Saturday, October 24, 2009

Fellini's Rome

Being an enthusiastic film location hunter, I was inquiring the possibility of a movie tour of Fellini’s Rome. After reading a little bit the book The sites of Rome: time, space, memory, I found out that his Rome was mainly constructed in studio 5 at CinecittĂ , including even landmarks such as St. Peter's dome and the Colosseum. I wasn't aware that he preferred set shooting so much, quite the opposite of Antonioni's situationist style. Even though I'm still gonna see the famous Trevi Fountain in his La Dolce Vita.

As discussed by Elena Theodorakopoulos, Fellini's films may be said to visualize Freud's much-quoted idea that:
Rome is not a human habitation, but a psychical entity with a similarly long and copious past - an entity, that is to say, in which nothing that has once come into existence will have passed away and all the earlier phases of development continue to exist alongside the latest one.

In Fellini's own words: Tramping around from ruin to ruin doesn’t mean anything to me. My Rome is from the movies of my childhood.

If Fellini's Rome is a cinematic spectacle inspred by his collective childhood memory, then Tarkovsky's Italy is a mirror which reflects his deep Russian nostalgia. My favorite scenes in Nostalgia were filmed at Bagno Vignoni, a small village famous for its thermal baths. It's about an hour's bus drive from Siena. But I probably won't have time for it as I have only one day in Siena. Anyway I'll see Michelangelo's Piazza del Campidoglio, another distinct filming location of Nostalgia.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Tetsuya Ishida

Several douban friends recommended Tetsuya Ishida's paintings. I thus came to know this talented Japanese painter who died in 2005 at the age of 31 (probably a suicide). His surreal self portraits remind me so much of Frida Kahlo. His own body is frequently presented as part of a machine or a built object, tragically trapped in the suffocating urban surroundings. Through his desperate gazes, we sense his deep loss of freedom, identity, emotion, nature, childhood joys...

View his complete works at:

Monday, October 19, 2009

Foliage Weekend

Living in Pennsylvania for six years made me a fall-foliage addict. Although Ohio lacks the hilly topography which creates dramatic views, I still found favorite foliage places such as Hocking Hills and Highbanks soon after the move. This year we have to skip the long ride to Hocking Hill and took Chloe to the three beautiful metro parks: Highbanks, Prairie Oaks and Battelle Darby Creek.

Yestersday was actually our first time going to both Prairie Oaks and Battelle Darby Creek and we were really impressed. Prairie Oaks has three adjacent lakes with Big Darby creek running in between. We walked on a beautiful trail with a lake on one side and the creek on the other. Since most trails are pet friendly, we saw many happily walking dogs. Next time we'll bring Rexie for sure despite his car sickness!

Prairie Oaks

Driving south about 15 minutes, we arrived at Battelle Darby Creek. The two parks are linked by the same creek: Big Darby. We found a gorgeous view overlooking the creek as well as more colorful foliages in the woods here which recalls Highbanks.

Battelle Darby Creek

What we explored in either park is only a small portion of the entire land - more to discover in the future!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Book Loft

Reading my friend's negative comments on the Book Loft made me want to write something about this unique bookstore. To me, the Book Loft is more than just a bookstore. It stands as a living example of dynamics in architectural space. Firstly, it blurs the boundary between public and private space and reverses the normal condition: a public bookstore in the setting of a private house. Isn’t the reversal of dining room and bathroom in Buñuel's The Phantom of Liberty an extreme case on this subject?!

One of the bookstore’s charms lies in its linear courtyard as the main entry. This serenely beautiful courtyard immediately turns the street scale into a personal scale, brings one’s mind into a peaceful retreat. Further down the path, the display windows on your right side create another type of storefront which is immersed in the domestic atmosphere rather than a commercial street feeling. Bathed in the warm yellow light at night, one can easily have the sense of going home on a cold winter night.

The linear courtyard reminds me of a charming little community garden I once visited in Philly. It is a water garden on the side of an old building, about the same size and shape as the one at the Book Loft. A ‘beer barrel’ at the corner collects stormwater from the neighboring roof which is reused for irrigating the garden. Three correlative murals depicting water cycles were done by the kids in the community.

Secondly, the Book Loft stands as a proof that getting lost is not necessarily a negative quality of architecture. This old Victorian house is a labyrinth that consists of 32 rooms of books, endless passageways, and staircases leading into new dimensions. However, this place is meant for wondering, exploring and getting lost only if you enjoy such a slow-paced and adventurous shopping experience. Associated with the quest for knowledge, isn’t the labyrinth a perfect metaphor for a bookstore? I still get lost after being there quite a few times, and each time I discover some new territories in both the architectural space and book collection. It is a similar experience every time I revisit a favorite film, picking up some unnoticed details.

Unlike box-shaped chain bookstores where one is always under surveillance, this maze-like space offers a perfect hiding place among the book jungles, which is rarely found in contemporary architecture. The Book Loft is probably a place Mr. Hulot would love! Anyone who is familiar with Tati’s Playtime knows that a large minimal glass cube is no more directional than the Book Loft, needless to say the lack of spatial interest or human attachment people can get out of.

I agree with my friend that their book selection needs to be improved. It would be great to include rare books and used books. Amazon is definitely the best place if you only care about selection and price. Nevertheless I still find Book Loft a hidden gem in this suburban city especially considering the fun experience it provides. Looking forward to my next half-day retreat, Hmmm…

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Gallery Hop on Moon Festival

It was such a coincidence that the monthly Cbus event and the Chinese festival fell on the same day yesterday. We took Chloe to the hop for her first art experience. Carrying a 4-month old, I had no time to ponder upon any artwork this time. I still found the walk very enjoyable when browsing the funky galleries and stores, seeing so many people on the street, feeling the vitality of urban life. The Gallery Hop is one of the few occasions I can truly experience the urban flavor in town. I always find Cbus quite suburban, even the downtown area, compared to most other cities. I think it is all because of the homogeneous density.

Later we had yummy sushi at Kooma. A DJ showed up during our dining, bringing vibrant beats into the atmosphere. Chloe fell asleep amidst the seductive food smell and the exhilarating music!

Our last stop was the Book Loft, my No. 1 favorite spot in Cbus. I was immediately attracted by the beautiful side yard under the lights as I’d never been there at night before. I couldn’t help snapping a couple of pictures with my iPhone. I got lost again this time, and how I enjoy getting lost in this book maze! I brought a list of books I found on their website, unfortunately none of them are in store. Too bad I couldn’t spend money:)

The only imperfection was the lack of the moon due to the heavy clouds. I had to picture a bright full moon in my head…