Zito Madu on learning French

This is now the third time I’ve covered Zito Madu on one of my blogs (see his features on Playrface and Sampleface). Here, he discussed his year of learning French in 2020:

Marseille is a beautiful city, as most cities by the sea and with ancient architecture, large churches and cathedrals tend to be (not to mention Le Corbusier’s city within the city). It seems like a place built for pictures, and it’s no surprise that there is an infinite number of pictures of it online from the prescribed tourist vantage points. Being in the city, though, I still felt the urge to document what I saw and add to that ever-growing collection of images depicting the city from an outsider’s perspective. I walked from Saint Charles station to Old Port, across Le Panier, through Cite Radieuse, to the Velodrome stadium, and then to the Notre-Dame de la Garde, taking all the necessary photos along the way.

The city is also known for its crime—people who heard I was going there offered advice not just on where to visit, but where to avoid. I walked around for days and looked at all those spectacles and spots engineered for a tourist to be amazed at, but I also went to those places that I was told not to go. It wasn’t so much an act of rebellion or thrill-seeking—Marseille is a city of immigrants, proudly so, and I figured that the people in those shunned places were probably people like me, only separated by luck and the cruelty of Western borders. It felt incorrect to think of a city as beautiful without seeing the people who make it possible, those who are often hidden away from the bubble of tourism.

I was right. Walking through those narrow streets in my black tracksuit, I fit the image of many of the people there. The problem was that I couldn’t speak to anyone. So I declared that I would learn French, because I wanted to live there, and I wanted to be with those people, to talk to, learn from, help, and suffer with them.

A few weeks ago, I posted about the romance of language learning and while there is a connection of love between the two, this is less an affair and more a deeper humanitarian love. Although the learning journey didn’t turn out how he wanted, that aim and passion for Marseille still remain and I wish him good luck in the future.

Liam Wong – After Dark

Liam Wong's After Dark book

We’ve featured Liam Wong previously and now he’s back with a new book called “After Dark”.

After Dark is a one-of-a-kind publication documenting Wong’s nocturnal journeys through the world’s most captivating cities. Following his début monograph, TO:KY:OO, which captured Tokyo’s beauty at night, Wong widens his lens from the city that became his spiritual and photographic muse to Osaka to Kyoto, London to Seoul, Paris and Rome. But he goes still further, seeking the rich tapestries of night-life in the foggy historical streets of his hometown Edinburgh, penetrating the backstreets of the megacity Chongqing, seizing the verticality of Hong Kong from its rooftops.

In classic Liam Wong style, the book has been crafted with a meticulous eye for detail. I particularly like the cinematic feel of the shots and the custom typeface, designed by Toshi Omagari exclusively for the book. 

If you love photography or cinematography, you’ll love After Dark. A crowdfunding project was set up by Volume and met its goal within 48 hours. You can still pledge for a copy here.

Nik Sennhauser's airline meals

Nik Sennhauser and I share a common sentiment. We both miss air travel. To combat his FOMO and general quarantine boredom, Nik decided to start making his own airline flight meals. This from a Thrillist article:

“Having been grounded for nearly a year in January 2021, I was so bored during the weekends with absolutely nothing to do due to restrictions. Like in many other countries, we were confined to our homes,” the Scotland native told Thrillist. “This, combined with the Scottish winter weather, it was just plain miserable.”

He said that one Sunday in January, he made himself a to-go breakfast of hash browns, omelettes, and sausages, and caught himself thinking about what a great in-flight meal it would make.

“Being an avid airline dinnerware collector—I have an airline trolley stocked with plates, glasses, and trays—I plated up the breakfast like an airline meal, actually making use of my collection,” Sennhauser said. 

He continued plating regular meals on his airline dinnerware “just for fun,” but soon had the idea to start actually recreating the dishes he had experienced on his travels. 

Now that I’m double vaccinated (and I hope Nik is or will be soon), I’m hoping to experience this soon albeit a short-haul version when I plan to go to Lisbon and Nice at the end of the year.

You can follow his endeavours on Instagram.

I hope I can visit this Lisbon rooftop bar this year

Photography: Agata Grzaba, Couplet Photography (via The Spaces)

Seasonal ingredients are served alongside sunset views at Lisbon’s Java, which is laid out to make sure every diner gets the best seat in the house.

Studio PIM oversaw the interiors for the Lisbon restaurant and bar, which occupies a harbourside spot in the capital. It’s been carefully arranged to make sure no one has table envy, with diners stationed either on the terrace or close to a window to maximise views.

Java on Google Maps and the main website.

The Gates of Hell in Turkmenistan

Deep in the Karakum desert in Turkmenistan lies something extraordinary: a 230ft-wide hole with fire in it. Known to locals as “The Gates of Hell”, the crater (officially known as the Darvaza gas crater) was the result of a disputed accident:

[…] a Soviet drilling rig accidentally punched into a massive underground natural gas cavern, causing the ground to collapse and the entire drilling rig to fall in. Having punctured a pocket of gas, poisonous fumes began leaking at an alarming rate.

To head off a potential environmental catastrophe, the Soviets set the hole alight, figuring it would stop burning within a few weeks. Decades later, and the fiery pit is still going strong. The Soviet drilling rig is believed to still be down there somewhere, on the other side of the “Gates of Hell.”

The hole has been on fire for 40 years. For more pictures and the story of a Canadian explorer who went down, check out this Guardian article.

(via Atlas Obscura)

'Brutalist Paris' to explore post-war Brutalist architecture in the French capital

from the curved concrete balconies of ‘les choux de créteil’ to oscar niemeyer’s ‘bourse du travail’, ‘brutalist paris’ documents the movement’s most significant examples in and around the french capital. back in 2017, blue crow media commissioned robin wilson and nigel green of photolanguage to research, write and shoot photography for the brutalist paris map. since the map’s publication, through their research, writing and photography, photolanguage have continued to draw attention to brutalist architecture across the city and its suburbs.

See also: Souvenir d’un Futur and the forgotten brutalist estates of Paris

(via designboom)

12 abandoned islands #

Of all the many places around the world that have been abandoned by their inhabitants and left to slump into obscurity and ruin, islands seem among the most unlikely. What’s not to love about an island? Yet there are dozens of isles scattered throughout the world’s oceans that have been deserted by their residents and left all but forgotten.

Of course Disney has an entry in the list:

Disney’s abandoned animal island was almost the coolest attraction ever. Disney opened it as a lush zoological park as the island was home to a number of exotic animals. When the attraction was closed in 1999, the remaining animals were moved to Disney World’s new Animal Kingdom resort, yet the island was simply left to nature, its buildings deteriorating.

Today, the island remains abandoned and off-limits. However some brave urban explorers have managed to infiltrate the island take pictures of what remains. Disney has threatened to ban these adventurers from all Disney properties just for setting foot on Discovery Island, making the whole kingdom seem a little less than magic.

(via Atlas Obscura)

How many countries can you name in 15 minutes?

A part of a globe showing Europe

There are 197 countries in this Sporcle quiz as of 2nd January 2021. How many can you name in 15 minutes?

I could only manage 121 as my mind went blank for a lot of them. I got all but 20 African countries which could have been better but could have been a lot worse. I struggled with Central America/the Caribbean.

It’s strange because you’ll have heard of most of the countries in the list but when you’re asked to recall them all, it’s impossible.

Related: Places I want to visit when it’s safe to do so and, if I do, I might want to read Tom Comitta’s airport novella at the airport.

Places I want to go when it's safe

A plane wing above clouds in the sky

COVID-19 has ruined a lot of things and while people are still travelling for their own reasons, holidays shouldn’t be one of them. And so I’m staying home until it’s safe to travel for that reason.

But when I can, I hope to visit these 5 cities at some point.

Lisbon, Portugal

I visited Lisbon for the first time in 2017 for my birthday and it was a revelation. I’ve never felt so comfortable in a new city in my life. The food was awesome, the architecture was breathtaking, and it cleansed my soul. I returned in 2018 but I’ve not been back since (I went to Nice to spend time with my parents for my 30th birthday).

It’s my mission to go back as soon as it’s safe and legal to fly.

Nice, France

It helps that my parents live there now but before that, I’d visited with my parents on holiday a few times, and my then-partner in 2015. Another Mediterranean city, it’s gorgeous in the summer, lovely food again, and more great architecture as well as a cool modern art museum featuring works by the likes of Yves Klein.

Leeds, UK

I was born in Bradford but never really spent time in Leeds besides the carnival as a kid. In my adult years, I’ve been a few times and it’s a really nice city. My last visit was last year for a solo Valentine’s vacay and my hotel was kind enough to do this:

Shout out Clayton Hotel. I will be back soon!

Chicago, USA

Last visit: July 2012. I went to see friends and, prior to Lisbon, it was my favourite city in the world. It still holds a place in my heart and I hope once it’s safe in all aspects of the word, I would like to go back and see my friends.

Tokyo, Japan

This is the only city on the list I’ve never visited but it’s on the proverbial bucket list. Besides experiencing the culture, trying the food, and taking lots of photos, I want all the Pokémon things and all the Game Boy things. And some vinyl. I’ll probably need £1000–£2000 spending money and an extra suitcase and I’m not joking.

Related: Photography by Liam Wong in Tokyo and Japan travel tips for first timers

Aditya Singh lived inside O'Hare Airport for 3 months unnoticed

Aditya Singh

I’ve always wondered how long you could stay in an airport before someone noticed. For Aditya Singh, that was 3 months.

The 36-year-old man from California told officials after landing at O’Hare Airport in Chicago on 19th October, he was so afraid of COVID-19, he didn’t fly back home and stayed in the airport until 16th January. That means he spent Christmas and New Year’s alone at the airport.

And no one noticed.

Mr Singh was later charged with felony criminal trespass to a restricted area of an airport and misdemeanour theft. The judge presiding over the case was surprised he’d gone undetected for so long.

“So if I understand you correctly, you’re telling me that an unauthorized, nonemployee individual was allegedly living within a secure part of the O’Hare airport terminal from Oct. 19, 2020, to Jan. 16, 2021, and was not detected? I want to understand you correctly.”

As of now, he’s still in police custody with a bail set at $1,000.

Related to airports: Tom Comitta’s airport novella could have kept him company

Officials: Man lived inside O’Hare Airport for 3 months before detection

(via Oddity Central)

Farside: the Toronto bar turning into a VHS rental store

Farside in East Chinatown, Toronto, is known for its love of VHS and now the Toronto bar is taking it to the next level—by offering VHS rentals.

“We’ve managed to accrue 5,000-plus tapes from donations and thrifting. We’re always playing something on the bar’s projector, and used to have movie screenings on Monday nights. Essentially, we had more than enough stock to start renting tapes, so it felt natural.”

Co-owner Mike Reynolds talking to blogTO

Besides films you’d find on Netflix, you can also grab Wrestlemania box sets, rare Star Wars videos, and cult classics like Troll II and Encino Man.

According to photographs from Farside, the pricing is as follows (in Canadian dollars):

  • Membership: $10
  • One tape, one night: $5
  • One tape, two nights: $8
  • Three tapes + VCR for two nights: $40
  • One tapes + VCR for one night: $20

If you had to read those last two offers twice, I don’t blame you. Farside does offer a VCR (HDMI-compatible) and free popcorn.

Head to Farside and grab a piece of nostalgia with a pint or two (if it’s safe to do so). And if you like VHS, check out the last video rental shop in the world although I’m not sure if it can retain that name now.

Contact details

La California: Italy's home of unofficial US polling stations

In a small Italian village called La California, people set up fake polling stations every 4 years for US elections. Atlas Obscura published an article about the settlement and its origins on Tuesday.

With a population of just over 1,000, as a settlement it dates back to the Paleolithic, and reached a peak during the Etruscan civilization in the first millennium BC. But it wasn’t until around 1860, when Tuscany joined the Kingdom of Italy—just a decade after California became America’s 31st state—that Italy’s own California was born. Eventually it would come to feel a kinship with its much larger namesake half a world away.

There’s a debate over where the name came from—the most famous related to Italian conmen promising Sicilians the joy of California, only to take them to Tuscany and keeping their money.

Lost and bamboozled, it is said, the Southern migrants named the town after their hoped-for destination. But Andrenacci has proven this story wrong, with evidence that the village called La California before that time.

There’s also a story starring Buffalo Bill:

Another legend involves the 1890 European tour of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West circus, and a challenge to local cowboys, called butteri. Andrenacci throws cold water on this one as well, and in his book California, Oltre il mito (California, Behind the Myth) offers another solution to the mystery: a man named Leonetto Cipriani.

Whatever the origin, the genesis of the unofficial polling stations started in 2004 and they’ve been going ever since. I wonder whether Las Californians will vote for Trump or Biden.

Los Angeles’s Hidden Japanese Village

Hidden in a 5,000 sq-ft warehouse in Los Angeles lives the Japanese Cultural Village. Fashion designer Peter Lai is the owner of the space and it holds a tremendous collection of Japanese art, antiques, and design.

Lai was born in Hong Kong and initially went into the family business as a costume designer. But in a bold move, he decided to leave China and move to Los Angeles to pursue fashion, an endeavor in which he was extremely successful. His eccentric and flamboyant designs, inspired by traditional Japanese and Chinese styles, were highly acclaimed and have been worn by Hollywood celebrities.

Not sure on the protocol for visits but regular visits and guided private tours were $15 and $30 respectively and available by appointment only, according to Lai’s Facebook page.

The Secret World of Los Angeles’s Hidden Japanese Village

(via Atlas Obscura)