Thursday, December 30, 2010

Winter Walkabout, Place Massena to the old Town

Local police brigade, Place Massena.  a couple of Monday's ago.

Fountain, Place Massena

Opera House

Chocolate Creche

Monday Flea Market

Treasures or ...

Old useless "toot"? 

Bottom of Cours Saleya

Local folk dance demonstration

Monday, December 27, 2010

Emily Patrick : exquisite little scenes

What you may not know is that I don't have to surf the net because I have contributors. ... smart, savvy spies with insatiable curiosity, humor, and discernment in subjects whose interest I share. These everyday journalists send me tidbits they have found in cyberspace and I can pass them on to you.

 One of these is my friend Bruce B. from NYC who lives here now.   Bruce along with his savvy and talented wife, Roxanne,  used to be the owners of Cafe Loup,  a popular restaurant in the west village.

  Cafe Loup  still has a "bonne table"even after our friends left it in the hands of new owners.  It is still a treat to eat there and bask in a unique atmosphere.

Bruce and Roxanne have always collected art and have "a very good eye".  If you were to go into Cafe Loup now, as I do each time I am in NYC, you will see pieces of their former collection still in place.

It is Bruce who have sent me this link to the site of Emily Patrick.  I have had it for over a week now and I cannot get enough of looking at her paintings.

  These "tableaux" are technically brilliant in composition and color work and in the use of tempera and oil to offer the ultimate in luminosity,  but beyond that they have inexpressible charm , intimacy and truth.

 The work skates on the edge of the sentimental but never really dips too deeply into that pot as the scenes are more about the roots than the blossoms....if you read me.  Still they are images that are universally peaceful and calming to the eye.

 As much as I love abstract expressionism,  if I could paint like this, I would.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

THE DIGITAL STORY OF NATIVITY - ( or Christmas 2.0 )

I had a memorable Christmas.  My little party of three was a success!   I got phone calls and messages from England and America and French friends too.   I got photos of growing kids and dogs.

 I stayed up late and savored all.

 Ahhh.  I am just going to do nothing today.  I may even get dressed........ later.    The hell with the gym.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Sandrine Piau Nuit d'étoiles Debussy

One of my French readers has sent me this musical offering to console me after I mentioned missing Christmas music.    It is called Night of the Stars by Debussy , sung by Sandrine Piau.  Isn't it piercingly beautiful?

Friday, December 24, 2010

We are the World....

I went out again today and do not see a lot of merriment for Christmas.  There are a lot of horns honking out of impatience, not the expected number of shoppers in the stores.  There is more like a grim determination to get through the holidays and wait for the sales on Jan 9th.

The woman next to me on the bus was quoting to me exactly how much the French are paying out to immigrants as she saw a young black mother board the bus with her handicapped child in a wheel chair.  Many of the  French are angry and disillusioned as are so many across the globe.... and in England, and America....  People who are losing all they have worked for.

  I will be surprised if the National Front  does not gain many votes in France in the next election.   I live in a working class city.  I sense and hear the disillusionment first hand from friends and people on the street.

My friend Bruce has just sent me this video.  It has all of my favorite voices as it was done "in the day": Ray Charles, Diana Ross, Bobby Dylan, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson,  Harry Belafonte, Bette Midler and more.   His question is whether this anthem of hope will hold?

Will we be able to come together and help each other now,   25 years on since this video was made?  Are we going to be able to face into these winds of despair and frustration?

   This video was a tonic for me so I share it with you.    Notice the energy the singers are getting from each other.  Hear how joyfully they sing as a group.  Watch how proud they are of their brief contribution to the whole.

 We are the World, We Are the People.  I am afraid it is down to us.  It always was.

Let me paraphrase Rumi in one of his poems:

"Go up on the roof at night in the city of your soul
and sing your note.  Sing it loud!"

Bless your Christmas.  Bless you every one.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Amaryllis: "Blythe and gay"

I am having mixed feelings about Christmas.  I am alone in the house now and there is only the sound of rain.

  I have a few decorations in place and I have been humming Carols like a lunatic.  I think it is a kind of tic that I hum them all day long.  

 I come from  a family of singers, you see.  I do miss it if I don't participate or at least hear a concert at Christmas. My family could sing "Silent Night " in 4-part harmony.  That was part of our Christmas ritual when I was growing up so I would love to sing with someone.  But there is no one for singing.

 I just had a dear friend to stay for more than a week with all the joys and frustrations of that.   She was ill because of the trunk I left in the guest room which presumably still has mildew spores in it.  We took it out but too late for sinusitis not to develop for her. 

 Despite that, we had some good times.  We drank a glass of champagne at a wonderful old hotel in town that has a map of the world on the wall and we talked rot about dreams of traveling to exotic places.   We ate a fine meal in the sunshine and walked about all of Monday. We laughed a lot and loud. She fed me chocolates from our best shop!

 Then there came the rain and the devil of getting out of Nice to London with all the requisite phone calls to travel companies that don't answer, web sites that don't respond....  All the frantic calls from people who have been expecting her there in London for Christmas.

Aiuto!. I have just  had another avalanche of big rocks hitting behind the house . The sound is frightful.... the hill is falling by degrees!   I peek out the bathroom window:  The rocks are the size, this time, of breadboxes....whatever those are.    The rain has been falling steadily for a few days now and promises to continue until boxing day.  I cringe of hearing that sound again.

 My husband, stuck in London by the mess at Heathrow will be having a dinner celebration with friends on the 25th. I am happy that that is something for him to look forward to.  It is bitter cold there, he reports.  "No thanks". It is mild here.

  I will be hosting two girlfriends for Christmas.  I am not sure how they will get on... two different cultures. There will be us three.  I think it will be fine.  We will have a festive picnic.

  I have just listened to my little brother on NPR with Terry Gross reporting about the disaster of the US exporting its toxic wastes into third world countries... always a cheerful subject.  He is such a soldier for his cause though, that I am fiercely proud and relieved that there are people like him with a passion and drive to make the world a better place.  Still I am stuck feeling sad and not a little guilty of my  own inaction.

....but I have a home and a garden and Amaryllis in a vase, and the orange tree is giving its ripe fruit now and makes outstanding juice.    I will not say no to a generous splash of vodka with that.   Here's to Christmas.  Here's to you. Here's to a better world. 

Friday, December 17, 2010

Yes, Virginia, there is a Père Noel

Nice, France: Dec. 2010

Nice, France: Dec. 2010

Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus

The New York Sun – 1897

We take pleasure in answering thus prominently the communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of The Sun:

Dear Editor
I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so.” Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?
- Virginia O’Hanlon

Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The external light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.
Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies. You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if you did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding. No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Basquiat: Une Vie, the film

I have new respect and appreciation for the New york artist, Jean Michel Basquiat  since I came across, Basquiat: une Vie which was done last year for channel 5 Arte, (can be found in English on dvd).

  I was more than ever convinced what an authentic talent of his time this genius really was in a life that  encompassed but 27 years. 

 The film is told from the point of view of people close to Basquiat who saw his transition from graffiti artist , poet and musician ( started the band called "GRay") who had only sold one painting for $200 to being able to command $20,000  the following day after being featured in print for the first time.

Directed by Jean-Michel Vecchiet and produced by PMP penelope polyester films for FRench Tv, the film features footage of Basquiat's SAMO period when he was working only in the street as a tagger.  

Apparently the more recent film called:  Basquiat, a Radiant Child  is more comprehensive but this movie has some new stories and never released videos.

As well as arresting visuals ( and in full color), there is an attempt to interview the artist who is characteristically soft spoken and almost silent but shows his personality by what he doesn't say.

 It is quite annoying to hear an artist over- explaining his work.  I feel that if the work doesn't speak for itself then one should find another medium.  So I was quite tickled when the interviewer asked Basquiat.  Are you angry?  "Yes,"   What makes you angry ?   Long pause, " I forget" he says... and there is  a beautiful slow panning of the artist's enigmatic face.

In this YOu tube clip, Suzanne Mallouk, his girlfriend for several years, explains what went on immediately after his recognition by the art world.  

One of the most touching stories in the film comes from a fellow artist of African origin who was befriended by Basquiat.   Ouattra Watts was an artist working in Paris at the time who had traveled to New Orleans with Basquiat and had plans in place to go to the Ivory Coast with the artist when news reached him of Basquiat's death by overdose.  To see Watts still working as an artist today makes one feel the waste of Basquiat's short life .     Basquiat: Une Vie gives us much to ponder and celebrate.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Its starting to feel , well...Festive

Lovely lazy Sunday.... in fact I am too lazy to get the decorations out for Christmas... but...wistful .

I am thinking of all the lovely memories I have of Christmas, especially as a child.  My mother was
 not one to decorate the house excessively.  We always had a real tree with lights and ornaments and we always hung our stockings ,but although during some of my youth my father made only a professor's salary, we always felt the magic of the season.

 Ours was perhaps more a cross between a pioneer Christmas from my mother's roots, and a religious Christmas from both parents.  The pioneer idea was manifest in the opening of the stockings.  There would be a piece or two of maple sugar and and some tangerines and some whole nuts like walnuts and almonds.  These were treasures to a pioneer child in America and were to us too.  There would be a toothbrush or something useful, and a simple toy like a rubber ball...also a legacy from my mother's childhood when money was scarce.  As a kid, it didn't occur to me to want more.

  As children we were also encouraged to make our gifts for the family.  Certainly, we had hardly enough pocket money for any gift at all so most of our gifts were little cards or what we managed to make in school with the class.   In fact, I hardly remember the gifts between us siblings.  It was more about the mystery of Santa and the bible tales that enthralled us.

Here in Nice, with the weather so clement,  it hardly seems the run-up to Christmastime except that there is some festive music coming from Seattle Classic radio  this morning.   I still have time to bring my house and mind around to the real spirit of the holiday.   Let's see if I can do that over the next weeks.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Thursday: Living the Life of Riley

  Just to rub it in I will say that it is 61F today or that's 16 celsius, which is not bad for the middle of winter.  We sat outside today and had lunch overlooking the garden.  We had a salad even, it seemed so mild a day.  This after many weeks of mostly drizzle, which was a bit out of character for November.  Yes, one of the best things about the south is that we really are in one of the best climates around( at least for now).

My husband is a great raconteur and by now ( after 30 years together) I thought I had heard all of his stories several times over but today he had a new one.   It turns out that the reason we are living on the FRench Riviera maybe had something to do with his dad who served in the war in France, a country he admired.

His father often repeated the phrase, LIVING THE LIFE OF RILEY ON THE FRENCH RIVIERA  when he meant someone had "landed in the gravy".  I think this got hammered into a little boy's head until we both came and had a look for ourselves and said "why not?".   I actually thought that my husband would just  want to stay for a little while but , well, it grows on you.

We sat outside today on a balmy terrace and had a dove conversation.  We feed two collared doves ( it's a long story) that live in the bay trees in our upper garden. (We don't feed them enough to be dependent, especially during the nesting season.)   Today we had a serenade from the female perched right above us on the "branches" of the parasol.

The male came and investigated to see if she was flirting with someone new but then he flew back to his branch.  She sat down on her breast then,  on the balustrade right in front of us, and made a little chortling sound, short and sweet, but many times.

 I don't have a clue what it means but it was sort of chummy and we liked it.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Monet at the Grand Palais Exhibition 2010

I am sending you this quite original interactive site of the Monet Exhibition.  For those of you who are tired of seeing impressionism, with inaccurate colors splashed all over t-shirts and mugs this will be a treat.  Because the directions are in French, I will give you a hint about some of the choices in English. If you can read french, don't spoil it by reading forward.

  Wait for the video to charge up and then activate your camera and speakers on your computer.

 The first thing you do is tip over the ink jar with your mouse to start the video.
"Suivant" sign means " following" so you always click on that circle on the right if you see it.

The first interaction will be a picture of a snow scene with a Magpie.  Click on the magpie to get the next painting.  Next interaction there will be a winter into spring "tableau" where you will click on the circles .   With the windmill if you blow on your microphone or mouse click the blades, they will start to turn.

 I remember that there is the painting of the boat,  you can take your mouse and and make the water ripple. Then comes the bridge at Giverny that you can make rock with your mouse.

 In the waterlilies you need to sweep your mouse to the right to have the picture cascade to the right clicking on the circle with the arrow.

There will be a painting with fog in which case you need to wave your hands in front of your web-cam.
 Unfortunately, I couldn't make the video work past the bell chimes on the cathedral.    But you can then go into the gallery and look at each painting separately.

My favorite is the picture of the haystack with the little straws of hay in the air.   Let me know how you get on.  I know some of you will say, too much bother.  But for those with the time and patience , it will make you smile.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Just a Saturday

    1.  8h00  Get up, long bath , breakfast , get dressed

    2.   Check on the leak going into the small apt rental that happened after the last big rain.   Remind myself to come back later and clean the leaves from the drain.

    3.   10h00 Go with hubby out to Basika to buy a mattress for the guest bed.  The old one smells like mildew and is really uncomfortable.   Bring the mattress ( anti mildew, anti bacteria) home and slide it into the garage for now.

    4.  11h00 Get back in the car to head for downtown Nice.

  Everything is festive.  There are hundreds of  Christmas trees with flocking and stands set up by the fire department for a fund raiser.  There is great music playing or maybe it is a real someone singing.  Lots of activity.  Lots of people.   Remind myself to come back and take some pics for my blog.

    5.  12h00 Go to Galerie Lafayette and buy some green stockings (Absinthe).  Check out the short black skirts.  One hundred and eighty five euros is too much for the Agnes B skirt.  Refuse to be tempted.  I can find one in San REmo or the old town for less.

    6.  Buy some inserts for my tennis shoes at a brand new running shop on Felix Faure. Now I can do the treadmill at the gym without my right foot hurting.

    7.  Join my husband who has done the food shopping and bought the weekend papers and we go home in our rental car.

    8.  13h00  Serve and eat lunch together, clean up.  The best thing are the olives he found at the Italian store and the buffalo mozzarella which I never tire of.  The rest is left-overs.

    9. 14h00 It is sunny so I do two loads of wash and change the bed clothes.  Hang out the clothes on the line.

   10.  Time to cut the grape vine.  First though, I need to go back and clean leaves on the terrace next door .  Do that.  I finally can see what the neighbor's pool looks like since I am up so high.  It is really dirty.  I am so glad I don't have a pool to clean.

   11.  15h00 Spend time on the yard: raking cherry and grape leaves, cutting the grape-vine, starting on the plumbago which needs to be cut back.  Sweeping up from the last land slide behind the house.

   12.  17h00 Come inside and have a nice cup of green tea and two almond cookies.  The outdoors was nice and exhilaratingly cold but now my toes are frozen.   Take off garden shoes and clean my pruning shears like a good girl.  

  13.  REad a bit of The Element by  Ken Robinson.   It talks about different kinds of IQ and how we have varied sorts of creativity.  I found it in the bookstore in SEattle and am just getting around to it.  I like to know that the standard tests we had in school were a " crock"....   Especially the STanford-Binet which was never intended to identify degrees of intelligence but was used for that when I was a kid.

 14. 18h00  My husband and I go downstairs to set up the new bed.  We identify a bit of mildew on the boards of the futon but not the tatami.  Whew.  That just means cleaning the slats underneath and putting it back together.  We get it wrong 5 times and drop the slats on my foot!   But finally we align it and make up the new bed.    We are ready for the next house guest who is due in about a week or so.

 15.  I check my email and make sure that Martine got my order for the art supplies we wanted for engraving.   I answer someone on Facebook and delete four mails.

 16. 19h00 I eat a piece of unleavened bread ( Essene) , 2 pieces of celery with peanut butter.  Old habits die hard.  Yes, I do have a jar of peanut  butter in my fridge.   I guess I am a native American after all.

 17.  Decide that I should probably not post every day on my blog so that I get in a few more things.  But will miss posting to my 3 readers in the Soviet Union as well as all the rest of you .

18,  Maybe a dvd now or a book...have a good evening.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Soiree chez nous: Melanzane alla Parmigiana

WE were about to have a few friends over to meet "le cousin". Part of his visit this time consisted of a trip to Rome to see the relatives, and so he didn't get a chance to see everyone on his list.

 Still,  the men wanted to do one dinner.   So I was lucky to just putter around, light the candles, don pink stockings, turn on KFSM jazz  and tweak the silver and napkins.

Although I was not cooking, I was there in the kitchen with my trusty Canon S90 and can fill you in on most of what happened at our house last weekend.  The recipe was for Eggplant Parmigiana for 6 people.

When I arrived on the scene,  there were from  6-8 eggplants peeled, sliced and salted under a weighted pan over a colander.  After  2 hours  there was about an inch of brown liquid that had oozed out and was tossed away.

My husband was making his special tomato sauce who's special ingredient is reduced wine syrup.  This secret elixir serves to cut the acidity of the tomatoes and add dimension. It is something he came up with on his own so it's his recipe, really.

Our other chef " cher cousin" had on his apron and was setting out the dredge in this order:   flour,  beaten eggs with a couple of T of water ( we had egg left over), and crushed bread sticks seasoned with salt and pepper.  The guys crushed them with a wine bottle used like a rolling pin.  They were breadsticks with sesame seeds.

 I have never seen commercial bread crumbs here in FRance and how would you know if they are fresh, anyway? It would seem very un-french not to do them yourself.

The slices were then piled up on a plate ready for sautéing. ( omg, the blog font just put in the accent mark automatically! astounding.)

The "boys" had covered the bottom of a big skillet with a thin  layer of olive oil and turned it up to moderately high to brown the eggplant slices on both sides.

This takes quite a while. And once browned, the slices need to be drained with paper towels to get off  excess oil.

 In the meantime about 4 balls of fresh buffalo mozzarella were cut into chunks to layer with the eggplant and tomato sauce.  The oven is already preheating on #6 convection oven.  (With our old clunker we have to turn it on the rotating fan setting or it won't get hot enough.)

Here is the dish before it goes in the oven with a layer of parmesan sprinkled on top. We waited until it was bubbling all around the edges before it came out. 

And here is the same dish about 30 minutes later with a sprinkling of parsley for color.  Apparently, this is a very popular dish in America but I have never made it so forgive my stating the obvious.

The best thing about this entree is that it can be prepared earlier in the day and can be put in the oven well after the first glass of champagne is consumed and everyone is comfortably settled in and hungry.  It was at that point that we served it up and brought it to the table. 

The wine we poured was 2000 Hermitage rhone wine from Paul Jaboulet and a special bottle of "ermitage" 1996 spelled without the "H", by M. Chapoutier.  

   After second rounds, I served a salad of mache, mesclun and endive with toasted walnuts and bits of kaki pomme( apple- like persimmons not soft). The dressing was a simple vinaigrette with excellent quality olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  I thought it turned out well.  

It has been like Christmas around here with all of the bags and bags of treats and tasty foods  and other gifts that "the cousin" has brought us like a generous Santa.
 Much later in our evening,  we had a wonderful apple, upside-down-cake baked by another friend.  And still another guest brought the beautiful bouquet of amaryllis in greens, whites and pale pinks that you see here.   It was a sumptuous evening.

And I am basking still.   What great folks I have come to know here.   Vive la France et vive l'amitie!