29 January 2009

Photos of Christmas Past

Now that's been over a month since I've returned to Paris after a wonderful Christmas in Michigan, it seems like I ought to get around to posting some of the pictures. I took a lot (over 800!) and there were nearly 200 that I wanted to share. To make it easier I broke them up into albums and have posted a few of my favorites from each here. I hope that this brings back as many warms memories for all of you as it did for me.

Bonnie reacts as Al gets the second dog to complete the collection.

Ben arrives after taking the train from Chicago.

Esther helps clear the snow at Oma and Opa's house.

Pete looks sweet, as usual.

Nick waits patiently for presents.

Rachel too.

The classic, with Nick's most normal face.

Mom makes her famous French toast (Esther approves!).

Pete can't be bothered to get up, even though it's Christmas!

Dad, as usual, bringing the wood.

The goose.

Mike attempts to open the goose with a corkscrew.

Forget Santa Claus, this is the face of Christmas.

Esther likes the cold air.

The goose is carved.

Pete prepares his plate.

And get's comfortable with Jimmy.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

There are a lot more pictures in the albums, please have a look at them!

Christmas 2008 - Gregory House
Christmas 2008 - Snow Storm
Christmas 2008 - White Elephants
Christmas 2008 - Christmas Eve
Christmas 2008 - Christmas Day

22 January 2009

Peaceful Transition of Power

Why did the talking heads during the inauguration on CNN keep going on about the singularity of the peaceful transition of power in American politics. Not only is the United States not unique in its tradition of a peaceful transition of power, but it would be genuinely remarkable if there were a non-peaceful transition in a developed country.

Sure, we Americans like to feel good about our country with good reason. There is an incredible amount to be proud of, but that doesn't mean that we need to go around making ludicrous claims. In fact, doing so cheapens our appreciation of our country. An affection built with even a few falsehoods is forever tainted by their presence. What is true and what is false become forever mixed and this conflict is resolved by either cynicism towards the country's true greatness (they may be lies after all) or blind allegiance to all purported facts (since you're already accepting some lies, why not all). It's framing in action, what becomes true of one object ("facts" regarding the country) become true of all.

Love your country for what it is, not some bizarre, feel-good claims.


It was a bit of an adventure to watch the inauguration yesterday. I had planned to meet with Greg at Harry's New York Bar, a moderately famous little place about 25 minutes from our house. Greg was bringing some friends from UNESCO and it was supposed to be a jolly old time. However, Harry's was a bit crowded:

So we made the split decision to run back to our house to watch it there. The deciding factors were the presence of CNN (not guaranteed at other bars) and beer (not guaranteed at UNESCO). This ended up being a really great time as we all watched the inauguration together:

It was a great mix of people and I can't help but feel that the new millennium is only now getting under way. Oh, and to top it all off, we had really good pizza later:

Esther liked it.

Obama Inauguration 2009

06 January 2009

Pro-Palestine Protest in Paris

Last Saturday there was a sizable (twenty to twenty-five thousand people according to various counts) protest in support of Palestine and, often, against Israel. Esther and I decided to go to see what there was to see. Thankfully I brought my camera as the situation, tense throughout, degraded considerably at the end.

The march started at Place de la République and progressed down the Grands Boulevards to Place St. Augustin.

This was a surprising route for any protest march as it passes directly in front of the "Grands Magasins", major banks, and plenty of very expensive real estate. Normally, protests (of which there are many) are routed towards more modest districts.

The anger towards Israel was evident in the crowd.

The chant "Israel, Assassin!" was popular, as was the swastika/Star of David equivalence.

Protesters carried pictures of dead and injured Palestinian children and adults, as well as at least one mock dead child.

I was surprised to see several Hezbollah flags on display. Paris has a large Lebanese population and apparently a certain number of supporters of the paramilitary organization.

The advertisement in the background for the Tribune Juive (Jewish Tribune, a magazine for the French Jewish commonity) featured Carla Bruni, the wife of President Sarkozy, and was not particularly popular with the protesters.

Further down the route, slogans began to be spray-painted on many different surfaces.

There was an interesting conflation of causes as the flag of Hezbollah (literally, "the party of God") came into close proximity with the flag and secretary general of the PCF (Parti Communiste Français, not exactly the party of God).

As we got closer to the Grands Magasins and some larger bank branches, the police presence visibly increased.

Eventually we arrived at Place St. Augustin, the scheduled end of the march.

A young man carried the flag of Hamas as others prayed. Things started off rather peacefully.

Unfortunately, trouble-makers in the crowd had other ideas for how to end things. They started by climbing scaffolding attached to a building.

This led to tear gas.

Which, in turn, led to fire set by the protesters.

Smoke rose over the square.

Riot police began to advance, passing in front of the Saint Augustine Church, confining the protesters and forcing them out of the square.

We learned that the fuel for the fire was the French classic: a car that had the bad luck of being parked in the wrong place at the wrong time.

More police arrived in full riot gear. They needed to clear the area to allow the firefighters to arrive safely.

Ultimately the firefighters made it through...

...though it was a bit late for the car.

Meanwhile, other cars were overturned and burned.

The square was left strewn with banners and ashes.

Full album:

Palestine Protest in Paris