Wednesday, July 27, 2011

History and American Architecture. Pt 2

So I recently read The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson and I must say it was a wonderful treat. It's part American history, part architectural history and part true crime novel. This book really is a piece of work (cliche, I know). I felt that Larson did a wonderful job weaving these three elements together and keeping the book interesting to the final page.

It's hard to say what I enjoyed best about the book, be it the tidbits of historic trivia tucked in or the moments where the author hints at historic events and you feel like you're in some sort of inside joke because you know to what he is referring.

I also really enjoyed learning new facts that I can use to annoy people with such as the original Ferris wheel was built in response to the creation of the Eiffel tower.

Overall, I thought this book was well written and a delightful read even with some of the gruesome content. I guess I might just be a big geek but I really felt like this was an awesome book for people that like American history and American architecture.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Day the Music Died

The other day I was walking past my dumpster and noticed an old piano. I went over and hit a few keys. It was in pretty bad shape (musically) but the design of the instrument was beautiful. The wood was ornately carved and the entire piano was probably worth saving. Unfortunately there are two things that make a piano a bad grab at the dumpster in Georgia. First is the daily rain, if it rains on a piano, the piano is probably a goner as mold will easily eat away at its insides. Second is roaches. They will eat anything, including the glue that keeps parts of the piano together. If the piano is outside too long it will be infested (especially sitting next to the dumpster where the roaches already live).

I love old stuff, well most old stuff. Looking at the design and structure of the piano, you can reach back and see history (I know I sound like a broken record when I talk about old things). And honestly, someone probably put a lot of positive energy into that piano when they crafted it (I can't see someone angrily carving piano legs, but I could be wrong). But in a moment of indecision, I hesitated and decided not to try to push that heavy piano back to my place to save it from the rain, the roaches and the dumpster crew.

I guess I thought I had more time, or at least I assumed I wouldn't worry about the poor piano. I know that the trash removal people do not take large objects next to the trash, so I figured I'd have enough time, as long as it didn't rain, to think about it and maybe save it after my sister got back into town (two people are better than one if you're trying to move large objects).

It's been three days without rain, but the piano didn't last 24 hours at the dumpster. The next morning I awoke to a banging noise. When I finally got outside to do my errands, I saw that there were three people at the dumpster smashing the piano to bits with a large hammer. I know it sounds dramatic, but this scene made me sick. Not only am I a staunch preservationist but I also think that musical instruments should be revered, not destroyed. I can't say if this is up there with how I feel about burning books, but it's probably pretty damn close.

So my emotional response to the destruction of the antique piano doesn't stop with this written rant. I've also taken pictures of the remains:


 So instead of next to the dumpster it is now behind the dumpster in ruins. What a beautiful structure now destroyed. May it rest in peace.

Friday, July 8, 2011

History and American Architecture. Pt 1

I've always been intrigued by historic structures. Not just buildings that have been declared historic markers, but most structures that have been around for hundreds of years, which more often than not are houses. I love old houses. Some people like vintage automobiles and can go to car shows and read car magazines and appreciate the design of these machines. For me, I can go driving around neighborhoods appreciating the design of old homes, being fascinated by the smallest details and wishing I had a camera to capture the beauty of the structure. Inside these old homes is equally interesting (unless extreme updates have taken place), old wooden floors, wood staircases, glass windows where the glass looks like it is slowly melting, door frames, doors themselves; all of these things, and more hold not only my attention, but so much history. Echoes of the past can be seen  in the tiniest of details and in the grandest of design. I love looking at houses because I feel drawn back through all of the years that this house stood and especially to when it was built.

I probably should have become an architectural historian, but alas I did not.

Moving to Georgia has offered up the opportunity to view new historic homes and to get an appreciation for different styles of architecture. I recently theorized that a true American building was the classic red barn.

Unfortunately, when I was searching for a good picture of a barn on wikimedia commons, the best one I could find is actually of a barn in Canada.

Anyways, as you travel across the US, the red barn doesn't really show up everywhere (I didn't happen to see any in Miami when I was there in the spring, but maybe they were hiding behind some palm trees). But it's common enough to feel universally "American". So my theory is kind of debunked but it is true that there are architectural designs that can be attributed to not only America but to specific regions of America. I was not formally trained in architecture but I think that what I'm saying is common knowledge - to some extent.

I don't want to go into some long drawn out "lecture" about architecture, but below you will find some American houses that show not only some of the unique features of American architecture (which does have roots in European architecture - if you catch the similarities) but also the beauty of the structures beyond classification.

(Codman House, Lincoln, Massachusetts. Owned by Historic New England (originally the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities) Posted by Daderot)
(Victorian home unrestored, Lebanon, Illinois, 2006. Robert Lawton)
(Victorian home in the Diamond District of Lynn, Massachusetts. Picture by fletcher6)
(Dr. Henry Wheeler House, Grand Forks, ND. A brick Gothic-Italianate Victorian home listed on the National Register of Historic Places on January 16, 1986. Photographed by Glorioussandwich)
 (Imbrie Farmhouse: Hillsboro, Oregon. Photographed by Aboutmovies)

 (Sheldon Boright House, built by wealthy entrepreneur. Has been a private residence, a nursing home and is now a B&B. This stately balloon-framed mansion exhibits a typical multi-gabled, asymmetrical design, complete with ornate exterior woodwork, a wrap-around porch and porte-cochere, projecting bays, stained glass window sashes, and variegated wall and roof sheathing materials, typical of the Queen Anne style. Richford, Vermont. Photographed by Mfwills)
(Hageman Farm; Somerset, New Jersey. Original uploader was Richard Arthur Norton (1958- ) at en.wikipedia)
(The stately Southern mansion in Washington, Georgia known as the Campbell-Jordan House is actually a duplex. Originally a Federal-style home in 1787, by 1841 it underwent a Greek revival-style makeover with the addition of the massive columns. The home of U.S. Supreme Court Justice and C.S.A. Assistant Secretary of War, John Campbell, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1971. Image provided by: TampAGS, for AGS Media)
(Carson Mansion, Eureka, California April 2005, Nikon D70, Photo by Cory Maylett)
 This is just a glimpse of the variety of architecture used in American homes, and by no extent is it meant to show all types of architectural design. If I had millions of hours to spend, this would be a very long post with many pictures, but I had to cut myself off at some point. Anyways, hopefully some of these structures strike you as interesting or the next post is probably going to bore you as well. ;)

Monday, July 4, 2011

Writing Contest!

I can't believe almost a month has passed since I was last on here. I'm a little behind on this post, but no harm no foul.

These past few weeks have given me a lot of time to think about this blog, and the things I really would like to do with it. With that in mind, I’d like to announce the first ever, Fantasy Writers Unite Flash Fiction Contest!

If you feel so inclined, please submit flash fiction stories (1,000 words or less) in any genre. A good rule is to not submit anything too graphic and nothing written with the explicit intent of insulting various genders, races, creeds, etc. I’m really not going to publish something terribly offensive.  Don’t have any flash fiction to submit? No worries, you’ve got 2 months to get something written, edited and submitted.

The window for submissions is: July 1, 2011 – August 31st, 2011.

I’m hoping to have all submissions read and final selections chosen by November 1st, 2011 (since this is a one person outfit).

What happens to your submission? Well, depending on the number of entries and the caliber of entries - if your flash fiction stands out as unique, well written and interesting, then I am going to publish it in a small anthology. Those of you who are selected for publication will be awarded free copies of the anthology and you will have the option of having your story spotlighted on the blog.  You also will still own the rights to your pieces and are free to have them published elsewhere at any time. I am planning on having the finished product available for purchase on this site to help keep this site going. If you are not comfortable with that, please do not submit anything to the contest. I just don't want people to be upset later when they see the anthology for sale but aren't getting a "cut".

I’m aiming for the anthology to be compiled, printed and available for purchase by January 2012 (if not sooner – I’ve never done this before so I’m not sure how long it will take).

Any questions can be directed to me and all submissions (including a short bio) should be electronic and sent to this email address that I made specifically for this contest:

Thank you, good luck and get to writing!