Washtenaw County Commissioners accused of making “veiled threats” in an attempt to force an Ann Arbor takeover of the Ypsilanti Area Convention and Visitors Bureau

Last night, during a committee meeting of the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners, Commissioner Alicia Ping made public the fact that several of her fellow commissioners had attempted to broker a “backroom” deal that would close the Ypsilanti Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (YACVB) and effectively shift its $1.1 million budget to the Ann Arbor Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (AAACVB). According to Ping, her fellow commissioners, who had called this private meeting with members of the YACVB board, not only gave the mistaken impression that they spoke on behalf of the entire board, but they employed “veiled threats” in hopes of securing a deal that would see the Ypsilanti bureau defunded and closed. Here’s video from last night’s meeting. The woman speaking is Commissioner Ping.

Having been made aware of this, I called Debbie Locke-Daniel, the head of the Ypsilanti Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, and asked whether or not she was at the “backroom” meeting referenced by Ping, and, if so, what was said by those Commissioners present. Here’s our discussion.

For those of you who aren’t able to listen, here are a few of the highlights:

According to Locke-Daniel, four members of the Board of Commissioners were present at the meeting referenced by Ping. They were, Conan Smith, Andy LaBarre, Felicia Brabec and Ronnie Peterson. These four made it clear to Locke-Daniel and members of the YACVB board that they had the votes necessary to defund their organization and move the funds to the AAACVB, with or without their consent. They did not say, however, who would cast the fifth and deciding vote. [There are nine members of the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners, and it would require a majority, or five votes, in order to force a merger of bureaus.] I asked Locke-Daniel if it could be possible that they were bluffing about having a fifth vote, hoping to get them to agree to terms of merger without having to first call a vote, and she said that she wasn’t sure. She did say, however, that it could just be that they didn’t want to have their fifth person with them, as having a closed meeting in which a majority of our County Commissioners were present would have been a violation of the Open Meetings Act.

When asked why Ronnie Peterson, who is Ypsilanti’s representative on the board, had chosen to cast his vote with those commissioners trying to defund the YACVB, Locke-Daniel gave a response that I didn’t quite understand. She said, if I understood correctly, that Peterson had told her that he was voting for a merger as it was a forgone conclusion, and he wanted to be able to secure the best deal possible for the people of Ypsilanti. As they apparently told Locke-Daniel that, with Peterson’s vote, they had the five they needed to force a merger, though, this doesn’t make a hell of a lot of sense. If they have five votes with Peterson, that means they would only have four without him, which wouldn’t be enough to force a merger.

We didn’t get into a lot of detail concerning what was offered during this closed-door meeting in order to get Locke-Daniel and her team onboard, but it sounds as though local control of funds was off the table. So, even if the agreement called for the same amount of dollars to be spent in Ypsilanti, it would be up to a board composed largely of Ann Arbor appointees to decide where and how said funds should be spent.

I’m not sure where exactly this leaves us. In spite of all of the letters of support in favor of keeping our own bureau dedicated to promoting Ypsi as something other than a community in proximity to Ann Arbor, it looks as though a group of commissioners is committed to the idea of moving the money to the AAACVB, and I’m not sure how we change that. My only thought at this point is that we should all start calling and writing Ronnie Peterson, asking him to reconsider his decision to vote against the wishes of the community he was hired to represent. [If you do get through to Ronnie, please leave a comment here and let me know how he responds to you.]

As for Ping’s reference to “veiled threats,” I didn’t get into it with Locke-Daniel, but, based on Ping’s public comments, it would seem reasonable to assume that the representatives from Ypsilanti were told that, if they didn’t accept the deal being offered, they could expect to see no spending on behalf of Ypsilanti once the bureaus merged.

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HERE, BY WAY OF BACKGROUND, IS SOMETHING I’D WRITTEN EARLIER THIS SUMMER ABOUT THESE ATTEMPTS ON THE PART OF CONAN SMITH AND COMPANY TO FORCE A MERGER BETWEEN OUR RESPECTIVE BUREAUS.

(M)embers of the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners are considering the possibility of forcing a merger between the Ypsilanti Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (YACVB) and its counterpart in Ann Arbor. This, as I understand it from my sources, is something that the Ann Arbor Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (AAACVB) has been trying to see accomplished for over a decade, but it would seem that they may have finally gotten enough support at the County level to make it happen, and it has me wondering what the impact might be for Ypsilanti, which, in my opinion, has been doing an increasingly good job these past few years of promoting itself as a City with its own unique character, independent of Ann Arbor.

The idea behind this – the idea that we should brand ourselves consistently across the County as “the greater Ann Arbor region” – by the way, isn’t new. I can remember back, over a decade ago, when it was decided to replace our regional economic development group, the Washtenaw Development Council, with what we now call Ann Arbor SPARK. The brand that resonates with people outside the region, we were told, wasn’t Washtenaw County, but Ann Arbor, and, given that, we should let them take the lead. We’d all benefit, they said. And, it would seem, we bought into it, thinking that we’d have a better chance of attracting the interest of developers and the like. All we had to do was submit to the all-powerful Ann Arbor brand and become part of “the greater Ann Arbor region.” A dozen years or so into the experiment, I don’t know that we can call it a victory for Ypsilanti. While Ann Arbor continues to grow by leaps and bounds, all that we have, after a decade, is a new dollar store.

Along these same lines, we were told a few years ago that for the sake of efficiency, we should combine our Chambers of Commerce. We were assured at the time that the new entity would maintain a presence in downtown Ypsilanti, and they did… for a little while. Eventually, that office closed. Now, from what I hear, we have one Chamber employee, who can, “every once in a while,” be found at a desk inside SPARK East.

[note: According to Angela Barbash, the founder of Ypsilanti’s Reconsider, the Chamber presence in Ypsilanti is virtually nonexistent these days. “I haven’t seen a Chamber representative at SPARK East for at least nine months,” she told me today. “They don’t even make an appearance at the monthly ‘start your own business’ class that’s held there.” She went on to say, “I should also note that the Chamber was unresponsive to three outreach requests we made last fall when we were launching venture LOCAL. We were definitely disappointed.”]

…So, you’ll have to excuse me if I’m a bit skeptical when told that Ypsilanti will come away from a merger better than we went into it. Ceding our uniqueness, I think, to become just another part of “the greater Ann Arbor region,” would be a huge mistake.

And, when I say that Ypsi’s identity would be lost, by the way, I’m not just being paranoid. Sean Duval, the board chair of the Ann Arbor Area Convention and Visitors Bureau told the Ann Arbor News, “It’s absolutely our vision to see one countywide marketing agency, one voice for the Ann Arbor area.”

How can two completely distinct cities speak with a single voice? And why is it that they should have to? Are people really out there, staring at their computer screens, completely bewildered by the fact that two cities less than ten miles apart define themselves differently? Are there people really out there saying, “Wow, I really wanted to go to Ann Arbor for vacation, but I see that there’s a different town a few miles away with a different name and a different idea as to how to promote themselves, and I’m so damned confused that I’m going to stay home”?

Apparently, in the opinion of Joseph Sefcovic, the president of the Washtenaw County Hotel and Motel Association, the answer is, “Yes.” In a letter sent to the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners on January 22, Sefcovic wrote, “maintaining two CVBs creates an undeniable identity crises and confusion for our region.”

Have you ever met anyone… even one person… who is confused by the concept that Ann Arbor is one city, and Ypsilanti is another?

Before we go one step further, I’d like to ask Duval and Sefcovic to provide examples of this confusion, and evidence that it has cost Ann Arbor tourism dollars. If it’s as big of a problem as they suggest, I don’t imagine it will be too difficult of a task.

Of course, it’s also possible that this has absolutely nothing to do with confusion, and everything to do with money. There is, after all, a lot of money on the table. And it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if Ann Arbor’s hotel owners wanted it all for themselves, to promote their message, and to try to pull more big events into their city, at the expense of Ypsilanti. But who would be so cynical as to suggest that?

Following, from the Ann Arbor News, are the financials.

…Every hotel bill in the county includes a 5 percent tax–raised from 2 percent in 2009–that is levied to fund the area’s convention and visitors bureaus. The county keeps 10 percent of the funds raised for administration costs, and then splits the remaining 90 percent between the Ann Arbor Area Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Ypsilanti Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The AAACVB receives 75 percent of the available funding while the YACVB gets the remaining 25 percent. Revenue captured by the tax has risen significantly each of the past two years. The county collected $4.68 million in 2013 and unaudited figures show the tax generated $5.21 million in revenue in 2014.

Under the current revenue splitting contracts, which expire in 2015, the Ypsilanti area bureau received approximately $1.17 million from the taxes collected in 2014 and the Ann Arbor area bureau received about $3.52 million…

Agreeing to give Ypsilanti 25% of a smaller pie may have been more palatable. But, as the pie gets bigger, I have to think there are people in Ann Arbor who are thinking, “Just imagine what we could do with another $1.17 million.”

So, the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners voted on March 4 to call together a task force to look at how the county distributes the monies brought in via the excise tax. They, as I understand it, can’t technically force a merger, but they have the power to shift where the money goes. So, in effect, if they wanted to, they could force a merger to happen, making the members of the Washtenaw County Hotel and Motel Association, and the AAAVCB, very happy… The only people, it would seem, who don’t want this to happen are those of us in Ypsilanti, and it’s not clear to me that we have much power to stop it. Hopefully, I’m wrong about that.

The task force will consist of four Washtenaw County Commissioners; Andy LaBarre (Ann Arbor), Ruth Ann Jamnick (Ypsilanti Township), Ronnie Peterson (Ypsilanti), and Alicia Ping (Saline). If you have an opinion on this, I’d suggest that you write to one or all of them. You’ll find their contact information here

[The above has been slightly edited. If you would like to read the full text of the original post, and the several dozen comments which followed it, just click here. Also, if you want to go even deeper on the subject, I’d suggest listening to episode 12 of the Saturday Six Pack, during which Debbie Locke-Daniel and I talk at length about his.]

Posted in Ann Arbor, Marketing, The Saturday Six Pack, Uncategorized, Ypsilanti | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 30 Comments

Phoebe Gloeckner on autopsies, aggression, hating herself as a kid, and watching a twice-removed version of herself on the big screen; Amanda Uhle on bringing Mittenfest back to Ypsilanti; and Peter Larson on having to hide from the Kenyan anti-terror police after they were alerted to his guitar playing… on episode 25 of the Saturday Six Pack

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Celebrated author and illustrator Phoebe Gloeckner was kind enough to stop by the AM 1700 studio this past Saturday night and talk with me for about an hour over bottles of Purple Gang Pilsner. Ostensibly, she was there to talk about her novel, The Diary of a Teenage Girl, and the film of the same name, which just recently came out to rave reviews, but we meandered around quite a bit, touching on everything from her early days in San Francisco, helping lay out the punk zine Search and Destroy, to the idea for a recurring Saturday Six Pack segment during which she’d interview other people’s mothers.

As Gloecker has been doing three or four interviews a day for the past month, I was a bit apprehensive going into it. I wanted, of course, to ask her about the film, and her book which spawned it, but I didn’t want to just ask the same questions she’d been hearing from everyone else. Hopefully, all things considered, I struck a pretty good balance between the things that one has to talk about when discussing The Diary of a Teenage Girl, and things not immediately relevant to the film, but still interesting… Just like everyone else, I asked her about the sexual relationship she had as a 15-year-old with her mother’s 35-year-old boyfriend. And, just like every other talk show host, I also asked why it was that she decided to tell the story of her youth by way of a fictional character – Minnie Goetz. But I’d like to think, in at least a few instances, we broke some new ground… and got into a few things that Terry Gross didn’t get into when she and Gloeckner spoke about the movie last week. While I think you’ll enjoy listening to the whole interview, here are a few scattered notes about things that stood out to me.

[If you would like to listen to episode twenty-five of The Saturday Six Pack, you can either download it from iTunes or scroll the bottom of the page, where you’ll find the Soundcloud file embedded.]

While Gloeckner said that, for the most part, the film rang true, there were a few things that she questioned. Most notably, she felt as though the bar scene near the beginning of the film, in which the character of Minnie sucks the finger of her mother’s boyfriend, didn’t feel right. Or, more to the point, wasn’t accurate. Minnie, she said, was a virgin at the time, who had never so much as kissed a boy. She wouldn’t have sucked her mother’s boyfriend’s finger and asked him to fuck her, she said. It just wouldn’t have happened. And, more to the point, it didn’t happen. We discussed why the film’s director, Marielle Heller, may have chosen to add this scene, which wasn’t in Gloeckner’s book. Was it to make the character of Monroe more sympathetic? Or was it introduced in order to give the character of Minnie more control over the situation than she actually had, helping drive the “empowered” young woman narrative that enthusiastic reviewers seem to be coming away with?

Gloecker, in other interviews, has referred to what happened between herself and her mother’s boyfriend as “sexual abuse,” but in both the novel and the film, it’s not spelled out in such clear terms. The character of her mother’s boyfriend, who we come to know as Monroe, isn’t portrayed as a manipulator, at least in any traditional sense. He’s portrayed more as a completely un-self-aware man-child. We see him at one point, laying on a couch, watching reruns of H.R. Pufnstuf, and carrying on a conversation with Minnie’s stepfather in which he keeps addressing his contemporary as “Sir.” Gloeckner again says that this wouldn’t have happened. Monroe wouldn’t have been watching H.R. Pufnstuf, she said. He would have been watching Sgt. Bilko. But, as we discuss, the art form demands that messages be conveyed quickly and succinctly, so cultural shorthand is employed. What works in a 300 page novel, it would seem, doesn’t work in a 90-minute film. And, to further complicate matters, Americans don’t appreciate complexity. They want happy endings. They want things tied up with a bow. So, in film version of The Diary of a Teenage Girl, we end with Minnie and her mother reconciling, when, in fact, Gloeckner says that it took quite a bit longer for them to rebuild their relationship. [I’m told Gloeckner’s mother attended a local screening of the film with her.]

With all of that said, Gloecker assures us that she’s very happy with the way the film turned out. While it may be true that some things didn’t feel true to her experience, and, if she’d made the film, it would have been much darker, she says that she understands Heller’s decisions. Heller, she reminds us, played Minnie in a stage production of The Diary of a Teenage Girl prior to writing the script for the film, and has a great deal of empathy for the character. “She wanted her to have a happy ending,” Gloeckner said. And, perhaps more importantly, Gloecker says that, despite these changes, the true core of the story, and the message that she was hoping to convey in the original novel, has remained intact. [After agreeing to let Heller make the movie, Gloeckenr talked to other authors who had seen their books developed into films. They all told her, she said, that the best she could hope for was not to be embarrassed. Thankfully, she says, she has something that she can be proud of, thanks to Heller, who put her life on hold for years in order to see this through to completion.] Here’s Gloeckner explaining how, after looking at initial drafts of the script, she decided to just trust in Heller’s vision and wait to see the finished product.

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I found it interesting that, during the interview, Gloecker continually switched back and forth, sometimes indicating that things had happened to her, and sometime saying that they’d happened to Minnie. We talked quite a bit about the schitzophrenic nature of it all. We talked at length about her resistance until recently to say definitively that she is Minnie. She says her opinion hasn’t really changed, but that she’s just gotten tired of offering the more complicated explanation, which is essentially that Minnie is an every-girl who just happens to have survived experiences similar to those that she lived through. [It’s a novel, she would tell us, not a tell-all biography.]

When asked why she created Minnie, Gloeckner said that she hated herself as a kid, and didn’t feel as though she could write about that girl unless she created someone new, someone for whom she had more compassion. Ultimately, she created a character that she liked and wanted to hear from. “I wanted to give this little sprite a voice,” she said. And that’s what she did in her underground comics, which then evolved into books. Gloeckner also suggests that Minnie was created in part out of a sense of self-preservation. “Perhaps (I created her) in order to protect myself,” she said. “I had to, you know, in the process, distance myself from the character in order to see it differently.” At this point, we talked quite a bit about honesty and self-censorship. As she points out, she’s not alone in having survived a remarkably troubled childhood. I think the thing that makes her unique, though, is her willingness to accept it and share it openly without shame or judgment. “The worst enemy of an artist is self-censorship,” she says.

I asked Gloecker about the repeated references in the film to California heiress Patty Hearst, who was kidnapped in 1974 by a left-wing terrorist group calling itself the Symbionese Liberation Army. Gloeckner said she saw it as just another case of cultural shorthand, added by the filmmaker in order to convincingly convey the time period in which the film is set, as the search for the heiress-turned-bank robbing revolutionary was all over the news at the time. I pushed back a bit, saying that, if that’s all Heller wanted to convey, there were probably easier ways to go about it. I ask Gloeckner if it’s possible that Hearst is noted several times not just to set the time period, but to subtly introduce the idea that Minnie, like Hearst, could have been manipulated by a more powerful man into believing that she was in love.

Asked what scene rang most true in the film, Gloeckner noted the establishing shot at the very beginning of the film, in which Minnie strides confidently though Golden Gate Park, thinking to herself, “I just had sex.” Gloeckner says the scene, which reminds her of the opening scene in Saturday Night Fever, felt like a real memory. [She said the scene where Minnie took acid with Monroe also rang true, as did the scene where she and Monroe wrestled at the top of the staircase, only to stop when her mother came home.]

While Gloeckner appreciates that the underground comics she so loved as a kid, which propelled her into the career she now has, were hippy artifacts, she had little love for hippies as a young woman coming of age in San Francisco. “I hated hippies. I just had a horrible disdain for them.” So it’s not really much of a surprise that, when it came time to pick sides, she became a punk, embracing the energy of the punk movement completely. “This (was) an opportunity to fight,” she said. “This (was) an opportunity to get the aggression out.” [At some point, she references the fact that Minnie had other adventures as a punk, after we leave her at the end of The Diary of a Teenage Girl. Minnie, she said, moved into San Francisco’s storied Mabuhay Gardens, and eventually went to Europe, where she was “beaten up by Teddy Boys.”]

I ask if she’s bothered at all by the fact that so many discussions around both the book and the film have to do with her relationship with Monroe, when the film itself is more about a girl’s journey to find her artistic voice than it is about any single relationship. She says what bothers her more is that people focus on the 20-year age difference between her and Monroe. The age difference, she says, was not the thing that was really “screwy.” The troubling thing, she says, was the fact that she was having sex with her mother’s boyfriend.

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[The above image of Gloecker, taken just after her interview with me, was taken by Chris Stranad for part of our Saturday Six Pack Portrait Project.]

We talked about how she came to know V. Vale, the publisher of Search and Destroy, who would later hire her to draw medical illustrations for his RE/Search reissue of The Atrocity Exhibition by J.G. Ballard. Here’s what Gloeckner had to say about it.

“I was just a scraggly little punk, and Vale noticed me, and remembered me, and talked to me once, I think. His offices are on Romolo Street, right across from Mabuhay Gardens. So he just talked to me once. I was like 16. I was really young. I hadn’t done anything. But, at that time, the magazine was laid out by volunteers. So he invited me to one of the suarees where everyone stays up all night… all of the pages were on the living room floor… and we were just cutting and pasting blocks of text. Everyone did it for free. And I met a lot of people there. And I did that several times. And then he asked me to do a comic. So then they made a new tabloid called RE/Search… It was a tabloid before it was anything else… And I think I have comics in three or four of those also. Those were some of the first I published, I think. It was like, ‘punk kids at a punk club, and what they say.’ [Laughs.] But Vale and Andrea Juno, who was his partner at the time, would always keep in touch. And, when they first got computers, they had me colorize some of their covers. And, finally, after I came back from graduate school, after having disappeared, they said they wanted me to do this Ballard book. And I was so excited. It was my first job out of school. And, in my head I thought, ‘I’ll get paid,’ you know? And I think I got like 100-bucks for probably 9 months of work. But I knew I had to do it, because, when I read the book, I realized that what Ballard was talking about was in some ways exactly what was in my head. And it was the reason why I had studied medical illustration. My comics always focused on the psychological and the emotional, but I always, since I was a little kid, wanted to know what’s going on in my body. My grandmother was a doctor and I used to read her surgical books. I felt almost out of balance, like if I didn’t know what it looked like if I swallowed a fly, or took a shit, or had sex… I wanted to know exactly what it looked like, and be able to feel it. And ht only way to do that was to see autopsies. See surgeries. To be in that kind of environment. Which is what graduate school offered. I didn’t want to be a doctor. Ballard had gone to medical school and dropped out. So that book spoke to me in a very direct way, and it was the first job I had out of school. And they said, “Just do whatever you want.” They didn’t give me one instruction. So it was like a dream job. Everything that had been in my head, I could just pull out.”

One of my favorite exchanges of the evening came during a discussion on how she’s come to meet legendary cartoonist R Crumb. Her mom, knowing that Phoebe loved the work of Crumb’s girlfriend Aline Kominsky, took her to see Crumb’s band, the Cheap Suit Serenaders, perform at a club in San Francisco. At some point, Gloeckner’s mother pulled her up to the stage to introduce her. Crumb, to the surprise of Phoebe, knew her by name, as Aline had mentioned her fan letters. Gloeckner’s mother would go on to date cartoonist Robert Armstrong, who performed with Crumb in the Cheap Suit Serenaders… “The Cheap Suit Serenaders would stay in our house when they played in the city,” said Gloeckner. “Once I copied a drawing of his in my sketchbook. And he actually slept in my room… I had to go sleep with my sister… and, months later, I looked in my sketchbook, and he’d drawn himself next to my copy of his drawing, and he was saying, ‘How dare you. I’ll sue!'”

We also talked about cartoonist Diane Noomin… I’d asked if it was possible that Minnie Goetz might have gotten her name in response to Noomin’s character DiDi Glitz. Gloeckner said she could see how I might think that, given the similarity, but explained the true origin of the name. “My mom was born Mary Lou, but my father started calling her Phoebe,” she said. “And, when I was born, they called me Phoebe. And, when I was growing up, that was very confusing, so people called me Little Phoebe, and her Big Phoebe. So ‘Minnie’ stands for Little Phoebe. And Goetz is a candy (company). (They make) a carmel chew… They’re my favorite candies.”

There was quite a bit more, but you should really just make some time and listen.

Next up was Amanda Uhle, the executive director of 826michigan, who came by to tell us that the Mittenfest festival would be returning to Ypsilanti this year after having left for Ann Arbor last winter. [For more information, see my post from just after Uhle made the announcement.]

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And, lastly, our old friend the epidemiologist, Dr. Peter Larson, came in from Kenya to pick up where we left off the last time he dropped by for a visit. As promised, we talked quite a bit about mashed potato borne illnesses. We even called a young man with diarrhea and asked if he’d recently eaten any boiled potatoes that had been mashed by hand. [It’s complicated, but, according to Pete, it makes more sense from a public health perspective to tell people not to eat mashed potatoes than to tell them to wash the feces from their hands before mashing potatoes.] And, of course, Pete played some of the songs that he’s been sending into the show each week from Kenya. [If you like Pete’s stuff, be sure to come to Ypsi on Sunday, September 6th, when Pete will be playing a free show on the Washington Street porch of J.T. Garfield.] Here’s Pete telling us either about how he’d like to look more like Kate Bush, or about the time that a woman called the Kenyan anti-terrorism police on him for playing guitar in his apartment. [How punk rock is it to have your guitar playing classified as terrorism?]

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Thanks, as always, to AM 1700 for hosting the show, Kate de Fuccio for documenting everything, and Brian Robb for running the board, keeping the bills paid, and the toilet paper stocked.

If you like this episode, check out our archive of past shows at iTunes. And do please leave a review if you have the time, OK? It’s nice to know that people are listening, and, unless you call in, that’s pretty much the only way we know.

AND NOW, THANKS TO SCIENCE, YOU CAN LSTEN FOR YOURSELF:

Posted in Art and Culture, The Saturday Six Pack, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

The impressive street value of my dog

Apparently I’ve got quite a commodity. This evening, after responding to a young man’s question about Ollie’s sex, I was given the following piece of advice… “Get some puppies out (of) that bitch,” he said enthusiastically, “and make some money!”

As I didn’t want for him to laugh in my face for being a sucker, I just thanked him for the tip, and walked on, choosing not to mention that I’d actually just payed a few hundred bucks to have her spayed. Now, though, I’m wishing that I’d told him.

No more than ten minutes after receiving the above advice, another young man stopped me. He asked what kind of breed she was, and I told him that she was some kind of bull mastiff mix. Taking a step closer, he then asked if she’d been fixed. I told him that she had, and that was apparently all he had to hear to immediately lose interest. He walked away without another word. While I don’t think that he would have necessarily picked her up and run off with her if I’d said that she hadn’t been fixed, it was a strangely tense conversation, and it makes me wonder if maybe I need to make a little vest for Ollie that says something like, “No Uterus” on one side, and “Zero Street Value” on the other.

Here’s a photo I took of Ollie this evening. I’m not sure what it is about her that’s attracting so much attention today. I guess, though, that maybe some people can sense it when “bitches” come of age.

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Speaking of dogs in Ypsi, has anyone else noticed that there are more giant, unleashed dogs just laying around in people’s front yards than ever before? I can deal with rabid dogs running along fence lines, barking and flashing their sharp, foam-covered teeth, but it kind of sucks when you’re dependent upon someone sitting on a porch drinking beer to come down and grab the collar of a lunging dog just so that you can just make your way down the sidewalk.

Posted in Mark's Life, Uncategorized, Ypsilanti | Tagged , , , , | 23 Comments

Mittenfest to return to Ypsilanti

During last night’s episode of The Saturday Six Pack, some pretty huge news was broken. Amanda Uhle, the executive director of 826michigan, announced that everyone’s favorite fiercely-Michigan winter music festival, Mittenfest, would be returning to Ypsilanti. This year, according to Uhle, the multi-day event will be taking place in the cavern beneath Bona Sera, beginning on Tuesday, December 29, and running trough Saturday, January 2. Asked why the festival would be returning, after having moved to Ann Arbor last year in the wake of Woodruff’s having closed, Uhle said, “Ypsi has always felt really right.”

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This is great news for Ypsi, and I cannot express how appreciative I am that Uhle and others put in the effort to bring this feel-good end-of-year event back to Ypsilanti from Ann Arbor. Not only is it an awesome festival, but all of the money raised over the course of the event goes toward funding 826michigan’s programs in Ypsilanti, helping our kids unlock their potential and become great writers.

A few quick thoughts and ideas…

1. While the good folks behind Mittenfest haven’t yet officially started taking applications from bands around the state that would like to perform, their contact information is online, and I’d encourage interested parties (especially those in bands that I like) to start reaching out to them as soon as possible.

2. I don’t know if such a thing would be possible, but it would be great if this year’s big event could be kicked off with Lee Osler performing his classic, Back to Ypsilanti. It would be both incredibly appropriate, given the return of the festival, and amazingly beautiful.

3. Given that the last day of Mittenfest is a Saturday, I’m thinking that we might be able to work it out so that The Saturday Six Pack could host some kind of complimnetary event. I’m not yet sure what it would look like, but I’m suspect that we could figure something out. Maybe we’d have kids from 826 in the studio, reading their work between recorded highlights from the previous nights’ shows. Or maybe we’d just leave our door open, and invite people in to talk as they make their way in and out of Bona Sera, which is right down the block from the AM 1700 studio. If you have other ideas, let me know.

4. I’m not sure how it would work, but it would also be cool if the work that Matt Jones has been doing to identify and record musicians around the state could somehow be leveraged for Mittenfest. Again, I’m not sure what it would look like, but, as the two things seem to share certain pro-Michigan spirit, I think it would be cool if a way could be found for the parties involved to work together. Maybe, for instance, Matt could reach out through his rapidly evolving network to get more musicians here from other parts of the state for the event. Or, maybe, if there are some folks on the bill who he hasn’t yet documented, he could record them for his project when they come into Ypsi for Mittenfest. Or maybe he could even release some of his recordings in the run up to Mittenfest, drawing attention to the depth and breadth of work being produced here, in the mitten state. Now, that would be cool.

OK, that’s it for now… If you still want more, check out this interview I did a while back about the origins of Mittenfest… And do buy tickets for this year’s event, once they go on sale. 826 is doing great work in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Detroit, and they deserve our support.

[The above Mittenfest poster, to which I added “Back to Ypsilanti,” was designed by Jen Harley.]

Posted in Art and Culture, The Saturday Six Pack, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

The Zine Show… coming soon to Ypsilanti’s 22 North Gallery

On Saturday, October 24 there’s going to be a big zine show at Ypsilanti’s 22 North Gallery. [Doors open at 6:00 PM and close at 10:00 PM.] Here, with details on what to expect, is a quick interview with two of the show’s curators, Erin Anderson-Ruddon and Katy Shay, the latter of whom will also be joining me on the Spetember 19 edition of Saturday Six Pack to talk about the show in more detail.

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MARK: So, what can you tell me about the zine show you’ve got coming up on October 24?

ERIN: There will be zines and original artwork from over 75 artists. A majority will be from the people in Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor, but we’ll have work from people around the country on display. We’ll also have a few speakers talking about the value and greatness of zines, and Matthew Nisbett will be playing some of his wonderful music for us.

KATY: Displaying zines is really difficult in an art gallery, but Erin has some great ideas. I think it’s going to be beautiful, and I can’t wait to see what she does with the space… I’m going to be speaking about zines, their power as artistic expression, their physical meaning in an increasingly digital world… Zines are having a resurgence right now, and I feel like it’s partially because they give us a way to engage outside of the computer, in a more intimate and physical way.

MARK: And this is something that you’ve done before, at Vault of Midnight in Ann Arbor, right?

ERIN: Yes, the Vault of Midnight has been so amazingly supportive. They’ve hosted many of our pop-up community art shows over the years, including the last Zine Show.

KATY: We did the last Zine Show in 2013, I think. It was amazing! So much fun. Izzy Johnson played, and the Vault was a terrific venue. The artists, writers, and zinesters who participated came up with a really wide variety of stuff. I was incredible.

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[above: Beloved Favorite No.1 by Grace Rother]

MARK: Other than the location, how is this year going to be different?

ERIN: We’re really excited about how much the show has grown since the last one, in terms of the number of people getting involved. I think we featured the work of around 20 artists at the 2013 Zine Show. There are over three times that many participating this time, though. We’re thrilled to be working with such a talented group of artists, writers, and zine makers, and we can’t wait to see what everyone comes up with. We’re also excited to be setting up this year’s Zine Show in the beautiful gallery space at 22 North, as we’ve typically adapted our community art shows to spaces that aren’t traditionally used as galleries. This has always been part of the fun of it, but we’re looking forward to doing it in a gallery. The 22 North space will be perfect… a much deserved showcase for the works of art, and labors of love, that zines typically are.

KATY: Because we invited a lot more people to participate in this show, the content will be a lot more wide and varied. We have people from all over the country participating. And we didn’t put any restrictions on what the zines can be about, so it’ll be really fascinating to see what people are going to come up with.

MARK: Will you be contributing zines of your own?

Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 11.24.57 PMKATY: Yeah. My zine is going to be a hodge-podge of weird shit I’ve written, drawn, thought about in the last three or four months. It’s interesting to put a zine together like this, it’s different than coming up with a concept and executing it. I’m letting the content shape the zine. [right: Image from Hot Tee no. 1]

In fact I came up with the zine name, Hot Tee before I really thought about what would go in it. I just wanted it to hark back to the old-school zines of the 90’s, before the internet.

I remember being really into this one zine where a girl wrote a review of a Cibbo Matto concert she went to in New York and how she got ice cream alone afterwards. I thought she was the COOLEST. The other things in the zine were about bands she liked, and the way people treated her at school. I want Hot Tee to be like that, episodic, with no real connection between the pieces beyond personal interest/desire to share.

MARK: How about you, Erin… will you be contributing a zine for the show?

ERIN: Yes. Right now I am working on an artist zine which is a sort of peek into several of my current and past sketchbooks. It’s a lot more freeform than the one I contributed to the last Zine Show. My creative process if often pretty structured, and I’m really enjoying the looseness this time of recombining the elements of creative play and experimentation that often live in an artist’s sketchbook, but don’t always get shared or seen by others. I also have a smaller, more object-based zine in mind that I would like to produce. As it currently exists in my head, it will be a hand-printed, accordion fold linoleum block print piece, but we’ll see if time affords itself! [below: Untitled work in progress by Erin Anderson-Ruddon]

Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 11.22.19 PMMARK: Are there any submissions that you’ve received thus far that you’d like to mention, to give people a sense as to what they might see if they come to the show?

ERIN: Right now, we haven’t actually seen many of the works in progress that people will be contributing to this year’s show. However, most of the artists/writers/makers are folks that we have worked with on various community art shows over the years, and there will definitely be a broad spectrum of styles and content based on this experience. We will be having a get-together mid-September to share and workshop our zines, and I look forward to seeing what everyone has been working on then. We really have an amazing group of people assembled for this year’s show and I cannot wait to see how it all comes together… I know it will be great!

MARK: How did you both get interested in zines?

hotteeKATY: My very cool friend Beth introduced me to Riot Grrl music and zines because I had a crush on a boy with a chelsea haircut who was into Seven Year Bitch and L7 and stuff. I was immediately hooked. I love the physical intimacy of a zine. I love holding it close to you and that cozy space between you and something someone made with their hands. It’s like seeing someone else’s bedroom when you’re a teenager. You learn a whole lot about them. [right: Hot Tee no. 1]

A lot of Riot Grrl zines had personal stories of abuse at the hands of family, boyfriends, schoolmates and writings about depression and anxiety. I really connected with it there was nothing like that out there for a teenaged girl living in Western Michigan. Again, it was before the internet and finding zines and music… It was like a the clouds opened and the heavenly chorus sang. It made me feel like I wasn’t the only girl in the world.

Beth and I made a zine together called Fresh! which was a send up of Seventeen and Sassy type magazines. It was pretty stupid… we were thirteen. We made fun of preps and jocks and eventually I stopped pulling my weight and Beth took Fresh! over. In 9th grade I made a zine called Laugh it Up Fuzzball which was TERRIBLE.

I got more into zines after taking Linette Lao’s zine class at Eastern. Linette is awesome, and really encouraging. I was really proud of the work I did in that class… both as a writer/author but also as a peer to my fellow students. I really liked helping other students figure out ideas, do storyboarding, and so on. After that class, I was just totally zine crazy. I’ve produced like seven in the last three years. Doing the last zine show was just wonderful. I got to see how my friends played with the medium. And these are really creative people, painters, writers, comic artists, designers… pushing themselves out of their comfort zones and trying a new thing either in medium, or just in the actual physical constraints of a zine.

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[above: 2015, work-in-progress page from Lucy Cahill’s “Famous Freak-Outs” zine. This is a scene from “Empire Records.”]

ERIN: I first learned about and got into zines when I discovered punk rock music and it’s inspiring DIY culture. The earliest zines that I collected were mostly political in nature, including a copy of the well-known feminist zine Hot Pants, which I still have on my bookshelf to this day. My initial attempts at making zines in middle and high school were earnest but pretty hilarious, and were mostly comprised of strings of expletives and collaged images and text. I revisited zine-making again in my last year of college, and my senior project was a collaborative zine that I published and released at a show I held at the Blind Pig. I have admired zines for a long time and it’s really great to see how the medium and culture continue to evolve. There are so many wonderful, different kinds of zines out there, from the political, informational and how-to, to the incredibly brave personal narratives, to gorgeous image-filled artist zines and comics. They are such a wonderfully democratic and versatile platform for expression.

MARK: And you’re currently accepting submissions?

KATY: We’re actually not accepting any more submissions. The deadline has passed. But I do want to encourage people to bring their zines to the event! Some of the artists, including myself, are really into trades!!!

ERIN: And we’ll have a place for attendees who are interested in participating in future shows to sign up for more information. We would love to continue to grow this show each year. And we definitely encourage local makers who are not exhibiting at this year’s show to bring their zines to share and trade at the opening if they would like to do so.

[Show flyer above by Lucy Cahill.]

Posted in Art and Culture, The Saturday Six Pack, Ypsilanti | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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