martes, 14 de octubre de 2008


Engineering Hall
University of Illinois - Urbana, IL
Ground Floor

Within a space of thirty feet in the same hallway, these two Elkay fountains can be found. The first is between the women's bathroom and the vending room. It provides a good alternative to the overpriced pop machine a few steps away. It has a nice taste, but I must recommend taking a short walk east for a superior drink. The fountains may look identical, but the second is a good fifteen degrees colder. It also is nicely situated beneath a piece of art entitled "Rotocircle II" by Richard Allen. It's kinda weird, but better than a blank wall.

Taste: 8
Comfort: 5
Temperature: 5
Trajectory: 6
Pressure: 7
User Interface: 7

Taste: 8
Comfort: 5
Temperature: 10
Trajectory: 9
Pressure: 9
User Interface: 7

domingo, 13 de abril de 2008

The Songlines

by Bruce Chatwin

The travel log is a genre of which I have long been suspicious. It seems like a playground for the pompous, what someone writes when his wandering suddenly makes him worth listening to for some reason. Though I would never call Bruce Chatwin a modest man, the boastings that appear in his book are thoroughly shadowed by the beautiful insight he shares throughout. He leaves the reader to assess every situation he presents, making the book more a report than an editorial.

The Songlines follows Chatwin's journey through the desolation of the Australian Outback, investigating the history and mythology of the Aboriginals. Each short chapter vividly describes an episode in his travels, be it an encounter with drunk racists in a pub or a run in with exploitative art traders. The book is filled with quirky characters, whose hilarious or heartbreaking tales bring depth to what could very well have been a bland thesis.

Perhaps most notable about the book is the tragic portrait it paints of the Aboriginals' lot in modern Australia. Chatwin artfully juxtaposes the immensely beautiful traditions of the natives with the wretched conditions into which they have been placed by ubiquitous oppressors.

At the core of the novel lies Chatwin's intriguing conjecture that man is inherently a migratory animal; that the restlessness an individual feels is a natural expression of longing to return to the nomadic lifestyle from whence we came. The final quarter of the book is a pouring of evidence in support of this theory, extending from Germanic folklore to Che Guevara to the Beadoins of North Africa. It can feel scatterbrained at times, but the connections he draws are uncanny.

This book is highly recommended to anyone interested in mythology, indigenous peoples, music, poetry, travel, Australia, archaeology, languages, and/or God. Please read it!

martes, 8 de enero de 2008


Mechanical Engineering Building
University of Illinois - Urbana, IL
Third Floor, Far East side of hallway

Here's a standard box fountain commonly found at UIUC. It's ugly, it's bulky, and often loud... but it gets the job done.

Taste: 7
Comfort: 7
Temperature: 8
Trajectory: 7
Pressure: 9
User Interface: 5

Mala Onda

by Alberto Fuguet

Told from the perspective of teenager Matías Vicuña, Mala Onda is an eight day window into the narrator’s mind, beginning with the end of a school trip to Rio de Janeiro. He’s a Chilean Holden Caulfield, and Fuguet knows this. He even calls attention to it half way through the book when Matías is given Catcher in the Rye from a friend. Whereas Salinger’s novel draws attention to primarily Holden as a character, Mala Onda uses Matías as a vessel to view Chile in 1980 just prior to the reelection/confirmation of General Pinochet as dictator. Matías’s turbulent lifestyle gives the reader a sense of the chaos Chile was experiencing under military rule. It’s the story of an adolescent who doesn’t know who he is, living in the capital of a country that doesn’t know where it wants to be. Stylistically Fuguet draws the reader in right away as Matías’s invisible companion. He confides in you and only you, since there’s no one else he can stand anymore. Isolating himself from friend after friend, he gains his reader’s pity and trust, but then messes up so bad you want not just to shut the book, but to smack him. Rarely have I felt as emotionally attached to a character both positively and negatively as to Matías. He’s an intelligent idiot, a loveable jerk. At times I wasn’t so much entertained as morbidly fascinated by his story. I’d pick up the book merely because I felt sorry for him. How many books can do that?

Note: I was told to read this book after asking for an easy read by a Chilean author in the Spanish language. I highly recommend it to anyone in that (admittedly small) boat.