Wednesday, November 5, 2008


yesterday was not so much about observation as it was about experiencing! being a part! of history! Last night I updated my facebook status to: "Jeanne is so moved, grateful to be living at this moment! Shared! Beautiful!"

Now I can reflect a little. When I woke up this morning, a friend I hadn't heard from in a while had posted a comment on my status: the simple symbol of a heart. I enjoyed reading the status updates everywhere, mostly reflecting such solidarity. (not everyone of course). 

Facebook turned out to be an exciting place to look. They had a poll at the page top keeping constant track of those on facebook who voted. Last I looked, the count was up to 5,447,875. Dunkin Donuts, Starbucks, and Ben & Jerry's all advertized on facebook free products for those who came in and said they voted. After my Spanish class (in which no one could concentrate and my teacher kept jumping up to check her computer) my fellow classmate and I stopped by Ben & Jerry's for the aforementioned free ice cream. 10 minutes to 8pm (when the freebies stopped) and the line was out the door and around the building! The owner came out to assure everyone "We have plenty, don't worry" It was such a festive atmosphere already. We sat by the fountain with some kind and familiar strangers in their obama t's and buttons.  They told me they were headed to the Driskill hotel, I should go. 

I went home first, but then I did go to the hotel and was there at 10 when CNN announced the election projection. Amazing! Still can't believe we found out so early. Had an exciting walk home. Waiting at every cross walk with others downtown, cars honking, capitol metro buses honking, people waving and sticking signs out the window. As I moved away from downtown, walking alone now, an african american woman cheered out her car window at me, to make sure I knew, "Hey! Obama won!" Watched the acceptance speech and aftermath online live streaming from CNN with my housemate. Caught up with my family a few hours ago on their experience watching at home in Maine and our experiences seeing so many happy people today. 

like earth and water

Museum exhibits and books do share John Begg's definition of the book as "a three dimensional container of ideas." Museum exhibits, books, the internet, and many other forms of expression can share the definition "container of ideas."

I am fascinated by the relationship between container and ideas - particularly the substance of both. The substance of the message, material, and means. Is the message meaningful? From where is the message, the idea coming? From joy? From questions and curiosity? From answers and rules and conventions? Out of respect for that which it impacts? Do the materials enhance and reflect the message? Sustainable? In a manner that gives more than takes?

Why am I suddenly interested in the book as the container to express my ideas as opposed to museum exhibits or the internet?

I don't know the answer. Probably it is not about choosing one form over the other. More about finding a container that suits the message and is within my means at the moment? About the expression of ideas. Container and idea aren't fixed anyway. I should look at them as earth and water. Earth as container; water as idea. One always informing and altering the other. Imperceptibly and perceptibly mixing along the way. Running inside and throughout. Dialogue and communication. Conversation.

Books For Our Time

I am reading Books For Our Time. This collection, published in 1951, presents essays from well- known book designers (from the first half of the 20th century) on what a book is and can be. Book design examples follow the essays. The examples still look relatively traditional compared to today, but they show glimmers of page expiramentation to come.

Book designer John Begg, defines a book as "a three dimensional container for ideas." He goes on to say, "It was devised as one of the prime means of conveying ideas and images to others in another time or place. In it the desire to communicate has been given enduring form."

Book designer, Ernst Reichl writes similarly, "Not type and paper, but words and pictures and ideas are his [or her] materials, and the space in which to coordinate them. The purpose of a book is not to be well printed, but to be well comprehended. Le Corbusier calls the house a machine for living. Let me call the book a machine for the preservation of ideas." Afterwards he amends the term "machine for the preservation of ideas," by calling books instead, "the memory of [hu]mankind"

Architect, George Nelson, contributed the outsider perspective in his essay. He sums up the evolving definition of the book by saying, "what has changed is the feeling about what one should do to a page, a spread, a binding."

Monday, November 3, 2008


I enjoyed a few hours at the Texas Book Festival. Yesterday was such a beautiful, warm, calm day. Friendly looking families with kids milled through white tents filled with books or sat with snow cones on the capitol lawns. I bought one book because I liked its images and content. Its a tiny red and black book that a man wrote and designed about the passing of his dog. Memories about the dog are spread out in one sentence per page narrative. A black silhouette of the dog has been printed on the bottom corner of every page, but as you flip through the book, this silhouette moves off the page until it disappears. I think I'll give the book to my mom who is still grieving the loss of our little pug Buda who died in the road recently.

2:00-2:45 sunday afternoon
The Ten Cent Plague: The Great Comic Book Scare and how it changed America
Talk given by David Hajdu. "Hajdu is the music critic for The New Republic and a professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism." says talk description. 

The title of this lecture attracted me more than it would have last year since I recently read Understanding Comics. I learned a part of history I never knew before. Apparently this part of history has been forgotten or left out in a lot of peoples memories. Neither of my parents had heard about the comic book scare in the 40s and 50s either. Although my dad recalls how much his mother disliked his reading comics and wonders now if that was the reason.

What I learned from this journalist/author lecturer who collected stories from 800 people for his book: 
Comic books were the #1 form of entertainment in the 50's. American comics were a major export at this time. Comics were passed down from hand to hand and reread until they fell apart. This is part of the reason, comics from that era are hard to come by. The real reason comics of this time are rare is their mass burning.

Comics began by young people for young people. Those creating them were "outsiders" maybe because they were Jewish, female, Asian, Black, different in some way from the status quo so they found ways to express themselves in comics since magazines and publishers of the time wouldn't hire them and posted help wanted ads that had in tiny letters at the bottom "A Christian Company" So a group of people created this new art form, trying to create meaningful work, trying to challenge the status quo. Comics had this unconventional, subversive, outsider sensibility that the status quo felt threatened by. They realized something defiant was going on and that children were the ones learning these new ways of thinking and values because they were the ones reading comics. At the time 99.5 % of children read comics. 

The video clip the author showed, which stated the severe harms of kids reading comic books, got many laughs because of how old-fashioned and aburd the arguments sound today especially compared to what kids have at their disposal now. Comic books were banned from Canada - no superman comics could cross the border! Comic books started being restricted and banned across America, condemned as "harmful to young people and the cause of violence and crime." Comics were gathered up everywhere and burned and these public burnings lasted 10 years. The comic industry nearly died completely. It was later revived when the generation who were children during the scare grew up and some of the illustrators among them decided to continue the mission of people who started the genre. Its hard to believe that something like this happened at the beginning of my parent's life time and has so quickly been lost from many people's memories.