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  • Once-controversial Diego Rivera murals now national landmark

    Oh, the irony — initially criticized as Marxist propaganda when Mexican muralist Diego Rivera painted them for the Detroit Institute of Arts in the early 1930s, Detroit Industry has now been designated as a a national landmark. The announcement was made Wednesday, according to the Detroit News by U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis as part of National Park Week. The designation does not change the ownership status of the murals or grant any new protections or rights, leaving its place among the rest of the DIA’s art in possible bankruptcy negotiations in question. The work is considered the best of Rivera’s work in the United States (another mural Rivera had done in New York was destroyed by orders of Nelson Rockefeller). Rivera himself regarded Detroit Industries paintings as his finest work. In the midst of the McCarthy era, the DIA posted this sign outside the court: Rivera’s politics and his publicity seeking are detestable. But let’s get the record straight on what he did here. He came from Mexico to Detroit, thought our mass production industries and our technology wonderful and very exciting, painted them as one of the great achievements of the twentieth century. This came […]

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  • Detroit area code 313 may be phased out

    Hey, everybody from the 313, start thinking of new numbers to rally around– the longstanding Detroit area code may be phased out. Our friends over at the Detroit News report that pending a revised estimate next week, the North American Numbering Plan Administration will stop handing out 313 telephone prefixes on new phone numbers. Detroiters with existing cell phone lines would be able to keep their current area codes, while those with land lines would change. via Detroit News: The venerable 313 will ultimately become overtaxed. Even as Detroit’s population has fallen, cellphone usage has accelerated like one of those smoldering SRT Vipers that Dodge has been bolting together at Conner Avenue Assembly — which is, of course, comfortably within the confines of 313. … When the first five dozen area codes were assigned nearly 70 years ago, says NANPA’s Tom Foley, “that was expected basically to last forever.” Instead, somebody invented fax machines, and then somebody else came up with cellphones, and lots of somebody elses decided to give them to 10-year-olds, and meantime the population grew to 300 million. Now every telephone carrier is required to submit twice-yearly forecasts of its needs in each area code, factoring in […]

    The post Detroit area code 313 may be phased out appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Final members selected for Red Wings arena Neighborhood Advisory Council

    Unfortunately, we were unable to attend last night’s Neighborhood Advisory Council, which, in case you were unaware, is a 16-member board established to weigh in on the new Red Wings arena near downtown. About three dozen residents and property owners cast ballots by the 8 p.m. deadline on Wednesday inside the Block at Cass Park, The Detroit News reports. It’s the culmination of a handful of community meetings which began weeks ago. Councilwoman Raquel Castaneda Lopez facilitated the meetings, but emphasized at previous meetings that it’s up to the community to conduct business. According to the News, the 12 candidates selected include: Michael Boettcher, Richard Etue, Jason Gapa, Francis Grunow, Steve Guether, Paul Hughes, Ray Litt, Warner Doyle McBryde, Karen McLeod, Delphia Simmons, Melissa Thomas and Anthony Zander. Joel Landy, a land owner in the area, lost his bid. The City Council appointed four candidates last month. As we reported in this week’s issue, the Neighborhood Advisory Committee was negotiated after Olympia Development of Michigan, Detroit Red Wing’s owner Mike Ilitch’s real estate arm, balked on a proposed community benefits agreement.  The committee is charged with the task of offering input on the arena’s design, parking security and more.

    The post Final members selected for Red Wings arena Neighborhood Advisory Council appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • James McMurtry and The Bottle Rockets coming to the Magic Bag

    The Magic Bag in Ferndale will host James McMurtry and The Bottle Rockets on Thursday, May 28, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20. A press release reads, “James McMurtry recently signed with the bourgeoning Los Angeles record label Complicated Game. The legendary songwriter will enter the studio later this month to start working on his first album in six years. “I’ve got a new batch of songs, organic and with no added sulfites, aged in oak for several years,” he says. “Francois Moret at Complicated Game seems to like these songs and (producer) C.C. Adcock thinks he can turn them into a record. Good times fixing to roll.” Label head Moret agrees. “In March 2013, when C.C. Adcock told me we were going to see James McMurtry at the Continental Club in Austin, I expected to see a good show,” he says, “but what I saw left me mesmerized! I immediately knew I wanted to sign him. As a European, it is an amazing opportunity to work with one of the most talented American singer-songwriters.” Evidence: McMurtry’s Just Us Kids (2008) and Childish Things (2005). The former earned his highest Billboard 200 chart position in nearly two decades and notched […]

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  • City Slang: Dead Kennedys to have a holiday in Detroit

    The Dead Kennedys, still with local boy Klaus Flouride in the ranks, will play St. Andrew’s Hall on Tuesday, June 24. Alongside Flouride and fellow original members East Bay Ray and DH Peligro, the current lineup includes singer Ron “Skip” Greer, taking the place of Jello Biafra. Downtown Brown will open that show, which starts at 7 p.m., with tickets priced $20-$25. Give Klaus a hero’s hometown welcome. Just over a week before that, strangely enough, Jello Biafra & the Guantanamo School of Medicine will play at the Magic Stick. It’s a weird coincidence, but one that DK fans should be happy to embrace. That show starts at 8 p.m. and tickets are $17-$19. Local hardcore vets Negative Approach play before Jello, with the Crashdollz opening the show. Follow @City_Slang

    The post City Slang: Dead Kennedys to have a holiday in Detroit appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Planet Ant presents A Steady Rain

    The Planet Ant Theatre in Hamtramck will present a police drama called A Steady Rain May 2 through 24. Planet Ant veterans Ryan Carlson and York Griffith will star in the play, written by House of Cards and Mad Men co-writer Keith Huff. Tickets ($10-$20) are on sale now at According to the press release, “A Steady Rain by Keith Huff focuses on Joey and Denny, best friends since kindergarten and partners on the police force whose loyalty to each other is tested by domestic affairs, violence and the rough streets of Chicago. Joey helps Denny with his family and Denny helps Joey stay off the bottle. But when a routine disturbance call takes a turn for the worse their loyalty is put to the ultimate test.First produced at Chicago Dramatists, A Steady Rain appeared on Broadway featuring Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig. The Planet Ant production of A Steady Rain is directed by York Griffith featuring Ryan Carlson and Andy Huff. This marks the return of two of Planet Ant’s founding members. Carlson and Griffith. Griffith has served as the theatre’s Artistic Director where he directed the critically-acclaimed productions The Adding Machine and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? […]

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Politics & Prejudices

Ayn Rand vs. LBJ

What do their visions mean to Election 2012?

Photo: , License: N/A

Lyndon B. Johnson takes the oath of office on Air Force One after Kennedy's assassination. Stephen King, among others, ponders where America would be without him. (Photo by Cecil W. Stoughton, White House Press Office)

Confession time: I too was once attracted to Ayn Rand's nutty philosophy, for maybe a week. I read The Fountainhead and slogged through Atlas Shrugged, and was impressed.

What I admired about her novels — called "mesmerizing nutworks" by one forgotten reviewer — was that they celebrated self-reliance and believing in yourself. Like most teenagers, I found her attitudes toward religion and conformism compelling as well.

Her taste in sex did make me uneasy; her ideal seemed to be: Boy meets girl; girl tries to destroy him; boy beats her up and rapes her; girl follows him anywhere. But I still found her inspiring.

Then, however, I turned 17. I realized that in an Ayn Randian world lots of people would never have a chance to go to college, to get ahead, and most of the weak would be left to starve.

There would be no protection for those victimized by racism or sexism. Gradually, I mostly forgot about Rand and her nutty vision.

That was long ago, and she's been dead since 1982. A lot is now known about her bizarre personality. The former Alisa Rosenbaum was as tyrannical in her own way as the Stalinists in her native Soviet Union. Those in her movement who dared to disagree with her, even on small points, were denounced and expelled from her circle. She pretty much compelled a much younger follower to become her lover and, when that ended, tried to destroy him too.

Nice lady, whose worship of the cult of pure "reason" somehow didn't prevent herself from glorifying smoking and killing herself as a result. Yet her influence now seems to be growing.

Most significantly, Paul Ryan, the designated Republican candidate for vice president, a few years ago made a speech and said she was the "one person" who got him into politics. 

"I grew up reading Ayn Rand, and it taught me quite a bit about who I am and what my value systems are," he said. "It's inspired me so much that it's required reading in my office for all my interns and my staff." 

He now prudently denies all that, and, as a good Catholic boy, denounces her atheism.

But there's substantial evidence that he is still a Randian when it comes to society. The famous, or infamous, Ryan-proposed budget is one that might make the old girl swoon. It protects the rich and robs the poor. It would essentially end Medicare as we know it.

Millionaires would get big tax cuts. The poor and the middle class would get the back of his hand. Republicans are trying to reassure voters, saying President Romney would have his own budget, not the Ryan budget. Romney, they say, would be calling the tune; vice presidents head commissions and go to funerals.

True. But vegans, as a rule, don't hang out with butchers. Why did Romney pick Ryan if he doesn't agree with the brash young ideologue on economics? In any event, Ryan, who was born in 1970, would be one of our youngest vice presidents, and the clear favorite to be the GOP presidential candidate when Romney is done. 

Whatever his motives, he doesn't think government should help the poor. Many cold and mean-spirited people don't. They forget what things were once like in this country. Once upon a time, we had leaders who did care. We probably escaped some form of fascism or Soviet-style state socialism in this country (so far) because of a few far-seeing leaders, first of all, Franklin D. Roosevelt. Toward the end of his life, Gore Vidal accurately said of FDR that he should be remembered as the man who saved capitalism from itself.

FDR began some of the social programs — Social Security, for example — that allowed those who were cogs in the capitalistic wheels to have a safe and secure old age. He was able to set up tools and agencies, like the Securities and Exchange Commission, to prevent capitalism from devouring itself, the people and the planet.

Lyndon Baines Johnson was next. Much reviled, the architect of a war that tore this country apart and destroyed his administration, LBJ nevertheless gave us Medicare and Medicaid and a string of civil rights bills that finally allowed everybody to be fully American.

Robert Caro has devoted much of his life to writing a spellbinding biography of LBJ. If you read only one nonfiction book this year, I'd recommend his latest volume, The Passage of Power.

Ironically, earlier I had been engrossed in Stephen King's amazing latest novel, 11/22/63, in which a time traveler from the present manages to go back in the past and prevent the Kennedy assassination. But when he returns to the present, he is struck with horror. In the novel, Kennedy fails to get any civil rights legislation through Congress, which results in war in the streets.

That leads to George Wallace's eventual election, and far worse to come. Horrified, the time traveler heads back to undo the damage.

The master of horror did his homework. Historian Caro is also convinced that the civil rights laws we take for granted could only have been passed by LBJ, a fundamentally flawed and corrupt person who, for whatever reason, sincerely cared about the downtrodden.

"Ruthlessness, secretiveness, deceit — significant elements in ... Lyndon Johnson's life story," he concludes. But there were other elements — "anger at injustice, sympathy, empathy, identification with the underdog" — that led, thanks to his brilliant mastery of the machinery of government, to programs that transformed the nation.

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