The only place I found in Las Vegas that feels like my kind of 'home' is a cafe (and Red Rock Canyon). The owner is Brazilian, and opened the Sambalatte "lounge" as he named it, one year ago. No doubt naysayers thought September 2010 was a horrible time to open a coffee shop--pastries, cappuccino and chatting all discretionary luxury in times that sees Vegas with the worst unemployment rate (14.2%), the most foreclosures; the state of Nevada has the number one spot in terms of declining income, and second state in terms of poverty rate increases of the nation.
Yeah, whatever they said, he did it anyhow.
And, I can state that Sambalatte is always bustling and buzzing. I've never seen the place even slightly waning in traffic.
So, over a week ago there, I languidly pick up a book in their community bookshelf titled Cosmos and Psyche. The gist is the author applies Jungian microcosm and macrocosm archetypes of the history of the modern individuated man (roughly the year 1496 with Pico della Mirandola's manifesto Oratio ) against the cosmic planetary alignments in those five hundred years. Author Richard Tarnas concludes that right now is identical to cosmic archetypes and planetary alignments with the attendant tensions and tumult that catalyzed the High Renaissance five hundred years ago, stating "this too was an epoch of extraordinary turbulence and uncertainty, and also of great cultural creativity and dynamism."
In my world, it is a ripe time for Renaissance.
And it's also why my G+ tagline is Renaissance gal.
"What would you write about if you could start over with a blank slate?
No preconceived notions. No promises. No history. No expectations from your readers. Starting from zero, right here, right now."
I originally began to be intrigued with the back story of Cirque du Soleil because of a new project (more soon--next post). By serendipity, while browsing a local magazine at the wonderful Sambalatte (see above), I read:
"Twenty-four years ago, Guy Laliberté developed Cirque du Soleil with a grant from the Canadian government. The former street performer intended for his creation to last only a year, but the popularity was unprecedented. Cirque du Soleil continued to perform and Las Vegas is now home to seven Cirque shows. Forever on the cusp, the performance company and its founder recently achieved two new milestones.
In September 2009, Laliberté left behind this planet for a new adventure. Boarding a Russian Soyuz Capsule, he was launched 220 miles above Earth. During his space flight, Laliberte took hundreds of photos that would eventually become a coffee-table book called Gaia. Proceeds from the limited-edition book will be donated to his foundation One Drop, which is dedicated to bringing safe and clean drinking water to disadvantaged communities." - Vegas Rated, Issue 1, September 2011
In a book I just checked out from the library, we harken back to 1987 when Cirque was invited to perform for the first time ever outside Canada. But the LA festival didn't exactly want to pay for their travel expenses. Conundrum: ""I thought, 'I'm not going to wait twenty years to see if we can make a living off what we do. The opportunity is here, let's make a deal. I told Thomas Schumacher, 'Give us the opening slot, promotion, and one hundred percent of the gate.'"
. . . The simple truth is, at that particular moment in Cirque du Soleil's history, it could only afford a one-way trip to Los Angeles. Transporting the cast, crew, and equipment across the continent from Montreal to Los Angeles stretched Cirque's finances to the very limit. If they didn't earn enough money at the gate, Cirque could not afford to return home. Cirque du Soleil would end there." - Cirque du Soleil: 20 Years Under the Sun--An Authorized History, by Tony Babinski
(In retrospect, LA Festival organizer Thomas Schumacher says it was the worst deal he ever made. Guy Laliberté says, smiling, "He thought he was saving money, but he could have made a bundle if he'd kept part of the gate.")
"The greatest audacity is the riskiest. In 1987, Guy Laliberté bet everything on that first trip to Los Angeles. Negotiations with the L.A. Arts Festival had been spotty: Guy felt the Festival wasn't prepared to share Cirque's enormous financial risk in traveling to the States. So they decided to go it alone, making Cirque a "fringe" event, the Festival providing only ticketing services, promotion and a listing in their catalogue. It was also agreed that Cirque du Soleil would do the opening of the Festival. Getting to L.A. cost Cirque every penny it had; if Cirque failed, Guy knew he'd have to sell the tent just to get the artists home. Audacity won.
Audicity. Audicity. Audacity. Use the word often enough, it turns into gibberish, a meaningles sneeze. What in the Sam Hill does it mean?
Franco thinks a minute. Audacity is rejecting everything you have done before, he says.
Even if it worked." -- Cirque du Soleil, edited by Veronique Vial and Helene Dufresne
"[Renaissance artists] understood the imagination as a magical power that can “lure and channel the energies of the anima mundi.” - Llewellyn Vaughn-Lee
That sentence is the main theme I'm working with lately. Did the original Renaissance just 'happen', or was it lured into form by pure vision of each as powerful as a magical incantation?
One story from Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries by Peter Sims:
Pixar was coming off a three hit homerun, and hired Brad Bird as a director who was coming off a Warners Brothers failure, The Iron Giant. Ed Catmull, Steve Jobs, and John Lassiter told Bird, "The only thing we're afraid of is complacency--feeling like we have it all figured out. We want you to come shake things up. We will give you a good argument if we think what you're doing doesn't make sense, but if you can convince us, we'll do things in a different way," Bird told Stanford professors Robert Sutton and Hayagreeva Rao. "For a company that has had nothing but success to invite a guy who had just come off a failure and say, 'Go ahead, mess with our heads, shake it up'; when do you run into that?"
Bird's ideas for The Incredibles were estimated to cost $500 million and take ten years to accomplish based on current processes. If and only if he could figure out how to lower those estimates, he could proceed with his vision of numerous, rich characters. "In order to help shake things up, one thing Bird did was to seek out people within Pixar who he described as black sheep, whose unconventional views could help find solutions to the problems. "A lot of them were malcontents because they saw different ways of doing things," Bird said. "We gave black sheep a chance to prove their theories and we changed the way a number of things are done here." Eventually, Bird's vision for The Incredibles was within technical and fiscal reach and ended up being cheaper per minute than Pixar's previous movie.
Ed Catmull studied Toyota's concept of a learning organization after watching computer graphics giants (once) like Evans and Sutherland and SGI fail despite their lead and despite access to great talent. (I once worked for E&S, before I got into all things Internet.) They are okay talking about mistakes, and there is a cultural "willingness to be challenged."
"Come my friends, 'tis not too late to seek a newer world." - Tennyson
"I founded Charles Schwab in 1974, when America was confronting a crisis of confidence similar to today's. We had rapidly rising inflation and unemployment, economic growth grinding into negative territory, and paralyzed markets. The future looked pretty bleak.
Yet I had faith that our economy would recover. My vision was simple: Investors deserve something better than the status quo. I launched the company with four employees, a personal loan on my home, and an audacious dream. I didn't know exactly how we were going to do it, nor could I foresee that over the decades we would end up building a business that serves over 10 million accounts. But we went for it." - "Every Job Requires An Entreprenuer", by Charles Schawb, Wall St. Journal, September 28, 2011
"Personal Renaissance", by James Burns and the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program and 1500 people who worked on it. The Mural Arts program employs prisoners, addicts, and youth who previously spent time in juvenile detention "in a way a regular employer might not. Later on, the program helps them find long-term work." - Yes , Fall 2011
"Great art is never silent, can't be ignored, and serves poorly the status quo." - Philadelphia Mural Arts Program
Ellen Kullman was a VP running a $2 division and managing about 6,000 employees at DuPont, when her manager asked her if she would start a new services division from stratch. When she said yes, half her peers believe she'd been summarily demoted; "the other half thought I was crazy." Her story sums up:
"I don't know if I would have become CEO if I hadn't done this. When you're an engineer, you learn to go with your head. When you're starting something new, you have to go with your gut, too. We're a 209-year-old company. We won't make it to 300 if we only ask, is my polymer better? Now when I go through strategy reviews, I say, 'That's what it is. What could it be?'" - "DuPont's Ellen Kullman on Her Risky Path to the CEO Job", Bloomberg Businessweek, September 19, 2011
"Life should be lived on the edge of life.
You have to exercise rebellion: to refuse to tape yourself to rules, to refuse your own success, to refuse to repeat yourself, to see every day, every year, every idea as a true challenge - and then you are going to live your life on a tightrope."
"All the things that really matter to us are impossible, you know. They say translation is impossible; sure it is. We do it because it's necessary, not because it's possible.
Writing poetry is impossible. I don't know how to write a poem. A poem--there has to be a part of it that is not my own will; it comes from somewhere that I don't know. There is so much that comes out of wht we don't know and what we don't have any control over. I think that is one of the only things we can learn as we get older is a certain humility." - W.S. Merwin, poet laureate and Pulitizer Prize winner in interview, Yes magazine, Fall 2011
"If you put off everything until you're sure of it you'll get nothing done."
- Norman Vincent Peale
ART CREDITS: 1000 Ways to Escape by Souther Salazar; photo of O Cirque du Soleil show at Bellagio hotel via BestofLasVegas.com; Flickr photo of Rainbow Village by zosoiv7, "this tiny village in Taichung, Taiwan was painted by Mr. Huang Yongfu, an original native of Hong Kong"; it was once known as a military dependents’ village but the painter, 86, covered every square inch in art (via HonestlyWTF blog) ; Before That Dream is Tamed, by Souther Salazar; Personal Renaissance mural by James Burns and the city of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program