An Arts and Crafts Masterpiece in San Francisco

During a spare hour on a trip to San Francisco to visit relatives I remembered an Arts and Crafts era landmark I had only known through books, the Swedenborgian Church of San Francisco on Lyon Street in the Pacific Heights neighborhood. Thankfully, the church is open for visitors during business hours and we popped in to take a look.

The church was designed and built by team of architects and designers that included Bernard Maybeck, A. C. Schweinfurth, A. Page Brown, William Keith, Bruce Porter, and the Rev. Joseph Worcester in 1895. On the walls are a series of stunning California landscape paintings depicting the four seasons by William Keith that echo the naturalistic theme of the building. The upright and stern chairs allegedly touched off the mission furniture craze.

Should you find yourself in San Francisco this church is a must see–and it’s free! Visiting hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday. The address is 2107 Lyon Street at Washington Street. You can also arrange a tour. See the church’s website for more information.

Saturday Tweets: Linotype, Support Squirrels and an East Hollywood Tower

The Walls Have Eyes

I was at the “Big Orange Store” as Eric of GardenFork calls it, looking for shelf hardware. Using their app (because human employees can be hard to find) I searched for “hidden shelf.” I was looking for something like this:

The app, however, autocompleted “hidden camera.” That’s odd, I thought, and followed the link. It turns out that Home Depot has your pervy spying needs covered.

There’s the “LizaCam USB Wall Plug with Hidden IP Camera.”

The “Revo Wall Clock with Hidden Built-in Covert Camera.”

The “Bush Baby Smoke Detector DVR Hidden Camera with 30-Hour Battery and 16GB Memory” and many more: fans, alarm clocks, power adapters etc all equipped with hidden cameras.

Could their be legitimate uses for these devices? Maybe the sight of a baby monitor offends your aesthetic sensibilities and you’d prefer it discretely hidden in a smoke alarm? Possible but unlikely. We all know but don’t want to think about these inexpensive electronics in the hands of Airbnb voyeurs. While our ancestors once scanned the savanna in the hopes of bagging a gazelle for dinner we moderns can spend our time searching for cameras hidden in our toasters and lamps.

I’ll also note how the Home Depot website has come to resemble Amazon, where every whim and thought of our collective subconscious achieves physical embodiment via an ever growing network of cheap Chinese factories. Marcel Duchamp’s readymades are seeming less like conceptual art and more like a blueprint for eCommerce. If I blog about a “R.Mutt urinal fountain with hidden camera” will they make one? How about a hidden camera with a hidden camera in it?

Getting Out of Your Head

During his unsuccessful presidential campaign Senator Marco Rubio suggested that, “We need more welders and less philosophers.” Matthew Crawford in his 2015 book The World Beyond Your Head: On Becoming an Individual in an Age of Distraction proves why it’s important to be a welder and a philosopher.

Crawford’s believes that certain unquestioned philosophical assumptions dating from the enlightenment are at the heart of our current malaise, specifically the notion that we are all independent and separate logical beings with the location of our consciousness and ethics living entirely within our noggins.

Immanuel Kant and René Descartes are the baddies of Crawford’s book, the advocates of this separateness and the related notion of idealism, the philosophical term for the idea that reality is only comprehensible through internal mental imagery. Idealism will lead you to skepticism about the nature of reality which will, in turn, send you on a trajectory towards the absurd musings of Elon Musk who, apparently, can’t tell if he’s living in a simulation. People who wonder if they are in a simulation tend not to be the people who garden, dig ditches, weld things, read this blog or form meaningful face to face communities.

It shouldn’t be surprising that our culture’s philosophical assumptions about reality lead to things like virtual reality, video games and cryptocurrencies. Through positive examples such as a hockey player, a motorcycle racer, a jazz musician, a glass blower and an organ maker Crawford shows us a way out of our simulated and alienated reality.

And we can look to Crawford himself as an example of where we should take our education system. As both a motorcycle mechanic and a first rate philosopher Crawford proves that a well balanced person can tackle a blown head gasket by day and wrestle with Heidegger in the off hours.

No Tweets Just Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan

I was too busy working on the house this week to curate a list of Twitterable links so it’s time for a Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan break. Kelly and I were lucky to have seen him in concert back in the 1990s. Here he is at the 1992 WOMAD festival in Yokohama performing “Mustt Mustt.” It’s difficult to translate the lyrics of this Qawwali, but in essence it’s about a state of divine intoxication reminiscent of the Song of Solomon. It was also part of the soundtrack that kept me going through long sessions of hardwood floor nailing in the midst of a very hot August. Those floors are now finished, sanded (by a professional crew) and in use.