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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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Stir It Up

Sounds of disharmony

The Detroit Symphony Orchestra strike's long-term effects

There is one effect the four-month-old Detroit Symphony Orchestra strike has had. Folks are hearing our good musicians elsewhere. For instance, bassist Alex Hanna has worked with the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra and the East Coast Chamber orchestra, and he's got work lined up with the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra.

"Any orchestra that has an open spot for a week or a weekend, they know that there are 84 top-notch musicians in Detroit who are probably available," Hanna says.

Traveling all over the country to pick up work isn't what Hanna had in mind when he joined the DSO in August 2008. Then the 24-year-old musician was elated to be coming to Detroit to join one of the nation's top orchestras as its principal bassist.

Hanna, who was born in Bowling Green, Ohio, says he's "dedicated a tremendous amount of time and effort" to the DSO as the ensemble where he'll make a name for himself. "I haven't played with them in Orchestra Hall since August. It's frustrating not to be doing what I came to Detroit to do."

The strike started Oct. 4, after DSO management implemented a more than 30 percent pay cut for musicians. Union negotiators offered a 22 percent cut. Management's offer was built around an overall total compensation package of $33 million over three years; the musicians' offer would have cost about $39 million.�

The initial management offer would cut base pay from a guaranteed minimum of $104,650 to the low $70 thousands. Although orchestral musicians' pay can vary based on seniority and which chair the musician has, according to several websites, starting pay at top U.S. orchestras — Cleveland, Chicago, New York, Boston and Philadelphia — is about $110,000. A first chair violinist can make about $300,000.

"When I first got this job, it was definitely the greatest job available," says Hanna. "I had the best job a classical bass player could have in the United States except maybe three or four positions. If we accept management's proposal there would probably be hundreds of jobs that are this attractive."�

A couple of weeks ago, each side was to have submitted $36 million packages to a federal mediator, a number based on a December proposal from former Gov. Jennifer Granholm and Sen. Carl Levin. Each side's proposal includes draconian cuts, although there are also differences on work rules, pensions, and community outreach and education issues. Last week, the union hand-delivered letters to DSO board members rejecting the management offer, claiming it's actually for $32 million over 40 months.�

"They [management] believe Detroit is down for the count, it's not a major city anymore and cannot support a major performing arts institution," says cellist Haden McKay, a union spokesman.

"I really can't predict what's going to happen at this point. If there is a contract, we'll do our best to go forward, bring the audience back and bring the music back. We're trying to get through a difficult period without losing what's wonderful about the DSO and trying not to have such a terrible impact on the orchestra. They seem to want to change the work place once and for all and don't really care were the pieces fall."

There is an official media blackout agreed upon by the two sides, and McKay won't go into the details of negotiations. The DSO executive committee of the board has a meeting scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 2, to discuss possible contract offers.�

"I think our survival is at stake. I got that while I was interviewing for the job," says DSO senior manager Paul Hogle who's only been here since last May. "It's still true. You cannot run multimillion-dollar deficits indefinitely into the future. ... I would describe the executive committee as being passionate about coming to a final offer that will secure our future sustainability."

If the sides are close enough, they will go back to the negotiating table. If they're too far apart, it's possible the board will cancel the rest of the season.�

Either way, it seems that things are coming to a head and the next steps will happen quickly.

"We could be back on stage next week if a settlement is reached," says Hogle, adding that the next offer "won't be the same old thing."

At this point things have dragged out longer than anyone expected. DSO musicians have been appearing as guests with other orchestras, and one member has accepted a full-time position with another group. It wouldn't be surprising to see more of that, especially if the board cancels the season.�

It's beginning to look like the 1995 Detroit newspaper strike, and, as a former Freep staffer, I know the strikers' perspective on that one only too well. As time passes, part-time work to make ends meet turns into an opportunity to move on. DSO musicians who have been here a long time and have deeper roots in the community may be able to hold out longer. But a musician such as Hanna who's been here only two years has got to be looking around.

His fiancé is operations manager and outreach coordinator for Detroit Chamber Winds. That keeps some money flowing into their household and gives them more impetus to stay in Detroit. But as time passes, it gets harder.

"I'm young and I tend to be an optimist," Hanna says. "I thought the strike would be a week or two. We are in week 18 or 19 now. I knew there would be a big disagreement, but I didn't think it would go on. This stinks. I thought that the sides would realize that we strongly believe in the very legitimate reasons that we are on strike and we would move forward to get a deal. That hasn't happened."

In the meantime, he puts his time in practicing, if not for a specific program then just to keep his skills sharp. That's the thing about being a top musician. You always have to practice just to maintain where you are and to guard against injury, let alone advance in the music world.�

"A lot of people have families and mortgages and all this stuff. They're just ripping their hair out," Hanna says. "To see people who've worked very hard and done their job well then have to deal with this is frustrating. Some people have already moved away to places where there are better freelance opportunities."

Upheaval has become part of the territory in Michigan, particularly here in the southeast corner of the state. But at some point it becomes a question of who you are. Do we deserve a great orchestra in this region? Can we have a great orchestra in this region? Are the arts an essential part of our landscape or are they window dressing to be tossed off during financially trying times?

These are the questions being wrestled with at the DSO right now, but the questions will come again and again in municipalities across the region as we struggle to regain our economic footing.�

As a metropolitan area the DSO is also part of what makes us attractive to others, either tourists or potential businesses. If we cannot maintain an orchestra here, it's yet another sign that things are indeed dire.

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