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  • Detroit group Feral Ground is out to prove hip-hop is alive and well

    By LeeAnn Brown Some people say that hip-hop is dead. Local ban Fderal Ground is proving that is not the case. The seven-member band, consisting of three lead vocalists, a DJ, bass, drums and guitar, plays what they call “living hip-hop.” Their music, peppered with multiple styles, covers all aspects of life from growing up in the D to playing with fire despite knowing you will likely get burned. Their undeniable chemistry and raw lyrics compose a music that is living, breathing, and connecting to their listeners. It has been nearly 11 years since Vinny Mendez and Michael Powers conjured up the basement idea that has flowered into the Detroit funk-hop band Feral Ground. Throughout high school the two wrote and rapped consistently, playing shows here and there. In those years they matched their rap stanzas with the animated, dynamic voice of Ginger Nastase and saw an instant connection. The now trio backed their lyrics with DJ Aldo’s beats on and off for years, making him a permanent member within the last year, along with Andy DaFunk (bass), Joseph Waldecker (drums), and newest member, Craig Ericson (guitar). We sat down with Feral Ground and their manager, Miguel Mira, in their […]

    The post Detroit group Feral Ground is out to prove hip-hop is alive and well appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Yale professor talks Plato, James Madison and Detroit’s emergency manager law

    Much has been made about Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr’s decision this week to transfer authority of the city’s water department to Mayor Mike Duggan. In what is the most interesting read on the situation, Jason Stanley, professor of philosophy at Yale, pens an analysis on Michigan’s novel emergency manager law on the New York Times Opinionator blog. Stanley deconstructs Michigan’s grand experiment in governance by addressing two questions: Has the EM law resulted in policy that maximally serves the public good? And, is the law consistent with basic principles of democracy? Stanley ties in examples of Plato, James Madison’s Federalist Papers, and Nazi political theorist Carl Schmitt. A short excerpt: Plato was a harsh critic of democracy, a position that derived from the fact that his chief value for a society was social efficiency. In Plato’s view, most people are not capable of employing their autonomy to make the right choices, that is, choices that maximize overall efficiency. Michigan is following Plato’s recommendation to handle the problems raised by elections. Though there are many different senses of “liberty” and “autonomy,” none mean the same thing as “efficiency.” Singapore is a state that values efficiency above all. But by no stretch of […]

    The post Yale professor talks Plato, James Madison and Detroit’s emergency manager law appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Where to meet a baby dinosaur this week

    Walking with Dinosaurs, a magnificent stage show that features life-sized animatronic creatures from the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous periods, will be in town next week. But to preview the show’s run at the Palace, a baby T-Rex will be making an appearance at four area malls to the delight and wonderment of shoppers. Baby T-Rex, as the creature is being affectionately referred to, is seven-feet-tall and 14-feet-long. He’ll only be at each mall for about 15 minutes, so while there will be photo opportunities, they’ll be short. The dino will be at Fairlane Town Center Center Court at 18900 Michigan Ave. in Detroit from 2-2:15 p.m. today, July 30; The Mall at Partridge Creek at 17420 Hall Rd. in Clinton Township from 5-5:15 p.m. today, July 30; Twelve Oaks Mall at the Lord & Taylor Court at 27500 Novi Rd., Novi tomorrow, Thursday July 31 from 1:30-1:45 p.m.; and Great Lakes Crossing Food Court at 4000 Baldwin Rd., Auburn Hills from 5-5:15 p.m., tomorrow Thursday, July 31.  

    The post Where to meet a baby dinosaur this week appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Detroit website offers stats, updates on city operations

    Interested in reading about what Detroit accomplishes on a week-to-week basis that’s produced by the city itself? Great. You can do that now, here, at the Detroit Dashboard. Every Thursday morning, the city will publish an update to the dashboard because Mayor Mike Duggan loves metrics, even if the data might be hard to come by. According to Duggan’s office, the dashboard will provide data on how many LED street lights were installed, how many vacant lots were mowed, how much blight was removed, and more. This week, the city says it has sold 13 site lots through, removed 570 tons of illegal dumping, and filed 57 lawsuits against abandoned property owners.  

    The post Detroit website offers stats, updates on city operations appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Long John Silver’s makes nod to Nancy Whiskey in YouTube commercial

    We don’t know about you, but usually Nancy Whiskey and Long John Silver’s aren’t two concepts we’d place in the same sentence. However, the international fast food fish fry conglomerate made a nod to the Detroit dive in their latest YouTube commercial. LJS is offering free fish fries on Saturday, August 2, which is the promotion the commercial is attempting to deliver. But, we think we’ll just go to Nancy Whiskey instead.

    The post Long John Silver’s makes nod to Nancy Whiskey in YouTube commercial appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Michigan’s women-only music fest still shuns trans women

    We came across an interesting item this week: Apparently, a music festival with the name “Michfest” is quietly oriented as a “Women-Only Festival Exclusively for ‘Women Born Women.’” It seems a strange decision to us. If you wanted to have a women-only music festival, why not simply proclaim loud and clear that it is for all sorts of women? But if you really wanted to become a lightning rod for criticisms about transphobia, organizers have found the perfect way to present their festival. Now, we know that defenders of non-cisgender folks have it tough. The strides made by gays and lesbians (and bisexuals) in the last 20 years have been decisive and dramatic. But the people who put the ‘T’ in LGBT have reason to be especially defensive, facing a hostile culture and even some disdain from people who should be their natural allies. That said, sometimes that defensiveness can cause some activists to go overboard; when we interviewed Dan Savage a couple years ago, he recalled his “glitter bombing” and said it was due to the “the narcissism of small differences,” adding that “if you’re playing the game of who is the most victimized, attacking your real enemies doesn’t prove you’re most victimized, claiming you […]

    The post Michigan’s women-only music fest still shuns trans women appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.



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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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