Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Palmyra, Syria

He's a Tadmor tout with only a few trinkets to sell.  But, it's enough to supplement the family income.  Of course, he should be in school.  The setting is Tadmor, the ancient Roman city of Palmyra.  The name means city of palms, but where are the palms?  Go and find out.  [1995]

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

San Juan, Puerto Rico

San Cristóbal was built in 1783, but parts of the fort go back to the 1600s.  Here in Puerto Rico, the sentry boxes are called garitas.  By whatever name, though, sentry boxes were standard parts of military architecture for centuries and a signature of 'chapter one' in the history of globalization.  Their purpose:  extramural invigilation, of course.  [2009]

Monday, November 28, 2011

Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic

Does it look over 400 years old to you? Well, it is. Fortaleza San Filipe on the Bay of Puerto Plata was built in 1577 by the Spanish. Its purpose was to defend against French and British attack. At select corners of the fort were sentry boxes for extramural invigilation. [1992]

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Mobile, Alabama, USA

Does it look 300 years old to you? Well, it's not. Fort Conde, on Mobile Bay, was re-built in 1976 as a scale model of the original, which was erected by the French. Its purpose was to defend against Spanish and British attack. At the corners of the fort were sentry boxes for extramural invigilation. [2005]

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Hong Kong S.A.R., China

Tart yogurt has become the hippest trend in the soft serve industry since frozen yogurt took off in the 1980s. It seems entirely out of place in Hong Kong, but here it is right off Nathan Road. How did it get here? It surfed in on a globalization wave and immediately made friends with the kiwis who arrived on an earlier wave. [2011]

Friday, November 25, 2011

Southampton, England, UK

Let the Christmas season begin with the prolific Nonconformist theologian Isaac Watts, who died 263 years ago today. He authored the lyrics of Joy to the World, which might be the most popular hymn of the season. Watts was born in Southampton, where he still presides over West Park. Today is his day. [2011]

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Let's spend the day giving thanks for the world's indigenous cultures. The Orang Asli are the 'natural people' of Malaya. Thankfully, their arts are now getting long overdue patronage. These 'forest folk' offer the world a unique aesthetic that gives insight into human nature as well as their nature. Sadly, they now number only 150,00 at most. [2011]

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Prague, Czech Republic

Crossing the Charles River is like passing through heaven and meeting the saints: statue after statue of Baroque renderings circa 1700.  Along with St. Vitus' Cathedral in the background, they remind us that God expects heavenly behavior while still on earth.  Today, fortunately, the sculptures are being cleaned and restored.  [1994]

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Ourika Valley, Morocco

Ceramic minarets (minus their masjids) are for sale along the road to Imlil in Morocco's High Atlas.  Their shape and design identify them immediately as Maghrebi.  The minaret is the tower from which the call to prayers is issued five times a day in the Islamic culture realm.  [2005]

Monday, November 21, 2011

Plovdiv, Bulgaria

Ottoman Turkey gave the world doner kebab, but today it belongs to the family of world palate pleasers and appetite satiaters. Doner means 'turn,' and the turning chicken on this spit is going to keep the people of Plovidiv spinning all day. In thier sandwiches, they will have a protein, a carb, a fat, and a source of vitamins and minerals. Perfect. [2010]

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Copenhagen, Denmark

Ivy does well in northern Europe thanks to the climate. It will tug entire buildings back to nature's roots if left untamed. Scenes like this are rarer and rarer, however, as people realize that biological weathering is hastened by ivy's embrace. Down from the bricks it is torn. Today, we have other ways of 'greening' the city. [1984]

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Uppsala, Sweden

Sweden has more runestones than any other country. They date to the Viking Age, and many were used to mark grave sites. With the arrival of Christianity in Scandinavia, however, the runic alphabet was replaced with the the Latin alphabet. [1984]

Friday, November 18, 2011

Oslo, Norway

Turn the clock back 800 years and this is what places of Christian worship in Norway would have looked like. This one was built around 1200 AD. Today, there are only a couple dozen wooden stave churches left on the Norwegian landscape. Because of its iconic value, this one, named Gol, was relocated to the Norwegian Folk Museum in Oslo. [1984]

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Woodland Park, Colorado, USA

Like flowers in bloom on telephone-pole stems, the colorful state flags of the united States of America offer unflappable poise and a history lesson on federalism. If we had a contest for the best state flag, what state would win? The candidates are on display in Woodland Park. [2005]

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Kaohsiung, Taiwan

Dad's home from work, the rain has stopped, and there are a few hours of sunlight left.  It's time for a walk and a trike ride.  They're lucky to live in Kaohsiung, a city with lots of open space and smooth pavements.  But, couldn't we be in almost any middle class neighborhood in the world?  [2011]

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Kaohsiung, Taiwan

Most of these fruits and vegetables you will recognize, but what are the long green gourds with the bad complexions? They're called bitter melons, and they are bitter.  It's the outer husk with the warts that you eat.  Buy one, gut it, slice it thin, chill it, and try to enjoy it as much as you would any salad green.  [2011]

Monday, November 14, 2011

Kaohsiung, Taiwan

Kaohsiung is Taiwan's second largest city, but it looks twice as big when reflected in the canal that drains away tropical rains and opens up urban canyons to the setting sun's warm glow.  This waterway and its verges connect to the Love River and the container port that has become a nexus of global intercourse for all of Taiwan.  [2011]

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Taipei, Taiwan

Look again!  That's no highway worker; that's an escapee from a local department store.  Maybe this is his second job.  Now, if he could just afford some of the high fashion he gets to wear when he's on mannequin duty in the window.  [2011]

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Taipei, Taiwan

'Push hands' is practiced all over Taiwan.  Find a park or, on rainy days, a sheltered open space and you will find some Tai Chi masters and people practicing this very popular martial art.  Here the emphasis is not on competition and combat, but on coordination, balance, and relaxation.  If you think yin and yang, you will understand what is going on.  [2011]

Friday, November 11, 2011

Taipei, Taiwan

Today is Perpendicularis Major: 11-11-11.   What we require are the services of the most perpendicular of Chinese folk characters:  this dude.  He is here in a parade honoring one of the most important deities of south China's coast:  Mazu.  The time before Pependicularis Major occurs again:  1000 years.  [2011]

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Taipei, Taiwan

Among the most popular street foods in Taiwan are spiced tea eggs. The ones in his pot are shelled and ready for lunch. They have been boiled and steeped in black tea, soy sauce, and Chinese 'five spice.' Every 7-Eleven in Taiwan has a crock pot of tea eggs right beside the Big Bites, and that tells you how popular they are. [2011]

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

London, England, UK

On this day, twenty two years ago, the Berlin Wall began to crumble.  One of the crumbs soon arrived at London's Imperial War Museum as a visual reminder of the not-so-distant past.  In the blink of an eye, Communism was gone.  The people of East Germany must have understood graffiti artist Indiano's message: they changed their lives.  [2006]

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Bologna, Italy

'Join us!' This is the direction Communism was supposed to spread in Europe: from east (as in Russia) to west (as in Italy).  In fact, Italy's Communist Party was one of the biggest west of the Iron Curtain. The workers of the world, however, never did unite, and anti-communism spread from west to east. [1984]

Monday, November 7, 2011

Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico

Some tools are so simple, yet so essential for keeping cities livable.  No synthetics here, just a green, clean, sweeping machine.  I wonder if he plays quidditch after work.  [2007]

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Abu Dhabi, UAE

If you can change oil into water, turning the desert green is no problem. But, first you must have oil, and Abu Dhabi does. Drip irrigation makes it possible to deliver precise amounts of water (and nutrients) to the root zone of each plant. We should be using it everywhere, not just in deserts. [1992]

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Douglas, Isle of Man

Ever meet a three-legged Manxman?  His three legs are on his cap, along with a classic race car, a palindrome that means money to the Manx.  The three-legged emblem is called a triskelion, and it is seen everywhere on the Isle of Man.  Race cars are seen everywhere on the Isle of Man, too.  Always italicize race cars to make it look like they are racing.  [2011]

Friday, November 4, 2011

Honolulu, Hawaii, USA

Why does a town clock seem so out of place on the beach at Waikiki? People at leisure shouldn't be looking at any clock because every clock's subversive message is 'hurry up.' [2011]

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Honolulu, Hawaii, USA

What's it say at the top? 'Aloha,' a Hawaiian word used to say hello and goodbye, the perfect inscription for a waterfront where cruise ships dock. The Aloha Tower is still the signature landmark of Honolulu's CBD, but the resorts have pulled the tourist trade out to Waikiki. [2011]

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Detroit, Michigan, USA

Modernist architecture from the 1970s was meant to signal the rebirth of Detroit, so they chose the name Renaissance Center. Unfortunately, they built it like a fortress that existed apart from rather than a part of downtown. There is no doubt who 'owns' this city, is there? Whose signature is on the central tower? [2008]

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Zagreb, Croatia

It's All Saints Day and these two look like saints to me. So, let's begin the most perpendicular of all months, 11/11, on the streets of Zagreb with two nuns who seem happy to be imitating the number eleven. I wonder if they are aware of what's coming on the eleventh day of the eleventh month of the eleventh year: the holiday of Perpendicularis Major. [2008]