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?