Archive for the ‘art’ Category

Aaron Kilpatrick home and art studio at 340 Olive painting by William Wendt

There are a lot of interesting little gems in Morro Bay to look at. I don’t know the history of them all… but I do know a bit. I spent this morning wandering around noting places that stand out to me from south of a line I’ve arbitrarily drawn at Olive street and Ridgeway up to Kern. This is by no means an exhaustive survey of all the interesting architecture… it’s just me wandering around and looking. Many of them are rather quiet and don’t jump out at you… but they provide a feeling that makes this place feel like it does. I’ll go street by street to make it easy to follow along. I’m not gonna do all the streets though. I’m also not gonna include photographs of all these places because it felt too intrusive. You can find them on google earth street view if you’re lazy… but best to just get out and take a walk.

Beginning along the lower State Park Road (aka Main Street) at the south end of town:

Maybe start (or finish)with lunch at Bayside cafe. Order the tri tip tostada… I prefer the black beans but the pinto are good too… (or 50/50!) have them add grilled onions because it’s just better that way. Get an Arnold Palmer to go with.

Walk east from there about half way down the marina parking lot and look north towards the camp ground… across State Park Road. Check out the Board and bat and stone restrooms at the state park. Who designed this little building? I know it was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps. They also did many of the other fixtures around the state park, most notably the gutters along the upper state park road that goes through the golf course known as “park view drive”.

Restrooms at Morro Bay State park built in 1934 by the Civilian Conservation Corps

20 State Park Road- Natural History museum at Whites Point. I’m curious who designed this mid century modern building. it’s best viewed from the water or from “windy cove” (the little parking area on the mudflat edge just north of the museum). Walk the little trails around the small little rocky outcropping and above the museum…. Take the stairs up to the top of this rock and check out the Indian bowls carved into the rocks… and the view!

Walk north along state park road on the west side. There’s a trail. Cross past windy cove and the mud flats and look back at the museum. This spot at the mudflats here is where I have spent every King Tide Event at high tide. Back in the seventies the bay crossed the road here once and flooded out into the fairway of the golf course. But since then the road was repaved so now it’s about 2” taller and thus the water hasn’t crossed the road since. I keep waiting… but the water only gets to the west edge of the paving now though. Sandal… the “baykeeper” of Morro Bay used to anchor just at the north end here (google him).

60 State Park Road- the Inn at Morro Bay…. Which to locals will always be known by it’s original name: the Golden Tee. This motel has been highly remodeled with brick pavers and a cottage vibe but was originally a 60’s mid century rat pack sort of place. The main lodge still has a bit of this vibe if you go inside and look at the bar and restaurant. Google “the Golden Tee” and you’ll see lots of period menu’s and postcards etc. They come up on eBay a lot. The buildings were originally designed by local modernist architect John Ross. There was a $920,000 public stock offering offered to fund the build of this place. The folks behind the original corporation were Glenn Kleinhammer, Eugene Morosin, Milton Rohrberg, and Chrome John’s. Architect Ross also designed homes for Kleinhammer and Rohrberg just up the hill a few lots.

Immediately south of the the Inn at Morro Bay is the Heron Rookery on a point known as Fairbanks point. The old Fairbanks house used to be in this spot here long before anything else was in this part of town. Imagine living on this bay front parcel back in the day. The driveway to this house went along the bluff northward up to main street… several thousand feet long… before the motel, and before the condos north of the motel. It entered Main Street just where 199 Main Street is now. The Fairbanks house was a sort of arts and crafts style.

199 Main- cool old brown shingled cottage overlooking the old fuel dock.

225 Main- Gladys’ Castle. Gladys Walton was a silent film star. She covered her house in shells and stones and built both the lighthouse in front of this place and the windmill house across the street.

235 Main- (approx… address) Orval League’s Oyster Cannery. Designed by architect John Badgley. Best views of this building are from the water on a boat. Part of Morro bay’s commercial fishing industry. It’s quite a nice looking mid century design from the water. Hard to see it from the street.

280 Main- Big Sur modernist style redwood concrete and glass home of my dad, architect Gerald (Gerry) Rupp. built early 1950’s. This house marks the southern edge of what was known as “beatnik hill” back in the day. It’s also the southern edge of the artists colony on Cerrito Peak that existed from the 1930’s through the 1970’s.

Take a short side trip up Cypress here… behind 280 Main because in the early 50’s my dad, Gerry Rupp, built 2 other little redwood, glass, concrete and stone modernist houses at 270 and 290 Cypress. SLO Architect Roger Marshal designed a fantastic art studio addition to 290 Cypress on the lot at 280 Cypress but you really can’t see much from the street. A nonagenarian longtime local artist has lived here for approx 70 years. This house began as an A-frame… but then it grew!

Looking south from Cerrito peak towards 290 Cypress street A-frame approx 1951… before most of the houses in the neighborhood. This house is now in the center of the block buried in trees and almost impossible to see. Note the 1930’s and 1940’s cars
290 Cypress street 1951 or so. Note the big flat roofed south facing cantilevered dormer bedroom upstairs.

301 Main- this mid century house looks right out over the boat launch at the south end of the embarcadero. It’s better to view it from down there. One of the best front decks in town. To get down there walk north to Olive street…turn west.. walk down to the stairs on the bluff and walk south along the embarcadero towards the boat launch.

North of 301 main are several old original cottages between Main Street and the embarcadero that feel same way they did decades ago. Very original Morro Bay feeling here. When you get to Fig street… look at the two red houses across Main and up the hill. Behind these red places…if you look between them… you can just barely see a third red house with white trim. It used to be the only house on this block. It’s a cool old 1930’s crafstman cottage high up on the hill.

Fig street takes off west here for about 150’ and has several original humble cottages that have not changed over the years. Nadine Richards home and art studio are just below the bluff here… at the bottom of Fig…. Accessed by a bridge. But it’s actually on the embarcadero parking lot for the boat launch. She was an artist and a character. She built her house herself down at her parents place south of Fig street… but drug it with a tractor up to where it is now and placed it over her art studio. There’s a ladder between floors. No stairs. Artist Everette Jensen’s art studio and home was the little house behind the hedge on the embarcadero just south of Nadine’s.

340 Olive- Spanish colonial revival. Originally the home of artist Aaron Kilpatrick. He hung out with artist William Wendt… and they both painted all over Cerrito Peak behind here… which they called eagle rock probably because at the top it feels like a big stone eagles nest. … but it’s a volcanic plug. you can access the trail up Cerrito peak from the high point of Cerrito Place just up Olive a tad. Nadine and Aaron and William were all friends and confidants.

370 Olive- known as “the hunting lodge” but I don’t know that story very well. It was also home to artist Charlotte Skinner.

400 Olive- I just like A-frames

Walk up Olive and turn right on Cerrito Place…. Walk up to the bend in the road and look on your right for the “trail” sign between the eucalyptus trees. Hike the short way up to the top. The views are worth it. This is a fantastic small hidden park. Be respectful of neighbors and don’t go near any of the homes. Lots of boulders and cliff… so watch out. Head back down and east on Cerrito to Shasta Left, Olive Right, Piney Way right, and ridgeway Left. Walk up ridgeway.

View from Cerrito Peak by William Wendt.

800 Ridgeway- a classic old cottage

805 ridgeway- Spanish colonial revival (with later additions) and with some great trees

850 ridgeway Spanish colonial revival

880 ridgeway. Interesting old triangular parcel with an old MB home. Wish I knew the story.

900 Ridgeway- home and studio of Artist Arther Harold Knott. Later home to his daughter Harleigh. When she died she gave it to Stanford university and they sold it to a couple from SLO who hope to restore it eventually. Harold Knott was a well known artist like Kilpatrick down on Olive. It’s known as “the house of the seven winds”. It is a cape cod style home designed in 1925 as a summer cottage for Mrs G.A. Martell by architects Miller and Warnecke out of San Francisco. She never lived there as far as I know. Harold Knott added his art studio in the SE corner of the lot just after he bought it in 1929 or so.

Home of artist Arthur Harold Knott on corner of Ridgeway and Kern
900 Ridgeway Main house plan circa 1925
Hand drawn plans
Studio originally was going to have a kitchen, bath, and bedroom off the east side… but this was never built
Harold Knott’s Art studio behind 900 Ridgeway.

Walk south down Kern. Watch for cars because there’s no shoulder and it’s a tad sketchy.

350 Kern- cool art deco house. I don’t know the backstory. It’s old though. One of the first 4 or five in this area. Who know’s the story? one of my favorite houses in town.

320 Kern- this place intrigues me because I think it used to also include 310 Kern… before the house at 310 was there. The house at 320 looks sort of Hawaiian. It has a Hawaiian hip roof. The cottage on the rear of the 310 lot, which you have to really snoop to see, also has this Hawaiian hip roof design and appears to have been a guest house for 320. I dunno for certain but would bet. There’s a fantastic back yard here too…. Check google maps!

300 Kern- Spanish colonial revival home with a lovely courtyard and great details. Another of my favorite houses in town.

246 Kern… looks older than the nearby houses. Don’t know the story. I like it.

140 Kern- Bud Anderson home. He is a famous local. He started the Galley restaurant among other things. Sort of a 60’s or late 50’s slumpstone fake Adobe post and beam rancher. Garage on east end was filled in with bedrooms I think. Sneaky not so secret path to the golf club is behind (east) of this home.

130 Kern- mid century modern designed by Don Smith. South facing courtyard.

101 Bradley- directly across Kern from 130 Kern. This house was home to the “donut lady”. She owned the little donut shop on the waterfront where the beef jerky place is… next to the kite shop at the end of Beach. She sold coffee and donuts to the fishermen and surfers. The Formica countertop was worn completely through next to her cash register where she slid probably 20 million in coins across the counter to buy 25 cent donuts. For some reason there were never more than about 20 donuts in the case. Her name was Ramona… but I forget her last name. She owned a LOT of commercial real estate in MB. Donuts… who knew?

That’s it for this walk… there’s plenty more. Now you have to walk back to your car at the marina. Sorry. Best not to use the golf course. Makes the golfers cranky.

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Last week we had a new sidewalk poured out front of our house… and in it we spontaneously placed a little “love note”.  It almost didn’t happen though… as the concrete was setting pretty fast.    I expect this little gesture will last a few decades or more.    They city guys said it would be ok if we wanted to put our initials in the concrete…  but we thought this might be more fun.  Cynthia had a cookie cutter laying around… and I had the extra chain ring from bike I’d taken apart.  After this photo was taken we dyed the heart red…

What is it that gives a place charm?  Why are some cities memorable and others forgettable?   I think it has something to do with the tiniest of details.  This little art project would have never happened in a condominium development.  The CCandR’s would never allow it.  I would only happen in a place where the city officials and workers are allowed a bit of freedom to make a random decision.  The city guys in our case… made sure it was below the sidewalk such that folks won’t trip on it… and the bolts in it are sunk in about 4 inches… so it won’t come out.

I believe cities need policies written… to allow their workers to be creative like this every now and then.  To allow the citizens to make their own tiny little secret spontaneous art projects.  These things won’t happen if we involve the city leaders in every single one… that would only homogenize the end results.  It needs to be random… perhaps slightly controversial every now and then.

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Sometimes it is the most plain of things that you notice.  The lotus’s (sp?) are in bloom at Lotusland in Santa Barbara… so I spent the morning there with friends yesterday.  This little pot caught my eye because it is made from cheap talavera tiles from Mexico.  Anyone could make this with a little cement and tile and a handmade form.  There is a quality about it that is almost indescribable.  Maybe if we were speaking french I could describe it better… over a glass of wine and with bread torn from the bagette.  Yet that indescribable quality makes it.  It is not perfect… it shows the fact that it was handmade… It is beautiful but it is not fancy… and it has patina.  I want my entire life to be like this flowerpot.


oh… and did I mention the lotus’s are in bloom….



I think Dr. Suess has been here:



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Check out this trailer court in Holland… dang!  The trailers seem to be stacked on old containers set on end… with some I-Beams here and there.  Wow.   Good luck getting this one through your Community Development dept!     It becomes art basically at this point IMHO.  Probably not a great idea in a single family neighborhood though eh.

(repost from honestlywtf.com…  )

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A friend sent me the link to Benjamin Bullins art.  I particularly like this Bathroom sink he designed.

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Exactitudes is a site that cuts straight to the center of things.  Distilling various trendmongers down into clear and exact categories.  Sometimes with audio if you choose their “slider view”.

Everyone thinks they are being so different… yet we are all just conforming.  I dare you to be truly unique… it’s quite difficult.

“Technohippies” shown just below… circa 2005

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This is a really long post.  You may want to get a cup of coffee first.  You may actually not care at all…  but it would have been my mom’s birthday a couple of days ago… So I thought I would write about her… and the concept of the word “cool”.

Lucy… in Florence Italy… circa 1942


In the early 1950’s, before I was born,  my mom Lucy ran a store selling metaphysical books, art supplies,  and jazz records.   It was decorated in a Zen style which in those days meant a red door, tatami mats on the floor, paper Japanese lamps hanging from the ceiling, cast iron candle stick holders, and rattan window shades you pulled up with a cord.   She usually walked or rode her bike to work… accompanied by her black standard French poodle…. Cobby.

Sales were not huge.  Mostly she just served coffee to her musician and artist friends, from a percolator no doubt, while they hung out and listened to Sarah Vaughan and Ahmad Jamal records and talked alternately about Buddhism,  Hinduism,  psychology or philosophy.  She wore cable knit sweaters, corduroy pants, wool socks and workboots bought from Giannini’s fisherman’s supply shop down by the harbor.  The neighbor lady’s Siamese cat “Salvador” was a fixture in the window.  (Salvador was one of those old fashioned fat headed Siamese cats from before cat breeders chose for skinny noses)  The coffee wasn’t espresso, it was just coffee,  Maxwell House most likely.

What I have left of this era are a cigar box of black and white photos shot with a wide angle lens by a grad student from Berkeley who’s name I have forgotten… of the characters that often inhabited my mom’s shop… and the stories.  Margaret Meads ex-husband Gregory Bateson  frequented the place.  Most of the beats had been in… as well as my namesake… Eric Barker… the Big Sur poet who could be found hanging out with Henry Miller at the bar of that new restaurant called Nepenthe’s on the land Orson Wells used to own.  Lucy also knew a fellow named Michael Murphy because they shared a common interest in moving to the Sri Aurobindo ashram “Auroville” just outside Pondicherry India.  Murphy later moved there… and eventually founded Eselen in Big Sur.

Lucy never moved to India… because my childhood doctor…BLESS HIS HEART!  Dr. Ekegren or Dr. Tedone… one of the two…I can’t remember… told her she was an idiot to take me, a five year old,  there.  I did get a Cholera shot that day… which was the reason for our visit to the Dr…. in advance of leaving the USA and which is the only part of that day I remember clearly.

Anyway… running a bookshop catering to pseudo beatnik artists seems like a pretty interesting thing to be doing in the early fifties from the rose colored hindsight of 60 years later.  I’m sure she decided to open it after visiting Lawrence Ferlinghetti in San Francisco and falling in love with his City Lights bookshop there.

The trouble was that she was in Morro Bay… then mostly Portuguese abalone divers and Swiss Italian dairy farmers.  Eastern Philosophy meant nothing to them… they could care less about Alan Watts, or the latest music… and that damned standard Poodle was best known around town for the time he stole somebody’s entire laundry line and tugged it and the clothes on it down Morro Bay Blvd.


Within a year or so the shop closed.

Prior to the bookstore Lucy had lived in LA and worked for the Capital Records PR Department writing copy for many of the 1940’s jazz greats.  Earlier she had lived in London, Rome, and Madrid.  Her husband was a writer and reporter for the United Press who’s job it was to cover the Consular Core abroad.  He wrote and she bought a few modern paintings.  She drove a jeep.  She wore scarves.  She was tan.  WWII was a side note.

On vacation to Morro Bay one weekend they noticed a for sale sign on an ocean view redwood and glass house.     They stopped to have a look and a man was standing there with a large hammer in his hand laughing.  “What’s so funny?” Lucy asked.   “Well”, he said,”  I just finished pounding in that for sale sign about 20 seconds ago”.

Within a year the marriage would be over.  But that house would be Lucy’s home for the next 50 years… and Gerry, it’s architect, the laughing man with the hammer… would later become my father.

Richard Neutra and Rudolph Schindler had pioneered the modern “international style” of architecture in California 20 years earlier… but a modern house was still an unusual sight in 1954… and Lucy’s house really stood out.

Gerry Rupp was a mostly unknown modernist architect who alternately drove a Jeepster, a 40’s Chrysler convertible or an early 1950’s VW single cab pickup.  He called the VW “the old Nazi” and purposefully beat the hell out of it… as payback for his WWII war injuries I suspect).  This truck was later sold to another neighbor… and I was brought home from the hospital in it.    He wore leather sandals… corduroy shorts… and had a beard.  He had several medals from the war.  He had studied law… semantics in particular.

He lived in an A- frame he built in 1949.   This was the first modern  A-frame.  Another architect Gerry knew,  Mark Mills, built an A-frame home in Carmel by the Sea few years later.   A few years after that Nathanial Owings (of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill architects) would copy Mark Mill’s  A-frame design when he built his (now famous) “Wild Bird” house on the coast of Big Sur in 1958.   Andrew Geller on the east coast would get credit for inventing the A-frame style due to his 1955 house on the east coast.  I showed photos and wrote about this in an earlier post.

Back on subject… and to put all this in context… when my mom was a kid… in the 1920’s…  The graphic designer Alexander Rodchenko was founding the Russian Avante Garde, Walter Gropius was building the Bauhaus in Germany,  the surrealist painters had published the first issue of La Revolution Surrealiste, there was New Orleans jazz music on the new “radio” and Ford was selling two million Model T’s per year.    I think it’s important, the context that is, because I am fairly sure that my mom was one of the first people that were truly “cool”.

In the 1950’s it was probably stupid to ride a bike to work to everyone except the core beat generation types… who considered it cool to be down and out. Somehow… the idea of being modern… and progressive… included being down and out… and my mom owning that (money losing) store… and riding her bike because her Renault  sedan(still pronounced “rehnahlt”  then here in the USA) was broken… all of this was good somehow.  Bad was good.  Add to that her history in Europe… the job writing copy for the jazz greats… well it just adds up.  She was cool.

And I mean this in the fifties Beat sense of the word… like when somebody said… “he’s cool”.  Well it acknowledged that not only did this “cool” person get the whole concept of modernism… he also was just as happy to have rejected anything mainstream and was a more accepting individual.  He was not likely to judge others for being avant garde or unusual in some way… more likely he would judge you if you were too normal.   The cool person was an insider… he knew the score… he wasn’t gonna call you out for whatever you had to hide.

Its really a fantastic evolution… from “calm and collected”, the previous definition.

My grandpa, born in the 1800’s, was of a different era altogether.   He was a telegraph operator in Indiana.   He lived a few miles from the train station on a small farm and he rode a bicycle to work.    During the great depression he often gave his lunch to the hobos and did without.  He was a respected member of several Fraternal Orders.  He went to church.   He remembered when they first got electricity.  He did not own a car.  Nobody he knew owned a car.  He was a good man.  But grandpa was not cool.

Somewhere between my mom and my grandpa… cool happened.

My first personal experience with the concept of cool came with the gift of a bike. (the more savvy among you will now notice the secondary bike theme)  It had been my mom’s bike in the 50’s.  A pre war skip tooth Roadmaster … she and I painted it purple with a spraycan. (Hey… it was 1970!).  It was “a stupid girls model” (said with the disgusted inflection of an 8 year old boy).  It also weighed about 40 lbs.

The other neighborhood boys all had new banana seat bikes usually called Stingrays.  They had a club called “Heaven’s Devils”… comprised of only banana seat bike owners.   I was not admitted to this club… as mine was not a banana seat bike….on top of this… mine was a girls model… horror of all horrors.   So evenings at my house were spent staring at the Sears catalog, or Boys Life… reading all that was then available to an 8 year old regarding bicycles.

The social pain associated with having an older model girls bike was quietly absorbed by me… as my mom was always poor as a churchmouse.  Mostly I knew this because I always had Sears Toughskins… and the other kids had Levi’s.

To my great surprise… the next Christmas Santa blessed me with a green “Free Spirit” model Banana seat bike(with a sissy bar even!).  Not quite as good as the “orange peeler” Schwinn that the neighbor kid had… nor nearly as expensive… but it did allow me admittance to the club… which by now had basically disbanded anyway.  In any case… I was no longer the dork on the old girls bike.

I was finally cool.

But the cool that I was…  upon reflection…(and I have given this a great deal of thought)  well it differed from the cool of my mom… whom at that time I didn’t realize was cool.  My cool was a marketed form of cool… primarily driven by advertising.  The boys in the neighborhood saw the newest items in various magazines… and the richer of these boys got them first.   Slingshots for instance… I had one… most kids did.  But Billy Warner got a “Wrist Rocket” model slingshot one day… and within the hour all other slingshots were not cool anymore.

Same goes for skateboards… I had a “Black Knight” from Thrifty Drug store… as did most of the kids in the neighborhood… yet when Jimmy Warner (Billy’s brother) got that first Hobie… well it was advertised in various magazines… and all the cool kids in the magazines had them… and suddenly the “Black Knight” seemed pretty uncool… and I basically felt second tier suddenly… when the day before I had been just fine.

So this Beat notion of “cool” was co-opted by advertising agencies to mean newer and better somewhere in the sixties.   Sure… the idea of new is better had been around for a while.. but this addition of cool factor really ramped things up and suddenly people everywhere were not as cool as they could be.  We as a society weren’t prepared for this status upgrade assault… and worst of all we fell for it hook line and sinker.   Last year’s style was uncool… the new version was much cooler.

The Beat meaning still stuck in certain cases but there was now this other marketing driven version of cool that had a status associated with it… and that status association was COMPLETELY different to the status associated with the beat generation meaning of cool.  It was in fact almost the exact opposite.  Nobody seemed to notice this insidious evolution but it has made a great impact on our culture.

Here was this other iteration of cool… more rightly now called “trendy” I suppose… and it has driven marketing ever since.  The cool (trendy) guy gets the girl because he has the cool (trendy) car… the cool (trendy) girl gets the guy because she has the cool (trendy) clothing from the cool (trendy) clothing brand… the cool (trendy) kid has the cool (trendy) bike… the cool (trendy) mom buys the latest cool (trendy) snack… blah blah blah.

Television and marketing now tell us what is cool.  It is very difficult to ascertain the truly cool anymore.  Is Lady Gaga actually cool… or is she only cool because her PR machine and her carefully marketed cynical attitude have fooled everyone into believing that she is making fun of things that are marketed… and therefore she is cool.    This is a devious and brilliant reverse marketing concept.  I truly don’t know whether she is actually beat cool… or whether she is just marketing cool.

Truly beat cool has a sort of cyclical relationship with marketed cool.  At first a beat cool theme is adopted by a prime mover, an alpha… Someone actually does something cool, or wears something odd cool, or uses something in a new cool way.  This might be a musician or a famous personality. Whatever. Next it moves to the beta’s… the group closest related to the prime mover.  Next people all over, usually young people, begin to adopt this theme or behavior.  Then that cool thing or theme is quickly glommed onto by marketers and advertisers… using this new cool thing to catapult their agenda or product to a larger audience thus making them cooler than their competition. Once the theme or product hits a certain saturation… the core group of users starts to reject the cool thing… the cycle ends.  Coco Chanel famously said, “fashions fade, only style remains the same”.  This is the difference between beat cool and trendy cool.

Thus the truly beat cool… are usually perceived as uncool by most folks at first.  Once understood… this is pretty funny.    There is an entire industry of trend forecasters that make a living prognosticating what is cool to corporations.  Their jobs are to watch for these odd new often uncool looking behaviors… and to then carefully track them to see if they lead to a trend.


It is interesting to note that the entire modern notion of “cool” really only goes back to about 1920.  My grandpa in 1910 had no notion of being cool other than it meaning “calm and collected”. I suppose that there was a concept of fashionable… or classy… or of character.  But there was no separate “cool factor” that transcended things.  A person was simply classy… or fashionable.  They were not “cool” yet.

So move forward to roughly the 1920’s… to those modernist movements… the Russian Avant Garde… also called “Constructivism”, De Stijl in Holland, Bauhaus in Germany, Modernistas in Spain etc etc…  All of these were design movements by intellectuals trying to advance quality of life for a wider variety of people…. To make things more than they had been prior to the industrial revolution.  To bring quality to the average man.  It was a time of great changes in art, literature, music and design of all types.  All the norms were being challenged.

Those people that challenged the norms were different than those that stayed within the old paradigm.  They were modern.  They were avant garde.  They were often outcasts and considered rebellious.   This also defined both the beat generation that was to come… as well as products and corporations that embraced the most modern concepts.

The concept of modernism separated those that accepted it from those who did not.

There came to be cool people… and then everyone else… although I am not exactly certain when cool happened.

In reality we got two different types of cool… and while they should be separate entities… they are not.   These two cools are not at all the same.  The term “cool “ doesn’t really allow for a distinction between the two.  But the two have wildly different  meanings and it is important to see the distinction.

As you may have noticed… I call one “beat” cool… and the other “marketed” cool.


Today I would venture to bet that if you walked up to anyone on the street under the age of 80.. and asked them if they were cool… they would say… “yes… I’m cool”

But how can this be?  Surely not everyone is cool.  This defies the concept of cool.  Some of these people must be uncool.  But who then is the arbiter of cool?

The 80 year olds listened to Elvis… they knew Rock and Roll… they built hot rods… some were beatniks.  The 65 year olds knew the british music invasion… they were hippies… they took acid… they smoked pot.  Anyone under 50… well hell… they were raised under an aura of marketed cool.  Cool is ubiquitous to them.  Are they all cool?


Something funny happened to cool around 1990 or so.  Cynicism began to be hip.  First it was just a small group.… self made pundits analyzed and criticized everything cool… such that things which were not formerly cool became cool simply because they were uncool.  Reverse Marketing was born where brands made fun of themselves in order to look cooler.  This was not totally new… Doyle Dane and Bernbach Advertising (DDB) had done this in the 60’s with VW’s advertising.  But in the nineties it took on a whole new dimension… a truly negative cynical twist.

I was making shoes then… the brand I built was called Simple Shoes.   I had a hunch about clogs because I saw them on the feet of a couple of people I knew who hated everything cool.  They were purposely trying to be uncool by wearing clogs.

So… I went deep and started making clogs in a big way…on the hunch that these uncool cynics were actually the next wave of alphas… and that soon everyone would want to look uncool.  We advertised them in that DDB style… as “the ugliest shoes that you could buy”.  We told our customers to “hurry and buy them before they become trendy”.    At first the shop owners looked at me like I was a complete idiot.  “there is no way in hell I am gonna sell any of these… get them ugly things out of my shop” Steve Carlson told me at his shop “Central Coast Surfboards”.

I did get Steve to test them however… and they sold out to his most forward customers within a few weeks.  The next time I saw Steve… he was wearing my clogs.

It was not cool to look too cool.   But it was cool to look a bit uncool.  Very confusing.

Something troubled me about this.

I was simultaneously making a living by marketing consumer products by making foreward thinking people think they were cool… and growing tired of marketed products and consumerism myself.  This was an odd spot to be in.  It started to feel really stupid and dishonest for me to continue to convince people that they needed my brand over some other shoe.  In reality… I knew it shouldn’t matter what kind of shoe a person wears.  So I decided to sell the company… as it really wasn’t cool to be selling cool.


Of late there is an even further evolution in cool…  I’m still not quite certain what to make of it.

A new era of critic has been born.  Critics of the extreme forward niche.  The Blog “BikeSnobNYC” is a perfect example of this. (note bike theme under-current example again… I’m a bike bike enthusiast… and will promote cycling however possible!  There can be no shame in that.) .  BikeSnob makes fun of the leading edge of bike culture before anyone else does.  This blog is truly funny.  Something can barely peak its head out of the new idea box… and Bikesnob will find a way to make fun of it.  This has made BikeSnob really cool somehow… even cooler than the coolest new things to hit the scene.   Somehow… belittling the most interesting new progressive ideas makes the the most fervent of bike geeks want something even newer still.  It is ridiculous… and funny.

There are larger bike trends… ie The 1970s “bike boom” when ten speeds flooded the market, BMX, Mountain bikes, fixies… etc etc.   Well amongst the bike cognescenti there are some fairly micro niches that most folks don’t know about or understand.… like the retro French randonneuring tweed ride (betcha never heard of that one), Dutch cargo bikes,  nervex lug collecting, NOS Campagnolo in the box collecting etc etc.

Bike Snob has called out the Cargo Bike trend by calling them “smug bikes”.  Mind you… that there are probably less than a few thousand Cargo bikes in the USA… and their owners tend to be the alpha amongst alphas of green consumers.  These cargo bikes are primarily bought because the owners of these rides are using them as a form of protest against the automobile… in order to show others that you do not need to use an automobile for most tasks.

BikeSnob is making fun of a group that most people don’t even know exists yet by calling them smug… which they are… but they’re still a radically forward thinking bunch that will eventually impact the balance of society… but by calling them smug years before they even have an impact… well… it is just funny…. And it somehow makes BikeSnob truly cool.


The last word is that cool isn’t really one thing… it is hugely multifaceted.  And just because something is cool… doesn’t mean you should like it I guess.  You need to research it… and why it is cool… and whether this cool thing is really cool or not is up for you to decide.  You shouldn’t let our “advertising and branding culture” define what is cool.  More than likely it is only cool because a lot of money is being spent to fool you.

True cool is rare.  It is to be treasured and studied.  It is not a new dress or something you saw on TV.  It is probably not today what it was last year either.  It is an evolution of thought… a nuance that you know is right but cannot describe.  Cool is that thing which most of us never really achieve.   We try to achieve it by buying crap… and or imitating things that used to be cool…

My mom was cool.  I miss her.  It would have been her 91st birthday today.

Eric Meyer March 1, 2011

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Eric Staller created this amazing art car years ago.  The lights are computer controlled and create a vibrant visual display.  Down a bit further is a link to the video of this car in action.

I am still amazed by it and his many other creative endeavors.

He made these clogs…

He is most famous for his “conference bike”.  Where 8 people sit in a circle and pedal and chat.  These are widely available now.  www.conferencebike.com

Please also check out the other stuff he has for sale! It is pretty crazy too.

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awesome graphic from the “Societe Anomyme Inc” or effectively…”corporation inc”! (“societe anonyme” is french for “Corporation”) Founded in 1920 by  Katherine Dreier, Man Ray, and Marcel Duchamp to sponsor lectures, concerts, publications and exhibitions of or on Modern art.

Such a funny name… and really nice art.  Dirty colors are nice.

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Jeff Shelton is my favorite moorish/spanish colonial revival style architect… BY FAR!  He makes FUN buildings.  Take Gaudi’s assistant Josep Maria Jujol, mix with Dr. Seuss, toss in a bit of MC Escher… and then stir in a bunch of tile… more than a bunch actually.  I think Jeff must have some sort of back door arrangement with a a mexican encaustic tile factory somewhere.

Dig around on his site… you will love it… I guarantee it!

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