A System of Concepts Worked Out In Steel

“That’s all the motorcycle is, a system of concepts worked out in steel. There’s no part in it, no shape in it, that is not out of someone’s mind […] I’ve noticed that people who have never worked with steel have trouble seeing this—that the motorcycle is primarily a mental phenomenon. They associate metal with given shapes—pipes, rods, girders, tools, parts—all of them fixed and inviolable., and think of it as primarily physical. But a person who does machining or foundry work or forger work or welding sees “steel” as having no shape at all. Steel can be any shape you want if you are skilled enough, and any shape but the one you want if you are not. Shapes, like this tappet, are what you arrive at, what you give to the steel. Steel has no more shape than this old pile of dirt on the engine here. These shapes are all of someone’s mind. That’s important to see. The steel? Hell, even the steel is out of someone’s mind. There’s no steel in nature. Anyone from the Bronze Age could have told you that. All nature has is a potential for steel. There’s nothing else there.”
― Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values

Downtown Decatur, Texas

Advertisements

But Tonight We’ll Be Free

Well, I got this guitar and I learned how to make it talk
And my car’s out back if you’re ready to take that long walk
From your front porch to my front seat
The door’s open but the ride ain’t free
And I know you’re lonely for words that I ain’t spoken
But tonight we’ll be free, all the promises’ll be broken
—-Bruce Springsteen, Thunder Road

McKinney, Texas

Organized Lightning

“Electricity is really just organized lightning”
― George Carlin

Beltline Road and the Glenville Bicycle Trail, Richardson, Texas

Along my drive to work there is, as there always is, a line of giant electrical distribution towers. Over the past few months, I have watched them replace the towers with even larger and higher towers. Twice a day I was treated with a show of technology while this operation proceeded step by step.

They did this without disturbing the wires. First they poured huge round foundations near the old towers. Jutting out of the concrete were rings of heavy bolts. The new towers went in – placed in multiple sections lifted by a crane. Modern crane operators cans sling these massive cylinders of galvanized steel around like they were chopsticks.

Once the new towers were in place, the wires from the old ones were moved over. I didn’t see this – it happened while I was at work. I assume the transfer was done hot – with untold thousands of volts coursing through the conductors. Think about that – a miracle taking place above your head while you only gripe about the traffic delay caused by a closed lane keeping you away from the danger.

Only then were the old towers sliced with a torch and removed.

The stubs are still there – I’ll keep an eye out for how they disappear.

All Nature Has Is a Potential

“That’s all the motorcycle is, a system of concepts worked out in steel. There’s no part in it, no shape in it, that is not out of someone’s mind […] I’ve noticed that people who have never worked with steel have trouble seeing this—that the motorcycle is primarily a mental phenomenon. They associate metal with given shapes—pipes, rods, girders, tools, parts—all of them fixed and inviolable., and think of it as primarily physical. But a person who does machining or foundry work or forger work or welding sees “steel” as having no shape at all. Steel can be any shape you want if you are skilled enough, and any shape but the one you want if you are not. Shapes, like this tappet, are what you arrive at, what you give to the steel. Steel has no more shape than this old pile of dirt on the engine here. These shapes are all of someone’s mind. That’s important to see. The steel? Hell, even the steel is out of someone’s mind. There’s no steel in nature. Anyone from the Bronze Age could have told you that. All nature has is a potential for steel. There’s nothing else there.”
― Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values

Future Sculpture, Clarence Street Art Collective, The Cedars, Dallas, Texas

Oblique Strategy: Is the intonation correct?

After a really rough day I needed a little victory so I made a sweet potato casserole to take to a potluck tomorrow. Is a well-cooked casserole a work of art? Probably not. Especially when its destiny is a long table already groaning under other casseroles also full of sweet potatoes (at least mine does not feature marshmallows – it has goat cheese and walnuts) or green beans mixed with oversalty industrial mushroom soup and canned fried onions. I’m sure mine will be ignored, no matter how delicious. Such is the ultimate destiny of all art.

P.S. After having written the above, I went to the kitchen to put my cassarole, which had been cooling on a rack, into the fridge to take to the potluck tomorrow. While transferring it, I dropped it, flipping it onto the kitchen floor.

The day continues.

The Marriage of Reason and Nightmare

“The marriage of reason and nightmare that dominated the 20th century has given birth to an ever more ambiguous world. Across the communications landscape move the spectres of sinister technologies and the dreams that money can buy. Thermo-nuclear weapons systems and soft-drink commercials coexist in an overlit realm ruled by advertising and pseudo-events, science and pornography. Over our lives preside the great twin leitmotifs of the 20th century – sex and paranoia…In a sense, pornography is the most political form of fiction, dealing with how we use and exploit each other, in the most urgent and ruthless way.”
― J.G. Ballard

Tony Collins Art, Dallas, Texas

Oblique Strategy: Make a sudden, destructive unpredictable action; incorporate

Is it a bomb?
Or simply a disposable fuel tank.

Does it matter? Now, anyway, it’s just a sculptural form.
A piece of shaped steel, sexy somehow. It pulls the eye to it.
You wonder about its story. Where did it come from?
Why is it hanging there?

Does it matter?

Practically Nothing Is Going On

“Artists use frauds to make human beings seem more wonderful than they really are. Dancers show us human beings who move much more gracefully than human beings really move. Films and books and plays show us people talking much more entertainingly than people really talk, make paltry human enterprises seem important. Singers and musicians show us human beings making sounds far more lovely than human beings really make. Architects give us temples in which something marvelous is obviously going on. Actually, practically nothing is going on.”
― Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Wampeters, Foma and Granfalloons

Downtown Fort Worth, Texas

Oblique Strategy: Retrace your steps

What are the reasons for the modern vertical big city downtown? Maybe three is no reason… maybe they just are, like a mountain or an ocean. Maybe simply the value of a square foot of property.

There is the perceived need to pack a large number of lawyers, accountants, and administrative assistants together in order to foster some sort of symbiotic synergy between them. Think of the three dimensional human density in a fifty story high rise… it is unprecedented. I saw a documentary on The Lost Boys of Sudan – the Africans were brought to Houston and given ordinary apartments. They had never seen a two story building and were constantly afraid of falling through the roof of the first floor. Imagine their reaction in a skyscraper.

With today’s multi-use towers, will we have people born, live, work, and die in the same building? It’s certainly possible. It may be inevitable.

But I think the real reason for skyscrapers is to impress the rubes. To amaze the hayseeds off the farm and in the city for the first time. After all, they are the only ones that look up.

Escape

“It isn’t running away they’re afraid of. We wouldn’t get far. It’s those other escapes, the ones you can open in yourself, given a cutting edge.”
― Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale

The best advice… the only advice you really need, is to find the light first.