The Thunderdrome: Unearthing a Gem in Detroit

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Let's time travel. It's 1969 and we're in Dorais Park, Detroit, near E. Eight Mile and Mound Road. Construction has just been completed on a brand new velodrome -- a cycling venue consisting of a steeply banked, concrete oval loop, 250 meters long -- in anticipation of the U.S. National Track Championships held there later that year. This Championship and the many that follow are bright spots in a declining neighborhood. For the next 20 years, the city maintains this bastion of bike racing against urban devastation, marked here by the closure of the Chrysler assembly plant across the street.

Eventually, the Dorais Park Velodrome is abandoned by the city and handed over to the elements. Illegal car races are sometimes held here, accelerating the cracking of the concrete that was only designed to sustain bicycles, while bushes, grasses, and trees split apart the fissures. Two decades of neglect take their toll.

Welcome to 2010. A group of renegade urban landscapers, known as The Mower Gang, take their lawn care equipment to Dorais Park, unearth the velodrome, and begin rehabbing the battered beauty. It's renamed The Thunderdrome, an homage to the post-apocalyptic Mad Max film series from the '80s, and a race is staged for two-wheeled vehicles that October.

As race organizer Ben Wojdyla writes, "the Thunderdrome wouldn't be limited to just bicycles. We wanted higher speeds and more excitement. We wanted loony subcultures, weirdos, a scene, a spectacle—something people could get excited about. So in addition to traditional fixed-gear road bicycles, geared bikes and mountain bikes, we also invited racers on mopeds, scooters and pit bikes". The Fall race is a success, drawing hundreds of spectators and racers and spawning the demand for a Spring race, which will take place this Saturday, April 30, at noon. Detroit reinvention and DIY spirit charge headlong into the future of the city.

The latest issue of Bicycling Magazine, with holdings at all AADL locations, has an article on the Thunderdrome, as does the October 2010 issue of Popular Mechanics. Check out the Thunderdrome's website for more details on the race.velorace3velorace3

Still Young After All These Years

Neil Young takes the stage at Fox Theater in Detroit on Wednesday, May 4, as part of his eleven city solo tour, Twisted Road. Playing acoustic and electric guitars, pump organ, piano, and (of course) harmonica, the folk-rock legend is likely to play a mix of his greatest hits, like "My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue)", "Tell Me Why", and "Cinnamon Girl" along with a strong helping of songs from his 2010 Grammy award winning release, Le Noise, produced by Daniel Lanois. Young won Best Rock Song for "Angry World", his second ever Grammy in a career spanning more than four decades.

Later this year, Neil Young will rejoin Stephen Stills and other members of short-lived '60s band, Buffalo Springfield, for a reunion tour that will make stops in California before headlining the multi-day music and arts festival, Bonnaroo, in Tennessee. Looks like it's going to be a great year for Neil Young fans.

The AADL music collection includes dozens of albums that span Young's impressive career. If you're new to his music, this writer recommends starting with Everybody Knows This is Nowhere, Harvest, and On the Beach.

Check Out a Museum Adventure Pass!

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Looking for some indoor fun this winter? Come to any of our branches and check out a Museum Adventure Pass! There are over 30 museums you can visit, and the passes admit 2 or 4 depending on where you're headed. A new participant this year is the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, where you can explore the exhibitions of contemporary art in a renovated auto dealership. MOCAD also offers public programs including lectures, musical performances, films, literary readings and educational activities for children.

Author Susan Messer "Grand River and Joy"

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With good reason the University of Michigan's Honors Program in the College of Literature and Science selected Grand River and Joy as its required reading book this past summer for incoming Honors students.

Join us downtown at 7pm Thursday, November 4th as Susan Messer discusses her latest book, a finely written novel about events surrounding the riots in Detroit during the late 1960s. The story encapsulates important volatile issues like race, class and economic inequality that remain relevant in today's world.

If you would like to explore the topic further, try Violence in the Model City by Sidney Fine
and The Detroit Riot of 1967 by Hubert Locke.

Made in Michigan Writers Series

Have you heard of the Made in Michigan Writers Series? Published by Wayne State University Press, the series features Michigan authors in the fiction, non-fiction, short story and poetry genres.

The Lost Tiki Palaces of Detroit, by Michael Zadoorian
Short fiction stories about characters living in and around Detroit, surviving the odds.

Eden Springs, by Laura Kasischke
Using historical sources, a novella about the House of David religious colony that was based in Benton Harbor, Michigan in the early 20th century.

As If We Were Prey: Stories, by Michael Delp
Darkly humorous yet touching collection of short stories about men in a small northern Michigan town.

Birth of a Notion; Or, The Half Ain't Never Been Told: A Narrative Account with Entertaining Passages of the State of Minstrelsy & of America & the True Relation Thereof (From the Ha Ha Dark Side)
by Bill Harris
Using prose and poetry, Harris studies preconceived notions of “blackness” in nineteenth century American culture to the early twentieth century, investigating sources of lasting stereotypes and racist imagery.

An American Map: Essays, by Anne-Marie Oomen
Northern Michigan native Anne-Marie Oomen’s contemplative and inspirational essays from her travels across America.

Take Part in Art -- Pop Art is More Than Soup Cans

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When someone says "Pop Art" most of us, let's be honest, automatically think of Campbell's Soup cans and Marylin Monroe. But how much do we really know about this quintessential postmodern art form? Pop Art emerged in the 1950's and promptly laid siege to the dividing line between "high art" and "low art," bringing the elements of everyday life -- like movie stars, comic books and advertisements -- into the artistic sphere. Pop Art reminds us to take note of the beautiful in everyday life -- not just the beauty of sunsets and flowers, but also the beauty of breakfast cereals, cartoon characters and, dare I say, Campbell's Soup cans.

To explore Pop Art, you can always come to the Downtown Youth department and check out our latest Art Table display, or follow these tips to join in at home.

1. Read all about it -- Pop Art by Christian Demilly provides a good introduction to the movement. Susan Goldman Rubin's books on Andy Warhol, Wayne Thiebaud and Roy Lichtenstein are a great way to find out more about specific Pop artists, as is Debra Pearlman's Where Is Jasper Johns?. Adults interested in Pop Art can check out Pop Art: A Continuing History by Marco Livingstone or the encyclopedic Pop, edited by Mark Francis and Hal Foster.

2. Field Trip -- Although they don't have a Pop Art collection per se, Detroit's Museum of Contemporary Art is hosting several exhibits dealing with the art of everyday life, especially "Mother May I" by LaToya Ruby Frazier. Is this work possibly inspired by Pop Art ideas? That's for me to ask and you to debate. (Debating things like that in public makes you look really, really smart, by the way.)

3. Make your own -- What have you been walking past every day without thinking about it? Your toothbrush? Your sneakers? Maybe it's time for their day in the sun. Collage fans can cut and paste images from magazine photos and ads to make their own work of art. Kinderart, Associated Content and Ehow offer several creative ideas for at-home Pop Art projects.

Take Part in Art -- Marvelous Mosaic

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Mosaic -- the art of making images from little pieces of stone, glass or tile -- is an amazing art form. Debuting in Ancient Mesopotamia in the third millennium BC, Mosaic is still going strong around the world, adorning palaces, churches and sculptures, as well as private homes and gardens.

You can check out the latest Art Table on mosaic at the Downtown Youth department, or participate at home!

Read all about it -- For the historical perspective, read Piece by Piece! by Michael Avi-Yonah, which describes the mosaics of ancient Greece, Rome and Byzantium. To learn more about one modern mosaic artist, try Niki's World by Ulrich Krempel. This book focuses on Niki de Saint Phalle, the creator of the magnificent, mosaic-covered Tarot Garden. Adults who want a quick introduction to mosaic can explore JoAnn Locktov's The Art of Mosaic Design, which is full of beautiful color photographs of the best modern mosaic art.

Make Mosaics at Home -- To start making your own mosaics out of materials you probably already have around your house, try Anna Freixenet's Creating With Mosaics. If you grown-ups want to make your own mosaics too, try The Mosaic Idea Book by Rosalind Wates, Mosaic Techniques and Traditions by Sonia King, or The Complete Pebble Mosaic Handbook by Maggy Howarth. The FamilyFun website also provides an awesome list of creative mosaic activities.

Field Trip! -- Mosaic is all about building something new from the pieces of something old. The upcoming Detroit Maker Faire is a great opportunity to do just that. We at the AADL will be celebrating the Maker Faire by hosting Wreck and Make Labs in July, where you can pull apart all sorts of gadgets and make awesome new stuff from them. Pick up the latest copy of AXIS for more information! The city of Ann Arbor will share in the action, with the Ann Arbor Mini Maker Faire in June.

Up in the Air

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Jason Reitman's film, Up in the Air, starring George Clooney, comes to local movie theaters on December 25, but you can get a preview of the story that's being hailed as the most timely of the year by reading the book of the same title by Walter Kirn. Reitman spent several years adapting the novel into a screenplay, turning it from a story about a guy who gets paid to lay people off into one man's search for self-realization and fulfillment.

In the film, Clooney plays Ryan Bingham, a frequent flyer, motivational speaker, professional firer, and reveler in the superficial pleasures of what Chuck Palahniuk called the "single serve life." All this changes when a new female coworker introduces a cost-cutting idea that threatens to end his flight hopping lifestyle. The film has some local connections too, for several scenes were filmed at Detroit Metro Airport, and one sequence features real-life Detroit residents that have recently lost their jobs.

Other thematically related items at the AADL include the book Fired!: Tales of the Canned, Canceled, Downsized, & Dismissed, created by actress Annabelle Gurwitch, as well as her DVD and CD also called Fired!

Hockeytown Heroes

It's been an historical couple of weeks for three former Detroit Red Wings stars. Last week two players, one known to Wings fans simply as The Captain, Steve Yzerman, along with scoring machine, Brett Hull, were inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, ON. And then yesterday, after 21 seasons tormenting opposing defenses, Brendan Shanahan decided to hang up his skates. Shanahan won three Stanley Cups with Detroit, Hull won one, and Yzerman won three as a player and one in an executive role with the team. Before Stevie Y came to the Motor City, the team had been mired in a Cup slump for the previous 47 years. Since then, the team has brought four Cups home to the Joe Louis arena. The AADL has a great collection of books chronicling the storied history of the Detroit Red Wings and its players.

Derby Girl Becomes Whip It!

It's an exciting time in Michigan with all the movies being filmed here and Whip It, in theaters on Friday, October 2 is the latest flick to hit theaters. Marking Drew Barrymore's directorial debut, Whip It, is based on the teen novel Derby Girl by Shauna Cross. Derby Girl is about sixteen-year-old rebel Bliss Cavendar, who is miserable living in a small Texas town with her beauty pageant-obsessed mother so she secretly joins a roller derby team under the name "Babe Ruthless," her life gets better, although infinitely more confusing. Ellen Page of Juno fame stars as Bliss and early buzz is good!

Whip It also stars several members of the local Detroit Derby Girls and to celebrate the release we'll be hosting an evening with them to talk about Roller Derby and their experiences on set on Thursday, October 1, 7:00-8:30 at the Downtown Library.

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