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Preview: Jon Hall

Jon Hall

So simplify the problem of life, distinguish the necessary from the real. Probe the earth to see where your main roots run. —Henry David Thoreau


by CM Campbellvia Hyperallergic, “Cashing In on Your White...

Wed, 18 Apr 2018 09:50:58 -0700


by CM Campbell
via Hyperallergic, “Cashing In on Your White Privilege Tax Deduction

Nina Simone, acrylic on canvas, 5” x 7”

Sat, 10 Mar 2018 13:20:29 -0800







Nina Simone, acrylic on canvas, 5” x 7”

The Peace of the Wild Things

Tue, 06 Mar 2018 22:54:09 -0800

When despair grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting for their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

—Wendell Berry

The myth of National Identity

Thu, 01 Mar 2018 15:44:36 -0800

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"Those who believe that the cream always rises to the top, and that success in the marketplace is a..."

Tue, 13 Feb 2018 12:00:01 -0800

“Those who believe that the cream always rises to the top, and that success in the marketplace is a reliable measure of an artist’s ambition, tend to be white male critics.”

- John Yau, “Back When Painting Was Dead,” an excellent read on the state of art today.

neil-gaiman:I love this song… I never read Judy Blume, wishing...

Mon, 12 Feb 2018 17:56:48 -0800

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I love this song…

I never read Judy Blume, wishing now I had. Such a beautiful tribute and reminder of the wonder of how books can powerfully connect us to one another, reminding us we’re not alone, in ways few other things can.

Brilliant talk by Rick Steves on the value of honest travel.

Wed, 31 Jan 2018 15:11:52 -0800

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Brilliant talk by Rick Steves on the value of honest travel.

Year End: Reading in 2017

Thu, 28 Dec 2017 18:47:47 -0800

My reads of 2017. I have another ten or so currently in-progress, which doesn’t say much for my ability to stay focused. The list probably represents well the many things I’m interested in and perhaps more importantly, need to learn more about. I wish my speed and comprehension were better, though I did find some solace in Ta-Nehisi Coates sharing (in Between the World and Me) his manner of reading/learning, which includes lots of note taking, jotting down insights and thoughts in margins. It’s a time-consuming practice that slows the pace of reading, but greatly improves understanding and response to what we’re reading. I no longer feel quite so guilty at doing the same. Coates shared how classrooms for him were prisons compared to the liberating environment of the library, where he could seek out those he wanted to learn more from. While I don’t spend much time in libraries (something I regret), his insight resonated with me.Much of my reading this year followed familiar pursuits: Climate, California, religion, philosophy, science, history, and art. With our collective awareness of the problem of racism re-surfacing, I finally jumped into the brilliance of Coates and James Baldwin, which was long overdue. I’m pretty sure I read more books by women and people of color than ever before this year, though that was less an intentional act as it was the result of those simply being the books I wanted/needed to read. Joan Didion continued to mesmerize me and more deeply connect me with my Californian identity. Elizabeth Kolbert smacked me upside the head with sobering depictions of the coming climate reality. Sarah Thornton brought intriguing insight into the lives and work of some of the greatest living artists of our time. And Jane Wehrey provided a compelling history of the Owens Valley and the critical role it’s played in our state. Coming off of the helpful philosophy overview I read last year, A Brief History of Thought, I finally dove into Bertrand Russell, moving past the sound bites and memes so popular of his insights. Daniel Dennett gave me a lot to think about in my on-going reconciliation with my perception of reality warped by the faith tradition I grew up in (and gave most of my life to). I’m now reading Ivan Illich’s Tools for Conviviality and Thomas Piketty’s Capital, as I wrestle with the ills of the modern age and the paths it’s led us down.I finally read some Michael Pollan, timely in my slow turn away from food ignorance, and re-read Somerset Maugham’s The Razor’s Edge, which I hadn’t read in about 35 years. I’d come across an old first edition print at a flea market, which prompted my re-read. It’s themes of American Exceptionalism, Capitalism and privilege were timely. I continue to peck away at work by Renee Rilke and discovered the poetry of Adrienne Rich (I know, I’m way late to the poetry party). Her work continues to blow my mind. And finally, I read my good friend Jon Huckins new book, which he co-wrote with Jer Swigart. These guys are the Yin to the Yang of the current Evangelical + Trumpism mashup, confronting some of the theological ideologies that continue to undermine any credibility Evangelical Christianity has/had. These are smart guys who are also great humans leading those who call themselves Christians toward a less-violent, more peace-filled pursuit that is more inclusive than exclusive. If there’s any hope for Christianity, it’s with ideas championed by guys like these.It’s the bright minds of literature and thought, and the work of innovative artists and their work, that have been instrumental in feeding oxygen to those flickering embers of hope smothered in this political clusterfuck of a year. These writers have reminded me that we humans faced dire circumstances before and endured. At the same time, change doesn’t always come, hope doesn’t always [...]

Year End: Democracy and the free press

Tue, 26 Dec 2017 13:05:31 -0800

Much has been written about the extraordinary danger our democracy faces when we have an American President who so flagrantly, irresponsibly and dangerously attacks a free press. 

So important the concept of a free press is to democracy, that the founders of our nation put it in the First Amendment to our Constitution. The impact of this attack on the free press has been profound, with some Americans celebrating while others, aware of the danger this represents to our democracy, stand aghast.

In a recent podcast, Scott Lewis, CEO of Voice of San Diego, provided helpful insight as to the role of journalism in a democracy. I’ve long been a supporter of VOSD. I don’t always agree with them, but I recognize the critically important role they play in our civic discourse and the shared reality—as Scott puts it—in which we live. As we stand at the abyss of the uncertainty of the American democratic experiment, this kind of insight is needed.

It begins about 5:10, and is well worth a listen. 

“What’s the point of journalism? To construct a shared reality of what we think is true. This is important because we have to make decisions based on that shared reality. This is the bedrock of civic dialogue. If we all want to have a voice in civic affairs we need to organize that voice as best we can.

This is the bedrock of civic dialogue in my opinion. If we all want to have voice in local public affairs we need to organize that voice as best we can. That’s why I’m so obsessed with public affairs events that celebrate the common experience.

I want it to be a culture that we celebrate. At it’s heart sharing news is a convening. Modern newspapers may be old, but the act of gathering people together and telling them what you have learned and asking them to share what they’ve learned is as old as any human progress. It’s not easy for us to live together, we all have different views. But we’ve all committed to live together in peace and we decided that the best way to do that and to be peaceful is to make a system out of it, to make a system we call representative democracy. We decided that’s the best way for us all to get together, express our points of view on policy and politics and then try to establish them without resorting to violence and corruption. The news is the nourishment of that system, for how we co-exist. If we follow that, we accept that certain interests , politicians or political groups lose, they will accept it. That’s the heart of this whole system.

As a species we’ve been cursed and blessed with perennial dissatisfaction. Our society is never good enough, and we will always face every lurch toward a quality of opportunity with suspicion and sometimes we will get wildly off-track. We sometimes go backward. But clearly the trajectory is to continue to press forward on these concepts and to try hand them down [to] the next generation in a coherent way.”

Year End: A Reflection on Living Through Turbulent Times

Tue, 26 Dec 2017 10:13:12 -0800

A helpful reflection in a year that many of us might rather forget. 

“I don’t think it is possible to contribute to the present moment in any meaningful way while being wholly engulfed by it. It is only by stepping out of it, by taking a telescopic perspective, that we can then dip back in and do the work which our time asks of us.”

A Reflection on Living Through Turbulent Times
by Maria Popova

Experimenting with the new drone at Carpinteria State Beach.

Fri, 08 Dec 2017 19:01:31 -0800

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Experimenting with the new drone at Carpinteria State Beach.

"Art has a social purpose [and] art belongs to the people. It’s not something that is hanging out..."

Fri, 01 Dec 2017 17:20:00 -0800

“Art has a social purpose [and] art belongs to the people. It’s not something that is hanging out there that has no connection with the needs of man. And art is unashamedly, unembarrassingly, if there is such a word, social. It is political; it is economic. The total life of man is reflected in his art.”

- James Baldwin

Mitch Resnick, a Director at MIT’s Media Lab, gave a talk...

Fri, 01 Dec 2017 16:00:03 -0800

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Mitch Resnick, a Director at MIT’s Media Lab, gave a talk recently highlighting the work of one of my kids. It begins at about 12:05 (“Ipzy” is their Scratch name). Mitch has given numerous talks on the Scratch platform and my kid’s work, using it as an example of what the Scratch platform—which teaches kids skills of computer coding, project development, creativity and collaborative learning/work—can do. What’s funny is that I typically need to watch these videos to learn about the work my kid has done, as they tend to keep a tight-lip on the projects and influence they’ve garnered on Scratch. It all led to an invite from MIT Media Lab to intern last Summer with the Scratch team, who was working to develop the next iteration of the platform. Pretty awesome.

NotSoHumbleBragging on the work of one of my kids. She’s been...

Fri, 01 Dec 2017 12:00:01 -0800




NotSoHumbleBragging on the work of one of my kids. She’s been putting in the time and effort to build an impressive portfolio and is starting to land some good work as a result. Good things are ahead for this one.

Year in review: Seven Brief Lessons on Physics

Mon, 30 Oct 2017 12:00:12 -0700

Going back through drafts on Tumblr I came across this post, which I had never published. Having just re-read this book, it seemed fitting to post. I had commented to my wife how little of it I seemed to have retained, which made re-reading it both thrilling—much of the content seemed new and enlightening—and depressing, in the realization of my declining memory. It was also a reminder of how I need to write stuff down if for no other reason, my own reference. Thus, this post.Science has continued to be one of my pursuits these last few years, primarily through reading and digital content. Science has come so freaking far since my days in college, and our fundamental understanding of our place in the universe continues to be upended/revealed/confirmed (depending on your point of view) because of what science is doing.Carol Rovelli’s book, Seven Brief Lessons on Physics in a layman’s guide to some of the more important ideas today in physics, ideas that are helping confirm and redefine our understanding of the nature of reality and thus, the fundamental understanding of our place in it.“… immersed in this nature that made us and directs us, we are not homeless beings suspended between two worlds, parts of but only partly belonging to nature, with a longing for something else. No: we are home.”—Carlo Rovelli, Seven Brief Lessons on PhysicsSeven Brief Lessons on Physics is a small book, a quick, easily digestible, meaningful introduction to modern physics. In the book's closing, Rovelli puts the big picture in a human context, from which the above quote was pulled. Emphasis is mine:“I believe that our species will not last long. It does not seem to be made of the stuff that has allowed the turtle, for example, to continue to exist more or less unchanged for hundreds of millions of years, for hundreds of times longer, that is, than we have event been in existence. We belong to a short-lived genus of species. All of our cousins are already extinct. What’s more, we do damage. The brutal climate and environmental changes that we have triggered are unlikely to spare us. For Earth, they may turn out to be a small irrelevant blip, but I do not think that we will outlast them unscathed—especially since public and political opinion prefers to ignore the dangers that we are running, hiding our heads in the sand. We are perhaps the only species on Earth to be conscious of the inevitability of our own mortality. I feel that soon we shall also have to become the only species that will knowingly watch the coming of its own collective demise, or at least the demise of its own civilization.As we know more or less how to deal with our individual mortality, so we will deal with the collapse of our civilization. It’s not so different. And it’s certainly not the first time that this has happened. The Maya and the Cretans, among many others, already experienced this. We are born and die as the stars are born and die, both individually and collectively. This is our reality. Life is precious because it is ephemeral. And as Lucretious wrote: ‘our appetite for life is voracious, our thirst for life insatiable.’ But immersed in this nature that made us and directs us, we are not homeless beings suspended between two worlds, parts of but only partly belonging to nature, with a longing for something else. No: we are home.”I re-read this passage from the book this morning after what has become a daily emotional and intellectual assault in the post-truth reality we now find ourselves in. Paired with a tweet I read linking to a Facebook post by Scott Lewis, CEO of the Voice of San Diego, I found a bit of a pace and hopefully, a way to naviga[...]

Funny how when listening to recordings of myself like this, how...

Sun, 29 Oct 2017 16:00:21 -0700

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Funny how when listening to recordings of myself like this, how different (and honestly, how poorly) it sounds compared to how it sounds to me as I’m recording it.

Year in review: Between the World and Me

Sun, 29 Oct 2017 13:10:02 -0700

“The black world was expanding before me, and I could see now that the world was more than a photonegative of the people who believe they are white. ‘White America’ is a syndicate arranged to protect its exclusive power to dominate and control our bodies. Sometimes this power is direct (lynching), and sometimes it is insidious (redlining). Bit however it appears, the power of domination and exclusion is central to the belief in being white, and without it, ‘white people’ would cease to exist for want of reasons. There will surely always be people with straight hair and blue eyes, as there have been for all history. But some of these straight-haired people with blue eyes have been ‘black,’ and this points to the great difference between their world and ours. We did not choose ou fences. They were imposed on us by Virginia planters obsessed with enslaving as many Americans as possible. They are the ones who came up with a one-drop rule that separated ‘white’ from ‘black,’ even if it meant that their own blue-eyed sons would live under the lash. The result is a people, black people, who embody all physical varieties and whose life stories mirror this physical range.”Earlier this year I read Ta-Nehisi’s Between the World and Me, required reading for white America during this time in which we find ourselves, 150 years since the end of slavery and 50 years from the Civil Rights Act, yet racism’s grip continues to tear at the edges and inseam of the fabric of America’s shared humanity.I found myself unable to read Coates without a disturbing degree of conviction, realizing racism is still a thing, unresolved, misunderstood by so many and denied by still others. To know that I personally benefit from racism, that it provides me opportunities that I likely wouldn’t otherwise have simply because of the unmerited favor of having been born a white male leaves me unsettled. Which of course is the point. Though a shocking number of people still deny it, the playing field is not level, tilted measurably toward those in positions of power and privilege.Plenty of insightful reviews have been written about this book (like here, here and here), far better than I at assessing its merits and membership to the canon of American literature that shines a light on our humanity (or lack thereof). For me, this book was another small step in my journey of realizing that until we all have justice, none of us do. It was an immersion in compelling prose and deeply personal conviction that Coates shares, equally for people of color and also for whites (or as Coates would refer people who think they are white.) This book also pushed me over the edge to finally read James Baldwin (The Fire Next Time), something I’ve long wanted to do but could now find no more excuse not to. Coates took many cues from Baldwin in writing Between the World and Me, something that stood out reading these books back-to-back. This unresolved problem of racism was driven home by the fact that Baldwin wrote The Fire Next Time fifty years ago, and sadly too-little has changed in that time.I was also compelled by Coates’ personal journey of discovery, of coming to terms with the chasm between the world he occupies and the one I do, which readers like me cannot help but feel a deep sense of realness and equal sadness. Written as a letter to his son, Between the World and Me feels like a peek into the deeply personal and tragic reality that is racism in America today. Coates pursuit of learning and discovery of the human condition was equally sobering:“It began to strike me that the part of my education was [...]

"If there is danger in the human trajectory, it is not so much in the fulfillment of the irony or..."

Fri, 27 Oct 2017 18:00:27 -0700

“If there is danger in the human trajectory, it is not so much in the fulfillment of the irony or organic evolution: that in the instant of achieving self-understanding through the mind of man, life doomed its most beautiful creation”

- Elizabeth Kolbert, The Sixth Extinction

Modern Masters from Latin America, the Pérez Simon CollectionSan...

Fri, 27 Oct 2017 17:11:12 -0700

Untitled, 1947. Luis Alberto Acuña Figure on Blue Background, 1985. Ricard Martinez de Hoyos Life and Industry (sketch for the mural), 1947. Jorge Gonzalez Camarena City of Quito, 1980. Oswaldo Guayasamin Survivor, 1938. Frida Kahlo Peasant, Industrial and Intellectual Work, 1956. Jorge Gonzalez Camarena Basket 73, 2003. Olga de Amaral Modern Masters from Latin America, the Pérez Simon CollectionSan Diego Museum of Art, part of Pacific Standard Time: LA/LAModern Masters from Latin America was my second PSTLA/LA exhibition in as many weekends. Admittedly, the art nerd side of me is experiencing a bit of anxiety at the realization that not only will I not get to all there is to see as part of PSTLA/LA, but likely won’t even come close. It’s that expansive. And it’s not just about FOMO, but the very real fact that PSTLA/LA represents a pivotal marker for art on the West coast.Christopher Hawthorne of the Los Angeles Times recently wrote about the significance of PSTLA/LA, notably from the perspective of The Getty’s role in the evolving culture of the Southland. Before they occupied their perch overlooking LA, I used to visit the Getty Villa, complete with its quirks and required reservations, as parking was so limited. The Getty Center, with its extraordinary architecture, gardens and expansive travertine marble on nearly every visible square inch of exposed space, was every bit the realization of their multi-billion-dollar endowment, putting The Getty where capitalism placed it, at the top of the hill overlooking all of Los Angeles. But as Hawthorne notes, it was more a monument to itself than it was to the world of art, especially art in LA. With PSTLA, The Getty is changing that.From LA to San Diego to parts of Pomona where cutting-edge artists have lingered in self-imposed anonymity for years, PSTLA is helping shine a light on what is emerging as one of the world’s leading centers of art, the LA region.Taking in The Modern Masters from Latin America on a Sunday, over the course of a few hours spent at one of my hometown museums, I was feeling under the weather, though I’m not sure how much of that was due to fighting off a bug or the emotional and intellectual impact I was experiencing through this exhibition.The exhibition opens with:“The Americas are commonly divided into two spheres, tied regrettably to a history of conquest.”First the victims of Colonialization, then perpetrators of it (at least on America’s part), the statement seemed to be trying to create an equivalency of North American and its Latin counterpart. While I can’t say I buy that sentiment, I was thrilled my hometown museum was participating in PSTLA. Exhibitions like this bear the fingerprints of SDMA’s Executive Director Roxana Velásquez, the first woman (not to mention Latina) in that role. Setting aside personal conflicts I experience with the influence of the very wealthy in the art world (Simon and Carlos Slim got rich through the monopolization of Mexico’s telecommunications industry), the art and the artists in this exhibition are exceptional examples Latin America’s exploration of National Identity and the growth of the Avante-Garde. SDMA seems to often avoid controversial issues of political and social conflict that are often at the root of the work represented in shows like this. The Modern Masters of Latin America is no exception. It makes for a more well-rounded experience when viewed in context of exhibitions like Radial Women: Latin American Art 1960-1985 now at The Hammer, which in many ways serves as the yin to[...]

My current diet

Thu, 26 Oct 2017 18:00:10 -0700

Hyperallergic continues to be a go-to, daily source of terrific, needed content. I’ve long been curious of what artists have to say, both historically and currently. Hyperallergic delivers with a remarkable flow of good content and reminds me just how much great, important work is being done the world over by artists, work that needs to be seen and experienced.

Pacific Standard Time LA:LA is the result of the Getty putting its substantial endowment to use in a way that is both important and needed in Southern California. It’s a series of exhibitions on 70+ museums and galleries across the Southland, and further establishes our region’s influence and contribution to the international art scene, reinforcing one reason why it’s truly is an exciting time to live in the LA region. I’ve attended only two exhibitions so far, Radical Women: Latin American Art 1960-1985 at The Hammer, and Modern Masters of Latin America at SDMA, both exceptional exhibitions. The PSTLA website allows you to choose exhibitions by Theme, Venue, Neighborhood and Medium, super helpful.

Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury. With the current American political climate, there’s been a notable increase in the consumption of dystopian novels. Some truly good, new speculative fiction is coming out now, but I wanted to read this classic both for it’s significance to the genre, the great writing of Bradbury, and its relevance to these times. As Neil Gaiman writes in the forward of the 50th-anniversary edition, inasmuch as an author is making a personal statement in a book like this and the context in which it was written shapes it as well, the reader brings a lot to the table with the context of their experiences, times and conditions. For me, that couldn’t be truer than now.

From the folks at Radiolab, I’ve been spending time catching up with the podcast More Perfect. Now in their second season, More Perfect focuses on the Supreme Court. At times sounding like Bradbury’s dystopian fiction and at times ringing hopeful, it’s helping bring into context—in entertaining/engaging ways—just how pivotal this key judicial branch is to our democracy.