Saturday, August 28, 2010

Flint Photos: Durant

Special thanks to Grumkin for this shot of the nearly restored Durant Hotel. This is kind of hard to believe. It looks almost perfect.

Flint Photos: Hubbard's

Special thanks to Tom Pohrt for this great shot of Brush Alley.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Michigan-Ohio State: Tinkering with a Classic

College football will do just about anything to make even more money, including destroy the Michigan-Ohio state end-of-the-season rivalry game. With two divisions and a championship game likely in the Big Ten, Jim Litke of AP reflects on the unappealing future of the big game:

The most likely realignment scenario involves putting the historic rivals in different divisions, then having them play in the middle of the regular season rather than at the end. That way, if they meet in the championship game, it won't feel as much like a rematch.

Never mind that few championship games are as memorable as even the clunkers Michigan and Ohio State have played over the years. When pressed, most coaches would concede they view championship games as necessary evils; they're the price a team pays so that its conference keeps a seat at the table for the Bowl Championship Series postseason galas.

But no one ever looked at Michigan-Ohio State that way. The lore that grew up around the game was testimony to that. Play it twice a year, even if the second time is for the league championship, and plenty of the air leaks out of both

Say Ya to Da Lions, Eh

Cross a yooper with a Lions fan and you've got yourself a strange combination.

Doug Farrar of Yahoo Sports reports:
As Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz broke his team's 2010 training camp on Wednesday, he had a special guest in-house -- Joe Paquette Jr., a 63-year-old man from Michigan's Upper Peninsula, who walked over 400 miles to attend a team practice. The long hike -- 425 miles in 18 days -- had something strong behind it.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Flint Photos by Austin McLogan


A series of Flint buildings shot by Austin McLogan. Anything look familiar?






























Monday, August 23, 2010

The Detroit News Says Former Flintoid Tom Gores Is Considering Purchasing the Detroit Pistons

The Detroit News is reporting that billionaire Flint native Tom Gores is the leading candidate to purchase the Detroit Pistons.

Gores was profiled by the San Diego Reader last year after he purchased the San Diego Union-Tribune. The article devotes a lot of ink to Tom Joubran, the man who was instrumental in bringing Gores to Flint and mentored him as he grew up in the Vehicle City.

Matt Potter reports:

In a March 19 story announcing its takeover by Platinum Equity, the Union-Tribune reported that Gores had “immigrated to America with his Greek family when he was 5 and eventually became a U.S. citizen.” But there is more to the story of Tom Gores and his large, extended family.

He was mentored through childhood, adolescence, and college by Tom Joubran, who became a grocer after arriving in this country and battled years of ethnic bias and criminal charges that he attributes to jealousy and discrimination because he came from the Middle East.

It was Joubran who sponsored the 1969 immigration of the Gores family, including his sister Marie, from Nazareth to Flint, where many members of the Joubran family live.

“I’m so glad I brought them in here,” Joubran said last week. “I provided them a house to live. They worked for me, and I paid them money.”

Tom Gores “was the carry-out boy in my grocery store and was in the produce department,” Joubran told the Flint Journal in 2007. “The apron he wore was bigger than him. He was very small for his age.… But look at him today. I’m so proud of him and all of his brothers and sisters. They were all dynamic kids. I knew they were going to be something from the day they came in.”

Dan Shriner, a former reporter for the Flint Journal, recalls that photos of the Gores brothers lined the walls of Joubran’s office, including one of Tom’s older brother Alec standing with Bill and Hillary Clinton. Joubran spoke with pride of how he had mentored the brothers in the promised land of America.

“I do know that he’s extremely proud of them,” says Shriner. “They’re in touch often. They really stay in touch. I don’t know about what, but they are in touch with great regularity.”

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Real Estate School of Writing

1610 W. Jackson Avenue hanging tough, despite it all.

It takes a special talent to create compelling real estate copy. The highly specialized genre requires the writer to seamlessly mix legally required disclosures about a property's flaws with ebullient and frequently exaggerated claims that quickly forge an emotional connection with potential buyers. It's kind of like writing a profile for an online dating service — not that I'd know anything about that — except you have to mention things like plumbing and delinquent property taxes. Like satire and clever limericks, it's not easy to pull off. Especially when it comes to Flint.

Take this eBay offering — "Charming 2 BR House in Flint MI, Good Area for family" — for a classic Civic Park home at 1610 W. Jackson Avenue.(Disclosure: I once hauled ass through the backyard of this house approximately 35 years ago after an unfortunate misunderstanding involving snowballs and a motorist who clearly didn't have a sense of humor.) Let's set aside the obvious big-picture discussion of whether Flint, in its present state, is indeed a "good area" for families and get right into some of the classic elements of real estate writing skillfully employed in this listing.

Bad News First: Some things are simply impossible to nuance, and it's best to just get it over with: "Unfortunately, thieves have entered the property and taken the furnace, hot water service, kitchen sink, and fittings.

Turn That Frown Upside Down: But it's always best to quickly counter this potentially negative information with something positive: "
Luckily the property has poly water pipes and they are still all there. The ducting for the furnace is still in place, and the only damage done to the property is to the door knob and door jamb of the side door, minor damage to the bathroom wall and mud trampled over the carpets. The front, side and rear doors are all new aluminum clad security doors and all have been secured. The carpets, although soiled, are still in excellent condition and will clean up well. The house is currently winterized." (Note: This may be one of the rare instances when the use of cheapo polybutylene plumbing paid off; if the owner had used copper, it would be long gone by now.)

Get Inside Their Head: Anticipate potential buyers questions and concerns and reassure them. For example, people might be wondering why the seller is willing to part with this fantastic property for under $2,000 on eBay:
"I cannot undertake repairs as I live too far away. This is the ONLY reason I’m selling it." Note the use of ALL CAPS for emphasis, which enhances the believability of the claim. It also distracts the customer from asking the obvious question: Why do you live so far away from Flint if the city is as wonderful as you claim?

Aspirational Thinking: Prompt the potential buyer to start imagining the fun projects they could undertake once they own the property. "Don’t be put off by the external color of the house.
It’s only a coat of paint from being stunning."

Get Back to Nature: Take advantage of natural attributes that have an emotional appeal and are difficult to steal while hinting at the long-term potential of the property: "
There is a large shade tree in the back yard and room for a garage."

Avoid Too Much Information: Finally, real estate writers know that while they shouldn't actively deceive, there's no law that says you have to provide every piece of pertinent information: "The home's location provides convenient access to schools, parks and churches. Civic Park elementary school is just a block from the home, and there are 7 schools all within a mile of the home...For golfers, Mott Park Municipal Golf Course is less than 2 miles away." In other words, there's no need to reveal that some of those schools, including Civic Park, are no longer open. And duffers will just have to find out for themselves that Mott Golf Course has fallen victim to budget cuts, although it's still a great spot to practice shots from very deep rough. Keep in mind the copy never claims these facilities are open, only that they exist.

With less than two days before the auction closes, the house has 36 bids. The current high bid is $1,336.

Flint Photos: Police Headquarters in the 1950s

(Please excuse the photographer's cropping marks.)

Flint Formal Wear

Patty Warner has some great Flint merchandise available at CafePress. Go here.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Foote-ing the Bill for "Alleged"

Many Flintoids were disappointed that "Semi-Pro," which was shot primarily in Flint, didn't have much footage of Vehicle City. And despite starring Will Ferrell and Woody Harrelson, it didn't have much humor, either, although that bear rasslin' scene was pretty good.

It may be even harder to spot Flint in "Alleged," the historical drama about the Scopes Monkey Trial starring Fred Thompson and Brian Denehy that was filmed in the city last year. That's because the movie doesn't even have a distributor despite the big name actors in it. So it won't be screening at major theaters anytime soon. It will probably have to make the rounds at festivals in hopes of landing a distributor.

So how do you finance a relatively expensive film with no distributor in place? Beata Mostafavi of The Flint Journal explains:
The film, directed by Tommy Hines and written by East Lansing native Fred Foote, is financed by a nonprofit foundation operated by Foote's family that supports Christian-based artistic and educational endeavors. And the film, which counters Stanley Kramer's classic, "Inherit the Wind" (1960, with Spencer Tracy, Fredric March and Gene Kelly), has gotten a buzz for having a Christian slant.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Working (or not) for a Living in The Great Recession

Apparently, some jobs just aren't worth it, even during the Great Recession.

In typical blog fashion, Flint Expats has hovered around a ton of issues related to workers, employment trends, compensation and economics without ever attempting to pull it all together into one neat package. (We've done a much better job providing an over-arching treatment of Flint bars and lounges. Yee haw!) Well, I'm not going to try and and adopt a holistic approach with this post, but I did run across two items today that seem to provide a lot of insight into U.S. employment trends in a short amount of space. I know that this is a very unrigorous approach that will no doubt be shredded in the comment section, but just consider these two bits of info:

First, here's a heart-warming graph that charts the ratio of CEO pay to average worker pay. It only goes up to 2005, but you get the idea. In 1965, U.S. CEOs in major companies earned 24 times more than an average worker. By 2005, the CEOs were making 262 times the average worker. (Click to enlarge.)

Second, check out Daniel Gross's great piece in Slate on the growing dissatisfaction of workers who actually have a job:
The economy has been growing for a year, and corporate profits have surged—Standard & Poor's estimates that profits of the constituents of the S&P 500 rose nearly 52 percent in the second quarter of 2010 from 2009. Much of that impressive profit growth has been driven by the remarkable gains in efficiency and productivity that corporate America has notched since the recession took hold. Last year, productivity—the ability to produce more with less—soared 3.5 percent, up from 1 percent in 2008 and 1.6 percent in 2007. Yes, companies embraced the Gospel of Cost Cutting with missionary zeal—printing on both sides of the paper, eliminating bottled water, turning off the lights. But most of the gains came straight out of payroll. Companies slashed salaries and curtailed benefits, all while asking shell-shocked veterans to pick up the slack for downsized colleagues. Even as business has picked up, companies have been extremely slow to hire; the private sector has added just 630,000 jobs so far this year. And when it comes to wages and benefits, corporate America's bean counters could make Scrooge blush. Many of the firms that slashed pay or cut 401(K) matches haven't restored them even though their balance sheets are in [good] health.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Flint Photos: Bassett Park Panoramic

Flint's Bassett Place. (Click to enlarge)

 I wanted to re-post this item from Jan 11, 2010 after getting a great comment on the micro history of Bassett Place from an anonymous reader:
Wow, I am really glad I came across this site. I believe I am probably the last "baby" to grow up on Bassett Place and actually make it out with a Flint education that was useful and now allows me to be a 20-something year old professional.

I grew up at 2414 Bassett Place and my parents were the first African-American family to move in on that street in 1977. My parents were young homeowners, my mom 20 yrs of age and my dad 22 yrs of age at that time. My grandpa decided to move into 2410 Bassett Place in 1982 where he could now be close to his three grandkids not knowing that in two years my mom would add twins (girl and boy) to the family. For those that view the slide show of Bassett Place, you may scratch your head wondering what kind of house was at the now 2310 Bassett Place
vacant lot. I think those that lived on Bassett Place would agree with me that this house stood out from the rest and it was very beautiful. It actually looked as if it belonged in the Mott Park estates. What a shame that it had to be torn down. A couple years back, my grandpa tried to buy 2406 Bassett Place when it became available for purchase. He has not bought it as of this year but I am thinking of going back and buying it.

When i was 6 years old, I can still remember riding my bike and trespassing into the backyard of 2402 Bassett Place and wondering who painted that beautiful mural on the adjacent neighbors' garage. Actually, it is still there today, just tremendously faded from weathering. The only original people still living on Bassett Place from the late 1960s/early 1970s would be the Buchlers at 2426 Bassett Place. For those that may have known the family living at 2422 Bassett Place, one of the sons is a Flint Police Officer and he told me that according to records that Bassett Place has still not received a 911 call for any type of domestic violence in probably 20 years and that is positively astonishing concerning the amount of violence happening day in and day out in the immediate area.

I moved away from the area after graduating from college and now live in
Salt Lake City, UT. It amazes me to see the transformation of Downtown Flint and the reopening of all those once-closed businesses that line downtown Saginaw St. I guess I was having a bit of a moment while writing this note. My mom just texted me to let me know that the "Back to the Bricks" car show is happening this weekend and I had to Google Flint to see what was going on. Again, I am happy to have come across others beings who lived on Bassett Place and to hear and to share of all of the memories we hold dear in our hearts.

Here's the original post:

Bassett Place looking remarkably well-preserved last spring. The rest of Civic Park isn't faring quite so well. Thanks to Randy Gearhart for the shot. (Click photo to enlarge.)

Suspect Arrested in Flint Serial Killings

Way behind the curve on this, but an arrest has been made in the so-called "Flint Serial Killer" case. Maria Glod and Caitlin Gibson of The Washington Post report:
Elias Abuelazam, 33, married twice and tried to settle down in the region, first in Fairfax County and then in Leesburg. Both marriages ended in divorce, and after the last one in 2007, Abuelazam's life became more nomadic. He bounced between Loudoun County, Michigan, Florida and Israel, the friends and court records say.

Over the past 11 weeks, Abuelazam began randomly stabbing and attacking men -- most of them black -- in Michigan, Virginia and Ohio, police say.

The Lonely Corvair

Waiting for the ferry in Friday Harbor on San Juan Island I spotted this lonely Corvair, marooned far from home.

View Larger Map

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Flint's Serial Killer

The Detroit News reports:
Flint Police are searching for a man they believe has attacked 12 vulnerable African-American males over three months, with no apparent reason other than to kill.

"He's killed five people," said Flint Police Sgt. J. Leigh Golden. "He's just killing them, not robbing them."

The latest victim was Arnold Minor, 49, stabbed to death early Monday on the city's south side, near Saginaw Street where several of the assaults have occurred.

Friday, August 6, 2010

The Looming Pension Crisis

There's been a lot of discussion of the inability of cities and states to fulfill their pension obligations. Shrinking cities like Flint are especially hard hit by legacy costs that just keep getting bigger while city revenues get smaller every year. Ron Lieber of The New York Times puts the looming national crisis into perspective...and it's not pretty:

There’s a class war coming to the world of government pensions.

The haves are retirees who were once state or municipal workers. Their seemingly guaranteed and ever-escalating monthly pension benefits are breaking budgets nationwide.

The have-nots are taxpayers who don’t have generous pensions. Their 401(k)s or individual retirement accounts have taken a real beating in recent years and are not guaranteed. And soon, many of those people will be paying higher taxes or getting fewer state services as their states put more money aside to cover those pension checks.

At stake is at least $1 trillion. That’s trillion, with a “t,” as in titanic and terrifying.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Random Quotes That Seem to Have a Flint Connection

"Assume a collectivity made up of a wolf and a sheep. The happiness of the wolf consists in eating the sheep, that of the sheep in not being eaten. How is this collectivity to be made happy?"

— Economist Vilfredo Pareto (1848-1923)