Friday, May 17, 2013

Coventry Cathedral memorials

Previous experience from only Connie Willis' To Say Nothing of the Dog had incompletely prepared me to visit Coventry Cathedral. (And inaccurately, for there were no time-travelling historians to be found. I looked.)

The destruction wreaked by the bombing and fires was accurate, though.

What remains is a memorial of and to World War II. The Cathedral was a real thing before it was a destroyed monument, and so it itself contained memorials like this one for World War I.

This post's theme word is intromit, "to enter, send, admit." Coventry Cathedral now intromits sunlight and the elements, as well as tourists and the religious.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Shakespeare's birthplace

This picturesque half-timbered building, subject to such immaculate preservation and dense precision gardening, is the birthplace of Shakespeare. Its preservation, picturesqueness, and landscaping are all the result of this fact; for now is the heyday of our fanatical devotion to Shakespeare's work, and everything associated with him can earn valuable tourist income.

Well, almost everything. I did not pay to take this photo. I did not buy any of the many beautiful editions of his plays for sale in the adjacent Shakespeare store. They are all available free in searchable electronic version, which is how I prefer to consume my ancient texts. Parchment and clay tablets are so burdensome.

This post's theme word is parnassian, "of or relating to poetry." Shakespeare's parnassian fame is the bane of many schoolchildren.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

I found Queen Elizabeth I!

Queen Elizabeth I has been sighted, haunting picturesque Kenilworth Castle picturesquely, pausing hither and thither to strike a regal pose.
I snuck around and furtively snapped photos of her as she made her stately way across the grounds. Perhaps she returned to the site of so many happy memories, the home of her forbidden love... or perhaps she was there as a publicity stunt for English Heritage. She likes them; they cast her in a good light. (Literally: look at that filler light on the ground!)

Who knew royalty could be so much fun? I'm getting the same endorphin rush as catching Carmen Sandiego or locating Waldo.

This post's theme word is distaff, the adjective meaning "of or relating to women," or the noun "a staff for holding flax, wool, etc. for spinning; women considered collectively; a woman's work or domain." Elizabeth demonstrated the monarchy's power in her distaff way.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Science museum

I spent a fantastic afternoon in the science museum. I have a new favorite dongle. It's the Jacquard loom! I must have watched the workings of the loom for 30 or 40 minutes. It's fascinating.
Top half of a Jacquard loom.
Bottom half of a Jacquard loom.
Another level of the museum featured large machinery.
Notice the rails on the floor? I hypothesize that these were used to move the machinery into the museum.
 The rails continue throughout, even passing through this atrium where Foucault's pendulum used to hang! (It's now in a display case, with a replacement pendulum hanging there. I also saw the place in the Panthéon where the pendulum hung, but that's under construction now.)
Just look at those gears!
Honestly, this museum was the most fun and interesting one I saw the entire trip.

This post's theme word is tyro, "one who is beginning to learn something." Although I have several degrees, I often feel that I am merely a tyro.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Futuristic Paris 13

I really like the futuristic look of the new Paris 13. I almost expect to see students on hoverscooters rocketing around.

This post's featured word is splificate, "to flabbergast." The use of 'splificated' splificated her readers.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Enough gilding for you?

The decorator, after several minutes of stationary examination, paced determinedly to the end of the hall and back.

"You've almost captured my vision," he said. "There are just a few details you seem to have overlooked. Some of the portraits are not large enough. Parts of the wall have --- nonsensically --- been left as giant, empty panes of glass rather than covered with hagiographic landscapes and heavenscapes featuring our main politicians."
"... also, I'm not sure it's gilt enough. This is a palace, you fools --- why can I see the exquisite marble peeking between the gilt frames of these paintings? Cover that with gold. What sort of second-rate palace do you think this is?"

 "Yes, that's better. None of that pesky expensive underlying wall showing --- all gold, all the time. And what's not gold, a grand depiction of Napoleon's glory. Or red velvet. Red velvet is also acceptable. It sets off the gold nicely."


I enjoyed my series of visits to the Louvre.

Yes, the Louvre contains self-referential artwork.
Hubert Robert's Project d'aménagement de la Grande Galerie du Louvre.

This post's theme word is baldachin, "a rich embroidered fabric of silk or gold; a canopy." The decorating scheme of French palaces focuses on baldachin and grandeur.

Phallic architecture

Can you spot the phallic architecture?

Vanishing into the mist, which here symbolizes the feminist movement?

This post's theme word is leptorrhine, "having a long narrow nose." The leptorrhine architect made the obelisk in his own image; he later insisted it was his nose, of course.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Giant chocolate monkey

This chocolate boutique had boxes of chocolates in the window...
... and a giant statue of a thoughtful monkey. Carved in chocolate.

I can't imagine eating such a thing. I remember what a challenge it was at Eastertime to eat a chocolate bunny, and this statue makes those weeks of nibbling a chocolate bunny seem puny.

This post's theme word is cachinnate, "to laugh very loudly or immoderately." The threat of eating so much chocolate earned only cacchinnation from the chocolatier's victims.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Terrible relationship metaphor

There are several bridges in Paris coated with padlocks. Each lock is engraved --- or sharpied in a modern take on the tradition --- with two names or sets of initials. Then padlocked to the bridge railing.
Crowdsourcing a windblock?
 As I understand it, the lock functions as an instantiated metaphor for the constancy and commitment of the two people named thereon. Their love for each other is hereby fastened, made sure, immortalized, etc. Then they throw the key into the Seine. I don't know how the metaphor works for combination locks.

But it's a terrible metaphor. For one, the locks are small. Is your commitment to the relationship small? Easily broken by a pair of bolt-cutters or even just a screwdriver and a few seconds' work? Your relationship is periodically removed, cut free, and cleaned up by public employees sent to keep the bridge clean. It does not lock anything; it serves no function; it is empty, meaningless, a dead weight. (Not to cast your relationship too cruelly.)

In short, this supposedly-enduring emblem of your relationship is doomed to end. Soon. Just like all the other, identical, not-special-or-unique romances that led to the same strained metaphor and what I'm sure were very sweet, but transient, kisses on a bridge in Paris.
Other photographers shared my prospect.

This post's theme word is gris-gris, "a charm, amulet, or fetish." A true gris-gris of a devoted relationship should have more properties in common with its object: permanence, size, import, durability. The monument to my love will be more like a swimming pool filled with concrete --- large, heavy, immovable, and requiring specialized machinery and many man-hours to disassemble. Ah, concrete pool! light of my life!

Design ideas for my summer palace

Design ideas from the Petit Palais: this for the servants' stair in the east wing?

Nothing too fancy, they're only servants.

This post's theme word is panjadrum, "a self-important person." The panjadrum planned his palace with a foundation of pomposity and hubris.

Marie Mancini

 I really liked this portrait.

I wish I could pull off this hairstyle, but I simply can't afford the necessary servants.
The caption.

This post's theme word is refulgent, "shining brilliantly." What a refulgent portrait!

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Paris parks au printemps

That thing about Paris in the springtime? Yeah, it's true. The entire city is lovely, and feels tropical compared with the April weather I fled.
Jardin des Plantes

This post's theme word is divagate, "to wander or digress." In Paris' gardens, divagation cannot lead you awry.

Jardin des Plantes: giant flower

Brazen hussy of a flower, with your head-sized genital display out in a public park, where children play! Have you no shame?!
I have not been accustomed to such displays.

Paris in springtime is quite lovely. Toronto's springs are more demure --- demurer? --- and delayed besides. Plus fewer people speak French there.

This post's theme word is corolla, "the petals of a flower as a group." That corolla is large enough to be a headdress.

Parisian lobster

A strange sight in landlocked Paris.

This post's theme word is thalassic, "of or pertaining to the sea." Miéville's Kraken taught me many thalassic words.