Friday, August 27, 2010

Search Term of the Day

Continuing my unhealthy pattern of search term envy, I dug out this search term that led to my site recently:

"cool thoughts on life"

Not only did the search term lead to my site, there was no bounce.  The searcher called up three pages and lingered at my site for a grand total of, er, over 40 seconds.  And no, I did not plant that term in my blog to attract searchers.  So, continue visiting Welcome Visitor for more cool thoughts on life.  (Now I've planted it, twice.)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Lust for Life

Yesterday I watched Lust for Life, Vincente Minnelli's film based on the life of Vincent Van Gogh starring Kirk Douglas.  I really liked the film and sat up when Van Gogh picked up a copy of Millet's Angelus and praised it.  Millet had a big influence on Van Gogh's work, especially during his early years but also in later periods.  Many of Van Gogh's works are direct interpretations of Millet's work.  Both artists devoted attention to the lowliest workers -- farmers, miners, tradesmen.  I thought Kirk Douglas did a great job portraying Van Gogh.  Interestingly, Anthony Quinn won the Oscar for best supporting actor in this film for his short appearance as Paul Gauguin, but Douglas only received a nomination, no Oscar, as leading actor.  The Oscar for best actor went to Yul Brynner in The King and I. Hmmm.

Millet

Van Gogh

Millet

Van Gogh

Millet

Van Gogh

Kirk Douglas as Van Gogh

Friday, August 20, 2010

Engel des Herrn / Angelus

Jean-Francois Millet -- L'Angélus

One of the most obvious differences between daily life in Europe and the US is the prevalence of church bells. Just over a year ago, I moved my work space to a different location and now am able to hear nearby church bells at regular intervals.  There are bells at noon and at six p.m. each day. Occasionally, there are more festive chimes, and on Sundays, bells announce church services about to commence. I never really gave much thought to the order behind the bells, but I enjoyed a brief mid-day pause at noon to listen to the bells and to catch a breath before working towards my lunch break.  In the evening, I enjoyed the six o'clock bells as either a reward for a day of work or, if longer hours were required, as a promise of work soon to be set aside.  In any event, the mood that the bells create, even the simple chime of a single bell, repeated several times, was pensive and pleasant.  The other day we were over at the mother-in-law's for Kaffeetrinken (still haven't delved into that ritual), sitting on the terrace in her garden, and I asked about the bells.  My mother-in-law took me into her house and showed me a reproduction of Millet's painting (shown above) hanging in their entrance area, and introduced me to the term "Engel des Herrn" (Angelus, literally "Angel of the Lord"), which is a catholic prayer repeated three times a day by the devout.  According to Wikipedia, "the devotion was traditionally recited in Roman Catholic churches, convents, and monasteries three times daily:  6:00 am, noon, and 6:00 pm (many churches still follow the devotion, and some practice it at home). The devotion is also used by some Anglican and Lutheran churches. The Angelus is usually accompanied by the ringing of the Angelus bell, which is to spread good-will to everyone on Earth. The angel referred to in the prayer is the Angel Gabriel, a messenger of God who revealed to Mary that she would conceive a child to be born the Son of God. (Luke 1:26-38)."

Of particular interest to me in my follow-up reading is that the German environmental laws (Bundes-Immissionsschutzgesetz) may actually prohibit the ringing of the morning bells as noise pollution that disturbs the "night silence" (Nachtruhe).  I don't recall ever hearing bells at six in the morning.  The church down the street that rings its bells at noon and six is a protestant church.  The classic Angelus ringing is supposed to be a total of nine rings of three rings each separated by a pause.  The protestant church just rings its bells uninterrupted for about twenty to thirty seconds.  In the center of town, I have heard fairly intricate ringing of numerous church bells at six p.m. to mark the end of the day.  Particularly in the dark periods of the year, the atmosphere is quite pleasant, as people leave their workplaces to run errands or head home.

I'm a bit embarrassed at not having known much about this tradition before now, but I certainly have enjoyed the church bells all these years.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Pit Stop: Lyon

We drove to the Côte d'Azur from Frankfurt, stopping for the night in Lyon after a six-plus hour drive.  I had hoped to get to Lyon early enough to explore the old city in the late afternoon, but by the time we found our hotel and got freshened up, it was time to eat dinner.  Bloggeroy is a planner, so my fallback plan had been to find a hotel near an interesting site.  The fact that the interesting site was a famous restaurant is not coincidence.

According to Wikipedia, Brasserie Georges is the oldest Brasserie in Lyon.  A brasserie is a type of restaurant with a relaxed, upscale setting, which serves single dishes and other meals.  The word 'brasserie' is also French for brewery and, by extension, "the brewing business". A brasserie can be expected to have professional service and printed menus (unlike a bistro which may have neither). Typically, a brasserie is open every day of the week and serves the same menu all day.  Many famous people have eaten at Brasserie Georges, including Paul Verlaine, Jules Verne, Émile Zola, Édith Piaf, Colette, Ernest Hemingway, Jacques Brel, Alphonse Daudet, Anatole France, Léon Blum, Auguste and Louis Lumiere, Luis Mariano, and Auguste Rodin.  It is claimed that the poet Lamartine, or his estate, still owes the restaurant 40 Francs.

What a coincidence: right next to our hotel!

Upscale Setting

Professional Waiters and an Art Deco Interior

"Good Beer and Good Food Since 1836"

Contrary to the impression that the pictures may give, Brasserie Georges, true to its name, is quite relaxed, and the prices, albeit not cheap, were not unreasonable.  Check out the menu here.  I had a glass of their golden-colored microbrew as apéritif and ordered their three-course Menu Lyonnais with cheese but no dessert for EUR 21 (one of the better values on the menu).  I had the calves' foot salad as entrée and the pistachio sausage in white wine sauce with homemade mashed potatoes as my main dish.  The calves' foot salad was chewy; the dressing was creamy, probably adding the only flavor to the gelatinous chunks of calves' foot.  The pistachio sausage was just fine, enhanced nicely by the creamy white wine sauce.  The cheese was a ripe Saint Marcellin, a perfect ending to my simple menu.  Frau Bloggerboy and I shared a half-bottle of Sancerre with our meal.  Frau Bloggerboy ate snails, er, escargot, and frogs' legs and so did Bloggerboy Junior!  Fräulein Bloggerboy was not very hungry, so she ordered a portion of homemade mashed potatoes.  The service was friendly and attentive.  The waiters helped us out with their limited English when we got stuck on a question.  Afterwards, we drove through the city for a bit and then headed back to our hotel for a good night's sleep.  I will return to Lyon at some later point to enjoy the city.  The old center of town looked really nice.  I certainly will have Brasserie Georges on my radar when I return.