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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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Cover Story

Choose the unusual

Elective courses can sound strange but be very satisfying

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Ultimately, college is a serious academic pursuit — the purpose of investing all that time and money is, after all, to earn a degree that you hope will serve as a kind of passport to the land of your professional dreams. It might seem odd, then, to hear that classes like "American Masculinity in 20th Century American Lit and Film" or "Intermediate Weightlifting" actually exist and that (yes) many students set aside precious credit hours in their already rigorous academic schedules to take them.

Of course, all students hope that their college education will make them more marketable to the world beyond undergrad, but that doesn't always mean sacrificing opportunities to explore weirder, more eccentric interests. And the majority of these opportunities come in the form of elective classes, courses for credit that don't need to be related to a student's major in any way. Most universities actually require that a student take a few electives to challenge their dominant modes of thinking or to pursue interests that aren't so much professional as they are personal or creative — which basically means you can earn actual college credit learning about almost any unusual topic imaginable.

Not all electives are as bizarre as, say, "Man the Animal." Many students find that their favorite electives are those related to their primary academic interests. But rather than being a burden on the typical student's already taxed brain, electives are a chance to explore your field from a new angle, take a class on a subject you've always been curious about or are surprised exists, or, if you're lucky, give your GPA a boost. (Plus, you can't put a price tag on the infinite respect you'll receive from the offbeat academic community if you take "The Science of Harry Potter.") 

With this in mind, we used the ever-helpful tools of social media to ask past and present college students about elective classes that were thought-provoking, surprisingly enjoyable or more on the unusual side. Although the responses we received varied in terms of course subject, a common theme was classes that forced students to think in a different way.

Katy Stringham, who now holds a job in Detroit in the software database industry, took a class on Grimm fairy tales her freshman year at Albion College.

"I chose a Grimms' Fairy Tales class because I grew up on fairy tales and wanted to know why and how they existed," Stringham commented. "Little did I know the original tales have dark and weird happenings. It was a great class to have for a freshman seminar because it made me think outside the box right from the get-go."

Others were drawn to electives that included assignments that differed from those in standard college courses. "Junior year I took a sociology class on global understanding," writes Travis Hlavaty, a senior at University of Michigan. "It was unique in that it used technology to enable the class to video-chat with university students around the globe. I found the differing perspectives on social issues especially enlightening and useful in other courses." In this way, elective classes can serve as a supplement to primary coursework without being redundant.

Electives also offer opportunities to explore trusted college staples with a new tilt. Consider the infamous Psychology 101 in comparison to another class offered by U-M entitled Psychology and Spiritual Development. Recent graduate Michael Moore says the class was enjoyable because "we were not out to memorize facts or cram for exams. We were out to examine our deepest thoughts about ourselves and the world. I learned more about who I am on the deepest level than any other class I took."

If these reasons alone aren't convincing of the benefits of electives, consider that college may be your one (somewhat romanticized) shot to indulge your more unusual interests — at least before your entrance into the so-called real world convinces you that you must take things more seriously. 

Below we have compiled a few of the more fascinating college electives we came across in our research. Whether close to home or far, these electives caught our eye and raised our eyebrows:

Victorian English Literature: One online correspondent told us, "The one college course I have loved the most so far (I just finished my freshman year), was Victorian English Literature. It was my first class where we close-read a text, and we ended up analyzing the novels we studied as a class, and drawing parallels from mythology and contemporary society and within the novels themselves. It was really amazing, since it made me realize that all literature is more like a conversation than just passive entertainment." 

The Science of Harry Potter, Frostberg State University: This recent honors seminar course got our attention, but on a list that included such interesting topics as "Zen Theory and Practice" and "The French: A People Much Like Ourselves." 

How to Watch Television, Montclair State University: Does this mean that if you thought TV was just meant for mind-numbing relaxation, then you've been doing it wrong? Not really: This course teaches students to think critically about the impact of television on culture and its audience through a study of media theory. It's a funny title concealing what sounds like an interesting critique.

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