Musée des Arts et Métiers

Before The Da Vinci Code and The Lost Symbol, the most famous literary thriller involving coded manuscripts, secret societies, and a gruesome sacrifice was Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum. An investigation into conspiracy theories and the Templar Knights, a meditation on symbols and language, a serious poststructuralist joke, there’s no doubt that Eco beat Dan Brown to the punch.

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Longhu Shan (Dragon-Tiger Mountain)

Longhu Shan scenery

With a catchy name like Dragon-Tiger Mountain (龙虎山), you would expect a historical Daoist site like Longhu Shan to be pretty popular. This is, after all, where the nonbeliever Marshal Hong (“you Daoists are always inventing stories to make a penny off the common folk”) accidentally set free 108 demons in the classic The Water Margin. This is also where the founder of religious Daoism (Zhang Daoling) is said to have attained the Dao in the 2nd century CE. Those are pretty major cultural markers, even if you don’t care a whit about Chinese history.

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Voyage dans le noir

Better than a handbag

Today I got stuck in an elevator. And not just any elevator, but a Louis Vuitton elevator on the Champs-Elysées. An LVMH elevator that was entirely black inside, without any lights or buttons. At first I thought it was some sort of art thing. But after thirty seconds, I noticed that the elevator had not done a single thing, except to trap me inside.

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Le Cracheur d’Or

Paris Wine Expo

Oenophiles unite! Last weekend was the biannual Salon des Vins des Vignerons Indépendants in Paris (aka The Independent Wine Producers Expo) and Francesco and I marked the occasion by shouldering our Sunday morning paternal duties to hit the bottles. We made some decent discoveries, which included the bizarrely named “3rd Annual Golden Spitter Contest” (as in: How classy can you make spitting out wine look?). Francesco was tempted to show off his finely honed cracheur skills, but ultimately we decided that it would not be a good idea to show up the French at their own game.

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Long-Lost Cousin Bi

See the resemblance?

I don’t know if it’s because people in China tend to be so openly curious, but I find myself engaged in at least one unusual conversation per day here. Today, while buying mini-chopsticks for the kids, the shop owner decided to examine my notes and then declared to the cashier, “That’s not English. Probably Russian.” And it’s true, my handwriting doesn’t really resemble English.  In fact, it doesn’t resemble any language at all. So I could see how she had come to the conclusion.

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