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  • Here is why landlords could do well in Wayne County

    CNN has a message to all prospective landlords: Head to Wayne County! Occupancy and rental rates are increasing, the report says, creating an opportunity for serious returns on investments. In fact, after comparing the median sales price of homes to average monthly rents in nearly 1,600 counties, RealtyTrac found that Detroit’s Wayne County offers landlords the best return on their investment in the nation. Investors who buy homes in the metro area can expect a 30% gross annual return from rents. That’s triple the national average of 10%. RealtyTrac, an online real estate information company, says the county offers investors low prices for larger homes — with a median price of $45,000. “We’ve got some steals here,” said Rachel Saltmarshall, a real estate agent and immediate past president of the Detroit Association of Realtors, told CNN. “There’s a six-bedroom, 6,000 square-foot home in a historic district selling for $65,000.” For more, read the entire report here.

    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.

  • Detroit’s grand bargain still needs Lansing’s approval

    In this week’s Metro Times we took a look at the state legislature’s role in Detroit’s ongoing bankruptcy — in particular, how it must approve a $350 million pledge for the so-called “grand bargain” to remain intact. And, with last night’s announcement of a significant deal between the city and Detroit’s pension boards and retiree groups, the ball is Lansing’s court now. The new deal, first reported by the Freep, would cut general employees monthly pension checks by 4.5 percent and eliminate their cost-of-living increases. Police and fire retirees would see no cuts to monthly checks, while their cost-of-living increases would be reduced from 2.25 percent to 1 percent. Under the original offer, police and fire retirees cuts were as high as 14 percent, with general retirees as high as 34 percent, that is, if the groups rejected the “grand bargain,” an $816 million proposal funded by foundations, the state, and the DIA to shore up pensions. The sweeter deal for pensions, though, it must be noted, entirely relies on the state legislature approving $350 million for Detroit’s bankruptcy.  And while this broke after Metro Times went to press, that was the focal point of this week’s News Hits column — so, it’s worth repeating: The […]

    The post Detroit’s grand bargain still needs Lansing’s approval appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • City Slang: Local releases for Record Store Day on Saturday

    This Saturday, April 19, is Record Store Day, and there is plenty going on in metro Detroit and Michigan. Of special interest to us is Chiodos’ 7” single “R2ME2/Let Me Get You A Towel,” Mayer Hawthorne & Shintaro Skamoto’s 7” “Wine Glass Woman/In a Phantom,” Chuck Inglish & Action Bronson’s 7” “Game Time,” Chuck Inglish & Chance the Rapper’s 7” “Glam,” Chuck Inglish & Chromeo’s 7” “Legs,” Chuck Inglish, Mac Miller & Ab-Soul’s 7” “Easily,” James Williamson’s 7” “Open Up and Bleed/Gimme Some Skin,” Black Milk’s 12” “Glitches in the Break,” Mayer Hawthorne’s 10” “Jaded Inc.,” Wayne Kramer & the Lexington Arts Ensemble’s 12” “Lexington,” and best of all, Ray Parker Jr.’s 10” “Ghostbusters.” We wrote about James Williamson’s release this week. Go shop. Follow @City_Slang

    The post City Slang: Local releases for Record Store Day on Saturday appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

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Hero for our planet

Don't know of inventor Stanford Ovshinsky? You should.

They laughed at Stan Ovshinsky years ago, all the professional scientists did, when they bothered to pay attention to him at all. They had doctorates from places like Yale and Harvard. He was a high school dropout from Akron who worked in a machine shop, the son of an immigrant scrap-metal dealer.

Later, after he invented a better high-speed lathe, he began dabbling in science and then moved to Detroit. Before long, he was crazy enough to tell the scientists some of their basic assumptions about electronics were totally wrong.

Forget trying to use rigid structures to conduct electricity, he argued. A random, amorphous collection of atoms would be much more powerful semiconductors. The experts rolled their eyes. "It was like a bag lady telling Queen Elizabeth she had spit on her chin," journalist Tom Henderson said.

Nobody took him seriously at first. You've heard of alternative media? Ovshinsky was an alternative scientist, who challenged basic assumptions without the least of degrees. The scientific establishment sneered with contempt.

Stan and his wife Iris Ovshinsky pooled their savings and opened a storefront business called Energy Conversion Devices.

That was back in 1960. He told the media flat-screen technology was coming that would produce TVs you could hang on the wall. He predicted electric cars and hydrogen-powered cars and solar cell heat. Eyes rolled. Nobody took him seriously.

Finally, a highly respected physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology was reluctantly pushed into testing Ovshinsky's amorphous switch.

Stunned, he proclaimed it a major breakthrough. Dr. Helmut Fritzsche, chair of the physics department at the University of Chicago, came to check out the work of this rude, uneducated upstart. He was blown away.  

Before long, he was a vice president of Energy Conversion Devices, or ECD.  I met him Labor Day weekend. "I've met a lot of Nobel Prize winners. Stan Ovshinsky is the only true genius I ever met," Dr. Fritzsche said at a celebration of the man's 90th birthday.

Stan Ovshinsky didn't listen to the establishment. He just did science, piling up 400 U.S. patents, and twice as many overseas. His nickel-metal-hydride battery was widely used to power laptops and cell phones. His inventions also led to the thin-film solar cells people put their roofs. Not to mention rewritable CDs, compact discs, rewritable optical discs, and various kinds of electronic memory. Most of all, he believed in alternative energy.

Half a century ago, he was worrying about climate change. He was a pioneer in electric car technology, but that's not where he saw the future. "Well, the [Chevy] Volt is nice, and will sell a few thousand cars and get people thinking," he told me two years ago. "But the real answer is hydrogen."

A few years ago, he drove me around Auburn Hills in a hydrogen-powered car. This is the future, he told me. This is a fuel that doesn't pollute, and we will never run out of, he told me. All that remained was to make it affordable.

Energy Conversion Devices went on to hire hundreds of engineers and other employees, all fiercely devoted to the dream. Sometimes, the firm made money. More often, it didn't.

Ovshinsky treated all his employees like colleagues. Few knew that, back in his youth, he had risked his life as a union organizer. Eventually, he became a millionaire from the royalties from his patents. Once, long after he was wealthy, I asked him who was his biggest hero. I expected Albert Einstein, or maybe the inventor Thomas Edison, with whom he was often compared. I wasn't even close. He answered instantly:

"Eugene V. Debs," the greatest leader of the American Socialist Party. He pulled a book off a shelf in his home, and showed me the famous quote, which I already knew by heart.

"While there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free." Debs wanted, a century ago, to free the wage slaves toiling without hope, wanted a better life for all.

Stan Ovshinsky never stopped trying to free mankind from dependence on fossil fuel, and to make our lives better. Impatient for more profits, the Energy Conversion Devices board five years ago ousted him from the company he founded.

They turned things over to a slick former helicopter pilot who wanted to can the science and just try to make money off one or two of Stan's inventions. The flyboy quickly ran it into the ground. ECD filed for bankruptcy and disappeared.

Ovshinsky was then 85. Anybody else would have retired and maybe written memoirs. He founded a new company, poured his own millions in, and set out to make solar cells efficient enough to compete with electricity generated by coal.

He might have gotten there, but cancer got him first. He was awarded three new patents, and almost to the last, was fighting to persuade investors to help make his new companies, Ovshinsky Innovation and Ovshinsky Solar, viable.

On Labor Day weekend, scientists from all over the world flew to Bloomfield Hills for an early 90th birthday party.

"I have to beat this. There are still things I want to do," he whispered to me. Ovshinsky lost that battle last week. He had an amazingly diverse mind. The last conversation I had with him was about the English historian Tony Judt, another man taken before his time, and what was wrong with our nation.

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