I know from my own experience as a parent, and as a child, that we aren’t very good at listening to those that came before us. But sometimes we really should. From the New York Times, a story from Japan:
The stone tablet has stood on this forested hillside since before they were born, but the villagers have faithfully obeyed the stark warning carved on its weathered face: “Do not build your homes below this point!”
Residents say this injunction from their ancestors kept their tiny village of 11 households safely out of reach of the deadly tsunami last month that wiped out hundreds of miles of Japanese coast and rose to record heights near here. The waves stopped just 300 feet below the stone.
“They knew the horrors of tsunamis, so they erected that stone to warn us,” said Tamishige Kimura, 64, the village leader of Aneyoshi.
Hundreds of so-called tsunami stones, some more than six centuries old, dot the coast of Japan, silent testimony to the past destruction that these lethal waves have frequented upon this earthquake-prone nation. But modern Japan, confident that advanced technology and higher seawalls would protect vulnerable areas, came to forget or ignore these ancient warnings, dooming it to repeat bitter experiences when the recent tsunami struck.
Recently, Ludovic Zuilli, a 28-year old photographer, spent over nine hours walking backwards through the streets of Tokyo. You get the pleasure of watching his journey in reverse.
Tokyo Reverse, the product of that simple editing trick, is a dreamlike journey through a world in which everything and everyone moves backwards. In the footage, captured by friend Simon Bouisson, crowds bustle hurriedly in reverse; people arrive at the top of an escalator with their backs turned; and a selfie is saved, reviewed, captured, and posed for–in that order.
Surreptitiously, Mimura made soles of two slightly different thicknesses, to compensate for the fact that Takahashi’s left leg was eight millimeters — about a third of an inch — longer than her right leg. She had tried a pair of the uneven soles before the Sydney Olympics, but felt uncomfortable.
Still, Mimura felt Takahashi needed such shoes to win and to avoid a recurrence of pain caused by the disparity in her legs. Without Takahashi’s knowledge, Mimura gave her the uneven soles, then wrote a letter of resignation, in case she failed to win gold.
“I decided to take full responsibility because I made this pair against her wishes,” Mimura said of the letter. “I didn’t have to hand it over. It’s still in my desk.”
‘Many times we would enter huge art deco buildings with once-beautiful chandeliers, ornate columns and extraordinary frescoes and everything was crumbling and covered in dust and the sense that you had entered a lost world was almost overwhelming.”
These are the words of the French photographer Yves Marchand who, with Romain Meffre, created one of the most talked-about photographybooks of recent times, The Ruins of Detroit, published in 2011. It portrayed the once-great American industrial city as a kind of lost world, where, as Marchand put it, “the magnificence of the past is everywhere evident”.
Their photographs of abandoned ballrooms, theatres, police stations and entire blocks of once-ornate art deco-style buildings struck a chord worldwide. When I interviewed them just after the book’s publication, the resulting feature and picture gallery became one of the most-viewed online stories on this paper’s website.
In terms of our current collective fascination with abandoned places, the publication of The Ruins of Detroit was a tipping point, the moment when a curiosity turned into an obsession, as a cursory Google search of “abandoned places” will attest. It has grown into an online subculture, where newly discovered abandoned places are constantly photographed and the results shared via websites, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
This is something I’ve often wondered about. Are the distinctions we make between different colours culturally specific or somehow inherent? This article is a great examination of that very question, and much more besides. Here’s a taster, and you can you read the full thing here (via kottke.org).
In Japan, people often refer to traffic lights as being blue in color. And this is a bit odd, because the traffic signal indicating ‘go’ in Japan is just as green as it is anywhere else in the world. So why is the color getting lost in translation? This visual conundrum has its roots in the history of language.
Blue and green are similar in hue. They sit next to each other in a rainbow, which means that, to our eyes, light can blend smoothly from blue to green or vice-versa, without going past any other color in between. Before the modern period, Japanese had just one word, Ao, for both blue and green. The wall that divides these colors hadn’t been erected as yet. As the language evolved, in the Heian period around the year 1000, something interesting happened. A new word popped into being – midori – and it described a sort of greenish end of blue. Midori was a shade of ao, it wasn’t really a new color in its own right.