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Posts Tagged ‘travel

“With cities, it is as with dreams: everything imaginable can be dreamed”*…

 

The Transect

In 2012, the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association. an exhibition, “Grand Reductions: Ten diagrams that changed urban planning.”

The exhibition’s title – Grand Reductions – suggests the simple illustration’s power to encapsulate complex ideas. And for that reason the medium has always been suited to the city, an intricate organism that has been re-imagined (with satellite towns! in rural grids! in megaregions!) by generations of architects, planners and idealists. In the urban context, diagrams can be powerful precisely because they make weighty questions of land use and design digestible in a single sweep of the eye. But… they can also seductively oversimplify the problems of cities…

“The diagram can cut both ways: It can either be a distillation in the best sense of really taking a very complex set of issues and providing us with a very elegant communication of the solution,” [curator Benjamin] Grant says. “Or it can artificially simplify something that actually needs to be complex.”…

The high concepts that have informed the design of cities over the last century: “The Evolution of Urban Planning in 10 Diagrams.”

See also: “The cities and mansions that people dream of are those in which they finally live”*… and of course, Jane Jacob’s The Death and Life of Great American Cities and Christopher Alexander’s A New Theory of Urban Design.

* Italo Calvino

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As we muse on metropoles, we might send exploratory birthday greeting to Eugene Fodor; he was born on this date in 1905.  Noting that travel guides of his time were boring, he wrote a guide to Europe, On the Continent—The Entertaining Travel Annual, which was published in 1936– and became the cornerstone of a travel publishing empire– the Fodor’s Guides.  He was elected to the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) World Travel Congress Hall of Fame, the only travel editor ever to be so honored.

In 1974, it was revealed that Fodor, a Hungarian-American who had joined the U.S. Army during World War II, had transferred to the Office of Strategic Services (the forerunner of the CIA) and served as a spy behind Nazi lines in occupied Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Poland.

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Written by LW

October 14, 2017 at 1:01 am

“Madness is the emergency exit”*…

 

United, American, Spirit…  airlines are are suffering a cascade of incidents undermining their brand claims of “friendly skies” and “world’s greatest flyers,” and “more go.”  At the same time, there has been a concomitant rise in “air rage.”  But while these wounds are largely self-inflicted, there is a historical precedent…

As the railway grew more popular in the 1850s and 1860s, trains allowed travelers to move about with unprecedented speed and efficiency, cutting the length of travel time drastically. But according to the more fearful Victorians, these technological achievements came at the considerable cost of mental health. As Edwin Fuller Torrey and Judy Miller wrote in The Invisible Plague: The Rise of Mental Illness from 1750 to the Present, trains were believed to “injure the brain.” In particular, the jarring motion of the train was alleged to unhinge the mind and either drive sane people mad or trigger violent outbursts from a latent “lunatic.” Mixed with the noise of the train car, it could, it was believed, shatter nerves.

In the 1860s and ‘70s, reports began emerging of bizarre passenger behavior on the railways. When seemingly sedate people boarded trains, they suddenly began behaving in socially unacceptable ways…

More on motion-induced madness at “The Victorian Belief That a Train Ride Could Cause Instant Insanity.”

* Alan Moore, Batman: The Killing Joke

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As we try to keep it cool, we might recall that it was on this date in 1932 that the B&O Railroad introduced air conditioning on the Capitol Limited, a sleeping car train that operated between New York, Washington and Chicago.

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Written by LW

May 22, 2017 at 1:01 am

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page”*…

 

Color version of Abraham Ortelius’ Typus Orbis Terrarum, a map inserted into the first edition of Richard Hakluyt’s The Principal Navigations (1589) — Source

The Principle Navigations, Richard Hakluyt’s great championing of Elizabethan colonial exploration, remains one of the most important collections of English travel writing ever published. It recounts the escapades of famed explorers like Francis Drake and Walter Raleigh, at the same time that it preserves many stories of lesser known figures that surely would have been otherwise lost.

Nandini Das tours the book and puts it into historical and cultural context at “Richard Hakluyt and Early English Travel.”

* St. Augustine of Hippo

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As we chart our courses, we might recall that it was on this date in 1937 that anthropologist Margaret Mead arrived on Samoa.  The book that resulted, Coming of Age in Samoa, was– and remains– a best-seller, and launched her career as an expert on the non-literate peoples of Oceania.

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Written by LW

November 9, 2016 at 1:01 am

“Alis volat propriis”*…

 

In exactly a week, millions will gather on couches across America (and the world) to watch the the Seahawks and the Patriots duel in Superbowl XLIX.  And on the coffee tables in front of many– if not most– of them will sit heaping mounds of (now traditional) chicken wings.  Readers may recall that, two years ago, we reported on a downturn in Super Bowl wings consumption, occasioned by rising poultry prices.  But even as chicken costs have continued to rise, consumption has recovered…

According to a National Chicken Council report released Friday, 1.25 billion wings will be consumed during Super Bowl XLIX.

The average wholesale price of chicken wings is currently $1.71 per pound, up from $1.35 per pound at the same time last year, according to the Daily Northeast Broiler/Fryer Report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agriculture Marketing Service. Wing prices hit a record high in January 2013 of $2.11 per pound.

If one laid 1.25 billion wings end-to-end, assuming and average length of 3.5 inches, they would stretch to and from CenturyLink Field in Seattle to Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., almost 28 times. The wings would also circle the Grand Canyon 120 times.

It’s enough wings to put 572 on every seat in all 32 NFL stadiums and they weigh about 5,955 times more than the poundage of the Seahawks and Patriots entire 52-man rosters combined.

Most people will buy wings from restaurants and bars, but wings sales at grocery stores also spike during Super Bowl week. Nielsen Perishables Group FreshFacts shows that fresh and prepared wings sales totaled $1.7 billion in the 52 weeks ending Nov. 29, 2014, an increase of 3.1 percent compared to a year earlier.

As far as dipping sauces go, Ranch wins out. More than half of people prefer ranch for dipping, while 42 percent prefer barbecue sauce and 36 percent prefer blue cheese.

source: Chicago Tribune

* State motto of Oregon

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As we wonder how half-time turned into the fair-ground joke that it has, we might recall that it was on this date in 1890 that journalist Nellie Bly completed her 72-day trip around the world.

In 1888, Bly suggested to her editor at the New York World that she take a trip around the world, attempting to turn the fictional Around the World in Eighty Days into fact for the first time.  A year later, at 9:40 a.m. on November 14, 1889, with two days’ notice, she boarded the steamer Augusta Victoria, and began her 24,899-mile journey.

She brought with her the dress she was wearing, a sturdy overcoat, several changes of underwear, and a small travel bag carrying her toiletry essentials. She carried most of her money (£200 in English bank notes and gold in total as well as some American currency) in a bag tied around her neck.

Bly traveled through England, France (where she met Jules Verne in Amiens), Brindisi, the Suez Canal, Colombo (Ceylon), the Straits Settlements of Penang and Singapore, Hong Kong, and Japan.  Just over seventy-two days after her departure from Hoboken, having used steamships and existing railway lines, Bly was back in New York; she beat Phileas Fogg’s time by almost 8 days.

Nellie Bly, in a publicity photo for her around-the-world voyage. Caption on the original photo reads: “Nellie Bly, The New York WORLD’S correspondent who placed a girdle round the earth in 72 days, 6 hours, and 11 minutes.”

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Written by LW

January 25, 2015 at 1:01 am

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page”*…

 

Welcome to travelbydrone.com! We want to give you the chance to discover the world from the perspective of drones. The video footage of the area you are most interested in is as accessible as never before.

On this site, everyone can share YouTube videos and add the corresponding location. It will appear on the map with a pin where the video footage has been recorded. After submitting a request to share a video, a dedicated team will review the material before validating the request. As soon as the request has been validated, the shared video will be visible on the map.

For a share request to be validated, the video needs to be taken by a drone (not of a drone), be of good quality and clearly show the area in which the drone flies. A video will not be accepted if it is taken indoors, is from a military drone or is of promotional nature (promoting a product or has a political, religious or other personal message)…

Around the world in 80 clicks at Travel By Drone.

* Augustine of Hippo

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As we rename our index finger “Phileas,” we might spare a thought for Paul MacCready; he died on this date in 2007.  An accomplished meteorologist, a world-class glider pilot, and a respected aeronautical engineer trained at California Institute of Technology, MacCready’s many accomplishments ranged from developments in cloud seeding to the creation of a full-sized flying replica of a pterosaur (Quetzalcoatlus) for the Smithsonian Institution.  (The model can be seen in flight in the Smithsonian’s 1986 IMAX film On the Wing.) But MacCready is surely best remembered as the designer of the “Gossamer Condor,” the first successful human-powered aircraft (and thus, winner of the first Kremer Prize in 1977), and of the first viable solar-powered aircraft.  The Gossamer Condor hangs in the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum.

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Written by LW

August 28, 2014 at 1:01 am

In your dreams…

The fifth volume of Raymond Howgego’s Enyclopedia of Exploration: Invented and Apocryphal Narratives of Travel covers 640 imaginary places, from Aak to Zu-Vendis

For every Utopia or Gulliver’s Travels, bursting with fantasy and politics, there is a book like John Brickell’s Natural History of North Carolina — an influential but banal account of the young American colony. Published in 1737, it turned out to be part plagiarism and part invention. Many of the texts Howgogo explores fall somewhere in between, toying with the limits of credibility…

Many were invented for personal gain. In 1801, under the pseudonym of Christian Freidrich Damberger, a German writer published a wildly successful and false account of travels in the African hinterland. The hoax was revealed soon afterwards, but not before the book was translated into French and English, where its sales required at least seven printings…

Other times, the profit motive was more complex. The Spanish explorer Lorenzo Ferrer Maldonado, for example, claimed at the turn of the 17th century to have discovered a method of calculating longitude with a compass, and offered to divulge his methods for 5,000 ducats. Maldonado also tried to convince Philip III that he had found the Northwest Passage and argued that his “discovery” should be protected by the Crown.

Narratives with political or social ends are well-represented too. Sometimes, these stories were so powerful that they inspired real-life action. Theodor Hertzka’s Freeland was one such tract, though the 15-strong group that attempted to recreate his vision in the Rift Valley was not up to the task, and had to be rescued by the British government a few years later. The American Alexander Horr was slightly more successful, founding the Freeland-inspired town of Equality on the banks of the Puget Sound in 1896. Many utopian authors spawned similar real-life followings.

In the case of Shangri-La, utopia and profit collided. Now a common term for earthly paradise, Shangri-La was invented by the English novelist James Hilton in his book Lost Horizon. Hilton never claimed Shangri-La was real — by the 1930s, the report of the 250-year-old High Lama was a bridge too far — but the Chinese government is trying to capitalize on it, rechristening and rebuilding the Tibetan county of Zhongdian in an attempt to attract Western tourists.

The entries only get weirder. I was not aware, for example, of an entire genre of exploration writing that used travel as a thinly veiled metaphor for sexual discovery. Samuel Cock’s (another nom de plume) 1741 book A Voyage to Lethe is a classic example: on his way to deliver a cargo in Buttock-Land, he passes through “a landscape composed of female and male body-parts… replete with pintle trees and monuments, furry-mouthed caves, female natives with insatiable sexual desires and male natives with enormous, full functioning ‘machines’.”

Explore further at “A Complete History of Fake Journeys.”

Image above: “Gulliver in Brobdingnag

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As we plot our courses, we might congratulate Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Piscopia; on this date in 1678 she became the first woman to earn a PhD.  The degree was conferred after her brilliant career as a student at the University of Padua.

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Her accomplishment is memorialized in the Cornaro Window in the West Wing of the Thompson Memorial Library at Vassar College.

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Been there, done that…

 

The Associated Press reported in early February 2009 that American Jennifer Figge had just completed a 2,100-mile swim across the Atlantic. The story reported that Figge had begun at Cape Verde, in western Africa—on January 12. It took little time for sharp-eyed readers to flinch, do a double take and read that again: January 12 to early February. Not even 30 days. That would have been 80 miles daily—three miles per hour nonstop for a month—to complete the journey…

Seem impossible?  It was.  Read the full story– and eight other “stretches”– at Smithsonian‘s “Cheating Their Way to Fame: The Top 9 Adventure Travel Hoaxes.”

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As we burnish our travel tales, we might spare a thought for the man who told what is arguably the most amazing (albeit avowedly fictional) travel tale of all, Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra; he died on this date in 1616 (though some scholars put it a day earlier)– the same day as Shakespeare died, and (most likely) Shakespeare’s birthday.  As Somerset Maugham said,”casting my mind’s eye over the whole of fiction, the only absolutely original creation that I can think of is Don Quixote.”

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Written by LW

April 23, 2013 at 1:01 am

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