Tuesday, February 22, 2011

From the Archives: Musings about style... (Chariots of Fire / Titanic)

I was looking at my old xanga blog and noticed this post on fashion in the Titanic and Chariots of Fire movies. I've updated my views and become more knowledgeable about many things since, but I think the pictures are worth having up here and it's also worth a small reminder into what I was thinking 3.5 years ago! Enjoy this trip to the archives!

Originally published 7/16/2007:

So I've been looking up stuff on fashion from the epoch's of the sinking of the Titanic (1912) and the movie Chariots of Fire (set in 1924) and I've been thinking that I like a number of elements of the fashion from those time periods. I also tend to like things up to the 1950's... in fact I think I can find interesting things in mens fashion from 1800ish to 1950...

So like I was wondering, is it possible for me to wear a navy two button blazer, wingtip collar shirt, bowtie, khaki pants, black shoes, black belt, and perhaps one of these short hats pictured below.... ? Would this work for casual and formal?   (screenshot from Chariots of Fire) Oh and, I really like the outfit in this pic in its entirety too.

Then, another example of very intriguing fashion... (this one from Titanic)

Hmm... here are some other things I liked...

White tie attire (which is actually more formal than black tie, ie. tuxedos)

Oh and if you ever think a dinner is too formal... check out the freshman's dinner from Chariots of Fire... amazing, they're all wearing white-tie attire... wow...

This is also really nice... this of course is after Thomas Andrews has removed his suitcoat in the evening and is in his study... (Titanic)

Another shot of Thomas Andrews, this time at a meal... notice the wingtip collar, very neat...(Titanic)

Ok... I really need like an official guidebook to fashion, fabric, patterns, stitches, etc. Oh, and a book on elevated manners would be awesome too...

As for women's fashion... I can't exactly decide on a particular era. Unlike the timeless and lasting nature of mens fashion, women seem to change what they wear every week or so, making it virtually impossible to pinpoint a particular style. Also, there are so many immodest styles within eras, that you can't give a blanket stamp of approval. And then, there's the wack fashions... huge hats, and other curiosities that wouldn't work so great today. However, I think it's worth looking at history anyway for ideas.

I'm essentially trying to connect with the past via history, fashion, law, architecture, music, etc. I think that beauty in it's truest form should not be something that changes all the time. Yes, beauty is fleeting... but that's physical beauty, that changes as one ages. However, fashion is something that is eternal by definition, because it isn't a living thing. And, I think that beauty is something that God created for us to enjoy... it's one of those essential truths that doesn't change. To throw out history and historically based fashion is to lose centuries worth of knowledge in the area of aesthetics. I want to connect and absorb what is good from the past, modifying where perhaps necessary, but making use of the guidelines established by our western heritage.

What do you all think?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Bath, England 2009 Part 1

Bath Visitor's Guide, and Jane Austen Centre Brochures

This is another installment of my travel pictures/stories from 2009. I am so behind on everything from that period. I hope that it's worth the read now a year and a half later!

Money, tickets, etc. :)

After being in France (and I will return to some of my French trip in upcoming posts) I went to Bath in England via the Eurostar Chunnel train. I found that just as I was understanding the French train system, I was thrown into a very different one in the United Kingdom. I think I understand it better, but I had time to make some mistakes during my travels in England. Other than I should have bought my tickets in advance to get an advantageous rate, I had very little difficulty aside from navigating stations and walking my luggage through the streets.

View from French TGV while traveling by rail

Bath has to be one of the prettiest cities I've ever been to. It is almost all stone and most of it is neoclassical, the rest usually being historic, as well. While it is a small city, it is on a hill--be advised that if you do not hire a taxi, you will almost certainly be walking up the hill from the train station, which is at the lowest point in town. In my case, I enjoyed not wasting money on rides and did just fine, even if my feet complained a bit.

View from my window at the Griffin Inn

The first place I stayed when I was in Bath was at an inn above a bar called the Griffin Inn. It was actually rather quiet and nicely done up. I believe it was run by some local university students, but they really did a nice job of making the place look respectable. In fact, the room was so newly done over that I could smell the carpet and whatnot when I was there. The television even had a hookup for my iPod to watch movies on it, etc.

My room at the Griffin Inn

You may have noticed that I said I should have bought my train tickets in advance... as it turns out, I was planning my trip out on the spot and ended up staying in a total of three places when in Bath and took an unplanned side trip to Salisbury. Part of this, is because I wanted to participate in the Jane Austen Festival, but wasn't sure what it was like, etc. As it turned out, I was able to get some last minute tickets to events and it ended up being great fun, not to mention I met numerous other Janeites! :)

Entrance to Assembly Rooms / Fashion Museum

Side view of Assembly Rooms / Fashion Museum

Now, I'm not really the sort of person to just sit indoors when I've traveled to an exciting new place, so the moment I set down my luggage, I was out walking every street in the city that I could reasonably get to, so as to get an understanding of how the place was laid out. 

Bath Abbey

Map of Bath, 1803

One of the nice things I discovered, is that because of the way things are laid out in Bath, you can get to most places within 10 minutes by foot; unless both places are on the outer edges of the central city area, at which point it's more like 25 minutes or so. That said, I like to walk briskly, so my times may not be representative of other people's experience.

Pump Room entrance at night

Pump Room entrance at night, closeup of sign

To be continued!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Smetana, Beethoven, and Tchaikovsky at The Kennedy Center

Last night I had the delight of being able to attend a concert of works by Smetana, Beethoven, and Tchaikovsky at the Kennedy Center... I liked most of the music, and ran into a number of interesting people. I started out the evening by drinking some coke so I could stay awake for the concert... and while I was doing that, I ran into some French people, which was fun. :)

I then went and found my seat in the Orchestra Hall, which had a lovely view of the National Symphony Orchestra...

View of orchestra, leaning over the balcony

View of orchestra, sitting down

And a terribly self-pic, my camera didn't have time to focus!

The first piece was by a composer known as Smetana, whom I'm informed was a contemporary of Dvořák, but less popular. I actually rather enjoyed the piece (Overture to The Kiss). Afterwards, we had a very lovely performance of Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 37. There were some absolutely delightful passages in the music... I think it would be difficult to find prettier music than some portions of this performance. Absolutely lovely! The pianist was also completely into the performance, you really should have seen him play! The last piece was Tchaikovsky's Manfred, Symphonic Poem after Byron, Op. 58. I found much of this to be random and at times boring... but the interesting parts were brilliant... and when they threw in the organ in the last piece, it was absolutely glorious! I had not anticipated the organ part, it was quite a delightful surprise!

After the concert, getting ready to leave

During the intermission in the concert, I ran into an acquaintance from the Academy of Saint Cecilia's Youth Orchestra (my sister used to play in the orchestra)... and surprisingly, after the concert was over I ran into ASCYO's conductor, Reverend Walt Edmonds, whom I had spotted sitting on the opposite side of my balcony level during the first portion of the concert! :)

All things said, a lovely evening indeed!

Friday, February 11, 2011

I can't wait until spring comes back!

In honor of warmer weather that will arrive in a couple of months... here are a few memories of the last times it was comfortable outside (not sure how come these are all in Virginia, but I figure it is time for a few pictures from that state to balance things out):

Click to enlarge images...

Beginnings of spring at Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's home (Virginia)

Easter Sunday, Patrick Henry College (Purcellville, Virginia)

Pond/Canal in Colonial Williamsburg (Williamsburg, Virginia)

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Debout La République: Universités de Rentrée 2009

Castle in Dourdan, France

In 2009, I had the delight of being able to be back in Europe, including France. Some of my readers may find it surprising that I should complain of not having traveled to France since 2003, prior to this trip; however, when your family is from Europe and you've been going there since you were a baby... it's something that you really do miss!

My happy boarding pass

One of the new things I did on this trip, in addition to traveling alone for the first time, was to participate in a French political meeting with a minor party known as Debout La République. This party is headed up by a gentleman by the name of Nicolas Dupont-Aignant, who is not only a mayor, but also in the French National Assembly. I'll spare you his full biography, but if you're interested, you should look him up.

Logo header from DLR website, www.debout-la-republique.fr

Now, I've done plenty of political things over here in Maryland and Washington D.C., but the French system is newer to me. At the time, I had hoped to be able to set up a slate for the French Expatriate Assembly's (ADFE) 'Washington' circonscription, aka legislative/electoral district.

French Embassy, Washington DC

Closeup of gate at French Embassy, Washington DC

As it turns out, unlike the United States, France considers the needs of its citizens living abroad worthy of representation. These elected representatives then sit on our behalf in a body officially known as Assemblée des Français de l'Etranger (ADFE). In addition to their core meetings, this body is able to choose members of the French Assembly and the French Senate on our behalf to represent us in the French government itself, in Paris.

Palais du Luxembourg, Paris, home of the French Senate

 Unfortunately, being new to the French political arena and the necessity of finding equal numbers of men and women to run made it basically impossible to even begin with finding people to run.  Additionally, the Washington district covers most of the east coast of the United States and as such, adds an additional difficulty regarding travel.

Me in the courtyard of the French Embassy, Washington DC

View of French Embassy courtyard from opposite angle

Despite this, I was able to meet up with fellow members of the party and to experience some really interesting interactions and speeches during my time in France.

Nicolas Dupont-Aignant giving a speech

Nicolas Dupont-Aignant speaking at dinner

One of the reasons I support DLR, is because they make so much more sense than other parties (at least to me). Most of the parties are either crazy or in some special interest's back pocket (or actually have no real positions). As far as I can tell, DLR takes a pretty moderate course that is governed by logic rather than by the nonsensical machinations of the major two parties, the Socialists (PS) and the Union Pour un Movement Populaire (UMP).

Schedule and transcript of Nicolas Dupont-Aignan's speech

My name tag for the retreat

Instead of selling out to the pipe dream of a 'United States of Europe', they want to turn the EU into more of an 'a la carte' framework for cooperation. Perhaps a bit more reminiscent of the Articles of Confederation as opposed to the Constitution, for an American analogy. The trouble with the European Union is that it cannot ever accomplish its stated goals because the nations of Europe are too different and the institutions of the European Union are not accountable, nor are they cost-effective. Additionally, DLR takes a very pro-France foreign policy, based largely on Charles de Gaulle, the great General from World War II and two time French President.

Left: street in Dourdan, France // Right: flags at French Embassy, Washington DC

Enough about politics... now to what I was participating in: the Universités de rentrée. What exactly are these? For those of you not familiar with French politics, let me explain. Basically, these are meetings, or more appropriately retreats for members of political parties and their friends to get together and have intellectual policy discussions and meetings.

Map of Dourdan, from tourist office... I picked this up on my way from the station to retreat center

This particular retreat was held in a small town called Dourdan. I rode the train (I think it was the RER) out to the city and then was actually silly enough to walk the whole way across town from the train station to the retreat center. I think it took me about a half hour to walk across town while pulling my suitcase the whole way, lol. Conveniently, the retreat center was at the top of a hill.

Me with Nicolas Dupont-Aignant, President of Debout La République

During this time, the leadership and the members of the party will go through what is happening in current events, anticipate upcoming trends, provide alternate viewpoints, ask questions, and debate ideas. Some of the topics are completely dry, but overall, the whole thing is quite fascinating. It was also really interesting to share my perspective as someone living abroad compared with that of members of their youth movement, Debout les Jeunes. I'm really excited about the potential of being able to participate again, hopefully in the near future!

Me with DLR's Délégué général to Canada, Mr. Bagot

One additional thing about political events, is networking. I ran into a very lovely couple when I was at this retreat and the gentleman turned out to be one of the advisors/counsellors to the French Senate. The net benefit is that he gave me and a friend of mine a lovely individual tour of the Palais du Luxembourg. We got to see many really interesting things that I had never planned on when I first arrived in France. Accordingly, I am eternally grateful to his hospitality and kindness. 

Brochures from the French Senate and French Senate Library

We even met the father of a well-known French politician who was in the Senate Library, who was himself a former French Senator. (I think it was Xavier de Villepin, but my memory may be off on this one) Incidentally, the library is amazing, all sorts of old books and the craziest ladder system to get to the higher books. The room itself, at one time was used for Napoleon's Imperial Senate. The whole palace was glorious and magnificent! Unfortunately, I was afraid to disrupt the decorum of the French Senate with picture-taking, so the only pictures I have are from the outside of the building. (note the picture earlier in this blog post) I also have some brochures from the tour.

I know it's a bit late, but I want to publicly say, 'thank you' or 'merci!' to everyone in France who welcomed me and made my visit so memorable, even if I don't remember all of your names at present! I'm sure that should God permit me to travel back to France that I will see you again and I'll make a fresh effort at remembering everyone's names then!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Panoramic Reconstruction: Formal Garden at Versailles

I've been going back through older pictures and seeing which ones can be stitched together into panoramic shots. As part of this, I'll be posting some of them periodically. :)

I previously showed this in my earlier post about Versailles, but now you can see it better!

From the painting:

And now, the earlier pictures, stitched together:

(click to enlarge)