What Are You Doing This Weekend?

Yard sale at 506 N. Ashley St.
Details after the jump.

506 N. Ashley St., between Kingsley and Felch (near Kerrytown)
Saturday, May 30, 10-5
Sunday, May 31, 10-5

A downsized economy is forcing us to downsize our lives, with lots of items to appeal to all manner of savvy sale hounds:

  • Televisions and a DVD player
  • Furniture (coffee, side, entertainment tables)
  • Kitchen items and appliances (toaster, coffeemaker, pots, pans, dishes, glasses, more)
  • Men’s clothing (shirts, t-shirts, pants, socks, etc.)
  • Women’s clothing (size M and L tops, skirts, dresses, shoes, etc.)
  • Women’s purses (sorry, no man purses)
  • Sports equipment (golf balls, skis)
  • Household stuff (vintage lampshades, fluorescent light, etc.)
  • Art canvases
  • Planter pots
  • Books and magazines! CDs! DVDs!
  • Other random stuff too cool to mention!
The forecast calls for awesome this weekend at 506 N. Ashley, so stop by and check out some great stuff before or after you peruse the Farmers Market, wait in line at Zingerman’s for a $15 sandwich, sample a Taste of Ann Arbor, celebrate Washtenaw Dairy's 75th birthday, or whatever other way you choose to enjoy what promises to be an excellent weekend.


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Spring Cleaning

This week I'm going through my old clothes, CDs, books, DVDs, and other miscellaneous stuff to identify what to sell at a joint garage – well, OK, yard – sale on Saturday and Sunday. Max has been helping me with this laborious task:

With all his "help," there shouldn't be any problem being ready by the weekend. (Max himself, however, is not for sale.)


Memorial Day Brewin' and Grillin'

My brother the master homebrewer threw a Memorial Day weekend party in honor of his 300th batch of homebrewed beer. With my lovely sister-in-law (head chef), he worked tirelessly to offer guests 11 different homebrews and many awesome delicacies, including seafood gumbo, grilled salmon, smoked turkey legs (pictured right), and some big old slabs of lamb, among many other things. There were no survivors.

My small photo gallery of the event is on the Book of Faces.

My brother's account of the festivities is on his blog.


Out and About: Ye Gods!

From an interesting front yard on Spring Street:

The gods of Spring Street


Red Pen Diaries: Reign O'er Me

Red Pen Diaries: Advice and Observations on Writing and the English LanguageDo you know the difference between "reign" and "rein"? If not, you're in good company: The Associated Press doesn't, either..

Today, while logging into my Yahoo account, I was greeted with the following AP headline: "Senate OKs bill to reign in credit card practices."

I intended to take a screencap, but unfortunately I navigated away from the page to do something else, and minutes later someone at AP had corrected the mistake by changing it to "rein in."

What's the difference?

The relevant definition of rein is as a verb: "to control or direct with or as if with reins."

When you rein in a horse, you are directing it to slow down or otherwise exercising control or authority over its actions. Congress is attempting to control or direct the practices of credit card companies "as if with reins."

When you reign, you "possess or exercise sovereign power: rule." Louis XIV said, "L'etat, c'est moi." He reigned over France... for more than 72 years, still a record for European monarchs.

In other words, the king reigns and the carriage driver (or legislature, apparently) reins (in).

Being a libertarian, I can't resist saying that we must rein in the ambitions of anyone in government who would reign over our country. ("Here, sir, the people rule!")

Your political mileage may vary, but your grammatical usage should not!

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Eating at the Ann Arbor Book Festival

Laura Stec demonstrates "cool cuisine"Saturday was the annual Ann Arbor Book Festival writers' conference and street fair. I didn't attend the writers' conference this year, but it sounds like it was as jam-packed with great guests, lecturers, and practical advice as was last year's.

This year's highlight for me actually had more to do with food than books: a cooking presentation moderated by Zingerman's co-founder Ari Weinzweig and featuring delicious (and generous) samples. (Pictured at right: Laura Stec.)

Unfortunately, beyond a few ingredients like kale, nuts, chives, baby asparagus, and corn, I can't say what exactly I ate. (I'm sure if I had purchased the cookbooks on sale there, I would know!)

Delicious free samples!What really stood out, over all that nice healthy stuff, however, was Ari's fat-soaked bread topped with pimento cheese and a strip of bacon. Some version of this is served at Zingerman's Roadhouse, and man is it good, again confirming one of my main Rules of Life: "There is nothing that can't be made better by adding bacon to it."

Following our freebie meal, my fellow adventurer and I headed to Ashley's for something to wash it down with. Sometimes when I go into Ashley's, it can be hard to decide what to order, so we decided on a "beer flight" of Brooklyn Savoir Faire, Arcadia imperial stout, Dogfish Head's Aprihop ale, and Arcadia Big Dick's Bourbon Barrel Olde Ale.

Good beer to wash down some good foodThere's nothing really wrong with Arcadia's stout, but it wasn't what I was in the mood for. The Big Dick was most decidedly bourbon-flavored, which pleased my not-really-into-beer lady friend, and Aprihop and the Savoir Faire (a "French farmhouse" style ale) were a lighter, refreshing counterpoint to the stout and old ale.

To wrap up the perfect afternoon, at Ashley's I ran into two more friends who I haven't seen since they left town, one for the UP and the other for Howell, where she lives, and Battle Creek, where she happens to brew for Arcadia.

All in all, it was another great Ann Arbor-centric day.

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Grilling Season Begins!

Well, I've officially been grilling for a couple weeks now, but last night's episode is worth mentioning because it was my first time ever grilling salmon.

The occasion? Farm-raised Norwegian salmon is on sale at Hiller's for $5 per pound through Memorial Day, offering Your Poor Correspondent a less expensive opportunity to try his culinary experiments on this sublime fish.

I am happy to say it worked out great; the three pictures below pretty much sum up the meal.

Before: A plate full of grilled salmon, beer-steamed potatoes, grilled corn on the cob, and wasabi coleslaw.

During: Mmmm, salmon.

After: Ten minutes later, nothin' but skin and cob!

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Bad Ass Beer or Just Plain Bad Idea?

The Kid rocks an Ann Arbor house partyFirst, I'm not a fan of Kid Rock. I think he's unappealingly crass and I'm not fond of his idea of music. Part of me is appreciative that he uses his puzzlingly huge celebrity status in part to help boost Detroit, but another part of me usually just feels embarrassed that he's the face of Michigan for so many people. (Still, I admit the fogeys of the 1970s probably said the same thing about Ted Nugent and Alice Cooper.)

Well, as originally reported in February on my deceased blog, the Kid is working with Michigan Brewing in Webberville to create his own brand of what I am guessing can be described only as craft swill. In a new interview with Rolling Stone, he describes it this way:

It just tastes like good American light beer, a regular beer and a light beer, an everyday beer ... we'd like to pair a shot of Jim Beam and one of my beers. Get off work, get a 22-ouncer and a shot, you’ll be all right.

He goes on to say it "actually tastes good, it has no aftertaste," which suggests to me he really does mean for this beer to compete with the watery, bland product of the megabrewers. (The obvious question of why America needs another one of those comes immediately to mind.)

Eyebrows are further raised when he discusses the marketing for his "Bad Ass Beer," which is typically Kid Rockean in its white trashy awfulness:

There's one where it looks like the Budweiser horses, and they're all up in the air, just freaked out, like they went haywire, and whatever they ride on is smashed up, and it just has my beer sitting in the front, it says "Bad Ass." ... We've got another one with the Bad Ass beer simulating like it's fucking the St. Pauli's girl.

Depressingly, he attributes these ideas to a creative agency he's working with (although it's apparently a guy who lives next to him). Yikes.

Billy Beer Redux?The big Bad Ass Beer rollout is targeted for Labor Day, according to the head Bad Ass. I may have to pick up a sixpack myself and stow it away as a collector's item, because I can't imagine this will be much more successful than was, say, Billy Beer. On the other hand, Kid Rock understands his audience way better than I do, so who the heck really knows?

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Red Pen Diaries: A Fistful of Dollars Bucks

Red Pen Diaries: Advice and Observations on Writing and the English LanguageI see this one everywhere – signs, print ads, TV commercials, restaurant menus, everywhere.

It's a simple proposition: The dollar sign by a number means that number of dollars. Someone reading, e.g., "$35" will say "thirty-five dollars."

So why do so many ads, etc. insist on saying "$35 dollars"? Last night a TV commercial even referred to "$50 BUCKS." Dollars bucks? Oy vey!

Make sure your writing is always money – don't write that redundant "dollars" (or bucks, smackeroos, samoleans, etc.) after the dollar sign.

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"Let Ann Arbor deal with her!"

Lost... in Ann ArborThe past several episodes of Lost have mentioned Ann Arbor rather prominently, owing to the Tree City's fictitious status as mainland headquarters of the DHARMA Initiative, that gaggle of eggheads, hippies, grunts, and thugs who have colonized the mystical Island that is really the central character of the show.

Last week, head DHARMA goon Radzinksy said of the wayward Kate, "Let Ann Arbor deal with her," as if 1970s A2 were home to some kind of sinister hippie mafia that could and would severely punish transgressives. Hey, whatever happened to peace and love, maaan?

Now even Entertainment Weekly's Jeff Jensen and Dan Snierson are dropping Ann Arbor references in their online video recap, Totally Lost. Like, far out.

Next week is the finale of the show's penultimate season, a two-hour extravaganza entitled "The Incident." The sub Sawyer, Juliet, and Kate are on was ostensibly headed to Ann Arbor. Maybe our fair city will have another prominent cameo, although I doubt it -- I think producers Damon Lindelof, Carlton Cuse, et al. have yet to take advantage of the state tax incentives to shoot the massive hippie apocalypse I'm rooting for.

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Red Pen Diaries: Honing Our Homing Skills

Red Pen Diaries: Advice and Observations on Writing and the English LanguageIn which we home in on a peculiar use of "hone."

You've probably heard of homing pigeons or homing beacons. The birds are able to navigate their way back to their nests; likewise, the beacons enable people to find or track (aka "home in on") a target.

You are no doubt also aware of the phrase "honing one's skills." Hone means to sharpen something, whether it's a knife or your ability to hit fade-away jump shots.

Unfortunately, "hone in on," usually meaning "to focus on," is a construction now in widespread use. I have seen some commentators (and even some reference books) defend this usage, but I maintain that it never makes any grammatical sense to "sharpen in" on something. If you mean to say "focus on," my advice would be to simply use the words "focus on." In addition to being unimpeachably correct, you save yourself from using the unnecessary word "in."

Incorrect: "Let's hone in on the results of this TPS report."

Correct: "No one at the meeting ever was able to home in on the real problem."

If E.T. had accidentally phoned hone, the mothership never would have been able to home in on his location.

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Norman Rockwell at the DIA

Today seemed like a great day to head down to The D and take in the big Norman Rockwell exhibit now showing at the Detroit Institute of Arts through the end of the month. Tickets are normally $15, but thanks to my date, a DIA member, we got in free.

Rockwell is, of course, best known for the many Saturday Evening Post cover portraits he painted over the course of many decades. And, appropriately, there are copies of every one of his Post covers in this exhibit, 300-something strong, beginning around 1916 and stretching into the 1960s. That alone is enough to make you admire how prolific an artist he was. Looking through all of those Posts was in itself a lesson in 20th-century American history.

The Rockwell admiration deepens, however, when you stop to take in all of the little craftsmanlike details of every work. The audio guide did not say how long it took him to complete a painting, but I can only imagine the artist never slept and/or somehow planned and painted very quickly.

There are some who would dismiss Rockwell's art as nothing but lighthearted whimsy, the representation of an idealized supermajority-white America that no longer exists, if it ever did. But a look beneath the surface reveals the artist grappling with deeper themes of, for example, childhood innocence vs. adult knowledge or reality vs. media image. His work also explores the gamut of more prosaic subjects and emotions like family, man- and womanhood, longing, fear, embarrassment, pride, and all the rest we can so readily relate to.

Although Rockwell may in some ways be a "lighter" version of his contemporary Edward Hopper (my favorite painter, next to Art Frahm, of course), after seeing this well organized exhibit I would have to say he thoroughly deserves his reputation as a true American Original™®©.

"Commonplaces never become tiresome. It is we who become tired when we cease to be curious and appreciative." – Norman Rockwell

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Give Me Liberty...

Finally made it out to Liberty Street Brewing Company (warning: poorly designed web site) in Plymouth, something like nine months after it opened.

I had time for only one beer, their IPA, though I did also have a taste of their pilsener. I liked both of them, though to be honest I can tell I'm starting to get a little tired of IPAs and their even more bitter cousins, the XPAs (that's X-TREME IPAs that mostly seem like a waste of a lot of good hops).

The pilsener was pretty darn good; just because the likes of Anheuser-Busch and Miller have corrupted the style doesn't mean it isn't possible to enjoy a fresh, crisp pint of the craft-brew version. Sometimes this classic style is just what the doctor ordered. Now if only Liberty, or anyone, really, would produce a nice English mild, a truly neglected and out-of-favor style...

Verdict: I will go back. The historic-building setting is a major plus, the staff were friendly (I recognized one bartender from her days working at Arbor Brewing, though I did wonder why she turned off the end of the Tigers game to put on Two and a Half Men), and the beers I tried were tasty and well priced. Maybe next time I'll have a little extra coin to try their food, too, although it's pretty basic, apparently.

An additional note: The whole place, upstairs and down, is smoke-free. (See, you don't need Big Brother to force business owners to ban smoking, some will do it voluntarily if they perceive a high demand for such a ban.)

Next on the day-trip-from-Ann-Arbor brewery tour will have to be Original Gravity (much better web site) in Milan. I'll keep y'all posted.

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