Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Sufjan Stevens Ode to Flint


  1. I like idiosyncratic filmmaking, but this one's odd.

    I'm not sure that the filmmakers understood that:

    1. Some of the specific jobs they depicted... mostly the low paid ones... never existed in Flint.

    2. The rest of the depicted jobs... of types that did exist in Flint, though probably not the exact depicted ones... were pretty highly skilled and well paid by the standards of the time.

    3. During the depicted time period, Flint was effectively at full employment. If you wanted a decent job, you got it.

    4. Flint was anything but low paid during the 1940 and 50s. Flint had the highest average family income of any Urban Area Under 250,000 Population (government statistical category) in the entire United States during quite a few years of that time period.

    That's pretty remarkable considering that we were nowhere near the top in educational achievement, and didn't have an inordinate concentration of high-end "white collar jobs" (as they used to be known), as might be the case today with Sunnyvale, Austin or one of the other technology hotspots.

    1. Exactly. Not only are most of the jobs not Flint jobs, but the theme of the song is about jobs going away. For the record, this was someone's homemade video, not the artist's official video.

    2. Ironically, Sufjan recorded that record at a studio owned by a Flint native (Kieran Kelly).

      Sufjan is most likely referring to post "Roger & Me" Flint...

      The video is not appropriate for the song, at all...

  2. Suckjan Suckens sucks. His 50 state album plan was lame. His limp indie dreck is the antithesis of Michigan. His song about Flint is dumb and shows he knows nothing about the city. Post some Dayton Family.

  3. The entire album - "Sufjan Stevens Presents - Greetings from Michigan, the Great Lake State" - is really pretty awesome, with some incredibly delicate and beautiful arrangements! My favorite track is "For The Widows In Paradise, For The Fatherless In Ypsilanti."

  4. So is the artist's point that life hasn't been fair to Flint, and woe is me, and everyone here should be sad?

    It doesn't seem to be that top management at the UAW and the Big 3 all were incompetent at foreseeing and adapting to the future, and the Buick City locals were particularly self-destructive.

    I guess I'm too much of an engineer and not enough of a poet to get it. (In spite of my MFA, and trying.)

  5. Anyone who connected the Union workers in Flint with any kind of Socialist/Communist movement never lived in Flint and really knows nothing about it, at least beteen 1945 and 1985. Between World War II, and the time Michael Moore started making films, no connection like this was made. But Moore views Socialism (at the very least) as a solution, not some kind of Bourgeois upward mobility movement like 1945-1985.

  6. This film and the above comments are a real study, as they relate to the "good old days"; bringing to mind, socialism, unions, hard driving line formen, sad inebriated workers, workers who needed a job desparately and showed it in their work effort and those who just couldn't care less. I most agree with the person who said, if you lived there in the productive years, you wouldn't be talking socialism or communism. We made a good living, allowing us to raise our families in a decent place, but also paid a price for it. Management tended to be less than caring whenever given free rein over the workforce. Anyone going into the shop year after year, earned his/her stripes, and every dollar taken home at the end of the week. The Flint factories were good to me, but I don't miss that environment even a little. I am unmoved by old video footage showing happy grateful workers punching a time clock. No, what really happened was, they sucked it up and went back in there the next day, because more often than not they had obligations.

  7. Flin actually had a Socialist mayor from 1911-1912: John A.C. Menton.

    While they were not a majority, to suggest that absolutely no Socialists were involved in the union for a 40 year period seems naive to me. Were they bold and open about their beliefs? Probably not. Did they exist, even in small numbers? C'mon, here must have been some.


Thanks for commenting. I moderate comments, so it may take a while for your comment to appear. You might enjoy my book about Flint called "Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City," a Michigan Notable Book for 2014 and a finalist for the 33rd Annual Northern California Book Award for Creative NonFiction. Filmmaker Michael Moore described Teardown as "a brilliant chronicle of the Mad Maxization of a once-great American city." More information about Teardown is available at