This website is accident-free, with 187 teeter totter rides and zero recordable injuries.


Links to Last 10 Talks

Bill Merrill

Chris Carey

Jim Ottaviani

Dante Chinni

Robb Johnston

Nick Prueher

Steve Bean

Devon Persing

Gareth Morgan

Brian Kerr

Complete link list
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March 2007 -- April 2007 Permanent Archive

permanent link 30 April 2007 (Dance)
What do previous totterees, Steve Glauberman and Annie Palmer share in common with last Friday's guest, old west side bookshop Peter Sparling?

Read Peter's Talk all the way to the end for some insight. If you'd like to meet Peter in person to tell him how well his Teeter Talk photograph turned out, on 4 May 2007 from 7-11pm, he'll likely be somewhere around the Sensoiree, An Evening for the Senses to benefit Dance Gallery Foundation.

Follow that link for a complete description of what $30 in advance gets you--besides an inside view of the space above the West Side Book Shop, and a view of the night life on Liberty Street from above. There's bound to be some night life left, even though last Saturday's commencement exercises marked the departure of most of the students, who give this whole place a bit of energy and enthusiasm.

Speaking of commencement exercises, I saw some footage of Bill Clinton walking up to the podium on Saturday to address the crowd at Michigan Stadium, which is just about mile from here, and he was walking smooth. To my eye, anyway, there were no visible ill effects from a teeter totter ride ...

permanent link 24 April 2007 (Kurt Vonnegut)
Kurt Vonnegut is just one more guy I never rode the teeter totter with. But my father-in-law attended Shortridge High School in Indianapolis at the same time as Kurt Vonnegut. And somewhere over the years, a promotional yardstick from the Vonnegut family hardware store accumulated to the set of my wife's possessions. When I saw the yardstick, the first thing that came to mind was, Mmmmm, you could get about three toy teeter totters outta that ... and it's already measured for you! But I could imagine people arguing about who got the totter with 'Vonnegut' printed on it. So I left it intact. vonnegut teeter totter Kurt Vonnegut: "[On the Iraq War] It's like forcing a small child to ride a greased pig, but blaming the pig when the kid decides to fry some bacon." zoom of vonnegut yardstick

permanent link 21 April 2007 (The future's so bright ... )
Back in 2001, on 11 March, I ran the Shamrocks and Shenanigans 5K race sponsored by Conor O'Neills. In the preceding couple of months, I had been training up for the run through the streets of Ypsilanti with Will Stewart. We were waiting together for the starting gun to send us hurtling down Main Street when, inexplicably, Will started futzing around with his mittens (it was pretty cold that year--cold enough to need mittens, anyway). He managed to drop the mittens on the ground right about the time the gun went off. I did what any running buddy would do: I launched myself forward with the rest of the crowd leaving Will to scuttle about trying to recover his mittens. I had a PR to consider. When I hit the left turn off Main, I looked up and saw the street sign. It was not just a street sign. It was a sign sign: William Street. That made me feel extra-bad about Will's mittens. But not bad enough to try to run against the stream of runners to help Will recover his mittens. So I figured maybe I'd make it up to him six years later in the form of a teeter totter ride.

These days part of Will's day job actually involves mittens--the Mitten State, that is. Specifically, it will stewarts sunglasses involves editing a blog called Michigan is Amazing. In the face of the current economic climate in our fair state, it's a fair question to ask: does Will see the world through rose-colored glasses? The answer is over there to the left: nope. Those are the glasses he was wearing for his totter ride. If you examine the image closely, you can even see what he was looking at during his ride. Anyway, you can plainly see they're not rose-colored glasses.

This will come as no surprise to readers of the music reviews that Will free-lances for the Ann Arbor News. They already know he pretty much writes'em as he sees'em. What they probably don't already know is what his cell phone ring tone sounds like, which AATA bus he rides to work, or the last novel he read. For that, they can read Will Stewart's Talk.

permanent link 19 April 2007 (web host)
A new web host starting today. If you're reading this, everything went smooth. More later.

permanent link 10 April 2007 (Ferns: wishes told on the totter come true again)
I've previously documented a few cases of wishes told on the totter coming true for totterees. I didn't realize that the magic extended to me as well. Here are the exact words. On 4 January 2007 tottering with Charlie Slick:

HD: Because we've got ferns that grow here. Every spring they pop up, but I'd like for there to be more of them.

And on 17 March 2007 while tottering with Royer Held:

HD: ... a couple of ferns that show up every spring, which are really nice--I wish we would get more of them ...

Even the scattered snow squalls of Good Friday last week were no match for the magic spell of the teeter totter. Late afternoon saw the emergence of some fresh green fronds in the backyard called Arrah and the Ferns.

Now, there is an alternate explanation of their appearance in my backyard to the magic of telling wishes on the totter. Brandon Zwagerman told them I'd love to ride the totter with some fellow Hoosiers (AATF hail from Muncie; I grew up in Columbus, Indiana.) So it might have been that. On reflection, it probably was that, so credit Brandon for making it happen.

Immediately after their Talk, they hopped off the totter and down the street to the Blind Pig, where they played the second slot of the early show--after The Mighty Narwhale and before the Great Lakes Myth Society--thus providing an anchor to terra firma, in the face of an otherwise nautical evening.

It might be that I'm just partial to fellow Hoosiers, or to the fraternity of the teeter totter, but out of that very impressive lineup Friday evening, the one audio memory that remains in my head this Tuesday morning is Arrah's repeated refrain to the song Skylark: I wanted more than you could give. To my ear, the phrasing Arrah gives this refrain starts with two dactyls followed by an iamb, then evolves to a dactyl followed by trochees, which is not some garden variety folk-song metric. More on their music, where to find them next, and where to purchase their CD, at the top of Arrah and the Ferns' Talk.

permanent link 6 April 2007 (Everything comes back to walnuts)
One constant in Teeter Talk is that it's always me on the opposite end of the totter from the guest. And even though I throw walnut boomerang topics out there, the subject of the conversation tends to circle back to me and what I'm interested in. That means that certain topics tend to get recycled. And to the extent that it's my fault, I'm sorry.

But this time, it's not my fault that it's walnuts again. It's not my fault that Patrick Cardiff made the boomerang displayed here with his bare hands out of a single piece of walnut. As impressive as that one is, he creates other boomerangs that are perhaps even more artistically impressive. For details, read Patrick's Talk.

permanent link 1 April 2007 (T-2)
I sometimes think of the teeter totter as just a really flat two-person canoe [called a C-2 by hard-core canoeists]. But of course, a teeter totter is not a canoe. The main difference is that a teeter totter [not called a T-2 even by hard-core totter riders] does not have a front and back, but rather two sides. Canoeists face the same direction: towards the front, which is called the bow [rhymes with 'wow']. In contrast, teeter totter riders face each other. Thus, teeter totters facilitate conversation better than canoes.

But an interesting conversation requires the same kind of cooperative effort that paddling a C-2 does: turning the conversation requires paddling on the same side and leaning the boat in the same direction. If the canoe of communication is paddled expertly, then it will not capsize, no matter how fast the conversational current flows. Earlier this week, Mark Bialek and I navigated through myriad topics--from canoeing to photography to music ... to squirrels ... and back to photography again ... and back to squirrels, then more photography.

Why Mark? Well, Mark had to visit the backyard for professional reasons, and what can I say--once you've seen the totter in person, you can hardly resist its charm. Anyway, that's my story. Duct tape and zip ties are pretty easy to Photoshop right out of an image. His professional reasons? Check out the April issue of The Ann Arbor Observer. There you'll find examples of his photographic work, which include portraits of some U of M law professors, plus a 'gentle and good-hearted man'. So if folks don't recognize me by that description written by Ronald Ahrens, then well, first of all, screw'em ... and second of all, at least they'll know it's me from Mark's photo. Mark has generously allowed me the use of some photos he shot to spruce up the Teeter Talk FAQ.

permanent link 26 March 2007 (spring roundup)
The Talk with Royer Held included a discussion of the gardening walnut boards challenges posed by walnut trees. Apropos of walnut trees, my recent work crafting toy teeter totters (for desktop or tabletop use) has made me wish for a source of walnut wood--Michigan-grown if possible (cf. the 20 February blog entry).

That reminded me of Peter Thomason's Talk, where he mentions that he hoped eventually to find a source of Michigan wood for the custom-made coffins he's going to be building soon. Well, whaddaya know, I found these Michigan-grown and Michigan-milled walnut boards at the Re-Use Center, which are offered as part of an Urban Lumber program that involves an effort to harvest the lumber from trees that are being cleared for development as opposed to just burning them in-situ. There's walnut, oak, ash, and pecan available, among other varieties. Hats off to Melinda Uerling and Recycle Ann Arbor for their part in making that happen.


nbc peacock I previously reported the good news that Thank God You're Here, a TV show featuring totteree, Nyima Funk, as a part of the ensemble cast, had been picked up by NBC. Now you can put 9 April 9pm EDT on your TV-watching calendar. That's the series premiere on NBC.

Proud as a peacock. It'd make an interesting image to have a peacock sit on the other end of the totter.


Matt Callow has been named one of the Glen Arbor Art Association's Artists in Residence. That means a couple of weeks for Matt up by the Sleeping Bear Dunes, which I think is somewhere by the pinky of Michigan's mitten. Good job, Matt.


Patrick Elkins' book release party Elkins book for Ink on Dreams of Transient Architecture was held last Friday at Karl Pohrt's Shaman Drum Bookshop. The CD peeking out from the cover here is included with the book.

Even if you missed the release party, you can still stop by the store and grab yourself a copy. If Patrick is there, ask him to sign it for you. As you can see, he signed mine. But don't ask him to tell you a joke. Or do ask him. But if you do, it's not my fault.

permanent link 22 March 2007 (March Madness and shooting the rock)
I played intramural basketball in college for a team that never won a game. Ever. One team we played was able to field only four players. They could have taken their forfeit like real men, but chose to beat us four-on-five instead. It's not that we didn't try. Because we did try. But we tried in our own way. There's a general principle in the team-oriented sport of basketball: shoot the ball only if you've got an open look. On our team we expanded this principle: if you've got the rock, then shoot the rock, baby. Passing the ball to a teammate was just another opportunity to turn the ball over. We played turnover-free basketball.

Mind you, we didn't just fling the ball haphazardly in the general direction of the basket. We gave every shot our very best effort. More of them went in than you might think. Shots with a defender draped on top of us, shots with the wrong hand, shots facing away from the basket ... lots of them went in. Not enough to win, I'll grant you.

What's my point? It's this. Bill Clinton is paying Ann Arbor a visit on 28 April to deliver the UM commencement address, and I figure that's the closest thing I'm ever going to get to an open look, teeter-tottering-wise. So I forwarded a written invitation (a lovely card imprinted with the tottering images of some previous totterees) to the William J. Clinton Foundation--along with a desktop teeter totter crafted from Michigan oak. In basketball terms, that's a half-court shot. But the ball won't go through the hoop, if you don't at least take your shot. And you gotta shoot whatever ball you dribbled up the court. For me that's a teeter totter.

But if anyone out there has got a great 'inside game' and would like to score an assist ... well, pass me the damn ball!

permanent link 20 March 2007 (magic beans)
Gifts from tottering guests are not required, but are always welcome--especially when such gifts provide an excuse to go dig in the dirt. And pole beans Royer Held's collection of Cherokee cornfield pole beans--sampled from Project Grow's Heirloom Garden--seem to provide exactly that. I promised Royer to plant them this season. And Royer promised me that they would grow into giant bean stalks leading up into the sky, which I could then climb and find a wondrous world where there was always time for teeter tottering, and little sprites flit from totter to totter bringing you a tasty beverage whenever ... Okay, that's not exactly what Royer said. For the straight story, read Royer's Talk.

permanent link 13 March 2007 (Tater Totter)
Last year on the totter Eileen Spring, Executive Director of Food Gatherers, tater tots on a teeter totter revealed that she sure likes potatoes. She likes them so much that she hosts a potato party every spring in honor of her favorite vegetable.

As a result of her Talk, any number of people have paid visits to this website looking for information about how to make potato jewelry or how to draw potatoes. Teeter Talk pays homage to Eileen's fascination with tubers with this ... Tater Tot-ter. No worries: the oak desktop teeter totter presented here is treated with the same food-safe finishing oil I use on our household cutting boards.

What's even cooler than this wooden toy is the fact that according to Charity Navigator's most recent rankings, Food Gatherers is the Number Two charity nationwide in terms of organizational efficiency and fiscal responsibility. That's right, nationwide ... the whole country.

At a time when the announced departure of Pfizer has left many Ann Arbor area non-profits feeling kicked in the head, this is a nice attaboy for Food Gatherers.

As for potato drawings, I'm currently following up a lead for a guest who may well have the artistic expertise to draw a potato. But that attempt may be spuddering, so readers who can reliably draw something recognizable as a potato may soon be called upon to do a service to the broader internet community by volunteering to ride the totter and, in the course of the totter ride, providing the technical specifications for rendering a potato with paper and pencil.

permanent link 9 March 2007 (Re-count)
Because the number of totterees is approaching 100, I thought it'd be worth checking the count for accuracy just to confirm. I was dismayed to discover that the previous running total was inflated by 3. So as of today, we're back down to 91. I'm still not certain how this happened, and I fear that I've simply lost 3 Talks somewhere. Mind you, I've checked the server's file list against my hard-drive list, but if you rode the totter and you don't find your name on the list in the left sidebar, please don't be bashful about letting me know.

permanent link 9 March 2007 (Pinhole)
Readers who savored every last word of the recent Talk with Coco Newton will recognize Dale matchbox pinhole camera Winling's name as a previous totteree with a (tenuous) geographic connection to her. Next up after Coco was someone else with a more concrete connection to Dale. In fact, ever since Dale Winling rode the totter back in December and attempted a tottering photograph with a pinhole camera that he bought at the Winter Shadow Art Fair, I thought it would be fun to eventually follow up with the guy who sold him that camera, Matt Callow.

In preparation for Matt's Talk, I attended a workshop he ran at the Mallets Creek Branch of the Ann Arbor District Library, in the course of which attendees built their Matt Callow through a pinhole very own pinhole cameras. With his guidance, around 40 people crafted themselves a camera out of matchboxes, aluminum pie plates, electrical tape, and spools of film. The results of my afternoon's work, together with a pinhole version of Matt's standard totter shot (yes, taken with that very camera!) are presented here. I was aware of a pinhole's wide field of view but did not have the foresight at the time to get rid of the umbrella in the left of the shot. It was set up there to protect the recording equipment from the big downy flakes of snow that were falling.

For a better reflection of what can be accomplished with pinhole technology in the hands of someone with greater mastery of the art, head on over to Matt Callow's website.


permanent link 6 March 2007 (Food and Healing)
It's worth pausing every once in a while to thank the Teeter Talk readers who have provided some great suggestions for guests on the totter. So, thank you. Many of those suggestions have resulted in actual turns on the totter. Given the good-eating theme that has emerged recently on the totter, here's some food for thought: readers who notice systematic gaps in the representation on the totter of the community in, around, and through Ann Arbor, are especially encouraged to send along suggestions for totterees who will help even things out. Words spoken on the totter are like nutrients, and it's important to maintain a balanced diet. Already-suggested totterees might well turnip soon (if word play is not to your taste, just spit that one out and keep reading), but if you feel like chewing your cabbage twice, feel free to remind me.

I don't rely totally on the Teeter Talk readership for suggestions, of course. Late last year, for example, I noticed a letter printed in the New York Times Sunday Magazine about one of the regular features, Diagnosis, from the previous week. Here's an excerpt:

... Finally a doctor figured out that the patient was on megadoses of zinc, causing a copper deficiency, which led to the infection, and neutropenia.

It was correct to recommend zinc for wound healing, but I wonder if the doctor specified the amount, the form, the brand or the duration? Since some patients will self-prescribe according to ''more is better,'' was the patient cautioned about overdosing?

Let this story illustrate that the real 'healing problem' is that our healers need nutrition education and training! Zinc is not the only culprit here!

Coco Newton
Ann Arbor, Michigan

I pretty much figure anybody from Ann Arbor who's got something to say to the readership of the New York Times might well have some other interesting things to say, and might well be willing to say them on the teeter totter. Coco Newton did not disappoint.

permanent link 1 March 2007 (Cold-hardy tottering)
Over the last few weeks, Ann Arbor has found itself in a deep freeze. Despite the cold, there's been a steady march of cold-hardy totterees who have ratcheted the cold-temperature teeter tottering record steadily downward. All this while, with only slight interruption, Shannon Brines has been harvesting cold-hardy winter salad greens from the hoop house that he has built on the family farm in Dexter. More on what this entails in Shannon's Talk.


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