• 2023

  • Rodeo is Turning America’s Whitest Big City Black

  • Tressie McMillan Cottom writing for The New York Times:

    In the historical scope, it makes sense why protracted conflict marred this city. It is less obvious what a Juneteenth celebration would mean for Portland. The city does not have Texas’ history with enslaved people. It does not have the cultural history of the American South. And it is not a central part of the Great Migration story of Black history.

    The Portland rodeo is a celebration trying to fasten Juneteenth’s specific story of freedom from slavery to universal themes of place, home and equality. Now that Juneteenth is a federal holiday, communities across the country are doing the same complicated dance. This nation still has not fully acknowledged its national debt to slavery. How can it find a unifying national message around Black freedom without acknowledging white accommodation of slavery? A rodeo is as good a way to explore those tensions as any other. Like a rider wrestling a bull beneath bright lights, reconciling national narratives is not a pastime for the faint of heart.


    Like every story about enslavement and the American West, you cannot talk about Juneteenth in Portland without talking about land. “Ivan very intentionally had the rodeo here at the Expo Center,” Oregon State Senator Lew Frederick said. The Expo Center is near Vanport, a formerly Black working-class enclave built around the shipping industry in the 1940s. A massive storm, followed by flooding, wiped Vanport off the map in 1948. Frederick says there remains a notion among Black Portlanders that the flooding was a convenient excuse for displacing the city’s thriving Black enclave.

    Having the rodeo near Vanport is a way of saying that this is an event for you, for us. And that we remember. For State Senator Frederick, Juneteenth is not only about commemorating news of freedom for Galveston’s enslaved people. It is also about remembering in places where a lot of effort has been made to forget. “That’s what Juneteenth is managing, to tell the history that we have not been told. So it can be told in an Oregonian way.”

    Black Cowboys have been around since long before the cattle-driving era, but sadly pop culture has diminished their myth and legend. These folks deserve every right to commemorate Juneteenth and reclaim their much deserved piece of Western Heritage. Bringing people together to acknowledging and reconcile history over song, pageantry and bucking horses sounds like a superb idea. I know where I wanna be next Juneteenth. I’ll see y’all in Portland.

  • 2019

  • Curbed Marfa Travel Guide

  • Executive Editor at Vox, Mercedes Kraus, penned a travel guide for would-be visitors to Marfa. Marfa is located in West Texas. Heck, even the Simpsons visited Prada Marfa:

    The Simpsons, S30E11: “Mad about the toy”

    Texas, is well known for many things. A couple of venerable and memorable characters from Texas’s past include Sam Houston and Lyndon B. Johnson. A few of my personal favorite things about Texas: the tall skies, grassy hills, semi-arid desert landscapes, swell thunderstorms, quiet dive bars, and loud honky-tonks. It’s easy to forget that Texas has a substantial art culture in Marfa. But, its there damnit! It has frequently been overshadowed by larger-than-life subjects such as Austin’s tech boom, and of course Texas oil booms.

    You can read the entire travel guide here at Curbed. But, I loved this pro-tip on arting and getting to know locals in Marfa:

    For art: Don’t let anyone tell you to skip Chinati. I recommend either the full tour ($25) or all three self-guided tours ($30). The self-guided are “the sheds” (where I experienced a visual symphony), the Dan Flavin buildings (for your Instagram fulfillment), and the new Robert Irwin—an artwork and experience that is in fact an entire building. The thing that I think you, a fan of this newsletter, would really miss if you don’t do the full tour is the arena. If you are unable to take the Judd Foundation tour (see above), you must do the full Chinati tour so that you can experience the arena. (Pro tip: get to know your docent—locals in Marfa are super friendly, will give you great tips, and might even invite you to a local party or happening.)

    For context, The Chinati Foundation was founded based on Donald Judd’s ideas and principles. Honorary Texan, Donald Judd is essentially Marfa’s Patron Saint of Art. For good reason too. If not for him, Marfa would look a helluva lot different.

    Mercedes is on-point about getting to know your locals too. Don’t be shy. Texas’s state motto is, after all simply, friendship. You might just make a friend. Having a Texan in your contact book is like personally knowing a hobbit. Cherished, magical and kind.

  • Word on the Water, a Floating Bookshop in London Kings Cross, Regent’s Canal

  • The whole idea of a floating bookstore is just so quaint and charming. The interior of Word on the Water is probably exactly what you are imagining. Bobbing up-and-down in London, England at Regent’s Canal, is the utterly unique Word on the Water bookshop.

    It’s has cozy corners, thick carpets and a complimentary hardwood interior. The dimly lit hull interior is stuffed with tall stacks of books for reading. My idyllic nap decor if we’re being completely honest. The exterior features planks that over-extend over the canal sidewalk for laid-out books for passerby customers. I wonder if the unique bookstore has a book on boat speak?

    You can read more about Word on the Water at Atlas Obscura, here.

  • Micronations

  • Very few micronations exist. Microsnations, by definition are self-proclaimed (and often unrecognized countries). Only about 67 exist, as of writing according to research from Quartz. My favorite tid-bit from Quartz’s research is the micronation Zaqistan, which is located in Utah. If you’ve ever been to Utah, you know how comical this is. There is, and I am not understating this — nothing out there.

    Don’t believe me? That’s ok. Here is Zaqistan on Google Maps. Take a peak at that aerial view. Here are the coordinates for your GPS if you ever want to trek out there: 41.440006, -113.427229

    If you really want to go the mile you can apply for a passport from Zaqistan’s (or is it Zaq Landsberg’s) website:

    Zaqistan is small, remote and bound on all sides by the United States. It is as of now unrecognized by any other country. It is NOT POSSIBLE to travel to Zaqistan without going through the United States. Zaqistan is a fledgling, developing nation.

    There are no living facilities, no roads, and no water in Zaqistan, it is not possible to live in Zaqistan. We currently visit Zaqistan for only a few days of the year, and no one lives there year round.

  • The New York City Subway Map as You’ve Never Seen It Before

  • I love interactive stories like these. This story, was written by Antonio de Luca and Sasha Portis at the New York Times. It begins here:

    In 1979, responding to complaints from riders that the subway map was difficult to use, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority hired the Manhattan design firm Michael Hertz and Associates to create a new map.

    That map. The problematic Massimo Vignelli (RIP) subway map designed in 1972, and it was cool-looking but wow, was it unusable:

    No wonder Vignelli’s map only lived 7 years. It’s pretty difficult to find these lying around anymore, but you can find them for sale on eBay. You used to be able to even find them at old subway stations, still plastered up on waypoints or platform corkboards.

    Portis and de Luca did an outstanding job on this interactive Times story. If you enjoy trains or even New York history, you’ll love this story. Read it here.

  • Mount Fuji Cutting Through the Clouds

  • Just unbelievably beautiful.

  • Southwest Airlines to Leave Newark Airport as Toll of Boeing’s 737 Max Grounding Grows

  • Amie Tsang for the New York Times:

    Southwest, reporting second-quarter earnings, said that as a result of the troubled jet’s grounding, its passenger numbers had declined, its costs had increased and it had lost an estimated $175 million in profit. Operating income for the second quarter was $968 million, $4 million less than the same period the year before.

    Kind of remarkable. I wonder how much worse this will get before an airline sues Boeing for losses.

  • A Catalog of Public Agencies Graphic Design, Public — Archive

  • The publicarchive.studio homepage reads:

    A space dedicated to preserving public agencies use of graphic design throughout the 20th century. 

    I’m a total sucker for this kind of design ephemera. One, it’s deeply nostalgic for me. Secondly, this sort of digital preservation effort is pretty tough to come by these days. So, it deserves attention and gratitude. It’s brilliant seeing these catalogued and organized by country and department. I’m looking forward to seeing this collection grow!

    Give the website a spin, it’s really really rad that Julian Bialowas (@julianbialowas) took the time to catalog these. You can follow the Public Archive Studio (@publicarchivestudio) here on Instagram. Here’s a sampling from the website:

    Brochures and travel guides from Parks Canada.
    A selection from Yosemite and Yellowstone National Parks.
    A selection of brochures from Mesa Verde National Park.

    As an aside, if this sort of stuff floats your boat, something tells me you’ll enjoy the Reagan Ray’s blog. Apart from being a one-heck-of-a design hombre over at Paravel, he’s catalogued some interesting stuff like, Airline Logos, 80’s Action Figure Logos, and my personal favorite — Railway Logos.

  • (Life) While Traveling

  • This Staff Pick hit me right in the feelers.

    It’s a short film from Joan Bosch (he/him), a Spanish filmmaker “based between Madrid and Barcelona.” From the short film’s description on Vimeo:

    “(Life) While Traveling” is a short film about the way we look to the world when we travel. It’s about colors, shapes, textures and details that surrounds us every day, but we only realize when we are far from home.

    Gorgeous, emotional, and even a tad nostalgic. Really motivates me to take stock of what we have here, on Earth. Joan really hit me in the feelers on this one. Enjoy.

  • The Unites States of GDP

  • From G Zero Media:

    If the state of California were an independent country, it would have the fifth largest economy in the world, according to a fascinating report by The Economist that looks at both that state and Texas as the harbingers of two alternative futures for the United States. That got us thinking – how do the economies of the individual US states stack up against other countries? California’s economy is about the size of the United Kingdom’s, while Texas’s matches up with Canada’s. Who’s on par with Sri Lanka or the Czech Republic? Our map’s got ’em all.

  • A rock formation jutting out of the Canadian tundra in the spring.


  • I went down another Wikipedia rabbit-hole this weekend. The last time I did that I learned about Abiogenesis.

    This time around, I began reading more about Aphex Twin, and ultimately ended up at Ivvavik National Park. Not so sure what I read in-between or how I got there — but in case you’re interested, Engigstciak, is a rock formation at the Ivvavik National Park. It’s really striking. I believe it’s particularly beautiful. So much so in fact, I was inspired to write a bit about it:

    A rock formation jutting out of the Canadian tundra in the spring.
    Photo courtesy of Daniel Case and Wikimedia Commons.

    There’s also this really interesting paper available on JSTOR regarding Engigstciak’s surrounding geology. You can view it for free with a JSTOR account. I love this stuff. If you’re a fan of Bill Bryson, something tells me you’ll enjoy this paper too:

    A page from the 1961 paper.

    The Yukon is a pretty vast, and unorganized expanse (something my Texan heritage has informed me I might enjoy). Within the wide and unforgiving tundra are archaeological heritage sites. It turns out, Engigstciak happens to be one:

    [Pottery found at the site] likely relates to the Norton Culture (Norton Check-Stamped Ware) which is found predominantly in the coastal reaches of northern Alaska. Although dating from the last few centuries B.C., this vessel is part of a ceramic making tradition which began in Alaska more than 3500 years ago and was inspired if not imported from Siberia.

    The Ivvavik National Park is so remote in fact, that the nearby airport — Sheep Creek International Airport, is merely just a strip of gravel.

    The Yukon seems nice.

  • 2018

  • Hemingway’s Six-Toed Cats

  • If you ever find your self in Key West (the Southernmost Point in the continental US), do yourself a favor. Go visit their local museums.

    Key West has a very interesting maritime history. According to local tradition, many years ago, it once was a very popular marine salvage port. Conveniently, there was also an alarmingly high population of grifters and pirates in Key West who would, on occasion run false lights near the reefs and beaches to confuse oncoming ships and their captains. Ships moored or run-aground by these false light antics would become damaged (mostly at the hands of pirates). They would raid the ships cargo, set it ablaze, and ultimately the ship would become salvaged:

    Maritime records abound with events where complete ships, cargos, passengers and crews were saved. Most expect that the entire gambit from heroism to outright piracy existed. Tales of moving navigation lights to placing false lights exist. The Georgia Gazette of October 7, 1790 ended an article of two English ships, one saved and one lost, as follows: “. . . The wreckers [Bahamians] generally set the ships on fire after they have done with them, that they may not serve as a beacon to guide other ships clear of those dangerous shoals.” This editorializing by the writer implies that the wreckers did not want markers showing other ships where the dangerous reefs were. The same arguments can be made that wreckers moved navigation lights to cause groundings. Most likely when any ship saw any light it would immediately know it was far too close and steer away to seaward. A better argument would be that they extinguished the lights. There is no real data to substantiate these allegations. 

    Pretty neat huh? But what I really want to talk about, is Ernest Hemingway. You know, that one. He once lived in Key West, and now his home is the Hemingway Home & Museum. Interestingly, Hemingway was given a six-toed (polydactyl) cat:

    The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum is home to approximately 40-50 polydactyl (six-toed) cats. Cats normally have five front toes and four back toes. About half of the cats at the museum have the physical polydactyl trait but they all carry the polydactyl gene in their DNA, which means that the ones that have 4 and 5 toes can still mother or father six-toed kittens. Most cats have extra toes on their front feet and sometimes on their back feet as well. Sometimes it looks as if they are wearing mittens because they appear to have a thumb on their paw.

    Ernest Hemingway was given a white six-toed cat by a ship’s captain and some of the cats who live on the museum grounds are descendants of that original cat, named Snow White. Key West is a small island and it is possible that many of the cats on the island are related. The polydactyl cats are not a particular breed. The trait can appear in any breed, Calicos, Tabbies, Tortoise Shell. White, Black, etc. They vary in shapes, sizes, colors and personalities.

    […] Hemingway named all of his cats after famous people so we follow that same tradition today. Cats are capable of learning and responding to their names, particularly if they have an affectionate relationship with
    the person who calls them.

    Here’s a picture of one of the polydactyl kitties, the image sourced from the museum website:

    Hemingway’s six-toed cats continue to live onward. Just, living the best life. I love it.