Tuesday, December 30, 2008

No More Narnia Movies?


This is a bummer: How Disney Killed Off Its Billion-Dollar 'Narnia' Franchise. I loved The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and thought Caspian was okay. I was especially looking forward to the Voyage of the Dawn Treader, as it is one of my favorite books in the Narnia series. I hope another studio decides to pick up the series.

Review: A Song in Stone


A Song in Stone by Walter H. Hunt doesn’t cover much new ground, at least not to anyone who has read Dan Brown’s The DaVinci Code or any other of the many Holy Grail books. But it is a thrilling read that I didn’t want to put down.

In A Song in Stone, Scottish TV personality Ian Graham passes out in Rosslyn Chapel, only to wake up in 1307 as a Knights Templar initiate on a pilgrimage. As characters from his past (future?) pop in to rather cryptically give him clues about his journey, Ian struggles to figure out why he’s there and how to get home. The only thing that Ian knows for sure is that he’s the only person who can hear “the music.”

I found parts of this book pretty confusing—I never really did get what the music was and how the composer couldn’t hear it, but Ian could—but it all went so quick, it was easy to keep reading and get caught up in the story without getting bogged down in the details. I liked the characters quite a bit, especially the supporting cast of Rob and Rodney, which helped. Ian was a bit of a whiner, but who am I to judge, having never been forced to go back in time 700 years? There’s also a strong theme of faith in this book, in addition to the New Age ideas, that I thought was interesting.

The biggest weak spot was, for me, the ending. I just didn’t buy the secondary character’s motivation, much less the deus-ex-machina plot point that brought him there. The book ended too quickly and could have used a more in-depth look at the quest’s outcome.

Criticism aside, anyone who liked The DaVinci Code (or even mystical time travel á la Outlander) will certainly enjoy this fantasy.

Thanks to the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program for the opportunity to read this book.

Buy A Song in Stone on Amazon.

PS: Here's an interesting side note for those of you who are as nerdy as we are at my house. A Song in Stone is published by Wizards of the Coast Discoveries, the book publishing arm of the famous role-playing game maker.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Why Do Architects Wear Black?


A new book tries to answer the question, why do architects wear black? Review by A Daily Dose of Architecture here.

Photo of Philip Johnson above, from New York Architecture.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Jack with a Twist Giveway!

You can win copies of both Jack with a Twist and Brenda Janowitz's first book about Brooke, Scot on the Rocks, courtesy of S. Krishna's Books here. My review of Jack with a Twist is here. Good luck!


Updated: I just wanted to make it clear that in order to enter the giveaway, you need to follow the link to S. Krishna's Books, not enter here.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Wish List (3)

More books to put on my wishlist! Maybe I'll go pick one of these up this weekend with the gift card I got for Christmas.




84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff, from the Book Lady's Blog
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and had been looking forward to it since many of you recommended it as similar to The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. ... I’d recommend it for anyone who loves books and bookish people.

Sounds like a nice book to read, you know?



The Jewel of Medina by Sherry Jones, from The Literate Housewife Review

I cannot recommend this novel enough. It is a wonderful way to learn about the origins of Islam through the eyes of a complex and strong young girl and then woman.

I will probably get this one at the library instead of buying it, as I have read as many negative reviews as positive ones. But the concept intrigues me, and it's a somewhat controversial book, so I want to see what that's all about.


Cracked Up to Be by Courtney Summers, from Pop Culture Junkie

I have no idea how to express my feelings about this book. It's powerful, emotional, important, and really spoke to me.
I actually read the first chapter of this book online, thanks to the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program. I, alas, did not get the book, though, when I requested it, and actually kind of forgot about it until I read Alea's review.

Buy 84, Charing Cross Road on Amazon.
Buy The Jewel of Medina on Amazon.
Buy Cracked Up to Be on Amazon.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button


Want to see the new movie The Curious Case of Benjamin Button? Haven't read the F. Scott Fitzgerald short story it is based on yet? You are in luck! Thanks to the University of Virginia (my alma mater!), The Curious Case of Benjamin Button can be found free online here.

Thanks to Jacket Copy for the link. They are also hosting a discussion, so check it out.

Happy Hanukkah!
Merry Christmas!
Happy Holidays!

Updated to add picture, because a little Brad Pitt is never a bad thing. =)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Review: Jack With a Twist


Jack with a Twist by Brenda Janowitz is her second book starring lawyer Brooke Miller. In this one, she's planning a wedding with and litigating against her fiance, fellow lawyer Jack Solomon. I missed the first book, Scot on the Rocks, but had no problem catching up, as Janowitz covers the events in that book early on.

In honor of the book's subject, I thought I'd do this review in lawyerly fashion.

Point: Funny! Some parts -- especially the imaginary emails and newspaper clippings interspersed through the book -- are even laugh out loud funny, which I think is a rarity.
Counterpoint: I found Brooke, the main character and narrator, to be annoyingly naive and late to pick up on things that were obvious to me pretty early on. The big reveal on her best friend's boyfriend? Not that surprising.

Point: True to life! Anyone who has planned a wedding will see characters they recognize in this one. Pushy in-laws are a theme.
Counterpoint: Way too true to life! I am fairly recently married (just over a year) and I found parts of this book to be stressful to read. And I love my in-laws!

Point: A quick read for the holidays (or on a beach, if you are heading to warmer climates this season).
Counterpoint: This isn't really a meaty book (ha! pun not intended, for those of you have read this and know what Brooke's father does for a living). It's kind of predictable.

Conclusion: Fun to read, especially for those of you who just love chick lit or wedding-related books.

Buy Jack With a Twist on Amazon.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Brother Cadfael Series


I love mysteries and historical fiction, so when I discovered the Brother Cadfael books by Ellis Peters, I was in heaven. For those of you who have never read the books or seen the BBC adaptation, these are a series of murder mysteries set in Medieval England (between about 1135 and about 1145, during the civil war between the forces of King Stephen and Empress Matilda). I've really only just scratched the surface of this pretty extensive series (see below) but I highly recommend what I've read so far to any other mystery or historical fiction fans.

From wikipedia, here is the full list. I put a star next to the one's I've read so far.

*A Morbid Taste for Bones (written in 1977, set in 1137)
*One Corpse Too Many (1979, set in August 1138)
*Monk's Hood (1980, set in December 1138)
*Saint Peter's Fair (1981, set in July 1139)
*The Leper of Saint Giles (1981, set in October 1139)
*The Virgin in the Ice (1982, set in November 1139)
The Sanctuary Sparrow (1983, set in the Spring of 1140)
*The Devil's Novice (1983, set in September 1140)
Dead Man's Ransom (1984, set in February 1141)
*The Pilgrim of Hate (1984, set in May 1141)
An Excellent Mystery (1985, set in August 1141)
*The Raven in the Foregate (1986, set in December 1141)
*The Rose Rent (1986, set in June 1142)
The Hermit of Eyton Forest (1988, set in October 1142)
The Confession of Brother Haluin (1988, set in December 1142)
*A Rare Benedictine (1988): contains three short stories: A Light on the Road to Woodstock (set in Autumn, 1120), The Price of Light (set at Christmas, 1135) and Eye Witness (set in 1139)
The Heretic's Apprentice (1990, set in June 1143)
The Potter's Field (1990, set in August 1143)
The Summer of the Danes (1991, set in April 1144)
The Holy Thief (1992, set in August 1144)
Brother Cadfael's Penance (1994, set in November 1145)

My plan is to return to this now and then and update with what I've read.

Buy Morbid Taste for Bones (the 1st book) on Amazon.

Updated March 17, 2009. See more here.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Good news! and Update

Remember the big exam I was studying for? I got my pass letter on Friday! It's such a nice Christmas present for myself.

I will be updating here only semi-regularily over the holidays, though I will be doing lots of reading!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Review: Museum of Human Beings


Museum of Human Beings by Colin Sargent is the story of Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, the son of Sacagawea, who led Lewis and Clark across the continent to the Pacific. She was also Clark’s lover, and after her death, he raises Baptiste as a foster son. I found Baptiste and Clark’s relationship to be heartbreaking, almost tragic. Baptiste wants a father, but instead, Clark treats him as a specimen for his bizarre museum. The rest of the book details Baptiste’s many travels and adventures, both good and bad, in Europe and America, as he tries to learn who he is and where he fits in.

Colin Sargent is clearly a talented man. According to his website, he’s a playwright, poet, editor and magazine publisher. His talent with words shows in Museum of Human Beings. The book has a heaviness to it, each word weighted down with the obvious care Sargent took in selecting each one. In particular, I loved Baptiste’s conversations with Ekaterina, his friend in Europe. However, this weightiness really cut both ways. There were truly lyrical passages in this book, sections that read like a prose poem. On the other hand, many passages dragged, I thought, including much of Baptiste’s time in New Orleans.

As regular readers of this blog may have noticed, it took me a while to finish this book. First, I had some personal undertakings to attend to, which kept me too busy to read much. Then, to be honest, I struggled to read this. Sargent has created a world in this book that is very uncomfortable to inhabit as a reader. Not that that is a bad thing, as I think that is true to life for these people/characters, but I never found myself looking forward to picking up this book. Once I was reading, I was engaged but even then, I was happy to put it down when it was time to stop reading for the night.

When I talked about this book with my husband, he made a great observation. This book is like a lot of very good literature: worth the time, but once read, I won't feel the need to accomplish reading it again.

I think that fans of American and Native American history will love Museum of Human Beings. Lewis and Clark aficionados may get a shock at how poorly their heroes are regarded (by Baptiste), but should enjoy reading the life story of the last member of the famed expedition. For me, it wasn’t quite my cup of tea.

Buy Museum of Human Beings on Amazon.

Loving Frank: The Movie

From Archinect: Filmmakers are planning a movie adaptation of Nancy Horan's novel Loving Frank, and have hired "Reservation Road" writer John Burnham Schwartz to pen a screenplay.

My review of Loving Frank is here.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Hollywood Books

Interested in giving Hollywood books for the Holidays? Check out the long list at Deadline Hollywood Daily (here).

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Reading Update

I finished Museum of Human Beings by Colin Sargent this weekend and will be posting a review early this week.

This weekend, I also read Peeps by Scott Westerfeld. I don't think I'll be reviewing it so I will just say that it was awesome! If you like a) YA, b) intelligent but not obtuse sci-fi, c) parasitology, or d) any comination of the above, you will love this book!

Now I am reading The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde, and am very much enjoying it.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Books for the Holidays


Surprise, surprise, I like to give and get books as presents. Many of my fellow bloggers have pledged to Buy Books for the Holidays. And now, the publishing industry is urging you to do the same, with the launch of Books Are Great Gifts, and even included some reasons why.
For Christmas:
They always fit under the tree.

For Hanukkah:
You can give a different one for each of the 8 nights.

For the New Year:
With the right book, you can finally learn what Auld Lang Syne means.
Do you know what else makes a great present? A puppy. (Hint, hint.)

Review: González & Daughter Trucking Co


González & Daughter Trucking Co: A Road Novel with Literary License by Maria Amparo Escandon

I think this was a good book. From the reviews on Amazon (probably not the most reliable source!), I was expecting a fantastic book, so I was, unfortunately, a little under-whelmed. But it is pretty good.

The book is two intertwining stories: the story of life inside a Mexican Women’s prison and the story of Libertad González’s life, which she tells in installments for the weekly Library Club. There are many sad stories in this book, as you can imagine for a book set inside a prison, but the general air is of uplift and redemption. There’s not much about recidivism and, while there is violence, the high crime rate inside of most prisons is somewhat glossed over. The inmates here are generally focused on making their lives better. Most want to get out, though some, including Libertad, treat prison as a retreat from the outside world and ask to stay in. I think it is this light air to the book that means that, despite the heavy subject matter, González & Daughter is a pretty quick read.

A few of the descriptions I read of this book referred to it as magical realism. I’ve never been in prison (thank God), much less in Mexico, but the prison here is a bit fantastical. The entire book definitely has an air of fantasy and other-worldly-ness. That said, this, to me, isn’t magical realism. There are moments of magic (for example, there is a shaman who helps a woman get pregnant) but this isn’t One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez, or even Like Water for Chocolate by Esquivel. González & Daughter is much more rooted in reality, and the actual fantastic things that happen seemed to be an aside, not essential to the story.

More than anything, I thought González & Daughter felt more like an outsider’s view of two very specialized worlds (the prison and truckers); like the unrealistic air was from lack of verisimilitude, not from an intentional choice. This is too bad, since I actually got the sense that the author did a lot of research. And maybe that’s the problem; it felt like an author who researched, for example, CB radio language and was intent on using it as much as possible, not like actual truckers speaking.

All that criticism aside, I liked this book. The concept is great: despite allusions to telenovelas and Scheherazade, it’s a really unique book. If you are a fan of other Latin authors, or are looking for an uplifting novel to read this holiday season, I would suggest you check González & Daughter out.

Buy González & Daughter Trucking Co on Amazon (or just read all the other much more positive reviews there. Clearly, I am in the minority for being so ambivalent about this one!)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Waiting Wednesday


What book am I waiting to come out?*

I recently learned about the Jane Whitefield book series by Thomas Perry. From the Amazon description of the first book in the series, Vanishing Act:
Jane Whitefield is a Native American guide who leads people out of the wilderness--not the tree-filled variety but the kind created by enemies who want you dead. She is in the one-woman business of helping the desperate disappear. Thanks to her membership in the Wolf Clan of the Seneca tribe, she can fool any pursuer, cover any trail, and then provide her clients with new identities, complete with authentic paperwork. Jane knows all the tricks, ancient and modern; in fact, she has invented several of them herself.
His newest installment in the series, Runner, will be released in January.
Jane Whitefield—New York Times best-selling writer Thomas Perry's most popular character—returns from retirement to the world of the runner, guiding fugitives out of danger. After a nine-year absence, the fiercely resourceful Native American guide Jane Whitefield is back, in the latest superb thriller by award-winning author Thomas Perry. For more than a decade, Jane pursued her unusual profession: "I'm a guide . . . I show people how to go from places where somebody is trying to kill them to other places where nobody is."Then she promised her husband she would never work again, and settled in to live a happy, quiet life as Jane McKinnon, the wife of a surgeon in Amherst, New York. But when a bomb goes off in the middle of a hospital fundraiser, Jane finds herself face to face with the cause of the explosion: a young pregnant girl who has been tracked across the country by a team of hired hunters. That night, regardless of what she wants or the vow she's made to her husband, Jane must come back to transform one more victim into a runner. And her quest for safety sets in motion a mission that will be a rescue operation—or a chance for revenge. Runner is Thomas Perry at the top of his form.
Pre-order The Runner on Amazon.
Buy Vanishing Act on Amazon.

*Waiting on Wednesday is sponsored/hosted by Breaking the Spine. I'm sorry, but since my internal editor won't let me use the term "Waiting on," unless I am talking about my couch, I'm calling it Waiting Wednesday instead.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Preview: Le Corbusier: A Life


I received a copy of this new biography of famed architect Le Corbusier, written by Nicholas Fox Weber, this week. The architects reading this immediately went, "ooh, Corb." The rest of you just scratched your head and thought "Is that a person?"

I'll let you know what I think after I've had a chance to read this, but, so far, I think it's been generally getting high marks from the press. Witold Rybczynski reviewed it and a new Phaidon Le Corbusier monograph in the NY Times, which you can read here.

Buy Le Corbusier: A Life on Amazon.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Blobs


From a comment on one of my earlier posts:
I've noticed both UCLA and SCI ARC showcase a lot of amorphous blobs; any thoughts on why that is so popular? Is that just the technology?
This is just my guess, of course, but I think the answer can boil down to just a few people (first and foremost, Greg Lynn and Neil Denari) and one school, Columbia University. For the non-architects who are actually reading this, you may not realize this, but architecture is a pretty incestuous family. Greg Lynn taught at Columbia, where he (and others) influenced many people to start working with non-traditional forms in their work (ie, blobs). He moved to UCLA, spreading his gospel of Maya.

[Side note: when GL had the chance to build at the Korean Presbyterian Church in Queens, NY, the blob became quite a bit more rationalized. Turns out, actual building materials aren't made out of vectors. (Photo from archidose's flickr page) There are more examples of blobitecture at wikipedia.]

In the meantime, Neil Denari moved to SCI_ARC, where he eventually became Director, at which point he recruited a bunch of Columbia professors/graduates, who were also working with/teaching the blob, including Hernan Diaz-Alonso and Michael Speaks (I believe he is at Kentucky now).

So that's how students are exposed to the idea. As for why students have embraced the blob so whole-heartedly? Again, this is just my guess, but I think it's because the blob is new (or new-ish, rather. It's 10+ years old at this point) and if not new, then at least new to the students. It's also the first time many students get the chance to play around with some sophisticated software (Maya) and a milling machine.

All this is just my opinion, of course.

Austenbook

For the Austen fans out there:

Austenbook

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Book Clubs Gone Awry

Did any of you read the article in Friday's New York Times about book clubs? It's about people (mostly women) who dislike and leave the book club they belong to. I thought it was amusing, probably because I love my book club and the ladies in it.

More Thoughts on SCI-ARC

In response to my last post about sci-arc, a commentator asked a few questions that I thought I would answer in blog posts. Here is the first set of questions.
Do you think it was more isolating than a traditional school would have been? Did you come out too immersed in architecture or is that a good thing?
As I mentioned, I went to a big university for my undergraduate degree, so I had already had my traditional college experience. Really, though, it doesn't matter whether you go to grad school at a place like sci-arc, which just does one discipline, or a larger school. Either way, all your classes are going to be in your grad program. If you are serious about your education, you will spend all of you time at the architecture school anyway, so it won't matter whether there are other disciplines at the college.

I asked my husband this question, to get his opinion, too. He's not an architect, but, like me, he went to a big university for undergraduate and a small, single discipline school for his graduate degree. He smiled a little when I read him the question; the idea that a grad student gets to spend much (if any) time outside of his or her program was amusing to him.

Undergrad is fun. Yes, you are there to learn. But if you're an American, chances are its also the first time you've lived on your own, so it's also a time to explore who you are, have some fun, meet new people, etc. Grad school is a job. There are fun things about it, but it should be much more rigorous. If you are taking it seriously, you get up every morning about the same time, you go to the studio/lab/library/research office/etc and you work until it's time to go home that night. And in my case, that frequently meant taking a break for dinner and then going back to the studio to work some more.

I should point out that there is an undergrad program at sci-arc. I knew very few students in that program who fit the traditional mold of 17/18-year-old, fresh out of high school, never been on their own, etc. In fact, I can only think of own kid who was there at the same time as me who was a typical freshman, straight out of high school; he had, I believe, gone to boarding school and had been living on his own for a while. He was also the most mature, pulled together person his age I knew (and that includes me at his age. I was a more typical college freshman). I would, though, steer a high school senior away from sci-arc for their first college experience. In that case, a year or two at a traditional college before transferring would be a good idea, in my opinion.

Okay, onto the next part: was I too immersed in architecture? It was very immersive, but I think all architecture grad schools are. Actually, I would say that sci-arc has more going on that's not architecture than a lot of schools.

Architecture is a big tent. (I was trying to get at this in my last post on the subject, but I think I wasn't direct enough.) Most of us, when we think of an architect, picture a person who works for or owns a firm, who designs buildings and works with contractors to get them built. Obviously, this is what most of us want to do and that's what we do. But that's not the only thing that you can do with an architecture degree. Sci-arc is famous for the high number of graduates that don't end up in that traditional mold, but find a related path to take. For example, look at the HEDGE design collective. In addition to traditional architecture, the collective includes a florist, landscape architecture, graphic design and a clothing designer. And probably about half of its members teach at sci-arc (or did when I was there).

All of this is just to say that, yes, I was very immersed in architecture during grad school, but that may not be as confining as you think.

Preview: The Phaidon Atlas of 21st Century World Architecture

My parents bought me a present that arrived this week in the largest Amazon box I think I have ever seen. There was even a warning on it to lift with your knees, it was so heavy! What was in it?

The Phaidon Atlas of 21st Century World Architecture

From Amazon:

The Phaidon Atlas of 21st Century World Architecture is a comprehensive portrayal of the finest built architecture from around the world completed since the year 2000. Divided into six world regions, the Phaidon Atlas of 21st Century World Architecture provides an important overview of global and local trends in architecture for a wide range of users. ... More than 1000 key buildings have been chosen through a rigorous selection process involving a panel of expert advisors and specialists from every region. Each building is fully illustrated with drawings and photographs, and each is described by a short essay. Further information includes key data such as construction cost, client name, area of the building, and geographical coordinates.
This book is serious. According to Amazon, the book is 812 pages long, is 19.2" tall x 16.1" wide x 2.5" thick and weighs in at 16.4 pounds. It's so big, it came with its own green plastic carrying case.

I had admired this book in the SF MOMA bookstore, so I was really thrilled to have it land on my doorstep. Thanks, parents! I think any other contemporary architecture lovers out there would be thrilled to see this book under the Christmas tree this year.

Buy The Phaidon Atlas of 21st Century World Architecture on Amazon.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Igloos!


How to Build an Igloo: And Other Snow Shelters by Norbert E. Yankielun

An illustrated guide to constructing everything from igloos and quinzees to spruce traps and snow trenches.
I think this book looks so cool. There are lots of books (and YouTube videos) out there on how to build igloos, but the simple line drawings in this one really stand out for me. Too bad that, since I live in a place where it doesn't snow, I can't use this book.Buy How to Build an Igloo on Amazon.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Speakeasy


I know this is a little late, but Happy Repeal Day! Maybe next year I'll celebrate at Bourbon & Branch, a 20's-style Prohibition themed bar in San Francisco. They even have a secret library!

Harry Potter Giveaway


Bookish Ruth is giving away a brand new hardcover copy of The Tales of Beedle the Bard (Standard Version) by J.K. Rowling. Enter here to win!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Shadow of the House


I had a comment today on my post about Abelardo Morell that I thought I would bring to eveyone's attention.

If you are interested in Abelardo Morell's work check out the documentary Shadow of the House - Photographer Abelardo Morell

Working alone for over 7 years, director Allie Humenuk filmed Morell and his family both at home and abroad. The film beautifully captures the artist and the artistic process. The film is having a successful run in festivals and at museums nationwide.

There are screenings coming up at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (Dec 5th, 6pm) and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Dec 11th, 4:30pm) Both Humenuk and Morell will be in attendance.

For more information on the film visit: http://www.shadowofthehouse.com/

I watched the trailer on the website and it looks pretty interesting. I'm on the West Coast but if any of you have the opportunity to go to one of the screenings, please let me know what you think.

TFAW Contest

Things from Another World, the Dark Horse comic online store, is having a contest for its customers! It started in November, but it's not too late to get in on this.

Through the end of the year TFAW.com is giving away $100 in gift cards every day. More info:
For the most part, we'll be giving five random customers $20 gift certificates each day, but just to keep things interesting, we may shake it up and hand out the whole $100 to one lucky winner occasionally, too!
The fine print is that you have to buy something. So click here to find out more and get shopping. If you don't know what to buy, I recommend some new Buffy comic books (like Wolves at the Gate, which I reviewed here). I also love the Nick and Dent program TFAW has, where you can get the same great comics and TPB's for up to half off the regular price.

Good luck!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Eames Video

This video on how to make an Eames chair was weirdly one of the most captivating things I've see in a while. It must be the music. [Via Arch Daily]

PS: I've never embedded video before, so let me know if this doesn't work.

2008's Best Covers

The Best Book Covers of 2008 (via Bookslut). And don't forget to vote on which one you like.

Sci-Arc, warts and all

As I mentioned in this post, long ago, I have mixed feelings about the graduate school I attended, the Southern California Institute of Architecture (sci-arc). Recently, someone, having read that post, asked me about sci-arc, why I had mixed feelings, and what I thought about him going there. Specifically, he asked whether I felt my education there had prepared me to become an architect. Here is my response:
The one thing I can say for sure is that grad school (all grad schools, I think, not just ones for architecture) is what you make of it. And that applies double to sci-arc.

Let me tell you a little about myself and why I decided to go to sci-arc. I went to the University of Virginia for undergrad (in architecture). It was a wonderful program but it was very traditional. It was also before computers became so ubiquitous, so while I had been working in an office (in Boston) for 2 years on CAD, I knew very little beyond that. UVA required us to do pretty much everything by hand and we were discouraged from doing much on the computer.

I applied all over the place for grad school, not really sure what I wanted. In the end, I decided on sci-arc because it was just so different than what I had been doing up until then. It was kind of free form, very hands-on, there was a lot of emphasis on cutting edge design and theory. I hardly knew anyone there (unlike, say Michigan, where I would have been in class with several people I had gone to undergrad with). And I was excited about the idea of living and working in a new environment (both sci-arc and Los Angeles).

For all those reasons, Sci-arc was great for me. It really expanded my horizons. But it was also very frustrating at times. For one thing, I just could not drink the Maya Kool-aid. [Note: Maya is a computer program for 3-D modeling. It is very sophisticated and, while it was originally developed to do CGI for movies, it has been co-opted by architects. It was bought not too long ago by Autodesk, the makers of AutoCAD.]


I don't know if that is still the trend of the moment (I'm sure between Greg Lynn [photo above of blob exhibit by Lynn] and Hernan Diaz-Alonso all the good ideas have been done) but it was big while I was there. While I did some work with it, as Hernan said when I was his student, I was the skeptic. And sometimes I got really annoyed because I felt that the ideas I was excited about were being ignored in favor of ooh-ing and ah-ing over the latest amorphous blob being called a building. Like I said, things could have changed but that the case when I got there in 2001.

Fortunately, as I said, sci-arc is what you make of it. I spent my last semester working on my thesis (with Jay Vanos as my advisor) and that was a wonderful experience. I made friends with people who shared my ideas, and I went to a lot of buildings and art gallerys. I found my niche, and I liked that.

The emphasis on sci-arc being what you make of it goes both ways, though, because I know a lot of people who weren't self-directed and they just floundered. They wasted their money, in my opinion.

Regarding your question about preparing you for the real world: I'm not really one of those people who thinks that the purpose of grad school is to teach someone to pass their Architecture Registration Exams (ARE). There are plenty of guide books and AIA classes that can tell you how to do that (and in the end it all boils down to one thing: STUDY. A lot. More than you can believe).

As I said, too, I worked at a firm between college and grad school. And it wasn't a well-known design firm, it was a pretty nuts and bolts kind of place. So I already knew how to do window details and a finish schedule. You don't need grad school to learn that.

To be sure, there are some great classes at sci-arc for learning the real-world stuff. Jay's Design Development class, for one, which everyone has to take. I took it, and I think I ended up more as the unofficial TA than anything else, but I still think it's a great class.

So, did sci-arc prepare me for life as an architect? Sure, but not in the way you probably think. It prepared me by making me go out and figure out what I liked and didn't, by exposing me to new ideas, and making me define what architecture meant for me. Architecture is a big world. I don't know if you read archinect, but if you don't, you should. They have a new series now about alternative careers for architects. And there are lots of them. I also learned that I don't really like living in LA, but that's another topic.

There's my take. Its not as simple as "yes, you should go to sci-arc" or "no, don't." I don't know you or your personality, and I'm just one person with a blog, after all. You should think about contacting some other students and sci-arc alum and getting their take. You can try Bill Simonian, too. He has a new website (arcounsel, which I previously wrote about here) and he's just an all around great guy to talk to.
Anyone else want to weigh in?


Other posts on this topic: More Thoughts on Sci-Arc, Blobs

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Wish List (2)

More great books that I learned about from my fellow bloggers.

Aurelia by Anne Osterlund, from Presenting Lenore
Recommended for anyone who likes their princesses with some backbone to go along with their whalebone corsets.
Sounds like a fun read. Awful cover, though.

Seeing Venice: Bellotto's Grand Canal by Mark Doty, from Bermuda Onion
Reading the essay and seeing the painting makes me want to go to Venice so I would recommend this charming book to lovers of art and Italy.
This ones seems especially apt since who know how much longer Venice will look the way Venice does? (Example: NY Times article on recent floods.)

This last reaction sets the tone for Keith Mitnick's adult relationship with architecture; troubled, anxious, occasionally nauseous. ... This is a fabulous book - strange, eccentric and intelligent. For once the over familiar claim that preconceptions will be challenged rings true, and architecture seems new again.
From the review, this one sounds challenging but worth it. And it's got a lot that seems up my alley: architecture! Dark humor! the Jersey Shore!

Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde, from Presenting Lenore (I'm beginning to think we share similar taste in books!)
I love the creativity and world creation of his Thursday Next series and the premise of this one - A brilliant new novel about a world where social order and destiny are dictated by the colors you can see - sounds highly original.
This one doesn't come out until July 2009, but I had never heard of this author and it sounded so good, it inspired me to pick up The Eyre Affair, the first "Thursday Next" Novel. It's on my TBR shelf (aka my bedside table) so I am hopeful that I will be able to get to it soon.


Gemma Bovery by Posy Simmonds, from Shelf Love
Posy Simmonds has created a marvelous graphic novel in Gemma Bovery, a fresh, sharp, modern take on Flaubert’s Madame Bovary.

Phew, that's quite a lot of reading to be done! And quite a range of topics and styles, too.

Movie Review: Down With Love

As I've previously discussed (ETA: here), we recently watched Mad Men Season 1 on DVD. Its a good story, great acting, and, as you've probably heard by now, visually it's just perfect. I love the clothes and the design.

It also reminds me of a movie I think most people missed when it came out in 2003: Down With Love. This is an intentionally campy, silly and anachronistic look at that era, so its basically the exact opposite of Mad Men. But I love it!

Here is the Amazon description:
The bright, glossy world of Doris Day and Rock Hudson sex comedies gets a self-aware brush-up in Down with Love. Pillow-lipped Renée Zellweger (Chicago) plays Barbara Novak, the author of a bestselling book called Down with Love that advises women to focus on their careers and have sex à la carte--just like a man would. Determined to prove that Novak is just as vulnerable to love as any woman, dashingly chauvinist magazine writer Catcher Block (ever-charming Ewan McGregor, Moulin Rouge) pretends to be a courtly astronaut who wouldn't dream of putting his hand on a woman's knee. This piffle of a story seems like nothing more than an excuse for ironic double-entendres and dazzling production design, until a sneaky plot twist suddenly raises the stakes for the movie's end. As he always does, the brilliant David Hyde Pierce (Frasier) scores the most comic points as Block's fussy editor. (by Bret Fetze)
What that description doesn't include, though, may be my favorite part of the movie: Sarah Paulson. Never heard of her? Sure, you have. She was the lead on Studio 60, playing opposite Matthew Perry.


There she is on the right, with Renée Zellweger and the always great Tony Randall. Normally I don't like RZ (and that photo is not helping), but I think she's really cute in this one. So if you missed Down With Love and just love the early-60's look, I highly recommend you check it out.

Buy Down With Love on Amazon.

Hot (Sale) for Teacher

A head's up: On Thursday (December 4) Border's is having an in-store only event: Educator's Savings Day, with 25% off (mostly just off full priced items, though) for all current and retired educators. Bring proof of educator status.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Review: Buffy Comic, Wolves at the Gate

The best husband in the world bought me a present this weekend. It was the latest Buffy the Vampire Slater "Season Eight" comic trade paperback, Wolves at the Gate. In a word, awesome. Sad, funny, gory, sweet, geeky: all the things I love about Joss Whedon and the Buffyverse.

[Edited to add: FYI, it is an adults only comic book. In addition to the blood, there are some very adult things going on in this one.]

Here's a link to buy it on Amazon (for which I get, what? 2 cents?) or, even better, mosey on over to Things From Another World, the online Dark Horse comic books store, and check out all the great sales they are having today.
Edited to add: TFAW is offering free shipping through the end of the year. So now you should really go buy this there.

NaNoWriMo Update

Deep breath.

It's over.

I didn't win, unfortunately, but since I got such a poor start (due to my exam, which was way more important than this), I'm actually pretty pleased with how I did. Take a look at my progress chart:


Pretty heroic effort at the end, I have to say! I wrote over 7,000 words yesterday, which is easily more fiction than I've ever written in a single day before. By 11 last night, though, I was beat and just couldn't think of anything else to say. I'm going to keep trying, though, and see if I can't hit 50k this week. And then I'm going to put this thing away and not look at it for months!

Congratulations to all the winners who did get to 50k by last night! I am very impressed.