Nerds in Paris – Part 2

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Remember the part of this blog where I am a published author of a gripping story about coming of mystical age when you’re black, urban, and nerdy? Me neither. However, Broken Wave, the next Cryptid Coterie installment is on the horizon, and there have been a few odd incidents of life imitating small sections of Girl Out of Water. Subscribe for effortless updates, or mark next Friday in your calender. Whichever. But back to Paris.

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Capital of a column from the audience hall of the palace of Darius I
Achaeminid Period, reign of Darius I, c. 510 BC
Tell of the Apadana, Susa, Iran

I have been a museum nerd since I was the smallest of children. I read the words Champs Elysee in a book as a little girl and talked about going there, full of charm because I pronounced it chAMps Ulysses. The precocious clueless cute was too much. On a field trip to the Chicago Art Institute, our docent called me Mythology Girl (she might have been annoyed by my interrupting her talk with fun trivia about Hero and Leander, among other things). I like big museums and I cannot lie. Once again, Paris is perfect.

The Louvre. I could just stop there. Depending on how much time one has to tour Paris, you could legitimately spend weeks just touring The Louvre. It’s that big. In fact, The Louvre is so large (I promise this won’t turn into a Yo Mama joke), that the only time I got lost in Paris in weeks of aimless foot wandering, was inside the museum. There are over 2 dozen thematic trips through the museum (works on Love, Food, etc.), but I did not attempt any such navigation because I am a Muggle and not a Witch. I planned to hit The Louvre on a Wednesday and a Thursday one week, and then the following Friday, because Wednesdays and Fridays, the museum is open late into the evening. On my first visit, I wanted to leave the Richelieu wing to go to the Sully wing. I had a printed map in English. I had a Nintendo DS audio guide programmed in English that showed me where I was, and I still could not figure out how to get from where I was to where I wanted to be. I adopted a new strategy. Because I was in effect trapped in Richelieu for the rest of my day, I opted to see everything in that wing on all three floors, instead of touring the museum floor by floor as I had intended. My next visit I did Sully, and then last I did Denon. I did the first two days back to back and then I spaced out the last day. Even for an art lover, after 9 hours of being obsessed with light, color, technique, and detail, it all blurs together. I realized this when I sauntered through a room of Rembrandts without really seeing them. It was time to turn in my headphones for the day. Also, if you’ve ever been selfie blocked in the club? NOTHING compared to trying to get a decent shot of a piece in a museum. Getting this shot of the gorgeous palace column took about 10 minutes. If it was something more popular like the Mona Lisa? Not happening. Just never.

If Paris only had The Louvre, that would ONLY be 1.7 million square feet of priceless artifacts and art work, some of which, is approximately 9000 years old. But there are so many museums in Paris, they have a pass, that you can buy that will let you into nearly all the museums in the city for the one price of the pass. I recommend this. Not because you can realistically tour over 60 museums and monuments in even 6 days, but because the pass lets you skip to the front of the line. No waiting. The money is well spent if you plan to go to the Louvre even once because the line outside that big glass pyramid is basically World War Z. You will feel like Beyonce when you skate past your fellow tourists in their endless queue. Until you get inside of course and you’re just like everyone else again.

The Louvre is in a class by itself, but my favorite museum was Musee d’ Orsay. The scale is meant for mortals, and the subject matter is largely sculpture, and late 19th and early 20th century decorative arts. Massive paintings are also there of course. I even discovered a painter I should have known, and totally geeked out on the ones I knew.

ImageFor my engineering and steampunk types, you can not miss Musee des Arts et Metiers. You won’t find many figurative portraits in this museum, but there are entire rooms devoted to 19th century gears and engines, the first computers (I had to restrain myself when I saw a Commodore 64 behind the glass, the nostalgia was overwhelming), and the most ornate tools you’ve ever seen. Writer me was obsessed with old printing presses, and a fountain pen set so extensive, it required half a cabinet of its own. Even the display cases themselves were fascinating in this museum as several were old-fashioned wood and glass, where the front panel expanded on a wheeled track. There’s also a small theatre for automatons, a room for the roots of industrialization and transportation in France, and a beautiful model of the Ariane rocket. It’s quiet, you can check your coat and bag, and wander back a bit in time. Highly recommended.

 

I could blog about Paris forever. Easily. It’s old, beautiful, and full of interesting people. Alas, it’s back to this business we call show and not tell. My two takeaways from Paris: 1. Why do I live in Seattle when Paris exists? 2. How can I be a better writer? How do I become the people who painstakingly swept a brush across a canvas until the pigments on their palette made the sun shine, and silk rustle, the woman who shamelessly showed off her skill with leaded crystal and bronze to create a dressing table far beyond anything ever accomplished in the medium, and the countless faceless bodies, that nudged and carved stone for decades to build exquisite and soaring monuments to their faith. THAT. Paris made me hungry for that.

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You know you live in the PNW, when these remind you of Portland

Nerds in Paris Part 1

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Villa Santos-Dumont, 15e

So I just returned from Paris. I know, I know, my life is hard.

For the last three weeks I have been immersed in a language I don’t know, learning cultural etiquette via trial and error, and obsessed with butter in all of it’s glorious forms. I walked, and thought, and got lost in the beauty of the city, cocooned by anonymity and language. It was a much needed break from the daily grind and I have returned with renewed energy and inspiration. How could I not?

I know there are many types of nerd, so I will post accordingly. For my pop culture people? This one’s for you.

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Happy Hour at Le Dernier Bar avant la Fin du Monde

Le Dernier Bar avant la Fin du Monde near Chatelet, is arguably the epicenter of pop culture nerdery in Paris. They’re not messing around. This is more bar than restaurant despite the delicious spread on display here. There are three distinct levels themed in various fandoms. Want to get your tabletop on while sitting near the Iron Throne? You can do that here. The downstairs bar had Buffy’s (or is it Faith’s?) scythe attached to the grate on the wall. The first night I visited was cosplay for  Frank Miller’s  300. I didn’t know this, and thus perched awkwardly in various places because there was nowhere to sit. The place was mobbed. The second time I visited, I cozied up in a threadbare wingback chair on the top level and read and drank my way through Eragon. Occasionally I would recognize one of the theme songs playing as background and hum along (The Real Folk Blues, is a universal nerd standard). At one point the entire service staff belted out the chorus from an anime I don’t know, but now must find and watch. The Thundercats theme song in French also happened to me. This is a great spot to flex your French language skills on the tabletop and get a dose of your fandoms. All of them. They were thorough. 

There are other pockets of nerd life tucked away in Paris. Want to get your crepe on in the sugary pink surroundings of a Lolita den? Princess Crepe provides (disclaimer: my French friend is not impressed by the crepes). I opted for a savory crepe which was OK, but I found myself asking, but why is there corn in this?

Do you love eyeballing action figures? Especially drool-worthy collector’s items you can’t afford? Lulu-Berlu is there for the ogling.

Ran out of manga/comics you haven’t read on your 20 hour flight? Refill at Hayaku Shop, Album, or  Manga Cafe.

Stay tuned museum nerds, the next one is for you.

Nerding While Black with Seattle Geekly

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Nerding While Black with Seattle Geekly

This week I had a nerdy ramble with Shannon and Matt the awesome duo behind Seattle Geekly. They asked me a question I struggle with all the time: Winifred, how exactly are you nerdy?

That’s the thing. I don’t separate my nerd self from my black self or even my girl self. I’m still surprised when other people find my interests and hobbies unusual.

In an attempt to better answer this question (for all time) I offer the following observations and let you judge for yourself.

  • I think my fandoms are real. Ok not real exactly, but I respond to them with an intensity that frightens people. I can’t even talk about my trip to Warner Brothers studio at Leavesden without getting a little misty. It’s that deep y’all.
  • My one-liners are Tolkein based (Think “Oh it has been remade!” instead of “It has already been brought!”)
  • My obsession with the shitty animation of my childhood is intense. She-Ra and red wine? Best. Friday. EVER.
  • I don’t talk about hip bones, it’s all illiac crests with me. Biology, particularly invertebrate biology is a big deal in my house. I settled into armchair chemistry, because I was too bad at math for armchair physics. Doesn’t stop the curiosity about particle horizons however.
  • I named one of my beehives Caprica, the other Mordor.
  • I want to discuss TED talks in excruciating detail, as though they were summer blockbuster films.
  • Greco-Roman mythology is a perfectly reasonable ice breaker as far as I’m concerned.
  • I described Pacific Rim as life-changing, because holy hell giant mecha AND kaiju!!!
  • I own a Sunnydale High School yearbook.

There’s more. Lots more. It’s just all so much a part of who I am, it’s hard to peel those things out to explain to random strangers who want to make sure that I know what Telnet AND Mordor are, before they judge me nerd enough to enjoy my acknowledgement. If you are a person of color (and god forbid non-male) you’re required to perform all your identities as well as represent your nerd cred in order to have a seat at the tabletop. There’s certainly enough there that I have to explain to other black people who aren’t nerds what’s “wrong” with me. Tabitha and I have that in common. It’s too bad she doesn’t have Twitter. When I’m feeling especially snobby myself about someone else’s nerd credentials, I try to remember that what binds nerds and geeks together, is an alarming enthusiasm for worlds and ideas other people aren’t all that interested in. That’s good enough, I think.