London Art Deco: Channel Your Inner Hercule Poirot

If you are a Hercule Poirot fan (the TV series), then you have felt those wonderful clean lines of art deco.  You might be interested to learn that the style came of age after the 1925 Paris Exhibition and was all the rage in London up to the second war.  You can do guided tours in London focusing on the art deco buildings and decoration. The Telegraph has a nice list of the “best” art deco you can find. I was struck by this image

Eltham Palace, Eltham</p> <p>In 1933, a wealthy American couple named Stephen and Virginia Cortauld acquired Eltham Palace, the ruined childhood home of Henry VIII. They set about restoring the remaining parts of the palace and created an elaborate home with sumptuous art deco interiors to live in themselves. This is the extravagant entrance hall, with domed glass roof and curved wood-lined walls.

And after your tour, a cocktail at the Beaufort Bar at the Savoy

And now we have a new hotel in Mayfair sporting an art deco exterior, the Beaumont.

Cooking: Braised Duck Breast with Cauliflower Puree

Last night I was inspired to try something new by this recipe for “mashed cauliflower with goat cheese”. I thought this would make a nice base for braised duck breast.

The whole thing came together pretty nicely. The cauliflower puree is lighter than I expected. I  added some yoghurt  which I think was essential. But next time I would go further still with a bit more potato and some creme fraiche or sour cream.  Duck breast is rather dense, so braising is the way to go, I think. I used a red vermouth braise with onions and cherry tomatoes.

Tomorrow I will be fooling around with a spaghetti recipe form Saveur – Spaghetti with anchovy garlic sauce.

Rachel Maddow: A New Phrase “Dictator Detritus”

Rachel has been pretty direct about  her uneasiness about the US using force to get its way in the world. But she also is pretty direct about the abuses of power that we have seen around the world. I loved the phrase she used tonight “dictator detritus” — the stuff that dictators leave behind when they have to get out of town in a hurry. It is mostly documents,  and those documents speak volumes about what goes on. We have dictator detritus form Ukraine and Iraq.

Tartu Mystery Part 6 – Where are We Now?

Enough about Vyachko and Meelis! The sculpture tells a story, and I think an important story about how much is hidden just behind the surface of things. The story also shows how easily we can be seduced into false beliefs about where we are and who we are.

But when we walk around Tartu, where are we? And who are we? As I have written, much of Tartu’s past is invisible. It is a city that was created, destroyed, re-built and destroyed again and damnit all re-built once more! But despite this difficult past, Tartu still holds a special place in the imaginations of the Estonian people. It sits, after all, on the banks of the “mother river”.

We can see at least some evidence of this special feeling in the city’s more recent sculpture . I have three examples in mind. The first is the Kissing Students by Mati Karmin situated in the town square

This is perhaps the premier spot for a public sculpture in the city. You might expect to find a monument to a great leader, the proverbial “man on a horse”  type of thing that you see so often, for example, in Washington D.C.

Instead, we see students, and they are exuberantly connecting! Having fun! Get the idea? Tartu is a place that does not really want to dwell on the troubled aspects of its history. It has a different future in mind. And the identity pushing for such a future is not so focused on reality as such. More on fantastic images. Like this one, a self portrait of Ülo Õun and his 18 month old son.

It is fun to watch tourists walk by this work. They want to stop and look, but it is so provocative that staring is a bit embarrassing. You can see that in the photo — see the guy looking at the sculpture from a distance? It gets you thinking, though about lots of things — and none of them are about the tragedies of the past. Same for this often photographed sculpture by Tiiu Kirsipuu called “The Two Wildes”.

Once again, this is not an image about something that happened. The two writers, Oscar Wilde (on the left) and Edward Wilde (on the right) never really met, though they share a family name and lived around the same time. But asking whether they really met misses the point. That point is about visualizing things that are better than what we know about the past. Getting beyond the past. To insist on a civilized dialogue in a peaceful setting, and say defiantly “this is us”. I like this idea of committing to a better future, don’t you?

These works are evidence of a shared hope about living in this special place. A hope that the future will be friendly and civilized and peaceful. It is something that we can and should all applaud. But is that enough for a city to build an identity? Well that is part of the mystery and it is next. Stay tuned!