Desert Ecological Experiment or Tourist Trap? (Arcosanti)

The I-17 in Arizona connects Phoenix to three notable cities: Flagstaff, Prescott, and Sedona. These three destinations are each incredible in their own right. You experience majestic views of red rock, peaceful pine forests, and hundreds of hiking trails.
On the way North, you pass by an unnoticeable exit, Arcosanti Rd. This leads to Arcosanti itself, an experimental desert community developed by the brains of Paolo Soleri. Soleri was an Italian architect who came to Arizona to study with the famed architect, Frank Lloyd Wright. ASU architecture professor, Jeffrey Cook, describes Soleri as a visionary:

“He was part of a flock of utopian dreamers who designed mega-structure cities in the 1960s, but he had more of a social and ecological agenda than the others.”

The goal of Arcosanti is to “actively pursue lean alternatives to urban sprawl based on Paolo Soleri’s theory of compact city design, Arcology (architecture + ecology).” (arcosanti.org)

If you read Soleri’s writings, however, you are left with a sense of confusion and bewilderment. It sounds like he’s trying to say something grandiose, but I’m not really sure the relevance. Here’s an excerpt of one of his writings:

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Visiting Arcosanti, one gets the feeling that its goal is to sell expensive bells. The walls are lined with them, and they each have a price tag.

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Strange bronze castings are up for sale, too.

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Tours also come with a price tag. They’re advertised in pamphlets distributed to lodges across the region. Two-week seminars are held at Arcosanti for $1,075. Granted, you also get dormitory accommodation and food, but it’s hard to imagine someone not benefiting financially. In fact, president Jeff Stein was compensated over $60,000 in 2015. Not bad when you combine that with other writing and public speaking gigs, having travel expenses paid, and having your home paid for (he lives at Arcosanti).

Nevertheless, the development is intriguing. One wonders how much waste we could control if ecology was a top priority in architecture. We’re constantly producing garbage, wasting resources, using toxic chemicals, and practicing poor ecological habits in our homes. It’s truly admirable when anyone tries to tackle these issues. Yet there is still only one Arcosanti in the midst of millions of conventional homes across America.

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Yes, the Real-Life Krusty Krab Is (Was?) a Real Thing

And what better location for it than the West Bank, Palestine?

The themed restaurant, “Salta Burger,” was opened some time in the summer of 2014. It was based in Ramallah, where hunger strikers are currently protesting the conditions of Israeli prisons.

Judging from Salta Burger’s unofficial Facebook page, it appears that the “restaurant/coffee shop” is now closed. The last post was in July of 2015.

In exhibit A, you can see the questionable attempt at a Krabby patty:

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Other photos display children posing with giant Spongebobs, young guys smoking hookah, and giant Squidward statues. Here’s one photo of a Patrick representation that looks weirdly penile:

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My guess is that Viacom saw this picture and said no way. No. Way. I’m not sure how easy it is to send cease-and-desist letters to Palestine, but they easily put pressure on a Texas establishment trying to pull off similar shenanigan

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Wubba lubba dub dub!

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Upon executing further research, I have a lead on a Krusty Krab road in Galway, Ireland. This could easily be a Google user prank, but hey, who knows? There could possibly be an Irish seaside-pub serving up the secret Krabby Patty formula. Being that the Wedding Therapist and I will be visiting Ireland in August, there may be only one way to find out…

Here’s a video featuring Salta Burger, check it out:

Attention Viacom: all these trademarks are yours. Spongebob, krabby patties, Krusty Krab are all owned by you. Please don’t sue us, we’re not the enemy. Thanks!

Experiencing the Strangeness of Eternity (@NYC)

Imagine walking around TriBeCa, NYC, on a Saturday and hearing a faint buzz. You walk up to a seemingly ordinary apartment and get rung in. You then walk up three flights of stairs and enter a room. Imagine, then, being surrounded by rays of purple light and wisps of incense. The buzz is now an enormous, complex drone that is unchanging. You take a seat on the carpeted floor, and witness nothing other than purple walls, shadows, and this fixed drone.

You stay seated for an hour, and nothing really changes. It’s the same sound, same light, same shadows. However, the shadows dangle a little bit, and the sound changes when you move your head. After being here for a while, you notice minute intricacies of the drone and light. The sound and light are complex, though fixed in time and space. People come and go, sometimes for minutes, sometimes for hours.

I was at the Dream House three years ago. As I write this, the sound and light is still being generated. Here I am three years ago, getting buzzed in:

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I’ve changed, the Dream House pretty much has not.

The Dream House is a concept by La Monte Young and his wife Marian Zazeela. It dates back to 1966. Young is credited as the “grandfather of minimalist music.” His work spontaneously inspired a generation that involves Terry Riley, Steve Reich, Philip Glass, John Cale, and plenty of others. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, then think of the general  art scene of downtown Manhattan during the 60’s. Some of La Monte Young’s counterparts include Yoko Ono, Andy Warhol, and Lou Reed.

La Monte Young’s main goal was to have people experience sound inside of it. He wanted us to appreciate sound in the physical sense, and witness the objective harmony of noise and waveform. He was also concerned with the concept of eternity. He was fascinated with machinery and tortoises, both being symbols of prolongation.

What I appreciate about Young’s work is that it’s pretty straightforward. It’s not art that you spend days contemplating and laboring to understand, just to conclude that the meaning was that there is no meaning. Young’s work has a meaning and it’s simple: each moment is a representation of eternity. And though this is simple, trying to experience this eternity with full and uninterrupted awareness can be quite challenging. It’s what Zen practitioners spend years trying to master (through the ironic method of not trying).

This is not to say that Young’s works aren’t bizarre. They are. One of his works is entitled Map of 49’s Dream The Two Systems of Eleven Sets of Galactic Intervals Ornamental Lightyears Tracery. A recorded portion of this work, 31 VII 69 10:26-10:49 PM, is 23 minutes of voices and sine waves.

Drones can drive some people crazy. And that’s okay. You don’t have to like it. You do have to understand, though, that the drone itself has no intent. It’s your mind and thought that is driving you crazy. The drone simply is.

Take a look at some pictures, and if you decide to go, visit the website for more information. As a weirdo/New York state native, I highly recommend it.

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The Bizarre Secret of Assisi

In Assisi, Italy, there’s a destination that isn’t listed in any of the tourist books. It is virtually unknown, but ironically lies in the tourist information “office” of the Assisi train station. It is the imagination playground of Roberto Mazzeo.  Here he is, pontificating on angels, his theater troupe, the sanctity of brotherhood, and how utterly crazy he himself is:

He co-leads a theater production called “Il Teatro dei Mutaforma” (The Theater of Shapeshifters is a rough translation). The rock musical involves Saint Francis as a shape-shifting alien that eats magic mushrooms and promotes peace in the world. Mazzeo loves to go on tangents, and speaks extensively on existentialism and spirituality. His discourses are filled with clichés, like how the modern man lives as a “zohmbee” and that we are all sacred. But what is magical about Roberto Mazzeo and his studio is his infectious energy and the distinct creativity he displays.

When you walk past the tourist information desk littered with maps and guides, Roberto’s color pencil mural hangs proudly on the wall.

Yes, that is an alien with a big, sagging pair of tits. Roberto made an emphatic point to highlight this.

While we took the informal tour, space rock/electronic free jazz music played out of a speaker on the wall. I had no idea if this was Roberto’s work or inspiration, but it was fascinating. He talked about how he respects children for their energy and spontaneity. His studio had many toys and children activities around it, but no children because it was cold in December.


And above this table was an impressive dinosaur creation made of plastic hoses and pipes:


Mazzeo told us he gave up his life of prosperity and comfort for a spiritually rich life (sound familiar?). He talked about how he admires St. Francis because “he cray-zee like me.” I asked him if he talks to birds, and he laughed vivaciously. He then took a seriousness in how he does indeed commune with animals in the wild. It seems crazy, but you start to understand after spending some time in Assisi. Here is one of the many spectacular views:


I bought Mazzeo’s book, even though my Italian is pretty elementary. On the back, it reads in Italian, everyone has a guardian angel. Under this statement is a coyote cartoon that says, “mine is drugs.” It’s a perfect example of Mazzeo’s combination of humor, spirituality, and outlandishness. He describes himself as a Buddhist with St. Francis’ craziness. He talked about spending much of his life in Africa and Europe, at one point singing with Freddie Mercury. Anything he tells about himself may be fact or fiction, but it all gives bright color to the aging station. Mazzeo has much to give with his monologues and artistic presentation, and the best way to give back is with your time and attention. If you have an affinity for the bizarre, it is worth every minute.