16 December 2010

Poetry and Pragmatism

I am contemplating the next iteration in describing my two themes. When I started talking about my work, it was Form and Narrative, an attempt to describe my interest in the language of form, and how form and material is read, how it is a record of our relationships and cultural values.

Next was Ethics and Aesthetics, which was the formulation of my long-term engagement with environmental issues. The term "aesthetics," however, troubled me. Although I liked the alliteration, the term feels too superficial and systematic. Thus was born Poetry and Politics. The poetry stems from my drawings. Long ago, I described myself as a "form poet," which returns to the interest in form and narrative. "Poetry" condenses that. The problem now is with "politics." The science behind environmental issues is incontrovertable. However, the issues that surround climate science have become polarly politicized. This has become a debilitating condition in which no action is being taken. Contemporary pragmatic approaches to architecture have yeilded provocative results, creatively straddling practicability and invention. A pragmatic approach needs to come to bear in the climate change debate. If even a fraction of the current predictions comes true, humanity is in for a rough ride indeed.

Thus, as an optimist, I would prefer to frame the issue as an opportunity. Not an opportunity for proposing a nostalgic vision of the US in its glory, or the "good old days," but a vision of a better life in this world of ours. We can feed, house and clothe the planet if we so choose - we have the technology. Art, music, literature, dance, theater, film - we have a rich culture. If we allow for a base level of planning, we can achieve all of these things. If we continue the divided debate controlled by a few who resist change because of individual loss, we all stand to lose all.

07 December 2010

Fellow traveler


Kazanjian is clearly influenced by Jerry Uelsmann. Some might describe it as derivative. However, I see a different impulse behind the work. Pieces like this are more abstract, which appeals to my architectural sense. The representational work has a dark and somewhat pessimistic origin to the imagery.

08 October 2010

Picking Winners

This blog SO doesn't know what it wants to be...

This article on electric cars caught my attention:


Because massive subsidies are being deployed to make them possible. From the article, buyers of the Leaf can expect at least $7500, and up to $12,500 in support from federal and state sources.

Why is this a bad thing? Shouldn't we be supporting electric vehicles?
We supposedly have a free-market capitalist economy. This amounts to an entitlement. However, this entitlement appears to be an acceptable entitlement, whereas any support for individuals is unacceptable and dubbed "socialism." Our current "free-market" system picks winners, to whom massive tax-payer subsidies are given.

If our goals are to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and dependence on foreign oil, what we should be doing is making carbon-based fossil fuels more expensive, and then let the market determine how to satisfy that need. The government's role should be to create the price signals through taxation to create disincentives for certain types of behavior, and to back that up with regulation.

Electric cars are fine. They are more efficient than internal combustion engines. However, if the price of gasoline were raised, say to the $5-7/gallon paid elsewhere in the developed world, I would have an incentive to look for more efficient transportation. Or I might choose to live closer to work and ride a bike, take the bus, walk, or any myriad other possibilities, and not own a car. Let the market decide.

What is our strategy here? There is an implicit statement that we want to continue car culture, and all of the inefficient patterns of urban development that it promotes. There are other options, but we don't allow for them because we are always picking winners.

19 August 2010

is it true?

"Grandpa, is it true that houses were so hot in the middle of the winter that people would open windows to cool off? And that you wore sweaters inside in the summer?"
-question from my future grandchild

Fossil Fuel Slavery

I've read several books recently on the American Revolution: Founding Brothers and American Creation among them, as well as a series of book reviews and articles. One of the things that struck me is an identification of the extreme moral failures of the founding fathers: to deal with the abolition of slavery, and to make an equitable accommodation for native Americans. These failures led to catastrophic events later in the history of the republic: the Civil War, and the decimation of the American Indian population through murder, famine and disease. The founders postponed decisions, rather than making a hard but unpopular moral choices. The south's economy was tied to the institution of slavery. Landowners wealthy enough to own slaves lived comfortable lives. Rich lands taken from the Indians allowed for the spread of the plantation system.

We see the same dithering today. Fossil fuels are our contemporary slaves. Their use will lead to catastrophic events. These events are probably already manifesting themselves now. Yet we leave the problem for our grandchildren. The vast majority of climate scientists agree that what is coming is a world that we will not recognize. This moral failure will subject future generations to the privations that the growing American republic inflicted upon the native Americans: death, famine, disease, but also natural disasters, economic and social instability. The reason we don't make the hard choices is obvious - we are comfortable, and comfort leads to complacency, and most of us are ignorant and don't accept the reality, because it would interfere with our leisure.

I know that we can change this. But I also know that I can't change this. I could move to a shack in the woods, walk to town, grow my own food, but that still leaves the rest of the 300 million in the US, and the 6 billion+ in the rest of the world. It takes leadership. It will take unpopular decisions, but these decisions have to be made.

10 August 2010

the irrational

We (the indivisible divinity that works in us) have dreamed the world. We have dreamed it resistant, mysterious, visible, ubiquitous in space and firm in time, but we have allowed slight, and eternal, bits of the irrational to form part of its architecture so as to know that it is false.

-Jorge Luis Borges

19 April 2010

Anthropology 101

"The History of every major Galactic Civilization tends to pass through three distinct and recognizable phases, those of Survival, Inquiry and Sophistication... the first phase is characterized by the question How can we eat? the second by the question Why do we eat, and the third by the question Where shall we have lunch?
-Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

27 March 2010


It all comes down to money. Money guides decisions. This country has opted for "cheap." Cheap everything. Michael Pollen, in The Omnivore's Dilemma, talks about how we, as a society, made a decision for quantity of food over quality. And inexpensive as well. Cheap and plentiful. I think that we, as a culture, have made that decision in every sphere of life: cheap food, cheap clothing, cheap energy, cheap houses, cheap stuff. This is particularly evident in our buildings. Houses are cheap and big. Where I am living right now in Mississippi, I see enormous waste of buildings. Repair is usually unheard of, because the houses are small. Doing things well is also unheard of. It costs a lot more money to build something of quality than it does to build BAU (business as usual) buildings .

03 March 2010

Form Poems 081005-090822

Finally caught up to 2009.

27 February 2010