Saturday, December 16, 2017

Der Ezor, Syria

When Raqqa (made ISIS capital in 2014) fell in October, Islamic State's locus of power shifted to Der Ezor, another city on the Euphrates. In early November, however, ISIS forces were routed from Der Ezor. Lest you think Syria is returning to normal, remember that Der Ezor is back in the hands of the government, but Raqqa is now under Kurdish control. [1993]

Friday, December 15, 2017

Riga, Latvia

Every year, about this time, the Library of Congress adds another 25 films to the National Film Registry. It includes the most culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant films of all time. Guess what 1997 film, popular all over the world, was just added to the list. [2003]

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Marrakech, Morocco

Think ancient history is irrelevant? Tell that to these girls on Jma El Fina in Marrakech. They just got their hands adorned with henna, continuing an artform that goes back to the Bronze Age. Henna is a dye made from the leaves of the henna shrub. [2017]

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

Why do we turn fountains off in the winter? They should use sleet as their inspiration. Keep the water above freezing while in the ducts, spray it high into the air, and let the droplets freeze on the way down. The sound effects might be just as cool as the visuals. [2011]

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Battambang, Cambodia

It seems like cockles are for sale in every Cambodian market. They may be turned into street food (sometimes raw) or a meal. Can you see why these bivalves, found and farmed throughout coastal Asia, are called blood cockles? In fact, they do contain a hemoglobin liquid. But, alas, they are not true cockles (like they have in Europe). [2016]

Monday, December 11, 2017

Edinburgh, Scotland, UK

A yarn bomb (and many more like it) has been dropped on Edinburgh: "Leith says No to Trams". An Edinburgh tram line extension to Leith has long been on the agenda, but apparently some in Leith oppose the idea. Do you think opponents are the come-here gentry or the born-here locals? [2017]

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Ironton, Ohio, USA

In Methodist Churches all across the land, advent wreaths will be a central part of worship today as thousands of congregants utter these words: "On this second Sunday of Advent, we light this candle to remind us that the God of Creation calls us home to love all that we meet." [2017]

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Guilford, Connecticut, USA

"Tis the season for the Town Forester to inspect all the trees on the village green. It's easier in the winter when you don't have all that foliage blocking your view. A light trim, if not a full pruning, is likely to be in order. [2008]

Friday, December 8, 2017

Wallingford, Kentucky, USA

Pluto abducted Proserpine and carried her off to the underworld. Her mother, Ceres, demanded her return. Because Proserpine had eaten from Pluto's larder, however, she could not return permanently. During those months when she is with Pluto, her mother protests by bringing on the winter. Ceres is, after all, the goddess of agriculture. [2017]

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Hutto, Texas, USA

The town is named Hutto. The town's mascot is the hippo. Whatever story you believe about how the Hutto Hippo came to perform in the center ring of this small Texas whistle stop, you can be sure alliteration and rhyming had something to do with it. Stop by to see the famed fiberglass river horse before he meanders off to Cottonwood Creek. [2015]

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Manitowoc, Wisconsin, USA

Cedar Crest is both a dairy and a cow, and it's just one more example of what roadside America has to offer motorists who get off the Interstates and start meandering around the country's "blue highways." [1995]

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Flanders, New York, USA

The Big Duck on Long Island epitomizes what we mean by "roadside America."  It survives as one of the many supersized buildings, signs, and statues designed to do nothing but attract attention in the first half of the 20th century. Built in the 1930s, the Big Duck was an effort to make motorists take a roadside gander at the owner's duck farm. [1984]

Monday, December 4, 2017

Jefferson, West Virginia, USA

Here's just one of the vessels in the Great Kanawaha Navy. She's preparing to be locked down for the winter, but the speed-by boaters are pretending its spring. On the placid water downstream from Charleston is one of the largest collections of sternwheelers in the nation. The Juanita goes back to 1954. [2017]

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Singapore, Republic of Singapore

For Western Christians, Advent (and the liturgical year) begins today, the fourth Sunday before Christmas. It's time to "Go. Spend time on what is truly rewarding. God's Word. Don't live life without it." As for "treasures in heaven": Our debts will be forgiven. So unlike those earthly credit cards! [2011]

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Bandung, Java, indonesia

The puppets here, called wayang golek by the islanders, are elements of West Javanese folk culture. Get the kids hooked on puppet theater early and hope that their devotion to the art sticks with them through adulthood. That is the role of the arts in nation-building. Can you think of any other cultures that have inherited a strong tradition of puppetry? [2016]

Friday, December 1, 2017

Oranjestad, Aruba

Probably more people in Aruba than in the United States know that today is World AIDS Day. Little countries know their well-being is determined by international forces. Americans seem to think they alone are in control. In fact, AIDS has practically slipped off the radar screen in the U.S. Perhaps the American landscape needs some red ribbons. [2017]

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Panama City, Panama

The present encroaches upon the past. On the other hand, just think of how many more people can see the remains of Panama La Vieja through all those sky-scraping windows. Do you think they ever think of Henry Morgan sacking the city in 1671? He used this bridge which led to the western gate of the original city.  [2017]

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Cabo San Lucas, Baja California Sur, Mexico

If your name is Lucas, this is your cape, and these are your guardian pelicans. If your name is Lucas and this is your birthday, then you must be two years old and ready to start seeing the world. South from here, though, you won't find another morsel of land until you reach Antarctica with its guardian penguins! [2016]

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Aroumd, Morocco

You can't see the path, but the mule can! As for his master, he seems to be completely secure in the knowledge that his beloved pack animal will not tumble downslope and send him rolling into a hospital. Have you ever seen anyone ride a horse in a position like this? [2017]

Monday, November 27, 2017

Swanzey, New Hampshire, USA

The Carlton Bridge is in a particularly bridge-rich area of New England with residents who recognize the value of cultural patrimony. In 1993, the townfolk made sure the Carlton Bridge did not continue downspiraling into oblivion. Later that decade the bridge was completely rebuilt. [1993]

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Carlisle, Pennsylvania, USA

Watt's Bridge was among the last in Cumberland County when it fell victim to an arsonist. Unfortunately, the county in 1970 did not recognize the value of it cultural patrimony, so the remains of the bridge were simply piled up by the side of the Conodoguinet, where they remained for a decade. A county that once had dozens of covered bridges now has one. [1970]

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Thurmont, Maryland, USA

Loy's Station Covered Bridge was built in 1848 and stood for almost a century and a half. Then, in 1991, an arsonist set it ablaze. Because Frederick County recognized the value of its cultural patrimony (and the value of Loy's Station Park), the old wooden bridge was rebuilt to look again as it looked circa 1930. [1994]

Friday, November 24, 2017

Yanceyville, North Carolina, USA

Since yesterday was a day for saying "Thank You," today must be "You're Welcome Day." In this case, you are welcome to Yanceyville, a place of tradition with vision. Does your town or city have a welcome sign or banner? If not, you might pick up some ideas from Geographically Yours Welcome. [2015]

Thursday, November 23, 2017

New Cumberland, Pennsylvania, USA

It's both Thanksgiving and the 100th anniversary of my father's birth. Happy Birthday, dad. Here's one of your oil paintings that has survived: Baughman Memorial Methodist Church, the very place Geographically Yours was baptized so many decades ago. [1948]

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Amarillo, Texas, USA

Do you believe in zoos? One hundred years ago, bison from the Bronx Zoo were reintroduced to their native habitat in Oklahoma, the first successful reintroduction of a mammal species in U.S. history. At the time, the species was on the verge of extinction. Thanks to the nation's zoos, we now have bison and many more species back in their homes. [2017]

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Atlanta, Georgia, USA

With The Lion King, warthogs entered the pantheon of popular culture. Before that, they were just crusty old pigs with warts (six in number), tusks (2 in number), and and an appetite for anything organic (plant or animal) they could dig out of the soil. Now, they are sought out by kids of all ages and almost as popular as the meerkats. [2014]

Monday, November 20, 2017

Rosswell, New Mexico, USA

Barbary Sheep are from the Barbary coast of North Africa, where they have practically died out. Fortunately, they have been introduced to other regions of the dry world, where they now thrive. According to the placard at Hillcrest Park Zoo, their indigenous name is 'aoudad,' which sounds very Berber. [2016]

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Ballintoy, Northern Ireland, UK

The state's official name is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Ballintoy is located on the island of Ireland, part of which, Northern Ireland, is one of the United Kingdom's four constituent countries. Before Irish independence in 1921, the official name of the country was the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. [2009]

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Edinburgh, Scotland, UK

The state's official name is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Edinburgh is located in Scotland, which is one of three countries that comprise the island of Great Britain. Scotland was a kingdom of its own before 1707 when the Acts of Union created a United Kingdom. In the late 1990s, Scotland reconstituted its own parliament. [2017]

Friday, November 17, 2017

Cardiff, Wales. UK

The state's official name is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Cardiff is located in Wales, which is one of three countries that comprise the island of Great Britain. Wales was absorbed by the Kingdom of England in 1535. After a referendum in 1997, Wales regained self-governing powers, including over its own language and university. [2015]

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Manchester, England, UK

The state's official name is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Manchester is located in England, which is one of three countries that comprise the island of Great Britain. England was a full-fledged kingdom of its own before 1707 when the Acts of Union created a United Kingdom. [2004]

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Rio San Juan, Dominican Republic

At rest. The sea is calm, the boats at anchor, the waves in abeyance, and the sands awash. It's not always so peaceful, though. Just imagine what the coast will look like the next time a hurricane comes through. Coastlines are just like people: subject to moodiness (often beyond their control). [1992]

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

Telamons: using their heads, shoulders, and arms. Since they have no legs, you can be assured they will never abandon their posts! Never! Even though both ancient Greece and Rome inspired the birth of modernity, telemons are usually Greek in lineage. More skin = more Greek! [2011]

Monday, November 13, 2017

Piraeus, Greece

Telamons: male figures that serve as columns. Since these four are in the heart of Greece, however, we ought to call them by their Greek name: atlantes, the singular of which is atlas. Remember Atlas? From his perch in the far west, he supported the whole sky on his shoulders (though he is usually pictured as holding up the spherical earth). [2006]

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Glasgow, Scotland, UK

Telamons: male counterparts of caryatids. But, in the case of columns, there were working women before there were working men. Both, however, remind us that the Renaissance continued for centuries. Here is evidence of the worshipful reverence that nineteenth century architects had for ancient Greece and Rome. Even the garb is Greek. [2017]

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Sofia, Bulgaria

Caryatids: using their heads (as caryatids do). In ersatz classical style, these princess guards invigilate the entrance to Princess Casino. But, they do raise a question. Did the ancient Greeks engage in gambling? Yes, even the gods (notably Hermes and Pan) were known to lay odds every now and then. [2010]

Friday, November 10, 2017

Warsaw, Poland

Caryatids: three of them. They are wearing the prescribed vestments for their ilk. As the bronze personifications of faith, hope, and love, they set the tone for a new era of Polish independence when institutions like the Supreme Court (seen here) were being rebuilt in the 1990s. [2003]

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Ponce, Puerto Rico

Caryatids: two of them. They support a false balcony overlooking the main entrance to the house of a wealthy industrialist in Ponce. Their ancestors supported the false porch of the Erechtheion on the Acropolis. Good ideas never die. They are simply recycled: in this case, recycled by the neoclassical architects of the early 20th century. [2009]

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Granby, Quebec, Canada

Don't break your right angle. It means you can't drive. On the other hand, you do learn some new skills like navigating around on a knee scooter. Where did it happen? In the foothills of Mt. Toubkal. Coming down the mountain was a killer. Not really, cause I'm still alive. But, it was a breaker. As you can tell from the x-ray-ted picture below. [2009]

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Maspalomas, Gran Canaria, Canary Islands, Spain

Street sweeper or street greeter? Judging from the smile, probably the latter. Actually, he's a municipal employee who keeps the city looking good, but he also keeps pedestrians happy by offering directions, snapping digitals, and grinning out loud. [2017]

Monday, November 6, 2017

Cuzco, Peru

Here, in one of the barrios that surround Cuzco, serious work is in progress, but at least the kids are there to help. What's going on? Incumbent upgrading, a process that is turning a so-called shantytown, into a regular neighborhood thanks to the hard work of the people who live there. [2001]

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Sofia, Bulgaria

An innovation wave that began in California didn't stop until it reached Bulgaria and enveloped the world. In the United States, when life returned to normal after World War II, skateboarding was born as an off-season alternative to surfboarding. It is now such an established part of world culture that we assume it has always been with us. [2010]

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Havana, Cuba

In Cuba, politics is writ large on the streets and roads. The U.S.-orientation of the 1950s resulted in tons of classic Fords, Chevys, and Chryslers. The U.S.S.R.-orientation of the next three decades brought Ladas and Eastern European models.Thanks to the inventive genius of the Cuban people, all are still purring along. [2014]

Friday, November 3, 2017

Cleveland, New Mexico, USA

Derelict but delicious! A rusting flatbed truck seems like the perfect remembrance point for a Rocky Mountain valley that is slowly transitioning from agricultural gloria to residential exurbia. In excelsis Deo, of course. [2017]

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Elizabethton, Tennessee, USA

Surplus hay at the end of the harvest season? Donate it to the city for a museum-quality sculpture. It's just as good as Carrara marble even if it doesn't last as long. Surplus tires at the end . . .  Well, you get the idea! [2012]

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Oxford, Pennsylvania, USA

For Roman Catholics, the first of November is set aside for honoring 'all saints' who have made it to heaven. In practice, it's a day for cemetery visits. For Protestant Christians, All Saints Day (or the first Sunday in November) is used to honor all those who have passed on during the previous year. [2014]

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Wynnewood, Oklahoma, USA

Happy Halloween, the eve of All Hallows day! But, there is something wrong here in midtown. Halloween is supposed to be the time when ghouls and goblins emerge from the shadows. No ghouls or goblins here, though. These two seem entirely too happy, and the day seems entirely too sunny for us to be entering the low-sun season. [2007]

Monday, October 30, 2017

Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA

An earthquake hit this church 500 years ago tomorrow. No, not this main-street cathedral in Baton Rouge! The larger church: the Church of Rome. Five centuries have passed since Martin Luther nailed 95 theses to the door of the castle church in Wittenburg, Germany, beginning a shift in tectonic plates that split western Christianity asunder. [2011]

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Biddeford, Maine, USA

For over 100 years Lincoln Mill (textiles, of course) and its clock tower established the rhythms of Biddeford's economy. Then came deindustrialization and deterioration. The clock, which was threatening to topple on its own, was finally removed in 2007, but no further progress was made until 2014. [2008]