PREVIEW: Literati Bookstore author talk tonight!

Interested in young adults getting published?  Come to Literati Bookstore tonight to hear four writers talk about their newly published works.  The four young women, Chelsea Martin, Chloe Caldwell, Mira Gonzales, and Elizabeth Ellen, have been published by local indie press Short Flight/Long Drive, and are giving talks as part of their Marry, F*ck, Kill, (Cuddle) Tour.

Click HERE to read more about it!

Time: October 27, 7:00 pm
Location:  124 E. Washington St.
Ann Arbor , Michigan 48104

REVIEW: Detroit gallery crawl



I spent this past Saturday enjoying what I can only think of as one of my favorite Saturdays in a long while.  Through an event organized by the U of M’s Joe Levickas, a group of students were given a well-planned introduction to what Detroit’s art scene has to offer.  In the morning we boarded a bus to downtown Detroit, given a map and some details about the galleries in the area, and released to explore the city.  Here is a list of the galleries and their websites.

Signal Return
Red Bull House of Art
InnerState Gallery
The Scarab Club
N’Namdi Center for Contemporary Art
Detroit Artists Market
Review Contemporary Gallery
Dell Pryor Gallery
Lester Monts Hall

Below I’ll go into a little more detail about my experience at the galleries.

Signal Return

The first stop the bus made was at Detroit’s Eastern Market district.  Crowded streets, covered produce markets, and busy local food joints were the first things I noticed.  The Signal Return space was less than a block from the covered markets.  Part printmaking studio, part store front, the space aims to preserve the craft of handset printmaking by offering instructional classes to selling prints made by artists.  The space was really clean and the architecture of the space was as interesting as the art they were selling in the store.  It was built in a renovated egg crate manufacturing building and preserves a lot of the original brick of the building.  Large open windows line the store front making it more welcoming to passersby.  Being right off the Eastern Markets there were lots of Saturday market goers around.  The atmosphere reminded me of how much I love the community of a city.  The upstairs of the building was closed when we visited, but occasionally features printmaking shows.  The artistic director there mentioned that a lot of the type set and letter presses are taken up from local print making businesses that have closed down.  She also educated us in a bit of the historical influence of printmaking and letterpress expressions on today’s vocabulary, such as the terms ‘uppercase’ and ‘lowercase’ which came from printmakers storing the uppercase letters in the upper level case and the lower case ones in the lower.  Another

Afterwards, I treated myself to a scoop of chocolate and cherry amaretto ice cream from Mootown Ice Cream Shoppe, which I’d definitely recommend dropping by.


I remember there was some jazz music playing in the background.  It is a large, bright space with cement floors that has a small grouping of shelves that sat at the back, which house a random collection of old paperbacks ranging from poetry to communist texts to classical fictions.  The entrance of Trinosophes is a cafe with just enough seats for patrons without overcrowding the space.   The chairs were noticeable because they ranged from vintage wooden kitchen chairs to bright orange 80s style cushioned seats.  Partitions divide the cafe off from the gallery space and served to blocked the view from one side to the other while still allowing sound to flow back and forth between the two areas.  The current show is a collection of various old posters, which contained images about nearly everything from war propaganda to equal rights for the sexes to petitions supporting the rights of immigrants.  I had only a few minutes in the space so I didn’t quite finish the reading the description for the opening, but from what I gathered the collection of posters had come from one man’s numerous political friends with packrat tendencies.  Given more time, I would have liked to sit awhile and I have some coffee.  Maybe next time.

Inner State Gallery

Two or three doors down from Trinosophes is Inner State Gallery.  A smaller space, the gallery is currently hosting a solo show by artist, Tyree Guyton.  Guyton, with his grandfather, began the Heidelberg Project. (A note on the Heidelberg Project:  For those who aren’t familiar, the project started in 1986 as an outdoor art environment.  Heidelberg street was transformed into a war torn neighborhood during the riots of the 60s.  To protest, Guyton and his grandfather began painting the houses bright colors and arranging salvaged items into sculptures, turning the neighborhood around and reclaiming it through art making and re-appropriating it as a public space.)  His show featured works on paper as well as old car hoods that had been scraped and burned by fire, and now hung up like canvases on the gallery wall.  The warped nature of the hoods add to the disfigurement of each featured portrait.  They were painted with bright colors and various shapes in place of facial features, and each portrait is of someone Guyton is acquainted with.  He also had an interesting installation art work: a taped off square filled with standing, non-functioning vacuum cleaners, each painted in a solid coat of paint of a different color.  It signifies a clear message about how the people assigned to clean up the city of Detroit are not performing their jobs.

Red Bull House of Art

The first floor of the Red Bull House of Art featured private studios for artists.  The stairs off to the right take you down to what appears to be a dark brick tunnel but actually opens up to a low-ceilinged brick lounge and bar area, before leading you down a ramp to a large bright gallery.  It is easy to feel like you’re trespassing on some abandoned basement before you realize that is a part of the charm of the space.  The large basement is currently holding a show of four artists, some of them young and most of them from around the area.  One of the artists featured futuristic mythological pieces painted in bright pinks and cyans.  The feeling of contrast between such modern images against the unfinished brick structure of the gallery created for an all the more interesting experience.

Scarab Club

The Scarab Club is located in a building originally built in 1907.  Taking the stairs to the gallery space on the second floor, you see a large fire place, piano, and decor that makes the room feel like a classic house in 1920s film set.  The wooden beams on the ceiling of the house are engraved with the signatures of famous people like Diego Rivera, Marcel Duchamp, and Norman Rockwell.  Below can be heard the tunes of a blues band performing in the gallery space below.  Back upstairs, the current exhibition features a painter by the name of Sam Karres.  His paintings took a lot of marks from impressionists.  The history of the gallery space and thinking about all the people who had come through there made me want to sit awhile and just enjoy being there.
There were many galleries to see and not enough time.  I would definitely consider checking back in with some of these spaces in the future.  Certainly another weekend trip to Detroit is in order.

REVIEW: Kina Grannis concert


The concert began when California-based singer Kina Grannis casually walked into the venue.  The Blind Pig was empty except for around twenty people.  Kina was all smiles and enthusiastic, and when she began to play it was a warming experience the combination of her voice while she played on her acoustic guitar.  The lights lit up the floor and she was standing in the middle, right amongst us.  Her delightful attitude made the whole audience forget the cold and just want to siddle closer towards the singer and sway along with her tunes.  I could only think how lucky I was to see her up close in a pre-concert show.  Her voice was natural and, with only the acoustic guitar for accompaniment, it was almost surreal how her performance came to us from the YouTube star we were used to seeing on the computer.

Afterwards followed the main show.  Kina Grannis recently married another YouTube singer who goes by the name, Imaginary Future.  Her husband was the first to come to the stage, as the opener for her show.  Imaginary Future did a charming set of mellow, comforting tunes that really supported the more upbeat songs Kina followed with.  The idea of getting married then going on tour together was a really romantic picture.  Her husband began the concert with a kind smile and spoke so tenderly about how proud he was to be on tour with Kina.  And seeing them play on stage together during the main concert only added to the experience.

To describe the way she sang, it’s easier to just give you the chance to listen to her yourself, and recommend, if you enjoy honest love songs, to see her live.  The audience was encouraging and drawn to her music and you could tell the number of people who had been devoted followers of her YouTube presence.  The way to becoming a singer has really changed over the years, and Kina demonstrates that.  Not only is she a special talent, but she took advantage of a special opportunity to reach millions of people with her music.

REVIEW: Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind

There are many problems confronting modern society but one of them is the effect humans are having on the earth.  The significance of this issue has not diminished since the time of director Hayao Miyazaki’s animated release of Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind in 1984.  The beauty of a harmonious relationship with nature is told through the story of Nausicaä, the young princess of a valley who relies on wind power and believes in the care of their people as much as the care of the forest and natural world which they rely on.  The architecture of the valley is reminiscent of a medieval village from the stone castle and to the robes and cloth headdresses the women wear.  Their seemingly feudal-age culture is contrasted by the use of sleek, white gliders which seem to emerge from a science fiction novel.

The earth has just emerged from an apocalyptic war between the humans and the toxic forest, which resulted in the extermination of human existence by the large, prehistoric beasts called, Ohms, from the forest.  Nausicaä uses her own glider to swiftly travel from the valley to the distant toxic forest, where the poisonous gases and monstrous bugs come from.  The neighboring cities believe that the forest needs to be eliminated for the safety of humanity from not only the bugs, but the diseases the forest spreads to the people.

Nausicaä strongly believes that the forest has the power to heal and that humans and the forest are meant to co-exist.  She shares this belief with the people she encounters through her natural charm with the animals and the way she gains their trust without asking anything in return.  She also raises her own secret garden in the castle where she’s managed a way to grow the plants of the forest in a non-poisonous way, in an attempt to prove that the danger lies not in the forest itself, but in the remnants of the war and the toll humans took on the forest.  Through it all, she has faith that their will be understanding and it is that strength of conviction combined with the beautiful characters Miyazaki has drawn together that pull you into Nausicaä’s world where holding unwaveringly onto ones beliefs and remaining brave in the face of adversity is one of the most beautiful characteristics one can hold, in the world of Miyazaki or the real world as well.

REVIEW: Last Days in Vietnam – The Exodus

There was a sea of humanity.  This phrase echoed the first time you heard it.  Then it was resounded again in images of overcrowding groups of Vietnamese civilians trying to enter the gates of the U.S. embassy, and again boarding commercial ships, then fighting for a place on a helicopter air lift.

Graham Martin, U.S. ambassador to South Vietnam, was one of the central characters in the story of the days leading up to the Fall of Saigon.  Along with his position, Graham Martin was also the authority in case an evacuation of the U.S. embassy would be required.  In the beginning of the film, there seemed to be a sense of healing and imminent peace.  It was a calm time in the capital of Saigon.  The Paris Peace accords had just been signed and President Nixon had promised that in the event the North Vietnamese came to occupy the South, the U.S. would respond with full force.  President Nixon represented an intimidation factor for the North Vietnamese government.  They believed him to be a madmen, and it felt like the North Vietnamese army would not act in violation of those accords.

What followed were the seas of people from the opening scenes, surrendering everything physical they owned, surrendering the city of Saigon itself, to escape.

“You start out telling jokes in Vietnamese and making them laugh in Vietnamese.  Soon, you start dreaming in Vietnamese.”  This is a loose quotation from one of the U.S. marines stationed at the U.S. embassy in Saigon.  He, along with many other U.S. citizens in Vietnam believed, during those early peaceful days of the signing of the Paris Peace accords, that their job was only to keep the embassy operational.  It did not occur to them that the North Vietnamese would ever come.  The U.S. embassy was filled with dreamers.

First were the friends of U.S. workers at the embassy.  Vietnamese spouses of Americans, children of Vietnamese-American couples, these groups of people were the first to leave.  Then as the North Vietnamese began their advancement and the U.S. maintained their silence, a growing number of Vietnamese looked for ways of escape.  Martin more than anyone wanted to believe that the U.S. would come through on their promise in the Paris Peace accords.  He did not want to leave the country his son had died fighting for.  But the American people were tired of the war in Vietnam, and President Ford could garner no votes from congress to provide the military and financial support required for the aid of South Vietnam.  Once the bombings started, the panic mounted, and everyone associated with the U.S. knew they need to get out was real.

Bing Cosby’s ‘White Christmas’ was airing on the radio the day following the initial bombing of the only air strip in Saigon, the day before the Fall of Saigon.   Evacuation was on everyone’s mind now, and it was in the safe evacuation of oneself and one’s family that the only comfort could be found.  South Vietnamese were getting airlifted from the grounds of the embassy to U.S. ships off the coast.  Pilots, whose own captains had either left already or deserted, used what they had, taking their helicopters to bring themselves and their families out to the American ships where safety was guaranteed.  Some made daring leaps of trust and faith and U.S. troops responded with as much empathy as they could muster.  There just wasn’t enough space or resources.  There was not enough time.

What was the fate of those South Vietnamese left in Saigon?  The 30th of April 1975, South Vietnam surrendered.  Large groups of under-supplied South Vietnamese troops disrobed down to their underwear and burned their identification cards.  Politicians destroyed any evidence of their association with the South Vietnam government.  Just like that, no one left behind wanted to have any association with the identity of being South Vietnamese.  The exact numbers are not known, but many were executed and large numbers were placed in re-education camps where they were forced to do manual labor for a few years to a life sentence.  The outlook was not bright.

And on the ships filled with U.S. troops and refugees, they rose the flag of South Vietnam and sang the national anthem of a country in which the freedom to sing and have such pride was now limited to boats at sea.  The movie told a story not only of displacement and exodus, but of camaraderie and the significance of relationships between individuals being more powerful than governments or military power.

PREVIEW: Last Days in Vietnam

Last Days in Vietnam is a documentary by director Rory Kennedy about the evacuation of US forces from South Vietnam.  When the US government orders troops to vacate, there is a looming sense of what this means as Americans and South Vietnamese allies realize what will follow such an exit.

Come out and watch for a detailed account of one of the lesser known parts of the Vietnam War, or just to learn more about a war whose effects are still being felt today.

Michigan Theater

Tuesday, Oct 14 4:45
Wednesday, Oct 15 4:30