Saturday, December 31, 2011

Chiang Mai, Thailand

May memories of past years be good ones; may hopes for the future be high.  May reflections on recollections be long-lived; may the carpet you find let your fly.  The end.  [2011]

Friday, December 30, 2011

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Make space for bikes and helicopters, even if you have to build a peninsula as your landing pad and bring the blacktop down to water's edge.  Melbourne makes helicopter rides along the Yarra River available to tourists, but most helipads are on top of office buildings or outside emergency room doors.  [2011]

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Singapore, Republic of Singapore

New Bridge Road is one of Singapore's many shopping precincts. At one time the colors of street art might have matched the tropical fruits brought in from the orchards; today, they match the fashions hanging in the stores. What do you see here?  A man? A woman? A butterfly? Or just coat hangers doing their job? [2011]

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Athens, Greece

Moray eels have been a delicacy and a good source of protein since ancient times.  Today, they continue to show up in Athens' central market.  As rather vicious predators, however, they are to be otherwise avoided on your Aegean vacation.  One look at those jaws should tell you that!  And there's a set of hidden jaws inside.  [2006]

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Scheemda, Netherlands

The northern realms of Nederland are the most agricultural and the most traditional. Consequently, they have the most windmills, not all of which drain polders or mill grain. Some have been scaled down to lawn-size reminders of what the Low Countries used to be. [1984]

Monday, December 26, 2011

Luxor, Egypt

The Nile provided a perfect highway for the unification of ancient Egypt:  ride the current north, and let the Trade Winds carry you south.  The felucca captains of today, the masters of the Nile, use the same forces of nature thanks to the ingenuity of their ancestors who began thinking about human-environment relationships more than 5,000 years ago.  [2000]

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Virginia Beach, Virginia, USA

New Cape Henry Lighthouse: There's no place like Cape Henry for lighthouses. And, there's no one like Henry's father, James, for giving us the words of Jesus in magisterial English: "I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life." Merry Christmas on the 400th anniversary of King James' Bible! [2007]

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Owls Head, Maine, USA

Owls Head Lighthouse: Beautiful physical geography can give the spirit a lift, and that is nowhere truer than along the coast of Maine. That same physical geography can also give a lighthouse the lift it needs to be seen way out at sea. Owls Head, guardian of Rockland Harbor, need not be tall because it stands on the shoulders of giant metamorphs. [2008]

Friday, December 23, 2011

Point Montara, California, USA

Point Montara Lighthouse: There is no harbor here. Instead, there are rocks offshore, right in the path of ships following the coast northward to the Golden Gate. Only an experienced applicant would qualify for the job of 'fog-horn assistant,' so the Mayo Beach lighthouse on Cape Cod was given the job and moved to the Pacific Coast in the 1920s. [2007]

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Lewes, Delaware, USA

Lewes Harbor-of-Refuge Lighthouse: As we sail through life as fast as the winds of change may take us, we all need a harbor of refuge once in a while. Where do you find yours? At home? In prayer? In a Book? In a memory? We all need lights to mark safe passage, and open arms, like breakwaters, to embrace us. [2008]

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

St. Simons Island, Georgia, USA

St. Simon's Island Lighthouse: The beacon still guides mariners into St. Simon's Sound and on to the port of Brunswick. Its saintly name (probably after Simon Peter) hearkens back to the Spanish history of Georgia's Golden Isles. The boulders in the foreground scream 'Emergency!' They are doing their best to hold back the sea. [2007]

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Liverpool, England, UK

Great towers symbolize great cities, so now Liverpool can compete with London.  At 453 feet, St. John's Beacon (now a radio station) appeared on the landscape in 1969 as chapter one in Liverpool's post-industrial history.  This week, it gives St. John (the Evangelist, not the Beatle) the stature to herald Jesus' upcoming birthday.  [2011]

Monday, December 19, 2011

Portsmouth, England, UK

On Gunwharf Quay in historic Portsmouth, England, this is what the 21st century looks like.  It looks like a spinnaker, a billowing sail, from the 19th century.  Spinnaker Tower is a spirit-lifting 560 feet tall.  Great towers symbolize great cities, so now Portsmouth can compete with London.  [2011]

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Quebec City, Quebec, Canada

'Bel Gaufre' is a chain of eateries in Quebec, but bagels seem to be more popular here than gaufres. Gaufre, in French, comes from the same root as wafer, in English. It means waffle. Bagel is a Yiddish word from a German root meaning ring (originally, 'to bend'). [2005]

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Koper, Slovenia

Were it not for Koper, Slovenia would be land-locked. But here, at the head (kop = caput = head) of the Istrian Peninsula, sits the one and only Slovenian port. It looks modern, doesn't it? The container business seems to be booming, but the silos in the distance betray its role in bulk freight handling, too. [2008]

Friday, December 16, 2011

Portland, Oregon, USA

Give the week-end a big Green Star, but only if you use it greenly. In Portland, this is what you see Friday afternoon as you leave downtown. Even the greenest building can't compare with Oregon's great outdoors. Oregonians are so ecotopian and you can be, too. Just remember: "3,000 minutes of week-end start now." [2011]

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Macau, China

Give her a big Green Star. She, and an army of gatherers like her, wander the streets of cities in East Asia (not just here in Macau) collecting cardboard and finding a market for it. Good boxes can be reused as boxes; the rest can be recycled. People are as important as technology to environmental sustainability. [2011]

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Welcome to the future:  the future of urban architecture.  This is the first carbon-neutral office building in Australia.  The colorful pixels on the outside are components of the sun-shade system.  What you can't see are the night cooling windows, the green roof, the vacuum toilets, and the anaerobic digester.  Give it a big Green Star.  [2011]

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Granby, Quebec, Canada

Hardly somber, is it?  Only the dates of Mario Menard's life provoke a startled gasp: too young to die.  But the story etched here in granite is about new beginnings:  the next generation of Menards, the triumph of Bambi over a parent's untimely demise, and the jet just starting its ascent into the heavens.  [2011]

Monday, December 12, 2011

Granby, Quebec, Canada

Do you know what the biggest event of the year is in Granby, Quebec?  For a clue, go the Granby cemetery and look up Monsieur Boisvert.  He has the answer:  it's the classic car show, and nothing is more classic than a Model A.  In 1903, it marked the beginning of automobiles for the masses.  [2011]

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Granby, Quebec, Canada

On Rue Principale in Granby, one restaurant stands out:  Chez Trudeau.  When you see it, you know it must have a proud history.  Where would you go to find out about its beginnings?  To the place in town that is all about endings, the Granby cemetery, where Trudeau himself finds a peaceful repose.  Chez Trudeau began as the horse-drawn La Cantine.  [2011]

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Narragansett, Rhode Island, USA

Look what the storm brought in: greens on the half-shell! All of the coastal communities in Rhode Island have a 'town beach,' and Narragansett Beach may be the best of them all. Even the name puts a smile on your face. [2006]

Friday, December 9, 2011

Jerusalem, Israel

In Jerusalem, a principal stands proudly with his students.  Notice the proxemics (how people manage the distances between themselves and others).  Close physical proximity is typical of Arab (and Mediterranean) culture.  Americans require a buffer of space that keeps others at arms length.  What if there were a woman in the mix?  [1998]

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Helsinki, Finland

Poor Jean Sibelius.  Without ears, he can't even hear his own music even though it surrounds him at his own memorial in Helsinki.  Fortunately, the rest of us do have ears.  On Sibelius' birthday (today!) let's all try to figure out how Finland, small and on the periphery of Europe, has produced so much creativity for such a long time.  [2005]

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Jalan Petaling is the most well-known street in Kuala Lumpur. Its name is synonymous with Chinatown, but you will find Malays, Indians, and tourists, too. And, if you think it is crowded now, come back at night! Here, by the way, the umbrellas are parasols. They defend against the sun. [2011]

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

In this part of Kuala Lumpur, there's a major market for Bollywood films. Welcome to Brickfields, the city's 'Little India.'  From the clay pit underfoot came the raw material, and from India came the kiln workers. The new KL of the late 1800s would be built with brick, not wood. [2011]

Monday, December 5, 2011

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

What has happened to skylines over the last century and a half? They have gone high-rise. What began in New York City in 1857, the installation of the first modern elevator, changed our definition of what it means to live in the city. But, low-rise Chinatown still has more character than the shafts in the background. [2011]

Sunday, December 4, 2011

St. Kilda, Victoria, Australia

It's July, the middle of winter.  But, at St. Kilda's Beach, Melbourne's coastal playground, curbside tables are out by mid-morning.  Presiding over the diners is the peace symbol in the window. Originating with the supporters of nuclear disarmament, it says to all:  'Dreamers Welcome.'  [2011]

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Trieste, Italy

Define paradise. It's a place of harmony, and for these sea birds it's this islet in the Adriatic Sea. Define guano. It's the excrement of these sea birds, and it's the crown on this islet in the Adriatic Sea. [2008]

Friday, December 2, 2011

Toluca, Mexico, Mexico

Welcome to the capital of Mexico, Toluca, where the old market hall has been turned into a botanical garden with stained glass sides and ceilings.  Doesn't this remind you of the art form that has come to define Mexican culture, the mural?  Toluca is the capital of the state of Mexico, one of the United States of Mexico.  Yes, there's another United States!  [2008]

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Taipei, Taiwan

Cities everywhere are seats of spectacle, but there is nothing more spectacular than Chinese culture on parade.  Looking for escape?  Don one of these costumes, disappear into the menagerie of Linnaeus-defying street creatures, and leave the real world behind.  But, in East Asia, this is the real world.  [2011]

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Palmyra, Syria

He's a Tadmor tout with only a few trinkets to sell.  But, it's enough to supplement the family income.  Of course, he should be in school.  The setting is Tadmor, the ancient Roman city of Palmyra.  The name means city of palms, but where are the palms?  Go and find out.  [1995]

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

San Juan, Puerto Rico

San Cristóbal was built in 1783, but parts of the fort go back to the 1600s.  Here in Puerto Rico, the sentry boxes are called garitas.  By whatever name, though, sentry boxes were standard parts of military architecture for centuries and a signature of 'chapter one' in the history of globalization.  Their purpose:  extramural invigilation, of course.  [2009]

Monday, November 28, 2011

Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic

Does it look over 400 years old to you? Well, it is. Fortaleza San Filipe on the Bay of Puerto Plata was built in 1577 by the Spanish. Its purpose was to defend against French and British attack. At select corners of the fort were sentry boxes for extramural invigilation. [1992]

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Mobile, Alabama, USA

Does it look 300 years old to you? Well, it's not. Fort Conde, on Mobile Bay, was re-built in 1976 as a scale model of the original, which was erected by the French. Its purpose was to defend against Spanish and British attack. At the corners of the fort were sentry boxes for extramural invigilation. [2005]

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Hong Kong S.A.R., China

Tart yogurt has become the hippest trend in the soft serve industry since frozen yogurt took off in the 1980s. It seems entirely out of place in Hong Kong, but here it is right off Nathan Road. How did it get here? It surfed in on a globalization wave and immediately made friends with the kiwis who arrived on an earlier wave. [2011]

Friday, November 25, 2011

Southampton, England, UK

Let the Christmas season begin with the prolific Nonconformist theologian Isaac Watts, who died 263 years ago today. He authored the lyrics of Joy to the World, which might be the most popular hymn of the season. Watts was born in Southampton, where he still presides over West Park. Today is his day. [2011]

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Let's spend the day giving thanks for the world's indigenous cultures. The Orang Asli are the 'natural people' of Malaya. Thankfully, their arts are now getting long overdue patronage. These 'forest folk' offer the world a unique aesthetic that gives insight into human nature as well as their nature. Sadly, they now number only 150,00 at most. [2011]

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Prague, Czech Republic

Crossing the Charles River is like passing through heaven and meeting the saints: statue after statue of Baroque renderings circa 1700.  Along with St. Vitus' Cathedral in the background, they remind us that God expects heavenly behavior while still on earth.  Today, fortunately, the sculptures are being cleaned and restored.  [1994]

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Ourika Valley, Morocco

Ceramic minarets (minus their masjids) are for sale along the road to Imlil in Morocco's High Atlas.  Their shape and design identify them immediately as Maghrebi.  The minaret is the tower from which the call to prayers is issued five times a day in the Islamic culture realm.  [2005]

Monday, November 21, 2011

Plovdiv, Bulgaria

Ottoman Turkey gave the world doner kebab, but today it belongs to the family of world palate pleasers and appetite satiaters. Doner means 'turn,' and the turning chicken on this spit is going to keep the people of Plovidiv spinning all day. In thier sandwiches, they will have a protein, a carb, a fat, and a source of vitamins and minerals. Perfect. [2010]

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Copenhagen, Denmark

Ivy does well in northern Europe thanks to the climate. It will tug entire buildings back to nature's roots if left untamed. Scenes like this are rarer and rarer, however, as people realize that biological weathering is hastened by ivy's embrace. Down from the bricks it is torn. Today, we have other ways of 'greening' the city. [1984]

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Uppsala, Sweden

Sweden has more runestones than any other country. They date to the Viking Age, and many were used to mark grave sites. With the arrival of Christianity in Scandinavia, however, the runic alphabet was replaced with the the Latin alphabet. [1984]

Friday, November 18, 2011

Oslo, Norway

Turn the clock back 800 years and this is what places of Christian worship in Norway would have looked like. This one was built around 1200 AD. Today, there are only a couple dozen wooden stave churches left on the Norwegian landscape. Because of its iconic value, this one, named Gol, was relocated to the Norwegian Folk Museum in Oslo. [1984]

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Woodland Park, Colorado, USA

Like flowers in bloom on telephone-pole stems, the colorful state flags of the united States of America offer unflappable poise and a history lesson on federalism. If we had a contest for the best state flag, what state would win? The candidates are on display in Woodland Park. [2005]

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Kaohsiung, Taiwan

Dad's home from work, the rain has stopped, and there are a few hours of sunlight left.  It's time for a walk and a trike ride.  They're lucky to live in Kaohsiung, a city with lots of open space and smooth pavements.  But, couldn't we be in almost any middle class neighborhood in the world?  [2011]

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Kaohsiung, Taiwan

Most of these fruits and vegetables you will recognize, but what are the long green gourds with the bad complexions? They're called bitter melons, and they are bitter.  It's the outer husk with the warts that you eat.  Buy one, gut it, slice it thin, chill it, and try to enjoy it as much as you would any salad green.  [2011]

Monday, November 14, 2011

Kaohsiung, Taiwan

Kaohsiung is Taiwan's second largest city, but it looks twice as big when reflected in the canal that drains away tropical rains and opens up urban canyons to the setting sun's warm glow.  This waterway and its verges connect to the Love River and the container port that has become a nexus of global intercourse for all of Taiwan.  [2011]

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Taipei, Taiwan

Look again!  That's no highway worker; that's an escapee from a local department store.  Maybe this is his second job.  Now, if he could just afford some of the high fashion he gets to wear when he's on mannequin duty in the window.  [2011]

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Taipei, Taiwan

'Push hands' is practiced all over Taiwan.  Find a park or, on rainy days, a sheltered open space and you will find some Tai Chi masters and people practicing this very popular martial art.  Here the emphasis is not on competition and combat, but on coordination, balance, and relaxation.  If you think yin and yang, you will understand what is going on.  [2011]