Monday, September 12, 2011

Sharp Pencils, Sharper Buildings

The school year has officially started, and the fight between competing technologies has begun.

Some people like their Boston Ranger manually-operating pencil sharpener (Model 55) mounted on a solid wood pedestal.  Others like their Stanley Bostitch Personal Electric Sharpener (and especially like saying it in Spanish.)
Now that's a tough choice.

But pencil sharpening technology aside, it's also time for technology upgrades and renovations.  Everyone at the College of Arts and Letters was excited about the Liberal Arts Building renovation.  There were safety upgrades, new audio/visual equipment for each classroom, and two new lecture rooms, including a new cinema screening space that will house 200 people. Students and professors will also enjoy new carpet, paint, wood paneling, tile floors, updated bathrooms and a student lounge with a flat-screen television and vending machines.

The Liberal Arts Building has become something of a cornerstone buildingon the NAU campus.  Almost every student at the university has taken a class in this building at one time or another.  (English 105, anyone?)  I, myself, spent many hours inside the Liberal Arts Building in my undergraduate days, dreaming of becoming a beatnik poet, a Mexican revolutionary, or even a Victorian heroine.

Students can now use their imagination in safety, in beauty, and with the aid of 50 new Macs and PCs.   

In true Arts and Letters fashion, the building was dedicated with a ceremony that included Nicole Walker's dedicatory poem "The Metamorphoses" (see below), a not-so-solemn cutting of the ribbon, a musical fanfare provided by the School of Music's Elden Brass Band, and a reception.  It was such a nice celebration of the arts and humanities, all in honor of the love of learning!

President Haeger, Dean Vincent, Provost Grobsmith and Associate Dean Boreen at the re-opening.
More pictures of the opening can be viewed here.

The Metamorphoses
by Nicole Walker
Ovid’s Deucalion and Pyrrha
only had to toss dirt
and rocks over their
shoulders to create a whole
human race. If only tossing here
had been enough.
Here, people worked
through dirt and rock,
mashed them up, cracked
them upon, dug the new
out of the old and turned
geologic into neologic
to make this new
inside place full of shoulders
and absent dirt.
A transformation more
blue than print, more
bones than HVAC, more
rock than LEED.

It is not like we didn’t
appreciate brown tiles
in the bathroom, the way
they sent sludgey bits
riding home with us
on our shoe soles and
backpacks, the way
the water turned on
and stayed on, promising
to flood the asbestos
right out of here.

We’ll miss some things.
A window, here, for instance,
in a someone named Bryan Short
office, the breeze of an open hallway,
the random, sciencey faucets
in a wing named
after someone Bacon
that we shouldn’t forget
in this wave of new blue.

But maybe, when Williams wrote,
no ideas but in things,
he really meant “in” and herein,
in this new building,
the new, blue carpet tiles,
the fire escape, the plastic hallway
interrupter, the new breeze of air
conditioning make that lost window
and maybe those lost sinks,
more idea than thing. In here, in this
Mandelbaum translation
of us, from one kind of earth
into another, in here, we’ll find
the new ideas in the new things
we find here.

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