Destination: Michigan

‘Ruin Porn’ in Detroit

In Guernica, John Patrick Leary takes a look at a couple of new books that depict Detroit’s empty urban landscape and ponders the broader trend they’re a part of.

So much ruin photography and ruin film aestheticizes poverty without inquiring of its origins, dramatizes spaces but never seeks out the people that inhabit and transform them, and romanticizes isolated acts of resistance without acknowledging the massive political and social forces aligned against the real transformation, and not just stubborn survival, of the city. And to see oneself portrayed in this way, as a curiosity to be lamented or studied, is jarring for any Detroiter, who is of course also an American, with all the sense of self-confidence and native-born privilege that we’re taught to associate with the United States.

(Via The Daily Dish)


David Byrne: ‘Don’t Forget the Motor City’

The musician and World Hum contributor recently spent a week in Detroit, and he’s posted a lengthy, thoughtful item about the visit on his blog. Much of it focuses on the origins of Detroit’s infamous urban decay:

This is a city that still has an infrastructure, or some of it, for 2 million people, and now only 800,000 remain. One rides down majestic boulevards with only a few cars on them, past towering (often empty) skyscrapers. A few weeks ago I watched a documentary called Requiem For Detroit by British director Julian Temple, who used to be associated with the Sex Pistols. It’s a great film, available to watch on YouTube, that gives a context and history for the devastation one sees all around here. This process didn’t happen overnight, as with Katrina, but over many many decades. However the devastation is just as profound, and just as much concentrated on the lower echelons of society. Both disasters were man-made.

(Via The Daily Dish)


After Michael Jackson: Will Tourists Flock to Neverland Ranch?

After Michael Jackson: Will Tourists Flock to Neverland Ranch? Photo by Eva Holland
Photo of the Apollo Theater by Eva Holland

Over at This Just In, the inevitable question has been asked: Where will Michael Jackson’s Graceland be? After all, the King of Pop’s fans will need a pilgrimage spot just as badly as the King’s do. JD Rinne offers a few possibilities: the Jackson family hometown of Gary, Indiana; Detroit’s Motown Museum; the Apollo Theater in Harlem; and, of course, Neverland Ranch.

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The Critics: ‘Fordlandia’

Greg Grandin’s new book, Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford’s Forgotten Jungle City, analyzes the surprising history behind the brilliant car mogul’s disastrous attempts to transplant the American way of life into a remote Amazonian village. Ford is credited as the father of America’s consumer culture, but his utopian plans to capitalize on new sources of rubber resulted in one of the greatest failures of his distinguished career. The critics are chiming in on the man behind the story and the modern day implications of exporting Americanism.

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Detroit’s Exquisite Decay

Time magazine’s slideshow capturing Detroit’s decay in photos by French photographers Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre is stunning and utterly heartbreaking.

My thought as I watched: As travelers/tourists we’re a powerful economic force. Can we help save Detroit?

Here are some of my previous thoughts on Detroit.


The Detroit Dilemma

The Detroit Dilemma Photo by mandj98 via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Photo by mandj98 via Flickr (Creative Commons)

A number of years ago, I worked with a woman who was originally from Detroit. She loved her hometown and missed it terribly. I can’t remember her name, but I vividly remember the glow on her face when she talked about the city she’d left behind and to which she vowed to return someday.

I know, right? Hard to believe.

Yet Detroit has a draw, even if it’s a sort of pity vote. Friend and fellow writer Margaret Littman, also has a passion for the city. She says, “I love Detroit’s architecture and public art and wide boulevards. But more than that, I love that Detroit is such a microcosm of America: boomed thanks to ingenuity and innovative and now struggling with what to do next. Plus, I’m a sucker for an underdog.”

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‘Up in the Air’: The Movie

‘Up in the Air’: The Movie Photo by Bakar_88 via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Photo by Bakar_88 via Flickr (Creative Commons)

World Hum’s been keeping an eye on Walter Kirn’s travel-centric novel, Up in the Air, since the site was brand new. The book, which follows frequent flier Ryan Bingham as he embarks on a mileage-running binge, brought us both one of our favorite terms—Airworld—and one of our favorite fictional travelers. So naturally, the news about an upcoming film adaptation provokes both excitement and anxiety.

The good news? Early signs about the production are positive: Jason Reitman, who did great work (in my book) with both “Juno” and “Thank You For Smoking,” has signed on as writer-director, and no less a heavyweight star than George Clooney will be playing the mile-hungry protagonist. There’s no firm release date yet, but Jaunted notes that “Up in the Air” was spotted filming at Detroit’s DTW yesterday.


Morning Links: JetBlue Fare Refunds, America’s Emptiest Cities and More

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Some Travel Writers Will Do Anything for a Buck

Some Travel Writers Will Do Anything for a Buck Photo by Jan Beckendorf via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Photo by Jan Beckendorf via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Every time I watch it on the Winter Olympics, I decide that luge is an utterly insane sport that you could not pay me enough to try.

“Chicago Tribune” reporter Christoper Borrelli evidently does not feel the same way. They paid, he tried (in Muskegon, Michigan). Here’s the story.

A sample: “Sue Halter, my instructor, told me that in 15 years here she had seen only one person lose teeth while luging.”

Some people will do anything for a buck.


Cuba Flights Coming to Airport ‘Within Minutes of Downtown Detroit’

How you Canadians tempt us poor Americans. Canada’s Sunwing Airlines has announced plans to offer flights to Cuba from Windsor, just across the border from Detroit. Company officials predict that half the passengers will be American, even though the embargo all but forbids U.S. citizens from visiting Cuba. A State Department spokesman tells The Detroit News that the trip is “risky.”

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Jack White’s Poem for Detroit

The singer and songwriter for The White Stripes penned Courageous Dream’s Concern in an effort to make clear that he bears no malice toward his hometown and to express the “Detroit that is in my heart. The home that encapsulates and envelops those who are truly blessed with the experience of living within its boundaries.” The Detroit Free Press has the exclusive. Lyrically, it’s no “My Doorbell” (listen below), and that’s a good thing.

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