The Best Photos of Winter Storm Hercules

Last Thursday and Friday, a massive winter storm, dubbed by The Weather Channel as “Hercules,” brought impressive snowfall and frigid temperatures to much of the Northeast and Midwest. Although the storm wreaked havoc on commutes and holiday travel plans, it did provide for some fun and funny photo opportunities. Below, we’ve compiled the best photos of Winter Storm Hercules from around the internet. Enjoy!

It looked impressive from space and miraculously seemed to miss Texas completely.

It was impressive from space and miraculously seemed to miss Texas completely. (source)

In Kansas City, Parks and Recreation officials dyed this fountain red in support of the playoff-bound Chiefs, but it froze.

In Kansas City, Parks and Recreation dyed this fountain red in support of the playoff-bound Chiefs. It froze. (source)

Too funny.

Too funny.

The caption on this Instagram post read simply: #rental (source)

The caption on this Instagram post read simply: “#rental” (source)

In New York, a man broke out the cross country skis for his commute through midtown.

In New York City, this guy broke out the cross country skis for his commute through midtown. (source)

It even snowed inside subway stations.

Even the Borough Hall subway station got an inch or two of snow. (source)

The local and national media fawned over the city's new mayor, Bill de Blasio, who shoveled his own sidewalk in Brooklyn.

Local and national media fawned over the city’s new mayor, Bill de Blasio, who did his own shoveling at his home in Brooklyn. (source)

Dante de Blasio's friends didn't hesitate to ask him to lobby his dad for a snow day.

Dante de Blasio’s friends didn’t hesitate to ask him to lobby his dad for a snow day. (source)

The snow didn't stop this guy from enjoying his hot tub.

The snow didn’t stop this guy from enjoying his hot tub. (source)

Newport & Hoboken after Hercules snow storm

Temperatures in Hoboken got as low as 8 degrees on Friday. (source)

Chicago got ___ inches of snow.

Chicago got 11 inches of snow. (source)

O'hare airport got ___ inches, and ___ cancelled flights.

O’Hare airport got 11 inches, and hundreds of cancelled flights. (source)

This person tried to save their parking spot with a box of Apple Jacks and Fruit Loops. (source)

This Chicago resident used boxes of Apple Jacks and Fruit Loops to claim their parking spot. (source)

Chicago Lakefront Winter 2014

The typically picturesque Chicago lakefront was even more so. (source)

GSC friend, Bela Shayevich, sent in this pretty shot of a Chicago billboard.

GSC friend, Bela Shayevich, sent in this pretty shot of a Chicago billboard at night.

In Minnesota, this family built a sweet snow shark. (source)

In Minnesota, this family built a sweet snow shark. (source)

In Michigan, this lighthouse almost completely froze over.

In Michigan, this lighthouse almost completely froze over. (source)

In Boise, zookeepers made a snowman in these lions' play area, the lions mauled it.

In Boise, zookeepers made a snowman and these lions tore it to shreds. (source)

This Canadian man had some trouble. (source)

This Canadian man had some trouble getting outside. (source)

Portland, Maine got ___ inches of snow.

Portland, Maine got 12 inches of snow. (source)

Boxford, Mass. got __ inches of snow.

Boxford, Massachusetts got 24 inches of snow! (source)

Breaking waves covered this coastal house in ice in Scituate, Mass

Breaking waves coated this coastal house in ice in Scituate, Massachusetts. (source)

Winter Storm Hercules on Nantucket Island

Nantucket Island flooded. (source)

Frozen waves in Rhode Island (source)

Frozen waves in Rhode Island. (source)

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The Problem of Geography in Gravity

gravity-movie-trailer-hd-stills-clip-detached-sandra-bullock-39Several weeks ago I read an article claiming Gravity as the first Best Picture lock of the Academy Awards season. The article lauded the film’s realistic handling of an historically campy genre (sci-fi), the two stars (Sandra Bullock and George Clooney), and the film’s “bar-raising visuals.” This praise, especially that for the visuals, was echoed elsewhere. NPR proclaimed, “doctoral thesis will be penned on the breath-catchingly realistic, gorgeous [cinematography]” and The New York Times said, flat out, “you have to see it to believe it.” As someone who went to Space Camp as a kid and spent hours recreating Apollo 13 in a pillow-fort-lunar-module (and as someone who’s been let down by Hollywood’s endeavors into outer space over the past decade), I was thrilled at the possibility of a new addition to the space film canon.

And I can say, without question, that the cinematography is jaw-dropping. The opening scene — in which a tiny speck of a space shuttle glides slowly (almost harmlessly) into the foreground, allowing the camera to maneuver and zoom, more first-person than third, towards the two protagonists out on a routine spacewalk — lasts an incredible 13 minutes without a cut. The director, Alfonso Cuarón, and his team spent years inventing new camera and lighting techniques to achieve such immersive, extended takes and the result is a depiction of zero gravity that is among the most thorough and intimate ever committed to film. Unfortunately, groundbreaking cinematography is about all Gravity has going for it. Once you get past the slick camera work, the film is, at heart, little more than a thriller with clunky dialogue, cliche-ridden characters, and trite symbolism. Leaving the theater, I was wholly disappointed that such a promising movie could be brought down by such a redeemable screenplay.

However, one of the movie’s flaws seemed to bother me more than the others — its inattention to geography. Though the movie is relatively brief and fast-paced, the characters take frequent breaks from dodging space debris to marvel at the beauty of Earth as seen from space. George Clooney’s character, in particular, repeatedly offers cocksure assessments of the Earth’s grandeur, though anytime the camera pans Earthward to show us what he’s talking about, we’re left gazing at an ambiguous medley of generic landforms and vague bodies of water. Few and far between are the shots of easily recognizable geomorphology. We clearly see the Nile River Valley at one point (“the cradle of civilization” — again, trite symbolism) and there’s a shot of Italy’s famous boot shape in there, but I had trouble identifying anything else. It got so distracting that I quit following the action at times in hopes of spotting a familiar coastline in the background. I even saw the movie a second time, thinking maybe I’d missed something, but the second viewing left me even more perplexed — I mean, it looked like Earth (blue, green, occasionally cloudy) but where were all the familiar shapes?

Here are three clips that hopefully illustrate some of the film’s fudgy, if not fabricated, geography…

This isthmus appears to resemble the Isthmus of Panama though, compared to a map, the similarity is rough at best.

This island?

This island? (If anyone can identify these landforms, please let me know in the comments!)

I recommend comparing these clips to actual footage of the Earth taken by orbiting space craft (for example, this post). In the real footage, there’s no shortage of recognizable geography. It’s like running your finger across a globe — there’s the excitement of spotting Chicago, Detroit, Atlanta (etc.) and the existential awe of how small we all are. This same wonder is largely absent from Gravity because, despite the mind-blowing cinematography, the Earth they choose to show us, lurking in the background of every shot, providing both the literal and narrative gravity, just isn’t ours.

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Cool Summer Experience presents… The ECO-Times

Baseball & Skate ParkA few months ago we reported on the highly creative and advanced work of one of our youth programs called Cool Summer Experience (CSE) based in Waukegan. Well, they’re back with Issue 2 of the ECO-Times, a comprehensive wrap-up of everything they got into this past summer. Highlights include a tour around Lake Michigan on the W. G. Jackson aquatic research vessel, a trip to the Dokum Mskoda Nature Preserve to track down the elusive Eastern Prairie Fringe Orchid, and an encounter with enormous butterflies at the Chicago Botanic Gardens. Read all about it… The ECO-Times, Summer 2013

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Geography Poem: Elizabeth Bishop’s “The Map”

large_detailed_political_map_of_the_world_in_antique_style_from_the_national_geographicElizabeth Bishop (1911-1979) is widely regarded as one of America’s most important and enduring poets. Born in Massachusetts and raised in Nova Scotia, she traveled widely as an adult, spending extended periods in France, Florida, and Brazil before returning to New England in the later part of her life. Geography and locale are common subject matter in her poems, which often arrive at powerful, subjective realizations from a close, detailed look at the objective world.  Perhaps no Bishop poem so explicitly investigates her fondness of geography better than “The Map,” the first poem from her collection North and South, winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1956.  In this poem, the reader joins the narrator/poet pouring over a map, delighting in its nuances, and ultimately reveling in its beauty.

The Map

Land lies in water; it is shadowed green.
Shadows, or are they shallows, at its edges
showing the line of long sea-weeded ledges
where weeds hang to the simple blue from green.
Or does the land lean down to lift the sea from under,
drawing it unperturbed around itself?
Along the fine tan sandy shelf
is the land tugging at the sea from under?

The shadow of Newfoundland lies flat and still.
Labrador’s yellow, where the moony Eskimo
has oiled it. We can stroke these lovely bays,
under a glass as if they were expected to blossom,
or as if to provide a clean cage for invisible fish.
The names of the seashore towns run out to sea,
the names of cities cross the neighboring mountains
–the printer here experiencing the same excitement
as when emotion too far exceeds its cause.
These peninsulas take the water between thumb and finger
like women feeling for the smoothness of yard-goods.

Mapped waters are more quiet than the land is,
lending the land their waves’ own conformation:
and Norway’s hare runs south in agitation,
profiles investigate the sea, where land is.
Are they assigned, or can the countries pick their colors?
–What suits the character or the naive waters best.
Topography displays no favorites; North’s as near as West.
More delicate than the historians’ are the map-makers’ colors.

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Great Moments in Geographic Illiteracy, Part 6

The following picture and caption was sent in by Brooklyn-based poet, Sarah Jean Alexander:

Bad Maryland Map

I found this photo at Postmark Cafe in Park Slope [Brooklyn]. I thought it was funny how they seem to completely disregard the Chesapeake Bay. I grew up in a town right on the bay, about a hundred miles north of the most northern tip of where the map’s Chesapeake Bay ends. I’m laughing right now looking at this map again. The panhandle that links western Maryland  to the rest of it is literally only a mile wide. It’s so fat in this picture. Also why is Baltimore almost inside of Pennsylvania?

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Tuesday News and Links


  • Join us and the DePaul Geography Department on Friday, October 25, 2013 from 5:30- 7:30 at the DePaul University Student Center (2250 N Sheffield, Room 220), as we screen The Illinois Geographical Society’s documentary “Remembering Jewish Lawndale.” This documentary is the first in the Giants of Geography Series which feature prominent Illinois Geographers of today. The film highlights Dr. Irving Cutler – former Geography Chair at Chicago State University – and his work with Chicago’s Lawndale neighborhood and its Jewish past. After the screening, we will have a Question and Answer session with Dr. Cutler and the producers of the documentary. Refreshments will be provided. GSC Members, DePaul students, Facility, staff: FREE. Non GSC Members: $10 at the door.
  • 40 Maps that Explain the World. Great if you have an hour or two (or three) to kill.
  • Check out these amazing photos of Saturn’s insane hexagonal hurricane.
  • And finally… 13 Picture of Goats on Cliffs.
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Great Moments in Geographic Illiteracy, Part 5

MSNBCgeoErrorsPAandNY0813MSNBC egregiously mislabels cities in Pennsylvania and New York.  Full Story.


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