Pages in the story of a city.

There are infinite pages in the story of any city.

Eyes briefly pass over the turning pages.

I lifted my camera to take a few photographs during my morning walk downtown…

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

To read a few stories I’ve written, click Short Stories by Richard.

Hidden life near the Fish Market.

This afternoon, as I walked past the Fish Market restaurant on the Embarcadero, I saw a dead plant in their small garden next to the sidewalk.

When I knelt to look more closely, I discovered seeds ready to take flight.

If a thing appears hopeless, always take another look.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Do you enjoy beautiful things? Visit my other photography blog which I call A Small World Full of Beauty.

Drifting along the bay on a November day.

Another bright day in November. A day for sailing.

I sat at a picnic table at Embarcadero Marina Park North, quietly gazing at the sparkling water.

As the tide flowed, a sailboat drifted across San Diego Bay. It turned in the wind. The unmanned vessel must have become accidentally unmoored. A small Coast Guard boat slowly followed it.

Beside the water people moved forward through life.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Cowboys, the homeless, and 6000 neuroscientists.

The human world is complex. I suppose that’s due in large part to the contradictory impulses and plasticity of the human mind.

A big city like San Diego is filled with this often disconcerting complexity.

My walk around downtown today was a little more interesting than usual. Cowboys, symbols of rugged individualism and freedom, had gathered in the Gaslamp Quarter for the annual Fall Back Festival, an event that celebrates the Old West and early history of San Diego. Meanwhile, 6000 neuroscientists attending the big Society for Neuroscience conference at the convention center were sharing sidewalks with San Diego’s large homeless population.

Seeing that particular combination all together–cowboys, neuroscientists and homeless people–fired up a few billion neurons in my own mysterious brain. And stirred emotions.

So many human values, often in conflict.

Every so often a small work of fiction bubbles out of my brain.

If you enjoy reading, you might click Short Stories by Richard.

A dark, disturbing look at art Beyond Reason.

Close photo of bronze figures of Tim Shaw's Middle World.
Close photo of several bronze figures in Tim Shaw’s Middle World.

A very disturbing and powerfully thought-provoking exhibition has recently opened at the San Diego Museum of Art. Yesterday I walked through the dark galleries that contain Tim Shaw: Beyond Reason, and this morning my mind is still digesting the half dozen fantastic installations created by the celebrated artist.

Tim Shaw is a Northern Irish sculptor who, as a child in 1972, witnessed firsthand the bombing of a Belfast cafe during Bloody Friday. That exact, horrifying moment is recreated in a bloodless, abstract way in his installation Mother, The Air Is Blue, The Air Is Dangerous. Eerily spinning trays hover in the air above suddenly upset tables and chairs; the shadows of fleeing people stream across surrounding windows.

That same feeling of malice and inescapable chaos seems to echo elsewhere in Tim Shaw’s work.

Walking through the dim galleries containing Tim Shaw: Beyond Reason feels inhumanly bleak. Little light, the low sound of a hollow, echoing, machine-like vibration all around, no human warmth. Like the corridors of a dark artificial video game world where there is no hope for actual daylight. Where synthetic horrors await around corners.

Themes explored by the six immersive installations range from the primal, unconscious complexity of human beings, to cynical exploitation in a materialistic society, to the uncertainties that rise in a technologically directed world.

I found the first installation that I encountered, Middle World, to be extraordinarily rich with symbolism. A massive sculpture, Middle World presents many small bronze figures that appear to have emerged from ancient mythology, Shakespeare, or the fleshy canvases of Hieronymus Bosch. The weird, expressive figures, some in masks, are arranged on a throne-like stage above what seem to be stalactites and beneath what seem to be Gothic columns and skeletons in catacombs. The sculpture incorporates the shapes of objects that are both modern and ancient, commonplace and supernatural. It’s a mixture of space and time and human passion and compulsion and perplexity. A melting, flowing work of sculpted substance like an unending dream.

Other more disturbing installations that compose the exhibition concern dehumanization and include subjects like the silencing of free speech, vigilantism, human exploitation and depravity.

Defending Integrity from the Powers that Be presents two rocking-chair-like figures that are in constant back-and-forth motion. Both are gagged, and the muffled voices that emerge from either are unintelligible. According to a nearby sign, the piece represents how voices are silenced with money, and how people are influenced by the proliferation of disinformation on the internet. (What it fails to mention is that billions of ordinary people now speak their thoughts more freely than ever because of the Information Age. As a blogger who pays close attention to such things, I can tell you that many ideas don’t go unheard because of stifling propaganda or censorship, but because the internet has become a complete babel of voices all desperately competing to be heard.)

Another unique installation concerns technology and our evolving understanding of what it is to be human. Aptly titled The Birth of Breakdown Clown, the interactive sculpture seems to have a great deal of potential. Visitors enter a small room and stand before a human-like robot that moves its head and limbs while engaging with the audience. A member of the audience is invited to stand before the robot and converse with it. Breakdown Clown is said to possess artificial intelligence. Unfortunately, during the performance that I witnessed, I couldn’t detect any sort of autonomous machine intelligence, or even working speech recognition. With an odd combination of humor, condescension and poetic rambling, the Genesis-quoting robot guided the entire conversation. Its often disconnected statements and responses were apparently composed by the artist.

Tim Shaw: Beyond Reason as a whole is a very forceful, challenging work of contemporary art that will strongly engage active minds. It presents unspeakable horror. It isn’t for the squeamish. It’s an examination of human darkness and potential inhuman darkness. It undertakes a quest for understanding. That which has come into existence tries to understand its own creation. An electronic clown tries to define the Mystery that underlies all things.

However, to my thinking, darkness should be contrasted with light. And clowns that are witty have a beating heart.

These photographs were taken by my poor old camera in very dim darkness, where no flash photography is permitted. The images are a bit blurry, but somehow that makes them more potent!

If you want to be intellectually challenged, and journey through galleries that are filled with warnings, uncertainty and darkness, check out Tim Shaw: Beyond Reason, which is now showing at the San Diego Museum of Art through February 24, 2019.

Middle World. Mixed media, 1989-Current, by artist Tim Shaw.
Middle World. Mixed media, 1989-Current, by artist Tim Shaw.
Ancient symbols and strange figures contained in Tim Shaw's Middle World.
Ancient symbols and strange figures contained in Tim Shaw’s Middle World.
Mother, The Air Is Blue, The Air Is Dangerous, Working Drawing I. Ink, charcoal, and collage, 2015, by artist Tim Shaw.
Mother, The Air Is Blue, The Air Is Dangerous, Working Drawing I. Ink, charcoal, and collage, 2015, by artist Tim Shaw.
Defending Integrity from the Powers that Be. Mixed media, 2017, by artist Tim Shaw.
Defending Integrity from the Powers that Be. Mixed media, 2017, by artist Tim Shaw.
Alternative Authority. Mixed media, 2017, by artist Tim Shaw.
Alternative Authority. Mixed media, 2017, by artist Tim Shaw.
The Birth of Breakdown Clown, an artificially intelligent, interactive, speaking robot by Irish sculptor Tim Shaw.
The Birth of Breakdown Clown, an artificially intelligent, interactive, speaking robot by Irish sculptor Tim Shaw.

If you’d like to read a few philosophical works of fiction that I’ve written–stories about the complexity of life–about the mingling of darkness and light–please visit Short Stories by Richard.

A thank you, and a note to my readers!

Almost October. Another year is flying by.

In the daily hustle and bustle, one can forget important things.

I’d like to thank you all, the readers of Cool San Diego Sights.

Thank you for following along during my walks around San Diego. We’ve peered into unexplored corners, lingered in the sunshine. We’ve had a laugh or two. We’ve experienced a good deal of wonder in a beautiful city.

Thank you for your comments and your sharing.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately–about the best way to spend my weekends and free time before and after work.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve become more inclined to sit in a tranquil place and simply write. Deep down that’s what I really love. So I’ve decided from this point forward I will concentrate more on writing fiction, less on photoblogging.

I’ll still walk, of course–and if I happen to spy something cool or interesting, I’ll post photos right here on Cool San Diego Sights, or my companion blog Beautiful Balboa Park. But once I find that perfect seat, my old camera will be set to one side as I pick up notebook and pen.

Some of those scribbled words will eventually make it to my website Short Stories by Richard. That’s where small philosophical works of fiction await curious readers.

My camera might be idle for hours as I brainstorm, dream and write, but my feet are still restless! I’m sure more photos will appear in the days ahead. Many corners await exploration!

Ahead into the future!

Richard

The ribbon of life, five years later…

A photo of the mural Our River was the first thing I ever posted to Cool San Diego Sights. I had paused during a walk in Mission Valley, and had felt inspired take a few pictures. That was five years ago.

Today I returned to the same mural.

The beautifully painted artwork, depicting the San Diego River as a blue ribbon, has faded a little. Time is inexorable. But the message of unity and care has touched many.

Perhaps life unspools like a river. Sources along the way expand our being. We deepen and grow. Until we finally become a part of that great ocean.

Let us sparkle along the way.