Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Rayne, Louisiana, USA

Rayne fancies itself as the frog capital of the world. There are frogs around every corner, sometimes in full form and sometimes in murals. Why's that? Because there was a time when frog legs served in New York City and and around the world came from Rayne. [2011]

Monday, October 16, 2017

Palm Desert, California, USA

No pot of gold here. That's because we are at the Beginning of the Rainbow, where the colors originate. But, there's no indigo or violet (as noted by Roy G. Biv). Apparently, the artist wasn't working with a full spectrum. Nevertheless, here's a great use for an otherwise unremarkable median strip. [2015]

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Biloxi, Mississippi, USA

Land, sea, sky. Tree, dolphins, moon. Only the dolphins are out of their element, having been put there by a chain-saw wielding sculptor who took a dead live oak (the victim of hurricane Katrina) and turned it into a living piece of art and a symbol of hope. It's a perfect gift for any birthday! [2009]

Saturday, October 14, 2017

New Orleans, Louisiana, USA

Giraffes can sleep while standing up, but they do occasionally take a load off their feet. While he may be taking a rest, you shouldn't. Why not adopt a giraffe at your local zoo? Last year, the Red List reclassified giraffes as Vulnerable because their numbers have declined by 36-40% since 1985. Currently, there are fewer than 100,000 worldwide. [2014]

Friday, October 13, 2017

Honolulu, Hawaii, USA

Here are two reticulated giraffes. (Reticulate: 'resembling a net or network.') Giraffes are herd animals, so zoos will always have more than one, typically at least one male and several females. Fortunately, the males are happy to coexist in the same range, which is a real advantage for zoo keepers. How can such skinny legs support all that weight? [2011]

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Atlanta, Georgia, USA

Giraffes are the tallest land mammals. Having such long necks means they can feed on leaves far above those that other creatures can reach. Here, it looks like he has stripped the bamboo of all its leaves and is now trying to reach for more distant foliage. His habitat: designed to give him a reason to stretch that long neck. Good exercise! [2014]

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA

As of 2016, there is not just one species of giraffe. There are four: reticulated (seen here), Masai, northern, and southern. Their long necks give them an advantage for feeding and may help in self-preservation. Their heads, set so far above their bodies, might as well be small, watchful drones, ready to warn of approaching predators. [2017]

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

If you are a barber, take your practice to a downtown street and offer haircuts to the homeless. A donation box (like a busker's) will help defray the costs. Reminds me of Michelangelo's self-reflection: "I saw an angel in the marble and and carved until I set him free." In this case: "I saw an angel in the strooble and clipped until I set him free." [2017]

Monday, October 9, 2017

Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA

Leaping lizards! It's a gecko. They help shape the unique aesthetic of the American Southwest. This one used to be completely green (see the head, feet, tail?) but then traded his earth tones for some brighter hues. Why? He listened to Kermit's advice: "It's not easy being green!" [2017]

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Boonville, California, USA

Buckey Walter? That translates as "pay phone" in the Boontling language. It's a completely invented tongue spoken in only one town of the Anderson Valley. It's really tuddies for any small town to have a language all its own. Alas, Boontling's fortunes have been on the wane for the last few decades. The fortunes of pay phones have been waning as well. [2005]

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Glasgow, Scotland, UK

His may be the last generation to have any memories of the public telephone box. In fact, his may be the next-to-last generation to have any memories of the public ATM. Waves are so placeless, and both voice communication and flows of 'cash' are increasingly digital. [2017]

Friday, October 6, 2017

London, England, UK

If she wanted to talk to God, she could ascend the stairs and kneel before the altar in St. George the Martyr Church. But, she apparently wants to talk to fellow mortals. On the other hand, maybe God is on her Favorites list. Now, write an essay comparing cell towers to church steeples. [2015]

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Tbilisi, Georgia

She's speaking a language that fewer than 4 million people in the world can understand. She's flanking an alphabet that fewer than 4 million people in the world can read. The Georgian language has shaped its nation-state for over a thousand years. And, even as linguistic extinction events have overtaken other tongues, Georgian remains a survivor. [2015]

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Lancaster, Ohio, USA

Every time you see a window, take a gander. It's an opportunity to re-frame the world. Waterfalls look completely different from afar. In this case, 'afar' is from the highest casements of Lancaster County's old Rock Mill. If you find a falls like this anywhere in America, look around. You will probably also find a mill (or the remains of one). [2017] 

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA

"And Jesus Wept" after the Oklahoma City bombing in 1996, and after the shootings in Littleton, Col., Blacksburg, Va., Fort Hood, Tex., Aurora, Col., Newtown, Conn., Washington Naval Yard, San Bernardino, Cal., Charleston, S.C., Orlando, Fla., and now Las Vegas, Nev. Jesus doesn't want to weep any more. [2007]

Monday, October 2, 2017

Mancos, Colorado, USA

What's blocking your view of the world? What do you see when you look out any window? In this case, someone sees prancing steeds. We all have pre-occupying passions that unwittingly prevent us from accurately assessing our own realities. What's your prancing steed? [2013]

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Atlanta, Georgia, USA

Ready to step across the threshold into the month of October? Wipe clean the slate, forget whatever brought you down last month, and aim to let everyone see your true colors. "Threshold" has been anchoring Underground Atlanta since 1996. What sets it apart are its bold colors, all the more important in a city with the least colorful public art anywhere! [2013]

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Sapello, New Mexico, USA

As you begin your climb into the southern Rocky Mountains, cross the Sapello River and ascend! Scenes like this, with their lonely-looking cabins, remind you of how important it must have been to know the local environment and how to make it work for you. [2017]

Friday, September 29, 2017

Owls Head, Maine, USA

The coast of Maine is famous for its pocket beaches. They're the only places where you can find some sand in these sand-starved regions. Don't expect to go swimming though, unless you are hearty enough to withstand a seriously cold immersion. The Labrador Current fills Maine's coastal indentations with rather chilly water from the north. [2008]

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Belle Fontaine, Alabama, USA

Hot Boiled Peanuts: It's an acquired taste. If you like them, let your mind take you back to their land of origin, tropical Africa. If you don't like them, purge them from your thoughts. For sure, though, if you are traveling through the American Southeast and see a sign like this, at least give them a try. [2017]

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA

All the bases are covered: a place to park, a place to buy your food, a place to sit in the shade, a place to relieve yourself. Go ahead, order a Compass Taco and immerse yourself in Southwest culinary culture. Now, find the one thing in the scene that seems not to belong. It's on the margins. [2017]

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

St. Clair, Pennsylvania, USA

It's not a vintage filling station, but it does kick you back a few years. Does a scene like this make you wonder what we will salvage from the Flying Js, the Sheetz, the Wawa's, or the 7-11s that dispense gasoline (and lots of other things) today? [2017]

Monday, September 25, 2017

Florala, Alabama, USA

Check ya'oil fo'ya? In the heyday of the filling station, a pump jockey would actually come out to 'fill'er up' and check your oil. Now, looking like a movie  set, this long-abandoned station specializes in the teachable moment, perhaps starting a conversation between gramps and the grandkids. Now, write an essay on "Wormholes in the Local Universe." [2017]

Sunday, September 24, 2017

New Cumberland, Pennsylvania, USA

Here are two greyhounds whose racing days are over but whose lives are not. Fortunately, they have some fans who make it their business to find loving homes for these former racers. They retire young: under five years of age, still with a lot of love to give. See the art deco movie theater behind them? [2003]

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Waynesboro, Virginia, USA

Geographers classify Waynesboro as a 'gap town.' With few good passes, the Blue Ridge Mountains (see them?) are a formidable obstacle to east-west transit. One of the first routes to open up, though, was through Jarmin Gap. Suddenly, a town was needed as a service center for the crossing. Wayynesboro sprang up to serve that need. [2017]

Friday, September 22, 2017

Columbus, Ohio, USA

Glass-clad buildings  have come to typify the post-modern skyline. It's hard to separate the building from the heavens above. Today, nothing is correctly conceived as categorical; everything is a continuum, a spectrum of possibilities. In an age of flows, the clouds seems to just flow through the floors, perhaps collecting data as they go. [2017]

Thursday, September 21, 2017

New York, NewYork, USA

Modernity was defined by industrial production of discreet objects that made our lives better. Out of the factories they poured, eventually to end up as fleas at a market. Post-Modernity is defined by the work that goes on in offices, the output of which lives in 'the cloud' until it is needed. Its yield of collectibles for the second-hand market: none. [2017]

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Seal Beach, California, USA

If a retirement community is given the name Leisure World by its developer, a world globe makes perfect sense as the welcoming icon. That's right: The one in Maryland isn't the only Leisure World! But, the one here in Seal Beach has not been set apart as a census designated place (CDP) like its cousin on the east coast. [1988]

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Leisure World, Maryland, USA

If a retirement community is given the name Leisure World by its developer, a world globe makes perfect sense as the welcoming icon. The first residents arrived in 1965, and the population now stands at just under 10,000. Where is the development located? Leisure World is located in Leisure World, a census designated place (CDP) in Maryland. [2017]

Monday, September 18, 2017

Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain

Basalt on Tenerife tells you that volcanic Mt. Teide is a cousin of the Hawaiian volcanoes: It rises from the ocean floor. When basalt cools it often fractures, but the most common results are columnar polygons and spherical boulders. Here, the basalt has fractured into a flower: La Piedra de la Rosa. Very unique. [2017]

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain

Mt. Teide last erupted in 1909, and everything around the peak is volcanic in origin, including the Roque Cinchado, which has become a symbol of the Canary Islands. It's actually a remnant of an old volcanic surface from which the current cone arose. The national park is one of the most visited in the world, complete with a teleferico to the top. [2017]

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain

Given its shape, there is no doubt that Mt. Teide, now the focal point of a World Biosphere Reserve, is volcanic (active!) and high enough to rise above the tree line. The white cloud bank frequently obstructs views of the coast from the sunny interior. Do you remember the name of the cold current that chills the coast and precipitates the fog? [2017]

Friday, September 15, 2017

Gran Canaria, Canary Islands, Spain

Not only does the cylindrical stone tower mark the southern-most point on Gran Canaria, it also adds a unique touch to the tourist amenities and dunes that sweep around it. The lighthouse of Maspalomas was illuminated for the first time in 1890. [2017]

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Gran Canaria, Canary Islands, Spain

Las Dunas de Maspalomas are huge and accessible only on foot (or by camel!). That means it is always possible to find a private pocket of drifting sand for doing what you want. On one side of the dunes are the resorts, on the other side some pretty isolated beaches. [2017]

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Gran Canaria, Canary Islands, Spain

The Canary Islands are an autonomous community of Spain (just like Catalunya or Andalusia) but located a thousand miles away. Look at the landscape: It's an extension of the Sahara. In fact, the original inhabitants were Berbers. Like most oceanic islands, though, there is also a windward side, in this case the north, which is much greener. [2017]

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

High Atlas Mountains, Morocco

At 8,000 feet, in Toubkal National Park, you reach the col that divides the Imlil Valley from the Azadn Valley. Let's hope you have made arrangements for a Berber picnic in advance. Then, it's time to turn around and and head down. For some, that may be more risky than going up! As for Toubkal itself: well over 13,000 feet. [2017]

Monday, September 11, 2017

High Atlas Mountains, Morocco

As the piste continues, the valley floor and its villages are soon dwarfed by peaks on all sides, and you're not yet to the border of the national park. It's a hiker's dream, enough to keep Brits like this one coming back for decades. There is still a long way to go, though, until you summit and cross the divide into the next valley. [2017]

Sunday, September 10, 2017

High Atlas Mountains, Morocco

Jebel Toubkal is Morocco's highest peak, but if you want to ascend even the foothills, you have to do it on foot. Here, the piste to Toubkal National Park is just getting a started. At 6,000 ft., the valley bottoms are given over to walnuts, apples, and cherries. New construction, such as the mosque, has been stimulated by new roads serving the Imlil Vallley. [2017]

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Agafay, Morocco

When the sun has done its work for the day, it sets in the western sky. This is what a sunset looks like in the deserts south of Marrakech. Red and orange wave lengths are more difficult for the atmosphere to scatter, but just before sundown, the depth of atmosphere through which sunlight must pass is maximized, giving us magnificence like this. [2017]

Friday, September 8, 2017

Agafay, Morocco

Given enough water, date palms and olive trees capture the energy of the sun and turn it into edible sugars and oils. Here, a small barrage along an ephemeral stream keeps water from flowing away and gives it time to sink into the ground, setting up conditions for oasis agriculture. See the dog? He may serve as the local police force. [2017]

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Agafay, Morocco

The Agafay Desert south of Marrakech is not exactly an expanse of wilderness. Some salt mines and natural oases brought life to these arid landscapes in the past, and some wells make it possible for more people to live here today. The biggest source of revenue, however, is desert tourism, which generates the need for ever more building material. [2017]

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Marrakech, Morocco

The souks of Marraakech are filled with ritual. Before opening his shop, this merchant purifies the air, presumably bringing the blessings of God upon his little corner of the art world. From his hand, swings a censer; from the censer arises the fragrance of burning incense. [2017]

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Marrakech, Morocco

The Koutoubia mosque and its minaret are here framed by white wrought iron. The swirls form a central octagon which is an example of geometric design, one of the highlights of Islamic art. The white frame they create contrasts with the ocre buildings, which is very reminiscent of windows in Atlas villages. [2017]

Monday, September 4, 2017

Marrakech, Morocco

Jma el Fna is at the heart of Marrakesh. Few Arab cities have such a large open square but Marrakech was settled by Saharans who wanted a place to enact their desert rituals. Today, though, everything that goes on here is done with tourists in mind. The mid-day sun discourages a lot of activity, but when the sun sets, Jma el Fna fills up with people. [2017]

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Glasgow, Scotland, UK

Ever see a bubble busker? Here's one who has no trouble attracting attention on pedestrianized Argyle Street, the heart of Glasgow's shopping precinct. Do you think he feels bad because his audience completely ignores him because they are so bedazzled by his diaphanous creations? [2017]

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Glasgow, Scotland, UK

These two are out for a Sunday morning dander, and, in so doing, they're keeping Scottish culture alive. They are wearing the iconic dress of Scotland, the kilt. Kilts are the formal wear for Scotsmen, but they are increasingly worn for less than formal occasions. If you are good at reading tartans, you may also be able to divine their clan heritage. [2017]

Friday, September 1, 2017

Glasgow, Scotland, UK

Glasgow wastes no time reminding visitors that it was "the second city of the empire." During its heyday, the people who made Glasgow great were not only merchants but also men like the chemist Thomas Graham, whose statue is but one of dozens honoring Scots who helped make the arts and sciences what they are today. [2017]

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Edinburgh, Scotland, UK

If the Edinburgh Fringe doesn't appeal to you, the city also hosts the Edinburgh International Festival and the Edinburgh International Book Festival at the same time. The book festival takes over Charlotte Square, with pavilions sheltering book stores, displays, and signings on all sides. Who's the grand marshal on the plinth? Prince Albert. [2017]

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Edinburgh, Scotland, UK

The Edinburgh Fringe Festival is the mother of all fringe festivals and the largest arts festival in the world. This year was its 70th birthday. What's most surprising is that the city can come up enough stages for the 30,000 performances that take place over about three weeks every August. Comedy is just one of the genres represented. [2017]

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Edinburgh, Scotland, UK

There is a city here because there is a castle here. There is a castle here because there is a high point here. There is a high point here because there is a plug of volcanic rock here. That volcanic plug was formed 350 million years ago, which means that the stage was set for Edinburgh's birth in the Carboniferous Period. [2017]