Radio & Podcast

The Legend of the Michigan Dogman

Michigan has some strange tales, but few are stranger than that of the Dogman. Some say the story began with a 1987 radio prank by Northern Michigan radio personality Steve Cook. Following the broadcast, Cook was surprised when listeners began sharing their stories of the beast. Surprise turned to shock, however, when a cabin near Luther was attacked by some kind of canine.

One of the many encounters listed on Steve Cook’s great website took place in the summer of 1938. 17-year-old Robert Fortney was fishing on the banks of the Muskegon River near Paris, Michigan when a pack of what appeared to be large feral dogs emerged from the woods:

Fortney remained silent, but the sensitive noses of the dogs quickly picked up his scent. Since he had been small game hunting earlier in the day, Fortney had his loaded rifle nearby. As the dogs approached, they assumed the group posture of a pack on a hunt. Fortney picked up the gun and fired a shot into the air.

Flint boxer Claressa Shields wins Olympic gold

London Olympics Boxing Women

Clarissa Shields by multimediaimpre

NPR’s Bill Chappell has a feature on Flint gold medalist Claressa Shields, the first woman ever to win middleweight gold. Shields defeated Russia’s Nadezda Torlopova by a score of 19-12 in yesterday’s final. The feature includes a nice account of the title bout and adds a bit about a legend of boxing who took notice of the Flint fighter:

One of Shields’ heroes is legendary boxer Sugar Ray Leonard — who tweeted about her earlier this week: “Your Jab is so solid use it more! Your Hook, wow (just like mine) win every round and bring home the Gold Claressa!”

Speaking by phone with All Things Considered co-host Melissa Block hours after her match, Shields said, “Yeah, you know I was kinda shocked that he tweeted me. I didn’t know, because he didn’t tag me in it. I was like, What?”

“Just hearing he’s been watching me is a complement,” she said. “It means a lot, because he’s somebody who I studied. It was great.”

Also see this piece from Michigan Radio on the reaction from her contemporaries in Flint and definitely don’t miss Teen Contendor from Radio Diaries, who followed her for a month.

PS: If anyone finds a good video from the match, please post it in the comments!

  • Ernie the Play
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    “Ernie” play about Ernie Harwell opens for second season

“Ernie” play about Ernie Harwell opens for second season

ernie harwell by mlephotos
ernie harwell by mlephotos

Mitch Albom has an interesting column on his play “Ernie” and Harwell’s broadcasting style that re-opens for its second season at the City Theatre in Detroit. Mitch wrote the play at legendary Detroit Tigers announcer Ernie Harwell’s request, and last year the play was able to donate $30,000 to Harwell’s favorite charities. Mitch’s column begins:

There’s a scene in the play “Ernie” in which the actor playing Ernie Harwell re-enacts the way he broadcast minor-league baseball games in the 1940s, when there was no money to send him on the road.

“We stayed in the studio and waited for the play-by-play ticker to come through,” he says, taking a strip of ticker tape and reading it. “Johnson, B-1-0. That meant Johnson took ball one, outside. Of course that’s pretty dry, so we’d have to embellish it.”

He then demonstrates his embellishment: “There’s a high loping curveball, way outside, Johnson looks at it, doesn’t move his bat, and it’s ball one!”

When asked what he did if the ticker-tape machine broke, Ernie replies that sometimes he’d make up a distraction, like a dog running on the field. And he’d have that dog racing back and forth, eluding escape, until the machine was fixed.

Of course, when the ballplayers came home, their wives would ask, “What happened to that poor dog?” And they’d say, “What dog?”

Read on for more and visit Ernie at Olympia Entertainment for more on the play and to order tickets. Harwell passed away two years ago tomorrow. You can read more about him on Michigan in Pictures and here’s a great interview that Albom did with Harwell at the Fox Theatre in 2009 that will probably make you tear up.

Emergency Manager Michael Brown takes over in Flint

Hope For The Future by Flint Foto Factory
Hope For The Future by Flint Foto Factory

Last week Gov. Rick Snyder appointed Michael Brown as the emergency manager for the city of Flint under Public Act 4. A state-appointed review panel recommended a state takeover for the city of Flint, citing recurring cash flow shortages and other financial deficiencies. Flint had an estimated $15 million deficit in 2010 and is projected to have a $7 million deficit in 2011. The Flint Journal explains that:

Brown is under no illusion that fixing the city’s long-standing financial problems will be an easy task.

“I know it’s a major challenge, there’s no glossing it over,” Brown said hours after his appointment was announced by Snyder’s office. “I think there’s a long road ahead and we’ve got a lot of work to do.”

Urban Farming and the Gift of Detroit

“It could never happen in another city. I mean, this is ridiculous to think about this much land. There are very few houses that have another house next to them. So everybody can have at least an extra yard, you know. That’s really the gift of Detroit.”
~Farnsworth neighborhood resident Andrew Kemp

Brother Nature Produce Urban Farm in Detroit Photo by Michigan Municipal League by Michigan Municipal League (MML)
Brother Nature Produce Urban Farm
by Michigan Municipal League (MML)

A couple of weeks ago NPR Weekend Edition had an interesting feature on urban farming in Detroit:

Detroit is a surprisingly green landscape during the spring and summer months. The site of many houses that are crumbling, boarded up or missing altogether is tempered by community gardens and even some urban farms.

There are some serious urban gardeners in this country, but few can match the agricultural output of Paul Weertz.

“I farm about 10 acres in the city, and alfalfa’s my thing. I bale about a thousand bales a year,” he says.

…Weertz has been buying abandoned homes and vacant parcels in his neighborhood, where lots go for as little as $300. He’s been encouraging young people who want to farm to move into the neighborhood. Weertz’s neighbor, Carolyn Leadley, runs Rising Pheasant Farms when she’s not caring for her 10-month-old son.

“We’re definitely micro-farming, but we’re making a living off a sixth of an acre,” Leadley says. “I’ve been very pleased — pleasantly surprised at how much I’ve been able to pay myself per hour. We took on an employee. I’m like, ‘OK, We’re a real business now. We have to pay taxes and do things right.’ “

Click through to listen to the feature and see some photos, and speaking of photos, the MML has several more photos from the Brother Nature Farm in Detroit which is mentioned story. Speaking of Brother Nature, check out this awesome video about Brother Nature Farm!

Losing the battle against sea lampreys in the Great Lakes

Sea Lamprey on fishMichigan Radio has a sobering report on another threat to the multi-billion dollar Great Lakes fishery, the familiar sea lamprey. It takes you inside the work of lamprey control teams and is well worth your consideration.

For fifty years Canada and the U.S. have been battling an eel-like creature across the Great Lakes. Sea lampreys are parasites that drill holes in fish to feed on blood and body fluids. They often kill the fish. The sea lamprey was one of the first invasive species to arrive in the lakes, and it’s the only invasive to be successfully controlled by humans.

But in recent years, the lamprey has been getting the upper hand in the struggle. As Peter Payette reports there might be more setbacks in the near future:

The mouth of a lamprey. It uses suction, teeth, and a razor sharp tongue to attach itself to its prey... and then it starts drinking blood. Photo courtesy of USFWS

The mouth of a lamprey. It uses suction, teeth, and a razor sharp tongue to attach itself to its prey... and then it starts drinking blood. Photo courtesy of USFWS

If you’re on a lamprey control team you get to see all the prettiest streams and rivers in the Great Lakes. That’s because lampreys like clean water.

“Part of our problems recently have been some of the streams that were too dirty to harbor lampreys have been cleaned up and now we have lampreys in parts of the Saginaw River. We never had lampreys in that up until 15 or 20 years ago.”

Ellie Koon supervises one of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife treatment teams. They spend the warm months killing young lampreys by the thousands.

They treat rivers using a chemical called lampricide. It’s a poison that rarely hurts other fish. In fact, during a treatment the fish get a feast they normally wouldn’t. Young lampreys look a bit like worms at this stage and stay in the mud. But when they’re poisoned they swim out where fish can grab them.

Ellie Koon and one of her team members, Hank Cupp, say fish and other animals in the river pig out.

“You can almost hear the fish burping the day after we treat. You can see them swimming around with lampreys hanging out of their mouths that they can’t swallow.”

These teams can usually kill about 95 percent of the young lampreys in a river. Without this, the Great Lakes would not have a multi-billion dollar fishery today. But in recent years, the fish-killing lamprey has been rebounding in some of the lakes and hurting the fishery…

Much more at Michigan Radio. There was an interesting episode of Dirty Jobs last fall where Mike Rowe spent time with the US Fish & Wildlife Service on lamprey control. You can see all the videos at that link and watch one of them below!

Photos via US Government and Wikipedia’s Sea Lamprey entry.

Kalamazoo River Oil Spill: One Year Later


(View Mic’s Oil Spill Slideshow)

It’s been a little over a year since close to a million gallons of oil tar sands oil fouled the Kalamazoo River in Michigan’s largest ever oil spill (Wikipedia entry for the spill). The Environment Report from Michigan Radio has an excellent three-part feature titled Life on the Kalamazoo River: One Year After the Spill that explores what life along the river is like for those who have stayed, how the oil is impacting wildlife and the legal action that is underway against Enbridge Energy, the company responsible for the spill. Rebecca Williams of the the Environment Report explains:

It was the largest inland oil spill in Midwest history… but we still don’t know exactly what it will mean for life around the river.

One year ago, a pipeline owned by Enbridge Energy broke. More than 840-thousand gallons of tar sands oil polluted Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River.

People who were there say the river ran black. Turtles, and muskrats and Great blue herons were covered in oil. It’s not clear what all this will mean for the river and the wildlife that depends on it.

Kalamazoo River Oil Spill by The Sierra Club
Kalamazoo River Oil Spill by The Sierra Club

“It’s really a big unknown. We don’t have much experience with oil spills in freshwater rivers in general.” Stephen Hamilton is a professor at Michigan State University. “This new kind of crude, the tar sands crude oil, with its different chemistry, all makes this a learning experience for everybody involved.”

Tar sands oil is very thick, and it has to be diluted in order to move through pipelines. We’ve previously reported that federal officials say the nature of this oil has made the cleanup more difficult. In fact, the cleanup has lasted longer than many people expected. The Environmental Protection Agency says there are still significant amounts of submerged oil along 35 miles of the Kalamazoo River.

There’s much more at the Environment Report.

Celebrating 100 Years at the Wealthy Theatre

Wealthy Theatre, 1936

Wealthy Theatre, 1936

The Wealthy Theatre in Grand Rapids turns 100 this year. Located at 1130 Wealthy Street, the theater was constructed in 1911 for vaudeville and live theater, later becoming a neighborhood movie house. During World War I, the Wealthy served as a warehouse for the Michigan Aircraft Company and in the 1960s is was the only regional venue for foreign films.

The theater closed in the late 1970s and remained empty for over 25 years before the South East Economic Development neighborhood association launched a capital campaign to fund its restoration. The Theatre re-opened in 1998 as a community arts center and has helped to spawn a renaissance of the entire Wealthy Street business district. (check the video below for the astounding before & after photos!)

Streets of Grand Rapids by RichardDemingPhotography
Streets of Grand Rapids by RichardDemingPhotography

In 2004, the Theatre closed and sought a nonprofit partner who could commit to the continued growth of the theatre. The Grand Rapids Community Media Center (CMC) rose to the challenge, and with a successful capital campaign was able to acquire the Wealthy and make critical improvements including a concert sound system,  new projection screen, a micro-cinema space and repainting, upgrades and renovations throughout.

In addition to providing a modern and comfortable venue for performance and film, the Wealthy Theatre is home to CMC projects including GRTV Television and  WYCE-FM Radio.  Absolute Michigan is excited to be helping the Wealthy Theatre mark 100 years and also to present some of the amazing projects that the CMC is involved with.  This weekend, our Driving Michigan crew including host Seth Bernard will be visiting with the crew at the CMC/Wealthy to learn about what they do and how and why they are doing it!

Seth Bernard Cat Stevens TributeThis Saturday night at 6:30 PM you can enjoy a very special night of music and memories, as  Seth Bernard (and friends) pay tribute to the best of Cat Stevens. This concert is a fundraiser for the Wealthy Theatre Centennial Sustainability Campaign, which celebrates the 100th birthday of Wealthy Theatre with greening and technology upgrades as a means of historic preservation. You can learn about and donate to the Sustainable Centennial campaign right here.

PS: Tonight they are screening the classic film Harold & Maude which of course features the music of Cat Stevens.

Visit to learn much more about them including their services for nonprofit organizations including media production, website creation and social media training. Now check out this cool before & after video!

Wealthy Theatre Before & After from Wealthy Theatre on Vimeo.

Michigan Radio finds out What’s Working in Michigan

Vineyard by ramjetgr
Vineyard by ramjetgr

Michigan Radio Morning Edition host Christina Shockley is asking those in the know What’s Working in Michigan? There’s no better time to take a look at things that are already happening to improve our state’s economy and our lives. Here’s a snapshot of a few of the voices:

Linda Jones, the Executive Director of the Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council on Michigan Wine: Success in a Bottle: “It combines our second and third largest industries: agriculture and tourism. Michigan is a long-standing fruit-producing state, especially on the west side of the state, but increasingly throughout Michigan we are planting wine grapes with new varieties that are being developed.”

jibba jabba scribba scrabba rail jam 17 by emperley3
jibba jabba scribba scrabba rail jam 17 by emperley3

Scott MacInnes, the City Manager of Houghton on Turning winter in the U.P. into a tourist destination: “People around here live up here because they enjoy the weather. We do three or four special events in the downtown. We have Michigan Tech’s Winter Carnival, which is a huge mid-winter festival for us up here. So we just have a lot of neat activities going on that really make the winter go by fast and make it enjoyable.”

Rick Wilson, Heritage Sustainable Energy on Wind energy takes off in Michigan: “One of the things that I like to think, and that I believe, is that it’s a homegrown source of power that is critical to our everyday lives. Traditionally, here in Michigan, 80 percent, I think, of our power, especially in Lower Michigan, is coming from large, somewhat archaic (not all of them, but, you know) coal-fired facilities. They may not even be located in Michigan. Some of them are located down in the Ohio River Basin and Indiana and surrounding states. So, to have, not only renewable generation here in our home state, but also just power that’s generated right here in our back yard is something that’s important for us as a community and as a state.”

Read more stories from Michigan Radio and post what you think is working below!

Michigan Radio: The Cost of Creativity

cost of creativityMichigan Radio has a great radio documentary titled The Cost of Creativity that I really hope you get a chance to check out. They note  that while Michigan was funding arts & culture at a level of $26 million dollars a year through a combination of state taxes and federal money a decade ago, it’s just $2.5 million today. As a comparison: Michigan taxpayers will spend more on prisons in 11 hours than they spend on arts and culture in the entire year.

Cafe Society portrait by William Hosner
Cafe Society portrait by William Hosner

Jennifer Goulet, president of Artserve Michigan says that art can be a concrete economic development tool (ArtPrize anyone?) and create cities where young, talented professionals want to live. She explains:

Arts and cultural institutions, attractions, museums, galleries, concert halls and so forth contributed 15% of the state’s cultural tourism revenues – it was 1.8 billion dollars. More than golf courses. And I think putting it in that context, that’s a major contributor to the state.

All of those businesses are adding jobs in local communities. Those are all job-holders that are paying taxes locally and at the state level. They are people who are buying groceries, and buying gas, and shopping in their local communities.

In this fantastic documentary, Michigan Radio Arts & Culture Reporter/Producer Jennifer Guerra talks with all kinds of people from Dan Austin of the website Buildings of Detroit about the some of America’s finest architecture and the phenomena of “ruin porn” to Traverse City artist Bill Hosner who started a cool Café Society project that uses art to create scholarships for baristas in Northern Michigan.

One of the many artists interviewed was cellist Andrea Moreno Beals of Breathe Owl Breathe. She kicks this video off and you should check it out as well!