Friday, March 20, 2009

Chambered Butterfly

Last night I watched another Technology, Entertainment and Design Talk, otherwise known to geeks all over as a TED talk.  As usual, the first one I watched was a bit dull.  That was Nathan Myhrvold, former Microsoft executive,  talking about how he designs nuclear powerplants, and finds T Rexs' lounging about while on vacation, but can't fit all his T Rexs' in his living room, where he already has ONE, so the T Rex he discovered just had to go somewhere else.  He didn't mention the difference in the market value of a model of a T Rex (considerable) and the market value of fossil of a T Rex (astronomical).  So why did he want the model and not the real one?  Maybe he'll take it to Antique's Roadshow and we all can clear this up.   His talk was very interesting, but managed to place him, and his brain, and his polymath tendencies, ect. ect. in these very unlikely settings, without much discussion of the origins of his privilege, in a room full of some of the most privileged people on earth.  The good thing about the whole talk is that it was interesting in the end and you could feel that he was making everyone uncomfortable.  
The second Talk was by Jay Walker, the founder of PriceLine, and someone who runs a thinktank on very high end technology and conceptual technological design.  While extremely out there, there was something so enthralled with wonder and sharing about the guy, that after awhile you sort of forgot that he is a gazillionaire and just let him wine and dine you with his "library" of curiosities.  Meteorite from Siberia, authentic replica (whatever that means) of a Gutenburg Bible.  Lots of rare machines, ect.  Then one thing that really made me smile.  The motherboard of an Apple II computer signed by Woz--- Steve Wozniak, co-creater of the Apple II series with Jobs, in the original garage that Apple started in.  I grew up using an Apple II Plus and it made me smile to see it's DNA, so to speak, sitting in a Library next to a Sputnik prototype.
And finally I saw a Ted Talk by Adam Savage, the Mythbusters co-host.  It's hard to believe that Mythbusters has only been on the Discovery channel since 2002.  Prior to that, Adam Savage was a prominent craftsman and artist (across many disciplines of special effects) in the effects industry of Hollywood.  He worked on ten or twelve very, very well known effects driven movies, and since I have loved reading trade magazines for the effects industry since I was a teenager, I really enjoy listening to Adam get out of his clowning Mythbusters mode and talk a little shop on  TED about something, perhaps, just as whimsical:  the replication of the Maltese Falcon prop from the original movie.  Of course, the purpose of passionate and single minded replication of any cultural artifact is to immerse oneself in the posture of peoples and cultures and characters one cares about.  So Adam very amusingly retells his attempt to craft a skeleton from sketchy photographs in the public record of the Dodo bird.  A sort of exo-economical case of lack of supply driving a strong personal demand.  Very cool talk by someone down to earth and driven by Techne as well as the creative spirit.  
I took Savage's bio link to his poorly maintained personal website (looks like it hasn't been updated, or visited much for that matter, since 2003).  None the less, it was instructional and inspiring to see some of the things he has done.  I have been obsessing over how to organize my tools due to time, space, effieciency, and business considerations for a few years now.  As my business grows over the years, I dread the day I look at my books and see that my fifty employees are being paid hundreds of person/hours a week to move wrenches and buckets of paint and other tools around in a circle due to the broken system to is clearly the norm in the construction world.  Factories don't work this way anymore.  The service industry is clearly the future of construction.  Clean, customer forward, uniformed, civilized, insured and trustworthy individuals building homes.  Savage's toolboxes he designed for himself are works of art.  He has pictures on his website and they made me salivate.  They have springloaded scissor lift actions that allow them to raise to your hands when you are seated so you need not bend over.  And most importantly there is available every tool one needs without moving another tool to reach it.  All in a portable system, for field, or shop use.  It's a beautiful thing.  Seeing some of Savage's creative combination of various skills of the trades (something like ten different skill sets used in construction have been "collected" by him, like a linguist collects languages) convinced me I needed to do something creative myself, so I got off the internet and took one of my photos and cut it up and made it into what I call the photo above:  a "Chambered Butterfly".  It was a dead butterfly I found last year and took many, many pictures of.  Just a beautiful object of nature that I still revel in.  By cutting to the profile of one of the butterfly's wings, and then using that profile like I used to use Geometric shapes in making simple, swirling, mosaics in the LOGO language as a child, I came up with a Chambered Nautilus like shape, in profile.  Just a little tip of the head to the visual arts, and the place they have in helping me to sculpt my carpentry and contracting in the future to a place, beauty, where people have always felt their true home to be.

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