Month: December 2005

C-spanning 

The other day I woke up at 4 a.m. This isn’t an abnormal occurrence. Occasionally, after a full night of beverages, I rise in the middle of the night for a little bladder relief. Only this night I couldn’t get back to sleep. So what is there to do at 4 a.m.? Uninterested in infomercials, I watched C-Span.

Now I’m not a regular watcher of C-Span, but they were running an, interview with Scott Ridder, the chief weapons inspector for the United Nations Special Commission in Iraq between 1991 and 1998. He’s got a new book out on those years and was fielding calls from C-Spanners. You might also remember headlines a while back about him taking bribes from the Iraqi government, or how he was being charged with child pornography. What you probably didn’t hear was that he was never actually charged for child porn, nor with bribing anyone. I was amazed that several callers kept bringing that stuff up, even though Ridder explained that those stories were politically motivated and planted in the media to discredit what he had to say–a well-used tactic by the administration.

It angers me to continue to see and hear how the message is secondary to the messenger these days. And when opponents can’t find dirt on someone, they make it up. The real terrorists are those who prey on our gullibility for wanting to trust the people we have put in power. How many more wars will be arranged through lies? Probably every single one.

The “Santa Threat” 

As the current economic recovery hasn’t yet “trickled down” to my middle-class saving-account, Christmas, once again, will be a little lean. It may be the perfect Christmas to teach the Spawn a valuable lesson in life, though. Although I recall my own father threatening my brother and me with the “Santa threat” of him bringing nothing but coal for Christmas for a period of years in my youth, I don’t ever recall him carrying through with it.

The other day, I pulled that parenting trick out of my past and used it with a modern twist. The spawn were a little too rambunctious in the back seat and were really getting on my nerves. I told them to “shut up” but they weren’t heeding my warnings. So I told them I was going to call Santa and tell them to put them on the naughty list … with the understanding that any kid on the naughty list wouldn’t get any presents under the Christmas tree.

They called my bluff by saying, “Yeah, right, dad,” and kept on with their aggravating behavior. So I pulled out the cell phone, and made the call to Santa.

“Hi, may I speak to Santa please,” I said. This caught their attention.

“Hi, Santa. Yes, this is Bingo Barnes, father of the Spawn. Oh, you know who I am? Of course you do, you’re Santa. By the way, thanks for that Hot Wheels set when I was 6. Anyway, the reason I called was because I want to ask that you put the Spawn on the naughty list. Oh, one’s already there? Well, can you keep him there and put the other one on, too? That’d be great. I don’t think they deserve any presents from you this year because they’ve been naughty and won’t listen to their dad. Thanks a lot. Hopefully, we’ll see you next year. If they’re good.”

The older one had a cautious grin but the younger Spawn wasn’t sure what to make of the phone call and actually behaved for the rest of the way home. A small success.

The more I think about it, the more I need to carry through with the lesson. Life is tough and the consequences of bad behavior need to be carried out. Call it “tough love” or whatever, but I think I’ll try to convince the Mother Spawn to allow me to put pieces of coal and a few rocks in their stockings for Christmas morn. Yeah, it would be a bad Christmas day filled with angry and sad kids, but the life lesson would have a profound impact for the rest of their lives. If you’re bad, you won’t get any presents. They could tell their own kids the story. “The Christmas that never came because we were naughty,” they’d call it.

I figure it would have one of two results. Either they’d listen to their parents a little more and they would behave, or they would become juvenile delinquents hating their parents for the rest of their lives. It’s a parenting gamble, with big risks, but the results could be effective.

Other GPS Games YOU Can Play 

The sport of geocaching already has many variations. Here are just a few:

Geodashing is about visiting dashpoints, randomly selected longitude and latitude locations on the earth’s surface which people locate using their GPS devices. Players then log what they find onhttp://geodashing.gpsgames.org, sometimes with photos of what is there. The game is kept fresh by moving to new locations on the first of every month. But while the game is gaining in popularity, there still aren’t very many people playing it. According to one article ontodayscacher.com, the most visited geodashpoint ever only had six logged visitors for the month it was active. Many geodash points never see a soul. The randomness of where the geodash points fall makes this game fun for players and many geodashers claim that they have a knack for falling in interesting spots. For December, according to Buxley’s Geocaching Waypoint (www.brillig.com/geocaching), there are currently four geodash points in the “Boise Region,” which stretches from Lake Cascade to just south of the Idaho State Penitentiary south of the Boise Airport. Visit http://geodashing.gpsgames.org/ for more information about geodashing.

Benchmarking involves finding and documenting governmental survey markers placed by the National Geodetic Survey used to pinpoint landmarks like the tops of mountains or the corners of community parks. These markers aid in land surveying, civil engineering and mapping. While most are documented, some can be hard to find. On geocaching.com you can log when you find one. Many benchmarks have not been officially logged as found so the adventure of discovery could be yours for the taking.

Shutterspot is another GPS game where the first visitor to a site logs the GPS location and takes a picture. The game is to identify the exact location and replicate the photo.

Minute War is a virtual game of capture the flag using the entire world as the battleground. Everyone competes locally in their area but uses the same square grid divided into minutes. The first to capture the flag by visiting their square’s location wins.

Learn about other GPS games and variations on the above ones at www.gpsgames.com.

So you want to go geocaching? 

Taking up the sport of geocaching is simple. All you need is a GPS unit, a compass, a map and a sense of adventure. You can even forgo the map and compass if you have to.

GPS units are available at many sporting goods stores in the Treasure Valley. REI has perhaps the largest selection. Brands like Magellan and Garmin are the most popular. With greater price comes better features. In order to download basic topographical maps you may opt for greater memory on your GPS unit. You can get started for about $100, but some of the top models include a two-way radio as part of the device cost much more.

You may also want a compass. Some GPS units have electronic compasses and altimeters, but they can be tricky to learn to use. Knowing which way is north can be very important when navigating in the woods.

While you can purchase a basic software of topo maps for downloading onto your GPS units, it is advisable, especially when trying to find geocaches in the deep woods, to have an detailed topographical map. National Geographic’s TOPO! series and waterproof printing paper are ideal for this purpose.

If you go geocaching on longer hikes or try to reach more difficult cache locations (geocaching.com ranks difficulty using a one- to five-star scale), then you may need additional equipment like climbing gear or survival gear.

When you find the cache, make sure you note your visit if there is a logbook. If you brought an item to leave behind, do so. You should also take an item if the cache instructions (which should be in the cache) say to do so. Put the cache back where you found it and once home, log on to a geocaching Web site to log your visit so that others may know when it has been visited and be updated on any unique conditions in the area. At all times, follow the leave-no-trace policy and pick up trash when you find it.

Open your Minds and Hearts, Brother 

It seems evey time there is a big push by the administration to up the President’s poll numbers through nationalistic speeches–attended only by screened attendees who sign a pledge to applaud–I get a flurry of phone calls and e-mails about Ted Rall, Bill Cope and accusations of slander, libel and all kinds of nasties are hurled at this paper. I’d just like to remind you that everyone’s reality is seen through the color of their own beliefs. In a red state like Idaho, people may be more likely to see commie-liberals. Your gift to everyone this season would be to open your mind to appreciate that we live in a diverse society where everyone doesn’t have to think like you do or live the way you live. That’s all I have to say about that, brother.

N43º-W116º 

The sport of geocaching is experiencing growing pains as it adapts to a post 9/11 world.

Around 2:15 p.m., 33-year old Scot Tintsman from Meridian showed up at the scene to tell police that the object was a “geocache.” The bomb squad was called off, the bucket removed and traffic resumed just before 4 p.m. with travelers wondering, “What the heck is a geocache?”

Geocaching is a popular sport–some call it a hobby–where players use handheld Global Positioning System (GPS) units to locate containers stashed in the wilderness and secret urban locations. With technology prices dropping and companies making smaller hand-held GPS units, more and more people are enjoying this modern technological version of a scavenger hunt. But a sport this young still experiences growing pains and players still struggle to learn the rules of the game.

The sport of geocaching, and civilian use of GPS technology, has only been possible since the year 2000 when the U.S. military descrambled their GPS) satellites, allowing citizens to access the signals to pinpoint their location on earth through triangulation. The technology was previously reserved just for military use in tasks like pinpointing troops in the field or tracking and guiding missiles.

President Bill Clinton, in a statement on May 1, 2000, announced the cancellation of the intentional degredation of the signals, based on a recommendation from the secretary of defense and coordinated with the departments of State, Transportation and Commerce and the director of Central Intelligence. This change gave civilians access to a mapping tool accurate within two to three meters. Previously, the signal would only be accurate to a football field-sized area.

Clinton said his intention was to improve worldwide transportation safety, scientific research and commercial interests. It could also allow emergency responders to have pinpoint accuracy to locations, as long as someone at the location had the GPS coordinates.

Just two days after President Clinton officially deregulated the signal, a container was hidden outside of Portland, Oregon, with the coordinates posted online on a satellite navigation newsgroup. According to the logbook, the cache was visited twice within three days. Mike Teague, the first finder of the cache posted the information to his personal Web site. In July, Jeremy Irish approached Teague with a proposed name, geocaching, and a redesigned Web site. By September, Irish was running the site by himself, and he is now the developer and Web master ofgeocaching.com, the mother of all geocaching Web sites.

Geocaching Web sites have varying guidelines as to how they approve the caches posted to their databases. While Geocaching.com is perhaps the best known site, there are others likenavicache.com, Buxley’s Geocaching Waypoint (www.brillig.com/geocaching), which focuses on mapping geocache locations, and opencache.com, a community-run site that keeps an open-source attitude toward geocaching, avoiding the individual-ownership approach of the other sites by. But by far, the most visited one is geocaching.com, and is still growing in popularity.

While distinctly grass-roots and with an air of anti-commercialism, in the last year, the sport has dipped into the capitalistic pond. The Jeep 4X4 Geocaching Challenge involved the company hiding 5,000 miniature Jeep travel bugs in caches across the lower 48 states. When a geocacher found one of the little Jeeps, they had the opportunity to sign up for the challenge and have the opportunity win not only Garmin GPS units (another sponsor of the contest) but ultimately a new seven-passenger Jeep Commander.

At a recent Treasure Valley Cacheaholics Anonymous (TVCA) meeting at Ben’s Crow Inn (the event could only be found via GPS coordinates posted to www.idahogeocachers.org), a small group of geocachers gathered to discuss new caches, share information and listen to a guest speaker. Geocachers signed the log book for the meeting using the nicknames from their profiles on geocaching Web sites. Founded by BOOMHWR653, IDTIMBERWOLF, IDN8IVS and ZEROEDIN in 2003, TVCA now has about 30 active members. Captain Mike, a retired National Guard reservist, manned the logbook and has placed about 41 caches around the area he maintains. One, called “A Walk on the Wild Side” is series of eight caches spread over a four-mile area around Tablerock. But the real excitement of the evening was the guest, Sergeant Dave Hambleton.

Hambleton, commander of the Boise police bomb squad unit, came in talk about geocaching and how the geocaching community should have more open lines of communication with local police so that incidents like the one at Rainbow Bridge don’t occur again. Hambleton told the group there had been only one other incident involving a geocache in the last five years–out on Pleasant Valley Road–and explained what they consider a suspicious or possibly dangerous package: basically, just about anything.

“When we get a call on something suspicious, we have to treat it like a loaded gun,” he said. Something as small as a film canister (a favorite container for “microcaches”) can be turned into a small grenade, so they have to take every call seriously.

He added that the location is important when determining the danger to life or property. “I just learned Sunday a friend of mine was geocaching and he was thinking of putting a cache over near the Caldwell airport. He has permission from some folks but I told him it was a really bad idea, because someone is going to think it’s suspicious and the Nampa bomb squad will get called out on that,” Hambleton explained.

One geocacher at the meeting said, “It probably wouldn’t be approved if it were at the airport.”

Another replied from the back, “There are already three at the Caldwell airport.” Everyone laughed.

Hambleton added, “It’s all in the placement. If it’s in a high pedestrian area, obviously it is going to be more suspicious. An airport will be a high-target area, infrastructure–power, gas, water–any of those things.”

Because geocaching is a free sport (except for the cost of a GPS unit), and because there is no overseeing authority establishing the rules of the game, geocachers tend to police themselves and set up their own rules and ethical guidelines. To have a cache approved and listed ongeocaching.com so that others may find it, there are several guidelines that must be followed.

First, geocaching.com states there is no precedent for placing caches–meaning, just because someone else has done it and it was once accepted doesn’t mean it will be in the future. Second, a person must have permission to place a cache on private land. This guideline is a little more vague on public land. Depending upon the governing authority, cachers may need to have permission. Many governmental agencies like the Bureau of Land Management, state land authorities or federally managed areas do not have a stated policy and it may be OK, but geocaching.com will not list caches on land maintained by the U.S. National Park Service or U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (typically wildlife refuges). Third, caches are also not supposed to be buried, and they cannot deface public or private property to be hidden. Caches should not be placed in close proximity to active railroad tracks, military bases or public structures such as dams, bridges, elementary and secondary schools or airports.

Finally, caches are not supposed to be placed within one-tenth of a mile (528 feet) of each other, except in rare exceptions. With more caches being placed, more guidelines to the sport are likely to be created.

Since August 14 of this year, 50 new geocache sites have been placed in the Boise area, according to Buxley’s Geocaching Waypoint. As of December 12, geocaching.com identified 220,384 geocache sites around the world (16 are in Antarctica) with 66 percent of them (135,075) in the United States. Idaho contains 2,955 with over 692 in the Boise area alone. Geocaches tend to be concentrated in and around population centers. However, even in Tuscarora, Nevada which has a population of about two to three people per square mile, there are over 30 geocaches within a 45 mile radius.

With catchy names like “Token Ring,” “Garrett’s Treasures Redux,” “Mira Frosty” and “You Must Be This Tall to Cache This Ride,” the numbers of geocaches is increasing dramatically. However, leaving goodies hidden in a special location is considered littering by some. Federal guidelines state that burying or abandoning personal property in national parks and forests is prohibited. Geocachers, however, say that caches are maintained by the cache owner and therefore not abandoned. Regardless of the details, many parks and forest rangers recognize geocaching as a legitimate recreational activity and accept it. Some government officials, however, believe that geocaching should not be allowed in certain areas, such as designated wilderness. The Wilderness Act of 1964 established these areas as being untouched by human presence or development. By those rules, however, virtual caches or earthcaches are allowed there (see Glossary on page 16 for definitions).

The geocaching community is adamant about their leave-no-trace philosophy and have set up a global cleanup program called Cache In, Trash Out, or CITO. The first CITO event was held in April, 2003 and geocachers around the world participated. Since then, the event has grown and in 2004, there were 160 cleanup events in 41 states and 10 countries where geocachers went to a specified GPS location and picked up trash along the way. The overall attitude of geocachers’ leave-no-trace philosophy is that if you find trash while hunting down a cache, pick it up. The overall effect may be a cleaner environment in areas that don’t see as much foot traffic.

Captain Mike said he recalls only one incident in Idaho when another organization, the Idaho Grotto Society, a spelunking group that catalogs and voluntarily oversees the protection of Idaho’s caves, got upset about a geocache inside a well-known cave. Once the groups talked it out, and TVCA explained their leave-no-trace policy and concern for the environment, all was well.

There are currently over 692 geocache sites registered online in the Boise area stretching from Cascade to south of the Idaho State Penitentiary. Image courtesy of Buxley's Geocaching Waypoint (www.brillig.com/geocaching)

  • There are currently over 692 geocache sites registered online in the Boise area stretching from Cascade to south of the Idaho State Penitentiary. Image courtesy of Buxley’s Geocaching Waypoint (www.brillig.com/geocaching)

This attention to conservation, protecting the environment and creating opportunities to share unique places has caused some geocachers to become obsessed with the sport. One local geocacher, BENTHEREFOUNDIT, is known among the TVCA group as having the most found caches of anyone in the group and allegedly doesn’t plan on giving up his title. Others do it only part time.

Dan Driscoll, a member of the TVCA, has been geocaching for just over a year and maintains nine geocaches. “I wouldn’t say it has taken over my life,” he said during a phone interview. “It’s just a fun pastime, something I do on the weekend. It’s just a family-friendly hobby that is interesting. It ends up taking you places you normally wouldn’t have seen.”

While government agencies may look the other way or accept geocaching as a legitimate sport, it doesn’t mean that Big Brother isn’t paying attention. Outreach efforts like Sergeant Dan Hambleton’s visit to the TVCA meeting and open lines of communication between police and the geocaching community could prevent another incident like the September one at Rainbow Bridge. At the meeting, TVCA members even offered to create a local database of known geocache locations, so that owners of the caches could be contacted if a suspicious package is reported close to a geocache site. But it is likely as the sport grows, more and more regulations about where people can put caches will be handed down by government agencies, despite self-policing by the enthusiasts.

On September 27, 2005, this green bucket was reported as a suspicious package underneath the Rainbow Bridge just north of Smith's Ferry on Highway 55. It turned out to be an imporperly placed geocache. - PHOTO COURTESY IDAHO STATE POLICE

  • PHOTO COURTESY IDAHO STATE POLICE
  • On September 27, 2005, this green bucket was reported as a suspicious package underneath the Rainbow Bridge just north of Smith’s Ferry on Highway 55. It turned out to be an imporperly placed geocache.

Still, with so many new geoenthusiasts, mistakes are bound to happen. Scot Tintsman had been geocaching since April of this year and had found many geocaches near high traffic areas and even one underneath a six-lane bridge in California. So when he wanted to put up his first geocache, he didn’t think it was out of the ordinary to try to direct people to a part of the Payette River they don’t normally see. “I’ve driven over that bridge a thousand times, but I really liked that portion of the river and wanted people to see it,” he said.

However, his timing couldn’t have been worse. The very next day, Tintsman’s cache was discovered by the Idaho Transportation Department. He was heading back up to the bridge to finish putting it all together when he noticed the roadblocks and police. Now, he realizes that should have been a little more thoughtful about where he placed it.

Since then, Tintsman has placed two more caches, this time following the guidelines. His advice to new geocachers is to “hook up with someone who’s done it before. Get on the forums and meet someone who knows what’s going on.” That way, he said, it might make it easier to understand what the sport is about.

This geocache, called "Forgotten Monument," is in the heart of Boise. The memorial Identifies the original campsite of the first western visitors to the area and was placed there in 1933. When the Downtown Connector was constructed in 1990 the monument became difficult to reach. Today it is part of a multicache, and to find the next stge you must performe some mah using the engraved dates. - PHOTO BY BINGO BARNES

  • PHOTO BY BINGO BARNES
  • This geocache, called “Forgotten Monument,” is in the heart of Boise. The memorial Identifies the original campsite of the first western visitors to the area and was placed there in 1933. When the Downtown Connector was constructed in 1990 the monument became difficult to reach. Today it is part of a multicache, and to find the next stge you must performe some mah using the engraved dates.

While Tintsman violated geocaching guidelines by placing a cache underneath the Rainbow Bridge, this week he will be charged with breaking the law, too. Valley County Prosecutor Matt Williams is charging Tintsman with violating Idaho statute 18-7031, placing debris on public or private property, a misdemeanor punishable of up to six months in jail or a $300 fine. Tintsman may also be held responsible for costs involved in shutting down the highway and calling the bomb squad up from Boise. Boise Police spokesperson Lynn Hightower said because the overtime for the Boise bomb squad is paid for by Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), they would be the ones asking for restitution. Julianne Marshall, special agent and spokesperson for the ATF in Seattle, said that they usually leave it up to the local prosecutor, so it is uncertain at this time whether Tintsman will be required to pay additional restitution.

Except for the occasional accidental misidentification of geocaches, the sport is generally safe. There has only been one death associated with geocaching. Last winter, 64-year-old James Max Chamberlain was on a geocache hunt with his new GPS unit near San Antonio, Texas when he fell off a cliff and died. The moral: While watching your GPS unit can be exciting, as you get closer and closer to the cache, it is important to remember where you are stepping and to keep your eyes on the trail.

Art Excavation 

The singular geography of artist David Giese

I entered the house and heard opera music playing lightly in the background of Giese’s living room, which was richly adorned with art and opulent artifacts. Baroque, oriental and Renaissance influenced furniture mixed with a hint of modern boudoir appeal and filling the room with the warmth of deep reds, golds and deep earthy tones. An orange tabby played at my feet, rolling around on an oriental carpet. Soon a second orange tabby overcame his shyness and made an appearance.

Named for the Italian and Armenian words for gold, the cats jumped on the delicate furniture, threatening to knock over ornate lamps but never doing so. Clocks throughout the house chimed at seemingly random times. Collectables from around the world adorned every wall, tucked in corners and around the room creating a cozy but not necessarily claustrophobic feeling. Although Giese said he’s lived there just six years, it seemed like a house filled with a lifetime of memories.

Ancient frescos and architectural pieces adorned the walls of his home. But wait. These are his works, his creations, and further inspection reveals tiny details that they aren’t ancient at all, but modern knockoffs of historical paintings. I recognized some of the figures in the paintings, some of the styles from Renaissance, Classical and other period painters. But I don’t recall seeing them in these arrangements, ever. A building in one of the frescoes comes from a famous painting, I am sure of it. The figure standing in front of it from another, yet it baffles the mind to conceive of newly discovered works by these masters long since dead. Which is precisely what Giese is trying to do: baffle. Baffle and maybe generate a little interest in the masters by making their art live on in new works. He came across as a shy man, avoiding eye contact until I got to know him a little better. Reluctant to speak about some things, fidgeting with his hands, we took the time to chat, to get to know each other a little, before the intimacy of the interview began to loosen us both up.

Raised in Minnesota, Giese graduated from Minnesota State University Mankato, where he first attended to become biophysicist. He didn’t take his first art class until he was a junior. But he said that class changed his life.

“I asked myself, ‘Who do you want to spend your life around?'” he said over a beer at the local bar we had migrated to. “Biophysicists or artists?”

After changing majors mid-stream, he still managed to graduate in four years. Because he forgot to notify the draft board of his intentions to go to graduate school, he ended up getting drafted in to the army during the Vietnam War. Ironically, he said he was really glad that happened, because he ended up becoming an arts and crafts specialist–not a common army job he added–and got to travel the entire Pacific theater. While serving at a military base in Arizona, he applied to the University of Arizona, Tuscon, graduate school, where he received his MFAs, one in photography and one in ceramics. He got a job in Milwaukee for five years, then in 1977, a job opened up at the Univeristy of Idaho’s College of Art and Architecture in Moscow where he ran the foundations program for 14 years.

In 1986, Giese received a seed grant from the university and had a one-person show at the Boise Art Museum (since then he has had over 19 one-man shows at various institutions). He was in the process of perfecting a laminating process at the time and was using expandable foam in a new sculptural technique. Central to the theme of the works, he created an imaginary place, a villa in Italy where his works, which resembled ancient, salvaged architectural pieces with partially peeling frescos supposedly came from. He created 54 pieces for the show between July 7 and September 10 of that year, including crates and mounting systems, an accomplishment for any artist. Sandy Harthorne, the Boise Art Museum curator loved the show and helped get it into other museums. It then traveled to 12 institutions for two-and-a-half years during 1988 to 1991.

During that time, Giese traveled to the show openings to lecture and hobnob with the artistic illuminati of those cities. While he still loves to travel, he finds that living in Moscow suits him. “Moscow is a great place to function out of,” he said. “I can get so much more accomplished here. But it would be a horrible place to be if you felt trapped.”

He has found distractions in Moscow other than traveling, teaching or creating his works of art. For 14 years, he and several others ran Moscow’s version of Mardi Gras, which eventually got so big–with the balls, bus tours, parties and more parties–that the city changed parade rules to tone it down. Now they really don’t have that anymore, he said. After turning 60 last year, Giese stays involved with the local arts community, as a member of the Moscow Arts Commission, to which he was appointed this past summer.

Giese’s work centers around a central idea, which he calls “the rise and fall of tastes.” He explained over dinner that an archeological record is like wallpaper. People keep putting new wallpaper up over the old in a house. Before wallpaper, however, Italians would do the same by plastering old decoration with new. As time wore on, earthquakes and disrepair would reveal what was underneath as pieces of the newer plaster fell off.

“I began to understand as an undergrad how people viewed art,” he said. “I would go to a museum and would spend more time in the museum bookstore than in the galleries. But I also began to be interested in watching people go to museums. There seems to be two types of people, those who read everything–the signage accompanying the art–and those who didn’t.”

As a result of this insight, Giese began to conceive of works that were based in history, or as he put it, “Bridging the gaps between the explanation of the truth and the unknown.” His postmodern works are a fantastical creation. Typical of other postmodern artists’ appropriation of others’ works and liberal use of parody, he has created a fictionalized place that he bases all his works upon. But despite the rich history and story behind every work he creates, “I do the work first and then come up with the story,” he said. “I think the work is the primary.”

While his works imitate ancient artifacts dug up from archeological sites, they are made from extremely high-tech and expensive materials, some of which are developed and used exclusively by Giese himself. While the finished works seem extremely heavy, as if made from three inch thick plaster or ancient concrete, they are in reality quite light, a large piece weighing a fraction of what it would be if made of natural or man-made stone. While his proprietary techniques have been developed through experimentation and with the precision of a scientist, they are not patented. But neither does he teach his students about the techniques in classes, since he said that the materials cost alone are usually out of the range of student’s budgets. Besides, why would he want to reveal his secrets?

Beginning in what he thinks was “around 1992,” Giese started experimenting with two-dimensional frescos. He scanned classical paintings into a computer, collaged them into new works, outputting them onto colored prints and imbedding them chemically into his unique concrete chemical mixtures. As a result of the chemical science he has developed, he has created a technique that may last as long or longer than original fresco technique. He was also very interested in carrying the two-dimensional elements of paintings, many of which depicted drapery on the edges, into the three-dimensional drapes of the surrounding sculptural works of his pieces.

While one may see recurring elements in some of his works, such as a cupid head or gargoyle face replicated within the same piece, Giese’s array of molds have been collected over a lifetime. His art dealer in New York City gave him carte blanche to make molds of his private collection, which includes thousands of pieces, stretching back to the Greco-Roman era. Giese found some of his best samples this way.

While his works are rich, detailed and fascinating to look at for their beauty of mimicry, the backstory he creates for each piece makes one chuckle long after looking at the work. His works are even more enjoyable when one is aware of the inside jokes and satire that he sometimes puts in to the story. He has woven just about every key historical figure of the last thousand years into his backstories. They have all visited the villa and been infuenced in varying degrees by what they have seen. No historical figure is sacred. Giese even claims that Walt Disney was inspired by the degraded frescos and sculptures while visiting the villa. While there, Disney sketched the basis for many of the characters found in the cartoons he created and in turn, influenced an entire generation. By tapping in to what most people can relate to, the 20th century, Giese bridges the gap between the past and the present, even if the connection is false.

But some don’t seem to get it. At the Boise Art Museum opening in 1988, Giese’s works were shown alongside real drawings of Italian masters. Although clearly labeled as new works with modern dates, and with all the obvious show catalogues detailing that his works were new creations, people still proceeded to question the originality of the real (and ancient) master’s drawings, preferring to believe that those were fake and that Giese’s works were the real deal. He even overheard a woman telling her friends that she had visited the excavation site in Italy and what a tragedy it was that the Nazis destroyed most of it during WWII.

Confusion over what is real and what is not seems to surround his work, which is entirely what he is aiming for. When his Web site was up (it has been down for some time but plans to return it online are in the works) he received inquiries from archeology interns offering to work at the excavation site. At some shows he overhears people wondering, “How does he get these through customs?”

Institutions hosting his works seem to get in on the fun of the fiction as well. Wilamette University exhibited his show “Excavations at the Villa Bitricci” in the fall of 2001 and promoted it as real. The only clue in the exhibition description were a few carefully placed quotation marks to help attendees read between the lines: “In the early 1980s, while traveling in the Piedmont region of northern Italy, Professor David Giese discovered the remains of a fabulous country house/estate in the foothills of the Italian Alps. Based on archaeological, epigraphic, and literary evidence, Giese believes the house to be the longest continuously inhabited private residence in Europe, dating back to the 3rd century AD. The exhibition will feature a range of frescos and architectural fragments that the artist ‘claims’ to have excavated at the site.”

Scouring the Internet for information about the Villa Bitricci, one can find references on study sites referring to his Web site, not as an artist’s site, but as as an excavation worthy of study by students of archeology. They cite the fictional details as reality, which just makes the joke that much better.

One such site reads, “The structure that is the subject of this Web site was begun just after 200 C.E., and occupied as a private residence continually thereafter into the 20th century. First begun by Roman Emperor Caracalla as a last attempt to show the power and splendor of Rome, construction and renovation on the estate continued until it was stopped by the Fascists at the outbreak of World War II. It was owned through the centuries by powerful political and business leaders who each tried outdo the previous don in building and decoration. During the 13th to 18th centuries, many of Europe’s foremost painters, sculptors, and architects were commissioned for projects at the villa. As a study site, this is a rich niche of history, art, and architecture. Students of archeaelogy may learn here from the exacting work of the those engaged in studying Villa Bitricci. They say that because so many people of intellectual prominence sojourned there, the art and architecture affected Western thinking in important ways, ranging from Thomas Jefferson’s surveying theory to Max Wertheimer’s gestalt psychology.”

Like an urban myth, the “reality” of the Villa’s made-up history seems to get replicated over and over across the Internet and may end up become a real place in historical textbooks and study materials. One just has to laugh at that.

Whereas the fake background stories can be humorous, Giese finds greater purpose in his works.

“What I like about my art is how it confronts your own basis of knowledge,” he said. “There are layers of meaning. If that work is just a piece, can you imagine what the rest of the room in the villa looked like?”

The story Giese tells is that the villa has been visited by nearly every major artist and member intelligencia for the last 1,000 years. Each influenced the art and design of the villa in their own way while there. By imagining such a deep history over this period of time, Giese can tap into ancient Roman motifs to the Renaissance. But being fiction, he can also make it all up as he goes along. “When Jefferson visted the villa,” Giese said with a storyteller’s smirk, “he perceived the parts as making the whole. It inspired him to influence George Washington to conceive of separating the government and political areas into separate but equal parts.”

After spending a year at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas as an artist in residence in 1992, Giese took a sabbatical from the University of Idaho. When he returned to Moscow, he became the chairman of the Department of Art and began teaching more upper division students. During that time he helped redesign the process of the curriculum. This allowed the art and graphics students to develop a stronger body of work. It also allowed the undergraduates to mature more quickly and have a larger portfolio, with practical experience, by the time they graduated. It was the gem of art programs in the state and the University of Idaho had a reputation for having one of the strongest art programs in the Northwest. Then came a shift in the wind. For reasons that some say were personal or political, but officially to deal with funding shortfalls, university administrators began cutting back on the art programs and in 2002, announced that they would eliminate the College of Art and Architecture at the University of Idaho. The classes and students would be merged with the College of Letters, Art and Social Sciences and would only address design, not fine art.

“You spend your whole life working with students, to be told to your face that what you do is not worth it,” David said. “It’s very insulting.”

But the hammer didn’t completely fall on all art programs. The debate came up again earlier this year when Dean Joe Zeller brought up the desire to cancel more art classes and send the art students to Washington State University in Pullman (allegedly without consulting WSU administration officials first). The dean’s office sent out letters to prospective art students that there most likely would not be a four-year art program at the university. Listening to a call from faculty and current and former students of the college, on October 17, 2005, the state board of education voted to reinstate the College of Art and Architecture at the University of Idaho. Giese said when they voted it was like something out of a movie. Everyone at the meeting stood up and cheered.

But the controversy has had a lasting impact. The result, said Giese, is that art students for several years now, unsure as to the future of the fine art program at the university, have sought programs elsewhere. Conversely, with declining numbers of students taking art classes, they have reduced the number of art faculty and now have about eight full-time and two part time staff.

In his studio on campus, an old warehouse on top of one of the hills, he stores his work on floor-to-ceiling shelves housing the hundreds of molds. Usually he works on four to five works simultaneously. In the studio, Giese showed me some pet urns he was playing with at the time.

“I’m making up all these stories about these people who lived at the villa and their pets,” he said while turning the work around and inspecting the underside.

Some of the materials he uses as inspiration come from unsuspecting places, like cheesy candlesticks from department stores. “But when you cast them they look great,” he said with a grin. “I think of myself as a collagist. I make the flats and I start adding stuff.”

Giese makes transfers from colored prints onto the flats, which he had light-tested for archival aging. With the preservative coating, they determined his works are five times more stable than a Kodak C-print, which has an estimated color-maintaining duration of about 80 years.

On the other side of the warehouse is the room containing all the storage crates, some filled with his older works and others being prepared to ship newer ones. While the works–selling for anywhere from $10,000 to $25,000, more for commissioned installations–may look fragile, Giese said they are quite sturdy.

What the future may bring for his historically based works, no one knows. Giese does not fear the future, nor has he any doubt about his works. He sees himself continuing the process. “I suppose I find there are so many various combinations of motifs that I’m not tired,” he said. “I have no problem coming up with new pieces.”

When one avenue of creations peter out, Giese simply fictionalizes another part of the archeological dig and “discovers” new works inside his own mind.

Saturday Night’s All Right•Fiction 101 

Saturday night’s all right

We don’t go all out celebrating birthdays around the office. Sometimes a cake might show up, like for the publisher’s birthday last month, when the staff enjoyed a Black Forest cake (the Pub’s favorite) that was not touched by the b-girl. Apparently she’s really sticking close to her diet and workout routine and looks faaaabbulloouuuss if you haven’t seen her lately. But mostly we just mention birthdays in the staff meetings on Friday.

That’s why I’m reluctantly announcing my own birthday coming up this Saturday. It’s not a call for presents, well wishing or any of the usual stuff associated with an annual event (although subconsciously I may be craving a little attention.) I’m just letting you know because as I continue to meet people, they are constantly surprised that “I’m so young.” Well folks, I will be 38 years old at 12:08 p.m. Saturday. I was born in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and still like sitting around in just my birthday suit (even though they’ve asked me to stop doing that at the office). And if you must get me something, I like cigars, fine spirits and woodblock letters.

Fiction 101

If you are reading this on the weekend, you are too late. If you happen to be passionate aboutBoise Weekly, waiting by the newsrack for our delivery drivers to drop off this week’s edition on Wednesdays, then you may still have time. “Time for what my logorrheic friend?,” you may ask. Well, I’ll tell you.

Get out your pens and paper and write your 101 word short fiction story. You must spell everything correctly, punctuate properly and tell a good yarn in EXACTLY 101 words (contractions count as one, headlines aren’t counted in the total). Then, along with a Hamilton ($10 for those who don’t know their dead presidents) per entry (or an equivalent form of payment equaling five Jeffersons, you have to have it in our offices by 5 p.m. Friday, December 9. This is big cash prizes folks. The winner last year pulled in over $500. That’s five Benjamins to start the new year right. Our judges will evaluate and the winners will be announced in the January 4 issue. Get ’em in early and make sure you count your words correctly. A word has a space in front and behind it.