jeweled platypus


wednesday, december 05, 2007
Unlike the artificially coherent city of Santa Barbara

This is the De La Guerra dining commons at UCSB:

an interior shot of a cafeteria

I like it because it’s one of the only new-ish buildings on campus that has an exterior style like the older buildings on campus. The lower right corner of the picture shows a little bit of this sandy stone/concrete pattern that you find on some of the older buildings, like the library:

sunshine and eucalyptus trees

Those brown textured walls and lots of windows are what a friend pointed out to me as making up the UCSB style. Nerdy amazement! I used to be faintly annoyed by the mixed-up randomness of UCSB architecture, but when he said that obvious thing, I realized I could develop extensive naive theories about why I got faintly annoyed by the architecture. Anyway, this is the style I like for my Southern California beach campus because it helps the buildings live comfortably in their surroundings:

a geometric brown stone pattern

a guy walking near the lagoon

But a lot of the newer buildings on campus have been built in a bland neutral postmodern style with lots of orange and yellow and red, and it doesn’t look good in context:

looking at the university center and the lagoon

If you look closer at that one though, it references the older style:

the stone pattern at part of the ucen

I don’t know why the newest developments — the ones built in the past ten years and currently being built — forgot about all that in favor of pastel lameness:

the blocky modern entrance to another cafeteria

A good example of the difference between the styles is these pictures showing off the old and new Engineering buildings, on one of the department websites:

Engineering I, aka Harold Frank hall Engineering I, aka Harold Frank hall

Engineering II Engineering II

The old building has that nice sandy style with vegetation and visual variety; the new one is flat and boring with no local character.

The interiors of the old buildings aren’t so great though, with their own ugly orange stuff. That’s why I like the pretty De La Guerra dining commons so much. Also because of its unlimited cookies and horchata.

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monday, october 08, 2007
My classes for Fall 2007

fruit, flowers, leaves, and paper

In my Flowers art/biology class, I’m drawing and painting the Brazilian Pepper Tree. This will be my part of our illustrated guide to the campus flora.

My other three classes are literature classes:

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thursday, april 26, 2007
Writing about school instead of doing homework, again

a real classroom

Today I had a striking thought that I realized is common knowledge: a class is not a way for me to completely absorb a subject, but a way for me to develop a grasp of it that I can use to learn more and to create things. So initially I’m interested enough to take the class, and my interest deepens as I learn more about the subject, and then I go find ways to learn more (including taking other classes). The element that redeems intellectual entertainment like this is that I’m supposed to use my growing knowledge to create original work.

This is what the creative part of College of Creative Studies means; it’s a mediocre name because “creative” makes people think “fluffy artsy college” instead of “what your tedious college dreams of being”. Why create original work, anyway? The college seems to imply that you do this to get into graduate school and help other people further their own self-justifying spirals of intellectual development. People reviewing my college once recommended adding a goal to the mission statement like “To encourage students to use their original work for the betterment of humanity”, but the administrators ignored it. They trust that they don’t have to tell us to be good people.

My most successful classes so far have been ones in which I:

  1. Completed the class with full credit or a good grade (equivalent measures that depend on the college in which I took the class)
  2. Deepened my interest in the subject and learned more about it for fun
  3. Created work that I’m proud of (we’ll save bettering humanity for later)

Most of my classes have had one or more of those elements, but not enough of them have had all three*. They’re equally important to me, so I need to focus most on whichever one I’ve been lacking, and that’s (1), which is closely related to (3). This is a fancy way of saying again that I need to work harder in my literature classes.

Right. I’m supposed be doing my homework for them right now — including creating a Second Life account. “Wtf?”, you might ask, and you would have a good question, but I think my virtual class session tomorrow morning will be amusing. Class without changing out of pajamas. I like that. Maybe I will blog about it. In pajamas.

* Successful classes: “Beginning letterpress printing”, “Evolutionary medicine”, “Language and linguistics”, “Writing for new media”, “Malaise, melancholy, and the production of art”, “Islam, Arabs, and Arab-American voice in American literature”, and maybe a few others.

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sunday, february 04, 2007
More about Mudrick

Following up on my other quotes about CCS and Mudrick, here’s more from a lovely New York Times review of one of his books:

Mr. Mudrick is rude, contentious, incorrigible, comma spliced, headlong, raunchy, scornful and know-it-all…He plays, wonderfully, to the peanut gallery, and we clap so hard our hands and heads fall off, and then we go home and sleep, alas, with Hamlet: if only he weren’t real.

Also, from his University of California memorial, written by CCS Literature professors:

…he reminds his readers that no artistic statement can be separated from the human being who has made it…Like the voices of his favorite authors, the voice in his writing reproduces his own living voice in an almost uncanny way. That voice is cantankerous, loving, aggressive, spiteful, charming; it abounds with energy and fierce humor. His very funny wordplay remains, and his gift for parody as well as his enormous love for, and need for the arts, as though his own life has depended on them.

There were subjects about which he could never be persuaded to alter his opinion, and this represents a weakness in his idiosyncratic approach. Personality was so important to him, the unstinted expression of a strong individuality was so much part of his own critical method, that he sometimes assumed that the personality of an artist lay closer to the surface than it sometimes does.

His capacity to aggravate was great, but so was his genuine pleasure at being opposed by people he liked…some of the College’s most spectacular successes have been in areas where Mudrick himself had little expertise—for example in the sciences. This bears out the premise on which his College was founded, that similar qualities of curiosity and independence are necessary in order to excel in any subject.

And a picture.

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wednesday, january 17, 2007
What is up with all this blawgging?

Some history and philosophy of the College of Creative Studies, via the googled writings of former students:

Jervey Tervalon (‘78) talks about learning from the person who started this college:

[Marvin] Mudrick was fascinated by people, and he loved people in books, and he didn’t make a big distinction between the two, except for the fact that you’ll know people in books far better than you will know people in life. Here’s the advice he gave me: Read literature like we read the newspaper, skim the boring parts, read carefully what interests you — just keep reading. What Mudrick couldn’t stand were tastemongers, chasing some intellectual hobgoblin of the modern aesthetic; kitsch culture; the cult of family dysfunction; more about slavery; more about the Holocaust…Mudrick believed writing was a function of reading. If you read with passion and intelligence, you’d eventually come around to wanting to write.

Karen Christensen (‘81) also talks about being a Literature major in the Mudrick era:

Mudrick would assign us a new novel every couple of days, and we were asked (though perhaps not expected) to get through piles of Shakespeare (whom he called a misogynist), Chaucer (“just pretend it’s horribly misspelled”), and Milton (again, no favorite of Mudrick’s).

He said, for example, that the measure of fiction was that it had a human story that would interest anyone, of any age, anywhere. Mudrick believed that students were able to write good stories — really good stories — because, as he said to one class, “you’re at the right age, you’re still about to get in touch with your own language…[but] you can’t write expository prose. You can’t write professional prose of any kind, you’re not skilled enough yet.”

That, for me, is Mudrick’s legacy, or at least something he helped to strengthen in me: fascination with the whole of life and a fearlessness about digging into a new bank of knowledge.

Plus, from a review by the New York Times:

In several of these essays, Mr. Mudrick seems to believe that the only way to judge a literary work is by the lusty willingness of its heroine or the vigor and explicitness of its sex scenes.

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I’m Britta Gustafson.

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