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MT's Top 10 stories of 2009



We didn't count perennial favorites such as our Best Of issues from this year or recent years, or such Web classics as our articles on the Hair Wars phenomenon ("Tressed to kill" from 2004) or vaginal reconstructive surgery ("Does  this make my labia look fat" from 2005). But for stories written during 2009 (so far) these are the ones that MT readers clicked to the top of the list.

1. The Eminem interview - By Bill Holdship
The greatest rapper on earth gets personal on Proof, guns, Bill O'Reilly and being an artist from Detroit

When it comes to Eminem, a lot of backstory probably isn't necessary. Especially in Detroit. But, really, that's pretty much true anywhere in the civilized Western world (and I'd be surprised if he hasn't been used by al-Qaeda or some organization like that somewhere along the way as a symbol of Western decadence; God knows he's been used as a symbol and example of such in his own country enough times since he became a pop superstar and phenomenon).

But, I mean, hell, my mom knows who Eminem is. ...

2. Brothers in arms - By Detroitblogger John
Detroit's last gun shop barrels on, despite wayward groin shots and a sting operation

"Does anybody here have a problem with taking a life?" asks 69-year-old General Laney, owner of Laney's Guns and Supplies on Detroit's east side. "If you're not capable of taking a life then you're not in the right place," he warns, "'cause you might have to take a life. You have no choice because the person who wants to take your life has no feeling for you."

Laney should know — he was once shot six times. ...

3. Hot and steamy - By Detroitblogger John
At a historic Detroit bath house, sex is optional, but nudity isn't

It's midnight inside a dimly lit banquet room on Detroit's east side. The place is like any low-frills dining space — cheap carpeting, plain walls and rounded booths on the room's edges, with padded seats and small tables.

But this one is different: People are having sex with each other in the booths. In full view of everyone else in the room. ...

4. Translation: Asshole -  By Dan Savage

Q: I'm a 32-year-old, very attractive, very fit SWM living in NYC. I'm well-read and well-spoken. I march to the beat of my own drum. Friends tell me that my personality is intense. It must be true — everyone concurs. I'm extremely idealistic, and I count myself as a romantic. I'm interested in an intense and consuming love affair with a woman. But friends tell me that my approach to courtship and my energy scare women off. ...

5. Kill city dreaming - By Bill Holdship
Iggy Pop and James Williamson talk Raw Power, their rift and reunion, Ron Asheton and the glory that (still) is Detroit

Here's yet one more example of so many things that demonstrate just how far and full-circle the Iggy Pop story has come over the years. The opening credits to Michael Moore's brilliant new film, Capitalism: A Love Story, are accompanied by Iggy singing "Louie, Louie." And at the end of the movie, Mr. Pop is also featured predominantly on Moore's "Thank you" list — which, once again, just goes to show how mainstream Iggy Pop has managed to become while, at the same time, never associating his name or image with anything that isn't "cool." No small feat in this day and age! ...

6. The newspaper scam - By Jack Lessenberry
It's more than an online paper: It's a pile of illiterate crap.

Last month The Ann Arbor News closed for good. But not to worry, we were told by the publisher, a chipper corporate creature with the improbable name of Laurel Champion. Yes, we were losing a newspaper, and 272 employees would join the vast reserve army of the unemployed.

But we were gaining Ann, a combination "local news service and social networking site." Why, even before the paper closed, the dot-com had hired "more than a dozen" former Ann Arbor News employees, meaning no more than 96 percent of the staff had been destroyed. How could anyone complain about that? (Would the old staffers have their same or better salaries? Bet you can guess!)

7. Anatomy of a story - By Curt Guyette
The news about Detroit's frozen man went around the world, but some pertinent details may never catch up

Using spare, elegant prose, Charlie LeDuff delivered a lead that landed with all the force of a mule kick to the gut, at once breathtaking and devastating.

"This city has not always been a gentle place," wrote the star reporter for The Detroit News, "but a series of events over the past few, frigid days causes one to wonder how cold the collective heart has grown."

The story, first published Jan. 28 on the paper's website, appeared under the headline: "Frozen in indifference: Life goes on around body found in vacant warehouse."

8. 'Come on, Ronnie, tell em' how I feel!' - By Bill Holdship
Ronald Franklin Asheton: July 17, 1948-January 6, 2009

It wasn't always this way.

Years ago, TV commercials and film soundtracks didn't feature the guitar sound Ron Asheton pioneered with the Stooges. Even in Michigan, I vividly remember people saying about the Stooges back in the day: "Those guys can't play!" In fact, when soliciting photos for this piece, we discovered there really aren't that many photos available of Ron from the early days. Photographers didn't take the band seriously enough to shoot them back then, even when the lensmen were there to shoot the MC5 on the same stage. Hell, I saw lots of people booing Iggy Pop himself when he opened for the Stones at the Pontiac Silverdome in 1981 — that being the Stones tour, after all, that first attracted the yuppies and investment bankers who've been part of their audience ever since. ...

9. Aronson's guide for the godless - By W. Kim Heron and Curt Guyette
A WSU prof contemplates America as a not-so-religious nation

It began seriously with publication of The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason, which became a best-seller for a previously obscure neuroscience grad student named Sam Harris. And it's grown into what Wayne State University professor Ron Aronson calls "a remarkable intellectual wave." What "it" is doesn't have a simple name, but involves questioning and sometimes attacking religion; it especially involves a questioning of the increasing role that religion has taken in American public life in recent decades. The wave includes philosopher Daniel C. Dennett calling for the scientific investigation of religion in Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon. It includes the acerbic journo Christopher Hitchens (God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything) and the Oxford biologist Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion). Bill Maher recently added his two cents with the film Religulous.

Living Without God (Counterpoint), Aronson's contribution to the wave, was published late last year. It brooks no argument with religion as religion, but it challenges how the religious right has warped our politics in recent times. ...

10. Tread lightly - By Curt Guyette and W. Kim Heron
Juan Cole argues against sending lots of troops to Afghanistan

A history professor at the University of Michigan, Juan Cole's notoriety as a scholar focusing on Islam was largely confined to academic circles until 2002, when he began writing his Informed Comment blog. In the wake of the 9/11 attacks and the subsequent invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq by the United States, Cole's significant insights suddenly became important to a much wider audience. Having lived in various parts of the Muslim world for nearly a decade, with a command of Arabic and Persian, his ability to put current conflicts into a historical context made him a highly sought-after commentator. Along with frequent television and radio appearances, he writes a regular column for He's also the author of several books, including his most recent, Engaging the Muslim World (Palgrave Macmillan).

In advance of an upcoming Royal Oak appearance to discuss the Obama administration's Afghanistan and Pakistan policies, we caught up with the busy Cole last week by phone.

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