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Technique potpourri captures memories of past year

TECHNIQUE

By MARK ROBERTS

A PUBLICATION SUCH AS Technique cannot be judged by the usual standards applied to coffee table books, which is what its format of elegantly presented photographs accompanied by a minimal text suggests. Its readership is tightly limited -- to the world at large it almost inevitably holds little interest, to a narrow section of it, the book cannot but be fascinating. What makes it fascinating to them is their personal connection with what it depicts, and so naturally a large part of the publication is given over to individual photographs of the senior class, together with their personal testimonials, and to pictures of the various living groups en masse.

It is fun to play the game of spotting your friends looking implausibly neat and tidy, grinning glassily, in these parts of the book, and doubtless the faces will provide fodder for much dewy eyed reminiscence and "well I never"-ing in years to come, but one turns with more curiosity to the general sections.

The first of these is purely pictorial, focusing on the unchanging aspects of MIT, rather than events peculiar to this year. There are large pictures of the Institute, familiar views and odder angles, in snow, in sun, thronged with a crowd, and so on. The standard of these photos is for the most part high, and they have been generously reproduced and laid out. They are well chosen, because they will bear the test of time that has to be one of the criteria in choosing them. At the moment they look familiar, but the compositions are strong enough to render them more than simply snapshots. They stand as thoughtful studies in their own right.

Moving on, one comes to the "Journal," "Activities," and "Sports" sections. At first the text that accompanies the "Journal" seemed oddly chosen. It is a partial diary of the years events, and mixes MIT news with world events in a haphazard fashion. Thus the election of an Undergraduate Association president rubs shoulders with the opening of the Berlin Wall and the death of Lucille Ball. On reflection this potpourri seems better fitted to its purpose, since it provides the fragmentary tapestry of sublimity and ridiculousness of which memory is composed, and can serve as a trigger to recapturing the larger memories of one's year. And it's already interesting to be reminded of some of what was going on a year ago.

A major event on campus last year was the death of Harold E. "Doc" Edgerton SM '23, and as befits a man whose life touched that of so many people at MIT, this is commemorated with a double page spread of one of his photographs and a chronology of his life. He also appears in photos elsewhere in the book.

The sports and activities section offer a photographic survey of their subjects. One turns naturally to those with which one is familiar, and I was amused to see the MIT Rugby Club commemorated in a picture of one of its more brutal practitioners doing a particularly illegal and dangerous head tackle on a member of the opposition. The photos could not attempt to be exhaustive, but are representative of a diverse range of activities. Doubtless some will be disappointed that their particular interest has been overlooked, but the impression after a browse through the book is of an eclectic range of activities -- and not much work, incidentally, although doubtless people will be quite happy not to be reminded of that.

Technique will be fun to peer at and identify friends and enemies in, and will doubtless be stashed away to be pulled out in future years and reopened to show your grandchildren with a frisson of horror and delight. It should do the job nicely, and the binding looks good and tough, made to last.