A Grand Museum

I’ve been to the Louvre and also the Getty out in California, but my favorite has to be the Musée d’Orsay. It was a healthy walk from where we were staying, and we took the hike and bought the tickets. Nine euros each and easily worth the price. From Wikipedia:

The Musée d’Orsay (French pronunciation: ​[myze dɔʁsɛ]) is a museum in Paris, France, on the left bank of the Seine. It is housed in the former Gare d’Orsay, a Beaux-Arts railway station built between 1898 and 1900. The museum holds mainly French art dating from 1848 to 1914, including paintings, sculptures, furniture, and photography. It houses the largest collection of impressionist and post-Impressionist masterpieces in the world, by painters including MonetManetDegasRenoirCézanneSeuratSisleyGauguin, and Van Gogh. Many of these works were held at the Galerie nationale du Jeu de Paume prior to the museum’s opening in 1986. It is one of the largest art museums in Europe.

What used to be a large train station is now a grand hall that houses a luscious collection of statuary. What may have once been office and other work space is now a gallery of exhibition halls, housing a collection of some of the world’s most famous paintings. It’s along side the Seine, across the Tuillerie Gardens.

When we walked through twenty years ago I came upon this and thought, “Hot damn! What’s this doing here?”

And there’s lots of famous stuff with which I am completely unfamiliar.

Vincent van Gogh painted himself before he shot himself, and the finished product is right here.

Besides traditional art, the museum features classic works not usually considered art, such as period furniture.

There are at least two places to eat, one being a sit down diner, absolutely packed the day we went. This is on the top floor, a place with magnificent windows facing north and giving a grand view of the city. Twenty years ago you could go out onto the roof and get some clear photographs, but they keep the doors locked now.

The rest of the story is the grand hall and people wandering through, gazing at the works and wondering what people were thinking back then when they did it.

The Rodin tribute to Balzac is surely a replica, the original being in the nearby Rodin museum.

And at some point it’s time to gear up for the walk back to our digs.

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Pictures at an Exhibition

An afternoon visit to the Musée d’Orsay

Here are some photos by Barbara:

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Top of the World

Winding down the summer at Montmartre

This turned out to be easier than I expected. The Paris Falguière Metro station is about two blocks where we are staying, and the green line (12) runs right to Place Pigalle. My credit card to the ticket agent, and we had two packets of ten tickets for 29.80€.

Yes, Place Pigalle is as we remembered it. Here I am trying to look 20 years younger.

Something going, and it involves Steve McQueen.

The Rue de Steinkerque leading up to the church is steep, narrow, lined with shops. Saturday afternoon is amateur hour here, everybody gets into the act.

But you can see the objective up ahead.

Along Place Saint-Pierre are a number of good places to eat. Le Ronsard looked just fine.

A couple of ham and cheese sandwiches, and we split a bottle of carbonated water. Out for 15.20€. Not bad.

Top of the hill and west of the church is another market area, previously a famous artists colony. Time for the umbrellas to come out.

The center of everything is La Basilique du Sacré Cœur de Montmartre. Who know when we will ever see it again.

It was a nice stretch of the legs. The Pigalle landing for the green line is at the bottom of an intersection to two lines. From there we climbed to the street level and then another few hundred feet to the base of the chapel. I’m feeling my age.

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Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle

We were first here 20 years ago, and we came back again later when we took a short trip over with a friend. It’s a must-see place if you’re going to be in Paris for a few days. It’s the National Museum of Natural History, conveniently located on Rue Cuvier just south of the river.

It’s a healthy stroll from where we’re staying for two weeks,, and the weather today is fantastic—lots of sunshine and no rain. Makes us wonder why we chose this day to spend in a museum. Anyhow, once we found it we plunked down 9.oo€ each and spent an interesting few hours.

It’s a huge, multiple-level hall, with the ground floor devoted to large animal exhibits. The museum is not big on geology, few fossils. Development of living things seems to be a main theme, with numerous exhibits devoted to modern theories of evolution.

But first, the parade of animals (partial coverage to follow).

One thing I recall from my first visit was the full-size whale skeleton. That exhibit has been extended.

Ever wanted to get an appreciation of the size of a moose, here it is.

Now compared to the size of a homo sapiens.

Barbara met a woman over from England for a visit. They compared notes.

It takes a few views to convey the scope of the venue.

Next door is the Jardin des Plantes, which we have seen previously. It’s on the list of stuff to see again.

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Paris When It Drizzles

It was twenty years ago, almost to the day, we first went to Paris. What a culture shock! Before we went I made an effort to bone up on my French (from a vocabulary of about five words), but it was to no avail. My rural Texas background came front and center. But it was a memorable nine days. I figured we would never come back.

But a few months later I was working for a French company, headquartered in Paris, and I was back, with somebody else picking up the tab. After a few years of this I was getting to know my way around the town, almost to the point I quit taking the wrong Metro train. And there were a couple more vacations here, the last being 13 years ago with Keith and Carole.

It’s almost coincidental I recently read again the Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre book Is Paris Buring?, and when Barbara suggested we come here for our fall vacation, I saw an opportunity to recap the events of 73 years ago which formed the basis for the book.

Today was the first day we really got out, and it promised to be drizzly. Surprise! By the time we had croissants and tea for breakfast and got cleaned up from our trip, the skies had cleared. We made a day of it, recurring drizzle and all. Here are some photos and a bit of the background story as it unrolled:

On the way to lunch. Barbara hoofs it along Montparnasse in Paris’ Left Bank.

Fish and chips at Hadalli on Montparnasse turned out to be fish and chips and more. For starters there was “country ham,” in this case a kind of sliced salami, plus cheese, paté, some salad. I let Barbara have my paté. The fish and chips was a champion, however. Fries were almost as good as McDonald’s.

Lunch over, we were off to see the famous tower, and some drizzle. We had to hunker behind a partition along a sidewalk eatery, guarding our umbrellas against the wind. Then it cleared off, and we decided to make a day of it.

It was a healthy walk to the Eiffel Tower, we almost didn’t need to use Barbara’s phone to navigate. It was right there, over those buildings.

Paris has gotten a lot scarier in the past 20 years. The tower is fenced off, and visitors have to go through a pat down to get in. A stern French cop stood nearby, giving everybody the once over, some heavy weaponry at the ready.

The Champs Elysees was next on our list, and we took in sights of tourists taking in the sights.

River traffic

A nice walk along the river toward the Alma Bridge.

Some construction going on along the river

The Alma Bridge is where Princess Diana was killed twenty years ago, a few days before we came. This being an anniversary, the memorial was renewed.

The French are big on significant events, and there is now a permanent monument.

Ha! After wading along a morass of Paris streets, we finally made it up to the Champs Elysees and got a photo I need.

Surprise! We encountered some tourists from Dallas, here to celebrate their 25th anniversary. They were married a few blocks down the street. She and I previously worked  for Alcatel, a French company.

Needed some photos of traffic on the Champs Elysees.

Another surprise. Toyota has a store along the Champs Elysees, showcasing some of their most fabulous road iron. Here’s what might be an endurance racer, like for the Le Mans 24 hours.

Paris pedestrians have a certain flair. The destination is important, but they make a nice show of going there.

More obligatory pedestrian traffic on the Champs Elysees

Ho! Renault says, “I will see your flashy show case and do you one better.” You can pose for the camera pretending to clamor aboard one of their racers during a driver change.

And, some fantastic concept models.

Back across to river to our apartment and photographing tourists photographing tourists.

We may have put in ten miles since lunch. Or less. Here’s Barbara punching in the door combination at 105 Rue Vaugirard.

I shot off 122 frames this afternoon and picked a few that may be interesting. There’s more to see. We will be here 12 more days before heading to the Loire Valley and then to Burgundy and hopefully Luxembourg. Photos to follow.

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Running On Empty

I took this photo in January 2013. It shows gas prices at the Chevron station near my house in San Antonio. I was reminded of it last night when we stopped at Buc-ee’s on I-35 in New Braunfels, Texas. What made me think of this was what I expected when we pulled in about midnight. This Buc-ee’s station, with more than 200 pumps, had no gas. You could get diesel, but no gasoline. As mentioned, we were not surprised. We only stopped for the restrooms, which are about the best in the country.

Of course everybody knows what’s going on. Hurricane Harvey swept into the Houston area last weekend and brought everything there to a standstill. Including gasoline production and a major fuel pipeline. People started to get spooked. Drivers stormed service stations as far north as the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Lines stretched for blocks in  some places. Stations sold out.

Before we started our trip to Round Rock yesterday I confirmed what I knew beforehand. The Camry still had over 400 miles left on the tank. We made no plans to stop for gas. But I did want to see what was going on at Buc-ee’s. Pulling into their massive New Braunfels facility confirmed what we suspected. No cars were filling up at the pumps. Like I said, they have excellent restrooms.

Barbara Jean wanted to go with me when I walked over to the nearest pump to check prices. Buc-ee’s does not post their prices beside the road. They don’t need to. They typically have the lowest prices for miles.

Anyhow, a friendly New Braunfels cop, working security, came up and informed us there was no gas. We said we knew that. We stopped for the restrooms. He said Buc-ee’s had plenty of restrooms. They do. Each toilet is a mega-holer. I sometimes exaggerate. But I did check the price for regular on the pump: $1.259 a gallon. No need to raise your price when you don’t have any product.

The police officer was talkative, as is Barbara Jean. She talked while I listened. Soon, patrol cars and fire trucks were going to run dry, he said. We mentioned an airline trip we have planned. He seemed knowledgeable. Jet fuel pipelines are full. Hopefully he is spot on with that. Anyhow, our trip is days away. I asked when Buc-ee’s expected another delivery. He said tomorrow. That would be today—Saturday.

Inside the store business was bustling. I waited for Barbara Jean, and she took over the controls and piloted us back home to San Antonio. Still plenty of gas left in the tank. We will fill up after we get back from our trip. Hopefully the taxi cabs will have gas when we get ready to go. Details later. Keep reading.

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Machiavellian Dynamo

Intrigue and drama in high-level politics

On another site I do cursory and critical reviews of movies with an eye toward picking apart issues with cinematography, directing, continuity, performances, and writing. When I come across a production as clean and as compelling as this one, I examine it here on Specular Photography. I’m not going to lay out the plot, but I will give some insight into the qualities that make this highly viewable.

It’s Miss Sloane, and I watched it earlier this month on Amazon Prime video. It appears to have had a limited release last year. The script by Jonathan Perera is what succeeds in giving this production life. Details are from Wikipedia, which lists FilmNation Entertainment as the principal production company. To understand the story, you need to walk through the guiding manifesto, outlined by Elizabeth Sloane (Jessica Chastain) in the opening shot. From IMDb:

Lobbying is about foresight. About anticipating your opponent’s moves and devising counter measures. The winner plots one step ahead of the opposition. And plays her trump card just after they play theirs. It’s about making sure you surprise them. And they don’t surprise you.

Keeping that in mind, you get an appreciation of all that follows.

We see Elizabeth Sloan testifying before a Senate ethics panel chaired by Senator Ronald Sperling (John Lithgow). She is being grilled on possible violations by her on the part of lobbying concern Cole Kravitz & Waterman.

We go back several months to when Sloane is asked to head up a move to defeat the so-called Heaton-Harris bill. Heaton-Harris calls for strict background checks before sale of a firearm is allowed. Opposition to the bill is being underwritten by a gun manufacturer, who wants to get women to oppose it. It’s a theme seen common with the National Rifle Association. Women need guns to protect themselves from assault.

Quite soon Sloane is approached by Rodolfo Schmidt (Mark Strong), who heads up the lobbying firm Peterson Wyatt. They are working to get the bill passed, and they want Sloane to work for them.

In a surprise move, Sloane announces she is leaving Cole Kravitz & Waterman, and she is taking her loyal team with her. In a dramatic conference room scene, all her critical team members stand up and prepare to leave with her. All, that is, except one. Jane Molloy (Alison Pill) announces she elects to stay rather than put in her lot with such a risky venture.

The intrigue begins. Sloane’s team must garner a sizable fraction of uncommitted senators, and they begin work, scoring one at a time. It’s a race against time. A vote is scheduled in a few weeks.

Sloane is seen as a fanatical campaigner,  hard as nails, living life on the edge, committing every available moment, it seems. For romance she relies on a rent-a-hunk service.

One thing puzzling me is Sloane’s makeup. For some reason it was deemed advisable for her face to sport a layer of white base. Suggestions welcome.

There is double dealing. Sloane lays a trap. She arranges for plans to be discussed. The opposition seems aware of those plans. Sloane summarily dismisses a team member found to be working for the opposition.

No good plot sails smoothly. One of Sloane’s team, Esme Manucharian (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) turns out to have been the survivor of a mass shooting. Sloane exploits her story to gain support for the bill. In a dramatic turn, Manucharian is stalked and assaulted by a right-wing gun nut, who is apparently upset by the exploitation of her story. He is about to kill her on the street when a gun-carrying civilian shoots him dead. It’s an obvious vindication of the argument that civilians need to carry guns for protection against criminals. The publicity is a devastating blow to the effort to get senators on board.

The gun lobbyist swings Senator Sperling toward opposition of the bill by offering massive campaign support. He initiates the aforementioned investigation of ethics violations by Sloane. But Sloane’s manifesto serves to defeat the Senator’s ploy, and Sloane has laid a trap, which she springs during the hearings. Opposition to the bill is crushed by her revelations.

However, to set up the trap, Sloane has previously committed a deliberate ethics violation by personally signing a voucher that associates her with a disallowed payment. That violation was the basis for Sperling ‘s investigation, but it earns Sloane some time in the federal slam. The movie ends with Sloane’s release from jail.

And there is not much to find fault with this production. Acting is first rate, and the plot is Machiavellian and gripping. An odd feature is Sloane’s employment of the male prostitute. Viewers will wonder why a first class hide like Sloane needs to pay somebody to dip his wick. An explanation is that this provides additional color to her character, of which not much additional is needed. Also, Sloane’s odd facial makeup was never explained to me.

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