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  • The Ypsilanti mystery pooper saga continues

    Ypsilanti police are still searching for the person dubbed the “mystery pooper.” Someone has been, as the Associated Press politely puts it today, “soiling slides at an Ypislanti playground over the last six months.” So, of course, someone purchased an electronic billboard along I-94 near Huron St. at exit 183 that delivers multiple calls for action: For instance,”Help us flush the pooper.” The company that purchased the billboard, Adams Outdoor Advertising, knows how to reach the world in the 21st Century, branding each billboard with a hashtag for the public utilize in its efforts: #ypsipooper. WJBK-TV says the billboard also toggles through other rich lines, such as: “Do your civic doody, report the pooper #YPSIPOOPER” “Help us catch the poopetrator #YPSIPOOPER.” You can have the runs, but you can’t hide. They’re still looking for you, Mystery Pooper.

    The post The Ypsilanti mystery pooper saga continues appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • City Slang: DJ AvA, Chuck Flask & Keith Kemp preview Movement at Urban Bean Co.

    It’s a really, very cool idea. Paxahau, the good people behind the Movement Electronic Music Festival, are hosting a series of warm-up events, or previews, to the big festival which takes place Memorial Day weekend. On Thursday evening, Movement moved into the Urban Coffee Bean on Grand River in Detroit. While Dj AvA and Chuck Flask & Keith Kemp ably worked the decks, the regular coffee shop goings on continued behind them. It made for an interesting and amusing webcast experience – one guy was taking a nap on camera, while others supped coffee and tappd their feet. It should come as no surprise – the Urban Coffee Co. people have always been big supporters of electronic music. The place includes a DJ stand, and co-owner Josh Greenwood encourages customers to bring their own vinyl and spin on the open turntables. Not on Thursday night though. This being a coffee shop, and it not being particularly late at night, the music remained pretty chill throughout. DJ AvA (real name Heather McGuigan) includes Beth Orton, Madonna, the B-52’s, Daftpunk and David Byrne among her list of influences, so you know that she’s capable of both whipping up a storm and also […]

    The post City Slang: DJ AvA, Chuck Flask & Keith Kemp preview Movement at Urban Bean Co. appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • 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.



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Soul of a man

Gil Scott-Heron's tragic heroism - and final reckoning

Photo: , License: N/A

Photo: , License: N/A

No matter how far wrong you've gone, you can always turn around.
—performed by Gil Scott-Heron on I'm New Here, written by Bill Callahan

It's all about redemption. Gil Scott-Heron, the philosopher, poet, musician, author and rapper prototype, turned his incisive, uncompromising vision to himself for his last album, last year's I'm New Here. For all the bigness of theme and scope that seemed to encompass much of the work he is known for — "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised," "Whitey on the Moon," "From South Africa to South Carolina" — INH reads like a 12-step confessional. It's brutal in its personal honesty, particularly the ominous reading of bluesman Robert Johnson's "Me and the Devil" that rides on an electronic dirge as he recites: Me and the devil, walking side by side. The video is just as ominous, shot in black and white and reminiscent of the great film Black Orpheus, with its deathly figures roaming the urban landscape.

Gil Scott-Heron died May 27 at age 62 in a New York City hospital after a flight from England. No cause of death has been officially released, but his body was ravaged from decades of alcohol and drug abuse, and in 2008 Scott-Heron said that he had been HIV positive for years. He was born in Chicago in 1949 and raised from age 2 by his grandmother in Tennessee after his parents separated. He seemed to predict his own death on INH, saying: Yeah the doctors don't know, but New York was killing me/ Bunch of doctors coming 'round, they don't know/ That New York is killing me/ Yeah, I need to go home and take it slow in Jackson, Tennessee.

He should have taken his own advice as he indeed met his end in New York. And INH seemed a preparation for that end. On the recording he says with a laugh: If you've got to pay for things that you've done wrong, I've got a big bill coming.

Everything about him seemed big when he burst onto the scene in 1970 with "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised," a screed railing against the intersection of mass media and the black power movement, voicing mistrust of the motives of any establishment figure and turning away from the American establishment. The revolution will be no re-run brothers; the revolution will be live, he concludes. It rode on a bed of African drumbeats and was delivered with an accusative, proselytizing voice.

The piece was on the album Small Talk at 125th and Lenox and branded Scott-Heron as a "new black poet." I was entranced by his work. It was far different from anything I'd heard before, and soon I was crouched in college dorm rooms listening to it with my friends, including future MT editor W. Kim Heron, a cousin of Scott-Heron's. The next few albums, Pieces of a Man, Free Will and Winter in America were onour playlist as Scott-Heron's work became more and more musically inclined, and although he was working with top jazz musicians such as bassist Ron Carter and drummer Bernard "Pretty" Purdie, he never lost that three-chords-and-the-truth sensibility. Singles such as "The Bottle" and "Angel Dust" rose up the R&B charts, and singer Esther Phillips covered his "Home is Where the Hatred Is." He played Saturday Night Live with Richard Pryor, and the über divas of Labelle covered "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised." It seemed that Scott-Heron could have been a rock star with his intense lyrics, deep bluesy voice and an ability to create hooks inside songs that went to uneasy places in our psyches.

But Scott-Heron never seemed to come to peace with the musical end of his work. He had an unsettled relationship with keyboardist-flutist Brian Jackson, who was a musical collaborator through the 1970s. Although his earliest work was a sort of prototype for the rap music that followed, and rappers have sampled his work extensively, he never truly accepted the "Godfather of Rap" label that others bestowed upon him. Ultimately Scott-Heron saw himself as a writer, a poet and a freedom fighter, even as he descended into the ravages of his addictions. He addressed the pop stardom issue on his 1978 Secrets album in the song "Show Business": Sing the blues and pay your dues and not know who you are/ ... Do you really want to be in show business/ The instant high the constant come-and-go business/ Got you hanging out in places you got no business.

It wasn't one of his more popular records, but I was entranced by Secrets. One song, "Cane," culls from two stories in writer Jean Toomer's 1923 luscious Southern novel of the same name. Another, "Madison Avenue," rails against the advertising industry, saying: They sell sand to a man living in the desert/ They sell tuna to the Chicken of the Sea ... If it's so goddamned incredible that you can't believe it's true/ Must be Madison Avenue.

Scott-Heron wasn't always angry. He had an equally wicked sense of humor. In "We Beg Your Pardon, America," he reacted to President Gerald Ford's pardon of Richard Nixon for Watergate-related crimes, which cited in part that Nixon suffered from phlebitis. Flea bite us, riffed Scott-Heron. Rats bite us, no pardon in the ghetto. In "Angola, Louisiana," he rails about the notorious prison: The blues is sho 'nuff news down there.

I saw him perform live a couple of times. The first time was in Seattle in 1977, when he did a solo show accompanying himself on piano, and years later at Chene Park, where he played with a full band. I'd have seen him a couple more times if he had showed up for the shows. Scott-Heron was notorious for missing gigs as he inflicted the effects of his addictions on ardent fans.

In the end he knew he had been wrong to be like that and talked about redemption. On INH he laments personal characteristics that he calls "eccentric ... obnoxious ... arrogant ... aggressive ... selfish." It sounds like someone who has taken a deep and honest look at himself that few artists in America are willing to display publicly.

INH is a stripped-down recording, sometimes sounding like an old man musing into a microphone. At the beginning he talks about having grown up in a broken home. At the end he returns to the theme, to deny that brokenness: Unless the homes of soldiers — stationed overseas/ Or lost in battles are broken/ Unless the homes of firemen, policemen, construction workers, seamen, railroad men, truckers, pilots/ Who lost their lives — but not what their lives stood for ... I came from what they 'called' a broken home/ But if they ever really called at our house/ They would have known how wrong they were.

Gil Scott-Heron was another tragic hero in a long line littering the cultural landscape. Most of the tributes and obituaries dwell on and on about "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised," and that is the work that is inexorably pinned to his star. But I believe there are more important lessons being taught on INH where Scott-Heron gets so very personal in examining the soul of a man.

His bill is paid in full.

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