Monday, January 15, 2007

Via our own BitBoy: Los Angeles has been ranked the new "center of the universe" according to Hub Culture's 2007 Zeitgeist Ranking.

A controversial choice? Sure it's big, but LA is finally hitting on all cylinders: fashion, tech, entertainment, and overall groove. American Apparel is changing fashion with vertically integrated manufacturing. LA's skull and bones indie rock fashion dominates globally. Myspace culture is taken for granted, everywhere. New walking areas and urban regeneration projects, from downtown to Malibu to Hollywood, make the city much more palatable than before, despite the endless crush of traffic. All in this and more help make LA the city of the moment: the energy is positive, its power is on the rise, and people everywhere have LA on their mind.

LA is certainly a different place than it was five years ago.

Speaking of cities, reader Jim Piana took the time to write a very thoghtful resonse to my obsevations on the current atmosphere in Detroit last week. Well worth the read.

I've been a frequent reader of the lab report for a few years, and as your postings have frequently been either an inspiration to me to check out something new, or have just been a barometer of other things I've been feeling as a Detroiter, I wanted to share some of my reactions to your post last weekend. The idea that a city that has been torn apart by economic, cultural, and political forces can be such an incubator for creativity has long been my belief; the inspiration that is found in decay and pain from the past has always seemed to me a natural source of hope to the artistically inclined.

When a gem like Oslo appears on the scene, it changes perceptions of this city for those that experience it. The same can be said about other venues that have come and gone over the past several years - think of how CPOP (it may not be gone, but it is a shadow of what it was circa 1999) changed the way a whole slice of the city looked at a formerly dark corner of Woodward. As each of these places fades in and out of the consciousness of our city, it leaves behind new supporters of the city, new attitudes about a place that has long been feared and underestimated. Losing places we love is painful, but I'd suggest that you not indict the whole of the community for letting it go. Oslo died, as many places like it do, for a whole host of reasons, but the bottom line is that it couldn't survive as a business. This is a loss for the city for the small population that frequented it, but I hardly feel this is a reflection of a core problem with the culture of Detroit.

The culture of Detroit has many faces, and only a few of those faces supported Oslo. Dismissing Oslo's demise as some faceless cranky windbags on [the internets] have isn't right, but cynically suggesting that such a dismissal is the reason that Oslo disappeared ignores the other problems that Oslo had as a business. I have to disagree with the suggestion that there are now no venues left for the music that Oslo promoted - this is pure hyperbole. Oslo's atmosphere, spirit and deccor matched the music that you and others brought to it perfectly, but I truly believe that the nature of music allows it to transform any venue given the chance. Last Saturday night at Fifth Avenue at Comerica Park is a perfect example - a place that I'd never really given a second thought became another world with Jeff Mills working the crowd. You of all people should know that given great music, tools as simple as a projector, and the right passion, you can turn an otherwise bland "place" into something real that speaks to people.

I'll be the first to agree with you that a cookie-cutter gentrification of this city isn't the answer: Zug Island will never be a Navy Pier, and the still-empty storefronts of Merchant's Row speak to the gap between vision and reality. I remember the first renderings I saw of Merchant's Row - it looked like Michigan Ave in Chicago, and my eyes rolled instantly. Banana Republic ain't going to fix Motown. But I am not so quick to dismiss the transformative effect of places like the Hard Rock Cafe. Sure, I've never been there, but lots of other people have. And if a few of those people wander out the front door and end up skating at Campus Martius, and maybe they bring someone else with them next time they venture downtown, and maybe one of those people happens upon Pulse or some other interesting little entrepreneurial place off the beaten path, then HRC has done some good.

I'm going to miss Oslo, but I'm also looking forward to whatever is next to amaze me in this continuously reconfiguring city. I encourage you to not lose hope, to succumb to the cynicism that is the easy excuse most use around here. Make art. Make music. Make this the place you want it to be. Encourage those that do want to make Detroit better, and try to change the opinions of those that don't. For every ten cynics out there, there is someone like you or me that knows what this place can be. Tell everyone you can.

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