Tanvi Misra is a staff writer for CityLab covering immigrant communities, housing, economic inequality, and culture. She also authors Navigator, a weekly newsletter for urban explorers (subscribe here). Her work also appears in The Atlantic, NPR, and BBC.
We could all use some joy. So here’s a dispatch from NOLA—a city that has seen its troubles, but where the streets continue to be speckled with laughter, music, conversations, and color. Via my officemate/pal Linda Poon:
While the rest of America was transported to the wonders of Wakanda’s Golden City, I (physically) headed over to New Orleans. (It just so happens to be the home of Hannah Beachler, the visionary designer behind “Black Panther’s” fictional kingdom!)
When you’re there, it’s easy to forget that New Orleans, which serves as a backdrop for several TV shows and Hollywood films, isn’t a fictional city. Houses come in different hues: sky blue, mint green, and bubble gum pink. (The latter, I learned, is supposed to signify wealth). In City Park, a “Singing Oak”—a majestic Oak tree with strategically hung chimes—serenades those who sit under it, in harmony with the breeze. Tucked away in the Garden District is an unassuming shopping arcade that was built in the 1880s as a skating rink. At the height of the skating boom at that time, performers on wheels used to entertain scores of tourists passing by the city. So if I had to describe New Orleans with one word, it would have to be whimsical.
Now that I’m back in D.C., with its streak of miserable rain, I’m onto my next destination. This time, to an actual fictional place: Wakanda. No spoilers, please.
Other highlights from CityLab: a beautifully illustrated history of Single Room Occupancy (SRO) housing, common in the early 20th century. ¤ A modernist branding scheme for a modernist Indiana town. ¤ “Real crypto stories, or fake news? You be the judge.” ¤ The Mexican village with Aztec-era agriculture. ¤ Roses are red, violets are blue, to find a BF, don’t rely on HQ2. ¤ An exhibition inspired by the Green Book, a Jim Crow-era guide for black travelers. ¤
Here's what else we're reading, watching, and listening to:
A guy in Toronto sings jingles to advertise what a good tenant he is. (BlogTo) ¤ What’s it like to be a writer-in-residence at a homeless shelter. (Guernica) ¤ “Every building is like a self-contained little world, a microcosm of humanity.” (Tin House) ¤ What celebrating Lunar New Year looks like in a gentrifying Chinatown. (NPR) ¤ “In other photos, you’ll find the diversity the New York City subway engenders—the train car an equalizer in a city that often feels like two different ones depending on the stop.” (The Paris Review) ¤ The worst roommate ever: a horror story. (New York) ¤ A company is offering living/co-working spaces around the world to “digital nomads.” (The New York Times) ¤ As kids, they were sharecroppers picking cotton; now they own the mansion across the street. (Charlotte Observer) ¤ Bijlmer: the failed city of the future. (99 Percent Invisible) ¤ On this remote island off the coast of Maine, “life is dictated by the weather and the ferry.” (The New York Times) ¤ “Mainland Americans have given me no end of grief for this. First rule of Spam Club: You never talk about Spam Club.” (Lenny Letter) ¤
Do I really own the rights to my face, after I’ve given it for free to Google and Facebook? And what can these companies (and governments) do with them? Episode 10 of Mozilla’s IRL podcast goes deep into these “Black Mirror”-esque questions, including how China is trying to build a database with the faces of everyone in their country. That’s 1.3 billion faces! I think I’ll invest in the balaclava business.
View from the ground:
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Over and out,
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