Letters to the Editor 

Q: Here's my problem: I love women. I love the way they look, I love the way they move, I love the way they sound. I like to see them naked. But the idea of actually interacting with women — trying to engage them in intelligent conversation without coming off as absolutely leotarded — absolutely fucking terrifies me. I'm a virgin at 30. I've never had a girlfriend. I've never been on a date. I've never even had a conversation with a woman that lasted longer than a couple of minutes and wasn't completely superficial and forced.

I cannot even imagine myself doing something assertive like approaching a woman and asking her out on a date. And no woman has ever approached me or even shown interest from what I could tell. Sex workers are out of the question because I don't want to risk some asshole cop busting me. Webcam sites are pretty much the only way I interact with women. Sad, no? I'm not at all afraid of vaginas — I'm afraid of women who have clothes on. Got a piece of advice for me? —Awkward And Alone

A: I've actually got two pieces of advice for you, AAA.

First piece: Get your ass to a shrink — maybe a lady shrink — who can help you with your near-crippling social anxiety and maybe toss some meds your way.

Second piece: Hire a fucking sex worker, AAA, just don't fuck her. Paid companionship is not a crime — there's nothing illegal about paying an escort to escort you places. Find a nice woman, pay her for an hour or two of her time, and have a nice, polite conversation. If you like her, make another appointment, have another conversation. Cops — asshole or otherwise — only bust men when they offer money in exchange for sex, AAA, so don't offer money for sex, or accept her offer to have money for sex, and you won't get busted. And cops working undercover to bust johns don't make follow-up appointments or build ongoing relationships with clients. So if a woman sees you more than once — or twice, to be extra safe — she's not a cop.


Q:
I am a straight and, dare I say it, vanilla woman who met a straight man who somewhat reminds me of Clark Kent and Superman. He's seemingly mild-mannered, good-looking, pleasant, an all-around great guy, just like Clark Kent — and just like Superman, he likes to wear tights.

It ends up that he likes to be dominated, spanked and buttfucked — and crossdress. Our sexual encounters are a bit different for me, to say the least, but I thoroughly enjoy them. I like spanking him, humiliating him, tying him up, and watching him try on panties (in which he looks darn good!). It's all rather exciting!

Does this mean that I'm a dominatrix? Would I act this way with other men, or is it just him? And finally, where do I go from here? —Being Deviant Satisfies Me

A: A dominatrix? That's a professional title, BDSM, and you're not planning to pursue a career in kink. (Are you?) To determine if you're genuinely and independently kinky and not just getting off on beating and binding the boyfriend because he gets off on it, you'll just have to beat and bind someone else sometime. As for where you go from here, BDSM, if you're in San Francisco or you can get there for a weekend, you might wanna sign up for Forte Femme, a weekend-long "sensual dominance intensive" hosted by kink superstar Midori. Learn more at fortefemme.com.


Q: 
I'm a GGG 38-year-old single woman, longtime reader, first-time writer.

a) What is a cream pie?

b) Do you find it weird to be turned on by getting fondled up and aroused into sex while sleeping? I have a hard time communicating to partners that I want this! Can you give communication assistance so I don't sound so freaky? —Freak In Phoenix

A: a) Google "cream pie." The first few results are relevant; the next ("Banana Cream Pie: Recipe") is not.

b) Your kink, FIP, barely moves the needle on my kink-o-meter. If you're having a hard time communicating your interest in fondled-while-asleep sex, just memorize this: "It turns me on to get fondled up and aroused into sex while sleeping."


Q:
Poop-noodle. I heard this word for the first time today. When I asked what, exactly, a poop-noodle is, I was told that a poop-noodle is what happens when you pee right after fucking someone hard in the ass. Poop gets stuck up in the dick hole and comes out in the form of a noodle when you piss. I was wondering if this is something that actually happens, and if so, can you deem "poop-noodle" the official Savage Love term for this occurrence? —Couldn't Think Of An Acronym That Spelled Out "Poop-Noodle"

A: If what you describe had ever actually happened to anyone, anywhere, ever, "poop-noodle" could be the official Savage Love term for it. But the poop-noodle never actually happens.

If you and your middle-school friends don't believe me, CTOAATSOP, here's what you should do: Go get a couple jars of creamy peanut butter or a few tubs of pre-made chocolate frosting. Refrigerate until firm. Get your dicks hard. Fuck your jars of peanut butter or tubs of pre-made frosting. Fuck them hard. Fuck them like they've been bad. Fuck them like you're never gonna recycle 'em. Then go take a piss. You will not produce a peanut butter or chocolate frosting noodle. I promise you.

And think about it, CTOAATSOP: Buttfuckers fuck butt until they come. Wouldn't coming dislodge the poop-noodle?

Finally, some general advice for anyone out there who's interested in anal but now, thanks to CTOAATSOP here, fears the poop-noodle: Wear a condom. A condom can protect you from the poop-noodle and HIV.


Q:
I am disturbd by the naked pic bribing you openly admittd & encouraged recently in yr last column. It reveals yr favoritism/elitism system & yr corruptd nature! You dont need critics to discredit yr "advice." you done it yrslf. You are Mr Sanctimoney! —509

A: I am disturbd by yr splling.

But I cannot tell a lie: Enclosing a nude pic — good nude, bad nude, boy nude, girl nude — can get my attention. But it won't automatically get a letter into the column, 509. Letters with naked pics arrive in my inbox every day. I could run nothing but letters from readers who were kind (or cruel) enough to enclose pics of themselves, their partners, their welts, their rashes, etc., week-in, week-out, 52 weeks a year. And the letter from the guy in his early 30s who lost his virginity that appeared in last week's column — the dude who enclosed pics — was the first letter from a pic-encloser that I've used in ages. So cut me some slack.

That said, slogging through hundreds of e-mails a day can get tedious. The odd pic or two — doesn't even have to be you — brightens the day and lightens the workload. So pics are always welcome.

And if you don't like it, 509, I suppose you could file charges with the professional body that governs my so-called profession, ... if there were a professional body that governed my so-called profession. But there isn't, poop-noodle, so suck it, take pics, and send 'em in.

Find the Savage Lovecast (Dan's weekly podcast) every Tuesday at thestranger.com/savage.

Mayer Hawthorne & the County

Members: Mayer Hawthorne (lead singer), Joe Abrams (bass), Topher Mohr (guitar), Quentin Joseph (drums) and Quincy McCrary (keys)

Motto: "My intention wasn't to create a throwback album. I think you can hear just as much J Dilla in my music as you can Smokey Robinson." —Mayer Hawthorne

Sound: Ann Arbor native Mayer Hawthorne (born Andrew Cohen) is frequently heralded by everyone from Kanye West to Justin Timberlake for his ability to create music that harks back to an era of '60s soul. Not just blue-eyed soul or Northern soul (read: tinged with whiteness) but rather the type of genuine, Motown-influenced smooth soul that defies race, class and time. It's also worth noting that with the exception of keyboardist Quincy McCrary, Hawthorne's entire backing band is composed of members of Funktelligence, the once-mighty Ann Arbor party band of the late '90s that made a name for itself combining elements of hip-hop, jazz, funk and soul. What you can expect is a mixture of Dap-Kings style instrumentation with whip-smart male vocals and lots of sweat. —JC


Sponge

Members: Vinnie Dombroski (vocals), Andy Patalan (guitar), Tim Patalan, (bass), Kyle Neely (guitar), Billy Adams (drums)

Motto: "No one is exempt from the rock and roll!" —Vinnie Dombroski

Sound: At one point, Sponge might've been thought of as "Detroit's answer to the Stone Temple Pilots," but when the east side band popped up on MTV back in '94, how sweet was it to see a proper rock 'n' roll frontman, weirdly alluring with skinny legs and a self-destructive élan? It's as if Vinnie had grown up more on the New York Dolls, Stooges side, while that STP dude was obviously weaned on Foreigner. Anyway, grunge is thankfully but a writhing corpse, and Sponge is what it always was, a straight-up rock 'n' roll band, albeit with a revolving door of musicians, fronted by one of the hardest-working and most ageless musicians around. —BC


Howling Diablos

Members: Mo Hollis (bass), Tino Gross (vocals), Johnny Evans (sax), Erik Gustafson (guitar), Johnny 'Bee' Badanjek (drums)

Motto: "We don't make music, we make your dreams come true." —Tino Gross

Sound: Let's put the attacks on Tino's rapping ability to one side. They never held water anyway. The Diablos are a rock 'n' roll institution, with that ever-present R&B-soul thing that permeates the sound of the long-lasting bands from these parts, and nobody brings the groove like these bad motherfuckers. (Johnny Bee on drums, natch!) Never ever forget the nimble-fingered guitar heroics of one Erik Gustafson. —BC


Ty Stone & the Truth

Members: Ty Stone (vocals), Billy Reedy (guitar), Christian Draheim (guitar), Greg Beyer (bass), Brian Reilly (drums)

Motto: "Rock out with your cook out!" —Ty Stone

Sound: Motto says all, don't it? On a high after supporting many Kid Rock arena shows, Stone is making friends thanks to his ability to croon a country ballad and then slam out an unironic Southern rock-y gem that'd do both Tony Joe White and Duane Allman proud. His big voice matches quite swimmingly his corpulent demeanor — a tour de force. He was one of Detroit's hidden treasures. Now he's a treasure. —BC 

 

Twistin' Tarantulas

Members: Pistol Pete Midtgard (upright bass, lead vocal), George Friend (guitar, vocal), Randy Gacki (drums)

Motto: "Hair, makeup and wardrobe are fine, but muscle always wins." —Pistol Pete

Sound: It's like Eddie Cochran never died, and now he's playing with the Misfits in a jail filled with inmates who previously called a trailer park their home. The Tarantulas are the ultimate party band, and they have the facial laugh lines to prove it; hell, Pistol Pete's rep has grown to mythological proportions. They'll be bringin' the rockabilly to Royal Oak, and showing the true meaning of "power trio." —BC


The Carolyn Striho Group

Members: Carolyn Striho (vocals), Scott Dailey (guitar), Ron Wolf (percussion), Kurt Zimmermann (violin)

Motto: "To the promised land tonight, this here girl can make you dance!" —Carolyn Striho

Sound: A singer-songwriter who can sing beautifully and write a hell of a good song. At her best, Striho, a known musical commodity for years in these parts, is capable of hypnotizing her listeners as if she's some kinda siren raised on bars and factories and busted hearts. She'll likely have Royal Oak eating out of the palm of her hand by the middle of her set. —BC


Cult Heroes

Members: Hiawatha Bailey (vocals), James Conway Jr. (guitar), Terry Ivan (bass), Nikki Savage (drums)

Motto: "Life is not a dress rehearsal, and every moment should be enjoyed, because we only get one chance." —Hiawatha Bailey

Sound: Only in Dee-troit. The Cult Heroes are a collection of folks who've roadied (yes, roadied — and please, save the Meatloaf guffaws!) for the likes of the Stooges, the Rationals, etc. Led by the inimitable and sixtysomething youth-eternal Hiawatha Bailey, the punk band plays covers by all of those artists who previously employed them. Besides, Arthur Lee's cool ain't got nothin' on Hiawatha's. So what do they sound like? Detroit, tough guy. —BC


Bear Lake

Members: Matt Hines (vocals, guitar), Keith May (bass, vocals), Jon Rice (guitar, vocals), Brian Kwasnik (piano, vocals), Erik Pederson (organ), Steve Stetson (drums)

Motto: "Get pop'd and chopped." —Keith May

Sound: Like rehab, they'll gladly stomp your emotions and then gently cuddle them into recovery. Think Radiohead before they quit writing actual tunes and you're partway there. Trippy indie and highly recommended. —BC 


Wrong Numbers

Members: Jason Clark (vocals), Dave Uricek (bass), Todd Boschma (drums), Matt Thibodeau (guitar), Adam Stanfel (guitar)

Motto: "You're So Fine"

Sound: It's a shame that the dudes who make up the Wrong Numbers weren't born in another decade — like the '50s, say. Then they would have taken their passion for skintight early Detroit rhythm and blues (think the Falcons, Nolan Strong & the Diablos, Mr. Pickett) and gone on to form highly influential, nay, legendary rock outfits, and they would be godfathers of the current Detroit scene. Lucky for us, though, we get to experience them in the throes of their R&B-worshipping enthusiasm — and damned if they don't do the genre proud. Between Thibodeau's razor-sharp ax work, a buttoned-down rhythm section, and the blazing vocals of frontman Clark, these cats know where it's at. —CH


Mydols

Members: April Boyle (vocals), Judy Davids (guitar), Wensdy Von Buskirk (bass), Laura Spern (drum)

They say: "It's really exciting to play ABE in Royal Oak. We all have ties here — we either work, live or send our kids to school here. It's nice that most of us can walk to ABE — though trust me we'll ride in our minivans anyway — we love them that much."

Sound: Rock 'n' roll, hip-swiveling hula hoopage and mommy 'tude are a solid combination! This has been the Mydols' busiest summer too — they've graced numerous festivals and shindigs with their swingin', stompin' rock 'n' roll and released a new full-length, to boot. Arts, Beats and Eats is their last show before they send their kids back to school and take a much-needed break. So bring the kids and catch 'em while you can! —CH


Jessica Hernandez & the Deltas

Members: Adam Davis (drums), Nick Maher (keys, guitar, banjo, trumpet), Ben Sturley (bass), Jake Shadik (saxaphone), John Raleeh (trombone), Jessica Hernandez (vocals, keys, guitar)

They say: "... and it's becoming a trend just making pretend we've been lovers for years for one night."

Sound: It's not entirely fair to pigeonhole this up-and-coming southwest Detroit singer-songwriter as our answer to the cerebrally adorable piano chanteuse Regina Spektor. But it's also not too far off the mark. Her sense of whimsy, wordplay and earthiness equal Spektor's. And her voice is a charming revelation on tunes like "Neck Tattoo," and "In the City." At other times, such as on quieter jams like "Shadow Boy," she really belts it out in crisp, clear tones. She brings an exuberance, diversity and grit to the three-minute pop song that's been making her a lot of new fans lately at festivals and in opening slots. So keep your eyes and ears open for Jessica (ably backed by the brassy horns and arrangements of her fellas, the Deltas). —CH


His Name is Alive

Members: Warren Defever, Andrea Francisca Morici (aka Andy FM)

They say: "Our new album is 10 hours long. It came out in a stone box. It's 10 discs. It's called the eclipse. The ceramicist spent four months making them. There were 50, they sold out quickly, despite their steep price tag. The first disc is now available as a download. Blarga-blarg."

Sound: Over nearly two decades, HNIA has evolved from not-so-humble beginnings as Livonia's only dream-pop act on revered English label 4AD to a bona fide genre-bending outfit spanning DIY indie-pop R&B to, oh, heck, just about everything mainman Warren Defever could imagine and find a way to sonically conceive with the tools, instruments and people at hand. Simply: There isn't an idea bands like the Dirty Projectors, TV on the Radio or most other indie darlings have had that Defever hasn't perfected first with His Name is Alive. We've damn lucky to have 'em as hometown heroes. —CH


High Strung

Members: Josh Malerman (vocals), Chad Stoker (bass), Derek Berk (drums), Stephen Palmer (guitar)

They say: "Triumphant, popular songs with subject matter ranging from self-actualization to the downright bizarre," reckons frontman Josh Malerman.

Sound: Malerman plays the court jester before the regal rhythm section of drummer Derek Berk and bassist Chad Stocker. Detroit guitar-hero Stephen Palmer electrifies the whole thing. An imaginative, original and truly rocking experience, they will also melt your face with the power of rock. Their latest album Dragon Dicks — not to mention the handful of albums they've released over the past decade — prove that these dudes know their way around a majestic pop chorus, an intricate hook and an infectious melody that sneaks up on you from parts unknown.

Bonus points: This isn't totally germane to their sound, but rather their philosophy: The High Strung have played a tour of public libraries. They have also performed at Guantanamo. They retired their long-running touring van on the steps of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Museum in Cleveland as a donation. —CH


Barrettes

Members: Betty (vocals), Barb (vocals), Bev (vocals), and Bonnie (vocals), (aka, in no particular order, Kate Feeny, Kristin Von Bernthal, Korin Vissocchi, Krista Johnston)

Motto: "It's nice to perform in the late afternoon when a few gin 'n' tonics are not forbidden to loosen the nerves." —Bonnie

Sound: In less troubled, more comfortable times, we might take a ladies' barbershop quartet for granted. These days? It's just good comfort to be reminded that four voices can take the edge off the rock 'n' roll and then put it back in unexpected, wide-eyed-grin-inducing ways with their covers of such rock classics as "Gay Bar" by Electric Six, "Hotel Yorba" by the White Stripes, "Don't Want You Back" by the Sights, and "Sabotage" by the Beastie Boys. When these ladies belt it out, you may just forget about the originals entirely. —CH

 

Romeo Flynns

Members: D. Lawrence Lee (guitar, vocals), Jimmy Moroney (bass), John Sarkisian (drums)

Motto: "We came to play." —D. Lawrence Lee

"We're kinda worried about the gun-toters," Romeo Flynns frontman D. Lawrence Lee says. "I'm probably going to invest in a bulletproof vest. Maybe a bulletproof guitar too."

Lee is talking of the recent debate and vote by the Royal Oak City Commission that eventually resulted in festival attendees being permitted to carry licensed weapons at the event. Not that the Flynns, a full-on power-pop band in the classic Cheap Trick mold, have anything to be worried about. Their catchy-as-fuck, every-song-a-single ditties surely offend no one. Rather, they're quite capable of being the surprise package of the entire fest. The musicians are tighter than their own trousers, and, in Lee, they've a singer, guitarist and songwriter who more than knows his way around a melody.

"This is our first time playing this festival, and we're really looking forward to it," Lee says. "When we were first starting out as a band, this seemed to be the premier urban festival. We're sure that we can bring something different to the event."

Well, different and yet the same. See, Lee and his band have a very definite, welcome retro appeal. "We definitely have a sound that's rooted in the '80s and early '90s," Lee says. "It always amazes me that a lot of bands from past eras come to Detroit, to venues like Pine Knob (now DTE Energy Music Theatre), and they just seem to play the old favorites. If people love that music as much as they seem to, I don't understand why many of these bands don't release new product. That's where we come in. We give folks familiar-sounding music, but it's all new stuff."

The Flynns, you'll note, were once called the Shake, and they actually attempted changing their name to the Errol Flynns but were denied permission by the late actor's estate.    

Anyway, the singer is, um, all popped up to see how Royal Oak will pick up where Pontiac left off with Arts, Beats & Eats. "It's going to be interesting," Lee says with a grin.  

So what does Lee see in other bands at the Labor Day blowout? 

Lee says he's "heard great things about the Orbitsuns. I've never seen them before, though, so I'll try to catch their set. I think there are a couple of Beatles tribute bands playing too, so I'll try to see them. I'm a huge Beatles fan."

Overall though, the songwriter hopes folks leave their shooters in the closet. "Let's forget about that gun nonsense," Lee laughs. "Let's just enjoy the party instead. The Flynns all love a drink, so we'll see you at the bar." —BC

The the Detoit Jazz Fest headliners are among some of the biggest names in jazz, blues and R&B, staring off opening night Friday with headliners Take 6 (featuring pianist Mulgrew Miller) and Tower of Power (at the Chase Main Stage, at Cadillac Square, starting at 6). Subsequent days deliver the likes of the Yellowjackets (one of the most durable pop-fusion outfits of the last three decades), Branford Marsalis (as close to a household name as anyone in his jazz generation other than his brother Wynton), the Manhattan Transfer (so popular that they had their own TV variety show — pre-cable, even) and Allen Toussaint (the R&B powerhouse involved with hits from "Working in a Coal Mine" to "Lady Marmalade" to his recent post-Katrina collaboration with Elvis Costello).

Here are some top picks among the others for whom some explication may be in order. Locations are abbreviated with Carhartt Amphitheatre as CA, Absopure Waterfront Stage as AWS, Mack Avenue Pyramid as MAP, Chase Main Stage as CMS, Meijer Education Stage as MES and Pepsi Jazz Talk Tent as PJTT:


Maria Schneider Orchestra

Such titles as "Hang Gliding," "Sky Blue," "Cerulean Skies," "Nimbus" get at the up-in-the-air, suspended feeling that this bandleader-composer-arranger creates with her orchestra. And that's not to say that the Schneider skies don't include daring aerial acrobatics and Coltranesque updrafts. She's today's leading heir to the Gil Evans style (she studied with Evans and also with the similarly inclined Bob Brookmeyer) of big band impressionism, but the excitement is in hearing what this two-time Grammy winner is doing with the inheritance. (Sunday, 2 p.m., CA)


Trio M

"Hypervirotuosic," which was the way Chicago critic Howard Reich described pianist Myra Melford, might very well be applied to cooperative group in which she teams up with bassist Mark Dresser and drummer Matt Wilson. Dresser is probably best known for his long tenure with Anthony Braxton. Wilson's work with his own Arts and Crafts group suggests the most populist bent here. They're one of the few festival highlights in the avant-garde category. (Sunday, 6 p.m., MAP)


Mulgrew Miller

His lack of renown beyond jazz circles is a sad mismatch for his prodigious talent and standing among the cognesceti, ... but as festival artist-in-residence, audiences have numerous opportunities to hear him in multiple roles, from backing Take 6 during Friday's opening concert to performing with the William Patterson University Septet (Saturday, 12:30 p.m., MAP) to the MSU Jazz Orchestra along with baritone saxophonist Gary Smulyan (Saturday, 3:45 p.m., CA), as well as in a reunion of his group Wingspan (including saxophonist Steve Wilson and vibraphonist Steve Nelson, Saturday, 9:45 p.m., AWS), in a "blindfold test" listening session (Sunday, 3:30 p.m., PJTT) and in piano duets with Kenny Barron (Sunday, 5:45 p.m., CA). A devotee of Oscar Peterson, he was integral to groups led by Art Blakey, Tony Williams and Woody Shaw before his solo career began in earnest.


Mambo Legends Orchestra

Tito Puente is gone a decade this year, but this mambo king is hardly forgotten, with reissues (his 1958 classics Dance Mania got a major 50th anniversary treatment) and his timbales on display at the Smithsonian. Ditto this group of his orchestra mainstays: on timbalero Jose Madera; on bongosero Johnny Rodriguez; and saxophonist-flutist, Mitch Froman. (Sunday, 9:45 p.m., CMS).


Salim Washington & the Harlem Arts Ensemble

A growing force on the New York scene, the former Detroiter, by way of Harvard, returns to Detroit to put together a hybrid group of his regular New York collaborators (notably the trombonist-trumpeter KuUmba Frank Lacy) and such Detroiters as pianist Pam Wise and guitarist (and former MT columnist) Keith Owens (Saturday, 4:45 p.m., MAP). The set follows some eminently earworthy talent on the same stage, including U-M faculty member Ellen Rowe's Ensemble (2 p.m.) and Brad Felt's NuQuartet Plus (3:30 p.m.), the latter built around Felt's bracing lead euphonium.


Freddy Cole, Ernie Andrews and Tierney Sutton

Stars like Manhattan Transfer, Kurt Elling and Take 6 aren't the only jazz vocal offerings. Consider Sunday's offerings. There's Freddy Cole, a younger brother to the late Nat; the vocal similarities are unmistakable, but hardly the whole story (4:45 p.m., AWS). Ernie Andrews, a '50s star whose career revived in the '80s is with the likes of trombonist Steve Turre and guitarist Melvin Sparks with the MF Productions Defenders of the Groove (8 p.m., CA). Unfortunately the Defenders start at the same time as the Tierney Sutton Band, whose records sequence standards (sometimes with curveball interpretations) into thoughtful suites (8 p.m., MAP). 


Bobby Watson

The energetic alto saxophonist hails from the city of Charlie Parker (Kansas City), and, while hardly a bebop police-type, he struts his Parkerania proudly. He's also keenly appreciative of the soulful and deceptively simple, having once titled an album Motown Bop. He performs as a special guest (what other kind is there?) of the Western Michigan Jazz Orchestra (Sunday, 2:30 p.m., AWS) and reunites his belated group Horizon (the Motown Bop outfit), including drummer Victor Lewis and the trumpeter Terrell Stafford (Monday, 4:15 p.m., MAP).


Complete schedule at detroitjazzfest.com.

Imagine your little boy or girl gets interested in the legal system and decides he or she would like to be a judge someday. Wouldn't that just be a parent's dream?

What, after all, could be a better or more important job than applying the laws and helping people understand them? It's also ever so much more respectable than being a pimp or a bond trader.

So imagine that little Johnny or Tamika asks, "How do you get to be a really important judge, like on the Michigan Supreme Court?" There are a variety of answers you could give, having to do with studying hard, finding a good law school, keeping your nose clean and your financial dealings cleaner, etc.

However, if you want to be honest, you could say, "Well, it helps a lot to curry favors with the right politicians and donate to their campaigns. Get active in a political party and schmooze the higher-ups. Having sufficiently vague views is a plus too — though members of your party should at least think they know where you are on the litmus test issues, most importantly abortion.

"But being in the right place at the right time is the most important thing of all. Got it, kid?"

Like it or not, that's how the system works in Michigan, and one kid who must get it is a boy from Grayling named Alton Davis. Well, he isn't so much of a kid anymore — he's 63 — but he's just had one heck of a week. Tuesday, he was an unknown judge on the Michigan Court of Appeals. Gov. Jennifer Granola put him in the job five years ago, and he's plugged away ever since. 

Then his phone rang, and it was her gubernatorialship once again. Elizabeth "Betty" Weaver wants to resign. Would he like to be named to the Michigan Supreme Court? Huh? Would Ferris Buehler like to skip school and borrow a Ferrari? Damn straight.

So the next day Betty quits; Jenny appoints Alton, and he's immediately a justice of the Michigan Supreme Court, thank you very much. Four days later, delegates to the Democratic state convention, most of whom had never heard of Davis before, nominated him to run for a full eight-year term this November. He'll almost surely win too. That's because his name on the ballot will be accompanied by the words "Justice of the Supreme Court." His opponents, by implication, are the inferior generic brand, and we know none of the cool kids ever go for those. True, two years ago, the Democrats managed to defeat a sitting GOP supreme, Clifford Taylor, by cleverly spending millions on a commercial that professed to show him sleeping on the bench. (He probably never did.)

But that was a lucky shot. In any event, it also further illustrates a major problem this state has. Michigan, in many ways, has the worst and most politicized state supreme court in the nation. That's not just my judgment. Two years ago, the University of Chicago law school issued a study ranking Michigan's highest court worst of all such courts in the nation.

They found that Our Supremities, then controlled by an ultra-right "Gang of Four," were little respected for their decisions, and the least independent from business of any high court in the nation. That was largely because elections for Michigan's supreme court, unlike those in most other states, are partisan.

Were you taught in school that justice was supposed to be blind when it comes to politics? They weren't talking about Michigan, baby. While independents can run, and have even been elected, our seven supreme justices are normally chosen by political party conventions. This year, for example, two of the seven have to run for new eight-year terms. So last weekend, Republicans chose two candidates, and Democrats two — the newly famous Mr. Davis, as I have just said, and Denise Langford Morris. Republicans nominated one of their incumbents, Robert Young, Jr., and Mary Beth Kelly.

They all owe their place on the ballot to partisan convention delegates, few or none of whom are legal scholars. Do you suppose these nominees were chosen for their legal writings — or because they seemed to pass the usual litmus tests on issues like abortion?

Besides that, the way Alton Davis got his job is not exactly the way anyone interested in putting the best judges on the court would design things. That would probably involve a committee of legal experts recommending the names of those most qualified.

The way Michigan does it, the governor can appoint anybody anytime there is a vacancy, and that appointment isn't even subject to state Senate confirmation. Right now, Republicans in the Senate are actually holding up three appointments the governor has made to an unpaid board called, I kid you not, the Michigan Carrot Committee.

But she can plug a vacancy on the state's highest court with whomever she wants. Incidentally, this is not to cast any aspersions on Alton Davis. The few people I know who know him tell me that he is a man of integrity and a good judge. True, Jennifer Hoff, the vitriolic new GOP spokesman, denounced him as a "partisan hack." But that's because her bosses bitterly wanted their own partisan hack instead.

But the way Davis got on the court was this: Betty Weaver made a deal to screw her fellow Republicans, whom she's been mad at for years. Weaver is from Glen Arbor, and wanted another judge from Up North on the court. She told Granholm that if she would appoint Davis, she would quit. Otherwise, she wouldn't.

Weaver said as much. So the deal was done.

Think that's bad? Had Granholm desired, she could have put the pseudo-employed first gentleman, Dan Mulhern, on the court — or anybody else who has been a lawyer for five years.

This is pure craziness, and we need to fix it. But how?

Michigan voters are going to be asked in November if they want to call a convention to write a new state constitution. That would be the best way to address many problems. Unfortunately, nobody is out there crusading for it, and the establishment is working hard to make sure this doesn't happen.

Even if they succeed, we can still change this wacky system with a plain, common, garden-variety state constitutional amendment.

We better do something. The Michigan Supreme Court has several justices who have worked hard to give the impression that the court is a remake of The Gong Show. Permanently combining that with Let's Make a Deal is the last thing this state needs.


How sweet it is:
For the last year, Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, the gel-haired wonder from Rochester, has refused to compromise on anything that might be good for the state of Michigan.

He wouldn't permit a cent of new revenue to be raised, or lift a finger to save the college scholarships promised Michigan kids. Nor would he consider any of the governor's proposals. Why? Apparently, he believed this was the best way to get the hard right-wingers to give him the nomination for attorney general at the GOP state convention last Saturday. But guess what?

Despite a last-minute push, he lost. Now, in January, the Bishop of No will have to rejoin the private sector he championed so fiercely, and worked so hard to avoid having to re-enter.

If you are a crocodile, you may shed a solitary tear.

The Wonder Twins recently visited Belle Isle in search of music and find good sounds and an immersive experience. 

D'Anne: I hadn't been to Belle Isle since I was a little kid. For some reason I remembered it being really small.

Laura: The last time I was there was almost 10 years ago for a charity walkathon. I only remember it was hot, I was tired, and I vowed to never agree to walk around for charity again — no matter what the cause or location.

D'Anne: This time we didn't walk all over the island, we drove all over it trying to find Come Hear Belle Isle — a charity event for the island itself.

Laura: And we drove around for a long time.

D'Anne: Because — funny thing — it turns out that Belle Isle is not small. It is in fact the largest island park in all the land.

Laura: And the Come Hear Belle Isle organizers were skimpy with the signage. We saw maybe two signs that vaguely pointed us toward the Remick Music Shell. We encountered family reunions that had more helpful and plentiful signage. 

D'Anne: And there were a lot of family reunions. And bounce houses. In fact, I think each family reunion had its own bounce house.

Laura: The family that bounces together stays together.

D'Anne: True. We also saw a large group of people getting baptized. 

Laura: Yes. Full immersion baptism. They were all wearing white. I do not think they had a bounce house.

D'Anne: Belle Isle is a great place to get wet for the Lord. The weather was perfect for it.

Laura: Also, though I don't want to tell people how to live their lives, if you're planning to participate in a wearing-all-white full immersion public baptism any time soon, please carefully consider your undergarment choices. 

D'Anne: Pink thongs make Jesus weep.

Laura: At this point, we've driven around the island several times. We've bounced in the pirate ship bounce house, gone zipping down the giant slide, and crashed the Hall-Marks family reunion (excellent potato salad, by the way).

D'Anne: But we still haven't found Come Hear Belle Isle! It's time to ask for help.

Laura: Thankfully, we came across a group of people wearing shirts that said "Security" in large letters and asked for directions.

D'Anne: The security guard who assisted us said we were on the wrong side of the island. For somebody wearing a sizable silver necklace that said, "BITE ME," she was surprisingly helpful and polite.

Laura: Whether by luck or the exhaustion of possibilities, we finally found our event.

D'Anne: The music shell was aptly named. The stage looked kind of like a giant open clam. The sound was really good. When we got there Loune, a band from East Lansing, was onstage.

Laura: They were busting out the tuneful indie rock that barefoot boys in capri pants are so good at these days.

D'Anne: Yes. In any case, it was cool to see an East Lansing band in Detroit. 

Laura: The audience was kind of sparse. I think a bounce house would have really helped attendance. And changing the name to the "Come Hear Belle Isle Family Reunion."

D'Anne: One of the goals of this event was to get a new generation of folks to Belle Isle to see what a beautiful place it is and, in that respect, I think the event was a success. 

Laura: Considering the current economic situation of the city, it's important that people care about the future of Belle Isle and recognize that it really is a bright spot in Detroit. 

D'Anne: Agreed. My only complaint is the goose waste. 

Laura: If you wanted to be on the grass near the stage it was unavoidable. And people were laying down blankets, romping around barefoot, just sitting on the bare ground. 

D'Anne: I mean, god bless 'em, but that's just not how I roll. The bottom line is that geese should not be allowed to just shit everywhere.

Laura: They should wear diapers. That should be part of the economic stimulus package: Hire people to change goose diapers on Belle Isle.

D'Anne: I would very much like you to present that idea to City Council.

Laura: I'll write up a proposal. Speaking of economic stimulus, the next band to play was Maunder Minimum, which just put out an EP called We Are the Economic Stimulus.

D'Anne: They also sang a love song to the Bridge Card. At least, I think it was a love song. In any case, it was very impassioned.

Laura: They reminded me of a more country-tinged Modest Mouse or Violent Femmes.

D'Anne: And then it was off to the aquarium. Which was not depressing at all.

Laura: I sense some sarcasm. It was, however, a rare opportunity, seeing as the aquarium has been closed since 2005. The inside of the aquarium is really beautiful.

D'Anne: There are folks working hard to reopen it. All they need are fish and water, according to the guy from Friends of Belle Isle Aquarium who showed us around. And some great big scissors to cut through red tape. But right now, out of the many tanks, there's only one with any fish in it.

Laura: "Star fish," as the guy told us, since the tank was filled for a movie filmed there recently.

D'Anne: I'm pretty sure he said the film was called Naked Angel. Probably aquamarine porn. That's a hot trend right now.

Laura: And you know this how?

D'Anne: Never mind that. After the aquarium, we hustled back to see Chris Bathgate, who had already started playing. 

Laura: We are both fans of him already. It was just him and his guitar.

D'Anne: And yet he managed to sound louder than some of the full bands. I have to admit, I was worried for the hearing of that baby in the audience.

Laura: You're such a mom. Still, there are worse sounds to lose your hearing to.

D'Anne: Chris Bathgate played a new song that he said didn't even have a title yet. I'm excited to hear more new stuff from him.

Laura: The last band we saw was the High Strung. 

D'Anne: I had never seen them before and had been feeling left out. I've heard a lot of good things about them. They kind of reminded me of the Who crossed with Flaming Lips and the Polyphonic Spree.

Laura: They're always fun. They put on a good show and always seem excited to be there whether they're playing in front of a big crowd or a handful of people.

D'Anne: You just like them because they named their new album Dragon Dicks.

Laura: Guilty. 

D'Anne: I think it speaks to my disdain for sci-fi and fantasy that when I heard the name of their album I thought it was called Draggin' Dicks. You know, like the hefting around of really heavy penises.

Laura: Maybe that could be the name of a future B-sides collection.

D'Anne: D-sides. Or P-sides

Laura: That's enough out of you. This event really made me want to go to Belle Isle more. I hope they do it again next year.

D'Anne: Though next time, the bands should play from inside a bounce house.

Laura: A full-immersion bounce house in the newly opened aquarium.

D'Anne: Now you're talking.

Get schooled

Thanks for your coverage of the University of Michigan's Semester in Detroit program ("A season in Detroit," Aug. 25). Simone Landon's smart piece was timely, as we are now recruiting both undergraduate students and Detroit nonprofits for Winter 2011. (See semesterindetroit.com.)

My only quibble is that the article inadvertently slights other great U-M initiatives happening in partnership with various Detroit organizations and people — some of which have been happening for many years, even decades. Students, staff and faculty from U-M schools and colleges — including public health, engineering, law, social work, urban planning, art and design, and more — are doing research, service and community engagement reciprocally and respectfully in partnership with many Detroit-based organizations and neighborhoods. Metro Times readers are invited to see for themselves with a visit to the U-M Detroit Center at Woodward and Mack Avenue — now in its sixth year at that site.

I hope MT will continue to cover these important university-community collaborations as they are an important and growing factor shaping Detroit's and the greater region's future. —Craig Regester, Detroit, associate director, U-M Semester in Detroit


People power

Re: Bernero vs. Snyder (Aug. 11), based on recent polls, it is clear to me a large majority of Michiganders doesn't understand that our current economic woes have been decades in the making. Starting with Reaganomics in the 1980s — followed by horrible trade agreements made in the 1990s — our state has been ravaged by policies that have literally destroyed the middle class and concentrated the nation's wealth to an elite few. 

That said, I cannot understand why anyone would even think of putting a wealthy Wall Street type with no experience in governing in the Big Chair in Lansing. Although no one we choose will be the magic cure for Michigan's economic ills, I believe a populist and common sense approach to rebuilding this state is what we need now. —Mark Barringer, Farmington Hills


Love light is on

Re: Travis Wright's article about disc jockey Jon Moshier and the role that 1980s disc jockey the Electrifying Mojo played in his life ("What's the frequency?" Aug. 18), when I saw the cover of that edition, I was, at first aghast that the title "The Electrifying Moshier!" had been used. "How dare someone," I thought, "adapt the moniker to describe someone other than the one and only Mojo." Upon turning to the article, my attitude softened as I realized the homage being paid by the contemporary Moshier to his "mentor." I am now 49 years old. But from my mid-teens to mid-20s, I lived for the Electrifying Mojo's radio program. Wright did a great job exploring Mojo's influence on Moshier; and Moshier's recollections brought me back to 11 p.m. on Friday nights, listening to Mojo tell us to flash our porch lights as we waited in anticipation of the incredible mix of tunes. The highlight of my life was to actually call the radio station one late night and actually speak to the Mojo. Thanks to Jon Moshier for giving the Mojo the credit he is due. Next stop is the mothership. Get ready to ride. —Claudia Tusset, Mount Clemens 


Dear John

I just wanted to send a quick expression of admiration for the articles by Detroitblogger John. As a 25-year-old lifelong Detroiter (not metro Detroiter), I appreciate his eagerness to explore the quirks of Detroit life that may not be flashy enough for the front page but are interesting enough to encourage readers to explore it for themselves. Our citizens have so much character, and it is truly refreshing to see someone take notice of the people that make up the place. —Marcia Venson, Detroit

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