Monday, October 31, 2016

"Expensive materials do not lead to good architecture" - interview with architect Elena Kalman

Greetings, commies and lovers of beautiful architecture! Today I am pleased to feature an interview with my aunt, Elena Kalman, an accomplished architect, whose career started in Moscow.  Her portfolio spans an impressive collection of residential, commercial and religious buildings. In today's interview she talks about maintaining a philosophical perspective on her creations and not getting too attached to them.
MJN: I love your house in North Stamford. You use it as a portfolio piece - and for a good reason. I sense Japanese influences - stone, glass, open space. It's ideal for sophisticated, high-achieving empty-nesters. As an architect, do you also have to be an interior designer?

EK: Thank you, I am glad you like my home. The house where I live and have my office is one of the simplest and least expensive structures I have designed. My husband and I feel comfortable there.  In terms of Interiors: Yes, the architect, if she wants to have creative control, has to be able to design the interiors. Otherwise, the building would have a split personality.

MJN: You have hosted comedians and performers at your house. Indeed, it has plenty of open space that can be used for performances. I'm sure you've taken the acoustics into consideration. I am a little nostalgic for the days when every aristocratic family had a "salon" space at home, where musicians and poets would showcase their talents. 

EK: I do not have a "salon". It is a little too pretentious for my taste. I just had some interesting people, whom I knew, give on occasion an impromptu performance or a lecture, while passing through our town. In terms of acoustics: in a large theater you need to really have a specialist do the sound reflection and absorption calculations. In a relatively small space, like a house living room, if you have some reflective surfaces (glass in my case) and some absorptive surfaces (sofas and people), the sound should be o.k.

MJN: I love telling my Jewish friends that you were the one who designed the Chabad building in Stamford. I drive by it every day on my way to work. Do most people who go to Chabad in Stamford know that you are the architect? Do you think it helps to belong to a particular religion if you are designing houses of worship?

EK: I do not think the designer has to belong to the same religion as the congregation. In addition to several the Jewish temples, I worked on the Unitarian Church in Stamford and, in my youth did all the drawings for the former catholic Cathedral in Kamenetz Podolsky. I think all the houses of worship have a lot of spiritual energy and it is always inspiring to work on them.

MJN: One of my acquaintances, who is also an architect, expressed a great deal of sadness over the fact that the building she had worked on had been neglected. It's hard to see your architectural "baby" neglected. How do you separate yourself emotionally from your work once it's done?

EK: I would like to have my work properly maintained, but when the project is completed it is out of my hands. Religious organizations are notoriously bad with funding. Especially, it is true of Chabad. They do not charge a membership fee, as to make sure anyone feels welcome. They encourage donations, but these are unreliable. Anyway, there is no point of falling in love with your own work.

MJN: Is there a project you are fantasizing about completing that is currently out of your reach due to financial constraints? Do you have a dream building that would not be practical or commercial enough but would take a lot of money to build?

EK: Not really. I do not do fantasy architecture. I like the constraints of reality and each project that comes with its own constraints is a welcome challenge. Expensive materials do not necessarily lead to good architecture - just look at Mac-mansions in Greenwich and New Canaan. I do not ever want to work on any of these. It helps to have some financial freedom, but even more importantly, it is great to have a client who allows me to have creative freedom.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Stop breeder shaming! Pedgree versus shelter cats ...

Greetings, commies!
I don't post very often about animal rights, but I felt compelled to write this post to talk about my recent experiences. I have a long history of volunteering at shelters and supporting various rescue organizations (not all of them are created the same, but that's a different story). Recently I got into breeding Siberians. It's a life-long dream of mine that I'd had to put on hold long enough for various reasons. Finally, I am able to pursue this dream. Many of my friends are excited and supportive. However, many of my friends associated with various rescue organizations have expressed disapproval. They are saying "Why bring more cats into this world, when there are so many homeless cats? Don't you realize that by making more kittens, you are decreasing the chances of homeless cats getting adopted?" What people need to realize is that purebred cats and homeless cats are NOT competing. Pedigree cats are a fairly small niche market. Most people cannot dish out $1600-2500 on a cat. The vast majority of people who are contemplating adding a feline companion to their household will still go to a rescue organization. For most people, it's not a choice. Their finances will not allow them to pay $1500 for a Siberian or a Maine Coon. And most people who are able to afford a purebred are already supporting rescue organizations with their donations. Most cat shows have events dedicated to increasing the standard of living of shelter cats and spreading awareness. 

To my militant rescue friends: breeders are NOT your enemy. CFA and TICA are here to promote responsibility and compassion. We are working to nurture a culture where animals are treated with respect.

Shaming breeders and people who buy pedigree cats is like saying "How dare you give your child piano lessons when there are so many kids dying of hunger." Hunger will never be completely stamped out. It doesn't mean that those born into privilege should be stripped of benefits and opportunities.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Steam Heat - John Rosenman's revenge fantasy

Greetings, commies!
With Halloween approaching, I decided to review another horror novella by a prolific sci-fi author John Rosenman. Today's novella is Steam Heat.

Chad Benson, a rugged construction worker, has always had his way with women until a mysterious, irresistible visitor blindfolds and seduces him in a steam room. She compels him to make an ominous promise to accept the consequences of their union, whatever they might be.

For the first time, Chad becomes obsessed with a member of the opposite sex and roams the health spa, seeking the red-haired girl who he believes is his seducer. The totally new experience of falling in love is an emotion he'll desperately need when he faces a deadly evil.

My thoughts
Exploring the complex psychological issues of claustrophobia and fetishes, "Steam Heat" is best labeled as a revenge fantasy. I am still trying to figure out in whose head it takes place, though. It could very well be a collective fantasy. Chad Benson is a an emotionally, intellectually and professionally stunted beefcake with the critical thinking skills of a caterpillar. His few interests include pumping iron and engaging in one-night stands with the "hot" chicks he picks up on the way.  His sensuality is very primitive and devoid of imagination. Disclaimer: this is NOT a stab at the author. I am not saying that the author lacks imagination. He did a good job at portraying a male hedonist who gets his foreplay tips from a men's magazine. It would be unfair to judge Chad too harshly. He is lazy in the intimate department, because he does not have to work hard. Women, equally shallow, throw themselves on him, so he does not even have to exert himself.  They say, that men love with their eyes. And while the whole concept of love is applied loosely in Chad's case, he certainly relies on his eyes to make the first assessment of his next prospective lay. One day, after an intense workout, he experiences a torrid encounter in a steam room, but this time without the benefit of seeing his sexual partner first. With a towel over his eyes, he has to rely on his hands and ears to imagine the mystery woman. Following the encounter, sealed by the mysterious verbal pact, his life is never quite the same. As much as he wants to return to his life as a piggish playboy, he cannot. 

Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Passion of Baseball - a memoir by Bob Wirz

Baseball Lifer Bob Wirz Shares His Road
From a Tiny Nebraska Town to Major Leagues'
Top PR Job Via 'The Passion of Baseball'

            It is said that only about six per cent of the United States population gets to spend a lifetime working in a profession the person dreamed of since childhood.  Author Bob Wirz, a Stratford, CT resident, believes he is part of a much smaller group who has lived a long life rubbing shoulders with the biggest names in baseball without ever swinging a bat or throwing a ball beyond the scruffiest of diamonds.
            "ThePassion of Baseball", Wirz's book (Ravenswood Publishing), tells the headline-making, celebrity-filled story of living out the dream of a tiny town lad who grew up in the Sandhills of Nebraska and went on to head up Major League Baseball's media fishbowl for more than a decade in New York City.  As a friend once put it, this is a "dream journey from Halsey (current population 76) to Gotham.  Holy Cow!"
            Wirz uses more than 300 riveting pages to share insights on the early years of the Kansas City Royals (he was publicity director) to White House trips, sitting with manager Bob Lemon on the New York Yankees' victory flight after the history-making Bucky Dent home run of 1978, surviving the early years of the sport's anger-filled free agency to helping market the dream marketing slogan "Baseball Fever, Catch It".
            "Passion" also warmly describes the author's own experiences during the 1989 San Francisco-Oakland earthquake-interrupted World Series, crossing paths with actor Jack Nicholson during an All-Star Game, the joy of induction weekends at the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY and his last visit that stretched into four hours with former commissioner Bowie Kuhn, who had gone from being his boss in NYC to his  friend and business partner.
            Wirz takes readers through about three decades of the ups and downs of running his own sports public relations and marketing company, which included handling publicity for the coveted Rolaids Relief Man program, ground-breaking anniversary planning for Little League Baseball and helping IBM become the first company to put reality into home run measurements.  Along the way, he fell in love with--and wrote about-- the touching stories of undrafted players who worked their way from the smallest of Independent baseball leagues to major league baseball fame and financial security.
            "ThePassion of Baseball" ($20.95) may be ordered via Barnes & Noble, Amazon, iTunes, Kobo or  eBooks also are available from B&N and Amazon.