Monday, December 31, 2012

French Inscriptions Part Three - Celebrities

As I mentioned before, the French keep track of some old events in some detail. This inscription is next to a well in the medieval city of Chinon. (Please Click.)

"On March 6, 1429 Joan of Arc, in order to get down from a horse, put her foot on the edge of a communal well, sheltered by an awning, situated here on Grand Carroi. Reconstruction (of the well presumably) was done with care by the Society of Friends of old Chinon." Francophones are invited to correct my translation.

Below is a duplicate of the flame of the Statue of Liberty, which, famously, the French gave us.

It has an inscription on it mentioning those points but what's more interesting is the picture of Lady Diana in a plastic heart-shaped frame below the inscription. The flame is in Paris, on the Right Bank, near Le Pont de l'Alma which means it's also near the underpass where Princess Diana was killed. It's become the site of an unofficial memorial to the dead royal.

We've gone from official inscriptions to fan messages to a departed idol and now we go to commercial endorsements.

"L'As du Fallafel means "The Ace of Falafel". It's supposed to be the best falafel in Paris. Madame Le Chef and I have tasted it and it's pretty damned good. It's run by Israelis and is located on the Rue des Rosiers which is the main street of the ancient Jewish quarter of Paris. Apparently Lenny Kravitz thinks the falafel is good too.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Three Alarm Fire in the Mission

The bureau once again became a fire spotting post yesterday morning (12/29/12). It took 100 firefighters half an hour to get this fire under control. The bureau chief heard sirens coming from all over the city. Sadly, three buildings were burned and over three dozen people were displaced, although no one was hurt. You can see one of the towers of the Golden Gate Bridge beyond the fire. (Please click.)

Sunday, December 23, 2012

French Inscriptions Part 2

In the last few years, the French have started putting up inscriptions commemorating historical events even when they reflect badly on the French government. Madame Le Chef took this photo of a plaque mounted on a school building in the 18th Arrondissement in Paris.

It says, "To the memory of students of this school, deported from 1942 to 1944 because they were born Jews, innocent victims of Nazi barbarity and of the government of Vichy. They were exterminated in the Death Camps. More then 700 of these children lived in the 18th." Partially blocked by the flowers it also says, "Never forget them."

The final battle for control of the Paris Commune of 1871 was fought in Père Lachaise cemetery between the army of the French government, then located in Versailles, and the supporters of the Commune who held Paris. When the last 147 Communards were captured they were summarily executed by the government troops. Across the city thousands more people were executed by the troops during "bloody week".

This plaque in Père Lachaise, undoubtedly put up by Leftists, marks the site where the remains of the 147 were reburied in 1897 after being moved for the construction of reservoirs. Fédérés was another name for the Communards.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

French Inscriptions

During our trips to France we have recorded various building inscriptions. The French are good at keeping track of the births and deaths and doings of notable people. For you film fans here's Méliès birthplace near the Place de la République in Paris. The inscription says he was born in the building on December 8, 1861 and describes him as a creator of cinematic spectacles, a prestidigitator and the inventor of numerous illusions.

Any philosophy groupies out there? Here's Michel Foucault's birthplace in the city of Poitiers. It says it's "The birth house" of Foucault and describes him as a historian, philosopher and professor at the College of France.

This inscription commemorates Henri Becquerel's discovery of radiation in a laboratory in this building near the Jardin des Plantes. It would be even cooler if the words glowed.

Marshal up you aesthetes and decadents. This inscription marks the "house" (actually a hotel) where Oscar Wilde died. It's on the Left Bank in Paris. The hotel has been fixed up but at the time Wilde stayed there, it was a sad and dirty place. Wilde is described as a poet and dramaturge, born in Dublin, died in Paris.

The French keep track of some pretty old stuff. This sign in the Collegiate Church in the village of Candes-Saint-Martin in the Loire Valley indicates the place where St. Martin died in 397 CE. It says it is a place of contemplation and prayer.


Today's weather is generating rainbows. This one was from around 9:30 AM. (Please click)

And this was an hour and a half later.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Shortest Day of the Year Part 2

At 5:23 PM on 12/14/12 the rest of the city is in shadow but it's still golden in the Golden Gate. (Please click)

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Shortest Day of the Year

It's thirteen days from today. I took this picture at 5:28 PM PST.

Monday, December 3, 2012


Although Steven Spielberg is a remarkably successful director who has made some good movies, he's kept from the ranks of the great directors by his tendencies towards over-the-top sentimentality and too-on-the-nose didacticism. Spielberg's "Lincoln" starts with a scene of African American Union soldiers and White Confederate soldiers in fierce hand to hand combat with bayonets and rifle butts, in the darkness and the mud. This is followed by a scene where one of the Union soldiers from that battle describes the reason for the particular savagery of that fight to President Lincoln. This is wonderful stuff until the soldier is interrupted by a second African American soldier who has apparently been sent straight from the Department of Historical Explication. He points out that while the slaves of the rebellious states have been freed by the Emancipation Proclamation, African Americans do not have the full rights of citizens. Then two White Union soldiers wander up to tell the president that they were so moved by his Gettysburg Address that they enlisted. Then they recite some of the address. Wow, both of Spielberg's worst habits in one scene.

Finally this scene is over and the movie can get going. Turns out "Lincoln" is a fascinating film about Abraham Lincoln's struggle to get the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which abolished slavery, passed before the end of the Civil War. As all the critics have mentioned, Daniel Day-Lewis is amazing as Lincoln and the film is full of good acting. Tony Kushner's script makes the political and diplomatic intrigue suspenseful and very interesting. Turns out that even back in 1865 the House of Representatives was a cesspool of obstructionism. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même choise.

"Lincoln" is a very good film and I recommend it.