Not only does this project evoke great jubilation, it makes me wonder: What might I do for thirty days and keep it fresh, keep it from getting stale, stay excited by it? From the mundane — i.e. brushing my teeth to a new tune each time (it’s been the theme from Gilligan’s Island for nearly two decades) — to the out-of-the-ordinary — i.e. … hmm… ok, maybe just a riff on the ordinary. Something like… read an article from a different news source for 30 days; find 30 different routes home from the grocery store; locate 30 different shops for groceries; find 30 different places to read outdoors (think there might be another bench photo essay lurking behind that one…)

In any case, I’ll keep pondering. Meanwhile, enjoy this reblog of The Jump Project!

The Daily Bubble Tea

Jump [1 of 30]

Going Up [1 of 30]

In early March, I challenged myself to photograph a jump a day for thirty days. I made my challenge public to anyone who would listen and even did some brainstorming with others about possible jump locations. After a clearing up of the weather that conveniently coincided with a much needed haircut in mid-March, I was ready to begin my project. I’ve done two jump photographs prior to this series: one at Formosa Boulevard Station in Kaohsiung and one in front of some plum blossoms in Fengguidou. I also looked at a few examples of other people’s works – Jumping Project is the largest group on Flickr devoted to portraits of people jumping. Another source of inspiration was Natsumi Hayashi’s incredible levitation blog – Yowayowa Camera Woman Diary – the influence of her photographic style may be obvious in a couple of photographs in this series.

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cities and books and a few more looks

The concept of “stumbling-upon” is ever alive and well. Most recently, while visiting the author Teju Cole’s facebook page to locate a link to one of his recent audio interviews (in which he talks about his latest small fates project — Simple Tweets of Fate on NPR), a link that someone had posted as a response caught my eye: Paris, I Love You: 10 Books Starring Cities, compiled and written by Emily Temple. Among the titles were Cole’s Open City as well as:

Thus, my list grows by yet another few titles. Is sabbatical really only a year long? (she says, knowing full well that such a sentiment can bring about more than a few eye rolls…)

Twitter, too, did not disappoint and while the original tweet failed to catch my eye, I was endlessly pleased to find my way to The Atlantic Monthly’s most recent photo essay — a response to reader-suggested photo requests; a sort of media treasure hunt. A few that caught my eye for how they surprise as well as cajole the viewer into wanting to know more (click for larger views of the pics):

Here, pedestrians on London Bridge watch boats and barges being unloaded, in the Pool of London, on the River Thames, on April 20, 1929. (AP Photo)
"Hemingway doing something badass." American author Ernest Hemingway, who, at the time, was a reporter and paramilitary aide in the liberation of France from German occupation in World War II, is shown wearing boxing gear in July 1944. (AP Photo)
The Space Shuttles Enterprise rides atop a NASA modified 747 plane over the Statue of Liberty in New York April 27, 2012. The Space Shuttle Enterprise officially arrives in New York to be placed at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum. (Reuters/Brendan McDermid)
Photo of Ishwori Sapkota, as she arranges books at her book store in Kathmandu, on December 18, 2011. She has been selling and buying second hand books for the past eighteen years. (Reuters/Navesh Chitrakar)

To these fantastic images, I’ll add a few of my own that detail some of my literal, city-wide and city-dwelling stumbling-upons during last week’s very arty-cultural happenings in Philly (thanks, in part, to the lovely e! — more on that to come).

Two installations I hadn’t seen before:

1. A collection of photographs and quotes and poetic musings that line the concrete walls underneath the bridge on 22nd Street.

Photography and Poetry exhibit on 22nd Street
Photography and Poetry exhibit on 22nd Street

2. Another Mural Arts Program masterpiece — this one caught my eye for its mixed media/mixed genre effect.

Building wall mural
(Mural Arts Program)
Building wall mural - close-up
(Mural Arts Program)
Building wall mural - spillover onto adjacent wall
(Mural Arts Program)

A few more stumblings from recent weeks to come your way soon…

place based reads — or: as long as we’re going to sit for a spell…

Before the move to New York nearly eight years ago was even a possibility, my viewing and reading seemed to gravitate toward texts that were situated in that dynamic city. Perhaps there’s no reason to read anything into the geographies of my latest literary stumbling-upons (both new reads and re-reads), but nevertheless here are a few I’ve worked my way through that bring alive in fantastic ways two other cities:

Paris:

  • A Moveable Feast (Ernest Hemingway) – upon re-reading it was as if I’d never before read it? And this time, I had a “Midnight in Paris” version of Hemingway and his contemporaries in my mind.
  • The Invention of Hugo Cabret (Brian Selznick) – still haven’t seen Hugo. Don’t know how it could possibly compare to the magic insoired by the book.
  • Books, Baguettes, and Bedbugs (Jeremy Mercer) – haven’t started this yet, but the title was enough to draw me in.
  • The Elegance of the Hedgehog (Muriel Barberry) – second read in six months. The characters are just fantastic and the story makes Paris ever more sympathetic, enticing, full of everyday cosmopolitan possibility.

And another cherished Paris read this list makes me think of: Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities (I had a strange affinity for Sydney Carton).

London

  • A Severed Head (Iris Murdoch) – wicked, good fun.
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray (Oscar Wilde) – an absolute favorite.
  • Notes on a Scandal (Zoe Heller) – Cate Blanchett was fantastic in the film, so I’m trying the book.
  • Brick Lane (Monica Ali) – started reading this after coming across repeated references to it in a student’s dissertation. A decidedly different look at London than I’m used to reading; I.e. this ain’t no Vanity Fair.

And one that offers a particularly exposed look at both cities: George Orwell’s Down and  Out in Paris and London.

Any and all other recommendations welcome!

in other words, stop sitting so much

As if in a mystically orchestrated cosmic response to the Slate article on (lack of) walking, The Atlantic Monthly has published a short piece describing an Australian study that reaffirms the findings of many other studies that have come before it: sitting too much is bad for you. Or, as the title of the article states plainly: Confirmed: He Who Sits the Most Dies the Soonest.

A few choice excerpts from the piece:

It is now well accepted that too much sitting is unhealthy. Studies in the last few years have found that death risks rise when people watch spend more leisure time in front of a computer screen or TV or simply sit too much.

In other words, people still need to exercise, but it’s also important to spend less time sitting.

And of the new study of more than 200,000 Australians the author notes:

Its most striking finding was that people who sat more than 11 hours a day had a 40% higher risk of dying in the next three years than people who sat less than four hours a day.

Sure, the critically skeptical reader might argue, as some of the commenters have, that the protocol was flawed, that there was not enough consideration made for the small amounts of walking one might within one’s own home, and so on. But perhaps this is missing the larger point. If we find ourselves sitting consistently for more than eleven hours a day, should we be worried? All of these studies are premised in large part on the implicit notion that all humans have a desire to live as long as possible. That, too, may not necessarily be true for everyone.

(warning: unintentional riff on mortality starts here)

During my travels last summer, I watched an Australian television program about a tribe in South America whose members lived a life largely removed from what most of us are familiar with as an image of society. Their average lifespan was little more than three decades, not because of health-related issues or poor nutrition or another factor that might be one of the usual suspects that are the inhibitors of longevity. One man who was interviewed said that he had prepared a poisonous drink for himself that he was ready to consume as soon as he received confirmation that his beloved had died; she was ill at the time. This story, at least within the limited scope of this short documentary, was not atypical. The abbreviated and edited narratives of tribal members brought the phrase “life worth living” into new focus.*

Far from being a morose glimpse into the lives of a relatively cloistered community, the narration and video documentation underscored the purposefulness of life, the intentionality of attending to what one is compelled to do, whether by necessity or desire. Implicit, and occasionally stated outright, was a message of living collectively with one another; wherein life was seen as delicately interwoven with the lives of others. This was not a go-it-alone adventure. One wonders, in this frame, how much living one can do from the vantage point of one’s couch. If we are to sit then perhaps we might seek out a bench in a locale where, before one sits, one must journey at least a little.

Untitled

* This was supposed to be a quick recap of an article on sitting, thus my apologies for yet another mini-treatise on mortality. Having time on your hands to think in solitude has an unexpected set of effects on one’s musings; I have a renewed appreciation for and an embodied understanding of Walden than ever before.

walking — the great american shame

In a recently published article in Slate, Americans’ general lack of walking is matter-of-factly declared a crisis. Adults and children alike in this vast country walk far less than in its industrialized counterparts, i.e., Britain, Switzerland, Japan, and others. Part of the problem, the article’s author, Tom Vanderbilt, claims, is “our uncommon commitment to the car” — not only as a primary means of transportation but also, I’d venture, as central to our economic, cultural, and social identities. This allegiance to the car has rendered walking as “an act dwelling in the margins, an almost hidden narrative running beneath the main vehicular text.”

And even as we can say with certainty that hardly anyone walks in the States, the converse is also true — whether, as the author notes, as an “adjunct” the car-related activities or as a sometimes necessary evil, everyone walks. Vanderbilt writes

“In this ubiquity, paradoxically, lies a weakness: The very act is so common that we tend to forget about it, to remember that it is something that needs to be nurtured, protected, encouraged. Save for charity drives and recreational enthusiasts, there are few organized groups of self-identified walkers.”

That which becomes commonplace, like basic ambulatory function, requires attention — perhaps we might not all achieve the degree of attentiveness and zeal that many of our European counterparts bring to their walking practice, but it doesn’t seem egregious to suggest a greater commitment to the practice than we currently have. To walk, not necessarily to somewhere, but for the sake of walking: is this anathema to the American way of being?*

One might wonder what the point of walking is. That precisely is the point — that is, far from being point-less, walking is point-free. Walking presents the walker with time, distance, space to ponder — these benefits, if we must cast them in that light, are those we are either happy to pay exorbitant costs to obtain or are easily dismissed as the purview of  naturalists, dilettantes, and the hapless car-less. But leave the benefits — philosophical and physiological — aside and consider the humility, the profoundly human quality of walking. That’s all, just chew on that a minute. Then, whether alone or along a line, with boots made for the occasion or with new shoes on, go for a walk.

A caveat: point-free walking is not always easily achieved. Recently, upon returning to Philly, I have found it difficult to take a new route; this is the problem with thinking you know a place. As if in response, my usual walk home from one of my usual cafes revealed yet another new housing structure that has sprung up in the few months I was gone. (I’ll spare the reader commentary about this city’s inexplicable voraciousness for new housing, complete with tax breaks and all the rest, at the expense of the city’s real needs…). Peeking out from an adjoining wall is a quarter of the pixelated mural of autumnal trees –  a wistful reminder of the passing of time, the cycles of bureacracy, the obscuring of landscapes as domiciles become big business, a hearkening back to the moment when an emtpy wall called out for a new face and that face was tenderly applied with brushstrokes,  paint, and laughter — I imagine laughter accompanied the making of most murals, even the sad ones…don’t know why.

So let’s walk, see what we see that we might have seen otherwise or at an other time, and check back into the Slate series for additional inspiration, wittiness, and socio-historical contextualization of this utterly essential characteristic of the human condition that we Americans seem all too happy to do away with (dangling preposition notwithstanding).

* My Pandora radio station is having its fun with me — as I am getting ready to publish this post, Mary Chapin Carpenter’s song “Why walk when you can fly” has started playing. Why, indeed.

To conference

Does one attend a conference? Participate in a conference? Learn from or at a conference? Go to a conference? With increasing frequency, these gatherings of people who presumably share some elements of inquiry or interest in and about the social, cultural, and/or natural world resemble X Factor with a dose of that “guess the suitcase with the amounts of money” show (hosted by Howie Mandel and animated by his, ahem, assistants), rather than an exchange of ideas or posing of questions. Instead, the interactions are too saturated with worries about showing up at a session because of the social repercussions of not being seen, performing a “knowing” self, and an embodied eschewing of any trace of fallibility. (We’ve all gotten so cool.)

When people are preparing to make the journey, sometimes necessitating multiple modes of transportation, the use of passports, foreign currency exchange, with what expectations do they walk out of their doors? And are conferences places where we can still be inspired? Or is there such a primacy placed upon performance and preening, that we have lost our way as learners?

This is not the whole story, of course. The ethos of conferring, communing, and reconnecting with friends and colleagues still does take place. And it is the shared sense of returning to intellectual homes while gathering the metaphorical timber with which to build new additions to this author’s house (nod here to the very excellent essay by Amelie Rorty titled, “The Ethics of reading”) that continues to be my experience at these shindigs — due in large part to intense time spent in the company of people who are ever my teachers, inspirations, laugh partners, and with whom there is great joy in conversation. And, as the pic below inspired me to consider, it gives me pause to remember how, even as time moves on and the topography of our lives is ever-changing, our memories can be made alive again in new ways; and as we hold the past with us, in what forms and with what postures/materials/practices of responsiveness is, at least in part, up to us.