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Posts Tagged ‘USA’

The Art Institute of Chicago, founded in 1879 and located in the Grant Park of Chicago, happens to be one of the oldest and the largest art museums in the United States. Other than a sumptuous collection of art works, it also boasts of a gallery showcasing miniature rooms of different kinds from Europe, as also those from different states of America.

Some of these could be of interest to you:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is instructive to see how people in different regions choose to live. Given the variations in climatic conditions, individual tastes and local resources, there exist fine differences between these homes, represented in miniature form at the museum.

Essentially, these miniatures represent European interiors from the late 13th century to the 1930s and American furnishings from the 17th century to the 1930s. These were constructed on a scale of one inch to one foot. Conceived by Mrs. James Ward Thorne of Chicago and constructed between 1932 and 1940 by master craftsmen according to her specifications, the sheer attention to details in all of these is truly captivating.

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In order to celebrate the 137th birth anniversary of P G Wodehouse, the Pittsburgh Millionaires decided to meet up on the 14th of October, 2018. The meeting took place at one of the Panera Cafés in the Oakland area of Pittsburgh, USA.

Lest some of you get an impression that the millionaires foregathered to discuss some trustworthy sources from where one could secure either a cow creamer or a scarab, you would be sadly mistaken. If your ambitions lead you to believe that you could have run into an arts dealer offering The Girl in Blue, the famous Gainsborough miniature, to one of the millionaires present at the gathering, you would be even more off the mark.

Had you been able to make it to the gig, you would have discovered the Pittsburgh Millionaires to be a group of strong and adventurous folks, well endowed and successful in more ways than one.

Besides being successful at keeping their respective bodies and souls together, they possess an immense wealth which could make many of us green with envy. Their wealth is not to be measured in terms of the millions of dollars they possess, but in terms of the trillions of units of common love and fondness they have for the verbal musician of our times, P G Wodehouse. A profound knowledge of his canon is another wealth they possess.

Eve Halliday and Phyllis Jackson were already seated on the table when Rupert Psmith and the not-so-efficient Baxter trooped in. Stiffy Byng fluttered in like a rose-leaf on the wind. Pauline Stoker floated in pretty soon thereafter and the meeting was called to order. Picture post cards featuring The Empress of Blandings were gifted by Eve Halliday to those present.

The management of the Panera Café has a stiff-upper-lip policy. Target practice by throwing bread crumbs is out of the question. The place does not boast of fans of any kind, ceiling or otherwise. Hence, hurling boiled eggs at such contraptions is also ruled out. The ambience of the place is not such as to allow a boisterous rendering of The Sonny Boy.

Wisdom prevailed. A reading of the story ‘Goodbye to All Cats’ followed. Curious customers on nearby tables were taken aback by the intermittent ripples of mirth emanating from the table. The management was polite enough not to interrupt but ensured that the tray-carrying trolleys generated sound-bytes which were loud enough to deliver suitable admonitions to the members of the Plummy troupe. Needless to say, the same were duly ignored.

Bits and pieces of the Wodehouse canon were fondly recalled by those present. The Bertie-Jeeves relationship was dissected at length. The challenge of popularising his works amongst the youth of today was discussed. Eve Halliday recommended the practice of ‘fairy books’ where some of his works, duly gift wrapped, could be left in public places, spreading joy amongst those who venture to pick these up. Stiffy Byng commented that her interests included not only the narratives dished out by Wodehouse but also the ones whipped up by Alfred Hitchcock. Pauline Stoker lovingly mentioned the BBC series.

Deferring to the wishes of the café management, no cake was cut on the occasion. The meeting ended on a cordial note, with much ‘What-ho’-ing and ‘Pip-pip’-ing. Baxter was wished a happy travel back to India.

(Note: Yours truly is grateful to Abigail Thompson, Filomena Conti, Allison Thompson, Carol Colby and Sandip Chaudhury, who could spare the time to grace the occasion. Special thanks are due to Allison Thompson who took special interest in coordinating the gathering and even brought along an Augustus look-alike to attract the attention of incoming millionaires).

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Many of our globe trotters these days complain of long duration flights across continents, cooped up in a metal tube which cruises at a height of 35,000 feet or so. They might simply shudder at the prospect of hopping across to the Moon, or undertaking inter-galactic travel on some future date.

One cannot be really blamed at feeling overwhelmed at the courage, conviction, perseverance and scientific precision with which Homo sapiens have been doing just that – undertaking perilous journeys into deep space. With each such sojourn, they enrich the knowledge we have about the planetary bodies around us.

Yours truly recently had an opportunity to visit the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Manned Spacecraft Center, where human spaceflight training, research, and flight control are conducted.

Some of you may like some snippets from the visit.

General

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mission Control Center

 

 

The place is getting refurbished, so as to be ready in time for the 50th anniversary of the first human being stepping on to lunar soil in 1969.

Special Vehicle Mock-up Facility

 

 

 

 

 

 

Experiments which leave one dumb founded.

Saturn V: A rocket which was never used

 

 

 

 

 

On our way out, we were shown the area where memorial placards have been put and trees planted for each one of the astronauts and their family members who are no longer alive. A touching tribute and a truly humane gesture.

Mars already holds sway over human imagination. The sun is also under a closer scrutiny. Besides USA, Russia and China have already learnt the art of propelling men and women beyond the narrow confines of our planet. India is also planning to put a human being in space by the year 2022, to celebrate the 75th anniversary of its independence.

As a lesser mortal, one can merely wish all the space scientists across the world a great innings ahead in all their endeavours in the decades to follow, advancing the cause of scientific research and extending the boundaries of our knowledge about our universe.

One also wishes that our social scientists can match these efforts by building mental rockets which would propel our masses beyond the narrow confines of attitudes relating to caste, colour, creed, sex and nationality, hopefully prompting our politicians to work together to lower national barriers.

(Note: A note of gratitude is in order for the benevolent elderly couple who drove me down to NASA, followed by a drive through Galveston, a city by the side of the Gulf of Mexico. A ferry ride was the surprise part of the package!) 

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2011/12/25/living-on-another-planet-a-2112-fantasy

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2014/11/22/time-to-start-dismantling-the-invisible-walls)

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Just like human beings, cities also have a unique personality and a collective consciousness of their own. The character of the residents is a major determinant of the same. This, in turn, is formed by the kind of livelihood opportunities the city provides. Some other factors are its political and economic profile, its infrastructure, the culture it espouses, the manner in which it showcases and markets its heritage and special features, and the kind of vision its founders and subsequent administrators have had and have acted upon.

One of the ways to discover some facets of a city is to soak in its architectural heritage. A recent trip to Chicago offered an opportunity for yours truly to do precisely this. I could see some of the city’s architectural masterpieces in a single 90-minute boat tour.

I learnt something about the city’s architectural history through an expert’s live narration. I am no expert in building designs, but was happy to be told of buildings which provide space for air to pass through them on higher floors, thereby making them more stable. This avoids residents getting jittery while either having a shower in their luxurious bath tubs or trying to have a quiet dinner with wine glasses and cutlery on the table doing a Salsa or a Chesterton. In a windy city like Chicago, this makes eminent sense.

A bunch of wide-eyed tourists like me attempted to absorb some of the rich information being provided by the narrator, duly laced with some Wodehousean humour.

Here are some of the visuals I could capture while on the cruise.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The cruise takes one through the famous ‘Y’ of the Chicago River. It is interesting to learn that since 1900 AD, civil engineering knowledge has been used to reverse the flow of this water body, creating a man-made hydraulic connection between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi watershed.

The boat cruise became possible due to the support of a loving family in Chicago which hosted me and put up with my tantrums for a few days, and also owing to the presence of a loving nephew and his family who took the trouble of flying in all the way from Los Angeles just to meet up – a creditable feat, what with a tiny toddler who behaved well and did not grudge the attention showered on yours truly by his loving parents for the time we happened to be together.

Travel is highly educational, said Jeeves. At times, one feels grateful to one’s Guardian Angels for being in a benevolent mood and ensuring that things fall in place for such an instructive experience as the boat cruise I could enjoy.

More to follow in some subsequent posts.

 

 

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Doggerel days

Here is a juicy description of what transpired at the last Plummy Convention in the New World, from someone whose guardian angels have conspired to bless him with a grandson (very aptly named Clarence) who shares his birthday with Plum himself.

The Traveller

Now where was I?* Oh yes . . . The Wodehouse Society convention in Washington DC, way back in October . . . hmmm. It was a big couple of days and I’ve tried to capture them in verse, given that’s less typing. My excuse for not expanding on the topic in my usual wordy way is that the doggerel ate my homework.

No really, thank you, the applause is too much . . .

PGW logo

The Stepper Goes to Washington†

What ho, old bean, they brayed
as The Stepper hove into view.
G’day, I grinned, undismayed
amid the Plummy crew.

I’m the boy from Oz, how’re’y’all
doin’ here in Washington?
What, what, what, they said ’n’ all,
just to be clear, what again?

Well, I knew I couldn’t keep this up
for a whole weekend so I reverted
to English and they offered the cup
of kindness usual to the…

View original post 1,199 more words

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