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E-M:/ FW: This was in the LA times on Sunday...Interesting



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Enviro-Mich message from Tom & Anne Woiwode <woiwode@voyager.net>
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This was in the LA Times a week ago.  It's interesting, especially in light
of the recent announcement about Detroit's East Riverfront.

Tom Woiwode

>Motor City proves potent engine for popular culture
>
>
>
>Reed Johnson
>December 15 2002
>
>The nominations are in for 2002, and it's time to announce America's newest
>cultural hot spot. New York? Not this time, paisano. How about Austin?
>Chapel Hill? San Jose? Nope, none of those gleaming New Economy towns.
>
>The winner, believe it or not, is Detroit, one of the scrappiest, most
>soulful burgs in the nation -- as well as one of the most complex and
>misrepresented. Detroit, a.k.a. Hockeytown, where the fans at Joe Louis
>Arena are as tough as the players slamming each other out on the ice.
>Detroit, longtime urban boogeyman of the national imagination, where the
>citizenry used to vent its anger and despair by torching the town on
Devil's
>Night (Oct. 30) in the '80s and early '90s. Detroit, which columnist Frank
>Rich of the New York Times, in a profile of Detroit-bred rapper Eminem,
>recently dubbed "America's closest approximation of hell."
>
>Yeah, yeah. For years Detroiters have weathered the slurs and swallowed the
>bad jokes. Most insults were uttered by people who've probably never set
>foot south of 8 Mile Road, which divides Detroit proper from its northern
>suburbs.
>
>But culturally speaking, the Motor City has been on a roll lately, for
>reasons that tend to elude national trend watchers and fashion arbiters. A
>geographic and cultural anomaly -- it is the only major U.S. city that
looks
>south into Canada -- Detroit is a blue-collar Midwestern metropolis
invented
>by French Canadian fur trappers, then reinvented by Appalachian and
>Mississippi Delta migrants who came to work in the auto plants.
>
>"Manual labor" isn't a dirty term in Detroit, whether you're a stamping
>plant worker or a guitar player. It's a place of proud working-class
>sentiments and long memories, where the populace draws solidarity and
>inspiration by huddling against outsiders' negative perceptions. A city
>where a do-it-yourselfer aesthetic substitutes for the
>creativity-by-committee approach of corporate Hollywood and its ilk. Former
>auto worker Berry Gordy brilliantly fused all these local tendencies when
he
>used assembly-line techniques to recruit, train and popularize his Motown
>music empire.
>
>With its miles of blighted buildings and boarded-up factories, Detroit
still
>has a long, hard road ahead of it. But in its blunt way, the Motor City is
>showing that cultural vitality isn't always picturesque. Nor is it usually
>achieved without hardship and struggle. "Detroit had more than its share of
>problems," says Marilyn Wheaton, director of the city's Cultural Affairs
>Department. "But get over it. It's coming back."
>
>Having worked in downtown Detroit for five years in the early to mid-'90s,
I
>heard plenty of chamber of commerce palaver about Detroit's "comeback,"
>which always seemed to be just around the corner. But there are signs that
>the "Renaissance City" is emerging from its 30-year-long Dark Ages, a
period
>that followed Detroit's 1967 riots, the worst in modern U.S. history until
>L.A.'s civic unrest in 1992.
>
>A creative hub
>
>Detroit, a three-quarters African American city of just under a million, is
>a hub of magnificent Art Deco skyscrapers, elegant parks and grand, if
>faded, homes. It has given the world the mass-production automobile, the
>Motown sound, techno dance music, Robin Williams, Tim Allen, Alice Cooper,
>Aretha Franklin, Jackie Wilson, Francis Ford Coppola and the Coney Island
>chili hot dog, a confection perhaps only a bred-to-the-bone Detroiter can
>love.
>
>Today, Detroit neo-garage rock bands like the White Stripes and the Detroit
>Cobras are kicking out the jams at venues across the country. Last Memorial
>Day weekend, 1.5 million people attended the Detroit Electronic Music
>Festival, the largest draw for such an event anywhere, and a fitting
tribute
>to the city where Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson pioneered beat-driven,
>computer-generated dance music.
>
>"What is the connecting thread with Detroit music? A kind of earthiness, I
>think, directness, no-nonsense. And also isolation, because we're not on
>either coast, so things tend to incubate here," says Susan Whitall, a
writer
>for the Detroit News and author of a book about the women of Motown.
>
>Several of this fall's best films use Detroit as their indispensable
>backdrop. They include "Standing in the Shadows of Motown," an affectionate
>documentary about the studio musicians who backed up the Temptations,
>Supremes and other '60s R&B acts; and, of course, "8 Mile," Curtis Hanson's
>gritty biopic about Eminem.
>
>Michael Moore's documentary "Bowling for Columbine" spends a good deal of
>time wandering Detroit and his nearby hometown of Flint, trying to fathom
>the national gun fetish. Though Moore's depiction of the city isn't exactly
>flattering, his movies (including "Roger and Me") have testified to
>Michiganders' resiliency and character. Yet another Detroit-set movie, Joe
>Carnahan's well-made, morally murky cop drama "Narc," starring Jason Patric
>and Ray Liotta, will open soon.
>
>Alas, like many cities, Detroit sometimes fails to recognize its native
sons
>and daughters until they're halfway out the door. Sam Raimi nurtured his
>peculiar talents in Detroit for years before moving to Hollywood and
>directing this summer's No. 1 movie "Spider-Man." Another metro Detroit
>transplant, Jeffrey Eugenides, author of "The Virgin Suicides," which is
set
>in Detroit, this year impressed book critics even more with his second
>novel, "Middlesex."
>
>Their hometown's influence can still be felt in their work, however, and
>many other Detroit artists either have stayed put or moved back home after
>making their reputations elsewhere. As for the omnipresent Marshall Mathers
>III -- love him, hate him or simply ignore him -- he has dragged rap music
>kicking and screaming across the borderline that separated boomers from the
>hip-hop generation.
>
>It would be dangerous to over-romanticize Detroit, one of the poorest big
>cities in the country, which only recently landed its first new movie
>theater to be built in decades. Years of white flight, economic
>disinvestment and insensitive freeway building have ravaged the city as
>surely as did the '67 riots, when tanks were called in to calm the burning
>streets.
>
>Yet people in "the 313" (Detroit's area code) somehow keep churning out
>popular culture that's as big and durable as a Ford pickup. "I jokingly
tell
>people there's something in our water," says Chris Jaszczak, a Detroit
>native and downtown theater owner. That brew isn't to everyone's taste, but
>it makes for a strong constitution.





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