Thursday, December 31, 2015

Yerevan, Armenia

Advice for the year ahead: (1) Don't look back. (2) Learn a new skill. (3) Keep moving ahead. (4) Maintain balance. (5) Look forward to steep climbs. (6) Find somebody to hold your hand. [2015]

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

San Pedro, Belize

Thanking my barbers for 2015: First, my English-fluent coiffeur on Ambergris Caye. Then, left to right: Cannon Lane in Gibraltar; Freedom Square in Tbilisi, Georgia; Paris, Kentucky; Bastrop, Texas; Lemoyne, Pennsylvania; Fulton, Missouri; and Redlands, California. Eight barbers, eight chaetophiles. [2015]

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Austin, Texas, USA

Austin is a bit like Brasilia. It was built as the new capital city of an independent nation, in this case the Republic of Texas, which had just emerged from Santa Anna's Mexico. In 1845, however, the national capital became the capital of the 28th state to join the Union. Annexation took place 170 years ago today. The capitol was built in the 1880s. [2015]

Monday, December 28, 2015

Fairhope, Alabama, USA

Fairhope was founded as a utopian community where life treated everyone fairly and hope abounded. It was an experiment in social justice built around an economic philosophy, Georgism, rather than a religious creed. Today, it's an artsy suburb of Mobile. [2005]

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Virginia Beach, Virginia, USA

The last leaves of autumn have fallen, Christmas is over, and 2015 is about to recede into history. It's time to count your blessings before they, too, fall from memory. Then, it's time to make your resolutions for the year ahead. [2015]

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Amsterdam, Netherlands

The day after Christmas is Boxing Day. No, not that kind of boxing. What you see here are boxing lessons. On Boxing Day, feudal lords would give their servants boxes full of presents, perhaps to say thank you for working on Christmas. Americans are clueless about all of this, but in Britain the 26th day of December is a "bank holiday." [2015]

Friday, December 25, 2015

Cardiff, Wales, UK

If you could turn back the clock 2000 years, Jesus would have been 15 years old. Actually, he might have been 18 years old. What we know is that Jesus was born during the reign of Herod the Great, who died in what we now call 4 B.C. Either way, as an adolescent, we know nothing about Jesus. He disappears from history at age twelve and reappears at age 30. [2005]

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, Mexico

Presents arrive tonight. They will have a few hours of rest before morning. Gift-giving on Christmas is a re-enactment of the manger-side arrival of the Three Kings. First, however, the magi had to see the star. Then, they had to travel afar. So, as everybody in Mexico knows, gifts shouldn't be exchanged until January 6, the day the Kings got to Bethlehem. [2015]

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Hong Kong S.A.R., China

Here's some applied color theory along Nathan Road. Blue and green are grouped together in traditional Chinese culture as qing; it represents the renewal of life and symbolizes vitality. Orange symbolizes change and adaptability. Yellow symbolizes earth. Conclusion? Hong Kong is becoming a sustainable urban place. [2011]

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Antwerp, Belgium

The human geography of night can be so much fun. But today, the story is about the physical geography of night. In Anvers, the moon is almost full and it's the longest night of the year. Darkness lasts 16 hours 7 minutes and 26 seconds. It is the solstice, the day the sun stands still. [2015]

Monday, December 21, 2015

Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA

Spanish Town (emphatically not French and not English) is the oldest neighborhood in Baton Rouge. How does it establish an identity for itself today? With flamingos. They're everywhere. According to the slogan used for one year's Mardi Gras parade: "Bad taste is better than no taste at all." [2011]

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Millsboro, Delaware, USA

On the landscape, ordinary elements of human existence can take on extraordinary proportions. It wasn't that long ago when cell phones looked this; maybe not that big, but almost. Like Janus, we look forward to the new year, but we also look backwards at all the years that have passed. [2013]

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Honolulu, Hawaii, USA

President Obama begins his holiday break today in Honolulu. He was born on the island of Oahu only two years after Hawaii became a state. Now, he returns there every year for his Christmas vacation. What is so satisfying about returning home? Why do we all get so attached to the places where we grew up? [2011]

Friday, December 18, 2015

Quartzsite, Arizona, USA

Best part about this cemetery? Its name: Hi Jolly. Hadji Ali and about 70 dromedaries were brought to the Arizona desert in the 1850s to build a "camel express." The Civil War intervened and the camels dispersed, but their trainer lived out his life in Quartzsite. When he died, the townsfolk built him a pyramid. After all, he was from the Near East! [2015]

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Lacey, New Jersey, USA

Universalism is the belief that all souls will ultimately be reconciled to God because of God's love for humanity. That Christian heresy became the founding principle of the Universalist Church. The first Universalist service in America was held here in 1770. Best part about this meetinghouse and its cemetery? Its name: Good Luck. [2015]

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Meat Camp, North Carolina, USA

In rural America, church congregations took care of their own, from cradle to grave. That included providing sacred space for believers' mortal remains. Churchyards were the predecessors of the public and corporate cemeteries we know so well today. Best part about this one? Its name: Meat Camp. [2015]

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Fredericksburg, Virginia, USA

The sun and the moon have the same father. Do you know who he is? The answer lies at the royal intersection of Princess Anne and William Streets in Fredericksburg. The Titan's name is Hyperion. His job now is to sell espresso. [2015]

Monday, December 14, 2015

Lynnwood, Washington, USA

U.S. Hwy. 99 got an identity of its own when the nation's highways were officially networked and numbered in 1926. The automobile had been invented thirty years before, and the number of vehicles was increasing during a decade that roared with prosperity. Led by Pegasus, we were on our way to becoming part of the "fast world." [2011]

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Florence, Oregon, USA

The Suislaw River provides for Florence a sheltered harbor with access to the ocean. The river used to serve as an outlet for wood and forest products, but it is increasingly a harbor for recreational craft, many owned by the retirees who have chosen to relocate to the coast. [2011]

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Lincoln, Nebraska, USA

Archie the mammoth represents a species that disappeared from North America as the Ice Age ended, about 10,000 years ago. Archie was done in by climate change and human hunters. As the French would say so elegantly: Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. [2009]

Friday, December 11, 2015

Scranton, Pennsylvania, USA

"Climate change represents an urgent and potentially irreversible threat to human societies and the planet and thus requires the widest possible cooperation by all countries, and their participation in an effective and appropriate international response, with a view to accelerating the reduction of global greenhouse gas emissions." COP 21, Paris. [2005]

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Bucharest, Romania

"Blue skies, smiling at me. Nothing but blue skies do I see." She must be a climate denier. In fact, her expression, posture, and apparent station in life point in that direction. Taking her cue from one arrogant (alas, guillotined!) queen, her response to global warming seems to be: "Let them buy fans!" [2014]

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Cardiff, Wales, UK

We ready ourselves for changing weather by carrying an umbrella. What shall we carry to ready ourselves for changing climate? [2015]

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Wemyss Bight, Eleuthera, The Bahamas

Pacific atolls get all the attention, but the Bahamas are just as vulnerable to global warming. It would not take much sea-level rise to inundate Eleuthera and most of the other 700 islands, espeically considering that 95 percent of them are cays. Cat Island (not here) is the highest in the archipelago, so maybe that is where all Bahamians will eventually live. [2014]

Monday, December 7, 2015

Unmunsa, Korea

These chili peppers will be used by the Buddhist monks at Unmunsa to make gochugaru (chili paste). Chilies, originating in southern Mexico, were responsible for the first episode of global warming as they diffused around the world, pleasing palates and warming up cuisines. Today, global warming is not so pleasing. [2012]

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Bangkok, Thailand

These Thai chili peppers, drying in the sun, may soon be on sale in Bangkok's local markets. When Europeans discovered their forebears in the 'New World,' they called them peppers as a sales gimmick. The name made them competitive with pricier but not spicier black pepper. Do you feel yourself sweating from the heat already? [2011]

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Istanbul, Turkey

Somnolence sandwiched 'tween pansies and paint.
Don't be so shy! It's time to acquaint. [2015]

Friday, December 4, 2015

Lisbon, Portugal

Remember the TV show from the 1960s?  "My Three Sons."  Here they are, in Lisbon, enjoying their summer holiday. Just look at the enthusiasm on their faces. [2009]

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Jerusalem, Israel

The Kidron Valley, famous for its tombs, separates the Mount of Olives from the old city of Jerusalem (see the wall?). The most conspicuous monument is the tomb of Absolom (see the hat?), which the discovery of a recent inscription suggests may also be the tomb of Zachariah. Absolom? King David's son. Zachariah? Father of John the Baptist. [2010]

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Angangueo, Michoacán, Mexico

Here's the reigning monarch of Michoacán: the monarch butterfly, mariposa monarca, Danaus plexippus. The populations of eastern North America overwinter in the mountains of Michoacán, which have been designated a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO. Please help to keep the monarch pollinating: plant some milkweed. [2008]

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Macau, China

How do you build visual reminders of nature into the urban environment?  Use the thousands of canvasses the planners gave you: Dual purpose your sidewalks. Let them make of your city a shadowbox of silhouettes. Then watch to see if pedestrians step on the cuddle fish. [2011]

Monday, November 30, 2015

Columbia, Tennessee, USA

Maury County Courthouse:  The three branches of government are set up for law-making, law administering, and law adjudicating. Why has the the executive branch (White House) come to symbolize the federal government, the legislative branch (state house) the state government, and the judicial branch (courthouse) the local government? [2010]

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Lockhart, Texas, USA

Caldwell County Courthouse:  The county courthouse generally occupies a prime site, a square, in the middle of town, separated from (and more imposing than) the commercial district which surrounds it. Its cupola commands everyone's attention, and its lawn becomes the community's collective memory. What do you make of the symbolism? [2009]

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Franklin, West Virginia, USA

Pendleton County Courthouse:  Enter the county courthouse with the same reverence as you would enter a Greek temple. Architecture is one way to pay homage to history. Placing a historical marker in front of the court house is another way. Ready for a surprise? Franklin was not named after a famous Ben, but its founder Francis Evick. Really? [2014]

Friday, November 27, 2015

Somerset, Pennsylvania, USA

Somerset County Courthouse:  The very first subdivisions of England's colonies in America were called shires, but by the 1600s shire was giving way to the French counte, or county. Every county, however, continued to have a shire-reeve. Just ask the Sheriff of Somerset County, whose title might as well be the Count of Somerset County. [2010]

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Mount Pulaski, Illinois, USA

Old Logan County Courthouse:  A country lawyer named Abraham Lincoln (see him?) worked the Illinois Eighth Circuit and tried many cases in this courthouse. The county seat was moved out of Mount Pulaski in 1855, but the spirit of Lincoln remained behind and guaranteed the survival of a building that was otherwise insignificant. [2015]

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Xenia, Ohio, USA

Greene County Courthouse:  The Ten Commandments on public property? Does its presence violate the separation between church and state? Or, does it simply recognize a foundation of the law as it has come down to us from ancient times? [2013]

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Columbia, Missouri, USA

Boone County Courthouse: The United States has 3,144 counties and county equivalents. The administrative hub of each is a courthouse. Memorials to the war dead are found on the grounds of most. Here, tablets of names honor the dead of the Civil War and the World War 1917-1918. [2015]

Monday, November 23, 2015

Nicosia, Cyprus

Berlin has been reunited. Nicosia hasn't. That's why there is a Berlin Cafe in Nicosia. The Berlin Wall used to divide Berlin. The Green Line continues to divide Nicosia. In fact, it divides the entire country into northern Cyprus (Turkish) and southern Cyprus (Greek). However, not a single sovereign state except Turkey recognizes the division as a legal partition. [2004]

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Cardiff, Wales, UK

There's a century sandwiched between the Pierhead Building, Cardiff's left brain, and the Millennium Centre, Cardiff's right brain. The left brain coordinated all the activities on the waterfront a hundred years ago. The right brain delivers on the promise of visual spectacle and musical ambrosia today. [2015]

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Maaloula, Syria

Maaloula's built environment crawls and crowds up the hillsides as if space were at a premium. Americans would put quickly let the town sprawl over the triangle of green down below. But that would subtract arable land from the carrying capacity equation. It's far better to let agriculture occupy the oasis and let houses push into the dry margins. [1993]

Friday, November 20, 2015

Havana, Cuba

That looks a little too capitalistic for Cuba. Could it really be that she is selling flowers to make a living? Or maybe she's a government employee posing as a private vendor. Actually, small-scale enterprise is  becoming more common on Havana's streets. [2014]

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Back in the mid-1800s, the French journalist Alphonse Karr took the world on a tour of his garden and provided this insight: "Some people grumble that roses have thorns; I am grateful that thorns have roses." [2015]

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Marbella, Andalusia, Spain

Successful cities replicate rural settings. Fix your sight on the boys and let your imagination transform the rest of the scene into a country pond, complete with bullfrogs. [2015]

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Belize City, Belize

Soon these boats will be at sea,
Where knowledge of geography,
Will be the key,
To feeling safe; in fact, carefree.
For if you need return to shore,
If you seek a place to moor,
On the wind you must depend,
And to that end,
You must know,
Wherefrom the winds do blow.
Direction east? Direction west?
It's really not much of a test.
For if you be in tropic sea,
Then, the Trades these must be,
Consistent, steady, pushing west,
Captain, you have passed the test,
For to the shore we have returned,
Our only problem: too sunburned! [2015]

Monday, November 16, 2015

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

The Travellers Bridge was built as a railroad crossing. Now, through public art, it honors arrivals to the island continent who weathered an ocean crossing. But, as far as these two are concerned, it represents a different crossing: from boy to man. Soon, they'll never think of climbing up there where they shouldn't be. [2011]

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Road Town, Tortola, British Virgin Islands

Pusser's, despite the unappetizing name, is probably the most well-known restaurant and pub in the Virgin Islands. But, if you can't travel to the tropics, try the Annapolis Pusser's on the Chesapeake. What do the two locations have in common? Nearby yacht harbors. [2014]

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Izmir, Turkey

Successful cities find some way of incorporating water into the landscape. Coastal cities like Izmir are lucky: they have a harbor. Around the harbor, Izmir has built a corniche and opened up the waterfront. It puts everybody in a good mood, so you can be sure he's not having an argument on that mobile. [2014]

Friday, November 13, 2015

Horley, England, UK

We approach the last few weeks of 2015 with our third and final Friday the 13th.  It will be over a decade, 2026 to be exact, when we will again have a year with three Fridays falling on the 13th day of the month. Hope you don't suffer from friggatriskaidekaphobia. Hope you don't suffer from ailurophobia either. [2015]

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Richmond, Virginia, USA

CSX Transportation is in the business of transporting coal from the Central Appalachian mines to the coal piers in Newport News. The company used to be headquartered in Richmond, but moved to Jacksonville, Florida, far removed from the world of coal but closer to the world of orange juice. Ever hear of the juice train? [2015]