April 26, 2014

"Celebration, below its twee veneer and even below its shoddy craftsmanship, is a pretty sustainable idea...."

"... Public spaces, walkable streets, downscaled housing, and good schools, all within a compact downtown. Even its critics have to admit that it's better than swampy, sprawling hellscape that lies just outside of it, dripping with strip malls and sweaty drive-thrus."
So why don't we think of it as a success? For one thing, the mere whiff of utopia sets our teeth on edge these days. After a century of high-profile failures—from Fordlandia to Helicon Home Colony—most of us can't shake the idea that behind those neocolonial shutters lurks something sinister, whether as simple as tax evasion or as truly nightmarish as a violent cult. In other words, Celebration is not only a victim of its own marketing, but a victim of a public that perceives planned communities as deeply creepy....
That's healthy isn't it, our suspicion of planned communities?  We perceive them as creepy because excessive planning, imposed on us by experts who purport to know how we should live, is creepy.

By the way, the word "creepy" originally referred to slow movement, then to the feeling that one's flesh is moving — the feeling of horror or disgust — so that you would say, for example, "I feel somehow quite creepy at the thought of what's coming." (That's the oldest usage in that second sense found by the OED, from a 1831 work called "Cat's Tail.) Only in the late 19th century did "creepy" come to refer to the things that cause your flesh to creep.
1883   ‘G. Lloyd’ Ebb & Flow II. xxxiii. 236   The whole place seemed lonely, and, as Mildred whispered to Pauline, ‘creepy.’
I get the feeling that "G. Lloyd" was portraying Mildred as misusing the word, like the way, years ago, an author might make an uneducated character say "nauseous" for "nauseating." (But the progression of the word "nauseous" goes in the opposite direction from "creepy." "Creepy" went from describing how bad you feel to describing the thing that makes you feel bad, but "nauseous" went from describing the thing that makes you feel bad to describing your bad feeling. That made it considerably more humorous to make a dumb character say "I'm nauseous" than for Mildred to say that the place is "creepy.")

25 comments:

Carol said...

'good schools'....88 percent white, got it. the minorities were priced out.

CWJ said...

From the article -

"After centuries of struggling to engineer a perfect society, utopia's greatest enemy might turn out to be as simple as a creeping suspicion."

Not at all. Its greatest enemy is reality.

Utopian societies can be imagined (cue John Lennon). But they are not how societies have ever behaved in a sustained way.

One of humankind's most enduring conceits is its own perfectability. The ability to imagine the perfect is a great evolutionary goad to greater individual achievement in the real world. But it is a scourge instead of a gift when the individual attempts to apply their imaginings to others.

see also: Central economic planning

JRoberts said...

Carol said...
"'good schools'....88 percent white, got it. the minorities were priced out."

Isn't that how most liberal, planned utopias work out?

Talk the good game, but make sure the "riff raff" (regardless of color) is priced out of the market.

Isn't that what "gentrification" has done in more urban areas?

elkh1 said...

Carol, Why do you assume minorities want to live in this Stepford-Twilight Zone?

Jeff with one 'f' said...

"most of us can't shake the idea that behind those neocolonial shutters lurks something sinister"

In this example, "most of us" = Upper-Middle Class White oikophobes. Hatred of the middle class by the Left goes back at least to Sinclair Lewis' novel Babbitt.

rhhardin said...

You have to creep before you can crawl.

n.n said...

There is nothing wrong or sweaty about strip malls and drive-throughs. However, the idea of being herded into a planned community is deeply creepy with a notorious historical background.

That said, the central planners need to rejuvenate their image and arguments. They need to reconcile the tremendous distress and marginal success caused by their ideas throughout history and world.

rehajm said...

We perceive them as creepy, excessive planning, imposed on us by experts who purport to know how we should live, is creepy.

Based upon the last two presidential elections there's obviously a strong desire amongst many Americans for central planners to dictate to everyone how to live.

I've been to Celebration and it's a lovely community. People who move there are looking for something different than anything goes. They appreciate the notion of architecture and aesthetic extending to the community rather than ending at the property line.

You don't like it live somewhere else.


chrisnavin.com said...

Why can't we live in Europe?

They have great food, craftsmanship, and so much history. Don't you want to learn a language? Don't you want to be cultured?

It's liberal, it's modern, it's progress.

They know so much! They've seen it all before!

Get on board.

No, seriously, GET ON BOARD NOW.

Michael K said...

I have lived in a planned community since 1972. It's called Mission Viejo and was built by the family of Richard O'Neill on the O'Neill Ranch that has been in the family since the 1880s. It is in Orange County CA and has prospered. It is also 80+% white but that is optional.

The original planners made one mistake. They did not include commercial space for businesses other than local shops. The same family has built another planned community called Rancho Santa Margarita the original name of the ranch. There they included large areas for light industry, a concept pioneered by Irvine, another planned community.

I suspect the biggest difference between these towns and the one in Florida is that they were planned by non-Utopians who understood people.

They work very well and the commuting patterns, that used to run to Los Angels where people worked, have reversed. Now people commute to these planned communities where they work but cannot afford to live.

The left never gets it. Orange County is about the last conservative bastion in California.

William said...

I wonder if the people who think Celebration creepy had any reservations about urban renewal, the Moscow subway, Brasilera, and other utopian projects undertaken by the state. I think what the left finds creepy about Disneyland and Celebration is that these are Utopias designed to make money.

holdfast said...

It's really only creepy if the residents didn't volunteer for it, or are paid/subsidized by the taxpayer to be there. It might be a failure, but if people sign up for an experiment, it's not creepy.

virgil xenophon said...

What reeks of creepy coercion is the mindset that views these communities--be they "planned" or "gentrified" inner-city parts of New Orleans, Phila., etc.--is the view that such majority white neighborhoods are "embarrassingly white" as one city planner in Louisville once told me. As if it is somehow immoral for whites to self-segregate by income to escape the dysfunctional depredations of 'the other." Like private clubs whose members ' rights to freely associate with whom they want have long been upheld by the courts, why should maj. white communities feel ashamed of their desire to self-segregate by income to avoid the dysfunctional depredations upon their lives by "the other?" Note the degree to which middle and upper-class blacks in Atlanta have eagerly created their own gated all-black communities. Muhammad Ali was right: "Birds of a feather"...

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Even its critics have to admit that it's better than swampy, sprawling hellscape that lies just outside of it, dripping with strip malls and sweaty drive-thrus.

For some reason the article did not provide links to Celebration's critics making these admissions.

Kieth Nissen said...

Well, it's suburb. A suburb with a cluster of small stores (I guess that's a movie theater among the photos). When residents want to see a first run movie or buy big quantities they drive to a mall or a Costco or a Krogers; they make the big purchases elsewhere and the nice little stores sell what 7-11 sells in other places. Are there buses? taxis? I doubt it. It's a suburb and a stage set. It's not creepy, it just sidesteps all the issues.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Even its critics have to admit that it's better than swampy, sprawling hellscape that lies just outside of it, dripping with strip malls and sweaty drive-thrus.

For some reason the article did not provide links to Celebration's critics making these admissions.

Temujin said...

I've done work in Orlando for years, and some of that has brought me to Celebration from time to time. I always left thinking…I like this place. I like tho look of it. The feel of it. Why does everyone always say it's creepy?

What's creepy about nice homes with porches, streets that are clean and relatively safe to walk. Stores & businesses within walking distance, but not a clog of taxis and busses spewing out their crap in your face. What's creepy about having your kid's school a short walk from home? What's creepy about peaceful green spaces?

The thing that many cannot get behind is that it is almost all white. I doubt that was the key planning point. I am sure that ANYONE of ANY RACE can most certainly live there…if they want. And if someone doesn't want…there's a world out there. Find your spot and bugger off.

The only issue I have with Celebration is that it's in (or too close to) Orlando. Couldn't pay me to live in that area.

As for other urban areas- if you love to walk around homeless people to see how that affects your psyche, while smelling piss (Seattle), or vomit (San Francisco), or just something dead (NYC), have at it. I get why some choose to live in a place that seems serene. Even if it's just off the main road to about 1,000 Disney attractions.

Michael said...

Here's the deal. Most sane people do not want to live in urban centers with lousy schools, iffy police protection, sketchy no-go areas, potholed streets and choking property taxes. They like nice schools and smooth streets and safe streets. The left hates a suburb as much as it hates a chain restaurant or a mall or a person enjoying themselves. And so we get articles puking ideas like this.

I, of course, live smack dab in a city where I would not send my kid to public school, where the police protection is so-so and the potholes will swallow a mini cooper with room for a motorcycle.

ALP said...

I am still stuck trying to figure out what a "sweaty drive-in" is. What is sweating, the screen, the concession stand, the speakers? What?

wildswan said...

There are thousands of small towns in the US where you can walk to the stores and to work and to church, where you have neighbours, where there is very little crime and where in general everything mentioned in the Celebration sales pitch happens every day. Flyover country has a lot of them but they are on the coasts also. But Disney created one artificially - that is what is a little creepy to me. It's like saying "over there in Disneyland is a real pretend castle and over here in Celebration there is a real pretend small town." You wonder if you would see mannequins sitting on the sofas if you looked in the window? And if one would have your own face?

grackle said...

Ever been to Hershey, PA? Nice looking place. Every lawn neatly mowed.

richard mcenroe said...

When the fee-yancy and I moved to Texas we made a point of only looking at properties that were nowhere near any homeowner's association or similar block commissars. People like that start out telling you what kind of mailbox you can have eventually tell you what kind of flag you can fly...and ultimately what kind of life you can live, if you let them.

Jeff Teal said...

Celebration isn't the only one.Seaside the town that was used as the set of the Truman Show is in our neck of the Panhandle and follows similar draconian planning ordinances.It is inhabited by a bunch of transplanted Northerners who just love to keep the riffraff away.They do it by charging outrageous prices for the houses and pricing their little stores exceptionally expensively.

Rusty said...

Americans don't like being told what they want. We don't like authority.
Celebration is the suburban version of Public housing.

Henry said...

Most places people live in this country were planned. Some were just planned with more publicity than others.

Here in the Northeast, colonial revival houses are ubiquitous. Colonial revival was a utopian project. Now it's just boilerplate.

Designer Michael Bierut's comment at the link is appropriate:

...authenticity is a slippery thing.