Thursday, July 23, 2009

A View of Coloring Outside of the Lines

Actual conversation at the Concert of Colors:

Clown: Did you hear about that actress who got stabbed today? Her name was Reese...Reese...oh what's her last name?

Me: Witherspoon?

Clown: No. With a knife.

Click of the camera just as I groan. Did you know it's possible to play a rim shot on an accordian?

More later, and here's hoping my colorful friend didn't steal that bit from Michael Rosenberg.


A View of the Colors

"Red and yellow and pink and green, purple and orange and blue. I can sing a rainbow...."

So the other day, I was clicking through my daily website reading list and came across an interesting article in the Detroit Free Press.

It was supposed to be a lighter side of the news piece about Detroit's sister city relationships with seven other cities across the globe. The piece, written by Michael Rosenberg, read like a bad Jerry Seinfeld routine:

"What exactly does it mean to be "sister cities"? Do you gossip about male cities? Can you borrow each other's outfits? In the '80s, did the mayor of one sister city send a mix tape to the mayor of the other sister city?"

I'm not sure what the point of the article was supposed to be, but the gist of it seems to be that Mr. Rosenberg doesn't think sister cities serve much purpose. I'm not even sure if he truly means that, or if he was trying to be funny because he also said he didn't think the idea of a brother city would work either.

"Brother cities would never call each other. Occasionally, the mayors would play golf together, but when they were done, they would go back to their cities and everybody would ask what was going on in the brother city, and the mayor would say 'I don't know, I didn't ask, but I putted great.' "

Are you laughing yet?

Me neither.

In case you didn't know it, Detroit's sister cities are Chongqing, China; Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Kitwe, Zambia; Minsk, Belarus; Nassau, Bahamas; Toyota City, Japan; and Turin, Italy. The oldest and most active sister city relationship is between Detroit and Toyota City, with student and cultural exchanges going back almost 50 years. I'm proud to say that I'm part of that history, having been part of the student group that represented Detroit in Toyota City back in 1984. My group spent just over one month visiting Toyota, Kyoto, Tokyo, and Nagoya, learning about the country and its culture as guests of Toyota City and seven host families. We learned about language, history, food, music, religion, pop culture, family dynamics, geography - it was a total immersion into life outside of the comforts of home for both us in the group and the families who hosted us.

It was an invaluable experience, one I'll never forget.

My guess is that Mr. Rosenberg's indifference to a sister city program may come from the recent reports of the abuse of emergency funds by Detroit officials, with money being used as a personal piggy bank by the Kilpatrick administration. Back in 2006, Kizzi Montgomery, an intergovernmental liaison for Mr. Kilpatrick, used about $5,800 to take the Japanese delegation from the Detroit/Toyota program on a trip to Niagara Falls, Ontario - a blatant misuse of the emergency fund. It's sad that the program has to suffer a blow to its reputation because of the actions of a corrupt administration. Looking on the sister cities page of the City of Detroit website, it appears the exchange program only exists on a technical basis, and that trips between the cities have been suspended.

In light of this, I'd like to make a recommendation to Mr. Rosenberg to check out next year's Concert of Colors. The yearly event is hosted by ACCESS (The Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services), offering a plethora of music, dance, food, community activism, information exchange, and much more across all cultures. Here's the best part - admission to the event is free.

At this year's Concert of Colors, I saw an East Indian dance troupe from the School of World Music & Dance:

Watched an enthusiastic crowd help an Afro-Cuban singer with the group BombaRica celebrate her birthday by dancing in a conga line:

Caught an excellent show by the band Yo La Tenga. The main stage artists had a ban on any photography and recording, so here's a clip of the band in action that I found on You Tube.

Talked local politics and found some gorgeous jewelry that I could not resist at the Beads, Baubles & Gems of Southfield booth - a custom jewelry merchant created by two sisters. Take a look and give them a call if you'd like a trinket or three at 248-910-2047.

I also caught up with old friends (What's up Beth, Kathy, Chris, B.J., and John!), got a chance to explore the Max M. Fisher Music Center - home of the Concert of Colors, had a great dinner at Union Street (I recommend the Lobster & Cilantro Pizza), and had a wonderful time learning about all the cultures that make Detroit so great. I didn't even scratch the surface of everything there was to do at the two day event.

It was like a mini sister city exchange program in the space of two blocks. Start here, Mr. Rosenberg, and you'll learn that establishing relationships and cultural exchange across the globe is as pretty as all the colors of the rainbow.

More later, but remember all the cool kids shun xenophobia. If you can't travel abroad, check out one of the local ethnic festivals in your area. Enjoy the music, the people, the food and the fun - and if you aren't careful, you might learn something before it's done. (My apologies to Bill.)

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A View of Can't See For Looking

Continuing the theme of what do you see, take a look at the picture below. What do you see?

Some people see what's in this text, which is from an e-mail making the rounds on the web. You may have received it from a friend like I did this week:

Recently, Michelle Obama went to serve food to the homeless at a government funded soup kitchen.

Cost of a bowl of soup at homeless shelter: $0 dollars.

Having Michelle Obama serve your soup: $0 dollars.

A person who is receiving government funded meals while taking a picture of the First Lady using his $500 BlackBerry cell phone: Priceless.

Pretty funny, whether or not you're an Obama supporter, liberal, conservative, or just don't care one way or the other.

But look again at the photo. What do you see?

I'll wait.

Keep looking.

There. Did you catch it?

What homeless shelter do you know of that serves Mushroom Risotto? Or uses romaine lettuce?
There's more to this photo than meets the eye. Anyone willing to laugh, but look past the obvious could've merely typed in the phrase, "Obama serving in a soup kitchen" into the search engine of his or her choice. Once they did, they would've received a link to one of my favorite sites, the Urban Legends Reference Pages. This site dedicates itself to clearing up all sorts of internet rumors, urban legends, half-truths, and stories that seem to good to be true but sometimes are true.

This photo op, according to the good people at Snopes, falls under the half-truth category. The photo was taken back in March 2009 at Miriam's Kitchen, a social service agency in the Washington D.C. area. It's a privately funded organization, not taxpayer or government funded as stated in the e-mail. Moreover, it's not clear if the person with the cell phone is homeless, a volunteer, a guest, or staff member. Nor is it clear if the phone is a BlackBerry device, or if it's worth $500. Not only that, cell phones aren't necessarily for the affluent anymore given the proliferation of pay as you go phones available in many convenience stores throughout the country.

It's like my mom used to say all the time: Sometimes people can't see for looking. For another example of this, check out this story about President Obama checking out a woman's backside during the recent G8 Summit.

Or is he?

More later, and keep those eyes peeled y'all.

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A View of What Do You See

"This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill - the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill - you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes." -Quote from "The Matrix."

This post is the fault of two people - City Council members Ken Cockrel, Jr. and Martha Reeves. During a discussion of the sudden proliferation of billboards in the city promoting Colt 45 malt liquor and what (if any) action should be taken, the two made observations that were the living embodiment of the famous quote from "The Matrix."

Mr. Cockrel noted while he was critical of the advertisements, the breweries wouldn't target our community so heavily if the residents weren't so quick to buy the product. "We also have to check ourselves," he was quoted as saying. "I see a lot of people buying 40 ounces."

Ms. Reeves, on the other hand, decided to focus on aesthetics. She was unhappy about the way the billboards made Billy Dee Williams, who's portrayed in caricature in the advertisements looked. "He's ugly," she's quoted as saying.

Blue pill. Red pill. When you look around you, what do you see?

After reading this story, I decided it was time for me to take a look around, go down the rabbit hole if you will, and really look at my world. My drive to work takes me up Woodward Avenue, the main artery of the city. The thoroughfare passes through business districts and residential neighborhoods. It's a major transportation hub for commuters - whether by car, bus, bike, or on foot. People of all walks of life travel on Woodward.

It was also the site of my last post, the story of Jane and her daily drinking binges.

Where better to see what the world sees? I chose to study all the billboards on a stretch of Woodward between Six Mile Road (McNichols) and I-696. It covered roughly an equal distance in both the city and the border suburbs of Ferndale and Pleasant Ridge. There are several intersections along the way with a variety of businesses, meeting places, and gathering spots along the way.

My first stop was at the intersection of Six Mile Road (McNichols in the city) and Woodward. This is the border of Detroit and Highland Park, just south of the first mile of paved concrete highway in the world. The area was used for major location shooting during the making of the 2008 Clint Eastwood film, Gran Torino. It's also a snapshot of two cities in decline; surrounded by neglected residential areas, abandoned businesses, and vice. The main businesses at the intersection are Deja Vu, a strip club (their slogan is "1000's of Beautiful Girls and Three Ugly Ones"); Uptown Bookstore, an adult bookstore which features a walk-up window where patrons can purchase lottery tickets without having to enter the store:

There's also Snethkamp Chrysler Jeep, a dealership spared the threat of closure during the recent bankruptcy filing; and a Valero gas station that has a buffet soul food restaurant inside its lobby. There's also a taxi garage, a dry cleaners, two additional adult bookstores (one stays open 24 hours), a motel that advertises hourly rates, a bar, a Powerhouse Gym with attached physical therapy center, a recently closed beauty supply store, a candy shop, a hip-hop clothing & music shop, a couple of barber/beauty shops - all mom & pop operated - and three churches. There are several billboards in this area. The largest is over the gas station - one of the Colt 45 ads the Council was debating. There's also a very large billboard on top of Deja Vu promoting the club. There are smaller billboards over the garage selling motorcycles, $1 soft drinks at McDonald's, auto insurance, and the services of personal injury lawyer Sam Bernstein ("Injured? We come to you!").

On the northwest corner, is a billboard guaranteed to catch the eye:

It's positioned so that's it's easily seen by all commuters in all directions. It's next to an apartment building, right at the edge of one of the residential neighborhoods and just at the entrance to Palmer Park. The billboard promotes a service, but when you look at it what do you see? What does it say to you about the target audience for the product? The neighborhood in which it's located? What sort of feeling do you get as you view it?

Now combine those answers with the description of the neighborhood. The businesses located nearby. The other billboards surrounding it. Now what do you see? How do you feel?

Now add this fact to your thinking: Not more than a tenth of a mile away, in the shadow of La Dolce Vita (an upscale restaurant); an abandoned and vandalized landromat, and a small mosque, is a second Colt 45 billboard - smaller in size but identical in content - posted over a campaign ad for a City Council candidate.

Abdullah Bey El-Amin is being reported as the first imam to appear on a Detroit ballot. His billboard talks about making Detroit great again, and asks the community to demand good leaders. It's completely overshadowed by a caricature of Billy Dee Williams selling alcohol.

What do you see when you look at this photo? How does this photo make you feel? Does the position of the alcohol billboard positively or negatively impact your opinion of El-Amin? Does it impact your opinion at all? What does the juxtaposition of these advertisements make you think of the community where they are displayed?

About a mile north is the intersection of Woodward and Seven Mile Road. This intersection is a bit unique, in that its the meeting point of a residential neighborhood and a business district. Among the businesses you will find in this area are the Palmer Park Golf Course, a BP gas station, a McDonald's restaurant (an online search shows it may be up for sale), an ice cream parlor, Dutch Girl Donuts (some of the best donuts in town), and the Goldengate Cafe, a vegetarian restaurant and holistic treatment center. On the northwest side of the street is the southern border of the Palmer Woods neighborhood, an upscale community in northwest Detroit. The east side of the street is more working class, decaying as you continue further east. There's a construction site for a church that's been in the works for years now, and more abandoned or burned out businesses. It's also part of an area on the east side of the city being plagued by a serial rapist who has attacked four young women and attempted an attack on a fifth. As of today, he's still at large.

The billboards in this intersection include public service announcements for a drug treatment center and the upcoming primary election displayed, advertising for senior citizens housing, and another appearance by Billy Dee's Colt 45 billboard. That's three identical advertisements for the same product on the same side of the street in a mile span.

Looking at these facts, what do you see? What does this tell you about the community? About its residents? About the way the business community views the neighborhood?

The next major intersection is a biggie - it's the border between Detroit and its northern suburbs at Eight Mile Road. The Eight Mile rhapsodized in Eminem's movie. The Eight Mile Road that Coleman Young so famously told criminals to hit and keep going after being elected to his first term as mayor back in 1973 - a line that many feel sparked the ongoing animosity between Detroit and the suburbs for the past few decades.

At this intersection is a fly-over for traffic continuing north or south on Woodward, and turn around local lanes for those needing to access Eight Mile Road or any of the handful of businesses and homes in the area. On the north side of the road, there's Ferndale. There are a couple of auto dealerships, a cleaning supply store, a White Castle restaurant, a diner, and a hotel with hourly rates. On the south side is a Catholic church, the Green Acres neighborhood, a Chinese restaurant, a cemetery, a lawn supply shop, another hourly rates motel, and the northern end of the Michigan State Fairgrounds. The future of the Michigan State Fair is in limbo - the state is cutting funding for the fair after this year, and there's been talk of eliminating the fair completely. The northern end of the grounds have been empty for years, and plans for a shopping center have materialized and fallen apart. The most recent plans include the possibility of a Meijer store, but nothing has been finalized.

At this intersection are three very large billboards. One advertises the services of the Detroit Medical Center. One is a promotional billboard for Motor City Casino's Sound Board concert venue. The third is for WADL-TV's "Classic Comedy Block" of afternoon programming. A third of the bottom is covered in very large, very bright graffiti.

Here are some questions to ponder: How did the graffiti artist (or artists) get up on the billboard - which is brightly lit at night and positioned for maximum viewing - and paint without being noticed? If someone did notice, did they report what they saw? How come the billboard has been allowed to stay up without being cleaned up? Why vandalize this particular billboard? How long did it take to tag the billboard? Was more than one trip required?

There's is a fourth large billboard on the southwest corner of the intersection advertising the gourmet burger menu at MGM Grand Casino's Bourbon Steak, but the way it's positioned only allows for viewing when traveling south on Woodward. There's also a small, building mounted billboard on the northeast corner of the intersection advertising Everfresh juice, but it's not very visible either.

If you go a bit further north, you reach the intersection of Woodward and Nine Mile Road in the heart of downtown Ferndale. There are almost too many businesses and services to mention: two churches, three cemeteries, a gas station, two theaters - The Ringwald and the Magic Bag - a post office, a bank, a car rental agency, an insurance agency, a drugstore, a cellular phone store, Metro Parent magazine's offices, a school, a self-storage facility, an optical shop, and numerous restaurants, shops, and nightclubs. I know I'm leaving out some places in this list, but you get the idea of how it's thriving. I only saw one completely empty commercial space passing by - and it's being renovated for occupancy. Two other spaces north of Nine Mile are about to lose their tenants - the stores are in the process of holding going out of business sales.

The billboards in the area were for businesses like Body Morph, a fitness training facility (there were two for this company - one to consumers and one recruiting sales & fitness workers); TNT Televison, for a new show called "Dark Blue"; a public service ad advocating smoke free workspaces; a promo ad for Panera Bread; an advertisement for an upcoming Demi Lovato/David Archuleta concert.

I only saw two billboards advertising liquor - one over the Magic Bag Theatre for Molson Beer, and one over Flagstar Bank for Corona Beer.

Here's what I didn't see: Abandoned, boarded up buildings. Fields or lots choked with overgrown weeds. Garbage on the streets. Graffiti. Billy Dee Williams with his can of Colt 45.

In all of the neighborhoods, I saw people who were friendly - offering a smile and saying hello when spoken to. I saw people going to work, or hanging out with friends. Below Eight Mile, I only saw African-American people walking along Woodward. Above Eight Mile, the majority of people were white. There were more people jogging, walking dogs, or bike riding above Eight Mile. Below Eight Mile, there were more people waiting for busses.

No one spoke until spoken to. No one asked why I was taking notes or pictures. Very few people looked up at the billboards until they saw me taking pictures.

Here's a question to ponder: When they looked up, looked around, what do you think they saw? Do they see what's around them - and what do they think about their surroundings?

I think both Ms. Reeves and Mr. Cockrel had, in their own way, good observations. The image of Billy Dee and his can of Colt 45 are ugly, in that it promotes a way not to notice the world around you. Colt 45 "working every time" is an escape from reality - a red pill of sorts. The idea that people need to pay attention to what they consume and that marketers will only target areas in which consumers demand the products they sell is also on point. We create the reality in which we live.

Still I think both Ms. Reeves and Mr. Cockrel missed one point: What we see is often what we think we are. And the billboards I saw when I looked around my neighborhood were one bitter blue pill to swallow. We've got a lot of work to do to improve our point of view folks.

More later, but not before I invite you to take the journey I took up and down Woodward Avenue. Take a good hard look all around. Get out of your car and take in the neighborhoods on foot. You might be surprised at what you truly see when you do.

I should also mention that the links and pictures included in this post are not necessarily endorsements for products, services, or candidates by me. They're just snapshots of what I saw in my journey down the rabbit hole.

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Friday, July 10, 2009

A View of It Happens Everyday

I hop in my car at the end of a long work week. It's Friday! Time to enjoy a relaxing weekend. But first some errands, just like I do everyday. Stop and get gas, pick up some potting soil and a new planter for an office plant that needs more space, think about picking up something for dinner before deciding to cook something when I get home.
I'm driving down Woodward, just like I do everyday, enjoying some music, happy to feel a cool breeze coming through my windows, when I see something I don't see everyday.
There was a woman on the corner of Woodward and Glendale. She was slumped over in a wheelchair, her right hand grazing the pavement. Her hair fell forward in her face, her feel slack on the sidewalk. She was wearing black knit shorts, worn down flip flops (or should I say a worn down flip flop - one had come off her foot), and a black and white plaid shirt that was almost completely open. The way she was positioned in the chair and the way she was slumped over, it was hard to tell if she were male or female.
The driver in front of me blew his horn in an attempt to rouse her. She didn't move. At that moment, the light changed and it was time to move on. Just like drivers do everyday. I had to pull forward and drive through the parking lot of the gas station across the street in order to circle back into the parking lot she was in front of and call the police.
As I was on the phone with a dispatcher, a woman walked by the woman in the chair. She tapped her on the shoulder, and for the first time since I'd seen her, the woman in the chair moved. It was a slight nod of her head, just enough for the passerby to assume she was okay. She kept on walking. The dispatcher told me an ambulance and a squad car was on the way - someone had called a couple of minutes earlier. I hung up the phone, turned off the car, and got out.
"Ma'am? Are you okay?" I asked walking toward her. She barely moved. I noticed an old bandage about six inches long taped on her leg. It looked like hadn't been changed in several days.
"Ma'am? Are you okay?" I got a bit closer. By now, I could see that she hadn't had a bath in at least a day or two. The bare foot was ashy and dirty, almost black on the bottom. She looked up slightly and murmured something, but I couldn't hear what. She looked old and neglected. Her teeth were ragged, her lips dry and a little chapped. She barely opened her eyes.
I started to go a little closer, but I was afraid to touch her. I didn't know what was wrong with her. Was she having a seizure? Hypoglycemic? High? Combative? I didn't know what to do.
Fortunately by this time, the ambulance was pulling up. At the same time, a man was approaching the corner. He was shaking his head.
"She does this everyday," he said, as the EMT was walking up to the woman in the wheelchair. Almost simultaneously, the EMT spoke to the woman.
"Jane (not her real name)? Have you been drinking again?"
"I had to put her out of the gas station," the man standing next to me said. "She comes over to the gas station and hangs out with the other drunks. We have to throw her out everyday."
The second EMT asked the two of us some questions about her. How long had she been there on the corner? Just a few minutes. The two men she'd been drinking with wheeled her across the street and left her on the corner before they took off. How much had she had to drink? The men had thrown away and empty fifth of vodka before wheeling her away from the gas station. How long had it been since a call went in to 911? When I talked to the dispatcher, it was 6:44. The dispatcher told me she'd received a call about the woman at 6:38.
"I don't know why she's in that chair," the man next to me said. "She can walk, you know. She lives right across the street.'
By now, the woman was sitting up a little straighter in her chair, though she was still slumped over. The first EMT buttoned up her shirt as he asked her what she wanted.
"I just want to go home," she said. Her words slurred. The EMT stepped back, flinching from the smell of alcohol on her breath. The second EMT began unloading a gurney from the back of the ambulance. At about this point, a squad car arrived.
"Jane? Are you okay?" The police officers knew her by name, too.
"It's the usual," said the first EMT. "She's had a lot to drink today."
The man next to me worked at the gas station across the street. He said this happens everyday. Jane comes to the station to panhandle and drink. She has too much and gets kicked out, passes out, or both. The police and an ambulance show up, get her some treatment, then take her home.
"It happens everyday," the man from the gas station said. Shaking his head, he walked away. I asked the EMT if he needed anything else from me. When he said no, I began to walk to my car. I looked back, and I saw them preparing to put her on the gurney. The cops and the EMTs talked to her and each other, handling her with care, trying to joke with her and each other.
I got in my car and headed down Woodward towards home. Just like I do everyday.
More later, but I can't help but wonder if she's okay. And I hope that the same thing that happens to her everday doesn't happen to her tomorrow. If you know anyone who has a drinking problem, please get in touch with Alcoholics Anonymous, your doctor, or trusted adviser for assistance on how to help that person; and Al-Anon to get help for yourself on how to cope with a loved one's addiction. Keep your eyes open as you go about your day-to-day affairs, and don't be afraid to provide any assistance if you see someone in trouble or something that isn't right - even if that assistance is simply calling 911. For every person who stopped, there were at least ten who kept on going as though nothing was wrong. Everyday will just keep happening the same as it does unless we try to do just one thing a little different.

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Thursday, July 09, 2009

A View of the Lie Told and the Aftermath

I've been thinking about lies lately, and the ways we try to extricate ourselves from problems lies leave behind.

It all started when, in an attempt to get away from the wall to wall coverage of Michael Jackson's death, I clicked onto The Frisky, one of my favorite guilty pleasure websites. There I found a very interesting post that posed a provocative question: What's the correct answer when asked how many sexual partners have you had? Amelia McDonnell-Parry, author of the post outlined seven sex partners that don't have to count. "It's not...lying per se; it's just that a just don't register on the same scale," she said, and thus don't have to count in a person's tally. For example, a partner doesn't have to count if the sex lasts 10 seconds or less and no one finished. It doesn't have to count if the sex was forced or if "you're less than 51% sure that penetration actually occurred." I could list more, but that would take away from the fun of clicking on the link and reading the piece - or creating your own reason why a partner shouldn't count. It was an interesting article that made me laugh and think about the ways we lie to others and ourselves.

And no, it didn't make me rethink my number. It also won't make me tell you that number either, so don't bother asking. Anyway, Catherine Strawn posted a companion piece about the five "I Love You's" that don't have to count, like if you were lonely or very drunk. I read this a few days later, after the news about the death of Steve McNair broke. McNair is the former NFL quarterback who was shot and killed by his girlfriend Sahel Kazemi in her Nashville residence - provided to her by McNair. A few days earlier, Ms. Kazemi and Mr. McNair were stopped on suspicion of DWI. She was driving a car purchased by Mr. McNair. She was charged, he was released. They'd been dating for several months, and she told friends & family that Mr. McNair was planning to divorce his wife to marry her.

This wasn't true. There was no divorce filing. His wife and four sons did not know about the relationship he had with Ms. Kazemi. In fact, Ms. Kazemi was becoming distraught because of the DWI arrest, growing financial issues, and because she began to suspect that Mr. McNair was cheating on her with another woman. As a reaction to this, she purchased a gun, shot Mr. McNair as he slept, then killed herself.

She was only 20 years old. He was only 36 years old. This was a case where lies, the ones told to others and the lies one chooses to believe, ended in the worst way possible. Two families are now trying to figure out why. Why was there a need to step outside of a seemingly happy marriage? Why did this young woman think the only way to resolve the issues facing her was to kill her lover? Kill herself? Why did any of this have to happen? Why couldn't it be stopped? Here lies the other tragedy in this story: They may never get all the answers they need to heal and move on. This one hit close to home for me because I understand the pain both families are feeling. I've experienced the hurt and betrayal felt upon the discovery of an unfaithful spouse, and I know the pain of never getting all the answers one craves upon learning of the suicide of a loved one. I can only hope both families have the strength to heal as best they can, and not give in to the temptation to lash out at each other as they cope with their hurt and grief. It's not going to be easy, especially given how public this story is right now.

Lies are never fully understandable. Sorting out the logic and the rationalizations behind them can be a futile exercise in circular logic that would confound M.C. Escher. Most of the time, the smoke and mirrors behind the lies are created in order to distract from the truth and throw those who dare question the liar off track. Say what you will about Monica Conyers, but she is a twisted master of the bait and switch. So desperate is she to make people forget that she took bribes in exchange for her vote in the Synagro scandal (she pleaded guilty in Federal court to conspiracy to commit bribery - a felony offense - and was forced to resign her City Council post), so desperate is she to escape inevitable jail time, and so desperate is she to cling to whatever power she can grab, that she's willing to make a complete spectacle of herself on TV.

She's decided to keep her public access level parody of "A Face in the Crowd," called "Ask The Councilwoman" on the air - even though she's no longer on City Council. She's also decided to play "Monica Conyers: Cub Reporter" by threatening to expose the drunk driving record of a reporter who questioned her as she reported to the set of her show this week. You have to click on this link and watch the video to see just how bizarre it gets.

Here's where lying and the web it creates gets even more tangled. In the clip, she accuses Scott Lewis, a reporter for Fox 2 News of having a drunken driving conviction on his record. This led to some haughty, "I've done no wrong" posturing by the reporter. At this point, the story he files turns from news reporting to almost "Network" style bombast. The report would've carried a bit more relevance had the station been brave enough to point out that Ms. Conyers got Mr. Lewis confused with another Fox 2 reporter, Andrea Isom, who was arrested back in 2006 for drunk driving. I found an excerpt of a newspaper report that ran in the Detroit Free Press, but could not find a link. Here's the story:

Channel 2 reporter Isom in DUI incident


November 21, 2006

WJBK-TV (Fox, Channel 2) news reporter Andrea Isom was in hot water Tuesday morning after having been stopped by Michigan State Police on a Detroit stretch of the Southfield Freeway allegedly driving the wrong way Monday night. She reportedly blew a .18 in a roadside sobriety test; the Michigan standard for driving under the influence is .08. Channel 2 GM Jeff Murri said he could not comment on Isom’s situation, citing company personnel policy. Isom did not immediately respond to a phone message. Isom began working at WJBK in April 2004. She previous toiled for stations in Kansas City, Dayton, Ohio, and Elmira, N.Y. She is a Cleveland native and an Ohio State University grad, according to her station biography.

The omission of this fact is a bit of a distortion of the truth, though it could rightfully be argued had nothing to do with Ms. Conyers or her behavior. It could rightfully be argued that the reporter's records have nothing to do with Ms. Conyers criminal behavior, it's impact on the city now and in the future. It could even rightfully be argued that Ms. Conyers continued disregard for her actions, her disrespect for her constituents, and her constant antagonizing attitude is proof of her unrepentance, requiring the maximum amount of punishment allowed when she's sentenced.

Still, the fact was omitted, and that added a bit of a taint to Mr. Lewis's piece. But that's the trouble with lies. The things we say to get out of trouble can sometimes lead to more trouble. The things we don't say in an attempt not to hurt someone's feelings can come back to haunt us in ways we can't imagine. Let your conscience be your guide, but always do the right thing.

More later, but first a shout out to my new friend at Dyspathy - thanks for adding me to your links. It's quite the honor. VFTT readers, be sure to check out his site daily. You'll love every minute of it, and you might learn something too.

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Saturday, July 04, 2009

A View of The Pursuit

I've been posting on Facebook a lot lately - catching up with old friends, making new ones, and having a good time. Most of the posts have been goofy - links to cartoon video clips, sharing favorite "Man Walks Into a Bar" jokes, taking crazy quizzes about what state you're destined to live in. Some, however, have had some substance to them.

Like today, for example. One of my posts was about the firing of Chief James Barren and the mayor's decision to replace him with Wayne County Sherrif Warren Evans. To many Detroiters (myself included), this is yet another signal that our mayor, Dave Bing, is not what he made himself out to be during the campaign. His staff appointments (keeping or rehiring many of former Mayor Kilpatrick's staffers), his seeming reluctance to make public statements about his plans for the city, his statement about not wanting Monica Conyers (the City Council member who pleaded guilty to felony conspiracy to commit bribery charges in Federal court) to resign, and his failure to visit victims of a recent mass shooting outside a local school until two days after the incident (even though a state appointed DPS financial manager showed up at local hospitals within minutes of the incident and detail plans to assist the victims and their families) have all been disappointing indications that our mayor is either overwhelmed by his duties or intentionally out of touch with the city and its citizens.

One of my friends called me and told me he'd seen the post, joking that he thought I was preparing to run for office. Another friend posted a half joking response - one he's posted before when I've talked local politics:

After I laughed, I posted a response which I think could be applicable to anyone who wants to make their government stronger. This response is geared toward Detroit politics and government, but it doesn't take much to adapt it to your corner of the world.

Can't say it too often. It's pretty clear that the majority of our elected officials are full of...well let's just say this town needs several enemas. Until that day, here's how we can clean things up.
Know your candidates. Unfortunately, the mayoral race is pretty much out of play because quality challengers decided to back out of the race in deference to Bing - a strategy that backfired. Still, we have a chance to make our City Council more effective in the next election. More important, we have the Charter Commission being formed - the right members can provide real reform to the city's government. Go to MiVote to learn about all the candidates and make an informed choice. (
Get involved in your community - block club, neighborhood watch, PTA, whatever - if you're involved with your neighbors, then you're connected to your city's vitality. Even spreading the word about local affairs on your Facebook page keeps you connected. You've got to use what you've got to get what you want.

But wait, there's more. Do all you can - through your actions and words - to promote the idea that the revitalization of Detroit is a regional and statewide effort, not just the work of those of us who live in the city. To the rest of the country and the rest of the world, Michigan IS Detroit. Think about how we're being covered in the media. The auto crisis, out of control crime (that school shooting made national headlines), ineffective government and educational leadership - that's what the world sees when they see Detroit. We have to try to work together to make this area functional again. That means championing the area, encouraging honest government, and letting go of that city vs. suburbs mentality. It's not easy, but nothing worthwhile is.
That's the enema, don't you think?
Today is Independence Day, all about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. What's more revolutionary than making your world a better place?

More later. Until then, go be patriotic and start your pursuit. And check me out of Facebook. I'm always looking to make a new friend. Just click on the link to stop by and say hello.

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