Archive for the ‘ Urbanism ’ Category

The Soul of Hip-Hop

I cannot exclaim how excited I am to add another book about Hip-Hop to my library. Not only will The Soul of Hip Hop sit well next to Can’t Stop Won’t Stop, The Hip Hop Wars, Total Chaos Where You’re At (which I plan to someday review), and  others on my office shelf, it will add vital insight to the rich spirituality and faith within Rap music and, more broadly, hip hop culture. Full disclosure , the author, Daniel Hodge, is a friend of mine and I had the honor to have him for a professors while I was studying in Los Angeles.  Nevertheless, I truly believe this book will – for those to take it seriously – provide a strong apology of the compatibility of hip-hop and Christianity. Additionally, Hodge’s analysis will opens us hip-hop to be understood and approached as a culture – with then all the positives and negatives – rather than just a popular phenomena portrayed within popular media.

I just received by book in the mail this afternoon and it has quickly jumped to the top of my reading list. Anyone interested in understanding the depth of hip-hop and its relationship to faith would do well to pick up this ethnomusicological examination.

To get a glimpse of the book find it on google books and check out Hodge’s article on the Fuller website.

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Prayer

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.
Amen.

–Reinhold Niebuhr


Important question . . . where, then, should we live?

Many Christians are aware of this disconnect between their ethical intention and their daily reality, and seek to care for the strangers and the poor in more programmatic ways. Child sponsorship represents a less direct strategy and volunteering at the local food bank a more direct strategy for dealing with this problem. While I don’t want to dismiss the important work of child sponsorship organizations and food banks, I also don’t think that either strategy alone fully captures the mutual benefit of encountering the poor and the stranger on our own turf and dealing with the ethical dilemma that they represent as part of our everyday life.

For this reason, I believe that choosing to live in a neighbourhood that is mixed in income, mixed in use, and replete with inviting public spaces can be an important fundamental ethical decision. When we can walk from our home to the corner coffee shop or park with the realistic expectation of running into someone who is destitute in one way or another, we place ourselves in the uncomfortable realm of Christian decision making.

Neighbourhoods that maintain a place for the wider community and aspire to be more than “lifestyle enclaves” can be a significant school of discipleship for those who are willing to forgo some of the privacy and homogeneity of contemporary suburban living. I realize that the irony in even raising this question is that many urban neighbourhoods that seem to fit this description have become prohibitively expensive for many would-be residents. However, there continue to be a number of traditional neighbourhoods all across North America that, for one reason or another, have eluded the capricious attention of the real estate market and represent a realistic residential option for any number of Christian disciples. The recent decline of prices in many housing markets may also be bringing urban neighbourhoods back within an acceptable price range for some of us. And from a long-term perspective, I can’t think of any compelling reasons why the Christian community should support the current practice of building new communities that stifle Christian compassion.

How, then, shall we live? It’s an important question that should probably concern us for the rest of our lives. I’m simply suggesting that the answers that we formulate to this question might look very different depending on where, then, we choose to live.

Eric Jacobsen

Chuck D, Hip-Hop, Music and Civil Rights

Chuck D. speaks personally about the intersection of music and civil rights. Check D. will be apart of a  PBS special called Freedom Songs. The show will include several other famous African-American personalities including; Louis Gossett Jr. Gladys Knight; Pete Seeger; Ruby Dee; Jerry Butler; and the Blind Boys of Alabama. They will all be exploring the role of music in the civil-rights movement – both personally and socially. Here in Huntington the program is airing on PBS, this Sunday night at 6:30, but I would check your local listings to make sure you know when it is going to be on in your area.

Co-Working

My friend Kristen tipped me off to an innovated concept called co-working

Seems like a normal, trendy small business right? Well that would be so, but the individuals working “together” are from a variety of occupation and vocations. This area, reminiscent of a coffeehouse, acts as a sort of community working area. There is a board room, offices desks etc.  Co-working essentially provides office space for workers who would otherwise be without a place to work.

As soon as I saw this idea I loved the possibilities.  I can see it being beneficial for adjunct professors, writers, consultants, photographers, artists, small business owners etc.  As a higher education professional, I think I would seek to form a relationship between a co-working space and the adjuncts at my institution.  One of the most frustrating aspects of an adjunct professor’s job is the lack of any office space. Perhaps a combination of shared office space and co-working could ease the stress of their job.

Part of me thinks, “coffeehouses are great places to work, right?”  But it is easy to be distracted by noisy teenagers, cell phone talkers or simply those people with whom you have wonderful conversations. Although there is a joy in the unpredictability of a coffeehouse it doesn’t help individuals finish their work, which is not  pleasing to publishers, editors, clients, deans, and others who have deadlines. This co-working idea, is something in between the chaotic coffeehouse and the sterile office space.

One of the most promising things about this is the potential to renovate older or abandoned buildings. Many of these co-housing networks are in urban space that has not been filled.  But co-working is very flexible, it can be in a suburban strip mall, small town downtown, or  urban center. It gives the opportunity to “re”new instead of” build” new.

Another possible benefit it the cultivation of a creative class within a region, city, community or neighborhood. It has been cited that artists, writers, musicians and such are an impetus towards a vibrant community. Perhaps these spaces will welcome creative people to a community.

I would love to see some of these pop up in Huntington or Fort Wayne. If I had time and/or money I would jump on it. I already have several ideas of where it could happen.  Hopefully someone with money and time finds this idea useful.

Take a listen to this NPR story if you want to hear about a group in NY that decided combine office space

Myths

Progressive.org posted a great article called The Myth of the Efficient Car .

We’d desperately like to believe that there is a way to preserve our car-centered civilization, while simultaneously placating the gods of atmospheric warming. Even the president-elect believes it, and Obama made fuel-efficient cars a central part of his energy policy. He promised a $7,000 tax credit to hybrid car buyers, aiming for a million plug-in hybrids, getting 150 mpg, by 2015. He wants to put an additional million completely plug-in vehicles by the same year. And he’s willing to federal funds up for research, or at least he was before we lost all our money.

. . . But there’s an even more profound problem with building more efficient cars. In 1865, English economist William Stanley Jevons discovered an efficiency paradox: the more efficient you make machines, the more energy they use. Why? Because the more efficient they are, the better they are, the cheaper they are and more people buy them, and the more they’ll use them. Now, that’s good for manufacturers and maybe good for consumers, but if the problem is energy consumption or pollution, it’s not good.

. . . Automobiles have become more efficient over the years. Led by the Japanese, carmakers have increased the fuel to weight ration, decreased damaging vibration and vastly increased reliability. In the 1950s, a car that lived to drive 100,000 miles was a rarity; today they routinely last 150,000. The result? Increasing fuel consumption. And not just because more people in the developing world are buying cars, either. People everywhere are buying more of the better, cheaper more efficient cars and – here’s the problem – driving them more. And that was even so when gas peaked there at $8 a gallon in Europe.

. . . There are already attempts at designing a post-car future. City planners have been pushing the “20-minute neighborhood,” where home, work, shopping and recreation are all within a 20 minute walk. Places like Portland, Oregon, are encouraging this kind of development with planning codes and tax breaks. These more compact, walkable neighborhoods would seem to point us in the right direction, but so far they’re extremely limited. Most people prefer car culture. And that includes Europe, and certainly Asia, as well. Unless the various governments enact explicit and enforceable sprawl restrictions, growth will trump any specific increases in efficiencies.

It is very easy for us to get caught up in the efficient car movement and see it as the silver bullet to many of our environmental and economic issues, but as the author points out, what we need to be doing is not lessening our dependence on foreign oil or simply making new fuel efficient cars, but changing and re-organizing our infrastructure.

There is something to be said about the effect of suburban environments which are designed for driving. While some areas are attempting to retrofit many cannot ,without a massive overhaul, change. These are the areas which need to utilize higher fuel-efficient cars . But even so, their are options of public transit that can be implemented in the suburbs and potential re-zoning efforts that will, at least reduce, the car culture.

What we need is a complex transit culture, that has a cornerstone of walking – think about the health and social benefits of walking – mixed with bike travel, mass transit, and yes, efficient cars.  We don’t need silver bullets, we need comprehensive plans.

Of Cars and People

Before Christmas I heard an interesting NPR piece on Tyson’s Corner, Virgina, attempting to urbanize (here is a NY Times Piece as well). I was excited when I heard this, but also wondered how this was possible. Tyson’s Corner (TC), which is a suburb of Washington, D.C, is perhaps one of the most suburban (by design not necessarily culturally) places that I have been. It is impossible to get anywhere without getting on large, curved and fast roads. It feels like you are joining in a hyper-active assembly line of prefabricated SUV’s and Sedans that all have to go to the same place.  TC  is perhaps one of the most difficult places to get around, when people talk about the horrible Northern, VA traffic much of it is due to TC.

In reality, TC is more of and edge city. a city that has developed next to a large metropolitan city, however TC is the antithesis of a bedroom community which houses families and individuals who commute to the city for work. As the 12th largest employment center in the U.S, everyday more than 90,000 people commute TC.  TC maintains a daytime population of workers, shoppers, and others of  greater than 110,000 and a nighttime population of less than 20,000 – essentially a Ghost Town. For the 20, 000 that do live in the city there is little to do but shop. The civic life of the city is scarce so even those who live in the city have to drive outside of the city for entertainment, civic life, parks etc.

Tyson’s Corner seems almost nonredeemable. Suburban design found a home here and had been hanging round for a while. The NY Times piece found that more than half of TC is either parking or highway. However, urbanization is perhaps possible. Below are the goals and visions for the new project.

Vision and Goals

Transit Oriented Development
Provide a Full Range of Community Services
Protect and Enhance the Environment
Provide a Full Range of Housing Affordability
Ensure Public Participation and Effective Implementation

Additionally, here is a PowerPoint presentation from  the Coalition for Smarter Growth, who is assisting with he project. The PowerPoint lays out some of the problems and gives some simple solutions. The efforts are essentially and attempt to curve the suburban growth and transform TC into an urban hub with mixed use neighborhoods, walkable areas and a thriving civic life. Nothing extravagant but a noble move.

I really and pessimistic about the development. Although I hope that it is successful and large part of me  wonders how, in a recessed economy, a city can become pedestrian friendly and a place of people rather than cars. It will be interesting to track the redevelopment process over the next couple of years. Although pessimistic about this particular development, if TC can make itself somewhat urban then almost anywhere can.