Tag Archives: story

tell their stories.



after sledding on a beautiful snow day

grandies and neighbors

gather around the table

to share a large pot

of ramen, laughs, and stories. 

“honor the community you come from. tell their stories.”



the tipping point.


saw this in the early morning when walking downtown 

I wonder about the story behind how it got there

was it a server at his/her limit

 finally reaching the tipping point

throwing down the apron 

tying them down

abandoning ship

hoping for

something better/different/new out there?

‘a single act of courage is often the tipping point for extraordinary change.’

-andy stanley

storybook trail.


such a wonderful discovery made

when walking in a park near my daughter’s house

an illustrated storybook trail

with pages spread throughout the woods

placed there by the village and the local library

a perfect pairing.

“we tell stories in order to feel at home in the universe.”
— Roger Bingham, British science communicator, writer, public television producer and host



after walking up to this truck

i wondered about all the stories it could tell

where it’s been, who it carried, what happened

no one knows for sure

all that’s left is to imagine.

what a ride it must have been!

“i like stories that leave you wanting more,

leave you wondering, but don’t tell you everything.”

-viggo mortensen


ann arbor – summer 2018

same hero, different season.


in much the same way

that he appeared out of the blue

in the midst of a very heavy snow season

to ask if i would hire him to shovel my driveway

and disappearing just as suddenly

only to appear again

last weekend

wheeling his mower down the sidewalk

and stopping by

to ask if i would hire him to mow my lawn

soon after my lawn mower refused to start

the quiet, polite, hardworking kid with no name is back 

and gone again.

“everybody is a hero in their own story if you just look.”

-maeve binchy



image credit: pincor products vintage advertising

eat like a genius.


The Grocery List Sketched by Michelangelo
You can’t sculpt like Michelangelo, but you can eat like him.

In March 1518, Michelangelo feasted on fish and bread. 

ACCORDING TO MICHELANGELO’S SHOPPING LIST, genius thrives on a diet of fish, bread, and lots of wine.

Owned by the Casa Buonarroti museum in Florence, Italy, this 500-year-old list was written and illustrated by the sculptor/painter/poet/personality on the back of a letter. Michelangelo’s servant was likely illiterate, so Michelangelo sketched out what he wanted to eat.

And Michelangelo wanted a feast, spread out over three meals. He depicted bread rolls as quickly-drawn circles, and for one meal, Michelangelo wanted two rolls. For another, he wanted six. On the page, an elegant herring floats in the air, while bowls overflow with salad and anchovies. Two dishes of stewed fennel are sketched side by side, and when asking for a smaller amount of dry wine, Michelangelo carefully drew a small wine jug next to a larger one. Sadly, he did not draw two plates of tortelli—he only asked for the ravioli-like pasta pouches in writing.

The menu consists mostly of vegetables, fish, wine, and bread. This might seem particularly healthy, but the letter on the other side of the list is dated March 18, 1518, around the time of Lent. Since eating meat was frowned upon, Michelangelo ate the requisite vegetables. However, Gillian Riley writes in The Oxford Guide to Italian Food that this was definitely an upscale menu. Despite his frugal reputation, the artist was probably used to dining with nobility.

By 1518, Michelangelo had already finished many of his most famous works, including the Pietà, the David, and the Sistine Chapel ceiling. But among all his work, this rough list is perhaps the most down-to-earth glimpse of the artist himself. It’s interesting to imagine the famously mercurial Michelangelo taking the time to illustrate for his servant what he wanted for dinner.

The survival of this list is remarkable, too. Only around 600 of Michelangelo’s sketches still exist. 1518 marked the year that Michelangelo burned many of his early drawings, and 46 years later, he ordered many of his papers to be torched in anticipation of his death. Maybe he wanted to preserve the aura of divine genius that surrounded his art. A list showing his sketched takeout order might not have given the right impression.


“all writing is an act of self-exploration.

even a grocery list says something about you;

how much more does a novel say?”

-steven saylor




credits: atlas obscura/gastro obscura, anne ewebank,Casa Buonarroti- Florence, Italy



“ann arbor news reporter stan bradshaw

leaves building front door for assignment, september 1948″.

this old news image reflects the one we often had of intrepid reporters, hot on an assignment, giving us the latest news of pinnacle events in the life of ann arbor. there was a certain quality and reliability to the news and its staff, bringing us the best stories and photographs available. the photos still resonate with the innocence and spontaneity of life and those living it here.

“journalism keeps you planted in the earth.”

-ray bradbury

to all the journos out there, still finding a way to tell the story.






image credits: oldnews.aadl.org, ann arbor townies

what’s your story?


i’ve always been fascinated by the idea of back stories.

the story behind the story

i love the idea of understanding

what led to something,  motivations,  experiences, emotions, circumstances, the why’s

so i set out to find the back story/backstory about the origin of this term

the new york times summed it up very well in the following piece. 

‘Looking for the Candy, Finding a Back Story” was the headline above a review by A.O. Scott in The New York Times about the movie “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”
“Backstory” (one word) was the headline chosen by the New Yorker cultural critic Joan Acocella for her dance review of “revivals of long-absent works by Ashton and Balanchine.”
What’s the history, derivation, hidden motivation or inside skinny — I’m groping for the dramatic term — of this explosion of usage in the arts sections of our media? Whence this seemingly simultaneous lexical development?

It began quietly in the early 80’s, probably among writers creating series for television. The Oxford English Dictionary’s earliest citation is from an A.P. dispatch by Jerry Buck in 1982 about the screenwriters Stephen and Elinor Karpf: “They had been compiling characters and back stories for a prospective serial for several years.”

The O.E.D. recently noted that the term’s early specific meaning was a history “created for a fictional character or situation, especially in a film or television series.”When dealing with a fictional character, the writer and director can help an actor play the part by telling him about the character’s life before the screenplay begins: from where he came, his education or lack of it, previous loves, arrest and medical records; this provides motivation and flavor.
A second meaning of back story grew out of that: Why not provide the reader or viewer with the same kind of information about what drives the character’s decisions and that adds color and meaning to an event? That led to the popularity of the prequel, a 70’s term popularized by J.R.R. Tolkien, giving the characters an earlier life and showing the roots of the subsequent story’s events.
Then nonfiction writers adopted the word and applied it to the lives of real people of the past. David Barnhart, editor of the Barnhart Dictionary Companion, spotted what he calls “a figurative extension of the meaning” and supplies a 1986 citation in this book title: “Backstory: Interviews with Screenwriters of Hollywood’s Golden Age,” edited by Pat McGilligan. (Unfortunately for etymologists, no interviewer asked the early screenwriters if they ever used the word backstory.)
That secondary sense — “what happened back then” — is being carried forward. The Baltimore Sun reporter Fred Rasmussen, who has a weekly column titled Back Story, says: “What we’re doing is going back to an original story from the 20’s and 30’s, sometimes only 10 years ago, and updating it for readers. We may know now what or who caused it, and what the motivations were. It’s not a nostalgia column; it’s a revisiting of a news event. We chose the name because we wanted something clipped, and that reflected what the column was about.”
Other lexies have their eyes on the two words (that are sometimes written as one). Joe Pickett, executive editor of the American Heritage Dictionary, supplies us with “Tapir’s Morning Bath,” a 2002 nature book by Elizabeth Royte: “Whalers took out whales, plankton proliferated, pollack boomed, perch and herring went bust, seals and sea lions followed, and so orcas switched their diet to otter.” Then comes a nice boosting: “As the disappearing otter has a back story, so too does it have a front story, a cascade of effects rippling into the future.”
Bringing the varied usages close to home, The Times Magazine has a section on its contents page called “Back Story.” Here’s the meaning, in the opinion of Gerald Marzorati, the magazine’s editor: “My understanding is that the phrase is mostly (though not exclusively) used in Hollywood to describe the potted history and biography of, respectively, the narrative and the characters that will have to be worked into the film — carefully, as not to bog down the unfolding of the edge-of-the-seat stuff that moviegoers have paid their 10-plus bucks for.

“We at the magazine use it on our contents page mostly because of the catchiness of the phrase. What we mean to do in that paragraph is give you a little ‘back story’ on the author — why he or she was the one to have reported and written the piece — and a little ‘back story’ on how the reporting came about or went.” (He can give the section a catchy title, but the guys in the office, and at many other magazines, call it the edlet, for “editor’s letter.”)
That’s the background, to use an archaic term, of back story.

credits: new york times, william safire