Today - well, yesterday, as far as you're concerned - I went to the Minneapolis College of Art and Design to give a little symposium on opinion writing. I've done this for three, four years - the students come up with something, a few lines, an idea, and I rip it to shreds until they cry. No, of course not. It's fun, and requires me to have an opinion on whatever they're talking about, or at least pretend to know what they're talking about.

"What if you don't?" Daughter asked at dinner. I said that should never get in the way of talking about something. With enough general knowledge you should be able to cobble together two or three minutes of BS that isn't entirely BS.

"So say something about the extinction of the Australian carp," she said. So I talked about it for two minutes - the effects of drought on their food source how deoxegenated lakes can turn toxic, the likelihood of restocking them from Asian sources, the decisions about protecting a species that was originally invasive, and so on. Transitoned early enough to the American situation with the Asian carp. Just blather.

"I made up the Australian carp," she said when I was done.

Right. Well, take all this into consideration the next time I seem like I really know what I'm talking about.



There's a new podcast. Link at the bottom, because I'm not going to put all this up and have you forget it because you were listening to something else. I'm just not.


II have new glasses and I hate them. Back to the store soon to tell them the truth: I've been living with them for almost a month, and they're little better than the replacement. When I look at the monitor the words are fuzzy. Remember how this all began? Hi there, I have glasses, and you sell glasses, right? Right. And you have an opthamalorologist who has the machine that goes Poof and the special thing that looks for eyeball tumors and other fun quirks of life, right? So you're up on this technical thing where we work together and figure out what correction I need. You might not remember this, but I had a specific complaint: can't see the computer monitor when I look straight ahead. It's at a certain distance - here, let me describe in specific detail what that is. Okay. Now, the first time we did this dance, she reduced my prescription and made it weaker. Turns out that this meant I couldn't see as well - I know I know, odd, that, but there it was. Then she brought it back up and maybe kicked it up a notch, as that cook with the bleach-blonde goatee says. Still can't make out the words. Have to tilt my head, as I did before.

Nothing is better. So you can give me my money back or redo the glasses.

AHHOOOHGAH nope nope nope, that can't happen.

Here's the thing: I feel as if they'll look at me as if I'm crazy. As if I'm doing it wrong, somehow, giving the wrong answer to those trick questions about better or worse. Trust me, I want this to work. But it's not. I expect I will get that story again about how their patients, or clients, or customers, or whatever term they've focus-tested, have one pair for the computer and one pair for everywhere else. This would work if I sat at the computer for long stretches with my feet shackled to the desk legs and my pants sewn to the chair. There are two kinds of people: those who can sit for a long time working on the computer, peering at the screen, and those who didn't finish this sentence because they got up to get coffee, thinking I might finish that, if I want. Bookmark it. Save it.

Have you made it this far without getting up and clicking around? Even though there's no plot, no theme, and the previous paragraph seemed to indicate this was just treading water? Well, that brings us to the X-Files.

I watched one and I thought: yes, my right elbow has been twingeing for a few months - it's not as if I can't lift things, but there's a bright twang now and then. When I bring up the groceries there's discomfort, and sometimes there's a peculiar twang in the fingers on my left hand that has a direct relationship to how I've picked up the bag. All that said, I still have strength, and I can pick up things, but I am not sure I can shoulder the burden of pretending the X-Files reboot is anything close to what I had remembered, or wished would return.

In the first one I watched the actors acted like they had bad colds. The actors acted as if they had been assured that they would be permitted to trash the characters everyone loved, because this is a booty-rebooty-boot rethinking of the original. It had the pristine credits, of course; they wouldn't mess with that. Those are elemental. The FBI badges! The grainy photos of a UFO, which were reasonable in 1994 before everyone had 4K cameras in their back pocket. The delicious thrill of thinking that the show was grazing a true unknown. Aliens. Abductions. The Quickening. The imminent revelation of ETs and their connection to the Shadow Government.

Fun things to think about, now that we've reached the End of History, y'know?


So now I'm watching the 3rd ep, the well-regarded Were-thing ep, and it's fun - but it's so self-conscious and po-mo and winky-snarky it's as if everyone involved is enjoying the opportunity to trash your expectations. Mulder is dumb. (His ringtone is the X-Files Theme. Okay.) Scully acts as none of this matters because she has at least one more critically-well-regarded show to do in England, so why not breeze in and have fun. Scully should not be having this much fun.

(Note: she gets unhappy in the next one, and you don't like to see it. I know, I'm impossible to satisfy.)


And now things get really peculiar.

From a Google groups announcement of the artist's death in 2009:

I received sad news today in an email from a French Art dealer.
Christian Marche, prolific pinball artist of the 60's and 70's passed
away 2 months ago. He was living in Corsica and had continued his art career in France. Loved by some, despised by others, Marche was often confused with Jerry Kelly whom he was encouraged to mimic. His "Pointy People" style was unique, and although it did not appeal to everyone, he definitely had it's moments with such works as "Op Pop Pop", "Klondike" and my all time favorite "Double Up".

Those. Eyes.

You have to spell EXPRESSWAY, which takes some time. You'll be too busy to wonder how they got on the freeway without an engine.



Another break from the quiet parade of old backwater empty streets. We go again to . . .

While poking around the destitute roads of Detroit, I came across this immensity.


From Detroit-ish:

The Mammoth Shopping Center was built in 1949 and was originally a Federal’s Department Store. Federal’s Department Store was started in Detroit, Michigan in 1929 and had several chains around Detroit. This Federal’s Department Store was located at 15401 Grand River Ave, at the corner of Greenfield Road, in northwest Detroit. Federal’s Department Store quickly became a popular location for Detroiters to go shopping for new outfits and wardrobes. It was located far enough from downtown and close enough to the city border, that people could come in from the suburbs and go shopping at Federal’s as well.

Then they didn't come in any more.



It just sites there and decays. The skyway came from a 1990 removation to make it a low-budget store.

But that didn't work.


Hope, change, et cetera:


Across the street, the Tower Center Mall.



It has a Facebook page with entries from February, so it still seems open. But the Yellow Pages site says it's closed.

This might answer the question.

Thirties crispness always lends an urbane air to the street.


Or would, if the ground floor wasn't ruined by someone who thought "shade, yes, that'll revitalize the block. Shade."

More shade! As you're staggering sick down the street because someone said there was a doctor's office down there somewhere, you'll be grateful for the shade.


But little else.

Rather robust for a ghost sign:


Remember, this was all full of stores and shoppers once. Cars with their windows rolled down and music playing. This was the big city, the Motor City, and it would rule forever. Why wouldn't it?

The Time-machine function on Google Street view lets you see what the building was like a few years ago. Now:


Then. So someone redi the windows, opened it up as something, then closed it again.



I don't know why I love buildings like this, but I always have. The little classical details. The tidy dimensions. The apartments or offices upstairs. You can imagine any story you want starting right here.



Then. Once again, someone tried, but it didn't go anywhere.



And it probably never will.

There you have it - one more to Friday.

As promised, here's the new podcast - it's up top, on the page with all the others. If that's not too technical.


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