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    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? […]

    The post Planet Ant presents A Steady Rain appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.



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Magic bus

Enlightening lives one book stop at a time

Photo: Photo: Detroitblogger John, License: N/A

Photo: Detroitblogger John

Ryan Boyd, right, and Aaron Jacobsen with his bags full of books inside the bookmobile.

She was waiting for him at the window.

For part of the morning, Marion Jenkins sat at a table, eating a bowl of Shredded Wheat in her fourth-floor apartment at McCauley Commons, a housing complex for seniors. The TV blared daytime shows in the background.

Jenkins, 81 years old and barely 5 feet tall, had seen the Detroit Public Library's bookmobile pull up outside, and watched as Aaron Jacobsen, its 41-year-old librarian, stepped out with bags of books and walked into her building's lobby. She had fixed up her hair that morning, she says, in anticipation of his monthly visit.

He was due here at exactly 11, but the time came and passed with no knock on the door. She grew dismayed and wondered, did he forget about me?

"I got a chance to get real sharp and he's not coming," she says. "He'd be up here by now."

But as doubt grows and minutes pass, a knock finally comes, and standing in the doorway is the guest of honor, holding two heavy-hanging department store bags full of books, dozens of them, courtesy of the Library on Wheels, the DPL's mobile unit that for years has been known around town simply as the bookmobile.

She's thrilled about the books, but she's happy just for his visit really, because Jacobsen is one of her few contacts nowadays.

"He's a doll," she says of him. "He's one of my boyfriends right here, but he doesn't know it."

Jenkins falls into that category loosely referred to as shut-ins, people who for whatever reason almost never leave their home to go into the world. The world has to come to them.

"It's a absolutely wonderful service for the seniors that can't get out," says Pam Duncan, the administrative manager at McCauley Commons. "A lot of them don't have transportation and are just physically unable to get out, and some of them don't have family to take them."

This is the first of many visits to shut-ins the bookmobile has this morning. A librarian and a driver make rounds like this around town five days a week, two weeks out of every month, bringing within these books a glimpse of people and places these people would never otherwise see.

"It's kind of their way to get out, reading all these different things," says Ryan Boyd, the 29-year-old bookmobile driver. "You run into people, you can just kind of tell they don't get out at all, and we are their only contact."

This program was known in blunter days as Service to Shut-ins and Retirees before undergoing several name changes. But the mission remains the same. In a city where half the population can't read, they'll bring the written word to just about anyone who wants it. Along their routes, every stop they make is a glimpse into someone's private, reclusive world, one that few from the outside see.

Except for the guys from the bookmobile, who are not only welcomed into these homes but find themselves regarded as more than just delivery men. They're enlisted as helpers, as company, as substitutes for family members who've died or who don't bother coming by anymore.

"They've learned to trust you," says Carolyn McCormick, 67, the coordinator of specialized services in charge of the bookmobile. "You're their family."

has operated its bookmobile since 1940. The program is based at the Douglass Branch for Specialized Services on Grand River near Trumbull, which also houses several other programs, like the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped.

Two bookmobiles make the rounds. Each one, a newer-model mini-bus with shelves instead of seats, can hold thousands of books.

One is full of children's material and makes stops at public schools in Detroit where the libraries have been closed or aren't staffed by a librarian anymore, rendering them closed anyway.

The other is stocked with genres such as mystery, romance, biography and modern novels. It visits far-flung homes, densely packed senior apartment complexes, and riverfront retirement communities, serving adults who can't make their way to a library on their own. New patrons come by word-of-mouth, or by postings on bulletin boards in recreation centers and retirement homes.

Sometimes the bus pulls up and people will come to browse inside the climate-controlled vehicle. If someone requests a title they don't have that day, the librarian will special order it and bring it next time.

The job has become more challenging, though. Layoffs in the past year cut the number of bookmobile drivers down from four to one. And mechanical issues with the bus intended for schools means they're down to one bookmobile. Every week, one set of books has to be hauled off it and replaced by another set.

On every route the bookmobile is staffed by two employees — Boyd, now the lone driver, and a librarian whose job it is to drag heavy bags of books up flights of stairs and down long hallways. Today, it's Jacobsen's shift.

Boyd, who comes from Ohio and who heard of the job opening from his father-in-law, himself a DPL employee, has been here a year and a half. Jacobsen, who moved to Detroit from Nevada to attend Wayne State, has worked here seven years. Both men, warm and friendly with their customers, love the work and speak with real affection for those they visit.

"What I love about this is, you meet the seniors and they're good souls — the smile in their eyes, the smile on their faces," Jacobsen says. "I'm serious about what I do, but I want them to enjoy the experience, no matter how brief. I want them to come away positive. I like to get the person to smile. I'll do something silly, I don't care how old you are."

Next stop
is a house on a curved east side street where half the homes are boarded up and the other half look like they soon could be.

It might be the strangest stop of the day. Jacobsen climbs creaky wood stairs to the second floor of an old Tudor duplex and enters another isolated world. The walls of the sparsely furnished living room and dining room are covered in spray-painted gang tags. One reads "Grand mafia kings bitch." Another claims this house for the Green Boyz. Holes dot the walls between the scrawlings. And in this setting live two frail women.

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