Thursday, December 20, 2012

Writing Britain: nation & landscape

...representing place in literature. Place or "describing where we come from" is an integral part of our identity...What then when our identity is constructed of / in many places? Or when all places (suburbs, tract houses, housing projects, internment camps, office buildings, campuses, etc all resemble on another?). May 2012 Guardian Books article by Blake Morrison:
Photo by Fay Godwin of a crumbling brick building, from Ted Hughes's book Remains of Elmet
Chaucer's Canterbury, Emily Brontë's moors, Graham Greene's Brighton, Kureishi's suburbia … The British Library's new exhibition explores how literature has responded to the varying landscapes of these islands.
Photo by Fay Godwin of a crumbling brick building, from Ted Hughes's book Remains of Elmet
for Ted Hughes's Remains of Elmet. Photograph: Fay Godwin
Can Britlit be said to exist? Britart is an accepted term, and Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin, Gillian Wearing et al were happy to be known as YBAs, if only for the publicity it brought them. But YBWs? Or OBWs? Or even M-ABWs? They're harder to imagine. Writers living in northern and western parts of our archipelago identify themselves as Scottish or Welsh (or Cornish), not British. The term is also unacceptable to Catholics in or from Northern Ireland: "British, no, the name's not right," Seamus Heaney politely demurred, when Andrew Motion and I included him in The Penguin Book of Contemporary British Poetry 30 years ago. Most English writers, meanwhile, use the word British at best half-heartedly: it sounds inclusive – free of master-race arrogance, antagonism towards Celts or National Front jingoism – but it doesn't describe what we think we are or where we come from....
The British invariably perceive the countryside as being under threat, whether from bombs, developers, tourism, climate change or the passage of time. This makes our literature nostalgic – a land of lost content. There are legends of Arcadian plenitude – of Albion, Mercia, Elmet; of life under the greenwood tree, or in the highlands before the clearances, or in green valleys before the coming of industry...The gods of the earth seem to be extinct but then pop up again, rudely healthy and full of folk wisdom. Anglo-Welsh poet Edward Thomas meets one such man at hawthorn time in Wiltshire and is told his many different names:
The man you saw – Lob-lie-by-the-fire, Jack Cade,
Jack Smith, Jack Moon, poor Jack of every trade,
Young Jack, or old Jack, or Jack What-d'ye-call,
Jack-in-the-hedge, or Robin-run-by-the-wall,
Robin Hood, Ragged Robin, lazy Bob,
One of the lords of No Man's Land, good Lob, –
Although he was seen dying at Waterloo,
Hastings, Agincourt, and Sedgemoor too,
Lives yet. He never will admit he is dead
He still won't admit it: in his latest incarnation he appears as the charismatic Johnny (Rooster) Byron in Jez Butterworth's play Jerusalem...[another] likeable and perhaps defining aspect of Britishness is a capacity to find poetry in unlikely places.

Read the rest of Writing Britain: the nation and the landscape | Books | The Guardian

Locating the books with the strongest sense of place

Saturday, December 8, 2012

These Old Maps Show That America’s Rail System Hasn’t Improved In Almost A Century

#Mountainair was, like so many homesteaded western backwaters, as much a railroad town as a bean farmer town. We see a lot of trains/ People take pictures of them, but they never stop here. We still have a station. It houses equipment and computers for the programs that run the trains. 

Although my personal memories are less than clear on the matter, I rode the transcontinental rails with my as a toddler during WWII from New York to Washington State. Given the choice between mother in Spokane WA or mother-in-law in Canton NY ~  a wicked choice for a 19 year old whose husband had been shot down over Germany, Mother opted for shuttling between the two by rail. 

These Old Maps Show That America’s Rail System Hasn’t Improved In Almost A Century: They depict how long it took to travel by train across the U.S. at various points from 1800 to 1932. Sadly, we haven’t made much progress since then…

People complain about the trains in the United States: They’re not fast enough, they don’t go to convenient locations. This is a chicken-and-egg situation: We are also unwilling to pay for trains that go faster and go to convenient locations. But these antique maps show we could have it much worse, but also that the development of our rail transit has embarrassingly made almost no progress.

Taken from the 1932 Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States, unearthed by Treehugger’s Michael Graham Richards, the maps show how long it would take to get from New York City to any other part of the country throughout history.

Read Full Story at Fast Co,Exist

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

10 People You’ll Only See in New York City

…speaking of places along the way…

Ah, New York…Like all major cities, the Big Apple has its own share of unique and iconic places: the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, Times Square, the Brooklyn Bridge and many more.

But also iconic to New York are the people who live here. Maybe it's the large, diverse population of different cultures packed so tightly together -- or maybe it's just something in the water. Whatever the case, there's nothing quite like walking through the streets of Gotham.

(Really, where else can you take a casual stroll with a family of brightly colored rats on your shoulders and barely get a second glance?)

We've compiled a list of some of the people exclusive enough to on…

Continue reading... 10 People You’ll Only See in New York City

Monday, October 8, 2012

Explore the History of the Jewish Experience in NM

Of course New Mexico is one of my places along the way, probably end destination you could say, as well as connecting with other places in Spain, even UC Davis via studying medieval Spanish literature and the romancero with Sam Armistead, whose specialty included romances remembered and carried into exile by conversos in diaspora. Some came to NM. 

Judeo descanso or roadside memorial to mark where
a loved one died in an accident, 
on NM 64, west of Taos
Photo by Sharon Niederman.
There is a New Mexico Jewish Historical Society and a Nov4 conference in Santa Fe (that will also go in a Mountainair Arts post with other history events for October). Consider this reminder to mark your calendars to hear noted  Dr. Richard Melzer, Noel Pugach, Henry Tobias, Diane Schaller and other NM and Albuquerque historians. More information at or call 348-4471.
New Mexico has long welcomed Jewish residents, from the German-born adventurers and merchants in the 1800s when New Mexico was still a U.S. Territory to the doctors, scientists, professors, lawyers, accountants, and artists of more recent times. Although only a small percentage of the overall population of New Mexico, Jewish residents have played an important role in its history. 
Jewish history in New Mexico started centuries ago when it was still a territory of Spain. A number of colonists who settled in New Mexico in the 17th and 18th centuries were descendants of forced converts fleeing the Inquisition. Formerly Spanish and Portuguese Jews, they had converted to Catholicism under duress, but privately they clung to Jewish practices in secret. Some of their Hispanic descendants today are investigating their families’ crypto-Jewish roots. 
The New Mexico Jewish Historical Society was formed in 1985 to tell the stories of the many Jewish groups that came and stayed and helped make New Mexico a remarkable place
Explore the History of the Jewish Experience in New Mexico - New Mexico Jewish Historical Society

Friday, September 7, 2012

Egypt: Security Forces Destroy Alexandria’s Historic Book Market

Egypt and Alex are high on my list of places along the way. Read the comments and more about  Global Voices, an international community of bloggers who report on blogs and citizen media from around the world. Learn why

Egyptians woke up this morning to the news of the destruction of bookshops on pavements along Prophet Danial's street in Alexandria by the Ministry of Interior. The raid, at dawn, left netizens angry with the Muslim Brotherhood, which they claim is waging a war on culture.

Security forces destroyed the kiosks and books, causing damage to priceless collections of books and a wealth of culture.

Egypt: Security Forces Destroy Alexandria’s Historic Book Market ~ Global Voices

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Byzantium 1200

…more pictures, pages of them & then sailing to it (Yeats)

Byzantium 1200 is a non-funded and non-profit project aimed at creating computer reconstructions of the Byzantine Monuments located in Istanbul, TURKEY as of year 1200 AD. This project is partly inspired by the model of the old city in Rome and the famous painting of Istanbul by Allan Sorell which are shown [above].

Albrecht Berger told me that our knowledge about 12th century was limited and almost nothing is known about the houses that people lived. He suggested choosing another century. But he could not change my decision and we chose 12th century's last year 1200. One of the reasons we chose this year was that 1200 was a few years before the Crusade. The Crusaders who came to the city on 1204 devastated much of Istanbul....On February of 1994, we began our project by reconstructing the Hippodrome.

Introduction to Byzantium 1200, and now Sailing to Byzantium, WB Yeats:

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Old Pueblo, New Info

There's a new way to learn about the old pueblo in Tijeras according to the MountainView Telegraph. Both the Village of Tijeras and the ancient pueblo archaeological site (links below) are points of interest on the Salt Mission Trails Byway. See also the Virtual Salt Missions Trail project and the Salt Mission Trails blog
The front of a new sign at the Tijeras Pueblo Interpretive Center shows an aerial view of the site, a drawing of how the pueblo may have looked during part of its occupation, and an image showing the excavation process. The other side of the sign has information about a nearby garden.

The sign was installed this month by the Friends of Tijeras Pueblo. For those who make the trip out to see the new sign, there is also a free, self-guided trail at the site. The site is behind the Sandia Ranger Station, which is on the east side of N.M. 337 (South 14) and south of Tijeras. 
The interpretive center — which has historical displays and a few children's activities — is open for limited hours over the weekend and by appointment. Call 400-8687 for more information or to arrange a tour.
Old Pueblo, New Info

San Francisco apartments the size of parking spaces

Storify asks. "Could You Live in an Apartment the Size of a San Francisco Parking Space?"

Monday, June 25, 2012

Urban research: The laws of the city

This intriguing article on modern data collection and urban research, city planning and management relates to Mountainair only distantly and mostly through the classic "city and country" contrast image that first appears in Western literature in the work of Theocritus, who originated both pastoral poetry and city comedies. 

To echo the distinctions of Greimas's semiotic square, "here" is not just "not city" but about as un-city as possible in an era highways and high connectivity, have not been city since . Still, it reminds me of past city research (representation of urban space in literature) and leads me to wealth of "cityspace" links and new resources.

NO FACE looks alike, but human bodies and their genetic make-up are almost identical. Cities too have distinctive charms—but are surprisingly alike behind their façades. Regardless of size, their populations grow at the same average rate everywhere in the world. A city twice as large as its neighbour is likely to be 15% richer. The mix of green space and built-up areas tends to be equal everywhere. 
Such findings reflect a recent shift in urban research. Better technology has turned cities into fountains of data that confirm known regularities and reveal striking new patterns....
For example,
Twitter messages reveal a city’s structure and its activity. London has one centre, near Piccadilly Circus; New York has several, including near Times Square, City Hall and in Brooklyn. Tweeting correlates negatively with greenery, particularly in Central Park.

Application and implications abound...
City planners, too, may have to rethink their work. If cities indeed develop organically along certain lines, pushing them onto another track may be futile. Instead of trying to limit growth, planners should “make room”, says Mr Angel: be realistic when projecting urban land needs, set generous metropolitan limits, protect some open space and provide an arterial grid of roads. This is pretty much what New York did in the early 18th century. It is what some Chinese cities are doing now. 
Yet the most immediate impact of urban data will be on how cities are managed. 
So how will this change cities? Their nature or inherent "citiness," has held surprisingly constant through centuries and technological changes, from ancient Alexandria and Rome to medieval, renaissance and early modern (e.g. 1600's) cities, through 19th century industrialization and rapid urbanization to a world more urban than not. The tone of this article echoes city planning and management as science. Been there done that ~ more than once too ~ without making a dent in the essence of city. 

Read the complete article, Urban research: The laws of the city, in The Economist

Friday, June 8, 2012

The Library of Utopia

Libraries are places... as much or even more so than books, their inhabitants. Places inhabited by books and their guardians, visited by readers and other seekers. Special places, real or imagined ~  Borges' Library of Babel, Eco's in the Name of the Rose, the lost Library of Alexandria (which lives in legend and on its own Facebook page, perhaps refound beneath the sea), the new one... others...
Google's ambitious book-scanning program is foundering in the courts. Now a Harvard-led group is launching its own sweeping effort to put our literary heritage online. Will the Ivy League succeed where Silicon Valley failed?
In his 1938 book World Brain, H.G. Wells imagined a time—not very distant, he believed—when every person on the planet would have easy access to "all that is thought or known." 

Saturday, May 19, 2012

A Nation of Homesteaders

#Mountainair's "foundation narratives"  (the Anglo ones) and the 2003 Centennial subtext center on homesteading. Old ranching families date back to homesteading in territorial days. For an outstanding collection of historical pictures, 

Solomon Butcher Collection: Nebraska State Historical Society Here's a picture of homesteader Solomon Butcher's first house in Nebraska on land he received under the 1862 Homestead Act. His home was build in 1880 out of "Neb. Brick." The Homestead Act will be 150 years old this Sunday.

Chris Clayton reminds us that this is the 150th anniversary of the Homestead Act, signed into law by President Lincoln in 1862.  Here's a little of a longer article that you should read:
The law was a culmination of decades of government initiatives for westward expansion to continue to fuel economic growth and agricultural production. The federal government had created land offices as far back as 1812 to sell or give away land, as well as assure rightful claims. 
Homesteaders were given a claim for 160 acres, which conformed to Thomas Jefferson's vision of a nation of small farmers. The country's third president had argued that 160 acres, a quarter section, was the ideal acreage for a small farmer....
A bill in 1860 that would have given away federal lands made it to President James Buchanan's desk. He vetoed it, fearing it would upset Southerners who were already on their way to leaving the Union.
Lincoln would sign the Homestead Act on May 20, 1862. The official bill was four pages long.
150th anniversary of the Homestead Act this Sunday & more in Weekend Roundup: A Nation of Homesteaders: catch the rest of the stories • Walmart profits are up • Postal Service moves ahead with plans to close processing centers

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Shakespeare's 'co-author'

All's Well That Ends Well has another author as well as William Shakespeare, according to research from Oxford University academics.
The Globe

Thomas Middleton has been revealed as the most likely co-author, according to in-depth analysis of the play's vocabulary, rhyming, style and grammar. Professor Laurie Maguire says the latest literary research shows groups of writers working together on plays.

BBC News - Shakespeare's 'co-author' named by Oxford scholars

Monday, March 19, 2012

Chinese move to their eco-city of the future

There will be ~ already is ~ a strip mall, almost suburb but scaled up (way up) sameness to the cities of the future. Science fiction as fact: will be utopia or dystopia, a cloud city with a dark, infernal underbelly populated by mole proles sorting trash. Some things change only in degree and that more cosmetic than qualitative. 

I am strangely reminded of David Wingrove's science fiction series, Kung Chuo or Middle Kingdom, and wonder more about what and how many levels lie beneath this city.

Tainjin, China (credit: Tianjin Municipal Government)
Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco City — the world’s largest eco-city — is an experimental model for how Chinese cities could develop and solve some of the enormous problems facing them: permanent gridlock, a lack of water, and ruinous electricity bills.

General Motors is using Tianjin to work out if electric driverless cars can function in a normal traffic system, and road-test the next generation of vehicles: small urban cars that drive themselves but are safe in an environment full of unpredictable drivers, pedestrians and cyclists.

Other projects on trial include a low energy lighting system from Philips and rubbish bins that can empty themselves, sucking litter into an underground network, by a Swedish company called Envac.

The government-owned buildings in the city collect their own rain water for reuse, are powered by geothermal energy, have window shutters that move with the light, in order to keep buildings cool, and heating systems that use solar energy.

Chinese move to their eco-city of the future

Friday, March 2, 2012

Beautiful bookshelves - in pictures

Books are just as much places along the way as any physical geographical location. Most patw posts are either literary (cities in literature, citylit related) or real places of my life ~ sometimes both. Why not the physical places the books live?

From Guardian:

Equilibrium-bookshelf-007Most of us can only aspire to Ikea, but Alex Johnson's Bookshelf takes a beguiling look at the possibilities available if your budget, your rooms and your library are big enough. Here he takes us on a browse through some of the most beautiful.

Colombia-born Alejandro Gomez Stubbs, the designer of Equilibrium, says 'The concept was to design a piece that contrasted stylish modern design with playfulness and animation'

More here.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

A Thought of the Nile, poem

This time it is just a river in Egypt, but oh what a river, and a rift too. One of my places along the way.


A Thought of the Nile by Leigh Hunt

It flows through old hushed Egypt and its sands,
Like some grave mighty thought threading a dream,
And times and things, as in that vision, seem
Keeping along it their eternal stands,—
Caves, pillars, pyramids, the shepherd bands
That roamed through the young world, the glory extreme
Of high Sesostris, and that southern beam,
The laughing queen that caught the world's great hands.

Then comes a mightier silence, stern and strong,
'Twixt villages, and think how we shall take
Our own calm journey on for human sake.

Related Poems

Sunday, February 19, 2012

New York City 1834 - 1851

City scapes and spaces: lflynn's Delicious Stack for New York City 1834 - 1851

The Shakespeare Tavern: Moved to the corner of Williams and Duane near five points and city hall after the tavern was dismantled in 1836. Run by Robert Anderson in directory of 1842 and in 1848 a meeting place for German immigrants and refugees of the 1848 revolutions in europe. Still in operation in 1860. Image from NYPL Digital Images Collection
"He looked at the cowrie, “Awright, may you come and get it, may you na’,” he threw his arm back, slung it far as he could toward the shore; and as the ship’s wake passed over that little holy land cowrie, as it drifted into the deep sediment off the far branches of the Hudson River, deep pockets of mud, layers from the early peoples, from the land animals, ancient things down there, more ancient than the name of our lord, deep brine of the beginning. So too like all before it, the little cowrie reached the mud and stuck, forever swallowed and no amount of hope from a twenty-two-year-old would be able to resurrect it."
And more, including but not limited to: a NYC 19th c. Timeline; Walt Whitman Walking Tour, 1841; maps, guides; prints; histories; directories; narratives; etc

'via Blog this'

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Two Men at Dickens World

flâneuse or places ... wicked choice. Paris, well then it would have to be the contrary flâneuse, but Dickens' London, although city and dss chapter, is not Paris and shares cityspace and citylit. Space and lit places. The coin comes up for places along the way, a distinctly odd blog where Mountainair rubs shoulders with world cities, real cities with imagined ones...

Sam Anderson on Asad Raza in the New York Times:

ScreenHunter_23 Feb. 12 11.40A few words about Asad, who appears in the essay only as a shadowy figure: my anonymous "friend." In reality, he was a huge part of my trip: driver, companion, interpreter, guinea pig, canary in the coal mine. Asad and I met 10 years ago in grad school, where I found him to be so intimidatingly smart, so effortlessly fluent about esoteric subjects that I’d never even heard of, that I almost dropped out of the program after two weeks. I stuck with it, though, and eventually Asad and I became friends. He's still the most naturally critical person I know - not in the narrow sense of being negative about things, but in the large and exciting sense of taking things apart, analyzing them, concocting theories. Walking around with him feels like carrying a philosopher in your pocket.

Because we studied Dickens together at school, and because Asad lives in London now, it seemed only natural for me to bully him into coming to Dickens World. He agreed and, true to form, kept up a brilliant running commentary about everything we saw.

In my favorite picture from the trip, Asad stands on top of a very high railing in order to peer ecstatically over the wall of Miss Havisham's garden, still discoursing.

Asad was on fire, interpretively, for the entire trip. Only Dickens World, it turned out, could make his critical motor grind to a halt. As soon as we entered the park, it was like he’d been shot by an arrow. You could feel the energy draining out of him.

Two Men at Dickens World. More here.