Us at our worst.

Good lord, but the torture report is ghastly. I try not to take these things personally, but the details of what was done in the name of this country is truly sickening – sick being the point when I read about how we pumped hummus up a man’s ass.

I don’t know what the blowback will be overseas on this; in large part, it’s things we already knew, or suspected. But a subtler sort of corrosiveness will be inevitable.

Or, to put it another way, this would be an excellent day to stay away from the comments sections. All of them. (Except this one.)

I have to duck out today, for the usual reasons. You might enjoy this amusing story about how a Brooklyn art-scene fixture has had enough of Brooklyn and its ridiculous rents, and is relocating to? This place, bitches.

Posted at 8:47 pm in Current events | 45 Comments

When the facts speak for themselves, let them.

The Rolling Stone with the story about Jackie her gang rape at a University of Virginia frat house there arrived at our house in dead-tree form — yes, we subscribe. (Someone remind me why.) I read it because I was in the midst of trying to get my arms around the sexual-misconduct-on-campus issue for my own stories, here and here. I’m not boasting of anything here other than skepticism when I tell you my BS detector started buzzing almost immediately — when Jackie was pushed down onto a glass-topped table, which broke underneath her, “sharp shards digging into her back.” In the same paragraph, she’s punched hard in the face. In the next, someone says, “Grab its motherfucking leg.” And that’s, the story tell us, “when Jackie knew she was going to be raped.”

The details that followed were lurid — a three-hour gang rape by no fewer than seven men, with two more looking on. One can’t get it up, and is met with jeers (“What, she’s not hot enough for you?”), so he penetrates her with a beer bottle. I will admit I was already doubting this part, even while I acknowledge it’s possible. UVA is an elite school, and while it undeniably has a history of not handling sexual assault on campus well at all, to believe just these few paragraphs I would have to believe the so-called rape culture at UVA was so pervasive, and these men felt so secure in their immunity, that nine of them would risk lengthy prison terms on the assumption that Jackie wouldn’t go to the police and that the university would look the other way. That’s an enormous leap for an informed reader to take.

And the story went on. After three hours of this ongoing attack, Jackie passes out and comes to in the room, alone. Imagine the mess she would have been after three hours of pounding on a bed of broken glass, after a fist to the face, after a bottle. She probably had trouble even walking, but somehow she stumbles unnoticed out of the frat house. It was the point at which she met some friends that we entered Lifetime Original Movie territory: One friend wants her to go to the hospital, but the other two have second thoughts. “She’s gonna be the girl who cried rape and we’ll never be allowed into any frat party again,” one says. A woman says this, we’re told.

I could go on, but you’re getting the idea. This story, presented in vivid detail, was simply too good — or too bad — to be true. I sent a few friends and colleagues my doubts via email that day, and was met with a variety of responses, but most agreed that something doesn’t smell quite right.

An editor named Richard Bradley laid out his own suspicions point by point in a blog, and pretty much parallel my thinking. I was left thinking something probably happened to Jackie, but it wasn’t this, and I’d think anyone with even a half-developed sense of skepticism would have thought to check the story further.

As everyone knows by now, the story has fallen apart. I’d like to talk a little bit about why. Check out this quote from the Washington Post:

“The doubt cast on Jackie’s story has been feeding the myth that we have been combating for 40 years that women lie about rape and I feel that will put women at a disadvantage in coming forward,” Renda said.

Confronted with what’s looking more and more like an outright fabrication, she refers to fabrication as a “myth.”

OK, so she misspoke. She claims earlier that “2 to 8 percent” of all rape claims are fabricated or unfounded, which is more than zero. I have no reason to disbelieve that figure. But when you’re building a story about the pervasiveness of campus rape, and the cold shoulder given victims by administrations, best not to make an untrue account your through-line.

I’m amazed at some of the reaction I read and heard when the story started being picked apart, i.e., the truthiness defense. This essay is typical: It doesn’t matter if her account is untrue because rape goes unpunished on campuses all the time, so it’s OK.

No, it’s not. I don’t know why it’s so hard for people to understand, but building a story like this is like building a house. If the foundation is rotten, the whole thing will collapse, “true enough” or not. And that’s not even beginning to consider the defamation/libel issues. Because here’s the problem: Campus rape is real. Gang rape at the UVA Phi Psi house is real. Sexual assault on other campuses, in other frat houses — also real. Which is why it’s so very very important to tell the truth about it.

Or, as I sometimes say by way of writing advice: When the facts speak for themselves, let them.

Here’s part of my struggle in understanding, and writing, about sexual assault — and what’s now called sexual misconduct — on campus. I’m not talking about women who pass out after a thousand beers and wake up naked in a frat-house bedroom with some sleazebag saying what a good time he had. I’m talking about the cases of miscommunication, misleading and, yes, regret that happen all the time. You don’t turn 16 and immediately know how to drive a car; you have to practice. And you aren’t born knowing how to deal with the opposite sex, or whatever sex you’re attracted to, with confidence and charm. There’s a learning curve. It doesn’t always go well. Add alcohol, and it’s virtually a certainty.

Say I’m an 18-year-old freshman and don’t have a thousand beers. Say I have five or six. I’m buzzed. So is the guy I’m dancing with. Maybe we have sex. Maybe I wake up tomorrow, hung over, and say ugh. The Title IX guidelines explicitly state that a person who has been drinking or taking drugs cannot may not be able to give consent; if I decide to file a complaint about this, I’m on solid ground. (Victims’ advocates insist these second-thoughts cases are rare. It’s hard to tell from the data, which doesn’t contain many details) And maybe the guidelines should state this, because what else are you going to do? Require pocket breathalyzers in every dorm room? And so then you get policies that seem to have taken the whole of human sexual interaction, with all its subtlety, ambiguity, gray areas, pursuit, thrust and parry, and tried to make, well, policy. In its own way, it’s as rigid as abstinence-until-marriage. And I still don’t understand how a generation taught that any alcohol consumption = no consent will deal with the world outside campus, where alcohol accompanies mating dances every night of the week.

So we’re left with the system we have now, and advocates who say things like this:

“The first thing as a friend we must say is, ‘I believe you and I am here to listen,’” says Brian Head, president of UVA’s all-male sexual assault peer education group One in Four. Head and others believe that questioning a victim is a form of betrayal, because it will make her feel judged and all the more reluctant to ever speak about what happened. None of the people we spoke to had asked Jackie who the men were, and in fact none of them had any idea. They did not press her on any details about the incident.

In most cases, this is probably the better approach, because most women won’t put themselves through the wringer — and it is a wringer — if they feel they won’t be supported. Most will take their ugh home and deal with it however they will. But 2 to 8 percent may be women like Jackie. Who is going to share responsibility for setting the whole issue back, significantly. And that’s the damn shame in all of this.

I contrast the Jackie story with this Q-and-A about another UVA frat-house rape, from Jezebel. It’s about a woman who wakes up after a boozy party knowing something bad had happened to her, but remembering nothing. She makes mistakes (a shower), but does other things right, and the story about how her case wound its way through the UVA grievance process existing at that time feels far truer than the literally incredible tale of Jackie. It’s also a defense of the school’s quasi-judicial system — roundly criticized in the Jackie story — because while it couldn’t put her assailant behind bars, at least it gave this woman something. She would have been a better person to carry a narrative for Rolling Stone, but then, it would have raised other questions.

Like alcohol. This woman now realizes she has a drinking problem, and is sober now, but her assault was undoubtedly abetted by drinking that night. Some victims’ advocates get incandescent with anger if you even raise the issue, and I get why: It’s hard to navigate the narrow space between telling women to be careful about their drinking in social settings, but still hold that if things go wrong, it isn’t their fault. It’s a fact that alcohol clouds judgment and represses your self-preservation instincts (“hey er’rybody, watch this”); it is not victim-blaming to point this out. Yes, men will rape in the absence of alcohol or blackout drunkenness. But prudent cautions about drinking and drugs absolutely have to be a part of this.

So that’s what I cogitated on this weekend, watching things unravel for Jackie (whose last name is now out there, a totally predictable turn of events), Rolling Stone and others. I’m haunted about something a younger friend told me, about seeing a nude woman led stumbling through a wild party on a Michigan college campus a few years ago, then taken into a room with two men. Who closed the door. These things happen. I think they happen quite a lot. And thanks to this fiasco, we’ll be that much longer figuring out what to do about it.

Posted at 3:47 pm in Media | 59 Comments

A pour.

Eh, what a rough few days, and what a rough few more lie ahead, but by Jesus’ birthday, I should be free and clear. So bear with me, folks.

I keep wanting to discuss the UVA rape story, but I have my own story on the topic coming out today in Bridge, so I better not, but one 900-pound gorilla in all these discussions of campus rape — it seems to me, anyway — is alcohol. It’s not exactly ignored, but I’m astonished at today’s college drinking culture, and how la-de-da we seem to be about it.

We’ve discussed this before. I’m sure we’ve been through the No. 1 Party School and all our usual baby-boom grumping, but every so often something comes along to suggest nothing is getting better and may, in fact, be getting worse. The other day an Ann Arbor writer published a blog that made a bit of a splash, about a football Saturday spent in the Ann Arbor ER:

Yesterday’s football game, the last home game of the season, was scheduled to begin at 4:30, and, by 2:00, the students were already beginning to make their way in, escorted by EMTs. Given the way my bed was situated, I couldn’t see a great deal, but I did pick up on several distinct conversations, most all of which began with students being asked, “Do you know where you are?” (They rarely did.)

For the purposes of this post, I’d like to just share one example… that of a young woman who came in nearly comatose, having been found covered in vomit in an Ann Arbor alley. Of all the folks I’d hear that day, it was her that I was most worried about.

I could see her come in. The EMTs brought her down the corridor, strapped to a board, telling the hospital staff where she’d been found. Her head was hanging to one side, like her neck couldn’t support the weight of it. One of the nurses, I remember, commented to one of his coworkers that the human head weights 13 pounds, and it takes a lot of muscle control to hold it up. When she first came in, before I realized that her admission was alcohol related, I honestly thought that she had an advanced neuromuscular disease of some kind. As the conversation between nurses continued, though, I put the pieces together… Within a few minutes of arriving, and being told that she was at a hospital, she began vomiting.

Later we find the girl — found in an alley, covered in vomit — is a student, and apparently pledging a sorority. I keep thinking about the found-in-an-alley part. How did she get there? Who were her friends? Did she wander off? This was in November, hardly the best weather for passing out in the great outdoors.

How is this, if not a health crisis, at least a topic of national discussion? Why do so many parents think this sort of thing is simply to be expected? I got plenty hammered when I was in college, but I never ended up passed out in an alley, covered with vomit. A few years back, there was a series in one of the Midwestern papers about a string of mysterious deaths at one of the University of Wisconsin branch campuses, maybe La Crosse? Who was killing the students who disappeared while walking home late at night? No one, actually; they were drowning in the Mississippi River. Which they fell into while drunk.

For all the talk of date-rape drugs and spiked drinks, the truth is, the most common date-rape drug in America, by far, is alcohol. I don’t think it constitutes victim-blaming to tell young women to watch their alcohol consumption, if only to improve their odds of avoiding assault.

But what do I know? Maybe you’ll like this Neil Steinberg blog on the newspaper industry’s tradition of obituaries written in advance.

Me, I’m off to bed.

Posted at 10:06 pm in Current events, Media | 111 Comments

You’re wearing that?

Just a quick update before I dash away for the day.

I was thinking about the Elizabeth Lauten story last night, and I expect a few of you were, too. I cannot tell a lie: In a world of sorry-you-were-offended non-apologies, I found her apology about as good as it gets. (This writer disagreed. I disagree with her.) It was probably appropriate that she lost her job, but that was a foregone conclusion once she opened her mouth.

That said, I’m not surprised she made the statement in the first place. I’m assuming Lauten spends a lot of time in the right-wing media bubble, where the Obama girls’ failure to smile and sparkle 24-7 is pretty regularly remarked upon. This story is typical. Based on a few photos of Sasha on a trip to China, moments that literally probably didn’t add up to a single second, the New York Post felt free to tell the world, implicitly, that she’s an ungrateful brat who doesn’t appreciate the taxpayer-financed trip and probably not even the dishes of Starburst candies on Air Force One.

Perhaps the one thing these tribal bubbles are good for is occasionally showing what the other side is chewing on at the moment, currently Sasha and Malia’s expressions and hemlines. As to the latter, I found both their outfits completely appropriate and lovely — if there’s ever a time in your life when you can wear a high hemline, it’s when you have the long, slender stems of a teenager. Of course, some people have different ideas about how children should dress. I wonder how the Roberts kids look these days.

OK, gotta run. Before I do, those of us who lived in Indiana in the ’80s remember the Ryan White story vividly. Here’s an update on his mother, via the News’ excellent Neal Rubin.

Happy Tuesday, all.

Posted at 9:15 am in Current events | 67 Comments

Leftover turkey.

It sounds like everyone in the NN.c commentariat got through Thanksgiving OK. I did, anyway. As frequently happens, the day turned on the fulcrum of 11 a.m., when I opened the fridge, beheld the bloody mary mix within, and figured hell no, it’s not too early. Not that I spent the rest of the day in an alcoholic haze, only that there’s something about that warm feeling that the first drink in a semi-stressful situation offers that makes you understand why people turn to it so often. “Cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems,” as Homer Simpson said.

I only had one, then two glasses of wine with our ridiculously early dinner, then a nice nap, because how can you not? I read in my birthday present (“Wild,” Cheryl Strayed; somehow I’m the last American to give it a whirl), watched some Netflix (“Fading Gigolo,” uneven), went to bed.

And every year, I say “never again.” Next year I’m going to the parade, maybe the football game, and screw this country-ass midday Thanksgiving. I expect this time next year, we’ll do it exactly the same.

All your recipes sounded wonderful. I’m thinking it’s turkey tetrazzini for the Derringers tonight.

But first, it’s 55 degrees outside, and that means? A bike ride.

In the meantime, I offer you riches of bloggage:

I didn’t know Trump had a presence in Toronto, but I am not in the least surprised to learn the restaurant within is called America, nor that the food is wonderful the the rest of the experience so ghastly that the Globe and Mail advises readers it’s simply not worth it, starting with the sort of guy you meet in the bar:

Greg has an ex and a kid, he says, but he “got off” paying just $200,000 in yearly support. And anyway, Greg adds, à propos of lord knows what, Greg makes $10-million annually. He’s the sort of patron you’d pay that much to never have to sit beside. At America, the tacky, new-money restaurant on the 31st floor of the Trump International Hotel and Tower Toronto, a guy like Greg no doubt feels right at home.

Every era demands a Trump. You only wish we wouldn’t inflict him on our polite neighbors.

I don’t normally link to BuzzFeed, but I cannot tell a lie: This photo collection (“34 photos that will satisfy all perfectionists”) amused and comforted me. Yes, comforted — I’m a person who cleans toilets when I’m stressed.

I always enjoy Neil Sternberg’s blog, Every Goddamn Day. On Sunday, he considered the world of street-corner fire-and-brimstone types from their perspective. Enjoy, y’self.

This commentary on Black Friday brawl videos doesn’t quite deliver on its premise, but the embedded links within are amazing, especially this one, which gives me a whole new reason to despise Fox News. Effie Trinket couldn’t have done any better.

Posted at 10:07 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 72 Comments

The gales of November.

The lesbian couple at the center of the Michigan challenge to its same-sex marriage ban asked the Supremes to consider their case a week or so ago, and today the AG did the same.

“The history of our democracy demonstrates the wisdom of allowing the people to decide important issues at the ballot box, rather than ceding those decisions to unelected judges,” wrote Schuette, who also cited Justice Anthony Kennedy’s prior stance on affirmative action to bolster his argument.

Schuette noted in his filing that in deciding the affirmative action issue, Kennedy discussed the importance of trusting voters to decide significant issues and wrote: “‘It is demeaning to the democratic process to presume that the voters are not capable of deciding an issue of this sensitivity on decent and rational grounds.'”

You all know what I do for a living, so I can’t really express an opinion on this, other than to wonder when this country has left the rights of a minority in the hands of the voters, because if we had, there’d still be legal segregation throughout the south, women wouldn’t be able to vote and people of different races wouldn’t be able to marry, either.

Strange night tonight. The wind is howling at a speed that makes it sound like a continuous low moan, and we’re all waiting for the Ferguson grand-jury decision. Downtown, football fans are wandering around, waiting for the Jets-Bills game to start at Ford Field, i.e., the Lions’ home turf. Maybe you heard — there was some snow in Buffalo last week, so Detroit is bailing them out. The Lions gave the seats away free starting Saturday, and whaddaya know? A sellout. Or maybe a freeout. Whatever, the knots of fans who come in from the ‘burbs were already starting to appear when I left work in the gales. Wind always puts me on edge, and I’m not sure why, although I once read that it’s a contributor to domestic abuse in Livingston, Montana, where it blows constantly. I worry about flying tree limbs, lost power and wrecked hairdos. That’s enough to put anyone on edge.

So let’s skip to some bloggage while I pour a glass of wine and catch up on premium cable and chores:

How did I ever live before I met Tom & Lorenzo? “It looks like she skinned some white girl and turned her into a slutty cocktail dress.” Don’t ever change, J-Lo.

I was not the fan of the UVA rape story that many of you are — I found parts of it almost impossible to believe — but I am a big fan of this UVA rape story, which I found believable in every detail. It’s long, but well worth the read. And on the subject in general, Dahlia Lithwick speaks the truth. As usual.

You know what peeves me about these stories about how much students hate the new, somewhat healthier lunches dictated under new federal rules? The unspoken assumption that what they replaced was something wonderful. When you know it wasn’t. #thanksmichelleobama

Speaking of food, it’s time to start cooking. How about you?

Posted at 7:32 pm in Current events, Detroit life | 107 Comments

America’s very bad dad.

A couple of us went out to dinner Saturday night. It was a very Detroit 2.0 evening, featuring a chic restaurant, a long wait for a table and a cocktail called a Rosemary Burn (featuring a sprig of charred you-know-what). I swear, I’ve had more cocktails featuring rosemary in the last year than I’ve had potatoes or lamb or any other rosemary-friendly food. Maybe it was a Rosemary Char. Something like that. Can’t recall.

Anyway, we were sitting there working through our small-plates selection when the subject of Bill Cosby came up. We marveled at the parade of women now coming forward, most without the shroud of anonymity, many of them now senior citizens; their stories and the timeline suggest Cosby’s alleged strategy of mickey-slipping went on for decades.

That’s what makes this WashPost story published today so damning; it hears out the known accusers in chronological order, starting with the young comedy writer (who said she was drugged and assaulted in 1965) to the Temple University staffer (ditto, 2004). It’s an interesting structure, because you can see in its detail how we came to understand rape and sex crimes in that nearly 40-year span of time. The first victim didn’t go to the police because who would believe her word against a famous man? The last one brooded for a while, then called a lawyer, not the police, after a belated visit to police, and negotiated a cash settlement. (Please understand I am not criticizing her for doing so; absent a strong criminal case with solid physical evidence, Cosby likely wouldn’t have spent a day behind bars. That she chose to hit him in the wallet was a valid alternative choice.)

It’s also interesting because, after every victim’s story, the writers reproduce the comment of Cosby’s legal team. It’s almost hilarious:

One of Cosby’s attorneys, John Schmitt, issued a statement this past week saying that repeating old allegations “does not make them true.”

…Singer, Cosby’s attorney, called Traitz “the latest example of people coming out of the woodwork with unsubstantiated or fabricated stories about my client.”

…When contacted by The Post about Valentino’s allegations, Cosby’s attorney responded by issuing the broad denial to the recent accusations.

…Another Cosby attorney, Walter M. Phillips Jr., called Green’s allegations “absolutely false.”

Well, to their credit, no one said, “Another one? Where are all these crazy bitches coming from?”

He’s toast. Of course, Mitch Albom says he needs a little more time to study on the subject, and in the meantime, was it really necessary to pull reruns of “The Cosby Show” from TVLand? I mean, talk about a rush to judgment.

In case you’re wondering, the Rosemary Burn/Char was a twist on a whiskey sour, and featured bourbon, orange-blossom honey, lemon and salt. “The bourbon was infused with pine nuts,” Alan reminds me. Noted.

It must take so long to make a drink like that, you don’t have to worry about having too many.

Thanksgiving week! And so it begins. I will try to post what and when I can, but as always: Holidays. Etc.

Posted at 1:18 pm in Current events, Detroit life | 41 Comments

Mike Nichols, RIP.

So sorry to hear about Mike Nichols. It’s the sorriest Mike Nichols news since he married Diane Sawyer, in fact, but there’s no accounting for taste. (You just hate to see artists you genuinely admire fall for former Nixon staffers with a fondness for those steamed-shower-door soft lenses.) Anyway, rest in peace, Mr. Nichols, and thanks for Mrs. Robinson.

I know Mrs. Robinson was a creation of many people, including Charles Webb, who wrote the novel “The Graduate” is based on; Buck Henry, who wrote the screenplay; Anne Bancroft, who played her; and Nichols, who directed her performance. Like Roger Ebert, I saw “The Graduate” when I was young and thought it was about one thing, and then watched it years later and realized it’s all about another thing, i.e., Mrs. Robinson.

I recommend clicking through this not-too-long slideshow at New York magazine, an appreciation of Mrs. Robinson’s “scary chic.” I was ashamed that I never noticed all her leopard prints until now. Nothing happens on a movie set by accident, so I have to assume it was deliberate, to underline either a) her sexiness (the writer correctly points out that was pretty much the only choice for mid-’60s lingerie that needed to telegraph that message), her wild-animal spirit (she’s a very, very bored lioness), or maybe something else. The term “cougar” to describe a sexually aggressive older woman hadn’t been coined yet. Maybe Nichols was ahead of his time that way.

(Oh, and as to the “older” thing: Bancroft was 36 when she played the part, and the character was probably about 40-42 — she got pregnant in college and has a college-age daughter. Ebert explains she was aged with shadows and makeup, but wowsa, that’s one sexy broad.) Ebert:

“The Graduate,” released in 1967, contains no flower children, no hippies, no dope, no rock music, no political manifestos and no danger. It is a movie about a tiresome bore and his well-meaning parents. The only character in the movie who is alive–who can see through situations, understand motives, and dare to seek her own happiness–is Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft). Seen today, “The Graduate” is a movie about a young man of limited interest, who gets a chance to sleep with the ranking babe in his neighborhood, and throws it away in order to marry her dorky daughter.


Roy has a little more on his theatrical career, as well as his glorious early days with Elaine May.

I also loved “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” and …most of the rest of his work. You just knew he was going to bring it.

Have a great weekend, all. I’ll be…working.

Posted at 7:00 pm in Movies | 68 Comments

You just don’t hear Li’l Kim much these days.

I’ve been absent a couple of days, yes. (Insert the usual excuses.) And I would have posted something last night, but I went out on a rare Tuesday night to see Doggy Style, which I guess you’d call a gay bar popup in an otherwise straight bar. It’s very informal; sometime after 9:15 you look around, and everyone’s a handsome man. The bar TV system switches to a mix of campy old videos, including a montage of Joan Collins-Linda Evans catfights from “Dynasty,” Vanity 6, Li’l Kim, the Scissors Sisters and miscellaneous Euro-popsters from the ’80s with Flock of Seagulls hairdos.

But it was a warm place on a cold night, so there it is. And I worked at home all day, so it was nice to get out.

Meanwhile, thanks to Roy, who for some reason tracks right-wing bloggers, for finding this National Review appreciation of Glen Larson, recently deceased creator of a lot of bad ’70s/’80s television, including “Quincy, ME.” (The ME stood for medical examiner, as we all know from watching CSI, right?)

The writer singles out “Next Stop Nowhere,” a landmark Quincy investigation into the dangers of punk rock. It’s amusing because I know someone whose parents dumped his punk records (“including a few 7-inches that are worth something now”) into the trash compactor after viewing this alarming episode. Today, it looks as ludicrous as it would have to most people who weren’t your parents back then. But the National Review, god bless ‘em, doubles down:

Made long after social causes of the week and Klugman’s penchant for soppy lecturing had begun to capsize the series, the fabled punk rock episode serves as an ironic touchstone for aging hipsters keen to remember when they were all scary and hilarious. On a fresh viewing, however, “Next Stop Nowhere” paints a fully true picture of punk rockers as they really were: deceitful social predators who wouldn’t think twice about framing you for murder and forcing you into a codeine overdose.

Forced into a codeine overdose! So that’s what really killed Sid and Nancy.

What kind of echo chamber do people live in to write this stuff?

Two inches of snow allegedly arriving today. I know that’s nothing to you guys in Buffalo, but here? It’s 18 degrees and I’m not looking forward to the solstice, still a month away.

A good day to all.

On edit: I can’t let today pass without noting it’s the 10-year anniversary of this hilarious event:

Alan had just accepted his job here, and we were preparing to move. We laughed maniacally over this event, and hoped our new home would always be this exciting. It hasn’t let us down yet. Detroit! This is why I love you! You’re never, ever boring.

Posted at 8:58 am in Popculch, Same ol' same ol' | 64 Comments

Happy birthday to us.

I’m telling you, when Columbus gets five inches of snow in mid-November — it is still mid-November, right? — and Detroit only an inch, well…I don’t know what that means. Probably that weather varies widely and isn’t necessarily north = more.

Still. Brr. We’re supposed to get strong winds, too, so I expect a week of misery.

It was birthday weekend around here — Kate’s 18th, Alan’s (mumble). The former got a fuzz pedal for her bass and a pair of Doc Martens, perhaps my least-favorite shoe for girls in the universe, but the thing about gifts is, they’re for the recipient, not the giver. And if you’re legally an adult, you can decide what you want to wear on your feet. Especially if you’re already hanging out in bars:


That was Friday night. The crowd was sparse, the other acts pretty pallid, and the bartender indifferent, but when your lineup isn’t bringing in the sales, what can you expect? Which is to say, Alan had to buy four bottled waters for the girls so they wouldn’t get parched under that dazzling neon.

Saturday went along with it, sorta; we watched “Only Lovers Left Alive,” which may be my favorite Detroit-shot movie since “Out of Sight.” It’s not great, but it’s a wonderful look at the crazy city and its charms, which is especially well-suited to the story of two vampires making their way through the modern world. Googling around at the reviews, I notice a couple critics mention their house “on the outskirts of Detroit.” Ha! That house is in the heart of Detroit, and while some of the shots are angled to cut out the surroundings and emphasize its solitude, well, it pretty much nails the fabulous, ruined area of Brush Park. We don’t have nearly that many coyotes — at least not in town. They’d have to fight the stray pit bulls, and I don’t think they’re that tough.

A little bloggage from the weekend:

Something I learned from Neil Steinberg’s great column (reprinted from 2008) on “Porgy and Bess:”

The bottom line is that African-American artists embraced the work. Both Paul Robeson and Sidney Poitier — neither a cream-puff — sang Porgy. The entire cast is black, as required by the Gershwin estate — in reaction, the story goes, to the horror of Al Jolson pushing to cast himself as a blackface Porgy.

When Mitch Albom starts a column with the words “In the old days,” you know what you should do, right? Yes: Don’t read the rest. But if you want to, be my guest, and consider: This is one of the most successful writers in the U.S.A. No wonder the vampires are worried.

A corporate sponsor dials back support for a sport (rock climbing) where risk-taking may be getting out of hand:

Among those whose contracts were withdrawn were Alex Honnold and Dean Potter, each widely credited with pushing the boundaries of the sport in recent years. They had large roles in the film, mainly showing them climbing precarious routes barehanded and without ropes, a technique called free soloing. Potter also was shown highlining, walking across a rope suspended between towering rock formations.

Other climbers who lost their Clif Bar contracts were Timmy O’Neill and Steph Davis, who spends much of her time BASE jumping (parachuting from a fixed object, like a building, an antenna, a span or earth) and wing-suit flying. Last year, her husband, Mario Richard, was killed when he crashed in a wing suit.

I’ve seen wing suit videos, and for the life of me, I don’t understand how a suit that turns you into a flying squirrel can overcome the weight of the human body. But then, I’m no daredevil.

We in this part of the country may all have to be daredevils tomorrow. I hope your commute is not too slippery.

Posted at 5:57 pm in Current events, Detroit life, Movies | 34 Comments