Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Cup 15: Changes

cup 15
Originally uploaded by matt_leclair.
where: Memorial Union, University of Maine, Orono, Maine
when: 2 pm, Jan 4, 2005
what: Starbuck's French Roast
with: Sheridan Kelley, Owen Smith

I got a sad reaffirmation of something I'd been suspecting today. A decade ago I idolized my friend Andrew J. Hathaway. Andrew was the first professional photographer I'd met. My first understanding of the differences between a pro and an amatuer photographer came one day when Andrew and I were at an outdoor bar in Camden, Maine with a group of others. Andrew was taking pictures of us. I was the only one who noticed, and only then because I was really paying attention. The camera was an extension of his body. The camera was out, the picture taken, the camera put away in such a fluid, natural motion before anyone even realized that he'd taken their picture. Maybe a good photographer knows how to make their subject comfortable, but with a great photographer the subject never thinks to be uncomfortable in the first place. It was a talent I tried unsuccessfully to master. Now I fear it is a moot point.

Today I met Owen and Sheridan for lunch. I had the camera out and was snapping pictures of them (and my coffee) and they didn't react at all. I hadn't informed them of the project I'm doing, either. I think this is a sign of the times. We are under such constant surveilance now whenever we leave the house that I think that people just take it for granted now when their picture is taken. It used to be a big deal. Not long ago people would get very uncomforatable if the camera was out, and candid shots were all but impossible. Now people just don't care.

Anyhow, cup 15 was at the Memorial Union, meeting with Sheridan Kelley, who also teaches for the New Media dept., and Owen Smith, our boss, to discuss classes next semester and in the future. Next semester I'm teaching just one class, Intro to Digital Art, which will be a welcome break since I'm so buried in other projects. Today I got the welcome news that we got the go-ahead for developing the completely on-line version of the class. I'm very excited about this since such educational opportunities are very limited in this state, and being able to take the class online will open it up to a whole lot of people who couldn't take it otherwise.

The Memorial Union was once the hub for student activity on campus, until the University administration stepped in. Now there is a Starbucks at the heart of the University. Is this a trend at all Universities, or is UMO substandard? The Union used to have study lounges, meeting rooms, and two spaces where students could actually put on live entertainment, and all the food was done by campus dining services. All these things have been done away with. It was a big deal when they were redoing the Union. They formed a committee of faculty and students to decide how best to revamp the Student Union. They came up with a great plan that the administration took and said, thanks, but we've already hired someone else to do a plan. It was some guy out of Texas who designs airport food courts who'd never set foot on campus, and never bothered to ask what students wanted or needed. Now there is no place to study, no place for shows, no place to gather comfortably in groups larger than four. And it is Taco Bell, Starbucks, crap like that, all with the harsh unpleasant atmosphere of an airport food court.

And yes, the Starbucks coffee tasted exactly like every other cup of Starbucks coffee. If I closed my eyes, I could have been at any airport, any mall food court in the USA. Today, though, I learned a better word for that vaguely like the bottom of an ashtray yet not quite unpleasant taste of Starbucks coffee: carbony.

1 comment:

Frank said...


Very interesting premise for a blog...something I'll have to follow.

But my comment isn't on the blog....

As funny as this sounds, I used to work for an Owen Smith when he was the Production Director at The Sacramento Bee, Sacramento, California.

My curiosity is piqued if this is the same Owen. I've never heard that first name anywhere else.

Good luck and good coffee to you!