Sure, the 41-minute virtual tour of the Winchester Mystery House is cool and all, but if you want to really go for spooky, turn off the lights and start exploring the underground ossuaries below Paris. While physically closed to the public during this time of coronavirus, the virtual visit to the Catacombs of Paris is still open.
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The history of the Paris Catacombs starts in the late eighteenth century, when major public health problems tied to the city’s cemeteries led to a decision to transfer their contents to an underground site.
Paris authorities chose an easily accessible site that was, at the time, located outside the capital: the former Tombe-Issoire quarries under the plain of Montrouge. In operation since at least the fifteenth century and then abandoned, these quarries were a small part of the labyrinth that extended under the city over approximately 800 hectares. Preparation of the site and the organization of bone transfers were entrusted to Charles Axel Guillaumot, an inspector at the Department of General Quarry Inspection. The mission of this department, which had been founded on April 4, 1777, by Louis XVI, was to consolidate the abandoned quarries following major collapses of the ground under Paris in the mid-eighteenth century.
The first evacuations were made from 1785 to 1787 and concerned the largest cemetery in Paris, the Saints-Innocents cemetery, which had been closed in 1780 after consecutive use for nearly ten centuries. The tombs, common graves and charnel house were emptied of their bones, which were transported at night to avoid hostile reactions from the Parisian population and the Church.
In Paris on Saturday, police fired water cannons and tear gas on protesters who gathered to mark one year since the anti-government “yellow vest” demonstrations of 2018. Read the rest
If you have €7,000,000 you want to spend before capitalism collapses, you can scoop up Château du Bouilh, built for Louis XVI on the eve of the French Revolution, never occupied by royalty, and lovingly preserved to this day, with period interiors to match. Read the rest
A clip from director Hugues Nancy's "Paris 1900, the City of Lights," featuring restored and colorized film footage from the fin de siècle. From C21Media:
Thanks to incredible archives restored and fully colorized, this film presents a previously unseen journey through time and space. Discover, Paris in 1900 at the time of the Exposition Universelle and the very beginning of modern art and cinema. The City of Lights became a showcase city, displaying the latest technical and scientific inventions, and also boasting avant-garde art galleries, lively cabarets, the ultimate in high fashion, and… the Parisiennes. The myth of “La Belle Epoque” reigned supreme.
The gilets jaunes/yellow vests protest movement mobilized in France over a slate of grievances, led by President Macron's plan to meet emissions targets by punishing poor and a rural people, while dealing out massive favors to the country's wealthy elites. As the movement spread around the world, it took on different characters: sometimes lefty, sometimes right-wing, sometimes explicitly racist. Read the rest
On NPR's always-excellent Rough Translation podcast comes an incredibly complex and nuanced story (MP3, transcript) about marginalized, racialized people in public housing in Marseille who found an accepting haven in a local McDonald's franchise, and who banded together to save it -- and other nearby McD's -- in a series of direct actions ranging from occupation to threats of self-immolation. Read the rest
Anyone who’s visited France or who keeps track of the nation's doings through the news, knows that it’s a nation that’ll put up with a lot of bullshit -- being overrun by tourists, loud talkers, or smiling at strangers -- provided said bullshit doesn’t infringe on the quality of its citizens' lives. The Paris government is arguing that excessively loud vehicles falls on the infringement list. At first blush, it looks like they're trying to do something about it.
Parisians with powerful cars might want to think carefully before showing off their rides. Parts of the city (most recently the suburb of Villeneuve-le-Roi) are testing a "noise radar" system from Bruitparif that can pinpoint loud vehicles and, eventually, ticket them. The system uses four microphones to triangulate the origins of a sound and link it with CCTV footage to pinpoint whoever's making the racket.
Just shy of 40 of the devices are in use so far, primarily near bars in Paris' entertainment regions as well as 17 around major buildings.
It sounds like a great idea, but I suspect that there might be something greasy going on here. The technology being put into use sounds suspiciously similar to the gunshot locator systems manufactured by ShotSpotter and a few other tech firms. ShotSpotter’s website provides a basic lesson on how the technology works:
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Acoustic sensors are strategically placed in a coverage area. When a gun is fired, the sensors detect shots fired. Audio triangulation pinpoints gunfire location and machine-learning algorithms analyze the sound.
Illegitimate US president Donald Trump and French president Emmanuel Macron’s respective governments have struck deal to end feud over France’s tax on tech giants. Read the rest
Philanthropy is theoretically an expression of generosity and fellow-feeling, but in an increasingly unequal world, charitable giving is a form of reputation laundering for super-rich oligarchs who build their massive fortunes on savage programs of exploitation and immiseration. The idea is that you can paper over the fact that deliberately starting the opioid crisis made you richer than the Rockefellers by having your name plastered all over the world's leading art galleries and museums. Read the rest
One of the arguments against hate-speech laws is that once the state starts dividing expression into "allowed" and "prohibited," the "prohibited" category tends to grow, in three ways: first, because company lawyers and other veto-wielders err on the side of caution by excising anything that might be in the "prohibited" bucket; second, because courts respond to these shifts in the discourse by finding more and more edge-cases to be in violation of the law; and finally, because lawmakers are tempted to shovel any speech they or their campaign donors don't like into the "prohibited" bucket. Read the rest
Three basement levels of the Louvre are given over to the Centre de recherche et de restauration des musées de France (C2RMF), which provides research and restoration services to France's 1,200+ art museums and galleries. Read the rest
Leo Corvaisier, an art student in Paris, created this 3D rendered "bio-modem" based on an illustration from Things From the Flood, an alternative future-history of Sweden published in 2016 by Simon Stålenhag (previously), which was turned into a crowdfunded RPG last year. Corvaisier notes, "Tried getting a handpaint feeling to stick with Stålenhag's illustration style." (via JWZ) Read the rest
There's a proposal in the works to replace Notre Dame's spire -- which was a relatively modern addition -- with a new, starchitect-designed "statement" spire, which will be copyrightable under the same French rules that prohibit commercial photos of the Eiffel Tower at night (and other French landmarks). Read the rest