There are two clues to the sponsor for this ad, and they're in verrrrry tiny type. Both brand names. Can you decipher the mystery?


What you have to remember is this: those people actually existed. They seem like paintings, almost. (I've altered the pictures, as usual.) They weren't actors, but they were acting. They were models, but you've no idea how many had good pro careers, and how many were pals of the photographer or art director. The guy in the back, wearing the hat - who was he? It's impossible to know. Did the woman in green wonder why her husband looked much older?

They're all archetypes except for the guy on the right; he shared his best gal's appreciation for Grape Jam and the fact that it's a Big Value. He's dressed in the style of Youth. He can sling some jive talk for fun. A regular cut-up, all the gang liked him. Died at Iwo Jima.

Ordinary day; not much to report, but a few things to complain about. Constructively, of course.

This piece takes a look at the communities outside my metro area, and finds them wanting. They have a heavy-rail commuter line that takes people to the big city for work, but this has resulted in - brace yourself - transit oriented sprawl. Instead of people living in dense housing right by the train, which they SHOULD do, they're taking advantage of the rail system to live in low-density communities. I.e., houses. With yards. In the boonies.

That's not the least of their sins, but I'll get to that. If you're wondering what's wrong with living in a house in the country in a low-density development, well, you're not paying attention to all the studies.

While cities like Big Lake and Elk River claim to focus on developing transit oriented communities, time has shown us how much of the growth has instead spilled into the rural townships that foster a lifestyle heavily dependent on private vehicle ownership. The negative consequences of automobile dependency include social isolation, discrimination against those unable to legally drive (usually the poor, young, elderly and disabled), and increased expenses related to gasoline costs, car maintenance, and road repair/snow removal.

As you might imagine, a 14-year old who buys a house in a rural township must be appalled to find he is isolated, discriminated against, and unable to pay for gas. Let alone tires. Adults, however, usually know what they're getting into. There aren't many people who buy a home in a rural subdivision and find out after the closing that there's not a streetcar that runs to their cul-de-sac. In fact that's one of the selling points.

I share many of the New Urbanist ideas for cities, but I can't cast my lot in with the group because they are screwball-daft when the subject of cars comes up, and will entertain any inconvenience as long as it's anti-car. I don't want to ride a got-damned bicycle to work. Most people don't. Period. So you have to force them out of their cars into something else. If a neighborhood is made sufficiently inconvenient for cars, some will adapt, and some will find a home in a placewhere they can have a car. That's your choice. If you stay, fine; glad you're happy. If you go out into the far-flung exurbs because you want to drive, and are willing to endure a few inconveniences, then fine; that's yhour choice. You'd think the Critics of Everyone Else's Choices would be happy that people are living far out and taking the train in, but no, a fresh new horror has revealed itself as people continue to show the depthless roiling stinky-pitch of their hearts:

While city planners generally welcome transit hubs to their community, they are concerned that, if improperly located, the stations will actually increase sprawl by encouraging people to drive to rail stations instead of walking, biking or taking the bus.

People are driving to the train.


When I lived in DC I lived in the city, and walked to work every day. It was 30 minute jaunt. I could have taken the train, but I preferred to walk, because being above ground and getting exercise was preferable to riding the subway. In the moral calculus of these things I was more pure than the people who took transit, because I was emissions-free, and contributing to street-level Vitality. So I understand the appeal of these things, but it's a matter of choice - and nearly everyone else in the bureau lived out in the exurbs and drove to a lot where they parked and took the train. This was not regarded as a moral failing, and they would have thought you an idiot if you'd said they should bike to the lot.

But the transitarians will make no allowance for the car, even if you've foresworn the highway for the train. You must bike or walk or bus to the lot. Because otherwise you risk:

social isolation: this means you are home alone with no one around and it's terribly lonely, and while you may enjoy the peace and quiet and seeing the deer from your back porch it's really eating away at you, and you have no idea how much happier you'd be in an apartment by the train where you can hear your next-door neighbor clip his toenails through the thin walls.

discrimination against those unable to legally drive (usually the poor, young, elderly and disabled): the word "discrimination" means the poor, young, elderly, and disabled cannot live in these places because they require cars. In some circles this is known as "reality," and means that some situations are not available to all, just as you could not live in the richest part of town when you were a college student. By this logic the existence of a two-story house discriminates against someone in a wheelchair.

and increased expenses related to gasoline costs, car maintenance, and road repair/snow removal: remember, this was part of the "negative consequences of automobile dependency." You could say that expenses related to food costs are a negative consequence of requiring sustenance.

These things are just announced as inevitable results when you build houses out in the exurbs. It would be just as absurd as saying that money spent on bike paths and bike lanes discriminates against the disabled.

The author visits one of these unholy developments:

Timberquest is a typical example of a sub-development in Sherburne County. It’s located about 7.3 miles north of Big Lake Station, with access to the city of Big Lake reliant on a two-lane county road. On my weekend visit the streets were nearly void of foot and vehicle traffic despite the smattering of single-family houses and relatively warm weather. I could pretty much park wherever I wanted and walk around the streets at my own pace.

See, in an ideal city, people would be walking around, vibrantly. Doing things! Going places. Perhaps walking back from the store with groceries or going to a small cafe for coffee. That's my preferred model for a community, but your mileage may vary and if your Yukon gets 11 miles to the gallon I couldn't care less. Either people in this community were doing things in their homes, or they were off doing things elsewhere. So? SO?

The strange irony of places like Timberquest, and the developments that surround it, lies with their back-to-nature names. If a potential homeowner wanted to live in a community that truly valued nature and the preservation of native ecosystems, then fragmenting the countryside with asphalt roads, mowed lawns, and chlorinated swimming pools would seem counterintuitive.

Mowed lawns. The hubris.

The humans live less healthy lives due to their dependence on vehicles, which is a choice forced upon them by a decision to fragment and disrupt the patterns of the native, non-human inhabitants.

Pause for a moment and put your hand over your heart in silent empathy for the people forced to live in Timberquest. We had no other option but to live here, divorced from native ecosystems! The decision was made to fragment non-human patterns!

The land use of many residents feels like a contradiction out here. Sure, the developments are suburban in density, but you can’t avoid passing miles of farm field and forests to get to them. Rather than using the land to reduce the amount of trips made by residents and weaken their reliance on distant retailers and employers, many of the people who call these developments home are forced to consume an incredible amount of resources in their daily lives.

And yet, brand new homes continue to be built and people continue to buy them.

It's an utter mystery.

One could think this was a response to people's preferences, and given that people are usually wrong to want the things they think they want, that's tempting, but really, in 2016, don't we all realize that driving to the train station and driving home and then DRIVING TO TARGET OH GOD on Saturdays consumes resources?

What is the point of building a commuter rail line if people refuse to live in hives right next to the station?

As I said last week: this is the enemy.


And this is the solution:



Back we go to . . .



A clothing box from the late 20s, rescued from some Grandma's closet. Men in the 20s looked quite epicine. They'd get a lot more angular and grown-up in the 30s.



Tiny T-Rex Arm Syndrome seemed more common in the 20s, too.

A glimpse of horror in one of the basement rooms:

Imagine an army of those, ten thousand strong.



Whenever I think I might run out of towns for this feature, I go to Texas.

This is one of the strangest towns I've come across. I had to go back to see if all these shots were from the same place.

It's Christmas! Or it was. In any case, it will be.

Why do they have to build sets for those "end of the world" movies, where civilization has collapsed and everyone's gone? Why, when there's this?

No set designer would come up with a building like this. Buildings like this have to happen. By the way, I'm pretty sure it was a gas station; tell-tale island on the right.

Through those big windows men once sat and watched the world go by.

They ran out of bricks, or workers, or a reason to keep going?

No; I suspect there was a building next door that burned or fell down, creating an empty lot. The sidewalk does seem ultra-wide.

As I say once a week: nothing will ever happen here again:

Yes, that's visible in the gas-station shot above. What's notable is the lack fo graffiti. I mean, even Chernobyl has graffiti.

Let's go downtown to the throbbing heart of the business district:



It's like a block in SimCity when things are just starting to fill in. Or empty out.

Notice the lack of something?



That nice lamp and the colorful banner is the most heart-rending picture yet. They're still trying.


The ol' "let's plant trees. That will bring back downtown" idea. It might work if the tree doesn't look like it's screaming in bloody pain in December.

A newspaper building should be wearing an eyeshade, even if it's the Dreaded Shingled Overhang.

The presses haven't been running for a while.

Have a seat.

In the foreground, a vehicle from the future, doing some archeological work, thanks to this site, which they discovered in 2049 in the Library of Congress. You're welcome, guys!

Some signs of life:


And determination, as well. What, he's quoting the Texas Constitution? One of those nuts.

Construction cones? New sidewalks,it seems.

It's a start. Literally: this is just half of it. More next week.


That will do - close to Friday! Huzzah and so forth.


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