Tag Archives: biography

arts & crafts revisited


***update below***

a few weeks ago i gave a talk on the arts & crafts movement that emerged during the latter part of victorian britain, from roughly 1860 to 1900, and i was taken with the similarities between now and then, in relation to the changes and/or transformation our culture has undergone over the past twenty years or so; and i think i’m still in teacher-mode, so this is a bit of a long post. while the circumstances and contexts are very different, there are arguable parallels in the nature of how people responded. lately i find myself more and more fascinated by the past incidents of massive change, thinking about what insights into the future can be gained by looking back.

bit of history…. originating a few centuries prior with the printing press, the industrial revolution took hold in the early 1800’s with the advent of mechanized innovations in the textile industry, and the mechanization of labour quickly spread to other industries and spurred the production of goods towards extraordinary volumes, creating a greater need for regulated tradeways (rail, road, canal, etc) and urban development. mass production of goods was rampant, newly established factories hired workforces in the thousands, and a new middle class of entrepreneurs and nouveau riche emerged.

by mid-century, the industrial revolution was reaching the crest of its first wave, transforming every aspect of british culture while it gained strength as a global empire. it’s critical to remember that these changes were happening for the first time ever, accelerating human life into the modern age at a pace that barely allowed time to gain vantage on the present before hurtling into the future, all the while changing the expectations of what that future might hold.

more after the jump…

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el vampiro and intuition

in august i spent a couple of days in nyc, in search of conversations and connection. this post is a bit delayed, but such is the nature of being what tom calls pathologically busy. it was really fantastic to touchbase with friends and colleagues, old and new, and flow into the local velocity, and belated thanks is due to those who put up with my questions over lunch or dinner (thx scott, john, elena, baker!). nyc is one of the few places where i feel like the pace of the external environment is matched with what’s going on inside. it would more likely than not make me bonkers to stay for any extended length, but refreshing in short spurts.

i dropped by eyebeam research lab during their open studio hours and chatted with a few of the residents and fellows about what they’re up to. i highly recommend pinging them if you’re in the neighbourhood on tuesday afternoons. it’s a fantastic space, with really incredible people who are fully engaged in their work and totally open about what they want to do. amazing.

michael dila, a fellow overlapper and perpetual troublemaker, was also in the big apple that week and was kind enough to organize an nyc overlap meetup, as serendipity encouraged all those little ducks to line up. an awesome conversation with michael, dave walczyk, paul pangaro, vic lombardi and manuel toscano ensued – somewhat raucous and always inspiring.

conversation eventually turned to innovation, creativity, imagination, the strengthening relationship between business and design practice, and passion. what fuels these things? where do they come from, and what conditions encourage and cultivate them? a recurring conversation that i hope to continue having.

the gem in this conversation was this. to some degree, we are all guided by intuition, the immediate, somewhat difficult to communicate compass that shapes our behaviour in more ways than we perhaps are conscious of.

intuition is tacit knowing – it is an unmediated process of pattern recognition and a reconciliation of complexity (internal/external, systems, ideas, histories, etc, etc) that influence future perceptions and actions.

it is direct, instinctive, perceptive – a form of knowledge that can be fiendishly difficult to communicate or validate because of its resistance to analytical metrics or quantitative definitions. which i think emphasizes its importance in how we construct and share knowledge and ideas – we engage in multi-layered communication of which we’re only partly conscious, and our intuition picks up the subtleties as an unending flow of incoming signals, some strong, and some weak.

our discussion was fuelled by vampiros, the house specialty of a little place called paladar, on ludlow south of houston. perfect for fiesty conversations and exuberant autumn evenings.

el vampiro

  • tequila
  • hibiscus flower  nectar (bought at health food stores, fresh or brewed as tea from the dried flowers)
  • ground chili
  • salt

mix tequila and nectar, in proportion to evening’s intent.

rim  glass with mixture of chili and salt


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for alicia

from last night’s dinner. we had this with honeyed leek and sweet potato strips and arugula salad with pears and almonds, and alicia brought over a nice shiraz (errasuriz). we followed our gluttony with fresh mint tea.

cedar-roasted salmon

  • 1 lg salmon filet (enough for 2 people)
  • mashed garlic and ginger
  • diced leeks
  • olive oil
  • lime juice
  • spices: cumin, fennel seed, salt, pepper, cayenne
  • 2 cedar sheets (enough to wrap or cover filet), soaked

preheat oven to 400C. rinse and pat filet dry. rub down with garlic and ginger. rub in spices. sprinkle leeks. drizzle with lime juice and olive oil. let marinate for 20+ minutes at room temperature. place one cedar sheet on baking sheet, position salmon, add 2nd sheet and make a little cedar sandwich. roast for 30 minutes, or until done. enjoy! (i like this method because the salmon stays extremely moist and light, like poaching without the hassle, and enough crispy roasty goodness to change up the texture a bit)

more after the jump

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interlude – canal du midi and languedoc

a few nights ago over dinner we had a wine from languedoc, an area in the south of france alongside the pyrenees. this brought back some pretty strong memories of an autumn cycling trip i took a few years back – how beautiful the countryside and the people were, and what a serene experience it was to have nothing but your bike and a map. a bit of a change of pace (especially given the prior rant), but what i hope to be a sweet and recurring interlude…

canal du midi, languedoc

autumn 2004, canal du midi, languedoc. from my journal…
The ride was incredibly wonderful, this region is beautiful. The first 45k were along the Canal du Midi, built in 1681 in order to link the Atlantic to the Med (240k). The canal still functions, though not for trade; there are over 300 bridges and 90 écluses (locks), little stations and villages at each écluse. The cycle path, well-maintained and semi-paved (no cars!), that hugs the canal in the fairly flat section I travelled. A double row of huge maple trees lined the canal the whole way, sheltering you in a gorgeous and secluded green nest. Animal count: herons, ducks, and a turtle. I ate my lunch, which included some cured Basque sausage and cheese and figs from the area, on the banks – completely in awe of the beauty of this country. I forgot how quiet and peaceful it is to ride like this, after a week of cities and people and trains.

Eventually the bikepath finished and I moved onto the road, although it was smooth sailing and little traffic. The landscape is something else… I rode in a rolling valley, with huge foothills rising up on either side of me, blue and smudgy with rain. This is Pays de Cathar, and their ruins are everywhere- churches, castles, houses, windmills, all made with gold stone that jumps out of the landscape in overcast light.

Languedoc translates into “Language of Oc”, from the Occitans, a culture whose roots reach back to the Romans. A woman I met in Toulouse whose family had been in the region for generation upon generation shared a little history over a pain au chocolat and espresso before I headed south. France is a country full of wonderful storytellers. (And a bit more history of the region here.)

About 25k outside of Carcassonne the Armagnac vineyards appeared, giving off a redolent, musty smell. I had a bite to eat in a little farmer’s lane between a vineyard and a small patch of tiny sunflowers, probably seasonal seconds which won’t make it past another month. I arrived in Carcassonne with about an hour of sunlight left, tired and stinky and good. It was my longest ride since I’ve been here- 120k! – though when I arrived I was not exhausted… satiated and at peace.

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