Wednesday, February 8, 2012

New York City Metropolitan Museum of Art Makeover, et Les Mots Français (Mais Oui!)

Ah, l'éclat, le mot français, le côté prétentieux! C'est magificent!

Now that the Lemming has got that out of his system, here's some fairly interesting news from the shining center of all universes. (Ask any New Yorker.)

Getting a Plaza with Pizzazz?

"Met Aims to Build Itself a Museum-Quality Plaza"
Carol Vogel, Art & Design, The New York Times (February 7, 2012)

"More than 40 years after its last makeover, the plaza in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art is showing its age: the fountains are leaking, the sidewalk is crumbling, and the trees are dying. Overcrowding on the institution's grand front steps - one of the most popular meeting places in Manhattan - often causes bottlenecks for visitors trying to get to the front door.

"Now an ambitious plan is in the works to transform this four-block-long stretch along Fifth Avenue, from 80th to 84th Street, into a more efficient, pleasing and environmentally friendly space, with new fountains, tree-shaded allées, seating areas, museum-run kiosks and softer, energy-efficient nighttime lighting...."

En France, l'un des mots pour passerelles est allées.

The Lemming is grateful that there weren't more les mots français strewn around the article. Les gens continuent d'utiliser des mots français dans un effort pour paraître socialement supérieur? Incroyable!

Dropping back into the low-class habit of picking one language, and sticking with it, the Lemming continues.

"Allées" is one of the French words for "walkways," by the way.

Hey! This Makes Sense!

"...'Our first priority is to create an appropriate entrance to the greatest encyclopedic museum in the world, one that is attractive and welcoming rather than austere and forbidding,' said Thomas P. Campbell, the Met's director and chief executive. At the moment, he added, 'the plaza is a frying pan in the summer and a wind tunnel in the winter.' The museum will stay open during construction, although parts of the sidewalk may be closed at times...."

The article didn't have the most promising lead paragraph. Apart from some unnecessarily obfuscatory erudition, the complaint seemed to be that "one of the most popular meeting places in Manhattan" had:
  • Leaky fountains
  • Dying trees
  • Crumbling sidewalks
On top of all that, this popular place was overcrowded.

The Lemming thought that someone in the Big Apple might have gotten tired of the riffraff cluttering up the entrance to the Met. Not knowing Museum Mile first-hand, the Lemming assumed that folks hung out on or near the steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art because they liked it there. Even if the place wasn't in like-new condition.

From what Thomas P. Campbell says, it looks like the hoipolloi have picked a remarkably uncomfortable spot to spend time in. Which makes the Lemming wonder why so many folks enjoy spending time there.

Let's hope that the 'new and improved' Met entrance leaves some room for the lower 90 percent. Or that there's a viable alternative to the steps of the Met.

Paris, New York City, and Victorian Niceties

"Niceties?!" No, that doesn't mean 'modest flannel nighties." Niceties are "conformity with some esthetic standard of correctness or propriety," or "a subtle difference in meaning or opinion or attitude." (Princeton's ) The second definition is sort of like "nuances," but with one more letter.

If the Lemming's memory serves, socially ambitious Americans used to make sure that folks heard them using French words. That was the 19th century, when America was still dealing with unfinished business from the colonial days. It took a major war to sort that out, and that's another topic.

Back then, France was sort of like today's New York City: a big, important place. And Paris - well, it was PARIS.

That was then, this is now.

By the last half of the 20th century, gratuitously shoving French into a sentence had gotten to be a joke. Think Miss Piggy, of the "Muppet Show."

More than a decade into the 21st century, either "allées" is what just simply everybody says when they mean "walkways:" Or someone didn't get the memo about changing their calendar. Or maybe there's something else going on.

Anyway, if the Metropolitan Museum of Art let groundskeeping and maintenance slide, and the place is as hideously uncomfortable as Mr. Campbell says it is: maybe tearing out what they've got and starting over makes sense.

Not-entirely-unrelated posts:

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