At the end of the day, it still stood. We had resigned ourselves to rubble, but it still stood.
The following may seem trite and uselessly meta, as if the way in which we experience a distant event has any eventual bearing on the matter itself, but in a wired world it is interesting to note how things evolve. 9/11 was experienced through TV. We saw it happen, and we never left the TV set. After everything had happened we still watched the TV, as if turning it off would be like erasing the last voice message from a dead friend. This time I saw the event on TV first - I was walking down the stairs with a cup of coffee from the galley, looked at the monitor, and said a profane word out loud, to my surprise. Out of nowhere, this - no news story about “smoke near Notre Dame raises concerns” or “plumes seen from construction site repairing the famous landmark” or anything like that. A widescreen TV showed the cathedral ablaze.
I could have gone back to my desk and found a live feed, but there was something hopeless and impotent about just watching it burn. Twitter was the place - a crowd of people gathered in a consensually imagined square, weeping or raging or worrying or, in some hideous cases, jesting and taunting. (I swear there’s always one person I know who makes a joke at a time like this and it just makes me chew my cheek red; there was a fellow who made a crack on 9/11 and I didn’t speak to him for about 14 years.)
A firefighter made a thread about the difficulties and logistics of a blaze like this. Someone else discussed cathedral reconstruction. Others added history lessons to note that it had seen hard times before. Now and then a new video; then the fall of the spire, one of those moments that makes you feel all is lost, and instantly tell yourself that it isn’t. It can’t be. It never is. But for a moment, it seems that the worst has now begun.
I told myself that’s not the original spire, but still.
In 1793, during the French Revolution, the cathedral was rededicated to the Cult of Reason, and then to the Cult of the Supreme Being. During this time, many of the treasures of the cathedral were either destroyed or plundered. The twenty-eight statues of biblical kings located at the west façade, mistaken for statues of French kings, were beheaded.
The cult of the Supreme Being, which made Unitarians look like Quakers.
The primary principles of the Cult of the Supreme Being were a belief in the existence of a god and the immortality of the human soul. Though not inconsistent with Christian doctrine, these beliefs were put to the service of Robespierre's fuller meaning, which was of a type of civic-minded, public virtue he attributed to the Greeks and Romans. This type of virtue could only be attained through active fidelity to liberty and democracy. Belief in a living god and a higher moral code, he said, were "constant reminders of justice" and thus essential to a republican society.
Also killing lots of people who really deserved it, but once they’d finished killing all the right people, it would be virtue galore.
Anyway. A WaPo opinion writer’s piece is headlined Notre Dame Cathedral will rise again. But it will never be the same.
It never was the same.
"Yet we also like its oldness," he wrote. "Old buildings symbolize the notion that not everything must end."
Well, not in our lifetimes, anyway. Notre Dame is not immortal; it will fall some day. Remember - the Paris everyone loves is not the ancient Paris, but the result of a decision to raze the diverse buildings and impose a standard style. The traditionalists at the time lamented the loss of old authentic Paris, and sneered at the indistinguishable structures. We love them, because it gave the city a cohesive beauty we rarely associate with top-down planning.
In short, there is little of merit in Paris that was born of Egalitie. What we admire came from the other two words in the triad.
||The Cult of Reason is still with us, under the guise of Scientism. I’m all for Science. Rah science. I’m also for space exploration, which requires extra-hard Science. But.
Those who hate the remnants of the past as impediments to the virtuous future they are certain we can build are the most likely to tear down everything that stands between themselves as the guillotine. Ask Robespierre.
A minute’s meditation, cobbled together tonight from the 2016 trip.
It’s 196 - well, you know.
The tagline, "Enjoy the Best America Has to Offer," was seen in the Mad Men opening credits. Because of haunting irony.
There wasn’t a good World’s Far after the mid-sixties. This one has a unique status, because it was built on the bones of the 39-40 Fair, and there are many people who have childhood memories full of awe and happiness. And the architecture was . . . unique.
More here, if you haven’t ever thought “is there a site on lileks.com about the 60s? For that matter, is he working on a project that will include all the decades of the 20th century except the 90s because that one needs no compilations yet, at least in the spirit of this entire enterprise?” Because yes.
The big spooky hand was all over the ads in the 50s and 60s.
As you might imagine, it’s changed its name. Mergers, acquisitions, the usual.
I'd link to details, but who in the name of God cares.
It is a Squirt Offer
You’ll get . . . citrus!
Oh . . . citrusy citrus!
Great! I love orange juice.
It’s . . . it’s not that.
What is it?
C’mon, do you have to ask?
What it is. It’s from Squirt.
Wikipedia: “In the 1950s, it became commonly used as a mixer used in cocktails."
I can see why. The page also says it’s about 1% Grapefruit juice. It’s one of my favorites, and I always think oh yeah, I like Squirt when the topic comes up. But I never have any on hand. Ever.
Another example of the Profiles in Smoking ads.
Richard Gail died in 2014 at the age of 92. He sounds interesting.
A Toledo native, Richard graduated from Libbey High School, and received a degree in English literature from Bowling Green State University, playing on both their football teams. He served his country with distinction during World War II in the War Orientation Department of the U.S. Navy.
As a 38-year-employee of the Champion Spark Plug Company, he began as Technical Writer before assuming the position of Director of the Racing Division, which he held for 20 years. In that capacity, Richard maintained offices in Toledo, Long Beach, and at the Daytona International Speedway and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. At its peak, his work involved covering a total of 40 races in the U.S. and abroad, dealing not only with cars, but boats, motorcycles, snowmobiles and airplanes. His on-the-ground expertise took him to the fabled Formula One raceways at Le Mans in France, Hockenheim in Germany, and Monza in Italy.
Richard’s unsurpassed professional expertise was matched by a remarkable, often bemused, curiosity about current ideas and events, a quality he passed on to his children, who cherish his devotion to their family. Among his children’s fond memories of their father were his astonishing somersaults off the high-dive, his ever-increasing trove of raincoats and briefcases, and his reliably witty take on the world around him.
There are a few with that name, but nothing quite works.
Women in that profession had a certain austere authority, no?
Robert E. Peay died in 2017 at the age of 82.
From his obit:
Mr. Peay had served with the 101st Airborne as a Tank Commander in the US Army. He later worked 21 years as a police officer for Montgomery County, during which time he received his Associates Degree from the University of Maryland, and became the youngest detective employed by the county. He also was a volunteer Fireman for the Silver Springs Fire Department, a commercial printer, commercial pilot, and real estate broker. He was a member of St. John Neumann and a loving father to his children.
Soon came new mod styles of advertising, and things started to swing. Whether it was an improvement is a matter for debate.
Let's drop in on the far-away yet oh-so-relatable world of 1916, as seen through the work of Clare Briggs. See you around.