Offbeat

Offbeat

Funny or Die

The RoboCop statue is definitely happening in Detroit.

Thomas van de Weerd / wikipedia commons

It all started in Romeo.

According to the House Fiscal Agency, members of the Romeo Senior Center held weekly Texas Hold 'em poker games.

Five bucks got you a seat at the table and you played until your chips were gone - top four finishers took home a payout.

But some legal-eagle rained on their parade, and the games stopped in the spring of 2010.

Michigan's law, they were told, only allowed recreational poker games at senior housing facilities - not at senior citizen centers. If they wanted to continue, they needed a license.

Michigan legislators in the House have come to the rescue with HB 5009. The bill would make these games legal at senior citizen centers.

The bill passed today and now it's up to the Senate.

The House Fiscal Agency analysis says during committee deliberation, "there was concern that providing exemptions to gambling prohibitions to specific classes of people is unfair."

If recreational card playing for money is going to be permitted then it should be opened up and applied to all citizens, irrespective to age. A substitute bill to this effect was offered, but was voted down by the committee.

So there may be one more freedom offered to those over sixty.

Now, who is going to keep on eye on the tables? As written now, players cannot bet more than 25 cents per bet, and the winnings from any one hand of cards can not exceed $5.

Michigan lottery players have a chance to win the largest lotto prize in U.S. History.

The Mega Millions lottery jackpot on Friday night will be $500 million.   That’s about a hundred million dollars more than the previous U.S. lottery record.

“We do expect with this kind of a jackpot probably lines at many retailers, particularly Friday after work, you know as people are driving home they stop to pick up their ticket," says Andi Brancato, a spokeswoman for the Michigan Lottery, "This is virgin territory." 

sabianmaggy / Flickr

Jeff and Sara Tow have lived through two cycles of postpartum depression. Now they plan to swim across Lake Michigan to raise awareness of postpartum mood disorder, and help others overcome it. As part of our weekly series, "Seeking Change" Michigan Radio's Christina Shockley spoke with the Tows.

user msspider66 / flickr

Five winning tickets in Tuesday’s Mega Millions lottery drawing were purchased at a Meijer store in Northville.

The five tickets matched five of the six numbers drawn and they are worth a quarter million dollars each.

Michigan Lottery spokeswoman Andi Brancato admits one store selling so many winning tickets is unusual.

“There are a lot of things that can sometimes seem like they’re impossible to happen.  But we are talking about elements of chance that are what make up a lottery game," says Brancato.

Brancato says it’s possible that one person bought all five tickets.

“We have had players who’ve purchased multiple tickets, for the same drawing, with the same numbers in the past," says Brancato, "We need to have a ‘red flag’.  We need to have a reason to conduct an investigation.  Certainly if there was a problem, or we even thought that there was a problem, we would take a look at it.”  

Since no one matched all six Mega Millions numbers in Tuesday’s drawing, Friday’s jackpot will be worth 290 million dollars.

Tim Anderson/instructables.com

If you're anything like the folks here at Michigan Radio, the recent (and ongoing) spate of unseasonably warm weather through much of the state has probably inspired you to run from the radio station screaming and throwing off layers spend more time outdoors.

Ifmuth / Flickr

The FBI says Flint is one of the most violent cities in the country. Last week, Governor Rick Snyder  unveiled a plan to combat violence there and other Michigan cities. But a group of Flint residents is already working on the problem. They’ve formed the “Urban forum for the prevention of violence” to encourage others in their neighborhoods to pledge to promote peace. Aaron Dunigan has been attending the meetings. As part of our Seeking Change series, I spoke with Aaron about what he is trying to do to end the violence in his city.

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The Mega Millions jackpot has risen to an estimated $171 million for the next drawing in the multistate lottery game.

The grand prize amount rolled over because no player matched all the winning numbers to take the $148 million jackpot up for grabs Friday night. Mega Millions will be played again on Tuesday.

One player who bought a ticket in Michigan won a prize of $250,000 and three others won $10,000.

The winning numbers from Friday were: nine, 10, 27, 36 and 42. The Mega Ball number was 11.

George Takei / Facebook

4,887 "likes" and 217 "shares" on Facebook

Those are the numbers you get when you're the helmsman of the Starship Enterprise, and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra hopes that will translate into tickets this weekend.

George Takei, a.k.a "Mr. Sulu" will be performing with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra tonight and this weekend.

From Takei's Facebook page:

In my dressing room with stellar soprano Kristen Plumley at Friday's sci-fi concert by Detroit Symphony Orchestra conducted by Jack Everly. We're also doing concerts on Saturday eve and Sunday afternoon. If you're in the Detroit area, please join us at Orchestra Hall!

Here's a description of the DSO's Sci-Fi Spectacular show:

Renowned pops conductor Jack Everly brings an out of this world production featuring music from Star Wars, Star Trek, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Day the Earth Stood Still and more. Complete with an appearance by Mr. Sulu himself, George Takei!

J.D. Redding / wikimedia commons

A Livonia man has filed suit against a Detroit-area AMC movie theater over what he believes to be excessively high snack bar prices.

David Ashenfelter of the the Detroit Free Press reports that Joshua Thompson, a security technician and movie buff decided to pursue legal action after paying $8 for a Coke and a box of Goobers candy at the AMC Livonia theater recently.

According to Ashenfelter,  Thompson is seeking refunds for concession stand customers along with payment of a civil penalty by the theater for what he considers to be a violation of the Michigan Consumer Protection Act.

screen grab from a video of Godzilla the turkey / Freep.com

It's not quite Hitchcock movie territory, but it's close.

Luckily for her, Edna Geisler doesn't have to deal with thousands of malevolent birds, but one particularly ornery fowl is making life rather difficult for the Commerce Township resident.

As the Associated press reports, Geisler has been facing daily bullying from a wild turkey "willing to bump, scratch and harass her" if she  so much as sets foot in her front yard.

Nick See / Flickr

The loss of a loved one is difficult enough for an adult. For a child, it can be overwhelming. A group in Lansing and Ann Arbor is trying to help children manage their feelings after someone close to them has passed away.

As we continue our Seeking Change series, we speak with Laurie Strauss Baumer, president and CEO of Ele's Place, an organization that is trying to help children deal with their grief.

Environmental Protection Agency

As part of our weekly series, "Seeking Change," we're meeting with people who are trying to create positive change in the communities in which they live. Planners of the Manitou Arbor Ecovillage want their residential community to be a place where people live harmoniously with each other, and with nature. It’s a planned village near Kalamazoo. Ginny Jones is the founder of the ecovillage.  She’s also an environmental studies professor at Western Michigan University.

There’s another sign that winter never really came to Michigan this year.   And it can be found along the state’s roads.

Every year in preparation for the Spring thaw, county road commissions impose weight restrictions on trucks to reduce wear on roadbeds made brittle by winter’s cold.     But not this year.

About two/thirds of Michigan road commissions haven’t imposed restrictions, and most probably won’t, because freezing winter weather never materialized.    

photo courtesy of Kedron Rhodes

A lot of people like where they live, but there are also people like Kedron Rhodes-who love, love, love, where they live.

The 34 year-old professional designer lives outside of Grand Rapids.

He just can't think of enough ways to show his appreciation for Michigan. But he's trying. One of his ideas is to run a design challenge of sorts. 

Each day in February, Rhodes is making a new graphic design and posting it online.

Anyone can download the designs and use them as they see fit.

Photo courtesy of the Governor's office

Almost 30 Michigan lawmakers jumped into a cold pool yesterday outside of the state's Capitol building. They raised some $20,000 for Special Olympics Michigan. "Proceeds from these plunges help support year-round sports training and athletic competition for more than 20,670 children and adults with intellectual disabilities in Michigan," the Special Olympics Michigan website explains.

After Lt. Governor Brian Calley jumped into the chilly waters  yesterday afternoon, Governor Snyder (@onetoughnerd) tweeted: Who knew @briancalley had such mad hops?

And, just in case you want to see it to believe it, the Michigan Information and Research Service posted this video of many of the lawmakers (many dressed in costumes) taking the plunge:

 “Well it’s been a quiet a week in my hometown…”

Fans of A Prairie Home Companion will recognize those words as the opening to Garrison Keillor’s weekly monologue about the fictional town of Lake Wobegon. But this week the real life of Garrison Keillor was probably more exciting than the tales from “the little town that time forgot,” because this week, Garrison Keillor hosted a fundraising event for President Obama’s re-election campaign.

Courtesy of Detroit Dog Rescue

As we continue our Seeking Change series, Michigan Radio’s Christina Shockley spoke with Daniel "Hush" Carlisle, co-founder of Detroit Dog Rescue (DDR). The former hip-hop artist and producer drives through the streets of Detroit looking for stray dogs, which are then vetted, housed, boarded, and fostered before beginning the adoption process.

How do these dogs get into this situation? Carlisle told us:

(campusmartius.org)

Michigan’s realtors say communities need to rethink how they design and use public spaces.    They say it could affect Michigan’s future economic growth.

It’s a concept called ‘placemaking’.     The idea is to make public spaces, like small parks, into places people want to be that become magnets for business investment.

Detroit’s Campus Martius  is cited as an example of how this has been done well.

I think it’s no secret that reporters get unsolicited gifts in the mail or at posh press events from time to time.

That’s especially true for reporters on the auto beat. 

A bunch of auto beat reporters a couple years ago (not me) got I-Pads in the mail.   I’m pretty sure they were returned due to their various employers’ ethics policies.   No one has owned up to keeping one!

Not all the gifts are that obvious in their attempt to curry favor.

And some are flat-out hilarious.

Jeffs4653 / Flickr

Every Monday, we're checking in with people who are  trying to do what they think is needed to improve life for people in Michigan. This morning we speak with Sean Tracy. He’s a truck driver and World War II buff, and he’s working to show gratitude to the nation’s veterans—especially World War II vets. He builds models of the planes or ships the veterans served on while they were on active duty and gives them as gifts to the vets he finds.

*This story was informed by the Public Insight Network. Add your story here.

Theresa Flores is a social worker, and director of education and training for Gracehaven House, in Ohio. It's a long term faith based care and rehabilitation home for young girls who have been victimized by human trafficking.

Flores grew up in an upper-middle class catholic home. Many years ago she found herself in the same situation as some of the young women she now helps.

Flores says she moved around a lot. Her father had a good job, and her parents were very strict. They landed in Birmingham, Michigan.

user: isabel bolinn / flickr

We continue our series on human trafficking.

Identifying victims of this crime can be difficult. But as Amy Allen tells us, there are signs we can watch out for.

Allen is a victim and witness specialist from Homeland Security Investigations. She is stationed in Michigan and travels locally and abroad to help victims of human trafficking.

UM Law School's Human Trafficking Clinic.

Human trafficking is a growing crime in Michigan, and the U.S.

At its most basic level, even identifying victims of this crime can be difficult.

In the first of our three part series we’ll look at the challenge of providing assistance to victims.

Michigan Radio’s Jennifer White spoke with Elizabeth Campbell, Staff Attorney at the University of Michigan Law School’s Human Trafficking Clinic.

Campbell says there are mostly two categories of human trafficking.

Nell Gable

Long ago, before iPads and Wifi, it wasn’t “cool” or trendy to know how to do things such as mend your own clothes, can fruit or turn old food into compost—it was imperative. And just as valuable as the skills themselves, were the people from whom you learned them.

Now, face-to-face social interaction is often limited to the times when we look up from whatever screen we’re lost in while we wait for the next text message or email to arrive.

Some people in Ann Arbor are hoping to break this cycle by regaining valuable yet forgotten skills and reclaiming community bonds.

The movement takes shape in the form of the Ann Arbor ReSkilling Festival. According to the festival website, "reskilling" is all about sharing often abandoned skills for “resilient, low-energy living,” in a face-to-face community setting.

ThomasWanhoff / Flickr

Each Monday, as part of our "Seeking Change" series, we’re checking in with someone who’s trying to improve life for people in Michigan. I spoke this morning with Andy Sopher about a particularly difficult subject: sex trafficking of kids. Sopher is with Wedgewood Christian Services in Grand Rapids and is behind a new project aimed at curbing trafficking of youngsters.

Every summer, it seems there's some new water recreation device on the Great Lakes, I wonder if we'll see the "Dolphinator" anytime soon.

That's not what the inventor, Franky Zapata, calls it, that's what Robert Krulwich calls it on his blog "Krulwich Wonders":

I'm looking at this thing and thinking it should be renamed "The Dolphinator," because this is about as close as a human is ever going to get to flying in and out of the air and sea as dolphins do. In fact, it beats the dolphins.

Have a look:

I can't wait to spot one in action on the Lakes. I don't know how hard it would be to get your hands on one (Mr. Zapata's online store is down at the moment). But Krulwich writes that the "Dolphinator" (as it is now known here at Michigan Radio), costs $6,441.

And riding it is a snap... according Zapata:

"...the Flyboard is very intuitive : it’s like learning to walk. Find your balance and you will become Flying Man or Dolphin Man! Between 2 and 20 minutes are needed to learn with an instructor and 20 minutes/ 1 hour without." 

Sign me up.

As we continue our Seeking Change series, Michigan Radio's Christina Shockley speaks with Alan Headbloom, founder of Headbloom Cross Cultural Communication. The business helps foreign workers learn the nuances of English and American culture to help them get along in the workplace. And, an offshoot of his work is helping businesses tackle racism.

The Michigan Supreme Court has removed a Jackson judge from the bench for misconduct, which included dismissing his own traffic tickets.     

District Judge James Justin has been on suspension with pay since July of 2010. The judge had been under investigation for ‘fixing’ numerous traffic tickets issued to himself, his wife and members of his staff.  

Judge Justin was also accused of dismissing cases without conducting court hearings.  The Judicial Tenure Commission recommended last fall to remove Justin.  

In its order removing Justin from the bench, the Michigan Supreme Court found the judge routinely “failed to follow the law, apparently believing that it simply did not apply to him.”    

The judge’s attorney admits his client did wrong, but added that he deserved only an unpaid suspension.  Justin has been on the bench since 1976.

It's been a mild winter, and, so far, a big disappointment for people who enjoy playing in the snow.

Some people are getting desperate.

Amy Biolchini reports for the Port Huron Times Herald that people in the small city of St. Clair held an informal dance ritual last night commanding "the power of the Finnish God of Snow" to bring down the white stuff.

The town needs snow for its annual "Winter White Out" festival which includes a snowman building contest, a snowball toss, and frozen chicken bowling.

The impromptu dancing seemed to pay off. From the Port Huron Times Herald:

Shimmying and shaking, hooting and hollering, the group of enthusiastic dancers called for "Snow! Snow! Snow!"

As they danced, the flakes actually did appear to increase in intensity -- coating the area in a glittering blanket.

"I can't believe it worked!" Skonieczny said, citing the 0% chance of precipitation in the forecast for the city.

As Biolchini reports, there are no official moves to the snow dance, so the ubiquitous "jazz hands" were employed.

The lack of snow has led to a tough winter season for some businesses in Michigan. Interlochen Public Radio's Peter Payette recently reported for the Environment Report that most ski resorts up north are doing o.k. because they've been able to make snow:

But for businesses that depend on snowmobile traffic this time of year, things couldn’t be much worse. They’ve had just one weekend of business all winter.

If there isn't enough snow for the Winter White Out festival, it sounds like they'll still have fun. There are less snow-dependant events like poetry contests, a "dunk tank," and a McDonald's "bun toss."

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