Philosophy Tuesday

This is a philosophical statement.  It is intended to spark thinking and examining.

Do you realize we’re all not pooping and peeing in our pants?

This may not seem like much of a strange revelation… or a great insight… but consider it for a moment.

One of the most natural things in the world to do is to poo and pee whenever you feel the need.  I mean, why not.  Especially when it becomes really darn uncomfortable if we don’t!

Yet here we sit, not doing that (unless maybe if you’re on the toilet right now…).

We’ve learned to give up the immediate, hold it, live with some discomfort, and behave in a way that makes it better for us.

We gave up something to create something.

“I could never do that,” we sometimes say, when someone suggests to us a different course of action.  Or, perhaps, suggests a different way of living.

“Oh, I’m just that way, it’s how I operate,” is another phrase we may use.

“That’s not in my nature…”

Yet our nature is to go when we gotta go.

And now we’ll wait a whole heck of a long time at times when we gotta go.

We’ve got a lot more capacity for both uncomfortableness,

as well as to change and transform

than we give ourselves credit for.

It may be tough.  It may uncomfortable.  And it may take a while to learn and get it ingrained into who we are.

But if we can give up the joy and ease of unrestricted poo, what can’t we transform?

Architecture Monday

Came across this house in a news story the other day, and it caught my interest not only for its Art Deco styling, but moreover for the fact that the current Prime Minister of Canada grew up in that house (!).

There’s a lot of interesting bits to this house.  Let’s start with the art deco styling, for it is a very nice example of said styling.  There’s a good balance between the near-featurelenssness of the blank walls (I say near-featureless, for the oversized blocks themselves become sculptural, and the elaborate articulation around the corners does likewise) and the, well, art:  the statue nearly hidden above the door, the frieze above the window, and the planter box that rests below.  Those big blocks aren’t just treated as building materials either – everything is built up on a modulus by those blocks.  Check out how each element fits within or between the joints, including the mullions of the very grand window.  Overall the proportions are very fine, creating a rhythm and unity between not only the two prominent boxes that make up the front of the house, but also the relationship from body (the door) to entryway to great hall (5/3 and 13/8 – roughly the same, and close to the Fibonacci sequence).  And the small copper flashing that caps the facade rounds out the composition in just the right way.  It’s quiet yet striking at the same time.

At the back, things get interesting.  The terrain drops steeply away, and so the staircase inside leads down, rather than up, to the rest of the house.  It was also built directly pressing against an existing building, happily coexisting and creating its own flair in a way that isn’t diminished by, or diminishes, what was already there.  It doesn’t need a giant estate or tall fences to be a mighty fine building.

Lovely.  Designed by architect Ernest Cormier as his own residence, later bought by then Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau.

(And as another interesting side note… Ernest Cormier also designed the stately Supreme Court of Canada Building (!))

The Oxygène Experience

I first heard the music of Jean-Michel Jarre when I was 12 or 13 years old.  A friend introduced it to me (Friends:  Introducing you to wicked music since forever) off some multi-artist compilation album that was popular at the time.  I loved it immediately.  Symphonic, melodic, electronic, playful, the music was chock full of journey and wonder.  It was a few years later before I got my hands on one of his complete albums, and later still the libraries in Ottawa proved very useful in listening to the rest of his work (Libraries: Giving you access to all sorts of cool stuff since forever).   To this day, I continue to love it.  They are timeless and still filled with wonder.

So when I heard he was coming to town as part of his first ever North American tour, there was no way in hell I was going to miss it.  This Friday past, Yebo and I travelled back to the Greek theatre to once again be amazed in aural glory. Continue reading

Wonder Wednesday

Oh my.  Walt Disney World just rolled out a new evening fireworks show, but much more exciting/impressive to me is the fabulous use of projection mapping on the castle:

Very nicely done.  The story/progression of the show may be a bit weak, but the visuals are killer, and I’m very, very excited for the breadth of the characters appearing.  One of the things I noted in previous visits to a park was how many of their characters and stories didn’t seem to bet represented or be present at all, so it’s great to see many of the “forgotten” stories be given their due.  Especially the Hunchback sequence!  Quite delightful all around.

Philosophy Tuesday

This is a philosophical statement.  It is intended to spark thinking and examining.

Continuing from last week the conversation about money and value… and expanding this week to get interpersonal.  Let’s look at our relationships and at appreciation.

Just like how we get sucked into the detached space of “pure monetary value” and readily lose sight of what something is personally worth to us, we also very much collapse the idea of compensation (ie, money) with displaying appreciation.

Hank Green mentioned this idea in a recent Vlogbrother’s video:  “John, you are aware of my appreciation deficit theory. It’s this idea that I have, that by turning all transactions into something that can be quantified with money, that we have lost the ability to feel as if there is value that can be transferred that isn’t measured?”

Acknowledgement, gratitude, and connectedness… they all get lost in the same morass of the reductive dollar value.

And so, when we pay someone for something, we think that’s all and good.  They did this thing for me – could be a big thing, could be a small thing, could be a pleasant thing, or it could be a terrible stinky hard thing – and we paid them, then that’s well and done.  That is enough.  We paid them, right?  That should show what it’s “value” is to us, right? *

But that’s compensation, a transaction, a payment to make a living to do a task for us.  It is vital part of the economic engine we work within.  And it should not be confused with appreciation.

It gets weirder when there is no explicit money interaction.

When a friend does something for us, its value may not even register for us, since it didn’t have a dollar value attached to it.

Or maybe we do think about it, but since friends don’t charge friends for things, what to do?  Buy them a gift, which is, effectively a payment by another name?  Mark it in a ledger to do a return good deed later on?  Or simply say thanks and move (awkwardly?) on?

Compensation is a quick transaction.  It takes moments to stuff a few bills across the physical space between two bodies.  It’s also impersonal, valuing something only in comparison to arbitrary figures of an autonomous numbering system.

Appreciation requires presence.  It takes time, contact, and connection to cross the personal spaces between two human beings.  It’s intimate.  And it’s about what the true value of something is.  “What is, deep down, truly, this worth to me?”  And if the answer is “a lot”**, then appreciation is letting the other person know.

“I value you.  Thank you for what you do.  Thank you for what you’ve done.  You have made a difference in my life.  Thank you for being part of my life.”


* And the reverse as well.  Our boss gives us a task, and we do it well, and they simply sign our paycheques every week;  is that enough?

** Remembering that people all over and in so many roles are contributors to our lives… as we are to theirs.

Architecture Monday

I went and saw a lecture by one of the members of MAD Architects the other week.  Overall I found their work a bit hit or miss.  They seemed to operate at their best when working on more intimate scales and close to the ground.  Which is exactly what their new residential/mixed-use project in LA is.  They didn’t present it at the lecture, but I like it.

The view as you (would – it’s not yet built) approach tells a lot of the story, the podium of vines and succulents and greenery rising above a transparent facade of shops.  From the back, a path wends from the ground up to the top of the verdant podium, atop which perch a cluster of white villas.  Balconies and windows set into the greenery let you know that these houses have, of a fashion, a basement, set deep into the podium. It’s living space all the way up and down.

But it’s the courtyard, hidden at the centre of the project, where the full story unfolds.  There is a gaggle of housing types here, from townhouses to villas to studios to condos, and they all coalesce and interact around this courtyard.  There’s an intricate interplay of forms here that create little niches and pockets of space for balconies and porches.  Each unit has it’s unique identity while in dialogue with the greater whole.  It looks fun and playful.

This isn’t ready to break ground until October, so I won’t be checking it out on my upcoming trip to LA, but in future years, when it’s done, I’ll definitively swing on by.

8600 Wilshire, by MAD Architects

Philosophy Tuesday

This is a philosophical statement.  It is intended to spark thinking and examining.

A friend of mine participated in a game a couple of years ago that I really find fascinating.  While on the surface the game seems quite simple, underneath, and why I find it so fascinating, the game ultimately was a meditation on the concept of “value.”

The game itself was straightforward:   Each of the players (something like 40 of them) had to select something they had to offer or give.  It could be something physical, like golf clubs or a blender, it could be something they could do, like massage or kung fu lessons, or it could be something both physical and transitory, like a 2 week stay in a timeshare in Maui.  There were no baselines, limits, or restrictions placed on what they could offer.  They just had to offer it.

From that starting point, the next 90 minutes they were to to walk around, talk with each other, and trade offers until – and this is the important part – they all got something they really wanted.

That was it.

And indeed, by the end of the game, each person had something they thoroughly enjoyed and wanted and were excited to have.

The nifty part of the game wasn’t the acquiring, though.  What was nifty was that through the actions and all those acts of exchange it got the players thinking more and more in terms of personal value.  That is, it had them examine and be aware of what was something worth to them – once again here is the important part – completely separate from the or any dollar amount attached to said thing/item/class/event/location/etc.

It had the players confront the degree to which the “absolute/real” $$ amount that was assigned to something had pervaded their thoughts and their choices.  It had them confront how much of themselves they had shoved out of the picture and how much they were letting the pervasive voices of the economic numbers guide the show.

They had to stop thinking only about “am I ‘getting a good deal’ here?” and instead remind themselves who this ultimately was for… and who it always is for, in the end.  “What’s the value to me?” was the question to begin, and continue, asking.  “Do I want this?”

The more time they spent within that space, the more free they were, the more trades went, and thus the outcome of at the end where they found themselves all beaming with excitement.  It didn’t matter if they had, perhaps, exchanged a high-pricetag item for something that might be considered low-pricetag.  What mattered was that they got something that they, themselves, authentically wanted.

We get all kinds of funny weird when it comes to money.  It’s all so easy to strategize and stalk this competitive field and get sucked into this zero-sum game where we absolutely must come out with the highest number value.  We can all to readily slide into a soulless mindset inside of which we so easily end up short changing ourselves.

But that question “what is this really worth to me?” can be such a switcheroo.*  It frees us to value things for ourselves, and allows us to choose where and how to spend those $$s we’ve worked to get in ways that light us up the most.  Without the filter of the so-called true “price” of something, we get the chance to guide ourselves towards what will give us the best experience and quality of our individual lives.

This can unfold even further… more next week.


* – This is one of the reasons why I’m so excited about the Kickstarter and Patreon models.  There’s no fixed cost… I can think and then pay exactly what something is worth to me rather than paying “what it is sitting there on the shelf.”  It offer the potential for a nice, unexpected, and hidden philosophical twist on our usual commerce model.  “This is a game/art/widget/etc that I reealllllly want to see in the world, I would be happy to pay $1000 to have it come to fruition.”  Not everyone approaches it this way I’m sure, especially with all the backer levels and extra perks for higher investments.  But it’s there, available (perhaps more so with Patreon than Kickstarter), and just allowing different levels of investment, and the more personal connection to the creators, I think begins to crack open the nut of returning our focus to “what is this worth to me.”

Architecture Monday

A little classicism for your abode?

If you like, here’s a nice (not-so little) farmhouse that pulls from the classical language to create a lovely building.  No columns or fancy friezes here, but the extra-tall movable shutters create a strong vertical pull that nicely reads column-like without falling into pastiche, and plays well with the horizontal siding that covers the rest of the house.

Rising two stories, those shutters are nifty.  They slide over the windows during the hot months, cutting glare and heat (the latter by a significant amount) while still letting natural light through.  Come winter months, they can perform reverse duty during the nights, helping to keep the heat in.

This lets the house be generous with windows in a place where they can be a liability in both summer and winter, which lets there be glorious views of the intense skies and beautiful foggy mornings.  And sometimes a visitor…

Pretty sweet.  A nice use of the principles of the classical form to create a simple farmhouse that treads lightly on the landscape it welcomes inside.  I like it.

Pennsylvania Farmhouse by Cutler Anderson Architects