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  • The Ypsilanti mystery pooper saga continues

    Ypsilanti police are still searching for the person dubbed the “mystery pooper.” Someone has been, as the Associated Press politely puts it today, “soiling slides at an Ypislanti playground over the last six months.” So, of course, someone purchased an electronic billboard along I-94 near Huron St. at exit 183 that delivers multiple calls for action: For instance,”Help us flush the pooper.” The company that purchased the billboard, Adams Outdoor Advertising, knows how to reach the world in the 21st Century, branding each billboard with a hashtag for the public utilize in its efforts: #ypsipooper. WJBK-TV says the billboard also toggles through other rich lines, such as: “Do your civic doody, report the pooper #YPSIPOOPER” “Help us catch the poopetrator #YPSIPOOPER.” You can have the runs, but you can’t hide. They’re still looking for you, Mystery Pooper.

    The post The Ypsilanti mystery pooper saga continues appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • City Slang: DJ AvA, Chuck Flask & Keith Kemp preview Movement at Urban Bean Co.

    It’s a really, very cool idea. Paxahau, the good people behind the Movement Electronic Music Festival, are hosting a series of warm-up events, or previews, to the big festival which takes place Memorial Day weekend. On Thursday evening, Movement moved into the Urban Coffee Bean on Grand River in Detroit. While Dj AvA and Chuck Flask & Keith Kemp ably worked the decks, the regular coffee shop goings on continued behind them. It made for an interesting and amusing webcast experience – one guy was taking a nap on camera, while others supped coffee and tappd their feet. It should come as no surprise – the Urban Coffee Co. people have always been big supporters of electronic music. The place includes a DJ stand, and co-owner Josh Greenwood encourages customers to bring their own vinyl and spin on the open turntables. Not on Thursday night though. This being a coffee shop, and it not being particularly late at night, the music remained pretty chill throughout. DJ AvA (real name Heather McGuigan) includes Beth Orton, Madonna, the B-52’s, Daftpunk and David Byrne among her list of influences, so you know that she’s capable of both whipping up a storm and also […]

    The post City Slang: DJ AvA, Chuck Flask & Keith Kemp preview Movement at Urban Bean Co. appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • 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.



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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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