Emily & Jeremy in Paris, and some Stephen Fry on beauty


*This* is how you make hot chocolate. Get a cup half full of molten chocolate and stir in rich foaming milk to taste.

It was late November, in the height of swine flu ‘pandemic’ when I began looking into Christmas in Europe. Prices were ridiculous, and I really could have used some time at home to finish up some work and relax a bit, but when Emily called to say that she and Jeremy would drop everything in Switzerland to take the train to Paris to walk around for a day with us, well, it was an offer I could not refuse. I know everyone claims to love Paris, but Emily really does. She has her own personal guide book she’s compiled, which exists in older and newer versions on USB keys in Europe and the Mid East. T’was she who introduced me to Laduree macarons, and late night post-sinful dinner art viewing at Palais de Tokyo, and riding around in taxis like a well-to-do person. The only downside to all of this was the biting cold—I think it was minus ten when we got around to doing a shoot and my fingers were almost too numb to change from my TS. It was cold to the point of mental distraction for a Vancouver softie like me. In any case, I was not too cold to feel refreshed by the lovely things that humans have made. Below is an excerpt from a CBC interview with Stephen Fry which I transcribed from a podcast. The last few sentences especially I had to preserve since they sum up so much of my frustration and crankiness of so long. Enjoy!

“It seems like a small point but it’s actually huge. If you’re in a position to make things and to design things, hotels, strip malls and other things, why not make them beautiful? It’s almost never that much more expensive, but the gain is enormous! To return to Oscar Wilde, when he was in Chicago at one brief point, he was asked—and you have to put this in context, this is when America had just emerged from internecine strife, a civil war which till this day remains the bloodiest war, as it were proportionally, that’s ever been fought in our civilization, and on top of that, gangsterism was beginning in Chicago and the wild west was also in a very bloody state, and the country that had been founded not very long before in such idealistic hopes by enlightened people that were founding a kind of a new paradise on earth– they saw their country erupting in blood and guns, and they said to Wilde, because he was an interesting visitor and an intellectual, and a man who seemed to know things, they asked him if he had a theory about why America was so violent, and he said “I know perfectly well why it’s so violent. It’s because your wallpaper is so ugly.” And of course the people laughed because it was a cheeky and amusing remark, but it’s not trivial, it’s not a superficial, it’s not a shallow remark, it’s actually a very profound remark and it strikes at the heart of what aestheticism is, it is a moral force, it’s not just ‘oh I wish things were pretty’. And what you can say if you look out the window in the continental US and in north America generally, everything is stunningly beautiful that nature has done, and that’s true everywhere in the world, whether it’s the arctic wastes or the deserts or mountains of Nepal, … whatever it is, in nature it seems to us incontestably and unconditionally lovely, we find it simply beautiful. And the only things we ever see that are ugly when we look out, are things that we have made. And if generations of children grow up believing that they belong to a species that can only uglify, that has no role in making things beautiful, that cannot with its own hands and its own ingenuity make things that are lovely, only things that are at best serviceable and at worst hideous and an imposition and a blot, and an insult to the nature into which we were born, then there’s a guilt, a self-oppressing guilt that the entire species feels, that we all feel because we feel that we are a worthless race, we don’t beautify we uglify. And there is no excuse for that.”

The CBC podcast for more Stephen Fry is here.

show hide 5 comments

jamie delaine - these. are. incredible. youuuu’re so talented melia!

Jessie - Fantastic Stephen Fry quote — very insightful and thought provoking. Living in Scandinavia, I’ve been met with this moralizing aesthetic, a demand for things beautiful. Far cry from the Cariboo…So keep up the edification and beautification of this planet and this existence, Melia!

Cindy - I stumbled upon Laduree last summer and just about died when I took a bite out of my first macaron! :) Brilliant photos as usual Melia!!

lesley - Oh my, your photos are once again just awesome! I miss Paris something terrible today so looking at your photos just made me miss it even more!

Melanie - You have such an ability to capture light, emotion and grace. Well done again.

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