December 26, 2011

...and now let us welcome a brand new year...

Kolumbova osveta-

Izleti u nepoznato su uvijek ono
što nas može učiniti sretnim.
Pritom je potrebno sreću promatrati
kao fazu, a nepoznato kao prvo što
oko sebe primijetiš.

Columbus’ Revenge -

A trip into the unknown is always something
that can make us happy.
Therefore it’s important to see happiness as a phase,
and the unknown as the first thing you see around…

~Marko Pogačar / translation Tomislav Kuzmanović

December 6, 2011

Make a Joyful Noise

While we all hold our houses of worship in great esteem, few churches have been celebrated in song as well as on stage and in the pages of books.  But the Church of the Transfiguration, affectionately known as the Little Church Around the Corner because it opens its doors with kindness to all, has held an extremely special place in the hearts of New Yorkers for a century and a half.

When the Little Church was young – before skyscrapers rose like hills about its ivy-covered courtyard – its founder welcomed actors to the church.  Not that the goodly Father Houghton approved of entertainments; rather, he believed in understanding for all.  So grateful was an actor, who had been refused services at one of the more formal churches nearby, that he exclaimed, “God bless the little church around the corner.”  Ever since, actors have mingled happily with all who would come to the Little Church.

When I first came to New York Ms. Edna took me to this church and when I lived in New York, I often found my steps taking me to the Little Church Around the Corner.  Always when I visit New York I stop in.  Although I am not an Episcopalian, I am mesmerized by the Little Church nonetheless and, in a way, think of it as my church too-as many who live in the neighborhood do. 

Perhaps it is the size, its English Gothic style, or the jewelike interior.  Perhaps I am drawn to its long tradition of marriages at the extraordinary beautiful marble Bride’s Altar.  It was built in the 1920’s from contributions made by hundreds of couples who had pledged their vows there. 

Whatever the reasons, one Christmas my hart filled to overflowing when I crossed the courtyard, where lights abounded in every tree, and I entered the church. 

Inside, the Christmas angel greeted me, and as I gazed upward to the vaulted ceiling with its host of angels, I was ever thankful to the revered Father Houghton, who founded the church, and to his successors who preserve such beauty for us. 

Gloria in Excelsis Deo. Sretan Božić.

November 19, 2011

To Joy

We're having the kind of November weather that inspires total strangers to stop and wonder aloud -"Can you believe this warmth?" "It feels like September, doesn't it?" "Isn't it fabulous, won't last too much longer." "Might as well enjoy it while we've got it..." The kind of weather that makes you want to call everyone you know and say, get over here, come take a walk, this is amazing...The kind of weather that makes you say to the grumpy little troll in your brain, muttering about global warming, oh, sit down and shut up.

We are in a gentle fall-forgetting for a moment the aberrant October snow storm-as if the seasons were reluctant to change places, taking just one more bow. We, too, are reluctant to hurtle through time.
I got up very early; too much to do. On the way to the library I passed a sign, carved into its surface-a line by Jenny Holzer.  I stood and gazed at the block-lettered inscription: IN A DREAM YOU SAW A WAY TO SURVIVE AND YOU WERE FULL OF JOY. That word, joy, stuck with me and it sprang to life.

Overheard this week…

You'd expect men running for president would sling around a little less horseshit...And know enough not to step in it, too. 


September 22, 2011

The Jennie McGraw Rag.


Ithaca is all I could ever want in a college town. In addition to the hopping bar scene and excellent cheap eats on College Ave, the surrounding area is home to some of the most creative local restaurants in the country. The campus includes the requisite quads and clock towers, but also gorges and waterfalls. For a study break, a little afield of Ithaca’s college haunts, are amazing running paths and, yes, wineries!  This college town has a little of everything, and I will have much to explore.

"Hemlock Gorge" I kid you not.

It all began sweetly enough, the "Romance of the Cornell Chimes." Jennie was the only child of a wealthy lumber baron from Dryden, John McGraw, who had funded McGraw Hall, the university's first building. When Jennie asked White, Cornell co-founder and its first president, what might be a nice gift from her to the soon-to-open university, he suggested chimes. So, in 1868, she gave the university a nine-bell chime set -which became the first to peal over any American campus.
The Jennie McGraw Rag  (don’t cry Ms. Edna)

In 1877 Jennie, 37 and still unmarried, inherited her father's vast fortune and became "a hot property."  Though stricken with tuberculosis, Jennie soon sailed off to Europe to purchase furnishings for the mansion she was building.  Soon after her departure, bachelor Fiske -professor of north European languages, librarian, director of the University Press, unofficial director of public information and a boyhood friend of White's -took a leave of absence to go to Europe as well. Fiske at age 48 made his way to Rome in April 1880 to join Jennie, then age 40-an "invalid with her doom evident," wrote Morris Bishop in his seminal history of the university. Engaged in May and married in July, the couple honeymooned on a barge from Cairo, floating up the Nile with a crew of 17.  Less than a year later, though, the newlyweds learned that Jennie was dying. Her last wish, Bishop wrote, was to die in Ithaca. The couple returned from Europe in early September 1881, and Jennie died several weeks later.

What followed was a complex tale, which the press followed closely, of the university at odds with Fiske over Jennie McGraw's estate. Said Haine: "The fight was brutal as well as being a public relations nightmare for the university. And public relations hadn't yet been invented, but its invention was not far-off, and, of course, it was up to a Cornellian to invent it!"

More than seven years later, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Fiske's favor. Henry Sage, John McGraw's business partner and a major Cornell funder, was furious that Fiske got the money that he believed Jennie had intended for the university. Sage funded and endowed the University Library, which he said McGraw's endowment was originally slated for, and lovingly built the tower to hold Jennie's chimes. But he vented his anger for posterity in the bronze plaque at the library's entrance, which undergraduates have wondered about for more than 100 years.  

The good she tried to do shall stand as if 'twere done.
GOD finishes the work by noble souls begun.
In loving memory of JENNIE MCGRAW FISKE whose purpose to
found a great library for Cornell University has been defeated
this house is built and endowed by her friend. HENRY W. SAGE.

In the end, however, the university got it all anyway, as a bequest from Fiske, who died in 1904.
Fury not forgotten; love stories linger…

September 13, 2011


“… everything happens only a certain number of times, and a very small number really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, some afternoon that is so deeply a part of your being that you can't even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four or five times more, perhaps not even that. How many more times will you watch the full moon rise?  Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems limitless.

I am sending you a postcard... 
…We’re not tourists, we’re travelers.  A tourist is someone who thinks about going home the moment they arrive.  Whereas a traveler might not come back at all…” 
~Paul Bowles, The Sheltering Sky

September 2, 2011

Parting Shot

“I wanted a perfect ending.
Now I’ve learned,
the hard way,
that some poems
don’t rhyme,
and some stories
don’t have a clear
beginning, middle, and end.
Life is about not knowing,
having to change,
taking the moment
and making the best of it,
without knowing
what’s going to happen next.
Delicious ambiguity.”
-Gilda Radner

August 24, 2011

Rah rah sis boom bah...

A new school year full of hope and all the colours of biodiversity…

July 21, 2011

If anybody wants me, I'll be at HIS club...

...and it shall remain HIS club.  It is a very traditional haunt in a corner of London to which Clive and I were invited for a little celebration.

I am spending the summer following in Charles’ footsteps. So far through parts of the Middle East, East Africa, and Greece where in my mind's eye I picture him as a rakishly handsome young man, and now here, in his mature days where his passion has returned to the single malt.
The club has rules. No jeans. No trainers. Gentlemen must wear a tie until 6 pm on a Friday. Business papers may not be taken out in the dining room. Mobile phones must remain unseen within the confines of the club. And, ‘til only a short time ago, NO WOMEN. In short, a sanctuary for the alpha male.

Whilst gorging myself on the heavenly food, I looked around only to spot one of my favorite actresses. At age 65, she has a bottom to rival Michelangelo's David. I tried to engage Charles and Clive in this weighty matter but they are rotten gossips. So I sat, ate, and admired in silent wonderment.

   Ahhhhh, only in London.

May 22, 2011

How now brave world?

Have you ever had times during which your heart is so full you can barely speak?  Much less answer emails, phone calls, blog posts, and all the other ways in which we snails are drawn from our shells. So I find myself this week. Brimming.  I now feel the need to be very, very quiet, just to keep myself from spilling over.
Now it is time for another move into a larger world.  Out of these shells, into others, a bit roomier, or cozier.

And so, to all of you going through graduation weeks, congratulations.

May 3, 2011

Cramming for liberation…

Why have I not posted lately?  Because Anja has finals.  Don’t I look stressed?  Later…

April 27, 2011

How do we know what we want?

In an era of ever-expanding choices, HOW WE CHOOSE addresses the simple-yet-mystifying question.
The answers are strange, impressive, and profound.  Sheena Iyengar, a Columbia University professor whose work on choice is widely recognized and cited looks into the heart of what we desire– and what we think we desire– to show how tangential factors enter into (and run roughshod) over our decisions.
The Art of Choosing –The Subtext of Life
Social psychologist Iyengar begins her unique and invigorating study of choice by telling the story of a man who survived for 76 days stranded alone in the middle of the ocean. He chose to live, Iyengar tells us, just as she has chosen not to let her blindness keep her from conducting prodigious research and intrepid experiments. Iyengar exponentially expands our understanding of the central role choice plays in the lives of animals and humans in a rapid-fire, many-faceted, and original inquiry that is at once personable and commanding. She explains our “biological need for choice and control,” the decision process, and the myriad influences that dictate everything from purchasing choices to career moves, voting, medical decisions, and marriage.
The daughter of Sikh immigrants from India, Iyengar is particularly astute in her globally significant analysis of the striking differences between how Americans and Asians make decisions. Much of this eye-opening anatomy of choice focuses on consumerism, a lively, revealing arena, but Iyengar’s high-voltage curiosity and penetrating insights are far more valuable when applied to deeper matters of existence.
- Happiness implied a choice, and within that choice a concerted will a lucid desire.
- Fate is not in man but around him
- Albert Camus

January 10, 2011

A Day with Miss Liberty

In the 1870’s, the French raised 400,000 dollars’ worth of francs to ensure that Frederic-Auguste Barthodi’s idealized, neoclassical figure Liberty Enlightening the World would be built and given as a centennial gift to the United States.  When it was installed on Liberty Island, in New York harbor, the 225-ton, copper-skinned colossus was a shiny-and sound-as a new penny.  Standing for Freedom and Opportunity took its toll: the Statue of Liberty aged and deteriorated for almost a century before the decision was made to restore her, at a cost of 40 million 1980’s dollars.  It took almost four years to complete the task. 
The statue wore a shroud, some three hundred tons of latticework steel scaffolding encased her from her rotting toes to the top of the stained, outstretched arm.  The impression was of a giantess who had been stalked and captured for observation.  It was a French-American collaborative effort.  Although I have been told, that “we (Americans) were doing ninety percent of the work, the French got all the publicity.”  The apportionment  of work was such a delicate issue that when Liberty’s seven spikes had to be removed, the task was turned into a carefully balanced, fifty-fifty Franco-American effort, ensuring that both crews would share this bit of glamour deconstruction.
Usually, however, the Americans performed much less conspicuous tasks.  Early every morning they donned face and protective clothing against the rotting asbestos and lead dust, climbed into Liberty, and removed some of the seventeen hundred puddled-iron armature bars that attached Bartholdi’s copper skin to Gustav Eiffel’s steel skeleton.  Slowly, they removed a mere dozen a day, measured them, and duplicated them in stainless steel; the new ones were annealed and precisely substituted the following morning.  Like Eiffel’s, their work would only be noticed if they failed.
But the French!  Their work was seen for miles.  Beating thin copper sheets into a steel and concrete mold-a method called repoussé-they reconstructed, from scratch, Liberty’s torch, and flame. 
One person among those assembled, who was not altogether pleased to be in the middle of all this restoration was the superintendent of the Statue of Liberty National Park, Dave Moffit.  He worked and lived on Ellis Island.  During reconstruction he observed, that it was like living in a nuclear holocaust, he particularly missed his afternoon naps.
Mr. Moffit returned to his afternoon naps; Miss Liberty’s restoration was completed and she emerged all shiny new for her centennial on July 4, 1986.  May she reign forever, that saucy French vixen.