American Elephants

The Strange Beauty of Planned Cities Seen From Space by The Elephant's Child


Wired features a fascinating series of pictures of planned cities seen from space. A planned city is laid out all at once and built from scratch. They are designed with a definite purpose, to formalize a capitol city, to maximize green space, or just to organize people into their proper places. Some were designed as a compromise between two cities vying to be their country’s capitol. Some are built to keep workers near a nuclear plant or a copper mine in the middle of nowhere. Some are designed to be a kind of Utopia—with public gardens, promenades, throughways and harmony— to improve on what city design has been before or what other cities have grown to become.

City planning is not just contemporary, planned cities can be found throughout history. The pictures from space are beautiful, and somehow haunting. Imagine the architects or planners seeing their original plans and drawings newly visualized in reality—what was once only a dream.  See all ten here.

The Very Creepy Cult of Personality by The Elephant's Child

The Obama Campaign in 2008 depended heavily on a cult of personality. One wouldn’t think that the techniques of personality as imposed on the desperate citizens of North Korea would ever be attempted in the United States of America.

They have not given up on the technique. The Obama campaign is now offering a print of Obama’s O-Logo flag for just $35.00.

Doug Ray pointed out some similarities to present events. He tweeted:

Weird… BO’s O-Logo US flag bears a resemblance 2 the blood stained walls of US embassy (post terrorist attack)

Over at Human Events, David Harsanyi has assembled a


It’s an excellent collection, quite representative, but there is lots more available if you look. It is indeed creepy. Perhaps it is inevitable in a time of celebrity-worship such as today. Man-in-the-street interviews clearly show that more people can answer questions about their favorite celebrity than can identify their senator or the vice president.

When we elect a president, we are hiring a manager for the executive branch of the government. Back when the Revolution was won, and George Washington was unanimously elected to be the first President of the new United States of America, many thought he should be a king, that he should be called “your highness.” A President was something quite new, and Mr. Washington wisely rejected all aspects of royalty, and trappings of the very class-conscious excess of hereditary divine right of kings.  Pity that Barack Obama never learned much history, nor understood that restraint breeds respect. There’s a reason why Ronald Reagan never took off his jacket in the Oval Office.

I posted this quote from Jonah Goldberg recently. It’s not supposed to be about falling in love.

The people are the boss, the government is the servant. The Constitution is the government’s job description, the Declaration of Independence is its mission statement.  Campaigns are the job interview, elections are the hiring and firing process.

ADDENDUM: Texas governor Rick Perry has a gentle comment to add>

Best Headline of the Month: by The Elephant's Child

Syria threatens to use WMD which are
figment of neocons’ imagination

William Jacobson at Legal Insurrection has great fun reporting on everybody’s comments on current affairs in Syria.  Well, not everybody—just all the liberals, and the Assad regime.  Do read the whole thing.

Historic New York City As You’ve Never Seen It Before by The Elephant's Child

New York City’s Municipal Archives have just released over 870,000 images from its photographic collection. It is, as the Atlantic describes  it,”a visual coming-of-age story, documenting its maturation into one of the world’s most influential cities.”

The Atlantic’s Alan Taylor has sifted through the images, and come up with 53 early and mid-20th century images for their magazine. The Atlantic has done a number of these spectacular photo essays, and they are always worth your time. There is a link to the whole collection, but they warn the website is swamped, and you may have difficulty reaching it. I loved this early street sweeper. Click on the image to enlarge.

Something Wonderful by The Elephant's Child
April 23, 2012, 6:43 am
Filed under: Art, Cool Site of the Day | Tags: , ,

To pass the time during long flights, artist Nina Katchadourian goes to the lavatory, adorns herself in tissue costume, and creates hilarious self-portrait photos in the style of Flemish Renaissance paintings. She calls the series
Seat Assignment Lavatory Self-Portraits in the Flemish Style”

(h/t: Laughing Squid)

This is Elphaba. Friday Morning Cuteness! by The Elephant's Child

Good Morning!  This is Elphaba, a baby Aye-aye who was born November 29 at the Duke Lemur Center. She is one of the many baby animals featured at Zoo Borns, a website that features all sorts of animals being raised in the world’s zoos to save endangered species.

Aye-ayes are considered one of the most unusual primates. It is nocturnal, lives in tropical rainforest, and has a very specialized diet, consisting mostly of the interior of Ramy nuts, nectar from the Traveller’s Palm tree and some fungi and insect grubs.  They are known to raid coconut plantations and have been seen eating lychees and mangoes.

This is a great website to visit, especially after a bad meeting. Who can resist cute baby animals, and has pages and pages of cuteness. In addition to the baby wolves and lions and gorillas, all sorts of animals that I had never heard of. Have you ever seen a baby forest buffalo? Or a baby Bongo? Be careful though, you can get lost in the pictures and spend hours.


The Sad Story of Missing and Endangered Species by The Elephant's Child

The splendid Canadian blog Small dead animals calls our attention to:

Associated Press 2009

Across the tundra 1,000 miles to the east, Canada’s Beverly herd, numbering more than 200,000 a decade ago, can barely be found today.[...]

From wildlife spectacle to wildlife mystery, the decline of the caribou — called reindeer in the Eurasian Arctic — has biologists searching for clues, and finding them.

You know, of course, what comes next —climate change, decimating species, inhuman, lugubrious  etc, etc.

Canadian Press 2011

A vast herd of northern caribou that scientists feared had vanished from the face of the Earth has been found, safe and sound — pretty much where aboriginal elders said it would be all along. …

“Many of the community people reported that elders think this is nothing new. Caribou move.”

Do read the whole thing, and bookmark Small dead animals while you’re at it. Always good sense and something interesting.

Living the Dream in Ontario, Canada. Sigh! by The Elephant's Child

This treehouse was built in Ontario, Canada, featuring  little over seven-hundred square feet of platform spread over eight levels.  There are two cabins, a 50-foot rope bridge, a 120-foot zip-line, an elevator, a full bar and a barbecue. It was built over several summers, totalling about a month. The song in the video is the Flower Duet.

I once had a treehouse when I was small.  Well, more of a tree platform, about four feet square. It sat about seven feet up in a cottonwood by the river.  Our trees were largely either Ponderosa pines or Douglas fir, and that cottonwood was the only non-evergreen of any size.  I found it very scary because it was so high.  Wimp, yes, but I was little, probably 6 or 7.

(Borrowed shamelessly from The Borderline Sociopathic Blog for Boys)

The Top Ten Mysteriously Vanished Civilizations by The Elephant's Child

The Olmec civilization existed from around 1400 BC in the tropical lowlands of  south-central Mexico.  They were master builders and their major sites included ceremonial courts, house mounds, large conical pyramids and stone monuments.  They relied heavily on trade, but by 400 BC they had largely disappeared.  Did volcanic activity cause them to relocate? Were they invaded? By whom? Nobody knows.

Here are nine other civilizations that disappeared completely, but without leaving forwarding addresses.  Where did they go?

A Glimpse of American History by The Elephant's Child

Between 1887 and 1892, John C.H. Grabill sent 188 photographs to the Library of Congress for copyright protection.  Grabill is known as a western photographer, who documented many areas of western life, Native Americans and western landscapes.  Much of his work was centered around Deadwood.  He was particularly known for his photographs in the aftermath of the Wounded Knee Massacre on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

This is a fascinating glimpse of  western history. You could spend hours in this album, or revisit frequently.  Worth all the time you can spare.

The Story Behind Your Flowers by The Elephant's Child

March comes in, they say, like a lion and goes out like a lamb.  Could be.  Today started off with sunshine, and has devolved into brief cloudbursts, short windstorm–the kind that would shut down the turbines— another cloudburst and more sunshine.  It’s 45° and I can still see a patch of blue sky out the window, but clouds dominate.  Fortunately, the grocery stores are full of blooms to assuage the gloom.

There are various bursts — Valentine’s Day flowers were a reminder to every man who entered the store that he’d better not forget to take some home.  We’ll have some green-dyed carnations for St. Patrick’s Day, and then explosions of flowers for Easter and Mother’s Day.  But where do they all come from when the weather is so miserable here?

This fascinating article from the Smithsonian tells the story about how Col0mbia became our major supplier of flowers.  It is a remarkable story of   specialization and innovation.

Michael Ramirez Takes on the “Green” Economy. by The Elephant's Child

Michael Ramirez always has an appropriate comment on the political affairs of the day.  You can see all of his cartoons at  I stand in awe of his talent.


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