Chicago has quite a bit of Brutalism—particularly in hospital buildings and on college campuses—which is weird because this form of architecture does not suggest the nurturing of bodies or young minds. For an appropriate use of Brutalism, I give you the Metropolitan Correctional Center.  Yes, we’re so hardcore in Chicago that we have a Brutalist […]

If I were to pick anywhere in the world to hide Sumerian art in plain sight, I would choose Svaneti.  Svaneti, the Republic of Georgia’s mountainous northwest region, is so remote that it was often used as a kind of safe house for art during times of conflict. Back in 2016, after two flights, an […]

I’m so tired from trying to learn to sleep without sleeping pills that my brain is in a deep freeze.  Talking and writing is like bobbing for apples must think of word stick head in tub of water and try to find the word grab the word with my mouth now what was I saying […]

A few nights ago I was in Norway, eavesdropping on a guy looking for a place to smoke.  The attendant told him “You can’t smoke here but there’s an approved area over by Italy.” I was at Disney’s Epcot Park, which costs $114 a day to visit.  But hey, that price includes the whole world […]

You’re lucky if you have the chance to travel, so going around complaining is pretty lame.  That said, nothing brings people together like shared whining.  So, in the spirit of solidarity, I give you my travel complaints: Glass coffee tables.  Being able to rent an apartment for a few nights is an affordable luxury.  The […]

Originally posted on Picnic at the Cathedral:
In the foreground, a mosque.  In the background, the spire of a Catholic church. This is Sarajevo. Sarajevo is my favorite sort of town: buzzing with dynamic street life, culturally rich and simultaneously traditional and forward-thinking. Trams are gliding by, the traffic is not that crazy and the architecture ranges…

When HOB and I got on a bus in Xi’an we were unclear about when we should get off.  “Just look for a big pagoda” I said—this seemed logical since we were on our way to see something called the Big Goose Pagoda. And that turned out to be a good idea—-we saw this out […]

Before visiting someplace I’ve never been, I need to first project myself there in my imagination.  I do this by picturing one essential cultural experience.  It could be seeing an artwork, walking through a cathedral or listening to a particular sort of music.  Without this initial mind-travel, I can’t conceptualize doing something so strange as, […]

Pingyao, in the Shanxi province of Northern China, combines two of my favorite things: a walled city and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Normally we don’t go walking around on city walls because HOB has a fear of heights.  However, Pingyao’s wall, which was built in 1370 during the Ming Dynasty, is low with a […]

It was in Xi’an that I finally realized that calligraphy is an art of motion. I’d been struggling with calligraphy, trying to recognize it as an art form.  Last year HOB and I intensely scrutinized the world’s most famous collection of calligraphy in the National Palace Museum of Taipei.  I certainly made progress, recognizing the […]