- by Alyson Shane
Never underestimate how much can be accomplished by having a positive, civil conversation with a stranger. I'm serious.
The VoteOpen storefront location opened up today at 201 Portage and so naturally yr girl was there to do interviews and hand out lawn signs and literature and tshirts, and also to talk to people walking by about what they thought about this polarizing issue.
I stood in the underground concourse for over an hour and changed the minds of nine of the "no" votes and talked to at least two dozen people who were already voting "yes" in the referendum in October.
Some people were rude and mean, but at least nobody told me to fuck off like the people at the First Friday event over the weekend.
Canvassing for a cause isn't for the thin-skinned, that's for sure.
I had a woman tell me that being assaulted in one of the stairwells when I was a teenager was "my fault" and that because she, personally, had never felt unsafe downtown then no woman should.
Which is an opinion she is entitled to.
Even if it's wrong.
But overwhelmingly the people I've spoken to have been open-minded and willing to engage in the discussion, which is rare and strange and to be honest not what I expected going into this campaign.
I under-estimated a lot of the people in my city, and that's okay.
Let's just hope the rest of the population proves to be as open-minded and progressive as the people I spoke to today.
Because those are the people who are going to move our city forward.
And, damn it, Winnipeg deserves to move forward.
- by Alyson Shane
It's going to be in the upcoming promo piece for VoteOpenWPG which I'm pumped about.
I've been working with some really amazing and dedicated people on this project and I really want to see it succeed, so even though it was like +30C today I slapped some waterproof makeup on my face and sat in the blazing sun looking like I was having a good time in front of the camera and drinking free beer.
Life's tough, I know.
It's still stupid hot so we ordered Deluxe Vermicelli from Viva which is a place in the West End that John and I both really like.
We even ordered spring rolls too omg.
It's during these super-hot muggy days that people say things like
"it's too hot"
even though everyone already knows it's too hot, but it feels good to point it out anyway and have yr friends go "yeah totally, it's way too hot."
So everybody likes to do it.
But every time I want to say it, it I remember what Jon Snow said:
"winter is coming"
and whenever I start to feel cranky because I'm sweaty or my hair starts to feel heavy and cumbersome or my forehead starts to feel sticky I try to remember
and snow plows
and spending 10 minutes getting dressed to leave the damn house
and I stfu and sip my free beer and pretend like my skin isn't on fire in the blazing prairie sun.
God I love summer.
- by Alyson Shane
Image via CBC Manitoba
I've tried to stay out of this debate here on my blog. Though I have very strong political opinions I often find that it's easier (and more effective) to engage in conversations with people via social media where we can have an ongoing dialogue vs. writing it all out.
But today's news that there will be a referendum on whether or not we should reopen the intersection to pedestrians is pandering to the narrow-minded and defeatist attitudes that have plagued our city for far too long.
So today I want to provide some historical context for why we're in this mess, debunk some of the false facts being circulated by opponents of the project, and address some of the important moral issues associated with the way people view this issue that I don't think many arguing against the initiative have considered to date.
Some Quick Historical Context
Many people have cited "safety concerns" as the main reason for closing the intersection, which isn't quite true. As a CBC article recently reported, closing the intersection and funneling pedestrians underground was more of a "last ditch" effort to rejuvenate a dying downtown with a big infrastructure project than anything else.
One of the key points in the article reads: "Some of those decisions were based on the fact the city had just, in 1972, amalgamated with 13 surrounding municipalities to create a much larger metro centre."
I'd go as far as to say that the 'Unicity' decision of this time was the worst decision Winnipeg has made to date.
Allowing communities who have no vested interest in the well-being of Winnipeg's downtown, and who have continued to vote against urban development and renewal projects since the 70's, has been one of the primary factors in keeping Winnipeg from achieving true greatness as a city.
Why Some People Think Portage & Main Shouldn't Reopen
Below are a few "arguments" I've heard against reopening the intersection that I'd like to debunk before we go further:
"The intersection is unsafe and people will die!"
Not true. According to the 2016 Annual Collision Report from the City of Winnipeg, fatal collisions only made up 0.10% of all motor vehicle collisions that year. This means that of the 17,586 collisions that occurred that year, 18 were fatal. Of those 18 fatal collisions, only 6 (0.034%) occurred at intersections, and only 4 (0.022%) were with pedestrians.
So if we break down the data we can see that not only are pedestrians quite safe compared to people behind the wheel, but also that intersection-based collisions make up a tiny fraction of collisions and deaths due to motor vehicle accidents.
(For those interested, the overwhelming majority of motor vehicle accidents in 2016 - 39.71%, in fact - were from rear-ending someone. Slow down, people.)
So if this has been the argument you've been using, stop now because you're basing your opinion on false facts and data.
"Reopening will slow my commute!"
Also not true. According to a study issued on the topic, "50 percent of the automobiles passing through the intersection will be 'unaffected by the changes, with no difference in travel time.'"
According to that same report, if your commute is one that will be affected by the opening of the intersection you can expect to see a >50 second increase in your commute, on average.
So if you use this argument then it's time to admit that adding an average of two more minutes each day to your commute is more important than the overall health and well-being of the city you live in.
"The concourse should be good enough!"
Again, not true. Going underground and attempting to navigate the concourse is time-consuming and confusing, not just for city residents (myself included; I've gotten turned-around down there more than once) but for newcomers to the city and tourists, as well.
This argument also ignores the fact that while the concourse may be a passable option for able-bodied people, the same study found that it takes someone with a physical disability an average increase of 129% longer to travel the same distance as an able-bodied person.
If you use a wheelchair or scooter and need to take an elevator, you need to take a minimum of 4 elevators to get where you're going.
So if you use this argument then you need to take a long, hard look in the mirror and get okay with the fact that you're saying that 15.6% of our population (aka 145,270 people as of 2012) don't matter, or matter less than your car.
"Winnipeg isn't [inset city here]!"
No, it's not. Just like any city we have our challenges and hurdles, but the driving factor behind our sluggish growth and downtown rejuvenation is that we keep voting against urban development projects that are in our collective best interest.
So if this is the argument you're using then it's time to face the fact that if you actually want Winnipeg to be like any of these cities it's time to stop naysaying and take a proactive approach to how Winnipeg can be like the city you wish it was.
"This money would be better spent on roads!"
This is the single biggest argument Winnipeggers make against anything we disagree with because roads are something we interact with every day.
Here's the thing, though: Portage and Main are both roads, and the intersection plays an important role in the overall flow of traffic and infrastructure in our city.
This cycle of Drive, Repair, Repeat has gotten us nowhere in the last few decades, and by insisting that we prioritize roads and cars over everything else in our city we've allowed our downtown neighbourhoods to crumble and be neglected as a result.
Additionally, the City of Winnipeg spent a record amount this year on road repair and infrastructure projects outside this initiative. So if this is the argument you've been using, it's time to accept that you care more about the roads you drive on than the city you live in.
"Nobody cares about walking downtown, anyway!"
This is also untrue. Over 17,000 people live downtown as of 2015, and I'd wager a guess that these people would like to live in a place that feels walkable, accessible, and safe. After all, wouldn't you?
There are lots of books and studies that have proven that investing in pedestrian-friendly downtown cores are not only good for the people who live there, but that the cities benefit overall as a result.
Here are some stats to back that up:
- Fewer young people want cars. In 1995 people age 21 to 30 drove 21 percent of all miles driven in the U.S.; in 2009 it was 14 percent, despite consistent growth of the age group. Living car-free in walkable areas fits younger lifestyles. [Advertising Age, 2010]
- A one-point increase in Walk Score [based on number of destinations within a short distance] is associated with between a $700 and $3,000 increase in home values. [CEOs for Cities, 2009]
- A 10-point increase in Walk Score increases commercial property values by 5 percent to 8 percent. [University of Arizona & Indiana University, 2010]
- People living in walkable areas trust neighbors more, participate in community projects and volunteer more than in non-walkable areas. [University of New Hampshire, 2010]
- Pedestrian space designed to be accessible to all sidewalk users, including pregnant women and people with physical disabilities, is especially important because those with limited ability are not able to use other transportation options (U.S. Department of Transportation, 2001)
These stats illustrate why increasing pedestrian activity downtown and reimagining Portage and Main as a place for people, not just for cars, can play a pivotal role in bringing more people downtown and making our downtown communities like The Exchange District, Waterfront, South Portage, Chinatown, and the other surrounding areas that much more safer and desirable to live in.
So if this is your argument, and you don't already live downtown, then it's time to own up to the fact that you don't care about the health of the downtown core in the city you live in.
When Winnipeg Fails, We All Fail
It's time for some real talk: if you think Winnipeg sucks, it's because you suck.
I grew up here, and the common refrain I heard from everyone around me was: "Winnipeg is a dump and the best thing you can do for it is leave" which speaks volumes about us as its citizens.
After all, cities are a reflection of the values of the people who live there.
What do you think your attitude about Winnipeg says about you?
If you can't see why reopening the most important intersection in your city isn't also in your own best interests, then it's time to admit that your interests are selfish, and that you fundamentally don't care about improving the place where you (and all of us) work and live.
And if that's how you feel, maybe just don't vote in the next election.
Or take your own advice and move somewhere else.
Winnipeg needs less people like you.
- by Alyson Shane
and when I was talking to the radio host he mentioned this 'lil blog here, and a couple of posts, specifically, and it threw me a bit because blogging is dead and also because most people these days know me from Twitter, or my business, or my TEDxWinnipeg talk
not the weird little blog I've been running for like a decade now that is actually just a continuation of a multitude of other blogs I've had over the years
because sometimes I forget that people I don't know still read this thing
so if that's you, hello!
and it reminded me that not only is this a place to share my thoughts about my city and the things that matter to me, but also to use it as a place to highlight some of the really cool and interesting things that I somehow wind up getting to do in this weirdly charmed life of mine
The other week I discovered one of the coolest gems in our city: the RTMF bike jam, which is actually a testament to how un-cool I actually am because this thing has been going for a few years now and I only just got around to going
(thanks Carlene for the reminder)
but holy hell guys are bike jams ever the best thing ever.
Not only does it involve one of the best activities ever - riding yr bike - but you get to do it as part iof a massive group of people who are all slightly buzzed, listening to music which is pumping from a bike with speakers attached to it, and riding super duper slow so you can take selfies and laugh at dumb jokes with yr friends.
We met at the muster point in Central Park before the jam kicked off and we met a dude whose name I forget, but he was riding a pink child's bike that said "Cream Soda" on it and was giving out handfuls of cotton candy
which was a bit soggy and gross from the humidity
obviously we had some, and participated in yelling "CREAM SODAAAA" whenever he drove by and pumped his fist and yelled his bike jam chant because that's what one does when one is bike jamming.
Because when you attend weird, fun, interesting events you get to meet all the weird, fun, interesting people that make the place you live something special.
And take it from me: the RTMF bike jam is one of those things that makes Winnipeg really special.
Even though there was a vendor stop around midnight and we grabbed a few more road rockets John an I were exhausted by the time we got to the final party location which was some random side street in The Exchange District
where a DJ and a hot dog stand were waiting for all the partygoers
but instead of partying until dawn John and I rode our bikes to Johnny G's and devoured a plate of chicken fingers and shoestring fries before taking a slow, safe bike ride home
because life's about balance, after all..
- by Alyson Shane
Yesterday I went on a bit of a tear in my Instagram Stories where I compared Wolseley (where I live) to the awful suburb where I spent most of my younger years.
I pointed out some of the key differences that make my current, older neighbourhood a good place to live, and how the newer development I grew up in is a barren wasteland not designed for people, or community.
After I posted it a few people messaged me asking why I "hate the suburbs" because, hey! I live there, man. How dare you!
And since it doesn't seem like a lot of people have ever really stopped to think about why the lonely, winding, suburban, sprawling nightmare of a "neighbourhood" that my generation was raised to believe we should want
was even a thing we should want in the first place
and it doesn't seem like a lot of people have stopped to ask why a suburb like the one I just described above would be bad for us both individually and as a society
I posted a bunch of facts on my IG Story and it kinda blew up overnight, and a few people suggested that I re-share the facts I'd posted on my Story publicly online somewhere so they wouldn't be lost after 24 hours.
And, well, I have this little blog here
perfect for the handing out of fast facts and sharing of ideas.
So here they are, for reference:
Suburbs prioritize vehicles over people. Neighbourhoods built to facilitate driving (wide roads, no sidewalks) create a landscape that actively discourages people from using it on foot, bike, skateboard, whatever.
Suburbs are unsafe. Those winding roads sold as "safer" actually aren't; you're actually more likely to be in a motor vehicle accident in a suburb than in the city. (Source: "The Car and the City" by Alan Thein Durning.)
Suburban landscapes don't prioritize safe, efficient public transit. Those "safe" winding roads make it harder to design effective transit routes, and as a result even more people rely on vehicles vs. public transit, increasing the probability of a car hitting a pedestrian or cyclist. (Source: same as above.)
Suburbs are expensive to maintain. Continuing to spread outwards is expensive, and the money needed to build and support all of the infrastructure associated with suburban sprawl takes money away from other essential city services.
Suburbs don't facilitate mixed-use space. "Mixed-used space" is a blend of residential, commercial + other types of buildings. Traditional neighbourhoods (Wolseley, West Broadway, Fort Rouge, etc.) often have mini centres of commerce which facilitate easy socialization (important for human happiness.)
Suburban houses aren't built for people, they're built for cars. A "garage first" home puts the home, and the people who live in it, farther away from the street. The loss of the back lane and the resulting private, fenced backyard reduces opportunities to interact regularly with neighbours and other community members, making them feel less like connected communities.
Suburbs don't facilitate natural socialization. If the place you live requires you to get into a car to go to get groceries, or get a coffee, then it reduces the likelihood that you'll interacts with others in your community on a regular basis. This can make us mistrustful, anxious, and sad.
... so those are just SOME of the reasons why I'm "anti-suburb" and will continue to advocate for smarter city design, downtown living, and making choices as a society that keep us happy, healthy, and safe.
(Also: screw car culture.)
Thanks for reading!
P.S. Want some resources to learn more about healthy and sustainable urban design? Check out some of the reads that influenced my way of thinking:
The Death and Life of Great American Cities - Jane Jacobs
Geography Of Nowhere: The Rise And Decline of America's Man-Made Landscape - James Howard Kunstler
Circulation and the City: Essays on Urban Culture - Alexandra Boutros and Will Straw
- by Alyson Shane
On Saturday we went to Mega Flora, the annual fundraiser for Art City
which if you aren't from Winnipeg is a really very cool nonprofit that makes a very positive and important impact on our community in a big way
(it's also the coolest-looking building for miles so check it out)
it was in The Exchange District in this old warehouse decorated to the nines with flowers and leaves and grass and so much crepe paper. There were food trucks outside and craft beer and cocktails inside. There was a photo booth. There were amazing bands and Begonia wore a giant flower on her head. There was a huge craft table to keep all the drunk people busy. Everyone dressed up in their most flowery outfits and it was just fucking magical
and like a lot of events happening in my city lately I was blown away at how much my city
which is still a weird feeling tbh.
Because longtime readers of this blog will remember that back in my late teens and early 20's I was pretty insufferable about wanting to move the hell out of Winnipeg
to Toronto, preferably
and would recite the same tired old refrain that I'd been hearing from basically every adult around me my entire life:
"Winnipeg is a dump and the best thing you can do is move away and never come back."
Seriously. People say that about the place they live
and where they continue to live, which is just that more confusing because why would you live somewhere you hate
especially if you're a Gen X or a Boomer and you say stuff like that. Seriously. Why do you still live here, then? Go away already and let us "lazy" Millennials re-open Portage and Main, revamp our public transit, and install some goddamn protected bike lanes on Portage Avenue
and keep starting small businesses and volunteering for nonprofits and throwing omg so much time and money into a fundraiser for a nonprofit that most of us have probably never used just because we see the value that nonprofits like Art City bring to our communities.
Because clearly we're not stopping anytime soon.
... omg guys I think I just figured out what's making Winnipeg a hip place to be:
Most of our coolest local shops and startups are owned by: Millennials.
The majority of the innovation in our tech sector is being built by: Millennials.
Most of the hottest events and fundraisers are hosted by: Millennials.
The coolest local festivals are being started by: Millennials.
You get my point. Winnipeg is becoming sosososo great, and it's largely because of the Millennials who live here.
I mean, of course all the work isn't 100% Millennial-driven. I know lots of Gen X and Boomer-types who do a great job of helping our city become something amazing, and props to them.
But it's kinda crazy to live in a city that seems to be undergoing some sort of cultural renaissance and to be a part of the generation that's driving that positive change in a really meaningful way.
It's almost as if a generation of us grew up being told that the place we lived sucked, and by extension if we chose to stay there instead of moving away we also sucked, and instead we decided "fuck that" and decided to make the place we live not-suck instead.
Now if only some of us young social democrats would run for political office and fix our damn provincial health care.
Not me, of course. As much as I love politics I also don't have that kind of chutzpah
but maybe you could?
- by Alyson Shane
There's a pop-up Christmas Tree store down the street from my house.
It's next to the convenience store that I never go into, which is attached to a hair salon which is also offers sensory deprivation tank experiences
(a strange combo, if you ask me)
and 1958, which has one of the best breakfast bennies of all time.
I saw them putting it up the other day as I walked by on the way to a meeting
It's so hip and beautiful.
All greenery, gorgeous old wood, hay bails, and charming string lights.
One thing about us Millennials I've noticed is that some of us have, like, crazy-good style.
Maybe that's what happens when you spend all your time scrolling through highly-curated Instagram feeds. Maybe become hip by osmosis.
A few days ago I was sitting sitting next to the window at my favorite used bookstore and cafe and all these families from the neighborhood keep walking by as I'm sitting there with my London Fog.
Parents in big vintage jackets and lots of plaid. Fur-lined hoods. Cute kids in little knit scarves and hats. Dogs of all shapes and sizes. Everyone's bundled up, smiling and having a good time.
On second thought, maybe it's just that Canadians are hip af.
- by Alyson Shane
(image via Simone Noronha)
called The Neighbourhood Bookstore and Cafe.
Which is such a charming name I can't even.
I hang out here a lot since it's right in my 'hood, and all the walls are lined with books and I think better when I'm around books.
They sell good coffee, board games, used books, and little sandwiches and snacks and bananas. Their London Fogs are pretty stellar, too.
There's this little patio-style area next to it where they put out tables and chairs and fairy lights, and there's often live music there in the evenings, and sometimes inside, too.
Book clubs and student groups and writers circles meet here on a regular basis and it's about as perfect and quaint as one would hope a neighbourhood coffee shop to be.
And it's almost always packed, too.
Which makes me happy, because for a while it didn't look like the The Neighbourhood Bookstore and Cafe was going to stick around.
The city was trying to enforce a bylaw that requires restaurants to have grease traps installed, and since all they make here are sandwiches and deserts (not exactly "restaurant" food) the owner was fighting it in court on the basis that installing one was an unnecessary and unreasonable expense for his business.
I think they fought it a bunch of years, actually.
And shortly after I moved into Wolseley The Neighbourhood Bookstore and Cafe started having weird hours, and then closed for a period of several months.
It broke my damn heart because the reason I live in the part of town I do is because I love the small businesses and mixed-use space
(not to mention the big, old elm trees)
Small businesses are the heart of our economies and communities, and it always saddens me when I think we're going to be losing one - especially for such an unnecessary reason.
But then earlier this year it reopened! The news reported that then owner had come to some sort of deal with the city that allowed him to reopen.
The old, familiar whiteboard started popping up on the side of the building, saying:
"We are unequivocally, unabashedly, open!"
And though I try not to blow all my money on fancy coffees, London Fogs, and nice snacks
sometimes it's nice to come back here and listen to the chatter of a bunch of people having a good time,
listening to The Tragically Hip, writing this.
- by Alyson Shane
I went with Carlene and Katrina yesterday and bought too many things including honey, art, and a large air plant.
Mostly art though, and most of it is 204-related.
Which was an accident, I swear, but served as a really strong reminder of how into my city I've become over the last few years. I'm proud of it, in a weird way. When I go to events like Third + Bird and see all these local vendors selling items made with love and effort and the outpouring of support from the community it really just fills up my old grinch heart.
Later in the evening we went out with one of John's friends to Ye's Buffet and I inhaled way too many chicken balls with plum sauce, and gave myself a stomach ache from the too-big bowl of vanilla ice cream with chocolate and caramel syrup.
I can't be a trendy hipster all the time, y'know?
- by Alyson Shane
I have a confession: I'm a little obsessed with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and its polygamous culture. Weird, I know, but bear with me.
I grew up in a largely unreligious household; I somewhat recall my mom mentioning Sunday School to me when I was a kid, but her big selling point was hot dog days and camping trips, not a deep, personal connection with some higher power. In fact, the closest I remember getting to any sort of organized religion growing up was seeing The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) commercials on the American cable networks.
Partially as a result, I now identify as an Atheist, but that hasn't stopped me from developing a weird obsession with religion, especially the more "fringe" versions of beliefs like Christianity like the Mormon LDS faith. It started with Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican Presidential nominee who apparently wore magic underwear, and became exacerbated when I started watching the HBO show Big Love, a fictional narrative about an LDS polygamist and his three wives.
I'm fascinated by sub-cultures, so it probably comes as no surprise that I was thrilled to discover that Gracie, the first play in the Prairie Theatre Exchange's new season, is all about Mormons and polygamous relationships.
At it's core, 'Gracie' is a play about self-discovery, rejection, and acceptance. Written by playwright Joan MacLeod, it follows a young girl from the LDS church as her family moves from America to Canada to live on a polygamous compound in British Columbia.
When we first meet Gracie (played by the incredible Samantha Hill) she's eight years old, sitting in a van with her mother and siblings on her way to their new life in Canada. Her mother is getting married, and when they arrive in their new community they're greeted by a group of individuals: boys on bikes, teenage girls carrying their babies, and her mother's new husband, to whom she will be the 18th wife.
(Please excuse me while I shudder for a moment)
During this introduction Gracie meets a young girl named Allie, and they become fast friends, and throughout the course of the play Gracie grows up right before our eyes. By the second act, which takes place four years later, Gracie and Allie are practicing for the exaltation. At school, Gracie bemoans the fact that she has to learn arithmetic in addition to other subjects like English, "science" and "social studies" where half the class studies Jesus Christ and the other studies Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon faith.
During this time Gracie's brother gets a job, and her sisters are both married off and begin having children with their assigned husbands. At this point, during the final segment of the play, Gracie is about to turn 16 - marrying age in her community.
During this time Gracie struggles with her changing feelings about her beliefs, culture, and circumstances, and this one-woman play quickly transforms from charming-yet-unnerving overview of a religious subculture to a moving and powerful story about the complex private lives of LDS women which we rarely see beyond TV shows or court testimonials.
One of the things that struck me about 'Gracie' was how MacLeod used to play to explore uncomfortable subjects like polygamy, religion, and alternative lifestyles and beliefs in a way which felt nonjudgemental; in fact, the play often felt more like a serving of reality than a heavily-researched theatre production.
As a non-religious person I find it's often all-too-easy to dismiss the complex, three-dimensional experiences of women raised in the LDS church. It's easy to say: if it's so bad, why not leave? but plays like Gracie do a tremendous job of reminding us that everyone is an individual with complex, nuanced views and experiences.
One moment which struck me was when Gracie refers to the 'grannies', groups of older women who protest outside the LDS compound with picket signs, outraged at what they perceive to the atrocities being committed within the community:
"They don't like the way we live even though they know nothing about us," Gracie says.
As a non-religious person, I often struggle to understand the appeal and value of religious beliefs, and I appreciated watching a performance which didn't pander to my preconceived notions about the LDS church and polygamy in general.
In fact, the play was so well-written that Gracie's experiences, interpretations, and reactions to the events happening to her family and within her community felt more like reading a young girl's diary than a fictional exploration of an unusual religious subculture.
Though I often felt gut-based reactions to certain experiences (such as her mother being someone's 18th wife, and all of the ways it aggravates and upsets my 3rd wave feminist views of the world), MacLeod does a tremendously good job of exploring Gracie's world in ways which feel authentic and realistic, without the bombast which often accompanies literary works which explore religious subcultures.
If anything Gracie acts as a terrific opportunity to explore a secretive, unusual religious subculture without feeling like a voyeur. While the play presents a myriad of uncomfortable and unusual situations that the modern girl (religious or not) doesn't experience, it does so without judgment; it really does feel like a honest, authentic exploration of one girl's perspective on a community which initially makes sense, but which ultimately she (and we) fail to understand and accept.
Gracie runs at the Prairie Theatre Exchange until October 29th, and I highly recommend catching it before it's gone. Not only is it a tremendously good play, but it's a fascinating and highly entertaining exploration of a lesser-known religious subculture.