Free to Roam as You Please

[park1] Freedom! Finals week will be a mere nightmarish memory, and the hope of summer, to which we have so desperately clung, will manifest itself in free time: time to work on a scrapbook, time to start that exercise regimen you’ve been planning, time to… sit on your couch enjoying your central air and religiously waiting for each storyline on Passions to unfold?
Don’t fall victim to the daytime doldrums this summer. The greater Lansing area offers many amazing parks and recreation areas mostly obscured by a lack of desire to visit them. Here is a brief selection of the many gems in our area.
Harris Nature Center Located on Van Atta road in Okemos, Harris Nature Center offers over three miles of trails and programs designed to keep people close to nature.
Carlie Thibault, assistant naturalist for the center, said people enjoy the wildflowers and animals at Harris. “We have a lot of trails, and pets are welcome,” she said.
Fenner Nature Center, just south of campus, and Woldumar Nature Center, in southwest Lansing, offer similar summer nature programs.
Oak Park Just about a mile away from the downtown area of Grand Ledge (20 minutes west of East Lansing), Oak Park plays host to some of the best natural rock climbing in the Midwest. Giant sandstone rock faces line the Grand River as it meanders through Grand Ledge, creating ideal conditions for climbing enthusiasts from across the country.
If risking your life for a thrill isn’t worth turning off the tube, then plan a romantic picnic for the same spot. Oak Park is carpeted with velvety green grass and ancient towering oak trees, providing shade and comfort of the natural variety from the sweltering heat of the summer.
Francis Park, on Lansing’s south side, and MSU’s own campus both offer great picnic conditions like those at Oak Park, sans the rock climbing.
[park2]Just 15 minutes away from campus in Delta Township, Grand Woods Park is good for little kids and big kids alike. A great playground greets you as you drive in, but the real fun is in what the locals call “disc golf.” The game is played just like regular golf, only the ball is replaced by a Frisbee-like apparatus and the hole is substituted with a basket. What’s better, there are no stuffy dress codes like collared shirts or special shoes, and get this – it’s free!
“I love to disc golf because it gives me a chance to be outside and to hang with my friends,” music junior Eileen Downey said. “Plus, it doesn’t cost anything.”
Fitzgerald Park in Grand Ledge also has a free disc golf course.
Noting the conspicuous absence of a water front in the area may discourage a visit to the beach, especially with the predicted gas prices this summer. But only a half-hour away, a local secret, Jordan Lake, is calling beach bums to its shore.
Jordan Lake is nestled in a small town called Lake Odessa, just west of Lansing. It offers a warm, sandy beach and cool, refreshing lake waters. Locals bask in the sunshine by day and then hit up the beachfront Dairy Queen by night. It is all very Dukes of Hazzard, and very fun.
Lincoln Brick Park in Grand Ledge also has a nice swimming hole and Lake Lansing Park (on the north side) is very close but has less desirable water conditions.
For more information on parks in the area, go to www.CityOfLansingMI.com or just ask a local. But whatever you do, do not spend your summer glued to your couch with the shades drawn. The great outdoors is begging you to step outside.

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Never a Drag

[hershae] Hershae Chocolaté burst onto the stage like an orange laser light show in the middle of Sunday mass. She had shaggy blonde hair, legs that stretched for miles, patent leather stilettos and an attitude that would make Simon Cowell weep like a little girl. Amidst exclamations like, “Ooo, my ass is hanging out!” and “I just love straight people!” Chocolaté emceed the most fabulous day of spring semester: The Cabaret Neuvo Drag show.
The show razed Friday to the ground at the International Center, and kicked off a full seven days devoted to the celebration of MSU’s lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender, or LBGT, community. The first of Pride Week’s festivities was co-sponsored by the University Activities Board and the LBGT caucus of North Complex, Respecting Individuals on Neutral Ground (RING). Other Pride Week events included guest speakers, a dance party-mixer and LBGT-conscious film screenings.
Lauren Patterson, the representative from UAB in charge of the performance, said partnering with the LBGT community to put on events such as the Cabaret Neuvo helps raise awareness on campus. “Both drag queens and kings perform,” Patterson said. Everyone was given equal ground, she added.
[johnny] And indeed they were. When The Johnny Handcocks, a group of kings dressed like the envy of any Justin Timberlake, hit the stage, the crowd made the riots of March Madness look like a game of patty cake.
“The crowd turnout was amazing,” Nikkie Chavarria, communications junior and member of the group, said. Chavarria said her favorite part of performing with The Johnny Handcocks in front of an audience was the ability to assume a different identity while conveying important messages about the fluidity of gender.
“[A drag show] is a place for everyone to celebrate diversity while having fun,” she said. Meggin Welling, Lauron Kehrer, Kelly McSorley, Jessica Shamberger and Melissa Horste are also members of the drag king troupe.
[split] Entertainment was evident from even outside the International Center. Screaming and applause filled the entire space with high energy and promoted an aura of acceptance. Crowd participation was key to the success of the show. Many sang along to the pop standards of the drag routines, and the adventurous waved dollar bills at the endowments of certain queens and kings.
The fireworks continued with a range of acts that incorporated acrobatic queens in “hooker shoes,” and an androgynous rendition of Marilyn Manson’s “Dope Show.” The crowd had a hard time reconciling the unabashed camp of lip-syncing with Manson’s goth-tastic lyrics, but quickly recovered with a rabblerousing queen’s take on Britney Spears.
For many, the highlight of the night befell as Chocolaté, with uncanny precision, sought out the butchest of straight men in attendance and compelled them into their first exploration of queendom. Veterans went to work making over and polishing these troopers to the great pleasure of the crowd.
And who, excluding the most stuffy and cantankerous members of the GOP, doesn’t like witnessing public humiliation at the hands of drag queens? The answer revealed itself through rowdy applause.
The whole five hours was a free-for-all of gender fluctuation and liberation, and served as a great ribbon cutting for Pride Week 2005. Although after Friday night, the sequins and fringe were tucked away until next year, hopefully the message of acceptance and diversity will stay strong.

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Magdalena’s Magic Carpet Ride

Once upon a time, a woman took a trip to Eastern Europe. Happily ever after, Miko Fossum opened a business inspired by the journey and lived the fairy tale of her dreams in the form of Magdalena’s Tea House.
Magdalena’s Tea House, at 2006 E. Michigan Ave. in downtown Lansing, serves as a homey hideaway for aspiring musicians and offers an accepting atmosphere for anyone seeking warmth and good chai. And it’s only a dramatic magic carpet ride away, sweeping you from the dreary streets of Michigan to the exotic medinas of the East.
[shoes] Scene 1: A Turkish marketplace. Duck out of the bustling commotion of city life into the simple urban antithesis that is Magdalena’s. Light flows seamlessly from the room’s summit to its floor through jeweled glass lamps, creating an illusion of open air. Opulent wall-to-wall carpets compliment gold- and wine-colored walls. Delicate candles cast flickering shadows through ornate stained glass vessels onto overstuffed couches. This is the very essence of relaxation.
Fossum said she chose the colors from a palette inspired by her rugs. She wanted a relaxing atmosphere reminiscent of Turkey.
As in most Turkish tea houses, guests here encouraged to remove their shoes at the door. “It comes down to the little details,” she said.
Scene 2: A celebration of music and art. The dusky façade of the tea room emits only the slightest hint of the exotic melodies within. Random jams and designated open mic nights allow guests to express their creativity in many forms. The talents of the many patrons and performers manifest in poetry recitations, drum circles and foreign film nights.
A regular performer at Magdalena’s, Dan Eakin, an LCC student by day, spends his Monday nights drumming in a nouveau folk gathering called the Eastside Musicians Jam.
“Everybody is welcome,” Eakin said. Many come in with any number of instruments; Eakin said one woman even plays the saw. “People bring different styles and different attitudes. I’ve never seen a place that sponsors all different types of music and musicians like this.”
Pickers pluck their mandolins, guitars and banjos while others follow suit on pianos, violins and harmonicas. “[Performers] just walk up and start playing. That’s how we do it here,” he said.
Fossum added that Magdalena’s is first and foremost a community space, so new acts are always welcome. “I’m happy to be an outlet for beginning bands. It is a way to promote community,” she said.
Scene 3: Steaming water and aromatherapy. Fragrant currents of spiced leaves lazily wind their way to each corner of the room, inviting guests to partake in Magdalena’s collection of teas and organic coffees. The winter outside is truly seven wonders away.
[window] Joseph Harris, a history graduate student, always begins his road trips with a serving of aroma-rich exotic tea at Magdalena’s. The tea house is the perfect place to collect your thoughts, he said over a cup of African Redbush Peach tea. Tea is affordable, there is a plethora of blends and the medicinal effects of herbal tea are immeasurable, Fossum said.
In addition to tea, Magdalena’s serves delicious fair trade brews and other organic delicacies. Fossum hopes to expand business by adding a kitchen that will serve all-natural whole foods, locally grown by area farmers.
The magic carpet has landed, but the fairy tale has just begun. Check out Magdalena’s Tea House on Michigan Avenue near Clemens Street any night starting at 6, and prepare for an experience entirely uncharted in Lansing until now.

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Now and Then

A look at the architecture of Michigan State University over the past 150 years.
MSU blows out 150 candles this year, triggering a nostalgic backdrop to this year’s classes and special events.
Just as the courses, styles and populations of campus have changed, so has the architecture. From Victorian towers to geometric lobbies, the last 150 years provide stark examples of architectural tastes du jour.
1855-1906
[linton] Linton Hall- The second oldest building on campus, Linton Hall was built in 1881. It was originally used as MSU’s library, museum and administration building. Other structures from this time period include: Cowles House, Morrill Hall, Old Botany and Cook Hall.
1907-1945
North Kedzie Hall- With its medieval crests and dungeonesque lobby, North Kedzie Hall is a prime representation of the Collegiate Gothic style of architecture. Built in 1927, it filled the need for new and state of the art laboratory facilities. More examples from these years include: Mayo Hall, Mason and Abbot Halls, Berkey Hall and the Old Agriculture Building.
1945-Present
[library] Library- Constructed in 1955, MSU’s library signaled the advent of a new, international style of architecture on campus. It is defined by its geometric lines, glass structures and open lobbies. Other buildings from this era include: Biomedical and Physical Sciences, Hubbard Hall, Wilson Hall, and Bessey Hall.
For more information take a peek at “MSU Campus- Buildings, Places, Spaces: Architecture and the Campus Park of Michigan State University” by Linda Stanford and C. Kurt Dewhurst published in 2002.

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Suiting Your Taste

Ahh, coffee: the quintessential companion of any rational college student. But does it have to be the indecisive caffiene drinker’s worst nightmare?
[medley] With all of the cafés near campus, it is difficult to pick just one place to get a caffeine fix. So next time you find yourself face-down in your economics book with a puddle of drool forming over the review questions, refer back to this brief tour of options.
Caffe Latte – This groovy little joint, located on Charles Street right next to Georgio’s, is mega hip. Intensely introspective photographs litter the walls under accent lighting, as garage sale couches chill out at the rear of the room. This is the perfect atmosphere for sipping deliciously toasty beverages.
An attractive feature of Caffe Latte is that, on any given night, walking into the café might mean stumbling on an acoustic jam of local musicians, or an impromptu poetry slam of aspiring writers.
Eileen Downey, a music junior, has performed at Caffe Latte and started going in 1999. Caffe Latte attracts an artsy crowd, she said.
“They have great art and music. People spread the word,” Downey said.
The downside? Non-smokers may want to scoot on down the road. Caffe Latte offers a smoking section that is in no way separated from the non-puffers. Dig the Camels? Then Caffe Latte is a definite go.
Beaners -Location, location, location. Nestled smack dab on the first floor of the union, this jazzy little place is a winter favorite. Its dim lighting and sage color scheme gives it a cozy feel accented by mellow music and friendly service.
[coffee2] All Beaners has to offer is only a stones throw from the dorms. It is, however, part of a larger chain of cafés. So in order to support East Lansing’s small business owners, try this next place.
Espresso Royale – This hot spot, with its intelligent and modern décor, is right next to the MSU Credit Union between Charles and Bailey on Grand River. Even with a chic, contemporary design, Espresso Royale maintains the classic “cozy coffeee shop” feel. A fireplace is available to warm patrons as they sit on stylishly upholstered chairs, and an extensive lunch menu offers tasty sandwiches at reasonable prices.
Sick of laboring over hours of homework at the library? Espresso Royale has plenty of space to study. Laura Bell, an employee and anthropology sophomore said, “people come to Espresso Royale to study or to get coffee in a warm and friendly atmosphere.”
She added that many people come to relax on their heated patio. Yes, heated outdoor patio – quite possibly the coolest café feature on Grand River.
[coffee1] Starbucks – Located on the corner of Grand River and Charles, Starbucks lures in patrons with promises of good coffee and a great atmosphere. But if the mundane isn’t your gig, skip the frappuccino. A Starbucks is a Starbucks is a Starbucks. Period. Unless chocolate covered coffee beans are performing a Broadway medley on the counter, any other affordable and unique café on Grand River is the way to go.
That wraps up the tour. Please exit out of the right-hand side of this article, and don’t forget to grab your backpack. It has your coffee money in it.

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Political Music Sampler

As November 2 approaches, it seems as though the looming election has infiltrated all parts of life as we know it. Music is most certainly not an exception. Here are some examples of partisanly political songs that could get any donkey or elephant to shake their respective booties.
Those leaning to the left might listen to…
1. Rage Against the Machine, “The Battle of Los Angeles”
“Orwell’s hell a terror era coming through/ But this little brother’s watching you too”
2.Ani DiFranco, “To the Teeth”
“confused liberty with weaponry/ and watch your kids act it out”
3.Future Soundtrack for America, A compilation with artists like Ben Kweller and Tom Waits
Song titles like: “Jerry Falwell destroyed the Earth”
4. Bob Marley, “Legend”
“Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery/ None but ourselves can free our minds”
The president’s “right” hand men may tune into…
1. Toby Keith, “Shock’n Y’all”
“Well, Mr Bush got on the phone with Iraq and Iran and said/ Now you knuckleheads better not be doin’ business with the Taliban”
2.Ted Nugent, “Spirit of the Wild”
“Was I a-lone or in a hunter’s dream./ The buck was mine forever more!!”
3.Crush Kerry, A compilation with some Republican punk flavor
Song Titles Like: “Propaganda Puppets”
4.Alan Jackson, “Drive”
“Did you burst out with pride for the red, white and blue”
Happy Listening and remember to vote!

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Literary Corner: Letters from the Troops

[moore] With the race for the presidential election heating to a boiling point, John Kerry supporters are offered yet another nail in the coffin for good old George W., Michael Moore’s most recent release: “Will They Ever Trust Us Again: Letters From the War Zone,” offers the American people an almost unheard of opinion from a very important sect of the population. The book is composed entirely of letters to Michael Moore, the best selling author and award winning documentary filmmaker, from the men and women who served, are serving and will serve in Iraq.[trust]
Taking a break from his usual scathingly satirical pieces on current American politics, Moore turns to an emotionally provocative angle in “Will They Ever Trust Us Again”. In fact, he only offers his own opinions in a brief introduction that mostly sticks to an explanatory tone, as he describes the thoughts and work that went into creating this collection. Granted, through the editorial process he was able to include only the compositions he thought were appropriate for the subject, but the letters themselves remain largely unedited. These are the true words of real people fighting a real war. It is in these words that readers can find extremely accessible explanations in simple terms of the horrors and tribulations an American G.I. faces on a daily basis.
The book is divided into four sections: “Letters From Iraq (Currently in Iraq, Already Served in Iraq, or on Their Way), Letters From Our Troops Around the World, Letters From Veterans (of Past Wars), and Letters From Home (From Family and Friends of Troops)”.
Each section is more poignant than the next. The beginning segment tenders real attitudes from troops in Iraq that skip the usual flowery language riddled by euphemisms that the press and the current administration lean on. The letters are easy to understand and thus impart a new reality of current life in Iraq for those who will never be there.
Apart from being informative, the letters in “Will They Ever Trust Us Again” are also tremendously touching. This portion especially gives an individual humanity to something that often seems like a massive machine.
The authors of the letters tell of serving in incredibly adverse conditions, while feeling underequipped, overworked and often times undertrained. They complain of not knowing exactly why they are there and what they are doing to help the Iraqi people.
One soldier even said that George Bush “doesn’t give a shit whether I live or die.” These are very strong words from a very important part of the war on terror. American soldiers are disillusioned, and many Americans have no idea.
The second and third sections of Moore’s latest release display the correspondence of soldiers abroad as well as veterans of previous wars. These entries are slightly more objective, but remain in sync with the common tone of the book.
The body of the composition is rounded out by letters to Michael Moore from the families and friends of soldiers in Iraq and abroad. These gut wrenching letters lend a tangible face to the war in Iraq, allowing readers a window into their lives of constant fear and anxiety.
Overall, Moore’s newest effort adheres to his usual liberal message, but instead of spewing Anti-Bush statistics from his democratic soapbox, he presents everyday common opinions on the war in Iraq and the current administration from those who are living the reality.
“Will They Ever Trust Us Again: Letters From the War Zone,” was released in hardcover in Oct, 2004, and can be purchased in bookstores nationwide.

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The Best You’ve Never Heard: Steppin In It

[band] A bluegrass infused, hillbilly-boppin’, progressively fun jam band? Yes, you heard correctly. Visiting the Green Door Bar, 2005 E. Michigan Ave., on any given Monday means you better slip on your flood pants, because you’re about to step knee-deep into the new face of roots music.
Steppin’ In It, a local acoustic jam band, employs a clever juxtaposition of old time string music with a new, iconoclastic celebration of sound that not only rocks, but rolls right out of any easily pin-pointed genre of modern music. It has been referred to as Americana, or American Roots music, the band says.
The archetypal backwoods-Joes shredding the fiddle and plucking the banjo evidently found a new place to call home. This is an intelligent, emotional and talented group of music lovers, who happen to channel these delightful characteristics into a new wave of folk music that is seeping into Lansing’s music scene. Emo beware; a new alternative is coming to call.
The band came together in early 1997 and began by playing for East Lansing co-op parties.
“We had a different name for every show,” said Dominic Suchyta, an original member, who still plays master to the upright bass. “Steppin’ In It just stuck.”
Steppin’ In It features the talents of multi-instrumentalists Andy and Joe Wilson, upright-bassist Dominic Suchyta, and vocalist Joshua Davis. The band wields an arsenal of instruments between them, including the pennywhistle, dobro, cajun accordion, and trumpet, along with a plethora of other classic and not-so-classic musical contraptions.
Their first CD as a four-piece band on Hippo Coop Records, titled “Last Winter in the Copper Country” features ten original tracks and four covers that highlight songwriter Joshua Davis’ storytelling ability and the versatility of the band’s taste and style. The album snakes through hints of the blues, into whispers of zydeco and cajun, then bursts out of traditional western swing with songs like “The Butchers Girl” and “Gold and Silver.”
[emo] “Last Winter” propelled Steppin’ In It to the forefront of new roots artists in 2002, and since its release, the band has been widely requested at folk and bluegrass music festivals across the country.
Steppin’ In It’s latest development, “Hidden in the Lowlands“, picks up directly where “Last Winter” left off. Never obscuring the obvious hillbilly influences, the LP does offer witticism and intelligence that might be lost on Billy Bob and Johnny Sue if the sound reached their cornfield.
They were very concerned in putting out a quality representation of their work, and were pleased at the outcome.
“We went through our first printing really fast,” says Suchyta.
A performance from Steppin’ In It is a first-rate redefinition of “country” music. They have wooed audiences from Montana to West Virginia, making stops in Colorado and Canada along their merry way.
But every Monday from 9:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m., music enthusiasts can catch a wicked show at Lansing’s local watering hole, The Green Door.
And this isn’t just any background bar band; dancing shoes and a craving for pure unadulterated fun are required at a Steppin’ In It show.
Still not expecting much from a bunch of guys in holey T-shirts and worn out jeans? Well, Jesica Starr, the manager of The Green Door, disagrees. Steppin’ In It is drawing a crowd, she contends, “they do great music.”
After a night of cutting a rug to Bourbon Street throwbacks, you might be wondering where you can pick up a sample of their sound on CD format. Flat Black and Circular, CD Warehouse, and Elderly Instruments all carry both of their newest releases. And if you’re barely scraping together laundry money, check out their Web site: Steppininit.com. There are several downloads available so even the poverty-stricken can jam.
So, when was the last time you got your socks rocked off by a fiddle? There’s a first time for everything and plenty of chances to bawl your first yee-haw every Monday night at The Green Door.

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