Totally Awesome Fest 12 begins tomorrow, and, if you’re too scared to experience it in person, you can catch some of it on this weekend’s Saturday Six Pack

Every year, in late April, a free, all-ages, multi-venue festival of weirdness called Totally Awesome Fest descends upon the sleepy little midwestern hamlet of Ypsilanti. There’s no escape from it. No one is immune. Like it or not, you will experience beauty and magic. It permeates every element of village life. Walking through town, one might encounter anything, from a magical cart appearing out of nowhere to dispense fee hot dogs, to an inter-species basketball game at a local park. Bands, it seems, are playing in every backyard, and weirdness lurks around every corner.


[above: Totally Awesome Fest 12 poster by Katelyn Schlacht.]

This year, however, things are going to be a little different. As Totally Awesome Fest coordinators told those of us at Powell’s this past fall when they hijacked the karaoke machine, this year’s festival isn’t going to just stop at the borders of Ypsilanti. Tomorrow, when things kick off on Perrin Street at noon, and Totally Awesome Fest 12 formally gets underway, the weirdness won’t be contained to a single continent. No, there will also be magical things happening in Bangalore, India, where a team of organizers has been laying the groundwork for the past year, cultivating performers that are capable of carrying the Totally Awesome Fest banner… Yes, just as the terrible people behind the Color Run took a lovely Indian festival and found a way to commoditize it and sell it to American suburbanites, the strangely beautiful magic of Totally Awesome Fest is being repackaged and sold to the people of India. I don’t imagine it will effect us here, but you never know. We may feel ripples in the force emanating from the vibrating guitar strings of the Indian Manhole cover band.

[For those of you without passports, things will get underway here in Ypsilanti at noon tomorrow at 310 Perrin Street with sets by Hairy & The Eyeballs, our old friend Jim Cherewick, and recent Saturday Six Pack guest Stef Chura… The rest of this weekend’s lineup can be found at the end of this post.]

Last year, as you may recall, I set a trap at the AM 1700 studio in hopes of luring in a Totally Awesome Fest musician or two… We took the door of the station off its hinges, removed all signs of human existence… with the exception of a ten-pound pile of sugar… and waited. We obscured the tables and chairs behind heaps of twigs and leaves. We draped moss over our microphones. We created a magical glade. And we waited. I dressed like a fawn and pranced quietly in a corner. Brian, our engineer, played audio of small woodland creatures frolicking. And we settled in for what we thought might be a long wait. Within minutes, though, bearded men and young women with flowers in their hair began tentatively sticking their noses into the studio and sniffing around. And, within twenty minutes, they were fully in the room, surrounding the pile of sugar, and licking at it greedily. Within another ten minutes, some of them began dragging in instruments. If you’d like to listen, you can do so here.

Well, this year, apparently we don’t have to set a trap. I was informed a few days ago that, like it or not, three bands, like the ghosts in A Christmas Carol, would be paying me visits at the studio come Saturday evening. Here’s the note, which I awoke to find scrawled on my leg last Sunday morning.

During Saturday’s Six Pack, you will be visited by three spirits. The first at 6:00 PM, the second at 6:30 and the last at 7:00. And they will all be loud.

According to the itinerary that was just put out, these three spirits, in order, will be the Disinformants, the Crime Victims (Ian Fulcher, Eric Wozniak, Thom Elliott), and NODATA (Nick Zomparelli). And, after they’ve all assaulted our eardrums and moved on, Stephen Jolley will be having some kind of on-air contest to find five people to drive with him to Brighton for a smooth jazz house show and sleepover party… So, I guess, it’s more than just Ypsilanti and Bangalore that have been infected. Apparently there’s an outbreak in Brighton as well.

[BREAKING NEWS: It would seem that Totally Awesome fever has extended beyond Ypsilanti, Brighton and Bangalore to a third continent! I have it on good authority that Pete Larson will be calling in live from South Africa to perform at some point during Saturday’s show.]

So, if you want to experience a little bit of Totally Awesome Fest, but you’re too afraid to come out in person, you just have to tune in to the Saturday Six Pack this weekend, and listen in. Or, of course, if you’re brave, you can just sit outside the studio and experience it live.


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 And, if you’d like to tell your friends and neighbors about the program, here’s a link to the Facebook event listing.

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.

And, here, thanks to AM 1700 senior graphic designer Kate de Fuccio, is this week’s poster, in case any of you want to print copies and leave them at one of your favorite highway rest areas. If I’m not mistaken, she’s grafted my head onto the body of the young Dee Dee Ramone this week.


And here’s the ambitious, action-packed lineup. [All of the following are free, all-ages events.]


12:00 p.m. Hairy & The Eyeballs
12:30 TBA
1:00 Jim Cherewick
2:00 Stef Chura
2:30 Avery F
3:00 Philup Banks
3:30 Bevlove
4:00 King Milo

5:00 p.m. Blessed Beast
5:30 Wraiths
6:00 Jols
6:30 Lucy
7:00 Zombie Jesus & the Chocolate Sunshine Band
7:30 Annie Palmer
8:00 Meshes

9:00 p.m. CJ Mind Control
9:30 Ministry of Boredom
10:15 Kelly Jean Caldwell
11:00 Dykehouse
11:45 Dear Darkness
12:30 Louis Picasso
1:00 Crochetcatpause
1:30 Andrew Bruce Mitchell III


11:00 a.m. Jo Pie Wyld
12:00 Sean Ruona
12:30 Sir and/or Madam (Re Steinman)
1:00 Mercury Salad Sandwich
1:30 Tanager
2:00 Dan Florida
2:30 Malcolm S.ex
3:00 J. Gardner
3:30 Derick DeLaRosa
4:00 Fangs ‘n’ Twang
4:30 Bob Voorheis
5:00 p.m. Human Skull

@ AM1700 (33 N. WASHINGTON ST.)
6:00 p.m. Disinformants
6:30 Crime Victims
7:30 p.m. p.m. Steve Jolley presents “DESIGNATED DRIVER”

7:45 p.m. Dreamland Puppet Troupe presents: “DRONE DOG’
8:30 Landmarks
9:15 Canteen
10:00 Haze Saheed
10:45 Laserbeams of Boredom
11:30 Billey Madison
12:00 Sex Police
12:30 White Power Dies Today
1:00 a.m. Airport
1:30 Battery Acid


8:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.

Live painting by Kayj Michelle
Poetry & spoken word performances by Devin Leatherman, and TBA
11:30 a.m. PANCAKAROKE
12:00 Canadian Constitutional Crisis
12:30 Nathanael Romero
1:00 Aimee Adams
1:30 Britney Stoney
2:00 Dora Diaspora
3:30 Toto Recall
4:00 True Blue
4:30 Terrible Materials
5:00 RiverSpirit
5:30 Autumn Wetli
6:00 Rella
6:30 Real Ghosts

8:00 p.m. Platonic Boyfriends
8:45 Gruesome Twosome
9:30 Marisa Dluge
10:15 Renee Willoughby
11:00 Body Tingly & the Catatonic 4
11:45 Peanut Brutal

One last thing… For the uninitiated, here’s a little documentary footage shot during Totally Awesome Fest a few years ago by Adam Wright and Ian Sargent… I think it should give you a pretty good sense of the vibe, dress code, quality of beardage you should expect to come in contact with, etc.

A Totally Awesome Film from Adam Wright on Vimeo.

Oh, I should also add that, if none of this sounds interesting to you, don’t feel sad. There’s going to be a decidedly less weird multi-venue music event in Ann Arbor this weekend. It’s called the Water Hill Music Festival and it won’t hurt our feelings at all if you should choose to go there instead.

Posted in Art and Culture, The Saturday Six Pack, Uncategorized, Ypsilanti | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 27 Comments

Obama attributes Flint visit to invitation from 8 year old Mari Copeny

I suspect that President Obama would have come to Flint anyway, but I think it’s kind of lovely that he’s attributing next week’s visit to the invitation he received from 8 year old Amariyanna “Mari” Copeny, the daughter of Flint activist LuLu Brezzell… I know I’ve said it before, but I’m going to miss him when he’s gone.


As for what Obama will be doing in Flint, a White House official told the Detroit Free Press that he will “hear first-hand from Flint residents about the public health crisis, receive an in-person briefing on the federal efforts in place to help respond to the needs of the people of Flint, and deliver remarks to community members.

For what it’s worth, our Governor, who just last week promised to drink Flint water for an entire month and then promptly left for Europe without any, told the Free Press that he would not be in Flint to greet the President. “I’ve got a pretty full schedule next week,” he told them from Zurich, Switzerland. “That’s not currently a day I’m scheduled to be in Flint.”

Given that Snyder has probably spent less than 8 hours total in Flint since the news first broke that people were being poisoned, I find that last sentence particularly hilarious. “That’s not currently a day I’m scheduled to be in Flint,” makes it sound as though he’s got plans to be there on the 3rd and 5th, but not just on the 4th. A more appropriate response might have been, “Look, I was in Flint for an awkward, water-drinking photo op a week ago, and I don’t ever intend to return.”

Posted in Michigan, Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 28 Comments

According to researchers who have looked at 50 years of data on 160,000 children, spanking not only does not stop unwanted behaviors, but actually gives rise to them

I was spanked as a kid, as I suspect that many folks of my generation were. I don’t fault my father for it. That’s just what people did back then, when I was a kid growing up in the south. And, while we’ve never talked about it, I’m certain that, when my dad was a kid, he got it a hundred times worse from his father. So I really don’t mind the fact that, on occasion, my father, who was very young at the time, chose to spank me. With that said, though, quite a few of my most vivid memories of my father are not of the happy moments that we shared together, but of moments when he was hitting me with his belt for having done things that I can’t even remember. And that, I think, is probably the main reason why, when I became a father, I decided that I’d not strike my children. I suspect my decision was also influenced by the fact that I’ve always been doubtful as to how effective spanking is in preventing unwanted behaviors, but, when it comes right down to it, I just didn’t want for my children to have memories of me hitting them competing for space in their minds along with their better memories of me… Regardless of my motivation, though, it looks as though, according to research published yesterday, I made the right decision when I chose to “spare the rod”.

Yesterday, researchers at the University of Michigan and the University of Texas published what is being called the most definitive research to date on the subject of spanking (defined as “an open-handed hit on the behind or extremities”), and it appears to show that the practice is not only ineffective, but detrimental. According to the authors of the article, which was just published in the Journal of Family Psychology, the five decades of data they’ve assessed on 160,000 children has shown that spanking is significantly linked with 13 of the 17 outcomes they tracked, all in the direction of detrimental outcomes. In other words, spanking led to improvements in none of the outcomes being tracked.

According to Andrew Grogan-Kaylor, the University of Michigan School of Social Work professor who co-authored the article, they discovered that “spanking increases the likelihood of a wide variety of undesired outcomes for children,” essentially doing “the opposite of what parents usually want it to do.”

The following clip comes from the University of Texas press release announcing the publication.

The more children are spanked, the more likely they are to defy their parents and to experience increased anti-social behavior, aggression, mental health problems and cognitive difficulties, according to a new meta-analysis of 50 years of research on spanking by experts at The University of Texas at Austin and the University of Michigan…

“Our analysis focuses on what most Americans would recognize as spanking and not on potentially abusive behaviors,” says Elizabeth Gershoff, an associate professor of human development and family sciences at The University of Texas at Austin. “We found that spanking was associated with unintended detrimental outcomes and was not associated with more immediate or long-term compliance, which are parents’ intended outcomes when they discipline their children.”

Gershoff and Grogan-Kaylor tested for some long-term effects among adults who were spanked as children. The more they were spanked, the more likely they were to exhibit anti-social behavior and to experience mental health problems. They were also more likely to support physical punishment for their own children, which highlights one of the key ways that attitudes toward physical punishment are passed from generation to generation.

The researchers looked at a wide range of studies and noted that spanking was associated with negative outcomes consistently and across all types of studies, including those using the strongest methodologies such as longitudinal or experimental designs. As many as 80 percent of parents around the world spank their children, according to a 2014 UNICEF report. Gershoff notes that this persistence of spanking is in spite of the fact that there is no clear evidence of positive effects from spanking and ample evidence that it poses a risk of harm to children’s behavior and development.

Both spanking and physical abuse were associated with the same detrimental child outcomes in the same direction and nearly the same strength.

“We as a society think of spanking and physical abuse as distinct behaviors,” she says. “Yet our research shows that spanking is linked with the same negative child outcomes as abuse, just to a slightly lesser degree”…

Who would have thought… beating your children might actually be bad for them.


Posted in Mark's Life, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 25 Comments

209 Pearl: tearing down walls and sawing through pigeons

Having patched the holes in the roof of 209 Pearl last weekend, Jesse and I turned our attention to demolition today, removing quite a bit of the old plumbing, and most of the walls in what will eventually be the loft apartment opposite the offices of Landline Creative Labs. Everything was going pretty smoothly until Jesse, sawing through a board just over his head, unknowingly cut right through a pigeon, severing its head. When Jesse saw its brown, feathered head falling past his face, he leaned back into the wall, at which point the rest of the body rolled off the board that he was cutting and fell onto him. I wasn’t there to see it, but Jesse said the bird’s headless body bounced off his shoulder. Here’s Jesse working on a different section of the wall, followed by shots of what the soon-to-be apartment looks like now, and the enormous pile of lumber we dragged out of the room. [If you know of anyone who could use a bunch of lumber, let me know. It’s full of nails, but still in pretty good shape.]




I mentioned above that, last weekend, we worked on the roof. Here’s Jesse cutting boards to the hole cut by the firefighters back in September, 2014, when one of the tenants in the boarding house that used to be on the second floor set fire to his room.


Working on the roof, by the way, is awesome. Ypsilanti is totally beautiful from up there… I’d like to say more, but I somehow lost a few fingertips on my right hand today, and it hurts like hell to type.

Posted in 209 Pearl, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 10 Comments

Burying Freeda’s ashes

It’s been a few weeks now since Freeda, our 14 year old pit-lab mix, died, and the kids and I decided yesterday morning that the time had come to dig a hole in the back yard near where she liked to lay, build a little wooden box for her ashes, and give her a proper send-off. While it was sad, it was also kind of beautiful.





Posted in Mark's Life | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments


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