Weekly Photo Challenge: Symmetry of the Brooklyn Bridge

SONY DSCIn response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Symmetry.”

Opened in 1883, the Brooklyn Bridge is an engineering marvel, partly due to its system of suspension cables.  Its 3600 miles of steel wire weave a very symmetrical spider web around you as you cross.  See my previous post about A LITERARY AND CULINARY TRIP ACROSS THE BROOKLYN BRIDGE, NEW YORK CITY.

All is Not Grey in Seattle: Best Books Set in Seattle by Local Writers

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Seattle isn’t always grey. When the clouds thin you just can’t beat the city’s combination of ocean and mountains.

Seattle is famous for its grey skies and currently, for another Unknown-4
grey, Fifty Shades of Grey, that is. Crowds of Shades fans are driving by the Escala condominiums in Seattle, the home of the fictional Christian Grey, among other sites in the books and movie. And, tour operators now offer travel packages that incorporate  Fifty Shades sites, hopefully with a little more romance and a little less S and M.

One writer called the trilogy “Fifty Shades of Bad Writing,” but darn, I wish I wrote those books; that woman has struck it rich.  The movie has received equally stinky reviews, but it will probably do well financially, too.

A little mommy porn can be fun if you’re into, um, pain and bondage, but I’m here to tell you that whether it’s weather or reading, Seattle isn’t just about Grey. If you’re looking for books with a little more literary merit to inform and inspire a trip to the Emerald City, the folks at one of my favorite bookstores, Elliott Bay Books in Seattle have a reading list for you. Here’s a list they sent with some great and pretty recent fiction and nonfiction books set in Seattle, by local authors.

A Sudden Light by Garth Stein (fiction). He also wrote the Art of Racing Unknown-1in the Rain

Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple (fiction)

The Lone Ranger & Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie (fiction) See my other post about Sherman Alexie and banned books.

Blueprints of the Afterlife by Ryan Boudinot (fiction)

Love, Water, Memory by Jennie Shortridge (fiction)

Ceremony for the Choking Ghost by Karen Finneyfrock (poetry)

The Good Rain by Timothy Egan (nonfiction)Unknown-5

Nisei Daughter by Monica Sone (nonfiction)

Pacific Northwest: Land of Light and Water by Art Wolfe (nonfiction – pictorial)

Mary Randlett Portraits by Frances McCue and Mary Randlett (nonfiction – pictorial)

Stay tuned for an upcoming post on Bainbridge Island.

Google Field Trip Now Features Travel Content From Off The Beaten Page Travel

This is what the information looks like the information from this blog looks like on the Google Field Trip app
This is what the information looks like the information from this blog looks like on the Google Field Trip app on your phone.

Everyone wants to get more out of their vacation dollar and their precious vacation time. And, more than ever, travelers are seeking meaningful experiences that elevate their vacations above the humdrum and typical. That’s why I’m delighted that people who designed Google Field Trip, an app for your smart phone, have chosen offthebeatenpagetravel.com as one of Field Trip’s content providers.

If you follow this blog or have read my book, Off The Beaten Page: The Best Trips for Lit Lovers, Book Clubs and Girls on Getaways, you know the goal is to bring travel and literature together in a way that enrichs both experiences. Now, as you travel you can obtain “hyper-local” information from the  offthebeatenpagetravel.com blog that applies to various points of interest wherever you happen to be on your trip.

Field Trip runs in the background on your smart phone, grabs your location (via cell tower, Wi-Fi or GPS) and shows you nearby points of interest. When you get close to something significant, it pops up a card with details about the location. Or, you can use the map to navigate to a specific location you’re planning to go and view cards that describe everything there from history to restaurants to bargains in local shops. Cards are grouped into categories and offthebeatenpagetravel.com information appears under “Cool and Unique.” If you have a headset or bluetooth connected, it can even read the information to you, which Slate writer Seth Stevenson said is like “having a museum audio guide for the entire world.”

So, for example, if you’re in Salem, Massachusetts, you’ll see a card linked to this blog with information about The House of Seven Gables, made famous by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Or, in Santa Monica, California, you can learn about how the famous noir crime writer Raymond Chandler gained inspiration in that town and how the famous pier is featured in his work.

I find myself more and more reliant on GPS and Google Maps as I travel because the technology makes it so much easier to find my way around new places, especially while I’m driving. Check out the Field Trip app to find another new way to make your travel easier and more interesting.

Check out the Field Trip video. You’ll want to take off.

Wonder Woman in Her Many Forms

 Wonder Woman Katy a super-size painting by artist Barbara Porwit on display at the University of Minnesota's Nash Gallery, part of the  WonderWomen exhibit. (photo by Doug Webb connectartists.com)
Wonder Woman Katy a super-size painting by artist Barbara Porwit on display at the University of Minnesota’s Nash Gallery, part of the “WonderWomen” exhibit. (photo by Doug Webb connectartists.com)

I love it when events and my reading coincide. WonderWomen, an art exhibit at the University of Minnesota’s Nash Gallery  in Minneapolis runs from now until February 14. Though they didn’t plan it that way, the exhibit came on the heels of the release of Harvard historian Jill Lapore’s new book, The Secret History of Wonder Woman, which details the weird life of William Moulton Marston, Wonder Woman’s creator and also the inventor of the lie detector test.

Wonder Woman—part superhero, part kinky-booted pinup girl—9780385354042flew into American culture in 1941 and has been part of our pop culture ever since. Along with the biography of Wonder Woman and her creator, Lepore’s book is analysis of women’s history and feminism. The WonderWomen exhibit examines that topic from the pop-art perspective. It features works by women artists inspired or influenced by comics, animation or popular culture, and related screenings of work by women filmmakers presented by the Film Society of Minneapolis St. Paul. Read my article about the show in the Minnesota Women’s Press.

One of my favorite works in the show, “Wonder Woman Katy” dominates the room at the Nash Gallery. She wears a red cape and she’s seven feet tall. Don’t mess with her. That’s the image Minneapolis artist Barbara Porwit wants to convey in her Breast Cancer Superhero Portrait Project,  a series of larger-than-life paintings of real women battling the disease, of which “Wonder Woman Katy” is a part. Porwit’s works celebrate the heroic nature of women affected by breast cancer

Frenchy Lunning, a professor of liberal arts at Minneapolis College of Art and Design and an internationally known expert in manga, anime (Japanese comics and animation) and popular culture, is co-curator of the exhibit. She says, ”The takeaway for viewers is to become aware of the magnitude of feminine culture and how feminist art, with all of its potentially subversively qualities, is entering mainstream culture.”

Even if you can’t make it to the WonderWomen exhibit, you’ll want
to read The Secret History of Wonder Woman.    A New York Times review of the book called Wonder Woman’s creator “….a huckster, a polyamorist (one and sometimes two other women lived with him and his wife), a serial liar and a bondage super-enthusiast. As Wonder Woman would say, “Suffering Sappho!” How can we resist?

Graffiti at 5 Pointz New York City

The ultimate in self-expression: Graffiti in the Five Points section of New York City.
Vandalism or self expression? Graffiti in Queens, NYC

This week’s photo challenge is express yourself.  While some call it vandalism, there’s no more in-your-face, larger than life form of self-expression than graffiti.  For the past 20 years, the mecca of that gritty urban art form has been 5 Pointz, a dilapidated  factory complex in Queens, New York City.

Founded as the Phun Phactory in 1993, it was designed as a place for street artists to legally practice their craft. Here, aerosol-can Picassos made the derelict buildings beautiful and gained worldwide fame.

Sadly, the buildings were recently demolished to make way for yet more shiny high-rise apartment buildings.

New: From the Ashes of the World Trade Center

 

The new One World Trade Center rises over lower Manhattan.
The new One World Trade Center rises over lower Manhattan. The final component of the skyscraper, its glowing spire, made the building’s height 1,776 feet, tallest in the Western Hemisphere.

Who doesn’t feel like they know just about everything there is to know about 9/11? We’ve seen the video tapes of planes crashing into the World Trade Center on September, 2001 countless times and viewed special reports and documentaries without end. Yet, when I stepped into the new National September 11 Memorial Museum I found that there actually was more to learn, but more importantly, to remember.

Located underground in the heart of the World Trade Center site, the museum tells the story of what happened on 9/11, including the events at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the story of Flight 93 that crashed in Pennsylvania. The exhibition explores the background leading up to the events and examines their aftermath and continuing implications.

In Foundation Hall,  the "Last Column," stands 36-feet high and is covered with mementos, memorial inscriptions, and missing posters placed there by ironworkers, rescue workers and others.
In Foundation Hall, the “Last Column,” stands 36-feet high and is covered with mementos, memorial inscriptions, and missing posters placed there by ironworkers, rescue workers and others.

Even though we’ve seen them so many times, when those video clips and films of what led up to the attack played in the museum the people watching them with me all had the same reaction: “Oh my God.” There are video taped stories from people who were there, displays of artifacts ranging from fire trucks and twisted metal beams to personal objects of people working in the towers that day (really personal things like shoes and purses), papers that rained down, and a portion of one of the stairways from which survivors escaped the building.

The National 9/11 Museum at ground zero in New York City is underground with entry adjacent to a portion of staircase from one of the World Trade Center towers.
The National 9/11 Museum at ground zero in New York City is underground with entry adjacent to a portion of staircase from one of the World Trade Center towers.

As one would expect in such an emotionally and politically charged situation, many parts of the museum have been controversial. Some people object to the the way one exhibit connects Islam and terrorism and the simple fact of tourists gawking at what is essentially hallowed ground offends some of the families. Nonetheless, I felt like the curators struck the right balance.

Many survivors of the attack on the World Trade Center and their families are very involved with the museum and give tours and talks at the complex. I felt lucky to be there for a presentation by an NYPD officer who was on site that day and a young woman whose father died trying to get people out of one of the towers. Their stories made it all very personal. Not a dry eye in the house.

I left the museum to stroll around the 9/11 Memorial outside with its two square waterfalls surrounded by the names of those lost in the attacks. The newly opened One World Trade Center–the tallest skyscraper in the Western Hemisphere and the fourth tallest building in the world–towers, symbolically, over it all.  I’m sappy enough to feel proud of the way the city and the country has moved on, but still remembers.

If you go: Admission, $24 for adults. Go to 911memorial.org to reserve tickets, download the free 9/11 app to enhance your tour and for directions. images-1

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Read up: As usual, I recommend a bit of reading before you go which adds immensely to enhance your experience. And, as usual, I recommend fiction books for their ability to layer events and emotions to create a story that is almost more real than non-fiction. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close- Jonathan Safran Foer, Falling Man, Don DeLillo. For nonfiction, check out an anthology of New Yorker articles,  After 9/11- edited by David Remnick.

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Reading and Travel “Off The Beaten Page” at Inkslingers

SONY DSCI’m looking forward to Saturday…..

Saturday, November 15, 1:30 p.m.
“Inkslingers” writers series at Shakopee Public Library
235 Lewis St. S.
Shakopee, MN. 55379
952-233-9590

I’ll talk about my book, Off the Beaten Page: The Best Trips for Lit Lovers, Book Clubs and Girls on Getaways and a few of the “how-tos” of literary travel (especially with groups) and a bit about writing and blogging.

Travel to the places you read about. Read about the places you travel.

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