February 2013

Posted by Ellen

Vitamin, at left in the brown cardigan, and Fivla, at right, wearing red, play starring roles in a new ad campaign urging everyone to visit Scotland in general and the Shetland Islands in particular.

Vitamin and Fivla are classic Shetland ponies, wearing traditionally patterned Fair Isles sweaters custom-knitted by Shetland native Doreen Brown, from yarn spun from the wool of Shetland sheep, and they are posed all warm and cozy on the windswept moor of a scenic Shetland isle, and if this picture doesn't get you to go there then nothing will.

Posted by Ellen

Yesterday, we caught the view from New York City's High Line rails-to-trails boardwalk, a park that winds along the western edge of lower Manhattan, thirty feet up in the sky.

Today's glimpse of a tracks-to-boardwalk project is in Philadelphia, alongside the Schuylkill River, where barge-mounted heavy equipment is currently driving pilings into the riverbed for a boardwalk that will soar out over the water to extend an existing twenty-plus-mile asphalt biking and walking path.

The asphalt path follows an abandoned railroad bed downriver from Valley Forge past Fairmount Park and the Philadelphia Art Museum and on into Center City. But at Locust Street, the trail ends abruptly, crowded off the riverbank by half a dozen railroad lines that are definitely not-yet-abandoned.

The plan is to extend the path southward by snaking it out over the river as a boardwalk with observation platforms and maybe some fishing decks. (Although the Schuylkill is a bit shy of what you'd call a pristine river, there are definitely fish swimming in it, and they are catchable, if not eatable.)

After about half a mile over water, the new boardwalk will pass under the South Street Bridge and then curve back onto dry land for the remainder of its route. It will terminate in southwest Philly at Bartram's Gardens, an eighteenth-century homestead where America's earliest botanists planted the New World's first collection of botanical curiosities.

Planned completion date for the boardwalk is . . . early 2013, or so it is written. Whenever.

Posted by Ellen

One thing we have in abundance in America is abandoned railroad tracks. Many thousands of miles have been torn up and paved over with asphalt, repurposed for walking and biking through cities and suburbs. Many of these rails-to-trails are pleasant amenities, but few are interesting to look at or exciting to experience. Today, we turn our eyes to a few of those few.

New York City's High Line Park, which we last visited back in 2011, is a garden in the sky, snatched from the ruins of an industrial el line that once carried cattle and chickens to the slaughterhouses of lower Manhattan's Hudson riverfront. Both the industrial roots and the post-industrial decline are celebrated in the park: everywhere, the grit and grunge, patched brick walls and rusted steel fixtures, are lovingly preserved, with landscaping that looks a lot like weeds and old-looking new (creosote-free) train tracks in the flower beds. Amongst the weeds are miles of boardwalk for strolling and people-watching.

This photo was taken from the High Line's amphitheater, a performance space cantilevered out over Tenth Avenue, with glass walls that keep the sounds of the city at bay. Down below, about a block away on the left side of the street, you can glimpse the edge of a parking lot that is also being reimagined as performance space, for a senior project by a Parsons School of Design student, our own Amelia Stein. All of us Hole-in-the-Cloudsians are eager to follow the progress of this work by one of our own.

Posted by Ellen

All you need is crazy.

Posted by Ellen

We nominate this for strangest valentine ever: neither the words nor the picture make any sense or have much of anything to do with valentine-ism. But fortunately, we're ahead of ourselves; maybe tomorrow, when it's really Valentine's Day, we can do a little better.

Posted by Ellen

Throughout the winter of 2012, Indonesian schoolchildren went to and from school every day via this damaged suspension bridge, which lost one of its pillars during a flood in January.

"Oh no," thought Djakarta-based photographer, Beawhirta, when he came across this scene. "These could not be children who wanted to go to school. It was more like an acrobatic show, with the collapsed bridge as an apparatus and without any safety device at all. They walked slowly, sometimes screaming as their shoes slipped. Suddenly the rain came."

Even in the rain, all the children made it safely across the Ciberang River, at least on the day of the photo shoot. About three months after the photo gained wide attention in Indonesia, the bridge was repaired.

Posted by Ellen

Shown here in a curled-up polaroid snapshot from a nightstand drawer, eating shrimp on a kitchen table covered with newspaper, probably in 1985 or 1986, back when they were shrimpy little kids and pretty good friends, are Joe Stein and Stephanie Jacobs.

Stephanie and Joe went to preschool together and then to University Place Elementary, and for many years they went to the same after-school program and the same Sunday school. 

Based on this picture, we might guess that Stephanie liked milk with her shrimp, or else liked milk but not shrimp, or perhaps liked neither but had been told to drink her milk.

Joe appears to be a serious shrimp-peeler, despite wearing an obviously unserious sort of hat.

Both Stephanie and Joe have gone back to school in recent years at the University of Alabama, Stephanie for a library science master's in book arts and Joe for a music degree in piano performance.

Posted by Ellen

This cheerful little snake is welcoming us to Tết, the Vietnamese version of Asian lunar new year festivities, which will be celebrated this coming Sunday in Philadelphia among many other places. What the snake is saying, according to Google's translator, is "Sing along, Men of targeted Heritage."

In 1968, at the height of what I've been told was called "the American war" by many people in Vietnam, the governments of both North and South Vietnam announced two-day cease-fires for Tết. But shortly after midnight on the first day of Tết, the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong launched more than a hundred surprise attacks on American and South Vietnamese forces and on cities and villages throughout South Vietnam. More than 80,000 troops were involved in the attacks, and there was fighting even in Saigon. The objective was to demoralize South Vietnamese soldiers and show Communist strength literally in every corner of the land; over the next few weeks, however, U.S. forces regained control of virtually all the territory contested in the Tết offensive, and the war dragged on for seven more years.

One consequence (among many) of the eventual North Vietnamese victory in the war was that the South Vietnamese provinces adopted the same time zone and lunar calendar as the North Vietnamese, thus ensuring that everyone celebrated Tết at the same time. Most years, including this one, the Chinese New Year also falls on the same date as Tết, though time-zone differences across Asia occasionally result in different clebration dates.

Posted by Ellen

Tadpoles swarm amongst the lily stalks in a Canadian pond, in a photo submitted to National Geographic by Campbell River underwater photographer Eiko Jones.