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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Links - 27th February 2014

Mandarin Oriental brews storm in a teacup with promotion for men - "HONG Kong’s Mandarin Oriental hotel stirred up ridicule on Feb 7 with an afternoon-tea promotion for men based on pork pies and beef rather than dainty snacks “normally preserved for women”. The five-star hotel denied that its marketing campaign for the “Gentlemen’s Power Snack” and “Gentlemen’s Power Afternoon Tea” was sexist, but a women’s rights group heaped scorn on the language used in a press release. “The afternoon-tea ritual with delicate sandwiches and warm scones is one that is normally preserved for women,” the Mandarin’s release said. From March, however, “distinguished men will be able to meet and relax, or secure business deals over two different afternoon teas ... which have been created especially for them”, it said. “It is quite silly, as a marketing strategy, to single out certain food and beverage outlets and meals as more suitable to one sex than the other,” Annie Chan, chairwoman of the Association for the Advancement of Feminism, told AFP."
I checked and the Association for the Advancement of Feminism has not said anything about Ladies Night (which in Hong Kong is more than once a week)

Sleeping allows the brain to cleanse itself - but too much is harmful - "it turns out too much sleep is also harmful. A new study by the Centers for Disease Control Prevention (CDC) in the US links too little sleep (six hours or less) and too much sleep (10 hours or more) with chronic diseases in adults aged 45 years and older. Published in early October this year, the study involved more than 54,000 participants in 14 states in the US. Both short and long sleepers reported a higher prevalence of coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity and anxiety, compared to optimal sleepers who got seven to nine hours of shut-eye on average. In fact, for long sleepers, the association with coronary heart disease, stroke and diabetes was even stronger with more sleep... patients appeared more alert, more youthful and more attractive after sleep treatment, and objective measures of facial appearance showed less redness and puffiness."

Tokyo women call for 'sex strike' over sexist gubernatorial candidate - "A group of women in the Japanese capital are threatening a 'sex boycott' against any man who votes for Yoichi Masuzoe in this weekend's gubernatorial election, in protest at the front-runner's claim that menstruation makes women unfit for government."

Jae Starr's answer to Why do adult humans seem to regard themselves as superior to young children? - QuoraQ: I noticed that we could actually all learn from the purity, simplicity and innocent nature of these young human beings
A: What does "purity" mean in relationship to a human quality?
What does "simplicity" mean in relationship to a human quality?
Whatever is meant by "innocence" when used to describe a human quality?
Easily, I can define each of those, in relationship to a human quality, as:
Unimaginative, unable to use complex cognition and ignorant."

Female circumcision: orgasm still possible? - "When Professor Sara Johnsdotter started studying Somali women living in Sweden, she didn’t think sex would be one of their favourite topics. After all, they had no clitoris. They’d all experienced the most severe form of female genital cutting – or mutilation, as some prefer to call it. But to her surprise she found they had a very positive view of sex. They had lots of sexual pleasure, including orgasms... After all, the little bump we think of as the clitoris is actually only the tip, she points out. In fact the clitoris carries on deep inside the body. So even if the tip is cut off, there’s plenty left for stimulation... In Sweden she found that some circumcised women were more negative about sex. They were the ones who were more integrated into Swedish society, and more aware of campaigns stressing that genital cutting ruins women’s sex lives. “You have women saying, ‘I thought I was normal, I enjoyed sex with my husband, but coming here I realise that I’ve lost so much,” she says."
Self-fulfilling prophecy!

Adam4d.com - A gay person and me

An unwelcoming Malaysia Hall - Letters - "Feeling rather shocked and aghast with the way we were both being treated, my wife and I decided to leave immediately. Honestly, that episode was the only unpleasant experience we had throughout our time in London. I honestly don’t think that the counter staff at Malaysia Hall in London had so much work to do at the time of our visit that they were unable to spare a little time to help fellow Malaysians like us. My brother had posted our experience on his Facebook page to which a friend of his had replied, “Maybe they wanted your brother and his wife to feel right at home!”"
Malaysia Boleh!

How to copyright Michelangelo - "Some of the world's greatest artworks are turning into copyrighted properties.Five hundred years ago, Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Today, those images are copyrighted. How can ancient cultural icons become commercial properties, centuries after they fall into the public domain?... the worst problem with this painstaking restoration was the expense. It would cost the Vatican a fortune. They issued a call for public sponsorship, the Japanese TV network NHK stepped forward with a proposal. NHK would pay for the restoration, in return for exclusive film and publication rights. Harper's Magazine writer Eric Scigliano's 2005 report "Inglorious Restorations" asserts that NHK paid between $3 and $4 Million. The Vatican could only license the copyrights of a public domain work due to an old quirk of copyright law. The original artwork may be in the public domain, but a photograph of that artwork may be copyrighted as a new unique work. The photograph taken today becomes a new copyrighted work with new intellectual property rights. Museums often charge for photographs of works in their collection, and publication royalties provide a modest income stream to fund conservation... Corbis has recently acquired several major sole-source archives of images, such as The Bettmann Archive. Corbis offers many contemporary copyrighted photos, but it also provides copyrighted photos of old public domain works for which Corbis is the only source; this can only be considered a monopoly. Corbis has negotiated deals to purchase the exclusive rights to the entire archives of major museums across the world. The museums transfer copyrights of all their works to Corbis, and Corbis makes the images available for purchase, guaranteeing the museums a revenue stream. Corbis has yet to make a profit from these museum collections, but the museums are locked into long term contracts and they like the money."

Danish Zoo Kills Giraffe to Prevent Inbreeding - "Visitors, including children, were invited to watch while the giraffe was then skinned and fed to the lions... the public feeding of Marius' remains to the lions was popular at Copenhagen Zoo. Stenbaek Bro said it allowed parents to decide whether their children should watch what the zoo regards as an important display of scientific knowledge about animals. "I'm actually proud because I think we have given children a huge understanding of the anatomy of a giraffe that they wouldn't have had from watching a giraffe in a photo"... his zoo had turned down offers from other ones to take Marius and an offer from a private individual who wanted to buy the giraffe for 500,000 euros ($680,000). Stenbaek Bro said a significant part of EAZA membership is that the zoos don't own the animals themselves, but govern them, and therefore can't sell them to anyone outside the organization that doesn't follow the same set of rules... "I know the giraffe is a nice looking animal, but I don't think there would have been such an outrage if it had been an antelope, and I don't think anyone would have lifted an eyebrow if it was a pig," said Holst. Copenhagen Zoo doesn't give giraffes contraceptives or castrate them because that could have unwanted side effects on their internal organs, and the zoo regards parental care as important, said Holst."

The pitfalls of Jewish-Muslim dialogue - "It is well known that Islamist radicals and extremists have often sidelined moderates. Hiding behind front organisations, it can be argued that they have commandeered the leadership of the Muslim community. In the UK, for instance, the Muslim Association of Britain is the UK branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, just as Hamas is its Palestinian branch. Several organisations advocate the establishment of sharia law and the Caliphate, riding roughshod over the rights of women and minorities... Moderates in the West often find themselves without a voice. In the Middle East, they are bullied into silence or killed. As Elliot Jager explains in his article*, the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict is littered with the bodies of leaders assassinated for making peace, and moderates murdered by extremists... Shunning difficult issues, and waxing lyrical about our common humanity and fate, obviously achieves nothing. Such dialogue is bland and ineffectual. Where there is frank and fearless discussion, another problem emerges: much dialogue espouses the Arab narrative. There is Jewish guilt for so-called wrongs done to Palestinians. The fact that Arabs instigated the 1948 war against Israel is forgotten. What often happens is that Muslims advocate intransigently for their rights, while Jews debase theirs. When was the last time your dialogue group grappled with Arab and Muslim antisemitism? It's all very well to deplore Holocaust denial, but when did you hear Arab and Muslims admit to their widespread complicity in the Holocaust - let alone condemn it? When was the last time your dialogue group discussed the 850,000 Jewish refugees forced out of Arab countries through no fault of their own, and now largely resettled in Israel ? The Jewish land and assets stolen by Arab states?"

What about Jewish Nakba? - "The world only heard about the injustice causes to the Palestinian refugees, but there is almost nothing out there about the disaster suffered by the Jews expelled from Arab states, and especially from Egypt, Iraq, and Syria. A comparison between the events reveals that while the number of Palestinian refugees in 1948 totaled 650,000 people, the number of Jewish refugees from Arab countries was higher, and stood at 900,000 people (according to UNWRA.) The property which the Jews were forced to leave behind in Arab states – both private and communal assets – was of much greater value than what the Palestinians left behind in Israel, as documented by the International Court of Justice at The Hague. In fact, the Jews suffered “ethnic cleansing” in Arab states. Only a few Jews live there today. Egypt’s Jewish community, for example, comprised 90,000 Jews in 1948. Today, only 38 Jews live there. On the other hand, the Arabs (who prefer to call themselves Palestinians) who live in Israel today constitute 20% of the population... Once the Palestinians realize they were not the only ones who suffered, their sense of victimization and rejectionism will decline. Moreover, if the Jews from Arab states, who along with their descendents constitute almost half of Israel’s population today, will see that their history and their “Nakba” is being considered an integral part of the Arab-Israeli conflict, they may be willing to offer concessions for genuine peace."

Hamas: 'Arab Jews' are not refugees, but criminals

Italian politico convicted for pulling son's hair - "In finding Giovanni Colasante, 46, a local politician from Canosa di Puglia in southern Italy, guilty of assault, the court fined him 6,600 kronor ($990). Colasante was arrested on August 23rd as he and his family were about to enter a Stockholm eatery in the city's historic Gamla Stan (Old Town) district... “He lifted his son up by the hair”... Colasante's case has garnered a great deal of attention in the media in Italy, which is among the 11 EU countries without a law forbidding corporal punishment. Sweden was the first to introduce a formal ban on corporal punishment back in 1979 and a slew of countries have since followed suit. The Swedish ban has faced scrutiny and been roundly criticised in some areas of the Italian media... Of the EU's 27 member states, 16 have a law against corporal punishment. In Italy it is expressly forbidden in schools, but not in the home."

France 2012 - Day 14 - Albi: Cathedral (Part 1)

France 2012
Day 14 - 26th October - Albi: Cathedral
(Part 1)

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Toulouse SNCF Station

While waiting for my train I had a look at the Canal du Midi near the train station:

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Canal du Midi

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Directly opposite the station - between Médecins du Monde and a 3 Star Hotel, was a strip club

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Yassa: the first African restaurant I'd ever seen (I think - occasionally I'd seen them on foursquare [possibly mistagged] but never bumped into a real one). Definitely the first I'd seen in this trip. The door has a map of Africa made mostly up of country names. Somehow they ran out of country names but South Africa is not there.

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Locks

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Station with space dedicated to WWII hero
I didn't know there was fighting this far south

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Mmm

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Cannelé, Gourmandise, Mini Escargot aux Raisins, Mini Croissant
This Paul was cheaper than I recalled. Maybe because it was not in Paris.
The cannelé was spongy and spiced inside, and crispy outside.
The Gourmandise was super flaky with chocolate inside. This Paul was better than I remembered - again, maybe because it was not in Paris. Hurrah for les provinces !

I then arrived in Albi.

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Public baths
I was surprised by this and asked the lady about it. She said not everyone had a shower at home, and the homeless were especially in need of the facilities. They were free for the poorest - SDF (sans domicile fixe - without permanent habitation).

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Public bath hours. They're closed on Mondays and Sundays. So it's true what they say - the French don't bathe daily!

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"To folks from Albi who died for France"
Presumably this was not a monument to the Albigensian Crusade.

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Malroux memorial

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Rue de Verdusse

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Rue du Plancat

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I wandered into the Collégiale Saint-Salvi, "the oldest church in Albi, dedicated to Saint Salvius".

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Saint-Salvi Cloisters
The cloisters could be used as a passage between streets and also directly provided access to nearby buildings (you see one in the background)

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On the cloisters

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Windows and birds perched on brick

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On the church, which dates to the 8th/10th centuries

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Burgundian Statues

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Nave

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Altar
This is modern, from 1980. It represents the conflict between Light and Darkness in every baptised Christian and faces West.

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Possibly the first church painting I'd seen with men in wigs

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More windows

I saw a brochure about Cordes-sur-Ciel which confirmed my evaluation about it. There was a bus to Cordes-sur-Ciel from Albi but I would've had less than an hour to spend in Albi so I decided against it. The shot with sheep and the clouds looked nice, but apparently they were only there in the early morning.

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Saint-Salvi Collegiate Church

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Cathar Cake

And then I saw one of the most interesting cathedrals ever (and the sight I'd come to see):

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Albi Cathedral
Besides being built of brick (not stone) it looked like a fortress with multiple towers and small windows.
It is the largest brick building in the world

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UNESCO Plaque

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Entrance to cathedral

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Second gateway

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Detail on second gateway

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Portal

Despite its austere outside, the cathedral was richly decorated within. This was strange - it was austere without because the Cathars complained the Church was too ostentatious, yet it was so sumptuous inside. The Cathedral is unique in Europe because it's entirely painted inside, which took 4 years. The colours were very vivid but they had not been restored - they had lasted for 500 years intact.

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Organ
This is the largest Classical Organ in France - only 1/10 of the pipes are visible from here
It was turned into a Romantic Organ later but was later restored

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Richly painted side
Apparently it had the largest collection of Renaissance Italian painting in France.

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Mural of the Last Judgment
In most churches the Last Judgment is on the Western Facade but there's no West door here so it's put inside.
It's a 300 square metre fresco. They blew a hole, removing Christ and Judge and St Michael, in order to build a chapel at the foot of the bell tower.

The Last Judgment is Franco-Flemish. The rest is Italian Renaissance.

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Altar

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Choir screen
I was super amused - it was used to separate the unwashed from the rich in medieval times. Now it is used to keep out tourists who don't pay for the privilege of passing beyond it. Not that it was expensive - the transept, grand choir and audioguide were only €3 in all.
Albi is the only cathedral in France with a complete choir screen.

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Plan of cathedral

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Choir screen and ceiling
The rood (choir) screen was carved of local limestone which was soft when fresh, then hardened. It was carved to resemble ivory.
There were originally 75 statues in the choir screen but they disappeared from 1793-4 and only Adam and Eve are in their original place. The choir screen was not demolished because they built a new choir (the modern altar).

The French word for choir screen is "jubé" - because the priest would climb onto the gallery on top and say "jube, domine, benedicere".

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Organ

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Ceiling, vaulting

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Side of Choir
On the outside are Old Testament people. Inside, with their backs facing the people outside are New Testament people. This symbolism is extended to how the Old/New Testament people are placed - each corresponds to the other. At the end is Simeon - he is placed higher (above in height) and at the point of the chair, to link the old and the new.

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Judith. She has a big belly because at court the women put a pillow there.

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This should be the Axis Chapel dedicated to the Virgin and St Cecilia
They tried to kill St Cecilia thrice. The law forbade a fourth. She heard music as she was dying... so she became the patron saint of musicians and instrument makers

The Virgin and St Cecilia face each other inside the choir - they are symbolic mothers of the Church. Both were virgins; Cecilia was betrothed to a pagan despite a vow of celibacy and she converted him and many others to Christianity.

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Chapel of St Etienne

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Simeon

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Carvings and Roof

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Stained Glass

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Mural

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Choir

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Choir side

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Sanctuary doors
They are guarded by Charlemagne and Constantine (the guy with the sword on top)
In keeping with the linking of old and new figures, they associated the Lilies of France with the Lilies of Heaven (both Constantine and Charlemagne had lilies), and at the same time the Church with the Monarchy.

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Altar

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Episcopal Throne and Cathedra (Bishop's chair)

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Stained glass

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Roof

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Tomb stone

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On choir

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Choir screen
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