Stand Up Paddle (SUP) @Lake Michigan – Even I Can Do This?

日本語はこちらをクリック (For Japanese, please click here)!

If you live in the Great Lakes region or if you are going to visit any of the Great Lakes, you may want to seize the opportunity to try a rather easy-to-do water sport there.

SUP seems to be gaining popularity in the Lake Michigan area slowly.  SUP stands for Stand Up Paddle boarding.  It is often shortened to Stand Up Paddle.

You paddle standing on a long board.  They say it is much easier than surfing – I have never tried surfing myself, but I heard from many sources that surfing is really difficult.  But SUP is said to be very doable for average people (like me).

Early this month (July 2012), I spotted several people trying SUP in Lake Michigan (photos) when I was on Silver Beach, St. Joseph, Michigan, with my family.  This was the first time I ever saw SUPers in Lake Michigan.  Lake Michigan beaches are becoming fashionable and trendy places!

This kid seems to be having a little bit of hard time balancing himself.

These two seem to be having a really hard time balancing themselves on the paddle board. Don’t they realize maybe it’s not a good idea that two people stand on one paddle board?

As expected, the two are about to fall in the water (and they did after I took this photo).

This kid had a really good sense of balance, I noticed.  He was so stable on the paddle board and was paddling very gracefully.

Some people were born with a lot better sense of balance than others.  I am one of those not very blessed with a good sense of balance.  I would be just like those two who fell in the water.

The first time I saw a Stand Up Paddle boarder was in Maui, one of the Hawaiian Islands, about five years ago. When I saw it, I thought “What a strange and weird new water sport…”  SUP was introduced by the famous surfers in Hawaii only a decade ago. So, five years ago when I saw it, it was only in its infant stage.

Almost always, in the infant stage of any new sport, it looks really weird to the eyes of average people including me.  As it gains popularity, it starts looking more cool to our eyes. When a new sport population reaches a certain number, do our brains shift and decide “This new sport must be cool enough for this many people.  I am now going to perceive it as cool”?  Do we need some time for a new thing to sink into our brains before we can start perceiving it as cool?  Over my life I have seen several things coming in style and going out of style. It’s all in our heads – it’s all phycological, it seems to me.

Borrowing the marketing term, followers must have started trying SUP nationwide this year.

Last year (2011), 1.24 million people SUPed (this is a new word).  That was an 18% increase from 2010.

There is an aqua outdoor sport shop named Outpost Sports on Silver Beach.  They had rental paddleboards for SUP available on the beach this year.  This was the first time I ever saw rental SUP paddleboards on a Lake Michigan beach.

$25 for one hour and $50 for one day – not too bad.  I am not trying to do a P.R. for this shop, but I look like doing it…

A brochure I picked up in the store

Notice that a large portion of it is used for advertising SUP rental.

It’s a standard business practice to use a young female model in bikini to sell aqua sporting stuff. Of course they have to do that to promote a new sport.

Even in the Detroit suburbs, SUP seems to be becoming popular.  What made me think so was the e-mail ad I received back in June (below).

Walled Lake is one of the lakes in the Detroit suburbs.  The package includes two hours of SUP in  the lake and subsequent drinks and an appetizer at one of the waterfront restaurants for a well discounted price of $39 per person (normally $80).

It must be near the end of the lifecycle of a fashion or a product (EOL) if it becomes popular in an area like Detroit suburbs ( — sorry, this is a mean joke).

Another good thing about SUP is that you can do it in your neighborhood lake or river with no waves, as long as it’s large water.

The photo above is one of the pages of the recent Eddie Bauer catalog I had at home.  I noticed they are now trying to sell women’s swimsuits with SUP setting. Another evidence of SUP going into the main stream. The model on the right does not look athletic at all.  If she can do SUP, maybe I will be able to do it, too.  This photo certainly made me feel so.

There are many websites which show films of SUP and explain how to do it. I picked the one below.  It’s an instructional film in YouTube by Kalama Stand, a very famous surfer in Hawaii.  He is one of the surfers who introduced SUP to the modern popular water sports.

Dave Kalama Stand-up Instructional (YouTube)

Coincidentally, while I was writing this post, the Los Angeles Times had the article on SUP yesterday (July 28, 2012).  It says somebody lost weight by doing SUP!

http://www.latimes.com/health/la-he-paddleboard-popular-20120728,0,802603.column

Somehow, human beings can never be satisfied.  Just standing up on paddle boards is not enough. They have to do something like yoga on paddle boards (they call it SUP Yoga).  According to the LA Times, there are now SUP Yoga classes offered by 82 companies (up from only 2 last year). I don’t know if there is any in the Lake Michigan region yet.  If there is none yet, it may not be long before we have the first one around here.

Advertisements
Posted in Lake Michigan Beaches, Sports in Michigan | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

SS Keewatin, the Last Edwardian Era Steamship, Left Saugatuck, Michigan

For Japanese, please click here (日本語はこちらをクリック)!

In my post, Saugatuck is Michigan’s Cap Cod (in Japanese only), I have a few photos of the big ship, SS Keewatin. The ship was on display for a long time in Douglas, Saugatuck’s next door town.  If you have been to Saugatuck, did you go see SS Keewatin?  If you did not, you missed a chance.  The ship is gone back to Ontario, Canada.

I did not see the departure myself, but I got an e-newsletter from Saugatuck that the ship departed Saugatuck on May 31, 2012, for Port McNicoll in Ontario, Canada via Mackinac strait. Port McNicoll was its original home port for SS Keewatin.  The ship was in Saugatuck, Michigan for 45 years!

SS Keewatin was built 104 years ago, when gigantic luxury passenger steamships like Titanic were popular. SS Keewatin will be completely renovated in Ontario and will become a maritime museum there.

It was already a museum ship in Saugatuck (photo above). I should have been inside the ship if I had known it would be gone a few years later.  When we went to Saugatuck for a weekend getaway, we stopped over there, but did not bother to pay to go inside the ship.

There will be no more of this sign…

(Source:Google Map)

Marked with A is Port McNicoll; marked with 1 is Port Arthur / Fort William.

When England was under the reign of King Edward VIII from 1901 to 1914, it was popular among the wealthy people to travel by huge luxury passenger steamships.  SS Keewatin was one them built during the Edward era.

My husband’s late grandmother and great-grandfather were wealthy and went on a worldwide trip by a luxury ocean liner. When their ship stopped at Hawaii (in 1914) , the WWI broke out. They had to give up their trip and come home.

(And alas, where did their wealth go?   I don’t see any evidence of the wealth passed down to my husband… 😦

S.S. Keewatin was built in 1907 by a shipbuilding company in Scotland, and ran between Port Arthur / Fort William (in northern Ontario, Canada) and port McNicoll (also in Ontario) for almost 60 years.

I never knew that ships were going back and forth through Lake Huron and Lake Superior, carrying passengers and freights.

And I never imagined one of the ships was quietly sitting in Western Michigan.

If Michigan had done more tourism promotion, more people (including me) would have wanted to come see the ship. My home country, Japan, certainly would have done a lot of PR trying to relate the ship to the Hollywood movie, Titanic (Japanese are very commerically-oriented, I think).  Maybe they would have overdone it (they tend to overdo commercialization). I would not like too much PR, but I feel Michigan could have done a little more promotion…

When the ship was retired in 1966, a local couple in Douglas, Michigan, took a personal loan and bought the ship (how much money in the world did they borrow?). They restored it and opened it to the public for paid tours.  So, the ship was saved by the couple from being scrapped.

The Edwardian era passenger steamship which would have reminded us of Titanic is no longer in western Michigan…I will miss SS Keewatin.  You will, too?

One of the articles about the departure of SS Keewatin:

http://www.saugatuck.com/Keewatin_skycam.asp

Posted in Southwestern Michigan | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Gymnasts? Kitesurfers? @Lake Michigan

For Japanese, please click here (日本語はこちらをクリック).

This is the English translation of my blog on Lake Michigan area.  I originally write in Japanese, but I make the English version as well so that my non-Japanese friends will be able to read it.  Voila!  Hope you will enjoy it.

On windy days, Lake Michigan becomes a great place for surfing.

Often winds blow from west to east.  This means the beaches on the east side of Lake Michigan, i.e. the beaches in Michigan become great places for surfing.

Did you even know that people surf in Great Lakes?

I knew that people surf in North Carolina, Florida, and New England, needless to say in Hawaii and California, but never thought Lake Michigan is an addition to the list. Of course Lake Michigan will never be in the same league as Hawaii and California, but surfing in Lake Michigan is getting pretty popular, because it is so big and has waves just like oceans. When windy, waves are pretty big.  I bet it will be much more popular ten years from now.

Somebody was surfing.

According to my husband who loves surfing, waves were not good for surfing that day.  There are good waves and bad waves – I could never tell what waves are good or bad.

This is Silver Beach of St. Joseph, Michigan, on a very windy and chilly day late April.

The same surfer standing in the shallow water

It was getting very cold that we got back in our car and kept watching him from inside the car.  The surfer was in the water for a long time but I am sure he was warm in a wetsuit.

Then a small flying object appears above the horizon.

There is another one in the direction of the pier.  They are kites!

Three people in wetsuits on the beach – they don’t look like they are just flying the kites.

They are kitesurfers!

Wow!  With the kite, one of the surfers jumped high into the air from the water surface.

I see… This is kitesurfing.   Awesome…

According to Wikipedia:

Kitesurfing is an adventure surface water sport that has been described as combining wakeboarding, windsurfing, surfing, paragliding, and gymnastics into one extreme sport. Kitesurfing harnesses the power of the wind to propel a rider across the water on a small surfboard or a kiteboard (similar to a wakeboard).

These kitesurfers looked very experienced and skilled.

They were doing it for a long time.

And we watched them for a long time from inside the car.

It was probably after 7 pm.  The kitesurfers probably decided today was a good day and must have come here after work. They may belong to a kitesurfing club.

I wished I had a better camera with a big powerful zoom lense.  Somebody was taking pictures of them from inside his car with a professional-looking camera with a huge zoom lense.  I really felt my compact camera was inadquate.

Until very recently, the only kites I knew about were Japanese kites (like the photo right). Those kites used in water sports are quite different from them.  I am a little in culture shock (forgive me, I am a middle-age Asian woman who is not most informed of the latest trends).

When and where was kitesurfing invented?  I did internet research.  It seems it was somewhere in Europe – I expected it to be California as so many other sports had been invented in California.

They glide on the water pretty fast.  As it’s open water with no lanes, don’t they ever crash each other or crash into a boat?  Kitesurfing is considered to be an extreme sport. I read there is a number of deaths and serious injuries every year.

Despite that, kitesurfing is becoming increasingly popular.  Back in 2006, the number of kitesurfers was already estimated to be 210,000.  The number must be a lot higher now (in 2012). It has become pretty popular also in the Great Lakes area – on both the Chicago and the Michigan sides.

From curiosity, I google searched kitesurfing in my home country, Japan.  Yes!  There is a good number of websites on kitesurfing. It seems to be gaining some popularity there. In general, whatever new sport is invented in the U.S., it becomes popular in Japan, too.

If you want to start kitesurfing, you will need to purchase all kinds of gear which are not cheap:

  • An inflatable kite
  • Kiteboard
  • Kite control bar
  • Fling lines
  • A kite harness
  • A wetsuit, a helmet, a life jacket, etc.

If you are interested in kitesurfing in Lake Michigan, I found a good website:

http://www.chicagokitesurfing.com/

You are advised to take lessons taught by a certified instructor. Lessons will take for several weeks. It’s no joke – if you fail in landing properly, for example, I can easily imagine you will be in bad shape.

If you think kitesurfing is too difficult for you, you may want to try bodysurfing and/or stand up paddle (SUP).

SUP is becoming very  popular, as it is quite easy to do – that’s what I heard. I will write about SUP sometime later.

If you want to see more images and videos of kitesurfing:

Kitesurfing (Google Images)

Kitesurfing (YouTube)

The red mark in the map below is St. Joseph, Michigan, where we saw the kitesurfers.

Chicago is across Lake Michigan from St. Joseph.  I am sure you will find kitesurfers on beaches on the Chicago side, too.

Posted in Sports | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Ah! Nostalgic Carousel – Revived Resort, St. Joseph, Michigan

For Japanese, please click here (日本語はこちらをクリック)!

I wrote this post last summer – in Japanese.

Now I am translating it into English so that my non-Japanese friends will be able to read it.  Now that it’s spring (i.e. summer is coming soon), I am feeling an urge to do it.

If you have a chance to go to St. Joseph, Michigan, walk down the stairs or the slope on the Bluff in downtown St. Joseph. At the bottom of the Bluff, you will see the big dome (photo below). The Silver Beach carousel is inside it.

This is a view from the top of the Bluff. The Silver Beach carousel opened not long ago.  Long, long time ago, from the 1890s to 1970, St. Joseph was a big resort for Chicagoans.  There was an amusement park on Silver Beach with roller coasters, etc.  They added the carousel in 1910. The amusement park was closed in 1971 as the tourism in Silver Beach declined. Since then everything in the amusement park was sold or disposed of.  More than 30 years later, tourism is coming back to St. Joseph and Silver Beach, and a new a carousel was recently built.  An amusement park is back in Silver Beach – sort of.

(Map borrowed from one of Michigan travel magazines)

The carousel is within an easy walking distance from downtown St. Joseph.

(Map borrowed from one of Michigan travel magazines)

St. Joseph is one of towns in southwestern Michigan, close to Indiana. It has a few very good beaches, one of which is Silver Beach.

Go inside the dome. You will be impressed. It’s pretty spectacular.

I did not grow up in America, but it reminds me of my childhood. I myself rode a few carousels in my home country when I was a child.

A giraffe!

I would like to ride that myself.

There are horses, tigers, hippos, pandas – 48 animals in total and all of them were hand-carved and hand-painted by the artists!

They wanted to restore the original horses (from the 1920s), but that did not materialize. So they had the artists make new ones. Of 48 animals, 6 are white, jeweled horses which are identical to the original ones. Cool.

This is the original band organ. It was used in the Silver Beach amusement park. It played music for the carousel, carnival, etc. When the amusement park was closed in 1971, the organ was sold.  It was resold to a few different people, but in the end it came back here; it was donated by somebody. It still plays the same old music which played long time ago.

I see somebody did a beautiful job on restoration.

A mother making sure her kid holds on tight to the horse.

When the current grandmas’ generation were girls?  The girl’s clothes and hair style remind me of Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz.  Very cute.

Entrance at night.  Somehow it reminds me of summer festivals I went to when I was a kid.

Though I am from Asia, summer festivals are the same, whether in Asia or in America.

In the room next to the carousel is the exhibition of the old photos of Silver Beach and the things recovered from the Silver Beach amusement park.

Like a game machine in a night stall in a lively summer festival. Get closer to it, then the doll inside the cage will have a creepy and loud laugh.

One of the old photos on display. A family vacationing on Silver Beach.  The mother looks just like Olive in the cartoon, Popeye.  Was this in the 1920s?  or before?

People used to come to Michigan beaches from Chicago by ferry like this.

A pretty big ferry used to come in as far as to where the St. Joseph lighthouse is (the lighthouse must be the same one as what it is now).

Considering how shallow the water must be there, the ferry seems too big to me.  Was the water actually deeper than I thought, or does the ferry look bigger than it actually was?

A middle-age looking lady who just disembarked – looking a little tired. It must have been pretty hot in a long dress like that !  With a heavy-looking hat and tight neck.  And the man is wearing a suit and a bow tie!  Is this the late 19th century or the early 20th century?  I am not strong at the history of clothes. If you know it, please feel free to write a comment on this post. Thanks!

In good contrast is a group of young women looking full of energy and excited. Young people a hundred years ago were just like young people now – vivacious.

Silver Beach.  What’s that big thing in the middle of the water??

They had a very big slide.  They could slide right into the water.

What strikes me is that most of these people in the photos are now dead.

There was a train station very close to the Bluff (and close to Silver Beach).  Not only ferries but trains were the transporation people used to come here from Illinois, Indiana, and other areas.  All women are in long white dress. Laundry must have been a big job back then when there were no washing machines.  I can’t imagine how dirty their dresses must have got.

The ferry staying in the harbor

Somebody wrote on the photo in white, “1896”.

I love looking at old photos. They are fascinating.

When I see old photos, I imagine what their life was like and what dramas there might have been. And I think about people of my home country in the same era.

There is a website about the carousel.  If you are interested, voila.

http://www.silverbeachcarousel.com/

If you are at work, MUTE your computer first.  As soon as the page opens, it will play very loud music – you will be very embarrassed!

Posted in Lake Michigan Beaches | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

That Was Close! Tornado Almost Hit My Neighborhood

For Japanese, please click here (日本語はこちらをクリック!)

February and March are bad months for me. Lots of year-end work in my job (my employer’s fiscal year-end is March).  In my personal life as well, a lot of work to do like annual tax return filing.  So, I have not written a post since January ….. it’s an excuse!  I had time – I was busy with my other blog about my home island, See More Kyushu – Beautiful Southern Japan.  Now it’s mid-March already.  When I felt spring is near, I felt like writing about Michigan again.   Then, a big and serious thing happened!

A tornado hit my neighboring town, Dexter, Michigan, on March 15!

It was totally unthinkable that a northern state like Michigan would be hit by a tornado in March.

With just several minutes’ difference, the tornado could have hit the town I live, Ann Arbor, my neighborhood, and my house  (Wow!!)

13 homes were destroyed and more than 100 homes were significantly damaged.
But there was no death and no injury – this is amazing and great.

It became national news.

Here is the link to the coverage by the local online news, AnnArbor.com:

Tornado Rips Through Dexter Area

Now, all those natural disasters I have watched on TV in the past are beginning to seem very real to me.

Very few natural disasters occur in Michigan.

Michigan is not the most exciting place to live or visit (sorry, but it’s true for some Asians, particularly female Asians who grew up in urban environments) , but this is a very positive thing about Michigan – no hurricanes, no earthquakes, almost no flood, and very few tornados.

We have a few tornados almost every summer, but  they are, compared to the ones in the Deep South, like babies, I used to think.

Where I live, almost every summer sirens for tornado warning go off a few times.  Nothing ever happened, so over the years, we had become off our guard and ahd stopped going down to the basement (that’s what we are supposed to do if your house has a basement until the siren stops).

We have to take sirens more seriously!

I thought – maybe we should keep in the basement what we don’t want to lose, high up above the floor of the basement, so that they won’t be damaged either by flood or by tornados.

And I thought – what are the most important things for me?   What do I not want to lose?

My family’s lives – yes, of course.

If I had pets (I don’t have any now),I would not want to lose them, either.

Then I realized I would not really care if the roof of our house is blown away, the walls are ripped, or the furniture is totally damaged.  Even the jewlry I have (not much) would not matter.

It’s the old photos that I would be really bombed out if they were damaged or lost.

I have old photos my parents gave me that look like over 100 years old.  I don’t know which persons in the photos are who.  My spouse also has old photos from the early 20th century or late 19th century; his mother left them in our house when she sold her house and moved into a condo.

I heard that when people’s houses are wrecked by natural disasters, what upset them most is loss of their family photos.  I think I would be no exception if the same thing happened to me.

I have seen on TV how the people in the northeastern Japan were always prepared to evacuate – I mean those who managed to escape the tsunami last year.

They had their most important things always packed in a few tote bags.  If sirens go off, they would grab their tote bags, hold their kids’ hands or seniors’ hands, and evacuate to designated places high enough so tsunami would not reach.

The Pacific coastlines of the northeastern Japan had often been hit by tsunami (smaller ones than the one in 2011). So people had been very trained and prepared. But the one in March 2011 was just too big nobody could ever have imagined – because it was of the scale that occurs only once in 1,000 years. The last tsunami of the same scale occurred in 900s AD.

I want to be prepared like the people in the northeastern Japan.

I will think what I want to keep in my tote bags.  
I have too many photos so they won’t fit in my few tote bags.  Oh yes, I should digitize the old photos and back them up in the cloud storage!  And I will store the originals in the basement (up above the floor).

The tornado made me think what are really important for me and what are not.

What are the most important for you?

If you have to evacuate in a short time, what would you want to carry with you?

Tornados never came to a northern state like Michigan in March before, I don’t think.

March is too early!  

But it’s not that surprising as this winter has been abnormally warm. It’s been like May or June over the past week or so.

I heard that since 1950s, there have been about 10 tornados in Michigan in March and 3 of the 10 occurred in just one day the other day, and two of them hit my neighboring town, Dexter. Gee!

I don’t know if people will ever be able to “subdue” Nature, no matter how the technology advances.

It was just a pure luck that the tornados spared my town, my neighborhood, and my house.  I am very sorry for the unlucky Dexter residents whose houses were wrecked.

I am in awe, again, of Mother Nature.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

I finally went to Sundance Film Fetival @Ann Arbor, MI

For Japanese, please click here (日本語はこちらをクリック) !

I finally went to the Sundance Film Festival.

I mean, to the film screening at Michigan Theater downtown Ann Arbor, Michigan – not to Park City, Utah.

On Jan. 26th, from 7:30 pm, the film “For a Good Time, Call…” was shown in the main auditorium.  After the film, the film director and the actresses showed up for the Q&A sessions.

I made a last-minute decision to go. I purchased a ticket via Ticketmaster online. The only choice I had was purchase on Will Call. The Will Call means I would have to pick up the ticket at the theater within one hour before the film starts. I called the theater the day before. They said there would be a long line (as there was last year).

I did not want to wait freezing outside in a long line, so i arrived early, being somewhat anxious, at 6 pm. There was no long line at all. I could pick up the ticket very easily. I did not want to wait inside the theater for an hour, so I went to the nearby Starbucks to kill time. Around 7 pm, I went back and entered the theater. Inside, there was a pretty big crowd already.

More people started arriving around 7 pm.

You have to buy pop corn and drink – big waiting line. The staff are wearing bow ties.  Very cool.

I got a Balcony seat for $23.75 – not cheap.

Plus I had to pay for parking $3.75 (I always park in the parking structure nearby).

$27.50 in total.

Isn’t it a little too expensive just to see one movie?

Michigan Theater is usually not expensive (around $10). Maybe because Sundance Film Festival is special?    Oh well.

Indeed, it is more like an opera house or a musical theater than a movie theater.

This is a brass drinking fountain in the lobby.  OMG!

For a prelude, the guy played the famous pipe organ; Michigan Theater is known for this pipe organ made in 1920s for this theater (you see on the left in the center). It sounds great. It’s really worth coming to Michigan Theater just to hear the pipe organ.

He played the famous theme song of the movie “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”. This movie was a breakthrough for Robert Redford, who launched the Sundance Film Festival.

This song, “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head”, makes certain generations of Japanese, including me, feel nostalgic, too.

The movie was made in 1969. It was years later that I saw the movie for the first time. I saw it in a cheap movie theater in Japan which ran (recycled) old movies for very low prices.  This kind of movie theaters really helped broke students like me. So, technically, this song is not representative of my houth; it’s for a generation who are  more than ten years older than me. But I still feel this is one of the songs of my younger years. You must have a few songs like that for yourself, too.

By the way, in my home country, Japan, they often change the titles of the overseas movies when they distribute them domestically. Why?  Can’t explain.  The titles just would not sound cool to the Japanese’ ears.  So they think up titles that will sound good to the Japanese sense. The title they gave this movie was, “Shoot (your guns) Towards Future” (literally translated).  This translation was great, I think – it helped   sell the movie greatly.  It was a big hit in Japan.

Why does a title like “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” sell to the Americans?  It’s beyond my understanding no matter how many years I live in the U.S.  It’s one of those differences in culture and language, I guess.

I have seen many other American movies with the titles which amzed me, “how in the world do Americans want to go see a movie with a title like this?”  Not surprisingly, when they were distributed in Japan, they were under different titles made up by the Japanese movie distributors.

Cute silhouettes of snow flakes on the walls made me feel as if I were in a movie theater in a ski resort in Utah.

Wait for the show, admiring the beautiful ceiling.

Finally, the auditorium is full and the director of Michigan Theater and the film director appear on the stage.

The film director is from Toronto, Canada. The audience is very happy to hear that the director is from somewhere near (Toronto is only 4 or 5 hours of drive from here).

After the film showing, the directors appear again. This time the two starring actresses also appear for Q&A sessions.

The actresses are witty and cheerful.  Many questions from the audience – Americans are in general not shy at all to speak out in a situation like this. The audience gets more and more excited.

Sundance Film Festival is a great opportunity for somebody with no connections with Hollywood to enter the movie business. I wonder if these two actresses will be in Hollywood movies sometime soon?

View from the first floor.

The auditorium was almost full – that means almost 1,700 people came.

The movie was very well-made.

I could not understand a lot of what they were saying (as I am not a native English speaker), but it was that kind of movie with the plot I could follow without understanding everything they say.

It was targeted for people in their 20s and early 30s.  For middle-age people like me, it was..uh…OK…I guess.  People who go to film festivals are young, so, of course filmmakers want to make films targeted to young people.

This film had been bought by a distribution company – good for them!

I hear that many movie distributors come to the main venues in Utah and hang out in the lobbies, ready to make offers to good ones.

About 10,000 films are submitted to Sundance Film Festival annually, and only dozens of them are made offers by the distributors.  Talk about a fierce competition!

The usher gave me this – a thick and beautiful magazine for free!

The publisher is the Sundance Institute, a non-profit organization founded by Robert Redford. It’s packed with information that will surely attract young people who are interested in going into film business. They are well funded that they can give away beautiful magazines like this!

In the first pages, there is a big photo of Redford – he looks as great as before — wait!  How old is this photo?

In the 1970s, he was one of the best-looking actors.  He was very popular in Japan, too.

This photo (in the right page) is definitely more recent. He is in his 70s, but he seems very active – very inspiring for the younger generations, including me.

By the way, the director of Michigan Theater, Mr. Russ Collins, is like a local celebrity.  He has been a regular of the radio (WEUM) program “Cinema Chat” for years.

I wrote a post about Michigan Theater. If you are interested, Michigan Theater, please check out Michigan Theater, the Great.

Michigan Theater was chosen for one of the 9 screening venues outside Utah for 2 years in a row.  There is no guarantee that it will be chosen again, so I decided to go this year, putting pressure on myself (when you are middle-aged, you don’t feel like going outside your home much any more).

It was a fun winter festival.

The audience seemed very proud and excited that their local theater was selected for a venue.

I think this is a very good idea to show films in other places beyond Utah. This way people feel they are participating in the film festival.  Many people can’t afford to travel to Utah, especial young people who are ironically more interested in film festivals than older ones who have more money.  This is localization, and they should benefit from the localization, i.e. there will be more fans of Sundance Film Festival.  The festival may keep growing – I would not be surprised if it is expanded to Tokyo, Shanghai, etc. in the future; it is already expanding to London this spring).

Posted in Ann Arbor | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Michigan Theater, the Great @Ann Arbor, Michigan

For Japanese, please click here (日本語はこちらをクリック)!

 

Michigan Theater is one of the two movie theaters in downtown Ann Arbor.

It’s like a mini opera house.

Everytime I go to this theater, I am almost overwhelmed by the grand interior with the ornate ceiling, walls, stair railing and chandeliers.

Is this really a movie theater?!!

In fact, there are many theaters like this in the U.S.  In my home country, Japan, there is no movie theater which is like an opera house. Still very exotic to me after living here for more than 20 years.

The architecture of Michigan Theater is Lombard Romanesque style.  According to the source I read, the characteristics of Lombard Romanesque style are rhythmic ornamental arches and lack of very elaborate sculptural embellishment.

Michigan Theater is located on Liberty Street, near the intersection with State St. which is the main street for the University of Michigan main campus.  The other movie theater, State Theater, famous for its art deco style architecture, is on the intersection and can be seen from the entrance of Michigan Theater.

 

 

 

 

 

View of State Theater from in front of Michigan Theater – these two theaters stand near each other, like close sisters.

Ticket office

Here you will already notice the elaborately decorated ceiling and the walls above the entrance doors.  Wow!

Inside – very elegant

The concession is on the left.

 

If I remember correctly, the son of the director of this theater was a classmate of one of my sons (long time ago) – when you live in a same place for decades, you become sort of a local even if you are from another country.

 

Gorgeous ceiling and railing upstairs come into sight.

Dazzling

So gorgeous that I want to go upstairs to explore, every time I come here.  It’s like the Palace of Versailles…

A closer look at the walls.  How elaborate!   Americans used to build just as elaborate architecture as Europeans in the early 20th century.

Lots of gold leaf – real gold!

They must have spent a lot of money.  In 1927, a local businessman, Angelo Poulos, decided to build a movie theater on Liberty St in Ann Arbor.  He hired a Detroit architect, Maurice Finkel.  The theater was completed in 1928.

I wonder if any of their descendants live around here?

A corner of the upstairs – it makes me imagine Mozart must have been composing and playing music in a room like this.

Combination of chandeliers and mirrors is very effective in creating a gorgeous interior atmosphere.  I read that mirrors were used to enhance the interior effect in the opera houses in Europe in the 18th century.  The same technique was used for this theater.

 

In the 1970s, the attendance dropped and the theater was  threatened with demolition, but the local community raised funds and saved the theater. Since then, Michigan Theater Foundation, a non-profit organization, has been running the theater.  The theater has been restored and renovated.  The Foundation is always accepting donation.

 

Beautiful railing – how many people touch the railing every day throughout year?  It must be a lot of work to maintain it.

 

Stairs to the balcony seats – I feel as if I were in a Broadway theater or in an opera house.

 

I found this upstairs.  Looks like a very old weight scale. Who in the world will want to be on a weight scale in a movie theater??

 

The Historic Auditorium

This is the main and large room.  It can seat 1,700 people (doesn’t look that large) and is equipped with the original Barton Theatre Pipe Organ. The pipe organ was built in 1927 for this theater.

This auditorium is equipped with very good acoustic system which is suited for classical music performance. The pipe organ is still played now.  It sounds great. It’s worth coming to Michigan Theater just to hear the organ!

When the theater was built, it was an era of silent movies.  They played live music as they showed the movies.  That’s why the auditorium was built to be acoustically superior.

 

There is another, smaller auditorium in Michigan Theater – the Screening Room. It was added in 1999.  I hear it’s equipped with state-of-the-art movie sound system (I have not been to the room myself yet).  This room is used for minor films (e.g. speciality, foreign, independent, documentary) that draw small attendance.   It’s not easy to notice there are actually two auditoriums in there.

 

 

In 1920s, it was eqivalent to going to Disney World (or Disney Land) to go see a movie.  Originally, seeing a movie was the working class’s recreation (escaping the reality); the middle class were afraid of movies  (the movies were scary or the places where the movies were shown were scary? )  So, they built gorgeous and beautiful opera house-looking movie theaters to attract the middle and the upper class people.  The idea worked very well – the middle-class people felt the movie theaters were safe and fun places to take their families.  Thus movie theaters became the biggest entertainment/recreational places and the cultural centers for people.  This is very interesting.

 

Film Festivals:  You must have heard about Sundance Film Festival, which was founded by Robert Redford and others in the late 1970s.  The festival is held annually in Utah around late January.  During the festival, some of the films are shown in theaters in some cities beyond Utah. The filmmakers travel to those theaters and there are Q&A sessions, etc. with the audience.  This year (2012), there are 9 screening venues in the whole country (Boston, Chicago, NY, etc.), and Michigan Theater is one of them.  It was selected for a venue for 2 years in a row.  This also means Michigan Theater is the only venue chosen in the entire state of Michigan.  This is pretty awesome!

 

Michigan Theater also hosts the annual Ann Arbor Film Festival every year, around March.

 

Movies you cannot see anywhere else:  Last year (2010), they hosted a series of the legendary Stanley Cubric’s movies – 2001 A Space Oddysey, A Clockwork Orange, Barry Lyndon, etc.  Young people may not have seen or heard of any of them, except 2001 A Space Oddysey.  When I was a college student, I was crazy about movies and saw a lot of movies including Cubric’s.  It’s great to be able to see old great movies on a big screen in a movie theater, not on your small TV screen at home (even a screen of the largest HDTV couldn’t compete with a screen of a movie theater).

A while ago, Michigan Theater hosted the Japanese movie, “Shall We Dance?” starred by Koji Yakusho.   Mr. Yakusho is a very big Japanese movie star.  Of course I went to see it.  Very few Japanese (and other Asian movies) come to Michigan Theater, though.  Why?   Does the management of Michigan Theater prefer European and American movies?

If they show more Japanese and other Asian movies, they would be an even greater movie theater!

 

Kids’ movies:  They mainly host artistic movies for adults, but they also host movies for families – in a series named “Not Just For Kids”.

 

Live music performance:  Equipped with the excellent acoustic systems, I hear Michigan Theater is a good place for live music performance as well; it explains why it is a home of the Ann Arbor Symphony.

Do you know Jeff Daniel?  He co-starred the very funny movie, Dumb & Dumber, in the 1990s with Jim Carrey.  He is actually from Chelsea, one of Ann Arbor’s neiboring small towns. He and his family lived in Chelsea (his son was the same age of one of my sons, and they played in the youth baseball league. I remember my son’s team played Mr. Daniel’s son’s team several times – OK, this is enough, who cares, right?).  Mr. Daniel can play guitar, and performed a live concert at Michigan Theater.  If I remember correctly his son was in a rock band and played with his father in the concert.

About two years ago, Michigan Theater hosted an orchestra concert for children on Peter and the Wolf with narration by the former Univ. of Michigan football coach, Lloyd Carr.

 

There won’t be any subtitles, of course, because this is America… When I was in Japan when young, I saw so many movies, many of which were American movies with Japanese subtitles. If you are a foreigner (like me) and are not good enough at English to follow the dialogues and the story, it will sometimes be frustrating – I fully understand. You may not really want to spend money to see a movie you won’t be able to understand well.  But it may be worth the money to see a movie on a big screen in a big auditorium with great sound system in a beautiful theater!  You may want to choose an old film you have already seen – then you will know the story already and it won’t bother you if you can’t understand everything they say in the movie.  A place like Michigan Theater makes me feel “this is truly movie-going”.  It’s a gorgeous movie theater, rich in history and tradition.

 

Michigan Theater is a member of the League of Historic American Theaters, and in 2006 it was named the Outstanding Historic Theatre.

 

The theater’s website:     http://www.michtheater.org/

Posted in Ann Arbor | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment