A letter by Rene Descartes, stolen in 1840s, recovered in 2010 by online detective work. The letter was stolen by Guglielmo Libri, inspector general of the libraries of France, who stole thousands of valuable documents and fled to England in 1848. Since 1902 it's been in the collection of Haverford College, its contents unknown to scholars, and nobody there realized that it was an unknown letter. But because they had catalogued it and recently put their catalogue on line, Dutch philosopher Erik-Jan Bos found it "during a late-night session browsing the Internet". (A Haverford undergraduate thirty years ago had translated it and written a paper on it, in which he recognized that the letter was unknown -- but nobody followed up and the letter had sat in the library since then until it was listed online.) The letter includes some last-minute edits to the Meditations, and some thoughts on God as causa sui. Haverford, whose president was a philosophy major, is returning the letter to the Institut de France.
Remembering the pleasures I enjoyed, I renew them, and I laugh at the pains which I have endured and which I no longer feel. Of Giacomo Girolamo Casanova de Seingalt ‘s Histoire de ma vie, Kenneth Rexroth wrote: Purity, simplicity, definition, impact — these qualities of Homer are those of Casanova too. … He has equals but no superiors in the art of direct factual narrative. ... Time and its ruining passage color all the book. His sense of his own imminent death lurks in the dark background of every brilliantly lit lusty and bawdy tableau. After an unusually colorful history, the manuscript has been donated to France's National Library. [more inside]
"Imagine, amid the grey serge of wartime France, a tribe of youngsters with all the colourful decadence of punks or teddy boys. Wearing zoot suits cut off at the knee (the better to show off their brightly coloured socks), with hair sculpted into grand quiffs, and shoes with triple-height soles - looking like glam-rock footwear 30 years early - these were the kids who would lay the foundations of nightclubbing. Ladies and gentlemen, les Zazous." [more inside]
He invented or popularized a startling array of the fundamental elements of film: the dissolve, the fade-in and fade-out, slow motion, fast motion, stop motion, double exposures and multiple exposures, miniatures, the in-camera matte, time-lapse photography, color film (albeit hand-painted), artificial film lighting, production sketches and storyboards, and the whole idea of narrative film.
By 1897, in a studio of his own design and construction – the first complete movie studio – his hand forged virtually everything on his screen. Norman McLaren writes, "He was not only his own producer, ideas man, script writer, but he was his own set-builder, scene painter, choreographer, deviser of mechanical contrivances, special effects man, costume designer, model maker, actor, multiple actor, editor and distributor." Also, his own cinematographer, and the inventor of cameras to suit his special conceptions. Not even auteur directors such as Charles Chaplin, Orson Welles, John Cassavetes, and Stanley Kubrick would personally author so many aspects of their films."Inside: 57 films by Georges Méliès, the Grandfather of Visual Effects. [more inside]
"A giraffe, refusing to condescend to all the fuss, stood calmly in the rising water and later died of pneumonia."
Around the time of the flooding in Troyes a plant in the south-east of Paris which supplied compressed air to the owners of ‘pneumatique’ equipment – lifts, ventilation, industrial machinery – was submerged. Parisians were fond of compressed-air technology. It was how the postal service delivered mail from one office to another in small brass shuttles propelled along a network of tubes. It was also used to keep the clocks ticking on the streets of the city and, by subscription, in private apartments. When the plant went underwater during the night, pneumatic time stopped dead.Pavements Like Jelly is an article by Jeremy Harding describing the 1910 Great Flood of Paris which started 100 years ago today. Photo exhibition with 1300 photographs focusing on Paris. Even more photos, taking in the entire Seine. Both sites are Flash heavy, for a smaller selection of non-Flash pictures go here and here. [1910 Paris Flood previously on MetaFilter]
"In many films, people never discuss ideas, whether moral ideas or political ideas. And if those kinds of discussions are in fact introduced, they always ring false. But I think I've managed -- and this is what I'm happiest about with my films as a whole -- I've managed to show people discussing morality, whatever that morality might be, in a completely natural way." Eric Rohmer, French filmmaker and editor of Cahiers du Cinema, has died at 89. [more inside]
So you want to build your own Eiffel Tower. Then you'll need 7,300 tons of iron, 2.5 million rivets, and some blueprints. (You may also need a copyright lawyer.)
So the French do lip dub too? Sometimes it's good and fun (starring employees of the W9 TV channel) and sometimes bad and corny (starring many French political celebrities from president Sarkozy's party, such as the minister of economic affairs and the secretary of state for sports).
5bis rue du Verneuil is the home of Serge Gainsbourg in Paris. This short film peels off the layers of graffiti left on the wall there.
The world of soccer has been rocked by a French player's game-defining handball in the much-anticipated qualifier match between France and Ireland. Thierry Henry has admitted to the offense, but said ultimately it is the duty of the linesman to make the call. His action and subsequent admission have drawn strong reactions, including attempts to vandalize his Wikipedia page. [more inside]
In 2010, Obama will have a miserable year, NATO may lose in Afghanistan, the UK gets a regime change, China needs to chill, India's factories will overtake its farms, Europe risks becoming an irrelevant museum, the stimulus will need an exit strategy, the G20 will see a challenge from the "G2", African football will unite Korea, conflict over natural resources will grow, Sarkozy will be unloved and unrivalled, the kids will come together to solve the world's problems (because their elders are unable), technology will grow ever more ubiquitous, we'll all charge our phones via USB, MBAs will be uncool, the Space Shuttle will be put to rest, and Somalia will be the worst country in the world. And so the Tens begin.
The Economist: The World in 2010. [more inside]
The Economist: The World in 2010. [more inside]
The Thirty Years War is a website covers that ginormous kerfuffle that consumed Europe in the first half of the 17th Century from the Second Defenestration of Prague to the Peace of Westphalia. It has a handy map with a place locator which will help you tell your Schweidnitz from your Schweinfurt. Here are some other maps, The Religious Situation in Central Europe about 1618, Principal Seats of War, 1618-1660 and Europe in 1648 - Peace of Westphalia.
In 1948, in the aftermath of the Second World War, with Europe still in ruins, three young Belgian comic strip artists, Joseph Gillain (aka Jijé), Maurice de Bevere (aka Morris) and André Franquin, crossed the Atlantic with the intention of settling in the US. All three would eventually return to Belgium, their hopes of working for Disney ultimately dashed by the turmoil of the McCarthy years. However, in the meantime they made the acquaintance of their colleagues of the Charles William Harvey Studio in New York, including a cosmopolitan young wit named René Goscinny. [more inside]
Jean Fouquet, peintre et enlumineur du XVe siecle is an exquisite French-language exhibition devoted to the fifteenth-century painter Jean Fouquet. Fouquet--known, among other things, as the painter of (possibly) the first stand-alone self-portrait--is best remembered for the Melun Diptych, now split between two museums. His illuminations include the Book of Hours of Étienne Chevalier and contributions to the Book of Hours of Simon de Varie, among others.
Norman Centuries is a new podcast by Lars Brownworth, best known for his podcast series 12 Byzantine Rulers (previously). Norman Centuries, as the name suggests, recounts the history of the Normans, those literal vikings who gained Normandy and then England, Sicily, Malta, Antioch and, well, a whole heck of a lot of other places too. They were a conquering bunch. First two episodes are out with more to follow. [iTunes link]
On September 10th, to celebrate their initiation week, 172 communications students at the University of Quebec at Montreal decided to put on a show. After weeks of preparation, the costumed and prop-wielding crowd enacted an exuberant, complex, and flawlessly-choreographed performance of the Black Eyed Peas song "I Gotta Feeling" that sprawled through the campus's multi-story Judith Jasmin Pavilion... and they did it all in one continuous take (on their second try). The feat is just the most recent example of "lipdubbing" -- a video phenomenon where a single camera moves through a crowd of highly coordinated lip-syncers in a single seamless take, with the original recording dubbed over the finished product. [more inside]
Campaigning MP Valérie Boyer, a member of Nicolas Sarkozy's UMP party, has put forth another controversial bill to address the role of the fashion industry media in portraying healthy body images. Boyer, who wrote a government report on anorexia and obesity, is currently proposing "health warnings" on digitally altered photographs of people, stating that the image was "digitally enhanced to modify a person’s body image." The previous bill supported by Boyer and others came in April 2008, when France's lower house of parliament passed a bill that would make it a crime to promote "excessive thinness" or extreme dieting,. The bill would empower judges to punish with prison terms and fines of up to €45,000 any publication (including blogs), modeling agency, or fashion designer who "incites" anorexia. That bill, which followed closely after key members of the French fashion industry signed a government-backed charter, came under fire from fashion designers and some politicians. French fashion and politics weren't at the front of this effort, with Madrid's fashion week turning away underweight models in 2006, facing concerns that girls and young women were trying to copy their rail-thin looks and developing eating disorders.
Are Peace Negotiations hosted by Russia and France in the cards? Today, President Obama is meeting with Israeli PM Netanyahu and the Palestian Authority's Abbas and then hosting a three-way meeting with both leaders. Officially all parties claim they have "low expectations." [more inside]
Normandy: Then and Now Photographs of Normandy in 1944 meticulously juxtaposed with how the area looks today by French historian Patrick Elie.
Author James Lord, who knew everyone, has died. He wrote about sitting for Alberto Giacometti, before he wrote Giacommeti’s biography. He spent some time with Dora Maar, a photographer and muse who died in 1997, and wrote a book about her entitled “Dora and Picasso” (ISBN 0880641622). [Dora Maar previously on metafilter.] Lord helped set up the Cezanne atelier in Aix en Provence. He knew many people - Arletty, Balthus, Cocteau, Maugham, Marie-Laure de Noailles, Ned Rorem, Leger, Misia Sert - and wrote about all of them in his books, including "Six exceptional women" [ISBN 0374265534] and "Some remarkable men." [ISBN-10: 0374266557].
The University of Michigan's collaborative translation of Diderot and d'Alembert's Encylopédie has completed some 650 selections from the Enlightenment keystone, including articles on California, vanilla, werewolves, the English language, beauty, and the complete structure of human knowledge. [more inside]
Christopher Moore has been to Paris lately, and has decided to share some of his vacation snaps, and, most amusingly, teach us a bit of French.
French musical comedies 1918-1940 [French]. Non-French can still appreciate the programmes, photographs, music and videos.
The economy is abjectly terrible, right? It's so bad that nowadays, a picture is only worth 200 words. On the other hand, the recession is over in Germany and France, and in the United States, the unemployment rate dropped just a smidgen last month. [more inside]
The Guardian ran a series of articles looking at the state of high-speed rail travel today. France intends to double its length of track over the next decade, and China is planning a massive rail-building programme, including a high-speed line which will halve the travel time between Beijing and Shanghai to 4 hours. In Germany, domestic air travel is rapidly going extinct, and Spain's network has made day trips between Madrid and Barcelona a possibility. The USA, which has long neglected its rail network, is planning up to 10 high-speed lines. Meanwhile, Britain's only high-speed line goes to France, but there is talk of a 250mph line from London to Birmingham and beyond, possibly by the early 2020s. Meanwhile, the CEO of France's rail operator, SNCF, weighs in on what the UK should do.
'Artisanal butters' are favored and appreciated by cooks and gourmands -- especially those crafted by "garage entrepreneurs" from Maine [video]* and Vermont (churned by Diane St. Clair and favored by Thomas Keller at his noted restaurants, The French Laundry and Per Se). Butters from Canada, France, Ireland and elsewhere are also cherished. [more inside]
"Kill them all. For God knows His own." Today is the 800th anniversary of the massacre of the inhabitants of the town of Beziers in Languedoc, in the south of France, known by the Romans as Gallia Narbonensis. Beziers was the first town to be sacked in the Albigensian Crusades to extirpate the Christian heresy of Catharism, which flourished in Languedoc. The Albigensian Crusades represented the initial application in Europe of religious warfare sanctioned by the resurgent medieval Papacy, and led directly to the institution of the Inquisition and rise of the Dominican Order.
Emily Loizeau's Je Suis Jalouse was for me the kind of song that immediately makes you want more. Emily's debut album L'autre bout du monde (The Other Side of the World) was released in 2006. She began studying piano at the age of 5, and cites Georges Brassens, Bob Dylan, and The Beatles as her primary influences. Listen to more wonderfulness with Sister, Je Ne Sais Pas Choisir, or the title track from her debut album. More listening if you are at last.fm
The Paris-Roubaix is about to start. With an average of two punctures and one prang per competitor this a an exciting bike race.
Chartres: Cathedral of Notre-Dame offers photographs, diagrams, antique prints, and maps of Chartres Cathedral. And that's not the only virtual Chartres site: there's a tour courtesy of San Jose SU and a more elaborate tour (requires Quicktime) offered by the Art History department at Ithaca College. Among other things, Great Buildings features some 3D models (additional, albeit free, software required to view). Speaking of virtual experiences, you can walk the Chartres labyrinth (see here for a more technical description). And don't forget video, including this National Geographic short on the cathedral's architecture; you can also listen to the bells.
The sales of a book by Madame de Lafayette, "La Princesse de Clèves", are up in France and there have been public readings of it in theatres and universities. The reason? Sarkozy hates it. As Sarkozy's popularity plummets, the "17th century tale of thwarted love" gets unexpected attention beyond the classroom. Badges inscribed with "I am reading The Princess of Clèves" were the most popular item at the opening of the Paris book fair this week. [more inside]
The French UMP party are being sued by the duo MGMT over the use of their song Kids. UMP paid a standard €53 fee to France's music licensing body, but MGMT's lawyer Isabelle Wekstein says that this was not enough to cover subsequent uses of the song, particularly on the Web. UMP has admitted using it, but said it was a mistake and has offered a symbolic gesture of one euro (£0.89). The story is getting more coverage as the UMP has been pushing hard for a 'three strikes law' that would banish pirates from the Internet after two ignored warnings, which may be close to passage in the French National Assembly.
The Napoleon Series has been collecting Napoleonic scholarship since 1995. Its monstrously replete archive includes articles on Napoleon's role in Jewish emancipation, the Institute of Egypt and its investigation of the Rosetta Stone, obscure British generals, the Malet Conspiracy, and the never realized North American Empire; memoirs from the Russian Archives; and a massive collection of maps and battlefield tours.
Anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss turned 100 on Friday. NPR's Frank Browning offers an appreciation of his work (audio). Anthropologist Dan Sperber (at OpenDemocracy) offers a succinct appraisal of his influence. Patrick Wilcken (TLS) writes about "the century of Claude Lévi-Strauss." [more inside]
Sex: wot's the big deal is a sex exhibition for kids currently taking place at the Cité des Sciences in Paris. Pre-teens can learn about love, puberty, making love and making babies, and they can also experiment a little bit. The show is based on Willies: a user's guide (in French: Le zizi sexuel) by Swiss comics creator Zep, and features the rising star of French playgrounds, Titeuf (NSFW unless you're a French preteen)
A complete archive of French magazine L'Officiel de la Mode, from 1921 to 2008. It's a treasure trove for fans of fashion, photography, advertising and design. [more inside]
Tunnels no Minasan no Okage Desu is a Japanese game show where contestants strike poses to fit through cutouts in pink foam walls. International reproductions of this game show reveal much about national character; reproductions exist in Italy, Russia, France, Denmark, Hong Kong, Korea, and Australia. [more inside]
Anti-French sentiment still runs high in the USA. Thankfully, Miquelon monitors French bashing activity since 2003. To gain some perspective, some even venture into the belly of the beast...Oh Paris Paramus, where art thou? [more inside]
The Vinkhuijzen Collection of Military Costume Illustration has drawings of uniforms and regimental regalia from all over the world. Assembled by one of these great, eccentric collectors of the late 19th Century, Dr. H. J. Vinkhuijzen, a Dutch medical doctor who started out as an army physician and eventually rose to the position of official court physician to Prince Alexander of Netherlands. He pulled plates out of books, colored in black and white drawings and painted his own watercolor illustrations. His collection includes pictures of the soldiers of many different nations and eras, from military superpowers like the Roman Empire, France and Great Britain, to lesser known, but no less formidable forces, like Byzantium and Persia and even taking in such minnows as Luxembourg, Monaco and Montenegro. Due to Vinkhuijzen's unusual classification system it can be hard to find some of the more interesting images, such as pictures of Etruscan cavalry, Spanish military musicians and 1830's Belgian ambulance.