March 9, 2011 § Leave a comment
Unlike most people my age, I am not spending spring break on a beach; also unlike many people my age I am not spending spring break at home, devoid of more interesting plans. I am spending spring break, instead, drowning my fears about fast- approaching summer in a trip out to Seattle, WA to visit some relatives– in hopes of burning off excess energy.
In the last three days I have learned to cross- country ski, downhill ski, and, while on a bicycle, have shown exactly one mountainside who’s boss. Every inch of my body aches with a satisfaction only truly attainable up here in the Cascade Mountains. But, as I spend more and more time exploring what Seattle and its surrounding area has to offer, I begin to wonder: is this exhaustion the only exclusive treat Seattle has to offer?
Naturally, the answer is “no”. Looking around me, I cannot help but take in the sights and reflect back on the blight that plagues my hometown. I see solutions all around me in Seattle–not to suggest that the civic engineers of Seattle are any brighter or more forward-thinking than our own. No. More than that, I mean to suggest that we in Detroit could be the better for repairing ourselves with the solutions others have seen succeed.
I would like to posit a solution to West Detroit’s devastating North-South Corktown divide from the inside of a tunnel–more specifically, the I-90 tunnel in Seattle. Taking a look around the Seattle area is becomes quite apparent the prevailing consciousness of the environment. In both the ecological and community sense of the term, Seattle- area city planners seem to understand that a vibrant city depends on a continuous integration of community and sustainable development into our urban (and, may I add, suburban) lifestyle.
The I-90 tunnel was a policy response to the same sort of highway cut through a local neighborhood that I-94 posed. Instead of I-90 being left an open- air, traffic- packed gouge between two halves of a community, it was covered with a tunnel and a community park, complete with tennis courts and basketball hoops, was installed to bridge the otherwise divided regions.
The push for turning wasteland into usable green space is already the direction Detroit is headed. Take Phil Cooley’s Roosevelt Park project outside of Detroit’s vacant train station as just one example of this movement. Now step it up. Imagine repairing the damage that I-94 wrought upon Detroit communities. Neighborhoods cut off from walkable, traversable routes open up to inviting green fairways. Perhaps this touch of green is just the fix Detroit needs to be whole again.
Obviously it is not feasible to place all of Detroit’s I-94 stretch into a culvert. But perhaps projects could be targeted strategically. I began by pointing out the Corktown neighborhood as a key spot for this kind of repair for a specific reason. Not only was it one of the neighborhood most devastated by the I-94 cut, but it also one of the neighborhoods coming back. Phil Cooley, Sean Mann, Emily Doehrr are just 3 names of the many who have invested their money, their time, and their lifestyle into revitalizing the Corktown area. If we want these projects to survive, if we want them to grow and flourish and bring new life to Detroit, then we must bridge the gaps that carved up the city that was once too big to fail.
March 2, 2011 § Leave a comment
So, here’s the deal. I wanted to conduct a little experiment.
Since was about 5 years old I have always had a sort chin-length bob. By age 20 I was prepared for something much more dramatic. Or so I thought. Now, before I divulge details, I want to be clear this is not a story about beauty or fashion or any some such subject. This is about the deeply ingrained nature of such topics in our public (and thus, private) roles.
So, like I said, I cut my hair. Most people tell me I resemble Natalie Portman or Keira Knightley– two actresses who have successfully pulled off the pixie- short look…so I figured while the change would be dramatic, it wouldn’t be completely out of the ordinary.
Just forty- eight hours after lopping of 8 inches, I began to notice people treating me differently. And I began to wonder, like Susan Bordo when she wrote “Unbearable Weight”– but in a different way, about the nature of the conceptions of beauty that bind us–make us acceptable. I noticed I wasn’t being treated badly; just differently.
Women (and some men) expressed a range of responses. Some told me a looked like a model; a heightened sort of femininity. I attributed this to the sleek style emphasized my tall, slender physique. Others expressed a benign kind of envy. Some women said that they had always wanted to cut their hair off –or at least had considered it– but could never go through with it. Some said they didn’t have the face, others flat out admitted they didn’t have the guts.
In a lot of ways, this parallels the critique of beauty given to us by Susan Bordo, as I mentioned before. Bordo analyzes beauty in terms of slenderness and its power to contain and disenfranchise women. Long hair is as much a part of this “containment” of the female body as is thinness. Women all over the country (world?) angonize, as I once did, about their locks and how to make them look best. Complaints about extreme split ends, that hair that is too thin, too thick, too straight, too curly– pepper our feminine dialogue.
I realize that going GI Jane isn’t the answer to every woman’s hair troubles. But acceptance of one’s body– hair and all– and one’s true preferences just might be. When one looks at it, the popular demands of beauty are so fleeting, and the stress of meeting these demands in enormous. I say the feminist need not reject feminine things or ways to make herself beautiful, but she might consider embracing the beauty she way born with.
When it comes to embracing one’s self as a beauty individual and casting off the shackles of social pressure, I would say there is nothing to be afraid of, but of course, there is. In the six- some weeks since I kissed my long mane goodbye, I have gotten my fair share of taunts and insults. One acquaintance told me I looked like a “hot lesbian”–what was that even supposed to mean? Did he think I was still beautiful and just couldn’t let himself admit that women without long hair could be beautiful too? Or did he really think I’d lost some degree of my feminity (thus calling me a lesbian. Because, as we all know, being sexually available is a key precondition of being female)?
There were a handful of malicious gay comments. Letting the underlying issues regarding homosexuality aside, it seemed that I was somehow less female–less sexually appealing–by embracing my own conception of female beauty. While the transition from long to short hair has largely been easy and quite a bit of fun, there are bumps in the road. These bumps point to the same constraints and demands that Bordo evaluates in “Unbearable Weight” regarding women’s bodies– serious concerns about how our society sees women today.
Detroit by 20: How 20 Albion College Students, at age 20, are planning to launch Detroit into the 20-something years.
January 23, 2011 § Leave a comment
I arrive brimming with ideas. And a tight latch on my mouth. I have learned that in a roomful of people who think of themselves as leaders, the last thing that any one will listen to is ideas. Partly because its difficult new ideas around their own ideas buzzing around inside their skulls. And partly because leaders communicate miserably to other leaders. We can adjust ourselves to work in a team; we can take charge and rally the troops; but we struggle to mitigate our styles to be receptive to others’ direction. As a young leader, the task to be accomplished here is the task of listening.
On this first day, I have done a lot of listening. Especially to one Mr. John Gallagher of the Detroit Free Press.He discussed with us his book, Reimagining Detroit, which speaks to a plethora of possibilities when it comes to helping Detroit along the road to its new era. Detroit, as Gallagher says, is a city of “Mosts” what Most will Detroit be known for next?
As I alluded to earlier, I came to this conference with my own ideas about what could help the process of reimagining Detroit. I feel that a holistic approach to Detroit is the most necessary step. We have a lot of good components to building Detroit’s future at our disposal: urban farming, entrepreneurship, art, culture, architecture.
It comes down to a matter of putting it to the proper use.
In my opinion, the best solution for Detroit it a matter of “re-villaging”. Gallagher originally brought the idea to my attention in his book. He breifly touches on the strict land use laws of England. Gallagher explains this “strict land use” as development only being permitted when it is a logical extension of that local community’s needs.
Detroit has already taken on a sort of de-facto revillaging. For example, having district council throughout the city of Detroit, meant to give equal representation to all parts of Detroit, essentially breaks Detroit down into wards. These “wards” don’t have to be wards per- se, but villages under the name of Detroit.
As it stands, this repopulation and re- structuring of a largely barren urban landscape takes shape with no cohesive vision for Detroit, let alone guidance. Detroit has the tools, and against all popular criticism, it has all the necessary resources. What it lacks is cohesion and vision.
January 3, 2011 § 1 Comment
For the past six years, at least, Michiganders have lived under the same mantra, election after election: Jobs. Economy. Autos. Jobs. Detroit. Jobs. Jobs. Economy. Jobs. Is there anything that makes this year different? I would contend that there most certainly is; its high time for change because the old administration just isn’t getting it.
Former- AG Mike Cox made himself evidence of the need for fresh leadership at now- incumbent AG Bill Schuette’s Morning in Michigan breakfast (see photo of Schuette below).
As I alluded in the opening sentence, Michiganders are mostly concerned with money– how to get it, where its going, what we are going to do with it—so when Cox started harping about the resiliency of the Michigan people, I tuned into what Mr. Cox had to say.
And then I tuned right back out. Frankly, resiliency in hard times is a message for the first years of the recession, not a plan for the future. And I am certain most Michiganders would concur. Allow me to repeat: resiliency is not a future. It only gets us so far, and it seems that this fact has slipped Mr. Cox’s mind. Moreover, resiliency is neither in Michigan’s future, nor has it really been in our past. According to the Detroit News, Michigan has lost 465,000 people since 2001; or in other words, the populations of Grand Rapids, Sterling Heights, and Warren combined (source). This 9 year exodus is certainly not demonstrative of any sort of resiliency.
Mind you, this is not any failing on the part of the Michigan citizenry. The fact of the matter is, good public policy cannot be founded on the tough skin of constituents. Such policy does not create an attractive industrial, economic, cultural, or residential environment. This is common sense– a lesson which Mr Cox seemed to have missed. But, you know, it isn’t just Cox. He is just one of many Michigan politician who has fallen out of the loop.
The all-too-apparent truth is, Cox just happened to reveal the fatal flaw in the Granholm administration as a whole– and furthermore, what makes the future of the incoming Synder administration so optimistic.
The problem with the Granholm era is that it was always looking to promote Michigan’s future by salvaging the past– what can we do with the automotive industry? How to we continue to use our industrial resources?. For the longest time, Granholm pursued left-field, and costly endeavors that were germane to Michigan’s saving industrial base, but neglectful of Michigan’s readily available resources. Does any one remember the promise of windfarms in northern Michigan? I do. Did anyone see results? I surely did not. Or how about the unions which were allowed to tyrannize GM and gut it from the inside out, while legislators did nothing? Did they not realize that unions are outdated and their incessant demands crushed the budding innovative technology coming from GM partnerships like Delphi?
In a brief, Granholm policies spent so much time looking backward, they bumped into every possible obstacle as they progressed.
But what about this guy?
What sets him apart in the wake of the Granholm disaster?
As I listened to now- Gov. Rick Snyder’s inaugural address, a single portion of his speech stood out to me. Snyder spoke of Michigan’s prosperity in terms of phases. There was fur- trapping, then there was farming and fuel, then there was autos, and now we embark upon a new phases. We are no longer the people the Granholm administration imagines, who who are on the losing end of a failing economy, and must grin and bear it to get through. No. To this new administration we are craftsmen and women who hold, not remains, but the raw materials we need to launch Michigan into its new phase. Michigan (especially Detroit, whose mayor, Dave Bing, was notably the master of inaugural ceremonies) requires, more than anything else, a compelling and universal attitude shift. No extra taxes, no wacky imported industries, no bailouts or extra federal grants.
We are on the verge something great, and those wise enough to see that opportunity, not despair, is on our horizon remain. They remain, and they call themselves Michiganders.
January 1, 2011 § Leave a comment
well… its New Year’s Eve and I am sitting in a hotel in Okemos, MI. In case you’re curious, Okemos is just outside Lansing. In the morning Michigan will be inaugurating Republican governor, Rick Snyder, and I will be there to witness it. In the morning I will be attending the inauguration, held for the first time on the capitol lawn in ten years, as well as breakfast with Attorney General- elect Bill Schuette at the Radisson and the Inaugural Ball to be held at the Wharton Performing Arts Center at MSU
People I can’t wait to see:
Former- AG Mike Cox
Former Governor Jennifer Granholm
Who the hell is Lt. Governor- elect Brian Calley?
Detroit Mayor Dave Bing
Happy New Year, to all! Welcome to 2011, I cant wait to post about the goings on of tomorrow…or rather, today!
December 28, 2010 § Leave a comment
So last night, before I went to bed, I fell asleep listening to the dulcet tones of Fox News. Now, I enjoy my sharply biased news as much as the next person, but not generally right before bed. Warning: John Stossel may cause nightmares. And this is what he had me dreaming about–
Now, Stossel had some good points among his “Politicians’ Top 10 Promises Gone Wrong” . For instance, living in the MotorCity, I can attest first- hand that Cash for Clunkers did little to rescue Michigan’s hapless auto industry. Destroying stuff for the sake of creating a demand for new stuff simply wasn’t a sustainable solition– nevermind that it wasn’t a terrific temporary solution either (Cash for Clunkers created only a short peak in auto sales in the succeeding July and August of 2009)
But as the special went on, Stossel’s #3 mistake nagged at me all the while. Stossel fashioned himself into a staunch ethanol opponent somewhere around May of 2009. He has argued– and continues to argue– that ethanol pushes up food prices because energy subsidies for corn cause farmers that use corn for food (most notably, cattle farmers) to compete unfairly for corn products. Other food products skyrocket because the cost of corn-based substances, such as high- fructose corn syrup, goes up with competition for corn. And while this may be true, Stossel report makes a logical leap that just doesn’t make sense. The report jumps from making arguments against corn-for-ethanol subsidies, to making an argument against government promotion of green fuel altogether. If I may say, this is where Stossel takes a perfectly solid argument that extra step too far.
This segment proceeds to make the case that, government can’t create a market for ethanol anymore than it could have created a market for gasoline. Gasoline pumps weren’t put in by the government, Stossel claims, they were an innovation of free-market entrepreneurs. And so the same must go for biofuels like ethanol if they are to be successful.
Stossel’s facts insofar are incontrovertible. However, the interpretation he reads into these facts is patently false. Here’s the deal, the government, in fact, has a history of promoting a new energy source, when an older, less-efficient fuel was still in vogue. Take for example, electricity. Without the prison systems and public works departments buying into Edison’s new invention of electricity, it would not have become the staple house-hold item that set America apart.
Mark my words, I am in fullest support of protecting one’s liberty and consevative ideals. However a truly conservative viewpoint would advocate graduated change, not change vis-a-vis free market chaos. Conservatism has historically had an uncomfortable relationship with capitalism (for example, the policy difference between conservative greats Nixon and Reagan). Capitalism is a double-edged sword when it comes to change. The fiscal burden stakeholders’ precarious capitalist ventures place on consumers, and thus the American people, can create just as much of a problem as aggressive government advocacy of a particular type of car.
On the other hand, capitalism is an institution and a resource that ought to be preserved. It does not have to be in opposition to government, as Stossel claims, but may be a valuable resource in government exercising its responsibility to preserve the common good. Biofuel is necessary; ethanol is not. Government investment is necessary; paternalism is not.