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  • You can wear Detroit’s blight on your face

    There is no easy answer to the question regarding what should be done with Detroit’s abandoned homes. However, an Eastern Market company has a solution that could reflect Detroit’s possibly bright future. Homes Eyewear has set out to make the city a little more stylish, and do their part in cleaning it up by repurposing select woods from neglected homes for sunglasses. All of the wood that Homes uses is harvested from vacant houses with the assistance of Reclaim Detroit. A lot of work goes into prepping the wood to be cut and shaped into frames. Homes goes through each piece to remove nails, paint or anything else detrimental to their production (it’s a bit strange to think that your wooden sunglasses could have had family portraits nailed to them). In order to produce more durable eyewear, they salvage only hardwoods like maple or beech, which are difficult to come by as most of the blighted homes were built with softer woods like Douglas fir and pine. If you’re worried about looking goofy, or shudder at the thought of salvaged wood resting on your nose, you can rest easy. Homes currently offers frames in the popular wayfarer style and are developing their unique spin on the classic aviators. For as […]

    The post You can wear Detroit’s blight on your face appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Lily Tomlin coming to Ann Arbor

    Detroit home-girl Lily Tomlin will perform at the Hill Auditorium in Ann Arbor on Saturday, June 14. A press release reads, “Get together with Lily Tomlin for an unforgettable night of fun and sidesplitting laughter. “Tomlin is amazing” The NY Times and “as always a revelation.” The New Yorker This unique comic artist takes her audience on what the Washington Post calls a “wise and howlingly funny” trip with more than a dozen of her timeless characters—from Ernestine to Mrs. Beasley to Edith Ann.” “With astounding skill and energy, Tomlin zaps through the channels like a human remote control. Using a fantastic range of voices, gestures and movements, she conjures up the cast of characters with all the apparent ease of a magician pulling a whole menagerie of animals from a single hat.” NY Daily News “Her gentle touch is as comforting as it is edifying.” NY Time Out She has “made the one-person show the daring, irreverent art form it is today.” Newsweek Her long list of awards includes: a Grammy; two Tonys; six Emmys; an Oscar nomination; two Peabodys; and the prestigious Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. Find more info here. Follow @City_Slang

    The post Lily Tomlin coming to Ann Arbor appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Welcome Valerie Vande Panne, the new Detroit Metro Times editor

    The Detroit Metro Times, Detroit’s award-winning alternative weekly media company, is proud to announce the recent hire of Valerie Vande Panne as Editor-in-Chief. An award-winning independent journalist and Michigan native, Vande Panne’s work has appeared in Crain’s Detroit Business, The Daily Beast, and Salon, among other publications. Previously, Vande Panne attended Harvard University and was a regular contributor to The Boston Phoenix, and a news editor of High Times magazine. She has spent years covering drug policy among other subjects, including the environment, culture, lifestyle, extreme sports, and academia. “Valerie understands our business and what we expect to accomplish in Detroit. She has an excellent sense for stories that will move our readers, as well as experience with balancing print and digital content. I’m excited to have her at the paper and trust her leadership as we move forward,” said Detroit Metro Times publisher Chris Keating.

    The post Welcome Valerie Vande Panne, the new Detroit Metro Times editor appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Joumana Kayrouz to cover ‘Metro Times’

    She welcomes you when you enter Detroit, from every direction, with the one word that might just be Detroit’s biggest philosophical question: Injured? Joumana Kayrouz is deeper than the inflated image watching over Detroit, peddling justice to the poor and broken of the city. This Wednesday, Drew Philp takes us behind the billboard and into the heart of the Kayrouz quest. (And all of Brian Rozman’s photos of Kayrouz have not been retouched.) Check out MT‘s cover story, on newsstands Wednesday!

    The post Joumana Kayrouz to cover ‘Metro Times’ appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Fire at PJ’s Lager House, no people hurt

    There was a fire in an upstairs apartment at PJ’s Lager House on Monday evening. No people were hurt, although three cats belonging to the tenants died after CPR. The fire broke out around 10:30 p.m. during a show featuring Zombie Jesus & the Chocolate Sunshine Band, Curtin, and Jeffrey Jablonsky. “We just smelled smoke and someone yelled everyone has to get out,” 33-year-old Nick Leu told MLive. On the Lager House Facebook page in the early hours of the morning, a post said, “We at PJ’s lager House would like to thank everyone for their care and concern. Also, a very big THANK YOU to all who stepped up to do what they could this evening. The fire was contained to the upstairs but due to water damage in the bar, we will be closed until it can be assessed. Everyone is safe and we will keep you updated.” A later update read, “Update from the big boss. Since there was no damage to the stage side of the bar, the show will go on tomorrow! You may have to enter through the back door and there may not be a large selection of booze but we are going […]

    The post Fire at PJ’s Lager House, no people hurt 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 The Sugar Clouds’ Partners Don’t Do That (They Watch and be Amazed) (Wax Splat) is a nostalgic look at the psychedelic days of ’60s grooviness. Even the album cover looks like a lava lamp. The male-female vocals have a sort of Jefferson Airplane feel, and the songs are blessed with both sugary sweet pop melodies and a garage-y earthiness. The story of the band’s formation is rather interesting; the two vocalists, Greg and Melissa Host, are a divorced couple who wrote the songs in their living room. The band is still together, so this divorce was a hell of a lot more civil than any we’ve ever known of. Steffanie Christi’an has friends in fairly high places. Her new Way Too Much mini-album is being put out by Nadir Omowale’s Distorted Soul label, and she is also a regular feature on Jessica Care Moore’s Black Women Rock revue. Maybe the choice of cover image isn’t the best – she looks a bit like a Tina Turner tribute act here. But that can and should be […]

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



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Stir It Up

Unchained riff

Larry on Django and what it means

Photo: N/A, License: N/A

I don't go to a lot of first-run movies, but since I was hearing so much chatter about Quentin Tarantino's, I thought I'd check it out myself. Seemingly in recognition of the film's controversial subject matter, director Tarantino and lead actor Jamie Foxx got out in front of the criticism and released an hour-long promotional video that takes on many of the concerns that folks have about the subject matter, the liberal use of the N-word and, somewhat less, about the film's depiction of slavery's brutality. 

Tavis Smiley tweeted a disparaging comment about the movie, referring to is as "a spoof on slavery: Hollywood's Christmas gift for Negroes. Thanks, you shouldn't have."

Perhaps most intriguing is that filmmaker Spike Lee told Vibe magazine the movie is "disrespectful to my ancestors." Lee didn't expand on the theme because he hadn't seen  and claimed that he will not see it. Lee is probably the most influential black film director in the country (unless you think Tyler Perry has passed him by), so it's news when he speaks about such a high-profile film with slavery as its subject matter. Of course, dissing the movie and announcing that you haven't seen it in practically the same sentence doesn't give Lee much credibility. It would be different if he'd been able to say, "I saw it and here is where it goes wrong."

With Lee having not seen the movie, we're left to guess at his motivation. Is it just a general thing that white guys aren't allowed to make movies about slavery? Maybe it's that white guys aren't allowed to make movies where the N-word is used so frequently — although in Tarantino's case that train left the station long ago in works such as Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown. Maybe Lee has become the grumpy old man of black filmmaking. He's always come off as a bristly kind of guy when dealing with the media and the public, but more and more it seems like he should be sitting in a Minnesota ice-fishing shanty grousing with Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon. Then again maybe Lee just likes to say controversial things to raise his media profile.

I saw  and thought it was a pretty good cowboy movie. It was certainly entertaining, and I only found its two-hour-and-45-minute running time to drag once. I tend to like Tarantino films, and this is pretty much what he does. His movies are ultraviolent with a humorous twist — it contains the funniest Klansmen scene I've ever seen — and he must buy fake blood by the shipping container and spray it around with a fire hose. And the N-word is all over this movie, although, historically speaking, that's the way folks talked back then. Heck, plenty of black folks talk that way now.

Uplifting films like Roots, Glory and Amistad notwithstanding, it's fun to see a brother in a movie about slavery jump up and just whup some ass, even if he splatters blood all over you in the process. And pretty much everybody who gets killed in this movie has it coming, except for a couple of brothers who are the victims of slave-master brutality.

It isn't a perfect movie, and as a shoot-'em-up Western set mostly in the pre-Civil War South, we're not talking about generating a lot of introspection. Still, Tarantino does manage to present images of dynamics that don't get much discussion outside of academic circles. For instance, we get a peek at the relationship, and gulf, between free blacks and the enslaved during that period. What we see in the movie isn't the end-all be-all of that dynamic, but that it was even broached is a rare experience. Also, the spectacle of Mandingo fighting — wherein white men force black men to brutalize each other for sport — brings up another aspect of slavery's ugliness. We also witness the docile manner in which many of the enslaved accepted this way of life and found the Django character so astounding and foreign to their own experiences. And finally there is the Samuel L. Jackson character "Stephen," who brutalizes his own people yet also masterfully manipulates Massa from the moment he steps in front of the camera. His performance may be the most multifaceted of any in the entire film. 

Most of the characters in this movie are stock cartoon caricatures. Certainly Jamie Foxx's Django is as one-dimensional as Chuck Connors' Rifleman. But that is the country inhabited by cowboy movies. Mario Van Peebles' Jesse Lee in Posse is a more intriguing character in his motivations and actions, but not as emotionally cathartic because Django serves up retribution against slavers. And that's where the power of  the film comes from. 

Anyone who wants to quibble with the portrayal of blacks in the media should pay more attention to stuff like the Oxygen network's upcoming All My Babies' Mamas featuring rapper Shawty Lo, his 11 children, and their 10 mothers. I can't imagine that it is any more uplifting than the old Being Bobby Brown reality show, in which Brown and Whitney Houston display themselves in a manner more crass and unimaginable than most characters in Django.


Let's move on to another divisive subject: Wayne County Sheriff and could-be mayoral candidate Benny Napoleon began poisoning the waters last week with an attack on the candidacy of Mike Duggan. Napoleon claimed that Palmer Woods, where Duggan has lived less than a year, was "not Detroit." Napoleon backpedaled over the next few days — probably thinking about his fundraising possibilities in Palmer Woods — in a Facebook post and elsewhere, sucking up to deep-pocketed developers in town and denying any racial motivation in his comments. He bent over backward, although he'd already achieved his goal in painting Duggan as a white carpetbagger trying to take over the city. Napoleon didn't say anything about Mayor Dave Bing, who hasn't made any announcements about his own re-election aspirations, and who happens to be a black carpetbagger. Napoleon didn't come out and call Duggan white, but his claim that, "It's our Detroit, and we're going to keep it for Detroiters," is as surely code as the word "urban" means "black." If Napoleon doesn't know what those words imply, then he's not smart enough to be our mayor. 

This attack shows that the impending mayoral election is getting ugly early and will probably get uglier as things progress. It also prompts the question: Is Sherwood Forest, where City Council President Pro Tem (and anticipated mayoral candidate) Gary Brown lives, in Detroit? Are Rosedale Park, Greenacres and Indian Village in Detroit? Napoleon's comments at New Bethel Baptist Church on New Year's Day seemed to say that if you don't live next to a crack house, then you are not a Detroiter. That's bringing us all together. I'm not a Duggan or Napoleon fan at this point. But we've already seen the ugliness of Birthers who claim that President Barack Obama is not American. That shouldn't be the focus of the mayoral race in Detroit. Let's hear your positive ideas, sheriff.

Larry Gabriel is a writer, musician and former editor of Metro Times. Contact him at

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