My Back Pages

or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Blog

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WILCO - HEAVY METAL DRUMMER (by wilcoclubvideos)


Notable Artists I’ve Seen Perform* (in order of relative importance):

BOB DYLAN / BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN & THE EAST STREET BAND / NEIL YOUNG / JAY-Z / KANYE WEST / CAT STEVENS (YUSUF ISLAM) / TOM PETTY / BOB SEGER / TONY BENNETT / OZZIE OSBOURNE / WILCO / NAS / THE ROOTS / LIL’ WAYNE / JOHN LEGEND / COLDPLAY / JOURNEY / ALICE COOPER / THE O’JAYS / BLINK 182 / FOO FIGHTERS (2x) / WEEZER (2x) / BAD RELIGION / KINGS OF LEON / THE STEVE MILLER BAND / BEN FOLDS (2x) / ZZ TOP / TREY ANASTASIO / LUPE FIASCO / KID CUDI / T. PAIN / TED NUGENT / JEFF TWEEDY / EXPLOSIONS IN THE SKY / STREETLIGHT MANIFESTO / GUSTER / BRAND NEW / THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS / MAVIS STAPLES / G. LOVE / PASSION PIT / WE ARE SCIENTISTS / FRIGHTENED RABBIT / REEL BIG FISH / THE JOHN BUTLER TRIO / THE VIRGINS / JET / SLOAN / FIONA APPLE / MUSTARD PLUG (2x) / BRETT DENNEN / TOKYO POLICE CLUB / THE HARD LESSONS (2x) / GYM CLASS HEROES / CREDENCE CLEARWATER REVISITED / MOBIUS BAND / CLEM SNIDE / MISSY HIGGINS / WILD SWEET ORANGE / ASHER ROTH

Performances by Notable Non-musicians:

JON STEWART (w/ CORRESPONDENTS) / STEPHEN COLBERT / THE MYTHBUSTERS / DEMETRI MARTIN / DON NOVELLO / SAM WATERSTON 


Notable Artists I’ve Seen (for whatever reason) but Don’t Particularly Care for:

KID ROCK / SHERYL CROW / MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE / COHEED AND CAMBRIA / THREE DOORS DOWN / 38 SPECIAL / KAISER CHIEFS

Notable Artists I Have Had Tickets to See but Was Unable to (for whatever reason):

THE CARS / BAND OF HORSES / BLONDIE / GIRLTALK


* Signed, nationally-touring acts only. A majority of the bands I have seen are unsigned.

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Get Born.

Almost all of you know the story by now.

It all started when Newsweek published a macabre list of dying cities. Predictably, three of said croaking metropolises were in Michigan. This surprises no one from the “Great Lakes State”, as our cities have such a strong heritage of appearing on similar lists that we almost always expect to see at least a couple familiar towns mentioned when one is released. Occasionally, the news is (kind of) good, but usually, it isn’t. This “list culture” has even gotten so out of hand that we are find ourselves nitpicking each other within the state in a desperate effort to feel better about ourselves and our predicaments.

"Didya hear about Detroit?" someone from Port Huron will inevitably gawk to a friend; to them, aside from an underwhelming blow to their sense of State pride, these lists represent their original anecdotal intent. They bring it up during a smoke break or around the water cooler, maybe tell a joke or two and move on with their day. They don’t live in Detroit, they’re not from Saginaw, and outside of their extensive knowledge of minor league hockey teams from Flint, they don’t care about it and will probably avoid stopping there for gas if they can. What they don’t realize is that their perception of the cities on the lists will change forever and as more lists come out, their views of a place will gradually begin to border contempt. Since these lists also carry with them a Reader’s Digest-esque element of “readability”, many people from non-listed cities will see where an area is ranked and, more often than not, skip a separate (much longer) article explaining the extensive reasons why. Who can blame them? There’s not enough time in the day to read every news story, especially those that do not obviously affect them. By that point, though, the damage has been done. An entire city’s legacy is forever tainted by lazy journalism.

Although the exact retort may differ, when someone from a “listed city” reads one they inevitably will denounce the list as they hide their hurt feelings. “Bullshit!” a mildly intoxicated student in Kalamazoo might exclaim when she sees a list that features her school. “MOTHERFUAHHHHARRRGGHHH”, a blindly enraged metro Detroiter could screech as he sees his city on one of a plethora of unfavorable rankings (before returning to his day-to-day activity of beating horrified Caucasian tourists with a tire iron.) The listees know these perceptions are unfair but who’s going to listen to them if they disagree? The best they can do, it seems, is keep quiet and hope better news will come around.

Grand Rapids, on the other hand, is new to this listing sensation. For several years they were on they outside looking in. Their schools are decent and, outside of a few jackasses, they  can take solace in knowing how genuinely good their people are. So, rather than ease into the hardened complacency contingent with the long-term listees like Detroit and Flint, they were shaken and wanted to do something about it… but what?

One thing they could have done was fight fire with fire and a local journalist could have published an article about how Newsweek is a “dying” publication. They would have certainly made a great case seeing as how the magazine lost almost 50% of its subscribers in 2009 alone, or how it was so broke by 2010 that it was sold for only $1. They could have even gone beyond the publication and criticized the list itself by pointing out how the criteria for a dying town was based solely on population changes over the past 10 years and, by that regard, what a cruel joke it was to have New Orleans as no. 1 (considering the population hit it took due to how many residents were actually killed by tropical storms over the past few years; therefore, according to Newsweek, a city is “dying” because its inhabitants are literally dead) and Cleveland at no. 5 (considering the population hit it took when Lebron James and his entire entourage took their talents elsewhere). The hypothetical article could have also called out Mainstreet.com, who Newsweek later admitted authored the list, and their CEO Jim Cramer. Yes THAT Jim Cramer. Yet, at the end of the day, maybe the people of Grand Rapids knew the impact of a written counter punch would not be equally felt since their newspaper suffers from sub-par circulation numbers (at least according to another list). Then again, maybe that would only be stooping to their level. One thing was certain, though, something had to be said.

So they did what any group of people in the 21st Century who want to be heard but lack the immediate resources to generate a national spotlight would do… they took to Youtube.

 (SEE THE VIDEO HERE)

The video is a textbook viral hit that says a lot in spite of its silliness. The protest is about life, masked behind an ironic song about dying. The result casts light on the all-too-overlooked difference between dying and actual death. When something is dying it is still very much alive, its just not in the best shape. This is Grand Rapids. The decade may have been tough but the people know the sun is still coming up every morning and setting every night. By refusing to give in to the sensationalism of these absurd lists they will continue to live free of the cancer of self-doubt, pity, and embarrassment that corrodes Flint and Detroit along with the rust on their abandoned factories.

Hopefully, this will serve as something of a clarion call to someone from a “non-list” city to refrain from making assumptions about a place based solely on something they read in a failing magazine found in the lobby of a dentist’s office (that they are probably only reading because the TIME is out of date, and the Sports Illustrated is the swimsuit edition and they don’t want to look like a pervert). Likewise, perpetual listees like Detroit, Camden, and St. Louis should rise up and realize that just because someone tells you you’re dying, its doesn’t necessarily mean you’re really dying at all, and it certainly doesn’t mean you’re dead.

Filed under detroit flint grand rapids michigan