My brother Karl was down here last week, and he brought quite of few pictures on his laptop computer, since he had bought one of those electronic picture frames for my father and was going to copy all of the pictures to the memory card that goes in the frame. Among the pictures were some from several years ago when Karl visited Athens, including some taking in front of the Acropolis. It reminded me of my visit to Rome back in the 1980s, and walking through the ruins of the Forum and other ancient Roman sites like Pompeii.

At the time, I wondered what it would be like to visit America's cities in a thousand years or so and see what the ruins of our civilization might look like. I also wondered how humbling it must feel to live in the long shadows of ancestors who were far more powerful than their descendants. Greece and Italy are fairly unimportant countries in the modern scheme of things, compared to the empires that their forefathers held across the Mediterranean Sea and beyond; they're the equivalent of small children playing dress-up who appear to be swallowed up in adult-sized clothes.

Well, we no longer have to wait a millennium to find out. There's a photo essay at Time magazine's web site by French photographers Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre, titled Detroit's Beautiful, Horrible Decline. It's a saddening portrait of forgotten places in a once-great city that is slowly crumbling into ruins. There are probably pockets of rot like this in just about every major city in America, but they're far more pervasive in the Motor City.

The photographers write:
"Ruins are the visible symbols and landmarks of our societies and their changes...the volatile result of the change of eras and the fall of empires. This fragility leads us to watch them one very last time: to be dismayed, or to admire, it makes us wonder about the permanence of things."
To paraphrase Shelley, "My name is Henry Ford, King of Kings: Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair..."