Map in the Mail

Medecins Sans Frontiers wants money from me, and toward that end sent me a map of the world specially printed for them by Rand McNally. That’s a pretty good way to get my attention. It’s not quite as aesthetic as one by National Geographic or Nelles, but not bad. But you’d think that for an organization that has “without borders” in its name, national borders would be left off the map to make a point. Instead, the nations of the Earth are variously hued, as on any political map.

Fine print on the side of the map is at pains to say that the lines and colors on the map don’t mean that the organization takes a position one way or the other on any of them. It also specifically mentions Sudan and South Sudan — a “final boundary… has not been determined” — and that “a dispute exists between the Government of Argentina and the United Kingdom concerning sovereignty over  the Falklands Islands (Malvinas).”

Mentioning Sudan and South Sudan, I understand, since I’m pretty sure the organization is active there. But the Falklands? Why a note about that and not, say, the West Bank or the Western Sahara or the Spratlys or just about anywhere else that’s disputed? Such spots are just about everywhere, though this map doesn’t show that some disputes are more intense than others.

Also: the map is a Gall stereographic projection. Looks like Rand McNally doesn’t mention Peters, and from what I can tell, this one doesn’t look as weirdly distorted as either Mercator or the maps I’ve seen called Peters projections. Speaking of which — here’s xkcd on maps.

A Spider in September

The single window in our garage looks at to the west, meaning that at this time of the year, the later afternoon sun comes in more-or-less directly. Last weekend I noticed a large web near the window, something new for the summer.

Spider!The image distorts its size to make it seem large, but tip-to-tip I’d say it’s no more than about an inch. The web’s large, though — a couple of feet in diameter, so I guess our spider friend’s been working on it a while.

I doubt that anyone else will disturb it, or even notice it. I plan to check in every now and then to see what it does as things get colder.

The Last of the Summer Weekends. Maybe.

On Friday afternoon, we took the dog for a walk at Poplar Creek Nature Preserve. A balmy afternoon. Most of the tree foliage is still green, but includes distinct tinges of yellow or brown. Goldenrod blooms profusely, and so do white daisy-like flowers, along with a larger version that’s lavender-colored, but not actually lavender. The tall grass is brown, the short grass green. The cicadas still buzz and the grasshoppers still hop.

The Woodfield Mall was busy in its own way on Saturday afternoon. I can’t remember the last time I was there, but it’s been a while. There’s a certain amount of renovation going on in the common areas, but nothing that affects the flow of people too much. A number of stores displayed Star Wars merchandise in highly visible ways. I haven’t been keeping track, but that must foreshadow a movie along those lines.

Sure enough, a line in the Sunday Tribune Arts and Entertainment section tells me that, “As a new Star Wars movie looms [interesting choice of verbs], many of the franchise’s original fans are as devoted as ever.” Guess the merch is partly for them and their offspring. As far as I’m concerned, the first three movies, while very entertaining in their time, need to go in a box labeled Things of the Past.

Most of Sunday was overcast, so I wondered whether I was going to see the lunar eclipse. A couple of hours before dark, however, the clouds cleared away, and at about 8:30 I went out to see the shadow of the Earth falling on the Moon. At about 9, Yuriko, Ann and I were out, and then again 15 minutes later for totality. The dog was out, too, but typical of dogs, she didn’t give a fig for the celestial phenomenon (no smell involved, I guess). The copper moon was a pretty sight, but it didn’t look any bigger than usual to me.

In time for the eclipse, the Atlantic posted these images, marvels of 20th-century manned space exploration. These images are more recent marvels of (mostly) unmanned space exploration.

Lilly was at a friend’s house on Sunday evening, so I did what you do these days, and sent her a text about the eclipse. Later she said she’d seen it. I’m also glad to report that at least two neighboring families on my block were out to see it, too. I noticed that while taking the garbage out under the dark copper moon.

The Kremlin 1994

You can’t very well go to Moscow and not pose with St. Basil’s and the clock tower (Spasskaya Tower) of the Kremlin. Pedants might point out that Moscow’s Kremlin is only one of a number of kremlins in Russia, but I say common usage re-enforced by years of Cold War reportage means that the one in the capital of the Russian Federation is The Kremlin.

RedSquare94This was probably the afternoon of the first full today we were in Moscow. Note the clock puts the time at 3:15; in late September at that latitude, the sun would have been edging down pretty low by then.

It would not have been our first visit to Red Square. We arrived in Moscow in the afternoon, and Yuriko and I and most of the other people we’d traveled with on the Trans-Siberian went to the same guest house. Early in the evening, most of us met up again with two goals in mind: to go to Red Square because it’s Red Square, and to find something to eat. I remember our group — about a dozen people — walking down one of the thoroughfares that takes one to Red Square, turning a corner, and seeing it all at once. A place I’d heard about all my life, and there it was.

We ogled Red Square a while, but then got down to the business of finding food. The group settled on the Moscow McDonald’s, said to be the largest in the world at the time, and the only McDonald’s I’ve ever been to that had bouncers.

Moscow, Sept 1994There were some English lads, a couple of Australians, a Swiss woman, a Dutch couple and I don’t know who else or remember any names. I was the only American and Yuriko the only Japanese.

I didn’t appreciate the enormity of the Kremlin until we went in for a look the next day. Not everything was accessible, but I know we visited a number of palaces and churches (or maybe church-museums), such as the Cathedral of the Annunciation. Cathedral of the AnnunciationWe got a closer look at the clock tower, still featuring its red star. But within sight of the fluttering Russian tricolor.Clock TowerSpeaking of enormity, there was also the Tsar Cannon.

TsarCannonAnd the Tsar Bell.

Tsar BellJust outside the walls is Lenin’s Mausoleum, which we visited, and then the Kremlin Wall Necropolis. The likes of Stalin and various old bolshies were easy to pick out, since they were marked by busts. I didn’t see John Reed’s plaque, though I knew he was there. I didn’t know until later that some of Bill Haywood’s ashes are there (and some are near the Haymarket monument in suburban Chicago).

St. Luke’s Lutheran Church, Park Ridge

You might call St. Luke’s Lutheran Church at 205 N. Prospect Ave. in Park Ridge an example of Suburban Gothic, but apparently that’s the name of a movie that came out last year. Anyway, it’s a handsome English Gothic-style church in the suburbs. We were back in Park Ridge Saturday afternoon for the last stop on the Churches by Bus tour.

St Luke'sThe building has the distinction of being designed in the late 1920s by Elisabeth Martini (1886-1984), the first woman to be the proprietor of an architectural firm in Chicago. Mostly she did houses, but it seems that she was a member of this church, and did the design work for a payment of $60 a month for the rest of her life, which turned out to be another 50-odd years, though it might not have been adjusted for inflation.

Adjoining the sanctuary (next to the bus in my picture) is a 2010 addition by Douglas E. Lasch of Jaeger, Nickola, Kuhlman & Associates, which replaced a smaller addition from the 1970s and blends in remarkably well with the original structure. He has his own shop now, Faith Environ Studio, which focuses “primarily on providing architectural services to faith-based and other non-profit clients.”

St. Luke’s sanctuary has an elegant interior.

St Luke'sThe stained glass windows tell of the Old and New Testaments. I’m sure the representation of Moses in one of the windows was meant seriously, but I can’t shake the idea that he’s grinning. Maybe it’s the eyes. “See what I have here! Commandments! Ten of them! Aren’t they terrific?”

MosesLuther, on the other hand, looks fairly serious, but not grim.

LutherI suppose those are the 95 theses on the door. A little hard to read at this scale. Wonder if they’re microprinted in the original Latin? I didn’t check. Never mind, the text is easily available on line in Latin and English (and other languages).

I haven’t looked at the theses since sometime in a college history class, so I was amused to find No. 86: “Again, ‘Why does not the pope, whose wealth is today greater than the wealth of the richest Crassus, build this one basilica of St. Peter with his own money rather than with the money of poor believers?’ ”

Ah, if only in our time and place we could mention Crassus without having to explain who he was. Then again, if those poor believers were able to understand that they were doing their little part to build the grandest church in Christendom, would they have been particularly upset?

One more thing about St. Luke’s in Park Ridge, which I read about later. It’s the home to the Bottle Band. Odd the things you find out. More about the band here.

Our Lady of Hope, Rosemont

The newest church on our bus tour last Saturday was Our Lady of Hope, a Catholic church at 9711 W. Devon Ave., just barely in the boundaries of the small suburb of Rosemont, which is better known for its proximity to O’Hare and various entertainment venues. In fact, while I might be wrong, it seems to be the only church with a location in Rosemont, based on a Google map search.

Built only in 1986 (which seems new to me), the church counts as a “Modern Prairie” style, according to the Chicago Architecture Foundation. “Modern Prairie designs are often devoid of frills and decoration, but build character through asymmetrical shape, and large open spaces,” the CAF says.

Frill-less indeed, especially on the outside.
Our Lady of HopeAlso true to its prairie-style forerunners, the entrance isn’t immediately apparent, but once you go in, you do find large open spaces. I liked the curve into the nave — maybe this space counts as the narthex, though probably that terminology went out with traditional church decor.
Out Lady of HopeA semicircle of seats faces the altar. The lighting was such that I didn’t get a decent shot of the altar. The seats, on the other hand, were quite visible.
Our Lady of HopeThere was some representational art, but not much. Such as this group standing among plants.
Our Lady of HopeA young architect named Leslie Ventsch, working at the time for developer Opus Corp., designed the structure. These days he’s a design director at Gensler, according to LinkedIn. He won a Burnham Award in the mid-80s, for a different structure.

St. Joseph the Betrothed Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church

Go to 5000 N. Cumberland on the Northwest Side of Chicago, and then to the back of the building at that address, and you’ll be looking at this.

St Joseph'sIn full, the English name of this church is St. Joseph the Betrothed Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church. The church is part of the the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Saint Nicholas of Chicago, a diocese of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. St. Nicholas Cathedral, which we visited last fall, is the mother church of this group. For simplicity, I’ll call this church St. Joseph’s, which is an Eastern church in full communion with Rome.

As a building, St. Joseph’s is an impressive use of glass, concrete and steel, completed in 1977, which such materials weren’t always so impressively used (and they still aren’t). The docent asserted that some people are reminded of rockets when they look at the church, but I think of those pneumatic tubes you use at drive-through banks. Still, they work somehow as building elements.

St Joseph'sThere are 13 domes, as often the case in Eastern churches, the center for Christ and 12 others for the Apostles (I assume that includes Matthias, who took Judas’ place). A Ukrainian-born Philadelphia architect named Zenon Mazurkevycz (Mazurkevich) designed the church. He seems best known for St. Joseph’s, though he’s obviously done other structures.

St Joseph'sThe inside is ornate and also light-filled, on account of the tall windows on all sides. I assume the scaffolding over the sanctuary are temporary.

St Joseph'sMazurkevycz is quoted, in this blog at least, as saying, “We are dealing with a very functional architecture today no matter what we do, but church architecture is aesthetically functional more than anything else… It probably is the last architecture, as our buildings become more regimented, in which you can be exuberant.”

Exuberant is a good word for this church, inside and out.

Holy Resurrection Serbian Orthodox Cathedral

Holy Resurrection Serbian Orthodox Cathedral, at 5701 N. Redwood Dr. in Chicago and our tour’s second stop, isn’t far from O’Hare. Even if we hadn’t known that before visiting it, we would have found out standing outside the cathedral listening to the docent describe some of its features. Every few minutes, a plane would noisily fly by and she’d have to pause. In the background, Kennedy Expressway noise was also noticeable.

As we approached the building, I recognized the domes on top. They’re visible from the Kennedy. I’d seen them many times, but never knew they were part of this particular religious edifice. Pictures of the exterior and its domes are here, though more colorful than I saw.

This is the entrance, on the west side of the church, of course.

Holy ResurrectionHoly ResurrectionRadoslav Kovacevic designed the building, which was completed in 1973. According to his 2002 obit in the Tribune, the Belgrade-born Chicago architect “designed about two dozen houses of worship for Russian, Greek, Serbian, Protestant and Roman Catholic congregations,” as well as schools and commercial buildings. His funeral mass was held at Holy Resurrection.

Holy ResurrectionHere’s the interior center dome and its Christ the Almighty and chandelier. Not sure if that counts as a horus, since it isn’t one of those circular jobs with depictions of the saints and apostles.

Holy ResurrectionAs you’d expect, the walls sported many murals, such as this one depicting the Raising of Lazarus. Note the fellow unwrapping Lazarus. He seems to be covering his nose. Lazarus had been dead a while, after all. I didn’t know until recently that Lazarus Saturday, the day before Palm Sunday, is celebrated in the Orthodox tradition.

Holy ResurrectionThe church sports plenty of excellent mosaics, too.

Holy ResurrectionTo the left (observer’s left, to the north) of the iconostasis is St. Sava.

Holy ResurrectionThat’s a detail from this mosaic, which is a reproduction of a painting called “Sava blessing Serb youth.”

St SavaThe original painting dates from 1921, the creation of Serbian artist Uroš Predić. I’d never heard of the saint nor the artist before. Remarkable the things you can learn just looking around.

First United Methodist Church, Park Ridge

Late yesterday morning, Yuriko and I were in Park Ridge, Ill., an inner northwest suburb of Chicago. On the whole, it’s a handsome suburb, well marked by prosperity. A lot of rain had fallen on Friday as thunderstorms rolled through, but by Saturday morning the day was well on its way to being pleasant and clear.

So it was a good day to be on the Chicago Architecture Foundation Churches by Bus tour, as we did last year. This year, the tour visited six churches on the Northwest Side of Chicago and two of its adjoining suburbs: Park Ridge as well as the diminutive Rosemont, which is better known for its convention center and theaters and restaurants near O’Hare.

We were on Bus # 4 again. Our first stop was First United Methodist Church at 418 W. Touhy Ave. in Park Ridge.
First United Methodist Church, Park RidgeAs suburban congregations go, it’s an old church, founded in 1856, with the original sanctuary built in 1857. The church building we saw dates from the 1920s, a Tudor Revival design by two men once in Daniel Burnham’s employ, Thomas Tallmadge and Vernon Watson. Inside, it isn’t particularly ornate.

First MethodistExcept for the six large stained-glass windows, completed in 1940. They were fashioned by Conrad Schmitt Studios in Wisconsin, which is apparently still around, and designed by a young German immigrant named Conrad Pickel, whose children run a stained-glass studio in Florida.

Stained Glass!The organ in back is much newer, installed only during this century. The organist (seen looking down at the sanctuary) played a bit for us. It has an excellent sound.
Big organ!The church has a couple of other distinctions besides its design. Hillary Clinton attended church here growing up in Park Ridge, and it’s also home to one of the first  Boy Scout Troops in the nation (the docent claimed it was the first), continuously active since 1912.

Thursday Ends & Odds

And why is the idiom “odds and ends” rather than the other way around? Just idle curiosity.

A huge thunderstorm started here at about 4:15 this afternoon. It was fast-moving. I sat out on the deck starting at around 3:45, when it was partly and cloudy windy and reasonably warm. I noticed a bank of black clouds to the west and northwest, and as the minutes passed, they crept closer. By about 4, the western half of the sky was covered, like a lid being closed.

In about 15 minutes, as soon as all of the sky was covered, enormous amounts of water cut loose, to the sound of some thunder. I was inside by that time. Whatever else you can say about me, I have sense enough to come in out of the rain.

The other day I saw a flying hubcap. Rolling, actually, most of the time. It was loose on the other side of a four-lane street, recently separating from a pickup truck, just as I drove by. I’ve seen enough hubcaps on the side of roads, but never one in motion. Fortunately, it stayed well clear of my position.

The following is strictly vanity. Everyone’s vain about something. About two years ago I found a web site that would generate a color-coded personal travel map. I found it again and updated it.

My North AmericaGreen: either lived in these places or visited so many times I’ve lost count. Very familiar.

Blue: Numerous visits covering a fair amount of the state or province, or one or two visits of strong intensity and some variety. Fairly familiar. (I changed Iowa to blue.)

Orange: Spent the night at least once, saw a relatively limited number of places. (I added Oregon.)

Pink: Passed through (on the ground) but didn’t spend the night.

White (no color): Never visited.

It’s good to have some ambition in this regard, even though making a list and checking it off is a pointless exercise. What I want to do is get rid of all the white and pink areas, but if not, I won’t fret about it (Nunavut seems particularly unlikely).