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 ...