Best Of 2012

Best Local Music Festival

Movement 

Hart Plaza, Detroit; movement.us

Since the turn of the millennium, the festival formerly known as DEMF has brought the best electronic music artists to Detroit, while highlighting the incredible local talent. It's like a big love-in with a light show, an opportunity for like-minded souls to gather and dance like goons while everything from trance to dubstep kicks off around them. It's a Detroit institution, and you voted last year's event the best festival in the area. This year's event promises to be even better. We know at least one fan who marks his year from festival to festival. In his temporal universe, the Best of Detroit street date of April 25 translates as five days until the end of the school term, six days until his birthday and 35 days to Movement 2012. Headliners this year include Public Enemy, Lil' Louis and the Wizard (aka Jeff Mills). But with a weekend packed with acts, a chief draw is the opportunity to see tomorrow's stars today.

Best Place to See a Mainstream Film 

Emagine Royal Oak

200 N. Main St., Royal Oak; 888-319-3456;                         www.emagine-entertainment.com

After an impressive run of roughly a jillion wins in a row, the Uptown Palladium has been dethroned as your favorite popcorn palace, replaced by a flashy newcomer that made a major splash with its debut. The deluxe new Emagine Starlanes movie and entertainment megaplex opened last April after years of rumblings over its impact on Royal Oak's already bustling nightlife. Adding a 10-screen theater, bowling lanes, a full bar and banquet facilities into the suburban downtown's already overflowing mix of bars and eateries seemed daunting to some, but the new venture became an immediate hit. Crowds are flocking there for a first-rate moviegoing experience, with digital projection, beautiful new screens, a booming stereo sound system, luxury assigned seating and even the roller coaster thrill of "D-Box" seats, that move and rumble in sync with the onscreen action. It's bells and whistles like these that have boosted the Michigan-owned mini-chain's rapid ascent, and their glossy new flagship has earned hordes of fans, parking hassles be dammed!

Best Place to See 

an Indie Film

Main Art Theatre

118 N. Main St., Royal Oak; 248-263-2111; landmarktheaters.com 

Like the zombies that sometimes terrorize the Midnight Movies during the theater's summer lineup, you just simply cannot kill the Main Art Theatre. Year after year, rumors of the Main's demise run wild, yet the swell old gal remains the premier — and often only — place in the metro area to see independent and foreign films in their native environment. This year, the Main survived the arrival of a behemoth multiplex literally in its backyard (see above). Despite these setbacks, the art house endures, in part because the Royal Oak location at 11 Mile and Main retains its funky charm and historic neon marquee — and because the quality of the product on screen remains true.

Best Local Film Festival

Ann Arbor Film Festival

Various locations, Ann Arbor; 734-995-5356; 

aafilmfest.org; 

Though film festivals such as Sundance have become virtual farm-team feeding systems for Hollywood and — to a degree — have codified "indie film" as an aesthetic, there's the contrasting example of the Ann Arbor Film Festival. As our film writer Corey Hall put it recently: "Ann Arbor maintains essentially the same vision it began with: serving as a showcase for eclectic, independent, experimental and utterly uncompromised works of art." Or as exec director Donald Harrison puts it: "Our focus is really filmmakers who are working creatively outside the commercial market." This goes back a half-century, the festival having celebrated its 50th round of screenings, installations, talks and parties earlier this month. Harrison resports that attendance for this year's festival topped 15,000 for the first time. Meanwhile, prizes and awards of cash and film stock and services put the equivalent of $22,000 into the pockets of film artists, fueling the future of their art.

Best Place to 

See  Local Theater

The Who Wants Cake? theater company's Ringwald Theatre

22742 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; 248-545-5545; whowantscaketheatre.com

Five years ago, Joe Plambeck and Joe Bailey moved their Who Wants Cake? theater company into the Ringwald Theatre, near the corner of Nine Mile Road and Woodward Avenue in downtown Ferndale. Known for gender-bending performances of madcap subversive farce, the company has mounted productions of Fatal Attraction: A Greek Tragedy, Evil Dead: The Musical, The Hardy Boys and the Mystery of Where Babies Come From, Ronnie Larsen's Making Porn, Del Shores' Southern Baptist Sissies and many more plays that a typical theater company wouldn't touch. Next month, the company will perform The Divine Sister, with mother superior, naturally, played by Plambeck.

Best Bowling Alley

 

Best Alley for

 Altered-State Bowling

Garden Bowl 

4120 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-833-9700; majesticdetroit.com/garden-bowl

No surprises here. The Garden Bowl, part of the Majestic complex on Woodward Avenue in Detroit, is more than a bowling alley. It's part of a larger experience. Depending on the night of the week, you could be bowling in the dark at glowing pins, or you could be aiming your ball at a hapless band performing at the end of the lane. DJs will usually be spinning some raucous rock 'n' roll or classic Detroit funk 'n' soul, while the bartenders couldn't be friendlier. The pizza's pretty good too. And back to those glowing pins for a minute — they'll glow even brighter if you're also, ummm, lit up. 

Best Bingo Night Venue

Drag Queen Bingo at Five15 

515 S. Washington Ave., Royal Oak; 248-515-2551; five15.net

When we added this category last year, we were half thinking about ... well, places our grandparents might be hanging out. Last year's winner and this year's, Drag Queen Bingo, is not your typical grandmother's sort of place, unless your grandmother happens to be Ru Paul. Join Hershae Chocolate, Trixie Deluxxe, September Murphy or Lauren Jacobs at Five15 for a night of laughs, and the occasional spanking. Four rounds of Bingo cost $20. Coffee and snacks are available. BYOB. 

Best Beach

Lake St. Clair Metro Park

31300 Metropolitan Parkway, Harrison Township; 

586-463-4332; metroparks.com

Known for decades as "Metro Beach" (the designation was formally changed this year), this 750-acre peninsula, which protrudes into Lake St. Clair, attracts a variety of beach lovers. But that's only part of the attraction. There's a par-3 golf course, putt-putt golf, a waterpark, shuffleboard, and outdoor concerts — and those are just some of the activities. There is plenty of barrier-free shoreline and a boardwalk near the lake's edge. You can explore wetlands along the nature trail, where bird watchers flock to see owls, herons, loons and hummingbirds. There are fishing areas, a boat launch, a food bar and a beach shop. Families will enjoy the large swimming pool, water park, and "Squirt Zone," where the kids can shoot water cannons and the like.

Best Place to Bike

 

Best Frisbee Golf Park

Stony Creek Metro Park 

4300 Main Park Rd., Shelby Township; 248-650-5300; metroparks.com

Stony Creek is packed with faithful cyclists on the weekends, ranging from expert mountain bikers to slow pedalers. There are more than 14 miles of dirt paths, which include steep hills, gravel, tight curves and pump tracks that take you through the woods and around bodies of water. A favorite among serious bikers is "the rollercoaster," a speedy trail full of such challenges as rocks and roots. Wildlife such as deer and wild turkey can be spotted on the trails. Bicycle events and races are consistent during the summer. You can even get tune-ups at the Stony Creek bicycle shop, which is open year-round. ... As for "frisbee golf" ... for starters, the sport is officially known as disc golf (our bad). As for the course itself, it's a 24-hole affair, with a nice mix of open and wooded holes. Most holes are long par 3s. According to the Professional Disc Golf Association's website, Stony Creek is rated the most difficult pro layout in Michigan. Wait — there are professional disc golfers? Whoda thunk it? 

Best Nature or Hiking Trail

Kensington Metro Park

2240 W. Buno Rd., Milford; 800-477-3178; metroparks.com

Seven hiking trails take you through wetlands, forests and fields. More than 253 birds species have been sighted at Kensington, including bald eagles, woodpeckers, osprey and more. Deer, badgers, weasels and other mammals can be spotted too. The trails range from a half-mile to 2.5 miles. You can take the boardwalk to an island on Wildwig Lake, where the great herons nest.

Best Dog Park

Orion Oaks Couny Park 

2301 W. Clarkston Rd. (dog park entrance on Joslyn Road between Clarkston and Scripps roads), Lake Orion; 248-858-0906; destinationoakland.com/parksandtrails

Orion Oaks has a 24-acre fenced enclosure where dogs can socialize off their leashes and experience two hiking trails, a large field area and lake access for swimming. If your pup is afraid of the water, it can ease itself in on the doggie dock. If desired, there is a separated fenced enclosure for small dogs. Picnic sites and onsite bathrooms are available for owners. A dog-owner or dog-lover who's never taken his or her pet to one of these dogtopia settings hasn't lived (certainly not to the vicarious max). And MT readers rated this one the doggone best. 

Best Farmers' Market, Wayne County

Eastern Market

Between Russell and Riopelle streets, and Gratiot and Mack avenues, Detroit; 313-833-9300; detroiteasternmarket.com; open Tuesdays and Saturdays

The 209-year-old market has been at its present location (between Russell and Riopelle streets and north of Gratiot Avenue) since 1891 — smack in the middle of a bustling 43-acre area that's home to wholesalers, retailers and the prominent sales sheds. Re-energized by the Eastern Market Corporation, established in 2007, the market has seen significant renovations and improvements. As the corporation's head Dan Carmody points out, the market is a unique survivor: "It's the last of a kind of local food district that every city had that was significantly built before 1950."

Best Farmers' Market, Oakland County

Royal Oak Farmers Market

316 E. 11 Mile Rd., Royal Oak; 248-246-3276; 

ci.royal-oak.mi.us; open Fridays May through Christmas, Saturdays year-round

The Royal Oak Farmers' Market has existed since the 1920s, but with rising interest in farm-fresh food, the market has only grown in importance and popularity in recent years. The enclosed building, ample parking and Sunday flea markets don't hurt either.

Best Farmers' Market, Macomb County

Mount Clemens Farmers' Market

141 N. River Rd., Mount Clemens; 586-493-7600; mountclemensfarmersmarket.com; 

7 a.m.-1 p.m. Friday-Saturday, May-November

Here's an upset of sorts: Last year, Macomb County readers picked the farmers' market in Clinton Township. The new favorite is a mere few miles north, but leagues away in terms of place-making. Instead of shopping for freshness in the shadow of a McDonald's, Macomb County readers favored this spot tucked away in historic Mount Clemens.

Best Farmers' Market, Washtenaw County

Ann Arbor Farmers' Market 

315 Detroit, St., Ann Arbor; 734-794-6255; a2gov.org/market; open 7 a.m.-3 p.m. Wednesday and Saturday, May-December; 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays, January-April, open 4:30-8:30 p.m. Wednesdays May-September;    no dogs allowed

Kerrytown's Farmers' Market is loaded with fresh and voluptuous fruits and veggies, but also delicious sweet treats, such as sweet potato pecan pies or creations from Ann Arbor-based baker Miette. The market serves at the moment as a base for more than 100 producers of fine foods.

Best TV News

FOX2 (WJBK)

myfoxdetroit.com

Practice, practice, practice: When you produce 11 hours of live local news every Monday through Friday, and another 11 on the weekends, you should be perceived by viewers as delivering the finest newscasts in town. You certainly deliver the most — it's like the news on FOX2 never goes off! (Think of the money they save not buying syndicated programs!) And with so much extra air to fill after the major stories of the day have been reported, WJBK is the station most likely to show up at the neighborhood festivals in communities in and around Detroit, or invite the chef of a hot new eatery to come on the set and strut his stuff. Led by the flawlessly urbane Huel "Let It Rip" Perkins, grossly unheralded news director Dana Hahn, unbelievably steadfast Sherry Margolis and the chatty new 9 a.m. weekday hour with hunky Jason Carr and entertaining Lee Thomas, FOX2's staggering daily output and consistent quality are all the more incredible considering the station has overcome more internal family tragedies lately than you'll find in the Book of Job. 

Best TV Newscaster

Devin Scillian

WDIV, clickondetroit.com

Quick, now: How long has Devin Scillian been lead male anchor for Detroit's Local 4? Would you believe 13 years? The legend and legacy of iconic anchor Mort Crim remains so vivid that it feels like the kid from Kansas just began warming the seat next to Queen Carmen. But Scillian, the smartest guy on Detroit television, has taken the time and care to learn our quirky ways, become entrenched in our community, and, most importantly, earn the trust of Detroit TV watchers. Much more than a headline reader, he displays his political acumen and perceptive interview style every Sunday on the top-rated public affairs series Flashpoint; don't be surprised to see him play a major role next month in the annual Mackinac Policy Conference. Scillian makes a hard job in a tough news town seem smooth and easy, and in his spare time he writes award-winning children's books and composes music to perform with the country band he fronts. A renaissance man, shining in the shadow of the Renaissance Center. How fitting.

Best TV Morning Show Personality

Jason Carr 

FOX2 (WJBK); myfoxdetroit.com

Throw around all the tired PR adjectives you want about local media goobs — gregarious, pretty, well-spoken, titans of journalistic excellence, etc. — but how many local TV newscasters and hosts can possibly live up to such hyperbole? Those who can are usually on the midnight train to the next bigger market in, say, Philly. Enter Fox2 News Morning's Jason Carr. The good-looking dude with the perpetual two-day growth is articulate, educated and he can write and draw with aplomb (he has even contributed to Metro Times). Carr wields a charisma that's better suited for much bigger stages, but he's from here and he has no intention of leaving. More, he has that rare ability to make mundane topics (spring home trends?) interesting and the more challenging ones (say, mid-century modern architecture) straightforward. And he does it on the fly, effortlessly. It so happens that both the MT staff and our readers believe that Fox 2 News Morning show is lucky to have Carr because, simply, he brings intelligence and grace to otherwise dreary Detroit mornings.

Best Public Golf Course

Rackham Golf Course 

10100 W. 10 Mile Road, Huntington Woods; 248-543-4040; rackhamgolfcourse.com

Rackham is No. 1 because it's inexpensive, accessible (from I-696, Lodge, Woodward), not long but a golf test. And it has more history: Rackham's clubhouse was designed by Albert Kahn, with Pewabic tile prominent. From 10 Mile Road, the course looks like a mostly treeless plain, without water hazards, just a few sand traps. But its designer, Scotsman Donald Ross, who built 400-plus courses in early 20th century America, put the devil in the details — such bedeviling details as mounds and bunkers, gorse (thorny shrubs) and elevated, up-and-down greens. The variety of Rackham's holes is notable. No. 7, for example, is a semicircle par 5 with hills trouble left, trees right. And the Rackham green, to mix a metaphor, is a postage stamp atop an anthill. Ross worked land donated to Detroit in 1921 by Horace and Mary Rackham. The deed specified the land must be a public park or golf course, open to all, in perpetuity. When the city, in 2007, wanted to sell Rackham, to be a housing development, the deed's restrictions prevented the sale. Here's another aspect of Rackham's history shared by an older gentlemen when we played there one raw October day some years ago. He told of playing with Ben Davis, a legendary black pro who taught at Rackham when several "semi-private" (read: segregated) local courses wouldn't have him (or Joe Louis, whom Davis taught). Davis became the country's first African-American PGA member head pro at Rackham in 1968.

Best Radio Music Show

Ann Delisi's Essential Music 

WDET-FM (101.9); wdetfm.org

She's the franchise player around whom WDET began a few years ago to rebuild its tattered rep as a music station — complementing weekday news and talk with music-heavy wekeends. Last year, her on-air colleague Jon Moshier with his Modern Music bumped her out of her two-year run as winner here. This year she's back. A longtime radio and TV personality whose first prominence was on WDET in the 1980s, Delisi knows that the name of the game today is multimedia; a mere presence behind the microphone and a stack of shellac no longer cuts it. So the shows are laden with themes (birthday artist tributes, record and event anniversaries), special guests and audience involvement gambits that span the show, Facebook and Essential Listening Parties hosted by Delisi and fellow host Rob Reinhardt. She airs from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Best Radio Morning Show

Dave and Chuck "the Freak," 

CIMX-FM (88.7); 89xradio.com: 

What does it say about the state of Detroit radio when, despite all the high salaries, higher egos and cutthroat competition, MT readers have decreed three years in a row that the best morning radio show on the air is bottled in Windsor? We may think of our neighbors to the south as gentler, more refined souls, but Dave Hunter and Chuck Urquhart shatter that illusion every time they open a microphone. Male bikini waxing, the smells of women's farts, the worst songs to have sex by — aided and egged on by their on-air sidekick Lisa Way, virtually no subject is too gross or too far off-limits for this duo. (Or their freeway billboards, apparently.) Dave and Chuck seem convinced their 5-10 a.m. weekday snickerfest is cursed, that celebrities they ridicule in their "X Files" gossip segments seem to suffer dire fates shortly afterward, but their on-air concept of two best buds trading verbal gross-out bombs in the boys' room has proved to be nothing but a broadcast blessing.

Best Radio News

WDET-FM

101.9 FM; wdetfm.org

Last year, WDET-FM bumped off longtime winner WWJ-AM in this category, a triumph of fewer stories and more depth over the diametrically opposed on-the-spot, quick-hit, cover-the-town, round-the-clock approach. But we asked the question then: Can they hold the title? Readers' answer: Yes. No doubt, some of this year's votes were generated by WDET's big undertakings Crossing the Lines, examining what unites and divides metro Detroit, and the Berlin-Detroit project, which took staffer Martina Guzmán to the European comeback city for lessons relevant to the D. Obviously, Craig Fahle's cred with voters (see above) didn't hurt. 

Best Radio Personality

Craig Fahle 

The Craig Fahle Show, WDET-FM (101.9); wdetfm.org; 10-noon, 6-8 p.m., Monday-Friday 

Much of what's called talk radio — on the right, especially, but sometimes on less-prominent left talk radio too — is more like shout radio, the blare of ideological megaphones in echo chambers. The NPR style tends to talk as conversation, talking with rather than talking at the audience. Fahle, with the former Detroit Today rebranded and built around his personality, has found his niche in the estimation of MT balloters. Part of his success is being a big radio tent and encouraging a range of caller views while recruiting knowledgable guests. "I learn something new every day" is one of his on-air mantras. And if we're representative of his audience, we do too. Airs 10-noon live Monday-Friday and replays 6-8 p.m. Monday-Thursday. (Full disclosure: We're regular guests in the just-before-noon slot on Wednesdays.) 

Best Candidate for President in 2012

Barack Obama 

By a landslide, with Ron Paul in the dust, Mitt Romney further behind and Rick Santorum with three votes putting him ahead of two-vote Newt Gingirch and such one-vote wonders as Weird Al Yankovic, Charlie LeDuff, Elmo, Gary Johnson, George Clooney, Hillary Clinton, Jerry Vile, Kwame Kilpatrick, Mickey Mouse, Sheefy McFly, the Other Guy, They All Suck, Vanilla Ice and Vermin Supreme. 

Best Nickname for 

Gov. Rick Snyder

Dick

There were also numerous variations on Dick, the most tasteful being "Dictator" and the Nixonian throwback of "Tricky Dick" and the variation "Not So Slick Rick."

Best Nickname for 

Mayor Dave Bing

Bingo 

A sampling of others: "Hoops," "Heartless," "Hero," "Lame Duck," "Nada Bing," "Slam Dunk," "Doctor of Debt," "Not Kwame," "Bus Slasher," "Tall and Timid" and "As Good as the Pistons."

Best Nickname for Oakland County Exec Brooks Patterson

Brooksie 

Brooksie was the most-often suggested. Also suggested: "Gasbag," "Blowhard," "My Drinking Buddy," "The Great Divider," "Fat Cat," etc. 

Best Nickname for Wayne County Exec Robert Ficano

Crook 

Crook was the most frequent suggestion, with numerous variations on that theme and variations speculating on the end of his time in office, such as "Soon to be gone" and "Soon to be indicted" and "Ficano the Former." On the other hand, if he rides out political controversy, an FBI probe and a grand jury ... if he survives, then the nickname "Teflon Exec" will prove just right. 

Best Nickname for Macomb County Exec Mark Hackel

Hack

Also: "Mark Shackle," "Mackerel," "Hacky," "The Hackster," etc. 

Best Concert of 2011

Paul McCartney at Comerica Park 

Alright, so Detroit radio station WKNR-FM played a big part in the '69 rumor that Paul McCartney was dead. Sorry, Macca. Thankfully he was, as he is now, alive and well, and you guys justifiably voted his Comerica Park show of July 24 last year as the best gig of the past 12 months. "It's great to be back in Detroit. We love it here. A beautiful place," McCartney said, before blasting through a set of Beatles, Wings and solo classics. He even played Marvin Gaye's "Hitch Hike," a special tribute to the city that birthed Motown and influenced the Fab Four (giving them such early hits as "Please Mr. Postman" and "You've Really Got a Hold on Me"). We love you too, Sir.

Best Local Sports Story

Lions Make Playoffs 

 

Best Lion

Calvin Johnson 

You cannot stop Megatron; you can only hope to contain him. We've heard all the accolades, been inundated with the hype. But Calvin Johnson has lived up to the hype, and then some. It's mind-boggling that a guy his size (6-foot-5, 239 pounds) can run so fast, jump so high, and display his level of body control and hand-eye coordination. Calvin Johnson is the new prototype, the standard by which NFL wide receivers will be judged in the future. Drafted in 2007, he is easily the best thing to come from the horrendous Matt Millen era. 2011 was Johnson's best statistical season, racking up 1,681 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns. His clutch performance against the Cowboys in week four was especially memorable, scoring two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to lead the Lions to a 34-30 victory despite trailing 24 points going into the second half. And when the Lions returned to the NFL playoffs for the first time since 1999, Johnson caught 11 passes for 211 yards and two touchdowns, crushing the previous Lions playoff receiving record in a losing effort. But this Lions team is unlike any that we've seen before. They are young, talented, physical and exciting to watch. And with all due respect to our good friend Justin Durant, Calvin Johnson is the clear pick for best Lions player. His new contract suggests that the top brass in the Lions organization agree with you. This is a brand-new era of Lions football, and Calvin Johnson is not only leading the charge, he is changing the game.

Best Local Pro Athlete

 

Best Tiger 

Justin Verlander 

It is a special, magical feeling just watching Justin Verlander step onto the mound, a knots-in-your-stomach-and-a-smirk-you-can't-wipe-away feeling. Not only did he unanimously win the American League Cy Young award, but he defied statistics and history by becoming the first starting pitcher since 1986 to become MVP. He threw a no-hitter to boot. Verlander set a new standard for what a major league pitcher can and should be. A win from Verlander is simply not enough at this point. A win from Verlander has become the new minimum standard, and it's exciting to think that we can look forward to a potential no-hitter every time he hits the mound. Verlander has certainly become the face of the Tigers organization, but also all of Detroit sports. 

Best Local Amateur Athlete

Tiny Ninja 

from Detroit Derby Girls; detroitrollerderby.com

Christina Iulianelli (aka Tiny Ninja) first earned her nickname doing festival catering where she impressed co-workers and clients with her ability to effortlessly weave in and out of dense, hungry crowds. Iulianelli — who stands 5-foot-2 — admits she felt like "Bambi on ice" in her first bout for the Detroit Derby Girls, but after six seasons those days are long gone. Iulianelli plays jammer (the only point-scoring position in flat-track derby) or blocker for the D-Funk Allstars as well as the Detroit Derby Girls Allstars, the DDG's nationally ranked travel team. Those who haven't seen her kick ass at the Masonic may recognize Iulianelli from her role as "Fight Attendant" in the Drew Barrymore-directed Whip It, in which Iulianelli coordinated and performed her own stunts. When she's not skating, she assists the Detroit Derby Girls as a member of their marketing team and as a skater trainer for new recruits.

Best Free Agent for 

Tigers to Pick Up

Prince Fielder

When thinking about the Tiger's offseason this year, the term "go big or go home" comes to mind. Last summer was almost amazing, we almost had a really special team, and we almost got back to the World Series. But we didn't. Mike Ilitch and Dave Dombrowski don't seem to have much time for almost anymore. Enter Prince Fielder, an all-in signing to the tune of $214 million over nine years. The kid who grew up at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull has returned to don the old English D and get us over the hump at last, in part, by giving the Tigers the best 3-4 hitters in baseball (with Cabrera batting third followed by Fielder). Last year Fielder hit .299 with 38 home runs and 120 RBIs. He is a three-time All Star, and was the All Star Game MVP last year in Phoenix. If he can even come close to that kind of production in a Tigers uniform, the size of his contract will soon be forgotten. And come November, when it's all said and done, hopefully almost will be someone else's problem.

Best Red Wing

Pavel Datsyuk 

Pavel Datsyuk has contributed to two Red Wing Stanley Cup victories so far (2002 and 2008). He is fast, strong, has unbelievable hands and puck control, and is considered the best two-way forward in today's NHL. But why take our word for it? NHL players themselves are in agreement with MT readers on this one. In the 2011-2012 Hockey Night in Canada/NHLPA Player Poll (playerpoll.ca), league players voted Datsyuk the smartest player, cleanest player, toughest forward, most difficult to stop, most difficult to play against and the hardest to steal the puck from. With a career like that, it won't be long until Pavel Datsyuk earns his rightful place as one of the best players to ever wear the winged wheel, up there in the pantheon with Howe, Lindsay, Lidstrom and Yzerman.

Best Piston

Greg Monroe

A rising star among the NBA's big men, center Greg Monroe provides a solid cornerstone on which the Detroit Pistons can build their future. Monroe has shown improvement from last year in almost every major statistical category and is a leading candidate for the NBA's Most Improved Player Award this year. A near selection for the 2012 NBA All-Star Game, Monroe's play this year gives a glimpse of what Pistons fans can come to expect for a long time. The second-year pro, drafted seventh overall in 2010, leads the Pistons in scoring, rebounding, field-goal percentage, steals and double-doubles.       

Best Draft Pick for Pistons

Brandon Knight 

Pistons point guard Brandon Knight was drafted eighth overall in the 2011 NBA Draft and has already given Pistons fans reason to believe a bright future lies ahead for the franchise.  Knight was inserted into the starting lineup after only six games into the season and has not looked back. He's the team's third-leading scorer, tied for the assist leader and ranks in the Top 10 in every major statistical category among this year's NBA rookie class. Knight's passion and workmanlike approach to the game bodes well for the Pistons and the positive direction they are headed in.

Best New Player for 

Lions to Pick Up

Not Tebow

Hey, Tim, after the wildcard round game in the playoffs against Pittsburgh, when you threw that game-winning touchdown seconds into overtime, all of America gave a collective sigh of shock and surprise, an existential moment of "WTF?!" But face it, you'd simply be another lucky quarterback if it weren't for your public beliefs and theatrics. And now New York City will likely tear you apart. Realize you're walking into a city that is nearly the population of the entire state of Michigan in a space smaller than Detroit's city limits. Right off the bat, half of these people automatically hate you (Giants and Jets fans get along about as well as Wolverine and Spartan fans in the middle of October). And the other half? The Jets fans? Well, they hate you too. It's a shame the Jets and Lions don't play this year, Timmy. It would be fantastic to see MT's main man Justin, Calvin, and the rest of the boys stomp you again. 

Best Local College

Wayne State University 

We caught the Brookings Institute's Bruce Katz on the Craig Fahle Show (see above) the other day talking about Detroit's downtown-to-midtown vitality and ongoing revitalization. Katz reeled off numbers for the 1.5-square mile midtown center: "You've got 24,000 residents, you've got 46,000 workers, a whole bunch of students, over 30,000 — my lord, that's a platform to build on." He could have gotten more detailed and talked about new restaurants, residential lofts and crafty boutiques, creating a cool place to hang out — an actual scene. That's part and parcel of the process by which the state's only urban public research university has evolved into something more than the solid, affordable commuter school that it's been for seeming eons. Tack on the football team's first trip to the NCAA Division II National Championship last year and a refocused vision for academic achievement, and you see why the school is a winner with MT voters. 

Best Way for Detroit to Deal with Its Debt

Emergency manager 

Right. Because we really need someone to come in and sell off the city's assets, like our water system or Belle Isle. Because democracy really is such a quaint and old-fashioned idea that it has run its course. Because an emergency manager is going to know how to keep 20,000 people a year from leaving the city, and how to keep tens of thousands more homes from being foreclosed on. Oh, yes, this is what Detroit needs. But it sure sounds like a simple solution to frustrating, complex problems that make you wanna throw up your hands and shred democracy.

Best Way to Improve Downtown Detroit

Best Way to Improve Midtown Detroit

Better public tranist 

There is actually a way to improve public transit — not just for downtown and Midtown, but for the entire metro region! — currently being debated in the Michigan Legislature. Our solons are weighing the possibility of creating a Regional Transit Auhtority that would serve as an umbrella organizion covvering Wayne, Oakland, Macomb and Washtenaw counties, and the city of Detroit. If created, the RTA would provide "rapid" bus service along Woodward, Gratiot and a few other major corridors — including dedicated service to Detroit Metro Airport. A second piece to sovling this particular transit puzzle would be to have the Legislature put on the ballot a measure seeking voter approval to raise vehicle registration fees (about $30) to fund the RTA. If our legislators are smart, they will listen to MT readers and do the best thing for our region and make public transit better for the benefit of all. Corporate backers of a downtown-to-New Center light rail plan said recently that they are on track to start building late this year for a 2014 completion. Others are skeptical, given the city's tattered finances.

Best Way to Improve Downtown Royal Oak

Best Way to Improve Downtown Ferndale

Best Way to Improve Downtown Birmingham

More parking, free parking,     

less restrictive parking 

Birmingham City Manager Bob Bruner helped us put it in perspective in an e-mail: "There is no such thing as 'free' parking. If the driver does not pay it just means someone else does! Free parking has contributed to auto dependence, urban sprawl, extravagant energy use, and a host of other problems. Fair market pricing for parking actually makes parking easier." Nonetheless, even if it isn't free in the existential sense, Bruner ventured to guess that Birmingham's nearly 5,000 public parking spaces top Royal Oak and Ferndale combined. While there may be demand for more parking spaces in downtown Birmingham at peak times, the cost of providing them currently outweighs the benefits.

Best Slogan for 

Metro Detroit

Celebrating 45 years of Rebirth 

Some distinct themes here. For instance, finding other cities to look down on ("At least we're not Flint, Cleveland, Cincinnati"), talking tough ("I'm a Detroiter ... bitches," "Where we chew up our kids before we spit them out," "We have packs of wild dogs, do you?" "Stick 'em up," "Enter at your own risk"), snappy lines ("I'm diggin' Detroit," "It starts with the D," "Motown has heart"), historical allusions ("Aloha, motherfuckers," as famously said by former Mayor Coleman Young; "Say nice things about Detroit," as businesswoman Emily Gail implored her fellow Detroiters; and variations on the post-1805 slogan "We will rise from the ashes") and sheer desperation ("Flatlined," "Sucks, but in a cool way," "Detroit: When you can't go anywhere but up"). Then there were the references to comeback, put best by the suggestion above, depicting the city as a sort of perpetual motion machine of decline and regeneration. 

Best Reason to Invite Me to the Metro Times Best of Detroit Party

 

"Because by the looks of this survey .... 

I really need to get out more."

 

"Because I still stand up for Detroit."

 

"Cuz I freakin' yodel."

 

"I used to work at 

Borders Bookstore."

 

"World peace?"

 

Sorry we could only pick five. See you all at the party. 

Best Example of Journalism Shaking  Things Up

WXYZ-TV's "Wayne County 

Confidential" series

Back in September, WXYZ's investigative team broke the story that Turkia Mullin, newly hired to be director of the Wayne County Airport Authority, received a $200,000 severance payment as she was leaving her post as the cash-strapped county's economic development director. Wayne County Executive Bob Ficano immediately began stonewalling and obfuscating as the scandal exploded, other area media began piling on and then the FBI rolled on in. Since then, there have been a slew of firings and resignations. Two former members of Team Ficano have been charged with federal felonies, and another has been indicted. Mullin was fired from the airport post and repaid the severance. The FBI investigation is ongoing, an attempted recall of Ficano is under way. And the station has rightly received an armful of well-deserved awards for the work. Earning kudos have been reporters Heather Catallo and Ross Jones, editor Randy Lundquist and photographers Ramon Rosario and Johnny Sartin. Ann Mullen, an MT alum, is the executive producer of WXYZ-TV's investigative unit.

Best Change to Local   

Left-Wing Radio

Thom Hartmann's new time slot on WDTW/1310 AM

The way we see it, the sanest voice on the radio airwaves belongs to Thom Hartmann. He provides a wealth of knowledge, rational discourse and honest debate instead of inflammatory rhetoric. A student of history, this Michigan native's nationally syndicated show is a must listen for anyone who wants to be politically well-informed. And the best thing is that listening in this area recently got much easier when Hartmann's live call-in program moved to the afternoon drive-time slot. Check it out weekdays from 3 to 6 p.m.

Best Thing About Local Right-Wing Radio

Charlie Langton's show on   WXYT-AM/1270

Granted, Charlie usually comes off as being entirely overcaffeinated, especially at 6 in the morning. And his voice is set at a constant level: LOUD! But for a guy who occupies the same home on the local radio dial as extremist nut jobs like Glenn Beck and Laura Ingram, Langton is refreshingly — dare we say it — moderate. A lawyer with a regular gig as a commentator on the local Fox TV affiliate, Langton actually uses his radio show to promote actual debate, and does it in a way that's generally respectful. Rush Limbaugh he ain't. And that's a very good thing. Airing 6-9 weekday mornings, the show is worth listening to, even if you're a liberal.

Best Local Reality  TV Stars

The Gold Family

Hardcore Pawn, truTV

The father-and-kids melodrama of Hardcore Pawn, swirling around the daily customer encounters and backroom battles of Detroit pawnbroker Les Gold (could there be a better name for a man in his profession?), his son, Seth, and daughter, Ashley Gold Broad, remains the top-rated show on truTV in its sixth season. It has even spawned a spinoff series, Hardcore Pawn Fort Bragg, to premiere on truTV later this year. It'll have to go some to match the raw outrageousness of the original: Even though you know the family squabbles are magnified for the sake of the camera and Detroiters don't really display their ignorant backsides in public like that for the world to see (do we?), the viewing experience of Hardcore Pawn is an irresistibly guilty delight.

Best Low-Power 

Radio Station

1610-AM, The Station

11758 Sobieski St., Hamtramck; 313-718-1610; am1610.org

Since May 2009, tech geek Steven Cherry has been sending low-power AM signal from his home in Hamtramck. He built a studio for the station later that year, and it regularly hosts local luminaries who create their own radio programming, with Cherry as station manager. Of course, that all sounds much more official than the way he puts it: "We are your weird friends with lots of records," he says, in his typically disarming way. But local rockers have shows, including Jeffrey Fournier and Timmy "Vulgar" Lampinen of Timmy's Organism, as does local tavern owner and record collector Andy Dow of the Painted Lady, as well as MT's own Michael Jackman. The new shows are broadcast live on Sundays, and rebroadcast throughout the week, not just on the airwaves but streaming on the website. Most of the time, it's just freeform fun, but Cherry hopes to engage the community as much as possible. He says, "Call us or send us a text. Leave a clever message and maybe we'll play it on the air."

Best Reason We Still Have a Hoedown in Motown

Tim Roberts, program director, WYCD-FM

The Downtown Hoedown celebrates its 30th anniversary this summer, meaning Detroit undeniably was country before country was cool. But think about it: How many cities south of the Mason-Dixon would relish the idea of stealing away such a massive outdoor musical tradition and claiming it as their own — indeed, believe it should be their birthright? One of the prime movers behind keeping the country kickin' here is Roberts, who this year was named Numero Uno among all country radio programmers in America, according to the publication Radio Ink. He's considered one of the most powerful people in country music and a native Detroiter, so much of what happens surrounding keeping the Hoedown here — including its move to the more spacious and easier-to-access Comerica Park this year — conforms to Roberts' rules of order. And even though the formerly free festival is a ticketed, paid event for the first time, the alternative — thousands of visitors staying away from downtown the first weekend in June, and keeping their cash in their pockets — sounds as sad as a country ballad.

Best Arts Campaign 

Fela! at Music Hall 

It was audacious in the first place for Music Hall to bring the Broadway show Fela! here for a three-week run — a $1.6 million gamble. But Music Hall Prexy and Artistic Director Vince Paul and his crew went beyond traditional marketing and fundraising in cobbling together a web of more than 40 collaborators: philanthropic souls, corporations and institutions. There were presentations in schools (tying the Nigerian activist-musician's Afro-beat to hip hop), Fela-related exhibits at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, the Virgil H. Carr Cultural Arts Center, etc. The show more than broke even dollar-wise, but in bringing disparate Detroiters together around a timely message, Fela! was a smash. 

Best Poet for Busy People

Ken Mikolowski

Not that he can't stretch out, but Mikolowski's poems can make haikus seem long-winded by 10, 15, even 16 syllables. Even as he cuts down the reading time, the reader still needs to have time to ponder, and if you can't give even that, you're too busy for poetry or art and can skip a couple items down the list. If you're still with us, we'll note that the poem titled "THINGS TO DO IN AN ECONOMIC CRISIS" advises "Buy low / stay high." "WAY TO GO" cuts to the quick: "Gone." Mikolowski, who is a lecturer in the University of Michigan's Residential College, tells us he recently completed a 75-poem — two-lines max — manuscript for a new book of poetry titled THAT THAT. Here's a preview: The poem "REALITY" reads "not really."

Best Hope for the Detroit Institute of Arts 

The people 

Visit the DIA's website and you'll see the latest on great goings-on. Free Friday night music, award-winning films, world-renowned offerings from the standing collection (such as Pieter Bruegel the Elder's "The Wedding Dance" and the Rivera murals). What you don't get is the sense of how precarious it all is. With the city and state support now zeroed out, the museum is throwing a hail Mary pass by seeking a 0.2 mill property tax in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties. Without that kind of a cash infusion, museum Director Graham Beal foresees an institution open only for limited weekend hours, a rump institution. Wayne County Commissioners have OK'd a ballot measure, which would raise an annual $9 million if passed. Oakland County is still undecided on authorizing a ballot measure to raise an estimated $11 million; Macomb commissioners nixed and at press time were reconsidering a ballot measure to raise $3 million. Residents of counties passing millages would get free admission and bragging rights as arts patrons and saviors. Past efforts for cultural taxes have had mixed success (no to a 16-institution cultural tax, no to an earlier DIA proposal, yes to the Detroit Zoo). Could energizing the base of artists and arts lovers make a crucial difference for the DIA this time? 

Best Art Idea to Steal 

Lansing's Old Town Scrapfest

oldtownscrapfest.com 

This isn't a big-purse undertaking like Grand Rapids' ArtPrize, and it doesn't generate international waves, but it is modest in size, cool and easy to replicate. Sculpture teams get one hour to grab as much as 500 pounds of junk of their choosing at a scrap yard, then two weeks to build sculptures that are displayed during outdoor events, voted on by the public and finally auctioned off to raise money for ... more public arts projects. It's now entering its fourth year in Lansing. Let's see, we have scrap yards, artists, art-appreciative audiences and plenty of public arts projects that need funding. Let's have fun like they do in Lansing. 

Best New Pro Sports Team

American Ultimate Disc League's Detroit Mechanix 

theaudl.com, detmechanix.com

Go ahead and laugh at the American Ultimate Disc League. But the professional Ultimate Frisbee organization kicked off this month, and its Detroit-based team, the Detroit Mechanix, is ready for action. And the Pontiac Silverdome is going to see some consistent action again courtesy of the Mechanix home games. It's a bit like soccer, or maybe basketball, only with a Frisbee! Fans of ultimate, take note, as well: The sport's longstanding tradition, commonly referred to as "Spirit of the Game" — of leaving it up to players to make calls on the field — has been tossed out the window. The league is using refs, and, as AUDL founder and president Josh Moore recently told Slate, this will probably get more people to take the sport seriously. The Silverdome will also play host to the AUDL's first championship game on Aug. 11.

Best Creative Class Mingle 

Drinks x Design

We're reluctant to blow our own horn, but you might think we're holding back if you haven't gotten word already. Once a month, Metro Times teams up with Detroit Creative Corridor Center (DC3) and Quicken Loans — plus other outfits such as CCS and AIGA Detroit — to corral a local design shop to open its doors for a happy hour, typically followed by cocktails at a nearby bar or restaurant. It's an opportunity to hang out, network and talk up Detroit as a burgeoning center for design and creative innovation. It happens the second Thursday of the month. Past mingles have included Skidmore Design Studios, Digitas and Signal-Return. On May 10, we're at Kraemer Design Group, (1420 Broadway, downtown Detroit; thekraemeredge.com). Watch for Drinks X Design updates at MT's Facebook page (you like us already, right?) or e-mail [email protected]

Best Day to Be a Fish at the Belle Isle Aquarium

Shiver on the River

Though the Belle Isle Aquarium officially closed its doors to the public back in 2005, there's still one day a year when metro Detroiters can get their fill of early 20th century watery amusements. As part of Shiver on the River, Belle Isle's cold-weather celebration held annually in early February, the Belle Isle Aquarium opens for one day between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Visitors step through a Beaux Arts-style arched entryway into a veritable aquarium museum: When it closed, it was the oldest continuously operated aquarium on the continent. Though small by contemporary standards, the building pays homage to an earlier era in Detroit's history — and it still brings in the crowds. At this year's Shiver on the River, more than 2,500 people reportedly lined up for a look. Not so bad for an attraction that's officially closed for business.

Best Gardening Deal for City Residents

The Garden Resource Program

313-285-2300; detroitagriculture.net

A joint endeavor of such organizations as the Greening of Detroit, Earthworks Farm and the Detroit Agricultural Network, the Garden Resource Program provides seeds, plants, educational classes and more for new and existing urban gardens in Detroit, Highland Park and Hamtramck. Last year, the program offered resources to 1,351 urban vegetable gardens. The program dispensed 49,858 seed packs, and 230,296 transplants of more than 73 varieties of fruits and vegetables, encouraging a growing network of gardeners and urban ag advocates trying to ensure a thriving, locally based food system in the city. Neighborhood-based cluster groups allow growers to meet one another and share resources and opportunities, making them eligible for additional resources, such as tilling, compost, flowers, woodchips, weed fabric, volunteers, even a tool-sharing program.

Best Way to Build Community with Beer

Tashmoo Biergarten

Van Dyke between Agnes and Coe streets, Detroit; tashmoodetroit.com

Early last year, this corner of Van Dyke in West Village was an empty lot with an overgrown tree in the back. It was less a place for people to hang out than to cut through to the alley. It sure wasn't that way in the fall. It was fenced-in, filled with crowded, communal tables and benches, becoming for a few Sundays a place where revelers drank Michigan craft beer, listened to music, ate local food and played beanbag games. From old codgers to young kids, from locals to yokels, it was suddenly alive with chatter and mirth. The empty parcel had become a pop-up, open-air beer hall — the Tashmoo Biergarten — all the work of "Team Tashmoo." Tashmoo organizers Suzanne Vier, owner of Simply Suzanne granola company, and Aaron Wagner, a buyer for a purchasing company, pointed to the boost beer gardens had gotten since the late 1990s, when hipsters started crashing places like Queens' traditional Bohemian Beer Garden. The phenomenon there has grown to where even pop-up, temporary beer gardens spring up, which led Vier to propose one for the Villages neighborhoods. "In Eastern Europe, beer gardens are a place to come together. ... In Eastern European culture, it's not just about drinking; it's about food, music, families — it's an open and inviting place." They created it, and it was such a success they intend to bring it back this year, starting at noon on Saturday, May 19. Frankly, anything that can turn a vacant lot in Detroit into a gathering place demands attention.

Best Food Desert Fighters

Peaches & Greens

8838 Third Ave., Detroit; 313-870-9210; 10

a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, noon-4 p.m.

Saturday; centraldetroitchristian.org

As "food desert" becomes part of the local lexicon, awareness has grown that vendors of fresh fruit and vegetables underserve vast swaths of Detroit. Shunned by large chain grocers, these neighborhoods are places where residents, many of whom don't have cars, must shop for food at party stores and gas stations, which sell very little in the way of fresh produce. For local residents, this food crisis is a recipe for ill health, obesity and diabetes. As part of the Healthy Neighborhoods Initiative, the produce market, Peaches and Greens, opened in 2008, offers access to real, fresh food through a sustainable food system that maximizes community self-reliance. One of a variety of answers to the "food desert" issue, for almost five years now, Peaches and Greens has made it that much easier for city residents to get the life-giving food they need.

Best Inner-City Duck Farm

Laid in Detroit

4121 Neff Ave., Detroit;

East side Detroiter Suzanne Scoville wasn't always crazy about raising fowl. But when the opportunity to raise ducks for eggs — for culinary use at Detroit's Woodbridge Pub — came her way, she turned the yards of the properties she owns on Neff Avenue into a haven for a brace of ducks. Affectionately dubbed "Mother Nature" by some neighbors, she took to urban duck farming like, well, a duck takes to water. Though you'd think her busy enough already (she supports herself with a day job as a building contractor), Scoville says raising ducks isn't a whole lot of trouble. She says the animals possess an "unreal immune system," handle cold well, and are also more docile, smarter and more resilient than chickens. And the eggs? She says, "They're buttery, very rich, a bit fattier, higher in protein content. The whites come out a little stiffer, which causes baked goods to rise higher, fluffier. That's why bakers like them so much." See Laid in Detroit's Facebook page for more details. 

Best Vision for 

Mass Transit 

Freshwater Railway

FWRail.org.

Here's your transit map for a 14-county area, including: Detroit, Windsor, Lansing, Port Huron, Toledo and more. Six rail lines, 71 rail stations, 82 buses, 90 railcars, 25 locomotives and an easy-to-navigate website (unlike those for the problematic services of DDOT). Sound too good to be true? Well, Neil Greenberg — who refers to himself as a "renegade transit planner" — intended it to be that way. Although Freshwater was simply an idea he drummed up last fall to warp the vision of mass transit from "why can't we" to "how can we" — as he described the process to Model D Media — it serves as a contrast to where we are with mass transit today, with fragmented, often shoddy service and no certainty that improvement plans will come to fruition. Greenberg, though, is plowing ahead. His newest project, Momentum, is a plan to help improve the proposed Regional Transit Authority (currently in the legislative process).

Best Detroit Asset  

to Protect

Water & Sewerage Department

If Detroit should fail to abide by the terms of its consent agreement with the state and lose complete control of city government, don't be surprised if city jewels start to go on sale. We can think of nothing as valuable, or more in need of remaining in public hands, than the third-largest water and sewer utility in the United States. As the problems of climate change continue, and water shortages in other parts of the United States grow more severe, privatized water corporations will be salivating over the prospect of getting their claws into something as essential as Detroit's Water Works Park, which has the potential to produce up to 320 million gallons of drinking water a day. If you want an idea of how the public will react if there are attempts to give a profit-driven company control of something as essential as water, check out the excellent documentary The Water Front, which chronicles the fight that ensued when an appointed manager attempted to sell off Highland Park's water system.

Best Public Project 

to Push Through

New International Trade Crossing

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder is in favor of building a new publicly owned bridge across the Detroit River. So are his four gubernatorial predecessors, ditto the governments of Ontario and Canada (willing to pay Michigan's share of the project), the U.S. government, automakers, labor unions, chambers of commerce far and wide. Two key entities are against. There's the Detroit International Bridge Co., owned by the Moroun family, which is willing to spend vast amounts of money and say just about anything in a desperate attempt to stave off the competition the new bridge would offer their near-monopoly. And then there's the Michigan Legislature, under the sway of the Moroun family's largesse. If the Legislature can't be convinced this is the best interest of the region, state and nation, then Gov. Snynder needs to employ one of the options he says are available and get the job done by taking executive action. No other single action can provide this struggling state with the economic benefit the NITC does.

Best Way for Matty Moroun to Improve His Public Image

Give Detroit the Ambassador Bridge or ... 

The 84-year-old billionaire Moroun has already recouped his shrewd investment in the Ambassador Bridge many times over, having leveraged the value of the bridge with duty-free operations and the tax-free truck fueling stations at the Gateway Plaza and all sorts of other businesses. So why not make a grand gesture and give back to the city that has given so much to him? Generating an estimated $60 million to $100 million in revenue annually, the bridge could immediately go a long way toward solving Detroit's financial crisis and put it on a sound footing from which to begin growing again. Matty would immediately go from being a despised villain to a sainted hero remembered for all time as the man who helped save Detroit. ... OK, we're dreaming. But he could at least drop his opposition to the NITC and free the legislators under his sway to do the right thing.