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  • Twerk du Soleil shakes up Detroit

    Former American Idol contestant Vonzell Solomon weighs in on twerking, natural hair & CEO status. In 2005, recording artist Vonzell “Baby V” Solomon embarked on a journey that changed her life. At the age of 20, Vonzell made it to the top three on American Idol before she was eliminated. But that was not the beginning nor the end of her journey to stardom. Vonzell is one of more than two dozen artists on tour with YouTube sensation Todrick Hall, who is a former Idol contestant as well. Todrick gained notoriety for his fast food drive-thru songs and also for producing parody videos  —  based on popular Broadway musicals and songs. His tour, uniquely entitled Twerk Du Soleil (translation: twerk of the sun), is a combination of his popular YouTube spoofs. Both Vonzell and her ratchet alter ego,Boonquisha Jenkins, made an appearance in Twerk Du Soleil,which stopped in Detroit July 23 at Saint Andrews Hall. Boonquisha opened the show by facilitating a twerking competition among the audience. Next, Vonzell made a reappearance singing a fan favorite – Whitney Houston’s “I Have Nothing.” Later, Boonquisha came on stage screaming “It’s so cold in the D! You gotta be from the D to […]

    The post Twerk du Soleil shakes up Detroit appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Poll shows Bob Ficano behind in Wayne County Executive race

    If a poll released this week is any indication of how the August 5 primary election will turn out, current Wayne County Executive Bob Ficano has reason to worry, Fox 2 reports. Ficano, who’s seeking a third term, polled in fourth place — behind former Detroit Police Chief Warren Evans, Westland Mayor Bill Wild and Wayne County Commissioner Phil Cavanaugh, according to Fox 2. The poll by Strategic Solutions LLC, showed 6.7 percent of respondents said they’d vote for Ficano, which isn’t so bad: He finished ahead of County Commissioner Kevin McNamara (who came in at No. 6) and someone literally described as “a candidate not named here” (who polled at No. 5.) If you’re planning to head to the polls — which you should! — and need some input on the candidates and ballot proposals, you can read for our election coverage in this week’s Metro Times.

    The post Poll shows Bob Ficano behind in Wayne County Executive race appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • A Mad Decent Mixtape

    Mad Decent Block Party will roll through town on Saturday, August 16, bringing to town artists like Dillon Francis, Diplo, Flosstradamus, RiFF RAFF, Keys N Krates, and Zeds Dead. Thugli, a Canadian duo, will perform on the Toronto leg of the tour and they put together a 45 minute mix that features songs by some of the tour’s featured artists as well as a host of others.  Listen to it here. 

    The post A Mad Decent Mixtape appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Tangent Gallery to host Breaking Borders

    Detroit’s Tangent Gallery will host a special event this Saturday, July 26 in hopes of raising money for the local faction of an international nonprofit, Burners without Borders Detroit. Breaking Borders is a one-evening-only event that will feature live music, performance, and art. Satori Circus will perform along with spoken word artist ZakAndWhatArmy. Music by Tartanic, Dixon’s Violin, and Servitor. Fire dancers, hoop performers, and acrobats will provide a certain mysticism to the ambiance as old Victorian steampunk and tribal art is shown in the main gallery. There will also be a runway fashion show and the evening will end with a dubstep rave featuring DJ Forcefeed and Dotty. Truly, there’s something for everyone. Perhaps more importantly, there will be a full service bar. The event is open to those 18 and older and IDs will be checked at the door. Admission is $25 at the door, or $20 with the donation of a canned good. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the party goes until 2 a.m. A 20 percent commission will be taken from all art sold at this event and donated to Burners without Borders. The Tangent Gallery is located at 715 Milwaukee Ave., Detroit; 313-873-2955; tangentgallery.com.

    The post Tangent Gallery to host Breaking Borders appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • 48 to film — behind the scenes at the 48 Hour Film Project

    By Amanda Mooney There’s a lot that goes into producing a film, and unless you are a filmmaker you really have no idea. Writing, casting, finding a location, shooting, and editing; each step of the process can take days, months, and sometimes years to complete. Can you imagine doing it ALL in just 48 hours? The 48 Hour Film Project is an annual competition that takes place all over the world in various cities. According to Mike Madigan, head of the Detroit 48 Hour chapter, the city is one of the largest participating in terms of the number of teams. The competing teams go in blind as to what kind of film they will be producing, with no creative planning beyond getting a cast and crew together, Madigan explained. “They pick a genre out of a hat, and they get a line, a prop, and a character. And they have to incorporate that within a short film, that’s usually between 4 to 7 minutes long. And they have the timeframe of doing it all within 48 hours,” said Madigan, “So all the creative process of it all has to happen within that 48 hour–writing a script, putting it together, editing–to […]

    The post 48 to film — behind the scenes at the 48 Hour Film Project appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Passalacqua debut dark project ‘Church: Revival’ at new Hamtramck performance space

    Church: Revival is the new project by local rap duo Passalacqua (aka Bryan Lackner and Brent Smith), but it’s more than just a new Passalacqua release. The rappers teamed up with siblings Jax Anderson (frontwoman of rockers Flint Eastwood) and Seth Anderson, who together form the songwriting team called Syblyng (naturally). The result is a cycle of songs that promises to be darker than Passalacqua’s material so far. The project will make a live debut on Saturday, July 26 at a brand new venue space at the Detroit Bus Co.’s building Eight & Sand, and they will premiere the Right Bros.-directed video for the track “Baptism” as well. Other performances include Tunde Olaniran and Open Mike Eagle, and DJ sets by Nothing Elegant, Dante LaSalle, and Charles Trees. We met up the two duos at Eight & Sand to check out the new space and to talk about the project with all parties involved. Metro Times: How long have you been working together? Jax Anderson: Seth and I are constantly writing songs together. We want to push in the direction of becoming songwriters more frequently. This is our first project that we took on to co-write everything together. We’re basically just a songwriting entity. We won’t play live that […]

    The post Passalacqua debut dark project ‘Church: Revival’ at new Hamtramck performance space appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

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Politics & Prejudices

A map to our future

New governor faces stiff challenges; luckily, there's a handbook

The thought that life could be better is woven indelibly into our hearts and our brains.—Paul Simon

There's a great scene in the movie Enemy at the Gates, about the Battle for Stalingrad. The Nazis are winning, and the Soviet leaders are desperate to find a way to make their troops fight better. What about shooting cowards to make an example of them? Tried that. Hmmm. Threaten their families? Tried that too.

Finally, a junior commissar musters the courage to speak up: "We could try giving them hope!"

What? Give the men hope for a better future? What an extraordinary thought! However, they've run out of other ideas, and have little left to lose. They try it, and it works.

That wasn't the case in the election campaign that just ended. Nobody really offered us very much hope. Stripped of all the fancy graphics and rococo bullshit, the slogans for both parties really came down to something like, "Vote for me. The other guys are worse." I'll bet that got a lot of people really excited about voting.

Three days before the election, I found myself squatting in an emergency veterinary clinic in Madison Heights, after my Australian shepherd puppy helped their economy by eating a large zinc screw.

While waiting for vomiting and my bill, I talked to the some of the other two-legged clients. They were worried about the future, about educating their kids and getting or keeping a job themselves. None of them mentioned politics, the candidates, the president, anything. They were merely trying to scratch out decent lives.

My sense was that, whether they voted or not, they saw politics and politicians as largely irrelevant to their everyday existence.

Well, we've just voted, a scattering of us anyway, and we've picked a new crowd of leaders. Thanks to the Metro Times' deadlines, I had to write this before knowing who they would be. But what I do know is that when the new governor takes over on Jan. 1, he will be faced with a huge looming deficit in next year's budget — at least $1.6 billion. Worse, he will have made promises that, if he sticks to them, will send that deficit even higher.

Plus, the current year's budget will turn out to be really out of balance — and money will have to be found to close that gap too. There's no more stimulus and no more "fat" to cut. The new governor is going to have to make some hard choices, and do it fast, without any time for a learning curve.

What's even harder is that no governor can do this alone; anything has to be passed by both houses of the Michigan Legislature. Next year, this will be amateur hour. Thanks to our moronic system of term limits, the majority of the lawmakers who take office in two months will be new. Depending on final tallies, as many as 100 of our 148 lawmakers may be new to their jobs.

None of the "experienced" ones will have been there more than four years. They will face a series of hard choices. Ultimately, they can choose to raise taxes on those still working, and/or extend the sales tax to services in what has become a largely service economy. The new lawmakers could raise fees for things like hunting licenses, and boost the beer tax for the first time since they lowered it in 1966.

They could revamp the prison system, saving hundreds of millions by releasing or tethering inmates who are no longer any threat to society. Or they could slash road repair and education, crippling our state's ability to reinvent our economy and compete.

Figuring out both budgets and trying to plan coherently for the future in a complex society isn't easy, even if you aren't blinded by ideology. It's especially hard when times are tough and you've never done this before. Plus, the new lawmakers are certain to encounter all sorts of helpful lobbyists eager to persuade them that the future hinges on protecting some particular special interest.

Fortunately, there's a new road map available to help. Michigan State University Professor Charley Ballard is that rarest of economists — one who is also an excellent writer.

He's just published a short new book which is the best thing there is on our state's economy: Michigan's Economic Future: A New Look (MSU Press, $19.95) ought to be required reading for everybody in state government, as well as for every intelligent citizen.

Ballard knows this state exceptionally well. Born in Midland into a Dow chemical family in the 1950s, he grew up mainly in Texas, after his father was transferred there. He came back in 1983 to teach at MSU, and has been there ever since. He's a personable man, neither an elitist ivory-tower type nor a tax-and-spend liberal.

What he mainly is selling is common sense. He quotes approvingly the report the governor's emergency financial advisory committee issued three years ago: "Solving the state's budget crisis requires a combination of revenue increases, spending cuts, and reform of how public services are delivered.

"No single silver bullet incorporating only tax increases, only spending cuts or only government reform will work."

Those words are truer than ever now. Ballard's book is valuable in part because it shatters lots of myths. We are in fact paying far less in taxes than we once did. Local governments are especially tax-starved. The money in the state's general fund, which pays for higher education, prisons, social services and Medicaid, has declined by an astonishing 40 percent in the last decade. "The tax system is being slowly eaten away, like a house full of termites," Ballard says.

His book lays out the problems in less than 250 pages, and offers possible solutions. Extending the state sales taxes to services would help. Repealing the state constitutional ban on a graduated income tax would be even better.

But regardless, the state needs more revenue to do its job. Ballard notes that he himself would be certain to pay more, as a highly educated economist with a good job.

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