In a quiet corner of Briarwood Mall zombies are being destroyed, robot attacks are being fought off, and an Ann Arbor-based startup company is showcasing the potential of virtual-reality video gaming.
Dreamgate VR involves up to four game players in a 400-foot arena. Virtual-reality headsets transform the courtyard near Sears into a completely new world -- either a futuristic cityscape or an apocalyptic war zone.
The company bills itself as “the first free-roaming, multiplayer virtual reality experience” in Michigan. And in less than a year since launching, the effort is already a success, with plans in the works to add a third game and expand to other locations.
Dreamgate founder and CEO Craig Albert has had an affinity for computers since his family bought one when he was in first grade. Growing up, he taught himself how to build web pages and do graphic design. And he played a lot of online games.
A truly excellent dive bar is an exceedingly special place. Slipping in through the door -- preferably dirty and unmarked -- one should lose all sense of time and place. The bathroom walls should be scrawled upon; the darts, the pool, and the jukebox should be cheap; and there should always be the sneaking suspicion that the bartender is watering down your drinks, even if all you’ve ordered is a pitcher of Labatt.
I’ve spent many a conversation lamenting that 8 Ball is the last true dive bar in Ann Arbor, once even making the bold statement, “If 8 Ball goes, I go.” After one of these conversations recently, I started thinking about other good dives in the area. I remembered fondly the summer afternoon I found myself at Fenders in Milan and wished for the umpteenth time that Powell’s in Ypsilanti was closer to me. But there had to be some other good ones that I was missing or -- gasp -- didn’t even know about, I figured. And that’s how the idea for this piece, in which I attempt to find the best dive bar in Washtenaw County, was born.
After making a list of all the potential dives I thought needed to be explored (and overcoming my disappointment that Zukey Lake Tavern is outside county lines), I asked my fellow dive-bar-loving friend to come with me on the journey. It turned out that the day that worked best for us to embark on the trip was a random Tuesday at the end of May. “Are dive bars open on Tuesdays?” I texted my friend. “They are if they want to be considered BEST OF WASHTENAW COUNTY,” he responded. “Excellent point,” I said.
Finding the best dive bar in any county is a marathon, not a sprint, so we started in the early afternoon at the county’s northernmost bar:
The Dexter-Ann Arbor Half Marathon (DXA2), which takes runners along the beautiful Huron River Drive, is a staple in the area the first Sunday of June each year. It’s a particularly special race because - unlike most races that have to be a loop or an out-and-back route so that the start and finish are in the same spot -- DXA2 takes runners from downtown Dexter to downtown Ann Arbor with no return. This requires much coordination by race organizers, as many runners opt to be shuttled on school buses from Ann Arbor to Dexter for the race start at Creekside Middle School. I’ve always been impressed with how smoothly this all works out.
Michelle Krell Kydd is here to say one person's rank stank is another person's memory-jarring concoction that evokes almonds, butterscotch, fresh-cut grass, brown leaves, and lavender soap.
For the past six years, Kydd's hosted Smell & Tell events at the Ann Arbor District Library, teaching attendees how to get in touch with their sense of smell and explore all the wonders -- and horrors -- that come along with being aware of the scents that surround us every day.
In fact, her next Smell & Tell explicitly focuses on this: "Follow Your Nose in the Great Outdoors" has participants walk in the outdoors and whiff smells in the wild at County Farm Park on June 2 and 3.
If you've never been to a Smell & Tell, sign up now -- it's a true treat, guaranteed. Read my recap of her "Brian Eno Smells" event in February to get a sense of Kydd's smarts, humor, and passion. All of those traits come through in our email interview, which also puts her fantastic writing on display. (Read more of her words at glasspetalsmoke.blogspot.com.)
I found out about Something to Do Comedy Night at the Heidelberg's Club Above when its organizer, Tony Klee, bought me a shot of tequila last summer and I joked about doing the show one day.
Recently, Klee put out a call for comics, especially women comics, and when I asked him if I could go up, he said yes.
I had about five days to come up with a five-minute set.
I needed to write some jokes.
I am one of the people who couldn’t get enough of political podcasts during the 2016 presidential election. That is how I found my way to the podcast Keepin’ It 1600, hosted by Washington insiders Jon Favreau, Tommy Vietor, Jon Lovett, and Daniel Pfeiffer. In January 2017, the hosts of that show started Pod Save America, a show about current United States politics and it impacts on the American people as a part of Crooked Media, their network that now hosts five podcasts and written work from several contributors. Through their work, they hope to inform people from their progressive point of view about the current political landscape while entertaining their audience and inspiring them to become personally involved in the political process. Based on the crowd outside of the Michigan Theater on Friday, Oct. 6, the Pod Save America team inspired people to leave the comfort of their homes to see the foursome in action.
A sold out crowd flocked to see National Public Radio star Ira Glass, host of This American Life, at the Power Center Saturday night, where he presented a show titled 7 Things I’ve Learned as part of the Ann Arbor Summer Festival’s main stage series. Using film and audio clips, and armed with nothing more than a tablet, Glass -- wearing a tailored silver suit with a white shirt -- shared what turned out to be 10 things he’s learned since getting involved with public radio at age 19, and launching TAL in Chicago in 1995. “But they’re not the only seven things I’ve learned,” Glass emphasized during his intro, saying the lessons he’d be focusing on weren’t even the seven most important things he’s learned. (He’d tried, as an exercise, to determine those, too, but he quickly realized that that’s “the most stoner question ever. Like, chewing and swallowing, maybe?”) Instead, the highlighted “things” were various bits of knowledge related to Glass’ work, and a quietly moving personal epiphany involving musicals. Here’s a taste of what he shared.
Whose Line is It Anyway? stars Brad Sherwood and Colin Mochrie -- appearing Saturday night at the Power Center as part of the Ann Arbor Summer Festival -- have been doing improv comedy together since they met in the early '90s, so they have a long-established, familiar rapport with each other. “There’s almost a sibling rivalry that happens backstage and on stage, and that becomes part of the show, watching us try to outdo each other,” said Mochrie. Sherwood, meanwhile, confessed that he’s always looking for the chance to make his improv partner laugh on-stage. “It’s hard, because (Mochrie’s) the most stoic of all of us,” said Sherwood. “He’s granite. … If I actually say something that makes him laugh, I’ll hear, under his breath, an involuntary spasm for half a second. But that’s about it.”