Archives for posts with tag: urban future


Gail says she saw the trailer for the new RoboCop directed by Brazilian filmaker José Padilha.  She wasn’t impressed.  Me?  I’m a sucker for these urban dystopian themed shows.  The 1987 RoboCop?  Loved it.  An urban epic like The WarriorsWarriors

Here’s Manohla Dargis’ NY Times RoboCop review.  He tells us that an update of “RoboCop was always going to be tough, if for no other reason than the original’s irony, and its future-shock visions have become today’s reality, from the downfall of Detroit to the embrace of privatization, the use of high-tech artificial limbs and the triumph of propaganda over public discourse.”

Today’s reality.  If you spend time today in some American cities you just might accept the Dargis analysis.

Here’s more stuff you’ll enjoy at RoboCop Wiki.


Twenty-one years ago I arrived home from a trip to Arizona with a bell.

Ever since it has hung wherever home has been.  Gail liked it.

The bell was crafted at Arcosanti, in the high desert 65 miles north of Phoenix.  Forty-three years ago Arcosanti was founded as an experiment in “how architecture, specifically the architecture of the city, could support the countless possibilities of human aspiration.”

I had visited Arcosanti with a group of youth development professionals in Phoenix for an institute.  Futuristic.  Evocative of George Lucas’ Star Wars.  Strangely wonderful.

This week a NY Times video feature on Italian architect Paolo Soleri, Arcosanti’s founder, notes Soleri’s death last April.  I feel somber this evening, that news coupled with that of conductor Claudio Abbado’s death this week.

Right now Gail’s bell is packed away, waiting to be placed wherever our new home may be somewhere in the city of St Louis. We aspire for countless possibilities there.

When I mention I’m from Duluth, Minnesota people often involuntarily shiver.  Lake Superior, long winters.  The last January I lived in Duluth the temperature never rose above zero THE ENTIRE MONTH.  I am telling the truth.

According to a panel of national experts, I am not making this up, my hometown is positioned to be the next great urban hot spot reports the Duluth News-Tribune.  “there’s such a wonderful historic fabric here. You feel like you’re in a real place.”  yup.

Traveling about American cities and suburbs I see a lot of faux.  Trying to have a downtown such as where we currently live, Arlington Heights.  meh.

Friends in Kansas City’s northern suburbs showed us Zona Rosa.  It looks like there’s some fun there.  But look real?  nah.

Duluth does feel real and it does have a wonderful historic fabric.  You can’t fake something built in 1893 like the grand Romanesque Central High School on 3rd Street.

Historic fabric?  Shedon Aubut alludes to 19th century hopes of Duluth being the next great city, “to surpass Chicago in size”.

So, it may come to pass.  Duluth, the next great urban hot spot.  But if not it wouldn’t be the first time the Christmas City of the North was disappointed.

Kirsten sent a link to Bettery Magazine “recharging the urban mind”.

Bettery takes a look at cities and urban life with an emphasis on Europe.  Fun, a tad simplistic.  Possibilities.  I felt refreshed at the possibilities.


If I get up from my desk, go to the door and look straight down the long hallway I might see Bryant Erickson.

Bryant works at the other end of our long hallway.  He’s in the social services department.  A few months ago in the hallway Bryant told me of a presentation he heard based on a book.  He was impressed and suggested American Religion:  Contemporary Trends (Princeton University Press, 2011) by Mark Chaves, a professor of sociology, religion and divinity at Duke University.

Mark Chaves

Mark Chaves

It’s a slender book with a few surprises.  For instance, religion is having a resurgence in America?  Nope.  Chaves shares conclusions of religious trends using data from the General Social Survey and the National Congregations Study.

American Religion concludes that “no indicator of traditional religious belief or practice is going up”.  Other conclusions:

  • continued religious activity with some decline
  • increased religious diversity
  • “a tighter connection between religious service attendance and political, social, and religious conservatism”
  • an increase in a broader range of spirituality but with less religion

Chaves muses that if religion is not growing “why do people sometimes think it is?”  Visibility and influence, in two ways:

  • because of the heightened connection between religiosity and conservatism
  • “increasing concentration of churchgoers within very large churches”

I’ll share one more observation.  Chaves points out that current religious trends have taken place at the same time America has experienced a “century-long movement … from rural areas into cities and suburbs”.  A less religious America has entered the Urban Millennium.

A number of you who follow this blog are involved in religion.  Chaves’ conclusions may have you thinking.

At present I am a minister without a congregation.  If I were again leading a corps as a Salvation Army officer I might want to consider how the gospel could best be preached and how God’s people could meet human need in this place called America which recognizes spiritual life in a way that less and less is understood in religious terms.

I have been feeling lazy lately.  Still euphoric that the term is over and I am no longer a slave every evening and bit of free time to homework and reading.  It feels good.  I feel lazy.

I am also pleasingly full tonight in the Twin Cities.  It is Friday night, and I ate at a Japanese restaurant just as I did last Friday in Appleton WI where we were visiting our youngest son.  In fact, in the past month I’ve also had food at Japanese eateries in Chicago and Duluth MN.

How different this era is from when I was a boy.  Japanese food then was not to be found anywhere but in the largest American cities.  Now, Duluth and Appleton.  And even in Litchfield IL where a few months ago I saw Sakura Hibachi Sushi.


Here’s another thing.  I found Oishi via the internet.  Arrived in Brooklyn Center, googled area restaurants and read the reviews.  voila.

We live in a techno-urban world.  Our cities are more diverse.  We have the tools that give access to that diversity.  drat.  I could have taken a photo to post for you to see the generous bento box $12.99 bought.   Not fantastic, but decent food.


Tonight I didn’t have to eat at McDonald’s.  Chopsticks for tonkatsu and tempura and sushi and teriyaki and gyoza and …

Sometimes new things can happen in places only when the old things have passed away.

Katherine Yung writes in the Detroit Free Press of Charter One Bank’s initiative to offer support to Detroit’s growing urban farming movement.  $100,000 will be awarded to farmers and vendors through Charter One’s Growing Communities program to “expand local food sources in Detroit”.  In Motown.

Connections between Detroit and automobiles yet exist.  But the American auto is no longer tied to the Motor City’s well-being.  American cars are now made in places like Indiana and Europe.  Detroit auto factories are now empty, abandoned, crumbling.  Detroit’s relationship with Ford, General Motors and Chrysler today is like that of an ex who receives some alimony, remembers some good years.

An almost half century urban nightmare began as American industry and business left Detroit.  Another beginning is now taking place.  Not only in Detroit but in other American cities where innovators and entrepreneurs are placing gardens.

I remember seeing other gardens in the backyards of our Detroit Temple Corps neighbors.  One Sunday evening the corps took a walk down our streets, visiting and praying with households.  Behind his house one old man was growing a luxuriant vegetable garden.  Cabbages, string beans, greens, tomatoes.  We admired.  He straightened up a bit more.   We asked if we could pray for his garden.  All of us bowed our heads.

A garden in the city.  We read in Revelation that in the world to come there will be a garden in the city.  Those who now make gardens in Detroit and Philadelphia and in any of America’s abandoned urban places may be giving us a glimpse on earth as it is in heaven.

An 84 year old security guard was shot to death last night outside the church he was watching in Detroit.  Here’s the story from the Free Press.


Authority.  An elderly man.  Guarding a church.  Attacked.  Shot.  Dead.

In the video one man says ‘anarchy’.  He says it is the one word no one want to use in Detroit, but that it is the city’s situation.  The shooting of Joseph Lewis is one of many acts of violence, neglect, abuse, corruption which lead people to believe  lawlessness now characterizes Detroit, that governmental authority is absent.

It’s hard for Detroiters to argue against this claim.  Whether living or dead.

I exited I 64 at 15th Street and turned right.  It felt home.  Could be Gary, Detroit.

This morning I visited East St Louis IL.  It’s the rough counterpart to its larger urban cousin to the west across the Mississippi.  St Louis MO has rough places, especially its north neighborhoods.  But East St Louis is another degree rougher.  Or two, or three.

Burnt houses.  Old houses with roofs slowly crumbling in.  Much empty space, lots once filled with homes now gone.  A solitary figure here and there, slowly ambling, some still on this quiet grey chilly Sunday morning.

I pulled up to the Salvation Army building on 16th Street.  I look at the bronze dedication plaque.  1960.  Now a half century old.  This is where the corps gathers.

Inside, a Sunday school class led by the corps officer, Lieutenant Katie Harris-Smith.  Who earlier picked up families in the Army’s van.  Who cooked the meal for today’s Lunch With the Lieutenant.  Who would lead the worship meeting and preach the sermon and and afterwards kneel at the altar to counsel and pray with three persons who had listened and felt touched by God.  Then, table fellowship with men, women and young people who have found a people and a place to belong.

The corps’ pride has to be its small group of older teens and young adults.  I like them.  They know how to smile.  Quietly friendly.  They like one another.  The corps is family.

In between morning activities Lieutenant Harris-Smith says that the corps building is in between two schools.  Jackson Elementary to the south will close.  Miles D. Davis Elementary to the north will close.  This is a story.  School closings tell a story about a community.  It is a chilly Sunday morning and maybe that’s why I shiver, but maybe not.

1960.  The corps building now half century old appears to stand almost alone in this part of East St Louis.  It is an old building, even tired looking this grey morning.  But it is the only solid structure I can see in this neighborhood of raggedy and abandoned buildings.  And I get the definite feeling that the men, women and young people gathered in it today do so for that solid presence it brings to their part of this city.  A building, a community of believers, a Salvation Army officer sent on mission to this forsaken appearing place. 

Hear my cry, O God;
   listen to my prayer.
From the end of the earth I call to you,
   when my heart is faint.

Lead me to the rock
   that is higher than I;
for you are my refuge,
   a strong tower against the enemy.

Let me abide in your tent for ever,
   find refuge under the shelter of your wings.
For you, O God, have heard my vows;
   you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.

 from Psalm 61

The young man  in white shirt and tie was quietly working on a sketch.

Rochelle Riley of the Detroit Free Press writes about her conversation with him at the office this week on National Take Your Child to Work Day. 

She sees in him “Detroit’s future sitting at a conference table”.  Through his young eyes and in Riley’s words read about Detroit as it is and Detroit as it could be.

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