Monday, December 29, 2008

Interesting Times in Detroit

The year is almost over. 2008 in Detroit was the kind of year that someone was thinking of when they came up with the curse, "May you live in interesting times." Some folks in this town are dwelling on the negative or even planning a move to Dubai.

As for me, I take a more balanced outlook towards things. With that in mind, I present a look back at 2008 in my hometown.

The Detroit Lions are the worst team in NFL history. However, the Detroit Red Wings won yet another Stanly Cup this year. The Detroit Tigers turned in a respectable performance. The Detroit Pistons came this close to another NBA Championship.

Kwame Kilpatrick is in jail, but that saga is over. Now Detroiters get to look at everyone in Illinois and know that they're dealing with things that are much worse.

The Detroit Public Schools are broke. However, Detroit still has charter schools, parochial schools, private schools and home schooling.

Kirsten Haglund from Farmington Hills became Miss America 2008. She secured the title that her grandmother competed for in 1944. With her win, Kirsten Haglund showed the world what I've known for years - there are some seriously hot women in the Detroit area.

A few houses sold for $1 (plus back taxes & assorted fees that drove the final price up to around $6K). Everything else is selling for a fraction of what it would've been worth two years ago. The important thing is that real estate prices are slowly beginning to rebound.

Detroit's unemployment is the highest in the nation. No getting around that one. The promising part is between things like the Westin Book Cadillac and Ft. Shelby Hotel re-openings, the umpteen new restaurants, the auto bail out happening and dozens of major motion pictures coming to town (each spending tens of millions), there's a decent chance that things will get better soon.

Major festivals either got severely scaled back or canceled. The one bit of good news is that the NCAA Final Four is still coming to Ford Field in April. That will bring in more cash than all of those festivals combined.

2008 could've been better, but it also could've been a lot worse.

To all of those who are screaming about Detroit's demise, I simply say this: It's okay to recognize the things have gone wrong. You can't fix them if you don't. Just don't dwell too much on the negatives. If you do, you'll miss all of the cool stuff.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Santa Delivers on YouTube

YouTube has some of the coolest Christmas videos on it. This one is my personal favorite.

If you have to ask why, well, you probably wouldn't understand the answer.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Metromix Memories, Part 2

I have come to love Google Alerts. Every time someone posts something on-line about certain subjects, I get an email alert with a link to the post. It doesn't matter where it was posted, Google finds it for me and lets me know about it. I use it to track everything from some of my favorite celebrities, such as Keira Knightley, to some of the groups that I'm a part of, such as Detroit Synergy.

It was my Detroit Synergy alert that made me cringe the other day. Along with all of the expected references to their Shop Detroit project was a reference to the group on Metromix.

I cringed. Oh, yes, I did.

I remembered all of the problems that Metromix had caused for me in the past. I also remembered Michael Higdon's commentary from this past August about how Metromix is a detriment to society.

I braced myself for the worst as I clicked the link to see how the kids at Metromix were making my life difficult now.

It actually turned to not be that bad at all. Google simply found some photos of an event at Gator Jake's in Sterling Heights. An alert was triggered because the kids put a link to the ill-fated pub crawl that I reluctantly allowed Metromix to show up at.

The thing is, once I was on the Metromix site, I noticed a couple of things that were different. It took a moment for me to put my finger on it, but Metromix has changed many of the things that I've complained about since their debut in Detroit almost a year ago.

They have toned down their emphasis on photos with lots of cleavage in them. They still have photos from various parties - and cleavage always abounds there. However, Metromix no longer highlights events like Girls Gone Wild and the Miss Hawaiian Tropic Bikini Contest on their front page.

Those events are still on their site. However, you have to search for them. Metromix no longer gives them prominent coverage on their main page.

More importantly, Metromix seems to have gotten rid of their mantra of "FREE! FREE! FREE!" They now put at least some emphasis on the event itself and not on any discounts that might be available at it. I looked at a few of the articles on their site. I didn't see "FREE" mentioned even once.

This might not seem important to most people. However, from my experience, when one combines an emphasis on events like Girls Gone Wild with a mantra of "FREE! FREE! FREE!" the end result is that the crowd that shows up tend to be a rather unique demographic.

Oh, I'll just say it.

When one combines those two things, it tends to attract the folks who put the "trash" in trailer trash. I don't mean it attracts blue collar vs. white collar people. I don't mean it attracts lower income individuals. I mean it attracts those who put the "trash" in trailer trash.

As an example, Detroit Synergy had hosted nine pub crawls that had no connection or involvement with Metromix over the past several year. The one that did have said involvement was the only one where bouncers had to remove people from the bar for disorderly conduct.

Coincidence? I think not.

I talked with the folks who got bounced later, outside the bars. Each of them had found out about the event from Metromix.

Anyway, the good news is that Metromix has gotten rid of those elements on their site that were trailer trash magnets. I'll celebrate that for a moment.

I'm not sure if Metromix is still staging photo galleries with professional models like they did at their Launch Party in May. I also don't know if they're still photographing people who weren't a part of a certain event and implying that they were.

The important thing is that Metromix is finally putting a long-overdue end to some of the trashier elements of their site. This is an improvement. This is good news. It means that there's hope for them after all.

I no longer think that Metromix is a significant detriment to the Detroit area. As a start to plan my next round of special events, I will no longer make a deliberate effort to make sure that they happen without Metromix even finding out about them.

I'm not going to use Metromix to promote an event. However, I will no longer try to keep them away from it either. In short, my opinion of Metromix has gone from strongly negative to only slightly negative; bordering on neutral.

There might be hope for Metromix after all.

Metromix Memories, Part 1

I was sitting in a friend's living room the other evening with a small group of other friends. One game or another had just ended on television. We were trying to decide where we were going next because the night was too young for us to say good night.

In what has to be one of the most perfectly timed ad buys, a commercial for Detroit's version of Metromix came on the screen. I silently groaned to myself and resolved to be quiet for the next 30 seconds. It was late. I really didn't feel like having yet another discussion about psychographics and/or why it was that I despised Metromix with a passion.

The shocking thing is that I didn't have to hold those thoughts in. Within 5 seconds of this commercial coming on, one of my friends mentioned to no one in particular that Metromix was the web site that Kerry Doman loosely based After 5 Detroit on.

I continued to remain silent as this observation led to a 20 minute discussion about Ms. Doman, her web site and her latest venture of planning corporate events. During this conversation, the comments were almost universally positive about After 5 Detroit and its founder. No one mentioned Metromix again.

I should mention that all of those in the room were single and, with the exception of myself, everyone was between the ages of 21 - 34. This, by the way, is Metromix's target market.

To recap: the folks at Metromix spent a considerable amount of their money to produce and air a television commercial. The result of said commercial was to provoke a 20 minute discussion among members of their target market about how great one of their competitors is.

I guess this is why, even though Metromix has been making significant media buys for almost a year in the Detroit market, After 5 Detroit doesn't seem to be suffering at all. In fact, it turns out that After 5 Detroit is expanding their operations and hiring new staff members.

Somehow, I don't think this is was reaction that Metromix was hoping for when they spent all of that money.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Detroit Lions Are A Joke - Again

The Detroit Lions lost to the New Orleans Saints 42 - 7 today. This was trouncing so bad that it shocked even me and I had given up on the Lions months ago.

It shouldn't have come as a surprise to me then that one of my cousins in Wisconsin sent me a series of Detroit Lions jokes via email this afternoon. Since I can't share the joy of a decent season for the Lions, the least I can do is share a few Lions jokes with the world.

Michigan Law
The Michigan State Police are cracking down on speeders heading into Detroit

For the first offense, they give you two Detroit Lions tickets. If you get stopped a second time, they make you use them.

Q. What do you call 47 millionaires around a TV watching the Super Bowl?
A. The Detroit Lions.

Q. What do the Detroit Lions and Billy Graham have in common?
A. They both can make 70,000 people stand up and yell "Jesus Christ!"

Q. How do you keep the Detroit Lions out of your yard?
A. Put up a goal post.

Q. Where do you go in Detroit in case of a tornado?
A. Ford Field - they never have a touchdown there.

Q. What do you call a Detroit Lion with a Super Bowl ring?
A. A thief.

Q. What's the difference between the Detroit Lions and a dollar bill?
A. You can still get four quarters out of a dollar bill.

Q. How many Detroit Lions does it take to win a Super Bowl?
A. Nobody knows and we may never find out.

Q. What do the Detroit Lions and a possums have in common?
A. Both play dead at home and get killed on the road.

Merry Christmas

Christmas is only a few days away. Detroit is covered with snow at the moment and there's more on the way.

In the Christmas spirit, I search the internet for the best gift possible for readers on my blog. Without further ado, I give you "Russian Girls" by Sasha Dith. This video actually came out a couple of years ago, but it never really became the kind of hit that it probably should have been.

You're welcome.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Bikini Hero

I was surfing the web last night, looking for more news on Kristen Bell. I came across this post on about Kristen at the beach. They were critical of the photo of her to the left, but admired her in the one to the right.

I don't care what the folks at TMZ say. Granny shades or not. Hair up or down. Kristen Bell looks darn hot.

Kam & Kristen by Night Light

The good folks at Google Analytics tell me that the single most visited page on my blog is my Kam Carman experiment from this past March. 9 months later and it's still the most visited entry, bringing in close to 500 page hits every month.

In second place for the most traffic generating post is my commentary from a few weeks ago about Kristen Bell's interview in the December issue of Ambassador magazine.

The bronze medal, by the way, goes to my post about cool night lights from August of last year.

A part of me can't help but wonder: what would happen if I were to combine all of these things into one blog post? Would this blog actually explode from all of the traffic?

What if I were to write about a fictional evening in which Kam Carman tells Kristen Bell all of the nitty, gritty details of her divorce - from who cheated on who to the threats of lawsuits that Kam Carman used to keep the story quiet?

I doubt Kam Carman would ever divulge those details willingly. However, I'm sure that Kristen Bell's Veronica Mars character could get her to talk. If I were really lucky, I would figure out a way for a cool night light to find its way into that hypothetical conversation between Kam Carman and Kristen Bell - thereby completing the trifecta of Google Analytics goodness.

I know.

I know.

The problem with that scenario is that I would have to know all of the details about Kam Carman's divorce in order to write about them. I could take a certain amount of creative license and patch together the few details that I do know about it into one hypothetical post.

But I'm not that eager to get sued.

Oh, well. These are thing that I find myself thinking about as I watch the snow fall outside my window on a wintery December day.

God Bless GQ

I've always loved having a subscription to GQ. This month, however, I have even more of a reason to love it.

Check out Jennifer Aniston on their cover!

I remember the first time I saw a woman wearing only a necktie. It was that scene in Pretty Woman where Richard Gere's character comes home to find Julia Roberts waiting for him, wearing only the necktie that she convinced one a sales clerk in some store to give her.

That scene was only on the screen for a few seconds. I saw it in my local theater when I was 19 but I still think of it every time I see a display of ties in any store.

A truly classic moment in American cinema.

I'm glad the folks at GQ were able to do something like this again.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Pecha Kucha, Vol. 3

Detroit Synergy and the AIA-Detroit will soon announce that the next installment of their Pecha Kucha project will happen on Thursday, February 19 in the Hard Rock Cafe. Since Hard Rock is different than most PK Night venues, and I'm one of the people who selected it, I wanted to take a moment and tell everyone why we're going there.

Yes, Hard Rock is a corporate restaurant.

Hard Rock has a menu that is set by folks more than a thousand miles away from the restaurant.

There's no getting around these facts. However, Hard Rock does offer a few benefits that make it an appealing option.

First, there are all of the logistical issues associated with having PK Night at any venue. Hard Rock Cafe excels in these categories.
  • Hard Rock has secured parking in the Compuware parking structure that's available for free with a validation in the restaurant. A lot of other venues require you to either pay through the nose for parking or have you park on the street.
  • For those who don't drive to the event, Hard Rock is accessible by more than a dozen bus routes and is only a couple blocks away from a People Mover station.
  • Hard Rock has a top-notch audio-video set-up. Unlike our venue for PK Night, Vol. 1, a presenter can stand anywhere he or she wants in the cafe and never have to worry about feedback from their microphone. There is also an abundance of television monitors in the place so folks can see the presentations no matter where they are sitting.
  • Hard Rock is willing to give us full control over much of their restaurant. Their normal guests will be moved into the Compuware atrium or into a separate room where they will be able to dine without them bothering us or vice versa.
  • Since it's a restaurant, catering and beverage service is built in with nothing for Detroit Synergy and the AIA to worry about. This might not seem like a lot to folks who have never produced an event like this, but this can be a huge headache for the team that puts this on. We'd much rather focus on getting the best presenters.
There is also the fact that Hard Rock is starting to present concerts from local rock bands, which is something that hasn't gotten a lot of attention either in the local news media or the blogosphere. By doing this event there, we're able to call attention to an opportunity for local musicians that is currently being overlooked. As an added bonus, there will be a special concert after PK Night as part of an afterglow.

Finally, there is the fact that - like a lot of cultural events in southeastern Michigan - Pecha Kucha Night does not have an abundance of cash at the moment. From a strategic standpoint, by doing our February event in Hard Rock, we will be able to afford venues for the rest of 2009 that we otherwise wouldn't be able to.

For all of these reasons, the committee thought that Hard Rock Cafe was the best option for Pecha Kucha Night, Vol. 3. I hope to see lots of people there.

Monday, December 15, 2008

This has to stop. Today. Forever.

I got a link to this photo on Flickr today. I'm not sure if it is the funniest thing I've ever seen - or the most disturbing.

Maybe it's both.

Of course, if that cat's facial expression is any indicator, I have a funny feeling that its owner got her own comeuppance from the cat shortly after the photo was snapped.

It's like there's a thought balloon over near that cat. One that read, "Laugh now, human. Just wait until you see what I do to your shoes. Just. You. Wait."

Healthier Britney Spears?

Britney Spears is in this month's issue of Glamour, with the headline "Healthier at Last".

I know I'm incredibly cynical, but a part of me can't help but wonder who many publicists and lawyers it took to get the Glam folks to write that piece that way.

My guess is 14, but it's only a guess.

Yes, I am cynical. However, if I may paraphrase Kurt Cobain for a moment, "Just because you're cynical doesn't mean you're not right."

Obama Soda

There is yet another product on the market that is inspired by President-Elect Barack Obama - an Obama Soda. Reportedly, this soda is already a huge hit with French teenagers.

I swear, if Detroit could just get a cut of the umpteen Obama-inspired products out there, the automakers wouldn't need those bridge loans.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Keira Knightley to "Protect the Human"

Keira Knightley has a new role as spokesperson for Amnesty International. She appears in a new ad for the human rights group with a banner that reads, "Protect the Human" to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the U.N. Declaration on Universal Human Rights.

I've always been a fan of Keira Knightley. She's beautiful and an amazing actress.

I've also been a fan of Amnesty International. I was active in an Amnesty International chapter while I was in college.

The fact that Keira Knightley and Amnesty International are combining forces very well may be the coolest combination since pizza and beer.

Well, okay. I suppose that is a bit of an overstatement.

Regardless, the fact that Keira Knightley is representing Amnesty International is still a very cool thing in my opinion.

RIP Bettie Page

Bettie Page passed away yesterday at the age of 85 after suffering a heat attack. She was an actress and model who completely comfortable in anything - from a ball gown to bondage gear - and made them all look incredibly sexy and sophisticated. She was an icon from the 1950s, who appeared in pin-up pages and Playboy.

She was a Christian who believed that God gave a beautiful body for a reason. She believed, therefore, that there was no shame in showing it off.

More than anything, Betty Page understood that "sexy" didn't have to mean "slutty" or "trashy". She made it into an art form. Britney Spears and several other modern pop stars could learn a few things from Ms. Page.

As such, she will be missed.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

My Casino Story

Two bored casino dealers are waiting at the crap table. A very attractive blonde woman from Mississippi arrived and bet $20,000 on a single roll of the dice.

She said, "I hope you don't mind, but I feel much luckier when I play topless."

With that, she stripped to the waist; rolled the dice and yelled, "Come on, Southern Girl needs new clothes!"

As the dice bounced and came to a stop, she jumped up-and- down and squealed, "YES! YES! I WON! I WON!"

She hugged each of the dealers and then picked up her winnings, her clothes and quickly departed.

The dealers stared at each other dumbfounded. Finally, one of them asked, "What did she roll?"

The other answered, "I don't know. I thought you were watching."

The moral of this story is:
  1. Not all Southerners are stupid;
  2. Not all blondes are dumb;
  3. But all men, are men.

Ziggy Explains Everything

I've always been a fan of Ziggy. That little guy, and his cartoonist creator, put a lot of wisdom into a single panel.

One of his cartoons from the other day, however, though went above and beyond its usual standard of brilliance. Explaining the world, while still allowing me to laugh at it.

Brilliant, I say. Simply brilliant.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Victoria's Secret Fashion Show - YAWN

Ever since they started televising it, the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show has been something that I look forward to. It's fun to watch and - well, let's face it - it has the Victoria's Secret models strutting around in those outfits.

This year, however, I have to say that the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show was kind of a disappointment. The show still had the Victoria's Secret models. No matter how bad everything else is, there will always be that as a redeeming quality.

My problem with this year's show was that they seemed to put too much of an emphasis on the behind-the-scenes moments of the fashion show. I know there are always people who want to know what it's like backstage at one of these events, but there's a danger of going too far with it.

It's Frank's Law of Fashion Shows #168. When you get to point where the wardrobe guys get almost as much screen time as Heidi Klum then you are definitely doing too much behind-the-scenes stuff.

I get the feeling - and before everyone starts bombarding my comments section with rebuttals, this is only a feeling - that the folks at Victoria's Secret are trying to figure out a way to maintain interest in the show without Heidi Klum. She is 35 years old and, in model years, that's basically 114.

The only reason that makes any sense to me is that they did so many of those behind-the-scenes vignettes is that they wanted to give Heidi Klum less screen time, but they weren't sure what to fill in her place.

Of course, I could be entirely wrong.

It's also possible that the producers behind the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show got really, really drunk the other night, didn't have the show they wanted ready and so they threw all of this together at the last minute.


A Fool and His Money...

I was reading one of those other blogs in this town this morning. Reportedly, party promoters Matt A and Michael Zografos are spending $40,000 to build a tent in the Whitney's parking lot. This is, of course, not your average tent since it will have chandeliers, hardwood floors and such.

Some folks are impressed by this. But those are the people who were impressed by the idea of spending an hour standing in line to get a "free" drink and who didn't think that an event with roughly 600 people attending needed to have bathrooms available at it.

Since I've done a fair number of special events in Detroit, I know that on a budget of $10 - $20,000 one can rent:
  • Any of the ballrooms in the Westin Book Cadillac;
  • Colony Club;
  • Detroit Club;
  • Gem Theatre;
  • Most of the rooms in the Masonic Temple; or
  • Any of a dozen or so other options.
All of these are facilities where chandeliers and flooring come standard. Plus, they also have ample access to restrooms, better acoustics and better climate control than a tent would ever offer - no matter how nice of tent it is.

Add in another $5,000 or so and you get valet parking for your guests. This, of course, becomes an issue when one sets up a tent in a parking lot; thereby depriving people of what would otherwise be the most convenient place for them to park.


I bet these guys will even be foolish enough to promote their event on Detroit's version of Metromix.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Kristen Bell in Ambassador

I was flipping through this month's issue of Ambassador. I saw their headline Kristen Bell: Hometown Girl to Hero and, well, let's face it - any time a magazine puts the words "Kristen" and "Bell" on their cover, it's pretty much guaranteed to grab my attention.

For the benefit of anyone who didn't already know this, Kristen Bell grew up in one of Detroit's suburbs, Huntington Woods to be specific. She graduated from Shrine Catholic High School before heading off to New York for college and her career.

The folks at Ambassador asked her a series of questions about growing up in the Detroit area. I couldn't help notice something peculiar in her answers though. She didn't say that she was from Detroit. Instead, she said that she was from the Midwest.

Let me recap this for everyone. Kristen Bell is from Huntington Woods, but when asked about growing up she did not say she's from Huntington Woods.

Kristen Bell did not say that she's from Detroit or the Detroit area.

Kristen Bell did not say that she's from southeastern Michigan or even that she's from Michigan.

Kristen Bell said that she's from the Midwest.

I can't really say that I blame her, in the grand scheme of things. The Midwest, as a generic entity, has a fantastic reputation in Hollywood. Midwesterners are known for having a strong work ethic, without a lot of personal drama. It's a positive thing in Hollywood to be from the Midwest.

However, Michigan in general - and Detroit, in particular - don't really have the greatest reputation on the national stage at the moment. It starts with the troubles that the Big 3 have been battling from the past few years and got a whole worse with Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's text messaging scandal.

I can't blame Kristen Bell for wanting to associate herself with a positive instead with something that's perceived as a negative. If I were in her position, there's a decent chance that I'd do the same thing.

It's just sad that Detroit's perception on the national stage is what it is.