Cities

  • Engaging Those Who Disagree

    Aaron Renn, a leading American urban affairs writer, recently challenged those thinking about cities to have a "broader urban vision." Urbanism, he said, needs to be about more than funky "third space" cafés, creative classes, transit, and high-density living. Renn suggests that other networks and institutions, especially churches, need to be given a more prominent role in addressing the challenges facing modern cities. Both sides have rethinking to do. Given that Christianity started as an urban religion (look up the economic and political prominence of the various cities which Paul visited and sent letters to), it is surprising that contemporary western Christianity occasionally evokes thought of retreat from the cities. Doesn't our modern ethos often place "rural values" closer to what's religious than "big city values"? Before critiquing urbanists for ignoring religion, then, there is good reason to remind the religious that perhaps they have not taken cities as seriously as they should, especially in an increasingly urban society. (Eighty-one per cent of the Canadian population lives in cities, and the rate is increasing by more than one per cent per year.)

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  • Publisher's Letter: Days of Faith

    Convivium is not an expressly political magazine in the narrow sense of process, strategizing and marketing that has come to define what we think of as politics. But it most definitely does concern itself with the polis—the city—with that shared space where the common life of citizens is lived out.

    Early in the last decade, I made a conscious decision to withdraw from engagement in Canada's political life. Of course, I have never been elected to anything more significant than secretary of the Red Cross Club when I was in Grade 4. Nor have I ever been ...

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  • Two-Way Streets: Where Efficiency Isn't Everything

    As more and more people are moving downtown in cities across North America, more people are questioning how to revitalize downtowns after decades of flight into the suburbs. In Hamilton, a growing number of voices are pointing to the conversion of one-way streets to two-way as an important next step in this process.

    Hamilton, Ontario is a city with an intricate (albeit confusing) network of one-way streets. These multi-lane expressways are very efficient in their purpose: to get people through the city core very quickly. They are not, however, conducive to building a v...

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  • Change the record

    Officially, the meeting's purpose was "to re-connect with our Centre City faith-based organizations and to seek further feedback on The City's Centre City Plan." That plan, adopted by City Council in 2007, calls for the doubling of residential density in the downtown core, or 40,000 additional residents in the next thirty years. But it makes no mention and considers no consequences of the 26 faith institutions which currently are part of the city's downtown, as these two Cardus studies from 2010 and 2011 noted. Municipal consultations of this sort aren't typically well-attended, so officials were enthusiastically overwhelmed, although scrambling to accommodate, the assembled crowd. The evening began with a short formal presentation which combined into twenty minutes Municipal Planning 101, 125 years of Calgary official plans, and a summary of the most current Plan. I found it telling that the last long-range plan for the city core, approved in 1966, featured three priorities for the downtown: a walking mall (Stephen Avenue); a +15 system of walkways (the series of second level bridges which connects downtown office towers); and a C-Train system (the name given to Calgary's LRT transit). Anyone familiar with Calgary today will recognize these features, highlighting that while Official Plans never accurately predict the future, they have a powerful influence in shaping it.

    Last night, the City of Calgary convened a meeting with the city's faith communities. It's an inspiring case study on how Cardus tries to achieve its mission.

    Officially, the meeting's purpose was "to re-connect with our Centre City faith-based organ...

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  • Zoning out religion

    The Montreal woman was back in front of a judge yesterday to fight a ticket she received for participating in an "illegal Mass" at a rented facility in the borough of Lachine. But the case was put over until February 22, 2012 when Celani's lawyer will argue the ticket is invalid because it is an abuse of a zoning bylaw and, more importantly, because it violates her Charter rights. In the interim, Celani engaged a Montreal constitutional lawyer to argue the case, at least in part on Charter grounds. She acknowledged after her appearance on Tuesday that her reflex was to simply pay the $144 fine and settle the matter. Then she got mad, and the madder she got, the more she became determined to fight.

    Paula Celani's day in court has become a six-month legal odyssey.

    The Montreal woman was back in front of a judge yesterday to fight a ticket she received for participat...

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  • I'll Take the Candy—Hold the Confusion

    Kids who would otherwise be brushing their teeth and preparing for bed will instead be released to ask complete strangers to give them confections. Bad for the teeth, good for those with shares in Cadbury, right? It might even be good for the community. Instead of packs of youth breaking windows and looting stores, there are peaceful packs of kids and parents meeting neighbours who, for most of the year, go about their lives with a minimum amount of neighbourly interaction. I have a hunch that for most of us, Hallowe'en is benign at worst and a fun community-building exercise at best. The Globe and Mail reports that a number of Christians have taken to handing out Bibles (well, half-Bibles, actually) on Hallowe'en. The Jesusween movement was begun because "the world and its system have a day set aside (October 31st) to celebrate ungodly images and evil characters while Christians all over the world participate, hide or just stay quiet on Halloween day." The Globe and Mail suggests that "proselytizing is becoming a greater priority for many Christians for another reason: Their numbers are steadily declining on both sides of the border."

    In four days streets across the continent will be covered with little people, running around in the great communal and sugar-fuelled pantomime that we call Hallowe'en.

    Kids who would otherwise be brushing their teeth and preparing for bed will instea...

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  • Drop everything

    Motorists forced to use the Ville Marie tunnel for their commute when it re-opened Monday told media tales of terror at the prospect of another massive beam collapsing on their cars. But insouciance, which only sounds like a French word for idiocy, rolls on. Late Saturday night, it cruised through the heart of Montreal wearing nothing but a superior smile.

    As Montreal falls down around its residents' heads, there is comfort knowing it is safe to drop your pants and bicycle through downtown at midnight.

    Motorists forced to use the Ville Marie tunnel for their commute when it re-opened Monday told media ...

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  • Broken city, broken faith

    Summer road repair is always a major snafu, of course, as it is for urbanites everywhere. Here we have the added quirk of crews taking a mandated "construction" holiday just as they've got everything torn apart. For two weeks every July, the city resembles the playroom of attention disordered children with an infinite supply of Lego blocks.

    Montreal seems to be physically falling apart. To leave for a week's vacation is to return to a time-lapse implosion video.

    Summer road repair is always a major snafu, of course, as it is for urbanites everywhere. Here we have the added quirk of crew...

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  • Sim City and its Discontents

    The parallel decline of centralized authority, traditional institutions, and values, coming alongside the organic, decentralized model of urban revitalization is interesting of itself. Terms like "empowering" and "crowd sources" and "inclusive" are aplenty in these conversations. This decentralization is a feature not so much of old-fashioned conservatism, as of a growing discontent with centralized power to provide an adaptive responsiveness to local concerns.

    I've started playing (a lot of) Sim City, not for the first time, because of its newest incarnation as a too-fun, too-cheap and too-addictive to play iPad app. Sim Cit...

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  • Outside the pages of the book

    Graham's lecture pointed out that (as Matt says) "the means by which one engages inevitably shapes engagement"—which should sound familiar to anyone who's been paying attention to both the pages of Comment or just current neuropsychology. And furthermore, Matt says, "actually influencing culture requires a thicker contribution than Calvinism has typically afforded." Readers of Jamie Smith's Desiring the Kingdom will hear this well.

    Matthew Milliner and I were both in attendance at the Kuyper Center's Calvinism and Culture conference last month, and at his blog, Matt ...

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  • Driving to the gym

    Does it help to say we live 14 kilometres from the club we use? Probably not since we could, if we chose, take the bike path half a block away and follow it the whole distance. Or find a closer gym.

    My wife has a gift for making me understand my own ridiculousness. She did it again this morning when I fussed because I couldn't find parking close enough to our gym. Yes, parking. Yes, we drive to exercise. Ridiculous, if not properly oxymoronic, in itsel...

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  • God's Trailer

    I considered this question recently while attending a worship service in a pre-engineered metal building with a retractable basketball goal hanging over the apse (or what would have been the apse), and plastic sheeting bulging between the metal slats that held the building's insulation near the roof.

    Archeologists rooting around in the remains of 20th-century North American civilization are likely to be stumped by this question: Why, in the world's richest society, was the design of churches so uniformly bad?

    I considered this...

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  • Seven reasons to reconsider Sin City

    Cirque du Soleil. Seven worlds, one city. (Mystere, Ka and O are your best picks.) The Bellagio fountains. Every fifteen minutes, with the toll of the clock, spectacular dancing waters come to life on an 8-acre lake. Best seen at dusk. Green Valley Ranch. A short drive from the strip, this beautiful hotel boasts a lovely shopping district (complete with Anthropologie and a Whole Foods) and an unmatched poolside complete with quiet shaded cabanas, waterfalls and a sand beach. The architecture. Take a camera-ready ride through the city. Not to be missed: the nearly completed Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health. Serendipity 3. For the New York-inclined sweet tooth. BGFA. From now until January 2011, presenting Figuratively Speaking: A Survey of the Human Form, featuring works by Renoir, Hockney, Picasso, and Lichtenstein. The shows. From David Copperfield and Jerry Seinfield, to The Lion King and Cher, the city's line-up is second-to-none.  

     

    I unexpectedly found myself (a...

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  • Ceasing to woolgather

    "I have to know what my thing is and talk about it in very clever ways and be different than everybody else who does my thing or else I will starve /never matter / and be alone for the rest of my life, shut out from the brightness and goodness of life.”

    The other day author Nina Killham typed in the words "fear and writing." It was one of those days and among her findings was a post by blogger Jennifer Louden who nails a dai...

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  • Manhattan's Getting Fatter

    The New York Times reports that the MTA is releasing a new subway map—the first in a decade: The piece is quite interesting, recounting the history of the MTA subway map along with some of its eccentricities. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

    Permit me to be a New Yorker for a moment, here.

    The New York Times reports that the MTA is releasing a new subway map—the first in a decade:

    Manhattan will be...

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  • Ghetto Reunion

    We cleaned the place up, if not morally, then at least physically, and when we left the neighborhood was less unsightly than when we arrived. But in the end the ghetto won. The hippies grew up, got married, and started families and careers. And suddenly it wasn't that appealing to envision little Sarah or Joshua meeting the crack dealer on the corner. We all left, for the simple reason that we could. We had the emotional and intellectual and cultural capital to make a break for it, and we did. Every year, on December 28th, the increasingly thin-haired, thick-waisted remnants of that failed experiment meet to catch up on life and to remember our shared time together. We reconvened just a few weeks ago. More than thirty years later, it's evident that we got a lot wrong. And more than thirty years later, given the sizable turnout that shows up for these yearly reunions, and given the fact that many of these people travel great distances to be there, it's evident that we got a lot right.

    Andy Whitman, one of my favorite writers, published a lovely piece on Friday about his experience as an idealistic twentysomething, banding together with other young Christians to try to live ou...

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  • Living in the Future

    Among those characteristics of ultramodern life are ubiquitous, featherweight jumpsuits; food machines; three-day telecommuting workweeks; "voice phones"; and a total lack of pollution and crowded highways.

     

    A friend linked to the endless...

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