Mar 1, 2018
Mar 1, 2018
Feb 28, 2018
By New World standards, Havana is an old city; in 2019, it will be five hundred years old. To mark the anniversary, some new artworks and bits of sprucing up are already under way.
This work by Alberto Matamoros is a tribute to the barbers and hairdressers of the world; its title, I'm told, translates to something like "Cast in a Single Cut." The small shiny scissors mounted on the big black one denote donations from individual hairdressers and salons to fund the project; names of the donors are listed at the site. Clearly, contributions are still being sought; if you're interested, write to email@example.com.
Arte Corte, the sponsoring organization, is a public-private hybrid, so far as we can tell, which has a Facebook page and undertakes projects such as playgrounds and festivals. From the looks of it, funding mechanisms for these sorts of projects under Castro are much the same as in the U.S.
Feb 27, 2018
Near Havana, in a boat made of styrofoam blocks.
Feb 26, 2018
The bride was beautiful, the bridegroom was grinning to beat the band, and when it came to throwing a party, the Cubans seriously schooled us Anglos.
Our new daughter--in-law is Yusleidy Zanetti, who goes by Julie. The newlyweds are living in Havana, where Julie was born and raised and where she met Joe a few years back, when he spent a semester in Cuba with a University of Alabama study-abroad program.
Everybody asks whether they'll stay in Havana, where Joe is now part of a tiny expat community, or try to move to the states. But that's a question for the future.
In the moment, Julie and Joe spent two days getting married. The first day was spent in a judicial building, dealing with paperwork and lawyers and then finally sitting down with a judge.
Sadly, we confess to knowing no Spanish. The judge had a lot to say, including numerous questions, to all of which Joe and Julie answered sí. Joe is fluent in Spanish, and Julie knows some English, more than most Cubans. They told us that the judge warned Joe that the decision to marry might be the most serious decision of his life–Was he really prepared to take such a step? He said sí. Then she turned to Julie and asked, "Are you sure you want to do this?" She said sí.
They exchanged rings and were pronounced husband and wife. We all cheered and clapped and hugged, and that was that.
In the judge's chamber along with the newlyweds were Julie's mother and grandmother, Joe's parents and two of his brothers, one of his aunts, and two friends of the couple, their best man and matron of honor.
Joe's last two brothers and his best friend from Alabama made it to Havana the next day, just in time for the big wedding celebration, with the white dress and the cake, the wine and the beer, the music and disco lights and dancing and singing and more dancing and more dancing.
There was also, of course, the traditional ride in a 1956 Thunderbird, through town and along the Malecón, Havana's seaside promenade, amidst cheers and honking horns.
And after that, there was the afterparty, back at the house, more dancing and more dancing.
And two families are now growing together, across barriers of language and culture and crazy, crazy politics. Nothing in Cuba is easy; this wedding was a major logistical feat that went off flawlessly, thanks entirely to Julie's organizational genius. And she and her family couldn't have been more welcoming to all of us goofy gringos.
Now that Joe is married to a Cuban citizen, he has the legal right to work there. Most jobs in Cuba pay about $30 or $40 a month. Life for the newlyweds will be very different from life in America.
The poverty is profound. But the streets are safe; there are no guns, no crime. No school shootings. Families are close. The flowers are bright even in February, blue and yellow birds sing in cages in people's yards, the cars are beautiful and there aren't too many of them–no traffic jams. The sun is warm, the sea is all around. And everybody can dance.
Feb 14, 2018
Roses are red
Lichens are gray
Please watch what you stomp on
It’s Valentine's Day.
Feb 13, 2018
You'll want to watch Olympic curling this week, if only to see the Norwegians' team uniforms., which also feature matching blazers for off-ice swagger. The pictures show recent uniforms; this year's Norwegian curling trousers have been revealed, but we won't show them here out of an abundance of spoiler caution.
Feb 12, 2018
Back alley in the Mission District, San Francisco, 1936. If you're interested in the apartment advertised, they want $20 a month for rent.
Feb 11, 2018
Three lights in the night create this image: firelight, starlight, and a glowing streak of human brilliance.
The human-powered light is the silvery streak at lower left, created by the photographer's brother, who was cycling along a mountain-bike trail in the high prairies of central Italy's Appenine Mountains. Either the cyclist wore a headlamp, or his bike was outfitted with a headlamp. The camera lens stayed open for almost half an hour–27 minutes–to preserve the track of the route.
The firelight near the lower right of the picture was from the village of Tornimparte, in the valley far below the hillsides we see here. The photo was taken in mid-August, on the night following the Feast of the Assumption, when bonfires mark the end of the summer harvest.
The starlight notably features the Milky Way, which the photographer said he'd never seen before. The reason he'd never seen it before might be visible in the part of the sky just over the horizon behind the village bonfires. The night sky looks pale back there, with fewer stars visible to the eye–perhaps because of distant light pollution emanating from the Roman metropolis about sixty miles to the northwest.
If you click on the photo and study the enlarged version–yes, life is short, but go ahead, waste a few moments fussing with a pretty picture–you may be able to see that the stars are not pinpoints of light but short little line segments, almost like tiny bits of the bicycle's light trail. In this case, however, it's not the stars so much as the earth that's moving; 27 minutes is such a long exposure time that the earth spins through almost 2% of its daily rotation, leaving little streaks of starlight as the camera and the mountains and the bicycle all move through the night.
Feb 10, 2018
Midnight in Salisbury, United Kingdom. We don't want the world to be quite this way, but it is what it is.
Feb 9, 2018
"Enlisting in the Marines," reads the caption from December 1941." Recruiting office. San Francisco, California.".Photo: John Collier / Courtesy / FSA-OWI Collection / Library Of Congress
Feb 8, 2018
"Women in essential services," reads the original caption from February 1943. "Two women railroad workers enjoy a moment of relaxation from their new job in the yards of the Southern Pacific Company in San Francisco."
Feb 7, 2018
On this day in 1952, Princess Elizabeth acceded to the throne of Great Britain, following the death of her father, King George VI.
She was staying in this treehouse at the time, high above an elephant watering hole, at a wildlife-viewing resort in Kenya called Treetops Hotel. The king had died in his sleep back at Buckingham Palace, and Elizabeth did not learn that she'd become queen until the next day, upon her return to a royal lodge in a less remote part of Kenya.
She was 26 years old at the time, already married and mother to her first two children. She's definitely still Queen of England.
Treetops Hotel was burned in 1954 during the Mau Mau uprising, but it has been rebuilt.
Feb 6, 2018
In Beijing, if you're not sure you're parked legally, you really don't want to see that forklift coming down the street.
Feb 5, 2018
Today, Philadelphia is a town of winners, at least to the extent that Eagle-ness rubs off on regular people. But this room in center city Philly was filled recently with a bunch of losers.
The girls, mostly about twelve years old, were guests at a birthday party held in an escape room. If they had managed to solve all the riddles and puzzles within a set time, they could have escaped the room and been deemed winners. But they failed. So it goes.
Feb 4, 2018
For a hundred years, up until 1971, Chicago's Union Stockyards and surrounding meat-packing plants made the city the meat capital of the universe. The industry gave the neighborhood a definite aroma, but of course, it was still the scent of money.
The city had to make the Chicago River run backwards in order to keep the animal waste out of municipal drinking water.
The stockyards burned to the ground in 1939, but they'd been newly rebuilt by the time of this photo in 1941.
Feb 3, 2018
When Philadelphia's Northeast Manual Training School opened its doors in 1905, the idea of a public high school to prepare poor boys to work in modern industrial trades was progressive, even radical. But Philly was booming with industry--in fact, just a block over from the new school building was the Quaker Lace factory, with over a hundred clattering power looms that could be heard in every classroom.
The building itself was collegiate Gothic in style, with gargoyles all around and a crenellated turret in the middle.
The school changed its name and mission several times; it became a comprehensive high school, originally for boys only, named Northeast, until 1957, when a new Northeast High School was built in the new residential district closer to the edge of the city.
Then the building became Edison High, which achieved a particularly sad notoriety: no other high school in America outdid Edison in graduating young menwho were killed in the Vietnam War. Sixty-four Edison alumni are memorialized on a bronze plaque outside the school.
But since 1992, Edison High School has operated in a different building a few blocks away, and that's where the bronze memorial sits today. The original school site was used briefly for a bilingual middle school and then abandoned altogether, like almost all the mills, factories, and foundries that surround it.
In 2010, the lace factory burned to the ground, in an eight-alarm blaze attributed to arson; it is said that drug dealers in the neighborhood burned the long-abandoned structure because they believed police were using it as an observation post.
In 2011, the old Manual Training School building also burned, in a fire also deemed suspicious in origin. The site was under contract to a developer who wanted to put a shopping center there.
Remains of the school were demolished a few months later, but the gargoyles, it was said, were carefully preserved for use somewhere else. Where? We have not been able to find out.
Feb 2, 2018
A man wears his cat in a backpack for an evening stroll past cherry blossoms in Shanghai.
Feb 1, 2018
These logs near Longview, Washington, apparently escaped their fate somewhere between clearcut and mill. They have been floating in a brackish backwater of the lower Columbia River for so long that a mat of green algae has grown thick and glossy in the shelter of their trunks.
Jan 31, 2018
Until a couple of years ago, internet access in Cuba was a tightly restricted privilege; now, however, anybody can go online.
But two big obstacles remain. One is cost; a few minutes of wifi can eat up an entire day's pay for an average Cuban. Thus, although some people do use the web to check for news beyond official government reports, most internet activity in Cuba is focused on phone calls, often video calls, especially to friends and relatives abroad.
The other obstacle to getting online is that wifi is not available in your living room; you have to go to a hotspot, which is often outdoors, in a park or plaza. So Cubans such as the Havanans in the photo above gather at hotspots around town with their phones and tablets.
In the evenings, when the tropical heat is letting up a bit, some hotspots get so crowded that the internet slows to to a crawl and may crash. The govvernment has promised to expand the wifi network and even bring it into people's homes, but little progress has been noted.
That's because of the American embargo, say Cuban officials. And they may be right.
Jan 30, 2018
There's laundry in the yard here at the old Savage house, but only a few items; most of the clotheslines hold only empty clothespins. So we'll call it a Tuesday instead of a Monday.
The house was built in 1861, only two years after discovery of the Comstock Lode, which set off a silver rush to Nevada, much like the gold rush to California a decade earlier. Administrative offices of the Savage Mining Company occupied the first floor; a succession of mine superintendents and their families lived above the offices, on the second and third floors.
The office and house were on D Street in the very young town of Virginia City, Nevada. The first Savage mine shaft was on B Street. Although the town was barely a year old in 1861, it already contained 42 saloons, 42 stores, 9 restaurants, 6 hotels, and a couple of thousand miners, many of whom had already spent years prospecting in California.
All the trees for miles around were already cut down, mostly for use as mine timbers.
The Savage mansion had 21 rooms and was probably the largest structure in town. The company provided a housekeeper for the superintendents in residence, and for many years the housekeepr was a Mrs. Monoghan, whose husband had died in one of the Savage mines.
In 1918, when Savage shut down its operations in Virginia City, after years in which mines thereabouts produced less and less good ore, the house, furnishings, and D Street property were deeded to Mrs. Monaghan. By the time this photographer happened by in 1940, the silver bonanza that built the house and the city had been over for a long, long time.
Recently, Virginia City is gentrifying, attracting tourists. The Savage Mansion is now completely restored and painted yellow. The building is still privately owned and serves as office space.
Jan 29, 2018
Women washing clothes circa 1900 in Alatri, Italy, 100 kilometers southeast of Rome.
Jan 18, 2018
Pushing a baby stroller at sunset, across a frozen lake near Lahti, Finland.
Jan 17, 2018
Fog swallows the tips of new skyscrapers around an old tree in the Pudong Financial District of Shanghai.
Jan 16, 2018
Posing for an action shot in a softball game at a Y camp in Plano, Illinois, 1930.
Jan 15, 2018
Money laundering is one of those things, we're told, that's happening all over and all the time. Some countries make it easy for, say, drug traffickers to disguise the source of their riches, either through an opaque banking system, as in Switzerland, a financial sector rotten with greasy palms, as in the Cayman Islands, or an overheated real estate market, as in the business model associated with Donald Trump. Or so we're told.
Latin American gangsters, Russian mobsters, all sorts of bad guys from all over can create shell corporations in Delaware that invest in, say, condos in Trump properties, in Manhattan, Panama, Azerbaijan, wherever. If a real estate developer undertakes careful investigation ((extreme vetting?), then fake corporations associated with ill-gotten gains may be blocked from such purchases. But the kind of developer that doesn't really care . . .
"It's possible," said Trump last summer, in a conversation about how he really, really didn't want Mueller to look into his finances. "I mean, I sell a lot of condo units, and somebody from Russia buys a condo, who knows?"