Northern Michigan

One of Russ Soyring's favorite parts of his job ― getting public feedback on planning ideas for the future of Traverse City.
Terry Clark

If you were to credit someone for the look and feel of Traverse City today, Russell Soyring might be that person.

Friday Soyring officially retires from his position as city planner after 35 years on the job.

Field Guide: Mystery Tracks in the Snow

Feb 26, 2021
Cheryl Bartz

Winter is a great time to find animal tracks in the snow. Today on our field guide we hear how birds also leave tracks with their feet and wings.

Cheryl Bartz from Red Pine Radio reports these tracks can be much harder to decipher:

In a meadow overlooking Crystal Lake, I found some tracks in the shape of a “T.” Each leg of the “T” was about two inches wide, with no obvious beginning or end. The snow surrounding this small patch was undisturbed.

I guessed that a bird plucked a mouse or vole from the snow and flew off, but what kind of bird?  And why so many tracks?

Field Guide: Snow Fleas

Feb 1, 2021
Cheryl Bartz

Winter is one season when Northern Michigan is free of insects, right? Wrong. Hear about an exception you can find if you look closely.

National Writers Series: An evening with Albert Woodfox

Jan 5, 2021

In 1971, Albert Woodfox was sent to Angola prison for armed robbery. A year later, Albert was put in solitary confinement after being convicted of killing a guard. He was innocent of this crime, but stayed in solitary for 43 more years. After finally being released in 2016, Albert wrote a book about his experiences in prison, called “Solitary: Unbroken by Four Decades in Solitary Confinement.” Albert appeared at a virtual National Writers Series event and spoke with news director for radio station WDET, Jerome Vaughn.

Gretchen Carr / Interlochen Public Radio

A group of neighbors in Traverse City have turned an annual holiday light display into the spot to feel some Christmas spirit. This year, they began collecting money for those in need. 

  

Outdoors: Chickadee contact call

Nov 18, 2020

Just like humans, chickadees are social.

They split up into pairs during the breeding season, but this time of year, they  form flocks with other chickadees and often with other birds such as nuthatches and small woodpeckers, and they move through the forest in a group.

By definition, a forest is full of trees, and sight lines are limited.

Occasionally, a little chickadee suddenly realizes that it cannot see its flockmates (if that's a word).

National Writers Series: An evening with Bob Giles

Nov 15, 2020

May 2020 marked the 50th anniversary of the Kent State shootings. Ohio National Guardsmen killed four students and wounded nine others during an anti-Vietnam war protest. At that time, Bob Giles was managing editor of the Akron Beacon Journal. His team reported on the shootings, both while it was happening and the aftermath. Now Bob has written a book about the incident called “When Truth Mattered.” Bob appeared at a virtual National Writers Series event. He spoke with former host of Michigan Radio’s “Stateside,” Cynthia Canty.

Yaa Gyasi was born in Ghana, and her family moved to the United States when she was two years old. Her birth country figures prominently in her two books, “Homegoing,” and her latest, “Transcendent Kingdom.” Yaa appeared at a virtual National Writers Series event. She spoke with Detroit’s director of arts and culture, Rochelle Riley. In the second half of the program, Kate Walbert’s writing often focuses on women’s lives, like her novel “A Short History of Women,” and her latest collection of short stories, “She Was Like That.” Kate appeared at a virtual National Writers Series event.

Chasten Buttigieg is best known for being the husband of former Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg. Chasten grew up in Traverse City, where he found life as a gay teenager difficult. He’s written a memoir about his experiences, called “I Have Something to Tell You.” Chasten appeared at a virtual National Writers Series event and spoke with writer and acupuncturist Elon Cameron. In the second half of the program, Christopher Haugh and Jordan Blashek are friends. Chris is a Democrat, and Jordan is a Republican.

A black bear wanders through the campus of Interlochen Center for the Arts, just south of Kresge Auditorium on November 6, 2020.
Interlochen Center for the Arts

The number of black bear sightings in northern Michigan is on the rise, according to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. 


Outdoors: Shakespeare's starlings

Nov 4, 2020

Eugene Schieffelin loved the plays of William Shakespeare, and he also loved birds.

I get that. But I just watch them - the plays and the birds.

Schieffelin had a grand plan to pay tribute to the Bard by bringing every bird mentioned in the Shakespearean plays to the Americas.

In just one line, in just one play - "Henry IV" - Shakespeare mentioned starlings.

Outdoors: Into the Woods

Oct 28, 2020

Halloween is the perfect time to listen to a recording of the musical "Into the Woods."

"You go into the woods / where nothing is clear / where witches, ghosts and wolves appear / into the woods and through the fear / you have to take the journey."

When his fairytale characters go "into the woods," Stephen Sondheim is using the lyrics as a metaphor for a dangerous quest required to make wishes come true.

Outdoors: Art in pandemics

Oct 21, 2020

I recently re-read "Station Eleven." This post-apocalyptic novel was the selection for the 2015 Great Michigan Read, so I read it then.

The book, set during and following a catastrophic pandemic, draws comparisons between a group of actors and musicians who travel and perform along the familiar shore of Lake Michigan and the troupes of itinerant performers who traveled through Shakespeare's England.

Outdoors: Goldfinches

Oct 14, 2020

Antonio Vivaldi wrote the Concerto for Flute in D in 1729. This work, known as "the Goldfinch," includes a birdlike cadenza and is filled with twittering passages.

I've heard recordings of European goldfinches. Vivaldi did a bit of embellishing of the bird's trills and warbles. 

In my opinion, the name "goldfinch" for the European species is a stretch. The bird is sort of brown, with yellow and black wings.

Outdoors: Taming shrews

Oct 7, 2020

Why is it that when men speak derogatorily of women, they refer to them as animals?

This beastly name-calling dates back at least to Shakespeare's time. The Bard referred to Kate as a shrew in the play "The Taming of the Shrew."

Admittedly, to describe a vicious, aggressive individual, the type who, whenever she opens her mouth, poison seems to flow out, that name might have been apt.

If the shrew fits...

Max Johnston / Interlochen Public Radio

The small town of Idlewild in Lake County was once called the “Black eden” of Michigan. For decades it attracted thousands of Black musicians, entrepreneurs and families every weekend.

Max Johnston / Interlochen Public Radio

Northern Michigan is mostly white and rural. If you’re Black, like Dilla Scott and her three children, life Up North can be hard.

They say they’ve been harassed over their 30 years living here. They’ve endured, relying on each other and their faith in God.

But now the arrest of a family member has shaken their conviction.

And they are wondering if it is time to go.

Outdoors: Seeing red

Sep 30, 2020

How many actors and dancers are bugged when they have to wear rouge?

What if they knew that, in many cases, they were smearing crushed insects on their faces? Would they see red?

Any makeup listing "carmine" as an ingredient is made from crushed insects called cochineal. 

The actual cochineal insect is puny, similar to a mealy bug. They live on the juices from prickly pear cactus.

In areas of Mexico, Bolivia and Peru, the insects are raised and harvested.

Outdoors: Black swans

Sep 23, 2020
Orange County Register

When economists talk about "black swans," they're referring to an unpredictable event, often one with a severe impact.

The year 2020 has certainly had some black swans.

Even during migration, I can't imagine seeing black swans on Green Lake or Duck Lake.

Outdoors: Cricket percussion

Sep 16, 2020

I play the keyboard for a little country church. After one of the COVID-careful services, I complained to my husband that it felt wrong, somehow, to play hymns when nobody was singing.

He pointed out that, although the congregation wasn't singing, a cricket was.

To be technical, crickets do not sing.

It's more like percussion, a sound made by striking or scraping. 

When many people think about National Geographic, they think of wildlife photography, and the stacks of magazines their parents collected. Editor-in-chief Susan Goldberg thinks that’s fine, but people should also think about National Geographic’s reporting on topics like gender and climate change. Before her current job, Susan Goldberg was a reporter for several newspapers, including the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the Detroit Free Press, and the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Does the Upper Peninsula of Michigan seem creepy to you? You might think so after reading Karen Dionne’s novels. Her latest two psychological thrillers are set in the U.P., and a third one is in the works. Karen’s best known for her novel “The Marsh King’s Daughter,” which has been translated into 25 languages. Her latest book is “The Wicked Sister.” Karen appeared at a virtual National Writers Series event and spoke with Cynthia Canty, former host of Michigan Public Radio’s Stateside. In the second half of the program, we'll hear from Brad Thor.

Outdoors: Art and trees

Sep 9, 2020

We all know that trees are essential for the environment, but trees are actually quite important to visual artists as well.

While the finest papers are still made from rags, these days, most paper comes from wood pulp.

Paper also is processed and sized with various gums derived from trees.

Rosins, usually from pine trees, are used as surface coatings for many papers.

Many historical works of art - especially Italian paintings - were created by dissolving pigments in walnut oil.

Gums from trees act as binders for watercolors.

Courtesy Legs Inn

 

A steady stream of visitors to resort areas in northern Michigan over the summer exceeded national tourism averages. But local businesses are still hurting from lost revenue during the state’s COVID-19 lockdown, and are now putting their hopes into fall tourism.

Outdoors: Monarchs of the lake

Aug 26, 2020

"He was an Englishman." I'm thinking that when W.S. Gilbert wrote "I am the monarch of the sea" for the operetta "HMS Pinafore," he was not referring to the North American butterflies known as monarchs. 

Occasionally, either because of defective instincts or being blown off course, monarchs are found roosting on drilling platforms in the Gulf of Mexico.

But monarchs do not belong on the sea.

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