Minute Wild: Olustee Battlefield

A one-minute video for the nature-deprived. This was recorded on the morning of September 30, 2019 at Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park in Sanderson, Florida. With apologies for the spot on the lens.

I’ve been putting these on Vimeo, but I decided to take the plunge tonight and create a whole branded YouTube thing. So, if you have approximately four minutes, check out my channel, Minute Wild. Thank you so much!

Elegance

Just came across this quote in C.J. Date’s Database Design & Relational Theory, which is a more interesting book than the title might suggest.

“In computing, elegance is not a dispensable luxury but a quality that decides between success and failure.

Edsger W. Dijkstra

Watching problems that could have been solved years ago by thoughtful design cascade now one upon the other in the systems at work drives this point home. Spend more time thinking than doing.

Video Game Spaces: Halo

“When we gazed upon all this splendour at once, we scarcely knew what to think, and we doubted whether all that we beheld was real.”  

Bernal Diaz del Castillo, The Conquest of Mexico and New Spain

You land on a strange “installation” and there are a few moments of silence for you to take in this unique world. After a quick look around at the clearing where your shuttle crash-landed, you make your way across a narrow bridge high above a bubbling stream. To the right, the stream cascades down a well-beaten course cut through a precipitous rocky valley. To the left, this. This expanse of land, water and sky slicing the inky vastness of space. There is a dialectic of sublime beauty and precarious terror in this space. You feel as though you could peer into the cumulus distance for hours, exclaiming at the wonder of it all like Bernal Diaz del Castillo and his murderous crew of invaders. They felt as alien in Tenochtitlan as you feel in this place. The only choice, though, is to pass through an evergreen grove up the rough path leading toward the source of the stream. There is gunwork ahead, unfortunately. 

What I want to suggest, in this and future posts about video game spaces, is that games are a new design commons — a new public architecture that we should take just as seriously as we do “real” spaces. We inhabit games for longer periods of time than we inhabit most public spaces. I’ve spent more time running around the archives level on GoldenEye than I have spent in church; far more time driving around the virtual streets of San Andreas than riding the subway in New York City. All of these spaces were shaped by human hands and minds for humans to inhabit. 

I also hope to think through some of the design problems inherent in games. These are not democratic spaces, for example, and they are not free in any sense of the word. Burning electricity instead of calories, too, may not be sustainable for our bodies or the planet. As in Halo, violence is the dark centerpiece of most video game spaces, as well. What cultural work are these costly, undemocratic, and violent realms performing? Are we designing and inhabiting beautiful hellscapes? 

I’ll share spaces in games here when the inspiration strikes. I hope you can use them to question your assumptions about architecture, landscape, and industrial design, as I am. At the very least, I hope that you can appreciate their beauty and the skill that goes into designing and building them. 

Camera Roll: Olustee and World Golf Village

On the road for a conference. I took these yesterday when I had some free time.

Olustee Battlefield was one of the places that inspired me to be a historian. I was a dorky little kid who was fascinated by the American Civil War–primarily because of a trip to this place some time around the first grade. I was surprised by how small everything is. I remember a full museum and a large battlefield that cast a durable spell on my six-year-old person. What I found now in my thirty-fourth year was a small, one room interpretive center with a 19″ television on repeat and a little field with a couple cannons and a confederate monument tucked into the recesses of the prison complex in Baker County. The past is larger and more majestic than the present in more ways than one.

This time around I was more interested in the beautiful pine woods in back of the interpretation center. The forest was alive with woodpeckers when I visited, the red-hooded birds rapping the trees to a wooden staccato beat in the spaces between the low rumble of timber trucks making their way to the interstate on US-90. Those trucks underline the importance of conservation lands like this. Even a quiet memorial tucked in a rural corner of North Florida offers an oasis of quiet and beauty from the nonstop cacophony of development that leaves no corner of this Dream State untouched.

The World Golf Village feels a bit like a ghost town. Vacant buildings remain where shops and restaurants once ringed the pond in front of the World Golf Hall of Fame. Even the roofs and sidewalks of the businesses that are still open look bad. The putting course for tourists is closed–abandoned and overgrown. Jacksonville tried hard to identify itself with golf when the capital was raised and mobilized for this project in the eighties and nineties. Tiger Woods exploded on the scene right around the time that the World Golf Village opened, and it all must have seemed like a great idea right around the time that my seventh grade class pulled into the parking lot for a screening of The Prince of Egypt on the Village’s IMAX screen in 1998. Now that golf is collapsing on itself, leaving only the dark remains of abandoned courses and the spectral relics of shattered HOAs on their fringe, the Village feels like an enormous folly, as ephemeral as Dog Land or Ancient America in their Florida heyday.

Camera Roll: Miccosukee Village and the Seminole Wars Heritage Trail

Out exploring the logic of dispossession on the “Seminole Wars Heritage Trail.” Stop #1: Miccosukee Village. Taking notes toward a book.


Only a historic marker remains to remind people of the thriving Native community that once drew a living from the fields, forests, and lakes northeast of the Tallahassee old fields. State Road 59 leading to the memorial cuts a meandering line between fabricated plantation gentility on one side and desperate poverty on the other, but it’s easy to see what the settlers saw in this land, nevertheless, as you pass beneath the spreading oak and pine boughs and smell the first hints of autumn pass through your open car windows.

Shakespeare Recordings

I’m so happy to have found these! If you struggle to read Shakespeare, try reading along with these excellent recordings: The Complete Arkangel Shakespeare.

Archive.org is a wonderful, fantastic, amazing resource that makes me happy literally every time I think about it–which is way more often than one really should think about a website, if we’re being honest.