Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Sublime to the Ridiculous

I am much better at planning ahead than seizing the day, a lot of time can drift emptily by while I make detailed itineraries for the future.  After a typical post weekend Monday slump yesterday, consisting of too much desultory Facebook monitoring and NPR,  I hit on a new way to counteract it: instead of the bucket list approach, which I find can trigger a little demotivating depression,  I decided to designate one day a week as a vacation day..... what would I do today if I'd gone to a lot of trouble and expense to be here?

My number one choice would have been to see the Durer exhibition at the National Gallery but DC was a zoo because the Supreme Court was debating same sex marriage and thousands of people were demonstrating for and against. That in itself could have been interesting, but we live in (officially now) the worst area in the country for traffic and I just was not up for that.

So, a mixture of reliving last week's light show and homesickness for England led me to the Cathedral.

 Shades of home! But this "neogothic" cathedral, the sixth largest in the world, was only completed in 1990.

This is the mandala "Rose window", (seen from the front on the exterior shot). On a sunny day it projects its image beautifully onto the nearby wall.

One of my favorites, although it's modern design is out of synch with the rest of them, this is the Space Window.  It incorporates a piece of lunar rock from the Sea Of Tranquillity donated to the Cathedral by NASA in 1974. The rock, in the center of the top circle, is enclosed between 2 pieces of tempered glass and sealed with stainless steel in a nitrogen environment to prevent deterioration. Well, that's what Wikipedia says anyway.

There's nothing particularly special about this window except it's position. The sun catches it and sets it on fire. The colors on the left are the reflection on a stone column.

I am always intrigued by the beautiful reflected light patterns on the stone architecture and marble flooring tiles.

These lovely reflections from the top level of windows are on a massive net. It's been strung right across the ceiling of the Cathedral because there's repair work in progress after earthquake damage in 2011.

Scaffolding and "hard hat" areas all around as repair work commences after much fund raising

Some of the pieces that fell off in the earthquake

Outside there are designated parking spaces for Cathedral officials. Next to the Bishop of Washington (awol, but, to be fair, it was lunchtime) I found this interesting job description.....

On behalf of the Ordinary, I would like to thank him for showing up today in his nice silver Lexus :)

Then onwards to the gift shop, full of what my parents used to call "knasty knick knacks". They would not have been disappointed!

Gargoyles and angels are in charge of t shirt sales and taking it very seriously....

....... in with the bibles I found some apocryphal gospels....... 

....... a design competition is to be thanked for the Star Wars inspired gargoyle and it is featured very prominently.....

There was a lot more tackiness but I began to feel a little too jaded to record it and it was a relief to step back outside again. In the Bishop's garden I found these very appropriate Lenten roses

To get my shot of the full frontage of the Cathedral I had to keep moving backwards over the lawn until I reached the far fence, whereupon I stumbled upon a most suspicious looking package in the undergrowth. It turned out to be reassuringly labeled on the duct tape. Well, it's not going to say "explosives" is it? 

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Heliocliff and Planetarium

Word went out this week that Voyager 1, launched in 1977 and carrying the Golden Record of eclectic sounds from Earth.... now approx 11 billion miles from the sun and traveling at a speed of  636 miles a minute.... had just entered interstellar space. This theory was promptly debunked by NASA. Apparently at the time of writing Voyager is still in our solar system, presumed to have entered an in-between space in space,  the newly recognized Heliocliff, the edge of the Heliosphere.

Of course there is no useful identifying ribbon to breach and no photographic record. Images such as those of Jupiter and Saturn are a thing of the past as the cameras were turned off in 1990. The interstellar space welcoming party will sadly not be available on YouTube.

Suitably celestial windows at BAM's cafe level, never so appropriate. 

Also this week, by the sort of meaningless co-incidence that appeals to me greatly, we went to a performance of Planetarium at BAM, the Brooklyn Academy of Music. I've been SO excited about this I've felt like a child waiting for Christmas. Commissioned by the Barbican in London, the Sydney Opera House and some highbrow people in Holland you've never heard of, it sounds like a modern take on Holst's Planets. Kind of, yes. There's a song for the sun, the moon and all the planets, including poor old Pluto. It's a collaboration of Indie royalty, if you'll pardon the cliche, gone electronic classical: Sufjan Stevens, Nico Muhly and Bryce Dressner,  plus orchestra. Perhaps not everyone's cup of tea but I loved it.

The 30 foot diameter hovering orb, centerpiece of a constantly changing light display.  

As all these things can be looked up on Wikipedia I will just give my personal take on Sufjan. It's very, very hard to get tickets to see him! He's a quiet celebrity, there's no hype, no publicity, there's no big personality onstage. There's a mind boggling visual element in his concerts and it's an instant sellout whenever word of mouth gets around that he's performing. The experience of seeing him is so much larger than any art installation, so overwhelming, I have no better word than that useful British term "gobsmacked"!

Here are some photos I took, to everyone around me's understandable annoyance. They can't begin to convey the 60 minute brilliant kinetic onslaught, but I'm glad I got them. 

After covering the solar system so thoroughly what could be left for an encore? Why, Somewhere Over The Rainbow of course..... perfect!

When the evening was over we were plummeted straight back out into the harsh reality of grungey NY.

Our daughter Chloe and Dan, sitting opposite us on the subway. We wouldn't dream of going without them!