Weekend 381.0

‘Even though an old proverb says, “too much special knowledge makes you stupid” I, as a craftsman, must say that having gone through an apprenticeship in the field of applied art, gives me certain advantages in the difficult art of design, as compared to those who partly or completely work from theoretical knowledge.’ – Kay Bojesen 

(1) Made in the U.K. (YouTube)

(2) A Water Lily by Jia Peng Fang

Weekend 380.0

(1) Frank Lloyd Wright’s unbuilt Trinity Chapel is realised in images by David Romero (dezeen)

The Unfinished Pietà

“Good and evil have not changed since yesteryear, nor are they one thing among Elves and Dwarves and another among Men. It is a man’s part to discern them, as much in the Golden Wood as in his own house.” – J.R.R. Tolkien

I’ve managed this blog since 2000. It was originally on Blogger and initially launched as something called ‘Unfinished Architecture.’ I moved to WordPress in 2010 after Blogger deprecated publishing via FTP. The old content was available via the current site (as static HTML) but it was hacked and injected with some redirect ridiculousness. I still have the old content and plan to sanitize and republish it one day -or- maybe Burgoyne can while picking through the detritus.

The one problem with blogging for sixteen years is that you eventually forget what books, poems, paintings, and themes you reference and quote in posts. You would think I’ve accrued enough literary capital to add something original at least once a week, but as eclectic as this mess is, the interests in my life follow broad patterns and themes (most of which I return to time and time again). I wonder if that’s normal or if my life is really that boring?

I also very rarely publish original content, preferring to aggregate content (long before curation and social media were careers). Blogging has gone through so many phases (may even be passé at this point) and I never really believed that anyone gave a rats a** what someone was posting to a blog. WHO really cares what anyone has to say on the internet (unless it’s inflammatory)? More critically, my blog is a distillation (a digital journal) of the 4-6 hours I spend every weekend reading and researching broad categories of interests in-between home and work (and mostly work).

That rather lengthy intro was a segue to the real point of this post. Current events have pushed 1984 to the best sellers list (again). Orwell is generally seized by the left and the right whenever it’s convenient, but if you remove politics, the warnings are quite blind. Here’s Winston Smith on obliterating the past via the memory hole and the hammer of whatever ‘ism’ is fashionable at the moment:

“One could not learn history from architecture any more than one could learn it from books. Statues, inscriptions, memorial stones, the names of streets – anything that might throw light upon the past had been systematically altered.”

He doesn’t quite answer the why in that passage, but Winston sensed that objects, places, and words were part of the essentialness of being human. The past is as immutable as 2+2=4:

“What appealed to him about it was not so much its beauty as the air it seemed to possess of belonging to an age quite different from the present one…The thing was doubly attractive because of its apparent uselessness, though he could guess that it must once have been intended as a paperweight…It was a queer thing, even a compromising thing, for a Party member to have in his possession. Anything old, and for that matter anything beautiful, was always vaguely suspect.”

Why are those useless objects so critical to our humanity? Alain de Botton provides part of the answer in The Architecture of Happiness:

“The desire to remember unites our reasons for building for the living and the dead. As we put up tombs, markers, mausoleums to memorialize lost loved ones, so do we construct and decorate buildings to help us recall the important but fugitive parts of ourselves. The pictures and chairs in our homes are the equivalents – scaled for our own day, attuned to the demands of the living – of the giant burial mounds of Paleolithic times. Our domestic fittings, too, are memorials to identity…at its most genuine, the architectural impulse seems connected to a longing for communication and commemoration, a longing to declare ourselves to the world through a register other than words, through the language of objects, colors and bricks: an ambition to let others know who we are – and, in the process, to remind ourselves.”

In sixteen years, I’ve probably quoted Why I Write at least a half-dozen times. In this seminal essay Orwell previews the very limited separation between himself and the fictional character of Winston Smith. He writes:

“So long as I remain alive and well I shall continue to feel strongly about prose style, to love the surface of the earth, and to take a pleasure in solid objects and scraps of useless information.”

The past, and the objects that keep us attached to it, are part of our identity. And to rewrite, disavow, or obliterate the past cuts us loose from our humanity– ripe to be molded by any ism -or- to devolve into trousered apes.

Limestone is now a near two-decade old collection of my own digital scraps of useless information.

Disruption, displacement, and derailleurs

(1) Innovations Threaten the Neighborhood Bike Shop (NY Times)

“‘The change in the outside world is profound,’ he said. ‘We haven’t been as affected by the internet as bookstores and record stores, but it is coming.'”

(2) Generation Lost…

2 very tragic minor literary characters (and places)

Mystery Location“Here was St. Augustine, the oldest city in the United States. How to build a hotel to meet the requirements of nineteenth century America and have it in keeping with the character of the place? that was my hardest problem.” – Henry Flagler

In both cases, the places they were from was just as important as who they were. The first is George B. Wilson from The Great Gatsby:

“The only building in site was small block of yellow brick sitting on the edge of the waste land, a sort of compact Main Street ministering to it, and contiguous to absolutely nothing. One of the three shops it contained was for rent and another was an all-night restaurant, approached by a trail of ashes; the third was a garage–Repairs. GEORGE B. WILSON. Cars bought and sold.– and I followed Tom inside.

The interior was unprosperous and bare; the only car visible was the dust-covered wreck of a Ford which crouched in a dim corner. It had occurred to me that this shadow of a garage must be a blind, and that sumptuous and romantic apartments were concealed overhead, when the proprietor himself appeared in the door of an office, wiping his hands on a piece of waste. He was a blond, spiritless man, anemic, and faintly handsome. When he saw us a damp gleam of hope sprang into his light blue eyes.”

The other is Mr. Charrington from 1984:

“The tiny interior of the shop was in fact uncomfortably full, but there was almost nothing in it of the slightest value. The floorspace was very restricted, because all round the walls were stacked innumerable dusty picture-frames…but he lingered for some minutes more, talking to the old man, whose name, he discovered, was not Weeks – as one might have gathered from the inscription over the shop-front – but Charrington. Mr Charrington, it seemed, was a widower aged sixty-three and had inhabited this shop for thirty years. Throughout that time he had been intending to alter the name over the window, but had never quite got to the point of doing it.”

Mr. Charrington of course betrays Winston and Julia.

In my next post, I’m going to comment on our fondness for “useless” things, and the importance of the those things Orwell referred to as, “solid objects and scraps of useless information.” I’ll also give you a good excuse to turn your living-space into a Mathom-house (thanks Tolkien).

Image courtesy of the Limestone Roof Photo Archives.

Weekend 379.0 (Ice is forming on the tips of my wings…)

(1) Stunning Photos of Trains Roaring Through Picturesque Landscapes (My Modern Met)

Some of these photographs remind me of the Yellow Train by Francois Roca.

(1a) Flashback: Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival

(2) Brightline Brings High-Speed Trains To Florida: The 125-mph Brightline trains will be the first privately run passenger service to debut in over 100 years (The Drive)

Channeling Henry Flagler?

*Scan is from The Art of Makoto Shinkai

Weekend 378.1 (East of the Sun, West of the Moon: Old Tales from the North

Color studies for the Waltz of the Flowers. The study was done by Sylvia Holland.

“Sylvia was a jack-of-all-trades who could tackle any assignment with ease. During her time at Disney, she handled story direction, story research, script writing, art direction, scene timing, and more. Her artistic style ranged from the realistic to the ethereal and from the cartoony story ideas to majestic designs.”

On January 7th [377.0] I posted some concept art from Kay Nielsen. The piece was for a proposed Studio version of The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen.

The project was cancelled but the Studio used the concept art as inspiration for the movie more than forty years later. Here’s Didier Ghey in The Hidden Art of Disney’s Musical Years:

“Close to thirty-years later, directors John Musker and Ron Clements convinced Disney management to green-light an animated version of The Little Mermaid (1989). At that point, recalled Musker, ‘[Story artist Vance Gerry] brought to our attention the legendary illustrator Kay Nielsen and the drawings he did [in 1941] for a proposed animated version if Andersen’s fairy tale that were gathering dust in the Archives. Without Vance, we would have never known those fantastic drawing existed, drawings which helped inspire the handling of the storm sequence among other things.'”

The second DVD of the special edition of The Little Mermaid reveals the influence Kay’s concept art had on the future masterpiece. It’s a nice tribute to Nielsen, who joined the Studio in 1939 (an ominous year oft-referenced at Limestone), and who was beset by adversity during his short stints at the Studio (and in the United States). It’s also worth mentioning that he worked on my favorite sequences of FantasiaAve Maria and Night on Bald Mountain. Coincidentally, Fantasia remains one of my favorite movies [364.1].

Whenever I read a book (or article) on Disney I always cross reference Neal Gabler’s excellent and definitive tome on Walt, and while there was no reference to Kay, there was to Hans Christian Andersen in a very poignant passage. Here, on the occasion of Walt’s passing, is Gabler:

“It was here, guarded by a hedge of orange olivias and red azaleas, and hidden behind a holly tree and behind a white statue of Hans Christian Andersen’s Little Mermaid gazing contemplatively at invisible water, that Walt Disney seemed to have fulfilled his family’s destiny. He had escaped. And it was here that he fulfilled his own destiny, too, for which he had striven so mightily and restlessly all his life. He has passed beyond the afflictions of this world. Walt Disney had a last attained perfection.”

Scan and quote is from The Hidden Art of Disney’s Musical Years by Didier Ghey.

Weekend 378.0 (…so you can wipe off that grin, I know where you’ve been)

in transit(1) Small Stories: At Home in a Dollhouse (National Building Museum)

(2) A quote from Staying Up Much Too Late by Gordon Theisen:

“The Phillies sign does not overwhelm Nighthawks the way that “Ex-Lax” overwhelms Drug Store. But it does top the otherwise signless diner, like a false heaven that keeps the starlight out and the artificial light in. It might be saying that the pleasures of the afterlife can be achieved here on earth by spending a mere nickel for a machine-made cigar, just as in beer commercials paradise comes in a bottle, and a Model T Ford offers “hours of pleasure in God’s open country.”

*Photo is from the set of in transit.

Gotham, Metropolis, The Big Apple…

The Kimberly HotelA quote from The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

“Over the great bridge, with the sunlight through the girders making a constant flicker upon the moving cars, with the city rising up across the river in white heaps and sugar lumps all built with a wish out of non-olfactory money. The city seen from the Queensboro Bridge is always the city seen for the first time, in its first wild promise of all the mystery and the beauty in the world.”

Bonus: Paley Park (Vimeo)

Weekend 377.1

I thought I was a decent curator until I heard Faith Salie on Sunday Morning. She’s tough, but I agree with her.

I have a scanner now (ditched the printer) and have been thinking about a project using books from the limestone library. I was thinking about one scan a week or one post a month themed around Disney (shocker).

I finished restoring 5620. You can see photos here. I have a fairly ambitious backstory and photo shoot planned but it will have to wait for warmer weather. The find comes courtesy of mom (and brother) at a tag sale. It’s a fairly rare model (although the market collapsed after it was reissued a couple of years ago in green). I had to find an engine cover (30 23 3662 / 30 23 3642) and radiator/lights (30 64 1360) as part of the restoration.

These days I also have Gotham/Metropolis/The Big Apple on the mind. It was probably caused by re-reading the Great Gatsby or rumors of a special-edition NYC Brompton (confirmed). Maybe it’s just the excitement of seeing In Transit in a couple of weeks. Either way, one of my resolutions for 2017 is to spend more time exploring the city via cycle/subway/foot before the option becomes a geographical improbability.

(1) Artist Tyrus Wong’s remarkable life (CBS Sunday Morning)

(2) See How ‘Rogue One’ Brought Grand Moff Tarkin and Princess Leia to Life (Yahoo!)

Weekend 377.0 (Snow Weekend)

“The future sounds so crazy
We all heard that song before
Tomorrow’s a name that changed from yesterday to blame
When a train just don’t stop here anymore
I got starry eyed
On a coaster ride
Andy said, ‘Man, I need a break from the world outside.'”

Scan is from The Hidden Art of Disney’s Musical Years by Didier Ghey. The lyrics are from Palisades Park by the Counting Crows.

“Gatsby turned out all right at the end; it is what preyed on Gatsby, what foul dust floated in the wake of his dreams that temporarily closed out my interest in the abortive sorrows and short-winded elations of men.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald


“New occasions teach new duties;
Time makes ancient good uncouth;
They must upward still, and onward,
Who would keep abreast of Truth.
Lo, before us, gleam her camp-fires!
We ourselves must Pilgrims be,
Launch our ‘Mayflower,’ and steer boldly
Through the desperate winter sea,
Nor attempt the Future’s portal
With the Past’s blood-rusted key.”
– J.R. Lowell

2016 Christmas Sabbatical

“The air was chilly, and filled with that certain smell a city has on a snowy day.” – Takaki Tōno

A placeholder for all the holiday arcana, ephemeral, and digital wisps. Set in Weiss, Electra, and Caledonia Types and Printed in the U.S.A. by the Colonial Press Inc.

(1) Beauty and the Beast costume designer on recreating Belle’s iconic yellow dress for Emma Watson (The Independent)

(2) Extraordinary New Light Paintings Capture Colorful Movements of Kayaks and Canoes (My Modern Met)

Three from YouTube
(3) Metropolis II by Chris Burden

(4) Brompton: Proven in NYC

(5) Honda Serial One Restoration (N600-1000001)

2016 Advent Retreat at St. Joseph’s Abbey (ephemeral coruscations that piped their short song and vanished…)

St. Joseph's Abbey 2014/15/16“It is faith that makes us walk in its obscurity in this life: For we walk by faith. From start to finish we shall follow that way, ever on the alert lest we stray from it, enticed all too readily by lights too human, which will quickly leave us disillusioned.” – The Prayer of Love and Silence by a Carthusian

“…the point is to remember that an empire or civilization is also transitory. All achievements and triumphs, in so far as they are merely this-worldly achievements and triumphs, will come to nothing in the end.” – C.S. Lewis

Every retreat is very different and this one was no exception. This was my third consecutive winter retreat (the second during Advent) and whilst no personal theme emerged (discernment is always very tricky), the silence was a nice panacea from the vitriol and divisiveness of a bitter election (and ongoing hyperbole and histrionics).

I took two books by C.S. Lewis from the Limestone library. The first was The World’s Last Night and Other Essays and the other The Great Divorce. Here is Lewis, in the former, from his essay of the same title:

“I can imagine no man who will look with more horror on the End than a conscientious revolutionary who has, in a sense sincerely, been justifying cruelties and injustices inflicted on millions of his contemporaries by the benefits which he hopes to confer on future generations: generations who, as one terrible moment reveals to him, were never going to exist. Then he will see the massacres, the faked trials, the deportations, to be all ineffaceably real, an essential part, his part, in the drama that has just ended: while the future Utopia had never been anything but a fantasy.”

As we approach the shortest day of the year, Lewis asks us about our preparedness for the “irresistible light” that’s to come again:

“I do not find that pictures of physical catastrophe–that sign in the clouds, those heavens rolled up like a scroll–help one so much as the naked idea of Judgement. We cannot always be excited. We can, perhaps, train ourselves to ask more and more often how the thing which we are saying or doing (or failing to do) at each moment will look when the irresistible light streams in upon it; that light which is so different from the light of this world–and yet, even now, we know just enough of it to take it into account. Women sometimes have the problem of trying to judge by artificial light how a dress will look by daylight. That is very like the problem of all of us: to dress our souls not for the electric lights of the present world but for the daylight of the next. The good dress is the one that will face that light. For that light will last longer.”

In The Great Divorce, Lewis continues his reflection on light (and the daylight of the next):

“I glanced round the bus. Though the windows were closed, and soon muffed, the bus was full of light. It was cruel light. I shrank from the faces and forms by which I was surrounded. They were all fixed faces, full not of possibilities but impossibilities, some gaunt, some bloated, some glaring with idiotic ferocity, some drowned beyond recovery in dreams; but all, in one way or another, distorted and faded. One had a feeling that they might fall to pieces at any moment if the light grew much stronger. Then–there was a mirror on the end wall of the bus–I caught sight of my own.

I kept thinking about Gollum, from the pen of another Inkling, after reading that excerpt:

“‘Light, light of Sun and Moon, he still feared and hated, and he always will, I think; but he was cunning. He found he could hide from daylight and moonshine, and make his way swiftly and softly by dead of night with his pale cold eyes…'”

In one more passage from The Great Divorce, Lewis writes about glimpses of heaven (and light) captured through the eyes of the artist:

“‘No. You’re forgetting,’ said the Spirit. ‘That was not how you began. Light itself was your first love: you loved paint only as a means of telling about light…When you painted on earth–at least in your earlier days–it was because you caught glimpses of Heaven in the early landscape. The success of your painting was that it enabled others to see glimpses too.'”

On one of my very first retreats to St. Joseph’s I found a book in the Abbey Bookstore by Peter Kreeft entitled, C.S. Lewis for the Third Millennium. I return to it often, and just found this relevant and very beautiful passage that brings together this rumination:

“The vacuum is the typically modern world view, which we would call the joyless cosmology. Lewis’ is the joyful cosmology. We have all breathed that modern air, even those who disbelieve it or even despise it. Our lungs are full of reductionism, which is dead air. Then, suddenly, a gust of wet, salty air blows in from the sea, and our spirits spring up like children, full of mysterious joy. A smell from another country, a gleam of celestial beauty falling on our jungle of filth and imbecility (to use a formula from Perelandra itself). An angel, a heavenly messenger, a star. Ralph Waldo Emerson (I think) said: ‘If the stars should only appear one night in a thousand years, how mankind would wonder and be grateful for that vision of Heaven that had been shown!’ Well, something like the “Great Dance” appears only once in a thousand books. That is why we appreciate it, as a Bedouin appreciates an oasis.”

St. Joseph’s Flickr Album
Advent Retreat at St. Joseph’s Abbey
Weekend 327.0 (2015 Winter Retreat)

Weekend 376.0

(1) Edward Johnston, designer of the iconic Underground typeface and ‘bullseye’ symbol, died on this day in 1944