Thursday, August 27, 2009

Green Energy Hub for Wixom, MI?!

Headline in the News today about repurpose of the idled Ford Wixom Plant possibly anchored by Texas-based XTreme Power, and Clairvoyant Energy, Santa Barbara, CA.

MI legislature yesterday rushed through an extension of the Economic Growth Authority tax credit program to cover the Sept. 14 federal loan filing deadline the companies need to meet.

The Detroit story calls the deal "hinging" on federal loans and state tax breaks. The reporters, in the online version, mention several other states are vying for the business but that the CEO of Xtreme Power declined to mention which.

In the Austin Statesman newspaper, one state identified is Xtreme Power's own Texas. The A-S reports the deal done. The Austin Statesman headline "Green-energy Company to Build Plant in Michigan."

Clairvoyant is working to bring Oerlikon, a Swiss high-tech company to North America. Oerlikon, among other products, makes thin film solar panels.

We have a company in Michigan that makes thin film solar panels. News today about Energy Conversion Devices 4th quarter fiscal earnings in Forbes. ENER will cut back on expansion plans which hopefully won't include the Ovonic's facilities in Greenville, MI?

Michigan workers understand competition. Barron's blog reports this week that the solar sector is in a run-up to a price war. China is turning up the amps. Michigan workers understand competition. We can handle it.

Bring it on!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Blaze Fury and Tommy Timlin

Two of my favorite people are on my mind today. I first met Blaze Fury and Tommy Timlin in 1969, and met Frances Parks, Blaze's mother, too.

Their world was fascinating. Costumes, show business, burlesque, famous entertainers. Kind, generous, happy with their work, knowing them was one of the finest experiences of my life. Backstage stories told by outstanding storytellers still echo in my mind.

Blaze said once "honey, when we find out what you can do, we're going to make you a star." Tommy watched over me like a father duck watches his swan-to-be.

When Blaze retired in the early 70s after a farewell performance at the Detroit Historical Museum, she worked wardrobe, as head and dresser at the Fisher Theatre, and other theatrical venues in Detroit, and the U.S.

In 1979, she was wardrobe head for a Cadillac dealers touring show. We joined her in New York in August, sharing her room at the Mayflower Hotel. Coming back from dinner at Tavern on the Green one night, we were surprised by cameras, crowds, police cordons around the hotel. We managed to get through, got to the room, threw open the window to watch the excitement. Godunov had defected, and the Bolshoi Ballet was staying at the hotel. We watched as a cab driver, leaning out his window, yelled to the spectators to find out what was holding up his cab.

"What?" he yelled. "The Russians are coming?"

"No," yelled someone from the crowd. "The Russians are GOING."

Blaze passed on in 1997, Tommy had moved on in the 70s. I love and miss them still.

At Blaze Fury's funeral, there was a life-sized cardboard theater prop of her, in her red sequined outfit next to the casket. The funeral was at Clyne Funeral Home, family friends. The organist played burlesque standards as we entered the small room. When the service was concluded, Dwight Clyne stood, thanked the guests, invited those attending to join the family for brunch, and asked us to stand and give Blaze Fury one more standing ovation.

Monday, August 24, 2009


Gordon Brown and Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf posted today encouragement for the United Nations to adopt a 2006 recommendation for a High Level Panel to "empower women throughout the world."

In the same post, the bloggers mention the 30th anniversary of the U.N. General Assembly Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

2010 will be the 10th year with U.N. Resolution 1325 "acknowledging" that war has effects on women and "enhancing their participation in conflict resolution."

Read the post. It uses soft words, and diplomatic language, which is appropriate for the halls of diplomacy.

But violence against women doesn't happen in the halls of diplomacy. It happens in the world. Daily. Hourly. Minute by minute.

30 years! 10 years! 2006! How many girls and women have died since 2006 as a result of war, genocide, and radical religion? How many girls and women have been trafficked from their homes, traded for goods or debt, beaten, enslaved, murdered?

The time for U.N. Resolutions and High Level Panels is long - tragically long - gone. It is past time to raise the cry for the voiceless, the missing, the exploited.

It is women who need to do this. Talk about it, write to the newspaper, your Congressperson, the U.N. U.S. Madame Ambassador Susan E. Rice is a woman. One of Michigan's Senators is a woman - and I'm going to write to Senator Debbie Stabenow.

Get involved. Zero tolerance for violence against women. JUST STOP IT!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Age of Aquarius

I'm reminded not to mind too much when my nieces show their navels. How did I get out of the house in those pants?

Barb Barton House Concert

On a soft focus summer evening in the woods of Michigan, with the trees shushing the wind, the crickets singing background, Barb Barton's music shepherded our spirits for a few hours this weekend.

We sat in cozy chairs with our shoes off as the goldfish hustled to get the best seat in the pond, and the moths fluttered to the upper balcony, stage right high on the window.

A few turns of a tuning key, a couple of soft strums, and the music of Barb Barton drifted into the summer night.

Barb Barton produces smiles, unfolds arms, balances spirits, removes the build-up of hanging out in the world.

I believe that if you're singing, it's not possible to feel bad. Barb takes that to the performance level - it is not possible for anyone to feel bad when she's singing.

A home is the best small venue to experience your favorite musician. People who are invited are there happily, eagerly. It's a mini-festival feeling.

Close up, we're rapt by tuning keys, fingers picking, the light glinting on the silvered neck of the guitars, foot moving softly to the beat. We see faces, smiles. Smiles are catchy. The intimate setting coats your psyche, the music stays in your head and the warmth stays on your heart for days.

I walked slowly out into the night after the concert, said good night to the trees, and the backlit sky, bemused and humbled by the extraordinary musical gift we'd shared, and hummed some of my favorite lyrics all the way home.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The 60s at 60

40 years ago music was what I studied, sang, played, listened to, danced with, dreamed about. We're singing Air from the musical Hair in the picture. A cappella. "Welcome, sulfur dioxide..." I was then, and still am, a second alto, tall, and an environmentalist. I may still have those jeans. I can't sing a cappella any more. Maybe I'm still Tribal.

Every generation wraps their teen years in music; and unwraps their senior years in remembering the music.

I remember. The Grande Ballroom. Aretha Franklin. Robin Seymour. Bob Seger. Marvin Gaye. Smokey Robinson. Iggy and the Stooges. The Four Tops. The MC5. Teegarden and Van Winkle. Yusef Lateef. Detroit Symphony Orchestra. The Drum Beat at 8 Mile and Schoenherr. The Crow's Nest at 11 1/2 and John R. The Ann Arbor Blues Festival.

Whatever music your ears and your spirit craved, you could get to it in Michigan.

Leni Sinclair (Detroit Artists Workshop) and Gary Grisham made a book of the music scene in Detroit from 1965 to 1975. "DETROIT ROCKS! A Pictoral History of Detroit Rock and Roll" will feature Gary Grimshaw's artwork and Leni Sinclair's photographs including many never-before or rarely seen photos by Leni, and much of Gary's artwork that hasn't been seen in the last 30 or 40 years.

I can believe I'm 40 years older. I don't believe the music is.

Healthcare Hijacked

I'm sick and scared of health care reform. What we're experiencing so far is not reform. It is a surreal game of Hide the Checkbook. And big entities are playing for high stakes with the health of the American people.

The state of Montana has 976,400 Americans in it: roughly as many residents as Detroit, Michigan. As a percentage of the US population at 304,059,724, Max Baucus's constituency represents half of 3.21% of Americans. Why is he able to hold the Senate Finance Committee hostage? Whose government is this?

How in hell did we get to this place? Which individual with power is going to step up? What media can we trust to speak for the people?

I was scared by a trailer for "The Amazing Colossal Man" back in 1958, while at the movies to see the harmless "Pocketful of Miracles." There is a scene in which the 60-foot Lt. Col. Manning grabs a huge syringe intended to cure him, and impales a man on the ground.

Are we being skewered, too?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Past Life or Eerie Serendipity?

There is a chapter in my new book, CODA that begins the story of a woman named Lyydia. She is the shaman of her village near the Arctic Circle long ago. As I wrote I saw Lyydia as clearly as if I stood next to her.

For a brief time years back, in a flurry of activity, I made figures. 14 inch tall women. One of these figures was a fur-wrapped shaman. I'd never done this art before or since. She now lives next to a warrior figure in the home of a good friend.

In the 90s, I painted a trio of paintings with the primary figure an old woman with long, unruly gray hair. These three paintings went to live in the homes of three good friends.

No similarity dawned on me until one afternoon at Higher Ground with The Sweetgrass Writers. The night before I had been reading a book from the university library about Saami Shaman drums. I am a nut for Saami drums. I turned to page 89, and there was a shaman drum pointer. I felt odd and dizzy, and I got up, opened the one place the brooch could be, and there it was. Made in Finland. It's undoubtedly newer than the 11th century and was probably my great-grandmother's pin.

I brought the book and the brooch to our writers' meeting next day, and was telling the story, when the owner of the coffeehouse asked if she could show the book and the brooch to a friend who was seated at a table across the room.

We settled in at our table, glancing over at the further table as Vanna explained the story, and the woman held the brooch and closed her eyes. There was a whispered discussion. Vanna said, "No, really, she'll want to know. I know she will."

I said, "please tell us."

The woman, Aileen, came over, gave the brooch back, sat and told what she had seen from the brooch.

An old woman, with long knotted gray hair, wearing a fur, and leggings on a frozen terrain spotted with rocks and spindly pine trees. She is alone. She is the shaman of her tribe, but she (here Aileen grabbed her throat) cannot tell all she knows. Something prevents her.

One of our writers whispered, "Lyydia." Aileen smiled and said "is your name Lyydia?" I said, "no, it's Linda."

She said, "But the woman I saw was you. I recognized you."

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Reading, Writing and Loving Both

I just signed on at with the recommendation of a friend of a friend.

Thinking about the books I've read, owned, borrowed, donated, traded, swapped, loaned, lost and got lost in, the people I've met around and about books, joining was irresistible.

So much adventure! Sail with a diabolically obsessed sea captain in pursuit of the final conflict? I've done that. Climb Mt. Everest, paddle around Australia, pursue trolls and redemption, escape treachery and bad hair days, get hoodwinked, hornswaggled and bit. Bit by werewolves, corrupt politicians, crazed first wives, and secret character flaws. And always a sigh as Our Hero triumphs over villains of every ilk and ire, internal and external through the centuries.

I've shared countless adventures in every corner of the galaxy and I never once had to buy a toothbrush I forgot to pack.

We're now wild about Jasper Fforde. Can you imagine being a biblio-detective? Jasper Fforde can, and he shares Thursday Next's life with us joyfully.

As writers, we tut-tut over the pop culture vampire craze, and behind the library meeting room door, huddle up to discover if we can contribute to the next fabulously successful subject.

We share book news, publishing trends, journal entries, writing books. As writers over 55, we wonder if we really ever did recognize a mass market miracle about to happen. Did we really have it once? Can we get it back?

We're learning how to be comfortable in the world of writing that doesn't necessarily have paper underneath it. We blog.

When we're feeling powerful, we email mslexia and ask them once more to please, please bring us a North American edition.

And we make new friends. I'm looking forward to reading Dusty Waters: A Ghost Story by Laura J. W. Ryan

I hope you will, too.