Wednesday, September 04, 2002

Places&Culture from
NY Times

For over a thousand years, the monastery here has thrust skyward out of the sea, like the pointed finger of some giant piercing the earth's crust. The image favored by visitors is at high tide, when it rises islandlike from the smooth waters of the bay that shares its name. Though dedicated to monastic peace, the place has always been the theater of conflict: between the earth and the eroding sea, between the English and French, and between the religious and the profane — as during the French Revolution, when the monks were dispersed and the monastery dedicated to the Archangel Michael, France's protector, was converted to a prison. The latest battle, more mundane, is between the protectors of historic monuments and the engineers who advise them, on the one side, and local merchants on the other. In very French fashion, it also pits the periphery against the center — local interests in Brittany, a region noted for its independence, against Parisian central planners.

JOSHUA TREE, Calif. — WHETHER you are a scorpion, a fire ant or a human, the desert demands creativity of its inhabitants. This skin-searing stretch of the Mojave foothills, two and a half hours east of Los Angeles, is a landscape of extremes, marked by rock slides waiting to happen and the spiky yucca plants, called Joshua trees, that look like botanical sparklers. So perhaps it's not surprising to find Andrea Zittel, a 36-year-old New York installation artist and one of the area's new art homesteaders, ensconced in a stucco shack under a foreboding mound of boulders, carving out her own idiosyncratic domestic utopia.

The Meguro Parasitological Museum in Japan is a rare storehouse devoted entirely to tapeworms, bloodsuckers and other organisms that feed off their hosts. The ghoulish
gallery in central Tokyo has amazed and alarmed millions of students, researchers and veterinarians for nearly half a century. But in the last several years the museum has also turned into an urban version of Blueberry Hill, where eager couples come to bond and test their mutual mettle. And while two floors filled with graphic pictures of goiters, a world map of infectious diseases and bottle after bottle of hookworms would seem unlikely to put one in a romantic mood, there appears to be no shortage of young lovers willing to play Gomez and Morticia Addams for a day.

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