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  • Jumpin Jumpin: Police, fire fighters, and EMS workers to be honored at Sky Zone

    When we think of honoring the brave men and women who protect and serve the metro Detroit area, we think of trampolines.  We think they should jump on trampolines. And by trampolines, we mean an all-walled trampoline field where they can land in a pit of 10,000 foam cubes. They have to blow off steam some how. Sky Zone, the inventors of such a place, are hosting a special day at their Canton and Shelby Township locations that will be all about police officers, firefighters, EMS workers, and their families. On Tuesday, August 5 from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. there will be free jumping for these folks. All metro Detroit police, firefighters, EMS workers and their families are invited to come, though an employee ID or professional organization ID will be required for admittance to 60 free minutes at the indoor park. The hour of free jumping comes with free pizza from Jet’s as well. This is the first event of its kind in Michigan.  Sky Zone Canton is located at 42550 Executive Drive Sky Zone Shelby Township is located at 50810 Sabrina Drive. Check for more information. 

    The post Jumpin Jumpin: Police, fire fighters, and EMS workers to be honored at Sky Zone appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Metro Times is getting a new website today

    Your favorite local alternative weekly is getting a digital facelift at around 4 p.m. today, and we need your help. If you, dear reader, spot anything amiss or notice that any of our regular features are not working properly, do give us a shout in the comment section below or on social media. If, on the other hand, you find that you positively adore our new design (which we surely hope you do!), we’d certainly enjoy hearing about that as well. Let the countdown to launch begin!

    The post Metro Times is getting a new website today appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • 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.



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Dreaming in color

A fading movie landmark gets a little help from some friends

Photo: , License: N/A

Geoff Gowman, Helen Broughton and Conroy Jointer in front of their beloved theater.

He'd climb that tall ladder every weekend to put those black letters up high on the sign.

Over the years, that marquee on the Alger Theater announced birthdays and graduations, advertised nearby small businesses, even carried a marriage proposal once. 

Changing the message took hours of reaching upward, sometimes into wind-driven rain or face-burning sunshine, and sometimes only after shoveling the snow just to give the ladder a foothold. But Geoff Gowman, founder of the Friends of the Alger Theater, did so faithfully because the money the sign brought in was so needed.

About three decades ago, he and some other residents from the neighborhood around the theater formed their group to save the old movie house, which has been closed now nearly as long. 

 "It's something dear to my heart," says Gowman, 73. "Detroit at one time was a city of neighborhoods, and everybody kind of belonged to their own neighborhood, and each neighborhood had their own neighborhood theater. And most communities don't make any effort to save their theaters." 

The Alger, at Outer Drive and Warren on the east side, is one of the few remaining links to that era of tight, walkable communities that so many Detroit intersections once were. Some of the group's members even hope it's possible to re-create those days, when places like the local theater were gathering spots for neighborhood folks.

"I live in the community," says Karlene Trump, the group's 71-year-old secretary. "I think that this could be the anchor for this whole community improving, and I just am in love with what we want to do with this place."

The Alger opened in 1935, joining more than a hundred neighborhood theaters in the city back then. Its design was understated art deco, more functional than frilly, a place where nearby residents could walk for some entertainment.

 "Notice there's no flat parking around here," says Mark Tirikian, 45, a board member and local architect. "It was just designed that people would come by foot. They would walk from these pretty dense neighborhoods around here. There were not even parking requirements when it was built."

Attendance was down by the '70s, and even its owner's efforts to offer more than just movies, including live performances and concerts, kept the doors open only until the early '80s.

Gowman had seen the city's other old movie houses vanish, like the Vogue Theater just over on Harper, which in 1977 closed, caught fire, was torn down and replaced by a McDonald's. So he and other like-minded residents formed their group with the aim of buying the theater. But before they could raise the cash, someone else stepped in and bought it, reopening it as a B-movie venue.

This lasted barely a year until a showing of one of the Friday the 13th movies got the audience so riled up they rioted in the seats and set the stage on fire. The alarmed owner closed it for good, and it's sat empty ever since. A year later, the Friends raised enough money to buy it.

But first, they had to pay off more than $30,000 in back taxes. They had to sink cash into repairing the roof so the place wouldn't flood. They had to drain 6 feet of water out of the basement. All before putting a dime into actually restoring the interior.

Twenty-five years of emptiness takes its toll. The ceiling and walls have gaps where gravity has torn holes. The auditorium seats are covered with a fine powder from the disintegrating plaster above. A red curtain hanging high over the stage is charred from the fire that marked the theater's last night open.

But despite the years of inactivity, the building still shows hints of its subtle elegance. And it has the fortune of a still-dense neighborhood of businesses and homes.

For years the group has enthusiastically promoted it as a future community center, rather than just a worthy historic relic. Their plans include movie nights, of course, but also things like concerts and stage plays and dinner theater. Maybe even a recording studio, Trump says, excitedly.

In the meantime, they've held private jazz concerts and theater arts classes inside, public street fairs and recycling programs outside, plus benefit dinners and wine tastings, and movie nights on a hill in a nearby park to promote a theater that can't yet show its own movies. They've gotten historic designation for the building at the local, state and federal levels, too, outside confirmation of the value they place on it.

"Because you drive by every day and it's that same old theater," says member Helen Broughton, 47.  "But as soon as you come in you start seeing the possibilities."

Conroy Jointer grew up by the Alger Theater, and would see the same white-haired man faithfully tending to the sign on the empty neighborhood landmark.

The sign was the one thing that always changed on its static exterior. And the one thing that never changed was the sight of Gowman on that ladder, every single weekend. "Everybody's seen him," Jointer says. "And he's friendly to everyone."

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