Ann Arbor

Earth Day 2012 in Michigan

Untitled by Brooke Pennington
Untitled by Brooke Pennington

Sunday (April 22) is the 42nd Earth Day. Here’s some highlights from this morning’s Earth Day post on Michigan in Pictures - don’t miss the CBS News segment on Albion featuring Walter Kronkite from Earth Day 1970 below!

Michigan History: The Birth of the Panty Raid

The article Panty Raid, 1952 by James Tobin from the University of Michigan’s Michigan Today begins:

It had been another dismal Michigan winter. The gray and the cold had stretched well into March. But finally, as the earth approached the vernal equinox on Thursday, March 20, 1952—the eve of the first day of spring—the temperature in Ann Arbor crept up to 57 glorious degrees. Jackets came off. Windows opened.

At about 6:30 p.m., Art Benford, a junior, finished dinner in the dining hall of West Quad. He went to his room in Allen Rumsey House and picked up his trumpet. Benford said later he had only meant to relax by playing a little music. But his impromptu rendition of Glenn Miller’s “Serenade in Blue” set off a chain of events that gave America a distinguishing fad of the 1950s—the panty raid.

Read on for a recap of the birth of this Fifties fad, and also the issues that led to a campus wide outbreak that involved thousands of people.

Absolute Michigan Giveaway: Lucky Monkey Tattoo Parlor

Absolute Michigan is committed to helping our readers get more out of Michigan. To that end, we are adding an exciting new program featuring regular giveaways of products and services from all kinds of Michigan businesses. It's free, fun and all you have to do to be eligible is to be on our email list - sign up using the form below. We guarantee that we will not share your email address with anyone!
If your business is interested in participating, you can get all the information right here.

“Part of the appeal of the tattoo business to me is seeing how people are transformed after getting their first tattoos. There is the fear building up to it, a bit of anxiety, but then I have seen it transform people. It is empowering for people, it makes them more confident and if they are getting art that is meaningful to them it really boosts their self esteem.”
~Dana Forrester

Lucky Monkey Tattoo Parlour in downtown Ann Arbor is owned and operated by award-winning rocker and PR doll, Dana Forrester, who says that she’s continually inspired by the creative spirit and talent emerging from our great state. While Michigan has long been known for Detroit’s Motown music legacy, the Mitten is also a hot bed for some of the nation’s most skilled visual artists – including tattooists!

Since opening in 2002, the Lucky Monkey has inked clients from Egypt, Germany, Brazil, Japan, Australia, including numerous high profile clients including Eddie Spaghetti (The Supersuckers), Darren McCarty (Detroit Red Wings), Jazz drummer Terri Lyne Carrington (Herbie Hancock/Arsenio Hall Show), Vinnie Dombroski (Sponge/Crud/The Orbitsuns), Spike from channel 955′s Mojo In The Morning show, Wrestler Eddie Venom, and thousands of other satisfied customers.

Talented tattoo artists Brian Massey, Steve Flores, and Finn, and “the coolest shop guys ever” – Sam Felix and Casey Jones, are dedicated to performing the highest level of customer service and artistry. Lucky Monkey Tattoo is an officially licensed body art studio, and all Lucky Monkey Tattoo artists and staff are certified in Bloodborne Pathogens (Disease and Infection Control).

For their giveaway which will be awarded next Wednesday, November 2, they will give our winner a Lucky YOUR Monkey prize pack which includes a $50 Lucky Monkey monkey gift certificate (good towards the cost of a tattoo), a Lucky Monkey Tattoo Tshirt and full color sticker! To sign up, just make sure your email is on our list – form in the blue box at the top of the article!

Big Chill, Big House, Big Crowd

The Big Chill by Lon Horwedel |
The Big Chill by Lon Horwedel |

On Saturday (December 11 2010) the University of Michigan Wolverines met the Michigan State University Spartans in The Big Chill at the Big House (Wikipedia entry). A world-record smashing crowd of 113,411 saw the Wolverines pummel the Spartans 5-0, and UM AD Dave Brandon left open the possibility of future hockey at Michigan’s largest stadium:

“That’s not something you do every year,” Brandon said after the six-minute fireworks display that capped Saturday’s day-long festivities. “You’ve got to make it special.”

Michigan officials made sure the inaugural outdoor hockey game inside the 83-year-old Ann Arbor landmark was memorable. Fireworks highlighted a pre-game ceremony that also included a stealth bomber flyover and followed each of Michigan’s five goals.

Microphones were placed at ice level, piping the sounds of the game into the stadium’s bowl to provide fans a more traditional hockey experience. There were video highlights played on the end zone scoreboards throughout the game, leading up to a choreographed fireworks display set to music from “The Big Chill” movie.

Here’s the highlight reel from the game and you can see video of the record-setting crowd below!

Invasive Species: History of the House Sparrow

All week on Absolute Michigan and Michigan in Pictures we’re going to highlight invasive species. Last week Laura Bien of the Ann Arbor Chronicle published an article on a historical invader in Michigan titled In the Archives: Fluffy Sparrow Heads. It begins:

Untitled by flatgraphic

In the late 19th century, an interloper was committing thievery across Michigan.

Glimpsed now here, now there, the miscreant evaded capture, flitting away. Finally in the late 1880s the state responded to residents’ outrage and levied a bounty on the culprit’s head.

Its tiny, fluffy head: the offender was the English or house sparrow.

“This detestable bird is an imported resident,” said Charles Chapman in his 1881 “History of Washtenaw County.” The English sparrow had been introduced in Brooklyn in 1852 in the hope that it would eat harmful insects. It quickly spread across the continent. Wikipedia notes that today it is the world’s most widely distributed wild bird.

Chapman continued: “A few pair first made their appearance here in 1873; the streets of Ann Arbor are now overrun with them, and they are gradually making their way to the country. Wherever they locate they drive out the martin, blue-bird, swallows … They are a seed-eating bird, and in portions of Europe do great damage to the crops of the farmer.”

Read on at the Ann Arbor Chronicle!

Obama brings full house to the Big House (President Obama at the University of Michigan Commencement)

By Jacob Wheeler

President Obama at Michigan Stadium
photo by Sam Wolson/Michigan Daily

(video below)

ANN ARBOR —  President Barack Obama took a break from the constant political storms in Washington, D.C., to address the University of Michigan (U-M) 2010 spring commencement ceremony today. And thunderstorms rolling across the Midwest rewarded him with a break in the weather, as nearly 85,000 graduating seniors, U-M students, families and well-wishers enjoyed overcast skies and a humorous, but reflective speech on American politics that could well have been delivered in a political science lecture hall.

The crowd that packed into Michigan Stadium —  the gridiron popularly known in Ann Arbor as the “Big House” —  more than doubled that of typical commencement ceremonies, in no small part because of Obama’s popularity and intrigue among this student body, and young Americans in general. Early morning showers dropped spring rains on southeast Michigan, but the precipitation stopped in earnest by 9 a.m., two hours before the ceremony was to begin.

Adhering to a punctual schedule, Obama entered the stage shortly before 11 along with Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm (a close ally of the President who may someday seek a cabinet position or a Supreme Court nomination once term limits end her governorship) and U-M President Mary Sue Coleman, and took a seat between the two. School of Music, Theatre & Dance senior Mary Martin then opened the ceremony with a performance of “The Star Spangled Banner,” followed by a Reflection from Samir Mohammed Islam, a senior from the College of Literature, Science and the Arts (LSA, which is U-M’s largest school).

Following remarks by esteemed faculty members, the spotlight turned to LSA Senior Alex Marston, a D.C. native and third-generation Michigan student whose grandparents met in Angell Hall during the 1940s. His speech on the topic of “change” seemed fitting with Obama just feet away from him, and the cameras focused on Mr. Change whenever the word was used.

“We desire change, but we fear it too,” Marston said. “After (Obama) took office, he found resistance to change,” at which the President whispered something to Gov. Granholm and laughed. Marston alluded to changes in U-M’s football program, a new coach and the team’s fall from grace over the past three years. The senior also lamented that, for today’s graduates, change will mean no more visits to the popular Ann Arbor bar Good Time Charlies, or Zingerman’s Deli, and its world famous pastrami sandwiches. “But still, we must embrace change and follow the lead of Michigan graduates to change the world.”

Coleman then honored the nation’s 44th President with an Honorary Doctor of Law degree before thanking Obama for making the trip on Air Force One: “Congratulations to a group of graduating students so exceptional that we had to show you off to the President of the United States. … President Obama, welcome to the Big House,” she said to thundering applause.”

Just after 11:30, Gov. Granholm took the podium (adorned with the President of the United States seal) and applauded Obama: “On behalf of our 10 million citizens, thank you for supporting our auto industry — Ford, General Motors, Chrysler. They all have bright futures now, whereas one year ago much darker clouds than these loomed overhead.” Granholm mentioned a recent visit by Vice President Joe Biden to promote Michigan’s electric battery sector. “We could not change Michigan from the rust belt to the green belt without your support, Mr. President,” she continued.

About 10 minutes later Obama rose and drew nearly 30 seconds of applause before opening his speech. He smiled, answered, “I love you back” and then pronounced, “It’s great to be here in the Big House. Go Blue,” admitting that he wanted to start things off with a cheap applause line.

Political science

Obama began his speech on a humorous note: “I am happy to join you all today, and even happier to spend a little time away from Washington. Don’t get me wrong — it’s a beautiful city. And it sure is nice living above the store; can’t beat the commute,” he joked. “It’s just that sometimes, all you hear in Washington is the clamor of politics — a noise that can drown out the voices of the people who sent you there.”

He reads 10 letters a night from ordinary citizens, including one from a kindergarten class in Virginia, which asked the leader of the free world a series of innocent questions. “One asked, ‘How do you do your job?’ Another asked, ‘Do you work a lot?’ Somebody wanted to know if I wear a black jacket or if I have a beard — clearly getting me mixed up with that other tall guy from Illinois. And then there was my favorite: ‘Do you live next to a volcano?’”

But after tickling the crowd’s funny bone, Obama adopted the conciliatory, unifying stance of the change-maker he’s aspired to be in the White House. He admitted that the debate over the size of government is a legitimate one that has existed since this country’s beginnings; he called on cable news pundits and others to keep the political debate civil, and he admitted that these issues of political tone are nothing new.

“Before we get too down on the current state of our politics, we need to remember our history. The great debates of the past all stirred great passion. They all made some angry. What is amazing is that despite all the conflict; despite all its flaws and frustrations, our experiment in democracy has worked better than any other form of government on Earth.

Obama’s call for a good government, of the people, seemed suitable for a political science class, if not a campaign rally: “Government is the police officers who are here protecting us and the service men and women who are defending us abroad. Government is the roads you drove in on and the speed limits that kept you safe.”

And then the President made perhaps the only allusion to the stormy issues of the day that are certainly on his mind as he flies back to Washington.

Senator Barack Obama in Michigan  #3 by radiospike photography
Senator Barack Obama in Michigan #3
by radiospike photography

“Government is what ensures that mines adhere to safety standards and that oil spills are cleaned up by the companies that caused them. Government is this extraordinary public university — a place that is doing life-saving research, catalyzing economic growth, and graduating students who will change the world around them in ways big and small.

Shortly after noon today, Obama wrapped up his speech, calling on U-M’s graduates to be tomorrow’s leaders, and protectors of democracy. And after the seniors filling the football field in a sea of black gowns were officially declared graduates, they honored tradition and tossed their black caps into the air. Formal above the waist, many graduates wore tennis shoes — even Bermuda shorts — below.

Sam Wolson of the Michigan Daily has a fantastic slideshow from President Barack Obama’s commencement address to the class of 2010 at the University of Michigan (Michigan Daily coverage of the address / full text of speech) Check out the slideshow and read the rest of Jacob’s feature below.

U-M a collegiate leader

Ross Business School by JSmith Photo
Ross Business School by JSmith Photo

President Barack Obama is the third sitting U.S. president to deliver a graduation commencement speech in Ann Arbor, following Lyndon Johnson in 1964 and George H. W. Bush in 1991. Johnson used this setting to outline the pillars of his Great Society legislation, which marked the 1960s. Bill Clinton also spoke to U-M’s graduates after he left the White House. Video images of Johnson and Bush both appeared on the jumbotron during today’s ceremony.

Though they weren’t commencement speeches, John F. Kennedy stopped for a midnight rally at the University of Michigan 50 years ago while on the 1960 campaign trail and introduced the Peace Corps. (“Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country,” he said in that recognizable Bostonian accent.) And U-M alum and Grand Rapids native Gerald Ford (the only Michigan native to sit in the Oval Office) launched his unsuccessful re-election campaign here in 1976.

While U-M has taken its lumps on the gridiron in recent years, and all but ceded state basketball bragging rights to Tom Izzo and Michigan State, the university continues to be a national collegiate leader. University president Mary Sue Coleman, who took over the reigns in 2002 following Lee Bollinger’s tenure, launched “The Michigan Difference” campaign, which raised $3.2 billion — the most ever by a public university.

The university’s value to the state of Michigan is equally immense. The U-M Health System, which serves 1.7 million patients each year, boasts a medical school, three hospitals and more than 120 health centers and clinics. U-M spends over $1 billion annually on research, which has resulted in 2,521 discoveries, 1,184 patent applications and 83 startups. U-M is part of the University Research Corridor, a collaboration with Michigan State and Wayne State universities to accelerate statewide economic development.

Michigan Stadium, which opened in 1927 and was the first college stadium to use electronic scoreboards, holds a capacity of 106,201.

Weird Wednesday: Killer Rivers

linda-godfrey The last Wednesday of every month is a “Weird Wednesday” on Absolute Michigan, when Linda Godfrey gives you a sample of what’s weird in the Wolverine State. You can listen to Linda’s latest podcasts and read her blog at and also check out her books including Weird Michigan & Strange Michigan.

Holga: Riverside Park by Matt Callow
Holga: Riverside Park by Matt Callow

Wisconsin and Michigan are alike in many ways; they both border Lake Michigan, feature smallish but fierce mammals as mascots, and are shaped roughly like mittens. One more unfortunate similarity is that each harbors a stretch of river that has earned a reputation for repeated, unexplained drownings. Many of the victims in both states have been college students, leading to speculation about serial killers and supernatural causes.

Wisconsin’s river of death is the Mississippi where it flows past La Crosse. Starting with the death of a doctor in the 1800s, the river has claimed frequent lives, many of them students at UW-La Crosse. The apparent cause is always simple drowning, and the most recent occurred in late September 2007. Strangely, it was three days after a man and his son reported that a man-sized, bat-winged creature almost flew into the windshield of their truck. Strange Wisconsin coverA similar creature, Mothman, was sighted around Point Pleasant, Virginia in the 60s before a local bridge collapsed and killed many, leading some to surmise that these winged things are harbingers of death. (See Strange Wisconsin, More Badger State Weirdness)

Michigan’s similarly dangerous waters flow in the Huron River near Peninsular Park, in an area where a large old paper mill once commanded the river’s power. According to writer James Mann in the Ann Arbor News, drownings were a yearly occurrence there throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and many victims were students at the present Eastern Michigan University. It got to the point where the school would not permit its enrollees to dip even a toe into the Huron’s chill waters.

The river then turned its siren-like attention to other citizens who were still foolhardy enough to dive in. One man whose identity was never discovered was found in late September, 1930. The red-haired man, thought to be a vagrant, had tattoos on his arm — a lovely lady’s face and an ornament in the shape of a shield — but no one ever stepped forward to claim him.

Michiganders and Wisconsinites alike can only hope the Huron and Mississippi have had their fill of human bodies. Weird Michigan’s advice? Always use the buddy system, and watch out for strange flying things overhead.

50th Annual Ann Arbor Street Fair, July 15-18, 2009

Ann Arbor Street Fair by Photo Credit Peter Leix

Ann Arbor Street Fair by Photo Credit Peter Leix

Established in 1960, the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair is the Original of the now four award-winning Ann Arbor Art Fairs:

Together, the fairs attract over 500,000 attendees from across the nation. The Original Fair was named the Number One Art Fair in the country by AmericanStyle magazine readers survey (October 2004) and has made the Top Ten Fairs and Festivals list every year since.

Our mission is to increase public knowledge and appreciation for contemporary fine arts and fine crafts by creating opportunities that connect artists, the Ann Arbor community and the general public to their mutual benefit, culminating in a top quality juried street art fair.

The Street Art Fair is set on North University Avenue and on the University of Michigan’s Central Campus, amidst most elegant architecture and beautifully landscaped pedestrian walkways, including the landmark Burton Carillon Tower.

Interested in learning more about our history? Check out these sections from Street Beat, a unique, quirky guide to Ann Arbor and the Art Fair. You may download Street Beat in its entirety.

To celebrate 50 years of originality, the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair is exhibiting original posters, art, and photographs spanning its first half-century. Visitors to the exhibit can explore the history of the Fair through narrative panels chronicling each decade from its humble beginnings to its place today as one of the most highly regarded art fairs in North America. Included in the exhibit is an original retablo by artist Nicario Jiminez depicting the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair. Also check out the online collection of images from the history of the Fair that is a part of AADL’s picture Ann Arbor collection.

Photo Friday: Tulips at the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor) by cseeman

326/365 (May 4, 2009) - Tulips at the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor)

cseeman (Corey) is the Library Director at the Kresge Business Administration Library at the University of Michigan (Corey’s homepage)

You’ll definitely want to check this photo out background bigalicious or in his cool Tulip slideshow. His sets include Birds of Saline, Fiddlers Restrung (not to be confused with the Saline Fiddlers) and Lighthouses of Michigan (slideshow) that is helpfully broken down into Lighthouse of Lake Michigan, Lighthouses of Lake Huron, Lighthouses of Lake Erie and Lighthouses of Lake St. Clair.

You can also check out his Flickriver.

M is for Monday … and Midwest, MCS, Michigan Agriculture and MORELS!

Morels ! by cedarkayak
Morels ! by cedarkayak

The latest issue of Midwest Living feature on the Best Midwest Food Towns served up a platefull of restaurants in our region that might entice the culinary tourist. Their editors selected Traverse City as the #2 town and Ann Arbor #3. Also featured were a collection of recipes from Traverse City including Morel Mushroom Cream Sauce With Pasta and a Creme Fraiche from Shetler’s Dairy.

The Detroit City Council’s proposal to demolish Michigan Central Station as a means to bring in Federal stimulus dollars seemed to many to have all the brilliance of a plan to get rich quick by selling both your kidneys. Now the Detroit News reports that developer Manuel (Matty) Moroun is proposing to lease Michigan Central Station to the United States government for redevelopment. The Department of Homeland Security offices for Customs and Border Protection are seeking to lease almost 50,000 square feet of space in the Detroit area to house personnel.

Of surprise to nobody – outside of State government at least – the Detroit News is reporting that Michigan’s agricultural industry is bucking the trend of decline:

The state’s overall agricultural industry — which includes not only farming but also food processing and biofuels, wineries and beer-making — grew 12 percent to $71.3 billion in revenue in 2007, following several years of single-digit growth; 2008 figures are not yet available.

…Some 100 agri-food businesses have started in Michigan during the past five years, according to the MDA.

Imagine what we could do if we really invested in building and promoted our agricultural bounty.

Edward Vielmetti has a tasty post that includes Michigan’s morel festivals and the book How to Find Morels by Milan Pelouch. Even more about morels at Absolute Michigan keyword morel!