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June 2006 -- August 2006 Permanent Archive
30 August 2006 (Leaving town)
There's a lot of folks on the local music scene who are sad to see Brandon Zwagerman leave Ann Arbor. So why is Brandon skipping town? Let's blame Matt Lassiter. It was only by taking Professor Lassiter's class on the history of American Suburbia as a senior at UM that Brandon even became aware of urban planning as a field of study. So now, after completing a master's in urban planning at the U of M's Taubman College, Brandon is headed off to New York City to work in the marketing wing of an urban design firm.
I wasn't sure he was completely equipped for this adventure, so during our totter ride, I filled a culutural void, supplying him with the rules of Deal or No Deal, and opened his eyes to the wonders of vinyl siding. Now he's set.
He says he'll be back to visit. I dunno. The high side of the teeter totter is a pretty good place to knock the dust from this place off your shoes for good. But as Brandon likes to say, We'll see what happens!
24 August 2006 (Easy as Pie)
So Chris Bathgate now has a version of Do What's Easy ready for sampling on his MySpace page (cf. 2 August entry on the Totter Log).
What's not easy is to get sidewalks put in on Easy Street in Ann Arbor. Matt Lassiter provides some insight into this and other related matters.
18 August 2006 (View out the back of the buggy)
Up until about five years ago, I washed all our household clothes in a hand-cranked Amish washing machine and wrang them out with the wringer mounted on the end of that machine. Nowadays, the hand-cranked machine competes for business with a stackable washer and dryer unit. Seeking re-inspiration for the hand-cranked solution to clean laundry, and while the totter was on hiatus this past week, I drove through the Amish country of Ohio where the washing machine was born. Playing on the CD player of the PT Cruiser I had rented for this pilgrimage was hand-lettered copy Number 22 of the Ypsisongs album, which I had picked up from Schoolkids Records just before leaving. Sam Vail's View from an Upstairs Window sounds just that much better when it's the soundrack to overtaking an Amish family in a buggy with a little Amish kid peeking out the open back. I did not lower the car windows to let any of the buggy drivers hear Charlie Slick and Johnny Ill's energetic chant of Y-P, S-I, L-A-N, T-I (Track 12: Ypsilanti is a great place to live), else you could expect a great migration of the Amish to the jewel of Southeast Michigan. I should have taken advantage of the opportunity to inquire about Amish attitudes towards teeter totters. Seems like the kind of thing they'd go for.
I've put my phone number in campaign literature and posters in all my campaigns, from my first race in 1982 to my most recent in 2004.
Admittedly, it's a cheap tactic, because very few people find reason to call up county-level candidates or officeholders.
--Larry Kestenbaum Aug 11, 10:53 PM #
I don't think it's a reason they lack. They just have no idea what to say on the phone.
There's no standard script to follow. What you get is either awkward silence, or ... this:
[ringtone "Dancing Bear"]
VoterGuy: Hey can I speak to Larry?
LK: This is Larry, how can I help you?
VoterGuy: It's really you? No frickin way.
LK: Um, way. Yes it's me, what's on your mind?
VoterGuy: Dude. You wanna party?
LK: Probably not in the way you mean. I like the Democratic Party very much, though.
VoterGuy: Ouch-o-rama, dude! But hey, don't you mean the Democrapic Party?! HAHAHAHAHAHA Burn!
LK: Nice shot, sir. Is there actually some issue you'd like to discuss?
VoterGuy: Yeah, I was just gonna suggest that you put on there like something like, For a good time call Larry at 555-1234, instead of just putting your phone number down, because you know if people think that they're going to get a good time, maybe people would be more disposable to like call you and stuff like that.
LK: You might be right. All the materials have been printed for this year, but maybe for the next time I run, I can add something like that.
VoterGuy: Cool. That would be a dude I could vote for.
LK: Anything else?
VoterGuy: Yeah, why do they call it a Clerk? It sounds like such a lonely and sad kind of job just like it's putting photocopies into folders and stuff, or making Slurpees and selling beef jerky, so maybe you could figure out a way to find a new name for the job like Election Engineer or something, or maybe at least like make a movie like they did about regular Clerks and call it County Clerks.
LK: I actually don't mind the job title. There's more to it than elections, so I'm not sure Election Engineer would be the way to go on that. The reason it's called the Clerk, that actually has an interesting history. I'd love to tell you about it.
VoterGuy: Uh, no that's fine. I've got more calls to make.
LK: Nice chatting with you.
VoterGuy: Oh, one more thing. I think it would show that you were down with the younger people and stuff if you would adopt like a rapper nickname, like call yourself the K-bomb as in rhymes with A-bomb. And you know the last part of your name, see, sounds a little like 'bomb' unless people say it like 'bowm' but that's not a word, so you could go with the K-bomb and people would think that's cool.
LK: Well, the thing about that I'm not crazy about is the militaristic and maybe even violent image it creates. I'm not sure that's really me, or at least not exactly what I want to project.
VoterGuy: Projects power, dude. Whenever you like need to stop somebody from doing something they're not sposed to be doing and when you stop them, then people will be sayin Larry went and dropped the K-bomb onnit.
LK: Hmm, okay, well I gotta drop a K-bomb on this call and sit down to eat with my family now.
VoterGuy: That's what I'm talkin about.
VoterGuy: Later dude.
NB: For many readers it will be apparent that this was a made-up conversation. For those who think it might have some basis in fact, here's a definitive statement. It's completely fake. It is not based on any real conversation I'm aware of.
10 August 2006 ( ... .- -- .. .- --)
Yesterday's guest has played Pine Knob in front of 30,000 screaming fans. Tonight he'll be playing in front of however many people can pack themselves into the Elbow Room over in Ypsilanti for the Ypsisongs release show. There's more about Sam and the Ypsisongs compilation on Teeter Talk.
9 August 2006 (Primary Election Roundup)
There's a saying, "When all you've got's a hammer, everything looks like a nail." I believe in that. And all I've got is a totter, so everything looks like a ... , um, I dunno where I was going with that. I think my point is: all I've got to weigh the candidates with is my teeter totter. Take the 53rd District State House race between Leigh Greden and Rebekah Warren. Whether you think they're political heavyweights or lightweights, fact is, neither one of those guys is literally very heavy. I know because I've balanced with them on a teeter totter. I'm only packing around 160 pounds, but if I had wanted to use my tottering power for evil, I could have locked either one of them in the up position and just let them dangle. So what made the difference in that election? They had pretty parallel positions on the campaign issues. And their teeter tottering technique did not tease them apart, either. If you ask folks in their respective camps, they'd likely both say the difference lay in how transparent they were. I agree. Rebekah was totally upfront with prospective voters about her tottering history, linking to her tottering session from her campaign website, and aknowledging the contribution that even monkey bars had made to her formative years, while Leigh seemed not to own his tottering past. Did that cost Leigh the election? I dunno, I'm just saying it could have tilted the election totter a little in his favor.
In other races, the totter had a perfect record: any candidate who rode the totter, won their primary race. Mark Ouimet? Tottered, won. Conan Smith? Tottered, won. Joan Lowenstein? Tottered, wasn't even challenged. Chris Easthope? Tottered, won. John Roberts? Tottered, won. Huh? Wha ...? Are you sure? Well, think what a landslide would have buried John Roberts, if he hadn't tottered! Yeah, think about that.
3 August 2006 (Dave Squared)
Two Daves are better than one. It's pretty much as simple as that. So HD, together with an extra Dave, managed to cover where to get high in Ann Arbor (as in altitude ... no scandal here), where to build a Greenway, how to zone for accessory dwelling units, and how development relates to affordable housing. And plenty more.
2 August 2006 (Do What's Easy)
Remember Chris Bathgate? Last night, I headed down to the Blind Pig to see him play. Leading off the evening was Romeo's Revival, minus their freshly-departed lead singer, who nevertheless soldiered through a set that was tight, musical, and even melodic. But I was there to see Mr. Bathgate. So I drifted a bit during the Revival's set ... my visual field was framed on the right by the Discovery Channel broadcasting a program about sharks, and on the left by a self-described 'half-Edgared' guy at the bar who gave a running commentary on the sharks to his buddy: "Their jaws just snap shut, like an alligator's but stronger".
Early on, the crowd was sparse. I mean, really sparse. And it hadn't gotten any denser by the time Chris ascended the stage. Sitting at the back of the room, the only thing between me and Chris was the back of Matt Jones' head, and Matt was standing right in front of the stage fifty feet away. Typical Pig on a Tuesday night, Chris said. But then Chris delivered something not so typical, I don't think. Not for the Blind Pig or anywhere else. In the middle of his set, he announced that he had just written a song while he was downstairs. That's right, he performed a tune that was less than two hours old. I had nothing to write on, so I fumbled for the first time ever with the text-messaging feature of my cell phone, reasoning that I could send myself a text message of the recurring lyric I guessed to be the song's title. Here's what I got: dowhtsesy. That's: Do What's Easy. Sweet tune. I'm richer already for having heard it right after Chris gave birth to it.
Chris is graduating from the School of Art and Design sometime soon. So he might wind up leaving the area. Who knows. So in the meantime, whenever you see Chris Bathgate's name in a local event listing, go there. Just go. Even if you're not treated to one of Bathgate's newborn songs, you'll hear him grow and mature the rest of his ouvre.
1 August 2006 (The Coterie)
Remember the word, 'coterie'. There's all kinds of reasons why that's an apt label for an upcoming early-September event that Chris Bathgate has conceived, along with a whole passle of other people on and around the local Ann Arbor music scene. It sounds brilliant. And I think it will sound brilliant. And look brilliant. Keep your ears open.
In the meantime, if you're kinda old, and you're looking for an excuse to actually go inside that crazy Blind Pig you've heard about but never had the gumption to go inside on account of all those young people, excuses to feel a little younger don't come much better than this:
Blind Pig, Tuesday 1 August 2006 (Today!). The complete bill is Chris Bathgate, Romeo's Revival, Liquid Reality, and Manchester. Doors 9:30 p.m.
30 July 2006 (Milestone)
Last week Teeter Talk passed a milestone: it's 50th totteree. That honor went to Mark Ouimet. Back when René Greff pioneered this project, I had hoped to average around one ride a week. That's working out pretty well so far, even slightly better than I had hoped for. The folks at Technorati have a charting tool that lets users create graphical representations of word frequencies across blog posts worldwide. Can anything useful be achieved by charting out various words and phrases? Probably so. However, the only plausible use I could imagine for the chart below is that it would, I think, allow a reader to deduce the approximate date of Teeter Talk's launch.
Did René Greff really totter then? Well, yes. And just looking at that photo is helping me stay cool today as we approach 90 F.
30 July 2006 (More Comedy)
A few weeks ago I tottered with Shelly Smith and Khurum Sheikh. What Shelly and Khurum had it common was they were competing in the qualifying round of the Michigan Comedy Competition. They both qualified! Is it just a coincidence that they had both just ridden the teeter totter prior to competing? I think not. Shelly Smith will compete in the next round on Thursday August 3rd at 8pm at Wiseguys Comedy Club, 40380 Grand River, Novi, MI 48375, (248) 919-3216. Khurum Sheikh will compete in the next round on Wednesday August 2nd at 8pm at Comedy Castle 269 East 4th Street, Royal Oak, MI 48067, (248) 542-9900. Here's additional details.
27 July 2006 (The Doctor)
Sometimes a question just so obviously needs to be asked that I forget to ask it. For example, if a DJ uses an on-air name like "The Doctor" the first question right out of the gate when the guy hops on your teeter totter has to be: So what's up with this Doctor nickname? I defy anyone to find the answer to that question here. Whatever the answer is, I don't think it would have a negative impact on anyone's decision to sublet a property to him. So if you've got something for cheap, Chris Fici will sublet it from you short term. If you're on the fence about sub-letting to him, then listen to WCBN 88.3 on your FM dial on Tuesdays from 12 noon to 3pm.
27 July 2006 (The Hustle)
Last night, mayoral candidate Wendy Woods took her turn on the stage of Citizen Improv at the Improv Inferno. Wendy's daughter Nyima Funk (MTV's Wild 'N Out) guested with the regular Citizen Improv cast, which included Dan Izzo, John Hartman, Kathryn Thomas, Chris DiAngelo, Anne Faba, and Matt Naas. This ensemble simply destroyed. When Wendy told how she came to play the viola in addition to the violin and Nyima launched a scene with Kathryn as two band geeks, I thought we were headed down the road of this-one-time-at-band-camp, but they didn't take it there. John deadpanned one of the best lines of the night as a JC Penney's clerk helping Nyima's elderly lady find some undergarments: "Um, those are tarps." And I would pay money to see Matt balance Anne on his back again while she strikes a 'flying' pose and he spins around in circles. But Matt's leaving the country. Wendy herself concluded the evening by leading the entire cast in The Hustle displaying the kind of moves most people would call smooth. Just don't call Wendy, 'Big Mom'.
Nyima's in town with The 313, which means three more chances to see her this weekend at the Inferno.
26 July 2006 (Figure it out)
What makes a better bedtime story, Clifford The Big Red Dog, or the minutes of a Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners meeting? Mark Ouimet breaks it down for you.
25 July 2006 (Be a good citizen)
When else do you get a chance to see a candidate for mayor perform on stage? Wednesday, 26 July at 8:00pm at the Improv Inferno, it's Wendy Woods as the Citizen in Citizen Improv!
25 July 2006 (The art of the invitation)
Who gets to ride the teeter totter? Well, there's some people who just raise their hand and straightup ask, Please let me totter! Nobody's ever been turned away. But some people ask to ride without even knowing it. For example, if a young person with a clipboard knocks on my door hoping to earn my support for their cause, they probably don't realize that what they're really asking for is a ride on my teeter totter. And when the Boyds, from Louisville (/loo-iss-vill/), Colorado, mailed letters to me and a lot of my neighbors several months ago, pitching the idea of a sumertime house-swap, they probably didn't know that what I thought they were asking for really was the opportunity to ride my teeter totter. Just to make sure, I sent them an open invitation. And last Sunday, they accepted! It was the coolest connection ever. To whatever Ann Arborite might be entertaining the idea of swapping houses with the Boyds, I give Tiffany, Jeff, Ellory and Lincoln an unqualified endorsement.
24 July 2006 (On a tight leash)
So it turns out that the City's top dog for financial matters is a dog owner himself. And I learned that he's even walked his dog down my street. But that doesn't explain the appearance of the signs below on my street, because his dog doesn't do his bidness when he's on leash. Otherwise put, Tom Crawford's dog won't piss away on your shrubs. And after talking with him, I get the feeling that Tom is not going to allow us to piss away our financial future, either.
19 July 2006 (Nothing to Hide)
One of the advantages of living on a road carrying high traffic volume (like Dexter-Ann-Arbor Road) is that you can use your own front yard as a soap box. When I saw the sign below, I figured the guy who constructed it would have something interesting to say and wouldn't mind saying it on the totter. I was right.
18 July 2006 (Neil let me down ... after holding me up to see ...)
Last Saturday morning, I was talking on the phone with Neil Cleary when the Goodyear blimp flew directly over the Old West Side, where we were both generally situated. During our tottering session later that afternoon, we were treated to a second flyover. It turns out that it's possible to get custom-messages displayed on the blimp: TEETER TOTTERS ROCK. That isn't even technically true, but what are you gonna do?
If you ever get a chance to see Neil Cleary perform live, or if you buy one of his CD's, what you'll hear is something like a slightly less cynical, but prettier-sounding Stephen Merritt.
17 July 2006 (Seven fallacies avoided by the totter)
To read the essay that inspired the list below, see Seven Fallacies in Architectural Culture by last Wednesday's guest, Doug Kelbaugh.
1. On a teeter totter the solo artist
is denied any special privilege. By design, a teeter totter lends itself most naturally to more than one rider.
2. Teeter totters are familiar to everyone, even if they're now somewhat rare. There's nothing particularly inventive about constructing one. Thus in building this teeter totter amenity, I have resisted the pressure of mandatory invention.
3. A teeter totter can theoretically balance with one side perfectly level with the other. More often, though, a teeter totter will tilt more to one side than to the other. But the degree of imbalance tolerated by any totter is limited: the 'down' end cannot fall any lower than the ground itself. Teeter totters, unlike pedula, are inherently 'grounded'. Otherwise put, the totter limits La Tendenza Estrema.
4. A well-meaning observer characterized the teeter totter as a 'kinetic sculpture', but I would claim that it does not vie for attention in the ostentatious way that a piece of art does; rather, it converses nicely with the backyard fence. Their common materials of wolmanized lumber and stainless steel lag screws form a nice background fabric against which the herb garden, trying valiantly to be exceptional and interesting, can be foregrounded. Otherwise put, the totter's architecture does not trump herban-ism.
5. Although the publishing medium of Teeter Talk is the World Wide Web, which extends the enterprise past the bounds of local community, this global aspect of the enterprise cannot dominate the inherently local character of the conversations, even when international guests grace the opposite end of the totter. Why not? Because the local aspect of the enterprise is enforced by the physical necessity of having a conversational partner physically perched twelve feet away on the opposite end of a piece of lumber. Right in my backyard. In Teeter Talk, then, there is little risk that global trumps local.
6. Viewing a teeter totter in motion, the eye is drawn to the most dynamic elements, namely the two ends. But this dynamic component depends structurally on the supporting middle. A teeter totter, then, cannot have a forgotten middle. And this serves as a reminder that the range of totter guests should ideally not be drawn just from the extremes of our community, but rather should span the middle.
7. There's just one teeter totter in my backyard. That's about all there's room for. Its scale is fairly modest. I've seen bigger, longer ones. If it were scaled up, it would lose its human dimension and become dangerous or even unridable, perhaps posing a threat to the Teeter Talk's heretofore unblemished safety record. There's no need, then, to aspire to more, bigger and higher teeter totters for Teeter Talk.
11 July 2006 (On the Brink of something)
Today's guest came to Ann Arbor all the way from Bangkok, Thailand. Did he come for a Casey's burger? Did he come for a Zingerman's sandwich? Did he come so he could update his voter registration? Did he come so he could attend the Washtenaw County Draft Non-Motorized Plan Presentation by WATS? Or ... did he come to totter? You be the judge. I already know what I think.
5 July 2006 (Fifth Ward Pride)
Tonight Mayor John Hieftje played the role of 'citizen' in Citizen Improv at the Improv Inferno. The CI cast took the mayor's stories about an Armenian real estate client, a Carolinan female relative who used a rake to protect her cured ham from a bear, and neckid Fifth Ward voters, and transformed them into something special. Just watching a mayoral re-election camapaign committee strategize about how to best capture the nude Ann Arbor vote was worth the price of admission. My ward pride was wounded only slightly by the bit about the Fourth Ward having more to offer (parties ... with body shots) than us Fifth Warders ... doing laundry. When I do my laundry (in the Fifth Ward) it's with an Amish washing machine that's hand-cranked. I'm engineering a design for an adapter that will allow the washer to run on totter power, so that I can teeter my clothes clean. And that's bound to have more appeal than any Fourth Ward party, body shots or not.
4 July 2006 (I loved a parade)
I missed the front end of the Fourth of July parade. But there were some entries I saw that really rose to the occasion. Michigan Peace Works had a whole passal of people plus a float with musicians playing live music. A drum and fife corps in colonial period costumes won only polite applause from the crowd, but deserved a more enthusiastic demonstration of appreciation. A group of folks in vintage costumes riding antique bicycles (from the high-wheelers to a model with 'modern' geometry but a direct drive front wheel ... imagine the posture of the rider) certainly counted as a real parade entry. I also enjoyed the shopping cart 'drill team'. And Larry Kestenbaum, whose County Clerkship isn't even up for election this cycle, walked the route resplendent in his adventurer's hat and waved vigorously to the crowd. I think the parade could use more vigorous waving and less candy-throwing on the part of participants. And more hooting and hollering on the part of the crowd. Next year, perhaps there'll be people waving from a teeter totter on the back of a flat-bed truck that will inspire some hooting, if not hollering.
2 July 2006 (I love a parade)
I'm going to head downtown for the Ann Arbor Fourth of July parade this year for the first time in a long time, because I want to wave at last Friday's guest as he walks past. The parade starts at 10:00am, Tuesday, 4 July. So for heaven's sake, at least just go and watch this year. As you watch, figure out what you can do to add to the parade next year. As for me, I'm pretty much going with the blue bins. And Chief Jones gave me a 'tentative maybe' for helping out with next year's Blue Bin Buddy Brigade Precision Drill Unit! Besides blue bins and parades, Chief Jones and I talked about, marriage, mass transit, and profiling.
30 June 2006 (Blue Bin Buddy Brigade)
I'm not ashamed to admit it: I adore the city's new blue trash bins. It's too late for this year's Fourth of July parade, but I've already got John Roberts (City Council, 1st Ward) on board with the concept of a precision blue bin drill unit ... for next year. I don't think it was merely the hypnotic power of the teeter totter than led him to express his support, because he was perfectly lucid on other topics like Ann Arbor nostalgia, future development, and council committee processes.
26 June 2006 (Two Funny)
Remember how totteree Khurum Sheikh will be competing in the Michigan Comedy Competition on Thursday, 29 June at the Ann Arbor Comedy Showcase? Last Friday's guest, Shelly Smith, will be competing in the same contest. But in the opening round Shelly is assigned to the group competing at Wiseguys Comedy Club in Novi. If Shelly does the same bit about a special kind of friend that I saw her do on Sunday at Improv Inferno's Get Up Stand Up on Sunday, she will advance. May the magic of the totter vault them both into the next round.
20 June 2006 (Couldn't get Ani DiFranco Tickets?)
When: Friday, 23 June 8:00pm
Where: Improv Inferno, Main Street, Ann Arbor
What: HD is the Citizen in this special Friday edition of Citizen Improv
How much: $10.00 cover; as Improv Inferno is a bar, you can have things to drink
Citizen Improv is a format where a regular person tells a five-minute 'story'. After each story, the improv cast creates a series of scenes based on the story. Then it's on to the next story. There's three stories, plus a little summary.
Back in February, as the Citizen I talked about (i) a song about teeter tottering (ii) my great-grandfather, the postmaster, who turned out to have served federal time for embezzlement (iii) my special bond with Ato, the most famous dog in Ann Arbor.
This time, it'll be all NEW stories from my life in China!
Come see how the improv cast takes this raw material and turns it into something special.
Note: This is not one of those deals where audience members get dragged on stage, made fun of, or pelted with food. I promise.
20 June 2006 (Notta Totta)
In the interest of locating other potential teeter totter amenities across this great land of ours, I've exploited some of the satellite imagery available online. A five-hour Amtrak ride was all it took to determine that whatever the big yellow arrow is pointing at, it's not teeter totters.
18 June 2006 (Watching the Detectives)
When a detective lieutenant on the Ann Arbor police force is riding your teeter totter, you really can't help but ask him .... if he went to the Elvis Costello concert. What I learned Friday is that Ann Arbor's finest are smart, stand-up kind of folks.
16 June 2006 (Simple Truths)
Keep the hot foods hot and the cold foods cold. And don't run out of beer. These are some basic principles one of the Old Town Tavern owners applies on a daily basis.
13 June 2006 (Don't Tip the Waiter)
Readers of Don't Tip the Waiter who are visiting this site looking for the totter ride with the Dennis Rymarz, publisher of that periodical, can find it listed under the left sidebar, or right here.
12 June 2006 (LSAT preparation)
I feel like the scales of justice might well be replaced by a 'teeter totter of truth' if last Friday's guest achieves a high enough score on the LSAT today. There's ample precedent for the good magic that riding the totter brings just before a test. After riding the totter, B.J. Enright went out the next day and passed his teacher certification exam, a bit of good news B.J. passed along some time ago, which I'm just now getting around to highlighting. B.J. blogs a photo most every day.
5 June 2006 (Orange Ping Pong Balls)
What is a greater test of stamina? Covering over a mile on crutches just to get to the totter on time (hats-off to Patrick Elkins)? Or this?
4 June 2006 (Totter Envy)
Yes, I know about the giant teeter totter out in front of the Lamda Chi Alpha house on Washtenaw Ave. Yes, I know it's longer. Yes, I know it's got handles. The brothers have been invited to totter on my humble device. More later.
TT Log Archives
|2010||October to present|
|2008||September, October, November, December|
|2007||July, August, September|
|2006-2007||December, January, February|
|2006||September, October, November|
|2006||June, July, August|
|2005-2006||December, January, February, March, April, May|
NB: All totterees are already listed in the left hand column (in chronological order). What is available in the TT Log Archives are just the log entries.