Daniel Johnston, one of my favorite musicians and artists, has passed away

One of the most genuinely talented people I’ve ever had the pleasure to have known, the visionary artist and musician Daniel Johnston, passed away today at the age of 58. Here, for those of you who might not be aware of Johnson’s work, is the song Story of an Artist, from his self-released 1982 recording Don’t Be Scared. The song, which was used by Apple to great effect in a 2018 ad campaign, begins with the following phrase, which I’m finding incredibly poignant today. “Listen up and I’ll tell a story about an artist growing old,” Johnston sings. “Some would try for fame and glory; others aren’t so bold.”

There’s quite a bit that I could say about Daniel, the struggles that he endured, and how fucking much his painfully honest and absurdly brilliant music has meant to me over the years. I think, however, that I’ll just take the night off, find my very old, well-worn cassette of 1983’s Yip Jump Music, head out to the porch with a drink, and listen to it in the rain.

Goodbye, Daniel. And thank you for everything… Rest in peace.

update: It’s not one of my better interviews, but, here, from Crimewave USA issue 14, is my first real attempt at a discussion with Daniel. It seems like yesterday. It’s hard to be believe it’s been almost 20 years.

[Part: 1, 2, 3, 4]

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Our spy in Putin’s office

I feel like current events are getting away from me at the moment. There’s just too much happening for me to keep up. As Donald Trump attempts to secure the enthusiasm of his base in the run-up to the 2020 election, we’re seeing all kind of next-level craziness… from hastily issued invitations being sent out to members of the Taliban to visit Camp David in hopes of negotiating a U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan just before the 18th anniversary of 9/11 to the redirection of millions of dollars away from U.S. military families to help build a costly and ineffective wall along the southern border. And then there’s all the stuff about how Trump has been funneling federal dollars to his failing properties oversees, and how Giuliani has been looking for fake dirt on Biden in the Ukraine. And, on top of it all, this morning there was the abrupt firing of comically mustachioed National Security Advisor John Bolton. [Apparently he refused to say publicly that he liked the idea of celebrating the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks with a Taliban slumber party on U.S. soil.] There’s just so much that I feel like I should be researching and writing about, but, as I know I’ll start nodding off soon, I just need to make up my mind and settle one thing…

Well, after a great deal of thought, I’ve decided to spend my evening reading up on yesterday’s revelation that the CIA, until 2017, had a high-level source within the office of Vladimir Putin, but that this incredibly valuable asset had to be exfiltrated by his American handlers when it was determined that Donald Trump may, either wittingly or unwittingly, identify him to his coworkers in the Kremlin. The following is from the initial CNN report.

…A person directly involved in the discussions said that the removal of the Russian was driven, in part, by concerns that President Donald Trump and his administration repeatedly mishandled classified intelligence and could contribute to exposing the covert source as a spy.

The decision to carry out the extraction occurred soon after a May 2017 meeting in the Oval Office in which Trump discussed highly classified intelligence with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and then-Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak. The intelligence, concerning ISIS in Syria, had been provided by Israel…

Apparently, the cultivation of this asset took decades, and it was through him, among other things, that we knew that it was Putin himself who had ordered the Russian intelligence agency to interfere in our 2016 election with the intention of delivering Donald Trump to the White House. This was the best source we could ever hope to have, as he knew everything that Putin was doing, but, because of Donald Trump, we had to exfiltrate him from Moscow. And, with that, American intelligence agencies have been, in the words of the New York times, “effectively blinded” as to what Putin has been doing.

So, not only did Donald Trump deny that our country was attacked by Russia. [Remember, he said in Helsinki that he believes Putin, and not our own intelligence agencies on the subject.] But the CIA was forced to pull our most valuable asset out of Russia, for fear that Donald Trump would expose him…. I know we’ve said it before, and often, but can you even begin to imagine how this would have played out if it had been Barack Obama who had done this?

We were attacked by Russia. Our President denied it. Our President attempted to obstruct our investigation into it. And our President forced us to pull out our most valuable intelligence asset out of the Kremlin. Just think about that.

This story continues to take strange turns, and I’m not quite sure what exactly is going on, but, as far as I can tell, it sounds as though the Russians may have given members of the U.S. press the identity of this American asset who had been working in the Kremlin, and, last night, journalists were on his doorstep in Virginia… Why a spy who had crossed Putin would be living under his own name in Virginia – especially after seeing what Putin had done to double agent Sergei Skripal in the UK – is absolutely beyond me, but maybe some people just don’t process fear the same way the rest of us do.

The whole story is really odd, and I just wanted to note it here, before it got lost in the thrashing gyre of insanity that is the Trumpian news cycle.

One last thing. Now that we know the identity and location of this former Russian diplomat (Oleg Smolenkov), couldn’t Democrats call him before Congress and compel him to testify about Putin’s role in the 2016 election? I mean, it’s clear to me why we were protecting him before, but, now that his identity is known, what’s stopping us from asking him in front of the American people about Putin’s desire to see Donald Trump in the White House? I suspect that would make for some compelling television prior to the 2020 election.

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There’s nothing more surreal than watching Donald Trump in North Carolina, where Republicans have been found guilty of voter fraud, talking about illegal voting by Democrats in California, absent any evidence at all

Back during the 2018 midterm elections, a Republican by the name of Mark Harris won North Carolina’s 9th congressional district. The results of that election, however, were never certified, as it came to light shortly after Election Day that Harris had hired a political operative (and convicted felon) by the name of Leslie McCrae Dowless, who helped secure the victory by illegally collecting absentee ballots from North Carolina voters and altering them to show support the Republican candidate. Well, as a result, there’s going to be a special election tomorrow, and a very desperate Donald Trump visited North Carolina’s 9th congressional district today to whip up enthusiasm for the Republican candidate, clearly afraid that another flipped seat in a red state like North Carolina could cause a great many more Republican incumbents to retire instead of seeking reelection in 2020. [So far, a staggering 19 Republicans in Congress have already said that they would not be seeking reelection in 2020.] And here’s the craziest part, while on stage at this rally in North Carolina today, Trump not only ignored the fact that he was literally there BECAUSE THE REPUBLICANS HAD BEEN FOUND GUILTY OF ATTEMPTING TO STEAL AN ELECTION, but he had the audacity to again make the absolutely unsubstantiated claim that “a lot of illegal voting (is) going on” in California. I know we’re in a post-truth world now, but damn, this is some next-level, through the looking glass shit right here.

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Ypsi Immigration Interview: Ingrid Ankerson

Yesterday evening, I had the pleasure of attending a housewarming party here in Ypsilanti for Washtenaw Community College graphic design instructor Ingrid Ankerson. Here, for those of you who haven’t already had the pleasure of meeting Ingrid, who just moved to Ypsi from Wisconsin — by way of Baltimore and Ann Arbor — is her official immigration interview.

[above: Ingrid printing on a Vandercook press at Signal Return in Detroit’s Eastern Market.]

MARK: So, why the move to Ypsi from Ann Arbor, where you’d been living the past several years?

INGRID: So, I feel like to explain why I moved to Ypsi, I have to start with my move to Ann Arbor. I moved there in 2010 with my now ex, who was offered a job at the University of Michigan. We’d met when we were both living in Baltimore. I loved Baltimore more than any place I’ve ever lived, but she was an academic, so we moved from Baltimore in 2001 to Madison, for her to get her PhD. Then we moved to Ann Arbor for her job.

MARK: If I had to guess, I’d say that there aren’t a lot of people who love Baltimore who also love Ann Arbor. They’re kind of opposites in my mind.

INGRID: They really are. Ann Arbor is lovely, but I just never felt like it was my scene, or my people. When my partnership ended three years ago, I had a lot of resentment about being “stuck” in a place that I didn’t choose. (I have an amazing job, and share custody of two kids, so moving back to Baltimore wasn’t in the cards.) But Ypsi has some of what I loved about Baltimore. It’s rough around the edges; the people are interesting and varied; it’s small, and it’s affordable. There’s an edgy urban vibe that I dig.

My best friend came to visit from Philly when I was at the precipice of moving here. I was still in Ann Arbor, and the two of us took the bus to Ypsi so I could show him the house I’d put an offer on, and show him around downtown. As soon as he got off the bus, he remarked with total clarity, “Ah, I see it. This makes sense for you.”

MARK: I didn’t know that you’d lived in Baltimore. It’s one of my favorite places. And I’ve always thought of it as being a kind of sister city to Ypsilanti. I think a lot of towns that I like share certain things in common: Ypsilanti, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, Savannah… but Baltimore is the one, I think, that comes the closest to capturing the spirit of Ypsilanti.

INGRID: Holy, yes! I feel, gosh, almost heartwarmed that you feel what I do. And all of these cities are spot-on connected in some way, and I love that you think Baltimore and Ypsilanti are especially related. I am imagining these now as actual sisters… and what a rad punk band they’d make. Baltimore is the lead. Ypsi on bass guitar.

[above: Ingrid at her summer job for six years in Baltimore City, selling live blue shell Maryland crabs from a truck on the side of the road.]

MARK: Coincidentally, Donald Trump, just this morning, said of Baltimore, “No human would want to live there.” [This was part of a racist attack against Representative Elijah Cummings.] I hesitate to think what he’d make of Ypsilanti.

INGRID: That would be a fun game, wouldn’t it? Trump tweets something about a place and we guess to which city he’s referring. I started imagining what he would say about Ypsilanti, and then I thought better of it. Instead, I’m just working on a name for this punk band. What do you think?

MARK: Well, as Trump’s racism is at the forefront of my mind at the moment, I’m going to suggest “Infested”, which is one of his favorite terms for communities of color… But maybe that’s too dark, not uplifting enough, etc. It is punk, though. And each of these cities that I noted are ones that Trump would, no doubt, slap that label on… I don’t know.

INGRID: Oh, I like this! Totally punk, and maybe it’s reclamation of the word. Maybe “The Infested.” I like it.

MARK: So, what was your first exposure to Ypsilanti. Do you remember the circumstances surrounding your first visit?

INGRID: I was invited to a happy hour after work at Sidetrack. At the time I had a 9 month old, a 2.5 year old, a new job, and a partner who just started working like 150 hours a week at U-M, so I was just moving around in a haze. That visit didn’t really stick, other than as an obligation.

And, prior to that, when we were moving to Michigan and looking at real estate, I’d been prepped — and I quote from some unknown source — “Ypsilanti is the Brooklyn to Ann Arbor’s Manhattan.” So, I didn’t much care to know about it because I wasn’t interested in living in Brooklyn.

But, as I met more and more people from Ypsi, and visited here more often, I realized it was its own weird little place.

MARK: Yeah, that “Brooklyn/Manhattan” thing always rubs me the wrong way. People who say it – and most of them, at least in my experience, have been Annarbourites – generally mean it to be complimentary, but there’s something weird about it… Maybe it’s that, by making the analogy, they’re painting Ann Arbor as Manhattan, which is hilarious.

INGRID: Wait, that’s how you spell Annarbourite? With the “ou”, or are you just adding that for lofty emphasis? What is someone from Ypsilanti?

MARK: We’re Ypsilantians, I think. As for my use of the term “Annarbourite”, I just like to use it as it sounds more pretentious. And, no, I didn’t make it up. When the city was founded by John Allen and Elisha Walker Rumsey back in 1824 , they registered the land in Wayne County as “Annarbour“. So, Annarbourite is not only pretentious, but historically accurate.

INGRID: I see.

MARK: Did I hear correctly that the house you just moved into had one entire room that was just a hot tub, and that you literally had to wade through it to get from one room to another?

INGRID: You are only incorrect in that you are using the past tense.

MARK: So, you’ve decided to keep it? Or have you just not yet figured out a way to get it out?

INGRID: It’s actually a very big jacuzzi tub, one that you empty the water out of every time. My hot water tank isn’t big enough to make it a “hot” tub, so I’ve been filling it with cool water for my kids, and we call it our indoor pool. They wear goggles and everything! I’m most definitely not keeping it, but it’s really low on my list of projects. On another floor, I have a big, dank closet with a shower head in it, so it’s… I don’t know… they go together.

[above: One of Ingrid’s two sons enjoys the indoor pool.]

MARK: Have there been any other big surprises since moving in, either about the house, or the City itself?

INGRID: I think the guys who finished my floors before I moved in were surprised to learn that, under the carpeting linoleum had been adhered to the wood floors with tar. I was a little surprised when I opened the dishwasher and the whole unit fell out. And my kids were both totally surprised by how disgustingly dirty the house was. (Said my eight-year-old at his first visit, “Mama… I have to go to the bathroom, but I really, really don’t want to do it here.”)

But it’s an old house that had been neglected, so I knew (and was excited about) what I was in for. As for the City, I’d spent so much time in Ypsi before moving here that it was just what I expected. Everything’s been perfect.

MARK: OK, let’s talk about where you come from. I see from your website that you grew up on a small farm in Wisconsin. What can you tell us about the farm? Given that it was situated in the largest cheese-producing state in the country, would I be right to assume that there were dairy cows involved?

INGRID: A fair presumption, as we were definitely surrounded by dairy farms. But, we had sheep. And one particular sheep that was Grand Champion at the county fair! Of course it wasn’t our sheep after the fair, because someone bought it for slaughter.

My dad grew up on a real Wisconsin dairy farm, where they churned their own butter, had horses for pulling the equipment, and didn’t have indoor plumbing. He even went to a one-room schoolhouse.

I think the move to farmland for my family (we moved from a small city when I was in the first grade) was a cure for my dad’s nostalgia. He had a job in Milwaukee as an accountant, and we moved within commuting distance of the city, into a real fixer-upper Victorian house, with a fixer-upper garage, and several fixer-upper sheds, and a fixer-upper barn. So I kind of grew up in a construction zone.

They got three sheep because they didn’t have time to mow the very large lawn. Eventually, my incredibly hard-working parents transformed the house back to its glory, and it’s now on the historic registry. Our three sheep turned into 50. And I took care of the lawn with a riding mower.

[above: A young Ingrid enjoying the company of Gladys, one of the original three sheep on her family farm.]

MARK: Have you been able to find a reliable local supplier of authentic cheese curds?

INGRID: It hasn’t even occurred to me to try because I promise you there are no authentic cheese curds outside of Wisconsin.

MARK: When I asked that question, I was imagining a guy walking by me on the sidewalk here in Ypsi, whispering “curds” under his breath, looking for ex-patriot Wisconsinites to deal small baggies of curds to. That thought made me happy… I don’t think we have a very large Wisconsin ex-pat community here, though.

INGRID: Well, now you are making me realize I would totally buy curds from this shady fellow. They sound legit.

I do have a really cool story about the one ex-pat I can think of. I’m on the sustainability committee at Washtenaw Community College, where I work, and I was looking for someone to help me with the task of encouraging people to bike or ride the bus to school instead of driving. Someone suggested I get in touch with this new librarian, Molly. So, I did, and she didn’t hesitate to join the committee.

Right away, at our first meeting, we had a hard time sticking to an agenda because we hit it off, and had a lot of other things to talk about. We both had two kids, we’d both been living in Ann Arbor for about the same amount of time, and we lived pretty close to each other. Turns out we also both lived in Madison, and within a one mile radius. Then, at some point, I mentioned that I grew up in Wisconsin and she lit up. “Where in Wisconsin?”, she asked.

I always hesitate at this point, wondering if I should mention the small town I’m actually from, or the larger town next door. So I went with the bigger of the two, saying “West Bend,” which is about the size of Ypsilanti. “No way!” she said, leaning way in, eyes super wide. “I’m from West Bend!”

This was super exciting… “I’m not actually from West Bend,” I said, “I’m from a nearby town of about 3,000…. Kewaskum!”

At this, she slams her hands down at the table and says, “My mom taught at Kewaskum!!!”

When I asked who her mom was, and she answered, and I burst into tears.

You know that teacher who was THE teacher who had the greatest impact on your life? Well, for me, that teacher was her mom. She was my middle school English teacher, and such an influence on me. In fact, in my longer bio, I actually reference her as someone from where my love of, and for, writing and design stems.

I’ve had a lot of blissful things happen to me in my life, but that moment was like divine intervention.

MARK: I was doing one of these immigration interviews not too long ago and it turned out that the woman I was talking with happened to have lived in Danville, Kentucky, near the Long John Silver’s that my parents and I would stop at on our way to visit my grandparents in the small town of Liberty… There were no tears, and our conversation kind of stopped there, but that’s as close as I’ve come to having experienced anything like that.

INGRID: Well, that’s still really amazing. I think a lot about how many people we brush by throughout the day are people with whom we might share an experience, a place, or a history.

MARK: OK, I tried to do a little research on Kewaskum, but I’m not finding much. If I’m ever passing through, is there any sites you’d recommend? Something of either historical or personal importance?

INGRID: I want so badly to elaborate on this! But, my answer is no.

OK, I’ve reconsidered. It really is beautiful. Rolling hills and farmland. You should drive through. The area is part of the Kettle Moraine, which is really quite beautiful and charming.

The house I grew up in is on a postcard. It’s just that pretty.

[above: Ingrid’s family farm on a Wisconsin postcard. She says the grass isn’t really blue. The card has just faded.]

MARK: What, if anything, do you miss most about life on the farm?

INGRID: I don’t miss much, but I did really enjoy the very large raspberry patch. To this day, I refuse to buy raspberries because they were so free and so plentiful for so much of my life. I had a very idyllic childhood in a very idyllic setting (never mind that it was, and still is, in the most conservitive county in the state), but I was desperate to leave the countryside since… well, I always imagined myself too cosmopolitan for a farm.

I mention in my bio that I grew up on a farm, not because I loved it or miss it, but because it is so embedded in my being, and my perspective. During my formative years, I saw creatures being born and dying all the time. I saw prolapsed sheep vaginas for crying out loud. I learned about, and witnessed birth and death, sex, abortion, agression, starvation, crazy things like lockjaw, the impact of weather and the climate, overpopulation…. all of this through the context of living with plants and animals. That sounds dark, but it was also insanely beautiful. I’m very thankful for this perspective.

I also learned about physical labor. Of course, as a kid, picking rocks from a field, or planting trees, or hauling poop in a wheelbarrow was the worst imaginable weekend ever. Today, I’m the first to sign up for this kind of work.

MARK: I know that, before moving here to Ypsi, you were a friend of Linette’s, but I’m not sure how you came to know one another. My sense is that maybe someone introduced you, seeing as how you’re both graphic designers… Is that what happened?

INGRID: Yes, that’s right. I teach graphic design at Washtenaw Community College, and I was looking for local designers to speak at an event for students going into the field. Ryan Molloy, my colleague over at Eastern Michigan University suggested that I talk with Linette, and I did. She mentioned, during our first discussion, that she was going to a PJ Harvey concert, and, naturally, all I really wanted from her after that was for her to be my friend.

MARK: I remember hearing about that event that you’d put on for aspiring graphic designers. If I’m not mistaken, Linette still talks with some of the young people she met that day… Is that something that you might do again?

INGRID: Yes! The event was with the Entrepreneurship Center at WCC; it was a bootcamp for people interested in getting into the Graphic Design business. There is definitely another one of these in the works, possibly happening a year from now. I’m so glad to know she’s still in touch with some of the people that she met. It’s fun to connect people who should have already been connected in the first place.

MARK: Outside of bringing working designers in to meet with students, what kind of work are you doing with your students at WCC?

INGRID: Well, I love the mission of the community college, and teaching at one is an honor. The classes I teach are mostly typography and publication design, but ultimately I hope I’m teaching students how to develop useful design skills and how then to go out and get a job.

At the start of the two-year program, we begin with the principles of design and typography and by the end, students have a portfolio of industry-relevant work, well-crafted resumes, knowledge about how to write a contract, and they’ve even practiced interviewing for jobs.

Sometimes I worry I put too much heart and emotional effort into teaching something that seems… I don’t know… fluffy… compared to working to remedy any one of the thousands of big issues on our planet. But I have to say, every time I send a student into the world, I get very emotional. So many of them step right out of our two year program and begin work. To know I’m helping make productive, self-sufficient people, who, on top of it all, know the difference between small caps and all caps is maybe the greatest work I am capable of.

In addition to teaching, I’m also co-chair of the Digital Media Arts Department at WCC, which includes Audio Technology, 3D Animation, Digital Video, Graphic Design, Photography, and Web Design/Development. With that comes a lot of paperwork. It also gives me the opportunity to interact with our part-time instructors, which, given the list of disciplines I just listed, means I get to interact with a lot of really talented people.

MARK: This is a complete aside, but I was just listening to Pod Save America yesterday, and, in a discussion about recent polls, and the 2020 race, they said that the whole thing could come down to Wisconsin. So, with that in mind… and I don’t mean to be rude by asking this… but would you consider moving back home for a while? Really, though, I’m curious to know what you think about the future of our country being in the hands of Wisconsinites.

INGRID: I have to tell you, when I was living and loving life in Baltimore, and it was decided we’d be moving to Wisconsin, I— and I am not exaggerating— immediately broke out in head to toe hives. I desperately didn’t want to go back. Mostly because I associated Wisconsin with ultra-conservative political views. Again, I grew up in the actual most Republican county in the state. Washington County. Look it up.

But we moved to the opposite end of that spectrum, Madison, where I remember being shockingly disappointed because everyone is so liberally like-minded there was nothing to banter about!

I got heavily involved with an LGBT organization in Madison that was fighting one of those “gay marriage amendments.” Remember those? So, through that, I became involved politically on a statewide level, and I really learned first-hand how interesting and independent Wisconsin voters are from county to county.

How do I feel about the future potentially being in Wisconsin’s hands? Insanely nervous. The approval rating for Trump there is… holy crap, I’m realizing this question has the potential to give me hives again.

MARK: I don’t want to make things worse for you, but, before we move on, I was just listening to an interview with Wisconsin Democratic Party Chair Ben Wikler, and I think it’s worth mentioning that, to a large degree, what we’ve seen play out in Wisconsin over the past several years is the result of a very deliberate plan to weaken unions, make it easier for corporations to give unlimited cash to candidates, and gerrymander district maps to the point where defeating conservative candidates is almost impossible. In other words, it’s not just that Wisconsin is full of rabid Trumpists… If you’d like to listen to the relevant portion of the conversation with Winkler, just jump forward to the 68:28-mark. I found it pretty eye-opening, when he ran through the litany of things that had been done under Governor Scott Walker.

INGRID: I left the state just before Walker was voted in as Governor, but I continued to follow politics there, and was aware of a lot of this. But to listen to Winkler’s, as you say, litany of atrocities is like being punched in the gut over and over, so thanks for that Mark.

I only worked alongside politics and politicians for a short while, but deeply enough that I was a delegate for Obama in 2008. I was so excited and optimistic then, but at the same time totally dismayed and distrustful of the system, the people in it, and the way everyone in it gets sucked into the system. Seeing it first hand was a real turn-off. But it’s the system we have, and it always has the potential to get better. Or worse. For sure, this cycle the DPW needs to raise a lot of money. I haven’t zero’ed in on my candidate yet, but I have donated to Wisconsin Dems.

MARK: OK, I promise no more politics… after I say this one last thing. If anyone reading this feels inspired, based on this conversation, to give a financial donation to the Wisconsin Dems just click here. OK, now back to the interview… So, Ingrid, what kind of kid were you?

INGRID: I was an easy kid, I kept myself entertained, I was well-liked, responsible, I was good at sports and did fine in school. I was a little different from a lot of the other kids in terms of the way I dressed (I mean, I still got everything at Kohls, it wasn’t that remarkable) and the way I wore my hair (never used a curling iron or hair spray). In high school some of the foreign exchange students thought I was one of them.

MARK: What’s your first memory?

INGRID: When I was about three (my mom says I was two, but this seems too early) I had to spend an overnight in the hospital to have all of my teeth capped. Apparently I had soft enamel? Of course now I’ve reached the age where all of my teeth are being capped again, because all the fillings are cracking. I brush my teeth, I swear.

Anyway. I had to spend the night in the hospital. I remember getting to the threshold of the room; it was so big and there was a television mounted to the wall. I had a darling, hard-cased overnight bag for the occasion. When I realized my mom planned to spend the night with me, I lost it. I was so excited to have, what seemed to me, an apartment to myself in the city, that I begged her to leave until she finally did. This story says a lot about who I am still today… I am a person who very much needs a room of her own.

[above: A young Ingrid with her brothers shortly after moving to the farmhouse.]

MARK: Do I understand correctly that you’re going to be setting up a letterpress operation here in Ypsi at some point?

INGRID: Yes! When I was in grad school at the University of Baltimore for creative writing and publication design, I learned about letterpress. It was love at first impression. (Letterpress people will get that.) One of my professors had two Vandercook presses IN HER HOME, and I absolutely couldn’t believe this could be possible. It was like I’d landed on a planet I couldn’t have even imagined, only it was real, and, like, normal for her.

This idea stuck with me as a one-day possibility. But, you know, life, and finances, and you need a very special space for a work/live letterpress studio.

Then my 18-year relationship ended, and, after a lot (a lot!) of spinning, and uncertainty, and mid-life re-imagining, I recalibrated and realized this was the opportunity to imagine my own planet. Christ, I don’t know how I got on this planet thing. I just wanted to move into a commercial space in downtown Ypsi. And I have. And I can live here, and I have just the right spot for the press.

MARK: So, do you have the press yet? And what do you intend to do with it? What’s your vision?

INGRID: I don’t. I have a lot of house projects that need to come first, and I’m going to try to be patient and get exactly the press I want. They weigh over 4,000 pounds and they’re very expensive, so I want to do it right. My long-term vision is that I use it for my personal art practice, occasionally offer workshops, and use it as a collaborative space with other printmakers. I’m working on creating a one-bedroom apartment within my house, so I can even imagine someone staying as an artist in residence.

But I don’t want it to be a business. For me, working on the press is a beautiful, meditative escape. I’d like to keep it that way.

MARK: One last thing… At your housewarming party last night, I saw this sign on the door out to your deck, and I was just wondering how it came about. Does one of your kids just happen to be really safety-minded, or did you assign the task of making warning signs prior to the party? And is it safe to assume that there were no fatalities after we left?

INGRID: Ha! It was a collaboration. The kids wanted to put up some signs of warning (they didn’t even all get made… fortunately everyone made it out of the bathroom without instructions for how to open the door from the inside) and of welcoming. I wanted him to include that it wasn’t safe for drunk adults, but he said I needed to do that.

And everyone stayed alive! So, the house has been warmed successfully. Thanks, Mark, for being a part of that.

[note: If you enjoyed this interview, and you’re curious as to why other people are moving to Ypsilanti, check out the Ypsilanti Immigration Interview archive.]

Posted in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Sharpiegate takes yet another turn, illustrating the threat to both science and reality under the Trump administration

Remember how we were talking a few days ago about Trump and his sharpie, and how, instead of just owning up to his misstatement about the path of Hurricane Dorian, he’d doubled down, restating the lie that he’d been told that the hurricane was headed for Alabama, and holding up a crudely doctored weather map to bolster his case? Well, a few things have happened since then that I think are worthy of discussion, as they demonstrate the extent to which science has been politicized under the rule of of Donald Trump.

First, it’s being reported by the Washington Post today that administrators within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued an internal directive on September 1, warning members of their staff not to contradict President Trump. This, for those of you might not remember the sequence of events, would have happened immediately after the National Weather Service office in Birmingham, Alabama, issued a statement saying that, contrary to what the people of Alabama may have heard, their state would “not see any impacts from Dorian”, as the hurricane would remain on the east coast.

As you’ll recall, Trump started all of this in motion last Sunday morning when he tweeted out that Alabama would “most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated” by Dorian, even though no forecasts at the time showed the storm system moving in that direction. And then he continued to talk about the threat posed to Alabama throughout the day, both online and in comments to the press. This, as you might expect, led several people to contact the National Weather Service office in Birmingham, which, in turn, led to the statement being issued about how Alabama would “not see any impacts from Dorian”. And that led to the NOAA internal missive being sent to about how our all-knowing leader should not be contradicted.

A NOAA meteorologist, who spoke with the Washington Post on the condition of anonymity, said, “This is the first time I’ve felt pressure from above to not say what truly is the forecast.” This meteorologist then added, “It’s hard for me to wrap my head around. One of the things we train on is to dispel inaccurate rumors, and ultimately that is what was occurring — ultimately what the Alabama office did is provide a forecast with their tweet. That is what they get paid to do.”

So, now we know that, after all of this transpired, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration instructed employees of the National Weather Service to remain silent in instances where the President might be wrong about forecasts… a policy which could, if you think about it, theoretically lead to the loss of life.

And, second, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued a public statement this past Friday, disavowing the National Weather Service tweet from earlier in the week, which told the people of Alabama that they were not in the path of the hurricane… Here’s that statement.

While the above document wasn’t credited to any one person at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, it would appear to have been authored by the agency’s Director of Communications, Julie Kay Roberts, who just happens to have served on Trump’s Inaugural Committee before securing the job at NOAA.

And that’s where we are today. Our weather agencies are being told by Trump appointees within their organizations not to share facts with the American people when they contradict statements made by Donald Trump. And those that do are being attacked.

Here are three of the best quotes I’ve found on this situation thus far.

This looks like classic politically motivated obfuscation to justify inaccurate statements made by the boss. It is truly sad to see political appointees undermining the superb, lifesaving work of NOAA’s talented and dedicated career servant.” -Jane Lubchenco, NOAA administrator under President Barack Obama

It makes me speechless that the leadership would put [Trump’s] feelings and ego ahead of putting out weather information accurately. If we’re politicizing the weather, what is there left to politicize? We’re seeing this kind of clamp down of scientists across the government, and it’s been an escalating trend.” – Michael Halpern, Union of Concerned Scientists deputy director

I have never been so embarrassed by NOAA. What they did is just disgusting. Let me assure you the hard working employees of the NWS had nothing to do with the utterly disgusting and disingenuous tweet sent out by NOAA management tonight.” – Dan Sobien, president of the National Weather Service’s labor union

Is any of this surprising? Not really… We’ve known that Trumpism was having a corrosive effect on reality. And we’ve known that science, under the Trump administration, was being politicized. [If you’ll recall, in 2018, there was a survey of scientists working within 16 federal agencies, and it demonstrated, the words of the Washington Post, “a culture of fear and self-censorship in an administration that has sidelined scientific evidence, especially as it related to climate change, in favor of political expediency.”] But this, at least in so far as I can remember, is the first really tangible example we have of federal scientists being ordered en masse to stand down as the President of the United States lies about non-existent threats, and that, I think, deserves to be noted… And the fact that all of this happened just because President Trump couldn’t accept responsibility for making mistake, is absolutely insane.

Oh, and it should be noted that, if this is happening to meteorologists, you can be damn sure it’s also happening to government economists.

One more thing… While many of us here in America are understandably obsessed by Sharpiegate, and what it tells us about both Trump’s incredibly fragile ego and the stranglehold he has on our government, the bigger story today is that thousands of human beings have lost their lives in the Bahamas. If you’re in a position to make a contribution, to help in the recovery efforts, here is a link to the America Red Cross.

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