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by Ted Welch
Wed Dec 15th, 2010 at 01:14:14 PM EST
December in Nice
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by Ted Welch
Thu Dec 2nd, 2010 at 04:30:24 PM EST
LEP has provided us with photos of the demonstrations in Paris, fundamentally about preserving a way of life, a culture. Here are some photos celebrating some aspects of the Paris I hope we'll always have and a culture worth defending - particularly in these bleak economic times.
First a few (belatedly) from the Paris Meetup in September:
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by Ted Welch
Sat Oct 23rd, 2010 at 05:09:00 PM EST
Some people objected to the sarcastic tone of some remarks in the original version of this
, a response to ThatBritGuy's "Malleable social reality
". It covers some important issues: democracy, forms of activism, science and human affairs, "the responsibility of intellectuals" (one of Chomsky's early books on politics) and took some time, so here is the edited, slightly shorter version, which might elicit more comments on the content.
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by Ted Welch
Wed Oct 20th, 2010 at 04:01:33 PM EST
"Common Cause proposes a simple remedy: that we stop seeking to bury our values and instead explain and champion them."
"In this possibly terminal phase of human existence, democracy and freedom are more than values to be treasured; they may well be essential to survival."
I really wish somebody else had put forward some criticism of ThatBritGuy's mish-mash of unsupported, often inaccurate assertion and inflated claims, arrogant dismissals of others and incoherent "argument" in "Malleable social reality". This grew (once again) from a comment and took some time, it covers a wide range of issues, so I've put it up as a diary.
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by Ted Welch
Tue Oct 12th, 2010 at 06:15:52 PM EST
A banner to confuse even French-speaking Americans
"What do you mean you don't feel retirement is really relevant ?"
Models ? Retire at 62 ! - ha ha
Students add certain jeunesse sais quoi.
Nice place to take a break from agitation.
... or see things from a different perspective - on Nietzsche's terrace:
"Not by wrath does one kill, but by laughter."
Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra
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by Ted Welch
Sat Oct 9th, 2010 at 04:15:40 PM EST
I appreciate Cyrille's efforts to provide some "common lines of thought" for ET, e.g. by using Rawls
. However, given the complex and contested nature of Rawls's ideas, they don't easily provide a basis for agreement.
This started as a couple of comments responding to ThatBritGuy, but I've spent some time trying to make sure that I have got things right regarding the views of Rawls and about recent changes in Cuba which Krugman probably had in mind, while also considering how Chomsky might be a better model. So this has grown in length (considerably !) and I've made it into a diary.
I think that Chomsky's general approach would provide a better model since he isn't concerned to develop elaborate, abstract ideas about basic values, nor about the nature of society and politics. He's quite sceptical about claims to expertise in such areas and hence encourages us to subject experts' arguments to critical examination:
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by Ted Welch
Sat Sep 25th, 2010 at 08:09:31 AM EST
Update: I've now corrected an error pointed out by a Freud fan from Paris; it is Serge Tisseron, not Tesseron - clearly I was unconsciously injecting testosterone into the fray :-) I have also now included in the main text my comment in which I outlined some of Onfray's main criticisms of Freud.
Recently my favourite French philosopher, Michel Onfray, wrote a very critical book on Freud, "The Twilight of an Idol: The Freudian Plot" (a reference to Nietzsche's Twilight of the idols, and Onfray adopts Nietzsche's idea that a philosopher's ideas reflect his own life). Such strong criticism of Freud is a bit of a rarity in France, where Freud is still widely respected - taught in the philosophy BAC, and apparently Freudians dominate about 70% of academic psychiatry departments. Even someone as independent and critical as Onfray had decided not to read an earlier collection of articles critical of Freud - "The Black book of Psychoanalysis" - on the basis of early comments about it. Subsequently one of its authors, Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen, helped open Onfray's eyes to the less than edifying truth about Freud.
Predictably there were very critical responses from the Freudians, but the level was lamentable (well, if you still respect Freud ...), including that from celeb intello Bernard Henri Lévy:
front-paged by afew
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by Ted Welch
Fri Jan 29th, 2010 at 01:58:57 PM EST
This was prompted by poemless's request for a bit more European stuff, though the Paris fashion shows lead us out to global issues. It's also relevant to jakeS's "Homogeneity and ET" diary; I relate global economics to the Paris fashion shows, the latter usually of more interest to females.
Christian Salmon, a French academic, has written a serious treatise on Kate Moss: "The Kate Moss Machine":
... Through this success story of this English "girl-next-door" he studies the coming to age of a collective myth in an age of triumphant neo-liberalism: Kate Moss seems to him an incarnation of flexibility, nomadism and transformism - the key ideals of Nineties neo-management. In Kate Moss's emaciated and mobile body, he discerns the shape of an uncertain, precarious, flexible and even "liquid" subject that reigned from the beginning of the Nineties until today's economic crisis. In this sense, Kate Moss heralds the end of an area and the dawn of a new one.
That's fine, I like the intellectual orientation in French culture, even if it does tend to sound rather grandiose to British ears. But the more down-to-earth facts about her are rather grim in some ways; her role in driving grown women to try to look like skinny waifs, part of "heroin chic", was as negative as her life-style is unhealthy:
Supermodel Kate Moss was "discovered" at 14 by Sarah Doukas of the Storm Modeling Agency, while she was passing through JFK International Airport on vacation with her parents. She is 5-foot-7 and weighs an estimated 100 pounds, perhaps a few pounds less, though she says she never weighs herself. Through the 1990s and early 00s, she was one of the world's most recognizable models. Moss starred in a series of Calvin Klein ads through the 1990s, spurring a period of waify "heroin chic" in the modeling world, which emphasized emaciation and de-emphasized breasts. Moss was photographed with utterly blank face, as if stoned or exhausted. Klein reportedly paid her £1 million a year, until her contract was not renewed in 1999, "by mutual agreement."
Also in 1999, Moss said publicly that she had never walked any fashion catwalk sober, "even at ten in the morning". In 1998, she was hospitalized for exhaustion; in 2000, for a kidney infection; and in 2003, a sleeping disorder. She is a vegetarian, and smokes upwards of 80 cigarettes daily.
The fashion industry is a product of international capitalism, not French culture, and is always looking for new gimmicks and ways to shock to get attention in a cut-throat commercial world. In the 90s we had the "heroin addict" look, but a death within the industry caused some concern - not exactly soul-searching, you can't search what isn't there, and produced promises to be more "upbeat":
A Death Tarnishes Fashion's 'Heroin Look' By AMY M. SPINDLER Published: May 20, 1997
After years of denial by the fashion industry that heroin use among its players had any relation to the so-called heroin-chic style of fashion photography that has become so prevalent, the fatal overdose of Davide Sorrenti, 20, a promising photographer at the heart of the scene, was like a small bomb going off.
Even if it was a bomb detonated in the home of the person making it, it didn't dispel the impact. The period of denial is over. Magazine editors are now admitting that glamorizing the strung-out heroin addict's look reflected use among the industry's young and also had a seductive power that caused damage. And three months after Mr. Sorrenti's death, the magazines that published his work and have served as catalysts for the look are declaring that they are going to move on, with a more upbeat mood that will be visible in July issues.
Well, maybe "upbeat" doesn't sell fashion goods. The manufactured frenzy of change so often involves cannibalising the past - again:
Fashion is a business that has always been uncomfortably dependent on its past. Designers look to long-gone decades for inspiration. Businessmen are constantly digging for the next dusty, defunct label to resuscitate in hopes of a big Gucci-size financial payoff. And chain retailers regularly ask their bean counters what sold last season in order to figure out what to buy for the coming one. The past constantly informs the fashion industry's present -- and often not for the good.
Shock tactics (safely wrapped up in irony and marketed as "fun") run riot, already it's death's turn again.
Last fall, zombie chic emerged as a big trend on the men's runways, with models made up to look pale and ghostly, or as though they'd been dead for five days. Fall 2010 includes similarly grim themes so far. Alexander McQueen put Sting on the invitation for his men's show, labeling him "The Bone Collector." The Times notes, "a fascination with skeletal remains haunted the collection." In related news, the models in the show were really, really thin! HAH.
Moving on: DSquared2 made their models look like they had been splattered with blood, which is actually kind of gross, but hey! Also different! And we admit this is kind of a stretch, but Gianfranco Ferré sent one model down the runway in a leather crop-top sort of thing that reminds us of the top half of a butcher's apron, which McQueen showed for fall 2009, which a brutal killer might wear to, well, you know. In any case, that Ferré model kind of looks like he could be on his way to kill somebody.
I find that more than a little sick - don't we have enough people already being sent on their way to, well, you know, actually kill somebody ?
Recently France24 TV in English gave Gaultier's latest bit of "fun" its seal of approval. To make things a bit more exciting than death, which is a bit of a downer, if dramatic, Gaultier offers us the battered boxer look, and below is the sort of inane drivel you get from New York fashion types; it's all a bit of "fun" with an "angry vivaciousness".
The other day we noted that the new fall 2010 men's collections contained a smattering of death themes. However, perhaps we were a little off, and the pervading theme that will bridge the Milan and Paris collections is actually a thing that may precede death and decay: violence. Dsquared2 sent bloodied models down their runway in Milan, and today in Paris, Jean Paul Gaultier sent dudes down the runway in boxing gloves and knee pads, their faces adorned with little nose casts and bloody scrapes. Gaultier himself strutted the runway made up to look battered and sweaty himself. Somehow the jolliness about everything violent or disturbing he puts on the runway makes it more fun than creepy, as does the fact that he didn't put greenish-white zombie makeup on his models' faces, allowing their angry vivaciousness to shine through.
Of course there's always sex in fashion - why not such other front page themes as violence and death ? After all, these are the price paid for ensuring that consumers live in a culture where they have a bit of surplus cash, or access to credit, to buy this stuff - to junk it next season as they dream up new variations on these visceral themes.
" ... the most vulgar aspects of perceived obsolescence can be seen in the fashion industry, particularly for women where experts deliberately set out to use psychology and emotional manipulation, as the Chairman of Allied Stores Corporation explains: 'Basic utility cannot be the foundation of a prosperous apparel industry...We must accelerate obsolescence... It is our job to make women unhappy with what they have.' "
If battered boxers are a bit too jolly for you, how about grey as the new black, with some funereal music:
"Gareth Pugh, the young British designer renowned for his extreme, all-black, cyber-gothic collections, made it a grey day at Paris Fashion Week.
Pugh, 26, a policeman's son from Sunderland, created a melancholic vision in every shade from smoke to pewter.
His male and female models were virtually indistinguishable - except when the sheer tulle tops rendered them practically topless - in grey hoods with escaping strands of lilac fake hair, their faces ashen.
They marched to the mournful sound of strings and drumbeats ...
Grey is the new black
How about a splash of red and reminders of bloody revolution and "neurotic aristocracy":
PARIS -- Monday (25.1.2010) marked the start of a French-Russian cultural exchange. And in one of those symbiotic relationships between fashion and the wider world, Russia -- its bloody revolution and its early modernist art -- were inspirations for the early couture collections.
For Josephus Thimister, an avant-garde designer who moved off the fashion radar a decade ago, the harshness of his subject was in the show's title: "1915: Bloodshed and Opulence."
Drawing from his grandmother's White Russian heritage and his own Belgian background, the designer took the same edgy stance as when his deconstructed clothes were inspired by the Baader-Meinhof gang back in 1999.
But these clothes, for both men and women, were no longer decayed and destroyed -- unless you count the painted blood splashes on khaki military coats or a cozy white knit. Instead, the look was noble and upscale, with fabrics, even fur-trimmed, to match.
There still was something raw and bleak about these clothes, even the defiant bright red cocktail dresses that Mr. Thimister defined as dress-up clothes for a "neurotic aristocracy" whose imperious behavior ended in blood and gore."
What will it be next time - the "earthquake victim", or maybe the "suicide bomber" look with really "destroyed" clothes ?
But fashion, as I said, is part of the capitalist system in general, and its sick histrionics just a symptom of a broader malaise. So I wouldn't go as far as to blame the recession on fashion, as Deborah Orr did recently, and was rebuked for it:
Orr is trying to critique consumer culture by hanging responsibility for the recession on silly women who like handbags and the silly women's magazines they read, and while I'm as ready as the next girl to question the status/disposability combo fashion pushes, I feel obligated to point out that Orr's argument is actually false. And sloppy, all too convenient, and more than a touch classist and sexist. This recession is, as always, due to Wall St. greed, not Hermès and H&M and the women who dare admit to liking the feeling of wearing a new dress. And insofar as this recession has an archetypal villain, it's not the editor of Vogue and the prissy ladies who read her prissy lady magazine. It's the rich white men who run everything. I'm only half joking when I say I think it is important women remember our common enemy sometimes."
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by Ted Welch
Sun Sep 13th, 2009 at 07:22:40 PM EST
I had to miss today's Marais tour. Though very sunny yesterday, there was a chilly wind and I seem to have caught a cold - seems too mild for h1n1.
My thanks to Jerome for sponsoring the lunch on Sat., which I'm sure we all appreciated. Unfortunately afew lingered over details of slaughtering pigs till I was almost put off my chicken :-) while JakeS tried to explain to me why, after studying a real subject like physics, he was going to start studying economics ! I still don't understand :-)
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by Ted Welch
Sun Sep 13th, 2009 at 11:15:22 AM EST
Lunch at Cantalou Restaurant on Sat.:
On the left: Helen, Linca, GK, LEP, nanne, Bernard, Geezer in Paris, (right-hand side from the back) Nomad, Melanchthon, Jerome, Millman, Bruno-Ken, Migeru, Fran
It took some time to get the whole group moving together:
Afew: "Now, where were we going?"
Linca: "I've forgotten too!" :-)
Linca's wife, Melechthon, afew, Linca, nanne, Millman, Bernard, GK, JakeS, dvx.
We walked by the Seine:
To the Eiffel Tower and Trocadero - on a beautiful afternoon:
Then back to the Cantalou for dinner:
More photos (including transport festival and photos of Seine, Eiffel Tower, etc;) with a larger-scale slideshow at:
Either view one by one using arrows, or click on the first image and then on the small rectangle in the upper right hand corner of the image for the slideshow.
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by Ted Welch
Fri Sep 11th, 2009 at 12:28:42 PM EST
The Trois Mailletz is my favourite Paris bar, there's a pianist and opera singers, and some real characters. You can linger over one drink, but the manager doesn't like it if you fall asleep:
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by Ted Welch
Fri Sep 11th, 2009 at 09:30:49 AM EST
I don't know if anyone has mentioned this, serendipity that's it's this weekend, includes electric cars, etc. Anyway I include some of my photos of the preparations for the opening tomorrow:
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by Ted Welch
Mon Jun 29th, 2009 at 06:53:51 PM EST
I took a break from Paris and had a weekend in the country with LEP and visited the kind of area around Paris frequently painted by the Impressionists. Now their paintings are extremely popular and the idea that they were political radicals seems bizarre. However they struggled against the authoritarian system, most directly the Salon system, which regulated access to the public, but also against the political system France in their early years.
I was lucky enough to be able to stay at LEP's place, near Fontainebleau, which was quite a contrast with the bustle of central Paris:
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by Ted Welch
Sun Jun 14th, 2009 at 08:54:31 AM EST
After a hard afternoon in a net cafe, before going to meet LEP, a couple of beers in a bar, where two women are having a serious discussion, it could be a tutorial. From the book on the table it could be about the body in a globalised society ah, these French intellectuals:
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by Ted Welch
Thu Jun 11th, 2009 at 10:44:41 AM EST
I'm back in Paris for a much-needed two weeks. Meeting LEP later today. If anybody else would like to meet up next week, email me: tedwelch at me dot com
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by Ted Welch
Thu Jun 4th, 2009 at 02:18:30 PM EST
I write this on the morning of the end of the once-mighty General Motors. By high noon, the President of the United States will have made it official: General Motors, as we know it, has been totaled.
As I sit here in GM's birthplace, Flint, Michigan, I am surrounded by friends and family who are filled with anxiety about what will happen to them and to the town. Forty percent of the homes and businesses in the city have been abandoned. Imagine what it would be like if you lived in a city where almost every other house is empty. What would be your state of mind?
It is with sad irony that the company which invented "planned obsolescence" -- the decision to build cars that would fall apart after a few years so that the customer would then have to buy a new one -- has now made itself obsolete. It refused to build automobiles that the public wanted, cars that got great gas mileage, were as safe as they could be, and were exceedingly comfortable to drive. Oh -- and that wouldn't start falling apart after two years. GM stubbornly fought environmental and safety regulations. Its executives arrogantly ignored the "inferior" Japanese and German cars, cars which would become the gold standard for automobile buyers. And it was hell-bent on punishing its unionized workforce, lopping off thousands of workers for no good reason other than to "improve" the short-term bottom line of the corporation. Beginning in the 1980s, when GM was posting record profits, it moved countless jobs to Mexico and elsewhere, thus destroying the lives of tens of thousands of hard-working Americans. The glaring stupidity of this policy was that, when they eliminated the income of so many middle class families, who did they think was going to be able to afford to buy their cars?
Based on my track record, I request an honest and sincere consideration of the following suggestions:
1. Just as President Roosevelt did after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the President must tell the nation that we are at war and we must immediately convert our auto factories to factories that build mass transit vehicles and alternative energy devices. Within months in Flint in 1942, GM halted all car production and immediately used the assembly lines to build planes, tanks and machine guns. The conversion took no time at all. Everyone pitched in. The fascists were defeated.
We are now in a different kind of war -- a war that we have conducted against the ecosystem and has been conducted by our very own corporate leaders. This current war has two fronts. One is headquartered in Detroit. The products built in the factories of GM, Ford and Chrysler are some of the greatest weapons of mass destruction responsible for global warming and the melting of our polar icecaps. The things we call "cars" may have been fun to drive, but they are like a million daggers into the heart of Mother Nature. To continue to build them would only lead to the ruin of our species and much of the planet.
The other front in this war is being waged by the oil companies against you and me. They are committed to fleecing us whenever they can, and they have been reckless stewards of the finite amount of oil that is located under the surface of the earth. They know they are sucking it bone dry. And like the lumber tycoons of the early 20th century who didn't give a damn about future generations as they tore down every forest they could get their hands on, these oil barons are not telling the public what they know to be true -- that there are only a few more decades of useable oil on this planet. And as the end days of oil approach us, get ready for some very desperate people willing to kill and be killed just to get their hands on a gallon can of gasoline.
President Obama, now that he has taken control of GM, needs to convert the factories to new and needed uses immediately.
- Don't put another $30 billion into the coffers of GM to build cars. Instead, use that money to keep the current workforce -- and most of those who have been laid off -- employed so that they can build the new modes of 21st century transportation. Let them start the conversion work now.
- Announce that we will have bullet trains criss-crossing this country in the next five years. Japan is celebrating the 45th anniversary of its first bullet train this year. Now they have dozens of them.
- Transform some of the empty GM factories to facilities that build windmills, solar panels and other means of alternate forms of energy. We need tens of millions of solar panels right now. And there is an eager and skilled workforce who can build them.
- Provide tax incentives for those who travel by hybrid car or bus or train. Also, credits for those who convert their home to alternative energy.
- To help pay for this, impose a two-dollar tax on every gallon of gasoline. This will get people to switch to more energy saving cars or to use the new rail lines and rail cars the former autoworkers have built for them.
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by Ted Welch
Tue Jun 2nd, 2009 at 12:28:51 PM EST
This might cheer Jerome up a bit - and is a heart-warming tale of hot bread and shattered stereotypes :-)
A French couple came to town several years ago in search of something. Here, amid the swelling mountains and struggling businesses, the Red Sox hagiography and Yankee taciturnity, they were looking for just the right place to sell madeleines.
And croissants. And tarts. And long, thin loaves of French bread that all but dare you to tear at their heel before you're out the door.
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by Ted Welch
Mon Jun 1st, 2009 at 01:01:41 PM EST
This time there is very little text (did somebody breathe a sigh of relief ? :-) ).
The Italian food and drink festival is on in Nice: "L'Italie a table".
Previously it was on the Promenade des Anglais, in a long line of tents with little space to move around and it tended to get very hot. This year it's in the Jardin Albert 1, with a lot more space and it's cooler:
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by Ted Welch
Wed May 27th, 2009 at 06:49:54 AM EST
"I believe there is only one way out of this national crisis we face," said Mr Cameron.
"We need a massive, sweeping, radical redistribution of power. From the state to citizens; from the Government to parliament; from Whitehall to communities. From Brussels to Britain; from judges to the people; from bureaucracy to democracy. Through decentralisation, transparency and accountability we must take power away from the political elite and hand it to the man and woman in the street."
He expounded on his theme of the "redistribution of power", and suggested ... The right to initiate local and national referendums.
Hasn't Cameron heard of California? We've seen that such politics by "initiative" leads to disaster:
It's not Arnold's fault that California has a worse credit rating than Louisiana, a state that's half underwater and half in the bag.
You see, our state is designed to be ungovernable because we govern by ballot initiative, and we only write two kinds of them: "Spend money on things I like" and "Don't raise my taxes." More money for teachers and firefighters? Check "yes"! High-speed rail? "Cooool!" Drug treatment for former child actors? "Sure, why not?" But don't even think of taxing me for any of it.
This is why our founders wanted a representative democracy, because they knew that if you give the average guy the chance, he'll vote for a fantasy world with no taxes and free beer.
But before you laugh at us, remember: This desire to have everything and give up nothing is a national condition, not just a California thing. Like everything else, we just take what's real, exaggerate it, add some explosions and give it a giant pair of fake breasts.
Like other states, California is suffering from a collapse in tax revenues brought on by the recession. Unlike other states, it suffers from severely dysfunctional politics, including gridlock-inducing budget procedures and a deeply anti-tax strain that plays itself out in endless voter referenda, dating back to the Proposition 13 property tax cap from the 1970s. As a result, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared recently that more tax increases are politically impossible. Yet, his proposed spending cuts are also unappealing, if not impossible, including slashing education and health care funds and releasing prison inmates early.
What the Obama administration should make clear is that a bias for spending cuts -- and against tax increases -- is the wrong approach for California and other states. Both spending cuts and tax increases are harmful in a downturn, because they reduce already weak consumer demand. But most states are required by law to balance their budgets, so when deficits emerge, they are forced to do one or the other, or both.
Contrary to conventional wisdom, raising taxes may be better than spending cuts because tax increases, especially if they are focused on wealthy taxpayers, have less of a negative impact on consumption. Spending cuts hit consumption hard, depriving the economy of money that would otherwise be spent quickly. They also have the disadvantage -- so evident in the cuts proposed by Mr. Schwarzenegger -- of falling heavily on the needy.
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by Ted Welch
Tue May 19th, 2009 at 11:54:24 AM EST
I had thought this was going to be a fairly short, light piece about our trip to Rapallo and Portofino, but when I got back and started reading more about Rapallo, I learned about some darker aspects and connections between art, treason and conspiracy. It falls into two sections, so if you prefer the short, lighter version, jump off at the blue palm.
The post-visit intellectual journey is a long one. If you are into history and intellectual debates about art and politics, the CIA and cultural imperialism, press on beyond the reflection of the palm into a "wilderness of mirrors". But don't worry, there's a path back to Rapallo and Nice, where you'll end up on Nietzsche's terrace - possibly with "amor fati" - a love of fate:
To embrace amor fati is to grow, evolve, and know what it means to be human, all too human [title of one of Nietzsche's books].
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