Wordless Wednesday: Garden of Stones

As we count down to the start of Passover, we look back at my visit to the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York last November. The Garden of Stones is a living memorial to the holocaust, with an arrangement of trees and stones that complement and contrast the architecture of the building. From this perspective, they also frame 1 World Trade Center quite nicely.

9/11 Tribute in Light

9/11 Tribute in Light

Last night in downtown Brooklyn, we observed the 9/11 Tribute in Light turning on across the river.  One beam was on first, and then later – following the pattern of the towers attack and collapse.

It is a somber reminder.  And it is the second time I have been in New York on 9/11 to witness it.

You can read more about the 9/11 Tribute in Light here.

Tributes for Luna

It’s been five days since Luna left us. I am still having a hard time processing that she is gone. But I have been very touched and humbled by the outpouring of love for her and sympathy for us. There have been a few tribute posts as well, and we share them below.

The Cat Blogosphere has long posted memorials for blogging cats when they pass away. We have shared a few of those over the years on this site. This time we were on the receiving end, with this beautiful graphic and a very sweet post.

Luna forever!

Luna is an icon of the Cat Blogosphere, and will be sorely missed. Fly free, sweet girl.

Our friends Elvira, Kiril, Sneakers, Friday and Nikita at Opinionated Pussycat have dedicated a full post to Luna.

Luna tribute from opinionated pussycat

The beauty and grace of Luna so finely complimented the beauty and grace of the instruments her human blogged about and the music and art her human created and shared (the photo above is from 2010).

Her presence complimented perfectly the contributions CatSynth made, as frequent contributor and host, to 3 of the earliest and best of the pet blogging share fests, all about cats, Carnival of the Cats, Weekend Cat Blogging, and Bad Kitty Cats Festival of Chaos, for many years, beginning in the summer of 2007…CatSynth first hosted CoTC with #189.

Music & art shows, travel, photography, cats, synthesizers, sass and grace.

And finally, our dear friend and supporter at matrixsynth have a post for Luna.

Our Beloved Cat Luna

Certain pets more so than others. JD was one of them, and I know Luna was as well. They let you become who you want to be. They are your confidante in life. Loosing them feels like loosing a part of yourself. Luna will not only be missed by her owner and friend Amanda, but by those of us that have enjoyed her virtual company online through numerous posts on CatSynth, and a few here on MATRIXSYNTH. We will never forget you Luna!

Never forget, indeed! Thank you all for all your kind words and support as we grieve and move forward. 🎶 💕

Visiting the 9/11 Memorial in New York

My trip to New York included a visit to the to 9/11 Memorial. As stated on the website, the memorial is “A national tribute of remembrance and honor to the men, women and children killed in the terror attacks of September 11, 2001 and February 26, 1993.” At its most essential level, it is a space rooted in tragedy and loss and remembrance. But it also is a positive space, in harmony with the modern urban landscape, the changes happening as the area is rebuilt, and a prototype for ways to think about public urban spaces for the future.

The memorial is located on the World Trade Center complex, and occupies a large portion of the original site. It is anchored by two large square waterfalls and reflecting pools, each approximately the size and location of the footprints of the original twin towers.

In this photo, one can see how the pools are situated with respect to the other architectural features of the landscape. Behind this pool on the footprint of the original south tower are (from left to right), the existing buildings from the World Financial Center in Battery Park City, the new One World Trade Center building still under construction, and the September 11 Museum (also still under construction).

At the center of each reflecting pool is a dark square hole whose bottom cannot be seen from the sides and into which water from the pool falls.

The trees visible in the above photo are swamp oaks, and form an important part of the memorial. Although orange and rather spare in late November, they form a green canopy that will shade much of the space during the spring and summer and add a sense of life to the space. They are also an integral part of the green design, with the shade helping to reduce stress and energy on the underground parts of the complex (including the major transit hub at the site). Conversely, the paved walkways are designed in such a way as to support the trees and not put undue stress on them or their roots (visit the website for more detail on how that works).

The sides of pools are lined with bronze onto which are inscribed the names of all the people who died in the attacks on September 11, 2001, as well as the six people who died in an earlier attack on the World Trade Center in 1993.

It is somewhat reminiscent of the names on the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, DC, and indeed I did see some people making rubbings of particular names.

The architecture of the pools, with the concentric squares and footprints, grounds the memorial in the architecture of the original site. The museum facade also takes on elements from the long lines of glass and steel structure of the original towers. Even the cascading water into the pools seems to have been designed to reflect the original architecture. The pattern of the water as it cascades over the edge strongly reminds me of the two-story lobbies of the original towers.

Visits to the memorial is still very controlled, and one has to book passes for a particular date and time well in advance. But we were able to get a good time during what is presumably a busy week. I am glad I had a chance to visit at this time, with the overall site still in progress. I would like to see it again in the future as the buildings and the museum move forward.

A perfectly clear day…

Today was a warm, perfectly clear day, notably absent of the fog, cold and wind of the past week…

It seems like September 11 is always a bright, clear day, both here in northern California as well as back in New York. It was certainly a clear day five years ago as well…

There are certainly a lot being written online on this fifth anniverary of 9-11 – some of it genuine (particularly from New Yorkers, though not limited to them), a lot of it propaganda, or phony sentimentality or “patriotism.” I would stay clear of the whole thing if I didn't think I had something unique to contibute…

I begin with quote from this view from the WTC plaza that I read this afternoon:

I arrived in Lower Manhattan at about 8:38. Walking up Dey Street I decided to stop for coffee and walked across Church Street onto the Plaza of the World Trade Center. I called my father on my cell phone and we were talking which kept me from entering the building. I was on a bench right in front of the WTC 1 and turned slowly for no real reason and saw the entire plane hit the tower. I saw the wing extended from the building on the south side and a large explosion. Then smoke. Then everything was frozen, very still, with a perfect New York blue sky framing the backdrop of explosions. I ran when the glass and metal begin to fall from the sky hitting all around me…At that point I began running north. I got to East 4th Street completely dazed. On Houston St. I saw the WTC 1's needle crumble to the ground and heard on blasting radios that both of the towers had fallen. From there I made my way to the Williamsburg Bridge and made my way back home. Tens of thousands of people were walking across the bridge, a surreal exodus no one was quite prepared to cope with…
I never thought I would work in the World Trade Center. But I enjoyed my work there. Like all artists, I needed the money, but I also made many friends and learned a good deal about other parts of life, other skills that I never knew I possessed.
The views of the harbor were magnificent and inspirational. I remember ending long days by looking out the windows and feeling so very refreshed and glad to be in such a beautiful city like New York.
But that view is gone and so much has changed. Though I have felt such anger and frustration, more that ever in my life, I know I will survive. I made it out alive for a reason.

At the same time, I was 3,000 miles away in the totally boring and pathetic Bay Area town of Fremont, arising from bed an hour or so later to face an ordinary day at work 40 miles away along with daily challenges of my unravelling relationship. That was all, at least temporarily, swept away by what I saw and heard on CNN (only after receiving an email exhorting everyone to turn on the news). I didn't get into work until sometime in the afternoon, and then spent much of the day online looking at photos; I continued to wade through photos well into the night after returning home.

Things like this were not supposed to happen, not to New York, not to its iconic and familiar skyscrapers, not to the indistructable momunments of the modern world. Whether it was during my happy years in Berkeley or the miserable year in Fremont that was only beginning, I'd always be able to go back to New York – and suddenly that was no longer something I could count on, everything was mortal, and I was “guilty” somehow for not being there…

I did make it back to New York in Novemember, 2001, and of course had to see ground zero for myself. This is a photo I took looking into the site, from the north (Varick Street, I think):

In the longer view, the thought I have kept coming back to was the idea that something so beautiful (the World Trade Center complex, the New York City skyline, the emblems of 20th Century modernism) were destroyed by something so ugly (Islamic fundamentalism, the tribal and primitive past). Having not lost anyone personally on 9-11, I am able to think about things like this, and how what I want in return is the restoration of modern ideals. I will leave the political and cultural aspects aside for another post (I'm sure I'll get back to it again), and focus for this anniversary on the aesthetic and architectural.

The Skyscraper Museum in New York, which is hosting a commemoration of what it labels the “original World Trade Center,” lends its support the idea that the age of the vertical metropolis is far from over. In that spirit, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC) unveiled the latest design for the new World Trade Center complex, including the new major buildings and the memorial:

Having followed the redevelopment story over the past few years, I am used to the new design, and I am mindful of the controversies around the original Twin Towers in the late 1960s as being too “boring” and somehow an affront to New York's skyline, and in the long run nothing could have been further from the truth. The building designs have attracted a certain amount of controversy, but nearly as much as the design for the memorial. Any design certainly has it's imperfections, but as it stands it is perfectly in harmony with the modernism of both the original and new World Trade Center complexes, and it includes the most important generally-agreed-upon elements such as preserving the footprints of the original towers, and even incorporates a piece of the original retaining wall (illustrated in the picture to the right). Certainly, the criticms have their place, notably the concern by 9-11 families for the victims' names. But that's where their “rights” end, at least as far as the restoration is concerned. I mean no disrespect to the people who lost loved ones, but if we followed the advice of some outspoken victims' relatives and the opinions of many unaffected people in Middle America, such as the author of this article (he can't even get his dueling memorial-advocacy websites straight!), lower Manhattan would be overrun with kitch, over-sentimentality and insipid tributes to phoney patrotism. That may be fine for Oklahoma City, but not for New York! It's bad enough that we have to live with middle America's patron saints of mediocrity as our leaders along with their policies that make our great cities targets for more terrorism, let alone have to deal with their ideas of what makes a good memorial…But, I did say I'll save the politics for later. So for now, I leave with with another quote from that original site I references that discusses what not only it's author (Sami Plotkin) but indeed many New Yorkers might have wanted:

None of us wanted to see [the twisted structure of the 500 foot wall] go. We have been comforted over the past two weeks by its presence. We have marvelled at its strange beauty, as it rose from the ruins, an intricate lacy network of sheer strength; a stoic remnant that survived the blast and struck us with its splendor in the golden light of sunset, as bright rays glanced off the building behind, glinting between its metal beams and through the great accidental window which was rent through at just the right height. It was an image of alarming beauty, and the serendipity of its perfect composition was significant to us. In the most simple and sentimental way, the evening light shining through that accidental window was for us a ray of hope. Although we all understood that for now it must come down, whispered questions eddied through the crowd as we wondered, would the pieces be saved? Does the Mayor know that we have already begun to see this as our monument? For we have. That mangled and beautiful skelet! on was a monument that spoke more poignantly of New York's pain and resilience than any artwork we could have devised.