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    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 transwomen

    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 transwomen appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Use this widget to find your polling place for Aug. 5 primary election

    Reminder: the August 5 primary election is coming up. Where do you vote? What’s on the ballot? All these questions can be easily answered by simply typing the address you are registered to vote at into this handy widget created by Pew Charitable Trusts and Google: You can embed this widget on your own website with the following code, and more information can be found at the Voting Info Project.: <script type=”text/javascript” src=””></script> <div id=”_vit”></div> <script type=”text/javascript”>vit.load({‘election_id’:’4034′, ‘suppress_voter_id_rules’: true});</script> Read up on MT‘s election guide for Wayne county executive here.

    The post Use this widget to find your polling place for Aug. 5 primary election appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.



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Rites of spring

An otherwise outdated ceremony for girls brings life to lost traditions

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

Photos: Detroitblogger John

Photo: , License: N/A

The debutantes huddle backstage before the dance.

The debutante steps into the spotlight, and a hush falls over the room.

She wears white satin gloves and white pearls and an airy, white billowing gown, and she shines as she stands under the light, at the edge of the ballroom and at the center of attention.

Her tuxedoed father has just escorted her down a marble staircase into the full gaze of the crowd assembled inside the lavish Crystal Ballroom of Detroit's Masonic Temple.

It's the Debutante Cotillion Ball, an old-fashioned Southern ceremony, the unlikeliest of events, held in the ragged Cass Corridor, the unlikeliest of places.

As the pair slowly walks the long floor to the stage, the announcer reads off the debutante's credentials — her academic achievements, her volunteer activities, her athletic accomplishments, her goals. Each of the girls being honored here on this spring evening has a list just as long. To be selected for this night, they have to be achievers in academics and athletics, and successes in their still-short lives.

Once on stage, facing the hundreds in the crowd, she descends slowly to the floor in a perfect curtsy that makes her long gown spread out gracefully at her feet.

And the crowd bursts into applause for her, for the night, for what this formal gesture represents.

"It goes back to our basic principles of returning social grace, poise, elegance to our lives and to our youth," says Renita Barge Clark, 42, the founder of the Cotillion Society, the group behind this evening's event. "It increases their self-esteem. It helps make them well-rounded individuals. Most of them have been exposed to some things, but here, we take it to another level."

A cotillion
or debutante ball is the formal presentation of young ladies to polite society. Based on English tradition, it flourished in the American South after the Civil War. Back then it signified that a girl had reached maturity and was now ready to be courted for marriage by eligible bachelors of similarly high social status.

Nowadays they serve mostly to sustain these quaint old customs, to pass on lost traditions and forgotten ways of behavior. For years the Cotillion Club of Detroit hosted such balls, so nationally renowned that Ebony Magazine devoted a four-page photo spread to it one year. Though the club began in 1946 as a social group for black businessmen and evolved over time into a political organization fighting for civil rights, every year it offered young black women the chance to participate in the Southern traditions their migrating parents brought north with them.

But it folded in 1996. Clark, a local physician who'd gone through her own debutante ball as a teenager, didn't want to see these coming-of-age celebrations vanish from the area. A few years ago, she and a friend did some research, traveled the country to observe debutante balls, organized a nonprofit educational foundation and last year held their first cotillion.

For the high school juniors and seniors selected as debutantes, the road here is long and hard. "It's almost like a mini charm school," Clark says. There are the twice-weekly waltz practices that become weekly as the ball draws near. Months of etiquette lessons. Cultural outings like Brunch with Bach at the Detroit Institute of Arts and tickets to the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater at the Detroit Opera House. Volunteer tutoring at the Sickle Cell Center in Detroit. Afternoon tea at the Townsend Hotel in Birmingham. Facets of culture that most girls nowadays don't get to experience.

"It really is sad," she says. "But hopefully as time goes on we as a whole society will feel the need to reinstate some of these traditions, because I believe there was true meaning and a purpose to them."

The escorts
gather behind a set of French doors, just outside the ballroom. Their heads tilt toward a crack in the door, as each waits to hear his name called.

Each debutante has her own escort, a teenage boy who is called to the ballroom floor to stand in the spotlight under the scrutiny of the audience. His achievements will be read aloud, he'll solemnly bow, and he'll walk up to her father and formally ask for a dance with his daughter.

This is a lot to think about now, and the waiting escorts break the tension by clowning around, acting unconcerned, but every few minutes they fall back into expressions of mild nervousness as they listen in silence to hear their names.

That's the look worn by Blake West, 16, as he watches the escorts called before him and assesses what awaits him.

A University of Detroit Jesuit High School and Academy student, he will be majoring in engineering or business at Howard, Columbia, Morehouse or Georgetown, he declares with the assurance of someone whose future is already mapped out. The program for the evening spells out his record: track and field team, member of the Business Club at school, treasurer of Detroit Kappa League, volunteering with Toys for Tots, tutoring at night, and so on, a kid with more responsibilities than most adults.

Like the others, he too went through the etiquette lessons, the dance practices, the instruction on table manners. "I think this is a very valuable experience because when I grow up I may have to go to an event with the president, and those are some things to know," he says, already thinking big.

These are the kids who go to the good schools in town, come from good families, have high aspirations. Tonight is about celebrating them for simply doing good things with their lives.�

"I'm very blessed," West says about his school, where most of his achievements have taken place. It's a nod to his awareness that fortunate circumstances make a difference too.

The announcer's voice echoes through the old hall. It's hard to discern her words from outside the ballroom. But one thing comes through clear. "Blake West." And with that he goes through the door and steps into the spotlight.

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