31 October 2009


One Halloween, my sister and myself were punished and forbidden (interdit) to leave the house. We lived in a large one with a long driveway (chemin). Hardly anyone ever came to trick or treat. Our younger brother being only 6, was too young to go out by himself, so he stayed near the front door waiting patiently (avec patience) for trick or treaters to venture down our long dark driveway. Before going out herself, our mother had filled a very large punch bowl (bol) with all sorts of candies (bonbons). We decided that because we couldn't go out, we would invade (envahir) one of our mother's closets which housed all kinds of wigs (perruques), masks and piles of outdated Halloween costumes. Needless to say, mother had gone out for her own tricks and treats. Our plan was simple: we would disguise (déguiser) ourselves and trick or treat our brother. We dressed ourselves up, went out the back door, ran around the house only to appear at the front door bell in new outfits each time. We did this for an hour or two until the maid put him to bed.
At the end we were in hysterics. I think it was the last time I ever had fun with my sister. Poor (pauvre) brother, never did figure out what was going on.

Which reminds me, an old friend of mine was in New York for Halloween a few years back. He found himself at a party in tribeca dressed up in a witch's outfit with a pointed hat and all. Inevitably (inévitablement), he went the whole nine yards (nuit blanche). After a night of cocaine and drinking, he had to make it back to where he was staying at 8 in the morning. As he walked home past everyone else going to work, he couldn't quite make out his own reflection in the large storefront windows (vitrines) as he moved uptown. He wouldn't see a large man in a long black dress ripped in places, a face streaked with black mascara, wearing no shoes. 

29 October 2009


This sign (Panneau) always surprises me simply because I like the pure graphic of it. It hangs off the side of a house just outside (à l'extérieur) of Montelimar going due East (Est). But the business is long gone. Its often like that when one is driving around France while looking up at buildings and walls at the same time. Its pentimento heaven (paradise) but dangerous driving. 

I remember an old place by the side of the road on the National 7 somewhere in the Vaucluse. I used to drive by it all the time before the highway was put in. This old building was once some sort of chocolate factory (usine). The entire side of the wall (mur) facing RN7 was painted in huge (demeasuré) letters and a funny drawing of a child with a stupid smile on its chocolate mouth. It was quite something. I chuckled (glousser) each time I traveled past.

Just a few of years back I was driving by and saw an empty (vide) lot where the chocolate factory used to be. I found out a little later (un peu plus tard) that a British couple had bought the whole building  just to have the wall removed and delivered (livré) to their new home somewhere else in the area. Sacré Bleu!

This Pressing sign also reminds me (rappelle) that I have never been very big on ironing my own shirts.

27 October 2009

Le journal

Logo : France 2



I watch the news (Le Journal) each night. I can't help it. So many of my friends around here think that French television stinks (c'est la merde!) and especially (surtout!) the French news! They think its a big waste of time (une enorme perte de temps!). However, I don't care, and the older I get, the less I care what people think! ( je m'en fout!)

One thing I like is that through many of their stories, I am taken on a leisurely trip (un parcours) around France. For me, its a friendly (amiable) kind of news half hour. At 20h, the choice is between TF 1 and Antenne 2, but with the zapper I watch both, and in fact (en fait), they do mirror one another with the same stories. France is, after all, a small country. Its what I like about the Le Journal à 20h: it conforms to the size of its land, to the scale of its ambitions. Its nothing like American Television News which highjacks the Universe with that same irritatingly nasal accent, (and that's excluding the whole cable thing (truc).) No, I am for a more gentle (doux), easier to digest view of this insane world. I can only take so much of it. This is why I don't have Cable and am restricted (limité) to the concise order of the filtered French news show. 

Both shows (émissions de télévision) bookend the half hour with a subject (sujet) of unusual or particular interest, either cultural or social. Tonight on Antenne 2 was a segment about Amma who is currently (actuellement) touring France with a schedule which looks like a Rock tour. I mean, she is everywhere! (partout!). She is visiting many cities and small towns; touching everyone, which is what she does. She puts her arms around you, and gives you a motherly hug.  Thousands of the most ordinary looking people line up each day to be touched by her. Sounds good, in fact, I could really use a good motherly hug on most days (vraiment).

On TF 1, just a flicker away, was a segment about an exhibition taking place in Paris devoted to Miles Davis. I think its called "Miles, we love you" or something similar (comme ça). 

This is also someone who touches you.

26 October 2009

new painting


new painting 150 X 80 cm oil on canvas

25 October 2009


This past weekend (ce weekend) the local theatre group performed The Shoemaker's Prodigious Wife (La Sauvetiere Prodigieuse),  a work by Federico García Lorca. For the past 10 years since I moved into the area I have done most of the decorations for each production. And dutifully, I also film them with my video camera (camescope). This year, I feel that my heart wasn't really into the decoration (le decor). I don't know why. No particular reason, I just couldn't connect. I have been feeling full of alienation and anguish (angoisse) these days. Its hard to even know why. As they say suffering (la souffrance) is a just human trait but each morning I battle with paintings like they are small dragons, and me, their meal. Often (souvent), it seems impossible, but then, one continues, what else to do? The pleasure and satisfaction does arrive eventually on its own terms. Beckett once said (which I love):

"Fail again, fail even better!"

Lorca, it seems, was full of anguish and depression too, if for different reasons.  He lived with a dark secret (secret sombre) in a Catholic country intolerant of his homesexuality. He died young, murdered (assassiné) by the Nationlists, and its said, that his body (son cadavre) is still buried by the side of the road near Grenada marked by a small sign only.

24 October 2009


I gave up many years ago but lots of my friends still smoke. I confess that it can make a good looking actress (actrice) seem beguilingly sexy, but only on film. I've never been out (sortie avec) with one so I don't know what they look like in the morning. Smoking is really big with the youth (la jeunesse) here in France. Soon, packs of cigarettes (paquets de cigarettes) will show horrific looking graphic photographs of mouths in a various states of disease. Its the new government policy. The French Government is very serious about this business. I think they have even sold off (vendu) their interest in the largest tobacco company SEITA (Societe Nationale d'Exploitation Industrielle des Tabacs et Allumettes) which eventually merged with a large Spanish tobacco company. But smoking is still cool, like misbehaving on a vespa, its part of youth to defy death even if its stupid.

The French Government is so serious about smoking that when a retrospective of the celebrated film maestro Jacques Tati opened last year they actually removed (enlevé) his celebrated pipe from all photos! Naturally it created an uproar (un grand bruit).

They did the same with Jean Paul Sartre quite recently. From a very famous photograph of him, they removed the imfamous Gaulois from his fingers.

But the latest dilemma concerns Jacques Chirac, whose Memoir  was coming out last month when it was suddenly stopped at the presses. His aides had found the front cover (la couverture) unacceptable due to (à cause de) a freshly lit cigarette  in his hand.

In Chirac's case, I can understand as he is still alive. But regarding Tati and Sartre, it is unacceptable to present (montre) History as it wasn't. Personally, I wonder (je me demande) when all this foolishness (stupidité) will stop. Didn't we always accuse the Russians and Chinese of this sort of Orwellian behavior?

23 October 2009


I did this many years ago and offered it to a friend who has since slipped out (disparu) of my life. I don't know if I am more upset (bouleversé) to have lost the friend or the painting.

22 October 2009


Here I am getting a haircut (coupe de cheveux) from Reidunn. We are sitting outside (dehors) in her garden on a brilliant fall afternoon. Everything seemed like it was going  well, I liked the way her body brushes up against me, the blackbirds (les merles) were singing, but suddenly she said, all too nonchalantly:

"anyway, it will grow back soon" (de toute façon, il va repouser bientôt).

(merde!) I thought to myself.

It augered badly for me but since it was still so nice to have her rubbing up (frôler) against me I sat still, enjoying the present moment.

It always seems to happen that way: Going into the barber looking  only vaguely  like Robert Redford to come out looking definitely (incontestablement) like Gomer Pyle.

I remember an episode during my first year at University in France. I had a roommate, Michael, a  simple and lovely guy from Kentucky. We got on well. He didn't drink much but I brought home two bottles of wine one night I got him to cut my hair. I wonder why? Actually, now that I know the absurdity of it, it was
because I was afraid of explaining to a french barber (coiffure) how to cut my hair (!)

In any event, at first (au depart), he desisted (résisté), but I plied him with wine (bombardé) and then he began cutting. Honestly (honnêtement), he kept telling me that he didn't know what he was doing but I would hear nothing of it (je ne voulais pas entendre un mot!)

"Keep cutting!" (continue à couper!) I shouted over the Miles Davis record which I played constantly in those days.

When he finished, I looked into the mirror (miroir) and sobered up real quick. Knowing that it was all my own doing I kept my mouth shut and we finished the two bottles of wine. But Gomer Pyle looked at me in the mirror the next morning.

Another time, I had arrived in Paris to visit an old friend.  She is, and always was a lesbian, so I assumed that it would not matter (pas d'importance) if I slept with the Air France stewardess (hôtesse de l'air) who came onto me in the apartment that first night. Well, the next day before catching the train south I simply mentioned to my friend that I thought I needed trim (a trim for god's sake!)

Many years later, I recounted that story to another friend (woman) and she laughed (rit) hysterically. After she calmed down, she wondered aloud (elle s'est demandée) if it was really possible that I didn't know anything about the vengeance of a woman and its relationship (rapport)  to men's hair? She said: 

"I mean its biblical for God's sake!"

So,...I have a problem with haircuts. 


21 October 2009


Today is my brother's birthday (anniversaire). This photo was taken of him when he was around 9 or 10 perhaps? He is the only person who can really crack me up (se marré). I don't know anyone who is funnier, and yet, its a very private kind of  thing. He is very discreet (discret). These days of course, everybody is funny, and with a big ambition and a sense of humor (sens d'humour), they go to Hollywood. But my brother just went to Australia.

He is wearing the uniform of the Knickerbocker Greys which our mother forced us (imposer) to attend twice a week in New York. It was a very Social (haute société) kind of thing. We hated it, and it certainly contributed to our love of Frank Zappa and Thelonious Monk a few years later.

Last night, I was invited to a birthday dinner in a restaurant for Isabelle who runs the small bookshop (librairie) in town. I declined the dinner invitation but wanted to come by with a gift and to wish her  a happy birthday. I was late, when I opened the door everyone sang "Joyeux anniversaire .........etc"They did that for everyone who came in late. Isabelle was already there, as well as 2 dozen friends who were already lit up (arrosé) due to the flowing wine. I didn't stay long. As I don't drink anymore, nor do I eat meat, I am always a bit bored (d'ennui) by these things even if I like the people. I would rather be home playing piano, then, catching my brother in Australia later at night: 

"Happy birthday!" (Bonne Anniversaire!)

20 October 2009

somewhere else

22 september 2009         150 X 80 cm

This is a painting (un tableau) which I brought downstairs to the living room (le salon) last week. I want to see what its like to spend time with it before I declare it finished. Its always difficult (difficile) to know when something is done. It used to be impossible, so I guess I am making progress. I am working on a kind of series of these things. I am not sure what to think, but if I imagined seeing it somewhere else, in a gallery for instance, I know I would be attracted to it.

19 October 2009


This is what the countryside (paysage) looks like at the moment in the south of France. If one were out and about, one might see something like this. This small work has survived all of my moods over the years. It was done just 25 years ago. Mostly (pour la plupart), I throw things away too quickly, only the lucky painting, hidden away in the studio escapes my temper tantrums. That's one reason its always best to sell things as fast as one can. 

Speaking of which, tempers were exploding in the streets of Paris today. The dairy farmers were protesting (manifestant) the drop in the price (prix) of milk. It is a fairly serious issue facing farmers in several European countries. Its all very complicated but basically, they are unable to produce a liter of milk (lait) at profit. So, in France they hit the streets (literally). They turn cars over, burn tires, and throw cobble stones (pavés) at the state police (CRS) while hurling insults. It gets quite rough, and often, someone gets hurt. (No one blinks an eyelid though, unless its the poor kids from the outer fringes of society (la banlieue), then, the French worry (s'inquiete))

Being an American, I am always amazed at this civil disobedience. I have never gotten used to it. Throwing a stone at a cop in America would get you into serious trouble, enough to put you in prison if caught, or if the cops (flics) got a hold of you it wouldn't be fun (amusant). A friend of mine Carlo (an italian), tried to explain things for me not too long ago:

"You don't get it, for these guys, the STATE is everything, its like their Mother, and, they have been promised things. ,,,, and, they expect to be heard and taken care of. All the unions (syndicats) have the right to protest.... picking up a stone and chucking it at the police is ritual, a rite of passage, a rite of manhood (virilité)."

Needless to say this an unheard of proposition in the States. We are mostly a law abiding peoples. Perhaps we are just afraid.

Meanwhile, the trees (les arbres) are still blue here in the south of France, just the way Cezanne and Van Gogh painted them. 

18 October 2009


I read an article in the Times today about the a wave (vague) of kidnapping in Kenya. They are no longer targeting just "the rich", but anyone and everyone. Recently, a 6 year old boy was killed, his head smashed in and his eyes gauged out all because his poor (pauvre) family couldn't pay 70 dollars to the killers. 

There are times, often, it seems, when one is just sickened by the awful violence in the world. Many of us read about it from from places of cozy privilege. Here in the countryside of france these kinds of crimes are rare. This a civilized landscape  mostly beset by increasingly high unemployment and high anxiety. The urban zones (les cités) encircling Marseille, Lyon, and Paris are rife with gang violence. There has been a wave of of it claiming the lives of young, mostly black/north african (maghrébin) kids. Ten years ago, firearms (armes à feu), were almost unheard of in such populations. Today, a Kalashnikov goes for around $180, a grenade for $50 but even these drug dealers wouldn't kill a 6 year with premeditation. 

In the same day's paper was an article about the Simmons Bedding Company which has just filed for bankruptcy. It seems that it had been bought and sold seven times in the past decade. In a nutshell (coquille de noix): The buyers were private equity firms which pilloried (derobé) the company by buying it with borrowed money (which then had to be paid back by the company), borrowing more with the company's real equity to pay itself special dividends, then, selling it to next private equity firm in line which did the same thing all over again. I am probably skipping a few other morsels but you get the idea. Meanwhile (cependant) a few thousand workers have just lost theirs jobs (leur boulot) and another great American company has disappeared (a disparu)

These private equity guys are worse (pire) than Kenyans who kidnap children for dollars. 

And, do you want to know why?

Because they should know better.

17 October 2009


Free as a bird 

To go wherever I please,

From tomorrow

I will take the name  "Crow"

 Given to me by my friends

15 October 2009


A employee of France Telecom committed suicide (suicide) today. He is the fifth or sixth in the past year, I have lost count. He was 48 years of age with three children at home. It is an act of terrible desperation. 

I once saw a documentary (un documentaire) on jumpers from the Golden Gate bridge. Once in a while they survive, but only rarely (rarement). One survivor recounted the fragile moment during which he let go of the railing (la balustrade). He claimed that he was already (déjà) engulfed in regret.

Imagine that.

Someone (quelqu'un) once told me that if I ever wanted to kill myself, I would be killing the wrong person.

14 October 2009


I hate that I am not doodling (gribouiller) in these days. This small thing (petite chose) is from a few years back, done in a book I was reading at the time. I used to fill all the books I read with these kinds of things.

I wrote a children's book about 16 years ago. I took the greatest pleasure in writing it. It was full of animals, but I knew one day after finishing the story I would have to illustrate it. I was terrified (terrifié) at this prospect for some reason. Eventually when I did sit myself down to start drawing, I realized that I didn't have a clue how to begin. I went out and bought photo books of dogs and cats only to sit down in frustration when I tried to "draw" these things. Finally in complete desperation (désespoir), I decided to chuck everything out (jetter tout), and hid the story away into a drawer of my desk (bureau). I then made the decision to doodle for 'a while', to see if I could find my own spontaneity. I gave myself no time limit and gradually this doodling became a habit for me. After a while, I was doodling while on the telephone, sitting in cafes, watching the news, and even while reading books. All sorts of creatures came out: long beaked birds, four-legged things with human looking faces, dogs in three piece suits............these things evolved into wonderfully strange, but lucid self-portraits (autoportaits). They were like the tiny round (rond) mirrors which dentists use to better see inside, and nothing seen, was  rejected. Over the next few years I re-discovered 'my hand'... something lost to me (perdu) since I was a child. It came back through the act of simply drawing from my own imagination. Aside from the content, it isn't just the squiggly line, but a concept of space and borders which has now infected my paintings as well. It opened me up further into the world of the Surface. 

So now, I feel its absence in my daily life (vie quotidien), like an old friend whom I haven't seen in a while, if one can pardon the cliché.
Its been maybe 6 months since I have doodled. Perhaps (peut-être) it time to begin again.

13 October 2009


This is Reidunn in her glass studio. She is currently working on glass portraits, hence the rubber mold (moule) which she holds in front of herself like fisherman who has caught a king salmon for a strange photo op. She lives in Grenoble  with her husband (son mari), who is a doctor, and their two children. She plays piano and has insisted that they do as well. 

She likes to come visit me, probably to play my grand piano. We have a very platonic relationship which suits us both. Last April she visited for a few days. Within a few minutes of greeting me and sliding her arm around my waist she exclaimed that I had put on too much weight (trop de poids)!

"Hey fatso!"

was how she put it. I agreed. It had been a long sedentary winter (hiver). She had been seeing a doctor in Lyon who put her on a rather severe diet régime of protein. She looked great needless to say, but then, she is quite physically beautiful, pounds or no pounds. Thus, I dutifully went up to Lyon to see the doctor who put me on the severe diet as well. I lost (perdu) 17 kilos in two 1/2 months. I didn't cheat (triché) and the results (resultats) were impressive. The summer went by without fuss and I managed to keep the weight off, but autumn seems to have sent in the artillery, and the battle is being slowly lost. So now: no more pastries (plus de pâtisseries), no cheese, and little (peu de) bread. Now, if I cannot hold the fort under these constraints (so to speak) then I shall have to call for reinforcements by slinking back up to Lyon again. All I know is that my waist feels like dear Reidunn's rubber (caoutchouc) mask.

12 October 2009


I love this portrait of Emile Nolde and his wife Ada. It was in the large exposition at the Grand Palais last year (l'année dernière). The show was great, a real surprise in fact, as I thought I knew his work but realized that I knew very little. He travelled a lot making at least one long trip lasting several years. He painted wild things in Papua New Guinea, crazy colored sunsets and portraits of magnificent dark man and women. He worked in Berlin with the German group known as Die Brücke (the bridge).

Its a beautiful portrait. It was huge, taking up an entire wall. I remember staying in front of it for the longest time, standing afar, then close up again. I kept returning to it, when finally I quickly snapped a few photos using a cell phone. The museum is very fussy (chiant) about no photographs being allowed.

There is a time in a man's life when he has learned certain essential things regarding women, he has arrived at a place where he is reasonably confident (assuré) in their company. He has struggled (lutté) to learn so many of the things which lead his way into a woman's mind and heart (coeur)

In France, seduction is everything (le tout!). One spends one's life learning these things. Then, almost suddenly, can it be that one has been robbed (dérobé) quietly in the evening of one's older years?.... the confidence and the grace: have they fled him, vanished (s'éclipsée), as if to the other side of the moon? I wonder if that is what I sense in this portrait. Or, have I gotten it completely wrong, this is but a moment of intense companionship and trust? 


11 October 2009


The pears (poires) are incredible at the moment. I wonder sometimes if I only just live in France for the fruit. These are probably the last figs of the season from my tree. I am crazy (fou) about good fruit. I once had a friend who actually hated fruit! I am always (toujours) amazed at this. This sounds high-handed, but honestly (honnêtement), how could anyone not like fruit?

Pears make me think of Chardin and Van Gogh, although I am not even sure that either of them painted the fruit. It just seems like they did.

Apples (pommes) make me think of Cezanne: crispy green and red;

Peaches are sweet Renoir while cherries are strictly (strictement) Bonnard.

How could one not like them? What a tragedy (quelle tragédie!) It seems almost inhuman (inhuman)!

10 October 2009


Mistral arrived and blew the clouds to the south (sud). Actually the landscape looks a bit like this today. This was done one afternoon in the Vaucluse, in the valley between Lacoste and Bonnieux about 15 years ago.  I was still working outdoors (dehors) in those days and I look upon these studies (études) with a great nostalgia. Certainly (certes), it is full of holes, white bits of light, many of which I would probably fill to give it a better surface but I like its wild (sauvage) and abstract quality. It mirrors the untamed landscape which still exists in the valley despite the influx of renovated villas, locked off by tall gates (grills) and tall hedges (haies.)

In the last few years I have walked off the landscape path (le motif) as if I had walked off the edge of the world map like a sailor (un marin) before the time of Christopher Columbus. I wanted to see if I could work entirely from my imagination without any aid or reference to or from the visual world. I am not sure that I have succeeded (reussit). In fact I ask myself every day whether or not I have made a big mistake (erreur).

Tomorrow, it seems is supposed to be clear.

09 October 2009



Somewhat overcast this morning, mostly grey in fact and yet the rain (la pluie) refuses to arrive. My days are so quiet that when the telephone rings (sonne),  it startles me somewhat. I spend most of the day in my painting studio. But I have also been reading a book by Sara Thornton entitled  "Seven days in the Art World" which is enlightening to say the least (le moins). One of its chapters is devoted to the nominees (nominés) for the infamous Turner Prize, and the  2006 winner, which was Tomma Abst, a painter living in London. Curious, I looked at her works on the net, as well as those of the other nominees. Her paintings are smallish (plutôt petit). I liked some of them. They reminded me of the Russians of course, I saw two exhibitions devoted to them last year in Paris and in London. The painting above (ci-dessus) is from the show in Paris at the Fondation Dina Vierny. I was allowed to photograph to my hearts content (tout son soûl), an unusual luxury these days but I forget who did this painting though.

One of the big surprises in her book is a revelation by one of the publishers of ARTFORUM magazine who confessed to Ms. Thornton:

"As for Contemporary Art, 95% of it cannot be taken seriously"

Ouch! (aïe!)

Marcel, a painter friend, calls Contemporary Art: "L'Art Contemp-pour-rien"
"Good for nothing" 

Mostly, I agree with that, but my eyes are always on the prowl, and they have to be: this is my world whether I like it or not.

Regarding the Art World, Paris seems to have lost its luster (lustre) in so many ways over the past 50 or 60 years. It seems to have missed out on most of the Hedge Fund money; the funnymoney, which seemed like an electrified arc between London and New York, a kind of permanent rainbow (un arc-en-ciel) between the two cities. They say that's pretty much over but I doubt it. There is already too much speculation built into the system. The French have older and different ideas about money, especially (surtout) concerning Art. I hope they never lose that unusual respect for the quiet poet slaving away in a small life somewhere; he or she, working for the dead and the not yet born. It is one of the things which I love about this Culture. There isn't another like it any where in this Internet-connected world and as they say: As long as it lasts (pourvu que ça dur).

Ah,... (tiens) the telephone rings.

08 October 2009


I got a call from my old friend Frank who I have known for a million years. We went to elementary school together. We speak often (souvent) and its usually to  bitch about the state of the world. It seems pretty easy to do these days. 

The French, believe it or not, also have this wonderful (merveilleux) reputation for bitching and moaning, as well as for being argumentative and self-righteous. I understand this now having here lived (ici) so much of my life. And France, of course, as anyone who has ever been here, knows, just how little it has going for itself.

One could experiment: 

Suppose for example (par example), an American finds himself on a street in Paris exclaiming to a frenchman:

"Ah,,, its so wonderful here in France!" (Ah, c'est merveilleux ici!)

This would certainly trigger off the 'allergy' as it were, and to which the frenchmen would invariably retort: 

"Ah... you think so?,... well, let me tell you: its too expensive, the government is rotten (pourri), the taxes (les impots) are too high, and no one wants to work!" (travailler!) 


If, on the other hand, you had initially said to him:

"Listen (ecoutez) ... France stinks, its too expensive (cher), the air is dirty (sale) and the Parisians are rude!"

In this case, he would inevitably lurch his head high and begin to tell you "what an idiot (imbecile) that you are, Paris is the most beautiful city in the world, if not the Universe, not only that (en plus), he would tell you that you dress like shit (comme la merde) and eat like shit (ditto)!!!"

Ah!! zee french!

But back to Frank, who lives on an island by the way, he is ranting and raving,  going on and on about how screwy thing have gotten in our life time. Youth has gone crazy etc, etc... I was sympathizing from across the ocean when finally he stopped, and after a pause, he said:

"Hey, you remember when we were young (jeune) and we'd get into a taxi in New York, and we'd hear some older guy going on and on about how life 'just wasn't the same anymore',.... everything is just a 'damn mess!' (la pagaille), and how we'd look at each other, and how we'd jump out at the next corner laughing because we were young, and because we could! Do you remember that?"

I nodded into the telephone.

"Well,.... NOW, I'M that cab driver, that old guy bitching and moaning!"

07 October 2009


I have been criticized for my Post on Polanski by a woman friend who rightly found it dreadful (répréhensible) that I seemed more concerned with the innocence of Polanski's children and wife than I did about the 13 year old child victim who was drugged and sodomized by Polanski. I was wrong (tort) to have left that impression. I assumed that it was a given, that she was THE victim of the crime which was committed so long ago. In following this story, I suppose that I have been too carried away by my outrage (indignation) at the absence of any moral clarity in so many of his supporters both in America and in France. To me, their arguments are weak, (faible), pitiful (pitoyable) and undignified (indigne).
I want to be clear: I am sorry for all grown woman and all 13 year old girls who have been abused by men. 
I am also still sorry for Polanski's family.

06 October 2009


(Le quignon) is at the end of the classic French bread (bagette). I learned this  early in my life at the age of four. At dinner, my father (mon pere) would call me "Monsieur Quignon" and chase me around the long dinner table waving a (bagette) in his hand like a magic wand (bagette magique) shouting: 

"Monsieur Quignon, Monsieur Quignon: (Attention!) I am going to send you to the green planet!!.... I am going to turn you into a mushroom (un champignon), and send you to the green planet forever, and ever!!"

I would scream hysterically, and it took me practically the whole mealtime to calm down. 

When I first arrived in France so many years later, it always took me by surprise when the head of the table would ask everyone:

"Who wants the quignon?" (Qui veut le quignon?)

It was, and often still is, the weirdo of each family who shoots up his hand to say

"I do" C'est Moi!!

05 October 2009

Go figure

Everyone has an opinion about it... about him. My feeling has been that it will somehow be the issue which stirs (faire grand bruit) everyone this winter. It is already a (cause célèbre) around the world but especially so between France and The United States (les Etats-Unis), I am referring to L'affaire Polanski. All of the well-connected (Les People) in Paris have pretty much come out in his defense, in the political sense, that is. Two Ministers of the government:  Frederic Mitterand (Culture et de la Communication) and Bernard Kouchner, (Minister of Foreign and European Affairs) have both spoken out against the American legal system over this extradition process. (procédure) I confess that I haven't heard exactly what Kouchner said but I did hear Mitterand who insinuated that the dark side of America was popping out of its pants, (so to speak). 

My first thoughts were for Polanski's family, his two young children and his wife. They are the innocent ones in all this. Secondly, I wondered just how the Swiss could get it so wrong? It is amazing to me that someone, somewhere, didn't warn Polanski that he would be arrested this time around if he showed up in Zurich. It would have saved them a load of headaches. (beaucoup d'ennui). At the same time I am not suggesting that I think he shouldn't be sent back to face the music like everyone else who has skipped after a conviction has been handed down.

What is amazing (étonnant) is to see how many Stars (vedettes de cinema) on both sides of the Atlantic have aligned themselves with Roman Polanski, the artist (and criminal), rather than to Roman Polanski, the person and friend, certainly. 
They appear to have thrown away their values, at least temporarily (provisoirement). Interestingly enough, the polls (les sondages) in both France and America, are running almost parallel to one another at around 70% in favor of him returning to America. The women are on the forefront of this, understandably. I have read some remarkably lucid comments by many who are in favor of his extradition. On the other hand, (en revanche) I have read some really dumb (con) things imaginable by many of Hollywood's best and brightest. Go figure.

More to be revealed.

04 October 2009


I invited my friend Edouard over for some fish. He is in his late seventies, and has been battling cancer of the pancreas since last year. Its been a tough go but he is hanging in there (il tient le coup). I visit him in his small house a few times a week but never stay too long as he tires easily. He is my very good friend here in the countryside. During the sixties he was a filmmaker, and as well, your fairly typical intellectual of which they are always many here in France. But I don't mean that as an insult, it could be taken for one in America, of course.

(Cher) Edouard was born in (Indochine) when it was the mighty Colony. His father was a wealthy Frenchman and the owner of several rubber farms. His mother; a very beautiful Vietnamese. I have seen her photo. Despite his illness he  is still very handsome with long locks of silver hair. He reads Baudelaire and Flaubert, quoting them with ease. He is writing something (quelque chose), a long book (une oeuvre) perhaps, but he is very discreet about it. Edouard can be very secretive! Its part of his charm. He tells me that he now lives in blocks (tranches) of 6 months at a time. Normally quite talkative, (bavard), I never have a reply to this. He doesn't go out much except to town to pick up Le Monde and some things at the store. Once a week an ambulance takes him 190 kms to Montpelier for his chemo therapy (chimio) then 190 kms back again. He says the driver, a local guy, is very friendly and drives fast, which makes the voyage as nice (agréable) as possible. The national health insurance program (sécurité sociale) picks up the tab.

Today was Sunday, and he came up for a few sardines done on the grill. 

03 October 2009


I received this today from my friend Melanie who lives in Paris. She saw this piece in a gallerie in the 6th arrondisement. An artist has set up an Installation Piece of a Metro hall within its walls. In fact the gallerie is located right next to  the Metro Rue du Bac which I guess is where one finds the meaning. I sent her a mail asking her to please let me know which one but I haven't heard back yet.

Personally, I don't really get it with Installations although I have a few friends who are known as "Installation Artists". They are very serious. One of whom is quite (renommé) if I can put it that way (Nelly will hate me for writing about her,,, mais tant pis, I doubt she will ever read this so, what the hell)  Nelly who is Parisienne creates installations which resemble something between a dungeon and 19th century kitchen where women do all the cleaning, ironing and cooking. They are filled with realistic items from old bourgeois homes (maison de maître). They are very convincing down to the smallest of details but one is relieved to find fresh air on the street after walking through of one of her shows. At least that's how I felt each time I went. They are oppressive works to say the least. She is a feminist (duh!) and her work speaks for itself. She is articulate and not without a cagy sense of humour but I cannot broach the subject of why she makes these things. She throws up her hands and says that I am not politically motivated enough to understand. Fair enough, I keep quiet, but I don't feel that I am as politically naive as she claims. I simply cannot defend myself in her presence. I often come back to this question these days: Does one need to be politically engaged to understand a work of Contemporary Art? Recreating a kitchen from the 19th century with precision: isn't it like a painter who copies a photograph with perfection?? 

But getting back to the Metro Installation, I am really looking forward to visiting it as soon as Melanie lets me know where to go.

02 October 2009


Le figier next to the house has been spoiling me. Many times a day I pass it picking ripe figs, splitting them open, and throwing them into my mouth without a care in the world. (sacré bleu!)

It gives twice a year, this tree, once in late June, and then again in September. In the spring I seem to eat less because the blackbirds get there first. I've noticed that its because the leaves haven't matured and the fruit is like sitting duck, easily picked off. The blackbirds (les merles) are great crooners of course, but they really love figs (vachement!). In July they leave us to go north somewhere.

Upon their return in early Fall the leaves are large and the precious figs are hidden. (Helas,) the poor blackbirds, for I have stripped the tree bare! (il est dénudé!) This week, sitting under a waxing moon, and me slightly rounder, I listen to their plaintive song.... 

01 October 2009


I have been trying to get rid of these creatures since the roof was finished and they found their way into it just 10 years ago. In fact, in the first week in the attic I heard something moving around in it. The mason had just finished les génoises and I thought maybe he had sealed in a small bird. I was just about to get ready to call the mason with my worries when I mentioned it to a local friend who laughed and said it was probably un loir which had already discovered a way in between the roof and the insulation. They become resident pests here in La Drôme which is about an hour's drive north of Avignon.  

This small baby was sitting rather spaced out on the front terrace where I almost stepped on it. It took me a few minutes to figure out that it was indeed un loir which had somehow fallen down the long down drain and rolled out the bottom pipe which is rounded at a 90 degree, rather like in a cartoon. I picked up and it quickly melted into my hands. It was very affectionate.

My dilemma: What to do? I had been leaving poison out on the top floor for months now with no success as they are not as stupidly gourmand as rats, apparently. Too cute to kill obviously, but then even an adult loir would have been too difficult to kill. I would rather leave poison then confront the reality of killing. Je suis lache! In the end I decided to leave it outside where I found it to begin with. It was twilight and it soon curled up into a tiny ball and fell fast asleep. I put an simple iron chair over it so that I wouldn't come outside later and step on it. I checked several times. By midnight it was gone.

Les loirs can also live in the trees in the summer months and scrounge for fruit and berries. The dictionary says they are a kind of dormouse but they really look like squirrels with bushy tails and black beady eyes. They make a high pitched  screeching cry in the black of night, like a small murder.