A story of our own.

I am currently reading Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer for dyslexics.  Meaning, the Watertown Free Library did not have a hard copy available, so I had to check out the book on tape.  Even though this means something like 14 hours of book on tape, I’ve gotten pretty far along.  Of course, most of my co workers have been mocking the giant noise cancellation headphones I’ve been sporting, but that’s ok.  The book’s the thing.

Interesting as I find parts of this  non-fiction book, one of the things that really caught my eye was the proposition of the Church of Latter-Day Saints as the most widespread religion originating in the United States.  While I am unsure how to categorize various other religions, the idea itself is interesting.  Mormonism as a very distinct, North American-centric religion.  Obviously there are certain faith traditions that LDS builds upon, but the same could be said of the relationship of other faiths – Christianity building on Judaism, Islam building on parts of both.

Another point that is mentioned and I find interesting is the idea of appeal in the Book of Mormon.  For those of you who are not familiar with this book (I wasn’t), it’s the story of a lost tribe of Israel and its travels and travails in North America.  While there is no evidence that the story is true, it remains a powerful story.  Despite my own Christian beliefs, I have a powerful sympathy for the stories of faith that fill out and shape our individual lives, and I mean no disrespect when I associate, in my mind, the stories of my own faith with that of the LDS or other stories, myths, legends, and fables.  I find most of them fascinating.

One of the reasons Tolkien wrote his fantastical stories was to give space to English myth and legend that could be understood within a Christian ethic.  He drew from Norse, Anglo-Saxon, Celtic, Finnish, and Classical sources to create something new, different, and wondrous that could be a myth for his own time.  Do we not, as Americans, also need our own myth?

Some would say that the wonder of past ages has been transmuted.  Instead of looking backward to times of legends, miracles, and magic, we are looking forward to new technologies and advances of the human spirit.  Some would say that science fiction fills the space once created by myth, or that comic book heroes and the graphic novel have rightfully supplanted older stories and forms, or that television and film have taken our old dramas to new levels.  But perhaps I want something more encompassing than that.  Perhaps I want something wider, something that everyone, more or less, can relate to.  Is that impossible, within the diversity of our current lives?  Are we so different, now, from who we used to be?  I think those who continue to search for meaning would say no.

What kind of face does your car have?

Some people choose their cars based on performance – high speeds, durability, safety, environmental impact, or hauling capacity.  I have never cared much about any of these things.  Personally, when my foolish parents dragged me to countless auto dealerships to check out their new cars, I was most interested in the little pamphlets that told which models came in which colors.  I knew that color was more important than make – they didn’t seem to realize.

The only real other qualifier I had (have?) about cars was what kind of face they had.  You know – the headlights make eyes, the mouth and nose made by the bumper or grill or the holes between them.  I knew I didn’t want a car with a big fat pig nose stretching across most of its face.  Hence, most trucks were out for me.  I also didn’t want a car with a big bumper lip, or one that looked like it had its front teeth knocked out.  Who wants a car with bad teeth?  Sadly, this whole ‘face’ thing left most cars out of my list.

Who remains?   The bug, old or new.  True, it does have too-big eyes and a sort of bumper lip, but the overall character of the car makes it seem clownish in a lovable way, rather than simply ugly.  Really, other than that, nothing comes to mind.  So, until the time when teh car manufacturers give me what I want, I guess I’ll just have to go with something healthy and wholesome like this (thanks, Luke Hallam)

I want MY house to be like a factory!

Some of you may be familiar with the Stuff White People Like blog. Why? Cause it’s funny. And who doesn’t like funny? Still, as a former student of architecture, I was slightly disturbed by this recent post. What? People, even white people, like that bony, poorly-designed crap? Not that I’m dissing ‘Modern’ design, or that I don’t agree with the principles behind designers like the Eames or some of the stuff that IKEA tries to do. The idea of easy assembly, the beauty of everyday objects, and using science as a foundation for design are all good ideas that I agree with. Ideas such as “Design is the appropriate combination of materials in order to solve a problem” or “The details are not the details. They make the design.” enthrall me. I just don’t think the follow-through takes me where I want to go.

Take the two versions of the Eames Lounge Chair. 180px-eames_chair.jpg 250px-eameslounch.jpg Both are probably comfortable for sitting. The second one with the ottoman may even be comfortable for lounging. Still, as furniture, it fails to meet my needs. I am a reader – I want to be able to curl up with a good book. Try tucking your feet under you in either chair and I guarantee you’ll be on the floor instead. Plus, even the cushy padding of the ottoman model doesn’t look terribly comfortable. And as one of our dominant senses, looks count.

Or, take the chaise lounge of one of the icons of Modernism, Corbusier. 250px-lecorbusierchaise.jpgTo me, it looks like a frightening dentist’s chair, rather than an object of comfort. But who knows? It could be very relaxing, once you have reclined in it. And I’m sure it’s a well-thought solution to the way people move and recline. What it fails to take into account is my perceptions and associations. As a dentist’s chair look-alike, am I going to be able to overcome my own inhibitions and actually sit in the thing?

Or the Eames Case Study house, below. Part of its design purpose was to use only off-the-shelf parts. I’ll let you decide if the house says ‘loving home’ or colorful factory’ to you. Again, the overall visual impression affects my experience of the space.

eames-house-1.jpg eames-2.jpg

eames-inside.jpg eames-inside-2.jpg

Finally, this guy. ergo.jpgThe backless ergonomic stool. Don’t worry, it’s good for you. If you can figure out how to actually sit on the thing without falling…