I’m afraid to listen

squishy

For what it’s worth, I thought that he was just kidding when he noted the squishiness until I remembered that I’d had both kids out on a paddle boat this morning at Gallop Park… God only knows what he thought was going on with the sloshing and groaning, punctuated by the occasional hisses of swans.

As for whether I’ll make the audio public here on the site, I’m not sure. I’m thinking that I might want to press “4 Minutes in Mark Maynard’s Pants” on vinyl instead, and sell it. [Speaking of great ambient audio pressed on vinyl, have you ever heard our friend Gregg Turington’s Sounds of the International Airport Restrooms?]

Posted in Mark's Life, Other | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Frank Allison, opera, and the Ypsi Songfest …on this weekend’s Saturday Six Pack

The 9th annual Ypsi Songfest kicks off this Saturday morning at the Whittaker Road library with an all-ages performance by Frank Allison… a fellow who, back in the day, pretty much shared ownership of the Ann Arbor music scene with John Brannon. Or at least that’s how I remember things back around 1990, when I was still relatively new to Michigan. I remember Brannon and the Laughing Hyenas kind of owning the darker side of the Ann Arbor scene, and Frank Allison and the Odd Sox on the other side, pulling the same kinds of crowds with their decidedly happier and less threatening brand of rock. While my temperament probably drove me more into the Hyenas’ camp, I saw the Odd Sox play quite a bit. And, while I don’t recall ever joining in on the choreographed dances made up by Allison’s fans, I’m sure I sang along enthusiastically with his local hits like, Cash for My Car. And, on this Saturday’s show, we’ll have Frank in the studio to reminisce about the old times, tell us what he’s been up to recently at the Clinton Theater, and perhaps play a few songs. [I’ve also been asked to talk with him about his fascination with insect photography.]

And, no promises, but I suppose it could also come to pass that Marshall Crenshaw may drop in and say hello, seeing as how he’s going to be playing an acoustic set a few doors down at Bona Sera later that evening as part of Songfest. [If he does pop by, I’ll be sure to ask him about his portrayal of “Lightning” Mel Ratner on The Adventures of Pete & Pete. And, if there’s still time, I’ll ask him about having grown up in Detroit, and about getting his start in the industry performing as John Lennon in Beatlemania.]

And, at some point in the evening, we’ll be joined by University of Michigan Professor Emeritus Dr. Willis Patterson, who, if things go our way, will be accompanied by local opera singer Kira Monae Turner. [Turner will be performing on October 4 with Dr. Patterson’s Our Own Thing Chorale at Ypsilanti’s Community Church of God.]

And, here, thanks to AM 1700 graphic designer Kate de Fuccio, is this week’s poster, in case any of you want to print copies and leave them laying in stacks around Ann Arbor.

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FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO HAVE NEVER TUNED IN TO THE SIX PACK BEFORE, HERE ARE THE DETAILS ON HOW TO LISTEN:

Unless you live inside the AM 1700 studio, chances are you won’t be able to pick the show up on your radio. As that’s the case, I’d recommend streaming the show online, which you can do either on the AM1700 website or by way of TuneIn.com.

And for those of you who aren’t yet familiar with the show, and need to get caught up, you can listen to the entire archive on iTunes.

One last thing… If you’d like to tell your friends and neighbors about the program, feel free to share the Facebook event listing.

And do call us if you have a chance. We love phone calls. So please scratch this number into the cinder block wall of the recreation room of whichever facility you’ve been assigned to… 734.217.8624… and call us between 6:00 and 8:00 this Saturday evening. The show is nothing without you. And I mean that.

Posted in Art and Culture, The Saturday Six Pack, Uncategorized, Ypsilanti | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments

Toilet reading, Junglefowl, and restorative justice… on episode 27 of the Saturday Six Pack

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During episode 24 of the Saturday Six Pack, there were quite a few good exchanges between Dr. Benjamin Edmondson, the new superintendent of Ypsilanti Community Schools, and the students who had gathered in the AM 1700 studio to ask him questions about his plans for the future of our district. Of those exchanges, my favorites had to do with Edmondson’s hardline suspension policy and his thoughts on restorative justice, which is essentially a way of dealing with offenses in a manner that favors community dialogue, accountability and inclusion over punitive measures and banishment. As the students and Edmondson were having their spirited debate about these issues, I made a note to myself that this was something I’d like to come back to in a future show… And that’s what we did this past Saturday night, when Executive Director of the Dispute Resolution Center Belinda Dulin, Executive Director of the Student Advocacy Center Peri Stone-Palmquist, and Restorative Practices Coach for the Ypsilanti Community School District Michelle Rose-Armstrong, came on the show to talk with me about restorative practices as they’re currently being employed in our local schools.

Among other things, the four of us discussed what restorative practices can look like in a school setting, the perception on the part of some administrators that these practices allow perpetrators to avoid meaningful punishment, and the commitment demonstrated by Ypsi Community Schools to ensure that these practices spread through our schools and classrooms.

Rose-Armstrong, seen here with Stone-Palmquist [right] and Dulin [below], informed us of the progress she’s made thus far in training Ypsilanti classroom teachers to employ elements of the restorative justice philosophy, which, as she and my other guests explain to us, isn’t just about dealing with issues once they arise, but avoiding such issues from arising in the first place by creating a culture of respect and empathy in which all members of the community feel as though they have a voice.

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If I had a staff, I’d have a transcript for you. As I don’t, though, you’re going to have to listen for yourselves… You won’t regret it, though. It’ll be the best 45 minutes you spend today. I promise.

[If you would like to listen to episode twenty-seven 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.]

At this point in the show, as our first guests were leaving the building, we listened to the most recent submission from our friend in Africa, Dr. Pete Larson, who, every Saturday morning, sends us another song that he’s written while eating breakfast in Kenya. This week’s contribution is titled, “All Tied Up.”

Then, at the 50-minute mark, we opened the doors of the studio and start welcoming in local people who have lined up to tell us about their cool, upcoming projects. The first to come in are Mark Ducker and Martin Thoburn, representing the Ypsilanti 24 Hour Shootout independent film competition, which is coming up the first weekend in October.

And this is probably a pretty good place to mention that I had a pretty bad cold during the show. Not only did I cough through the entire episode, but I also screwed up on several occasions, which I attribute to the cough medicine coursing through my veins. Most notably, I brought this segment with Thoburn and Ducker to a screeching halt as I attempt figure out how it’s possible that this could be their 4th annual event, when they just started in 2012. [I seriously stopped the whole show so that I could do the math in my head. Later, I tell two other guests to move their microphones closer to their “mouses,” when I’d been trying to say “mouths.”]

Here are Thoburn and Ducker discussing how the competition has changed since the initial launch, the state of the Michigan film industry now that the industry incentives are gone, and how they come to decide which distinctive elements to require the teams to incorporate each year.

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Then, at the 1:05-mark, Erin Anderson-Ruddon and Katy Shay came in to tell us about the big zine show at Ypsilanti’s 22 North Gallery that they’re curating. While they couldn’t tell us much about the zines that would be at the event, as they hadn’t been made yet, they did let is slip that one will likely be about Murder She Wrote, which I found exciting. We also talked at length about embarrassing zines we’d all made as young adults. Anderson-Ruddon, if I remember correctly, said her first zine was just a long list of people she wanted to kill. Not surprisingly, Shay said that she had been scared of Anderson-Ruddon in middle school, where they had first become aware of one another.

Thankfully, Anderson-Ruddon never killed anyone, and is now a well-respected local produce manager. Here she is.

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Shay shared that she first started reading Crimewave USA, the zine that Linette and I began publishing back in 1993, when she turned 18 and began using the toilet outside her parents’ home.

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We discussed the trade-offs between zines and blogs… Zines live forever. Blogs, though, give the immediate gratification of reader comments… I could be wrong, but I think we agreed that zines are better.

At this point, publisher Colin Moorhouse forced his way into the studio and demanded that we talk about his magazine Ypsi Underground, which is now apparently underwritten by Materials Unlimited. He brought us to speed on his cult, and shared that their leader, a man they call Sprout, was going to be going to prison soon. Here he is telling us why his cult is better than other cults in town.

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And, at the 1:34-mark, we were joined by the crew of the Dreamland Theater, who come in to tell us about their new show, Targeted Advertising, which features our old friend puppet Mark. [That’s puppet Mark at the top of this post, in case you didn’t recognize him in his space suit.] Here are Ryan Hughes, Naia Venturi, and Brian Bruxvoort exploring the boundaries of on-radio puppetry.

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And, lastly, we talked about young love with newlyweds Melissa Coppola and Stefan Carr, who perform together as Junglefowl. I remember us talking quite a bit about slaughterhouses, and then forcing Coppola to join me in drinking a jar of freshly juiced kale that I’d brought from home. They also played three songs for us, and gave me a t-shirt, which I’m wearing right now.

If you remember the name Junglefowl, it might be from episode 23, when they popped by the studio to say hello. Here’s a photo from that episode. They’d been at their own wedding reception across the street when our mutual friend, Doug Coombe, had brought them over.

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And here they are just a few minutes before we went live this past Saturday. [This photo was taken just prior to our interview, by photographer Chris Stranad as part of our Six Pack Portrait Project.] Isn’t it incredible how much they’ve changed after just a few weeks?

JungleFowl 1

Thanks, as always, to AM 1700 for hosting the show, Kate de Fuccio for documenting everything, and Brian Robb for running the board, making sure the bills paid, and insuring that the toilet paper stays stocked. [All photos above, except for the last one, were taken by Kate.]

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 Ann Arbor, Art and Culture, Education, The Saturday Six Pack, Uncategorized, Ypsilanti | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 32 Comments

How do we get over a century’s worth of construction debris out of the Huron River, or doesn’t it really matter?

As many of you probably know, crews have begun work constructing a bike bridge over the Huron River, just east of downtown, as part of the Border To Border Trail connecting Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti… Well, in the process of doing so, they’ve cleared away vegetation from both sides of the river, exposing the massive amounts of historic construction debris that form the banks of the Huron. Here, to give you a sense of what I’m talking about, is a photo that I just took this evening while walking my dog through Riverside Park.

HuronGarbageBank

I know, in the whole scheme of things, it’s probably pretty low down on the list of things that need to be dealt with in the city, but it always occurs to me, as I’m walking along the Huron, and notice a giant chunk of concrete or asphalt sticking out of the water, that I should probably ask someone and see if perhaps there may be grants available to help communities like ours deal with such things. While a lot of us do what we can to pick up garbage along the river, there some things that just aren’t possible without professional crews and heavy equipment, and I’m curious as to whether we may have access to such resources in the future. Again, I know this is probably low priority, but I’ve thought about it for years, and today, thanks to the work being done on this new bridge, I finally had an image to help me convey the situation.

When I talked with Elizabeth Riggs at the Huron Watershed Council not too long ago, I know she mentioned that they were raising a fund that would allow them to “remediate legacy pollution sites and restore natural shorelines,” but I don’t know to what extent they were planning to focus on our little piece of the river… Maybe it’s time for me to follow up.

Posted in Environment, Ypsilanti | Tagged , , | 8 Comments

The Ann Arbor News Does Not Speak For Ypsilanti, a rant from the sickbed of Mark Maynard

I’m in bed with a cold. My eyes are burning, I’m coughing up copious mounts of phlegm, and I’m grumpy as hell. And I know from experience that, when I’m in a condition such as this, I should probably refrain from blogging. But I’ve had a few swigs of extra-strength cough syrup, and I’ve convinced myself that now would be a good time to share a recent observation with you.

The Ann Arbor News does not speak for Ypsilanti.

I’ve known this in a general sense for a long time, but it’s become painfully apparent, in a more concrete sense, these past few months, watching things unfold around the forced merger between the Ypsilanti Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (YACVB) and its more powerful sister organization to our west, the Ann Arbor Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (AAACVB). The Ann Arbor News coverage of this particular issue, in my opinion, hasn’t just been weak, it’s been misleading, perhaps deliberately so.

A week or so ago, when Washtenaw County Commissioner Conan Smith said to me on the radio that he and his fellow commissioners hadn’t done their “homework,” and weren’t well enough informed to vote on the merger, but intended to do so anyway, I would have thought that would warrant at least a mention in the Ann Arbor News. I’ve lived in quite a few places, and, without exception, I think that’s the kind of thing that people consider newsworthy. People, generally speaking, like for their legislators to understand what it is that they’ve voting on, and why, right? But, in this instance, there wasn’t so much as a mention in our local paper of record.

And when Commissioner Alicia Ping made a public statement a week or so earlier about “veiled threats” having been made against the board of the YACVB in an attempt to coerce them into accepting a deal which would see their bureau closed and their budget shifted to Ann Arbor, why wasn’t that a headline in the Ann Arbor News? Why did Ping’s statements get buried at the bottom of a piece about the proposed merger? And why didn’t they quote Ping’s reference to “threats” having been made? Again, this seems like the kind of thing that, had it been said in reference to another issue, would have warranted a headline.

Instead, what gets press in the Ann Arbor News is the fact that our CVB had alienated a local Ypsilanti business owner by hanging a banner outside of his bar featuring a photo of another restaurant’s hamburger. Talk of “veiled threats” and admissions from Washtenaw County commissioners that they didn’t do their homework on an issue, it would seem, don’t warrant their own stories, but when one irrational business owner shimmies up a pole in a huff and rips down a banner, it’s deemed newsworthy. [This story, coincidentally, also reinforces a narrative that our CVB is well-meaning, but inept, which couldn’t be further from the truth.]

If an Ypsi-based newspaper had covered the rollout of the Ypsi Real promotional campaign, which the banner in question was a part of, they likely would have pointed to the fact that it was heavily focus-grouped, and that a lot of thought had gone into how the initial folks to be featured were selected (i.e. Sidetrack, Puffer Reds, EMU, Wiard’s Orchard, the Corner Brewery). But, instead, what we got was a story about a bar owner who, instead of just walking across the street and talking with someone at our local CVB, decided to rip a banner down and then rant on Facebook about how grievous harm had been done to his establishment. So, instead of a positive story about our scrappy, little CVB making the most of what limited budget they have in order to tell the story of our diverse, awesome and authentic community, we got a story about how our CVB mishandled a campaign, causing one local bar owner to lose his mind.

[For what it’s worth, I was eating a hamburger outside the bar in question that same evening that the banners went up, and guess what? Seeing the Sidetrack burger didn’t cause me to change my mind and go running across town. I still ordered, ate and enjoyed the burger I’d come to eat. What’s more, I didn’t get pant-shittingly angry when I discovered that there wasn’t a “Real Blogging” banner in the mix, featuring a photo of yours truly blogging in bed, surrounded by cough syrup bottles. No, as an adult, I understood that not every person doing something worthwhile in Ypsilanti would be able to have his or her own banner. And, what’s more, I understood that, even if I wasn’t pictured on a banner, this campaign might still be something that could help drive foot traffic in the City, which would help all concerned.]

More importantly, the Ann Arbor News missed the really big story here… If a truly local paper would have written a story about the Ypsi Real campaign, it would have been about what a positive step forward it was that we had banners downtown for things like Wiard’s Orchard, and banners in Depot Town for our businesses along Michigan Avenue. This wouldn’t have happened a few years ago, and it’s awesome to see some of the small-minded territorial thinking that had dominated discussions in the past give way to more collaborative efforts, even if a business owner or two felt compelled to rip down banners.

But the Ann Arbor News knows what their reader base wants, and they give it to them. Lots of Ypsi crime. And stories like this that make us look like buffoons. It not only sells papers, but it helps reinforce an image that makes it easier for Ann Arbor’s elected officials to do things like take control of our CVB’s marketing dollars “for our own good.”

It’s probably worth noting at this point in the story that the Ann Arbor News isn’t sitting on the sidelines, just reporting on the contentious CVB merger. No, they’ve chosen a side. The Ann Arbor News has gone on record saying that they support the merger. [They were also one of the few papers in the country to support Bush for a second term, by the way.] Here’s a clip from their statement.

…“Our hope in the merger is to see the drastically increasing inventory of hotel rooms in the Ann Arbor area filled with visitors who will not just dine, shop and sleep in Ann Arbor proper, but seek out the highlights and hidden gems our entire county has to offer… Ypsilanti may lack the hotels which would financially support the establishment of an independent CVB, but the entertainment and destination opportunity pack a punch for a quirky college town wedged between Motor City and Ann Arbor…

They also say that a single Ann Arbor-based CVB is just “logical.” That’s right in their headline. “CVB merger logical,” it says. [This, of course, makes everyone on the eastern side of the County, who have come out so forcefully against the merger, what? Illogical?]

And I don’t have time right now to get into the economics of how it might work to the favor of the Ann Arbor News to have a bigger Ann Arbor-based CVB with another $1.17 million a year to spend on things like luring huge sporting events and the like to the U-M stadium, which, as I understand it, is one of the things they’d like to do once the Ypsi CVB is no more. But you can be sure the folks at the Ann Arbor News know that this merger will help their bottom line.

I know this is a tiny subplot in a much bigger narrative, but at times like this I’m reminded of just how important it is to have an engaged local press working on your behalf to bring these kinds of things to light. While I like the fact that people thank me every day for following the CVB story, it really shouldn’t be up to me to do this. There should be real reporters working on this story, and asking why it’s so vitally important in the opinion of certain County commissioners, in spite of the overwhelming opposition of virtually everyone outside of Ann Arbor, that the Ypsilanti CVB be closed right now. It shouldn’t be up to one exhausted guy who writes in the evening after putting his kids to bed. I don’t know what the solution is, but we need to figure something out before it’s too late. Ypsilanti keeps getting the short end of the stick when dealing with Ann Arbor, and there’s absolutely no one in the press telling that story. (Did the Ann Arbor News cover the fact that the merged Ypsi-Arbor Chamber of Commerce, after declaring that they would keep a presence in Ypsilanti, closed the office? Did the Ann Arbor News ever challenge our local economic development group, Ann Arbor SPARK, to explain what they were doing to bring development to Water Street?)

Lastly, I should say that the people doing the reporting at the Ann Arbor News are, by and large, good, hardworking people. I consider some of them friends. And my hope is that they don’t see this as an attack on them personally. The truth, however, is that they’re writing for an audience that’s very clear about what they want, and what they want isn’t an open, honest discussion of topics that make Annarborites feel bad about themselves. I should also add that the Ann Arbor News, to their credit, has covered some of the meetings where people spoke up against the merger. Furthermore, the Ann Arbor News editorial board made it a point to say, in their letter of support for the merger, that they appreciated the work of the Ypsi CVB and hoped that the new, merged CVB could continue doing things to benefit the eastern side of the County, and not just Ann Arbor. So it’s not that they’re completely ignoring the fact that we’re fighting this fight. It’s just that they’re telling the story in a way, in my opinion, that doesn’t truly get to the heart of what’s going on here. And I think we need to accept the fact that this is always going to be the case. As we don’t represent a profit center for the Ann Arbor News, all they really care about is our entertainment and shock value.

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[If you should happen to have images of the above mentioned bar owner tearing down the Ypsi Real banner he found to be offensive, please send it to me. As he wanted his own Ypsi Real banner, I’d like to make him one, and I think that would be a great image to use.]

update: It was just suggested to me that I may have crossed the line when I insinuated that there may be a financial aspect to this. For what it’s worth, I wasn’t suggesting that folks at the Ann Arbor News were being paid off, or made any promises by the staff of the AAAVCB in exchange for not pursuing certain stories. All I meant was that hoteliers are advertisers on the Ann Arbor News site, and that the Ann Arbor News, as a result, is immersed in this in a way that makes objectivity difficult. This is the water that they swim in, the air that they breathe.

I wasn’t suggesting that a secret meeting had taken place during which everyone was shown how this $1.17 million would help their bottom line, if only it could be brought over from Ypsilanti. I’m sure it was nothing that overtly sinister. I do think, however, it only helps the Ann Arbor News when there are big events in Ann Arbor, like those being promised by the AACVB, that they can write about, thereby driving ad buys from hotel owners.

They’re all swimming in the same ecosystem, and no one is getting rich from campaigns focused on the independent spirit of Ypsilanti. That’s just a fact. Our $1.17 million can be leveraged to make a lot more people wealthy in Ann Arbor. And that’s why this merger is happening. And, yes, I would have liked for the Ann Arbor News to ask some hard questions about conflicts of interest, and various comments made, but I don’t think there was any will to do so.

And that’s when it kind of struck me that we shouldn’t look to them to serve the role of the independent press for us. They aren’t watchdogs… at least for us.

Posted in Ann Arbor, Economics, Rants, Ypsilanti | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 93 Comments

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