Polivalente de Arte, Ushuaia: Arts High School at The End of The World

Mural at Polivalente de Arte, Ushuaia 1


By any measure, Ushuaia, the city at the end of the world, is a fabulous place to land. As you descend between the rugged Andes’ Martial range, which walls off the city to the north, and the Beagle Channel, which forms its perimeter to the south, you also get a very clear sense of just how isolated the capital of Tierra del Fuego actually is.

As a sprawling, steadily growing home to more than 70,000, it’s also a considerably larger municipality than I expected to find 2,352km (1,461mi) south of Buenos Aires and just 1,309km (814mi) north of the Antarctic Circle.

That size, coupled with a rapidly expanding tourism industry that attracts several thousand visitors from dozens of countries each year –more than 71,000 people have visited thus far during the current cruise season, from September through February– lends itself nicely to the worldly and urban sensibility that belies its isolation, and which manifests itself quite appropriately on the exterior walls of the Polivalente de Arte, by default, the planet’s southernmost high school for the arts. I really liked the muscled tango dancers above.

Founded in 1987 as a high school specializing in fine art, music and ceramics, it was expanded in the early part of last decaded to include studies in multimedia communication, graphic arts and design. I met a few of the school’s recent graduates during my visit and found them to be exceptionally well-rounded academically, very well-spoken, insatiably creative and very eager to learn more. By most accounts, that’s a good measure for any school.

Twenty-two photo follow, all taken in January 2013.

Continue reading…

Pack of Dogs, Quito

Pack of dogs, Calle Haiti, Quito

This wasn’t really the apocalypse. It only looks like one.

This block of Calle Haiti, just a few blocks up the hill from my apartment, is usually a hive of activity at midday. But not last Monday.

The relative quiet was fleeting; during a period that lasted no more than 45 or 50 seconds, not a car passed by, not a soul strolled on either sidewalk, when this pack of dogs appeared from around a corner.

It was garbage day, and they were nonchalantly scoping out what lied ahead and what was left behind. A few seemed a little confused about the streets suddenly belonging to them, but that confusion too was brief, as they continued on confidently, crossing back and forth curb to curb. Until a car roared by. And then another. A few trailed off in a different direction. The apocalypse was over.

Today’s Pic du Jour, the 438th straight, was snapped during an ephemeral early afternoon moment on 23-Mar-2015 in Quito, Ecuador.

Oh by the way, you can now also follow Piran Café with Bloglovin.


Shawl Vendors, Quito

Shawl vendors knitting, Plaza de San Francisco, Quito

At the Plaza de San Francisco in Quito’s centro historico, just two of the dozens of vendors who hawk shawls, scarves, fruit, drinks, gum, cigarettes, meals and sweets there each day, and among the multitudes who fan out across the city.

This was taken during the tail end of an anti-government demonstration as protesters gathered and milled about the square. These three weren’t paying much attention, enjoying instead each others’ company, gossiping, laughing and sharing tea as they knitted.


Today’s Pic du Jour, the 437th straight, was taken on 19 March 2015, and is this week’s contribution to Lost in Translation, a new-to-me blog, and host Paula’s Thursday challenge, ‘multitudes‘.


In Quito – Arte en Orbita: an Exhibit Examining the Democratization of Space Exploration

Arte en Orbita, Quito 01

What does documentation of UFO sightings in Ecuador, a proposal to merge Cuba and Quebec into a new political entity and Bolivia’s Tupac Katari telecommunications satellite have in common?

A collective space and voice for starters, at Arte en Orbita, an exhibit at the Centro de Arte Contemporaneo Quito which despite its outward whimsical flair, raises some important questions about the democratization of space exploration, its commercialization and its great north-south / rich-poor divide.

Arte en Órbita
Centro de Arte Contemporaneo, Quito
March 7 – June 6, 2015
admission free

Since man first stared into the night sky, the exhibit’s introduction reminds us, outer space has provided the brain food for humankind’s collective imagination, helped create its mythologies and fostered its scientific research and discovery. With more than 1,100 active satellites orbiting the planet at any given time –along with some 2,500 that no longer function– that relationship remains as true and vital now as ever.

Well before the dawn of colonization, the Ecuadorean capital was already serving as a center of astronomical observation. With the recent launching of Pegaso and Krysaor, the country’s first commercial satellites, the city provides a timely setting from which to attempt to generate a link between the ancient tools used to help understand the cosmos to modern technologies whose proliferation, wide availability and relative low cost can reconnect humankind to space in a more participatory and democratic way.

Continue reading…

B&W Street Photography from Ecuador, Poland & Slovenia Featured

B&W Street Photography from Ecuador, Poland & Slovenia Featured

Edge Of Humanity

A small collection of my black and white street shots were featured on Edge of Humanity Magazine a few days ago, including my favorite street snap, the Quito Mannequin Transporter, which I like so much it’s the only image I’ve made available with which you can decorate your mobile phone. How’s that for playing favorites?

That was taken during a previous visit to Quito; the other photos were taken in Katowice and Krakow, Poland, and at home in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

Edge of Humanity is a busy site, featuring lots of great images from all corners of the planet. When you’ve got a few minutes, check it out. You can find and follow them on Facebook and Twitter, too.


So, Where Does That Airport Code Come From?

So, Where Does That Airport Code Come From?

Donetsk Airport, February 2005

Donetsk Airport (DOK), February 2005

Ever wonder why LA’s airport three-letter code is LAX? And Chicago O’Hare is ORD? Why Newark is EWR, Toronto is YYZ and Quito UIO?

Designers Lynn Fisher and Nick Crohn were curious too, so they collected some of the answers and found a home for them on their website airportcod.es. At the moment they’ve listed 261 airports from 77 countries. Readers are welcome to contribute more.

So, what’s up with LAX? A simple explanation.

Los Angeles International Airport, Los Angeles
Before the 1930s, airports had two-letter codes. When codes switched to three letters, many added the letter X to the end. LA (Los Angeles) became LAX. (See also: PDX.)

And Quito?

Mariscal Sucre International Airport, Quito, Ecuador
Mariscal Sucre International is named after Antonio José de Sucre, who fought for the independence of Quito, in what is now Ecuador. Because the Federal Communications Commission reserved codes starting with Q, it opted for other letters from its home city of QUItO.

Via Slate via Laughing Squid.


Ralph McGehee: I was in the CIA for 25 years — Here’s how I explained my job to my kids

Ralph McGehee: I was in the CIA for 25 years — Here’s how I explained my job to my kids

Tribunal on CIA Operations

Ralph McGehee at the Tribunal on CIA Operations (Photo: Wikipedia)

Ralph McGehee’s 1983 book Deadly Deceits: My 25 Years in the CIA –and a subsequent lecture by the former CIA officer a few years later– introduced to me, in convincing and dispassionate detail, some of the darker chapters for which the Central Intelligence Agency, a government agency in which so few are ever held accountable that it seemingly operates above the law, has come to be known.

It was in a broad sense a history text, one I read, reread and referenced many times. I still have the autographed copy I bought at that lecture in 1986. In the ensuing years, McGehee’s name has in some respects been reduced to a footnote, albeit a critically important and often-used one. His disclosures, along with those of John Stockwell and Philip Agee in the 1970s and 1980s, helped forge the framework on which the litany of agency abuses documented in the three decades since have rested, and which are now acknowledged as part of the historical record.

Business Insider published an excerpt from the book yesterday, a somewhat light-hearted account –given the subject matter– of McGehee explaining to his daughters what he did for a living when he and has family were stationed in Asia. It was the first time I’ve seen his name in some time, a perfect opportunity to briefly revisit his book.

Continue reading…