Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Expertise

I like to think I know a little bit about some things. I'm not an expert about much of anything, just enough to be dangerous. But one of my chief pleasures is learning more, especially from people who are experts. And it is doubly enjoyable when they are passionate about the subject.

I bring this up because I recently had three very enjoyable conversations along these lines. The first was part of my ongoing rowing education courtesy Steph, Aaron, and Sarah. Aaron and Steph have explained technique and the various positions in the boat (stroke, "engine room," etc). Sarah has been teaching me about how they start, training methods, and coxing (which she did for the first time recently). I'm not a rower and don't imagine I'll ever find myself in a shell, but they make it interesting. Probably because all three of them clearly love rowing.

This past weekend, Chris was visiting while he was at a professional conference. He gave me a copy of the most recent Architectural Record. It had very interesting articles and gorgeous photos of the church of Saint-Pierre de Firminy by Le Corbusier, the refurbishment of Griffith Observatory, and other significant buildings. But what really got Chris going was the bit about the opening of Glass House. I'm not fluent in the design arts, so he had to teach my why Glass House was just an inferior rip-off of Mies Van der Rohe's Farnsworth House. In Chris's opinion, Farnsworth is "otherworldly" and a consistent expression of Van der Rohe's ideology and architectural ideals, while Glass House is the unwieldy marriage of the otherworldliness of Van der Rohe and the site-specificity and engagement of a Frank Lloyd Wright design. It was very cool to hear him hold forth.

And yesterday, I skipped out of work to have lunch with Sarah and Heidi, who is in town for a few days. She talked at length about her trip to China, how to find work in the pastry and 4-Star restaurant businesses, and Alexander Hamilton. I've always found Heidi to be much more culturally literate than myself, more traveled and with excellent taste. So I pay attention and try to pick up a few things. We talked about her visit to the National Portrait Gallery, and then about Hamilton. This was a bit more in my wheelhouse, but she just finished the latest big biography on him, and taught me a few things. So now I'm looking forward to getting that off my "to-read" shelf soon.

I am interested in all of these topics, in of themselves. But even more, I am interested in these people, and that includes their hobbies, interests, and passions. So I really enjoyed all of these conversations. They remind me how broad the world is.

2 comments:

Ryan Eling said...

It is amazing the difference that passion can make in conversation. And did Chris really "get going"?

Good posts lately, dude.

YouCanCallMeAaronBurr said...

FromTheWayI'mDroppingHamiltons!

I thought a little more about that word I used, otherworldly, and I think perhaps your use of "ideology" better describes what the Farnsworth House is. It's a precise abstraction. You've provided an excellent refinement of what I was trying to say about the Glass House.

Also, remember that my laughline was that "I'd probably like the Glass House if it had been done by anyone except Philip Johnson." Hack Nazi.

THE MIND IS NOT A VESSEL TO BE FILLED BUT A FIRE TO BE KINDLED