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Posts from the ‘Art’ Category

5 movies you SLEPT ON in 2018 — and how to watch them now

It happens every year. Some movies don’t get the press they deserve and others become known only after the awards season ends. While in one of these cases it is an outrage that it received no Academy Award nominations (Leave No Trace), the other four simply did not get enough recognition to be considered. Here are five movies that I think deserved awards but got SLEPT ON, and how to view them.

Lean on Pete

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Andrew Haigh directed this movie with enough empathy that a sociopath could feel moved by the end. With an unsuspecting, tired premise (boy and his horse run away from home on an adventure across the Wild West), the plot quickly moves into its own territory. Haigh explores teen homelessness, what a distant father does to masculinity, and having to grieve without support. He does this in a script that easily beats half the Adapted Screenplay nominees. Charlie Plummer gives a stellar acting performance (he won Best Young Actor @ Venice IFF) and is supported by the also-stellar Steve Buscemi and Chloe Sevigny. Steve Buscemi deserved the Best Supporting Actor nomination for this, much more than Sam Rockwell playing George W. Bush. Lean on Pete joins the next movie on this list in somehow creating a whole world of transcendence, a world hinting at another world lurking just around the corner or behind the next mountain range. Magical. Was it the camera angles, the shot lengths? I couldn’t tell how Haigh achieved this effect, but when you watch it, you will feel it. Sadly, Lean on Pete got SLEPT ON this year.

How to Watch: Amazon Prime, free. iTunes, $3.99.

 

Leave No Trace

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Will and his 13 year old daughter Tom live off the grid in a forest. Unfortunately for them, the State considers this not just an alternative lifestyle but rather homelessness. When they are discovered, they must adjust to life in civilized society. Along the way director Debra Granik captures the most visually beautiful film of 2018, and her leads (Ben Foster and Australian newcomer Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie) gave knock. out. performances. marked by subtlety and tension. The cinematography by Michael McDonough and original screenplay by Granik were deserving of full Oscar wins, not to mention nominations, but sadly Leave No Trace got SLEPT ON this year.

How to Watch: Amazon Prime, free. iTunes, $5.99.

 

Eighth Grade

Elsie Fisher in Eighth Grade (2018)

Packing in all the cringe he possibly — and I mean possibly — could, director Bo Burnham captured the true essence of the middle school vibe. Hilarious, but also deeply concerning, Eighth Grade will give you an eye into the pressures teens face today. Social media and easy-to-access technology have changed the landscape so much that the middle school experience of Kayla (Elsie Fisher) barely looks like mine. All the same awkwardness, all the same pettiness, but in a whole new world. Despite receiving zero Oscar nominations, Eighth Grade won the Indie Spirit Awards for Best First Screenplay, and was far better than Green Book, winner of the original screenplay Oscar. Though in fairness, Green Book didn’t deserve that award either. Elsie Fisher’s performance and the film’s painful clarity make it worth watching, if not as a research piece then at minimum as great comedy. However, with exactly zero Academy Award nominations, Eighth Grade got SLEPT ON this year.

How to Watch: Amazon Prime, free. iTunes, $4.99.

 

Beautiful Boy

Steve Carell and Timothée Chalamet in Beautiful Boy (2018)

This film from Belgian director Felix van Groeningen follows a father (Steve Carell) and son (Timothée Chalamet) as the son’s methamphetamine addiction tears their relationship apart. Heavy drug use — rock bottom — sobriety — critical situation that threatens the tentative stability of newfound sobriety — right back into heavy drug use. We see this cycle unfold four or five times in the fast two hour run-time, and it gets more painful with each. Timothée Chalamet played a difficult role and did it flawlessly, and the artistic directing was also great, evoking a certain light, airy wistfulness while the characters’ lives go to hell. I strongly recommend this film, though it is not for the light at heart. Some critics did not like the editing style in Beautiful Boy which I understand though personally I loved it. But that held it back from getting the major awards recognition that it deserved. For this lame reason and no others, it got SLEPT ON this year.

How to Watch: Amazon Prime, free. Nowhere else, as Amazon produced it.

 

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

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Mr. Rogers! This documentary made the shortlist for Best Documentary Feature but then… didn’t… get nominated? I’m not sure what happened there, since this was better than all the other documentaries besides Minding the Gap. Following the career of Fred Rogers, this happy little film weaves between Roger’s social commentary (having a black co-star in a children’s program in the 1960’s), the big moments of happiness, the political success of his 1969 Congressional testimony, his doubts about the show, and the religious philosophy that supported his work. You will laugh, you will smile, you will cry, and you will be a better person for having watched Will You Be My Neighbor? Don’t be a fool and ignore this movie, like the Academy, which SLEPT ON it this year.

How to Watch: Because HBO picked it up, you can either pay the full $14.99 to buy it, or you can use your one week HBO free trial (via Hulu or Amazon Prime) and make sure to cancel before the week ends. That way, it’s free.

My 2019 Oscar Picks

What a year for movies, and what a disappointment that became this year’s Oscar nominations. The good, the bad, the ugly, and the downright-snubbed. Several films were left out (Leave No Trace being the most egregious), and others made it that should NOT have (Bohemian Rhapsody for BP, Vice for BP, Skin for live short, Animal Behavior for animated short). I watched all the movies for Best Picture, all 15 short films, four of the five documentaries, and a few other stray 2018 movies that scored nominations. That means that, for the first time, I’m able to have an informed opinion! But not on all the categories. Where I haven’t seen the majority of the nominees, I haven’t voted. That leaves me with 19 selections.

These are preferences for what should win, not predictions for what will win. The only one I will rank fully is Best Picture. As a courtesy, though, I have listed my second favorite in each award.  Speaking of favorites…

 

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Best Picture: The Favourite, then, A Star is Born

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Best Picture, Ranked:

1. The Favourite
2. A Star is Born
3. Roma
4. Black Panther
5. BlacKkKlansman
6. Green Book
7. Vice
8. Bohemain Rhapsody

Actor in a Leading Role
Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody, then, Christian Bale, Vice

Actress in a Leading Role
Olivia Colman, The Favourite, then, Lady Gaga, A Star Is Born

Actress in a Supporting Role
Emma Stone, The Favourite, then, Amy Adams, Vice

Actor in a Supporting Role
Mahershala Ali, Green Book, then, Adam Driver, BlacKkKlansman

Directing
Alfonso Cuarón, then, Yorgos Lanthimos

Adapted Screenplay only 2/5 😦
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
BlacKkKlansman, Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, Kevin Willmott, and Spike Lee
Can You Ever Forgive Me?, Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty
If Beale Street Could Talk, Barry Jenkins
A Star Is Born, Eric Roth, Bradley Cooper, and Will Fetters

Original Screenplay
First Reformed, Paul Schrader, then, Roma, Alfonso Cuarón

Foreign Language Film only 1/5 😦
Capernaum, Lebanon
Cold War, Poland
Never Look Away, Germany
Roma, Mexico
Shoplifters, Japan

Animated Feature only 1/5 😦
Incredibles 2
Isle of Dogs
Mirai
Ralph Breaks the Internet
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Original Score
Black Panther, then, Mary Poppins Returns

Original Song
“Shallow,” A Star Is Born, then, “I’ll Fight,” RBG

Documentary Short
Period. End of Sentence., then, Black Sheep

Cinematography 
The Favourite, Robbie Ryan, then, A Star Is Born, Matthew Libatique

Best Documentary Feature
Minding the Gap, then, RBG

Production Design
Black Panther, then, Roma

Sound Mixing
Black Panther, then, A Star Is Born

Costume Design
The Favourite, then, Black Panther

Film Editing
BlacKkKlansman, then, Vice

Sound Editing
Black Panther, then, A Quiet Place

Animated Short Film
Late Afternoon, then, Bao

Live Action Short
Marguerite, then, Fauve

Makeup and Hairstyle only 1/3 😦
Border
Mary Queen of Scots
Vice

Visual Effects only 1/5 😦
Avengers: Infinity War
Christopher Robin
First Man
Ready Player One
Solo: A Star Wars Story

 

Thanks for reading! Be sure to comment all the reasons why I’m wrong!

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Don’t Lurk

Your biology class lectures happen in an open field. Philosophy class is done while you rock climb. Your major classes are held during competitive team sports. While you practice archery, a professor explains how to write good thesis statements. Who knows the things you can learn about while white water rafting?

Can you imagine a college like this?

Everything is FUN!

Everything is EXCITING!

Nothing is BORING! 

 

A professor told us about this school — supposedly real, though I don’t care enough to research where this college is located or if this characterization is accurate — in class one day. And my mind wandered to how awesome this school would be. How I would be so, so much more happy in this kind of environment than where I am now. But my professor took a different angle. One that has stuck with me.

He said, “You would be so bored, so fast. In a few weeks, you would be over it. College isn’t about entertaining yourself with fun activities; it’s about creating something.”

Yes! This is true… but I am bored, too. Normal college got so boring, so fast. It only took weeks for me to be over it. So maybe I’m making in my own life the mistake that Fun Outdoorsy School is making at an institutional level?

Question: what makes college so boring? Answer: that we aren’t creating anything, anything meaningful. Creative work is our original calling. God has created us to “image” him back to the creation. We do this by working and tending things in this world, ruling over and taking dominion of the created order.

Genesis 1:26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

27 So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.

28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” …

2:15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. …

19 Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals.

A task of ordering, shaping, dominating, tending, sorting, and ultimately, creating. It is only because of the Fall that this ordering, working, sorting task becomes tedious and painful. God curses humanity (represented by Adam):

3:17 To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’

“Cursed is the ground because of you;
through painful toil you will eat food from it
all the days of your life.
18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
and you will eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your brow
you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
and to dust you will return.”

This curse applies to all people because Adam and Eve represented all people in this narrative. And so, we too feel the “thorns and thistles” of frustration, pain, suffering, and meaninglessness while we try to fulfill our calling from God to create. But it wasn’t meant to be this way! This is a diversion from the original purpose! We were made to “image” the glory of God in all that we do. And so this creative work is basic to finding meaning in life and to being fulfilled as a human being.

Another angle, less theology this time: Social Media has three types of people. Content Creators are the 1% of users who make and share new content of their own. Interactors are the next 9% who comment, like, or share other people’s content, but they don’t make things of their own. Lurkers are the next 90% who intake Content Creators’ work and Interactors’ interaction with that work, but do nothing with it besides see and enjoy it. They do not share, they do not comment, and they make nothing of their own.

Here are pictures.

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The same thing is true in college. In high school you are a Lurker just intaking ideas and information. But college makes you start to Interact with ideas, critique them, argue about their merits, and share them with underclassmen who are starting to wade into the discussions. The ultimate goal is to make you a Content Creator, someone who knows enough about the topic to really contribute new work that other people can take in. This means you have to specialize in one thing, because a 22-year-old doesn’t have the knowledge to speak into more than one debate at a time. So you pick a major and start to work, and work, and work, until you can produce new, quality work of your own.

That’s the point of college. The more time you spend creating something, the less tedious and frustrating and boring it will be. Those classes you hate? They are so painful because you have decided they won’t help you in your creative project. Even if you aren’t sure what that project is, you have a sense, and this History of Chinese Politics class just ain’t it.

(It could be that the class really isn’t helpful, and Liberal Arts colleges suck. Or maybe you just have a bad attitude and refuse to see how the class will help. Probably both.)

All of college boils down to Neil Gaiman’s dictum, “Make Good Art.” But instead of art, it can be anything. Make good biology research. Make good athletic training preparation. Make good philosophy writing. But whatever you do — whatever you do — do not Lurk. Find meaning and fulfillment by doing what you are created to do: create.

🛴

Check out my new playlist on Spotify, “🛴”.

This playlist is ideal for long solo car rides, for background music while studying, and for walking quickly (to the beat!) during the winter, and so, not lollygagging in the cold.

Photo is Albert Einstein as a boy. My friends suggest that either I’m secretly adopted and am his grandson, or that I am his reincarnation. Okay.

The title, 🛴, was the clear favorite over a distant second, 🎠.

Enjoy.

The Berlin Holocaust Memorial: Dehumanizing, haunting, and larger-than-life

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The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe  by architect Peter Eisenman was built in 2003-04 in the urban center of Berlin. The abstract, grayscale memorial occupies the space of one city block with rectangular prisms (“stelae”) rising out of the uneven ground. Stelae are situated into a row-column grid, though slightly uneven. The stelae are mostly the same height, but as the viewer walks to the middle of the field, the ground sinks to reveal deeper “heights” of the concrete blocks. The memorial is controversial, yet not an outrage or a scandal; it presents the subject matter in a way that reasonable people can reasonably disagree. And disagree they have. However, despite the at-times divided public reaction, the memorial makes a memorable and effective impression on the viewer through its desolate presentation and uneven construction.

Eisenman’s design was selected in 1997 as the replacement for a previously selected memorial which received backlash from the city’s Jewish community. After years of stalling from politicians maneuvering to avoid losing public support, and eventually the Bundestag itself taking on voting authoring for the project, construction began in 2003. It was not long until the press reported that anti-graffiti-coating company was also the company that produced Zyklon-B, the hydrogen gas that was used to kill millions of Jews in the Holocaust — to understandable outrage. The decision was made to proceed with the construction anyways — also to outrage — and the memorial opened on May 10th, 2005, near the 60th anniversary of the end of the war.

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It is worth sampling even a few of the reactions, as catalogued by PBS Frontline. Michal Bodemann criticized the memorial for existing at all, saying that a constant focus on Germany’s racist past is used as a shield against Germany’s racist present. Julius Schoeps writes, “I find it regrettable that they decided on a design that can stand for everything and for nothing.” Ilka Piepgras comments that an effective memorial to an atrocity like the Holocaust should overwhelm and overpower one’s emotions, though even that cannot be enough to match the true tragedy of the events. She claims that the Berlin memorial fails to do this, and asks, “Shouldn’t it be disturbing rather than inviting a picnic on its stones?”

Conversely, Heinrich Wefing praises Eisenman’s work, calling it “a new type of memorial”: a beautiful abstraction that “does not dictate what its observer should think or experience.” An American critic of architecture, Nicolai Ouroussoff, claims that the memorial “conveys the scope of the Holocaust’s horrors without stooping to sentimentality — showing how abstraction can be the most powerful tool for conveying the complexities of human emotion.” Many more have opined on the success or failure of the memorial, in proportions that do not seem to overwhelm each other.

The memorial, in my brief experience, successfully and lastingly impressed upon me both the dehumanization at work in the Holocaust, and its grave extent. Though often cited in criticism of Eisenman’s design, I found the lack of names, or placards, or designations, or really any other words at all, to be disturbingly plain. The barren stone bespoke a time in the not too distant past when humans themselves were reduced to barren, lifeless bodies — alive, but only in a strictly biological sense. In the same way that the stelae are “memorials” only in the strictest sense (after all, they would not memorialize anything in particular without the whole field being given a title), the Jews had become “humans” only in the strictest sense. In every other way, they were reduced by the Nazis to the status of mere animals. I found this aspect of the memorial compelling and haunting, even nearly three months later.

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The uneven, disorienting construction also left a substantive, lingering impression. As I walked deeper into the belly of the memorial, the ground itself shifted and sank. Rather than have the blocks grow higher and higher (though that was partially happening), Eisenman had the floor sink from beneath the viewer. Viewer may be the wrong term, for in an all-encompassing, larger-than-life experience like this, I became a more than a viewer: a participant, all of me caught up in the remembrance of the murdered Jews in Europe. As the floor sank, so too did the depth of the dehumanized concrete reveal its true depth; as the Holocaust progressed, so too did the depth of dehumanization become more and more pronounced and intentional.

To create a memorial that is not just viewable, but inhabitable, is to create something on the border. Not the border of “void and monument, between vague symbolism and a denial of interpretation,” as Tom Dyckhoff wrote in the London Times. No, more than a void, the other pole of the tension is tangible experience, something that could do much to help regular people remember the tragedy of the Holocaust.  

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Rome, Vatican City

The final leg of the trip was in Rome.

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St. Paul’s Within the Walls church, an Anglican church near our hotel.

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Castel Sant’Angelo. This was Hadrian’s Tomb, and then over the years various additions have been made, each in their own architectural style. A very strange shaped building.

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The EU flag flying over the Tiber river.

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Trajan’s Column, depicting his victory over the Dacians.

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More ruins from Trajan’s forum.

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Monument to Victorio Manuelle II, the king who unified Italy in 1871.

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Interior dome of the Pantheon.

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Pantheon Oculus + Clouds = the Moon?

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Facade of the Pantheon.

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Onward, to St. Peter’s.

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All Cathedrals face east, but not all have a 16-point compass rose around a 50 foot obelisk just to make sure you know it.

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The School of Athens.

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No photos allowed in the Sistine Chapel…

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… but you can’t stop a man with a blog.

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Nave of St. Peter’s Basillica.

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Altar at St. Peter’s

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Holy Spirit as a dove bursting into the Vatican.

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Trevi Fountain.

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Some ruins from the Roman Forum.

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The Colosseum.

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The Arch of Titus.

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The Arch of Titus was a victory monument to Titus’s sac of Jerusalem and destruction of the temple in AD 70. Here are Roman soldiers carting away a Menorah.

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More ruinous columns from the Forum.

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Some invisible people…

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View from inside the Colosseum.

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Another view, the remaining top half.

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Pope Benedict XIV in the 1700’s added a cross to the ruinous site of the Colosseum, which then made it a holy place. So then the destruction ended, and it became a historical site rather than another stone quarry.

Florence, Cinque Terre

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The Duomo.

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The Palazzo Vecchio, from which the Medici family ruled.

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Probably a Medici if I had to guess.

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Martyrdom site of Savonarola, in the square of the Palazzo.

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Sunset over Florence.

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It was common in the middle ages and early modern period for people to build entire buildings on bridges. These houses or shops are just… on the bridge.

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View from the Dome of the Duomo.

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Another sunset.

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A forest we found on accident.

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The Arno.

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The Duomo at night.

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Greetings from the Italian Riviera! This is from Riomaggiore.

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More Riomaggiore. All the buildings looked like this.

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The view north, with rain.

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The view south (from Manarola).

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More mist, fog.

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A few relaxing hours on the beach at Monterosso al Mare.

Salzburg

Welcome to Salzburg, Austria, the home of…

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Yes, that’s right, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. He lived here until the Prince Arc-Bishop didn’t like him anymore and drove him out of town.

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Lock-bridge number 5 of the trip.

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The Cathedral of the Prince-Archbishop (the entire square in which this was taken is his palace) has a statue that, if you stand juuuuuust right, looks like the angels on the Cathedral are crowning the statue of Mary.

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Interior of the Cathedral.

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A very high-up castle. Probably not best to walk the whole way up it…

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Part of the Mirabell Gardens.

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Is this the ugliest statue in Europe? Talks Atlas Obscura for directing me to it.

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View over the Salzach.

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View of the city from on high.

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Sunset over Salzburg.

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Continued. From the Castle to which no reasonable person should ever hike.

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Our hotel gave us Marmelade.

Berlin, Wittenberg

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Some buildings overlooking the Spree.

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Facade of the Bundestag.

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Dome of the Bundestag, with up and down spiral walkways.

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The Brandenburg Gate.

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There used to be a wall here…

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The Holocaust memorial in Berlin. These giant, impersonal slabs symbolize the way that the Nazi regime dehumanized their victims.

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Another angle of the memorial.

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Another piece of the Wall.

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Both sides of Berlin.

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The French (Hugonaut) church built to support the expelled French nationals after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes.

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Luther’s Bible, at the German National History museum.

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Perimeter wall at Sachsenhausen concentration camp.

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“Arbeit Macht Fret” translates to “Work Makes Free.” The camp would work its prisoners to death.

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Another bleak view of Sachsenhausen. This was the main area, where barracks held the political dissidents and later Jews / homosexuals / Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc.

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The Ishtar Gate. This was the first of two gates leading to Darius’s temple (or Nebuchadnezzar? I do not rememeber which, but either way, exilic Israel emperor).

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Interior of the Castle Church in Wittenberg.

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95 Theses door, in Latin like the original. The wood door is obviously long-gone.

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City Hall in Wittenberg with statues of Luther and Melanchthon.

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City Church, where Luther himself would have actually preached.

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The Table, of Table Talk fame.

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Most clever pun of the trip was this restaurant…

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…which also takes second place as well.

Paris, Versailles

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The Eiffel Tower, viewed from the Trocadero park.

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The sun was setting as we made our way up the Tower.

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This is one of many attempts to capture the beauty of the sunset from the Tower.

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Some buildings on the Seine.

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Notre Dame.

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The inner nave of Notre Dame is one solid piece of stone, if I remember correctly. Over all the Cathedral was underwhelming, as are most Romanesque / High Medieval buildings.

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Sacré-Cœur, a church on the top of a very large hill. It was built in the 1870’s as national penance for the Franco-Prussian war. (As in, Prussia forced them to built it, in humiliation).

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Man coming out of a wall, bronze statue (?) (metal work?) on the way back from Sacré-Cœur.

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The home and studio of Van Gogh while he lived with his brother, Theo, from 1886-1888. Slightly before he hit the sweet spot of his career, which was 1888 to his death two years later.

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Interior of the upper floor of Sainte-Chapelle.

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We went to the Louvre, which means you already know what the next picture will be…

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The Mona Lisa! Much smaller than I had imagined it.

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We went to the Musée de l’Orangerie which is a modern art museum in Paris, near the Louvre. They had a massive display of Monet waterlilies, which are inphotographical because of their width. Here’s part of one…

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Eiffel Tower viewed from the Arc de Triomphe.

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The Arc de Triomphe.

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Van Gogh’s famous, non-ear-cut-off, self portrait at the Musée d’Orsay. This was the best art museum went visited on the trip, in my opinion.

 

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The absolutely enormous palace of Versailles.

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The Hall of Mirrors at Versailles.

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From the Gardens.

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Also in the gardens.

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One last garden photo…