August 2012

Posted by Ellen

Just west of Toronto, in the fast-growing suburban city of Mississauga, these two condo towers have scratched the sky in flat-out defiance of latter-day suburban trends: they are not boxy, they are not real-estate development disasters, and not a one of their 800-plus condo units is exactly like any other in size or shape.

In 2005, Mississauga's mayor announced an international design competition for a single 54-story tower at the site, to be known as Absolute World. In 2007, the winning architect was announced, chosen by the voting public from among six finalists selected by a panel of Canada's leading architects and planners. The winner was Yasong Ma, of MAD Architectural Design Studio in Beijing. Almost immediately, the spiraling, curvaceous tower was nicknamed Marilyn Monroe.

When condominiums in Marilyn Monroe were offered for pre-construction sale, almost all were under contract within 24 hours. The developers quickly announced a second, companion tower, also spiraling and asymmetric but a bit more buxom, so as to accommodate a few more units. This second tower sold out within about a month.

People began moving into Marilyn Monroe, the righthand tower in this picture, in July 2011. Both towers are now fully occupied. They feature six stories of underground garage space and are located across the street from one of the largest shopping malls in North America.
Posted by Ellen

World's End is the name of a state park in Pennsylvania, a knob in the marshland near Boston, an off-the-map locale for the weakest sequel to Pirates of the Caribbean, and a major site of action for World of Warcraft. But the World's End that this kayaker is nearing is the southern end of Tjøme Island, near the outlet of Norway's Oslo Fjord.

Posted by Ellen

The writing on the wall in Barcelona, as noted by Norwegian photographer Jørgen Stensrud.

Posted by Ellen

Posted by Ellen

The Romans found gold here at Dolaucothi in south Wales, near the village of Pumsaint, in 74 A.D. During five centuries of mining, Roman engineers developed hydraulic works, then a large open pit mine, and eventually vast underground operations, complete with dewatering channels and pumps to keep deep mine tunnels from flooding.

Beginning in the nineteenth century, the British made several tries at reopening the mine, but they gave it up for good in 1938, defeated not so much by lack of gold as by surfeit of water underground. Today, Dolaucothi is a national park, offering mine tours and archaeological exhibits of Roman artifacts found onsite.

Posted by Ellen

A peregrine falcon takes in a February sunrise from the railing of an apartment balcony in Chicago.

Posted by Ellen

At the feet of the fiddler in this picture is his open violin case, with a hat in it. He is riding the Washington State ferry that crosses Puget Sound between Edmonds and Kingston, just north of Seattle. I don't know if he's trying to make a living this way or just hoping to pull in a few bucks or simply earning back his ferry fare as he rides the water. It's also possible that he's doing this because he lost a bet. Whatever, this crossing had a soundtrack that I used to believe was better suited to trains than to boats: Foggy Mountain Breakdown and Orange Blossom Special.

(Reposted from a 7 November 2008 posting to an antediluvian ancestor of this blog.)

BBQ

Posted by Ellen

Hank interrupts his cleanup work to give us a thumbs-up from the back of the Raney Brothers BBQ truck in downtown Seattle. 

Posted by Ellen

In 1919, when George Thomas was an eight-year-old growing up in the town of Sheffield in northern England, he and his brothers and friends felt they owned the streets of Sheffield and the fields and forests all around. Their parents didn't mind when they wandered off on adventures of their own devising; even at the young age of eight, he often walked six miles to a fishing pond.

In 1950, when George Thomas's son-in-law Jack Hattersley was eight years old in Sheffield, children still routinely walked long distances from home unsupervised. Almost daily, Jack walked a mile to play with his friends (unsupervised) in the woods.

But by 1979, when Jack Hattersley's daughter Vicky was eight years old in Sheffield, children stuck closer to home. Vicky grew up in a suburban subdivision, which she never left except in cars driven by her parents or her friends' parents. Still, she was allowed to walk or ride her bike by herself as far as about half a mile through the neighborhood to her friends' homes or to the swimming pool. And like her father and grandfather, she walked to school every day.

By 2007, when Vicky's son Edward Grant turned eight, unscripted and unsupervised childhood wandering was a thing of the past. Ed has a bike, but to ride it he and his parents travel by car to safe bike paths. His mother drives him to school. He is allowed to walk by himself to the end of his block, about 300 yards, but his parents say he never wants to do that because no other children in the neighborhood are allowed out by themselves to play.

Like many eight-year-olds nowadays, Ed basically stays in his house except when his parents drive him somewhere. This is not a miserable situation for him; unlike his great-grandfather, whose childhood home was cramped and crowded and unadorned with childhood playthings, Ed has a room of his own at home, with plenty of toys and electronic diversions. Since he's never known the freedom to wander that was treasured by generations of children past, he doesn't seem to miss it.

His mother, grandfather, and great-grandfather mourn the loss for him. They are nostalgic for this aspect of their own childhoods. They suspect that some of the fears leading parents to keep children so entirely caged nowadays are overblown. But still, societal norms have become so fiercely hostile to the very idea of letting children loose that no challenge seems possible. It is their duty to keep Ed safe and supervised, even if the consequence is that his childhood is being spent in a gilded prison.

Wonder what will happen to Ed's children?