Putting Arlo to sleep with Television, live at CBGB’s in 1974

This evening, while searching around the web for rare recordings by one of my all-time favorite bands – Television… in an attempt to ensure that my new son, like his sister, stays forever out of touch with his generation… I stumbled across the fact that Richard Lloyd leaves comments on YouTube. I’m not sure why I find it so fascinating, but I like knowing that Lloyd is out there, correcting people when they make incorrect assumptions as to who’s playing what on various early bootlegs. Anyway, here’s a live recording of the band’s song, Double Exposure, captured at CBGB’s, in 1974. It’s what Arlo finally went to sleep to tonight, as he curled up in my lap.

If you liked that, just click here for more. Or, if you don’t have it already, buy their absolutely indispensable album Marquee Moon.

Speaking of Television and CBGB, I’m reading Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk right now, and it’s absolutely incredible. Here’s a clip:

RICHARD HELL: We used to take the bus down Second Avenue or Third Avenue or something to get to Chinatown to go to our rehearsal loft. Verlaine and Lloyd were apparently walking to a bus stop to go to rehearsal and they spotted CBGB’s. They went in and talked to Hilly Kristal, the owner, and asked him if our idea appealed to him.

RICHARD LLOYD: Hilly was like, “What kind of music do you play?” We said, “Well what does ‘CBGB-OMFUG’ stand for?” He said, “Country, Bluegrass, Blues and Other Music for Uplifting Gourmandizers.” So we said, “Oh yeah, we play a little of that, a little rock, a little country, a little blues, a little bluegrass…”

RICHARD HELL: The scene definitely started snowballing. CBGB’s was clearly where things were happening, from the very first time we played there. We were really unique. There was not another rock & roll band in the world with short hair. There was not another rock & roll band with torn clothes. Everybody was still wearing glitter and women’s clothes. We were these notch-thin, homeless hoodlums, playing really powerful, passionate, aggressive music that was also lyrical. I think we were the best band in the world that year. Well, for the first four or five months… I don’t remember wearing the Please Kill Me t-shirt, though I do remember forcing Richard Lloyd to wear it. I was too much of a coward. ..

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Death Race 2012

It’s not that I want to run people over, but, occasionally, I see something that brings Death Race 2000 to mind, and I wonder, if I were to slip into Machine Gun Joe Viterbo mode and do the unthinkable, how many points I’d get. Today, driving through downtown Ann Arbor, I had one of those moments. There was a man, standing chest-deep in a hole, in the middle of the street, and I started visualizing the points going up on the tote board.

For those of you who’ve never had the pleasure of seeing the film, which starred a pre-Rocky Sylvester Stalone, here’s the background from Metafilter. [The trailer for the film can be found here.]

…In the year 2000, the United States has been destroyed by a financial crisis and a military coup. Political parties have collapsed into a single Bipartisan Party, which also fulfills the religious functions of a unified church and state. The resulting fascist police state, the United Provinces, is headed by the cult figure “Mr. President” (Sandy McCallum). The people are kept satisfied through a stream of gory gladiatorial entertainment, which includes the bloody spectacle of the Annual Transcontinental Road Race, depicted as a symbol of American values and way of life. The coast-to-coast, three-day race is run on public roads, and points are scored not just for speed, but for the number of innocent pedestrians struck and killed…

In unrelated news, the episode of Fear Factor scheduled to air this week featured contestants chugging mugs of warm donkey semen.

And, speaking of Death Race 2000, I know it might sound interesting, but, as I recall, it wasn’t nearly as good in reality as you’d think from the writeup… You know a movie’s bad when Roger “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls” Ebert gives it zero stars for ‘unnecessarily and gratuitous nudity and violence.’

I don’t know if I ever mentioned it here before, but, at some point, remind me to tell you about the conversation I had with Russ Meyer about Roger Ebert.

Posted in Art and Culture, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Ypsi Immigration Interview: Alexandra Sarkozy

A former Ypsilanti resident, who, the last I heard, had gotten married and run off to become a farmer in Hawaii, sent me a short, cryptic message a few weeks back, suggesting that I look up a friend of his who just moved to Ypsilanti, and interview her as part of our Ypsi Immigration Interview series. All he told me about her was that she was a “smart, creative and cool” medical librarian, who had recently moved back to Michigan from Brooklyn… Here’s the interview.

MARK: What’s your name?

ALEXANDRA: My name is Alexandra Sarkozy.

MARK: When did you first hear of Ypsilant? And what did you hear about it?

ALEXANDRA: I first heard of Ypsilanti when I was a toddler; we used to pass it on the highway when my family would make trips to Dearborn from Kalamazoo to visit grandparents and aunts and uncles on a regular basis. I first started spending time in Ypsilanti when I started graduate school at U of M in 1999. I had heard that Ypsi was rougher than Ann Arbor, but I always liked the more laid-back vibe and the lack of pretension.

MARK: Why did you decide to move to Ypsilanti?

ALEXANDRA: I decided to move to Ypsilanti about two years ago. I had been living in New York City for a few years, and while I wasn’t ready to leave yet, I always had Ypsilanti on my radar. I wanted to live in a house with a yard, where I could grow a garden and have space to do crafts and hobbies, both of which were very difficult to do on any scale in NYC given the small size of apartments and community gardens. I had maintained relationships with friends in Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor, and my family lives in Kalamazoo, and I realized that I wanted to be closer to home. I was also looking for a community with a downtown that was walkable, had architectural character, interesting people, and had public transportation. I like that Ypsilanti is a small town with a slower pace of life, and is more affordable than Ann Arbor. I like that Depot Town does not feel like the suburbs- everyone I’ve met has been welcoming, friendly and most folks are progressively-minded. When I saw a job opportunity come up in this area last year, I applied for it, interviewed, and got the job. I then moved to Ann Arbor last April, and to Ypsilanti in June.

MARK: Do you think that it was a good decision?

ALEXANDRA: I definitely think it was a good decision! While I’m still getting established, I have been very happy here so far- Ypsi has so much to offer- a farmer’s market, local watering holes, restaurants, the food co-op, a local music scene, EMU, downtown and Depot Town shops- I enjoy all of them. I’ve made new friends, am continuing to learn about the town and area, and am happy with the move.

MARK: Have you read any of my other interviews with people either moving to or from Ypsi and if so did anything either resonate with you or give you cause for concern?

ALEXANDRA: None of them gave me cause for concern; I knew the basics about Ypsi’s economic situation before I moved here. It’s exciting to read the interviews with new folks in town, and bittersweet to see community members leave. I’m happy to see people grow, but sometimes that means a geographic move.

MARK: Having been here for a little while now what have you learned about Ypsi either good or bad? Anything unexpected?

ALEXANDRA: I’ve learned more about the character of the town, its makeup as well as little niches like motorcycles and vintage cars and beer fest, its history, as well as seeing more clearly Ypsilanti’s relationship to both Ann Arbor and the greater Detroit area. I still feel very new and I have plenty more to learn! I want to spend some serious time in the Ypsilanti Historical Society’s collections to learn even more. I didn’t expect my neighbors to be as nice and cool and helpful as they are.

MARK: What do you miss about New York?

ALEXANDRA: The wonderful friends I made there. Chavella’s. Unnameable Books. Issue Project Room. Anthology Film Archives. Prospect Park. The uptown 4 train. just kidding.

MARK: What kinds of local businesses would you like to see here that don’t currently exist?

ALEXANDRA: I’d like to see a home and garden store that sold plants and garden supplies. An Indian restaurant. I’d like to see a hacker space. A tool library. I shop mostly at thrift stores, and there are some nice ones around. A bookstore that specialized in small presses. What I’d like to see, while not necessarily businesses, are more “third spaces” and community groups and spaces where people can come together, learn from each other, share resources- physical and otherwise, build capacity, and build community. I think those really provide the most value, especially in a town like Ypsi that doesn’t have much disposable income yet still has great human resources and knowledge to share. I’d like to see more of that, and I think there’s a lot of opportunity for that in Ypsi. I’m thinking about spaces like the public library (which is awesome) and the transition town movement and Growing Hope, which all bring tremendous value, though not always in dollar terms, to Ypsi and the surrounding area.

MARK: How would you describe Ypsi to a friend.

ALEXANDRA: Victorian era/turn-of-the-last-century architecture, having economically tough times, with tons of opportunity to redevelop in a sustainable manner. Full of interesting people. Sometimes I feel like I’ve gone back in time, in the best possible way.

And, for those of you who are interested, Brooklyn’s Chavella’s, apparently isn’t anything like our Cabela’s.

Posted in Special Projects, Uncategorized, Ypsilanti | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

A2Awesome awards its first $1,000 grant. Congratulations to Nathan Ayers!

As I mentioned a while back, I’m one of a group of people to who decided, not too long ago, to start a local chapter of Boston’s Awesome Foundation. Well, this morning, our group – christened A2Awesome – handed over its first $1,000 grant.

The funds were given, in a brown paper bag, to Nathan Ayers, of Ann Arbor, who will be using the money to construct two bike-powered vegetable grow racks, which will be used in the K-12 science classes he teaches in Ann Arbor and Detroit. According to Ayers, the intention is to create a closed loop system to demonstrate the principles of permaculture – a design and engineering philosophy based on ecology, which has as its objective the creation of sustainable food, energy and community infrastructure systems.

Ayers explains it as follows… “In this system, the human rides the bike, the bike produces energy, the energy powers the LED grow light, the grow light produces food, the human eats the food and has the energy needed to again ride the bike. Its a set of relationships that form a complete circle, which are all dependent on each other to function.”

Ayers hopes to use the funds to have the first bike built by April, so that he, and his students, can begin sprouting plants in early spring.

Here, for those who are interested in knowing more about Nathan’s project, is a brief interview that I conducted with him a few days ago.

MARK: Can you tell us a little about yourself?

NATHAN: Born and raised in Ann Arbor, I had a lot of great teachers, mentors and exposure to important things like music, art, film and critical thinking. As a kid, I played outside a lot and fell in love with nature. I did not have an affinity for science or math or anything like that growing up. I was in funk bands and played water polo in high school. I went to Indiana University and bounced around the roulette wheel of majors until I landed in Sociology, studying race and socio-economic systems. I got into activism through music while in college, and helped start the Hip Hop Congress. At IU, I also got real into self-sufficiency and alternative energy. This was around Y2K, and I think that maybe spooked me, but I was super fascinated with being able to live and thrive in nature. I started reading schematics for suitcase sized solar panel systems and portable power. After college, I traveled around, living in Australia and Sweden for a bit, and saw some really good examples of healthy and happy people and cultures. I eventually came back to Ann arbor around 2005 and began working for the Ann Arbor Public Schools. This was right when Michigan’s economy was really starting to tank (hey, at least we were first in something). My sociology degree didn’t mean much and I was originally hired as a lunch room supervisor. Within a couple months, a job opened up as a special needs paraprofessional and that’s what I did for about 4 years. I loved my time working in the schools, amazing people, kids and co-workers. During this time, I also went back to school and obtained certifications in solar photovoltaics and organic agriculture. I got a bit active around Ann Arbor’s green scene and helped start the now defunct Transition Ann Arbor. Through Transition Towns, I was introduced to Permaculture, – a design and engineering system based on the science of ecology. The philosophies and principles of a design school focused on integrating humanity’s food, energy and infrastructure with natural ecosystems and patterns was beyond inspiring. So much so that I quit my job and went out to California to take a permaculture design course. During my experience there, I was launched head and hands first into the world of agro-ecology, bio mimicry, appropriate technology and systems thinking, and that’s where my mind’s been ever since. I turned my house into a permaculture/makerspace R&D lab, and in 2011, began teaching permaculture at Washtenaw Community College. Last spring, we started a permaculture research and education company called Chiwara Permaculture, and have several problem based learning projects with K-12 schools and communities in Ann Arbor and Detroit.

MARK: What were the origins of this project? Had you been thinking about this for a while, or did the idea just come to you after hearing that, though A2Awesome, there was funding available for unique, impactful, or otherwise interesting, projects?

NATHAN: I have had the idea for this system for a while, utilizing the LED grow lights and the battery pack, but I’m definitely not the first person to think of amazing and useful things to do with a bicycle. I think we will eventually look back and see the bicycle as one of the most amazing machines humans ever invented. There is so much work that can be done with one, aside from transportation, like grinding grains, washing and drying clothes, pumping water and producing electricity. Permaculture design ultimately creates closed loop feedback mechanisms between systems, and that’s what I tried to do with this food production unit. The human rides the bike, the bike produces energy, the energy powers the grow light, the grow light produces food, the human eats the food, the human is sustained and can again ride the bike. Its a set of relationships that form a complete circle, which are all dependent on each other to function.

MARK: Now I’ve got a technical question. Do you think it’s possible, though a bike-powered generator such as the one you intend to build, to generate the lumens necessary to grow vegetables without natural light? I should add that I think it’s an awesome project regardless, as it will, at the very least, demonstrate to kids just how much power there actually is in sunlight.

NATHAN: I’ve got two answers: Yes and I think so. The ‘lumens necessary to grow vegetables’ are a function of the LED grow light. These LED systems were allegedly developed by NASA as they were researching ways to grow food for extended missions in space, like, to mars. The science they discovered was that many types of vegetative plants only need two wavelengths of color to develop: red and blue. Through the magic of R&D they started making super efficient, high lumen LED grow panels that were red and blue. There are huge indoor commercial growing operations in the Netherlands that are utilizing this technology, and I’ve even grown a few plants with some basic LED panels. So, yes, the indoor growing technology works. Now the “I think so”, and what I think you’re really asking, is whether or not this is a viable system to grow food at home? We know that the max wattage a human can put out on a given bicycle session is around 250 to 300watts. Utilizing 2 bikes, and 2 people pedaling an hour a day, with an interchangeable 2 battery system, our numbers are promising. Like you mentioned, there are a lot of lessons and fields of study embedded into this one design, so the multi-discipline educational prospects in a school setting are real inspiring.

MARK: Now that you have the money, what’s your next step? And just how long do you think that it will take before you have a working system that you and your students can put to use?

NATHAN: We will start acquiring the parts and pieces, assembling the motor and battery components, and then start testing how much wattage we can produce and store. We’ll begin testing different plant stocks for production and caloric numbers. I’m hoping we’ll have a working system with sprouts by April. I’m really excited to have the money to build a proper battery system. The bicycle generator is one of many hybrid systems I’ve thought of, that all power these portable, or what I call “compartmentalized” battery systems.. Funding this project will propel us to think about new and innovative ways to make and store energy at home. If you want a hint at some of the energy systems we’ve been thinking about, I’ve got one word: Drums.

MARK: Where might people see the unit in action once it’s up and running? You mentioned that you’ll likely be using with students in both Detroit and Ann Arbor, is that correct?

NATHAN: Yes, after we get the unit operating and producing, we will then be able to take it to our partner schools in Ann Arbor and Detroit so that students can design and build their own. There are so many areas for learning and research, and I can’t wait to see what kinds of ideas our students come up with. We also plan to post videos and the design schematics for the peddle powered vegetable grow rack on our website, open source style, so people can build and improve upon them. Hopefully it will someday make the rounds at various re-skilling festivals and community sustainability events.

MARK: As our first recipient, do you have any words of encouragement for others that might be thinking about applying.

NATHAN: Yes, DO IT! Get your ideas down on paper. Being able to translate an idea into a great proposal is an extremely valuable skill, something we should be teaching every student how to do. It’s really the art of effective communication. If there is one thing the world needs right now, it is for really good ideas to be effectively communicated and implemented. Thanks to the A2Awesome for helping a new generation of ideas get out there.

I should add that we had a lot of very good applications this first round. I know I complain a lot about stuff on this site, but we really are fortunate to be living in a community where we have so many bright, creative people working to solve the problems that face us. It’s truly inspiring, and I’m thankful that, due to some weird series of events, I’m in a position not only to interact with these people, but to maybe even help some of them, through A2Awesome, get their projects off the ground.

If you have an awesome idea, please consider applying for this month’s grant. All you have to do is click here and fill out the submission form to get the ball rolling.


A2 Awesome is organized under the banner of the Boston-based Awesome Foundation. The stated purpose of the local group, according to our chairwoman, Lisa Dengiz, is “to have fun by providing streamlined seed funding for creative projects that will bring surprise, delight and joy to the community.” The organization intends to make one grant a month for the foreseeable future. All grants will be in the amount of $1,000.

Chapter trustees contribute their own personal funds toward the $1,000, no-strings-attached grant each month, to an awesome project that promises to make life better. In addition to me and Lisa, trustees include Dick Soble, Paul Saginaw, Jeff Meyers, Linh Song, Heather MacKenzie, Monique Deschaine, Hans Masing, Alice Liberson, Omari Rush, Tanya Luz and Larry Gant.

Created in 2009 in Boston, the Awesome Foundation now has chapters in over 20 cities across the globe. In addition to the new Ann Arbor / Ypsilanti chapter, there are Awesome Foundation outposts in both Detroit and Grad Rapids. Projects funded have included efforts in a wide range of areas including technology, arts and social good.

And please share this post with all of your brilliant, creative, and visionary friends in S.E. Michigan. We have money to give, and we’d love to know if there are ambitious, inspiring ideas out there where $1,000 could really make a difference.

Posted in A2Awesome, Agriculture, Alternative Energy, Ann Arbor, Awesome Foundation, Detroit, Education, Special Projects | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

My young friend Josh still believes in Obama, do you?

A young friend of mine named Josh Chamberlain, just had the opportunity to shake hands with Obama a few days ago, when the President was in Ann Arbor, speaking about college affordability, student debt, and the economy. Josh, who is presently finishing up high school at Washtenaw Community College, was there, covering the event for his school paper, The Washtenaw Voice. What follows are his thoughts, accompanied by a few of the incredible photos that he took that morning.

I was lucky enough to meet President Obama when he spoke at U of M, and I have several things to tell you.

Most important, his handshake. It might be judging a book by its cover but it’s everything I had hoped for: Barack Obama’s hands are cool and strong and smooth from millions of handshakes, and he looks each individual in the eye as he makes contact.

The second most important thing I learned is that the president is small. He’s a slender dude, and when he’s standing next to dozens of huge suited guys wearing ear pieces, he might disappear if he was any less instantly recognizable.

The third thing you need to know is the pure efficiency of the president’s movements. This is facilitated by the thousands of people hired to work each event — that’s right, Obama’s like Midas. Everything he touches turns to jobs.

When you are in the same building as the president you are safer than in Hogwarts. When you are within 20 feet, you are never out of arm’s reach of a 6’4” guy watching your hands, eyes, camera, and every movement. In fact, our next president better be a decent person, because it is a coordinated power we should all hope is used only on our enemies. As Obama moved around the semicircle of the lucky attendees in “handshake territory” a row of impressive guards edged behind our ranks, boxing us in. We had been instructed to keep our hands visible. Had I pulled something out of my pocket at that moment I would likely be picking turf pellets from the side of my face now.

Before the event, secret service agents dressed as construction workers and surveyors stood around video taping the entrance and exit points of the Al Glick Fieldhouse on State street. The president was only in the building for 45 minutes. State Street was closed, but these people organize two speeches daily — most people barely noticed a traffic increase. It’s an oddly beautiful science.

As for his speech, Obama did nothing but impress as usual. He made a few jokes, directly greeted Denard Robinson (the superstar U of M football quarterback), and spoke about the importance of keeping education affordable. Tax the rich fairly in order to maintain the infrastructure that nurtured their success. Build a strong Detroit to make cars more efficient.

It wasn’t a campaign speech, but hopefully young voters everywhere will see that the intention of the Obama administration is to invest in education. My school is free — the government is giving me money just for living here, because of these investments.

I briefly thought Obama’s leadership had turned sour, and was disappointed as his supporter. When he spoke, though, he wasn’t spewing bullshit and trying to get votes — they’re the words of millions of people who back him, and he’s simply right.

Those are the experiences I have brought from the belly of the beast, the political machine, the fabrications designed to distract us or whatever. Call me crazy, but Obama still convinces me every bit.

Posted in Ann Arbor, Education | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 28 Comments


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