Hole in the Clouds
Oct 4, 2011
A tour guide from the Tenement Museum points out features of the neighborhood surrounding the Forward Building at 175 Broadway in New York's Lower East Side.
The Daily Forward was founded at the turn of the twentieth century as a Yiddish-language newspaper for new immigrants from Eastern Europe who were then crowding into the Lower East Side and similar neighborhoods in other American cities. Forward readers were mostly poor people struggling to get a foothold in a new, strange land; the newspaper was active politically as well as editorially in the labor union movement and on behalf of an American Socialist party, and it also promoted cultural Americanization, particularly with respect to Old World Jewish religiosity, which the editors rejected in favor of a more secular and open-minded cultural identity. Among the writers: Isaac Bashevis Singer and Leon Trotsky.
I remember seeing my grandparents reading The Forward on the front porch of their rowhouse in Baltimore in the 1950s. Yiddish was all Greek to me, but I distinctly recall how amusing it seemed that a newspaper called Forward was printed backward.
The irony doesn't stop there, however. The Forward Building in this photo, built by the Socialist publishers in 1917 when circulation exceeded a quarter of a million, was converted to condominiums in the 1990s; I've been told that units in the building start at more than $2 million. The Lower East Side of Manhattan is still a landing place for new immigrants–note the signs in Chinese on the two buildings at the right edge of the picture–but gentrification now attracts rich people to the neighborhood as well. There may still be sweatshops here, but the pushcarts are definitely gone.
The Forward survives today, though just barely, in weekly English and Yiddish editions, each with a circulation of a few thousand.
Lower East Side
Oct 6, 2011
As the sun sets over New Jersey, the Milano's Italian Sausage trucks begin their nightly rounds in Manhattan.
New York City's new High Line Park repurposes an old elevated railroad track along the west side of lower Manhattan for strolling and people-watching high above the bustle of downtown streets. Trees and flowers grow out of the old track bed, blooming between the ties, while in the distance is the river, the skyscrapers, the restaurants and nightclubs, and, along this stretch of the route, the warehouses of the old meatpacking district.
New York City
High Line Park
Oct 11, 2011
Clearly it was too cold for bathing suits when the sisters Strelitz posed before this mural in Rio de Janeiro, but the smiles were warm and sunny. Caroline, at left, is completing a Fullbright fellowship in Brazil; Bonnie joined her there in August for a mid-winter vacation.
Rio de Janeiro
(Image credit: JJ Stein)
Oct 12, 2011
Rio de Janeiro
(Image credit: Caroline Strelitz)
Oct 13, 2011
Way back behind the beachside hotels and the downtown apartment towers, Rio's notorious favelas cling to the mountainside. The people who live up there–who have no other place to live–have long endured every kind of danger and distress, but they are currently wrestling with a new dimension of difficulty: Rio's real estate boom is spreading all the way back and up to the slopes the moradors da favela have staked out for their dwellings.
The real estate developers moving into the favelas have government backing, as Brazil attempts to clean up the city in preparation for the 2014 soccer World Cup and the 2016 Olympics. The people being displaced don't exactly own the land their shanties are built on, so they aren't cashing in on the redevelopment. And they have nowhere else to go.
Once the favela structures are razed, and the sewer and water and power lines are extended up the mountainside, the new homes and businesses take full advantage of something the former residents long enjoyed for free: the view.
Rio de Janeiro
(Image credit: Bonnie Strelitz)
Oct 14, 2011
This land is your land, this land is my land. From California, to the New York Island.
Occupy Wall Street
(Image credit: Coldfootfilms via Mudflat)
Oct 15, 2011
. . . while her parents hang out with friends on Saturday morning at a sandwich shop called Betty's Speakeasy.
Oct 16, 2011
This sign in a store window in a shopping mall isuggests that for the fashion modeled by this mannequin, just like for fashions on mannequins in store windows in malls all over the world, each season brings new styles. Who knew that in Dubai customer interest in clothes like these would wane after a single season?
(Image credit: Carol Fuchs)
Oct 17, 2011
Very rarely do these Good Mornings feature movie stars and suchlike. So here's something different for y'all, a real celebrity, in a photo taken by Sam Javanrouh at last month's Toronto International Film Festival.
Toronto International Film Festival
(Image credit: Sam Javanrouh)
Oct 19, 2011
At about one o'clock in the morning of July 1, 2011, Manuel Claro pointed his camera up at the night sky above Alentejo, Portugal, and opened the shutter for 30 seconds. Then he did the same thing again and again and again, 430 exposures over the next four hours, and combined all the images to create this picture.
During each 30-second exposure, the earth rotated a little, while the stars pretty much stood still (by comparison). So the image of each star is smudged as the camera moves a bit; when all 430 of the smudges are shown together in a single image, we see what looks like startracks but is actually a single earthtrack, circling Polaris, the North Star.
The different colors of the different startracks reflect differences in temperature of the various stars.
(Image credit: Miguel Claro)
Oct 21, 2011
I pretty much just have to take my sister's word for it that she snapped this picture of a food court in a shopping mall in the United Arab Emirates, in the city of Abu Dhabi, as opposed to, say, New Jersey. Abu Dhabi is 150 kilometers up the coast from Dubai; you can drive there from Dubai in a couple of hours on Sheikh Zayed Road (Highway E17).
(Image credit: Carol Fuchs)
Oct 26, 2011
New York photographer Jan Cieslikiewicz titled this image "Montana, USA, 2011." He said he was on his way to a wedding when he stopped to shoot.
(Image credit: Jan Cieslikiewicz)
Oct 27, 2011
Above, you see what's left these days of Centralia, Pennsylvania, once a busy little coal-mining community, now literally a smoking ruin. Seams of coal in the ground underneath Centralia have been burning for almost fifty years now, despite millions of dollars spent on fire-fighting efforts. The townspeople have all been relocated and their homes and businesses demolished, but still the fire burns, heating the ground from below, venting smoke through cracks in the earth. Researchers estimate it will burn itself out in another couple of hundred years.
Centralia had its fifteen minutes of fame about thirty years ago, when residents finally gave up on fighting the fire and voted to abandon their homes. What was not widely discussed at the time, however, was that although coal fires can occur as natural phenomena, this one was no act of God; it was intentionally set by Centralia's own fire department as part of a routine practice of burning off garbage in the town dump. In 1962, however, the town acquired a new landfill: a long-abandoned anthracite strip mine. When the fire department lit its regular garbage fire in the new dump, an exposed coal seam caught fire.
For twenty years, townspeople fought the fire and tried to live with it. But in 1981, the owner of an Amoco gas station was checking the level of fuel in his underground storage tank when he noticed that the dipstick seemed hot. A thermometer lowered into the tank revealed that the temperature of the gasoline was 180 degrees.
There were numerous complaints of people experiencing symptoms associated with carbon-monoxide poisoning, and the city bought carbon-monoxide detectors for every home. But Centralians still didn't give up on their town until the day that a sinkhole suddenly cracked open beneath the feet of a twelve-year-old boy. He slipped part of the way down into the hole, which was about four feet wide and more than a hundred feet deep, hot and smoking and belching poisonous fumes. The boy's cousin grabbed his arms and was able to rescue him before he fell all the way in, and shortly thereafter, the U.S. Congress came up with $42 million to relocate all 1,000 men, women, and children of Centralia.
Underground coal fires are actually fairly common, especially in China and Indonesia, where it is believed that as much as 10 per cent of all the known coal reserves may have caught fire while still in the mines. About 200 coal fires have been identified in the United States, mostly in Pennsylvania and West Virginia. In the U.S., most coal fires are far from populated areas and are started by sparks from wildfires or lightning strikes in coalbeds. There is geological evidence of coal fires burning many millions of years ago, and it has been calculated that over time, coal-fire emissions of carbon dioxide and other toxic gases may have significantly impacted global warming.
Coal fires are notoriously difficult and expensive to fight, and efforts to put them out often wind up making them worse, feeding the flames with fresh air. In 1982, experts consulted by Centralia proposed an elaborate trenching operation that would cost $440 million and might or might not work. Voters rejected the scheme, and presumably they have now gotten on with their lives, wherever they have gone. A reunion is set for 2015; on the agenda is the opening of a time capsule sealed in 1965, during construction of what was then the new town bank.
In the photos below:
(1) A block in downtown Centralia, from a 1986 photo. All the buildings were razed except for the Speed Shop bike store near the righthand edge of the picture, which caught fire.
(2) Smoke from cracks in the ground, as seen last week. In many parts of town, we could feel the heat through our shoes.
(3) New wind turbines on the ridge north of Centralia. Energy produced by these few windmills must be trivial compared to the energy once dug out of the earth here, which in turn may be trivial compared to the energy wasted by the mine fire. But a new page is turning in the history of this coal country.
Oct 28, 2011
Part of "Fox Games" (1989), a sprawling, life-sized installation at the Denver Art Museum by Sandy Skoglund.
Little Red Riding Hood
life-size art installation
Denver Art Museum
(Image credit: Chris Brown)
Oct 30, 2011
Friday was the Philadelphia Photo Arts Center's second annual Philly Photo Day. Anyone can submit a digital file for a photo taken anywhere in the city during the twenty-four-hour period of October 28; the Photo Arts Center prints the pictures and offers them for sale at a fund-raising gala. My submission was this snapshot from the checkout line at an ABC store, where Philadelphians were getting ready for the weekend.