Seven for Saturday

    1. Mag wheels on a Gremlin
    2. Beauty crisis?
    3. Principles vs. Personal Interests
    4. Read between the lines
    5. Ta-Nehisi Coates’ near-death experience
    6. Passion Play spectacle
    7. Solidarity Hall


My city’s economic development gurus, who are no fools, nevertheless drank the Richard Florida “Creative Class” KoolAid some years back after he came to town and did his schtick. I tend to think that this (which I think started before Florida’s visit in some ways) helped to create a rebounding, funkier, artsier, foodier, funner downtown, which is pretty lively late into the evening these days. As part owner of one substantial downtown property, how can I not like that?

But if part of the deal was that our new, tolerant, gayer and more creative class was going to generate wealth that would trickle down, even Florida now seems to be admitting that was a snare and a delusion. “On close inspection, talent clustering provides little in the way of trickle-down benefits,” saith the guru now.

The beneficiaries of policies to attract the creative class are members of the creative class, and that’s about it. Oh, yes: and downtown property owners.


Daily dose of Fr. Stephen, who is on an edification roll:

In the late 1940′s, John Gunther, author of Inside USA, dubbed Knoxville (the hub of our metro area) the “ugliest city” in America …

I was recently interviewed by someone collecting opinions from area leaders about their take on our local needs. I was asked about “crisis” areas. I surprised myself when the first words out of my mouth were, “We have a crisis of beauty.” Surely I think something else is more important. But I’m not sure that I do. Our lack of beauty is both symptom and the lack of a cure. For the lack of beauty can only be healed by the presence of beauty. My region of the nation was also recently dubbed as the most “Bible-centered” city in America. This combination of civic distinctions is tragically ironic.

One of the instincts of Orthodoxy is that of beauty. Orthodox Churches are not accidentally beautiful. They vary across the world, but their beauty, even when simple, is as intentional as any aspect of the Liturgy ….

I do not blame the Bible for ugliness. I recall no serious effort by even the vilest of sectarians to justify ugliness with cherry-picked Bible verses.

I can think of only a handful of neighborhoods in my city – all of them, not coincidentally, historic neighborhoods – where one walks out the front door and finds enticing beauty immediately. A few others are promising – and again historic – and I hope to see them gentrified. There are some houses with great bones that sadly abut major thoroughfares and will probably never be restored to their former glory.

When I leave my 25-30 year old subdivision home on foot, I walk a few bland blocks and then get into ugly. A mile plus of ugly gets me to the Wabash Heritage Trail, where beauty resumes. Nobody coud figure out how to make money building bland or ugly where the Wabash River floods all the time. (We’re right now commemorating the 100th Anniversary of a historic flood in 1913, by the way.)

The causes of ugliness are complex, but rapid oil-fueled economic growth and a conscious decision to invest in an Interstate Highway System as part of our Cold War defense (thus mightily subsidizing personal, rubber-tired magic carpets over trains) had a lot to do with it. And a conscious decision by tens of millions to buy no new home in a place that doesn’t invite walking could help our recovery of beauty. Others are catching on.


We agree on so much, including both being converts to Orthodox Christianity, that I don’t know why I fail so often to connect emotionally with Wesley J. Smith.

Maybe it doesn’t matter. Principle is more important than emotion, and I connected emotionally with his defense of principle in yesterday’s dissection and elaboration of how Rob Portman disappointed us: “When Portman’s principles came into conflict with profound personal interests, he decided to change his principles.”


How much do game developers allow their own kiddies to spend with iPads and such? 30 minutes a day, a couple of days per week, maximum. They’re leery of what it does to development. (H/T Rod Dreher)


Ta-Nehisi Coates writes some arresting stuff, of which this just happens to be my personal favorite excerpts, about a near-death experience:

Yesterday I ate a bad nut on the train to Boston and went into anaphylactic shock.  A doctor who happened to be seated nearby shot me up with a epipen. The train made an emergency stop in New London where the paramedics were waiting …

… Two points: First, my theory of assholes clearly should be revised; the kindness of strangers is always amazing. Second, America, whatever its flaws, is very often amazing in its efficiency and compassion. It did not escape my mind that in some other place I might have died. This is not chest-thumping or jingoism. It is a fact of my residency.


    I note that a local megachurch is putting on a Passion Play next week.  It’s a Church I’ve known since its infancy. Its growth has been very impressive. It wades in and “gets dirt under its fingernails” with real people’s problems. It has members who are not Caucasian (challenging the “Sunday morning, 11 am, is the most segregated hour of the week” observation). It preaches Christ (as it understands Him).

    But I’ve got a rule of thumb (which I just invented) that if it requires one of those almost-invisible wireless behind-the-ear Garth Brooks microphones, it’s a spectacle, not worship. I will not go to an emotion-tugging, high-production-value religious extravaganza.

    For that matter, why would any Church, ever, recruit its own members to stage a glitzy spectacle during the most solemn week of their Church year?


    A new link in the sidebar: Solidarity Hall, “A thinkerspace for re-imagining American community.” Some of its thinkers throw a gauntlet down in front of George Weigel, biographer of John Paul II, who unfortunately seems never to have seen an aspect of capitalism he didn’t like.

    * * * * *

    “The remarks made in this essay do not represent scholarly research. They are intended as topical stimulations for conversation among intelligent and informed people.” (Gerhart Niemeyer)

    Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.