The end of the malls?

Yes, the shopping malls are packed this time of year.  But hardly any are being built any more.  And many of the existing malls are being demolished.  The concept of the vast enclosed shopping space surrounded by a vast parking lot seems to be fading.  In its place is the “town center,” the shopping area that is pedestrian friendly, open to the sky, and that combines shops, restaurants, movie theaters, and places to live.  Architect Roger K. Lewis gives a good account of what happened:

After World War II, the enclosed regional shopping mall emerged because of two interdependent American phenomena: construction of the interstate highway system and rapid growth of low-density metropolitan suburbs.

Starting in the early 1950s, residents and many businesses fled cities, populating the expanding outer suburbs. Downtown department stores and smaller shops had ever fewer customers, but suburbanites still needed a place to shop, and the regional shopping center satisfied that need perfectly.

With affordable cars, cheap gas, a growing network of arterial roads and a seemingly endless supply of inexpensive land, the regional shopping mall was a logical invention. Equally logical was the real estate and mall design formula: acquire land with access to a major highway; assemble enough acreage to build a very large, weatherproof structure surrounded by parking lots; construct long concourses (often two levels high) lined on each side by scores of shops; and plug the ends of concourses with anchor department stores. To complete and enhance the formulaic picture, provide a food court, pump up concourse light levels, design enticing storefronts, pipe in music and pleasant scents, and install seasonal decorations, including Santa Claus.This formula proved extremely successful throughout America.

Today, however, middle-class flight from cities has ebbed. Adult children of the generations that inhabited post-war suburbia often choose not to stay in the the suburban settings where they grew up. Even their parents, tired of maintaining a house bigger than they now need, are heading back toward or into cities. Others (the young, middle-aged or elderly) are choosing to live in denser, walkable communities, where there is more to do and where shopping does not require driving several miles. This is one reason why town centers are being built, even in suburban locations, and why huge shopping malls are not.Traditional nuclear families (mother, father, two kids) are now less than half of all American households. Coupled with falling home values, mortgage foreclosures and unemployment, demographic reality is contributing to the depopulation of many suburban and exurban communities. A shopping mall cannot survive without population growth and customers who can afford to shop.

Also, for essentially aesthetic reasons, more people prefer not to shop in fading, older retail facilities that may be poorly maintained and perhaps half-empty. This suggests that Americans’ taste and appreciation of good architecture is improving.

via Visions of lively town centers dancing in more developers’ heads – The Washington Post.

What a concept.  Diverse businesses arranged off sidewalks with people living upstairs.  Sounds like downtowns.

But I do like the new town centers.  There are some good ones around where we live.  I’m curious how prevalent these are.  Do you have some where you live?  Are they an improvement over malls?  Or are they basically the same things only without roofs?

Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose

I stumbled upon this post by Westminster professor Carl Trueman from way back in 2007:

Listening to Janis Joplin the other day, I was struck by two things. First, my eleven year old son (who had never, to my knowledge, heard Joplin) commented as he heard the first bars of `Me and Bobby McGee’ that he didn’t know I had a Joplin album. To recognise the voice like that at 11 must make him a blues-rock prodigy.

Second, I suddenly realised why I liked her (and, remember, she did win `The Ugliest Man of the Year’ contest at her High School#. It’s the Lutheran lyrics of Bobby McGee: `Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose.’ Surely this captures the Lutheran notion of the freedom we have in Christ. OK, she may not have seen it #or Kristofferson who, I think, wrote the lyric#; but I’m sure Luther would have approved and downed a good German beer in her honour. Only when we realise we have nothing to lose because we are in Christ can we truly give ourselves in service to others. That’s why Lutheran #and Protestant) ethics are really so demanding.

via Janis Joplin and Martin Luther – Reformation21 Blog.

I need to add that Kris Kristofferson, the author of the song, was, in fact, brought up in the Lutheran church.  I don’t know where he is spiritually now–perhaps some of you know more about that–but he has other songs that exhibit what we might call a Lutheran sensibility (e.g., “Sunday Morning Coming Down”).

Anyway, I’m struck that Prof. Trueman was struck by that defintion of freedom.  He does not, however, unpack what he means.

How does the line from “Bobby McGee”  express the “freedom we have in Christ”?

Land rush for domain names

A host of new domain names are going up on the internet, with unintended consequences:

There’s been a scramble to snap up domain names for the Internet’s newest designation — .xxx — but not necessarily from those you’d expect. Adult sites have reserved their spot in the newly labeled section of the Web, but so have companies, charities, celebrities and politicians.

Try “barackobama.xxx,” “angelinajolie.xxx” or “redcross.xxx” and you’ll find yourself faced with a black screen with gray type stating: “This domain has been reserved from registration.” In other words, someone’s made sure those brand names are protected from the association with porn.

Companies, the rich and famous and regulators in Washington now are worried that the rush to defensively buy Web addresses will only worsen — and grow more costly — as the organization in charge of doling out real estate on the Internet prepares to unleash an infinite number of Web suffixes to add to the familiar .com, .net and .edu. Some experts say the move will change the landscape of the Internet forever.

In January, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the nonprofit association tasked with managing the Internet’s addresses, known as domain names, will begin taking applications from anyone with $185,000 and a desire to reserve their own suffix on the Web. The group oversaw the launch of .xxx last week. Coming after ICANN’s review process could be .god, .abortion, .sex and .georgetown, as well as thousands of others. .  . .

The expansion of suffixes may also compel anyone with a brand name to buy multiple Web addresses to protect its image and prevent customers from being tricked by artfully misspelled sites. ICANN, for instance, handed over .xxx to ICM Registry, which has been charging $200 to trademark holders for each Web address they want to reserve.

The National Retail Federation, an industry trade group, has sent letters to Congress criticizing the rollout of the domain names for lacking transparency — and for the potential cost. Besides buying Web sites to prevent themselves from being associated with a .xxx or a .sex suffix, companies may have to fork over $185,000 to ICANN, plus legal fees, to control a suffix of their own. Plus they would have to maintain useless domains at a cost of $50,000 to $100,000 annually, the NRF said.

“It’s a little bit like the Oklahoma land rush,” said Mallory Duncan, NRF general counsel. “You come in now and pay a quarter of a million dollars or forever hold your peace. That’s not a prudent way to run a business.”

via ICANN is ready for battle over expansion of Web suffixes – The Washington Post.

Supremes to consider Arizona’s immigration law

The Supreme Court will rule on whether or not the federal government can overrule Arizona’s strict immigration laws.  This is only one of some big cases the Supremes have taken on:

The Supreme Court on Monday intervened in another high-profile case testing the authority of the federal government, saying it will review Arizona’s crackdown on illegal immigrants, which inspired similar state efforts across the country.

Next month, the court will hear an emergency appeal from Texas that questions the role of federal courts in overseeing the deeply partisan issue of political re­districting. And in March, the court has scheduled 51 / 2 hours of oral arguments over the constitutionality of President Obama’s health-care overhaul.

All will be decided before the court breaks for its summer recess and as the 2012 presidential and congressional campaigns move into high gear.

via Supreme Court to hear challenge to Arizona’s immigration law – The Washington Post.

How about Ron Paul, after all?

With one after another Republican presidential candidates rising to the top, then flaming out, it is time to seriously consider Ron Paul.

He’s libertarian, but he’s also pro-life, a devout Christian by all accounts (raised Lutheran, no less,  in the ELCA, but now Baptist–from an LCMS point of view, is it better to be a liberal Lutheran or a conservative Baptist?).  Anyway, he is anti-war (conservatives now taking the lead in that department).  No one doubts his commitment to small government.  Yes, he believes in legalizing drugs and prostitution, but would you take that in return for what else he offers?

I know some of you are already Ron Paul fans.  (Feel free to state your case.)  Would the rest of you now consider him?

Can Science explain everything?

From David Wheeler at the Chronicle of Higher Education blog:

There’s a new bully on the intellectual block, shoving scholars around. Lots of them are caving into the threats. The bully’s name is “scientism,” the belief that science has a monopoly on all real knowledge. All other knowledge, scientism asserts, is simply opinion, irrationality, or utter nonsense.

That was the perspective Ian Hutchinson, professor of nuclear science and engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, offered at an event titled “Can Science Explain Everything?” at the American Association for the Advancement of Science this week. . . .

Hutchinson, theauthor of Monopolizing Knowledge: A Scientist Refutes Religion-Denying, Reason-Destroying Scientism, said that science is in the middle of confrontation with religious faith and with many other forms of belief. He is proud of science’s achievements thus far. But he thinks that, in part because of its overwhelming success, members of other disciplines, seeking the authority that science has, try to make themselves out to be scientists. An alternative course, he suggests, would be for scholars such as sociologists and political scientists to firmly declare that they have ways of building knowledge that are simply different from science, not “unscientific.”

Science has two key elements, reproducibility and clarity, Hutchinson said. Reproducibility means essentially that an experiment done in one place by one person can be repeated somewhere else by someone else. Clarity refers to the unambiguous nature of science’s measurements, descriptions, and classifications. History is an example of a discipline that has produced real knowledge that is not scientific knowledge, he said. History at its best is based on facts, but historians cannot reproduce Henry VIII’s exploits to find out if accounts of them are true.

Mr. Hutchinson listed other phenomena that may be “true” but that he believes are outside of science’s scope: the beauty of a sunset, the justice of a verdict, or the terror of a war. Many humans may share similar perceptions of these phenomenon but the basis of those perceptions will lack clarity. “Ambiguity is an intrinsic part of these things,” he said.

Where, exactly, does God fit into this picture? Mr. Hutchinson says that while the universe has physical laws, God may be behind them. Science would be helpless to detect an act of God that violates the laws of physics since it would not be reproducible. Scientists should have no problem being religious, he said.
Enter Lisa Randall, a woman with an astonishing range of achievements from a libretto for an opera to experiments at the Large Hadron Collider, in Geneva. She studies cosmology and theoretical particle physics and is the author of “Knocking on Heaven’s Door: How Physics and Scientific Thinking Illuminate the Universe and the Modern World.”

While polite in tone, Ms. Randall said the term “scientism” was embarrassing and an act of name calling, at a time when the discussion about tackling the world’s problems needs to be elevated. “It shouldn’t be embarrassing or quaint to be earnest about facts or logic,” she said. And, she added “Why do politicians feel comfortable talking about God and religion and not about science and mathematics?”

Art is important she said, but it ultimately operates through the filter of human perceptions and emotions. Religion, she said, is also a human phenomenon that serves social needs. “If you say it makes me happy or helps me live my life, I’m not going to stop you,” she said.

But, she said, religion is different to different people. Scientists, while they have their petty fights, are ultimately able to create knowledge they can agree on.

In audience questions after the two talks, one person cut to the chase and demanded “yes” or “no” answers to the evening’s challenge: “Can science explain everything?”

“No,” said Mr. Hutchinson.

“We don’t know,” said Ms. Randall.

via Can Science Explain Everything? – Percolator – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

HT:  Jackie


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