Weekend 312.0 (Le mal du pays)

Train crossing between mountains.A couple of days off from work (a much needed extra long Labor Day Weekend) so I’m doing some housekeeping, biking, and drinking gratuitous amounts of coffee. I also finished Murkami’s book less than twenty-four hours after it arrived.

(1) A quote from Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami

“The only real interest he had was train stations. He wasn’t sure why, but for as long as he could remember, he had loved to observe train stations—they had always appealed to him. Huge bullet-train stations; tiny, one-track stations out in the countryside; rudimentary freight-collection stations—it didn’t matter what kind because as long as it was a railway station, he loved it. Everything about stations moved him deeply.

Like most little boys he enjoyed assembling model trains, but what really fascinated him weren’t the elaborate locomotives or cars, or the cleverly designed dioramas. No, it was the models of ordinary stations set down among the other parts, like an afterthought. He loved to watch as the trains passed by the station, or slowed down as they pulled up to the platform. He could picture the passengers coming and going, the announcements on the speaker system, the ringing of the signal as a train was about the depart, the station employees briskly going about their duties. What was real and what was imaginary mingled in his mind, and he’d tremble sometimes with the excitement of it all. But he could never adequately explain to people why he was so attracted to the stations. Even if he could, he knew they would think he was one weird kid. And sometimes Tsukuru himself wondered if something wasn’t exactly right with him.”

(1a) Le mal du pays – The groundless sadness called forth in a person’s heart by a pastoral landscape. Homesickness. Melancholy.

(1b) Hearts Linked by Pain: The plainness of Murakami’s writing accentuates a story of finding things to live for after traumatic loss. (WSJ)

(1c) Haruki Murakami Bingo

(2) An excerpt from The Bermudian by Nathaniel Tucker:

The guava flourishes, the myrtle grows,
Upon the surface earth-born woodbines creep,
O’er the green beds the painted ‘sturtians peep,
Their arms aloft triumphant lilacs bear,
And jessamines perfume the ambient air.
The whole is from an eminence display’d,
Where the brown olive lends his pensive shade.
When zephyrs there the noon-tide heat asswage,
Oft have I turn’d the meditative page,
And calmly read the ling’ring hours away,
Securely shelter’d from the blaze of day.

(3) Oh, Come On. Marigolds? Seriously? (WSJ)

(4) Francis Ford Coppola Talks Travel (WSJ)

What makes a hotel great is: sort of like what makes a great wine; it’s much more than the fruit you drink, and the bottle and the label. It’s the story connected to it; the context and the history. A hotel is made great by the guests who stayed there 100 years ago, and all the detail and personality that developed over that time.”

(5) Eurailing Around Europe—As an Adult (WSJ)

*Train crossing between mountains. Scan is from The Art of the Wind Rises: A Film by Hayao Miyazaki.

Weekend 291.0

(1) A Good Book Is a Good Friend (The Huffington Post)

(2) How Real is Spike Jonze’s ‘Her’? Artificial Intelligence Experts Weigh In (WSJ)

(2a) Tech Time Warp of the Week: In 1959, a Fitbit Weighed 2,000 Pounds (Wired)

(3) Learning to Love Life on the Downslope (WSJ)

I know there shall be enjoyments for me
Amid sorrows, cares and anxieties:
At times I again will be intoxicated by harmony,
Weep over my fantasy’s creation,
And perhaps on my sad sunset
Love will shine its farewell smile.

(4) Looking for a New Old House? (WSJ)

“Even with extra shipping costs, panelization saves time and money and is more precise than increasingly expensive on-site building, said Mr. Connor: ‘Traditional architecture is probably going to be saved by robotic carpentry.'”

(4a) Selling the Dwelling: The Books That Built America’s Houses, 1775-2000

(4b) stephanie robb architect

*Scan is from ROBO FORCE™, 1984

2013 Christmas Poem (by Mum)

New England Ice StormHOST OF DAYS

I watched a gyre of leaves…caught up in a rustling spin
When admidst the whirl…a bird broke free
Minding me to look within.

I long embraced the sun…stirred by the pleasure of time
‘Til its piercing gaze…blazed a goodbye
Scolding to sip the sublime.

Cloaks of snow buttoned down…I hardly could bear the guise
Frosted lace on pine…whitewashed the Spring
Warming new growth to its rise.

My eyes are drawn above…T’ward the sky’s clouded caprice
Sheer veil…fast in place where angels sing
Sheathing my heart in clear Peace.

I relished fire’s crackle…fervid flames rekindled zeal
Puffs of hickory…kissing my nose
Igniting the Joy I feel.

I saw mist flash its bow…I skated the glass of lake
Mused myriad moods of the ocean…
Reigning o’er turns my life takes.




(1) A Flower Arrangement Based on a J.M.W. Turner Painting (WSJ)

(2) Aurora Leigh by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God:
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
The rest sit round it, and pluck blackberries,
And daub their natural faces unaware
More and more, from the first similitude.

(3) A quote from Henry David Thoreau:

“You never gain something but that you lose something.”

Weekend 276.0

Nice weekend in the northeast (weather-wise). Was able to bike a bit and noticed that the abandoned Free Spirit at the train station has been robbed of its tyres.

My home office is in shambles but slowly being reconfigured/reassembled. One of the most amazing things about moving is uncovering and re-discovering “stuff” packed and forgotten in bins and boxes. There is NOW a serious backlog of ephemera waiting to be scanned and posted.

(1) Rose Pogonias by Robert Frost

“For though the grass was scattered,
Yet every second spear
Seemed tipped with wings of color,
That tinged the atmosphere.

We raised a simple prayer
Before we left the spot,
That in the general mowing
That place might be forgot;
Or if not all so favored,
Obtain such grace of hours,
That none should mow the grass there
While so confused with flowers.

(2) Office-Friendly Bike Clothing: Don’t Sweat the Commute (WSJ)

(2a) Bike Pron: Bianchi Metropoli

(3) Rethink Chrysanthemums (WSJ)

(3a) Detailed Digital Flowers Radiate with a Magical Glow

(4) All Lift, No Weight (WSJ)

(5) Explore Britain…From Post to Post (WSJ)

Weekend 274.0 (Baskets Encouraged)

Finished A History of Capitalism According to the Jubilee Line by John O’Farrell and The 32 Stops by Danny Dorling. The latter is a clever work using facts to provide insights into the human geography of London along the Central Line.

Also, finished A Northern Line Minute by William Leith last night. It was like method acting (in book form) in preparation for the lead in a biopic on Woody Allen.

*Updated graphic!

(1) Heathrow’s Future Is Up in the Air: Debate Over Expansion vs. Building a New Airport (WSJ)

(2) Railroad company logo design evolution: 100 logos from American and Canadian railroad companies

(3) That time a giant airship darkened Toronto’s skies

(4) These Bikers Race for Last Place: Cyclists say slow riding is response to hard-core fitness world (WSJ)

“Cyclists who are looking for tough workouts have plenty of company. But for other bikers, that is just not how they roll. Instead, they are meandering over to ‘slow-bike’ clubs that are cropping up around the country. There was even a Slow Bike Race last month in Newburyport, Mass. The last one to cross the finish line won.”

“In 2011, she [Molly Peterson] launched the Slow Bicycle Society on the Eastern Shore, an Alabama club with 100 members and a mission statement: ‘No Spandex needed!’ In Tennessee, the Murfreesboro Slow Ride Cyclists, which formed two months ago, calls itself ‘a never-get-left-behind fun bicycling group’ with ‘baskets encouraged.’

(4a) Orange Bike Pron

(4b) Fluttering About: the Papillionaire Sommer (Lovely Bicycle!)

(5) Bonzart Ampel Tilt-Shift Camera: Fun With Tilt-Shift: The Ampel isn’t the only camera you’ll ever need, but it might be the most entertaining (WSJ)

(6) The Autobiography of George Orwell: The author of “Nineteen Eighty-Four” disdained biographers, so we must rely on his correspondence for insights into his work and life. (WSJ – Registration Required)

(6a) George Orwell from ‘On a Ruined Farm near the His Master’s Voice Gramophone Factory’ (1933)

There, where the tapering cranes sweep round,
And great wheels turn, and trains roar by
Like strong, low-headed brutes of steel —
There is my world, my home; yet why

So alien still? For I can neither
Dwell in that world, nor turn again
To scythe and spade, but only loiter
Among the trees the smoke has slain.

(7) A Writer’s Daily Bread: J.F. Powers made great fiction from the mundane obstacles and triumphs of everyday life (WSJ)

From the ‘Son of a Florist’ files…

(8) A Rothko-Inspired Flower Arrangement (WSJ)

(9) Tidying up loose ends…

(a) You Can Do Anything: Must Every Kids’ Movie Reinforce the Cult of Self-Esteem? (The Atlantic)

(b) The Innovation of Loneliness

Weekend 266.0

Southwest Train“Railways and the Church have their critics, but both are the best ways of getting a man to his ultimate destination.” — Wilbert Awdry

What a great quote to describe my latest sojourn to London since both Church and Rail featured prominently. There were two travel objectives on my free day in London — The cycling café ‘look mum no hands’ (see below) featured in Velo—2nd Gear: Bicycle Culture and Style and the Brompton Oratory on Brompton Road. Visits to both required transit via South West Train (Richmond to Waterloo) and the Tube.

On Sunday I walked to mass at St. Margaret’s in Twickenham. It’s a twenty-minute walk from Richmond, and most of the row houses have carefully manicured flower gardens.

(1) Photos of my visit to ‘look mum no hands’ in London

(1a) The Turbulent Beauty of ‘Salisbury Cathedral’ (WSJ – Registration Required)

“An extensive group of drawings and oil studies shows just how eagerly Constable took this advice. He became obsessed with the view from the meadows, looking toward one of Europe’s finest medieval cathedrals. Devoted to the Anglican Church, Constable was worried about its future.”

(2) Summer by James Thomson:

“With what an awful world-revolving power
Were first the unwieldy planets launch’d along
The illimitable void! thus to remain,
Amid the flux of many thousand years,
That oft has swept the toiling race of men,
And all their labour’d monuments away,
Firm, unremitting, matchless, in their course;
To the kind-temper’d change of night and day,
And of the seasons ever stealing round,
Minutely faithful: such the All-perfect hand!”

Weekend 260.0

Drinking coffee and scanning the journal before football (soccer)/cleats/biking. I love the quote from Eudora Welty; it’s a nice complement to the one last weekend from André Aciman.

(1) How to Build a Better City (WSJ – Registration Required)

“The author studies the planners—among them, Georges-Eugène Haussmann, the civic planner who radically rebuilt Paris under Napoleon III; Robert Moses, the “master builder” of New York; Philadelphia’s Edmund Bacon; and Daniel Burnham, the architect and urban designer behind Chicago’s turn-of-the-century transformation. He draws from their successes and failures a universal principle: To gain public acceptance, plans and their accompanying public investment must be part of a compelling vision and an agreed-upon public agenda.”

(2) Hitler’s Words Into Stone: Can architecture itself be fascist? (WSJ – Registration Required)

(2a) The Ideal City by Piero della Francesca

(2b) The Historical Monument of the American Republic by Erastus Salisbury Field

(3) In Praise of Daisy, Fred, Minnie and Red (WSJ – Registration Required)

“But as Eudora Welty once wrote of White, his work was illuminated by ‘the love held by the author for what is transitory in life. The transitory more and more becomes one with the beautiful.'”

(4) The Spikenards of Drafted Anguish: Federico García Lorca spun a brief stay in New York into entrancingly musical Surrealist poetry. (WSJ – Registration Required)

“Lorca came to New York ostensibly to study at Columbia University. He boarded in a dorm room but quickly gave up any pretense of attending classes to roam the streets and write. The urban landscape of skyscrapers and city squares was a setting for deep spiritual loneliness, which he strikingly evoked through his magic lantern of dark and disconcerting images.”


Where the white bridge rears up its stamping arches
Proud as a colt across the clatter of the shallow river,
The sharp guitars
Have never forgotten your name.

Only the swordspeech of the cruel strings
Can pierce the minds of those who remain,
Sitting in the eyeless ruins of the house;
The shelter of the broken wall.

A woman has begun to sing:
O music the color of olives?
Her eyes are darker than the deep cathedrals;
Her words come dressed as mourners,
In the gate of her shadowy voice,
Each with a meaning like a sheaf of seven blades!

The spires and high Giraldas, still as nails
Nailed in the four cross roads,
Watch where the song becomes the color of carnations,
And flowers like wounds in the white dust of Spain.

(Under what crossless Calvary lie your lost bones, Garcia Lorca?
What white Sierra hid your murder in a rocky valley?)

In the four quarters of the world, the wind is still,
And wonders at the swordplay of the fierce guitar;
The voice has turned to iron in the naked air,
More loud and more despairing than a ruined tower.

(Under what crossless Calvary lie your lost bones, Garcia Lorca?
What white Sierra hid your murder in a rocky valley?)

Weekend 221.0 (It’s all borrowed time)

(1) What Will Survive of Us

Rather than words comes the thought of high windows:
The sun-comprehending glass,
And beyond it, the deep blue air, that shows
Nothing, and is nowhere, and is endless.

High Windows by Philip Larkin

(2) John Pawson, Architect of Restraint (WSJ)

“I’ve never studied religion, but I find little to disbelieve. I have access to Cistercian Trappist monks and you have just to see their faces to see what an amazing life and what comfort that belief brings.”

(2a) A related quote from Arise from Darkness by Fr. Benedict J. Groeschel, C.F.R.

In the course of the years one becomes weary of conflict and sorrow. One longs for the fulfillment of the most profound needs of the human heart–for peace from conflict within and without, for a place free of danger and disappointment, for relationships untroubled by change and unmarred by selfishness. One longs to see, at last, the beauty of God, which has summoned us throughout life, shining out here and there. The words of the Psalm take on a poignant meaning as one gets older, “I have loved, O Lord, the beauty of thy house and the place where thy glory dwells” (Ps 26:8). One desires to embrace again loved ones gone long ago–from childhood and adolescence. Death becomes a possibility of going home to our Father’s house. For the believer, it begins to lose the bitterness and sting that St. Paul spoke about and begins to faintly resemble what death was supposed to be before the Fall, a passing on to a far better place, a coming home after a long journey.

(2b) Saint Joseph’s Abbey

(3) Tom Dixon Makes Things Better

Dixon has harnessed a process known as mineral accretion—a tool of bioengineering—to subject the chairs to low-voltage charges of solar power that encourage the growth of limestone at something close to three times the usual rate. Once they have acquired a beautiful patina, he will fish them out and let us all share in the magic. He adds, “The scientist [Wolf Hilbertz] who developed this method intended to use it to develop bio concrete. You could literally grow cities in this way.”

He admits to never having had a master plan, “but things always seem to work out slightly better than I hoped they would.”

(4) The scan is from The Art of Arrietty.

Weekend 218.0 (Monuments out of moments)

(1) Espousing the Marriage to Slowness (WSJ)

This rhythm ricochets through “Collected Poems,” the complete sentence yielding to a sequence of fragments. The grammar impedes the action, performing the “marriage to slowness” that Mr. Gilbert so deeply espouses, and Bartleby transforms into the poet himself: the lone spectator, watching vigilantly, striving to see beyond what he can see.

We think of lifetimes as mostly
the exceptional
and sorrows. Marriage we remember
as the children,
vacations, and emergencies. The
uncommon parts.
But the best is often when nothing
is happening.

(1a) A related quote from The Architecture of Happiness by Alain de Botton

“The fear of forgetting anything precious can trigger in us the wish to raise a structure, like a paperweight to hold down our memories…The desire to remember unites our reasons for building for the living and for the dead. As we put up tombs, markers and mausoleums to memorialise 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 own homes are the equivalents – scaled for our own day, attuned to the demands of the living – of the giant burial mounds of the Palaeolithic times. Our domestic fittings, too, are memorials to identify.

We may occasionally and guiltily experience the desire to create a home as a wish to vaunt ourselves in front of others. But only if the truest parts of ourselves were egomaniacal would the urge to build be dominated by the need to boast. Instead, 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 the language of objects, colours and bricks: an ambition to let others know who we are – and, in the process, to remind ourselves.”

(2) British Design: A Nostalgic Leap Forward (WSJ)

The style and design sensibility that emerged in the years that followed the 1948 Olympics is what curator Christopher Breward calls “a tempered Modernism”—a movement distinct from its American and European counterparts mainly in its refusal to completely leave the past behind. “If you look at urban planning and industrial design on both sides of the Atlantic and especially in Scandinavia, there’s a real engagement with the brash possibilities of Modernism,” Mr. Breward says. “In Britain, it always gets tempered. It was more decorative, more whimsical, more nostalgic.”

(2a) London cafes: the surprising history of London’s lost coffeehouses (Telegraph)