Detroit: A Tale of Two Cities: Post-Bankruptcy

It was July 1987 and I found myself in a cool, dark, completely packed movie theater, perched on the edge of my seat. The crowd was raucous, the mood electric. That night, I didn’t care about popcorn or soda or candy. I was still in grammar school. I had never seen an R-rated movie in the flesh. And this was the R-rated movie to beat all R-rated movies — ultra-violent, unbridled expletives, even fleeting partial nudity. It narrowly avoided an X rating by the Motion Picture Association of America, for god’s sake!

Detroit, Michigan
Detroit, Michigan

I had been desperate to see RoboCop since Orion Pictures began a relentless ad campaign weeks before it opened. Part man. Part machine. All cop! Only because the stars magically aligned was I not relegated to waiting the usual year to watch it through the squiggly lines, scrolling screens, and snowy interference that typified 1980s cable pay-channels that you hadn’t actually paid for.

All these years later, for good or ill, some scenes I viewed that sultry night — and again and again afterward through pay-channel snow — remain firmly lodged in my brain. Like the one in which police officer Alex Murphy (Peter Weller) is literally shot to pieces by the gang of criminals who rule the city of Detroit in what was pictured as a not-so-distant dystopian future. (The crucifixion!) Or the scene at the police station shooting range leading to the big reveal: Murphy has been transformed into a cyborg cop and is being sent back to clean up the urban warzone that cost him his human life. (The resurrection!)

What really stayed with me, however, were the subversive qualities of director Paul Verhoeven’s sci-fi satire, which poked fun at an imagined Reagan-era-on-steroids version of twenty-first-century America, complete with faux television commercials for a gas-guzzling luxury car that revels in its obscene size, a board game that trivializes nuclear terror, and a tasteless ad for an artificial heart clinic (in the days before real-world TV screens were overrun by ads for pharmaceuticals). Then there were the news reports about U.S. troops fighting rebels in Mexico and a lethal malfunction of the Star Wars missile defense system.

What also stuck in my brain was Omni Consumer Products, or OCP, a malevolent mega-corporation — equal parts Lockheed, Halliburton, Cyberdyne Systems, and Soylent Industries — which plays an outsized role in the film. A privatized prison profiteer and shameless peddler of military arms with plans to bulldoze the Motor City and construct a gleaming tomorrow-land in its place, OCP is making sky-high profits, while corporate president Dick Jones (Ronny Cox) stands to make even more by lording it over a criminal syndicate that will provide drugs, gambling, and prostitutes to the million men building the new “Delta City” on the ashes of “Old Detroit.”

OCP has also entered into a contract with the beleaguered city to run local law enforcement and Jones envisions replacing the cops with battle droids known as ED-209s. “After a successful tour of duty in Old Detroit, we can expect 209 to become the hot military product for the next decade,” he says during a slick presentation in the corporate boardroom. But when ED-209 proves tragically dysfunctional during a test run, a young OCP up-and-comer undercuts Jones with his RoboCop program. And since OCP runs the cops, they can repurpose the remnants of poor Alex Murphy’s bullet-blasted body to make their electric dreams come true.

Now, I could accept the idea of a cyborg cop that lives on baby food and moves with all the subtlety and grace of a 1960s electric can opener. But a privatized Detroit police force? Come on! There’s a limit to the suspension of disbelief.

Of course, I lived to see the real Detroit fall into abject decay, go bankrupt, and have its police declare the city unsafe for visitors. “The explosion in violent crime, the incredible spike in the number of homicides… for officers trying to work 12 hours in such deplorable, dangerous, and war-like conditions is simply untenable,” said Donato Iorio, an attorney for the Detroit Police Officers Association in 2012. It sounded like a statement straight out of RoboCop — and in some ways, so does TomDispatch regular Laura Gottesdiener’s latest piece of striking reportage from America’s new urban wilderness. Today, she takes us on a fantastic voyage through what Paul Verhoeven and my pre-teen self could only imagine — the real-life Old Detroit and Delta City: one being investigated by the United Nations for possible human rights violations, the other turned into a privatized, securitized, billionaire’s experiment in better living through dystopian surveillance. Maybe she didn’t get to go on a ride-along with Robocop, but Gottesdiener’s arresting dispatch from the passenger seat of a private police force’s prowl car in the Motor City sure brings back memories of that future. Buckle up! Nick Turse

Two Detroits, Separate and Unequal
A Journey Across a City Divided
By Laura Gottesdiener

In late October, a few days after local news cameras swarmed Detroit’s courthouse to hear closing arguments in the city’s historic bankruptcy trial, “Commander” Dale Brown cruised through the stately Detroit neighborhood of Palmer Woods in a Hummer emblazoned with the silver, interlocking-crescent-moon logo of his private security company.

Continued inside with much more information.

Saturday Art: Influential Authors: Mary Renault

The Persian Boy, by Mary Renault

Please Note: When I began this series, it was to cover a lot of authors whom I have found personally influential, even though this may only be because I enjoyed the stories they have told in their books or short stories. I’m just fortunate enough and well read enough that many of the authors I have personally enjoyed have also been influential on a macro scale as well as micro. rrt

I was in college when I first read Mary Renault yet I had long been aware of her as an author as my grandmother had some of her books. From her wiki:

Mary Renault (/?r?no?lt/;[2] 4 September 1905 – 13 December 1983), born Eileen Mary Challans,[1] was an English writer best known for her historical novels set in Ancient Greece. In addition to vivid fictional portrayals of Theseus, Socrates, Plato and Alexander the Great, she wrote a non-fiction biography of Alexander.

Her Goodreads.com bio offers this:

Her historical novels are all set in ancient Greece. They include a pair of novels about the mythological hero Theseus and a trilogy about the career of Alexander the Great. In a sense, The Charioteer (1953), the story of two young gay servicemen in the 1940s who try to model their relationship on the ideals expressed in Plato’s Phaedrus and Symposium, is a warm-up for Renault’s historical novels. By turning away from the 20th century and focusing on stories about male lovers in the warrior societies of ancient Greece, Renault no longer had to deal with homosexuality and anti-gay prejudice as social “problems”. Instead she was free to focus on larger ethical and philosophical concerns, while examining the nature of love and leadership. The Charioteer could not be published in the U.S. until 1959, after the success of The Last of the Wine proved that American readers and critics would accept a serious gay love story.

As I mentioned above, I remember seeing some of Renault’s books at my grandmother’s as I was growing up but I had not read anything until I was in college when The King Must Die was part of the required reading for one of my classes. I think the class was History of Social Thought which was one of the required courses for my Sociology major. Regardless of the class, I read the book, enjoyed the story and now had another author of historical fiction covering one of the eras that had always fascinated me. It was easy for me to pick up and read the sequel to The King Must Die which was The Bull from the Sea.

I have also read her Alexander series about Alexander the Great. Fire from Heaven about his early years up to the death of his father, Phillip; The Persian Boy covering the last few years of his life, and Funeral Games about his death and the next few years after. The Mask of Apollo is the story of an actor in the 4th century BC, traveling the cities of ancient Greece.

One area where Renault was influential is in her use of LGBTQ characters. Her wiki says:

Saturday Art: Influential Authors: Mary Renault

The Persian Boy, by Mary Renault

Please Note: When I began this series, it was to cover a lot of authors whom I have found personally influential, even though this may only be because I enjoyed the stories they have told in their books or short stories. I’m just fortunate enough and well read enough that many of the authors I have personally enjoyed have also been influential on a macro scale as well as micro. rrt

I was in college when I first read Mary Renault yet I had long been aware of her as an author as my grandmother had some of her books. From her wiki:

Mary Renault (/?r?no?lt/;[2] 4 September 1905 – 13 December 1983), born Eileen Mary Challans,[1] was an English writer best known for her historical novels set in Ancient Greece. In addition to vivid fictional portrayals of Theseus, Socrates, Plato and Alexander the Great, she wrote a non-fiction biography of Alexander.

Her Goodreads.com bio offers this:

Her historical novels are all set in ancient Greece. They include a pair of novels about the mythological hero Theseus and a trilogy about the career of Alexander the Great. In a sense, The Charioteer (1953), the story of two young gay servicemen in the 1940s who try to model their relationship on the ideals expressed in Plato’s Phaedrus and Symposium, is a warm-up for Renault’s historical novels. By turning away from the 20th century and focusing on stories about male lovers in the warrior societies of ancient Greece, Renault no longer had to deal with homosexuality and anti-gay prejudice as social “problems”. Instead she was free to focus on larger ethical and philosophical concerns, while examining the nature of love and leadership. The Charioteer could not be published in the U.S. until 1959, after the success of The Last of the Wine proved that American readers and critics would accept a serious gay love story.

As I mentioned above, I remember seeing some of Renault’s books at my grandmother’s as I was growing up but I had not read anything until I was in college when The King Must Die was part of the required reading for one of my classes. I think the class was History of Social Thought which was one of the required courses for my Sociology major. Regardless of the class, I read the book, enjoyed the story and now had another author of historical fiction covering one of the eras that had always fascinated me. It was easy for me to pick up and read the sequel to The King Must Die which was The Bull from the Sea.

I have also read her Alexander series about Alexander the Great. Fire from Heaven about his early years up to the death of his father, Phillip; The Persian Boy covering the last few years of his life, and Funeral Games about his death and the next few years after. The Mask of Apollo is the story of an actor in the 4th century BC, traveling the cities of ancient Greece.

One area where Renault was influential is in her use of LGBTQ characters. Her wiki says: (more…)

Veterans Day 2014

Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington National Cemetery

This year, 2014, is the 100th anniversary of the start of the war that culminated in an Armistice signed on November 11, 1918. Thus ended the “War to End All Wars” on the Western front. Why specify that it was only for the Western Front? A few years ago, I transcribed my best friend’s grandfather’s autobiography which included quite a bit about his Army experiences along the Mexican border in the years before WWI and his experiences in Europe during WWI. Here’s a couple of sentences:

After the Armistice was signed, we couldn’t get transferred back to the 18th, no matter how hard we tried. We were given a choice of going in a military police outfit, prisoner-of-war escort company, or the expeditionary force to go to Russia to help the white Russians to fight the Bolshevicks at Vladivostock.

Yes, US troops “intervened” in the Russian Civil War/Revolution. Some things seem to never change.

Since the end of WWI, US troops have participated in numerous activities. I’m not able to quickly find much information about US military actions between WWI and WWII but this bio of Chesty Puller covers a few of the military actions between the wars. After WWII, we have Korea, Vietnam, Lebanon, Grenada, Panama, Gulf War I/Desert Storm, Afghanistan, and Iraq War. Oh, and the “Cold War” from the 1950s into the 1990s. That’s a lot of shooting and a lot of dead and wounded in the 96 years since the end of the War to End All Wars.

I am a Veteran. I served in the US Air Force from 10 December 1976 to 9 September 1982. There were no shooting conflicts during my time in the USAF, thankfully, although I was always reminded of how quickly that could change. Especially during the fifteen months I was stationed at Wurtsmith AFB, MI as a member of the 379th Bombardment Wing.

I have a lot of family members on both sides of the family who have served. US Army, US Air Force, US Navy, and US Marines. WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Gulf War I, and Iraq. I have friends who served as well, some of whom were injured in combat. For all the veterans around the country, there are probably as many reasons for serving as there are veterans. Economics, education, escape from problems or parents, patriotism, and so on. In many parts of the country, the military has been an accepted and respected means of upwards social mobility.

I know that I get uncomfortable when I am told “Thank you for your service.” To be honest, I really don’t need that thanks. If you want to thank me, make sure you keep the Veterans Administration fully funded. Make sure the VA hospitals are open, fully staffed with competent medical personnel, and quit making “wounded warriors.” Quit using people up and throwing them on the street. Quit making things so that organizations such as Final Salute are necessary.

Veterans Day 2014

Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington National Cemetery

This year, 2014, is the 100th anniversary of the start of the war that culminated in an Armistice signed on November 11, 1918. Thus ended the “War to End All Wars” on the Western front. Why specify that it was only for the Western Front? A few years ago, I transcribed my best friend’s grandfather’s autobiography which included quite a bit about his Army experiences along the Mexican border in the years before WWI and his experiences in Europe during WWI. Here’s a couple of sentences:

After the Armistice was signed, we couldn’t get transferred back to the 18th, no matter how hard we tried. We were given a choice of going in a military police outfit, prisoner-of-war escort company, or the expeditionary force to go to Russia to help the white Russians to fight the Bolshevicks at Vladivostock.

Yes, US troops “intervened” in the Russian Civil War/Revolution. Some things seem to never change.

Since the end of WWI, US troops have participated in numerous activities. I’m not able to quickly find much information about US military actions between WWI and WWII but this bio of Chesty Puller covers a few of the military actions between the wars. After WWII, we have Korea, Vietnam, Lebanon, Grenada, Panama, Gulf War I/Desert Storm, Afghanistan, and Iraq War. Oh, and the “Cold War” from the 1950s into the 1990s. That’s a lot of shooting and a lot of dead and wounded in the 96 years since the end of the War to End All Wars.

I am a Veteran. I served in the US Air Force from 10 December 1976 to 9 September 1982. There were no shooting conflicts during my time in the USAF, thankfully, although I was always reminded of how quickly that could change. Especially during the fifteen months I was stationed at Wurtsmith AFB, MI as a member of the 379th Bombardment Wing.

I have a lot of family members on both sides of the family who have served. US Army, US Air Force, US Navy, and US Marines. WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Gulf War I, and Iraq. I have friends who served as well, some of whom were injured in combat. For all the veterans around the country, there are probably as many reasons for serving as there are veterans. Economics, education, escape from problems or parents, patriotism, and so on. In many parts of the country, the military has been an accepted and respected means of upwards social mobility.

I know that I get uncomfortable when I am told “Thank you for your service.” To be honest, I really don’t need that thanks. If you want to thank me, make sure you keep the Veterans Administration fully funded. Make sure the VA hospitals are open, fully staffed with competent medical personnel, and quit making “wounded warriors.” Quit using people up and throwing them on the street. Quit making things so that organizations such as Final Salute are necessary.

And because I can:

(more…)

Saturday Art: Influential Authors: Leon Uris

Please Note: When I began this series, it was to cover a lot of authors whom I have found personally influential, even though this may only be becaus I enjoyed the stories they have told in their books or short stories. I’m just fortuenate enough and well read enough that many of the authors I have personally enjoyed have also been influential on a macro scale as well as micro. rrt

SPCA Thrift ShopI know I was aware of Leon Uris and his books long before I first read anything by him. It was one of the joys of living close to the public library, reading six, seven, eight books a week and spending large amounts of time wandering through the stacks looking for something new. I think I was 11 or 12 before I first picked up one of Uris’s books to read. Battle Cry was his first and it was also my first of his to read:

This is the story of enlisted men – Marines – at the beginning of World War II. They are a rough–and–ready tangle of guys from America’s cities and farms and reservations. Led by a tough veteran sergeant, these soldiers band together to emerge as part of one of the most elite fighting forces in the world. With staggering realism and detail, we follow them into intense battles – Guadalcanal and Tarawa – and through exceptional moments of camaraderie and bravery. Battle Cry does not extol the glories of war, but proves itself to be one of the greatest war stories of all time.

After reading Battle Cry, I then read The Angry Hills, Exodus, Mila 18, and Armageddon: A Novel of Berlin although not in that order. I’m pretty sure Exodus was the second book of his that I read but after that, I don’t know the order I read the others until after I had read these first few books then I know I read Topaz, QB VII, Trinity, and The Haj in their publication order.

I think it would be difficult to overstate just how influential Exodus was, even though it is a novel. In the wiki for the book there is discussion on the book’s origins with some contention that Uris was paid to write a propaganda piece though it is also denied. My guess is that Uris was probably naturally sympathetic to Israel due to his Jewishness and knowing his family had spent some time in Palestine prior to emigrating to the US. FWIW, The Haj covers some of the same ground as Exodus, from the Arab/Palestine perspective.

Uris has nine IMDB writing credits. He wrote the screenplay for Battle Cry. Exodus was a blockbuster movie, directed by Otto Preminger with screenplay by Dalton Trumbo. The Angry Hills starred Robert Mitchum. Topaz was directed by Alfred Hitchcock and one of the stars was a pre-Animal House John Vernon. QB VII was a two part TV miniseries in the early ’70s, starring Ben Gazzara and Anthony Hopkins.

The most surprising (to me) part of Uris and his IMDB credits is the credit ha has for the screenplay for Gunfight at the OK Corral starring Burt Lancaster as Wyatt Earp and Kirk Douglas as Doc Holliday.

(more…)

Saturday Art: Influential Authors: Sara Paretsky

SaraParetsky.jpg

Sara Paretsky created the detective series V.I. Warshawski, set in Chicago. While there have been a number of female detectives and authors, Paretsky:

…is credited with transforming the role and image of women in the crime novel.[6] The Winter 2007 issue of Clues: A Journal of Detection is devoted to her work.[7] She is also considered the founding mother of Sisters in Crime, an organization that supports and promotes women in the mystery field.[8]

The Goodreads.com intro for Paretsky has this on Paretsky and V. I. Warshawski:

The protagonist of all but two of Paretsky’s novels is V.I. Warshawski, a female private investigator. Warshawski’s eclectic personality defies easy categorization. She drinks Johnnie Walker Black Label, breaks into houses looking for clues, and can hold her own in a street fight, but also she pays attention to her clothes, sings opera along with the radio, and enjoys her sex life.

Paretsky is credited with transforming the role and image of women in the crime novel. The Winter 2007 issue of Clues: A Journal of Detection is devoted to her work.

While I have read a few of Paretsky’s V.I. Warhawski novels, I have probably read more of her short stories. The novels I have read include Deadlock, Killing Orders, and Guardian Angel. But I have read a bunch of anthologies where she has been a contributor. Women On the Case, A Woman’s Eye, Sisters In Crime #1 and #3, Raymond Chandler’s Phillip Marlowe, Women of Mystery #3,The Best American Mystery Stories of the Century, and Female Sleuths.

Paretsky only has two writing credits at IMDB. V.I. Warshawski is a movie starring Kathleen Turner and When Danger Follows You Home based on a short story from her.

Saturday Art: Influential Authors: Sara Paretsky

Please Note: When I began this series, it was to cover a lot of authors whom I have found personally influential, even though this may only be because I enjoyed the stories they have told in their books or short stories. I’m just fortunate enough and well read enough that many of the authors I have personally enjoyed have also been influential on a macro scale as well as micro. rrt

SaraParetsky.jpg

Sara Paretsky created the detective series V.I. Warshawski, set in Chicago. While there have been a number of female detectives and authors, Paretsky:

…is credited with transforming the role and image of women in the crime novel.[6] The Winter 2007 issue of Clues: A Journal of Detection is devoted to her work.[7] She is also considered the founding mother of Sisters in Crime, an organization that supports and promotes women in the mystery field.[8]

The Goodreads.com intro for Paretsky has this on Paretsky and V. I. Warshawski:

The protagonist of all but two of Paretsky’s novels is V.I. Warshawski, a female private investigator. Warshawski’s eclectic personality defies easy categorization. She drinks Johnnie Walker Black Label, breaks into houses looking for clues, and can hold her own in a street fight, but also she pays attention to her clothes, sings opera along with the radio, and enjoys her sex life.

Paretsky is credited with transforming the role and image of women in the crime novel. The Winter 2007 issue of Clues: A Journal of Detection is devoted to her work.

While I have read a few of Paretsky’s V.I. Warhawski novels, I have probably read more of her short stories. The novels I have read include Deadlock, Killing Orders, and Guardian Angel. But I have read a bunch of anthologies where she has been a contributor. Women On the Case, A Woman’s Eye, Sisters In Crime #1 and #3, Raymond Chandler’s Phillip Marlowe, Women of Mystery #3,The Best American Mystery Stories of the Century, and Female Sleuths.

Paretsky only has two writing credits at IMDB. V.I. Warshawski is a movie starring Kathleen Turner and When Danger Follows You Home based on a short story from her.

(more…)

Late Night: RIP Jack Bruce

If you are of a certain age, you listened to Jack Bruce. Oh you may not have known his name but I guarantee you’ve listened to him. Bruce was the bass player and vocals for Cream alongside Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker:

Cream were a 1960s British rock supergroup power trio consisting of bassist/singer Jack Bruce, drummer Ginger Baker, and guitarist/singer Eric Clapton. Their sound was characterised by a hybrid of blues rock, hard rock and psychedelic rock,[1] combining psychedelia-themed lyrics, Clapton’s blues guitar playing, Bruce’s operatic voice and prominent bass playing and Baker’s jazz-influenced drumming. The group’s third album, Wheels of Fire, was the world’s first platinum-selling double album.[2][3] Cream are widely regarded as being the world’s first successful supergroup.[4][5][6][7] In their career, they sold over 15 million albums worldwide.[8] Cream’s music included songs based on traditional blues such as “Crossroads” and “Spoonful”, and modern blues such as “Born Under a Bad Sign”, as well as more eccentric songs such as “Strange Brew”, “Tales of Brave Ulysses” and “Toad”.

Prior to Cream Bruce played with folks like Charlie Watts (Rolling Stones drummer) in Blues Incorporated and John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers and post-Cream with Manfred Mann and Leslie West and Corky Laing in West, Bruce, and Laing.

RIP Jack Bruce.

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Saturday Water Cooler: RIP Jack Bruce

If you are of a certain age, you listened to Jack Bruce. Oh you may not have known his name but I guarantee you’ve listened to him. Bruce was the bass player and vocals for Cream alongside Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker:

Cream were a 1960s British rock supergroup power trio consisting of bassist/singer Jack Bruce, drummer Ginger Baker, and guitarist/singer Eric Clapton. Their sound was characterised by a hybrid of blues rock, hard rock and psychedelic rock,[1] combining psychedelia-themed lyrics, Clapton’s blues guitar playing, Bruce’s operatic voice and prominent bass playing and Baker’s jazz-influenced drumming. The group’s third album, Wheels of Fire, was the world’s first platinum-selling double album.[2][3] Cream are widely regarded as being the world’s first successful supergroup.[4][5][6][7] In their career, they sold over 15 million albums worldwide.[8] Cream’s music included songs based on traditional blues such as “Crossroads” and “Spoonful”, and modern blues such as “Born Under a Bad Sign”, as well as more eccentric songs such as “Strange Brew”, “Tales of Brave Ulysses” and “Toad”.

Prior to Cream Bruce played with folks like Charlie Watts (Rolling Stones drummer) in Blues Incorporated and John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers and post-Cream with Manfred Mann and Leslie West and Corky Laing in West, Bruce, and Laing.

RIP Jack Bruce.

(more…)