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  • Detroit group Feral Ground is out to prove hip-hop is alive and well

    By LeeAnn Brown Some people say that hip-hop is dead. Local ban Fderal Ground is proving that is not the case. The seven-member band, consisting of three lead vocalists, a DJ, bass, drums and guitar, plays what they call “living hip-hop.” Their music, peppered with multiple styles, covers all aspects of life from growing up in the D to playing with fire despite knowing you will likely get burned. Their undeniable chemistry and raw lyrics compose a music that is living, breathing, and connecting to their listeners. It has been nearly 11 years since Vinny Mendez and Michael Powers conjured up the basement idea that has flowered into the Detroit funk-hop band Feral Ground. Throughout high school the two wrote and rapped consistently, playing shows here and there. In those years they matched their rap stanzas with the animated, dynamic voice of Ginger Nastase and saw an instant connection. The now trio backed their lyrics with DJ Aldo’s beats on and off for years, making him a permanent member within the last year, along with Andy DaFunk (bass), Joseph Waldecker (drums), and newest member, Craig Ericson (guitar). We sat down with Feral Ground and their manager, Miguel Mira, in their […]

    The post Detroit group Feral Ground is out to prove hip-hop is alive and well appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Yale professor talks Plato, James Madison and Detroit’s emergency manager law

    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 trans women

    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 […]

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Review: The Impossible

The disaster is amazing, it’s our pampered surrogates who are the problem

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On a visceral level, Juan Antonio Bayona’s The Impossible delivers an astounding feat of cinematic action and disaster. With a budget far below Hollywood’s tent-pole standard ($45 million), this Spanish production puts to screen one of the most horrifying and intense natural disasters sequences I’ve ever seen.

It’s 2004, and we’re by the pool with Maria (Naomi Watts), Henry (Ewan MacGregor) and their trio of button-nosed boys at a beachside resort in Thailand. The bar’s whirring blender suddenly stops mid-tropical drink, a strange wind sucks objects toward the sand and then, ominously, the view reverses. We are out at sea, watching the idyllic beach from a menacing, too-high vantage point. The set-up is deviously Hitchcockian. Then the tsunami hits, an apocalypse of water that engulfs our stars as they race to grab their kids. It is the same southeast Asian tsunami that ended up killing nearly quarter of a million people.

Bayona batters his cast and audience with a ferocity that overwhelms. In a good theater you will hear and feel the impact of these crashing waves as much as witness their destruction. The rush of water is like a freight train, and we watch as Maria is sent toppling and twisting through its currents, submerged into soundless, murky depths then surfacing to a maelstrom of mayhem and screams. It’s the kind of filmmaking that leaves your jaw open in amazement, wondering how the hell they did it.

What immediately follows is the agony and terror of a family injured and, more despairingly, separated from one another. In a landscape blasted beyond all recognition, they must first find help then one another. The wasteland imaginings of films like Road Warrior or I Am Legend can’t compare with the real-life devastation wrought by the day-after Christmas tsunami.

After displaying such colossal technical panache, however, The Impossible’s second halfdescends into something far hokier, much more contrived, and ethically troubling. Disaster gives way to Hollywood cliché. The mortally injured Maria and her eldest son Lucas (Tom Holland) make it to an overcrowded medical center only to struggle to survive the chaos and bureaucracy of a system overwhelmed by the catastrophe. I’ll refrain from giving away the fate of the rest of the family. Suffice to say, Bayona and his screenwriter Sergio Sánchez (who also teamed on 2007’s ghostly The Orphanage) are neither subtle nor insightful in their quest to construct an uplifting monument to familial love, and The Impossible transitions from Hitchcockain suspense to Spielbergian sentimentality. This allows Fernando Velázquez’s histrionic score to put an unfortunate exclamation point on every heart-breaking scene.

But keep in mind that the real-life Maria Belon and her Spanish family have been turned into blond and beautiful Brits with upper-class accents and a bourgeois sense of entitlement (a decision guided by box office, no doubt). Yes, Bayona seems to suggest that nature, with just a shrug of its shoulders, can erase the power of privilege and leave all its victims equally vulnerable —if only until the insurance company sends a private jet to whisk the family away to safety. But there’s a disturbing subtext to The Impossible that in the story of the tsunami’s tragic wake there weren’t enough white people included.

For the record, a quick web search reveals that nearly 9,000 foreign tourists died, and many more were injured. Their experiences, of course, matter. But watching a true-life disaster film where indigenous locals who have lost everything become little more than props in a melodrama that magnifies the plight of attractive Europeans hints at a distasteful moral callousness. How hard would it have been to permit a subplot centered around some of the surviving Thais?

The leads are, of course, dependably excellent, with McGregor turning a phone call home into an emotional gut punch. Watts’ grueling acts of survival and Christ-like suffering are the kind that earn an Oscar nomination. But it’s young Tom Holland who really shines as a glowering teen who learns to act selflessly. It’s an unaffected performance from an unfamiliar actor that feels authentic even when the film’s coincidences don’t.

The Impossibleis an earnest and exhausting experience, first physically then emotionally pummeling you into submission. Bayona has the uncanny ability to put viewers in the moment, allowing them to vividly experience the family’s struggles. But for all his formidable skills and artistic vision, his compassion is distressingly myopic. It’s easy to understand how audiences would be blindsided by the movie’s big, heart-wrenching moments; it’s hard to celebrate the triumph of a few WASP-y big-name stars while ignoring the hundreds of thousands of real-world brown-skinned locals who lost their communities, loved ones, and lives