St. Andrew Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral & The Holodomor Memorial

Last week I was near St. Andrew Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral (of the of the Kyiv Patriarchate in the USA and Canada) in Bloomingdale, Ill., so I stopped by for a look. It wasn’t part of Open House Chicago, but I’d read about the place a while back and realized it’s fairly close to where I live.

St. Andrew Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral Being the middle of the week, the church itself was closed, as suburban churches often are. Still, a committee of holy men greets you above the door. At least, that’s what it looks like to me.
St. Andrew Ukrainian Orthodox CathedralIt reminded me a little of the artwork depicting Vladimir’s baptism of the Kievan Rus over the entrance of Sts. Volodymyr and Olha Ukrainian Catholic Church in Chicago, which we saw a few years ago.

 Sts. Volodymyr and Olha Ukrainian Catholic ChurchBut only a little. It doesn’t much look like any baptism is going on at St. Andrew, so I assume it depicts something else.

More than the church, I came to see the memorial to the victims of the 1932-33 Ukrainian famine, which is on the church’s grounds, near its cemetery. The Holodomor, as it’s called, when Stalin starved untold millions of people to death.

Holodomor Memorial IllinoisHolodomor Memorial IllinoisThe plaque’s a little worn — it’s been out in the elements since the memorial was erected in 1993 — but it says, in English: In memory of over seven million victims of the great famine artificially created in Ukraine by the Moscow-Communist regime.

Holodomor Memorial Illinois

Much too somber a note on which to end, so I looked around for some comic relief about Stalin, and found this, attributed to Romanian writer Panait Istrati, who visited the Soviet Union in the late 1920s, just as Stalin had consolidated his dictatorship: “All right, I can see the broken eggs. Now where’s this omelette of yours?”

The Pirates of Penzance

Not long ago Ann and I went to Evanston to see a production of The Pirates of Penzance by a troupe known as the Savoyaires, directed by Amy Uhl (choreography) and Timothy Semanik (music). I’d seen it advertised in the Iolanthe program last spring, and it occurred to me that I’d never seen it on stage. So I wanted to go.

img492I saw the Kevin Kline and Linda Ronstadt movie version sometime in the mid-80s at the Vanderbilt cinema. It was essentially a filming of the 1980 Broadway production. I’m not sure what it was, but I remember the movie being a little off. A little stiff.

Maybe it didn’t offer enough of that jolly good time that you should get from Gilbert & Sullivan. We got that from the Savoyaires, who didn’t need an elaborate venue to pull it off. The show was staged in a sizable but plain junior high school auditorium, complete with an orchestra.

Phillip Dothard played the Pirate King with gusto, and Sahara Glasener-Boles brought the right amount of sauciness to the part of Ruth. Of course what everyone was waiting for was the Major-General to show up and sing his signature song. An actor named Bill Chamberlain did that part.

“How did he learn to do that?” Ann asked later.

“Practice,” I said, though in fact, even if I had the voice, I doubt that I could ever do “I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General.”

And while Chamberlain was very good, he didn’t quite get all of the enunciation. Close enough, though. He was definitely part of the jolly good fun.

The program included “A Pirates of Penzance Glossary,” including the likes of Babylonic cuneiform, The Frogs of Aristophanes and Heliogabalus, whom it described as an “infamously depraved Roman emperor.”

“What was he depraved about?” Ann asked.

I couldn’t remember. It had been years since I’d read about him. A vague sense of perversion clings to him, but I wonder if there’s much to it. Ancient historians liked gossip and lurid invention as much as anyone else, and so did not-so-ancient historians.

“To confound the order of the season and climate, to sport with the passions and prejudices of his subjects, and to subvert every law of nature and decency, were in the number of his most delicious amusements,” Gibbon wrote of the boy-emperor.

He also wrote: “It may seem probable, the vices and follies of Elagabalus have been adorned by fancy, and blackened by prejudice.” In other words, dress as a woman a few times and people will make up all kinds of stories about you, especially if you’re emperor.

Ah, well. I will leave it to learned sages to argue over Heliogabalus. Next year’s production by the Savoyaires is Ruddigore, another G&S I’ve never seen staged. I’ll try to go.

St. Edmund Catholic Church & Grace Episcopal Church, Oak Park

Unusually warm this week from Tuesday to yesterday. Still a lot of green leaves. Autumn, but not quite autumn. It’s also the time of the year for Halloween decorations, and to avoid any store or event that uses the terms boo-nanza or spook-tacular.

Two more places from last week’s Open House Chicago, both in west suburban Oak Park. One was St. Edmund, which the sign outside says is Oak Park’s oldest Catholic parish. The church building dates from 1910.

St. Edmund, Oak ParkHenry Schlacks, whose work I’ve run across before, design the church. The interior is resplendent.

St. Edmund, Oak ParkMuch of its splendor is the stained glass, created by a studio in Munich (presumably pre-WWI).

St. Edmund, Oak ParkSt. Edmund, Oak ParkAnd an interesting baptismal font that, when I was there, reflected one of the windows.

St. Edmund, Oak Park

A few blocks away, among the numerous churches on Lake St., is Grace Episcopal Church.
Grace Episcopal, Oak ParkFirst occupied in 1905 — and the building took a lot longer to complete according to its plans, namely another 70 years — Grace Episcopal also has a resplendent interior, in its more muted way.
Grace Episcopal, Oak ParkGrace Episcopal, Oak ParkA sign near the entrance reminds visitors that the church, designed by John Sutcliffe, figured in a scene in Home Alone. I wouldn’t have remembered that, since the last and only time I saw that movie was during a bus ride from Perth to Adelaide, or maybe it was Adelaide to Sydney, in early 1992. But I did see “Everything Wrong With Home Alone” not long ago, which was funnier than the movie itself.

We listened to the organist practice for a while at Grace. Very nice. It’s also good to see a church equipped with a gong.
Grace Episcopal, Oak ParkI understand that the gong used during the Winter Solstice Celebration at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York is quite the thing to hear. And see.

Pleasant Home, Oak Park

During the last part of our Chicago Open House visit-as-much-as-you-can excursion on Sunday, in the near western suburb of Oak Park, I found myself face-to-face with a Mills dime slot machine.
Pleasant Home Oak Park Mills slot machineA nearby docent encouraged me to put in a dime. I did so and watched the wheel spin. It might be an antique machine, but it will still give you a fruit-based result. What it will not do is give any sort of payout. My dime was a donation, so I could see the machine move.

Next the docent made it spin without putting a dime in, so I could see the machinery inside in action. The back had been removed just for that purpose. It’s impressive — mainly because I can’t understand at all how such a machine works.

My dime is going to the further upkeep of the building in which I found the slot machine: Pleasant Home, also known as the Farson House, built in 1897.

Farson House Oak ParkAs much as I understand these things, the house is important in the development of the Prairie School. The AIA Guide to Chicago not only has an entry about the house, it devotes more than a page to it, which is major attention from that publication. Prairie School and in Oak Park, but not by Frank Lloyd Wright. Rather George Washington Maher, a contemporary of his who didn’t live nearly as long (dying in 1926), designed the house.

The Maher web site says: “In describing the Farson house, architectural historian Paul Sprague wrote ‘…it was extraordinary… compared to typical residences of the late 1890s. Its clean lines, flat surfaces of Roman brick, stone and wood, and simple rectangular window frames, chimneys and porch openings would have been hard to parallel anywhere at the time except in building by Sullivan and Wright.’ ”

Got an expansive porch, all right.
Farson House porch Oak ParkWhat do slot machines have to do with all this? That’s a tangent worth pursuing — another benefit of looking at things and then thinking, What was it I saw?

The first owner of the house was, according to the Pleasant Home web site: “Famous for his immaculate white flannel suits, red cravats and ties and top hats or straw boaters. [John] Farson gathered around him a vast circle of friends who shared his interests in everything up-to-date. As his passions shifted from horses to automobiles to roller skating, Farson amazed Oak Parkers with his public-spirited nature and high energy.”

He was a Gilded Age millionaire banker (d. 1910), so he could indulge his interests. Slot machines were not one of them, however. That was the business of the second owner of the house, Herbert S. Mills.

“Shortly after the Worlds’ Columbian Exposition of 1893, the young Mills built the first coin-operated automatic slot machine and later manufactured Mills machines of all kinds for his penny arcades and fortune-telling machines. Mill’s penny arcades became institutions on American’s main streets and amusement parks at the turn of the century.”

I’ve read elsewhere — a tangent from a tangent — that it was actually Charles Fey who invented the modern slot machine, out in California. But he did partner with Mills to produce them on a mass scale, and no doubt become very rich as a result.

“Raising eight children during the years they spent in the home, the Mills lived more quietly than the Farsons… In 1939, when the Mills family sold the house to the Park District of Oak Park, the grounds were designated as Mills Park in their honor.”

One more detail: while it was probably a pleasant place to live, certainly by early 20th century standards, Pleasant Home takes its name from its location, at the corner of Pleasant St. and Home Ave. in Oak Park.

Atatürk at the Stoplight

Sometimes you’re driving along and you see something odd. Not long ago I was driving with Ann in the front seat, and we stopped at a light behind a white truck — unadorned except for one thing.

Ataturk 2017I had her take a picture, since I didn’t have a camera with me. I told her that the face was that of Atatürk, father of modern Turkey. She hadn’t heard of him. Now she has. What he’s doing on a truck in the northwest suburbs of Chicago is another question, one for which I don’t have an answer.

As far as I’ve been able to determine — and I’m not at all knowledgeable about Turkish — the words at the bottom mean, “We follow in the footsteps of Atatürk.” Well, why not? Still, it’s a little like a truck with the face of George Washington plying the streets of suburban Istanbul. Maybe that happens, but it would be odd, wouldn’t it?

Missed Perseids, a Satellite Flare and Saturn on a Saturday Night

Over the years, we’ve sporadically attended celestial viewings at the Spring Valley Nature Reserve, which isn’t exactly dark, but it’s darker than the surrounding suburbs. We went again on Saturday.

This time, the event was more popular than I remember it ever being, since besides viewing through a telescope set up on one of the reserve’s paths, a marshmallow roast was held near one of its buildings. Volunteers gave away marshmallows on prongs for a fire that had already been built. Such family-friendliness is going to attract people will kids. We had a few marshmallows ourselves.

There was a short line to see through the telescope — an expensive-looking piece of equipment, though I didn’t get the brand or model — and while we waited, we naturally did some naked-eye observations. While I was looking one way I heard, “Look, a shooting star!”

I was looking the wrong way. Of course. A few minutes later, the same thing happened. So I spent some time looking to where I thought the Perseids would be. Last weekend was the peak for this year, I’d read. I saw none. That has happened before. A few times.

So it goes. I did see a satellite flare, which was a first. I’ve seen a number of objects before that I’ve been sure were satellites, but this was different. This object was moving across the sky at the pace of a satellite, not a high airplane, and it was flashing for a few seconds at a regular interval. I’d read, years ago, that this can happen when the satellite reflects sunlight as it rolls — or pitches or yaws or whatever — in its orbit.

It might have been a Iridium satellite. Wiki, at least, has this to say: “Occasionally, an [Iridium] antenna reflects sunlight directly down at Earth, creating a predictable and quickly moving illuminated spot on the surface below of about 10 km (6.2 mi) diameter. To an observer this looks like a bright flash, or flare in the sky, with a duration of a few seconds.”

That’s exactly what I saw. Maybe they account for some number of UFO sightings, too. (If Venus can, why not an Iridium satellite? Unless Venus is where the UFOs are coming from.)

A few people in line had iPads with stargazing apps. I guess they’re called that (there are many, it turns out). I’d never seen one in use. You hold the iPad up toward any direction of the sky and the app will draw a not-overly-bright rendering of the constellations in the area. I didn’t get a close look, but it looked like a fair amount of information, including standard constellation patterns, star names and even fanciful illustrations.

I ought to think that’s cheating. Learn your constellations the old-fashioned way, dammit, from Chaldean herdsmen. But how different is an iPad app that from taking your paper star charts out and reading them by red light, and then looking up to see what you can see? Maybe the app should display red to help keep your night vision intact, but other than that it’s really no different, except easier to use.

After about 15 minutes in line, we arrived at the telescope, whose owner was enthusiastic about sharing with the public. Good for him. He had enormous spotting binoculars, too.

Jupiter was already beginning to set, so he turned it to Saturn, about midway up in the southern sky, and away from the clouds covering some of the sky that night. Yuriko, Ann, Ann’s friend and I all took a turn. Always nice to see Saturn.

Back Yard Flora ’17

Today was a mostly sunny, warm August day. The beginning of declining summer, though the grass and bushes are so green — there’s been a fair amount of rain this summer — that it looks more like June. The dry browns of August are missing this year. So far.

Around noon, I wandered around my back yard taking pictures of flora. Why? Why not?

I also spotted some back yard fauna, lurking in the greenery.
The dog chews on the plants this time of year.

Why? Why not?

My Spanking New 90-Gallon Trash Cans

Got new trash and recycling cans recently, delivered by the local trash hauler at no extra charge. The recycle bin has a baby blue lid, the trash bin a black one.
trash cansThe reason the company provided them is so that their trucks can pick them up using mechanical claws, rather than have the driver get out of the truck and hoist them himself. Here’s the pick up device in action just today. The mechanical claws are painted bright yellow.

When there’s enough trash in the compartment ahead of the garbage truck’s cab, mechanical arms hoist it toward the back of the truck, and the garbage falls into the main bin in back. An interesting thing to see, but he didn’t do it in front of my house today.

For me, the new cans are better because they’re easy to roll out to the the street, even though their capacity is large, 90 gallons each. This is progress. Don’t let the Luddites tell you differently.

Eden Palais

In an outbuilding of the mansion we toured last month — a large outbuilding — is the Eden Palais.

Eden PalaisI quote at some length as I go along, from the mansion’s web site: “The carousel building, completed in 1997, is the home of the most complete example of a European salon carousel in existence — the Eden Palais, built in 1890.

“The salon carousel was more than just an amusement ride, it was a self-contained entertainment palace that included stages for live performers, several bars, booths for perimeter seating, and music. The whole affair was lighted by hundreds of light bulbs, and was undoubtedly one of the first places that patrons experienced electric lighting when it was new.

“The Eden Palais includes an 89′ wide by 42′ tall carved facade with life-size carved horses, giant art glass butterflies, a painting recreating an original that hangs in the Louvre, and a beautiful etched-glass entryway.”

It’s impressive for sure. This is the front entrance.

Apparently three more walls of similar heft originally surrounded the carousel, defining the entertainment palace. They’re in storage now. All of them were moved with the carousel from place to place around France, just like a circus might.

One of the figures next to the entrance.
This is the carousel, behind the main entrance wall. It’s one of the larger ones I’ve seen, and unlike the one at the House on the Rock, a true carousel that you can ride. Which we did. It was clearly built during less safety-paranoid times. But no one was injured. The ride was a gas.
“The carousel itself is 46 feet in diameter, with 36 hand-carved Hubner horses, four ornate rocking gondolas and a spinning lovers’ tub. The center is adorned with seven large Coppier paintings. The platform runs on tracks; three steam engines originally drove the platform, the center hub of paintings and the band organ. The steam engines are restored, but power is now supplied by electric motors.”

A detail of one of the center paintings. As was pointed out by our guide, something likely to appear in 1890s Europe, but not the United States.

Details of the carousel.

A nearby figure.
“Several different owners toured France with the Eden Palais from 1890 through 1959. An amusement park in Golden, Colorado, imported it from the Caron family in 1959 and then went bankrupt, leaving it outside in the snow for one winter. Charles and Sue Bovey then purchased it and stored it in Great Falls, Montana, until the [current owner] acquired it in 1987.”

Restoration took years and boatloads of money, the guide said, though not quite in those words.

“Large steam engines surround the carousel, including an 1826 table engine, an 1836 walking beam engine, and an 1880 double compound 80 horsepower marine engine. The 1881 Grant railroad locomotive and tender were used by Henry Ford for forty years in his Dearborn, Michigan, auto plant and later displayed in the Ford Museum at Greenfield Village.”
But that’s not all. Near the carousel wall was a tower.
“The spectacular Joseph Mayer cast iron street clock stands over 20 feet tall, weighs over 8,000 pounds and originally was owned by the American Jewelry Co. of Bakersfield, California. It includes a Dennison gravity escapement, a self-winder, and a mercury-compensated pendulum, features rarely found in street clocks.”

Also: “American and European fairground and dance hall organs displayed in the carousel building include examples by Bruder, DeCap, Gavioli, Hooghuys, Limonaire, North Tonawanda and Ruth. Wurlitzers include a 157, 165 and 180, among others.”

This Gavioli was not likely to originally be found in North America either.
Here’s a Belgian street organ.
Not an old one. Apparently the Belgians have decided that older such machines are part of their national patrimony, so they cannot leave the country legally. No worries, though, since if you’ve got the dosh, you can have a new one built.

An Exaltation of Victrolas

Supposedly the collective for larks is an exaltation, though I don’t know that anyone familiar with larks actually uses it. Seems like one of those made up, like so many others, for the Book of Saint Albans in 1486, and surviving on lists to this day.
That comes to mind because I was wondering what the collective for Victrolas might be. Exaltation fits. An Exaltation of Victrolas.

The suburban mansion we toured in July not only had massive orchestrions that played orchestral music without any human musicians, and many arcade machines of yore, but also Victrolas and other phonographic systems with pronounced horns. A lot of them. An exaltation of them.

I went all snap-happy and spent time taking pictures of them. The horns, not so much the mechanisms. I’d never seen such an array. The only thing close was the selection of 78 players for sale at Harp Gallery in Wisconsin.

Note the collection of Edison Records cylinders that the machines above use.

In this room there was one machine — not pictured — that was powered by the heat of a candle. Light the candle, put it inside the cabinet, let it play. “I wanted to show you this machine,” the guide said as he held up the candle. “But we almost never play it. It can catch fire.”

All of the mansion’s Victrolas are in working order, I understand. All you need is a vinyl record (or cylinder) of some early kind, which are still around. In a century’s time, will there be a collection of iPods and other gizmos like this? They will probably be hopelessly unplayable.