Friday, December 3, 2010
My Legos are stored securely in my attic and my Super NES, well, I'm not entirely sure where that thing ended up (though it's probably filled with a dirt-dobber nest in my Papa's barn). I know where my Legos are, how about you?
I saved my Legos because I figure they'll come in handy someday. I used to think I'd pass 'em on to my own children someday, but that idea just won't work. It won't work because my kids -should I ever have kids- won't want my Legos. My Legos are old school and way too boring. My Legos were top of the line back when I built: I had clear windshield bricks, angled wing bricks, and even a couple of horses that came with my "Castles" series set. As cool as these pieces were to me, they're nothing compared to the intricate Lego bricks sold today.
Lego develops new bricks to help them make cooler theme sets. When I started building, Lego made 2 theme sets: City and Space. The universe was simpler then and the Legos reflected that simplicity. Back then, kids either built things that could escape Earth's gravity or couldn't -end of story.
The population of the Lego universe was also a lot less ethnically and genderly diverse than it is today. All of my Lego-men were men. I know this because the female Lego-men, which came later on, all had red pursed lips. So, despite being anatomically identical, I knew all my Lego-men were men because they had smiles on their faces, not pursed red lips. Lego seems to have made Lego-man and woman according the Genesis creation account, wherein Adam is made first then Eve. Man and woman, He created them all yellow. Oh yeah, and all my Lego-men were yellow, which as 4 year old I equated with whiteness, but now I suppose all my Lego-men are Asian.
Lego's themes really push innovation. A Lego theme is a whole new world. The last theme set I bought was "Pirates." All my Lego-pirates were still yellow, but some of them had beards, and others had eye-patches! This was a when the floodgates opened and Lego started creating individuals (or at least individual heads) to inhabit their theme worlds. Now-a-days there's Lego-Harry Potters, Lego-Batmans, and even Lego-Atlantis Manta Warriors. So you see, all my mis-matched bricks and Lego-Asians don't stand a chance against these new-school Lego celebrities and personalities.
And that's what really pisses me off. Back in the day I had to use my imagination. When I built a multicolored rectangle with a windshield, slanted wings, and a horse in the back, I had to pretend it was an inter-galactic X-wing Star-fighter piloted by Luke Skywalker-- the horse serving as R2-D2. Hell, now-a-days Luke Skywalker is member of the Lego-Galactic Empire, and so is the rest of the Star Wars Universe.
Lego is colonizing the cultural world and rotting our children's imaginations one contrived brick at a time. Kids don't have to imagine anything anymore. They just play video games or bully each other on Facebook. Of course I can't bitch too much, after all, the Super NES forced my own Lego building career into early retirement.
Newer technologies usually make older technologies obsolete, like the computer did to the typewriter, or like the car did to the horse drawn carriage. Legos, unfortunately, are an older game technology. But Lego is still in business, and it remains in business for two reasons:
1) It has made a Lego-world out of everything from Harry Potter to Atlantis. By expanding its base in this way, Legos appeal to a larger market segment. Lego colonizes to survive.
2) Legos have also made the digital-turn by making Lego video games like "Lego-Batman" and "Lego Harry Potter." I've never played these games, but it seems like they'd be nothing more than Legofications of regular games. Most today's kids probably first encounter Legos on their Wii systems than on their playroom floors. By extension, these same kids probably just figure "Lego," the word, refers to a blocky yellow aesthetic style used in video games.
Sure, I'm pissed off that today's Legos are so unimaginative and virtual. But at least they're still being made in brick form. I like the bricks. I like to feel the texture of the world I'm creating and then imaginatively move beyond it. I also like to stroll down the Lego isle and see what's new in the ever expanding, all consuming Lego universe. In Japan, I frequented the Lego Store at Saitama-Shintoshin. Walking through there sends my mind reeling and my heart lamenting that Lubbock doesn't have a Lego Store. But Lubbock did have Lego exhibit at the Arts Festival last year. (see pictures)
So while Legos are gradually taking over the past, present, and future of our world, it's nice to know they're still being played with. Though I dislike the virtual-turn Lego continually makes into the gaming world, I can understand their motivations. But then again, I dislike most things virtual. I like having more real-world friends than Facebook friends, and I like being paid in cash than the digital numbers of this direct deposit age. Hopefully my kids will too.
Photos taken by me at the 2010 Lubbock Arts Festival.
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
About 5 years ago... I'm walking home in the snow from Kaladi Brothers' Coffee House on University Ave. in Denver, Colorado. I'm bundled in a nice black pea coat and carrying a steaming cup of coffee. I'm wearing my flannel golfer's cap (I don't golf), thankfully. I'm just slushing along. The air is calm and there aren't too many cars on the road so the air is quiet, too. I love snowy afternoons in Denver; they go best with the aroma of fresh coffee and the warmth it gives. I don't hear the defecation; I only feel it. A little dopplethump on my head. Water dripping off an awning?
I feel it again when I go to take my cap off. Now it's on my cap and my fingers. White and grainy, kinda like toothpaste but a bit runnier. I wipe my fingers off in the snow, check to make sure my coffee is scat free, and smirk at the peculiarity of the event...
When I got back to my apartment I wrote a little poem, like a haiku, only without the right amount of syllables (consequently, it wasn't a haiku). Here's what I wrote, it's easy to remember:
On a snowy day
A bird shat on my head
I remember debating whether I should write "shit" or "shat" at the time. Either way. Some people say that being shit on, or shat on, is a sign of good luck. The same people make wishes when they light upon a stray eyelash. These uninhibited optimists make lemonade out of lemons, but I wonder what they'd make out of pigeon shit?
Sunday, June 6, 2010
This year I spotted some really cool vintage bikes amidst the thousands of stock Harleys, a slew of Goldwings, and a spattering of "Hollywood Choppers." I dig the old bikes because when I see one of them out on the road I know the owner is more than likely very mechanically savvy. Those owners are also really cool to talk to because they tend to be older, and have more to talk about than custom handlebar grips and chrome.
Below are a couple of the bikes I stood around at Red River while their owners told me tales of epic breakdowns, wrecks, and 6 volt problems.
Up first is this killer 1947 Harley Flathead. This was my first time to ever see one of these things in person. What makes this bike so killer? Well, this is one of Harley's first big twin engines that predates modern engines (Evo's) by over 40 years. Just imagine cruising down the road on a motorcycle that's over 60 years old! Super cool. For its age, the bike is immaculate. It's a kick-started, hand-shifted, springer-frontended masterpiece of early big twin design. I chatted with the owner a bit while he fiddled with some little springs inside an old something or other part of the bike. I never really understood what he was doing, but he said on a 500+ mile ride he'll usually have to pull out the wrenches a few times before he gets where he's going. Rest assured, I ran into him at Red River where he entered his bike in the vintage class bike show.
This next bike is a 1963 Harley Panhead Electra Glide. The bike is a far cry from the modern Electra Glides you see cruising around today. Back then there were no front or rear fairings, no comfy seat for the misses, and definitely no radio/CD players. The real advancement with this bike was the electric start, hence the name. However, as the owner told me, you can't always count on that electric starter so the kicker pedal remains as a trusty standby. The solo seat is not original to the bike, neither are the saddlebags. The owner explained that after being rear-ended in the mid-'70s he couldn't find or afford the stock replacement tailpipes, seat, or bags, so he stripped them off a Sportster and made them work.
I think the bike looks great and wouldn't have know anything wasn't stock (minus the bullet hole stickers) unless he'd told me. One of my favorite things about this bike is the exposed oil filter on the right side. I figure back then Harley wasn't as concerned with hiding away or chrome plating all the unglamorous components of their motorcycles. Like the guy with the Flathead, this man entered and later won bike show in the vintage class. He said the judges liked his original paint. The man also told me that professional painters have offered to paint the bike for free, but he continually turns them down. Can't blame him.
And lastly I'll leave ya'll with an image of my own "old" bike. My Virago 1100cc is only 15 years old now, but it does meet one vintage requirement: it's discontinued, meaning it takes me a week to get parts for it...when I can find them.Here I'm just leaving the Palisades Sill in Cimmaron Canyon. For all of you who knew my Dad, next time you're cruising by this spot be sure to pull over, walk down by the river, and say a few words to Dad. My family and I scattered his ashes here during the rally, giving new meaning to Memorial Day. It was his favorite spot on the way to his favorite rally.
Monday, April 26, 2010
Sunday, April 25, 2010
The Student Union Building just before the same storm.
Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Here's the same springs after some long awaited tender lovin' care. The front springs have the brass spring inserts in them (on right), the rear springs still need the old worn out inserts smacked out.
Tip: Always lube up your insert before pushing it in. Doing so makes the whole process go a lot smoother.Here's the suspension parts going onto the frame. The parts in baggies were bought from Mid-fifties Ford. Along with the new inserts shown above, we needed new rear u-bolts, shackles, hanger pins all around, new shocks from Autozone (front match rear), and a freshly cast rear spring hanger. This new hanger (bottom hanger left of red shocks) was a pain to work with, mainly because it was the only straight piece on the rear suspension, which meant it was crooked. A little grinding and smacking got everything lined up.
Alan lightly tapping in the bottom shackle pin. Notice the concentration and accuracy. He knows he's gotta hit this pin straight and easy so as not to deform its outer edge or rotate it inside the insert. You don't want the pin rotating because then you can't align the keeper bolt in the hole on the bottom right of the hanger.
With the springs hung front and rear, we rolled the axles underneath and bolted the whole set-up together. We decided to keep the original i-beam front axle instead of messing with all the new aftermarket IFS kits available for modern classic trucks. The suspension, drivetrain, and body will be completely rebuilt, stock equipment. I think we are gonna spring a little extra dough for power brakes and steering. Maybe even an air conditioner.
Speaking of the motor, here she is in all her oilpanless glory. We can't finish dressing out the motor because the thing is so damn heavy its slowly bending Alan's motor stand, so we support the front of the motor with a 2x4. I swear, this thing looks like goes in a tractor, not a 1/2 pick-up. The transmission is really wimpy looking compared to the motor.
So now we've got a roller. When we started working on the truck we had to carry the frame around from the backyard, but now we could roll it down the driveway if wanted to. Of course we can't steer it yet, or stop it, or start it, but hell, the point is the frame is suspended and rolling on some rebuilt axles with killer wheels. It'll probably be a while before we work on the truck together again, up next we're looking to drop in the drivetrain. Should be a blast. Till then, keep wrenchin'.
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
Sputnik Observatory is an online oasis of free-thinking scientists, ecologists, architects, and artists who are committed to informing and inspiring the public with biologically and ecologically based scientific findings.
[To watch the videos online you will need the latest edition of flash. The following wander essay (path) responds to these videos.)
Embarkation: Interconnection and Human Meddling
In his conversation, “Earth is the Place to Be,” Trevor Paglen (artist/writer) speaks about the most important observable phenomenon in social, philosophical, and ecological history: reciprocity, dialectic, feedback; aka, interconnectedness. Using corn as his exemplum, Paglen states, “we have changed nature in a very fundamental way planting all this corn; but the fact that we’ve planted all this corn also changes us in a very fundamental way, too. We are turning ourselves into corn!” (0:27). Although the piece doesn’t allow Paglen to explicate how we are turning into corn, I assume it is partially due to the cattle industry force feeding corn (and other unnatural chemicals) to the cattle which in turn we eat as beef. “We are what we eat:” that feedback loop is a common phrase; however, the twice removed, less common phrase is “We are what we eat eats.”
This second phrase pushes the feedback loop between consumer and consumed deeper into the interconnected web involving farmers and veterinarians, cardiologists and morticians.
It is interesting that Paglen does not mention cattle feedlot diets as a reason why we are physically transforming into corn given the advice of Freeman Dyson (physicist), who appears later on in the same conversation video. Dyson holds that we should genetically engineer usable-energy-producing plants if we obtain the ability to do so. He encourages scientists and engineers to produce 10% more efficient plants—say by genetically programming a black leafed photosynthesizer—that would only require one tenth the land to produce the same amount of energy.
In general I am distrustful of such ideas and practices; especially given that it was logic similar to Dyson’s that brought about the creation of feedlots. By all rationale, feedlots are marvels of efficiency, requiring only 10% of the land to needed to naturally feed upwards of 60,000 cattle at a time. Unfortunately, such efficiency is unnatural and requires hormones, and a cornucopia of other chemicals in order to keep the cattle alive while reconditioning their stomachs to digest corn. Of course corn is a vegetable suitable for consumption; but not for cows. When was the last time we witnessed cattle grazing the vast open corn fields of America?
Contrasting Dyson’s idea of actually engineering plants that would produce energy for us (notice the direction the dialectic is travelling); Janine Benyus (author, biomimicker) argues that a more responsible form of artificial photosynthesis involves us as humans evolving our technologies to mimic nature’s processes of energy production. Her argument about turning our excess carbon dioxide into biodegradable plastics changes the flow of the dialectic, encouraging us to learn and mimic plants and bacteria: the true masters of turning waste into food. Let us mimic natural biological process instead of forcing those processes to meet our needs.
Step 2: Starting at Home
Instead of deluding ourselves in thinking we can control nature—from the stomachs of cattle to the biogenetic make-up of as-yet-un-crafted artificial photosynthesizers—in order to live more comfortably in the world, we should look toward nature’s evolved designs for Gaia-responsible living inspiration. Spring boarding from Benyus’s biomimetic approach, architect Andreas Vogler provides us with visions of biomemic future homes. Worldwide, 50% of all energy is consumed by our homes (0:09), with the other 50% being used by industry. Lowering the amount of energy we use in our homes can radically reduce consumption of natural resources. Yet Vogler has more than energy reduction in mind for biomimetic homes: he would like to craft homes that function as organisms do—plants in particular. Vogler envisions a home that functions not only as a human habitat, but also as air purification centers. These respiring homes can intake waste from the atmosphere, purify through techno-chemical processes, and release a newly purified bioproduct into the home and later into the atmosphere using negative feedbacks. The ultimate vision is, I suppose, to create negative ecological footprint homes; or, phrased inversely: homes that actually benefit and act in concert with emergent Gaian feedback loops. Human technology has an opportunity, and I would argue an ethical responsibility, to direct a proportion of its innovative efforts towards greener living solutions. Our technology should adapt to Gaian sensibilities.
Step 3: New Conceptions of Beauty
Despite how illogical our current use and abuse of nature is, it is apparent that logic and reason are not enough to inspire a change in worldview. One central ingredient in lasting change is positive behavior reinforcement; and no matter how fuel efficient or biomimetic a car is, if it is ugly people will not buy it. What we need is a different kind of beauty; a bio-aesthetic. Michael Hensel (architect) argues for this new look at beauty by asking us to locate beauty not only in crafted products, but in emergent biological processes as well (0:06). With this conception of beauty in mind, Hensel tries to craft dwellings in ways that utilize Vogler’s eco-friendly technologies in a style that encourage intellectual and sensual appreciation of process integrated architecture. Hensel’s idea is to make environmentally responsible productions pleasurable and attractive to participate with (through ownership and dwelling).
[The following literary application draws from Joan Slonczewski's amazing book A Door Into Ocean.]
From Gaia to Raia
Shoran verbs demonstrate the ingrained interconnected worldview of the Sharers. Their language helps them effectively communicate about the world around them, and life on Shora is life in the web. All phenomena are natural and interconnected. Hence, when the Valan colonizers use toxins to ward off sea-swallowers the entire web of life is affected. Valans (at Realgar and Jade) view the world from the for us side of the dialectic. Instead being biomimetic (copying the Shorans living rafts) and adapting their floating death camps to handle swallower season, they decide to alter the web. They prefer separation from the web rather than integration. What else can we expect, they are not sharers. Valans, like the majority of Americans, would rather alter nature than work with her; we find more beauty in material items than natural processes. This latter point is not surprising, for our pursuit of natural resources is decimating what is left of our most primordial source of beauty: nature.