WHAT COULD POSSIBLY BE BETTER THAN A BRUNCH With more than 20 restaurants under one roof? A Metro Times Event
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MTBRUNCH.COM At Garden Bowl & the Magic Stick
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Vol. 38 | Issue 22 | March 7-13, 2018
News & Views News....................................... 8
Publisher - Chris Keating Associate Publisher - Jim Cohen Editor in Chief - Lee DeVito
Politics & Prejudices............ 14
Feature The miseducation of Betsy DeVos.................................... 20
Managing Editor - Alysa Zavala-Offman Senior Editor - Michael Jackman Staff Writer - Violet Ikonomova Dining Editor - Tom Perkins Music and Listings Editor - Jerilyn Jordan Contributing Editors - Larry Gabriel, Jack Lessenberry Copy Editor - Sonia Khaleel Editorial Interns - Mallary Becker, Malak Silmi, Anthony Spak, Miriam Marini, Jack Nissen Contributors - Sean Bieri, Doug Coombe, Kahn Santori Davison, Mike Ferdinande, Cal Garrison, Curt Guyette, Mike Pfeiffer, Dontae Rockymore, Dan Savage, Sara Barron, Jane Slaughter
Food Review: Shanghai Bistro..... 34
What’s Going On................ 36
Associate Publisher - Jim Cohen Regional Sales Director - Danielle Smith-Elliott Senior Multimedia Account Executive Jeff Nutter Multimedia Account Executive Jessica Frey Account Manager, Classifieds - Josh Cohen
BUSINESS/OPERATIONS Business Manager - Holly Rhodes Controller - Kristy Dotson
Art Director - Eric Millikin Graphic Designers - Paul Martinez, Haimanti Germain
Ty Dolla $ign........................ 42
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Hot Snakes........................... 44
EUCLID MEDIA GROUP Chief Executive Officer - Andrew Zelman Chief Operating Officers - Chris Keating, Michael Wagner VP of Digital Services - Stacy Volhein Digital Operations Coordinator - Jaime Monzon www.euclidmediagroup.com
Arts & Culture Whlgns.................................. 46 Momix................................... 48 Higher Ground..................... 52 Savage Love......................... 56
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| March 7-13, 2018
NEWS & VIEWS
Detroit’s QLine streetcar.
Off the rails
QLine cracks down on fare dodgers with possible jail time and fines of up to $500 By Violet Ikonomova
The QLine has begun crack-
ing down on people who hop on the streetcar without purchasing a ticket by issuing misdemeanor citations that carry penalties of up to 90 days in jail or up to a $500 fine. At least 17 citations were issued last week alone, according to a spokesman for the QLine. The fare-evasion enforcement effort began about three weeks ago, following a one-month period in which streetcar ambassadors issued “last warnings” to riders caught without a ticket. “We wanted to allow people to get familiar with the streetcar and essentially exhaust every means of allowing people to do the right thing before we started fining people,” QLine spokesman Dan
Lijana says. The QLine operates on a “trust but verify” system, meaning you can get on board without showing a ticket, but transit police or streetcar “ambassadors” can ask for proof you paid. The 3.3-mile rail line was free to ride from its May 12 opening through Labor Day. Since then, ambassadors have been dispatched along the route to help riders purchase tickets and get acquainted with the streetcar. Now, five months into standard operations, people caught on the QLine without a ticket can be issued a misdemeanor citation that requires a court appearance, where a judge decides how stringent a penalty to impose. The maximum $500 fine is five times
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higher than the maximum penalty for fare evasion on the People Mover or a DDOT bus, according to a DDOT spokeswoman. Lijana says QLine operator M-1 Rail developed the fare-evasion policy after evaluating similar measures taken by other cities with streetcar systems. “We have an interest in people paying, we don’t have an interest in penalizing people,” Lijana says, pointing out that fines for fare evasion go to the city, not the streetcar. “There’s many instances where a transportation line increases their enforcement and that word of mouth, that example, and the specter of getting a citation that is many more times expensive than that ticket is a real deterrent for people to avoid paying the fare.” But Detroit’s penalties appear to be more severe than those of other cities. In Portland — one of the places M-1 Rail looked to when crafting its policy — people caught fare-dodging on the streetcar are required to pay a $175 ticket. In Washington, D.C., another system Lijana says M-1 Rail used as an example, fare evasion can mean up to a $300 fine or up to 10 days in jail, but those penalties apply only to the
Metro system. The city’s independently operated street car is still free and its director says a fare-evasion policy has not yet been developed. Like Detroit, many other cities with public transit systems like Portland and Washington treat fare evasion as a misdemeanor. But some transit agencies and local officials have been re-evaluating that approach as they respond to criticism that the practice criminalizes the poor. The Portland area’s regional rail system last year began resolving citations without sending them to court, calling the new protocol a “much fairer deal — especially considering a court record can affect [people’s] ability to get a job, rent a house, or serve in the military.” The shift in approach came after a Portland State University researcher found that black riders caught riding without having paid were banned from the TriMet transit system more often than white riders who failed to pay. TriMet also recently proposed reducing the fine for first-time fare evaders from $175 to $75. In a phone call last week, the director of Portland’s city-specific streetcar said his system would soon follow suit in loosening penalties for
NEWS & VIEWS fare evasion. In Washington, D.C., a bill recently introduced to decriminalize the offense has support from the majority of the district’s councilmembers. In Manhattan, District Attorney Cy Vance recently announced he would no longer prosecute turnstile jumpers on the subway. Shortly after, two New York state lawmakers announced plans to introduce a bill to decriminalize the offense. In New York City, arrests for turnstile jumping have been known to clog courts and disproportionately target low-income and minority residents. Last year, a nonpartisan, independent committee for criminal justice and incarceration reform in the city recommended that, for those reasons, such low-level offenses should be treated as civil infractions. “It has consequences when you put people in the criminal system,” says Jonathan Lippman, the former chief judge of the New York Court of Appeals and chairman of the Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform. “Even very minor offenses can have consequences for employment, housing, and immigration — and these kinds of offenses are usually caused by deeper issues that may be homelessness or mental illness.” “Bringing criminal charges against these kinds of persons doesn’t help, it only exacerbates the situation.” Detroit’s policy for QLine fare evaders was adopted by city council unanimously last May, after M-1 Rail operators worked with Mayor Mike Duggan’s administration to draft the ordinance. The city says it had no choice but to criminalize fare evasion on the QLine because Michigan law states that civil infractions can only be written for independently operated motor vehicles — or vehicles where a driver can move around at their will. “The city’s authority for creating prohibitions against particular activity comes from the Home Rule City Act,” Detroit Corporation Counsel Lawrence García said in an email. “That statute does allow for civil infraction, but only as to motor vehicle-related violations. By contrast, under the same statute, the city may invoke its police powers to prohibit any activity against public safety and welfare, but the only sanction available for such prohibition(s) is a misdemeanor.” The citations for failing to pay to get on Detroit’s two other public transit systems reflect that statement. Skipping the bill to get on a DDOT bus is
treated as a civil infraction, with a $100 ticket; dodging the fare on the People Mover is a misdemeanor offense. A spokeswoman for the People Mover says the monorail did not issue any fare-evasion citations last year. DDOT spokeswoman Nicole Simmons did not say whether any were issued on the DDOT bus. It’s unclear what penalties have been imposed on QLine fare-dodgers so far. DDOT also did not respond to an inquiry on whether two riders cited had yet appeared in court and, if so, what penalties they’d incurred. However, we may be able to extrapolate how much first-time offenders will get fined based on one rider’s experience. QLine rider Matt Terrian tells Metro Times that a transit officer told him early this month that he could expect a fine of $150 for not paying his fare. Terrian had been without a ticket because he says the kiosk at the station where he boarded the streetcar wasn’t working. “It’s absurd that they would enforce a penalty for not having a ticket when you cannot even reliably purchase a ticket at certain stops,” Terrian says. The QLine has contracted with DDOT for nine transit officers and there are at least two on or around the rail line at any given time, according to Lijana. Transit officers can also issue citations for things like eating or drinking on the streetcar, and listening to music without headphones in. Most commonly, the transit police issue tickets for cars parked along the QLine tracks, Lijana says. Those tickets are $650 a pop, plus a car tow. Lijana indicated the fare enforcement effort was always in the cards and that it wasn’t prompted by any specific incident. He did acknowledge that there are people skipping the bill before boarding, but he said those people, for the most part, “are not regular public transit riders.” When asked how the QLine’s finances are doing, Lijana says it’s too soon to tell with the streetcar having been in standard operation for only five months. Lijana did say cash payments have exceeded expectations and the QLine’s farebox recovery rate is thus far above the national average of about 20 percent. Fare recovery, he says, refers to what percentage of a dollar is returned from fare collection relative to a transit system’s operational cost.
metrotimes.com | | March March7-13, 7-13,2018 2018 metrotimes.com
NEWS & VIEWS
A neo-Nazi group and anti-fascist protesters clash Monday at Michigan State University.
‘Nazis go home!’
Richard Spencer and alt-right suffer string of defeats during Michigan visit By Violet Ikonomova
Two days of
tension surrounding white supremacist Richard Spencer’s visit to Michigan erupted in violence ahead of his speech at Michigan State University Monday, marking another blow to the alt-right movement as it continues to struggle to come out of the shadows. Punching and shoving broke out between Spencer’s supporters and a mass of protesters congregated outside the agricultural pavilion where the white supremacist was to take the floor. The confrontation began after police intervened in a way that forced a line of members of a neo-Nazi group to bypass the crowd of several hundred protesters in order to enter the event. More than a dozen people were arrested, according to Michigan State University Police, many of them members of Antifa, or the anti-fascist movement. Prominent alt-right
leader Gregory Conte was also arrested. MSU campus police spokesman Doug Monette reported there were no injuries. Each side blamed the other for inciting the violence, but ultimately, those gathered to protest Spencer saw their blockade as a success. “We were pretty effective at putting people in front of the people trying to enter … and denying them,” said Huron Valley Democratic Socialists of America member Dan Michniewicz. “If the purpose is going to be a symbolic thing, that we don’t want to have this in our communities, it seems like it’s been effective.” Only about four dozen people, including members of the media, made it to see Spencer at MSU’s Pavilion for Agriculture and Livestock. Inside, Spencer gesticulated like a cut-rate magician as he described a perceived “war on the white race,” and the need
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for a white ethnostate. Spencer has in the past said the U.S. could achieve this through a “peaceful ethnic cleansing.” “We are being attacked and dispossessed on the level of race and therefore we have to fight this on the level of race,” Spencer told those gathered. But much of Spencer’s commentary was focused on addressing the forces that kept him from talking to any significant number of people, when he said more than 300 tickets had been issued for the event (Metro Times’ tickets were numbered 349 and 350). The alt-right movement has so far lived mostly in the shadows of the internet, and efforts to go public have gone awry. Before the clashes at MSU, anti-fascist protesters all but shut Spencer down as he spoke at the University of Florida in October, heckling him to the point that he was unable to successfully give the talk.
In August, the infamous “Unite the Right” tiki torch-lit rally hosted by Spencer in Charlottesville, Virginia, was met with massive protests. That weekend ended when a 20-year-old who appeared aligned with a white supremacist group rammed a car into a crowd of demonstrators, killing one of them. The latest marred speaking event comes on the heels of a failed attempt by the alt-right to hold a secret conference in metro Detroit, where Spencer was also due to speak. Within minutes of the Sunday release of a leaked itinerary for the conference, hosted by the Foundation for the Marketplace of Ideas, word came that the two local establishments listed — the German-style Carpathia Club in Sterling Heights and the bar Tipsy McStaggers in Warren — were canceling on the group once they realized who they were. Conference
NEWS & VIEWS coordinators were sent scrambling for new locations to host their gathering, and Sunday night, would-be attendees were spotted idling in the parking lots of big box stores in Ann Arbor waiting for a shuttle to take them to a new, secret destination outside of metro Detroit. When asked by Metro Times during his MSU speech whether the string of defeats suggested his movement was in disarray, Spencer sought to put a sunny face on things, but ultimately conceded that the alt-right has been weakened since the attack in Charlottesville. “There’s a difference between defeats and being defeated,” he said. “I’m here, I’m talking to everyone, people who got punched in the face made it in … but yes, we are in a really tough state.” Spencer went on to explain that payment processing and social media platforms have barred members of the movement from doing business. Securing public venues for speaking engagements has also been a challenge, as evidenced by the legal back and forth that surrounded his talk at MSU. At first, the university refused to grant him permission to rent space to speak, but eventually caved as part of a settlement of a subsequent lawsuit. That suit was brought by altright Macomb County attorney Kyle Bristow, who cut ties with the movement over the weekend, two days after his racist rantings were publicized in a report by Metro Times. Still, Spencer said he was steadfast in his mission to bring his inflammatory movement into the public realm. “We need to get beyond being anonymous meme warriors and we need to understand this is serious,” he told his supporters. “We are going through the birth pangs of entering the real world. It hurts to enter the real world, when babies come out they are crying and screaming.” Anti-fascist organizers are to thank for a large part of that difficulty, though there have been debates over the movement’s willingness to resort to violence in its larger mission to promote peace and inclusivity. The argument for violence, however, is that it amounts to self-defense in the face of a movement that advocates for ethnic cleansing and counts neoNazis among its members. “We’re here because we want to look future generations in the eye and say we didn’t go down without a fucking fight,” said a female DSA member
whose face was hidden behind a bandana. Michael Horwitz, an older man from Lansing who had come out to protest, said he felt he had no choice but to “stand up and face” the white supremacists. “A lot of people say stay away and it won’t be anything if everyone ignores it, but I don’t think so because that’s just letting them organize and do their thing,” he said. It’s not clear exactly who started the fighting on Monday. The antifa protesters, clad in face masks and helmets, closed in on the white supremacists as they approached, shouting “Nazis go home.” Video taken at the front line of the confrontation appears to show a protester throwing his body weight into a member of the white supremacist Traditionalist Worker Party, who shoves him off as he continues to march. That exchange appeared to mark the opening salvo in the altercations. Multiple white supremacists accused the police of failing to provide proper protection. The Detroit News reported that Conte, the alt-right leader who was arrested, shouted at police that they had “no plan” to control the crowd, “just like Charlottesville.” On the other side, protesters argued the police had afforded the white supremacists too much protection. After the fighting broke out, groups of cops were seen escorting Spencer supporters into the conference one by one. As for why the police allowed for the groups to confront one another in the first place, a Michigan State Police officer told Metro Times that the initial plan was to have the anti-fascist protesters in an area away from the agricultural pavilion, but the protesters, who had gathered hours before the talk, migrated toward the front of the building. University campus police spokesman Monette would not confirm or deny that, saying it was an “operational piece” he “could not get into.” Charges against the more than one dozen people arrested on both sides range from obstruction of justice to possession of illegal weapons. On Sunday night, an attendee of the precursory alt-right conference was also allegedly found carrying an illegal weapon and detained. email@example.com @violetikon
metrotimes.com | | March March7-13, 7-13,2018 2018 metrotimes.com
on sale friday:
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3/24 - zoso - a tribute to led zeppelin 3/24 – Curtis Harding @ the Shelter w/ un blonde
3/25 – chief keef 3/27 – Creed bratton - from ‘the office’ 3/27 – coast modern @ the Shelter w/ late night episode
3/28 – iced earth w/ sanctuary 3/29 – justin skye @ the Shelter w/ trevor jackson
mar. 10 soja
st. andrew’s w/ new kingston
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mar. 11 howard jones - solo st. andrew’s limited tickets available
3/30 – fozzy @ the Shelter w/ through fire, santa cruz, dark sky choir limited tickets available
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| March 7-13, 2018
NEWS & VIEWS Politics & Prejudices
Michigan’s mental health scandal By Jack Lessenberry
Back in the ’60s, everyone knew what happened if you “went nuts.” The guys in the white coats came and took you away to Eloise, which was a big scary insane asylum somewhere out there. I didn’t worry much about that as a teenager, even though my parental units may have threatened me with it a time or two. (Most of my friends seemed more worried about “Maxey,” which they correctly understood to be some sort of a juvenile prison.) Indeed, much of what I thought or was taught as a kid turned out to be false, from Santa Claus to the Easter Bunny, on through the notion that everybody who worked hard could get ahead. But there really was an Eloise, a huge sprawling hospital complex with thousands of patients out in what is now Westland. Not everybody in Eloise was mentally ill, though that’s what it was famous for. Michigan had, at one time, 16 psychiatric hospitals. Tossing the mentally ill into what used to be called “insane asylums” was not always the best policy, and was expensive besides. Now, nearly all those institutions are gone. “There were very good reasons to get rid of most of our state hospitals,” Gerry Goffin tells me. “These hospitals were outmoded, largely ineffective, and often inhumane.” Now a retired supervisor for a community mental health board, Goffin spent his life working in the system, including a stint in Eloise before it too closed in 1982. Indeed, nobody who knows anything really regrets the passing of the huge, scary, “insane asylums.” Or at least nobody would — except for one thing. There are indeed still people with mental illness who do need to be hospitalized, at least temporarily, for their own safety as well as for others. But most of the time, there’s no place for them to go. “Often these days, when you are trying to find a bed for a (mentally ill) person all agrees needs hospitalization, you feel like it’s Christmas Eve, your name is Mary and Joseph — and you can’t find a bed anywhere,” says Tom Watkins. 14 March 7-13, 2018 | metrotimes.com
Watkins knows what he is talking about; he just completed four years as president and CEO of the Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority, and back in the 1980s he was director of what was then the state mental health department. He thinks the idea that we are taking care of the patients is a cruel joke. “There is not a mental health ‘system’ in Michigan, or for that matter in America, he tells me. “We have a disjointed collection of too few state hospitals, private hospitals that are seeking to profit off public patients and hence don’t want those who are too sick or too aggressive, and too little state and community resources aimed at developing community-based programs.” Community-based mental health centers and outpatient programs were, indeed, what was supposed to happen. Starting as early as the 1960s, traditional networks of state-run mental hospitals began to be closed. Much of the mental health community still bitterly remembers John Engler closing Detroit’s Lafayette Clinic in 1992. Later, he went on to close three-quarters of all mental institutions in the state — and this was done in what seemed an especially brutal and uncaring way. But it isn’t fair to pin the blame entirely on Engler; the move away from institutionalizing the mentally ill began as far back as the 1960s, and in many cases made sense. Some people were indeed merely being warehoused back in the day. Others needed would have been just fine with decent, monitored outpatient care, which would have been far less
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NEWS & VIEWS expensive. That, again, was what was supposed to happen. Milton Mack, a former Wayne County chief probate judge who is now Michigan’s state court administrator, has spent years studying how we treat and mistreat Michigan’s mentally ill. We started to go off track, he tells me, after Congress passed the Community Mental Health Act of 1963. It was supposed to work this way: States would be given financial incentives to close their bad old mental hospitals like Eloise. In return, Washington would fund a network of communitybased outpatient and mental health centers. They would replace the services the old mental hospitals were supposed to supply. This was actually the vision of President John F. Kennedy, who was acutely aware of mental illness. Except… that vision never happened. Oh, the old mental hospitals were closed. But, as Mack tells me, “the community health centers that were to be the backbone of the promised community system failed to materialize.” That’s mostly because Congress failed to provide funding for them, essentially breaking a promise to the American people. That leaves us with our present system. You might think that was the closing of places like Lafayette Clinic and Eloise, local hospitals would at least have set aside more beds for people with mental illness. You might think that, but you’d be wrong. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services reports that in 1993, state community hospitals had 3,041 psychiatric beds for adults and another 729 for children and adolescents. A quarter of a century later, and that’s fallen to 2,197 adult beds and a mere 276 for those under age. That just increases the odds that a severely mentally ill person will wind up instead in that least therapeutic of environments — jail. “We are now using jails and prisons as our de facto mental health system,” Mack says. We certainly are. Recognizing that, the Department of Health and Human Services conducted a seven-month study that produced a report Feb. 13. It said we could drastically improve mental health care if we were willing to spend a reasonable amount of money. That’s no doubt true. But that would mean a bunch of legislators who have stubbornly refused to properly fix the roads suddenly agree to do something rational about mental health.
Right. Well, it could be worse… though I’m not sure just how.
Speaking of John Engler: As the world knows,
Engler is now the interim president of MSU. Naturally, we don’t know what interim means, but there’s a funny backstory connected to this. When he got the job in January, newspapers, primarily the Detroit Free Press, reported that former Governor
16 March 7-13, 2018 | metrotimes.com
James Blanchard, a Democrat, would also be working for MSU as a special advisor. That puzzled me, since Blanchard had told me the night before that while he was interested in the job, the board had made it clear that they wanted Engler, and he’d made it clear he wasn’t interested in any kind of a power-sharing arrangement. But the next morning, some of the coverage made it seem as if they were jointly leading MSU. I called Blanchard and asked what had changed. He said the political equivalent of “huh?” Turns out that one trustee had told
the press that to try and convey an atmosphere of bipartisanship, and the press took it at face value. Blanchard said he didn’t care — until the Washington-based law firm he belongs to, DLA Piper, was hired to advise MSU in handling any federal investigations of the Nassar mess. If Blanchard was in fact on the MSU payroll, that would probably been seen as a conflict of interest — which is why he wants it known now that his “special advisor” role was a media fiction. firstname.lastname@example.org @metrotimes
| March 7-13, 2018
WHAT MAKES DETROIT TICK? HOW DOES THE MOTOR CITY WORK? It’s time to gear up for the BEST OF DETROIT issue, where you tell us what you think makes this area great. Once again, we take the back seat and give you a chance to sound off on all things Detroit — from the hottest restaurants to the best local brands and more. Voting runs through March 31, and winners will be named in Metro Times’ BEST OF DETROIT issue on April 25.
COMING APRIL 25 TO BE A PART OF BEST OF DETROIT, CALL YOUR ACCOUNT EXECUTIVE AT (313) 961-4060
METROTIMES.COM 18 March 7-13, 2018 | metrotimes.com
| March 7-13, 2018
FEATURE The miseducation of Betsy DeVos She may seem like a dummy, but don’t be fooled — Trump’s secretary of education knows exactly what she’s doing By Jason Linkins with Phil Lewis
The first thing
you notice about Betsy DeVos — President Donald Trump’s choice to run the United States Department of Education — is that she is rich. Actually, the word “rich” doesn’t really do it justice. Cookie batter is rich. Betsy DeVos is wealthy in the way that Donald Trump wishes he was (and very well may be by the time his presidency is over). Betsy DeVos is on another level entirely. Begin with the family money. Before Betsy DeVos was a DeVos, she was a Prince — the daughter of Edgar Prince, to be specific. Prince père ran a successful auto parts manufacturing business in Holland, Michigan, which he had built into a billion-dollar empire by the time of his death. Prince used some of his personal wealth to bankroll what would become the organizational infrastructure of the religious right, providing vital seed money for conservative Christian advocacy groups like the Family Research Council and Focus on the Family. Bringing about one of the largest mergers of conservative wealth, Betsy married into the DeVos family, whose patriarch — fatherin-law Richard DeVos — had built a multibillion-dollar fortune as the co-founder of multilevel marketing behemoth Amway. Taken as a whole, hers isn’t merely the sort of wealth that renders one “out of touch” with the common man — it’s a fortune that has shielded DeVos from anything that even remotely resembles hardship from the time she was born until now. She has had no real contact or experience with adversity of any kind. She is almost a celestial body — untouched and untrammeled by the obstacles and pitfalls that
the vast majority of the American people have to navigate on a daily basis. And for that same vast American majority, education — and all of the mobility and opportunity it offers — is the primary vehicle by which they have to surmount the myriad challenges they face. It should be a matter of great concern that the person who now oversees America’s educational infrastructure has never even nominally shared in these struggles. Of course, with Betsy DeVos, the educational concerns don’t end there. She has long yearned to radically transform public education, dramatically increasing the number of private and religious schools that educate American children. She’s called U.S. public schools a “dead end” and in 2001, she explained how her school choice advocacy is driven by a desire to “advance God’s kingdom.” Aside from her ideological Christian fervor, she and her family also strongly support recreating schools in a more plutocratic image, where they can reward those entrepreneurial innovators looking to make a buck. When Trump tapped her to serve as his Education Secretary the public raised a hue and cry that even caught the liberal activists in the raise-a-hue-and-cry business by surprise. Fittingly, however, DeVos’ appointment has given her an illuminating first taste of what adversity actually feels like. From the very moment DeVos’ Senate confirmation hearing kicked off on Jan. 17, 2017, there was an unmistakable sign that President Trump’s newly anointed education czarina was in for a rough ride. Republican operatives who had handled her confirmation training
20 March 7-13, 2018 | metrotimes.com
Then-President-elect Donald Trump meets with Betsy DeVos in Bedminster, N.J. in 2016.
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FEATURE were watching nervously. Her lead sherpa through the process, Lauren Maddox, was a registered lobbyist with the Podesta Group — not a former lobbyist now getting back into public service, but an actual, current lobbyist paid by corporate clients for her ability to sway public policy. Maddox, a former Bush administration Education Department official, as well as a past aide to House Speaker Newt Gingrich, had the task of educating DeVos on education. DeVos made a less than ideal student. “Her mind didn’t naturally go to different places,” recalled one participant in the confirmation training sessions, rather charitably. “She was a very visual person, so she had to have the stuff color coded in front of her.” That, though, presented its own problems, as the team knew that if the color-coded flashcards were visible on camera, it would be a major embarrassment, so pains were made to keep them off screen. “You don’t want to have all those things out there because people can see it,” the GOP official noted. Fortunately, DeVos would get some help during her hearings from the person running the show. The Republican chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP), Lamar Alexander — himself a former U.S. Secretary of Education who’d served as the senior senator from Tennessee since 2003 — gaveled the hearing into session and immediately started setting some rather unusual ground rules, proclaiming that each committee member would be granted only five minutes to question the nominee. Alexander asserted that this was to be the hearing’s “Golden Rule” — a precedent he claimed had been firmly established by past confirmation hearings including those of President Barack Obama’s nominees for the Education Department. It was not, as Democratic ranking member Patty Murray made clear, a precedent with which anyone on the committee had hitherto been familiar. And despite Alexander’s repeated protests that it was, in fact, “as clear a precedent as I could think of,” it led to every Democrat on the panel accusing Alexander of working to shield DeVos from their scrutiny. Of course, Democrats’ demand
Betsy DeVos has long held beliefs antipathetic to public schools. A demonstrator holds a sign at the March for Education in July 2017. RENA SCHILD
for additional questioning time was driven by another precedent: None of the previous nominees being held out by Alexander as examples were quite so burdened with ethical quandaries. Indeed, DeVos’ hearing had, at this point, already been postponed due to her failure to complete her required review with the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, a failure which only primed the pump for increased suspicion and a wider inquiry. And beyond that, DeVos had, by this point, a long, well-documented history of antipathy toward America’s public schools — a veritable feast for anyone with the moxie to hold her to account. So it’s not hard to see why Democrats entered the hearing ready to dig down into DeVos’ murky history and her ideological beliefs, or why Alexander would want to use the convenience of his HELP committee chairmanship to throw up as many procedural barricades as he could. The goal for Alexander was to shelter the billionaire heiress from tough questioning. The goal for DeVos was not to create any viral videos.
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As it would turn out, however, Alexander’s efforts proved insufficient. Really, nothing short of canceling the hearing entirely would have helped DeVos avoid exposing the fact that for someone with such strongly held opinions about education, she knew precious little about education. In fact, one of the most widely puzzled-over answers that DeVos gave during her confirmation hearing was in response to a very direct question, posed by then-Minnesota Senator Al Franken. When Franken started in on his line of inquiry, he began by asking her a seemingly softball question regarding the appropriate way to use standardized tests. “I would like your views,” he asked DeVos, “on the relative advantage of doing assessments and using them to measure proficiency, or to measure growth.” It was, without a doubt, a wonky question — the sort that would likely not have been familiar to anyone outside of the education industry. But in terms of beginning a line of inquiry, this was a rather innocuous place to start. Growth versus proficiency is not considered an ob-
scure education policy debate, but a rather fundamental one. Those who are concerned with “proficiency” favor measuring whether children are achieving certain education milestones in a timely fashion, like the ability to read at grade level. Those who take up the “growth” side of the debate would prefer that testing account for whether children are making sufficient progress over the course of a school year. In asking the question, Franken was simply trying to establish a benchmark with DeVos, a way to better assess her overall views on school accountability. He could not have possibly expected the answer he got. “I think if I am understanding your question correctly around proficiency,” said DeVos, “I would also correlate it to competency and mastery, so each student is measured according to the advancement they are making in each subject area.” “That’s growth, that’s not proficiency,” interrupted Franken. “I’m talking about the debate between proficiency and growth, and what your thoughts are.” A gaffe in Washington is famously said to occur when a politician speaks the truth accidentally. This was a different sort of gaffe, an accidental revelation of a stunning level of ignorance. It turned out she had no thoughts on the question. Elsewhere, at least, she had vague thoughts. When Senator Murray asked DeVos whether or not she would commit herself to neither working to privatize public schools, nor cutting “a single penny for public education,” DeVos simply gave a boilerplate answer about how she looked forward to “working with you to talk about how to address the needs of all parents and students … to find common ground in ways we can solve those issues and empower parents to make choices on behalf of their children that are right for them.” “I take that as not being willing to commit to not privatize public schools,” responded Murray. When it was Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren’s turn to question the nominee, Warren turned her attention to for-profit universities and the Education Department’s role in policing such entities. Warren asked DeVos how she would go about protecting students from being scammed. When DeVos an-
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FEATURE swered that she would be “vigilant,” it wasn’t enough for Warren, who wanted to know how, exactly, she’d set about ensuring that predatory fraudsters would not victimize students. DeVos did not seem to grasp that there were tools, like gainful employment regulations, already at her disposal to aid in this fight. And once DeVos was informed of her options, she refused to commit to using them, instead telling Warren that she would “review” those regulations. “I don’t understand about reviewing it,” said a perplexed Warren. “We talked about this in my office. There are already rules in place to stop waste, fraud and abuse. … Swindlers and crooks are out there doing back flips when they hear an answer like this.” And yes, there was that moment when DeVos, attempting to explain why it was sensible for “locales and states to decide” whether or not guns belong in public schools, cited the need for teachers to have “a gun in the school to protect from potential grizzlies.” Never let it be said that DeVos couldn’t serve up a much-needed viral headline to the media. The word “incompetent” gets overused in Washington, but for many — judging, perhaps, a little too prematurely — it was a term that aptly described Betsy DeVos. Her confirmation hearing, it must be said, went a long way toward reinforcing that perception, revealing a nominee who often seemed as woefully adrift on the basics of education as she was certain that she knew the best possible way to oversee it. And so, Congress’ phone banks heaved and cracked under the volume of calls, beseeching her swift dismissal. Two Republican senators, Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski and Maine’s Susan Collins, stunned at the opposition pouring through their phone lines, took heed and announced that they would be withholding their support for her nomination, while several others wavered. Losing those two votes forced the Trump administration to hustle Vice President Mike Pence up to Capitol Hill to cast the tie-breaking vote on a Senate confirmation, something that had previously never been required. DeVos had made it, by the thinnest of margins
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— the first Secretary of Education ever confirmed without bipartisan support. Pence would refer to casting the deciding vote — a ritual humiliation for any administration — as a “high honor.” But it was Collins and Murkowski who should be credited for doing the honorable thing — looking past the ideological ambitions of their party in order to consider the needs of their own constituents. For both women, DeVos’ devotion to charters and school vouchers posed a real threat, as their states feature farflung communities for whom public school is the only available option. Choice is merely a word when there’s only one school within miles and miles. “I think that Mrs. DeVos has much to learn about our nation’s public schools, how they work, and the challenges they face,” said Murkowski in a speech on the Senate floor. “And I have serious concerns about a nominee to be secretary of education who has been so involved on one side of the equation, so immersed in the push for vouchers, that she may be unaware of what actually is successful within the public schools and also what is broken and how to fix them.” In this limited respect, Murkowski really had DeVos pegged. But even Murkowski failed to appreciate the extent of the nominee’s inadequacies, because despite being “immersed in the push for vouchers,” DeVos arrived in Washington with such a spotty record of both advocating for and implementing her grand designs, that even her fellow travelers in the voucher and charter movement — a community of ersatz thought leaders who’d normally not think twice about redirecting public money to private-sector schemes or disemboweling a teachers’ union — were hesitant, if not wholly averse, to supporting her nomination. For example, while New York magazine politics writer Jonathan Chait — who frequently bedevils liberals for his unalloyed support for charter schools — didn’t find DeVos to be Trump’s most objectionable nominee, he nevertheless proclaimed his opposition to DeVos on the grounds that she was an incapable avatar of the charter school movement. “It’s important to understand what is actually concerning about DeVos,” Chait wrote. “In addition to lacking policy
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FEATURE heft, she is in the grip of simplistic ideas about education and she sees parental choice as a panacea. If parents can choose which school to send their children to, she believes, competition will inevitably force improvement. From the standpoint of center-left education reforms, this is dangerously simplistic.” Chait, noting that charter school performance varies widely across the country, targeted Michigan’s charter system — which DeVos had a strong hand in shaping — for its lack of sufficient oversight and its utterly dismal nationwide ranking. Michigan State Board of Education President John Austin, who is also a strong supporter of charter schools, concurred, telling Politico: “The bottom line should be, ‘Are kids achieving better or worse because of this expansion of choice?’” His state’s policies, Austin said, were “destroying learning outcomes.” “The DeVoses were a principal agent of that,” he asserted. It’s easy to paint a fretful portrait of DeVos. Her track record as a reformer, coupled with her consistent inability to account for the most basic educational concepts, is enough to leave anyone with the firm impression that she simply does not know what she’s doing. But to borrow from Marco Rubio, a supporter of DeVos, “let’s dispel once and for all with this fiction” that Betsy DeVos doesn’t know what she’s doing. She knows exactly what she’s doing.
A year after her shaky hearings, the limitations Democrats faced digging into her past paid dividends for DeVos, her family, and one of her favored corporations. On Jan. 12, it was announced that a company named Performant Financial Corp. would receive one of two lucrative contracts, enabling it to assist the Department of Education in collecting overdue student loans. The announcement was a boon to Performant, who had spent a year locked out of the Department of Education’s lucrative contracts. But perhaps more importantly it would provide a tidy boost to the DeVos family’s bottom line. Among the many financial entanglements DeVos brought with her to Washington, one was a DeVos
Betsy DeVos speaking at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland. GAGE SKIDMORE
family investment company named RDV Corporation. RDV was, in turn, tied to the Delaware-based company LMF WF Portfolio I LLC. And that confusing series of letters from Delaware was a financial backer of Performant. Prior to DeVos being tapped as Secretary of Education, this was good business for the family fortune — the loan servicing company had already received millions of dollars in past Department of Education loan servicing contracts. Every time the company collected on a loan, they took home a commission from the Department of Education. Those commissions provided a little bit of profitable cream for the DeVos family’s investment portfolio — trickle-down economics in the truest sense of the word. It was a pretty good trickle at that. Performant’s 2016 financial report noted that the company had “provided recovery services on approximately $8.6 billion of combined student loans and other delinquent
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federal and state receivables,” including the skip-tracing of defaulted lenders, wage garnishment, and “litigation services.” According to a January 2017 Bloomberg report, Performant had a “total revenue of $148.7 million in its most recently reported four quarters,” ending in October of 2016. And this money was all coming in at a time when Performant had to compete for Department of Education business amid a sizable field of firms awarded similar contracts. Along the way, however, Performant managed to rack up 346 customer complaints with the Better Business Bureau, as well as a healthy share of customer complaints to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. It’s perhaps not that surprising that in December of 2016, Performant was excluded from a new contract with the Department of Education — a move that sent Performant’s share value down “43 percent in one day,” according to
Bloomberg. This all meant that a not-insignificant portion of the DeVos family fortune, knit up in the profits taken by a loan-servicing scofflaw, was lost a few weeks before Trump’s inauguration. Of course the moment DeVos was picked to be Trump’s nominee, it triggered a series of mandatory divestitures, in keeping with the guidance offered by the Office of Government Ethics. From an ethical standpoint, such divestments were necessary to prevent potential Cabinet members like DeVos from feathering their own nest with the largesse that lucrative government contracts offered. Greg McNeilly, a spokesperson for DeVos, told Bloomberg that she and her husband would, indeed, rid herself of her stake in Performant. However, he did take pains to mention that this would not “obligate other family members or RDV itself to divest” from Performant. Performant’s performance thus still had a role to play in the DeVos family’s bankrolls. That puts the steps that the Education Department under DeVos took next in a new light. DeVos began by defanging the government watchdogs who had traditionally policed the student loan beat, dogging companies like Performant for their failures to properly assist their customers. On April 11, DeVos formally withdrew two memos issued by the Obama administration that offered guidance to the Federal Student Aid office — responsible for servicing over $1 billion in student loans — on how to provide better service to borrowers who wanted to manage, or even discharge, their student debt. For the Obama administration it was a late-in-arriving but vital course correction for the agency, which had hitherto acted mainly in the interest of maximizing repayment proceeds. The Obama administration rightly faced tremendous pressure to tame the unruly world of student loan servicing, and make things fairer and more equitable for borrowers. Notably, there was a great need to get the Department of Education more fully involved in protecting consumers. As the Nation’s David Dayen reported, the Department’s “own inspector general found in 2014 that the depart-
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FEATURE ment didn’t even track borrower complaints, let alone engage in actual oversight.” Much of the work being done to assist borrowers was conducted by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Government Accountability Office, which found the world of student loan servicing to be an Augean Stable of cheats and mismanagement. As the Washington Post’s Danielle Douglas-Gabriel reported in April of 2017, the CFPB had documented numerous “instances of servicing companies providing inconsistent information, misplacing paperwork, or charging unexpected fees.” And GAO researchers found that 70 percent of borrowers who had ended up in default would have qualified for lower monthly payment options that would have kept them in good graces — had loan servicers bothered to provide them with the necessary information. By the end of the Obama administration, the CFPB had emerged as one of the more dogged cops on the student loan beat. Their efforts were bolstered by an informationsharing arrangement with the Department of Education, which the CFPB used to research and rein in loan-servicer scofflaws. In August of 2017, the head of the Department’s Financial Student Aid agency, A. Wayne Johnson, sent a letter to then-CFPB head Richard Cordray, terminating this information-sharing arrangement. According to Johnson — who prior to being hired by DeVos was the CEO and founder of a private student loan company named Reunion Financial Services — the ostensible rationale for ending this interagency partnership was a complaint that the CFPB had “violated the intent” of the arrangement by failing to direct Title IV federal student loan complaints to the Department of Education in a timely enough fashion, and for expanding the CFPB’s “jurisdiction into areas that Congress never envisioned,” in reference to the consumer protection agency’s lawsuit against Navient, another bad actor in the student loan collection wilderness. Johnson’s letter sprinkled a little creatine all over Wall Street. As Bloomberg’s Shahien Nasiripour reported, Compass Point research director Michael Tarkan immediately recommended that his clients
invest in loan servicing companies. Tarkan said that the Department of Education’s was an “unambiguous signal” that the Trump administration (and DeVos) was going to be much more accommodating to student loan companies in terms of oversight and scrutiny. But that would hardly be the only way DeVos would work to Performant’s benefit. Not only will this new contract bring the company back into the Department of Education’s loan servicer fold after a year of having been cut out entirely, they will be one of only two companies cut in on Department of Education’s student loan portfolio. In the past, the Department has contracted with as many as 17 firms to perform student loan collection, and as The Washington Post noted, “Attempts to whittle down the number of firms have been met with resistance.” Two years ago, when only seven companies were selected to manage the portfolio, it touched off considerable protestations among those companies that were left out of the process — the January 2018 decision to select new contractors was supposed to resolve this conflict.
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But DeVos’ Department of Education has, perhaps, only re-inflamed this controversy by reducing the field even further: Performant is joined by only one other firm, Windham Professionals, in servicing loan contracts worth an estimated $400 million. Windham, at the very least, deserved to be dealt in. Back when the field of servicers was reduced to seven firms, protests from the companies that were left out — including Performant — forced the Government Accountability Office to undertake a thorough evaluation of all the companies that had submitted bids. According to the GAO’s subsequent report, Windham held up quite well in the crowded field, earning an “exceptional” rating for past performance and a “satisfactory” rating for management. Performant, by contrast, did not fare as well — they only rated “satisfactory” in terms of past performance, and “marginal” on management. Performant’s resurrection has raised eyebrows. As Todd Canni, an attorney for one of the bidders that lost out in the process, told The Washington Post, “It simply does not make sense that the agency would choose to work with lowerrated [companies] with marginal ratings that do not have an exceptional past performance record.” Indeed,
going just by the GAO’s evaluation, there were six other firms besides Windham that rated higher than Performant in the categories of past performance and overall management. Performant’s good news sent their stock price skyrocketing. Meanwhile, spokespersons for everyone involved stepped forward to say the required pleasantries. A Department of Education flack ensured reporters that DeVos had “no knowledge, let alone involvement” in the decision to award Performant the new contract. Richard Zubek, Performant’s head of investor relations, followed suit by insisting that no one from the firm “had any direct or indirect contact with Secretary DeVos or anyone related to Mrs. DeVos.” But given Performant’s checkered history and mediocre ratings, as well as the existence of substantially higher-rated options among the many companies that had performed loan collection work for the Department of Education, it’s difficult to fathom what particular quality allowed Performant to surge back to prominence in the eyes of the Department of Education and to be cut in on more profitable terms this time around. As Canni told The Washington Post, “It is beyond dispute that the [Education Department’s] decisions have, at a minimum, created the appearance of a conflict of interest,” adding, “Given the fact that Performant was not a highly rated [company] and, in fact, was rated fairly low … the agency will be under intense scrutiny and will need to explain how suddenly these ratings changed so significantly to allow Performant to leapfrog over so many” more deserving firms. Of course, with the CFPB sidelined, it’s not clear from whence this scrutiny will come. What is clear is that the decision is, in any event, going to be good for the DeVos family’s business — providing seed money to Republican office-seekers and the infrastructure of the conservative movement. Reprinted from School House Wreck: The Betsy DeVos Story with permission from publisher Strong Arm Press. The book is available at strongarmpress.com. email@example.com @metrotimes
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Dumplings from Shanghai Bistro.
The best soup dumplings in Detroit are in Windsor By Nick George
There’s something exotic
about Windsor. It’s a town that’s technically only a mile or so away from my humble Hubbard Farms abode, yet it seems a world away. Perhaps if crossing the border wasn’t such a hassle, then I would have known more about our friendly neighbors to the south — like the fact that there’s a spot that serves xiao long bao. Xiao long bao is a Chinese dish made by adding chilled, gelatinized pork broth to a seasoned ground pork mixture inside a partially leavened pouch of dough. It’s consumed by making a small tear in the dumpling skin, allowing steam to escape, then sucking the re-liquified broth through the top followed by consuming the rest of the dumpling. And it’s arguably one of the most perfect snacks ever created. The proliferation of xiao long bao (literal translation, “small basket bun”) is worth exploring and is said to be traced back to Nanxiang, a suburb of Shanghai, where a chef named Huang Minxian came up with the snack in
the late 19th century to attract more customers. The dish grew into a global success in the early 1970s after a failing cooking oil shop in Taiwan reinvented itself as a dumpling house, relocating a few chefs from Shanghai who were trained in the art. The Hong Kong branch was awarded a Michelin star in 2010. Shanghai Bistro — which opened four months ago near the University of Windsor — is one of the few spots nearby where xiao long bao can be found. Upon walking into the unassuming eleven-table bistro, you’ll notice a prep nook takes the place of the usual register area. This is where the dumplings are wrapped on a daily basis. My dining partner, who grew up in Shanghai, explained that most dumpling houses there feature frontof-house prep, effectively putting the product and the chef’s skills on display. The dishes come out in waves. We started with the cucumber with garlic sauce (#29), bite-sized smashed cucumbers with chopped garlic and a
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lightly sweet vinaigrette, an ideal first course. The dim sum dishes arrived next, stacked high in bamboo steamers. The steamed pork skin soup-filled dumplings (#1), and the steamed soupfilled dumplings with crab and pork (#2) are served by the half dozen. Shanghai Bistro’s version of the dish is fundamentally sound. The dough is thin enough to let the broth and filling take center stage, while robust enough to not fall apart when picked up with chopsticks. The broth is expectedly porkforward with a hint of Shaoxing wine. The dish is surprisingly served with red vinegar — typically used for cooking — instead of black vinegar, which is available upon request. The Shanghai Bistro-featured noodle soup (#88) is a star. Large chunks of perfectly seasoned brisket with five spice are laid atop a generous helping of ramen noodles and a lightly sweet and spicy Shanghai-style soy-based beef broth. It would be the stuff of dreams if the noodles were a bit more firm. The rest of the dim sum menu is
Shanghai Bistro 2045 Wyandotte St., Windsor, ON Cash only for Americans, Canadian credit cards accepted Open 11 a.m.-10 p.m. WednesdayMonday (closed Tuesdays)
solid. The panfried green onion pancake (#15) is light, crisp on the outside, and not greasy — a sign of a good scallion pancake. The wonton with spicy sauce (#21) is sweet with a hint of chili, a Shanghainese version of a Sichuan classic. The panfried pork buns (#3) are crisp, light, and fluffy. However, the steamed veggie dumplings with egg and mushrooms (#7) seem like an afterthought on a very meat-heavy menu. The staff at the Bistro are friendly and provide fast service, though it may be a bit difficult to discuss the nuances of regional Chinese cuisine unless you speak Mandarin. The prices are studentfriendly, especially with that mind trick you play on your wallet every time you go to Canada. With more than 140 menu items, I could see myself stopping for lunch every day if I were attending the university. Since I’m just a hungry foodie living in Detroit, I’ll probably only make the trip when I’ve got a serious craving. firstname.lastname@example.org @metrotimes
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What’s Going On
A week’s worth of things to do and places to do them By MT staff The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou, Friday, March 9, Redford Theatre.
WED, 3/7 - SAT, 3/10
Sfumato Fragrances and Castalia Opening
I Can’t Come to Work Today by Simone Else
@ Sfumato Fragrances and Castalia Cocktails
@ Grey Area
DRINK Husband and wife duo Kevin Peterson and Jane Larson are about to change the craft cocktail game. Introducing Castalia, the world’s first scented cocktail bar. The lounge will offer “fragrant cocktails” based on the brand’s eight signature perfumes. By day the store will serve as a retail establishment, but at night it will convert into an intimate craft cocktail lounge where a pair of mixologists will whip up the unusual drinks.
Ticketed events run from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday, March 7 through Saturday, March 10; 3980 Second Ave., Detroit; 313-305-1442; www. castaliacocktails.com; A $40 ticket comes with a flight of four small cocktails, one full-sized cocktail, and snacks.
COURTESY OF TOUCHSTONE PICTURES
FRIDAY, 3/9 The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou and Rushmore @ Redford Theatre
ART Known for her BDSM-style “maximum torture” aesthetic, her suggestive placement of clear PVC, and hypersexual subject matter, artist Simone Else is the epitome of Detroit bad bitch. Described as a display of “creative chaos from an intro-per-vert," Else’s latest artistic offering strays from her Eat Da Rich clothing and accessory line to tell the solitary (and masturbatory) tale of a creative. I Can’t Come to Work Today is influenced by the artist's struggle with having to live and produce artistic work in the same space. Works on display range from home goods, clothing, screen printing, painting, and "live" sculptures.
Event starts at 7 p.m. and goes until 10 p.m.; 4200 W. Vernor Hwy., Detroit; facebook.com/ greyareadetroit; Event is free.
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FILM The hyper-stylized world of writer and director Wes Anderson is its own universe, one where a brace-faced, know-it-all playwright can befriend a depressed headmaster and fall for a widowed science teacher… and coexist alongside an eccentric oceanographer and his doomed revenge mission against a mythological shark. Technical precision, strategic use of color, storylines underscored with dysfunctional family dynamics, and a recurring stable of actors are among the elements that make Rushmore and The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou classics.
The Life Aquatic will screen at 8 p.m. followed by Rushmore at 10 p.m.; 17360 Lahser Rd., Detroit; 313537-2560; redfordtheatre.com; Tickets are $5.
FRIDAY, 3/9 Aplus @ The Underground at DIME
MUSIC Detroit-bred sisters Anesha and Antea Birchetts, aka Aplus, have made quite a splash in the music world. (See our recent profile in our Jan. 3, 2018 "Bands to Watch" feature.) As a songwriting team, the duo have written songs for the likes of none other than Beyonce, Jennifer Lopez, Justin Bieber, Ciara, Mary J Blige, and more. But now, Aplus are going their own way, celebrating the release of their record Pride Liberty Detroit on DIME's Original 1265 Recordings. Jena Irene Asciutto, who wrote our favorite recent ode to the joys of marijuana, opens, along with Jaye Prime. Mahogany Jones hosts, and DJ DDT spins.
Doors at 8 p.m., 1265 Griswold St., Detroit; 313-223-1600; dimedetroit.com; Tickets are $5.
Rumpke mountain Boys
w/ kitchen DwelleRs thursday 3/8
RailRoad eaRth afteR paRty - 11pm Friday 3/9
wsg: leaving lifted saturday 3/10
tj zindle trio sunday 3/11
wsg: edamame monday 3/12
the Steel wheels wsg: nathan kaliSh & the laStcallerS wednesday 3/14
Miguel, Friday, March 9, Royal Oak Music Theatre.
Monte Carlo Night
Weird Al Yankovic
@ Royal Oak Music Theatre
@ Belle Isle Boat House
@ Michigan Theater
MUSIC There’s no doubt about it — this one’s for the lovers. Cerebral R&B sex-god Miguel Pimentel is bringing his sensual voice and psychedelic arrangements to the Royal Oak Music Theatre. Supporting his 2017 release, War and Leisure, Miguel’s show will double as a utopian shelter of funk, soundgasms, and sexual healing. The only weapons Miguel employs are the love-making kind: “M-16 on my lap/ Real missiles in the sky/ No matter where I go on the map/ You got my protection.” One thing is true of the 32-year-old L.A. songwriter — he’s a master of smooth, and makes music to get even the most stubborn of lovers in the mood.
EVENT You can’t spell fundraiser without “f-u-n” — and the second annual Monte Carlo Night at the Belle Isle Boat House is all of the above. Guests will have the opportunity to not only experience the 115-year-old space, but will be able to help to play a part in the shaping of its future. Proceeds from the event will fund further renovations and will help get the venue up to snuff as a full-time event space. Cocktails and casino festivities kick off at 7 p.m., and as if an evening on the water wasn’t enough, winners will be awarded prizes.
MUSIC Oscar Wilde once said that “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” If this is true, then “Weird Al” Yankovic is the biggest ass-kisser of all time. The king of parody pop is hitting the road with his “Ridiculously Self-Indulgent, Ill-Advised Vanity Tour” — and it comes with a disclaimer. This is not the Weird Al you’ve come to expect. In fact, the set list will be comprised almost entirely of his original songs — meaning, non-parody tunes. The strippeddown performance will be sans costumes, props, or video screens.
Doors open at 7 p.m., 318 W. Fourth St., Royal Oak; 248-3992980; royaloakmusictheatre. com; Tickets are $40-$75.
Event begins at 7 p.m. and concludes at midnight; E. Picnic Way, Detroit; 248-821-1128; belleisleboathouse.com; Tickets are $125.
teRrapin flyeR tribute to the grateful Dead thursday 3/22
peRt near SandStone Friday 3/23
w/ kevin thibodeau & the caSt iron hoRnS FOR TICKETS & DINNER RESERVATIONS
Doors open at 8 p.m.; 603 E. Liberty St., Ann Arbor; michtheater.org; 734-668-8397; Tickets start at $39.50. email@example.com @metrotimes
345 E 9 MILE RD
FERNDALE, MI 48220
metrotimes.com metrotimes.com || March March7-13, 7-13,2018 2018
Betty Who, Monday, March 12 at the Loving Touch.
MUSIC Wednesday, March 7 The East Pointers 8 p.m.; The Ark, 316 S. Main St., Ann Arbor; $15.
Stu Hamm 8 p.m.; Token Lounge, 28949 Joy Rd., Westland; $10 advance/$15 day of show.
Thursday, March 8
Futuristic 8 p.m.; El Club, 4114 W. Vernor Hwy., Detroit; $15-$18.
Beams 9 p.m.; Trixie’s, 2656 Carpenter Ave., Hamtramck; $6.
Havok 7 p.m.; The Loving Touch, 22634 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; $15.
George Clinton and ParliamentFunkadelic 8 p.m.; Sound Board, 2901 Grand River Ave., Detroit; $37-$50.
Nothing Nowhere 7:30 p.m.; The Shelter, 431 E. Congress St., Detroit; $13. Rumpke Mountain Boys 8 p.m.; Otus Supply, 345 E. Nine Mile Rd., Ferndale; $15-$20. Septicflesh 7 p.m.; Harpos, 14238 Harper Ave., Detroit; $25-$30.
March7-13, 7-13,2018 2018 | | metrotimes.com metrotimes.com 38 March
Judah & the Lion 7 p.m.; Saint Andrew’s Hall, 431 E. Congress St., Detroit; $26. Kaj Althaus & Hotel Arch 9 p.m.; Blind Pig, 208 S. First St., Ann Arbor; $5-$8.
Men I Trust 8 p.m.; Marble Bar, 1501 Holden St., Detroit; $10-$12. Railroad Earth 7 p.m.; Royal Oak Music Theatre, 318 W. Fourth St., Royal Oak; $22-$40.
Friday, March 9 Aplus 8 p.m.; The Underground at DIME, 1265 Griswold St., Detroit; $5 Don’t. 8 p.m.; Trixie’s, 2656 Carpenter Ave., Hamtramck; $5. Doop & the Inside Outlaws 8 p.m.; PJ’s Lager House, 1254 Michigan Ave., Detroit; $5. The Dropout 8 p.m.; El Club, 4114 W. Vernor Hwy., Detroit; $12.
Joe Pug 8 p.m.; The Ark, 316 S. Main St., Ann Arbor; $20. Lights 7 p.m.; Saint Andrew’s Hall, 431 E. Congress St., Detroit; $24. Miguel 7 p.m.; Royal Oak Music Theatre, 318 W. Fourth St., Royal Oak; $40-$75.
Sorority Noise 7 p.m.; The Loving Touch, 22634 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; $16.
Sunday, March 11 The California Guitar Trio 7:30 p.m.; The Ark, 316 S. Main St., Ann Arbor; $25.
Momix-Opus Cactus 8 p.m.; The Whiting, 1241 Kearsley St., Flint; $3045.
Elias Quartet 4 p.m.; Rackham Amphitheatre, U-M campus, Ann Arbor; $24-$46.
Motor City Blues Festival 8 p.m.; Fox Theatre, 2211 Woodward Ave., Detroit; $56.50-$103.50.
Howard Jones 7 p.m.; Saint Andrew’s Hall, 431 E. Congress St., Detroit; $59.50.
Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers 7:30 p.m.; The Pike Room, 1 S. Saginaw St., Pontiac; $20-$25.
Keys N Krates 8 p.m.; Majestic Theatre, 4140 Woodward Ave., Detroit; $20-$30.
Satisfaction: International Rolling Stones Show 8 p.m.; Magic Bag, 22920 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; $18.
Pink Talking Fish 8 p.m.; Magic Bag, 22920 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; $18.
Trent Harmon 7 p.m.; The Crofoot Ballroom, 1 S. Saginaw St., Pontiac; $18-20. Tropidelic 8 p.m.; Otus Supply, 345 E. Nine Mile Rd., Ferndale; $10-$15.
Saturday, March 10 Aaron Carter 7 p.m.; The Pike Room, 1 S. Saginaw St., Pontiac; $1520. Black Tiger Sex Machine 7 p.m.; Majestic Theatre, 4140 Woodward Ave., Detroit; $20-$25. Blackberry Smoke 7 p.m.; The Fillmore, 2115 Woodward Ave., Detroit; $29.50-$45. Datenight, Best Exes, DJ Baby Whisper 9 p.m.; Outer Limits Lounge, 5507 Caniff St., Hamtramck; $6. The Dollyrots 7 p.m.; Token Lounge, 28949 Joy Rd., Westland; $10-$15. Ghostwriter 8 p.m.; PJ’s Lager House, 1254 Michigan Ave., Detroit; $7. Hot Snakes 8 p.m.; El Club, 4114 W. Vernor Hwy., Detroit; $22-$27. Justin Nozuka 7 p.m.; Blind Pig, 208 S. First St., Ann Arbor; $20. Mat Kearney 7 p.m.; Royal Oak Music Theatre, 318 W. Fourth St., Royal Oak; $29.50-$75. Momix-Opus Cactus 8 p.m.; The Music Hall, 350 Madison St., Detroit; $30+. Richard Shindell 8 p.m.; The Ark, 316 S. Main St., Ann Arbor; $20. Shroud 9 p.m.; Kelly’s Bar, 2403 Holbrook Ave., Hamtramck; $5. SOJA 7 p.m.; Saint Andrew’s Hall, 431 E. Congress St., Detroit; $28.
Random Rab 8 p.m.; Otus Supply, 345 E. Nine Mile Rd., Ferndale; $12-$15. Weird Al Yankovic 8 p.m.; Michigan Theater, 603 E. Liberty St., Ann Arbor; $39.50-$79.50.
Monday, March 12
OUR PATIO NIGHTLY BONFIRES ON
THURSDAY, MAR 8TH ~ HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JOEY A! ~ FRIDAY, MAR 9TH MIA ROSS, ZEE GUDDA, BRA’SHA TAYLOR, CIENTELL & VEYGAZ FLOSSALOT
(HIP HOP)DOORS @9 ~ HAPPY BIRTHDAY, RICO AFRICA! ~ ~ HAPPY BIRTHDAY, FAUSTINE! ~ SATURDAY, MAR 10TH NOTHING ELEGANT MONTHLY DANCE PARTY
(DANCE/SAUCY) DOORS @9
Betty Who 7 p.m.; The Loving Touch, 22634 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; $20+. Brett Dennen 8 p.m.; The Ark, 316 S. Main St., Ann Arbor; $35-$99. The Steel Wheels 7 p.m.; Otus Supply, 345 E. Nine Mile Rd., Ferndale; $15-$20. Stephen Jay & Jim Kimo West 8 p.m.; Magic Bag, 22920 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; $15.
Tuesday Mar 13 Demi Lovato 7:30 p.m.; Little Caesars Arena, 2645 Woodward Ave., Detroit; $29.95-$149.95. The High Kings 8 p.m.; The Ark, 316 S. Main St., Ann Arbor; $22. Steel Bearing Hand 8 p.m.; Trixie’s, 2656 Carpenter Ave., Hamtramck; $7. Tenebrae 7:30 p.m., St. Francis of Assisi Church, 2250 E. Stadium Blvd., Ann Arbor; $35.
THEATER Cinderella Times vary, TuesdaysSaturdays, Fisher Theatre, 3011 W. Grand Blvd., Detroit; $35+. Jewish Ensemble Theatre: The Diary of Anne Frank 10 a.m.-noon, Mar 9, 12, 13, 14, 15, and 16; Detroit Film Theatre, 5200 Woodward Ave., Detroit; free. Les Misérables 8 p.m. TuesdaysSaturdays, 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, 7:30 p.m. Sunday; Fisher Theatre, 3011 W. Grand Blvd., Detroit;
MONDAY, MAR 12TH FREE POOL ~ HAPPY BIRTHDAY, AARON S! ~ TUESDAY, MAR 13TH 313 DAY W/ DJ BUTTER, DJ KING BUTTER, BIG HERK, VSTYLEZ, TY FARRIS & MORE FRIDAY, MAR 16TH MOCHSHA, TERRIERS, CAST IRON CORNBREAD & SCOUT RIPLEY SATURDAY, MAR 17TH ST. PATTY’S DAY INDUSTRIAL DETROIT: CERVELLO ELETTRONICO, SLEEP CLINIC & FLUXION A/D FRIDAY, MAR 23RD D-CYPHERED 2 FT. ULTRA UNIT, GABE GONZOLEZ, NICK SPEED & MORE FRIDAY, APR 20TH BAT, EEL, SNAFU & SHROUD OPEN EVERY DAY INCLUDING HOLIDAYS INSTAGRAM & FACEBOOK: THEOLDMIAMI CALL US FOR BOOKING! 313-831-3830
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| March March7-13, 7-13,2018 2018
Penny Stamps Speaker Series: information designer Giorgia Lupi, Thursday, March 8, Michigan Theater.
$45+. Through March 11. Mummenschnz 4 p.m. Sunday; Music Hall, 350 Madison St., Detroit; $30+. Ricky Gordon’s 27 7:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, 2:30 p.m. Sunday; Detroit Opera House, 1526 Broadway St., Detroit; $57.
COMEDY All-Star Showdown 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, ; Go Comedy! Improv Theater, 261 E. Nine Mile Rd., Ferndale; $18. Franco Escamilla 8 p.m. Saturday; Fox Theatre, 2211 Woodward Ave., Detroit; $39.50-$99.50. Pandemonia 10 p.m. Fridays; Go Comedy! Improv Theater, 261 E. Nine Mile Rd., Ferndale; $15. Rob Little 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 8, 7:15 & 9:45 p.m. Friday, March 9, and 7 & 9:30 p.m. Saturday, March 10; Mark Ridley’s Comedy Castle, 310 S. Troy St., Royal Oak; $18. Sunday Buffet 7 p.m. Sundays; Go Comedy! Improv Theater, 261 E. Nine Mile Rd., Ferndale; $10.
40 March 7-13, 2018 | metrotimes.com
DANCE Borderline: Company Wang Ramirez 8 p.m. Friday and 8 p.m. Saturday; Power Center for the Performing Arts, 121 Fletcher St., Ann Arbor; $26-$48. You Can Dance: Nederlands Dans Theater 1:30-2:50 p.m. Saturday; Ann Arbor YMCA, 400 W. Washington St., Ann Arbor; free.
FILM Miss Kiet’s Children 7 p.m. Friday, 7 p.m. and 9 p.m, Saturday and 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. Sunday; Detroit Film Theatre. Rabbit in the Moon 2 p.m. Saturday; Detroit Film Theatre. Winter Film Series American Revolutionary Friday 3 p.m.; Detroit Historical Museum, 5401 Woodward Ave., Detroit; free. Winter Film Series: American Revolutionary Saturday 3 p.m.; Detroit Historical Museum, 5401
Woodward Ave., Detroit; free.
ART I Can’t Come to Work Today: New works by Simone Else Friday, 7-10 p.m.; Grey Area, 4200 W. Vernor Hwy., Detroit. Artist Talk: Nic Notion “Amerixan Notion” Noon-4 p.m. Saturday; Playground Detroit, 2845 Gratiot Ave., Detroit; free. Danielle Dean performative lecture. 7 p.m.,Wednesday; Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, 4454 Woodward Ave., Detroit; $5 suggested donation. Penny Stamps Speaker Series: information designer Giorgia Lupi Thursday, 5:10 p.m.; Michigan Theater, 603 E. Liberty St., Ann Arbor; free. Coffee and Conversation: An Evening with Mokhtar Alkhanshali Wednesday March 7, 6 p.m.; Arab American National Museum, 13624 Michigan Ave., Dearborn; free. firstname.lastname@example.org @metrotimes
Fast Forward Jack Johnson DTE Energy Music Theatre, June 15
Jeff Tweedy Royal Oak Music Theatre, April 5, 6:30 p.m., $35+
Jack Johnson DTE Energy Music Theatre, June 15, 7:30 p.m.; $31+
Jay & Silent Bob The Fillmore, April 10, 7 p.m., $20-$60
Sam Smith Little Caesars Arena, June 22, 8 p.m., $35+
Bill Murray, Jan Vogler & Friends The Fillmore, April 18, 7 p.m., $45+
Harry Styles Little Caesars Arena, June 26, 8 p.m., $39.50+
Modest Mouse The Fillmore, May 2 and 3, 6:30 p.m., $42.50+
Jethro Tull Freedom Hill, July 1, 7:30 p.m., $26+
Dr. Dog Majestic Theatre, May 4, 8 p.m., $30
STYX, Joan Jett, and Tesla DTE Energy Music Theatre, July 6, 7 p.m., $29.50
Daryl Hall & John Oates Little Caesars Arena, May 20, 7 p.m., $49.50+ Vance Joy Fox Theatre, May 22, 7:30 p.m., $25.50+ Greta Van Fleet The Fillmore, May 22, 23, and 25, 7 p.m., $25+ Maria Bamford Royal Oak Music Theatre, May 25, 7 p.m., $29.50+ Slayer Freedom Hill, May 27, 5 p.m., $29.50+ Dave Matthews Band DTE Energy Music Theatre, June 6, 8 p.m., $41.50+ Paul Simon DTE Energy Music Theatre, June 10, 8 p.m., $31+
Kendrick Lamar with SZA DTE Energy Music Theatre, June 13, 7:30 p.m., $71+ Shania Twain Little Caesars Arena, June 15, 7:30 p.m., $49.95+ Thirty Seconds to Mars DTE Energy Music Theatre, June 12, 6 p.m.; $25.50+
COMING APRIL 25 TO BE A PART OF BEST OF DETROIT, CALL YOUR ACCOUNT EXECUTIVE AT (313) 961-4060
Whoopi Goldberg Sound Board, June 15, 8 p.m., $57+
Rob Zombie and Marilyn Manson DTE Energy Music Theatre, July 11, TBA Pixies & Weezer DTE Energy Music Theatre, July 13, 7:30 p.m., $64+ Barenaked Ladies DTE Energy Music Theatre, July 14, 7 p.m., $21+ Foreigner DTE Energy Music Theatre, July 15, 7 p.m., $21+ Kesha & Macklemore DTE Energy Music Theatre, July 18, 7 p.m., $26.50+ Jim Gaffigan DTE Energy Music Theatre, July 28, 8 p.m., $35.50+ Jason Mraz Meadowbrook Music Festival, July 28, 8 p.m., $25+ Melvins El Club, Aug. 3, 8 p.m., $22+ Lynyrd Skynyrd DTE Energy Music Theatre, Aug. 10, 6 p.m., $25.50+ Smashing Pumpkins Little Caesars Arena, Aug. 5, 7 p.m., $29+ REO Speedwagon and Chicago DTE Energy Music Theatre, Aug. 12, $29.50+
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metrotimes.com || March March 7-13, 7-13, 2018 2018 metrotimes.com
Ty Dolla $ign.
JORY LEE CORDY
Sign of the times
Ty Dolla $ign talks J Dilla, parental controls, and Instagram trolls By Jerilyn Jordan
When you research
the rise of Ty Dolla $ign, the contemporary R&B mastermind from South Central L.A., you’ll learn that no matter how much he opens up, he cannot be pegged. Both pure and perverse, Dolla $ign (real name Tyrone William Griffin Jr.) offers a complex narrative that blurs the line between the message and the messenger. A quick Google search will find that his debut album, 2015’s Free TC, stirred up some shit behind bars for his incarcerated brother, that he and John Mayer became collaborators through Instagram DMs, and that his first orgy was at his grandmother’s house. But the vision on 2017’s Beach House 3 is direct. Dolla $ign will tell
you that he’s calmed down a bit. The meticulously calculated mischief on the record reveals an artist who reaches high without ever leaving the ground. Ty Dolla $ign discusses fame, fatherhood, and why he’s always turned on.
Metro Times: You’re fresh into the Don’t Judge Me Tour. Do you feel like you’ve been judged unfairly in the past? Are there any misconceptions you would like to clear up? Dolla $ign:
Yeah. Like, everybody is going to talk when you’re doing something good because nobody wants to see you
42 March 7-13, 2018 | metrotimes.com
win if they’re not winning. Whatever they’re judging, it doesn’t matter because I am me and I am happy. Everybody around me knows I’m a nice person to be around. That’s all that matters. There are two different kinds of people in this world — good people and bad people. The Don’t Judge Me Tour is for the good people.
You’ve alluded to the philosophy of Beach House 3 as being a metaphor for success. Can you explain why that is?
When I was a child my mom and my dad would take me, my brother, and sister to this little beach community in Los Angeles. We would get out on this one empty
lot and talk about this imaginary house we were going to build, and where my room was going to be, and where the kitchen would go, and why everything was going to be where it was so they would have certain views. And then my parents broke up. When they broke up all the dreams were gone and we had to start over. I never forgot about those moments. That beach house and my music were these things that seemed impossible in the eyes of other people. Like, “You’d be better off getting a regular job. You’re doing all this music but like, to me it’s more of a hobby. Where’s the money?” I used to hear that constantly. I stuck to my gut and my goals and I made the music thing happen. I got my
first beach house and I’m looking to get another one. I just want to show everybody out there that whatever you want to do, it’s going to happen. Don’t listen to anybody else because they can’t see your vision.
Beach House 3 focuses heavily on the idea of fame. Is being famous at all what you expected? Is it hard to stay grounded?
My family, my fans — that’s what keeps me sane and grounded. Just the love of making music — that’s what it’s about. It’s not about the facade of what everyone else wants you to be, or what everyone else thinks you are, or who you date. It’s been crazy. Over the last year, I finally got my first haters in the comments on Instagram and Twitter. It’s funny because I never had haters. To see it now, it’s weird because all of them who are talking don’t even know me. Yet, they troll me. It’s like they’re obsessed. Shoutout to y’all. I see you. [Laughs.] Hopefully, you’ll change over this year because it’s nothing but positive vibes over here.
One of the things people might get wrong about you is that you do not consider yourself a rapper, but a musician. Why is live instrumentation important in your brand of hip-hop?
I always try and pull out an instrument here and there — you know, sing some abstract riffs and runs. I’ve been lucky enough to fit right in the middle, where I get respect from the old crowds and the young people. When you listen to a song that is all digital, it puts you in a time frame. This is the early 2000s type vibe, this is the late ’90s vibe. But when you listen to something by Isley Brothers, right? You could play that right now and it sounds new. Why? Because it’s real instruments. It’s real drums, keys, real bass. That shit will never die.
You’re a well-known admirer of the late producer J Dilla.
Yeah, man. Detroit’s one of my favorite spots in the country to come to, and J Dilla is my favorite producer ever. I still listen to his stuff every week. Sometimes three days in a row. You know what? Last night, I was listening to this song by Black Milk, whose also from out there, and they’re destroying it. I can’t wait to call them and have them come to the
show. I can’t wait to play for y’all.
You’re a father, an activist, and have a reputation for being a bit of a playboy. How do you balance the hedonism you sing about and family life?
When I’m at the house or when I have family around, it’s family time. As soon as some outsider walks in the room or I walk out the door I am automatically at work whether I want to be or not because somebody is always going to notice. Like, by the grace of God people notice and that’s a blessing. But I’ve got to be on. I’m not going to act like I’m tired or act like I’m not happy to see them. My daughter is 13 now and she’s on my head like, “Yo, what’s up. You got me shoes, you bought me this, but I just want to spend time with you.” And the fact that she can say that now? Man. Last weekend she was out here on tour with me and she’ll be with me this Friday. It’s dope just being able to do that with her now because she’s almost old enough.
Is your daughter allowed to listen to your music?
I tell her to listen to the clean versions, her mom tells her to listen to the clean versions. I have the parental blocks on the iPhones and I can see what she’s looking at and all that crazy shit. But I look at it like this. When I was her age, I first heard Bone Thugs, and Cube, and Pac. I used to go and skate up to the store and buy the CDs or the tapes, and when my mom found them she made me stomp them out. But when I went back to school, all the homies were playing it. It was everywhere. Really, certain people will say if you listen to this type of music you’ll turn out this way. Nah, man. Like I said, there’s good people and bad people. You’ve got to raise your children right. People curse every day. People do fucked up shit every day. With all that being said, I’m sure she hears my music. Now, of course on Beach House 3 I’ve kind of cleaned it up from talking so crazy. At the same time, I’m maturing as a man. We’re all human, man.
Ty Dolla $ign will perform at the Majestic Theatre on Tuesday, March 13; 4140 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313833-9700; majesticdetroit.com; Doors at 7 p.m.; Tickets are $29.50-$35. email@example.com @metrotimes
| March 7-13, 2018
MUSIC Snakin’ around
After 13 years, Hot Snakes are back By Eric Gallippo
After a long break from record-
ing, Hot Snakes guitarist John Reis said it “literally took a minute” for the band to get reacquainted in the studio while working on their latest album. “It wasn’t exactly like riding a bike, but, c’mon. We’ve been doing this a long time,” Reis says by phone. “We’re super pros. We know what the fuck we’re doing.” Based on early listens of Jericho Sirens — out March 16 on Sub Pop Records — he’s not wrong. The band’s fourth full-length — and first record since 2004’s Audit in Progress — is hard charging, abrasive, anthemic, and unapologetically guitar-driven. The music sounds as refreshingly pissy and relevant as it did in the early-mid ’00s. Founded by the San Diego-based guitarist with drummer Jason Kourkounis in 1999, Hot Snakes also includes Rick Froberg — Reis’ bandmate in influential and critically acclaimed ’90s post-hardcore band Drive Like Jehu — on guitar and vocals and Gar Wood on bass. The band released three albums, including 2002 breakthrough Suicide Invoice, before breaking up in 2005. Reis later formed the Night Marchers with Wood and Kourkounis in California, and Froberg went on to start Obits in Brooklyn, N.Y. Hot Snakes reformed in 2011 and has been playing shows since, sometimes also featuring second drummer Mario Rubalcaba. Reis, who has also gone by “Speedo,” “Slasher,” and “The Swami” in other projects, has also fronted high-energy party punks Rocket From the Crypt since 1989 and run his own label, Swami Records, since 2000. We talked with the busy guitarist about first meeting Froberg, the Detroit band that changed his life, and his stint on the once-popular, tripped-out kids show Yo Gabba Gabba.
Metro Times: This is the first Hot Snakes record in more than 13 years. What made this happen now, and what got it started?
John Reis: Thirteen years isn’t as
long as it sounds. It really isn’t. That said, we made the decision: “Let’s make a new record, and let’s put time aside to be in the same place at the same time, and we’re going to construct something and make some art together.” It’s just that.
MT: This doesn’t feel like a watereddown, retread type of return record. Did you feel you had something to prove?
JR: Yeah, I mean, my life is a com-
plete mess right now on a personal level. So, I pick up the guitar, and I just want to burn down villages and trample people by the magic.
MT: Anything you want to get into? JR: Nah, it’s not very interesting.
Everyone’s life is a mess at a certain point in time. I’ve never been the blues man. I’ve never been the guy who can try to figure out the pain of things that are troubling through art. Music isn’t a distraction for me. It doesn’t take me away from reality; it is reality. It was interesting to make this record. I don’t like the catharsis, and the release, and all this stuff. I don’t really buy into that.
MT: Let’s talk about how the band
started. I understand this was a side project while you were working on other things. Do you remember what your thought process was?
JR: I never looked at it as a side proj-
ect. Everything I’m doing feels important if it’s important enough to do in the first place. With Hot Snakes, there was a sound I had in my head, and Jason was a friend who I thought would be fun to play with, so the two of us recorded some songs and tried to translate that sound. I thought I was going to sing, and my voice sounded super shitty on it. So
44 March 7-13, 2018 | metrotimes.com
I said, “I wonder if Rick would be interested in singing on this?” He was into it, and bam. That was the band.
MT: When and how did you and Rick meet?
JS: I’m gonna guess it was ’86 or ’87.
These anarchists put on this event, the Hardcore Picnic, which was basically calling out all the punkers across San Diego to meet at this park. There were no bands, just people hanging out. I met Rick there, and we talked, and the germ kind of started there. Here’s this guy who was into a lot of the same stuff as I am, and he does this cool zine, he’s a great artist, and he knows these people who could play instruments. We both liked the first Die Kreuzen LP, we were both really into hardcore, things that were a little severe sounding.
MT: You two have such a distinct guitar sound separately and also together. What’s the “secret” to that sound and how does it fit together in your mind?
JR: I’m pretty busy in terms of my
playing. It’s pretty relentless. I’m attracted to turbulence, velocity, rhythm, and dissonance. I think Rick and I complement each other, because there’s more geometry to what he does. It’s kind of based on angles, like threeor four- or five-sided patterns that cycle. I think that’s where we intersect, his geometry and my straight line.
MT: You’re getting ready for a big U.S. tour, including a stop here in Detroit. How are things shaping up?
JR: We just toured the U.K. in Janu-
ary, so the band is super firing right now. It’s definitely better than it’s ever been. It’s more kicking.
MT: Does Detroit have any weight or significance to you?
JR: Well, yeah. One of my favorite
bands of all time are the Gories. Danny Doll Rod (Kroha) is one of the top 10 guitar players in my mind. I’m talking about someone that completely changed the way I think about music. The Gories were such a huge influence on Rocket From the Crypt and Drive Like Jehu. You might not hear it in the music, but that’s one of my favorite bands of all time.
MT: My friend’s kid is obsessed with Yo Gabba Gabba and the Rocket song from it, “He’s a Chef.” How did that connection come about for you?
JR: The creator of the show was a fan
of Rocket From the Crypt and a friend of a friend was on set and was like, “You know what would be funny,” to get me to come up there to do a short segment. Phone calls were made, and it was like, “Yeah!” At the time, my child was maybe 4. To be able to take him up there and film a season and let him see all the characters in costume and everything, that was more than reason enough to do it. Then when Rocket reunited, they were the first ones to say, “Will you please do something for the show?” They had that song written. They write all the songs and everything. It really is amazing to watch those people work.
MT: It’s cool you were able to bring your son along.
JR: It blew his mind. It was way
cooler to him than any band I could ever be in. Hot Snakes perform with special guests Duchess Says and Meat Wave on Saturday, March 10 at El Club, 4114 W. Vernor Highway, Detroit; 313-279-7382; Doors at 8 p.m.; Tickets are $22+.
| March 7-13, 2018
CULTURE Home is where the Whlgns are A group of nationally celebrated creatives have returned to Detroit By Imani Mixon
The Whlgns live in a threestory house on a street where the snow is slow to get plowed and the neighbors are quick to wave. Located in the North End, their neighborhood is in the center of Detroit, a great place to house a group that has its eyes on homegrown success. What is a Whlgn? For our purposes, a Whlgn (pronounced “Hooligan”) is an independent creative with a business imprint that is housed under the Whlgn moniker. According to artist manager Allante “Uncle Tae” Steele, photographer Bre’ann “Bre’ann Whlgn” White, and visual artist Antonio “Tony Whlgn” Robinson, a Whlgn is a lifestyle, a mindset, and a commitment. “It’s bullet points,” says Steele. “It’s a determined, motivated, hard-working, talented, creative, intuitive, openminded, influential, and multi-cultured individual. It’s us. It’s you.” Just a few years ago, it would be hard to catch the Whlgns under one roof. Collectively, the entire Whlgn crew — which includes about seven people — have spent time in New York, San Diego, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Chicago, but over the last four months, the three founding Whlgns have created a headquarters and a home base in Detroit. Like many of their artistic peers, the Whlgn squad was once caught in the allure of elsewhere. Miami has Art Basel, New York has fashion week, L.A. has... well, everything. Now Detroit has the Whlgns. “Everything reminds me of Detroit,” says White. “Chicago is a big Detroit, New York is a bigger Detroit, and Miami is Detroit with palm trees.” In order to keep up the work that they’ve been doing around the country, the roomies have agreed to never fully furnish the living or dining rooms of their Detroit house. Those spaces are instead reserved for a roster of self-care Sunday events, art showings, and photo shoots. Although the house is large enough to host an epic house party, the Whlgns vowed that the space will primarily revolve around work and that means keeping it clean and inviting for
the collaborators who come through. “The biggest event that we’ll probably have is if we have a chess tournament,” says White. When you cross the threshold into the Whlgn home, there is a waiting room — complete with a black leather couch and coffee table. There are framed album covers from artists like Joey Badass and Big K.R.I.T., plus promotional posters from BBC, Kith, and Lil Uzi Vert’s Smoker’s Club Tour graphics. Although these visuals would make for an aesthetically pleasing and culturally aligned choice for any millennial who wears their love for hip-hop on their sleeve, this isn’t a fanboy display — these are homemade pieces of art by Whlgn founder Antonio “Tony Whlgn” Robinson. A series of serendipitous events summoned Robinson to leave Detroit for the first time and jumpstart his graphic design career. After sending a portfolio of local rapper mixtape art to an email he found in Joey Badass’ Twitter bio, he linked up with the Pro Era team a few weeks later at the Detroit stop on their tour. While there, Jonny Shipes, Joey’s manager and an incoming head designer at Marc Ecko’s Ecko Unlimited, invited Robinson to New York to work as a junior designer. Robinson spent one year with Ecko Unlimited and then headed over to design for Kith, all while keeping his roster of freelance clients on deck, but close to his chest. “I’ve been blessed to be one of those people who made it out solely on art, but I never wanted to stay out too far or too long without bringing it back,” says Robinson. With a little distance from the expensive and expansive city of New York, Robinson has gotten reacquainted with his hometown through live visual art performances. By constituting art as an adornment to nighttime hangouts, cultural hubs, and public spaces, Robinson moves art from the realm of glass-sealed galleries to everyday environments that invite his young, fresh Detroit peers to engage with a notoriously exclusive industry. He has completed live paintings
46 March 7-13, 2018 | metrotimes.com
Meet the Whlgns: Allante Steele, Bre’ann White, and Antonio Robinson.
ROWAN “ROW WHLGN” MINOR
Like many of their artistic peers, the Whlgn squad was once caught in the allure of elsewhere. Now Detroit has the Whlgns. at a Murals & Sliders event at Phil Simpson’s Baltimore Gallery, a solo 48-hour experience sponsored by Tony Rave at the Griot Lounge, and the Car Tunes and Cereal festival at Saint Andrew’s Hall. Most recently, he completed murals in the hallways and bathrooms at Detroit’s Communication and Media Arts High School. But perhaps what he’s most known for locally is his “A Dismissive Facade” series, which includes a range of fanciful, charismatic mask-like figures with East Asian, Southern European, and African cultural influences. Many of them have wide toothy grins as if they’re all laughing at the same joke.
“As an artist, you’re putting you and yourself and your feelings on the canvas and sharing it to the world, so the mask is an interpretation of me and how I felt on the inside,” says Robinson. “We hide behind masks and independently isolate our egos from the world.” For the first eight years of her photography career, White wore a black ski mask on every shoot and assignment. This barrier rendered her mysterious, not open for consumption or assumption. If someone wanted to do more than look her in the eye, the only clearly visible part of her body, it would have to be on her own terms.
“All of the problems that females go through, like, ‘Oh they don’t take me seriously because I’m young or I’m cute or this or that,’ I didn’t go through that because people only heard my voice,” says Robinson. “That was it.” Perhaps escaping the gaze of others primed White to master the “girl gaze,” a recurring theme in her editorial work. Her Instagram page is an endless stream of dewy, highlighter-dusted models commanding the foreground, making the accompanying creamy backdrops an afterthought. White makes everyone look beautiful. She gives emerging artists, expectant mothers, models, and A-list celebs the same treatment. Whether it’s a Lip Bar campaign, Flint Eastwood album release, or the Takers movie promo for Idris Elba (yes, that was her first paid booking), she is focused on creating an authentic connection with others, not basking in their status or their fame. “I do photography for the people, not the art,” says White. The Whlgns credit White as being the most business-minded one of the group — she showed up to the first meeting with her brand-new camera and took hold of the marketing and branding work of the group. Nowadays, about 80 percent of her time is spent in a room upstairs with a desk, a wooden table tagged with stickers, and a mannequin. This is where she works with clients to come up with ways to create compelling content. White is a no-nonsense workaholic who goes to sleep in the early evening then wakes up before the sun to research anything that interests her. Sometimes, she admits, her roomates’ laughter from downstairs pulls her from her little pocket of productivity. “They’re like brothers to me — having them around is really fucking awesome, and when people see us, everybody thinks we’re real-life related,” says White. There is an ease about the entire house, but Robinson and Steele share a synchronic familiarity that exceeds the typical best friend banter because they are cousins. Robinson and Steele are inversions of each other: One wears a sleeveless black sweatshirt with a white Nike logo and the other is in a shortsleeved white Rugby Ralph Lauren tee with “rugby” written in black. They both have shoulder-length dreads, and each pay homage to their eastside origins with tattoos: Steele reps 94 and Dickerson with a tattoo on his outer arm that reads “This that eastside shit” and Robinson reps his 94 and Chalmers upbringing with a subtle “313” tattoo on his wrist. “We can’t let people see our weakness because when they see weakness—” Steele starts. “They stop believing,” Robinson
finishes. Robinson is the low-key silent one, but he opens up when it’s time to talk about art and life and finding a balance between the two. Steele is the charismatic and energetic one. If this were a rap group, he would be the one delivering the catchy ad libs. The two have experienced a lot together, so when Steele dropped out of Michigan State around the same time that Tony headed to New York, it made sense for him to join in on the journey. “I left, came to New York and I became his manager. ... I didn’t even have a job, but I’m like, ‘I’m focused on something,’” says Steele. “We went from there.” They stayed for the next five months and then took a detour in California for a while, but Detroit continued to beckon them with a new crop of artistic opportunities including the African World Film Festival. For a while, they used White’s one-bedroom apartment in Midtown as a crash pad when they came back for events, but knew that eventually they would need a more sustainable, less crowded living arrangement for a longterm stay in the city. While the other Whlgn roomies have designated areas in the house, Steele is more of a free-floater. He cooks a lot in the kitchen and offers insight to the revolving door of creatives who visit. His ability to talk anyone through anything made him a great fit for being Tony’s manager. He’s the most active on social media, especially Instagram and Twitter. His Instagram is interspersed with workout stories, motivational snippets, and enough selfies to inspire others to take self care seriously. Sure, it’s spontaneous, but it’s also intentional. Most of the Whlgns specialize in specific artistic industries, but Steele’s art form is connection. “If you’re at peace with yourself and you love yourself, you have no problem helping others because you love yourself. Why not? Spread love,” says Steele. His next endeavor is a YouTube channel where he plans to share more motivational gems with the world. In some of his most recent videos, Steele sits in front of a backdrop spray-painted with Detroit’s cityscape, a nostalgic nod to his nightclub picture-taking setups from back in the day — the kind that yield the throwback pictures you will pull out when you want to remember what it looked like to live your best life with your best friends in your best outfits. Find out more about the members of Whlgn at tonywhlgn.com, instagram. com/ogxwhlgn, and breannwhite.com.
metrotimes.com metrotimes.com | | March March7-13, 7-13,2018 2018
Visuals moving musically Performance art on steroids — the mind-bending visual theater of Momix By Jerry Vile
Contemporary dance seems too stodgy and generic a label,
yet mere eye candy is far too trite to describe Momix. It’s been a while since they have toured, and fans (which would include most anyone who has ever seen them before) have no doubt already snatched up their seats. There is an excitement felt throughout the venue before the curtains go up — mass anticipation of the expected mind-blowing visual trip that is not going to fit in the confines of a theater. I was reluctantly dragged to see Momix my first time. I feared an evening of boredom — art can be a scary word and muscle memory recalls ass-squirming in seats for various art performances. I was not expecting the “mind = blown” experience, which seems to be the general consensus of any Momix production. Momix is true performance art: engaging yet so entertaining it should also be considered entertainment. Momix was created by “a series of accidents, like most everything in life,” explains founder Moses Pendleton, a self-described New England farm boy, who, after breaking his leg in a skiing accident, took up dance at Dartmouth to help heal. His final project was to create
his own production for the class, and from this experience Pendleton became one of the founders of the seminal dance company, Pilobolus. Momix splintered off from Pilobolus in 1981 and began a series of productions which have taken them around the world. I spoke with Pendleton from his Connecticut headquarters, where he explained his company’s aesthetic. “I see Momix as a visual physical theater,” he says. “It uses dance, it uses acrobatics, gymnastics, and highly athletic dancers… but it also uses costumes and lighting and sound and props, almost on an equal level, to give you that overall kind of visual physical theater.” In layperson terms, it’s fast-moving, ever-changing, and never boring. The audience is bombarded with effects, lighting, and visual trickery, while impossibly talented dancers perform lush illusionary moves to an entrancing soundscape. In so many ways, Momix has more in common with Cirque du Soleil than a modern ballet or dance, which explains the popularity of the company. “It’s a theater of images that move through time and space,” Pendleton says. “You could call it dance, but it’s visuals moving musically. It doesn’t really tell a
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story, but it kind of reflects the reality of fantasy, which is kind of our working idea. People don’t have to expect a lot out of Momix, except to take a trip.“ Pendleton created Opus Cactus after he was commissioned by Ballet Arizona to create a piece inspired by the flora and fauna of the American Southwest desert. He was so taken by the desert that he expanded it into a full evening program, which was turned into a Momix production 10 years ago. Today Pendleton has recreated the piece, with “a new look, fresh energy, and fun surprises.” Pendleton reveals what’s in store: “It has several sections, it’s kind of like an album with several singles — side A, side B. There is not an overall story so much as an impression, as if someone were walking in the desert botanical garden and you don’t know what’s coming next. Hopefully it’s not a rattlesnake you are stepping on,” he laughs. “But it is these surreal vaudeville acts that are connected thematically to the desert that keep flowing in front of your eyes.” “It’s more ancient than contemporary,” Pendleton elaborates. “We draw on nature and that nature precedes humans. So I made contact with sunlight and cacti and rock formations and the
strange illusions in the Sonoran Desert of the Southwest U.S. as an inspiration, and that takes us further back. I look at myself almost as an archaeologist going on a dig. And sometime if you scrape the human, ever so slightly, you see that we’re more cactus or aardvark or something else.” “So it’s kind of the basis of my aesthetic,” he says. “Momix’s aesthetic is to make contact, to have the human make contact with the non-human — the plant and animal and the mineral, in this particular case it’s the cactus we are focusing in on, and seeing what connections the human form has, both emotionally and physically.” If that sounds a little new age, remember the visuals of Momix are more akin to dropping a hit of LSD 25 before that walk in the desert. Pendleton sums it up: “Hopefully the audience walks out with a little less gravity in their step and we’ve all had a good time.” Momix’s Opus Cactus will be performed at 8 p.m. on Friday, March 9 at the Whiting, 1241 Kearsley St., Flint; 810-237-7333; thewhiting.com; Tickets are $30-45. Another performance will be held at 8 p.m. on Saturday, March 10 at Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts, 350 Madison St., Detroit; 313887-8500; musichall.org; Tickets are $30-$50. More information is available at momix.com. firstname.lastname@example.org @metrotimes
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NEWS & VIEWS Higher Ground
Freeing the POWs of the War on Drugs By Larry Gabriel
The notion that this coming
season will be the marijuana election in Michigan got a boost recently when gubernatorial candidate Shri Thanedar made a curious statement. He announced that if voters legalize recreational marijuana in November’s election, then people imprisoned for low-level marijuana offenses should be released. The notion seemed to come out of nowhere — just as Thanedar seems to have, as far as the politics are concerned. It was a surprise because expunging the records of those arrested is not the hot topic du jour for the marijuana crowd. The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol has basically been lying low since turning the petitions to put the question on the ballot over to the state. Right now the ball is in the state’s court on what to do. Thanedar’s statement is curious because it presupposes that the question will be on the ballot (we’re still not sure yet) and then pass. Then he stakes out a position to the left of the CRMLA — which is pretty gutsy for anyone running for governor in Michigan. Maybe he caught the news a couple of weeks ago that the district attorney of California’s Alameda County intends to vacate thousands of past marijuana convictions. It’s happened elsewhere. Earlier, the San Francisco County district attorney announced plans to review, dismiss, and seal some 3,000 misdemeanor marijuana convictions going back to 1975. Actually, California’s legalization that passed in 2016 included a provision that allowed people who have been convicted of marijuana crimes to have their charges lowered or wiped away. Colorado, Maryland, New Hampshire, and Oregon have created avenues for marijuana convictions to be sealed or expunged. Massachusetts is looking at something similar, as well as Seattle. It seems a natural extension of rolling back prohibition to show retroactive justice to those whose original charges are no longer considered crimes. This is important, because having a marijuana conviction can cripple a person’s ability to get aid for education, or to find a job or housing. That means
that if you are struggling, you are essentially blocked from many official means of getting back on your feet. On top of that, since marijuana laws are unequally enforced in black and brown communities, the effects of the marijuana stigma are magnified for black and brown people. The ripple effect of marijuana stigma and disenfranchisement affects the entire community. So why aren’t we talking about it here? It’s not that marijuana activists in Michigan don’t support the notion — it’s come up plenty during the course of the legalization push. It’s just that the notion is a plus-one in the current effort to legalize marijuana. “We expect to be able to do something with that after legalization is
but when it comes to political office holders and candidates it is a partisan issue. From party platforms to legislative initiatives, Democrats have clearly been the political leaders in shaking off marijuana prohibition. A former state representative from Ann Arbor, Democrat Jeff Irwin, has been a star on the issue and should continue that in his current bid for the state Senate. Republicans, relatively speaking, are all over the place. Traditional rightwingers trend negative against marijuana; libertarian-minded Republicans tend to prefer leaving it up to the people; the so-called alt right seems to be mixed up on the subject. This is no endorsement for Thanedar. To be honest, he seems to be using the
This is important, because having a marijuana conviction can cripple a person’s ability to get aid for education, or to find a job or housing. passed by the voters,” says attorney Matt Abel, executive director of Michigan NORML. “Adding it to the current initiative could have been problematic, as it may have violated the single-subject rule for initiatives.” It’s also just a bigger bite for voters to try to digest. So, you want to legalize marijuana and let all the marijuana convicts out of jail? That may be doable, but working on just one question at a time makes sense. And it’s not like somebody is going to forget about the issue. After Thanedar’s press release, the other two leading Democratic hopefuls, Gretchen Whitmer and Abdul El-Sayed, agreed with the idea, as well as three Democratic attorney general candidates. None of the leading Republican candidates hopped on. That brings out another point. Marijuana activists claim that legalization is not a partisan issue. That may be the case among grassroots activists,
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same let-me-entertain-you style that Rick Snyder used to introduce himself to the public. And while he claims the scientist label, he is also a businessman. In the age of Snyder and Trump, the results of putting entertaining businessmen into office don’t look so good. At the same time, Thanedar’s approach to marijuana shows not only an enlightened attitude about marijuana, it displays a knack for keeping himself in the public consciousness in a game in which name recognition is half the battle — it may be even more. And it shows either courage, a savvy reading of the public mood, or a reckless crashand-burn approach. As much as things have relaxed regarding marijuana, in the past decade, the stigma of being involved with it is still strong. There are people who are openly and legally doing marijuana business who don’t want to talk to me about it, don’t want to talk on the record, don’t want their names in the
paper associated with it. They don’t want their families to know what they’re doing, they don’t want business associates to know what they’re doing, they don’t want to attract attention from the authorities. Part of it comes from the old stigmas, and part from a state government that has been downright antagonistic to the medical marijuana law from a law enforcement perspective, and slow to accommodate it from a legislative perspective. Maybe that could change this year. And maybe some of the people who have had their lives damaged due to their nonviolent involvement with marijuana can get some restoration. I’m no seer — and this Michigan election could go in any number of directions — but there are some indicators. It might be the Flint backlash election; it could be the Trump backlash blue wave election; it could be a red double-down on the Trump agenda election. It could be the green wave marijuana election. It could be more than one of them. Actually, mixing the blue and green to create a nice aqua wave sounds pretty good right now.
Hash Bash is looming:
The Hash Bash, now in its 47th year, is coming up on the first Saturday in April. That other notorious event, the Monroe Street Fair, marks its 17th year on April 7, with a full slate of the usual treats. Now another Hash Bash appendage has grown with the three-day Hash Bash Cup in its second year at the Wyndham Garden Hotel and Hampton Inn & Suites Friday through Sunday that weekend. With a few more tie-ins, Hash Bash will soon be the thing that ate Ann Arbor. email@example.com @gumbogabe
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I’m an 18-year-old cis hetero girl from Australia and I’ve been listening to your podcast and reading your column since I was 13. Thanks to you I’m pretty open-minded about my sexuality and body. Having said that, I do have a few questions. I started watching porn from a youngish age with no real shame attached but I have some concerns. 1. I get off really quickly to lesbian porn but it never feels like a “good” orgasm. My guess is that subconsciously I think it’s inauthentic and therefore degrading. 2. I really enjoy and have the best orgasms to vintage gay male porn and trans FTM porn, which seems odd to me because I’m so far removed from the sexual acts that these kind of porn movies
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portray but I always feel satisfied after getting off to them. 3. I get off to tit slapping videos but it screws with me morally. I understand why I like these kinds of videos. I have quite large breasts and I feel resentment toward them. It seems both morally wrong toward the progress I’ve made toward accepting my body and also to the message being sent about violence toward women. Care to weigh in? — Concerned About Porn Preferences
1. There are gay men who watch straight porn, lesbians who watch gay porn, and 18-year-old hetero girls in Australia who watch lesbian porn and vintage gay porn and trans FTM porn. So many people get off watching porn that isn’t supposed to be for them — so many people fantasize about, watch, and sometimes do things that aren’t supposed to be for them — that we have to view these quote/ unquote transgressions as a feature of human sexuality, not a bug. 2. Lesbian porn gets you off, vintage gay porn and trans FTM gets you off, but you feel conflicted after watching lesbian porn because it seems inauthentic. That’s understandable — a lot of so-called lesbian porn is inauthentic, in that it’s made by and for straight men and features non-lesbian women going through the lesbian motions (often with long and triggering-for-actual-lesbians fingernails). Some gay porn features gay-for-pay straight male actors, of course, but most gay porn features gay actors doing what they love; the same goes for most trans FTM porn, which is a small and mostly indie niche. I suspect your orgasms are just as good when you watch lesbian porn, CAPP, but the sense — suppressed when you were turned on, surfacing once you’re not — that the performers weren’t really enjoying themselves taints your lesbian-pornenhanced orgasms in retrospect. The solution? Seek out lesbian porn featuring actual lesbians — authentic lesbian porn is out there. (I found a bunch with a quick Google search.) 3. Sometimes we overcome the negative messaging our culture sends us about our identities or bodies only after our erotic imaginations have seized on the fears or self-loathing induced by those messages and turned them into kinks. Take small-penis humiliation (SPH). Before a guy can ask a partner to indulge him in SPH, CAPP, he has to accept (and kind of dig) his small cock. So
March7-13, 7-13,2018 2018 | | metrotimes.com metrotimes.com 56 March
By Dan Savage
the acceptance is there, but the kink — a turn-on rooted in a resolved conflict — remains. It can be freeing to regard a kink like SPH or your thing for tit slapping as a reward — as the only good thing to come out of the shitty zap the culture put on the head of a guy with a small cock or, in your case, a young woman with large breasts. So long as we seek out other consenting adults who respect us and our bodies, we can have our kinks — even those that took root in the manure of negative cultural messaging — and our self-acceptance and self-esteem, too.
I have a deepthroating fetish. All the porn I watch is nothing but rough, sloppy blowjobs. I would love nothing more than to watch this kind of porn with my boyfriend, so we can add it the bedroom excitement, but I’m embarrassed to share this as a straight female. How do I go about sharing a fetish I have? Do I tell him over a candlelit dinner? Do I just turn some deepthroating porn on and see what happens? Help! — Deepthroat Queen
There’s never really a bad time to tell someone they won the lottery, DQ. Over a candlelit dinner, pop in some porn, send him a singing telegram — however you decide to tell him, DQ, the odds that he’ll react negatively are pretty low. Of course, watching someone deep throat and doing it yourself are two different things, DQ. You won’t be able to go from disclosing your kink to realizing it during that candlelit dinner. Take it slow, maybe watch a few how-to videos in addition to the porn, find the positions and angles that work for you, etc., and work your way up to taking him all the way down.
I’m a 32-year-old male. I recently met a hot older woman, age 46, who has told me she finds me equally hot. I’ve always preferred older women. I just love their confidence and their comfort in their own skin. They’re just so much sexier than my-age cohorts. The problem is that I take a serious interest in feminism. I think I do pretty well with the overt stuff: I don’t mansplain, I call out peers who ignore sexism, and I don’t objectify women, even when I do find them attractive. (Small steps, but steps nonetheless.) But when I see this woman and we flirt like mad, my brain just shuts off and all I can think about is her hot bod and the many hours I want to spend with it. However, I worry that she’s spent her whole life
relying on her looks to gain validation from men, and that my brain-dead, loinsalive attraction is only perpetuating her objectification. Is that so? Or am I just overthinking things? — Man, I Love Feminism
A: At the risk of dansplaining…
There’s nothing feminist about slagging off younger women to justify your attraction to older women. You like what you like and you can own that without implying that younger women lack confidence and aren’t comfortable in their own skins. The same culture that put the zap on CAPP’s head for having large breasts — her breasts attracted unwanted attention and she resented her breasts and now gets off on erotic images of breasts being punished (even though she now knows her breasts weren’t the problem) — put the zap on your head. Men, young and old, are supposed to be attracted to younger women. You’re not attracted to younger women, you’re attracted to older women; instead of accepting that, you feel compelled to justify it by comparing younger women to older women and declaring — again, by implication — that there’s something wrong with younger women. You sound like one of those gay men who can’t tell you why he’s attracted to dudes without also (or only) telling you what he dislikes about women. As for objectification, MILF, the problem with objectification is when the person doing the objectifying isn’t capable of simultaneously seeing the object of their affections as a three-dimensional human being with desires, fears, and agency of their own. Technically, MILF, we are all objects — “a material thing that can be seen and touched” — but unlike, say, Fleshlights or vibrators, we feel joy and pain and have wants and needs. You can’t help being drawn to this woman’s externals; there’s a huge visual component to human attraction and, as your thing for older women demonstrates, there isn’t one universal standard of beauty. So long as you can objectify someone while at the same time appreciating their full humanity — so long as you can walk that walk and chew that gum — you don’t have to feel like a bad feminist for objectifying someone. (Particularly when that someone is clearly objectifying you!) On the Lovecast — Finally! Porn that makes consent SEXY: savagelovecast. com. firstname.lastname@example.org @fakedansavage
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CULTURE ARIES: March 21 – April 20
It’s now or never — at least that’s what it feels like. After an endless round of challenges, it’s time for the waters of the Red Sea to part and grant your wish. How this goes will vary from person to person. If you have learned your lessons, and triumphed over your suffering, all will be well. In fact, the road from here will see you moving through a rebirth. If you are still making excuses, and whining about what didn’t go right, you can expect more of the same. As the next few months unfold, it will behoove all of you to remain in integrity and be willing to bow to the will of heaven. TAURUS: April 21 – May 20
By Cal Garrison
LEO: July 21 – August 20
As crazy as things look, you are here for a reason. The need to keep biding your time will require a willingness to go with the flow and pay close attention to the signs. It will take a month or two for the latest clue to the new direction to lead you on to the next thing. During that interval there are bound to be opportunities that test your grip on reality. Overextending yourself, physically, emotionally, or financially will create problems. Do your best to keep your head on straight. Getting involved in fly-by-night schemes, or with fly-by-night people, are pitfalls that need to be avoided. VIRGO: Aug. 21 – Sept. 20
Getting real is what it comes down to. If you are the least bit deluded watch out. This means that you have to stop pretending that you’re OK with things that aren’t working for you. It could also mean that you’ve got to 86 the idea that you’ve got it all figured out. Problems will arise if you are too proud to bow down in the face of things that have gotten to be too much for you. Don’t be too proud to admit that you are wrong if situations call for it. A good dose of humility is just what is needed to get back to square one. Ground yourself well in preparation for what is to come.
What’s going on right now amounts to a reality check that, with any luck, will set you off on a whole new course. It’s important that you get out of your own way and pay attention to the signs. This means that what is about to transpire has nothing to do with who you think you are, or what you’ve always been: Your truer purpose is what matters now. If you need to quit, split, or move, go for it. To remain in any situation that has turned you into a drone amounts to a form of suicide. Your life is at stake. Waking up to the fact that you have a purpose is where it’s at right now.
GEMINI: May 21 – June 20
LIBRA: Sept. 21 – Oct. 20
To keep on going against all odds could be getting old. If it’s not one thing, it’s another. Even though you are a whiz at handling multiple variables, buckling under the weight of your current affairs is a theme that is challenging many of you. Those of you who keep hoping for the light at the end of the tunnel to show up and take the edge off all of this will have a harder time than those of you who have figured out how to consider the uses of adversity. A sense of humor is mandatory at times like this. Take heart knowing that something incredible will be honed from your efforts. CANCER: June 21 – July 20
It’s been an intense time. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Intensity always shows up when we dive deeper into our lives. Heartbreak is on the menu for some of you. For others it comes down to the age-old issues that show up whenever life calls us to confront ourselves. As you attempt to snap out of it you’re finding that it’s impossible to go back to whoever you thought you were. Our greatest strides take place when our backs are to the wall. Keep that in mind and look for the silver lining in an experience that is actually culling the best parts of you out of what’s left of the past.
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You would love it if all of this would settle down. The fact that you have to keep trying to make yourself feel better about things that have totally rocked your world is making it hard to come across as the person people expect you to be. Everything happens for a reason and it looks like it’s time for the deeper part of you to express itself openly. Strains in your relationships are par for the course. Don’t think less of yourself for being unable to turn on your usual “Happy Face.” Turning over a new leaf will require those close to you to adjust to the fact that you’ve woken up. SCORPIO: Oct. 21 – Nov. 20
You’re just waking up to the fact that you don’t know everything. Whatever you expected your current situation to look like, it seems to bear no resemblance to what you had in mind. This could ultimately turn out to be a good thing. Why? Because your perceptions have been confined to a pinhole, and you have been in dire need of anything that will serve to broaden your horizons. The last few months have tested you. As you get used to the fact that these lessons have served a greater purpose, you will discover a new reason for living hiding behind this dark cloud of unknowing.
SAGITTARIUS: Nov. 21 – Dec. 20
You are immersed in situations that require you to remain in integrity no matter what. This will be more difficult for some of you than it will be for others. As the next few months unravel, what you have to wake up to will blow your socks off, and give you a serious run for your money. Being clear enough to remain centered during a wakeup call calls for a willingness to confront the last thing you want to see. The ability to reckon with the truth is easier for some of us than it is for others. Don’t let your denial mechanisms keep you stuck playing games on the same old chessboard. CAPRICORN: Dec. 21 - Jan. 20
If you’ve given yourself up to the ego’s dictates you are walking on thin ice. Some of you know this and are doing everything in your power to tread lightly. This has required you to haul back and address the need to be careful about making too many waves. In no time at all, a whole new set of variables will add their weight to what is now a precarious situation. Part of this lesson is teaching you to be OK with anything. Do your best to keep a lid on your expectations and be aware that what does not work out the way you planned will not keep you from moving forward. AQUARIUS: Jan. 21 – Feb. 20
Your tests revolve around the need to lighten up and trust the fact that your higher self has everything under control. The less you stress out about whether or not things will come through, the more likely it is that they will. Worry and fear won’t do much to help bring this to fruition. As much as you are sincere in your desires, you know as well as I do that wanting anything too much pushes it away. Finding space and time to reflect upon the fact that you will be fine no matter what happens would help enormously. And as the saying goes: “Why worry, when you can pray?” PISCES: Feb. 21 – March 20
At the point where everything is about to come together, there is always a danger that things fall apart. You have been waiting for this to hatch for at least 4 years. With everything at stake, and all of your eggs in one basket, what matters now is your ability to stay cool and carry this to fruition. Distractions of one sort or another always show up at times like this. The need to be focused challenges forces that have done everything in their power to pull you off the track. At rock bottom, your oldest fears loom over a situation that will only succeed if you rise above them.
| March 7-13, 2018