SCI-Arc (Marlin Watson)



Jun '05 - May '06

  • anchor


    By Marlin
    Mar 13, '06 1:06 PM EST

    Thems lotsa words. Enjoy.

    I finally borrowed a Crash Academy screener DVD. Crash stole the best picture Academy Award from pretty much everyone else nominated. For 11 million, the movie is a well orchestrated production, but I don't think how well someone performs under a budget should be a handicap in the Academy Awards discussion. Besides, Crash sucked. That movie was a lot better when it wasn't so acutely heavy handed, pathetically literal with its social issues, and titled Magnolia.

    En route to the Miami studio site, my flight was fifteen minutes late landing in Ft. Lauderdale. Not too shabby, I guess. Nat Belcher, my studio professor, expected me at the site on Virginia Key one hour after my expected touchdown. I have a rent-a-car to get, security screened check-in luggage to retrieve and a dead cell phone. The rest of the studio arrived the day prior. Miami, and Virginia Key, are forty minutes south on the I-95 from Ft. Lauderdale. I imagine I sound like I knew where I was. The truth was that I was in the middle of swampland with a Geo Metro rental reservation and sans Nat's cell number.

    Journalist Adam Stein wrote a piece for March's GQ describing his lifetime exploits as a shoplifter, a petty thief. Surrounded by credit card frauds, rapping gun possessors, and CD bootleggers in a downtown holding cell, Adam scoops Frosted Flakes into his mouth from a Snak-Pack box. Aging thieves eating children's cereal, all awaiting their hearing. This situation began for Adam when he was outrun by a Barnes & Noble rent-a-cop during his swift departure from said store. Adam had earlier been observed casually placing the Bjork CD, Vespertine, under his coat.

    Die Hard Guy Defined
    The following citations taken from Perry Kulper lectures: Plagiarism. The seminal Graf Art monograph Subway Art: Biting. Defined as, “Copying another writer's style.” Biter, “Someone who copies another writer's style.” Bjork's Academy Awards swan dress a few years back was balls out. Bjork doesn't suck. Joaquin Phoenix sucks.

    “Plagiarism, it is in fact a legitimate way, a means, to produce work. We can, and perhaps should, be up front about the ways in which it can produce work in the world. This of course doesn't mean it is just or right. But, it is a means for producing work. But with Plagiarism, there's more political paraphernalia attached to it than any other method of design.”

    GQ writer Adam Stein is Snak-Packing Frosted Flakes in a New York holding cell. The gun possessor, dressed in appropriated studio gangster gear, finishes a rap (considered by Adam to be a Run DMC rip off) and takes a seat next to him. “What are you in for?” the rapping gun possessor asks. “Shoplifting. I stole something.”
    “What'd you steal?”
    “A music CD,” Adam says. The gun possessor pauses, taken aback by the levity of the crime. “What CD?”
    “Bjork. It's Icelandic techno.” Visibly disgusted, the rapping gun possessor gets up and joins the men seated at the other end of the lunch tables. Adam eats his cereal and continues waiting for his hearing.

    Five steps to being a Biter. 12 Monkeys Brad Pitt starchitect and Die-Hard's Bruno. Imagine Lebbeus Woods in a movie theater. A particular scene pops up in 12 Monkeys, and the stage design distinctly resembles one of Lebbeus' signature sketches. Apparently, he filed a law suit against Terry Gilliam's lot for plagiarism; the lot clammed up to having seen Lebbeus' work, and the two parties settled out of court for x amount. Given the pay scale for paper architects, hooray for litigation. Step five of plagiarism is: “A run for cover.”

    Dirty South
    My phone battery stopped running in Charlotte, during the one-hour layover en route to Ft. Lauderdale. Standing in the Charlotte terminal, the cell phone vomited its death song in my ear while I'm writing down my studio professor's Miami cell number from my voicemail. The charger, of course, is in my check-in luggage, buried in the bowels of the airplane, two hours away from any opportunity to grab it.

    Righteous Brother Damon, the intellectual property lawyer, gave me a speech last summer in Denver emphasizing this very predicament -the one about dead batteries on planes- because en route to Denver, it died during my layover: “Every charger you own should be kept in your carry-on. Trust me,” he continues, waving his big legal hands about like a television judge, “your phone's gonna die again before you remember where to keep your chargers.”

    Fucking asshole. The social contract for older sibling includes a near perfect track record of righteousness; my phone just died during my layover in Charlotte, North Carolina, en route to Miami. This is the closest I've been to Brother Damon's current South Carolina residence since he delivered his fateful speech about overcoming battery death in Denver.

    “Bjork. It's Icelandic techno,” Adam Stein responds from his defendant's podium. The judge lifts his head up from the docket pile in front of him, visibly disgusted. “A what?” In the courtroom, the judgment regarding the lawfulness of theft has already been levied, and Adam will pay a hefty fine to make up for his crime. But for the moment, the judge is placing the legitimacy of Bjork under scrutiny.

    The Deployment of Plagiarism as a Design Method (in four or five parts):
    1. A motivation towards the act.
    2. An available object suitable for the occasion of theft, so that the method of plagiarism can be made most visible, readable, and effective.
    3. Reproduction of the object with vivid perfection.
    4. A claim of authorship.
    5. A run for cover.

    “In academic and professional situations, plagiarism can occur unknowingly, purely by the conduct, or import, of influence. Media saturation. I've seen that somewhere. Power of suggestion. Kidnapper, abductor of a slave or child. Net, snare, or to trap. Taking, pilfering, using parts of a work without the consent of the author. ”˜Without the consent of the author' is a part of critically deploying plagiarism.”

    Design Decisions Deployed
    “You want an upgrade?” the car rental guy behind the counter asks. He has a point: I'm footing the entire bill for a trip to Miami in the high season, and it's not even a vacation. The rental guy doesn't say these things, but they're implied by his persuasive question, the power of suggestion. Plus, with an upgrade from the pint-sized Geo Metro, I attain more freedom to shoot movie footage from the car. Impulse decisions have their benefits. So I accept the upgrade to a sunny, black, General Motors canvas-top convertible.

    The Ft. Lauderdale airport has a superstructure parking garage exclusively devoted to the ingress and egress of rental cars. “You know how to get there?” asked the garage attendant. The motor from the retracting convertible top hums over my response. “Yeah. South to the power outlet.” He suggested this wasn't the best strategy for navigating around Florida.

    In the heart of Hollywood, feet from the Academy Awards Kodak Theater, the basic human amenities attainable street-side at the corner of Franklin and Highland reveal a small part of the reason why this area is so often frequented by transients. Consider a hobo map, a situationist read, with symbols identifying a source of Food, Water and Power, along the sidewalks within a few blocks of this intersection.

    “South to a power outlet.” This wasn't far from truth: without a cell phone, without access to Nathan's voicemail, I'll never be able to find my professor or my studio tramping around Virgina Key, an island south of Miami Beach. For the foreseeable future, and without otherwise ditching to my hotel, I'm wandering purposeless around the Floridas.

    Takeable food near Franklin and Highland. Observe the avocado tree and blackberry bush in the adult daycare center, the fruit snatchable from the shaded sidewalk along the south side of Franklin Boulevard.

    Calling my voicemail from the cell phone can bypass the passcode I don't know by heart. This is why the cell phone, above just any regular phone, is crucial to this whole Florida debacle. This was just one in a series of stupid maneuvers, beginning with the failure to charge my phone before leaving LA and leaving Nat's number in my voicemail. In the interest of time, I opted to speed south and debate the issue during midday South Florida traffic. I considered the similar predicament that occurred in Denver, and immediately spotted a potential solution from the passenger window.

    A tap-able water tap and hose spigot in the strip mall at Highland and Franklin, a block west of the daycare center's avocado tree. Just south of the strip mall, on the exterior of the building at the crosswalk to the Academy Awards Kodak Theater, a hot power outlet is being tapped by a AA battery charger. Across the crease in the sidewalk, there's a styrofoam cup begging for handouts. Here in Hollywood, the divide between money and power, between give and take, philanthropy and theft, is the punk squatter sitting between his disposable cup and rechargeable batteries.

    Disrespect the Denny's Diner
    “The sooner, the better, Venice. Before it sinks.” I'm an architecture student and I haven't been to Europe. At first glace, to the Prada-clad Londoner living in Hollywood as an actor, this furthers presumptions about American cultural ignorance. Zed and two with this Brit tonight. Earlier during this Academy Awards party thrown by his friend, my upstairs HDTV neighbor, I rebutted the Londoner's praise for Joaquin Phoenix by declaring that Phoenix's first and only decent on-screen performance was in the ”˜80s flick, Space Camp. He was not amused. Pearl briefly squeezed my hand in approval. A rule of LA thumb: At Academy Awards parties attended by card carrying SAG actors, Space Camp references generally don't go over well.

    17th century: Plagiarism surfaces as a thing in Europe, where authors began to steal small snippets from the works of other authors.
    18th century: Plagiarism becomes a social institution until the Queen Anne copyright act draws attention to authors and their rights.
    19th century: Plagiarism decreases. The condemnation of plagiarism as a method increases.

    Disrespect the original article. Plagiarism, as a method, is origin-specific. The thing itself, independent of its original content or context, and the intentions regarding that thing as something objectified above its original context, is paramount. Any concern for original context means the methods at work are not plagiaristic. After all, this is theft. This is Biting. Like our fallen graf writer, Ramo, says in the 80's flick, Beat Street, “They're biters. They bite. You know, they bite off a little and leave the rest.”

    Pursuing the power solution, I exited the Florida Interstate somewhere outside Ft. Lauderdale, and visually navigated toward the parking lot of the Denny's Diner and Howard Johnson Express Hotel I spotted from the interstate. Former days of desert raving confirmed that the cleanest bathrooms available on the road are always at a Denny's, but the detour in Denver demonstrated that a power outlet can be found in the lobby of any three star hotel. Because of the transient nature of three star hotel lobbies -ingress and egress of patrons- no one gives a shit if I wander in off the street and steal their power for my celly. Teenage desk clerks would just as easily assume I'm a guest there. I pull a mauve wicker chair close to the outlet, plug in said phone, grab Nat's Miami number from the voicemail, and dial him up for the location and time.

    “The best plagiarists leave no trace. As a result, it happens more often in literary circles than it does in architectural circles. Perhaps there are some things in architecture that make it a little harder to plagiarize [another architect's work] than in literature. It's also more likely that [us as] architects are so ego-driven that plagiarizing someone else's work isn't something we're likely to do.”

    “Well, that's right. You are the first who observed that. Yes! That's right! It's a very similar model, it even has the ”˜risalit'!” The late Phillip Johnson, in the book, Conversations with Architects, is confronted with the assertion that his Kline Tower on the Yale campus is simply his and Mies Van Der Rohe's Seagram building covered with fake columns, pilasters and sandstone slabs. Step four in plagiarism is, “Reproduction of the object with vivid perfection.”

    Deja Deja
    Theft is culturally unethical, and thus plagiarism, when used as a method of design should embrace all the baggage that comes with legitimizing itself ethically as a means to a design. Consider how it comes into contact with legal ramifications as a result of its ethical position in society: In light of this ethical position, how to judge something that has been plagiarized becomes tenuous: On what, exactly, is the final judgment based? What are the commendable successes of an act of plagiarism, if it cannot currently be separated from the fact that it's so-called "illegal"?

    Another call or two are returned from the Howard Johnson wicker chair, and I decide to give the phone a few minutes to charge before hitting the road. I have a smoke, then toss my Styrofoam cup and pastry napkin. I unplug my phone from the wall, plug the iPod into the convertible, and speed south towards Miami Beach.

    Another call or two are returned from the Howard Johnson wicker chair, and I decide to give the phone a few minutes to charge before hitting the road. I decide to have a smoke, but tossed my lighter at the LAX security gate. I stumble up to the teenage desk clerk and ask him for some matches. “Of course,” he says. I ask another question: “By the way, where am I?”

    “You should start a trip across Europe in Venice,” the Brit says to Pearl and me over a drink following the Academy Awards. His party banter had gone from his disapproval of Gehry to accolades for Europe. Consequently, I came clean and declared that, at my ripe age, still hadn't been to Europe. The Brit became visibly disgusted. “The sooner, the better, Venice.” he added, “before it sinks.”

    “You're in Hollywood.” The Howard Johnson desk clerk says. His answer is disconcerting. I didn't really sleep on the plane. Some side of my brain knows there's a Hollywood in Florida, but I'm momentarily incapable of making such a simple cognitive leap.

    Dissenting Descending Dilemma
    Before departing the Howard Johnson lobby for a smoke, I notice at the far end of the lobby that the remnants of a continental breakfast, complete with cups and napkins, are spilling over their hot plates and pastry baskets. The squatter in Hollywood, California has enough pocket change not to resort to stealing a stale Danish from a Howard Johnson lobby.

    Before departing the Howard Johnson lobby for Miami, I take count of my pillaged motel bounty: Two raspberry danishes, two books of matches, a hot cup of bottom-brew coffee, one bathroom visit and a battery charge for the cell. Step five in plagiarism is run for cover.

    “The sooner, the better, Venice. Before it sinks.” The Brit, head to toe in Prada, sips his Scotch, and inhales before presumably singing his praises for what will be a list of piazzas, canals, people, places and Venice things. But Pearl Girl cuts him off. “Maybe Venice should sink,” she asserts, “it's more romantic that way.” I squeeze Pearl's hand in approval. There's something uniquely romantic about a slowly sinking city. And Europe can wait. It will be there when I get there, and it seems even better if Venice is given more time to travel.

    Creole light skinded high yella. Chocktaw and Black. Jug wine and a deep Cajun Creole Crescent City accent. Laughing, my grandpa would yuck it up about his family's cross country trips from New Orleans to the Grand Canyon for sunrise sermons on Easter Sunday. Because this was during the era of institutionalized segregation, whenever they stayed in a hotel, the grandparents would send my mother in to the hotel lobby for their room reservations because she was the lightest, the most appropriate “passer.”

    Under the most ideal circumstances, the task was to use this advantage of skin tone to best benefit the black community. As individuals during segregation, “passers” were colored folk light skinded enough to take advantage of either situation -whiteonly coloredonly- depending on whichever one deemed itself most advantageous. There is an often overlooked tension between light and dark skinded African-Americans as a result. Grandpa offered the example of the bathroom wait at integrated concert venues. The colored men's line was generally shorter.

    Perception is keenly deceptive. The Interstate sign reads, Hollywood, Florida. I consider the punk squatter in Hollywood, California, and that the only difference between our petty acts of stealing someone else's power is the perception of our outward appearances by a world of teenage desk clerks. The studio project site, the Virginia Key, which formerly served as the segregated beach for colored folk in Miami, is forty minutes away in South Florida traffic. The studio proposal is a Museum of Freedom, a park commemorating Virginia Key's historic land use and its relation to the people of color in Miami. For the moment, I'll enjoy the convertible. The ipod just shuffled in Jack Johnson.

    Devil and the Deep
    Apparently, Dan Brown, the author of The Da Vinci Code is testifying this morning on charges that he plagiarized parts of his bestseller from an earlier Nonfiction novel. The outcome may delay the theater release of the Movie adaptation. Save me and the punk squatter charging his walkman batteries, everyone in Hollywood is clinging to their seats in anticipation of the verdict.

    Bjork's album, Vespertine, is a melody of sampled, appropriated, sounds and noises. Fall studio professor Perry Kulper suggests that the design method, Appropriation, is a cousin to Plagiarism. The only difference is the jail time- and step four about vivid perfection.

    The guy, reposed in Prada, seems pretty perturbed by our assertions, the one about wanting Venice to sink some more before paying a visit. But somehow, he seems less perturbed by this than by my praise for the 80's flick, Space Camp.

    Don't bite Bjork. Ultimately, beyond any social standards of jurisprudence, the object that results from an act of theft, of plagiarism, can only be judged by the value levied against the original article. Even any value derived from the new context into which the stolen object is currently deployed becomes tenuous. Said differently: Was the stolen object worth stealing? The judge, by looking Adam square in the eye, has cast a value -not legal- judgment on Adam's object of theft. Bjork clearly is not worth stealing. I can imagine the rapping gun possessor chiming in from the audience, “Bjork sucks.”

    The D List
    A side note: the broadcast quality of SCIArc's SCIArc Live lectures is commendable. This Wednesday, 7pm PST, is 51N4E Space Producers, featured on Archinect earlier this year. Thems lotsa pictures. Enjoy


    • aml

      great read.

      Mar 13, 06 2:04 pm  · 
      Darren Hodgson

      Man, that was ten minutes of my life I didn't mind losing... makes me want more

      Mar 13, 06 3:42 pm  · 

      I wished this was a book. actually, you've already been told that, I'm sure, but do write a book sometime.

      Don't go to Europe because you'll end up liking it. Maybe when you'll be old and Venice would have sank (I hope it will, slowly but irreversibly).

      Mar 13, 06 7:29 pm  · 

      Print it and staple it. It's more cost-effective and personal. A podcast. Now there's a challenge.
      I might have already said this, but it was my pleasure, so thank you. The comments are, as always, appreciated and encouraging.


      Mar 13, 06 11:18 pm  · 
      mel from cornell

      hey...i loved "space camp."

      Mar 14, 06 8:47 pm  · 

      I liked Crash. It was entertaining and it was stunning. I don't require much more than that in a production.

      Thanks for the thoughtful post anyway. Keep up the blog-tastic....

      Mar 14, 06 9:43 pm  · 

      I prefer Magnolia to Crash and Altman's Shortcuts to Magnolia.
      But Bjork is uniquely entitled to wear a swan dress if she wishes.

      Mar 14, 06 11:57 pm  · 

      ten minutes? more like ten hours and a lot of minimizing to avoid my project manager.
      Great entry. Your blog is one of the best distractions on archinect.

      Mar 16, 06 6:01 am  · 

      Block this user

      Are you sure you want to block this user and hide all related comments throughout the site?

    • Back to Entry List...
  • ×Search in:

Affiliated with:

Authored by:

  • Marlin

Other blogs affiliated with Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc):

Recent Entries