For art’s sake, vote no

7 08 2012

First thing I’ve had time to write in a while. Now appearing, a little belatedly, at the Michigan View.

It would be a genuine surprise if the trio of Arts Authority millages — the basis of the so-called Detroit Institute of Arts tax — failed to pass tomorrow. Simply compare the number of “Vote Yes” yard signs in the front yards of high-end homes and boutique shops to the non-existent “Vote No” signs that opponents of the measure have apparently been too embarrassed to produce.

And it’s scarcely surprising that opponents have been largely mute (save for a few brave voices here at the View). The millages are so easy to support: Just vote yes, and for a few paltry dollars a year we can keep art alive in Detroit. It’s a reasonable proposition. So reasonable, in fact, that any critic must be either an art-hating philistine or a greedy elitist. In any case, an individual certainly unfit for polite, cultured company and undeserving of future dinner party invitations.

I would be unsuitable for said dinner parties. Forcing taxpayers to support cultural institutions is not only morally unjustifiable — it ignores the historical factors that led to the creation of the DIA and the decline that set the stage for its current predicament.

For historical perspective, I’ll cite an expert on the formative years of the DIA: Read the rest of this entry »


About that time a drove a Trojan horse across the country…

4 07 2012

This seemed like a fitting day to post the account of my recent cross-country horse-towing sprint. For America.

You can see the related gallery (and original post) here, but it’s reproduced here in all its lengthy glory down below:

There are as many ways to receive the Sacrament of the Open Road as there are roadside tourist traps. Some choose to make meticulous road-trip plans revolving around specific destinations. Others crisscross the country on a Kerouacian voyage of self-discovery until the allure of the road begins to fade.

Sometimes, however, the opportunity to hit the highway arrives spontaneously, leaving you no time to prepare. You must ditch reason, abandon any attempt at proper planning, fly out to California and then spend two days trailering a giant, wooden Trojan horse to Detroit.

I should know, because that’s exactly what I did a few weeks ago. It all started with a Thursday afternoon text message from my buddy Kolin:

“Wanna go to california and then drive back a mr perks size animal across the country?” he wrote.

A bit of background: Mr. Perks is a giant fiberglass pig that Kolin and I drove around southeastern Michigan for a state senate campaign a few summers ago.

I soon learned that the “mr perks size animal” in California was a massive Trojan horse. Apparently once you break into the giant-novelty-animal transportation business, it’s hard to break out.

Kolin didn’t know why the horse was in California or who, exactly, needed it in Michigan—or when it needed to arrive, for that matter. A former boss passed the job on to him, but little else about the assignment was clear. Faced with a lack of details, I told him I’d have to think about it.

Minutes later I came to my senses. When you get the chance to road-trip a giant wooden horse cross-country, you don’t say no. Read the rest of this entry »

Down at the Mid-Ohio

28 06 2012

Last weekend, I headed down to Lexington, Ohio for the Vintage Grand Prix at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. I beat the heat and had a great time.

Cars on the paddock between races

Anyway, I got three posts out of it, all of which include some pretty nifty pictures. Check them out and enjoy!

Vintage Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio, Day 1: Ready to race

Vintage Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio, Day 2: British invasion

Vintage Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio, Day 3: Weekend wrap-up

This event really deserves a lot more publicity and promotion. I’ll be sure to share the details of the 2013 event when they become available.


The national bloodbath that never happened

20 06 2012

Take desperate individuals trapped by a lack economic opportunity, add in record firearm sales, and — just for the heck of it — set it all against the much-hyped “climate of hate” turning Americans against each other as never before. It’s practically a recipe for a national bloodbath.

And if you search hard enough, you can certainly find parts of the country where that apocalyptic scenario seems to be playing out. Look at Detroit. Fairly or not, the Motor City is used as a national — even international —  example of what happens when society breaks down. It’s the New Wild West, which, as turns out, is much, much worse than the old, not-so-wild West.

But Detroit is the exception, not the rule. Pockets of violence aside, Americans enjoyed a fifth straight year of decreased violence in 2011. Via Hot Air, a report that will disappoint the doomsayers and cheer just about everyone else:

The FBI is expected to report the final 2011 figures around the end of the summer. Assuming those figures match the current estimates, the nation’s murder rate has been cut by about 53 percent and the total violent crime rate has been cut by about 49 percent since 1991, when violent crime hit an all-time high. Stated another way, the nation’s murder rate has fallen to about a 48-year low, and the nation’s total violent crime rate has fallen to about a 41-year low.

Peace and prosperity: now available in an expanded range of calibers

The report comes courtesy of the NRA, so the FBI figures are naturally used to support the claim that more guns mean less crime. It’s a compelling argument, especially since the NRA cites the rise of laws making it easier for citizens to carry and use firearms defensively rather than simply boasting about the overall increase in the rate of gun ownership. But gun ownership and gun-friendly laws can’t tell the entire story of our increasingly civil society.

Read the rest of this entry »

From Hopper’s Nighthawks

11 06 2012

Everyone knows Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks, even if they don’t actually know the title or artist of the 1942 painting:

Nighthawks is either iconic or cliché, depending on how you look at it. On its own, it’s great. Unfortunately, it has inspired and endless stream of schlock, like this:

Not as bad as velvet paintings of Elvis, not as good as Dogs Playing Poker

Seriously, not sure who buys this stuff. Although I’m strangely taken with the anteater remix:

$#%!@ you, New York!

Anyway, I was driving down John R the other day and, while stuck at a stoplight, this scene just sort of fell into place. Fortunately I had my cell phone camera ready. I call it Nightcracks:

The guy in the middle really brings it all together

It’s either a celebration of the late-night, blue collar greasy spoon culture or a bleak examination of America’s obesity epidemic. You decide.

Formula One racing – American as apple pie

10 06 2012

Formula One racing has never seen the type of domestic success enjoyed by, say, NASCAR.

F1’s image is undoubtedly part of it – there’s just something foreign about the series that extends beyond the marques represented on the track or the far-flung locations of the races themselves. I watched both the Monaco Grand Prix and a decent chunk of the Indianapolis 500 this past Memorial Day weekend. I’ll let you guess which race kicked off with a P-51 Mustang flyover.

Then there are the drivers. In the stock car racing satire Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Sacha Baron Cohen’s effete, macchiato-sipping Jean Girard lampooned America’s perception of the typical F1 driver. His fictional sponsor was Perrier. Compare that to Ricky Bobby’s all-American Wonderbread backers.

Of course, real F1 drivers are not sniffy elitists but highly skilled athletes – and a quick glance at off-track politics reveals that that, ideologically speaking at least, the racing series and its participants may not be so foreign after all.

Take the events surrounding the Grand Prix of Canada. The race has been threatened by college students – let’s call them “Occupy Montreal” – protesting insignificant tuition increases and (of course) capitalism in general. F1 racing, a pursuit of the global One Percent, is an easy target. Read the rest of this entry »

Singapore, Land of the Free

7 06 2012

A would-be graffiti artist was recently arrested in Singapore, and if convicted of vandalism, the 25-year old woman faces fines and jail time — and even corporal punishment in the form of caning.

In a nation famously called “Disneyland with the Death Penalty,” the draconian discipline doled out for seemingly minor infractions like graffiti is hardly surprising. Still, Western nations seem to understand that Singapore’s medieval approach to crime and punishment, while apparently effective (the streets are clean, after all), is a rather high price to pay for a veneer of order.

Signs, signs, everywhere a sign

Unfortunately, there’s no place on the planet where individuals exist in a state of absolute liberty. Singapore’s economic freedom must be weighed against the literal butt-whooping that awaits minor acts of criminal stupidity. Western Europe’s celebrated cultural liberalism comes with a burdensome, faltering welfare state attached. Read the rest of this entry »