Friday, October 31, 2008


Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, no longer is it necessary for you to watch the runways of Milan, Paris, London or New York to get your fashion fix. I've taken the opportunity to highlight you some up and coming fashion styles straight from the French streets. This is where the hot styles are, this is where you will find out if you're dressing to the expectations of the fashion-savvy world. Best of all? There are no commercials on this show. So sit back, and enjoy the glamour.

First exhibit is the banana-yellow set of jeans sported by this lady.

Staying with pants, we move on to satisfy the male taste. I've got no idea what you'd call these, but they're rocking.

For the children, no wardrobe is complete without a set of knickers, a light-blue sweater and high socks with pompoms. Just the items you need to keep your jeunne homme in style!

Looking for something to get your mother-in-law for Christmas? Forget the coupon to the ice skating rink hoping that she'll break her hip, give her this stylish I-have-no-idea-what-kind-of-hair-this-is coat.

Love the practicality of boot-cut jeans, but adore the sense of femininity that a skirt gives you? Go with both!

Fathers, listen up. Here is an idea to culture that daddy-daughter relationship that is so vital. Why not go with matching pink corduroy pants?

So you're a fan of shorts, but it's 4 degrees centigrade outside. What do you do? Copy this young lady and throw on some hose!

Any effeminate vibes that you may sense looking at this guy's skin-tight red jeans are totally canceled out by the uber-masculine camo backpack. Trust me.

Ah, the beret. In magenta! No need to be an artist to wear one.

Add earrings and a long leather trench coat and you've got this look.

Yet another way to wear France's national headgear.

Are you listening out there all you Cleveland Browns fans? There are other folks besides yourselves who wear the two ugliest colors on the planet put together.

I have no idea when this hairstyle was in style the first time around, but it's making a comeback.

Guys, if you're feeling insecure because you're middle age and not balding, you can always just grow a combover anyways, and highlight it to grab some extra looks.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Louvre

The following pictures are from our trip to the Louvre in Paris. We went in the evening, and all that was missing was a cup of vin chaud to complete things. Anyways here's part of the complex from the outside, which is actually a combined fortress and palace.

The famous Louvre glass and steel Pyramid outside the main entrance to the museum. Sorry folks, I didn't bother counting the panes to see if there are really 666 of them.

First things first of course. Exhibit A was the Mona Lisa, painted by Da Vinci. It was just as impressive as advertised. I was amazed at the wide range of blues and greens used in the background scene. In the picture it just looks grey but there is everything from Navajo turquoise to Mossy-Oak camo green.

With over 30,000 artifacts I didn't get to see everything let alone photograph everything, but did take some pictures of some of the most famous works. This is the widely-recognized statue of Venus.

The Hermaphrodite. I didn't like this marble manifestation of the Greeks' perverse side, but it's famous, so its picture got taken. As a statue, it's wonderfully done though.

The Three Graces.

The famous statue of the Moor. For those of you that have read The Bronze Bow this reminded me of what Samson would have looked like.

It's pretty incredible when you can get an idea of the rest of the scene just by only having one piece. For those of you that don't know, the gladius as a weapon was based on the concept of close-range fighting where the Romans' enemies would not have room to swing their longer blades. Once the armies joined ranks, the sturdy, pointed Roman short sword was used to thrust and disembowel enemies. (As an aside it is thought that the Roman gladius was a "weapon of mass destruction" that wasn't equalled in effectiveness and killing power until the English long bow.) With that in mind, it's easy to imagine this Gladiator looking up into his opponent's eyes even as he sliced open his torso with his long-since-lost gladius.. Stiff-arming his foe, crouching lower, at the point where his arm's potential energy was greatest. Even his blade's direction is understood. Perfectly straight, you can see it wouldn't change as it came upwards; the arm muscles are too tensed and wouldn't be relaxed.

A photo I took just because I love mosaics and wouldn't mind having one of these on the floor of my house.

Mars and Venus.

This was one of my favorite paintings in the Louvre. For those of you that don't know the story behind it, it depicts a Roman mythological hero named Gaius Mucius Scaevola. When the Etruscan king Porsenna held Rome under siege, Mucius together with a band of 300 Romans vowed to give their own lives in order to kill Porsenna. Mucius snuck into the Etruscan camp at night and killed a man he mistook for Porsenna. Captured and brought before Porsenna, he was condemned to be burned alive. Mucius scornfully thrust his right hand into a brazier of coals in front of Porsenna and declared that he did not fear pain or death. He also warned Porsenna that while he had failed, he was but one of 300 Romans who had made it their mission to kill Porsenna and that eventually one of them would succeed. After telling Porsenna that he would not know a calm night's sleep and would live in fear until he was eventually assasinated, Mucius removed his hand from the flames. Impressed by his bravery, and perhaps just a little afraid, Porsenna freed Mucius and retreated from Rome, lifting the siege. Thereafter Mucius was honored as a hero and given the title of Scaevola or "left-handed". For obvious reasons, the story is appealing. I've always likened Mucius and his 299 comarades to Leonidas and his band of 300 Spartans, but with a twist. Leonidas and his warriors gave us a story of heroic bravery, a story that is comparable to Custer's last stand and the Light Brigade's charge in the Crimea. But Mucius and his men had a distinctly Roman methodology to their madness, a cold plotting and rigid planning that combined with loyal patriotism to become the face of the Roman Empire. If Leonidas was Rambo, Mucius was Sergeant York. A flame of glory contrasted with heroic precision. It's great stuff :D

Napoleon, by Delaroche.

Michelangelo's Dying Slave. It was uncanny how much of a resemblance the slave's face bore to the David in Florence.

A young Princess Psyche being seducted by Cupid, a work by the master Canova.

Dying Seneca, a second-century Roman statue. Thinking about Seneca, I couldn't help notice the comparisons between the end of his life and that of the German artillery commander Rommel. Caught up in suicide plots against crazed dictators, forced to commit suicide as a form of honorable death despite having rendered invaluable service to their countries......I wonder if Rommel ever read any of Seneca's works and life as a student in Danzig.

Speaking of Leonidas, here he is at the battle of Thermopolyae, depicted by the famous painter Jacques-Louis David

Napoleon on the field of battle at Eylau, the first great check of the Grande Armee, overshadowed by Waterloo.

Another famous portrait of Napoleon visiting the sick at Jaffa.

Perhaps the most famous depiction of Lady Liberty except for the statue in New York, a painting by Delacroix.

This painting has been used as the cover for at least one book about the life of Joan of Arc. I didn't know it was in the Louvre but was pleased to stumble upon it. It was large, and quite impressive. Done by Ingres.

A crown that is said to have belonged to Charlemagne.

Another famous painting depicting an epic moment in the history of Rome. A masterpiece that helped catapault Jacques-Louis David to fame, it depicts the three Horatii brothers taking an oath against the Curatii. According to Livy, the Horatii were triplets who vowed to wage war against three brothers from the Curatii family as a means of settling a dispute between the Romans and the Albans. The painting was famous in neoclassical times for the patriotism it stirred up. It is interesting to note that it is one of the more widely-known instances in art where the Roman stiff-armed salute was depicted, upon which Hitler and Mussolini based their salutes. If you look closely, the three brothers are not taking the swords, but rather saluting and swearing the oath on their swords, offered to them by their father while their women and children lie weeping in the background.

Yet another famous moment from Rome's beginning. After the abduction of the Sabine women by the neighboring Romans, the Sabines attempted to get them back. Jacques-Louis David depicts this episode here. You can see the men of Rome fighting and on the ground, the product of the Roman abduction of the Sabines-young Roman/Sabine children playing.

The Pope who defied Napoleon, and again, a painting used as the cover for a book. Pius VII in his solemn dignity.

Paris part one

The following set of blog posts will deal with the trip Alex and I took to France. Although we didn't have nearly enough time to see everything, we had a great time. We hope you enjoy looking at the pictures as much as we had taking them. Amusez-vous bien!

On our flight in from Rome we got to catch the sun breaking over the French Alps.

So this isn't exactly indicative of Paris, but hey...we recognized the brand.

Mmmm...French pastries!

Alex standing in front of the Arc de Triomphe. It was commissioned by Napoleon and modeled after Titus' arch in Rome.

The tomb of the unknown soldier underneath the arch.

Shameless copying of Rome's arches was visible on the vaulting. :)

The modern version of the Arch - the Arche de la Défense.It is intended to be a 20th century version of its older counterpart. It's actually an office building, and is massive - 108 meters high.

Paris' version of Via dei Condotti - the Avenue des Champs-Elysees. There's a joke about why those trees were planted but I'm afraid it wouldn't be very sporting of me to mention it. :)

A placque marking the house where Thomas Jefferson stayed when he visited Paris.

A view of some of the flower beds sprinkled throughout the city.

The Place de Concorde, one of the major squares in Paris. It was here that the guillotine was used during the Terror, and where King Louis XVI was murdered.

This is the church of the Madeleine, L'Église de la Madeleine. Originally it was intended to be a temple dedicated to the glory of Napoleon's Army, but was converted into a church. Today it is where all the most fashionable couples of Paris celebrate their weddings, and incidentally is where the funeral of Chopin took place.

Snails!!!!!!!! Yep, they do eat these.

This is the Expiatory Chapel, the chapel built over the site where the bodies of King Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette were thrown after they were guillotined.

This is the Colonne Vendôme, the column erected by Napoleon to commemorate his victory at Austerlitz. It was inspired by Trajan's Column in Rome.

Alex standing beside the base of the column so you can judge its size.

This is the square where the column stands - Place Vendôme.

Here is the interior of the church of Notre-Dame-des-Victoires. Its cornerstone was laid in 1629 by King Louis XIII.

In this picture you can see some of the marble placques thanking Our Lady of Victory for favors received. There are over 10,000 of them lining the walls and ceiling of the church.

A stained glass panel of Our Lady of Victory.

And the famous statue itself. It was before this statue that St. Therese of Lisieux prayed for help in discerning her vocation.

One of the many picturesque cafes lining the streets of Paris.

The church of Saint-Eustache, finished in 1632. Several historic figures have had ties to this church. It is where King Louis XIV received his first communion, Mozart conducted funeral services for his mother, and Richelieu was baptized.

The magnificent Gothic interior of the church. Its ceiling is over 100 feet high.

Stunning Rose window.

The tomb of Jean-Baptiste Colbert, the famous minister of finance under Louis XIV.

The St. Jacques Tower, all that remains of a church that was demolished. Today it has been restored and is a popular landmark in Paris. At its base is a statue of Blaise Pascal.

The Hôtel de Ville, the center of Paris' administration. It is the site where Robespierre was shot in the jaw and arrested in the coup of 1789, and the site where Charles de Gaulle gave his famous speech from the window in 1944 after the liberation of Paris.

A shot of the river Seine.

The cathedral of Notre Dame by night.

Dusk falling, with the Eiffel Tower in the background.

The Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, modeled after Septimus Severus' arch in Rome.

Last nighttime picture - the famous glass pyramid near the Louvre.