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Processing Endgame IV: Iron Man II (2010)

Please note that this is one a series of posts, all of which may contain spoilers for the MCU, and particularly Endgame.

After the somewhat disappointing The Incredible Hulk (2008), we turned to the next movie in the MCU, Iron Man II (2010). I had low expectations for this one, not remembering a lot of it from 9 years ago, except that it wasn’t an origin story[1], and that it would have to deal in some way with Tony’s narcissism (as all of the Iron Man movies did). I couldn’t shake the memory that Robert Downey Junior had started to get bored with the movies (although that might only have happened in Iron Man 3), and I was expecting it to be not very good.

I was quite pleasantly surprised.

From the beginning, they set up the premise of the movie, that Tony was dying from palladium poisoning (from the arc reactor in his chest, that was keeping him alive). Somewhat similar to his brush with death in the first Iron Man movie (in the desert in Afghanistan), it humbled him somewhat, making him think about what his legacy would be, how he would be remembered. He thus set out to recreate the Stark Expo, perhaps to make his father proud[2]. Of course, this inner humbling had to be outwardly avoided, at all costs, by huge stage shows, large parties, and public drinking to excess.

This led to his actual first low moment, where he let ‘Rhodey’ take his Mark II armour[3], perhaps as part of a legacy, perhaps because he knew that he really was actually out of control.

Scarlett Johansson makes her first appearance here, going undercover in the legal department of Stark Industries, then as Tony and Pepper’s personal secretary. She gets to show off her badassery, first sparring with Happy, then breaking into Hammer Industries. She also gets to show off her creative understanding of computer systems, where, after she and J.A.R.V.I.S. both being unable to break into War Machine’s system, she manages to reboot it, restoring Rhodey’s control.

She felt like she was used as a supporting character through most of the movie, but that makes sense, given her cover[4].

Overall, the movie felt like the ‘A’ plot was Tony trying to save his own life, by developing a better arc reactor. The fights against Vanko and the Hammer drones seemed almost too easy for Iron Man (totally unprepared, he suits up in his weakest, portable armor, and wins reasonably handily on the racetrack[5], and the Hammer drones are only a threat because of the civilians nearby. (The last battle sequence with Vanko is also incredibly short[6].)

Along the way, he got a bit closer to his father, and solved the ‘B’ plot of Vanko[7] & Hammer.

He solved some of the problems (but not all) of quick field deployment of his armour (The Mark V was much quicker (about 15 seconds), and doesn’t require specialized equipment. He learned a better appreciation for his father, and got some emotional support from him. During the movie, he added electrical resistance and the new arc reactor to his Mark VI armor, which was otherwise mostly unchanged from the Mark III[8].

However, he triumphed mostly over himself. His external adversaries (Hammer, Vanko, that senator) were not substantial enemies for Stark & Iron Man. He even managed to defeat them with no bystanders being harmed. This would only fuel his narcissism, which would not be adequately countered until much later[9].

The movie held up quite well. It felt well paced (all of the ‘best of’ scenes on Youtube were connected by scenes that seemed to make sense, and went on for reasonable amounts of time), all of the characters were believeable (Justin Hammer wonderfully punchable villain, and Vanko was well-devloped, and quite in character[10]). All of the rest of the cast were believeable, and made sense.

How did I feel about it? I felt that I understood Tony as a character better, I understood where I knew Black Widow from, and why I wanted to see more of her as a character. I wanted to see more interactions with technology, more world-building in that direction, more Tony making better amour, or other things. (Making Black Widow’s devices would be pretty cool.) I appreciated the interactions with Tony’s father. Justin Hammer perhaps spoke even more to me, as he channeled an ’80s movie villain. I understand more of the dual challenges of Tony fighting with himself, vs. fighting with others, and how this varies over time.

How did this help me process Endgame better? Perhaps it showed me that Tony was at his most interesting and effective when he was right on the edge, or that he wasn’t, and it was all about giving him time to be apart and get into ‘flow’, to solve large intractable problems. It helped me understand his arc better, and how him coming face-to-face with his mortality, and tempering his narcissism were key (although he always had the drive to protect those around him, which always seems to have included all civilians, which seems to have been a constant part of his character).

This was perhaps best personified in the “C’mon!”, where he’s desperate to make a difference (and survive), and save people, but he needs others to do help him do it[11], and being so frustrated when this is difficult.

Stay tuned for next time, when we watch a movie with a totally different feel, the Shakespearean[12] drama Thor!

[1] I still have a soft spot in my heart for Iron Man’s origin story.

[2] The dealing with his distant father issues were done in (I thought) an understated and tasteful way, focused on a few scenes of introspection

[3] To be refitted and ‘weaponized’ into the ‘War Machine’ armour. Interestingly, he calls him ‘War Machine’ explicitly in the film, before this happens. Also, it’s pretty obvious that off-screen, he had allowed Rhodey to play with the armour.

[4] I really hope that her movie gets into her origin story with Fury…

[5] Vanko suggests in the jail cell scene that he was deliberately just trying to make Tony bleed, not actually trying to kill anyone, which would agree with how no civilians seem to have been harmed in the Stark Pavilion battle.

[6] Vanko mentioned in the jail cell scene that once you ‘make god bleed’, then ‘there is blood in the water’, about how now that he has shown that Iron Man is not invincible, others will come after him. Some[13] have suggested that this is related to the ‘All that for a drop of blood’ line in Infinity War. I interpreted that line straight, that even with the benefit of surprise, and a pretty good plan, Stark was not enough to defeat Thanos head-on.

[7] Although it’s never really explained exactly what happened to Vanko’s father, we only have Fury’s word on it.

[8] The ‘arm lasers’ are a noticeable exception.

[9] It was a work in progress, but it could be argued that his PTSD arc after Avengers, and his defeat in Infinity War are the keys.

[10] Apparently Mickey Rourke did a substantial amount of work to prepare for the part, and it showed.

[11] A substantial part of the character growth may be Tony learning that others are not subordinates, but can be full partners in what he needs to do. Promoting and giving Pepper control of Stark Industries may have been the first step here, then Rhodey, and finally letting Cap call the shots in New York…

[12] Why else would you choose Kenneth Branagh to direct? Fun factoid: He also directed the post-credits scene for Iron Man 2, where they discover Mjolnir.

[13] Sorry, I can’t find the reference. 🙁

Processing Endgame II: Iron Man (2008) [SPOILERS]

Please note that this is one a series of posts, all of which may contain spoilers for the MCU, and particularly Endgame.

Music: “Avengers Theme Remix

First on the list to watch was Iron Man (2008). I had watched a few of the ‘best of’ scenes on Youtube, including the really impactful opening scene, and when he first takes the Mark II out for a spin.

A lot of the hagiography about Tony Stark talks about how he has a lot of features that make him an effective superhero. They talk about him being a futurist, super-smart, and handy. This movie perhaps emphasizes his handy-ness more than any other, with the extended scene of him building an innovative new Iron Man suit while a prisoner in a cave.

But what I think people perhaps forget is while he goes through a character development arc, his armor perhaps goes through even more of a change. His perhaps greatest ability is to learn from experience, and adapt by changing his actions and the tools he builds.

In this first movie, we see three versions of his Iron Man suit: The first, iconic grey suit that I remember so well from his first appearance in comics in the ’60s[1], the redone silver-coloured Mark II, and the familiar red & gold Mark III.

The suits go from working for a few minutes (Mark I), to almost being able to beat altitude records (Mark II) in what is probably a few weeks (or months).

And that’s when disaster almost strikes[2]. The suit ices up, and Tony has to manually de-ice it[3] in mid-fall. Luckily, he survives, and with this survival comes a small bit of learning.

This learning is used when making the Mark III, and is an important point in the final battle scene.

This learning from experience will be shown in later movies, but looking at it here, from Mark I->Mark II, the suit is streamlined, focus is placed on being able to fly (presumably because if it had been able to fly, Tony would not have had to walk out of the desert), and most of the weapons are removed (apparently because it was a flight test model). Tony also adds an automated way to don the suit[4], perhaps because his friend and compatriot[5] in building the Mark I dies to give him the time required to finish donning it and charging it up.

This learning from trauma, perhaps a source of his perfectionism is another theme that is consistent throughout the series.

From the Mark II to the Mark III, there’s the aforementioned de-icing package, along with the re-addition of some weaponry, as Tony was planning in a semi-revenge fashion to go destroy all of the weapons that bore his name that had made it onto the black market.

But there are two other things that make a huge difference. From the Mark I to Mark II, Tony integrated his home AI J.A.R.V.I.S. (Paul Bettany) into his suit. It’s difficult to describe how much of a difference it would make to have an AI companion riding along with you, vs. a mere targeting computer with Heads-Up Display. Part of the reason to have it there is very effective in movie terms, as it gives Robert Downey Jr. someone to argue with and be snarky with (also a super-important part of the Iron Man character), but even for someone who is great at multi-tasking, having a separate intelligence there, ready to sort through all of the data to tell you what is important *right now* is invaluable in a life-or-death situation[6].

The second (and perhaps even more important than anything else here) thing that makes Tony different is his willingness to embarrass himself. You see him videotaping himself testing all of his experiments, presumably so that he can watch the replay and learn from it.

Can you imagine Thor, or Captain America experimenting with repulsor boots so that they flip over and land unceremoniously on the ground? It’s totally out of character for them. Perhaps this is different, because we actually see into Tony’s practice workshop, and we never got the chance to see Thor first learning how to wield Mjolnir.

Next up: Iron Man II, one of the less-well known (and lower rated movies), but we’ll see how it goes on a re-watch!

Other notes: Pepper Potts’ ‘proof Tony has a heart’ moment was really poignant, and the interactions between the two of them were fun and meaningful to watch. I especially liked her bravery, and when she stuck up for herself and gave as good as she got.

Messages: How easy it is to fall into the mental trap of believing that your actions are not hurting others or having unintended consequences, if you never see them… #chardev

[1] I was lucky enough when I was growing up to have access to a few cardboard boxes of old comics from the late ’60s. I still remember the first Iron Man story, I think from before he had his own comic series, the first story where he builds his first suit, and before he paints it. It’s difficult to separate how I felt then about it then from the movie adaptation, and how much of it is from a soft place in my heart, vs. just feeling familiar[8] from childhood….

[2] There are so many places in these movies that disaster almost strikes, that there must be alternate timelines for each of them. Earth-199999 feels super-lucky.

[3] Well Chekov’s gun-d by the ‘cool suit-up montage’ (great multiple-use of a scene) showing the demo of all of the control surfaces.

[4] There are a number of iterations of this, with so many different ways to don the suits, or otherwise adapt to situations, that it almost deserves its own post.

[5] Shaun Toub‘s Ho Yinsen was the most poignant part of the movie for me, as I knew he was going to die (because I remembered enough of the plot), but I had forgotten that he was willing to die partially (or mostly) because his family had already been killed by the group that had captured him and Tony. There’s something here about the necessary sacrifice of good people to thwart evil, and from the (likely deliberate) casting of an an Iranian-American actor, about how people of all races and backgrounds can be good people, and we should be working with them.

[6] And your house robot will bring you your spare arc reactor, so you can put it back in your chest and save your life… 🙂

[7] This ability to give a voice command and have it followed intelligently will become super important later in the first Avengers movie. #staytuned

[8] I wonder how much of it is that Tony falls into the ‘scientist/inventor’ category of Marvel Superheroes, that speaks to me, or spoke to me especially when I was growing up, and that was how I saw my life/career unfolding.

What is the Goal of Management?

Earlier, I talked a couple of times about some possible deconvolutions and separations of a number of traditional management roles.

Today, I want to talk about the goal of management. What are the principles underlying how we support and direct our teams? What are we trying to accomplish?

We want to look at some of the various goals we might have as managers, and then see how those may map onto different roles that might be allocated to different team members.

I like to say that I have two goals as a manager: 1) Support each of the people on my team to develop themselves as best they can, and 2) Achieve results for the larger organization that we are part of.

Sometimes these goals are in conflict, but I put them in this order deliberately, to show[1] that helping your people is often the best way to help your organization, that in general, these goals are in alignment.

But I digress. What are the goals of a team?

1) Support and develop each of the team members
– Help each of the people figure out how they want to develop
– Help each of the people develop themselves
– Help them remove internal[2] obstacles in the way of their development
– Help them remove external[2] obstacles in the way of their development
– Give feedback and suggestions for improvement
– Have difficult conversations with more pointed suggestions for improvement
2) Achieve results for the larger organization
– Provide guidance (estimates, progress reports, and risk levels) to the rest of the organization[3]
– Estimate the amount of time/effort[4] required for a task
– Perform tasks (may include investigations to better define tasks)
– Perform prioritization of project work
– Perform prioritization of triage tasks/incoming requests
– Firefighting of emergencies
– Define & subdivide tasks
– Work with other teams on projects/tasks
– Unblock and remove obstacles for other team members

Next time, we’ll see how these tasks are divided, in traditional management, and in typical Scrum/Agile. We’ll also start looking at how you can use this more granular list of management roles to start training up your management bench. Stay tuned!

[1] At least through repeated assertion…

[2]You can interpret the concept of ‘internal’ and ‘external’ obstacles in a number of different ways. In this context, I’m thinking about ‘internal’ as ‘inside your own head’, but ‘internal’ could just as easily mean ‘in your team’, or ‘in your organization’. This duality could easily be split into multiple roles. I separate out ‘inside your head’ because I see ‘Inner Game‘ issues as requiring a different approach than talking to people other than the one with the obstacle.

[3]I had originally written this as ‘up the hierarchy’, but this information is also useful to other parts of any organization, and I’m trying to generalize this to less hierarchical organizations.

[4]Perhaps wall-clock time vs. % of a two-week sprint, for example.

Weather Only A Druid Could Love II

He walked down the street, skipping between the puddles and weaving between the umbrellas. It was one of those days where he wasn’t exactly sure where he wanted to go for lunch, but he was pretty sure it was going to be one of the local takeout places. He felt himself gravitating towards the little hole-in-the-wall ‘BBQ’ place, where he had oddly never seen a barbecue, nor any food that was barbecued. Walking in, he ordered his usual, enjoying the fact that they now left the onions off his salad without asking, and even remembered his dressing choices (balsamic).

Stepping outside, he walked through the geometric tree garden. That probably wasn’t its name, but he didn’t know how to refer to it. There were little (to him) trees inside half-toroidal bollards. Normally, when he walked this way, there would be people sitting on the bollards, sometimes two people conversing, sometimes people taking a brief moment of solitude and recharge from whatever emotional labour their ‘normal’ daily life entailed.

Today, there were a few stalwarts, sitting huddled on the bollards, each of them inside their own bubble. It reminded of what a woman had told him about her experience living in London, that ‘each person was their own country.’

Some of them were smoking cigarettes, most were on their phones, hunched over the screens to keep them dry, hoarding the few minutes they had to themselves all day, resentful of the rain for robbing of some of the little joy they ever felt.

He gave this whole montage a wide berth. It felt rude to intrude, and once again, he was still enjoying his walk too much to want to, even by trying to share a smile or nod.

The rain continued its gentle mist, he continued his walk. When he was growing up, he had always seen himself as a wind-lover, based on how much he loved the summer breezes and winds, especially when they whispered through the trees, but it seems that his love was actually for the outdoors, whatever its weather might bring. He was looking forward to what it might bring next, whatever that may be, as long as he was outside.

Forgiveness and Daily Standups

Recently, I wrote about forgiveness.

I made a comment in there about how it was super-important to make regular forgiveness a cornerstone of your management technique.

Forgiveness is so important because it allows your people to take calculated risks, with the knowledge that they can make mistakes that will be forgiven.

Like how brakes on a car allow you to go faster[0], forgiveness of error allows people to take larger risks, to go faster.

It’s also similar the to risk/reward tradeoffs that people make while investing. If you can’t forgive yourself for the large drawdown, you will never make the large returns.

So, these are nice words, but how do you do this?

First, I want to focus on one of the words I wrote above: ‘regular’. Specifically, ‘regular forgiveness’.

I first learned this from my undergrad thesis supervisor[1]. Every single meeting we had, no matter how much I had accomplished since the last meeting, he would always talk about where we were right now, and what the next step was. It felt like a safe space, where I was not going to be judged, and I’ve tried to bring this to all of my teams since.

Fundamentally, people worry about being embarrassed and being judged, by their manager, by their peers, or people that they don’t even know[2].

Daily standups can help you remind your team that they everything is okay on a daily basis. Think about it. That regular contact is telling your entire team not just that they’re important, but also telling them that you know what they’re doing, and you approve. It gives them that solid floor underneath them that they can jump from every day, knowing that you and your whole team are waiting and willing to catch them tomorrow if they fall.

You can do this today, with your daily standup, or your weekly meeting. “Where are we right now? What is our next step?” It might take a while for people to unwind, but if you give them time, they will see that you mean it. It is powerful once it works.

The fear of being judged by people you don’t know is the most difficult to fix with this method. You can help someone understand that you will not judge them for things they do, and it’s somewhat more difficult (but totally doable) to create and reinforce that culture at your site, but it’s much more difficult to convince someone that they person that they’ve never met, perhaps on the other side of the world, won’t judge them for asking a stupid question or wasting their time.

All you can really do for this is to make a local culture of acceptance and non-judgement, so that people at least have a safe space to jump off from to take their risks.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention gender and cultural issues. I’m not enough of an expert on either of these to really comment in depth, but all of the above are often more difficult (sometimes much more difficult) for those who are not part of the dominant power group in a society.

As a general rule, think about how tense you get when asking your boss about something. Now, what if that was your boss’s boss? Now think about for each type of privilege that you don’t have, you add one level of hierarchy and tension.

So, for you, asking your boss is like, well, asking your boss. But for your female co-worker, asking her boss might be as difficult as you asking your boss’s boss.

This is why it is so important to make your organization’s culture as accepting and non-judgemental and as forgiving as possible, because you never know how much more difficult it is for the person sitting next to you to do the things that you might do every day.

Let me know what you think in the comments below!

[0]Thanks, Jay!

[1]Thanks, Brad!

[2]I’m not actually sure which of these is a stronger fear.

Forgiveness

Recently, I wrote about forgiveness, and how important it was in my achieving a deeper understanding of meditation.

Forgiveness is an interesting topic, going back millenia. Sun Tzu wrote about it in the context of magnanimity: “Treat the captives well, and care for them. This is called “winning a battle and becoming stronger.”

One could also argue that all of Ancient Greek literature is a lesson on why forgiveness is so important.

In some readings, forgiveness was one of the virtues of Hinduism.

Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, and many other religious and cultural traditions also have many things to say about the importance of forgiveness[1].

However, one could argue that forgiveness is most important and truly central to Christianity. The oft-cited Parable of the Prodigal Son speaks of the power of love to enable forgiveness (and also apparently of the importance of emotional conversation between parents and children, but I digress).

The reason I mention all of this is to give context for forgiveness. When I was growing up, it was a common concept[2], but I don’t really think I internalized it. It’s from my undergrad thesis adviser that I take my canonical example of forgiving the people working for you, and making a daily or weekly clean slate, so that you can do your best work[3].

I took this example with me, and I think helped a lot as I led teams in a variety of ways. But I had never really thought about forgiving myself.

I mentioned earlier that if you want to truly relax, to meditate, to be in your body, inside yourself, you need to have a safe space inside yourself.

But if you have not forgiven yourself, if you are constantly criticizing yourself on the inside, you do not have that safe space, and are prone to self-medicate in various ways[4]

I cannot tell you how to forgive yourself. The power of much of organized religion is that it promises to give you that forgiveness that you cannot achieve yourself.

But I can tell you something of why it is important, and how I got there. All of this arose when I was involved in a dispute. Emotions were running high, and it was distracting me from everything that I find important. Somewhere around then, G suggested that I forgive them. It’s similar to letting something go, to letting the emotions roll over you. This helped my isolate my emotions (my reaction) from what was happening outside me. I understood that I could not control what happened outside me, but I could control myself.

This helped a lot, but it was still predicated on controlling myself, not fully trusting my emotions. Still avoiding my inner thoughts because they were still not a safe space.

This last breakthrough came through a guided meditation, where I was already in a physical and mental safe space, where I was given the permission to forgive myself. I am not going to give you that permission, because I cannot. Only you can give yourself that permission. But know that you have the power to do so, somewhere inside yourself.

“Give a person forgiveness, and they will forever be asking you for such. Teach a person to forgive themself, and they shall become more serene than you can possibly imagine.”

[1]You could even argue that the Babylonian code of laws was an early attempt at forgiveness, where ‘eye for an eye’ was more forgiving than a centuries-long blood feud. Note that this link to an article on this topic is rather lurid and not for the squeamish: [link]

[2]I even went to church for a while when I was younger, and I always enjoyed the construction of the line ‘forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us’.

[3]I will likely write more about this. I think it’s super-important.

[4]Any distraction will do. Not sleeping, workoholism, Oblivion, and running are among the more socially acceptable ones.

A Guided Meditation

This was inspired by a guided ‘being in your body’ meditation with Gorett, my life coach. You may also be interested in my previous post on this. Anyway, here goes:

First, you want to be wholly in your body.

Close your eyes, and make yourself comfortable.

Walk through each of your senses, and see what each of them are saying.

You may still see some colour, depending on how much light there is where you are. You may see some bright spots and dark spots, depending on what you were last looking at. Watch them. Watch them fade as your eyes acclimatize to being closed. You may see some of the sparkle patterns or moving objects that happen sometimes when you close your eyes. Watch them for a while. See how they move. Acknowledge them. Understand that they happen and that that is okay.

Next, figure out what your ears are telling you. You may hear someone in the next room, a siren in the distance, the beating of your heart. What do you smell? Is it a familiar smell? Is there anything at all? Can you smell yourself? Sometimes you can smell the inside of your own nose, similar to how you can see the inside of your eyelids. Acknowledge these things, glory in them, let them wash over you.

What are you tasting? Is it the thing you just ate? The mint from the toothpaste? Something else? Acknowledge it. Experience it fully, let it wash over you.

Where is your body? Think about each of your limbs and where they are. Are you sitting down? Lying down? Experience it fully and let it wash over you.

What are you touching? Are your hands in your lap? What is the sensation of your hands on your legs? Feel your hands, your lower arms, your upper arms as they come out of your shoulder. Flex your shoulders just a little bit to remind them that they’re alive. Feel the sensations as your muscles move. Now relax your shoulders, your arms. Feel your toes. What are they feeling? Feel your feet, your ankles, your calves, your knees, your thighs. Feel your pelvis, your hips, rotate them just slightly to know they’re there, to put them in a slightly more comfortable spot. Feel your lower belly, think about what you most recently ate, and let it go. Take a deep breath and let it go. Feel your heart beating. Feel your breath in and out. In and out. Move your shoulders again. Feel your neck, feel your ears, the hair on the back of your head, your chin, your mouth, your nose, your cheeks, your eyes, all the way to the follicles on the top of your head.

Breathe in, breathe out. Breathe in…breathe out. Breathe in…breathe out.

You are in a safe space now. You may be hearing a voice right now, telling you things about yourself that you don’t want to hear, that you have something lacking. Acknowledge that voice, feel it fully, experience it, and let it go. Breathe in, experience it, breathe out, let it go. Breathe in, feel it, breathe out, let it go.

You are now allowed to forgive yourself. We are forgiving ourselves for many reasons. We could talk about absolution, we could speak of religion, or spirituality, but here we are forgiving ourselves because the voice in our head is getting in the way of us doing the things we want to do. Acknowledge the voice, experience it, forgive it. Breathe in, breathe out. This is a safe space of forgiveness.

Be in your body. Check in on your body, are you still comfortable? Things may have shifted. Move yourself a little bit to make yourself a little bit more comfortable.

Breathe in, breathe out. You are in a safe space. Acknowledge, fully experience, forgive, let go. Breathe in, breathe out. You are in a safe space. Acknowledge, fully experience, forgive, let go. Breathe in, breathe out. You are in a safe space. Acknowledge, fully experience, forgive, let go.

Now, on your own time, you can take as much time as you want, you can open your eyes and share with me how you are feeling, what you might be thinking. On your own time, take as much time as you want.

How do you Stop Yourself From Acting?

I’ve been working on a number of posts, now that I feel that I can start writing again. It so happens that I’m feeling (I think) a little more tired than usual[1], and so it feels slightly more difficult than usual to put words to electronics.

So, I’m working on a number of posts, each of them with perhaps a paragraph or two so far. A couple of them have really poignant titles, that really speak to me. Titles so near and dear to my heart that I’m afraid to publish something that isn’t perfect. So, I start another post instead of publishing something.

It is this fear of not being good enough, a falling out of trust with my own ability that is stopping me right now. Or rather, it isn’t, as I seem to have found a way around it.

It involves trying things, trying different channels of thought until I find one where the words flow well enough from my fingertips. I think it helps that I’ve had that feeling before.

I’m tempted to make a sequel to something I’ve already done[2], but interestingly, this feels even easier. I think it may be because struggling with uploading pictures to WordPress is such a bear.

Anyways, words flowing from fingers. Following the flow wherever it takes you. You see the shoals of writer’s block, of tiredness, and you sit down, fully accept them, then playfully try different things until you find something that just flows around them as if the obstacles weren’t there at all.

More on that later. Happy creating!

[1]Who knows what is actually happening, with the amazing ability of the brain to convince you that you don’t need to be doing things.

[2]Anything on this blog entitled ‘Burning Man in Pictures’.

Burning Man 2015 in Pictures LXX: Decompression in Reno

It’s always an experience coming home from an immersive event. Good movies can do it, especially when you’ve experienced catharsis, I’ve also experienced it a good meditation or epiphany.

But when the event is weeks long, with a totally different culture and social mores, the decompression experience can approach culture shock in its intensity.

When I first came home from Burning Man in 2013, I was biking down the Danforth, looking at all of the establishments along the road. Because I was still decompressing, I saw them as emplacements whose main goal was to persuade passers-by to give them resources.

we had decided to spend a day or two in Reno on the way back from the Burn in 2015, a trip which I will document later. Today it’s more about the decompression experiences.

We arrive at the hotel in Reno!  Also visible: Mike, possible Marc.
We arrive at the hotel in Reno! Also visible: Mike, possible Marc.
Our pristine hotel room.
Our pristine hotel room.
Is it a strange alien beast, or bungee cords?
Is it a strange alien beast, or bungee cords?Is it a strange alien beast, or bungee cords?
This is what playa dust looks like in Real Life(tm).
This is what playa dust looks like in Real Life(tm).
#metasymbols
#metasymbols
These were the best bike locks.  You just had to spell a word, such as 'HIRP', and it would unlock.
These were the best bike locks. You just had to spell a word, such as ‘HIRP’, and it would unlock.
POLT.  Also, we left these locks (and our bike baskets) behind for the next renter.
POLT. Also, we left these locks (and our bike baskets) behind for the next renter.
In the Reno airport, we saw an installation that seemed somewhat familiar.
In the Reno airport, we saw an installation that seemed somewhat familiar.
Aha!
Aha!
Your trusty correspondent, outfitted in full Space Cactus regalia.
Your trusty correspondent, outfitted in full Space Cactus regalia.

And, that’s all she wrote.

There are still many more photos to process (we had so many people helping us plan and build!), but this is the chronological end of the project (modulo a couple of moves of the installation parts when they arrived home). It feels good to feel like I’ve finished something, even if it was in much more depth than I had ever expected.

Here’s to next time. Thanks for reading. 😀

Burning Man 2015 in Pictures LXV: Mirror Blaze Teardown Continues!

Last time, we watched the first stage of the Mirror Blaze teardown. Today, we witness the second part of the teardown, and some of the (very very very sooty) effects of having flame effect equipment in an enclosed tube for a week.

Mirror Blaze, at the start of phase II.  Note the wind bracing sticks at the top.
Mirror Blaze, at the start of phase II. Note the wind bracing sticks at the top.
Callum pulls up the fence protecting the fuel depot for Mirror Blaze and FaIRE Hockey.
Callum pulls up the fence protecting the fuel depot for Mirror Blaze and FaIRE Hockey.
l-r: Case, Kosta, Kevin, S (slight case of clamber), and Splat
l-r: Case, Kosta, Kevin, S (slight case of clamber), and Splat
l-r: Kevin, S (slight case of peeping), Greg, Splat
l-r: Kevin, S (slight case of peeping), Greg, Splat
The disassembled pieces of Mirror Blaze pile up!
The disassembled pieces of Mirror Blaze pile up!
Greg holds up some of the padding used to protect the quartz tube from the metal straps holding it up.
Greg holds up some of the padding used to protect the quartz tube from the metal straps holding it up.
The quartz tube, marks left over by the silicone and not-so-flammable fabric padding.
The quartz tube, marks left over by the silicone and not-so-flammable fabric padding.
The quartz tube, in situ.  Note the sooty colour.
The quartz tube, in situ. Note the sooty colour.
Kosta unhoking 'Flamey', the flame effect.
Kosta unhoking ‘Flamey’, the flame effect.
'Flamey' is quite 'sooty'.  But the aluminum foil protecting the wiring held up!
‘Flamey’ is quite ‘sooty’. But the aluminum foil protecting the wiring held up!

Next time, the rest of the Mirror Blaze tear down!