Monday, July 6, 2015

The Meaning of Headlines: 'in the fold' - religion

The International New York Times had the following headline on July 4, 2015: ‘Pope Francis’ Visit to Latin America Will Test His Ability to Keep Catholics in the Fold.’ What does ‘in the fold’ mean?

The article discusses Pope Francis’s comments on topics ranging from climate change to income inequity since his papacy commenced in March 2013 and what this means for his visit to South America on Sunday July 6 – specifically to Ecuador, Bolivia, and Paraguay.

What has this to do with ‘the fold?’ The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines ‘fold’ as ‘an enclosure for sheep’ and ‘a flock of sheep’ or ‘a group of people or institutions that share a common faith, belief, activity, or enthusiasm.’ The headline is therefore suggesting that the visit to South America will test the Pope’s ability to keep his followers (the common group) in the ‘enclosure’ – in other words, in the Catholic church.

Roget’s 21st Century Thesaurus (third edition, 2013, by the Philip Lief Group) defines the phrase ‘bring into the fold’ as ‘absorb, accept, admit, adopt, embrace, enfold, include, incorporate, and convert.’ Convert is the appropriate one here, in reference to religion. Fold can also be the pleat, gather, or draping of the papal vestment, and therefore ‘into the fold’ could mean bringing people into his side, to be closer to him. Statistically, if fold is used with a number, such as three-fold or ten-fold, it means multiplication – three times the amount, or ten times the amount.

Does the article present facts that support the headline? Yes, it does. The article adds that the Pope’s international diplomacy ‘will test his skills in what could be a much more difficult task: putting parishioners in pews and keeping them there.’ Parishioners are the followers, and pews are the seats in a church. The author writes of the ‘dwindling number of priests’ and the falling number of Catholics, particularly in Latin American countries once high in Catholic members (falling from 90% in the 1970s to 69% in 2014, according to a Pew Center survey). The author adds that, since the new papacy, there has been a rise in the number of seminary students studying to become priests, and that the Pope appeared to have ‘delivered a boost to the church’ through ‘observed widespread enthusiasm’ – but the Vatican does not have ‘statistics or more precise data on this.’ The article concludes with a statement from the Vatican: ‘I think that there are lots of people who realize that the Pope is coming to rescue the lost sheep.’

Hence the article has references to sheep (a traditional symbol for parishioners), trends in followers of the Catholic faith, and pews in churches.

Scorecard for the NYT article is 98% - 'in the fold' has widespread understanding amongst readers, and for an already lengthy headline, this is a short, descriptive, succinct way to say that the Pope hopes to retain followers. I liked the author's phrase 'putting parishioners in pews' and would have liked to have seen that in the headline. But 'in the fold' is rather neat. 

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Carousel at the top of the world in Tbilisi

High on the mountain ridge at the western side of Tbilisi is Mtatsminda Park with a view of the capital city. In Mtatsminda Park is a carousel – a merry-go-round ride for children.

The carousel is from the Bertazzon amusement ride company based in Sernaglia della Battaglia in Italy. They produce bumper cars, swings, and other rides. Three brothers – Luigi, Ferruccio, and Marcello Bertazzon – began fixing amusement rides in 1951, and established their own business, Bertazzon 3B in 1963, making their own rides. It is a generational family business with Michele, Alex, and Patrizia Bertazzon taking over the company in 2009.

The version of the carousel in Mtatsminda Park is a classic Venetian carousel. It is the small model at 4.7 meters (15.5 feet) with a steel frame, ball-bearing mounted rotating components, and hand-painted decorations which include the horses and scenery panels. The panels have classic 18th century scenes of Venice.

Mtatsminda Park in Tbilisi, Georgia

Mtatsminda Park is built on a plateau with impressive views of the city of Tbilisi. It is accessed by highway or the Tbilisi Funicular. The plateau is on the top of Mount Mtatsminda, meaning ‘holy mountain.’

The park was constructed in 1930, partly because the funicular had been built to transport people to a restaurant, and partly because it was part of the city’s planning to develop the ‘wasteland’ of Mount Mtatsminda. The amusement park was constructed in 2007. The area of Mtatsminda Park is 100 hectares with rides, a ferris wheel, water slides, cafes, kiosks, and a 210-metre-high television tower. It’s basically a giant amusement park.

The ferris wheel, opened in 2010, is 80 metres high (263 feet), perched on the edge of the 324 metre-high mountain (1000 feet).

The original restaurant on Mtatsminda Plateau was built in the early 1900s, and had a third storey constructed in 1936-38 during renovations. It has been further refurbished and changed into a complex of restaurants. It contains four restaurants, and a banquet hall.

The funicular in Tbilsi: on top of the world

High on the mountain ridge at the western side of Tbilisi is Mtatsminda Park on Mtatsminda Plateau. To reach it, a road meanders upwards. Or you can take the funicular.

The funicular has an interesting history. Belgian engineer, Alphons Robie, had the idea in 1896 to build a funicular. Tbilisi officials approved the design in July 1990, construction commenced in September 1903, completed at the end of 1904, and officially opened on March 27, 1905.

French engineer, A. Blansche, constructed the funicular (it means ‘rope-way’) in conjunction with Tbilisi architect – Polish-born Alexander Shimkevich (he designed the Rustaveli Theatre). The funicular was 501 metres and a gradient (incline or slope) of 28-33 degrees. The rope is actually a cable – with two counterbalanced cabins operated by a cable to transport passengers. At the time it was one of the steepest and longest ropeway railways in the world.  

The blue funicular was electric powered. There were three stops – (1) the beginning at Chonkadze Street, (2) the middle at St. David’s Church (Mamadaviti) on the slope of Mount Mtatsminda, with the Mtatsminda Pantheon of Writers and Public Figures nearby, and (3) the end at Mtatsminda Park with a rotunda, cafe, and restaurant. The restaurant had a third storey constructed in 1936-38 during renovations. In 1971 the lower station at Chonkadze Street was re-constructed by architects G. Batiashvili and T. Kutateladze.

The Tiflis Funiculaire was designed to hold 50 people and would travel the distance in six minutes. It was particularly popular from the 1930s when Mtatsminda Park – an amusement park – was constructed at the top of the mountain. The funicular ceased from June 2000 after a serious crash.

Idle and derelict for 12 years, it was restored and opened in October 2012. With the restoration came modern technology. Everything is new except the track and infrastructure. The track is still one track with a siding and three stops. The station building was refurbished in the fin-de-siecle architectural style. The two new cabins (still with drivers) are now red, fitted with 18 seats and provide room for 60 people. The cabins are still propelled by a haul rope.

Designed and constructed by Austrian company, Doppelmayr Garaventa Group – a ropeway manufacturer – with the cabins bought in Switzerland, auxiliary rails were laid in the large entrance hall. The cabins were then deposited in front of the building and pulled through the wide doors, using rope winches, to their ultimate destination on the track. Two paralled tracks are used for short distances, but the Tbilisi funicular has a single track with a siding where the two cabins stop and pass each other.

The vertical rise is 235 metres and the length of the track is 491 metres (losing a bit of track at the restored stations). The funicular travels at three metres per second (maximum speed is 14 metres per second).