The Sochi Backlash Backlash

The title isn’t a typo. Apparently there is a backlash against the backlash created by the sub-standard Olympic accommodations in Sochi. The gripe seems to be that the US and other western nations are spoiled, entitled, and petulant that Sochi isn’t quite up to the lofty standards of, say, Salt Lake City or even Omaha. The gold-grey water, elevator doors that open into empty shafts, and toilets that don’t flush are the same features “enjoyed” by even the upper class in Russia and so Americans and anyone else with a decent standard of living should shut up and sit down. Or shut up and compete. Whatever works.

The problem with this thinking is that in the 2014, we know that society is capable of so much more than what Sochi has provided. Since we know how to make a toilet that flushes the paper, shouldn’t we have it? I literally cannot believe that Sochi can not afford proper – and yes, it is “proper” – plumbing. I can hear people yelling now that just because America does it this way doesn’t mean everyone has to. True enough. But I believe that all human beings would choose cleanliness and plenty over the filth that Sochi provides.

The lack of readiness also reveals a kind of hubris of the Russian mindset. Did Putin really think that we wouldn’t notice the fact that Sochi basically has no infrastructure? Did he think he could muscle it into existence before the opening ceremonies? His government had four years to get it done, and look at it. There aren’t the resources or the will to make it even passable. When Katrina victims are nodding their heads and thinking, “Yep. Been there and done that”, you know you’ve failed. But none of this would matter if Sochi were not hosting the Olympics. There are thousands of places exactly like Sochi around the globe where misery is the mantra of the day and every day. But Sochi is hosting the Olympic Games – and we expect (and deserve) a world-class city to host the Olympics.

One could make the argument that we should see the misery of other places in the world, or that any city should be able to host. Just think of all that sweet lucre pouring in, after all. Okay, but the Olympics are supposed to be impartial and non-political. They’re supposed to be a competition about athletes, not another social program.

I don’t think it is too much to ask that Olympic athletes have clean water to drink or nice toilets that actually flush. By failing to provide these things, Sochi shows the world the ravages of communism, which is probably not what Putin and his government had hoped.

A Present: Destiny By Sally Beauman

This morning a present was delivered to my house. It was a present from me to me. It was something I wanted desperately, an extravagance I had wanted for years: a first edition copy of my favorite book, Destiny by Sally Beauman. It is so beautiful I want to sing.

Not only is the book itself delightful, Shakespeare & Company, who acquired the book for me, went above and beyond in its delivery. Simply opening the box was a delight.

Shakespeare & Company Stamp

Shakespeare & Company Stamp

Shakespeare & Co. Return Address

Shakespeare & Co. Return Address

The back of the box

The back of the box

The book is wrapped in paper with a quote from Ralph Ellison

The book is wrapped in paper with a quote from Ralph Ellison

Portrait of Sally Beauman on the back of Destiny

Portrait of Sally Beauman on the back of Destiny

A perfect mint condition first edition of Sally Beauman's Destiny.

A perfect mint condition first edition of Sally Beauman’s Destiny.

Today In British Racism

My husband and I decided to run out to the country today, and we chose the sweet coaching town of Hungerford for our outting. There was a large antiques arcade and a second hand bookshop I wanted to check out. The town is actually quite pretty.

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All sleepy quaintness, right?

So we walked into the antique shop. It was quite large, and there were sections of Victorian and even Georgian jewelry, books, and porcelain figurines. And there was this:

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I’ve never seen anything so offensive in my life. My husband informs me that the word “wog” is the equivalent of the American “N word”. He informs me that these days, in an effort to be more politically correct these are only called Gollies. HOLY FLYING COWS. This is crazy. Who would buy this? It’s grotesque.

In an effort to get that out of my head, we went up two flights to a massive bookstore.

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Oh nice. So lovely. Then I saw this.

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Time to go home.

Hipster Whale’s Guide to Paris

So I went to Paris, or rather I passed through Paris on my way to spend the winter in my Himalayan yurt, and in a moment of weakness, I found myself among the heaving peasants at the ‘tourist’ ‘sights’. Here are some photos I took on my box brownie. I apologise that they are so cliched.

To start with, the view from my hotel. This is wall of the building opposite.

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Here is a cafe opposite Notre Dame. The church itself is mainstream, but this cafe is suitably empty to make it interesting.
 
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A trip to the Louvre produced some points of note. This is the picture opposite the Mona Lisa. Da Vinci’s painting is well known, but you’ve probably never heard of this one.
 
 
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This is the floor of the Louvre:
 
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The lifts in the Eiffel Tower were the only real point of interest in a rather bland structure.
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And the duck pond next door drew very little attention, and is therefore worth recording.
 
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This window looks at the rather lame view of Paris from Montmartre. The area was mainstream even before the Post Impressionists.
 
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At Versailles, all I could find worth photographing was this tree grate.
 
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Of course, there is much great ‘art’ in Paris. I found the back of Rodin’s Thinker to be particularly moving.
 
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And in an obscure little gallery off the Champs Elysee, I found this fascinating bench for the use of the masses. Most enlightened.
 
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There were three people looking at the grave of Oscar Wilde, so avoiding that crowd, I spent my time contemplating the grave next door.
 
 
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Finally, no trip would be complete without a visit to the L’Arc de Triomphe. So, here is a picture of a pedestrian crossing nearby.
 
 
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As these pictures show, if you know where to look, you can find some interesting things in Paris.
 
 

Dalida

I hated Montmartre the first time I saw it. The tourists and pickpockets around Sacre Coeur were atrocious: rude, aggressive, groups of three or four men circling around you, asking “Where you from?” as they reached for your purse or under your jacket.

It nearly ruined the whole day for me, until we got away from the tourist sector and began wandering the back streets, which I found beautiful. Trees shivering with yellow and orange leaves – even in November – and narrow twisting roads fit my expectation of Paris better than the crowding wolves: “Where you from?”

Montmartre

Montmartre

We wandered the streets for maybe an hour, without destination. Suddenly we turned a corner and a beautiful bronze sculpture stopped us in our tracks. I smirked at the worn-away boobs, but thought she was gorgeous.

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According to the plaque, her name is Dalida. She was a singer. We took a few snapshots and moved on.

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That evening, we fell into bed exhausted. We barely made plans for the next day and Paul began to drift off. I, however, need more time to unwind before sleep, so using my iPad, I googled Dalida.

I began to read her Wikipedia page. As I read, I began to frown, then smirk, then titter. Beside me, Paul sleepily asked if I was okay.

“Yeah… Dalida had a tough life…”

He rolled over and looked at me. “What?”

It was one of those things that you KNOW you’re not supposed to laugh at, but because it is so over the top, so outrageous and yes, so forbidden, I began to laugh more.

I read him the entry… suicide…suicide…suicide… With every tragic suicide, we laughed harder. When her bulldog died, we gave up trying to be respectful; we just rolled. Tears were falling down our cheeks. We laughed for half an hour straight, laughing at how utterly awful this poor woman’s life was, how over the top dramatic.

A few days later, I looked her up on YouTube and watched this.

It was beautiful; she was beautiful and talented, and she died too soon.

When it was over, Paul said, “I bet the guy directing the orchestra threw himself off a balcony.”

I can’t bear to see if he’s right.

Happy Birthday, Voltaire!

At the Panthéon today, my husband and I saw Voltaire’s tomb. It was a shock – you just turn a corner in the crypt and bam! Vol-freaking-tair! THE Voltaire!

Voltaire's Tomb

Voltaire’s Tomb

Voltaire

Voltaire

When we came home, my husband happened to be browsing Brain Pickings and saw that today was Voltaire’s 319th birthday. I love synchronicity.

A Taste of French Freedom

An observation: France has the reputation as a nanny-state where a vast, benevolent government takes care of you from cradle to grave. But during my time here, I’ve noticed that in many respects, the French actually treat you much more like an adult that even the USA. The hotel windows open all the way, for instance. I’ve *never* seen a window that opens in the US or even in England, presumably because the hotels don’t want to be responsible of you defenestrate yourself. But in France, they trust that you just want to enjoy some fine French sunshine. Furthermore, everyone smokes in Paris. I think smoking is gross and I hate it but at least here, you have the freedom to choose what to do with your body. You can smoke if you want. The same goes for food. Butter, Nutella, carbs galore: there is no Nanny Bloomburg wagging his finger at you. Wine bottles do not warn you that alcohol is bad for pregnant women.

And speaking of women, there has been an advertisement I’ve seen all over in the time I’ve been here that would never darken the pages of any American magazine, much less the back of a bus, or on a street-corner, as it is here:

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I think the ad is beautiful. Whether it would be effective to sell anything and everything, I don’t know – and certainly here in France, they don’t use nudity flagrantly, just casually – but I like knowing that the French are much more accepting of the human body. They don’t treat us like children who must be protected from our own naked forms.

The French actually treat adults like adults, which any libertarian minded person should appreciate. Viva la France!

Once and Again, The Mona Lisa

Day Two in Paris and we went to the Louvre. We had a plan to see the Mona Lisa first thing and then enjoy the rest of the museum. I was actually much more amused by the crowds than I was by the painting. The painting is iconic; we’ve all seen it everywhere our whole lives. That first second you see it, you get a little jolt of recognition. Oh! It’s the Mona Lisa!

The Mona Lisa is a speck on  the wall

The Mona Lisa is a speck on the wall

The crowds, as you can see, are ridiculous. We fought our way through them and finally got a good shot of her.

Closer...

Closer…

Closer...

Closer…

Finally!  Mona Lisa!

Finally! Mona Lisa!

I’m still processing everything. But meanwhile, I wanted to share my pictures of the Mona Lisa.

Destiny By Sally Beauman Is Now On Kindle!

My favorite book, Destiny by Sally Beauman, is now a Kindle book! Anyone who has read this blog for any length of time knows this book has been an obsession since I was 16 years old. It is an amazing, tragic book. I’ve now got 5 versions of it, including the Kindle version. It’s so exciting to see that Beauman’s backlist is now being republished, and I hope that this special book finds a new, modern audience. It deserves to be made into a movie.

It’s a happy day.

Sally Beauman's amazing book, Destiny

Sally Beauman’s amazing book, Destiny

Bookstack

This is my most recent Amazon delivery.

Books about food

Books about food

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