New Brakes. Cos Bike Deserves Them.

“Hey Frances, whatcha got there?”
“Hey bike, oh, you know, a bikeday present.”
“What’s a bikeday present?”
“Just something I bought for you, like a birthday present.”
“Was it your birthday?”
“I’m not gonna answer that one, bike.”
“So whatcha got there?”
“Brakes. For you.”
“Brakes? For me?”
“Yup. Fukkin’ mayhem set of Avid Shorty Ultimate cantilever brakes. Cos you deserve them.”
“I love you, Frances.”
“I love you, bike.”
“Wanna get drunk and hoon?”
“You know I do.”

Avid Shorty Ultimate Cantilever Brakes, & CAADX
Avid Shorty Ultimate Cantilever Brakes, & CAADX

Landesmuseum Oldenburg

Going back the way I came. A quick sleep after getting back from London, I’m in a car going west to Bremen, then a train to Oldenburg, then a walk to the wrong theatre followed by taxi to the right one for the première of Das Helmi’s Gullivera’s Reise in Oldenburgisches Staatstheater’s BANDEN! Festival. Next day, lunch breakfast (lunchfast?) with Dasniya and Florian, a walk to Landesmuseum Oldenburg, and three hours of museuming before the second show.

First stop, the Augusteum’s Galerie Alte Meister, then across the road to Prinzenpalais’ Galerie Neue Meister, then realising I had more than enough time, to Oldenburger Schloß for design and applied arts. Photos? Of course!

  1. Landesmuseum Oldenburg: Augusteum Galerie Alte Meister
  2. Landesmuseum Oldenburg: Prinzenpalais Galerie Neue Meister
  3. Landesmuseum Oldenburg: Oldenburger Schloß


Landesmuseum Oldenburg — Oldenburger Schloß

Last stop on my Landesmuseum Oldenburg visit, the Oldenburger Schloß, where I was looking forward to a whole stack of medieval and Baroque applied arts and design, and wouldn’tcha know it? All that was closed. Lucky for me of the three it was by far the most massive, three and an half floors of a possible four open and only an hour before I had to get back to the theatre. And straight into mediæval wooden sculpture I land.

I was reminded of Muzeum Narodowe we Wrocławiu, which remains one of the finest collections I’ve seen, and for a small town frankly shames big city museums with the care and pleasure taken in displaying art. So I land in the exhibition room Kirche im Mittelalter and am totally giddy with joy. It’s the way museums should be: a visceral, emotional effect. I’m quite aware of being manipulated by the curators, how they’ve arranged a wall of standing Marias and Katharinas and Barbaras, and how I want to run past them all to see what else is there. This is small museums’ strength, so far from the overwhelming endurance of say, the Louvre or London’s V&A (which I’m yet to blog, but it’s coming) where there’s an expectation of quantity and size; it’s like in Musée des Beaux-Arts de Valenciennes, walking into a hall and seeing floor to ceiling colossal Rubens, and having no idea this was about to happen, and suddenly I’ve got to deal with being slammed by art.

Two of my favourites here are Hl. Katharina and Hl. Barbara, probably a pair flanking a central figure or tableau, like the Hl. Maria mit dem Kind between them, given how they’re leaning like they’re both well stoned. Katharina’s all, “Nah, I’m good—no wait, just a little toke, cheers,” can barely focus her eyes.

In another room there’s the weirdest Pennyfarthing-ish bike I’ve ever seen, the Hochrad ‘Xtraordinary’, which coincidentally I’ve seen recently revisited in crossfit-extreme-bro-fixie-distruption-Kickstarter land, except with moving handles. There’s a reason why this engineering design is a bicycling evolutionary dead-end.

Next room over, more of a chamber or hall, all white and gold, chandeliers, refined opulence, is a tapestry in its home. In all my museuming I’ve seen a stack of tapestries, but never hanging as it would have done, a part of the environment, an extension of architecture and design. Despite sun bleaching and fading on the lower third, water stains, and generally ‘needs restoration’ it was beautiful. The colours when it was new must have been overpowering, as must have the power and wealth it signified.

There were other, similar rooms in the top floor and throughout which I never saw, being closed for renovations and new exhibitions. Some of them are on the museum website, along with a virtual tour. And with that, I split. Another brilliant museum joyride. Out the door, around the road on the former city wall, back to Exerzierhalle for the second evening of theatre and festival.



Because no weekend is complete without satanic hoonage.


Mark Webber

Mark Webber retired from racing today. His last race, in the #1 Porsche 919 Hybrid LMP1, placing 3rd and getting on the steps.

I love Le Mans Prototypes, I love the circuits, Silverstone, Spa-Francorchamps, Nürburgring, Fuji, Le Mans, and I love watching Mark race. It’s not going to be the same next year.

Reading: Amy Shira Teitel — Breaking the Chains of Gravity: The Story of Spaceflight before NASA

Yes, I was reading during, before, and after  all that museuming. My last year’s reading was missing some of that oomph of previous years, which was pretty bloody obvious when I compared 2014 with 2015. October to October actually, so not one of these tired End of Year list bollocks; purely arbitrary end point. I was missing Science. Yup, needs a capital. Also missing other stuff, but definitely slim on the science.

Amy Shira Teitel is one of my favourite bloggers, science or otherwise. Science-wise, she’s one of the best (I read enough to make that kind of subjective statement) and in all things space and astronomy she’s—I’m a pretty big fan and I’m not going all hyperbole when I say she and Emily Lakdawalla at, you don’t get better writing on science than these two. Ok, also Sabine Hossenfelder. Three different writers on astro stuff, writing in three different disciplines, Titel on the history of space flight, Lakdawalla on planetary science, Hossenfelder on astrophysics, all of them blogging regularly and all of them I will absolutely read and read first.

So, in need of reading science, and how convenient, Breaking the Chains of Gravity: The Story of Spaceflight before NASA, exactly the kind of combination of history, engineering, 20th century Euro-American-Soviet politics, Germany at the start of it all in a story that would kick the knees off of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (new, old, doesn’t matter) and any other spy/action/Cold War film you can think of. Gripping drama and tension, cars going off cliffs, subterfuge, double-crossing, race against time to beat the Soviets to the prize, testing the limits of human endurance while using miles and pounds (seriously, America, really?). Also slave labour, concentration camps, Nazis, and all the nasty stuff that got pushed under the carpet to get to “One small step for a man.”

This is Titel’s first book, an entirely different thing to a series of thousand-word posts, where much of the heavy research and writing she’d previously done on her blog Vintage Space. There’s a lot of crossover between the two, the book going into more detail on the entire history of pre-NASA United States space programmes; her blog covering specific subjects within that as well as broadly the history of going fast enough to throw yourself off the planet. It’s also—or obviously—aimed at a general, science-interested audience, which has quite a bit to do with why I like what she writes. Her serious research abilities and love of the subject means she’s quite capable of writing extremely dense and academic histories, yet she makes it accessible to a reader who might not know anything about spaceflight, without dumbing the topic down. Excellent first book. If the next ten are as good as this, I will have eleven of her books on my shelves.

Amy Shira Teitel — Breaking the Chains of Gravity: The Story of Spaceflight before NASA
Amy Shira Teitel — Breaking the Chains of Gravity: The Story of Spaceflight before NASA


The Louvre Itself (Bits of it)

Unlike most previous museum blogging, I’m not going to attempt all nine hours in a single hit. I have no coherent plan of how I’m going to organise the hundreds of photos of art works, but probably a bit at a time over the coming weeks. Firstly then, the Louvre itself. A very, very small amount of it. I could easily have spent a few hours just photographing the museum itself, ceilings, rooms, halls, voids and courtyards. The upper floors are sparse, stripped architecture, like parts of the Pergamon in Berlin—especially with the vast interior stair salle. It’s only on the first floor, really in the Sully wing with Napoleon III’s apartments that things go all stupendously Baroque and Neoclassical. (Which is why I have to come back to Paris: to finish seeing the Louvre, to visit Pompidou and to visit Versailles.) The architecture turns again in the Denon wing, and again in the stumps and remains of the mediæval fortress which I ran through just as everyone was getting kicked out, empty of people after the rush hour of the Italian collection.

Louvre — Room 76 Ceiling, Denon Wing
Louvre — Room 76 Ceiling, Denon Wing
Louvre — Napoleon III's Dining Room
Louvre — Napoleon III’s Dining Room
Louvre — Napoleon III's Drawing Room
Louvre — Napoleon III’s Drawing Room
Louvre — Galerie d'Apollon Ceiling
Louvre — Galerie d’Apollon Ceiling
Louvre — Galerie d'Apollon
Louvre — Galerie d’Apollon
Louvre — Salle B, Denon Wing
Louvre — Salle B, Denon Wing
Louvre — Mediæval Fortress, Philip II Augustus 1190-1202
Louvre — Mediæval Fortress, Philip II Augustus 1190-1202