Living off-grid, hair care product entrepreneurship, and the Yellow Rail Family …on this weekend’s Saturday Six Pack


I’m not sure why the folks in the AM 1700 design department decided to go with a Warriors theme this week. [I’ve been instructed by station management that I’m not allowed to communicate with them any more.] Maybe it’s because the old gang from 1979 just reunited for one last subway ride to Coney Island, or maybe they know something that I don’t know. [Could it be that there’s going to be a big gang summit in Ypsi this weekend? And might I, as a local DJ, be expected to participate?] Whatever happens, I do plan to put beer bottles on my fingers at some point in the evening, like David Patrick Kelly, and start calling to people at the bus stop across the street, “Warriors come out and play-aaaay.” Hopefully, if nothing else, it’ll increase the tension a bit, which is always good for ratings.

And, of course, we’ve also got some awesome guests lined up.

First up will be University of Michigan Associate Professor Joseph Trumpey. While Trumpey is an accomplished science illustrator and teacher, I suspect a good deal of our time will be spent discussing his work in the area of sustainable design… Trumpey, who was named 2015 Homesteader of the Year by Mother Earth News Magazine, lives in an off-grid, in a 2,200-square-foot straw bale home near Grass Lake that he built with his family. [They farm a variety of heritage breed livestock and grow more than half their food.] Here’s Trumpey giving a tour of his homestead, which is called Sandy Acres Farm.

Profile: Joe Trumpey from UM Stamps School of Art & Design on Vimeo.

[Through this fieldwork at U-M, Trumpey has also facilitated over half a dozen unique design/build projects in Sub Saharan Africa.]

Then we’ll turn our attention to local business, when we’re joined in the studio by Ypsi entrepreneur Rachel Blistein, the founder of the natural hair care products company Original Moxie. Blistein and I, I suspect, will talk about the condition of each others hair. Then, if time allows, I might ask her why she decided to go into business, who helped her along the way, how she got her product line into Spehora stores, and what’s next.

And, at some point, we’ll bring the band Yellow Rail Family will come into the studio to entertain us with songs and witty banter.

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 force them on people.



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 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. If you start right now, you’ll have to stay up all night and listen to everything at double speed in order to get caught up by tomorrow evening, but you can do it.

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. Sure, sometimes it’s nothing even with you, that’s true, but usually you make it better.

Posted in Local Business, Locally Owned Business, The Saturday Six Pack, Uncategorized, Ypsilanti | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

And this is what happens when you gut the Voting Rights Act

In late June of 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, stating that the provision, which, for almost 50 years, had required that certain areas of the country with dismal civil rights records obtain approval from the Justice Department or a special federal court before changing their voting laws, was unconstitutional. [Justice Scalia, one of the five conservative justices to vote in favor of striking down this particular component of the landmark civil rights legislation, has described the Voting Rights Act in the past as, “the perpetuation of a racial entitlement.”] Well, today, we’re beginning to see the results of this decision, which Georgia congressman John Lewis, an African American who had fought for equal rights alongside Martin Luther King, called at the time “a dagger in the heart of the Voting Rights Act.” In Alabama today, it was announced that 31 Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) locations in predominately black areas of Alabama would be closing, making it more difficult for people of color to acquire the identification required to vote… The following comes from The Nation:

…(Alabama) is shuttering DMV offices in eight of the 10 counties with the highest concentration of black voters. Selma will still have a DMV office but virtually all of the surrounding Black Belt counties will not. “Every single county in which blacks make up more than 75 percent of registered voters will see their driver license office closed,” writes John Archibald of the Birmingham News. “The harm is inflicted disproportionately on voters who happen to be black, and poor, in sparsely populated areas.”

…Alabama describes the closings as a cost-saving measure, but the impact has clear racial and political overtones. Writes Archibald:

“Look at the 15 counties that voted for President Barack Obama in the last presidential election. The state just decided to close driver license offices in 53 percent of them.

Look at the five counties that voted most solidly Democratic? Macon, Greene, Sumter, Lowndes and Bullock counties all had their driver license offices closed.

Look at the 10 that voted most solidly for Obama? Of those, eight—again all but Dallas and the state capital of Montgomery—had their offices closed.”

This, for what it’s worth, is exactly what many of us thought would begin happening in the wake of the 2013 Supreme Court Decision. At the time, I asked the following on this site… “So, now what? With this central protection of the Voting Rights Act gone, shouldn’t we expect to see a rise, especially in the south, of racially discriminatory voting practices?.”

I guess, today, we got our answer.

And it’s our fault. We could have fought harder. We could have demanded that Congress step in and pass legislation to protect the Voting Rights Act once the Supreme Court made their decision. But we sat by and allowed the historic legislation to be gutted. And now we’re going to have to fight the grueling battles of the 1960s all over again… I wish we had longer memories. I wish we remembered how hard it was to fight for things like civil rights and the 40 hour work week. But we don’t. We don’t remember the sacrifices that were made by the people who came before us, like these two men protesting in Selma, Alabama, in 1965. And, as a result, we’re doomed to relive every bloody minute of it. Only, this time, we’re facing an opposition that is both better armed and better funded.


Posted in Civil Liberties, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

The Ann Arbor music scene, from Paul Robeson to Frank Allison …on episode 28 of the Saturday Six Pack


After the last several episodes, where we had so many guests, and so many things to get through, I enjoyed the relaxed pace of this most recent edition of the Saturday Six Pack. I’d left us a lot of breathing room when planning the show, thinking that, just maybe, Marshall Crenshaw might stop by, seeing as how he was just down at the end of the street, preparing to do an acoustic set as part of the 9th annual Ypsi Songfest. As it turned out, though, he never showed. Maybe he’d heard that I intended to critique his performances as “Lightning” Mel Ratner on The Adventures of Pete & Pete and John Lennon in Beatlemania. Or, maybe he was just didn’t see how visiting a tiny, micro-watt AM station with a broken antenna could possibly help his career. Whatever the reason, he didn’t make the trip down Washington Street, leaving me a lot of time between my scheduled guests, which turned out to be a really good thing, as I had more time to meander around and see where our conversations might lead. I wasn’t in any rush, and I think that made for better radio. Hopefully you’ll agree.

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

During our first segment, we talked with legendary Ann Arbor songwriter Frank Allison. We talked about the old days, when his band, Frank Allison and the Odd Sox, was at the top of the local music scene, playing for packed houses of absolutely giddy college students. We talked about the phenomenon of “Oddsockdom,” and the young women who would choreograph dances to each of the band’s new songs. And we talked about what happened as his voice stopped doing what he wanted it to, and as record labels turned to embrace grunge. And, perhaps more importantly, we talked about what he’s up to these days, running the Clinton Theater, stealing musical instruments from his kids, and taking pictures of bugs… Yes, apparently, when he’s not writing new songs, he’s hunting down interesting insects and taking their portraits.

Here’s Frank, along with Gillian Ream from the Ypsilanti District Library, telling us about Ypsi Songfest, which he’d played at earlier in the day.


I don’t want to give too much away, as I think you should just listen, but I really enjoyed my conversation with Allison. Among other things, we discussed how he’d taught himself music on his grandmother’s chord organ, his early dreams of fame, what it was like to tour the Soviet Union, how he stole studio time from George Clinton, and his decision not to perform under his real name. And we also talked quite a bit about the theater business, and whether or not, in his opinion, Ypsilanti, like Clinton, could support a small movie house.

Oh, and I also tried to pitch him on the idea of a split 7″ that would have him on one side, covering songs by the Laughing Hyenas, and John Brannon on the other, covering Odd Sox songs from the same time period. I’m sure I’ll never get around to it, but I think it could be a really cool way to mark the fact that 25 years have passed since they fronted the two biggest bands in Ann Arbor. Who knows… if we sold enough copies, maybe we could afford to put up a plaque or two around town. Or, better yet, maybe we could have a bunch of musicians narrate an audio walking tour of downtown, telling stories about things that happened on certain street corners, or describing bars that no longer exist. [Actually, the more I think about it, the more I’m convinced this could be awesome. Someone remind me of this in a few years, when I’ve got enough time for another project, OK?]


Then, at the 1:17-mark, we welcomed in University of Michigan Professor Emeritus Dr. Willis Patterson, the founder and director of the local chorale group Our Own Thing Chorale. What started as a pretty straightforward interview about his founding of the group in 1970 took a turn toward the incredible when, on a whim, I decided to mention a story that SDS founder Alan Haber had told me some time ago about Paul Robeson not being allowed to sing and speak in Ann Arbor during the height of McCarthyism, in 1959. As it turned out, Patterson had a story of his own about Robeson, having been taken backstage as a young man to meet him at an event in Ann Arbor in 1943, setting in motion a chain of events that would lead him to become an accomplished singer himself, and an historian of African American art songs. Here’s Patterson telling me of his work to discover, preserve, and publish early African American musical compositions which might have otherwise been lost forever. [We also talked a bit about what it was like growing up as an African American in Ann Arbor in the 1930s, a subject which Patterson said he’d be happy to come back on the show and discuss in more length at a later date.]


And we also talked with Patterson’s young protege Kira Monae Turner, who will be performing on October 4 with Our Own Thing Chorale at Ypsilanti’s Community Church of God. We talked about her love of opera, and her dream of making a career in the industry after graduating from college. She even sang a little bit for us at the very end of the show.


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. Thanks also to Modern Lady Fitness for contributing this week’s intro track, and Dr. Peter Larson for sending in yet another song from his apartment in Kenya. [Pete’s song airs at the 1:13-mark.]

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.


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

The Center for Michigan: in campus hospitals, beds full of drinking casualties


Last year, on a football Saturday in Ann Arbor just before Thanksgiving, I drove myself to the hospital with chest pains. As it turns out, I hadn’t had a heart attack, just a lot of stomach acid backing up into my lungs, but it took nearly 24 hours to come to that diagnosis. So I ended up spending an entire day just laying in a hospital bed, having my blood drawn, being poked at by doctors, and watching as the wing of the hospital where I was placed slowly fill up with black-out-drunk University of Michigan students. As you might recall, I posted about the experience here, and it led to a pretty good conversation about the culture of game day binge drinking at U-M. Well, one of the people who read that behind-the-scenes look at the U-M emergency room on game day was a writer by the name of Nancy Derringer, and we began talking. And, now, several months after she began looking into the issue with fellow researcher Ron French, they’ve published a report for The Center for Michigan’s online magazine on game day binge drinking. Whereas I just shared my observations, they actually did their homework, spending time among young college students, and interviewing the doctors and college administrators charged with looking after them, and it’s really compelling stuff. Here, to give you a sense of the piece, are two quotes from those interviewed.

“Walk from the student union down State Street to Hoover. Turn right on Hoover, maybe an hour before the game, you’ll see what we’re trying to deal with.” -Mark Bernstein, University of Michigan regent

“I hope for not-very-exciting games, held early, and in bad weather. It makes a huge difference for the emergency department.” -Dr. Jeffrey Desmond, interim chief medical officer at U-M’s hospital

It’s not every day that something I post here on the site takes root somewhere else and evolves into something better, and I’m incredibly happy to see that happen with this story, which really did deserve to be in the hands of real professionals. One hopes that perhaps the resulting discussion actually leads us to solutions that will work for our young people.

Posted in Ann Arbor, Health, Mark's Life, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 19 Comments

A love letter from Ann Arbor


[The text is taken from an anonymous email I received this evening. The image of our downtown water tower is from the Ypsilanti Area Visitors and Convention Bureau’s new Ypsi Real video.]

Posted in Ann Arbor, Architecture, Uncategorized, Ypsilanti | Tagged , , , | 17 Comments


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