The Hottest Restaurant in France Is an All-You-Can-Eat Buffet

Les Grands Buffets features a seven-tiered lobster tower, a chocolate fountain, and only what it considers traditional French food. Gourmands are willing to wait months for a table.

My friend Guillaume is always telling me interesting things. Like: there’s a dance called the Madison that many French people think is a regular feature of parties in the United States. Guillaume recently alerted me that a man who was fired for not being fun enough at work got his job back, winning five hundred thousand euros in a landmark case. Last summer, I went to dinner at Guillaume’s, and he mentioned a restaurant, an all-you-can-eat buffet not far from his home town in the South of France. He had just celebrated his birthday there. There was talk of flaming duck and a chocolate fountain. Guillaume showed me a picture of the crystal-curtained lobster tower—seven layers of vermillion crustaceans, topped by an upright specimen thrusting its claws to the sky, as though it had just slayed a halftime show, amid a cloud of mist.

The restaurant is called Les Grands Buffets. A week or so later, I went to its Web site, and entered my e-mail address to receive a secure link to make a reservation online. It was late July. The next available table was for a Wednesday in December, at 8:45 p.m. “We remind you that this reservation is non-modifiable, you cannot change the number of guests, the date of the meal, the hour of the meal, or the name of the beneficiary,” the confirmation e-mail read. If I wanted to bring children under ten years of age, I needed to submit their names at least three days in advance. (They eat at discounted rates.) I would be refused entry if I showed up in sweatpants, an undershirt, a bathing suit, a sports jersey, flip-flops, a ball cap, or any of three kinds of shorts. The toughest reservation in France, it turns out, is not at a Michelin-starred destination like Mirazur or Septime. It’s at an all-you-can-eat buffet situated in a municipal rec center in the smallish city of Narbonne.

“Our golden rule is that, if it’s complicated, then that’s a good reason to do it,” Louis Privat, the restaurant’s proprietor, said. “Our job is to rid people of their inhibitions.”

Last year, more than three hundred and eighty thousand people paid fifty-two euros and ninety centimes for the pleasure of visiting Les Grands Buffets. Drinks cost extra, but they are sold at a minimal markup, so a bottle of Mercier champagne costs twenty-five euros, about the same as it does in the supermarket. Everything else is unlimited, from caviar to stewed tripe. There are nine kinds of foie gras on offer, and five pâtés en croûte, including one known as Sleeping Beauty’s Pillow, which involves a panoply of meats (chicken, duck, wild boar, hare, quail, sweetbreads, ground pork) and is considered by connoisseurs to be “charcuterie’s holy grail.” The chef Michel Guérard has called Les Grands Buffets “the greatest culinary theater in the world.” Guinness has certified its cheese platter, featuring a hundred and eleven varieties, as the largest known to restaurant-going man. It’s more of a cheese room.

All-you-can-eat buffets are usually associated with a catholic array of foods: California rolls and king-crab legs, baby back ribs alongside pasta bakes and hot-fudge sundaes. However, Les Grands Buffets serves only what it considers to be traditional French food. You will find chorizo at the charcuterie station, but there is no pizza, paella, or couscous, no nems or thiéboudiène, even though more than a tenth of people living in France were born elsewhere. Les Grands Buffets takes a panoramic view of the French classics, ranging from the palace-hotel repertoire (lièvre à la royale, peach Melba) to bourgeois cooking (veal blanquette, bœuf bourguignonne), regional specialties (quenelles de brochet, pissaladière), and rustic dishes (snails, frogs’ legs). “More than a gargantuan orgy,” Le Journal du Dimanche reports, the restaurant represents “a sort of conservatory of the nation’s gastronomy.” The effect is something like a Golden Corral by Auguste Escoffier.

Les Grands Buffets has four dining rooms, sumptuously decorated in different styles. One has an Art Deco theme. Another is a tented room, paying tribute to Louis XIV, complete with an original 1697 map by the King’s engraver. Chandeliers made by the craftsmen who light the Château de Chambord cast a lush glow over lemon trees planted in wooden boxes originally designed for the gardens at Versailles. Tables throughout are set in a grand style, down to the fish knives. Waiters clear plates and serve drinks, instead of leaving guests to a soda fountain, squirting cherry Coke into the same paper cup as Tropicana and Sprite.

Louis Privat, the restaurant’s proprietor, believes that gastronomy is suffering from globalization: everything is the same everywhere, and even some of the most creative cuisine, he says, “has lost its national identity.” In his view, French people, especially the young, need reintroduction to the culture of the table and its associated arts. He sees his restaurant as something like a “Louvre of dishes,” with a pedagogic mission as well as an epicurean one. “Why would you put a tarte Tatin in a shot glass?” he said to me recently, a cloud of despair passing over his face. The bistronomy movement, which in the past thirty years has whisked the cloths off French tables and consigned silver to drawers, is, Privat thinks, a cost-cutting crusade masquerading as a trend. “Our golden rule is that, if it’s complicated, then that’s a good reason to do it,” he said.

Pascal Lardellier, an anthropologist at the University of Burgundy, calls Les Grands Buffets “the site of all the superlatives.” Last year, it brought in twenty-four million euros in revenue, which reportedly makes it the highest-grossing restaurant in France. The Sybarites of ancient Greece issued invitations to guests up to a year in advance, so that they would have time to prepare their outfits and jewelry. Fans of Les Grands Buffets also book up to a year in advance, and spend the intervening months dreaming of how they’ll fill their plates. “My husband and I can’t dine out often,” one repeat customer wrote on Facebook, “so we prefer to reserve our leisure budget exclusively for Les Grands Buffets.”

When December came around, I caught a train from Paris and rode south for five hours before arriving in Narbonne, less than seventy miles north of the border with Spain. The city center, with Roman ruins and a fantastically old-school market hall, was within walking distance, but I took a cab toward the outskirts of town. Bypassing gas stations and a KFC, we circled a roundabout, where an inflatable snowman bobbed in the wind. Finally, we arrived at a massive leisure complex built by the local government in the nineteen-eighties. Inside, gray light streamed through a pyramidal skylight, accentuating turquoise exposed pipes. From the lobby, you could enter a bowling alley, an ice rink, a swimming pool, or Les Grands Buffets. The restaurant’s entrance, in cherry wood and gleaming brass, brought to mind the cabin of an ocean liner, plunked down on the set of “Saved by the Bell.”

In the vestibule, floor-to-ceiling cabinets displayed a collection of silver serving dishes. Nearby, what was supposedly the world’s biggest silver fork was mounted on a wall. While waiting for the maître d’, a customer could step on an antique scale the size of a grandfather clock. Lest that put him in an abstemious mood, a golden plaque displayed a quote in Middle French, from Rabelais’s “Gargantua”: “Fay ce que vouldras,” it commanded—“Do as you wish.”

Pascal Lardellier, an anthropologist at the University of Burgundy, calls Les Grands Buffets “the site of all the superlatives.” Last year, it brought in twenty-four million euros in revenue, reportedly making it the highest-grossing restaurant in France.

It was nearly the end of lunchtime. Guests clustered around the dessert bar, where chocolate flowed down the famous fountain in glossy sheets. They ladled chocolate onto strawberries, pineapple chunks, financiers, and canelés from separate vats offering a choice of white, dark, and milk. As Roy Strong writes in “Feast: A History of Grand Eating,” fountains have dazzled diners for centuries, disgorging rose water and eau de muscade. One attendee of a banquet in Lille in 1454 recalled a statue of a naked girl, guarded by a real lion, who sprayed mulled wine from her right breast.

An employee led me to the tented room, where Louis Privat was finishing up a meal with a pair of V.I.P.s. Privat is seventy, with cornflower-blue eyes and a meringue of gray hair. He was wearing a black cashmere turtleneck, and bemoaning chefs’ attempts to pass off bastardized forms of classic dishes on an unsuspecting public. “It’s tomfoolery,” he said. Imagine: serving a Mont Blanc without chestnuts, or calling a plate of beans a cassoulet. He continued, “That’s the main fight we’re leading today, not to let these dishes be corrupted, even if the recipes aren’t patented.” At another table, a corps of waiters wheeled out a gramophone that played André Claveau crooning “Bon anniversaire.” Out the window, one could glimpse a five-story waterslide.

Privat ordered tulip-shaped glasses of raspberry eau de vie—an eight-euro-and-fifty-centime supplement—for his guests. In the restaurant’s gilded ice-cream parlor, diners availed themselves of eleven flavors, along with Irish coffee and lemon ice doused in vodka. Also on offer was the trou normand, or Norman hole—a shot of Calvados served over apple sorbet, which is said to counteract the sensation of a full stomach. The restaurant serves about a hundred and fifty trous normands during each service of five hundred diners. Some guests take more than one. They are welcome to. “Our job is to rid people of their inhibitions,” Privat said.

Like all buffets, Les Grands Buffets is a volume business. About eighty-five per cent of the restaurant’s patrons are French; others come in large numbers from Belgium and Spain, notwithstanding a decision by Les Grands Buffets to prohibit tour buses. Hardly a year passes without Privat dreaming up a new enticement or entertainment. “We add things all the time, but we hardly ever take things away,” he said. (A fancy version of mashed potatoes, he admitted, had not been a success.) Irène Derose, a retired bank employee who lives in a village in the Hérault, has been to Les Grands Buffets eighteen times, most recently for her birthday, which she celebrated by eating both lunch and dinner at the restaurant. “And I still haven’t tasted everything,” she told me.

Restaurateurs typically adhere to a three-hundred-per-cent markup, so that a hanger steak that costs five euros appears on the menu at fifteen, and a filet that costs ten goes for thirty. Because Privat’s costs are relatively flat—he serves the same thing every day to a consistent number of diners and receives bulk discounts—he chooses to earn his margin as a stable rate, rather than as a multiple. “It’s the same supplier, the same refrigerator, the same cook,” he said. “What justifies taking ten euros on one dish and twenty on the other? Here, if you want to eat something better, I take the same amount.”

Some buffets jack up their prices on weekends or charge customers for uneaten food. At Shady Maple Smorgasbord, in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, which bills itself as America’s largest all-you-can-eat buffet, the vibe is almost prosecutorial. “Don’t Risk It for a Biscuit,” the restaurant admonishes diners, warning that anybody who pockets a roll will be treated as a shoplifter. (I couldn’t help but think of the “Simpsons” episode in which Homer is dragged out of the Frying Dutchman by the armpits after helping himself to a whole steam tray of shrimp.)

By contrast, Privat practices a sort of gastronomic prosperity gospel. He believes that the client who feels that he is not being taken advantage of will relax; the client who is relaxed will have another glass of wine; the client who enjoys his wine will go home with a case (rendering the bottle drunk at the table gratis); the client who savors his case at home will come back. “I prefer to get away from this logic of rationing,” Privat said. “If you give, you will receive.”

He suggested that we sample the restaurant’s russe: a striated dessert of sponge cake and praline cream. It was concocted by a French baker in the nineteen-twenties, but was named either for its main ingredient, almonds sourced from Crimea, or for the sprinkling of powdered sugar on top that recalls the snowy Siberian steppes. The russe was a touch sweet for my liking, so I went back to the dessert station, trying to think of a French delicacy that wasn’t represented. But they were all there, from technical feats like île flottante to spoonable goops like chocolate mousse. In a nook, an employee was flambéing crêpes on a silver chariot that originally belonged to Le Negresco hotel, in Nice. Despite the foreign-food ban, a brownie had sneaked into the offering. (The French pronounce it “broonie,” by the way.) I took a slice of opéra cake—almond sponge, buttercream, coffee syrup, chocolate ganache—and thought of le droit à l’erreur. The principle, enshrined in a 2018 French law, minimizes punishment for people who screw up their taxes in good faith. I added a dollop of prunes stewed in red wine to my plate. Like few things in life, the all-you-can-eat buffet guarantees the right to make mistakes.

The writer André Borel d’Hauterive once attempted a taxonomy of eaters: the gastronome (appreciates good food and wine and partakes reasonably), the gourmand (prefers quantity to quality), the friand (has a sweet tooth), the goinfre (eats enthusiastically to excess), the ventru (“makes a God of his stomach”), the glouton (dessert comes and he has no idea what he’s eaten), the goulu (dessert comes and he has no idea how much he’s eaten).

Buffet-goers might fall into any of these categories, but their chosen pursuit requires a logistical edge. There are competitors to be assessed, maneuvers to be considered, routes to be mapped. I was reminded of a football playbook as I studied a brochure that featured a bird’s-eye view of Les Grands Buffets, with arrows indicating various counters (“Ice Cream Shop,” “9 Kinds of Ham”). If a day at Disneyland is all about beating the lines, a meal at Les Grands Buffets is an exercise in optimizing calories. Some expert buffet-goers swear by starting with the most expensive stuff, or by assembling an “introductory taster plate.” Others warn against maxing out on carbs. One Reddit tactician writes, “NEVER take a single piece of food until you do a preliminary reconnaissance sweep of the entire buffet. No use filling up on fried chicken breasts when there’s a prime rib carvery station at the end.”

Les Grands Buffets prides itself on never running out of anything. At the same time, the restaurant claims to produce little waste. “We know down to the gram how much to allot for each client,” Pierre Cavalier, the general manager, told me. “The foie gras, for example—it’s not fifty or fifty-one, it’s precisely forty-eight grams!” The average customer, he continued, goes through 1.3 oysters and 7.4 plates. (He added that leftovers go toward staff meals for the restaurant’s two hundred employees.) Once, as the stock of shrimp dipped perilously low, Cavalier jumped into his car and sped to the local fishmonger to get more. “Without looking at the price, I bought everything they had,” he recalled. “The diners were lucky that day.”

The atmosphere at Les Grands Buffets is calm and even reverent. Still, stratagems abound. I saw one multigenerational family gathered around a table loaded with plates, each containing a single foodstuff: rillettes, saucisson, pâté en croûte, œufs mimosa, organic crudités. Their postures were relaxed and the conversation was flowing, as was the twenty-five-euro champagne. I realized that they had decided to set up an apéro—the French equivalent of cocktail hour, except that it often lasts much longer—just as they would have at home. Every so often, someone would pop a cherry tomato into his mouth.

Cavalier showed me around the main floor. That morning, staff members had prepared each station according to specifications laid out on laminated pages in a binder. “Obviously, the notion is subjective, but everything needs to look appetizing,” Cavalier said. He adjusted the claw of a crab: “They’re all supposed to point in the same direction.” The cheese room emitted a farmyard odor, but he was unbothered. “Some clients who don’t like cheese complain that it stinks, but we own it,” he said. (A new ventilation system has apparently helped.)

The chef Michel Guérard has called Les Grands Buffets “the greatest culinary theater in the world.” For the presentation of le canard au sang, a suave male voice, accompanied by the triumphant chords of “Ride of the Valkyries,” intones, “Ladies and gentlemen, behold the pressed-duck ritual, just as it was conceived in the nineteenth century.”

Cavalier noted with satisfaction that many patrons were following the classic sequence of hors d’œuvre, fish, meat, salad, cheese, and dessert. Some people think that there is a correlation between price and abandon: the cheaper the buffet, the higher the customers stack their plates. If Shoney’s inspires teetering skyscrapers of meat loaf and onion rings, Les Grands Buffets encourages horizontality, with stuffed quails and leeks vinaigrette and babas au rhum stretching neatly into the distance, an endless suburb of plates.

There is just one rule at Les Grands Buffets: at the stations where diners place orders instead of helping themselves, they can take only one dish at a time. This creates a minor barrier to marquee food while insuring that customers can get it hot. At the rotisserie, a short line had formed in front of a stylish open kitchen, where cooks in toques bustled around, wielding copper pots. Privat sees the restaurant as a preserve not only of hard-to-find dishes but also of disappearing métiers: rôtisseur, écailler, saucier. A sign bore a list of twenty-six specialties that customers could have prepared in front of them. A man stepped up to the counter and ordered an omelette with cèpes.

The orders went out over a microphone. “Oui, chef! ” the underlings called. (Privat had warned them in a staff meeting that morning that just “oui” or “ouais” would not suffice.) The customer waited with a ticket, which he exchanged for the dish once it appeared. The plates kept coming: marrowbones, tournedos Rossini, andouillette with mustard sauce, a whole roasted turbot. At the back of the kitchen, a cook stood on a raised platform, basting a suckling pig.

Food historians trace the origins of the modern buffet to the seventeenth century, when Louis XIV entertained at impromptus and soirées d’appartement, his servants quickly dressing tables with silver torches, pyramids of flowers, and filigreed baskets heaving with oranges, lemons, and candied fruits. This aristocratic habit was eventually codified as service à la française, distinguished by the practice of putting multiple dishes on the table at once. “The buffet, historically, c’est chic,” Madame Figaro recently declared, in an article about the resurgence of all-you-can-eat restaurants.

The first commercial buffets likely originated in gaming houses and at ticketed balls. In the nineteenth century, Parisians frequented buffets such as one that stood at 10 Boulevard Montmartre, offering a choice of dishes at sixty centimes, seventy-five centimes, and one franc. “No table, no utensils, no garçon,” one journalist noted. “Some people talk about these places as the first fast food in France,” Loïc Bienassis, of the European Institute for the History of Culture and Food, said. “That’s debatable, but it’s certain that they were intended for eaters in a hurry.”

Guinness has certified the restaurant’s cheese platter, featuring a hundred and eleven varieties, as the largest known to restaurant-going man.

With the advent of railroads, buffets gained widespread popularity in France. They were a particularly convenient format for train stations, where hungry passengers came and went throughout the day. As the pace of travel accelerated, these “station buffets” suffered. Le Monde reported in 1955 that only about four hundred were left. At the same time, though, buffets were enjoying success at all-inclusive holiday destinations such as Club Med. The generation that had survived the Second World War “knew what it was to lack,” Kilien Stengel, of the University of Tours, told Madame Figaro. Bienassis sees buffets as the gastronomic manifestation of postwar economic prosperity, reflecting “a society that no longer measured, that had stopped counting, that believed in infinite growth.”

Swedes popularized the buffet in America with a revolving smorgasbord at the 1939 World’s Fair. In the mid-forties, the El Rancho Hotel opened Las Vegas’s first all-you-can-eat buffet, luring deal-seeking gamblers to the Buckaroo Buffet “chuck wagon.” The concept caught on, with Sin City becoming the historic home of an exuberant strain of gluttony. “The South has fried chicken, Texas has barbecue, Chicago has hot dogs, New York has pizza and Las Vegas has them all,” C. Moon Reed, of Las Vegas Weekly, writes. “That is to say, our regional cuisine is the buffet.”

I have loved buffets since childhood—if my dad was working late, my mom sometimes took us to a “steak house” chain called Quincy’s. It may have served sirloins and filets, but I never saw them, loading up instead on yeast rolls and ice cream from a soft-serve machine. Call them tacky, or repulsive, but buffets elicit a hopeful, almost juvenile feeling of possibility. As with a scavenger hunt, there is a satisfaction in checking things off your list. As with a yard sale, you never know what kinds of treasure you’ll find, nestled amid the junk.

One person’s plenty, however, is another’s overkill. Even in the first century, Petronius was satirizing the culinary excesses of wealthy Romans, envisioning a banquet at which slaves trimmed guests’ toenails and the belly of a gutted pig disgorged sausages and puddings. In the 1973 film “La Grande Bouffe,” a group of friends retreat to a villa and stuff themselves to death on meats, sweets, and the decadence of a consumerist society in which everyone has to have everything all at once.

covid was supposed to kill buffets, which have long been associated in the public imagination with dubious hygiene. The fear is sometimes warranted: a 1987 study of customers in self-service restaurants observed nearly a dozen “problem behaviors” in salad bars alone, reporting that “licking fingers was noted 45 times and most frequently associated with salad dressings.” At Les Grands Buffets, most of the cold offerings are presented on specially designed refrigerated slabs, and Cavalier told me that the restaurant works with an independent lab to develop its hygiene protocols. “If they tell us that something lasts five days, then we give it two,” he said. “The idea, as I’m sure you can understand, is never to take a risk.”

According to IBISWorld, a market-research company, several mid-range chains folded in 2020 and 2021. But both budget-conscious and high-end buffets have partially recovered since the pandemic, aided by inflation, social media, and the pent-up desire for communal fun. “We’re the comeback kids,” the C.E.O. of Golden Corral told the Times. The Bacchanal Buffet at Caesars Palace charges up to $84.99 a head for a mind-boggling spread (Filipino congee, red-velvet waffles, an omelette bar, birria tacos). In College Point, New York, the Buffet recently augmented its pan-Asian offerings (sushi, hibachi, dim sum, teppanyaki) with a Brazilian Churrasco Experience.

In France, elaborate buffets featuring attractions such as koi ponds and karaoke have lately become popular. According to Le Monde, around seventy per cent are run by people of Chinese descent, many with roots in Wenzhou. “An essential element of peri-urban civilization, with its housing estates and warehouses, maxibuffets, most of which are halal, attract a middle class who want to taste chic without emptying their wallets,” the article notes. Les Grands Buffets strives to set itself apart from its anything-goes peers, calling itself, for example, an “eat-what-you-wish” rather than an “all-you-can-eat” buffet.

At one point, Privat griped that a certain Hong Kong restaurant had plagiarized his concept. I went to its Web site and wasn’t too convinced. For one thing, the place serves abalone and curries. Yet the success of Les Grands Buffets has led to imitators elsewhere in France. Customers at one restaurant in the southwest, for instance, can visit a familiar-looking array of stations, right down to a rotisserie with a raised platform for basting meats.

In the evening, I dined with Privat in the newly constructed Salon Doré Jean de la Fontaine. It is decorated in a neoclassical style and pays tribute to the seventeenth-century fabulist, immortalized in a series of murals featuring his crafty foxes and unsuspecting crows. “I wanted to reopen in a flamboyant fashion after the pandemic,” Privat explained. He looked around the dining room. To his satisfaction, many people were dressed for the occasion. There were several women wearing sequins. A toddler sucked on a pacifier clipped to his shirt with a spiffy gold chain.

Privat was born in Narbonne. His father was a doctor, with a thriving clinic, which his mother helped run. They hoped that Privat would work at the clinic one day. He pursued acting instead, joining a theatre troupe in Toulouse. Later, he studied international commerce and became a certified accountant. In his thirties, Privat and his soon-to-be wife, Jane, took over a dusty restaurant at the seaside near Narbonne. (Jane is now the purchasing manager at Les Grands Buffets.) They renovated everything in a blue-and-white scheme and replaced the frozen food and canned sauces with fresh local fish. The restaurant was a success, but by then the Privats had two children, and its seasonal rhythms clashed with their desire for a peaceful family life.

“More than a gargantuan orgy,” Le Journal du Dimanche reports, Les Grands Buffets represents “a sort of conservatory of the nation’s gastronomy.” It preserves not only hard-to-find dishes but also disappearing métiers: rôtisseur, écailler, saucier.

In 1989, Narbonne was looking for someone to handle catering in the new rec center. The Privats decided to put in a bid. “At the time, especially in the provinces, going to a restaurant was hardly the habit that it is today,” Louis Privat once recalled. He knew that in order to flourish they would have to draw people from far beyond the city. So he decided to offer something novel: an all-you-can-eat cafeteria. Little by little, he upgraded the menu and tricked out the décor. The hyper-French concept emerged only gradually—a brand identity as much as a patriotic conviction. “We had sushi,” Cavalier confessed, of the early days, during our tour.

Privat can come off as something of a reactionary, valorizing a national culture that has probably never been as homogeneous as he would like to think. But his politics are less predictable than his tarte-Tatin fetish and his lectures about manners might lead one to believe. Les Grands Buffets offers interest-free loans to help employees pay off debt, and workers participate in a profit-sharing agreement. In 2022, Privat made headlines around the country for raising buffet prices in order to bring up employee income by an average of about thirty per cent. And, for all their talk about French tradition, Privat abstains from alcohol, and Cavalier eats meat at work but “not in my private life,” because of ethical concerns. Over the years, scores of investors have tried to persuade Privat to expand Les Grands Buffets to other locations. He has refused, because he considers the bald pursuit of profit pointless, and the idea of churning out imitations bores him. “Using Les Grands Buffets as an A.T.M. doesn’t interest me at all,” he said, picking at some smoked salmon.

For several years, Privat has threatened to decamp from Narbonne, saying that his public landlords don’t maintain the facilities properly. In 2023, he accelerated this campaign, conducting public auditions for a new site. Le Parisien reported, “The juicy saga of the move of this culinary institution has a million French cuisine enthusiasts in suspense on social networks on both sides of the Pyrenees.” As Privat delivered theatrical ultimatums, local officials sprang into seduction mode. One parliamentary candidate even made retaining Les Grands Buffets part of his platform.

“I completely share Mr. Privat’s vision of being able to continue to develop and innovate,” Bertrand Malquier, the city’s mayor, told me. “We are fighting so that, when he makes his choice, it will be exclusively Narbonne.” Last week, Narbonne and Privat announced that they had come to an agreement: Narbonne would pledge fifteen million euros to renovating the rec center, carving out a separate entrance for Les Grands Buffets, while Privat would commit nearly five million to the creation of new attractions, including a separate tea salon and a shop selling regional products, with a shared goal of increasing the annual number of visitors to eight hundred thousand. Every Narbonnais, Malquier told me fondly, has been to Les Grands Buffets at least once. In fact, his family had just celebrated his son’s eleventh birthday there. Malquier had discovered a delicious new cheese. It was actually from England—Stilton, he thought it was called?

Recently, I was listening to “On Va Déguster,” a popular French radio show, when the host mentioned boulom, an all-you-can-eat buffet in the Eighteenth Arrondissement of Paris that was, according to the show, “turning away hundreds of people a weekend.” boulom is the venture of Julien Duboué, a classically trained chef (he’s worked at George V and with Daniel Boulud), and it has garnered fantastic reviews in publications such as Le Figaro, which congratulated Duboué for his decision “to lend his nobility to the all-you-can-eat buffet, an exercise in style regularly massacred in the establishments that practice it.”

A friend and I visited the restaurant for lunch the following Tuesday. We entered through a picture-perfect bakery, squeezing past racks loaded with cooling loaves and pastries, and emerged into a back room packed with customers, as though we’d stepped through a magical wardrobe. boulom charges between thirty-two and fifty-eight euros per person, depending on the meal and the day of the week. A sign warns that two euros will be added to the bill for every hundred grams of waste, but an employee I spoke to said that she’d never seen it enforced. The idea is more to create a chilling effect, bringing overzealous plate loaders back to reason.

Irène Derose, a retired bank employee who lives in a village in the Hérault, has been to Les Grands Buffets eighteen times, most recently for her birthday, which she celebrated by eating both lunch and dinner at the restaurant. “And I still haven’t tasted everything,” she said.

The place is supposed to feel like a village inn of yesteryear, where simple, lovingly made dishes are left to simmer on the stove throughout the day, offering nourishment to all comers. The weekday spread includes roast meats, a dozen desserts, and name-brand ingredients like Joël Dupuch oysters and Eric Ospital charcuterie. I loved the grilled mackerel, and my friend made what amounted to a personal pan pizza of the crème brûlée, nearly emptying the dish in three rounds. Still, it felt like a regular meal. Seafood occupied a few metal bowls, not a tower. I ate no more and no less than usual, took no chances, enrobed no strawberries, commissioned no omelettes, made no mistakes. I missed Les Grands Buffets. The point of all its over-the-top excess might actually be a kind of scarcity: an experience so bonkers that it’s exceedingly rare.

Before I left Narbonne, I returned for a final meal at Les Grands Buffets. Precisely at noon, I dropped my stuff at a table for one in the tent room and went off to fill my first plate. I started with the caviar (technically, it’s just “fish eggs”), simply being greedy. Then I added some stuffed mussels, because someone had recommended them; some leeks mimosa, for health; some Serrano ham, because Les Grands Buffets lets you put on a metal glove and shave your morsel off the leg yourself. In the cheese room, I pushed a button and an automated slicer produced a frilly mop of Tête de Moine. Now I was having fun. Buffets are the culinary version of your wedding day or a big birthday—a bunch of foods that don’t belong together all in the same space, somehow getting along.

I was standing near the rotisserie when, suddenly, a “Welcome, shoppers”-style intercom activated. “Ladies and gentlemen, behold the pressed-duck ritual, just as it was conceived in the nineteenth century,” a suave male voice intoned. “The duck has been roasted on a spit. It is now placed on the table of the master canardier. With the silver duck press, he will crush the carcass to extract the blood and juices, which give the sauce its unique flavor.”

I turned to see a black-aproned employee emerging from backstage, carrying an impaled bird as though it were the Olympic torch. Flames leaped from a cup at the bottom of the spit. She proceeded to the table, where she was joined by the canardier. “Discover le canard au sang, the emblematic dish of French gastronomy,” the voice continued. “Les Grands Buffets is the only restaurant in France to offer this historic recipe every day.” The triumphant chords of “Ride of the Valkyries” filled the room as the canardier lifted the duck off the spit with two forks, raising the carcass up to the gods. 


From Greek to Latin: Visualizing the Evolution of the Alphabet

Over the course of 2021, the Greek alphabet was a major part of the news cycle.

COVID-19 variants, which are labeled with Greek letters when becoming a variant of concern, normalized their usage. From the Alpha variant in the UK, to the Delta variant that spread from India to become the dominant global strain, the Greek alphabet was everywhere. Seemingly overnight, the Omicron variant discovered in South Africa has now taken the mantle as the most discussed variant.

But the Greek alphabet is used in other parts of our lives as well. For example, Greek letters are commonly used in mathematics and science, like Sigma (Σ) denoting a sum or Lambda (λ) used to represent the half-life of radioactive material.

And the study of linguistics shows us why using Greek letters in English isn’t completely farfetched. This visualization from Matt Baker at UsefulCharts.com demonstrates how the modern Latin script used in English evolved from Greek, and other, alphabets.

It’s All Proto-Sinaitic to Me

Before there was English, or Latin, or even Greek, there was Proto-Sinaitic.

Considered the first alphabet ever used, the Proto-Sinaitic script was derived in Canaan, around the biblical Land of Israel. It was repurposed from Egyptian hieroglyphs that were commonly seen in the area (its name comes from Mount Sinai), and used to describe sounds instead of meanings.

As the first Semitic script, Proto-Sinaitic soon influenced other Semitic languages. It was the precursor to the Phoenician alphabet, which was used in the area of modern-day Lebanon and spread across the Mediterranean and became the basis for Arabic, Cyrillic, Hebrew, and of course, Greek.
Evolving into the Greek, Roman, and Latin Alphabets

Over time, the alphabet continued to become adopted and evolve across different languages.

The first forms of the Archaic Greek script are dated circa 750 BCE. Many of the letters remained in Modern Greek, including Alpha, Beta, Delta, and even Omicron, despite first appearing more than 2,500 years ago.

Soon the Greek alphabet (and much of its culture) was borrowed into Latin, with Archaic Latin script appearing circa 500 BCE. The evolution into Roman script, with the same recognizable letters used in modern English, occurred 500 years later in 1 CE.

Many of the letters which first came from Egyptian hieroglyphs made their way into modern English, but they took a long and convoluted journey. As the graphic above highlights, some letters evolved into multiple forms, while others fell out of use entirely.

And this is just a snapshot of the many scripts and languages that the modern English alphabet evolved from. Lowercase letters came from Roman cursive, which evolved into the Insular and Carolingian scripts before becoming modern lowercase English.

Like many things in the long arc of human culture, alphabets are not as far removed from each other as you might think.

Omri Wallach


"RECONNECTED by United Photo Press at Ingo Seufert Gallery, Munich, Germany"

"RECONNECTED: An International Photographic Exhibition by United Photo Press at Ingo Seufert Gallery, Munich, Germany".

The Ingo Seufert Gallery, situated in the picturesque city of Munich, is set to host an international photographic exhibition that is poised to captivate enthusiasts of visual art. The United Photo Press, a distinguished association of photographers, will showcase its latest collection titled "RECONNECTED," a celebration of the diversity and talent within its membership and among its guests.

Scheduled to run from March 13th to March 31st, 2024, the exhibition offers visitors a unique opportunity to explore the world through the lenses of both seasoned and emerging photographers. The name "RECONNECTED" implies a rediscovery, an immersion into narratives and perspectives that transcend borders and cultures.

Having reached its 34th year, United Photo Press has curated an impressive selection of works spanning various themes, from breathtaking landscapes to emotive portraits, capturing moments that transcend time and space. The exhibition stands as a testament to the compelling ability of imagery to narrate stories and evoke emotions.

The Ingo Seufert Gallery, known for its commitment to promoting contemporary visual artists, provides the perfect backdrop for this photographic journey. Organizers are enthusiastic about bringing this international exhibition to Munich, offering local residents and visitors a unique cultural experience.
The vernissage, scheduled for March 13th, will be an opportunity for photography enthusiasts to meet the artists behind the works and delve into the stories that inspired each image. Throughout the exhibition period, Ingo Seufert Gallery will be open to the public, inviting art lovers to explore the extraordinary world of contemporary photography.

"RECONNECTED" promises to be an enriching and inspiring experience, fostering connections among people from different backgrounds through the universal power of imagery. Don't miss the chance to embark on this unique journey at Ingo Seufert Gallery in Munich, Germany, from March 13th to March 31st, 2024.


This Company is Making Wholly Original, Affordable, Customizable Medium Format Film Cameras

In 2016 and again in 2018, PetaPixel featured the work of Dora Goodman, a woman who was adding hand-crafted elements to analog cameras. Fast forward to 2021, and Goodman has gone steps further and finally created cameras of her own design.

When Goodman started her project almost five years ago the business was built around reskinning cameras with wood, leather, or any special material. Though a handcrafted process, the cameras were still Nikon, Pentacon, Hasselblad, or whichever brand but were just redesigned aesthetically.

Goodman and her team always dreamt of being more than a reskin service.

“We always had the dream to leave a mark in the analog photo industry and we really wanted to create actually our own cameras,” she tells PetaPixel. “Our first trials were the wooden cameras (I mean totally made out of wood), which we still love, but then we realized that is a huge amount of work and very slow, so we could not build a business only on this, even if our community loved it.”

In recent years, 3D printing has become more accessible at a low cost, and Goodman decided to look into that as a possible way to expand her business.

“We started to experiment and it turned out that this technology is working great for us! It resulted for us in cameras that function perfectly and also look great,” she says, smiling. “It is a continuously developing technology and we love that it is so flexible, it almost has no boundaries – people are printing everything from organs to houses.”

Using 3D printing has allowed Goodman and her team additional advantages over building everything from wood by hand.

“Thanks to this method, we can continuously upgrade our cameras, anytime we have a new idea we make a design, print it and in a few hours we see if it is working or if it looks good,” she explains. “It’s easy to tweak and fine-tune our products.”

No longer is it a challenge to find specific parts.

“We love that when we have an idea that we need something special accessory for a camera, we do not need to hunt for that, but we can design and print it. It is so cool! The process is fast, effective, and cost-efficient, which can result in the affordable cameras we sell.”

Goodman is focusing her business on 3D printed cameras now, and has released two custom, unique Goodman originals that she hopes will let them leave their mark on the analog photography world.

The Goodman Zone Medium Format Camera

Launched in October of 2019, the Goodman Zone Camera is available open-source but also it is possible to order from Goodman’s online store.

Goodman says that she and her team understand that it is not always easy to find new or used medium format film cameras in good condition and also at a good price, so when they designed this camera the goal was to provide a professional and affordable medium format camera an entry-level price to give everyone the opportunity to try out medium format photography.

Processed with VSCO with c8 preset

Processed with VSCO with c8 preset

“Originally, we designed it to work with the Mamiya RB67 back and Mamiya Press Lenses. In the first year it was available only in a DIY kit, meaning that all the parts are pre-printed and all the necessary hardware, tools, etc are included in the package, and you just need to sit down, take some time for yourself and assemble your own camera,” she explains.

“Building your own camera is such a special process, we definitely recommend to every photographer to experience this joy it gives, and that special bond you will have with this camera.

As Goodman alluded to, thanks to the process of how they make their cameras, building out a design never has to be a “finished” process.

“Since then we are always developing the Zone, we launched a lot of small accessories, and in the last few months, the biggest development was a helical lens adapter with ground glass (also 3d printed) that makes it possible to attach a wider variety of lenses now to the Zone. Also now in January we are launching the Goodman 6×6 Magazine, a 3D printed back that fits our Zone, so from now it will have an alternative to the Mamiya rb67 back.”

Just in the last month, Goodman launched the ability for customers to order pre-assembled cameras, as they realized not everyone has the time and patience to build their own.
The Scura 3D Printed Pinhole Camera

Goodman’s second camera offering is available in 35mm or 6×6 formats and was launched in March of 2020. Just like with the Zone, the Scura is available as open-source so you can build it yourself, a DIY kit or, now, as a fully assembled camera and is recommended for both beginners and advanced photographers who are looking to experience the unique world of pinhole photography.

The tiny camera obscura was designed with a special curved back, so the light can reach the film evenly, which results in distortion-free images. 

Furthermore, it has a laser-drilled pinhole plate with a microscopic accuracy that is a perfectly even and smooth cut,” Goodman says. “It is a fun yet powerful pocket camera for capturing moments. 

A camera with a simple, easily manageable mechanism and minimalist design. The Scura pocket camera is tiny and super lightweight (only 0.2 kg) so it easily fits into your pocket in any condition.”

Custom Cameras

For 2021, Goodman says their goal is to create custom cameras based on the Goodman Zone body.

“We get a lot of requests from our community to build them a whole setup so they do not need to hunt lenses and backs. We want to make each of these requests special with our ideas like a special accessory, color, wooden inlay, etc, so all will be different and there will be only one from these custom editions.

Below are a few examples of custom cameras Goodman and her team have already completed.

“We love combining different materials and also we love to experience with the endless possibility of 3D printing,” she says.

In addition to the cameras, Goodman says they enjoy tinkering with other interesting gadget ideas.

“On the side, we always experiment with 3D printing and we love to create any kind of gadget that actually comes into our mind. For example, we developed a 3D printed gimbal that you can use with your smartphone and with a plastic bottle, or our recent innovation is a cold brew coffee maker (that is not launched yet but will be in a month), that is such a cool thing, and does actually make really great coffee!”

Goodman’s choice to not only offer cameras as a DIY or fully-assembled but also as open-source for anyone to build shows a dedication to making photography available to anyone, anywhere, simply for the love of the craft.

Below, Goodman provided a set of images taken with the Goodman Zone camera:

To look at the full Goodman camera offerings, check out their online store here. You can also follow Dora and her work on Instagram.


12 Best Uses For Old Laptops

As much as we wish they would, laptops don't last forever. With every software or technological advancement, the demands on your laptop computer increase until, eventually, it just can't keep up. What's fresh out of the box today will leave you yearning for an upgrade in just a few years. Suddenly, your previously treasured laptop is destined for the trash or a box in the closet or attic, next to the discarded toys of your youth.

If you're the kind of person who just can't seem to let go of old tech, don't despair, but do check on your closet-dwelling laptop. There's a chance that the chemical reactions in the battery have gone rogue, resulting in an explosion or a fire just waiting to happen. Multiple manufacturers have experienced swelling batteries over recent years and that's a concern, even if your laptop hasn't been plugged in for some time.

Once you've ensured your old laptop isn't plotting your imminent demise, you can start considering what you want to do with it. Your older laptop need not die of old age or spend its twilight years in a garbage heap. Instead, it can enjoy a fruitful second life with a renewed purpose.

Turn it into a Chromebook or Android computer
You probably shelved your old laptop not because it was broken but because it started slowing down and no longer suited your needs. Years' worth of use coupled with increasing demand eventually takes a toll on a computer, bogging it down beneath layers of digital sludge. Eventually, even running the operating system, let alone using it to do anything, becomes cumbersome. It might be that all you need is a lighter operating system to breathe new life into your old laptop.

As long as it meets some minimum requirements, you can upload a new OS like Neverware's CloudReady or PrimeOS quickly and easily. For CloudReady, your laptop needs to have 2 GB of RAM or more, 16GB of available storage space, administrative access, and suitable graphics and processor, (via Neverware). To make things easier, Neverware has a list of certified models which they guarantee will work. If your laptop was manufactured after 2007, it's likely to work just fine, (via PCWorld). You're also going to need a flash drive with at least 8GB of storage space, for installation.

Use your existing computer to load the installer onto your flash drive, then connect that to your old laptop. You'll have to bypass the automated boot when you turn on your laptop so that it accesses the USB drive as the boot device. Then install CloudReady and you're off to the races. Refer to Neverware's install guide for complete instructions.

Use it as a game server
If you've ever wanted to set up a private game server, there's no better place to get your feet wet than Minecraft. It's only the highest selling game of all time and it's not even close. Grand Theft Auto comes in at second place with 150 million sales, compared to Minecraft's 238 million, (via HP).

If you've been resistant to using your regular computer to set up a server, a spare laptop might be the right answer for you. The process is relatively simple, if you're comfortable fiddling with Notepad files and copying a couple lines of characters. Minecraft has a series of instructions outlined in their Help Center, but we can walk through the basics here.

As explained by Tech Radar, the first thing you're going to want to do is make sure you're running the current version of Java and, if not, update it. Once that's done, you'll snag the Minecraft Java Edition server file. It helps to move those new files into a dedicated folder where they'll be easy to find.

You'll need to open the eula.txt file and change the line that says "eula=false" to "eula=true" in order to accept the EULA terms and get everything working. You'll also need to update the directory to point to the folder where you saved your server files. The process can be a little laborious but if you follow the instructions in the Help Center you should be fine.

Your own personal megaplex
Even if your old laptop doesn't run very well, it should be able to play stored video files without too much trouble. Using its onboard hard drive or a connected external drive, you can store any movies and TV shows you own. If you're not using the laptop for anything else, clearing it of any extraneous software opens up more space for popcorn fodder.

Of course, you could use the laptop to watch movies directly, but who wants to do that when you've got a fancy flatscreen mounted to your wall? Since you're no longer using your laptop for games, email, or internet browsing, you can connect it to your TV and leave it there permanently.

The easiest way to do this is using one of your TVs HDMI ports. If your laptop doesn't have HDMI out, a VGA-to-HDMI, DVI-to-HDMI, or USB-to-HDMI adapter should do the job, (via Lifewire). A non-HDMI output, however, could cause some trouble with capturing audio from your laptop. You'll need to connect the audio output to your TV or sound system with the available ports and any needed adapters. If your laptop isn't too old, it should have HDMI and none of that will be a concern.

As explained by How To Geek, you can also expand your library beyond what you have downloaded by connecting the laptop to a Plex server, giving it remote access to any media you have saved there.

The ultimate retro gaming machine
We've talked before about how to scratch your retro gaming itch either using a dedicated device or a repurposed phone. Those solutions work, and they have the benefit of being even more portable than a laptop, but they're really borrowing from technology that was pioneered on computers. Turning your laptop into a retro gaming machine is perhaps the best way to relive the early days of computer gaming.

As explained by Laptop, getting your hands on emulators and ROMs is super easy and the files are so small that you can easily house just about every retro game file ever made on a single machine. That turns your old laptop from a dust-gathering piece of molded plastic to the fully stocked arcade you always wish you had. No quarters required. Of course, as we've mentioned elsewhere, the legality of game ROMs is nebulous so proceed at your own risk.

Emulated games can be played using your laptop's native keyboard, by way of the direction keys or the WASD keys, and you can even play multiplayer on many games if you split up the keyboard, but that can feel like juggling with one hand behind your back. A compatible USB or wireless game controller lets you play your endless library of games the way they were intended.

Make a wireless at-home file server
Are your files eating up hard drive space on your everyday computer? You could get an external hard drive or a series of flash drives to store your files and free up space on your computer, or you could turn your old laptop into a remote file server and access your files anywhere.

Turning your laptop into a file server is like having your own personal mini cloud for housing all of your digital possessions. TrueNAS CORE (previously FreeNAS) is a free, open-source solution for converting your old laptop's operating system to a network-associated file server. Installing TrueNAS CORE on a flash drive connected to your laptop will leave more room available for storage, (via How To Geek).

Once installed, you'll be provided with a URL to access the web interface and it will ask you to set up a password with you'll need to access the server from another machine. Once that's done, you'll be able to access the server remotely to set up shared folders as well as store and retrieve files over the air.

Donate its computing power to science
Science proceeds in two stages. The first stage involves gathering data and the second stage involvesfiguring out what that data means. At present, the first stage is wildly outstripping the second stage. Gathering data is like sweeping loose puzzle pieces into a box, you've got a lot of information, but it isn't providing a coherent picture. In order to do that, you have to go through the laborious process of sorting your pieces and putting them in the right order.

Scientists are limited by how quickly their minds, or their computers can parse the data, which is why they've asked the public for assistance. The latent computing power we're all holding in our handheld devices and resting computers is staggering, and it can be put to good use doing science without any real effort from us.

As explained by Vice, distributed computing in science got its start in 1996 with a program which used volunteer computers to look for Mersenne prime numbers. Later, SETI got in on the action and since then hundreds of programs have spun up, borrowing computer power from citizen scientists.

A discarded laptop can join countless others to work on searching for alien signals, computing potential new disease therapies, calculating the orientation and spin of objects in space, and so much more.

Home security system
All you really need for a rudimentary security system is a camera, some software, and somewhere to store your recordings. If your old laptop has a webcam built in, or a USB port to connect one, you have everything you need to finally find out what your dogs are up to when you're not home. It's probably something adorable!

While you could set up a webcam to continuously record, you'd eat up your storage pretty quickly and finding notable footage would be a huge pain. What you really want is software that's capable of kicking on when it detects motion. That way you're not left with several hours of an empty living room every time you're away.

As explained by Engadget, the steps are going to be slightly different depending on if you're running a Mac or Windows machine, but the overall process is more or less the same. On a Mac, software like Evocam will trigger when it detects motion, send you a still photo, and start recording. On a Windows PC, something like TinCam can do the same.

Both applications also have the ability to add additional cameras, so if you have multiple old laptops or other independent webcams, you could feasibly setup a system to monitor every room in your house.

Set up a Wi-Fi hotspot
Increasingly, being connected is an absolute requirement for daily life. Whether you're working from home, trying to watch streaming content, or play video games online with your friends, a loss of connection is a recipe for a bad time.

More often than not, unless you happen to be next to your modem, your devices connect to the network through Wi-Fi, and depending on the size or construction of your home, that can limit where you can set up shop. Too far away from the signal source or on the other side of a thick wall and you connection might drop off at the worst possible time.

You could pick up a Wi-Fi extender to boost the signal beyond its native range, but why do that when you've got an old laptop sitting around? Provided, of course, that your laptop is running Windows 10. Navigate to Settings, then Network & Internet, then Mobile hotspot. If you have the right OS, and if your laptop has the necessary Wi-Fi hardware, you should see the option to create a hotspot, (via Tech Advisor).

You'll see a toggle switch under a header which reads "Share my internet connection with other devices." You'll also see a network name and password, which you'll need to connect other devices. Finally, you can watch YouTube in your basement without being disturbed.

Make a low-def projector
There's something magical about watching a movie or playing games on a projector. Even if you could get the same size picture with better quality on television, nothing really captures the mystique of a projector. It conjures feelings of visiting a movie theater, even if you're in your own bedroom. The major hurdle is they can be expensive and require a little more setup than the plug-and-play design of a television.

That said, if you've got an old laptop, an empty cardboard box, some tape, and the loose change from your couch cushions, you can rig up a low-definition projector in about half an hour. YouTuber The King of Random put together a tutorial that is pretty simple and promises to work no matter what sort of laptop you have, as long as it can play video, (via Lifehacker).

The key to this cobbled-together movie projector is a Fresnel lens, which you can pick up online for a few dollars. They're often used to gather light and focus it into a narrow beam, but if used from the opposite direction, they can magnify an image as long as you're comfortable with some distortion, (via Edmund Optics).

Use your cardboard box to create housing for the lens, then prop your laptop upside down with the monitor pointing through the lens. Investing in a higher-quality lens should net you a better picture, depending on how much you're willing to spend.

Make a second monitor
Provided your old laptop is still mostly functional and it's running Windows 10, you can set it up as a second monitor in just a few clicks. Microsoft's Miracast feature allows you to broadcast the signal from your primary computer to your laptop wirelessly. All you have to do is go into Settings on your spare laptop, select System, then Projecting to this PC, and choose what level of permissions you want to apply. On your primary computer press the Windows key+P, click Extend, and choose your laptop's computer name, (via HP).

There are a couple of downsides to this solution. First, there can be considerable lag on the secondary display because it's being sent over the air, instead of through a cabled connection. Second, it doesn't provide you the option to tear your laptop apart and look at its insides. If you want more complicated but more satisfying results, you're going to have to break some stuff.

Bear in mind that once you open your laptop you've probably voided the warranty. The steps for liberating your LCD from the laptop vary by model so you might need to experiment, but we're sure you'll figure it out. Find the model number of your LCD panel and obtain the appropriate controller board. Hook them together, and now you have an independent LCD monitor, (via Instructables). It's going to look like you cobbled it together from pieces you found after the collapse of civilization, but it'll work.

Turn that monitor into a screen only you can see
If you truly value your privacy and you don't mind looking a little weird, a few modifications and a little crafting ability can turn your DIY LCD monitor into the ultimate privacy display.

LDC screens use a polarizing film to filter the light from the display and make it readable to the viewer. Without that film, all you'll see when you look at your screen is a rectangle of white light, (via The Verge). That will get you the privacy you desire, but it's not very useful. The trick is putting the removed polarizing film where only you can see it.

If you've already removed the LCD from your laptop to make a second monitor, you're halfway done. If not, you'll need to do that. Once it's free from the casing, carefully peel away the polarizing film from the surface and set it aside. If your polarizing film also has a layer of anti-glare film, you'll want to remove that, (via Instructables). Now you're going to need a spare pair of glasses. Cheap reading glasses from the grocery store will do. All you really need is the frames. Cut out pieces of the polarizing film in the shape of the lenses and slap them in, making sure they are oriented correctly, and you'll be able to see what no one else can.

Make a magic mirror
If you really want to feel like you're brushing your teeth in the 22nd century, you're going to need a smart mirror. Unfortunately, the cost is a barrier. They can run anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars depending on their size and functionality. If you've got an old laptop, however, you can build one for much cheaper.

We don't want to oversell this, it's going to take some work, but the result is pretty astonishing. To get started, you're going to need a mirror. Specifically, you need a two-way mirror that will show a reflection while letting light in from behind. If you're on a budget, mirrored plexiglass will also work, but it won't look as clean, (via Make Use Of). Try to find a mirror that closely matches the size of the monitor from your laptop.

Once again, you're going to have to remove the monitor from the laptop and get a compatible control board using the model number. Once you have that, you can attach it to the back of the mirror and connect a Raspberry Pi running the open-source Magic Mirror software. Refer to this handy Instructables guide with an accompanying video for full instructions. Package everything inside a frame and you're done. Now your old laptop can feed you the weather, news, and affirmations before you're even fully awake.




This AI imagery tool can transform famous paintings into different styles


A couple of weeks ago, we reported on Google’s AI tool that can turn any text into a photorealistic image. Well, it turns out Google isn’t the only tech company vying for a slice of the AI image generator pie. Meet OpenAI, a San Francisco-based company that created its first text-to-image system back in January 2021. Now, the team has unveiled its latest system, called ‘DALL·E 2’, which generates more realistic and accurate images with 4x greater resolution.

Both Imagen and DALL·E 2 are tools that use artificial intelligence to transform simple text prompts into photorealistic images that have never existed before. As explained in the video above, DALL·E 2 can also make realistic edits to existing images, meaning you can give famous paintings different styles or even give Mona Lisa a mohawk. The AI system was created by training a neural network on images and their text descriptions. Through deep learning, DALL·E 2 can identify individual objects and understand the relationships between them. OpenAI explains, ‘DALL·E 2 has learned the relationship between images and the text used to describe them. It uses a process called ‘diffusion’, which starts with a pattern of random dots and gradually alters that pattern towards an image when it recognizes specific aspects of that image.

OpenAI says its mission is to ensure that artificial intelligence benefits all of humanity. The company says, ‘Our hope is that DALL·E 2 will empower people to express themselves creatively. DALL·E 2 also helps us understand how advanced AI systems see and understand our world, which is critical to our mission of creating AI that benefits humanity.’

However, despite the company’s intentions, this kind of technology is a tricky one to deploy responsibly. With this in mind, OpenAI says it is currently studying the system’s limitations and capabilities with a select group of users. The company has already removed explicit content from the training data to avoid violent, hate, or adult images being generated. They also say that DALL·E 2 cannot generate photorealistic AI versions of real individuals’ faces.

design: OpenAI


Happy New Year 2024 to all, especially to our esteemed members of United Photo Press!

Happy New Year 2024 to all, especially to our esteemed members of United Photo Press!

Good evening to everyone gathered here tonight. We express our gratitude for your presence.

Within the diverse community of United Photo Press, each member brings unique values and norms, collectively forming a rich tapestry of humanity—a topic we'd like to explore tonight.

Let's delve into the concept of welfare. What does prosperity mean to each of you? Often, welfare is tied to material aspects, and traditional welfare states are intricately linked to economic conditions. When the economy faces challenges, so does welfare. These conventional welfare models, rooted in materialism, are becoming increasingly fragile. The ongoing COVID-19 crisis has underscored the interdependence of people worldwide and exposed the vulnerabilities of systems built solely on material wealth.

The pandemic has demonstrated that the current economic model and norms are susceptible to disruptions. The first fissures are already evident. In this era of uncertainty, predictions are unreliable, and the foundations of welfare are shifting. It's time to reconsider the values that underpin our welfare systems.

The crisis has revealed the need for a new form of solidarity—one that extends beyond borders and includes a global collaboration of all forces on Earth. The youth, in particular, are expressing their discontent. Their actions often reflect a sense of being undervalued and misunderstood. This dissatisfaction may lead to conflict or even participation in groups with harmful ideologies.

Solidarity is the key. It's not about mass production or suppressing the masses for the sake of health and the economy. Rather, it's about prioritizing individual well-being and investing in personal growth. If we redefine welfare to include essentials like food, water, clean air, and personal development, each individual can contribute more meaningfully to society.

In the upcoming year, let's focus on our individual values and norms. Invest in yourself and discover your unique qualities. By doing so, you become a more valuable member of society, fostering a sense of belonging for everyone on Earth. Let us strive for a world where each person feels valuable, eliminating conflicts and promoting harmony.

The new age children emerging today and those to come are more sensitive and powerful. Investing in their well-being is an investment in a harmonious future. Let's set an example for them by embracing our individuality and encouraging them to do the same.

As we move forward, forgiveness and understanding will play a crucial role in resolving conflicts globally. The shift towards what some may consider 'paranormal' will be a privilege, as intuition and higher guidance become increasingly valuable in navigating uncertain times. The normal will become paranormal, and a new society based on different norms and values will emerge.

In the grandeur of the Universe, each individual is important. Embrace your uniqueness, invest in your personal values, and live authentically. Smile at a stranger daily, creating a ripple effect of harmony.

Here's to a prosperous and harmonious 2024!

Carlos Alves de Sousa 
President of United Photo Press