Letters 11-23-2015

Cheering From Petoskey While red-eyed rats boil fanatically up from the ancient sewers of Paris to feast on pools of French blood, at the G20 meeting the farcical pied piper of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue thrusts a bony finger at the president of the Russian Federation and yells: “liberté, égalité, fraternité, Clinton, Kerry--Obamaism!”

The Other Mothers And Fathers Regarding the very nice recent article on “The First Lady of Yoga,” I have taken many classes with Sandy Carden, and I consider her to be a great teacher. However, I feel the article is remiss to not even give acknowledgement to other very important yoga influences in northern Michigan...

Drop The Blue Angels The last time I went to the National Cherry Festival, I picked the wrong day. The Blue Angels were forcing everyone to duck and cover from the earsplitting cacophony overhead...

Real Advice For The Sick In the Nov. 16 article “Flu Fighters,” author Kristi Kates fails to mention the most basic tool in our arsenal during Influenza season... the flu vaccine! I understand you might be afraid of being the victim of Jenny McCarthyism, but the science is there...

Keeping Traverse City in the Dark Our environment is our greatest asset. It sustains our lives; it drives our economy. We ignore it at our peril. Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council (NMEAC) has submitted letters of concern to both the city commission and planning commission regarding the proposed 9-story buildings on Pine Street. We have requested an independent environmental assessment with clear answers before a land use permit is granted...

All About Them Another cartoon by Jen Sorensen that brings out the truth! Most of her cartoons are too slanted in a Socialist manner, but when she gets it correct, she hits the nail on the target! “Arizona is the first state to put a 12-month lifetime limit on welfare benefits.” That quote is in the opening panel... 

Unfair To County Employees It appears that the commissioners of Grand Traverse County will seek to remedy a shortfall in the 2016 budget by instituting cuts in expenditures, the most notable the reduction of contributions to various insurance benefits in place for county employees. As one example, the county’s contributions to health insurance premiums will decrease from ten to six percent in 2016. What this means, of course, is that if a county employee wishes to maintain coverage at the current level next year, the employee will have to come up with the difference...

Up, Not Out I would like to congratulate the Traverse City Planning Commission on their decision to approve the River West development. Traverse City will either grow up or grow out. For countless reasons, up is better than out. Or do we enjoy such things as traffic congestion and replacing wooded hillsides with hideous spectacles like the one behind Tom’s West Bay. At least that one is on the edge of town as opposed to in the formerly beautiful rolling meadows of Acme Township...

Lessons In Winning War I am saddened to hear the response of so many of legislators tasked with keeping our country safe. I listen and wonder if they know what “winning” this kind of conflict requires or even means? Did we win in Korea? Did we win in Vietnam? Are we winning in Afghanistan? How is Israel winning against the Palestinians? Will they “take out” Hezbollah...

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Monday, September 15, 2008

The Bellstone revisits Gallery 544

Art Robert Downes Marcia Bellinger will be bringing back some familiar faces for the Sept. 19 Art Walk in downtown Traverse City. Dan Oberschulte, former owner of Gallery 544, and many of the artists he used to feature there, will be the focus of Bellinger’s show at her Belstone Gallery.
“The Art Walk is a wonderful event, with all the downtown art galleries,” Bellinger said. “I do a show every Artwalk. Most are up two weeks to a month. This display will run through the end of October.”
In addition to Oberschulte, the “Gallery 544 Revisited” show will feature Mary Fuscaldo, Joe De Luca, Jerry Gates, Dorothy Grow, Dan Heron, Joe Stearns, Angela Saxon, Flora Stuck, Nancy Hoffman, Billie Hoxie and Julie Pearson.
Monday, September 15, 2008

When good intentions go off the rails

Random Thoughts Robert Downes There was an historic moment last month which Michigan Senator Carl Levin can be proud of: the U.S. Senate passed his legislation for the Great Lakes Compact by a unanimous vote, protecting our water for all time.
Or does it?
The Compact bans the diversion of water from the Great Lakes. The agreement has already been signed by the governors of eight states along the lakes, including Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
“Senate passage of this compact will help us protect the Great Lakes from water diversions and preserve this invaluable resource for future generations,” said Sen. Levin in a published report.
The Compact is also considered a slam-dunk for approval by the U.S. House of Representatives, and President Bush will surely sign it. Plus, the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec have already passed the Compact.
“It’s looking like an unstoppable tide now,” said Cameron Davis, president of the Alliance for the Great Lakes.
Monday, September 8, 2008

Rootstand throws a Rootenanny

Music Robert Downes If you see the members of Rootstand wanted for arson one of these days, you’ll know they’ve set another dance floor on fire with their hot licks and burning rhythms.
A Rootstand show has the flavor of a Grange hall stomp when the harvest is finally all-in. There’s a sense of joy in the air with that old-timey music kicked up a notch. The explosive power of the band’s bluegrass-meets-reggae sound seems to literally blast people onto the dance floor from the moment they kick off their show. And that’s saying a lot, considering the band uses traditional instruments including acoustic guitars, a banjo, mandolin and harmonica.
“Our sound has evolved based on who we’re playing for,” says John Snyder, 32, who performs on acoustic guitar and harmonica. “We’re proficient in many forms of music. Depending on the crowd, we can either play bluegrass or bust out with some hip-hop stuff.”
Monday, September 8, 2008

Why not Geena?

Random Thoughts Robert Downes Choosing Sarah Palin as John McCain’s running mate for vice president was a brilliant idea -- if you were trying to write a comedy skit for Mad TV or the Conan O’Brien Show, that is.
John McCain has a lot of wear on his tires. Five years in a Vietnamese prison camp played hell with his health, and he’s also battled skin cancer three times. If he takes office at the age of 72, McCain will be two years away from the average life expectancy of the American male.
So, it’s nice to know that he picked someone younger “just in case.”
But Sarah Palin? She’s been governor of one of the least-populated states in the country for just two years. Prior to that, she was mayor of Wasilla, a town of 7,000 people.
Monday, September 1, 2008

Richard Schemm

Art Robert Downes Walk into Richard Schemm’s studio in a cool forest valley west of Traverse City and you’ll be pleasantly overwhelmed by color and creative energy. Dozens of small paintings hang on the wall, surrounded by larger works in colors as vibrant and alive as the neon of butterfly wings.
Schemm’s paintings have a distinct sense of depth. They contain veils, swirls, canyons and fissures that lead your eye ever deeper into the work. You get the sense that there is a ‘story’ within each painting, and if you go deep enough, your imagination will be fired with visions of what’s around the next bend in the canvas. There is a sublime power here -- and energy -- that goes far beyond other examples of abstract art in Northern Michigan.
“There’s a lot of storytelling in my work,” says Schemm, 56, whose personal intensity is as vibrant as his work. “In a way, these are not ‘abstract’ paintings. They’re abstract compared to realism, but they aren’t without content that informs.”
Monday, September 1, 2008

Great gear for guys

Features Robert Downes The advancement of tech gear is whooshing along faster than a Mercedes in the left hand lane of the Autobahn. And given the innovations of the past several years, it’s more affordable than ever, too; things like miniature videogame systems, USB storage sticks, portable MP3 players, cell phones that can handle phone calls and text messages, plus video and miniature applications of all kinds. All of these high-tech gadgets were unattainable except for the wealthy folks a mere 10 years ago - but now they can all be snagged for around $100 or under. But what are the newest must-haves, especially for guys, in 2008? We’ve uncovered a selection from $99 on up that you just might find tugging at both your wallet and your gearhead sensibilities.
Monday, August 25, 2008

Staying safe abroad

Books Robert Downes Ed Lee has lived a life of adventure, working in some of the most dangerous countries in the world as a security consultant. Riots, bombs, bullets and kidnappings -- he’s dealt with it all -- and he’s used his wits to keep himself and others out of harm’s way.
But today, Lee, 64, is relying on more than 30 years of experience as an international security consultant to help keep readers out of trouble overseas with his new book: “Staying Safe Abroad -- Traveling, Working and Living in a Post-9/11 World.”
The 327-page book, published by his own Sleeping Bear Risk Solutions press, is packed with hair-raising stories, timely statistics and common-sense tips that will rate as valuable cargo on your next foreign vacation. In fact, if there’s any fault to the book, it’s that you may not want to venture much farther than your back porch after reading its cautionary tales, much less across the U.S. border.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Meet your sister...

Random Thoughts Robert Downes The next time you enjoy a refreshing glass of green tea in downtown Traverse City, be sure to think of your sister. Your Japanese Sister City, that is. It turns out that the green tea crop is as important to Koka, Japan as cherries are to Traverse City.
That‘s one of the things members of the city commission learned last week when they welcomed a delegation of three Japanese visitors who represent our “home away from home“ across the Pacific.
Yoshinobu Lino, Misato Yamagiwa and Yoichi Shirai spent five days here, touring the region as part of a goodwill mission that was established 38 years ago.
Monday, August 25, 2008

A world class ride/ Gaylord to Mackinaw

Features Robert Downes This sure seems like a good place to run into a bear, you think as you roll through the forest north of Vanderbilt. The bike trail skirts the Pigeon River Forest and the trees are thick as a jungle on either side of the path, which runs like an arrow through the green.
Alas, there are no bear sightings today, but tomorrow you spot a porcupine waddling along the new Gaylord-to-Mackinaw Rail Trail, which is a dream come true for Michigan cyclists.
The 62-mile trail opened in the fall of 2007, wending its way through deep forests and along the Sturgeon River and Mullett Lake, all the way from Gaylord to Mackinaw City. Paved with crushed limestone and about eight feet wide, the sparkling white trail is smooth and fast -- ideal for mountain bikes or hybrid cycles (no skinny tire bikes need apply, unless you’re up for a wobbly, white-knuckle ride). In the winter, the trail becomes a pathway for snowmobiles.
Monday, August 25, 2008

OTP plans a dazzling season

Features Robert Downes Look for plenty of sizzle on the stage this year at Old Town Playhouse in Traverse City, which is bringing in some of America’s hottest contemporary plays.
The lineup includes the Vegas-flavored laugh-fest of “Nunsensations!,” the edgy urban satire “Urinetown,” the musical version of “The Producers,” the perennial favorite “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” and a cross-dressing comedy, “Leading Ladies.”
Monday, August 18, 2008

What‘s on your iPod?

Random Thoughts Robert Downes It’s got to be tough being Barack Obama these days: everyone in the media wants to know what’s on his iPod. And that’s kind of personal, like the “boxers or briefs?” question.
Even Ludacris is in the act, rapping about being on Obama’s iPod in his new song, “Politics.” Obama’s peeps scrambled to denounce the song because it took some shots at Hillary, McCain, Jesse and “mentally handicapped” Bush. But it’s a pretty good jam with plenty of bass, drums and heart. If I were Obama, I’d start my day listening to it with the volume way up and a cup of strong coffee.
Beyond that, there’s no accounting for musical tastes. You can tell a lot about people by the kind of music they listen to, so maybe the media is on to something here.
Recently, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen endorsed Obama, so naturally, Jenn Wenner, the editor of Rolling Stone, asked him what Dylan songs he had on his iPod.
“I’ve got probably 30 Dylan songs on my iPod,” Obama said. “I think I have the entire Blood on the Tracks album on there.”
Monday, August 11, 2008

Dunegrass delivers

Music Robert Downes With a daily attendance reaching up to 5,000 people, this year’s Dunegrass & Blues in Empire offered the best music ever in its 16-year history.
Some of the best performances were on three new small stages this year, where festival-goers found respite from the heat, but plenty of hot sounds by bands such as the Texas blues outfit, Papa Mali, the blues of Larry McCray, and the rock sounds of moe, to name a few. Then too, some of the absolute “best” players in the bluegrass world were on hand, including the likes of banjo player Chris Thile, Bela Fleck, Peter Rowan and Tony Rice, and many other players.
Although there was some disappointment that headliner Richie Havens didn’t make the gig, there were so many other performers playing that festival-goers were hard-pressed to take them all in. Here’s a look at the action in Empire.
Monday, August 11, 2008

Choosing a major

Features Robert Downes Going to college? Then obviously, you’re going to leap some major hurdles. Which school should you attend? Which school will accept you? How will you pay for college? What will dorm life be like? Will you like your fellow students?
But perhaps the greatest challenge of all is deciding on a major. After
all, this is the one decision that is likely to affect your entire life, and it often comes down to making up your mind on the spot in your junior year. Or, at the beginning of a two-year program, if you’ve chosen to specialize in a trade.
Unless you’ve known from childhood what you want to do in life, rest assured, most undergrads get the jitters as their junior year looms, along with the need to pick a major.
Will it be English or economics? Accounting or engineering? Anthro-pology or comparative literature? International affairs or forensic science?
Monday, August 11, 2008

New Boardman Nature Center

Features Robert Downes Residents of the Traverse City area will find themselves a little closer to nature this week with the grand opening of the new Boardman River Nature Center on Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 16-17.
Located just over a mile south of S. Airport Road on Cass Road south of Traverse City, the new $1 million center will serve as the home offices of the Grand Traverse Conservation District, along with providing a wealth of nature displays, workshops, and programs for kids. Outdoor classes will be offered at an accompanying Oleson Pavilion.
Monday, August 4, 2008

The end of reefer madness

Random Thoughts Robert Downes Do you believe in having the freedom to do as you choose with your own body? Or should government make those decisions for you?
That’s the fundamental question in many great controversies of our time regarding smoking, prostitution, abortion, stem cell research, marijuana, wearing a motorcycle helmet, the right to die with dignity, the use of steroids, and drug use to name a few.
At least half the time, we (ie. society) decide to limit ourselves. If you want to make money by inviting strangers to enjoy your body, too bad -- it’s against the law. If you want to hit the ball farther than anyone else on the team by taking steroids, tough luck -- it’s illegal.