Art Of The National Parks

Click the image above if this is your kind of coffee table book. It is of course available elsewhere but please, support the publisher instead of the elsewhere option. We feature stories related to the national parks of the USA about as frequently as any other topic; here is a unique way to support the idea and the actions that flow from the idea.

Thanks to the Guardian’s feature on the book for bringing it to our attention:

The art director JP Boneyard ’s favourite park is Montana’s Glacier national park. “It’s breathtaking, I’m smiling just thinking about it ,” he says. For his screen-print project Fifty-Nine Parks, now collected in a book, he asked modern artists to reinterpret America’s classic national park posters, commissioned by the government in the 1900s.

“I hope they inspire people to visit the parks and connect with nature, but, heck, it’d be awesome if the book inspired folks to pick up a squeegee and start printing too,” he says.

The National Parks Conservation Association has been mentioned in our pages a couple times before, but only in passing. Finding out more about this book led me to their website for the first time, and I already see a post on that topic is needed, but on another day.

Rewilding Croatia’s Velebit Mountains


Davor Krmpotić
Team leader of Velebit Mountains

VelebitMap.jpgCroatia, playing in its first World Cup final today, makes this rewilding story from the Velebit Mountains, and interview with its team leader, timely:

This dramatic mountain chain, right on the Adriatic coast in Croatia, is one of the wildest areas of the whole Mediterranean. A region where wild nature is really coming back.

Velebit is one of the most important natural areas in the Balkans and situated on the Adriatic coast of Croatia. It hosts two national parks, a biosphere reserve and several wonderful old-growth forests, deep canyons, ancient open lands and exciting wildlife like Balkan chamois, red deer, brown bear, wolf and lynx…

Velebit hosts a diversity of habitats

Velebit.jpgHow would you characterise your rewilding area?
Velebit is one of the most important natural areas in the Balkans. The area hosts an extraordinary diversity of different habitats, from barren Mediterranean landscapes at sea level, via vast beech forest of central European type, to almost boreal systems and alpine grasslands at higher altitudes. Outside protected areas in the south and east there are several other very interesting areas also with great rewilding potential, mainly consisting of abandoned farm and grazing lands. Apart from its fantastic wildlife, Velebit is also a climber’s paradise, home to spectacular caves and breathtaking sceneries. Continue reading

Junto Clubs For 2018 & Beyond


The Junto Club outgrew into the American Philosophical Society.

This historical reference is not typical of posts on this platform, except for when one of our contributors was in the midst of historical coursework that led to riffs like this; and then during his archival research that led to riffs like this.

We are riffing now from a current need (to put it mildly) for better conversation, with hindsight to a widely respected man’s approach at a time full of contentions. Thanks to Andrew Marantz for this brief note, whose accompanying illustration below belies the seriousness of the situation. Click the image to the left above to go to a historical archive with more background on this Talk of the Town item below:

Benjamin Franklin Invented the Chat Room

Conversation clubs, inspired by the Founding Father, have never felt more necessary.

180409_r31846webIn 1727, when Benjamin Franklin was twenty-one, he and a few friends—among them a scrivener, a joiner, and two cobblers—formed a conversation club called the Junto. They met on Friday evenings at a Philadelphia alehouse. “The rules that I drew up required that every member, in his turn, should produce one or more queries on any point of Morals, Politics, or Natural Philosophy, to be discuss’d by the company,” Franklin wrote in his autobiography. The United States was not yet the United States, but already he sensed a civility problem. His solution: structured, secular chitchat, “conducted in the sincere spirit of inquiry after truth, without fondness for dispute, or desire of victory.” Continue reading

Tradition and Memory, Handed Down Stitch by Stitch

If you happen to be anywhere near the Philadelphia Museum of Art, you have a few more days to visit this extraordinary exhibit of Phulkari: The Embroidered Textiles of Punjab.

Thanks to Architectural Digest contributor Medhavi Gandhi for this informative and culturally sensitive article.

Philadelphia Museum of Art showcases the history of Punjab’s rich embroidery craft through ‘Phulkari’

Phulkaris, which literally translates into ‘flower work’, is a unique style or technique of embroidery peculiar to Punjab, and today constitute the lavishly embroidered head scarves and shawls crafted in the region. ‘Phulkari: The Embroidered Textiles of Punjab’ presents phulkaris from the collection of Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz alongside the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s permanent collection, focusing mostly on embroideries from a pre-partitioned Punjab.

The threads of phulkari have since endured much: partition, industrial reforms, changing economic and fashion trends, and the exhibition aptly helps you develop a perspective around all these.

Curators Dr. Cristin McKnight Sethi and Dr. Darielle Mason position the craft as art, presenting phulkaris through the historical and cultural lens, thus offering a renewed contact with the old way of life; ceasing to be a commodity of high commercial value but more as a window into the lives of people.

In a brief issued by the Museum, Timothy Rub, The George D. Widener Director and CEO of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, said: “This exhibition, which examines the artistic, cultural, and political significance of phulkari, is long overdue and will certainly delight visitors who may be unfamiliar with this remarkable art form”. I couldn’t agree more, and here’s why: Continue reading

Murphey Candler Park

Not far from where my grandmother lives just outside of Atlanta, there’s a public park with a lake that I have recently visited several times to go birding. On eBird, the park’s hotspot boasts one hundred and fifty-four species of birds, so it was a natural place for me to check out, especially given that the park’s lake might attract some water birds I haven’t seen yet.

In addition to the thirty-eight species I saw myself during three morning walks around the lake–several of which will become Bird of the Day photos over the following months–I also enjoyed the forest scenery in this suburban oasis, and got to see Continue reading

Say It Ain’t So, Ferran!

Ferran Adrià, of the award-winning restaurant elBulli. Photograph: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images

Ferran Adrià, of the award-winning restaurant elBulli. Photograph: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images

The quote from a group supporting the development of a museum on a protected coastal ecosystem–“We understand that it’s very easy to raise the populist flag in defence of the environment and that this always manages to attract a good number of supporters,”–says all you need to know to understand how important this issue is. In fact, it is not so easy. It is not easy at all to protect the last remaining unspoiled beaches in the world. We are sure that with a bit of publicity, the right outcome will prevail in this case:

When Ferran Adrià shut the doors of his elBulli restaurant in 2011, he quickly reassured gastronomes that it was not closing for good, just for a revamp. ElBulli would become a cultural foundation , complete with museum and visitor centre called elBulli 1846, all to reopen on an expanded plot in 2015.

Foodies may have been reassured, but not so environmentalists, who are furious that the expanded elBulli will eat up more space on the Cala Montjoi, one of Spain‘s few protected Mediterranean beaches. Continue reading

Salt of the Earth



Salt is a quiet seasoning, making its culinary point by bringing out the best in the dish it’s been added to. The crystaline mineral is so ubiquotus that we often don’t consider its vast history in the forging (and funding) of empires. Neither do we think about the labor it takes to bring it forth from the earth and water around the world.

Indian film maker Farida Pacha has the perfectionist sensibility to share the story of the families who return to the saline desert of Gujarat’s Little Rann of Kutch to laboriously extract the salt from the desolate landscape. This seasonal migration has been going on for generations and the work is a matter of pride more than economy.

Director’s Notes: This is not a social issue film, even though the story of the salt people and their exploitation is a shocking one. What attracts me is the more fundamentally tragic question at the heart of their existence: what compels them to return to the desert to labor tediously year after year, generation after generation? What meaning do they find in this existence? Continue reading

Saving Species–One Paper, One Video, One Course, And One Initiative At A Time


We thank Stuart Pimm for his ongoing excellent contributions to conservation through science and education, as well as creative activism, and congratulate him and his colleagues for their most recent publication:

new scientific paper was published today in the prestigious journal Science and it has important findings for biodiversity. Though it reaffirms what we already know—that there is a global extinction crisis and it is worse than we believed—it also details how technology and smart decision-making are offering hope for endangered species and their habitats. Continue reading

If You Happen To Be In Dublin

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Thanks to Genevieve Fussell for pointing this exhibition out to all of us:

In 2009, the Irish photographer Paul Gaffney walked nearly five hundred miles through northern Spain along the Camino de Santiago. Inspired, in part, by his interest in Buddhist meditation, he set off, three years later, on a series of walking trips through rural Spain, Portugal, and France. Continue reading

Flash Folio Exhibition at Cornell–Happy Birthday Will!


I spent my university years lugging around the weighty Riverside Shakespeare, the volume that has held the status of “definitive Shakespeare” text in academic circles since its first publication 30 years ago. Having never minded the moniker Shakespeare nerd–I could not help the stab of jealousy at missing the opportunity to experience Cornell’s flash exhibition of 4 rare folios in honour of the Bard’s 450 birthday.

For one day only, the Library is putting all four folio editions of William Shakespeare’s plays — the earliest published collections of his work, all printed in the 17th century and now among the most important books in all of world literature — on display to commemorate the 450th anniversary of the Bard’s birth.
All the world may be a stage, but Cornell is fortunate to be one of the few places in the world that can put all four folios on display for its community of readers and researchers.

Continue reading

Hermes, Circa 1969

As one of the contributors referred to in this post, and as the one who took the photographs in that post, it occurred to me that I should comment further on the reference.  And in doing so, perhaps I could add to the small collection of personal statements that have been gathering on this site since mid-2011.  I am 100% sure I took the photograph above during that same visit to Greece in 2008.  As I snapped this photo my mother was at my side and we both remembered having stood in the same spot in 1969. Continue reading

Reconsidering Deaccession

DIA-II We understand and sympathize with Mr. Schjeldahl’s reconsideration of the implication of his earlier post, considering the volume of vitriol among the comments that followed it. But the core point of that post was lost in the reconsideration:

I take back my endorsement, in an earlier post, of the idea that the city of Detroit should ease its financial crisis by selling art works from the collection of the Detroit Institute of the Arts. I also apologize to the many whom my words pained. Continue reading

“Shipwrecked pictures” from the Albert Khan museum : can our community help identify these photographs ?

Back in 1912, french millionaire Albert Kahn hired Stéphane Passet to be a photographer for the monumental project Archives of the planet, an iconographic memory of societies, environments and lifestyles around the world. From 1909 to 1931, Albert Kahn  commissioned photographers and film cameramen to record life in over 50 countries. The Archives of the planet were a collection of 180,000 metres of b/w film and more than 72,000 autochrome plates, most of which are held at Museum Albert Kahn in Boulogne, close to Paris.

Autochrome was the first industrial process for true colour photography. When the Lumière brothers launched it commercially in June 1907, it was a photograhic revolution – black and white came to life in colour. Autochromes consist of fine layers of microscopic grains of potato starch – dyed either red-orange, green or violet blue – combined with black carbon particles, spread over a glass plate where it is combined with a black and white photographic emulsion. All colours can be reproduced from three primary colours. Some of the autochrome pictures available today are however unidentified, some happen to be of Bombay. Who among you in the Raxa Collective community can help locate these sites?

Continue reading

Essential Reading & Listening

Musician and naturalist Bernie Krause has spent 40 years recording over 15,000 species in many of the world’s pristine habitats. Photograph: Courtesy of Hachette Book Group

Click his photo for the story.  Never heard of him.  But we have certainly heard his sounds:

Krause, whose electronic music with Paul Beaver was used on classic films like Rosemary’s Baby and Apocalypse Now, and who worked regularly with Bob Dylan, George Harrison and The Byrds, has spent 40 years recording over 15,000 species, collecting 4,500 hours of sound from many of the world’s pristine habitats.

But such is the rate of species extinction and the deterioration of pristine habitat that he estimates half these recordings are now archives, impossible to repeat because the habitats no longer exist or because they have been so compromised by human noise. His tapes are possibly the only record of the original diversity of life in these places.

Click the image below for the bigger story. Continue reading


Funny: I was just about to follow up on yesterday’s news about UNESCO’s declaration, with some further explanation for those less familiar with the various definitions/forms of patrimony and heritage considered worthy of protecting.  Then Tim’s post popped up when I refreshed this page.  Then my other tab opened, eerily on its own, to The New Yorker‘s website.  Although it is a site of frequent visitation for my browser, the eery thing was that it chose to open on its own, at that particular moment, and in the most visible spot on the page was this particular blog post:

Rounding out the weekend reading was a piece in Le Monde about the California ban on foie gras—another death notice of sorts. As Dana Goodyear has written, the Californians see the ban as a life-extending measure for ducks and, potentially, for humans who relish their fatty livers, whereas the French fear the demise of their patrimony before its time. “The French producers are furious,” Le Monde wrote, quoting a diplomatic source who reasoned, somewhat shakily, “It’s a subject that can seem anecdotal, but it’s necessary to take it seriously … Foie gras is an important part of our gastronomic heritage, recognized by Unesco.”

I no longer need to write the post I had intended, so I will just link to a post that partially explains my love of heritage, culinary patrimony in particular.  Truth be told, Tim’s compelling post notwithstanding, the above in extra-particular is among my culinary favorites.

Thekkady, Through an Old Camera’s Lens

“We have fallen heirs to the most glorious heritage a people ever received, and each one must do his part if we wish to show that the nation is worthy of its good fortune.” –Theodore Roosevelt

We have commented elsewhere on the counterintuitive observation that hunters and fishermen are sometimes, perhaps even often, the best conservationists. (See Seth Inman’s posts from last autumn.) At least in the “North American Wildlife Conservation Model” established in the early 20th century it can be understood that way. Some environmentalists would call the slope between the two concepts a “slippery” one.

Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States was a very public example of this. Approximately 230,000,000 acres of wilderness, including deserts, mountains, wetlands and forests were placed into the public trust under his presidency. I wrote about his importance to the early conservation movement in the U.S. in a post called The Natural. At the time I wrote that post I purposefully avoided using the archival photographs that portrayed Roosevelt’s long history of hunting, assuming it wouldn’t fit with our Conservation point of view. Continue reading

Losar, the Tibetan New Year

Guest Author: Carl Zainaldin

Losar, the Tibetan New Year which usually falls sometime in February, is celebrated by Tibetans all around the world. Lo means year, and sar means new. The Tibetans use a lunar calendar, and Losar falls on the first day of the new month, marked by the first new moon of the year.

Losar lasts for fifteen days, with the celebrations occurring on the first three days. To bring in the New Year, Tibetans dance, sing, drink chaang (a Tibetan beer that is served warm), and bake special goods such as khapsays (dough fried into butter and made into special shapes and various flavors).

Losar is a time for people make pilgrimages to sacred Buddhist temples and monasteries. Monasteries perform Losar pujas (rituals) which are popular events for Tibetans to attend. These pujas include ritual dancing, reciting Buddhist scripture, and performing offerings to certain deities, all of which are supposed to be auspicious activities to bring in the New Year. Continue reading