How to brew coffee like it's the 19th century

Brew coffee 19th century style with a balancing siphon

You’ve got your French press, your coffee cone, and your Moka Pot to name but a few ways to make coffee. But how about a 19th-century balancing siphon? Boing Boing showed off this throwback contraption in the video above and it certainly has some flair to it.

The balancing siphon was notably used in Belgium by the royal family who would make their coffees using the device, as well as in France:

By 1850 the double-globe glass coffee maker had generally fallen out of favor in France, and the fashionable Parisians embraced the next incarnation of the vacuum brewer – the Balancing Siphon. In this arrangement, the two vessels are arranged side-by-side, with a siphon tube connecting the two. Coffee is placed in one side (usually glass), and water in the other (usually ceramic). A spirit lamp heats the water, forcing it through the tube and into the other vessel, where it mixes with the coffee. As the water is transferred from one vessel to the other, a balancing system based on a counterweight or spring mechanism is activated by the change in weight. This in turn triggers the extinguishing of the lamp. A partial vacuum is formed, which siphons the brewed coffee through a filter and back into the first vessel, from which is dispensed by means of a spigot. Sometimes called a Viennese Siphon Machine or a Gabet, after Louis Gabet, whose 1844 patent included his very successful counterweight mechanism, the Balancing Siphon was both safer than the French Balloon, and was completely automatic.

via Brian Harris

The good news is you can buy your own balancing siphon on Amazon but they aren’t cheap. Here’s a list of 4:

Coffee related: An oral history of the weird Folgers “incest” commercial

Zito Madu on learning French

This is now the third time I’ve covered Zito Madu on one of my blogs (see his features on Playrface and Sampleface). Here, he discussed his year of learning French in 2020:

Marseille is a beautiful city, as most cities by the sea and with ancient architecture, large churches and cathedrals tend to be (not to mention Le Corbusier’s city within the city). It seems like a place built for pictures, and it’s no surprise that there is an infinite number of pictures of it online from the prescribed tourist vantage points. Being in the city, though, I still felt the urge to document what I saw and add to that ever-growing collection of images depicting the city from an outsider’s perspective. I walked from Saint Charles station to Old Port, across Le Panier, through Cite Radieuse, to the Velodrome stadium, and then to the Notre-Dame de la Garde, taking all the necessary photos along the way.

The city is also known for its crime—people who heard I was going there offered advice not just on where to visit, but where to avoid. I walked around for days and looked at all those spectacles and spots engineered for a tourist to be amazed at, but I also went to those places that I was told not to go. It wasn’t so much an act of rebellion or thrill-seeking—Marseille is a city of immigrants, proudly so, and I figured that the people in those shunned places were probably people like me, only separated by luck and the cruelty of Western borders. It felt incorrect to think of a city as beautiful without seeing the people who make it possible, those who are often hidden away from the bubble of tourism.

I was right. Walking through those narrow streets in my black tracksuit, I fit the image of many of the people there. The problem was that I couldn’t speak to anyone. So I declared that I would learn French, because I wanted to live there, and I wanted to be with those people, to talk to, learn from, help, and suffer with them.

A few weeks ago, I posted about the romance of language learning and while there is a connection of love between the two, this is less an affair and more a deeper humanitarian love. Although the learning journey didn’t turn out how he wanted, that aim and passion for Marseille still remain and I wish him good luck in the future.

Liam Wong – After Dark

Liam Wong's After Dark book

We’ve featured Liam Wong previously and now he’s back with a new book called “After Dark”.

After Dark is a one-of-a-kind publication documenting Wong’s nocturnal journeys through the world’s most captivating cities. Following his début monograph, TO:KY:OO, which captured Tokyo’s beauty at night, Wong widens his lens from the city that became his spiritual and photographic muse to Osaka to Kyoto, London to Seoul, Paris and Rome. But he goes still further, seeking the rich tapestries of night-life in the foggy historical streets of his hometown Edinburgh, penetrating the backstreets of the megacity Chongqing, seizing the verticality of Hong Kong from its rooftops.

In classic Liam Wong style, the book has been crafted with a meticulous eye for detail. I particularly like the cinematic feel of the shots and the custom typeface, designed by Toshi Omagari exclusively for the book. 

If you love photography or cinematography, you’ll love After Dark. A crowdfunding project was set up by Volume and met its goal within 48 hours. You can still pledge for a copy here.

The natural photography of Théo de Gueltzl

Théo de Gueltzl is a Paris-born photographer who has found himself in a lot of different place since he left his native France.

When we last spoke to Théo in 2017, he was living in Bogota following a road trip he had undertaken from Los Angeles, through Mexico, and into South America. There he established a studio and began planning his future trips. He had “the bug for travelling” and, four years later, he still does. His recent photographic work is full of far-flung landscapes and portraits of different communities. This kind of work, he says, is integral to his practice and is the very reason he continues to pick up his camera. “I think I have been very much driven towards telling the stories of communities from other parts of the world in the hope of helping to preserve the diversity of culture,” he explains. “In a time where we are all looking at the world through the same filtered window, and living on a planet that is always growing and changing, I like the idea that photographs can act as proof, carrying information about how people lived in a certain place at a certain time.”

via It’s Nice That

Théo’s passion lies in nature and its richness. You’ll find jungles, beaches, lakes, and foliage in his work and beautiful backdrops to complement them.

Follow him on Instagram for more.

What was François Mitterrand's final meal and why was it so controversial?

The ortolan is a small bird from the bunting family that lives in Europe and western Asia. It is also the last meal that former French president François Mitterrand ever ate, 8 days before his death. But eating ortolans is illegal in France (even though some chefs will still make it) and it comes with some… unique traditions:

[…] To prepare it, the ortolan is drowned in a glass of Armagnac. This is not a metaphor. It is actually drowned, and then it is cooked in a cassoulet.

[…]

You place a white cloth over your head and pick the bird up with your fingers, and then you eat it whole, wings, feet, organs, head, everything except the feet. The ortolan is supposed to represent the soul of France.

The white cloth is to create a closed sensory world of just taste and scent.

The cloth is also, traditionally, to hide the act from God.

via Interconnected

For more on Mitterand’s last meal and the ortolan, read Michael Paterniti’s 1998 piece for Esquire magazine. You can also read this Smithsonian article on the ortolan from 2018 and how it is/was eaten into extinction. (A note that while the ortolan’s global conservation listing is “Least Concern”, in France, it is “Endangered”.)

The celebratory art of Aurélia Durand

Aurélia Durand is a French illustrator with a penchant for vibrant designs depicting Black people in joyful, proud, and empowered poses.

Her client list is a who’s who of major brands, including:

With so much bleakness in the world at the moment and heightened Black trauma, vivid celebratory images like Aurélia’s are a welcome relief and a reminder that Blackness is multifaceted and joyous.

ICYMI: The Louvre put its entire collection online

Over 482,000 works are now available for people to view as the pandemic continues to change how we engage with the arts.

The database for the Louvre’s collections consists of entries for more than 480,000 works of art that are part of the national collections and registered in the inventories of the museum’s eight curatorial departments (Near Eastern Antiquities; Egyptian Antiquities; Greek, Etruscan and Roman Antiquities; Islamic Art; Paintings; Medieval, Renaissance and Modern Sculpture; Prints and Drawings; Medieval, Renaissance and Modern Decorative Arts), those of the History of the Louvre department, or the inventories of the Musée National Eugène-Delacroix, administratively attached to the Louvre since 2004.

The Collections database also includes so-called ‘MNR’ works (Musées Nationaux Récupération, or National Museums Recovery), recovered after WWII, retrieved by the Office des Biens et Intérêts Privés and pending return to the legitimate owners. A list of all MNR works conserved at the Musée du Louvre is available in a dedicated album and may also be consulted in the French Ministry of Culture’s Rose Valland database.

12 alternative versions of famous monuments

These are incredible from oobject.

Included here among various alternatives for Tower Bridge, the Washington Monument, The Chrysler building and St. Paul’s Cathedral are proposed extensions to the White House, a 5 million tomb alternative to London’s famous Victorian cemeteries and a particularly uninspiring second place entry for the Sydney Opera House competition. My personal favorite, however is the Triumphal Elephant which could have capped off the Champs Elysees in Paris. If someone could only find the rejected competition entry for what became the Eiffel Tower, which consisted of a giant replica of a Guillotine.

Some I wish existed, some I’m glad didn’t become reality, and some I would like to see and then never see again.

Aimé Césaire and his Discourse on Colonialism

Tim Keane wrote about Black Caribbean poet Aimé Césaire who disseminated the brutality of colonialism in his work:

Since Césaire’s death in 2008 at age 94, as democracies devolve into autocracies and wealthy nations sidestep poorer ones on our endangered planet, Discourse on Colonialism remains prescient about the barbarity that informs civilization. In literary terms, its enduring relevance tends to overshadow Césaire’s standing as the most influential Modernist poet in Caribbean literature, an imaginative writer who molded the French language to make a personal poetry characterized by hypnotic physicality, ritualized anguish, and metaphorical exorcisms.

About Aimé Césaire

Césaire was born in Basse-Pointe, Martinique, in 1913. After moving to the capital, Fort-de-France, to attend the only secondary school on the island, he moved to Paris to attend the Lycée Louis-le-Grand on a scholarship. There, he passed the entrance exam for the École Normale Supérieure, co-created a literary review called L’Étudiant noir (The Black Student) and helped to start the Négritude movement.

Reading list

(contains Bookshop affiliate links)

Is DeepL the best Google Translate alternative?

When you need a quick translation, you turn to Google Translate. But it doesn’t always work the way it should. But there’s an alternative that TechCrunch claims is “as quick as the outsized competition, but more accurate and nuanced” than any they’d tried. It’s called DeepL.

About DeepL

Ever since the launch of DeepL Translator in August 2017, DeepL has been setting records for machine translation quality.

DeepL Pro, released in March of 2018, allows subscribers to unlock the full capacity of DeepL’s AI translation technology. DeepL Pro subscribers can benefit from an optimized web translator, integrate our algorithms into translation software, or build new apps and services with the DeepL API.

Let’s test an example. I’ve taken an original poem called Círculo Vicioso by Machado de Assis:

Bailando no ar, gemia inquieto vaga-lume:
– Quem me dera que fosse aquela loura estrela,
que arde no eterno azul, como uma eterna vela!
Mas a estrela, fitando a lua, com ciúme:
– Pudesse eu copiar o transparente lume,
que, da grega coluna á gótica janela,
contemplou, suspirosa, a fronte amada e bela !
Mas a lua, fitando o sol, com azedume:
– Misera ! tivesse eu aquela enorme, aquela
claridade imortal, que toda a luz resume !
Mas o sol, inclinando a rutila capela:
– Pesa-me esta brilhante aureola de nume…
Enfara-me esta azul e desmedida umbela…
Porque não nasci eu um simples vaga-lume?

Google TranslateDeepL TranslatorEnglish translation
Dancing in the air, an uneasy firefly moaned:
I wish it were that blond star,
that burns in the eternal blue, like an eternal candle!
But the star, looking at the moon, with jealousy:
I could copy the transparent fire,
that from the greek column to the gothic window,
she gazed, sighingly, at the beloved and beautiful forehead!
But the moon, staring at the sun, with bitterness:
Misera! had I that huge, that
immortal clarity, which all light sums up!
But the sun, tilting the rutile chapel:
This brilliant number aureole weighs me…
Put on this blue and immeasurable umbilicus …
Why am I not born a simple firefly?
Dancing in the air, a restless firefly moaned:
I wish it were that blond star
That burns in the eternal blue, like an eternal candle!
But the star, staring at the moon, jealous
If I could copy the transparent light,
That from the Greek column to the Gothic window
from the Greek column to the Gothic window, gazed, sighing, upon the beloved and beautiful brow!
But the moon, staring at the sun, with bitterness:
Misera! had I that enormous, that immortal
immortal clarity, which all light sums up!
But the sun, inclining the ruddy chapel:
This bright aureole of nume weighs me down…
Pities me this blue and unmeasured umbrella?
Why was I not born a simple firefly?
Dancing in the air, the firefly moaned restlessly:
– How I wish I was that blonde star,
That burns in the eternal blue, live an infinite candle!
But the star, gazing at the moon jealously:
– Who am I to copy the transparent light,
That from the Greek column to the gothic window,
Contemplated, sighing, forehead beloved and beautiful!
But the moon, gazing at the sun, sourly:
– Misery! Had I that huge, that
Immortal brightness, in which all live is summarized!
But the sun, tilting its shining chapel:
– This bright halo weighs down upon me…
This blue and unmeasurable umbrella sickens me…
Why wasn’t I born a simple firefly?

While neither translator could emulate the original English translation (which likely had its own artistic flair), they both did a good job. DeepL picked up “restless” in the first verse compared to Google Translate’s “uneasy” and in the word fitando, DeepL goes for “staring”, which is closer to the original “gazing”, while Google Translate chooses “looking” which doesn’t have the same feeling.

That said, there were some glitches with DeepL, for example duplicating the line “from the Greek column to the Gothic window”, and neither picked up the word misera translated to “misery” but that’s not the traditional translation so that makes sense.

Maybe a poem wasn’t the best example. Here’s a paragraph from a news story from Le Monde:

L’heure de la réconciliation entre la France et le Rwanda est-elle arrivée ? Vingt-sept ans après le génocide des Tutsi, qui a fait près de 1 million de morts entre avril et juillet 1994, on veut le croire au sommet de l’Etat français. Emmanuel Macron reçoit son homologue rwandais, Paul Kagame, lundi 17 mai, à Paris, en marge d’une conférence sur le Soudan et à la veille d’un sommet sur le financement des économies africaines. Les deux hommes « ont pris l’habitude d’échanger en anglais dans un climat de confiance, de sincérité et de respect »,précise un membre de l’entourage du chef de l’Etat. Au cours de sa visite, Paul Kagame doit aussi s’entretenir avec d’anciens officiers de l’armée française, dont le général Jean Varret, responsable de la mission de coopération de 1990 à 1993, qui s’était opposé à sa hiérarchie lors de la tragédie.

Google TranslateDeepL Translator
Has the time come for reconciliation between France and Rwanda? Twenty-seven years after the genocide of the Tutsi, which killed nearly 1 million people between April and July 1994, we believe him at the top of the French state. Emmanuel Macron receives his Rwandan counterpart, Paul Kagame, on Monday, May 17, in Paris, on the sidelines of a conference on Sudan and on the eve of a summit on the financing of African economies. The two men “have become accustomed to speaking in English in an atmosphere of trust, sincerity and respect,” said a member of the head of state’s entourage. During his visit, Paul Kagame must also meet with former officers of the French army, including General Jean Varret, responsible for the cooperation mission from 1990 to 1993, who opposed his hierarchy during of tragedy.Has the time for reconciliation between France and Rwanda arrived? Twenty-seven years after the Tutsi genocide, which killed nearly one million people between April and July 1994, people at the top of the French government want to believe so. Emmanuel Macron received his Rwandan counterpart, Paul Kagame, on Monday 17 May in Paris, on the sidelines of a conference on Sudan and on the eve of a summit on the financing of African economies. The two men “have become accustomed to exchanging in English in a climate of trust, sincerity and respect,” said a member of the entourage of the head of state. During his visit, Paul Kagame is also expected to meet with former French army officers, including General Jean Varret, head of the cooperation mission from 1990 to 1993, who had opposed his superiors during the tragedy.

For me, it’s a tie on that one. Google Translate’s first sentence felt more natural while DeepL’s “Tutsi genocide” vs. GT’s “genocide of the Tutsi” sounded better. DeepL’s “climate of trust, sincerity and respect” was better than GT’s “atmosphere of trust, sincerity and respect” as well as “opposed his superiors during the tragedy” vs. “opposed his hierarchy during of tragedy.”

Ultimately, this both use machine learning based on data that’s already out there and as language continues to change and evolve, it’ll be almost impossible to get things exactly right. But, for me, DeepL offers more nuance and less literal translations for words which is what you want as a human being.

'Brutalist Paris' to explore post-war Brutalist architecture in the French capital

from the curved concrete balconies of ‘les choux de créteil’ to oscar niemeyer’s ‘bourse du travail’, ‘brutalist paris’ documents the movement’s most significant examples in and around the french capital. back in 2017, blue crow media commissioned robin wilson and nigel green of photolanguage to research, write and shoot photography for the brutalist paris map. since the map’s publication, through their research, writing and photography, photolanguage have continued to draw attention to brutalist architecture across the city and its suburbs.

See also: Souvenir d’un Futur and the forgotten brutalist estates of Paris

(via designboom)

Marc Wilson's 'The Last Stand' photo series

I loathe warfare or anything related to it but I’m making an exception for this since the photos are so captivating.

The Last Stand is a photo series by Marc Wilson that looks at relics of military conflict and the memories they hold.

The series is made up of 86 images and is documents some of the physical remnants of the Second World War on the coastlines of the British Isles and Northern Europe, focusing on military defence structures that remain and their place in the shifting landscape that surrounds them. Many of these locations are no longer in sight, either subsumed or submerged by the changing sands and waters or by more human intervention. At the same time others have re-emerged from their shrouds.

Marc took these photos over the course of four years and travelled 23,000 miles to get them. Locations include the UK, France, Belgium and Denmark.

You can buy a photobook of the series on Marc’s website.

It's vichyssoise, sir. It's supposed to be cold.

vichyssoise

When you think of cold soup, your mind immediately goes to gazpacho, a Spanish soup comprised of stale bread, olive oil, vinegar, garlic, tomato, and cucumber. But fans of Batman Returns will think of another kind: vichyssoise.

In the famous scene with Bruce and Alfred, the butler hands Bruce the bowl of creamy soup to which he spits it out—”it’s cold!” And the immortal line:

It’s vichyssoise, sir. It’s supposed to be cold.

I didn’t understand the concept of cold soup as a kid and I still wouldn’t try it but the backstory of vichyssoise gives an indication of why it’s a thing.

Vichyssoise is a potato and leek soup created in 1917 by French chef Louis Diat of the Ritz-Carlton. He made it cold for restaurant guests to keep cool during the summer (which is ironic as the winter of 1917 in New York produced the temperature recorded in the city: 2°F or −17°C on 30 December 1917 at Central Park).

Given the fact that Batman Returns has a 1920s/1930s vibe to it and Bruce is a billionaire who you wouldn’t expect to get a drive-thru burger (which is funny because Michael Keaton later played former McDonald’s owner Ray Kroc in The Founder), vichyssoise seems like a logical choice.

In terms of recipes, this one from Simply Recipes looks like a good one as well as Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles Vichyssoise recipe. Or if you’re desperate for something quick and maybe hot during the winter, you can get a can of potato and leek soup and add any extras you feel it needs.

Batman Returns and soup related: a Turkish hangover cure made from tripe, Hungarian dishes and recipes, and did Danny DeVito eat a real fish in Batman Returns.

The internet art of Mazaccio & Drowilal

Skɪz(ə)m exhibition view (copyright Martin Polak, 2020)

Mazaccio & Drowilal are a French art duo that make artworks from found internet images.

Whether it’s IRL still lifes of desktop icons, dogs staring wistfully into sunsets, or celebrity snapshots defaced with paint and tape, the duo’s subject matter is universally familiar to anyone who’s found themselves in a thumb scroll wormhole, and that’s exactly the point.

Quote from It’s Nice That

It’s all trés cool, trés French, and trés internet. That sentence didn’t make any sense. But the art does to me and that’s all that matters.

Internet-related: Internet Archaeology: a gallery of early internet images

Places I want to go when it's safe

A plane wing above clouds in the sky

COVID-19 has ruined a lot of things and while people are still travelling for their own reasons, holidays shouldn’t be one of them. And so I’m staying home until it’s safe to travel for that reason.

But when I can, I hope to visit these 5 cities at some point.

Lisbon, Portugal

I visited Lisbon for the first time in 2017 for my birthday and it was a revelation. I’ve never felt so comfortable in a new city in my life. The food was awesome, the architecture was breathtaking, and it cleansed my soul. I returned in 2018 but I’ve not been back since (I went to Nice to spend time with my parents for my 30th birthday).

It’s my mission to go back as soon as it’s safe and legal to fly.

Nice, France

It helps that my parents live there now but before that, I’d visited with my parents on holiday a few times, and my then-partner in 2015. Another Mediterranean city, it’s gorgeous in the summer, lovely food again, and more great architecture as well as a cool modern art museum featuring works by the likes of Yves Klein.

Leeds, UK

I was born in Bradford but never really spent time in Leeds besides the carnival as a kid. In my adult years, I’ve been a few times and it’s a really nice city. My last visit was last year for a solo Valentine’s vacay and my hotel was kind enough to do this:

Shout out Clayton Hotel. I will be back soon!

Chicago, USA

Last visit: July 2012. I went to see friends and, prior to Lisbon, it was my favourite city in the world. It still holds a place in my heart and I hope once it’s safe in all aspects of the word, I would like to go back and see my friends.

Tokyo, Japan

This is the only city on the list I’ve never visited but it’s on the proverbial bucket list. Besides experiencing the culture, trying the food, and taking lots of photos, I want all the Pokémon things and all the Game Boy things. And some vinyl. I’ll probably need £1000–£2000 spending money and an extra suitcase and I’m not joking.

Related: Photography by Liam Wong in Tokyo and Japan travel tips for first timers