Up Close with Eagles

In the midst of everything that goes on in the world, there are many “commonplaces” that link us to seemingly unrelated matters. What is a commonplace, you may ask? A commonplace (or topos) has many definitions which include: a physical space in which people can congregate, a shared idea, and the way in which topic or argument is constructed (as defined by Wikipedia). Now, these isn’t by any means a set definition of a commonplace. Just think of them as a starting point. You know, even the idea of a commonplace is, in and of itself, a commonplace. I know that’s a confusing idea, so let’s take a step back and look at a friendlier example, such as eagles.

The following project is a collection of the eagle as a commonplace. While there is the obvious fact that the eagle is the national bird, there are many more ways in which the eagle is looked at just within American culture. The inspiration for this project came from the Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police Department Headquarters. It seems like a weird place to start, right? As it turns out, I happened to be out exploring in D.C. and saw the architecture on the National Archives. Sitting at the Navy Memorial, I noticed the architectural incorporation of the eagle at the Archives. Then, I realized that the MPD also has eagles in its design. Granted, the fact the the eagles at the MPD are mounted on top of lamp posts is not all that appealing, but I think that adds to the rhetoric of the Metropolitan Police Department. It was these eagles on top of lamp posts, after all, that inspired me to look into different adaptations of the eagle as a commonplace.

As I mentioned before, the fact that the eagles at the MPD are positioned on lamp posts creates rhetoric. What rhetoric does it create? Well, that’s up to you to decide. I’ll tell you what I think though. I think that the fact that the eagles are so small and are not a part of the actual architecture of the building shows some disregard to the national bird. As can be seen in my project, there are identical lamp posts on either side of the main entrance to the MPD Headquarters. When you look at these lamp posts in more depth you can see that right beside each of them are trash cans. The police department put the national bird literally on a pedestal then proceeded to put a trash can right next to it. As a resident of D.C., I was shocked by this and knew I had to use it in my project. I wanted, and still want to, show this representation of the eagle to others and get their opinions on it.

Moving past the police department, I decided to look at the eagle in terms of Washington D.C. specifically. It didn’t take much research to find local businesses with eagles in their names or logos, so I chose the three that seemed to have the most information about them on the internet. The first business I examined was The D.C. Eagle. I had not heard of this establishment until I began my project. The D.C. Eagle, as it turns out, is a gay bar in Northeast D.C. Another business I found is Double Eagle Fitness. This company is owned and run by a couple in the D.C. area. Lastly, I came across EagleBank online but slowly began to notice advertisements for it after I began looking into it. As stated in the name, this establishment is clearly a bank. I used photos of each company’s logo to show the different parts and ways eagles are used to create a message to attract people.

I also looked at how the eagle is represented in the U.S. military. Each branch of the military has its own logo/emblem and an official flag. In my project, I chose to show the flags of the US Marine Corps, the US Navy, and the US Air Force. I chose these three branches because I have friends in each of them and wanted to incorporate military personnel opinions of the eagle. Each interviewee was asked, “What does the eagle in [a specific branch]’s flag mean to you?” The only non-response was from an Airwoman who is currently deployed overseas. The interesting part of the responses, at least in my opinion, was the lack of acknowledgement of the positioning of the eagle. If you look at each flag, you can see that the eagle’s head is turned to the viewer’s left and the wings are expanded. This is likely not a coincidence, and hopefully, my project will inspire you to think about it a little more.

One obvious corner of the world to turn to was the eagle as the national bird. The first thing I wanted to look at here was an Eagle Cam. The one I chose is from a nest in Southeast D.C. Not many people take the time to educate themselves on eagles, so I thought it would be beneficial to pop in a video to show the nature of these birds. I decided to follow up with the eagle as an emblem and chose to show the presidential seal. As with the eagle in military flags, the eagle in the presidential seal is positioned in a certain way that is indicative of a greater meaning. I then turned back to the eagle in the architecture at the National Archives simply because this is where I started.

From here, I chose to look at the eagle as a mascot in the NCAA since American University is part of this organization. This was a more lighthearted way to look at eagles, and it shows how different schools around the country show their school spirit.

Finally, I looked at the eagle on a broader scale. Starting with American Eagle Outfitters, I found logos that incorporate eagles than most Americans can easily identify. Aside from American Eagle Outfitters, I also found the logo for the Philadelphia Eagles football team as well as American Airlines. I wanted to show how the eagle was manipulated into each logo to fit a specific purpose.

Gender? Nope, Not a Thing

Male vs. Female

In “His & Hers? Designing for a Post-Gender Society” Suzanne Tick argues that designers today should encourage and support the changing views of gender within their work. Furthermore, Tick discusses the influence of Modernism (an art form that focuses on visual elements such as line, color, and form) and how this particular form draws its influence from mostly male figures. In other words, Tick believes that gender is man-made thing, and we should look past the norms to “[create] environments in which people can have their own individuality.” To be more specific, Tick explains how androgyny is becoming more and more common. As explained in the article, a lot of public entities, like schools and large businesses, are coming to accept and incorporate uni-sex and gender-neutral aspects into their basic functions. Another point Tick brings up is how Mother Nature is becoming an influence on design because sustainability is becoming increasingly important. While mother nature isn’t considered a part of the modernism movement, it’s a big part of design today and shows the breaking down of barriers for women and feminism in a world dominated by males. Overall, Tick emphasizes how the ideas of male and female are being overlooked in the modern world to include everyone, and she explains how designers should not fall behind in this ideology.

On a practical level, I believe that Tick is onto something with her idea. Gender really is a man-made concept, and its use is becoming less and less necessary. There are multiple ways a person can classify themselves¹ in terms of gender. Whatsmore, design is really a reflection of a designer and the society they² are submerged in. The modernist movement, for example, was led by mostly men, so a lot of the designs that came out of it were phallic and masculine in some way. In the 21st century, however, more and more women are breaking the barrier and overcoming the hierarchy that men have created. For example, Tick mentions how Emma Watson promoted the He for She Movement. Tick included Watson in her article since Watson is a well known, influential feminist. With time, the influence of big name figures, like Watson, and the general public, designers will hopefully be influenced to change up their designs to mirror common public views.

 

 

¹ Themselves is used to refer to any person regardless of gender identity

² They is used to refer to any designer regardless of gender identity

Photo from: http://providenthomedesign.com/2014/06/02/design-101-masuline-vs-feminine/

Dance It Out

Okay, so I’m not a dancer nor am I able to judge technique or anything like that, but I find this interpretation of James Bay’s “Let It Go” to be riveting. The dancers tell the story of a painful breakup, and anyone who has ever been though a breakup knows how hard it can be. Each dancer portrays different emotions as they show the different stages a relationship goes through. Within the dance you can see love, lust, hatred, abuse, and more. You see the dancers working together to create a masterpiece with the music as they take on their roles. While depending on each other in the dance, the dancers each do their own individual parts in the whole, just like in a relationship. There come points where it looks like one dancer relies more on the other, which symbolizes the strain that dependence can have on a relationship. Furthermore, there appears to be an element of abuse and violence in the dance. While this might not be how Bay intended for the song to be, the choreography takes on a life of its own with these choices from the choreographer.

I would also like to note that this dance to Unsteady by X Ambassadors is also beautiful and it speaks for a lot more than what may appear.

How to Create Rhetoric

Map of D.C.

Map of Chicago

In “Cities of Rhetoric”  in City of Rhetoric David Fleming concludes that perfect cities of rhetoric, or cities in which civilians can come together to hear each other out fairly and talk through disagreements, are difficult to create, but not impossible. Furthermore, Fleming argues that as part of our human nature, we keep striving to create these “strong publics.” In other words, Fleming ends his book by reflecting on the types of publics that thrive, such as “the urban district, a public with (prototypically speaking) a medium-sized population (50-100,000), settled in a medium-size space…” (201) compared to previously mentioned publics that survived but ultimately failed in creating successful spaces of rhetoric. More specifically, Fleming focuses on how we can try to, or even hope to try to, build strong publics; Fleming believes that by teaching “civic education,” or city-based education with a focus on community interactions, in public schools is the first step on changing the way our cities function. Essentially, the conclusion is that the physical space of cities can influence interactions between its civilians in ways we don’t think about, but we can teach our kids to think in ways which we do not. For example, Fleming says, “just as we need to make our schools more civic… we need to make our cities more educational…” (209). As Fleming states, we have the power to change how future generations view public spaces, and we also have the power to change our public spaces to educate us.

In a broader context, I believe that Fleming is onto something with his ideas in his final chapter. While we may not think about it that much, our cities do teach us a lot. Fleming uses Chicago in his book, but that’s not a city I’m overly familiar with. Instead, I’ll look at Washington D.C.. The nation’s capital is supposed to be a place where rhetoric occurs. It is supposed to the the place where all major national matters get hashed out. However, there are clear divides within the city. Georgetown, for example, has no metro stop to keep the lower class out. If we change this, we can change the message that sends to the public. Furthermore, if we take the time to educate our young on relevant matters such as civic discourse, we can look into the future at least hoping that younger generations will be able to create what we couldn’t.

 

 

 

 

Photos from https://www.google.com/maps

A Killer and Security Issues (AB 9&10)

Castaneda, Ruben, and Hamil R, Harris. “DECEPTIVE PORTRAIT: ALLEGED KILLER LED A DOUBLE LIFE.” The Washington Post, 11 Dec. 1994. washingtonpost.com, https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/local/1994/12/11/deceptive-portrait-alleged-killer-led-a-double-life/557c3a55-7318-41de-a024-fa2ae7cc49a5/?utm_term=.98bced492187.

Third Floor: Site of the Cold Case Squad Room

In the article “Deceptive Portrait: Alleged Killer Led a Double Life” Ruben Castaneda and Hamil Harris argue that the perpetrator of the 1994 Cold Case Squad shooting, Bennie Lee Lawson Jr., was a complicated person who lived a “double life.” As Castaneda and Harris explain, Lawson, “looked perfectly benign,” the day he killed three law enforcement officers and himself. Contrary to this description, Lawson was anything but harmless. Castaneda and Harris delve further into Lawson’s life as they describe what the police found at his home: “papers espousing violence” and “essays he’d written for an English composition class at the University of the District of Columbia.” As stated in the article, Lawson was associated with a “violent drug crew” and had spent some time in jail a couple years earlier. The article then goes into how Lawson was being questioned by Detective Anthony Brigididi and Captain Lou Hennessy about a recent triple homicide and was clearly triggered by something in the questioning. Castaneda and Harris then go back to explain how Lawson grew up and end with his mother’s and father’s opinions on their son’s actions.

This article is a background source because it gives insight into what Bennie Lee Lawson was like before the shooting. The information in the article can be used to attempt to understand why Lawson did what he did and how he may have been feeling at the time. While the article doesn’t give a full account of what happened or a full history of Lawson, it is still useful since it describes Lawson as a person as well as his activities. I think this source can be used to explain some of the skepticism that people at the police department might have about civilians who enter the headquarters without reason.

 

Miller, Bill. “HUSBAND OF SLAIN FBI AGENT WINS $1.7 MILLION IN COURT.” The Washington Post, 7 Mar. 1997. washingtonpost.com, https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/local/1997/03/07/husband-of-slain-fbi-agent-wins-17-million-in-court/b4726353-df91-4fc2-a5ef-e5c1cbaf9478/?utm_term=.31314b11d0a2.

Before Security

In the article “Husband of Slain FBI Agent Wins $1.7 Million in Court” Bill Miller argues that the need for security measures in buildings was not taken seriously until the Cold Case Squad shooting in 1994 after the spouse of a slain agent took the issue to court. Miller begins that article by saying the police headquarters had lost a $1.7 million lawsuit and should have “metal detectors and other safeguards” present in the building. Miller continues with the reaction of George Martinez, the suing party and the husband of Martha Dixon Martinez, a victim of the shooting. The article then goes on to give a little background on Mr. and Mrs. Martinez and how the shooting may not have happened had the city not “failed to follow its own security guidebook, which called for sign-in logs, metal detectors and other checkpoints.” Miller continues to discuss the politics of having said security measures and explains how a former officer had complained about lack of security months before Lawson’s attack. The article concludes by explaining how Martha Martinez had always wanted to be a police officer and how she and her husband were recently married. According to Miller, Martha had told George that she was pregnant only hours before she was killed. The article ends with with George Martinez saying, “My wife died a hero… the jury believed the same thing.”

 

This article is a background source since it provides a reason for there now being metal detectors and other security measures in municipal buildings. The article also give information on some of the people affected by the shooting. Furthermore, the article goes into the fact that there should have been security measures in the building, but they were not taken seriously. I think that this influences security is handled now. When I went to the headquarters, my belongings were searched and I had to go through a metal detector. After I had been walking around for a couple of minutes, the security guards asked me what I was doing there. I think it’s interesting to know what made the police headquarters finally follow protocol with security measures, and this article definitely gives background on that.

 

 

Photos taken by author

Without Words

One song that’s been on my mind recently is “A Drop in the Ocean” by Ron Pope. I’m not sure why I’ve been thinking about it so much, but a few of the lyrics came to my mind the other day, and I’ve been listening to it ever since. While I was thinking about this commonplace, I was wondering which song lyrics I could use that best embodied the song. That’s when I realized that I don’t need to use lyrics at all. I’ve spent so much time listening to the words when in reality thats all they really are-words. You can change the words with language or even with different covers of the song, but you can’t change the music. That’s why I like the instrumental version.

Without the words, the music tells a story. I’m not a musician so I can’t tell which chords are which or what’s played in F major or B flat or if those are even things. All I can say about the music is that it has a message. It tells the story of two lovers. It shows the passion and the romance and the lust and the eventual falling out as well as the aftermath of dealing with the burnt bridges. The music is full of emotion and is not something that can be overlooked. I personally recommend listening to the instrumental in a quiet space with your eyes closed. This allows for the music to fill your mind completely. The lull of the piano creates a flow that captivates you. After listening to the instrumental, I recommend listening to the song with lyrics. It really is a beautiful song.

300 Indiana Ave NW

Check Google Maps

Take a look at Google Maps. Search 300 Indiana Ave NW Washington D.C. 20001. This is what you’ll find: a building that looks like the number 8 turned on its side. This building has many names. It’s the Municipal Center, the Henry J. Daly building, 300 Indiana Ave NW, and the Metropolitan Police Department Headquarters. For a building that should be important in a city like D.C., why is it not emphasized as such on a visual search like Google Maps? I think that this speaks to the fact that the city is not proud of this establishment. While there is interesting history behind the building (such as the shootout mentioned in S Street Rising) the interior is falling apart. The Henry J. Daly building is not fit for any business to run properly, let alone the police department of a nation’s capital. I believe that the poor representation of the building on Google Maps compared to other buildings around it shows the (lack of) agenda for the building. It’s run-down and overlooked. The areas surrounding are embellished with memorials and nature while the building itself is concrete and intimidating. The future of the building is currently undecided, but from what I can see, the building needs some serious help.

 

 

 

Photo taken from https://www.google.com/maps

Be MPD

The video shown here is an advertisement to the public trying to encourage citizens to join the police force. A majority of the footage shows the police in action as they draw their guns, storm buildings, and pursue “bad guys.” The action based footage is likely utilized to entice citizens and make them want to be involved. Furthermore, the voiceovers in the video talk about how being a police officer is a challenge. This so-called challenge is explained as being the first to arrive at crime scenes or getting involved when others might not. This overall view of the police, however, is only a part of the job. What the video does not mention is the every day interaction that the MPD has with citizens or even the small differences that officers can make in anyone’s life. The video fails to describe how the goals of the MPD should be keeping the greater public safe and in balance. Rather, the video focuses on the action and potential danger of the job. In my eyes, this video undermines the heart of the job which seems to get lost to most of the public.

 

 

Video taken from https://www.youtube.com/user/OfficialDCPolice

The Municipal Center

AKA the Municipal Center

The back of the MPD HQ is labeled the “Municipal Center” and faces C street. Similar to the rest of the building (at least in my opinion), this entrance is rather dull and unexciting. The doors specify that this entrance to the building is for employees only which makes this side of the building even less welcoming than the front (which already looks daunting). It appears that when the building was renamed after Henry J. Daly, only the front of the building was given  new identification. I believe that this says a lot about the priorities of the D.C. government. Either that, or they didn’t have enough money to change the back of the building. Either way, the exterior of the building sends a message to the public suggesting that the headquarters itself can’t get it together.

 

 

 

 

 

Photo taken by author

Step Outside

Looking at Indiana Ave

The panorama here shows the landscape surrounding the MPD HQ as if you just walked out of the front doors. The area is clearly more pedestrian friendly than car friendly since there is little public parking. Furthermore, the MPD HQ awkwardly lies in the judiciary square area. While the building is roughly the same shape and size as the ones around it, the design appears more totalitarian than the buildings around it. The District of Columbia Court across the street, for example, has features that mirror the Greek acropolis. Other buildings in the area share similarities with the District of Columbia Court building. The MPD HQ, on the other hand, has a minimalist design which sets it apart and shows the intent of a different purpose.

 

 

 

Photo taken by author