TITLE: Outer Space, Iowa, and Unexpected Connections AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: November 06, 2010 11:04 AM DESC: ----- BODY: Poet Marvin Bell tells this story in his collection, A Marvin Bell Reader:
[In Star Trek, Captain] Kirk is eating pizza in a joint in San Francisco with a woman whose help he will need, when he decides to fess up about who he is and where he has come from. The camera circles the room, then homes in on Kirk and his companion as she bursts out with, "You mean your from outer space?" "No," says Kirk, "I'm from Iowa. I just work in outer space."
My life is in some ways a complement to Kirk's. I often feel like I'm from outer space. I just work in Iowa. I briefly met Bell, the former poet laureate of Iowa, when he gave the keynote address at a camouflage conference at a few years ago. I gave a talk there on steganography, which is a form of digital camouflage. While Bell's quote comes from his own book, I found it in the front matter of Cook Book: Gertrude Stein, William Cook, and Le Corbusier, a delightful little book by Roy Behrens. Longtime readers of this blog will recognize Behrens's name; his writing has led me to many interesting books and ideas. I have written also written of Behrens's own scholarly work several times, most notably Teaching as Subversive Inactivity, Feats of Association, and Reviewing a Career Studying Camouflage. I am fortunate to have Roy as friend and colleague, right here in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Cook Book tells the story of William Cook, a little known Iowa artist who left America for Europe as a young man and became a longtime friend of the celebrated American writer and expatriate Gertrude Stein. He later used his inheritance to hire a young, unknown Le Corbusier to design his new home on the outskirts of Paris. Behrens grew up in Cook's hometown of Independence, Iowa. If you would like a taste of the story before reading the book, read this short essay. I am no longer surprised to learn of surprising connections among people, well-known and unknown alike. Yet I am always surprised at the particular connections that exist. A forgotten Iowa artist was a dear friend of one of America's most famous writers of the early 1900s? He commissioned one of the pioneers of modern architecture before anyone had heard of him? Pope Pius X makes a small contribution to the expatriate Iowan's legacy? Busy, busy, busy. -----