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  • 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.

  • City Slang: Margaret Doll Rod to play EP release show in May

    Margaret Doll Rod will celebrate the release of her new EP, Margaret, with a show at PJ’s Lager House on Saturday, May 10. A statement reads, “The EP contains 3 new original songs and one Chrome Cranks cover with Italian actress Asia Argento singing background vocals. Margaret moved to Italy after the end of the Demolition Doll Rods where she still lives touring and performing festivals in Europe. The Dollrods were a Garage Rock force for over 20 years, opening for Iggy, Jon Spencer, The Scientist, The Monks and The Cramps. Margaret was the front person and principal songwriter for The Dollrods. Her chief musical foil was Danny Kroha, who joined the Demolition Doll Rods after the now legendary Gories called it quits. Margaret’s sister, Christine, on drums, rounded out the legendary trio. Margaret will do a special performance in the round that night with a 360 degree revolving stage and special guest DJ Adam Stanfel.” The bill will also feature the Stomp Rockets and the Volcanos. Follow @City_Slang

    The post City Slang: Margaret Doll Rod to play EP release show in May appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • City Slang: Music review roundup

    Send CDs, vinyl, cassettes, demos and 8-tracks to Brett Callwood, Metro Times, 1200 Woodward Heights, Ferndale MI 48220. Email MP3s and streaming links to Ricky Rat’s Tokyo Pop/Glitter People (New Fortune) 7” single highlights all that’s great about the Trash Brats guitarist, but also his limitations. The man can write a bubblegum rock ’n’ roll song to match anyone in the city and most beyond. He’s also a killer guitarist, ripping out one throwaway riff after another with reckless abandon. He’s a machine. On his own though, without Trash Brats frontman Brian McCarty, his voice doesn’t have enough strength to do the songs justice. Not that you need to have the greatest voice in the world to sing this stuff – you don’t need to be able to perform vocal gymnastics – but you do have to be able to wail the tunes out. Both of the songs on this single are great, but you can’t help but wonder how much better they would sound with McCarty or somebody similar talking the mic. Still, as they are the songs are great fun. We’re just being picky. The Paper Sound’s Trajectories is a dense, atypically dark Americana-tinged album, unrelenting and […]

    The post City Slang: Music review roundup appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Detroit launches website to auction city-owned homes

    “Neighbors wanted.” That’s the message on the homepage of, a new website launched by the City of Detroit today to auction off city-owned homes to prospective buyers who pledge to fix them up and move in. “We are moving aggressively to take these abandoned homes and get families living in them again,” Mayor Mike Duggan said in a statement today. “There are a lot of people who would love to move into many of our neighborhoods. Knowing that other people are going to be buying and fixing up the other vacant homes at the same time will make it a lot easier for them to make that commitment.” The website to facilitate the auctions went live this afternoon. The first auction is scheduled to take place Monday, May 5. Officials said in a news release that one home will be auctioned per day, Monday through Friday. Fifteen homes are available for sale on the site, a dozen of which are in the East English Village neighborhood. Any Michigan resident, company, or organization that can do business in the state can bid, according to the website. Properties will be for sale for only one day, with bidding taking place from 8 […]

    The post Detroit launches website to auction city-owned homes appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Tickets for Steven Spielberg, John Williams summer concert sell out in 15 minutes

    In case you haven’t heard, two of the biggest names in film, Steven Spielberg and John Williams, are collaborating to put on a benefit concert for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra this summer. In case you wanted to go- well, you’re too damn late. The DSO says tickets to the June 14 concert were snapped up in a record-breaking 15 minutes after they went on sale at 9 a.m. today. The DSO has since released this statement to fans who didn’t snag seats: Our apologies to everyone who was unable to buy tickets this morning for our historic benefit concert featuring John Williams and Steven Spielberg. Despite increasing our phone and internet system capacity for the day, a surge of hundreds of ticket buyers purchased tickets in a matter of minutes, filling the phone lines and temporarily maxing out our web servers. After a one-hour pre-sale made available to donors and subscribers at 8am, we released additional seats at 9am to the general public, including seats available for as low as $30. All seats sold out immediately. The concert program seems nothing short of top notch: Williams will conduct the orchestra as it performs some of his most iconic tunes, such […]

    The post Tickets for Steven Spielberg, John Williams summer concert sell out in 15 minutes appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.



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Stir It Up

Mulenga's tinfoil hat

Harangua goes green, dons foil and wants Osama's death certificate

I picked up a flat of strawberries cheap at Eastern Market and figured I'd swing by Mulenga Harangua's place to share the wealth and find out the latest scuttlebutt. He's squatting in a west side house that looks like it's about to fall down — peeling paint, boarded windows, graffiti-covered. He didn't answer the door when I knocked, so I went around to the yard, figuring to leave the strawberries on the back porch.

When I got to the yard it was as if I had been transported to a verdant paradise. Mulenga is a black man with a green thumb. There were flowerbeds along one side of the lot with yellow and purple blooms already brightening up the view along with blossoms from a peach tree. Planting beds framed with scavenged bricks formed neat rows across the lot, and into the next one. No one lived next door, and the fence was long gone. Spring greens were already springing up in one bed while parsley thrived in the next one.

Looking farther back, I noticed a young lady who looked to be in her teens planting seedlings from a box. Four thick plaits hung from her head and she was very obviously pregnant. She moved with the easy elegance of someone who is very comfortable in her body. She wore a hat that looked like one that children would fold together from newspaper, except it seemed to be made from tin foil. Just then Mulenga stepped out of the garage, wiping his hands off on an oily rag. He wore a similar hat.

He gave me a big smile and came right over. "How ya doing?"

"Not bad. I got a good deal on these strawberries and thought I'd drop a few off here."

"Thanks, I appreciate that. My strawberries won't be coming in for a couple of weeks yet." He indicated a leafy hillock in the next yard before plucking a berry from the box I carried. He bit into the berry and made a face. "I don't mean to criticize your gift, but my berries are a lot sweeter and more flavorful than these. You need to come back when they're ripe."

I set the box of strawberries down. "So what's with the tin foil hat?"

"Oh, this is to protect us from radiation."

"The sun's rays are too much for you?"

"No. I'm talking about radiation from those damaged Japanese nuclear plants."

"But that doesn't pose a threat to us."

"That's what they'd like us to believe. They've found radiation spikes in this country. And when you add that to the daily radiation we already endure, well, I'm keeping the hat on."

"Suit yourself, but I don't think aluminum foil is going to help."

"Can't hurt."

The young lady had stopped planting and was looking in our direction. One hand held the shovel and the other rested on her hip as the sun glinted off her hat. My curiosity kicked in.

"Who's the young lady? And tell me you're not the father."

"Man, do you think I'm some kind of child molester. She ain't but 16."

"And who is she?"

"That's Christy. She's one of those girls from the Catherine Ferguson Academy. You know the school for pregnant teenagers."

"What's she doing here?"

Mulenga spread his arms wide to indicate his fiefdom. "She is making this happen. It started last year when I went by the school to check out what they were doing. She was in the field and I started asking questions that she had answers for. After I went by there a few times, she asked to visit my garden. She's got the know-how. I can make things grow, but she's helped me turn this into a garden of paradise."

Mulenga indicated a pile of grayish clumps next to the garage. "See that; it's bird droppings. There's plenty of it in some of these abandoned buildings. It makes decent fertilizer. Then I've got a compost pile over in the easement where I throw all my cuttings, clippings and kitchen waste. Christy got me doing that. As much as this girl knows about agriculture, I can't believe they're closing down that school."

"If they don't turn it into a charter school."

"That just goes to show you that the city doesn't want urban agriculture to take off. If they did then why would they close up the best training program we have here in the city?"

"The mayor has expressed his doubts about the city going in that direction. However, the mayor doesn't run the schools. That's the EFM's bailiwick."

"Regardless, urban agriculture is something that people want so I guess it's something for the city to scoff at. I see people getting into this and it changes their lives. People who seemed lost to the world suddenly get connected to it. Christy is so much into it I think she's gonna be lost if they close that school."

"So where does she live?"


"What? Are you crazy? You can't have a 16-year-old pregnant girl living here with you. What about her family?"

"They put her out."

"What are you going to do when the baby comes? It looks like it could be any day now."

"We're still a few weeks away. I met these Muslim midwives at the produce market where I drop a few things off on consignment. I'm going to take her over to them when the time comes."

"So are you ready to be a baby's daddy?"

Mulenga squirmed uneasily. "We'll see how that goes. But in the meantime, she's been helping me, and I'm gonna help her. It would help if I could get some cash flowing through here. She's got some ideas, but they're going to take some time."

"You're not growing marijuana here, are you?"

"That would be one hell of a cash crop — that's for sure. But I'm not trying to go to jail. There's probably somebody growing weed nearby, but I'm not one of them. I need to keep myself free and unencumbered for my political activism."

"What political activities."

"I've decided to become a Deather."

"What does that mean? You want to die?"

"You've heard of the Truthers who believe the real story about what happened on 9/11 has been covered up; and the Birthers who believe that President Obama wasn't born in the United States and is therefore ineligible to be president. Well, the Deathers want proof that Osama bin Laden is really dead. Obama could start by releasing the long-form death certificate."

"Why do you want to do that? Do you really believe bin Laden isn't dead?"

"They could have him locked up in Montana somewhere as far as I know. I am for full disclosure of everything no matter what."

"Does that include those shoplifting convictions you had from when we were teenagers?"

"Well, maybe there are some things we don't need to talk about."

"You know what? I think that tin foil has gone to your head."

"I'm a Tin Man with a heart. And, this," he indicated the yard with a sweep of his arm, "is my Emerald City."

Hmm ... I guess there's no place like home.

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