/ PLACES / TRAVEL / TRADITIONS /
A blog about travel, places I love, places I've lived, and strange customs that keep us occupied the world over.
Featured so far: Tokyo, London, Berlin...
John Crace has an innovative way of arranging spines on shelves according to sun exposure. This is one of life’s most fulfilling tasks.
St George's Day
a rose and a book
El dia de la Rosa / El dia del Llibre / SANT JORDI
One of my favourite traditions in the world: Every St. George’s Day, the Catalans commemorate the death of Shakespeare and Cervantes (on the same day!) by the exchange of a rose and a book. It is traditional for a man to give his lover a rose, and a woman to give her lover a book, but today, the mutual exchange of both items is perfectly acceptable (I AGREE!).
The giving of a book originated in 1923, when a Catalan bookseller decided to promote the holiday by way of Cervantes and Shakespeare. Today, April 23rd is a very popular day for new literary releases, and Barcelona will no doubt be awash with improvised bookstalls and the like, being the publishing capital of the Spanish speaking world.
So give your lover a rose and a book. I can’t think of anything better.
Somehow I didn’t know that BB’s was closing, and I missed the whole thing and now it’s done.
Insult to injury… it’s going to be a froyo shop. Oh nyc.
You should read Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York. It lets you know what’s being chased out by yogurt shops.
Sounds like a book that someone should be writing about Berlin …
We are going to New York in 9 days! A friend recommended this incredible book by Rem Koolhaas on Manhattan’s architecture which is just a terrific read (especially post Ayn Rand’s Fountainhead). Here’s a snappy review from GoodReads:
"Manhattan," he writes, "is the 20th century’s Rosetta Stone … occupied by architectural mutations (Central Park, the Skyscraper), utopian fragments (Rockefeller Center, the U.N. Building), and irrational phenomena (Radio City Music Hall)." Koolhaas interprets and reinterprets the dynamic relationship between architecture and culture in a number of telling episodes of New York’s history, including the imposition of the Manhattan grid, the creation of Coney Island, and the development of the skyscraper. Rem Koolhaas’s celebration and analysis of New York depicts the city as a metaphor for the incredible variety of human behavior. At the end of the nineteenth century, population, information, and technology explosions made Manhattan a laboratory for the invention and testing of a metropolitan lifestyle — “the culture of congestion” — and its architecture.. The spirit of this visionary investigation of Manhattan equals the energy of the city itself.
The Bride and the Bachelors
John Cage first met Marcel Duchamp in the 1940s. Duchamp asked Cage to write music for his part in Hans Richter’s film “Dreams that Money Can Buy” (1946). But it took twenty more years before the two actually became close. Cage didn’t want to bother Duchamp with his friendship until he realized that Duchamp’s health was failing. Then he decided to actively seek his company. He knew that Duchamp was taking chess very seriously, and it was easy for Cage to use this pretext, so he simply asked him to teach him the game. And for the last three years of Duchamp’s life the two men and Teeny Duchamp, the bachelor’s bride, met at least once a week and played chess.
Actually, Cage hadn’t lost every single match with Duchamp. There was one that he definitely won, after a fashion. It happened in Toronto, in 1968. Cage had invited Duchamp and Teeny to be with him on the stage. All they had to do was play chess as usual, but the chessboard was wired and each move activated or cut off the sound coming live from several musicians (David Tudor was one of them). They played until the room emptied. Without a word said, Cage had managed to turn the chess game (Duchamp’s ostensive refusal to work) into a working performance. And the performance was a musical piece. In pataphysical terms, Cage had provided an imaginary solution to a nonexistent problem: whether life was superior to art. Playing chess that night extended life into art – or vice versa. All it took was plugging in their brains to a set of instruments, converting nerve signals into sounds. Eyes became ears, moves music. Reunion was the name of the piece. It happened to be their endgame.
~ Sylvère Lotringer, “Becoming Duchamp”
The Barbican’s current Bride and the Bachelors exhibition reminded me of this post.
Greenwich, The Tudors, and Maritime History
Greenwich palace was Henry VIII’s birthplace and favourite residence. Ditto Elizabeth I, who signed Mary Queen of Scot’s death sentence here.
Henry also met Anne of Cleves for the first time on Blackheath, just up the road, where he realised she didn’t measure up to her portrait. Holbein surely made himself scarce.
The slopes below the Observatory in Greenwich park are perfect for tobogganing (in the snow).
The Queen’s house (top) was commissioned by James I for his Queen, Anne, but she died some years before Inigo Jones finished it (James was said to have given Anne the manor of Greenwich in apology for having sworn at her in public after she accidentally shot one of his dogs).
When Christopher Wren built the Royal Naval Hospital (later College), the one stipulation was that the view of the Queen’s House had to be kept clear from the river. So Wren divided his complex into two symmetrical wings with a wide gap running down the middle to the river.
And Thomas Tallis is buried under the floor of the church in the town centre. These are the things I’ve learned about my hometown in February.