The Kid

jackie-chaplinLinette and I watched Chaplin’s brilliant film “The Kid” last night with Clementine, and had a wonderful time… except for the part where the evil men from the children’s asylum come to kidnap the adorable little Jackie Coogan.

It’s still hard for me to believe that he (Coogan) grew up to be that shyster in the neck brace who took the Brady Bunch to court, or, for that matter, Uncle Fester.

And, speaking of old classics, I’d like to thank whoever out there sent me the book “Columbo Phile” through the print-to-order site Lulu. As, last I’d heard, it had been out of print (copies were going on Amazon for several hundred dollars), I was incredibly happy to find it in today’s mail. It’s something I’ve dreamed of having for a long time.

Posted in Art and Culture, Pop Culture | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

The passing of Pylon guitarist Randy Bewley

Randy Bewley, the guitarist for the band Pylon, has died. Randy’s music has been incredibly influential in my life, and my thoughts tonight are with his family, and his Pylon bandmates, Vanessa, Michael and Curtis, who released the following statement earlier today:

We love Randy

This past Monday evening, Randy Bewley had a heart attack while driving his van on Barber Street in Athens, GA. He was taken to Athens Regional Medical Center. Today, our bandmate and brother passed away at a little before 5 p.m. with his family and friends at his side. He will be missed, even as we celebrate his life and creativity. His guitar sound was as special as he was and always will be. Randy’s guitar work defined not only a generation of sound but Randy himself. His visual art, painting and photos, combined with his signature sound formed a loose set of boundaries that helps understand him. His quiet devotion to family and friends will become a benchmark for those he leaves behind.

In memory of Randy, I won’t be posting anything else tonight…

Posted in Art and Culture | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Arrested Development film to shoot in Ypsilanti?

I think it’s an incredible long shot, but, when my friend Arun told me today that Michael Cera, the last remaining holdout for the long-awaited Arrested Development feature film, had signed-on, my first thought was that maybe, somehow, we might be able to lure the production here to Ypsi. I know it’s a reach, seeing as how we have neither the West coast sunshine, nor the marina backdrop that viewers of the ground-breaking sitcom have come to expect, but we do have a local man with a fleet of Segways, which I’m sure he would make available to Gob, and, of course, there are those aggressive incentives for producers bringing projects to Michigan. And, there’s really no reason it couldn’t be a road movie. Maybe it already is… I haven’t seen a script.

What if this is the storyline… The patriarch of the Bluth family, George Bluth Sr, a real estate developer, decides to gamble the last remaining dollars of the family fortune on a brownfield condo complex to be built in a depressed Midwestern town. The family loads up the frozen banana stand on the back of the stair car, and heads east in search of redemption… If that’s the plot, there’s nowhere better for them to shoot in the entire world than the 38 acres of pure, unadulterated fail known as Water Street.

So, why don’t you start writing letters, while I try to find an address for series creator Mitchell Hurwitz? Seriously, I think we can do this.

Posted in Art and Culture, Other, Ypsilanti | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Urban Homestead Act: Detroit

I just heard on the radio this morning that Detroit, in addition to being one of the most economically depressed cities in the nation, is the second emptiest, after the relatively prosperous Las Vegas, Nevada. In Vegas, it seems, they over anticipated growth and built too many homes. In Detroit, it’s just that over half the population left.

According to a recent reports, houses in downtown Detroit are presently selling for an average of $7K a piece. Several hundred, from what I’m told, can be had for under $1K. According to real estate agent Ian Mason, who recently spoke with CBS News, he’s recently sold foreclosed homes in the city for as little as one dollar.

According to the Detroit News, the 139-square-mile city, which was once home to over 2 million people, and now has fewer than half that number, may have as many as “60,000 to 80,000 abandoned businesses and homes.”

The state of Michigan is one of only two states in the union – the other being Rhode Island – currently losing population.

So, as I was sitting there in my car, listening to people talk about how dire the situation is in Detroit, I began to wonder if there might be an opportunity here. I began to wonder if maybe, with all the funds we’re talking about investing in ambitious programs, the federal government might be willing to sponsor something like a modern version of the Homestead Act.

For those of you new to the country, there was a piece of legislation signed into law in 1862 by President Lincoln that gave title to 160 acres to any man willing to venture beyond the original 13 colonies, clear the land, and make it hospitable to “civilized” life. The law was know as the Homestead Act, and, according to Wikipedia, under the law, within just four years, 1.6 million homesteads were granted, totaling near 10% of the United States. There were, of course, abuses and worse, especially as relates to Native Americans, but, all in all, I think it’s seen historically as a success – it filled the interior of the still new country.

And I’m not sure what urban homesteading would look like, and how exactly properties would be apportioned. I’m thinking, however, that there would be an application process, seeking people with certain proven skill sets. You would essentially give them a home and property for free, with the understanding that it will belong to them if they inhabit the property as their primary residence for some number of years, and improve whatever structures are standing on it, bringing them to code, etc. Maybe entire blocks are given to young architects, builders, farmers, co-housing developers, inventors, artists, etc.

Maybe there’s even an accompanying reality television show following the progress of these groups as they break soil. It could be a national test bed.

Detroit could be the laboratory for the future. Why not be ambitious with the stimulus money and try to build a sustainable modern city from the ruins of early city that had been written off? Even if we gave away the land, and provided people with a stipend of, say, $25K a year for three years, and access to 0% loans, I’m guessing that you’d still be able to pull it off for less than a small fraction of what we’re investing in the banking sector… I wonder if Levin and Stabenow ever allow themselves to think big, crazy, hopeful thoughts like this?

[The home shown above, located at 8111 Traverse Street, in Detroit, recently sold for $1.]

Posted in Economics, Michigan, Observations, Special Projects, Sustainability | Tagged , , , , , | 55 Comments

Is this really the best the Republicans have to offer?

I’m torn. I guess I agree with Rachel Maddow when she notes that it’s odd that Jindal, the conservative Governor of Louisiana, would invoke the Republican handling of Katrina as a model for how to move the country forward, but, at the same time, it does seem that he may be uniquely qualified to drive the demons out of the Republican party, and create an exciting, new movement built on the solid bedrock principles of government mistrust and obstructionism.

Posted in Politics | Tagged , , , , | 22 Comments


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