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A Spano Blog Item Without Errors!
Our favorite woozy writer-woman in Paris, the LA Times' Susan Spano, should be proud of herself. There isn't a single sentence in her current "blog" item that I can pick on as wrong. Then again, there aren't any sentences at all.

It seems Madame Spano finally got herself a digital camera -- only two years after everybody's grand-mère. Perhaps she thought, if she didn't actually write a "blog" item, she'd escape some of the harsh weekly criticism from readers (surprise, surprise: she never prints my corrections to her now-infrequent reader comments pages) about her constant errors and lazy reporting.

Click the link above for five unremarkable photos, and a "Name That Place" quiz that should be shifted over to the kiddie section of the paper -- except that it's so mind-numbingly simplistic, lacking even a multiple-choice list of clues with each photo. Silly...that would require thought and effort! And maybe even a little mirth.

But, Spano, poor dear, couldn't manage to give a word of explanation or even a link to details written by others about each of these locations. Or to even check spelling (wrong on the museum! -- and this is a longtime reporter for a major daily!) or put in accents where appropriate. And out of five photos, two are of Parc Monceau, yet she can't even manage to refer to that consistently.

But, not to worry, Suze! As always, I'm here to Ken Layne you ("fact-check your ass") and pick up the slack. And again, the photos are at the Spano link above. My links below are to actual information about them:

Photos #1, #3: L'Eglise de la Ste. Trinite -- corrected by Amy as: L'Église de la Sainte-Trinité, located in the 9th arrondissement, near Gare St. Lazare and Galeries Lafayette, my favorite place to buy wild hair ornaments, cheap (see the Evita Peroni boutique in the far corner of the first floor, especially in February and July, when stuff's on sale).

But, enough consumerism. Let's hear what Olivier Messiaen, organist, has to say about the massive instrument in Sainte-Trinité (in the link just above):

In the world, there are many instruments that are larger than the one in St. Trinité. Among these, the organ in the Immaculate-Conception Basilica in Washington (USA), the organ in St. John-the-Divine Cathedral in New York (USA) and the large French instruments: St. Ouen in Rouen, Notre-Dame, Sacré-Coeur-de-Montmartre, and St. Sulpice in Paris. All these instruments are beautiful, imposing. The organ in St. Trinité equals them in power, in majesty and may surpass them in mystery and poetry.

Hmmm, interesting! Probably much more to know about this place...that is, if one has the will to raise one's fingers over the keyboard and type the letters that make up the church's name into Google.

Photo #2: La Musee Chernuschi -- which Spano misspelled and omitted the accent on and incorrectly made "museum" the feminine "la" instead of the masculine "le." Yes, that's three errors in three words, corrected by Amy as follows: Le Musée Cernuschi. Here's Rachel Kaplan's 1997 write-up on it (from the link above):

Of the thousands of people who frequent the Parc Monceau in Paris, few realize that an elegant white stone mansion at the edge of the park, built in the 1870s, now houses one of the most impressive collections of ancient Chinese art in Europe. Known as the Cernuschi Museum, it was left to the City of Paris one hundred years ago, by the wealthy Milanese financier and philanthropist Henri Cernuschi (1820-1896).

Today, only certain art connoisseurs know that Cernuschi was one of the first collectors in France to have the aesthetic discernment to amass an important collection of Chinese and Japanese art. An atypical amalgam of innovative tycoon and romantic revolutionary, Cernuschi became a serious collector partly through a series of inauspicious circumstances.

As a prominent sympathizer with the insurgents of the 1871 Commune, he was arrested, albeit briefly, and then released. Deeply shocked and horrified by the wave of people (some of whom were his friends) who were killed or imprisoned during this bloody popular uprising, in September 1871 he embarked upon an eighteen-month voyage around the world that would take him to China and Asia by way of America.

One of Cernuschi's most unusual and obscure acquisitions was a mammoth ancient molded bronze basin from the Warring States period (475 B.C. - 221 B.C.), referred to as a kien or "mirror," presumably because the water inside it reflected the light from nocturnal cermonial torches. Displayed prominently on the museum's ground flor, it remains the largest known Chinese basin from that period.

Photos #4, #5: Parc Monceau. We'll go with blogger Auntie M's bit on this gorgeous park in the 8th arrondissement of Paris (bordering on the 17th). Auntie M might not be on the payroll of the LA Times, but she writes whole sentences, and includes informative links!

In 1778 Louis Philip II, the Duc de Chartres and Orleans, known as Philippe Egalite, bought the territory that would become Monceau Park. His park designer, de Carmontelle, was charged with designing "an outstanding garden bringing all times and places together." The result was a whimsical garden with fake Roman ruins, a Dutch windmill, a ruined fort and an Egyptian pyramid!

When the toll walls were built around Paris in 1787, the section that corresponds to today's Boulevard de Courcelles was surrounded by a ditch so that the Duc's view would be unobstructed. A beautiful rotunda was built instead of an observation post to fit in with the environment of the park.

In 1793, during the French revolution, the garden was confiscated from the Duc. In the 1850s, the city of Paris bought the garden. The garden was inaugurated in its current configuration by the Napoleon III in 1861. Ever since, only statues have been added to the grounds.

Perhaps it's just me, but if you're going to get paid for a job, it seems only fair to make a wee bit of effort from time to time? I know so many people in Paris who would be fascinating reads, or, at least, moderately interesting ones.

And then there's the embarrassing lack of fact-checking. On that museum above, it just takes three clicks on Google to see there's only one hit for Chernuschi, 96,300 for Cernuschi, and 29,700 for Musée Cernuschi. After that, there's a quick toddle over to the Larousse French/English dictionary to check whether musée is masculine or feminine, and whether it has an accent.

Why...why...why? Please, somebody explain to me the mystery of this woman's continuing employment.

Posted by aalkon at September 17, 2005 9:02 AM

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Good for you for spotting the gender of musée. It's extremely unusual for a word ending -ée to be masc.

Posted by: Stu "El Inglés" Harris at September 17, 2005 8:52 AM

I guess some people just don't have much intellectual curiosity. It's a shame when they're the ones who are supposed to be informing the rest of us.

Posted by: deja pseu at September 17, 2005 8:59 AM

What shocks me is that she gets caught making these errors just about every week -- whether I write about them or not -- and never mends her ways (does a bit of fact-checking or even checks her spelling).

Newspapers wonder why they're bleeding current readers, and not getting younger ones. Is it really that hard to figure out? Too many editors seem most concerned with not having any upheaval -- whether it's getting rid of long-dead weight or hiring somebody who might inspire readers to write and complain from time to time.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at September 17, 2005 11:06 AM

RE Le Parc Monceau & M. le Duc de Chartres, a.k.a. Philippe-Egalité during the French Revolution. The extremely "liberal" cousin of king Louis XVI voted the death of the king in January 1793. Later on that year, Philippe-Egalité was not only deprived of his lovely Monceau "jardin". Together with everything he owned, "confiscated" also was the Duke's head as Philippe-Egalité was condemned to death by the revolutionary tribunal & guillotined on 6 November 1793, twenty days after Marie-Antoinette, Place de la Révolution (= Place Louis XV before the Revolution & Place de la Concorde since 1830).

Frania W.

Posted by: Frania W. at September 17, 2005 11:25 AM

Amy, why do you hate Ms Spano so much? This post reads like there may be some personal history between you here... I am new to your blog, I don't live in America and have never heard of Susan Spano. Thanks! I would love to know your reasons (besides the fact checking!)

Posted by: Leigh at September 19, 2005 5:44 AM

Because she has a job which she does terribly, terribly poorly, that others who who do a good job could be paid for. Every space in a paper that's taken by a lazy person could be taken by a good one. You pay the same dollar to a bad writer that you do to a good one. Here's a woman who's utterly incurious and makes numerous errors. I see writing for papers as something of a (don't laugh, I'm serious) a sacred trust. Telling the truth is an enormous part of it. Saying something worthy of reading is an enormous part of it. Every week when I write my own column, I struggle with both of those things. I'm shocked and horrified when others don't. I respect great writing. I'm just appalled that a major daily has a lazy excuse for a reporter like Spano -- and one who is the exact opposite of curious -- writing for them when there are so many good writers and great writers out there who could have her job and give us something worthy of reading. The errors simply astound me. Week after week after week, she screws up. Not by accident. By laziness. All I do to find her errors (when they aren't screamingly obvious, which is often) is tap my fingers on Google once or twice. Disgusting.

Compare lame crap Spano puts out with this -- an eloquent comment by somebody with a level of inquiry Spano couldn't begin to dream of:

Posted by: Amy Alkon at September 19, 2005 8:14 AM

Hear, hear, Amy. Very well put. I'm slightly inclined to give her a pass on the accent marks though, because 1) at Variety we have a no accent marks policy -- I'm not sure what the policy is at the Times, but perhaps she's trying to follow their print style -- and,
2) I can't figure out how to put accent marks on my blog, although I know exactly how creme brulee should be written.

Posted by: Pat Saperstein at September 19, 2005 12:31 PM

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