Chairs, 2, 3, 4

April 17, 2019 § Leave a comment

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“Bauhaus Movement: Every Time You Sit Down, Thank the German Art School”

Every time you plop yourself down in a chair at work, rush to your favorite seat in class, or lounge at your desk at home, you can think the Bauhaus Movement. The Bauhaus was originally a German arts school started in 1919, whose teachings eventually developed into an art and thought movement that inspired a generation of artisans, architects, and designers around the world. [April 12] was the centennial celebration of Bauhaus, and Google marked the occasion with a front-page doodle.

Hungarian furniture designer Marcel Breuer was one of the first and youngest students at the Bauhaus. He was quickly recognized for his carpentry skills, and in short order became the head of the school’s carpentry shop. Eventually, Breuer designed two pieces of furniture that changed chair design forever: the Cesca Chair and the Wassily Chair.

The Cesca was the first chair made out of a combination of tubular steel and caned seating that was also mass-produced, and has since become a common chair in offices and homes. . . .

[The Cesca] eventually became the blueprint for countless chairs after it. Cara McCarty, the former associate curator at the department of architecture and design at the Museum of Modern Art considered it to be a pivotal invention in furniture design.

“It’s among the 10 most important chairs of the twentieth century,” she told The New York Times in 1991.

Danny Paez, Inverse, April 12, 2019

[photo: “|1|2|3|4|5|6|7|8|,” by Gerry Dincher, used under a Creative Commons license]

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No Matter Where We Are, We’re All Looking at the Same Moon . . . Unless It’s Made in China

March 13, 2019 § Leave a comment

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The Saying

Who said, “No matter where you are you will always be looking at the same moon as I am”?

Romance writer Nicholas Sparks in Dear John? Nope. Immigrant mouse Fievel Mousekewitz in An American Tale? Nope again, though I’ve seen both credited. “Anonymous” is the best source I’ve found (though I’m open to any well-documented suggestions).

My searching, though, did turn up an interesting passage from African-American abolitionist and women’s rights advocate Sojourner Truth, in her Narrative of Sojourner Truth, a Northern Slave. The words aren’t exactly the same, but the sentiment is there—regardless of how far apart people are, they can still feel connected when they share the sight of the moon overhead.

In her autobiography, dictated to Olive Gilbert, Truth (born Isabella Baumfree) tells about her mother’s lessons for her and her younger brother. Mau-mau, as her daughter called her, had “some ten or twelve children” in all, but the older ones had been sold and taken away from her. Though Mau-mau Bett, the daughter of slaves from Guinea, spoke Low Dutch, Truth presents her words translated into English:

‘My children, there is a God, who hears and sees you.’ ‘A God, mau-mau! Where does he live?’ asked the children. ‘He lives in the sky,’ she replied; ‘and when you are beaten, or cruelly treated, or fall into any trouble, you must ask help of him, and he will always hear and help you.’ She taught them to kneel and say the Lord’s prayer. She entreated them to refrain from lying and stealing, and to strive to obey their masters.

At times, a groan would escape her, and she would break out in the language of the Psalmist—‘Oh Lord, how long?’ ‘Oh Lord, how long?’ And in reply to Isabella’s question—‘What ails you, mau-mau?’ her only answer was, ‘Oh, a good deal ails me’—‘Enough ails me.’ Then again, she would point them to the stars, and say, in her peculiar language, ‘Those are the same stars, and that is the same moon, that look down upon your brothers and sisters, and which they see as they look up to them, though they are ever so far away from us, and each other.

Thus, in her humble way, did she endeavor to show them their Heavenly Father, as the only being who could protect them in their serious condition; at the same time, she would strengthen and brighten the chain of family affection, which she trusted extended itself sufficiently to connect the widely scattered members of her precious flock.

It’s an idea that crosses continents, languages, and cultures. It’s lasted hundreds of years and very well should last forever. Many miles. One moon. What could possibly disrupt that mathematical simplicity?

Maybe some extra moons?

The Variation

According to China Daily, scientists in China have plans to put an artificial moon in place above the city of Chengdu by the year 2020. Covered with a reflective coating, the satellite would be able to reflect sunlight onto the earth’s surface at night in the same way that the real moon does. But the made-in-China moon would be eight times brighter, says Wu Chunfeng, head of the Tian Fu New Area Science Society. Other improvements over the natural moon are that it’s location and brightness could be controlled and it could be turned off if needed.

If successful, the moon over Chengdu would provide lighting one-fifth as bright as regular streetlights, and could save $174 million per year in electricity costs. If the first, experimental, moon is successful, says Wu, the plan is to launch three more in 2022, with those three being “the real deal with great civic and commercial potential.”

If you think it sounds like a bad idea—or maybe too good to be true—you can join the skeptics in the following video:

But don’t count the Chinese out just yet. They already have some experience in creating less-than-celestial bodies. As reported by Bloomberg Businessweek, China has built two islands, one circular, like the sun, and the other in the shape of a crescent moon. Located in Sun Moon Bay in the waters off Hainan, the two pieces of land cover approximately one square kilometer (about a third of a mile). The moon island was begun by private developers in 2015 (go to the Bloomberg article for a photo), but China has since banned such commercial projects because of environmental damage.

China has more credentials on the sun-building front as well. In 2006 (back to China Daily again for details), scientists in China brought its “artificial sun,” the Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST), online. EAST is a tokamak magnetic fusion reactor located in Heifei that last year reached a record 100 million degrees Celsius (over 180,000,000 degrees Fahrenheit). That’s over six times hotter than the sun up in the sky.

And finally, in January, China became the first country to land a spacecraft on the far side of the moon. BBC reports that one of the purposes of the Chang’e-4’s mission is to gain “insights into the internal structure and history of the Moon.” Sounds as if that knowledge could come in handy for building a new one.

The Music

But until China’s lunar creativity comes to fruition, Mau-mau Bett’s words will still hold true. And the belief they represent will continue to be the stuff of longings, of comfort, and of song:

(Sojourner Truth, Narrative of Sojourner Truth, a Northern Slave, Emancipated from Bodily Servitude by the State of New York, in 1828, with a Portrait, Olive Gilbert, ed., 1850; Zhang Zhihao, “Man-Made Moon to Shed Light on Chengdu in 2020,” China Daily, October 19, 2018; Sim Chi Yin, “Dubai Has Palm Islands, but China Has a Sun, Moon, and Flower,” Bloomberg Businessweek, March 4, 2019; Cao Zinan, “China’s ‘Artificial Sun’ Achieves Major Breakthrough,” China Daily, November 13, 2018; Paul Rincon, “What Does China Want to Do on the Moon’s Far Side?BBC, January 4, 2019)

[photo: “Moon,” by Milos Golubovic, used under a Creative Commons license]

Barnga: A Card Game for Culture-Stress Show and Tell [—at A Life Overseas]

February 2, 2019 § Leave a comment

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I’ve reworked my original Barnga post from six years ago and put it online at A Life Overseas. Head on over there to read all of it. Here’s how it begins:

Have you ever wanted to show, not just tell, people what culture stress is like? Have you ever wanted them to experience it a bit without them having to travel overseas?

Have you ever heard about Barnga?

Barnga is a simulation game created by Sivasailam “Thiagi” Thiagarajan in 1980, while working for USAID in Gbarnga, Liberia. . . .

[photo: “Shuffle,” by Melissa Emma’s Photography, used under a Creative Commons license]

School, 2, 3, 4

January 26, 2019 § Leave a comment

 


“More than 145,000 Rohingya Refugee Children Return to School in Bangladesh Refugee Camps as New School Year Starts”

More than 145,000 Rohingya refugee children living in camps in south-east Bangladesh are now attending UNICEF-supported learning centres, as a new school year begins.

Following a huge effort from the humanitarian community to construct a network of around 1,600 Learning Centres throughout the camps—providing vital access to education for children who fled violence in Myanmar—attention is now turning to providing education for thousands of other children who still lack access.

The aim is to eventually reach 260,000 children with education this year through an extended network of 2,500 Learning Centres run by 5,000 teachers and Rohingya volunteers.

. . . . .

“Many children have suffered traumatic injuries from gunshot wounds and extreme violence, restricting their mobility and access to services. We see many children with mixed learning abilities, physical disabilities, visual impairment and speech difficulties,” said Iffat Farhana, Education Officer, UNICEF Cox’s Bazar.  “Each of these children has a right to education. With more Learning Centres and more teachers, UNICEF hopes to reach every child to help them learn, grow and realise their potential.”

. . . . .

It is estimated that there are about 500,000 children under the age of 18 living in the camps, with about 300,000 aged 3 to 14.

About 700,000 Rohingyas fled persecution in Myanmar at the end of 2017, bringing the total population of the refugee camps close to a million people.

(UNICEF, January 24, 2019)

(featuring scenes from Shaolin Tagou, the largest Kung Fu school in China, with over 35,000 students)

Places and Destinations: What Do You Know?

January 6, 2019 § Leave a comment

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I don’t read travel magazines much. I just don’t seem to fit into their target demographic. I like to dream, but I can’t afford to visit most of their “Bucket List Destinations for this year!” No, the the magazines I normally browse are less apt to showcase the five best restaurants in Paris than they are to feature the latest 2-for-$5 meals at McDonald’s.

But travel mags can be more than just catalogues for vacation ideas. They can also be educational. Take, for instance, Afar, which teaches that you don’t actually need a bucket list. In fact, its writers tell us why you should take your list and tear it up and throw it out.

An even better learning experience can be found in Afar‘s online quizzes. Covering desserts to UNESCO sites, here are ten mini exams to test your global knowledge. Even if you don’t learn something new, they’ll help you find out what you don’t know. And after you get your results (just click “Skip This Step” at the end), Afar will give suggestions on articles you can read to brush up more on each topic. Isn’t that nice of them?

  1. Are You a Geography Nerd? Prove It.
  2. Can You Match These Holidays to Their Home Countries?
  3. Can You Match These Sister Cities?
  4. How Well Do You Know Your World Capitals?
  5. How Well Do You Know These Desserts from around the World?
  6. How Well Do You Know Food around the World?
  7. How Well Do You Know UNESCO World Heritage Sites?
  8. Test Your Knowledge of Independence Days around the World
  9. Test Your Knowledge of World Architecture
  10. Match the Metro to the City

[photo: “Look Well to This Day,” by Anne J, used under a Creative Commons license]

Hackneys, Mews, and a Trap-Pumping Mouse (you’ll, uh, see what I mean)

October 18, 2018 § Leave a comment

Mews

So after a long hiatus, I went back to the Bellerby and Co. Globemakers’ website (I’ve written about them here and here), and I saw they’d posted a Great Big Story video that CNN had made about them. It’s a cool video, but what really caught my attention was Bellerby’s address posted on the outside of their studio. Yes, their address:

London Borough of Hackney, Bouverie Mews, N16

I like the sound of it. It sounds so . . . British. But beyond that, it’s provided me a learnable moment, with help from the Online Etymology Dictionary, one of my favorite sites.

First, there’s Borough of Hackney. Hackney originally meant “Haca’s Isle” or “Hook Island,” the name for a dry patch in the middle of a marsh within the current boundaries of London. In early medieval times, horses were kept there. These horses were hired out for regular things like riding and pulling, not for specialized purposes, and the horses themselves came to be called “hackneys.” That led to the shortened form hack, which is now used for someone, such as a writer or artist, who does dull or routine work for pay. In the past, hackney was also a verb, meaning “to use a horse for riding,” which gave us our current adjective hackneyed, for something that is overused or trite.

Then there’s Mews. Turns out that has nothing to do with cats but a lot to do with horses. Mew used to mean “cage,” and the king’s hawks were kept at the mews at London’s Charing Cross. The site later became the home for the royal horse stables, called the Royal Mews. By the early 1800s, mews meant “a street of stables converted into homes for people.”

Finally, a blog post by Bellerby and Co. tells us that their mews (street) is named after John Bouverie, a British antiquarian and art collector, who died in 1750.

Bellerby’s blog also points out another nearby occupant of Bouverie Mews: John Nolan Studio, where they make animatronics, such as those in the commercials below. In the first one, for McVities Digestive Cookies, it’s a little hard to tell what’s real and what’s fake. It’s a little easier to make that distinction in the advert (as the Brits say) for Nolan’s Cheddar. That’s not at all because the mouse doesn’t look lifelike.

You’ll see what I mean.

(“Balls on Bouverie: N16 History,” Globemakers, May 28, 2014)

Steps, 2, 3, 4

October 7, 2018 § Leave a comment

“The World’s Longest Staircase Is in Switzerland”

In 1910, a funicular railway was completed from the village of Mülenen up to the peak [of Mount Niesen in the Swiss Alps]. . . .

But more interesting than the funicular, in my opinion, is what runs up the mountain right alongside it: a two-mile staircase with a slope that gets up to a glute-grinding 65-percent gradient. There are a world record 11,674 steps up the mountainside—enough steps to climb the Burj Khalifa skyscraper in Dubai four times, and enough to climb the Statue of Liberty 33 times.

For safety reasons, the stairs are just used for maintenance and not open to the public. But once a year, 500 lucky participants get to tackle the world’s longest staircase climb, the Niesen Treppenlauf. . . . And the record for running up the equivalent of seven Empire State Buildings? A remarkable one hour and two minutes.

Ken Jennings, Condé Nast Traveler, June 14, 2018

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