Foreign/Film

Marrakech Street

I am exceedingly excited for two reasons. First, my son and I are getting ready to travel overseas. We’re visiting Myanmar, where my brother-in-law and his family live. Second, I bought ten rolls of Fuji Velvia 50 and have my Mamiya C220. I first bought this camera in early 2009 to take to Morocco for this same BIL’s wedding. The shutter blades were stuck so I disassembled it as well as I could and got them working again. It has been my favorite film camera ever since and it was worth the weight to bring it on this trip, which will probably be once-in-a-lifetime.

Marrakech Night

We’ll be staying a few weeks so I hope to get a decent sense of how the city of Yangon works and take plenty of photos.

Up North

This weekend I stole my wife from her lecture preparations and headed the rental car up north. Northern Michigan to Sault Sainte Marie, to be exact. My grandfather celebrated his 90th birthday on Thursday and his kids arranged a surprise party for Friday.

My grandfather, Ernest Winling, spent his youth in the Soo, enlisted in the Navy in 1942 and spent the war years overseas, then returned home to the Soo to marry his next-door neighbor, work as a painter at the Kincheloe Air Force Base and as a freelance house painter, have three kids with my grandmother, and has spent the last 35 years as an outdoorsman, fishing and hunting his way through the seasons.

Larry, Ernie, Ernest, LaDale

Four Winling Generations

The Soo is a quite small town (~14,000), but I always enjoy visiting. There are two main attractions and drivers to the economy, the Soo Locks, an Army Corps of Engineers project dating back to the 1850s to facilitate Great Lakes shipping through the St. Mary’s River falls, and Lake Superior State University, a 4-year college of 2500 students. Whenever I’m thinking about a site in the American landscape, I turn to the digital collections of the Library of Congress, and the LOC does not disappoint. The Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) documented the hell out of the Locks in 2000 (probably before the latest lock was rebuilt) and has pretty much everything you could want for visual information.

Enjoy.

Soo Locks

The Locks at Sault Ste. Marie

Getting Back

There’s just a few weeks left in our European trip. We have traveled to many great sites and stayed in some wonderful places. But since we’re heading back to the States, I’m thinking about what I have missed most and what I will most enjoy getting back to: (1) my cameras and film developing; and (2) GIS mapping. If there’s a third, it is the sit-and-work cafes Stateside.* I don’t prefer them outright to Italian caffe bars, but I do wish we could have a good mix of both in the U.S.

*It goes without saying that I miss my family and my cat.

My Soundtrack

If I could, I’d make this the soundtrack to my summer every year. The open air market in Syracuse, Sicily.

Greg Hise once suggested to me the greatest change in urban history brought about by the rise of digital technology would be the ability to create a sonic history of a place. He could be right.

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Find the Shade

Prior to starting my position at Virginia Tech, I will be living in Italy and England for the next 6 months. I am very fortunate to have this wonderful opportunity and this period will not only provide me with material for teaching and research, but also for some digital media projects.

We arrived in Rome yesterday morning after an overnight transatlantic flight. A key feature of Rome (and other parts of Italy, from my experience) is that it is both warm and cool here, depending on whether you are in the shade or not. Because of the limited humidity in the Mediterranean, the air feels pretty moderate in temperature and the sun (or its absence) provides a real heating or cooling effect. Thus, walking around the city you are in a constant race to find the shade and walk or sit or stand in it in order to keep from sweating through your clothes. There is a several degree difference (I might venture to say 10 or more) and especially in really hot places like Sicily during the summer, the shade can be the difference between hot and unbearable.

Fall

Lonesome

The first weekend in October may be my absolute favorite time of year. It’s the time that Golden Delicious apples are ripe for u–pick.

My wife and I took a brief apple picking detour in my light speed trip back to Ann Arbor Friday to meet with a dissertation committee member and miss lunch with a friend (damned time zones).

I’ve been apple picking every fall since about the age of five…except last year, when we didn’t have a car, much money, much time, and no proximity to Michigan apples. In the Ann Arbor area, my first fall at Michigan I went to Wiard’s. I would recommend it for families and maybe teens who were interested in an interesting evening of agri-tainment, but not for people who just want apples. It’s more of a theme park with apples (they charge you to park!) and, while the apples were good, I don’t care about corn field mazes or tractor rides.

Since then I have been going to Wasem’s, which is the bare bones operation I like. It’s on the small side — they’ve got a few acres of 8 or 10 varieties, along with pumpkins and a few other types of produce. There’s a gravel parking lot and an unattractive pole barn building where they sell cider and make and sell donuts, along with jam (and maybe honey) — just about every marker of a u-pick orchard from your childhood. Don’t know what I’m going to do next fall when I will probably be done with my dissertation. 11 months to figure it out.

Questioning Economic Development

I still haven’t put together my theory or at least thoughts on a better evaluation of economic development, which I promised last summer. Based on my travels in the Mediterranean (which I will hopefully revisit this fall), there is a great deal to be said for a more complex and multi-faceted evaluation of what economic development means, what it enables, and how it can be measured.

At times like this my mind drifts back to Marshall Berman’s book All That is Solid Melts into Air. In part of a larger argument about development and the creation of the modern world, Berman focuses on a surprising section of praise Karl Marx holds in his writings for the European bourgeoisie. Essentially, he praises them and the world they are creating because through their destruction of the feudal economic, political and social system, they are creating a world in which the proletariat has an opportunity to realize a whole new set of possibilities in economic, social, and political life, as well. It is this cognitive realization in addition to the physical realization that will help provoke them to socialist revolution. Essentially my thinking is that economic development must provide a better set of possibilities in terms of health, education, and social life in addition to basic needs such as subsistence living, income, and national wealth. I would submit that many of the villagers of Sicily are richer than a good number of Americans because they need not sacrifice their health or family ties for increased income or wealth, which comes with added stress, a poorer diet (and, as we have seen, mediocre to bad health care), and a worse overall family situation. The rub, of course, is if Sicilians, for example, have the chance to pursue career or wealth as the number one priority if they so choose.

Anyway, I’m revisiting this because of something I read at Economist’s View on Bill Gates.

[T]here’s more to Adam Smith, he added. “This was written before ‘Wealth of Nations,’” Mr. Gates said, flipping through a copy of Adam Smith’s 1759 book, “The Theory of Moral Sentiments.” It argues that humans gain pleasure from taking an interest in the “fortunes of others.” Mr. Gates will quote from that book in his speech today. …

To a degree, Mr. Gates’s speech is an answer to critics of rich-country efforts to help the poor. One perennial critic is Mr. Easterly, the New York University professor, whose 2006 book, “The White Man’s Burden,” found little evidence of benefit from the $2.3 trillion given in foreign aid over the past five decades.

Mr. Gates said he hated the book. His feelings surfaced in January 2007 during a Davos panel discussion with Mr. Easterly… To a packed room of Davos attendees, Mr. Easterly noted that all the aid given to Africa over the years has failed to stimulate economic growth on the continent. Mr. Gates, his voice rising, snapped back that there are measures of success other than economic growth — such as rising literacy rates or lives saved through smallpox vaccines. “I don’t promise that when a kid lives it will cause a GNP increase,” he quipped. “I think life has value.”

I’m interested to hear what he has to say this year at Davos.

Traveling to Chicago

The New York Times offered a profile of the city yesterday which was actually pretty crappy. Don’t get me started on how bad the video is.

Any trip to Chicago almost by definition starts and centers on the Loop, and the chief attractions there are Millennium Park, the Art Institute, the architecture, and the theater district. The profile got two of those four. What about the city did it miss? First, the geography of the city. From the increasingly wealthy, white, north side, to the black south side, to the surprisingly diverse southwest neighborhoods, to the varied lakeshore, each neighborhood has a particular character and contiguous groups of neighborhoods frequently share some of that character. I still haven’t explored enough to get it all, but any meaningful travel profile should at least allude to this, if not discuss it (and the writer had two local informants). Wicker Park and River North? Damn, this guy really got around.

I’ve never been able to afford particularly nice accommodations when I’ve traveled, or been able to travel too frequently, which in many ways has made me feel like an outsider, or that I was missing something about the cities I visited. However, I’ve always made an effort to understand at least some of the broad brushstrokes of the cities’ history as a way of getting greater access to the city. If I couldn’t get the high rise views in Manhattan, I could understand what created them through the work of David Scobey and Deryk Holdsworth. Though I can barely afford theater tickets in Chicago, I’m familiar with the role theater has played in the city’s history. I’ve never driven around Los Angeles, but Reyner Banham and Mike Davis’ work makes sense of the the sprawling landscape.

This is what a good travel profile should include. The Times acknowledges the downtown architecture, but makes little more than a passing reference to how it developed. Giving this spatial and temporal framework offers other potential travelers ways to understand and navigate the city. If you don’t want to go to the exact places the travel writer detailed, the account is useless. If a travel profile offered some description of the city’s patterns of immigration and neighborhood sorting (if not to speak of segregation), another potential traveler would have an idea of where to get good Mexican food or find some blues clubs or know where Chinatown was.

Any questions on what do do in Chicago? If I can’t tell you specifically what to do, I can at least give you an idea where in the city to find it.

London Calling

I got in the night of the car bombing scare and met some Scot relatives the day after the Glasgow incident. New PM Gordon Brown is promising a battle royale but, from what I can tell, not much change on the streets or in the Tube. Like Rome, London is a feast for a historian — every corner is the site of some significant event or a notable residence (plus, I’m little more than somewhat-informed tourist in European History anyway). Sunday was St. Paul’s Cathedral. Today I made it out to Regent’s Park and would have seen Sir John Soane‘s House Museum but it’s closed on Mondays. My advisor wrote about the former in his classic book on suburbanization, while the latter is more of interest to architects — Soane was an architect and covered the walls in mirrors and made the place into a museum, then got a bill through Parliament saying that its arrangement never could be changed.

Tonight I’m eating at a gentlemen’s club — one of the places the London bourgeoisie has gathered for the last 200-plus years. However, one of the locals indicated that these eating and social clubs were formerly known as coffee houses, which was something of a shock to me. While I never imagined that the coffee houses Habermas discusses in The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere were equivalent to the democratic, consumerist locales on every street corner today, I had not thought of them as the exclusive clubs they seemed to have turned into. (I don’t mean that Starbucks is where democracy happens today, but that anyone who is interested and has $1.50 to spare can go in and feel middle class [or even bourgeois bohemian] for a little while).