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What Moves Me – a Mosaic of Motivation

Solar Impulse Solar Plane

This month, Station to Station, a public art project made possible by Levi’s®, will travel across the US by train, furthering artistic collaboration as a testament to the “Go Forth” pioneering spirit of American creativity. To further this experience Levi’s® has asked curators of all art forms to join the #makeourmark #move project in the online artspace. As part of this multi-platform, global project, I’ve been asked a very simple-yet-profound question–“What moves you?” With that, what moves me and my creative spirit? A reverence for the old and an embrace of the ideas of tomorrow.

Restored Vintage Cars and Future Drivetrains

Aston Martin DBR2 by Jeremy Cliff

When it comes to conventional automobiles, they just don’t build them (or design them) like they used to.  While the performance cars of today are truly remarkable in their technology and admirable for their styling, there’s a certain reverence that only a restored classic can command.  It is the aging beauties that move me, the cars that recall an engineering sensibility that isn’t always the same today.  That stunning Aston Martin DBR2 above, photographed by Jeremy Cliff, is a prime example.

On the other end of the spectrum, the drivetrains of the future bring both promise and excitement to car fanatics like me.  From plug-in electrics to hydrogen fuel cell concepts to cars that use diesel and other fuels in intelligent new ways, there are exciting things happening for the future of automotive transportation.  A recent example is the BMW i3, a luxury electric commuter for urban drivers who want to swear off gasoline.  For up to a hundred miles per charge, this stylish little cruiser can carry a group of four around the cities of tomorrow without a single drop of gasoline.


Powerful DSLRs and DIY Film Cameras

Nikon D800 Skeleton Image

There are few cameras as technically-progressive as the Nikon D800E, a DSLR that features a pretty ground-breaking pixel resolution and low-light sensitivity.  Prior to this full frame revolution, the cost for this kind of power climbed well into a five figure price range.  Today, the power available to the select few is accessible to everyone from the working professional to the enthusiast who isn’t afraid to spend a little to buy excellent quality.  The Nikon D800E and its full frame counterparts from Canon (and other Nikons) inspire me as a publisher and a photographer.  I carry a similar Nikon D600 with me nearly wherever I go, and it keeps me and my clients happy and inspired.

To create great photographs, however, you don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on cutting edge camera bodies.  You can build your own with the likes of the Lomography Konstruktor camera, an amazing film camera body that arrives in a kit with instructions.  Just insert tab A into slot B (we’re paraphrasing) and photographers like you and I can create inspiring, colorful and emotive photographs.


Inventive Watches and Fresh Takes on the Traditional


The technology of timekeeping has evolved over recent decades from advancements in both design and materials.  While some are a bit too progressive to be truly stylish, we adore simple steps forward like the QLOCKTWO W Watch, a timepiece that displays the time in illuminated text.  Sometimes a simple step forward is all it takes.

Elsewhere, the traditions of timekeeping remain the same, but progressive designers are always inventing new takes on the traditional.  Tendence Watches, below, feature big, bold cases and raised numeric dials that otherwise reflect the basic elements of a modern watch.  It looks so striking and futuristic, but in reality, it maintains the basic traditions that have been there for over a century.  It’s remarkable in my eyes, and a point of inspiration just like the QLOCKTWO above.


Future Machines and Old Tech Upgrades


Just a few decades ago, the power in the new Apple Mac Pro could have challenged any of the world’s most expensive and elaborate supercomputers.  As progress pushes forward, future machines like the new Mac represent a milestone in human technical history.  It’s always a thrill to me to see new machines like this, and I always try to take a moment to recognize just how far we’ve come, and what a piece like this represents to our present and our past.

Advancements in old technology are equally exciting to me, especially this little cooking stove.  The Biolite CampStove uses rocket stove technology to cleanly, efficiently produce focused heat to cook food while releasing very little waste into the environment.  This might be interesting to a guy like me for a camping trip, but it’s designed to save lives in the third world.  Millions of people have died in recent years from smoke-related illnesses that are caused from cooking on open flames.  In the developed world, it’s not something we may realize– but cleaner cooking in poorly-ventilated kitchen environments can be a life saver.  Bonus points: the Biolite products use the heat produced to charge mobile devices with a USB charger, a point of value for the most common piece of technology to penetrate the third world– the mobile phone.


Sustainable Records by Sky and Sea

Solar Impulse Solar Plane

It is advancements like this that give me hope that free energy could be achieved in my lifetime.  Perhaps not “free” energy, but I hope that our human needs to power our own technologies will become clean, cheap and effective.  The Solar Impulse solar plane and the Planet Solar solar boat are breaking records that push us in the right direction.  The Solar Impulse has been traveling around the world using only the power of the sun to propel it.  The Planet Solar boat has been sailing the seas for years on solar-only power.  As the cost of solar panels continue to plummet, it’s only a matter of time before they reach a critical mass where people like and I will see our lives enriched by their power offering every day.

Planet Solar Solar Boat

Amazing Electric Bikes and Vintage-Inspired Fixies

Hanebrink eBike

The world of bicycling has taken a step forward lately, while other builders continue to honor the roots of the bicycle.  Future bikes like the Hanebrink All-Terrain eBike use on-board batteries and motors to provide pedal assist power and in some cases pedal-free riding.  This technology evens out the hills and the wind so riding is a more constant, less-challenging endeavor on longer commutes.

Elsewhere, bike builders like Detroit Bicycle Company produce stunning, built-to-last beauties based on a tradition that has lasted for centuries.  The basic elements of the modern bicycle are there, but they are constructed by hand using the best materials and custom components available.  After all, a bike is a fashionable product, just like the restored cars I pointed to above.  This one, by Detroit Bicycle Company, is a fine example of the vintage-inspired bicycles that inspire me today.


Yesterday’s Architectural Masterworks and Tomorrow’s Classics

Frank Lloyd Wright Millard House

Our architectural heritage must be preserved, and it inspires an arch-lover like myself to see history like the Frank Lloyd Wright Millard House being cared for as it has.  The above work by Wright was recently for sale, being handed down to its next owner for some very careful stewardship.  When buildings like these are maintained in such a fashion, it encourages their chance to impress another generation of admirer, and possibly the great architects of tomorrow.

Elsewhere, modern architects continue to employ the traditions of the contemporary period with the technology of today and inspiration from the past.  BT House by Studio Guilherme Torres is a prime example, a home that employs classical inspiration in its design but makes a strong statement of modernity.  It is a home that, like the architectural classics of today, inspire fans like me and potentially the architects of tomorrow.


Basement Cocktail Bars, Lounges in the Sky


There’s nothing quite as intimate as a basement bar, and a city like Chicago has a great one in every neighborhood.  In my many years in the Windy City, I spent more nights than I care to count solving the world’s problems with friends in a basement bar like this one.  The Library by Gilt Bar Chicago is an underground lounge by the famed Merchandise Mart, a building so large if features its own zip code.  If you haven’t spent a night or two in a basement bar in a city like this, add it to your bucket list.

While a basement bar provides a warm escape from a Chicago winter, the rooftop lounges of cities like Miami offer a different experience entirely.  The Juvia Penthouse Restaurant and Bar in Miami overlooks Biscayne Bay, South Beach and downtown Miami from a single vantage point.  Its lush green wall on one side and open view to the other make for a lively experience it’s hard to have elsewhere.

Juvia Miami

Eco Retreats and Pop-Up Hotels


While I respect and appreciate a good five-star resort like any good design blogger should, what excites me most are the intimate, one-of-a-kind experiences to be had at the eco retreats and boutique hotels cropping up around the world.  One example is Elqui Domos, an amazing eco hotel in Chile with dome-topped suites with windows that peer into the heavens above.  No light pollution will obstruct the view here, as the starry constellations above are better than any flat screen on the wall at your typical resort.

Elsewhere, a boutique hotel concept like Sleeping Around is one of the most exciting I’ve written about in years.  This “hotel” comprises a collection of shipping containers upcycled into modern hotel rooms.  They are constantly being moved around their host city in Belgium, and guests are given a set of GPS coordinates to discover their room for the night.  It’s an exciting concept, one that presents a once-in-a-lifetime experience because tomorrow, who knows where that hotel room will have gone?

Sleeping Around Pop Up Hotel

Tiny Cars, Tiny Houses

Tiny Cars

After the massive SUVs and McMansions of the late 90s and early 2000s, many have moved away from the “bigger is better” trend, and I’ve celebrated their decision.  Recently, the luxury car auction company RM Auctions presented an amazing collection of tiny cars to the public in Madison, Georgia.  I traveled to the event to share the smallest cars ever built here on TheCoolist.  It shows just how inspiring small driving can be, and how it only leaves a faint carbon footprint behind it.

Tiny houses are en vogue as well, where the rising cost of real estate and the challenge of financing has led some home buyers to go small.  There are more tiny house blogs than I can count, and each continues to celebrate the discipline of living big in small spaces.  It inspires me on how I live, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t planning a tiny modern farm house for the very near future…

Tiny House

Historic Cruisers and the Bikes of Tomorrow

1937 BMW R7

The 1937 BMW R7 may be the most beautiful motorcycle ever built.  We may not have understood its beauty if it wasn’t for the above example, a barn find that was restored to absolute perfection.  This pre-war motorcycle represented one of the greatest products of Europe’s industrial era, fusing master craftsmanship with an alluring art deco design.  It represents the high water mark for automotive design, one that would be hidden away by the tragedies that would befall Europe in the years to come.

Echoes of that inspiring moment in the 1930s continue today, where new and enterprising motorcycle builders are creating the kind of beauty that hasn’t been celebrated in decades.  The Bandit9 Hephaestus Motorcycle is one of the most remarkable I’ve covered since was cool.  This re-envisioned Honda was given a brushed aluminum body job to match its metal mechanics for a sleek, monochrome design.  It represents a theme I’ve touched on many times in this article, one of future sensibilities forging new out of the old.

Bandit9 Hephaestus Motorcycle

Future Farming, Smart Gardening

Green Sky Growers

As the world’s population grows, the way we grow our food must adapt and evolve.  The earliest part of a food revolution has already begun, but few have heard of or understood precisely what that revolution is.  Namely, aquaponics, a system that grows vegetables and fish in a water-based ecosystem.  The “aqua” stands for aquaculture, or the raising of fish in tank farms, and the “ponics” stands for hydroponics, the raising of plants in a nutrient-rich water environment.  In this closed water ecosystem, the fish waste feeds the plant roots, the plants clean the water for the fish.  I visited the most advanced aquaponics farm on the planet at Green Sky Growers, a state-of-the-art test farm on the roof of a municipal building near Orlando Florida.

You can bring a portion of this kind of technology to your back yard (or your porch, if space is tough to come by).  The Tower Garden is a hydroponic system that uses vertical growing technology to raise vegetables and herbs in a small space without soil.  This is the kind of thing NASA might take to the moon, but it’s been rebuilt for your porch.  I’ve used this technology myself, and it requires only 15% of the water used in a typical soil garden and it produces vegetables twice as fast.  It’s inspiring to me, and this technology is so important for the growing world of tomorrow.

Tower Garden

These designs, technologies and ideas are what moves me as a publisher, a photographer and a person.  They excite me, motivate me and inspire me to learn their stories and share them here with you on TheCoolist.  But a blog is a conversation, and you have an opinion that is as important as mine.  So I’ve answered the question, but now it’s your turn– what moves you?  Share your thoughts here in the comments, on facebook, twitter, instagram and soundcloud with the hashtag #MAKEOURMARK #MOVES.  In the mean time, don’t miss the events as they unfold directly on Levi’s #MAKEOURMARK website.