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Arts & Culture

Arts and culture

We've been taking a look at some of the words that have been popping up in headlines in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. 

This week we thought we'd talk about the phrase "flying by the seat of our pants," since that's the state that so many of us find ourselves in during these unprecedented times.


To combat the spread of COVID-19, we're staying home and staying safe here in Michigan. Being cooped up though, especially as the weather gets nicer, has some of us feeling like we're going bonkers.

As such, we thought we'd give you something else to think about by taking a look at the word "bonkers."


illustration of an arena with a scoreboard that says michigan march movie madness
Paulette Parker

All our dreams of March Madness office bracket pool glory were quashed after the NCAA canceled their annual men’s and women’s basketball tournaments amid the COVID-19 outbreak. To fill the void, Stateside stepped in with a bracket of their own: the Michigan March Movie Madness tournament.

We asked Michigan Radio’s Instagram followers to help us find the most quintessentially Michigan movie. It started out with a list of sixteen films set in, filmed in, or about Michigan. After a week of intense competition, we have a winner! 

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

You can’t go to your favorite cocktail bar. It's closed because of the COVID-19 outbreak. But, you might have a few bottles in your house. What can you make with what you have?

Tammy Coxen with Tammy’s Tastings thinks it’s time to improvise a little. To put her idea to the test, she put a selection on her table and asked Lester Graham to choose some of them and she’d make a drink.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

There's a bracing herbal, minty, chocolaty, funky, bitter Italian liqueur (an amaro) called Fernet Branca. It became wildly popular among people who work at bars. It's often used in cocktails, but if you're a bartender visiting another bar, your colleague might pour you a shot as a greeting, a bartender's handshake. During these days of the COVID-19 pandemic, let's call it a "bartender's elbow bump."

At a time when so many of us are being asked to hunker down in our homes, we've been getting questions from listeners about the word "hunker."

Suffice to say, we'll be hearing this one a lot more in the weeks and months to come.


illustration of an arena with a scoreboard that says michigan march movie madness
Paulette Parker

Normally around this time of year, basketball fans would be poring over their March Madness brackets. They’d be using sophisticated statistical analysis, or the tried-and-true gut feeling, to guess which teams would advance to the Final Four. But there will be no office bracket pool this year. The NCAA canceled its Division 1 men’s and women’s basketball tournaments over concerns about the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Erin Zindle and the Ragbirds performing at a Live from the Birds Nest concert
Courtesy of Erin Zindle

The ban on public gatherings due to the coronavirus outbreak has hit a lot of sectors hard. One group grappling with how to make a living now is musicians, who rely on live concerts for most of their income. With bars and venues shuttered, some artists are now getting creative about reaching their fans from an appropriate social distance.

Adobe Stock

As the nation begins to cope with the coronavirus pandamic, Michiganders are doing their part by staying home. Social distancing is key to slowing the spread of the virus, but being stuck at home can be, well, a bit boring after a while.

To help cope with the monotony, we put together a list of Michigan books and authors for you to check out while you practice social distancing. Peruse the list below, and if you see anything you like, consider ordering it online from your local bookstore.

a black and white photo of Semaj Brown
Courtesy of Semaj Brown

There are some things we can understand through facts. And then there are some things that we may understand better through feeling. Poet Semaj Brown has spent most of her writing life with a foot in both worlds.

In her passionate, evocative writing, the natural world and her community intertwine and connect in surprising ways. As Flint's first poet laureate, she's formalized her educational work, while acting as a kind of medium and mirror for the city's response to its water crisis.

The phrase "head honcho" is used to refer to people at the top: CEOs, presidents, directors and such.

However, "honcho" on its own means "leader." In other words, the head of something. That means, as is often the case in English, this commonly used phrase is redundant.

 


When we say we don't know jack about something, it's not immediately clear that we're toeing the line with taboo territory.

Allow us to explain.


four of the drag queens from MI Drag brunch
Michigan Drag Brunch

On Sunday mornings, the West Michigan brunch scene gets served a meal full of realness, thanks to the drag queens of Michigan Drag Brunch. The project is the brainchild of producer and CEO Trevor Straub and performer Gabriella Galore. They said the project started as a way to bring the drag scene to an earlier morning crowd in Grand Rapids.

It’s tempting to parse the word “ramshackle” into two separate words, “ram” and “shackle.”

A listener named Brian Van Drie wrote to us about how this word makes him think of “a ram that is actually shackled and is making a mess of anything it can reach.”

We love that explanation. Unfortunately, it's not right.


Michigan Radio and Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts will present a live performance of The Moth Mainstage in Detroit, Friday, June 5 at 7:30 p.m. The Moth Mainstage features a line-up of writers, performers, and other unique national and Michigan storytellers, each with a ten-minute story to tell live without notes.

young woman sitting on rocks looking across Ghanaian countryside.
Imani Mixon

Returning to a home you’ve never known

There’s no easy, simple way to travel across the Atlantic, from the United States to Africa.

There are 5,590 miles between my hometown of Detroit, Michigan and my ancestral homeland of West Africa. Part of the reason why Africa feels so far away is because of what we grow up learning about it.

a picture of a record that says Groovesville
Courtesy of Dan Austin

  

When you think of Detroit music in the 1960s, chances are the first thing that comes to mind is Motown Records. The iconic label produced some of that era's biggest hits.  But Detroit was full of plenty of other artists outside of the Motown label who were also deeply shaping the city's sound.  

a cover of Ms. Marvel
Penciler: Minkyu Jung, Cover Artist: Eduard Petrovich / Marvel Comics

If writer Saladin Ahmed never typed another word, he'd already have introduced us to so many interesting people. From fantasy novels, to Westerns, to supernatural sleuth stories, Ahmed’s writing spans both genre and form.

Right now, he's the author of two major titles for Marvel Comics: The Magnificent Ms. Marvel, and Miles Morales: Spider-Man. Ahmed took over the character of Miles Morales from creator Brian Bendis, and is putting his own stamp on the story. 

arms in striped shirt going through a record crate
Annie Theby / Unsplash

In 2020, we want to remind you—and ourselves—of the importance of taking a break. And what better way to do that than to take an old (or new) record off the shelf and spin a few tunes? We’re inviting folks from some Michigan record stores we love to talk about what they're listening to right now.

Smokey Robinson
smokeyrobinson.com

Today is the 80th birthday of Motown legend Smokey Robinson.

The singer and songwriter was a founding member of The Miracles while he was still in high school. The group was Motown founder Berry Gordy’s first vocal group.

Joe Pera in a still from his show
Courtesy of Joe Pera

Comedian Joe Pera is not from Marquette. But the version of himself he plays in the television series Joe Pera Talks With You is recognizable to anyone familiar with the Upper Peninsula.

The show has become a runaway hit on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim nighttime block. Pera's oddball observations on subjects like beans and grocery stores are weirdly hilarious. But what really makes the series is that Pera is not just being funny. 

George N'Namdi, Davida Artis, and Anthony Artis smile in front of a brick wall
April Van Buren / Michigan Radio

For a long time, the work of African American artists didn't get much recognition in the world of fine art. That hasn't stopped art lovers from building impressive collections of pieces by black artists. We talked to two collectors about their approach to buying, and how the business of African American art has changed over the years.

Almost as long as there's been email, there's been the question of what the plural of "email" should be. 

A listener named Steve Roznowski reminded us of this recently, when he pointed out that Professor Anne Curzan says "emails." Roznowski says he uses "email" for both the plural and singular form.


Darryl DeAngelo Terrell sits in a wicker peacock chair with two men on either side of them
Courtesy of Darryl DeAngelo Terrell

We all have a version of ourselves that lives in our head. Your favorite self, your strongest self, the self this worldㅡ for whatever reasonㅡ doesn't want to let you be. For queer and gender non-binary artists, that self isn't just a daydream. It's someone who might get you through years of being made to feel like an outsider. It might also be a canvas for important ideas.

Supporters of the Michigan Green Party visit the Detroit Water & Sewerage Department.
Michigan Green Party / Facebook

Today on Stateside, one Michigan family got an extended vacation after their cruise ship was turned away from port after port because of fears about the coronavirus. Also, we round up the week's news, including the coverage of black voters ahead of election 2020 and Detroit's ongoing water shutoffs.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

When you walk into Buffalo Traders Lounge in Grand Rapids, it’s the kind of space that just begs you to get comfortable, relax, and sip a drink.

“I have to say this is a gorgeous space, kind of mid-century modern decor. And I love it,” Tammy Coxen of Tammy’s Tastings said as she looked around.

We were there to visit with the lead bartender, Tony Jones and to sample one of his craft cocktails.

Sydney James stands in front of a mural she painted
Courtesy of Sydney James

The fine art world has not always been friendly to African American artists. But that’s starting to change, and black artists are now more visible than they’ve ever been. That includes prominent artists of the past, like Harlem Renaissance painters Jacob Lawrence and Norman Lewis, as well as more contemporary figures.

a group of children in front of a large portrait of a black woman lounging on a couch
Courtesy of the Detroit Institute of Arts

When you walk into the African American art wing of the Detroit Institute of Arts, you see a large portrait of a woman on a couch. The portrait is covered in rhinestones, and the glittering woman has a regal air.

The painting, titled "Something You Can Feel," is by artist Mickalene Thomas. The woman is her mother, who was a runway model in the 1970’s. The portrait is filled with color and joy. Its celebration of black womanhood is an example of how African-American artists have reshaped the portrayal of black bodies in fine art. 

Sometimes a word slips into our language unnoticed. Before we know it, that word is everywhere.

That's how listener John Van Deusen feels about "one-off."

He says, "I thought I was paying attention, but I don't recall it beginning, and now it's everywhere -- definitely not a one-off usage."

oscar like statues
Walt Disney Television / Flickr / http://bit.ly/1xMszCg

It's almost impossible to be ready for Oscars weekend without taking a major chunk out of your December to watch the barrage of last-minute releases. But we'll try to get you up to speed with help from a couple of Detroit film critics. Corey Hall is a writer and comedian whose work can be found in the Metro Times and on WDET. Michelle Kisner writes reviews for the Spoiler Free Movie Sleuth site. We dug into the films nominated for this year's Academy Awards, plus the ones they think should have made the cut.

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