Vienna Thoughts: A Ramble

PBS aired the re-run of the 2019 Vienna Philharmonic mid-summer concert this past Friday. It was quite good, although they did a lot of American music. (Their playing “Stars and Stripes Forever” without the usual US “slow down here” and “resume tempo here” made me blink a little.) The last major selection was Strauss, the “Wienerblut” waltz. Literally “Vienna blood,” a better translation would be “Vienna hearted.” It’s not my favorite concert waltz of his, but it’s quite good.

As the music played, PBS inter-cut shots from the Altstadt at night. I happened to glance up at just the right moment, saw two doorways, and without thinking said, “Michaelerplatz.” The next shot confirmed it. Note, there were no street signs, no house numbers, just two stone-rimmed doorways taken at an angle. I think it’s safe to say that I know that corner of Vienna pretty well. Continue reading

Sunday Flowers

My brain is tired. The past week was so “interesting” that mid-week, Fr. Martial and the Trustees opened the chocolate locker. So here are some flowers from back in the late spring. Right now, it’s been so hot that we made shade-tents and awnings to put over some of the roses.

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Book Review: Why Place Matters

McClay, Wilfred M. ed. Why Place Matters: Geography, Identity, and Civic Life in Modern America (Encounter Books, 2020) Kindle Version

I’d read McClary’s summary history of the US, Land of Hope, and went looking for more of his work. This is not history (his focus), but cultural geography, public policy, and thoughts on cities, place, and how place and urban development shapes how people interact with each other, and with the government. The essays cover a broad swath of specialties, from geographers (Yi-fu Tuan) to urban planners to cultural critics (Roger Scruton) to historians. Some names are familiar, some are not, but all the essays present different arguments for why place, space, and urban settings matter. Continue reading

Overheard in the Halls: Part 23 (The Muffled Edition)

The pre-season, er, annual start-of-school inservice training is underway via computer. I’m listening to Fr. Martial, our new headmaster, explaining some of the new procedures. He stops abruptly.

An animated dark grey hairball appears on one of the secondary screens and resolves into a Persian-something cat.

Mrs. Noun: No, Fido, stop that. Get down from there.

The grey visitor is removed. The meeting resumes.

Fr. Martial: And in concl— Woof Woof!

Voice from off-camera: I’m sorry Father! Dog, come back here! We’re fostering him for the service-dog program. I’m sorry.

A German shepherd-looking not-quite-puppy pops his head into view before being escorted out of the office.

Fr. Martial: Time for a break. We’ll resume in ten minutes.

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China and Floods

China is, alas for the Chinese, not a stranger to Floods of Unusual Size and Lethality. When a lot of people settle on flat land, around a river that has started to flow above ground level, problems may ensue. The political and environmental history of China going back to the 1000s has many stories of terrible floods and the political consequences for the dynasty then in charge.

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Caring for Public Things

The area around RedQuarters has been blessed (?), has endured (?), has had the roads repaved. It’s about once every 6-8 years or so, and the city puts down more tar, gravel, and tar. The days leading up to the application are tense, the day of is frantic with “Quick, get out before you’re stuck!” and “Aiee, move your car, move your car!” for those parking on the street or who have errands later that day. The mix needs at least two hours to “set” before you should drive on it, so the parking areas around the neighborhood got rather full. Continue reading

Turning the Yellow River Yellow

This is a re-post from 2017. I’ll have a follow up this weekend, since flooding in China has been worse than usual, with some very concerning reports about the structure of the Three Gorges Dam.

One of the assumptions, or perhaps tropes is a better word, of certain parts of the environmental movement is that only Western countries, or only capitalist economic systems, cause environmental degradation. Or they might stretch it to argue that only countries that have experienced the Industrial Revolution destroy their physical and biological environments, because it takes steel and machines to really ruin the landscape. This idea comes in part from where the modern environmental movement originated, in part because of lingering fumes of the “noble savage” idea, and in part because English, French, German, and Spanish-language sources are a lot more common and easier to work with for most researchers. However, in the past 15 years or so, people have been looking outside the European sphere-of-influence, and digging into archaeological and geographic information to show that no, humans have been “degrading” their environment for a very long time. Continue reading