Islands on Islands on Islands

Here is something fun and inconsequential to think about over the Thanksgiving break:  islands on islands on islands, or, as they’re known, “triple islands.”

sweater within a sweater

Triple islands are a relatively recent geographic phenomenon du jour, likely aided in popularity (at least on some level) by the successful, though somewhat-laughable and oft-meme’d, blockbuster film, Inception.  There are at least three recognized triple islands on the planet: one in the Philippines known as Vulcan Point, and two in Canada — one on Victoria Island, part of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, and one on Glover Island in Newfoundland.  Vulcan Point in the Philippines can be read about in more detail here, which includes a nice zoom-in slideshow of the island.  Below I’ve compiled zoom-in Google Map images of the two in Canada, for which information is a little more scarce.

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Concentric Zones of Building Age in Chicago

Hughie, hold my halo.
I’m sick of being a saint:
Got to teach youngsters
To hit ‘em where they ain’t.
-Ogden Nash


Many of the original and innovative contributions to the field of urban sociology came out of the University of Chicago in the early 20th Century. Influenced by the natural sciences, in particular evolutionary biology, members of the Chicago School forwarded an ecological approach to sociology emphasizing the interaction between human behavior, social structures and the built environment.  In their view, competition over scarce resources, particularly land, led to the spatial differentiation of urban areas into zones of similar use and similar social groups.

Two of the major proponents of urban ecology were Ernest Burgess and Robert E. Park, professors at the University of Chicago, who together in 1925 published a book entitled The City. In it, they propose a model for the spatial organization of cities called concentric zone theory which along with Hoyt’s sector model andHarris and Ullman’s multiple nuclei model  is considered a classic model of urban land use.  In the concentric zone model, the center of an urban area is occupied by its primary business district and is surrounded by rings of different land uses and urban forms. Implied by the model is the idea of residential succession – that people, particularly immigrants, will move outwards from inner-city slums as they assimilate and/or gain higher economic status. Though they were both sociologists, Burgess and Park made extensive use of maps and field work to illustrate and elaborate their theory.  The city of Chicago was their backyard as well as their laboratory, and they used the concentric zone model widely to explain the spatial distribution of social groups and social problems that they and their students observed within different parts of the city.

While some sociological aspects of the concentric zone theory like residential succession no longer apply to Chicago as they did in the 1920s, certain elements of the model are still visible in the city’s landscape today. In the map above, which shows the footprint of every building in Chicago color-coded by the period in which the structure was built, a pattern of concentric zones is quite strikingly apparent. Read more

Geography Poem: John Ashbery’s “Into the Dusk-Charged Air”

Windy Amazon River

John Ashbery is one of America’s most important living poets.  To many, his work is as canonical and radically inventive as that of other English-language forebearers such as Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, T.S. Eliot, and Gertrude Stein.  He’s won nearly every major American award for poetry — in 1975, his book Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror was awarded the so-called “triple crown of poetry,” winning the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award.  However, despite the massive critical recognition, his work is often met with opposition and skepticism as he consistently resists convention, classification, and interpretation.

His poems are best considered as experiences in language in and of themselves, to ask what an Ashbery poem “means” is as fruitless as asking what a cup of coffee “means.”  In this way, John Ashbery frequently subverts the reader’s expectation of what a poem should look and feel like.  In this poem, he takes on “the river,” a perhaps trite and cliche’d symbol in the world of poetry.  By using a different proper noun river name in all but 1 of the 151 lines of this poem, one wonders if Ashbery isn’t “pulling a fast one” on the reader by simply trying to list as many rivers as he can think of.  However, the accumulation of so many proper nouns devalues their status as rivers and a strange allegorical truth begins to pervade the poem, as in “A particle of mud in the Neckar / Does not turn it black.” or “The Inn / Does not remember better times, and the Merrimack’s / Galvanized.”  Notice also how the two most repeated actions — flowing and freezing — can be interpreted in any number of metaphorical ways.

Due to its length, I’ve embedded the poem after the break.

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