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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Ann Arbor News
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2003-05-29 - 3:27 p.m.

EmarketingMag printed the results (scroll down) of a study on yuppies by The Media Audit, which is apparently some kind of demographic survey. The results? Of the 85 "markets" they studied, Ann Arbor had the highest percentage of yuppies.

"Yuppies are an asset to any market," someone at the firm producing the survey observed. "Their buying power is already substantial and it's going to continue to grow for decades."

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2003-05-28 - 10:52 p.m.

Seen on a bumper sticker today: "i'd rather not be in ann arbor." Same colors, same font. Does anyone know where we can get one of these?

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2003-05-27 - 5:13 p.m.

More local-business fetishization in the Daily. We're sure that Herb David Guitar Studio is a great place to buy musical instruments, but can it really be said that guitar-store chains, along with Starbucks, display a "well-planned insipidness"? "Hang that nondescript watercolor closer to the door...no, something's not right, we're still not projecting the right image. It's got to scream insipid."

Herb David has been successful even though "other stores offering ethnic and vintage instruments have folded or moved to Detroit." The writer views its staying power as evidence that "goodwill has triumphed over market forces." But isn't it possible that Herb David, described here as "one of the best-known music stores in the world," is around specifically because of market forces - consumers preferring it to inferior competitors? We're no free-market libertarian, but sometimes a local business closes up shop for non-sinister reasons.

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2003-05-26 - 8:14 p.m.

Did you know that the state of Michigan offers tax credits for the upkeep of historic-district homes? Neither did we. Even additions to a house qualify, as long as they're approved. Apparently, tax cuts that just happen to benefit the rich disproportionately are too underhanded; better to go with specifically targeted ones.

This was brought to our attention by an opinion piece in The Ann Arbor News today, in which the following nightmare scenario is envisioned: the house across the street from your beautifully maintained century-old mansion is being covered with gauche vinyl. But wait - it gets much worse. "[T]he entire home is being converted into rental apartments."

The writer argues for a historic district as a way of preventing this kind of catastrophe. Now, the vinyl would clearly be verboten under historic-district rules. But we weren't aware that these ordinances also forbid the conversion of houses into apartments. Is this true? If so, then the impact of these districts on students has been greatly understated. The original News article mentioned only that fraternities and sororities might have to pay for expensive repairs.

So maybe it's time for students to start paying more attention to the activities of the Historic District Commission. Of course, they can be a bit arcane. "Commissioner Bruner stated he preferred the ell gable at ninety degrees to the main gable for its look, water shedding capabilities, and historically - the ell would have a gable perpendicular to the roof," runs one riveting excerpt. But sometimes they can tend toward high comedy, such as when two commissioners request that "the historic elements be incorporated without it looking old."

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2003-05-24 - 4:00 p.m.

We've finally thought up a solution for those townies who love A2's exquisite art galleries and home furnishing stores but cringe at the sight of the occasional beer bottle on the lawn of a historic home: move to Saugatuck.

Saugatuck, Michigan, to which we were occasionally coerced to go as a child on family vacations, is basically Ann Arbor without any of the things that the Bobos find irksome. A glance at the town's website reveals uncanny similarities between Saugatuck and A2, or at least the idealized A2.

Saugatuck is mainly known for its art galleries - it calls itself "The Art Coast of Michigan" - and it does boast an incredibly long list. The town's retail culture is described thus: "Here you peruse. You don't 'shop' here. You savor. You wander along on a sensory journey through a melange of cultures, life-styles and tastes. In a retail world increasingly dominated by bigness and sameness, the shops of Saugatuck/Douglas are almost audacious in their individuality." And one can "walk - in a safe and friendly environment - to almost everything."

Best of all, there are no students.

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2003-05-22 - 2:42 p.m.

Ypsi Rocks' trash-talking stickers get it mostly right about A2, despite leaning too heavily on the Starbucks/chain-store red herrings that don't have much to do with what's really wrong here.

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2003-05-21 - 4:16 p.m.

The new plan for Broadway Park will involve lots of places to read things on plaques.

[T]he construction will include some spots that could feature overlooks or historical plaques. ... The city has planned for several other spots that can be used for displays, including areas of about 4-by-20 feet overlooking the river, with enough space for people to stop and maybe read something about the area. And there could be space for information on 5-foot bases on lamp posts to be installed at either end of the bridges.

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2003-05-19 - 2:42 p.m.

A2 makes The Smoking Gun. The strip club Ron Jeremy made an appearance at may have been in Ypsi, but he stayed right here in Tree Town. We can only hope the hotel was locally owned.

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2003-05-17 - 4:50 p.m.

Well, we've made it. Today is the one-year anniversary of Ann Arbor is Overrated, formerly Ann Arbor Sucks.

When this blog first started, we thought we'd run out of things to hate about Ann Arbor by the end of the summer. But that hasn't happened at all. If anything, we now have a much sharper understanding of why we've taken on A2 as an adversary. And we hope that you do too.

When The Ann Arbor News took Talk About Town offline, we thought that it would be an insurmountable obstacle. Where would we possibly find local-flavored vignettes about dogs and crafts? But we've made it past that setback.

So thanks for reading. And as long as we're stuck here, and A2 has its rapacious landlords, clueless student journalists and locals who don't see any reason why a quaint little college town has to include students, we'll try to keep doing this.

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2003-05-16 - 1:18 a.m.

It's crime as it could happen only in A2 - a car vandalized with the misspelled name of a hippie alternative-education school. From the Ann Arbor News police log:

An Ann Arbor woman told city police Wednesday her car was damaged by vandals who egged it and smeared it with ketchup and mustard.


Written in ketchup on the truck was "Stiener," possibly referring to the Rudolph [sic] Steiner Lower School of Ann Arbor, located adjacent to the victim's property on Newport Road.

Ex-Weathermen and Dylan fans will be disappointed that the vandals didn't take any of the car's handles.

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2003-05-15 - 2:48 a.m.

The recent A2 scandal involving a county prosecutor who stole a quarter from a phone booth widens. Ann Arbor News columnist Judy McGovern reports that Brian Mackie, the principal figure in what she dubs "Quartergate", is "literally, if not clinically, compulsive about scooping up all the lost change in his path."

More local business clarification. trampslikeus writes:

For accuracy's sake: Potbelly replaced Discount Records (Harmony House [which was a regional independent before it went under last year] was replaced by that gallery for the art school). Discount was a fairly useless and crappy record store but did once employ Iggy Pop, a distinction its fratty successor will likely never claim.

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2003-05-13 - 2:22 p.m.

A reader on the current hand-wringing about the state of local businesses in A2:

You know, that Potbelly place replaced a Harmony House. And Cosi replaced a Hallmark. EMS? A ghetto party store that charged twice as much as Diag. Local businesses, my ass.

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2003-05-12 - 2:46 p.m.

Ann Arbor was so much cooler in 2002.

No, not really. But the Daily's recent well-intentioned editorial on the "Starbuckization" of A2 makes us think that this will be the rallying cry in a few years. In it, the Daily mourns the loss of local businesses like the recently departed Decker Drugs.

Let's take a look at these local businesses that the Daily misses so much. There's Ethnic Creations and Shiva Moon, both of which roughly fit into the "New Age gift shop" category. Schoolkids Records, which still maintains a State Street presence, last we checked. Finally, there's Campus Bike and Toys. We've always felt there were more than enough bike stores in A2, but we'll leave this to the outdoorsy types. As an example of a still-thriving business with local "ambience", they offer Rod's Diner, which serves up funky atmosphere between the hours of 8 a.m. and 3 p.m.

Replacing these kinds of establishments, which serve mainly to inflate A2's sense of its own bohemian-ness, with the latest sandwich chain doesn't have much effect on the actual student experience. The Daily should be lamenting the local businesses that we've rarely or never had in A2, at least in recent memory. The 24-hour diner that's less pretentious than the Fleetwood. The coffeehouse that serves up the caffeine well past midnight. The rock venue that manages to steal a few acts away from the Magic Stick.

"It is time the government allocated resources and worked with proprietors in order to aid these local businesses," the Daily writes. We can only hope that the independent, locally-owned stores designed to prey on carless students with prices several times what you'd pay at Kroger get all the help they need.

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2003-05-09 - 5:39 p.m.

"Yeeech, the dry season has arrived! Now that school's out at the University of Michigan, you'll find the pickings slim indeed for offbeat movies in Ann Arbor - a deprivation that will likely persist until September," laments The Ann Arbor News.

And here we thought they were slim all year round, unless six-month runs of "Amelie" and "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" count as offbeat.

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2003-05-07 - 1:47 p.m.

Electric Current reader Chris Taylor details the hostile reception artists and musicians get from the city of A2. His letter is too long to recap here, but here's the main point:

Ann Arbor promotes itself as a Midwestern artists' Mecca. This couldn't be further from the truth! The Technology Center, the last affordable artists space in town, is being torn down at the end of June to make way for a new $18-million-dollar YMCA.


This is the type of attitude that the "powers that be" have been inflicting upon the Ann Arbor underground sub-culture for decades, going back some 30 years to incidents involving people like John Sinclair and the MC5. Yet Ann Arbor claims that it welcomes cultural/artistic diversity. We have the Art Fair, don't we?

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2003-05-06 - 4:27 p.m.

Never let it be said that A2 lacks a sense of punk-style excess and abandon. The Washtenaw Audubon Society's "Big Day", an "extreme birding" event, is, The Ann Arbor News warns, "for hard-core birders - not the ones who think a big breakfast at a Dexter or Chelsea eatery is indispensable on a birding trip." The birders "show their mettle by stopping only long enough to eat gas station food as they rush around the county."

Kick out the birds!

The News hasn't neglected the tree beat in this frenzy, though.

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2003-05-05 - 5:44 p.m.

It's yuppie landowners against yuppie "house lovers" in a battle to the death!

The "house lovers" want to preserve the "character" of Ann Arbor, which to them lies in expensive houses whose meticulous maintenance is enforced by historic district fascists. That we can't dispute. But, as a weblog devoted to destroying the character of Ann Arbor wherever it rears its Bobo head, we've got to side with the landowners.

"Is that magnificent or is it magnificent? Look at it!" gushes a preservationist quoted in the article as she drives through A2. "We should have a show...We would call it, 'The Old War Horses of Ann Arbor.' Join us as we tour our city and show you why we love it." One preservationist even keeps an "inch-thick file" on a house that was demolished 17 years ago.

The historic character of the city is under siege by property owners and student renters. Students, the reporter editorializes, come with the "typical student issues of noise and mess." But there are even more appalling indignities. Among them: a house rented by students to which an unsightly fire escape had been added, "obscur[ing] much of the second-floor architecture." Icky! Next they'll be blighting our fair city with wheelchair ramps. (Collapsing porches are probably okay, as long as you can't see the rubble from the street.)

Still, we can't help but not feel sorry for the opposing Citizens For Sensible Preservation. Group member Jeff DeBoer points out that these rules would only disallow changes to the outside of a house - read "gargantuan McMansion additions." He asks, "As a homeowner, how'd you feel if you spent $800,000 for your home and a small group of people you don't even know decide your neighborhood is in crisis and impose a historic district on you without any vote?" That was probably rhetorical, but we would feel wealthy.

Essentially, this is a win-win.

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2003-05-01 - 1:21 p.m.

In discussions of A2 housing prices we've had, references to New York invariably appear - this can't possibly be an expensive place to live because it's cheaper than Manhattan. Now The Ann Arbor News gives the same treatment to pollution. Apparently surprised at the failing grade given to Washtenaw County's air quality by the American Lung Association, they draw a comparison: "But that's minimal compared to other counties nationwide. Los Angeles County had 122 bad air days between 1999 and 2001."

Lower housing prices than Manhattan, less smog than LA. This is fun. Let's see, we'd be willing to bet that A2 has fewer traffic problems than Boston during the Big Dig. How about less crime than 1980's New York? And let's hear it for higher mean temperatures than Bismarck.

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