The Surprising Resurrection of a Remarkable Michigan Alumna

Alice Freeman Palmer

Like most graduates of the University of Michigan, I’m well aware of certain remarkable people who have attended my alma mater. Stories and sightings of celebrities like Madonna, Tom Brady, Arthur Miller, Gerald Ford, and James Earl Jones reside in the communal knowledge space of Michigan alumni. Then there are…

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A Unique Olympic Ceremony and Warnings from La Fontaine

Artist Rendering of Opening Ceremony

As an American francophile, I’m fortunate to live in a town that supports several French conversation groups. Two of my favorites are led by French women who have spent decades teaching their native language. These ladies not only know their subject matter inside and out, they’re also lively moderators who…

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A World of Endless Diversion and Victor Hugo’s Art

Arbre couché par le vent

While reading Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast last year, I began to seriously ponder the amount of time the Internet sucks from my life. Learning about this great American author’s early days as a starving artist in Paris, I was struck by the simplicity of his existence. With a bare minimum…

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A Passionate Plea to Destroy the Eiffel Tower

Eiffel Tower under construction

Mention Paris, and people from around the world immediately conjure a mental image of the Eiffel Tower. Every year, 7 million visitors buy tickets to reach its upper levels where they can enjoy a breathtaking view of the ancient capital. Back in 1887, however, as construction of the monument was…

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The Ultimate Hoodwinkery, The Crook Who Sold the Eiffel Tower

Eiffel Tower circa 1900

Historians claim that hanging on a wall of Victor Lustig’s Alcatraz cell was a postcard of the Eiffel Tower. Scribbled atop the iconic scene were the words “vendue pour 100 000 francs“. Lustig, a lifelong criminal who by age 20 had honed his charlatanry to P.T. Barnumesque acuity, was sentenced…

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Franz Reichelt, Shocking Story One Man’s Tragic Obsession

Reichelt's jump

Last summer, while wandering in Biarritz, I came across a quaint little bookstore two steps away from the glamorous beachfront. Browsing the display tables, an intriguing cover caught my eye. Les Envolés, by Étienne Kern, won last year’s Prix Goncourt du Premier Roman (the equivalent of a National Book Award…

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Wine & War, France’s Fight to Protect its Greatest Treasure

Nazi soldier in Burgundy Vineyard

There was a time in my life when I thought I hated history. My irritation with the subject developed in high school. History classes were taught by athletic coaches, most of whom didn’t seem particularly interested in the subject matter and I found our textbooks to be completely devoid of…

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