S: How Brandon Traveled To Paris And What he Learned There
FC: How Brandon Traveled To Paris and What He Learned There
1: Froward I’m Brandon Good, and to whoever is reading this journal, welcome. The following depicts my trip to France’s beautiful Loire Valley and Paris. I’ve titled this work “How Brandon Traveled to Paris and What He Learned There.” This draws its inspiration from Candide, a book that I have grown very fond of over the course of the trip. I originally never understood it beyond the story of a foolish boy, but I now realize it is stating something more profound. Candide sets forth to cultivate his earthly garden; this trip, above all else, has taught me to do the same. This has been broken up into three sections: the first is my journal which describes the day to day in Paris and my impressions thereof. The second part consists of five activities assigned by my teachers that ask intriguing and philosophical questions. Finally are a series of responses of a variety of literary, artistic, and cultural prompts which consisted of my homework during the trip.
2: Impressions and Expectations To the average American, the French are (and perhaps always will be) seen as weak, snobby, arrogant, and gluttonous. I remember Capitol Steps asking the infamous joke “How many Frenchman does it take to defend Paris? I don’t know. It’s never been tried” (three beats on snare drum). When asked about the French, my friend Andrew All they do is smoke, make fun of Americans, and eat fatty foods to their heart’s content without getting fat. Watch Sacha Baron Cohen’s charactar in “Taladega Nights” for more “information” on the French. Admittedly, I attempted to have as few presuppositions about the French people and culture as possible. Being a strong opposer of xenophobia, I realized that such assumptions are inaccurate and eventually create a rift between you and the people. Nonetheless, some still extended through. The five words I heard from people the most were “you’re going to love it.” Nothing more than that, no elaboration or justification. This perspective gave me an optimistic perspective of my time here without knowing why or how. The second perception I was predisposed to was the arrogance of the French people, and their snobbery towards Americans. Many people (even those having gone to France) have told me that the French are very arrogant in all their actions, and that because of this arrogance, they don’t like other people, especially Americans. Finally, most of the perceptions I heard about French culture revolve around their foods: 1.French food often has a lot of fats and breads. 2. They have sauces for everything. 3. Despite this diet, the French do not get fat.
3: 2.They have sauces for everything. 3.Despite eating all of this, the French do not get fat. These perceptions varied in their accuracy. The French arrogance is more of a sense of pride in their nation and their people. They love their country and their identities as individuals in it. Therefore, it logically derives that they do not hate Americans so much as Americans who are what Dalton and Susser refer to as “Liberty Fries” Americans. These are individuals who do not attempt to learn the culture or language, but instead attempt to experience the country as tourists. It would be as if a Frenchman went into the deep south and attempted to observe it while only speaking French, and ignoring the culture. Thus, it would make sense for the French to hate their Liberty Fry visitors. In my experience, however, the French are much nicer than people in America. They have accommodated me in all ways possible; they speak to me in English when my French is not sufficient, they are open and inviting to strangers in bars and clubs, etc. Thus, I find the French do not hate Americans; they love the travelers, but dislike the tourists. Finally, the perceptions of French food are largely accurate. Since coming to France, I have eaten many meals of bread, cheese, and meat. The latter two are very high in fats (and taste excellent). Bread is also consumed in large quantities by all individuals. So why don’t the people seem to get fat? Think it is a combination of two things: walking and portion size. Parisians live in a beautiful city, so why not enjoy it by walking? The streets are crowded with cars, and the cars here are not those worth driving. However, I have seen about four walkers for every car on the road. Moreover, when the French eat, they do not have the same size portions as they do in America; instead they are smaller by about 30%. 12 oysters is a large meal (as opposed to all you can eat at Joe’s Crab Shack) in France. Moreover, the people are not encouraged to finish all their food; they are more than willing to throw it away if someone doesn’t finish it. These two factors seem to indicate why the French are more fit than Americans. | These perceptions varied in their accuracy. The French arrogance is more of a sense of pride in their nation and their people. They love their country and their identities as individuals in it. Therefore, it logically derives that they do not hate Americans so much as Americans who are what Dalton and Susser refer to as “Liberty Fries” Americans. These are individuals who do not attempt to learn the culture or language, but instead attempt to experience the country as tourists. It would be as if a Frenchman went into the deep south and attempted to observe it while only speaking French, and ignoring the culture. Thus, it would make sense for the French to hate their Liberty Fry visitors. In my experience, however, the French are much nicer than people in America. They have accommodated me in all ways possible; they speak to me in English when my French is not sufficient, they are open and inviting to strangers in bars and clubs, etc. Thus, I find the French do not hate Americans; they love the travelers, but dislike the tourists. Finally, the perceptions of French food are largely accurate. Since coming to France, I have eaten many meals of bread, cheese, and meat. The latter two are very high in fats (and taste excellent). Bread is also consumed in large quantities by all individuals. So why don’t the people seem to get fat? Think it is a combination of two things: walking and portion size. Parisians live in a beautiful city, so why not enjoy it by walking? The streets are crowded with cars, and the cars here are not those worth driving. However, I have seen about four walkers for every car on the road. Moreover, when the French eat, they do not have the same size portions as they do in America; instead they are smaller by about 30%. 12 oysters is a large meal (as opposed to all you can eat at Joe’s Crab Shack) in France. Moreover, the people are not encouraged to finish all their food; they are more than willing to throw it away if someone doesn’t finish it. These two factors seem to indicate why the French are more fit than Americans.
4: I will also admit that I was genuinely afraid of visiting Europe (particularly France) due to the language barrier. I had studied Spanish and felt that I was proficient enough to hold a conversation with another person, or at least ask where the bank was. French, however, looked and sounded like gibberish to me. I kept imagining being alone in a station not knowing where to go and being surrounded by people who I couldn’t talk with. In short, I was afraid of being helpless. However, the phrase “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got” continually comes to mind in the days before the trip starts. While in France, I want to try as many things as possible. I want to try expensive wines, see art, and meet French women. I realize that while my life may be good now, it could always improve. Should I not like these things that France will throw at me, I will lose nothing. But if I do like them, I will be able to incorporate them into my life, and improve it. Many people attempt to stay in their comfort zone while traveling (and other actions in life). I want to get out of my comfort zone. I’ve been raised to be tough and to be “empty.” Emptiness is a concept form the Tao Te Ching which argues for our valuing of a glass because of its emptiness; therefore, it can hold whatever we can put in it. This idea invites me to learn to accept changes in my life and allow myself to enjoy myself no matter the situation (even a painful one). With Parisian culture, I hope to remain empty and allow it to fill me up instead of the perceptions of other people.
5: Part 1: The Journal
6: Saturday May 15th, 2010 On the first day, I went to a small market near the Eiffel Tower, called the Rue Clare, and was tasked with finding cheese, bread, meat, wine, and a desert among other things. For the cheese, I decided to perform the Rick Steve’s test: find the smelliest cheese you can find. I assume that the one I picked out was rotting (it was green on the outside, after all), and when it was being stored a dead animal died near it and the already rotten cheese absorbed the smell. I also picked up wine, bread, and strawberries. After heading to the rendezvous point with a couple friends, we sat down and had a picnic. After I had eaten my fill, a gypsy approached me and asked for food (she was actually trying to steal my camera). Dalton and Susser told us to ignore them, which I tried. She was persistent, and after four or five begging, I decided the best way to get her to leave was to giver her the bread. Afterwards, I got a scolding from Susser, but we both laughed it off. Later that day, I explored Paris with a girl named Katy and a guy named Kevin. We went to the top of the Champs Elyses to see the Arc de Triumph, and to the bottom to see the Gardens by the Louvre. | We were tasked with talking to people there, so I asked people where the bathroom was. Not very subtle, but it worked. Finally, I cam home, had dinner, and went out to the Marriot bar for drinks with several people (Chase, Liz, Elizabeth, Michael, Ryan, Kate, and Brianna) before coming back home (a little tipsy). So far, I’m a little disappointed with Paris. Dalton told us that the plane ride over would be the best feelings of our life, but I didn’t experience it. Moreover, it is a little awkward being in a new place without knowing the language. I’m going to work to make it more fun.
7: Monday, May 17th, 2010 After the two day crash course, we began our weeklong road trip. Our official tours began with Chartes Cathedral. A man named Malcolm Miller, one of the “foremost English authorities” on the Cathedral, led us. An old man, seemed to be intelligent, but racist towards the Japanese tours going on at the same time (“Damn Japs” was uttered more times than any other word). Nonetheless, it was impressive to listen to his expertise. The Cathedral was not constructed all at once, but rather is a product of five Cathedrals built upon that spot. It has housed the Sancta Camisia, the tunic Mary wore when giving birth to Jesus, since 876. In 1194, it succumbed to a fire, where the Sancta Camisia was thought incinerated. However, three days after the fire, it was recovered unharmed and the townspeople thought it was a sign from Mary to build a new church. Donations came from all over France, and reconstruction began later that year. Work began first on the nave and by 1220 the main structure was complete, with the old crypt, the west towers and the west facade incorporated into the new building. It is notable for its gothic architecture, but is considered to be a combination of several styles due to the repeated reconstructions.
8: The Cathedral was primarily built in the Gothic Style, complete with flying buttresses on the sides (an architectural miracle which has always astounded me, if you stand with your hands above your head, pushing against someone else’s hands, you are demonstrating this property. Due to this distribution of weight, the Cathedral can be build to be higher with the same strength). From the outside, we saw the rose stained glass window, one form of the gothic style. Each of the entrances contains different artwork; the most distinct was the west entrance that featured many stories from the Bible (Genesis, the Gospels, Revelations, etc.). It also taught me that when a woman carries a child in her arms, but the child does not have a halo, it is the Virgin Mary, not Jesus. After a long trek up a set of spiral stairs, we were able to look at the church from the top, revealing the shape of the cross, and another perspective on the flying buttresses.
9: After another bus ride, we arrived in Blois, a small town which reminded me of Telluride Colorado. We can stay on the north side of the river, but the south side is not very safe apparently. I will be rooming with Michael, a Junior. We have started to visit chateaus, starting with the Chateau Royal de Blois. This is a combination of four architecture styles: gothic, flamboyant, renaissance, and classicism. The gothic wing was originally the medieval fortress. It was built with the primary intention to keep out invaders and protect the inhabitants. It’s gothic architecture is recognizable by its application of 3’s; every aspect of architecture comes down to three points, meant to symbolize the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Flamboyant wing was built in brick and stone, notably distinct from the other forms of architecture. It was where most of the artifacts were found. The Renaissance wing was built within 15 years of the Flamboyant wing’s construction, and is formed of white marble. It is also distinct for it’s giant staircase running along the side of the building. Finally, the Classical wing was built in the classical Greco-Roman style, complete with pillars and similar roofs.
10: Tuesday May 18th, 2010 Today, we visited two Chateaus: Chambord and Cheverny. Chambord was a magnificent Chateau built to impress. Although it was considered a hunting lodge, the palace was so large that even the royal family would get lost occasionally. One of the most distinctive features of the Chateau was the internal staircase which was shaped like a double helix so that traffic (by traffic, I mean soldiers) could go up and down without running into another. Apparently, it was also built by Leonardo DaVinci, who has an identical staircase at his house elsewhere in the Loire Valley. Because the walls were made of stone, it would often become very cold, so the servants would put up tapestries to cover up all walls and had a myriad of fireplaces. Another significant aspect of the Chateau was their decision to take the money for defense and use it to decorate the roof, making it a very distinctive and beautiful style. After the tour, Elizabeth and I had lunch and discussed how much like Hogwarts the castle looked from afar. Except to monsters in the moat (unfortunately).
11: Cheverny did not have as much of a castle feel as Chambord did, but instead felt like an estate home. Only the first two floor are open for visitors, while the third floor was reserved for the owners. The furniture was a mixture of 1600’s to the present day. It displayed several medieval weapons, but nothing I have not seen before. After getting back, the poor internet made me miss both a Skype talk with my parents and dinner with my friends, so I went out for a walk and ended up lost. I walked past the local college, and up north to the local high school, and found a group of French teenagers preparing for what seemed to be the prom. I asked one of them “O est le chteau?” They pointed me in the right direction, and I headed down Southwest to the Seine River, where I ran into some friends at a local pizza joint.
12: Wednesday, May 19th, 2010 Today, we visited Chateau Chenonceau. This was built directly on the Cher River, and consists of a series of arches. The furniture on the inside was similar to the previous two chateaus (consisting of tapestries, old furniture from the 16th Century, and open floor space. Francis I decorated the chateau with his symbol: the salamander. The salamander is a creature which can survive in high and low temperature, and apparently spits water to put out fires. Francis saw himself as the salamander; as someone who could take on the world’s challenges and survive no matter the odds. The best parts about the chateau, however, were the gardens and maze. They were full of beautiful bushes, flowers, and fountains. Moreover, the maze provided little challenge, but gave Liz, Elizabeth, and myself an opportunity to bond over the fate of a small snail (we let him go near the center of the maze). After returning to Blois, we went to dinner at a local café. I made the mistake of trying something I’ve long feared: fois gras. This disgusting invention is a goose liver which has been specially prepared by force feeding a goose grain and water, then slaughtering it and eating the liver. It tasted similar to cow liver, but had a much more gamey taste. I could barely finish it. Nonetheless, my friends took pity on me, so I ate the leftover mussels, and salads. Thereafter, we went to a light show inside the Chateau Blois. It consisted of light against the walls, accompanied by orchestral music and voices depicting its history, Joan of Arc among them. After the tour, we arrived in a small town named Bayeux. This place was a perfect small town during the day, but as Liz, Michael, Sandy and I went out into the cold, it became a very different place. The fog seemed to be something out of a horror movie, and the absence of any noises made it intimidating to be outside. Since this is what I live for, this was the best experiences thus far. After wandering around for an hour, we found ourselves at an abandoned club/bar, where we immediately took it as a sign that the dark powers in this town did not want us outside. Thus, I got back, went for a run with Elizabeth, and went to bed.
13: Thursday, May 20th, 2010 Today, we went on a long bus ride to Mont Saint Michel. As I said several times, I would love to conduct a defensive battle here. The Chateau was built on a plot of land in the middle of a quicksand swamp, which apparently prevented the Nazi’s from invading during WWII. Moreover, the high walls, sniper points, and rocky defenses make this the ideal place to conduct a battle. The Mont Saint Michel itself was not very impressive. The overabundance of people and lack of a clear purpose other than tourism made it a cool place to obsere, but not an existentially moving place. Supposedly, the Archangel Michel (or Michael, depending on the source) came down from Heaven and appeared to St. Aubert, bishop of Avranches, in 708 and instructed him to build a church on the location. The bishop ignored this request until Michel burned a hole in his skull. An Italian architect, William de Volpiano, designed the Romanesque church of the abbey in the 11th century, placing the transept crossing at the top of the mount.
14: Wednesday, May 20th, 2010 Today, we visited Chateau Chenonceau. This was built directly on the Cher River, and consists of a series of arches. The furniture on the inside was similar to the previous two chateaus (consisting of tapestries, old furniture from the 16th Century, and open floor space. Francis I decorated the chateau with his symbol: the salamander. The salamander is a creature which can survive in high and low temperature, and apparently spits water to put out fires. Francis saw himself as the salamander; as someone who could take on the world’s challenges and survive no matter the odds. The best parts about the chateau, however, were the gardens and maze. They were full of beautiful bushes, flowers, and fountains. Moreover, the maze provided little challenge, but gave Liz, Elizabeth, and myself an opportunity to bond over the fate of a small snail (we let him go near the center of the maze). After returning to Blois, we went to dinner at a local café. I made the mistake of trying something I’ve long feared: fois gras. This disgusting invention is a goose liver which has been specially prepared by force feeding a goose grain and water, then slaughtering it and eating the liver. It tasted similar to cow liver, but had a much more gamey taste. I could barely finish it. Nonetheless, my friends took pity on me, so I ate the leftover mussels, and salads. Thereafter, we went to a light show inside the Chateau Blois. It consisted of light against the walls, accompanied by orchestral music and voices depicting its history, Joan of Arc among them. After the tour, we arrived in a small town named Bayeux. This place was a perfect small town during the day, but as Liz, Michael, Sandy and I went out into the cold, it became a very different place. The fog seemed to be something out of a horror movie, and the absence of any noises made it intimidating to be outside. Since this is what I live for, this was the best experiences thus far. After wandering around for an hour, we found ourselves at an abandoned club/bar, where we immediately took it as a sign that the dark powers in this town did not want us outside. Thus, I got back, went for a run with Elizabeth, and went to bed. | Many underground crypts and chapels had to be built to counteract the weight. These formed the basis for the supportive upward structure that can be seen today. Robert de Thorigny, reinforced the structure. Following his annexation of Normandy in 1204, the King of France, Philip Augustus offered the monk Jourdain money for the construction of a new church, which included the addition of both the refectory and cloister. Beneath the mess hall, church, kitchen was a series of corridors, and a large turn-wheel which we could not figure out the function. After the tour, we arrived in a small town named Bayeux. This place was a perfect small town during the day, but as Liz, Michael, Sandy and I went out into the cold, it became a very different place. The fog seemed to be something out of a horror movie, and the absence of any noises made it intimidating to be outside. Since this is what I live for, this was the best experiences thus far. After wandering around for an hour, we found ourselves at an abandoned club/bar, where we immediately took it as a sign that the dark powers in this town did not want us outside. Thus, I got back, went for a run with Elizabeth, and went to bed.
15: Friday, May 21st, 2010 Today was one of the most epic days of my life. I had always considered the military, but today was the day that I accepted that I wanted to take a risk and enter the Marines. We had the opportunity to go to Normandy Beach, the place where the Allies were able to land and eventually begin an offensive war against Germany. In order to land, there were several harbors which needed to be constructed in order to unload all of the Allied equipment while protecting them against the surf. The U.S. ran some interference and convinced the Germans that they would land elsewhere, and so casualties were kept to a minimum. After learning about how the attack was structured, we were reminded that this was a fight not only for Europe, but for a free world. Thereafter, we went to a 360 Movie which depicted the landing. As I was watching the original footage, I saw a ground troop get shot dead. This affected me in a way that nothing else could; it showed me that I was mortal, and could die like this man.
16: However, instead of scaring me, it got me excited. I realized that I would love the opportunity to die for my country and the ideal of freedom. There is so much evil in this world (if you ever become a liberal wuss on IR, watch the beginning to Black Hawk Down again and tell me that the U.S. doesn't promote freedom from fear and oppression). Finally, we went to the American Cemetery. I had been raised to treat the Congressional Medal of Honor as a holy object, so the opportunity to see one in person as was shown in the exhibit was humbling. One recipient ran to a burning truck with a .50 caliber machine gun and held off over 150 German troops. It was a very calm place and made me feel at peace. Before in my life, I felt guilty that so many men had to die, but today I realized that I would love to be able to die for my country and know that my death would be used to support Justice and Freedom in the world. Nothing would make me happier than to join these men. Looking at the sheer numbers of them, I realized that these men were willing to sacrifice themselves in order to fight injustice in the world. I hope I can be half the man that these men were.
17: Saturday, May 22nd, 2010 Today, we had the opportunity to observe the Hastings Tapestry. It is over 150 feet long, and tells the story of how William the Bastard/Conqueror became king of England. I will describe this in one of the later activities, so please refer to there for the story. After lunch, we were assigned numbers so that Dalton and Susser would be able to keep track of us in case of a “Taken” situation. I was 19, Liz was 20, Sandy was 21, and Elizabeth was 22. Michael and Austin, I do not know. Thereafter, we went to Monet’s Garden. It was very peaceful and tranquil, but my words cannot accurately describe it. Sufice to say, it reminded me of Tao Te Ching, and I invited to water to settle in my mind when I arrived. Here, I was at peace. I picked up two photos to remember it by. Monet’s House was less exciting. It had an impressive garden, but the house itself consisted of impressionist works. Nothing too special. We ended the day at the Citadines, where I am to room with Ryan. This was not my choice, nor will it be a good arrangement. He was awkward to speak to and gives off an “I could murder you in your sleep” vibe. This, however, will not be too bad, I will make the best with what I have and not worry about how things might have been.
18: Sunday, May 23rd, 2010 Today, I went to the market to get supplies (ramen, veggies, and coke), had dinner with my friends, got drunk on wine, messed around with Elizabeth (something I should not have done, she has been coming on to me ever since), and went back home. | Monday, May 24th, 2010 Today was the first official day of class. We go to class from about 1100 to 1500. I have Susser’s first, which seems to promise more discussion of literature, then Daltons’ who offers a Socratic discussion of concepts such as sacredness. Later, at 1700, we had our first of several picnics. It was underneath the Eiffel Tower. Our teachers, in their infinite wisdom decided to bring local delicacies as pate, fois gras, and boar along with several cheeses. Having recently bought a knife, I was asked to open some of the cans with trusty Sam Jackson. Several cheeses had a very intense flavor, and we were advised to eat them slowly. The process for making cheese was also described: milk can only last so long before it spoils. However, it can last longer if it is converted into cheese. How does one do this? By the insertion of bacteria, of course! Both bacteria and bugs are inserted into the milk, and then allowed to sit. When the bugs die, the bacteria convert the milk to cheese and give it it’s specific smells and tastes. You remember the blue things in blue cheese? Yeah, those are bugs. Just remember that next time you eat some. There are three kinds of animals that cheese comes from: cows, goats, and sheep (and occasionally buffalo, but we won’t go there now). Cows have the highest fat content, and thus have a very distinct taste. Goat cheese has less fat than cow cheese, and (in my experience) tastes like cream cheese. It is very crumbly, but hardens with age. Finally, sheep cheese was very sharp and tangy. It was my least favorite of all the cheeses; nonetheless, I thoroughly enjoyed all three.
19: Tuesday, May 25th, 2010 Today was a killer day. I began the morning by running over to Notre Dame with Elizabeth. After loking around the area, we found a cheap Asian restaurant, and a 50’s Diner. I then returned, showed, and walked back to Notre Dame to begin the tour. The first noticeable aspect of the Cathedral is it’s grand size (about 228 feet high). The very front contains three main doors, a central rose window, and an openwork gallery above the central door. The gallery, is called the “Portal of the Virgin” and it shows the Virgin Mary being surrounded by saints and kings. This is complimented by the rose window which hosts a statue of the Virgin Mary surrounded by two angels. Moreover, along the side, we note flying buttresses, the support system for the Cathedral. Upon walking in, the size of the church is once again striking. Starting from the right entrance, we note several large paintings in the side chapels. These were painted by a man named Le Brun. They all portray biblical sequences. Continuing, we note the South Rose Window which depicts Christ surrounded by the Virgin Mary, saints, and the 12 Apostles. On the left side, we note something odd for a church to have: a mural portraying the Actions of Jesus after his death and resurrection. Continuing around we note the North Rose Window shows the virgin surrounded by Old Testament figures. Looking from the back to the transept, we also note La Pieta behind the main altar, the legendary statue of Mary holding Jesus after he has died. After experiencing what Notre Dame had to offer, I felt overwhelmed. The grandeur of the architecture made me feel safe, as if a higher power was watching over me, the same feeling I had when I give communion or was given the Pope John Paul II Award. Moreover, while most Catholic churches in the U.S. seem to proclaim how humans are sinners, the Notre Dame seemed to celebrate the capacity for goodness in human beings. Jesus’ actions are displayed in a more human light in the paintings and murals and they display his actions more than teachings, which indicate a path of morality (something which men can follow instead of aspire to). Thus, I left the Cathedral in a good mood, for I knew that I was a better man upon leaving.
20: After the Notre Dame visit, my group proceeded to the Holocaust Remembrance site, known as the Memorial du Martyr Juif Inconnu. Only three or four people were allowed in at a time. Down a set of stairs, a small hole (about 5ft by 4ft) was covered by rod iron bars with spikes pointing at the observer. Next to the stairs, an opening displayed a long hallway, with a crystal for every person who died in the Holocaust. At the very end, a light shines, as a small glimmer of hope. Above the exit, the sign reads “Forgive, but never forget.” I did not find this location to be sacred. I suppose I would had I been Jewish, or involved in the Holocaust, but I feel this lesson can and ought to be applied to more pressing matters (pick any modern genocide, for example). I have done a great deal of studying on the founding of Israel as a state, and I felt that this place taught me a lesson I already knew. We had a break for lunch, so we ended up in an alley with many different kinds of food. We settled on Greek, and ate. Not too bad for 10 euro, I got a salad, a gyro, ice cream, and a free drink. The final stop for the day was Sainte Chapelle. This was a place built in 1248 by Louis IX and was meant to house both the crown of thorns, and a fragment of the True Cross (ironically, the relics cost three times what the church would end up costing). This church was divided into two parts, the lower chapel, and the upper chapel. In the lower chapel, the servants and commoners worshiped (and has since become a gift shop); the upper chapel was reserved for the nobility. What is significant about the upper chapel are the many stained glass windows which cover most of the walls. Each different section displays a different story of the bible. Beginning from the left side, they include Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Deuteronomy: Joshua, Judges, Isaiah, Rod of Jesse, St. John the Evangelist, the Childhood of Jesus, Christ's Passion, St. John the Baptist, Story of Daniel, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Tobiah, Judith and Job, Esther, Book of Kings, and the Story of the Relics. Finally, the giant rose window displays the story of Revelations, how St. John predicted the Apocalypse would occur. This place was a very interesting site, but I didn't feel the same impact I did from Notre Dame. Having studied the bible, I know most of the stories, and so I feel that although it is beautiful, the building did not move me. Thus, I do not claim it to be sacred. After my visits, I did laundry and read Gargantua and Pantagruel. After sitting on a washing machine, the owner became very angry with me and yelled at me for a while before storming out. I’m not doing laundry there again.
22: Wednesday, May 26th, 2010 Today was an awkward day. My group (Elizabeth, Liz, Sandy, Austin, Michael, and myself) had been followed around by Ryan for the entire trip. This made other people unwilling to talk to us, and made it difficult to hae a good time as a group. I didn’t want to tell Ryan this, but I am not passive aggressive. So, when class was over and Liz invited me to lunch in front of Ryan, he prompted why he was never invited. Thus I sat down and told him the scenario, and he angrily stormed out. Later that night, we visited the medieval Louvre. The Louvre was originally a fortress to protect Paris from Viking raids in 1190 by King Phillippe-Auguste. However, Francois I leveled it and replaced it with a Renaissance style building. However, when they were constructing a new parking lot, they found the old Louvre, and it has become a new exhibition. It consists of a labyrinth of different corridors and several artifacts including swords and helmets. After the tour, my group found a Chinese joint and ordered food. When I got back, Ryan had cooled down and said that everything was cool between us, and that he would go off and do his own thing. | Thursday May 27th, 2010 After a short run, Elizabeth and I figured out plans for Disneyland on Friday including how to get there and how much to pay for everything. Today, we visited the Jewish Museum. As we walked in, Susser told me about the Israeli militia, and how nobody messes with them because they will consider you hostile and kill you. Yikes, I’m not pissing Gabe off again. The museum itself was rather boring. It painstakingly showed off Jewish culture from inception to present. I spent a lot of time looking at picture after picture pf clothing and rings. I was hoping for an intelligent dialogue on the Holocaust or the present state of Israeli-Palestinian relations, but they glazed over these topics. I could not leave quickly enough. The second stop on our walk was the Musee Carnavalet. This museum devotes itself to the history of Paris. Le Brun painted several of the ceilings, mainly in the gallery of Madame de Sevigne. There were other displays of paneling, furniture, art, and sculptures of famous people. It’s time frame extends from Roman times to present day. Now, ideally, we were supposed to visit this place, but my group ended up quitting on me due to food complaints, so we went back to have lunch instead. We ended the night with another dinner party, I was in charge of the wine and cider. This time, I limited myself to 3 glasses and had a pleasant evening without the threat of Elizabeth coming on to me. We had a very deep conversation about Trickle-Down economics, nuclear war, and whether aid was necessary in sub-Saharan Africa. Most of the others were very liberal, so we naturally disagreed. Nonetheless, my incredible understanding of these topics prevailed, and if this was a debate, I would have won. Just saying.
23: Friday, May 28th, 2010 Disneyland. In Paris. With the Aerosmith’s “Rockin’ Rollercoaster.” And 2,50 euro churros. Enough said.
24: Saturday, May 29th, 2010 After a pancake breakfast in Liz and Sandy’s room, we decided that we would attend a Brazilian Party at the local Cuban bar. This gave me an opportunity to wear a tight green shirt, so I was very excited. I only had two drinks there, both of which were Adios Amigos. It contained six different kinds of alcohol and very little fruit juice. I was definitely in a good place when we left. | Sunday, May 30th, 2010 After doing my homework all day and talking with people at home, I decided that I needed to go to mass. Hus, we went to the best Cathedral in the city, Notre Dame. We originally heard a Latin Mass. This was supposed to be beautiful, but I was not as impressed as most of my friends who have seen them were. We listened to the mass again in French with English written on the song sheet. This confirmed for me Notre Dame as a sacred space. It once again felt like God was watching over me, and that I was able to take on the world. After mass, we went to the 50’s diner for some food. It was my first hamburger in a long time, so I savored every moment. I also savored every moment of a Pepsi and a banana split after dinner. I need to go running. | Monday, May 31st, 2010 For today, I had the opportunity to read Candide again. I read it before in Dr. Susser’s class, and enjoyed it, but never really realized what it was about. Now I realize that it refers to how we ought to approach life and the hardships that will eventually find us and (maybe) kill us. There are two ways to approach life: as an optimist or a pessimist. As an optimist, you expect the best of life, and hope for the best, while as a pessamist, you expect the worst. Voltaire argues that blind optimism (or the belief that God created everything for a reason) is a terrible way to approach life because we have no idea how to interpret God’s will; by pretending we can, we often end up making post hoc arguments. However, pessimism is not the way to approach life because you never use your true potential, and end up in a worse place than you were. It is only in the very end that Candid learns the truth: that we must cultivate our gardens. Instead of insisting that God will do it for us, or never even trying in the first place, we are the masters of our own destiny; we can choose to accept this, or forever be weak. Over the course of the trip, I have been telling my friends about dominance, and how the world will never give us anything, so we need to take it for ourselves. I am extremely happy that clssic literature can back me up. We had another picnic today, in the same place as last time. My group and myself prepared by bringing Smirnof Ice, Peach Champagne, and gummy worms. Dalton and Susser topped us, bringing more meats and cheeses. We then proceeded to go home and read.
25: Wednesday June 2nd 2010 Today, the class visited the Louvre for the entire day. I don’t consider myself to be much of an art person, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. One question that I pondered throughout the day was “What is art?” Obviously not every everything that is made can be considered art (independent films, for example, are rarely if ever art). I still have yet to answer this question. There were two paintings I wanted to see: The Raft of the Medusa, and Liberty Leading the People. The former, I had to write a paper on my senior year of high school and edit it throughout, and thus, I was excited to see it in person (or maybe just wanted some closure). It is an example of paradoxical art where grotesque imagery makes a painting beautiful. The painting attacks the French monarchy for its improper appointing of an inexperienced captain to the ship Medusa. Because of his lack of experience, the ship is sunk and the occupants must evacuate on poorly constructed rafts. Only 15 survive the ordeal. In the image, Gericault portrays a diagonal view of the survivors on a raft, surrounded by unwelcoming tides. On the end nearest to the viewer, several dead bodies litter the scene. One man wearily clutches one of these bodies in a stance similar to La Pieta and prevents him from falling into the threatening waters. He, and the other surviving members on this end of the raft all wear grim and defeated faces. On the farther end of the raft, a pyramid of men hold attempt to get the attention of the ship in the distance, with a black man standing at the top waving a red ribbon. These individuals are largely facing away from the view, but several members look desperately in several directions. Although this was intended as an attack on the monarchy and an indication of death and desperation, this painting inadvertently inspires hope in the viewers through its grotesque imagery. Gericault’s inclusion of the distant ship on the horizon allows the viewer to understand the relief the survivors must have felt. Although distant, this tiny ship is the symbol of hope that the survivors need to persist. The survivors’ reactions to the ship are largely positive; while they may seem desperate and afraid of not being seen, this displays their love of living and their desire not to die. The man clutching the body on the near side of the raft acts as their foil; he has accepted death and therefore would be surrounded by the dead bodies had a ship not rescued them. Gericault’s depiction of death therefore inspires the remaining members of the raft to keep trying to get saved, as they know that if they accept death as the others did, they will lose hope. Moreover, the distant ship’s color of brown is contrasted with the light yellow and warm backdrop and sunrise, while the raft is surrounded by darkness and cool colors. This juxtaposition reminds the survivors that while they may face death now, help is on the horizon and coming for them. Light colors are always associated with warmth and comfort while cool colors are associated with the cold and discomfort. This second use of juxtaposition reinforces the previous assertion that hope is what will save the survivors, should they choose to attract the ship’s attention. After seeing this painting, it confirmed everything I thought about it; the piece is an optimistic story of dominance and persistence. And it gets me pumped just to look at it. Liberty Leading the People is another intriguing work from my past. Being in Lincoln Douglas Debate in high school, this painting was one of the first examples of a justified political revolution presented to me. The people feel that they were being oppressed and the spirit/ideal of liberty leads them towards liberty. This piece was less exciting to me, but was still a nostalgic look at whether people have the right to overthrow the government
26: The Mona Lisa was the most disappointing piece of the day. I had heard a lot about it from many authors and scholars, specifically about her smile. The painting itself was much smaller than anticipated and not more impressive than photos of the piece are. Moreover, the smile was not that impressive; I feel that scholars have over exaggerated it as a rare and elusive smile. The rest of the museum, however, was interesting. I looked at the history of art across Europe in statues, and got to see what the Louvre looked like when Napoleon was in power (including his throne, which if all goes according to plan, will be mine one day). At 1700, my group left and went to a local America 50’s Diner for dinner. It’s nice to be able to have a decent burger and a banana split again, even if my body says no. Oh well, I’m going running tomorrow anyway. Later that day, we made the decision to go to Rome for the weekend. We bought tickets on Ryan Air and are staying in a Hostel with tents and bungalos. I’m in a tent.
27: Thursday, June 4th, 2010 Today, we visited Versailles, the largest chateau in France. It started off as a hunting lodge, but Louis hired two architects (Le Vau and Hardouin) to change it into the largest palace in Europe. Upon arriving, I immediately entered the Chateau itself. It has several different themes, but they seem to center around classical architecture. Everything (walls, ceilings, and furniture) was coated in the color gold. The Hall of Mirrors was an excellent example of this. I was ultimately impressed with the grandeur of the chateau. It was very beautiful to observe, and it seemed like a testament to Louis XIX’s ego (which I can respect). The grounds were initially less impressive. Yes, the cool water features were present, but they seemed to lack the intricacy of other Chateaus we’ve visited. The main gardens lacked diversity in plants, and seemed to be rather uninspired. Nonetheless, the fountains and grand canal were the saving grace of Versailles’ aesthetic beauty. Our group soon moved to another area: a town constructed by the royalty to pretend to be poor. As I packed for the Rome excursion, I found some interesting news: I am officially broke. Compass Bank, being the efficient banking institution that it is, overdrew my account (despite the fact that I ought to have overdraft protection). I looked into this problem after returning, and I realized that I Compass has no way of telling when you deposited or withdrew money (despite the fact that the time is printed on the bank sheet). Thus, at the end of the day, they subtract all the withdrawals from the account2, charge you for any overdraft fees, and then add the deposits. I ended up owing about $150, when I ought to be in the black. My parents will cover it, but I’m going to pay them back once I get enough money. I wanted to skip the trip in order to save money, but my dad encouraged me to go, so I decided to take the trip.
29: Friday, June 5th, 2010 After leaving Paris at 500, my group (consisting of myself, Liz, Sandy, Michael, Austin, and Elizabeth) landed in Rome at 800 local time. The subway/bus pass was 4 euro for a 24 hour unlimited pass, so I purchased one and went about my day. Rome is even more beautiful than Paris. Paris is set against a deciduous forest background, but Rome seems more tropical in the surrounding area. The Tiber River is also much cleaner than the Seine. I decided that when I go to Europe next, this is where I will be going.
30: The first thing we did was visit the Vatican. We started off in the museum, and immediately began our long trek through crowded rooms to the Sistine Chapel. The paintings at the top of the chapel surprised me; I expected them to be massive, but they were much smaller than that. I was doing some research on The Creation of Adam, and I found that if you trace the outlines around God, the angels, and the soon to be created Eve, it forms a perfect cross-section of the brain. Complex components within the brain, such as the cerebellum, optic chiasm and pituitary gland can all be found in the painting. What does this mean? Was this Michelangelo’s ultimate insult to the Church by saying that God only exists in the human mind? Or does it say that God is in our minds and is the basis for morality? Whatever the reason, it merits more research. After more exploration of the Vatican Museum, we left for St. Peter’s Square and Basilica. This was another epic experience, on par with my original visit to Notre Dame. The Basilica is much grander than even Notre Dame, and is far more intricate. The architecture was complimented by a series of 10 foot tall statues depicting biblical scenes and stories. La Pieta is among them, and is more impressive in person than in photos. The sadness in Mary’s eyes is not simply an artistic representation; the artist truly delved into an accurate emotional scene. Another impressive characteristic was the statue of St. Peter himself. People would come up to the statue and kiss his feet. Finally, behind the Pulpit was a stained glass window of a dove, surrounded by orange and yellow, both warm colors. The Basilica made me feel the same way I did about God when I entered Notre Dame: that He was watching over me and had my back. After the tour, we left the Basilica, and went to the hostel. I was rooming with Liz and Elizabeth in a 10 feet by 10 feet tent, full of mosquitos, spiders, and a slug. Instead of complaining about it, I did what any rational (American) man would do: take off his shoe and start killing bugs. After my task was completed, we talked about life, relationships, and video games before passing out.
31: Saturday, June 5th, 2010 Today was one of the busiest days of the trip. We began our take-no-prisoners tour de force of Rome by visiting the most famous fountain in the city: the Trevi Fountain. It was one of the best experiences of the trip. For some reason, moving water has always hypnotized me. Seeing the powerful flow of water and the Gods that inhabited it made me feel dominant and ready to take on the world. I made sure to throw a penny over my back into the fountain, guaranteeing a trip back. We headed West, only to find a liquor store which had absinthe. Having wanted to try some before I came to Europe, I requested a shot, which they happily gave me. I then promptly left. The Spanish Steps were next on our list. This is the longest and widest staircase in the entirety of Europe. Not very exciting as it has become a tourist trap and therefore attracts not only arrogant Americans (which ironically included a group from the University of Arizona), but people trying to sell things to the arrogant Americans. After a quick lunch (Margereti Pizza, which is just a cheese pizza for 5 euros with better cheese), we observed the Roman Senate and the crumbling architecture around it. We sat, looked, and talked for about two hours. Very little learning, but a great bonding experience nonetheless. | Finally, we went to the Coliseum. We decided not to pay the 15 euro entrance fee, and instead decided to walk around and get a few photos from the local gladiators. Little did we know that they were going to rob us. After telling us that the price was 5 euro, they snapped 4 photos and told us that we owed them 5euro a person for each photograph (or 30 euro). After putting up a good fight, they took 30 euro and sent us on our way. After the swindling, we decided to take several more photos of us enacting Dr. Susser’s famous saying “the gladiator makes his plans in the arena” but pretending to punch and stab each other outside the Coliseum. After our day of intense traveling, we got back to the hostel, got a few Smirnoff mixed drinks, and played Yatzee. As I went to bed, I realized that Rome was as good as it was because I was the leader. When we as a group needed a decision, I was the guy to make it and face the consequences. No parent, no teachers, no responsibilities beyond friendship. Rome was where I was truly free. Because of this, I consider this trip to be a coming of age event.
32: Sunday, June 6th, 2010 Liz, Austin and I woke up at 400 to get to the airport. After getting back, Liz and I did homework, ate, hung out, and watched Inglorious Basterds. Productive day. | Monday, June 7th, 2010 Today was awesome. After a run on my own, I came back, ate some cereal and watched the streets for a while. After class, Michael and I went to a local suit store to examine suits. Since I did not have ay funds to purchase a suit with, I got to tell Michael my opinion of suits. He ended up with a tan one like Michael Westin. Later, we all got dressed up to go on a dinner cruise. In the absence of a suit, I wore jeans with tennis shoes (which Jacylyn says is a no-no), a white collared shirt, and a preppy sweater. I may not have been the best dressed man for the occasion, but I still looked good. On the boat, we got to drink champagne and eat oysters, scallops, and mini hot dogs. I admit, I went a little overboard and drank about 10 glasses before dinner. During dinner, we had pleasant conversation about where we see ourselves in the future. After the meal was done, I spent my time between the upper decks where I gave everyone hugs and high-fives, and below deck where I showed off my killer dance moves. After 14 glasses, I decided I was done for the night, and went back with my group. In the metro station, I decided that I wanted to do pushups, so I did. A French kid, about my age, came up next to me and started to do handstand pushups. I decided to be a good sport and gave him a high-five. I then went home, brushed my teeth, and fell asleep.
33: Tuesday June 8th, 2010 Today, I woke with my first hangover. Despite it, I began to gather ingredients for yogurt with Elizabeth. I only need a starter (pasteurized yogurt) and milk. Later, we went on the Hemingway Tour of Paris. We explored the art district around one of the local colleges. Although the trip itself was very boring, I got some good photographs. After lunch, I was blessed with the opportunity to go to the military museum. Here, I got to examine all the guns, knives, and other weapons admirably without Brianna scolding me for it. There were two guns I wanted to see specifically from WWII: the MP40 and the PPSH. The former is a German gun and the latter is a Russian gun. Both are superior to the Thompson which was used as the main machine gun of the Americans. This museum made my day. After the final picnic with Dalton and Susser I received a heart which I thought I would use for my “Food That You Wouldn't Normally Consider Eating” category. Elizabeth and I went home, and cooked it in garlic and olive oil. It was one of the worst tasting items of food I have ever experienced. It tasted like fois gras, and had the same texture, but had more iron in it. Afterwards, We made jello shots and watched How I Met Your Mother.
34: Wednesday, June 9th, 2010 Today, we visited another art museum, the Musee d’Orsay. It is right across the river from the Louvre, and contains impressionist art. My dad has continually tried to get me to go to this place; I guess I’m fulfilling his wish. Elizabeth and I arrived early, and naturally assumed we were late. After an hour wait, we finally found the rest of the class and entered the museum. The art (and the descriptions of the art) was much more interesting than that in the Louvre. On balance, the paintings seemed to be about nature, or have natural elements in them, giving the museum a more calm atmosphere than the Louvre. The paintings were impressionist, so naturally they were a little crazy, but they contained meaning and purveyed it well (for example, a myriad of paintings show the backbreaking labor of the French peasantry in agrarian life, and the sheer number reinforces the message that too many are doing too much). I was also surprised to see statues in the impressionist collection. For example, one of the statues I saw at Mt. St. Michel where St. Michel slays Lucifer/a demon, was included. Others were statues of polar bears and other random items. This place largely impressed me. Thereafter, we had another dinner party, this one being Mexican themed. I tried to make some nacho cheese, bu ended up burning it. I figure I'll stick with picking wines for now. | Thursday, June 10th, 2010 Today, we did another walk: this time in a place called Montmartre. This area was home to many artists, writers, and poets, including our very own Ernest Hemingway (Ironically, I was not left alone in the rain at the end of the tour). It is right next to Moulin Rouge, home to the famous French dancers and strippers. Apparently, in the early 19th century, it was a good place to take a date due to the cheap food and drink. We walked by several famous places including Montmartre Vinyard (Last remaining vineyard in Paris), Musee de Montmarte (Museum which contains the works of artists who lived in this area) and the St. Pierre Church (Originally a church, it was converted into the Temple of Reason during the revolution. During WWII, a bomb destroyed most of the windows, so it was later reconstructed with the stained glass there today). Our tour ended in front of the Sacre Coeur. This church not only felt as if it was a tourist trap, but it seemed to lack the sacredness found in Notre dame. Although I did have the same gigantic architecture, but the gift shop and coin pressing machines gave me the impression of a capitalist opportunity instead of religious place.
35: Friday, June 11th, 2010 Today was a shopping day, at least for everyone else. I tagged along, for about two hours, gave my impressions, and then went home to work on homework. After the rest of the group came back, we decided to head back to the Eiffel Tower (or to the area behind it is more accurate) to watch the France take on Uruguay in the World Cup. I’m not sure why soccer is so exciting in the European world. For a sport that emphasizes its quick pace and tense final moments, the game was surprisingly boring. The French went crazy over the smallest things (near missed, headers, down-field kicks, etc.). At halftime, the score was still 0-0 (any sport where the final score can be 0-0 is not worth watching), so we went to a local French restaurant: McDonalds. Here, in celebration of Pulp Fiction, I ordered a Royale with cheese, which ended up tasting like a legitimate burger. After a hangout session, I headed off to bed. Today, I also finalized my plans for the end of the trip. I am going to stay in the Port Royale hotel for two days until my flight comes. It seems like a nice place, and Dr. Dalton likes it, so I will trust his judgment. | Saturday, June 12th, 2010 Today, we had a full schedule. Because Michael was feeling sick and Austin wanted to sleep, it left me alone with Liz, Sandy, and Elizabeth. Our first stop was the catacombs. In France, it seemed that someone wanted to stack the bones artistically under the city of Paris. The tour was an hour-long trek through the maze of catacombs. The bones didn’t creep me out as much as I thought they would, and I actually ended up grabbing one to throw it back into the pile. After the exit, the next stop was the Orangerie, an art museum near the Tuleries Gardens. I was tasked with getting us there (as part of my initiation into the club of wise explorers). I found the metro, but because we overshot looking for a legal way to cross the street, I got an 80% from the gang. After I explained my reasoning and some hefty justification, they gave me the 100% I deserved. The Orangerie, in addition to being home to many modern and contemporary works, houses Monet’s Water Lilies. They were arranged in two rooms, fourt paintings a room. It wasn’t quite the actual Monet’s garden, but it was quiet and serene nonetheless. Other exhibits included the Kline, Renoir, ad Picasso. Thereafter, we had a quick lunch in the Garden of Tulleries (Banana crepes for lunch was a good decision). After walking up the Champs Elyses, the girls found a Sephora. I opted to stay outside while they went in for “like 10 minutes Brandon, I promise.” I waited around for over an hour for them to come out have bought chap stick. How someone can waste that amount of time on something so trivial, I have no idea. Nonetheless, they felt guilty, so I was bought churros in the local (a McDonalds type joint). Afterwards, we walked by a crystal shop that Elizabth wanted to go to, but for some reason, she did not want to go in. Thus, we hopped on the light rail and headed home. Later that night, Elizabeth came over and we made yogurt. This was actually a very easy process, just get a quart of milk, a tablespoon of starter (yogurt with live cultures), and anything you want to mix in (in our case, strawberries). First, warm the milk until bubbles appear. Then pour the milk into a bowl, and wait for it to cool to 110, or you can put your finger in for 20 seconds. Put the starter in, and mix. Keep the bowl in a saucepan of water overnight covered with a towel in the microwave. When it has set, put it in the fridge, and you’re good to go. You can now mix in the strawberries and mash it up.
36: Sunday June 13th, 2010 Being the Americans that we were, after all work was finished, we decided to go to the Eiffel Tower and bring both KFC and McDonalds. Elizabeth also brought some cookies she somehow made. They tasted like pancakes, but slightly sweeter with a denser texture. I ate probably 12 of them. We ate, talked about life, love, and video games, and stayed until about 2300, waited for the tower to sparkle, then returned to the Citadines. Short, but sweet.
37: Monday June 14th, Today, we got to visit the chateau where whipped cream was created, a truly holy place. After hearing the introduction, we were sent off to the art wing to observe many of the great artworks. These all were the traditional 14th-17th century Christian pieces, so nothing surprised me or stood out. After about an hour, we went on the grand tour. It had the same characteristics of the previous Chateaus. After the tour, we got to sample some of the local restaurants, where I had a crepe with apples and their famous whipped cream. It did not disappoint, the flavor was the perfect amount of sweet and dairy without being overpowering. Moreover, it was much thicker than most whipped cream’s I’ve had before, making it a phenomenal lunch. After lunch, we had the opportunity to watch a horse show. In it, horses rode around in a circle, dragged poles, and walked past each other. There weren’t even any awesome jumps as I would expect from the horse show. Even Jenna, the local horse nut, realized that it was a waste of time. As we left, a torrential downpour of rain from hell itself began to fall, and we missed our opportunity to try more whipped cream from the Chateau. After about 15 minutes, the bus drive came to the stables, and drove us back to the city. My group wanted to see the Lion King tonight, but I did not have the money to do so, so I stayed in. As I was eating dinner, Michael and the rest of them told me that necause the show was going to be done in French, they would rather sit down, drink cheap wine, and watch it in English. So that is what we did.
38: Tuesday, June 15th, 2010 Today was a visit to the Rodin museum. He was a sculptor who left all of his work to France who in turn paid for Rodin’s apartment. My dad and I have an ongoing bet about the original Thinker and whether it is in France (me) or the United States (my dad). I won some money today. The Thinker was originally cast in France, although other copies made from the same mold exist elsewhere in the world (for example, the United States). I have a copy of The Thinker at home, and it is about 20ins high. The original was significantly bigger, probably about 8-10 feet tall. It was meant to be a statue of Dante from Inferno as he ponders his poem and descent into hell. Another significant sculpture was The Gates of Hell, because it is a culmination of Rodin’s sculptures. It was originally intended to be gate for the museum, so the obvious choice would be to put it in the back. The Gates of Hell are based on existing literature about hell, namely the Old Testament and Dante’s Inferno. It’s towering size makes it intimidating to observe (to counteract this, I decided to try and get a picture kicking the doors in, but I was saved at the last minute by my own maturity). It includes several of Rodins previous works, including The Thinker, The Three Shades, and Adam and Eve. While sitting at lunch with Sandy, when asked me a question I was afraid to ask myself: “Why are you a Political Science major?” I did not have a good answer. I guess I always figured that I would go to law school and Poli Sci seemed to be the best route. However, she told me about all the business requirements for law school, which scared me. After a long discussion, she eventually convinced me to change my major to Business and a minor in Philosophy.
39: Later that night, we went out to a French restaurant called Chez Chavez for dinner with Dr. Dalton and Susser. I wore the same attire that I wore during the boat expedition, and kept it classy. We brought the professors our finished yogurt in a shot glass. Dr Dalton took a sip, winced, and then told us that it was good (?). After waiting the entire trip, I tried to have a sophisticated conversation with Dr. Susser about reality and God, but when I asked him whether he believed in God, he shot me down and told me “Brandon, that’s like asking someone what their sexual fetish is. You can do it, but only in an intimate environment.” Not as good as his explanation of being specific in my writing “Take the bra off the woman,” but still an accurate, intriguing, and witty comment. After eating Escargot, I realized how good it was, and proceeded to order duck (something which had never tried before) in a berry sauce. I cannot believe that this was the first time I’ve ever had it, but if this is indicative of the quality, I’m going to get it more often. Also, disregard my previous plans for going home; I found a flight home on the 18th for $250. Although I love France, I’m ready to go home. Plus, I don’t think I would be able to eat more than once a day if I stay any longer.
40: Wednesday, June 16th, 2010 Today was the final day in Paris. After a run in the morning with Elizabeth, we went to the final art museum of the trip: the Pompidou Center. This was easily the worst experience in the entire Paris excursion. When I see art, I look for complexity. For example, what makes the works of Mozart and other composers legendary is partly their culmination of many different instruments into a symphony. This is not something anyone can do, but the true work or a musical genius. This complexity is something that is not shared in other music genres, namely rap. Rap instead takes music to two things: a beat and voice. Any preschooler with pots and pans can produce a rap album if given the right sound equipment. This is my problem with modern art; it takes a genre that individuals look to in order to observe the human ability to produce something incredible, and regresses it to a point where a four-year-old can match the talent of most modern artists. Unfortunately, the Pompidu Center features a lot of modern art. Let us begin with the Feminist exhibit. Soon after walking in, I found a room filled with films. I had the distinct pleasure of watching a topless woman take a razor blade to her breast and cutting off her nipple. This is supposedly great feminist art, because it shows the deviation from the male society (where they prioritize bodily health, I guess). Other works of “art” include a poster complaining about how no women have ever won an Oscar, and thus the Oscar itself ought to feature a man (referring to a director, women have won a number of Oscars in other roles), and giant cones which somehow represent women. I have the same problem with this art that Nietzsche had with the Jews: it is deviation for the sake of deviation without acknowledging the good. Feminists first (at least this kind of feminist) take a supply problem and turn it into a demand problem. The reason women aren’t nominated for Oscars or recognized is due to the fact that there aren’t very many female directors. However, feminists take this and illustrate it as a demand problem, saying that the male-dominated society doesn’t want them. Basing their actions on this assumption, they decide to deviate from the “male dominated society,” and attempt to deviate from it as much as possible for the sake of deviation. Much like Nietzsche’s Jews, feminists abandon conceptions of morality and sacredness simply because they feel they are associated with a male society, instead of the reason we appreciate morality and sacredness. Their deviation consists of modern art, a pale version of real art. This display illustrated everything that was wrong with radical feminism.
41: Moving down the Pompidu Center, we entered another exhibit addressing modern cities. Were there any profound statements made about architecture? Nope! Instead, there were just random dioramas of cities made of cardboard tubes and grey paint. I once again found myself largely disappointed with the absence of complexity or profoundness in any of the works. I eventually made my way down to the bottom of the center where I felt it necessary to leave. Modern art may hold some significance to certain people, but to rational society, it is a demonstration of how far we have regressed. The rest of my afternoon was delegated to packing. Our final chance to all hang out together was at the Cuban Bar where we went to the Brazilian Party earlier this trip. Dalton and Susser bought the first rounds for everyone, so naturally everyone came. It was a good opportunity to see everyone in this contet before we go back, and it made me realize how much I would miss it. On the final night of the France trip, we had a French Toast off. Michael and Liz both claim that theirs is the best, and my sophisticated pallet would be the judge. Both were good, but the addition of nutmeg in Michael’s made it a little overpowering, forcing me to side with Liz. After more intriguing conversation, and some goodbye hugs, Michael, Elizabeth, and myself went to Gare du Nord to get tickets and scout out the path to the airport. I bought a ticket to the RER and came home. Elizabeth and I then proceeded to watch the Ugly Truth (for a chick flick, that was really funny), and Liz joined us about halfway through. I then gave a second round of goodbye hugs and gathered up my stuff to head out.
42: Although I am happy to go home, I realized how much I would miss this place. It had become a learning experience, where I was forced to go out of my comfort zone, and improve myself. It was here that I realized that I can always better Brandon Good, and that my main goal in life is to gain as much knowledge about the world as possible, including sciences, languages, culture, food, etc. I realized that life isn't always about getting the A, its about learning the substance as well as possible. Paris has also confirmed me as an adventurous person who is willing to take risks and go out of my comfort zone. I am an extreme optimist, who doesn't believe that God will save him, but that I will make the best of what life hands me. And now, it's time to go back home, and apply what I’ve learned to another culture. Lets do it.
43: Epilogue Almost three months have passed since I got back from the trip. Since I got home, I realized that although I didn’t feel it at the time, Paris had changed me for the better. Since I had gotten back, I changed my major to Economics with a minor in Philosophy. I have also decided that I want to join the Marines after college, but before post graduate studies, and continue my domination by becoming an officer. Before the trip, I was seriously lacking in faith in God and the Church. However, after my return, I felt as if God had my back and not, I could do anything. Finally, this trip (Candide specifically) showed me that I was a strong man, and that I was completely in control of who I am. I no longer sit back and watch someone drive my life, I do it myself. Whatever I want to do, I can make it happen. Thus, the one thing, underlying my Paris experience has become my new motto: Go forth and dominate.
44: Part 2: Responses and Journals
45: International France Assignment 1: Journal: It is disappointing that sacred spaces are too often tourist traps in the world today. Notre Dame, for example, was once a place of existential enlightenment, but is now a place for tourists to take their kids to on a Friday afternoon. Being a Catholic, I was able to relate to the scenes of Jesus’ actions after the resurrection, the dominating architecture and paintings, and the overall feeling that a higher power exists. However, it was made difficult by individuals who only appreciated this for its aesthetic values. While I observed and attempted to reach an understanding of the world, tourists snapped photos, yelled across the hall to each other, tried to bump me out of the way so they could get through (I guess there’s a good reason I work out my shoulders). This church was intended not for people to solely admire the architecture, but also to contemplate the existence of life and God. This is how I attempted to observe Notre Dame. Upon walking in to the church, the most dominant feature was the architecture, specifically, the high ceilings, intelligently placed pillars, and stained glass windows. When I saw these features, I felt as if the French peasants would have felt in it: as if a large power was standing over me and had my back. I was at peace. This was furthered as I looked at the iconography in the church. Instead of depicting Jesus’ death solely, Notre Dame catalogues Jesus’ actions after his resurrection, thus inspiring hope in me (and I presume other observers). This optimistic feeling coupled with the feeling of being watched made me realize the sacredness of this place. This feeling, however, was not echoed at Sainte Chapelle. This place was designed specifically to house the supposed crown of thorns, and has a spectacular room with stained glass windows on every wall. I likewise observed this place like a commoner would; a place to hold the crown of thorns, and hopefully to justify the existence of God. This place, however, was not as effective as Notre Dame in inspiring the same feelings. Admittedly, the stained glass was very beautiful, but this was the dominating theme. This is likely due to the fact that this place was intended to show off the sacrifice made by Jesus, but not His teachings. Often times, people remember Jesus’ life through his death. This is a mistake; Jesus was a philosopher and we ought to view his teachings as such, but his death was simply a reinforcer for his works. Thus, it makes sense that this place was not a spiritually significant to me; Notre Dame was intended to teach about Jesus’ life while the Sainte Chapelle only seeks to discuss his death. Moreover, the same tourist conditions as were present in Notre Dame were present in Sainte Chapelle. Another example of a sacred spot turned tourist spot was the Mont Saint Michel Abbey. This place is an abbey built on the top of a hill (and the perfect place to host a defensive war). It had a beautiful view, and a gorgeous church, but it had the same aforementioned tourist conditions. They swarmed to major places, took photos mocking sacred spots, and nearly fell off the balcony. Although this spot was once a place for monks to find God, it today has lost its meaning. It is nothing more than a place for tourists to learn about history. Thus, I was not surprised when it did not give me the feeling that Notre Dame later would.
46: Response: In the story Yonec, Marie attempts to distinguish between two kinds of authority: good authority and bad authority. Good authority is represented by the knight (who is later found out to be a king). His people claim that no other king “had every been as courtly,” thus indicating that he was favored by them (92). Bad authority, however, is represented by the Lord, and the Lady’s husband, Although his leadership styles are not spoken about by his own people, the other king’s people describe him as jealous and selfish (92). Both men had sexual relations with the Lady, however, their intentions differ, thus suggesting two different relationships between sexuality and authority. The Lady’s jealous husband kept her locked in a tower and wouldn’t let her out. Marie also notes that “they never had any children,” which indicates that this was the only purpose of having such a wife: for the reproductive power it gives him. The knight, however, pursues sex with the Lady for the sake of her; he had fallen in love with her, and thus wanted to consummate their relationship. Because of this love, the knight is the one who actually fathers a child with the Lady, thus indicating that the child ought to be the product of love, not need of an heir. This story suggests that sex has a different relationship with good and bad authority: with bad authority, it only seeks to continue the authority by granting the king an heir. However, with good authority, sex is a means of furthering the emotional relationship between two individuals.
47: Assignment 2: Journal: The best definition of a museum is a building where objects of historical, cultural, or aesthetic value are stored and displayed. It ought to be large enough to accommodate these items but not so large as to isolate each object far away from other relevant items. Ideally, objects similar in style and timeframe ought to be grouped together for sake of understanding by a viewer. They also ought to be labeled, and explained (about one or two paragraphs) and in multiple languages to be determined by the global location. This will inform the audience and allow them to observe the piece critically as thus to completely understand the work. In the event that the museum itself is an artifact (i.e. Versailles, Notre Dame, etc.), the important aspects ought to have the aforementioned qualities. The layout of the building does not have any requirements, but for the sake of relevance, the architecture ought to complement the items on display in the museum. For example, the Lourvre’s famous (or infamous) pyramid complements the entirety of the works as a whole because it acts as a portal to another world (as many cultures originally thought the pyramid was). The repetition of the smaller pyramids seeks to reinforce this point. The layout ought to also be ale to accommodate a large number of people and allow them to view objects without preventing other viewers from doing the same. Several approaches have been tried, most notably, the amphitheater and the raised object. Both have been effective in minimizing crowds, but neither are effective in preventing crowds from forming. This could potentially be solved by imposing time limits on views, or by architecturally designing the room so that it can accommodate a large number of people and display the image to more (the conglomeration of the two aforementioned qualities would be effective in doing so). Storing objects in a museum, does remove them from their original context, and thus robbing them of some meaning. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the museum to recreate the context as best as possible as to accurately represent the meaning which ought to accommodate the object. The John F. Kennedy Space Center has been effective in this; it took the original Saturn V rocket and broke it down into the original parts, labeled the important aspects, and set it in a construction workshop as to recreate the building of the rocket. This method, while taking the space ship out of it’s original context, makes it as relevant as possible to the viewer. While this method may not be completely accurate, it is the best method for presenting an object. Because of all of these aforementioned characteristics, the palace at Versailles ought to be considered a museum with a historical context instead of a palace. It is a place where viewers can see objects of historical or cultural value, but preserved in near perfect context.
48: Response: Chapter 1: What Brandon Learned from Master Wilson Before uncovering the truth, Brandon studied under Master Wilson. Master Wilson was a staunch supporter of international liberalism, and related all his lessons back to it. One day, Brandon witnessed several nations cooperating to overcome economic crisis, but doing so with their own intentions in mind so that a conclusion could not be reached. He asked Master Wilson “Why is cooperation so difficult?” To which Master Wilson replied “My dear boy. Cooperation is easy! States naturally come together in times of crisis because the more heads there are in a discussion, the better it will be.” Brandon replied “But why are they fighting? Isn’t it likely that they will go to war with each other if this?” “No, war is an outdated concept. Violence in response to violence? This is preposterous. This is only the work of savages and maniacs! The modern state how is opposed to violence and should not utilize it in any way as in doing so, it would lower itself to that level. Moreover, these are men, and man is naturally good. So, they will never attack each other because they realize that killing another human destroys the good.” This again confused Brandon. “What laws should guide states then?” “Utilitarianism, of course. Pain and pleasure are the only universal concepts in this diverse world. Thus, the government must act to maximize pleasure and minimize pain. That which creates the most happiness for the most people is not only the best course of action, it is the most moral action. Tomorrow Brandon, I want you to go into the city and record what you see. Look at the struggles among the people, and tell them about inherent human goodness. Educating them in this light will allow them to Chapter 2: What Brandon saw in the City Early the next morning, Brandon arose and went to look at the city. He remembered the axiom beneath all of Master Wilson’s teachings: humans are inherently good. Upon arriving in the city, he saw three men approach a forth and demand for the man’s money. The forth man refuses and prepares to defend himself, but Brandon shouts out to them “Violence is not the answer! By fighting each other, you become less than a man. Do not attempt to hurt the goodness in yourselves! The forth man hung his head, for he recognized the wisdom and knew that Brandon was right. The three men then proceeded to beat and kill him. As Brandon continued down the street, he noticed two men fighting over a $50 bill. One was tall and thin, while the other was short and muscular. He called out to them to stop, but they did not listen. Thus, he went and stood between the two men and kept them from fighting. He explained to them that humans are good and that men ought to inherently protect goodness, and both men agreed that human goodness is too precious to waste. He then left them alone. As he left, the shorter man released his anger that Brandon prevented from escaping, and killed the tall man. At this point Brandon wanted to go home and tell his master all that he saw. Chapter 3: What Happened when Brandon Returned Home Brandon eagerly entered the house of Master Wilson to find it quiet and empty. Instead of being greeted by the master, another man introduced himself to Brandon at the front door. “My name is Dr. Morgenthau. I am here to educate you about the world.” “What happened to Master Wilson? I want to talk to him.” “No time. Your former master is dead.” “But how?” “His perspectives painted the world as ideal. This was not empirically true. Let us leave it at that.” Brandon was curious, but did not pry more into the death of his old master. He instead asked Dr. Morgenthau about the truth. “The truth,” Dr. Morgenthau claimed, “consists of the eternal and unchanging aspects of the world. I am here to teach not about how the world ought to be, but how the world is. The men who study international realism seek to explain the world from a scientific and rational perspective, instead of making inflated and unjustifiable claims. You are going to observe this scientific process and discover the truth. Come, we have much to observe.
49: Chapter 4: What Brandon and Dr. Morgenthau Observed at the Louvre Dr. Morgenthau led Brandon to the streets until the two came to the Louvre. Upon entering, Dr. Morgenthau prompted a question to Brandon. “What is war’s function in the state of international relations?” Brandon responded “Master Wilson told me that war had been outgrown and that humans ought to never engage in violence to achieve their ends.” Dr. Morgenthau brought Brandon to a painting. “Observe this, Liberty Leading the People. Tell me, Brandon, if a government is corrupt, and denies people their ‘what you call good,’ should they engage it?” Brandon began to understand the man’s arguments. “If others cannot preserve our good, it is not right for us to protect theirs” he said. “Very good” Morgenthau said. Let us move on. For the next two hours, the two men explored the Louvre’s mazes, examining the art and discussing international philosophy. They examined the French sculpting periods, the Egyptian quarter, and the grand hall featuring all the exceptional paintings. At eahc one Morgenthau taught Brandon about political realism and offered scientific justifications for his reasoning. “So Brandon, what makes an effective leader?” Dr. Morgenthau asked.a “Well, someone with both authority, and legitimacy.” “Yes, but beyond that. Specifically, should military leadership be a criterion of good leadership? Brandon thought for a moment. “Yes, it is a good quality, but not required. By looking at men who have been to the edge of hell and back, we see that they have the characteristics of good leaders because they follow the truth and what is right, not the wavering whims of the people. Individuals like these see the world for what it is, a place where the notions of rules as set down by international liberalism are nice in theory, but are not followed by countries who don’t want to do so. Moreover, people are not inherently good. It may seem this way in times of peace, but when bad things happen, they abandon their moral code and fend from themselves.” “Precisely. Can liberalism work?” “Yes, provided it is under the context of realism. States only come together when it benefits them. And states are controlled by individuals, so this will only happen when it benefits individuals.” “Good. Finally, can the notion of non-violence and pacifism work?” “No. Pacifism only escalates wars because it doesn’t allow conflicts to get settled without a third party. No two states have ever come together to solve a problem without the threat of violence, this is a necessary part of the process. It allows social goals to be prioritized. If we look at the Isreali-Palestinian conflict, peace cannot last because the solution continues to get interrupted by individuals who think they know better.” “Congratulations,” said Morgenthau. “You are learned.”
50: Assignment 3 Journal: Admittedly, my reading of Hemingway left me a little disapinted. The back of the book states “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast,” which I expected to be an encapsulating statement for the work. However, it simply discussed the lives of the people in Hemingway’s life, and the Café Culture of Paris more than the existential understanding of the world Paris gives you. Moreover, the writing was not as intelligent as I was hoping, and Hemingway’s tone is that of a presumptuous thirteen-year-old. Thus, my disappointment with his work led me to not be impressed by the walk. I honestly did not care whether Hemingway worked at a certain bar of lived in a specific apartment, my understanding of his works is insufficient for such an appreciation. The Montmarte walk, however, was excellent. Living in the Citadines represents the “big city” feel of Paris, but going to Montmarte felt like living in Blois or another small town. It was quaint, and yet had a distinct personality. The local story of the Invisible Man, pickpocket profiling, and the grape fields combined with the tour guide knowing the locals made this walk feel different. This place was separate from Paris in its personality, and still equally a part of it. To me, Paris represents freedom, freedom from parents, and American law (in a good way). It is not the desire to order a beer in a restaurant, but the feeling that if I wanted to, I could. It also means moving out from my parents house into a place that is my own. I now fend for myself, and take what is mine not for someone else, but just myself. This feeling has lingered with me throughout the trip and has not changed. At first, this liberation was foreboding, but I adapted well and made the best of it.
51: Response: Before I begin, I am going to separate the word “art” from words such as “painting,” or “sculpture.” These are specific venues of creativity, yes, but they are not necessarily art. Art (at its vaguest definition) is a human creation of something that existentially moves the individual observing it. Thus, while there are famous sculptures that move viewers, not every sculpture does. The best comparison I can make to art is like a relationship with a girl. On a first date, I examine a girl, her personality, tone, and beauty to see if I want a further relationship. When I see characteristics that excite me or move me in some way, I take her on a second date, third date, etc. Finally, once I see enough there to establish a relationship. Art is the same way. Observers seek specific attributes of a painting with which they understand (or do not understand for that matter), and once those are established, they seek a further relationship with the piece. Much like dating, art is also subjective. A piece which I may see as brilliant, another may see as worthless. Thus, this is my definition of what I look for on my proverbial first date with a painting: The first attribute I look for is one of either human (or metaphorical) dominance over a weaker force, or overcoming incredible odds. The second characteristic I look for in a painting is classical or neoclassical stylings. Thirdly, a well constructed painting with attention to detal and complexity. Finally, the feature I look for is intelligent color matchings that further the meaning of the work as a whole. Thus, my favorite work based on all of these characteristics is The Raft of the Medusa. Nonetheless, I do not consider all paintings (or other venues) to be art. Modern art, for example, does not fit any of the above characteristics. After observing modern art at the Musee d’Orsay, I recognized the flaws in these works. In the absence of human dominance or redemption, or effective stylings, I was forced to simply observe color and complexity. Art is supposed to represent the complexity of the human experience, but this is abandoned for unskilled drawings. One such painting was a white sheet with pencil lines drawn on in a sketch one would make during Sociology 101. This work could have been completed by a preschooler, and yet some view it as fantastic art. Thus, I do not consider it to be art. In Hemingway’s book A Moveable Feast, his descriptions of art lead the reader to believe that the purpose of art is to be sold. When showing his works to Ms. Stein, Hemingway asks what is wrong with his works. She responds “[It] is inaccroachable. That means that it is like a picture that a painter paints and then he cannot hang it when he has a show and nobody will buy it because they cannot hang it either” (15). This quote leads the reader to believe that art is valuable only so long as it can be sold and hold monetary value to the buyer. This is partially true; the buyer must see art in the work. However, this ought not be the sole criterion for art. It is too vague for a group to value it, and leaves out the required subjectivity. Thus, Hemingway’s definition seems to satire art as opposed to value it.
52: Culture of Decadence Assignment 1 Journal: Admittedly, I attempted to have as few presuppositions about the French people and culture as possible. Being a strong opposer of xenophobia, I realized that such assumptions are inaccurate and eventually create a rift between you and the people. Nonetheless, some still extended through. The five words I heard from people the most were “you’re going to love it.” Nothing more than that, no elaboration or justification. This perspective gave me an optimistic perspective of my time here without knowing why or how. The second perception I was predisposed to was the arrogance of the French people, and their snobbery towards Americans. Many people (even those having gone to France) have told me that the French are very arrogant in all their actions, and that because of this arrogance, they don’t like other people, especially Americans. Finally, most of the perceptions I heard about French culture revolve around their foods: 1.French food often has a lot of fats and breads. 2.They have sauces for everything. 3.Despite eating all of this, the French do not get fat. These perceptions varied in their accuracy. The French arrogance is more of a sense of pride in their nation and their people. They love their country and their identities as individuals in it. Therefore, it logically derives that they do not hate Americans so much as Americans who are what Dalton and Susser refer to as “Liberty Fries” Americans. These are individuals who do not attempt to learn the culture or language, but instead attempt to experience the country as tourists. It would be as if a Frenchman went into the deep south and attempted to observe it while only speaking French, and ignoring the culture. Thus, it would make sense for the French to hate their Liberty Fry visitors. In my experience, however, the French are much nicer than people in America. They have accommodated me in all ways possible; they speak to me in English when my French is not sufficient, they are open and inviting to strangers in bars and clubs, etc. Thus, I find the French do not hate Americans; they love the travelers, but dislike the tourists. Finally, the perceptions of French food are largely accurate. Since coming to France, I have eaten many meals of bread, cheese, and meat. The latter two are very high in fats (and taste excellent). Bread is also consumed in large quantities by all individuals. So why don’t the people seem to get fat? Think it is a combination of two things: walking and portion size. Parisians live in a beautiful city, so why not enjoy it by walking? The streets are crowded with cars, and the cars here are not those worth driving. However, I have seen about four walkers for every car on the road. Moreover, when the French eat, they do not have the same size portions as they do in America; instead they are smaller by about 30%. 12 oysters is a large meal (as opposed to all you can eat at Joe’s Crab Shack) in France. Moreover, the people are not encouraged to finish all their food; they are more than willing to throw it away if someone doesn’t finish it. These two factors seem to indicate why the French are more fit than Americans.
53: Response: On face, building restoration seems a good thing. It allows both historians and travelers the opportunity to see things “as they were,” thus providing them the opportunity to understand a separate culture. In turn, restoration brings money to historical places and allows them to maintain the restoration process. This positive feedback loop seems beneficial to all parties, but it neglects the very thing that makes these locations sacred. Tourists come to these places because they seek to achieve enlightenment through the acquisition of knowledge or metaphysical transcendence. By restoring these locations to their former glory, they maintain the social context for civilizations in previous centuries, but neglect the social impacts on the modern society. Therefore, building restoration is effective in maintaining historical information and the overall aesthetic qulities, but not effective in enlightening modern beholders as it did in previous centuries. Notre Dame was a perfect example of how enlightenment is distorted through historical preservation. The once mighty church once hosted many religious artifacts that individuals would be able to observe. Since then, however, it has become “the place to go,” for tourists who do not appreciate its value beyond aesthetics. Once, this church hosted mass for an audience of believers who sought to reach God in the mighty building. Maintained as it is, however, the current audience wants nothing more than to observe the stained glass, look at the paintings, and leave for lunch. Mass was being held during our visit, but very few actually observed the ritual. Even during the transubstantiation, children yelled, and camera flashes distracted the observers. Because of the preservation, individuals now care more about the architecture of a building, than what the building intended to do or what it houses. Because of this, the overwhelming feeling of purpose I felt was somewhat limited by the tourists who wanted to see the sight, instead of experience it. Wasted effort is placed into cleaning the outside of the building than could be given to areas that need the money. This use of resources seems unacceptable in a world where 10,000 children in Africa die every day. The church itself seeks to do just that. However, the preservation of the building attracts individuals who can understand the past, but not the present. Another such example was the Sainte-Chappelle, the building which temporarily played host to the crown of thorns. This building hosts beautiful stained glass window collection that cannot be accurately described by words. There were some preservation attempts made on the Passion scenes in the back of the chapel (?). Observers sat and saw the beautiful stained glass, but rarely looked down at the pamphlet or the explanation for these works. The original workers intended to portray the biblical stories so that even the illiterate could understand them. However, the restoration process all but destroys this intention by instead inspiring individuals to only look at the glass. Although the aesthetic portion of this church is significant, it is not the most important aspect of the work; instead, the messages within the glass ought to be displayed. The constant effort put into cleaning the glass devalues the stories and the derived morals. The constant effort used to preserve churches and other monuments does preserve historical and aesthetic qualities, but fails to provide enlightenment to observers. Within culture, it is presumed that culture continually evolves and becomes a better version of itself by experiencing social change. Preservation attempts deny this change, instead choosing to preserve the works “as they are.” There are many alternatives to the ancient methods that would be better than the current ones. However, it seems easier to deny the messages in attempts to make money.
54: Assignment 2 Journal: Gericault’s Raft of the Medusa is an example of paradoxical art where grotesque imagery makes a painting beautiful. The painting seeks attacks the French monarchy for its improper appointing of an inexperienced captain to the ship Medusa. Because of his lack of experience, the ship is sunk and the occupants must evacuate on poorly constructed rafts. Only 15 survive the ordeal. In the image, Gericault portrays a diagonal view of the survivors on a raft, surrounded by unwelcoming tides. On the end nearest to the viewer, several dead bodies litter the scene. One man wearily clutches one of these bodies in a stance similar to La Pieta and prevents him from falling into the threatening waters. He, and the other surviving members on this end of the raft all wear grim and defeated faces. On the farther end of the raft, a pyramid of men hold attempt to get the attention of the ship in the distance, with a black man standing at the top waving a red ribbon. These individuals are largely facing away from the view, but several members look desperately in several directions. Although this was intended as an attack on the monarchy and an indication of death and desperation, this painting inadvertently inspires hope in the viewers through its grotesque imagery. Gericault’s inclusion of the distant ship on the horizon allows the viewer to understand the relief the survivors must have felt. Although distant, this tiny ship is the symbol of hope that the survivors need to persist. The survivors’ reactions to the ship are largely positive; while they may seem desperate and afraid of not being seen, this displays their love of living and their desire not to die. The man clutching the body on the near side of the raft acts as their foil; he has accepted death and therefore would be surrounded by the dead bodies had a ship not rescued them. Gericault’s depiction of death therefore inspires the remaining members of the raft to keep trying to get saved, as they know that if they accept death as the others did, they will lose hope. Moreover, the distant ship's color of brown is contrasted with the light yellow and warm backdrop and sunrise, while the raft is surrounded by darkness and cool colors. This juxtaposition reminds the survivors that while they may face death now, help is on the horizon and coming for them. Light colors are always associated with warmth and comfort while cool colors are associated with the cold and discomfort. This second use of juxtaposition reinforces the previous assertion that hope is what will save the survivors, should they choose to attract the ship's attention.
55: Response: Le Vau, Long have we been both friends and rivals, not simply in lovemaking and social standing, but for the respects of each other. Thus, I think that it is not only my place, but my requirement to challenge you on your most recent endeavor, the renovation of the Vaux-le-Vicomte and surrounding grounds. Thus, I think this chateau ought to be your finest work yet, not simply a chateau, but one which provokes the jealousy of the king. Should you accept this wager, I will personally ensure that you are to receive larger projects from the royalty. The chateau itself ought to be two stories (in the Italian tradition), and have a foundation as follows: a large entrance room which opens up to two wings and an elliptical central room for dining, entertainment, etc. If you are to build where you are thinking of building, you will need he area of at least two, possibly three villages (your patron should have no problem securing that, seeing as he is Nicholas Fouquet, the Superintendent of Finances under the king). Thus, I challenge you, using the specific criterion I laid out for you, to create a chateau that it inspires the jealousy of the king. I wish you luck, me frind and rival! Paul-Henri Paul-Henri, I am all to happy to accept your challenge. Before begin, I wish to share with you the qualities f the mansion as laid out by myself and the other architects. The area itself will be large, indeed three villages are needed for the area. The individuals will work for Fouquet as his servants. The house will have the ground floor with the rooms discussed, with bedrooms upstairs (The shall be decorated according to the owners desires, likely with furnature of red, blue, yellow, and gold). The chateau will have a moat, but only on three sides as for the aesthetic appeal, with the forth side having an entrance on solid ground. The gardens behind it shall be lower than the chateau itself, and will extend for about a mile and a half. Two small rivers meet in the park, one of which will be the Grand Canal. The assorted plants shall be accompanied by several fountains and ponds. Moreover, in attempts to increase the aesthetic appeal of the garden, I shall employ an optical illusion so that the garden seems smaller from afar, but as one walks it, they will seem as if it extends forever. It will appear that the entire garden is visible from a glance. These are simply guidelines, but it should sufficiently displease the king. Now what ought to be the stakes of the wager should I lose? Le Vau Le Vau, The stakes shall be payment, to me, of 100,000 livres. And I must say, these arrangements seem stunning, I look forward to seeing them in person when I attend one of the parties hosted at the Chateau. I look forward to seeing you soon. Paul-Henri Paul Henri, Tonight has been a melancholical night. I have succeeded in making the king jealous, but at what cost? The king, feeling inadequate next to Fouquet’s mighty chateau, he had false charges brought up against the man. Although Fouquet only intended to impress the king, the celebration was to lavish and the home was too luxurious. One man (I believe him to be Volitare, wrote recently that “On 17 August, at six in the evening Fouquet was the King of France: at two in the morning he was nobody”). As the investigations went on, documents favoring Fouquet were destroyed or conveniently went missing while documents charging him with crimes were created. At the trial, Fouquet used his power of persuasion to allow himself to be exiled to another country. The king, in response to this, claimed that Fouquet had secrets which would destroy the integrity of the nation should they get in the hands of another country, and thus Fouquet is to spend the rest of his life in jail. I sought to make the king jealous, and the very man I worked for and built a place for him to live is now in jail because of me. At what cost, sir, at what cost? Le Vau
56: Assignment 3 Journal: Gericault’s Raft of the Medusa is the quintessential story of human endurance and hope. Most viewers are familiar with the work, most specifically with the survivors and the dead bodies which inhabit the raft. Closest to the audience, in a pose similar to the La Pieta, a man in a red cloth clutches a corpse and avoids looking to the horizon where a distant ship can be seen. His facial expression is paradoxically glum; in the face of a chance of rescue, he does not attempt to attract the ship, but looks toward the hostile seas with an expression which states “I have no more hope in this world.” He has accepted death, and therefore, his place on the raft among the dead bodies is fitting. Farther away from the audience, a black man waves a piece of red cloth in attempts to get the attention of the distant ship. The way his muscles are flexed and the position of his hand make his violent waving clear to the audience. His desperate ploy of getting the ship’s attention is a radical cry for life, one which he realizes he must make if he is t get off the raft alive. The other members of the raft follow his gaze and too attempt to attract the ship. Their movements also seem desperate and yet violent. These two parts of the ship seem to illustrate the two human reactions during a crisis: accepting it and doing nothing, or standing and taking back what is yours. Only one man stands alone on the edge of the raft among the dead bodies, accepting death; his companions, however, realize that to save their lives, they will need to earn it. This ship will not come to them on its own accord, the tide is too strong and the tiny raft would be all but invisible to it. However, by incorporating sound, and movement, these men and women might stand a chance against the insurmountable odds. The waves surrounding the ship are another prominent part of the painting. Gericault portrays them not how waves would be (about 3-4 feet at the depth the boat is in now), but as giant waves (5-6 feet) which have a genuine potential to overturn the raft and the only support the boat has. These waves seem to represent not only the sea, but the unstable times the men and women on the raft live in. It is a time where individuals are promoted based on blood instead of skills and proficiency. These giant waves seek to destroy not only the Medusa, but the foundation of France at the time. Thus, it takes all the strength these men and women have to hold on to the raft and seek a more permanent shelter, one based on democracy and proficiency, one which will stand the test of time.
57: Response: The Pompidou Center in Paris is home to a great deal of modern (absurdist) art, and thus, the outside was created to match the inside. The architects sought to “turn the building upside down” so to speak, by taking the internal framework of pipes, and putting them on the outside of the center. In my limited understanding of both architecture and art, I do not find the Center itself to be art. Art ought to move a person existentially to something beyond themselves; the Center was created in such a way that would fit the rules under modern/absurdist art: to be unintelligent and irrational. The very purpose of the building is to have no apparent purpose. I find the entire building to be hypocritical of itself. The pipes that encase the building were painted different colors in order to differentiate between their respective functions, each of which maintains a certain purpose in the museum. Moreover, the outside courtyards seek to be a meeting place for cultural exchange before entering the Center, a clear indication of purpose and meaning in one’s life. For a building which seeks to be irrational, the architecture of the building is constructed in a way which disproves it’s own message. Ultimately, I feel that the architecture of the Pompidou Center, while not art, is fitting for the works inside the museum; both are unnecessary, unintelligible, and are hypocritical to the core.
58: Part 3: Activities
59: Activity 1: The Hastings Tapestry is one of the most elaborate documentations of all time. It tells the story of how William the Bastard led the Normans to conquer England. What is significant about this task is that the tapestry itself is 230 feet long and contains 35 chapters. Each chapter is intricately designed detailed in its own right, but the size of the entire tapestry is an impressive feat. The authors decided to use pictures instead of writing due to their desire to tell the story to the largely illiterate public. I feel this is an appropriate venue for this day in age. The characters are illustrated well enough, and a sense of place and time is given by the intricate backgrounds that display several locations by using local architecture and natural landmarks (one such example is the a local church in Bozzam). Moreover, the actions of the characters are made clear and supplemented with (then) conventional symbols that make the tone clear. For example, the picture displays Harold’s men seeing Haley’s (?) Comet which was an omen of impending doom, which later proved to be accurate for Harold. The Hastings Tapestry tells how the Normans took England and how William the Bastard became William the Conqueror. It begins with Kind Edward of England conferring with Harold regarding who will take his place upon his death. Edward wants William the Bastard (a Norman, and therefore Frenchman) to succeed him, and sent Harold Godwinson to inform him of the Kings decision. When Harold lands at the coast of France, they are greeted by the hostile Count Guy of Ponthieu, by whom Harold is promptly taken prisoner. Harold convinces the Count he is on a mission to bring a message to William which leads to the sending of two messengers from William to demand his release. The Count Guy of Ponthieu quickly releases him to William. William then invites Edward to come on a campaign against the then current Duke of Brittany, Conan II. As they travel, by Mont St. Michel, two soldiers get trapped in quicksand and Harold saves them. William’s army chases Conan II from Brittany, and he finally surrenders at Dinan. Upon victory, Harold tells William that he is to succeed King Edward, and William makes Harold swear on sacred relics that Harold will uphold the King’s wish. Harold then returns to the King, who subsequently dies. However, instead of upholding his oath, Harold instead claims the crown. William then gathers his army and resources, and prepares fir war. His forces eventually land in England and prepare for battle. Prior to the battle a great feast is held for the forces. The Battle of Hastings takes place, during which Harold is killed. Various scenes of the battle are displayed, including one in which Harold's forces appear to be winning the battle. But eventually, William is victorious and claims the throne intended for him by Edward, and William becomes the King of England, and is thus named William the Conqueror. The format of this tapestry is significant, as it reflects several aspects of the times. It extends for 230 feet, when it could have easily been passed on by word. So why was it in this format? The purpose of the tapestry is twofold: the first is, like any official document, to create an “accurate” presentation of a story so that the story or meanings do not change over time. The second purpose was because an official document needed to be legible to the public. Most of the audience who would see this tapestry were illiterate, so the writers needed to convey the message in an official manner which could be easily communicable from the text to an individual. Thus, a tapestry of such size and detail was sufficient to present the story and its conventional symbols to the poor public. The public later began to see it as a story about morality and keeping one’s promises to others. Harold broke his sworn oath to be faithful to William (on holy objects no less) in order to take power. He is subsequently engaged in a war with William and dies in battle. The religious public at the time saw this story as one of divine justice; as God was likely to side with the “moral” party, and by violating his promise not only to William, but to the king who preceded him, Harold identified himself as an evil person. While this document is effective in telling the story from a political/moral point of view, it is not as accurate in telling the story of William’s travels. Travel is intended to be an existential experience for the traveler where they are inundated with other languages, foods, and philosophies (Admittedly, Williams story is inherently opposed to this form of travel, as he conquers England and establishes his own culture’s qualities as the norm) However, the tapestry has a significant problems in it being a record of travel, that being the sole venue of pictures. Although a picture may be accurate in displaying a place, it has no way of accurately recalling how one felt at a specific place or time. My experience in Notre Dame was one such experience. The architecture on such a grand scale made me feel as if God was watching over me. I felt the same way when I visited St. Peter’s Bascilica. However, one would not know it by my pictures. Although the architecture is present, the existential experience was not. Thus, I concluded that pictures, although important in remembering how a place looked, were not sufficient to provide an emotional base for one’s memories. Although I agree with Williams choice in a visual display for educating the public, I disagree with this venue for William’s own recollection. Admittedly, photos are effective in displaying what happened (and are certainly part of effectively retaining a memory), they fail to capture the emotions felt at that particular moment in time. For example, I have a photo of myself at age eight surrounded by my brothers and friends at a Christmas gathering. I am smiling with more ecstatic jubilance than can be expressed in words. I’m sure that at the time I was thrilled about getting some gift and being able to hang out with the buddies I rarely could see. However, there is no (specific) record of why I felt so happy. In the 11 years after the picture was taken, I’ve asked the adults present in the room why I was so happy, but I have not received a satisfactory answer. The tapestry falls to the same problem; it explains what happened, but there are no individual records of how the leaders or their men perceived the event. Writing is the perfect venue for maintaining feeling while photos and videos seem to change with time. Memories eventually change with time, and photos do not give you proper context. Writing is the encompassing of the best part of these venues. It gives you not only your own perception and mental images, but a way for you to interpret them. Thus, it is the most effective way to save a memory. Knowing this, I intend to record what happened in both picture and writing form. Moreover, when I’m writing, I intend to record how I felt, not just at these events, but how I felt hanging out with my friends. I want to be able to look back on myself in 20 years and recall the times I had in Paris. I want my future me to look at myself in the past and say “Wow, that was a cool kid,” or “Dang, I used to be a douchbag.” I realize the best way to do this will be in a published journal supplemented with pictures. I’ll be clear, this journal is being written for me. Sure, others may look at it to see what it was like, but Brandon Good is the true reader of this work. So Brandon, what were your expectations of how you would operate in Paris? Well, I’m a cowboy. I’m gonna be expecting both everything and nothing. My buddies tell me that the French are snobby jerks to Americans, but I figure my charm and limited French might be enough to win them over. Either way, the people don’t intimidate me as much as the language does. I want to be able to communicate with these people, but I know Spanish a hell of a lot better than I know French. I’m also excited that there is no drinking age (I don’t intend to go overboard, no worries there). I’ve become versed in the cheap beers that college students have, but I’m excited to try some more flavorful (hopefully dark) beers and good wines. I want to visit the Eiffel Tower several times, hopefully get a game of Ultimate Frisbee going there. As for the local sights, I’m gonna leave that up to Dalton and Susser. They seem very educated in the country, so when they say that we’re seeing the best Paris and France had to offer, I believe them. However, I also want to make a trip to Rome and the Vatican. Being a Catholic, I want to see where it all goes down. Moreover, Rome itself seems like a beautiful city and I want to visit it as well. Finally, I want to hit up the South of France (maybe even a nude beach). Outside of these expectations, I’m pretty open. After reading Tao Te Ching in Dalton’s class, I want to be as empty as possible and experience things without biases or judgments.
60: Activity 2 In my experience, there are three kinds of travelers. The first is the “Tour Bus Traveler,” the second the “Aquarium Traveler” and finally, the “Commando Traveler.” The “Tour Bus Traveler” is someone who travels while still staying in their own respective culture (for sake of ease, I will use the American version). They often go to a foreign country, but see what they’ve heard about of instead of exploring their own interests (thus staying on the metaphorical tour bus) and attempt to experience them as an America.. They often see other cultures as inherently less than American, and do not go to great lengths to conceal this “fact.” Many of these travelers will visit for the material experience (i.e. “OMG! Let’s go shopping in Paris ladies!”), but neglect or outwardly ignore the existential experience of cultural immersion. They try as few new foods as possible, and often stick with McDonalds as a frequent dining excursion. I mean, why eat escargot when you can have a burger and fries? Finally, they do not attempt to learn the language of a foreign country. Instead, they use English and (loudly) exclaim how other countries should learn our language to accommodate the American way of life. Sadly, these travelers are more prevalent than I would have hoped. I had the distinct “pleasure” of listening to one of their conversations with a local outside the Mount St. Michael Abbey. Their dialogue follows: Teen 1: “Hey! Hey Frenchie! Come take a picture of my girlfriend and me!” Frenchman: (Looks bewildered) “” Teen 1: “Do you not understand English? TAKE. A. PICTURE.” Frenchman: Teen 2: “God! Why are these people so stupid?” The above teen was one of many examples of “Tour Bus Travelers” I saw on my trip. This type of traveler visits other countries, but maintains the stereotypes held by their own culture and doesn’t have the will or the courage to go out of their comfort zone. The “Aquarium Traveler” operates like a man in an aquarium. He observes, but does not interact. They go into the Aquarium seeing it aesthetically beautiful, but hazardous to touch. Their expectations of a culture are often minimal, but nonetheless, they still carry their own prejudices. They often learn the basics of the culture’s language, but not much beyond food orders and hotel reservations. Thus, they do not speak with locals, and often avoid anything/anywhere that does not communicate in English. They are not opposed to trying new food items, experiences, or opportunities while traveling, but feel that they ought not to “overstay their welcome” in a place. Finally, the “Commando Traveler” is someone who swallows their fear and dives out of their comfort zone with a smile on their face. They have no problem charging into another culture and fully engaging them in all that they are. Not knowing what their future in another culture will be like, they expect everything and they expect nothing. Instead, they keep an open mind and live by the phrase “if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.” They do research before they leave, normally pertaining to the history or customs of a place. They are often fluent in the foreign language and have no problem approaching locals and making friends. They are also the kind of people who will try eyeball soup or a jellied monkey brain if served to them. Their effort is well received by the locals who in turn respect them. Before this trip, I had never been off the continent, and only had been to Mexico once or twice. What worried me the most was the language barrier. I had studied Spanish in High School and was more than proficient, but the French language frightened me. It sounded unpronounceable and came forth from speaker’s mouths like Lady Gaga coming from a tone deaf 13-year-old. Although Drs. Susser and Dalton told us we wouldn’t need to worry, the language barrier still scared me. Because of this, I wasn’t sure how the French would receive me. I didn’t want to be a “Tour Bus Traveler,” and seem ungrateful to the people who accepted me into their country. Thus, I decided that I would do my best to learn the French phrases and say “s'il vous plat” and “merci” as much as possible. After returning, I realize that as a traveler, I fall between the Aquarium and Commando Travelers. Admittedly, I attempted to be a Commando Traveler. I kept an open mind as much as possible. One of the first nights, I tried fois gras at a local restaurant in Blois. This food is acquired by force feeding a goose with specific foods (for this specific version, I have no idea) until the liver swells. That liver is then sliced up and put onto a plate for your eating pleasure. This form of fois gras tasted like the normal liver you will eat, but without as much salt and a more lingering flavor. I also was the only person in my group to approach locals and ask questions (in both French and English). I also did not have a problem approaching locals (read: girls) on the Champs Elyses and attempting a conversation (much harder to do when the only English they know is “I have a boyfriend.” I guess I need to work on my technique.). However, I sometimes dropped the ball, and resorted to being an Aquarium Traveler. My pronunciation was less than desirable and often had several people shrug and walk away when I tried to talk to them. This in turn mad me shy away from talking to others. I remember outside the Palace at Versailles a German (?) woman asked me to take a photo and yelled at me in German when it wasn’t up to her standards. This fear of interaction made me content just watching the French culture and not experiencing it.
61: Activity 3: Guiliano’s French Women Don’t Get Fat discusses the French Paradox present in the title. The French eat well, and heartily (lots of bread, wine, cheese etc.), but they don’t get fat like Americans do. Guiliano claims that instead of dieting or intense workouts, the French have a system which allows them to maintain a healthy body weight. Here are some of favorite suggestions from the French system (see page 47 for more): Eat a variety of foods, not just protein shakes and steaks. When shopping, buy what you need for one or two days. Drinking water? Good, now drink more. Eat smaller portions. According the Guiliano, the first part of the French Paradox is eating like the French eat. Their entire system of eating seems to be based off of “everything is good in moderation.” They encourage eating both healthy and not-so-healthy foods; it is the portions that mater. One of the problems with the American system is that we eat on autopilot, where we eat everything on the plate without concern for taste, portions, etc. I can personally say I am a victim of this: given a large and delicious portion, I want to inhale it as fast as possible (because the more food that’s stuffed into my mouth, the better I’ll be able to taste it, right?). Instead, Guiliano suggests a more playful relationship with food. We want to taste the food, but every bite ought to lead to another one, with the same (if not more) desire for the same sized bite. Moreover, they encourage us to actually taste our food! Similar to tasting wines, we want food to touch the front of the tongue, move out to the sides, and then exit in the back, thus offering us the maximum amount of time to gather taste from the food. The American system also frowns upon snacking and satisfying cravings, often associating them with gluttony. The French believe, however, that we ought not deny ourselves what we want for an extended period of time. Our bodies need a Sabbath to rest, and denying them it will only wreak havoc in the long term. The second part of the French Paradox is moving like the French move. Americans seem to sit either at a desk or in front of a TV, promoting a sedentary lifestyle and wasting the calories they’ve consumed over the course of a day (read: gain weight). The French (as is true with most European cultures) walk everywhere, which is a cause of rapid weight loss (for all my eating habits, I lost three pounds in Europe, likely due to all the walking I did). This is achieved through dedicated walks (sunrise runs along the Seine are my personal favorite), and looking for excuses to extend your walking time. Finally, as trivial as it seems, taking the stairs can burn 1100 calories an hour (assuming you’re climbing a very tall building). These healthy habits, when supplemented with building and toning workouts are very effective in keeping the French in a trim state. In Paris, I hope to become more experienced in wine and complex cuisine. Being a college student, I know the ins and outs of Hot Pockets, Otter Pops, and cheap beer (we’re talking Keystone or Natural Light beers here). However, and complex cuisine exist so that we can appreciate the complex flavors in each. From a local wine expert, I’ve been told to taste wine so that it forms a diamond shape on your tongue. It must touch the front of the tongue, move out to the sides, and come back together in the back to experience the full range of flavors. Moreover, you should never take more than a sip at once. Guiliano recommends drinking in moderation and never mixing wines. She also suggests white wines go with white meats and fish, red with red meats, etc. For info on food, see above. During my experience in France, I made two specific items: homemade yogurt and a calf’s heart. The yogurt was simple enough to make (for the process, see page 153), but the heart was one of the darkest experiences of my life: Ingredients: Calf heart Garlic Olive oil Pepper Put oil in large pan and cook on medium heat. Add pepper to pan. Chop garlic and add to oil. Place heart in pan and cook for 10-12 minutes, or until thoroughly brown-grey. This was quite possible the worst dining experience of my life. The heart reminded me of my first time eating fois gras. It tasted somewhat similar to liver, but had significantly more iron and salt in its taste. I took a bit and could not finish the job. However, after trying the French cuisine, I found eating more enjoyable than I did in America. I am personally opposed to fish, but upon trying a white fish with wine at the Saint Michael Abbey, I found eating slowly and attempting to try all the separate flavors made fish tolerable. The same was true for wines. The many flavors in wine are meant to be savored. Rushing through the process made it intolerable, but slowly sipping the wine made the experience much more enjoyable. I personally think that Guiliano’s method for maintaining a healthy body weight in Paris was correct. I started off the trip at 157 pounds, and ended at skinny 154. I had been working out since the beginning of the year and had packed on a record 16 pounds through the use of creatine and protein. I had hoped to go to France to gain weight so that I could put that fat to use in bodybuilding. No such luck. I ate more in France than I did normally (which is saying something, 3 hearty plates of food every meal is my norm). I however, ate in accordance with the above principles. I ate slowly, I savored flavors, I satisfied snacking cravings, etc. And somehow I lost weight. I also went running every day, did toning exercises, always took the stairs, and walked probably 3-4 miles every day, to which I attribute most of my weight loss. And to quote every great salesman “It worked for me, It’ll work for you!” I believe this system is something that can be applied to everyone. After speaking with several friends who went through the same phenomenon, and studying the profiles from French Women Don’t Get Fat, it seems that the French system of eating applies universally and can be used to maintain a healthy weight.
63: The Heart
64: Activity 4: I see a sacred place as a place that moves you existentially towards happiness. Existentialism is a philosophy that deals with the conditions of existence of individuals, specifically the exploration of the question “What is a human being and what do they strive for?” In my experience thus far, I believe that the answer to this question is that humans are simply animals which have the potential to observe (but not fully discover) the truth, or the eternal, unchanging aspects of the world. With this in mind, humans have a natural craving to be satisfied by knowledge, whether that knowledge be love, science, philosophy, etc. In my experience, I want to be satisfied on several levels; I want to experience all forms of love, discover God (and whether He exists or not) and to gain as much knowledge of the world as possible. Thus, for me, a sacred place would be one which moves me closer to one of these three levels. While In France, we visited several places which many consider to be sacred. The following recount the history and my accounts of these places: The Mont St. Michel rests on a peninsula, accessible only by a narrow land bridge. The surrounding area is perilous as the tide rises very quickly (1m per second) and the underlying ground is quicksand (which prevented the Germans from seizing the area). Supposedly, the Archangel Michel came down from Heaven and appeared to St. Aubert, bishop of Avranches, in 708 and instructed him to build a church on the location. The bishop ignored this request until Michel burned a hole in his skull. An Italian architect, William de Volpiano, designed the Romanesque church of the abbey in the 11th century, placing the transept crossing at the top of the mount. Many underground crypts and chapels had to be built to counteract the weight. These formed the basis for the supportive upward structure. Sainte-Chapelle was founded by the devout King Louis IX of France, who constructed it as a private chapel to house precious relics. The palace itself has otherwise disappeared, leaving the Sainte-Chapelle all but surrounded by the Palais de Justice. In 1239, he purchased both the Crown of Thorns and a piece of the True Cross (cross on which Jesus was supposed to be killed) from the impoverished Latin emperor at Constantinople, Baldwin II, for 135000 livres. Sainte-Chapelle was planned in 1241, started in 1246 and quickly completed: it was consecrated on April 26, 1248. It is notable not only for its lower church, but for its distinct stain glass windows in the upper church. It possesses 6458 square feet of stain glass, with several biblical scenes depicted. I do not view this place as sacred, as it’s primary function is to display the stories from the bible. The bible’s sole function is to provide a framework and light application of morality. In this venue (stained glass) it is difficult to be moved existentially as it shows petit pictures of the biblical stories, but not enough to persuade you of a specific course of action. Construction on Notre Dame in Paris began in 1163, during Louis VII’s reign. Between 1210 and 1220, the fourth architect oversaw the construction of the level with the rose window and the great halls beneath the towers. The towers were finished around 1245 and the Cathedral was finally completed around 1345. In 1793, the Cathedral fell victim to the French Revolution. Many sculptures and treasures were destroyed or plundered; the Cathedral was rededicated to the Cult of Reason and later to the Cult of the Supreme Being (during such time, Lady Liberty replaced the Virgin Mary on several altars). The Cathedral also came to be used as a warehouse for the storage of food. Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte was crowned Emperor there on December 2, 1804. A program to restore the Church was initiated in 1845, overseen by architects Jean-Baptiste-Antoine Lassus and Eugene Viollet-le-Duc. The restoration lasted 23 years, and included the construction of a spire. In 1871, during the Paris Commune, the Cathedral was set on fire. In 1905, the law of separation of Church and State was passed, thus the state retains ownership of Notre-Dame, but its use is granted to the Roman Catholic Church. Chartes Cathedral was not constructed all at once, but rather is a product of five Cathedrals built upon that spot. It has housed the Sancta Camisia, the tunic Mary wore when giving birth to Jesus, since 876. In 1194, it succumbed to a fire, where the Sancta Camisia was thought incinerated. However, three days after the fire, it was recovered unharmed and the townspeople thought it was a sign from Mary to build a new church. Donations came from all over France, and reconstruction began later that year. Work began first on the nave and by 1220 the main structure was complete, with the old crypt, the west towers and the west facade incorporated into the new building. It is notable for its gothic architecture. The stained glass windows date from as early as the 1140s AD, with most of them from 1200-50, there are about 170 Chartres windows (depending on how you count) covering approximately 21,000 square feet. Their subjects including biblical stories, legends of the saints, the lives of heroes, and scenes of medieval life. It also is retained by the state. After visiting the above places in person, I have concluded that a sacred place has three criterion: First, it must move you existentially (for me love, service to man, God, and the truth). And second, it must make you satisfied upon leaving. After my first sight of Notre Dame, I knew that I would be a sacred place. In the front courtyard, the massive architecture dominated everything around it. The white stone which made up the Cathedral stood out amid the darker colors that plagued the surrounding buildings (this is especially true in the morning when the sun rises; the Cathedral is the only building which receives light). The massive size of the architecture also struck me from the outside, and seemed to express the power of God (something which I had not felt for some time). The inside of the Cathedral was equally as impressing. It was much darker inside, but the mood of the Cathedral made it comfortable. The pillars of the inside are what struck me; their ability to uphold a massive ceiling reminded me of God and His strength to help people (including myself) up. Their massive size seems to be a reflection of the massive power that God has. The other moving aspect of Notre Dame was the Stations of Resurrection. Most Catholics (and other Christians for that Matter) look at Jesus’ death as his ultimate meaning. However, Jesus’ true teachings come from his life and life after death. Seeing the Stations of the Resurrection reminds me that Jesus and his teachings are very much alive and that we ought to go forth happily with a just heart instead of feeling inadequate compared to God. Thus, Notre Dame satisfied two existential goals for me; not only did it show God to me, it showed me that He loved me, something that I had not felt in a long time. Thus, I felt satisfied and went forth with a renewed sense of trust in God and the universe.
65: One final place which I considered to be sacred was Monet’s Garden. The simple layout of the pond and surrounding plants was oddly soothing. Although I would not consider this trip to be hectic, the fast pace was intense; however, in the garden, time seemed to stand still. Save for the sounds of birds and water, it was largely silent. When I sat down and meditated in the garden, I was reminded of one of my favorite Tao Te Ching quotes: “Do you have the patience to wait / till your mud settles and the water is clear?” In my search for the truth and to gain as much knowledge as possible, I had sought to dominate and to take everything I could. The garden reminded me be calm and to observe knowledge as it passes, for if I was unable to correctly observe, my understanding of the world would be worthless. Thus, upon leaving, I was a stronger and (hopefully) more perfect man. Unfortunately, very few other places counted as “sacred” under this definition. For example, the Mont St. Michel’s tour solely illustrated the monk’s lives in the abbey, but failed to demonstrate their purpose like Notre Dame or the Vatican did. It simply showed architecture and several sculptures including the intricate St. Michel fighting Satan. Nonetheless, although it was in a beautiful place and has intriguing to see, it was not a sacred place. St. Chapelle was also not a sacred place. The impressive designs of the church were not as remarkable to me because I have already read the Bible. If the only thing remaining is architecture, then I am not moved existentially towards the existence of God (God does not prove the bible any more than the Bible proves God; this circular reasoning is what caused problems in the first place). The same is true for Chartes Cathedral; it is just another cathedral, and it’s lack of notable messages or religious meaning beyond the average church makes it unremarkable as a sacred place. Source: "Sacred Places." Christopher L. C. E. Witcombe. Sacred Places. Web. 23 Sept. 2010.
66: Activity 5 Goals: Try as many odd foods as possible. When in doubt, go with the option that seems grosser or that you have never tried before. Have dinner parties with friends as much as possible. Also try your hand at cooking French foods. Go to the farmer’s market and get food for a picnic somewhere. Try as many wines as possible, and get drunk on wine at least once. Take at least one shot of absinthe. Become accustomed to European (high quality) beers. Try McDonalds in Paris just to see if it really is better than American McDonalds. Get a Royale with Cheese in celebration of Pulp Fiction. Try as many local desserts as possible. Visit the Eiffel Tower several times, preferably with a bottle of wine and a baguette. Visit Rome and the Vatican with friends. Go to Disneyland in Paris and ride the Rockin’ Rollercoaster. Visit the South of France, and go to a nude beach. Visit London. Approach a woman in a bar or on the streets. Run every day. Overall, I met most of the goals I set for myself and, although I went broke doing so, it was worth it. During the first several days where I bought most of my food, I tried as many new foods as possible. One of the least pleasant experiences I had was with fois gras. This “delectable” treat is made by force feeding a goose large amounts of water and grain. They then slaughter the goose, remove it’s liver, and serve it to the consumer. It tasted fairly similar to liver at home, but awas more gamey and the taste lingered in my mouth longer than welcome. Dinner parties were commonplace among our group of friends. We would either prepare food for everyone in the group, or do BYOF and W. The former led to some very entertaining nights. In no particular order, I made fantastic nacho cheese from a local brand, and prepared a simple cake for dinner, but most of the time I was on wine duty. I remember that red wines go with red meat, while white wines go well with fish and white meats. If I may say so myself, I made some good decisions. The farmer’s market was very exciting. You could practically buy anything there for much cheaper than store prices. The people there were very friendly and often spoke English with us (one Italian fruit salesman stood out among the group). I also had a pleasant experience when I found that they had fresh churros made in front of you (2 for 1 euro!). Let me say this about wine: it is the best drunk one can be. I’ve been in good places with beer hard alcohol, but wine made me feel a certain euphoria that I have never felt with another form of alcohol. As of now, although I don’t remember the rules off the top of my head, if you give me the choice between two of the same color wines, I can tell you which is better and which is a superior choice for the situation. My travels are documented fairly well in my journal, so I will let you read them there. The most noteworthy experience of the trip was my visit to Rome. Not only was the beautiful country and culture, it was the feeling of being self reliant, without parents, teachers, or friends I needed to count on. I was completely independent and able to follow my own destiny there. I will admit that I would have liked to stay in Rome and Italy for that matter much more than I did. It was a beautiful country and I would like to get the non-tourist perspective. I threw a penny into the Trevi fountain, so I will go back sometime. I also never made it to the South France or England. Next time. Finally, I never really approached a woman in a bar. I had a few opportunities, but the language barrier coupled with the lack of available women deterred me from really trying. As a seasoned traveler looking back at my trip, I would have done several things differently. I first would have learned French. Although the sayings that I used were effective in getting information, using them often led to a response in English, or a very complicated French response. Given the choice, I would prefer the latter, however I would at least like to understand 50-60% of what I see and hear in the country. I would also have done more background research before I went to the different locals. Going to the places was sufficient for garnering information for records, but I would have enjoyed the locals more given more specific information. Finally, I would have encouraged my friends to come with. There were many moments that I cannot capture accurately by writing or photographs. For example, the tranquility of Monet’s Garden or Da Vinci’s Garden was one of the most calming experiences I have ever had, but that emotion cannot be duplicated. The same goes for seeing the Eiffel Tower for the first time or seeing the Vatican; you had to be there to experience it. Overall, this trip was an excellent experience. I didn’t realize it during the time, but I have been changed existentially. After I got back, I changed my major (from Political Science to Business), became interested in more sophisticated things (wine and cigars), and overall became a more confident individual. Paris was an incredible journey, and I make myself this promise to go back.