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  • 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 […]

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  • 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 […]

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  • 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 […]

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  • Blowout 2014 schedule available to view now

    The schedule for Blowout 17, taking place Wednesday April 30 to Saturday May 3 in Hamtramck, Detroit and Ferndale, is available to see now. Visit to see the schedule and plan your festival. Follow @City_Slang

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  • City Slang: Trash Brats get sleazy at Small’s

    The Trash Brats hardly ever play live anymore, so each show feels like an event. Wandering around Small’s in Hamtramck late Saturday night, there’s a near-carnival atmosphere in the air. The Brats were never supposed to be taken seriously, but years on-and-off the radar have given the band the gift of respect born out of longevity. We’re not being dismissive at all. In fact, no amount of kooky faces from guitarist Ricky Rat and bassist Toni Romeo can hide the fact that these boys can play and the band writes killer bubblegum sleaze-rock tunes. The fact that the venue was packed compared to, say, a recent show by internationally known punk icons Sylvain Sylvain and Glen Matlock (which you would think would attract a similar audience) is testament to the fact that, in Detroit, the Trash Brats command a certain reverence. Before the Trash Brats took to the stage, local punks The Dives kicked off the night with a set of sincere, energetic and well-performed, if standard, punk rock. No frills (besides frontman Ron McPherson’s dapper suit), the band features members of the Junk Monkeys, the Black Mollies and the Joint Chiefs, and it drives through a set of catchy, […]

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  • Cycle 7 opens at the Red Bull House of Art

    By: Ayana Bryant-Weekes The Red Bull House of Art, a multidisciplinary and collaborative art project, relieves the stress of financial limitation or lack of tools and space so budding artists can manifest their creative dreams right here in Detroit. Six artists are selected for a three-month residency where they are provided individual studio space and materials, allowing their artistic concepts to flow freely. At the end of each residency is an unveiling and public display at the Red Bull House of Art Gallery. As show curator Matt Eaton told us in a 2013 interview, “The selection process for the current crop of artists was just the same as every round. The goal is not to find the hippest, coolest artists (though I think they are all very cool), but to find the people who may not typically have a voice.” This year, for the first time, Red Bull House of Art will showcase more than just Detroit artists. National artists from across the country in a special artist-in-residency program will have the opportunity to showcase their work to a much broader audience, and bring a national art stage to the Motor City. Since opening, 54 Detroit-based artists have been given the […]

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Higher Ground

War-on-drugs vets

Ex-prisoners critique the 'correctional economy'

Legalized medical marijuana has helped remove the looming physical and mental presence of the narcotics police from our lives for the first time since we started smoking weed. If we have a patient ID card, we're protected from arrest and imprisonment for our daily smoking activities, and we can replenish our supplies from our licensed caregivers without fear of intervention by the police on either end of the transaction.

This breakthrough in the criminally elongated War on Drugs is a great thing for those of us with physical or mental ailments for which we've sought treatment from our physicians and ended up as certified medical marihuana patients.

But it does nothing for the millions of Americans who enjoy marijuana or other criminal substances on a recreational basis but suffer arrest, prosecution, jailing, drug testing, job loss, mandatory treatment programming, draconian probation or parole supervision, and other chilling punishments simply because they like to get high.

When I did my time for marijuana offenses some 40 years ago, the police forces were just beginning to find us as ugly blips on their cultural radar screens, and there weren't very many of us in confinement.

I served six months in the old Detroit House of Correction in 1966 for possession of less than an ounce of weed, and then two-and-a-half years of a 9-1/2- to 10 year-sentence in Jackson and Marquette as a maximum security prisoner of the state of Michigan for the crime of giving two joints to an undercover policewoman from the Detroit Narcotics Squad.

Since the reviled Richard M. Nixon administration seized on the recreational drug issue in a big way and triggered the War on Drugs against an innocent and helpless populace involved in mental and sensual stimulation of various sorts, prosecution of this vicious campaign has stimulated the growth of a vast police state mechanism of almost unbelievable proportions.

"The United States jails, imprisons and correctionally monitors (supervision, probation, parole) more people than any other nation in the world," Charles Shaw asserts in his new online memoir Exile Nation: Drugs, Prisons, Politics & Spirituality, "around six million, or one out of every 50 Americans. Most are for nonviolent drug offenses.

"This 'correctional economy' which comprises the police, courts and prisons, accounts for millions of jobs and billions of dollars. At the same time, state budgets are so overwhelmed they can't afford to hold all the prisoners they have jammed into their systems like animals on a factory farm [while] marijuana is the No. 1 cash crop in America."

I met Charles Shaw in London this past week, when I attended his lecture about the War on Drugs at the Hub in Kings Cross. He was showing footage of his interviews with a wide variety of recreational drug users and victims of the drug wars that he's recorded for his current film project, Unheard Voices.

Shaw is a fellow ex-convict and a close friend of my pal Dimitri Mugianis, the ex-dope fiend and former Detroiter who cleaned up his habit with the help of iboga and has since dedicated himself to treating addicted persons all over the Western world as an underground iboga healer. Both have turned their bitter experiences with the culture of addiction and the minions of drug law enforcement into inspiration for their committed activism on behalf of the people's side of the War on Drugs.

Charles and Dimitri met when Shaw was filming his two-part documentary The Iboga Insurrection (Parts 1 & 2), which "delves into the history and typology of the ibogaine underground, with evangelizing addicts and lay-providers, activists, medical researchers and shamans."

Shaw's credentials are stunning. He serves as editor for the openDemocracy Drug Policy Forum and the Dictionary of Ethical Politics, both collaborative projects of Resurgence, openDemocracy, and the Tedworth Charitible Trust. He's written for everybody from Alternet and Alternative Press Review to the Huffington Post and the New York Times; he's the founder and publisher of Newtopia and former head writer for the nationally syndicated radio show Reality Checks.

Shaw's new book, Exile Nation, now appearing serially on the Reality Sandwich website throughout 2010 ( is a memoir of his life as a writer, addict, activist, prisoner and spiritual seeker — as he puts it, "a mosaic of his descent into shadow, his personal reckoning, and the long slow crawl back out to reclaim his life, heal the past, and start over."

This guy knows the issue from the inside, and has a lot to teach the casual bystanders of the War on Drugs, whose support must be enlisted in order to bring this dreadful episode in our national history to a shuddering conclusion. I saw him win over an audience of normal citizens of the United Kingdom, who were visibly shocked by the images confronting them on the screen.

A native of Chicago, Shaw spent the first few years of the century as a radical journalist, political activist and habitual drug user in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Boston and San Francisco, before he was arrested, tried and sentenced to a one-year prison sentence for possession of 14 capsules of MDMA.

He did his time for the Illinois Department of Corrections in the Cook County Jail in Chicago, Stateville prison in Joliet, and the East Moline Correctional Center, and then — "released from prison, unable to find meaningful work, and alienated from nearly everyone in his life" — Shaw backslid into a state of suicidal depression before what he calls his "rebirth and spiritual awakening" led him into "meaningful work, shamanic medicines, love and community."

There's an addendum to the book titled "The Secret History of the War on Drugs" that will open the eyes of even the best-informed student of this historical monstrosity. Shaw examines the global drug trade and the war on drugs "as a means of foreign policy, covert operation, domestic policy and social control. Highlights include the role of U.S. intelligence services in the drug trade and in the psychedelic community, the connection between drug laws and racism, and how crack and heroin were intentionally used to destroy the African-American community."

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