view stage three: part four here.

04.27.10 Stage Three DVD Release

As one reader put it, The Illuminated Thread has "clipped the treetops." The ambition is to join the workforce in Tucson, where i've already been for some time, until i can afford to move forward. While you should expect occasional updates and new vids, things will be pretty quiet here for at least a month or so.

The good news is that a break means it's time to release a compilation. Stage Three (SD DVD) has twenty new vignettes and a handful of extras that won't appear online. Donate $25 and i'll mail you a copy. Stage Three: Overture and Stage One/Two disks are also available.

04.22.10 The Boneyard

Neil and I chat about photography, art and post-apocalyptic aesthetics while he paces me through a sunset shooting session. Neil lives in this aviation scrapyard just off Davis Monthan AFB and makes furniture from aircraft fragments. The walls of his open-air shower are aluminum wing sections and the floor is paved with concrete tiles: little green plants sprouting in the cracks between them.

Clips are ordered chronologically and the audio remains synched with its corresponding video. As you can probably tell, Neil and I got along well.

04.19.10 Ray Mine

This piece has been holding up the workflow for over a week. I was there for over three hours waiting for the big event so there was a lot of footage to process.

The Hayden Smelter at the vid's end is twenty miles south of the mine. After some sifting, the ore makes its way there in railcars. The first and last shots of the piece are the only two with a horizon. The intent was to begin with the pit (the negative) and end with the tailings pile (the positive), illustrating the literal moving of a mountain.

Notice how energy intensive the operation is. The shovels are electric but those enormous loaders burn vast amounts of diesel. When the price of the fuel reaches $4 a gallon, copper mining, even at this scale and efficiency, becomes unprofitable.

04.18.10 ASARCO Mission Mine

One of the largest open-pit copper mining operations in the country, they're the only one of Arizona's giants to provide a tour. Highly recommended if you find yourself in the Tucson area.

04.18.10 Twin Buttes Mine (dormant)

left: Evidently some time ago, folks gazed down into this pit through these rectangles cut out of the fence. A monitor was probably nested inside the housing on top that yellow pole.

right: My campsite just off the precipitous edge of the crater.

I'm pretty happy with this one. The mine has been idle since 1994 and although some of the roads were freshly tracked, a lot of desert vegetation has returned. Since there was no one around to chase me off, I settled in and did some time lapse. Compressing time is appropriate for this site because it's changing so much more slowly now than it ever was durring its active phase. The audio track is a recording I did at the Ray Mine-- it's quiet and subtle, wear headphones.

04.18.10 Titan Missile Museum

upper left: Fuel tank. Aerozine 50 (hydrazine and dimethylhydrazine) and dinitrogen tetroxide.

upper right: If the (6,000-pound) blast door becomes inoperative, it's time to panic. Love the stencil.

middle left: They really stuck to the seafoam green motif.

middle right: So Star Wars.

lower left: The re-entry vehicle. This is the piece with the 9-megaton warhead that hits the ground.

lower right: Vintage "soft" antenna. That's a calcium carbonate mine in the background.

04.18.10 Biosphere 2

What did we learn from this experiment? One: that it's really difficult to engineer a closed ecosystem at even a fraction of the earth's complexity and two: science remains tainted by human drama.

04.15.10 Tucson Timeline

Tucson is shaping up to be the perfect town to cap off Stage Three. Besides using it as a base for reconnaissance runs to points south, I'm sticking around for a bunch of bicycle events this weekend. Long, espresso-fueled days with Final Cut have become the routine. My next move is still unclear. I might join a group of riders heading north, look for work here, or fly back to California. I expect to release a DVD of new work within a week. I'm broke so they'll be $25.

04.10.10 Day Thirty-three: (April 9, 2010) Oracle, AZ to Tucson, AZ

left: Six VW busses all needing gas at the same time-- what are the chances?

right: My lazy-eyed tour guide at Biosphere 2.

04.10.10 Day Thirty-two: (April 8, 2010) Globe, AZ to Oracle, AZ

left: My sleeping bag drying in the morning sun.

right: Highway 60 looking east toward the Miami Mine.

04.07.10 Day Thirty-one: (April 7, 2010) Superior, AZ to Globe, AZ

left: We'll cross that bridge when we come to it. Then go through a tunnel. Then Climb 1,700 feet into a headwind.

right: Dayglow green slime collects at the edge of a tailings pond.

04.07.10 Day Thirty: (April 6, 2010) Scottsdale, AZ to Superior, AZ

upper right: The old Superior High School.

lower left: Superior sunset. Resolution Copper Mining's disused furnace stack watches stoically over town.

lower right: A piece of derelict copper mining infastructure.

04.05.10 the end of the road.

In just over a week I'll reach the end of my cash reserves and will be unable to push farther east. Eric has already bailed, catching a flight out of Phoenix over the weekend. So the plan is to take the scenic route to Tucson, venturing deep into the mountains to look at half a dozen copper mines, then end the stage there. Biosphere 2, an ICBM silo and "The Boneyard" will be among the stage's final sites.

04.05.10 Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station

This is the fourth nuclear power plant i've visited and lacking both cooling towers and scenic coastal surroundings, it was a bit of a let down. It's the country's newest and largest, built to satisfy the Southwest's astonishing demand for power, and cost nearly six billion dollars. Wastewater from the city of Pheonix is piped in for cooling. I must not have ventured close enough since the only plant security officers I spotted were picking up lunch at the general store in town.

04.05.10 Tehachapi Wind Farm

Anyone into vintage wind turbines? These Mitsubishi built units are well past their glory years: faded, leaking oil, and clunking through their revolutions. With several nearby wind energy ventures going up next year, replacements are already on the way. The primary limiter of growth for the farm has been transmission capacity, hence this impressive new substation nearing completion. With this obstacle removed, the hills of Tehachapi pass will sprout turbines like blades of grass after a spring rain.

04.04.10 San Gorgonio Pass Wind Array

Interstate 10 and the rail line that parallels it through San Gorgonio Pass have a signifigant presence in this piece. The intention was to highlight the disparity between the energy being producd by the (barely moving) turbines, and the energy being expended to move the automobiles and trains over the hill. To paraphrase Jim Kunstler: if we're planning on running the interstate highway system on any combination of alternatives, we're kidding ourselves.

04.04.10 Rio Tinto Borax Boron Mine

The mine's workers have been locked out over a labour dispute since January. Apparently they refused to sign the unfair and potentially illegal contract offerd by Rio Tinto, the English company that owns the mine. They've set up a makeshift camp at the front gate just beyond where a team of private security officers are screening vehicles as they enter the plant and thoroughly documenting everything. The guy in the white shirt who stands in front of the red truck isn't guiding it in, but getting in its way. The mostly symbolic gesture, intended to disrupt busuniess as usual, seemed routine, with all parties involved simply going through the motions.

04.04.10 Lockheed Rocket Test Site

I can remember visiting Disney's EPCOT Center one teenage summer and being particularly enchanted by GE's Horizons attraction. Demolished in 1999 to make room for Mission: SPACE, the "dark ride" presented utopin visions of fututitic life from space colonization to the ultramodern metropollis. One fantasy in particular captured my imagination and has apparently been stewing in my subconcious ever since. In Mesa Verde, a depiction of arid-zone agriculture, hovering robots tend to the crops while a jumpsuit clad woman pushes buttons inside a glass walled enclosure.

My memories of EPCOT came flooding back when i saw this remote postmodern compound nessled in the rocky hills south of Beaumont, CA. The homeowners are still driving pickups and the plantings are decorative but the resemblace is uncanny. Appropriately, they built their futuristic dreamhome on a plot of land where the Lockheed corporation once fired its test rockets.

Some of the strongest wind of the stage made shooting difficult but the blown out audio refers nicely to the defening noise that must have echoed off distant peaks durring engine tests. There are thirteen bunkers on the site in various stages of erosion. Abandoned by some alien civilization, they've become simply landforms covered with low vegetation, slowly sinking back into the earth with each passing year.

04.03.10 London Bridge

Yeah, The London Bridge. Robert McCollough, builder of small engines, paid $2.5 million for it in 1968 and had it shipped to its current location on Lake Havasu (for another $7 million). With its mass and presence, the bridge seems to anchor the whole town, giving it a reason for existing.

04.03.10 Aviation Parts Warehouse Inc. Scrapyards

This piece was shot at two separate sites: one on the fringe of Southern California Logistics Airport near Victorville, and the other in the tiny town of El Mirage. The same guy owns both yards. A lot of chunks are sold to Hollywood movie studios for use in films (one of the latex python models from Snakes on a Plane was dangling from a nearby tree). Other pieces are shipped to far off lands, mostly Europe and Asia, to become wacky architectural features. Imagine some themed Shanghai restaurant or hotel lobby you enter through a 747-fuselage. During our visit they were preparing to ship the last piece of an airliner to Malibu, CA where one very wealthy woman is building a home out of it.

04.02.10 Bombay Beach

A rising Salton Sea drowned part of this trailer community. The rest of town in safe for the moment behind an earthen levy.

04.02.10 Parker Dam/Lake Havasu

They built this dam to create a reservoir from which to draw water for two major aqueduct systems: the Central Arizona Project (represented in the piece) and the Colorado River Aqueduct.

04.01.10 Pheonix Recovering

After back to back ninety-mile days, we've made it to Pheonix: the metaphorical midpoint of Stage Three. While staying with friends near ASU i'll be attending to some minor repairs, exploring the city, and editing my ass off. I currently have between seven and nine vinettes under construction. We'll probably set off again on the fifth.

04.01.10 Day Twenty-four: (March 31, 2010) Salome Rd. & I-10, AZ to Pheonix, AZ

left: Workers draw water from the Central Arizona Project aqueduct as it flows by on its way to Pheonix.

right: Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station, the nation's largest power producer, is fifty miles west of Phoenix near the town of Wintersburg.

04.01.10 Day Twenty-three: (March 30, 2010) Buckskin Mtn. St. Park, AZ to Salome Rd. & I-10, AZ

upper left: Yes, Arizona is a red state.

upper right: This vehicle was driven by a 400+ pound man. Maybe god should be his personal trainer.

middle left: An elderly man in a star-spangled baseball cap waits for his laundry to dry.

middle right: "Lost in the desert" kinda describes the whole town.

lower left: "...and also with you."

lower right: They trained soldiers to drive tanks here durring WWII.

All six of these images were taken in the isolated town of Bouse, AZ. The townspeople are divided over a ballot measure to dissolve their fire department. If the place burns the ground in six months, assume it was an elaborate insurance fraud scheme.

04.01.10 Day Twenty-two: (March 29, 2010) Lake Havasu City, AZ to Buckskin Mtn. St. Park, AZ

left: "Forces of Nature." A roadside display explains the riparian habitat just to its right. It basically says: "Oops, we accidentially flooded a bunch of it when we built Parker Dam. Here's what remains."

right: Dusk from our riverside "bungalow" at Buckskin Mountain State Park.

03.28.10 Day Twenty: (March 27, 2010) Needles, CA to Lake Havasu City, AZ

left: A couple gass up their dune buggies before thundering off in a cloud of dust. Golden Shores, AZ

right: Penny's home where we stayed in Lake Havasu City. While she's easily the most sprightly 79 year old woman i've met, the Ferrari isn't hers.

03.28.10 Day Nineteen: (March 26, 2010) Ludlow, CA to Needles, CA

left: A faded informational poster at a rest stop south of the Mojave National Preserve: "Things going on in the desert..."

right: Down from the high desert. Highway 40 punches through the Dead Mountains before dropping 2000 feet to the Colarado River.

03.28.10 Day Eighteen: (March 25, 2010) Hinkley, CA to Ludlow, CA

left: A power plant outside Daggett, CA.

right: Lenticulars deep in the Mojave. We fell asleep under this cloud, watching it subtly change shape in the moonlight.

03.28.10 Boron Air Station and Prison

A large abandoned millitary labor camp.

03.28.10 Kramer Junction Solar Electric Generating Station

Just a reminder that harnessing the sun's "free" energy requires a lot of very special pieces. Pieces like enormous nearly perfect concave mirrors that shatter when a bird shits on them.

03.28.10 Day Seventeen: (March 24, 2010) Boron, CA to Hinkley, CA

left: A contract related labor dispute has compelled the Boron Borax mine to get serious about keeping its locked-out workers from entering the plant.

right: A burnt-out home on the way into Hinkley.

03.28.10 CalPortland Mojave Cement Plant

I got myself a tour of this place just by showing up at the end of the workday and asking. I put on a hard hat and rode around in the supervisor's pickup taking blurry pictures out the passenger side window.

03.28.10 Day Sixteen: (March 23, 2010) Mojave, CA to Boron, CA

left: Mast sections for a new wind energy project in the Tehachapi Pass. Already the highest concentration of turbines in California, ventures like this one are expected to continue going up in the area for the next decade.

right: These "transitionally parked" Air Canada jets with their maple leaf logos blacked out have been sitting at Mojave Airport for several years. Our tour guide said it's unikely they'll ever be returned to service.

03.22.10 Day Fifteen: (March 22, 2010) Lancaster, CA to Mojave, CA

left: This menacing fighter jet propped atop a conctrete post bears down on Lancaster.

right: Sierra SunTower: The only concentrating solar power tower operating in North America.

03.22.10 Day Fourteen: (March 21, 2010) El Mirage, CA to Lancaster, CA

left: I spent all morning on El Mirage Dry Lakebed trying to record myself introducing some videos for a grant proposal. Errors in the audio track made it a waste of time.

right: Aviation scrapyard near El Mirage.

03.22.10 Day Thirteen: (March 20, 2010) Hesperia, CA to El Mirage, CA

left: One of Boeing's four 787 Dreamliner prototypes undergoing testing at Southern California Logistics Airport in Victorville. Saw it here first people.

right: CEMEX's Victorville cement plant.

03.22.10 Day Twelve: (March 19, 2010) Fontana, CA to Hesperia, CA

left: Eric educates himself on the virtues of wildflowers.

right: The road too steep and rocky to ride, we walked the bikes for miles through the charred San Bernardino Forest.

03.18.10 Day Nine: (March 16, 2010) Beaumont, CA to Riverside, CA

left: ...and then this enormous stone whale just comes flying out of the hillside!

03.18.10 Sun City Palm Desert

Built to house a ballooning 55+ demographic in the Palm Springs area, Sun City Palm Desert was luxury golf carts and acres of vibrant green manicured sod. I took these images during an afternoon saunter from one end of the walled city to the other. Shots are ordered chronologically.

I like this one paired with Slab City. While both places are zones of leisure and undeserving of the latter half of their titles, their differences are many. My favorite is how ordered life in Sun City is, while down in Slab City it’s literally anything goes. Both located in the desert, their resident’s relationship with water is also worth considering. As the number of sites in The Illuminated Thread’s catalogue grows, pairings like this one should be fun to make.

03.18.10 North Shores Yacht Club

I came to this site expecting an abandonment. To my complete surprise, a team of contractors were putting the finishing touches on the facade of a brand new building. Apparently several months before they'd razed the derelict yacht club and rebuilt it from scratch. What? Likely the only construction project being undertaken in the Salton Sea region, the questions were obvious. Who's funding this and for what possible reason? Does Albert Frey, the building's designer, have a society of deep-pocketed architecture buffs preserving his career highlights? With brackish foul smelling water lapping at its shores, fish and pelican carcasses rotting in the desert heat, and literally nothing of interest for miles in any direction, whom do they expect to come here? It'll be especially ironic when the second version of this bizarre building befalls the same fate as its predecessor, becoming another ruin at the edge of a dead sea.

03.18.10 Day Five: (March 12, 2010) Bombay Beach, CA to Palm Desert, CA

upper right: Palm warship. Not only did we name our towns after them (Palm Springs, Palm Desert, Thousand Palms, Hidden Palms), we replicated their form and erected them in the landscape.

03.18.10 Salvation Mountain

Tourists from Palm Springs drive out to this godforsaken corner of the state to visit one very old man's tribute to the glory of the lord: a hillside covered with 100,000 gallons of acrylic paint. A bit garish but astonishing nonetheless.

03.18.10 Slab City


upper right: No stained-glass rose window illuminating this house of God.

lower left: The “Wheel of Kama.” Fortunately the drugs weren’t strong enough for anything like this to be going on during our visit.

lower right: Just over the ridge from Slab City is The Chocolate Mountains Aerial Bombing Range. The periodic earth-shaking explosions help stave off boredom at the remote RV community.

03.18.10 Day Four: (March 11, 2010) Slab City, CA to Bombay Beach, CA

left: Probably once the grandest structure in Niland.

right: Eric kneels before the setting sun after replacing his continuous blood sugar monitoring probe.

03.15.10 Salton Sea Geothermal Plants

To put a turbine in the path of a geothermal steam vent you need structures that look like these.

03.14.10 Day Three: (March 10, 2010) Westmoreland, CA to Slab City, CA

upper right: Yes, welcome to this box in the middle of a liquor store parking lot. 'Agua 2000' was broken so we walked across the street to 'Watermill Express.'

lower right: Niland had an unusually high number of torched businesses.

03.14.10 Westmoreland Chemical Waste Facility

This site near Westmoreland receives the really nasty types of industrial waste. Here it'll sit, burried in a plastic lined one-story dirt ziggurat for all eternity.

03.14.10 Salton City

Death hangs over this waterfront site where the Salton City Yacht Club once stood. Today, its shores littered with carcasses, it's a stretch to imagine the sailing regattas, luaus and fishing tournaments Salton City once hosted . Eric and I shared editing duties on this one.

03.14.10 Day Two: (March 9, 2010) Borrego Springs, CA to Westmoreland, CA

03.08.10 Day One: (March 8, 2010) Ramona, CA to Borrego Springs, CA

03.05.10 South Bay Salt Works

With well over a century of commercial production behind it, this is one of the oldest businesses on San Diego Bay. They harvest 75,000 tons of salt annually from evaporation ponds occupying 1,200 acres at the bay’s southern end.

03.05.10 NASSCO Shipyard

This is the only new construction shipbuilding center on the West Coast. Since production began in 1959, the 147-acre facility has churned out some 300 military and commercial vessels: the infamous tanker Exxon Valdez among them. NASSCO was bought by conglomerate General Dynamics in 1998; making it the fifth largest defense contractor in the world. They also build jets, tanks and gatling guns.

I found the cranes’ triangular shapes referencing sails and shot them drifting across the sky as if propelled by some terrible wind. Their bulk and persistent beeping, however, cancels out any grace they might have.

view stage three: part two here.

stage three: part three

San Diego, CA to Tucson, AZ