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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

Maybe you missed them ...

Some lives and how they mattered

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Although he was an innovator when it came to using camera tricks to create imaginary worlds on film, Clokey was no virtuoso of animation. If anything, his knack was for telling a story using rudimentary props and limited special effects, using character and story to somehow rope you in and make you care about a green clay person or a puppet of a talking dog. Perhaps it came from wanting to make viewers sympathize, to better drink in the humanistic and — yes — sacred messages he hoped to convey. Clokey's own spirituality was benign, never incurious, sharp or moralizing; a lifelong adventurer, he'd even visit India and experiment with LSD in later years. Call it religion, call it secular humanism, call it what you will, but a certain civility, dignity and decorum come through loud and clear in Clokey's creations.

Perhaps his greatest gift was for imbuing seemingly simple characters with a sense of decency and humanity. You still see it in the best animated films, where an imagined world, no matter how astonishing, is only a backdrop for characters who must make you care. Clokey knew how to do that. And some of today's big-budget animated bonanzas could learn a thing or two from an episode of Davey and Goliath. —Michael Jackman



Patricia Neal

What makes the camera love a particular face mystifies even those who spend their careers searching for that quality. In Patricia Neal's case, though, the best bet would be her eyes. Wide-set and dark, they dominated her full mouth and delicate jawline. But it wasn't just their beauty; they telegraphed intelligence, a watchful quality. Those eyes helped her build a career as a sui generis presence in American films during the 1950s and '60s, though many of her greatest dramas took place offscreen.

Born in Kentucky in 1926, Patsy Neal grew up in Knoxville, Tenn., and took to her future vocation through the usual school plays and regional theater productions. After studying drama at Northwestern University, she wound up in New York, picked up the more patrician-sounding Patricia, and soon found success on Broadway. She won a Tony Award for Lillian Hellman's Another Part of the Forest in 1947, the first year the awards were presented, before heading for Hollywood.

Her role in the 1949 film adaptation of Ayn Rand's novel The Fountainhead transformed her life. The film brought Neal her first true renown, and it propelled her into a torrid affair with her co-star, married Hollywood icon Gary Cooper, then more than 20 years her senior. While she later referred to Cooper as the love of her life, the ill-fated romance took a steep toll on her personally. Cooper's family reviled her, and Cooper himself talked her into aborting their child.

Despite the resulting behind-the-scenes scandal, various rifts with studio heads and producers over roles, and a brief retreat to Broadway, she extended her budding streak of memorable film performances. In the 1951 sci-fi hit The Day the Earth Stood Still, she personified the sort of kind, calm, intelligent human an extraterrestrial visitor might trust. (Her husky voice underwrote her mature appeal.) In Elia Kazan's undersung 1957 classic A Face in the Crowd, she was the well-educated East Coast sophisticate who should have been too savvy to fall for Andy Griffith's populist shtick, but his magnetic draw on her character was right there in those eyes for anyone to see. That conflicted, should-know-better quality helped her win a Best Actress statuette for her performance as Alma, the put-upon housekeeper flirted with, harassed and ultimately broken by Paul Newman's title scoundrel in 1963's Hud.

Neal's personal life had stabilized after her 1953 marriage to writer Roald Dahl, but the '60s brought a series of devastating blows. Their infant son Theo suffered brain damage after his stroller was struck by a taxi in 1960, and they lost daughter Olivia to a sudden illness in 1962. In 1965, Neal, then not yet 40, was felled by a massive brain bleed. Some media outlets prematurely reported her death as she lingered in a weeks-long coma. Pregnant at the time, she survived both the coma and brain surgery and eventually gave birth to daughter Lucy. At Dahl's not-always-welcome prodding, she painstakingly learned to walk and talk all over again. The story of her illness and recovery was turned into a TV movie in 1982; Dahl and Neal divorced the next year after three decades of marriage.

Neal devoted much of the rest of her life until her death from cancer on Aug. 8 to advocacy for stroke victims, but she recovered enough to return to acting, most often in television. She made her last significant screen appearance in Robert Altman's 1999 farce Cookie's Fortune, playing the title eccentric Southern dowager. Her character's death sets the cockamamie plot in motion, so she isn't onscreen long, but her few scenes revealed something rare in those eyes. She looked like she was having fun. —Lee Gardner



Benoit Mandelbrot

The mathematician Stephen Wolfram made a bold pronouncement last summer: The universe, in all of its infinite complexity, is the result of less than a handful of computational rules. That is, you plant a tiny seed of incredible simplicity, tell it a few basic things about how to grow, and it will generate a chaotic infinity.

The computational universe is what the thinker calls a "new science" but, in fact, is rooted in a very basic yet extremely recent concept: fractals, the discovery of mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot, who passed away Oct. 14 of pancreatic cancer.

Put simply, a fractal is a geometric shape that cannot be reduced to a smooth curve or line. It is infinitely rough and infinitely complex. You could take a simple fractal shape the size of your hand and blow it up past the boundaries of the universe without reaching the "bottom" or end. There are more shapes and details past eternity.

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