Tuesday, August 4, 2009

"Dark Annie" Chapman and the Town Pants

On September 8, 1888, Annie Chapman, also known as "Dark Annie," was found at 29 Hanbury Street, murdered and mutilated, one of the victims of the infamous Jack the Ripper. In life she had worked as a prostitute to make ends meet after the death of her husband. She was given to spending much of what she made on drink and only the last few pence on a room for the night. On the night of her murder, in need of the money for a bed, she had attempted to solicit a client, possibly from the nearby Ten Bells Pub (which is still in existence today) and may well have chosen the wrong man. She was 47 years old and ailing. She might not have lived much longer anyway, due to the state of her health, but her life was cut brutally short by London's most notorious serial killer.

The Town Pants, a Canadian band with an Irish sound, chose Annie Chapman as the subject of one of their songs. I wrote to them to ask if I could use this song as the background for this photo story, and they very graciously granted me permission to do so. "Dark Annie" can be downloaded from iTunes, along with their other great songs. One of the things I like about this band, aside from the fact that their music is just fun to listen to, is that they choose such unusual subject matter. In addition to this song about Jack the Ripper, there are "Hell's Kitchen," about Typhoid Mary; "Mr. Valentine's Dead," about a man who loves to party so much he can't bring himself to leave his own wake; "Rum Runner," about a woman who is waiting for her captain to come back, but also making alternate plans just in case; and "Unidentified Friend," about a man whose life is changed dramatically -- or maybe not -- when his picture appears in the paper next to a beautiful celebrity, to name a few. And you have to love a band with this line in one of their songs: "I got plastered in Paris!"

This photo story is in wmv format, 8.88 MB, and runs for 5:01 minutes.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Podcast Revisited

Now that I am back in Florida with fairly reliable Internet connections, I have redone my podcast on Famous British Murderers using PhotoStory 3 so that I could embed it in my blog. This file is 4.41 minutes long, in wmv format, and 2.61 MB.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A Jumble of Joyful Jobs

While traveling around the streets of London, Oxford, and Paris, I saw some very interesting occupations being performed. Here is a small selection of some of the positions that are available to enterprising folks. From the Royal Guardsmen to an itinerant juggler who was just trying to earn five pounds (probably to get himself a pint), they presented an intriguing tapestry of various types of employment. Just in case nobody's hiring librarians when I graduate, it gives me something to think about.

This video is in wmv format and is 97 mb, according to the information on my computer. It took about ten minutes to load, even here in the States. It's length is 3:05 minutes.

Multimedia Design, London and Paris, 2009

Click here to view this photo book larger

Here are a few of the many, many photos I took on this trip. It was very difficult to make the selections. Click on "Click here to view this photo book larger," then "View photo book."

Trip Motto: "Mind the Gap."

Recurring Photo Theme: Lion Monuments - Parliament, Trafalgar Square, Oxford, the British Museum, Highgate Cemetery, the Louvre, and the Lion of Belfort (copy) in front of the Catacombs (and there were a few others that didn't make it into the photo book).

Photo Emphasis:

*Stonehenge - Focusing on small point in foreground

*Salisbury Cathedral - Photo of building from unusual angle

*Trafalgar Square - Motion from a stationary position; sepia photo

*Oxford - Unusual signs

*British Museum - Duplicating another photo

*Regent's Park - Macro setting for flowers

*Abbey Road - Unusual angle

*Hyde Park - Reflections, repeat patterns, Stop-action water

*St. Pancras Station - Vertical and horizontal studies of same image

*Eiffel tower - Night setting

*The Louvre - Unusual angle of statue, reflections

*Epernay - French countryside, motion shot and 1600 ISO setting

*Catacombs - contrasts

*Pere Lachaise - Black and white (with a splash of color)

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace

This is a brief example of the pomp and circumstance that goes with the changing of the guard in front of the Queen's residence at Buckingham Palace. We viewed this procession with our Blue Badge guide Hugh. I'm experimenting with different video formats so that I can begin working on my movie assignment. This file began as an MVI/AVI, went to WMV, and is now an MP4. It is 3.55 mb.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

How French Frog Came to Be in France

This is the story of how French Frog came to stow away in a suitcase and make the journey to England and France this summer. He is happy to be home now, but he did have a wonderful time taking in all the things to see in both countries and mingling with Shaun and Troy and all the other mascots. I don't know if this is significant, but I did find the phone book open to travel agents this morning...

This file is a Windows Media Audio/Video file, wmv, 8.18 mb. It is 4:59 minutes long.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Notre-Dame, a Deportation Memorial, and a Farewell Dinner, a Time to Remember

This was our last day in Paris. It was strange to know we would be separating so soon. The three weeks that seemed like a long time on our first day in London have flown by. Laurie, Connie, and I visited the home and museum dedicated to Victor Hugo in the morning. He resided for a number of years within walking distance of our hotel. Inside the museum are replicas of a room he decorated for his wife in Oriental style and another he decorated for his mistress, who was more appreciative of his interior design talents. His writing desk is made to be written at while standing up! He was exiled for a time because of his political beliefs, so in his day he was a radical.

Inside the Victor Hugo Museum/Home

Victor Hugo's writing desk. It is made for standing up to write.

In the afternoon we visited Notre-Dame Cathedral, famous for its antiquity (begun in the 1100's), its stained glass windows, flying buttresses, and gargoyles (and even for its hunchback, among literary fans). It is truly a marvel of engineering and very beautiful and majestic.

The famous flying buttresses of Notre-Dame

A beautiful stained glass window

One of the many gargoyles who live at Notre-Dame

Behind the cathedral is a Memorial to the 200,000 Jewish Martyrs of the Deportation. During World War II, many Jews were rounded up by the Germans in France, as elsewhere, and transferred to concentration camps. The Vichy government tried to shield its French-born Jews as well as it could, and most of those transported from France had been born elsewhere. The village of Le Chambon Sur Lignon, in the mountains of southern France, is famous for its role in saving 5,000 Jews, many of them children, by hiding them and smuggling them to safety. The 3,000 people who lived there risked their lives daily to help their fellow countrymen because it was "the right thing to do." Yet many still died, and the Memorial includes a wall of 200,000 glass pearls, one for each person who was deported. The inscription states: "Forgive --but do not forget."

A part of the Memorial

The wall of pearls, 200,000, one for each deportee

The afternoon saw us boating down the Seine for a tour of the historic sites from the water. Then we went to a delicious farewell dinner, where we were serenaded by two handsome gentlemen for the entire evening. It was a moment for looking back at the good times we have shared and for looking forward to new adventures abroad or going home. It has truly been a marvelous three weeks.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Cemetery Effects

A "street" in Pere Lachaise

A weeping figure mourns the one buried here

Monuments of every style and shape

All the way up the hill are monuments-A study in black and white

Today is Bastille Day, when the French celebrate their independence from the tyranny of the aristocracy with a holiday air and fireworks in the evening. We spent the morning at Pere Lachaise Cemetery, where the vaults are all above ground. It is laid out like a little city, with streets, street signs, stairs going up to higher levels, and covers quite a bit of area. The coloring is mostly in various shades of black, white, and grey, with a little greenery splashed about here and there. Our photography focus for today was just that, black and white with a splash of color. We spent some time here hunting for the graves of Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde, and Proust. Jim Morrison's grave is sprinkled with flowers; Oscar Wilde's, with kisses.

In the afternoon we saw the famous Sacre-Coeur Church (from a distance, as there was a huge crowd surrounding it), then spent several hours wandering through the surrounding neighborhood of Montmartre. Among other things, we bought some interesting artwork and saw the outside of the house at No. 54 rue Lepic where Vincent Van Gogh and his brother once shared an apartment. We walked to the Cimetiere de Montmartre, which is very similar to Pere Lachaise with its above ground vaults. Emile Zola is buried here. We also saw a number of feral cats about the place. Then back to the hotel for a Thai dinner and listening to fireworks in the distance.

A cat at the Cimetiere de Montmartre

This wall in a little Montmartre park says "I love you" in 311 languages (maybe more, as visitors have added their own inscriptions).

A lavender seller at Montmartre

What beautiful fruit!

No. 54 rue Lepic is where Vincent Van Gogh and his brother once lived

Monday, July 13, 2009

A Day in the French Countryside with Wine

The wine celler looks a lot like the catacombs, only with higher ceilings and bottles instead of bones.

Today was a lovely, sunny day, and we had a great time with a tour of a French winery. We headed out of Paris by train and rode through the countryside, seeing quaint little villages along the way. Epernay is a beautiful town with a picturesque church and lots of shops and restaurants. We all had lunch at a pizzeria, and then we had an hour to explore the town before heading to the winery. I stumbled upon a small park with very colorful flowers and a town square with a fountain. Then we met at the winery for the tour. We were given a history of the Moet-Chandon family. It turns out Dom Perignon was a real person who discovered how to make wine effervesce, thus discovering the secret of champagne. We learned how the wine is actually a mixture of three different kinds of grapes and how they add yeast and sugar. The way the sediment is removed is quite fascinating. The bottles are turned upside down and rotated slowly every day for six weeks by hand (okay, some are done by machine, but some are still done the traditional way). Then the top of the bottle containing the sediment is frozen. When the cap is taken off the bottle, the pressure inside built up from the fermentation pops out the frozen sediment. Then more wine is added to fill the bottle, and it is aged some more. The tour culminated in a wine tasting event with both white and rose and ended up in the gift shop! This trip is easily one of the highlights of our stay in France. Tomorrow is Bastille Day, and tonight there is a free concert on the square down the road. We walked down the street to check it out.

French Frog waits patiently for his tour of the Moet-Chandon Winery.

He says it was well worth the wait.

The little park nearby held beautiful flowers

Sunday, July 12, 2009


Today we toured Versailles, the beautiful palace of King Louis XIV. Known as the Sun King, he liked to have everything decorated. Thus, wherever you look at Versailles, from the ceilings to the walls to the doors, etc., all is covered in gold, detailed carvings, magnificent paintings, etc. This must be one of the most ornate palaces in Europe. The most amazing room of all is the Hall of Mirrors, which has windows on one side overlooking the beautiful gardens and matching mirrors on the other. In the middle are chandeliers to reflect the light of thousands of candles. We also saw the royal bedrooms, complete with splended tapestries. It is a wonder the royal family didn't get lost with so many rooms to explore. King Ludwig of Bavaria patterned a room in his palace at Linderhoff after the Hall of Mirrors, and his plan was to make it the German version of Versailles. Both palaces are beautifully ornate, and both are surrounded by luxurious gardens, but the German palace is dwarfed by the size of Versailles.

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