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Old August 18th, 2005, 06:11 PM   #1
Phoenix Ashes
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Big Box Stores in Coeur D'Alene

One Happy Big-Box Wasteland
Oh my yes, there is indeed one force that is eating away the American soul like a cancer
By Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist

Wednesday, August 17, 2005



Do you want to feel like you might as well be in Tucson or Boise or Modesto or Wichita or Muncie and it no longer freakin' matters, because we as a nation have lost all sense of community and place? Why, just pull over, baby. Take the next exit. Right here, this very one.

Ah, there it is, yet another massive big-box mega-strip mall, a giant beacon of glorious community decay, a wilted exclamation point of consumerism gone wild. This is America. You have arrived. You are home. Eat it and smile.

There is the Target. There is the Wal-Mart and there is the Home Depot and the Kmart, the Borders and the Staples and the Sam's Club and the Office Depot and the Costco and the Toys "R" Us and of course the mandatory Container Store so you may buy more enormous plastic tubs in which to dump all your new sweatshop-made crap.

What else do you need? Ah yes, food. Or something vaguely approximating it. There is the Wendy's and the Burger King and the Taco Bell/KFC hybrid (ewww) and there is the Mickey D's and the Subway and the Starbucks and the dozen other garbage-food fiends lined up down the road like toxic dominoes, all lying in wait to maul your arteries and poison your heart and make you think about hospitals.

And here's the beautiful part: This snapshot, it's the same as it was 10 miles back, same as it will be 10 miles ahead, the exact same massive cluster of insidious development as you will find in roughly 10,000 noncommunities around the nation and each and every one making you feel about as connected to the town you're in and the body you inhabit as a fish feels on Saturn. In the dark. In a hole. Dead.

You have seen the plague. I have seen the plague. Anyone over 30 has seen the plague evolve from a mere germ of disease in the late '80s to a full-blown pestilence of big-box shopping hell. I was recently up in northern Idaho, where my family has owned a beautiful house on a lake in a tiny burg near the Canadian border for 40 years, and to get to this region you must pass through the explosively grown resort town of Coeur d'Alene, and the plague is there perhaps worse than anywhere within a 75-mile radius.

I am officially old enough to remember when passing through Coeur d'Alene meant stopping at exactly one -- one -- traffic light on Highway 95 on the way north, surrounded by roughly one million pine trees and breathtaking mountain vistas and vast, calming open spaces, farms and fields and sawmills and funky roadside shops and gorgeous lakes for miles.

There are now about 20 traffic lights added in as many years, scattered down a 10-mile stretch of highway and each and every one demarcates a turnoff into a massive low-lying horribly designed strip mall, tacky and cheaply built and utterly heartless, and clearly zero planning went into any of these megashops, except to space them so obnoxiously that you have to get back in your goddamn car to drive the eighth of a mile to get to the Target to the Best Buy to the Wal-Mart to the Super Foods and back to your freakin' sanity.

Do you want to know what depresses the American spirit? Do you want to know why it feels like the center cannot hold and the tyranny of mediocrity has been loosed upon our world? Do you want to know what instills more thoughts of suicide and creates a desperate, low-level rage the source of which we cannot quite identify but which we know is right under our noses and which we now inhale Prozac and Xanax and Paxil by the truckload to attempt to mollify?

I have your answer. Here it is. Look. It is the appalling spread of big-box strip malls, tract homes like a cancer, metadevelopments paving over the American landscape, all creating a bizarre sense of copious loss, empty excess, heartless glut, forcing us to ask, once again, the Great All-American Question: How can we have so damned much but still feel like we have almost nothing at all?

Oh and by the way, Coeur d'Alene has a distinct central portion of town, well off the toxic highway. It is calm and tree lined and emptily pretty and it is packed with, well, restaurants and art galleries. And real estate offices. For yuppies. Because, of course, there are no local shops left. No mom-and-pops, few unique small businesses of any kind. No charm. No real community per se. Just well-manicured food and mediocre art no true local can actually afford and business parks where the heart used to be.

I have little real clue as to what children growing up in this sort of bizarre megaconsumerist dystopia will face as they age, what sort of warped perspective and decimated sense of place and community and home. But if you think meth addiction and teen pregnancy and wicked religious homogeny and a frightening addiction to blowing s-- up in violent video games isn't a direct reaction to it, you're not paying close enough attention.

This is the new America. Our crazed sense of entitlement, our nearly rabid desire for easy access to mountains of bargain-basement junk has led to the upsurge of soulless big-box shops which has, in turn, led to a deadly sense of prefabricated, vacuous sameness wherever we go. And here's the kicker: We think it's good. We think it helps, brings jobs, tax money, affordable goods. We call it progress. We call it choice. It is the exact opposite.

Result No. 1: Towns no longer have personality, individuality, heart. Community drags. Environment suffers. Our once diverse and quirky and idiosyncratic landscape becomes ugly and bland and vacuous and cheap.

Result No. 2: a false sense of safety, of comfort, wrought of empty sameness. We want all our goods to be antiseptic and sanitized and brightly lit and clean. In a nation that has lost all sense of direction and all sense of pride and whose dollar is a global joke and whose economy is running on fumes and whose goods are all made overseas and whose incompetent warmongering leader makes the world gag, that toxic sameness is, paradoxically, reassuring.

Result No. 3: We are trained, once again, to fear the different, the Other, That Which Does Not Conform. We learn to dislike the unique, the foreign, foreigners. We lose any sense of personal connection to what we create and what we buy and I do not care how cheap that jute rug from Ikea was: When they are mass-produced in 100,000 chunks in a factory in Malaysia, it ain't quirky.

Sameness is in. Sameness is the new black. It is no different than preplanned Disney World vacations or organized religion or preplanned cruises or themed restaurants where all edges have been filed off and every experience has been predigested and sanitized for your protection because God forbid you have an authentic experience or nurture genuine individual perspective or dare to question the bland norm lest your poor addled soul shudder and recoil and the Powers That Be look at you as a serious threat.

I have seen the plague and so have you. Hell, you're probably shopping in it. After all, what choice do you have?
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Old August 18th, 2005, 07:01 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist

After all, what choice do you have?
Plenty, and a majority of people choose "the appalling spread of big-box strip malls, tract homes like a cancer, metadevelopments paving over the American landscape." People are voting with their feet and wallets and it is people like you who are trying to take this choice away. You are anti-choice sir. If you do not like this lifestyle, vote with your wallet and feet and live/shop in area that fits your lifestyle rather than force your selfish will upon people who do not live they way you prefer to live.
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Old August 18th, 2005, 08:35 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sounder
Plenty, and a majority of people choose "the appalling spread of big-box strip malls, tract homes like a cancer, metadevelopments paving over the American landscape." People are voting with their feet and wallets and it is people like you who are trying to take this choice away. You are anti-choice sir. If you do not like this lifestyle, vote with your wallet and feet and live/shop in area that fits your lifestyle rather than force your selfish will upon people who do not live they way you prefer to live.
No one ever accused right-wingers of good taste, environmental responsibility, or community feeling. Rather, it's all about cancerous growth for its own sake. But are right-wingers truly pro-choice? Funny. Look across America and you see only this one development template - big box stores, anonymous housing pods, freeway-mediated development.

Right-wingers don't want you to take trains, have available mass transit, or live in dense cities. So they take away subsidies for AMTRAK and reward the obscenely wealthy oil & gas lobby with huge tax breaks. They call this crap "choice" since their propaganda is devoid of logic, consistency and genuine value.
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Old August 18th, 2005, 10:58 PM   #4
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Amen. This reminds of a hotly contested issue here in the Wasatch Front called the Legacy Highway. It is a proposed 14-mile freeway that would run from Salt Lake City north through mostly undeveloped Davis County. Proponents of this monstrosity keep saying that they have to have it because Davis County keeps growing and those of us against it have no business stopping it. Well that's fine by me, as someone who lives in Downtown SLC, if you want to live on a 1-acre lot 60 miles from Downtown, but don't expect me to subsidize your "choice" to live unsustainably.
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Old August 19th, 2005, 02:32 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Phoenix Ashes
No one ever accused right-wingers of good taste, environmental responsibility, or community feeling.
And nobody ever accused lefties of good taste, environmental responsibility, or community feeling either.

Quote:
Rather, it's all about cancerous growth for its own sake.
No, it is the free will of people voting with their feet and wallets. You may thing it is cancerous growth, a lot of people disagree. Why don't you lefties learn to agree to disagree and let one live they way they want to? I know you lefties really hate this but this is a free country.


Quote:
But are right-wingers truly pro-choice?
More pro-choice than lefties. Other than murdering the unborn & filling your body with STDs and drugs, the left is by far less pro-choice. They hate choice; read the above article again. They loathe people liking big box stores, SUVs, etc.

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Right-wingers don't want you to take trains, have available mass transit, or live in dense cities.
False.

Quote:
So they take away subsidies for AMTRAK and reward the obscenely wealthy oil & gas lobby with huge tax breaks.
AMTRAK should see its massive subsidies cut back. If you like AMTRAK, ride it! I don't agree with the tax breaks for oil companies however but with current oil prices, we should encourage exploration and invesment.

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They call this crap "choice" since their propaganda is devoid of logic, consistency and genuine value.

It is choice. You do not have to live in the suburbs or shop at a big box store. If enough people chose to ride AMTRAK, we wouldn't have to subsidize it. People are choosing not to ride AMTRAK but some selfish jerks out there want us all to pay for their little pet project; that isn't choice. The right is more pro-freedom & pro-choice than the left in this country by a great margin.
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Old August 19th, 2005, 05:54 AM   #6
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America's nut-case right wing would make Goebbels blush. They believe in choice and freedom! But not for the environment, pregnant women, science, or any other thing they deem ideologically nonconforming. It's about the freedom of people with lots of money to make more money by creating a crapload of suburban schlock, answerable to no one but themselves and their servile media.

In this state of affairs, you dare not criticize or oppose them. Money justifies everything (except when it offends the religious sensibilities of their Taliban wing). With the Right, it's always about THEIR freedom to be as socially and environmentally irresponsible as they choose. Cities are bad because they necessarily embody the principle of interdependence and cooperation. Suburbs disguise this principle to a certain extent, so they fit the Right's fantasy social matrix (every Republican's home is his castle, so to speak). Insofar as they can privatize civic and social functions, the Right has succeeded in dismantling both the social compact and the political contract. In it's place, a personality cult (say Ayn Rand or George Bush) will do just fine.
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Old August 21st, 2005, 12:43 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Phoenix Ashes
America's nut-case right wing would make Goebbels blush.
Actually it is the left that resembles Goebbels these days. Heck, just look at the pro-terrorist rallies in crawford, TX and around the nation. Look at the blatant lies by NARAL Fourth Reich America.

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They believe in choice and freedom! But not for the environment, pregnant women, science, or any other thing they deem ideologically nonconforming.
The right believes in science (unlike the religious wackos on the left that believe any kook conspiracy), the environment, but many in the right are against murdering futrue humans for selfish reasons. That is the only choice the left likes anymore. The are not pro-choice with the environment, they want their extreme religious ideals forced upon everyone. The left is the side most intolerant with things they deem ideologically non-conforming, even to the point they contradict themselves or make themselves look like lunatics.

Quote:
It's about the freedom of people with lots of money to make more money by creating a crapload of suburban schlock, answerable to no one but themselves and their servile media.
Your hate of free will is apparent here. Why lie about reality? People like these stores and that is why they are prospering. People are voting with their feet and wallets and you should be tolerant to their choices instead of spout the venemous lies and delusions you post above.

Quote:
In this state of affairs, you dare not criticize or oppose them. Money justifies everything (except when it offends the religious sensibilities of their Taliban wing).
Can't you accept people making free will choices? You need to learn tolerance & learn to live and let live.

Quote:
With the Right, it's always about THEIR freedom to be as socially and environmentally irresponsible as they choose.

Wrong, it is about everyone's freedom. The left isn't for freedom nor are they environmentally responsible with their crackpot theories and religion disguised as pseudoscience.

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Cities are bad because they necessarily embody the principle of interdependence and cooperation.
You hate cities? that's too bad. I think they are great.

Quote:
Suburbs disguise this principle to a certain extent, so they fit the Right's fantasy social matrix (every Republican's home is his castle, so to speak).
People from the left love suburbs too. You need to open your mind some. People like the suburbs and you need to learn to accept that. If you hate suburbs, don't live or work their, it is your free will choice. But since you are a lefty, you hate choice and want to force your religious ideals upon everyone. If you could, you would probably ban suburbs, or just limit them so only the wealthy elite can afford them.
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Old August 21st, 2005, 03:55 AM   #8
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With oil hovering over the $60/bbl benchmark, the heyday of suburban gluttony is fast departing. The notion that we can cater to our addictive materialism with even more insane consumption frenzies, fed by cheap oil and government subsidies (yes, suburbia is pretty much welfare on demand, courtesy of other taxpayers, for developers), and the dawning realization that global warming, too, is going to force a change to these addictive patterns, the lunatic fringe of Republican philistines will deny all evidence that interferes with their fondest myths.

Right-wingers respect science? Wow! It's amazing how wingnuts can even type such unadulterated bullshit while denying global warming, stifling stem-cell research, or demanding "Intelligent Design" be taught in the classroom. But as with virtually everything in their demented universe, it's not about empiricism so much as belief. Simply deny, change the subject, twist the evidence (WMD, anyone?), or start screaming religious bigotry, right-wingers are never more themselves than when conflating self-interest with the American flag and Jesus.
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Old August 21st, 2005, 06:13 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by Phoenix Ashes
With oil hovering over the $60/bbl benchmark, the heyday of suburban gluttony is fast departing.
It was way worse in the 70's and look at suburban expansion back then. Sorry, history doesn't back your hypothesis. Where a person lives is very important & people will make the neccessary sacrifices.

Quote:
The notion that we can cater to our addictive materialism with even more insane consumption frenzies, fed by cheap oil and government subsidies (yes, suburbia is pretty much welfare on demand, courtesy of other taxpayers, for developers), and the dawning realization that global warming, too, is going to force a change to these addictive patterns, the lunatic fringe of Republican philistines will deny all evidence that interferes with their fondest myths.
You are further proving that lefties don't believe sound science & are guided by religous belief and hysteria. It has proven that suburban growth does more than pays for itself. Also science has yet to prove a link between humans & global warming. You are listening too much to religious extremists with an agenda.

Quote:
Right-wingers respect science? Wow! It's amazing how wingnuts can even type such unadulterated bullshit while denying global warming, stifling stem-cell research, or demanding "Intelligent Design" be taught in the classroom.
Science has yet to prove a link between humans and global warming. They have proven the sun has gotten warmer but that couldn't have anything to do with it, right? And about stem cell research, many on the right (and some on the left) are against murdering the unborn for selfish reasons denying life and liberty to these future human beings. The left was once liberal and cared about people. What happened?



Quote:
But as with virtually everything in their demented universe, it's not about empiricism so much as belief.
You are describing today's left. They are guided by hate, religous ideology, and ignorance.

Quote:
Simply deny, change the subject, twist the evidence (WMD, anyone?), or start screaming religious bigotry, right-wingers are never more themselves than when conflating self-interest with the American flag and Jesus.
We found WMD in Iraq, we have evidence of WMD ambitions. You are just further highlighting that the left doesn't deal in reality. They have burry the news deep in the NY Times and to spin that hundreds of tons of yellow cake uranium as it isn't a WMD. George Bush is an honest saint compared to the mainstream left these days. The honesty gap between left and right is giant. Most Republicans I know aren't Christian or flag waivers BTW. You should stop getting your news and views from biased sources. Many Republicans today are former Democrats who fled to the Republicans because they are the more liberal, progressive, honest, and fair party today.
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Old August 21st, 2005, 11:11 PM   #10
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"Science has yet to prove a link between humans and global warming".

Really? Is Earth flat too? Are you still waiting for definitive proof that gravity is more than just a "theory"?

..."stem cell research......murdering the unborn for selfish reasons and denying liberty to these future human beings"

Are blastocysts human beings when being used for stem-cell research, but easily disposible when used in fertility clinics? Why do you care about the former but not the latter? I guess we're supposed to check with the RNC Vatican for moral updates.

"We found WMD in Iraq"

Well, someone forgot to tell David Kay and Charles Duelfer. But they only rely on evidence instead of right-wing spin, so who are they to issue REPORTS when true believers like you know in your hearts there were WMD.

"George Bush is an honest saint".

Yes, and you're a cultist who worships him.

"You should stop getting your news and views from biased sources."

True. Journalism is subversive. We should let Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, and The Washington Times tell us what to think instead.

"Republicans ....are more liberal, progressive, honest...."

Up is down, black is white, good is evil, and war is peace.
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