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.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Don't worry about Rick's

Rumors have been spreading this summer that Rick's, the premier trashy upperclassmen's bar in Ann Arbor, lost its lease and is closing or moving to somewhere near Necto. According to sources close to Rick's, there's no truth to them — in fact, the owners just recently signed a 10-year extension on the lease. Just thought it was important to clear this up.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

More pranks, please

Alyse links to a Ms. Pacman-themed music video. I'll take this opportunity to plug the UM Patriots' excellent Pacman video (read Forest Casey's Daily story on the group here.)

Anyone hear anything on whether they're going to be around in the fall? I'm a huge fan of elaborate college pranks, and I think there aren't nearly enough of them at Michigan. Hopefully after UM Patriots' successes last year, we'll at least start seeing some good copycats.

Probably the best college prank I've seen, by the way, is "Lecture Musical" by this group out of Columbia. It's a really impressive, elaborate effort, and it's executed perfectly. I also like the professor's reaction. "Start-Up Sound" is pretty good, too.

Anyone at Michigan think they can do better? I'm looking at you, Royal Lions.

Speaking of bad-ass ...

I liked this quote from Wings coach Mike Babcock on Dallas Drake:

"He's not going to be happy on the fourth line; he is going to want someone's job -- I love that. ... I believe, in life in general, people are put out to pasture too early -- the Detroit Red Wings don't believe in that. Dallas has a lot of hockey left in him. When you talk to him, you get excited because he's that passionate. He's going to be great."

Read the rest of the story for some good updates on the Wings' lines for next season.

Oh, Detroit drivers

Getting off the Lodge on my way to work today, I saw someone drive the wrong way at least 30 yards down a one-way street -- in reverse. How bad-ass is that?

Friday, August 17, 2007

Want to marvel at human ingenuity?

I never knew this: The International Space Station is visible to the naked eye. It's in low Earth orbit, so it's only in the sky for a few minutes at a time. According to this guy, recent hardware additions have made it easier to see, and it's especially bright now because Endeavour is docked at the station shiny-side down.

If this sort of thing gets you geeked up like it does me, go here to find out when the station will be visible from your city. (The next sighting from Detroit is tomorrow at 10:18 p.m.) The shuttle will be coming back to Earth in a few days (as usual, NASA still doesn't know exactly when), so try to catch it soon.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

David Boyle, fixture of the netroots

An American Spectator writer, in a roundup of embarrassing comments by lefty bloggers at the YearlyKos convention, found this gem by the always-bizarre David Boyle:

"St. Augustine's heavenly 'City of God' is not wholly different from the 'City of Kos' or the 'City of Blog' that the orange (not clockwork) cooperative 'we' blog Daily Kos is." Boyle writes. "The blog is just too progressive not to be redolent of something higher."

If you don't know Boyle, it's hard to describe how weird he is. The unofficial style at the Daily for describing him is "Ann Arbor gadfly." I think he's the only Arbor Update blogger ever to be kicked off the site. Check out his music video and mp3s (songs include "George W. Pussy" and "Arafat May Never Die" here.

Chauncey Bailey's Detroit memorial service and funeral Mass

... is 6 p.m. tomorrow at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament on Woodward. It's open to the public. I don't know if Cardinal Maida will celebrate the Mass, but either way, it's worth attending. (For more on Bailey, see these posts.)

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Hitchens on Anna Wintour

Ben just directed me to this YouTube video where some guy runs across Christopher Hitchens on the street and asks him what Anna Wintour was like in the the '70s. It's pretty awesome. I had no idea they'd dated, but this Guardian piece confirms it.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Screw The New Republic ...

I want to work for Us Weekly. What could be more satisfying than crafting lines like "Britney Spears is on a tramp-age!"?

Bad news for awkward-looking aquatic mammals

The Chinese Yangtze river dolphin has been declared extinct, making it the first large vertebrate to die off in half a century. Who would've guessed this guy might have a hard time adapting to human fishing activity:

Seriously, though, it's a blow to those of us who like our large aquatic populations bio-diverse. (via Mark Maynard)

Friday, August 10, 2007

Facebook group of the day (or: How stupid is Leon Drolet?)

Group name: Prop #2 is the best thing in Michigan since sliced bread
Type: Student Groups - Political Groups
Members: 96
Description: Everyone that is happy that the minorities finally stop complaining and are now considered equal to whites then join this group because this is how i feel. So join the group if your happy about it cause I know I am. Also if your mad about every interview against prop 2 is from some minority asshole that has a dumb ass name that you know is foreign by looking at it

Must be some kind of a parody by left-leaning tricksters, right? No respectable Michigan Civil Rights Initiative supporter would ever be dumb enough to join such an objectionable group.

Oh, wait:

Yes, that's the Leon Drolet, former statewide chair of the MCRI, and now chair of a state panel on civil rights.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

What's wrong with young Republicans?

The recently elected chair of the Young Republican National Federation is under investigation for, uh, violating a sleeping male Young Republican after a house party for the group (via Michigan Conservative Dossier).

This comes a few weeks after Michael Flory, the former Michigan Young Republicans chair, pleaded guilty to raping a college student at a national YR convention. At least he was sorry:

The teary-eyed college student he overpowered in a downtown hotel room gasped and dabbed her eyes as Flory replied to Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Peter Corrigan's question, "Are you indeed guilty?"

"Sure - yeah," Flory said.

It's a little cliched to accuse the Republicans of hypocrisy for this stuff. But like with Justin Zatkoff -- who isn't a sexual predator, but is a loudmouthed idiot who is animated entirely by venom toward the left -- you have to wonder about the people who elected these guys. I can't help feeling that there's something a little off about the GOP's young activist base, or at least about the character traits they look for in their leaders.

Barry Bonds

This column by Daily alum Mike Rosenberg is probably the best I've seen about Bonds. I also liked this earlier, 300-word piece by Rosenberg — it doesn't say anything that's not in the more recent one, but it's still worth reading for the impressive word economy and the nice Simon and Garfunkel reference.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

One more Chauncey Bailey post

On Slate, Hitchens weighs in on Your Black Muslim Bakery:

Now, again, I am just asking, but what if this racket had been named the White Christian or Aryan Nations Cookie Parlor? (Motto and mission statement: "Don't F*** With Us.") I think that Oakland's mayor, Ron Dellums—who I was startled to find was still alive—would have joined a picket line around the store (as would I). The same would doubtless have been true of Rep. Barbara Lee, in whose district the YBMB was situated. But instead, in its role as a "community business," the YBMB enjoyed warm support and endorsement from both the mayor and the congresswoman. And the guns for past and future slayings were inside the store.

I think he skates a little too close to equating YBMB and the Nation of Islam with Islam proper. And it's a little hysterical to suggest that this sort of thing is about to start happening in cities across America. Still, he does make some good points. There's something very wrong with the fact that YBMB operated openly and with the support of the Oakland establishment.

Apple channels Patrick Bateman

Maybe it's just me, but the first thing I thought of when I saw this ad was American Psycho.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Attn. national media: Nothing on Facebook means anything

There's been a lot of buzz today about how Rudy Giuliani's daughter Caroline, a Harvard pre-frosh, belonged to a pro-Barack Obama Facebook group. The national news outlets have taken this as an endorsement, and another sign that Rudy's kids hate him.

OK, maybe. But here's the thing: What people say in their Facebook profiles isn't necessarily true. Especially among neurotic, pseudo-intellectual East Coast types, it's common to select fake interests and groups, usually as an expression of irony or a reference to some inside joke. People who Facebook this way tend to dramatically change their interests and groups on a whim, which is another way to signal that they're to be taken with a grain of salt.

(The media usually portray Facebook and MySpace as signs that our generation's narcissism has obviated our sense of privacy, but the reality is that young people withold far more than they reveal about themselves on social networks. Irony is just one popular method. I'm reminded of an older guy who added me as a Facebook friend recently -- his profile was completely sincere and exhaustive. It was striking because it was nothing like any college student's profile I've seen.)

With Caroline Giuliani, it's sort of a toss-up. I don't doubt that she's actually a liberal, as she listed in her profile, or that she has problems with her dad. But if she does support Barack Obama, would she join his Facebook group in all sincerity, effectively flipping Rudy the middle finger and airing out her daddy issues in public? Especially for someone just starting college life -- a time when most are especially self-conscious about how they project their developing image -- that would be pretty emo, wouldn't it?

I'm not saying that's not what she did. But it's just as likely that she joined the group whimsically -- as an inside joke, say, or on a dare. You just can't take these things at face value.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

More on Chauncey Bailey

His killer was a member (a "good soldier," he says) of Your Black Muslim Bakery, a black Muslim splinter group with a violent streak. It's the worst-case scenario: He was murdered because he'd written critically about the group, and at least one member wanted to silence him.

Here's some background on the group, and a scathing essay on its founder, Yusuf Bey, printed shortly after he died in 2003. (In a weird twist, it turns out Bailey wrote Bey's obit for the Oakland Tribune, and this essay accuses Bailey of going soft in that story.)

According to this story, this is the first time a journalist has been assassinated in the United States since 1993.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Hitchens-ism of the day

From Slate:

When I check into a hotel room and send my free and unsolicited copy of the Gideon Bible or the Book of Mormon spinning out of the window, I infringe no law, except perhaps the one concerning litter.

Jesus, Hitchens.

For more, see this Onion article.

Affirmative action talk

Chetly Zarko, the anti-affirmative action crusader and former Michigan Review writer, has launched a new "cross-partisan" blog about affirmative action and racial equality. According to this intro page, the site is supposed to be a place for opponents and proponents of racial preferences to find some common ground.

So far, it seems like Zarko is the only poster. Still, it's not a bad idea, and I agree that people on either side of this issue have more in common than most of them think. I hope Zarko manages to find some sharp bloggers from both sides. If he does, it could get interesting.

End of an era

Donald Hall, the U.S. poet laureate and former U-M professor, is stepping down after only one term. Here's a good article on his successor, Charles Simic.

From Slate, here's a poem by Hall and one by Simic.

This dance just might last forever

David Lynch's tips for a great prom.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

A sad day for journalists

Chauncey Bailey, the editor of the Oakland Post in California and a former reporter and columnist for The Detroit News, was apparently assassinated this morning. I hope this story gets the attention it deserves.

"He's not a Michigan man"

Mike Hart is not happy with former U-M quarterback and current Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh.

"Progressives" and academia

On liberals and progressives, reader Chet makes a good point:

Interesting point about the difference between liberals and progressives - especially the part about demanding adherence to the party line. The "netroots" - coming from a more academic background to start - certainly has carried with it much of the authoritarian nature and theory of their academic peers.

I think it's probably a better distinction to suggest it's between libertarian liberals and their inverse.

Some of the biggest problems with the campus progressive movement (I'm torn on whether to use scare quotes here) stem from its reverence for trendy academic theories. And yes, in terms of their attitude and their approach to debate, the netroots and the campus left have a lot in common.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Human arrogance in the face of squid

This guy has never seen a monster movie.

This won't end well.

The Humboldt squid -- a creature, much smaller than the giant squid but just as ferocious, that traditionally prowls the Pacific coasts of Mexico and South America -- has expanded its domain to California's Monterey Bay.

Admittedly, this leaves humans near the bay with few good options -- a complete evacuation of the area isn't practical; neither is making peace with the beasts, since all they know is violence.

But if people in the area hope to coexist with these monsters, they'll have to resist the urge to help tourists catch them for 75 bucks an outing. If I've learned anything from Peter Benchley, it's this: Cephalopods may not understand compassion or cooperation, but they do understand the hubris of man -- and it makes them furious. (Or, if you prefer to think of killer squid as beyond emotion, an alternate explanation for their choice of prey would be that they have a finely tuned sense of poetic justice.)

Commercial fishermen who still think they're safe from the Humboldt would do well to read this article. Key passage:

“It was a clear starry night in October years ago. My father and I were fishing for calamar gigante. The squid were unusually large this night, nearly as big as a man. My father said we must be careful of the Diablo Rojo this night. These are the giant squid, the Demons. When the squid reach this size, they are no longer just squid, but become demons … killers of men.

After some time of fishing we had many big squid in our boat and started back for land. As we began our journey home I saw a Panga ahead so we went to see who it was. As we neared the Panga I noticed no one was on board and it was adrift. Concerned, we pulled along side to find out who's Panga it was. I boarded the drifting Panga and found it was nearly full of still dying calamar. It was then I noticed something strange on the side of the boat. As I looked closer, I noticed human fingernails were embedded into the wooden edge of the side rail. Traces of blood outlined a man's handprint. The terror of what happened hit me.

Will we ever learn?

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Obama vs. Clinton

Andrew Sullivan has a great post today on one of the biggest reasons Obama is so much more exciting than Hillary. Excerpt:

They are of different Democratic generations. Clinton is from the traumatized generation; Obama isn't. Clinton has internalized to her bones the 1990s sense that conservatism is ascendant, that what she really believes is unpopular, that the Republicans have structural, latent power of having a majority of Americans on their side. Hence the fact that she reeks of fear, of calculation, of focus groups, of triangulation. She might once have had ideals keenly felt; she might once have actually relished fighting for them and arguing in thier [sic] defense. But she has not been like that for a very long time. She has political post-traumatic stress disorder.

I also liked this evaluation of Obama's campaign, from Marc Ambinder:

Probably the best way to describe this campaign right now is that Clinton is going 75 mph; Obama is going 50 and has plenty of gas to spare. Obama looks like he can eventually go faster in his campaign car, but he's not doing it yet.

My impression is that Obama is content to let Hillary be the front-runner for most of the campaign, then he'll really turn it on when the time is right -- there's no sense in peaking early.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Facebook group of the day

Group name: Shaky Jake
Network: Global
Members: 880
Description: Ann Arbor's lovable hobo.

If you're on Facebook (and I imagine almost all of you are), check out the "Jake is not a 'hobo'!" thread for a lively discussion on the celebrated busker's mysterious lifestyle.

There are plenty of competing theories -- some insist he has a summer home in Florida, while others say Ann Arbor pays for his lodging. As far as knowledge of Shaky Jake goes, it's a real battle of the titans over there -- every third post or so is from someone who gave him a ride once or whose dad met him in the '70s.

For more on Jake, check out these three sample tracks from his record On the Move and this 2006 report from NPR's Weekend America.

A throw-down to Wes Anderson and his fans

Alyse asked reader Kingson what Wes Anderson "represents." He responds:

i could do a really good take down of him, but it's too hot in my room to think. in short, wes represents the fashionable caustic irony that is ruining america.

i can see his appeal to certain types - he describes his fans as "outsiders" and "misfits". his message is irresistible, i guess, to those who pride themselves on standing apart.

but there's no heart to his movies. it's all set pieces and synthetic awkwardness and idiosyncrasy and moments held for so long that they fall apart. his camera is mean. his movies pucker my soul.

Is that so, Kingson? Well, I just checked my Google Analytics: 58% of this blog's readers use Firefox as their Web browser, and Ann Arbor is their second most common city.

That sound you hear is people grinding their Rivers Cuomo eyeglass frames into knives.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

I guess I'm a couple of years behind

In today's Times, an apologia for adult emoticon users:
“In a perfect world, we would have time to compose e-mails that made it clear through our language that we are being cheerful and friendly, but we’re doing these things hundreds of times a day under pressure,” said Will Schwalbe, an author of “Send: The Essential Guide to Email for Office and Home” (Knopf, 2007), written with David Shipley, the deputy editorial page editor at The New York Times.

Mr. Schwalbe said that he has seen a proliferation of emoticon use by adults in delicate and significant communications. “People who started using them ironically are now using them regularly,” he said. “It’s really in the last couple of years that the emoticon has come of age.”
I still haven't used an emoticon non-ironically. I'm sure it would save me time, but I just can't get past the "dignified as dotting one’s I’s with kitten faces" thing.

By the way, maybe it's just me, but this passage rings false:
But after 25 years of use, emoticons have started to jump off the page and into our spoken language. Even grown men on Wall Street, for example, will weave the term “QQ” (referring to an emoticon that symbolizes two eyes crying) into conversation as a sarcastic way of saying “boo hoo.”
I've never even heard of QQ. And it doesn't even look like two eyes crying. Who are these Wall Street nerds?

Friday, July 27, 2007

Republicans are wusses

The GOP front-runners are backing out of their CNN/YouTube debate. Why? The second point here is a good one. (via Dan Savage)

"Short shrift"

I just used this phrase in a conversation, then realized I had no idea what a shrift is. Turns out it's a penance, and the phrase has really cool medieval Catholic roots:
In early medieval times penances were long and arduous—lengthy pilgrimages and even lifelong exile were not uncommon — and had to be performed before absolution, not after as today. However, less demanding penances could be given in extreme situations; short shrift was a brief penance given to a person condemned to death so that absolution could be granted before execution.

Good to know.

Out of touch much?

I think U-M is often unfairly criticized for being out of touch with the rest of the state. But from a PR standpoint, buying foreign cars for administrators while the Detroit auto industry withers away is just stupid.

This is typical of Michigan, though:
U-M would not release the make and model of the vehicles employees drive. U-M was the only university to deny The News' Freedom of Information request, saying the release would be an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

"The use of letters is often used to falsely express a hierarchy of oppressions"

I'm a big fan of the U-M LGBT office, but this is just silly.

UPDATE: Thanks to Dan Savage at The Stranger for the link. There's an interesting debate going on in that blog's comments section over whether Michigan's LGBT office is, in fact, being silly, and whether Savage and Andrew Sullivan are being assholes for making fun of it. Check it out.

This was my contribution on Savage's blog, by the way:
My two cents: I've dealt with Michigan's LGBT office a bit (I used to edit the campus paper), and I always found them much more competent and effective than most university bureaucrats. I'm sure they're perfectly capable of carrying out this crazy process without getting distracted from actual work.

My only problem with this is that, to an outsider reading all of these high-minded Audre Lordeisms about this nitpicky, P.C. mess -- well, it makes gay-rights activists look ridiculous. It gives the impression that they're whiners who spend all their time looking for exclusion where none really exists. Which I think undermines them when they point out instances of actual exclusion.

One more thing about the debates

The more I think about it, the more excited I get about these YouTube debates. It's one thing for a moderator to ask the Republican candidates to explain why they still support "don't ask, don't tell," but it would be quite another to have this guy ask them.

A cool Detroit map

I hadn't seen this until just now. Seems useful. There are also maps of Royal Oak and Birmingham. (via Metroblogging Detroit)

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Liberal vs. progressive

Something else that bothered me from Monday night's debate was when Hillary Clinton pulled out this "I'm a progressive, not a liberal" deal. I don't know if this is new for her, but I don't like it.

Being a liberal means something -- it implies a set of values and a political philosophy going back to the Enlightenment. Saying you're a progressive, from what I've seen on campus and among progressive commentators, basically means you're willing to go along with whatever the left is into at the moment.

On Michigan's campus, at least, that's my main problem with the progressive movement: It seems to demand a kind of lock-step, uncritical way of thinking. People who call themselves progressives give the impression that they're part of a team, and they generally won't criticize the other members of their team, even if what they're saying doesn't make much sense or is actually objectionable.

Maybe I'm just sensitive to this because I've been a follower of campus politics for a few years, and I've seen how illiberal progressives on campus can be. The classic example is the United Coalition Against Racism, which pressured administrators into adopting hate-speech codes in the late '80s. Courts quickly struck down those policies, but the attitude behind them -- that in fighting racism, it's OK to ignore things like civil liberties and academic freedom -- is still pretty widespread on the campus left. And the tendency for demanding loyalty to the "movement" and discouraging self-criticism is one of the defining characteristics of the progressive blogosphere.

Is any of that relevant to Hillary Clinton? I don't know. More likely, she just thinks not calling herself "liberal" will play well in the general election. (Although, as a friend noted, this points to one of Hillary's annoying qualities: her tendency to accept conservative narratives -- in this case, "liberal = supporter of big, expensive, intrusive government" -- and use them to position herself as a moderate.) Either way, I'd prefer if we could just call ourselves liberals -- it's easier to keep ourselves honest that way.

Attention Wes Anderson fans

In case you haven't heard, the trailer for "The Darjeeling Limited" came out yesterday. (via Alyse)

Good day for students' voting rights

The Michigan House just passed a Democratic package of bills that would, among other things, make it easier for college students to vote.

The most important bills here are HB 4447 and 4448, sponsored by Ann Arbor's freshman Rep. Rebekah Warren. They would effectively overturn "Rogers's Law," which requires people to vote at the precinct for the address on their driver's license.

(That law makes it harder for students to vote while on campus -- they have to either drive home on Election Day or have the Secretary of State change their permanent address to their campus address, which is inconvenient for students who move year-to-year. Also, there have been reports of students being told at Secretary of State offices that changing their permanent address would remove them from their parents' insurance coverage. Students and other observers have long speculated that Mike Rogers, the Republican U.S. congressman who sponsored that bill, used it to depress the mostly Democratic student vote in his Lansing district.)

Democrats say they expect to pass another bill soon that would allow voters to get absentee ballots without meeting one of six qualifications. That's also helpful, although I suspect few students want to use absentee ballots.

The bills to repeal Rogers's Law passed mostly along party lines, and the Republican secretary of state still opposes them. So it's not clear that they'll get through the Republican-controlled Senate. Still, this is encouraging, and it's good to see that Warren is following through on her promises to bring student issues to Lansing.

Monday, July 23, 2007

The debate

Just watched the Democratic CNN/YouTube debate. A few thoughts:
  • I expected this format to be worthless, especially after some hipster doofus opened the debate by lecturing the candidates on how to answer questions. It's actually not bad, though. This Reggie Longcrier guy, who called out the candidates for using religion to justify opposing gay marriage, was fantastic -- you'd never see a moderator ask a question like that.
  • All of this talk about whether American soldiers died in vain in Vietnam or Iraq is pretty irritating, because it leads candidates to say inane things to avoid admitting that's the case. (That would be a Kinsley gaffe.) For example, does John Edwards really believe soldiers can't die in vain if they're following their commander in chief's orders? Does that mean there has never been a war that wasn't worth the human cost?
  • Richardson had one good moment: his answer on gay marriage. By talking in terms of what is achievable, he at least seemed to acknowledge that full marriage rights should be an eventual goal. His actual position is the same as the others, but at least he's a little more honest about where he's coming from.
  • Richardson also had one awful moment: his answer on pulling out of Iraq. I know he's trying to set himself apart from the other serious candidates by urging immediate withdrawal, but the formula he used -- that saving Bush's legacy isn't worth American soldiers' lives -- was pathetic. I hope he doesn't really think the fate of Iraq and the humanitarian crisis there are only important to Bush's legacy.

Ann Arbor is weird

Looking through the "missed connections" on Ann Arbor Craigslist today reminded me what a strange, confusing sense of humor Ann Arborites have. Sometimes I can't tell whether they're sharply ironic and self-effacing or just oblivious and bizarre.

A few highlights:
  • "It was during the art fair weekend, but it wasn't near the fair, as I suspect even though both townies (either transplant or native), we abhor the art fair and the cookie cutter wares they sell there." It gets better. (Later, some kind of critique from a third party.)
  • Moose seeking moose. Clearly a joke, but why?
  • Vampire with an Asian fetish.
  • This one is pretty humdrum except for the closing line, which cracked me up.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Give us your huddled masses whose country we dicked over

I rarely agree with Nolan Finley, but I liked his column today urging Detroit to offer incentives to lure in Iraqi refugees. This comes after the mayor of Warren threw a hissy fit over plans to place Iraqis in his city.

Maybe it's just me, but after reading this essay, I couldn't care less whether Iraqis will take jobs from Warren residents.

Fourth Street Fair, Detroit

Fourth Street Fair last night was fun. I recently got a little camera, so I was the obnoxious picture-taking guy. Now I'm going to be the obnoxious pictures-on-his-blog guy.

This car-monster was huge. I couldn't really capture its enormity.

The Midnight Cowboy. "Nectar of the Gods," by the way, is a cocktail that people sell out of this house. They put a piece of dry ice in it, which makes it bubble and smoke. I thought it seemed dangerous, but had one anyway.

There was a lot of this, as you might imagine.

This guy was promoting some kind of satirical religion called Subgenius. He said the point of Subgenius is to attain slack, which is something that floats your boat. He asked me what gives me slack; I told him that's private.

On the way to the parking lot. Alyse thought this sign was hilarious.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

U-M vs. MSU: Facebook network stats

Have you ever compared the Facebook network stats (where they show the top movies, interests, etc. listed in people's profiles in a given network) for Michigan and MSU? It's pretty remarkable. In most cases, they're almost identical -- our top three or four in most categories match up exactly -- so the differences are telling.

A few observations:
  • Michigan students skew a little more toward the highbrow. For example, Radiohead and "Little Miss Sunshine" are #4 and #3 on Michigan's top music and movies, and neither appears at all on MSU's lists.
  • Our favorite books are roughly the same, except the Bible is #3 at Michigan and outside the top 10 at State. Also, Michigan students aren't such big Dan Brown fans. Infer what you will.
  • For relationship status, "none listed" is easily the most common at Michigan with 38%, while it's third at State (behind "single" and "in a relationship) with 27%. Weird.
  • Michigan students are also slightly more likely to list "married," but I think that only means we're a little more ironic than State students on average.

At the News

Ah, copy editors.

Great moments in campus conservatism

Justin Zatkoff, noted idiot and chair of the Michigan Federation of College Republicans, posed for some racy pictures at the College Republican National Convention last weekend. Scroll down to the comments for some hilarious intraparty backbiting, hand-wringing and anti-Semitism.

This raises a serious question, though: How does a person like Justin Zatkoff get elected chair of his party's statewide youth organization?

My personal experience with Justin has been limited (I wrote about him, briefly, here), but from what I gather, he's the prototypical YAF type -- loud, obnoxious and obsessed with "un-P.C." political theater.

(My impression of YAF has always been that it's a manifestation of the Ann Coulterization of the campus right -- it's interested only in offending the left and otherwise amusing its own members and sympathizers.)

I guess maybe YAF members feel entitled to act like assholes because the campus far left is similarly loony. And sometimes they do manage to provoke BAMN and the like into looking like kooks, which they probably think reflects poorly on the left.

But we already know BAMN is crazy. And unlike YAF, BAMN doesn't control its party's statewide college organization. So how is YAF helping its side, again?

Here's the bio of Steve Japinga, Zatkoff's opponent in the MFCR chair election. (Yes, he had a campaign website.) He seems like a pretty typical College Republicans sort of guy. I've met enough of them to know that, for the most part, they have very little in common with YAF.

So can someone explain to me why this guy is their leader in Michigan?

Friday, July 20, 2007

Compulsive clickers, unite!

When I read on a computer, I do this thing -- I click on the words. More specifically, I double-click and highlight words on either edge of the text, in a sweeping pattern that roughly follows my eye movement. If you're not a clicker, I can't explain to you why I have to click on the words. It's just how I do.

Why do I bring this up? Because we compulsive clickers are being persecuted. News websites, starting with nytimes.com, have been adding a "feature" that displays a pop-up dictionary entry for any word you double-click in a story. Kriston Capps explains how tragic this is for "screensifters" who read the Times here.

Now I discover that my college paper, The Michigan Daily, has joined the dark side. And this iteration of the pop-up dictionary is even worse than the original: It evades pop-up blockers by using Flash or something to display a definition from Answers.com instead of opening a new window.

The Daily's current editor tells me College Publisher, the paper's Web provider, added the pop-up "feature" a few days ago. He's not sure whether it can turned off, and he thinks he'd probably leave it on because, in his estimation, the only people who obsessively highlight random text are current and former Daily news editors. His other comment for the record was vulgar but quickly retracted.

This raises two questions:
  1. How much money is College Publisher (which is owned by a division of MTV Networks) getting from Answers.com in exchange for adding the pop-ups to its 450 or so sites?
  2. Why not let users turn the pop-ups off? I would go so far as to call this an accessibility issue.
I'll report CP's response when I get it.

The GOP's tuition hikes

Students at U-M and MSU are organizing to protest this summer's tuition increases -- but they're putting the blame on Mike Bishop, the Republican state Senate majority leader, for forcing cuts to higher education funding. Seems like a good tactic to me.

Here is the YouTube video, and here's the Facebook group ("I'm Pissed that Mike Bishop is Raising My Tuition").

God bless the Internet

Here is a list of Catholic patron saints arranged by topic. My favorite: Maximilian Kolbe, patron saint of journalists and drug addiction.

In today's News

Two stories I particularly liked: Cindy Rodriguez's piece on young professionals who are fiercely loyal to Detroit (all of the subjects she profiles are Michigan alums), and Neal Rubin's hilarious column about the Detroit City Council.

Ann Arbor and warm beer

For this week's issue of Metro Times, the editorial staff took a thermometer to 104 Detroit-area bars to find the coldest beer around. In first place was Lime Light Grill & Bar in Warren, which sells an aluminum bottle of Budweiser cooled to 25.1 degrees for $3.50. (The bar uses Anheuser-Busch's "Chill Chamber," a sophisticated machine that makes shitty beer in aluminum bottles unnaturally cold and expensive.)

Five Ann Arbor bars made the list, and the results don't look good:

  • #9 - Conor O'Neill's (Coors Light, bottle, $2.50, 31.7 degrees)

  • #89 - Rick's (Bud Light, bottle, $1.50, 43.7 degrees)

  • #91 - The Brown Jug (Miller Lite draft, chilled glass, $2.95, 43.9 degrees)

  • #94 - The Arena (Pabst Blue Ribbon, glass, $2.00, 45.7 degrees)

  • #103 - Ashley's (Stella Artois draft, glass, $5.00, 50.3 degrees.

In the interest of fairness, I called Rick's, the Jug and Ashley's for a response. (I didn't call the Arena because, well, who gives a shit about the Arena?) Bartenders at Rick's and the Jug didn't sound too concerned -- nor should they be. I love Rick's and the Jug for the atmosphere (delightfully trashy and comfortably Michigan, respectively), the $2 pitchers and the $4.25 40s. I won't begrudge them their warm beer.

Ashley's, whose Stella Artois was the second-warmest brew on the list, is the big disappointment here. I couldn't get a bartender on the phone -- after two rings, I got what I believe was a recording of Paul Giamatti asking for bartender applicants -- but I'm assuming they keep their beer above 50 degrees because that's how their specialty Trappists, porters and stouts are meant to be served. Ice-cold beer would clash with the bar's sniffy, grad-student image.

The problem: Stella Artois, like Budweiser, Miller and their ilk, is a pale lager -- a weak-flavored category that, as any beer nerd will tell you, demands to be served near-freezing.

So Ashley's is serving bathwater-warm beer, presumably because they and/or their customers think it's more highbrow that way. Such is Ann Arbor.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Get depressed

The News is in the middle of a very good series on race relations and racial equality in the Detroit area 40 years after the riot/civil disturbance/rebellion. There's some surprising new polling data, and if you don't know much about the riot, it's a good primer.

The series also reminded me I need to man up and read The Origins of the Urban Crisis. From what I understand, you're not even allowed to talk about Detroit's problems until you've read this book. I borrowed it from a friend a few months ago, and I haven't been able to bring myself to start it -- there are too many other books around that are way more fun.

Jack Lessenberry's column on the riot is also worth reading, as usual.