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In the moment, I watched, transfixed, gut-punched, as flames colored the smoky nimbus with an infernal glow. The incandescent spire bent, toppled over, and fell, a spear of fire hurled into the breaking heart of Paris. My mind burned with the revelation:

This is how immortals die.

Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris had always been there, a fixture of wonderment, awesome, a masterpiece of stone and lead, wood and glass. She was eternal, a legend shrouded in the mists of a different age, a goddess standing tall in the world of men. It had never occurred to me that she could be harmed, that she could die.

But the sight before me said otherwise. As timbers collapsed, as The Forest of attic timbers, each as old as memory, burned hot and bright, as the conflagration spread down transept and nave, I could only think:

She is gone.

In the aftermath, we learned that not all was lost, that the stone vaults beneath the timbered roof had only failed where the spire had pierced them. The limestone of walls, columns, buttresses, and arches, though crumbling at the edges, had stood firm. Even most of the window glass had survived the heat.

I was a reluctant Roman Catholic as a child, converted to Judaism in my youth, spent decades in agnostic dilemma, and now live a religiously unfettered life as a staunch atheist, and yet . . .

And yet, the cathedral means something to me. She is more than just an icon, a symbol of Catholicism, a relic of a darker age. She is a thing of unutterable beauty. She is the embodiment of the human capacity for aspiration and genius, discipline and devotion, a reflection of the divine within us all. Though it will be decades before she is restored, we will some day be able to once more walk the cruciform aisles beneath her soaring stone.

She is immortal still.

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Dragons AheadSome folks are going to find this post offensive.

I don’t frakking care.

In the days following the attacks on Paris, social media had two major reactions. The first (and fastest) was the predictable xenophobic rants against Islam, Muslims, and refugees. These are the now-standard spoutings of eentsy-minded fear-mongers who don’t like anyone unlike themselves and who use any excuse to close ranks and point their lily-white fingers at “the other.” These racist tirades were met with strong opposition from almost every quarter–in Paris itself, here in America, and online as well–and except for the rabid right-wingnuts, they have for the most part subsided from the social sphere.

The second, slower, and longer-lasting response was a series of “How dare you?” memes directed not at the perpetrators of these unconscionable attacks, but at people expressing their sorrow, sympathy, and solidarity with Paris. “How dare you?” these trolls demanded. “How dare you feel outrage over an attack on Paris when there have been attacks in Beirut and Baghdad, when Burundi officials have killed citizens, when over a hundred people were killed in Kenya?” These social memes are designed for one purpose: to shame us cheeky bastards who dare to express our sadness, grief, anger, or outrage regarding the events in Paris. These holier-than-thou bullies find my outrage offensive simply because I am not outraged enough. My outrage didn’t match their outrage, and I therefore deserved to be put in my place.

My response: Shut the frak up. (more…)

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If I told you I watched a movie about an old man, a young woman, and Paris, entitled Last Love, you might very well think it was a reboot of Last Tango in Paris.

And you would be wrong. This movie is not that. No, not that at all.

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Another installment from my April 2011 travelogue.

In which we watch some sport, my wife goes to sleep in one country and awakens in another, and I take very few pictures.

la Arene de Lutece

09:  One Last Night, then A New Day, a New Country

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Another installment from my April 2011 travelogue.

In which we see a Big Thing, buy some tea, and find the unchurchiest church in Paris.

le Arc de Triomphe - Close-up

08: This Must be Paris

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Another installment from my April 2011 travelogue.

In which we see the smiling lady, tsk at Huguenots, and buy a book.

Interior Gallery

07:  The Big Cahuna

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Another installment from my April 2011 travelogue.

In which I impart some travel tips, some bells are rung, and we go people-watching amongst the locals.

Ste Clotilde

06:  Lessons Learned and a Quiet Day

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