Letters

Letters 07-21-2014

Disheartened

While observing Fox News, it was disheartening to see what their viewers were subjected to. It seems the Republicans’ far right wing extremists are conveying their idealistic visions against various nationalities, social diversities or political beliefs with an absence of emotion concerning women’s health issues, children’s rights, voter suppression, Seniors, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid...

Things That Matter

All of us in small towns and large not only have the right to speak on behalf of our neighbors and ourselves, we have the duty and responsibility to do so -- and 238 years ago, we made a clear Declaration to do just that...

An Anecdote Driven Mind

So, is Thomas Kachadurian now the Northern Express’ official resident ranter? His recent factfree, hard-hearted column suggests it. While others complain about the poor condition of Michigan’s roads and highways, he rants against those we employ to fix them...

No On Prop 1

Are we being conned? Are those urging us to say “yes” to supposedly ”revenue neutral” ballot proposal 1 on August 5 telling us all the pertinent facts? Proposal 1 would eliminate the personal property tax businesses pay to local governments, replacing its revenue with a share of Michigan’s 6 percent use tax paid by us all on out-of-state purchases, hotel accommodations, some equipment rentals, and telecommunications...

Fix VA Tragedy

The problems within the Veterans Administration identified under former President Bush continue to hinder the delivery of quality health care to the influx of physically wounded and emotionally damaged young men and women...

Women Take Note

I find an interesting link between the Supreme Court Hobby Lobby and the crisis on the southern border. Angry protesters shout at children to go home. These children are scared, tired, hungry and thirsty, sent to US prisons awaiting deportation to a country where they may very likely be killed...


Home · Articles · By Robert Downes

Robert Downes

 
Top Articles from
No articles in this section
Monday, August 4, 2008

Catch the wind with the Nauti-Cat

Features Robert Downes Talk about dream jobs: Chien Nowland, 22, spends his days sailing West Grand Traverse Bay and partying with people from all over the world who are thrilled to be guests on his 47-foot catamaran, the Nauti-Cat.
“If you love your job, it doesn’t seem like work,” he says.
But it’s not all fun and games, sailing until the sun goes down each day. “I’m out here every day, seven days a week, with four cruises each day,” he says. “I’m the only captain, so that ends up being about 100 hours per week.”
Captain Nowland is partners in the Nauti-Cat with his father, Jack, who owns the SOS Analytical environmental assessment company in Traverse City. Jack does the books while Chien does the hands-on work. Chien is also the son of Nita Nowland, a well-known local businesswoman and rock singer.
 
Monday, July 28, 2008

A hype-free zone

Random Thoughts Robert Downes Just about everyone knows the famous “Peanuts” cartoon where Lucy is holding a football in position for Charlie Brown to deliver the kick-off. Charlie fears that Lucy will pull the ball away, just like she has 100 times before -- but Lucy promises that she won’t -- she’ll let him make the kick. Sure enough, Charlie Brown tries to kick the ball and winds up flat on his back because Lucy has jerked it away at the last second.
That’s pretty much my experience with summer blockbuster films. I’m a Charlie Brown-style sucker for the hype and get all revved up to see some movie that is praised to the skies, only to end up flat on my back, wondering where my $8.50 went...
Oh, you too?
 
Monday, July 21, 2008

The Dunegrass & Blues Fest makes its bid for the big time

Music Robert Downes What do Arlo Guthrie, Ritchie Havens, Bela Fleck and Buckethead have in common?
A destination: The stars of folk, roots and rock are all coming to perform at the Dunegrass & Blues Festival this July 31-Aug. 3, along with an estimated 6,000 concert-goers per day.
At least, that’s the hope of impresario Stephen Volas of Grassroots Productions, who is counting on a good turnout as a reward for bringing the best roster of entertainers yet to the 16th annual incarnation of the festival in the Village of Empire.
 
Monday, July 21, 2008

Tribal Rock

Music Robert Downes Africa moves a little closer to Northern Michigan this month in a musical event that will unite performers drawn from thousands of miles apart.
Dominic Akena, the national xylophone champion of Uganda, whose story was told in the documentary film, War Dance, will perform with his friend John Okello and the afro-pop band Aphrodesia in a high-powered, horn-driven, foot-stomping, singing & dancing concert that is likely to be the high point of the teenagers’ month-long visit to America.
Those who saw War Dance at last year’s Traverse City Film Festival are familiar with Dominic’s story: the film was made in the aftermath of Uganda’s 20-year civil war in which more than 30,000 children were abducted to fight in a rebel army. The Academy Award-nominated film focused on the struggle of refugee Dominic and his friends Rose and Nancy to compete in Uganda’s national music and dance festival as representatives of their school in the Patongo Internally Displaced Persons camp.
 
Monday, July 21, 2008

Getting our share

Random Thoughts Robert Downes “May you live in exciting times.“
-- ancient Chinese curse

These certainly are exciting times in every sense. On one hand, we have war and ruin blaring in the headlines and newscasts each day. Alarms are going off over the mortgage crisis, the inflation crisis, the Madonna/A-Rod crisis...
But turn the page and you‘ll also find that titanic forces are in play to transform the earth for the better with a ‘green‘ energy movement that will benefit billions of people -- including those who get the jump on building the infrastructure of the new world.
That‘s the news we should be excited about. There‘s a sustainable-energy revolution about to explode in the coming decade and we‘ve got a front-row seat.
Consider a few articles in the July 21 issue of Newsweek:
 
Monday, July 14, 2008

Are we missing the boat on festivals?

Random Thoughts Robert Downes The National Cherry Festival has come and gone here in Traverse City, blessed this year with great weather and good attendance. The music was good, the jumping dogs were cool and a lot of tourists came to town despite gloomy predictions and high gas prices.
What’s not to like?
It made this long-time festival-goer wonder why Traverse City doesn’t have more bayside festivals during the summer? After all, many waterfront cities, such as Milwaukee and Detroit, have festivals every single week.
Obviously, that wouldn‘t be a good idea for a residential community, but how much is too much?
 
Monday, July 7, 2008

Enough with the Doom & Gloom

Random Thoughts Robert Downes If ever there was a time to recall Mark Twain‘s great line on statistics, this is it, considering all the doom & gloom about the economy:
“There are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies, and statistics.“
If you read the newspapers or follow the TV news, you‘d think the wheels were falling off America. But check the story behind the story on these widely reported downers:
 
Monday, June 30, 2008

Do travel writers go to Hell

Books Robert Downes Indiana Jones, look out: when it comes to gutsy adventurers and studly chick magnets, you’re no match for Lonely Planet travel guide writer Thomas Kohnstamm, who has penned a gonzo memoir of six smokin’ hot weeks in Brazil.
Er, make that “ex”-Lonely Planet writer because Kohnstamm is currently persona non grata at the travel guide publishing house, owing to the damning details of his new memoir, “Do Travel Writers Go to Hell?” in which he admits that he made up much of the information he collected in a Lonely Planet guide to northeast Brazil.
And not only that, but in subsequent news reports, Kohnstamm outed himself as a fraud, claiming that he made up details in 12 Lonely Planet guidebooks and didn’t even bother visiting Columbia for his research. He wrote the book from his apartment in San Francisco.
“They didn’t pay me enough to go (to) Columbia,” he is widely reported as stating in what has become a Jayson Blair-style scandal in the travel writing industry. “I wrote the book in San Francisco. I got the information from a chick I was dating - an intern in the Colombian Consulate.”
 
Monday, June 30, 2008

Some dam good ideas

Random Thoughts Robert Downes Here’s an old idea whose time has finally come around again: hydroelectric dams.
While Grand Traverse County and Traverse City have been mulling over whether to tear down two power-generating dams on the Boardman River, more forward-thinking (or should we say “backward”?) persons in other states are giving dams a second look as a way to generate clean electrical power.
Currently, a power company in Pennsylvania is sinking $350 million into revitalizing a decrepit old dam on the Susquehanna River. When it goes on line, the dam will generate power for 100,000 homes.
Meanwhile, upgrades are underway at 23 dams in Idaho, California, Kentucky and other states, according to an article in the Baltimore Sun.
And that’s pollution-free power. Power that doesn’t add anything to global warming and comes free of charge from the motion of water through a turbine.
The Sun notes that there are 79,000 dams in America. But only 2,400 dams have hydroelectric generators, producing just seven percent of our nation’s power. Adding turbines to more of our country’s dams could provide enough juice to power 27 million homes.
 
Monday, June 23, 2008

Fighting Words: The bloody saga of George Armstrong Custer

Books Robert Downes A Terrible Glory
By James Donovan
Little, Brown and Company
528 pages • $26.99

“June 25, 1876. The air is filled with smoke, arrows, and the roar of hundreds of rifles. George Armstrong Custer and five undermanned companies of his famed Seventh Cavalry are trapped on a hill overlooking a river called the Little Bighorn. They are surrounded by more than a thousand Lakota and Cheyenne warriors...”
So begins the much-told tale of George Armstrong Custer, “the Boy General” whose hubris led more than 200 men to their death in what author James Donovan calls “The Last Great Battle of the American West.”
There have been many retellings of Custer’s last stand on a hill in Montana, but Donovan sheds new light on the battle by exploring unpublished resources and new forensic evidence. His claims are backed up by more than 80 pages of footnotes in small type, as well as a bibliography that cites hundreds of books, articles and unpublished accounts.
More to the point, his superb scholarship is matched by a spellbinding gift for storytelling: Donovan is adept at drawing pictures with his words, bringing the story of “the last cavalier” to life. That gift is perhaps a bi-product of the fact that he’s also the author of an illustrated book on the battle, “Custer and the Little Bighorn.”
 
Monday, June 16, 2008

The New Russian Roulette

Random Thoughts Robert Downes The woman yakking on a cell phone sailed through a red light just a stone’s throw away from the Traverse City Police Department. Of course, there’s never a cop around when you wish some jerk would get nailed, so she drove off down the street without a clue.
If there had been a child at the intersection, perhaps the driver would have been a killer in addition to a red light runner. But of course, few parents today are crazy enough to let their kids ride bikes around town like we did when we were young, because increasingly, drivers seem to be ignoring the rules of the road, busy talking on the phone, or even text-messaging while they drive.
 
Monday, June 9, 2008

Best beach reads

Books Robert Downes Back when I was a kid, our library used to have a summer reading club for those of us who enjoyed the escapism of a good book. I’m not sure that many kids actually made it through an ambitious summer reading project, but the idea of enjoying a big summer novel or nonfiction potboiler retains its allure.
So, here are a few tomes to chew on while you’re down at the beach, looking for something to do besides counting seagulls:
 
Monday, June 9, 2008

Tourist tips for Madonna

Random Thoughts Robert Downes Tourist tips for Madonna
Dear Madonna,
Thanks for coming to Northern Michigan for the film festival this summer. Everyone in these parts is wondering if we‘ll have many visitors, what with the price of gas and all. But now that you‘re taking a break from your tour to premiere your film, I Am Because We Are, maybe more people will make the trip.
Many of your fans were lined up outside the State Theatre two days before the tickets went on sale, camping out on the sidewalk in the rain in order to see you present the film on August 2.
So the good news is that your film about the east African country of Malawi is sure to be a box office smash up this way. But you may want to wear some sunglasses and a disguise to keep from being overwhelmed. There‘s already some guy walking around town in a Madonna outfit, giving people whiplash from turning around to see if it‘s really you.
 
Monday, June 2, 2008

What‘s the alternative?

Random Thoughts Robert Downes A friend claims that people are now drilling holes in other folks’ gas tanks, siphoning gas from boats, and raiding the fuel tanks of vacant cottages to get at the precious liquid inside (slurp, slurp...).
It sounds like an urban legend, but State Police troopers in Manistee say it’s at least partly true (see Anne Stanton’s story on page 8).
Stealing gas or fuel oil seems like a great way to risk becoming your own funeral director, with the cremation thrown in for free.
 
Monday, May 26, 2008

A soldier‘s tale

Random Thoughts Robert Downes Not long ago, I met an old soldier who had made the crossing in the D-Day invasion of June 6, 1944 -- that was 64 years ago. Still as spry as spring at the age of 84, he came over to say hello as I was walking my bike through a local farm market. I’m sorry to say I didn’t catch his name.
“I wish I could ride a bike,” he said. “You save all that money riding a bike. But my joints are all roughed up and I lost my hearing when a cannon went off next to my head at Omaha Beach. You know what you get from the government when you lose your hearing? Not much. And these hearing aids cost $6,000.”
 
 
Close
Close
Close