Thursday, October 17, 2013

la ville me manque

Above, a few pictorial memorials of my sweet taste of City a few weeks ago (Ann Arbor). I'd been told, soon after my arrival in Hillsdale, that I'd like Ann Arbor: "Lots of hipsters." I'm delighted to report that I do, in fact, like Ann Arbor, though honestly all it takes these days is a few bright lights and person or two outside the Hillsdale demographic spectrum (which generally consists of rather conservative-looking youths or professorial older types) to get me pretty excited.
        What particularly caught my fancy in this city, (besides the fact that I was on an outing to a fancy French restaurant and a Parisian-themed show, generously subsidized by the French department, and was accompanied by amiable new Francophile acquaintances) was something you could call its "creative space".

         We had some time between dinner and the show at that point of evening where the shops lights have just started glowing but the sky hasn't faded yet. We walked past a large wedding taking place in a farmer's market parking lot and a loud, colorful festival of sorts, and turned down a quiet street. Under the branches of the boulevard trees, the city was quiet and close. Doors and windows to my left drew my attention, the lettering on their surfaces emerging slowly in the dusk. A light on, in the recesses of a place, back through another doorway, spilling toward us over dark chairs and papers, suggestively silent; the insignia-ed signs of the establishments swinging above us, only hinting at the nature of these diminutive universes with their worlds of shadow and light behind glass. Their precise definitions remain mysterious; I've noted a portion of East Ann Street for further exploration. They seemed to be mixtures of living and working space--project headquarters, places where young, creative things were being nurtured.

        This is a painting I saw at the Toledo Art Museum a week and a bit ago, entitled Architectural Fancy With a Concert Party.

        It's an "architectural fancy". These places were atmospheric fancies come to life. Activity and material, purpose and practice, branding and fact all warped and woofed. We inhabit our spaces with dreams, not just doings, and here were dreaming places.
          Perhaps someday the Keefer House cum Brimming Quill will dream in paint and mortar.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Z: a foray into Inferno

It's Thursday again, that day I often begin under false pretenses. I muscle my way out of bed to my 8 o'clock microeconomics lecture, soothed with promises that after the 75 minute class I can drag my feet back to bed. This promise often proves empty, but I keep falling for it.
          Today instead of paying back the sleep I robbed myself of last night, I went to the library. Economics class always gets me thinking, early as it is in the morning, and during a recent class period I was possessed of a sharp ambition of writing a book like the pivotal (at least in the course of my own life) Terence Conran on Design, but about the market economics that underpin the modern world. Driven by this vision, I looked up the Library of Congress Classification for economics (HB) and made my way down to Purgatorio* to find it. My ambition to read up on economics a bit before I start my book received a check in the form of the eight or so rows of HB-filled shelves. Sobered, I pulled a modest tome from this section and wandered toward a few of the other letters I'd scribbled down: HF (business), PR (wherever William Blake fits), and PN (where I found a book on theater design**). I spent a happy couple of hours at a table by a window with these books spread before me as in the days of my public-library-raiding youth, reading about the professional maid service industry and a summer camp for communications CEOs. As I neared the end of my camp-out, I looked through the list of titles I'd written down and realized I hadn't hunted up Graphic Design Before Graphic Designers: The Printer as Designer and Craftsman. Library of Congress Classification: Z246. I soon found that the shelves in Purgatorio stopped among the Ps. There was nothing for it. To the Inferno.
           I'd never been down the strikingly sterile stairwell with its white walls and bright lights before. I slipped through the metal gate at the top of them with a cool shiver of anticipation, the ringing of my sandals on the steps striking in the silence.
           Stepping carefully, I made my way past hunched and studious souls to the last shelf, noticing a vague increase in the aggression of the titles upon my attention (walking through the library shelves, as we all know, is a perilous business; many little fingers reaching out with faded spines and sticky words to trip one up on the way to studying in the back). It took me a moment to realize however, that the Zs are... books on books. For some reason this was quite the impressive revelation to me. Z. Meta-books. I plopped on the floor, leafing through pages covered in Latin script or early German type, books smattered with the innards of other books, until I'd selected the one I'd kidnap for today: The Elements of Typographic Style, which has a pretty cover and is full of pretty letters. (...I'm a definite cover-judger.)
           Emerging at last into the bright world above with my stack of books and feeling (as I always do) roughly as though I've just raided a dragon lair (but trying to keep it cool on the outside), I go to lunch and make plans for diving back into real school work. And today, for my spirits if not for my droopy eyeballs, lair-raiding beats a nap.

*The Hillsdale library has three levels, beginning from ground level and working downward. The intensity of studiosity and enforced silence increases as one descends, which lends itself to Dantean designations. (Heck, almost anything lends itself to Dantean designations.)
** NaNoWriMo 2013 spoiler alert: This book is expected to be a major influence of this year's novel.