Letters 05-23-2016

Examine The Priorities Are you disgusted about closing schools, crumbling roads and bridges, and cuts everywhere? Investigate funding priorities of legislators. In 1985 at the request of President Reagan, Grover Norquist founded Americans for Tax Reform (ATR). For 30 years Norquist asked every federal and state candidate and incumbent to sign the pledge to vote against any increase in taxes. The cost of living has risen significantly since 1985; think houses, cars, health care, college, etc...

Make TC A Community For Children Let’s be that town that invests in children actively getting themselves to school in all of our neighborhoods. Let’s be that town that supports active, healthy, ready-to-learn children in all of our neighborhoods...

Where Are Real Christian Politicians? As a practicing Christian, I was very disappointed with the Rev. Dr. William C. Myers statements concerning the current presidential primaries (May 8). Instead of using the opportunity to share the message of Christ, he focused on Old Testament prophecies. Christ gave us a new commandment: to love one another...

Not A Great Plant Pick As outreach specialist for the Northwest Michigan Invasive Species Network and a citizen concerned about the health of our region’s natural areas, I was disappointed by the recent “Listen to the Local Experts” feature. When asked for their “best native plant pick,” three of the four garden centers referenced non-native plants including myrtle, which is incredibly invasive...

Truth About Plants Your feature, “listen to the local experts” contains an error that is not helpful for the birds and butterflies that try to live in northwest Michigan. Myrtle is not a native plant. The plant is also known as vinca and periwinkle...

Ask the Real Plant Experts This letter is written to express my serious concern about a recent “Listen To Your Local Experts” article where local nurseries suggested their favorite native plant. Three of the four suggested non-native plants and one suggested is an invasive and cause of serious damage to Michigan native plants in the woods. The article is both sad and alarming...

My Plant Picks In last week’s featured article “Listen to the Local Experts,” I was shocked at the responses from the local “experts” to the question about best native plant pick. Of the four “experts” two were completely wrong and one acknowledged that their pick, gingko tree, was from East Asia, only one responded with an excellent native plant, the serviceberry tree...

NOTE: Thank you to TC-based Eagle Eye Drone Service for the cover photo, taken high over Sixth Street in Traverse City.

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Robert Downes

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Wednesday, October 3, 2007

The Gold Coast Trail

Random Thoughts Robert Downes Great Britain has an idea that could be a good fit for Northern Michigan. It’s called Sustrans, which is short for “Sustainable Transportation.” It’s a charity which “works on practical projects to help reduce motor traffic.”
Sustrans has established a 5,000-mile National Cycle Network of trails that criss-cross England, Wales and Scotland. Bike-friendly routes such as the C2C Trail in northern England and the Reivers Route along the border of Scotland attract tens of thousands of cycle tourers every summer from all over Europe, and even overseas.
Thursday, September 27, 2007

Learning to love nature

Random Thoughts Robert Downes The mice were quite inconsiderate at our cottage this year.
For starters, four of them had the poor taste to die under our bathroom sink cabinet, creating a stink like rancid gym socks (only far worse). I pried a board off the cabinet and found them all dried out in there. One got stuck in the vacuum cleaner hose, glaring defiantly with his little dead mousie eyes.
They also chewed up a bunch of stuff: a box of Kleenex was shredded for bedding and they gnawed a hole through a vinyl/canvas car top that was stored out in the garage. They chewed a hole in an expensive sail. Who would do such a thing?
Thursday, September 13, 2007

A journey through war & peace

Random Thoughts Robert Downes We tend to shy away from reviewing self-published books at the Express, because generally, they are - how you say? Not so good.
But there’s a poignancy to the story of Father Walter Marek that tugs at the heartstrings on almost every page of his memoir: “Cache the Czech -- A Divine Journey to America.”
It’s a small, plain-spoken book -- just 99 pages -- but its 89-year-old author weaves a tumultuous tale from simple threads as he takes us on a journey through war and peace. As a young man, he lived through the invasion of Czechoslovakia by Nazi Germany, and then through the occupation of his country by the Soviet Union. The book tells of his calling as a Catholic priest and subsequent escape from the Communist secret police, narrowly escaping possible torture and execution. It tells how he made his way to America as a refugee priest to make a new life in western Michigan.
Thursday, September 6, 2007

Our Men‘s Issue

Random Thoughts Robert Downes Hey, whatever happened to old
what’s-his-name? The so-called Angry White Male of the ’90s? He swept the Republicans into absolute power and marched around for a decade or so, pounding his chest with his neoconservative views.
He’s been pretty quiet lately. These days, you barely hear a peep out of him.
Maybe he‘s rethinking a few things that used to send him into a tizzy.
Thursday, September 6, 2007

Electronic Waste

Features Robert Downes Got an old computer that’s ready to be rebooted to the junkyard? Don’t be a polluter -- send it to Shawn Kasner for recycling.
Kasner, 34, has launched E Waste Electronic Recycling, a business that strips computers and other electronic gear of their components for reuse.
“A lot of people are starting to realize the necessity of not throwing their old computers in landfills,” Kasner says.
He notes that the cumulative effect of trashing millions of obsolete computers has made electronic waste a topic of national concern.
Kasner’s business is located at 515 Franklin in Traverse City, where he and his partner, Brandon McMaster, recycle outdated monitors, keyboards, computers, scanners, printers and copiers, “dead or alive.”
Thursday, August 30, 2007

Michael Vick‘s bad trip

Random Thoughts Robert Downes Michael Vick‘s Bad Trip
Animal abuse cases are not unknown in Northern Michigan. Stories of abused horses or reeking homes filled with starving dogs and cats have been in the news here in recent years.
But each time a story of animal abuse surfaces, it touches the heart of our humanity and generates outrage. To have a sense of humanity means caring for those weaker than yourself -- be they children, the poor, the less fortunate, and even pets or farm animals.
Thursday, August 16, 2007

Spin City/Local CDs

Music Robert Downes Summer produced a bumper crop of new CDs from local musicians this year, most of which are well worth a listen. Check out the following discs at musician-friendly venues, with many also available online from the performers’ websites or through cdbaby.com.

Funny Dog
Susan Gilbert & Plastic Duck

No one in Northern Michigan outdoes Susan Gilbert when it comes to experimental music. Her Frankfort-based band employs instruments such as the musical saw, a tin can drum kit and “various animal and vegetable noisemakers.”
On this CD, however, the music seems more accessible than past efforts -- dare we say, even mainstream? But no more so than you’d expect from the likes of Kate Bush, who offered the same sort of quirky lyrics and melodies in her ‘80s heyday.
Gilbert performs on keyboard and vocals, with “perpetrators” Richard Curtis on flute and alto sax, Nate Bynum on bass and saw, and Bill Wagner on percussion, conga and the aforementioned animal/veggie effects. There’s also an assist from Amanda Strong on harmony and Don Julin on mandolin.
This is imaginative, whimsical music, sometimes with a stream-of-consciousness sense of freedom, as on the poppy “Girlfriend.” And please note: sometimes experimental music types have an inclination to grind out depressing dirges, but that’s not the case for Susan Gilbert; her music is upbeat and optimistic, like a “bag of cheerful humor
Thursday, August 16, 2007

Summer Scrapbook

Random Thoughts Robert Downes Whoops -- looks like Rick Coates‘ story on nude beaches in our Super Summer Guide had an all-too predictable result. When you visit Otter Creek Beach in Benzie County these days, you see park rangers roaming up and down the beach, presumably looking for outlaw weenie roasters.
I feel sorry for the rangers -- they‘re dressed in full uniforms that look terribly hot in a polyester sort of way, and it‘s got to be tough wading through the sand in your Florsheims in search of elusive nudies. Also, I‘ve seen some of the Otter Creek nudists, and it‘s not a very pretty sight. There ought to be extra compensation -- like combat pay -- for putting the rangers through a thankless task.
Thursday, August 9, 2007

Space: The final frontier for careers?

Features Robert Downes College students in search of a major might want to give a heads-up to the infinite potential of outer space, where career opportunities are literally firing up with a bang.
Astronomer Michael Foerster notes that the field of space is wide open to college students with opportunities at NASA and the private sector ranging from aeronautical engineering to space tourism and hotel management.
“There are a lot of space jobs out there,” he says. “Not just as astronauts on the shuttle, but with the tens of thousands of people on the ground who make the space missions possible.”
Thursday, August 2, 2007

Local musicians rock the Film Festival

Music Robert Downes Mike Sullivan, guitarist for the Song of the Lakes folk band and The Turtlenecks jazz trio, has been the hardest workin’ man in showbiz over the past few weeks, rounding up talent to perform at Traverse City Film Festival parties and before the films themselves.
Thursday, August 2, 2007

May I have a word with you?

Random Thoughts Robert Downes May I have a word with you?
Some of you who are regular readers of our Letters to the Editor page probably scratched your heads last week at the letter, “No cherry for the slice of pie I’m holding,” from Don Swan, who has a penchant for Capitalizing many Words without any Rhyme Or reason, much In the Style of the German Language.
I happen to know Don -- a local musician who heads up a band called The Company. I ran into him a few days before we ran his letter and said, “You know, Don, you might want to clean up the grammar in your letter because it’s not proper to have all of those capitalized letters.”
Thursday, July 26, 2007

Foever young in Hoxeyville

Music Robert Downes If you’re looking for the best new acts on Michigan’s acoustic and jam-band music scene, then don’t miss the Hoxeyville Music Festival, which has spent the past five years cultivating some of the hottest -- and youngest -- artists in the state.
Packing more performers than ever -- 26 and counting -- the event takes place this weekend, July 27-29, at Coyote Crossing Resort, a few miles west of Cadillac.
“It gets bigger every year -- last year we had 200 or 300 people attending from Kalamazoo alone,” says founder and creative director Jake Robinson. “We kind of call it an ‘away’ home game.”
The Kalamazoo-Cadillac connection is key to the success of the festival. Robinson, 29, is a native of Cadillac who graduated from high school there in 1996. He’s since created a career as an acoustic guitar maker in Kalamazoo and has tapped into that city’s rich musical talent to supply Hoxeyville with top-notch entertainers.
Thursday, July 26, 2007

On the road, revisited

Random Thoughts Robert Downes On the Road, Revisited
I’m always amazed by how many high school and college students have read “On the Road” by Jack Kerouac. The rambling, stream-of-consciousness book celebrates its 50th anniversary this September.
Of course, these young people tend to be those who enjoyed studying literature in school. But still, it seems pretty cool that “On the Road” still has some legs 50 years after it was written.
I read “On the Road” three times at a similar age, from 17 to 19, and couldn’t make a lick of sense of it. It’s America’s version of James Joyce’s “Ulysses,” which is a completely unreadable book about a single day’s events in Dublin.
“On the Road” is much the same. It’s basically an autobiography of Jack Kerouac’s seven years of bumming around America in the 1940s in search of a new “hip” way of life, inspired by poetry, jazz, drugs, casual sex, and living rough on the streets.
Thursday, July 19, 2007

Show some gumption, Governors

Random Thoughts Robert Downes Maybe it‘s the nature of the beast, but it sure seems like the National Governors Association (NGA) comes up with some snoozy topics for their annual meetings.
With the war in Iraq consuming our nation‘s resources, New Orleans still a wreck, and the breakdown in the rule of law in the White House and U.S. Justice Department, you‘d think that there would be a historic meeting in Traverse City this week when the NGA comes to town. You‘d think our nation‘s governors would be spreading some hellfire and brimstone.
After all, Michigan is in the fight of its life with a deficit of $800 million, and last week, Pennsylvania‘s financial woes required the shutdown of much of the state‘s government. There are crying domestic issues in America that demand action from our nation‘s governors.
Thursday, July 12, 2007

Hip-Hop Generation

Music Robert Downes Rudy Williams is a member of the first generation raised entirely on hip-hop. Growing up, the pop music and rock that many teens listened to in the past barely made a dent. “I was born in 1985, so ever since I was born, hip-hop has been the biggest musical genre,” he says. “It was music I could always relate to.”
Rudy Williams, 21, is the stage name of Kyle Christunas, who graduated from Traverse City Central High in 2004. This weekend, he and his partner Max Garcia will be performing as Trackmeat at Beats by the Bay. The event will feature over 20 acts on Friday and Saturday July 13-14 at Streeters Ground Zero in Traverse City.