Sunday, February 28, 2010


Here's a great article from the NYTimes from 2008. I read it a while ago, and recently rediscovered it. Its about a beautiful piece of architecture that I think is at once vernacular and contemporary. One of the most interesting ideas is that it was almost entirely designed around the idea of making every window a picture window.

The next idea I love about this is the way in which, after decades of neglect, it was revitalized and how it is still kept up. The owners hold work weekends, where they brings friends and workers (who become friends) who are willing to give a little hard labor in return for rest and relaxation. No cash transaction involved. Its friends helping out friends, in return for friendship.

Now isn't that what being human is all about?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Music on my Mind

I've known this song for a while, but it came on my iPod the other day and it was as if it were the first time I'd heard it. A beautiful song, well worth a few listens. I'll let the music do the talking:

Monday, February 22, 2010

Stories from the Pine Ridge- The Bloody Waters will Run Clear Again

Hopefully this post will be the first of a series. I cannot go on blogging much longer without bringing up my experiences this past summer on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. I traveled there with a wonderful group of close friends and two teachers a few weeks after graduating high school-- a trip we had been preparing for for about a year. We went with plans to to run a Bible camp for some of the children out there, and with the intent of keeping open hearts and minds to the beautiful Lakota culture.

While there, we had the tremendous privilege of meeting with and listening to some of the kindest, wisest, and most spiritually powerful people I have ever met. We would sit down with them (always sitting, as Arlo's Uncle Jim explained, because you never really listen unless your seated eye to eye) and listen for hours and hours to their stories of their culture, and accounts of the woes of the reservation today. I would love to bring you all of these stories, however I could never do them any justice relaying to you. But there are a few that cannot go untold, and this is the first of several:

Leonard Littlefinger, a highly respected and intently busy man of about 70, with a remarkable memory and, its worth mentioning, one of the most intelligent and worldly people I've come across, spoke with us a few different times during our stay in the Pine Ridge. This man has lived quite a full life-- he has traveled and worked around the world, fought tirelessly for his people's rights, devoted a great deal of his life to preserving Lakota culture (he speaks English, of course, as well as Lakota, and I'm pretty certain he knows a few other languages), and for a brief time, as he puts it, (i.e. about a decade) he taught in the public school system on the reservation so that he could truly understand the sorry shape of his people's schools. And now, at over 70 years old, he is preparing to open a school that he has formed and built through his global efforts, that will educated Lakota children in their own culture, language, and traditions, as opposed to the imposed education system that is truly detrimental to the continuity of their culture. When asked if he thinks he'll ever slow down or retire, he just chuckles a little to himself. This is a man deeply invested in the well being of all those around him. Being in his presence, you can sense the burden he gracefully carries and have nothing but respect for him.

Amidst his busy schedule, he took a good chunk of time out of his day to spend an afternoon with us to tell us about his family's history. We turned off of the main road, down a dirt driveway to the middle of an open field where a modest and traditional shade structure. We met Littlefinger there, and all sat down amongst the various benches and former car seats scattered under the shade. It was a hot day, but in the shade, by the water, with a constant slow breeze, it was cool and peaceful. Leonard began by making sure we all knew about the Massacre of Wounded Knee, which happened about 20 miles from where we were.

The Massacre of Wounded Knee, recognized by the US Gov't as the "Battle" of Wounded Knee until the 1980's, occurred on December 29, 1890. A group of 250 Sioux women and children, plus about 100 warriors, had finally turned themselves into the U.S. Calvary and were being transported onto their new land, after the government took away more of their reservation land. That night, (now, there is some speculation on what actually happened, so I will be telling from what I heard on the reservation, as it is the best anyone can figure) as they were setting up camp, the Sioux were in the valley, and the Calvary was keeping watch from an encampment atop the hill-- where they had four Hotchkiss guns aimed at the camp below. All of the weapons were collected and heaped in a stock pile. As a few soldiers were doing a final round of checks, one weapon fell from the pile and discharged on its own. At that, the soldiers opened fire from the hill on the innocent women and children below and unarmed men.

Leonard Littlefinger's grandfather and great great grandfather-- Chief Big Foot, leader of the Lakota-- were there. Chief Big Foot was killed in the massacre, and his grandfather, at about 12 years old, survived. In fact, most of the survivors were young boys. In the negative temperatures, they were the only ones that stood any chance of escape. Their mothers told them to run, keep running, through the night, as far as they possibly could. His grandfather had been shot in the leg and ankle, and yet he ran through the frigid night and hid, by himself, for the next year and a half in a valley twenty miles away, constantly moving to avoid the U.S. troops who were looking for survivors.

His grandfather eventually settled on the land we were sitting on, listening to Leonard tell us this. He raised his family there, and its where Leonard was raised. It is still his land. The story of Wounded Knee likely makes you mad, it should infuriate you, ignite a righteous passion for justice. And yet the real power of this story is one of healing. Leonard and his family have grown up with the understanding that the country they live in tried to kill them-- this country of freedom and democracy. Leonard remembers fishing with his grandfather, and looking at the scars on his leg from Wounded Knee. And yet, he strongly believes in a statement his grandfather said to him, which he shared with us:

The bloody waters will always run crystal clear again.

This statement from a man who still feels in his family and his community the pain and loss of the Massacre. From a man who lives on a reservation with 85% alcoholism, and 85% unemployment. A community stricken with gang violence. A people with a life expectancy about 20 years less than the national average, and an infant mortality rate twice the national average. 69% of children that do survive live below the poverty line. (Statistics from Red Cloud Indian School)

If this man has no time for cynicism, then nobody does.

So in closing, I invite you to do what Leonard Littlefinger told us to do: Take what's beautiful of cultures you experience and incorporate them into your own life. And trust that the bloody waters will always run crystal clear again.

Mitakuye Oyasin

AS a SIDE NOTE: Leonard Littlefinger also played an NPR show for us that day which he had recorded a few years ago about the repatriation of a lock of his great great grandfather's, Chief Big Foot, hair which was taken after he was killed at Wounded Knee. Please take some time to the listen to the story, it can much more eloquently portray the events than I, and gives a wonderful insight into Lakota culture. Find the story at this link:

Friday, February 19, 2010

Love these two men...

Photo Credits: Pete Souza

A great shot of two of my favorite men-- Bob Dylan and President Obama-- shaking hands at the White House celebration of Music of Civil Rights Movement.

I've had the great privilege of seeing both of them, and its remarkable to have them in the same place. Its also nice to find Dylan doing something other than his never-ending tour. Both of these men have had a significant impact on my life, and this photo really struck me.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Jonathan Richman

Last minute google search for music in Brooklyn on a Saturday night brought up a long list... and when you dropped out all the hits over 20 bucks a pop, it had very few names I recognized. After checking out a few myspace pages, I thought Jonathan Richman looked like a good find. Hopped on the B62 to Williamsburg and walked in just in time for the show to start.

An eccentric Jonathan walked out onto an almost empty stage (save for a microphone and drum set), guitar case in hand, with his overly subdued drummer. He popped out his classical guitar, the drummer took his seat and they rolled right into an hour+ set of comedic, philosophical, and sentimental songs. He was able to milk out a wide range of styles-- rockabilly, flamenco, folk-- with the considerably limited ensemble of instruments and also made up a few highly entertaining songs on the spot. He's got a great on-stage character, equal parts aloof, funny man, and thinker, while being incredibly in tune with the audience.

Overall a great show, though the highlight had to be listening to his song "Dancing in a Lesbian Bar" while I found myself dancing next to a few lesbians...

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

snow day

A day off from classes: Massive snowball fight on the quad, girls in their underwear running through the snow, and the architecture majors couped up in studio all day.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The little things...

At 2PM Tuesday afternoon, a stroke of good fortune came my way via a text message, which informed me that classes had been cancelled for Wednesday on account of a snow storm. I was working in studio then, and soon realized that I had a bit of extra time on my hands. After a quick calculation of available work time before a Thursday review, I cleared out of studio, grabbed my sketchbook, and took the metro up to the New York Public Library (42nd St & 5th Ave). I've been trying to find an opportunity to go there, and the opportunity found me.

[For those in NYC, the F and the 7 both drop you off directly outside of the library-- super convenient for a quick trip]

I took a little time to explore the Neo-Classical building, and situated myself in a nice corner of the massive reading room. I soaked in the space around me and began sketching. Its a wonderful place to read, study, sketch, relax... and very quiet, despite the fact that it was nearly full to capacity. Its kind of interesting being in a space like that; it goes against your intuition-- a room full of people, but its silent. Which reminds me of an exhibit I saw at the Philadelphia Museum of Art's Perelmen Building, Bruce Nauman's "Days and Giorni." Installed in long, narrow gallery with windows on both sides, you walk into a large empty room with the sound of people all around-- conversation surrounds you, yet you see no one. It was incredible to experience the effect sound has on space. (If anyone is in Philadelphia, this exhibit is still running and the Perelmen. It, along with Marcel Wanders: Daydreams, are both very much worth your while)

Arriving back on campus, I felt refreshed. I shared dinner with a friend, went to the gym for a quick workout, and went back to studio feeling more focused an energized than I have in a long time. And I probably was more productive than I would have been had I just stayed in studio all day. A lesson for all of us: a little randomness, and a little chance in your day is a good thing.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Moving Slow is the Way to Go

I understand that this is a topic the blogs go crazy over, and I'm coming into this a little late, but I'd like to say my piece on the Slow Movement-- particularly Slow Cities (Cittaslow, as it originated in Italy).

Here's the Slow Movement website's description of Slow Cities:

Firstly, I have to say that my overall reaction is that the Slow Movement in general just seems to make good sense. In this increasingly globalized world, broad solutions seem less and less effective. Localized answers to problems based on good sense, and consideration not only for the immediate area but for the world at large, simply makes sense to me. So I'm not going to use this post to make a pitch for the Slow Movement, or slow cities, other than to say I think its ashame that only one town in the U.S. has qualified as a "slow city,"-- Sonoma Valley, CA.

What interests me, however, is the meshing of ideas-- a criss-crossing of old and new, big and small. The globalized 21st century using its clout to try and reverse the effects of globalization. I find it ironic-- yet somehow I like-- that the principles of the global organization suggest a return to traditional and local ways of living, while the organization enforces these principles with all of the tools of the 21st century.

Theres plenty of things that could make you worry about the future... but I don't like doing that much. If this is the kind of thing that the future could provide, then I'm excited about what's to come.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

An Introduction

I am a student of architecture at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. But don't expect this to be an architecture blog. I'm a musician as well, but this won't be a music blog either. This will be a collection of things that interest me-- in architecture, music, writing... the world around me.

Expect a lot of links at first. Then maybe I'll start doing some writing, some rambling. We'll see where it goes. Lets have fun with this. I want this to be a collection of inspiring things-- a kind of digital sketch book. If you're interested, come along. If you think I'd be interested in something else, let me know.

Room with a View

Who knew garage doors could be so cool?