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  • Here is why landlords could do well in Wayne County

    CNN has a message to all prospective landlords: Head to Wayne County! Occupancy and rental rates are increasing, the report says, creating an opportunity for serious returns on investments. In fact, after comparing the median sales price of homes to average monthly rents in nearly 1,600 counties, RealtyTrac found that Detroit’s Wayne County offers landlords the best return on their investment in the nation. Investors who buy homes in the metro area can expect a 30% gross annual return from rents. That’s triple the national average of 10%. RealtyTrac, an online real estate information company, says the county offers investors low prices for larger homes — with a median price of $45,000. “We’ve got some steals here,” said Rachel Saltmarshall, a real estate agent and immediate past president of the Detroit Association of Realtors, told CNN. “There’s a six-bedroom, 6,000 square-foot home in a historic district selling for $65,000.” For more, read the entire report here.

    The post Here is why landlords could do well in Wayne County appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • The Record Store Day Guide for metro Detroit

    This Saturday, audiophiles across the world will venture out to their favorite independent record stores in search of limited releases that quickly become collectors items. The third Saturday of April marks the fairly new international holiday Record Store Day. There are certainly dos and don’ts to know for RSD — like where to shop, and how to shop. That’s right, there is an etiquette to shopping on Record Store Day and violating that code makes you look like a real asshole. In my experience of celebrating Record Store Day, I’ve seen stores use a few different tactics as far as stocking the special releases. Some establishments will set up a table, somewhere in the store, where a few shoppers at a time can flip through records in a calm and contained manner. Other places will have a similar setup, with all the releases at a table, but shoppers ask the store employees for the releases they want. It’s like a record nerd stock exchange. This process gets loud, slightly confusing and incredibly annoying — this is where elbows start getting thrown. Then, there are places that put the releases on the shelves, usually categorized by size — twelve inches with the twelve inches, seven inches with the seven inches and […]

    The post The Record Store Day Guide for metro Detroit appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • City Slang: DEMF 2014 canceled

    The Detroit Electronic Music Festival, which was supposed to be making a triumphant return this year, has been canceled. A statement on the website says that the festival will be back in 2015. Back in November, Ford Field hosted an announcement party for DEMF, where it was revealed that a new DEMF festival would take place at Campus Martius Park in Detroit over the July 4th weekend. “I’m proud to be involved in the biggest and best electronic music festival in the world,” said Juan Atkins. “The future’s here. This is techno scene.” Not the immediate future, apparently. The DEMF people claim that the M-1 rail construction is partially to blame for the cancellation/12-month-postponement. Read the full statement here. Follow @City_Slang

    The post City Slang: DEMF 2014 canceled appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Metro Times wins heavy at the SPJ Awards

    Despite a turbulent 2013 which saw Metro Times change owners, move buildings and change editors twice, we picked up eight awards at the Society of Professional Journalists Awards on Wednesday night. The big winner was Robert Nixon, design manager, who picked up a first place for “Feature Page Design (Class A)” for our Josh Malerman cover story, first for “Cover Design (Class A)” for our Halloween issue (alongside illustrator John Dunivant), and a second in that same category for our annual Lust issue. In the news categories, our esteemed former news editor and current contributing writer Curt Guyette won third in “General News Reporting” and third in “Best Consumer/Watchdog” – both Class A – for the Fairground Zero and Petcoke Series respectively. Music & Culture Editor Brett Callwood placed third for his Josh Malerman cover story in the “Best Personality Profile (Class A)” category, and former editor Bryan Gottlieb picked up a couple of Class C awards for “Editorial Writing” and “Headline Writing” (third and second, respectively). We were also pleased to learn that our investigative reporter Ryan Felton won first place and an honorable mention for work published while at the Oakland Press. The MT ship is steady now, […]

    The post Metro Times wins heavy at the SPJ Awards appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Detroit’s grand bargain still needs Lansing’s approval

    In this week’s Metro Times we took a look at the state legislature’s role in Detroit’s ongoing bankruptcy — in particular, how it must approve a $350 million pledge for the so-called “grand bargain” to remain intact. And, with last night’s announcement of a significant deal between the city and Detroit’s pension boards and retiree groups, the ball is Lansing’s court now. The new deal, first reported by the Freep, would cut general employees monthly pension checks by 4.5 percent and eliminate their cost-of-living increases. Police and fire retirees would see no cuts to monthly checks, while their cost-of-living increases would be reduced from 2.25 percent to 1 percent. Under the original offer, police and fire retirees cuts were as high as 14 percent, with general retirees as high as 34 percent, that is, if the groups rejected the “grand bargain,” an $816 million proposal funded by foundations, the state, and the DIA to shore up pensions. The sweeter deal for pensions, though, it must be noted, entirely relies on the state legislature approving $350 million for Detroit’s bankruptcy.  And while this broke after Metro Times went to press, that was the focal point of this week’s News Hits column — so, it’s worth repeating: The […]

    The post Detroit’s grand bargain still needs Lansing’s approval appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • City Slang: Local releases for Record Store Day on Saturday

    This Saturday, April 19, is Record Store Day, and there is plenty going on in metro Detroit and Michigan. Of special interest to us is Chiodos’ 7” single “R2ME2/Let Me Get You A Towel,” Mayer Hawthorne & Shintaro Skamoto’s 7” “Wine Glass Woman/In a Phantom,” Chuck Inglish & Action Bronson’s 7” “Game Time,” Chuck Inglish & Chance the Rapper’s 7” “Glam,” Chuck Inglish & Chromeo’s 7” “Legs,” Chuck Inglish, Mac Miller & Ab-Soul’s 7” “Easily,” James Williamson’s 7” “Open Up and Bleed/Gimme Some Skin,” Black Milk’s 12” “Glitches in the Break,” Mayer Hawthorne’s 10” “Jaded Inc.,” Wayne Kramer & the Lexington Arts Ensemble’s 12” “Lexington,” and best of all, Ray Parker Jr.’s 10” “Ghostbusters.” We wrote about James Williamson’s release this week. Go shop. Follow @City_Slang

    The post City Slang: Local releases for Record Store Day on Saturday 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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