Monday, December 14, 2009

Wasabi-Lemon Spinach and Room for Growth

The need for vegetables and a late snack tonight led to yet another strange creation of mine via the sauteepan, but one that I think is worth writing and repeating and—yes—even sharing.

It may seem a little crazy, but trust me on this.

Baby Spinach
Green Pears
Yellow Onion
Yellow Squash
Pesto Seasoning (or equivalent, something like oregano or thyme)
Wasabi sauce (this is the trick—I found a pure wasabi sauce you can squirt out of a bottle like ketchup. Good luck finding the equivalent, but if you can find this or something that will give the same effect, it's awesome).

Dice onions and pears. Put a 1/3 of the yellow squash in the pan in thin slices. Put onions and pears into sautee pan with olive oil and with a good helping of spinach. Sautee it all until the spinach cooks where it's got that sautee-d spinach feel. Take 1/4 of a lemon and squeeze it into the pan in the last minute or two, with one slice (or two, depending on the serving size, mine was pretty small, snackish size) in the pan itself. Finally, squirt a good stream of the wasabi sauce over it all, depending on taste, and mix it in. Normal wasabi would probably work fine too.

If all goes well, the pears should have begun to caramelize a little, the onions and squash should be lightly cooked, and the wasabi is all mixed in. The taste is fruity, yet also spicy with a wasabi kick. I added some black pepper at the last minute.

Recommended drink: I had a Guinness with this, and it was great. It almost brings out a fruity side to the Guinness—who knew there was one—and the deep taste of the stout contrasts well.

The great thing about this recipe is that it can be expanded. For a full meal, get either brown or Jasmine rice (I use brown for the health reasons, but Jasmine would be excellent for taste), maybe add some garlic, and it's still vegetarian. For meat, I think a light fish would be good. Chicken is a little too hearty and it starts to loose that wasabi-and-pear-dancing-on-your-face feeling.

So yeah. Try it out and mix it up. You might be surprised what comes out.

Nudging Space and Soleri's China Exhibit

Arcosanti's Today@Arcosanti Blog is really work checking out this month of December. They've just uploaded a whole bunch of fresh renderings of Paolo Soleri's Nudging Space arcology. Here are some re-posted.

Nudging Space was always one of my favorite arcologies that Soleri designed. More than the Hyper Building, which is too familiar as a skyscraper—Nudging Space has that more classic apse feeling. I always thought the design was especially dynamic. Yet it was never transferred into anything but a paper model that lay in Arcosanti's cafe—which I would nonetheless stare at and try to imagine at 5000x the scale. Obviously Young-Soo Kim (whom I used to work next to in the office) has been hard at work—and it shows! He does an amazing job of transferring Paolo's designs into virtual models that reflect the scale of the actual theoretical complexes.

These renderings were for an important exhibition in China that happened on December 4th. The slew of blog posts on the Arcosanti site for that week are worth looking at. I had heard rumblings of this exhibition when I was working there, and if I was still there now, I probably would have been helping out on it. While Fate had other things planned for me, it's great to see that the exhibition appears to have been a success.

Now I only hope that they can upload some higher-res renderings of this model, as they deserve much more glory than 400x200 pixels.

Congrats on the show, Maestro Soleri and fellow Arconauts! Hopefully the Chinese people will take notice, and we may see Lean Linear City and Nudging Space as yet more than just 3D models.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

First Performances

Yesterday was kind of a whirlwind, and unexpected, but awesome nonetheless. Two of my first performances (not officially in a Flam Chen faculty, they're more like "appearances") in a row, first on silks, then on stilts at the Ensphere warehouse show.

And there's a video to prove it!

The silks bit was for the Rhythm Industry performance review—a sort of open house when all the cooperative groups and artists of the Rhythm Industry center show the latest that they've been working on. Because Flam Chen was at Angel Ball doing their showtime thing, only some of the beginner/intermediate students were available to show the latest. Kelsey and I volunteered to do a silks piece as representing Flam Chen.

It's a work in progress, and it's obvious that I've got a lot to work on (point your toes, keep your legs straight, etc.). I'd like to video myself now on silks to actually see where the strengths and weaknesses are. It'd be great for training. But I'd like to think that this, for all its imperfections, is not too bad for two or so months of training.

Video of me and Kelsey, thanks much to Clencovision, who was kind enough to put it on Youtube so quickly:

Kelsey did really great.

Forgive the cheesy swinging of the silk on my part. When properly executed, that will send the flyer into a tight spin while in the hipkey. It seemed to be an easy thing to do while I was hanging there, and kind of came out lackluster. Oh well—another thing to work on.

The other appearance on stilts was late last night (or really early this morning) at the Ensphere warehouse show. My first time being a shadow walker—I didn't have the arm stilts to go with it (you can only tie so much aluminum to your backpack while biking through town), so more like a psuedo-shadowwalker. But the effect wasn't lost on people. It was interesting seeing people's reactions—from shock, to flirtatious (no comment there, aside that the costume is skin-tight, white, and more or less androgynous), to fear. I actually chased one girl around a car while she tried to take a picture of me. Of course I hugged her and told her my name later on.

The costume is half the battle, but the other half is being the shadow walker. The costumes are really powerful, even though they're simple in their construction (it's like walking around with an elastic bedsheet on you), but actually performing as an otherworldly creature is actually what makes it all happen. People's reactions suddenly go to this pure, more neutral area where typical human body language identity is lost and anything can happen. Some find it elating and amazing, some find it ominous or frightening, and yet others don't know how to interpret it, and just get angry, as if this walking bedsheet is some sort of social threat.

I'll be scanning the intarwebs for picture-proof of this. There were multiple times I posed for cameras. They have to show up on Facebook sometime.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

What it takes to join the circus

What does it take to join the circus?

A couple of things.

1. Dedication.

2. An insane amount of patience.

3. A disappearing ego (it appears onstage, then disappears offstage).

4. The belief that living in a warehouse or industrial sector and making your way completely with whatever amenities you are given or can provide yourself with is romantic.

5. Know-how of what it takes to make money, but a belief that money is only a means to an end.

6. Almost infinite love of art and love of craft.

7. Determination in the face of extreme adversity—even the kind that cannot be bought out, named, or convinced over coffee.

8. A willingness to, occasionally, starve for your passion.

9. Realizing that the romance is an illusion.

10. Believing that, no matter how hard it is, what you are doing now is always worth it because it is always true, and that you really quite wouldn't be as happy doing anything else.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Life of a month-old circus performer

It's been a month exactly since I moved to Tucson to join the pyrotechnic theatre troupe Flam Chen.

Since this blog is going to be repurposed from cataloguing my experiences at Arcosanti to cataloguing my experience as a legitimate "circus performer", it's fair to answer the question most people who know me personally lately.

So, what exactly are you doing in Flam Chen?

Not coming from a strong background in the performing arts specifically, most of my time with them is spent just training. The first thing you notice about yourself as you start to practice something like silk aerial, or even stilts, is that there is a distinct muscle buildup. Especially with aerial, there is nothing you can do if you can't hold yourself on the silks for more than ten seconds, and in any number if different positions. For me, while I am overall a healthy person, but not particularly athletic or strong, this gradual changing of the body has been noticeable—and exciting—for me.

My old training in Aikido kicked in, and in many ways that's what allows me to do any of this at all. The language of the body—understanding what it takes to move a certain way, with a certain amount of force or flexibility, is what one person needs most when approaching something like aerial—though it can be incredibly helpful even in the day-to-day activities of sitting and walking. It's been a long time since I studied Aikido, and I think it shows in how well I speak the language of the body, but aerial training is reminding me of its importance—and now, how it can tie into raw strength, which is a dimension that I've not experienced before. I've probably gained a little weight around the shoulders and in the arms since I got here, even in that short of a time. Probably only noticeable to me right now—but I hope that it becomes noticeable to others who knew me before I moved here. I became a lot healthier at Arcosanti. That trend is continuing here.

Being aware of this physical transition, I've made a point of it to eat well. Aside from my one daily vice, which is coffee, I eat fresh fruits and vegetables, usually sauteed or stir-fried (yes, I cook with fruits—it makes things more interesting), with a variety of different meats and carbs, but usually pastas or rice noodles. Lunches are usually a bagel sandwich with some fruit or yogurt, and because I'm not interested in spending the extra money on soda, I am drinking multiple cups of tea almost every day.

My weak points are my flexibility—I need to be more serious about yoga, and as soon as I'm sure I have the funds to support it, I'll continue my long-paused Aikido training.

I tend to work in cafés. Being a freelancer gives me a lot of flexibility, as long as I can make the ends meet. While I do plan to get my cappuccino machine shipped from the east coast to help save on the cost of coffee, which adds up real fast (I'm not the kind of person that feels justified in walking into a cafe without buying something), I tend to hang out outside the house I rent out of whenever I can. If just for the change of pace and scenery—I've found it difficult to work at home on most days. Sometimes the extra concentration is worth the extra dollars in beverage.

But the life of a month-old circus performer also carries with it the gradual initiations. I think I'm a special case, in a special situation. Flam Chen doesn't really have an audition process, nor much of a tiered structure of who is a performer and who is not. They instead have a pool of people that, from whatever walk of life or for whatever reason, got "sucked in" to the group and their activities. For most of the core members that make up the troupe, the rest is history beyond that. For me, the pattern seems to be similar, but with the fact that I somewhat already had my foot in the door. Being from Arcosanti was the crack, and then talking with the different members and sharing my skillset with them opened that crack further. After I realized that there was an opportunity in this picture, and after realizing it was the one chance in my life to do anything like it, I decided to see if I could pry the door open enough so that I could walk through. Indeed, it opened.

I think the fact that I moved myself from the East Coast to Tucson, from an outsider's perspective seemingly on a whim, may have had something to do with it. For me, it was just the practical reality of the situation—where else could I practice silks or firespinning? But again, from an outsider's perspective, it can be a powerful signal. Is it odd that someone would just decide to move because they were so excited about the group, with no promise of pay nor any real written agreement about what would happen? Is it a sign that others may do the same in the future, if the company has a way to ingest them and find a way to plug them into a potential hierarchy?

These are unanswerable questions. But for me, the steady training and gradual involvement in shows, usually as a stagehand or safety, are the small steps into a future I honestly cannot predict. I know that I am steadily approaching a cliffside—a point where I will have to make choice, so to speak, where I will have to open these wings and see where the wide horizon takes me. All the different elements that make up my life right now—Proteus Creative, Flam Chen, Tucson and its surprisingly broad networking scope, and even other elements that are gradually emerging—all of these are like puzzle pieces, and there is a number of different ways to arrange them. None of the pictures will be wrong—but only one, I think, will be best, and I can only put them together one way, once.

For the first time in my life I feel like I have so many options that there is no clear direction. I know that this is actually just an illusion. That the pieces of this life are gradually getting sewn together by an unseen power or by strange twists of fate that even I could not have guessed, even in my remotest dreams—if anything, the direction may be clearer than ever. It's just in a color I've never recognized before.

There is so much to be done, and a lot that needs to be learned. Somehow I feel like it's just the beginning.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

LED Tattoos. What would you use them for?

Another post courtesy of Wired. This one was just too good to pass up.

How LED Tattoos could make your skin a screen.

To quote:

New LED tattoos from the University of Pennsylvania could make the Illustrated Man real (minus the creepy stories, of course). Researchers there are developing silicon-and-silk implantable devices which sit under the skin like a tattoo. Already implanted into mice, these tattoos could carry LEDs, turning your skin into a screen.

The silk substrate onto which the chips are mounted eventually dissolves away inside the body, leaving just the electronics behind. The silicon chips are around the length of a small grain of rice — about 1 millimeter, and just 250 nanometers thick. The sheet of silk will keep them in place, molding to the shape of the skin when saline solution is added.

Check out the Wired article for a creepy yet awesome video from Philips that decided to make some future-casting as to what this would possibly look like—in this particular video, they explore the more… sensual side of the concept. I've re-posted it here:

Creepy? Maybe. But in my opinion, very cool. Aside from the cheesy and overcommercialized applications, such as turning one of your cheeks into an LED screen you can sell online as mini-billboard advertising. I really wouldn't be surprised if that happened. But of course, if it did happen, I would hope at least that more identity-related applications could be explored. Having images that shift and change according to an implanted device that can sense the chemical compositions in your bloodstream (a.k.a. your emotions) seems to me to just be novel. Human body language is complex and subtle as it is, but some part of the artist in me, which finds its home and lifeblood in self-expression, just thinks this is a great idea, actually. It adds a whole new dimension to physical and personal expression, which is one of many ways to express meaning and memory. Maybe that is actually why, if this existed, it is a tattoo I would actually seriously consider getting.

Of course, it's a can of worms too. I find it funny—things like this are just going to push certain aspects of our society until what we really value becomes more and more oblique. I've been considering lately how innately consumeristic American society is. Obvious? Yes—but down to its very core, I really think that the buck stops at profits. Beyond religion, beyond liberty—I think we really are the self-serving slaves of our own pursuit of wealth. If an answer to a question or a solution to a problem presents capital gain, it usually makes sense above most others. Why is that?

The ancient Maori were the ones who started tattooing, and that was back when tattoos were sacred and had meaning. They related to ancestry, personal milestones, challenges, and triumphs. For the American, would he or she actually find a celebratory, identity-related use for something like this, or would it just be another tool in the "pursuit of happiness?" Or a false display of meaning, like tattoos of the name of an ex boy or girlfriend?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

All Souls 2009

Even though it's been a good week since the Procession, Flam Chen is pretty much looking ahead. Someone described it to me as Flam Chen's New Year—after the Procession, everything starts over, and is fresh again.

But the Procession itself went great. Not without its own hitches and problems. But that's the insider's perspective—for the outsider, who it's really about, it was pretty amazing.

Most of the photos I took are really not that great. So instead I'm just going to post a video that pretty much summarizes the whole event. Enjoy.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Dr. Megavolt - Or, when can FC do that?

Found this video on Wired. Man in steel mesh suit and birdcage hat, next to Tesla coil, in front of audience, shows how not to get electrocuted. And much fun was had by all!

My only question is—when do we get to do that? I can just see it now… electrified poi spinners.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Bike Woes, Glamorous Week

This week has been a troublesome week, but with today, the Saturday before the All Souls Procession, everything should be back in full swing for me. During the early week I got sick. Determined to overcome it quickly my first full week in Tucson, I laid low and pumped myself full of garlic, echinacea, orange juice, green tea, and chicken noodle soup. By Wednesday I was back on my feet, though not fully healed. I had spent some good money on a new bike, my main mode of transportation, just the week before. Finally ready to get out of the house, I woke up in the morning, showered, and was ready to go.

Flat tire.

Apparently Tucson wreaks havoc on bike tires. It is the desert, after all. Burs, needles, all those sorts of things will make short work of any normal bike tire. After getting a ride to the bike shop and fixing the punctured front tire, I ride home and check the tires again that evening, only to discover that the back tire now has a bur of its own.

Patching the tire proves useless. Frustrated, still a little sick, and still looking for work, I decide to lay low again.

Finally, the cold is almost entirely gone, and I've learned a lot about bike tire protection. It took a good $140 of my bank account, but today I should be all set. A set of new tires, both back and front, that have a layer of kevlar and/or nylon on the inside. Then, an inner tube protector layer, and finally, a slime layer inside the tube that will fill in any hole that makes it past the first two layers. It was a little bit of money blown, but in my mind it's worth it. In these situations, you usually get what you pay for—and even though I may still be in a scary transition phase, investing in solid transportation is, in my mind, totally worth the investment. I need to be able to get around for networking, work, and personal sanity. I've found that I'm usually much more productive when working in a cafe or lounge, rather than at home. It forces me to focus.

So, finally settling in a little bit and having scoped out some more places around town (I'm posting this from Epic Cafe), and starting to get some web design work trickling in, I'm starting to feel a bit more confident. I realize though that I really am making my own way here. Of course, I knew that initially from the start. But the practical, tangible reality of that is much rougher, much more cut, than I've known so far.

But everything is working. There is very little I can complain about—in fact, I have a lot to be thankful for. And tomorrow will be a day of days.

Don't worry—I'll post pictures of the Procession. Even though I've been pretty much out of the Flam Chen loop this week, they've all been working non-stop. And with even seeing a few fruits of their labors now, I'll get to see the whole tree, in all its flaming glory, tomorrow evening.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Transmitting from Tucson

Legitimate sighting of Blonde, abstract artist/graphic designer and wannabe circus freak in central Tucson, E. University Blvd., at obviously one of the best coffee shops in town (thanks Google Earth!).


Please inform the institutional authorities so this creative force can be contained, managed, and given a bank account with a few extra digits.

In all seriousness though—flew into the city yesterday, everything went smoothly (as smooth as air travel can, really). Already settled in, saw the Flam Chenistas. It's the last 400 yards of the All Souls Procession prep, so I've been making myself available to help randomly wherever random help is needed. Though I've been warned not to say this too often—there's lots to do.

Also, finally got the full version of Proteus Creative launched, with all its navigation and sub-pages. Full portfolio is now online. It also went through a hasty compatibility/testing period, so it should work with flying colors (well… maybe missing one or two) in Internet Explorer and the windows browser of choice, Firefox (sorry IE 8—you got the CSS right, but now your kind isn't obeying JavaScript correctly).

So this whole transition time, getting settled down here, carving out a business, and managing personal finances (awesome online app for this I found:—if you have money issues and are an internet-savvy person, this might be a godsend for you like it is me), will take some time, and a lot of work. But it's that sort of thing where keep your head down and just keep driving forward.

Let me know if any readers out there want web design work! ;)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Mad Trampoline Skills

Happened to find this video on College Humor. Take a look. The guy has some awesome trampoline skills.

I am convinced that he works for Cirque Du Soleil. Not just because of his obvious talent—but because I actually recognize that set piece from the DRALION show. Kind of freaky to see it in broad fluorescent light like that.

I guess this is what the Cirque guys do for fun! Hmm… now I suddenly want a gym with lots of padding and an industrial strength trampoline. It just looks like too much fun to not try.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Krisja Hendricks and Health Insurance in the United States

With the fact that I'm no longer in college (not technically, but reality-speaking) and moving out of my parents' house, the health insurace/personal finances complex has started to come front and center to my attention. It's a scary complex. Which is why this email caught my eye today. Krisja Hendricks:

"Last week, I stood in front of 12 television cameras and dozens of reporters in the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C. Standing with me was the Speaker of the House of Representatives, other members of Congress, and over 100 young people from across the country. I was there to tell my story and to help announce that health care legislation making its way through Congress will include a provision allowing young adults to stay on our parents' insurance through the age of 26. "

Read the rest here: Rock the Vote Blog.

This is one of those stories that makes an example of why government should be in control of certain public-oriented services and fields, and not private corporations. Money is a great judger and balancer of energies. But it is not always the correct one, given the context. It's situations like this makes me wonder why people think corporate entities, large or small regardless, are the universal solvent. It hinges on the fact that competition will be numerous enough to keep each entity beyond a certain growing height. I think this is not the case with American capitalism—I think our flavor of capitalism actually encourages monopolies. Five or six big health insurance agencies is not competition.

The fact of it is that, even though there may be "competition", most of the corporate entities that give things like health insurance do not have a soul, nor a face, nor a mind with which to consider the situation. I'd be fine if there was a corporate entity, privately run and small enough to still have a soul, dealing with people face-to-face, to be taking care of people's health. My health. But that is not the current scenario in this country.

This is the simple fact: if you do not understand the reality of sickness and death, you do not understand the value of life. If you do not understand the value of life, you should not be taking care of people's health. Money is a means to an end in this context. If corporate entities can't turn this leaf, they should not be in control.

Get this through the thick, national head of the American people, who are so scared of the "possibility of government-run" stuff. Like it's 1984. Please, soon.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Transition Week

I've fallen into a rhythm this week—anything that could be a rhythm. It's a transitional rhythm.

I've been back home at Maryland ("home") for about a week now. The familiarity of it all was palpable. I had grown up in these rooms. Many memories were tangible—old, leatherskinned journals containing secrets. IKEA lamplights that I had hung and left there for 5+ years. It's funny to think that orange tends to appear very often in my design-related projects. My entire room was painted like my designs—black, browns, oranges, and luminous, rice-paper lamp tans. All warm colors.

I've started reading The Poetics of Space by Gaston Bachelard. Appropriately, probably, since his intention is to form a phenomenology of the house. I'm keenly interested. I liked his quote that states that artists are phenomenologists by nature. It makes me want to read up on what phenomenology actually is. I know enough to have a feeling about it—I don't know enough to have a definition.

When I came back from Arcosanti I hit the ground running. This week was not a vacation, nor is the next coming week. Proteus Creative saw a partial launch right before I left (check out the site if you haven't,, just so something could be up there. I've been since working on the full version of the site, which is coming along nicely. The full version will probably be up by the end of this week. Of course I already want to redesign it. I'm frustrated by my lack of scripting skills—I don't want to be dependent on other people's plugins for jQuery anymore, which is why I will be learning Javascript and AJAX—so I can build my own intuitive web interfaces from the ground up.

But even with all that, I've learned that there is a rhythm to the day. Like music. There is the upswing in the morning. I look forward to the smell of coffee, the cool air, that top of the world feeling—the feeling where you're looking forward to everything that will happen in the day. Salvador Dali once said that he would wake up with a feeling of ecstasy in the mornings, jumping out of bed to see "what this amazing feat this character, Salvador Dali, will accomplish next!" I'm not quite that… egotistical? But I do see enjoying progress in my work. The fulfillment of art in its completion, is the completion of art itself.

But I need to work on the nights. Because I'm such a focused personality, I need time to relax. Usually this comes in the form of playing video games, which I've finally gotten sick of. Not because I don't like video games. But because they, really, don't relax me—they allow me to concentrate on something else. Something other than all the things I want to accomplish in a day, or a lifetime. But for the amount of relaxation they do give me is kind of a game of decreasing returns. I'll play for hours until I'm tired, then go to bed. Then wake up in the morning—but I won't feel refreshed.

So I've decided to take up reading. It's only been a few nights, but reading Gaston Bachelard has been a lot more fun—really—then playing games for even twice the amount of time. And I love philosophy. I always intend to read more of it, but never do. For me, philosophy really is the engine that drives art, science, culture, writing—everything. Philosophy is a powerhouse, if you understand it and can see how it can be applied in practical ways. I just lack the foundational knowledge, personally speaking, to fully grasp all of it in its full intent. So picking up the habit of reading (and doing so with intent!) is two goals at once. I want to make it my way of relaxing—the way I calm my brain, yet can still allow myself to remain focused on something that is not work.

Writing is similar. Journal writing, I mean. I'm starting to pick up that habit again, though it's stop and start. Same with yoga. Yoga in particular, and its offshoot field for me, Aikido, are both things I want to concentrate on more steadily once I get down to Tucson. They are more pieces in the puzzle I want to fit together in making the transition to Flam Chen.

I'm still very intent on it. This week has just been the thick of things. Realizing how much of a cliff I'm jumping off, yet considering the scenarios again and again, comparing my intentions, my expectations, the realities, the possibilities, what I can give, what I can get out of it—I always come back to the same conclusion. Which is why I haven't wavered.

Socrates said: "The mark of an educated man is the ability to entertain a possibility without accepting it."

I think education, if it were actually education, would account for a lot of the personal conflicts in the world. Misinterpretations and so forth—being willing to entertain possibilities without accepting them—realizing that you don't have to commit to them by entertaining them.

But that is part of the good, solid decision making process. And I've not done all this on a whim. I'm very sure of myself—yet completely open to what may come. I have goals, but not expectations. It's a fine balance, a delicate balance. But if you can achieve it, it is a wonderful feeling.

The night comes.

It's only Monday. I leave on the 26th.

I have reading to do.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Why Arcosanti Doesn't Work

(Written two days before the post date:)

It is my last night at Arcosanti before I leave it for the east coast, and to a new potential in the future.

I feel some responsibility to share my thoughts now—that's what blogging is, of course. I had originally started this blog as a cataloguing of my experiences at Arcosanti—the place that almost had a childhood memory quality about it. In a way, coming here was a way to reclaim my identity after a hiatus from school, during which I felt like I had lost personal direction.

But every step in the journey is just that—a step. To describe what each step is—where it comes from, and then where it leads, and why you have to move on—is important. The obvious question now would be: "you've been at Arcosanti for seven months. What do you think? Do you still like it there? What are your thoughts on it?"

The fact is that my answer would not be that politic.

Blogs are a strange medium, as a form of publication. They can be legitimately good material, or they can descend into punditry or, at worst, gossip. But the core of the blog is its personal perspective—to write a good blog is to give a good, just, and honest opinion through one's own eyes. I've always tried to be careful with the way I blog—I don't mention people, or rarely do, and if I do it's in passing. I blog about subjects and events, thoughts and ideas that I personally have. Not the actions of others.

The odd thing is that Arcosanti is determined, and made, by the actions of others. To comment on its future and "what I think of it" is almost to comment on the people that live there. Especially in the context of my answer to the question.

Yet as a blogger—and hopefully a good one—and as a good person, and as a person who does, in fact, care about the future of this project and feels (and is) deeply indebted to Paolo Soleri, I have to answer, and answer honestly. I will try to do this, while only commenting on the general direction of the Arcosanti Project as it is today, made as a summation of the people that make it work from the inside. It is not a comment on any single one person. It is a comment on the summation of all of it put together—“Arcosanti” as a project, as a work-in-progress, faceless and total. Thus any acclaim can be shared with the blame.

Arcosanti has one single flaw, in my opinion, that makes it the emaciated the project that it is. It is complacency.

The difference between the Master Plan for Arcosanti and its reality is apparent to any tourist or visitor. Its concrete presence is dwarfed a hundred times by the vision that created it and should, literally, overshadow it. The common complaints are a lack of funding, a lack of human resources and power. And these are true obstacles that keep Arcosanti from fulfilling the larger vision of the grand "Laboratory" that Paolo envisioned.

The irony though is that the place sprung up despite a lack of funding. Despite a lack of human resources. Paolo was keen enough to know and believe that if he "built it, they would come." And they did. Workshoppers came to Arcosanti by the hundred in the seventies. People believed they were part of something unique and cutting edge—and they were. Arcosanti was the “most important project in urban architecture in our lifetime,” or something to that extent—that was what Newsweek said of it when it had first started to draw attention.

Now however, Arcosanti wows tourists, visitors, and architects (and them only for a short while) not because it is cutting edge. Not any more. It is the sheer fact that it is different—different from the normal day-to-day in Phoenix or Washington DC, that makes it worth the drive. This is neither good or bad. It's a lukewarm "different" that is not indicative of an alternative that should be embraced—it is simply… different. Different in the way that you would treat an estranged trinket—an heirloom from a distant country. It is novel, yet irrelevant. It is certainly not innovative, not in its contemporary intention. Paolo Soleri is innovative by immeasurable stretches, even into his 90’s. His project, which is the property of the Cosanti Foundation, is not. And there is a reason why.

I came to Arcosanti with my eyes wide open. Wide, wide open. My experience in human communities based around a single vision (i.e. churches) prepared me for the myopia that often besieges those communities after their period of being revolutionary—after the vision has grown stale, and after the invigorating question of “What if” (Paolo Soleri’s question) is replaced by “This is”.

It's biggest flaw is complacency. Complacency with what it is—the built structures as they are. Arcosanti, as it is lived in and lived by the people inside, is a project that is simply not concerned with innovation—as ironic or wrong as that may seem. It falls back on the original vision that Paolo created for it, and this vision is maintained by the Foundation—but in the way that a museum keeper dusts and mops around an unchanging sculpture. Paolo's vision kept changing—from space arcologies to lean linear cities. He’s at 90, and is ready to publish a new book. Most people don’t live to that age, much less write a book then. There was no way for Arcosanti to keep up with him from the start. But the great sin of it, in my opinion, and the reason why it exudes the air of a tangential, emaciated project in the desert, is because it does not want to keep up with him, nor does it try to.

Complacency. It is the the caked layer of memory—that something was tried in '81 didn’t work, and thus we shouldn't do it again. Complacency with the way things function (or don't), because they've been that way for so long. It's not that new ideas aren't accepted. It's that they never stick when they are accepted. Businesses can set up shop. I could move in as an artist, say, or start a telecommunications business if I finagled enough and put up with the politics for long enough. But as a person who has worked and lived here for an extended period of time (relatively speaking), participated in a good number of the social and pseudo-political functions and bodies that make up the place, I never truly felt that my presence, as an innovative, young mind, was ever welcomed. It was, definitely, by Paolo Soleri—even in his old age, he beckoned me to sit closer to him at School of Thought sessions, and smiled when I asked what his definition of sacred space was. But Arcosanti, as a place, as an institution, as a project, does not know what to do with my presence as a young, innovative mind—and even if it did, it would not have the staying power or resources to utilize it. What more, it is not concerned with older, wiser minds that could bring a true academic, institutional presence to Arcosanti and the Foundation. Academies and institutions are the tools and playthings of innovators and visionaries, but for the contrarian generation of the 60’s and 70’s, they’re the enemies of the environment and all that is good. They are the establishment—the thing to fight against. These very minds have been either ignored or, when they’ve gotten too close, outright shunned. These are the kinds of personalities and minds that make green energy conferences—the kinds that are on the forefront of architecture and design—the kinds that have the funding and backing to actually create a megastructure in the desert.

The reason why they are shunned, and why twenty-somethings like me are half-heartedly embraced, is because innovation requires sacrifice. It requires continually calling into question the normal modes and methods by which you operate. It is not simply thinking outside the concrete box. It is not simply willing to "try anything" to get the funding you need. It requires actually putting Arcosanti as it is, as it was, and as it should be, on the table as something to be questioned and prodded into new life. (Note: in Paolo's philosophy the future doesn't exit, and as such "should" really doesn't make any sense, as an imperative order for a nonexistent context. Paolo’s vision is not a mandate, a “should” for Arcosanti—not anymore.) Arcosanti can not, and will not ever be anything but Paolo Soleri's odd experiment in the desert north of Phoenix, and it will not be anything else because it was unable—and now, is simply unwilling—to imagine itself as anything else. The caked layers of memory weighs too heavy for it to reinvent itself from the inside out.

But what's responsible for this milieu? I've often cited in conversations the transient nature of the community—a first, deep-set layer of veterans who have been here for three years to fifteen years, or more. Then a second ever-changing layer of workshoppers, young professionals, and volunteers, like myself, that don't last more than a year. I used to fault this teflon-like quality to an insufficient gravity of the community—it wasn't enough of a city or town to retain its incoming population. Then I began to think that it wasn't due to that, because people do sometimes stay—it was instead due to a kind of constipation of the mind. The vision of Paolo Soleri was so huge, so specific, and so brilliant, I thought, that Arcosanti was too enthralled with it to pursue any other alternate Arcosant. A potential artist complex Arcosanti. An organic farming operation Arcosanti. A performing artist studio space Arcosanti. A brewery and bakery Arcosanti. All of these were great ideas, some of which had been tried with varying success. My theory was that the cold shoulder I received—a very subtle mood, over the course of many months, and only in certain situations specific, profound, and sharp—was due to a xenophobia of anything not-Paolo. It is controlled so specifically, my theory went, that it wouldn't accept any new or outside ideas unless it came from an alum.

My theory now is that the Foundation is tired. It's tried for so long, and nothing seems to have worked to make the project something more. It still cares—but not in the fiery way the young architects from Italy do when they come here. It is a passive caring—the way one cares for their favorite couch and would rather not see anything spilled on it by a new guest, as friendly and enthusiastic as they are. The Foundation is not some outside organism that watches Arcosanti progress beneath its feet—the Foundation is Arcosanti. It's the people who manage and run the place. And they've been here for so long, having seen so many twenty-somethings go by, that they've become introverted. They are not an intellectual centerpiece. They don’t have the faculty (personnel or or skillwise), nor the will for it—they certainly have the connections for it, but they don’t utilize those connections. When outside academics get too close, then they are turned away. Arcosanti would rather not see this kind of involvement, because it means changing the living and working situation of the inhabitants. This is why the Foundation is not able to consult with cities on future urban planning, even if they were asked. It is not a research institution—it is a caretaking and maintenance institution. They have nothing to say at a conference on green energy. Not anything more than "the car is bad, and so is air conditioning—use passive solar architecture instead.” Even when Drexel University came with a group of bright, forward-thinking grad students who had renovated sections of Philadelphia with green roofs and sustainable water systems—when they came to Arcosanti, they were so enthralled with the project that they wanted to outright give the Foundation a plan for a sustainable water system. When asked what Arcosanti would want for such a water system at the critical population of 500 people, the residents could only say “we don’t know.” And that’s as far as the conversation ever really got. Such conversations are an exercise in frustration rather than a dreaming session in the world of optimistic possibility and Paolo’s grand thesis, “What if?”.

The only word I can come up with for it is complacency. They don’t have the stomach, the will, or the mind for anything else. Companies like Apple, BMW, etc. are successful and are always at the forefront because they are never satisfied. They hunger for something more. Thus they innovate, and innovation becomes their defining feature. They reinvent themselves to survive and to be a model. This is why Paolo Soleri became famous in the first place—he rethought the incubator for civilization, the city, from the foundations up.

This is too risky a plan for Arcosanti. It retreats, instead, into an introverted world of "done it before, do it again." If the Foundation keeps it as its company town, which is what it actually is, then ten years from now, Arcosanti will not look any different. It will not have its master greenhouse, it will not have the West Crescent. And it’s because the people here wouldn't know what to do if a sushi restaurant wanted to set up shop in their new steel-and-glass apse, the West Crescent. They would get scared and vote them out at a leadership meeting, or prolong the conversation until the restaurant stopped caring. That is the social reality that stifles the project. It is something between longing to only put as much effort in as you had before, because you've already dedicated your life to the project (what more could you ask of someone?), and a sort of fear how it might change your home when it gets that new 5000 addition. They're already the guinea pigs in the laboratory, and they've already built the concrete ceilings. They've made their homes in the silt—but who knows if they'd actually like to live in one of Paolo Soleri's cities.

The fact is that it's not his project anymore. He is just the guiding sage, where a no actually means no (voting is not possible in such a situation—a rare occasion). It is the Foundation's project. But the Foundation is not an innovative organization—it is a group of people that built a place with their bare hands, and now want to live in it. That is as far as Arcosanti’s ambition goes. It is tired—known to the world, but lethargic.

I'm convinced now that this is why the place has not grown. It is not a political excuse such as funding, or lack of resources. These are actually symptoms of the problem—not the problem itself. It is actually because Arcosanti doesn't want a different kind of future than what is already built—the one particular to it. People love Arcosanti for what it is, not what it could be. The disfunction is unknown to the people who live here—it's simply a fact of life. And they’re so familiar with it, that they'd rather it not change.

Unfortunately, this leaves no space for people who are passionate about the "possibility" of the project. This word, in the ears of the Foundation, only cocks eyebrows. Possibility is a byway, not the forefront—it’s just another grad student with aspirations. They can start a greenhouse if they want to—as long as it doesn't interfere with the way things are done now.

Someone asked me yesterday what I won't miss about Arcosanti—contrary to the usual sentimental question of what I will miss. Complacency, in short order, was my answer—the fact that I have to try twice as hard to innovate here as I would anywhere else. To convince them that they actually need a certain thing, and that it will help them move forward—and then go ahead and do it. If Arcosanti is to be anything other than what it already is, it means that the Foundation will either have to whither away, likes its project gradually is, or the two will have to be outright divorced.

For now, that's not happening. And that's why Arcosanti is what it is—and nothing else.

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Weekend to End All Weekends

It's my last weekend at Arcosanti—or just "Arco", if you prefer. Some of the people have gone out to enjoy the Decompression party happening… somewhere out in the desert, as you'd expect.

I've not been thinking much about the fact that I'm leaving Arcosanti, after having been here for about half a year. I did that for about an hour yesterday. Everything has been much more practical. With the upcoming move to Tucson in late October, no more than two weeks after I get back to the chilly east coast, I've been in overdrive—fixing up the Proteus site, figuring out living situations, scrounging up as much money as possible, and in general trying to batten down the hatches before I jump off the cliff. In all reality, this whole move to Tucson and joining Flam Chen is a cliffjumping exercise. I've never moved before, much less had my own car or had my own apartment (I sort of have at Arco, but Arco isn't reality). I won't be having my own car, which makes things interesting. Thankfully, I'm staying with one of the Flam Chen members who has a spare room he needs to rent out. From there, I'll set up my business and settle in. Everything is pretty much bikable. I've already scoped out the neighborhood from the air of Google Earth—marked the best coffee shops, lounges, routes to and from the Flam Chen studio, and the organic grocery stores.

Speaking of biking, anyone have one they want to donate? ;)

The money situation is tight. I'm not interested in living paycheck to paycheck, though I will probably have to do that the next two months. It depends on how freelance takes off and if I can get serious clients. It's not so difficult to be impossible—it's just difficult to be just that, difficult. It's certainly workable—at least, I believe it to be.

Even if it doesn't work out, this is the one chance I have to play the wildcard. There's nothing lost to strive for the most potential, the most unique, and fall back to the original plan—go back to the east and make money, go to school there.

That's the justification at least. So this weekend is the transition from Arco to the east, and the preliminary transition from the east to back out west. And I should be in the town only a week or two before All Souls happens—one of Flam Chen's biggest events throughout the year.

Watch carefully. The blog posts over the course of the next three weeks should get very, very interesting.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Proteus Creative - Carbon Preview

I've been hard at work this weekend on the new Proteus site (finally). I haven't broken into code yet—I'm still perfecting the layout and the various pages in Photoshop. But so far, I think it's shaping up nicely. Here's a very small sneak peak of what's to come:


One of my big inspirations for Proteus's design intentions have been the web design techniques of Dragon Interactive and the sheer awesome quality of 2advanced Studios. If you're a javascript and jQuery freak, check out Dragon Interactive. If flash is more your style, you definitely need to get familiar with 2advanced.

2advanced in particular does periodical redesigns of the site—like most design studios, but theirs are typically exploration of some new theme or (daresay) "style". I've always done this for myself in smaller ways—technically, is in version 11.0. But I'll keeping this trend with Proteus, as there are lots of potential designs and methods I want to explore. I'll save them for annual redesigns like what 2a does.

But for this one, of course, is Proteus v.1. I considered a couple of different names, all blackish minerals: Graphite, Onyx, Obsidian. I would do Onyx, besides sounding cool, but the gradients aren't shiny enough for that (maybe next time). For now though, due to the anodized or ashy quality of everything, I'll probably settle on Carbon.

Another site that influenced me: Xanthic Eye. I've known about this guy for a long time, and his designs, even though they are best suited for vanity sites, are definitely killer. I may try to make a pseudo-futuristic Proteus antimatter reactor for the next version.

But for now, I'll just stick with the basic elemental building blocks of the universe. Antimatter reactors can come later.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Autumn welcomes wish lists

It's been a relaxing day. The feeling of autumn is here. The elevation of Arcosanti gives a seasonal difference—and nights can get quite cold. But this morning had that quiet, introverted, chilly mood about it. The temperature change seemed to change the architecture almost. What is usually oppressing concrete interiors seemed to reflect the cold starkness of the air. In that sense, they seemed welcoming—they held in the heat of the sun. In some ways I think the architecture of Arcosanti is more winter desert architecture than summer desert architecture.

The cool air reminded me of Baltimore, which was a welcome sensation. Suddenly I felt like I was back among brownstones, with that cool, soft, Atlantic air coming in from the eastern bays, mixed with just a little bit of exhaust, bakery smell, and cigarette smoke. The smell of a city in the morning. A real city—not what Arcosanti is, or rather tries to be. Here the air is crystal clean, but hard—rich in calcium and basalt dust, if there is such a thing. It's as hard as the water. Like breathing in minerals.

But some soothing beats took care of things and I got to work. I've still been recovering from Earthdance. The past two days I'd broken out in hives. I've never had them before—might have been an allergic reaction, but at least part of it was the stress, I think. I wanted to hit the ground running on the new Arcosanti site template, and I did—but people commented on how I looked. Less energetic than usual, etc. I felt fine—but apparently it showed more on my face than even I myself knew or felt.

Personal projects have been suffering. I've not been painting. I've been journaling more though, which has been very good, very necessary. Handwriting has always been a pinnacle language for me, ever since I started it about five years ago. Through the written word, it is as if I can understand everything. I do not need logic, as much as I am intellectual. The written word gives me the tool to affirm, to understand, to experience—it is my own language. Oftentimes it is a healthy mirror.

I will have to be ramping up my business soon though. I have been getting some connections with clients—it's been good to have at least some hits with the current Proteus Creative site. But it is only a transitional page. It looks like only a random freelancer's contact page, and really that's what it is—but now it's time to create the full site. So hopefully I will be able to lay low the next week and a half, until I leave Arcosanti, quietly working on that site during the late afternoon and evening times.

There's a reason for that though. I will have to be making money soon—real money, and real fast. Chiefly because I am moving.

Not into Baltimore though. I'll stay only a week or two on the east. A month later, if all goes well, I will actually be back in Arizona. Cross your fingers—in Tucson, of all places. Because I am planning on joining Flam Chen.

Crazy decision? Of course. Surprising? Probably not. Most of the plans are already laid out—I've talked with Paul and Nadia, the head honchos—had great conversations with them. I had actually made this decision, or was at least seriously considering it weeks ago, before Earthdance. No second thoughts so far.

I'll go into why I am choosing this some other time. But if you know me well enough, I would bet that it would make sense if you thought about it for awhile.

Think about it this way. There are only a few things you can do in your life at certain times. The "life wish list" may go something like this:

1. Go to art school, become a painter.
2. Write a novel.
3. Take a sojourn into the desert.
4. Fall in love.
5. Join the circus.
6. Run a successful business.
7. Take a risk and don't look back.

So far I have 1, 2, 3, 4 (sort of), working on 6, and 5 and 7 would be one and the same.

It's a wildcard. But has anything I've ever done been sensible, usual, or safe?

Thought so. ;)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Earthdance Arcosanti

Pictures are better than words sometimes.








We received 175-200 people and covered costs. There was just enough to pay the performers as we liked to, cover the expenses of the venue (mostly food), cover promotion and printing costs, and not much else.

But for a first time event, that is pretty impressive. Breaking even is not a bad thing.

We learned a lot about what to do and what not to do. Mostly everything went without a hitch. I would probably do it again. I already ideas as to how I would set up the Vaults a second time. But we'll see about how that actually happens.

It was a great amount of fun. Great to hang out with Ploy, Flam Chen, meet William Eaton and Metrognome. Made good connections. The sculpture was hung and it looked gorgeous. The whole thing started as an indie-folk festival in the day, then evolved into all but a rave at night.

I would do it differently. I would do it again.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Red Lotus - Construction and Creation

This post covers Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday. Brian agreed to help me with the construction phase since he has welding experience. We had a number of 3/8" round stock delivered by Paul Vigne, Cosanti Foundation's purchaser on Friday. Then we got onto laying it all out and welding.


Cutting to size.


Brendan and Brian at the bender to get the curve we want. It took us a few tries to get the kind of grade we wanted.





The base laid out.


Brian welding.



I will have to hold the pieces into place while he welds the tri-pieces onto the base.


I gave the camera to Segolene, who got a couple of pictures of me in a facemask (makes me look really short).


Cutting the crosspieces to secure the sculpture from the inside.



Welding the top.


Finished product.


That same weekend the grandparents came down and it was great to see them. This is my grandfather taking a look at where all my time is being spent.


That same night, we begin laying out the first layer of muslin.



Next morning, Caberia was nice enough to come along and sew the whole skin on, which turned out to be a much better method than my idea of hot glue and pins.




Sewing the top.


From the inside.



For fun, we put a light inside it at night to see what it would look like.


That night, I begin on the paper mache stage. The light proved to be very popular with bugs, including one tarantula that happened to be on the side.



I got lots of help on the mache stage. Thanks to Andrew, Rebecca, Carri, Crystal, Brendan, Amanda, Zeb, anyone else I'm forgetting.


During the day.


It progressively gets more covered as the hours pass.



Carri last night working on the top. The sculpture is almost entirely covered now. This morning will take care of any more detail paper mache—and then onto wood glue and shellac.


It's starting to come together…

Red Lotus - Membrane Testing

This is an update from Friday, and a report on the progress of Red Lotus. A lot has happened in the past few days. So get ready for a wall of pictures—there's a lot to catch up on.

I wanted to test the skin of the sculpture to see if it would provide the color and translucency I wanted. So I tested the paper mache first on a 1'x1' square with the fabric.


I tested a variety of brochures and fliers to see which ones would turn out the best on the skin of the sculpture.


Without Shellac.



With Shellac.


It works out the way I hoped. Next, onto construction…

Friday, September 18, 2009

Earthdance Installation - Concepts and Planning

One of the great things about designing your own festival is that you can build almost anything you want, according to the limitations of your venue.

For Earthdance, I've been working on a very large sculpture that will hang in the center of Arcosanti's Vaults. I had always wanted to do something interesting with the space—it's just begging to have the space it creates be redefined by something existing in the center. With Earthdance, I figured this would be my chance. And it would be able to tie in with the whole "identity" of the festival. Titled "Red Lotus: Heart of the Earth, Heart of the Sun" (kind of lengthy, but the second part of the title is the "theme" of the festival), the idea is that it's sort of a physical and conceptual centerpiece.

Part sculpture, part Chihuly-esque chandelier, I wanted it to be large. Very large. I had a couple ideas of what I wanted it to be like—first, recycled papers used to create a membrane that was then colored, probably using shellac, to create a translucent form that could glow orange in the night, over the heads of all the people during the DJ sets.

Here are the sketches from my sketchbook. Kind of crappy, but gives the idea. I eventually settled on a three-sided pyramid-like shape, curving inwards to give an organic sort of feeling.




I eventually laid out the sides of the sculpture using yarn in the center of the Vaults so I could get a sense of scale. I basically settled on each side being 15' long on each side. The whole thing will be 5-8 ft "deep".



Kind of hard to see, but the yarn is there.



Jimmi standing next to the yarn outline for a sense of human scale (look hard).



Use your imagination!


The structure itself will be made out of metal rods welded together. A fine muslin will be wrapped around the frame to create the skin, with recycled papers and Arcosanti posters (most of which I designed in this case, oddly enough), paper mached on there and then shellacked to give color and smooth-ish texture. The whole thing will be lit from the inside, so it will glow orange in the night.

I'm just working on a small test piece to test out the paper/muslin/shellac combination. Then Brian and I will be welding the frame together over the weekend. So more updates are forthcoming. Watch closely!