Saturday, April 19, 2014

Splittin' The Mitten's leisurely trip through the Lower Peninsula

With the advent of the interstate highway system, many Americans forgot about the beauty of rolling through small towns connected by old state highway systems. Michigan has approximately 57,000 square miles of land, but many Michiganders miss out on vast expanses of beautiful land while hurrying along I-69, I-75, I-94, and I-96.

Splittin' The Mitten: Get Your Kicks On Michigan's Route 66 takes its readers back to a time before the interstate highway system. The book's authors, John and Becky Schlatter, focus on Michigan's state highway M-66, a road running north-south from the Indiana border to Lake Michigan, literally splitting the Lower Peninsula, aka the Mitten, in half.

The Schlatters write in a conversational tone, and the book feels more like a travel memoir than a guidebook as a result. They highlight each town and major landmark along the 273 miles of M-66. With a population of 52,000, Battle Creek is the largest city along the journey. The rest of the towns along M-66 are much smaller, but they all seem to have the same two things: at least one ice cream shop and an old bank building at the town's main intersection.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The End of Best of the Net

One of my goals when I started this blog was to spread the word about the good things happening in the state of Michigan. For the past several months, I have written Best of the Net, a weekly (sometimes biweekly) summary of the best news stories from Michigan.

The bad news is that this feature has not attracted readers like I had hoped it would, so I have decided to cease writing it. The good news is that my other features are attracting more readers (and I am thrilled that people find my original content to be more interesting than summaries of other news stories), so I will continue to write my own stories about Michigan. Writing Best of the Net was time consuming and hopefully discontinuing it will allow me more time to write my own stories.

Since there are so many easy ways to access and follow news about Michigan, I assume that most people who would be interested in Best of the Net were not reading it because they had already seen its stories on Twitter or other social media. I encourage people to follow me at and to follow other Michigan news sources (both major newspapers and smaller independent media) for positive Michigan news stories. I regularly tweet links to positive stories and my own content and feel like Twitter is the best way to share stories that other people have written.

Finally, I recently reviewed a book and a documentary and would be interested in reviewing other books or films about Michigan. I also am interested in writing about startups and nonprofits throughout Michigan. Please contact me at if you would like me to write about your business, nonprofit, book, movie, or any other positive Michigan news stories.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Burn: A must-see movie

Photo courtesy of Burn
I generally despise calling something a "must-see movie" because the media and movie studios overuse the phrase and apply it to blockbuster action movies that no one really must see. However, sometimes a film comes along that everyone should see. Burn: One Year on the Frontlines of the Battle to Save Detroit is such a film. The documentary follows the lives of the firefighters of Engine Company 50 on Detroit's East Side.

The movie opens with firefighters huddled together outside the door of a burning brick house. Flames outline the door until one of the men pushes the door in with his axe, causing a fireball to explode outward from the home. As the camera focuses on the inferno inside the house, the company's Field Engine Operator Dave Parnell's voice utters, "I wish my head could forget what my eyes have seen in thirty-two years of firefighting." After watching this film, the audience will not forget what their eyes have seen.

For the next hour and twenty minutes, filmmakers Tom Putnam and Brenna Sanchez give their viewers an awe-inspiring perspective of the lives and struggles of Detroit firefighters. The action includes footage of firefighters entering the depths of houses with fire raging all around them and no idea what dangers lie ahead. The firefighters of Company 50 explain that Detroit firefighters fight the fire from the inside and that observers would be more likely to see them shooting water out of a house instead of the usual image of firefighters shooting water in.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Best of the Net 3/19-3/31

A dog, a child, a family, a community

Some stories remind us of humanity's capacity for kindness while also reminding us of the unique bond between humans and dogs. The Battle Creek Enquirer recently featured one such story. Five-year-old David Facey was born with cerebral palsy and severely addicted to drugs, and doctors did not believe he would live past his first birthday. Despite his health issues, Arlen and Betty Facey fostered David and later adopted him. They then invested thousands of dollars to get Venture, a service dog, for David.

Venture and David quickly bonded. David learned to accomplish physical goals with Venture's help, and Venture alerts when David's oxygen becomes low. Unfortunately, Venture suffered a leg injury that would have made him unable to serve David. However, several charities worked to raise money for Venture's surgery. Thanks to the help of strangers, Venture is now helping David succeed again.

Rebuilding lives from crumbling buildings

Jewelry company Rebel Nell uses graffiti from crumbling Detroit buildings to make jewelry. As reported by PolicyMic, Rebel Nell's co-founders have partnered with the Coalition on Temporary Shelter (COTS) to hire women staying at shelters. Rebel Nell's ultimate goal is to help the women transition into permanent housing.