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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Thursday, May 10, 2007

Local CDs

Music Robert Downes What’s the latest on local music? The following is a round-up of CDs by musicians from around Northern Michigan. Reviews by Robert Downes.

All Odds Against • All Odds Against
Who would have suspected that Gaylord would have produced such a dead-on homage to the current state of hardcore? All Odds Against got their start in the winter of 2003 and have since been through numerous changes in their lineup while keeping true to their vision of extreme metal.
The band includes Derek on bass, Greg on guitar, Olen on guitar and Steve on drums (alas, no last names included in the liner notes), with an assist on vocals by Frances Damoth. Most of the band members perform on vocals, dishing up croaking screams and howls in the best tradition of today’s hardcore yellers, with an effect like sandy jalapeno peppers inching through a colitic bowel. All Odds Against have clear command of their instruments on this six-song EP. We liked the operatic “Sands Through the Hourglass” for throwing down the hammer and upholding Gaylord’s place in the pantheon of aggressive metal.
Thursday, May 10, 2007

Then Changes

Random Thoughts Robert Downes Heard that a couple of teens got kicked out of a local high school the other day for getting caught with alcohol. Hope they pull through... And did you hear about the first-grader who was kicked out of school for pointing his finger at some kids and yelling “bang“?
It made me think that we sure judge kids by a harsher standard today than when I was a carefree young terrorist.
Times sure have changed, by cracky. Back when teenagers ruled the world in the late 60s, the administrators at my high school were busy creating an experimental smoking lounge for students so we wouldn’t have to go outside to smoke. The experiment lasted less than a year, but still, in that social climate I can’t imagine any of our principals would have expelled a student for getting caught with a beer.
Looking in the rearview mirror from the age of Klebold and Harris, I shiver to think of how we parents would have been judged if today’s standards of zero tolerance were shipped to the days of our youth in the Wayback Machine.
Thursday, May 3, 2007

WJML-AM Balancing Act

Features Robert Downes After years of enduring the divisive blare of conservative and far-right views on commercial talk radio, Northern Michigan is finally getting a powerful new station that will air liberal viewpoints as well.
Broadcaster Rick Stone is bringing his even-handed format to the Grand Traverse area from Petoskey. With a 50,000-watt signal, listeners will get a more diverse mix of viewpoints loud and clear on WJML-AM-1210 in Traverse City and AM-1110 in Petoskey.
Thursday, April 26, 2007

Recruiting More Killers

Random Thoughts Robert Downes You couldn‘t turn on your TV last week without seeing hour after endless hour of demented Cho Seung-Hui in fullblown Natural Born Killer pose, brandishing his weapons and mumbling his crazed manifesto.
After awhile, the endless montage of photos took on the quality of a recruitment poster for all of the disturbed and angry nutcases in America. No doubt, a legion of these guys managed to look up from playing their Doom or Grand Theft Auto video games long enough to think: Gee, maybe if I shoot up a school I‘ll be a big celebrity like Cho Seung-Hui... One wanna-be copycat killer was caught just last Thursday in California.
MSNBC and other networks are scrambling to do damage control in regard to airing the Cho videos, but they still don‘t seem to get it. The problem isn‘t that the videos were aired -- the problem is that they were played over and over, hour after hour, similar to the 9/11 jet crash videos. Or for that matter, the endless Don Imus apologies. It‘s like the networks get a case of obsessive-compulsive disorder on single issue stories these days and the rest of the news goes out the window.
Thursday, April 19, 2007

Are you carbon nuetral?

Random Thoughts Robert Downes After he won the Oscar last month for his global warming documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, former Vice President Al Gore was blindsided by an “inconvenient truth” of his own. Turns out Gore has a whopper of an electric bill -- averaging $1,359 per month.
A conservative think tank called the Tennessee Center for Policy Research claims that Gore’s 20-room mansion uses more electricity each month than the average American family uses in a year. Plus, the natural gas bills for Gore’s home and guest house averaged $1,080 per month last year -- in balmy Tennessee. His combined electrical and gas bills for 2006 came to nearly $30,000.
Thursday, April 12, 2007

Book Roundup

Books Robert Downes Self-publishing has become a cottage industry in Northern Michigan with a slew of do-it-yourself authors making their mark on the literary world.
Here’s an update on who’s doing what on the shelves of local bookstores, borrowing freely from the authors’ press releases:

Murder in the Keweenaw
By Harley Sachs

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Mark Staycer...Is he The Next Best Thing?

Music Robert Downes Check out the new Next Best Thing show on ABC this summer and you could see Traverse City’s own Mark Staycer, competing for a $100,000 prize in his role as John Lennon.
Staycer cautions that his participation on the new celebrity impersonator show is not a done deal yet; he’s a semi-finalist still waiting to hear from ABC. But he did pass his audition in Orlando a couple of weeks ago “with flying colors.”
And, he beat out about 150 other top-notch celebrity impersonators from all over the country.
“They had everyone there, from someone like me who does this for a living, to a guy from the GM Tech Center who does an imitation of Jack Nicholson,” he says of the audition.
Auditions were also held in Las Vegas and New York. If his participation in the show is a go, then Staycer could be in Hollywood, producing the first program as early as May 1.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

In Gear/ Cherry Capital Cycling Club

Features Robert Downes Members of the Cherry Capital Cycling Club have something to spin their wheels about this spring: the Traverse City-based club has a new website, a new racing division, a new bike map, and a pumped-up schedule of rides.
In early April, 35-40 members of the club kicked off the first Monday night ride of the season, streaming out Old Mission Peninsula in a rite of spring that dates back to the club’s formation in 1984.
Thursday, April 12, 2007

Reved up for Spring

Features Robert Downes The latest, greatest sport styles & technology
Bike paths and running trails across Northern Michigan are already filling up with weekend warriors, dreaming of summer.
What to wear? What to ride? What to do? Here are some ideas on the newest gear from sport specialists across the region:
Thursday, April 5, 2007

Our Front Row Seat on the War

Random Thoughts Robert Downes Thanks to the Traverse City Film Festival, some of us locals are a bit more tuned in to the value of documentary film. I dare say we’re even more in the know about documentaries now than cinema hipsters and film connoisseurs living in artsy places like SoHo or L.A.
With its focus on documentaries, the festival has brought us everything from the joys of being eaten by grizzly bears to the perils of obsessing over crossword puzzles.
And there‘s no better tool for understanding the war in Iraq.
Documentaries on the war take us into the hearts and minds of the soldiers and civilians caught in Iraq. Watch a few of these films and you’ll soon discover how miserable the mainstream TV network coverage is by comparison.
Thursday, April 5, 2007

Taking Action on Autism

Features Robert Downes When Carly Robinson’s son Isaak was diagnosed with autism while still a toddler, she put her life on hold to put her heart and soul into helping him overcome the mysterious disorder.
Today, Isaak Crawford, 6, is making good progress on his skills at communication and reaching out to others, thanks to years of participation in a Cadillac School District program for autistic kids and the efforts of his family.
And Carly, 29, is doing her best to keep him on track and to reach out to other parents, particularly this April, which is Autism Awareness Month. A waitress at Mackinaw Brewing Co. in downtown Traverse City, she’s selling T-shirts at the venue for the second year in a row, with all proceeds going to the Autism Society of America.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Protest songs score big on Neil Young‘s hit list

Music Robert Downes Two Northern Michigan songwriters are enjoying the thrill of a lifetime as their original tunes skyrocket up the list of a protest song website established by Neil Young.
The “Living With War” link at www.neilyoung.com features more than 1,500 protest songs, many of which have an anti-war theme. Players featured on the site range from the likes of J.J. Cale, Eric Clapton and Son Volt, to Northern Michigan’s own Adair Correll and Les Dalgliesh.
Last week, Correll’s song, “Georgie Porgie the Can Do Guy,” moved up to #26 on the site, while Dalgliesh’s song “The Cost of Comfort” moved up to #33.
“I’m not sure why all this is happening, but both Les and I moved up again,” says Correll, best known in the region for his work as a founder and facilitator of Songwriters in the Round. “I don’t think this will put us in the rich and famous category, but for a couple of unknowns it has been kind of fun.”
Thursday, March 29, 2007

Best local music

Music Robert Downes Best Blues Band: Bacon & Eggs
The Bacon & Eggs blues band have honed a reputation as one of Northern Michigan’s hardest-working groups over the past few years. They’re currently performing nearly every week at venues ranging from Harbor Springs, Charlevoix and Benzie County all the way to Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo.
The band performs Chicago-style blues, a genre with an urban edge. They’ve also distinguished themselves by playing outside the box with their own original songs and innovative take on the blues.
Bacon & Eggs have a sense of authenticity -- they’re not “blues bores” or poseurs. They have a crisp and confident laid-back style that lures in the listener and then springs a surprise with a dual-guitar attack that builds a sense of power and suspense. Nor do they neglect the classics -- late in a Bacon & Eggs show, you’ll find the band cutting loose with a rocking take on blues standards that lights up the crowd.
Recently, the band recorded their second album of 10 songs, “Out of Touch,” with all tunes written by Dan “Lumpy Jones” Chrystler, who performs on vocals and guitar. Rounding out the band are Donn Johnson on guitar, Freddie “G” Guetschow on drums, Matt Marsh on bass/vocals, and Phil “Mississippi” Coryell on harp. Keyboardist Tim Wire lent his talents to the new CD. Check them out at venues such as the Big Eazy in TC, the Flight Deck in Charlevoix, and the Villa Marine in Frankfort. For info, check out
Thursday, March 29, 2007

Fairchild is ready to rock

Music Robert Downes One of the original voices of rock in Northern Michigan is back at center stage with a new band and hopes of capturing a new generation of fans.
After several years of casting his fate with the Detroit rock scene, singer/guitarist Tim Callaghan is back in Traverse City with Fairchild, a new glam rock band that includes the talents of Aaron Wolinski on bass, Pete Birchler on guitar and Mike Dunbar on drums. The band plays its debut show at the Loading Dock in Traverse City this Saturday, March 31.
Why the name, Fairchild?
“It’s a tip of the hat to my son, Duncan,” Callaghan says of his seven-year-old. “He’s the fairest child in the land.”
Callaghan says the group will be performing cuts from an album he recorded in Detroit last year, some of which will be familiar to Northern Michigan listeners. “I’ve reformed the band here in Northern Michigan with new players and went for the ‘A’ list of musicians,” he notes.
Thursday, March 22, 2007

The Math Rebellion

Random Thoughts Robert Downes It looks as though the Great Math Rebellion of 2007 is starting to wind down in Traverse City as school officials and parents do the arithmetic of gettin’ their heads together and solving the problem. Whew!
Some kids reportedly can’t understand the new “reformed math,” which employs a new problem-solving process. Ditto for parents, trying to help out.
I asked an expert what she thought of the high school math program: my daughter Chloe, who graduated a couple of years ago and is now in business school (I’m proud to say). She said she liked her high school Compass math program because it taught her how to work out problems in the real world... although in new ways that might be adrift from what us parents recall from our readin’, writin’ and ‘rithmetic daze...
So, different strokes for different folks.