So much good bloggage today, let’s just get to it and let it guide the comment conversations today, eh? I’ll be housebound for much of it, anyway. I’m working on a story and apparently I’m afflicted by some odd aphasia, where I tell people “I’d like to talk to A and B about X and Z,” and they hear, “Blah blah blah and please don’t feel you need to call me back before October. I understand it’s vacation season, and besides, I am a mere freelancer.”
Also, I’m getting Comcast phone service today. I’m hoping this will halt the death of one acre of forest, slaughtered to send me mailings for the Comcast Triple Play, but who knows? I’m just hoping for a prompt technician.
OK, then. First we have a tale of the bargains to be found on the local real-estate market:
DETROIT — One dollar can get you a large soda at McDonald’s, a used VHS movie at 7-Eleven or a house in Detroit.
The fact that a home on the city’s east side was listed for $1 recently shows how depressed the real estate market has become in one of America’s poorest big cities.
And it still took 19 days to find a buyer.
(That’s another Ron French special, btw. A lesser writer would have overlooked the 19-days part. Always with the great detail, that Ron.) At first blush, this isn’t that surprising — I’ve written about $100 houses in Detroit before, so $1 isn’t that much of a stretch, and what’s more, I’d bet there are at least a few unloved parcels at bargain-basement prices here and there in most American cities. What makes this house so of-the-moment is that it sold not two years ago for $65,000. But the new owner couldn’t or wouldn’t pay the mortgage — fraud is always a strong possibility — and once it was empty, it was as attractive to the scrapping vultures as a fresh dead heifer is to the real kind. They started from the outside and worked their way in:
“The siding was the first to go. Then they took the fence. Then they broke in and took everything else,” [said a neighbor.]
The company hired to manage the home and sell it, the Bearing Group, boarded up the home only to find the boards stolen and used to board up another abandoned home nearby. Scrappers tore out the copper plumbing, the furnace and the light fixtures, taking everything of value, including the kitchen sink.
Click through and enlarge the picture and take note of the dying ash tree on the park strip, too. That’s the new arboreal symbol of southeast Michigan, and don’t get smug about it — sooner or later the emerald ash borer is coming to your town, too.
How bad is it in Detroit? Even the dead are leaving town:
CLINTON TOWNSHIP– At precisely 8:57 a.m., under an overcast sky, Francesco and Francesca Imbrunone were re-laid to rest. A man in a dark suit stood over their remains proclaiming that they “await the resurrection.”
If that promise holds true, then it would be, in a way, the Imbrunones’ second resurrection. As it happens, the couple was buried nearly 50 years ago in Detroit’s Mount Olivet Cemetery on the city’s east side. Then their grandchildren decided to disinter them, move them to the leafier suburbs and bury them again this particular morning.
Five grand, the grandchildren spent, so they won’t have to cross 8 Mile to visit their ancestors. This one is ridiculous, to be sure, and a look at the accompanying video only confirmed what I suspected — these are the thin-lipped suburbanites who say, in public, sorrowful words about “convenience” and “safety,” but as one poster on the DetroitYES forums pointed out, Just imagine what their private conversations were like when they came to the conclusion to move Grandma & Grandma. Yes, I can just imagine. The route between their new homes and the ancestral burying ground is hardly the road to the Baghdad airport. Of course they mention the inevitable car breakdown. Car breakdowns are like car backfires — spoken of often, but scarcer by the year. But you can’t tell that to someone willing to drop five grand to never have to see the city at less than freeway speeds again.
For the record, I have yet to “visit my parents” since their interment at Union Cemetery in Columbus. So part of my puzzlement is a cultural disconnect with the idea of primping graves forever; isn’t memory enough?
Finally, a clue to why, perhaps, the city is dying: German technology bent to the task of? Anyone? Engine performance? Hydrogen fuel cells? Rechargeable batteries to power green cars? No. Reproducing the sound of a V-8 engine (inevitably described as “throaty”). Why? Because people are stupid, that’s why:
Eberspacher GmbH and its Novi-based North American subsidiary have developed technology that replaces a muffler with a speaker inserted into the exhaust system. That speaker — a heat restraint version of a typical stereo speaker — emits sound waves that can either silence engine noise or tune it so that even a quiet hybrid sedan can roar like a classic muscle car.
Widespread use of such a system could solve two issues facing automakers as they strive to offer smaller, more fuel-efficient and hybrid vehicles: Consumer perception that quiet cars offer poor performance; and concerns that hybrids, which are silent at slow speeds, pose a safety hazard to the blind because they use engine noise to identify moving vehicles.
I’m amazed how often I hear this, anecdotally: “But I like a car with that deep rumbly sound.” Oh, bite me. When we were in Monterey, the peninsula filled with motorcyclists, there for a road race in nearby Salinas. Alan said it was a Formula I of bikes, and the idea of thousands of them in town was enough for one art gallery on Cannery Row to close pre-emptively, “due to excessive noise.” But guess what? There was hardly any noise. It turns out that aficionados of European road bikes — BMWs, Triumphs, Ducatis — don’t measure their manhoods in decibels. That’s for those tattooed lardasses on Harleys. (Apologies to any tattooed lardasses in the readership; I’m just venting.)
So, just to sum up: Speakers in your mufflers. It’s times like this I think of “Idiocracy,” the prelude, where the best minds of science are bent not to the problem of declining IQs, but hair loss and erections.
Are we done ranting? I guess.
A little more bloggage, HT Roy: The Guardian’s gallery of LOLBush, at the Olympics. Stupid, but mildly amusing.
A bit testy this morning? Why yes, yes I am. I’m taking Poynter.org off my bookmarks, or at least restricting myself to the RSS feed, which cuts out all the b.s. links surrounding Romenesko’s media news. If I see one more Jill Geisler essay on “newsroom leadership,” I may explode.
Off to make phone calls. Enjoy your day.