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  • 48 to film — behind the scenes at the 48 Hour Film Project

    By Amanda Mooney There’s a lot that goes into producing a film, and unless you are a filmmaker you really have no idea. Writing, casting, finding a location, shooting, and editing; each step of the process can take days, months, and sometimes years to complete. Can you imagine doing it ALL in just 48 hours? The 48 Hour Film Project is an annual competition that takes place all over the world in various cities. According to Mike Madigan, head of the Detroit 48 Hour chapter, the city is one of the largest participating in terms of the number of teams. The competing teams go in blind as to what kind of film they will be producing, with no creative planning beyond getting a cast and crew together, Madigan explained. “They pick a genre out of a hat, and they get a line, a prop, and a character. And they have to incorporate that within a short film, that’s usually between 4 to 7 minutes long. And they have the timeframe of doing it all within 48 hours,” said Madigan, “So all the creative process of it all has to happen within that 48 hour–writing a script, putting it together, editing–to […]

    The post 48 to film — behind the scenes at the 48 Hour Film Project appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Passalacqua debut dark project ‘Church: Revival’ at new Hamtramck performance space

    Church: Revival is the new project by local rap duo Passalacqua (aka Bryan Lackner and Brent Smith), but it’s more than just a new Passalacqua release. The rappers teamed up with siblings Jax Anderson (frontwoman of rockers Flint Eastwood) and Seth Anderson, who together form the songwriting team called Syblyng (naturally). The result is a cycle of songs that promises to be darker than Passalacqua’s material so far. The project will make a live debut on Saturday, July 26 at a brand new venue space at the Detroit Bus Co.’s building Eight & Sand, and they will premiere the Right Bros.-directed video for the track “Baptism” as well. Other performances include Tunde Olaniran and Open Mike Eagle, and DJ sets by Nothing Elegant, Dante LaSalle, and Charles Trees. We met up the two duos at Eight & Sand to check out the new space and to talk about the project with all parties involved. Metro Times: How long have you been working together? Jax Anderson: Seth and I are constantly writing songs together. We want to push in the direction of becoming songwriters more frequently. This is our first project that we took on to co-write everything together. We’re basically just a songwriting entity. We won’t play live that […]

    The post Passalacqua debut dark project ‘Church: Revival’ at new Hamtramck performance space appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • PETA offers to pay overdue water bills for Detroiters willing to go vegan

    #150207742 / As locals continue to flood Detroit streets to protest the city’s ongoing water debacle, one national organization is hoping to be part of the solution — that is, for a dietary price. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA as the organization is more commonly known, has offered to pay outstanding water bills for 10 Detroiters who are willing to go vegan for one month. “Vegan meals take far less of a toll on the Earth’s resources,” PETA representatives said in a recent press release. “It takes about 2,500 gallons of water to produce just a pound of meat but only about 155 gallons of water to produce a pound of wheat.” PETA President Ingrid E. Newkirk adds, “Vegan meals are also a cost-effective way to help prevent health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart conditions, the last thing that someone who is struggling financially needs to deal with.” Folks interested in participating are asked to send a copy of their most recent overdue water bill and their written pledge to go vegan for one month to PETA Attn: Detroit Water at 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510 before Aug. 1.

    The post PETA offers to pay overdue water bills for Detroiters willing to go vegan appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Dinner Club Does Brunch

    Sure, The Dinner Club, a regularly occurring pop-up that takes places at the Storefront Gallery  in Ferndale (and other locations, occasionally), usually happens around dinner time, but this Sunday, July 27, there will be a special edition: Brunch Chef Matthew Baldridge, who’s resume includes stints at such Detroit greats as Cliff Bell’s, The Rattlesnake Club, and Seldom Blues, has crafted a menu of French-inspired items that employ locally procured ingredients. Brunch includes four courses where guests will be treated to such delights as cocoa, cinnamon, chili-spiced creamy grits with pickled strawberries, cocoa puffs and strawberry-infused syrup, a smoked gouda potato gallette with Faygo Root Beer braised pork belly, quail egg and Faygo Root Beer syrup, banana marscapone-filled French toast with fresh raspberries, whipped cream and balsamic syrup, and champagne-soaked strawberries. It is also important to note that brunch is BYOChampagne. Baldridge, along with The Storefront Gallery’s Derek John and Lilacpop Studio owner and artist Janna Coumoundouros, curate the event that includes an art show, a great playlist, and visuals. Brunch services are at 10:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. and last about two hours, only 20 seats are available at each service. The cost is $25 plus a service fee. The Storefront Gallery […]

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  • Jurassic 5 holds onto what’s golden

      By Ashley Zlatopolsky It’s been a little over twenty years since iconic ‘90s alternative hip-hop group Jurassic 5 first formed in Los Angeles’ Good Life club. Widely regarded as a pivotal influence in the decade’s underground hip-hop movement by critics and fans alike, the six-piece crew consisting of two DJs (Cut Chemist and DJ Nu-Mark) and four MCs (Akil, Zaakir, Marc 7 and Chali 2na) were well on their way to becoming one of hip-hop’s greatest and most powerful acts of all time, ranking alongside names such as Public Enemy and N.W.A. with socially-conscious lyrics and smooth beats paired with smart sampling. But in 2004, Cut Chemist left the group to pursue a solo career, and in 2007 Jurassic 5 completely called it quits after nearly 15 years of music. And that was it for the crew until 2013. After almost seven years apart (nine for Cut Chemist), Jurassic 5 reunited and re-emerged stronger than ever before with a new flair, seasoned attitude, and more vibrant energy at Coachella Music Festival, the group’s first show with the original six members since Cut Chemist split. During their performance, Jurassic 5 gave fans a memorable concert revisiting all the classic feel-good tracks […]

    The post Jurassic 5 holds onto what’s golden appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Detroit Riverwalk west extension opens from Riverfront Towers to Rosa Parks

    Dogs of Detroit have new territory to trot: Yesterday, the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy held a soft opening for a 20-acre westward extension of the Riverwalk. Part of a planned two-mile track of the West Riverwalk, the new span runs from the Riverfront Towers to Rosa Parks Boulevard, says Mark Pasco, director of communications for the conservancy. “It’s going to be great,” Pasco says. “It’s a wide open green space. It’s going to be great for activities.” The endgame for the Riverwalk, Pasco notes, is to extend the walkway from the Ambassador Bridge to Gabriel Richard Park, just past the MacArthur Bridge — about a 5.5. mile route. The new westward expansion is wider than most of the walkway, about 30 feet, says Pasco — a decision made by the conservancy to accommodate fisherman that previously frequented the area. “We knew … once it opened up they’d want to fish there again, so we made the Riverwalk itself wider,” Pasco says. The conservancy will hold a grand opening in late September, which will include “food and music and activities,” Pasco says, though no official date has been set.

    The post Detroit Riverwalk west extension opens from Riverfront Towers to Rosa Parks appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.



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The real deal

How one man turned himself into Santa

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

MT Photos: Detroitblogger John

Santa Benford with his reindeer-led Dodge Caravan sleigh.

It turns out that there really is a Santa Claus.

Did you know, though, that he lives not at the North Pole but in the Nortown neighborhood on the city's east side? Not only that, his sled isn't pulled by reindeer power but rather by horsepower and Detroit steel. And contrary to what the movies and the Christmas cards show, Santa is black.

"The youngsters make comments about that," says Santa, who during the rest of the year hides his true identity under the name Myron Benford. "You know that song by James Brown, 'Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto'? They say, 'Finally! Now we see a brother Santa!' But I stay away from the color scene and just say, 'Well, now you've seen Santa in living color.'"

The 66-year-old Benford, a retired Wayne County Road Commission employee, has for 42 years brought Santa alive for Detroiters. It began when he got the familiar red-and-white, soft-and-fuzzy costume, which he'd wear while volunteering during the holidays. First it was with the Goodfellows, who'd give him the names and addresses of needy children, then, later, he did it on his own at hospitals, schools, housing projects and youth homes, where he'd give less-fortunate kids a chance to talk to the season's icon in the flesh.

The children would get so excited by his visits that he was moved to buy toys at year-end clearance sales with his own money and save them until the next Christmas so he could hand them out when he made his rounds, to really fulfill the role.

Becoming Santa became an obsession. He pored over the songs and fairy tales, studied all the Christmas movies, even learned a few words of a few languages so he could talk to even more kids, just like the Santa in the movie Miracle on 34th Street.

A few years back he took a 1992 Dodge Caravan, shaved off the roof, sheathed the car in red-painted cardboard and turned it into a big sleigh, led by two large Fiberglas reindeer affixed to the front. The car rides low, so when a few inches of snow lie on the ground, it almost looks like the sleigh is floating smoothly along as the reindeer pull it forward. The sight of it stuns people.

"I bring it as a package," he says. "It blows you away, it just does. When you see me, I'm the real deal. I mean, I make a point of it."

Imagine the things going through the mind of a little kid growing up in some housing project in Detroit when this strange, fantastic sled glides up, strung around its edges with garlands of colored tree lights, led forward by two big reindeer, with Santa Claus riding high in the middle. As if that's not enough, he steps out, larger than life, and starts handing out gift-wrapped presents to kids whose names he somehow knows.

Just like the Christmas stories say he does.

"It's just the idea of seeing the fantasy of that sled pull up in front of your house and you get out, give 'em a bag of toys and disappear. It really builds up their feelings. It's just miraculous."


Word spread about this gentle, self-appointed Santa, and he soon found himself in demand around town. Community groups asked him to visit holiday functions so kids could tell him what they want for Christmas. Cities brought him in for story time at their rec centers.

For years he's held court at Midtown's Noel Night at the Detroit Historical Museum. There, after you wind past the Lionel trains and walk along the cobblestone streets in the basement, you'll find Santa, sitting like royalty in a plush red chair with Mrs. Claus, as gleeful kids and curious adults wait for their annual meeting with the man of the hour. Some of the grown-ups even sit on his lap.

"Especially the ones that are looking for a husband," he says, laughing. "They would come and tell me, 'I'm looking for a husband.' And the one lady a couple years ago ... I said, 'I sent you one but you didn't like him because he wasn't tall enough.' And she says, 'How did you know that, Santa?'"

He's got lots of intuitive phrases he uses, especially with the kids, things he's learned after years of hearing people's fondest wishes. "You pick up the vibe of people," he says. "It's not a hard thing to do, and they help you if you just listen to them." It gives him the air of someone who knows exactly how you've been behaving all year.

Over the years, a few people have chipped in to help him buy his presents. Mechanics fix his sleigh-on-wheels for free. CVS and McDonald's give him donations and gift cards. And local organizations like Volunteers of America provide him a list of needy people who could use a cheerful visit from this man who really has become Santa Claus.

"I play it even when I'm not into it," he says. "When people introduce me during the rest of the year they'll say, 'This is Santa.' They know what I do."


All his efforts — studying the Santa lore, gathering the gifts, upgrading the sleigh — come down to a single day of the year.

On Christmas Eve, Benford rises before the sun does, fills his bag with toys and makes his rounds. The sleigh ride begins at Jefferson Avenue, passes through the ghost-town streets of Delray, follows the winding river to stops in Wyandotte and Ecorse, then turns back north and rides as far west as Southfield before slowly making its way back to the east side.

And all along the way he'll hand out hundreds of presents to hundreds of children, who in their wildest dreams never expected something like this. In the poorer neighborhoods he'll give out hats and scarves and gloves too, even such household items as smoke detectors and first aid kits.

"I want to make my kids well all year long," he says." So that's how subliminally I'll reach the people I deal with out here, so they know I'm concerned about them all the time, not just at Christmas."

People who happen to be standing outside as the sleigh passes by stare with jaws dropped. Cars actually come to a stop on the main roads as people pull over to stare at this otherworldly vehicle going by. Some get out and run over to get a picture.

"I don't believe it," one man says, rushing over to the parked sleigh with his cell phone camera. "This is cold-blooded!" It was meant as high praise.

Benford loves the attention, lives to give out presents, doesn't break character, and will always stop so someone can take a photo with him or the sleigh. But he seems happiest those times he's able to foster people's simple belief that there really is someone who goes around being nice and giving things to everyone just because it's Christmas.

"I've had people tell me their kids didn't believe in Santa Claus until they saw me, and now they do," he says, proudly, speaking through the curls of his thick, pull-on beard. "It's just great, man."

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