Monday, June 29, 2009

The Boy is Mine

That title has absolutely nothing to do with what I'm writing about right now, but it is the closest thing I could think of that had anything to do with the name Monica. You remember the song "The Boy is Mine" from 1998 that pitted superstars Monica and Brandy against each other in the fight for the heart of smokin' boy - probably me. Right now I'm trying to mentally hum "The Boy is Mine" and it keeps being overwritten by "My Love Don't Cost a Thing" by J-Lo. What I'm saying is they're very similar in my mind.

What really matters today is this news, that resident crazy person, most undeserving former power-wielding individual, and part human most deserving of the name jerkface, Monica Conyers, has resigned from her post of doing everything in her power to body slam the city of Detroit into the mat. I had mostly convinced myself that Monica Conyers would have some significant influence in Detroit until the day I die, and she may again rise to power with Kwame 5 years from now, but for the next five years, we are completely and utterly Monica and Kwame free. E! should give those two a show called "Dicks being Dicks."

If you don't live in Michigan and haven't been following the news, former Detroit City Council President Pro Tem (what does that even mean) Monica Conyers, crazy person, plead guilty last week to the felony charge of collecting a bribe. This guilty plea has now led to her resignation and a black mark against crazy people running for city council positions in major American cities. Other crazy people should be furious.

Monica Conyers is seriously like a cartoon villain, but an idiot cartoon villain. If you're a fan of The Wire, think Clay Davis from the great state of Maryland but with less power.

Because of the terrible, terrible things she has done to the city, her basic craziness, arrogance, insolence, and all kinds of negative adjectives, I don't think I have ever found more pleasure in the downfall of a human being with the exception of Kwame Kilpatrick. I don't typically revel in the troubles of other people, but I'm happy to make an exception for Monica.

In my perfect world, I see Monica, leaving the court room after pleading guilty last Friday with just one thought on her mind: "sheeeeeit".

Friday, June 26, 2009

iPod FAQ

Alright people, so a couple weeks ago Maureen gave me my first >1 GB iPod for my birthday and I'm enjoying listening to a whole bunch of music that I would not normally listen to because I wouldn't want to rifle through the old 50 pound CD book to find one CD for just one or two songs. Then, after finding the right CD, I would have to wait for the CD changer to slowly eject the CD, then go to another CD, then I would have to wait for it to go back to the blank CD slot, then I could finally load it, and then listen to the music. Major butt in the pain. Look at me - proud member and citizen of the year 2004 with my "i's" this and "Googles" that. Here is the one main question I currently have regarding the iPod that I'm hoping a loyal member of my readership community may be able to answer.

When I'm shuffling through songs, how in the hell do I stop the shuffling process without having to go back to the artist list, select an artist, select a song, and press play. The main reason this is important to me is because I let shuffle do its very sexy thing, and then when I come across an artist or a CD I want to listen to in entirety, I would simply like to stop the Shuffle process and pick up the music from the current listening point on the CD, preferably with the touch of maybe one or two buttons. Right now, I cannot do this effectively and it is incredibly frustrating.

The reason this is important to you is because as you also traverse the streets of Michigan, you don't want me rifling through my immense artist list to try to find my way back to the exact same song I'm currently listening to sans-shuffle. A recent study shows that texting while driving is actually more dangerous than driving drunk. I don't think looking for a song on the iPod is much different from texting, and I don't want to be worse than a drunk driver. I'm looking out for you.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Yup, Still Here

In the awesome and totally ski-able wake of my 1 Year Birthiversary last week, I wanted to let all the people out there who don't read my blog but will one day stumble upon it during their study of early 21st century human development that I'm still here and writing. Yes I am.

The reason this comes up is because the one somewhat frustrating question that I happen to get with surprising regularity is "Hey Ken, you still writing that blog thing?" I am! And you know what better way to find out? Come to the frakking blog to see and read. I appreciate the general interest in whether or not I'm still wasting my time here and also the good-natured effort toward conversation, but if you really wanted to be a super swell stand-up gal, you'd give me $500. In this instance, I don't much care if you're a reader or not. Not too much is better than $500.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

I Claim Him as Ours

It's funny, you know, I probably don't care about your child and think that most of the things that he or she does are pretty boring, but this guy - this guy is fascinating. This is his first attempt at consuming sweet potato, and enjoy the transform from relatively happy and risk-taking baby to horrified and devastated sweet potato-eating baby. It may be the funniest ten seconds I have ever seen that you think is completely boring. First, he stares at his dad, then his mom, with one question on his little mind, "Why, why have you done this to me?"

For the moment he and his parents remain stranded in Minnesota, but I imagine one day I shall claim him as the property of Michigan. There's this episode of Cheers where Frasier and Lilith's child, Frederick, is about to have a circumcision, and Frasier temporarily kidnaps his own child and makes a brake with him to save him from this skin-related procedure. In a short few weeks, I'll be attending his baptism, and while I'm not saying that I will kidnap him, I'm not saying that I won't kidnap him.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

1 Year Birthiversary

Congratulations to me, and you, but mostly me! Today, June 18th, marks exactly one year since I started this blog with little fanfare and even less public interest. Most importantly, even if it totally sucks and gets even worse in the future, I've kept at this little hobby for one whole year. I guess technically I'm at one year +1 day, but that is way more commitment than my magic, juggling, and yo-yo careers. I had such big dreams for the yo-yo.

I have long since given up my hopes of reaching any sort of mass audience or interested mass audience or even disinterested mass audience, but I'm truthfully quite thankful for the few people that have consistently supported We Are of Michigan, and by natural extension the state of Michigan, through their reading and comments. There are a group of people who I know continue to read and encourage me with their remarks, and I'd like to try to thank this elite and superhuman group right here.

Mom and dad (but not Steve, he doesn't read that much, and Gail and Jeff don't read that much either but they do have a new baby who just by living creates content for writing), Maureen, Craig (Tank), Alex, Dan A., Dan M., Todd, Joe, Alycia, and Maureen's mom.

If you think you're a true fan and I've missed you, it's most likely your fault and you need to be more vocal in your love of me. How am I supposed to know you love me if you don't remind me every couple of minutes? For everyone else out there, screw you! What's your problem? I'm working my ass off here for your enjoyment. If you don't find it interesting or funny, the only explanation is that you need to adjust your understanding of interesting and funny.

Things aren't much better right now in the state than last year as we hoped, but that doesn't mean we can't keep enjoying the positive things in and around our home. Thanks for reading, keep coming back, and just maybe I'll be writing next June 18th to bemoan continued lack of interest in the blog. My parents always taught me - "everyone likes a whiner."

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Party All the Time

Today Steve confronted me with a very good and complicated question:

Do I prefer that my girl party ALL the time or party NONE of the time? This is a complicated question and requires additional consideration. In other words, any time that she is not working or performing other necessary life responsibilities, she is out partying. Now, partying could mean a few different things - going out to the bar, partaking in illegal "partying" activities, going to bombastic birthday parties, etc., but spending time at home with family most certainly does not count as partying. There is no option other than partying. On the flip side, the girl who does not party all the time refuses to ever party and becomes upset if asked if she wants to go party. Her life likely consists of general solitude and quiet. You are typically somewhere with her, quite often boring, surrounded by people who are most certainly not partying.

I think this question is a little bit easier than question 2, which we'll address in a minute. For this quandary, I would strongly prefer that my girl party none of the time. I just couldn't keep up with someone who was literally always partying, and I think my unhappiness from constant partying would vastly outstrip my potential boredom from never partying.

Question 2 has one very subtle difference: would I prefer my girl WANTS to party all the time or NEVER parties? If she is not partying, as Steve put it, she's in a similar mood as when you are mowing your lawn. You're not necessarily unhappy, but you're not even close to as happy as you might otherwise be. In this situation, I think I would again prefer the girl who never parties. It would be too much for me to deal with if I knew that my girl was mostly unhappy or, at the very least, apathetic with life if she was not partying. Fortunately for most, this is an extreme situation you will never have to face, but it probably makes sense for you to consider your preference in the instance that you confronted with the age old question "To party, or not to party. All the time."

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The #1 Rule

According to local news sources, this morning at around 6am, four women in Detroit tried to engage in the time-tested ritual of eating your food at a restaurant (or whatever you may call an IHOP - no offense to IHOP but I'm just not sure it classifies as restaurant) and then opting to quickly leave the food establishment without paying for the food. This is where these four women forgot the number one rule of successful stealing of anything:

Rule #1 - Don't crash your car into the side of the building that you just stole from
Rule #2 - See Rule #1

There are many other important stealing rules, but this is quite possibly the most important. It makes the so-called getaway less of a getaway and more of a "crash your car into the side of the building that you just stole from." On top of this, the women in the car got out and fled on foot before two of them decided to return to the scene of the crime to admit the error of their ways. This breaks rule #3 of stealing:

Rule #3 - If you happen to break Rules #1 and #2, don't run away and then return to the scene with the building still impaled by your car to admit your misdeeds

Detroit has its fair share of crime, but on the plus side, the criminals appear to be less effective in their basic efforts. It would be my genuine pleasure to pay someone 100% of the revenue I've generated from this website if I could acquire exclusive video of this incident.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Ambiguously Gay Voices

I did not realize this until I read it online one minute ago at TVSquad and I'm still surprised. Did you know that Stephen Colbert and Steve Carell provided the voices for Ace and Gary of The Ambiguously Gay Duo? All part of my series "The things you learn at 1:00 am on Sunday morning while your significant other is traveling for work." It's like when I learn that a song that I enjoy was actually created in 1972 and some modern artist is just stealing a sample from that artist from 1972. Next time I attempt to illegally procure a Snickers from a gas station and get caught, I'll just let the worker know I'm sampling the store. That should clear up any misunderstanding.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Training in Style

12 years ago, I put myself behind the wheel of an Oldsmobile Achieva Quad 4 and gently pressed down on the accelerator, thus igniting my lifelong like affair with driving cars from this place over here to that other place over there. These days, I spend quite a lot of time behind the wheel - Maureen lives in Ann Arbor and I live in Royal Oak, so I've been driving back and forth a couple time a weeks for the past 4 years, and I've been known to hop in a car with Steve and drive down to Miami or over to Arizona. As I've said in the past, I'm not a "car guy", but I continue to find joy in driving - if I have to do it, I may as well figure out a way to enjoy it. It all started with that Achieva, and I still have a fondness for it today.

Driving not the best cars is a right of passage as one learns to operate a motorized vehicle, so I was surprised and envious today as I made my way south on I-275. To the right of my car, clearly, was a student driver. I could tell from the big words STUDENT DRIVER painted on the back of the car. I must have been drunk or possibly there was a carbon monoxide leak in my car, because the car I saw this young man (with teacher) driving was a 2007 Ford Mustang. At least I think it was a 2007 vintage - it was difficult to identify specific styling cues that differentiate model years because of the various stars, comets, and rainbows painted on the training car. Not only was this guy driving around in a Mustang (sweet), but his car was painted with all the dreams of little girls (super sweet). I didn't see the other side of the car, but I'm pretty sure there was probably a poster of the Jonas Brothers painted there. It got me thinking just a little bit - would I prefer to train in a metallic light blue Oldsmobile Achieva, or a multi-hued dreams-mobile Ford Mustang? I don't think I have an easy answer for this one. Driving, period, at that age is extremely exciting, and I remember the first time driving on the freeway my only thought was "oh my god this does not feel so fast when my parents are driving." Regardless, that car brought a smile to my day. Keep your eyes open - that rainbow you are seeing may not just be oxygen deprivation.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Proof of God #2 - The Return of Zoidberg

The last time I was convinced of God, I had just seen and eaten the best cookie in the history of cookies. At that moment, I was convinced that there simply could not be much better in life than that cookie, but as they say:

Morgan: Why is there yogurt in this hat?
Fry: I can explain that. It used to be milk, and well, time makes fools of us all

This quote comes from one of my top three favorite cartoon series of all times (variably placed at #1 through #3 based on my mood and time of the day), Futurama. For all the meatbags who know nothing to very little about the show, Futurama is a 22 minute (without commercials) per episode compilation of many of the greatest things that TV has to offer. The show was originally aired on FOX from March 28, 1999 to August 10, 2003. FOX cancelled the series back in 2003 after erratically airing the show on different nights and different times. Even as a fan of the show who did not yet own TiVo, it was incredibly difficult time to find the show on TV, especially when it would air after football games that could end 30 minutes early or 90 minutes late. FOX did not do the show any service.

Since its cancellation, the show ran on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim, Comedy Central, and they produced 3 full length DVD movies. The show has always had a moderate and energized fan base, and these people (including me) have grown increasingly crazy since the cancellation and subsequent movies.

Earlier this week, there were rumors that Comedy Central had picked up the show for 13 new episodes to be aired in 2010, and yesterday, someone who makes these things official officially stated that Comedy Central has ordered 26 episodes of the series! 7 full years after cancellation, Futurama is returning to television. This, friends, is amazing. The only rationale I can create for the rebirth of the show is that the same powerful God who created the best cookie ever intervened and took control of the mind of a network executive at Comedy Central. It's the only thing that makes sense. Things often don't work out the right way, but every once in awhile, I feel like life is on my side.

If you have not watched the show in the past, there aren't many things I can recommend higher. If you have unsuccessfully tried to get into the show in the past, the best thing I can recommend is to watch the series in order, on DVD, from the beginning. There is a level of character development and empathy for the various wackos on the show that is best understood through watching the show from the beginning. It is a cartoon set 1,000 years in the future with robots and Slurm and devils and robot devils, but despite all the craziness, there are 2 episodes of the show during which I cried like a little baby. Be careful with the episode called "Jurassic Bark" - you're just going to go and want to hug people you love for like 2 weeks after watching this episode.

As you can probably tell, I'm quite excited. Stay tuned for 2010 at which point I will certainly rave yet again about how excited I am about the return of the show. Thank you robot God.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Top 35

I wrote once before about an interactive map from about how Michigan's budget deficit, when compared to other states, was actually not as bad as I would have anticipated. In simpler and more energetic blog times, I would probably provide a link to that post right now, but now I am more jaded and know that you would probably not care to click on that link. Oh to be back in those simpler, more principled and innocent blogging days.

Today another similar but different "slideshow" from caught my eye. They call it a slideshow because instead of giving you all the useful information on one easy to access and understand website, you have to click and wait for load 15 times to see all that you want to see. I find this quite stupid and annoying, so CNBC, clean up your act. This slideshow is the "Worse Expected State Budget Gaps" that are "ranked here (on Mr. Dumb Slideshow) according to the percentage of expected budget gap compared to state general funds." I don't know exactly what that means, but I patiently clicked through all 15 times holding my breath to see if the world would have yet another reason to knock on the mitten - and you know what? No Michigan. We're at least in the top 35! There are two really interesting things that I see in this annoying slideshow.

First, most of the states that are highly desired by my contemporaries are in not that good of shape. These are places that most people think really have their business together - at least way better than Michigan. These states include California, Florida, Nevada, Arizona, and New York. I would like every state in our fine union of states to be budget-gap free, creating lots and lots of jobs, and providing all kinds of fantastic services to its residents, but this can't and won't be the case for a few years . It's a weird chicken and egg issue - people demand lower business taxes so that companies can create jobs and residents like all of the lovely services that their state provides, but then the ridiculously low taxes create a budget gap that makes it impossible to provide the highly desirable services.

Second, and still shocking to me, is that despite our most major economic problems topped off by the bankruptcies of GM and Chrysler, Michigan didn't crack even the top (bottom) 15. We may be number 16 (it's hard to tell in stupid slideshow format), and things could get way worse before they get better (I think we can get all the way to #1 if we try hard enough), but for now, somehow, someone managing our finances kept the budget from spiraling immensely out of control. Now it is just mostly out of control - maybe we can keep immense at bay for another couple years.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

From That Angle

Watching the Red Wings game last night in a room of about 12 people, someone said "From that angle, Detroit looks beautiful." Of course, this person was referring to one of the many gratuitous shots that television networks cut to before and after commercial breaks. It's amazing how many different viewpoints they can construct of the giant fist or the Renaissance Center. It's also important to note that this comment did not seem intended as a backhanded or front-handed insult to the city, simply an observation that from one specific camera shot, Detroit looked nice.

And I agree. Detroit definitely did look nice from that camera angle. There was a little bit of river, a little bit of the RenCen, and people walking up and down on the RiverWalk. It looked like a place that people would voluntarily spend their time - well, at least regular people - personally, I would always voluntarily choose to spend my time downtime.

The thing that really bothers me about this type of observation, from people who both live inside and outside of Michigan, is that there are many additional angles from which the city is beautiful, and not just in that only attractive in the way a parent can think an ugly child is beautiful. It's the general mental image, preconception, and unfortunate fear that keep people away from even heading down into the city to appreciate some of the things that it has to offer. The adventurous and interested, once they build the necessary momentum, venture into the D and take advantage of some of the fun and interesting things to do in the city - despite the nefarious rumor that there is nothing in the city but burned out homes and a palpable feeling of despair. There are places in the city where this is the case, but there is so much more to our urban anchor.

Two of my very good friends that I have met over the last year are from suburban Chicago and New York. They currently reside and work in Ann Arbor, but they regularly take expeditions into big, scary Detroit. They've been to the D.I.A., Comerica Park, Greektown, and several of the dining establishments that actually call Detroit home. Believe it or not, even after these visits, they're looking for more things to do in the city. Shock!

I guess what I'm trying to say here is that many cities simultaneously suck and rule, and Detroit is no exception. Next weekend the Red Bull Air Races are taking place over the Detroit River, so this may be a great opportunity for you to take your inaugural trip to Detroit, or to give it another shot after writing our city off so many years ago. Detroit did look actually aesthetically pleasing during the hockey game, and it wasn't a trick of the camera - though the only way for you to find out is to actually go and ch' ch' ch' ch' ch' ch' check it out.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Why Do We Love Derelict Structures?

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about my opinion regarding the Michigan Central Depot. It's a big, empty, majestic, depressing symbol of abandonment and despair and someone with a big bulldozer or at least a stick of dynamite should bring it to the ground. Unless someone can provide me a business plan with specific action items and a time line to fix and inhabit the building, it should return to the earth from whence it came.

Now, again, there is debate about the decision to tear town Tiger Stadium. What the heck is it about Michigan's obsession with maintaining empty and useless structures? I like the past and history as much as the next guy (the next guy right is Steve on the couch near me), but there are times when holding on to the past is of no benefit to anyone. Let the stadium go and hold on to your memories in your heart, not in the big abandoned building that you haven't driven by or thought about since the last time you read an article about someone wanting to demolish it.

I'm most amazed by the time and energy that people seem to be willing to put into preventing the destruction of these buildings. If we could harness that power and focus on something that actually matters, perhaps a difference could actually be made. It's like when people write petitions to save crappy TV show XYZ or when they blog about their home state - come on, use your time and energy for something meaningful. OK so maybe there is some hypocrisy here, but you don't see me fighting to "Keep alive the rabies-infested raccoons" or "Up with Depression." Pick a battle worth fighting, not one that has already been lost and is pointless. I'll always remember with utmost fondness going to a few Tiger games at Tiger Stadium during my boyhood, but we don't need a looming and hulking symbol to maintain these memories.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Somebody Tell Clete

Will someone, somewhere, please remind Clete Thomas of one of the most fundamental aspects of hitting a baseball. Son, keep your head down and follow the ball all the way into the bat. I know there is a squirrel running around in the outfield and that is very distracting, but you're a professional baseball player. You should not get distracted by squirrels. Head down, follow the ball to the bat. I believe in you.

Monday, June 1, 2009

I Never Worry, Now That is a Lie

Well, friends, today was the day. We've been mentally preparing, agonizing, fretting, eating, fretting some more, and then eating some more as the day grew closer and closer - the day that Jay Leno stepped down from The Tonight Show for the red-haired genius of Conan O'Brien.

I kid - as much as I might want to, it is simply not possible to ignore the news (and news and news and news and news and news). Some of those are editorials, but they're close enough to news for me on this somber evening following this somber day. There are good things and bad things from all this, but the bottom line that I've taken with me from a day full of reporting is that no one really has a clue what comes next, or what comes after next, or after the next after next. We are in insanely uncharted territory here, and the industry that built and sustained Michigan for so very many years is done hanging by a thread. Hanging by a thread would be too generous.

The best news is that the ground has not opened up and swallowed Michigan whole, fire rain has not begun to fall from the sky, and Dollhouse was renewed for another season. Thousands upon thousands are going to lose their jobs, their means to support their families, and a bit of their self-esteem and self-worth. This, people, is a bitch.

These are keep yourself up at night, fear for the future, poop on your neighbor's lawn kind of fretful times, but the amazing thing to me is that everyone seems to be fascinatingly under control, logical, and brave. People throw lots of crud Michigan's way, but if there is one thing for which we are regularly granted credit both locally and nationally, it is that we are a resilient lot. This resilience stems from generations of laborers, hard workers, and hard times, a lifetime of Rodney Dangerfield "We can't get no respect"-ism, and drives down the Lodge freeway before it was reconstructed a couple years ago.

I, probably like you, am immensely concerned about our collective future, and all I can do is hope that the hard work and commitment of bankruptcy judges and attorneys, executives, creditors, employees, and all other people who are about to suffer fear and sacrifice can somehow find a solution that gives GM (and the hopefully soon out of bankruptcy Chrysler) the small and not guaranteed opportunity to spin themselves around in mid-air, pull the rip cord, and crash land with only two broken legs instead of a broken brain. I will leave you now with a quote from GM's bankruptcy judge, the Honorable Robert Gerber:

"If anybody cracks any jokes I’m going to disconnect the phones...This is serious to a lot of peoples’ lives and I’d think that people here would understand that."

Yes, yes we do.