Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Seeking story

You hear how we shouldn't be so obsessed with stories about Tiger or Kate or Conan when there are so many more important things happening on the planet, but I'm not sure. We're hungry for story, that's what informs us, and with our recent and sudden massive collapse of story - from church to Wall Street to government to corporations to schools, you name it - we are seeking out story, hard, wherever we can find it.

I found this dirty pdf transcript - gotta love PBS - of Bill Moyer's 1987 interview with Joseph Campbell. I think we're still seeking that uniting story Campbell was talking about 23 years ago. I think that's why the Twitter and Apple and Facebook and Wikipedia and Obama 2008 stories had/have so much energy. They are uniting stories, expanding stories - they connect us and move us forward.

Fascinated with Campbell saying that you can't predict where the new myth will come from, any more than you can predict what you'll dream about tonight, and the suggestion that we are all potential vessels of revelation(!).

The story he suggests in the last paragraph is laughable for its simplicity. I wonder how long it will take for that story to emerge and take root. Maybe faster than we think. Maybe it's happening.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Social Practice

Aaron, in addition to working with me, is a junior in the design program at PSU, studying with Lis Charman and Kate Bingaman-Burt. Lis and Kate have super-charged the program, bringing in people like Frank Chimero to teach Social Practice, a course I'm almost certain did not exist when I was in school. Jealous.

Social practice is work that deliberately and directly involves and engages the audience. Last Friday, as part of the class, teams of students set up projects on campus. Visitors strolling through the park blocks could find themselves escorted to class by a brightly colored robot, participating in ultimate four-square or invited to take a nap in an empty art gallery by students wearing pajamas.

Aaron and his group set up a Dictation Station, where passers-by were offered the chance to have a letter typed and sent to the person of their choice.

The team set up an outdoor office in front of the library and art directed it, and themselves, 1950s-style. The desk is authentic; they pulled it out of university storage.

Nice work, y'all...

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Numanistic = community/artisan/spiritual/love

Three for three this week with Give Pizza A Chance, the artisan pizza cart around the corner on Stark, and if I follow my pace, this will be my second week in a row with pizza from there for lunch, every day.

The Spinach Deep Dish. The whole wheat crust is made daily, and it has this fantastic buttery/crispy bottom, while the top is chewy and soft, with the ingredients flipped in order, cheese on the bottom and sauce on the top, Chicago style. I'm honestly breathing more deeply just thinking about it.

The Greek is new, and it's nice. A sicilian-style crust, and simple, with greek olives, artichokes, tomatoes, some sort of heavenly olive oil. Sigh.

Today I was sitting there eating my slice, and some guy must've heard my soft moaning and said to me, "That Greek is pretty good, isn't it." He was a huge guy with a shaved head, thick studs in both ears, giant lambchop sideburns. "John is out of control," he said, shaking his head, referring to the guy who runs the cart.

You and John old friends?

"Actually, John's family and mine lived together as part of a numanistic faith community."

At least I think he said "numanistic"? But when I looked it up afterwards, I couldn't find much other than this, on a blog called Numanistic Experience.

I asked my fellow Greek pizza fan to explain. "We're an intentional community. We live in consideration of our impact on the world and each other. Instead of trying to make yourself invisible, which is sort of the normal way to live in a community these days, we try to put ourselves out there, in support of each other," he said. "It's not easy."

"We don't live there anymore. My wife and I are finishing eight months in Bangladesh doing development work, and in June, we'll be moving into a house in a regular neighborhood. But we'll try to take some of that community mindset with us."

He left me thinking about the overlap between those values and the delicious pizza. Once I told Aaron that I believe 'Artisan' to be the model that points the way forward for business. "Artisan is just another way to say- " I started to say, "Spiritual," Aaron finished.

Hm, that wasn't what I was going to say, but yes. Spiritual. Stumptown has certainly found the spirituality in coffee, and Apple has found the spirituality in computers, and you can taste the spirituality in John's pizza.

Love. That's what I was going to say. Artisan means loving something - whatever it is that you make or do - as much as it can be loved, and then loving people so much that you have to share it with them. It transforms everything: the process, the product, what sort of quality you demand, who you work with, your relationship with your customer/client, everything. Can't be faked. Can't be adopted strategically. People can tell.

There's job security in artisan. The only people who can compete with you are other artisans, and they're rooting for you. They like good competition.

Friday, April 9, 2010


wikimania 2009 from julen´s work on Vimeo.

Julen is a talented director/cameraman Jay and I worked with in Argentina to capture the Wikimania conference. I haven't seen the longer piece yet, but he just sent me this little trailer.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Urban Flora

Nature putting on a pretty good show in the asphalt cracks and vacant lots of downtown Portland these days.