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Ask not for whom the bell tolls...


To The Editor:

I enjoyed your amusing article in the Sept. 28 edition of Newspeak about the clock in the Two Towers Logo. Moreover, I applaud your keen powers of observation, tenacious research activity and indomitable "need to know."

In fact you have inspired me to come forward with the true, shocking, and unseemly story behind the clock with the changing face. You see, I'm the source you seek. I was there when it all happened. I'm the man who's responsible for the Two Towers Logos you've been examining.

It should be noted here as well that you are not alone in your quest for answers to the darkest secrets of The Logo. Many have wondered aloud about the other curiosity of this image-the backwards E in the Washburn weathervane. Some have suggested it should be corrected. Nevermind that, with a weathervane, the E will always be backwards from someone's point of view. Why not ours? But incongruity will drive some engineers to distraction. (I know- most of my best friends are engineers.) A few have gone so far as to alter The Logo for their personal use-reversing the E with illustration programs on their home and office computers. But back to the clock issue at hand.

I can tell you that the time of 4:00 has poignant historical significance for the life of the Institute, and that the precise meaning is a closely guarded secret of the Skull Honorary Society, but I would be lying. But I really should say that the 3:09 version, precisely 51 minutes prior to the silhouette version's time, imparts a value, T, which will solve the most intractable equations. But that would be a fiction as well.

It was Winter, 1988. We still toiled under the Reagan regime and Mike Dukakis was toying with my liberal heart. I was hunkered over my drawing table, working on a final rendition of the logo, and I came to the circle that would be the clock, it's damning vacantness stared back at me like the abyss, and I had to ask myself, "What time is it anyway?"

It was 2:15, but that's not important now.

I took a step back, and considered the larger picture and the outline of the Towers. Then I approached the problem the way a painter approaches a clean white canvas-with the third eye open, the right brain shouting "Geronimo!" and the left brain securely locked in a closet. Two strokes of the pen later, it was four o'clock. Because, to my eye, the 120-degree angle the two hands form best complements the shape surrounding the clock's face.

This is also the short answer behind the 3:09 version of the Two Towers logo. I imagine the fellow artist I commissioned to render the outline drawing would tell you a very similar story. 3:09 was simply the way he saw it. While I noted the time had changed, I found his work to be (to borrow an engineering term) within tolerance.

Call it aesthetics. Call it artistic license. Call it BS. Or call it the revenge of a couple of Fine Arts majors on a community of proud engineers. I'm sorry, there just isn't a way to prove which time is "correct." This revelation will probably annoy a few of you, disappoint some others who may have been looking for Traditions Day fodder, and make not a whit of difference to the vast majority. But hey, you asked. And (of course) I have a moral to this story.

In my business, the visual arts, there is no right or wrong, just degrees of success. Further, the definition of success is highly subjective and always changing. In this regard I think artists and engineers are polar opposites: left brain/right brain, speculative/empirical, ethereal/concrete. Yet I find engineers to have as much creative spirit as any artist. Go figure. Further I find this works in reverse. Scratch an artist and you'll find a technician, a theorist and a perfectionist (albeit with his own set of rules). So fear not the hordes of liberal arts majors destined for the doors of WPI. We have more in common than you think.

Mike Sherman


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