Daily Archives: October 7, 2015

Aunt Dawn and Uncle Bill

I recall that on one cross-country drive in the early 90s, i made it across Indiana without downshifting, having no particular reason to stop. Since that time we have acquired a very good reason to stop in the state, Linda’s sister Dawn and her husband Bill.

Dawn is a perinatologist in Indianapolis, and she and Greta have always had a great relationship.  At first I thought this was because no one likes little girls as much as a mother of teenage boys, but it has become clearer in recent years that they have a lot in common – both interests and personalities.  In recent years, Bill has been active in remodeling and reselling homes, and he has an excellent eye for and understanding of design issues.  So given our predilections and Greta’s, we left her behind in Indianapolis to web-surf and play with the dogs while Bill and I headed to Columbus for a day of architecture-geeking.  The next day we dragged Greta along, and Bill gave us a fantastic tour of Indianapolis.  (He also introduced us to Graeters ice cream, which we somehow managed to eat four days in a row.)

It was a really nice break from an intense few weeks of travel to just relax with them, catch up on sleep and laundry, and eat fantastic and healthy home-cooked meals.  (Greta’s not yet sure if she should blog about home-cooking or just stick to restaurants.)  It’s been great seeing friends on this trip, but there’s something special about being able to stay with family.

Selfies

I’ve always been fascinated by the tourism environment.  When you’re traveling, you are sometimes within the orbit of the place you’re visiting, but you are sometimes in the tourist world, which has varying degrees of connection to the real place.  I first became conscious of this in Europe in the 80s, when I saw some English tourists looking at small transparencies of Michelangelo sculptures on a slide viewing machine, rather than the actual objects themselves (which were in the same room).  For a while I photographed tourists having pictures taken of themselves in front of famous sights, being interested in exactly which sights and views they found most important.

The advent of the selfie has added a whole new layer of complexity to this.  In Yellowstone there were selfie-takers everywhere, and I once again began to photograph the act of photography, but this time just of selfies.  DSCF8296

The classic tourist sights are prime grounds for finding excellent selfie-photos.  Old Faithful:

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Mt. Rushmore is the best, where people often try to line their heads up with the Presidents. DSCF8452

Notice the extreme stretch required to take a selfie which includes a crowd. This man needs a selfie stick.

Notice the extreme stretch required to take a selfie which includes a crowd. This man needs a selfie stick.

Big city selfies:

the selfie as recording the act of genuflection before the symbol of The Donald.

the selfie as recording the act of genuflection before the symbol of The Donald.

One begins to wonder whether the rules of safe bison-selfie taking should also apply to modern architecture.

One begins to wonder whether the rules of safe bison-selfie taking should also apply to modern architecture.

Selfie in the Park with George.

Selfie in the Park with George.

We have decided to participate in, rather than just observe this phenomenon.  hence, the architecture-geek selfie:

the Architecture selfie.

the Architecture selfie.

And a new format, the reflected-selfie.  This is a practical matter for us, as our primitive Windowsphones do not have lenses on the front, and so our normal handheld phone or camera selfies are rather hit-or-miss;  the reflection gives us some degree of control.

The reflected selfie.

The reflected blob selfie.

Perhaps the most interesting sub-genre is the bison-selfie.  Recent years have seen the advent of the bison-selfie attack, where unwitting tourists venture too close to large, unpredictable wild animals, and sometimes inadvertently capture images of their imminent attack or demise.  Here is an example:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2015/07/23/bison-selfies-are-a-bad-idea-tourist-gored-in-yellowstone-as-another-photo-goes-awry/

but you can just Google bison selfie for many more.  The bison-selfie has become a meme, and is being celebrated in the popular press:

http://jezebel.com/terry-gross-interviews-the-author-about-her-new-book-bi-1719997411

Greta and I were well aware of the dangers of bison-selfies before we went to Yellowstone, so we took precautions.  The following are a series of photos we took which illustrate Safe Bison-Selfie™ protocols:

Safe Bison-Selfie No.2. Dead bison are much safer than live bison.

Safe Bison-Selfie™ No.2. Dead bison are much safer than live bison.

Safe Bison-Selfie No. 3, in the Field Museum. Stuffed bison are even safer when they are in glass cases.

Safe Bison-Selfie™ No. 3, in the Field Museum. Stuffed bison are even safer when they are in glass cases.

Safe Bison-Selfie No. 4: bronze bison are even safer than stuffed bison.

Safe Bison-Selfie™ No. 4: bronze bison are even safer than stuffed bison.

And finally, we arrive at what can be understood as a meta-selfie.  That is, a photograph which is a selfie, but at the same time is photograph of a person taking a selfie, and in fact, is a photograph of a person taking a photograph of a person taking a picture of a selfie.

The meta-selfie

The meta-selfie

Our work here is done.

More selfie photos continue here.

Indianapolis

Indianapolis is just big – about 20 miles across, in either direction.  (368 square miles – significantly bigger than New York City).  This great size leads to a corresponding variety – a large and spread-out downtown, and many residential neighborhoods – from old and decrepit, to close-in and gentrifying, to old ones that are a few miles out from the center and unbelievably grand, and newer neighborhoods of McMansions on the periphery, which feel like they are out in the woods.  Bill Adams took us on a great tour which really showed the variety of places, but I felt that I had barely scratched the surface.

The downtown has some fine old buildings:

The City Market

The City Market

The Indiana Theater

The Indiana Theater

The Statehouse

The Statehouse, right where it belongs on the axis

a somewhat typical mansion on the north side

a somewhat typical mansion on the north side

And then the city has a fairly normal array of postwar buildings and juxtapositions, which vary from the commonplace to the truly weird

a nondescript but weirdly angled 70s-thing

a nondescript but gratuitously angled 70s-thing

A Marriott which probably looks much less real than the rendering of it did

A Marriott which probably looks much less real than the rendering of it did

a portico on a state office building, remarkably overscaled, ponderous and pointless

a portico on a state office building, notably overscaled, ponderous and pointless

the skyline as seen from the canal to the west

the skyline as seen from the canal to the west

a classic 70s Hyatt, which brought on a wave of nostalgia in me

a classic 70s Hyatt, which brought on a wave of nostalgia 

the NCAA headquarters, by Michael Graves

the new NCAA headquarters, by native son Michael Graves

with this attached hall-of-fame piece

with this attached hall-of-fame piece

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The strangest thing was seeing what aspects of civic life are most valorized.  The Statehouse is quite impressive, but who are those individuals being accorded a place of honor on the banners hanging out front?  Statesmen, or perhaps war heroes?

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No, it’s the Colts’ cheerleaders!

But by far the most amazing thing in Indianapolis is the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument, which is in the center of town where the two main streets intersect, similar to the Philadelphia City Hall.  The urban space is very grand, a circle 500 feet in diameter between building walls, with the buildings enclosing the traffic circle and the Monument.  The Monument is covered with the kind of histrionic and spectacular civic sculpture which was common in the late 19th century (such as at the Columbian Exhibition, or the Maine Memorial in NY).  DSCF0297

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It’s a fantastic, over-the-top piece, and it may be the best means we now have to experience what the White City must have felt like.