pop culture and jewish history

it’s been a mixed bag type of day. we slept in until 6 (rick) and 7:30 (stan) and had a generally slow start to the day.

for me it was hard on the brain and the emotions. i started off at the memorial to the deportation of the jews located at the tip of ille de cite, rick had visited earlier so i thought i had an idea of what to expect, but not so. it was a remarkably simple structure, sunk into the ground. the entry into the memorial descends a steep set of narrow stairs which open onto a small plaza with a low opening to the seine covered by bars and spiked shapes evoking barbed wire. the whole setting set my mind to thinking about what had happened not too many years ago, reflecting on the lessons i’d learned at school and wondering if kids today get the same message… when you turn around and face the memorial there is a very narrow opening which you pass through to get to the inside — a long narrow passage with a simple slab under which are the ashes of one of the victims of the nazi camps. the two walls are studded with 200,000 small light bulbs representing all those who were deported from france by the vichy government to the concentrations camps. by the time i left i was feeling quite sombre and melancholy.

meanwhile rick was off exploring the pantheon which he found quite riveting, particularly the wall murals and the vastness of the place.

i was off to the the jewish museum of history taking any interesting street i saw as i wandered. there were lots of interesting small galleries, a quaint shop strewn with antique musical instruments in want of repair or an owner, and silent book stalls along the seine. i crossed over ille st louis back into the marais and the old jewish quarter. on sunday this is one of the few places where business is open (i should have bought milk and other staples before heading home – but didn’t). on the way i passed the shoah memorial and a wall of remembrance to the french who risked their lives to save jews during the second world war. the jewish history museum was fairly interesting (once you get through the security) and was pretty thorough in a chronological layout of the history of jews in france from very early times to the present. it certainly raised a lot of questions for me both on the persecution perpetrated against jews throughout history, and of course the religious aspects which are always perturbing, whether jewish, christian, muslim and all the other late comers. can’t fault anyone for needing some foundation for their spirituality but they always seem to ruin it by getting into the hocus pocus.

after a brief break for a kosher pastrami sandwich and a fanta chaser i headed off to the pompidou centre of modern art. hey its the french thing to do, run the ancient and the modern together. how to explain this without pictures…ummm.

colour, bizarre, weird, fantastic, alive, abstract, meaningful, meaningless, pollack, matisse, max ernst, de koonig, jasper johns, brassai, man ray, chagall, and hundreds of others, some i’d heard of, others totally new.

it really was a fantastic experience to see so much abstract and pop art (including a red hot rhino) from interactive and participatory art to film that would be considered pornographic back home and a room, a very large room, dedicated to a single display of red rope twisted and tacked to the walls. crumpled metal, a buddha surrounded by vultures and pulling out the entrails (tastefully done of course) modern furniture or art shaped like furniture, great sculptures and on and on and on. AWESOME! it’s the kinda of stuff you hear others say they could do that, or their kid or the pet monkey. b.s. it is creative and thoughtful and truly wonderful.

meanwhile the other fellow is exploring underground at the ancient foundations of notre dame and the roman building foundations found at the centre of the city also known as the archaeological crypt. it’s always amazing to see that the different civilizations and their sense of worship seemed to always build on the past of a previous cult, one temple replacing another.

rick closed his day off with a revisit to the conciergerie, where thousands were held prisoners at one time or other before losing their heads — the most famous being that unfairly characterized queen, marie antoinette.

on the way home, deep underground at the châtelet metro station, i came across a string orchestra known as the classique metropolitain. as i love to listen to the violin this was too good to be true. about 6 violins, a cello or two and a bass….marvelous. parisians are really lovers of art and suddenly no one is in a hurry to catch the next train while they stop to listen for awhile. i was so impressed i ponied up 20 euro for a cd, which sounds great by the way. you can see and hear this group on several youtube links

my head hurts from trying to figure it all out, the art and the history. un cafe s’il vous plait.

bon soir.


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