The Body & Soul of Great Places

family in Downtown LittletonOne of the most interesting things I ever picked up in a theology class is that ghosts and zombies are opposites. As human beings, we are made up of body (the physical form that makes us visible to the world) and soul (the essence that animates and moves us). So united are these natures that the idea of separating them is actually frightening; zombie movies illustrate the effects of animating corpses without souls, and ghost movies reflect what happens when our spirit or essence floats around without the body.  Neither result is appealing. That’s because these two natures are interconnected in ways that we can’t even imagine. In a similar way, we can think about cities as having a body (the physical form and built environment) and a soul (the people and actions that give a city its life and energy).  Just as in the case of human beings, each part is necessary and it is the combination of the two that creates a great place. Continue reading

Small Town Decline: 1920s & the Rise of Chain Stores

Money MultiplierOne of the things I enjoy most about this blog is being able to test my own ideas and assumptions on the wider world. Any feedback I get, whether harsh criticism, enthusiastic agreement, or fraternal correction, presents an opportunity for deeper investigation and growth. The publication of my recent post, 1940s America – The Start of Small Town Decline, gave me just such an opportunity, as a number of readers wrote to me expressing their belief that the start of small town decline predated the war mobilization efforts of World War II. I agree that while war mobilization may well be one piece of the puzzle it is far from the whole story.  So what are some of the other culprits? To get a more comprehensive view of what happened to the small town, I took another look into our economic past. Continue reading

The Farmers’ Market: Hipster Loitering or Legitimate Shopping Experience?

imageThis morning the Golbabai family visited a farmers’ market in an Austin mall parking lot. Similar to my mother-in-law’s recent discovery of the usefulness of Google, I find myself a tentative and extremely late discoverer of this Saturday morning phenomenon. As someone who is more comfortable at the supermarket, the farmer’s market provided an excellent on-the-ground opportunity to compare the localist values I aspire to and the globalist world I’m used to.

Some observations comparing the supermarket and the farmers’ market from the perspective of a consumer: Continue reading