New Stadium in Washington, D.C.

At least they’re spared a Calatrava. Atlanta is busy building what they’re referring to in public as “Georgia’s Unique Postcard.” Like the unique postcard in Milwaukee. Or the unique postcard in Dallas. Or the unique postcard in . . . . You get the idea. Maybe the stadium in DC, horrifically over budget and inefficient as it undoubtedly will be, can be a good place to watch baseball. It could happen.

Bill Gates + National Governor’s Association = Ray of Hope

I’m a pessimist about the possibility of systematic reform in American lower education, but the combination of Bill Gates and the governors might have some effect. It has little to do with the amount of money he’s willing to spend (read through these charts* if you think American education is merely underfunded) but the fact that his money is a carrot outside their usual control. The governors, too, are mainly outsiders (though sometimes beholden to teacher organizations). We can hope.

*via Joanne Jacobs

Ruscha at the National Gallery

Run, quick, click – I don’t know how long the photo gallery hosted by the Washington Post will last (the article’s not bad, either, but be sure to view the photo gallery). There’s a big Ed Ruscha show at the National Gallery in Washington through May 30th.
Like most overly big shows by a single artist you’ll see too much of him and get bored or annoyed (annoyed is likely with Ruscha, who can be very arch), but he’s worth coming back to when you calm down. I bet that you saw the book Guacamole Airlines on the remainder tables of big book stores all through the 80s – it used to be everywhere. Sadly, there’s no cover art at Amazon. Here’re some pictures from the Getty, but not the best examples. Here’s a nice one from the University of Kentucky collection — think of the sky instead filled with cherubs and ribbons framing a Virgin Immaculate and you’ll see some what he’s getting at. OH, my. If you’re getting interested, this is what you want, your tax dollars at work. It’s too much, but in a splendid way, and with great comparisons.
Why am I so enthusiastic? Two reasons, really.
First and most personally, Ruscha showed me that serious art could be funny. When I was 17 I was walking through a major museum and saw “Babycakes, Suspended” (there’s an example of the Babycakes series in the Post slide show!). I had never laughed in a museum before (this was 1979, you realize – art WAS more solemn, then). The work (perhaps a silkscreen?) showed a little packet of blue squares tied up in a pink ribbon, the top blue square labelled “Babycake”. The packet cast a shadow. The title, “Babycakes, suspended.” You probably had to be there, and had to have had a whole summer walking through great museums with a capital G and M. So, now I’m an art historian; though I take art deadly seriously, I’m seldom solemn about it.
Second, and more professionally, Ruscha appeals to my own research interests – I work on the fragile membrane between art and explanation, especially on art objects that are accompanied by a written explanation – an inscription. I stress an explanation because the fun part is working out the extent to whcih the inscription is true or false, helpful or obfuscatory, contemporary or added by a later and ill-informed hand. Many of Ruscha’s two-dimensional works play with this. He can paint a shadow that would shut up a philistine (you know, the “my 6 year old could do that” type) or he can paint a shadow that a 6 year old could do — it depends on what he’s aiming at.
Maybe I need to consider a trip to Washington before June. I saw the Modigliani show at the Philips when it was at the Albright-Knox in Buffalo, which cuts into my attempt to justify a trip. If you haven’t seen it and don’t mind a big dose of depression it’s worthwhile, too.

Posted in Art

New St. Peter’s on Display in Washington

Neat, neat, neat. The wooden model for the dome of New St. Peter’s* is on display at the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington through late May. They have a show up called Creating St. Peter’s: Architectural Treasures of the Vatican If you like “building of…” or “making of…” kind of things, this looks great. I love things like that.
The model is 18 feet tall and was meant to be a serious guide for the builders, not just a presentation piece to persuade a client (though it was to do that, too). The show also has one of the capstans used in raising the obelisk in the Piazza.
The part of the show I’d most like to see (I’ve seen the model – it’s usually on display in the Basilica) is about illuminating the Basilica with candles — a sight now lost in the 21st century. Think for a moment how much it must have cost to burn enough candles to light New St. Peter’s for a long service? I’ve read the figure somewhere — I think in an account of the canonization process during the 19th century. Back in those days the organization sponsoring the Cause was responsible for the lighting — is something similarly true of the modern extravaganzas in the Piazza? Ahah – I might have read it here – go to the entry on beatification and canonization in the Catholic Encyclopedia and scroll to the bottom.

To decoration of the Basilica, lights, architectural designs, labour, and superintendence — Lire 152,840.58
Procession, Pontifical Mass, preparation of altars in Basilica — 8,114.58
Cost of gifts presented to Holy Father — 1,438.87
Hangings, Sacred Vestments, etc. — 12,990.60
Recompense for services and money loaned — 3,525.07
To the Vatican Chapter as perquisites for decorations and candles — 18,000.00
Propine and Competenza — 16,936.00
Incidental and unforeseen expenses — 4,468.40
Total — 221,849.10 or (taking the lira equivalent to $.193 in 1913 United States money) $42,816.87.

I picked this up from a story in the Washington Post.

*Why “New” St. Peter’s? Because it’s only 500 years old. St. Peter’s, commonly referred to by modernists as “Old St Peter’s,” was completed in about 340 and served until cumulative earthquake damage made the building irreparable (“falling into ruin” in the Post story is an exaggeration — it wasn’t a ruin, but there was a reasonable fear of collapse). If you want to see what St. Peter’s looked like, your best bet is St. Paul’s Outside the Walls. If you want to see what it looked like but on a smaller scale, go see Sta. Prassede up by Sta. Maria Maggiore. I’ve seen Sta. Prassede by candlelight – Easter Vigil of 2003.

Terri Schiavo

The coverage gets worse – it is amazing to read the headlines. A 3-week stay against removing the feeding is being presented as authorization TO remove the feeding tube in many of the headlines (I have google.news as my homepage lately – CNN has beenn loading too slowly for my taste). ABC headline, for instance, “Man Cleared to Remove Wife’s Feeding Tube.” The abuse of language is depressing.
For continuing coverage, see the roundup at Blogs for Terri. Commentary on the headline writing here

MMMMmmmm, Amazon…and What I’m Reading

An Amazon box last night. I assure you that clicking on the links benefits me in no way – this is a not-for-gain enterprise of mine. Here’s what I got:
Some light Lenten reading from St. Thomas More:
Four Last Things: The Supplication of Souls: A Dialogue on Conscience
The Sadness of Christ – written in the Tower. I have a particular devotion to St. Thomas More – not only is he an interesting character, but I entered the Catholic Church at St. Thomas More parish in Decatur, GA (surely the plainest church in Georgia, but I love it). We had a good print of the Holbein portrait over the door as one left.
A little reading to prep for European Studies 101 in the Fall.
What Has Athens to Do with Jerusalem? : Timaeus and Genesis in Counterpoint (Thomas Spencer Jerome Lectures) – if it were available in paperback I might use it for class reading. GOSH Pelikan was learnèd. I’ve read about 20 pages so far.
So Euroleft he’s easy to read – two from Paul Ginsborg.
A History of Contemporary Italy: Society and Politics, 1943-1988
Italy and Its Discontents: Family, Civil Society, State, 1980-2001
These were two of the best books I read while in Rome in 2003. I left those copies with my sister and had to buy replacements. These are really, really, really good; if you are interested in why Italy is the way she is today you can’t do better in English. In fact, you can’t do much better in Italian – they’ve been translated into the language; Ginsborg teaches at Florence, anyway. I keep meaning to find some better biographical information for him – he seems to have led a very interesting life.
An Introduction to the Study of Medieval Latin Versification. The essential reference. I had to use it in French (yep, a book originally published in Stockholm in French about Latin poetry), but I also had to have a copy in English. It’s funny, too, if you can imagine such a thing.
Schubert: Winterreise, sung by Brigitte Fassbaender. I don’t remember where I read a review of this particular version, but it was wildly positive. I had just heard about 6 of them at a colleague’s Winter house concert and had decided you can never own too many versions of the Winterreise.

Spam Stats – 10% real comments?

Here are some spam statistics based on my site. I have the advantage of being a moderately experienced blogger who had to restart from scratch (see this tale of woe – start at the bottom). Since I’ve restarted there have been 90 legitimate comments and 913 spam comments either blocked or forced through moderation by MT-Blacklist. I don’t have trackbacks enabled; given what I’ve read I never will.
I think there’s a very good case here for not having comments.

updateSince I posted this statistical tidbit this morning my comment list went from 90 to 173. Wanna guess how many of those are spam? I haven’t looked yet, but since it is almost a 100% increase in the nubmer of total comments in under 12 hours I have a feeling that few of my regular readers are there. Further reason to drop comments entirely.

Interested in NEW Catholic Colleges?

If you have a strong feeling that people should go to NEW Catholic colleges because they’re more likely to be orthodox than old ones, try this one – Southern Catholic College. I’m not at all sure that I agree with the put-your-college-in-an-isolated-location model*, but Dawsonville isn’t far from Atlanta.
Read this article about the high level administrators at Southern Catholic. These are people with appropriate professional experience to do their jobs and with good local connections. They look well-financed, and without all the money coming from a single donor.
Their reason for starting the college isn’t some quirky view of education or some idea that they will provide the salvation for Catholic education — they wanted a Catholic college in the Atlanta area and they have the money. The archdiocese of Atlanta has seen an explosion of Catholic schools – both diocesan and independent – and this is the fruit of that growth. There are now at least 6 Catholic high schools in the archdiocese (4 diocesan, 1 Marist, 1 Legionaries of Christ**, 1 independent [though with an interesting relationship to the chancery]). THEN there are all those other Catholics across the South who are severely underserved by Catholic colleges without snow on campus.

*I know, I know – I teach in centrally isolated Geneva, NY. – but I chose to go to college in Houston, myself.
**Pinecrest is up to 10th grade this year, so in 2 years they’ll be k-12. They already have 700 or so students. Demography in Atlanta is kinda scary.

Washington’s Birthday and Civic Piety

I’m working on a non-medieval project this term for which I’m allowing myself 1 morning a week in the Archives of these Colleges (our archivist blogs about being an archivist at a small college, by the way). I’m reading everything there is to read about the chapel (which, since it’s a lovely little example of Gothic Revival and by a big-name architect isn’t an entirely off-topic project for me; I promise.).
In pursuit of understanding what they were up to in 1860 I’ve been reading (and guiltily* transcribing) excerpts from the journal of the president of Hobart College in the late 1850s and the 1860s, Abner Jackson. One of the things I’ve noted is the annual celebration of Washington’s Birthday – let me give you an example:

Tuesday, February 21st, 1860.
Holiday in College after Morning Prayer on account of celebrating Washington’s Birthday. To-morrow being Ash Wednesday, the celebration occurs to-day. A wonderfully beautiful day, so bright and glistening, and so warm. The ground was covered with snow in the morning, but it vanished before night.
Even. Preside at the celebration in Linden Hall. T. J. Rundle read the Farewell Address. E. L. Fitzhugh gave rather a brilliant oration—did very well. Hall crowded, all passed off very well.

Some notes: the holiday in College seems to have been annual (from 1858 until 1861, at least, which is how far I’ve read), though of course it didn’t always conflict with the Church Year; there was always a reading of the Farewell Address and an oration. Hobart is an Episcopal college and in those days had daily prayer.** Linden Hall was an opera house in downtown Geneva which the College rented for special events.

*”guiltily” because I really shouldn’t be shilly-shallying around with current events like this when fascinating articles about the burial of Charlemagne have already arrived via Interlibrary Loan. I’m even more guiltily thinking about what could be done with this interesting document (transcribe, post as a blog?), but I must resist the allure of primary documents in a language I understand natively!
**William Smith College, by the way, is not church related. William Smith was himself a Spiritualist and in the Charter for William Smith College it is specified that the young women will not be required to attend any religious services. Hobart men were required until 1967 to attend at least a certain number of chapel services each week.