Monday, December 31, 2012

Later, 2012

We pick one day on the orbital elipse.  It's tonight, this tick on the merry-go round.  Enjoy.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Yucca brevifolia

Rumor is that Joshua held out his pointy spear on a hill, watching Israelis sack the city of Ai.  That old town had the misfortune of being in the Promised Land.  He drew it not back until the Jews won.

And the king of Ai he hanged on a tree until eventide: and as soon as the sun was down, Joshua commanded that they should take his carcass down from the tree, and cast it at the entering of the gate of the city, and raise thereon a great heap of stones, that remaineth unto this day.   - Joshua 8

The pile of rocks is out there in the Mojave, next to the trees with javelin leaves.  It's a bunch of quartz monzonite and tall monoecious plants.  No trees, only sharp, biblically intense yucca.  John C. Frémont saw that story in a blazing desert under ranks of flailing spearish gallows.  The Colonel spent a lot of time around bayonets.  One of his hobbies was botany.  The other was War.  He wandered the West for years.  I'm guessing he only brought one book.

We went there to climb irreverently upon the stones.  They lie indeed in huge heaps, fitting backdrop for giant sloths lost to fossil rumor.  Secret boulder crypts, a distant desert forest.  We busied ourselves at moonset bouncing light onto plants.  If you bring just one book today, make it McPhee's Annals of the Former World.  The past is present, the present is past, and so on.  Tall yucca still arbor the sun and twisting stars.  Cue the U2 and tend your torn fingers.  They're Joshua Trees.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Cochise Stronghold

Natural fortresses are always fascinating.  The Apaches who hid in the Dragoon Mountains knew the place well enough to fight Spanish, American, and Mexican forces to a draw for decades.  Home field advantage still matters, even with drones in the mountains of Central Asia.  Land can stay impenetrable and rife with secrets like the Tsingy in Madagascar, or Antarctic Archipelagoes that hide majestic giant birds.  You can zoom in on nearly anything you want from a Google satellite.  But it still takes old fashioned work to get your hands on it.  This huge cloak of space is as big as it ever was.  The surface of the earth hides as much mystery as it ever did.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

High Desert

I realize that only a nincompoop brings a camera to 5000 feet at noon in Arizona.  Whatever.  Catalina highway is a really nice motorcycle ride.  In just a few miles, it goes from scorching basin full of saguaros, to towering range ringed in vegetation zones that seem to change every 90 seconds.  A sixty degree breeze almost makes you forget the dehydrating sun.

Dust.  Trudging the yellow grass.  Hearing the click and flee of grasshoppers.  Kickstarted, each zooms on the noise of paper fan wings.  They land bewildered and furl, always cocked for another flight.

Some tiny desert skunk, hard of sight, tail a white flag, the noxious weasel.  Small and shivering under the bush, piggy nostrils flared.  Why interrupt, he begs.  Arch and dichrome, he threatens.  Awkward apology, distant defense, shadow communication.  Range of spray?  His bombs quiver under sphincter control, barely in check, promising to be more than his spare, hairy carcass of sinew is worth.  He'd love to just return to the rustle and snuffle, his nose-down day.

The rumor of breezes, the seed heads draft and crash together, applauding the air.  Their tinder nestles tight to clumping dirty rhizomes.  Rank fur of the hillside, not bothering with spines.  The living is hidden just below.  The rest is simply useless and dead enough to be ignored.  Until, maybe, that rummaging skunk sniffs the castings of a rooty insect.  And tunneling below dirt and grass, retrieves the little treasure.  Fuel to amble off, searching the next.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

New website

I've had this domain for a while now, but getting it all to work is slow going.  Yes, it is for self promotion because it's called

Monday, November 19, 2012

Bike with no name

It can get pretty easy to obsess over a mode of transportation.  Think of all the bicycle nerds you know.  The ones who order screws and pedals on the internet, or get ransomed in the Trek store for the astronomical price of a digital speedometer and a few ounces of lycra.  Or recall the high school years when everyone was saving up their drug money to buy body kits for Mitsubishi Eclipses and Honda CRXes.  Maybe it's four-figure tire sets for your jacked-up truck.  Maybe your Escalade has chrome spinners and a blacked out headlights and neon underneath.  Somehow, transportation becomes more than just a truck or a bike or rollerblades or whatever.

Anyway, point is, there will be no snide down-my-nose-looking upon those pastimes.  Because Katelyn and I spent about a hundred years finishing this motorcycle that encapsulates a hugely deceptive amount of internet goods and unnumbered hours of toil.  It goes pretty fast.  Looks very cool (especially when she's on it), sounds great, and is pretty satisfyingly functional.  Maybe it's a little more than a motorcycle, but since we were mostly trying to come up with ways to get rid of things that usually come on a motorcycle, it's actually considerably less than the bike it used to be.  They called that one the 1980 CB650 Custom at the factory.  This one still hasn't earned a name yet.  Probably since '2012 Honda Bloodsweatandtears 650' is a bit much to say.

I'll post video proof that it exists when I'm happy with the edit.  Which will probably take as long as the bike did.  Maybe by then she'll have a name for it.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Autumn Gone

I spent fall in the West Virginia hills along the New River Gorge, knee deep in autumn leaves.  This is a frame from a series of timelapses that are slowly finding their way into a motorcycle video.  Fall has always been my favorite season.  So many things that leave the forest in autumn die forever, and so much else only sleeps to wake up in spring.  Also, it's real pretty.  No wonder so much deeply ambiguous death-lore comes around the end of October.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Travel Center

Sometimes when really good art speaks to you, it could be that you have somehow previously entertained some part of the thought the artist is expressing.  Maybe you've dismissed it, or maybe couldn't get to the bottom of that thought yourself.  Then someone makes something, and you see it, and then the same cluster of ideas all rush back a little more complete than they were before, but all the more mysterious because what you've found is part of someone else's brain.  Good artists do that.  Good friends do that too.

Katelyn and I just drove from the Appalachians to the Sonoran Desert this week, and outside the windows I saw pieces of America I might have dismissed.  But after living with my friend Shane Darwent, there's no way I could miss this one.

He's in New York, but has a show in New Orleans right now with some other friends.  If you're nearby, definitely go.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


In the New River Gorge.  Lots of cliffs.  Living under a tarp in the woods with Katelyn and Cali-Ann.  Can't see very far ahead.  But fall is looking pretty good from here.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Friday, July 20, 2012


In some languages, the verb 'to do' and 'to make' are identical.  Hacer in Spanish.  Faire in French.  In German and English, there are two verbs.  Choosing when and how to use either one somehow doesn't seem consistent.  You make change.  You do the dishes.  Make a salad.  Do the cooking.  Make your point.

When water vapor rises and condenses, it releases the the energy it held while it in its vapor phase.  That released energy is the 'latent heat of fusion.'  This heat drives the clouds higher and bigger in a chain reaction that builds a crazier and crazier show until suddenly you have electricity and ice.  Thunderstorms can make sheets of rain.  They can do damage.  They can make walls of rolling sound.  They move water and energy all over the place.  (Or are they themselves just moving water and energy?)  Puddles can evaporate and join another thunderstorm tomorrow.   In a way, what thunderstorms really do is to make themselves.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Cathedral Spires

Once you get onto safe ground for awhile, it's hard to remember how different the tops can be.  When we fled down late off the side of Sharkstooth, this massive cluster of spires was looming over my shoulder.  I felt like we were being chased back low, tumbling over the talus.  Looking backward, a strange night veil had closed and the rocks seemed to be smoldering darkly in starry scariness.  Even though we had just been on top of the thing, it was suddenly a total mystery again.  

Monday, July 9, 2012

Hyla versicolor

Amphibians live in two worlds.  One is wet and reminiscent of the sea, the other is dry and novel and full of new possibilities.  It takes a little of both to survive.  A frog's skin has to stay wet so it can exchange gases while on land.  But it can't sing underwater.  This treefrog seemed to be defying common sense by resting on a dry leaf in Sequatchie Cove during a drought.

Just feet away, Bill Keener spoke about how a farmer can stay alive in the modern world by borrowing ecological tactics from the past.  The frog might have been there to listen.  This species is grey as an adult, but can stay green for months after emerging from its tadpole puddle.  On such a hot day, the frog seemed an improbable bleb of vulnerable color in the wilting underbrush.

But amphibians really do live two worlds.  After climbing through this maze of garden variety wonders, it will need to return to water, where it first grew legs.  Our vertebrate ontogeny does recapitulate phylogeny in some ways.  If you cram a person underwater, they drown.  But all of us lived in a watery capsule for the first 9 months of our lives.

Soon after taking this picture, I returned to the air conditioned office to finish an infomercial.

Thursday, July 5, 2012


What really happened the day after the Declaration of Independence was signed?  Everyone probably went back to work.  The Revolutionary War was already happening.  Last night, fireworks downtown flashed through haze on the horizon in every direction.  Rockets and muffled bangs first here, now there, whumphing slow explosive booms and staccato pops.  Late, not warning where to expect more harmless artillery fire.  Like tracers over the neighborhoods of some unfortunate colony.  A routine evening battle.

A few weeks ago in Kansas, we rode to the geographic center of that New Nation.  Katelyn and I picked our way through gridded flatland roads on the border of Kansas and Nebraska.  There's a gazebo, a plaque.  A tiny chapel, a battered wheat field.  The closest town is the ramshackle shell of what was a functioning economic outpost made of peeling paint, broken windows and wormy gables.  "Kansas can make it without the United States, but the US can't make it without Kansas."  Attributed to Eisenhower.  So reads a two-page instruction manual for entering the state.  "We don't care what a feedlot smells like to you, it smells like money to us," continues the Declaration in an educational tone.

I'm not sure whom in Kansas has the money to buy nine million acres' worth of winter wheat, but independence is a venerable notion.  The shape of this country depends that continued fantasy of self-reliant independence.  The freedom to pursue individual wealth is what fortifies our vast interdependent continental quilt of capitalism.  Independence is what makes the United States United.

Money comes from everywhere and goes everywhere.  It spreads a uniform blanket of roads across the country.  You can buy a burrito in any state using a magnetic card from any other state.  We hold these truths to be self-evident.  Nobody is independent.  

Saturday, June 30, 2012

104 Above

In the badlands, ranchers used to tell us how hot it was in the summer.  We'd get back to camp after a day of walking around parched staring at the ground looking for bones ready to make any promise for a cold drink.  In the middles of continents, temperatures always swing to the extremes.  Northeastern Montana is about as middle as it gets.  They'd say things like "It was 104 above in the shade."  Which is to say, above zero.  The need to specify 'above' with a number like that always struck me as very ominous.

It only really ever hits about fifty below out there.  But 150 degrees Fahrenheit still sounds like a pretty hefty swing.  Driving along today in Chattanooga with the open window like a blowdryer, swearing off the air conditioner in the truck, I realized that Earth has it pretty good anyway.  Magically good, in fact.  Thinking of that narrow ambient energy range where our puzzle of cellular chemical gymnastics can occur, the surface of the Earth began to look like a membranous oasis wrapped around a smoldering rock slowly orbiting a radioactive bomb.

Between the hottest equatorial temperatures and the coldest polar ones, there's a range of only about 200ºF.  In Tennessee tonight it will dip to the 70s after a full day above 100º.  In the winter we might get an ice storm, but 0ºF is almost unheard of.  Today on Mercury though, it got close to 700ºF during the day and could fall to negative 100ºF tonight.  That's a hundred below, in the shade.  Here on Earth, we enjoy thermal dampening from water, atmosphere, biomass, lucky distance from the sun, rotational speed, and a zillion other things that allow our lifeforms to take the shapes they do.

That's not to say life couldn't happen in a different way.  I tried to imagine a cell with dozens of different metabolic pathways capable of operating anywhere along an 800º range of temperatures with reactions optimized for every heat wave or cold snap.  But that lifeform would probably not look like a crow.  Or a valiant sprig of dry sage.  Or a person on a motorbike.  That planet might not have forests of photosynthesizing trees, dry and smoking, tipped over the edge to quick oxidation.  The sun carries on shining through a haze of particles, shaped by life, released by heat and fire, splashing down on skins of lichen stretched over globs of rock melted by inner fire and congealed by distance on that same membranous shell of this same old planet.  These terrestrial aliens.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


It's hidden.  Approaching from the North, it sticks out, tucked behind two corners.  A slog up the Gash, and you reach a place where the giant fish might floss.  A long and tedious approach, made too late to bag the real summit, but fun all the same.  Even if we did have to grope our way down in the dark spattered by hail searching for anchors and bail gear ropesliding down off the edge South.

Sunday, June 3, 2012


High and mighty backbone of continents.  Monument to shifting lithosphere.  Landmark for transcontinental wanderers.  Katelyn and I will be on the North American Plate for the next two weeks, or until further notice.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Five Kinds of Light

The sun is a deceptively simple maelström of roaring magnetic plasma.  Its arcing blasts of radiation lash across the skin of the Earth.  On that surface, the constant rain of solar particles creates chaotic rippling transformations.  From matter to energy and back again in unaccountable combinations.

This morning, as we reeled around the sun's gravity vortex, forest-sponged rainwater was excited back into floating vapor.  The rainwater itself had been transported from miles away by that same process, maybe hundreds of times before it fell here.  And before that all the way back to comet-borne ice, Dinosaur spit, and Louis XVI's chamber pot.  Droplets of that hyperactive, eternally multitasking vapor condensed, reflecting the light and energy that triggered its airy suspension.

Shafts of shadow are thrown by the leafy canopy.  Busy absorption panels above shade the prismatic mist.  The missing light is captured, fed into a reaction beyond view as zillions of plant chloroplasts produce the stuff of living bodies.  Carbon chains.  The sun-derived basis of nearly all known animate existence, crowding over anyplace wet enough.

The automobile runs on solar power.  Each internal explosion is a tiny ripple cast from waves of that same radiation - the sunlight that bathed some algae in the distant geological past, locked up by a long-gone chloroplast and stuck in a rocky milkshake below the ground.  Now a human straw has sucked the tarry light out and set it on fire again.  Archival Combustion.

Likewise, the lamppost, tied to the enormous cupric web of current, induced by some burning blocky fossilized moss or falling water, or convecting wind, or the very rays themselves, splashed onto a silicon panel somewhere far out of sight, drew a parasitic nighttime trickle from the radiating sun.

And the camera.  Enough of the wave escapes, or ricochets, or dances towards a hunk of glass and an electric retina in the hand of a primate.  The impression of those rays is relayed to you, using a boggling combination of the sun's power in more forms than it is wise to count.

Check out this month's NG story on Solar Storms.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Hemmed in

I've been working on a timelapse series that watches a lot of clouds through powerlines.  Used to try my damnedest to frame them out.  But you know what, powerlines are reality, too.  Hard to get out from under them.  Hawks, at least, can fly.

Monday, May 21, 2012


There's a clay hole in a Chattanooga backyard on the South side of the river.  Behind Adam's house.  That's where they got all the mud for Anderson's pizza oven.  Why the pile of clay?  Why the hole?  "There'd be like a couple of us stoned and somebody is like 'hey man, can I hit that hole?'  Man, we just dug it, you know, just to dig."

Monday, May 14, 2012

In the Kitchen

Scrubbing, fitting, grinding, twisting, measuring, chopping, oiling.  For a few months now, Katelyn has been working on her 1980 CB650, nursing a basket case back to life.  Until last week, the engine received all those loving ministrations on a hunk of plywood bridging the gap between an old washer and dryer near her kitchen.  The rolling junk heap got torn apart in her carport.  New camshaft, new carbs, headers, pistons.  She blasted and painted the frame, wrapped the pipes, and coated the tank mostly in the comfort of her own living room.  Now that we've moved it to my shop, I get to watch her compose those pieces into what is shaping up to be a damned good-looking motorcycle.  Sometimes she even lets me help.

Yesterday we lapped the valves and inspected the oil pump.  Pretty good way to spend a rainy weekend.  As my friend James says "Congratulations on making life imitate dream.''  I think she'll have a roller by Wednesday.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Vultures again

The dirt and sky.  Circling birds come around just as I'm tying into a rig I haven't made in years.  Time flip flops, and buzzards wheel higher.  Avoided being carrion for one more day.

Artifact is Making

Ignore the invitation.  Keep an eye out for the sequel.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Archival Combustion

Spent half this week on cameras, and the other half on motors.  This is my office at Artifact - Archival Combustion.  Art versus art?  Liberal or Servile?  Either way, I guess I'm open for business.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Muybridge's Birthday

The Google doodle today was a moving picture.  Edweard J. Muybridge (Muggridge, Muygrige) was an incredible dude.  Rebecca Solnit wrote a book about his times, which is excellent.  Muybridge was driven to accomplish amazing technical feats with cameras, which requires an uncommon level of obsessiveness.  That is a common pairing.  Not everyone agrees that we owe the invention of movies to him.  I think that he probably was the only person capable of accomplishing that incarnation of motion pictures at the time, and that he helped create the California to come.  It wasn't just because he knew how to do a little chemistry, and not only because he had a wealthy patron for the most expensive period of his experiments.  The most important thing was still his obsessive eye, focused on seeing time and existence as ambiguous, fluid phenomena.  Objects flashed under the sun and ghosted his soggy silver plates.  All was arbitrary, some was magic.  He probably drew no motivation from his eventual contribution to society.  It was just a beautiful obsession.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Sunday Best

We all got dolled up for bike polo today.  Especially Jessie.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Friday, March 23, 2012

Raffle Country tomorrow!

Starts at 6pm, raffle at 8.  This 17 inch poster is up for grabs along with piles of Artifact glory baubels.

Monday, March 19, 2012


It's been a long time since I left town.  So tonight it's Katelyn and I to Nashville to see Andrew Bird at the Ryman.  Not bad.  Spring head cleaning.  The sun is out, everybody at bike polo is white still.  Trees sprouting out everywhere - Nashville is in a bowl of limestone.   Been thinking of the Tsingy, where this vazaha (whitey) tree sprouts from the grikes and spears of limestone in Madagascar.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Silver Bullet

"If silver bullet does not kill him, poison of American decadence will."

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Fourth-Dimensional Motorcycle

It shouldn't surprise anyone that I like this book.  Nor that I pounce on any excuse to discuss time travel.  It should also not be surprising to get more than you bargained for with Wells.  Yeah, reading this book is like eating cookies.  But cookies rarely provoke existential quandary and uncommon kinds of social apocalypse.  Not to mention this reprint cover melding Steampunk and Psychadelica circa 1976.  Time is relative, man.

"So I came back.  For a long time, I must have been insensible upon the machine.  The blinking succession of the days and nights was resumed, the sun got golden again, the sky blue... The fluctuating contours of the land ebbed and flowed.  The hands spun backward upon the dials...

"He, I know, thought cheerlessly of the Advancement of Mankind, and saw the growing pile of civilization only a foolish heaping that must inevitably fall back upon and destroy its makers in the end.  If that is so, it remains for us to live as though it were not so.  But to me, the future is still black and blank - a vast ignorance, lit at a few casual places by the memory of his story..."

Monday, March 5, 2012

Axial Tilt

The feeling of an ill-timed or erratic season is very acute to me.  Growing up here in the halo of the Southern Appalachians, there is a lot of seasonal flux.  Axial flux.  All of the vibrance of the subtropics meets the temporal urgency of the further North.  Now more than ever, we are on the very edge of that 'Temperate' zone.  We're travelling South, all of us.  And not just for the Winter.  But climate fluctuations have immense seasons as well, measured out in geological time.  Imagine a planet with a straight axis and no seasons and no problems.  Planet Boring is what I'd call it.

Spring's joys are great, whenever they might come.  Katelyn and I went looking for singing frogs on Moccasin bend a few nights ago.  Though they were loud enough to force us to yell ten feet apart, the little guys were hard to find.  We wandered around with bare feet in swamp mud bothering amphibians in February.  Of course we literally stumbled on a wide snapping turtle, toes tapping shell in the murky night.  The tiny frog that presented himself to Katelyn didn't get a kiss, but then again, he was fast.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Orchard Knob

There's one good name for a small hill.  A small hill with such a commanding view of Chattanooga that it's full of monuments to Illinois.  You know the revolution is real when guys start doing parcourt off Civil War monuments.  Adam Monye was up there at sunset with some backflips.  Adam tells me he comes to practice now and then.  Every sun deserves a sendoff like this.

Monday, February 20, 2012


Projects are under way at Artifact.  Here are the first glimmers of the new Cub.  Archival Combustion #1. Frame is painted, new pistons soon on the way.  More here.

Thursday, February 16, 2012


We picked up a couple of good awards for the Blood Assurance flick at the local Addys, and a paper piece.  Took one of the trophies back to the table and someone says "oops, they did it backwards."  I posted a couple of notes this summer while we were making it.  Here and here.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


Video from another Watson Fellow Jonathan Meiburg - he now fronts Shearwater, a killer band with a new album out today and touring right now.  Reminds me of time spent in museums and in the field trying hard to make a world of specimens real.  Pretty accurate consequences.  Hope I can catch a show.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Sunset that wasn't

Here's an atmospheric timewarp.  Original on the left.  Now, it's all made of actual video and it plays perfectly naturally.  I mean, sunsets do happen.  Boats going up rivers do happen.  I know for a fact that sometimes the air can feel like its glowing onto your skin at the right time of the correct beautiful day.  That happens.  So it's not lying.  Yeah, it is.  But see, now it's not because I warned you.  Ok, what if I said I painted a picture...

Thursday, January 26, 2012


In 1855, Charles Goodyear brought a completely rubber room to the World's Fair in Paris.  Europeans had seen almost zero rubber ever before, so the sight of rubber walls, floors, furniture, combs, pens and umbrellas wigged everyone out a bit.  This party might not be quite like that, but I'm aiming for a close second.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Monday, January 23, 2012

Moto co-op?

They ask: could it work in your hometown?  At first, no.  Maybe.

Sunday, January 22, 2012


Valves, valve seats.  All eight have to fit well or it won't go.  This one looks good.  Some have to be sanded against each other, ground together in place, testing to match.  A satisfying process.  Reassembled, running now - satisfied again.

Now I can focus on getting ready for our opening night at Artifact.  There will be a lot to see.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Columbian Exchange

Some original Oregonians.  My granddad got some prints made at the turn of the century by a Mormon road engineer.  This place was somewhere near Mt. Hood.  It's a ghost town now.  Wouldn't mind dropping in to see how things look now.  In Charles Mann's amazing book, Virginia Company traders were sure North America was an isthmus 200 miles wide.  They were in a hurry to get across and trade with China.  Oregon is a lot further away than that.

Monday, January 9, 2012

High Line

January's Geographic had a story from Allard and Quammen, two greats.  Can't really think of a better combo for a piece about such an arcane part of the American West.  Untouchably good work.

I also enjoyed some nostalgia.  The green bus rode that high line one summer digging for dinosaurs.  From Sewanee via Albuquerque and Potter's West to the badlands north of Jordan and the Twitchell ranch - walking in circles searching for artifacts and nothingness under so much sky can make you an addict for life.  This was the Museum of the Rockies field camp with my well-beaten trail from the mess tent.  The bus is in my shop in Chattanooga now.  Finding photos like this makes me both desperate and hopeful while I think about what it will take to make her gallop again.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012