Jan 242012

Wired has a great story on Urban eXperiment in Paris titled The New French Hacker-Artist Underground. I’ve heard little bits about Untergunther through other stories via Urban Exploration, but Jon Lackman gives a fresh narrative to the information.

UX’s most sensational caper (to be revealed so far, at least) was completed in 2006. A cadre spent months infiltrating the Pantheon, the grand structure in Paris that houses the remains of France’s most cherished citizens. Eight restorers built their own secret workshop in a storeroom, which they wired for electricity and Internet access and outfitted with armchairs, tools, a fridge, and a hot plate. During the course of a year, they painstakingly restored the Pantheon’s 19th- century clock, which had not chimed since the 1960s. Those in the neighborhood must have been shocked to hear the clock sound for the first time in decades: the hour, the half hour, the quarter hour.

It reminded me how shocking it is to learn the reactions to much of their work, and how it parallels work and reactions by others. Instead of being celebrated for their good deeds, they are villainized. In the case of the clock, it ends up almost being a case of spite:

… the administration later decided to sue UX, at one point seeking up to a year of jail time and 48,300 euros in damages. Jeannot’s then-deputy, Pascal Monnet, is now the Pantheon’s director, and he has gone so far as to hire a clockmaker to restore the clock to its previous condition by resabotaging it. But the clockmaker refused to do more than disengage a part—the escape wheel, the very part that had been sabotaged the first time. UX slipped in shortly thereafter to take the wheel into its own possession, for safekeeping, in the hope that someday a more enlightened administration will welcome its return.

Reading the article one gets the sense that a lot of the flak they take is because they are exposing incompetence, but I wonder if there is also an element of mistrust for altruism. Either way, it means much of their work goes on in secret.

Oct 022010

Photos of hiking Sturtevant falls, Angeles National Forest

A month back we did a new (to us) hike to Sturtevant falls in Angeles National Forest. The trail head is at Chantry Flat, off Santa Anita Avenue in Arcadia. From there it drops down into the darkest and most lush SoCal valley I’ve been to. Black oaks tower overhead as you walk past tens of cabins along the dammed creek. The falls were nice, even at their dry point during the year. I can imagine that the upper pools would be quite large in the spring. We did the total hike in about an hour and a half, the only crappy part is the climb back up to Chantry Flat. Well worth the time if you are in the area.

More information: Dan’s Hiking Pages

Jan 252007

First up, some interesting newsy links:
Blood Oil – This is a really great story on a very bad situation, highly recommended. “Could a bunch of Nigerian militants in speedboats bring about a U.S. recession? Blowing up facilities and taking hostages, they are wreaking havoc on the oil production of America’s fifth-largest supplier. Deep in the Niger-delta swamps, the author meets the nightmarish result of four decades of corruption.”

Passport applicants find they’re not CanadianMany applying for a Canadian passport have been informed their chance to remain a citizen expired years ago because of an obscure provision in the Citizenship Act, a little-known law that applied between 1947 and 1977.

Now for some photography links:
How Do You Photograph the Amish? Let Us Count the Ways – CJR Daily has a long look at the ethics and methods of photographing people that don’t want to be photographed.

Microsoft Photo Info – Microsoft has released a decent little tool for editing photo metadata.

Photos galleries I’ve recently enjoyed:
Collection of historic Japanese photos
Collection of historic photos from the Library of Congress
Maunsell Army Sea Forts
Chernobyl photos & book
Urban exploration photos in NYC
Urban exploration & photos in the 1906 hydro tunnels behind Niagara Falls

Oct 142005

I learned here that Ninjalicious, the guy behind infiltration.org, has released a book: Access All Areas – A User’s Guide to the Art of Urban Exploration. However, I also learned this bit of sad news:

Access All Areas is a fitting — and final — testament to his passion. Having been diagnosed with cancer last year, Jeff spent much of his time finishing and publishing this book. He died about a month after seeing it in print and debuting advance copies at the annual gathering of urban explorers in Montreal.

You can hear Ninjalicious in these round-table discussions on Canada’s Urban Exploration Radio Station Infiltration.org will still keep going strong, and there are other urban decay and exploration folks out there doing great work.

Urban Exploration Resource (uer.ca) has some great information, forums, and a location database. I have always wondered why there so many Canadian urban explorers. Less people to stop you, or perhaps the boom bust cycle of a trade dependent nation creates more places to explore.

Opacity.us – Has some great photos of urban ruins, and even boat graveyards

Urban-Resources.net has a lot of information on urban architecture and exploration from around the world. Closely related to Urban-Resources.net, Zone-Tour is a database of urban exploration sites. It also has movies from a few locations.

Standing But Not Operating – pictures and history about amusement parks that are standing but not operating

You can see links to other sites by using the ‘Exploration’ category on my blog.

Jul 122005

Human footprints discovered beside an ancient Mexican lake have been dated to 40,000 years ago. Hopefully this will finally make people take a closer look at the Clovis and pre-Clovis viewpoints. Oh, we finally are getting some results on the Kennewick Man after a long legal battle.

Newton’s alchemy manuscript rediscovered in the vaults of the Royal Society.

Stack Rock Fort, about 800 yards off the west Wales coast near Milford Haven, is for sale for £150,000. The 19th Century fort – complete with a couple of cannons – dates back from the time of Napoleon, when it was initially built as a defence for the river Haven. But it has nowhere to sleep at present, and the new owner will have to sort out sewage, water and power.

Underground Ozarks takes a look at D. M. Oberman Manufacturing Company, an abandoned building in Springfield. They also got a tour of Lipscomb Feed Mill, former home of Houn’ Dawg dog food. The mill reminds me of old grain elevators in Alberta.

Another Minsk is a site featuring photos of urban exploration and decay of Minsk in Belarus. Good stuff, just run it through babelfish for the RU to EN translation. Gotta love technology.

Jun 212005

Great urban exploration site: Russian photos and text of abandoned soviet infrastructure

Long-Lost Da Vinci Masterpiece Found Behind Palazzo Walls

“A high-tech art sleuth finds a hollow space behind an Italian palazzo’s murals, and believes he may have discovered a Da Vinci masterpiece not seen since 1563. In a case of life imitating art, Maurizio Seracini, an internationally recognized expert in high-technology art analysis, has done just that – and, in an odd twist, he does indeed appear, as himself, in Dan Brown’s popular bestseller about secrets hidden in Leonardo’s work – the book’s only non-fictional character… Seracini, 55, an alumnus of the University of California, San Diego and a native Florentine, thinks he may be close to finding the lost fresco “Battle of Anghiari” behind murals by Giorgio Vasari in Florence’s Palazzo Vecchio. Using radar, x-rays and other devices, he discovered a narrow cavity behind the Vasari fresco “Battle of Marciano,” and believes that the latter artist, an admirer of the great Leonardo, intentionally created the space to preserve the master’s work.”

“Archaeologists have discovered Europe’s oldest civilization, a network of dozens of temples, 2,000 years older than Stonehenge and the Pyramids. More than 150 gigantic monuments have been located beneath the fields and cities of modern-day Germany, Austria and Slovakia. They were built 7,000 years ago, between 4800BC and 4600BC. Their discovery, revealed today by The Independent, will revolutionize the study of prehistoric Europe, where an appetite for monumental architecture was thought to have developed later than in Mesopotamia and Egypt.”

Interesting book review from the NYT – Forget the Founding Fathers.

“Observed from across the Atlantic, the story of the Revolution looks very different from the one every American child grows up with. To see that story through British eyes, as Stanley Weintraub’s ”Iron Tears: America’s Battle for Freedom, Britain’s Quagmire: 1775-1783” enables us to do, is to see an all-too-familiar tale reinvigorated. Weintraub reminds us that justice did not necessarily reside with the rebels, that the past can always be viewed from multiple perspectives. And he confronts us with the fact that an American triumph was anything but inevitable. History of course belongs to the victors. If Britain’s generals had been more enterprising, if the French had failed to supply vital military and financial assistance, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton and the rest would be known to us not as political and philosophical giants but as reckless (and hanged) losers, supporting players in a single act of Britain’s imperial drama. We would all be Canadians now, with lower prescription drug costs and an inordinate fondness for winter sports.”

Turn On, Tune In, Veg Out – Neal Stephenson (I like his books by the way) has some great thoughts on the new Star Wars and geek culture.

“All such content – as well as the long, beautiful, uncluttered shots of desert, sky, jungle and mountain that filled the early episodes – was banished in the first of the prequels (“Episode I: The Phantom Menace,” 1999). In the 16 years that separated it from the initial trilogy, a new universe of ancillary media had come into existence. These had made it possible to take the geek material offline so that the movies could consist of pure, uncut veg-out content, steeped in day-care-center ambience. These newer films don’t even pretend to tell the whole story; they are akin to PowerPoint presentations that summarize the main bullet points from a much more comprehensive body of work developed by and for a geek subculture.”

Careful Google.. power corrupts: Google plans pay service to rival PayPal

Jun 072005

The photos are older (2002), but the subject is quite fascinating – Jason Levine explores the high line. I had never heard of the high line, but I don’t live in NYC. The high line is an elevated set of tracks that span 22 blocks, from 34th Street to Gansevoort Street. Having long been abandoned by trains, there is 6.7 acres of raised space in NYC that was just sitting there, overgrown. It has been threatened with demolition since the 80’s, but now it looks like they will be converting it to public open space. This could be really cool for New York.

Underground Ozarks visits an abandoned Nike missile site near Pleasant Hill, Missouri. This is a really great read, its amazing some of the stuff is still working. Long live UE!

Photos of digital camera dealers in Brooklyn. A lot of these are bigger names, and if you have ever done a pricegrabber search on a camera, you will recognize them. It is surprising how small and dank some of them are.

Selected Civil War Photographs Collection – A great collection of photos and text from a time when photos weren’t so easy.
Images of the American Civil War – Some more photos of the Civil War
American Civil War submarine found near Panama – A unique boat from 1864 may have inspired Jules Verne to create Captain Nemo’s vessel
Is this Blackbeard’s pirate ship?
The mega list: UNESCO’s World Heritage List sorted by country. It is interesting to browse through them all. Surprisingly, I’ve actually been to a few of them.