Borough (aka glorious food galore)

International Food Market outside Royal Festival Hall (aka 2 blocks away from the apartments… so good)

this stall was actually an american bakery in London

Camden Markets (aka an alternative universe exploding with graffiti, punk, and trinket trash)

just your average picnic tables with seats made of recycled scooters

everything was redesigned in camden.

entrance to the Camden Stables Market. Gigantic bronze horses regularly popped onto the scene.

inside the stables market- old horse stables converted into deep-set stores for selling lots and lots of junk/treasure

If all of those wonderful, eye-catching, designer intricacies are enough to get my attention. But here’s where it got really weird- kind of felt like Alice in Wonderland going down the rabbit hole…

we descended about 3 flights of warehouse stairs to get to the bathrooms... and to be greeted by an insane explosion of colors. Even in the bathrooms?! Really?

And then THIS GUY was outside the bathroom. A horoscope grim reaper. What?!?!

Right after we took this photo, the fire alarm started blasting in our ears, and, feeling like I was in the bowels of the underworld already, we slightly freaked out. Even though everyone else was pretty cool above ground, we were glad to keep moving. Apparently regular fire drills (for example, multiple times in our apartments on Friday mornings) are a thing here. The markets were massive and amazing and overwhelming. My roomie Christine and I wandered through the stalls for hours! It was a really fantastic experience.


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Back to blogging about Europe – London life

Hello y’all! I believe, after being continually inspired, day after day, in a range of dramatic fashions, that studying abroad in the city of London warrants a reinstitution of my high-falutin blogging. Thus I am returning to my rambling here, in hopes of getting something more out of my reflections on my experiences in the city.

Wednesday was particularly exciting- it began at precisely 6:02 am with my alarm. I peered out the window, (which affords a sky view of the tip of The London Eye) and London was already wide awake (if indeed it ever went to sleep) as the neon-lighted double deckers whirled by on the wrong side of the road, the neon jacketed bicyclers pedaled furiously in the opposite direction, and the walking Londoners trudged along in their uniformly black attire. (So much detail it’s ridiculous! It’s good to be back to this writing!)

And by a grace of God I got out of bed, happily strolling along the Jubilee Bridge towards Trafalgar Square, proud to be up with the early runners and an incredible amount of people but only a fraction of the traffic that would be rushing about a few hours later.

Why was I dashing off to the heart of London at such an early hour? To get tickets to view the once-in-a-lifetime Leonardo da Vinci exhibit taking place at the National Gallery – just 2 buildings down from the Notre Dame London Centre where I have my classes! The line was already wrapped around the cove inside at 6:45 am, and the queue-counter estimated that I was around #200 / 500 of the allocated tickets for the exhibit that day. You see, they only give out 500 tickets a day – the museum presold tickets in September, but they were completely out of them by October! And because the exhibition is ending this week, I knew that this was my last opportunity to see it. Surprisingly, it was warmer outside before the sun came up than after it did, when the wind picked up and the toes went numb.

But the 5 1/2 hours I spent waiting in line were quite unexpectedly happily spent chatting with an elderly, quite knowledgeable, new friend who lives on the outskirts of London. She told me all about the exhibits that I should visit while in London, having lived all over the world and having chosen to live in London, she shared a lot of family stories, political issues, cultural issues, and bits of wisdom with me. The two things that I remember her stating: “At age 70, I can say that what I enjoy is art and music, and taking long walks. Wine and nice meals are nice, but they don’t last. The real pleasures of my life have been looking, listening, and walking.” She also offered one wish for her native Chinese culture and children in general: “I wish I could teach children how to really look. Not to just take a picture of something, but to really look. It’s so important. Education is the most important thing.” This stuck with me. We live in a highly visual culture, and I do enjoy looking- like my new friend, it is one of my greatest pleasures in life. And I hope that in London I can keep honing this skill.

The Leonardo exhibit definitely challenged me to look- to have the patience to wait for the lingering crowds to shift a few paces over, to squeeze between people to get a good look at the incredibly miniscule, detailed drawings by Leonardo. I’m amazed at how flawlessly he executes his lines- how his sketches look like decorative swirls and patterns from afar, but up close, are actually detailed studies of a man’s profile. I loved the elegance of his line. The layers of his line. The softness of light on body of the infant Christ in Virgin of the Rocks. I was so thankful to see both versions of The Virgin of the Rocks – it was my main reason for going to the exhibit. It’s one of my favorite paintings of all. Highly mysterious, highly paradoxical, and remarkably unique to Leonardo’s vision and mind.

More posts (and pictures) on the markets of London soon! Cheers!

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rodin paper


A New Sense of Spirituality in the Sculpture of Rodin

            Auguste Rodin’s The Hand of God and The Cathedral both display the fragmentation of space and the human form in a way that demonstrates his revolutionary form and content in sculpture. Both sculptures portray larger-than-life hands in dramatic and impossible forms that invite the viewer to contemplate spirituality through materiality. As a man who once thought of becoming a priest, Rodin embraces the wonders of imperfect man against the Neoclassical art historical context of an idealized individual to challenge the way spirituality is portrayed in art and to achieve an intimate knowledge of human life and creation (“Early Life”).

The Hand of God, completed in 1898, is the sculpture of a giant hand that emerges from a base of rough matter and sprawls its fingers to hold a fragment of marble. Both surrounded by and hanging off the fragmented marble, a pair of lovers fits into the palm of God’s hand as they embrace in sweet contortion. Their faces are defined just well enough so that the smooth piece of marble composing their faces seems continuous; the arm of the woman extends into God’s thumb and reappears, only to disappear into the rough cloud again. Through the shared smoothness of the lovers’ bodies fitting together into the same smooth surface of God’s hand, one identifies the lovers as a unity that is of the same flesh as God himself. This graceful balance is contrasted with the rough matter, which Rodin has left clearly chiseled. The rough matter seems like an eruption of raw energy from which God’s hand emerges and from which the lovers move. In fact, it is unclear as to where the raw matter ends, for there is an odd shape around the negative space above the lovers’ heads that is neither fully formed nor chiseled raw. Yet God’s hand cradles the sexual act of creation amidst the chaos; therefore, the sculpture is both graceful and explosive.

Rodin’s formal choices to represent fragments of form and space signify his break with the Neoclassical movement of a balanced, whole, idealistic figure. By representing only the hand of God, Rodin invites the spectator to imagine the entirety of God beyond what the sculpture presents. On the other hand, Rodin’s choice to keep the rough, chiseled space in a sculptural form eliminates the need for imagination. For instance, the fragments of the lovers’ bodies disappear into the rough matter, into the marble material that is the artist’s medium. The forms gain their identity through the sculptor. Just as the Hand of God allows for the physical creation of man, the sculptor allows for the physical creation of the sculpture. Therefore, Rodin is paralleling his act of sculptural creation to God’s act of Biblical creation. Unlike the Neoclassical presentation of religious subjects in a recognizable Biblical setting, Rodin presents an anonymous physical, immediate, erotic love that is entwined with the spiritual. Instead of mere narration, Rodin’s sculpture presents the act of becoming that erases the distinction between the physical and the spiritual.

In contrast to The Hand of God’s sculptural presentation of positive space, Rodin sculpts negative space in The Cathedral. Made in 1908, The Cathedral is the gentle juxtaposition of two copies of a right hand. Though from the same cast, the hands are not formed in exact mirror images. Therefore, Rodin thought carefully about the ways in which the “hands” (which actually extend a little beyond the wrist) would mold the inner space. There are two main bodies of inner space: the upper cavity, which is more slender when viewed from outside the fingers, and the lower cavity made up of the wrist to the palm. These spaces change drastically when the spectator walks around the sculpture, which is approachable from all angles. Only sometimes can the spectator see both the upper and lower cavity. Therefore, the sculpture invites the spectator to an intimate experience of the inner space. In addition to the close examination of the piece, the spectator is also invited to raise his or her hands to imitate the gesture of prayer. Unlike The Hand of God, in which the spiritual action of procreation is not immediately accessible, the spectator may immediately respond to The Cathedral through a tactile act of imitation. The Hand of God’s composition also confuses and invites reflection on its mysterious formal balance and religious content, whereas The Cathedral seems to hold no mysteries about its composition. In all, the spectator has more familiarity with the simplicity of the action as well as the elements of the sculpture.

This simplicity, however, is deceptive, for Rodin’s presentation of modern spirituality goes further than the physical act of prayer. Unlike The Hand of God, The Cathedral’s medium in the Musée Rodin is of plaster, and no part of the sculpture is completely smooth. The plaster is covered in fingerprints, chisel marks, and circular cuts made by Rodin. Therefore, the sculpture totally presents the rough mark of the artist. While this obvious tactile element makes the spectator more familiar with the source of the sculpture, the less conspicuous act of creation is the use of a duplicate cast. Without knowing that Rodin used the same cast, the gesture of prayer looks more or less natural. Therefore, Rodin puts the spiritual into the modern, unnatural act of creation, into the technological advancements that may be used in a spiritual context. Breaking with the academic tradition of sketching, sculpting, and casting brings sculpture up to speed with modern painting by emphasizing the material as it is without reference to an idealized vision of nature. In the context of the dawn of modern mass production, Rodin’s use of multiple identical sculptures in the same work foreshadows modern movements like Pop Art and Ready-mades almost a century later. The modern reproduction aspect in which Rodin realized the hands integrates art into society, just as the gesture of prayer integrates the physical into the spiritual.

Rodin’s complete integration of matter and spirit through The Cathedral is also evident by his title. Fascinated by the gothic cathedral in Rheims on a trip in 1876, French medieval architecture becomes a source of inspiration for the rest of his career (Vincent). The gothic cathedral in Rheims engulfs a spectator with multiple layers of gothic sculpture that seems infinitely extending, even organically growing off of the front walls. The rose window also evokes the sense of an organic blossoming of a crystalized light. Perhaps the lively characteristics of Rodin’s sculpture, as seen in The Hand of God, stems from his fascination with the animated spiritual life of architecture. Although The Cathedral presents a more still image of grace in contrast with The Hand of God’s explosive vibrancy, the architectural balance is reminiscent of a cathedral. Yet again, Rodin wishes to draw a parallel between artistic creation and spiritual creation. The hands of The Cathedral are man-made and reproduced by modern technology, just as a gothic cathedral was produced by the medieval inventions of flying buttresses and arches. Sculpture, like architecture, is a material construction by man that creates a new spiritual space, and Rodin brings the grandest of spiritual works of the world into daily, modern life, of prayer and mass production.

In conclusion, both The Hand of God and The Cathedral manifest the spiritual through the physical as well as foreshadow modern sculpture. The Hand of God symbolizes God’s agency as the driving force behind the mystery of life. Just as God cradles mankind’s creation, an artist cradles his sculpture. There is both mystery and immediate presence concerning the rough matter from which these forms erupt. Rodin has marked the sculptured nothingness to indicate the mark of the artist and the materiality of form. In contrast, form takes on the negative space encompassing and within the sculpture through The Cathedral. By using a duplicate hand to create an intimate and tactile space, Rodin parallels mankind’s ability to create material wonders like gothic cathedrals with the modern industrialization that characterizes daily life in the late 19th century. As one of the first artists to embrace modern methods of artistic production, Rodin becomes a key figure in modern sculpture as well as modern painters who think about space and materials in a realistic manner. Rodin brings the spiritual to the intimate, physical levels of sexuality and prayer through his own intimate mark of the sculptor.

Works Cited

“Early Life.” The Canter Foundation. 28 June 2011. Web. <>

Vincent, Clare. “Auguste Rodin (1840–1917).” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. 28 June 2011. Web. <;

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au revoir, paris

Paris was left behind, but not forgotten, what seems like very long ago, and the blog was left unfinished. Thanks to everyone who shared as much of the adventure as I could filter through the blog by following it. And thank you very much, Paris, and Notre Dame, for giving me all you had to offer this summer.

Here’s a few snapshots of the program’s last journeys.

Le manekin piss, the icon of brussels, reproduced more splendidly than the original in a belgian chocolate store window.

Monet's gardens, the inspiration for the water lilies paintings. It really was like a dream.

The view from Paris from Centre Pompidou, one of my favorite art museums in Paris. Sacre Coeur rises from the right on the horizon.

My roommate and I treated ourselves to the best hot tea in the world at this Parisian mosque's cafe. The back was covered with tents and little birds.

While my final history paper was on Hemingway's A Moveable Feast, my last art history paper was on Rodin's The Cathedral...

... and The Hand of God. Beyond beautiful.

One last anecdote, and I’ll close the adventure.

On the last full day of enjoying Paris, my  friend Mara and I lived it up- world famous hot chocolate at Angelina’s, followed by a swirling view of Paris from the swings in the Tuileries gardens, and a few glasses of wine and beer on tap at Le Baron Rouge wine bar.

We picked up souvenirs, jumped on the metro, walked to the Bastille, jumped back on the metro for Laduree macarons, and walked some more, till we met up with the class and the prof for a final farewell dinner.

Though I was nostalgic about leaving the tight-knit kind of family so quickly pushed together, I was more excited and yearning to get back home where I belonged. Never had I been so bent on making a flight in my life. Never have I looked so forward to returning to school in my life. I cannot wait to start a new semester at Notre Dame, a place where I finally feel that I can truly and proudly call my home.

But I’ve always been a nomad, from transferring schools to living off-campus and on-campus, from transferring dorms to roaming the globe. “Chin chin” to Europe, until London study abroad in 2012! Merci et au revoir!

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exploring the underground: caves of skulls and bottles

Am I really still in Paris? Above ground, people are chatting across cafe tables, arguing with the cashier about their grocery bills, and ignoring the homeless. Just bellow – just a few blocks away from our classroom – 6 million skulls lay packed against the walls of the underground tunnels – Paris’ catacombs. I was totally unaware of this, standing in the sunshine along Denfert Rochereau with my friends. Just behind us is the Denfert Rochereau tollhouse, which we knew better as Cafe Oz, the mega-Australian-bar/club. We descended the ever-familiar Parisian spiral stairs, which led to dropping temperatures and dark tunnels. I kept expecting to see skulls at my eye level as I rounded a corner. Fortunately the presentation was prefaced with a note of precaution to respect the dead.

Arrête, c’est ici l’empire de la Mort.

Stop, this is the empire of Death.

Whoah. As my roomie says, this is a little LOTR Dead men of Dunharrow

Unfortunately, these creepy barricaded paths of darkness did keep popping up unexpectedly, and my imagination was worse than the bones. Maybe. I’m not sure. I was honestly stunned at the massive piles in a single “room.”

Just lying there. Undistinguished. Individuals defaced.

There were architectural designs that slowed me, there were short philosophical and religious phrases in French carved periodically, and there were altars that transformed the area into a crypt. But my mind was both numbed and disturbed at the infinitely numbered nothingness- and then disturbed again at the graffiti on one skull, on the graffiti upon exiting that dated from the 18th century, and especially because I paid to be a tourist of a sacred place. Isn’t it supposed to be sacred? Do I desecrate when I walk through cemeteries? But I’m remembering fondly the preciousness of life when I walk through cemeteries. In the catacombs, I’m entering an amusement ride. I don’t deserve to look at a single person’s skull. It’s too intimate.

So maybe I’m thinking too much about this, maybe I can’t separate the material from the spirit, or get over the fact that everyone dies, or something. But still. Eerie. My roomie said she saw a skull lying on the security guard’s desk when we had to open our bags upon exiting. And there was a skull souvenir shop across the street. Why do we think we can steal or purchase death? Where is the respect for life?

Yellow. please copy and paste:

The next day, we took a day trip to Reims – the Champagne region. Another touristy attraction that took us underground. Apparently, the Romans dug quarries for chalk and limestone in the 3rd century, and then the monks at some much later date used the tunnels to connect to the cathedral of Reims, which is, like almost every cathedral in France seen thus far, called Notre Dame.

Every time I am faced with a new gothic cathedral, I cannot believe how magnificent the building is. This particular cathedral’s facade was incredibly ornate with gothic statues; the pointed archways inside were just tall enough to cap off my line of vision so that I felt drawn upwards into heaven; the medieval stained glass in the rosette windows were lovely hues of purple and rose.

I still prefer Cologne’s Dom… but I’m pretty biased about that. (But hey, isn’t that why you’re reading my blog? To know about my biases?)

Anyway, the champagne. The ironic descent into French caves. Instead of skulls, it was bottles of wine.

Our guide was American. I hope that he finds a better calling in life. Tour guiding is not his thing, and he knows it. His phony voice pretended like he was as legit as he looked in his suit. Once I had heard about “the family business kept for generations” and the “unique to the Tattinger family name” phrases about five times in the preliminary video, I was done. By the time we ascended the spiral staircase back up to the “mod” tasting room and were presented with a wall that listed all the names of the countries to which Tattinger exports their champagne to, my patience and eye-rolling was gone. Then they gave us what we came for: one glass of champagne. Even though the champagne was nice, the real highlight of the tour was a little british baby who kept sticking his hands in the bottles.

My roomie again used the perfect word to describe the entire affair: pretentious.

Despite my negative reflections on these experiences, I’m still having a lotta fun actually experiencing. What’s amazing is how different and how similar everything can be… caves for bones, caves for champagne. Caves for monks, caves for Romans. Tollhouses for taxing, tollhouses for raiding. Tollhouses for train stations, tollhouses for clubbing. How easy it is to forget why things exist in the first place.

Yeah, I’m thinking about Morality and Modernity / MacIntyre. (Or maybe just Peter?) Still.


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Happy Birthday Gabs!

YouTube – Patrick Star: Happy Happy Birthday to you!.

Happy 17th birthday to my crazy lil sista!


i love ya crazy coot!

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annecy is a collection of random loves

I will number the collection in chronological order of discovery:

1. calm, clear water

2. Mini golf. In honor of Peter.

3. International Animation Film Festival 2011. YES.

3. Canals through the town

4. arched alleyways, gas lamp lights, and ice cream stands

5. outdoor concert = sweet. house music = hilarious. “so black” – big ali and bob sinclair.

6. mountains touch lake and sky

Just snippets of the beginning of our journey further and further to the heart of my European paradise.

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