CTP Team to Jordan This Week

Four members of the Carbon Trace Productions team leave for Jordan this week to begin filming for our Syrian Doctor (working title) documentary.

One of the places we will visit is the refugee camp in Irbid, established in 1968 for Palestinian refugees. It is an urban “camp” unlike some of the tent camps that make typical visuals in news reports.

I’ll post a few reports here during the trip. We’ll also post updates on the Carbon Trace Productions page on Facebook.

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Please Donate for Syrian Doctor Documentary

The Carbon Trace Productions crew has begun work on a new documentary about the Syrian refugee crisis — specifically a story about Dr. Tarif Bakdash, a pediatric neurologist who treats refugee children in the camps from the Middle East to Europe. He volunteers his time and talent with the Syrian American Medical Society.

I’ll be traveling to Jordan in April with a crew of three to begin filming.

Please consider helping us with a tax-deductible donation.

Downtown: A New American Dream

The documentary is done(ish)!

DOWNTOWN: A New American Dream premieres this Saturday at 1:00 at The Moxie.

This is the final rough cut of the film. We have a few minor things to fix before we begin submitting it to film festivals.

inside Heer's_2

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Sadly, Springfield Makes This List

Lists are necessarily simplistic, but that doesn’t mean lists are without value. On this one, Springfield lands at number 10, and it points up problems we are quite well aware of. The question is, what are we going to do about (from American Fact Finder):

  1. Poverty rate: 26.4%
  2. Poverty rate for children under 18: 34.7%
  3. Education, bachelor’s degree or higher: 12.3%
  4. Median household income: $32,473
  5. Unemployment rate: 9.3%

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Dollars = Votes

You’ve heard this argument before about dollars equaling votes, i.e. spending your money on a thing is a vote for that thing. And not only a vote for the thing (broadly understood), but also a vote for the business or service selling the thing and the company, country, and system manufacturing or otherwise providing the thing.

So, after moving downtown three years ago, I promised myself to pay particular attention to how/where I spend my dollars. I adhere to this general rule: If the thing can be had in the urban core of Springfield — a reasonable walk or bicycle ride from my downtown loft — then I will buy it here, even if it costs more.

I’ve defined the urban core, for my purposes, as bounded on the north by Kearney, on the south by Sunshine, on the west by Kansas Expressway, and on the east by Glenstone.

If it can’t be had in that area, I buy it online.

I’m not getting in a car to buy shit. Those days are over.

You want my money? Put your business in the urban core. Otherwise, my dollars go elsewhere.

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Shared Spaces — A Documentary Short

Here’s the full, final version of Shared Spaces:

Shared Spaces from acline on Vimeo.

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Carbon Trace Update

Our documentary short Shared Spaces will screen for the first time this Wednesday evening at 7:00 at The Moxie. And it is one of 47 films chosen to screen at the New Urbanism Film Festival next month in Los Angeles.

The Carbon Trace Productions team is busy editing the Downtown documentary. Our plan is to complete a full rough-cut by the end of November. We’ll send it out for feedback and spend the month of December polishing.

Again, blogging is likely to be slow to non-existent here while we finish the film.

If you’d like to help, please consider making a tax-deductible to the documentary fund at the Missouri State University Foundation. Every dollar goes directly to help students make documentary films. We’ll announce two new projects in early January.

Check out the Shared Spaces trailer:

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Carbon Trace Update

Blogging has been slow lately and is likely to stay that way through the fall. But that’s good news! 🙂

My Downtown project is moving ahead on schedule. That means we’re approaching the post-production phase. I’ll be on sabbatical this fall to finish the film. Deadline: 31 December.

Two weeks from now we will have a 15-minute version ready to submit to the New Urbanism Film Festival. I’ll sneak-peek that for you here.

If you’re itching for a way to help, there are two things you can do:

1. Send me digitized old photos/video of suburban life, or urban decay, in the 50s and 60s.

2. Click here and make a tax-deductible donation to the documentary fund at Missouri State University.

OK, back to work…

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On Panhandling and Kairos

I’m happy to report that my documentary film project called Downtown is on schedule for completion in December. I’m finishing up cataloging the interviews this week ahead of writing the script. Two themes have emerged from the interviews: diversity and density. These themes have been consistent with our sources from the local level to the national level.

While nearly every source has mentioned diversity, each has understood it differently based upon their various points of view and hierarchy of concerns. But nearly universal among the interviews is the idea that diversity in a downtown is crucial because, when people encounter each other, good things can happen. “Things” can be so many things, but one of those things that is most important is the idea of the “other” becoming less mysterious and threatening. This gets at the heart of creating an urban community as opposed to the homogeneity that all too often accompanies sprawl.

Local sources have all mentioned various types of “threatening” people in downtown Springfield, including troubled teenagers hanging out on the Square and aggressive panhandlers.

I had an interesting encounter with two panhandlers in downtown Springfield this morning.

I have no set script for dealing with panhandlers. Since I rarely carry cash, that eliminates the uneasiness I feel about giving money. I don’t want to be funding addictions and such. I simply truthfully state “I’m sorry. I’m not carrying cash.”

But I have helped people who have asked for it when I detect (by some emotional reaction I have not reflected upon) that they have another need I can fill. For example, I gave a man and woman a blanket this past winter after asking them “Is there another way I can help you?” I asked because they appeared to me to be in real distress.

There was a woman sitting outside the Mudhouse this morning who looked in bad shape. She asked for money. I told her I had no cash, and she began asking for a meal for herself and her husband. I was a nanosecond away from saying “yes” when the husband stepped up.

He comes up from behind and finishes her request standing in my space bubble. His attitude was insistent. He also did not look in as bad a shape as she. Hmmmmmm… So I instead offered to point them to a source of help. And that’s when he said an interesting thing:

“There’s riffraff there. I don’t want to hang out with riffraff. I want to hang out with you.”

By “you” he did not mean me; he meant people like me.

But his bad kairos put me off — the concept of timing and proportion in rhetoric. His bad kairos included what I perceived as a stark difference in their conditions.

I pointed them to help and walked away. And now I’m at work cataloging the interviews and thinking about diversity.

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The AARP Livability Score

ScreenHunter_01 May. 19 14.39So I plugged my address into the AARP Livability Index and discovered that downtown Springfield is rather mediocre. Hmmmm… I’m not at all sure I’d score this place as low as 60, but then I’m invested in living here and make it work. I’m even enjoying it 🙂

One index in particular drags down a couple of the scores: The AARP Index is apparently unaware that Springfield has a bus system. So there were a couple of anomalies, e.g. listed as having no employment reachable by public transit. Waaaaa? I happen to know that the bus goes to three different Walmarts — a big employer of retired people, I hear tell.

Springfield ranks well above average for housing, transportation, and engagement. We get low marks for environment, health, and opportunity.

Opportunity is a particular problem here. Our poverty rate is twice the national average, but, oddly, this statistic isn’t part of the index.



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Ahead of the Influx

Sky Eleven, the Sterling, and Heer’s will all be finished soon. While Sky Eleven and Sterling will cater primarily (although not exclusively) to students, Heer’s is expected to attract adults. In any case, these three projects will dramatically increase the population living within two blocks of Park Central Square rather soon.

The question now is, what will be left of downtown when people move in? Here’s a quick survey of businesses that have recently left downtown or gone out of business.

Empty 1

Much of Wilhoit Plaza is empty now, including recently-closed Blue Sesame (below) and a cake bakery (above). We’re all still wondering what’s up with BYOP.
Empty 2

Empty 5

The Minuteman Press at Walnut and Jefferson.

Empty 6

The Squeeze Play sports bar on Walnut. This was no loss — except that the space is now empty.

Empty 7

The Moda hair salon left downtown.

Empty 9

This coffee shop — gone. I think is was called Got Coffee, but it was not in business long enough to make an impression. Really, people, you can’t do better than the Mudhouse or Coffee Ethic, so think of something else.

Empty 10

Wow. Trolley’s on the Square is gone. This hurts.

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Living, More or Less

vandelaySometimes I can’t resist an overly-cute headline that’s more tricky than informative.

I’m also fond of backing into my points 🙂

So, my wife and I are rapidly approaching two full years living downtown in the loft we joking call Vandelay. It seems like a good time to process the experience a bit (more). I’m going to do that over a short series of posts in the coming days.

By way of teasing the series, I’ll say upfront: Best. Move. Ever.

That’s not to say there haven’t been problems and challenges. Some of the posts I have in mind will be about these problems and challenges. I do not offer them to be negative (a huge freaking sin in Springfield — often learned the hard way), instead I offer them as ways to think about the movement into the urban core. More people are on their way.

My primary motivation for moving downtown, like my primary motivation to walk and ride a bicycle for basic transportation, was to live greener, to lessen my impact on finite resources, to lessen my carbon footprint. To follow a path — a trace — to a very different future.

I live with less. When you shrink the stuff that accumulates in 2,700-square-foot suburban home into an 1,100-square-foot loft you necessarily get rid of lots of stuff. I do not have a storage unit. That stuff is out of my life. Gone. I didn’t realize how much of a burden all that stuff was until it was gone.

We live on one third the energy. We generate one bag of trash per week. We own one car and five bicycles.

I’ll spare you the less-is-more cliche because it ain’t that simple.

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Hong Kong Street Life Video

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Hong Kong Part 2: Bicycling

Bicycling in Hong Kong? Not so much. (Qualification: I walked Honk Kong central/west and the area of Kowloon from Mong Kok south. So it’s possible I missed something.)

Most of the few people I saw riding bicycles appeared to be delivering something.

Parking? Forget it. So people lock to anything they can find.

Lane control. Depends. The video below is typical of what I saw.



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Take the OTO Transportation Survey

The Ozarks Transportation Organization is gathering public input on transportation projects. Click here to take the survey.

Two disappointing things:

1. Many of the projects listed in the survey involve increasing capacity by widening roads. The problem: It doesn’t work. Increasing capacity does not ease congestion. This fact has been well established (although you can still find traffic professionals who say increasing capacity is OK as long as you do other things to encourage the use of other roads, or public transportation, or bicycling, or some other such thing — the obvious premise being that increasing capacity increases demand which increases congestion which then requires the “other things” … on and on it goes). So why is OTO asking about such projects? Well, politics often has little to do with reality. Giving people what they want is expedient. Here are the results of a quick Google search:

2. The survey asks about bicycle infrastructure but conflates trails and bicycle lanes. These are entirely different things. You can search Carbon Trace for details if you wish, but I am on the record opposing most types of bicycle lanes and promoting separate trails such as our Ozark Greenways. I was forced by this conflation to vote against bicycle infrastructure projects in this survey because I do not wish to accept the moral responsibility for playing any role, no matter how small, in creating dangerous bicycle lanes.

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