Thursday, March 29, 2012

So Zach, it's been awhile, are you still on this thing?

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Beer Stories

Those are some really great stories. I don't have anything nearly that cool. I didn't even start drinking until I was 23, mostly because of religious purposes and fear of becoming an alcoholic. I eventually realized that living in fear is not a good thing.

My friend Brian (see picture), kept telling me I wasn't a man if I could finish a pint. We went to this place together called A.J's Pub and I had some amber colored beer and could only drink about 8 ounces of it. I went home that day and bought a case of Corona's and by the end of that case I was enjoying beer.

I remember some of the most memorable tasting beers. The Mirror Pond Pale Ale by Deschutes was the first beer that blew me away. It is a classic Oregon beer. Deschutes also makes Black Butte Porter which I also loved, and for a long time it was the only beer I drank. I also liked the Terminator Stout from McMenamins. Eventually I got more and more into beers by small and local breweries. The Bridgeport IPA, another classic, is possibly the beer I've drank the most of. I remember the first time I drank Russian River's Pliny the Elder, one of the highest ranked beers of all time. It was very good, very fresh. But my current favorite is from Double Mountain, in Hood River, and is called the Double Mountain IRA. My favorite brewery is Laurelwood Brewery, and their brewery is only 15 blocks from my house. They are consistently amazing and have continually released beers that are top notch, such as the Workhorse IPA, Hop Monkey IPA, Straight Up IPA, Vinter Varmer, Moose & Squirrel Stout, among many others. I've never been disappointed with their beer.

But I don't have any crazy stories. Drinking beer is either a social or a private act but it is one that I take seriously, in some kind of weird way. I don't buy cheap beer if I can avoid it. I enjoy going to the pub and talking about things that are on my mind, projects that I've been working on, religion, politics, life, and other things. It's the ultimate form of conceptual productivity for me. That's one of the reasons why I'm so interested in using the act of drinking beer as an art form, or at least a means of communicating ideas. I've done: Drinking Beer with Friends and Working, Good Beer = Good Times, and I'm currently putting together a collaborative beer-cultural experience called Cultivate. I'm very excited about Cultivate. And now that I think about it, in my Utopian Science Fiction Marathon Night I created a supplemental reader, called Between the Cracks, in which I paired images of people drinking beer together with utopian texts.

Today I opened up my first batch from my first homebrewed beer. It tasted like sugary water beer. It wasn't good. I may have opened it a little early though.

By the way, I changed the look of the blog a little and I've added a "parallel readings" section into the sidebar. That has an interview that I'm in with Cyrus W Smith, a top 100 scifi flicks list from Rotten Tomatoes, and this great reading about slacking off. The slacking off reading is one that I have had my classmates read as part of the assigned readings that compliment our practice in some way. I think my classmates joke now about how I'm "slacking off" if I miss class or something. I also get stuck with all the drinking and beer jokes. Anytime anyone mentions anything about beer everyone in the room looks at me or points at me. It's a little weird. Anyway, I've read some texts about labor and leisure, owning your time, how to not work, and things of that nature, so I thought that an essay about slackerdom is a humurous contribution because slackerdom denies itself the label of leisurely, vacation, relaxing, and anything else that has any sort of ends connected to the activity. I don't think I'm a slacker. Maybe I am though, what do you think Zach?
-ps - Why don't you title your blog posts?

Saturday, March 7, 2009

So Eric, you asked me to talk about my most memorable experiences drinking alcohol. It took a little time to think of what happened while drinking, but I think I have come up with some good ideas. I have a few of my own most memorable experiences as well as one of my dads that I will talk about. With your work you seem to be interested in the social interactions that happen while drinking beer and relaxing together, so I will try to stay focused and write about that—but beware, not all of the experiences are good ones.

In my sophomore year of undergraduate art school I started hanging out with a student named Cory Wheelock. He was a very interesting character who taught me a lot about the Illuminati, Lizard People, and Hip-Hop artists like MF DOOM. We started hanging out because we were both in a Beat Literature class studying artists such as Kerouac, Ginsberg and Burroughs. From our discussions in class it was obvious that Cory and I were on similar wavelengths, so we became friends.

For the last Beat class, students presented their research for the semester, and by the end of class Cory and I had decided to ask everyone if they wanted to get some drinks. Most of the students in the class were only 20 years old, but we were inspired by the Beats to go out and do whatever. Our teacher never asked us if we were 21 or not, so we all headed over to a shady little bar called the Newsroom. This bar was known for serving anyone who had money, and two pool tables.
Five of us decided to give it a shot, we soon realized the Newsroom was a great decision. We each ordered a pitcher and went to drinking. We started our conversation by asking our teacher, Jarred, how he thought his first class at the Art Institute went. He told us he was very happy with the outcome, and looked forward to working with more art students.
Jarred was a Christian, and we knew this because his forearm was covered in a cross tattoo. Cory was a devoted anti-Christian, and made it his priority to convince Jarred to abandon ship and move to the dark side. It was no use, that tattoo was permanent. We continued to talk about legacy, and how our generation was creating micro-revolutions based on Beatnik modesty. We also talked about the technicalities of contemporary train hopping, and how famous people seem to have strong periods in their lives.
It was obvious we could all talk each other to death if given the right moment, but this was not it. The bar was starting to fill up and as more paying customers came in, we got tossed out. Jarred was surprised to find out we weren’t 21, and congratulated us on being rebellious.
That was the first time I went out to drink with a teacher.

I always wondered how my dad got out of going to Vietnam. When I was young he told me that he hired a guy to break his leg, and I never really asked anymore. As I started to get older I began wondering if he could go into any more detail about the story, and this is what he told me.
While my dad was in high school his parents started building a house down on the Lake of the Ozarks, which was about a 3-hour drive from Springfield. Every Friday his parents would drive down to the lake and work for the weekend, and leave dad and his brother, Steve, at home. On Sunday night his parents would return.
Dad was a rambunctious teenager. A lot of the times he would go out with his friends and get so drunk that when they drove him home, they would just push him out of the car and he would sleep on the sidewalk. So when his parents started going to the lake, it was only natural for the party to be at their house. Like clockwork, every weekend for two years there would be a party at Springer’s house. Typically something in the house would get damaged, but dad was smarter than to let someone ruin the party house for everyone—and put a rule in effect that if you were going to party on Friday and Saturday, you had to clean up on Sunday. It was a good rule, and effective because his parents never knew.
When my dad got drafted his parents decided to throw a huge party. All of dad’s friends and family showed up to celebrate his going away. As the night went on, people started to get rowdier and rowdier. My dad and grandpa never got along very well, and both of them could drink anyone else under the table. It was only a matter of time before the fuse was lit.
Since all of dad’s friends were accustomed to hanging out all weekend at the Springer house, it was a shock when Grandma started trying to kick people out. No one wanted to leave; the Springer house was as much theirs as anyone else’s. Grandma was having a hell of a time getting anyone to budge, and soon one of the jocks said something to the effect of, “No one tells me what to do old lady!” Grandpa overheard the jock and went to kick him out himself when dad decided he wasn’t going to have his parents tell his friends what to do.
It was at that point dad and grandpa decided to have it out. After a bit of punching and rough housing, dad had the upper hand--he grabbed grandpa and threw him into the front yard, through the plated glass door. Then the jock that back talked grandma got up and threw dad through the same door, breaking dad’s leg in the fall.
That is how my dad got out of going to Vietnam.

My girlfriend, Elysia, and I have been living apart from each other quite a bit this past year. She studied in New York my last semester of undergrad in Kansas City, and when I moved to Portland for grad school she had to stay in Kansas City to finish her BFA. Luckily we were able to spend a great summer together in Kansas City, and have traveled every two months to see each other.
Last year while she was living in New York I went out to see her and visit New York City for my first time. I had already assumed that New York was not the place for me—but I gave it a shot because Elysia was out there. The city was just like I expected, expensive, loud, sticky, stinky, and annoying. However, I did like walking around Brooklyn at night and feeling like Elysia and I were together again.
Before going to NYC I had been thinking a lot about asking Elysia to marry me, but I didn’t really want to ask her the big question. So instead I asked her a series of small questions to see if she was into the idea. We both were hesitant to say yes or no, but the ice was broken and the conversation was started. I came back to Kansas City, and after awhile she did too.
When I got out to Portland I started thinking about how I could ask the big question, but I really had no idea. I told my mom that I thought it was time to buy a ring, and we both started looking together. Mom found an engagement ring from 1950 that a friend had from a previous relationship that she now wanted to part with, and we snatched it up. By the time Christmas rolled around we had the ring resized and cleaned up, just waiting for a finger.
On New Years morning I asked Elysia if she would marry me. Instead of going the romantic route, I did it in front of her parents at their home in Minnesota. She said yes, and we embraced as much as two people will in front of their parents—and that was about it for our entire time in Minnesota. We drove back to Kansas City and a couple of days later immediately got on a plane headed for Portland.
When we got to Portland we were finally able to enjoy each other with no family around! Eric told us about a great restaurant called the Portland City Grill on the top floor of some tall building downtown. That night we got all dressed up and headed over to the restaurant.
The waiter asked us what we wanted to drink, and we ordered a bottle of wine that was pretty cheap, but good. Over the course of dinner we talked about everything we had to look forward to, and really celebrated our engagement the way we wanted to. Elysia was scared that she might not be able to find a job in Portland, but I reassured her everything would work out. We would both be fine because we had each other, and that is so much more than we have had for the past year.
When the waiter came to ask us if we wanted desert, we took Eric’s advice and ordered the ice cream and cookies with two cups of coffee. We needed to sober up before walking out of this high class restaurant, but it didn’t matter because by the end of the meal we were so bloated that the more we added, the more off balance we got.
That night was the best experience I have ever had with alcohol involved.

My mom married Jack a couple of years after she divorced my dad. I was five when the divorce happened, and seven when she got remarried. Jack had a son named Josh who was my best friend when we all lived together. Neither one of us had any respect for anyone, and made a good team of hellions. After a couple of years of Josh and I tormenting the hell out of our parents, Jack had a heart-attack and passed away. Josh went to go live with his mom, and my mom and I were left alone again.
Mom found a new group of friends at the local bars, and the time we used to spend at home was now spent at bars. As long as I was playing darts I didn’t care where I was. It seemed pretty fun to be around all of these older people letting loose. Sometimes when I was bored I would get my dart money and go into the bathroom to buy some pictures of naked ladies from the dispensers, and hope no one would catch me in the act.
Dad always told me that mom wasn’t doing a very good job of being a parent by taking me to bars, but I never told her that. I knew she would just jump down my throat if I said anything, so I just sat back and played games. When New Years rolled around mom had made some big plans for us to go over to her friend’s house, and I was excited to be able to watch TV all night.
Her friend’s house was so much worse than being at a bar. Instead of short haired carpet with smoke smell there was shag carpet with smoke smell. I was allergic to smoke, but not even mom cared—one of them even had lung cancer and didn’t care. These people were trying as hard as they could to die, and were doing a pretty damn good job of it.
It must have been about 11:30 when my mom walked up and handed me a glass of Champaign and told me to hang on to it until midnight. She said that this couldn’t become a habit, but I could have a sip on special occasions like this one. When the apple fell I took a sip, and then drank the whole glass. It was so tasty! I asked for another, but mom said no.
That was my first experience with drinking alcohol.

Halfway through 8th grade mom and I decided to move to Tyler, Texas. She wanted to be closer to her family, and wanted to get away from Kansas City. I knew I was going to miss KC a lot, but didn’t fight mom too much because I knew the past 4 years had torn her apart.
When we got to Tyler I still had to finish the other half of my 8th grade year, so I started going to Hubbard Middle School. I was surprised to find out that I had to tuck my shirt in everyday, and if I didn’t there would be detentions. I immediately became a hermit to the outside world and spent my time chatting it up with my old friends in KC. After awhile I started getting new friends in Tyler, but I always stayed in contact with a few friends in KC.
My dad and his side of the family were still in KC, so I would visit quite a bit. Most every time I got to see my friends for a while and act like nothing ever happened. The summer after I turned 16 my brother, Mike, called me up to see if I wanted to move to KC for the summer and work for his tile company. That summer was full of partying and having a good time with my friends. We all had our own wheels and could do anything, free at last!
In the middle of the summer my Grandad from Texas told me that he was having a high school reunion in Springfield and he would like it if I came to see him while he was there. I drove to Springfield to see him and when I was leaving the next day I asked him if he would buy me some stuff from the liquor store. I only had $40, so a few gallons of Carlo Rossi and some Pabst’s would have to do. He didn’t like buying it for me, but did anyways.
As I drove back to Kansas City I called up all of my friends trying to find a place for a party that night. I had plenty to drink, and everyone was invited. When I got home I was about to fall asleep, so I headed down to Starbucks for a double shot coffee.
By the time party hour struck beer thirty we were all well on our way to having a good time. The party ended up being across the street from my brother’s house, so I gave him a heads up that I might be coming by later to sleep.
After everyone had a couple of beers I started pouring glasses of Carlo Rossi. They all seemed to be avoiding the jugs, and I thought after a couple of beers no one would care how bad it was. A few people tried it and immediately told me there was no way they were going to drink it, but I wasn’t about to let all that hard work go to waste. After all, I did drive to Springfield for these jugs!
I drank what was in my glass, and started collecting everyone else’s glasses who didn’t want any, and drink that too. Unfortunately I don’t remember anything that was said that night, other than people complaining about the taste of Carlo Rossi. But I do remember stumbling out of my friend’s house and walking up and down the street puking in everyone’s flowerbeds. When I thought I was all out of vomit I moved on to my brother’s front door step to see if he wouldn’t mind a drunk staying on his couch, he let me in.
As soon as I laid down it was apparent that it was a bad idea, so I moved downstairs to the garage toilet. I spent a good amount of time hugging that toilet and telling it what I had eaten that day, which consisted of a Starbucks double shot coffee and Carlo Rossi. It was the most disgusting thing I had ever tasted, and I couldn’t seem to get to the bottom of it.
That is why I cannot drink Starbucks anymore.

A couple of years ago my Uncle came down with a really bad cough. After awhile the cough turned into bronchitis, and soon after that the doctors told him it was actually much worse than all that—and if he didn’t receive a lung transplant he would only live two years at most. It was a series of events that I will never forget.
Uncle Steve was the best uncle I could have ever asked for. From the time my dad was throwing parties at the Springer house until his 30’s, Uncle Steve was a very heavy drinker. Everyone in my family was a drinker, and since he was the youngest I guess he just wanted to fit in. Grandma once told me that after she gave birth to Steve, the doctor gave him a little sip of whiskey before circumcising him—maybe that was the start to his alcoholism.
After Aunt Susan and Uncle Steve had two boys, Jeremy and Jason, the drinking had to stop. Uncle Steve became a member of AA and after a couple of years soon became interested in helping other people who were ruining their lives with alcohol. He knew where these people were coming from and could talk to them without judging or being a hypocrite, and because of that he became a lot of people’s best friend.
When the news came in that Uncle Steve needed to have a lung transplant to live, we all were speechless. It didn’t take long until we got the call that he was on his deathbed, and we all needed to come as soon as possible. He was hospitalized in St. Louis, and everyone but Mike and I were there. I told Mike that I would be driving there the next day, and he could come if he wanted to.
That night a couple of our friends invited Mike and I out to a bar called the Moxie. I don’t know if they knew what was going on with Uncle Steve, or if they just knew something was wrong—but it was perfect timing. The friends who invited us out were two of the heaviest drinkers I have ever seen, and I was determined to keep up.
For some reason I couldn’t stop thinking about what Uncle Steve used to be like when he was partying. I kept thinking, I can do it—I can become an alcoholic and come back to save the day. It was stupid thinking like that, but I kept going. After a couple of hours I knew that if I didn’t go outside, I would be puking in the bar somewhere. So I headed out to my truck and let it all out.
When Mike came out and tapped on my window I had already passed out, and he took me home. The next day while we drove to St. Louis we were hopeful that Uncle Steve would make it through. Right as we got there dad came out and found us and told us to hurry in, there were only a couple of minutes left. I held Uncle Steve’s hand and said, “I love you.” We all had joined in singing his favorite hymnal as he took his last breath.
That was the last time I wanted to be an alcoholic.

How To Deal With The Apocalypse

Last night you and I watched The Watchmen together. You really disliked the movie but I thought it was very good. I understand that they exploited violence and sex to sell the movie, and that the acting was comic-book cheesy, but I thought that there were some really great things happening. A lot of what we saw was how humanity can be extremely violent and it was at times very disgusting. However we have sympathy for everyone when we find out that many of the people in major cities around the world are going to be blown up.

I was telling you about how I want more post-apocalyptic movies to show us how the world is rebuilt rather than showing just the destruction of the world or the search for meaning afterward. The reality of the situation is that if the world goes through some devastation, the survivors will need to rebuild and come together as a community. In The Watchmen we see in the last couple minutes of the movie that there is a new type of peace around the world, and that not even the newspapers have any crime to report. While this may be a little over the top, I think the movie raises interesting questions about war and the value of human life.

I sometimes see our (both yours and mine) art projects as offering an alternative to the state of the world that we live in. Yours for example offers a model of generosity, human interaction and human-effort-exchange where capitalism and monetary-exchange proliferates. As for my work, I attempt to help people see the value in building relationships in my beer projects and in other projects I offer individual-scale counseling, consulting, and teaching. The Cornell Daily Sun blog recently reviewed my blog saying that what I offer a post-apocalyptic world (and even this current reality with the screwed-up economy) is information on how to take it easy, relax, and enjoy what's in front of you. I thought that was nice. They also said that I tell people to sit back and get smashed...I don't think I tell people that, but it was still a nice review.

I was curious if you agree with me on my assessment of our art projects?
Also, in relation to my beerandscifi review, I'm curious to know if you have beer experiences that have helped you understand things in life.

I hope this all made sense.

Monday, March 2, 2009

I changed the blog title, but can't figure out how to change the URL--maybe it should just stay the same for all our viewers out there. I never used the word didactic because I never knew what it meant, and still don't. Cyrus is probably right, the word sounds pretty elitist so it might mean elitist things.

I guess I didn't answer your question very well, sorry about that. My most recent project is a free service called Build Something Together where I take proposals from anyone who needs help building something. When a proposal is an obviously attempt to get me to do everything by myself, I will turn it down. But most of the time I accept the proposals and put them on the schedule. Currently I have completed seven projects and have fifteen more to finish in the next three months. I seem to be making more art than ever because I no longer have the role of art genius, but instead other people have the genius ideas and I just help build them.

When I started the project I wasn't thinking about how I could illustrate We Make the Road By Walking, I just wanted to meet new people in Portland. I had been helping people build things for years before this, but it was an informal thing that I did with friends. When I got out to Portland I missed doing things with people and started the service. While working with various people I am learning more and more how to be an effective teacher by listening and responding. The entire proposal stage reflects what I said about students telling the teacher what they want or need to learn. If I remember correctly, Miles Horton talks a bit about being a facilitator and not a leader. The difference is that he is able to listen and suggest options, instead of demanding things without listening.

Julia Cole, my teacher in undergrad, once told me that there were two ways of being a guide--one was to walk in front, and the other was to walk beside. Every time I am given a position of leadership I think about what she said and try to walk beside. With Build Something Together I come to the table with a set of skills people are interested in learning about, and they come to the table with an idea that I am interested in learning about. A trade happens, and we both know it--by the end of the project we are both satisfied and don't feel like one owes the other anything more.

When I had my interview for this program I was asked, "What do you want to get out of this?" I replied that I want to learn how to teach. By reading We Make the Road By Walking I realized teaching is an everyday activity, and if you want to be a good teacher--you must always listen before talking. Everyone has a different story to tell, and they are all interesting.

I hope you are happier with this response.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Eric and Zach in Conversation?

I feel like right now it could be called Eric and Zach in Conversation. I would really love it if you talked about some of your work and how you think We Make The Road By Walking may contribute to it.

I'll write more tomorrow.

ps- I just met up with Cyrus and he was telling me that he feels the word "didactic" is more of teaching in the sense that you are putting your ideas onto other people as opposed to opening up the learning experience. I didn't know the word carried that baggage. Is that true?
Yea I did read We Make the Road By Walking, but I think I would’ve approached the book different if the cover looked like the one you posted a picture of. It really looks like they are about to get in an old man fight.

Every time I hear you say "didactic" I always think about the dialectic, which is a thought process I subscribe to. So from here on I am going to just say "teaching" or something similar.

The book did have a very profound impact on me as well. Something I think a lot about is site specificity, and the ways Miles Horton and Paulo Freire impacted specific cultures is inspiring to me. They talk a lot about listening as a form of pedagogy, and that seems like a great way to start a class. Sometimes when I take a class it seems like I have to learn a whole new way of living my life, and it is just a way to side track everything that important to me. It doesn’t make sense.

Right now I am taking a theory class and everyone is very interested in what is going on--and feel like they have to be because they are in the class. Right before we all went to the panel discussion at SF MoMA a few people were scared that they couldn't compare to the students in the other programs who might have more of a theoretical backing. I got really upset with them because they had forgotten about all the other things they were good at besides for theory, but because we were in a theory class the real world no longer mattered. We couldn't talk about Social Practice because we couldn’t articulate it through theory--that is ridiculous.

Obviously that example is very biased, but I kind of feel like the subject of "theory" plays into how I feel about classes where memorization is the only process taken. When there is no connection to the subject matter, there will probably be no intake beyond whatever test needs to be passed. If the subject matter is determined by the students' interests, more people will participate with the ideas being thrown around--and the teacher will begin to understand how different their ideas are from what other people think.

You said that through your beer events you are trying to teach people how to use leisure as another thing in their lives, and I would have to say that the events have defiantly helped me with that. I like thinking that when I am bored in class, it is a sign that I am wasting my time--but you are saying that boredom is a good thing, and to realize it is happening is probably the best thing I have realized.

So what are some of your ideas of new blog titles? We are running out of time, better change it quick!

Being Didactic

I know what you mean when you said that you feel like you're going in circles. Maybe we could steer the conversation away from making money and the economy and towards things that I see in common in both of our art.

I think that both make work that is didactic in some way. For me, I know that in much of my work I am actually trying to model a behavior or create a situation that will get others to think about incorporating leisure and a laidbackness into their lives. At least that's the way it is for my beer projects. I want people to think differently about the importance of relationship building; rethinking relationships as a form of labor in a sense. I also do a lot of work that is some form of consulting. In The Committee I worked with a Katy Asher and Chris Hudson to help Rudy Speerschneider think about his goals and his vision for Junior Ambassadors, his wild food cart up in north Portland. This was during his first year of operations. We met with him weekly for a while and then we had our own facilitated meetings where we brainstormed ideas for him; many of which were suggestions that he had actually mentioned, we just expanded them a little. We then created to-do lists and suggestion packets for him. I also did that art building revamp project, where I just created a powerpoint for the faculty showing them what I would change in the building. I think both of those are didactic in a more direct way than the beer projects.

I also just read the book We Make the Road By Walking, which is a conversation between Paolo Freire and Myles Horton. They basically talk about experiential, site-based education and the role of the "teacher." This book has had a profound impact on me, but I think because of Harrell's ideologies I had already been incorporating some of these ideas into my practice, and especially into my teaching. I'm coteaching the undergrad social practice class right now and the main idea behind the class is that students are to become teachers. This has worked well sometimes and other times not at all, but it's a lot of fun trying to figure it all out. For my final project I'm going to be creating a class for Stephanie, my wife, because she was recently laid off and has some extra time to think through her priorities and skills. So, I'm putting together a specialized curriculum just for her.

I know that you also have read We Make The Road By Walkind and I was wondering if that book has had any impact on you and your work? Why or why not? If it has, where have you seen it influencing you the most? Also, your work is clearly didactic, do you have anything to add about that?

Thursday, February 26, 2009

I'm watching the documentary Commune right now. I don't know if we should change the name of the blog quite yet, but I think we might be able to do it soon. We could change the URL too. Be back soon.
The situation I described about my family was for a neighborhood everyone would live in all of the time. They also have a time-share type house on the Lake of the Ozarks that might fit into the utopian vacation spectrum better. The neighborhood project began about two years ago when all of the families went in and purchased the land together. After that the land needed to be developed for a neighborhood, which included excavation, sewage, electrical, etc. Currently there are two completed houses, and one in process. The other families, such as my brother's, are holding off on any construction until the economy comes back. Don't forget that this recession started with the housing market, and by no means has it ended for the builders yet. My dad was one of the first people affected by the housing crash, and since that we have a constant reminder of how bad individuals are affected in a crisis such as this. This is why some of the families are holding off on building.

So yea, obviously the visions of Utopia are always welcomed, and can sometimes be refreshing--but that is on an individual basis, and others might not agree or want that at all. As seen in the Youtube video posted. I think this idea relates directly to what Harrell tells me when I talk to him about theory, which is that theory is also on an individual basis. Everytime he tells me that I always think about Marxism, and how some people might like that idea--but once it is enforced, it is a much different animal.

I like that you posted that eBay item, I also was going to bid on it--but wanted to wait until the last minute like a real eBayer, and forgot. The seller of that item developed a product that has direct references to what is happening in our world, which makes it interesting. However, if their intention was to make a product that was SO good that it would sell itself, it failed--because no one bought it. From looking at the auction page it says there were 4219 hits on that page. So the question is--was purchasing the product as important as seeing the idea? It seems to be much more successful if it was more about the idea than the product. After all, the product was a kit of simple household things that will now reflect that auction everytime I see them.

It seems like I am going in circles quickly, do you have anything to comment on?

Maybe we need to change the name of the blog from "In conversation with Eric Steen" to something else--any suggestions? Maybe something about tangents..

The Shape of Things To Come

Oh, that toilet is not from the women's bathroom that I was in, I just googled the image.

That was a really nice idea to have your family put 1% of the budget into something that would benefit both you and them. It's too bad they didn't go for it, they're probably kicking themselves for it right now. How did that whole situation actually end up working out? Were they trying to start some type of communal land living situation? Or just a vacation spot, utopian idea, or what?

I actually think about different levels of utopia with most of the projects I'm doing. I have a lot of thoughts about it but haven't done a ton of historical research into utopias. I just look for them in sci fi movies and in real life. For example, I see Portland as the microbrew mecca of the planet, the eco-friendliest city in the US, and the bike friendliest city in the US. But we have a few issues, like homelessness, education, and gentrification, that we kind of sweep under the rug and we just talk about how progressive we are here. In movies, utopias are usually just disguised as dystopias. One person's dream and vision for the way the world should work is another person's nightmare. H.G. Well's was brilliant at showing this problem in his early films like The Shape of Things To Come and The Man Who Could Work Miracles.

Here's a video of The Shape of Things To Come. The world has gone through a terrible war and a type of authorian government is in control in order to keep the peace...peace as they know it. The guy in the futuristic black outfit is from another land where a different kind of peace has been created and they attempt to force this peace onto the first group of people. Even in this blissful peace world dissent arises.

The dystopian film The Lathe of Heaven has influenced a lot of my work as well as the way I think about utopias. It was originally written by Ursula Le Guin in the 70's and it portrays Portland, Oregon in a number of different dystopian futures. Basically this guy, George Orr, has these dreams that can actually change history and his dreams become reality. So if he dreams that Portland becomes the sunniest city in the world, it becomes the sunniest city in the world. A scientist/therapist/doctor gets in touch with George and tries to manipulate the dreams for his own gain, as well as to solve all the world's problems. The only problem is that George always interprets the doctor's dream suggestions wildly different than the doctor intended and so things just get worse.

Okay, here's something a little extra:
I'm posting something that you recently sent me that you probably didn't think would end up here in this conversation. The more I think about it, the less it has to do with what we are talking about but I thought I'd put it up here because it's clever. What do you think? Does it have anything to do with what we are talking about?:

eBay item # 300294771244
I tried bidding on it, but the bidding was over so I sent this person an email saying that if they still had it, I would pay for it. The problem is, I don't have a boss or anyone to brown nose up to so it doesn't really work for me.

Ride the Recession Survival Kit

Ride (intransitive verb - to do something successfully and apparently effortlessly, as if carried by a wave.)

The Survival Kit comes in a "Look for the Silver Lining" bag, and includes:

A notepad and pen to keep handy so that you can keep track of who, among the financial companies, received bailouts, yet raised your interest rates, and managed to come up with the money for bonuses, fancy retreats and Super Bowl expenses. (This information will be particularly helpful after the doom and gloom of the recession because it will help you choose who NOT to do business with.) *As an added bonus, I will share with you, the winner, my thoughts and notes from MY notepad; consisting of my list of "Good Guys" and "Guys that can Kiss my Ass".

Package of earplugs so that you can effectively drown out all the B.S. going on around you, i.e. the news, your boss, bill collectors, etc.

Lip Balm so that you can moisten your lips in case you find yourself in a situation where you need to do a lot of butt kissing.

Package of tissues, which are dual purpose: May be used to wipe any unsightly residue off your face from brown nosing, OR, to wipe any tears which may fall due to failure of said brown nosing.

Obviously, this survival kit is meant for entertainment purposes only. I cannot guarantee that this kit will help, but at least it is good for a laugh. AND, the winning bidder will be doing their part to help stimulate the economy because I guarantee whatever I make will be used towards paying MY bills!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Well Eric, you caught me a little off guard with the women's restroom documentation--glad you had a reason for being in there after all.

At the end of your last post you mentioned the possibility of taking a job where your creativity could be used to help the company, do you think a teaching position would fall under this category?

The state issued art fund tax is an intriguing one, and one I thought about a lot before ever knowing other countries were doing this on a national level. The way I thought about it was similar to the 1% for the arts fund that comes out of large scale construction jobs, and how that could be taken down to a smaller level of the individual. My thinking about this came when my brother's in-law family all decided to buy a very large plot of land to develop into a family neighborhood. They also set a mandate to only allow houses over 4000sq ft to be built there. So we are looking at a very expensive neighborhood that is made cheaper because all of the family members will be doing a lot of the construction themselves. When I heard about all of the massive houses that would be built, which none of the families could fill up, I proposed to them that I would make a piece of public art if they set up a 1% for the arts fund. The piece of art would be a wind turbine that would help provide energy for the little neighborhood pool, and the households; a piece of art that would pay itself off. They did not go for this, but I still like the example because it goes to show you that there are places all over where artists can insert themselves, and potentially do large scale projects. It seems more valuable to think about this scale rather than a national scale, especially with the economy as it is. What do you think?

The development process alone was very expensive, and they made a mandate that all house

Thursday, February 19, 2009


Yes, I went into the women's bathroom and was brushing my teeth with my fingers because I misplaced my toothbrush. The women's bathroom has like 8 stalls and the men's only has 2. It seems a little unfair. And by the way, check out the picture of this looks like it would use more energy than its worth.

Those are some really great points you make about art practice and company practice. I definitely don't feel that I SHOULD be paid for what I do, however I would love if there was some system in the United States where artists could get some sort of basic income for being an artist. That would mean that tax payers support artists, and I understand that would be an extremely difficult thing to convince people that artists should be funded that way. I think if I weren't in this field, I probably would not be interested in funding artists with my taxes. This actually brings up "customer satisfaction" and what you were mentioning as part of sustaining a company. The customers, in the case of an artists basic income, would in a sense be the taxpayers. Some countries in Europe support their artist through taxpayer money and I can't remember the name of this particular artist, but one of the artists being funded through the government went around and cleaned taxpayer's dishes for free. I think that's a nice way to give back to those who are supporting you.

Another difference between an art practice and a company practice is that a company usually is providing a product or service that is tangibly fulfilling some sort of need or want to its customers. There is some sort of utilitarian value, even if the service is to provide leisurely activities. Art is not as easily quantifiable. I do believe that a lot of my work is didactic and that what I have to say is useful, important, and generally refreshing. I'm not selling anything though, so it's difficult to make any money doing what I do. I actually wouldn't mind getting a job where my creativity is being utilized for some sort of good, and then I can take my artistic practice into a company.

Again, I don't think that I'm entitled to a fair income just for being an artist, however I would love if there was a better system in place. I've thought about researching things like CARFAC, the system set up for Canadian artists that pay them for showing work, giving lectures, etc. But the more I looked into it, the more I realized that this was not what I wanted to do with my time. It's sort of a catch-22; I have a desire for something to be different but no desire to make that change. I don't feel like I'm being ripped off by society; going to grad school and choosing "the artists life" is a decision I made. I'm fine with it. There is a group, Working Artists and the Greater Economy (W.A.G.E.), that is attempting to institute something like CARFAC into the United States.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

I understand you wanting to make money from your art practice, do you feel entitled to get pay because of your BFA and soon MFA?
The connection between art practice and company practice is something I have been thinking about quite a bit as well, but there is a distinct difference between the two. A company typically has a mission statement, and employees with job descriptions--all of which are working towards sustainability of the company and their employees. The sustainability comes from making a profit, which comes with customer satisfaction and in turn gives job security through credibility. All of these things can be used to describe an artistic practice as well, but the main difference is that an artist has the ability to drasticly shift any part of the practice and still be considered an artist. The difference is easier to see when the artist is self-funded, and not under the wing of a funder where the artistic practice is filtered. Do you feel like this at all? If so, why does it seem intriguing to be funded?

P.S. I heard you went to the women's restroom today and were caught by a fellow classmate, how did that feel?

More about Stayton

What do I like about this place in Stayton?
The little town of Stayton isn't as interesting as this house out in the more rural outer edges. I think my interest starts with the history of the place. Stephanie stayed at this house for a few years when we were dating and so I would make the ten hour drive or the 16 hour train ride and get to this cabiny place where all we could do is hang out with each other. You just relax and talk, it's really fantastic to do that. We've made it an important part of our lives to continue to go out there for that very reason. I go there to get away, to escape, and also just to let everything that's happening in the city disappear for a little while. I think it's healthy to do that; in no way is it irresponsible or lazy of me. My life and my relationships are way more important than whatever job I have, or whatever art project I'm working on, and going to Stayton allows me to remember that priority.

The family that lives there has 4 daughters, all of whom are within about 8 years difference of age and all of them are about the same age as we are. They also all married some really cool guys so sometimes we go out there and there's just a big party type thing happening. Other times we go and we are the only ones in the house, that is nice too. Stu, the father, has built his own wood shop and he's making flutes and wine bottle stoppers. Patty is probably the most hospitable person you'll ever meet.

Back to priorities and work though, I think artists often feel that art is the most important thing in the world and they think that art can solve the worlds problems. I don't think this is true. Art seems like a religion when we start talking about how important it is. I'm wondering if I should just see it as a job sometimes. The things I do in my art practices I think are didactic and they model a behavior that I want people to consider incorporating into their own lives. Not beer drinking, but the act of cultivating a relationship. The drinking beer is just a means to get there, and when I pair beers together, the pairing is just a representation of a relationship. There's more to it than that, but if I had to put it simply, that is what I do with those beer events. The difference between my experiences and reasons for going to Stayton, and my reasons for putting on beer events is that with Stayton, I'm not trying to create a project out of that. I'm not formalizing it as work. I might formalize it as not-work, or leisure, or a vacation someday but it is not work. The beer stuff is work, I'm purposefully doing it in order to say something to other people. I should be paid for my beer events, not for my time in Stayton.

I hope this all makes sense, i'm just freewriting and I'm not even going to edit what I just wrote...

I don't really have a dream house in Stayton, although I would love to live out there. I absolutely love the house that I visit regularly, as well as some of the houses of the their neighbors. I would love to have enough money to buy the house from the family when Stu and Patty die or something. That will be a very long time from now, so no worries. If the kids all decide to sell that house, it would be perfect if I could buy it and give it back to them in some way.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Back again

Hey Eric, sorry for being idle on the blog for so long. It has been a busy past few weeks!
That house in Stayton looks amazing, I have always really appreciated log cabin type houses, and especially if they are two stories with a loft. What do you like about this place?
Recently I have been designing small homes that Elysia and I could build with the help of our family, who are all construction contractors of some sort. We are hoping to buy a few acres where we could put a seperate shop structure on the back of the lot, along with a few homemade wind turbines. Do you have a similar dream house in Stayton?

Monday, February 16, 2009

Stayton Oregon

I hadn't heard from you in a while so I thought I would share with you a little about my favorite place in the world: a friend's house in Stayton, Oregon near the Northfork River. I just spent my birthday weekend out there.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Little Steen & Sci Fi

As far as my earliest exposures to sci fi goes, I had never really thought about it before but I always was really a sci fi fan and I never knew it. My dad was really into Star Trek The Next Generation and we watched it every night growing up. What I loved about it was that it could be so creative and anything was possible. There were always new alien-looking people coming on board and causing problems, Vulcans could mind-meld, whatever that meant, Commander Riker could hook up with hot babes on the holodek, and the crew transported themselves up and down to planets. It was great.

Some other sci fi that I watched included:
Out of this world.
Would you like to swing on a star? Carry moon beam home in a jar?
I always had a crush on Evie Garland, and a secret hope that when I press my two index fingers together that I too would be able to stop time. It never worked though. I watched this tv show every single day for years. Evie's father was an alien, but he died before she was born. She discovers her secret stopping-time power and learns how to live life without abusing her power.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
My favorite turtle was always Donatello, the inventor, because he was nice and he was smart. You know the story, four little turtles are in a sewer when some toxic ooze is poured into the sewer and they turn into lean green fighting machines. Splinter, their sensai, is a rat/human because of the ooze but he teaches the turtles martial arts and they go around fighting crime. This was my ultimate favorite thing to watch.

I definitely remember watching E.T. and Flight of the Navigator a hundred times or so growing up. Also, I recently watched Close Encounters of the Third Kind and it turns out that I had seen that one before when I was growing up. I remembered so much of the movie while I was watching it but hadn't recalled it until then. But you know, I watched Aladdin and Lion King and stuff like that too. I didn't know that I was going to be a sci fi fan until very recently.

But movies always played an important role in my family. When someone expressed interest in hanging out, you might hear us reply "what movie do you want to watch?" Stephanie had to get acclimated to this. She would say that she wanted to hang out and when I popped the movie in she would be confused. I learned that she wants to talk when she says she wants to hang out.

Another anecdote: I never knew that my dad was wildly into sci fi when he was growing up too. When he first started reading my beerandscifi blog he was very surprised that I had somehow subconsciously picked up his tastes. He has seen most of the movies I've seen and a lot more of those obscure 60's and 70's movies. Those are generally my favorite ones to watch.

Settling Catan: Games and Glory

We had a Sega Genesis and my brother and I played a lot of Street Fighter and NBA Jam. Nothing else really compared to those games. When we were getting a little older the Nintendo 64 came out and I played that first Mario 64 which was a ton of fun. Arcades were always very important to us as well. We would unload pockets full of quarters on Street Fighter, Time Cop, Area 51, and Virtual Fighter. Fighting and shooting games were always the best. Kevin, my brother, would often get very mad at me if I beat him so eventually just watched me play.

I haven't played much since then although when I do I have a lot of fun. Every now and then I'll go to an arcade and play Ninja Turtles or Time Cop. Pinball is fun. I downloaded a Tetris type game on my cell phone. I play the xbox every Thanksgiving out in Stayton, Oregon, my favorite place on the entire planet. We should talk more about Stayton soon, remind me about that. We usually play Halo 2 but last time we played Rock Band, which was entertaining. I definitely don't care about video games the way I used to though.

I do play a lot of card games and board games though. Stephanie and I play Apples to Apples with friends all the time. We even have a Bible edition just for kicks. We like Dominoes and Cribbage too. Most importantly is a game that I stopped playing because of how frustrated I get. It's called Settlers of Catan, and it's one of those really really nerdy games that people who are into geeky comics and Magic cards and stuff like that would probably enjoy. It's a strategy game where the board changes every game and you try to build roads, houses, and cities. You collect grain, brick, wood, and other resources and can trade with your opponents. It's pretty wild.

This actually reminds me that in junior high I played the Star Trek trading card game every morning before school with my friends Jonathan and Nate. It was ultra nerdy, but you would could wind up collecting Jean Luc Picards card or something and show it off and your friends would be pretty impressed with you.

Speaking of nerdy things, in high school I hung out with a lot of punk kids, although I was like the Christian version. We had our own scene, I put on shows, had my own cd and record distribution, and wrote my own punk zines. My friends were all in metal bands and I tried to get them to start a sludge band with me but they just couldn't figure out how to make the music I wanted them to make. Sludge is like a disgusting slowed down version of grindcore. It's actually a lot like Doom Metal but messier and dirtier. That, if you think about it, can be a little nerdy too...nerdy in the sense that you are a part of scene and other people who are in that scene are into it too, but everyone on the outside is just not as cool, or they don't have it together the way that "we" have it together. Punk rock is kind of like that to me...I eventually couldn't get any deeper into punk rock because I felt like I was just buying into a style and nothing more. Maybe punk rock at one point was a reasonable movement, but when I got to it, it was just a bunch of bands making music and they were confused and if they had a voice they were preaching to the choir. That's what Christianity has been for me often as well...a scene. And often times art feels like a scene and I begin to think "oh man, what have I gotten myself into."

Monday, February 2, 2009

sci-fi and video games

What were your favorite video games when you were a kid? What was your favorite game system? Have you played any video games lately? How do you feel about the dynamic of online gaming compared to what you grew up with?

When did you see your first sci-fi movie, what was it? Did you like watching it at the time, or did it take some time to appreciate it?

I'll begin with the Christianity thing.

I'll begin with the Christianity thing.
I became a Christian sometime the age of 12. The details of the story are the kind of details that every young kid in a church knows. I was thinking about not wanting to go to hell, because that's what I've been told would happen to me when I die if I did not have Jesus in my heart. Also I was told from a very young age that people are inherently sinful and that this causes a separation from God who cannot be near sin. So we ask God for forgiveness and that's supposed to be it, we're in, we're saved. We pray the sinners prayer.

Of course, starting right then and there you enter into a much larger discourse about what religious affiliation you will have within the Church, are you going to be a Calvinist or will you believe in free-will. If you choose one or the other, some people will think you "aren't really saved." And then people start worrying about if there friend who died last week was really saved or not because, at one point they were a Christian but they have done some "backsliding" recently. Also, there is a pressure that comes from being a participant in a Church to do the Christian lifestyle the way that they think you should do it. For example the group of people in one church may think that you need to wake up at 5:00am to pray for the people around you because this is a more selfless act than if you did it on your own time. Or maybe you have to force yourself to go out and meet a stranger and tell them about Christ, like a colonizing force or something. In the last post, you mentioned "other options" that I may have had when I was young. For a Christian, or at least the Christian that I am describing, there is no such thing as another option.

I got really wrapped up in all this type of stuff and it's all very very embarrassing to me now. I don't think that this is the way we are supposed to live our lives. The funny thing is that my friends in school don't criticize me for my past. I'm usually stuck trying to avoid mentioning the past because I think that many Christians have misrepresented what Christianity is supposed to be and I don't really want to be a part of that Christianity any more. Maybe I shouldn't be too worried about it. Many of the friends I had at a church in Corvallis, Oregon have moved to Portland at the same time as me. Many of us struggle with this same phenomenon.

I don't know if I really want to get into where I stand now on all this. I can say that I haven't turned my back on everything in Christianity, but that's all I really want to say here. You might be able to beat it out of me later though if you want to.

I met Stephanie at this church. She is "generally" from Oregon. Her parents were passing through the area and I ran into her and couldn't really stop thinking about her so we made something happen. We're now married and we still enjoy hanging out together. I say she's "generally" from Oregon because her family is basically a travelling missionary family. Similar to the Paskowitz surfing family, the Markoya's travelled around the country, and into Mexico and Canada, in a small RV that slept upwards to 7 people or so. The children were all homeschooled, they rarely had money and they "lived by faith." That meant that they would just go where they felt they were supposed to go, believing that wherever they went they would be provided for. They have always been provided for, and right now they have spent nearly 6 months in Portland at a homeless house. This is a fascinating story to me and one of the only parts of my Christian past that I am not afraid to share. Daniel, the father, is a talented musician, and he usually sings and preaches wherever he goes. This is a blog that they've tried to keep up over the last 2 years but they haven't kept it up as much as they should. I could tell you hundreds of stories about the Markoya's that are really amazing, I've been thinking about asking the family to record their stories and maybe turn it into a book or something.

Wow, that took up a lot of room -
To answer your other questions: my first memory is being on a scary ride at Disneyland. I remember it in first person though. I was crying and everyone else was enjoying the ride.
Did I enjoy being at school or home more? I didn't think about it that much I guess. School was fun when I was playing basketball but I think I usually enjoyed being home more and playing video games all night long. That was the best.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

getting to know you

I feel like the only things I know about you are from your work and some of the things that are going on right now in your life, but I would like to know some of your background.

What was your first memory?
Did you like school when you were younger, or did you enjoy being home more?

I know you consider yourself a Christian, when did you decide that was the right path to take? When you made the decision were there other options you were thinking about, if so what were they and why didn't they seem appealing enough?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

you bet!

sounds great to me. i'm smiling right now.
but we should go get a beer. i just texted you.
oh, and can you make it so that i get email updates?

Blog or no blog?

Hey there, I was curious if you would like to have our interview through a blog. It seems like a good context to use for our conversation, and will allow for an ongoing discussion where we don't have to burden ourselves with planning a place, time, questions, etc. An open dialogue blog format seems like a nice way to communicate outside of only us.
I am also curious about the contrast between an online conversation and a face to face conversation where less editing happens, compared to a text box where we are continually self aware. The text box also allows us to quickly express an idea that might escape us if we don't quickly express it.

So, what do you think?