Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Cheap Thrills

  Ok,  your drug of choice is?  Well, we all have one.  But put it this way,  what special present can you get for yourself in Nice for twenty euros?

Would it be a simple meal in an ordinary restaurant,  an inexpensive bottle of champagne,  3 perfect mangoes,  a big moleskin sketchbook,  a favorite cd or movie?  All of these would qualify.

                         For me it's a really impressive bouquet from the best flower guy in Nice .  This gentleman brings his flowers from Italy and they are always "dead" fresh  ( oxymoronic?) .  I have been buying flowers from him for over 15 years ( even before I spoke much French) and he has always been the consummate professional and best buy for unusual and boutique quality flowers.  I hate to go elsewhere if I can go to his stand on the Cours Saleya.

He is so popular now on a weekend that he always has an assistant .  Here is the current assistant putting my flower choices together with a few leaves or extras thrown in for free.  Sometimes the freebie  is foliage or sometimes a handful of sweet peas.

 The idea is that the bunches are priced pretty well to start with, but  if you buy two , the price is often lower ...especially if you are buying from the owner himself.

And like a boutique, the bunch is wrapped in "crystal" paper and tied charmingly with raffia.  Then the  stems will be cut to your specifications and you will receive directions for changing the water ( very important in summer heat).

Here's my twenty euro flower fix ...(with one of the Boldini copies I did in the background ) The bronze we found by a local artist in Ile de Re and that's a French refectory table in case you were asking.

                    I don't get excited about ordinary flowers but these majestic white, violet (and one yellow) gladioli with blue larkspur are a heavenly thing and like most awe- inspiring heavenly things are tenuous and ephemoral.

 I will have them for less than a week but I will bask....  Yes, I will bask for those few days in my twenty euro extravagance.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Nice Discourages Private Vehicles

                                      Our 3 year old Nice tram, place Massena (Winter)

  I don't have the official word on this, but it seems that Nice is implementing the idea that has been adapted by many European countries now, to lower carbon emissions by making the city unfriendly to cars and inter city buses.

Today I see an article in the New York Times explaining the movement across Europe.

In Nice, the Gare Routier, the central station for out of town buses, was torn down this year  to make way for one planned next to the Airport.  Unfortunately, the new one has not yet been built  so these buses are loading across town in various locations....a mystery except to the information centers and my friend Gail, who lists the new stops on her blog :

Also, I understand that the city is about to eliminate the most popular city parking across from the old town.  And as far as I know there are no plans to replicate this 3 level garage in a new location.  They can't dig beneath it either because the Paillon River runs beneath.  I can only imagine that this one parking facility is a big source of revenue for Nice so it does seem counter productive.  One hopes there is a bigger plan afoot.

In addition, last year a lane of parking was removed from the famous Promenade des Anglais in order to widen and extend the bike lane along the sea as far as Cagnes sur Mer.  And starting this year we have a great system of bike rentals and electric car rentals all over Nice, showing even more effort to reduce carbon emissions.

As for myself , I don't have a car, am used to public transport and am pleased with the bike paths.

The problem though, is that the idea is moving rather faster than the update of public transportation and services. The extension of the tram along Av de Californie will not be started for several years yet.
And if we are to load the buses and trams with people laden with packages, we need more buses.  We are already too crowded on bus and trams, and need additional services.

I do have access to a car, and I can tell you that the reason to have it is for cumbersome or heavy items one wants to haul or buy occasionally.  I can't imagine taking rocks ( that fall off my steep hill behind the house) to the city dump without a car or bottles to be recycled to the centers around town without the help of a car.  Delivery is quite pricey for items like furniture for example.  Much easier to put it in your car.

One wonders how all these changes will affect the average pocket book?  It will probably be less expensive to take public transport,  not to fill a gas guzzler with expensive fuel but private cars fulfill many different needs in people: prestige, ease and comfort, need for solitude etc.  It's a complex problem.

 Because yes, while I applaud the desire to honor the Kyoto agreement, preserve the planet and make cities more people friendly, it will take sacrifices and "mind shifting" that I don't see happening.  I mostly hear a lot of grumbling that there is no place to park.

   The question will be, is Nice ready to move with the changes required to have a healthier planet?  Can we as residents, embrace these needs?  Are we ready to change our attitudes about convenience, speed, efficiency, cost etc?   Or will we dig in our heels so to speak?

Without a doubt, we will be required to give and be flexible in the years to come.

Without a doubt, we live in exciting times.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Fete de Musique 2011

It seems amazing that I would be reporting on La Fete de Musique  as it was one of my very first posts when I started this blog.  Last year's post was about a group of drummers.

                                                      Not these fledgling ones in Spain, though

  Yes, it's been a year since I started this little blogging escapade, hoping my creativity would be sparked, hoping to follow my own drum roll perhaps.

   I think we all feel, Thoreau's quote is talking about us:  "If a man loses pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured, or far away. "

  The wonder for me when starting the blog was that even I would hear my drum.  But, well, others must hear it now.   I get about 1200 hits a month on my blog, which makes it more interesting to do.  So thanks for joining in on my little march of discovery.   Who knows where it will take us?  Its an adventure, for certain.

 So back to the fete.  I set out this time to sample the Fete, having just read all about the history of this popular music celebration on the blog of my oldest friend here in Nice ( well she is not that old, I mean I've known her the longest).

 Her interesting news reports and fascinating information is compiled under the Best of Nice Blog.  And you really should have a look at it if you want to know how the festival started and other tasty tidbits that she finds about our area.

Besides, I love reading her stuff as I always "hear" her quirky sense of humor.  For example, she reports that they were unveiling the Apollo statue last night in Place Massena and I had to see for myself if his family jewels warranted all the fuss over the years that she told us about.  ( He does have a very nice package but nothing to get crazy about).

  Another thing that I didn't know was that now La Fete de Musique has been exported all over the world and of course New York took to it like "a house a fire"!

For the national fete, last night here in Nice,  a few of us walked down to the Casino Ruhl beach for a free concert (that will be repeated every week this summer) by the charming Nathalie and her accompanist calling themselves Thalie'smen en Live.  Although French, Nathalie sings all of the favorites in English as well as her own compositions.

And true to the fete, at the other end of the large dining area at Ruhl beach was an amateur gospel group.  Strains of "Oh happy Day "drifted our way after Nathalie was winding down her set.

Around 10 pm, walking back, there were swarms of people out wandering from venue to venue in the town and along the Promenade.  All ages seemed to be getting on and enjoying a languid summer night.  On the way there, we saw a couple of "agents de police" on their horses , which I think is not only festive, but whose real purpose is crowd control.  People seem to respect police on horses.

It's always good to get to the beach on a warm summer evening and share a glass or two of Rose with pals.  But in this case,  we went back home rather early. 
As I approached my house, coming down my alley, where the street lamps were already beaming, I saw my two twenty "something"  tenants heading out for the soiree.   And much later , around 3AM, I heard them chatting merrily on their way to bed. 

 Ah Youth!  Ah Music and Drums!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Le Crottes D'Azur: Merde!

                                                              Via Huffington Post

Many years ago we went with a French friend to visit London.  He had never been to England so after his first morning out sight- seeing we met up for lunch.

 "So what do you think?" we chimed.
 "The people is sympa and NO SHIT OF DOG!", he enthused.

PRECISELY,  the eleventh commandment in the Anglo Saxon world is:    Your dog  "shall not foul the footpath or verges".

And if he does you have to bloody well pick it up or pay a stiff fine.

The Americans are similarly disgusted by dog caca.  I can imagine at home:

"Hey PAL, you can't do that.  Kids play in this grass.  I'M not leaving till you pick it up. " 

And you would likely be duly shamed or turned in by citizen's arrest. 

 We are proactive in America once we seize the idea of something....    Of course, Americans also use this same idea of cleaning up after your dog as a marketing opportunity and there are all kinds of" pooper scoopers" for sale.

In France and especially in the southern cities like Marseille, Cannes and Nice we have a shitty, poo problem.  I counted over twenty little piles on my short walk today past the FACULTY of TURDS and LETTERS....all of them on the asphalt sidewalk.  So owners won't even consider dragging their dog to the CURB.

 And there was a frighteningly huge deposit in the stairwell of the city steps.   By the size and girth , that one had to be the HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES..... or worse.... ( it doesn't bear thinking about.)  

There has been a campaign in Paris which is slowly succeeding to train dog owners to clean up after their canine beasts, and the campaign here in Nice seems to be stepped up..... I now have a baggy dispenser at the bottom of my street which is a remote corner of Nice.  Amazing!!!!

   I have seen dog toilets in a couple of the Nicois parks but I have also read that the bags provided were confiscated by people without being placed full in the bin.  It appears that someone is taking them to use as FREEZER BAGS......  CHARMING thought!

 If you ask a typical French person about the dog poo problem they are embarrassed or they might say that its good luck to step in "crottes de chien" ( literal translation: dog crusts).

  However, none of my French friends would allow their dog these liberties, and by the way  none of them has dogs either.   They understand the responsibilities of owning a dog ... so not everybody is guilty of this filthy crime.

   However, there seems to be a incredulity in the general public that one would leave the house armed with plastic gloves and bags to actually pick up after the dog you are walking.

In Milan the concierge ( portinaio) of our apartment told us that people would allow their dogs to foul the marble steps of our building even after seeing him spending all morning cleaning those steps.  They countered his objections with the idea that their dog had the right to go where he wanted!  So this isn't just a FRench problem but more of a southern European one.

 I think this is somehow related to the misplaced idea of the rights of the citizen  .... the little guy against the government.  You might also see people here purposely walking in the bike lane ... or biking in the pedestrian zone or... throwing litter in the street.   There is a strong mentality of we pay high taxes so that the government should fix everything.  And since we don't trust the government, we don't care about it's laws and don't feel bound by them.

 It's hard to get the idea of civic pride across if there is a lack of reinforcement of the laws .  The biggest help would be more fines being levied, not just on the books, but re-inforced.

Too bad Nice can't use the idea that I heard about in an apartment in the USA where  a DNA sample is taken from the mouth of each dog living in the complex.
And if there is a poop alert because of some owner sneaking out with Horatio at mid-night, the janitor will run out and take a sample and send it to a laboratory for testing.

 As soon as the owner of that apartment complex implemented this idea, the incidence of naughty owners decreased 99 % and there were few "mishaps" and very few fines.  

Great idea, we need some consequences here....but until that day on the "Crottes D'Azur",  keep your eyes down and your step nimble!

 via good

Monday, June 13, 2011

What's a true artist?

     "Untitled "  50x 70 cm.  Ink on paper

 A lot of my artist friends are having exhibitions right now and a small stirring is happening
 in my artist's heart.

 I had a show last year at this time in Nice and everyone claimed it a success.  I paid for the buffet, the gallery and the framing with my earnings and that is considered a success here, especially if the exhibition runs only one week and the gallery is off the beaten path.

 I was pleased and gratified by all the pieces that were bought by my friends and a few strangers.   People were kind and complimentary.  Several good pals helped me with the hanging and the transport and it all worked!  It was exhausting but it worked!

But then something happened.  I stopped painting.   I defiantly stopped for several reasons that I can pinpoint but I am not really sure myself of the real reasons.

 I am trying to analyze this and maybe throw some light on it for other artists who are stopped in mid stroke.  I see by my blog stats that it is not just my friends who are reading this blog now .  Maybe there are some others out there trying to get from A to B with their life and maybe we can start the process here of moving forward one step at a time.

First of all, I stopped creating because, not surprisingly, I needed to earn money.  A couple thousand euros a year doesn't keep one in biscuits and tea or even pay for art supplies.... even if one were to manage two shows a year. And  I stopped painting because art suddenly seemed a naive indulgence.   A show seemed like giving oneself a giant birthday party where everyone had to come, like it or not and bring a present!

   Of course to earn more in the "art" world, one could cater to the tourists here in a tourist town.     But compromising to sell "lavender fields" on the Cours Saleya is really the death of a dream and I question: is it really art or strictly commerce when you have to cater your output to a mass audience?

 Lavender fields is my euphemism for tourist art which is often slapped out with the overuse of the palette knife and lots of garish colors to please the masses.  With few exceptions, the offerings I see for sale for tourists are" paint by lobotomy": formulaic painting and hideous.    Sorry but I can't be kinder.

 And according to my three buddies who do sell art to tourists,  it is a bitch to get a placement or stand and there is fierce competition and jealousy among the sellers.  Still it is a living and I don't disparage what my friends have managed to produce and sell.  Personally though, I don't know if I have the stamina they have to drag oneself and one's cart out the door at "dawn's early light".

Another reason I stopped is that the "real job"  I do,  often with lots of back and forth on the internet, often waiting for clients to arrive "whenever" from the airport , does not lend itself to those long moments of uninterrupted thought or focus.

An artist has to go off in his head somewhere.    That means you have to get lost in a dream place.  That usually happens only when you are actually creating something or just sitting there with nothing going on.  So, first of all you have to make time for this fertilizing of the ground.  I haven't done this for a year, really, except for moments here and there for my engraving class.

Another reason I stopped is that I felt I wasn't a "true" artist.  A true artist, in my book, lives and breathes art and is helpless to abandon it.  Art colors one's whole life if one is a true artist.  I am not that.  I enjoy other things.  I am really a good teacher and sometimes I like being with people more than holing myself up in a darkish studio.

But even with all of these reasons and excuses , I found out there is a small crater, a sadness in my artist's heart.

  I thought I could live without art and I found out that I can't.  If one is a "maker of stuff" a "creator of stuff" ... you just are ...and you have to go with it, you have to honor it.

 This is what I am feeling now.    I am looking forward to gimping along with my engraving this summer.  I will experiment a lot and catalogue a lot of "mistakes" and  if I am lucky I will start to feel ....  I don't know....enthusiastic perhaps ?  Yes, that would be a good start.    Baby steps...think baby steps.

Friday, June 10, 2011

What I learned today....

 Today was favored by a trip to the outdoor and covered markets of Place Charles de Gaulle in Nice.

  I learned that you need to get there by 9:15 am if you are to get a parking place. 

I learned that some of the most attractive people around work with the land and with authentic food.

I learned that this charming cheese vendor carries artisanal flan in caramel and chocolate flavors.

I learned that this smiling Madame will give you extra chicken livers as a gift if you order from her stand.
Of course she will trim and prepare your foul for roasting including torching all remaining feathers away.

 She and her husband feature three kinds of free range chickens and pintades (guinea fowls).

I learned that there are five fresh fish stands ( more than anywhere else in the town), at this market.

At the fifth stand you may buy buy live shellfish including baby crabs, crayfish and lobsters.

But the best thing that I learned today was that this "beau garçon" promised to pose nude if I came back in the afternoon!

 PS. We bought a beautiful sea bass that we will eat for lunch along with a salad of locally grown mesclun, roquette, and "sicilian" tomatoes and perhaps some multi grain cooked cereal with that.  To finish there will be fresh raspberries from St. Isadore nearby to Nice.

 And over the years here, I have learned that eating fresh and local is one of the best ways to enjoy the Cote d'Azur and all its treasures.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Kobi Levi: Shoe Art Extraordinaire!

I just came across this talented, inventive shoe designer artist.                     

  His name is Kobi Levi and he is Israeli.  If you like shoes you will flip when you see the virtual shoe museum site and it's hundreds of pairs of unusual shoes.  He also has a blog.   Shoes are classified by style, material, concept etc.  There is even shoe jewelry, furniture, sculpture and other objects.  Kobi has been very busy and his designs are hallucinatory!    And apart from the sculpture shoes, they are all wearable.... carefully created to fit the human foot. -


 Some of them are ugly/wonderful and I would love to display them along with the rest of                      my collection of great shoes.

                                                                    Laundry baskets?

                                                                   Caddies ?

                      Although Kobi designs all sorts of shoes, his high heels are the stars of his repertoire.  I have always been interested in high shoes, as art and sometimes I even wear them!  It is irresistible to have the perspective that you get by being a few inches taller.  And of course the illusion of long legs is always flattering to the form.

   High heels, of course, were once worn by both men and women, usually of the upper classes for distinction and by the lower for practicability.  For example Egyptian butchers on murals from 3500 BC are depicted as wearing high clogs to keep dry from the blood of dead beasts!.

                                                                These are called Miao

                                                   These are christened: Blonde Ambition


                                                                 Here is part of the bird series:



 Here is interesting excerpt from wikipedia about high heels which are always a topic of debate among feminists:

 The history of the high-heeled shoe, or a shoe whose heel is higher than the toe, is a matter of contentious and heated discussion. Shoes in general have typically served as markers of gender, class, race, and ethnicity—and both the foot and the shoe have been imbued with powerful phallic and fertility symbols as evidenced in the contemporary practice of tying shoes to a newlywed couple's car.

No other shoe, however, has gestured toward leisure, sexuality, and sophistication as much as the high-heeled shoe. Fraught with contradiction, heels paradoxically inhibit movement in order to increase it, at least in appearance.

 Standing in heels, a woman presents herself already half-walking while at the same time reducing the length of her step, fostering the illusion of speed while suggesting an imminent fall. The higher and more unstable the heel, the more clearly these contradictions are expressed (Kunzle, 2004).

 Doctors and scholars alike have argued about the physical and cultural effects, both positive and negative, that heels have had not only on women, but on society as a whole.

I can only say that I am still enamored with high shoes and have worn many in my day. The ones of these last seasons though are the most dangerous ones I have come across.  Risk of falling, discomfort or impracticability does not hinder the sales or wearing of these alarmingly high shoes. It takes a special talent to even walk in them.  Which makes it all the more intriguing  as a social phenomenon.  

 But I digress again..... back to master wizard, Kobi Levi

Now how do these work?  

                                                 This pair should be called "Mick" as in Jagger.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Herbal Remedies Banned Across Europe

photo via Acupuncture Therapy Institute

Just when I was praising Europe for not over- regulating every little step a human might take,  along comes this new European Union law.

 Europe has been a place with fewer restrictions to personal freedoms than America....few  railings up around cliffs, for example.  If you are too ignorant or wayward to know to stay away from the edge of a cliff....well, down you go.  Darwin Award!

While  I am not a huge consumer of natural herbs (or any drugs for that matter),  I feel that this should be our choice.  What is happening to the "old world" approach to medicine?  This is a disturbing development.