Saint Michel d’Aiguilhe, France


Click for a full-size version

I happen to be a dyed-in-the-wool francophile; how in the world did I ever miss knowing about this stunning accomplishment?

From Wikipedia:

Saint-Michel d’Aiguilhe is a chapel in Aiguilhe, near Le Puy-en-Velay, France, built in 962 on a volcanic formation 85 metres (279 ft) high. The chapel is reached by 268 steps carved into the rock. It was built to celebrate the return from the pilgrimage of Saint James. In 1429, the mother of Joan of Arc, Isabelle Romée, was said to have come to the site to pray.

I would love to visit this chapel some day.

Sometimes David wins, and sometimes Goliath

In 1994, Donald Trump – that wonderful specimen of humanity – convinced the New Jersey Casino Reinvestment Development Authority to exercise eminent domain on his behalf to condemn the home of Vera Coking so he could build a limousine parking lot next to one of his casinos. Fortunately, level heads prevailed and the petition was rejected on the basis that this was not a “public purpose,” the reason for which eminent domain was established. The Institute for Justice defended Ms. Coking, and she returned to live in her long-time home in peace.

By the holy skull of Mogg’s grandmother, this kind of douchebaggery – wealthy people throwing their weight around by dint of money and power – has always incensed me, especially when it is done in such an insouciant and public way. Trump reminds me of Leona Helmsley, she who disdained the “little people,” and I’m mightily glad he lost this particular battle, just on general principles.

Last month, another David and Goliath situation quietly went to the large player, but not – as the Salt Lake Tribune implied – on Goliath’s terms. Back in 2002, Earl Holding was constructing the Grand America hotel and bought all the property on a block for that purpose – except the Flower Patch, who didn’t want to sell.


The Flower Patch



Aerial view showing the corner lot.

In December, the property owner finally accepted an offer to deed the property to the hotel, but on his terms.

Parrish, who sold business control of the Flower Patch chain of stores to a Florida company in 1999 but held onto the properties, confirmed the sale Monday. The Sandy resident and property manager said his commitment to keeping the historic Salt Lake building as a flower shop faded over the years. “Now it’s just a business situation,” he said.

Flower Patch chain owner Tom Gordon said that while ‘‘a great location,’’ the building is old, antiquated and ‘‘quite frankly, not worth remodeling for our purposes.’’

So the landscape changed, and it became a viable business decision to sell out; but it happened when the property owner decided the time was right, and not before. As a result, Holding had to reduce the size of the planned hotel by 125 rooms. And for as long as I lived in Salt Lake, I smiled to see that little flower store there. It reminded me of another couple of situations which – although fictitious – have burned their images indelibly into my mind.



The Little House “could not be sold for gold or silver.” (By Virginia Lee Burton)


Batteries Not Included.

The 1% owns so much and takes so much and gives so little (with some notable exceptions) that it’s nice to see the little guy win every now and then.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Laus Deo


As part of the repair of the Washington Monument after earthquake damage, workers verify the correct position of the aluminum “capstone” that tops the monument. At the time of its creation, Aluminum was the most precious metal available because of the difficulty of smelting it from bauxite. Estimates vary as to its valuation, but it would have been as precious as silver and perhaps much more so.


The underside of the cap, showing lightning rod conductors and a trap door.

Trap Exterior

Exterior view of the trap door during repairs. What this exists for I am uncertain, unless to allow access for repair of the lightning rods which are placed atop the monument.


In 1984, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of its casting, a full-size replica was cast and exhibited at Tiffany’s.

The cap has four sides, each one exhibiting an inscription in cursive writing:

North face West face South face East face
Joint Commission
Setting of CapstoneChester A. Arthur
W. W. Corcoran, Chairman
M. E. Bell
Edward Clark
John Newton

Act of August 2, 1876

Corner Stone Laid on Bed of Foundation
July 4, 1848

First Stone at Height of 152 feet laid
August 7, 1880

Capstone set
December 6, 1884

Chief Engineer and Architect,
Thos. Lincoln Casey,
Colonel, Corps of EngineersAssistants:
George W. Davis,
Captain, 14th Infantry
Bernard R. Green,
Civil EngineerMaster Mechanic
P. H. McLaughlin
Laus Deo

The expression “Laus Deo” means “praise be to God.”

The reason for this inscription has been and continues to be debated by religious and secular scholars, as well as readers of Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol, which was an intriguing book despite being short on fact and long on artistic license . Since the founders aren’t around to ask, the true answer to its meaning will probably lie forever shrouded in uncertainty. But it’s interesting to know that the cap is there, even though very few people on earth have ever seen it directly.

Click through for more history about the cap.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Neuschwanstein Castle, 1900

An old Photochrom of Neuschwanstein in Füssen, Germany.


These were “colorized images produced from black-and-white photographic negatives via the direct photographic transfer of a negative onto lithographic printing plates. The process is a photographic variant of chromolithography, a broader term that refers to color lithography in general.” (Wikipedia)

Below are a few shots I took from my visit to Neuschwanstein in 1976 – it was winter, and gray, so the colors are not spectacular, and my camera was basically hqiz, but I recall how wonderful it was to visit the “original fairy tale castle” that inspired Disney’s simulacrum.

Füssen - Schloß Neuschwanstein 2

Fussen - Neuschwanstein 2

Fussen from Neuschwanstein 2

Füssen from Neuschwanstein

Fussen - Neuschwanstein view

Füssen - Schloß Neuschwanstein in the mist - Cropped

Castle in the Mist

Fussen - Neuschwanstein interior

An interior hallway

I would pay large money to be able to explore the entire castle, turrets and all – most of those areas are off limits to tourists.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

The Aleph and Tentacles, London, 1890



Elephant and Castle is a major road junction in Central London, England, in the London Borough of Southwark and the name of the surrounding area, largely superseding Newington. This photo of the eponymous pub was taken in 1890. The photo was used by artist John Sutton to produce a watercolor:

Elephant Sutton


The area has had a rather checkered history in terms of prosperity, and is currently the subject of a master-planned redevelopment budgeted at £1.5 billion.

As for the strange title of this post, feast your eyes on this brilliant map of the London underground, with every station turned into an anagram. I assume no responsibility for soiled screens or ruined keyboards; put down your Guinness before you have a look.


The Old Wolf has spoken.

Rome, 1860

Intriguing shot of the Coliseum, Meta Sudans and the Arch of Constantine. Tourism was quite different back then.


Another image from 1858:


The conical monument in front is the Meta Sudans, or the “sweating cone,” a large conical fountain in ancient Rome built some time between 89 and 96 A.D. It marked the spot where a Roman triumphal procession would turn left from the via Triumphalis along the east side of the Palatine onto the via Sacra and into the Forum Romanum itself. The ruins of Meta Sudans survived until the 20th century. In 1936 Benito Mussolini, il stronzo, had its remains demolished and paved over to make room for the new traffic circle around the Colosseum. A commemorative plaque was set in the road. Although the above-ground structure is gone, its foundations were later re-excavated, revealing the extensive substructure. After another excavation in 1997-98 the traffic circle was closed and the area became a pedestrian district.

The same view today:


Photo by Konrad Zielinski, found at

Il vecchio lupo ha parlato.

The hidden operating theatre



The Old Operating Theatre Museum and Herb Garret is a museum of surgical history and one of the oldest surviving operating theatres. It is located in the garret of St Thomas’s Church, Southwark, on the original site of St Thomas’ Hospital. This photo shows the reconstruction of the theatre as it would have looked while in use.


Built in 1822, the operating theatre was used for 40 years, when the hospital moved to a different location. The garret was walled up;  it was forgotten, and remained undiscovered until 1957.   Read more at Wikipedia and The Old Operating Theatre website.

For your gratuitous edification and mine – I had to go scurrying to the dictionary for this one – the “garret” referred to is “a habitable attic or small (and possibly dismal or cramped) living space at the top of a house.”


Place Saint-Georges in Paris, showing top-floor garret windows.



Carl Spitzweg, The poor poet (Der arme Poet), 1839, showing a garret dwelling.

The Old Wolf has spoken.