Friday, December 2, 2011

Blah blah blah.  The heart of the matter won't be found in prior posts. That would be the missing maturity of the personality pounded out on the anvil of youth in four seasons and seven years.   7 years on the  line while others had to grow up, came and went, or were already grown, too far to play at life in a make believe place.  Oh, Skip and Dick, my mentors, might have had a moment of envy (did you all?), but they had found their work in challenges more realistic, with tools and abilities equal to greater goals than mine.  Jeff did.  George did. Russell and the Bay area gang, Bob and the Tuscon gang.  And I'm happy to hear Bruce did, Kit did, and most of all Tony. They said thousands had come by '78 .  Some are too personal to list, and that would take all night.  It needs doing by me though.  I wonder sometimes if Ron the baker was not the greatest of all next to Mary and Roger and Tomiaki, anonymously and unheralded giving me luxury not dreamed of in the world.  I have not forgotten and miss it every day I have to eat bread from a store.

So the  analysis below is an interesting but not deep enough explanation of missing elements.  One can say war babies like me never grew up.  It is telling to me in light of the reasoning that undergirded my work at the time and since that I consciously broke off but a fragment of the male archetype, the Shaman, and this oversimplified, ignorant fragmentation, was a poison pill the great generalist and synthesis maven that I styled myself swallowed.  It will be a miracle if such a knucklehead can return from this maze and become the adult demanded by our teacher as the requisite of citizenship. There is a rumor that such creatures enjoy collaboration (rightfully earned by competition).

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Where's the beef?

How strong an equivalence exists between historic Eurasian states and the US in terms of the cost-benefit of national identification? No Eurasian state has so ambiguous a cultural coherence or short shared identity. No state has so polarized its economic classes. No G7 state is spending a vast percent of it's citizens wealth and blood on obsolete, bloated arms programs and arrogant bullying of others, making its citizens involuntary pariahs in much of the world. No state has private foreign-owned contractors spying on its own citizens' every breath, even from space. And now we are to become paupers at the hands of the scions of this same state? Surely the assumption of automatic loyalty of diverse, relatively recent members of this vast continental aggregation, as the Palins clearly illustrate, at some point has to fray. At what exactly does our state excel? Education? Health care? Industrial success? Transportation? Housing? Employment security? Cultural harmony? Leisure time? Or just making a few clever sociopaths incredibly rich? Where is the beef?

Intrinsic Value: Cars and Houses Compared

In the seminal book "The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers", Paul Kennedy argues persuasively that empires eventually return to an equilibrium consistent with their original geography as a percentage of world resources. This is an example of the concept of intrinsic value, which, for nation states, must be viewed over a long historical period. In the current economic crisis, one of the values that has influenced markets negatively is American residential real estate. A bubble was constructed upon the perceived value of a single-family home that is dramatically inconsistent with its intrinsic value. Just as great power empires flourish during "perfect storms" of unique, complimentary conditions and then collapse when those conditions change, energy intensive, consumer intensive, debt based family housing must also reach an equilibrium consistent with its intrinsic value as personal shelter in general context of human creative endeavor.

What's lacking in the discussion of our economy presently is recognition or disclosure that this valuation of resources and debt is no longer reflective of global conditions. Just as one can very cheaply acquire large displacement American luxury automobiles of a few years vintage because the intrinsic value of the car is transportation, and transportation requires fuel but does not require a faux-opulent, planned obsolete personal vehicle, the financial system is now foreclosing and holding title to large quantities of the shelter equivalent of an American gas guzzling rolling boat. Detached houses offer the illusion of the life of a potentate: swimming pools and vast grounds tended by servants, tens of thousands of square feet of air conditioned and heated rooms to house just a few people, and ample storage for mountains of Chinese consumer goods, machinery, sports equipment, multimedia rooms, and multiple trucks, cars, motorcycles, and other fuel intensive, and depreciating machinery bought on credit. The very model of a consuming liability rather than a productive asset--a nod to Robert Kayosaki here--once the arc of its speculative appreciation peaks. (As a former remodeler, as an aside, I have replaced many a sound, tradesman-crafted kitchen or bath with its Home Depot Chinese factory equivalent over the years and called it "improvement".)

A look in Trade Express is all that is necessary to understand the value of an Oldsmobile in a world in which Prius is the desired vehicle.  When downsizing of space and energy use for shelter is the priority, the same phenomenon of drastic devaluation applies to these bloated, "gas guzzling" American houses.

Election Commentary by Caroll Quigly

"Three Major Geographic Sections Arise in U.S.
The occupation of the United States had given rise to three chief geographic sections:
a commercial and later financial and industrial East, an agrarian and later industrial West,
and an agrarian South. Unfortunately, the two agrarian sections were organized quite
differently, the South on the basis of slave labor and the West on the basis of free labor.
On this question the East allied with the West to defeat the South in the Civil War (1861-
1865) and to subject it to a prolonged military occupation as a conquered territory (1865-
1877). Since the war and the occupation were controlled by the new Republican Party,
the political organization of the country became split on a sectional basis: the South
refused to vote Republican until 1928, and the West refused to vote Democratic until
1932. In the East the older families which inclined toward the Republican Party because
of the Civil War were largely submerged by waves of new immigrants from Europe,
beginning with Irish and Germans after 1846 and continuing with even greater numbers
from eastern Europe and Mediterranean Europe after 1890. These new immigrants of the
eastern cities voted Democratic because of religious, economic, and cultural opposition to
the upper-class Republicans of the same eastern section. The class basis in voting patterns
in the East and the sectional basis in voting in the South and West proved to be of major
political significance after 1880.

Major Changes in Government Occur in 1830
The Founding Fathers had assumed that the political control of the country would be
conducted by men of property and leisure who would generally know each other
personally and, facing no need for urgent decisions, would move government to action
when they agreed and be able to prevent it from acting, without serious damage, when
they could not agree. The American Constitution, with its provisions for division of
powers and selection of the chief executive by an electoral college, reflected this point of
view. So also did the use of the party caucus of legislative assemblies for nomination to
public office and the election of senators by the same assemblies. The arrival of a mass
democracy after 1830 changed this situation, establishing the use of party conventions for
nominations and the use of entrenched political party machines, supported on the
patronage of public office, to mobilize sufficient votes to elect their candidates.

Forces of Finance and Business Grow in Wealth and Power
As a result of this situation, the elected official from 1840 to 1880 found himself
under pressure from three directions: from the popular electorate which provided him
with the votes necessary for election, from the party machine which provided him with
the nomination to run for office as well as the patronage appointments by which he could
reward his followers, and from the wealthy economic interests which gave him the
money for campaign expenses with, perhaps, a certain surplus for his own pocket. This
was a fairly workable system, since the three forces were approximately equal, the
advantage, if any, resting with the party machine. This advantage became so great in the
period 1865-1880 that the forces of finance, commerce, and industry were forced to
contribute ever-increasing largesse to the political machines in order to obtain the
services from government which they regarded as their due, services such as higher
tariffs, land grants to railroads, better postal services, and mining or timber concessions.
The fact that these forces of finance and business were themselves growing in wealth and
power made them increasingly restive under the need to make constantly larger
contributions to party political machines. Moreover, these economic tycoons increasingly
felt it to be unseemly that they should be unable to issue orders but instead have to
negotiate as equals in order to obtain services or favors from party bosses.

The U.S. Government Was Controlled by the Forces of Investment Banking and Industry
By the late 1870's business leaders determined to make an end to this situation by
cutting with one blow the taproot of the system of party machines, namely, the patronage
system. This system, which they called by the derogatory term "spoils system," was
objectionable to big business not so much because it led to dishonesty or inefficiency but
because it made the party machines independent of business control by giving them a
source of income (campaign contributions from government employees) which was
independent of business control. If this source could be cut off or even sensibly reduced,
politicians would be much more dependent upon business contributions for campaign
expenses. At a time when the growth of a mass press and of the use of chartered trains for
political candidates were greatly increasing the expense of campaigning for office, any
reduction in campaign contributions from officeholders would inevitably make
politicians more subservient to business. It was with this aim in view that civil service
reform began in the Federal government with the Pendleton Bill of 1883. As a result, the
government was controlled with varying degrees of completeness by the forces of
investment banking and heavy industry from 1884 to 1933.

A Group of 400 Individuals Mobilize Enormous Wealth and Power
This period, 1884-1933, was the period of financial capitalism in which investment
bankers moving into commercial banking and insurance on one side and into railroading
and heavy industry on the other were able to mobilize enormous wealth and wield
enormous economic, political, and social power. Popularly known as "Society," or the
"400," they lived a life of dazzling splendor. Sailing the ocean in great private yachts or
traveling on land by private trains, they moved in a ceremonious round between their
spectacular estates and town houses in Palm Beach, Long Island, the Berkshires,
Newport, and Bar Harbor; assembling from their fortress-like New York residences to
attend the Metropolitan Opera under the critical eye of Mrs. Astor; or gathering for
business meetings of the highest strategic level in the awesome presence of J. P. Morgan

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

What I taught at Arcosanti is as simple and obvious it is a wonder it even needed to be stated: we have within us the summation of evolution and the task of life is to appropriate this legacy and to apply it. Unfortunately, the inertial momentum of past ages represented around us is an overwhelming distraction. Thus, the isolation technique employed, a monastic society of a week's duration. At Paolo's birthday, George expressed to me as a kindness that he wished his son might have access to the kind of ritual re--creation of evolution we staged for work shoppers in the 70s. Although this sentiment is appreciated, the truth is, any serious person gains this awareness gradually by sincere self-knowledge. How is it that we did not find a simpler method than the idiosyncratic and ambiguous Village on the Mesa? Perhaps not coincidentally, the Mesa is the name of my current residence perched at another edge of history overlooking the Pacific. The view from here is the one I will share from now on on this blog.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Image of Humanity?

First, the important things a planned preliminary trip that I could not make might have enabled me to say on alumni night:

Alumni night was a particulary emotional and wrenching confrontation with the past. Russell Adams seemed to be in the same rugged health as the day we dug that ditch. A similarly arrogant defiance of mother nature--an hour's discussion in the midday sun, humbled and exhausted me--or perhaps that happened 30 years ago. I thought on seeing his slides: those of our era were intimate with bedrock, the literal foundation of the city. Bob Williams, Roger Tomalty, Bob Walker, Chris Blackwell, and other Project leaders of the first buildings dug holes in some very tough ground. My fondest memory of the late Skip Sagar was looking up at him with a beatific smile from a 15 foot hole excavated for the footing of the souteast cornrer of the second vault. He expressed his wish to trade places with me, this wise and patient couselor to a small town hick and benefactor from the Jewish community of New York City. Of such moments of poiniant spontanaity was the project begun. The dust and hardness abrasive . the dynamite of Mr. Bennett, so fascinating to us intellectuals and art students, of 90 pound air hammers drilling into mother earth, the vibrations locked in my genetic memory forever, for anchoting those heavy buildings on fractured basalt poured out molten in prehistory. I have tears now writing this. That I could have summoned these words, completely spent from travel and sleeplessness on alumni night. The rock there broke the blades of the largest conventional bulldozers in the world, the Caterpillar D-9, and Paolo's beloved Komatsu, and the site weldor would be summoned to repair and reinforce them.

Does everyone have those personal epiphanies and sensual impressions? How does one evoke reading a poem from from a workshop lover, complete with artwork that nailed the highest view of oneself to which one could possibly aspire in this world in a few lines: "He tries to build a heaven here on earth...dear friend with the clear white light..."I would not trade my remaining copy of that page for anything on earth.  How does one communicate the meaning of one day under the restaurant, in front of one of the largest workshops, gathered to hear Paolo in our weekly encounter, having him ask me to "warm up" the group? The greatest honor of my life, of any life lived in our age, offered for the first time to anyone.

Hearing oneself broadcast for an uninterrupted hour in the great city which first inspired me to seek the city as the highest design form, and Paolo as its central figure? What mattered are the poems of children given to me after a class with catholic schoolchildren, in the same Octagon where Roger hurled a full can of Moosehead at me teaching an experimental Friday Night class. Ah, there are stories to tell...of workshop loves upon which the world seemed to depend, and those stand in celebrated nakedness.

I welded mostly without a shirt, wearing shorts, and let the white hot sparks of molten slag, and the radiation of the 7000(?) degree arc burn my sun browned nordic skin. One time, arc welding the old batch plant with only googles, all the skin peeled off my face the next day.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


From the beginning, what Marshall Rosenberg terms the "tragedy" of needs expressed in ways that cause defensiveness on both sides, rather than getting them met, was encoded in the Arcosanti experience. The first site manager, Bob Walker, had departed with bad feeling. I sensed that Paolo's need to feel he could trust his managers not to rebel informed all subsequent decisions on personnel. The following generation of baby boomers who made up the bulk of participants were in no mood to live under authoritarian management. But many also left because they saw no chance to build Arcosanti with the method of molasses-like incrementalism and amateur workers. It was seen as not serious, partly because they hired people like me. Doug Lee and Don Yoshino were the type of people who had produced the drawings and models for the Black Book and the Cocoran exhibit: serious professionals from a culture of extreme discipline like Tomiaki. Their condescension for the dropouts and art students who began work at the site was palpable if understandable. My sense is that up until the beginning of Arcosanti, Paolo had attracted a more refined group of participants to earlier workshops [and subsequent ones?]. Was Paolo's take on apprenticeship shaped by an Italian tradition of abusing apprentices or by Frank Lloyd Wright? In any case, during my tenure there was no consciousness of work shoppers as a resource to be invested in whatsoever. I've always seen this as the greatest mistake, a wound reopened every time there is an effort to tap the energy of former participants. I would be shocked if more than a handful returned for Paolo's 90th birthday in these difficult times. The project has always reflected this sense that participants and of the public ought to give financial support solely because it's such a good idea, irrespective of their experience of dealing with people who would be deciding how to spend this money. How is that working?

What I felt then, I now know to be true: that being a lightning rod for the work shoppers [and stafffers?] unmet needs was a gift, a responsibility in a way, to be their advocate. They came with so much to give, priceless positive energy, future positions of influence in society, and an amazing spirit of openness and generosity. I do not believe for a moment that work shoppers could have built Arcosanti, but I do believe that former work shoppers could have done so. There will never be a sustainable compact town on that Mesa where everyone's needs are met until those work shoppers' unmet needs are addressed and acknowledged.