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    The post Lessenberry on the battle to ban the Metro Times appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Detroit residents sue incinerator owner over ‘noxious odors and contaminants’

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    The post Detroit residents sue incinerator owner over ‘noxious odors and contaminants’ appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

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    The post Winners announced for the ‘High Times’ Medical Cannabis Cup appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Satanists Leverage Hobby Lobby Ruling In Support of Pro­Choice Initiative

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    The post Satanists Leverage Hobby Lobby Ruling In Support of Pro­Choice Initiative appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Reports from the ‘High Times’ Medical Marijuana Cup in Clio

    On Saturday we set out to check out the High Times Medical Marijuana Cup in Clio, Mich. — High Times did hold a Cannabis Cup in the Motor City back in 2011, but Detroit police flexing their muscles and making arrests at that event may have been to blame, at least partially, for the choice of a new host city. The event was held this year at the Auto City Speedway, (also known as “B.F.E.” to Detroiters). Nevertheless, the prospect of stopping at the Torch for the best burger in the Genessee County was compelling — and anyway, this was the Cannabis Cup we were talking about. Was it really going to be “work?” It turned out, just a little bit. An inexplicable lack of an on-site ATM meant hiking quite a ways up the road to the nearest gas station, and then waiting for an attendant to restock the ATM with cash. We spoke with plenty of Cannabis Cup attendees at the gas station — everybody knows that the local gas station is a stoner’s best-friend. The two-day festival, for which one-day tickets were sold for $40, was divided into two sections — a general area and a medicating […]

    The post Reports from the ‘High Times’ Medical Marijuana Cup in Clio appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • ICYMI: Forbes rates Detroit #9 on its “America’s Most Creative Cities” list

    Yes, it’s true. Forbes says Detroit is one of America’s most creative cities: “We ranked these places based on four metrics: activity per capita on project-funding platforms Kickstarter and Indiegogo and music sites Bandcamp and ReverbNation. The goal was to capture organic creativity, since many artistic and musical types have “day jobs” outside of creative pursuits.” The Forbes list sandwiches #9 Detroit between #8 Seattle and #10 Oakland, Calif. If you are watching the art and culture explosion happening right now in Detroit, you probably think we should rank higher than #2 Boston and #1 San Francisco, if only for the fact that it’s actually affordable to create here and there is space for everyone to be creative. But hey, those metrics weren’t part of the equation. And there’s always next year.

    The post ICYMI: Forbes rates Detroit #9 on its “America’s Most Creative Cities” list appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.



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No show

Without a ride to gigs, one Detroiter's puppet show remains obscure

Photo: Detroitblogger John, License: N/A

Detroitblogger John

Darrell Banks lip-syncing with his puppet Diamond inside his booth.

His booth is dark and locked tight. It's early afternoon inside the Russell Industrial Center's weekend bazaar, and Darrell Banks is late for work. Behind the black metal gate are his dollar store elephants, his quaint figurines, his little bags of incense and his hand puppets, all unreachable by anyone who might wander past, because the store is still closed.

Banks, 59, is the proprietor behind Banks Enterprise Gift Emporium, one of dozens of small and side businesses renting space inside the cavernous industrial complex. He pays just under $80 a week in rent to sell his odd assortment of knickknacks from inside a fenced-in rectangular space among the market's perfume makers, baseball hat manufacturers, used CD salesmen and a taco booth by the door.

But he's not here yet, and the bazaar has been open for hours. Though he lives in the nearby New Center area, in a senior apartment complex, he has no car and depends on others for rides to work. He could take the bus, but he has difficulty walking to and from stops. Sometimes he relies on his brother, who sometimes proves unreliable. So he often arrives places late or not at all.

It's hard enough to keep a small business like his alive, and Banks already faces more challenges than most. He can't afford to advertise, so his sales come from shoppers who happen to wander past when he's present. He plans to make fliers and create a website, but he hasn't gotten to that yet. His stock consists of things most people don't have a pressing need for. 

And making all that worse is the persistent problem of getting to work. "I have a transportation situation," he says. 

With all those factors working against him, he needed to come up with something to draw customers during the few hours he's actually here.

One day he picked up one of his hand puppets and made it lip-sync to some old soul songs playing from a little stereo. And soon, the people who used to walk past his table of elephants and giraffes were now standing before his booth, transfixed by a puppet show unlike any other. 

"I was surprised, matter of fact," he says of the reaction. "From the very first time that I started showing them."


Banks never thought much about puppets. He saw some on TV when he was growing up, but he really didn't care for them.

After retiring a decade ago from the Michigan Department of Transportation, Banks grew bored and wanted to start a side business to give him something to do. He first set up shop at the Michigan Mart inside the State Fair, then at the Russell, selling an odd assortment of items loosely connected by an African theme. 

A man in a neighboring booth gave him a puppet as a gift, and Banks added several more to his stock when he saw people gravitate toward it. Then, one day, he took one down from a shelf and practiced animating it.

"I just started playing with it and then realized, damn, it kind of looked real," he says. He did online research on the history of puppets, took a quick course in puppetry, asked others for tips. But most of his thoroughly unique act came from his own imagination.

"I came to realize doing puppetry is your own personal craft of how you make it, and I decided to develop it. It's just evolution."

His puppets don't delight the audience with a skit, or engage children with questions and stories. Apart from a few spare words to open the show, the puppets simply lip-sync to old soul songs.

He'd read that in traditional Japanese puppetry the puppeteers are hidden or shrouded, to avoid the audience being distracted by the performer, so he started doing shows with a black shroud draped over his head.

But the cloth is fairly transparent, and he gets so enthused by the puppets' liveliness that he can't help but mouth a song's words along with them. So the show consists of a singing puppet and a puppeteer whose lip-syncing is clearly visible through his shroud. It's the opposite of ventriloquism. 

His sincere delight and beaming smile, though, are just as much a part of the show. Because no matter who's in the audience, chances are Banks is the one in the room most delighted by the singing puppet. "I just like them," he says, smiling. "Just seeing something that's not real, an inanimate object, just all of a sudden coming alive. Sometimes they amaze me."

After a while he built a small, black-curtained stage at the back of his booth where he puts on performances whenever someone requests one, for the absurdly low rate of $2 for 15 minutes. A small, old TV at the front of his booth loops grainy videos of his puppet shows, shot on an old VHS camcorder, in hopes of drawing the curious into asking for a live performance.

Since he began a year ago, almost all his shows have been confined to his little space, seen only by the few who chanced upon it. But then someone passing his booth saw his act and invited him to be part of a Halloween show at Bert's Warehouse in Eastern Market. This little hobby he'd developed in quiet moments had grown remarkable enough to draw an invitation to perform in public. And Banks couldn't wait.

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