Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Seen in Ann Arbor

Touchy subject

A college friend pointed this out: Bill Richardson's campaign is comparing its candidate to Appalachian State in a new fundraising e-mail. That hits a raw nerve for a lot of U-M alumni — which doesn't seem like a good idea, with Michigan holding the earliest primary this year. Then again, this is the candidate who always manages to piss off potential supporters for no apparent reason.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Obligatory Google keywords post

I think everyone who has a blog has done this post, but hey, it's fun. I was just looking through my Google Analytics, and it shows the hundreds of keywords people have used on search engines to find my blog. Here are some of my favorites:
  • "christopher hitchens" dated anna wintour (note: there are like seven variations on this)
  • "david boyle" "gadfly"
  • donn m. fresard detroit free press liberal
  • human ingenuity
  • obsessively highlight text as you read
  • how does the media portray emos?

Sunday, September 2, 2007

And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout

Since yesterday, I've put up with a lot of (warranted) gloating from non-Michigan friends.

Go ahead, have your fun with us. But have a little mercy, too.

Consider this: According to a friend who called me last night from Ann Arbor, Welcome Week festivities have effectively ended three days early. The student ghettos are eerily quiet; the undergrads have lost their stomach for jungle juice and beer-bonged Natty Light. This, on the school year's most celebrated week for house parties and bar-hopping.

It's like if Spongebob SquarePants died on Halloween, and all of America's prepubescents decided they weren't in the mood for free candy.

I haven't seen it, but I believe it. And if you're a college student or recent graduate, you know how sad it is. It cuts to the heart of how Michigan football fans feel right now.

So, non-Michigan fans, feel free to throw Appalachian State at us in all future trash-talking. That's fair. But this week it's just cruel. So ease up a bit, would you?

Friday, August 31, 2007

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

This could be bad

Ann Arbor is thinking about shutting down the Studio 4 nightclub after a stabbing this past weekend, and Joan Lowenstein says the city is "concerned" about pretty much every clubby bar in the city.

Seems like City Council is just posturing here, but the focus on Studio 4 is a little troubling -- maybe I'm being oversensitive, but won't students of color take issue if the city singles out that bar?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Best testimony ever

If you're not following this recent trial proceedings in the former Detroit cops' lawsuit against the mayor, you really should be.

Of all the salacious details, this is my favorite so far:

Ex-Detroit cop Walter A. Harris Jr. testified the mayor "chuckled" when the winter wind blew open the fur and revealed that the woman was otherwise naked.

Here's another good one:

Also today, a female Detroit police officer testified that the mayor urged her at a party "to take care of my boy" -- a reference to his friend, Bobby Ferguson.

"I thought it meant in a sexual way or date him or give him what he
wanted," said Officer Cathy Wright.

Someone is paying me to blog?

Good news for me: I got a fellowship with the Center for Independent Media's upcoming Michigan site. This changes my plans for the fall. Let's hope the Center for Independent Media likes blog posts about obscure sea creatures.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Online thoughts

Poynter has a new political website called PolitiFact. Seems pretty cool. Here's how its creator describes it:

The site is a simple, old newspaper concept that’s been fundamentally redesigned for the web. We’ve taken the political “truth squad” story, where a reporter takes a campaign commercial or a stump speech, fact checks it and writes a story. We’ve taken that concept, blown it apart into it’s fundamental pieces, and reassembled it into a data-driven website covering the 2008 presidential election.

The whole site is inspired by Adrian Holovaty’s manifesto on the fundamental way newspaper websites need to change. Adrian’s main theme was that certain kinds of newspaper content have consistent pieces that could be better served to the reader from a database instead of a newspaper story. I built PolitiFact with that in mind.

I've been thinking lately along sort of similar lines about online journalism, especially at the local level. For example, I'd like to see a good Detroit-focused Wiki. It could be a nice feature for one of the Detroit papers' websites. The way I see it, if you were reading a story on charter schools and, say, Sharon McPhail's name came up, a link would take you to a page with detailed background information on her. So you could see, among other things, that she presented Dave Bing with a "Sambo Award" for working with Robert Thompson on his charter schools proposal.

Bias and vandalism could be a problem, obviously, but there would be ways to prevent them. Reporters could write at least some of the entries, and they'd be expected to update entries related to their beats on a regular basis. (Reporters constantly find out things that don't end up in their stories. Wikipedia requires that all information be cited to a published article -- "no original research" is a central rule -- but maybe facts added by reporters would have special status.) And newspaper staffers could pre-approve user changes if necessary.

Then again, I spend a lot of time doing aimless research on Google and Wikipedia, and I suspect most people don't. So I could very well be overestimating the audience for something like this.

Apparently some crooked fuckers broke into my sea lab yesterday

I was hoping I could work downtown all summer without having my car broken into. No such luck. Someone decided last night to trade me his chunk of concrete for my iPod. Come back later for pictures.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Bloggy stuff

Just wanted to thank the people at BlogNetNews Michigan for listing my blog on their front page. Check it out — it's a really nice aggregator of Michigan blogs.

UPDATE: Apparently I'm the 15th most influential political blogger in Michigan. That's ... kind of pathetic.

Friday, August 24, 2007

MSU: Worst of the Big Ten

I don't normally go in for Spartan bashing, but this one is too good to pass up. TNR's Jon Chait (a U-M and Michigan Daily alum) points out this great Radar feature on America's worst colleges. Michigan State is highlighted on the first page as the Worst of the Big Ten:

It's not surprising that this hard-drinking football school hasn't made it to the Rose Bowl since 1988: Much of its student body seems to be in jail. ... Mix MSU's licentious ways with notoriously high acceptance rates and low SAT scores, and you get the school ranked dead last among the Big Ten.

Go to Chait's post on the Plank for more fun.

You're twisting my melon, man

Music video of the day:

Happy Mondays — "Step On" (Pills 'n' Thrills and Bellyaches, 1990)

So last night's storm

... was pretty wild. Power is out in Grosse Pointe, and this is what's going on in my backyard:

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Off message

John Edwards's campaign is using "Throw the Bums Out" as the slogan for its petition demanding that federal candidates stop accepting money from lobbyists.

Unfortunate choice of words for someone running on an anti-poverty platform, don't you think?

Dr. Ellie Sattler: We can make it if we run. Muldoon: No, we can't.

Scientists have proven what we knew intuitively all along — dinosaurs were scary fast:
"Our research, which used the minimum leg-muscle mass T-rex required for movement, suggests that while not incredibly fast, this carnivore was certainly capable of running and would have little difficulty in chasing down footballer David Beckham, for instance," said Phil Manning, a paleontologist at the University of Manchester, who worked on the study.

Detroit's Dally in the Alley

... is happening Sept. 9 this year. In case you don't know, it's an annual block party/art festival with vendors and live music near the Wayne State campus (here's a map). You can get more info on the Dally here. I haven't been there before, but after attending Fourth Street Fair this summer (my photos and impressions of the fair are here), I'm pretty excited to check it out. Let me know if you want to come along. [via MotorCityRocks]

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

More good Michigan media news (plus, a launch party!)

Michigan doesn't have a particularly robust media market, so if you're into local journalism, you should be encouraged by two recent developments.

First, the Center for Independent Media is getting ready to launch Michigan's first serious state-focused Web publication. The center already runs left-leaning, investigative sites in Minnesota, Colorado and Iowa, and those sites have been breaking big stories, hiring "real" journalists and earning glowing reviews since they went online last year. Michigan needs a more diverse media landscape, and CIM has a great track record so far, so it's very exciting news. (Full disclosure: I'm in the running for a fellowship with the Michigan site.)

Also, in case you haven't noticed, Detour, an online music/film/culture magazine based in Royal Oak, launched in May. It's not focused on Michigan, but it seems pretty cool so far, and it could provide some good opportunities for arts writers in the area. Plus, its editor-at-large is Johnny Loftus, the former Metro Times music editor and Pitchfork reviewer. Loftus is a great writer, and he has the coolest byline in Metro Detroit. Even more impressive, according to his blog, he has an awesome Swedish rock bassist girlfriend. Clearly, the guy is a bad-ass, and Detour is a site to watch. They're throwing a three-day launch party in late September, so check that out, too. [via MotorCityRocks]

I want to move to Sweden

... after looking over The Sartorialist's recent blog posts from Stockholm. The people and the city just look awesome. Yeah, I'm shallow like that.

Good news for the Freep

I don't watch a lot of local TV news, so I was disappointed when M.L. Elrick left the Free Press to report for WDIV in January 2006. Elrick's and Jim Schaefer's exposés on Kwame Kilpatrick during his first term were some of the best Detroit investigative pieces in recent memory. So I was glad to see his byline start appearing in the Freep again last Sunday.

If you're curious about what's going on, here's what Elrick told me in an e-mail yesterday:

Two years ago WDIV contacted me with an intriguing opportunity. After many discussions with the news director, I made the very difficult decision to leave the free press to join the station as an investigative reporter. As much as I loved the free press, I was looking for a new challenge. And, boy, did I get it! The thing about TV is that the stuff you think will be easy is hard. And then there’s the stuff you didn’t even know about, which can be even harder! With some help from colleagues and friends, I knuckled down and tried to be the best television reporter I could be. By the time I left, I wasn’t the best, but I felt like I did OK. I won two Michigan Emmys and gained the respect of my colleagues. And that feeling is mutual. It wasn’t until I joined WDIV that I learned just how hard television reporters and photographers work. When it comes to getting daily news done, they may be the hardest working people in journalism. At the free press I look forward to using my energies to tackle challenging stories as well as help the paper improve its video journalism (which is already pretty good!). And I hope to do work that will honor the example set by Neal Shine, whose passing really made me miss being a newspaperman so much I began actively exploring a return to print.