On the Fuller Centennial 1995

a Personal Account
by Kirby Urner
Part II

In the hallways between seminars, during odd moments off stage, or while standing on and around the huge World Game map, taped to the floor of the SDSU Peterson Gymnasium (see Part III), speakers and conferees intermingled, their global trajectories looping into tight little knots all around greater San Diego.

Noel Simbul had come to the Buckminster Fuller Centennial all the way from the Philippines in search of chord factors for a high frequency geodesic dome. Noel knew how to build lower frequency domes from steel and concrete; he had a snapshot of his still-drying rollerblade palace to prove it. But now the Philippine government had signed off on a hastily conceived proposal to do a 1000 footer as the centerpiece of a kind of Universal Studios in Southeast Asia, on the site of the now defunct Clark Air Force Base. Not even Don Richter had built a dome this big, no one had, although the Saudis had at one time expressed an interest. Noel chuckled at the thought of the RP Finance Minister asking the World Bank for a $50 million dome loan -- Don's rough idea of the price tag. So Noel was hoping when he got home to get the project rescaled to something more reasonable, but even a rather smaller dome would need to be of a much higher frequency than any he had so far designed. He wandered the halls in search of technical assistance.

Penelope Place was game to coordinate multimedia productions. She would be the "time-line nanny" that content producers love to hate, enforcing critical deadlines along the path towards commercial distribution. BFI already had a sum earmarked to fund her in this role, but she still needed to find the threads currently out there in need of interweaving-not an easy job. Since she lives in Santa Fe, we agreed she would have little trouble coordinating with Richard Hawkins. I also told her about Blaine D'Amico's CDROM, a still primitive prototype complete with QuickTime movies, animations, and scrolling text files, all retrievable through geometric designs doubling as menus. Randolph Craft, one of the seminar leaders, holds other relevant threads and was glad to receive Robert Snyder's spiritual blessing to continue the work of promulgating Bucky's work via the audiovisual media. Robert, Allegra's husband, is a professional film maker and I finally got to see his piece on Fuller at Balboa Park -- Dawn too until she had to leave with our squirmy baby. I'd seen Snyder's film on Michelangelo here in Portland some months before.

The seminars gave speakers a chance to present their projects and ideas in a more organized form, and gave conferees their opportunity to inquire, challenge and elaborate during the Q&A sessions. Many of the seminars were packed, even to the point of turning people away, by order of the fire marshal. Dawn, Tara and I sat in the back row of Barbara Marx Hubbard's presentation, taking in her curious brand of christocentric technomysticism, which she freely acknowledged was politically incorrect. She shared about when Bucky asked her to run for President of the United States, and how her thoughts about so doing freed her from an imprisoning self image. She was no longer bound by patriarchal typecasting. She was just getting to another critical meeting with Bucky when Tara began squirming again, and this time it was my turn to leave. Out in the semi-deserted cafeteria, Tara practiced walking to daddy for the first time. Dawn filled me in on the talk by Barbara's co-presenter Gregory Stock Ph.D., who has recently published a book about the MetaMan, his word for the cybernetic, globally self-informing, cell-silicon organism our species is becoming aboard Motherboard Earth-becoming whether we like it or not; there's simply no turning back.

After we had gotten bored playing with ice cubes, Tara and I accessed another seminar-in-progress where amazing slides were being shown, of dwellings built from existing inventory in the agricultural sector, from silo parts in particular. We viewed slides of energy harvesting, homes, some transportable, some lived in for years. These were highly modular, flexible designs, built to conserve resources while providing comfortable living quarters for humans working in extremely harsh environments. I left with a stronger sense than ever that humans have the wherewithal to take care of themselves, sustainably, and at a high living standard. We just need to get out of our own way and let it happen.


We took off in our Mitsubishi Expo to tour greater San Diego. This is a center of the military industrial complex, what Fuller identified in Critical Path as the prime contractor irrigation system for the LAWCAP economy. Aircraft carriers Kitty Hawk and Constellation loomed as silhouettes against the setting sun. Driving by a naval base entrance on Coronado Peninsula, I snapped a picture of one of two in-service geodesic domes I saw on this trip; the other was at the San Diego zoo. By nightfall, we were once again hot on the trail of the inflatable icosahedron (see Part I), now moved to Shelter Island at Humphrey's By the Bay, the site for the Saturday night benefit concert. Our thirteen-month-old baby bounced on her knees and swayed to the music, entertaining all around her, until she got cranky (long past her bed time). We left just before the last set, which was unfortunate, since we had wanted to hear Chuck Dingee's Bucky song again, this time from a serious sound stage.

During the concert, flyers were passed out inviting conferees to an event at another conference happening simultaneously. The Institute for Noetic Sciences had arranged a commlink between the Atlas Ballroom and someplace in Moscow-all were invited. After leaving Dawn and sleepy Tara at the Horton Grand, I set out in search of more adventure, losing myself in the vast campus of interconnected facilities they call the Town & Country Hotel. I found Allegra and Robert wandering about looking equally lost, and somewhat exhausted. We entered the Atlas Ballroom to find the now-familiar flanking video screens, and a central podium, whereon stood former Apollo astronaut Edgar Mitchell, and some Russians with their translators.

Allegra and Robert found their friend Jay Baldwin and when word reached the podium that these three VIPs were in the room, calls for speeches became inevitable, because this event also had everything to do with Bucky. The new satellite Dymaxion Map was prominently visible on the podium, and the reason these Russians had ventured to San Diego was to drum up interest and support for a geodesic dome in Gorky Park. This dome would house permanent commlink equipment, making people-to-people group communications, such as this one, a major park attraction. But this particular exercise in global communications wasn't going too well. The big screens showed our mostly empty conference room on the right, but where Moscow should have been on the left were the words: Far Side Mute.

A third Russian, fluent in English, and dashing around with a microphone like some kind of Donahue, tried to keep the weary audience alive. He introduced Allegra, who made an impromptu speech about the value of global communications. He shouted for Jay, who talked about the appropriateness of using geodesic domes because of their apolitical universality. And Jay also wanted us to hear from Robert Snyder -- no one was getting off the hook tonight. Robert pointed out that their was some irony in using domes as USA-CIS commlinks as well, since historically domes had appeared along the DEW line to "keep the Russians out" whereas now the idea was to use the same structures to "bring the Russians in"-at about which point Moscow appeared on the big screens: a man at a desk in what appeared to be a sparsely furnished office. The television was slow scan, meaning his facial expressions changed jerkily as he told us that the guests on the other end had yet to materialize, and reaching them by phone via the Moscow exchange was proving more difficult than reaching us by satellite in San Diego. Then the far side went mute again. We never did establish a remote dialog.



  • DEW: Defense Early Warning system
  • LAWCAP: Post FDR lawyer-capitalism (pre-GRUNCH)
  • RP: Republic of the Philippines
  • SDSU: San Diego State University

Photo scanning and touch-up by David Fabik [df]

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