Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Human Forge

Put in four quarters, a wood blank, and art comes out

The inputs are money, wood, information and data, and clever algorithms. The output is recognizably art. But, as the sign asks, does it have soul?

The machine for making art, at Canal Convergence

  1. Insert 1 dollar in the form of 4 quarters
  2. Insert 1 wood blank in chute to left
  3. Push both red buttons at exact same time [ok how exact do you have to be?]
  4. The process has begun. Walk to right side of machine.
This is the Cutting Room

Technically, the inputs also include paint, and power, and new blades or sharpened blades, but let's focus on the wood blanks. They go into the slot where the patron inserts them, then in the cutting room they are trimmed down to size. I'm not sure this step is totally necessary, since I guess once could just spec wood blanks of the proper dimensions to begin with, but then perhaps "necessary" is not a word properly applied to any of this. Much care was put into this tableau. I love the way the saw has an exit shoot with a gratuitous warning sign. The wood blank's movements in the cutting room are elaborate and precise. Then, onto the Paint Room.


Paint is applied carefully in the PAINTING ROOM, with photographic like results, then the art emerges from the ARTWORK EXIT.
The hand towel with paint smudges: a sign that art has occurred

This art machine was fascinating to me. I'm not sure how many patrons actually considered if their resulting trimmed and painted wood blanks had soul, or not. I did. Is it not possible, for example, that the person of the artist is present in the details and logic of the algorithms, hardware, software, and design which came together to form this machine for making art? The girl holding the painted result in her hands: Toby Fraley did this, if remote in time and space, by making this machine and calling it The Art Forge and having people engage with it in an artistic context for producing an artistic result. Yes? No?

Blanks for making humans. Insert into slot in human forge, inner processing machinery does the rest with this raw material

In an effort to take off some much-deserved but also highly unneeded and unhealthy stress-eating pounds, I sought inspiration and direction in Grant Petersen's "Eat Bacon Don't Jog" book. I knew it was in line with my don't eat processed junk that comes in packages, restrict carbs, eat nuts, eat healthy paleo proto primal concepts that worked great for me before, but wanted to see if its algorithms would work for me. Yes. Yes they did. Or do. Or are. 

The book of eating algorithms which I have programmed into my human forge

Over on the blog that goes along with the book, I posted a comment in response to an NYT article about moderation (the middle way, I guess) being the healthy way to eat, which though long-winded, is probably a shortcut for summing up a longer-winded exposition of my reasoning combined with an actual review of the book and its human forge algorithms, which would be much, much longer, believe me: 

"Moderation of this type might be OK for young people who already have a healthy diet and who are not currently eating, and have not been raised on, the standard American junk food high carb high corn high sugar cheap-to-produce high-profit wide variety highly available factory diet. For them carb moderation stasis might work. I am not young, though, and for the first 35+ years or so of my life was on the steady weight gain, exhaust the pancreas with carbs and junk food and excess calories program. It's too late for moderation for me, and the idea of systematic stasis of diet-exercise-body doesn't work with the body I created and had when I examined how the machine I had created on that diet reacts to carbs by spiking insulin and piling on body fat. If I had a body that reacted nicely to moderate carbs I would look at it differently. Ideal humans might do well on moderate carbs. An actual randomly selected group of middle-aged Americans, on the other hand, I wager would not. I'm doing great on EBDJ and can't wait to try salmon, bacon, eggs, bsprouts and cheese. TJ's has become my regular Saturday stock-up ride. Hope they have some bsprouts today."

A comment to which Grant responded, which is nice. But, if we're just talking algorithms here, inputs, processing, and outputs, similar to the art forging machine, why not just get a subscription to Soylent, or tweak the mix and make DIY Soylent, and (like the advertisement says) Free Your Body, Never have to worry about food again? 

There's a lot of cool stuff going on with Soylent and DIY Soylent, although full disclosure so far I think it's cool from a distance. I would definitely try backpacking with the stuff as a calorie source. I would probably try it for some quick meals when I'm in a rush, and I also like the idea of getting back some lost time which is taken up now by rushing to prepare forgettable, repetitive meals. It all depends on what you want to optimize  your meals for, and also, I must add, whether or not consuming this chemical slurry for weeks or months on end turns out to have long-term detrimental health effects, or not. 

It may turn out to be OK, or more than OK, long-term*. Also, I think most or all of the people drinking it realize they are experimenting with their health and lives, and, in many cases, have the quite logical argument to make that compared to the ramen noodles, pizza, and hot pockets they were living off before, Soylent is relatively speaking health nectar of the gods. Compared, say, to the multiple liters of full-sugar Cola, pizza, beer, and nacho chips diet I bloated up on for years and years in my twenties. I'm very interested to see what the Soylent consumers learn, or turn into, and like I said, will eventually try some Soylent myself.

However, for now, and I think this the reason I included the photo of the delicious fried eggs, sardines, and chunks of white cheddar cheese, I'll stick with real food, and the simpler the better. Give me Greek yogurt made with two ingredients (milk and live cultures). Give me excellent little fishies with skin and bones. Give me macadamia nuts, chia, and some fresh veggies and leaves. Olive oil. Hunks of meat. For now, at least, I'm willing to invest the time to obtain and prepare those. I'm not positive they have soul, but I find the real food very, very satisfying, and as a bonus, following the EBDJ food algorithms has taken pounds off (15 so far) my human forge, and gotten its blood sugar back down out of the prediabetic range, so yeah, bring on the sardines and macadamias. And consider the soul of food.

*blog disclaimer in effect as always

Friday, February 27, 2015

Flowers to the Sea

Errant flower node

When you make art that floats, inevitably some of it gets away, and goes off on its own adventures. Often, it's the happenstance that attracts my attention and triggers my delight. If I could wave a magic wand and convince the world of a few things, one of them would be that not only is it OK to be wrong, but mistakes can actually be beneficial to progress, to understanding, to peace of mind.

There it was, the stray flower glowing in the rising sun beneath the weir structure

But these happenstance encounters don't happen sitting at home on the couch. I have to get up, get out there, ride around, and be open to them. Curious enough to find them. Moving slow enough to notice them. This one is part of the Canal Convergence installation at the Scottsdale Waterfront. I'm hoping to get over there this weekend while stuff is actually happening, rather than wandering through at daybreak when it's pretty quiet, just me and the floating flowers.

Floating flower explanatory diagram. "the Garden Grows: BioMe" by Karrie Hovey

I feel a kinship or connection with these floating elements of art that escape to head downriver to the sea on their own, unpredictable adventures. Chances are, they won't make it to the sea. Chances are, they won't even make it beyond the weir. But that doesn't really matter. They somehow escaped their cinder blocks, somehow floated off down the streams of chance to whatever might be down there. I'm with them. Float on flowers, float on to the sea.

The flower's firmly moored brothers and sisters

This was a provisional location. They moved closer to Scottsdale Road, via, I'm certain, SRP Boat

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Mountains Beyond Mountains

You ride to the first range

You ride to the first range, through the foot hills, along the cracked road in the shimmering heat. The road rises ahead and you crank up the incline. At the crest, at the pass, you see the next range in the blue-gray distance. There's an illusory downhill from the pass, the past, which spurs you forward, but the next foot hills begin to rise and rise, and you can only bend into the effort and keep spinning. These are steeper than the first. 

Down shift, down shift, down shift, it's still too hard. The road switches back and forth to hide the effort but it's not working. Finally, at a crawl, you reach this crest. Of course, in the distance, the third range waits, tallest, blue-grayest, and farthest.

There's an illusory downhill from the pass, the past, which spurs you forward. Along the cracked road, in the shimmering heat, you spin.


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Ramp it Up, Cyclist!

The cyclist symbol and arrow made it very clear: time to ramp things up

Saw this on my ride into work, and thought, time to ramp things up. Yes, I could go around, but that would be the easy way out. OK, yes, I did go around, this time, but all day I was thinking, ramp it up! Ramp it up!

Different way to ramp things up...

One way that I've been getting in some extra calorie burn on my commute is to add in a nice extra two miles along the canal. Another is to take this little diversion route straight up the bottom of Camelback mountain. Today, to ramp things up, I did both.

Ramped up view of 56th Street, Phoenix, very clear day

Riding up the hill is a fun little spin, and the reason that I have a triple chain ring. Riding back down is like this: whoooooooooshhhh!!! I was feeling a little bit Tuesday today, so I ramped it up 2x. Maybe not like the guy I saw working out by holding himself out sideways from a street sign (what the hell was that?? street gymnastics?) but still, something extra, something unnecessary and fun, something cycling.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Learning to Love the Least

Here I rest, here I stay, here I love, right now, today

I don't think we are born with the ability to love. To cling, to want, to need, to hunger, certainly. But it takes time and life to learn love. Recently, during a seemingly endless meeting and I acknowledge this was an odd setting for this thought, while feeling either bored or irritated with the endless discussion and debate about minute and abstract concepts, and simultaneously beginning to despair that humans could ever argue about such things, I felt convinced that if I could learn to love this (where this refers to the present non-loved and possibly irritating source of the present experience of not being in a state of loving), then this would be whole, memorable, and worthy of the expenditure of the minutes of life measurably slipping away while this was occurring. More, it would be (by the definition of "love") something that I wanted, needed, was sustained and enriched by.

I, one, would have to learn that skill. To learn to love this, the least of the day, the small and plodding moments of work structure, project passages, task completions, small tickmarks on minor ledgers of the sideline conversations of all us unimportant personages of middling economic and social standing, the sparse filings forming ghostly lines above weak magnets, the windblown confetti of the shredded receipts of the political and economic penstrokes of the powerful rustling round unremarkable meeting rooms on the dead on Monday. If I could learn to love this, the least things, that would unlock it. 

The thought that if I would it would mean that I could felt for a little while as if I did. I guess I don't, but this experience of loving the least made me wonder why that might be so, and if it wouldn't be some sort of fulfillment to love this always, even when it may seem like the least.

I was standing in the median photographing my bike sitting against a saguaro amongst the daisies and I wondered what a policeman might think if one saw me, when one rolled by.


Saturday, February 21, 2015

Migration Installation Plus the Prettiest Median Strip in America

Installation of "Migration" by Saskia Jorda for Canal Convergence at Scottsdale Waterfront

Those guide wires turn out to have a useful function after all

Bird suspension lines in use

Something burning and traffic chaos cannot undo the beauty of African daisies exploding in the median
Had to throw in a black and white version

Friday, February 20, 2015

The Path to Passionate Balanced Peace of Mind and Heart

Somewhere down some path

I approached her from behind on the path. She was walking directly in the center, impossible for me to pass on either side, so I move the the left and dinged my bell three times. She glanced back over her shoulder, stepped to the right, then made some nasty comment as I spun by.

A sequence of three unkind thoughts warped through my mind of which I was not proud, or glad, or comfortable. Two minutes before, I was just noticing that my pretty new shoes were teaching me a light, easy pedal stroke by reminding me with an ever so slight rubbing on my ankles that I might spin easier with a steadier and more efficient, perhaps easier, foot angle. The exact position may not be easy to describe, but it felt easy, and light to ride like that, and I felt in that moment that this was a path of peace and lightness that had some kind of essential connection with one of the better parts of riding my bike. Then, an unnecessary nasty remark from a stranger, and a string of three unkind notions bouncing around my head in reaction.

Here's my pretty new shoe

They spun away, spun away, spun away fast in the ride, as she with her black heart and resentful lash-out were left far behind. The waters of the canal kept washing downstream, while the lightness of this ankle-sparing foot position that's a bit difficult to articulate but which was so comfortable in practice carried me onwards. 

A simple machine, reclining on the sun-turned faces of the flowers

In the dream that won't stay whole, it's actually true that both the snarky lady walking down the middle of the path and my three unkind reactionary thoughts to her don't exist and never did, and also that they would not evolve to be or emerge from the nothingness into being as the result of some other events, but that instead this exact path along this exact canal would stay a constant place of balance and light, of flow and ease, of peace of mind and heart and motion. 

This exact path along this exact canal (would be that dream which won't stay whole)

But, certainly, by observation, these are not so, not here, not now, not today. I study my feet, clad in my pretty new shoes, and the feeling of the ankle rubbing just ever so slightly on the tops of the shoes if I pedal too hard or with too little graceful coordination while noticing the light feel of ease and balance which ensues if I manage to pedal with that specific form which feels like physics in effect encouraging that dream which won't stay whole to stay whole. I come out there with a passion to just see how far and how still I can go and be, and how this exact path might lead to that exact place, now and here. 

With this mind and heart I ride on, though: that the pure absence of pain of any sort is equivalent to the greatest pleasure, like a vast otherwise empty field of spring flowers bending their faces to the sun and being capable of upholding any amenable physics-enhanced pedaling form you might care to try for miles and miles down this exact path down this exact canal.