Penn Station

(1) This Is Why Your Holiday Travel Is Awful (Politico)

“Penn Station is the second most heavily trafficked transit hub in the world, trailing only Tokyo’s Shinjuku Station. The station serves more daily passengers than the region’s three huge airports (Kennedy, LaGuardia, and Newark) combined. More people pass through Penn each weekday than live in the city of Baltimore. Anyone who has passed through Penn Station over the past half-century—or who passed through it this Thanksgiving weekend—knows that the nation’s busiest transit center is a national embarrassment, a hole in the ground where the food is ratty and the waiting rooms are sparse.”

Advent 2019

“You know the time; it is the hour now for you to awake from sleep. For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed; the night is advanced, the day is at hand. Let us then throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.” — Rom 13:11-14

Lead, Kindly Light
Divine calls in Scripture require instant obedience, and next call us we know not to what; call us on in the darkness. Faith alone can obey them. How does this concern us now? We were all called to serve God in infancy, before we could obey or disobey; we have been called to a state of salvation, through Holy Baptism, by the act of our parents. Calling is not a thing future with us, but a thing past.

Prayer: Sometimes I am afraid, dear Lord, when You lead me in darkness. Increase my little faith that I may ever trust in You.

Thanksgiving 2019

(1) American Interior (1935) by Charles Sheeler

(2) Game Over: How technology forced traditional toys to evolve (Vera)

(3) Great Western Railway: Adventures with the Famous Five (YouTube)

(4) A couple of quotes from British Rail Architecture 1948-97 by David Lawrence:

“Any designed object or space will have an appearance intended to attract the eye in some way: perhaps to impress or reassure, to demonstrate efficiency, or comfort, or progressive ideas.”

“Frank Pick (1878-1941), influential patron of art and design for modern transport, saw the potential for the railway station as an opportunity for architecture and design to come together in interesting an appropriate ways, and he knew that the station could earn money for the railway.”

“Only the concrete and brick stations built by the Southern Railway for routes converted to electric services during the 1930s provided a contrast to the varying levels of decrepitude manifested at the Region’s wayside halts and gloomy suburban stations.”

“Leslie (later Sir Leslie) Martin and his wife Sadie Speight, shared a background in architecture and avant-garde art. They were close to sources of modernity, not least because Martin co-edited the magazine Circle: International Survey of Constructive Art with artists Ben Nicholson and Naum Gabo, published from 1937. Sadie Speight was a founding partner of Design Research Unit, which would author the British Rail corporate identity of 1964. Together they designed a timber-frame school at Hartford Ch (1938), which used standard components to test building with ready-made structures. London, Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS) architect WH Hamlyn created a Development Section concerned with the collection of data from existing buildings, to look at types of station, planning and production of buildings, types of structure and their performance, wear and maintenance of materials and finishes, lighting and plumbing, and furnishings. From this data specifications would be compiled to standardize design, materials and equipment for future architectural needs.”

(5) It Was Supposed to Be the Safest Building in the World. Then It Cracked.

How San Francisco’s Salesforce Transit Center went from the Grand Central of the West to a $2.2 billion construction debacle. (Popular Mechanics)

(6) The Festival of Britain 1951 (Historic UK)

(7) Quarry plan controversy (The Royal Gazette)

(8) blue cathedral (YouTube)

Weekend 454.0

A couple of quotes from Gibraltar: The Greatest Siege in British History by Roy Adkins and Lesley Adkins:

“Previously governor of Greenwich Hospital, Hardy† had earlier in the year been put in charge of the Channel Fleet, in what was a political rather than a military appointment.”

“Despite Admiral Hardy’s widely criticized handling of the invasion threat, he was still in command of the Channel Fleet, but instead of involving him in these new operations it was decided to place someone else in charge.”

†Sir Charles Hardy, Vice-Admiral of the Channel Fleet

Defeat of the Floating Batteries at Gibraltar, 1782 by John Singleton Copley at the Guildhall Art Gallery

Weekend 453.0

Dino Diner“To attempt to gain happiness, except in this way, is a labor lost; it is building on the sand; the foundation will soon give way, though the house looks fair for a time.” — Gain after Pain

“Decaying and dilapidated architecture resonates as loss, as evidence of the irreversible passage of time, yet architectural ruins emanate past grandeur. Ware’s comics, then, focus on ruins and the melancholy they elicit in an attempt to render the irreversible passage of time into an aesthetic object.” — On Modernism’s Ruins: The Architecture of “Building Stories” and Lost Buildings by Daniel Worden

(1) Bricks & Dinos

Weekend 452.0

(1) La Moselle // 6 Rue du Pont des Morts, 57000 Metz, France

On my desk…

I have Rusty Brown by Chris Ware and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad by Dennis Hopeless. I also backed (via Kickstarter) Third Editions: The Ultimate Gaming Library – Kingdom Heart which should arrive sometime in December.

(1) A visual tour through Chris Ware’s adventurous, sprawling, dazzling new book ‘Rusty Brown’ (Chicago Tribune)

“The greatest fiction, like memory, thrives in detail, and comics being an art of memory should follow suit. There are no actual people on the cover, and I set my task to draw all four (book) jackets (there are four different jackets, one for every character in the book) to try and make something that gets, however awkwardly, at that overpowering sense of ‘thereness’ that we all look for but only briefly experience when the odor of a freshly cut weed or the sight of a bit of typography or a fast-food sign briefly calls back the tangible sensation of a moment — or, more properly, the feeling of life itself that we are always going out of our ways to tamp down, smother and forget.”

(2) The Bard of Sadtown: The empty, miserable comics of Chris Ware. (Slate)

Weekend 451.0

“Music, of course, is an art that occurs through time.” — Seiji Ozawa

(1) Au Plat d’Etain

(2) Quotes from Absolutely On Music by Haruki Murakami:

“In the Boston version of the Fantastique we heard before, you’re constantly adjusting every little detail: the tempo changes from one part to the next, the color of the sound changes. It’s marvelous, and though I wouldn’t call it ornate, it’s like looking at a moving miniature.”

“By ‘simple’ I mean something like the musicality of a folk song, something that everyone can hum. Lately, I’ve come to feel that as long as you capture that quality with truly superior technique and tone color and get the feeling into it, it’s probably going to go well.”

Weekend 450.0

“Our most important task is to search for an effective passageway through the wall—and two people who share a natural affinity for an art, any art, will be sure to find that passageway.” — Haruki Murakami

(1) It’s a Playmobil World After All! (Animation Magazine)

Weekend 449.0

(1) Thurifer angel (Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, Barcelona)

(2) Mandorla (Wikipedia)

Weekend 448.0

(1) Academics ignore the anniversary of 1984 because they know they’re living it out (Washington Examiner)

(2) How disease, war and a remote Scottish island inspired George Orwell’s ‘1984’ (NY Post)

Orval Abbey

“Light and shadow are the speakers of this architecture of truth, calm and strength. And nothing more adds to it.” — Le Corbusier

Visited the Orval Abbey in Belgium last weekend. I’m still sorting through the photographs but will post something shortly.

Part 1: The Journey
The journey is part of the adventure and this tale will require several parts. I was introduced to the Orval Trappist Ale at the Ginger Man in South Norwalk but my attachment to the Trappists (Cistercian Order of the Strict Observance) started on a retreat to St. Joseph’s Abbey in Spencer, MA. Both monasteries are featured in Trappist Beer Travels by Caroline Wallace, Sarah Wood, and Jessica Deahl. It’s probably worth mentioning that I don’t actually like the beer from Orval or Spencer.

The trip to the Orval Abbey makes it feel like a true pilgrimage. My journey started at Gare de l’Est on a train to Luxembourg and required a car rental for the 67 km drive to Florenville, Belgium. This wasn’t an official retreat so I stayed at this quirky little boutique hotel called Le Florentin. This is one of coolest hotels I’ve ever stayed at. It has a great patio for dining (especially breakfast) and grand piano in the lounge/bar.

I arrived early and decided to drive the 9 km to Orval straight away. I know this will sound awful (at first) but Orval is a BIG commercial enterprise. It’s definitely a tourist destination (as the A l’Ange Gardien will attest). I was a little overwhelmed (certainly exacerbated by sleep deprivation). This isn’t St. Joseph’s Abbey and I was expecting the quiet of the Orval Abbey (in the Ardennes) to be a true respite from the rattle of Paris.

Part 2: The Abbey
The abbey has a visitor center which leads to the bookstore and giftshop. As you exit the visitor center you can pay €6 for access to the medieval ruins, abbey/pharmaceutical museums, and the medicinal herb-garden (currently under renovation). I explored (and photographed) each exhaustively. The abbey ruins are spectacular and one of the highlights. The other highlight is the fountain from the legend!

>> See and hear the fountain

The Basilica and Cloister are off-limits so I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to find high ground to sneak a peek (and photograph). The closest you can get to the Basilica is the choir loft which is accessible from the abbey museum (but entry to the stairs is NOT well marked and required a bit of exploration).

I left Orval a little disappointed that I couldn’t get closer to the Basilica and Cloister BUT had found a few treasures in the bookstore with historical photos, etc. I also found a medallion of the trout (from the legend) but the significance of that is a story still being written.

Part 3 will focus on an extraordinary Sunday (a moment of redemption).

Part 3: Sunday Mass
I was a little discouraged (and hungry) when I left the abbey on Saturday afternoon. I drove back to the hotel though and regrouped. I went shopping in Florenville for some essentials at Carrefour (interestingly enough they sold beer from St. Joseph’s). I also ate some bad food and had some ice cream. I was really exhausted after dinner but decided to take a walk. I eventually found L’église Notre-Dame de l’Assomption and behind this church is a gorgeous view of a valley. I also made the decision to attend Mass at this church the next day.

I was up really early the next morning to take a picture of the valley at sunrise. I also made a decision to drive back to the abbey for some more pictures. The lot was empty and I walked around the perimeter searching for a good vantage of the Basilica and Cloisters. My efforts went unrewarded so I loitered around the visitor center (not sure for what reason) when suddenly the gate before the visitor center unlocked (it was probably on a timer). I sat in the quiet and stillness of this little inner sanctum and watched the doves. The flowers in this area are gorgeous but there wasn’t much else to do since the visitor center remained closed. Before leaving I read the sign next to the gate and visitor center and it said Mass was celebrated at 10:00 (not 11:00 like I originally thought). There weren’t any instructions about HOW to celebrate Mass so I made the decision to return to the hotel for breakfast and then to come back.

I was back in the visitor center around 9:30 something. The man behind the counter didn’t speak English so my questions about HOW to attend Mass were left unanswered. He eventually pushed me to the bookstore and there was someone in there who spoke enough English to send me back to the visitor center.

There was a row of chairs next to the desk in the visitor center and I figured if I just sat there the man (who was a little gruff) would figure out my intent was to celebrate Mass. As the clock neared 10:00 a steady stream of regulars started going through a secret door behind the desk. I think the man saw my look of desperation and hastily pointed toward the door (without speaking a word). I stood up and ran for the door before he changed his mind. Once beyond the door I was behind the wall (the inner sanctum) that funneled guests into the visitor center. I was now joining a procession of parishioners and pilgrims to the abbey church and walking through the arch (bathed in light) I was photographing this morning! The procession was amazing and I snapped photographs as we walked. Once inside the abbey church I took this photo (maybe one of my all time favorites).

The Mass was beautiful and the eucharistic procession and adoration were equally amazing. Is there anything more beautiful than Mass?

“We go to heaven when we go to Mass. This is not merely a symbol, not a metaphor, not a parable, not a figure of speech. It is real. We do go to heaven when we go Mass, and this is true of every Mass we attend, regardless of the music or the fervor of the preaching. The Mass — and I mean every single Mass — is heaven on earth.”

On my way back to the visitor center I took a picture of this lovely elderly couple in front of the abbey church (a nice highlight). I also snapped a couple of other photographs and then thanked the man in the visitor center profusely for allowing me to enter the secret door (a little nod to George MacDonald).

The quote is from The Lamb’s Supper by Scott Hahn.

Orval Abbey

Weekend 447.0

Almost 1 month since my last post. I just finished Gibraltar: The Greatest Siege in British History by Roy Adkins and Lesley Adkins and now have a used copy of Rock Of Contention: A History of Gibraltar by George Hills. This second book I found at The Abbey Bookstore. My plan is to next visit The Defeat of the Floating Batteries at Gibraltar, September 1782 by J.S. Copley at the Guildhall Art Gallery.

Visited the Guildhall Art Gallery on Monday, November 18. The Copley painting is magnificent.

Weekend 446.0

What happened to the British? A quote from Gibraltar by Roy Adkins and Lesley Adkins.

“It is not improbable that this is a stratagem of Admiral Barcelo’s, to harass, and fatigue us with repeated firing and alarms from the Bay, and then to give the decisive stoke; but they have Britons to encounter. The more we feel our Enemy, the more ardent are our desires to engage them.”

Weekend 445.1

(1) Leopold Stokowski Collection (Penn Libraries)

(2) “He could feel the music. In Fantasia, there’s a lot of his soul in that picture.” —Joe Grant in Remembering Disney

(3) A scan from Ave Maria