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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

Manoulian and fellow OCD member Ted Sliwinski know a thing or two about mopeds. Manoulian is an affable guy with an easy grin and a thing for combustible engines; he's also into bikes and electronics. He puts down a blowtorch to display what is likely the fastest moped in this city: his mint green '78 Puch Maxi Sport MKII with a souped-up 75-cc cylinder kit. (This is a man who built the engine for his Honda Civic in a former meat locker of the building before that was torn down.)

Sliwinski, a certified welder and a machinist, has worked in the bike industry for about 15 years. He moved to Detroit from New York City a few years ago to work at Mount Elliott Makerspace. Much thanks to his efforts, OCD was officially certified by the League for American Bicyclists, apparently becoming the first official "bike friendly" hackerspace in the world. 

What Manoulian achieves with speed, Sliwinski realizes in originality. He recently built a moped "basically from scratch," demonstrating the fruits of hacker travail. The Velosolex frame is combined with a friend's old Puch engine, and a clothing rack salvaged from the Atlas building makes for a slick rear frame. The gas tank is a converted fire extinguisher. "Critics call it a deathtrap," Sliwinski says, laughing. These are not bikes for the faint of heart; Sliwinski also reminisces about getting literally thrown off a moped by a man who hopped on the bike and sped away with it, just a few blocks from OCD. 

Sliniwnski, who doesn't own a car and relies solely on two-wheeled transport, is an archetype of DIY ethics. Motivated by what he calls "fabrication challenges," he seeks to push his skills by building new things. One such creation is the monstrous "Frankentrike," a 15-foot-long, 5-foot-high trike for two. Sliwinski crafted it from a trio of bike frames that he welded together with parts from an office chair and conduit electrical tubing he recovered from the building's old elevator hookup. He built it in two days, and later took it to the Cass Corridor's rollicking Nain Rouge Parade. You may have seen the Frankentrike barreling down Cass Avenue pulling a little trailer with Sliwinski's hand-wired stereo system and a built-in beer cooler. 



Upstairs is a large black room that's empty, save for a laptop and a host of speakers poised at all angles that pipe in sounds unremittingly. These are the early stages of one of OCD's more abstruse projects now under way: a cavern where sensory perception will be confounded such that light and sound, and vegetation will feel like foreign entities to those inside. Fittingly dubbed the "Cave," the multimedia installation will incorporate plants and humans while sonically surpassing the traditional notion of surround sound. 

The space was envisioned months ago, when several members met up to discuss a mélange of their own projects. Designer and educator Nina Bianchi had been toying with indoor gardens and ideas of how to manipulate living surfaces. Another member expressed interest in adding multiple video projections that could be triggered with motion. Brandon Richards, a senior processing engineer with a propensity for sound, was seeking to create a 3-D sound system. Richards explains, "After each of us got more and more excited about each other's ideas, someone pointed out [that] we should just put it all together in one place."

The discussions continued, and a small cadre of members moved forward with plans for a long-term, multi-part installation. Ultimately, human interaction in the Cave will trigger shifts in visuals and noise: like the plant lamp in the OCD kitchen, fingering a leaf on the wall, for instance, would dim the lights. Movement inside, or even smell, could also signal changes in the lights or sound.

For the moment, plans for the visuals have taken a back seat to the creation of an intricate sound system. Instead of panning noise from front-to-back, or side-to-side, the Cave will operate with an additional dimension such that sound will be emitted from top-to-bottom, or from the upper right corner to the bottom left corner (or to and from any other direction). The speakers have been installed and a basic software program built. Even in these stages — and despite the still-bare walls — the result is gripping; as Richards moves his fingers along the laptop's touchpad, a pendulous sound sweeps through the room, much like the oscillating path of an insect. Down the line, live input (such as a DJ performances) will be introduced.

Even as Richards and collaborator Aaron Blendowski fiddle with the system and talk about their plans for the Cave, new ideas arise and kinks are resolved, a testament to the organic nature of a project that at times seems to baffle even those involved. At this point, Krenke has taken a break from his moped and come upstairs to check out the impromptu meeting that has converged in the Cave. As Krenke marvels at the plans scrawled on walls, a sort of symbiotic respect is apparent between the bike mechanics and the musicians, artists and inventors concurrently toiling away. 

There are interminable plans for the Cave's future, with vegetation a likely focal point. Nina and fellow member Martha Obringer are exploring the use of plants as interfaces, while drawing from the human body's capacitance (meaning its capacity to store energy) through touch. "My vision is to create a modular architectural element ... that can be used to build structures, like a cave," Nina explains. These modular elements, which she loosely describes as large-scale Legos, or "living bricks," will house the plants, whose energy could then be harnessed by microcontrollers for the purpose of altering the output of the Cave.

Ideally, the system will also be controlled remotely, so that the stroke of an iPhone could turn the lights on or off, feed a sample through the speakers, or even water the plants. 

Richards also envisions connecting the Cave to a network of other (future or already existing) analogous spaces, such that hackers in a sister Cave could communicate and control aspects of each other's spaces. "We want it to grow as a project that other people and groups can get involved in," he says. "We are really excited to blend all sorts of expertise and experience for a very open, interdisciplinary, and synergistic process."

Richards sees the Cave as an experimental platform for future endeavors, and he feels the objective is not for the installation to be "completed." He and Nina both emphasize that the Cave will continue to evolve over time. In the meantime, Open Hack Nights offer an opportunity to track the Cave's progress. 

Nights at OCD are long, and it's time for a beer. The OCD pop machine dispenses Pabst and strange treasures. Like a bizarre twist on the secret prize of an arcade game, if you press the machine's mystery button and feed it a buck, you may win a something most unexpected, like a bottle filled with colored tinsel. And it's not the prize that matters; it's that some grown-up hacked this thing to dispense hilarious junk that other grown-ups made, probably just to make each other laugh. This is the credo steeped through OCD: hilarious, whimsical, handmade genius. It's stuff that both confuses and illuminates, that incites discussion, and calls us to wonder how it is that things are made. 


Open Hack Nights happen 8-10 p.m. on the first and third Thursdays of each month, open to all. OmniCorpDetroit is at 1501 E. Division in Detroit's Eastern Market. For more information, or to find out what synergy means, see

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