Weekend 346.0 (Aloft from earth’s far boundaries)

Ave Maria(1) A quote from David Pryce-Jones:

“For centuries, the character of Christian nations was formed and maintained by church architecture, stained glass, missals and poems like The Song of Roland, icons and frescoes, and statues and depictions of biblical motifs that even the greatest sculptors and painters concentrated on. Without such common belief and purpose, art in this secular age is reduced to “doing your thing.” Very few people have a thing worth doing, which is why the bogus, the ugly, and especially the transgressional have become modern standards.”

(1a) Discover the intricacies of this wonderful miniature tabernacle

(1b) A quote from the Song of Roland:

“Throughout all France terrific tempests rise,
Thunder is heard, the stormy winds blow high,
Unmeasured rain and hail fall from the sky,
While thick and fast flashes the levin bright,
And true it is the earth quakes far and wide.
Far as from Saintes to Michael-of-the-Tide,
From Besançon to Wissant Port, you’d find
There’s not a house but the walls crack and rive.
Right at high noon a darkness falls like night,
Save for the lightning there’s not a gleam of light;
None that beholds it but is dismayed for fright,
And many say: “This is the latter time,
The world is ending, and the Great Doom is nigh.”
They speak not true, they cannot read the signs:
‘Tis Roland’s death calls forth this mighty cry.”

(2) A quote from Ave Maria: an interpretation from Walt Disney’s “Fantasia”:

“One of the greatest pieces of devotional music ever composed, Schubert’s Ave Maria has been inspiring singers, orchestras, and music-lovers for more than a hundred years. When it was selected as a concluding number in the first Walt Disney Concert Feature, Fantasia, it offered an exciting challenge to the finest creative minds of the Disney organization. Hundreds of paintings and sketches were prepared in an endeavor to explore various ways of visualizing that glorious music—of translating its spirit and meaning from sound to sight.

(3) A quote from Thoughts in Solitude by Thomas Merton:

“Bells are meant to remind us that God alone is good, that we belong to Him, that we are not living for this world. They break in upon our cares in order to remind us that all things pass away and that our preoccupations are not important. They speak to us of our freedom, which responsibilities and transient cares make us forget.”

*Scan is from Ave Maria: an interpretation from Walt Disney’s “Fantasia”

Weekend 345.0

(1) A quote from In Unfamiliar England by Thos D. Murphy:

“There is not much left of the abbey. Henry VIII., with characteristic thrift, floated the stone down the river to build Hurst Castle. The refectory, now restored and used as a parish church, is the most perfect remnant of the once magnificent establishment, whose church almost equaled the huge dimensions of Winchester Cathedral. The late lord did much to restore the ruins, which are now surrounded by lawns and shrubbery. The monks of Beaulieu had wide fame for good cheer–they kept great vineyards and their vines were counted the best in England. The vineyards throve long after the Dissolution, but the last vine, several hundred years old, disappeared about two centuries ago.”

Swope Redux

(1) Checkmate: The Economic Chess Masters Play a Losing Game (National Review)

“The nature of our technologically enabled present global connectedness means that for the first time in human history all economic activity happens in immediate relation to everything else. You cannot isolate the variables, which is a real problem if you believe in political management of the economy and see the policy question as nothing more than a really tough math problem.”

(2) U.S. Export-Import Bank: From Apple Pie to Endangered Species (Bloomberg)

“Though Democrats widely support Ex-Im, Barack Obama criticized it while campaigning for president in 2008, calling it “little more than a fund for corporate welfare” at a time when opposition to government spending, triggered by the bailouts that year, was growing.”


(3) Ex-Im inaction prompts GE moves (CT Post)

(4) Pelosi ‘Very Excited’ about the Republicans’ Attempt to Revive Ex-Im (National Review)

(5) A quote from Liberal Fascism by Jonah Goldberg:

“Gerald Swope, the president of GE, provides a perfect illustration of the business elite’s economic worldview. A year before FDR took office, he published his modestly titled The Swope Plan. His idea was that the government would agree to suspend antitrust laws so that industries could collude in order to adjust “production to consumption.” Industry would “no longer operate in independent units, but as a whole, according to rules laid out by a trade association…the whole supervised by some federal agency like the Federal Trade Commission.” Under Swopism, as many in and out of government called it, the state would remove the uncertainty for the big-business man so that he could “go forward decisively instead of fearsomely.”

Weekend 344.0 (If I only had one helmet I would give it you)

“He found himself wondering at times, especially in the autumn, about the wild lands, and strange visions of mountains that he had never seen came into his dreams.”

– J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

(1) FUN with colleagues

(1a) Nash to debut first-ever PLAYMOBIL NHL playsets (NHL)

(2) My sister found a gorgeous Dunelt this weekend

Terrain Vague

Miyazaki's Spirited Away“Whether it was ever Arcadian, or even faux-rural, is debatable. But it has obstinately survived, and is a candidate for that fashionable new category of landscape, ‘edge-land’. Victor Hugo in Les Misérables called this kind of undefined, hybrid habitat terrain vague, a landscape ‘somewhat ugly but bizarre, made up of two different natures, which surrounds certain great cities’. ‘To observe the city edge,’ Hugo wrote, ‘is to observe an amphibian. End of trees, beginning of roofs, end of grass, beginning of paving stones, end of ploughed fields, beginning of shops, the end of the beaten track, the beginning of the passions, the end of the murmur of things divine, the beginning of the noise of humankind.’ Except that the original vision of Metroland was not one of such sharp ends and beginnings, but one where trees, pavements, fields, moments of rhapsody and trips to the shops would be seamlessly interleaved. Such a harmonious marriage did materialize in a few places, until the noise of humankind became too overpowering. But something else also began to take shape around Metroland, a fraying of its neat edges, a wayward outgrowth that seemed to me, scavenging for ideas in it for much of my life, more interestingly mutable, and more inspiringly upstart than any part of its sedate interior.” – Richard Mabey

“If this fantastic metropolis never quite materialized, it nonetheless became our supreme goal, a beacon blazing throughout the development of a uniquely American culture defined by more than hope. It was the promise of something greater, something transcendent-not in some ghostly afterlife, but here, in fact upon this solid Earth.” – Gordon Theisen

“Today, in the century of man’s greatest technological achievement, the wilderness at last comes into its own. Man no longer needs God, and he can live in the desert on his own resources. He can build there his fantastic, protected cities of withdrawal and experimentation and vice. The glittering towns that spring up overnight in the desert are no longer images of the City of God, coming down from heaven to enlighten the world with the vision of peace.” – Thomas Merton

In memory of Ralph J. Stephenson

Gore Vidal, Wrong Again

Weekend 343.1

(1) On September 13, You Can Ride the 7 Train to Hudson Yards

(2) ÖBB Headquarters / INNOCAD Architecture (ArchDaily)

(3) More quotes from The Heart of our Cities by Victor Gruen:

“There is a saying that the best things in life are free. Those best things are hard to come by in the sprawling environment of the modern American metropolis. One of the best things in life that comes free is a chance meeting with another human being, which in more concentrated and urbane cities occurs in everyday life on the streets, in the parks, in stores and on buses, streetcars or other public conveyances. These chance meetings, not pre-designed by efficient hostesses, more often than not are the most rewarding ones. In Anti-city they cannot come about because the places that create the occasions do not exist. There are no sidewalks, there are no public squares, and there are very few, if any, public conveyances.”

“The result of neglect of the public environment drives us even further into efforts to improve our own immediate personal surroundings. In escapist fashion we are running away from the upsetting dangers and ugliness of the public environment…We tend to reduce all intimate and personal relations with the outside world, relaying more and more on the telephone, the radio and television for communication. In doing so, however, we soon run afoul of some basic, deeply human needs: the need for sociability, deeply imbedded in man who is a gregarious beast, and the need to earn one’s living, a necessity at least for most of us. We are forced to make sorties and forays from our fortified castles, and whenever we do so we encounter the hostility and dangers, the ugliness and chaos of the over-all public environment.”

Brompton Urban Challenge NYC 2015

This summer (pronoun alert) I Participated in the 2015 Brompton Urban Challenge in NYC on Sunday, August 15 to complete my own personal treble (Brompton US Championship 2013, Brompton World Championship 2014, and Brompton Urban Challenge NYC 2015).

The day started with all Bromptoneers assembling at the Brompton Cafe at Rough Trade in Williamsburg. I was a solo registrant and was paired with a rider from Washington D.C. and Brazil. Our hastily minted team was creatively dubbed Team 3.

The format for the event was a scavenger hunt travailing the 5 boroughs of NYC (for the really, really ambitious). Each team was provided an initial clue set and there were three to collect in total.

The clue sets included one or two tasks and four or five clues. In addition, there were three checkpoint challenges at Redbeard Bikes, NYCeWheels via Columbus Circle, and Bicycle Habitat. The challenges weren’t revealed on the clue sets and tested your mettle in areas like balancing, folding (blindfolded), and parts recognition.

One of the clues (Lights, camera, action!) challenged us to recreate a scene from a well-known New York film. We staged a scene* from the French Connection.

The event ended back at Rough Trade for a slideshow of all the photos (cleverly curated using social media), awards, and beer. We were the overall Challenge Champions (awarded to the team with the best overall score for the day’s checkpoint challenges) and were presented with a beautiful set of tea cups. My teammate also participated in and WON the folding competition.

Official Video (YouTube)
Clue Sets (Coming Soon)

*This fulfilled a life-long ambition of paying tribute to Gene Hackman and Four Roses Single Barrel Bourbon.

Weekend 343.0

(1) Tokyo’s abandoned homes (Domain)

(2) A quote from The Heart of our Cities by Victor Gruen:

“A healthy city heart attracts and holds creative people–painters, sculptors, musicians, poets, actors and actresses, dancers, philosophers, architects, writers and planners. It is a haven for those who find in its environment not only a source of income, but inspiration, too. It is a preferred place of residence for those who value intimate contact with urban features and for whom, whether they are wealthy, middle-class or poor, the city is a way of life. The healthy city heart is a place of infinite variety whose buildings and structures form, between them, spaces of differing size and character, narrow or broad, serene or dynamic, modest or monumental, contrasting with each other by virtue of varied treatment of pavement, landscaping and lighting. Sprinkled throughout the core are green areas ranging from tiny landscaped spots to good-sized parks. A healthy urban heart pulsates with life day and night, weekday and Sunday, spring, summer, fall and winter.”

Weekend 342.0

“A real city is full of life, with ever-changing moods and patterns: the morning mood, the bustling day, the softness of evening and the mysteries of night, the city on workdays so different from the city on Sundays and holidays.” – Victor Gruen

Weekend 341.0 (Project X)

What do you do with several gigs of photos from various trips to Walt Disney World and a bevy of books on the same subject? How about a project that uses both? The scan is from The Art of Walt Disney World Resort by Jeff Kurtti and Bruce Gordon. My photo of Space Mountain is from inside the Tomorrowland Arcade during a rainstorm.


A Gruen inspired renaissance?

(1) The Mall Rises Again: How to breathe new life into America’s much-maligned indoor shopping centers. (City-Journal)

(2) A related quote from Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination by Neal Gabler

Imagineers said that when they were planning Tomorrowland, Walt would carry books around on city planning and mutter about traffic, noise, and neon signs, and he kept three volumes in his office to which he frequently referred: Garden Cities of Tomorrow by Sir Edward Ebenezer Howard (originally published in 1902 and reissued in 1965), which promoted a vision of a more pastoral urban life; and The Heart of Our Cities and Out of a Fair; a City, both by an architect and mall designer named Victor Gruen, who urged the reconceptualization of the city as more ordered, rational, and humane.

*You can see a copy of the Gruen book on Walt’s desk in the Fall 2010 issue of Disney twenty-three.

(3) Excerpts from Imagineering the Disney Theme Parks by Karal Ann Marling

Both his office bookcase and the studio library contained multiple copies of architect Victor Gruen’s 1964 The Heart of Our Cities, a study that proposed remedies for an “urban crisis” the author described in chilling detail. The reason for the crisis was the decay and disappearance of the ancient city center under the influence of cars and suburbs and media, the television, that made face-to-face contact irrelevant. When the center eroded, the sense of community usually vanished along with it…Southdale, which was built as Disneyland was being completed, was a Main Street for a new suburb that lacked one, having many of the same characteristics that made Walt’s streetscapes so appealing. For example, Gruen championed the interests of pedestrians at Southdale. He reassured the frazzled shopper with open, lively, readable interior spaces and codes that harmonized the facades of stores, to stave off visual fatigue. In the absence of an organized political structure, he fostered a sense of place by providing urban amenities in the form of public sculpture, artist-designed benches, and fountains.

Somerset Bridge Station

(1) Bermuda carriages found in Guyana (The Royal Gazette)

Want to learn more? Find a copy of The Bermuda Railway (Gone – But Not Forgotten) by Colin A. Pomeroy.

Weekend 339.0

(1) The Secret Life of Yo-Yos: The modern version of the toy is practically unrecognizable, an Object Lesson. (The Atlantic)

Credit: Bear

Weekend 338.0

(1) How theme parks like Disney World left the middle class behind (Washington Post)

(2) The Brave Old Temeraire by James Duff

Our friends depart, and are forgot,
As time rolls fleetly by;
In after years none, none are left,
For them to heave a sigh;
But hist’ry’s page will ever mark
The glories she did share,
And gild the sunset of her fate,
The brave old Temeraire

(3) My first Playmobil photos since December 31, 2014 (a very small tribute to Horst Brandstätter):

Dry Dock
For the purpose of being broken up…
Oak, and iron, and man

Weekend 337.0

“If we love, we are running; and the more consistently we love, the faster we run.”

– St. Augustine

Kurt Vonnegut delivered the commencement address at my brother’s graduation from The Beekman School in NYC. It was similarly profound, pointed, and poignant.

(1) In 2006, Kurt Vonnegut sent this excellent letter to a high school class

“What I had to say to you, moreover, would not take long, to wit: Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow.”