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America’s exceptional exclusionism

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 17, 2015

There is much to say about the recent events in Syria, Beirut, and Paris, but, closer to home the news, that more than half of the governors of US states say they would refuse to help Syrian refugees seems like a new low in good old fashioned American xenophobia and stupidity.

By late Monday, states refusing Syrian refugees included Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin.

As @drwave put it, “what a bunch of assholes”. In linking to this piece, The Islamic State wants you to hate refugees, Dave Pell from NextDraft notes:

From everything I’ve read, taking a strong anti-refugee position is closer to collaborating with ISIS than standing up to it.

Having your racist aunt call for closing our doors to innocent people fleeing terrorism and death on her Facebook page is one thing, but to see dozens of elected officials and Presidential candidates calling openly and proudly for it, I just don’t know what to say. I was going to say that it’s unprecedented, but this sort of thing is deeply embedded into the fabric of America, from slavery to the Jim Crow laws to our treatment of Native Americans to the Japanese internment camps during WWII. Have we learned nothing?

We Work Remotely

1940 Nazi tourist map of Paris

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 04, 2015

Nazi Tourist Map Paris

In 1940, Germany published a tourist map of occupied Paris intended for use by German soldiers on leave.

Sham Paris

posted by Jason Kottke   May 05, 2014

Sham Paris

A fake Paris was partially constructed near the real Paris at the end of World War I in the hopes of confusing German planes who were looking to bomb the City of Lights.

The story of Sham Paris may have been “broken” in The Illustrated London News of 6 November 1920 in a remarkably titled photo essay, “A False Paris Outside Paris — a ‘City’ Created to be Bombed”. There were to be sham streets lined with electric lights, sham rail stations, sham industry, open to a sham population waiting to be bombed by real Germans. It is a perverse city, filled with the waiting-to-be-murdered in a civilian target.

Stand clear of the diving boards, please

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 17, 2014

I love this rendering of an abandoned Paris Metro station reimagined as a swimming pool:

Paris Metro Pool

This and several other renderings were created by OXO Associates for Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet’s Paris mayoral race. The others imagine subway stations turned into theaters, nightclubs, and underground parks.

If the New Yorker were set in Paris

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 23, 2013

Covers for The Parisianer, an imaginary version of the New Yorker set in Paris.


Beautiful horizon rainbow in Paris

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 27, 2013

Paris even does rainbows better than the rest of the world. This is a photo of a horizon rainbow taken over the Parisian skyline last week by Bertrand Kulik.

Paris Rainbow

What the heck is going on there? Astronomy Picture of the Day explains:

Why is this horizon so colorful? Because, opposite the Sun, it is raining. What is pictured above is actually just a common rainbow. It’s uncommon appearance is caused by the Sun being unusually high in the sky during the rainbow’s creation. Since every rainbow’s center must be exactly opposite the Sun, a high Sun reflecting off of a distant rain will produce a low rainbow where only the very top is visible — because the rest of the rainbow is below the horizon.

(via @DavidGrann)

1910s Paris color photos redone in contemporary Paris

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 25, 2013

In past few months, I linked to two collections of color photos of Paris taken in the 1910s and 1920s under the direction of Albert Kahn.

Albert Kahn Paris

Recently Rue89 sent photographer Audrey Cerdan to recapture some of those old scenes in modern day Paris and knocked up an interface so that you can slide back and forth between the old and current photos. In some of the pairs of photos, pharmacies, tabacs, and boulangeries are in the same places. (thx, christophe)

A bunch of early color photos of Paris

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 25, 2013

In December, I linked to a small collection of color photos of Paris taken in the 1910s and 1920s. Here’s a much more extensive collection of Parisian color photography. Some of my favorites:

Paris Color Photos 01

Paris Color Photos 02

Paris Color Photos 03

The middle photo is of the flower market at Les Halles in 1914, which would be quite a thing to have experienced. (thx, julien)

Color photography of Paris from 1914

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 04, 2012

Albert Kahn sent photographers all over the world in the early 1900s and amassed over 72,000 color photos in the process. Here are a few shots of his from Paris on the eve of World War I.

Albert Kahn Paris

That photo is of the entrance to the Passage du Caire at the corner of Rue d’Alexandrie and Rue Sainte-Foy in the 2nd arrondissement. Here’s what it looks like today:

Passage Du Caire

The fall and rise of the baguette

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 05, 2012

The baguette is one of the foods most commonly associated with France, so it’s surprising that for a long time, the French baguette was uncommonly bad. Samuel Fromartz travelled to Paris to apprentice with a baker and discovered how the baguette got its groove back.

“For years I had watched the sensorial quality of French bread palpably deteriorate,” he told me. The decline first set in, he said, when bakers switched from levain to commercial yeast in order to shorten the bread-making process. Yeast could work as an acceptable substitute for levain, but instead of relying on minute amounts of yeast and letting the dough ferment over 24 hours- as Delmontel does with his baguettes-bakers added more yeast and cut the rise period to as little as one hour, “suppressing the first fermentation that is the source of all taste,” Kaplan said.

The situation worsened in the 1950s, when bakers started using intensive kneading machines that satisfied consumer desire for an ever-whiter crumb. They started sprinkling in additives such as vitamin C to spike fermentation, and heaps of salt to mask the absence of flavor. In short, while pursuing the promises of modernity-efficiency, speed, and whiter bread-what French bakers lost was the one indispensable ingredient: time.

“For me, bread was a crucial dimension of what the French proudly call their ‘cultural exception,’” or national identity, said Kaplan. “They did not seem to be aware that they were putting it in grave peril.” By the 1980s, the French ate less and less bread. Boulangeries folded; those that remained competed with supermarkets, which baked frozen baguettes and sold them as loss leaders.

Food trucks in Paris and they going gorillas

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 04, 2012

The food truck trend has invaded Paris, where young people use the phrase “très Brooklyn” to denote food that combines “informality, creativity and quality”.

On a bright morning last month at the Marché St.-Honoré, a weekly market in an elegant residential section of Paris, several sleekly dressed women struggled to lift the thick burgers to their mouths gracefully. (In French restaurants, and sometimes even fast-food joints, burgers are eaten with utensils, not hands.) A few brave souls were trying to eat tacos with a knife and fork. “C’est pas trop épicé,” said one, encouraging a tentative friend — “It’s not too spicy,” high praise from the chile-fearing French.

Street food itself isn’t new to France. At outdoor markets like this one, there is often a truck selling snacks like pizza, crepes or spicy Moroccan merguez sausages, cooked on griddles and stuffed into baguettes.

But the idea of street food made by chefs, using restaurant-grade ingredients, technique and technology, is very new indeed.

Paris, USA

posted by Jason Kottke   May 09, 2012

Having recently published a book about Paris, France, Rosecrans Baldwin visited a number of towns named Paris around the US to see how Americans perceive the French here in 2012. Here’s part one of his report.

The survey has eight questions ranging from general opinions to particular trivia. For example, “Whose side was France on during the American Revolutionary War?”

Sixty-six percent of respondents get it right: our side. Twenty percent are wrong. Incorrect answers include “the British,” “England,” “the opposite side,” and, oddly, “the French.” Other responses: “History was not my class in school — I hate it,” and “I am averse.” My favorite comes from a gas station attendant in Lexington, Ky., who writes: “I refuse to answer the rest of this survey. I love the French language. I have had many French friends.”

One guy in a parking lot outside a Dallas strip club says, “This has got to be a trick question.” And there’s another person, at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, who will ask me, “You mean our American Revolutionary War?” Which appears to be a general concern — of the 55 people, at least 10 ask me to which American Revolution I am referring. Two people say, “But we didn’t have a revolution.”

The Morning News is serializing the other parts of this story all this month but you can get the whole thing right now on the Kindle.

An American in Paris 2.0

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 19, 2012

GQ has an excerpt of Rosecrans Baldwin’s new book about the eighteen months he and his wife spent in Paris.

Bruno sat under a machine shaped like a palm tree that sucked up smoke. He lit a cigarette, unpopped a shirt button nonchalantly, ordered Sancerre, and began talking over my head. After fifteen minutes, I understood that he’d worked on the infant-nutrition project for eleven months, ever since he’d joined the agency. They’d gone through four copywriters in the same amount of time; I was number five.

Bruno said, Reservoir Dogs, did I know this film?

“Bien sur,” I said, adding, “Mr. Pink?”

“Okay, good,” Bruno said in English. “Then, Mr. Pink… do not be this. Do not be saying in the office, ‘Fuck, fuck, fuck.’”

Evidently Bruno had overheard me swearing. He wanted me to know that cursing wasn’t cool in Parisian office culture. It seemed to weigh on Bruno, speaking English like that, correcting my behavior. As though envisioning trials to come.

The book is called Paris, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down and is due out soooon.

Paris in logos

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 20, 2011

Logo Tourist is a project by Risto-Jussi Isopahkala that depicts cityscapes and famous Parisian landmarks made up of famous logos. Here’s the Arc de Triumph (sponsored by Pepsi and Adidas):

Arc De Branding

See also Logorama.

The worst restaurant in the world

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 07, 2011

A.A. Gill has a hilarious and epic review of L’Ami Louis in Paris, which he dubs “the worst restaurant in the world”.

What you actually find when you arrive at L’Ami Louis is singularly unprepossessing. It’s a long, dark corridor with luggage racks stretching the length of the room. It gives you the feeling of being in a second-class railway carriage in the Balkans. It’s painted a shiny, distressed dung brown. The cramped tables are set with labially pink cloths, which give it a colonic appeal and the awkward sense that you might be a suppository. In the middle of the room is a stubby stove that also looks vaguely proctological.

A tour of the abandoned Paris Metro

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 23, 2010

sleepycity has tons of photos of some old trains and abandoned Paris Metro stations and tunnels.

Old Paris Metro sign

(via @bldgblog)

Paris vs New York

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 29, 2010

The Paris vs New York blog presents a series of illustrated comparisons between the two cities: macaroons vs. cupcakes, baguette vs bagel, and espresso vs American coffee:

Paris vs New York

Paris art heist

posted by Aaron Cohen   May 20, 2010

A masked bandit broke into the Paris Museum of Modern Art last night and stole 5 paintings. Included in the grab were a Picasso and a Matisse.

Here is the list of paintings and what they look like:
”Le pigeon aux petits-pois” (The Pigeon with the Peas) by Pablo Picasso
”La Pastorale” (Pastoral) by Henri Matisse
‘L’olivier pres de l’Estaque” (Olive Tree near Estaque) by Georges Braque
‘La femme a l’eventail” (Woman with a Fan) by Amedeo Modigliani
”Nature-mort aux chandeliers” (Still Life with Chandeliers) by Fernand Leger

(via @jkottke)

Massive panorama of Paris

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 16, 2010

A 26-gigapixel image of Paris. Fully zoomable and pannable. Sacré-Coeur starts out as a tiny speck and you can zoom in to see a bunch of people sitting on the steps outside.

Paris, 1962

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 04, 2010

Images from Paris cafes and nightlife in 1962, the same week Yves St. Laurent’s runway show vaulted Dior to new heights. Many scenes around Les Halles (which no longer exists as it did then).

From the collection, a photo of some Les Halles butchers enjoying a drink at Au Pied de Cochon:

Au Pied De Cochon 1962

Update: As Wikipedia notes, Saint Laurent’s fabled show took place in 1958; Dior was gone from Dior by ‘62. Not sure whether the caption is wrong or the photos are really from 1958. (thx, alex)

Harry Beck Paris Metro map

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 12, 2009

Harry Beck, designer of the iconic London Tube map, once took a crack at a map for the Paris Metro, but his effort was rejected for being too geometric.

So why did the Paris Metro (now operated by the RATP) reject Beck’s clear simplification of their beloved system? One reason is visible at each station entrance; Parisians use the maps here as a free public service to help them find their way round the city - the ubiquitous geographic wall map is more than just a Metro plan.

Free bikes freed

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 12, 2009

The wonderful free bikes program started 18 months ago in Paris has run into some trouble.

Over half the original fleet of 15,000 specially made bicycles have disappeared, presumed stolen. They have been used 42 million times since their introduction but vandalism and theft are taking their toll. The company which runs the scheme, JCDecaux, says it can no longer afford to operate the city-wide network.

Reports have some of the stolen bikes showing up as far away as Eastern Europe and North Africa.

Update: But even with the thefts, the program is still making money for Paris & JCDecaux and enjoys a 94% satisfaction rate among Parisians.

Last July, the city of Paris agreed to pay JCDecaux 400 euros for every bike stolen in excess of four percent of the total fleet each year. Given the enormous popularity of Velib — users have taken 42 million rides since its debut — the cost of those payments is minimal. Using the BBC’s figure of 7,800 missing bikes, the pricetag for the city comes to less than 2 million euros annually, out of 20 million euros in user fees.

(thx, adam)

Update: Late correction…the Paris program is, of course, not free. (thx, afsheen)

Historic Paris photography

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 23, 2008

It seems like I’ve linked to this before but why not again? Paris en Images is a huge collection of historic photos of Paris.

Quiet Paris

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 31, 2008

If Paris is getting quiet again, it must be the end of July, a nice set of photos from Rion Nakaya.

Paris in decline

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 24, 2008

Is Paris stagnant?

“Paris, and France, are definitely having an identity crisis,” says Christophe Boicos, a gallery owner and art professor for several American universities. “They have been living off their 19th- and 20th-century heritage for a long time. At the opening of the 21st century, they need to redefine themselves.”

Artists looking for the buzz go to London or Berlin, or further afield to New York, rather than Paris, says German art historian Wilfried Rogasch. “Paris is in stagnation. Talented people from around the world go to Paris. But they don’t go there for stimulation, they go to see Paris.”

I’ve said this before, but Paris — the central part of it anyway — seems like a giant museum. We’ve thought of living there for a year or two but after a recent one-day trip there, that doesn’t seem like such a good idea anymore. (via vqr)

Color photos of occupied Paris

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 10, 2008

André Zucca’s color photographs of Paris during the German occupation of WWII have provoked controversy because Zucca worked for a German propaganda magazine. But Richard Brody argues that Zucca’s photographs are true to the Paris of the time and don’t just show the “cheerful ease” of the city’s residents.

Certainly, Zucca couldn’t get the whole story: he photographed Jews wearing the star but couldn’t show the roundups or the deportation to Auschwitz; he could show German soldiers but couldn’t show the arrest, torture, and execution of resisters. He couldn’t, but nobody could; the problem wasn’t that he worked for a propaganda rag: photographers who actively worked for the Resistance couldn’t do it either. But what he did do was to capture the paradoxes of the Occupation, where horror and pleasure coexisted in shockingly close proximity, where the active resistance to Nazi occupation was in fact far less prevalent than the feigned daily oblivion of those who kept their heads down and tried to cope.

More of Zucca’s photos are here.

You will not understand

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 19, 2008

Always amusing, Rosecrans Baldwin’s dispatches from Paris. Unless (or perhaps especially) if you’re French.

One afternoon a roving band of 30 teenagers stopped traffic on the Champs-Elysées, marching toward the Arc de Triomphe, followed by a battalion of 60 police officers in riot gear, marching in rows of two. I asked a French co-worker what the kids were celebrating. He squinted, looking into the sun. “That it’s May,” he said. “That they’re French, that they’re young. You will not understand.”

Paris, I Love You But You’re Bringing

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 19, 2008

Paris, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down is the latest is a series of dispatches from Rosecrans Baldwin during his Parisian residence.

“So who would win in a fight,” the Welshman asked me, “New York or Los Angeles?”

It took me a second. “Los Angeles. New Yorkers would be too busy to fight,” Then I asked him: “OK, imagine it’s you and a hundred five-year-olds in a locked room. The children are overcome with a desire to kill you. How many could you put down?”

He thought for a second. “Can I use one of them as a weapon against the others?”

“Sure. But you have to remember they’re a mob.”

“Yeah, I can’t let them get me on the ground.”

A minute later we gave the game over to the French: “Who wins, Coca-Cola or Uma Thurman?”

The French didn’t answer and remained staring out the windows-it might have been Battersea, or Shepherd’s Bush. Then the French director said, “That is not a game.” He started coughing. “It is so Anglo, this game. It is not a game. How do you judge this? It is a soda and a woman. Then how do you decide?”

“One wins, one loses. Just pick,” I said. But he refused: “It is nothing a French person would think is a game. It is so stupid.”

The traffic wasn’t moving. I asked him then to suggest a French game instead that we could play. “OK, OK, here is a French game,” he said. “We will talk about something for a little while. It will be about nothing. We will talk and talk and talk about it. Sometimes I will take the other side of the conversation, just to say you are wrong. And then we will stop.”

He resumed his brooding silence. The composer turned to say he agreed, this was a classic French game.

The just-released Michelin restaurant guide for Tokyo

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 21, 2007

The just-released Michelin restaurant guide for Tokyo awards more stars to that city’s restaurants than New York and Paris put together. And 8 get a 3-star rating, only 2 fewer than in Paris.

Tokyo has more restaurants - at least 160,000 that could be classified as proper “restaurants” - than almost any other urban centre. Paris, by comparison, has little more than 20,000 and New York about 23,000.

There’s a lot of handwringing about Tokyo restaurants getting so many stars, but to look at it another way, Paris has 8 times fewer restaurants and has more 3 stars than Tokyo. Not bad.

(via marginal revolution)

Museum cities

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 19, 2007

On the SuperSpatial blog, Martin Gittins reviews a TV series on Venice, Italy, “the city destroyed by its own beauty”.

With the indigenous population dwindling to less than 50,000, and the oldest average age in Europe, da Mosto worries for the future of the city, as he brings his children up in what has become essentially a theme park for the hordes of visitors that cross the bridge link into the city, or pull up in the huge cruise ships that stop-over in Venice.

The danger for a city as a theatre or theme-park is that it becomes a stage set, a backdrop. This inevitably treats citizens as actors, there for others amusement. This leads to a simulated city as Baudrillard would have it, a city of the hyperreal as Umberto Eco might tell us. What happens when the audience is not there?

I’ve never visited Venice, but Paris shares some of the same traits. Obviously Paris is a large cosmopolity with much more than tourism going on, but the central tourist part of the city always feels a lot like a museum to me, moreso than other large cities I’ve visted. The city is simultaneously Paris — the capital of France, host to international corporations, home to an increasingly diverse 2.1 million people, cultural center — and also Ah, Paris™, an experience comprised of a certain style of architecture, cafes spilling out into tiny streets, romantic walks along the Seine, the French waiter, macaroons, the Notre Dame, les bouquinistes, baguettes, etc. That the two identities coexist in the same space and time, one within the other (Paris as cultural hypercube?), creates the potential for some real cognitive dissonance for the frequent tourist or long-term visitor attempting to straddle both worlds.