December 18, 2001
The most exciting news over the past few weeks is that my old Seattle roommates, Murph and Juli, are engaged! I'm very much looking forward to the wedding, which is tentatively scheduled for a New Jersey beach sometime next year. Murph was my roommate for my entire four-year stay in Seattle, all at the fabulous Golden Inca Apartments. Juli slowly moved her way in about halfway through, and was also a fine roommate. My best to the both of them.
Let's see what else happened....I went down to DC for a day, visiting Air & Space, American History, and the Jefferson and FDR Memorials. The FDR Memorial is pretty new, and I had the following to say about it in an e-mail I wrote to my friend Mike shortly after the visit:
"I did have the chance to see the FDR Memorial, and actually I was pretty unimpressed with it, and even somewhat bothered by it. It failed to reach me on any sort of emotional level. Some parts of it were interesting, but on the whole it struck me as more of a busy museum exhibition than a monument -- I could practically hear the committee members saying "Wait a minute: we forgot about the fireside chats! And what about the Tennessee Valley Authority?!" The theory I came up with on the ride home is that since the Vietnam Memorial at least, America has lost the power of metaphor or understatement, the idea that we are part of something larger than ourselves, and the recent major memorials (Vietnam, FDR, Oklahoma City, almost certianly the WTC) have been this kind of all-inclusive literal descriptiveness. The raising of the flag at Iwo Jima was such a powerful image since those who looked at it instinctively understood that the picture/statue was much more than the men raising the flag, the men who took the island, or even the armed forces, but rather, all of America. That wouldn't have the same effect today, I think, and certainly wouldn't be so iconic.
Anyway, after the FDR I visited the Jefferson, and that, as always, reached me. Largely because Jefferson is a more important figure to me than FDR, but also because they didn't imagine the Jefferson Memorial should be a summary of his life, but rather a testament to the ideals he stood for. I can imagine an FDR-style version of the Jefferson Memorial, and I'm just glad it didn't come to that."
Mike responded with the following interesting piece of history:
LOL - if you read the lit at the memorial, it's pretty clear that the J was in fact a kind of memorial to FDR built by FDR. WPA, baby! Seems that many of the great monuments we think of when we think of DC - Lincoln, the Mall, the expanded museum system, the J - were a kind of pet project of the man in the chair. Interestingly, this also changes the meaning of the seated figure of Lincoln.
There was some controversy about it at the time, but one of the ingenious aspects of the two big projects is that both Lincoln and Jefferson are regarded as forefathers of traditional Republican values - Lincoln, of course, being a Republican, and Jefferson
apparently although a federalist highly resistant to strong centralization of governmental authority. So if the Republicans
attacked the budgeting for the construction of the memorials, they could be painted as not adhering to core Republican values - very Clintonesque, I thought. A clever man, that FDR."
As an interesting note to the whole visit, Washingtonians can choose to have license plates that read "Taxation Without Representation," protesting their lack of a voting representative in Congress. I'm pretty sure this is the only negative (or at least not positive or tourism-based) license plate slogan currently available.
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