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Monthly Archives: November 2013

Well, sketch day seems to have turned into a bit of a bust. I was in the mood to draw out of doors today and did not change my plans and head to a museum upon seeing it was cold and rainy. I took a nice little stroll down to the bassin de l’Arsenal, but couldn’t find a convenient place to plant my butt that wasn’t already occupied by a puddle.

I did manage to get out one and a half drawings, but I’m too lazy right now to photograph them, so I’m going to tell all of you about a funny little detail I noticed the other day.

As you may have noticed, I like participating in the photo challenges hosted by WordPress. Although this site is on WordPress, I feel a little ambivalent about the idea of a “WordPress community,”  but that’s a rant for another day. I put my site on WordPress because I was simply too lazy to build it all myself. Well, who really has time. I don’t sew most of my own clothes either. Truthfully, I don’t understand why we still cook as much as people do. However, I like participating in the photo challanges because it gives me a chance to get out and see some blogs that I wouldn’t find and have a friendly exchange with some with whom I do not have much in common. It gives me lots of warm fuzzy feelings about humanity.

Well, this week’s theme is “eerie.” You see, this isn’t a normal vacation that I’m on right now. It’s more like a mental health trip. I feel much more cheerful when I’m here. So, I’ve been having difficulty this week trying to make an “eerie” picture. That’s part of the reason I went to the cemetery the other day.

The night before, or at least I think it was the night before, I went out in the evening with my camera hoping to get some eerie pictures. So I wandered around in the drizzling rain with surprisingly deserted streets, trying to see everything in a different light. The area around Notre Dame was disappointingly anything but eerie. From there, I wandered over pont d’Arcole.

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Me, I don’t find spiders in the least bit creepy or eerie. Since I know other people do, I took a few photos.

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The way the lights on the bridge shone on the webs, they are some of the best spider web pictures I’ve ever taken.

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Ah, location, location, location.

Today, I headed out to the Père Lachaise Cemetary. Despite being the final resting place of Oscar Wilde and Gertrude Stein, it is really a place to fall on one’s knees before French culture. I went there on my first trip to Paris only at the insistence of one of my companions. Despite not being given to hero-worship, I find the place inexplicably charming. Being with others, I let them lead to the graves they most wanted to visit, and after we got tired of following the map, we wandered aimlessly, admiring the statuary and enjoying being in the shade in August. Entirely by accident, we came upon the monument of the painter Ingrès.

Ingres' monument with flowers.

He lived gloriously by his character and by his works.

I have always considered Ingres to be a painter’s painter.

This time, I searched out his grave intentionally. As I wandered around the cemetery, getting a little bit lost along the winding paths, I heard the loud voice of a crow above me. I suppose it is not unique that as a very young child I was convinced that I could talk to animals. One of the consequences of growing up was realizing that it was just an illusion.

A crow in a tree.

The crows added to the atmosphere of the cemetery, yet in my photo there was no way to see that. It struck me that it would make such a wonderfully moody photo if the crow would only alight on the grave and I hope you don’t think I’m too silly if I tell you that I asked M. le Corbeau if he would be so kind as to pose for me.

A crow on a moss covered grave.

Intellectually, I know it is an illusion. After all, the cemetery was full of crows and I have bad habit of talking to all sorts of critters when I see them, so the likelihood that once in a while an animal will by coincidence do what I want is actually high. Still, I like to think M. le Corbeau understood me.

Just as I was getting ready to go, it finally stopped raining.

sunset

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In a previous post, I mentioned how the second day here I walked along the Canal St Martin to the Rotonde de la Villette. I wanted to see the building because it’s considered a significant example of neo-classical architecture. The Rotonde de la Villette, also called the Barrier of Saint Martin, is one of the propylaea designed by Claude-Nicolas Ledoux between 1784 and 1788.

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In the late eighteenth century a wall was built around Paris called the wall of the Fermiers-généraux which was to prevent goods entering the city from avoiding a local tax called the octroi. The sixty-two propylaea functioned as toll barriers.

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The severe symmetry and classical forms recall the work of Palladio. However, the purity and simplification of forms are far more extreme.

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Unfortunately, there was some work going on around the building the day I was there.

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Generally, I don’t spend much time bellyaching over the more ridiculous beliefs some people hold. It’s a big world out and some pretty bizarre ideas occupy the minds of small numbers of our fellows, most of which do not obtain a wider purchase. However, I have not yet forgotten the “Swift Boat Incident.” When John Kerry, a former U.S. Senator from Massachusetts and current Secretary of State, was running for President, advertisements were run claiming that he did not deserve the combat medals he received during the Vietnam war, a war of which he had been highly critical. At the time, Kerry’s campaign decided that it would be better to ignore what they felt was an obvious lie so as not to give it credence. That decision has since been reevaluated, and now many people feel that it is better to refute lies that may seem to some to be self-evidently untrue.

Consequently, I have decided to inaugurate an occasional series, naming it after the saying, “A lie will go round the world while truth is pulling its boots on.”

Via RawStory, I came across a video in which “Joseph Farah — founder of the ‘Birther’ conspiracy website WorldNetDaily — interviewed African-American conservative Star Parker, who warned that President Barack Obama’s government is going to turn America into an openly gay nation of emotionless, disconnected zombies like ‘in Europe,’ who exalt ‘vileness.'”

Parker’s assertion strikes me as so obviously untrue as to need no contradiction.

“But the laws, um, the laws that are pushing homosexuality out into society,” said Parker, “when, when, when you have this type of vileness exalted, the wicked go on the prowl. That’s what the Proverbs says, is that if the wicked can now go on the prowl, people with the resources will now pull away, and so they become much more private.”

She concluded, “So while you have ill activity now in the public square, you have those decent people and quiet communities becoming much more, you know, refined, and more closed. And that’s not healthy for us as a society because when you go start walking out in the public square and nobody talks to each other, that’s what they do in Europe. They’re just a bunch of zombies and we don’t want that as Americans.”

Now, my first reaction is to just say to myself, “She’s nuts,” shrug, and look at something more interesting. Then I remembered my cousin who, when I had recently returned from a trip to Florence, said to me, “Oh, I always wanted to go to Italy.” Unfortunately, she probably never will. To put it briefly, she’s had a hard life, she’s been a single mother and has had four children, one of whom died in infancy, and she’s mainly worked menial jobs. She can’t even always afford an internet connection. The reality is that some people have a smaller window onto the world than others among us. So maybe when I see a video of a woman confidently asserting that Europeans don’t talk to one another “in the public square,” the impulse to laugh and ignore it is the wrong one. So, as silly as I feel saying it, if anyone is in any doubt, Europeans are anything but “a  bunch of zombies.”

First of all, I’m saying this as an American. Secondly, I’m a fairly pro-American American. Lastly, I happen to have viewed this video while staying in Europe. I’ve been traveling alone and, consequently, have found myself talking to a wide variety of people. Just last night, I didn’t feel like being alone, so I went out to a bar. A young man came up to me and asked if was alone. When I said, “yes,” he said, “Come, join my friends.” Which I did, and I had a very nice time. I’ve not only talked to people in bars, but in cafes, museum and, indeed, very literally in public squares – and I’m actually a little bit shy, which means people are reaching out to me.

So, I’m tempted to laugh at this woman, Star Parker, but I shouldn’t laugh. I should refute her, which is what I’m doing.