Offbeat

Offbeat

Flickr user © Stranger / Flickr

If you are a baby-boomer who grew up in Michigan, chances are good you remember a particular point in time when you were out in your backyard, peering into the night sky, searching for UFOs.

For one week in March of 1966, Michigan was awash with reports of UFO sightings. Scores of people called police to report suspicious items in the sky. Ultimately, the Air Force dismissed these sightings as nothing more than "swamp gas," causing then-Congressman Gerald Ford to fire off an indignant statement, declaring that people deserved a better explanation than something as laughable as "swamp gas."

Rudi Lindner is a professor of History and Astronomy at the University of Michigan. He teaches a class called "Discovery of the Universe" that includes the history of UFOs.

Jerry Vile

So... anyone need a four-foot-tall can of Crisco?

Last week, Detroit-based artist Jerry Vile left a present for his recently bankrupt hometown -- a massive can of Crisco, placed under the Monument to Joe Louis, better known as The Fist.

Now the installation, titled “The Vessel of Hope” is up for auction on eBay.

At last check, the Crisco’s current bid sits at $560, with 12 currently vying for the giant can (and no, there’s no Crisco inside it).

“This piece represents my peaking as an artist,” Vile said on the selling page. “I am most likely never going to be able to do anything that gets the kind of attention or hits the nerve that this did.”

beraxe / wikimedia commons

It was only a matter of time for opposing sports fans to strike at Detroit's soft spot.

During last night's MLB game with the Tigers' American League Central rivals, the Cleveland Indians, fans in Cleveland chanted "Detroit Bankrupt."

Take a listen (ignore the voiceover):

The Tigers got the last laugh.

They beat the Indians 6-5 in extra innings, extending their win streak to 11, and going another game up on Cleveland.

Jeff Wattrick at Deadline Detroit had some words for Cleveland fans - saying they love their sports teams --

But those teams just don't love them back. The Browns moved to Baltimore and won two Super Bowls as the Ravens, while the replacement Browns remain subpar. Lebron James' free agency signing with Miami sent Cleveland into a tailspin culminating with their sad attempt to claim the 2011 Dallas Mavericks' championship as their own. Then, there's the Indians. They haven't won a World Series since the 1940s. Also, Jose Mesa and the 1997 World Series.

Jim Dreyer's Facebook page / Facebook

He very well may be the first shark in Lake St. Clair -- and certainly the first one hauling a ton of bricks.

Long-distance swimmer, motivational speaker, and Michigan native Jim Dreyer -- who calls himself “The Shark” -- finished up a 22-mile swim today from Algonac to Belle Isle. But just in case the swim across Lake St. Clair wasn’t enough, Dreyer raised the stakes on his charity swim for Habitat for Humanity: The Shark is pulling along two dinghies holding 2,000 pounds of bricks.

Dreyer was expected to finish his swim yesterday, but his journey took a day longer than expected.

A post on his Facebook page said he was in good shape as he finished up his swim:

And I am sure most of you figured out he has been swimming over 48 hours, non stop!! Making all long distance open water swimmers proud!! Making Pure Michigan proud too.

Melissa's Mid-life Musings

It's time to jump in the way-back machine:

Reports and tweets indicate that Laura Ingalls Wilder Melissa Gilbert has moved from Hollywood Hills to Howell, Michigan.

Willow Run Factory and B-24 bombers.
U.S. Army Signal Corps

There's a song from 1942 written by Red Evans and John Jacob Loeb that celebrates one of the most important groups to emerge on the home front in World War Two.

Collectively known as "Rosie the Riveter," women covered their hair with bandanas and picked up their tools to work in war production in factories all across America.

One of the most important plants in the war effort was the Willow Run bomber plant in Ypsilanti Township. Henry Ford built it to make B-24 bombers. 8, 685 bombers rolled off the assembly line at Willow Run during the war.

Emma Rancour was one of those Rosie the Riveters who worked at Willow Run. She installed radios in the flight decks of those Liberators.

These days, Emma Rancour lives in South Lyon. She joined us today to talk about her time at the plant.

Listen to the full interview above.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

A bunch of guys and a bunch of lawn mowers.  That's the basic idea behind the volunteer Detroit Mower Gang - which cuts the grass at city parks in Detroit every other Wednesday night. This past week, the Gang mowed about 25 acres in Stoeppel Park Number Two on the city's west side.  Barbara Davis lives across from the park - where for many kids, the grass was chest-high. "It's terrible," said Davis. "They usually got to cut a path and tramp right to the swing set because the grass is so tall.

edwin.bautista / Flickr

YPSILANTI, Mich. (AP) - A well-known Michigan brewer is pulling out of a major beer festival because of planned political fundraising at the event.

The Kalamazoo Gazette reports Bell's Brewery Inc. won't participate in this weekend's 16th Annual Michigan Summer Beer Festival in Ypsilanti after the brewer's founder and president Larry Bell learned about the Protect Michigan Craft Beer Political Action Committee's plans.

Bell says he finds it "distasteful" to involve politics in the Michigan Beer Guild event.

Allison Downey / Michigan Radio

In July's segment of The Living Room, Allison Downey investigated the lure of American carnivals.

She interviewed several workers about their experiences living and traveling with the carnival. Some of them were born into the carnival life, some of them turned to the carnival as a means of escape, but all of them are there because it's what they love.

The Living Room on Michigan Radio is produced by Allison Downey and Zak Rosen.

The song at the end of the story,"Take Me to the Fair" was written by Ann Arbor's own Annie Capps and performed by Annie & Rod Capps with Jason Dennie.

Listen to the full interview above.

OfficialTDShow / Youtube

Yesterday, The Daily Show’s John Oliver did a short feature on Detroit and the city’s bankruptcy. 

In a bit entitled "Chapter 9 Mile," Oliver takes a humorous look at the slow emergency response in the city and his lack of surprise that the Emergency Manager, Kevyn Orr (a bankruptcy lawyer) declares bankruptcy.

But jabs at the media make for the greatest laughs. Oliver points out the abundance of bad puns about the bankruptcy and the amount of reporting on Detroit that actually takes place in Chicago.

user: whitneyinchicago / Flickr

We know the question everyone has been asking about the impending arrival of a new member of the British royal family. 

No, of course it's not, will it be a girl or a boy. We are, after all, public radio consumers. What we really want to know is: What will the economic impact of the royal birth be on the U.K. economy?

Julia Field

The skeletal remains of the rusting Packard plant in Detroit might soon have a new owner.

Built in 1911 by the legendary architect Albert Kahn, the factory produced luxurious automobiles throughout the early 1900s. It has since fallen into ruin, becoming a mecca for urban explorers and metal scrappers.

http://hopesmilesuganda.com/

It wasn't so long ago that Ryan Shinska was quarterbacking his high school football team in Richmond in Macomb County.

Then it was off to Ann Arbor to the University of Michigan. Three years ago, he graduated from U of M's dental school.

And today, Dr. Ryan Shinska is a man with a self-declared mission: to end dental pain and bring good dental health to the people of Uganda.

Ryan will move to Uganda on July 25th to open a dental clinic there. His journey from U of M student to opening a clinic to serve the poor in one of the world's poorest countries is worth exploring and sharing.

Dr. Ryan Shinska joined us today in the studio.

Listen to the full interview above.

Want to know more about what the masses think of your region? A Google search could reveal predominant stereotypes of your area.

If you're not already familiar with it, Google’s autocomplete function makes search suggestions as you type in a search term.

http://www.theballoonsculptor.com/

Tim Thurmond has a big title to reclaim.

He calls himself Michigan's Balloon Sculptor. In 2004, he took the world record for, take a deep breath, most balloons blown up by one person's mouth and sculpted into individual animals in a 24-hour time frame. The total was 6,176 balloons.

However, this past February, a man in Texas blew away the record Thurmond created by 55 balloons.

But not for long.

Robert Voit

A new cell phone tower was erected near a busy intersection in Portage, Michigan, but passersby probably won't recognize it. 

That's because the 150-foot tower has been disguised as a pine tree. The pole has brown "bark" and covered with fake bark, and the antennae have been concealed to look like pine branches. 

http://www.letsmove.gov/

If you have ever visited the White House, you know it's an exciting memory you always treasure.

But how many of us can say we not only visited the White House, we were invited to have lunch with the First Lady of the United States?

Jacob Hirsch of Bloomfield Hills is 8 years old. Tomorrow, Jacob will be a guest at a Kid's "State Dinner" hosted by none other than First Lady Michelle Obama. It's actually a healthy lunch, part of the First Lady's "Let's Move" initiative.

Jacob won his invitation by submitting a healthy recipe in a big national competition. And out of more than 13 hundred entries, Jacob's "Picky Eater Pita Pizza Pocket" was one of 54 winners.

Jacob Hirsch joined us today in the studio.

Listen to the full interview above.

Paddleboarding Across Lake Michigan / Facebook

Three college students crossed Lake Michigan by way of a paddle board on Monday.

The three paddlers were Ginny Melby, Trent Masselink and Craig Masselink. They reached the shores of Muskegon after embarking barely 24 hours before on their 80-mile journey.

They raised money for an organization called Restore International. The group fights for boys who are child soldiers and girls who are forced into prostitution in Uganda.

You can find out more on their Facebook page.

Bernt Rostad / Flickr

This 4th of July weekend, there’s a good chance that you or one of your (adult) family members or friends looks forward to sipping a nice cold brew while watching fireworks or enjoying a barbeque.

If you’re in Michigan, you have the opportunity to buy from one of the many microbreweries operating across the state.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - State records show Michigan State University's license plate is the No. 1 specialty plate in Michigan.

The Lansing State Journal reports Friday that a half-million of the MSU plates have been sold since it debuted in 2000.

That puts the East Lansing school squarely ahead of its rival to the southeast.

The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor's license plate has drawn about 362,000 patrons. That puts it in third place behind a patriotic plate that debuted after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

Flickr

Cynthia Canty's good friend Susan and her husband are about to move from a townhouse in an Oakland County suburb to a small cottage on about an acre in another Oakland County town. One of her top priorities is to start keeping chickens in her new backyard.

Seems she is not alone. Backyard chicken-raising is on the rise across the state and across the country.

There are now ordinances allowing people to also keep chickens in Ann Arbor, Flint, Detroit, Lansing, Grand Rapids, Traverse City and many other Michigan communities.

Taylor Reid is the founder of beginningfarmers.org and he's a PhD candidate in Community, Food and Agriculture at Michigan State University. He joined us today to talk about why urban chicken raising is on the rise and what the concerns are about this practice.

Listen to the full interview above.

The city of Traverse City

They shut it down when they discovered the problem, but still... it makes for a not-so-fun splash park.

Brian McGillivary and Michael Walton from the Traverse City Record-Eagle have more on how the new splash pad in Clinch Park happened to rain "water contaminated with human waste on a half-dozen children":

Library of Congress

Last month, Jerry Eliason, Kraig Smith and Ken Merryman discovered the Henry B. Smith, a freighter that sank in a storm in November of 1913. There were no survivors. The wreck was found 30 miles north of Marquette.

According to a story by the Duluth News Tribune, the photos and video that the group brought back in May didn't include any shots of the ship's name, so they couldn't confirm that it was the Smith:

In addition to footage of the ship's name -- the group also caught a glimpse of the name on the Smith's bow -- the return trip revealed more details of how the ship is sitting on the lake bottom.

It's like a "V," Eliason said -- broken in the middle with the largely intact bow and stern sections rising up from the lake bed amid a spilled cargo of iron ore. 

Getting that video footage was challenging because of a still-standing mast and guide wires on the bow section, which did snag the camera for a while last week before the group was able to work it free. 

Steve Snodgrass / Flickr

Making the world better, one piece of pie at a time.

That is the mission behind a project called Pie It Forward. Sarah Fertig says she is "on a mission to change the world with the power of pie.”

Sarah and her boyfriend Chris Kovac left their homes in Brighton, packed up their 1999 Silverado named Gracie, and, along with their Border Collie co-pilot Shalosh, the pair have been crisscrossing the nation, baking pies and handing out free slices.

Sarah Fertig joined us today to talk about their mission and just how one betters the world with pie.

Listen to the full interview above.

ABC News

LA graffiti artist David Choe passed through Detroit on Sunday and hid money in different parts of the city.

On Sunday he posted on his Facebook page that he "made it into Canada tonight but hid 10,000$ in mostly 1's and a few hundos all over Detroit today."

Why did he do it? Answer: "just becuz - why not?"

Around 7 p.m. he started dropping clues on  Twitter.

From the "Meet the Dumpers" website. This week's featured company.
meetthedumpers.com

Illegal dumping is a massive problem in Detroit. Just drive around for several minutes and you’re likely to see household and industrial trash illegally dumped on street corners and along service roads.

A group in the northwest Detroit neighborhood of Brightmoor hopes to curtail illegal dumping by publicly shaming companies and individuals caught dumping.

Dana Moos / Flickr

On June 23, you can see a moon that's looks bigger than it usually does. It's called a supermoon, and they occur between four and six times every year. 

Basically, it happens when the moon comes closer to Earth than it normally does.

Flickr

In 2013, if you want to let the world know you're someplace having a good time, you might whip out your smartphone and tweet it or post a check-in or status update on Facebook.

97 years ago, you might write a message, roll it up, tuck it in a bottle and toss it into the St. Clair River.

That's what a couple of young Detroiters did when they were having fun one summer's day at Tashmoo. That was a very popular amusement part on Harsen's Island on the northern end of Lake St. Clair.

And why do we know about this message in a bottle? Because Dave Leander found the bottle as he was diving in the St. Clair River.

John Gonzalez, David Kutzko, and Fritz Klug spent 6 days sampling 33 hamburgers to find the best of the best in Michigan. They revealed the winner this morning: Laura's Little Burger Joint in Decatur. A noteworthy finalist was Krazy Jim's Blimpy Burger in Ann Arbor. Blimpy Burger, which took 10th place, will be closing at the end of August. Many locals hope that they will find a new location for sometime soon.

University of Michigan / Facebook

There were four baby peregrine falcons nesting on the roof of University Hospital at the end of April. The University Record reports this is the third year in a row that two falcons nested on the hospital roof.

A contest was held to name the babies. Today, the people running the University of Michigan's Facebook page announced the winning names:

  • Maize,
  • Blue,
  • Woodson,
  • and Howard.

The images of the cute falcon babies got us wondering, 'what can be cuter than these things?'

Pages