Friday, March 31, 2006

a last look at pre-spring paris

because it's springy April now, not March when these photos were taken...

En mars, vent ou pluie
Que chacun veille sur lui

These are the only remaining fortification walls built by Philippe Auguste between 1190 and 1220, and rebuilt in the fourteenth century by Charles V. It was built when the Marais was still marshland (kind of like this day), although people clearly decided to build their houses into it later on, when the city grew and sieges were no longer a big threat. This photo was taken around the rue des Jardins Saint-Paul, although the wall originally also extended along the rue des Rosiers, rue des Hospitalières Saint-Gervais, and rue des Francs Bourgeois from the Crédit Municipal to the Hôtel de Saint Aignan.
Paris had lots of water shortage problems until Napoleon built these handy outdoor fountains around town... which still exist in the Marais although nobody congregates around them anymore...

a happy rainy afternoon on rue Charlemagne... near the absinthe shop!...

part of the village of St-Paul, medieval buildings saved from being destroyed for new developments by craftsmen, artisans, artists, and antique dealers who still live here today, in the old city block, marked by these flags... one of my favorite areas of Paris...

It's very wet, and the tree boughs look like a poem from Ezra Pound here at the Picasso museum, where a little posthumous due is being given to Dora Maar, who was an artist in her own right... and the street glows orange, slightly.

106. In a Station of the Metro. THE apparition of these faces in the crowd;. Petals on a wet, black bough.

Quand Mars bien mouillé sera, beaucoup de fruit cueilleras.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

grève generale

the anti-CPE protests were more peaceful than last time... and the police began using paintball to catch casseurs.

"Ensuite, y'a plus qu'à ramasser. C'est ludique et pratique."

Also, if you don't read the newspaper now, your life is much more likely to become exciting by turning round a corner and walking into a line of riot police. Or people running in the other direction. Some of my favorite places being, of course, place de la Sorbonne and place d'Italie. Luckily, this is Paris, so sometimes if there aren't any protesters around for a couple hours and the riot police get bored, you are likely to see them headbutting each other with their plastic shields...

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

fragment for a two-month anniversary

The door is half open,
The lindens smell sweet...
On the table, forgotten,
A riding crop and a glove.

The yellow circle of the lamp...
I'm listening to rustlings.
Why did you go?
I don't understand...

Tomorrow morning will be
Joyful and bright.
This life is beautiful,
Heart, just be wise.

You are completely exhausted.
Your beating is fainter, more muffled...
You know, I read somewhere
That souls are immortal.

Anna Akhmatova
February 17, 1911
Tsarskoye Selo

Saturday, March 25, 2006

a hint for rioters

accidental or not?
a beautiful old shop on a rainy day, rue st-paul. le vieux marais.

(it's funnier in French, with the formatting, but here's a translation for non-French speakers:
It is Forbidden
1. to spit on the floor
2. to wet your fingers in your mouth in order to turn the pages of our books
3. to put in your ears a pen-holder or a pencil
4. to clean book jackets by spitting on them or putting your tongue directly on them
5. to hold in your mouth pen-holders, pencils, coins, and so on.
Do you want to know why these things are forbidden? Ask your teachers, who will give you the necessary explanations.
Remember that it's not enough to just obey these instructions yourself - you should make sure that everybody knows about them.)

Friday, March 24, 2006

Monday, March 20, 2006

joli Montmartre

I didn't actually take this picture but I was there. The chicken had somehow wandered over from the restaurant next door, as this is a delicious oyster and sea-creatures restaurant, on the reasonably chi-chi rue des Abbesses.

[insert joke about the grippe aviaire here]

Sunday, March 19, 2006

assez aux manifs

j'en ai marre. What started out as a bunch of young people demonstrating against a measure that would probably decrease youth unemployment, especially in the banlieues (not so much in privileged places like the Sorbonne) ...

has turned into this.

place de la Sorbonne

This goes beyond young people shooting themselves in the foot over a legal measure that was poorly communicated to them by Villepin and the rest of the French government, and becomes something that needs to stop.
boulevard saint-michel.

More photographs and news here and here.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

portugal, still beautiful

I like this last one because it looks like somewhere I've never been.

copyright 2006

Tuesday, March 14, 2006


"The best way to travel is to feel." --Fernando Pessoa (via the heteronym Álvaro de Campos)

Nonetheless, I flew to Lisbon...

which contains peacocks...
lots and lots of tiles...

me and my friend (briefly!)...

a church destroyed in the earthquake of 1755 and never rebuilt (though really, I hate to explain this one...)
a geometric urban grid only in the areas destroyed by the 1755 earthquake that shook Voltaire and Swift's already-shaken faith (it happened during Sunday mass and the faithful were crushed as they prayed) - it was built all at once, Baroque mass-planning...

and in the Middle Ages, they had to fortify the Tagus river that opens Lisbon up to the Atlantic...

although the shore has been moving out to the fortress...silt, you know...

St. Jeronimo's monastery (a.k.a. Jerome)...

where the devout scatter rose petals...
and which has African monkeys on it, for the Portuguese sea-traders to recognize...
plus a sea-froth style called Manuelito...
and squares that make me think of Angola, but it's Lisbon...
the 8th century Moors picked good spots to build in...
...and that's all I have bandwidth for right now.

copyright protected 2006.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Revolutionary Time: the Franciade, Decimal Clockfaces, and the 9 Thermidor

The revolutionary calendar (or calendrier républicain) was designed by the politician and agronomist Charles Gilbert Romme, although it is usually attributed to Fabre d'Églantine, who invented the names of the months. The calendar was adopted by the Jacobin-controlled National Convention on 24 October 1793. Years appear in writing as Roman numerals (usually), counted from the beginning of the Republican Era, one day after the Convention abolished the monarchy and the day the French First Republic was proclaimed: 22 September 1792. (As a result, Roman Numeral I indicates the first year of the republic, that is, the year before the calendar actually came into use).

The first day of each year included the autumnal equinox. There were twelve months, each divided into three ten-day weeks called décades. The five or six extra days needed to approximate the tropical year were placed after the months at the end of each year.

Daily time was ordained to be divided into new, rational measurements as well. Each day was divided into ten hours, each hour into 100 decimal minutes and each decimal minute had 100 decimal seconds. But it was a colossal failure. Although clocks were manufactured to display decimal time, this did not catch on with the peuple. The attempt was officially abandoned in 1795, although some cities continued to use decimal time as late as 1801.

A period of four years ending on a leap day was to be called a "Franciade".

The Republican calendar year began at the autumn equinox and had twelve months of 30 days each, which were given new names based on nature:

Vendémiaire (from Latin vindemia, "vintage") Starting September 22, 23 or 24
Brumaire (from French brume, "mist") Starting October 22, 23 or 24
Frimaire (From French frimas, "frost") Starting November 21, 22 or 23
Nivôse (from Latin Nivosus, "snowy") Starting December 21, 22 or 23
Pluviôse (from Latin pluviosus, "rainy") Starting January 20, 21 or 22
Ventôse (from Latin ventosus, "windy") Starting February 19, 20 or 21
Germinal (from Latin germen, "seed") Starting March 20 or 21
Floréal (from Latin flos, "flower") Starting April 20 or 21
Prairial (from French prairie, "meadow") Starting May 20 or 21
Messidor (from Latin messis, "harvest") Starting June 19 or 20
Thermidor (from Greek thermos, "hot") Starting July 19 or 20
Fructidor (from Latin fructus, "fruits") Starting August 18 or 19

Days had an animal, tool, or plant associated with them instead of saints. So, my birthday, February 17, would have officially been le 29 Pluviôse, with the patron entity chélidoineor celandine, a yellow poppy which is pretty but highly toxic throughout its roots, stem, leaves, and bloom. It was brought to North America by settlers who wanted to cure skin ailments, especially warts. All right.

In England, people against the Revolution mocked the calendar by calling the months: Wheezy, Sneezy and Freezy; Slippy, Drippy and Nippy; Showery, Flowery and Bowery; Wheaty, Heaty and Sweety.

The calendar was abolished because having a ten-day work week gave workers less rest (one day off every ten instead of one day off every seven); because the equinox was a mobile date to start every new year (a fantastic source of confusion for almost everybody); and because it was incompatible with the secular rhythms of trade fairs and agricultural markets.

Perhaps the most famous date in this calendar was immortalised by Karl Marx in the title of his pamphlet, "The 18th Brumaire of Louis Napoléon" (1852). The 18 Brumaire (9 November 1799) is considered the end of French Revolution. Another famous revolutionary date is 9 Thermidor, the date the Convention turned against Robespierre, who was guillotined the following day.

Thomas Carlyle on the calendar, in The French Revolution, a History:
"As to the New Calendar, we may say here rather than elsewhere that speculative men have long been struck with the inequalities and incongruities of the Old Calendar; that a New one has long been as good as determined on. Marechal the Atheist, almost ten years ago, proposed a New Calendar, free at least from superstition: this the Paris Municipality would now adopt, in defect of a better; at all events, let us have either this of Marechal's or a better,--the New Era being come. Petitions, more than once, have been sent to that effect; and indeed, for a year past, all Public Bodies, Journalists, and Patriots in general, have dated First Year of the Republic. It is a subject not without difficulties. But the Convention has taken it up; and Romme, as we say, has been meditating it; not Marechal's New Calendar, but a better New one of Romme's and our own. Romme, aided by a Monge, a Lagrange and others, furnishes mathematics; Fabre d'Eglantine furnishes poetic nomenclature: and so, on the 5th of October 1793, after trouble enough, they bring forth this New Republican Calendar of theirs, in a complete state; and by Law, get it put in action."

also see:
Les Heures Révolutionnaires, by Yves Droz and Joseph Flores
Decimal Time History, by John D. Hynes

convert dates here

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Maison Tristan Tzara

15, avenue Junot, 18e. (Montmartre)
Built in 1926 by Adolf Loos for Tristan Tzara, opportunist, radical artist, activist, founder of the Cabaret Voltaire, enemy of the Surrealists, Romanian, writer of the wonderful Dada manifesto.

Says Archinform, "Die symmetrische Straßenfront schwingt leicht nach innen. Der über zwei Etagen geführte Sockel wie auch die Stützmauer, mit der das abschüssige Gelände abgefangen werden muß, sind sichtbares Hausteinmauerwerk, darüber ist die Wand glatt verputzt. Hinter dem Eingang - es ist die rechte der beiden Türen, die linke führt zur Garage - liegt lediglich eine kleine Halle. Hier setzt eine Treppe an, die in einem engen, schluchtartigen Einschnitt im geraden Lauf an einer Einliegerwohnung vorbei zur Atelierwohnung des Hausherrn führt. Der rumänische Schriftsteller und Dadaist Tristan Tzara, ein 'Lebens- und Sprachkünstler von feuriger Lebendigkeit und Angriffslust', führte damals zusammen mit André Breton die Pariser Avantgarde an, die eine führende Stellung in der europäischen Literatur- und Kunstwelt einnahm. Über die Villa Tzara kam auch Adolf Loos in diesen Kreis. Weitere Bauaufträge, die er sich dadurch wohl erhoffen konnte, blieben allerdings aus. Man suchte zwar seinen Rat, ließ sich auch Entwürfe zeichnen - wie die Amerikanerin Joséphine Baker, die Mitte der zwanziger Jahre mit ihrer 'Revue Nègre' auf den Champs Elysées Triumphe feierte; wenn es aber um die Realisierung ging, wurden ihm doch französische Kollegen vorgezogen."

look, anthropomorphic.

from "Adolf Loos, the New Vision," over at Studio International:

"Loos, like many of the architects of the pre-1914 period, was self-consciously modern. I have already noted this. And he had other things in common with them. His generous, if sometimes misguided, enthusiasm for all things English, for instance. But he was untouched by the generalized Werkbund optimism. It was not through the reformation of untutored mechanics in art schools, however excellent, that good design would be achieved throughout society. In so far as good design was available, it was those very rude mechanics, the saddler, the silversmith, the upholsterer, even the plumber — but above all the tailor and the shoemaker — who already provided a repertory of excellent objects for everyday use. This was the early intuition of the perfection, of the superiority, of unadorned objects, as they had come from the ‘unspoilt’ craftsman's hands. Loos remained consistent in this: if you look through his interiors, whether private or commercial (he never designed a public building) you will find that he never used ‘modern’ designed furniture. His preference was for English style, for Chippendale or Hepplewhite chairs; or else the cheaper canework. Occasionally he uses the standard Thonet chairs in bentwood, familiar from cheap cafes all over Europe. The armchairs are the usual cosy, sub-Biedermeier upholstery, even including the occasional Chesterfield. The floors were, for preference, covered with Oriental rugs.

I suppose that is why there are so few photographs of the house which Loos designed for the most famous of his clients, Tristan Tzara, in the Avenue Junot, on Montmartre. To the street the house would have shown — had the projected top storey been built — a great white square set over a rubble stone base. The base contained the garage and fuel store, as well as the main entrance on the ground floor, and the main windows of a flat for letting above. This flat was entered from behind the building. The main apartment consisted of hall and kitchen looking through the windows which overhung the string course, more important rooms in the huge niche, about half the height of the square and a third of its width, which cut sharply into the great white surface, a negative of the shape which he would later perfect in the Muller home at Brno. It was set in the middle, so that a swathe of white, a third of the square's width, went round it on three sides.

The inner complexity of the plan was a topical Loosian solution for a difficult site. The complexity had its wit, as did the strangely highly-abstracted anthropomorphism of the facade, or the use of the commonplace Parisian industrial detailing in the lower floors, the shape of the lower niche, again the inversion of his favourite English bay-window. It is a configuration not unlike Le Corbusier's exactly contemporary villa at Garches for Leo Stein: a blank facade, sparsely pierced to the street, and an open, glazed frame towards the terraces and gardens at the back. But Loos's complexity always remains hard, the spaces are never moulded, never the plastic, shaped interiors which Corbusier made them.

Repeatedly Loos asserted that the architect's business is with the immeuble, the craftsman's with the meuble. The architect saw to the inert volume, to the walls and ceilings and floors, to the fixed details such as chimneys and fireplaces (beaten copper was one of Loos's favourite materials). And here his haptic reading of buildings was most important.

Wherever he could, Loos used semi-precious materials on walls and ceilings: metal plaques, leather, veined marbles or highly veneered woods, even facing built-in pieces of furniture. But unlike his contemporaries, Loos never used these materials as pieces to be framed, but always as integral, continuous surfaces, always as plain as possible, always displaying their proper texture: almost as if they were a kind of ornament, an ornament which showed the pleasure providence took in making them, as the more obvious type of ornament would display the pleasure experienced by his fellow-men.

Curious then, this feeling for the decorative effect of figuring in the arch-enemy of all ornament. Even more curious is his persistent use of the classical columns and mouldings. The crassest of these was his project for the Chicago Tribune, an unplaced competition project; it was an extraordinary scheme which consisted of a vast Doric column, (the shaft alone 21 storeys high) on a high parallelepiped base. To Loos, however, the project seemed wholly serious. The building was to be a pure classic form, classic and therefore outside the reach of fashion, so that it would fulfil the programme of the competition promoters to 'erect the most beautiful and distinctive office building in the world'.

A naughty extravaganza you might say. Of course. But Loos was convinced, secure enough, to allow himself that also. He had imagined a way of life in the house. The felicities of the plan all exult in the way the house was to be occupied, to be lived in. And does everything to ennoble it formally by a quiet unassertive wit. It is at this scale that Loos was at his happiest. The private houses are his masterpieces: they, the bars, the clothes shops, all buildings on a small scale, for the greater dimensions of public urban building he could not quite master. Though perhaps this is not entirely fair to him. In 1920 he was appointed chief architect for the Siedlungen of the post-abdication, the newly Republican Vienna. It was the nearest he came to giving positive expression to the western civilization he spoke of in architecture. But he was consumed by one or two detailed ideas which he never fully worked out: the terrace house with weight-bearing party-walls, and light construction cross-wall (what he called ‘the house with one wall’); the use of stepped terraces, so that the roof of one house could serve as garden to the next; the provision of access at every other floor, so that the terrace became in fact an immeuble villa, to adapt Corbusier's phrase. But his appointment did not and could not last. Only one of his Siedlungen was actually built, only partly following his plans before he retired, disappointed and embittered, to Paris. It is too easy to say that it was fated, that he should have remained the architect of the individual villa. Although all his projects for great public buildings show him at his worst, the low income housing absorbed his ingenious talent, drew the egalitarian and the moralist in him to a full engagement."

Monday, March 06, 2006


somehow I feel less well-traveled when I see how Euro-centric I am. (Also, this map deals in generalizations, and is unauthorizedly crediting me Alaska and giant swaths of the Russian Federation, even though I haven't been beyond Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Kiev).
Still, it's a useful image for some mental organizing...

create your own visited countries map