May Pause

Back to posting on Decoration Day, May 30, which happens to be the day after Memorial Day this year. By then I might have seen a thing or two to post about, but no promises.

I picked up a NASA public domain image recently while reading about the spacecraft Cassini’s grand finale. It’s one of those images that’s more beguiling the more you stare at it.

8423_20181_1saturn2016More images of the planet and its moons are here, including one of oddball Iapetus. That moon, and a number of other Saturnian things, come up in a video made featuring Sir Arthur C. Clarke about a year before he died. Glad he lived long enough to see Cassini-Huygens explore Saturn.

 

The Jain Society of Metropolitan Chicago

The BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, mentioned yesterday, is on route Illinois 59 in Bartlett. As I was preparing for my visit, looking at Google Maps, I noticed something else similiarly interesting just a few miles to the north, also on Illinois 59 in Bartlett: the Jain Society of Metropolitan Chicago. A Jain temple, in other words.

This too had escaped my notice all the years I’ve lived in the northwest suburbs. I figured if I were going to be out in Bartlett to see the monumental mandir, I might as well drop by to see what the Jains have built. So I did.

Jain Society of Metropolitan ChicagoThe Jain temple, next to a large parking lot on an even larger bit of land, isn’t as massive as the BAPS structure, but it’s pleasing to the eye, and made all the more interesting because it’s such a rare thing here in North America. That despite what Wiki asserts: “The most significant time of Jain immigration was in the early 1970s. The United States has since become a center of the Jain diaspora [citation needed].” This particular temple was built in the early 1990s.
The Jain Society of Metropolitan ChicagoThe temple interior is essentially a single room with rows of eye-level effigies along the walls, and some other ornamentation. It all reminded me how little I remembered about Jainism.

I studied Jainism briefly — a class or two — in Survey of Eastern Religions, as taught by the highly learned Charles Hambrick, but that was 35 years ago (a professor emeritus these days, but last I checked still with us). Mainly I remember the strong emphasis on pacifism, which often has the unfortunate side effect of inspiring nearby and less pacific people to acts of persecution. If indeed the Jain diaspora is focused in this country, I hope they’re doing well.

BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Chicago

BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, a monumental Hindu temple on 27 acres in suburban Bartlett, Ill., is less than 10 miles from where I’ve lived for most of the 21st century so far. How is it that I never knew about it until a few weeks ago? You imagine that you know your part of the world pretty well, but it’s just a conceit.

BAPS, incidentally, stands for Bochasanwasi Akshar Purushottam Sanstha, so the full name of the site would be the Bochasanwasi Akshar Purushottam Sanstha Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Chicago. I can see why it’s abbreviated. I can’t pretend to know how the group that built the temple fits into the galaxy of Hinduism, though I’ve read that it’s a relatively modern movement, originating in Gujarat state. I wouldn’t mind knowing more, but whatever knowledge I take away from reading about the details of Hinduism tends to evaporate in a short time, sorry to say.

The suburban Chicago temple is just one of a half-dozen such in North America. The others are in metro Atlanta, Houston, LA, and Toronto, and in central New Jersey. Judging by their pictures, each is about as monumental as the metro Chicago temple, though Chicago’s supposed to be the largest. In fact, it’s the largest Hindu temple in North America, at least according to one source. Even if that’s not so important, the place does impress with its size.

On a sunny but not exactly warm day recently, I drove to the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir for a look. The structure, finished only in 2004, is stunning.
BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir ChicagoBAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir ChicagoThe exterior is limestone, the interior marble and granite. The temple’s web site has a sketch of the structure’s creation, which I’ve edited a bit.

The Carrara marble was quarried in Italy and the limestone was quarried in Turkey.
From there it was shipped to Kandla in western India.

The material was then transported to Rajasthan, where it was hand-carved by more than 3,000 craftsman over a period of 22 months.

The finished pieces were then shipped to a final location for polishing, packaging and numbering before being shipped back to the port in Kandla.

It took two months for a container ship to journey from India to the US.

Upon reaching Virginia, the containers were put on a train to Chicago and then transported to the project site.

Upon arrival at the site, the stones were grouped and classified based on a detailed database of each piece.

The pieces were then assembled together like a massive, three- dimensional jigsaw puzzle.

The finished products of rich carvings are a testimony to the exquisite skills of craftsmen, aided by superb logistics and engineering.

I’ll go along with that last sentence. Even though I didn’t understand the details of what I was looking at, I admire the artistic and engineering skill it must have taken to create the thing.

BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir ChicagoBAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir ChicagoBAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Chicago

BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Chicago

Next to the mandir is the haveli, a fine building in its own right, featuring some exceptionally intricate wood carving. It serves a number of functions. For my purposes, it included a visitors center, gift shop (with a few postcards) and the entrance to the mandir, which is open to the public.

BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir ChicagoBAPS Shri Swaminarayan Haveli ChicagoThe mandir is accessible via an underground tunnel from the haveli. Exhibits about Hinduism line the wall of the tunnel. The inside of the mandir, marbled and quiet, is an astonishing forest of carved columns and sculpted walls. No photography allowed, but of course pictures do exist.

I might not ever make to India. Can’t go everywhere. Fortunately, a striking piece of India is within easy driving distance.

Nathan Manilow Sculpture Park ’17

On Saturday we visited Governors State University in exurban Chicago — way down south in the Will County burg of University Park, Ill. — for a look at its expansive sculpture park, which mostly features large-scale metal works. Its formal name is the Nathan Manilow Sculpture Park. I visited the place in 2002 and posted about some years later.

“Formally established by the Governors State University Board of Trustees in 1978, the Nathan Manilow Sculpture Park was named for Nathan Manilow, a visionary developer who, along with Carrol Sweet and Philip Klutznick, formed American Community Builders at the conclusion of World War II,” says the GSU web site. “They planned and built the neighboring Village of Park Forest for returning GIs. The history of the Nathan Manilow Sculpture Park predates GSU in that sculptor Mark diSuvero spent the summers of 1968 and 1969 living and building sculpture on the land that was to become the university.

“1968-69 – Lewis Manilow, son of Nathan Manilow, loans the use of a house on the future campus of GSU to sculptor Mark diSuvero. DiSuvero spends two summers creating sculpture. His presence attracts other artists: John Chamberlain, Richard Hunt, John Henry, Charles Ginnever and Jerry Peart, among others, to the area. DiSuvero creates at least three sculptures: ‘Yes! for Lady Day,’ ‘Prairie Chimes’ and ‘The Mohican.’ ”

After nearly 15 years, I figured it was time to go again. Turns out that sculptures have been added since then. Many of those we saw had not only been added since then, but created since then. Such as “Windwaves” by Yvonne Domenge from 2010.

"Windwaves" by Yvonne Domenge“Oscar’s Inclination” by Michael Dunbar dates from 2004.

"Oscar's Inclination" by Michael Dunbar "Oscar's Inclination" by Michael Dunbar

Beyond “Oscar’s Inclination” was “Falling Meteor” by Jerry Peart, which I’m pretty such was here in 2002. It was created in 1975.
"Falling Meteor" by Jerry PeartThis was one of the smaller works that we saw, “Meeting Ends” by Chakaia Booker, from 2005.
"Meeting Ends" by Chakaia BookerMade of rubber tires and stainless steel. An artwork for us, but also a nesting site for birds.
"Meeting Ends" by Chakaia BookerGSU has a lot of land: 750 acres, which is plenty of room to keep large metal sculptures. Beyond the pieces that are near the school’s buildings, you need to walk along mowed pathways, sometimes soggy considering the recent rains, to see other works.
Governors State UniversityA couple of favorites from last time: “Phoenix” by Edvins Strautmanis, one of the vintage 1968 works, and off in the background, “Flying Saucer” by Jene Highstein, 1977. “Phoenix” looks like it’s been refurbished.
"Phoenix" by Edvins StrautmanisAnd “Icarus” by Charles Ginnever, another early one: 1975.

"Icarus" by Charles GinneverThe director and curator of the park in recent years has been Geoffrey Bates, who just retired. More about him and the park is here.

Toul 1956

Why my parents picked Toul, France as a destination in May 1956 is probably lost to time, since I doubt that my mother remembers. I’ve read that there are impressive old fortifications there, and a cathedral worth a look, so perhaps those were considerations. There used to be a NATO air base near the town, but my father was in the Army, not the Air Force, and probably didn’t visit on official business. Maybe someone they knew recommended the town for a look-see.

Anyway, they went. Many years later, I came across this slide my father made in Toul. Fortunately, he wrote down the place and time. Otherwise, I’d have no idea beyond it being somewhere in France.

ToulMay56

I think it’s most interesting because it captures an ordinary street scene in a French town more than 60 years ago, though the cathedral is in the background. Looking at image — peering back in time and far away in place — I notice certain details: the proliferation of telephone wires, the relative lack of parked cars, and the two figures beside the street: a schoolboy and a man.

Back when schoolboys were known by their short pants, it seems. I don’t know much about French fashion habits, but I suspect that’s long gone. Looks like the man is telling the boy something, maybe even dressing him down for something. Impossible to say.

Maybe the boy is still around, about 70 now. A grumpy old Le Pen voter? Again, I don’t know enough about France to know whether Le Pen captured the grumpy old man vote, though somehow I suspect she did.

I played around with Google Streetview for a little while today, looking at the area around the cathedral in Toul, though I didn’t get a precise fix on exactly where my father stood when he took the picture. Maybe I could, if I didn’t have anything else to do. I will say this: it looks like there’s been a fair amount of redevelopment in the area since 1956, and the telephone wires, probably the height of la modernité at one time, are gone.

Sometimes I try to capture street scenes myself. Here’s one in Shanghai in the spring of 1994, near the Bund.
Shanghai94And one of State St. in Chicago, looking north. Just last month.

State Street April 2017Looks ordinary now, but it might look a little odd in 60 years.

Thursday Trifles

My wooden back scratcher — one of earliest inventions of mankind, for sure, and still one of the best — still has its label attached. I just noticed that. A product of Daiso Japan, it was acquired in Japan early this year and brought to me as o-miyagi.

The label is in Japanese and English. The English WARNING says:

Please understand that there is a risk of having mold and bugs since this is made of natural material.
Please do not use this for any other purpose than what it should be.
Please follow the garbage segregation rules imposed by local municipality.

Here’s a picture from Lou Mitchell’s last month. “A Millennial Couple at Breakfast.”

Millennials

The flag between them is a Cubs W flag. They were all over when the Cubs were in the World Series, and you still see them sometimes. Ann asked me what it stood for. I said, Win. She said, couldn’t that be for any team anywhere? I assured her that that kind of reasoning has no place in sports fandom.

Here’s an article about Carvana. That’s a company that develops automobile vending machines. Or rather, mechanical towers that dispense cars previously acquired online. I’d never heard of it before. They’re in Dallas, San Antonio and Austin, among other places, so maybe I ought to take a look at one.

A few weeks ago, there was a thing going around Facebook: List 10 musical acts, nine of which you’ve seen, one you haven’t. Others are invited to guess which is the one you haven’t seen. Pointless but harmless. I refuse to do it on Facebook, but I will here. Alphabetically.

The Bobs
Chubby Checker
Irwin Hepplewhite & the Terrifying Papoose Jockeys
Gustav Leonhardt
Bob Marley
Natalie Merchant
Bill Monroe
Taj Mahal
They Might Be Giants
Francis Xavier & the Holy Roman Empire

Into the Silence

When I went to Half Price Books the other day, I knew I’d come away with something. Even more because I had a gift card, though I don’t remember where or when I got it. The code on the back was scratched off, so I couldn’t tell whether it had any value by checking online. I figured the clerk could tell me, and so she did: $15.

More than enough to buy Into the Silence by Wade Davis (2011), subtitled “The Great War, Mallory, and the Conquest of Everest.” That subtitle alone was almost enough to sell me on it. Not that I have a particular interesting in books about mountaineering, though I’ve read a few. But I do have an interest in the Great War and about journeys or expeditions to remote places, during which the participants die or not.

In this case, of course, Mallory and Irvine did not come back from Everest in 1924. Mallory managed to survive the war — which many of his friends did not — but Everest got him. I remember reading about the discovery of Mallory’s body in 1999. Irvine has yet to turn up, and no one knows whether they made the summit or not.

Also the fact that Wade Davis wrote the book was a recommendation, though I haven’t read any other books of his, even the one about Voodoo. Not yet. Anyway, he’s an insanely accomplished fellow, so I suspect I’m in for a good read.

Ravinia Circular ’17

We received the 2017 Ravinia Festival circular in the mail recently. Like last year, I decided to check to see whose tickets command the biggest bucks at the storied north suburban outdoor venue. Last year was something of a mystery, but never mind. This year, less so, at least in my opinion, but in any case at a price I’m unwilling to pay.

Who are the top draws? Performers commanding more than $100 for reserved pavilion seats include Willie Nelson, Aretha Franklin, Sammy Hager, Common, Diana Krall, Moody Blues, Sheryl Crow, Joshua Bell, Lang Lang, Tony Bennett, Darius Rucker, Santana, Alanis Morissette, John Mellencamp, Frankie Valli, and Stevie Nicks.

My reaction to the entertainers on the list is hm, interesting; or, they’re still around (alive)?; or who? All first-water performers, no doubt, but no one should charge that much, at least according to the Elvis Test, which I’m sure I’ve mentioned before.

Note the prices on these 1957 Elvis posters. Prices vary, but $3 is toward the upper end. Accounting for inflation over the last 60 years, $3 then = $26.31 in our time. Add another $5 or so because sound systems are so much better now, and another $5 because Ravinia is such a nice place, and needs to be maintained. I’ll even throw in a few more dollars just to round things up. So no ticket for a singer should cost more than $40, because no one is better than Elvis in his prime. A ridiculous idea, maybe, but I like it.

Who gets less than $40 at Ravinia? This year, the CSO for some of its concerts, and a scattering of classical performers. But I will say this for Ravinia: some of the lawn seats for its concerts, which is the place to be anyway unless it’s raining, are reasonable at $10 (though they’re jacked up during A-list concerts).

The top draw this year, according to the accountants, is Stevie Nicks at $200. She’s pushing 70 pretty hard these days, and I hope she’s as mellifluous as she was when I saw Fleetwood Mac on August 17, 1980, at the HemisFair Arena. No doubt her 2017 show would push all the right nostalgia buttons. But I can find ways to do that for a lot less.

Speedy Gonzales 420

Rain, rain, rain. To balance the pleasant weekends we’ve had in April, the last one was cold and very wet. On Saturday the water came down practically all day, pausing in the wee hours of Sunday and early in the day, and then starting again.

I looked at a national temperature map on Sunday night and a weird blue gash of a cold front extended southwest from the Great Lakes as far south as western Oklahoma, signifying temps in the 40s and 50s. Thus Chicago was colder (at 43 degrees F) than either Billings, Mont. (61) or Fargo (57), both of which are west of the gash. And it was 65 degrees in Indianapolis, 71 in St. Louis. But those places had the cold front to look forward to.

One thing to do during such days is to stay home and watch cartoons. We happened to have a disk around the house featuring an assortment of ’40s and ’50s Termite Terrace shorts. One was “Gonzales’ Tamales” (1957). Been a long while since I’d seen a Speedy Gonzales cartoon, maybe 40+ years since I’d seen this particular one, and I’m not sure Ann had ever seen one.

The closed caption titles happened to be on. Things were moving along: Speedy was being speedy, outwitting the gringo Sylvester, and so on, when Speedy sings a version of “La cucaracha.” Then I had a Did he say what I thought he said? moment. I rewound a bit, and sure enough, he did.

The imdb describes the scene: “Around 4:42, Speedy is heard singing a spoof of the Mexican folk song ‘La cucaracha’ with nonsense words in odd Spanish which could be transcribed as: ‘La cucaracha, la cucaracha, ya no puede caminar. ¿Por qué no Fanta? ¿Por qué no tiene marijuana par fumar?’

“This would seem to mean: ‘The cockroach, the cockroach, she can’t walk any more. Why not Fanta? Why doesn’t she have marijuana to smoke?’ The Fanta reference is the most puzzling part of the verse. But the mention of marijuana is clear, and how the artists got it past the censors would probably be a good story in itself.”

Heh-heh. I’d guess that there wasn’t much of a story in getting it past the censors. Probably Friz Freleng and Warren Foster (the writer) put it in to see whether the censors would notice. No one did. That’s entirely plausible. I’m sure I didn’t notice all those of years ago, and I might not have noticed this time had the titles not been on.

Dogs Over the Decades

Our dog’s been with us four years this month. I won’t post another picture of her, photogenic as she is. I have other pictures of dogs I’ve known, or met.

The first dog I remember — barely — was Caesar.

CaesarIt’s impossible to tell in this early ’60s-vintage picture, but he had a spot of pink fur next to his nose. At least, that’s what I remember as a very small child. Being a dog that roamed parts of semi-rural North Texas, he encountered (so I’m told) a nest of young rattlesnakes one spring, and that was all for him.

This is my grandmother in the 1950s, holding a young Georgette.

GrandmaandGeorgetteI remember Georgette well. She lived with my grandmother in San Antonio until the late 1960s, when the dog died of natural causes. Caesar was one of her pups.

Jay and Deb’s dog Aloysius, with the young family in 1983. I met him a number of times during ’80s visits, when my nephews were small.

AloysiusTheir dog Brynna. I think I took this picture during our visit for Thanksgiving 2001.
CollegiatePose-BrynnaJay’s current dogs, Holly and Chloe. I get to visit them when I go to Dallas. They spend a lot of time in this particular spot in the living room.

Holly ChloeAnd of course, Katie. The dog my mother had when I was in high school and beyond, 1976 to 1992, to be exact. This was the small dog that got a hold of a big bag of doughnuts, a half dozen or so, and ate them all. They didn’t stay eaten.

KatieMy friends Rich and Lisa in Massachusetts had an Irish wolfhound in the 1990s named Charlotte. I remember her well during our visit for New Year’s 1993.

CharlotteMy friends Ed and Lynn in Arizona had Bosco, whom we met during our visit in 1997. He knew some tricks, but I can’t remember what they were now.

Bosco1997Late in his life, Ed had an elderly dog named Bert living with him in Washington state. Ed sent me this picture ahead of my visit in 2015, to show how much fur Bert shed.

Bertandfur2015My friend Tom in Austin has a dog called Roscoe. He’s fond of jumping on you when you come into the room.

RoscoeLilly’s friend Rachel has a dog called Riley.

RileyFinally, one cat. In Osaka, Yuriko used to have a cat named Michael. Picture ca. 1994.

Michael

I got along with him all right, mainly because he was fond of lying around like a dog.