Photo Of The Day: Lincoln Memorial

Whether you haven’t yet been, or you’ve visited it many times, Washington’s Lincoln Memorial never fails to inspire and amaze. Today’s photo, by Flickr user Christian Carollo Photography, provides a unique angle on this most famous of American monuments. The photo’s black and white color palette, artful use of light and shadow and interesting “behind the pillars” angle creates a feeling of mystery and significance for this otherwise highly recognizable landmark.

Taken any great photos of your own in our nation’s capital? Or maybe just down the street from your house? Why not share them in our Gadling group on Flickr? We might just pick one of yours as our Photo of the Day.

Africa’s Tallest Statue: The Monument To The African Renaissance

Flying or driving into Dakar, the capital of Senegal, it’s impossible to miss this imposing statue.

That’s deliberate. The Monument to the African Renaissance is supposed to make a statement. At 49 meters (161 feet), it’s the tallest statue in Africa. In fact, it’s one of the tallest statues anywhere, beating the Statue of Liberty by several feet.

When it was completed in 2010, this giant statue caused a giant controversy. Feminists complained about the secondary status given to the female figure. Imams complained about her scanty clothing. Some complained about its Soviet artistic style, seemingly out of place in Africa, and the fact that it was built by a North Korean company. Lots of people, especially in the West, complained about its $27 million price tag.

Yeah, like the West never wastes money.

Sure, it’s brash, it’s bold, and it’s more than a little out of proportion, but it makes its point: Africa has a big future ahead of it. You see it in everything from Africa’s towering skyscrapers to its lively cafe culture, from its newly paved roads to its growing middle class. As a recent editorial by Kenyan author Binyavanga Wainaina stated, Africa isn’t like its international image, and big projects like this help the world see Africa differently.

Love it or hate it, this statue has become a major tourist site in Dakar. You can take an elevator up to the top of the guy’s head and look out over the city. People are even photographing it as they fly into town, or by flying a camera on a kite like Jeff Attaway did to take the photo below.

Hopefully the next major statement by an African government will be built by an African company.

Top photo courtesy Laurence Thielemans.

Five unusual monuments of London

The historic city of London is filled with monuments of all kinds: to politicians, heroes, kings, and queens. Many blend into the background, just some more overdressed statues on plinths looking down at the traffic. Here are five unusual monuments that really stand out.

Animals in War Memorial

While London is full of war memorials, this one on Park Lane next to Hyde Park is a bit different, as you can see from this Wikimedia Commons image. It’s dedicated to all the animals who served in war. Used as mounts for cavalry or as beasts of burden, they suffered and died alongside their human comrades. The inscription says:

“This monument is dedicated to all the animals
that served and died alongside British and allied forces
in wars and campaigns throughout time
They had no choice”

The Golden Boy of Gluttony

This fat little naked guy commemorates the Great Fire of 1666, when much of London burnt down. The plaque claims the fire was caused by the “sin of gluttony”. Located at the corner of Giltspur and Cock Lane, the fire stopped just short of here. That’s a shame because the old inn that stood on this site was the scene of sins far greater than gluttony. At a time when the only bodies surgeons could get for study were those of the executed, “resurrection men” would steal the recently buried from graveyards and lay them out for sale in the upper floors of the inn. The practice became so widespread that cemeteries had to post armed guards.


Simply called “Monument”, the 202-foot column at the corner of Monument St. and Fish St. Hill also commemorates the Great Fire. Unlike the people who erected the Golden Boy, the builders of this memorial blamed the Catholics. The anti-Catholic plaque was removed in 1831. The column’s height is significant-it’s the exact distance from the pillar to the house in Pudding Lane where the fire started.

Monument was designed by the famous architect Sir Christopher Wren (who also designed St. Paul’s Cathedral) and was completed in 1677. It sports a bright golden flame at the top and an observation tower with splendid views reachable by 311 steep steps. Making it all the way up earns you an official certificate proving your accomplishment. The platform became a popular place for distraught Londoners to hurl themselves to their deaths; more people died at the Monument than from the fire itself until a protective screen was installed.

Cleopatra’s Needle

Dramatically set alongside the Thames Embankment between Waterloo and Hungerford Bridges is something you don’t expect to see in London-an ancient Egyptian obelisk covered in hieroglyphs. The name is misleading. It wasn’t erected by Cleopatra but rather by Thothmes III around 1500 BC. Two centuries later Ramses the Great added some inscriptions boasting of his military prowess. When Cleopatra was redecorating Alexandria in 12 BC she had the obelisk moved there.

It was donated to the British Empire in 1819 by Muhammad Ali, viceroy of Egypt, as thanks for the English kicking Napoleon out of Egypt. Getting it to England proved problematic. They didn’t even try until 1877, when the obelisk was encased in a metal cylinder and towed out to sea. It was lost in a storm in the Bay of Biscay only to be spotted by another ship floating peacefully on the waves. The chips out of its bottom are courtesy of German bombing during World War One.

Watts Memorial in Postman’s Park

Next to the 18th century church of St. Botolph-without-Aldersgate on Aldersgate Street stands Postman’s Park, a tranquil oasis amid the rush of the city. A curious feature of this park is the Watts Memorial, erected in 1900 by a parishioner who wanted to honor those who had given their lives while trying to save others. Each hero or heroine is given a plaque briefly telling their story. The accumulated effect of the dozens of plaques is deeply moving.

Visiting monuments is one way to travel on a budget. All except Monument are free, and they tell you a lot about British history and worldview. Are going to London? Check out AOL Travel’s London guide!

The Old Leather Man: controversy over digging up a legend

Investigators in Connecticut are planning to uncover a local legend, but they’re facing a backlash of public sentiment.

An archaeological team will open the grave of The Old Leather Man, a mysterious wanderer who from 1883 to 1889 walked a 365 mile loop from the lower Hudson River Valley into Connecticut and back. It took him 34 days to make the journey and he was so punctual that well-wishers used to to have meals ready for him when he showed up. He spoke French but little English, slept only in caves and rock shelters, and never revealed information about himself. He got his name from his homemade, 60 lb. suit of leather.

His grave in Ossining’s Sparta Cemetery brings a regular flow of the curious, but local officials are afraid it’s too close to the street and is a safety hazard. They plan to dig up The Old Leather Man and move him to a different part of the cemetery. They also want to take a DNA sample. Legend claims he was a heartbroken Frenchman named Jules Bourglay, but Leather Man biographer Dan W. DeLuca says this is an invention of a newspaper of the time.

The DNA might prove a clue to who he really was and that’s where the controversy starts. History teacher Don Johnson has set up a website called Leave the Leatherman Alone, saying that his privacy should be respected. Judging from all the comments on his site, he seems to have a fair amount of backing.

As a former archaeologist I love unraveling a good mystery but I have to agree with Mr. Johnson on this one. The Old Leather Man obviously wanted his identity to remain unknown, and just because he was a homeless man why should his wishes be ignored? He never committed any crime besides vagrancy, he died of natural causes, and there are no known inheritance issues, so what’s the need?

As a teenager growing up in the Hudson Valley, I loved the mysteries of New England and the Mid-Atlantic states–the strange rock constructions, the Revolutionary War ghosts, Mystery Hill, and, of course, The Old Leather Man. Most of this is the stuff of imagination, but The Old Leather Man was real, living person.

And because of that, we should let his mystery remain buried.

[Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons]

Photo of the day – A no-good monkey in India

Monkeys are a fact of life in India, a fact that I struggle to wrap my mind around as a primate-lover. You mean you see monkeys all the time?! And that’s a bad thing?! It’s all relative, though, maybe Indians find pigeons delightful. Flickr user Nico Crisafulli ran into this troublesome monkey at the Mahanavami-Dibba royal monument in India and captioned his photo “You see this monkey? This monkey is no good.” The photo is also beautifully saturated with color and a great capture of everyday life.

Photograph any monkeys on your travels, naughty or nice? Add them to the Gadling Flickr Pool and we may use one as a future Photo of the Day.