Monday, February 28, 2011

Cardiff, Wales, UK

He doesn't have the fame of St. Patrick, but he's the bomb in Wales. Year of birth? Year of death? We don't know. But we do know the day he died: March 1. St. David got the Welsh national holiday and his nemesis (that red dragon behind) got the Welsh flag. [2005]

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Carlisle, Pennsylvania, USA

By now, the forsythia frontier has just passed the 37th parallel along the Atlantic seaboard of America. The forsythia's fluorescence heralds the arrival of spring. But, what has happened here? Can you tell how high the snow cover was the previous winter when temperatures plunged? Reading the landscape is like solving a mystery. [1994]

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico

Spiderman to the rescue! He'll take care of those drug lords. Here, the Bay of Banderas meets the Sierra Madre Occidental with the hotel zone of PV wedged in between. [2007]

Friday, February 25, 2011

Monaco-Ville, Monaco

Monaco's Palace Guards were commissioned in 1817 to keep the grounds under surveillance. How quaint. We don't need people today; we have technology to do that. The message is the same, however: Stay in line or the authorities will get you. Do you see the Grimaldi coat-of-arms on the guard booth? [2008]

Thursday, February 24, 2011

New York, New York, USA

As you head for a Subway exit at Chambers Street, all eyes are upon you. The station was rebuilt after 9-11, and 'Oculus' appeared. To stand as symbols of the city's multicultural character, the mosaics were modeled after eyes of real New Yorkers from around the world. The subtext? Remember:  you are being watched. [2005]

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Granby, Quebec, Canada

Jane Jacobs told us that "eyes upon the street" make for safe neighborhoods. She meant human eyes, but we have come to favor robotic eyes. You see no surveillance cameras here in Granby, but you are reminded that real citizens' eyes (unseen eyes behind dark glasses?) monitor all that we do. Broader interpretation: 'Big Brother is watching.' [2009]

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Safety First! Safety through surveillance cameras. But that's such an unsavory epithet. Let's call them 'street safety' cameras instead. Who could object to that, particularly in a tourist precinct like The Rocks? Do you find this a comforting sign (complete with Sydney's perky signature) or a mask for what is becoming the surveillance century? [2006]

Monday, February 21, 2011

Jerusalem, Israel

This is how the millennium began in Jerusalem. Video cameras were installed all over the old city to both deter crime and identify anyone involved in reprehensible conduct. Since then, the Israeli tech sector has become a world leader in CCTV technology, recently marrying it to wireless transmission. [2000]

Sunday, February 20, 2011

London, England, UK

Who painted that? Banksy. London, one of the most heavily surveilled cities in the world, woke up one morning and there it was. Banksy had eluded detection even though he was on Royal Mail property. Do you see the camera that should have caught him in the act? Everyone in London is now on candid camera, but not everyone thinks it's funny. [2008]

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Athens, Greece

Greece does not have a large immigrant population, but Athens does look like every other European capital city: new faces are everywhere. These are the kids Europeans refused to have twenty years ago. They are grown ups now and ready to occupy bottom-rung jobs in the economy. [2006] 

Friday, February 18, 2011

Tel Aviv, Israel

The largest shuk in Tel Aviv is found under the awnings along Carmel Street. Think about how many customers it must take to move that many eggs in a day or two. Remember, they are not under refrigeration. It's not hard to be a 'locavore' in Israel, and it's not hard to get fresh ingredients for home cooking. A shuk ('suq' in Arabic) is a market. [2010]

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Aleppo, Syria

Students and teachers on a field trip: They are "doing geography," in this case political geography. They are learning to love Halab (to outsiders: Aleppo), the 'head city' of northern Syria, by visiting the Citadel. Could Damascus offer anything more magnificent? Doubtful. Thus, the rivalry between Syria's dual cores continues into the next generation. [1993]

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Sofia, Bulgaria

The Ottomans were thrown out in 1878, then the cathedral was built: Bulgarian Orthodox, Greek architecture, named for a Russian saint, marbles from Munich, metal gates from Vienna, ornaments from Berlin, mosaics from Venice. Its profile? Reminiscent of Istanbul's Ottoman mosques, which were inspired by Byzantine churches. Ideas come full circle. [2010]

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Istanbul, Turkey

Outsiders call it the Blue Mosque because of the blue Iznik tile of the interior, but even the exterior seems to turn blue under a summer sky. Officially, it is the Sultanahmet Camii. Its domed and half-domed architecture was modeled after the nearby Byzantine church of Hagia Sophia. If you are looking for a definition of Ottoman architecture, this is it. [2010]

Monday, February 14, 2011

Rome, Italy

Welcome to the homeland of St. Valentine, the patron saint of romantic love, at least by popular definition. To these three saints, love might mean the feeling they have for their scooters, a ubiquitous feature, if not the defining essence, of Rome. [2002]

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Paris, France

There’s a word for peace in every tongue.
Bring them together. You feel among
those who see: the future of Earth as conflict-free.
In the background lurks the Eiffel Tower,
now a symbol of Euro-power.
Beginning life as a rallying point
for a Paris fair that did not disappoint,
'la tour Eiffel' has now emerged:
emblem of Europe newly purged
of constant strife, now pointing the way
to the peaceful life.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Dover, England, UK

Location, location, location. That's what made Dover castle one of the most important in England. It commands the shortest passage between the continent and the British Isles. The town of Dover was, for centuries, England's front door. Now, ferry service has declined, the result of budget air lines and the Chunnel. [2002]

Friday, February 11, 2011

Tallinn, Estonia

Cities of the Hanseatic League were the merchant capitals of northern Europe during the Middle Ages. They were independent, prosperous, and envied by all. When Communist regimes of the Baltic were overthrown in the 1990s, the Hansa provided the perfect symbolic imagery for building new nations. If only we could resurrect the past! [2003]

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Comino, Malta

The third isle of the Maltese archipelago is Comino. If you saw The Count of Monte Cristo, you've seen it before. Its crowning glory is St. Mary's Tower, now a destination for day-hikers, but formerly important to the defense of the nation. The only other structure on the island is a chapel. [2009]

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Damascus, Syria

The salient feature is the hand. It belongs to the former ruler of Syria, Hafez al Assad, whose heavy hand brought the country much-needed stability. But it was also the hand of repression. He and the rock-solid flag in the background made their attempt at forging national unity out of ethnoreligious diversity. We may soon see if it worked. [1996]

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Milan, Italy

What do London, Paris, New York, and Milan have in common? They are the fashion capitals of the world, and this couple offers living proof. They are on the piazza del duomo in front of the galleria in the heart of Milan. The piazza pulses with people almost as if it really is a heart, pumping life into the arteries of commerce that lead off into the city. [2008]

Monday, February 7, 2011

Jerusalem, Israel

The courtyard of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is packed with people right through the day. But, as evening closes in, the crowds abate and the aura changes. A few linger to pray quietly. For some, like this sister from Africa, it may be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to draw close to Jesus at the very place where he made the ultimate sacrifice. [2010]

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Denver, Colorado, USA

Well before Interstate highways carried 'slope dopes' into the mountains, the Ski Train did the job. It left from Denver's Union Station in the morning and returned in the afternoon. That era came to a close in 2009. So much for sensible mass transportation. [2005]

Saturday, February 5, 2011

New Oxford, Pennsylvania, USA

Despite attempts at informal education, motorcycle fatalities have failed to abate. In the year this photo was taken, over 4500 people were killed in motorcycle accidents in the United States. Half the people killed in a typical year are not wearing helmets. Now, look at the photo again. [2005]

Friday, February 4, 2011

Watertown, South Dakota, USA

If your ancestors arrived on the Dakota prairie only a hundred years ago, this is where they lived. Sod houses gave way to wood. Abandonment of individual farmsteads followed as mechanization created new economies of scale. Imagine a winter under snow and cut off from lifelines to civilization. [2007]

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Zapopan, Jalisco, Mexico

When you find a plaza in Mexico, look for a church, basilica, or cathedral on its verge. It's a repetitive geographic association on the cultural landscape of Roman Catholic America. This is the church built to honor the Virgin of Zapopan. It was consecrated as a basilica in 1939, but its foundations go back to 1689. [2008]

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Athens, Greece

He was doing nothing more than taking pictures of a parade and sending them to his friends. Across the Med, in Egypt, the same technology was becoming just as popular. But there, the cell phone and its sequelae had a different role to play in history. Today in Cairo, the ground hog is heralding the coming of a Periclean spring. We hope! [2006]

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

In 1916, Sydney’s government decided to locate the Taronga Zoo right on the city's harbor. As a result, many long-necked ungulates have a better view of the city’s skyline than human bipeds. In fact, it's a 'beautiful view,' which is what taronga means. [2006]