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Mar 15, 2019

The Expanding Space Between Us

We live in an amazing expanding universe! Will it be our end?

We are lucky enough to live at a time when the possibilities for one human are growing by bounds and leaps. Instant communication is an example. Thirty years ago when I found it nearly impossible to call St. Petersburg, Russia to set up my exhibition there, as only 22 phone lines existed and a call was very expensive. Now world-wide communications are free, instant and ubiquitous. So we should be in good contact with all our dear friends wherever they are!.. Right?

No really. Do you notice this as well; that with instant free communication your interactions have grown shorter and more frantic? Or is it just me? I receive texts and emails every day that are only a couple of lines (often about how busy that person is), or sometimes just a word or two. (  ¯\_()_/¯  ) Have we really become so important that we can't keep in good contact with each other any more?

I get the sense that an expansion of the possibilities for interacting with people anywhere is matched by an enlargement of the space between us, vision of the expanding universe; every galaxy moving away from every other. Time was that I often met with friends for dinner or a long conversation in a cafe. Now it seems everyone is too busy for that. I once delighted in exchanging long, handwritten and illustrated letters with friends. I've got many of those precious letters saved. But would I save an email about how busy my friend is? Where would I put it?

It could be just me and my tendency to sink into a quiet life enriched with good books and fine art in my little hut. But I wonder if this isn't a feature of the age. I wonder what relationships will look like in another generation. Will we somehow have learned to be in better contact, or will we just drift further apart as we become inundated with digital entertainments? You tell me. Take your time. I'm listening...

Feb 28, 2019

Message in a Bottle for You

Hello friend,

It could be that you are reading this long after I'm dead, but I appreciate your eyes in any case. I tossed the bottle with this message into the noisy darkness that is the maelstrom of the internet on February the last, 2019, in the midst of a blizzard, from my perch in one of the most beautiful places on earth; Montana. It is an attempt to see if there is another human being out there. It will apparently float on the ever-expanding sea of data until the internet finally winks out, which could be in 10 years or 10 centuries.

I started this stream some 12 years ago as a means of sharing my cultural observations with my friends as I traveled the world. The truth is we can only recognize our home when we leave it and most of my friends were very interested. But with the increased crosswinds of endless news, entertainment and cat videos, after hundreds of my posts about a whole variety show of issues, I'm beginning to think I'm just whistling in the wind. The internet set us all free to express ourselves endlessly. But it also expands the universe, so that the space between any two people is constantly growing. Soon we will each find alone in a sea of noise, unable to discern if the entities with whom we communicate are real or digital.

Somehow you have found this note. I can't imagine what continents it has drifted passed, but I am glad to have found you. Please write me a note to say you are there. If I am dead and this is 2350 or something, know that there was someone long ago who was thinking of you even then...and who knows? By then the internet may include heaven as well. In which case I'll sing you a special song.

Blessings to you, and on your journey may you find real human connections,
Tim Holmes         

Feb 13, 2019

In 1990 I bought a crumbling old building in Helena, Montana
An anonymous "wayward woman", ca. 1905
to use as my art studio. It had been built 100 years previously by the Catholic order, the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, as a “Home for Wayward Women”. But after the nuns sold it in 1905 and moved to bigger digs, the building served as a furniture warehouse and neighborhood eyesore until I bought it.

During renovations I was dismantling a wall when I ran my crowbar through a cardboard patch and realized there was something intriguing hidden behind it. What I then carefully extracted from the mess was this gorgeous portrait of what I’m sure was one of the early residents of the home. Were it not for the rip of my crowbar, the photo would be pristine. What’s so remarkable is her shining smile, a real rarity for the time! “Wayward”? Perhaps, but not unhappy!

Ever since, "our foundress" has presided over my gorgeous historic gallery at Tim Holmes Studio.

Jan 18, 2019

I'm Living 30 Years in the Future

Being an artist working for myself I've had the remarkable freedom to craft my life pretty much the way I want it. Having attained a certain security, (no longer with a family to support, admittedly), this is how I want to live! Recently I realized how weird a life it is. But truth is I think this is how most people in the US will be living about a generation from now. Listen to this and see what you think:

I work every day doing what I most like, but almost always for free.  (I've retired from being an art businessman and now I'm an artist!)
2049: Many of us will still spend our days working, but for some cause or delight of our own choosing.

I'm paid a small stipend that serves as a basic income.  (Mine is from wise investments years ago.)
2049: Most of us will probably live on a basic income distributed by the government, generated by taxes on the bourgoise, owners of the robot production that will do most all the work.)

I enjoy comprehensive, free healthcare.  (Mine is Medicaid)
2049: Universal single-payer healthcare will have been the standard for some years.

I've surrounded myself with beauty, not material aquisitions. 
2049: Consumerist culture will be a bad chapter in our history, a fading memory of misplaced values, while most people live rich lives of personal fulfillment.

Much of my time is spent in social, artistic, educational and charitable pursuits.
2049: Duh.

I live in a community where I can walk or bike to most everything I need, and where there's nature close by. (For me it's a smallish town in the mountains, so that's been easy for a long time.)
2049: Even cities will be better designed with walkable neighborhoods, infused with natural areas.

I create more energy than I use.  (Solar panels on my studio generate twice my usage.)
2049: We will all be generating power, with our everyday objects, our roofs, our sidewalks, etc. and most of our tools will be electric.

What else could a person ask for?

Dec 17, 2018

Giving is the Gift

The current artwork being gifted, an oil landscape.
Art really wants to be either priceless or free! It is a spiritual gift and––like a person–– is likewise dishonored when attached to a price.

I've always resisted pricing art, and though I've made my living selling art, I am most confortable with art as a gift. So in addition to the Random Gifts of Art project I started, to give away drawings (unframed and not from among my prime sales production), I've decided to give away works from among the prime work as well. So once a month I post an artwork on the Tim Holmes Studio Facebook page to give to whomever expresses an interest. This not only addresses the common line: "I wish I could afford your work", but I like being a giver. So here's your chance!

It's been frustrating to me that even though I'm often called "famous", due to a life of art and performing, still I feel of very marginal use to this society. Much as I try to make my art available in whatever ways I can, it takes a great deal of PR to raise enough interest in it. (Currently I'm paying thousands of dollars for help with it, to little effect). It's much easier for me to make a living as a landowner. Capital is obviously what our society values most.

What troubles me here is not the lack of attention (who today is not terminally distracted?) but my lacking opportunity to give. It is very true that giving is a gift to the giver! As a musician or actor I offer my services in many ways to my neighbors. But as a visual artist, the only way I have to give is to apply to show my art at a venue, to pay for and throw a party, or to give art away. I actually do all these, but giving away art is the cheapest for me in terms of time and energy. If there is any other career like this, where a trained professional at the top of their game has to work so hard to share their gifts, I'm not aware of it.

Don't worry about me, really. I have a great life that I wouldn't trade for anything! But this gives me a perspective on our culture. I wonder about a society that can't find a use for talent it contains. We know that art is perhaps the most valuable treasure any culture leaves behind, which makes it all the more puzzling. It would be great if we could find a way to value people among us for their unused gifts, like welcoming refugees as enriching assets instead of burdens, instead of as mere cogs in the economy.

Oct 17, 2018

My Forrest Gumpy Life: Political Assassination

An Atlantic news story just broke about a 5-second moment 30 years ago that changed US history. I shake my head that it involves an old friend of mine. I can't explain the Forrest Gumpy principle that puts me so close to some of the stories I print here, but that's not the point; which is that a totally innocuous moment that any of us––were we witnesses to it––would pass unremarked, could so change the course of history!

The moment was when the Democratic frontrunner of the 1988 presidential election, Gary Hart, was sitting on a piling at a dock waiting for a boat when a woman ran up and sat on his knee. Any witness would not be alarmed that a famous man would be so accosted by a fan. But the next day a picture of the incident appeared on the front page of the National Enquirer, with a boat moored nearby named "Monkey Business", which became the name of the "scandal". That moment killed Hart's bid for the presidency and his political career. (Note to youngsters of the pre-pussy-grabbing era: time was when body contact, like sitting on someone's knee, was seen as a blantant sexual act.) What's even more shocking is that the whole incident, including the photo and headline that screamed Hart was having an affair, was a set-up by the Bush campaign, revealed only now! At the time everyone just thought it was a streak of bad luck for Hart. But when the then head of the Republican National Committee lay dying years later, he confessed what he had done to kill Hart's campaign to Ray Strother, the media man for Hart's campaign. Rachel Maddow describes the chain of events that this hit job created in US history.

Strother is a good man. He and his wife Sandy were friends of mine from the days of my political satire group, the Montana Logging and Ballet Co. At the time I stayed at the Strother's house in Washington DC whenever we performed there. It could be I stayed at their place while all this was going on, though of course the truth didn't emerge til all these years later. We've lost touch years ago, but when I heard his name in the news I knew him right away.

I hate how the GOP, which once proudly upheld good, solid values, has sunk into anti-constitutional meddling and outright criminality to seize power. These days it seems Trump is trying to make crime not seem so bad, probably so that when his chickens come home to roost, he'll be just another guy in the lineup. America deserves better than that. Please vote!

[Illustration from Paul Spella, the Atlantic]

Sep 24, 2018

Capitalism v.s. Art

Capitalism is a great system for a lot of things. But the creation of good art is not one of them. A capitalist cannot actually see art because he can only see value in terms of money. Case in point:

A gum-wrap sculpture.
I have actually seen quite a bit of success as an artist in this culture and am grateful for that. I am a strange person, but mostly I am strange as an artist. I am a monastic who lives as a hermit in the wilderness of my studio, daily laboring on the refinement of my artistic prayers. Although I generally finish my work and make it available for display as art, I have increasingly lost interest in the role of “being an artist” in our culture, which only rewards artists as a creators of products of decoration and entertainment and only rarely for meaningful content. There's a long tradition of artists rebelling against the process––inevitable in a capitalist system––of art becoming commodified. But much as artists try to empty art of material the capitalists don't bat an eye as they figure out how to market even conceptual art––art that is nothing but an idea. (You can actually buy an idea for a conceptual work, for a hefty price of course, and take home nothing but a receipt!)

Does this mean my work is without value? Quite the contrary! I have many very devoted single fans who have acquired (been “sold”) a work or sometimes several, who follow my art with interest. But the capitalist system also denies them access to my work unless they either pay for art directly or access an institution that has “hired” my work (usually at some expense to me) for display. Ironically, in this unfriendly environment it's hard to even give my art away without it becoming essentially worthless. A person who's raised in a capitalist world only values something highly when much is paid for it. That means that one who receives something for free often values it little.

So I am stuck as an exile imprisoned in a capitalist culture. I recognize that this is my problem, not yours. But what becomes your problem is finding significant art in a world that can't locate that Holy Grail for you. Art museums are pretty good at picking good art out of history but they are not so good at discerning contemporary art due to the terrific flak flying around the capitalist environment, where discernment is polluted with all manner of commercial activity, personal conflicts of interest and the anti-esthetic pull of fashion. The capitalist world has no way of finding meaning in art (outside the rare appearance of a self-less art critic with taste and a popular platform). If you want art that moves you, you have NO WAY of finding it systematically. Your only hope is to somehow stumble upon it.

Art Should Be Priceless. This art is!

I've always resisted the confluence of art and capitalism, as it commodifies art, which I consider a spiritual gift. SO, I'm embarking on a new twist of the Random Gifts of Art project: giving away pieces of art from among my prime body of work. Yes, as a professional artist it will cut into my income, but I really think this tack will prove helpful to me for a number of reasons:
Tim Holmes with the next artwork.
  • Art should either be free or absolutely priceless.
  • I produce much more art than I ever attempt to sell.
  • Part of the responsibility of my creative gift is to share it.
  • I believe art should be for everyone, not the wealthy alone.
  • There is a lot of mindless decoration and mere bad art in the world.
  • Marketing narrows an artist's work to only salable styles. I wish to share ALL the work I do. 
  • The market is too hung up on art's price and viewers on what they can (or mostly can't) afford.
  • Since I consider my artworks kind of like my kids, I'd rather they live with people I know!
Every month from now on I'm going to offer an artwork (painting, drawing or sculpture) to give to a random person who expresses an interest. Since I really want the works to be displayed instead of just put in a closet, I request that each person expressly ask for any work they appreciate. The random winner will be contacted at the end of the month and the art shipped to them.

And so, if you are interested in joining a pool of people keen on an artwork, check every month at the Tim Holmes Studio Facebook page to add your name. My hope is that the process itself will spread good will and appreciation of art. Come along! The first gift will be posted Oct. 1!

Aug 31, 2018

Technical Difficulties

I've been very quite for the past 4 months, if you noticed. I'm sorry for the gap, unless you really appreciated the silence in which case, you're welcome!

The truth is that I had to have heart surgery and the recovery was rather long. But now I've regained my health and a lot of my crankiness and I'm likely to start posting regularly again. Fair warning.

I hope you do come back for more of my thoughts on art and culture. I do appreciate the dialog!

May 1, 2018

My Forrest Gumpy Life: Almost Shot in Philly

MLBC performs at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington, DC.
Performing is always a risk, but sometimes it's outright dangerous! Our political satire band, the Montana Logging and Ballet Co. performed concerts for a lot of interesting events, political and otherwise. As with any experienced group, especially on the road, we've collected all kinds of war stories, mostly about when things went badly. (Who wants to hear stories about smooth success, after all?)

When we're asked about our worst audience ever, each of us has a different answer. For me the worst was one we were able to avoid. Somehow during the Reagan Revolution the Republican National Convention had heard about how funny we were. They called up our manager, Fitz, and asked him what we charge for a concert. He replied coolly, "$48,000" (about 10 times the highest price we'd ever gotten for a concert!) To his shock they said fine, they wanted to book us! He was able to come to his senses in that moment and said that unfortunately we were too busy, so we were able to avoid what would have been a royal roasting and perhaps untimely end of a good group.

In another case the money must have been very good because we were shocked to hear Fitz announce that we would be performing in Florida for a national conference for a corporate accounting firm. We lined up for them our usual fare; a mix of political satire, comedy and good music or at least what passes for such with us. The night of the concert the first sign of trouble appeared when we watched the audience assemble in the huge conference room. Incredibly, the audience was all men, except for  about 6 or 8 women, who huddled at one table right by the exit! Sure enough, as we went through our show we were amazed how primitive the crowd was, acting like a herd of mindless carnivores. We performed fast, avoiding any jokes that could be taken as dirty and cutting material right and left to get out of there as quickly as possible.

This often happens with a corporate audience, as they're there often to impress their compatriots rather than to have a good time. We experienced the epitome of this effect when a wood products company sent a tone-deaf scout to one of our concerts who unfortunately thought were hilarious and just perfect to perform for a few of the top company managers at their HQ in Seattle. The concert took place on the top floor of their executive building on a small stage set up before an array of cafe tables at which sat a few dozen executives, with the CEO planted front and center. We performed our show, but there was an uncomfortable pause after every joke while everyone glanced at the CEO. If he laughed, then they all laughed; if he did not, they kept silent! (Except for one guy who guffawed alone after a joke and spent the rest of the show cowering in silence. I bet he didn't last the week.) It was one of the most uncomfortable successes of our whole career!

Brother Steve and I bringing high Montana culture to the big city.
But for me, one of the most memorable moments was when we performed for the off-year Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, when there were 5 presidential contenders, each with his own Secret Service bubble, vying for position among the delegates. Granted the security was not as intense as it is now, but with the candidates roaming the floor among a cacophony of wandering delegates, I still I had no business getting clear into the bit I was doing with my brother onstage before thinking it all the way through. Suddenly I realized with the half of my brain that was not trying to remember the routine that in about 3 seconds I was going to pull a fake pistol out of my costume and shoot my brother! "What are the chances", my half-brain said, "that we'll all die in a hail of gunfire when I pull out my toy gun?"

I'm happy to report that we survived, probably saved by the phenomenon all performers hate: the utter invisibility of "background" entertainment. That, and the transaction was so rapid that apparently no one was alarmed. In fact, I'm not even sure anyone noticed that we performed that day. Such is life on the road for a music group, either ignored or targeted. Sometimes both at once!

Apr 23, 2018

My Forrest Gumpy Life: Mom of the Ages

My mom was an amazing woman! Polly Holmes did some incredible things in life, from training fighter pilots instrument flying while she was still a teen, to boldly and bravely renovating the Montana prison system in the 1970's as a Montana legislator, to introducing some of the first smoking-awareness legislation in the US. Though she technically died twice after a horrible car accident in the 60's, which troubled her the rest of her life, and suffered with a congenital heart condition, she was constantly devoted through her life to empowering "unpowered people". As a result, I have not only two siblings, but a whole raft of appreciative people who've claimed my parents as their own after being saved by them in one way or another.

Our family lived in poverty while my dad got his doctorate. One day my mom went to the neighbors to sell them a 1¢ stamp so one of us kids would have enough money for milk at school! (I try never to pass up a penny on the street any more, in honor of the untold sacrifices Mom made.) Nevertheless, I recall a blissfully happy childhood of family camping and car trips to places like Alaska (yes, driving!) We got to experience not only adventure, but witness the everyday battles and thrills of living for the greater purpose that were my parent's lives!

I was astonished later in life to hear the story of her engagement to my dad. When he popped the question she said "Yes, under one condition: that you never make me speak in public!" She of course overcame that fear, but never lost it. At 80 when she was going in for heart surgery my sister asked her if she was scared. "Oh goodness no," she replied, "This isn't half as scary as speaking in public!"

Though she could calmly take on the toughest, meanest politicians, Mom was universally beloved as a person. What qualities I cherish most from her are her inability to hate anyone and her boundless optimism. After seeing how cool and effective she was as a Montana legislator (referred to as "the conscience of the House"), even the meanest politicians carved her a wide birth.

But since this collection is about me, enough about Mom! Let me tell you about my first act of heroism. Somehow by the time my folks were having kids, my dad'd recognized Mom's talents and had talked Mom into finally preaching for him on Mother's Day in 1955. My great rescue came early that morning when I was born, saving her from her moment in the pulpit!

One of the most moving moments at Mom's funeral was when her dear friend and ex-Speaker of the House Hal Harper simply read the titles of some of the legislation she introduced during 10 years as a pioneering woman in the legislature. The breadth of her compassion brought me to tears. Even to her last day she still wrote intelligent hard-hitting editorials for local newspapers. And she never quit working tirelessly to make the world a kinder and gentler place.

Apr 17, 2018

My Forrest Gumpy Life: Dad, The Source of Our Comedy Genes

Dr. Rev. Bob Holmes, was a remarkable man. He was also my Dad! The only reason my siblings and I exist is because he had such a beautiful speaking voice. My mom was writing film scripts for the Methodist publishing world when she hired him to narrate a film, and then another. One thing lead to etc. and soon they were married!

My folks kept comedy alive with Spike Jones numbers.
While in seminary, Dad exposed a particular love for comedy and music. He played jazz piano and for a while was leader of a big band. In the early 40's he started a string of comedy musical groups that did a lot of goofy stuff that was quite popular. Here one can see someting like the early genetics of the Montana Logging and Ballet Co. (MLBC). He also pulled my mom (kicking) into that business. Those two got quite a reputation performing old record pantomimes for church events and the like when we were growing up. Such that––at 8 and 10–– my brother Steve and I would copy in our room numbers that we watched them pantomime.

One such number changed my life quite abruptly one day in 9th grade when, with a single performance, I was instantly launched from the bottom to the top of the social order! At a school talent show I presented a pantomime called Preacher and the Bear. Where I'd one day been the runt of the class and the butt of jokes, the next I was a star and everyone wanted to be my friend, because suddenly I was funny. (Maybe football isn't the way to impress girls!)

In high school Steve and I performed some of these comedy bits for one show and another, and were soon known as a comedy team. Years later when the MLBC got going, this was one of the threads that survived in our repertoire for many years until all our material was replaced with original work. (It was one of these pantomimes that nearly got us shot in Philly. I'll get to that, hang on.)

The last I recall Mom and Dad performing was at their 50th wedding anniversary when so many of their friends gathered to watch them act goofy at nearly 80 years old! It was a real treasure. I suppose I will continue to perform comedy, as I always have. If I last until age 85, that will mark 100 years of goofy comedy in my family, an intellectual and spiritual place where––seriously––it really has no place being!

Apr 7, 2018

My Forrest Gumpy Life: Godspell and Joan Rivers

In my undergrad years at Rocky Mountain College I undertook a triple-major in art, drama and music. There in 1975 I was cast in a role in the musical Godspell, that turned out to have a profound and lasting effect on my life. The production was directed by Larry Whitely from the professional Godspell circuit. Our little production ended up being a pretty big hit that played for weeks in Billings, and then eventually toured throughout the region. The play, based on the gospel of Matthew, featured me as Jesus, my brother Steve as Jesus' right-hand-man, John the Baptist/Judas, and several of our lifelong friends, like Nancy Harper with whom I still sing in church choir every week now. Promoting the show brought a former Rocky student, Bob FitzGerald and his buddy (Nancy's brother) Rusty onto the Rocky staff, (both also in said choir) who eventually formed a group with Steve and I called the Montana Logging and Ballet Co., which became famous in its own right.

But I digress. our show became somewhat of a phenomenon, quite successful at Rocky, and pretty sweet for me as it launched me on the road of a number of subsequent Godspell productions around Montana. In fact that summer I got a call from Larry asking if I would be willing to take the "Jesus" role for actor on the east coast since he was moving to the Broadway production. I said yes and opened within a week at a theater in Stockbridge, Mass., where I was the youngest and the only non-professional cast member. My dressing room had just hosted Leonard Nimoy, who'd just closed a performance run there (and whose name I myself removed from the door!)

Stockbridge is also the site of the famous Arlo Guthrie album (who makes an appearance elsewhere in my narrative) and his hilarious story of Alice's Restaurant. But that's another story altogether.

Joan Rivers and John Davidson on the talk show set.
The funnest story I recall came in the form of a call from a small local TV station in nearby Buffalo, NY. They requested that the "star" of our show come for an interview, so I was sent over. I arrived on the set of this small-time TV station and was introduced to the local host and his two other guests from another production also passing through: John Davidson and Joan Rivers! (I don't know much about him but she was perhaps the first really great American female comedian!) The host basically ignored me, but every so often would ask me some innocuous question about some local restaurant or something I would have no earthly idea about, making me seem pretty irrelevant. Joan recognized what was happening and so she graciously took over the interview! She asked me a string of very interesting questions about my show, she was very funny and we had a great time. I'd even say she saved my bacon! (That is if I wasn't vegetarian). I will always be grateful to her for rescuing me from that embarrassing situation.

Mar 25, 2018

My Forrest Gumpy Life: A Film Career with John Carradine

Appearing as a miner on set for filming in 1976.
There are chapters in my life that seem absolutely unbelievable, though perfectly true. For instance I was once hired to play a scene in a film opposite the legendary actor John Carradine, of Grapes of Wrath fame! This was a made-for-TV film I auditioned for when I was 20 or so. The film was a story about a coal mine disaster, called Christmas Miracle in Caufield, USA, starring Kurt Russell, Melissa Gilbert and Michael Ryan. For this scene I played a homeless drifter playing harmonica on the street when John's character came along and the two of us engaged in a short conversation.

As you might have guessed, the scene was ultimately cut from the film and I appeared only as a miner in the background of a couple of scenes. But I did get to hang out with the actors and watch a film being shot on location, a new and interesting experience for me, who would later help start a film company (did I mention unbelievable chapters? That will be addressed in time...) Sadly, the film was not that great, but the experience was unforgettable!

It was a decade or so later that a very similar thing happened to my father. He auditioned for and was cast in a film that was being shot near our Montana home, one that you no doubt know of as the classic  A River Runs Through It. Dad was cast as a newspaper editor by Robert Redford, who went out of his way to find historic precedent for a bearded editor at the time specifically so Dad wouldn't have to shave his beard. But alas, the shooting schedule was severely delayed, which finally edged Dad out of the role as he had a commitment in Europe to fulfill. So both our film careers ended up "on the cutting room floor". But they couldn't strip us of the gripping story, of Dad's being cast in a classic and my having once been hired to play opposite a great film star!

Mar 21, 2018

My Forrest Gumpy Life: The Furthest Light

"Foundations of the Universe" Metaphysical Map detail, by Holmes.
Some years ago I was in Washington DC for an exhibition of my work during which I visited with some old friends. I've known Meg and Harry Ferguson for some years and they've even bought some of my art. They had cooked a nice dinner at their house and we'd talked about our lives and what their kids were up to and I finally got to ask Harry about one of my favorite topics: his work. He has been on the Hubble Telescope team since that marvelous instrument was sent up in the 90's to become the best eye humanity has on the cosmos. I wanted an update of what they're doing with the scope.

He told about an idea they were working on, a project now well-known as Hubble Deep Field, where they found a particularly dark part of the night sky and photographed a tiny patch of it (what amounts to as much as a tennis ball viewed at 100 yards) for several nights in a row. Then they piled the photos on top of each other to see what was there. To everyone's surprise, the field was crammed full of distant galaxies! It must have been my dropped jaw that prompted him to take me up to one of his kid's rooms and crank up a small personal computer with a book-sized screen, as I recall.

He pulled up an image––a white screen with a bunch of faint black dots––and he explained to me what we were looking at: every one of those dots was a distant galaxy, in fact the most distant objects humans had ever seen! I had to pause a moment to take stock of my situation: Here I was, lucky enough to live in a time when humanity had invented and deployed this most amazing eye in all of history, which my friend was in charge of, and which results I was now getting to witness first hand: the most distant, oldest images in the whole universe ever seen by humans! And among the few of those who got to see that first image, I was now one! ...Thank you, Harry.

I recall as a 5-year-old lying on my back in the yard, looking up into the night sky and seeing the light moving across the sky that was the first satelite, Sputnik. I've watched the moon landing on TV and the Chellenger shuttle explosion and now even a guy's private car in space... I've witnessed the whole arc of the space age. It's astonishing to me to live in this particular window in time!

Mar 15, 2018

My Forrest Gumpy Life: The Great Mundell Lowe

Mundell (foreground) in the recording studio.
The Montana Logging and Ballet Co. got to work with some amazing people over our career. One piece of astonishing luck was gaining the attention of one of America's great jazz guitarists, Mundell Lowe, (1922-2017, recently featured on an NPR special hour as an Unsung Hero). Mundell played with the great jazz musicians of his time, like Benny Goodman, Billie Holiday and Elvis. He also ran the Monterey Jazz Festival for many years.

Mundell volunteered to be the producer and arranger of our two music albums, which we cut in San Diego, not only producing the sound, but writing and arranging the scores, hiring all the musicians, booking the studio and engineers; everything!

Not only did Mundell play a little guitar for the album, but among the greats he hired to back up us boom-chicka-boys was the late legendary guitarist Tommy Tedesco, who's listed as the most recorded guitarist in history! It is said that he could sight read for any stringed instrument as soon as he knew its tuning. And he has a reputation for playing flawlessly. The other musicians told us a story about how once during another session an orchestra was recording a number when suddenly Tommy stopped playing and put his head down on his stand. Everyone stopped and looked at him. Silence descended on the studio. The great Tommy Tedesco had made a mistake!

That's the kind of musicians we had backing us up on our albums. Of course we had the time of our lives recording with these guys. And the whole enterprise was undertaken by one of the great musicians of our time, Mundell Lowe. We are forever grateful to him.

Mar 7, 2018

My Forrest Gumpy Life: Aliens Cometh

The "Rocky Group" promoted Rocky Mountain College.
The "Rocky Group" that later became the Montana Logging Ballet and Co. was on a tour in rural Montana in 1975, the year that there were a series of troubling cattle mutilations in the area. We'd been hearing for months that about every night cattle in north central Montana would be subject to mysterious attacks, which all had similar characteristics: the left ear and genitals were cut off the corpses and all the blood would be drained. In fact no one knew of any machine that could drain blood so effectively. And there were never any footprints. So the rumors circled around aliens and UFO's. Some ranchers had even pooled a reward of $1000 to anyone who could crack the mystery. We were tempted to dive in like a bunch of real gumshoes just because the story was so intriguing.

So it was that one night after a series of concerts the four of us ended up staying with a couple in the tiny town of Belt, Montana. We stayed up late with the woman––an old college chum of Fitz and Rusty's––telling jokes and drinking ginger ale, when suddenly she launched into a story that amazed us all. She said that she actually didn't work in a print shop like she said, but a secret government lab that is researching the cattle mutilations! We were beside ourselves with curiosity and begged her to tell us what she knew. Here is her tale.

She said there are at least three labs around the nation, researching different elements of the phenomena, each in isolation from the others. In fact, all she knew about the others is that they received frozen samples from a lab in California, did some tests on the samples, then expressed them on to another lab in Missouri. What their small team was charged with was trying to determine what material was used to cut the flesh of the cattle. So far over the few months they had been working they had not been able to identify any material that left the markings that they were seeing in the flesh samples, which only served to underline the alien theories.

Needless to say, we were all stunned and amazed to be let in on as much of the secret as she knew, which was not enough to determine anything. Obviously, this woman had been busting at the seams trying to keep her secret in this small town, secrets that we––her old friends from far away––had allowed her to let out of the bag. She told us we had to keep the secret for years, which we of course did. Now I think it's safe...

There was never a resolution of the mystery. To this day there has been no attribution of responsibility. The thousands of cases across the country over decades remain unsolved. But the MLBC is still hoping to get that $1000. Maybe we could record a song about not being good enough sleuths.

Feb 27, 2018

My Forrest Gumpy Life: Brush with a Murderer

One of the strangest chapters of my life involves an encounter with a hugely famous music producer who worked with the Beatles, Ike and Tina Turner and many other pop groups. Phil Spector was widely known for creating the "wall of sound" that characterized much of 60's pop music. 

I was 14 years old, walking around an art show in Monterey when when this guy came up to me and introduced himself, saying he liked my look and wanted to audition me to appear in a film! I was flattered with the offer and soon we met for an interview. And so began a series of meetings with him that seemed as though I was headed into a career as a film actor. I would later characterize the relationship as little more than rather mild case of sexual abuse––an older man's inappropriate attraction to a young one––but at the time, it was pretty exciting. I didn't know until years later that he was actually a very famous guy. He rented a series of fancy houses close to Carmel, where I spent summers with my family. He'd come pick me up in a snazzy sports car and take me to his house, which was full of gold records on the walls and we would discuss vague details of the script of a film. I recall meeting him several times over a couple years, most of which were fairly innocuous incidents where he'd cook me a great meal or take me into town to buy me fancy clothes. He even came to visit the family a couple times, so none of us suspected much.

The most memorable encounter was when he drove me once to a house in the woods near Big Sur. We'd just arrived and were about to make lunch when he saw someone outside and told me to hide! I stood behind the couch while he crept about trying to keep away from a woman who was climbing around outside looking in the windows and calling to him. She finally saw Phil and called out to him to open the door. Caught, he let her in and he introduced me to a woman, Candice, whose last name I forgot. We sat in the living room and she took a real interest in me, asking me for instance about the sermon my dad had preached that morning in a local church. It wasn't til I got home later that afternoon that I told my family the story and described her work that my Mom recognized who I was referring to: the great actress, Candice Bergen!

Phil even came to Montana once to visit me, but he lost interest as I kept demanding more explanations, finding little evidence of a film; just a creepy old guy with a peculiar interest in a youngster. It was about 25 years later that Phil, who'd become strange and reclusive as he got older, say his friends, was pegged in a huge national scandal which resulted in his conviction for the 2003 murder of actress Lana Clarkson.

Feb 21, 2018

My Forrest Gumpy Life

How much farther removed from the mainstream of American life can one be than where I am today?
Montana Logging and Ballet Co. providing cultural perspective.
And yet, I came within a hair's breadth of appearing onstage with the next president of the US. How do such things happen, and why is my life so strangely full of these inexplicable synchronistic events?

The backstory: I am currently recovering from shoulder surgery and am basically under house arrest here at the very edge of civilization, in Helena, Montana, where I live. One could hardly be more distantly positioned from the pulse of public attention. Recently I wrote a song my group was to play for an event, until unforeseen circs cut us out of the schedule. One likely candidate for the presidency in 2020, VP Joe Biden (who had us play for other events years ago) is coming to my little town to appear at an annual Democratic dinner soon.

I've been for decades a member of the Montana Logging and Ballet Co., a political satire group that was active for decades before retiring three years ago. It just so happens that I wrote a song, Alt Facts, that members of our group did for this event last year. It turns out the song was a hit that garnered a standing ovation from a very appreciative audience. This lead to an invitation for us to return this year with a new song. Well, I happened to spawn an idea for a new song, The Great Ship GOP, and the time to develop it while I recovered from my surgery. So by barely lifting a finger we were positioned to appear in this rare event! (I'll post more about the song when we record it.)

The fact that performing the new song before an audience didn't "go through the formality of actually happening" hardly matters to me. The opportunity was there! Whether they did or did not happen it occurrs to me that my life is stuffed with such amazing stories! It seems every few days I run across evidence of some little incident from my life that seems at once both huge and ephemeral. Things like hanging out once with comedian Buddy Hackett in a pool watching him do hilarious tricks with a cigarette, or getting a private concert by (and playing frisbee with) the great guitarist Julian Bream, or my being asked to create a large sculpture to be placed in the center of Vienna. Or meeting people like Jane Goodall, great political satirists Mark Russell and Tom Toles, pianist Van Cliburn, Poncho Villa's wife (at 103 years old!), or giving a speech on the same Earl Lecture roster as Teddy Roosevelt.
What I find so intriguing is that these Forrest-Gump-like appearances on the edges of earthshaking events have been happening all my life. It's almost like I live the most interesting life in the world and I'm only becoming really aware of it just now at this late date as I see the pattern emerge out of my own history. It feels as though I'm involved in a story that begins "How close can you get to historic events without actually leaving a trace?" So I decided to start collecting these very short stories, partly just as a way of remembering because sometimes no one else was there to witness it! This is the first installment in what I'm calling My Forrest Gumpy Life.  Follow along if you like...

Jan 22, 2018

The Meaning of Work

"Finn Cellist" by Tim Holmes
Work has become so central to the meaning of our lives, it presents a hidden danger that we'd be wise to address. This wonderful Andy Beckett article points out many of the problems that seem invisible to much of contemporary discourse. In fact, it's rather strange to me that for all the common talk of the coming digital revolution, the approach of AI in every sector of our lives and the rise of inequality around the world, there is so little attention paid to what work means. Politicians use "JOBS" as shorthand for the good life, never addressing what underlies the concept. We cling to the idea that work gives meaning to life without really examining that concept.

All my adult life I recall hearing predictions that automation and democracy would assure us that work would be gradually replaced as the work week would grow shorter, workers would have more time off for home and family, and the creative pursuits would edge out labor as our prime occupation. But every such prediction only led us all to more work. What gives?

Partly it's our own fault for opting so often for increasing work and money rather than quality of life. But also we are all subsumed in a value system promoted by the omnipresent consumerist culture, exerting constant pressure on us and from which we can never escape. Then there is a secularist efficiency-driven trajectory of modern times that seems to minimize the value of anything that doesn't proceed from empty materialistic thinking.

For being so wise and creative, sometime humans strike me as being incredibly clueless! How can we spend decades of our lives plodding toward a future that, when it finally is achieved, will horrify us? Our relationship to work seems one of those dangerous areas where if we don't think ahead we may end up voluntarily imprisoning ourselves in a mechanical, boring future.

Jan 5, 2018

Beloved Imagination

I live with a wonderful dog named Imagination. He has more talents than you can shake a stick at. He's not a professional dog with a career and a chance to fulfill himself elsewhere; he's a house dog who collects unemployment, lying faithfully at my feet all day, staring longingly into my eyes while I persue mine. This is truly unfair.

I've seen him take a trail off into the woods beyond our garden on a furious exploration, returning only when my whistle becomes tinged less by desire and more by insistence. Yet there's something about his limitless adventurism––well beyond mine––that frightens me. I worry he'd get into some trouble; hurt some neighbor kid or jump a No Trespassing fence (can't read, but if he even if he could that concept would seem silly), or jump a freighter to Taiwan and be gone! It's too frightening to contemplate.

So I keep him close, never letting him beyond my sight. We take walks every day but those are never enough to satisfy him. He'd love to take me on a grand adventure but I'm kind of a home guy.

And yet... those eyes. Those haunting, pleading eyes!

Recently that got to me and I stood up. He bounded to the door as if he knew. I opened it and he whooshed out and spun around for his partner. But I just stood in the doorframe and waved him off. "Go on. It's OK, go." He did a figure eight, raced away and spun again, half crouching to the ground in the universal display of "well?" I was tempted but after a few steps I stopped. "No, you go. Really. You deserve it, Mag." I watched him get up and trot out the gate. He sniffed around in the weeds outside our fence, skimming the headlines, always looking back, tempting me. I waved him on. Go! Sniff, look, wave, sniff, look. Finally he riveted on one fascinating unfolding story and followed it off into the looming woods. I had gone inside.

I hated myself for letting him go like that, against all my fears. But after dark just as I sat down to dinner Mag trotted back to join me as if he'd been merely conked out on the grass. He was tired but those Magical eyes brimmed with the lights of mysterious adventure of Love, while I'd been home piling gifts on the altar of my Fear.

Next morning before Matins I again let him out. Figure eight, crouch, wave, sniff, look, wave, sniff, look, wave. Then Maj vanished into the dark shape of the trees beyond the figure-smeared pyramid of light spilling from the door I closed. I worried, once again, that this might be the last I'd see him and spent the rest of the day in mourning. But again that night Mag returned, this time bringing in a strange object, laying it carefully by my boots inside the door. It was a piece of driftwood, battered smooth and greyed from years abroad but impaled by an ancient, worn bronze spike, the very last word in a long and perhaps tragic tale. It appeared to be a bite out of an antique ship. (To this day it rests on my bookshelf). It seemed like Mag was living a richer life than I was! I had to expand my limits. He was getting all Love, while I harvested only Fear.

So we've reached an understanding at last. I'm working to put my fears to rest in order to move deeper into the life he's so good at engaging. Imagination is a wild creature that I do not understand, intelligent in ways I cannot know. His exuberance frightens me, yes, but he has a life of his own every bit as vital and worthy of expression as mine. I will never know his full story––only the hints that are shared––but at least we can share our quest. So I will swallow my fear and Imagination and I will adventure together. I must breathe deep, let go and trust in the mystery like Imagination does. Like him, I will trust that we're all lavished with equally pure Love. We just have to step out and take it!

Dec 20, 2017

What is Oppressive About Beauty?

What I hear from some women who are important to me is that my art
"Water Wall", pencil, by Tim Holmes
contributes to the oppression of women because of the beauty I find in young, healthy, nubile women. This springs from the same common appreciation that is used to exploit women for commercial purposes (which is exactly why it works!) and therefore my art comes across as being exploitive in a similar way. I'm sorry if that is the case, but please help me understand why. What is my responsibility as an artist?
It's as if there's no difference between soft porn (where the body is raked clean of personal value to foster easy objectification) and what I do, which is emphasize the whole woman. In my mind I am expressing the delight I feel in beauty and there's nothing oppressive about that. I treat the male figure the same way (emphasizing young healthy, well-developed bodies), but there's apparently no oppression felt in that case, probably because there's little oppression of men in our patriarchal society. I recognize all of that but it leaves me unable to understand my responsibilities in light of it. I feel a little bit like––in a world that is overfished––it's bad for me to find beauty in fish because that only encourages people to eat more fish. But I feel that speaks of a lack of imagination on the other's part rather than a failure of responsibility on my own. 

Yes I understand that we need to expand our vision of beauty to include, for instance, older saggy women because they too are beautiful. But I would say that their beauty is not aesthetic, as in young women. I insist that the reason we find young flesh so captivating is because it is true across nature that young, healthy animals are the pinnacle of beauty for that species. If you disagree with me I would like to challenge you to show us images that support your argument. There is a way in which older people look like overripe fruit; a little bit wrinkly and saggy. I would humbly suggest that's because mature beauty migrates inside. It's nature that designed it that way, not me. I'm just a witness to what nature has provided.

There's no difference in worth between those two instances but we talk about beauty all of a sudden there is a value judgment, for the same reason that ripe food is beautiful and the overripe fruit less so. That does not negate the value of the overwrite fruit. Speaking for myself I'm simply registering beauty as physical in this one narrow regard. (The visual sight of ripe fruit is more esthetically "beautiful" than the overripe. Without that sense we'd soon get sick on bad fruit. Do you not agree?)

Oppression is definitely bad, women have been severely oppressed and the beauty industry, like the porn industry, makes huge profits on that abuse. I find that a terrible shame, but it in no way diminishes a woman's beauty. Is that a fault on my part? It makes me wonder if the female objection to my argument isn't rooted in resistance to oppression rather than in appreciation of beauty. I certainly understand if it's the former, and I hope all people take up that struggle. But if the latter is true I'd like to see examples of old, wrinkly people who are depicted in such away that many viewers would find them physically beautiful. What I imagine is not that such examples don't exist, but that most people would see their beauty as inner, not outer; because of nature. That again is not my fault.

Do I have a responsibility to negate my appreciation of beautiful young flesh? Does diminishing the one help enhance the other? Perhaps the argument goes that if we had 100 years of looking at old wrinkly flesh that would become the standard of beauty. But I humbly suggest that if that's the case it would go against nature. Nature has designed young healthy animals to survive and I think that's why we find them beautiful, because their fitness is visible. Is it preferable to move culture away from nature? If beauty is democratizing, does it have any purpose? Does nature have an answer? Or is the solution we seek one that answers oppression rather than aesthetics? Please add your thoughts here. I think it is very important and especially for artists who care about human dignity!


Dec 17, 2017

Jesus Is My Spouse

I shiver, curled in one corner of our bed
"Penetration", graphite, by Tim Holmes
Yet another unyielding night alone
Dreaming of his dank-warm body,
his tender caresses that fired my blood,
     filling me with the light of salvation,
     now some distant recollection.

Every need must feel harsh as mine!
How many lepers would I condemn,
How many tax collectors fall
Were I to request a night of him?
I could've loved a fishmonger
    Who'd deign to share my smelly bed
    My Lord, must you so test my faith?

I heard Mary had asked for you, they say
You answered, Who is my mother?
See, I dare not lift my head in plea!
I prefer this stoic silence to such death
That, night upon frigid night,
     Lies across my trembling flesh
     So intimately I'm called his wife!

I wonder how soon I'll starve
Here in the stark, long shadow
Of the most loving man in time.

-Tim Holmes

Dec 3, 2017

Killer Robots Need to be Addressed NOW!

We cannot delay talking about killer robots. Their time is here! If you've seen the pathetic videos of humanoid robots falling over at the DARPA challenge, it's time to look again. Robots are now very dexterous, like this one doing a backflip! But it's not these termintor-type robots that most concern me.

A recent article captures our attention with the line: "The most terrifying film of the year didn’t come from Hollywood." It's a chilling short video I would encourage everyone to watch, a shocking but realistic depiction (fictional, partly) of what autonomous weapons mean for humanity. The UN just concluded its first ever meeting on autonomous robots with many nations moving into rapid-action mode, trying to curtail the mega-death technology that is now available.  Without a massive public campaign to stop them, we will see them unleashed on humans in the very near future. The technology is already here.

I encourage everyone to sign the letter against autonomous weapons, that circulated at the UN conference. The pace of change is more rapid than even I (an expert of sorts in the developments of AI) can keep track of. I recently spearheaded a series of symposia to try to foster public dialog about the rise of AI among us so more people could understand what is at stake. (Here's the most recent)*. Though they were popular and successful, the thing that struck me the most is how cavalier attendees were about the dangers, most having an understanding of AI that lags years behind current developments. We tend to think of machines being subservient to us. But we are entering a new era of AI where they have their own agenda that we cannot penetrate. Also, many of the dangers I see are quite subtle and would only become apparent to most people in retrospect, after action is futile. No matter how unpleasant, we MUST talk about these issues now before it is too late!

*Ironically, the maker of this film, AI guru Russell Stuart, was scheduled to present at our latest Helena symposium but we didn't raise enough money to bring him!

Nov 10, 2017

The Newest Citizen is a Robot

Humanity has entered a new era. Last week a robot was granted citizenship. This robot, called Sophia, is basically just an articulated head, but unlike anything we've seen before, she is beautiful (modeled after Audrey Hepburn), has flexible skin, and shows about 70 different expressions. You have to see her in action to appreciate how incredible she is. Yes, it's very cool! And it seem rather harmless to grant this pile of bolts citizenship, since we all know no toaster can threaten our civil rights. But there are dangers that have suddenly entered the room and the more we peel back those implications, the more we can see our own future at risk.

When a machine is given the same rights as a person, it both elevates the machine and demotes the human. I find it tragic that the nation that granted Sophia citizenship is Saudi Arabia. I wonder how the Saudi women feel about it since they are second-class citizens to begin with! If she could vote (which she can't because the nation is not a democracy) who is it whose desire is expressed, the machine or the programmer? This question can never be answered. God only knows! (In this case that's the programmer).

AI improves exponentially, whereas the human will only grow at evolutionary speed. Therefor humans are soon to be subsumed. It doesn't feel that way to us because of the obvious distance between the human and the cyborg. But that distance is rapidly dimminishing. There are stratified layers of dangers that will unfold beneath this one, but let me just highlight one: when the robot says she is "sentient", we have no way of knowing. In our slice of time we can be sure she is not, but a learning machine will cross that boundary before long. How will we know when if she's said that all along?

You now share the world with a mechanical citizen. Robots are fighting for "rights" like yours. Is that OK with you? When a machine takes your job in the next few years, how will you convince the world of your value when you become too expensive for employment? How do you feel being a human at this juncture?

Nov 6, 2017

Will AI Erase Human Meaning?

I'm a painter, among other things. So I find myself thinking of the following scenario.
What if I had a smart pallet that knew what color I was going to choose next, and would mix just that amount of color right before I needed it? I'm afraid that the result would be not that I'd appreciate the help, but that I'd suffer from a creeping feeling that I was not the originator of the painting, but merely some kind of servant of some other painter entity who had the idea I was simply carrying out.

The assumption of AI development is that humans want help with everything and that an automated world is a better world. We tend to think of AI in very simplistic terms, like it's all about making our chores easy. It's unfortunate that something as central to humanity's future as the development of AI lends itself so easily to wide misunderstanding. A person really has to spend time studying and thinking about the issues to begin to understand what's truly at stake. I've been doing so for years and even now I keep encountering new and troubling questions.

While some might appreciate automated decision-making, I wonder if the coming of AI will serve to make human life increasingly meaningless. If there's one thing we of the consumerist culture have learned, it's that marketers are masters at instilling in us desires for things we don't need (which incidentally happens to be what they're selling). What they're not good at is asking us what would make our lives more meaningful! And when it comes to marketing AI that could be deadly, producing a world of valueless citizens for whom life would be increasingly empty.

This represents the kind of thing that troubles me about the coming AI tsunami: not so much the overt affect of AI infusing our lives, but the subtle implications of what that will do to the qualities of lived human life that no one is paid to examine but that we'll all be subject to! 

The future of all of humanity is on the line, so we should all be in on the conversation about what it is we want of the future. That's why I've helped put together such a public discussion this week, called Vulnerable Humans, Predictable Machines, the third of three symposia, and written a play showing this week about it. I don't want to wake up one day to a world where our future has been finally determined by corporations. Now is the time to speak up if you agree.

Nov 3, 2017

Facing the AI Threat wth Humor

Experts agree that the biggest challenge humans face with the development of AI is that of keeping the machine from wiping out the humans. (If you're not familiar with this, it's totally true!) While the threat we fear most is a Terminator-type extermination, the one that causes me growing concern is more subtle. It looks more like a human-driven value system that gradually seduces us away from our inborn but flawed human qualities toward a more mechanical response to life (as in my TED talk, The Erotic Crisis). Yes, the machine will be anti-human and have values that will astound us, but the true danger comes not from the machine but from ourselves. I've written a short play, Felix, the Robot Assistant, that explores this.

The danger I see blooms from the person that we inevitably become in attempting to make ourselves invulnerable; we re-envision ourselves as super-humans, minus what we see as the "flaws" built-in by nature . We were designed with and survived millions of years of evolution sporting some the very vulnerabilities that most of us would like to jettison: pain, weakness, indecision; even sickness and death! We figure we are now smart enough to compensate for any disagreeable traits we don't wish to keep among our species.

It's like we are building a suit of medieval armor: first we gird our vulnerabilities, then we make the protections as strong, light and flexible as possible, seeking maximum protection at minimum cost. We then continue to improve our armor, making it increasingly ubiquitous, automatic, even capable of autonomy should we fall asleep in our defended cocoon. There is no end to this process. In seeking maximum protection, we minimize any soft ("human") quality and maximize the powerful, the impressive, the intelligent. In other words we become increasingly imprisoned inside the shell of our technology until one day, we become irrelevant; shriveled, starved creatures wasting away, unable to escape our own creation. This is a very God-like stance and I submit that playing God will only prove fatal for any entity that is not God.

In writing Felix, I kept in mind a number of sobering recent incidents that have indicated our current trajectory with AI. One is the creation of Sophia, a robot with nearly 70 different expressions. She talks about robot rights in this film, (about 6:00 in), or here, where she speaks to a crowd, or here, where her emotions are spoken of (12:00 in). She's quite attractive, but note where your attachment comes from. (Last week Sophia was even granted citizenship by Saudi Arabia! I wonder how the Saudi women feel about that??)

Dr. Hiroshi Ishiguro, is a robot developer who created an autonomous robot doppelganger of himself. It is quite alarming to see the two of them side-by-side in interviews, like identical twins. In one interview Hiroshi admits he’s undergoing plastic surgery to become more like his android. In another, an interviewer asks Dr. Ishiguro if he doesn't regret the fact that this robot has become his whole life and identity. Surprisingly, he answers that in fact the robot is what distinguishes him in the world. "The reason you are here interviewing me is because of him [the robot]", he says. He has traded his autonomy for notoriety. Is this not the temptation we all face with unfolding technology?

In this case, there is an obvious motivation on the part of the doctor to blur the distinction between the two. The more capable and naturalistic the robot is, the better it reflects on the doctor's skill. So what's to prevent him from appearing himself more mechanical than the robot? This is not beyond imagination as it only serves his greater purpose (as it would serve the robot's purpose if the machine actually became conscious).

These issues are pivital to the future of humanity, a conversation to which we all should be contributing. This is why I've been dedicated to fostering public dialog about AI and humanity. Love to hear your thoughts!

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Tim Holmes Studio

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I'm a sculptor/filmmaker living in Montana, USA. I am using art to move the evolution of humanity forward into an increasingly responsive, inclusive and interactive culture. As globalization flattens peoples into a capitalist monoculture I hope to use my art to celebrate historical cultural differences and imagine how we can co-create a rich future together.

I see myself as an artist/philosopher laboring deep in the mines of joy. I've had a good long career of exhibiting work around the world and working on international outreach projects, most notably being the first American to be invited to present a one-person exhibit in the Hermitage Museum. Recently I have turned my attention from simply making metal sculpture to creating films and workshops for engaging communities directly, tinkering with the very ideas and mechanisms behind cultural transformation. I feel that as we face tragic world crises, if the human species favors our imaginative and creative capacities we can cultivate a rich world to enjoy.

For me the deepest satisfaction in making art comes in engaging people's real life concerns rather than providing simple entertainment or decoration. Areas of conflict or tension are particularly ripe for the kind of transformative power that art uniquely carries. I invite any kind of challenge that serves people on a deep level.