Tag Archives: urbanology

Chiara Lubich Reformulated for Public Libraries


“And the answer to the learning vocation is above all an act of brotherhood. Indeed, one does not enter this field only to solve a problem, but if it acts on behalf of the interest of the community, wishing her well as if it were his own. This way of living allows the librarian to deeply listen to the citizens, who know their needs and resources. This helps to understand the history of the city itself, to enhance the cultural and community heritage. Accordingly, he can understand, little by little , the true vocation of the city and looking at her safely help to chart its way.

The function of the love of reading and seeking knowledge and deepening understanding, in fact, are to create and protect the conditions that give all other loves the opportunity to flourish: the love of young people, who want to get married and need a home and a job, the love of one who wants to study and needs of schools and books, the love of one who is engaged in the enterprise itself and needs roads and railways …

Knowledge is the love of loves, it collects in the unity of a common project, the wealth of individuals and groups, each consenting to perform freely their vocation. But knowledge also raises collaboration, making needs to interact with the resources, the demands with offers, infusing confidence in each other. The public library can be compared to the stem of a flower, which sustains and nourishes the blooming petals of the community.”

A version inspired by Chiara Lubich from Essential Writings: Spirituality Dialogue Culture.

Economy of Communion web site

Leave a Comment

Filed under Libraries & Librarianship

Roots of My Urbanology (II.)

Lakewood Totem
Totem For Lakewood; 2010 S.Calhoun

II. Roots of (My) Urbanology (part two of three parts)

In 1972, my mother suggested that I might find Lewis Mumford interesting. Although I was mostly concerned with–in 1972–squeezing through various doors of perception, I managed to wander through Mumford’s The Conduct of Life, along with Huxley and Laing and Watts. The Conduct of Life was written in 1951. (I suppose hardly anybody reads Mumford anymore.) A few years after returning to Cleveland in 1992, I remember revisiting Mumford in a series of conversations with my mother about Cleveland, cities, the de-industrialization of the Mid West, and, the curse of Ronald Reagan. She insisted I read The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs. (1961!) I did so. I re-read Mumford’s The City in History. I explained to my dear mother what I meant when I described Mumford to be a constructionist mystic.

In the fall of 2005, again due to the result of a remarkable fortuity, I met the Director of the Lakewood Public Library, Kenneth Warren; (to myself I noted: heck, a constructionist mystic!) I learned of the Visionary Alignment, the Lakewood Observer Project, and soon enough–even though I was a wash-a-shore–was in the thick of it. At the outset, among the suggestions I introduced to the Observer crew was a ripe and dangerous speculative question:

What would it be like to live in a city devoted to knowing itself better than any other city ever has known itself?

I didn’t really get at the time that I was both implying a name for the practical learning process of the project being unfolded by a handful of intrepid Lakewoodites and Observers, and, idealizing a highly charged constellation of conflicting fantasies about what is the very stuff of civic knowledge-seeking and civic knowing. The name/process is simple: civic self-knowledge, but the charging of the civic constellation is altogether complex, entangled, and, as we soon enough came to understand, is plain difficult.

Community, know thyself? Really? Plug into the circuit and call forth shadow, and every variety of impossible dream, and quixotic obstacle?

LAkewood prism
Lakewood Prism (demographic analysis schema)

(from a presentation by Kenneth Warren, – Lakewood Future Tools – Understanding Lakewood: Communities and Memes; March 2005) See also the pdf, Community Capacity.

(Lakewood Ohio) Place-Making with Good Neighbors on the Lake
· Flow =Quality of Life
· Increase the flow states in the community.
· Refresh the conventional sense of local living in Lakewood by engaging good neighbors.
· Cultivate the habit of good neighbors listening to one another.
· Activate through the Lake a sense of the liminal among good neighbors, that is, the threshold of physiological or psychological response to the unique energy that permeates the people and place.
· Make Lakewood permeable to new experience, ideas, mechanisms and structures among good neighbors
who are joining society to economy, conscience to knowledge.
· Obtain commitments from good neighbors to act on projects that will stretch beyond circular, selfjustified egocentric gated communities.
· Know there is a beginning point and ending point to each good neighborhood.
· Realize that a commitment to sustainability is shift in consciousness; it is not about constructing a pretty
· Understand that places and institutions can get high-jacked by interests that lie outside the particular community, i.e. absentee landlords, absentee corporations and absentee public employees.
· Construct IEDs – Improvised Economic Devises
Ken Warren, Lakewood Visionary Alignment

During the summer of 2006 I happened upon my current research focus, serendipity in adult development. Under the auspices of The Lakewood Observer and Lakewood Public Library, I devised a small project. I would quickly teach street anthropologists to conduct a survey, and then from their gathering of this data set, build out with them a very constrained ethnography focused on a single question, What brought you, [the subject,] to live in Lakewood?

For two weekends a dozen or so of us fanned out through Lakewood and conducted this survey. We then spent an afternoon debriefing the results. We never assembled the final work product, but, in reviewing the surveys on my own time, I realized an amazing quality threaded itself through many of the survey results.

I can capture this quality in one of the answers to the signal question.

My husband and I came to live in Lakewood because he had just taken a job at the hospital in Fairview Park and we were in a very temporary sublet in Rocky River. One day, at the grocery store there, I asked the gal at the cash register if she knew of any good resources for tracking down nice rentals in Rocky River. Before she could answer a woman standing behind me in the checkout line tapped me on the shoulder and told me that her sister had a first floor, two bedroom apartment available in her Lakewood house. I jotted her sister’s number down and we moved in the very next month.

Not only were the surveys littered with similar narratives, but having my nose pushed close to such stories compelled me to consider my own.

So: I had to reckon with the robber in 1974 who made it all possible by trying to kill me.

In other words, I discovered my interest in the problem of serendipity in adult development by reflecting on my apparently fortuitous encounter with a robber in 1974. This reflection itself was inspired by asking residents of Lakewood what was it that brought them to Lakewood to live.

Keynote: communities collect the results of serendipity.

(Technically speaking: communities aggregate the product of intricate conjunctions of agentic, environmental, and temporal fortuities.)

Leave a Comment

Filed under experiential learning, Kenneth Warren, my research, psychological anthropology, serendipity

On the Borders

I always marveled at the bricks and mortar book business, and could do so from inside a great American independent book store, The Vermont Book Shop in Middlebury, Vermont, (at which I steered its music department for almost ten years, a stint that ended in early 1987.) The business model for books was a kin of the business model for recordings, except that the pyramid of hot sellers paying for the carrying cost of slow selling inventory was steeper on the music side.

Of course, way back when, in a thriving college town literally protected from its brick competitors by 25 miles, my tenure happened during, in retrospect, what was a golden era for book selling. (It was much less so on the music side.) If the initial rise of the commerce-driven internet is marked to the year 1995, it still is the case that no thoughtful bookseller, at that time, would have anticipated digital books, e-readers, and, digital book piracy.

Amazon arrived in 1994. Their promise was to make available every book; ordered online and delivered by mail order. At the time unbelievers thought there was no way the tactile browsing experience would ever become uncompetitive. This kind of elitism was proved wrong well before the digital edition realized the unthinkable synergy of online purveyor and downloadable media. After all, the browsing experience was over-rated, and this was a fact I observed to be true while working and observing consumers during bookselling’s final golden age.

In Cleveland, Borders and Barnes and Noble discounted the best sellers, ran independent booksellers out of business, degraded their inventories (selection,) and seemed to me to work a hopeless business model by the time Amazon got rolling–by bursting out of the dot.com bust to ride a streak of losing billions of dollars–up until 2009. This debt-fueled strategy, presumably, plugs into their business model, but there’s no way to compete against it. Of course, Amazon is both a general retailer too and provider of infrastructure for a wide variety of partners, affiliates and associates.

As a book store customer, I saw Borders run the race to the bottom and win, thus lose. This struck me as death by thousands of relentless cuts. I’m not tempted to praise highly our local Barnes & Noble or Books-A-Million. I appreciate the acumen (or more likely:piles of cash,) behind their survival, but the local Barnes & Noble stores aren’t very good book stores, and, the Books-A-Million I walked into and wandered around was worse. It was staffed by, apparently, ‘non-readers.’

Locally, this leaves the several independent book stores and Half Priced Books and Music. There isn’t anything close to the reader’s paradise of the olden days extant among these outlets. (Just as there isn’t a great record store left.) This leaves me using Amazon, and exemplifying the problem bricks and mortar cannot solve.


Leave a Comment

Filed under Cleveland

The Untamed Monad in the Happy World


extremely rare photo of Gershom Scholem & Henry Corbin loving time on Virginia Street, Lakewood, Ohio

But if the “root” and possibility of Declaration always goes back to the topology of Being itself, what fundamentally Declaration “sees” that authorizes its hazarding concrete steps toward the possibility field it originates and seeks to get underway, is in every case Being itself. The topological feature of Being that is relevant here, would be its propensity to take on appearances. …one can profess neither Thomism, Scotism, nor Augustinianism, and yet ‘valorize’ these theological universes positively, and, without taking up one’s abode in them, keep an abode for them in oneself…

The more perceptions and representations of the universe each monad integrates, the more it unfolds its own perfection and differs from every other. (Chuck Stein – Parimenides Project; Notes on some passages from Henry Corbin’s Avicenna and the Visionary Recital)

Sacrament of Heresy
The Sacrament of Heresy

The Village has set sail for the future, like all of unanchored America, set sail or set adrift, take your choice. A visit to the Village always provokes a crisis of nostalgia in those who have moved on but do not want the Village to move on. (Herbert Gold The Age of Happy Problems)

KW sends my way a deep feed. Miller hails from that great Wood shed of outsider genius. What Herbert Gold did for the outsider in the Wood with Birth of a Hero in 1951 Miller is doing now with Atrocity Parade. Michael A. Miller describes his work:

Atrocity Parade amplifies the sadistic trivia of day-to-day existence. It’s the hymnal and prayer book of society’s heretics. In its angst-riddled pages, post-goths, thrashing bohos, crumbly artqueens, liberal-arts grad students, and all other phyla of overly-ripe, choleric day-job hostages will find asylum.

Commentary. An iconoclastic notion of an active, and interactive urban anthropology could propose that the most determined modes of inquiry would both tease and dig out, first, the overt story, and, second, the covert story. Thirdly, in driving this inquiry beyond and beneath these promotional tales the goal, to borrow from Stein, would be to appear in the possibility field. So: the investigator arrives, body and soul, in the field where the possibilities, say–creative kinds, are unfolding in real time.

This is really to invoke anthropological inquiry as praxis, yet without carrying into the act of enjoining the field, any pretense of objectivity. Another way to put this is to suggest the observer is landed in the poetic Topos; is faced with the fleshy, pulsing, ‘outerward’ cast manifestation of the inner dealing. Asylum here is hideaway, shelter, and possesses both outer and inner wards.

To play with this forming projection would be to sit in a window seat, or on a public bench, or at the park’s picnic table, and intently watch the scurrying about of patients and personnel–as if sidewalk and street were hallway. Them you could ask, as Miller has done.

The, a, City’s deep creative life, in someway, always implicates a daring observer willing to participate. The Sacrament of Heresy seems to me to surface an inevitability, a necessary fluid–moist in the archetypal sense–turning of the conscious citizen.

hat tip to Ken Warren for the pointer to Herbert Gold. I sense with Gold a northcoast Lafcadio Hearn type.) I discovered, evidently, Gold is still alive and has turned or will turn eighty-seven this year. At the bottom of the brief Wikipedia article are links to recent writing on the web.

I love this:

“So I guess you haven’t read one of my actual texts.”

“Not personally. Like I explained, I’ve got a lot on my plate these days.”

That was okay with me; or at least okay enough while, like the gathering clouds of the thunderstorms of my Midwestern boyhood, rage accumulated in my vengeful heart—this is the typical inept poetic strophe of a confirmed author who doesn’t need precision anymore because he has already arrived in the marketplace. Bewitched, Bothered, Begoogled; November 2004; News From the Republic of Letters.

Gold is onto, here, one of the primary rationales for seeking stories in the hideaways.

The excerpt from Stein comes from an email Ken offered, January 5, 2006, about visionary knowledge platforms.


Filed under Cleveland, Kenneth Warren

The Sting And its Habitus

The election September 7, in northeastern Ohio, “NEO,” marked a dramatic turning point in the region’s model for self-governance. A new county charter was passed in 2009. It was a rush job, and its opponents either argued to retain the current, corruptable, structure, or, study the issue of optimizing county governance longer. Ironically, a prominent exponent from the latter group, Ed Fitzgerald, won the Democratic slot for county executive.

The new set up is an experiment. How many Cuyahoga County residents voted to bring their candidates to the final round in November? …something like 17%.

src: Visualizing the Invisible. towards an urban space (Read & Pinilo, eds.)

One of the ways I enjoy myself is to drive around Cleveland, sometimes get out and walk around, stick my noise in an unobtrusive way in the various neighborhood, especially those of Cleveland proper. I was raised on Cleveland suburban east side. After living 18 years elsewhere, I came back for good in 1992. One of the first things I took up upon my return was visiting all the local libraries. Cuyahoga County is home to two of the country’s largest library systems, and, one of its best single suburban libraries, (in Lakewood.) So, I got around. For the first time in my life, upon coming back, I acquainted myself–deeply–with the “lay of the land.” I dug into the history. (There’s an excellent compendium of historical and biographic articles about Cleveland too. I read the hardback, but the materials are online.) Later, between 2004 and 2006, with Ken Warren and others in Lakewood mentoring me on new ways to look at the urban space, I became a student of the, (if you will,) the grain of the city.

When I wander around residential neighborhoods, one question dominates: ‘What do the folks who live here do for a living?’ This is directed at the individual houses. In each house lives people, so what do they do? Garage sale season is petering out, yet the garage sales provide a good opportunity to learn a little bit about what people do.

I mention this because, for me, a city is a place where people, in effect, live to be able to do.

My usual soft response to reading the bright ideas for development promoted by candidates and institutions is to wonder if the authors have any reasonable ideas about what is the current baseline. In other words, do they have any idea what people are currently living to do? Here?

Cleveland has been de-industrializing for fifty+ years. I listened to the two city club debates, one for each party. It was depressing. I didn’t expect any of the candidates to speak directly to the causes of the region’s predicament. I’m not even confident the ambitious men and women know much about those causes. One thing I feel is that the corrupt spoils system is the tip of the iceberg of a legitimized spoils systems, and, this was the result of failed neo-liberal experiments promoted over decades by lots of big fishes swimming in the shrinking pond.

The situation is nowadays straight-forward: what do you do when you know your region is going to keep on shrinking? One thing is, you can figure out how to do so humanely, if not elegantly. For example, if you acknowledge this fundamental fact, then you have a lot of houses to tear down and a lot of parks and urban farms to build. Example: the transportation infrastructure is no longer commensurate with the current dynamics.

“Part of what you have to do is think about ways to use land that help improve the quality of life but don’t involve actual building.” Alan Mallach, an urban planning expert at the Brookings Institution, How to shrink a city. Not every great metropolis is going to make a comeback. Planners consider some radical ways to embrace decline.

The sting in history’s tail is the profound unreliability of the past as a test for the future. “Trauma” via Post-traumatic.urbanism.com

See also:

Urban Plight: Vanishing Upward Mobility – Joel Kotkin

Leave a Comment

Filed under Kenneth Warren

Open eyes and own the civic space

Term it the Observer Paradigm.

It’s multiplying.

Fathership: Lakewood Observer Lakewood, Ohio
The Heights Observer Cleveland & University Heights, ohio
Parma Observer Parma, Ohio
Collinwood Observer Collinwood in Cleveland, Ohio
Euclid Observer Euclid, Ohio

soon (?)
University Circle Observer, University Circle in Cleveland, ohio

This new vision of time and space, which will be the theoretical
basis of future constructions, is still imprecise and will
remain so until experimentation with patterns of behavior has
taken place in cities specifically established for this purpose,
cities assembling–in addition to the facilities necessary for
basic comfort and security–buildings charged with evocative
power, symbolic edifices representing desires, forces and
events, past, present and to come. A rational extension of the
old religious systems, of old tales, and above all of
psychoanalysis, into architectural expression becomes more and
more urgent as all the reasons for becoming impassioned disappear.
Formulary for a New Urbanism (Formulary for a New Urbanism . Gilles Ivain
Internationale Situationniste/ #1 1953)

(Okay, maybe not so much the psychoanalytic part…)

Better: “Residency on the ley line allows for “the vertical circuit termed “intuition” to walk-in, drop-in to the epiphanic foot traffic, which pedals the metals of electric mojo circuits plugged into water mark.” (KW. March 2005)

urban poetics
Urban Poetics isn’t intended to be straightforward. It’s intended to be curved out of time. That there is a place right now for an imaginal apprehension of an urban lifeworld has to do with a practical exemplification of culmination. This reflects a concrete tale. The tale begins with a fifty and fifty-one; a meeting of 101 years. A meeting drums-in-hand around the fire dancer with the snake dancing underneath. There is in all of this the necessary memetic triangulation.

The thrust of the begun urban poetics is initiated in a dialogical dao. The glossary refines terms and new ways of transmitting spontaneous intuitions about living in the spiral domains of Lakewood and the cosmos. Seers and Sirians envelops longer effusians and miscellanies. Sound breeches wail collages of communal, civic, concrescent, oceanic audio.

Urban poetics is aimed to surprise and trigger evocative consternation. Here the eonic Lakewood teaching story is comprised and busted through the waves. ( from a draft of the never instituted Visionary Alignment Blog. circa 2006)

Situationist tribal poetics.

18: Ken explains it to Puck; kind of…

[Another party is in progress. It’s costume party. To the side of a stocked buffet, are a man dressed in a Bishop’s frock with cap, and a man in a brown rabbit suit, with the head held under his arm. The party is in full swing.]

Puck: I’m worried about him. The play seems headed to overload. We’ve instantiated a matrical lens;
stability-mastery; individuality-belonging being one such lens.

Ken: Let’s just say the he is on the throne. The Virgin Dirt Bag of Reason tries to dethrone him, each production time, no less, with skeptical probes into the city’s faith in the virtue of its underpart – the brand. The Virgin Dirt Bag of Reason persists in trying to subvert influence of Charis’s passion for the city into the critical circuit of Carthage.

Puck: Sure, I get it. It’s like Burroughs. You know the quote, “Animals talk. They don’t write. Now a wise old rat may know a lot about traps and poison but he cannot write a text book on DEATH TRAPS IN YOUR WAREHOUSE for the Reader’s Digest with tactics for ganging up on digs and ferrets and taking care of wise guys who stuff steel wool up our holes.”

Ken: Yes, consider this. Life conditions are, indeed, changing, here and elsewhere, some for better, others for worser. As life conditions change one meme cannot be co-opted by another’s message and playbook. Transcend and include is generally recommended. Easier said than done. To do so consciously and avoid blind spots is risky and near impossible.

Puck: He’s in a fix. The deep point of creative destruction and re-sanctification–besides realism cognizing the mysterium; being obedient–is, as you know, one can’t skip the steps the natural order and its aspirations.

Ken: Right-o! A dictator may be neither necessary nor necessarily deposed by the old hippie guard. But history is filled with cries of betrayal. That’s the reality of life on the planet of the apes. Every action is an OP from the horizon of psyche and politics which just doesn’t go away.

Puck: Basically…self-evident, right? But I wonder if Bear can take much more. He’s more than popular. Too popular. I’m…worried.

Ken: Why worry? The mandarin has no skin in the game of the chthonic conservative ta’wil that pushes back from the black hole of consciousness. All will be well. The worm turns…

Puck: Okay…alright, I get that…sure. I believe it is so, so I believe the fact of churn is the wolf in the bathroom. We might gently pull at the different threads but we would be re-raveling too: the indira web of the odyssey. For me it’s auspicious mutual collusion as you say joking the cosmic mean.

Ken: Yeah, the perception of negativity isn’t anything but a correct inference made from my push back. That it’s fleshed out incorrectly isn’t surprising. You avoid this so I’m interested –always– in your counsel, kimmosabe. After all, the second and third order strategic locus comes about when we animate.

from unpublished or produced screenplay, Tao Job.

Making a difference in the civic space using language is difficult. For one thing, in the experiential recipe is Shadow, and, in its transmutation to letter there is descriptive cloaking.

The standard notion of the way fantasy works within ideology is that of a fantasy-scenario which obfuscates the true horror of a situation: instead of a full rendering of the antagonisms which traverse our society, we indulge in the notion of society as an organic Whole, kept together by forces of solidarity and co-operation … Here also, however, it is much more productive to look for this notion of fantasy where one would not expect to find if in marginal and, again, apparently purely utilitarian situations. Let us simply recall the safety instructions prior to the takeoff of an aeroplane – are they not sustained by a phantasmic scenario of how a possible plane crash will look? After a gentle landing on water (miraculously, it is always supposed to happen on water!), each of the passengers puts on the life-jacket and, as on a beach toboggan, slides into the water and takes a swim, like a nice collective lagoon holiday experience under the guidance of an experienced swimming instructor. Is not this ‘gentrifying’ of a catastrophe (a nice soft landing, stewardesses in dance-like style graciously pointing towards the ‘Exit’ signs…) also ideology at its purest. (SLAVOJ ZIZEK, The Plague of Fantasies)

Walk into the fire? Follow the worry to its source?

Way back in 2005/06 I thought there could be a workaround. At the time, it seemed possible to send journalist researchers into the community and task them with the project of differentiating the tribal matrix, and its verticality (history) and householder horizons (survival strategies.) Then I tasked myself and then I fell off the stone!

It could of looked like this:

Now, so many years later, the impossible energies have been tamed and become procreative. Initial experiments in development,

have become templated and scaleable.

The action, for me, is on the civic forums attached to the civic journalism. This has been replicated at The Height Observer, but not at the other Observer sites. I don’t know why. In the exchange of experience and affect and non-anonymous poetics the civic heart plugs into its sanguine flow.

Still, as the experiment multiplies, and this somewhat well kept secret sustains its pulse, the prospect for bottom-up civic coherence matures.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Kenneth Warren

Water Music

The Dubai Fountain – Baba Yetu

The Dubai Fountain – Bassbor Al Fourgakom

The Dubai Fountain – – Bijan Mortazavi

(Burj Khalifa Tower, Dubai) hat tip to NETBROS, Metafilter

Leave a Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Abstract Steel

Anish Kapoor’s London Tower is posed as the centerpiece of not only London’s Olympic Park, but of London itself.

From the Guardian.UK, is something about the artist’s inspiration in his own words,

Kapoor said one of his references was the Tower of Babel. “There is a kind of medieval sense to it of reaching up to the sky, building the impossible. A procession, if you like. It’s a long winding spiral: a folly that aspires to go even above the clouds and has something mythic about it.”

Thomas Keyes, writing at the useless-knowledge web site,

“And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech. And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there. And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for morter. And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth. And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded. And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech. So the Lord scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city. Therefore is the name of it called BABEL; because the Lord did there CONFOUND the language of all the earth: and from thence did the Lord scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth.”


Here is a comment from a Christian apologist on Babylon: “With all the effrontery of our modern apostates, they called their city and tower Bab-El, the gate of God; but it was soon changed by divine judgment into Babel, Confusion.”

The only trouble with this statement is that BABEL (or BAVEL) does not mean “confusion” in Hebrew, except by someone making an allusion to the passage from Genesis. In fact, the word BABEL is an extremely unlikely word in Hebrew, which, like Arabic and other Semitic languages, uses triconsonantal roots. A typical Hebrew root, like KELEV (dog) or SEFER (book), has three consonants, which may be referred to as C1, C2 and C3, that is, K-L-V of S-F-R. Words with C2 and C3 the same are common: BALAL (to mix, confound, involve, embroil); SOVEV (revolving, spinning); KOMEM (rising). But words with C1 and C2 the same are very unusual. BAB can probably be explained as having lost a medial W. This can be seen in the Arabic word BAWABA (great gate) as against BAB (gate).

(The holding interpretation stills wins the day, Thomas.)

So it shall be for me that Kapoor’s odd looking work will always be associated with his mythic enthusiasm. Kapoor’s web site is stellar.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Cha-ching & ‘who were they?’

It was great to see paper ballots being used at my local voting place. This is even better than the punch-the-chad method. Sometimes the ancient technology is the least troublesome.

In Cuyahoga County there came to collide in this election two neoliberal fever dreams: issue #3, casinos, with, issue #6, new county charter. The latter implements a new techno-bureaucratic structure for the county. The former is neither a terrible idea or a great idea. But it is a mediocre idea.

It will be interesting to see if a casino sucks the long odds irrational lottery fan to its better odds. If this comes about, then its possible an unintended consequence will also be realized, a hit to education funding.

The new county charter is likely a new gain over the putrid rot of the current set-up, yet its promise rides on the citizenry becoming engaged enough to vet the new executive personnel. Under the box for the failed issue #5—it would have established a charter commission to write a future charter—was a slew of candidates for said commission. Who were they?

Roll the dice…

Leave a Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Urban Integralism

(moved from -pages-)

excerpted from Integral Urbanism by Nan Ellin. Originally posted on February 6, 2009.

(from the Introduction)

In Western society, generally, we are witnessing a gradual reorientation
toward valuing slowness, simplicity, sincerity, spirituality, and sustainability in
an attempt to restore connections that have been severed over the last century
between body and soul, people and nature, and among people. For architects
and planners, this has been apparent in the shift from the machine as model
(Modernism), to cities of the past as model (Postmodernism), to seeking models
simultaneously in ecology and new information technologies (e.g., thresholds,
ecotones, tentacles, rhizomes, webs, networks, the World Wide Web, the
Internet). Along with these new metaphors, there has been a fascination with
the border, edge, and in-between, as concepts as well as actual places.
In contrast to the earlier models that bespoke aspirations for control and
perfection, these current models suggest the importance of connectedness and
dynamism as well as the principle of complementarity. On the ecological
threshold, where two ecosystems meet, for instance, there is competition and
conflict but also synergy and harmony. There is fear but also adventure and
excitement. It is not about good or bad, safety or danger, pleasure or pain,
winners or losers. All of these occur on the threshold if it is thriving.

As ecological success is measured
by the capacity of our planet to support all life forms,
urban design success should be measured
by its capacity to support humanity.
Learning from best practices,
an Integral Urbanism offers guideposts along that path
toward a more sustainable human habitat.

In contrast to escapist, cynical, or purely mercenary tendencies,
Integral Urbanism aims to heal wounds
inflicted upon the landscape
by the modern and postmodern eras
as manifest in:
Visually unappealing places
Impoverishment of public space and heightened perception of fear
Diminished sense of place and sense of community &
Environmental degradation.

To accomplish this, Integral Urbanism demonstrates five qualities:

Continue reading

Leave a Comment

Filed under integral

Space, The Final Frontier

(click for large windowbox version)

If I reflect upon phenomenologists about town…well, there aren’t many of us. Anyhowsa, Frank M. Mills is one of the few. In the past few days, he’s melded his family of web media locations into emptyspaces. This will make it easier to keep track* of Frank.

I’ve done a little walkin’ and talkin’ with Frank years ago. With Frank, if you walk down–say, Virginia Street (above) in Lakewood–he’ll stop and talk with people and stop and contemplate and, otherwise go about it as if the real deal isn’t between points A and B. Great fella with which to get lost in space.

…since KW has gone off grid, I better look him up. Frank and KW are the only flâneurs I’ve ever met.

* or sniff his trail

“Better to follow the perfume, than the tracks.” (Shams)

Leave a Comment

Filed under adult learning

Sustainability, Systems Awareness, Eros

There are times when I compel myself to withhold an astringent critique. If I’m on the ball, I can figure out how to render a sweeter critique delicately, when the circumstances call for this. Tonight presented such an occasion.

After a roundtable, leaning toward my very close friend Holly, leader of the fine local sustainability organization E4S, I posed the following thought problem:

“What if it turns out ten years from now that sustainability activists came to realize that more thinking and less activism would have been more effective than the opposite?”

The roundtable was about Sustainable Business Development and Poverty. Almost since the inception of E4S I have been making suggestions to Holly about the human (and social,) system that any business system is but a part. Now E4S has widened its context to consider the how sustainability might be positively related to poverty. This is very exciting, but having contemplated something of these relations for almost 30 years, I’ll admit there a number of astringent critiques that lay close at hand.

The above thought problem is really a type of meta-thought problem. It doesn’t regard specifics, it just provides an inversion of the current normative tendencies ‘here on the ground’ which favor instrumental activism over robust and studious “social-critical” contextualizing.

In the background, there may be lots of collaborative thinking time given over to consideration of critiques and practical system factors such as leverage points, dependencies, interdependencies, and, to more foundational aspects such as core assumptions, and, certain operational conceptions/suppositions. However, if this is going on, not much of this bubbles up into the publicized open source. And, the public dialogs are almost entirely about what needs to be done and doing.

As a movement, is sustainability often one-sided in this way?

If so, there likely are a number of reasons for this, yet the most practical reason would be that, by definition, implementation, (those activities which are manifestations of instrumentalism,) always begin in real world actualities. At least in this, the instrumentalist, so-to-speak, keenly appreciates what the current, actual social system is able to provide for, produce, and support.

However, as my thought problem proposes, there’s no self-evident reasoning that supports the bias in favor of doing, (and the bias disfavoring more cogent understanding of systems,) as being, per force, optimal. In fact, there is a strong argument able to be made that a cogent understanding of systems may turn out to be mission-critical.

Let’s suppose this kind of awareness of systems, knowledge of context, and understanding could be a high value requisite of high leverage point activism and instrumentalism.
Continue reading


Filed under Cleveland, psychological anthropology

The March of Capital

The Cleveland Heights Observer celebrated its first anniversary at the annual meeting of its sponsor (?) Future Heights. The journalist Charles Michener’s presentation was featured.

It’s interesting to compare the Heights Observer with The Lakewood Observer. After listening to several presentations that paid tribute to the volunteer efforts of the sizable CHOb team, I became aware of how organized the civic journalism project is over in the inner ring suburb where I was raised. It’s impressive. The paper itself has grown up over the past year. There’s always at least an article or two in each issue that pushes past the civic cheerleading.

Because my brief participation with the Lakewood project included the inception phase, my informed guess is that the CHOb didn’t go through the same sparking rough-and-tumble wilding the Lakewood Observer went through. It seems the CHOb never was wild, thus in need of being tamed. The biggest difference between the two projects is that the Cleveland Heights Observer’s forum hasn’t reached any kind of mass or gravity at all, whereas the Lakewood Observer’s deck centers Lakewood’s civic drama. The CHOb’s forum is thin, and Lakewood’s thich, long tail whips around.

Michener is writing a book on the revival of Cleveland. He’s in his late sixties and returns to Cleveland after a professional career as New Yorker and Newsweek journalist and editor. His roots are in Cleveland Heights, University School, Yale. His specialties at The New Yorker were restaurants and opera. He’s also an expert and author of a book about the east coast society bandleader Peter Duchin.

I don’t know if Cleveland is to be soon revived, but Michener’s combination of boilerplate observations, name dropping, and, offering Portland, Oregon as exemplar of urban cool, tracked aspects of many other similar presentations I’ve fidgeted through over the years. When the term ‘brain drain’ is trotted out for the umpteenth time, it’s easy enough to figure the speaker hasn’t yet done the kind of homework likely to be revelatory. Hopefully his book will subvert my initial impressions.

Still, as long as Michener mentioned it, I’d like to reveal my own take in the form of a question:

Why is it assumed that urban advancement will come upon the heels of the kind of people who have left returning to replace some of the people who have chosen to stay?

One aspect of the answer to this question I’ve smoked out over the years is that the person who offers this prescription–almost always–never has any purchase on the reasons why people stay, let alone what is the gravity of the “long” regional historical context. It strikes me as close to absurd, then, to hobnob with civic leaders, complain about their being “siloed,” prescribe variations of innovative collaboration, without driving their journalistic/research/observer’s consciousness into the ongoing urban and civic flux of the extant individual-group-neighborhood-community “creatura and pleorama.”

Top down prescriptives follow inexorably, almost as karmic consequence, from the failure to smartly go down and gather round the ripe dis-ease, and gather pearls, and firewalk through the thicket of in-the-moment reasons being here remains vital here, and, then gather why people choose to stay.

In Cleveland. What is here is the prima materia! It’s been cooking in the stew pot fired by long cycles of economic depredation. Some idealized admixture of cultural creatives and braininess doesn’t fit the bill of enlightened forces able to reverse trends not themselves the result of lack of the same.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Cleveland, Kenneth Warren


Walk Score allows one to plug in a street address and quickly learn how walkable is the neighborhood the address is located within.

I plugged in my own Shaker Heights address and it received a 65 score. This rates as very walkable, but in truth my neighborhood is residential blocks located between two close-by shopping complexes. Next I plugged in the Phoenix Cafe in Lakewood, and the core was 85. Extremely walkable, and it would put Lakewood in the top 10%, of the 2,500+ neighborhoods the Walk Score Project has scored. The project–and it’s methodology–scored over 1,000,000 locations.

click image for large version

The walker’s paradises are listed. It is restricted to scores taken from neighborhoods in the 40 largest cities. By way of comparison, I scored Church Street in Burlington, Vermont, (population: 39,000) and not surprisingly it scored 97 out of 100.

Cleveland garnered 60 points overall. Cleveland possesses several well-known walker’s districts. For example, the up-and-coming Gordon Square received a ranking of 83. I haven’t delved into the methodology by which many neighborhood’s scores are aggregated to arrive at a city’s score. Anyway, it’s neat that Lakewood is more walkable than New York is overall, and behind San Francisco.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Kenneth Warren


I’m reading a new book Integral Urbanism by Nan Ellin. I’ve copied out the text laid over graphics here because it crystalizes something of my own perspective. Also, although her conception of ‘integral’ owes something to Ken Wilber, in the main her writing obtains a very fine phenomenological reckoning with a quasi-transdisciplinary cast of mind. (My comments follow the clipping.)

As ecological success is measured
by the capacity of our planet to support all life forms,
urban design success should be measured
by its capacity to support humanity.
Learning from best practices,
an Integral Urbanism offers guideposts along that path
toward a more sustainable human habitat.

In contrast to escapist, cynical, or purely mercenary tendencies,
Integral Urbanism aims to heal wounds
inflicted upon the landscape
by the modern and postmodern eras
as manifest in:
Visually unappealing places
Impoverishment of public space and heightened perception of fear
Diminished sense of place and sense of community &
Environmental degradation.

To accomplish this, Integral Urbanism demonstrates five qualities:
Hybridity and Connectivity bring activities and people together, rather than
isolate objects and separate functions. These qualities also treat people and nature
as symbiotic—as well as buildings and landscape—rather than oppositional.
Porosity preserves the integrity of that which is brought together while allowing
mutual access through permeable membranes, rather than the modernist
attempt to dismantle boundaries or postmodernist fortification.
Authenticity involves actively engaging and drawing inspiration from actual social
and physical conditions with an ethic of care, respect, and honesty. Like all healthy
organisms, the authenti-City is always growing and evolving according to new
needs that arise thanks to a self-adjust ing feedback loop that measures and monitors
success and failure.
And Vulnerability calls upon us to relinquish control, listen deeply, value process
as well as product , and re-integrate space with time.
In contrast to the master-planned functionally-zoned city
which separates, isolates, alienates, and retreats,
Integral Urbanism emphasizes
connection, communication, and celebration.

As we are a part of nature,
so are our habitats including our cities.
Over the last century, however,
urban development has treated the city as a machine
for efficiently sheltering and protecting
and for moving people, money, and goods.

The city-as-machine approach has privileged building upon
a tabula rasa, or clean slate.
This is manifest in leaving older cities behind
to build further out on pristine or agricultural land.
It is also manifest in razing large swaths of older cities to build anew.
Another by-product of the quest for efficiency is zoning.
Introduced one century ago as indust rial product ion and the car
were transforming the urban experience,
zoning segregated funct ions
that had been integrated
from t ime immemorial.
As people are mutually interdependent, however,
so are our activities as expressed in city form.
Cities and communities only thrive (are only sustainable)
when these interdependencies are allowed to lourish.
We are now belatedly recognizing the problems
wrought by the clean-slate tendency and land-use zoning.
However well-intended, these efforts to “renew” our cities
and render them more efficient have gone too far,
ult imately draining the life from them and cont ribut ing
to threaten our sense of community, security,
and physical and emotional health.
Rather than neglect, abandon, or erase our urban heritage, Integral Urbanism
preserves buildings, neighborhoods, and natural landscapes that we value;
rehabilitates, reclaims, restores, or renovates what is underperforming;
and adds what we do not have yet but would like,
as informed by effective community involvement.

Whether applied to exist ing urban fabrics or new development ,
I ntegral Urbanism activates places
by creating thresholds—places of intensity—
where a range of people and activities may converge.
Providing places to congregate along with synergies and eficiencies,
I ntegral Urbanism offers settings—while also liberat ing t ime and energy—
for collaborat ively envisioning and implement ing desired change.
The result is:
more conservation & less waste,
more quality public space & less distrust and fear,
more quality time & less “ screen time” and commuting time,
more proaction & less reaction.
Whereas the modern paradigm discouraged convergences
through its emphasis on separation and control,
this new paradigm encourages them.
Convergences in space and time
of people, activities, businesses, and so forth
generate new hybrids.
These hybrids allow new convergences and the process continues.
This is, in fact, the definition of development.

From the machine as model (modernism) ,
to cities of the past as model (postmodernism) ,
Integral Urbanism finds models simultaneously in
ecology and new information technologies such as
thresholds, ecotones, tentacles, rhizomes, webs, networks,
the World Wide Web, and the Internet .
I t also reveals a fascination with the border, edge, and in-between,
as concepts as well as actual places.
In contrast to earlier models, these suggest
the importance of connectedness and dynamism
as well as the principle of complementarity.
On the ecological threshold where two ecosystems meet, for instance,
there is competition and conlict along with synergy and harmony.
There is fear along with adventure and excitement .
It is not about good or bad, safety or danger, pleasure or pain, winners or losers.
All of these occur on the threshold if it is thriving.

Integral Urbanism veers away from master planning which,
in its focus on cont rolling everything,
ironically tends to generate fragmented cities without soul or character.
Instead, Integral Urbanism proposes more punctual intervent ions
that have a tentacular or domino effect,
catalyzing other interventions in an ongoing dynamic process.
If master planning were a form of surgery on an anaesthetized city,
Integral Urbanism might be a form of acupuncture on a fully alert and engaged city.
By opening up blockages along “urban meridians,”
just as acupuncture and other forms of bioenergetic healing
open blockages along the energy meridians of our bodies,
this approach can liberate the life force of a city and its vibrant communities.
While integrat ing the functions that the modern city separated,
Integral Urbanism also seeks to integrate:
ln conventional notions of urban, suburban, and rural to
produce a new model for the contemporary city
ln design with nature
ln local character with global forces
ln the design professions and
ln people of different ethnicities, incomes, ages, and abilit ies.
Integral Urbanism is about :
Networks not boundaries
Relationships and connections not isolated objects
Interdependence not independence or dependence
Natural and social communit ies not just individuals
Transparency or translucency not opacity
Permeability not walls
Flux or low not stasis
Connections with nature and relinquishing control,
not continuous.
While integrating the functions that the modern city separated,
Integral Urbanism also seeks to integrate:
ln conventional notions of urban, suburban, and rural to
produce a new model for the contemporary city
ln design with nature
ln local character with global forces
ln the design professions and
ln people of different ethnicit ies, incomes, ages, and abilit ies.
Integral Urbanism is about :
Networks not boundaries
Relationships and connections not isolated objects
Interdependence not independence or dependence
Natural and social communities not just individuals
Transparency or translucency not opacity
Permeability not walls
Flux or low not stasis
Connections with nature and relinquishing control,
not controlling nature
Catalysts, armatures, frameworks, punctuat ion marks,
notional products, master plans, or utopias.

The urban and environmental challenges of the last century
have prompted a reconsiderat ion of values, goals, and means of achieving them,
particularly over the last decade.
In contrast to the fast-paced more-is-more mentality,
the appeals of simplicity, slowness, spirituality, sincerity, and sustainability
are clearly on the rise.

Side by side with the still prevalent reactive tendencies of
form to follow fiction, finesse, finance, and fear,
myriad proactive initiatives from a wide range of contributors
to shaping the environment are shifting the paradigm toward integrat ion.

Although there remain numerous
obstacles along this path, we are
nonetheless passing through a rare
historic moment when what is good
for urban growth and development
is aligning with polit ical, economic,
and social trends.
We have been coming full circle or,
more accurately, full spiral.
Learning from the inherent wisdom
of nature and cities of the past ,
we are infusing it with contemporary

Rather than choosing to cont inue or abandon the modern project ,
our hyper-rational reliance upon information technologies along with
a simultaneous revalorization of process, relat ionships, and complementarity
is conspiring to eradicate the either/ or proposit ion.
We are doing both simultaneously,
each providing feedback for and adjusting the other accordingly,
holding potential for achieving integration at another level.

The modern era divided the world and our thinking about it into fragments
and our landscape followed. We are suffering the results.
Integrating disciplines and professions,
Integral Urbanism seeks to mend seams and darn holes
in the urban and social fabrics.
Resolutely refusing to idealize the past or escape the present ,
Integral Urbanism envisions and realizes
a new integration for an enriched future.
Crises and stress incite growth and change in all life forms.
The kind of change that occurs may support or detract from
the health and well-being of the system depending
upon its level of resilience and intelligence.
Applying the five qualities of Integral Urbanism
can offer the soul food necessary
for our cities and communities
to blossom and truly thrive.
Not merely

(from the Introduction)

In Western society, generally, we are witnessing a gradual reorientation
toward valuing slowness, simplicity, sincerity, spirituality, and sustainability in
an attempt to restore connections that have been severed over the last century
between body and soul, people and nature, and among people. For architects
and planners, this has been apparent in the shift from the machine as model
(Modernism), to cities of the past as model (Postmodernism), to seeking models
simultaneously in ecology and new information technologies (e.g., thresholds,
ecotones, tentacles, rhizomes, webs, networks, the World Wide Web, the
Internet). Along with these new metaphors, there has been a fascination with
the border, edge, and in-between, as concepts as well as actual places.
In contrast to the earlier models that bespoke aspirations for control and
perfection, these current models suggest the importance of connectedness and
dynamism as well as the principle of complementarity. On the ecological
threshold, where two ecosystems meet, for instance, there is competition and
conflict but also synergy and harmony. There is fear but also adventure and
excitement. It is not about good or bad, safety or danger, pleasure or pain,
winners or losers. All of these occur on the threshold if it is thriving.

For me, the smart community possesses the cognitive and poetic and expressive and creative capacities, thus the chops, to both contest the normal paths of low developmental resistance and instigate visions of future community that require the community to be smart. Another way of putting this is: the people in the community are more cognitively advanced than the ‘conventional’ people who want to develop the community. I add to this the potential for the people in a community to also be more advanced artists, entrepreneurs, care-givers, and ethicists. However, the challenge is, as I see it, that the smart community is necessarily reflective, much less egocentric, and, (as Melanie Klein would have it,) depressive; depressive meaning open and constructively related to reality-as-it-presents-itself.

Leave a Comment

Filed under integral


On December 16, The Uncertain Future of News, (WCPN Stream,) joined host Dan Malthrop with Lauren Rich Fine ContentNext, Kent State University and Ted Gup Case Western Reserve University to discuss the imploding old print newspaper media. The discussion was interesting but it didn’t really capture the confluence of trends, one of which is most germane: that people increasingly are reading less. This trend is a generational trend. This noted, if you’re interested in the business of news and newspapers’ role in providing information, it’s a worthwhile 45 minutes.

At about 11 minutes in Ms. Fine responds to the host’s mention of the example of local free newspapers The Lakewood Observer, (the ‘mothership,’) and The Heights Observer, (spawned by the mothership.) Both exemplify the mostly volunteer ethos of amateur community journalism. However, after praising their ability to “develop community consciousness” Professor Gup comments from the perspective of the old school professional model, that such community newspapers don’t have the resources to pursue “real” investigative journalism.

And then the discussion turned back toward analysis of the faltering old print news. Listening to this segment, I chuckled to myself. What a missed opportunity! Then, as the discussion returns to what might be new models for news delivery, the panel never circles back to the vital local model of the Observer, which, in Lakewood’s case, has been thriving for three-and-a-half years.

In an organic discussion focused on the old media it is not surprising that an active new model gets short shrift. But, Mr. Gup’s acute point about community journalism, that it can develop community consciousness, could have been deployed to ask why the old media doesn’t do this, and why community journalism can do this. The criticism of community journalism from the perspective of old media can be inverted: what advantages The Lakewood Observer and disadvantages, for example, The Plain Dealer from the perspective of the model of the new volunteer, “post-professional,” community media?

Scrolling back to the genesis of The Lakewood Observer offers a crucial clue. I was there and nobody talked about emulating conventional newspapers. The Observer model was not born of thinking about news provision as much as it was born of thinking about community consciousness and its revitalization. My guess is that old newspapers don’t think about this at all.

Although Gup’s point about community newspapers not having resources to, as it were, drag resistant institutions into court, is true, he never discusses the type of investigation community journalists can unleash. From the perspective of the efficiency of resources, it’s obvious that the work product of free correspondents is much more efficient than the million dollar model of conventional newspapers.

But, there’s more.

Community newspapers can really raise a high velocity and high volume ruckus. The key point here is that–what I’ll term–the community consciousness model is itself the product of local journalists really having a stake in the community, of their direct engagement, and subjectivity rather than objectivity. This is contrasted with The Plain Dealer’s stake being quite different, more professional, more detached, and resulting in ‘just another story’ at a scale oriented toward a wide readership as opposed to a local, (or micro,) readership.

Gup mentioned, later, how local powers can gauge and probably ignore this ruckus. This caused me to say to myself that the professor needs to do his homework on this point, and do it in Lakewood. The community consciousness model doesn’t aspire to implement an ephemeral, objective, string of investigative stories. It’s model is much better disposed to sustain a point of inquiry and, sometimes, attack. In Lakewood, the paper instigates, and the community sustains, much of this unfolding in the continuing discussions on the paper’s online forum. By the way, the forum is itself an interpersonal form of community journalism. The forum focuses and sustains community concerns. The genius of the Observer’s model is that it’s aggregation has to do with aggregating consciousness.

Circling back, although Professor Gup’s later point about opinion being cheap to produce, facts expensive to produce, is true enough, at the beginning of the Lakewood Observer project, we discussed how a certain type of journalist, by virtue of their engagement, and intensity, and–indeed–subjectivity, would be in a good ‘affectual’ position to loosen facts from resistant institutions and personages. This personality factor elevates emotional commitment to a community to be a key component of tenacity. This recognizes that subjectivity, in a rich social psychological context, is pragmatic and very useful.

The Lakewood Observer, since its beginning, is in the position to always hash out, re-hash, reconfigure, its model and analyze anew the system it’s a part of. This nimbleness is also a crucial feature of its ability to shape-shift and redeploy volunteer journalists in real time. After all, the unpaid journalist many times will only pursue what interests them; another point of ‘affect’ and ‘energetics.’

My uninformed guess is that old model newspapers aren’t likely to engage their own human resources in ongoing meta-discussions and pragmatic discussions, both enabled to deeply reflect on their predicament. There’s too much money at stake and the stakes are driven too deeply. If this is true, it could be hard to have a deep dialogue about one’s model, especially one that can address the question of community consciousness, and its ‘raising’ in a profound and post-professional manner!

I’ll urge Professor Gup, if he hasn’t already, and Mr. Malthrop, to investigate the Observer model closely. The Observer may observe the same terrain as the big city newspaper, but it does it with different eyes and a bigger ‘unpaid’ consciousness.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Kenneth Warren


November 25th I sat at a table of participants I had just met, and then collaborated to create a vision for Cleveland’s sustainable future. In collaborating together and imagining together a middle ground where we fruitfully share our different interests, the group set about doing something I immensely enjoy. This is to then synthesize and express the collaborative product.

The piece of the vision I hoped others could relate to was the relationship between sustainability and human artistry and creativity. Well, my colleagues did relate to this. My own sense has been developing for forty-five years, ever since I conjured up in a boy’s daydream a picture of utopia, a idealized human universe in which everybody made art for everybody else.

In 2005, working with the Visionary Alignment team in Lakewood, I unleashed my conception of the CIMPLE Lit-Up Center. This concept integrates an egalitarian performance space, after school and continuing arts education, and, civic inquiry in the form of a dedicated folk anthropology.

Here’s the floor plan. Download the position paper. [pdf 13mb] It’s beyond open source. click pic to enlarge I’ll comment further soon.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Cleveland, Kenneth Warren


High gas prices threaten to drain small towns’ populations
The Kansas City Star

The expected exodus from small towns, said Don Macke, a widely considered authority on rural economics and head of the Center for Rural Entrepreneurship in Lincoln, Neb., will be far more profound than the gradual erosion that has been going on since World War II. That decline was due to the country’s shift away from an agrarian economy and a choice for convenience: People wanted to be closer to jobs, shopping and entertainment.

The new flight, Macke thinks, will be more out of necessity.

Most commuters from small towns are high school graduates. They are driving 50 miles or more to work as school cooks, hospital aides, office workers, dental assistants and unskilled factory workers.

“The reality is that those jobs don’t pay all that well,” said Macke, who is also a visiting scholar with the Rural Policy Research Institute at the University of Missouri. “They’re spending up to $500 a month on gas. A third to half is already technically working poor.

“And as gas goes higher, they will get poorer and these towns will soon struggle to hold on to these people.”

Leave a Comment

Filed under sociology


Reposted. New York Times today: Rethinking the Country Life As Energy Costs Rise

Though Mr. Boyle finds city life unappealing, it is now up for reconsideration.

“Living closer in, in a smaller space, where you don’t have that commute,” he said. “It’s definitely something we talk about. Before it was ‘we spend too much time driving.’ Now, it’s ‘we spend too much time and money driving.’ ”

Posted 6/23 under Urban Dynamics, at the Lakewood Observer Observation Deck. (It waits for the moderator’s approval.)

…return of the inner ring. If you scratch out a calculation of the difference between driving a sixty mile round trip to work in a 15mpg guzzler and a twenty mile round trip in a 30mpg compact car, the difference in monetary overhead is obvious.

Although employment is widely distributed in NEO, living close to work offers a premium as far as overhead goes that over time may begin to amplify the advantages of living closer to the work site.

I’ll be tracking this issue. It may start to become apparent that there might be a ‘critical mass’ point at which time the inner ring becomes the place to live simply as a matter of the cost of commuting. Also, I do not know, (but could find out!) if a 5,000+ sq.ft Mcmansion is cheaper to climate control than a 50+ year old legacy <3,000 sq.ft, but there too is an opportunity to retrofit or otherwise modernize with the purpose of cutting householder overhead.

(I’ve long maintained that communitarian efforts to help people live within their means at all levels is a hidden factor in stabilizing and sustaining [a city and] civic benefits.)

See also
Christopher Williams: The Per Gallon Cost of White Flight (TPM Cafe)

I offer that high fuel costs and other energy dependent costs will have the effect of bringing people –first at the level of the local community–together to do problem solving. This prospect seems apparent when I play out various scenarios. I’m reminded the pioneers circled the wagons and this was a communal act.

It follows from this idea that processes of social isolation, territoriality, suburban status seeking, and what I would term the situation posing everybody in their own lifeboat, are each related and dynamic consequences of cheap energy.

(Of course Ivan Illich pointed this out in different terms a long time ago.)

Leave a Comment

Filed under current events


Gandy’s last paragraph trails a terrific, dare I suggest, essential, paper in urban Geo-Anthropology. Gandy is a Geographer.

Under the twentieth-century discourses of scientific urbanism and technological modernism we find that the hydraulic conceptions of the modern city were extended and consolidated to produce a highly sophisticated model of urban space as an efficient machine. In reality, however, the evolving dynamics of urban space from the middle decades of the twentieth century onwards became increasingly difficult to subsume within the technocratic assumptions of the bacteriological city. A combination of political, economic and social developments, which gathered accelerated momentum in the wake of global economic turbulence of the 1970s, contributed towards the emergence of a set of new configurations between space, society and technology. The role of water within this process of urban restructuring reveals a series of tensions between the abstract commodification of space and the continuing centrality of material interactions between human societies and technological networks. By focusing on the flow of water through urban space we can begin to disentangle the nexus of social and technological structures that constitute everyday life in the modern city and the creation of a viable public realm. What is clear, however, is that the relationship between the development of urban infrastructure and a functional public realm is a fragile and historically specific phenomenon. The need to connect policy deliberation over water infrastructure with the establishment of effective and legitimate space promoted by political and economic elites.
CITY, VOL. 8, NO. 3, DECEMBER 2004 Rethinking urban metabolism: Water, space and the modern city
Matthew Gandy

Some of his very thought provoking work is available here. I also recommend from this index, Cyborg Urbanization: Complexity and Monstrosity in the Contemporary City.

More, from: The Drowned World. J. G. Ballard and the Politics of Catastrophe;

The paradox for the contemporary city is that only incessant inputs of energy, materials, and human labor can sustain complex technological networks, yet these maintenance activities require far-reaching governmental interventions that conflict with the neoliberal impetus toward the corporate disavowal of the public realm. Under a postsecular urbanism, the public realm persists as a fragile anachronism and potential threat to the hubris of transcendental capitalism. Where no collective imaginary exists, the arguments for any kind of coordinating role for the state lose their political legitimacy, so that society is little more than an amalgam of individuals linked by fear and self-interest. In 21st-century America, we encounter a postrational political discourse that rejects evidence or reason: the Bush administration had forced deep cuts in the budget appropriation for the maintenance of the New Orleans flood defenses—in part to fund the war in Iraq—and had disregarded expert advice on the scale of the risk even to the extent of claiming that the event could not have been foreseen. More bizarre still, the now discredited director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Michael Brown, had claimed 4 days after the flood that he was unaware that thousands of people were trapped in the city’s convention center (despite images being broadcast throughout the world).

The case of New Orleans reveals the fragility of the postindustrial public realm: the city presents a starker illustration of this than many other U.S. cities because of its pervasive poverty, social segregation, and moribund municipal government. In the wake of the city’s inundation, New Orleans was effectively abandoned and then transformed into a militarized zone through the colonization of inner urban areas once inhabited by the poor, while wealthy suburbs were quickly cordoned off by a plethora of private security firms to produce social exclusion zones. These security firms present the first wave of a “disaster capitalism” to be followed by companies such as Kellogg Brown & Root (a subsidiary of Halliburton) and other specialists in posttrauma reconstruction who began winning “no bid” contracts within days of the flooding. Like a militarized gentrification process, the real estate developers have followed the civil engineering companies, so that “trauma capitalism” has become a tool of urban redevelopment not unlike the role of riots in Indian cities: what fire achieved in Ahmadabad, water performed in New Orleans.

Leave a Comment

Filed under sociology