Getting my hands dirty with Illustrator, sketching a fuzzy vision for a someday course on Rhetorico-geographical Positioning Systems (RPS). I never do this, but I’ve missed self-set deadline for proposing the course at least twice in 2011, which suggests the only felt urgency for such a creation is my own. Now–and publicly–setting a third deadline for real-izing this proposal by, oh, the 8th of Wheneveruary, 2012.
I enjoyed a first taste—to be honest, three first tastes— of Original Gravity brews at the Michigan Beer Festival late last month. I sampled their Belgian Training Wheels and 440 Pepper Smoker before an OG-veteran I was with persuaded me to try their Southpaw IPA. The Pepper Smoker was peculiar (smoky and peppery), but not the sort of thing I’m sure I’d want in a full glass. The Belgian Training Wheels was good, although I find a lingering banana-like note about which I remain undecided (i.e., better keep on the training wheels). But the Southpaw was one of the most memorable beers I had at the event, and OG’s setup was impressive down to their custom taps. I’d never visited their brewery in Milan, a small town 15-miles south from here along US-23, but after the Beer Fest and after hearing more about the place, I made mental note of it, adding it to a short list of places in the area worth visiting.
D., Is., and I spent Saturday morning and early afternoon at the Toledo Zoological Gardens, and the nice thing about the zoo, besides the baby elephant, the sloth bears (what I think of as my middle-age totem), and hippos, is that Original Gravity is located directly on the route back home. In fact, that could be the advertising pitch for our visit to the Toledo Zoo on Saturday: On the way home, you can exit in Milan, Mich., have a sandwich and a pint of Southpaw, and take a growler of Belgian Training Wheels to go.
We tried their veggie and grilled cheese sandwiches and ordered a side of hummus—all were better than expected, a definite cut above the competition. In fact, this has been one of my complaints about neighborhood brewery in Ypsi: the food is meh. OG doesn’t have an elaborate menu, but they’re doing it right. Great sandwiches made with fresh, local bread (Erie Bread Company, I think). The draw of Southpaw: great. And the growler of Training Wheels, well, probably more than I needed because I just won’t drink a full growler in a week. But I wanted to re-run the lingering notes experiment, and the growler—half of which remains in the fridge—was more than enough to collect new data.
Next time I get a growler, it’ll have to be before a cocktail party where I can share it with others interested in local/regional brews. And I don’t know whether OG will be bottling any time soon; either way, I’d happily go back, which of course means I am working to pencil in another family excursion to the Toledo Zoo soon.
RePresentations of Ypsilanti are fraught (does it matter whether these are “representations” or “presentations”? I don’t think so). By “fraught,” I mean they are piled high, brimming even, with hints of foreboding about crime and poverty endemic to the city and the nearby township, both of which bear the name Ypsilanti. That this is so turns out not to be an insight worth bothering to share with anyone who has lived on the east side of Washtenaw County for more than a few months.
Nevertheless, I am thinking about this locale because I am developing a course for now conceived as a rhetorico-geographic study of EMU’s surrounds. Yes, of course, it will be writing focused, as it will attend to questions of routes, distances, and enframings with a particular investment in producing variations: re-composing the local. I aim to have the proposal submitted by the end of the semester. Right now I am gathering ideas, storing them in such a way that they will, in time, assume the shape of a provisional syllabus and schedule.
And this means I am taking stock of local coverage of local events, conditions, or problems, as the case may be. For example, a series of articles have appeared in Annarbor.com about Ypsilanti Mobile Village, an abandoned mobile home park on Michigan Ave. just east of the intersection with Prospect. In late December came news that the owner filed bankruptcy. By early January, there was a story about the owner expressing his intentions to clean up the site, and on Friday, word that a judge ordered the cleanup to proceed. I don’t want to suggest that this series of stories is particularly representative of Annarbor.com’s coverage of Ypsilanti, and certainly there is much water under the bridge, so to speak, about how Annarbor.com depicts Ypsilanti, how the “paper” writes Ypsilanti, that is. The series on Ypsilanti Mobile Village is simply an example–perhaps an example I am all the more interested in because I have driven by the park a couple of times, because it is as close to campus (to the west) as it is to where I live (to the north). To give you some sense of the mobile home park’s condition, an employee provided this video footage to Annarbor.com with the first report:
That the initial complaint is reprinted in full in each of the follow-up stories strikes me as introducing a curious but distinctive echo: “Raw sewage continues to leak from several residences.” “Raw sewage continues to leak from several residences.” “Raw sewage continues to leak from several residences.” Reading it over yet again, the image becomes more deeply seated. It cements an impression that these grim conditions are permanent, that they are woven into the landscape in such a way that no bureaucratic or legalistic action will change any time soon.
I’ve been hearing a lot of buzz lately about the Buy Michigan Now program. There’s a related festival in Northville this weekend. We didn’t make it over there, but the local television news coverage has portrayed it as a Michigan products showcase, with products amounting mostly to local foods, fashion, art.
This is the second annual festival, which means the BMN group has been around for a couple of years. Their web site challenges visitors to take a pledge. Nearly 5,000 people have done so to date. Like many pledges, with this one people promise they will think differently, that they will speak positively of Michigan:
I hereby pledge to play an active role in building a strong, vibrant, and diverse Michigan economy. I will be a part of the solution by speaking positively about the state, learning about our products and services, and making a concerted effort to buy from Michigan businesses. I will Think Michigan First!
I suppose this kind of thing will become increasingly common as we (all?) square with the consequences of economic dissipation–a products and services onslaught from elsewhere, too frequently from anywhere else but here. Despite the emphasis on economic stimulation via spending and consumption (also this fee structure for landing in a database), programs like these are reasonable attempts to affect how people think about the local. Granted, BMN is more Long Here than Long Now. But it’s a start, even if what the planet (and Detroit by proxy) really needs is more Long Here and Now.
It starts me thinking about related improvements. Ignoring for a second the spatio-categorical inertia common to all major grocery stores (specialty food markets seem willing to tinker with this), it would make sense for grocers to reconfigure ever so slightly around buy local programs like this one. BMN provides a PDF grocery guide, for example (Why is Bell’s not on the list?). But just think: if, instead of carrying the list around, I could walk into a store and pass through an area where products all came from the state I live in, I would be much more likely 1) to recall those products as viable options and 2) to purchase them. But radical rearrangement is at odds with an existing infrastructure unsuited to relocating some subset of dry goods, frozen foods, produce, and meats (even if Meijer already does something like this for a “Lunch on the go” cooler curiously positioned in the middle of aisle 7 or 8). Another route would be an added layer of labeling: big blue stickers on Michigan products (faceted classification for grocery products). And another would be some sort of intelligent environment device–an app for the smartphone–that adds locative snapshots to a illuminate a product’s trail before arriving at the store and, while it’s at it, puts it in the context of a couple of recipes. Still a few years off (bad news for the ‘N’ in BMN, if so), yet redefining encounters with products in the spaces where we typically find and buy them might make appreciable progress toward a $10 per week spending habit that would, so the BMN promotional materials argue, scale all the way up to $38 million if adopted across the state.
Porter, James E., Patricia Sullivan, Stuart Blythe, Jeffrey Grabill, and Libby Miles. “Institutional Critique: A Rhetorical Methodology for Change.” CCC 51.4 (2000): 610-642.
Cynthia L. "Technology and Literacy: A Story about the Perils of
Not Paying Attention." CCC 50.3 (1999): 411-436.