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    The post The Ypsilanti mystery pooper saga continues appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • City Slang: DJ AvA, Chuck Flask & Keith Kemp preview Movement at Urban Bean Co.

    It’s a really, very cool idea. Paxahau, the good people behind the Movement Electronic Music Festival, are hosting a series of warm-up events, or previews, to the big festival which takes place Memorial Day weekend. On Thursday evening, Movement moved into the Urban Coffee Bean on Grand River in Detroit. While Dj AvA and Chuck Flask & Keith Kemp ably worked the decks, the regular coffee shop goings on continued behind them. It made for an interesting and amusing webcast experience – one guy was taking a nap on camera, while others supped coffee and tappd their feet. It should come as no surprise – the Urban Coffee Co. people have always been big supporters of electronic music. The place includes a DJ stand, and co-owner Josh Greenwood encourages customers to bring their own vinyl and spin on the open turntables. Not on Thursday night though. This being a coffee shop, and it not being particularly late at night, the music remained pretty chill throughout. DJ AvA (real name Heather McGuigan) includes Beth Orton, Madonna, the B-52’s, Daftpunk and David Byrne among her list of influences, so you know that she’s capable of both whipping up a storm and also […]

    The post City Slang: DJ AvA, Chuck Flask & Keith Kemp preview Movement at Urban Bean Co. appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

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    The post Here is why landlords could do well in Wayne County appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • The Record Store Day Guide for metro Detroit

    This Saturday, audiophiles across the world will venture out to their favorite independent record stores in search of limited releases that quickly become collectors items. The third Saturday of April marks the fairly new international holiday Record Store Day. There are certainly dos and don’ts to know for RSD — like where to shop, and how to shop. That’s right, there is an etiquette to shopping on Record Store Day and violating that code makes you look like a real asshole. In my experience of celebrating Record Store Day, I’ve seen stores use a few different tactics as far as stocking the special releases. Some establishments will set up a table, somewhere in the store, where a few shoppers at a time can flip through records in a calm and contained manner. Other places will have a similar setup, with all the releases at a table, but shoppers ask the store employees for the releases they want. It’s like a record nerd stock exchange. This process gets loud, slightly confusing and incredibly annoying — this is where elbows start getting thrown. Then, there are places that put the releases on the shelves, usually categorized by size — twelve inches with the twelve inches, seven inches with the seven inches and […]

    The post The Record Store Day Guide for metro Detroit appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • City Slang: DEMF 2014 canceled

    The Detroit Electronic Music Festival, which was supposed to be making a triumphant return this year, has been canceled. A statement on the website says that the festival will be back in 2015. Back in November, Ford Field hosted an announcement party for DEMF, where it was revealed that a new DEMF festival would take place at Campus Martius Park in Detroit over the July 4th weekend. “I’m proud to be involved in the biggest and best electronic music festival in the world,” said Juan Atkins. “The future’s here. This is techno scene.” Not the immediate future, apparently. The DEMF people claim that the M-1 rail construction is partially to blame for the cancellation/12-month-postponement. Read the full statement here. Follow @City_Slang

    The post City Slang: DEMF 2014 canceled appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Metro Times wins heavy at the SPJ Awards

    Despite a turbulent 2013 which saw Metro Times change owners, move buildings and change editors twice, we picked up eight awards at the Society of Professional Journalists Awards on Wednesday night. The big winner was Robert Nixon, design manager, who picked up a first place for “Feature Page Design (Class A)” for our Josh Malerman cover story, first for “Cover Design (Class A)” for our Halloween issue (alongside illustrator John Dunivant), and a second in that same category for our annual Lust issue. In the news categories, our esteemed former news editor and current contributing writer Curt Guyette won third in “General News Reporting” and third in “Best Consumer/Watchdog” – both Class A – for the Fairground Zero and Petcoke Series respectively. Music & Culture Editor Brett Callwood placed third for his Josh Malerman cover story in the “Best Personality Profile (Class A)” category, and former editor Bryan Gottlieb picked up a couple of Class C awards for “Editorial Writing” and “Headline Writing” (third and second, respectively). We were also pleased to learn that our investigative reporter Ryan Felton won first place and an honorable mention for work published while at the Oakland Press. The MT ship is steady now, […]

    The post Metro Times wins heavy at the SPJ Awards appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.



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Politics & Prejudices

Aiming at John Conyers

He’s been a congressman since ’65. Challenger Bert Johnson says his district needs a change

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The first time John Conyers was elected to Congress, Bert Johnson's parents weren't even teenagers. The last time Conyers had a serious challenger, Johnson was a kid doing hard time in prison.

But that was 1994 and this is now, and Bert Johnson is a different man, a serious and thoughtful state senator who says he tries to use the mistakes of his past to help people in the present.

And next year, he intends to take on John Conyers in the Democratic primary for Congress in the newly configured 13th District, which includes a little more than half of Detroit and a collection of mostly blue-collar Wayne County suburbs.

Conyers is bound to be heavily favored, even though Johnson actually lives in the district, and Conyers does not, at least not yet.

But the longest-serving African-American congressman in history could be vulnerable. For example, last month, the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn held an all-day event looking at the long-term impact of 9/11 on their community.

Late in the day, U.S. Rep. John Conyers came in to the final session and sat down in the audience. Eventually, the moderator (OK, it was me) asked if he'd like to come up and say a few words.

The congressman came to the podium, and told the mystified attendees that the Arab-American community ought to learn to appreciate the genius of John Coltrane and Miles Davis, which was about as relevant to that day's discussion as Spiderman.

Conyers also suggested to his largely bewildered audience that they get bus tickets and come to Washington to help celebrate the anniversary of the Congressional Black Caucus. For those who have known the congressman in recent years, this was not especially surprising behavior, though the media mostly ignores it.

John Conyers has been marching to his own drummer for a long time. He's the second longest-serving current member of Congress, and will be 83 years old before the next election. Nobody questions his commitment to peace and justice.

His competence is another matter.

The congressman had been in Washington nearly a decade when a baby named Bert Johnson was born to an upwardly mobile family in Detroit. His father, also Bert, eventually became a lawyer with his own firm. His son had everything going for him, except one.

"I was a follower," he said, and followed the wrong people. That led to an armed robbery conviction, and hard time in prison.

But he turned his life around, big-time. Today, he is a newly elected state senator, the father of three, respected in his community. State Sen. Bert Johnson (D-Highland Park) doesn't make any excuses for what he did all those years ago.

"I did a stupid thing, but I had an excellent judge," he told me over breakfast in Highland Park last weekend. (Jessica Cooper, now the Oakland County prosecutor.)

"She told me she was giving me a chance, and it was up to me to take it." Johnson was given an open-ended sentence: 18 months to 30 years, depending. He got the point. He stayed to himself and read constantly in the joint — Ionia, one of Michigan's toughest prisons.

He was determined not to screw up again. Johnson was out in a little over a year, and went back to school at the University of Detroit-Mercy. His father put him to work in his law office, managing cases, maintaining files; he found he had a gift for organization.

When his friend Bill McConico was elected state representative, Bert went to work in his office, setting up events. "He turned me loose in the community, and I found I really liked the people part of politics, not the partisan game — working with people, helping them."

Soon, he was McConico's chief of staff. When term limits meant his boss' time was up in 2006, Bert Johnson ran for and won the seat. Last fall, the state senate seat came open, and he won that too.

Though he doesn't complain, being in the state Senate has to be frustrating. Democrats have only a dozen members, less than a third of the total, and can't even temporarily delay whatever Republicans want to do. That's unlikely to change soon.

Bert Johnson looked out at the poverty and joblessness and despair and decided he needed to do something. Then, when the new district boundaries were revealed, he decided Congress was it.

Being a gentleman, he decided to tell Conyers that he had decided to run. They met at the Cornerstone Bistro in Highland Park, where, Johnson said, Conyers oddly offered to help and mentor him.

The state senator pauses, over breakfast in the same restaurant. "This race is not about John Conyers," he says. That may be true, in the sense that he doesn't intend to make the congressman the issue.

But of course it is about him. Conyers, Johnson notes, has been known to call himself the "congressman from the planet Earth."

Johnson, who is 44 years Conyers' junior, thinks the congressman's telescope needs a narrower focus. "If you look around this area, you have to ask if the district's needs are being met by Washington. And the answer is no."

The 13th is, indeed, one of the poorest urban districts in America, especially the Detroit and Highland Park sections.

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