‘The ’90s sucked, man.’

Two movies this weekend, both old and banished to cable, one a pleasant surprise, the other its opposite. Why? Because it’s Monday, I have to finish a story for money and do the customary work for no money, and why else? Because it’s quarterly tax day, the little fountains of joy for all self-employed lucky devils like me.

First, “The Wrestler.” I’d been resisting it for what I considered perfectly good reasons, primarily an allergy to Mickey Rourke and a question I could honestly answer no way, i.e., do I really care about professional wrestling’s permanent undercard? Friends, was I wrong.

Honestly, Rourke is nearly unrecognizable as Randy “the Ram” Robinson. No, he is Robinson. Whatever ’80s buzz he had as an actor, the stuff he squandered so readily with the usual vanity projects, bad relationships and worse behavior, lurks behind every shot of his ruined face. The fact the actor’s was ruined by plastic surgery and the wrestler’s by bad behavior and work is just serendipity. Rourke can barely move his mouth, but it plays as suppressed pain instead of Botox. But he’s not the best thing about “The Wrestler.” The details are, and I wished we’d gotten an extra 24 hours of pay-per-view, because I wanted to watch it again and just look at the products on the dressing-room counters, the set dressing in his crappy trailer, the way Randy and his stripper girlfriend exult over ’80s hair bands before “that Cobain pussy came around and ruined it all.”

And, I should add, the ending was absolutely perfect. So go rent the DVD.

Next up: “Feast of Love,” a two-star disappointment that only gets the second star because of the costumes and set design — everybody and everything looks real good. Otherwise, bleh. The novel was one of the great discoveries of my year in Ann Arbor, recommended by one of my writing teachers, who’d chosen Michigan’s MFA program over Iowa’s solely so she could study with Charles Baxter, the author. It’s a wonderful book, a “Midsummer Night’s Dream” of relationships romantic and familial, old and young, and the movie is just pretty actresses getting naked. I know what you’re thinking, but seriously: All those lovely breasts can’t save it.

One of my old screenwriting profs mentioned the film last January, at a panel discussion about Michigan’s tax incentives for moviemaking, and suggested relocating the story from Ann Arbor to Portland was a great mistake and insult. I can’t agree 100 percent, but there is one scene that left me sneering, in which a medical emergency mires a car trying to make its way to an ER; in the book they’re stuck in gridlocked traffic on Stadium Boulevard, just as the Ohio State-Michigan game is ending. The characters’ cries for help blend in with the exultation of the crowd — the Wolverines pulled out another one — and it’s just a wonderful scene of tragedy and absurdity, the individual buried in a sea of humanity. Robert Benton tries to duplicate it, but there’s something about seeing these wan Oregonians waving their stupid thunder sticks that was just ridiculous. It might have helped if they could have wrangled more than 30 extras to pretend to be Big 10 football fans, too, but I guess they blew the budget on body makeup.

Also, if we give Morgan Freeman a sizable sum of money, can we get it in writing that he will never play a wise old man again? I know, I know — the voice, it’s Morgan Freeman, but all he’s required to do anymore is stare over the top of his reading glasses and be wise.


Can’t stay long today; see the usual excuses. A bit of bloggage:

The Detroit dailies may be on life support, but they’re going down swinging. Yesterday in the Freep, yet another tale of official misconduct — a pension board that travels the world on tax dollars, leaving two days early, coming home five days late, etc. What a bunch of weasels.

Best new boat name in our neck of the lake: Amy’s Wine House. I’ll try to get a picture next time I’m out in the kayak.

OK, off to the bakery and to start the Monday sprint. Good times!

Posted at 9:05 am in Detroit life, Movies |

50 responses to “‘The ’90s sucked, man.’”

  1. Dorothy said on June 15, 2009 at 9:46 am

    We rented “The Wrestler” last weekend and I too was in awe of Mickey Rourke’s turn as Randy. Marisa Tomei was excellent as well. Now I just hope that he’ll cut his hair and find some other roles with which he can impress us.

    I have a list as long as my arm of movies I want to rent and/or see but we can’t seem to stop working outside long enough to do so. I was cutting the grass on our 3 acres on Saturday and looked briefly up at the lovely three porches that spread across the back of our house. I thought to myself “When the hell are we going to be able to sit on the porch and enjoy the yard?! All we do is weed the vegetable garden, water it and the flowers we put in, and cut the grass!!!” Well it’s not really QUITE that bad but you get the idea. We do eat outside on the screened in porch almost every day. My mom is coming for two weeks on July 3rd and I’m so glad she’ll get to enjoy the peace and quiet of the country with us.

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  2. moe99 said on June 15, 2009 at 9:50 am

    Nancy, Is there a way you can get a kickback from amazon in the UK? There’s a book that came out in Britain on June 1 that is not coming out in the states til July 29 and it’s one of the few authors who I will buy and buy in hardback (Joe Abercrombie). But no idea how to do it to benefit you.

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  3. nancy said on June 15, 2009 at 10:16 am

    Moe, I appreciate the gesture, but go ahead and order through Amazon UK. As teachers used to say, we’ll take the will for the deed.

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  4. Julie Robinson said on June 15, 2009 at 10:25 am

    Dorothy, there are weeds burned into my retinas after this weekend, and we only have half an acre. After we get our youngest launched I think we will downsize and skip the yardwork.

    But you gotta know when to quit, so on Saturday night we went to The Proposal and I recommend it for silliness and laugh-out-loudness. On the way home the DH casually wondered how old Sandra Bullock is, because you see a lot of her in one scene, and she looks very good. (So does Ryan Reynolds.) Turns out she’s 45 and I’m thinking she’s had some tightening done.

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  5. Dexter said on June 15, 2009 at 10:58 am

    And Alan Ball is back with “TrueBlood”. He knows how to set a hook—fifteen seconds into season 2 and we already had …well, I guess I don’t wanna spoil it for anybody who might catch it this week on replays.

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  6. coozledad said on June 15, 2009 at 11:47 am

    I hear The Decemberists were playing at this rally.

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  7. Dorothy said on June 15, 2009 at 11:48 am

    Sandra has never had children either, Julie, so that helps her in the mid-section as well I’m sure. I give up speculating on movie stars and their comeliness. They have the money = they’ll get work done if they desire it. Simple equation. I have no real envy of it anymore. I am trying to be satisfied with the way I look/am because I have a real life, not a fairy tale, sun-kissed one. But if I won the lottery tomorrow? Bet your ass I’d be finding a way to shed about 50 pounds and flatten out my stomach in a heartbeat!

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  8. brian stouder said on June 15, 2009 at 12:23 pm

    “I know what you’re thinking, but seriously: All those lovely breasts can’t save it.”

    My interpretation: skip ‘The Wrestler’ and snap up ‘Feast of Breasts’! (just sayin’)

    “because you see a lot of her in one scene, and she looks very good.”

    Footnote to the above interpretation: A lot of Sandra Bullock??!! …and also pick up ‘The Proposal’!

    Michigan’s tax incentives for moviemaking, and suggested relocating the story from Ann Arbor to Portland

    Pam and I have been pondering where to go this summer – and you know, we have noted a very nice parade of “See Michigan” advertisements lately. Before we ran off to Pennsylvania a few summers ago, we were thinking about going to Battle Creek/Dearborn – but we allowed the demise of the attraction at Kelloggs to put the kibosh on that. But now we’re thinking of tooling around Dearborn/Mackinaw City/D-town; not a “Stay-cation”, but instead a “stay-close” vacation. (and we’ll skip the zoo at Belle Isle!)

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  9. Sue said on June 15, 2009 at 12:51 pm

    Brian: mmmm, love those “Pure Michigan” commercials.
    And everyone knows that all the best people vacation on (or near) Glen Lake.

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  10. moe99 said on June 15, 2009 at 1:42 pm

    Westboro Baptist Church is picketing at my kids’ high school:


    Inner city science and math magnet school with nationally ranked jazz band and orchestra.

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  11. brian stouder said on June 15, 2009 at 2:00 pm

    love those “Pure Michigan” commercials

    it’s the voice-over guy; just as Morgan Freeman has the voice of God, the Michigan guy has the silky-smooth and soothing voice of a golf telecast announcer

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  12. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on June 15, 2009 at 2:13 pm

    That would be Tim Allen, he of “Home Improvement,” and with a delightful touch of irony, a period earlier in his life enjoying the hospitality of the Michigan Department of Corrections.

    That had to make the tapings all the sweeter . . . he does do a really, really good job. You’d be amazed how many takes it requires to capture a smooth, flowing, 28.5 second voice track. (Got one once in two, and i’m still getting congratulated for it, and that’s been three, four years.)

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  13. Jolene said on June 15, 2009 at 2:14 pm

    What is it that the Rev. Phelps objects to about this school, moe?

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  14. MichaelG said on June 15, 2009 at 2:16 pm

    They’re running those Michigan commercials here in Sac too. I’m not sure I’m going to be able to make it to MI this year.

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  15. moe99 said on June 15, 2009 at 2:29 pm

    There are a lot of black and and lot of jewish students there. I understand they think god hates both groups.

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  16. brian stouder said on June 15, 2009 at 2:35 pm

    Tim Allen!

    Now that you say that, I can “hear” him. Anyway, good stuff

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  17. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on June 15, 2009 at 2:58 pm

    Oh, God hates pretty much everyone but the Phelps’ and their mates. Very, very sad, the whole Westboro clan is, and i’ve worried for years that we’ll get a Koresh/Heaven’s Gate scene when Fred feels his own personal end game closing in.

    Palate cleanser, anyone? For all you folks who think long bike trips are vacation material — http://travel.nytimes.com/2009/06/14/travel/14provence.html — lavender and olive oil and Roman ruins aplenty.

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  18. Sue said on June 15, 2009 at 3:00 pm

    That is Tim Allen! I can’t believe I missed that! Perfect – they could have done some goofy ToolTime thing and instead came up with those wonderful, evocative commercials. Very nice.

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  19. Sue said on June 15, 2009 at 3:25 pm

    Westboro picketed at a military funeral near here a few years back. The local paper caught some flack for not covering it more extensively. Turns out the family had requested minimal coverage if possible, so they just printed one picture and a caption. After they got some letters to the editor they ran a story explaining the decisions on the coverage. Reading about how much went into the decision process was interesting – lots of factors to consider.

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  20. deb said on June 15, 2009 at 3:30 pm

    I haven’t seen the Michigan commercials here in Dairyland. They sound intriguing. The last Michigan tourism promotion I remember is the one that replaced the i’s in Michigan with exclamation points. A typesetter’s nightmare. And how would you pronounce it?

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  21. Sue said on June 15, 2009 at 3:32 pm

    The commercials are on Youtube. That’s how I checked the Tim Allen voice so quickly.

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  22. Jolene said on June 15, 2009 at 3:44 pm

    The Michigan commercials are running in the DC Metro area too, and they do look pretty inviting. I have friends who normally spend a week at Cape May, but, since their grown kids are now in Chicago and California, they decided a Midwestern vacation would work better this year. New Jersey’s loss is your gain.

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  23. adrianne said on June 15, 2009 at 4:23 pm

    Mr. Phelps and company picketed my Catholic Church on Palm Sunday a couple of years ago because the mayor of New Paltz decided to marry same-sex couples “by the authority vested in me by the state of New York.” Phelps said the churches hadn’t done “enough” to oppose gay marriage. One of their signs read: “Thank God for 9/11” because the terrorists killed a bunch of gay people, apparently. Onward, Christian soldiers!

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  24. brian stouder said on June 15, 2009 at 4:26 pm

    New Jersey.

    Off the top of my head, if I was headed to the Garden State, I’d want to see some Revolutionary War-related sites, and some McLellan-related sites (do they offer tours of his house, or something? I’ve visited a few historic homes, and they tend to be marvelous experiences – thanks to especially dedicated staffers and guides)…I bet they have a wonderful museum there somewhere. (and in any case, it would be a chance to roll into Philly and visit Constitution Hall, etc)

    Plus – do they have the USS New Jersey there?

    (we’re thinking a week in DC, maybe next year – when the kids might generally get more out of it)

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  25. beb said on June 15, 2009 at 4:51 pm

    I’m confused. I thought the Michigan ads were being narrated by Jeff Daniels, MI’s other native son. I must be thinking of another series of ads. The one’s I’m thinking of had Daniels in the picture. Personally I can’t see how Michigan can come out ahead drawing movie production here with big tax breaks. Michigan is known for its VARIABLE weather, not it’s perfect weather. On the other hand there are A LOT of out of work craftsman where willing to work cheap.

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  26. Sue said on June 15, 2009 at 5:09 pm

    I think the Jeff Daniels ad is aimed at businesses, not tourists. And Chicago and the Chicago area are known for variable weather too, and for awhile anyway it was a big movie location. Toronto is used a lot too, I hear, and that’s not exactly California either. They filmed “Public Enemies” (Johnny Depp’s new movie) in Milwaukee and Columbus last year. So maybe economics trumps weather.

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  27. Catherine said on June 15, 2009 at 5:39 pm

    What’s lovely is when the location can become another character in the movie (or TV show). Gran Torino is a great example.

    Here’s a bad example: Legally Blonde. Watched it with my girls this weekend. Liked (parts of) the message, loved Reese… hated Pasadena trying to stand in for Cambridge.

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  28. LAMary said on June 15, 2009 at 5:41 pm

    Brian, if you’re in northern NJ you can go to Ringwood Manor. I have childhood memories of the place. I’m sure there are places in Morristown and Trenton as well. If you go to Philadelphia let me know and I’ll send you contact info for my friend Gerald who knows a lot about Philly and its environs. Go to Winterthur in Delaware too.

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  29. MichaelG said on June 15, 2009 at 7:10 pm

    I heard you gotta watch your driving. You can overrun Delaware. Nyuk, nyuk.

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  30. MichaelG said on June 15, 2009 at 7:27 pm

    Hey, Mary, Catherine (or anybody else in CA). You got a tamale lady where you work?

    A tamale lady is a usually older Mexican lady who sells fresh, homemade tamales. Used to be ten bucks a dozen but it’s up to fifteen now. We’ve had a tamale lady for every larger building where I’ve worked. Is it a tradition everywhere or just here in Sacto? It was on my mind because I was just wrapping and freezing today’s delivery. Guess what’s for dinner. They’re delish. A glass of wine, a big salad and that’s it!

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  31. Julie Robinson said on June 15, 2009 at 7:32 pm

    Our church sold tamales to benefit another church, whose members made the tamales. Right here in the Fort.

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  32. LAMary said on June 15, 2009 at 7:48 pm

    Where I used to work we had a tamale lady but none here. It’s a pretty sterile place. In my neighborhood there are people who sell tamales out of the backs of their cars, or a new development in the last two years is setting up a grill as well as a big kettle of steamed tamales in the front yard of a house, or in the parking lot of a business not open at night, and selling all sorts of Mexican food. The tire place down the street has this going on, as well a several single family residences. Some of these places actually look busy, but others have a vaguely pathetic look.

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  33. Catherine said on June 15, 2009 at 7:59 pm

    MichaelG, yes but it was a tamale guy. Different fillings on different days of the week. Sometimes a warm cooler with tamales and a cold cooler with fruit and drinks. When I worked for the Mouse, not so much — stricter security there than at my DH’s government-contractor. Now I get them from the farmer’s market. Looks like I have guests tonight (thanks for the notice, honey!), maybe I’ll borrow your menu!

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  34. Deborah said on June 15, 2009 at 8:10 pm

    I thought the Michigan Ads were Jeff Daniels, doesn’t sound like Tim Allen to me. But very classy.

    Also, saw these movies recently: The Reader (excellent), Rachel’s Getting Married (good), Burn After Reading (good but weird).

    If you are going to MI for vacation, looking for a cool place go to Empire, small town on Lake Michigan, near Traverse City. Very quaint.

    My two cents.

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  35. Scout said on June 15, 2009 at 8:42 pm

    Just got back from LA, where we spent the entire weekend in Hollywood and West Hollywood. Spotted exactly ONE famous person… Tim Allen. We were sitting at a coffeeshop at the corner of Santa Monica and San Vicente when he strolled by with another guy.

    Then I come home, check up on my emails and favorite blogs and behold – several mentions of Tim Allen here at nn.c.

    Synchronicity is alive and well in my life.

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  36. brian stouder said on June 15, 2009 at 9:16 pm

    A star fall, a phone call,
    It joins all,

    It’s so deep, it’s so wide
    Your inside

    Effect without a cause
    Sub-atomic laws, scientific pause

    I Googled Empire, and immediately perked up at remarks about an airshow there…and then got a chuckle out of the fact that it’s an RC air show! Despite that, these RC planes are fairly large – they showed a 4-engine Hercules in Coast Guard livery, and the text mentions remote controlled jet planes….very interesting.

    If we go all the way north to Macinaw, then the question is do we veer off to the west and Holland and Empire, or east and Dearborn and D-town.

    Who knows? Only the Shadow knows…

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  37. beb said on June 15, 2009 at 10:23 pm

    My wife tells me that Jeff Daniels is doing ads to attract bussiness to Michigan. I don;t call seeing any “Pure Michigan” ads latelybut I can see where Tim Allen would be a good choice. He does have a good voice.

    We don;t have tamale ladies in NE Detroit, but I’m sure there’s a bunch around Mexico Town. What we tend to have uphere are lots of small outdoor BBQ stands. Of course people like their BBQ so much they will BBQ on New Year’s eve (or most any other day) if there isn’t a blizzard.

    I read where they shot Public Enemies in Milwaukee because ’09 Milwaukee eerily resembled ’30 Chicago. I’m not sure if I’d like hearing that about my town (My town, today is Detroit, which would be the perfect place to film any further Terminator movies since it looks like the Apocalypse.) What I mean is one likes to think one lives is a hip, modern city, not some last century’s holdover. On the other hand, the buildings of the teens and twenties had so much character in them. Even the simple storefronts were stylish. Perhaps more stylish than a hip, modern city….

    Brian at 37, to the west is Traverse City and the cherry orchards. To the east are a series of pictoresque lighthouses. Many years ago my wife and I drive from D-town to Traverse City then north to Mackinaw and down the East coast to back home. It was a fall “colors” tour — with freezing rain on the first day! But still a fun trip.

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  38. Joe Kobiela said on June 15, 2009 at 10:28 pm

    The R.C. fly in’s are pretty cool. The detail in some of the models is amazing. I saw a P-47 Thunderbolt one time, as I looked at it something caught my eye, Their were scuff marks on the top of the wings, I asked the builder about them and he looked at me kinda funny and said, Those were the mechanics footprints. Try the Soo some time, nothing like taking a lock tour then eating lunch at a park and watching a 1000ft ship go buy only a few yards away, close enough to talk with the crew. Go into Canada and take the Agawa Canyon train trip also. Amazing views out the station doors.
    Pilot Joe

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  39. coozledad said on June 15, 2009 at 10:40 pm

    Beb: I think the twenties were more Bohemian than the rockers spent millions pretending to be. Their music, art, and mores were a hell of a lot stranger than anything that came after. The most heroin-soaked Britrock dipshit accompanying his descent into brain-death with a strat is a mewling Victorian in comparison with Jellyroll Morton. And if architecture is an indicator of intelligence, we are totally hosed.

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  40. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on June 15, 2009 at 10:52 pm

    Don’t miss Saugatuck (just south of Holland). And if you get there, do the S.S. Keewatin tour (which is technically in Douglas).

    [By the way, Nancy; isn’t it fun paying taxes on work that you haven’t been paid for yet? This turns out to be the most profoundly annoying part of freelance work, IMHO.]

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  41. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on June 15, 2009 at 10:56 pm

    Pilot Joe, i have to admit — i love the Soo:


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  42. Jean S said on June 16, 2009 at 12:04 am

    anyone else remember the “Say ‘Yes!’ to Michigan” campaign of the late 70s? That was just plain lame.

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  43. CrazyCatLady said on June 16, 2009 at 1:07 am

    Lived all my years in Detroit. Lots to do. I love Greenfield Village and the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn (We even got memberships), The Detroit Science Museum (memberships), the World Class Detroit Zoo (memberships), and the amazing Detroit Institute of Art. And if you come to Dearborn, try the Ford Rouge Assembly Tour – Cool exhibits and even fun rides. They also have the largest Muslim population in America. Great ethnic restaurants everywhere!! I love Michigan’s 1,000 miles of shoreline. Beb and I did love the north. Now that our girl is 16, she might not like it. She’d rather go to Chicago. She’s been twice and would love to live there. PS: Go Red Wings!! The 2010 Stanley Cup will come home to you!! Booya!!!!

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  44. Dexter said on June 16, 2009 at 2:42 am

    I’ve been a fan of a YouTuber named artistmac for a few years now…here’s his video evidence that Detroit African American folks like safe, quiet neighborhoods, too:


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  45. basset said on June 16, 2009 at 7:03 am

    We went on the Rouge assembly tour back in the late 70s, when they were turning out Fox-body Mustangs and Capris, and it looked like a microcosm of everything that was wrong with the US auto industry. Disorganized, trash all over the place, dark, dirty, guys on the line hooting at the women on the tour, you could feel the don’t-give-a-shit attitude rising from the line like heat coming off a paved road.

    Went through the Nissan and Saturn plants in Tennessee a few years later and it was the exact opposite, a purposeful vibe and everything seemed to have its place. GM had this whole new approach to labor going at Saturn, you see how long they let that last… and the UAW’s never been able to get into Nissan.

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  46. beb said on June 16, 2009 at 7:47 am

    Outer Drive is a big boulevard that loops all around Detroit. It was where the swanky people lived. There are indeed some swell houses on that street. Then there are places a few blocks off Outer Drive where vacancies near 100%, and burned out houses litter the block. Its all about the economics. If you have money you will buy nice houses and want to live in clean, well managed communities. If you don’t have money — welcome to hell.

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  47. Connie said on June 16, 2009 at 9:31 am

    Brian, I will join Sue and Deborah in recommending Glen Lake, Empire, and the Sleeping Bear Dunes, the most beautiful place in Michigan. Of course I’ve been going there for like 40 years. If you make it up that way the last week in July we would be happy to have you visit our little place. You can easy spend a great family week in Leelanau and next door Grand Traverse County.

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  48. Linda said on June 16, 2009 at 10:15 pm

    Brian, isn’t it amazing that you can’t even guess Tim Allen’s avuncular baritone once it’s divorced from his usual goofy characters? In those ads, he sounds like somebody wise enough to give you vacation advice.

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  49. Linda said on June 16, 2009 at 10:20 pm

    In the South, UAW, or any other union, can’t even get into hellhole plants, because people have this incoherent hate-on for unions. When I lived down there, I asked people to explain it, and people just sort of sputtered that they did bad things, or made workers bad, or something. I’m union, and haven’t grown cloven feet. Just yet.

    I tried to edit that into the last column, but apparently, that’s not doable.

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