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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 […]

    The post Once-controversial Diego Rivera murals now national landmark appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • 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 […]

    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 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

Shaming our state

Instead of making hard decisions, our pols just kick it down the road

When the wimps running the British government sold out Czechoslovakia to Hitler, Winston Churchill, not yet in power, reportedly growled that they had been faced with a choice between war and shame.

"They've chosen shame. They'll get war later."

Last week, the Michigan Legislature did much the same thing in passing a budget. They faced a choice too. What they should have done — what they were elected to do — was, simply, to make the tough choices they were elected to make, and chart a difficult path to a somewhat more hopeful future for Michigan.

We should have seen a principled war over two different versions of what government should look like. The choice is very clear. Choose one way, and those of us who are working will have to pay somewhat more in taxes to fix our roads and bridges, invest in education, and give our children a shot at a better future.

We can either do that, or we accept becoming a backward, Third World sort of state, where the rich eventually live in gated communities, the intelligent young leave for other states, and the poor live increasingly impoverished and desperate lives.

That's the choice. Our lawmakers, of course, avoided making any hard decisions. They threw together a document that was "balanced" only on paper, throwing vast federal sums into the deficit hole, and scuttled out of town.

They chose shame, but sadly, most of them won't pay for it later. We will. Most of the lawmakers, and every single member of the leadership, are term-limited. They've gone off to run for other things, or to seek jobs from the special interests they've been protecting.

Some are still doing it. Our senate majority leader, Mike Bishop, possibly the most appalling creature in the Legislature, and his pet imp, state Sen. Alan Cropsey (R-DeWitt), deserve cushy jobs from Ambassador Bridge owner-troll Matty Moroun. Bishop is still working hard — even against fellow Senate Republican Jud Gilbert — to prevent a vote that would allow work to proceed on a new publicly owned bridge over the Detroit River.

Everybody in government and industry wants and needs this bridge, but, as noted here before, Matty has deep pockets.

Beyond that, however, the lawmakers passed, almost at the last moment, a spending blueprint that will blow up in the new lawmakers' faces next year, when the stimulus money is all gone.

Next summer, the experts expect the state to be looking at a deficit of $1.6 billion. There is very unlikely to be any more stimulus money, regardless of which party controls Congress. A brand new Legislature and a brand-new governor will have to deal with the crisis.

The choices ahead will be that much more difficult because they've been put off, time and again. Unless we raise taxes considerably, the state will have no choice but to make appalling cuts to education, especially perhaps higher education, to Medicaid, to whatever social services are left.

What is going to have to happen is that for a good long time, we will have to pay more — those of us, that is, who are still lucky enough to have a job — and get less. State workers, whose contracts were modeled on those of the auto workers in the flush times, are going to get less pay, less pension, less benefits.

Ironically, our only hope for a decent future may lie in the willingness of those who are better off to pay more in the short run — more to fix up our roads and bridges and schools.

Investing more in higher education is, in fact, our best hope of all. I don't say that because I teach at Wayne State University, by the way; this is something everyone who has looked at the figures knows is true. We are paying the price now for being a state where too many mommies and daddies thought high school was all the kids needed.

Our lawmakers did very little to get us ready to face the future in the last two years. They did reform the teacher retirement and health care system in a sensible way, and did a weaker version of the same for state civil service employees. Our speaker of the house, Andy Dillon (D-Redford), did try to put all state workers on the same health care plan; he accomplished little, except his own political destruction.

And, oh, yes — our wonderful elected leaders did do a little something for all of us, right at the end of the session.

They voted to legalize the sale of alcoholic drinks, in bars and at the supermarket, on Sunday mornings. Damn nice, since thanks in part to what they failed to do, many of us may well need it.

Worth reading:
�Regardless of your politics, here's something undeniable: You can't figure out where you are, or where you are going, till you have some idea where the hell you've been.

Two new books coming out this week are worth the time of anyone who has the faintest interest in the history of this state. Wounded Warrior (MSU Press; $39.95) , by Lawrence Glazer, a former circuit judge from Lansing, is the tragic story of a man who beat the odds to be elected Michigan's governor exactly half a century ago.

Nobody in politics today has endured anything like John Swainson, who sadly has been almost totally forgotten. Not only was he only 35 when he was elected governor, he shouldn't even have been alive. When he was a 19-year-old soldier in World War II, a German land mine ripped off his legs, shattered his jaw and sent pieces of metal through his body. He survived all that, put himself through college and law school and launched a meteoric political career. He nearly got comprehensive tax reform though the Legislature, something that's as badly needed today.

But he couldn't get re-elected, and ended up being convicted of perjury in federal court, then losing himself for a while to alcoholism. Judge Glazer, who compiled a distinguished record on the bench, concluded after studying the trial transcripts that Swainson was guilty of bad judgment, but probably otherwise innocent.

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