Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Time Travel Mart: A 826 Project

826 National is a nonprofit group that sponsors wacky storefronts, behind which hide student writing seminars for gradeschool kids. Why wacky storefronts? The first store, 826 Valencia, wasn't zoned for a workshop space: be retail or go away. Solution? Add retail to a non-retail production -- and be creative about it. There's several of the stores, but the one to the right is my favorite so far (but the spy shop is close behind). The Time Travel Mart sells itself as supplier to time-travelers, when it's not teaching students how to write creatively. If you'd like to see a bit of the store's interior, this person has a bunch of photos worth seeing. It's amazing how much thought and work is put into the environment -- people over at Neatorama miss the point, but I do get it. It's like the entrance to a museum or theme park: the person enters a world quite different than what's outside, and they're to leave it behind at the stoop. Writing creatively requires the putting on of a different hat, so like most skills children need to feel comfortable and immersed in order to learn. Now, most kids aren't going to write science fiction just because they're sitting a few feet from mammoth stew. Sitting a few feet from mammoth stew gives kids permission to see their world from a different perspective, one where the rules are left behind, like zoning ordinances preventing a writer's enclave.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Bookshelf Staircase

Making more room in a loft apartment always means being creative with space -- such as this staircase bookshelf:

Those wider steps appear to be designed as seats, if on your way to bed you're suddenly caught off-guard by a book's spine and have to stop for a bit of reading mid-stride. My problem: I tend to drag the tip of my shoe against the riser (hence the worn toes on my shoes) which will, on this staircase, keep me kicking the books as I walk.

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Saturday, February 02, 2008

The Town Cleaners Bookstore

Keith Phipps wrote a little post about the used book store he once frequented in Chicago. You can kinda see the bookstore's real name on a green sign hanging in the window, but the big sign above the door read 'town cleaners'. Really, I like the unofficial name: it ties a business to the neighborhood's history. Newer developments often do this as a way to hide the huge change made on the landscape -- the spot where Toys R Us and Office Depot in Fargo sits is called "Rabanus Plaza" -- because on that corner once sat a little farm house, occupied by the Rabanus family. Now, cozy and homey that corner ain't, all coated with pavement and dominated by an abandoned Krispy Creme franchise. This bookstore, however, at least gives people a way to identify where the bookstore is: "Remember where the town cleaners was? It's there." A bookstore deserves to be a part of the neighborhood; someday it might be remembered as, "remember that bookstore in the town cleaners building? That's where the sushi buffet is now."

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