Monday, March 31, 2008

Opening Day


I've never seen so many people downtown Detroit since I came back as right now. Several bars are already full. It's obvious that the city is being sustained by bad rock bands and by sports.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Mayors Aren't Important

At least, not all-important.

Who remembers the mayor of Paris during the Lost Generation of the 1920's, at which in that town congregated a host of great writers like Pound, Stein, Joyce, Hemingway?

Who remembers the mayor of San Francisco during the Beat movement there in the late 1950's? The city, if anything, was hostile to writers like Rexroth and Bob Kaufman. But what do we remember now from that place and time?

Writers and artists make a city-- not mayors.

Monday, March 24, 2008


Detroit has the infrastructure for a downtown comeback, which is vital for the area as a whole to come back. It hasn't solved the problem of how to get enough people to occupy all those condos, lofts, and office buildings.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Who Wants Change?

To change, to be at the forefront of change-- the new in business or art-- a city has to want to accept the risks which come with change. It has to want to be the best. It needs a nothing-to-lose attitude.

What I see from the media in Detroit is not the desire to change, but its opposite.

For instance: an article in the Detroit News, February 29. Front page. Headline: "GM, Ford reliability improves."

Look closer and you see that the two companies are still behind foreign automakers in quality and reliability, according to Consumer Reports. The News said, "--Asian automakers continued to dominate the magazine's best-in-class and overall rankings."

In fact, only 64% of Ford vehicles were recommended, as opposed to Honda's 100%. GM was at 30%. GM and Ford ranked ahead of only one foreign automaker, Suzuki. Chrysler, meanwhile, was dead last, tied with Suzuki at 14%.

Improvement, according to some, no matter how incremental, is improvement. The U.S. automakers are closing the quality gap, and have been closing it for thirty years. They're like the greyhounds chasing rabbits at the dog track who never catch up.

Incremental change is no change at all. Yet the Detroit area continues to think in terms of increments, when an entirely different mindset is called for.

The question remains: Who wants change?

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Solution

WITHIN DAYS of returning to Detroit last fall I saw its solution, while walking downtown. It's why I've stayed around, when my original intent was a visit of a month or two. I'll be explaining the solution, first laying the groundwork for the explanation. The plan is completely do-able. I'm one of the few individuals who can carry it out.

Saturday, March 15, 2008


There's something uniquely pleasant about the first hints of spring when one has survived-- been beaten-up but survived-- a real winter, as in Detroit.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Madonna and Detroit

IT WAS INAPT for Detroit to embrace Madonna so much as one its own. She left Rochester right after high school and never looked behind her. Madonna, in fact, was the quintessential New York artist. She like so many went there to live in poverty, then "made it"-- that early Madonna best captured in the "Desperately Seeking Susan" movie. Of course, that was a different New York City from today's.

It IS apt though that Madonna has been inducted into a white-elephant museum. As an industry and a growth art, pop/rock music peaked at about the time she came on the scene. The market since has been saturated. The move is over.

The overwhelmingly majority of Detroit's artistic energy now-- 95%-- is going into music, a non-growth field. In that sense, another auto industry. Once again this area is behind the times.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Hanging On

One gets a sense that this city, this area, has the mentality of "just hanging on"-- hoping for a miracle rescue to drop from the sky; in the meantime putting hope in incremental measures such as an uptick in the Big Three. There's no sense of crisis, though the area IS in crisis. Everyone is walking lethargically through their paces or waiting around.

Empty shops in the city and burbs; proprietors behind the counters waiting, waiting. . . .

The shame of it all is that Detroit has potential-- TREMENDOUS potential. To realize it the area will need a total shift in mental outlook. For starters, it needs radical new strategies for marketing itself.

Who here has the imagination to grasp this? Anyone?

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Hemingway's Michigan

The Michigan Humanities Council is sponsoring "The Great Michigan Read 2008," their choice of book being The Nick Adams Stories by Ernest hemingway. (See Many of the stories are set in Michigan.

To celebrate this event, the Detroit Free Press included in one of their issues a supplement with photos of Ernest hemingway, as well as one of the Nick Adams stories, "Big Two-Hearted River."

A narrative of a young man on a camping trip, it's not so much a story as a word-painting. Through patient accummulation of impressions and details, hemingway creates a three-dimensional world around the reader. the reader finds himself surrounded by the tent, pine chips, grasshoppers, axe, backpack. In that corner: the boiling pot of coffee. There: the canvas bucket of water hanging on a nail. Nearby: the ice-cold river. The reader experiences what the character experiences. There's pleasure in simplicity.

Too many literary writers without Ernest Hemingway's talent and intelligence, and without his commitment to authenticity, have clogged their narratives since with unselective details about everything-- a pathological mass of furniture and furnishings: trivial garbage. There's an inability to get to the point, and the reader snoozes off or tosses the magazine aside in disgust long before he's finished the story of artistic lethargy and dust. The New Yorker in particular with its audience of exclusivity has a fondness for such "fictions." Embracing the inaccessible is an important part of snob appeal.

Today's worst practitioners of literary Detail Disease include lauded names like Alice Munro, Jonathan Lethem, and Jonathan Franzen.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

To Writers

I'll be refocusing on this blog upcoming-- have been busy writing a series on the publishing industry at
which you may wish to read.

Literature in America today is in the throes of stagnation, not unlike the stagnation of the U.S. auto industry. Its cause is the same: the built-in inertia of the bureaucratic mentality.

Saturday, March 1, 2008


The Main Detroit library on Woodward Avenue, across from the DIA, has a great exhibit of the paintings of Nigerian artist Timothy Orikri. Fabulous work-- wonderfully colorful. I felt I could lose myself in the paintings when viewing them. His work will be on display there (on one of the upper floors) through March 29. Recommended.