Friday, May 31, 2013

Agra, India

Alcoves lighten up the Taj Mahal's architectural design and provide places for people to congregate and take care of important business:  in this case on their cell phones.  [2011]

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Florence, Oregon, USA

It's afloat and seaworthy even though it's not the definition of picturesque. As Oregon's coastal harbors head toward post-modernity, being pretty is just as important as being functional. Tourist economies demand it. [2011]

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

San Francisco, California, USA

It's very prestigious for high school bands to perform at Fisherman's Wharf. Visitors from around the world look and listen, and take the memory of American music home with them. [2005]

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Hampton, Virginia, USA

The restaurant's name is Harpoon Larry's: think whales. It bills itself as an oyster bar: think oyster stew. Outside is the biggest lobster in the world: think New England. Whales, oysters, lobsters:  all have different geographies, and only one is associated with the nearby Chesapeake Bay. [2012]

Monday, May 27, 2013

Lone Tree, South Dakota, USA

Just to the east of the 100th meridian, you find America's great grasslands. Go west: the grasses get shorter and shorter. Go east: the grasses get taller and taller, and trees start making an appearance.  But, here on the 96th meridian, it's still all grasses and no trees. Wait a minute. What's the name of this place again? [2007]

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Yangmingshan National Park, Taiwan

Looking almost prehistoric, this lizard looks like he can take care of himself.  As an ectotherm, he cherishes the noontime sun.  Even though he is out in the open, he blends in quite well.  Do you think he knows there is a volcano underneath?  [2012]

Saturday, May 25, 2013

San Juan, Puerto Rico

The most picturesque cemetery in Old San Juan overlooks the Atlantic Ocean.  It was named after a popular 17th century saint, Mary Magdalene of Pazzi.  Strangely enough, when you get your name attached to a cemetery, you live forever.  Today is her feast day.  [2009?]

Friday, May 24, 2013

Waiheke Island, New Zealand

The Maoris call it waka ama, which translates as 'outrigger canoe.' This one can handle six paddlers, but some are built for only one or two. Combine an outrigger with the stars and a knowledge of ocean swells, and you've got the conquest of the Pacific. [2006]

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Andorra La Vella, Andorra

Look at that scree! No, scree isn't the Catalan word for 'church.' It's the geographer's word for downslope accumulations of rocky detritus (a.k.a. talus). You can see how weathering and erosion are tearing down the Pyrenees and making it difficult for vegetation to get a foothold on these active slopes. As for the church, it's Sant Esteve. [2005]

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Mumbai, India

"My Plate" recommends that half your daily food intake should be fruits and vegetables.  So sayeth the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which has replaced the Food Pyramid with a schematic called My Plate.  Americans need the admonition.  Indians don't.  [2011]

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

The harbor police and rescue team make Toronto's offshore waters a safer place to be.  Offshore from Toronto are the waters of (a) Lake Erie or (b) Lake Ontario.  Which one is correct?  [2013]

Monday, May 20, 2013

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

This morning: he's putting the public in public space, feeding the pigeons at a rapid pace, staying warm in the sun's embrace, and putting a smile on everyone's face.  [2013]

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

The law is the great equalizer.  It creates an environment where the lion and the lamb can meet on the same footing.  Do you see them at opposite ends of the scales of justice, where they remind interlocuting barristers that equality rights are guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms?  Sculpture by Eldon Garnet.  [2013]

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Macau S.A.R., China

What do pandas eat?  Bamboo. Leaves, stems, and shoots.  Almost exclusively. And, because they eat so much, the species needs large bamboo ecosystems to survive. None are left in Macao and few are left in China. Their ecosystems are disappearing, and by the end of the century, pandas will exist only in zoos. [2011]

Friday, May 17, 2013

London, England, UK

Take your birth year and add 2,557 to it.  Will anyone remember you or your birthday 2,557 years from now?  Yet, millions of people around the world will remember the birth of Siddhartha Gautama today.  There must be something powerful in his message.  [2003]

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Lodi, California, USA

Until next year, American Idol goes into hiatus. But, where exactly does American Idol go?  One possibility: Lodi, California. What does Lodi spell backwards? [2006]

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Mt. Morris, New York, USA

You know why he's in a hurry, right? He's a first responder on his way to a fire. Advice for today: Hug a firefighter and feel warm all over! Since there are over a million firefighters in the United States, it won't be hard to find one. [2013]

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

St. Charles, Iowa, USA

Imes is the oldest of the surviving bridges of Madison County, Iowa. It has been moved twice since 1870 when it was built. At this location, its relationship to the land is lost. What good is a covered bridge without a stream passing underneath? [2008]

Monday, May 13, 2013

Panyee, Thailand

When an island's cliffs come right down to the sea, where do you build your village? The fishing families of Ko Panyee have solved the problem by building everything on stilts out over the water. Everything. [2011]

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Paphos, Cyprus

Less than a hundred miles south of Paphos is the Aphrodite Gas Field. You can tell from the name that it lies within Cyprus's Exclusive Economic Zone. Desperation for fossil fuel will bring it into production, give a boost to the nation's economy, and add another insult to the Mediterranean ecosystem. What would Aphrodite think? [2004]

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Jerusalem, Israel

Along a Roman street he runs. The street is the old Cardo of Jerusalem, built during the heyday of the Roman Empire. He is a boy of the Haredim whose ancestors came to Jerusalem from Mitteleuropa. Of bygone eras, both are reminders. [2010]

Friday, May 10, 2013

Jerusalem, Israel

In 1991, Operation Solomon airlifted thousands of Jews out of their home country, Ethiopia. By the end of the decade, entrepreneurs were trying to stimulate a tourist trade with Africa. [1999]

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Jerusalem, Israel

The outpouring Jews from the Soviet realm began in the 1980s, then crescendoed with the complete collapse of European Communism. In the 1990s, over a million Jews from the former USSR arrived in Israel, stimulating a demand for Russian culture. Philip Kirkorov, for one, became very popular. Note the three languages: English, Russian, and Hebrew. [1999]

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Montreal, Quebec, Canada

It's not a church and it's not Icarus.  It's a concert hall and an eye.  In fact, it's 'The Eye,' by Montreal sculptor David Altmejd.  That's the official line, but I still think it's Icarus: burned right through by a sunbeam, face gone, wings melted.  [2011]

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Piraeus, Greece

Don't dismiss scenes like this as ordinary. Repairing the nets on fishing boats has been going on in Piraeus's harbor for at least 2,500 years. How many cities have industries that have lasted that long?  Every morning, the Saronic Gulf beckons; every evening the catch is served in harborside tavernas. [2006]

Monday, May 6, 2013

Malacca, Malaysia

If history is gone, you can always bring it back. That's what happened in Malacca several years ago when the famous fort built by the Portuguese was reconstructed riverside. Too puny to be the real thing, don't you think? So, it must be a scale model. Nevertheless, when you see a fort, ask yourself: Why was this a strategic location at one time? [2011]

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Tlaquepaque, Jalisco, Mexico

Tlaquepaque is a town of ceramicists, potters, and sculptors.  It is where the artistic talent of Guadalajara congregates, giving its streets a lively and inviting personality.  Alas, gringos, the pueblo's streets are probably no livelier than usual today.  Cinco de mayo is not an important holiday on this side of Mexico.  [2007]

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Kaohsiung, Taiwan

By wearing those face masks, they hope not to spread disease.  That's very important right now because the first case of the H7N9 virus was detected in Taiwan last week.  So far it's been transmitted only from bird to human, but everyone fears a mutation that will transmit from person to person.  [2011]

Friday, May 3, 2013

Portsmouth, England, UK

The exterior wall of an apartment building in Southsea has become a work of mural art thanks to the skills of Apollo, the sun god.  When he breaks through the clouds, shadows wend and wipe their way across the world's walls, including some where you are.  [2011]

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Istanbul, Turkey

The al sancak has been a tool of nation-building since the Republic of Turkey came into existence in the 1920s. Here's the surprise: Atatürk used the Ottoman flag as the standard for his new republic.  Throughout history, though, new religions have prospered by appropriating the symbols of old religions. In Turkey, Atatürk made nationalism the new religion. [2010]

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Rome, Italy

Before there were four seasons, there were two: summer and winter. May Day was the gateway to summer, a cross-quarter holiday presided over by Flora, the Roman goddess of flowers. The gateway here is Rome's ancient St. Paul's Gate. It leads to the basilica which was built over the grave of St. Paul. [2006]