Saturday, April 28, 2012

Farewell, Grandma Donna

Donna Jeanette Carpenter Eggleston
Dec 5, 1916 to Apr 24, 2012

"Only love, with no thoughts of return, can soften the point of suffering." 
--Mark Nepo's epigraph for April 24th in his 2000 book, Awakening

My grandmother, Donna (Carpenter) Eggleston, passed away last Tuesday morning, April 24th, in Omaha at the age of 95. She lived a long and full life. She was active till the end. She was loved by many and will be sorely missed. The family will gather in Broken Bow, NE to remember her, and after the funeral service in the church where my parents were married, Grandmother's body will rest next to Grandfather's in the Ansley cemetery.

Four years ago, my Uncle C. Edward (Grandmom's youngest son) and Aunt Georgena recommended Mark Nepo's daybook to me.  Nepo is a philosopher, poet, teacher, runner, and seeker. He is also a cancer survivor and one who has lived through divorce. Nepo was also, like me, his grandmother's oldest grandchild.  My uncle was right: I love Nepo's book, and read it every morning. Uncle Ed sent me the epigraph you see above in an email the morning his Mother slipped the surly bonds of this Earth.

Words often fall short, so I am telling the story of Grandmother's life using a collage of captioned photos interspersed with some brief recollections. This is my attempt to honor my Mom's Mom.

Donna as a grade-schooler
Donna as a newlywed

My Grandmother was born in Washington, IA and grew up in Comstock, NE. She had 4 brothers and 5 sisters. As one of 10 children in a Depression-era family, life was hard. She left school after 8th grade to work and help put food on the table.

I love this picture of my Grandparents
as a rockin'' cool young couple.
From an early age, I loved being the
center of attention. Here I am, sporting my
Uncle's Ray Bans, with Mom, Grandparents,
and Great-Grandma Adeline.

At 19 years of age, Donna married Clarence Eggleston of Ansley, NE. The couple lived on a homestead near Ansley and raised corn, cattle, and chicken. They also raised 4 children: my Mom, and my three Uncles.

Happy in their Golden Years

Grandmother learned how to prepare tasty meals for lots of hungry mouths with whatever ingredients were on hand. As brother Kyle said, "I hope she has some rhubarb and a bean can full of bacon grease (her secret ingredient for making pie crust)."

Grandma loved living at Brookestone
Meadows Care Center
I love this image of my Granddad's impish grin

Last Sunday, April 22nd, was the couple's 76th wedding anniversary. I believe that my grandparents are together again in spirit.

A brief biography of Grandmother is HERE. The site includes a link to the bio of Granddad as well.

Rest in Peace, Grandma Donna
may flights of Angels sing thee to thy sleep

Thursday, April 19, 2012

A Tribute to my Mentor

Live passionately and honor the Kingdom of God.

A Tribute to my Architecture Mentor.

I heard the news today via a classmate's email: 
My mentor has gone home to meet his Creator.

Jaime Juan Jose Bellalta 
June 24, 1922 - Mar. 20, 2012
Architect, Philosopher,  Professor, 
Catholic, Husband, Father,
Activist, Mentor, and Friend.

              I am saddened by Professor Bellalta's passing,
                     and full of compassion for his grieving family. 
                            I am humbled to have been a mentee of his, and 
                                   I am proud to be in the throng of admirers 
                                          who celebrate this great man's great life. 

The South Bend Tribune's obituary is pasted below. Please read it to learn about Jaime Bellalta, the man: his 10 (!) children, his valued architectural record, and his passions for urban design and affordable housing. If you knew Prof. Bellalta, or simply would like to write a note of condolence to his family, the on-line obituary  includes a link to a guestbook.

In addition to calling your attention to the public appreciation for Professor Bellalta's life, I would like to express  my personal tribute to the man who, more than any other, shaped my design philosophy--as well as that of countless other fortunate Notre Dame architecture students who came under his tutelage during his long and illustrious professorial career.

Design Thesis

Professor Bellalta was my chosen advisor for that most arduous 5th-Year Architecture student's right-of-passage: Design Thesis.  Now, there are many ways to get a degree in Architecture, but the Notre Dame way is modeled on the 5-year curriculum of la École des Beaux-Arts. Notre Dame's School of Architecture stands alone. It is not a Department in the College of Arts or Engineering. As opposed to a 4-year Bachelor of Art in Architecture or a 4-year Bachelor of Science in Architecture, the 5-year plan at Notre Dame combines both art and science courses, plus the requirement of this aforementioned semester-long design thesis.

Design Thesis culminates in a 30-minute oral defense of one's architectural design. As a comprehensive examination of the curriculum, Design Thesis:
  • grows out of the interactions of a master's studio environment
  • expresses the student's design philosophy, 
  • showcases mastery of presentation techniques such as drawing, rendering, and modeling, 
  • demonstrates knowledge of construction technology and materials, 
  • highlights awareness of the professional practice of architecture, and 
  • provides a forum for defending  a particular design solution before a panel of critics

What is a Design Philosophy? 

In the years leading up to thesis, students and professors get to know each other. I requested entry into Professor Bellalta's 12-student studio for my thesis because I admired his design philosophy. A philosophy of design is an architect's approach to creating architecture. I would describe Jaime's approach as soulful, artistic, organic, wise, empathetic, and client-centered.

There are three main philosophical approaches to architectural design and countless blends and variations. One approach is science-centered, one is art-centered, and one is client-centered. The successful student will know the science, the art, and the client. A student can follow any one of myriad paths to success, but normally a bond between a professor and student is formed on the basis of common preferences, outlooks, and abilities.
  • Some architects enjoy solving the program requirements within budget constraints. For them, architecture is an primarily intellectual exercise like solving a puzzle. The modern idea that "Form follows function" might be their creed. Notre Dame had some architecture professors who attracted these very practical, engineering-minded students into their studio group.
  • Some other architects have a very specific, recognizable style. For them, every design is an opportunity to showcase their talent and promote their "brand," if you will. If you hire Frank Gehry to design your building, you expect he'll create a spectacular sculpture. In contrast to the rational or industrial approach of modernists, this expression is all about style, personality, ornament. Notre Dame had some professors who attracted students with these artistic, post-modern aspirations.
  • The final approach I will highlight is that of the empathetic designer. The passion behind empathetic design comes from the client. The architect projects the client's aspirations, and refines the solution from the client's feedback. Under this approach, architecture is neither mostly art nor mostly science, but a unique and complete blend of the two.
I love solving a program, and I want my work to be admired--even sought after. However, what really lights my fire is listening intently to someone who has a vague notion of a design problem. Then, in a series of iterative sketches, we finally unveil their vision made real. That recognition is the thing that really makes me happy. I am a decision analyst now, not an architect per se, but I learned everything I know about engaging with a client and giving shape to their opportunities and dreams from one man: my mentor, Jaime Bellalta.

Sometimes, the empathetic designer must teach his client how to recognize and honor his own aspirations before the forms can take meaningful shape. The client may not know the language, but he knows what stirs him. The empathetic architect's desire is to give form to the passion that fuels the client's unspoken dreams. It's harder to involve the client in the creative process. The architect must be willing to give up control and be more of a shepherd.

Professor Bellalta personified the empathetic designer. He attracted more students than he could take, and I was lucky to get into his studio.

The Design Studio

Jaime would come around to each of his 12 fifth-year design students and, after listening a bit, sketch what he heard and offer his inspirational feedback and with his ever-moving black Pentel felt marker. His idea was not to teach us how to "do" architecture, but how to feel it. He did not teach us the Way of Jaime. He taught us by example to listen first, then draw what we heard, adding a spark of insight if we could. He taught us that design is right when it "fits" and that fitness is determined by a unique combination of client desires, available materials, the influence of the environment, the deliberate use of color, proportion, rhythm, texture, deeply understood symbols, and finally, the skill of the master builder to pull all of these elements together.

My thesis was the design of a new ROTC facility on the campus. Initially, I envisioned a very prominent structure. After some debates about the presence of ROTC on a Catholic University, I opted for a less figural site. Impressed by my mentor's example, I became interested in the ability of architects to influence the way people see the world and themselves in it. Do people feel valued and included in this space? Do people feel moved by some deep connection felt in this space? Does the built environment complement the natural environment?

Professor Bellalta's Impact on Me

The desk-side one-on-one critiques in studio were invaluable. They shaped not only my design philosophy, but my outlook on life. They were only the beginning of Prof. Bellalta's profound influence on me.

The idea that architects have a role in positive social change inspired me to activism.
I revived and became the Editor of Architext, a student journal of architecture. The journal had been launched years prior, and shelved. I took it over, solicited content, published 4 editions during my fifth year, and handed the Editor's role to a successor. I was also founding President of Notre Dame's Student Chapter of Architects for Social Responsibility, concerned with educating people about the potential devastation of nuclear war. To this day, I am involved in community-based activism.

My enduring love of ecclesiastical architecture comes directly from my experiences at Notre Dame. The exposure to many churches sparked the fire. Explorations of the power of both sacred and profane symbols in architecture fanned the flames. I came to understand, in learning from Prof Bellalta, that people use symbols to learn and teach. Financial communities want to project strength and trust. Similarly, educational communities want to foster scholarship and innovation. Faith communities use symbols in less concrete ways. The forms, shapes, colors, and symbols in ecclesiastical architecture must bring abstract concepts to life. Churches are an expression of a faith community's values. I love visiting churches and always will.

When I was a young adult at the beginning of my career, Professor Jaime Bellalta left an indelible Pentel sketch on the vellum of my psyche. His marks have endured nearly 30 years. I can still hear his fatherly voice, see his knowing smile, feel his penetrating eyes, and smell the black ink he left on the tracing paper over my continually improving designs. He lives on in the memories of all the students whose lives were enriched by his example: Architect, Philosopher,  Professor, Catholic, Husband, Father, Activist, Mentor, and Friend.  

NOTRE DAME - Jaime Juan José Bellalta, born in Santiago, Chile on June 24th, 1922, died surrounded by his loving family and friends at age 89 on March 20th in his home in Brookline, Massachusetts. 

Jaime was widowed to his beloved, Esmeé Marian Cromie de Bellalta, son to José Miguel Bellalta and Zulema Bravo de Bellalta, and brother to José Ramón Bellalta and Consuelo Bellalta de Montero. Jaime loved his 10 children: Chicky, Alexandra, Barbara, Antonia, Angela, Josephine, María, Jaime, Diego, and Felipe; his sons and daughters-in-law: Adolfo, Marcelo, David, Charles, John, Damon, Karin, Allison, Lesley; 28 grandchildren; and 11 great grandchildren. He taught them all how to live passionately and to honor the Kingdom of God. 

Jaime was Professor Emeritus from the University of Notre Dame, a modernist, master architect trained at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de ChileHarvard University's Graduate School of Design, and the University of London. During the early 70s in Chile, Jaime was a Professor of Architecture and Urban Design and Vice President of the Pontifica Universidad Católica, Director of the National Urban Renewal Agency, Executive Director of the Academia de Humanismo Cristiano, a distinguished member of the Fulbright Commission and was awarded the Eisenhower Fellowship in 1975. 

He was a spiritual and creative mentor and collaborator to his design partners, colleagues, students, and to his children. He was renowned for his prized design for the Benedictine Monastery in Las Condes, Santiago, today a National Historic Architectural Monument of Chile. He was committed to the design and development of affordable and low-income housing. 

Jaime was a Christian philosopher and an exemplary artist, very loved by his family and students, and whose persevering spiritual and creative forces will be cherished forever. 

A Funeral Mass [was] celebrated in his honor on Friday, March 30, 9:30 A.M. EST at the Notre Dame Basilica. A reception [followed] at 51800 Laurel Road, South Bend, IN. All [were] welcome. 

Jaime wished for donations for Holy Cross Missions, Notre Dame, IN, 46556, and for the Franciscan's of Cincinnati, Friar Works/Ministry and Mission, 1615 Vine Street, Cincinnati, OH, 45202-6492.

Rest in Peace, Professore
In his memory, let us all

Live passionately and honor the Kingdom of God.
Amen, and Amen.

Sunday, April 15, 2012


Leonard Cohen

You have probably heard many versions of Leonard Cohen's classic song, Hallelujah. If not, do yourself a favor and have a listen right now: 

This hauntingly simple melody and powerful, dramatic lyric have captivated me. Hallelujah draws on Biblical, sexual, and emotional themes to tell the story of life as an often bumpy but ultimately rewarding journey. 

Cohen wrote the original song and lyrics in 1984, but then added some new verses in 1988. He subsequently performed  several different arrangements of four or five verses from the set of seven that I know of. Then various artists began covering the song with their own arrangements. Consequently, there are many versions of the song floating around. 

What I have done is to listen to 20 different versions, and captured the lyrics. Many artists have subtly modified the lyrics as well as the musical accompaniment to personalize the story. 

I have arranged the verses below as I would like to hear them performed--as if I were going to perform this piece if I had the ability. I would love to hear someone record this complete version with the verses in this order, and with sparse accompaniment. I would like to hear the lyric performed by voice-as-human-instrument. These words deserve a singer who can sing with all the soulful expression of one who has fully and unashamedly lived the pain and the passion of this human life.

1          Holy mystery         

Now I've heard there was a secret chord
That David played, and it pleased the Lord
But you don't really care for music, do ya?
It goes like this
The fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, and the major lift
The baffled king composing Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

2          Lustful passion

Your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew ya.
She tied you to
Her kitchen chair
She broke your throne, and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

3          Sacred or profane?

You say I took the name in vain
I don't even know the name
But if I did, well really, what's it to ya?
There's a blaze of light
In every word
It doesn't matter which you heard
The holy or the broken Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

4          Cold and broken

Baby, I've been here before
I know this room, I've walked this floor
I used to live alone before I knew ya.
Yeah I've seen your flag
On the marble arch
But love is not a victory march
No it's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

5          Sad and wistful

There was a time you let me know
What's really going on below
But now you never show that to me, do ya?
I remember
When I moved in you
And the holy dove was moving too
Yes every breath we drew was Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

6          Lost and lonely

Maybe there's a God above
As for me, all I've ever learned from love
Is how to shoot somebody who outdrew ya.
Yeah but it's not a cry
That you hear at night
It's not some pilgrim who has seen the light
No it's a lost and it's a very lonely Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

7          Defiant: Down, but not out

I did my best, it wasn't much
I couldn't feel, so I learned to touch
I've told the truth, I didn't come all this way to fool ya.
Yeah even though
It all went wrong
I'll stand right here before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah


Versions I’ve heard, in order of preference

1.       Leonard Cohen:  deep, soulful, powerful, the pinnacle, no one will ever top it
2.       Rufus Wainwright: nasally, whiny, wimpy, but somehow very touching and moving
3.       Damien Rice: Clearly a Buckley knock-off, but he out-Buckleys Buckley, in my opinion
4.       Jeff Buckley: creepy caterwauls in the candlelight are like a stab in the heart
5.       Kurt Nilson: amazing voice, especially if you like the country twang, but I want to hear the whole song, where’s the rest?
6.       John Cale: a bit too mechanical and technical, good, but lacking soul
7.       Imogen Heap: hauntingly beautiful, just her voice and only 2 verses, I want more
8.       Renee Fleming Even the opera great cannot improve the stubbornly cultish standard. Her album version on Dark Hope is a respectable attempt, but live versions on BBC and A Prairie Home Companion grate on my ears.  Her over-pronunciation of words sucks the soul out of the original.
9.       k d lang: many versions, all similar, with piano accompaniment and soulful vocals, but I don’t care for her use of “our love” instead of Cohen’s broader comment on love itself.
10.   Sheryl Crow: good, solid acoustic version
11.   Alexandra Burke: incredible voice, reverent, soulful, just feel the Whitney Houston orchestration is overboard, this song needs simple instruments
12.   Allison Crowe: piano, a little fast, good volume moderation but vibrato sounds like wavering, pronounce halleeluyah properly, lose the smirk, what’s with Holy Ghost?  Holy Dove is a Pentecost reference; don’t change it until you don’t know what you’re talking about!
13.   Damien Leith: slow the hell down and let that nice voice wrap around the words
14.   Willie Nelson: sings the older version, might as well be singing Blue Eyes Crying In the Rain
15.   Jason Castro: nice try, son
16.   Bon Jovi:  I expected much, much better. This song deserves serious treatment
17.   Bob Dylan: incoherent, just completely destroys the power of the lyrics
18.   You-Tube reeks of countless amateurish basement home video covers which deserve no mention here.

I welcome comments.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

50 Amazing Numbers About Today's Economy

In no particular order, here are 50 things about our economy that blow my mind:
50. The S&P 500 is down 3% from 2000. But a version of the index that holds all 500 companies in equal amounts (rather than skewed by market cap) is up nearly 90%.
49. According to economist Tyler Cowen, "Thirty years ago, college graduates made 40 percent more than high school graduates, but now the gap is about 83 percent."


23. According to economist Michael Spence, sectors of the economy that have no direct foreign competition added more than 27 million jobs from 1990 to 2008. Those that do added almost none.
22. Capital expenditures among S&P 500 companies set a record in the fourth quarter of 2011.
21. Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX  ) is now responsible for about one-third of all Internet bandwidth.


3. The combined assets of Wal-Mart's (NYSE: WMT  ) Walton family is equal to that of the bottom 150 million Americans.
2. As the economy tanked in 2009, the top 25 hedge fund managers collectively earned $25.3 billion. On average, that works out to about $2,000 a minute for each manager.
1. Household debt payments as a percent of income are now the lowest since 1994.

Read the entire list HERE

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Around the world with PhilosFX!

I enjoy seeing that people all around the world are finding PhilosFX. So far, people from 99 different countries have visited at least once. I wonder which country will be the 100th?

We've had 47 countries with 5 or more unique visitors. I wonder which of the following will be the 48th? Any guesses?

48.Estonia4April 7, 2012
49.Peru4March 30, 2012
50.Bulgaria4March 27, 2012
51.Iceland4March 8, 2012
52.United Arab Emirates4March 6, 2012
53.Hong Kong4February 29, 2012
54.Serbia4February 21, 2012
55.Slovenia4January 29, 2012
56.Georgia3April 9, 2012
57.Qatar3April 4, 2012
58.Ghana3March 21, 2012
59.Venezuela3March 2, 2012
60.Iraq3February 23, 2012
61.Cambodia3February 23, 2012
62.Vietnam3January 8, 2012
63.Cyprus3January 6, 2012
64.Ecuador3December 2, 2011
65.Saudi Arabia3November 18, 2011
66.Chile3October 19, 2011

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