4/16/09

Minor Responsibilities.





OK, I know I have a problem with minor responsibilities. You know the kind, the responsibilities that you have that aren't too burdensome, the ones that take less than an hour a week or so.

Well, I count this blog as one of them (sorry you hardcore, super-bloggers, I don't mean that in any offensive, belittling way), meaning that for me to faithfully write on it would be out of the norm, an anomaly. To further illustrate my deficiency in this department, I've prepared two case studies:


1.) *Disclaimer*- Do not send this to any current member of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). I'd rather not have a smal protest of rodent enthusiasts show up outside my apartment burning miniature effigies of me. Thank you.


The year is 1998. I receive a grey (gray?) dwarf hamster for my birthday. This is the second or third hamster I've ever had. the first, Arthur, died because of some terrible sickness (maybe some kind poisoning from eating plastic?), the second died of old age I believe. Now a dwarf hamster, for those of you who are undereducated about rodent species, is about half the size of a regular hamster and, if I remember correctly, generally are gray with a white underbelly:





They happen to be one of the world's most amorphous animals, up there with jellyfish and octopi. Kind of similar to a miniature chinchilla without any bones. Except they do have bones. But you can hardly tell.

Anyways, this new hamster was a beaut, small, fun, had a lot of personality (which is relative, because hamsters in general have very little personality). However, this furry little friend was prone to late night exercise sessions on his wheel, which, after two generations of hamster, had become quite noisy. This caused me many a sleepless night. To rectify the situation, I devised (as any good, architecture-student-to-be would) a solution: put him in the closet so that I could muffle the sounds of the wheel with the closet door. It was an ingenious solution. However, my (very) early onset alzheimers took control at this moment and I proceeded to forget about my hamster. Two weeks later, when I realized my grave error, I opened the closet door to find him belly up (does that apply to hamsters, or only fish? In this case it was appropriate I suppose). I was horrified at my utter insensitivity to my hamsters basic needs. It was definitely a period of great mourning and reflection. But then later that day I had a basketball game and after that I was fine.



2.) I like buildings. Which is why I am planning on being an architect. I like landscapes, I like exteriors, and I also like interiors. In order to make my apartment building more "homely," I decided it would be appropriate to buy a smattering of plants to decorate the apartment. I went to Wal-mart (sorry union lovers, I won't do it again), and bought a few strange plants which required little watering to put on empty tables and counters around the house. Now I don't really have a major green thumb. I probably could if I cultivated the desire to, but I just haven't had the opportunity nor the time.

So a few weeks go by and I'm doing a good job about keeping the plants well watered. I get into a nice routine. Then the first major project rolls by. I'm busy, but I still maintain them pretty well. The second project brings with it a busier schedule, but I'm still making do. The third project invites an even busier schedule, and I begin to focus more and more on my school work. During this period, my poor, forgotten plants begin to droop and wilt. I realize my error just in time and spend the next few weeks rehabbing them, feeding the throughout the day with a dropper (for the small ones) and an IV bag for the larger ones. That last sentence was a lie. But regardless, they do make it back to (somewhat) full health. The semester ends, and I go home for Christmas. I return to realize that I have both forgotten to bring my plants home or to have someone water them in my absence and that all but one of my plants have bitten the dust, gone six feet under, have been sent to Davey Jones' locker. It was horrible. The last plant still lives, but he is mostly brown and about half dead. I'm still holding out hope for his survival though.



Those rather long and unnecessary stories illustrate my rather brief moral: I am utterly incompetent at minor responsibility. I'll try to do better with this blog, I promise. Time will tell I guess.

2/17/09

The Sacred and the Profane

Listen:








Why does it hit me every time? It's an amazing song, to be sure. Sufjan Stevens is a musical genius. It has a strong air of sincerity. But what is different about it than the rest of talented, sincere Christian musicians?

It's been something I've been thinking about a lot. Why, when I listen to Sufjan, do I feel so much more in awe of my Lord?

In studio, we've been working on a "non-denominational sacred space." We have to communication the idea of the place being sacred, of being set apart from the rest of the space we inhabit each day. For reference, my professor gave us an article entitled "The Sacred and the Profane" talking about what makes a space sacred and the effect that has on religious man. In Exodus we get this verse:

"Then [the Lord] said, "Do not come near here; remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground." Exodus 3:5

So where has the holy ground gone today? There has been a widespread movement to commonize. Our churches are simple and boring, the songs we sing the same. And there are absolutely aspects that were needed. Christianity is not for the elite or the few. One doesn't need to be in a church or on a holy hill to feel God's presence. But at some point we lost the notion of the sacred. We forgot about beauty and there's been this effort to reclaim it; it's hard though. When we do try to create beauty, we get lost in details and over think it, forgetting the beauty of true and well considered simplicity. In the article, the author says that sacred space helps us orient our worlds. Without it, everything is the same and (it follows) chaotic; in a word, anarchy. Do we actively pursue the sacred? Or is it enough to recognize when stumble upon it? I don't know.

2/14/09

Cram Hole

Something's gotten lost in translation. What happened to the beauty of learning, the beauty of knowledge?

I pictured college as this time of academic enlightenment where professors were socratic geniuses and students were voraciously learning their chosen fields. And at times, that shines through. But mostly, I've felt like college has been this hole of knowledge fed through a paper shredder to be more easily digested by me, the consumer, and synthesized into some kind of toxic pulp and excreted onto an exam.

Before I came to K-State, I read ravenously. All the time. Part of it was due to having an English class, but mostly because I loved it. Since becoming an architecture student, I've completely lost the desire to read for pleasure. Yea, I still love to talk about books and in the few cases I do read, I find myself enjoying them (mostly; I've actually been on a dry spell of good books recently). Now, the only reading I ever do is required, and even then, only sometimes.

At some point I lost the love.

It might have been out of necessity. Studio is such a time suck that in order to engage in a healthy relationship with God and friends, something has to be cut. I just feel like for the past 2 years (even though I have learned a lot), what I've lost (at least academically) has almost started to equal what I've gained.

There's got to be something better. I love the movie "Once." There's something about it; I think it's the pacing, the tempo. It doesn't rush, doesn't jostle or explode or any of what I've come to expect from a movie. It's breadth is small, it's reach inconsequential. But there's a profundity in it, in the simplicity. What if that's what we've lost? The simplicity. The honest, sincerity of learning, of knowledge. Where we don't feel guilty or rushed. The stress is gone, time allowed to continue at a natural pace, a slow cadence.

I think at some point along the road, we were so eager to experience life in it's fullness that we tried to speed up the clock. And now all we have are heads full of murky thoughts, like a static channel or a dusty camera lens. I want some clarity. I don't want a life lived in fast forward. I chose quality.

2/11/09

Lafene, or the fifth circle of Hell

As I've already stated, I'm sick. Yesterday, I had the pleasure? of going to Lafene. I arrived at 12:30 and waited for about 30 minutes until a gray (gray or grey?) haired nurse called my name. I went into one of the checkup rooms, where she proceeded to check my height, weight, blood pressure, breathing, pulse, and temperature. My temperature was only 98.8, but I was feeling awful. So she begins to insinuate that I'm faking it, then tells me to lie down for a while and she'll check my temperature again after 30 minutes. I swear, the nurses at Lafene must be recruited from Leavenworth State Penitentiary. I lie down on the hard bed, shivering like I'm naked in the Arctic, and wait out the torturous 30 minutes. She checks my temperature again and it has risen a bit. To her credit, she could tell that I actually was sick. I think they are supposed to grill the students when they come in there to keep the fakers out.

So here I am, temperature slowly rising (as the Advil taken a few hours before began to wear off) and feeling awful. She tells me she needs to swab for the flu. I allow her to, not knowing what this will entail. She says I'll feel a "little pressure", then it will be done. "Little pressure" is in contention for the understatement of the century. The swab is jammed up my nasal canal, resulting in some of the most intense pain I have felt in ages. My eyes started to water. I started losing vision. Then it was over. I still cringe a bit thinking about it. What kind of sadists are these people anyways?

The "swab" is taken to the lab, and for another 30 minutes I sit, shivering in the cold room on the bed. I should point out that I had a pounding headache and a runny nose. I couldn't sleep, but couldn't keep my eyes open either because light and visual stimuli made my headache worse. It was awful.

The test came back normal, but the nurse decides to finally call the doctor. He comes in (another 20 minutes later), and checks me as well, asking for symptoms. The doctor was much nicer than the nurse. He took my temperature again, which at that time had risen to over 100. After doing a few more tests, he finally tells me that I am sick, but he's not sure what the sickness is. Thanks for that confirmation, Doc. He does however, give me a note for my classes, which in retrospect, was the only thing I got out of the whole visit.

After receiving the confirmation of sickness and the note, the gray-haired nurse comes back in and proceeds to have this conversation with me:


GHN-"I knew that you were sick, even when you didn't have a temperature. It comes with the years of experience. So next time that they ask us you to vote on whether to keep us gray-haired nurses, you better vote yes."

Me-"Yea"

GHN-"I mean, if it had been a younger nurse, she probably wouldn't have been able to tell that you were sick. But me, I know."

Me-"Yea, thanks for that."


It was all said in this eery, Misery-like tone. Had it not been for the intense vertigo I was feeling, I would have gotten up and run away. It was waiting for her to take the "swab" out and ask, "You will be voting for me to stay, won't you?"

Three hours later, I leave Lafene, knowing no more than I did before. Worth it? Definitely not.



Currently Watching:

Courier: the grandfather of typeface

I am having a love affair with the typeface "Courier" as of late (ie, the title of this site).

A few months ago, Dwell did a slight revamp of the design for their magazines. Included in this design was the (somewhat) extensive use of the Courier. I think they use it for all their captions and a few of their intro paragraphs. At first I was abashed. How could they replace their sleek design with such a dated font, one so aesthetically awkward. Perhaps it was the overuse of this font that I had grown up with. Perhaps it was some event in my past. Whatever the case, I was hurt and confused at my favorite magazine's poor choice.

But as time has gone on, I have slowly become enamored by it. The time was right for a rebirth, I suppose. Dwell, I apologize for questioning your discrimination. I was judgemental; I was opposed to change. You are the visionary publication that I once believed you were. Thank you for opening my eyes.




A little history on Courier:

Courier is a monospaced slab serif typeface designed to resemble the output from a strike-on typewriter. The typeface was designed by Howard "Bud" Kettler in 1955. The design of the original Courier typeface was commissioned in the 1950s by IBM for use in typewriters, but they did not secure legal exclusivity to the typeface and it soon became a standard font used throughout the typewriter industry. As a monospaced font, it has recently found renewed use in the electronic world in situations where columns of characters must be consistently aligned. It has also become an industry standard for all screenplays to be written in 12 point Courier or a close variant.

The font was later redrawn by Adrian Frutiger for the IBM Selectric Composer series of electric typewriters.
12 point Courier New was also the U.S. State Department's standard typeface until January 2004, when it was replaced with 14 point Times New Roman. Reasons for the change included the desire for a more "modern" and "legible" font.[1][2]
Kettler was once quoted about how the name was chosen. The font was nearly released with the name "Messenger." After giving it some thought, Kettler said, "A letter can be just an ordinary messenger, or it can be the courier, which radiates dignity, prestige, and stability."

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Courier_(typeface))