Monday, October 8, 2007

Three Wonders and a Giraffe

On the way to work on a clear evening not long ago, I noticed three things that made it well worth my while to go to work. (Besides the paycheck.) First, driving eastward on Holcombe Boulevard, I saw the full moon framed by construction cranes further east along Holcombe. Right over the towers of the Texas Medical Center, the moon appeared huge. The cranes weren't visible against the dark night sky. Their red marker lights were. So the huge moon floated in a constellation of industrial red points of light.

Crossing campus, walking through the tall brick archway in the molecular biology building, I glanced through the window in the arch. Inside, in a wide, brightly lit hallway, stood a bulky machine swathed in thick plastic. It looked like a brand new analytical instrument—sophisticated, pricey, and delicate. Photocopied notices festooned the plastic wrappings. BEFORE DRIVER LEAVES REMOVE PLASTIC AND INSPECT FOR DAMAGE.

Hello? This was 8 PM. The driver was long gone.

Approaching the library, I passed a Buddhist monk on the sidewalk under the oak trees. He's one of the graduate students, and a scholarly, pleasant person; his brown-robed presence on campus is a grace note of timelessness amid the flux of undergraduate fashions in clothing. This particular evening, in the shadows under the trees, a cell phone in his hand gave off a blue glow. Timelessness intersected an acutely timely little piece of technology.

Later in the evening, I had occasion go up the stairs near the library circulation desk where I work. On the landing between first and second floors I discovered part of the new art installation in the library. The installation has components in different locations. Each consists of a large number of old hardback books, elaborately stacked against a wall, spines facing out and painted with pictures of animals and other things. Two lofty, curvy trees rise against the flat faces of high columns near the front door. Near the back door, a woozy clutch of skyscrapers rests against a wall; a cartoon horse sits or slides on the slanted roof of one of the skyscrapers. In the stairwell, four mice scamper around a white giraffe.

Some of the book spines ended up under paint. Others are unpainted or only partly painted. You can see, or guess, what the books are. It's a yard-sale hodgepodge of titles by forgotten or famous or infamous authors. All in all, this is an interesting example of modern art, a literary whimsy, heavy on the whimsy. Too much whimsy for some library-goers' tastes. One patron acerbically said, "there's a giraffe painted on a book by Winston Churchill!"

Wonderful world we live in. A world with plenty of wonders, as in, wondrous things. Also things that make you wonder what they mean. And sometimes you just wonder what somebody was thinking.

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