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  • Thank you, Detroit

    I’m not going to lie to you – this isn’t easy. This week, the final City Slang local music column will be published in the Metro Times (on hardcore band Final Assault), and I have just submitted a cover feature on the women of Detroit hip-hop, to be published next week (8/6). This blog that you’re reading now will be my last one as a regular MT contributor. I have a lot to look forward to. I’m going to be an associate editor at Yellow Scene Magazine in Colorado, a tremendous publication in a beautiful part of the country. But leaving Detroit will be incredibly difficult for me. I love the place. It’s been (amazingly) six and a half years since I arrived, a couple of cases in hand and not much of a plan in mind. I just knew, after three separate research trips for books and a magazine article, that I felt at home here. Metro Times offered me freelance work almost immediately, as did a new website called Metromix (whatever happened to that?) When I arrived here, I had been working as a writer in the UK for nine years, but the help and encouragement I received […]

    The post Thank you, Detroit appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Christmas in July, Jack White, and the Tigers

      We here at MT will be delighted when Mr. Jack White throws out a pitch at Navin Field (at least, we hope he will), but until then, we’ll be happy with his pitch to Santa this evening at Comerica Park.    

    The post Christmas in July, Jack White, and the Tigers appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Watch footage of the Gathering of the Juggalos dubbed with Morgan Freeman narration (NSFW)

      Footage from the Gathering of the Juggalos set to clips of Morgan Freeman’s narration from March of the Penguins? Kind of forced, but also kind of beautiful. As the AV Club reports: The oft-sought voiceover champion lends a touch of gravitas to the festival proceedings. Unfortunate scenes of barely clad people having various liquids dumped onto them now carries a quiet dignity as it’s all part of nature’s majestic plan that keeps the world spinning through this elegantly designed and truly wondrous universe. Also, the video is NSFW as there are boobs in it. Watch the clip below:

    The post Watch footage of the Gathering of the Juggalos dubbed with Morgan Freeman narration (NSFW) appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Turn to Crime debut chilly video for “Can’t Love”

    It seems like the polar vortex will never end: the weather phenomenon that brought us the most brutal winter on record this winter is to blame for this summer’s chillier-than usual temperatures as well. A couple of bands, though, made lemonade out of lemons (or snow cones out of snow?) by using the icy landscape to film music videos. 800beloved shot the video for “Tidal” in some sand dunes near Empire, Mich., and this week Turn to Crime debuted the video for “Can’t Stop,” the title track of their recently-released album. Even more piles of ice and snow might be the last thing Detroiters want to see right now, but the footage makes for some good visuals that mesh well with the song. Watch the video below:

    The post Turn to Crime debut chilly video for “Can’t Love” appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Duggan takes control of Detroit water department; says changes to approach on ‘delinquent payment issues’ needed

    Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr transferred oversight of the the city’s water department Tuesday to Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan in an order intended to refocus “efforts to help DWSD customers get and remain current on their water bills,” Orr’s office said today. “This order provides additional clarity to the powers already delegated to the mayor,” Orr said in a statement released Tuesday. “As the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department works to operate more efficiently and communicate more effectively with customers, it is important to ensure there are clear lines of management and accountability.” Duggan will have the authority to manage DWSD and make appointments to the utility’s board, according to a news release. In a statement issued Tuesday, the mayor said he welcomed Orr’s order, adding that officials will develop a plan that “allows those who truly need to access to financial help … to do so with shorter wait times.” “We need to change a number of things in the way we have approached the delinquent payment issues and I expect us to have a new plan shortly,” Duggan said. “There are funds available to support those who cannot afford their bills — we need to do a much better job in […]

    The post Duggan takes control of Detroit water department; says changes to approach on ‘delinquent payment issues’ needed appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Rovers Scooter Club Celebrates 10 Years

    Rovers Scooter Club, a local gang dedicated to celebrating and riding motor scooters, will be celebrating its 10 year anniversary this week with a very special ride. Motor City Shakedown, the annual birthday party for the club, will commence this Friday, August 1 at New Way Bar. DJ Grover from Cincinnati will be spinning northern soul, reggae, and ska, according to club member Michael Palazzola. Saturday will feature a ride from Ferndale to Detroit, starting at noon at M-Brew. Palazzola says this is where most bikes will congregate before taking the ride to the city and folks will be prepping by getting some grub starting at 10 a.m.  Detroit’s Tangent Gallery will host the after party,  a special event that will feature performances by several bands as well as Satori Circus. That portion of the event will commence at 8 p.m. with performances starting at 9 p.m. It’s free to riders, but the public is welcome to join the party with the mere cost of a door charge. Come midnight, the club will raffle off a vintage Lambretta LI 150. Sunday morning will end the weekend of festivities, with brunch taking place at the Bosco in Ferndale.   

    The post Rovers Scooter Club Celebrates 10 Years appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.



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Cover Story

The nerdy playhouse

Here's a crew of creatives — in the truest sense of the word — rising from hackerspace ground zero

Photo: N/A, License: N/A

Photo: Rudy Pokorny, License: N/A

Rudy Pokorny

When a gaggle of builders and mechanics crafted their "Banana Car" last year for a contest at the Henry Ford, they wanted it to be loud. They built a rideable toy car with a hyperbolic sound system: four subwoofers, four 6-inch-by-9-inch speakers, and a pair of 3-inch tweeters. When its creators drove it out of their warehouse in Eastern Market and cranked up the volume in the parking lot, they swear you could hear the music downtown clear across the freeway. They put a grass skirt over the wheels and a smoothie-maker on board, painted it mustard yellow and stuck a confetti-shooting cannon on the back. ("To spray in the faces of our opponents!") 

After the car debuted at the Maker Faire, an event held to showcase do-it-yourself innovation, a new diktat was declared: No future car should exceed the decibel level of the Banana Car. 

Its makers are members of OmniCorpDetroit, a self-described hackerspace located in the heart of Eastern Market. Pushing past the completely tired "computer-hacking" connotation, the term refers to a cooperative where members pool financial and material resources as well as ideas. From tool-sharing and public workshops to collaborative installations, OmniCorpDetroit (OCD) harnesses the innovation that this rattled metropolis runs on. It's about creating, rebuilding, experimenting and inventing together — a notion that members refer to as "hacking." 

And it's about hard work, be it bizarre and cerebral inventions or the more visceral act of building an engine. "This is in our blood," affirms OCD member Brandon Richards. "Hard work, innovation and working together." 

What gives credence to operations at OCD is the same notion that has recently propelled Detroit into the limelight of international media: It's a city for the assiduous and the inventive, where empty spaces and anarchic settings create a crucible of invention. And somehow, it works. 



Back in summer 2010, a dozen or so artists, builders, engineers and one fencing teacher began to renovate a busted-up building near I-75 that OmniCorpDetroit now calls home. A fire had left the floor in questionable condition. "There were holes in the floor that we had to patch," one member recalls. "We used to get yelled at by our downstairs neighbor for dripping beer and other liquids through the holes onto her things." 

OCD guy and moped mechanic AJ Manoulian remembers millions of extension cords running everywhere because there was originally only one plug for the airy, 8,000-square-foot space. At least junk removal was easy, as garbage was thrown out a second-story window into a garbage bin below. And plenty of junk there was — Manoulian found strands of someone's discarded dreadlocks lying in what is now the machine shop.

One of the founding members, Jeff Sturges, (who also runs the likeminded Mount Elliott Makerspace), secured finances and the lease on the building, which was once a cold storage warehouse. The initial funds were gathered from all co-founders, each of whom contributed between $200 and $2,000 for a start-up pot of about $5,000. There was no grant funding, total DIY from day one. They rent from the folks at Rocky Produce, who've been "really supportive."  

A year and a half after OCD opened its doors, every corner of the cavernous warehouse is occupied and in-process. The first-floor workshop houses a bunch of dusty mopeds and myriad old machines — a table saw, welder and lathe being the easiest to identify. There's even a prodigious 1930s Gorton vertical mill, a beastly anachronism that can "take a piece of metal and make anything."

Upstairs, computer geeks and artists are lost in their respective programming and painting. There is a full sewing station, a 3-D printer, and neat rows of desks cluttered with computer screens, oscilloscopes and other electronics. A well-stocked DJ booth sits behind a wall of speakers made from hacked-up radio components from an abandoned music school; tonight Latin music alternates with an obscure techno beat. Most of these tools and machines have been donated or are shared between members, with a few larger purchases having been voted on as a group and purchased from communal OCD funds.

Member and go-to guy Ken Wolcott acts as an impromptu tour guide. A gangly linguist with fine features, big glasses and a mess of hair, Wolcott weaves through the building's vast intestinal apparatus, pointing out a darkroom, an antiquated freight elevator painted luminous gold inside, and a homemade Tesla coil that "shoots out electricity" in the style of old sci-fi flicks. This place is Pee Wee's Playhouse meets science museum: Outside the bathroom door, a massive stoplight flashes red when occupied; in the kitchen, a little lamp lodged in a houseplant dims and brightens when the leaves are stroked. These arcane little hacks, lodged in the bowels of the warehouse, are what make OCD so dammed fun. 

Wolcott is in constant motion, fiddling with things as he raps cogently about 10 different projects, including the guitar molds he's building and his lock-picking club, Detroit Locksport. Wolcott coordinated an informational lock-picking session at OCD last summer and more than 50 people showed up; it turned out to be the largest workshop of the season. As the workshop's flier heralds, lock-picking is "an educational activity centered around nondestructively defeating or bypassing physical (and sometimes digital) security mechanisms." Right.

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