Thursday, October 31, 2013

Worcester, Massachusetts, USA

Grilled ribs? Front-loading hearse? Anatomy students at Clark U? Mass. murderers? Skeleton crew at the IHOP? Ribald humorists? Halloween haint? [2013]

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Singapore, Republic of Singapore

Singapore's Hindu community, largely from southern India, came with the British. Around the island, they built about 35 temples, the most ostentatious of which follow traditional Tamil styles. You can't miss them when you pound Singapore's pavements. [2011]

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

There they are: the other twin towers, known by the name PETRONAS. Between 1998 and 2004, they ranked as tallest buildings in the world. Why does KL need such superlatively tall buildings? (a) To maximize return on high-priced land in the CBD. (b) To maximize brand recognition and attract attention. Answer:  10% the former, 90% the latter. [2011]

Monday, October 28, 2013

Bangkok, Thailand

Here's why it's advantageous to ride on two wheels rather than four in Thailand. Cars come to a stop at the light. As motorbikes approach the stopped pack of cars they just weave their way through the narrow spaces between the rows until they reach the front of the line. Light changes, cyclists peel out first. [2011]

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Vaduz, Liechtenstein

The cows are Brown Swiss, but the country is not Switzerland.  It's Liechtenstein:  Swiss in every detail except polity.  The castle on the hill is the seat of princely power:  Hans Adam II rules from a perch where he can see most of the country (just a slight exaggeration).   [1984]

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Canillo, Andorra

It may look entirely natural, but brooks like this are simply part of the managed human landscape of Andorra. With 'Valleys of Andorra' as its quasi-official name, water features become an affirmation of national identity. Here is water at work cutting a valley into the Pyrenees' south flank. [2005]

Friday, October 25, 2013

Portsmouth, England, UK

A beautiful façade masques an ugly English truth:  tea is loosing ground to coffee.  Even in England!  Recommendation:  get thee to a High Street tea room now for high tea in the afternoon.  And, give yourself plenty of time to enjoy it.  [2011]

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Ljubljana, Slovenia

Exercise used to be built into our everyday lives. We had staircases in our houses; we had staircases in front of our homes and offices; we had staircases lifting students into their schools. Unsafe!  Inconvenient! Slow! Now, we have no exercise built into our everyday lives, and we are paying the price. [2008]

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Aleppo, Syria

School boys, in uniform, found all sorts of places to congregate on their way to and from school.  In this case, it was a make-shift market square in a middle class area of Aleppo.  The past tense is appropriate here since this scene is part of "the Aleppo that was."  [1993]

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Northborough, Massachusetts, USA

Located right off the outer beltway, Northborough is being consumed by a growing metropolitan organism: Boston. The landscape looks rural, but its lifestyles are fully urban. What's the job of government? To prevent the people who come here from destroying the very qualities that attracted them in the first place. [2013]

Monday, October 21, 2013

West Boylston, Massachusetts, USA

How do you turn the town commons into a greeting card? Put Maxine in the picture. Doesn't she look proud to be wearing a 2nd-place ribbon? Not. She speaks to us via the calling card pinned to her bag: "Why have the other vegetables learned nothing from candy corn?" Typical Maxine. [2013]

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Monson, Massachusetts, USA

In 2011, three tornadoes hit western Massachusetts. One skipped through Monson and toppled the Congregational Church's majestic steeple. This very morning, the congregation celebrated what God (and some earthly servants) had returned to the rooftop just a few days ago: a new index finger pointing toward heaven. [2013]

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Aurora, Colorado, USA

On the original eastern approach to Denver, the old gateway town of Aurora has given birth to expansive new suburbs from which the town has become unglued. "Unglued" is the name of this installation on Colfax Avenue. Coincidence? [2013]

Friday, October 18, 2013

Penrose, Colorado, USA

It carried the title of world's largest rocking chair into the 21st century, but lost it in 2008. Nevertheless, it still claims superlative title as the 'world's oldest large rocking chair' or the 'largest rocking chair in Colorado.' Keep adding qualifiers and anything can be the biggest or best. [2005]

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Thomasville, North Carolina, USA

Between Main Street and the railroad stands 'The Big Chair' in Thomasville. It epitomizes the town's economic base: furniture manufacturing. Basic economic activities bring new money into a town.  Non-basic economic activities keep that money circulating around the town. If your town built a monument to its economic base, what would it be? [2013]

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, Mexico

How does a country reproduce and export its cultural capital?  By selling it to tourists.  Here, a street artist decides how his country will be remembered.  His images will become more real than the reality they represent.  But, they were never meant to depict reality.  They were painted to give tourists what they wanted to see, not what they actually saw.  [2013]

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Bangkok, Thailand

She may be operating at curb level, but she is not beyond the reach of Bangkok's food-safety police. Note the standards set for bowls and the copious plastic bags. In addition, there is a limit on the amount of time prepared food may be on the shelf even if there is no shelf. [2011]

Monday, October 14, 2013

Delhi, India

In India, the two tombs to see are the Taj Mahal and Humayan's Tomb.  Both were built during the Moghul period, but the former was built by an emperor-husband for his wife, the latter by a wife for her emperor-husband.  Can you see the influence of Persian architecture and the resemblance between the two?  [2011] 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Washington, DC, USA

The eyes of Puck, Shakespeare's jolly jester, are fixed continuously upon the dome of the U.S. Capitol. His permanent perch is right across the street, where he utters daily (or even more often) his signature line: "Lord, what fooles these mortals be!" What does America now need under that dome? A good kindergarten teacher. [2006]

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Washington, DC, USA

The place is Washington, D.C. The play (hardly a comedy) is called "A Mid-Autumn's Nightmare."  From his perch on Capitol Hill, Puck epitomizes the plot perfectly: "Lord, what fooles these mortals be!" Just one question: What is Puck looking at right across the street? Stay tuned. [2006]

Friday, October 11, 2013

Madrid, Spain

What time is this place? Maybe time travel is possible, but does this couple really want to see themselves in the eighteenth century? Or, is it just too easy to idealize the past and cleanse it of debilitating disease, early death, head lice, ill-fitting duds, etc. [2009]

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Trieste, Italy

The sea is the Adriatic, where it can be hard to find a beach. Doesn't the beach here look hard to you? Still, she's got it to herself, which is also rare around the Mediterranean. [2008]

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

London, England, UK

In London, sunshine is rare due to a continuous procession of clouds rolling in off the Atlantic.  Ergo: when the sun does shine, the parks fill up, the shirts come off, and the frivolous triumphs over the serious, especially in Soho.  Evidence for the frivolous?  The tabloid tucked under her arm.  [2009]

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Yehliu, Taiwan

The prize for the best coastline in all of Taiwan goes to the Wanli District of New Taipei City.  Intruding on the beauty, however, are condos and apartments (exactly what goes on in the USA).  Since buildings (and roads) need protection, the coast is girded with armor, all at the expense of natural beauty and ecological harmony.  [2012]

Monday, October 7, 2013

Waiheke Island, New Zealand

As the wide-eyed wanderer arrives on Waiheke by ferry, silver ribbons come slinking down the slope to say hello. The steel coils are an early warning system: The island is a sculpture garden unto itself, the contours of which all geographers should see. [2006]

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Seurasaari Island, Finland

Buildings, such as this Lapp cottage from the farthest north, have been culled from all over Finland and brought to Seurasaari Island where they constitute an open air museum of national culture. May the children forever appreciate how times have changed. [2005]

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Aleppo, Syria

On a bridge over the moat encircling Aleppo's citadel, the nations meet:  a boy from Syria, a dental student from Qatar, and an American ambler taking pictures.  [1993]

Friday, October 4, 2013

Pisté, Yucatan, Mexico

Don't take elements of Mexico's economic landscape for granted.  Stores like this would have been unheard of in the 1980s when the economy was strongly state-controlled.  Now, competitive enterprise, driven by the profit motive, has taken over, and Dunosusa stores have brought convenience grocery shopping to the Yucatan.  [2013]

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Berlin, Germany

Tag der Deutschen Einheit:  It's an important day in world history.  Twenty-three years ago (already!) West and East Germany reunited as the collapse of Communist regimes in Eastern Europe proceeded apace.  Years later, sections of the Berlin Wall lingered on the landscape.  These were on display at Potsdamer Platz until displaced by redevelopment.  [1994]

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Sofia, Bulgaria

Skateboarding (originally sidewalk surfing) has only been around since the 1950s.  It grew up with the baby boomers, beginning with California's surfer dudes.  Paradoxically, it has had an easier time spreading to the boys in Bulgaria than to the girls next door.  Why don't you ask this dad where his daughters are?  [2010]

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Chiang Mai, Thailand

If you lived in a monastery in Thailand, you might draw your water from deep within the earth and your strength from deep within the soul. [2011]