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  • 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 PlanetAnt.com. 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.

  • You can wear Detroit’s blight on your face

    There is no easy answer to the question regarding what should be done with Detroit’s abandoned homes. However, an Eastern Market company has a solution that could reflect Detroit’s possibly bright future. Homes Eyewear has set out to make the city a little more stylish, and do their part in cleaning it up by repurposing select woods from neglected homes for sunglasses. All of the wood that Homes uses is harvested from vacant houses with the assistance of Reclaim Detroit. A lot of work goes into prepping the wood to be cut and shaped into frames. Homes goes through each piece to remove nails, paint or anything else detrimental to their production (it’s a bit strange to think that your wooden sunglasses could have had family portraits nailed to them). In order to produce more durable eyewear, they salvage only hardwoods like maple or beech, which are difficult to come by as most of the blighted homes were built with softer woods like Douglas fir and pine. If you’re worried about looking goofy, or shudder at the thought of salvaged wood resting on your nose, you can rest easy. Homes currently offers frames in the popular wayfarer style and are developing their unique spin on the classic aviators. For as […]

    The post You can wear Detroit’s blight on your face appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

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Cover Story

Maybe you missed them ...

Some lives and how they mattered

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FRAME BY FRAME

Art Clokey Animator, creator of "Gumby"

Perhaps animators just don't get the respect they deserve. Even after a half-century of cinematic auteur theory, we seldom talk about "the great animation directors." For every Walt Disney or Chuck Jones, there are dozens of unsung creators — not to mention thousands of individual animation artists. They can create whole worlds made from imagination — whether it's cartoon animation or computer-generated imagery — while making sure we care about the characters, hardly an easy task. And only a few of the medium's trailblazers ever get their due.

One of those unsung animation "auteurs" was Art Clokey. Except for the most engaged fans of animation history, few noted Clokey's death on Jan. 8, of complications related to a bladder infection, at his home in Los Osos, Calif. A pioneer in clay and puppet animation, he is perhaps best known as the creator and voice of the green, clay humanoid character known as Gumby.

Born Arthur C. Farrington on Oct. 12, 1921, in Detroit, his brief childhood ended in a series of tragedies. His parents divorced when he was 8, and his father died shortly afterward in an automobile accident. He left Michigan to join his newly remarried mother in California, but was placed in an orphanage because his stepfather didn't want him. Adopted by Joseph Waddell Clokey, a teacher, organist and composer of secular and spiritual music, young Arthur suddenly had opportunities to learn, travel and explore his artistic abilities. Back on his family's Michigan farm, he'd made clay figurines out of a mud and clay mixture he called "gumbo," but now his adoptive father taught him to draw, paint and shoot film, as well as taking him on trips to Canada and Mexico. The young man changed his name to Art Clokey and hardly looked back.

After serving in World War II as a reconnaissance photographer over North Africa and France, Clokey found himself in Hartford Conn., studying to become an Episcopal minister — until he met and married a minister's daughter, Ruth Parkander. Instead of preaching from the pulpit, they felt they had a better idea, even if it sounds a bit hokey today: making films to spread the gospel. They rushed out to California, where Clokey enrolled in night film classes at the University of Southern California, where he studied film under movie magician Slavko Vorkapich. Famous for making haunting montage sequences with complicated cinematographic techniques, including lap dissolves, superimpositions, mattes and fades, Vorkapich was eloquent and passionate about using cinema to test the creative boundaries of the imagination.

It must have left quite an impression on Clokey, whose class project, a three-and-a-half minute film entitled Gumbasia — a take-off on Disney's Fantasia — broke new creative ground with pulsating, growing and shrinking pieces of colored clay set to jazz. When the father of a fellow student saw the film, he proposed funding a short film of this clay animation — a technique that would, in 1976, be trademarked as "Claymation" by animator Will Vinton. Recalling the strange clay figures he'd made as a boy back in Michigan, Clokey fashioned a thick-footed, green character designed to be easy to stand up and animate — Gumby. As for Gumby's trademark uneven head, that was inspired by an old photograph of Clokey's biological father as a boy, an unruly cowlick sending a shock of hair up on one side. (The homage suggests tender feelings for his dead father, despite his obvious love for Clokey the elder.)

When the animated short aired during an episode of The Howdy Doody Show, Clokey became a pioneer of TV animation as well, leading to The Gumby Show in 1957.

Although Gumby was a decent character who struggled to do right in the face of strange adversaries and wild antics, Clokey still dreamed of using film to promote a Christian ethos. Then, in the late 1950s, Lutheran churches suggested such a series. This culminated in the somewhat hokey puppet animation series Davey and Goliath, in which Davey wrestles with ethical and moral issues, assisted by his talking dog Goliath. If seen at all today, the characters are often given a heavy satirical treatment. (In one Simpsons episode, a puppet animation show called Gravey and Jobriath has an ersatz Davey gearing up to bomb an abortion clinic, for instance.) But the show did deal with complicated issues, including racism, religious intolerance and mortality. Even in today's ironic age, it harks back to when children were more innocent and religion was somehow less shrill. What's more, the techniques pioneered by the show were later adopted by the technicians of Rankin-Bass, creators of the TV special Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer.

In addition to The Gumby Show and Davey and Goliath, animation jobs just kept coming Clokey's way, ranging from stop-motion commercials to animated title sequences for major films (1965's Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine and How to Stuff a Wild Bikini, among others). Meanwhile Gumby had become an enormously popular flexible toy. Still, by the late 1960s, it seemed Clokey's glory days had passed, his television work seen mostly in reruns at odd hours.

Then, in the early 1980s, Eddie Murphy's skits on SNL brought Gumby back into the spotlight. Casting the kindly green naf as a cigar-chomping, foul-mouthed rascal, Murphy roared, "I'm Gumby, damnit!" Though Clokey didn't completely approve, the cultural reference resonated, bringing newfound attention for the little green man. Soon, Gumby dolls were back on shelves, and Clokey found backing for fresh ventures.

Starting in 1988, Clokey directed almost 100 episodes of Gumby Adventures for TV over the next 14 years, and made Gumby: The Movie in 1995. Clokey broke no new ground artistically or thematically, but — much like his adoptive father and his old USC film teacher — he seized the chance to take a new generation of animators under his wing. More than half the animators who worked on Tim Burton's the Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) had labored on Gumby productions under Clokey's guidance. His disciples worked on classic stop-motion productions, including James and the Giant Peach and Monkeybone, and many would go on to work for Pixar, Disney and other computer animation studios, and on such projects as Toy Story, The Incredibles, Corpse Bride and Coraline. Onetime Clokey animator Timothy Hittle, for instance, created the animated sequences for The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.

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