The thread increasingly surrounded by darkness Riding out the winter (decline) of industrial civilization


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Experiments for the tower

Side repel

Bouncy balls

Ground bloom fireworks

Record primal screams with binaurals


Support Page Brief:
There’s no advertising anywhere on this site. I’d shut the thing down before cluttering it with banner ads. Although I paid for Stage Two by selling my childhood on Craigslist, most of the funding for this project has come from the generous individuals whose names appear to the left.
If you’ve had a look around and share my belief that this endeavor is well worth continuing, consider becoming a part of the adventure with a donation of your own. Food being by far the largest expense, you’ll effectively be refueling the tour—propelling it farther along in space and time.
If you’d like to support the thread in a non-financial way, I’ve got a bunch of ground support jobs I can delegate. Anything from research assignments and editing to setting up appointments and locating places to stay. Just email if you’re interested: brett [at sign] burnthefurniture [dot] com.
Here’s a more academic explanation outlining the project’s approach to money.

I’m a practicing artist: this project is what I’m doing with my life—I have no day job, no apartment, I don’t even have a bed beyond my therm-a-rest.

I’ve run out of childhood things to sell
I’ll leave as soon as the money to make it there is secured.
It wont get done without you

Non-financial ways of supporting the thread:

Research assignments—information gathering

Editing tasks

Ground support


Finding places to stay

Setting up appointments

And generally helping to get the word out and expand the scope of the project.

And if you still need a reason to donate:
keep this page advertising free
be a part of an epic adventure-- To be a part of something potentially as thought provoking as it is beautiful (for example)
the comforting thought that at least someone is out there doing exactly what they were meant to be doing—using many of the skills they have to do something of value.
New Support page intro:
From stage one:
The realization of such an ambitious project is going to require resources beyond what two ex-students have at their disposal. We are actively seeking assistance from our friends and family as well as anyone who sees the same potential in the project that we do and would like to help it become a reality. Our largest single expense is likely to be food, with lodging (the occasional camp ground fee or hostel stay) a distant second. Even on a shoestring budget of $35 per person per day, 50 days on the road brings our total operating costs to nearly $4,000. Additionally, we've acquired only some of the computer and video equipment we would ideally have along to make the kind of work we want to make.
Although financial support gives us the most flexibility, we’d also greatly appreciate equipment donations or loans. Drop us a line if you think you have something we can use. Finally, whenever possible we’d like to stay in people’s homes. This practice not only makes our nights on the road more comfortable and less costly, it gives us the opportunity to discuss the project with our hosts. If you (or someone you know) live along the route and would be willing to open your home to us, the hospitality and hot water would be greatly appreciated.
Based on what’s already been done, as well as plans for its future,

This is a terrible way to pay back my student loans but its what I’m meant to be doing

Keep the site free of advertising

Basically paying for food

Seeing potential in the project—based on past work.

Doesn’t pay well, doesn’t pay anything actually.

Being a part of a great adventure.


we're doing a poor job of constructing a coherent consensus about what is happening to us and what we are going to do about it.
I submit that we would benefit more if we acknowledged what is really happening to us because only that will allow us to respond intelligently.
In the year ahead, the sense of contraction will be palpable and huge. Losses will be obvious. No amount of jive-talking will convince the public that they are experiencing "recovery." Everything familiar and comforting will begin receding toward the horizon.
Japan's financial disarray runs so deep that it could crash its government even before ours. It has no fossil fuels of its own whatsoever. And in a de-industrializing world, how can an industrial economy sustain itself? Japan might become a showcase for The Long Emergency. On the other hand, if it gets there first and makes the necessary adjustments, which is possible given their discipline and common culture, they may become THE society to emulate!
I believe United (Airlines) will be the first one to go down in 2010, a hateful moron of a company that deserves to die.
the cheap oil life of convenience, comfort, obesity, and social atomization.
I phone or not to I phone

It’s looking like I might have a partner for stage three: my surrogate brother Eric. He’s building a bike and preparing for life on the road. Eric and I have been tackling the question of whether or not to add an I-phone to our touring toolkit. It’s a difficult decision that demands a consideration of more than simply how much weight it’ll add to our rig. We’d use it for directions, to set up stays, and probably a million other things (there’s an app for identifying wild mushrooms). I’ve left the decision up to Eric but my own opinion is that the device is a shortcut I’d prefer not to take. Ran enters at the perfect moment to provide direction on the matter:

Two loose ends on the technology subject. One issue is whether shortcuts are necessarily good. To extend the rock climbing metaphor: Why bother solving a crossword puzzle when you can just look up the answer? Why ride a bicycle across the continent when you can just get on a plane? Why learn to make something with your own hands when you can just buy one made by somebody else? It comes down to the meaning of life. If you're here to accomplish things, then you might as well just sit in a box pushing buttons. If you're here to explore and learn, then the long road might be more valuable than the short road. And if you're here to have a good time, then what are you doing on such an awful road that you're in a hurry to get to the end?
The other issue is how and when technologies make us weaker. One of the many things we can ask, when considering a tool, is whether the tool focuses our native strength, like a knife or a pencil or a biofeedback machine, or whether it does the work for us, like an engine or a calculator or a wire in your brain.
A more profound question is: "Does the presence of this thing make me stronger in its absence?" That's what a good teacher does, and oddly, it's what a crutch does, completely unlike a metaphorical "crutch". If your leg is broken, a crutch lets you walk around and keep the rest of your body in shape until the leg heals. And if you're building a permaculture seed community to survive the collapse of industrial civilization, you can use a truck or a backhoe to strengthen your position for a world without engines. Vaccinations are an interesting case. Individually, they make us stronger, but as a species they make us weaker, by preventing us from adapting to diseases on the level of genetics or culture.

What if a technology makes us stronger in its presence and weaker in its absence, and we go ahead and use it anyway? Then we are making a lifelong alliance with that technology, and that means both our individual lives and the life of the human species. In either context, if we ever break the alliance and give up or lose the technology, then we will have to pay back all the benefits. Our primitive ancestors made alliances with fire, stone tools, and clothing. Our more recent ancestors did it with metal tools, grain farming, machinery, electricity, the automobile, and most ominously, economic growth. In our own lifetime we've become dependent on computers -- although some uses of computers do make us stronger in their absence, like sharing information about biosand filters and rocket mass heaters.

I don't think our permanent alliances are limited to the ones we made tens of thousands of years ago. But it's going to be interesting to see which modern technologies can break free of their debts to the extractive economy.

For a minute there, I lost myself—I lost myself. Got a server job and started sleeping with someone I met at work.

I take care of my vessel.
KunstlerCast #94:
The fakery used in creating Disneyesque places (a façade over a megastructure) is registered by even by most vulgar—painted on windows.
Bossart industrial structures—the oldest ones—built of stone and masonry.

Think of this as the opposite of a cable television advert.

“I’ve no earthly gifts to bestow upon my brethren—to the marketplace of ideas I’m headed with my wares!”
That’s right, I could have spent my life learning how to sell you stuff you don’t need, but I’d rather do this.
Dubai tower image—printed in tiles. White bottom border due to imperfect fit.

Eric’s action list:

Identify and locate steadycam software

Shot list for steady cam practice advert

fire ring design/construction work

Locate state and national parks to work into route

Editing duties for Q & A section—evening

Sensors/trackers from brad-- email

Resolve i-phone dilemma
Welcome back email:
Longtime readers and new arrivals:
The Illuminated Thread is back: re-imagined and reborn into a new decade. Taking a long last look at the industrial age, we’ll witness the wonder and tragedy of a world built with phenomenal amounts of fossil energy.

The departure date for Stage Three is rapidly approaching, cautiously set for 28 January. The winding route through the desert southwest connects three of the country’s most car dependent suburban metroplexes: LA, Phoenix, and Houston. I’ll visit an abandoned solar array, sprawling aircraft boneyards, open-pit copper mines and an 80,000-acre sludge ranch just to name a few.

As always, support is greatly appreciated. I’m $1300 from being able to feed myself all the way to the gulf. Also, now is the perfect moment to share the project with the people you love.
Happy New Year and welcome back!

I’d like to formally announce a January 28 departure date. I’ve added several sites to the itinerary, extending the leg by between 600 and 700 miles at a time when I should probably be scaling the project back for lack of funding. If you’re planning to donate eventually, now is a good time.
The audio recorder has arrived and is undergoing extensive testing in inclement weather. Although its primary tasks will be field recordings and interviews, it’s got me thinking about doing a podcast.
Perhaps the most significant piece of news: I’ve taken on a collaborator. "E" (not the one from Eels) will be joining the thread and is building up an oldish Raleigh frame he once referred to as a “space bull.” E studied film at UCSB and is gifted with bikes and video equipment. His lifelong interest in aviation should be well rewarded by several stops on the leg. He's terrified of UAVs and hasn't ruled out a written piece on the politics of remote warfare. The decision to remain anonymous is tied to a fear that large corporations may not be as likely to back his own future endeavors if he's associated with this one.
Lastly, several clearly identifiable themes are emerging for Stage Three. In no particular order they include:
water projects—it’s dry in the desert so pump in water from somewhere else.

alt. energy—it’s also sunny and windy.

utopian architecture/settlements—“we’ll build it out here where no one will stop us!”

prison camps—undesirables isolated from the population.

mines—extracting resources from the ground.

dumps/boneyards—depositing waste back into/onto the ground.

aviation research and development—Skunkworks, drones, missile testing, private spaceflight.
E and I were looking at a video clip on mothballing passenger jets for long-term storage and he mentioned how mindboggling it’ll be for some desert dwelling future human to come across hundreds of half-buried airliners centuries from now. A monument from antiquity if there ever was one.

Using a sort of national geographic aesthetic to shoot the sites.

The arrival of key tools/bicycle repairs
Utopian architecture/community thread
Mines and dumps—metals yanked from the ground—from borates and copper to limestone. then scattered all over the surface in the form of airplanes.
Might do a podcast—which could be simply a conversation we record while riding.

Added an estimated 600 to 700 miles to the leg bringing it to 2,400.

Try and post weekly.

View from the top of the Dubai tower (BBC)—we did it. look how small everything is down there, it’s like the Jetsons!

Behaving honorably is currently out of fashion. Some people are simply thrown off by it.
Put the holidays to rest
Apocalypse week on the history channel

“After the Apocalypse” documentary

Hashima Island—abandoned coal mining community—well documented, high population density when inhabited. Finally abandoned in early 1970s
Goldsmith’s College, London—To embed the artist in the visual culture


Sometime this week you’ll receive an Illuminated Thread: Stage One/Two DVD. There are 38 vignettes on the disk so I thought I’d provide a little guidance. The 12 pieces under the Stage Two menu are the most representative of my current work. Of the twelve, these are my top picks:

blue room

betteravia sugar plant

the joy of infinity
from stage one, Sonata 38 is a reader favorite
In the extras section I’ve included some related work I did in grad school
demolition montage (installed as a wall size projection, a two-hour loop)

end civ

dixie square (zone edit)
the passage (I rarely put myself in front of the camera but it happens)
Thanks for watching. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

I think that beneath all events is an invisible Flow that is intelligent and loving. I think that any human system that goes out of balance with human nature, or with other life on Earth, is doomed to fail. I think that in all possible futures, dandelions will grow through ruined Wal-Mart parking lots. But within this optimism, I see room for epic catastrophes. And some catastrophes are now so far along that "what can I do to stop it" is the wrong question, and the right question is "what can I do to survive it, to help others survive it, to minimize suffering and prepare for recovery?"
The title of my talk was "Weeds through Pavement", because when pavement turns to forest, the pavement does not turn green and put down roots -- plants crack the pavement and grow through it. So do that.
Utopian Desert Architecture thread:


Geodesic sphere house

Siler Lakes Development

Lake Havasu Resort Community

Salton sea Club—retirement communities—your little slice of paradise

Biosphere 2

Prison Camps thread:

WWII internment camp.

The scrapping of the ghost fleet—find out where the ship breaking is occurring.
New Site Descriptions: (get CLUI and Wikipedia where applicable)

White Sands Missile Range Museum
The museum associated with one of the largest military facilities in the country, 4,000 square mile White Sands Missile Range, has a large collection of vintage projectiles.
White Sands Missile Range (WSMR) at nearly 4,000 square miles, is one of the largest military facilities in the country. It is primarily a test range with the main function of supporting missile development and test programs for the Army, Navy, Air Force, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), other government agencies and private industry. Like most large military installations in the West, White Sands was created during World War II. It was officially established on July 9, 1945, one week before the world's first nuclear explosion, the Trinity test, was performed at its northern end. Over the years, most of the missile systems in the U.S. arsenal were tested at WSMR, including the V-2, Nike, Viking, Corporal, Lance and Multiple Launch Rocket Systems. The range has developed launch facilities in other areas of New Mexico, Utah, and Idaho for long-range testing. In such tests, missiles from these locations fly over the countryside and impact on White Sands. White Sands also provides an alternate landing site for the space shuttle program. In 1982 the orbiter Columbia landed on the range's Northrop Strip after its third flight into space. The WSMR employs 8,800 people, and is under operational control of the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command (TECOM), located at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland.

U.S. Borax Boron Mine

From this 500-foot deep open-pit mine, the largest in California, come more than half the world’s borates. What the hell is Borax? Just try making anti-fungal fiberglass, indelible ink, or jet fuel without it.
Curing agent for snake skins

to color fires with a green tint

jet fuels and other aerospace and military technologies—proximity to aerospace development facilities.
This mine is the largest open pit mine in California, and the largest borate mine in the world, supplying more than half of the world's borates, and it employs over 800 people. The mine and refinery complex was established in the late 1920's, after a large source of borax was discovered here. Prior to this time, borax was mined out of Death Valley and hauled to the railway at Mojave by the famous "20-mule team." This mine consists of a 500 feet deep pit more than a mile long by one half mile wide. The substances obtained from the borates extracted from this deposit are used in numerous products, from soaps to jet fuels. Boron in particular is an element that has many applications in aerospace and military technologies. It is a component in high-strength fiber composites and in rocket fuels.
Sounds like a name somebody came up with in the 1950s thinking it sounded advanced—or something from a Dr. Seuse book
Solar Two Experimental Solar Facility:
Rumor has it that this facility has been dismantled.

This experimental solar facility, the largest of its type in the country (and only one of two similar structures) was built by the Department of Energy in 1981 as Solar One. This was the first solar power plant in this area, which has since become the solar capital of the world. Unlike the commercial solar plants in the area, Solar Two, as it was later renamed, is a central receiver-type system, with a 200-foot collector tower onto which nearly 2,000 reflectors focus the sun's energy. Each of the reflectors is positioned automatically with a heliostat to track the moving sun. The heat transfer medium, which was heated in the "solar power tower", was circulated to the steam and electric generating facilities. It was a mixture of sodium nitrate and potassium nitrate with a high heat retention capacity, maintaining its temperature long enough to be stored in tanks after being heated, and can be used as much as several hours later to generate steam and, subsequently, electricity. The DOE and Southern California Edison, which owns the ground, closed the power facility in the late 1990's. It is now being used as a gamma ray observatory by the University of California, Riverside.


In 1995 Solar One was converted into Solar Two, by adding a second ring of 108 larger 95 m² (1,000 ft²) heliostats around the existing Solar One, totaling 1926 heliostats with a total area of 82,750 m² (891,000 ft²). This gave Solar Two the ability to produce 10 megawatts. Solar Two used molten salt, a combination of 60% sodium nitrate and 40% potassium nitrate, as an energy storage medium instead of oil or water as with Solar One. This helped in energy storage during brief interruptions in sunlight due to clouds. The molten salt also allowed the energy to be stored in large tanks for future use such as night time.Solar Two proved it could run continuously around the clock producing power. Solar Two was decommissioned in 1999, and was converted by the University of California, Davis, into an Air Cherenkov Telescope in 2001, measuring gamma rays hitting the atmosphere. Its name is now C.A.C.T.U.S..[2] Solar Two's 3 primary participants were Southern California Edison (SCE), the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP), and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).
"We're proud of Solar Two's success as it marks a significant milestone in the development of large-scale solar energy projects," said then U.S. Energy Secretary Bill Richardson.

"This technology has been successfully demonstrated and is ready for commercialization. From 1994 to 1999, the Solar Two project demonstrated the ability of solar molten salt technology to provide long-term, cost effective thermal energy storage for electricity generation.", Boeing
On November 25, 2009 the Solar Two tower was demolished [3] The mothballed site was levelled and returned to vacant land by Southern California Edison. All heliostats and other hardware were removed.

Boron Air Station and Prison

Born as the Boron Air Force Radar Facility, the site was later converted into a federal prison camp where some 500 inmates rebuilt forklifts for the army. The prison was closed in 2000 and is currently abandoned.
At a remote desert site six miles north of Kramer Junction is a former Federal Prison Camp [maybe reason to bring in internment camp—deserts as remote places to put criminals], which closed in April, 2000. It was one of around 47 minimum security federal prison camps in the country, and housed about 540 male inmates. Workers in the prison assembled parts for military vehicles and rebuilt forklifts for the army. The boarded up prison facility is located on the site of the old Boron Air Station. Also known as the Boron Air Force Radar Facility, it was managed by nearby Edwards Air Force Base, and consisted of several barracks and administration buildings spread out over a few hundred acres, with a large radar dome at the peak of the hill. It was once a part of the National Air Defense Command. Most of the facility was later used by the Prison Camp, and it is now abandoned and being vandalized. It may eventually be sold as surplus property through the GSA. The domed structure at the hill top is still in use by the Air Force and the FAA.
Portland Cement Plant
This 9,000-acre site is one of three cement plants operated by CalPortland Company scheduled for Stage Three. Their website’s header image, featuring a slice of the nearby Tahachapi Wind Farm, is a comically blatant attempt to invoke “green by proximity.” Sorry Allen, nobody believes you’re running that place with three turbines.

The California Portland Cement Company's Mojave Plant employs 150 people to extract limestone and produce cement at this 9,000 acre site. The plant opened in 1955, after a nine mile rail spur connecting the site to the main line at Mojave was built by the company. The plant has been expanded and modernized a number of times, most recently in the early 1980's. It is one of three locations for this company: the others are at Rillito, Arizona, and at Colton, California (where a literal mountain of limestone can be observed slowly disappearing, on the south side of Interstate 10). Cement from the Mojave facility was used to build the Bonaventure Hotel in downtown L.A., Dodger's Stadium, and the second L.A. Aqueduct.

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