Philadelphia Images and Notes

Philadelphia City Hall

I’m always impressed with Philadelphia’s City Hall. Such a grand building that dominates your view with its bulk.

Curtis Institute of Music

An evening walk introduced me to the Curtis Institute of Music. Roaming from my hotel to Drexel University via Rittenhouse Square, I happened upon a notice for the graduation recital for a cellist. After visiting Drexel I returned to enjoy a beautiful recital. My last evening I returned to Curtis again for a brass chamber recital. More gorgeous music this time set in the original building featuring this amazing setting.

After this second recital I read in a display case about the founding of the Curtis Institute of Music. The next morning I ran across The Curtis Publishing Company building. A daughter of the Curtis Publishing founder established the Institute.

COMPANION art installation by KAWS at 30th Street Station

Luckily I decided to catch the SEPTA train to the airport at the 30th Street Station. I was curious because this building is enormous. Luck came in that a Companion, a KAWS artwork, started a stint at the station on this day. The work is amazing. No one can ignore the Companion, all are captured by its scale and tale. What tale? Whatever you read into Companion’s body language.

Time Travel Exhibit at the Kimmel Center as part of PIFA

This is just a fun time travel exhibit with several locations where you interact with the art.

Kimmel Center

Much newer than all the grand buildings in Philadelphia but still impressive and eye-catching.

SEPTA Platforms at the 30th Street Station

Closest I’ve been to a King’s Cross Station. While not truly comparable this is a train station worth visiting. As mentioned earlier the station is massive. You can see in one of the Companion shots that the main room in the station consumes a vast space.

Other shots around Philadelphia

The weather was wonderful during my visit. Here is one shot looking off Walnut Street looking up the Schuylkill River with the 30th Street Station in the background. Also had to include an evening shot of a street of downtown homes. Gems are also hidden in buildings such as the large pipe organ dominating the Macy’s located in the Wanamaker Building.

Evening Shadow Graffiti in Oaxaca

Shadow graffiti comes to life at night thanks to a streetlampGraffiti on this wall in Oaxaca, Mexico doesn’t really come to life until the evening when a street lamp casts a shadow on the wall. The lamp shines on a bust of Álvaro Carrillo Alarcón. Cute and clever use of shadow.

I also like this because I like random connections. In this case I have to admit no previous knowledge of Álvaro Carrillo Alarcón. Of course a quick search provides some awareness in which I learn that Álvaro Carrillo is a famous composer from the state of Oaxaca. The connection comes in the realization that I know of his music — well, at least some of it. My favorite is Sabor a Mi, I’ve always liked the Los Lobos version.

Although an instrumental version is also very nice.

Here is a shot with the Álvaro Carrillo Alarcón bust.

Shot of shadow graffiti with bust of Álvaro Carrillo Alarcón creating the defining shadow

The small park containing this bust is on Calle de Macedonio Alcalá. Apparently this is quite a musical street. Being the primary pedestrian street in the tourist area, music can be heard constantly — street musicians, marching bands, dance performances, concerts and, of course, a park honoring Álvaro Carrillo Alarcón. The street, I learned, honors a Mexican musician and composer born in Oaxaca. I assume the text on the wall is referring to Macedonio Alcalá because “Dios nunca muere” is the title of his famous waltz. Here is a YouTube video playing Dios Nunca Muere, unofficial hymn of the state of Oaxaca, and views of Oaxaca.

Oaxaca Team Building Fun

Takeoff, a group launch of balloonsThe college sent me to Oaxaca to learn about the culture and bring this back to Portland. Rather than buy small gifts for my work team, I shared a bit of Oaxaca in the form of drink, food and fun. This afternoon we enjoyed watermelon flavored water, conchas (a Mexican sweet bread), and fun with globos.

Globos is Spanish for balloons. At the Zócalo in Oaxaca there are globos vendors selling all kinds of balloons but for our activity the long tubular balloons were the stars. I’ve been told two different Spanish names for these toys: globos salchicha and globos cohete. While they may look sausage-like, for our purposes — and the way the kids used them in the Zócalo — globos cohete (or rocket balloons) seems more fitting.

I’ll be sharing more stories with the group but this bit of culture made for a fun team building break this afternoon.

On the Path

Today we visited Teotitlán del Valle and learned about candle making and weaving. I also was honored to try my hand at these arts in the tutelage of master artisans.

I made a bird form in wax to be used in candle decorations. Kneeling next to our host as she did with her grandmother learning her skills was inspiring. While this was a thrill for me, for her it is her family’s livelihood. At the young age of nine her grandmother passed away and she fulfilled family obligations for candle orders. Since then she has continued to practice the art she loves.

As she shared her art and life, we sat transfixed in a three-sided brick shed adorned with a beautiful rough-hewn ceiling. She spoke to us and worked from her knees in the center of the shed before a large ceramic bowl filled with melted beeswax. A second tub contained cold water. The ancient charm of the setting and her grace made for a timeless environment. Bees, attracted by the wax, danced around her. Completed candles hung from the ceiling and the waft of beeswax entranced us all.

From one set of weavers our group learned of the process involved in their art. The natural dyes that create a multitude of permanent colors derived from sources such as aster flowers for yellow, indigo, cochineal insects for red (with lime to attain an orange). How each dye is used with different wools to achieve more colors. For example a brown natural wool dyed with indigo to achieve black. The work involved is impressive,  the colors attained are breathtaking as are the resulting tapetes.

The second set of weavers we visited included an opportunity to work the loom myself. I definitely slowed the process down but someone out there will own a rug that some of my soul is now a part of — hopefully I didn’t bring the value down too much.

Our visits on this day which also included a chocolate maker were part of a tour featuring women that are part of a micro-finance program. Fundación En Vía provides interest free loans and business training to groups of women looking to start or grow a business. The foundation empowers these women and their pueblos to be more self-sustaining. The strength of these women and the pride they exhibit was inspiring. Their families showed great pride in their accomplishments and it was simply an honor to visit with them.

Giving Credit to Netflix

I still remember the days when a service interruption (e.g., phone, newspaper, internet service) meant calls to a business office to attempt getting a credit applied. Of course the time spent trying to get a credit on your account cost more than the small amount I hoped to get back.

Apology in an email from NetflixNetflix jogged these frustrating memories by completely usurping the service outage experience with stellar customer service. Not only did they own up to the responsibility for the outage (I had no idea of the cause) but Netflix also jumped ahead of me by offering a credit to my account. Netflix even let me know when it would be applied — most companies seem to take forever crediting your account.

It’s too bad I don’t have to recall that far back for a taxing credit-deserving experience with other companies.

Google Ngram Viewer

The Transfer of GoogleLike the rest of the world I’ve been playing around with Google’s Book Ngram Viewer. I can’t say I found anything truly unique in my playtime searching with Ngram that others haven’t already reported, but I was able to find a nice short story while searching for “google.”

In this case Google is the nickname given to an infant by a caring burglar in “The Transfer of Google” by E. J. Rath from Everybody’s Magazine in the January 1908 edition. Google is found home alone one evening by a nurturing burglar. The relationship between these two needy souls has each fulfilling a need in the other’s life. What makes one feel better than to be cared for by a loving person (regardless of their status) or to care for someone in need? (Okay, maybe I read too much into the story but it is cute and worth a few minutes of your time to read.)

Much like the burglar searching for treasures, our searches for information have their own Google. Sometimes too much time can be spent and I too can end up feeling like our besieged burglar, knowing I need to move on or, as the burglar states,

Well, I can’t waste no more time with Google.

But you just can’t let them go.

Last Words of The Doctor

“Go to your room! I mean it. I am very, very angry with you. I’m very, very cross. Go… To… Your… Room!”

These were almost the last words for The Doctor and his cohorts as he notes next, “I’m really glad that worked. Those would have been terrible last words.”

This prompted my daughter, who is a complete Doctor Who fanatic, to ask us about good last words.

Of course I offered up “I love you” and there was an offer to provide life guidance. The young lady suggested a person estranged from another could hopefully get the chance to say, “I’m sorry.”

A good conversation thanks to The Doctor. Thanks Doctor, for this and for saving those gasmask people.