Thursday, August 30, 2012

Detroit: it’s like Hiroshima without the radiation…

It kinda pains me to write this. One of the best friends I’ve ever had, a guy I’ve known for over 20 years, a guy I introduced to his wife of over 17 years, a guy I was a soldier with, a fellow conservative blogger, a fellow hockey fan, a family man and a pillar of his community, is originally from the Detroit area. He still loves the place, still supports the Detroit Lions, the Detroit Tigers, and his beloved Detroit Red Wings. After he retires from his current profession, he’s expressed a desire to return to the Detroit area.

But the more I see of Detroit, the more I question his sanity.

Motor City used to actually be the Motor City. The automakers were synonymous with Detroit and Michigan as a whole. And the unions and the Democrats annihilated the auto industry, bankrupting it for personal gain, and left the US taxpayers holding the bag for over $40 Billion with a capital B just for General Motors. They tout the Chevy Volt as some sort of miracle yet they pay you thousands in tax refunds to buy a car that gets only 40 miles on a charge, and the average owner makes about $170,000 a year. How ironic, marketing your flagship eco-crap to evil “rich people”. Then the Dems and Feds propped up what was left of Chrysler after the Germans at Daimler pulled out, not so that an American firm could buy it but so that Italy’s Fiat could buy it. At least Ford stayed afloat by refusing to let the Feral Gubmint take control. Of course, that makes them an evil corporation by doing it themselves and making a profit. But I digress…

As the popular picture on the Interwebz states, Detroit hasn’t had a Republican mayor since 1961. That’s 8 years before I was born. So for the past 51 years the city has been controlled by the Left. Now, they say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over & over again expecting a different result….so, perhaps the good people of Detroit should do some soul-searching.

Detroit was once a city of 2 million citizens. It now has maybe 800,000. That’s 1.2 million people who have fled Motown. Entire neighborhoods are empty wastelands, quite literally. Thousands of buildings and homes are empty and crumbling, as evidenced by this past weekend’s article & photo essay I found on the UK Daily Mail’s website. In fact, there are a plethora of articles & sites devoted to showcasing Detroit’s blight. And this one was particularly strange, at

Look at all the pretty sights to see in friendly Detroit...
Packs of wild dogs roam free, and wild scrub & tree saplings are reclaiming areas like something out of “Life After People” on History Channel.

A report published earlier in August by the Associated Press told of two bodies decomposing in an empty Detroit lot littered with tires and furniture. The teenage boys had been stripped to their underwear, shot, and then left to rot on one of the city’s many abandoned, formerly residential blocks.

They were only the latest in a string of murder victims whose remains lay for days before being discovered.
Earlier this year Detroit’s police chief, Ralph Godbee Jr., revealed that major crimes in the city had increased in the first quarter of 2012. He said serious crimes from the end of December 2011 through late April 2012, including assaults, burglaries, rapes and larcenies, were up approximately 2 percent. There were 98 homicides in the city in that time frame, actually slightly fewer than the 102 in the same period the previous year. Most were shootings, and according to the Detroit Free Press, the Detroit PD pointed to the number of guns on the street as a main factor in the homicide rate.

The crime problem is no great surprise. Most of the nation’s worst crime problems are in Democrat-controlled cities. A recent report of the top ten violent cities in America shows that:

Violence Rank – City/State – Mayor – Political Party
1. Flint, Michigan – Dayne Walling – Democrat
2. Detroit, Michigan – Dave Bing – Democrat
3. Saint Louis, Missouri – Francis G. Slay – Democrat
4. Oakland, California – Jean Quan – Democrat
5. Memphis, Tennessee – A C Wharton, Jr. – Democrat
6. Little Rock, Arkansas – Mark Stodola – Democrat
7. Birmingham, Alabama – William A. Bell-- Democrat
8. Atlanta, Georgia- Kasim Reed-- Democrat
9. Baltimore, Maryland – Stephanie Rawlings-Blake – Democrat
10. Stockton, California – Ann Johnston – Democrat

Again, I say, insanity is doing the same thing over & over & expecting a different result.

Anyways, back to Detroit.It’s easy to get sidetracked. While some folks would like to tell you Detroit is bouncing back and is in a sort of revival, with planned parks and what not to replace the blighted areas, I’m highly skeptical. They said Baltimore was in a revival once too, and all they did was polish the turd and call it a diamond…..they spruced up one touristy area called the Inner  Harbor, back in the 80s, and then that led to Harborplace and some touristy spots and the new sports stadiums, but when I last visited in late 2000 it was still a sty just a few blocks from the tourist zone. The Fox News report from a month ago that Detroit is in a revival comes across as a paid advertisement from the Chamber of Commerce, and even the article from’s Detroit page that referred me to the article was skeptical of Detroit going from Wasteland to Wonderland…they agreed that once you leave the touristy areait gets rather dodgy.

The Baltimore the Chamber of Commerce wants you to see....
and the Baltimore they don't want you to see...

Thanks to Cop In The Hood ( for the above pics

I know every urban area has its blights. Even quaint, pristine, charming Belle of the South, friendly Charleston, SC, near where I live, has areas of grim decay just outside the tourist blocks. But Detroit has declined to near-Beirut status even worse than the city I previously thought was one of the worst derelict cities in the nation, Filthadelphia, or even Camden, New Jersey. Camden is almost beyond salvation at this point, running neck & neck with Detroit as America's Wasteland. Maybe it can be the radiation-free Nagasaki to Detroit's Hiroshima. They also just dissolved their police department...

The city itself, at 138 square miles, is larger than Manhattan, Boston, and San Francisco combined and about 2/3 of the population has fled either to the suburbs or simply out of state. Sure, populations have often shifted out of cities and into the burbs as places get crowded but those people are generally replaced and it’s not that noticeable. But for 2/3 to leave and not be replaced and to have entire swaths go fallow and disintegrate is simply un-American, or at least unfathomable to the American mind. This isn’t Hashima Island, the abandoned coal mining site in Japan. This isn’t Pripyat, Ukraine, the city next to Chernobyl that was evacuated & abandoned. This isn’t even Centralia, Pennsylvania, a village of 1,000 closed down and evacuated after a mine fire became uncontrollable and has been smoldering underground since 1962. This is Big City America. It boggles the mind.

Hashima Island, Japan

Pripiyat, Ukraine. Like Detroit, but with radiation.

Centralia...still burning...

Driven out by crime, corruption, and a crushed economy, what used to be the city that moved America has itself moved on and left its shattered remnants behind, like the husk of a cicada after it molts. Meanwhile, what’s left of Michigan is turning into an Islamic Caliphate, but that’s a blog for another day…

That delightful area of Detroit the Chamber of Commerce touts. Just don't venture past it...

NOTE: Like I mentioned above, my buddy from the Detroit area is also a fellow blogger. Swing by & read something he wrote about the exodus from Motown back in 2010 here.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Did I miss the party?

It’s hard for me sometimes to believe that I graduated high school 25 years ago, despite the little reminders I keep getting. These reminders include arthritis, silver hair at my temples, a supreme dislike for kids with their asses hanging out of their pants, and watching my classmates freak out as their kids start college or deploy the Afghanistan. I’d still rather listen to songs that came out in the summer of ’87 than what gets churned out by 99% of today’s artists, who probably weren’t even born yet when I graduated.

That said, I keep wondering if either I was a complete no-life in school or Hollywood has a somewhat skewed idea of what a high school party is. Either I never got invited to these insanely huge epic shindigs, or they simply did not exist, at least not at my high school of 450 kids in coastal Maine.

I did go to one party while I was in the Army, stationed at Fort Riley, that was a college party at someone’s townhouse near the campus of Kansas State University. I’m not sure how me and my buddy Jim got wind of this party since we didn’t really know any college people, and by & large the college kids eschewed inviting Army types (especially Army cops) to their events. There was maybe 45 people there when we arrived. The music sucked. The people sucked. The lack of any munchies whatsoever sucked. Having to pony up five bucks to the beer fund for a cliche red Solo cup and keg access sucked. So, when no one was looking, we unscrewed the beer tap, stole it, and left the party via the side gate in the fence instead of through the house. My guess is the party ended soon thereafter.

Prior to that, while in Germany I went to a basement party in town at a local friend’s place with maybe 25 people, a buffet table, and lots of beer. Nothing got out of hand, the music was never loud, and nothing got broken, as the basement was in the friend’s parents’ house and his Mutter und Vater were upstairs watching TV in their living room. It was a very polite affair, unlike the one time I tried to host a New Year’s Eve party at my own place in Germany to celebrate the coming of the 90s….Maybe 12 people, too much alcohol, and I think I set my arm on fire making a flamethrower out of a can of Binaca breath spray.

But back to high school…..

I simply never saw, or even heard about through the grapevine, about these epic parties held in someone’s huge, lavish, multi-level, 5+ bedroom McMansion with detached pool house, with 100 to 200 “guests” (invited or not), music to rival Lollapalooza, unlimited fountains of beer & liquor, and neighbors who are either deaf or ungodly understanding. Almost everyone at the party is incredibly gorgeous, unless it furthers the plotline to be less attractive. All manner of disparate social groups attend and get along perfectly in Party Utopia. The house gets trashed to the point where Servicemaster would need a week and $10,000 to clean it up, yet the place is immaculate by the time the parents get back from Jakarta or Paris or some other exotic locale. And, of course, the cops, if they ever even get called, don’t show up till 4AM when it’s all just about over. 

Seriously...whose yard is the size of a stadium?

Just look at any of the parties found in Hollywood teen films from the 80s till now….

Sixteen Candles had a big party at Jake’s. Can’t Hardly Wait was one big party gone wrong. The big get together at Steff’s estate in Pretty in Pink. The party in She’s All That. The big party in 10 Things I Hate About You.  The Halloween party in Mean Girls. The big party in Clueless. All of House Party…1, 2, and 3. The party in Say Anything. The party in Superbad. The party in Risky Business. A giant rave in Freddy vs Jason no less. There was a big teen party in Uncle Buck. The epic bash at Stiffler’s in American Pie. The crazed lake party in American Reunion. And, of course, the party to end all parties, Project X.

Jake's house in Sixteen Candles
10 Things I Hate About You
House Party
Can't Hardly Wait
Mean Girls

Project X

Sure, it makes for some amusing entertainment, but…and there’s always a but. It fuels adolescent bad judgement into A) expecting teen parties to be like this,  B) entices goofballs with bad judgement to try & pull off parties like this, C) invariably disappoints when the Epic Party fails. 

Most learn from this & move on. Some kids have a harder head and just try & emulate it in college (college party movies are just as insane). Then they emulate the bachelor parties. Then they end up broke, single, and in rehab.

And some kids just grow old and second guess their teen years wondering if they actually did miss something.

It's a party at Stiffler's!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Farewell to a true American hero

Yesterday America lost a true hero with the passing away of George Hickman at the age of 88 in Seattle, Washington. Mister Hickman was one of the last remaining members of the original Tuskegee Airmen. George was also one of the first volunteers in the pioneering program. Originally a pilot trainee, George ended up a flight mechanic. After the war, he spent 30 years with Boeing in Seattle, and was a much beloved usher at University of Washington & Seattle Seahawks games for decades.

                                                    Godspeed, George. Rest in Peace, sir.

This week in music only half sucks...

Sometimes I’m a bit surprised at how quickly a song can mysteriously hit the top of the Top 40 charts with minimal airplay. I think it may have something to do with this being the digital age of downloads and when a song becomes available it can become #1 damn near instantly. When people want their mediocrity, they want it FAST.

A shining example is this week’s release of “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” by elfin pop/country crossover chanteuse Taylor Swift. Billboard said on Wednesday that the infectiously catchy song was already among the 40 most-played tunes on U.S. radio just two days after being released. The song went to the top of iTunes’ Top 25 in the United States just an hour after it was released on Monday, and has since reached No. 1 in Australia, Canada, Brazil, Finland and 20 other nations.

The song itself is typical Swift material, dreamy lamentations that sound like a 13-year old’s diary entries, this time sounding more like Avril Lavigne but without the cheerleader kitsch that Avril seems so fond of. I’ve only heard it three times so far this week, and I think by the fifth I will detest it.

After doing really well on the UK charts, Flo Rida brings us what very well may be his first hit single without a guest vocalist, called “Whistle”. Of course, he whistles on it, and the slower tempo and acoustic guitar is interesting for a few seconds, but over all I was bored with it because, of course, deep down it’s pop crap. Of course, it went to #1 immediately.

I often wear enormous gold chains to the beach so that they can weigh me down in the water...

Another one that hit the top five almost overnight was when Katy Perry released what might be the 436th single from her last album. Seriously; I think she has released the entire effing album as individual singles over the past two years. “Wide Awake” is the eighth single from her 2010 album “Teenage Dream”. It’s a decent song, quite likeable, as is Katy herself when she’s not adding extra syllables into words to lengthen them to fit the beat scheme of a song. However, as is the case with anything on Top 40 pop radio, they play the living crap out of it.

How many different single covers does a song really need?

I had a feeling that the band fun., who brought us “We Are Young” was going to be a one-hit wonder but it seems they are proving me wrong. They did release a second single, “Some Nights”,and as I predicted, I don’t really like it. I can’t exactly put my finger on it as to why. Maybe it sounds too much like Simon & Garfunkel’s 1970 song “Cecilia”, which I never liked either. Or it could be that radio is spinning it every 27 minutes, thus compounding a bad situation.

Back in June, I mentioned the new single from Owl City, called “Shooting Star”, and while I have been scathingly critical of Owl City in the past as being estrogenic, testosterone-free sugar-frosted rubbish, I thought this new song of theirs was pretty good. Of course, I never heard it on the radio, not once. Instead, radio is now playing a song called “Good Time”, a duet between Owl City and ……grrrrrrr…annoying bubbly sugary saccharine-soaked Carly Rae Jepsen, the little waif who tortures me non-stop with that pukefest “Call Me Maybe”. If I were 14 again, and all my freshman friends were jamming to this in the back of mom’s minivan on the way to the mall, I’d still say it sucked and lapse into a sugar coma.

This song sucks and we know it.

Everyone’s favorite in-your-face girl, Pink, returns from a childbirth and mommyhood break with another really fun middle finger salute to life with Blow Me (One Last Kiss). I love Pink. She’s fun, she’s quirky, she’s different, and she has a great voice. And pop radio usually plays each song to death & ruins it for me. I best enjoy it while I can.

Over the years I’ve gotten used to being sorely disappointed by most of what comes out of American Idol. So few of the kids who make the Top 10 from Idol actually A) succeed, B) are worth a damn, C) are relevant 12 months later. After 10 seasons, of the 100 kids from the Top 10 finalists, there’s maybe, what, 5 bonafide stars? And maybe another 10 tops who had a second album or had a charted single? This year’s winner was Philip Phillips (why? Why, parents? Seriously?) and while I liked him as a person, with his shy “aw-shucks” charm, I found his songs to all sound the same on the show; forcibly quirky covers that sounded like he was doing his best Dave Matthews impersonations. It really made me feel the kid, though likeable, was a one-trick pony. At least he has a single out already, only a couple months after winning this year’s competition. I’ve always said that they take way too much time putting out material from the winners and that by the time they get heard from again the fickle, 2-minute-attention-span music audience in America has moved on to the next flavor of the minute and the Idol winner is no longer relevant.

This debut single from Phil² is “Home”, and at first I had no idea it was him. In fact, I’d forgotten completely that he sang it on the season finale when he won. It’s a likeable song, with Phil² channeling his best Mumford & Sons impersonation over what sounds like a Coldplay backing vocal from a lost B-side track. I’m trying my best to not get sick of hearing it, but it’s getting a lot of airplay on multiple station formats and by next week will likely be in the Top 5.

This past week I’ve found a song creeping into regular airplay rotations on pop radio that had been a #1 for a few weeks on the Alternative charts, “Tongue Tied” by the band Grouplove. It’s catchy in the way that “We Are Young” was, and also rides that precarious ledge of being easy to get tired of if heard too often. In fact, the vocals kinda remind me of the singer from fun. (Nate Ruess) singing a Modest Mouse song with some Peter Hook bass riffs from a long-forgotten New Order track in the background, and a bridge in the middle that was borrowed from Paul Oakenfold’s “Starry Eyed Surprise”.

Also getting some regular airplay is “Too Close” by Alex Clare. You’ve been hearing it for months in snippets on the commercials for Internet Explorer and it’s finally taking the world by storm. It’s best when played really loud, a brilliant mix of acoustic guitars and dubstep synth beats, with some rather powerful vocals. This track is getting a lot of plays on my MP3 player and in my car. 

Yes, all that voice comes out of that unassuming guy...

After a bit of a hiatus, No Doubt is back with “Settle Down”, a quirky track with a bit of a reggae feel, not a real stretch considering when they started, No Doubt had serious ska influences. This is the lead single off their first new album in 11 years, and while it struck me as a bit odd at first, it’s quickly become one of my current favorite tracks. Almost 43, and with two kids (with the obligatory silly Hollywood names), and Gwen Stefani is still one of the hottest babes in alternative music. I’m looking forward to hearing the rest of the album.

Finally, well over a year after releasing their last single “The Sun” while working on their new album, Shiny Toy Guns finally released a second new single, “Waiting Alone” ahead of the October release of their long-awaited and highly anticipated third album, to be simply called “III”. It follows the tried & true STG formula of back & forth shared vocals between Chad Petree and Carah Faye, and Carah has never sounded better. I’m a huge fan of Shiny Toy Guns and can’t wait for the full album. I’ve loved both of their new songs from the sessions so far.

Another song that finally grew on me is “Give Me Something” by the band Scars on 45. I’ve been hearing it for what feels like months on my local Adult Contemporary station. It sounds rather folk-ish at first but has really nice melodies and harmonies. The acoustic side of indie rock isn’t my usual fare but when regular pop music and most alternative music sucks so badly, one must branch out and broaden one’s horizons. 

Surprisingly, the new one from The Killers hasn’t caught fire with me yet. I’ve been a big fan of the Vegas quartet since their debut single in 2004. Usually their singles grab me & shake me violently to get my attention but so far “Runaways” is still just a few more listens away from really captivating me. Maybe it’s the four-year break since their last album, which was a bit hit or miss with me. The jury is sorta still out on it, so check back with me.

And freshly released is "I Will Wait", the much-anticipated new single from Mumford & Sons, ahead of the album "Babel", coming out next month. I am of the opinion that there is no such thing as a bad song from these guys. Every song is a soaring triumph.


And in future music news:
After the understated success and critical acclaim of their single “Winner”, timed to accompany the Olympics and paired up with diverse B-sides like a musical version of Rudyard Kipling’s poem“The Way Through The Woods” and a cover of the Bee Gees’ “I Started a Joke” as a tribute to the late Robin Gibb, Pet Shop Boys will release their eleventh studio album “Elysium” in a couple weeks. 

It looks like an April 2013 release for the new album from Depeche Mode, and the latest news is that there are over 20 songs being worked on, Ben Hillier is producing it, and the legendary Flood is mixing it. There continue to be deeply underground rumors surrounding some sort of collaboration with former Mode member Alan Wilder on the project as well. And I can’t wait to get it.