Thursday, December 31, 2015

Between the Lines: The Typewriter Revolution

by Zinta Aistars
for WMUK 102.1 FM
Southwest Michigan's NPR affiliate

Between the Lines is my weekly radio show about books and writers with a Michigan connection. It airs every Tuesday at 7:50 a.m., 11:55 a.m., and 4:20 p.m. (or listen anytime online), on WMUK 102.1 FM, Southwest Michigan's NPR affiliate. I am the host of Between the Lines.

This week's guests: Richard Polt

Why would anyone these days who needs to write reach for a typewriter? Aren’t computers much more efficient? They are and author Richard Polt says that’s precisely the problem. Polt is a professor of philosophy at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio, who says the typewriter is making a resurgence, if not a revolution, in our time. He’s written about this phenomenon in The Typewriter Revolution: A Typist’s Companion for the 21st Century (The Countryman Press, 2015).

Dig deep and you will find a patent for an invention that looks much like a modern typewriter as far back as 1714. English inventor Henry Mill filed his patent, describing his invention as "an artificial machine or method for the impressing or transcribing of letters singly or progressively one after another." By the 1870s, typewriters could be found in a few business offices and in some homes too. The typewriter was a modern and much-used machine in the 19th century—but does it have a place in the 21st?

Polt’s interest in typewriters as a collector (he owns about 300 of them), enthusiast, repairman, writer/blogger and magazine editor goes beyond the romance of using a vintage machine. He opens his book with The Typewriter Manifesto. It’s typewritten, of course: 
“We assert our right to resist the Paradigm, to rebel against the Information Regime, to escape the Data Stream. We strike a blow for self-reliance, privacy, and coherence against dependency, surveillance, and disintegration. We affirm the written word and written thought against multimedia, multitasking, and the meme. We choose the real over representation, the physical over the digital, the durable over the unsustainable, the self-sufficient over the efficient. THE REVOLUTION WILL BE TYPEWRITTEN.”
“It’s not just about nostalgia,” Polt says. “As the digitization of the world races forward — challenging our privacy, our powers of concentration and our self-reliance — it becomes ever more important to find ways to stay connected to physical reality. That’s why I call the typewriter revival an insurgency against the all-digital paradigm.”
Writing on a typewriter, Polt says, gets us ...

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Fit and Trim Through the Winter Chill

by Zinta Aistars
Published in Welcome Home Magazine
Winter 2015 Issue

As the holiday season begins, motivation to maintain fitness routines wavers. The ice and snow of Michigan winters make walking, running or biking challenging if not dangerous. Driving to the gym when roads are slick makes a longer sit on the couch, potato chip bag in hand, that much more enticing.

“Typically, people gain one to 10 pounds over the six weeks of the holiday season,” says Kim Brockway, owner of Veritas Fitness, located at The Courthouse Athletic Center, 7365 Sprinkle Road in Portage. “Holidays are goal destructors! People tell themselves they will make up for all that holiday eating after the New Year, but too often that doesn’t happen.”

Brockway has been a personal trainer since 2008, and she opened Veritas Fitness in 2013. “Veritas” is Latin for truth, and Brockway encourages members to remain true to their health and fitness goals. She is ready with advice to make sure members stay stick with their good intentions through the winter.

As for the bountiful holiday table, she says: “Watch portion sizes, of course, but the best advice is to drink 16 ounces of water before you sit down to your meal. Even if you change nothing else, over 12 weeks of drinking all that water before a meal, on average you can lose 5 to 10 pounds.”

Better yet, Brockway advises, find an accountability buddy and check in with that person every day, whether a friend or personal trainer, and not just an app on your phone or other form of technology. Share your exercise with a real person.

“If you only have 40 minutes, do some strength training rather than cardio,” she says. “While cardio can burn more calories quickly, strength training such as squats, push-ups, or using dumbbells will give you a long-term burn. Find something new to do so you don’t get bored.”

Veritas offers a variety of workout boot camps, personal trainers who work with your unique fitness goals, and meal plans for those on the go.

While West Hills Athletic Club at 2001 South 11th Street in Kalamazoo is owned by Western Michigan University, only about a quarter of its 4,000 members have an association with the university, says Tyler Norman, fitness director.

“We’re a full-service athletic club, in business for more than 40 years,” Norman says. He is an exercise specialist, certified by the American College of Sports Medicine. “That’s the gold standard in the industry.”

The most common mistake Norman says that he sees among those working to achieve their fitness goals “is that people don’t have enough protein in their diets, especially when doing strength training.”

Norman encourages his clients to exercise consistently—and that includes throughout the holidays.

“Strength training, weight lifting, any kind of resistance training is great,” he says. “But the most important thing is to do some activity every day for at least 30 minutes. Do strength training twice a week if you’re beginning and work up to three or four times a week if you are more advanced.”

With his long career in the health club industry, Norman says he’s observed a healthy evolution.

“It’s not just the wealthy who are now joining health clubs,” he says. “Health clubs have become very affordable for all kinds of budgets, while personal trainers maximize the effectiveness of your workout, tailor it to your goals, and that eliminates the risk of injury while keeping you motivated and accountable.”

Celebrating 30 years of keeping exercisers looking good and providing the equipment needed for the chosen sport or activity, Gazelle Sports was founded downtown Kalamazoo, but has now expanded to Holland, Grand Rapids, and Northville. Gazelle Sports often sponsors community events, training programs, weekly clinics, and runs and walks.

“Keep moving! Don’t let winter keep you inside, but dress appropriately for the weather,” says Chris Lampen-Crowell, founder and co-owner of Gazelle Sports. “Exercising is more fun with an exercise buddy, and don’t forget your pet can be that buddy, too.”

Lampen-Crowell reminds customers to wear light colors as winter days are short. “Add something reflective that blinks, or you can look like a lamp post rather than a person. We have materials now that move moisture away from your body to maintain your core temperature, so you don’t have to dress in heavy coats to stay warm. Footwear like Yaktrax have small cleats on the bottom to keep you safe on ice—tumbles aren’t fun.”

Lampen-Crowell has a recommendation for starting the New Year on the right foot—with the John Daley One-One Run at Spring Valley Park, Kalamazoo, on January 1, 2016.

“It’s a great way to start the year, and you don’t even have to get up early. It begins at 1 p.m.,” he says. “It’s just 2.2 miles, and you can walk it or run it. It’s a fundraiser for the Boys & Girls Clubs of greater Kalamazoo, so you can help others while having fun and staying fit.” 

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Galesburg Meat Company changes to meet customers' needs

by Zinta Aistars
Published in Southwest Michigan's Second Wave Media
December 17, 2015

Jena, left, and Arlene Christian at GMC

When Jena Christian was a little girl, she remembers her father coming home from work in his long white butcher's apron, splattered with red. 

"It's Kool-Aid, honey," her father would say. 

Sitting in the back office at Galesburg Meat Company, Jena, now a grown woman, laughs heartily. Across from her, sitting at the desk, is Arlene Christian, her grandmother. Three generations of Christians have owned and managed GMC since Rich Christian, Arlene's husband, bought the business in 1977. When Rich passed, he left the business in his son Mark's capable hands -- and "Kool-Aid" splattered apron. 

"Rich was the meat manager at the Family Foods grocery store in Kalamazoo back then," Arlene says. "Someone told him about Galesburg Frozen Food Locker going up for sale, and he bought it. He was the sole proprietor then, but we incorporated about 30 years ago."

When Rich Christian took over the business at 58 Mill Street in the center of Galesburg, he changed the name to Galesburg Locker & Meat Company. At that time, Arlene explains, few people had the refrigerator space to hold a side of beef, which was what the business sold. Once the side of beef was purchased -- sometimes even financed through a bank -- it was stored in a locker. As times changed and more customers bought larger freezers of their own, the "locker" part of the business was dropped, and the name was shortened to Galesburg Meat Company.

Today's GMC sells much more than sides of beef. To beef add pork, poultry, seafood, smoked meats, along with seasonings, cheeses, sausages, and homemade jerky. Meats are sold in quantities of one-meal up to, yes, sides of beef. 

"We used to also process venison, but we stopped doing that about three years ago," Jena says. "Regulations for handling deer are complex and now require a separate building. We didn't have the space. But if someone brings in a boneless piece of venison, we will still process that." She points to a long row of venison salami swinging from a rack, ready to slice. 

What differentiates GMC from your corner supermarket, the Christians will tell you, is that to this day they are still an old-fashioned butcher shop. Meat arrives at the supermarket already packaged, but buying meat from the butcher means the customer knows exactly how fresh that cut is -- and where it is from.

"All our beef and pork is local, all from farms within five miles down the road," Jena says. "We process meat from farmers, from slaughter to packaging, or we do custom processing when someone buys from a farmer and wants it processed a certain way."

Another family tradition, passed from generation to generation, is how  ...


Pork belly


Jena demonstrates tumbler

Smoke house

Venison salami

Mark Christian

Making sausage

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Between the Lines: InsideOut Reaches Kids

by Zinta Aistars
for WMUK 102.1 FM
Southwest Michigan's NPR affiliate

Between the Lines is my weekly radio show about books and writers with a Michigan connection. It airs every Tuesday at 7:50 a.m., 11:55 a.m., and 4:20 p.m. (or listen anytime online), on WMUK 102.1 FM, Southwest Michigan's NPR affiliate. I am the host of Between the Lines.

This week's guests: Peter Markus and Nandi Comer

Nandi Comer and Peter Markus

Schools across the country have been dealing with financial pressure by cutting spending on the arts. But since 1995 in Detroit, the InsideOut Literary Arts Project has been sending writers to schools throughout the city. It's now in 30 schools. Over the years it has introduced many thousands of students from kindergarten to high school seniors to the literary arts.

The project was founded by Terry Blackhawk, a teacher who wanted to help students overcome obstacles to self- expression. With her was senior writer Peter Markus. And one of the students in the beginning, Nandi Comer, is today a writer-in-residence, teaching the next generation of students.
Peter Markus says, “Our job, whether or not we are met with resistance, is to get the students to see that they can do what we are asking them to do. We put them into situations where they can see that isn’t quite as daunting to write a poem as they thought it might be. Many of them have never written a poem before.”
The anthology To Light a Fire: 20 Years with the InsideOut Literary Arts Project (Wayne State University Press, Made in Michigan Writers Series, 2015), includes essays from poets and writers like John Rybicki, Jamaal May, Robert Fanning, francine j. harris, Isaac Miller, Nandi Comer, and many others, about their experiences working with students.
InsideOut's success in Detroit has won national attention. It's been feature in a public television program. And it won a recent award from the White House: the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award, presented by Michelle Obama.
The First Lady said in her opening remarks at the award ceremony...

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Equity, inclusion and hope on the West Side of Grand Rapids

By Zinta Aistars
Published in Rapid Growth Media
December 3, 2015

From left, Sergio Cira Reyes, Andrew Sisson, Karl Williams and Katie Booms.
Photo by Adam Bird

It’s been called the gold rush of Grand Rapids’ West Side. Recent projects in the area include an expansion of Harmony Brewing Company, a mixed-use development called Fulton Place, and Lofts on Alabama from the 616 Development, LLC. It’s a gold rush, however, that makes residents feel on edge.

“That’s why we are here,” says Sergio Cira-Reyes, project director at Westown Collaborative. “We want the residents of the West Side to feel that all this development isn’t something that is happening to them, but that they are a part of it.”

Westown Collaborative, Cira-Reyes explains, is a collaborative of organizations that support the residents and causes of the Westown community. The collaborative was founded in 2011 to bring equity, inclusion and hope to the West Side.

Facilitated with the help of Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) consultant Wayne Squires, funding for the collaborative was sought from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Grand Rapids Community Foundation, and several other organizations. Partners now include Other Way Ministries, Westown Jubilee Housing, Habitat for Humanity Kent County, Servants Community Church, the Grand Rapids Public Library, Gold Avenue Church, John Ball Area Neighbors, Esperanza Covenant Church, Downtown YMCA, Bridge Street House of Prayer, Keystone Community Church, West Grand Neighborhood Organization, and other groups.

“We want to redefine what it means to be a good neighbor,” Cira-Reyes says. “We welcome new businesses coming in, and we want to connect with them. A part of that is raising their awareness about how their projects affect the community.”

Here’s the challenge, he says. Where there used to be “mom ‘n pop” shops and businesses, large developments have been replacing them. Houses that were once owned by individuals and families—and sometimes rented out by them—are now often owned by people living in other areas, and rental properties are run by property management companies. Their goal is to earn top dollar for the property owner.

Andrew Sisson, Westown Collaborative community connector, joins the conversation.

“Currently the market rate for a studio apartment is about $1,000 a month,” he says. “That’s bringing in wealthier residents, and that means people living here are being forced out. About 40 percent of those living in these neighborhoods have incomes below the poverty level. People with children are having a hard time renting, because kids are hard on a house and the new owners don’t want to rent to them. And those who lost their houses in 2008 to foreclosure — the majority of those were sold to investors with cash, buying up single family housing and turning them into rental homes.”

Minorities and immigrant populations are particularly hard-hit, Cira-Reyes and Sisson state, while those with felonies in their histories are unable to find a place to live, let alone a living.

“Someone with a felony may have to show an income three times that of anyone else renting the same apartment,” Sisson says.

But that’s why Westown Collaborative ...


Monday, November 30, 2015

Between the Lines: A Life in Libraries

by Zinta Aistars
for WMUK 102.1 FM
Southwest Michigan's NPR affiliate

Between the Lines is my weekly radio show about books and writers with a Michigan connection. It airs every Tuesday at 7:50 a.m., 11:55 a.m., and 4:20 p.m. (or listen anytime online), on WMUK 102.1 FM, Southwest Michigan's NPR affiliate. I am the host of Between the Lines.

This week's guest: Marsha Meyer 

Marsha Meyer at WMUK for BETWEEN THE LINES (Photo credit Zinta Aistars)

We all have that first love. It hits us hard and we never forget. Some of us are lucky enough to hold onto that love our whole lives. For Marsha Meyer, that first and lasting love was the library. Meyer is retiring from the Portage District Library after 35 years but she remembers well that moment when she first entered the magical world of books as a child.

“It was an old building and it had quarter-sawn tables with the little yellow light, and I would go there after school and think—I want to live here,” Meyer recalls.
While today’s libraries are abuzz with technology, including electronic books, DVDs, CDs, and computers, Meyer remembers the library of her childhood with all of its bound books and card catalogs. “And I even loved the smell of the books,” Meyers says.
In Meyer’s eyes, a library is not only a fountain of knowledge and wonder but has today increasingly become a community center — a place where people connect.
“The library is the living room of the community,” she says. In an age of technology, people crave to meet face-to-face more than ever. The library is also a meeting place for book clubs and writers’ groups. It's also the beginning point for those researching family genealogy, seeking employment, studying for school, or even learning how to read with the help of tutors.
At the Portage District Library, Meyer is an event planner, filling rooms, sometimes to capacity, for countless author readings and literary events. She says the library not only showcases local authors, it also introduces the community to authors visiting Michigan.
After her retirement at the end of 2015, Meyer plans to ...

Thursday, November 19, 2015

People's Food Co-op continues to transform the local food scene

by Zinta Aistars
Published in Southwest Michigan's Second Wave Media
November 19, 2015
Photography by Zinta Aistars

Chris Moore and Bree Bird at People's Food Co-op in Kalamazoo, MI

Forty-five years after Kalamazoo, Michigan’s People’s Food Co-op opened its doors to the public, the co-op’s management and shareholders continuously consider its relevance. Is there still a place and role for People’s?

In 1970, the co-op was a small retail program started by a group of students and recent graduates. Dale Anderson, now the owner of a gourmet chocolate shop called "Confections with Convictions" in downtown Kalamazoo, was one of the original volunteers when People’s was operating out of a house on North Street. He drove an old truck back and forth from Ann Arbor, bringing back huge bags of brown rice and other unprocessed foods that were hard to find at that time. 

"Organic foods weren’t a popular thing like they are now," says Chris Moore, media and communications coordinator at People’s. "There was a movement across the country of co-ops, and People’s wanted to bring that to Kalamazoo. The store moved from place to place, and for a while there was even an old truck that traveled around selling grains and food to people."

People’s Food Co-op was incorporated in 1973, moved to a tiny store on Burdick Street where it put down roots for 37 years, until 2011, when the co-op uprooted and moved to its current location at 507 Harrison Street, snug between the railroad tracks and MacKenzie’s Bakery. A volunteer staff expanded to include paid positions and a board of directors. 

"We have 35 people on staff at this time," Moore says. "Not all are full-time, though. We rely a lot on our more than 60 volunteers."

A co-op, Moore explains, is a consumer-owned cooperative with profits circulating back into the store or to its owners, or shareholders, in the form of rebates. It’s this arrangement that makes a co-op different than a traditional grocery store. But there’s more. 

"Since the co-op started, it’s always been about access," Moore says. "It’s about what’s healthy for people and the economy and what’s sustainable. That’s what drives us."

The tiny shop and old truck have expanded into a cooperative that today has 2,800 owners, a number that has tripled in the past five years. Owners enjoy an owner-designated week each month with special deals and a 10 percent discount on all non-sale items of one order, along with a coupon book issued at least four times a year along with discounts on special orders. 

Owners also elect board members and vote on co-op issues. One share costs $250, paid at once or on an installment plan of $10 per month or $50 per year. Benefits click in with the first payment of $10.

Benefits go beyond discounts, however. Moore emphasizes a commitment to the community, building of relationships, and values that go before profits. The numbers back him up. In 2014, PFC spent nearly $1.5 million locally. Produce in the store was purchased from 25 local farms, bolstering the local economy and supporting local jobs.

People’s general manager Chris Dilley writes: "The face of local and healthy food systems in Kalamazoo would not be the same if People's had not been working hard for the past 45 years to improve access by sourcing whole foods, supporting local growers and businesses, and developing relationships in the community. As it stands, there are hundreds of local food entrepreneurs bringing thousands of products to market, and we're all learning together how to make that system fair and affordable."

Shaping the local food movement

In People’s Food Co-op annual report, total sales for 2014 came to more than $3.6 million. That’s impressive. But with the co-op’s mission to connect with the community, strengthen the local food system, and continually expand access to fresh, healthy foods, sales of produce off the store shelves is only a starting point ...


Monday, November 16, 2015

Between the Lines: Poet Traci Brimhall

by Zinta Aistars
for WMUK 102.1 FM
Southwest Michigan's NPR affiliate

Between the Lines is my weekly radio show about books and writers with a Michigan connection. It airs every Tuesday at 7:50 a.m., 11:55 a.m., and 4:20 p.m. (or listen anytime online), on WMUK 102.1 FM, Southwest Michigan's NPR affiliate. I am the host of Between the Lines.

This week's guest: Traci Brimhall

Traci Brimhall

Poet Traci Brimhall is well known and much loved in Kalamazoo’s literary community. One of the reasons her readers seem so drawn to her work is that she has the courage to say what others think but keep to themselves. “I like to be brave with poems,” says Brimhall. “I like to be brave when I sit down to write, and, occasionally, I like to do something brave at a reading, which is what I hope to do when I return to Kalamazoo.”

Brimhall, along with poets Adam Pasen and Heather A. Slomski, will read as part of the Gwen Frostic Series on Thursday, November 19, at 8 p.m. at Western Michigan University’s Bernhard Center, in rooms 157-159. The event is free and open to the public.
“Recently I started a Google group for people who want to write one brave poem a month,” Brimhall says. “We would share with each other the bravest thing we could think to say. Sometimes it’s the only poem I get to write all month…I try to confront something in myself and/or something in the world when I sit down to write.”
Brimhall says writing with courage is how she pushes herself forward as a poet. What that brave thing is can change with every day and every moment. “There are things you don’t want to admit that aren’t popular or kind to say about yourself, or aren’t good to say about the way you feel about your family or your spouse or what you do for a living. There can be things you don’t want to confront. The bravest poem I wrote most recently dealt with ...