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  • 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 […]

    The post James McMurtry and The Bottle Rockets coming to the Magic Bag appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • 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 PlanetAnt.com. 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? […]

    The post Planet Ant presents A Steady Rain appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • You can wear Detroit’s blight on your face

    There is no easy answer to the question regarding what should be done with Detroit’s abandoned homes. However, an Eastern Market company has a solution that could reflect Detroit’s possibly bright future. Homes Eyewear has set out to make the city a little more stylish, and do their part in cleaning it up by repurposing select woods from neglected homes for sunglasses. All of the wood that Homes uses is harvested from vacant houses with the assistance of Reclaim Detroit. A lot of work goes into prepping the wood to be cut and shaped into frames. Homes goes through each piece to remove nails, paint or anything else detrimental to their production (it’s a bit strange to think that your wooden sunglasses could have had family portraits nailed to them). In order to produce more durable eyewear, they salvage only hardwoods like maple or beech, which are difficult to come by as most of the blighted homes were built with softer woods like Douglas fir and pine. If you’re worried about looking goofy, or shudder at the thought of salvaged wood resting on your nose, you can rest easy. Homes currently offers frames in the popular wayfarer style and are developing their unique spin on the classic aviators. For as […]

    The post You can wear Detroit’s blight on your face appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Lily Tomlin coming to Ann Arbor

    Detroit home-girl Lily Tomlin will perform at the Hill Auditorium in Ann Arbor on Saturday, June 14. A press release reads, “Get together with Lily Tomlin for an unforgettable night of fun and sidesplitting laughter. “Tomlin is amazing” The NY Times and “as always a revelation.” The New Yorker This unique comic artist takes her audience on what the Washington Post calls a “wise and howlingly funny” trip with more than a dozen of her timeless characters—from Ernestine to Mrs. Beasley to Edith Ann.” “With astounding skill and energy, Tomlin zaps through the channels like a human remote control. Using a fantastic range of voices, gestures and movements, she conjures up the cast of characters with all the apparent ease of a magician pulling a whole menagerie of animals from a single hat.” NY Daily News “Her gentle touch is as comforting as it is edifying.” NY Time Out She has “made the one-person show the daring, irreverent art form it is today.” Newsweek Her long list of awards includes: a Grammy; two Tonys; six Emmys; an Oscar nomination; two Peabodys; and the prestigious Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. Find more info here. Follow @City_Slang

    The post Lily Tomlin coming to Ann Arbor appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Welcome Valerie Vande Panne, the new Detroit Metro Times editor

    The Detroit Metro Times, Detroit’s award-winning alternative weekly media company, is proud to announce the recent hire of Valerie Vande Panne as Editor-in-Chief. An award-winning independent journalist and Michigan native, Vande Panne’s work has appeared in Crain’s Detroit Business, The Daily Beast, and Salon, among other publications. Previously, Vande Panne attended Harvard University and was a regular contributor to The Boston Phoenix, and a news editor of High Times magazine. She has spent years covering drug policy among other subjects, including the environment, culture, lifestyle, extreme sports, and academia. “Valerie understands our business and what we expect to accomplish in Detroit. She has an excellent sense for stories that will move our readers, as well as experience with balancing print and digital content. I’m excited to have her at the paper and trust her leadership as we move forward,” said Detroit Metro Times publisher Chris Keating.

    The post Welcome Valerie Vande Panne, the new Detroit Metro Times editor appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

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Politics & Prejudices

Fix our highest court

The state's supremes work in 'needless secrecy'

Five months ago, when I was much younger and better looking, I wrote about the shenanigans at the Michigan Supreme Court. The news then was that Elizabeth "Betty" Weaver, who was roundly hated by her fellow Republican justices, had suddenly resigned, after working out a deal with then-Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

Weaver, who had grown sick of the infighting, etc., would quit if the governor would appoint Alton Davis, a distinguished appellate judge from Gaylord, in her place. That meant that Davis had to immediately run in November, and the Democrats placed him on the ballot. I assumed he'd win easily, since the ballot identified him as a "justice of the Supreme Court." Voters normally re-elect judges.

But I miscalculated. To oppose him, the Republicans nominated a woman named Mary Beth Kelly. For whatever reason, Michigan voters are strongly drawn to judges with Irish names. Especially the name Kelly. Mary Beth cleaned poor Alton's clock, and Republicans were back in a 4-3 majority on the high court.

Yet we hadn't heard the last of Betty Weaver. Though elected as a Republican, she had an independent streak. For years, she feuded with the so-called "gang of four," judges appointed by or closely allied to former Gov. John Engler. They voted in lockstep. Weaver voted according to how she felt the rule of law should be properly applied. When she began speaking out, the gang attempted to slap a gag order on her, which she merrily ignored.

Three years ago, she got some revenge. Then-Chief Justice Cliff Taylor, her biggest enemy, was defeated for re-election in a stunning upset. Weaver then crossed party lines and voted with the Democrats to elect another Kelly, Marilyn Kelly, chief justice.

Yet the feud continued. Last October, now off the court, Elizabeth Weaver, who had been calling for more openness on the court, did something shocking. She released transcripts of deliberations she had secretly recorded years ago. They show embarrassing things being said by various judges, most notoriously, Robert Young Jr., who the new Republican majority swiftly installed as chief justice.

In the transcripts, Young, who is African-American himself, uses the N-word. He didn't deny it, but said he was making a point, and that the bigger outrage was that Weaver had taped her colleagues without their knowledge.

Even some people who had no use for the Englerites were shocked by Betty Weaver's actions; people don't like being secretly bugged. There were suspicions she did this for political purposes. Young, after all, was also up for re-election last year. But if the revelations were designed to hurt him politically, they backfired. He was re-elected easily (the Democrats didn't nominate anyone named Kelly to run against him). Five of seven justices, including Democrat Marilyn Kelly, then voted to censure Weaver.

Lots has been written about this, but most of those writing haven't bothered to talk to Weaver. So I did. She told me she couldn't care less about being censured, and that what she did has been grossly misinterpreted.

"A review of my record — rather than reading what has been written about me — reveals this," she said by phone from her home in Glen Arbor on Sunday afternoon. "My whole point was openness."

"This is the Supreme Court of Michigan. It exists to do the people's business. Yes, during the recent election, I revealed some of the court's inner workings. It wasn't a pleasing sight. ... And the response from those so revealed was so predictable." Look, she told me, "needless secrecy in Supreme Court justices' performance in the business of judicial government allows and encourages the abuse of the judicial powers. That can lead to violation of the rule of law, and unjust, unprofessional and unfair performance of the justices' duties."

Did that happen while you were on the court? I asked. "Are you kidding? Much of the time I felt like Alice in Wonderland."

But surely certain things have to be done in secret, don't they? I asked. "Yes, certain things. Employee issues, for instance. But far fewer things than those currently in charge would like concealed. Think about it. The Michigan Supreme Court does not deal with treason or national defense. Its docket covers people issues from A to Z — adoptions to zoning. This is the people's business, our business. And our responsibility is to all people, and not especially the partisan or special interests. The people should be able to see how these decisions are being made."

Weaver denied frequent charges that she was bitter because she wasn't re-elected chief justice after serving a single two-year term. "I could have had it again if I wanted it. I didn't."

What she does want to do is improve the court. Apart from opening deliberations to public scrutiny, she outlined a series of reforms, most of which make very good sense. For example, Weaver thinks the present system where the political parties select the nominees has to go. Instead, candidates would earn a spot on the ballot by petition, same as other judges.

She thinks the justices should be elected by district, to ensure some geographical diversity. Right now, every justice lives in Wayne, Oakland or Ingham (Lansing) counties. She said that's why she wanted Alton Davis on the court, not because he was a Democrat.

Former Justice Weaver also thinks Supreme Court campaigns should be publicly financed, or failing that, we should have complete transparency and immediacy in campaign finance reporting. She wants us to be able to see who is giving money to these birds and who hence wants to influence them — as soon as possible.

You can read her recommendations in detail at justiceweaver.com. You know, for years, people told me Betty Weaver was crazy. They said she dressed funny, was sometimes hard to understand, and wasn't like the other justices.

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