Arts & Culture

Arts and culture

Bridge photo by Bill McGraw

This story was written by Bill McGraw and first appeared in Bridge Magazine as part of our Detroit Journalism Cooperative.

No matter how well-preserved certain neighborhoods remained through the decades of Detroit’s decline, residents could always gauge the city’s overall troubles by the condition of their local park.

Courtesy of the author

The power of friendship. It cuts through time and distance. The kind of friendship where, even if you haven't seen each other for a long stretch of time, you pick right up as if no time had passed. The kind of friendship that rides through life's ups and downs.

Numbers, unlike silly language, make sense. They have rigid rules and you can always understand the carefully constructed patterns. Eighteen is related to eight, fourteen is related to four. Umpteenth is related to...wait. What's an umpty?

“Umpty is an indefinite number,” says University of Michigan English Professor Ann Curzan. “Usually a large number, goes back to 1904. It represents, apparently, the dash in Morse Code.”

This section of the Mitchell Map, circa 1755, shows the area that is now Michigan
flickr user FotoGuy /

Just what is the Lost Peninsula?

Don Faber tells us it’s a little strip of land in the very southeast corner of Michigan.

And here’s the kicker: The only way to access it is through Toledo.

Faber tells us that when Michigan and Ohio were still young states, they each performed a geographical survey to determine their boundaries.

Ohio’s survey placed Toledo in Ohio. Michigan’s placed it, well, in Michigan.

What followed was the Toledo War, a short conflict that ended in military stalemate.

Robert Sestok surveys the collection of his work he's installed on a vacant lot off of the Lodge.
Paula Friedrich / Michigan Radio

A tall man in most circles, Cass Corridor artist Robert Sestok is dwarfed next to his own artwork. His hulking metal sculptures are welded from urban scrap and transformed into undulating towers of shapes. More than a dozen of Sestok's works rise over the Lodge Freeway, on a previously vacant lot on Alexandrine Street in Detroit.

She Writes Press

When describing the previous ten years of her life, writer Kelley Clink explains, “Being a sister to him made me who I was. Losing him has made me who I am.”

Her brother's suicide in 2004 sent her on a journey of guilt, of mourning, of realizing that her brother is gone. And the feeling that she may be to blame.

Clink turned this emotional journey into a new memoir, A Different Kind of Same.

Chris White

Mike Ellison says while he was born in Ethiopia, he was transformed in to an artist in Detroit. You can hear that fusion of cultures in his music. A lot of it combines traditional African music with modern hip hop. He uses his music and performances to raise awareness for causes both in Ethiopia and in Detroit.

Ellison spoke with Michigan Radio’s Emily Fox about how he uses his music as an education and community outreach tool. He gave his perspective on Africa and how it helped shape his identity, and also spoke about current racial issues in the U.S.

Mark Zuckerberg speaks at the F8 keynote in 2008
flickr user Brian Solis /

It’s been almost a decade since Facebook was opened to the general public.

Many initially saw it as a ripoff of then-powerhouse social networking platform MySpace, but since then it’s grown to take the top spot as ruler of the social media kingdom.

Some will argue, for better or for worse, that Facebook is now a permanent piece of our cultural landscape.

The craft beer industry in the U.S. is on the rise. According to the Brewers Association, craft beer sales in the states grew 17.6% in 2014, and the number of craft breweries in Michigan has increased 51% since 2011.

With so many people jumping into the game, how’s a beer supposed to stand out?

Michigan Photography

In an era when newspapers are struggling, the Michigan Daily has been going strong since 1890. 

The student-run newspaper at the University of Michigan has produced eight Pulitzer Prize winners and many others have gone on to make their mark in journalism and writing.

9-11 veterans: Jamaine Atkins, Sherman Powell, Russ Dotson (top, L-R), Cassie Michael, Curtis Gibson, Andrew Hunter (middle), Eric Fretz, Cody Barnhart, Brendan Lejeune (bottom).
Mark Brush, Paula Friedrich, Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

There used to be a time in our country's history when many people had a connection to someone serving in the Armed Forces - people had a brother, a cousin, an uncle or an aunt who served in WWII, Korea, or Vietnam.

Today, having that connection to the military is not as common. Volunteers fill the military's ranks, and civilians have grown farther apart from those who put their lives on the line.

All this week, we're bringing you stories about Michigan's post 9/11 veterans - stories about what life has been like since their return home.

Sometimes we wake up on the wrong side of bed, and most of us find the sunshine the next day. But an ancient fellow by the name of Richard Grant White seemed to always be a bit cranky, and he took his crankiness out on language.

There were many words and phrases that White griped about in his 18th century grammar book, Words and Their Uses Past and Present.

World War II ended 70 years ago in September. Here are three stories from veterans who live in Michigan.

We'll start with a love story.

Bill Berkley, U.S. Navy, Pacific

Bill Berkley was just a kid without a care in Paducah, Kentucky until December 7, 1941.

“I was 14 years old, but I can remember that day just like it was yesterday. We had been playing football and I got home and mom was crying,” Berkley says, recalling when he first learned of the attack and the death of so many sailors.

Morel mushrooms spring from the ground in Michigan.
State of Michigan

This next story is about a late-night call from a dealer and a sketchy interaction near the Leelanau Peninsula. 

Hour Detroit’s restaurant critic and wine writer Chris Cook tells us about an exhilarating experience he recently had that landed him with a stash of morels.

One night last month my wife and I ventured out from our rented Leelanau Peninsula cottage to a gathering spot where we heard the fried chicken reigns supreme.

Courtesy of Phil Stagg

You’ve heard of storm chasers and tornado chasers.

Phil Stagg is a waterfall chaser.

He runs a business in Cadillac, but his real passion lies in taking photographs of Michigan.

He’s especially interested in the hundreds of waterfalls in the Upper Peninsula.

Flickr user Joey Lax-Salinas /

"Poets at the Grand Hotel" is a chance for Mackinac Island visitors to take time out from soaking up the sights, riding bikes, and eating fudge to explore poetry.

Every Wednesday morning in July and August, poet Jim Lenfestey presides over a weekly poetry gathering in the Audubon Room at The Grand Hotel.

This is the 10th year of the series and it's being marked by Lenfestey's latest book, Seeking The Cave.

Courtesy of the author

The Old Testament story of Cain and Abel is one of the most compelling in the Bible. How could a man kill his brother?

The tragedy is at the heart of the stunning debut novel The Fishermen from Chigozie Obioma.

Obioma was born in Nigeria and earned his Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from the University of Michigan.

The Fishermen is a parable set in 1990s Nigeria.

Gemma Amor / flickr-

Hey, America! The rest of the world is wondering: What's with the bland beer?

It's no secret that the American beer market is dominated by pale, mild beer.

Despite the rising number of craft brewers here in Michigan and across the country, our best-selling beer is, you guessed it, Bud Light! Coors Light and Miller Lite come in right behind it.

Economist Ranjit Dighe wanted to figure out why Americans like bland beer.

Just a few years ago, we had never even heard the word "selfie".

These days, our social media feeds are filled with them. And that's sparked conversations and questions: Are they ridiculous? Are they little more than a deep dive into narcissism? Are they important ways to record our lives?

DIA director retiring after 16-year tenure

Jun 29, 2015

The director of the Detroit Institute of Arts is retiring after leading the museum for 16 years.

Graham Beal first announced plans to step down from the position back in January. Tuesday will be his last day.

There are many words in our language that are just plain fun. But what exactly do they mean? University of Michigan English professor Anne Curzan did a deep dive this week into colorful, sassy words. 

Let’s start with the ever-popular term, bumbershoot. What’s that you say? You’ve never heard of a bumbershoot?  

It means an umbrella.

Stephanie Wade (R), and Lori Hazelton (L) from Muskegon get married.
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Same-sex couples are already getting married in a number of Michigan counties after today’s Supreme Court ruling.

With TV crews hovering nearby, Lori Hazelton and Stephanie Wade exchanged rings in a tiny conference room at the Muskegon County Clerk’s office.

It wasn’t the quite the wedding Hazelton once hoped for; one with family and friends.

Mark Bennington / Mark Bennington Headshots


Anyone with even a passing knowledge of world history knows about the horrors that came out of the Nazi attempt to exterminate the Jews of Europe.

Some six million of Europe’s Jews – 63% of Europe’s Jewish population at the time – killed in the Holocaust.

Barbara Stark-Nemon’s debut novel, Even in Darkness, is the true story of her great-aunt Klare Kohler and her experiences living through the Holocaust.

Letters on a typewriter.
user Andreas. / Flickr -

Have you noticed that some people are spelling their names using all lower-case letters?

We have.

And that got us wondering about why people choose to do this, and where all the capitalization rules came from.

Alan Newton / Parkhurst Brothers Publishers

This summer marks the 32nd season for the Stone Circle.

Poet Terry Wooten is known for having created this space for poetry, storytelling and music on a family farm near Elk Rapids.

"There's something in our DNA that you cannot sit around a fire and not want to hear stories," said Wooten.

Now, he has released a collection of his poems called The Stone Circle Poems covering many decades of his writing and showcasing his ability to make poetry accessible to everyone.

Anders Adermark / Flickr

Popping the cork on a bottle of Champagne can make an occasion extra-special.

The reputation of real Champagne comes largely from the industry standard that requires the Champagne to be very consistent from one year to the next – unlike ordinary red and white wines, which can be very different from year to year.

Making Champagne at the big houses of famous names comes down to two or three sets of taste buds in the heads of the wine team.

Forge Detroit / Facebook

A new competition show called Forged in Fire starts tonight on the cable channel History.

Contestants will be challenged to make swords and knives, including period-specific weapons like medieval broadswords or ancient throwing blades.

SEO / flickr

More and more, consumers are realizing that social media is a much better way to get a company’s attention than getting lost in a voice mail jungle when you call some 1-800-phone line.

Michigan Radio’s social media producer Kimberly Springer joined us to talk about what companies and consumers are learning about using social media.

We’ve got winning on the brain, but not because our lotto tickets finally paid off. It’s because of sports and Coach Carol Hutchins finding herself as the second-winningest active coach of softball and the winnigest coach in the University of Michigan’s athletic department history.

Winningest has been around since at least the mid-20th century, but winning in the Charlie Sheen sense, has been around even longer, says University of Michigan English Professor Ann Curzan. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan broke ground this week on a unique farmers market.

When it opens in July, the market near Mount Pleasant will feature locally grown produce, including some from local Native American farmers.