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kottke.org posts about Paris

The just-released Michelin restaurant guide for Tokyo

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 21, 2007

The just-released Michelin restaurant guide for Tokyo awards more stars to that city’s restaurants than New York and Paris put together. And 8 get a 3-star rating, only 2 fewer than in Paris.

Tokyo has more restaurants - at least 160,000 that could be classified as proper “restaurants” - than almost any other urban centre. Paris, by comparison, has little more than 20,000 and New York about 23,000.

There’s a lot of handwringing about Tokyo restaurants getting so many stars, but to look at it another way, Paris has 8 times fewer restaurants and has more 3 stars than Tokyo. Not bad.

(via marginal revolution)

Museum cities

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 19, 2007

On the SuperSpatial blog, Martin Gittins reviews a TV series on Venice, Italy, “the city destroyed by its own beauty”.

With the indigenous population dwindling to less than 50,000, and the oldest average age in Europe, da Mosto worries for the future of the city, as he brings his children up in what has become essentially a theme park for the hordes of visitors that cross the bridge link into the city, or pull up in the huge cruise ships that stop-over in Venice.

The danger for a city as a theatre or theme-park is that it becomes a stage set, a backdrop. This inevitably treats citizens as actors, there for others amusement. This leads to a simulated city as Baudrillard would have it, a city of the hyperreal as Umberto Eco might tell us. What happens when the audience is not there?

I’ve never visited Venice, but Paris shares some of the same traits. Obviously Paris is a large cosmopolity with much more than tourism going on, but the central tourist part of the city always feels a lot like a museum to me, moreso than other large cities I’ve visted. The city is simultaneously Paris — the capital of France, host to international corporations, home to an increasingly diverse 2.1 million people, cultural center — and also Ah, Paris™, an experience comprised of a certain style of architecture, cafes spilling out into tiny streets, romantic walks along the Seine, the French waiter, macaroons, the Notre Dame, les bouquinistes, baguettes, etc. That the two identities coexist in the same space and time, one within the other (Paris as cultural hypercube?), creates the potential for some real cognitive dissonance for the frequent tourist or long-term visitor attempting to straddle both worlds.


posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 18, 2007

With its latest film, Pixar manages to achieve something that few other big Hollywood films do these days: a convincing reality. The body language & emotions of the characters, the machinations of the kitchen, the sights and sounds of Paris, and the dice of the celery, Ratatouille gets it all right, down to the seemingly insignificant details. As we walked out of the movie, my wife, who has spent time cooking in restaurants (with Daniel Boulud, even), couldn’t stop talking about how well the movie captured the workings of the kitchen. To be sure, a G-rated kitchen but a true kitchen nonetheless.

I’m not quite sure how this is possible, but the people in Ratatouille acted more like real people than the actors in many recent live action movies (especially the rats), like they had realistic histories and motivations that governed their actions instead of feeling scripted and fake. The world of the movie felt as though it had existed before the opening credits and would continue after the curtain fell. Systems that have arisen through years, decades, centuries, millennia of careful evolution and interplay with one another were represented accurately and with care. In The Timeless Way of Building, Christopher Alexander writes of the quality without a name:

There is a central quality which is the root criterion of life and spirit in a man, a town, a building, or a wilderness. This quality is objective and precise, but it cannot be named. The search which we make for this quality, in our own lives, is the central search of a person, and the crux of any individual person’s story. It is the search for those moments and situations when we are most alive.

Pixar’s search for this quality in the making of Ratatouille is impressive. And in a way, necessary. In order to draw the audience into the film and make them forget that they’re watching animated characters in an animated world, the filmmakers need to get everything right. Motions too exaggerated, motivations glossed over, plot too uncoordinated, and the whole thing loses its sense of authenticity. People need to act like people, omelettes need to sag off of spatulas like omelettes, and the only woman chef in a haute cuisine French kitchen needs to behave accordingly.

This is an interesting state of affairs. In comparison, the live action movies have become the cartoons. Not all of them, but certainly many Hollywood movies have. Spidey 3, Transformers (I’m guessing), Die Hard 4 (guessing again), anything Eddie Murphy has made since the mid-80s, Wild Hogs, Blades of Glory, RV, etc. etc. I could go on and on. So what are we to make of a cartoon that seems more real than most live action movies? How about we stop thinking of them as cartoons or kids movies or animated films and start considering them as just plain movies? I’d put Pixar’s five best films — Toy Story 2, The Incredibles, Finding Nemo, Ratatouille, and let’s throw Brad Bird’s The Iron Giant in for good measure — among the best big budget films made in the last 10 years, no caveats required.

Oh, and I don’t want to give away the ending, but I will say that Ratatouille also has something to say about critics and criticism, a topic that’s currently under debate in foodie circles and has been discussed many times in different areas of the blogosphere. It almost seems as though the film’s message is aimed partially at bloggers, and for those that care to listen, that message is both encouraging and enlightening.

More photography from Gerald Panter. For the

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 24, 2006

More photography from Gerald Panter. For the past 10 years, Panter has been rephotographing scenes previously photographed by Eugene Atget. Sophie Tusler and another group from USF have done similar projects. Nice panoramas too.

Food economics: adjusted for inflation, the price

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 13, 2006

Food economics: adjusted for inflation, the price of a luxury meal in Paris has risen by 216% since 1950, but nonluxury food prices have fallen.

Why is bread in Paris better than

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 20, 2006

Why is bread in Paris better than that in the US? Good discussion in the comments.

Video of a Ferrari driving through the

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 02, 2005

Video of a Ferrari driving through the streets of Paris at up to 140 MPH, running stop lights, going the wrong way up one-way streets, and generally being insane.

How to make X-wing fighters (from Star

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 20, 2005

How to make X-wing fighters (from Star Wars) out of Paris Metro tickets. I gotta try this…I’ve got about a zillion of these laying around because they make great bookmarks.

Photos of Paris by Eugene Atget, as

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 03, 2005

Photos of Paris by Eugene Atget, as well as contemporary versions for comparison.

Subway typography

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 13, 2005

Typography of the Paris Metro, NYC Subway, and the London Underground.

Ephermeral cities (SF, Paris, Berlin, NYC) provide

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 12, 2005

Ephermeral cities (SF, Paris, Berlin, NYC) provide alternative lifestyles to “nonfamilies and the nomadic rich”. “To retain an important role in the future, a city needs upwardly mobile people whose families and businesses identify them with a place. A great city is more about clean and workable neighborhoods, thriving business districts, and functioning schools than massive cultural buildings or hipster lofts.”

Coffee in Paris sucks?

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 17, 2005

Coffee in Paris sucks?. I don’t drink coffee myself (vile, vile stuff), but I’ve never heard anything bad about the coffee in Paris, aside from the complaint of some Americans that you can rarely get it to go.

I’m honored that the excellent File Magazine

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 25, 2005

I’m honored that the excellent File Magazine has added my photo of the man by the fountain in the Jardin des Tuileries to their collection.

Review of L’Atelier du Robuchon in Paris

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 17, 2005

Review of L’Atelier du Robuchon in Paris.

Rephotographing Eugene Atget’s photos of Paris

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 08, 2003

Rephotographing Eugene Atget’s photos of Paris. I wanted to do this someday.