Monday, October 31, 2011

Buchanan, Virginia, USA

From Mexico came the pumpkin, from the British Isles came the jack o'lantern, and from the Mediterranean came a holiday for 'all saints.' An apparition such as this may seem frivolous to some, but to the cognoscenti, he's the product of 'deep history.' And in Buchanan, he's a welcome seasonal visitor to Main Street. [2005]

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Madrid, Spain

Music confined to concert halls is so elitist; music on the streets is so egalitarian. And, there's always music on the streets of Europe. Except that it's not usually coming from instruments like these (accordion excepted). How about buying one of their CDs? Discount if you can name the percussion instruments. [2009]

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Delhi, India

When the Red Fort was built in the 1600s, it was in Shahjahanabad. Now, we know the city as 'Old Delhi.' From here, Shah Jahan the Magnificent ruled the Moghul Empire at its apex. What Versailles was to France, the Red Fort was to India. What makes it red?  Red sandstone. [2011]

Friday, October 28, 2011

Hong Kong S.A.R., China

Voting in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region means getting registered, just as it does in most democratic countries. But, wait! The People's Republic of China is not democratic at all. But, wait! It must be democratic because it's called a "people's republic" and that sounds democratic. Why must the world be so contradictory? [2011]

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Guyama, Puerto Rico

"Our life is frittered away by detail . . . Simplify, simplify, simplify!"  So, let's all head for whatever Walden Pond we find in our backyard and celebrate the simple life.  Let's make Henry David Thoreau our prophet for the 21st century.  [2009]

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Cardiff, Wales, UK

The Welsh can say in one word what it takes Anglophones 26 words to say: The church of St. Mary's in the hollow of the white hazel near the rapid whirlpool and the church of St. Tysilio by the red cave. As countries look for elements of their culture to set them apart, the Welsh have found aurum in their language, one of the oldest in Europe. [2005]

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Santa Barbara, California, USA

Looking good: surfer dudes living for the beach, short boards snuggling up to the sand, towels taking a hit from Apollo, bluffs becoming one with the sea, blue sky battling the shadows, boys in no hurry to be men. [1996]

Monday, October 24, 2011

London, England, UK

London Zoo:  Families that play together stay together.  That's true of humans and otters.  Otters, in fact, are known for their strong family bonds, and play seems to be their specialty.  Who's behind glass?  Who's peering in?  What a perfectly designed otter habitat!  These small-clawed otters are natives of Southeast Asia.  [2009]

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Norfolk, Virginia, USA

Virginia Zoo: Grant's zebra looks quite at home on the African savanna even if this is the Virginia coastal plain. Zoological parks have taken impressive strides in creating habitats that mimic each species' natural environment, minus the human predators. The exploding population of Africa has taken its toll on zebra numbers in the wild. [2009]

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Taronga Zoo: The rhinoceros iguana looks like a battle-scarred and aged knight who has refused to take off his armor. Just look at those legs:  they're protected by chain mail. Under pressure of habitat destruction, rhinoceros iguanas are disappearing on their only earthly abode, Hispaniola and nearby islands in the Caribbean. [2006]

Friday, October 21, 2011

Washington, DC, USA

The National Zoo: What a great ape! His name is Baraka, which means 'blessing.' He's the alpha male in the gorilla band, but I don't know what instrument he plays. From this perch he can keep an eye on his co-species and the tourists, his co-hominids. At the National Zoo, Baraka's life expectancy is 15 years longer than it would be in the wild. [2011]

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico

Guadalajara Zoo: Please seek out the flamingos when you go to the zoo, just to remind yourself that these colorful birds are real creatures of nature and not just yard ornaments. Seeing one flamingo is spectacular, but seeing a whole flock will really fry your rods and cones. Just don't mimic their neck extensions or you will fry your cervical curve as well. [2008]

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Honolulu, Hawaii, USA

Honolulu Zoo: When you go to any zoo, don't miss the lemurs. Just look at their hands: those long, grasping fingers and that opposable thumb. Eerily human by my standards! In fact, homo sapiens and the lemurs share a common ancestor, Ida, whose fossilized remains were found in a German bog a few years ago. These are ring-tailed lemurs. [2011]

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Granby, Quebec, Canada

Granby Zoo: Few go to a zoo to see bats, but these monsters (monstrosus is their species name) were the star attraction in my book. Do you see those over-sized snouts? They use them for attacking figs in their African homeland. And those wings stretch out to a meter in breadth. I think they both have a future in Hollywood horror flicks. [2011]

Monday, October 17, 2011

Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Quite unexpectedly, the Arab Spring became the American Autumn. Quite unexpectedly the Tea Party on the right found Occupy Wall Street on the left. Quite unexpectedly, what started in Tunisia, spread to New York, and then Montreal and the world. Are the Arabs now teaching US lessons in democracy!!? [2011]

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Burlington, Vermont, USA

Perhaps this is the type of neighborhood the 'new urbanism' is trying to replicate in suburbia where nothing has been handy without getting behind the wheel. When you can find someplace to eat within walking distance of home, it's the result of mixed-used development. With less need for cars, the city becomes greener and the planet more sustainable. [2011]

Saturday, October 15, 2011

St. Albans, Vermont, USA

It's pre-peak in Vermont, but this cemetery has already gone spectral, making a lie of its name: Greenwood Cemetery. Around the colors of autumn an entire industry has materialized in New England, where topography spreads them out along the vertical axis as well as the horizontal. [2011]

Friday, October 14, 2011

Paestum, Italy

More than two-and-half millennia ago, a colony of Greeks settled along the Tyrrhenian coast of Italy and built this temple to Athena. The city was later taken over by the Romans. Although Paestum's temples have been reassembled, the tourists are still mercifully few. Visit in the spring when the grass is still green. [2007]

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Whangarei, New Zealand

Where do the spirits of place live in New Zealand? In the fern forests, of course. But, human setters from the Maori to the Europeans have coaxed them out of their canopied abode to become symbols of the country's human environment. Ever hear of the Black Ferns? They're the women's world-champion rugby team. [2011]

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

Ethnic enclave, tourist precinct, windowed wonderworld, and garden of gastronomy: always presented on a 'big screen' of red and yellow technicolor. The large cities of Australia all have their Chinatowns. Though Adelaide's is small, it occupies a dynamic central location within the city. [2011]

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Hong Kong S.A.R., China

Early in the morning, with little business, a taxi driver takes time to talk with a friend. The driver, of course, is behind the wheel. Unusual, right? For Americans it is, because he is on the right-hand side of the vehicle. Hong Kong inherited the British system, but China became a left-hand only country in 1946. Do you think change will be coming to Honk Kong? [2011]

Monday, October 10, 2011

Tequila, Jalisco, Mexico

Mexico's Jalisco state is the home of tequila: both the town and the fermented juice of the blue agave, growing here in the region's rich volcanic soils. The 'pineapples' are still harvested by jimadores, using tools that go back centuries. This is the landscape you have to thank for all those margaritas in Margaritaville. [2008]

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Weaverville, North Carolina, USA

The town clock ticks off the minutes as the town's children march off into the future. Time marches on for us all:  We were the future once; now, it is theirs. Do you think these future moms and dads, scientists and writers, sports junkies and social butterflies understand that time is their most precious resource? [2011]

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Schaan, Liechtenstein

Liechtenstein's only railway connects with Austria and Switzerland.  Duh! There are no other choices!  It passes through Schaan (not Vaduz), but locomotives like this are no longer part of the scenery:  except where they have been memorialized.  [1984]

Friday, October 7, 2011

Paphos, Cyprus

Welcome to Aphrodite's birthplace on the southern coast of Cyprus. Just find the sea stacks closest to the horizon: that's where Uranus was slain and where his mangled 'manhood' was tossed into the sea.  From the foam that erupted rose the western world's goddess of lust. I wonder if Botticelli ever saw this spot. [2004]

Thursday, October 6, 2011

London, England, UK

She is exhibiting herself on Trafalgar Square's empty "fourth plinth," where people and their selected accoutrements became public art for an hour each.  That multiplied her 15 minutes of fame by four. When we remove the boundary between sculpture and sculptor, that's really post-modern.  When we affirm the hierarchy between husband and wife, that's really not.  [2009]

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Malacca, Malaysia

When space is at a premium you have to improvise. If you must find somewhere to dry your sarongs, why not dry them against the sky and create a colorful canopy for the alley? The sarong, or sarung, is common all across southern Asia, especially here in Meleka. Or do you spell it Malacca? [2011]

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Trieste, Italy

They're just about gone from the northern Adriatic, but they survive in pop art: dolphins, that is. It's the way we deal with the wild. We kill it in the name of progress, then we 'affectionate' it on our beach towels. [2008]

Monday, October 3, 2011

El Rosario, Michoacán, Mexico

Here's solar energy at work: Chalk one up for the green life. Why don't we all hang our laundry out to dry? Too much work and too much time. It's not easy being green, and too much self-sufficiency is just plain bad for the economy. [2008]

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Burnsville, North Carolina, USA

"Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas any more." No, you're in the Blue Ridge Mountains. And, what's under the rainbow? The Yancey County Court House backed up by Mt. Mitchell, highest peak in the Appalachians. This weekend the yellow brick road leads to the nearby Autumn at Oz Party, but you'll need ruby slippers to get home. [2009]

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

It's a traditional Tamil temple in modern Malaysia. Sri Kandaswamy Kovil, built by the original generation of Hindu immigrants from India and Ceylon, is now over a hundred years old. Compare its colorful strategy for serving the needs of the faithful to medieval Europe's cathedrals with their ornate stained glass windows. [2011]