Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Whatever Happened to Old What's-His-Name?
I am not dead, nor have I been disappeared by agents of the Department of Homeland Security. I am merely on the road again, and at this moment am in Auburn Hills, Michigan, a northwestern suburb of Detroit. It's a bit of a nostalgic trip for me, as my in-laws lived in the Detroit area for several years during the 1980s, and some of the first extended trips The Mrs. and I ever took together (even before she was The Mrs.) were out here.

Lots has changed, but lots hasn't. Detroit-area drivers are the most aggressive I've ever known, and if you don't want to get pancaked, you need to remember a few rules:
1. Speed limits are actually minimums. If the sign says 70, do 80 or get passed like you were Amish.

2. Do not assume that because a street is narrow or curvy, that this will do anything to reduce speeds. A lot of streets here would, if they were in a similar urban area of Wisconsin, have speed limits of 35MPH. Here, however, the limit is 50--and see rule #1.

3. Green means "go." Yellow means "go faster." The first three seconds of red should not be confused with a signal to stop.

4. They make cars here, so if the worst happens, don't think of it as an accident. Think of it as economic stimulus.
An added challenge for the driver here is the generally crappy condition of the roads--if you put water into some of the potholes, you could stock them with fish. Drivers are reportedly gearing up for a massive reconstruction project on Interstate 96--and if that's the highest repair priority of all the roads around here, it must look like a back street in Baghdad.

You would expect a place called Auburn Hills to be one of those red-brick suburbs, where even the gas stations strive to look tasteful. You would be wrong. As far as I can tell, this is a largely industrial area. The home arena of the NBA's Detroit Pistons, the Palace of Auburn Hills, is just up the road from my hotel. While it is a somewhat striking building--with red brick, even--it sits at the foot of an enormous hill which, upon further examination, turned out to be the most massive landfill site I have ever seen. So calling it a palace is lily-gilding, to be sure. The Pontiac Silverdome, former home of the NFL Detroit Lions, is also not far away. What they're using it for now that the Lions have moved to a new stadium downtown, I don't know. Tractor pulls, monster trucks, and heavy-metal concerts, I imagine.

(The Pistons are not the biggest basketball attraction here right now. That would be Oakland University, which qualified for the NCAA men's basketball tournament last night by winning its conference tournament, despite a record of 12-18--which is a fine argument against conference tournaments, but that's another post entirely.)

Despite the close proximity of two major arenas and maybe a dozen hotels, the restaurant choices all tend toward stuff you have to unwrap. There is a Tim Horton's close by, however--and on this trip, Tim and I have gotten tight. Horton was an old-time hockey star who parlayed his fame into a chain of donut shops in Canada, and in recent years, the chain has expanded into the United States. They're the Dunkin' Donuts of Canada, and a colorful bit of Canadian pop culture. If nothing else, their proliferation even into relatively small towns (like Adrian, Michigan, where I was for a couple of days before coming up here) means you can get a decent bagel in places where the primary breakfast option used to be greaseballs from McDonalds.

So I'll be here for a day or two before lighting out for the provinces, where Internet access will once again be a hit-or-miss affair. So if there are going to be any more posts before I get home, they'll be in the next couple of days.

Recommended Reading: I am insanely late on this, but Kevin at Lean Left wrote a terrific takedown of conservative narcissism last weekend. I have said for a long time that it's not their positions as much as their hypocrisy that frosts me. To Kevin, it's their selfishness.
As much as anything else, it’s the sense that only they matter - that they are entitled to take whatever they want, however they can or choose to, and no sense of propriety, no consideration of fairness, and in fact no law, rule, or procedure, offers any reason for them not to do so. That nobody else’s interests but their own count for anything, and that it is in fact immoral for anyone but themselves to be given any consideration.
That so many of them claim to be walking in the footsteps of Jesus Christ makes their callousness even more troubling.

Also, my former colleague Ted Remington, whose blog The Counterpoint analyzes Sinclair Broadcasting's nightly commentaries, has gotten some love from Sinclair in the past month, in old-school wingnut style. Instead of taking him on directly for his criticisms, Sinclair decided to smear him as an academic ne'er-do-well soft on plagiarism. Media Matters has the latest--and points out how Sinclair, yet again, couldn't be bothered to tell their story straight.

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