Antioch and Higher Education Institutional Failure

Colleges are self perpetuating institutions in at least three ways:
We have self-perpetuating boards. Boards of trustees replicate and pay for many of our little habits. Most boards, like the boards of most non-profits, are expected to pony up monetary contributions regularly. If board members can’t recruit future members who will help they’re not doing their job.
We have self-perpetuating faculties – we (I speak personally here) usually do all the work of hiring our replacements, and in theory we ought to send a few folks to grad school to replace us or people like us someday (I don’t think that’s responsible in the current world, but in theory we might). If we can’t convince people to come work with us and can’t manage to retain a certain proportion of the annual intake, we’re not doing that part of our job.
We recruit students. Without students neither boards nor the faculty they employ have a real function, unless they can afford to dispense with students and become think tanks. While Harvard could, if it liked, realign its budget to stop charging tuition at all, most of us have some more serious reliance on the annual income from tuition.
Antioch failed on at least the third criterion and probably on the first. It would be vaguely conceivable that an utterly committed board could support the quixotic mission of a college with an enrollment of 130 (the latest Princeton Review figure). They didn’t. They will close. There are odd little schools here and there which survive with a tiny enrollment. The people at Antioch who can make the decision are tired of trying, I guess.
Several of the most interesting colleges in America are teensy weensy – but hey! They know it and work it. And they weren’t formerly 2,000 people with the physical plant to match. I would never take a job at a college so small. I can’t afford it – I have no spousal income to fall back on should it close down. TIAA-CREF will only take you so far at my age. But if you’re curious, here’s a quick list.
Magdalen College – wacky Catholic with a Vatican II Laity emphasis.
St. John’s College, Annapolis – wacky secular college, the oldest surviving Great Books program.
Thomas Aquinas College – wacky Great Books college, Catholic edition. I like their reading list. I’d rather die than live in Ojai, CA. Well, not die, but you know. SoCal? Me?
New College of the University of South Florida – there’s even a public version of the experimental college. I’d take a job there, because the funding will never quite go away and because one of the smartest people I have ever known went there and flourished.

Sunday Evening Leftover Random Mix

“Rim Lachoua” — Cheb Mami — Dellali, 2001, Räi
“Too Tight” — Con Funk Shun — Touch, 1980, Funk
“Millennium” — Robbie Williams — The Ego Has Landed, 2002, Brit Pop
“Love Is Stronger Than Pride” — Sade — The Best Of Sade, R&B
“Ye Yo” — Erykah Badu — Live, 1997, R&B
“Quiet Village” — The Ritchie Family — Disco Hits Vol. 2
“Auf’m Bahnhof Zoo” — Nina Hagen — The Very Best Of — Punk
“Do What You Wanna” (Mr. Scruff’s Soul Party Mix) — Ramsey Lewis — Verve Remixed 2 — Electronica/Dance
“Tired Of Being Alone” — Al Green — Take Me To The River, R&B
“The End of the Party” — The English Beat — Special Beat Service, 1982, Ska 80s

Tapestry Maps

The Bodleian is displaying a set of Tudor tapestry maps – a very interesting example of the Renaissance obsession with cartography. The pictures are very beautiful – go look!

Oxford’s Bodleian Library has reunited a series of rare Tudor tapestry maps after acquiring the Sheldon Tapestry Map for Gloucestershire at auction.
The wool and silk tapestry, which cost the library more than £100,000, is part of a set of four maps commissioned by Ralph Sheldon for his home at Weston, Warwickshire, dating from the 1590s.
Illustrating the Midlands counties of England the series features Worcestershire, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire and Gloucestershire. The Bodleian’s new acquisition now rejoins the maps for Worcestershire and Oxfordshire, which were given to the library in 1809.
The maps had not been seen together since being exhibited in the early 20th century. The Warwickshire map is currently part of the Warwickshire Museum’s collection.
Each features its county in the centre with a white background and named in red letters, with surrounding counties depicted in various colours. They retain much of their original colour and show landscape features, rivers and townscapes.

I’ve always loved halls of maps – like the gallery of maps in the Vatican. People have always been interested in the world around them, but the Renaissance had new ways of depicting the world that was more convincing (not more real, just more convincing – like photography is dangerously convincing though still not real). These tapestries would have been a lovely and informative way for Mr. Sheldon to situate himself in his world. Speaking of which I need to get my maps reframed and hung . . . .

Argentinian Wine and Word Choice

An article at National Geographic News attracted my attention because I figured I’d been to the place – and I have. Wine Boom Threatens Native Argentine Water Source – it’s all about the Mendoza region and the desert below it. Here are some pictures – click to see bigger!
Mendoza is laced with narrow, deep, stone-lined irrigation canals fed from the Andes. The system was begun in pre-Columbian times. You can see the cut outs for individual trees and can see that the trees are planted nearer the water level at the bottom of the channel. Of course I’ve forgotten what they’re called in Spanish.

This space-age looking winery (whose name I’ve also forgotten, but it’s not Salentein) isn’t far from town – and you can see the desert setting. The National Geographic article suggests that big operations like this use drip irrigation – I guess that makes them socially responsible beverages! AHAH! via Wines of Argentina I found ’em – it’s Bodegas y viñedos O. Fournier!

And this is how close the Andes are – the view is from the open deck of the winery. The shift from the piedmont to the mountains is amazingly dramatic. I’d go back to Mendoza in a heartbeat!

The article is interesting – and reminded me of what a dry place Mendoza would be without the irrigation channels that run everywhere in town.
But to move on to the word choice issue – maybe this is one that my students will get!

Most vineyards in the Mendoza Valley use the mantle irrigation system, in which an entire field is flooded. However the larger, more profitable, vineyards use drip irrigation, which targets specific rows of trees.
A rubber lining is placed along a line of
grape trees and water is pumped through holes in the lining. (my emphasis)

The first “trees” was strange enough, but the second occurrence made it clear. The author means grape trees. Alright – the question for students: is the journalist working in a language in which he or she is not perfectly fluent? Was this originally written in a language other than English and translated imperfectly? Is the journalist perhaps ignorant of botany? Where are the editors?
Correct word choice is difficult to teach because if a student makes an error in usage or word choice that student probably doesn’t know the difference between the right and wrong word. Perhaps grape trees will get us past that so students can see why incorrect word choice makes for jarring reading.

Today it’s I.M. Pei’s turn

A building I must’ve driven past a million times, 131 Ponce de Leon in Atlanta, turns out to be by I.M. Pei. They’re talking about doing one of those shave-the-facade-off-and-reapply jobs! I love it. So now the same preservationist mockery done to so many old buildings is happening to Modernism.

[The building is] also believed to be the first solo effort of Pei’s career, and experts say it is an important example of midcentury modernism.
Now, developers want to bring a large mixed-use complex to the site, complete with two midrise towers and ground-level retail, raising concerns about the Pei building’s future.
Those involved with the project say they intend to save the historic structure by either building around it or on top of it, though they acknowledge it’s possible only the façade will survive.

Why save it? It’s early work – “first solo effort” means “all he could get at that stage.”
I would like to know if the Georgia Tech architecture professor quoted meant to be clever when he said “We’re too quick to dismiss minimal architecture as not having much content.”
I find this kind of story so amusing that I’m making a new category of it – Preserving Modernism. I could call it something snippy like “Piously Modernistic,” but I’m not in a snippy mood.

On Demand Printing

So someone is pushing the on demand concept to reality at the New York Public Library.

He said he started thinking about a company to deploy an automatic book machine after lecturing at the library in 1999 about his career and the Web’s limitless potential for distributing books.
“All that’s missing is a machine like an ATM,” Epstein, 78, said in an interview.
After the lectures, Epstein found that a man named Jeff Marsh was already developing the technology in St. Louis. They joined forces. Neller, a former chief executive of privately held gourmet retailer Dean & DeLuca, signed on with the company in 2005. Early versions of their book machine are at the World Bank in Washington and the Bibliothecca Alexandrina in Egypt.

Farmers’ Market!

This was the 2nd week of the Farmers’ Market, but my first week to go – and I forgot my camera. Click and see the city’s picture.
The new apartment has one drawback – there’s not such a dramatic place for cut flowers as the dining room table in the old apartment. Here’s a look at last year’s set-up. Cut flowers are cut flowers, though – and I love them. Here’s what they look like:

Stop him before he digs again!

San Lorenzo fuori le Mura

Originally uploaded by KittyCate.

*Heave a huge sigh*
Remember the story of St. Lawrence? He was the 3rd century deacon who, when told to present the ‘treasure of the Church’ showed up with the widows and orphans he had the responsibility for feeding.
Some Italian archaeologist is now saying that the treasure he really had was the Grail, and that it’s buried under San Lorenzo fuori le mura. He wants to open up a catacomb and find it.
It’s a bad sign that he heads something called Arte e Mistero (Art and Mystery).

Marcel Breuer, meet Mies van der Rohe

Ugly Library

Originally uploaded by Eye Captain.

Today the Christian Science Monitor tells us that a Mies van der Rohe’s only building in Washington, DC, is threatened with replacement – and it’s quite a good article – it even has pictures. A new endangered species: Modern architecture.

The building, a victim of years of disrepair, is situated on prime real estate in downtown Washington, D.C. Preservationists worry that if the building is sold to a private developer, it may face demolition. A proposal to sell the library and build a new one elsewhere failed last year by a single vote in the city council.
Now three historic preservation advocacy groups have come together to protect the library from the wrecking ball. With support from local officials and architects around the country, they nominated the 35-year-old building for historic landmark status, saying it is an icon of the Modern style of design.
“We will go in with a united front” to push for landmark status, says Ginnie Cooper, executive director of the D.C. public library system. The D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board will make its decision June 28.
The King library’s situation is not unique. Nearly 50 years after the peak of Modern influence in the United States, historic preservationists and architects say Modern architecture is too frequently torn down or renovated beyond recognition without consideration of its place in architectural history. A report released this month by advocacy group World Monuments Fund (WMF) lists Modern architecture as an “endangered” species.
No exact numbers exist, but WMF program manager Marty Hylton estimates that nearly 60 percent of US buildings built in the mid-20th century were influenced by the Modern style. A Modern building facing “inappropriate” renovation or demolition can be found today in almost every city in the United States, Mr. Hylton says.
Part of the social and political movement of the same name, Modernism emphasizes transparency (big windows are a key component), practicality, and a break with the past, most visibly through the rejection of ornamentation and an embrace of technology and materials considered innovative in the mid-20th century – steel, aluminum, and plastics.

I love and hate the idea of a World Monument Fund modeled on the World Wildlife Fund. How better to stir guilt! Building style as species is so very, very stupid. I intensely dislike the application of the language of evolution to art and architecture. Art doesn’t evolve – art is inanimate. But hey – it’s great marketing!
Zoe Tillman, the author of the piece, seems to understand the irony of Modernism’s ‘break with the past,’ as she puts it, and the fetishization of the past on the part of many preservationists. She quotes an archivist who works in the building – someone who professionally preserves the past, after all: Semmes says that he would like to see a new library built. “I understand the need for preserving works by certain architects, but sometimes I’m afraid [the preservationists] don’t see the overall plan of Mies van der Rohe that … things can change.”
Here’re my posts on Marcel Breuer buildings under threat:
Saving a Modernist box
Marcel Breuer, unloved architect
Marcel Breuer makes the New York Times

Marcel Breuer makes the NYTimes

The New York Times covers the Marcel Breuer tower story in Cleveland – which you may have read about here first. The best new thing in their story is this:

County leaders and preservationists agree on the tower’s shortcomings. By modern standards, its layout and ceiling heights are cramped. Its mechanical systems, designed for a building twice its size, are outdated and overly large. Its porthole windows provide terrible insulation.
Some government officials have grown tired of pointing all this out.
“We represent the philistine position, those people who are too stupid to realize the architectural significance of this building,” David Lambert, assistant Cuyahoga County prosecutor, said dryly at a recent meeting of the Cleveland Planning Commission.

Electronic access to manuscript images

Someday, Lord, someday!
I was running through some medieval links doing iconographic searches today and came across this one I hadn’t looked at lately – Liber floridus. So far only two French libraries, but they ARE the Bibliothèque Mazarine and the Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève, so there are about 1600 manuscripts (they claim 31,000 images) indexed and searchable.
Go and try recherche iconographique. I was using the key word (mots-clés) thesaurus and realizing that this kind of thing is getting useful. Thesaurus settings are useful for search engines like this because one has no idea how things have been catalogued, and even if one did one might not know how to spell it in French. So what I was looking for turned out to be “CHASSE ET PECHE” and turned up all kinds of monkeys hunting things – just what I needed!
I’m grateful that the Morgan Library uses the same search engine as my home library, so it’s easier to find stuff.