Two years ago, when they demolished the old South Street Bridge over the Schuylkill River, it was in such bad shape, I'm told, that chunks of its concrete were falling onto the expressway that passes underneath.
A week from Monday, this new South Street Bridge is scheduled to open, restoring a direct route from our neighborhood to the University of Pennsylvania across the river. The little flag near the right edge of the picture is flying over Penn's football stadium.
Looks like there's still a little work to be finished up in this next week. But they say they'll cut the ribbon right on schedule.
In the 1890s, Toulouse-Lautrec painted a number of works showing lesbians kissing in bed. This painting, "The Bed" (1893), is probably part of that series, though the gender of the bedheads is arguably ambiguous and he may in fact be portraying a boy and a girl.
In any event, this is among the first Western paintings to show two adult human beings sleepily together in bed. Sshh.
There's an email that's been going around for at least six months or so about this deer that came to somebody's backyard every morning, in Harrisburg, PA, to play with the resident cat. Here are two of the five pictures from the post.
What do you think? Real, or urban legend? Well, after doing my due diligence, I'm inclined to say maybe. Hand-raised deer often behave this way, apparently, and similar goings-on have been described in first-hand reports from several places around the country. For example, from California:
"Every morning our cat used to walk down our lane and disappear into the woods. One morning, I was sick and got up much later than usual to let her out. As I opened the door, I looked down the lane and saw three deer standing there staring at me. To my astonishment, my cat happily bounced down to them, touched noses, and the four of them trotted off into the woods together.
"Perhaps there's a cat/deer accord we are not privvy to?"
On July 4, 1776, a public reading of the Declaration of Independence in New York City raised revolutionary fervor to a fever pitch. A few nights later, hitherto-underground terrorists and secret militias took to the streets and marched on the Bowling Green, a public square near the tip of Manhattan that featured a twenty-ton lead-cast statue of the despised King George III astride a horse, in the mode of Roman heroic monumentalism.
The American revolutionaries tied ropes around the statue, toppled it, and broke it to pieces. All but the head of the king was melted down and recast into musket balls to fire at the king's soldiers. The head was to be displayed on a pike, but Tories stole it and shipped it back to England.
The colonists quickly brought the news of their vandalism to the attention of General Washington, but much to their surprise, he was not impressed. He told them sharply that he did not want to hear of any more such nonsense.
The word was out, however. Within a few weeks, Francois X. Habermann in Augsburg, Germany, published this engraving to memorialize the event. Habermann did not know what New York City looked like, or what kind of clothing people wore in America. He apparently did not know that the statue was toppled by white militiamen, not African slaves. But he knew just how Europeans wanted to imagine anti-royal goings-on in the strange New World on the far side of the earth.
Looks like he's almost finished.
The stereotypical Canadian self-effacement apparently did not play a large part in 1905 in the design of this vehicle, a joint venture between the Canadian Pacific Railway and the governments of the brand new provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan.
The motor car was intended to travel the byways of England, promoting immigration to western Canada and, perhaps incidentally, ticket sales on the Canadian Pacific Railway and its trans-Atlantic steamship subsidiary.
The promotional message left out a few details. For one thing, although homesteaders could indeed claim 160 free acres of land, it cost $10 to file the claim, a sum many would-be homesteaders could not come up with after paying the Canadian Pacific for steamship and railway passage. Also, in the, um, bracing climate of the Canadian prairies, 160 acres was not nearly enough land to support a family.
So although the promotional efforts succeeded quickly in populating the prairies--this round of Canadian homesteading was closed off by 1914--most of the homesteaders were ultimately unsuccessful at farming and ranching. Among those few who could stick it out long enough to prove up on their claims, drought years beginning in 1920 ultimately chased them away. Today the Canadian prairie provinces (like the U.S. prairie states) are littered with ghost towns and empty farmhouses.
The vehicle pictured here was a hybrid, powered by electric motors at each wheel and a gas engine that heated a steam boiler. It never did work properly and was abandoned in London.
If you drop the first two letters of the name of the nation of Mexico, you get Xico, the name of several towns and landmarks around the country. There is, for example, the small hill town of Xico near Veracruz, where it is said that people do very little besides growing coffee and hosting bullfights. And here we see two other Xicos: a volcanic crater and the fast-growing city that surrounds it.
Xico volcano sits at the extreme southern end of the Mexico City megalopolis. For a geologically significant chunk of time, this area was underwater, drowned by Lake Chalco. The lake began to dry out in the 1300s, and Aztec fishermen settled along its coastline hereabouts. In the nineteenth century, the government drained the lake entirely; the fishermen were awarded communal land grants and told to become farmers.
Farming became intensive in the 1970s, when corporate agriculturists and desperate landless peasants struck illegal or quasi-legal deals with the communal organizations and wrested control of the rich volcanic soil. Thousands and thousands of families poured into the region, hoping for work. Farmers climbed over the rim of the volcano and plowed fields inside the crater. Xico the town sprawled right up to the ramparts of Xico the crater and appears likely to soon engulf it; in 2005, the population of the municipality was 330,000.
The urban fringes seen here lack the services and amenities taken for granted twenty miles away in downtown Mexico City. Xico's roads are mostly unpaved, schools are few and far between, and the people are almost all very poor. Now that NAFTA has dismantled the remains of the communal farming system, it seems to be increasingly the case that even the rich volcanic soil here in Xico is worth more as slumland than as cropland.