Le Cracheur d’Or

Paris Wine Expo

Oenophiles unite! Last weekend was the biannual Salon des Vins des Vignerons Ind├ępendants 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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Of Pigeons and Poodles: Hiking through Paris

The trail through northeastern Paris
Hiking trail through the 19th arrondissement

Even though I’ve lived in Paris for about eight years now, I continue to get lost on a regular basis. On a map, there is a certain logic to the planning: central hubs are scattered throughout the city, their streets extending outward like the spokes of a wheel. On foot, however, it’s often impossible to navigate. The spokes intersect haphazardly, oblivious to cardinal directions and without any sense of symmetry, making it similar to trying to find your way around a plate of spaghetti. This, of course, is what makes walking through Paris such a delight: even if you know the city reasonably well, nothing can be anticipated — there is always enough disorientation to give you a sense of discovery. Continue reading “Of Pigeons and Poodles: Hiking through Paris”

Soundscapes: A Taoist Ceremony in Shanghai

Qinciyang Temple, Pudong
Qinciyang Temple, Pudong

Shanghai, and in particular, Pudong, was the last place I expected to chance upon a traditional Taoist ceremony. But there you go, even China’s financial center is sitting on top of some leftover animist beliefs.

This recording is of a birthday party for the god Dongyue, who presides over Mount Tai (Tai Shan), China’s supreme sacred mountain. So how do Shanghainese Taoists celebrate birthdays? With plenty of liquor, pumpkin seeds, and peanuts, plus over twenty-five large bags of specially folded paper money, which was burned for Dong Yue after the ceremony. Pudong is an expensive place to live, after all, even for a god.