Boing Boing 

WATCH: Detroit ruin porn in reverse - David Whitney Building

The Detroit News has an uplifting story about the David Whitney Building, newly renovated in time for its centennial celebration. Think reverse ruin porn.

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NZ's National Party sued by Eminem for copyright infringement

The National Party was instrumental in passing the harsh "strict liability" NZ copyright laws that offer no relief from liability, even for people who buy licenses that turn out to have been offered in error -- as appears to be the case in the National Party campaign ad that used Lose Yourself for bed music.

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SF predicting the present: novel anticipated Detroit water crisis

Paul Di Filippo describes Ben Parzybok's new novel, Sherwood Nation: "The book is obviously as headline-friendly as the Ferguson riots, inequality debates, Occupy protests and climate change reports; but there's also a Joseph Conrad-Grahame Greene-Shakespeare style concern with the nature of power, the roles that are thrust upon us, and the limits of friendship and love."

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Michigan's Penguicon will focus on crypto and privacy this year

Scott sez, "Privacy and security has been a huge problem since the Snowden revelations, and midwest SF/open source software convention Penguicon [ed: near Detroit!] wants to be part of the solution. With Guest of Honor Eva Galperin from the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Cory Doctorow returning as Guest Emeritus, much of their tech track is focused on finding answers to the recent privacy problems highlighted by Snowden. Pre-registration tickets are available until April 1st. Programming was just announced." (Thanks, Scott!)

Historic "mixfilm" in Detroit this weekend

Archivist Rick Prelinger sez, "I'm bringing a new archival 'mixfilm' on Detroit's rich history to the beautifully restored, vintage-1927 Detroit Film Theatre this weekend. This is the fourth of my Detroit compilations, and it's packed with new footage (especially home movies shot by Detroiters themselves) that's never before been publicly screened. It's a fully participatory show, meaning that viewers (hopefully you) are invited to identify places, people and events, ask questions, and converse with one another as the film unreels. And it's anything but nostalgic -- rather than lamenting what's gone, it aims to contribute to the ongoing, spirited discussion about Detroit's future, and encourage people to talk with one another."

Events: Detroit Film Theatre — The Detroit Institute of Arts Auxiliary (Thanks, Rick!)

Riding around Detroit's derelict Packard plant on a homemade dirt-bike

A reader writes, "In late October, we shot some video in Detroit's abandoned Packard plant. The reasons included, to test a motorcycle I built, and also to practice flying our drone. This is not a closed course, and not a professional rider. We were just looking to have some fun. Please enjoy."

Exploring Detroit's Packard plant on a dirt bike

Free houses for writers

Writeahouse is a Detroit-based charity that trains people in carpentry and related trades by having them renovate houses, then gives the houses to writers (novelists, journalists, poets), encouraging them to relocate to Detroit. Applications open in spring 2014. Writers are given a house that is 80 percent renovated, and are responsible for finishing the work and paying insurance and taxes. After two years, they are given the deed to the house, with the stipulation that if they sell the house within five years, Writeahouse gets the right to buy it back at an independently appraised value.

WRITEAHOUSE.ORG (Thanks, Fipi Lele!)

Monster portraits made from candy mosaics: TOTALLY SWEET!

Eric writes, "I am Eric Millikin and I am an experimental artist from Detroit who has created a series of portraits of monsters, each built out of Halloween candy. I call this series 'Totally Sweet.' So far, this series includes everything from classic monsters like The Bride of Frankenstein to modern killers from slasher movies. And I've been taking requests; one of my favorites has been Gort, the alien killer robot from the 1950s sci-fi classic, 'The Day the Earth Stood Still.'"

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Fake cops robbing Detroiters turn out to be real cops

They did it in uniform. Amy Lange with Fox 2 News Detroit:

A Good Samaritan snapped photos of what appeared to be two men impersonating police officers involved in a pistol-whipping and robbery outside a Citgo gas station on Detroit's east side on July 21. Once Fox 2 aired those photos, an even more disturbing picture developed. ... Now under arrest are two police sergeants, a 47-year-old officer and 20-year veteran.

Don't worry, everything will be ok, they have a Robocop statue.

Short video about Detroit makerspace

I enjoyed Dark Rye's video about I3's Nicholas Britsky and the maker movement in Detroit. Dark Rye's entire Detroit issue is excellent.

Travel guide to Detroit written by seventh-gen locals: "Belle Isle to 8 Mile"

Rick Prelinger sez, "I'm not a Detroiter, but I've been visiting from time to time since the 1980s, and I hope you will too. It's really unfortunate that most of what we see and hear about it amounts to repetition of the same old cliches -- deindustrialization, poverty, ruins, hipsters, cheap houses. But Detroit's much more than that. It's one of America's most fascinating cities, and if you want to see its unique combination of long-term residents, mostly African American, with rock-hard faith in their city, and new Detroiters aspiring to build Utopia, you better get on a plane soon.

"And when you go, bring Belle Isle to 8 Mile. I just got my own copy, written by three siblings who are seventh-generation Detroiters. It's full of hundreds of city landmarks, eating places and arts spaces, but it's more than the ordinary hip insider travel guide. I see it as testimony to places and businesses that have survived years of adversity and disrespect, as well as an incredibly deep guide to the new Detroit, which is an uncommonly exciting city. Excellent, inspiring read."

Belle Isle to 8 Mile: An Insider's Guide to Detroit (Thanks, Rick!)

Kathe Koja's "Under the Poppy": farewell stage performances in Detroit this April

Kathe Koja's brilliant novel Under the Poppy -- a dark, romantic, swirling wartime intrigue -- was adapted for stage in her hometown of Detroit. It had a very successful run, and the crew and cast are coming together for a final series of performances this April, where the audience is encouraged to sport Victorian fancy dress. If I could make it to Detroit, I would be there for every show.

Poppy opens in a middle-European town on the eve of war, sometime in the late 19th century: a disreputable and dirty town full of brothels and cutpurses and spies and intrigue. One such brothel, Under the Poppy, stands apart from the others: it is more than seller of sex: it is a stage where every night, whores act out fantastic playlets, spurred on by the virtuoso piano-playing of a tongueless player who expresses himself in mime and music.

To the Poppy comes Istvan, a puppeteer whose mecs -- elaborate clockwork automata -- are perfectly suited to the Poppy's stage, being endowed with enormous clockwork organs and Istvan's bawdy and funny-cruel ventriloquism. But Istvan isn't just a travelling jongleur; he is the long-lost brother of Decca, the madame of the house, and the long-lost lover of Rupert, the front-of-the-house man. All three were orphans together in the long-ago, until love and anger drove them apart. Now, reunited, they might have all they ever wanted.

Except for the war. The war, threatening from the distance, is coming to town. With it come conspirators and commanders: Jurgen Vidor, a sexually sadistic mercantile empire-builder; Mr Arrowsmith, the special aide to to the coming forces, and the General, commander of the armies and participant in the vast conspiracy that seeks to take all of Europe for a small cabal of rich and secretive men.

War descends, dreams are smashed, old friendships split at the seams, blood is spilled, the brave are braver, the cowards cover themselves in shame, and coarse soldiers take up residence in the Poppy. When the players and the whores flee for Brussels, the dream is at an end.

This is just the first act, and it's merely the setup for a second act that's long enough to be a book in its own right, in which the stories of minor and major characters retwine: love and betrayal, blackmail and beatings, sex and death, all in that gummy blackness of stained cobbles and old blood.

This book made me drunk. Koja's language is at its poetic best, and the epic drama had me digging my nails into my palms. It's like a Tom Waits hurdy-gurdy loser's lament come to life, as sinister as a dark circus.

Under the Poppy | Under the Poppy Farewell Performance (Thanks, Kathe!)

Theatre Bizarre: Stupendous yearly Halloween ball in Detroit

The coolest thing that I saw at the Detroit Maker Faire in 2011 was John Dunivant's Theatre Bizarre. John (right) is an immensely talented artist who creates stages, costumes, artwork, carnival attractions, signs, and everything else that goes into an amazing yearly Halloween show held at the abandoned Michigan State Fairgrounds in Detroit. I was blown away by John's sideshow culture creations (see my photos here), and when I talked to John, I was impressed by his deep knowledge of monster artists, such as Basil Gogos, whose work is an inspiration. It costs about $250,000 to produce this one-night event, and if you anywhere near Detroit, I highly recommend attending. Here are the details:

John Dunivant, the man behind Theatre Bizarre -- the legendary underground Halloween masquerade -- will once again hold Detroit’s most elite partygoers in his thrall using the seductive force of his latest creation -- The Summoning.

For the first decade of the 21st century, Theatre Bizarre broke the laws of man and nature. On one night each year, a dark carnival came to life in the shadow of the now abandoned Michigan State Fairgrounds in one of the Motor City’s most dangerous neighborhoods. The lucky few who were able to get tickets for the annual event were treated to a show unlike any other, at a place that could only exist in a city that has better things to do than enforce zoning laws. Complete with ferris wheel, a roller coaster and a half-dozen stages, Theatre Bizarre was an immersive, decadent, pyrotechnic marvel until it became too large for even Detroit to ignore. In 2010 it was shut down. Thousands of diehard fans and true believers mourned.

In 2011, Dunivant and his crew (most of whom are volunteers) introduced the world to their new home and their new direction. The Initiation was held in late October at Detroit’s Masonic Temple -- the largest temple of its kind in the world. The venue’s confounding architecture and shadowy history dovetailed perfectly with Dunivant’s new vision.

“There’s a secret society,” explained Dunivant. “Templum Balatro. The Temple of the Fool. We celebrate decay -- the decay of society, of moral fiber, of the flesh. We don’t whistle past the graveyard. We dance in it.”

The sprawling temple played host to hundreds of music acts, sideshow performers, burlesque dancers, dominatrixes, suspension artists and the onstage branding of volunteers from an eager pool of thrill-seeking attendees. In cloaks and masks, the crowd reveled in the shameless, sweaty decadence of unfettered indulgence. Last year, the revelers were initiated. This year, they are summoned.

The Summoning will be held on October 20, 2012 at The Masonic Temple at 500 Temple Street in downtown Detroit. The doors open at 7pm. Included in the featured acts will be Miss Exotic World of 2010, Miss Roxi DLite. Food and drinks will be available for purchase. All attendees must be 21 years of age or older. Costumes are mandatory. Tickets will be available for $65 each beginning Saturday, September 15 at the DIY Street Fair in Ferndale. Details about online and retail sales of tickets are available at

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Turning out the streetlights in "distressed" parts of Detroit

In Bloomberg, Chris Christoff reports on the city of Detroit's plan to switch off up to half of its municipal streetlights, reducing or eliminating public lighting in "distressed" areas, noting that other cities, including neighboring Highland Park, as well as Colorado Springs, have already done this:

A single, broken streetlight on the northeast side brings fear to Cynthia Perry, 55. It hasn’t worked for six years, Perry said in an interview on the darkened sidewalk where she walks from her garage to her house entrance.

“I’m afraid coming in at night,” she said. “I’m not going to seclude myself in the house and never go anywhere.”

In southwest Detroit, businesses on West Vernor Highway, a main commercial thoroughfare, have sought $4 million in private grants to fix the situation themselves. The state would pay $2.5 million, said Kathy Wendler, president of the Southwest Detroit Business Association.

Jamahl Makled, 40, said he’s owned businesses in southwest Detroit for about two decades, most recently cell-phone stores. He said they’ve have been burglarized more than a dozen times.

“In the dark, criminals are comfortable,” Makled said. “It’s not good for the economy and the safety of the residents.”

Half of Detroit’s Streetlights May Go Out as City Shrinks (via Rejectamentalist Manifesto)

Design fiction about cities divided by international borders

Madeline Ashby sez, "The Border Town design studio has been invited to the Detroit Design Festival to exhibit costumes, board games, 3D-printed snowglobes, mixtapes, and other kipple of an awesome nature about cities divided by international borders. I wrote a story scattered over the Internet about the future of border security in Istanbul, and Wednesday I'll open my first art installation where visitors can explore it. Our team has met and exceeded our initial kickstarter request, but we're still looking for funds to take the exhibit elsewhere and to build new prototypes. If you're in Detroit next week, please come say hi!"

Car-crash-themed art show opening in NYC this Friday

Burnlab sez, "Detroit-based artist & designer Bethany Shorb's solo gallery show opening at Devotion Gallery in New York this Friday is a culmination of three years of car crash themed work [after a crash that only modern safety engineering allowed her to not to leave this world prematurely] in a variety of media - from screen printing the visages of Isadora Duncan, James Dean & Lady Di on deployed airbags, to quotes from Ballard's "Crash" assembled from car lettering scavenged from junkyards."

Help Detroit build a Robocop statue

Photo: Aparna
Detroit's future has a silver lining: a statue of its legendary protector, Robocop. Denied funding by the cash-strapped city, the project's supporters set up a kickstarter project, which is already nearly half way to its $50,000 goal. The project came to be after a tweet sent to Detroit's mayor requesting the erection of said statue got a reply—in the negative. A Facebook group later and an offer of land by the Imagination Station (near Michigan Central Station) and the statue could soon be a done deal.
None of us have ever made a giant solid metal permanent sculpture before. It turns out to be a pretty expensive process (who would have thought?), but not too much for the world to fund. After talking to numerous sculptors and metal workers, the current game plan is this: We can take a relatively small figure of RoboCop (conceivably even an action figure), have it 3D scanned by lasers (cool!) and scale its form to create a light-weight model of any size we'd like, which can then be used to pour and cast liquid metal. Casey V. Westbrook and crew are currently leading the charge to create a weatherized 7 foot tall iron statue. Take a look at his work here. The last project Casey worked on was an epic action installation with Matthew Barney in Detroit. See a picture and read about it in Art Forum here.
People who pledge $100 will get a limited edition T-shirt with original artwork by project organizer John Leonard. $35 gets you a commemorative pin. Detroit needs a Robocop statue [Kickstarter.]

1961 was the year of the Batmobile

Judging from the 1960 Mechanix Illustrated preview of the 1961 Detroit auto lineup, 61 was the year of the Batmobile. It's all bubble roofs, tailfins, huge anthropomorphic grilles, and go-faster curves.
So far as the standard lines are concerned, the biggest change for 1960 will be the virtual abandonment of fins by the finniest company--Chrysler. Sweeping fender lines will be seen on the 1961 Plymouth rather than the upraised extensions of the past; there will be a complete re- vamping of that line's body shell in the wake of its not-fully-successful 1960 selling season.

The smoothing and new treatment of the Plymouth will be echoed in variations on the other Chrysler Corp. cars; the fin treatments on those other cars will be reduced to a bare minimum. And the daddy of big fins, Cadillac, is going to de-fin if reports are true.

What some stylists call "blades" will tend to replace fins all through the industry, blade treatment being what you saw this past year on Ford and Chevrolet.

The Chrysler wedge shape will continue but less exaggeratedly. GM bodies will provide more headroom. Ford's bodies will be more square at the corners than heretofore; their blades will slant upward a little more than was the case in 1960. Ford will introduce a kind of grille treatment at the rear, embellished with bull's-eye taillights like those of past years.

PREVIEW OF THE 1961 CARS (Jul, 1960)

Detroit has grocery stores!

James Griffioen's "Yes There Are Grocery Stores in Detroit" is a look at the oft-repeated "truth" that "Detroit has no grocery stores." Griffioen points out that while there aren't any national chains in the USA's 11th-largest city, there is a large regional chain, several good independent stores, and at least one fantastic local, community-oriented store:
What surprises most people who've heard that there are no grocery stores in Detroit is that there are actually independent stores far more appealing than any chain. One of the nicest grocery stores in Detroit is Honeybee La Colmena (I wrote an extensive profile about the store here). Honeybee is owned and operated by individuals who grew up and still live in the neighborhood where the store is located and they have created dozens of jobs for their neighbors. Honeybee has some of the best produce and prepared foods in the metro area, and it is actually a Detroit supermarket where people from the suburbs come into the city to shop.

In addition to Honeybee, Southwest Detroit is also served by several other excellent Supermercados, including E & L, La Fiesta Market, Gigante Prince, Ryan's, and dozens of smaller mom-and-pop grocery stores. The far east side has Joe Randazzo's Produce Market for extremely affordable produce, and the far westside has Metro Foodland, a fine independent supermarket serving Rosedale and Grandmont for more than 25 years. An individual recently purchased a vacant storefront in the middle class neighborhood of Lafayette Park (where I live) and plans to open a full-service supermarket there this Spring. He's bullish on its prospects despite another supermarket operating three blocks down the road and the neighborhood's close proximity to Eastern Market. A family that's been in the Detroit grocery business since the 1950s is reopening their Ye Olde Butcher Shoppe on Woodward Avenue in a new Midtown location this year, complimenting the offerings at Kim's Produce just down the road, as well as Goodwells Natural Foods a few blocks over.

Griffioen admits that many of the areas of the city are un- or underserved and living in "food poverty", but wants the press to focus on the innovative solutions the community has come up with to remedy this, like a church-owned ice-cream truck full of fresh produce.

Yes There Are Grocery Stores in Detroit (via Making Light)

Turn a quarter of Detroit into "semi-rural" farms?

The city of Detroit is proposing to give over a quarter of its land to be turned into "semi-rural" fields and farms, with the surviving neighborhoods standing in "pockets in expanses of green." The proposal is politically charged (serving a death-sentence on a whole neighborhood is bound to be controversial) but the idea of "downsizing" Detroit seems to have wide acceptance.

And yes, this entire thing was predicted by David Byrne in 1988 in the song "(Nothing But) Flowers" on the final Talking Heads album Naked.

Operating on a scale never before attempted in this country, the city would demolish houses in some of the most desolate sections of Detroit and move residents into stronger neighborhoods. Roughly a quarter of the 139-square-mile city could go from urban to semi-rural.

Near downtown, fruit trees and vegetable farms would replace neighborhoods that are an eerie landscape of empty buildings and vacant lots. Suburban commuters heading into the city center might pass through what looks like the countryside to get there. Surviving neighborhoods in the birthplace of the auto industry would become pockets in expanses of green.

Detroit looks at downsizing to save city (Thanks, Rigel!)

(Image: Garden grows, a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike image from Payton Chung's photostream)

Stop robot poverty: i3 Detroit hackerspace fundraiser

Nick from i3 Detroit hackerspace sez, "We all know that robot poverty is a major problem but no one is taking any steps to help combat it...until now. Help i3 Detroit, Detroit's Hackerspace, move to our bigger 8,000 sq/ft location and fight the causes of Robot Poverty. Most robots don't have the basic alcohol they need to survive or the tanks of pneumatic fluid to pressurize appendages. It's everyone's problem and you can help. Watch our informative video and support us via our Kickstarter program."

i3 Detroit v2.0 (Thanks, Nick!)

Prelinger's Lost Landscapes of Detroit now available for download and remix

Film archivist Rick Prelinger sez, "Thanks to word of mouth and Boing Boing, Lost Landscapes of Detroit [ed: a show of public domain footage showing the grand landscapes of Detroit in its heyday] screened two weeks ago to a standing-room-only and vocal audience of Detroiters. It's now online for free downloading (and, I hope, massive and widespread re-editing). If you want to see Detroit as it was, and hopefully as it will be again, check it out. The screening was such a success that I was immediately invited back to do it again next year. For this to happen, I need your help. If you have archival film of Detroit, preferably unseen (especially family and home movies), I'd love to connect. If the material looks as if it might fit, I'd like to speak with you about transferring it to high-quality video at my expense for use in the next program. This is a pro-bono project, and the help of many makes it possible. Thanks!"

Lost Landscapes of Detroit 2010 (Thanks, Rick!)

Lost Landscapes of Detroit from the Prelinger Archives

Film archivist Rick Prelinger sez,

For the past four years I've been putting together bits of archival footage (especially amateur and home movies) that show vanished places, people and events in San Francisco. The past two compilations, sponsored by Long Now Foundation, are free to view here.

Now I've been given the chance to do the show I've always wanted to do: Lost Landscapes of Detroit. It's happening February 10 at Museum of Contemporary Art in Detroit.

This isn't going to be a narrative of urban decline or the "ruins porn" that's become fashionable. Rather, it's a collection of amazing and almost-all-lost footage that celebrates a vibrant, busy and productive Detroit from 1917 through the 1970s. The idea is to bring these images back to Detroiters for their contemplation and use as they rebuild their city for the future.

In that spirit, at the screening I'm going to give out copies of the show so people in Detroit can reshow and remix it, and it'll be online at the Internet Archive after the screening.

Films from Prelinger Archives: Lost Landscapes of Detroit

Pathways of Desire: Detroiters carve their own streets out of the snow

Using photos and satellite images, the Sweet Juniper blog documents the "pathways of desire" in Detroit -- the streets and sidewalks that Detroiters carved out of the snow indicating where they'd like to go, rather than where the city expects them to go. I read somewhere (I think it was Peter Ackroyd's incredible London: A Biography) that after the Great Fire, Christopher Wren tried to lay out the city in a regular grid, but that Londoners continued to walk along where the old winding streets had been, using the old, unburned stone church-spires to navigate them, walking through the construction sites, forcing the streets back to their old places.

This past winter, the snow stayed so long we almost forgot what the ground looked like. In Detroit, there is little money for plowing; after a big storm, the streets and sidewalks disappear for days. Soon new pathways emerge, side streets get dug out one car-width wide. Bootprints through parks veer far from the buried sidewalks. Without the city to tell him where to walk, the pilgrim who first sets out in fresh snowfall creates his own path. Others will likely follow, or forge their own paths as needed.

In the heart of summer, too, it becomes clear that the grid laid down by the ancient planners is now irrelevant. In vacant lots between neighborhoods and the attractions of thoroughfares, bus stops and liquor stores, well-worn paths stretch across hundreds of vacant lots. Gaston Bachelard called these les chemins du désir: pathways of desire. Paths that weren't designed but eroded casually away by individuals finding the shortest distance between where they are coming from and where they intend to go.

Streets With No Name (via Making Light)