning crews, the hundreds of families who have drifted in and out of this waiting room over the last decade. How many hands have straightened that issue and put it back in a stack for the next day’s influx, never thinking to look at that giant date on the cover and ask if maybe this one could be pitched? I didn’t even want to consider the germs that might be on it. (I washed my hands four times over the course of the day and didn’t put them near any mucous membranes.)

The iPad was introduced in 2010, if you’re interested. Steve Jobs did the rollout in San Francisco. Sunrise, sunset…

So back to work for me, and high hopes I can pick up this burden again tomorrow. Talk amongst yourselves.

Posted at 7:45 pm in Same ol' same ol' | 115 Comments