A N N   A R B O R   I S   O V E R R A T E D . (a blog.)

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2003-04-29 - 10:06 a.m.

From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

Look what University of Michigan recruiters did to get Andy Bartholomew to say yes.

They flew the Allderdice High School senior to Ann Arbor for a weekend and put him up in an executive residence. They didn't wine him, but they dined him in style, even arranging for a harpist to serenade him and other top academic prospects as professors chatted them up.

Is this kind of recruiting, and the full four-year scholarships that go along with it, for non-athlete (at least it doesn't mention he's an athlete) prospective out-of-state undergrads de rigueur now at public universities?

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2003-04-25 - 2:39 p.m.

Two headlines:

Uncertainty is most certain: Joppru, Hobson are locks to be picked, but like other Michigan draft-eligible football players, where remains in question

U-M geophysicist sure about one thing: uncertainty

The Ann Arbor News: brought to you this week by the certainty of uncertainty.

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2003-04-25 - 1:15 a.m.

Not only are we the second Google result for "ann arbor bitter grad student", the first one is a direct reference to us.


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2003-04-22 - 5:19 p.m.

Another blogger and former A2 fan explains why this town now falls short of the funky-off-center-paradise ideal that its boosters stoutly maintain it still lives up to:

[A] few years ago, it started. Gentrification. Of course, maybe that's not the right word; it's so loaded and yet vague. What happened was a gradual, silent destruction, like an implosion. One beloved, ancient record store shut down. And then a few others. Then the card store, then some coffeehouses, then, just this month, the drugstore that's been on campus since before I was born. Meanwhile, all the vacant lots started being filled with condos (in a town with practically no affordable housing), and the vacant stores were taken over by chains.
Speaking of condo-building plans, the city's maintaining a brisk pace in that area. Did you know that a "penthouse" condo on the corner of Fifth and Washington goes for $1.5 million?

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2003-04-21 - 5:03 p.m.

The Michigan Review attempts to explain why it's actually a good thing that the Ann Arbor Tenants Union is closing up shop. But they squander their credibilty with the first reason they give: "there aren't that many major landlord-tenant problems." The author hasn't had a problem with his own landlord, so, like the Onion's sociologist who concludes that the trend among American men is to have a pastrami sub for lunch at 1:30 every day, he decides that his experience applies to the A2 tenant population as a whole.

But it gets better. His landlord is Oppenheimer Properties, the company that refused to pay for the medical care of a student who fell through the porch floor of her Oppenheimer-owned building and broke a leg.

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2003-04-17 - 2:12 a.m.

The Current, on why the cuisine at a new Thai restaurant in town may be a "refreshing change of pace" for diners:

"Nothing is smothered in cheese."

Ah, those cutting-edge Ann Arbor tastes.

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2003-04-15 - 3:27 p.m.

So, the Ann Arbor Tenants Union, whom we'd been looking forward to calling next year to see what we could do about the 50-degree temperatures in our first-floor bathroom, is ending its services due to lack of funding from the Michigan Student Assembly, after the $20,000 they had received last year ran out.

We don't know if the MSA general counsel's statement that the AATU is "an ineffective service" is accurate. We don't know much about how MSA funds are allocated at all, in fact. So feel free to take it as an ill-informed swipe when we ask, what was the MSA thinking when, "in conjunction with" Students Supporting Affirmative Action, it spent about $12,000 on transporting students to Washington for admissions-case protests?

We think the money would have a better chance of helping sway our landlord than Antonin Scalia.

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2003-04-13 - 6:08 p.m.

Well, we promised a rundown of the Daily's Best of Ann Arbor list, but were feeling too - indifferent, apathetic, stupefied - to produce one in a timely fashion. Nevertheless, here goes:

Local Festival: Art Fair

Isn't this a little bit like having an "Event Where They Set an Anthropomorphic Likeness on Fire" category in the "Best of the Nevada Desert" awards?

University Website: umich.edu

Weren't you expecting emich.edu to take this one?

Compact Disc: Border's [sic]

This is not the only rogue apostrophe that made the list - a reference to "Urban Outfitter's" also makes an appearance. More to the point, we'll defend Borders over the snotty independents for books - we don't care how good the service at Shaman Drum is, the "shaman" reference is enough to put us off the place. But when they're charging upwards of $18 for CDs you can get for $13 at Wazoo or even Amazon, we can't fathom why they made the list, other than sheer voter laziness.

We're too young to have an opinion on the "Furniture Store" and "Jewelry Store" categories, and too old to decide if Tri-Delt really is the best "Sorority to Party With." Either that, or we're in an extended period of "adultolescence," and this list points out where we've gone wrong. Maybe everyone should have a short transition period in their lives where they can tell you both where to find the cheapest beer in town and where to pick up a mean armoire. This mid-twenties-adolescence thing is wholly a modern invention. Maybe the "Best of Ann Arbor" is trying to tell us something.

After all, it couldn't be that we live in a parochial cow town or anything like that.

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2003-04-10 - 1:22 a.m.

The Daily gets it wrong yet again on the subject of A2 coffeehouses and, more generally, what's wrong with this town. In the "Best of Ann Arbor" vote (not to be confused with the Current's "Best of Washtenaw County"), students picked Starbucks overwhelmingly for best coffeehouse. Rather than write a few polite words about the winner, as Daily writers did in just about every other category, Jess Piskor embarks on a searing broadside against the hopelessly bourgeois voters.

Ann Arbor is "graced with dozens of coffee shops," he writes. We've pretty much demolished that canard here already, but here goes. Piskor offers three alternatives to Starbucks - one closes at 10 (this is probably the 25th occurrence of "close at 10" in this weblog), in contrast to Starbucks' 1 or 2 am closing time. And one is the Rendezvous, which we've cited for its smoke-choked atmosphere. We've never been to the third, Cafe Ambrosia, but at least it closes at midnight. The independents' prices are not generally lower than those of the evil corporate invader, despite Piskor's bizarre assertion that Starbucks charges more than $4 for a cup of coffee. Clearly, going to Starbucks is a reasonable survival move for caffeine-dependent Ann Arborites. But Piskor - who, tongue firmly out-of-cheek, uses the phrase "tragically banal" to describe Starbucks customers (great act, The Tragically Banal, if you're into Canadian post-rock) - sees it as an act of sheeplike conformity.

Bashing Starbucks is so late 90's. Even the New York Press (we think) put hating Starbucks into the "overrated" column in a recent overrated/underrated list. And the Starbucks fixation misses the problems with Ann Arbor that are more pressing than corporate coffeehouses on a few corners - just about every other problem, in fact.

Oh, and those "corporately trained robot employees"? Even the part-timers get health insurance.

More on the rest of "Best of Ann Arbor" later.

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2003-04-07 - 8:19 p.m.

Goodspeed Update reminds us that it's time once again to take a look at the Current's Best of Washtenaw County list. Wait a minute, you're saying. Washtenaw County? What happened to "Best of Ann Arbor"? Well, they've "crossed the city line" this year to encourage people who have obviously never been outside of the closed interval between exit 172 and exit 180 on I-94 to select favorites from a number of towns.

But it seems to make no difference. The "Best Coffeehouse" closes at 10. The "Best Camping Gear Shop" - not that we condone camping in any way - displays belly shirts in its window. And the "Best Student Hangout" is the Diag. That's right. The best student hangout in Ann Arbor is a concrete walkway.

Besides these, the first-place choices are generally respectable, because Ann Arbor has about one of everything. But it's eye-opening to see just how much they have to scrape the bottom of the barrel to come up with a second-place selection for some of the categories. The second best "Place to See a Local Band" is the Ark, the folkie music theatre with tasteful lighting and comfortable seats. The second best record store is Borders. The second best "Clothing Boutique" is Urban Outfitters.

And the second best "Thing About Ypsilanti" is Ann Arbor. Oh, those wacky voters. Of course, if they'd ever been to Ypsilanti, they would have found clear choices for at least the late night eatery (Abe's Coney Island, whose down-to-earth ambience beats the troweled-on faux-sketchiness of the Fleetwood without breaking a sweat) and local-band venue (The Elbow Room) categories. Not only that, but they would have found a town that doesn't feel like an ersatz Berkeley, a town that has what pretentious city planners like to call "a sense of place." The voters in this category didn't just get it wrong - they got it backwards.

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2003-04-05 - 5:05 p.m.

The Daily strikes with the latest in a series of pieces about how students are fleeced, overcharged and taken advantage of - a look at convenience stores around campus, one of which charges $5.69 for a box of cereal. But the writer actually floats, with a straight face, the explanation that these stores, some of which are run out of residence halls at an institution that's often described as a "megaversity," simply lack the "bargaining power" to keep prices to levels that don't recall that grocery store scene in Innerspace. Could it be that the University's policy of officially "discouraging" students from bringing cars to campus and the lack of an actual grocery store anywhere within about two miles of Central or North Campus (which, to be fair, the writer mentioned) also have something to do with propping up these merchants?

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2003-04-01 - 3:53 p.m.

Well, we're not sure what to do tonight. We were going to go to that big electroclash festival at the Blind Pig, but then we found out about the Malkmus show at Scorekeepers. And the whole staff of McSweeney's offshoot The Believer appearing at Borders in Arborland sounds like a good time too. Living here gets downright exhausting sometimes!

We (heart) Tree Town! :) :)

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