Posted by – July 26, 2012
Credit: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, LC-DIG-ppmsca-31434
Dolphins and humans coexisting in a single hotel/embassy space together in the nation’s capital—why not, right?
If you missed out on the National Building Museum’s “Unbuilt Washington” exhibit this year, I don’t know what to tell you. It was a personal highlight for me for the first half of 2012.
If you’ve run into me since I walked through this collection of wonders at the end of May, you probably heard me mention Doug Michels’ Dolphin America Hotel, which envisioned a space for humans and dolphins to live and interact with one another.
The official listing from the NBM reads as follows:
Proposed Dolphin America Hotel, designed by Doug Michels Architecture in collaboration with Jim Allegro, AIA, 1989. Architect Doug Michels was fascinated by dolphins and proposed various projects that would bring humans into closer contact with the aquatic mammals.
Just take a look at the design and let that idea sink in for a minute.
Also, what is that in the sky—a B-2 over the Washington Monument? Or a UFO?
I don’t necessarily avoid manga in my reading diet—it’s just not a staple. I’ve enjoyed Cromartie High School, Ghost in the Shell, Akira and even a little Yotsuba&!. Tadashi Agi and Shu Okimoto’s The Drops of God was little off the beaten path for me—not something I would have come to naturally. As David Brothers over at ComicsAlliance wrote last year, though, it’s manga about wine. What’s not to be interested in?
Being neither a manga nor wine connoisseur, this book only had things to teach me. It’s a comic about the son of a famous wine critic, who has a quest that conveniently allows him discover and describe real-life wines or trigger a lesson on the history of French winemaking. After you begin to understand the structure and story beats that are going on, you start to get curious as a reader about what’s around the corner, what’s on a label that’s being obscured or why a wine tastes a certain way.
Yes, there is a hokey quality to the melodrama that permeates the pages of The Drops of God. Those groan-inducing sequences of a manager belittling an employee or the story’s villain pondering his master plan snowball hilariously into moments of revelation that punctuate the chapters and keep things going at a respectable pace.
I’m only one volume into this series so far, but I’ve already learned more about Henri Jayer and French vineyards than I ever would have read and remembered anywhere else.
The near-photorealistic illustrations of the labels and bottles integrate seamlessly with cartoonish illustrations to stitch together the non fiction with the fiction.
And I should note that you won’t walk into the wine department at Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods able to dazzle your friends with observations and interpretations after reading this manga. In fact, most of the knowledge you glean will only be useful under significantly more expensive circumstances. However, if you do happen to wander onto some French vineyards in the future, you may find yourself significantly more informed about why a crop of grapes is going to be ideally suited for whipping up a particularly good batch of wine, as well as why that batch shouldn’t be enjoyed for at least 20 years.