A simple question about the proposed closing of the Ypsi Area Convention and Visitors Bureau

I’ve got a question for this Saturday morning… If the Ypsilanti Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (YACVB) were to be shut down, and all of their funds were to be handed over to the folks at the Ann Arbor Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (AAACVB), like many in Ann Arbor are conspiring to make happen, do you think the AAACVB would hire local Ypsi artists to create things like this?

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[The above billboard was commissioned by the YACVB and created by Ypsilanti’s very talented Caleb Elijah-Molejo Zweifler… perhaps better known to some of you as Nightman.]

Posted in Ann Arbor, Art and Culture, Uncategorized, Ypsilanti | Tagged , , , , | 17 Comments

Ypsi School Superintendent Benjamin Edmondson, vacation memories and complaints with my daughter Clementine, and all kinds of other awesome stuff …on tomorrow’s Saturday Six Pack

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After a few weeks off the air, The Saturday Six Pack will return tomorrow evening with an all new episode. Our first guest will be the new Superintendent of Ypsilanti Public Schools, Dr. Benjamin Edmondson, with whom we’ll be discussing the current state of K-12 education in Ypsilanti, the initiatives he’s already set in motion, and the path that brought him here, among other things… In addition to Dr. Edmonson, I’ll also be interviewing my 11 year old daughter Clementine. She and I will be talking about our recent road trip down south, and asking folks to call in with their own vacation stories, as well as questions. [We just returned a few hours ago from a trip to Savannah, Georgia that included stops at the “lost colony” of Roanoke, the Andy Warhol Museum, the archeological dig at Jamestown, an awesome taco shop in Asheville, and the shark-infested waters off Cape Hatteras.] This segment, I should add, will be preceded by a live cover of the Go-Go’s hit “Vacation” by Saturday Six Pack band leader Jim Cherewick… I’m also told that we’ll be joined at some point in the evening by a young producer of WICKidz Radio, which, like this show of mine, is broadcast from the studios of AM 1700 in Ypsilanti. Assuming this comes to pass, we’ll likely be discussing their next episode, which I’m told will feature an interview with immigrant transgender activist Jennicet Gutiérrez, who recently made headlines for disrupting a speech by President Obama at the White House, calling attention to the detention and deportation of gay, lesbian and transgender immigrants… And, as if that weren’t enough, we’ll also be talking with our friend Bee Roll about work being done to organize locally for Bernie Sanders, and local historian Matt Siegfried about what was going on in Ypsilanti in the 1860s… And it’s all fucking free. All you have to do is tune in this Saturday evening from the comfort of your own home. You don’t even have to put on any clothes.

If you’d like to tell your friends and neighbors about the program, feel free to share the Facebook event listing. Or, better yet, print out a few copies of the poster above, and head out tonight, nailing them to people’s front doors.

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

Unless you live really close by, 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. We love phone calls. So please scratch this number into the cinder block wall of the recreation room of whichever facility you’re doing time in… 734.217.8624… and call us between 6:00 and 8:00 this Saturday evening. If we don’t get at least one call per show, we feel really bad about ourselves. [Personally, I can deal with it. I’m not so sure about Clementine and Jim, though. I think they might be devastated if no one calls.]

Posted in Education, History, The Saturday Six Pack, Uncategorized, Ypsilanti | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

The Festival of the Honey Bee, and the campaign to make Ypsi more pollinator-friendly

A few weeks ago, the Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation awarded a grant to local bee activist Jamie Berlin to help ensure that Ypsilant’s Festival of the Honey Bee can continue on into the future. Following is my discussion with Jamie about how the festival came about, what we can expect from this year’s event, and why bees are so damned important.

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MARK: So will this be the second or third annual Festival of the Honey Bee?

JAMIE: The third! Our first event was in 2013.

MARK: And what was the impetus behind that first one?

JAMIE: It got started out of a desire to engage community awareness about bees more broadly, beyond the Ypsi Melissa bee stewardship project that I’d launched in the spring of 2013. I wanted to increase awareness about pollinators, honey bees, native bees, etc., and the role they play in the beauty and abundance we experience everyday. Much of the natural beauty we see, and the delicious, nutritious foods we eat, so many things that add pleasure and joy to our lives, can be linked to pollinator service. Pollinators are beautiful, fascinating creatures that deserve respect and appreciation. So the main goal, right from the start, has been getting that message out.

HoneyBee3MARK: And what else were you hoping to accomplish?

JAMIE: I wanted to start to redefine the relationship between humans and bees, positively–through appreciation, celebration, and creative expression. The festival helps by holding space for this activity in our community. Within the current climate, the majority of honey bees in the US are utilized commercially for pollination services, which means they are subject to a high-stress life, being trucked across the country, only to pollinate toxic fields. So the current system is largely exploitative. Fortunately, many people across the country and world are working for positive change, and the intention of the festival is to be part of that change.

MARK: I wasn’t aware that corporate farms just trucked in bees as they were needed. I assumed that they just maintained hives year-round to pollinate their crops.

JAMIE: And that’s how it used to be, about a hundred years ago–we have descriptions from civil war journals. Anyone who had a farm had bees; hives were prolific; people used wax and honey to pay rent. When beeswax was such an essential part of technology, before plastic and electric lights, homesteads kept bees as a matter of course.

MARK: What can you tell us about your bee stewardship project, Ypsi Melissa? Would I be right to assume that, primarily, you’re setting people up with hives and teaching them how to care for them? Is there more to it than that?

JAMIE: Ypsi Melissa started in 2013 with the aim of “Helping people help bees.” The goal has been to increase access to bee stewardship opportunities for folks in our community who are concerned about the pollinator crisis and who want to make a positive impact, but who may not want to go as far as beekeeping. Bee stewardship opportunities include a honeybee hive host program, bee garden consultation, beekeeping mentoring, pollinator advocacy, and various educational events. The hive host program has been the most popular. As hive hosts, folks offer space in their yard for a beehive and receive increased pollination and a honey share, while Ypsi Melissa does the hive care. Some folks have made the transition from being a hive host to learning beekeeping after experiencing what it’s like to have a hive in the yard. All the beekeeping I do is natural, which in this case means that I do not introduce chemical treatments into the hive. I am a bee-centered beekeeper and someone who will seek practical, innovative solutions.

IMG_3720MARK: Where did the name Ypsi Melissa come from?

JAMIE: Melissa means honey bee in Greek, so that’s part of it. It also carries the idea of a woman in devotion to bees, such as the Melissae in ancient Greece. That’s why I chose it, because it carries that sense of devotion. And I added Ypsi to attach it to place, and with our Greek heritage here, it seemed a nice fit.

MARK: How did you come to be interested in bees?

JAMIE: In June of 2009, I saw the PBS program, “The Silence of the Bees.” Although the program had aired in 2007, it was the first I had heard about Colony Collapse Disorder, and I was completely shocked. Around the same time, Normal Park Beekeeper Lisa Bashert was cited with a violation for keeping bees in her yard, and she mounted a campaign to overturn the classification of honeybees as nuisance animals. I supported her campaign with public comment at City Hall, and, in November of 2009, a beekeeping ordinance was passed for the city of Ypsilanti. The following spring, Lisa and Corrine Sikorski of the Ypsilanti Food Co-op started The Local Honey Project, their volunteer driven beekeeping project. I joined so I could learn more about bees, but also just to do something to help. I had no intention of becoming a beekeeper, launching a project, or anything at that point. I was working on my master’s thesis in Literature at EMU, and it was nice to have a distraction that was purely experiential, almost meditative. However, it wasn’t too long until I fell in love with the bees!

HoneyBee1MARK: And what is it that you love about bees… other than the fact that they’re responsible for a good deal of the food that we eat?

JAMIE: They’re cute, first of all. Some people think they look like teddy bears. And they’re fascinating–their world, the way they cooperate, make decisions, everything–it’s just so fascinating, and has such a beautiful sense to it. I came to admire them. There’s a famous quote that I found to be true… “The life of bees is like a magic well, the more you draw from it, the more it fills with water.” This was said by Karl von Frisch, a German bee researcher working during the mid-twentieth century, who first observed the waggle dance that bees use to communicate about rich forage sources. The more I learned, the more I became a passionate advocate for bees, first honey bees, then native bees, and now I’m becoming interested in butterflies. With the pollinators experiencing unsustainable declines annually for a decade, and with an abundance of potential opportunities for partnerships that will serve the community, the ecosystem, and the pollinators, it feels like very important work. Already this year, amazing things have developed, such as the success of the Bee City USA campaign and the new teaching apiary being launched at the Ypsilanti Township Civic Center. Additionally, this year Ypsi Melissa has taken the plunge, transitioning from being a community project to a non-profit corporation, so there will be changes in the way stewardship opportunities are offered in the future. The plan is to introduce membership levels for folks to select, based on their needs and interests. It’s exciting because it should open the horizon for expanding local access to bee stewardship opportunities and education in our community, as well as access to grants and other funding.

HoneyBee5MARK: And what can you tell us about this year’s Festival of the Honey Bee?

JAMIE: This year’s Festival of the Honey Bee is September 4, 5, & 6, and promises three days packed full of celebrating bees, with something for all ages. Friday kicks off the weekend with the First Fridays Ypsilanti Art Walk, featuring bee art at participating locations for the month of September. Last year, thanks to First Fridays, there were over 12 venues, with chalk art, music, bee costumes, balloon animals (bees, of course), special menus and more! Saturday is about education, and we will be hosting activities for children and adults at the downtown library. In the morning, kids can learn how bees make wax and gather pollen and nectar, their importance for pollination, and all about being a beekeeper, plus taste fresh honeycomb. In the afternoon, we’ll host Dr. Meghan Milbrath, honeybee researcher, coordinator of the Michigan Pollinator Initiative at MSU, and beekeeper of 20 years who focuses on healthy bees and raising local queens. We are pleased to have her as a guest speaker and grateful for our continued partnership with the Ypsilanti District Library. Sunday features the Bike2Bees urban hive bike tour and the Bee Bazaar vendor fair, both based at ABC Microbrewery (Corner Brewery). The bike tour departs and ends at the brewery and features different hive styles with bee yard sites changing year to year. The route is under 5 miles and intended for all fitness levels. It’s a great way to get inspired and see other local bee yards. For Sunday’s Bee Bazaar, we’re excited to partner with ABC Microbrewery again and offer festival goers the chance to enjoy an Ypsi honey beer created especially for the event. Vendors will be on hand with handicrafts, beekeeping equipment, t-shirts, candles, balms, local honey, and lots more. Last year we had a hive raffle, observation hive, door prizes, and a honey harvest demonstration, and we‘ll be featuring similar events this year. For updates, folks should check our Facebook page.

HoneyBee2MARK: The First Fridays tie-in, I think, is really cool. How’d it come about, and how has it evolved over time?

JAMIE: First Fridays hosted the first ever festival Bee Art Show at Bona Sera, September 6, 2013. First Fridays as an organization has grown exponentially since then, and last year FF took on all the outreach and invited all their venues to participate. The result was awesome! Venues like Bona Sera, Beezy’s, and the Riverside Arts Annex, among others, put on amazing, thought-provoking shows. It was a delight to see all the ways artists had been inspired by bees. And it was awesome how the event gave birth to new events within the community. A Honey Bee Bar Crawl happened, thanks to artist Brian Little, and hopefully that will continue over time, folks adding their own creations. I’ve been interested for a long time to add more performance art and / or poetry to the festival, so if anyone has an interest in that area,– or would like to volunteer, submit art, be a vendor, (or find out more information about any aspect of the upcoming festival), please email me at festivalofthehoneybee@gmail.com. We’re looking forward to another year of successful partnerships with First Fridays, the Ypsilanti District Library, and ABC Microbrewery, and excited about new collaborations from the community. Interested individuals, organizations, and businesses should reach out and ask about getting involved.

MARK: You just recently received a $1,000 grant from the Ann Arbor Awesome foundation. What will that money allow you to do?

JAMIE: The Awesome grant will be used to fund 1) printed promotional materials like festival postcards, brochures, posters, and banners, 2) our 2015 festival logo designed by a local artist, and 3) our 2015 festival T-shirts, which we always have done at VGKids. Having the festival T-shirts fully funded will be huge, as it will allow us to recuperate the money earned for investment in next year’s festival, and will set us on a path to financial independence. Building on this, we hope to add enhanced festival offerings in the future, such as adding nationally-known educational speakers and/or artists/performers.

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[This year’s Festival of the Honey Bee will be held across Ypsilanti on the weekend of September 4.]

Posted in A2Awesome, Environment, Food, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

The gay agenda, the Huron River, and the Dirty Mooney… on episode 21 of The Saturday Six Pack

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I knew going in that this show could be a mess.

In addition to the requisite six pack, I’d asked our friend Brigid Mooney to come in and show us how to make her signature cocktail, the Dirty Mooney, which, as it turns out, is pretty much just straight gin with a hint of Sprite. And, on top of that, I thought that I’d bring a few bottles of champaign into the studio, just in case the rain cleared up, and people in the audience might want to walk down to the station and share a toast to marriage equality. [The last show, as you may recall, was broadcast the day after the historic Supreme Court decision.] Given the combination of things being consumed, I knew that bad things could happen. I don’t think, however, I appreciated just how far off the rails things could go. [To give you some sense of how bad things got, I have a vague recollection of talking with Beth Bashert and Eric Wozniac about what kinds of animals we’d like to marry now that we’d started down the slippery slope with gay marriage.]

For what it’s worth, it wasn’t my fault. My initial guests didn’t drink as much as I’d anticipated, so I ended up having to drink more of the six pack than I’d planned to. Then, Brigid Mooney refused to serve me any less than a full Dirty Mooney, which is essentially a pint glass filled to the brim with cheap gin. [She said I needed to experience the drink the way that it was intended, and wouldn’t let me take just a sip.] And, as the random gay listeners who I thought might stop by never materialized, either due to the rain, or because they had better ways to celebrate the momentous occasion than by listening to AM radio, I ended up drinking at least three-quarters of a bottle of champaign myself.

Given all of this, and the fact that a week has now passed since the show aired, my memory of what transpired is a bit foggy. So, I’m going to break with tradition and not post a full accounting of the entire show. Instead, I thought that I’d just share a few of photos taken by AM 1700 staff historian Kate de Fuccio, and the official synopsis shared on Facebook by station owner Brian Robb… Here’s how Brian summed it up.

In the first hour, Laura Rubin from the Huron River Watershed Council comes by to chat about all the great microbreweries that get their water from the Huron River. Local landlord Hedger Breed pops in to declare Ypsilanti not dangerous enough anymore. In the second hour, Mark and Patrick Elkins read a radio drama that is clearly longer than six minutes. Then mixologist Brigid Mooney finally shows the members of the studio audience her Dirty Mooney. To cap it all off, in a special-edition third hour, Mark gets super-drunk in the name of marriage equality as he pops champagne corks with Beth Bashert and Eric Wozniak as they plot what’s next on the gay agenda.

Our first guest, as Mr. Robb mentioned above, was Laura Rubin from the Huron River Watershed Council (HRWC). I was, for the most part, coherent during our discussion… which was really quite fascinating. Here Rubin is telling me about the condition of the Huron River 50 years ago, when the HRWC first came into being, and all of the work done since to get us to where we are today.

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Then, local landlord Hedger Breed dropped by to explain what he meant when he said publicly not too long ago that, if Ypsi continued on its current trajectory, he’d have to find somewhere less safe and boring and call home. If I’m not mistaken, this shot was taken just after our lengthy discussion of antique books, when he refused to divulge details about an epic Ypsilanti karate battle he’s rumored to have been involved in.

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During the 7:00 hour, Patrick Elkins and Aimee Adams were supposed to come by to perform a radio drama about a fundamentalist baker who, forced against his will to produce a gay wedding cake, cried into his buttercream frosting, causing a chemical reaction to take place which resulted in dozens of gay wedding guests acquiring super powers. Plans changed abruptly, however, when Adams made the last-minute decision to honor a work commitment rather than climb the stairway to stardom on AM radio. So, instead, Elkins and I read an old play that he and Adams had written together. [For what it’s worth, I believe their play did more to cloud my mind than the Dirty Mooney to follow.]

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And then Brigid came in to tell us how she’d chipped her tooth, and give us a lesson in how to properly mix and serve Dirty Mooneys.

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Then, Beth Bashert and Eric Wozniak came in to partake in Dirty Mooneys, talk about marriage equality, and assist me in draining a few bottles of champaign. Calls were made and received, tears were shed, and much fun was had. One day I will listen to the recording, but I can’t now. It’s just too soon.

Here’s Bashert talking about the road to marriage equality, and all the victories and setbacks along the way, including our local battle against Dominos founder Tom Monaghan.

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And here’s Wozniak sharing his thoughts on what the Supreme Court decision might mean to young LGBT kids coming of age today, even if they’re single, never want to marry, etc.

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AND NOW YOU CAN LISTEN TO THE WHOLE LOVELY MESS YOURSELF… Just find yourself a nice, quite spot; pour a six pack, a bottle of gin, and a bottle of champaign together in a large bucket; hit play; and submerge your head.

Thanks, as always, to AM 1700 for hosting the show, Brian Robb for running the board and keeping the bills paid, and Kate de Fuccio for documenting everything that happens. [All the photos above come courtesy of 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.

Posted in Art and Culture, The Saturday Six Pack, Uncategorized, Ypsilanti | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Jeb Bush hands round one to Bernie Sanders, telling struggling Americans to stop complaining and work harder

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The painfully out-of-touch Jeb Bush could not have set Bernie Sanders up any better if he’d tried when he told the editorial board of a New Hampshire newspaper a few days ago that Americans needed to work longer hours. Sanders, as you might expect, didn’t waste any time firing back. His succinct yet brilliant response, which began “Unfortunately, Governor Bush does not seem to understand what is happening in our economy today,” can be seen above… Is it really any wonder Berine’s surging in the polls?

[This message is brought to you by Ypsi for Bernie. If you haven’t joined yet, now’s your chance.]

Posted in Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

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