Thursday, March 30, 2017

The history of the Blind Pig on Ann Arbor Stories

With news that the Blind Pig/8-Ball and their liquor license are up for sale, I can think of no better time than to dive into the history of the establishment. Fortunately, Rich Retyi's got a great Ann Arbor Stories for us. Episode 28 is all about the Blind Pig and what happened last time it was sold. It's definitely worth a listen.

A little Damn Arbor history for you, gentle reader. Most people don't know this, but we started this website back in 2010 when all of the original contributors were living together in a rental on 3rd at Liberty. Naturally, we spent a great deal of time at the 8 Ball and Pig and have a lot of fond memories there. It was a blow to see the building was up for sale back in February. Though there is some hope that some bar/music venue may stay at the site considering the liquor license is also for sale. If you have fond memories of the 8 Ball and Pig, then you have to listen to this episode of Ann Arbor Stories.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Theatre review: Clutter at Theatre NOVA

The world premier of Clutter, the debut play from Detroiter Brian Cox, is currently in production at Theatre NOVA in Ann Arbor. In the play a man known as Me (Phil Powers) interrogates his past and attempts to understand his failed marriage. He does so with the help of Woman (Tory Matsos) and Sir (Artun Kircali). Using Sir as a stand in for his younger self and Woman as a proxy for his wife, Me reminisces on his past failures as a husband and attempts to correct them. If you want to avoid spoilers, don't read the next paragraphs.

Clutter opens with Me attempting to find something important on his cluttered desk. He kvetches about the nature of clutter and his perennial inability to keep things tidy. This is pretty humorous and earned some good laughs from the audience. It turns out Me is overly sentimental and has kept artifacts to remind himself of his greatest failings as a husband. As he uncovers receipts, old theater tickets, and expired calendars, he travels back to the memories those objects anchor. He eventually pulls Woman from the audience to be the stand in for his wife. I think it's worth noting that in a play with good acting, Tory Matsos' really stood out. I knew she was an audience plant, but doubted it for a brief second. Mastos did such a convincing job portraying a reluctant audience member she had me second guessing myself.

After recreating some moments from his past with Woman, Me decides he needs a proxy for his past self, so he pulls Sir from the audience. Sir comes off as a bit of a bro who thinks very highly of himself. It works for the character. As Clutter progresses, it becomes clear that Me was a pretty self centered husband who was never really able to imagine that his wife's emotions were different than his own. The mood gets darker and the play ends with a gut punch that felt a little unearned. Overall, I liked Clutter. It's an ambitious attempt to tell a story in a non-traditional way. Phil Powers did a great job portraying Me's toxic nostalgia and deep regret for his past. There were some spots where it felt like the script could have been tightened up a bit. Woman and Sir are sometimes naive audience members and at other times omniscient about Me's past. Most of the time this worked out in the play, but other times the transition felt a little awkward. Also, the Clutter relies on a semi-permeable 4th wall, and again, it's not always clear when the wall is there. These issues were minor and didn't take away from the wonderful acting in the play.

Clutter is a tight 90 minutes with no intermission. It runs through April 16th with shows Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings as well as Sunday afternoons. Tickets are $20 though pay-what-you-can tickets are available as well.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Nobody moderates a panel like Gautam Hans

Our very own Gautam Hans made the cover of yesterday's Michigan Daily. Gautam moderated a panel discussion entitled "Privacy and Security Challenges in Investigative Journalism" with Kinght-Wallace Fellows, Bastian Obermayer and Laurent Richard. Both are investigative journalists who were instrumental in organizing and publishing the information from the Panama Papers leak. Unfortunately, the above video edits out all of Gautam's moderating. But we here at Damn Arbor headquarters are confident he did a superb job. We're proud of how far you've come, G$.

A post shared by Gautam Hans (@gshans) on

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Nerd Nite tonight

Tonight's Nerd Nite is all about saving. Specifically, this evenings presentations will cover saving lives through evidence based medicine, saving energy by living off the grid, and saving time. Ok, that last one may have been a bit of a stretch, but daylight saving time may be come up. From the A2NN website:

Testing, testing! NNA2 alum and PhD/MD student Carl Engelke is here to talk about medical testing – the how, the why, and the reality of what some of these common screening exams can and can’t tell us. Science!

Hay is for houses! Professor, designer, and farmer Joe Trumpey built his house out of straw and field rocks and determination and ingenuity, and he’s here to tell you the practical side of transitioning to an off-the-grid, sustainable lifestyle.

(H)our third speaker is engineer Matt Carpenter – he’ll take a moment to explain the stories behind leap years and the agony and ecstasy that is falling back and springing forward with Daylight Saving Time.

Sounds like a great set of presentations. Nerd Nite is at Live. Doors are at 6:30 and talks start at 7:00. Cover is free thanks to AADL.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Ann Arbor Film Festival, thoughts on opening night

Last night I had the pleasure of attending the opening night of the 55th Ann Arbor Film Festival. I took in the first round of Films in Competition. I was taken aback by the incredible diversity of the films being shown--everything from minute long psychedelic animations (Mindframe)to two touching films about elderly couples. LUIS & I which documents the marriage of an aging human cannonball and the dance form Liverpool who fell in love with him was hart warming. Victor & Isolina in which director William Caballero interviews his grandparents after his grandmother kicks his grandfather out of the house. It's pretty funny and you can see the trailer here.

All of this reminded me what I love about the Film Festival: it's a chance to see incredible films you would never otherwise see; it's a reminder just how diverse, weird, and wonderful the world of film is. The Film Festival is an antidote to the formulaic films that Hollywood keeps churning out. If you're interested in checking out the Film Festival for yourself, Thursday's retrospective, 100 Years of Dada, looks great. Though you really can't go wrong checking out any of the Film Fest.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

55th Ann Arbor Film Festival opens tonight

55AAFF Trailer from Ann Arbor Film Festival on Vimeo.

Tonight's opening night for the Film Festival. The day's events kick off early with a 2:00 pmOff The Screen reception at North Quad. This evening's main events kick off with an opening night reception at the Michigan Theater at 6:30 followed by the first round of Films in Competition at 8:15. There is also an after party at 10 pm at Sava's. Should be a fun night. I'll be around checking out the reception and the films in competition so stop by and say "Hi."

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Torch Murders on Ann Arbor Stories

If you're into the true crime podcast phenomena, you will want to check out today's Ann Arbor Stories. In it, Rich Retyi tells the story of 1931's Torch Murders. Be warned though, the story contains graphic depictions of violence and sexual assault. It also contains a cameo from Harry Bennett, the subject of Ann Arbor Stories #26.

Monday, March 13, 2017

55th Ann Arbor Film Festival starts next week

55AAFF Trailer 2 from Ann Arbor Film Festival on Vimeo.

Hot off the press: here's a new trailer for this year's Ann Arbor Film Festival. The Film Fest runs from March 21st through 26th. It's such a great chance to see unique films you would otherwise not see. I can't recommend the Film Fest enough.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Ma Lou's Fried Chicken, a review

West wall of Ma Lou's with picnic table in foreground.
Ma Lou's Fried Chicken opened last Friday to much fanfare. After a few false starts, last night I finally had a chance to get some takeout from Ypsilanti's newest restaurant. Here's what I ordered:
Big box (feeds 2-4) 2 breasts, 2 leg quarters, half southern half medium spiced, $19
Large side of potato salad, $2 as an add on to the big box
Biscuit-donut, $3
Let me begin by saying this: if you are a fan of fried chicken, I am confident you will like Ma Lou's.
Clockwise from top: medium spiced chicken thigh; a bit of potato salad; pickle slice; southern spiced chicken thigh.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Celebrate International Women's Day with a working women walking tour of Ypsi this Saturday

The Hay and Todd Woolen Mill, the largest mill in Ypsilanti. The mill was located on Forest across from Frog Island from 1865 until 1933.

Gentle readers, International Women's Day is tomorrow. If you're looking to really celebrate the spirit of the day, originally called International Working Women's Day, there is an awesome event with local historian Matt Siegfried this Saturday in Ypsilanti. Matt will be leading a walking tour of Downtown Ypsilanti highlighting the contributions of women to the city's early industries. If you've never been to one of his historical tours before, you're really in for a treat. Matt does such a good job bringing historical landscapes to life. He has an incredible knowledge of both people and space which really allows you to feel like you're "seeing" history. I spoke with Matt and he said the tour will highlight the "hundreds of women and girls were laboring in the city's factories and mills" like the Hay and Todd Woolen Mill pictured above.

So, if you're interested in learning about the important contributions women made to industry in Ypsilanti, or you are just interested in Ypsilanti history, you won't want to miss Matt's walking tour. The tour begins at 11am on Saturday in the Riverside Arts Center parking lot and will last about 2 hours. Admission is free.

On a related note, here's an old advertisement for a popular product from the Hay and Todd Woolen Mill, Ypsilanti Health Underwear:

“Never a rip, never a tear, Ypsilanti Underwear”

Image via Ypsilanti Historical Society.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Harry Bennett on Ann Arbor Stories

Bennett's men attack UAW organizers during the Battle of the Overpass at the River Rouge Plant in 1937.

Harry Bennett was hired by Henry Ford to work as a driver and enforcer. He eventually was promoted as personnel manager for the River Rouge plant where he was essentially the worst director of human resources in history. Most HR directors don't shoot their employees, right? If you'd like to learn more about Harry Bennet, who lived in a Castle on Geddes Road with secret tunnels and machine gun turrets, you should check out today's Ann Arbor Stories podcast.

If you'd like to hear more about Bennett, check out Mark Maynard's interview with local historian Matt Siegfried on episode 2 of the Saturday Six Pack.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Everything you've always wanted to know about Detroit Style Pizza but were afraid to ask

The stuff dreams are made of. 

Writing on Serious Eats, chef J. Kenji López-Alt just published his extensive quest to make Detroit style pizza at home. It is a great read. Not only does he detail what makes our region's pizza so special, he also chronicles his successes and failures in his attempts to recreate it. The secret seems to be bread flower, 73% hydration, kneading, Wisconsin block cheese, and a steel pan. You can read the recipe here. From the article:

This is not everyday pizza. It's not every-week pizza. It might not even be every-month, if you want to live to a reasonable age. But damn, is it good pizza. So good that it's worth a trip to Detroit just to taste it. So good that it's worth devoting months of time, weeks of research, and dozens and dozens of experiments to developing a recipe to duplicate it at home. So that's exactly what I did. Here's what I found.