Saturday, August 18, 2007

Nevsky Prospekt - part 2 (Kazan Cathedral)

Our Lady of Kazan. 17th-century copy
of the icon from the
Elokhovo Cathedral in Moscow.
(Source: Wikipedia--public domain)

Our next focus on the Nevsky Prospekt is the Kazan Cathedral.
This is a 19th century painting of Kazan Cathedral (source: Wikipedia; public domain)
Whilst taking a stroll along Nevsky Prospekt you cannot fail to notice the impressive Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan. Kazan Cathedral, constructed between 1801 and 1811 by the architect Andrei Voronikhin, was built to an enormous scale and boasts an impressive stone colonnade, encircling a small garden and central fountain. The cathedral was inspired by the Basilica of St. Peter’s in Rome and was intended to be the country’s main Orthodox Church. After the war of 1812 (during which Napoleon was defeated) the church became a monument to Russian victory. Captured enemy banners were put in the cathedral and the famous Russian Field Marshal Mikhail Kutuzov, who won the most important campaign of 1812, was buried inside the church.

The cathedral was named after the "miracle-making" icon of Our Lady of Kazan, which the church housed till the early 1930s. The Bolsheviks closed the cathedral for services in 1929, and from 1932 it housed the collections of the Museum of the History of Religion and Atheism, which displayed numerous pieces of religious art and served anti-religious propaganda purposes. A couple of years ago regular services were resumed in the cathedral, though it still shares the premises with the museum, from whose name the word "atheism" has now been omitted.

(The photo and two paragraphs above come from here.)
Here is my photo of the end of one of the colonnades, the one near the statue of Kutuzov.
Here you can see the pediment and the dome.
This photo can give you an idea of the massive scale of the cathedral. The ladies at the foot of the stairs were begging for alms.

We went inside and attended most of the Divine Liturgy (Mass), as was our intention. We stood far from the sanctuary where we could observe without being out of place. I noticed one especially pious lady and took my cues from her on when to bow and when to cross myself (right side first in the eastern fashion).
--the BB

Nevsky Prospekt - part 1

We continue our virtual tour in St Petersburg. Welcome back, mind travelers! Today we schlep around on foot along and near the main drag in town, the Nevsky Prospekt. Here is a bit from the link you will find by clicking above.
The most famous street in Russia, Nevsky (Nevskiy) Prospekt in St. Petersburg was planned by the French architect Alexandre Jean Baptiste LeBlond, whilst working for the city's founder Peter the Great.

This proud landmark originally called the Great Perspective Road was cut through 4.5 km of forest land (c1718) and for many years was roamed by wolves. Stretching from the historic Admiralty in the north to the Alexander Nevsky Monastery, it is renowned for its splendid architecture and famous former patrons, like Tchaikovsky, Gogol, Rimsky-Korsakov and Nijinsky. Today it thrives with great prospects for both locals and tourists alike, as the magnetic heart of the city.

It's a great street for strolling, and that is what we did on Sunday.
The photo above is the statue to Field Marshal Kutuzov, located in front of the Kazan Cathedral.
Prince Mikhail Illarionovich Golenishchev-Kutuzov (Russian: князь Михаил Илларионович Голенищев-Кутузов) (September 16 [O.S. September 5] 1745 — April 28 [O.S. April 16] 1813) was the Russian Field Marshal popularly credited with saving his country from Napoleon's invasion.

Here is the inscription at the base of the statue: "To Field Marshal Prince Kutuzov of Smolensk." The inscription incorporates one of his titles.
Kutuzov now held the rank of Field Marshal and had been awarded the victory title of His Serene Highness Knyaz Smolensky (Светлейший князь Смоленский) - having achieved this title for a victory over part of the French army at Smolensk in November 1812.
Wikipedia discusses his monuments thus:

Early in 1813 Kutuzov fell ill and died on 28 April 1813 at Bunzlau. Memorials have been erected to him at that place, at the Poklonnaya Hill in Moscow and in front of the Kazan Cathedral, St Petersburg, where he is buried. As he had no male issue, his estates passed to the Tolstoy family. Among Russian generals Kutuzov has been held second only to his teacher Suvorov. Alexander Pushkin addressed the Field Marshal in the famous elegy on Kutuzov's sepulchre, and he also figures as a wise and popular leader in Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace. During the Great Patriotic War (1941-45), the Soviet government established the Order of Kutuzov which, among several other decorations, was preserved in Russia upon the dissolution of the Soviet Union, thus remaining of the highest military awards in Russia.
As this passage indicates, Kutuzov is buried inside the cathedral and we paused before his tomb when we went inside and I prayed there for victims of war.

A further note on the Patriotic War (1812):
When Napoleon invaded Russia in 1812, Michael Andreas Barclay de Tolly (then Minister of War) chose to follow the scorched earth principle and retreat rather than to risk a major battle. His strategy aroused grudges from most of the generals and soldiers, notably Prince Pyotr Bagration. Therefore, when Kutuzov was appointed commander-in-chief and arrived to the army on August 17, he was greeted with delight.
Within two weeks Kutuzov decided to give major battle on approaches to Moscow. Two huge armies clashed near Borodino on 7 September 1812 in what has been described as the greatest battle in human history up to that date, involving nearly a quarter of a million soldiers. The result of the battle was inconclusive, with a quarter of the French and half of the Russian army killed or wounded. After the famous conference at the village of Fili, Kutuzov fell back on the strategy of his predecessor: withdraw in order to save the Russian army as long as possible.
[It is commonly stated that it was the Russian winter that defeated Napoleon. The reference to the battle of Borodino--virtual tour here--strikes a chord with me. It is inscribed around Napoleon's tomb in Paris, which I have visited (and the little conqueror was never a hero of mine). There is a Russian song about the Battle of Borodino that I have heard sung by Slavyanka, the male chorus based in San Francisco and taking its name from the Russian River north of there (called Slavyanka by the Russian settlers in Northern California). There is so much defiance in that song and the word "Fransuzu" is positively spat out. ]
"Of all my 50 battles, the most terrible was
the one I fought at Moscow (Borodino)"
- Napoleon
The Dom Knigi
Over on the north side at 28, is the former HQ of the Singer Sewing Machine Company, which is now Dom Knigi, the largest book store in town (But they don't accept credit cards!). (Source)

This building is still identified by tour guides as the former Singer Sewing Machine building. It stands out for its distinctive (quirky?) architecture in its context.
Looking across the park in front of the Kazan Cathedral toward other buildings on the north side of Nevsky Prospekt.
Then panning a bit to the left.
More to come.
--the BB

Friday, August 17, 2007

Ploshchad Iskusstv (Arts Square) - 2

The Mussorgsky Theatre (history here and here)
Looking toward the Russian Museum from across Arts Square
Can one do a city square without a glimpse of feeding pigeons?
The most admired Russian writer, the poet Aleksandr Sergeyevich Pushkin (1799-1837). You may find his poems online here and here. This photo was long my desktop pic.

I admit being lazy here, but this is the first poem on one link from the site you can find by clicking on his middle name above. It seemed to fit the mood of the bare trees and cloudy day in the photos. Enjoy!

I have outlasted all desire,
My dreams and I have grown apart;
My grief alone is left entire,
The gleanings of an empty heart.
The storms of ruthless dispensation
Have struck my flowery garland numb-
I live in lonely desolation
And wonder when my end will come.
Thus on a naked tree-limb, blasted
By tardy winter's whistling chill,
A single leaf which has outlasted
Its season will be trembling still.

--the BB

Ploshchad Iskusstv (Arts Square) - 1

Zdrazdvuitye, turisty! Welcome back to our virtual tour of St. Petersburg and environs, crossing continents and zipping back to November 2004. Today we take a peek at Arts Square (Ploshchad Iskusstv), the tail end of a non-tour-group walk Bill and I took on an overcast day (as the photos will testify).

The usual reminder that clicking on photos gives you an enlarged view with lots more detail.

We entered along Inzhenernaya Ulitsa (Engineer Street).
This paragraph comes from the city's "official portal" online:
Arts' Square (Ploshchad Iskusstv) comprises the Russian Museum, the Mussorgsky Opera House, the Musical Comedy Theatre, the Great Hall of the Philharmonia and the Ethnographic Museum. From 1819-1825 a palace designed by architect Karl Rossi was built for Tsar Alexander I's brother Mikhail. Today the Mikhailovsky Palace is the home of the Russian Museum, one of the world's great museums containing the largest collection of Russian fine arts: ancient icons, paintings by Kiprensky, Shchedrin, Venetsianov, Bryullov, Kramskoy, Repin, Surikov, Serov and Vrubel, portraits by Nikitin, Rokotov, Argunov, Levitsky and Borovikovsky.

Here is a shot of the square with its deliciously wet and bare tree branches. Bill is taking a photo of the Russian Museum.
Below is a look at the Russian Museum, a fine example of Rossi's architectural excellence. The proportions of the building are just stunning. The whole ensemble works so well visually. OK, we really get into architecture--enjoying it, disparaging it, evaluating it. This is something I learned to appreciate from Bill, who studied architecture for a couple of years before transferring to Cal (the University of California, Berkeley) and majoring in Byzantine history.

The Russian Museum is the first state museum of the Russian fine art in the country. It was established in 1895 in St Petersburg under the decree of the Emperor Nicholas II. Grand opened for visitors on March 19 (March 7, the Old Style) 1898.

The Russian Museum today is a unique depository of artistic treasures, a famous restoration centre, an authoritative institute of academic research, one of the major cultural and educational centres, research and methodological centre of art museums of the Russian Federation, overseeing activities of 260 art museums of Russia.

The collection in the Russian Museum is just amazing. I recommend giving yourself a visual tour at its official site (whence I snaffled the blurb above the picture).

I could not resisting the opportunity to immortalize this bit of graffiti. I have no idea what it's about, but this provides the nod to the popular arts.
Some detail of the ironwork surrounding the museum.
More to come in part 2.
--the BB

Happy Birthday, Jack!

¡Feliz Cumpleaños!
Tomorrow we celebrate the 92nd birthday of my "ex-father-in-law," Jack McGregor Lynn. Actually, we only use the "ex" label for my "ex" proper. So Jack is still my daddy-in-"law." Family still remains family and we don't stop loving folks just because one household is healthier as two households.

Aunt Mary and Uncle Billy will be here from Ballinger, Texas. I've only seen them once since the big reunion in Ballinger about 17 years ago (back when the nephews were 3 y.o.). It will also be the first time since then that I get to see most of the cousins. Don't think I'm ready to see how many years have passed in THEIR lives. (Me, well, the outside is aging but the inside resists mightily.)

Jack played golf as long as he could. At age 84 he went with all the family on a Grand Canyon rafting trip down the Colorado River. He remains engaged with the world, reading extensively on current affairs. I couldn't keep up with him on that if I tried.

Here's to Jack. May his mind stay alert (as it has done hitherto, quite impressively) and his body do what he wants it to.
Jack M. Lynn is the guy in the red shirt.
The rest (L to R): sons Bill and Bob, daughter Debbie, wife Lois.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

I didn't pay enough attention

I did not pay sufficient attention in 10th grade social studies. I absorbed enough knowledge about the United States Constitution to grasp the essentials. And in the past five years I have re-read it several times. It is a stunning achievement and I cherish it. I am glad the oaths of office in the federal government (and the military) included upholding and defending the Constitution.

Speaking of which....
I'm just planting seeds here. Maybe you haven't given it much thought. Maybe the lurid, drooling debasement of the process over Clinton's blow job, with several of Clinton's chief accusers busy having their own little adulterous adventures, has soured you on the the constitutional remedy for abuse of governmental structures.

But, but, it was lying to the grand jury! you sputter. Yeah, well then why did Scooter get a pass?

The Founding Fathers gave us a remedy for the abuse of governmental power and grave harm to our democracy.

From Daily Kos:
17 videos were submitted to our Dump Dick YouTube group making the case for the impeachment of Dick Cheney on this basis. Five finalists tied for the highest user ratings on YouTube and then the overall winner was determined by a runoff vote on the site. The winning video, Nancy Calls for Impeachment, depicts an imaginary telephone conversation between Nancy Pelosi and a friend (played by the video’s creator—student, activist-musician, and first-time filmmaker Jen Datka). The friend explains to Nancy that the reason she’s so unpopular is her "failure to hold accountable the most dangerous, criminal, and morally bankrupt administration this country has ever known." She then cites the historical example of Richard Nixon to allay Nancy’s fears about impeachment.

(h/t to marchtoimpeach)
--the BB

Stewart calls Cheney's behavior into question

It is so refreshing to have a real journalist around, even if he is the "fake news" guy. (There is also the incomparable and gutsy Keith Olbermann, my absolute hero in American political discourse.)

Jon Stewart of The Daily Show has a few things to say about the Dark Lord (and I don't mean Tom Riddle; I speak of that vile thing that might have once been human who sits in the OVP).*

An interview with Stephen F. Hayes, columnist for The Weekly Standard and author of Cheney (the official biography).

(h/t to Hoffmania)
* Anything vile and insulting that I actually put in print concerning Dick Cheney or George W. Bush may safely be assumed as a charitable and restrained version of my actual opinions. It is only by act of faith and obedience to my baptismal vows that I can affirm that the image of God has not, like the Shekinah, fled the temple (Ezekiel 11). Their actions in undermining the Constitution they swore to uphold, weakening the United States, behaving in a blatantly illegal and immoral manner in instance after instance, and destroying our reputation abroad have long since stripped them of any respect normally due their high office. I yearn for the day they leave office and, frankly, would prefer it if they did so in handcuffs on their way to the Hague. [This isn't truth in labeling; I'm just getting if off my chest.]
--the BB

What sort of liberal am I?

This does not come as a surprise to me. My family was solidly working class.

For now I like, and have always liked, John Edwards because of the causes he takes up. I am also fond of Barack Obama, and would support Al Gore in a heartbeat if he ran.

I have voted for Republican candidates in the past but things have gotten so bad in the GOP that I am now a yellow dog Democrat and would vote for any Dem over any Rethug until some sanity comes back to America and we can recognize our own Constitution once more.

God help America.

How to Win a Fight With a Conservative is the ultimate survival guide for political arguments

My Liberal Identity:

You are a Working Class Warrior, also known as a blue-collar Democrat. You believe that the little guy is getting screwed by conservative greed-mongers and corporate criminals, and you’re not going to take it anymore.

Tsarskoye Selo - Epilogue

I just thought this graphic was cool.

Tsarskoye Selo - Part 3

Some detail of wood carving and gold leaf:
And, Signor Rastrelli, he did love him some gold leaf.
The room below was designed by the Scottish architect Charles Cameron for Katherine the Great when she extended the palace with the wing known as the Cameron Gallery. (Yes, I know I am not following standard English usage when I spell Catherine with a K, but Yevkaterina just doesn't lend itself to a "C.")
Portraits of Nick and Alex:
I hope this little tour has been fun.

Is a little tour a tourette? Ought I to spout uncontrollable vulgarities?
--the BB

Tsarskoye Selo - Part 2

As my best friend likes to say, "It's small and cozy but we think of it as home." This is the view across the courtyard.
Waiting in line and beginning to think it won't rain.
Then turning the other direction and seeing the sun shine.
This is the park on the other side from where we were waiting.
--the BB

Tsarskoye Selo - Part 1

We resume the 2004 Russian nostalgia tour in and around St. Petersburg with Tsarskoye Selo, at the entrance to the Katherine Palace. The gray November weather is evident as we neared the entrance.

For more detail on any photo, just click (or right-click and open in a new window). All photos in this series (c) 2004 by moi-self.

Katherine began to develop this "country residence" and her daughter finished it up in style.Empress Elizabeth (ruled 1741 – 1762) had the palace built and named for her mother Katherine I, second wife of Peter the Great (the redoubtable founder of St. Petersburg). Our guide tells how Elizabeth took humorous revenge on the snooty French who had disdained her mother. (Katherine's origins were humble and a bit murky.) When this stunning palace, designed by the Italian architect Bartolomeo Rastrelli, was ready, she invited the French ambassador for a weekend in her "little summer place." Anticipating a rustic hunting lodge, the ambassador showed up in attire that was decidedly not that of the court. What he found was this stunning jewel of overwhelming beauty and luxury.

[One can imagine her thinking, "Take that, you arrogant twit!"]
OMG. The Froggy ambassador approached these gates, gobsmacked. Later buildings to the left below.
A close-up of the gates and the palace within.
And here we have detail of the gate with Elizabeth's initial showing prominently.
This last photo is currently my desktop photo.

I do hope some of you are enjoying these bits of photo travel. If not, it is so easy to click and go elsewhere, which was not an option back in the days of viewing the vacation slides of one's friends.
--the BB

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Jon McLaughlin - new to me

OH LA LA has pointed me to a pianist and singer I had not heard of before today--Jon McLaughlin. Here's what seems to be his big hit, "Beautiful Disaster."

You can hear it within an interview by clicking on this:

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Still photo touring

The venues are somewhat less exotic. Not Russia. How about post-rain sunset viewed from the deck of Los Alisos, my last home in California?
And a mural from the Mission District in San Francisco:
A spring look at Fernandes Creek in Pinole, California:
Public art--a sculpture in a business park in Alameda, California:
Trees in Corrales, New Mexico, on Thanksgiving afternoon:
Nothing wrong with nostalgia.
--the BB

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Pavlovsk - part 3

We had anticipated snow that day but it didn't happen. So the sleigh ride became a carriage ride through the park. At the end of the ride we gathered in a pavilion where two musicians provided atmosphere and we had the requisite shots of vodka.

За Ваше здоровье!

Pavlovsk - part 2

This is a glance out one of the windows toward the surrounding park. I love viewing, and taking, photos that lead me to wonder "what's out there?" Where does that path lead? What is around that corner? What is behind this door?

I could also have easily sat down and just stared out at this view for a good long time. Not permitted in tours, of course.
Next time you visit Home Depot, you might keep this in mind for a floor treatment:
Maria Feodorovna's canopy bed. Another decorating idea for the truly demanding adolescent daughter. She should feel like an empress sleeping under this. Though, if memory serves me right, the empress never did sleep in it. Which makes me wonder, where did she sleep then? Not that there was any shortage of rooms for her to choose from.
Again, IIRC, a photo of this place setting showed up in the Time-Life cook book series in the volume on Russia. I can almost taste the koulebiaka now. Yum. (It helps if one's best friend has made them on more than one occasion. Dayumn, that's fine eating!)
Russian birches.
I had to include these because I am a "tree mystic." I have always felt a bond with trees, from early childhood, though it is only in the last decade that I came up with a label for this.