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A good day begins with the NYTimes, NPR, Arts & Letters Daily, Sacred Space & good coffee; it ends with a Grand Marnier. A brilliant day would be spent in London, New York or San Francisco -- although Sydney would be right up there. Unwinding in Carmel or Antibbes. Daytime spent in library (the Morgan, LOC or Widener) or museum (the Frick, the Louvre, British) with a healthy walk (around Lake Annecey); evening -- theatre (West End), or music (Carnegie Hall). A nice last meal: Perhaps the French Laundry or Fredy Giardet or Quennelles de Brochet from Taillevent, Cassoulet from Cafe des Artistes, Peking Duck from le Tsé-Fung, Lobster Savannah from Locke-Ober, Sacher Torte from Demel and Café Brulot from Antoine. Sazerac as an apéritif, Le Môntrachet in the beginning, Stag's Leap Cabernet in the middle, Veuve Cliqûot to conclude. Desert Island: Imac, Ipod, (I know, generator and dish necessary) Johnnie Walker Blue Label, wife & Adler's Great Books.



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All Aboard! 12 Beautiful Railway Stations From Around the World

All Aboard! 12 Beautiful Railway Stations From Around the World

Who Owns London

10268688435_3132e3522c_zYou’ll remember that we recently put together a map of royal-owned London, which revealed that the Duchy of Cornwall owns the Oval cricket ground, and that the Crown Estate is leasing land to Carlsberg for a lager distribution centre in Croydon. And that got us wondering: who (else) actually owns the capital?
Setting aside the technicality that all UK land ultimately belongs to the Crown, if you ask who owns London’s land and buildings in a day-to-day sense, there are some pub-quiz-busting revelations.

The big picture

There are few surprises if you approach the question quantitatively. Aside from the territories amassed by largely self-made property moguls like the late ‘King of Soho’ Paul Raymond, much is under immediate royal ownership, or that of aristocrats. The Duke of Westminster, who presides over Mayfair and Belgravia, was only last year knocked off his long-held perch as the nation’s wealthiest property magnate by Asian investors. Battersea Power Station, for instance, has Malaysian owners and nearby One Nine Elms has Chinese ones.
As an urban centre, London defies a national trend that sees the Forestry Commission, Ministry of Defence, and National Trust as the top landowners. These are relatively recent purchasers, whereas the story of London’s development is one of historic estates (like Grosvenor, or Cadogan) developing over time; their boundaries jealously guarded by successive generations. In truth, it’s still a fairly select group of individuals and organisations who hold the lion’s share of London, although new money from the East does reflect that change is afoot, with inheritors gradually challenged by investors.

Unlikely landlords

Really, it’s when you zoom in on specific landmarks that it gets interesting. Take the 02 Arena, formerly the Millennium Dome. Who does it actually belong to? Believe it or not, it’s the University of Cambridge’s own Trinity College, which shelled out £24m on a 999-year ‘virtual freehold’, and acts as landlord to entertainment company AEG. The total property investments of Oxbridge colleges are worth billions, but alas, remain largely mysterious. Not so at the Albany, Piccadilly – one of the capital’s most famous apartment complexes – some of which is in the portfolio of Peterhouse, Cambridge.
University of Cambridge on Thames.
University of Cambridge on Thames.
The Church of England is one of those historic ‘establishment’ landowners, but now owns less than a tenth of the land it did in its Victorian heyday. Its flagship London holding is now ‘only’ a tranche of land north of Hyde Park, which includes shops and residences, the Royal Lancaster Hotel, and hundreds of rather lucrative car parking spaces. It’s also claimed that the Vatican has been quietly buying up a property empire a little to the south east of here, although there’s been little comment from the Holy See on that one.
Then there’s Qatar. The burgeoning property empire of the Qatar Investment Authority includes 95% of the Shard, and swathes of Canary Wharf. And — less expectedly – the freeholds on Chelsea Barracks, the former Olympic VillageAmerican Embassy, and a share of Camden Markets. Oh, and that London institution Harrods? In the words of Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, ‘even your Harrods — we took it’.
A traditional Qatari vehicle.
A traditional Qatari vehicle.
You might call Andrew Lloyd Webber the landlord of the dance, since his company collects theatres – presently owning six in the West End. This is, in fact, typical: many of London’s entertainment venues are owned in bulk by people who, well, entertain — which seems surprisingly appropriate in lieu of these unlikely landlords above.
How about the city’s bridges? Southwark, Millennium, London, Blackfriars, and Tower Bridges are still owned by a single body; the one which built the latter two structures. The trust Bridge House Estates is an ancient offshoot of today’s City of London Corporation.
One of London’s historic estates, the Corporation itself retains substantial land holdings of its own, extending well beyond the Square Mile (much of which it does own) to include 12,000 acres of green space in and around London, including Epping Forest and Hampstead Heath. Talking of large green spaces, the RSPB is a proactive buyer – although only as you head east down the Gateway, where the Society controls 20 square kilometres.
The City of London, in deepest Croydon.
The City of London, in deepest Croydon.
And then there’s us normal folks, the public. This ownership could become a hot topic in light of reports suggesting Mayor of London Boris Johnson will be urged to sell off public sector land for home-building. This incredibly thorny business of ownership is born out in the equally thorny business of registration, which can be patchwork, complicated, and often secretive. The above highlights reel can’t claim to be comprehensive, therefore, and if there are any more gems we’d be glad to hear of them in the comment box below.

​ Lewis & Clark

​Almanac: Lewis & Clark - CBS News

American Recreation: A Field Study

American Recreation: A Field Study - The New Yorker



Fond Farewell

My Goodbye to Notre Dame

Covering the sidelines from home
When Notre Dame opens the season against Rice today in South Bend I won’t be on the sidelines. Instead, for the first time in seven years, I’ll be watching the Irish from my couch.  For old time’s sake, I might prop up the life size souvenir photo (above) that Brian Kelly so kindly sent to me recently and interview it at halftime. I won’t have to carefully consider the wording or content of my questions. For that matter, I can do it drinking coffee or better yet, a bloody Mary and in my pajamas!

Former Nose Tackle Louis Nix jokingly accused me the other day of dumping the Irish by leaving my job as NBC’s sideline reporter.  Truth be told, I had hoped to at least stay long enough so when my kids started applying to college seven years down the road, I’d have a few good connections in South Bend. 

It didn’t work out that way. Not by my choice, but that’s okay.  Because, for the past seven years, I got to be part of an amazing community and be around an excellent football program.  As I reflect on the time I spent at Notre Dame, I realize it is the people I’ll remember most. 
On the sidelines at Notre DameI’ll miss the ushers asking me about my son, Declan, who was plump inside my belly when I first got the job in 2007. Former Head Coach Charlie Weis taught me that year to always stand behind the line of scrimmage so that I wouldn’t get hit.

I’ll miss getting to know young men who are just scratching their potential and the parents who have worked so diligently and sacrificed so much to get them to a prestigious University like Notre Dame.  Seeing Wanna Lewis' tears of joy when she spoke to me about her son, Kapron Lewis Moore, graduating from college taught me things about myself as mother that will stay with me until my own son graduates one day.

I’ll miss the countless people that asked me to snap a photo with their son or daughter, father or friend and then thanked me profusely as if I had just done them some huge favor.

I’ll miss visiting with the Blue Angels pilots after they nailed a Flyover and talking shop with people like Director of Strength and conditioning Paul Longo on the field hours before game time about who’s lifting how much.
On the sidelines with the Blue Angels
I’ll miss my good friend, NBC Analyst Mike Mayock and our non-stop arguments/discussions about football during our drives from Chicago to South Bend and back.   As if I had any business challenging Mayock on the subject of football! No one has taught me more about the game and what it’s like to have a passion for the game, than Mike.

I’ll miss prodding Brian Kelly and all of his staff for information, the part of the reporting job I have always loved the most.   BK was professional, shot me straight and respected me enough to challenging me and sometimes, even push back.  

There is a good chance I’ll be asking his cardboard likeness some tough questions today from my couch. You just won’t get to hear them. 

Good luck Irish and thank you, to so many people, for your many years of kindness.

BYU at Notre Dame November 2013
- See more at: http://alexflanagan.com/blog/my-goodbye-to-notre-dame#sthash.wXFPkeAb.dpuf


    Chuck Berry on stage in 1959.
    Chuck Berry on stage in 1959. Now 87, he was too ill to travel to Sweden to collect the award. Photograph: Cine Text/Allstar
    Keith Richards has paid tribute to Chuck Berry as the American rock'n'roll pioneer was honoured in Sweden with an award regarded, perhaps, as the world's most prestigious music prize.
    Berry and the opera director Peter Sellars, a fellow American, were each made laureates of the Polar music prize – founded 25 years ago as a music equivalent of the Nobel prize.
    Richards recorded a video message in Berry's honour which was played at the ceremony in Stockholm's concert hall.
    "Chuck Berry, he just leapt out of the radio at me," he said.
    "I ate him basically, I mean I breathed him – it wasn't just food, he was the air I breathed for many years when I was learning guitar and trying to figure out how you could be such an all-rounder.
    "Such a great voice, such a great player and also such a great showman … it was all in one package."
    Berry, now 87, was too ill to travel from his home near St Louis, Missouri, and his award was accepted by musician Dave Edmunds, who read a thankyou speech from Berry.
    "My heart is in Sweden," he said. "I understand what a great honour it is to be a recipient. I am sorry that I am unable to travel and receive this personally."
    The prize goes out of its way to reward people from different areas of music. So alongside Berry, the man responsible for Johnny B Goode and Roll Over Beethoven, is acclaimed opera director Sellars, who will return to the English National Opera for its 2014-15 season as director-in-residence.
    Sellars collected his award from King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden.
    He said: "Thank you for this overwhelming award … I must dedicate this prize to my musical families who have adopted me, taught me, have been patient, generous and inspiring beyond anything that I could have imagined.
    "Living with music every day is already the most astonishing gift anyone could ask for."
    Berry and Sellars follow in impressive footsteps. Paul McCartney, Elton John, Mstislav Rostropovich, Led Zeppelin and Valery Gergiev are all past winners.
    As part of the prize, the winners also get £100,000 each.


    The Saints' Lives and the Mission of the Francises

    The Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library, which Adam Kirsch has called “the best introduction the general reader has ever had to the ‘mother’ of Western Christian civilization,” presents both classics of the medieval canon and lesser-known works in their original languages alongside new English translations. Launched in 2010 and numbering now three dozen volumes, the series spans genres as diverse as biography, travelogues, scientific treatises, and epic and lyric poetry. As rising Harvard junior Jude Russo explains below, this spring’s additions to the series include a volume that’s about as timely as a medieval publication could be.
    “Nam quid respectu Francisci Iulius aut quid
    gessit Alexander memorabile? Iulius hostem
    uicit, Alexander mundum, Franciscus utrumque,
    nec solum uicit mundum Franciscus et hostem,
    set sese, bello uincens et uictus eodem.”
    “For in comparison with Francis, what did Caesar or Alexander do that was worthy of memory? Caesar conquered the foe and Alexander the world, but Francis both. Nor did Francis conquer only the world and the foe, but also himself, conqueror and conquered in the selfsame battle.”
    (Henry of Avranches, Life of Francis, 11-15, Trans. David Townsend, DOML 30)
    Saints' LivesA recent addition to the Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library (DOML), the Saints’ Livesof Henry of Avranches, begins with a life of Francis of Assisi. Written just a few years after Francis’s death, the biography elevates the saint to the company of the great conquerors of the classical world, and even beyond their company, as the saint subdued in himself the concupiscent passions that so famously consumed the ancient rulers. In fourteen books dedicated to Pope Gregory IX, Henry describes these struggles of the saint against the world, the foe, and himself.
    The timing of this volume’s release is especially propitious in view of the renewed interest in Francis of Assisi, which is due to another Francis: the current Pope. In his recent Apostolic Exhortation,Evangelii Gaudium (“The Joy of the Gospel”), the Pope states, “The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase. In the meantime all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us.”
    He echoes the words that Henry puts in the mouth of the saint: “Shall I stand outside and cheat honest men, as I am accustomed, now a buyer of wealth and now a seller: a buyer denigrating everything, and a seller praising everything? The shrewdness of the merchants is trickery and falsehood. It produces profit by another’s loss, barely spares a friend, barely even a brother.” Economic disparity, then as now, was a particularly divisive and urgent issue; Henry shows how Francis embraced poverty, inspired by a spiritual devotion that could not be reconciled with the contemporary state of the Church. The revival of the medieval text in an accessible and affordable edition encourages us to consider the rich legacy of Henry’s Francis as the current pope forges a legacy of his own.
    For contemporary readers, St. Francis is the most recognizable figure in theSaints’ Lives, but the volume also contains hagiographies of two saints of the seventh century, St. Oswald and St. Birinus, that equal or exceed the Life of St. Francis in liveliness. St. Oswald was ruler of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria, who waged a number of successful wars against the Celtic peoples of Britain before falling in battle to his fellow Anglo-Saxon, Penda of Mercia. Like many kings of the time, Penda did not look kindly on the defeated Oswald. As Henry recounts:
    “Cuius et abscisum caput abscisosque lacertos
    et tribus infixos palis pendere cruentus
    Penda iubet, per quod reliquis exempla relinquat
    terroris manifesta sui regemque beatum
    esse probet miserum.”
    “The bloodthirsty Penda commanded that his severed head and arms should be hung affixed to three stakes, in order to leave for the survivors clear examples of his terror, and to prove that the blessed king was a wretch.”
    (Henry of Avranches, Life of Oswald, 665-669, Trans. David Townsend, DOML 30)
    Henry continues to describe the sanctification of these gruesome relics. Whatever further adventures Penda may have had are left unmentioned.
    St. Birinus did not come to so violent an end as St. Oswald, most likely because he was a bishop and not a Germanic warrior-king. His activities were fairly standard for a missionary bishop of the time—preaching, destroying pagan sanctuaries, performing miracles—but Henry recounts at length an episode with which many readers will be able to sympathize, in which he forgot to bring certain vital liturgical materials—including the Eucharist—with him on his voyage from the Continent to Britain.
    “O quotiens nocuit mala festinatio, qua sic
    precipitatur opus ut non deliberet actor!
    magna feret nocumenta more qui parva recusat:
    sanctus in exemplo Birinus, qui celebratis
    rite mynisteriis ad nauem dum properaret
    curas postposuit reliquas pallamque reliquit
    quam discessuro donarat Honorius ille,
    in qua corpus habens Christi conueuit amictum
    circumferre sinu, sine quo non uinceret Hostem.”
    “How often does ill haste prove harmful, when a task is so hastened forward that the one who performs it fails in his consideration! One who refuses the small disadvantages of a delay will incur great ones. Take Saint Birinus as an example, who, having duly performed his services, in hastening to the ship neglected his remaining concerns and abandoned the pall which Honorius had given him as he was about to depart—even though he was wont to carry about in his bosom, wrapped in it, the body of Christ, without which he might not conquer the Foe.”
    (Henry of Avranches, Life of Birinus, 282-290, Trans. David Townsend, DOML 30)
    Needless to say, all ends well, but not before St. Birinus has some harrowing experiences.
    Henry of Avranches was perhaps the most famous Latin poet of the mid-thirteenth century, gaining as patrons Pope Gregory IX, St. Louis of France, and Henry III of England. As is the case with so many authors of the period, his biography is mostly lost. Nevertheless, it is known that Henry III salaried him for twenty years as a “versificator.” His translator here is David Townsend of the University of Toronto, an editor of medieval Latin texts with a particular interest in issues of medieval gender and sexuality. 
    The Life of Francis fits naturally in the ethos of the Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library as a whole. Committed to increasing the availability of medieval and Byzantine texts to the common reader the Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library seeks to remove the economic and intellectual barriers between the public and our shared cultural patrimony. In this endeavor, it is not too bold to say that DOML has had a share in the mission of the Francises, and will continue to have a share for years to come.
    DOML Volumes on Mantel

    Finding Our Place in the Cosmos: From Galileo to Sagan and Beyond

    Finding Our Place in the Cosmos: From Galileo to Sagan and Beyond | Library of Congress

    Finding Our Place in the Cosmos: From Galileo to Sagan and Beyond

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    Philosophy as Therapy
    We know that philosophy can help us to think better but can it also help us to feel better? In this day long intensive workshop Mark Vernon will be guiding us through some of the life lessons that we can learn from the great philosophers. Showing us how far from being the pursuit of rational thought to its own end, many of the most interesting and challenging philosophical theories are not only relevant to modern life but can also give us guidance on how best to navigate our way through many of our most personal life questions.
    The day will be centred on 6 main areas of discussion.
    Philosophy of Anxiety and Equanimity
    Disquiet and uneasiness are part of the human condition, and have therefore been high on the agenda of many philosophers, seeking steadiness and equanimity. The Stoics aimed at trust. The Epicureans at balance. The modern sense of self adds personal understanding and introspection. We will explore a variety of responses to anxiety and ask what we can hope for and which might suit us best.
    Philosophy of Love and Friendship
    No-one can say they have lived well without love and friendship, argued Aristotle, and philosophers before and since who have struggled with what it is to be human and live the good life have always placed love and friendship centre stage. They have wondered about the nature of these loves; how they operate; what they offer; where they fall down. We will seek their wisdom and ask how it might be applied.
    Philosophy of Happiness and Flourishing
    It might seem obvious that human beings desire happiness, and some philosophers in the modern world have placed it at the top of the list. And yet, there is another tradition that proposes not worrying too much about pleasant and elated states, but seeking instead what it is to flourish - a quest that might also involve pain. We will weigh up the pros and cons, and quiz the notion of happiness as a goal.
    Philosophy of Spirit and Soul
    It is no surprise that an age which knows the value and power of science finds it hard to address questions of spirit. Our lack of balance would have surprised most philosophers in history who viewed the material, embodied world as just one manifestation of a deeper stream or current of life that can be spoken of as soul. We will ask what has been lost and what might be gained by exploring the more implicit dimensions of human experience.
    Philosophy of Emptiness and Meaningfulness
    Individuals may well first turn to philosophy seeking a sense of meaning, and philosophers have much to say about purposefulness and futility - that they have to do with an educated heart as well as head; that emptiness and meaningfulness are perhaps surprisingly linked. A key thought is that meaning is discovered in the midst of life, arising from your way of life - another part of this evening's reflections.
    Philosophy of Belonging and Place
    Who I am is the central question for modern individuals. But before autonomy and self-sufficiency were such exclusively prized goals, asking where you are was as crucial. It made sense because human beings knew themselves not as islands but as connected. To be a person and have a place was to be porous to and supported by the processes of life. We will explore these collective dimensions of existence.


    Why Augustus Should Be Remembered alongside Julius Caesar

    Adrian Goldsworthy—
    Maybe sometimes a person can be too successful, or at least you are tempted to wonder this when you think about how Augustus is scarcely remembered these days. We have all heard of Julius Caesar, and we have all heard of Antony and Cleopatra—in each case their names now as familiar from Shakespeare’s plays as the real history. In contrast Rome’s first emperor and Julius Caesar’s great nephew and heir is no longer so well known. He appears as Octavius in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar and as Caesar in his Antony and Cleopatra, but his role is always as a supporting character and he tends to come across as somewhat lifeless. Augustus did not get a play of his own, perhaps because he won, and kept on winning, living on into his seventies and dying peacefully in his bed. Compared to being murdered at a meeting of the Senate by men he considered friends, or to committing suicide and dying in a lover’s arms, it was an end lacking in drama. Doomed love or assassination at the height of power offered the playwright far better material.
    Bust of Augustus
    Bust of Augustus, first emperor of Rome, via Wikimedia Commons
    Yet Augustus was important, changing the very nature of the Roman state and turning it into a system that was a monarchy in all but name, and a system that would endure for centuries. Some people, including the late first century AD biographer Suetonius, counted Julius Caesar as Rome’s first emperor and there is something to be said for this verdict, mainly because it was as his heir that Augustus claimed power, raised a private army, and thrust himself into the heart of the Republic’s violent politics in the months after the Ides of March. Mark Antony dismissed him as a “boy who owes everything to a name,” and he was partly right, even if we should add that he owed a lot to his precocious ambition, political skill, and financial backing. Ultimately it was because he took the name Caesar that he mattered.
    Without Caesar there could have been no Augustus, but we should also never forget how little time Julius Caesar spent in Rome in his last years. The Civil War that had begun in 49 BC kept flaring back into life and was not finally won until 45 BC. Caesar returned in October of that year and was killed in the following March. Whatever his longer term plans—something at which we can only guess—he had very little time to shape a new regime.
    Augustus was one of the three most powerful men in Rome by 43 BC, had disposed of his last rival by 30 BC and then lived on unchallenged until AD 14. During that time a new political system was gradually created. It was not a steady evolution, but a series of experiments, with several changes of direction and moments of backtracking, but he made it work. Monopolising military power meant that there was no chance of a rival warlord emerging to restart the civil wars. Augustus was also a politician of genius, and he was helped by the desperate longing of Romans and people in the provinces alike for peace and stability. Underlying his propaganda and image-making was sheer hard graft, as he restored order and continuity to the administration of a vast empire. Much of this he did himself, touring the provinces, listening to petition after petition, and making decisions that would be kept and not reversed when the balance of power shifted at Rome as it had done so often over the last decades.
    The Roman Empire under Augustus Caesar
    The Roman Empire under Augustus Caesar (31 BC – AD 6), via Wikimedia Commons
    Julius Caesar was flamboyant, charismatic, and immensely talented whether as a soldier, writer, or politician. Augustus’ personality is far more elusive and it is no coincidence that one of his seals was the inscrutable sphinx. He cultivated a persona of a simple, old-fashioned Roman gentleman who devoted his life to the service of the state, doing not just the glorious acts but also many that were dull, even unpleasant, though necessary. They are the only two men to have months named after them in the calendar we still use today—which in all its important features is the one introduced by Julius Caesar in 46 BC. Both of them changed Rome, shaping the empire that has had such a profound influence on the history and culture of the western world.
    Without Caesar there could have been no Augustus. Without Augustus then it is more than likely that we would not remember Julius Caesar as being much different from the other Roman warlords like Sulla or Pompey. It was the success of Augustus which ensured that all future emperors would take the name Caesar, turning what was simply another family name into a title of ultimate power which was to endure into the twentieth century in the forms Kaiser and Tsar. Both Caesar and Augustus deserve to be remembered, but any balanced judgement must acknowledge that it was the latter who did the most to shape the history of Rome and the wider world.

    Adrian Goldsworthy is a leading historian of the ancient world and author of acclaimed biographies of Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra among many other books. He lectures widely and consults on historical documentaries produced by the History Channel, National Geographic, and the BBC.


    It was on this day in 1837 that Ralph Waldo Emerson (books by this authordelivered a speech titled "The American Scholar"to the Phi Beta Kappa Society at Harvard University.
    The speech was the first time he explained his transcendentalist philosophy in front of a large public audience. He said that scholars had become too obsessed with ideas of the past, that they were bookworms rather than thinkers. He told the audience to break from the past, to pay attention to the present, and to create their own new, unique ideas.
    He said: "Life is our dictionary ... This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it ... Give me insight into to-day, and you may have the antique and future worlds."
    The speech was published that same year. It made Emerson famous, and it brought the ideas of transcendentalism to young men like Henry David Thoreau. Oliver Wendell Holmes later praised Emerson's "The American Scholar" as the "intellectual Declaration of Independence."

    Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn, "Self-Portrait"

    46 bold pictures and photos of London from Dave Pearce

    46 bold pictures and photos of London from Dave Pearce

    St. Fiacre

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    Quelle Dommage

    François Hollande, the president of France since 2012, coulda been a contender. He was elected on a promise to turn away from the austerity policies that killed Europe’s brief, inadequate economic recovery. Since the intellectual justification for these policies was weak and would soon collapse, he could have led a bloc of nations demanding a change of course. But it was not to be. Once in office, Mr. Hollande promptly folded, giving in completely to demands for even more austerity.
    Let it not be said, however, that he is entirely spineless. Earlier this week, he took decisive action, but not, alas, on economic policy, although the disastrous consequences of European austerity grow more obvious with each passing month, and even Mario Draghi, the president of the European Central Bank, is calling for a change of course. No, all Mr. Hollande’s force was focused on purging members of his government daring to question his subservience to Berlin and Brussels.
    It’s a remarkable spectacle. To fully appreciate it, however, you need to understand two things. First, Europe, as a whole, is in deep trouble. Second, however, within that overall pattern of disaster, France’s performance is much better than you would guess from news reports. France isn’t Greece; it isn’t even Italy. But it is letting itself be bullied as if it were a basket case.
    On Europe: Like the United States, the euro area — the 18 countries that use the euro as a common currency — started to recover from the 2008 financial crisis midway through 2009. But after a debt crisis erupted in 2010, some European nations were forced, as a condition for loans, to make harsh spending cuts and raise taxes on working families. Meanwhile, Germany and other creditor countries did nothing to offset the downward pressure, and the European Central Bank, unlike the Federal Reserve or the Bank of England, didn’t take extraordinary measures to boost private spending. As a result, the European recovery stalled in 2011, and has never really resumed.
    At this point, Europe is doing worse than it did at a comparable stage of the Great Depression. And even more bad news may lie ahead, as Europe shows every sign of sliding into a Japanese-style deflationary trap.
    How does France fit into this picture? News reports consistently portray the French economy as a dysfunctional mess, crippled by high taxes and government regulation. So it comes as something of a shock when you look at the actual numbers, which don’t match that story at all. France hasn’t done well since 2008 — in particular, it has lagged Germany — but its overall G.D.P. growth has been much better than the European average, beating not only the troubled economies of southern Europe but creditor nations like the Netherlands. French job performance isn’t too bad. In fact, prime-aged adults are a lot more likely to be employed in France than in the United States.
    Nor does France’s situation seem particularly fragile. It doesn’t have a large trade deficit, and it can borrow at historically low interest rates.
    Why, then, does France get such bad press? It’s hard to escape the suspicion that it’s political: France has a big government and a generous welfare state, which free-market ideology says should lead to economic disaster. So disaster is what gets reported, even if it’s not what the numbers say.
    And Mr. Hollande, even though he leads France’s Socialist Party, appears to believe this ideologically motivated bad-mouthing. Worse, he has fallen into a vicious circle in which austerity policies cause growth to stall, and this stalled growth is taken as evidence that France needs even more austerity.
    It’s a very sad story, and not just for France.
    Most immediately, Europe’s economy is in dire straits. Mr. Draghi, I believe, understands how bad things are. But there’s only so much the central bank can do, and, in any case, he has limited room for maneuvering unless elected leaders are willing to challenge hard-money, balanced-budget orthodoxy. Meanwhile, Germany is incorrigible. Its official response to the shake-up in France was a declaration that “there is no contradiction between consolidation and growth” — hey, never mind the experience of the past four years, we still believe that austerity is expansionary.
    So Europe desperately needs the leader of a major economy — one that is not in terrible shape — to stand up and say that austerity is killing the Continent’s economic prospects. Mr. Hollande could and should have been that leader, but he isn’t.
    And if the European economy continues to stagnate or worse, what will become of the European project — the long-term effort to secure peace and democracy through shared prosperity? In failing France, Mr. Hollande is also failing Europe as a whole — and nobody knows how bad it might get.

    Gautier Deblonde’s portrait of the artist as a studio

    Gautier Deblonde’s portrait of the artist as a studio - FT.com

    An utterly magnificent essay and photographs.

    Losing Ground

    Losing Ground

    America: the best place to be British

    America: the best place to be British - FT.com

    The Parthenon

    The Parthenon represents, for many, a golden age in human achievement: the 5th-century b.c. Greek flowering of democracy, sciences, and the arts. But what if its chief ornament, the Parthenon frieze, turned out to be not an embodiment of reason and proportion—of stillness at the heart of motion, quiet piety, and enlightened civic responsibility—but (or, rather, also) something darker, more primitive: a representation of the critical moment in an ancient story of a king at war, a human sacrifice, and a goddess’s demand for virgin blood? 
    What is the Parthenon telling us?
    That’s the argument at the heart of The Parthenon Engima. The plot involves not only ritual murder and burial, but fragments of a lost play of Euripides found on mummy wrappings. Even the title suggests a Dan Brown thriller. 
    Joan Breton Connelly’s theory is not so much far-fetched as it is heretical. Art history and classical civilization courses tend to teach us that the frieze represents the “Panathenaic procession.” The Great Panathenaia occurred, like the Olympics, every four years; it was a festival of athletic games and poetry and music competitions, culminating in a procession to the temple of Athena, goddess of weaving, war, and wisdom. Her statue was then presented with a new peplos, a robe woven by the women of Athens.  
    Thus, the frieze, with its horses and horsemen, youths and elders, men and women, and animals being led to sacrifice, represents Periclean Athens and a cross-section of 5th-century Athenians. The central panel on the eastern frieze, which depicts three women of assorted heights and a man and a child handling a bundle of cloth, is read as the culmination of the festival. The tallest woman is seen to be Athena’s priestess.
    Interestingly, this theory is not as old as you might think. It was proposed, tentatively, only in the late 1700s by the Englishmen James Stuart (an artist) and Nicholas Revett (an amateur architect) after an expedition to Athens for the Society of Dilettanti. We have no ancient accounts whatsoever of what the frieze represents. For much of the common era, during which the temple was repurposed as a Christian church and then a mosque, observers have been uncertain what they were looking at.  
    The Stuart-Revett proposal has, over time, calcified into received wisdom, even though this would be a singular and unheard-of case of Greek temple art depicting a present-day moment rather than a mythological or legendary event. Indeed, the rest of the sculptures on the Parthenon, the pediments and metopes, depict myths from Athens’s founding and prehistory, from the contest between Athena and Poseidon for the city’s patronage to the battle of the Lapiths against the Centaurs. A. W. Lawrence, brother of T. E. and chairman of classical archaeology at Cambridge, wrote in 1951 that if the frieze did depict a contemporary event, “this must have verged on profanation.”  
    Many of the elements we might expect to see in a typical Panathenaic procession are conspicuously missing. Why so many horses but no hoplites, the backbone of the 5th-century Athenian Army? What’s with the anachronistic chariots, a relic of Bronze Age warfare? Where is the wheeled ship-cart that transported the peplos, which was rigged to it like a sail? Why is a man handling the peplos in the climactic panel? (The peplos was woven by female hands for a virgin goddess.)
    In 1991, Connelly was working on a book about Greek priestesses and reading up on myths of early Athens. She was electrified by the strange tale of Erechtheus, an early king of Athens. (There is a temple to him known as the Erechtheon on the Acropolis. It’s the one with the caryatids.) At the same time, Connelly realized that whole new passages of Euripides’ lost play on the subject had, in recent decades, come to light from Hellenistic mummy wrappings.  
    The myth is basically this: King Erechtheus sprang directly from the Attic earth. He had a wife, Praxithea, and three daughters. (The Athenian royal houses ran to daughters.) When Eumolpus, king of nearby Eleusis, threatened a siege of the city, King Erechtheus got an unpleasant oracle from Delphi: He must sacrifice one of his daughters to Athena to save the city. The queen, rather than cringing in horror at the idea, embraced it as patriotic duty. (Praxithea, whose name means “she who acts for the goddess,” delivers a rousing speech in the Euripides play.) Meanwhile, the three girls have vowed that if one dies, they all will—so the two who are not chosen insist either on being sacrificed as well or on killing themselves, possibly by jumping from the Acropolis. Athena then declares that the heroic girls are to be buried in a single tomb and that there should be a sanctuary and sacred rites established in their honor. Erechtheus, who dies in the battle, will have a tomb on the Acropolis and a sacred precinct. Athena makes Queen Praxithea her priestess, and Praxithea will be in charge of a single altar to serve both shrines.  
    Suddenly, upon looking at the “enigmatic peplos incident” of the eastern frieze, Connelly felt that she understood it for the first time: This was a family unit—mother, father, and three daughters of different ages—the family of Erechtheus. The cloth that the father and the youngest child (who must, Connelly decides, be a girl; the gender of the semi-nude child in the frieze is a subject of debate) are handling is not the peplos but a sacrificial robe.
    Furthermore, Connelly makes a valuable argument about the purpose of the temple as a visual memento of the invisible past—the trauma of the Persian invasion, for instance—and the centrality of the Erechtheus myth to Athens’s sense of itself, the willingness in a democracy to give one life for the good of the many, and for even the city’s leadership to make the supreme sacrifice.  
    Connolly is also good on the Parthenon itself and the landscape that it both dominates and is integral to. To possess the Sacred Rock is to hold Athens, and all of Greece, under your sway. (This symbolism played out under German occupation in 1941, when two young Greeks, Apostolos Santas and Manolis Glezos, climbed the rock and tore down the Nazi flag, becoming national heroes.) The temple and its decoration are entirely of local Pentelic marble, prized for its pure whiteness and golden glow in sunlight. Like King Erechtheus, the building is autochthonous, sprung from the Attic earth.  
    Restorers of the Parthenon remark how, as the light moves over the structure, it seems almost to be breathing. The many small refinements of its architecture mean that the temple’s seemingly straight lines are all optical illusions: The side walls and peristyle lean slightly inward; the columns taper upwards and bow out at the middle (an adjustment called entasis); the corner columns are thicker than the central ones to give a sense of solidity; and so on. The chief Acropolis re-stor-ation architect, Manolis Korres, has discovered that the granules of marble in separate blocks of the temple have actually fused into one another. The separate pieces are, over time, becoming a single entity, masonry morphing back into mountain. 
    It is consistent with the conventions of Greek temple art for a frieze to depict a foundational myth of the city and her cults. To me, Connelly’s theory is attractive and plausible, and is backed by a considerable breadth and depth of scholarship—archaeological, visual, and textual. Not everyone will be persuaded, and the absolute certainty of the author will be off-putting to some; but her ideas cannot be dismissed out of hand. At the very least, her explanation, though beset by the disadvantage of novelty, is no less problematic than the Panathenaic procession.  
    As Samuel Butler put it when espousing his own contrarian classical theory, “Men of science, so far as I have observed them, are apt in their fear of jumping to a conclusion to forget that there is such a thing as jumping away from one.”
    A. E. Stallings, poet and translator, is the author, most recently, of Olives: Poems