A reader in Laos sent this photo the other day—mostly because of that out-of-place poster on the electric pole, which is in Ukrainian, calling people to occupy Maidan Square in Kiev and boot out the Putin stooge President Yanukovych. (Which the Ukrainians did, back in February, and were thanked for their bravery by getting invaded so sneakily—yet so blatantly—by Putin's forces that the country looks like it's celebrating its newfound freedom with a civil war. In other Kiev news, Darth Vader ran for president.)

Patuxai in Vientiane, Laos, a spite arch that descends from a long line of spite arches.
  • Patuxai in Vientiane, Laos, a spite arch that descends from a long line of spite arches.

But more interesting than the poster, our correspondent writes, is the building behind it:

The building behind it is the Patuxai ("Triumph Arch"), which is a Laotian way of thumbing their noses at the French by copying the Arc de Triomphe ("Triumph Arch"), which was the Napoleonic way of thumbing his nose at the Italians by copying what is now know as the Roman Arch of Titus. This was also known as a triumphal arch (to thumb their noses at the defeated Jews in 70 AD).

The arch is an architecture of spite for millennia and across the globe. "That," our reader writes, "is good design."

Even better:

Patuxai is nicknamed "the vertical runway," as the Laotians used concrete given to them by the US government to build a runway—and they built the arch instead. To the credit of the Laotians, they have the attached a very humble sign posted inside. I have never seen such a self-effacing sign, especially as it is the most important monument in the city.

arcplaque.png

"From a closer distance, it appears even less impressive, like a monster of concrete."

Now that's how to thumb your nose humbly.