Linda Poon is an assistant editor at CityLab covering science and urban technology, including smart cities and climate change. She previously covered global health and development for NPR’s Goats and Soda blog.
A roundup of the best stories on cities and urbanism we've come across in the past seven days.
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“Aliens, Archaeology, and the Atomic Bomb: A Road Trip Through the Ruins of the American West,” Brian Phillips, MTV
From the air, I did the inevitable thing, the thing anyone who flies into Roswell must do: I imagined I was looking down from a flying saucer. The outline of the town had surely changed, but the pale gray desert where it’s set would have looked more or less the same on July 4, 1947, the approximate date when, depending on whom you believe, either a military surveillance balloon listening for Soviet atomic activity or a spacecraft of extraplanetary origin went down during a violent storm, fireballing to the ground at a ranch 30 miles north of the city. Depending, again, on which source you trust, this mysterious silvery object either did or did not fall to earth so hard that it left a 500-foot scar in its wake, and the resulting twisted wreckage either did or did not contain a number of alien corpses, the number itself being intensely disputed, which may or may not have been taken to the nearby Roswell Army Air Field, flown to Washington, D.C., to be viewed by Dwight Eisenhower, and/or transported, along with the remains of their craft and its potentially recoverable advanced extraplanetary technology, to the secret military installation known as Area 51, in Nevada, where they were autopsied, or not, and/or redeployed in military applications whose potential significance and unimaginable danger to humankind absolutely boggle the mind, or else are total bunk.
“How One Virginia City Is Re-Framing Sea-Level Rise as an Opportunity,” Carolyn Beeler, PRI
Adaptation and mitigation will cost the world billions, maybe trillions, of dollars. It’ll be a massive hit to the global economy.
Add to that list the city of Norfolk, Virginia.
Norfolk businesses, universities, and even the local government itself in the low-lying coastal city are trying to re-frame the risk of sea-level rise as an opportunity.
“SF Homeless Problem Looks the Same as It Did 20 Years Ago,” Kevin Fagan, San Francisco Chronicle
Fifty years ago, the destitute figures who dotted America’s streets were called winos and hobos, and in San Francisco they mainly stuck to Third Street’s Skid Row.
Then, with the end of the Vietnam War, battle-shocked veterans began filling urban alleyways. The 1980s brought Reaganomics’ decimation of federal social and housing programs, and a cascade of the poor and mentally ill landed on the streets.
By the end of that decade, a new term had entered the lexicon of San Francisco and the rest of the nation: homeless.
“Translating the Rise of City-Specific Emojis,” Jackie Strawbridge, Next City
For a fun end-of-summer article last year, the Village Voice imagined 30 emojis that illustrate the sometimes “breathtakingly beautiful,” sometimes “baffling” moments that New Yorkers experience on a daily basis.
“More than anywhere else, life in New York demands its own set of specific emoji to be used in a variety of ways to reflect the colorful, wonderful people, places, events, and emotions that amount to residing here,” the Voice wrote at the time.
Their proposed emoji — eventually made a reality by the mobile advertising firm Swyft Media — homed in on NYC-specific experiences that aren’t captured by the standard Unicode emojis that have come to dominate many texts and tweets.
“Are You My Uber?” Aaron Devine, McSweeney’s
A foppish hipster fell off his barstool. The floor rose up to meet him. “I must call myself an Uber,” he slurred. And out of the bar he went.
Outside, the streetlamps blurred and the ground seemed to wobble. There were many cars like colored eggs, but none that sought him out.
“Where is my Uber?” the hipster asked. He plodded along the curb, but did not see his Uber anywhere. “I will go and look for it.”