As you might have read in the archives of this site, I’ve been working on a project called retrotravels.net. The site will allow you to explore some of my collection of guidebooks used during the Golden Age of travel (1880-1939). You will be able to peruse books not for what is printed on the page (which is interesting in itself) but rather the lingering proof that the book was used by its previous owners. Notations and marks on the pages (called marginalia). Museum or transportation tickets. Scribbled notes. A pressed flower that has made a home between two stained pages for over 70 years. Little pamphlets on a tourist location folded into the pages. I believe that these books hold a forgotten history of a overseas trip and, if studied carefully, can reveal what the traveler from the past did with the book, where they traveled, and what they saw. I’m still working on some major layout and design issues and how to express my fascination with the books.
Luckily, I’m not alone in this fascination. RadioLab, a weekly NPR program about… well… everything. One episode was about the history of War of the Worlds and its effect on those who heard it when it was broadcast. Another hour-long broadcast was about the language of music and how the brain processes sound. Another was on the history of sperm. All of their programs are well-produced, entertaining, and discuss fascinating subjects.
Forensics, archeology, genealogy, and genetics are devoted to figuring out what really happened. In this hour, we hear surprising stories of playing detective and finding that what really happened in the past is not at all what you’d expected.
One of the three stories they discussed was about a mysterious pile of old letters found on the side of a rural road. If it wasn’t for the spotting of a goat standing on a cow, the discovery would probably never had happened. I suggest listening to the program and hopefully you too will understand my fascination with these ghosts found in ephemera.
I was bored by the previous look of my Gallery section, so I redesigned it. This new look combines my love of photography with my love of vintage stuff. As with most of my graphic design work, the objects I use are photographs/scans of real items I have in my collection. You might recognize the following: a 1956 Rolleiflex medium format camera (which I use from time-to-time), a Kodak Stereo Camera (35mm) from 1958, a box of old slides I purchased at an estate sale, a 1960s light meter, a shutter release timer, and a couple of blue flash bulbs (both from the 1950s). Click on the image below to visit the new-and-improved gallery:
For my South America trip in December 2004, I created a book that would act both as a guide and a journal. I included what I felt wad pertinent information from a collection of over fourteen books about Peru and Bolivia. Creating the book by hand turned out to be a time-consuming project in which over 100+ hours were spent designing, printing, and building the 250-page book, but the hard work produced something that I will always cherish.
Do you ever wish for that perfect day? A day where you can block out your day with moments of peace, relaxation, productivity, and growth in spirit, mind, and body? There’s a relatively new blog that’s compiling the daily routines of famous people. For instance, we learn that Ben Franklin believed that “every part of my business should have its allotted time.” Writer Franz Kafka seems to have been a major procrastinator.
We now settled into a routine which has ever since served in my mind as an archetype, so that what I still mean when I speak of a “normal” day (and lament that normal days are so rare) is a day of the Bookham pattern. For if I could please myself I would always live as I lived there. I would choose always to breakfast at exactly eight and to be at my desk by nine, there to read or write till one. If a cup of good tea or coffee could be brought me about eleven, so much the better. A step or so out of doors for a pint of beer would not do quite so well; for a man does not want to drink alone and if you meet a friend in the taproom the break is likely to be extended beyond its ten minutes. At one precisely lunch should be on the table; and by two at the latest I would be on the road. Not, except at rare intervals, with a friend. Walking and talking are two very great pleasures, but it is a mistake to combine them. Our own noise blots out the sounds and silences of the outdoor world; and talking leads almost inevitably to smoking, and then farewell to nature as far as one of our senses is concerned. The only friend to walk with is one (such as I found, during the holidays, in Arthur) who so exactly shares your taste for each mood of the countryside that a glance, a halt, or at most a nudge, is enough to assure us that the pleasure is shared. The return from the walk, and the arrival of tea, should be exactly coincident, and not later than a quarter past four. Tea should be taken in solitude, as I took it as Bookham on those (happily numerous) occasions when Mrs. Kirkpatrick was out; the Knock himself disdained this meal. For eating and reading are two pleasures that combine admirably. Of course not all books are suitable for mealtime reading. It would be a kind of blasphemy to read poetry at table. What one wants is a gossipy, formless book which can be opened anywhere. The ones I learned so to use at Bookham were Boswell, and a translation of Herodotus, and Lang’s History of English Literature. Tristram Shandy, Elia and the Anatomy of Melancholy are all good for the same purpose. At five a man should be at work again, and at it till seven. Then, at the evening meal and after, comes the time for talk, or, failing that, for lighter reading; and unless you are making a night of it with your cronies (and at Bookham I had none) there is no reason why you should ever be in bed later than eleven. But when is a man to write his letters? You forget that I am describing the happy life I led with Kirk or the ideal life I would live now if I could. And it is essential of the happy life that a man would have almost no mail and never dread the postman’s knock.
In 2004, I fulfilled a life-long dream of visiting the land of Incas: Peru & Bolivia. I did three treks during the trip, hiking to the famed Machu Picchu, as well as two relatively unknown Inca trails on the Copacabana Peninsula and in the Jungas of Bolivia, north of La Paz. In all, I hiked over 80 miles in three weeks was amazed by the people, culture, and sights along the way. Some of the photos I took on this trip are still amongst my favorite. For instance, the photograph below is of a small hut on Isla del Sol (“Island of the Sun”) in Bolivia. It has been the main image on my travel website, kahunna.net as well as on my business card. I have created a new gallery of forty photos taken on this trip, including some that have not seen the light of day the web until now. All photos were taken with a Canon PowerShot G5. Enjoy!
Every year, on the evening of December 7th, Nicaragua comes alive with prayers, singing and fireworks. In communities big and small, they celebrate “La Gritería,” or the immaculate conception of Mary. I witnessed the main celebration in Leon in 2006 (here’s a couple of photos here and here; a video here) and had an equally rewarding experience this year in the town of San Jose del Sur on the island of Ometepe.
The celebration involves visiting altars made in honor of of the Virgin Mary. The small community of Las Cruces, located a mile or two south of San Jose del Sur, created this altar with what looks like a considerable amount of care:
On December 7th at 6pm, the celebration begins! Communities come together around the altar as it is lit up in Christmas lights. When most of the locals have had a chance to view the ornate display, they disconnect the altar and the platform becomes portable. Selected citizens carry the altar into the street followed by the community, all singing songs about the Virgin Mary or worshiping in their own way.
I had my camera recording during some of the singing and chanting. Click on the play button below to listen to it:
In our walk towards the center of San Jose del Sur, a few men walk ahead of the procession lighting rockets every few minutes. They shoot 50 feet into the air then explode into a star burst of sparks.
The procession ends at the main square of San Jose del Sur, an area about the size of an American football field. On the south end of the square stands the small church. A church bell rings in the bell tower, which stands nearby. It is disconnected from the church to provide more stabilization on this volcanically-active island. Many aftershocks have destroyed lesser structures.
The atmosphere is similar to a fair, but without the entertainment. A woman walks around distributing free drinks – a sugary, spicy drink served in a small plastic bag. The drink seems to be popular based on the number of children crowding around the woman and her tub of tied bags, but I found the drink tasted too spicy. Our group tried subtly to dispose of the drink without offending the locals. Children, mainly boys ages 10-16, run around lighting fire crackers and throwing them near unsuspecting people. We hoped they would not them near us as we were their source of fire. A girl sings a song over a loud speaker as a man plays guitar. Most of the younger men ages 20-40 are not participating. They can be seen playing pool in the local open-air pubs.
During the festival, the sky opened up and poured on the island. It fell as hard and as dense as a shower, instantly soaking everyone as they ran for cover. We hugged a large tree as I tried desperately to shield my camera bag with my body. These two resourceful women used their lawn chairs as umbrellas.
As quickly as it started, the rain abruptly stopped. Out came the moon, lighting up large cumulus clouds rolling slowly over a backdrop of twinkling stars. I left with the other gringos and headed back to our hostel, a mile or so down the road. As we walked using just the light of the moon, I felt extremely honored to have experienced La Griteria on Ometepe.
National Geographic has opened two huge stores in London and Singapore late last year. From the images I’ve seen online, they look like Disneyland for NatGeo fans! According to a NGS press release, these stores offer more than just their praised maps, books, and DVDs. Here’s what they wrote about the London location:
More than a traditional retail environment, the Regent Street store will feature compelling interactive visual displays and state-of-the-art design dedicated to stimulating, educating and inspiring visitors to celebrate global cultures. In addition to its retail marketplace, the store will feature an exhibition area, auditorium, tapas café, travel desk and photography studio, set across three floors and approximately 1,800 square metres (19,375 square feet).
I’ve compiled seven links that share images, videos, and experiences of those who have written first-hand accounts of the new museums stores.
DVD with a Genographic Project overview hosted by Dr. Spencer Wells, visual instructions on how to collect a DNA sample using a cheek scraper, and a bonus feature program the National Geographic Channel/PBS production The Journey of Man.
Exclusive National Geographic map illustrating human migratory history and created especially for the Genographic Project.
Buccal swab kit, instructions, and a self-addressed envelope in which to return your cheek swab sample.
Detailed brochure about the Genographic Project, featuring National Geographic photography.
Confidential Genographic Project ID # (GPID) to anonymously access your results at www.nationalgeographic.com/genographic
Located at Vivo City, Singapore’s largest shopping mall in the vibrant HarbourFront precinct, the new National Geographic store is designed to appeal to Singaporeans’ taste for adventure and diverse cultures. More than a traditional retail environment, the 1,500-square- metre (16,146-square-foot) store will feature a retail marketplace, exhibition space and unique “experience zones” for multisensory activities designed to stimulate, educate and inspire visitors.
It was with great excitement that I was invited by Pat Law of Ogilvy PR to the exclusive preview of Asia’s first National Geographic Store in Singapore! Never have I ever thought that the National Geographic would have a physical store and much less open one in Singapore.
The bloggers were told to meet at Newton Food Centre and were chauffeured by a grand convoy of 17 SUVs from the great volunteers at www.suvec.org. A personal SUV for every blogger! How cool is that?
This is a first in Asia, the only other store is in London. The bigwigs of NatGeo…shared quite a bit on the concept of the store. Go there, be inspired, be edutained (they kept using that word and i thought it was hilarious) about our life earth environment. They made it easy to do with the interior of the store. It feels like home, only 100x bigger and with very very cool things. There’s alot more to look at but i was pretty much drawn to the ‘old gentlemen’s club’ parts of the store so my pictures only say so much.
This story about National Geographic’s first Asian store in Singapore, however, is a unique one I will treasure for the rest of my life to come. For a start, I didn’t have to tell the story myself. And I still don’t. I didn’t have to think of an angle that will get people listening. And I still don’t. By virtue of its 120-year rich history and its authencity, the people are quite happy being their own storytellers.
When I first stepped into the National Geographic Store in Singapore, memories of my days with Made With Love flooded through my mind. (Posts about MWL here and here.) The feeling was almost identical! The black interior, the spotlights, the floor, the smell of a newly renovated store and even the temperature inside was so similar! But of course, MWL is no where close to the size and set-up of the world 2nd National Geographic store.
This is going to be an image intensive post. To prevent slow loading of the homepage, you’ll have to click to read more about it. But I assure you, its going to be worth the read!
I created a little video of the great people I met while traveling. To make it a little less boring, most of the clips are playing at twice the normal speed. The music in the background is Cake Parade by Georgie James.
When you get to the YouTube page, I suggest that you click on the “Watch in HD” link just below the video.
My latest journal cover is plain except for a hoof mark from a horse or cow. I had lost it while hiking in Nicaragua. Twenty hours later, a determined one-man search and rescue operation was launched during a tropical rain storm. After retracing my steps for a few soggy miles, I found it on the side of a country road, just where I must have dropped it while taking a photo of the green pastures, the grazing cattle, and the volcano looming in the background. Despite the rain, the pocket Moleskine was unscathed, except for where an animal had stepped on it. When I look at the mark on the cover, I’m reminded of how close I came to losing the most precious item I carry on my when I travel, even more so than my camera.