With a lovely winter wonderland, wishing everyone a wonderful end of year and season of festivities!
Stay safe, take care, and see you all in the new year.
“The woods would be very quiet if no bird sang but the bird that sang the best.”
— Henry Van Dyke
(Now get out there and dream, create, express, and be…)
It’s not quite a hobbit hole… but it is an underground house. One that, with its sunken courtyard, perhaps has an even more dramatic entry than a simple round door in the side of a hill.
How this came to be is kind of fun: the owners enjoy hang gliding and from that vantage point gave a lot of thought of how the house would appear from the air. Also, they didn’t want to cut down too many of the avocado trees on the property, and who could blame them? Avocadoes are awesome. Hence, the buried house.
Now, it’s not 100% buried, for one façade does indeed get exposed, with a slope partially carved away to reveal the house just like that hobbit hole front door. Between that face and the entry sub-subterranean courtyard, coupled with its narrow and linear layout and a few choice skylights, there’s plenty of light despite its buried nature. If the slope wasn’t there, I think it would’ve worked equally well (and I might even have preferred it this way) with two sunken courtyards. Definitively very cool how the very green roof is an extension of the field, littered with wildflower bushes and, of course, those avocado trees!
Very nice, a way of inhabiting the field rather than perching on it, living in the soil just as the nature around it.
Oh. Wow. Check out these very fun photomontages of wonderful locations… and GIANT CATS!
Chilling in NYC…
Or, even better, in Toronto!
Something a bit more secluded (and surprising!)
No one seems all that concerned, fortunately.
Of course, they love modern architecture too, and visit Calatrava’s WTC Transportation Hub.
Before ascending to the stars above.
All so much fun!
So, there’s this story about Van Halen and brown M&Ms. Perhaps you’ve heard about it before. If not, the gist of it is that tucked away in the 53 pages of the band’s rider (a contract that lists out their requirements for the venue) for their 1982 show was a little gem: There was to be provided a bowl of M&Ms – which seems normal enough. However! There was a caveat: Absolutely no brown ones.
Which, on the one hand, seems like some weird arrogant stuck up super band celebrity weirdness and excess.
But, it wasn’t. There was method to their seeming madness.
The 1982 VH tour was a large and intricate affair, requiring equally extensive and complex setup. It was perhaps one of the largest rock concerts of the time. It required serious prep work by the venue to ensure that the show went off without a hitch (or without anyone being injured).
The brown M&Ms, then, were an integrity check.
If the band went into the dressing room and found brown M&Ms, they were tipped off that either the promoter hadn’t read the rider carefully – which is bad enough – or that the promoter’s integrity was lacking and that if this thing was missed then more important aspects of the setup might well have been botched. (Which meant the band would then spend the time to double and triple check everything.)
Integrity isn’t about morality; it’s about honouring your word as yourself. It’s also, more importantly in this case, about doing complete and proper work. And like on a racecar, even something a little bit loose, or missing, is not just a small ‘out of integrity’ – it will almost certainly cost you the race (and might lead to a crash).
Thus, the M&M rider. A small detail whose legend is as big as the band’s, and a great little story to latch on to as we ponder the meaning of integrity and our relationship to it.
Mmmm, it’s been a while since I featured something with rammed earth, and here we go! But this new distillery and hotel goes above and beyond. Nearly all of the materials used to build are sourced from the property itself, from the earth in the walls to recycled and reclaimed wood, stone, and more. And then it goes even further, fully embracing a hand-crafted nature for everything from the rafters to the awnings to the furnishings and more.
While completely regular (and even symmetrical) the building feels a bit labyrinthian but in a good way, as these twists and turns are filled with connections. Every room or courtyard participates in multiple dialogues between spaces of the building and, especially, with the surrounding landscape. Here the rammed earth and reclaimed materials really shine, further tying the space to the vistas of the land in which it sits.
Being a “destination hotel”, it’s no surprise there’s an air of theatricality to it all, with the grand vistas punctuated with artwork and centered around the large mezcal press. But it is theatricality that is handled most well. Great stuff.
There’s something about these AI-generated pieces of art that are quite neat…. certainly not photorealistic by any stretch of the imagination, but certainly images that do indeed stretch the imagination. They’re very much like abstract concept art, which I think is perfect to use for tabletop RPG games to set a mood, feel, tone, or theme. They’re evocative and let the player’s imaginations run free, which can be even stronger than a full polished piece. Plus, they don’t tie you or the players to something so specific it creates an inadvertent straight jacket.
There’s an oft-used phrase that I think fits very well for many of the unconscious social constructs we often (nearly always?) find ourselves trapped in:
The Circular Firing Squad
While the phrase is most accurately used to describe situations where groups are engaged in self-destructive and internal conflicts and recriminations, I’m bending it here to mean… well, actually, pretty much the same thing. It’s may not necessarily always be as destructive as the phrase implies (sometimes it may be Nerf weapons), but it still is quite similar.
What I mean here are all those situations where we are behaving in a certain way because we know everyone else expects us to behave that way, and we can see them all behaving that way… but the only reason everyone else is behaving that way and the reason they expect you to do so is for the exact same reason: they also think you, and everyone else, expects it, and they also are following what you, and everyone else, is doing.
Which can lead to unproductive and deleterious but also sometimes hilarious situations. Like how we often worry that we’ll be judged by others… when everyone else is also, simultaneously, worried they’ll be judged by us. So much so, that they, and we, are often not judging them because we’re too worried about being judged. It’s kind of delightfully absurd, isn’t it? How fascinating!
Of course, we do indeed often judge others – it’s a human thing to do – but our little and “normal” bit of judging is further encouraged and enhanced to an unproductive level by us creating and then living inside a context (or, more often, many contexts) that fosters and even demands judgement. “If everyone judges, then I’d better judge to! (And get them first)!“ is a first level of this, but additional contexts, such as that of vertical individuality, push it even further until we’re in a full prison where we spend 90% of our time judging others, and the other 90% of the time worried about being judged. No wonder we’re frazzled.
There’s a social capital “game” going on here, one that is, again, something quite human to do and not necessarily an issue. It may even be necessary for a vibrant community. But the unhealthy levels to which we play the game are driven only because everyone else is similarly playing it. We see people out to get us, but they’re only doing so because they think we are out to get them. And then we do go out to get them, because we think they’re out to get us, so we’d better get them first, which causes them to react in kind, which confirms our suspicions and… boom. We’re caught in the circular firing squad.
How easy is it to see these and free ourselves from them? Individually, it’s not that difficult. We can recognize and not choose to play the game, or to play the game on our own terms in ways that are productive for all. And the best part is that when we do so, we unconsciously give others the freedom to also forego the game.* We can engage in more authentic ways; we can be free and self-expressed and at peace. It’s a glorious thing.
The more we practice and lay down our metaphorical arms, the larger our circles of freedom become, and we begin to create new types of circular squads, squads of joy, love, support, excitement, creativity, peace, and more.
* Though it may take them a little while to get over their ingrained habits and fears.
While I was in Florida to view the Inspiration4 Dragon launch, I headed away from the cape in order to go visit something rather nifty and not very well known: a college campus designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
From the master plan to 18 buildings (of which 13 were built), this is perhaps the largest collection of FLW-designed buildings in a single place. And it’s a fascinating collection too, incorporating a number of signature FLW elements that don’t often show up together, be it the decorative abstract motifs of the Hollyhock house and the windows of his Prairie buildings, his textile blocks (here inset with coloured glass, quite beautiful), Usonian space planning, and more. Both the dean of the college and FLW were keen on creating something that weren’t attached to the traditions of the old but stretched out to embrace new concepts and aesthetics.
The campus is also known as the “Child of the Sun”, from FLW’s vision of buildings growing out of the ground and into the light. While the site is currently full of big lawns, they were originally designed to remain as orange groves. Unfortunately a recent-ish weather event wiped most of them out, but there is a plan to replant so that the long esplanades – that themselves are a representation of the orange tree – are once again nestled within the groves as intended.
Quite remarkable, and really great to tour and experience the campus, both inside and out. FLW certainly is a whole host of contradictions, but a lot of his works really are quite dang cool.
The short preamble to this is: I have seen the new Dune movie adaptation, and I have thoughts!