A couple small things, perhaps random and unconnected:

My favorite online find this week (and maybe ever): The Boston Globe’s “The Big Picture” blog. It publishes several topical photo essays each week. I happened across it while looking for space pictures of Hurricane Ike. What I found instead was a gallery of hurricane pictures shot from the International Space Station and various shuttle missions. From far above, the storms are ethereal in their beauty. All the other collections I’ve seen on The Big Picture are absorbing, too. Check out the current show, on the worldwide observance of Ramadan.

Words still matter: Attempting to justify my long-term New Yorker subscription by actually reading the thing, I picked up the September 15 issue yesterday. It fell open to a story called “A Cloud of Smoke,” about disputed findings of post-mortem examinations of a former New York police officer who may have died from the after-effects of working on the World Trade Center pile after September 11, 2001. It’s a good piece of journalism, but I was captivated by the opening of this paragraph:

“The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner has the unrenovated pallor of a forgotten city agency. Dimmed by a concrete overbite, the street entrance manages to look at once ominous and shabby—a homely approach to an agency that houses one of the largest and busiest forensic labs in the country. Even by the standards of other big cities, New York has a prolific capacity to produce dead bodies, and, as Chief Medical Examiner, Charles Hirsch is responsible for the processing of some twenty-five thousand fatalities a year—nearly half the city’s annual total. Roughly fifty-five hundred of those cases require autopsy, including all deaths that are violent, sudden, mysterious, or in some way related to public or consumer safety. …”

“Unrenovated pallor.” “Dimmed by a concrete overbite.” “At once ominous and shabby.” I felt like I was standing in the building when I read that.

2 Replies to “Miscellany”

  1. I know buildings like that. Those are fabulous. The old courthouse here would fit those descriptions perfectly.
    I consumed that whole piece like I’m sure you did.

  2. Yeah, the article was pretty absorbing. Tragic, too. I read it on the train coming home from work and hardly noticed where the heck I was.
    And yes, maybe the description of that building was so powerful because it was detailing a scene we’ve all come across. Lots of good writing in that magazine; the same issue has an incredible piece on tunneling through the Alps. Wow.

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