Arts & Culture

Arts and culture

Casey Rocheteau
Ian Brown

Poetry can have a way of pushing you out of your comfort zone and into a place that challenges your perceptions and makes you question your beliefs. The Dozen is a new book of poems released by Sibling Rivalry Press . The poems in these pages will really make you think.

The Ragbirds

The Ragbirds have been touring the state and country for the past 10 years. Their sound is a fusion of folk, rock and world music. You can hear that fusion in their latest album, called The Threshold and the Hearth being released today. Erin Zindle is the lead singer, songwriter and a multi-instrumentalist for the Ragbirds. Zindle spoke with me about the album, motherhood and the craft of songwriting.

A scene from the 2010 production of "LINES"
screenshot / Stephanie Sandberg / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

A Grand Rapids theater company is on a mission: to produce plays that are written by local playwrights and designed to shine a bright light on social issues. ADAPT. Theatre Company does just that with their new production, LINES: the lived experience of race 2016 . Six actors play 64 members of the Grand Rapids community. They speak of racial issues that affect people in West Michigan, from gentrification to white privilege, education, religion and justice.

Diane Rehm
Getty Images

When couples stand together to speak their wedding vows, they’re very likely laser-focused on the present. But there is that promise: “’Til death do us part.” If that marriage proceeds the way the couple hopes, they will be forced to confront the reality of those words. NPR’s Diane Rehm reached that moment of truth on June 14, 2014. That is the day that her husband of 54 years began his withdrawal from life. John Rehm had battled Parkinson’s disease for nine long years, and he decided it was time to stop fighting.

Holy moly! Holy Toledo! Holy whatsit?

Mar 13, 2016

Expletives may be considered uncouth, but we have to give credit where credit is due: They can also be pretty darn creative. Anne Curzan, an English Professor at the University of Michigan, joins Michigan Radio’s Rina Miller once again to help us better understand one of the most prismatic examples of colorful language: the holy moly. The holy in “holy moly!” isn’t quite the same usage that we see in, say, the “Holy Bible” or “the High Holy Days.” “This use of holy is what the Oxford English...

Angela Flournoy
LaToya T. Duncan

Angela Flournoy ’s new novel, The Turner House , is receiving praise across the literary spectrum, from The New York Times to Buzzfeed . It was also a finalist for the National Book Award for fiction.


This year ArtPrize is changing some of the rules. Regular people who visit the annual art competition in Grand Rapids help pick the winners; it’s what makes ArtPrize different from other, juried competitions. But people tend to flock to the same big venues, where they can see lots of art in one stop. That means there are repeat finalists with works showing in predictable locations. Last fall, the winner was a textile artist from Frankfort, Michigan, who had previously won the completion in...

Charles Steen

Ann Arbor’s Chris Buhalis is releasing an album. It’s called Big Car town. A few years ago, when Chris was finishing up the album, he severely injured his left thumb and three other fingers in a table saw accident. He remodels houses for his day job. As a guitarist and singer/songwriter, there was a point where he thought he would never be able to play guitar again.

In a new study, Jessica Sloan Kruger found a correlation between binge-watching television and higher rates of stress, anxiety and depression.
flickr user flash.pro

There's little doubt that Americans are very attached to their TV screens. The government has even declared TV-watching to be one of the most common leisure activities. And now, thanks to on-demand streaming, there's little to stop us from indulging in that TV habit. But based on a study by Jessica Sloan Kruger, binge-watchers may pay a price for wallowing in their favorite show. Kruger is a doctoral student in the Department of Public Health at the University of Toronto.

"I came to prison with blood on my hands; I will leave with paint on them" - Johnnie Trice
Johnnie Trice

In all the conversations and policy debates over our criminal justice system, it can be easy to get caught up in the sheer numbers of inmates in our prisons and jails. When that happens, we lose sight of the people in those prison cells – people who bear the same fears, hopes and longings as anyone on the outside. A unique program called “ Humanize the Numbers ” is bringing University of Michigan students and state prison inmates in an effort to address this oversight.

Pacifier, binkie, dummy; we have lots of words for that funny little gizmo babies suck on when they’re teething. In the U.S., we use pacifier the most frequently, and while it might seem like the least funny of the set, the way we use it is kind of interesting. “While we know theoretically that pacifiers can be people too,” says University of Michigan English Professor Anne Curzan, “it’s hard not to associate them with those little rubber gadgets for babies.”

Laith Al-Saadi performing on The Voice.
screen grab / YouTube

Last night's episode of The Voice , a reality show singing competition on ABC, featured a hard-working singer-songwriter from Ann Arbor. Laith Al-Saadi has been playing around this region for a long-time. "For the last 20 years, I've played over 300 dates a year," Al-Saadi told the judges last night. Now he's working to up his national exposure -- and it worked. Watch Al-Saadi's performance on The Voice below: https://youtu.be/LGjRyz5q5xs

You may not have much truck with trucks, but that doesn’t mean you’ll never truck some truck. That sentence might be a little confusing, but it shows something that’s easy to forget: the word truck is pretty versatile. It’s almost like the Swiss Army Knife of the English language! But how does a word like truck come to mean so many things? What’s the story there?

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Recipe for the Michigander: 1 ounce apple brandy or applejack 1 ounce Cynar 3/4 ounce lemon juice 3/4 ounce honey syrup (2:1 mix) 1 twist of grapefruit peel for garnish Shake with ice, strain, pour over rocks, garnish.

NPR Tiny Desk Contest

It’s time to throw away the objective journalist hat for a moment and put on my completely biased music-loving shoes because the submissions are in for NPR’S Tiny Desk contest . The judges at NPR are pouring through all the entries right now to pick their national winner (their announcement is expected in the first week of March). In the meantime, I watched all 129 of the videos submitted to the contest from our lovely mitten state. Here are my top 10 picks.

Shane Ford

Detroit-based duo Gosh Pith released their second EP Gold Chain. Josh Freed and Josh Smith are the artists behind the band. Their music is difficult to categorize – think heavy beats and drum loops juxtaposed with soft melodies, easygoing vocals and traces of electric guitar. These self-proclaimed "children of the Internet" say their musical influences are wide-ranging, from folk and rock to hip-hop, techno, and R&B. But it's ragga – often called dancehall or dub – that has won them over in recent years.

Rosa Parks archive is now online

Feb 25, 2016
Courtesy Photograph / Library of Congress

The Rosa Parks Collection has been digitized by the Library of Congress and is now available online. It is made up of 10,000 letters, writings, and photographs that belonged to the civil rights icon – as well as her tax returns, Presidential Medal of Freedom, and a handwritten pancake recipe. "The collection is truly inspirational," said Margaret McAleer, senior archive specialist at the Library of Congress. "And we wanted to make it as publicly available as possible." McAleer said the...

flickr user Hung Thai / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Poet and writer Keith Taylor joins us today to offer a quick list of recommendations for some good reading.

Mark Brush

The Flint water crisis has elicited strong reactions from people all over the world. Whether that’s anger, disbelief, compassion, heartbreak or some combination of all those things, many people want to help. Carrie Metz-Caporusso is a tattoo artist in Ann Arbor and she came up with an unusual idea for a Flint fundraiser. The idea was simple: Sketch up a tattoo as a symbol of hope for Flint, post about it on Facebook, pick a day where people could come in and get the tattoo for $50, then...

"Songs for the Union"
University of Michigan Library Edison Sheet Music Collection

Music that hasn’t been played, or even heard, in centuries could be coming to a concert hall near you in the coming years. This is thanks to a rare sheet music collection donated to the University of Michigan that includes tens of thousands of pieces that date as far back as 1790.

Kristen Castellana, a music librarian at the University of Michigan Library, is helping lead the charge on a massive project to catalog and digitize about 115,000 sheets of music. The sheet music...

What's the story behind Detroit's Masonic Temple?

Feb 16, 2016
Detroit's Masonic Temple is an imposing building.
Paula Friedrich / Michigan Radio

Ypsilanti's Sue Webster visited the Detroit Masonic Temple twice (once for the Theatre Bizarre masquerade, and once for a lecture). Her visits piqued her curiosity, so she posed her question to our MI Curious project. “There must have been a huge presence at the Masonic Temple in Detroit at one time. What was it all about?” Detroit's Masonic Temple is a gray stone building that towers over Cass Park. Inside, it is decadent. The ceilings are painted, the bathrooms are overflowing with marble...

If a stranger is blocking your view in a movie theater, how do you respond? For many folks, the polite response might be, “Would you please move out of the way?” That’s because we use the word please to make requests sound polite, but there are times when a simple please just doesn’t sound gracious enough. For some people, that sentence might even sound a little aggressive. What’s going with our language? Fortunately for us, University of Michigan English Professor Anne Curzan is here to help us better understand the delicate ways of polite speech.

Fermenta is a nonprofit group that helps women learn about and break into the brewing industry
Pauline Knighton

It’s a bit of an understatement to say that the brewing and distilling industries have seen some growth in Michigan. You really don’t have to go far to find a microbrewer or distiller that’s producing some really fine ales or spirits. Brewing has for some time been a craft mostly dominated by males, but a new group in Michigan is starting to change that. Fermenta: Michigan Women’s Craft Collective is a nonprofit trade group initiated by Michigan women. It describes itself as “committed to...

The Michigan Ice Fest is expecting 700 attendees this year, 40% more than the festival saw last year
Aaron Peterson/Clear & Cold Cinema

Last week it was 50 degrees in many parts of the state. This week it’s freezing . But in the Upper Peninsula, freezing is a good thing for certain adventurous souls. The sandstone cliffs in Munising, Michigan rise 200 feet above Lake Superior, and during the winter the area attracts ice climbers. Marquette resident Aaron Peterson is the director, editor, and cinematographer of the new film The Michigan Ice Film . The film takes a look at ice climbing culture in Munising, home to one of the...

Greg Oberle

A few established Michigan musicians and public radio nerds have joined forces to start a new band called Public Access . They’re releasing an album today and every track is named after a public broadcaster. There’s Jack Speer , Dave Mattingly , Ira Glass and Michigan Radio’s own, Jennifer Guerra! The instrumental songs kind of represent the broadcaster’s persona or the sound of their name. Here's my review (listen below).

Jonathan Craven

It has been quite a journey for Northport native Nathan Scherrer . Four years ago, he moved from Michigan to Los Angeles with a few hundred dollars and was working as an intern, hoping to find a way to get into the business of making music videos. He was living off of macaroni and cheese, barely making ends meet, and now, this Monday (Feb. 15), he will be at the Staples Center hoping to hear his name called at the 58th Annual Grammy Awards.

In four short years, Scherrer has...

Nike Air Jordan I, 1985
Nike Archives / Courtesy American Federation of Arts

Would you pay $1,000 for a pair of sneakers? How about $1,000 for a pair of sneakers that you would rarely put on your feet? If this sounds outrageous to you, then you might have trouble fitting in the world of “sneaker culture.”

How did the hobby of collecting shoes evolve into a high-demand art form where people are willing to pay as much as four figures – sometimes more – for a pair?

Elizabeth Semmelhack, senior curator from the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto, joined...

Doug Coombe

Carey Gustafson spent hours in her bedroom as a kid, sketching images of rock stars and actors and her favorite pop culture characters. She especially loved drawing Pac-Man and The Monkees and E.T. and Rick Springfield. Gustafson says back then, she did not have a well-developed sense of identity. But she did have a good sense of humor. Plus she loved rock-n-roll and pop culture, and found plenty of inspiration in music and books and art. Since that time, she’s managed to turn her passion for...

It's getting hammy in here

Feb 7, 2016

At the behest of a colleague, University of Michigan Professor Anne Curzan started poking into the history of ham. The word, that is. “When you think about it, ham-handed is a really weird way to say something is clumsy or awkward,” says Curzan. So how does a beloved lunch meat also become an idiom for the ineffectual?

Jennifer Harely

Michigan’s Chris Bathgate has gotten national acclaim in recent years, touring the country playing music and even being featured in one of NPR’s Tiny Desk concerts . For the past four years, he’s taken a little hiatus. He stepped away from performing for a while and tucked away an EP he had, until now. Chris Bathgate is touring again and is releasing that EP. It’s called Old Factory .