Wednesday, June 20, 2007

An eye for detail

"Steel and Stone Arches"

(Taken from near the Lower Falls, Genessee River, Rochester, NY, May 27, 2007)
(Glick on the photo to see it in greater detail--that'll give you a better view of the second bridge.)

When I was a kid in South Jersey (that's southern New Jersey, for my British readers, if any), I used to enjoy hopping the bus into center city Philly, taking a stroll down the beautiful Benjamin Franklin Parkway, and visiting the Philadelphia Museum of Art. What I remember most about the museum are two things. One is the building itself, a neo-Grecian "temple" set on a hill like a modern Acropolis. The other is the dog cage.

Yep, that's what I said.

It was a gorgeous Chinese dog cage with gilded bars and enamel decorations.

That's me. Take me to any museum in the world and I'll pass right by the paintings and go straight to the applied arts or crafts section. I'm far less interested in El Greco than in Grecian urns. I want to see the the carved wood letter openers from Kenya, the Native American reed baskets, the Tiffany lamps. I enjoy looking at ethnic costumes, porcelains from China and Delft, Bohemian and Venetian glass . . .

Take me to a Jewish museum and don't bother showing me the Chagalls--I'll be in the Ritual Objects exhibition rooms, looking at the lichten (candle sticks), kiddush cups, Sefardi Torah cases and Ashkenazi s'malot (Torah mantles) . . .

You get the picture.

A while back, Elie asked Shifra, "Is there a career path that you always wished you could have taken, but never did for reasons of circumstance or practicality? If so, what?"

Would that I had my girlfriend's daughter's aptitutes--if I could both add two plus two without a calculator and draw a straight line without a ruler, I might have become either an architect, a civil engineer, or an industrial designer. Sadly, I lack both mathematical aptitude and artistic talent.

But I love a beautiful, well-designed building, bridge, or piece of office equipment. Even a simple but ergonomically-correct and elegant kitchen utensil will catch my eye.

Conversely, I find poorly-designed structures and objects annoying. The keys on a computer keyboard are concave, but, for some dumb reason, the keys on some fax machines are not only convex, but a tad slippery, as well. Why? Did the designers want users' fingers to slide right off the keys? And what about what an old friend of ours describes as "user-resistant packaging?" How is one supposed to eat a cookie on the run when it's so tightly wrapped that one needs a knife to open the wrapper?

Lacking the aptitudes necessary to design anything myself, I've suddenly discovered, in my middle years, a way to appreciate the work of others--photography. I'm no good at it, but I've discovered it. :) (Tips on taking shots in the dark [literally] would be appreciated--I have no idea how to adjust the camera for low-light conditions, and The Family Physicist lost the instruction manual.) I enjoy taking shots of well-designed structures and objects, not to mention views designed by the Great Designer Himself.

You've already seen my photo of a fancy ceiling and chandelier in Grand Central Station, as well as a video and some pictures from my visual "subway series," and you'll probably see more of Shira's Shots in the future.

Speaking of a "subway series," I also have a poetry series by that name. Which leads me right into my next post . . .


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