From the category archives:

Place

From J.D. McClatchy’s A View of the Sea:

At the far end of the room, the two cups of water
On the floor, the master explained, were for them
To purify their mouths with before the tea was served.
They were next told to lie on their bellies and inch
Towards the cups, ensuring a proper humiliation.
The monks protested—they had come to see their friend
Through to the end, to see his soul released,
Poured like water into water—and where, after all,
Was the unmatched view he had promised them?

(Quoting my favorite lines would have given it all away, so I encourage you to read the whole thing.)

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“For it is one thing for people to tell their stories in their own spaces, and quite another for those stories to be welcomed in this space.”

– Michelle Obama, at poetry night in the East Room of the White House

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I’ve always been attracted to images of infrastructure at night…

via Flickr

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I’ve been following Tom Steinberg’s great work at establishing better communications channels and feedback loops between citizens and the UK government for a while now.  You can find out more about these projects at the mySociety website.

In his latest newsletter, he featured a project that applies the HotOrNot meme (which is often judgmental, demeaning, humiliating and masochistic when rating people) to places in the UK:

“ScenicOrNot helps you to explore every corner of England, Scotland and Wales, all the while comparing your aesthetic judgements with fellow players.”

The site presents a photo, and prompts viewers to rate it on a scale of 1 to 10, from not scenic to scenic.

One-dimensional assessments of anything are always dicey, but I can see many merits in this particular project:

  • It’s interesting to learn how others perceive a place. Is there anything close to general agreement about what it means to be scenic?  I rated a field of ripening barely a 7, 2.5 points above the average.
  • Many of the photos used are not of touristy locations, so it may be the first time that a particular cattle-gate has been rated or thought about in these terms.
  • Aggregating such opinions could have all sorts of uses, from finding attractive places you didn’t know about, to directing beautification efforts at blighted areas.

According to the same newsletter, mySociety is working on:

“A Really Great Secret Project that uses that scenicness data we’ve been gathering and which we think you’re going to Quite Like”

I can’t wait to see it.

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A street-performer in Mexico City

A street-performer in Mexico City

The Telegraph has a gallery of decorated face masks in Mexico City.

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Pressing Words (photo by Chris Roberts)

Pressing Words (photo by Chris Roberts)

From a Weekend America story about Marcus Young’s Everyday Sidewalk Poetry:

The project is being funded by a local public art group, with the city’s blessing. Marcus Young is St. Paul’s Artist-in Residence. Young too was walking down the sidewalk, head-down in Minnesota fashion, when he began to notice how construction companies stamp their work. “It’ll say Knutson Construction, or Standard Sidewalk, and one day I just thought ‘Hey, that’s an opportunity for art,’” he says.

The article has a gallery with photos of the process and final results.

The project site has a map and the poems.

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Monochromatic

April 16, 2009

in Image,Place

Architect Peter Kaschnig decided to paint every aspect of his home blue:

Peter Kaschnig's Blue Abode

Peter Kaschnig's Blue Abode

From the Mirror:

Peter reckons the lack of contrast gives everything an exciting 3D effect. “It’s more vivid than any computer animation,” he says.

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From a This I Believe essay by Matt Harding:

My brain was designed to inhabit a fairly small social network of maybe a few dozen other primates — a tribe. Beyond that size, I start to get overwhelmed.

And yet here I am in a world of over 6 billion people, all of whom are now inextricably linked together. I don’t need to travel to influence lives on the other side of the globe. All I have to do is buy a cup of coffee or a tank of gas. My tribe has grown into a single, impossibly vast social network, whether I like it or not. The problem, I believe, isn’t that the world has changed, it’s that my primitive caveman brain hasn’t.

I am fantastic at seeing differences. Everybody is. I can quickly pick out those who look or behave differently, and unless I actively override the tendency, I will perceive them as a threat. That instinct may have once been useful for my tribe but when I travel, it’s a liability.

When I dance with people, I see them smile and laugh and act ridiculous. It makes those differences seem smaller. The world seems simpler, and my caveman brain finds that comforting.

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From the culture that gave us fireworks:

(You might want to mute the audio. To my ears, the music doesn’t quite work.)

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Photographs of the Super-Kamiokande neutrino observatory in Japan:

The Ceiling

The Ceiling

Across the Water

Across the Water

More photos available here, via gargantua & pantagruel.

Read more about the observatory on Wikipedia.

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Mt. Hood, This Morning

February 13, 2009

in Image,Place

Maintaining Its Modesty

Maintaining Its Modesty

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Kyoto Lives

January 31, 2009

in History,Place,Poetry

To mark its 70th issue, Kyoto Journal has turned inward, examining 21st-century Kyoto in a special issue entitled Kyoto Lives. The deliberate ambiguity of the title refers to the lives of the forty-one Kyoto residents interviewed, and also affirms that Kyoto, in its latest incarnation, is still very much alive.

Kyoto Journal #70

Kyoto Journal #70

Among the numerous highlights are Sugihara Iona:

“There is a more humble feeling about Kyoto; a sense that she was built by hands, not money.”

Edith Shiffert’s poetry, including this haiku:

Those flower petals
from roots in earth, stems in light
Self too roots and lifts

And Christian Orton’s photos of the Kamo river at night. (Four images are included in the magazine. Many more are featured on his website.)

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The Sky Spinning

January 28, 2009

in Place,Thinking,Video

Via the Long Now Blog:


túrána hott kurdís by hasta la otra méxico! from Till Credner on Vimeo.

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Not your average personal library...

Not your average personal library...

Steven Levy gives us a glimpse of Jay Walker’s library:

What excites him even more is using his treasures to make mind-expanding connections. He loves juxtapositions, like placing a 16th-century map that combines experience and guesswork—”the first one showing North and South America,” he says—next to a modern map carried by astronauts to the moon. “If this is what can happen in 500 years, nothing is impossible.”

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Distraction

January 25, 2009

in Image,Place,Senses

I was working on a post at my desk this morning, but the fresh snow, and the chance to see it before it was trampled or melted, proved too great a temptation:

Morning walk...

Morning Walk

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