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Day Two (Balzac to the Walzac, or Cultural Imperialism on Forty Francs a Day)

There were two major sights we saw on the second day: the Rodin museum and sculpture garden; and the catacombs. I'm fairly certain that we'd split up for this day, so I was probably walking around either with Kip or Dushyanth.

This may well be from the Rodin sculpture garden

Sadly, this picture is of unknown provenance. But I think it's very likely to be from the Rodin sculpture garden. This was a very cool museum to wander around, both inside, and along the grounds. I've seen one other Rodin sculpture garden -- Stanford has one. I recognized some of the sculptures in Paris as being the same as those in Palo Alto, and I was a little puzzled by this until I realized that these kinds of sculpture are made from casts, so more than one can be made. This kind of duplicatable art (like photographic prints, or even earlier, books from a printing press) is pretty cool. There's probably some kind of rant or essay here about the artificial value produced by destroying the master cast or otherwise limiting the ability to make copies of something that's inherently based on the notion of being copied "perfectly" multiple times, but I'll let someone more eloquent than me write that. (Another example: DVDs with digitally perfect copies of movies, and the technical efforts gone to in order to prevent the wholesale copying of them.)

My apologies for the day's title -- it was inspired by my favorite sculpture, which was a fairly hedonistic one inspired by Balzac. There were several sculptures that had to do with the writer throughout the museum.

American culture ate my dog

The phenomenon demonstrated by this picture, and the next one (which shows some more detail),

No, really, it's EVERYWHERE

were very striking. Here I am, in a cradle of European culture, and I still can't escape the cultural imperialism of my home land. Note that Contact still has the English name. (Note that American culture is not oppressively present -- the phrase I wrote the time was "[it was] muted, but in evidence.")

Yet another example

I saw this at pretty much the same time.

Example #2, detail

Again, note that branding demands that the name of the store is still in English, and that in some fundamental way, it's now impossible for me to every be outside of the influence of my homeland. (Of course, considering the lengths I go to stay online at all times, I don't really have much room to bitch about this.)

French capitalism is not missing, of course -- the Z store that you see on the left was impossible to avoid.

One more note on cultural imperialism: later that afternoon, we were kicking back in the hotel room, and what did we come across? Sweet Valley High, dubbed into French. Which was kind of disappointing, because it isn't even very good US Product.

Ad seen in a subway

I have only one thing to say about this picture:

A chicken! A giant chicken!

(It's an Animaniacs joke.)

The other significant Parisian landmark I saw on this day was the Catacombs. The Catacombs house countless human bones -- the result of wholesale graveyard excavations in the 18th century, as Paris found itself without a place to bury its dead. There is a well-defined route that visitors traverse, although I had the sense the full extent of the corridors was significantly larger. Walking through these passageways was a deeply sobering and humbling experience. I have no pictures of this, and had no desire to take any -- this was a place of reflection, not a place for consumption. Sadly, despite this grave atmosphere of this place, there were no end of flashbulbs from those ahead of and behind me.

Weirdly enough, we ran into a Yinzer from Pittsburgh while in the Catacombs. The world is a small and strange place. 

We finished the day with our one true indulgence: dinner at Le Duc, a one star restaurant from the Michelin guide (Michelin ranks from ne to three stars, with one star meaning "excellent within its class." Even one star from Michelin is pretty darn good.). This was my first $100/head meal, and it was distinctly tasty. I had to overcome one significant problem, though -- I don't like fish! Yes, it's true -- I'm a child of the Northwest, but I've never liked seafood. So, here I was, at this fancy restaurant, and there was nothing but fish on the menu. I tried to pick the most timid thing on the menu, but I had a nasty surprise coming... I'd ordered the one fish that they brought to the table and filleted in front of me. So, not only was I to eat fish, but I was to eat fish that three minutes earlier had been staring at me. Yikes! The story has a good ending, though: the fish was outstanding, and I've now allowed that it's possible that from time to time I might enjoy eating more seafood.

Next: Day Three -- the Louvre

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