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end of a graffiti era

NYC's 5 Pointz Under Threat

NYC's 5 Pointz Under Threat Flickr Creative Commons

Will probably become luxury apartments.

Long a haven for graffiti artists, 5 Pointz in Queens, New York, might be luxury apartments very soon. On Thursday, the NYC Council will be discussing a proposal by the warehouse's owners to convert the privately owned building, which attracts artists and gawkers with its brightly decorated facade, into a $400 million housing project. The two towers, including artists' studios and affordable apartments, would be the tallest in Queens. "The truth is there was not a way to save the building," Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer said of the proposal.

Read it at Gothamist


Royal for the Weekend

What a World

Mexico's Grisly Mummy Museum

In the 1860s, a silver-mining town in Mexico began burying their dead in a crypt…only to discover 10 years later that they had inadvertently mummified their loved ones.

Beginning in the early 1860s, hundreds of the dead were interred in above-ground crypts in the Santa Paula Pantheon of the silver-mining town of Guanajuato, Mexico. Today, their bodies are on display at a museum in gruesome states of preservation, mouths gaping and hair and clothes still intact.

A few years after the crypts opened, the town passed a law requiring families to pay a burial tax; if they failed, the bodies of their loved ones would be removed. When authorities opened the crypt to take out the deceased whose relatives had defaulted on their fees, they found the bodies had been naturally mummified by a combination of the tomb's cement walls, heat, and low humidity. The first mummy discovered is said to be the body of Remigio Leroy, a French doctor.


A mummy on display during the launch of an exhibit of the Mexican mummies in August 2009. (Louis Acosta/AFP/Getty Images)

Soon after the preserved corpses were unveiled, curious people began paying workers a few pesos for a peek at the tombs. Allegedly, those first visitors even broke off bits of the bodies as souvenirs. For the next 90 years, until 1958, bodies continued to be stored in the mummifying conditions of the original crypt, resulting in a total of 111 mummies. Ten years later, the city of Guanajuato opened an official museum to house them.

don't mess with the board

Surfers Battle for CA's Beaches

Surfers Battle for CA's Beaches

Two lawsuits are up against a private beach.

Laid-back surfer-types aren't much for fights, but when it comes to their waves, there's no holding back. A new documentary looks at California's Martin's Beach, which is owned by a billionaire venture capitalist, and the surfers and beach-goers battling for the right to use it. The California Constitution "guarantees public access to the state's beaches," and the surfers' have launched a lawsuit on the grounds that the property’s locked gate violates the California Coastal Act of 1976. Known as the "Martin's Five," the wave-loving group was arrested for trespassing on the beach. Although charges against them were dropped, they have decided to pursue their case for the right to hang five.

Read it at The Atlantic

troubled vacancy

New York Subpoenas Airbnb

New York Subpoenas Airbnb

In attempt to get host records.

The neighborly home-sharing site Airbnb is engaged in what could be a lengthy battle with New York. Attorney-General Eric Shneiderman subpoenaed the company in an attempt to get the identites of all 225,000 in-state hosts, and Airbnb announced its intention to fight the request. Recently, the site came into trouble for violating New York City's occupancy rules which include a tax for hotels. Despite winning the lawsuit, it announced NYC guests would pay tax of $2 per day and 5.875 percent of rent. The next hurdle: half of Airbnb's listings in the city violate a law against renting out an entire apartment without an owner present.

Read it at Quartz


North Korea Builds Luxury Ski Resort

North Korea Builds Luxury Ski Resort David Guttenfelder/AP

But everyone refuses to sell them lifts.

In North Korea’s latest attempt to keep up with the Joneses, the country is barreling towards completion on a new prestige project: the multimillion-dollar Masik Pass ski resort. The decision is perplexing, since according to CBS, this country of 24 million has about 5,500 skiers—only 0.02 percent of the population—and it . Experts suggest that the choice of South Korea to host the 2018 Winter Olympics may have something to do with North Korea’s determination. The project hasn’t been without its setbacks—Switzerland, Austria and France have all refused to sell ski lifts to North Korea because of ongoing sanctions on the sale of luxury goods to the country. But the project’s head, Kim Tae Yong, told CBS that he wasn’t worried. "We can make nuclear weapons and rockets," he said. "We can build a ski lift."

Read it at CBS News

Repeat Travel

I Can’t Shake Hawaii

The sacred covenant of travel dictates: always chase the new. But what if you find yourself pining for a place you’ve already been? Debra Klein on the beauty of finding yourself by returning to the same spot over and over again.

My cheek hovers centimeters from the triple thick pane of germs and grime separating me from the object of my affection; my contorted backward glance suggests I’m trying to read something affixed to my upper lip. I take a last longing glimpse, before facing front and reality: the desolate in-between before I see my beloved Hawaii again. As the plane rises onto the invisible highway and the watery horizon and milky sky meet, I’m lost in thought, trying, as always, to figure out a way to make this arrangement we have more permanent.

Hawaiian beach

Images Etc Ltd/Getty

Such destination devotion once repulsed me. Retracing steps violates the sacred covenant of travel: thou shalt romance “the new.” My travel mission statement was always more George Clooney than Swallows of Capistrano. Hit it and quit it. No returns. Gulliver never took a Mulligan, that’s the rule.

How can we get psyched to visit someplace we’ve already visited? Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?  We’re not having a fresh experience, learning a new culture, seeing sites or people we’ve never laid eyes on before…or are we?  If the scenery is the same on the outside—if our thoughts aren’t overrun with running all over—maybe then we’re able to journey within.   


Golf AND Football? Yes, Please

All-Access Pass

So You Want to Tour a Sewer

Urban explorer Bradley Garrett spoke to Josh Dzieza about the excitement and the pitfalls of poking around abandoned subway stations, skyscrapers, and other off-limits sectors of cities.

Roald Amundsen reached the South Pole a hundred years ago. Everest is littered with oxygen tanks and suffers from traffic jams. But exploration is still happening around the world. It’s just that some of the most interesting expeditions are now much closer to home—right in the heart of the city, in fact. And the challenges aren’t just physical but social and legal: security cameras, trespassing laws, and the common sense that tells you not to jump into sewer systems.


Bradley L. Garrett

These recreational trespassers call themselves urban explorers. Some focus on abandoned buildings, wandering through defunct hospitals and power stations half-reclaimed by nature and taking post-apocalyptic photos. Some scale monuments in the off hours, when the tourists have gone to bed. Some delve into city infrastructure--subway tunnels, bridges, even sewers. It would be a stretch to call it a movement, but there are clusters of urban explorers around the world and they keep tabs on each other through images posted to message boards. Every so often a group will start doing truly amazing things, and their images will break out into the wider world. Right now, that’s a band of Russian kids who recently scaled the pyramids and the Notre Dame cathedral. A couple years ago, it was a group in London that explored every abandoned station in the Tube.

Bradley Garrett, a researcher at the University of Oxford, had the good luck to be embedding with that London crew from the beginning. Doing research for a PhD project, he became a scribe of the tribe on their urban adventures. In his new book, Explore Everything: Place Hacking the City, he recounts his group’s journeys to derelict power stations, mid-construction skyscrapers, a boneyard of mothballed jets, and the nooks and crannies of London’s infrastructure. Garrett’s book, and its excellent photography, makes clear that urban exploration manages to combine both vertigo and claustrophobia, with people perched on beams hundreds of feet above the city, trapped in elevators, and outrunning rapidly rising sewage. It also bears the mark of its origins as a doctoral thesis, with frequent references to Guy Debord and the theories of various philosophically minded geographers. It’s sort of like Jon Krakauer meets Gilles Deleuze, or a really adventurous W.G. Sebald.


My Two-Day Oktoberfest Bender

When invited on a last-minute, 48-hour jaunt to Germany’s biggest festival, Kristyn Ostman prepared her stomach and jumped on a plane. She reports on the epic frenzy of food and booze.

Molly may be the party drug of choice in America, but here in Bavaria, revelers maintain their energy by using snuff tobacco and glucose.

Germany Oktoberfest

Waitress carry beer mugs during the opening ceremony in the "Hofbraeuzelt' beer tent of the 180th Bavarian "Oktoberfest" beer festival in Munich, southern Germany on Sept. 21, 2013. (Matthias Schrader/AP)

I learn this as soon as I arrive in Munich, Germany for a two-day bender to indulge in the time-honored tradition known as Oktoberfest.

Started in 1810 with just a parade, the festival is now the largest people’s faire in the world. Approximately 6.5 million attendees, only 15% from outside of Germany, congregate in Bavaria each year to consume over 7.1 million liters of beer and 70,000 pork knuckles over a 16-day span.

What a World

Portland’s Seedy Underground

Portland may be known as a hipster mecca today, but at the turn of the century, it was one of the most dangerous port cities in America. A network of tunnels survives to tell the sordid tale.

The Portland, Oregon of 2013 may be a laid-back utopia that outsources artisanal coffee and fair-trade messenger bags, but the Portland of the late 1800s made its name in a very different trade. Long before hipsters took over the “City of Roses,” it was one of the most dangerous port towns in the country, with a brutal kidnapping epidemic that led to the nickname “Forbidden City of the West.”


Found Image Press/Corbis

For nearly 100 years—between the mid-1800s, past Prohibition, and up into the 1940s—an illicit flesh market funneled reportedly thousands of men and women to Pacific-bound ships to serve as crew members and prostitutes.

Widely-shared tales of “shanghaiing” tell of drunken patrons falling through trapped doors in seedy bars to wake up enslaved as seamen; men lured by prostitutes into underground holding cells where they’d remain until being sold to the next ship that docked in town; and women drugged and kept in solitary cells underground in conditions meant to break their will. The unscrupulous practice took its name from the destination many unfortunate victims found themselves en route to.

From the Archives

Iran Air’s Vintage Ads

Ready to fly again.

Anyone up for a direct flight to Tehran? After 34 years, the possibility of boarding a plane in New York City and arriving in Iran in 11 hours and 15 minutes may be more likely than ever. If the flights resume, we hope some of Iran Air’s more interesting advertising will too, like the (now vintage) print ads detailing the marvels to be found at the “crossroads of the world” and the airline’s informative slogan “We Take You There, We Take You Back.” Only one request: please update your fleet before flying us across the ocean.

Read it at Skift

"Real" Estate

Empire State Building Goes Public

Instead of spending money in the gift store on a replica, fans of the iconic building can now own a portion.

This gives a whole new meaning to owning a piece of history.

The Empire State Building, the most photographed location in the world, has gone public.

Empire State Building

Gary Hershorn/Reuters

Empire State Realty Trust, Inc., which owns the Empire State Building as well over a dozen other buildings, raised $929.5 million by selling 71.5 million shares at $13 on the New York Stock Exchange, making it one of the largest IPOs for a real estate investment trust (REIT). These shares represent roughly 35 percent of the company. So for less than it costs to ride the elevator up to one of the Empire State Building’s famed observation decks, you can own a share of the building.

Wish You Were Here

The Day Tourism Died

Travel is a big business, and it just tanked. Daniel Gross on how the shutdown could wreak havoc on a key part of the U.S. economy. (In other news, this selfie stick is a thing.)

On the mall in Washington yesterday morning, World War II vets stormed the shuttered World War II monument. In New York, the Statue of Liberty was closed. The South Dakota state government is trying to keep Mount Rushmore open. Campers in glorious Yosemite have been given 48 hours to get out.


Larry Downing/Reuters

The anecdotes from government-run parks and tourist states are symbolic, and make for good images of the real-world impact of a government shutdown. (There are certain upsides, of course. The Klan apparently canceled a rally it had planned at Gettysburg.) But they also speak to a larger truth. There’s a certain blitheness of spirit surrounding the impact of the shutdown. Most people at most companies simply showed up for their jobs as usual, and can easily conclude that it won’t matter much. But in some industries, including some really vital American industries, the impact of the government shutdown is immediate—and difficult. 

Travel is a very big business in the U.S. I could tell you precisely how large a business it is, but the Bureau of Economic Analysis’s website is closed today. And the section of the Commerce Department’s website that contained very detailed data on tourism is likewise shuttered temporarily. However, the U.S. Travel Organization put out an annual report that estimates the impact of travel generally in the U.S. The report suggests 14.4 million total jobs are supported by travel, or one in every eight in the private sector.  For 2013, it forecasts travel spending will be $889.1 billion, up 3.9 percent from $855.4 billion in 2012. New York City alone in 2011 welcomed (or didn’t welcome, as the case may be) 50.9 million tourists.

Soak It Up

Last Gasp of Summer

Instagram’s Coolest Pools

Instagram’s Coolest Pools

From a submerged Bar Refaeli to a Mediterranean idyll, a voyeur’s look at the stars’ sun-soaked scenes.

Zambian Safari

Wildlife, Storytelling, & Dung, Oh My!

‘Community’ Stares into the Abyss

‘Community’ Stares into the Abyss

When it seems like it’s the end for a show, a lot of crap that gets flung at the screen. ‘Community,’ forever stuck in television limbo, knows that.


Hillary’s New Title: Grandma

Neverending Trial

Pistorius’s Star Witness Disaster

The Lives of Others

Sorry, Snowden: Putin Lied to You


Captive With a Canine For 9 Years


Dispatches from Around the World

Marseille’s Comeback Tour

Marseille’s Comeback Tour

The bouillabaisse is just as tasty, but Europe’s 2013 Capital of Culture now has a lot more to offer. Anna Watson Carl reports.


Walking With Wildebeests

Global Marvels

What a World!

The Secret Life of Cappadocia

The Secret Life of Cappadocia

More than a natural wonder, Cappadocia's formations have been a safe haven to many. Nina Strochlic reports.

What a World

The Craziest House Ever Built

What a World

Turkmenistan’s Door to Hell


End of an Era?

Covering Burma in the 1980s

The Good Old Travel Guide Days

The Good Old Travel Guide Days

Tony Wheeler, co-founder of Lonely Planet Publications, remembers the fun early days of travel guide writing, but says they're not over yet.

Beacher's Madhouse

L.A.'s Craziest Nightclub

It's A Madhouse!

It's A Madhouse!

Miley Cyrus’ fav new haunt is Beacher’s Madhouse, the craziest club in Los Angeles.

Just Like Rodman

Most Structured Trip Ever

Visit North Korea!

Visit North Korea!

Take the vacation of a lifetime—in beautiful North Korea? That’s Uri Tours’ pitch. Lloyd Grove reports.


A Love Letter to New York

Maps of the Heart of Manhattan

Maps of the Heart of Manhattan

In ‘Mapping Manhattan,’ explore the city via 75 New Yorkers’ personal geographies. By Allison McNearney.