Monday, April 30, 2012

Joy In The Congo: A Musical Miracle

Joy In The Congo: A Musical Miracle

Its a rainy day here and you might need some lightening up.   Take a look at this smile on the handsome Congolese violinist that opens this CBS "60 minutes" video that I have posted with the link above.  Let yourself be transported.

  And thanks from my pal , Bruce Bethany who is always finding great stuff out there.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Coco Deville : Boutique

I just got back from stopping in to see the new ladies on the block at Coco Deville. 

 I came across Coco Deville, a few weeks back on a short cut to the cinema.  This imaginative lamp installation caught my eye and I peeked inside. 

 I ended up in a long chat with Emma (in English) and Agnes (in French) Calderat in their new shop at 11 Alphonse Karr.  Tel. O4 93 53 99 38.     It was then that I promised the mother daughter team that I would put the word out about their new "Glam-rock-bling- bling" oasis.

 Agnes below is from Paris and Emma, her daughter (who I met last time),  has spent recent years living in Florida.  The results of their efforts is  Coco Deville specializing in ultra "tendence" very vamp, glamorous shoes and accessories for women.  

There is jewelry, there are wallet purses like Agnes is holding, with straps hidden inside, quite reasonable at 69 euros.   There are bags and belts

 and a line of beautifully packaged candles by Voluspa ( below).   

For those daring, young and into L.A. chic, there are some pretty outrageous shoes too.   The designers include Pura Lopez, Bourne, Just Anna,  and an exclusivity of shoes by Jean Michel Cazabat of New York City, a frenchman whose styles are worn by the likes of Jessica Alba, Rihanna, Penelope Cruz and of course,  Sarah Jessica Parker.  

 I tried a few pairs on today of these modern heels and I was at least 10 centimeters taller with the "plateau" styles, maybe more....and that, my friend, is part of the appeal.  

 Today, new since last time, there was a shipment of charming ballerina flats ( by Pretty Ballerinas) with fun motifs  and some new sandals....with more to come. 

It was a pleasure to have a chit-chat with Agnes today on the mega rhinestone and leather bench, try on some shoes with my girlfriend and admire and encourage their success.  You can stop by just to say "hi", no pressure.  It's that kind of place. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

On the road again...

ON the road again but this time the bike path.  I have pulled out my newish bike and I have been trying to get my stamina back from a year of idleness.   I am surprised at how long it is taking me to recuperate between rides.   I am up to my fifth or so ride this month but some of those were several days apart.  I need to do a 45 minute ride which challenges me  ( high gears on the Promenade ) at least 3x a week.     Last FRiday, though exhilarating,  the ride almost killed me as it was 45 minutes up hill in the lowest of my 10 gears.  And the ride past the port yesterday wasn't much easier as the wind was against me all the way home from Coco beach.   I will keep at it.

Lots of stuff is going right past me in the political and social arenas of Nice.   I am blithely ignoring all of the excitement and eagerly reading the blogs of my friends who are covering it so beautifully.  and

  For example , the FRench just had a preliminary election and it was the first time that a modern FRench president did not win the first round.  It will be a hard battle between conservative Nicolas Sarkosy who got 25 % of the preliminary vote and Francois Hollande the leftist candidate who won 27%.   And the anti-immigrant , anti- islamic France candidate Marine Le Pen came out with a surprising 17 %.   But perhaps not so surprising because the first vote is traditionally a thump to the head of the current president and a protest vote.

Sarkosy who has Jewish, Hungarian, Greek and French parentage is somehow already not FRench enough for some voters.    Hollande, on the other hand has an unfortunate name for a French president!!!

Hollande is regarded by many as an affable moderate whose quiet - some might say dull  ( his nickname is Flamby)  ways contrast sharply with the intensity and glamour of conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy.   But will Hollande, who has never held a national government office be able to steer a way through the European gloom?

With the economic woes, it seems that most people worldwide now just want ANYONE other than the incumbent.  It's so simple to blame a current leader when things fall apart.    Here and in America there is an overwhelming feeling of putting off the pain of our monumental economic problems.... for what I call "magical thinking".

 We live in exciting times, no doubt.    We will soon know the outcome of the French national election on May 6 or 7.   In the meantime....  

   I recommend that we temper our political and fiscal nightmares with a little bike ride.   It will clear the brain....especially if the sea beckons like a sirens call as it does just now.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Christophe Beraet, artist

Another of my fellow students at the Villa Thiole municipal art school in Nice is Christophe Beraet. 
 It is always fun to see him in class, as like Silva ( previous post)  he has immense enthusiasm for everything and a passion for what he is able to contribute to the world of art and poetry.
Tuesday last I had a chance to see him in another element at the Nice Fair where he shared a stand with Silva Usta.   The fair in Nice has no cows or horses, no stands of bakery goods, no quilts.  It is rather a chance for decorators and construction people to sell and show off their services and wares.  The second floor houses more than 50 stands of fine artists or craftsman hoping to sell and make contacts. 

  This is Christophe at the vernissage ( literally "the varnishing")  on Tuesday night with two of his fans.  

Christophe Beraet was born in Nice in 1968 at the foot of the Maritime Alps and exhibits and paints in a studio at : 

8 rue Parmentier
06100 Nice
Alpes-Maritimes, France
   As well as painting, engraving, interior design, land art and installation and performance, a main interest is poetry.   Here is a sample of two poems that Christophe sent me as a sampling.   My friend Marianne Nicaise has translated them into English.

I stand without you
to open lightning,
and go to sleep free,
for an instant,
in the breeze of not being,
black builds my roof,
fleshes tight,
thing that I was,
lawless dusk,
sculpts the rain,
doing better,
standing without you,
already burning up.

"Debout sans toi
ouvrir la foudre,
et s'endormir libre,
pour un instant,
dans l'alizé du non-étant,
noir fait mon toit,
chairs à l'étroits,
chose que j'étais,
crépuscule sans loi,
taille la pluie,
en faisant mieux,
debout sans toi,
je suis déjà brûlant."

The wind's breath
digs ruthlessly,
the flesh of the vale,                      
from moon to earth,
wise and deeply patient,
bitten by a red flood,
squanders her flight,
going and coming,
heavy and deprived of breath,
snatched from doubt.

"Le souffle du vent
bêche avec rigueur, 
la chair du gallon, 
de la lune à la terre, 
sage et d'ample patience,
mordue d'un flot rouge,
gaspille son essor,
d'un va et vient,
lourd et sans haleine,
arrachée au doute."

 All of the artist's paintings are coupled with poems written into the work or else recorded on the back of the canvas in his own hand.    Whenever possible he installs poems like kites into the landscape .  His next installation will be at the park of the Chateau in Nice.  Check his site for upcoming performances.   He has already covered the olive grove in Cimiez in a similar event.  In fact this artist is very well represented in Nice.    
 Speaking of his different media, Christophe says about the paintinginstallation, performance, engraving and poetry.   
 These different media "allow me to synthesize my artistic thought,  articulated in poems as a category of the mind,  that of moving images as a scenic device,  prints and painting as a medium of physical expression....  the natural or urban environment acting as staging for the beings or objects."
Here is a sampling of his work.
oil on canvas 146x114 cm. 
oil on canvas 146x114cm.

drypoint on paper

 Chris working on an interior design

  I like this last "white on white" engraving, one of my favorites.   It shows his interesting handwriting which I find indecipherable but wonderful for its graphic quality .  
 I am hoping to see more of Christophe's work in the future.  When I see him I  always seem to have a good "nattering" over some new discovery in the local art scene.   It's the way we do it here. 

   Let me know if you want to come along.     

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Silva Usta: artist

 This is my friend, Silva Usta

 She is one of a dozen artists that I know of working seriously on the cote d'Azur to have a life in the arts.    Yesterday I went along to the "Foire de Nice" where she was exhibiting her linocuts and intaglio prints and some new plexi-glass pendants necklaces which are her latest jewelry creations.
Silva is Armenian, born in Istanbul.  According to her site,  in 1972 Silva was to be found working in Strasbourg as a craftsman-jeweler.   Like so many artists,  however, she was attracted to the quality of the light in the south of France, and moved to Nice in 1980.  She soon became a student at the same school I have been following for years : the Municipal School of Plastic Arts of Nice (EMAP - "Villa Thiole")

 While attending this school in which many disciplines are included, she ironically discovered mosaic ( it is not one of the offerings at the school). This was the beginning of a great love affair she says.... for Silva has revisited this ancient technique and it has given free reign to her creativity in sculpture, installations, mixed media pieces and jewelry.

It is a treat to visit Silva's studio located in the musicians quarter, 22 rue Gounod (passage) rue Anton-Tchekhov 06000 à Nice.  Aside from the warm welcome and coffee,  Silva's enthusiasm and vibrant personality shows itself in the array of dazzling colors and endless delights to be found there. The day I visited, I ended up buying a fun and unusual necklace made from recycled nespresso capsules ( of George Clooney fame), which always gets complimented whenever I wear it. 

My necklace made by Silva

 Although I get to see Silva regularly in my engraving class at Villa Thiole,  I was curious to see what a stand at the faire would be like and who else exhibits there.  
    This time Silva was sharing the stand with another friend, Christophe Beraet ( who I will report on in another post ) and was exhibiting her "gravure work" and some new plexi-glass necklaces in the jewelry line.

  Definitely visit the website I listed above to have a full view of her range of works.  This is only a small sampling from yesterday of the playful world of Silva Usta.

 engraving on copper

Pendants on shell ( nacre)

Pendants on Plexiglass

Medium pendant 45 euros

                                                         Linogravure  / lino cut print

Monday, April 16, 2012

Not just your average couple

Last night I had dinner with two acrobats, Alicia and David Gray.   This engaging couple are stopping in Nice as the only two acrobat performers in the current Holiday on Ice show called SPEED. 

  We were offered free tickets to SPEED, so three of us attended the show at the Nikaia on Friday.  There we were fascinated to find DAvid and Alicia as a featured act floating above the ice rink.  The free tickets had come from Alicia's father who went to High School with Jeanne so we met up for a few minutes after the show to introduce ourselves.    

 No more pastel costumes and serene ice waltzing of yesteryear for the new HOliday on Ice.  Now we have motorcycles and ramp jumping, elaborate go-go dance numbers, skaters on stilts, fireworks, fire wands, ice races and audience participation.   And with all this glitz, come some quite dazzling performers as well.  (I am in love with the male skater from Chicago, a Mr. Wade, for one. )

But Sunday being the end of the run in Nice, David and Alicia agreed to let us take them out for an authentic nicoise meal in the old town. 

On the way over we had been talking about what it means to get a good hamburger in Europe, so David's face fell as I gleefully read off the first three offerings on the menu posted outside the restaurant:  sheep testicles,  tripe and veal kidneys,  not to mention "merde de can" gnocchi later found on the menu.  ( Yes, that's Dog shit in Nicois, a joke on the way the gnocchi with stew sauce looks)   Of course we found some wonderful ravioli, stuffed zucchini flowers and other nicoise treats that pleased everyone and  settled in for a fun evening of story swapping.  

  Alicia 28, and David 32,  are as genial and charming as they look and aside from their good looks and toned bodies, there are no special give-aways about their profession.  It is somehow amazing to find that they are American acrobats...a rare species.  So how did they begin?  

 What started it all off for Alicia, a Californian, was a  "coup de foudre" for  circus camp when she was aged eight.  When she got home from the camp week, she kept taking lessons.  Her dad was not pleased when years later she announced that she wanted to make acrobatics her life's work but her parents have changed their mind now that they see that the two are happy and have made successful careers for themselves.  

David, from Champagne , Illinois got his start with school gymnastics and went from there to the Circus Center in San FRancisco where he met Alicia.   Just like an acting career, very few in America are able to make circus performance into a substantial job.  One needs to have a "savoir faire" about how to market and sell your act and this is not taught at the circus school, they claimed.  

 Asked how long a acrobatic career lasts, the couple felt that with careful selection of acts and no accidents along the way they could keep going into their fifties. They are married now and if they would start a family,  David revealed,  one must have good connections with the management.   Few children are invited to come along on the grueling tours.  It is not ideal for the performers or their fellow show members to have a split focus over kids being present, not to mention the hardships on the kids.   

Speaking of split focus, DAvid admitted to having Attention Deficiency Disorder when he started out.  When I asked how he conquered that problem, he replied blandly, " I got a lot of shoes thrown at my head. " ( by his coach in the beginning).  

Alica and David have known each other over twelve years.... having met at Circus school in San Francisco.   Some of those twelve years they have been traveling the world as performers and as a married couple. 
 One and a half years of that time was spent in Japan with a Disney show.  The couple had some funny stories about their time there where foreigners are still rare enough that mothers regularly thrust babies into their arms for photos.  One time workmen inside the dressing room started stroking Alicia's golden locks while she was taking a nap in the woman's dressing room.  Her friends told her later, we figured you knew it and didn't care or were so asleep that it wouldn't make any difference!  

 For some of the twelve years, Alicia and David worked the enormous cruise ships and got used to balancing on their  big wheel act and trapeze bars,  even with the sway of the ship.    Alica admits to taking dramamine for cruise work and even on dry land she will take it too, if they have a long day of rehearsals where she will be required to do a lot of spinning. 

Most of the time now, the couple prefer to live in Las Vegas where they have an apartment , a dog and regular acrobatic work.  ( The dog goes to the parents when they are away). 

Speaking of Las Vegas,  David says that the quality and stamina of dancers in Vegas is much higher than on Broadway or elsewhere, even in Europe.   American dancers tend to have a panache and stamina that European performers are missing although there are both in the show and both contribute differently.   The show needs bi and tri-lingual performers and language is not an American strong suit.   In SPEED now traveling throughout FRance, the show was narrated by a former Miss France on video screens disguised as huge wheels,  but a few numbers were announced by a German ice dancer who spoke fluent French and English.  

The wheels are video screens. The set is inflatable.

We were interested to hear from the tattoo generation, when the subject came up.  David and Alicia have only one tattoo each, sort of an ironic comment on the whole tattoo culture and meant to amuse.  Its a little mustache on the outside of their first digit!  Here they are showing that one off.   

I say,  If I were a parent, I would be proud to claim either one of these two as my own.  They are fun, "down to earth" (pun intended) and a credit to their generation !

Good luck out there David and Alicia , we will be thinking of you as you spin and walk your way around the globe high above us all.  

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Simon Beck : Snow Art

Simon Beck is a dedicated outdoorsman who works 5-9 hours a day creating "land art" out of snow. 

 Among the frozen lakes of SavoieFrance, he spends hours or days fashioning the snow with raquettes (snowshoes), creating these hypnotizing images, some the size of three soccer fields!

 The motifs are geometrical patterns and shapes that create unique, often three dimensional pieces when they are viewed from higher levels.

Like sand paintings and all land art , the work is ephemeral ... the lifespan of these intriguing pieces being dependent on the weather. Beck designs and redesigns the patterns as new snow falls, sometimes unable to finish a piece due to these weather disturbances.

 Beck got started in an unexpected way. 

 Says he:  'The main reason for making them was because I can no longer run properly due to problems with my feet, so plodding about on level snow is the least painful way of getting exercise. Gradually, the reason has become photographing them, and I am considering buying a better camera."    Magnificent art for the sake of exercise, 

A chacun son style!

For more pictures of his work follow him on Facebook:

Friday, April 13, 2012

Oeufs en Meurette

photo by Andy Sewell
   Today I celebrate the end of a week of eating on the left side of my mouth.  I had gum surgery last Friday.  All week I have been eating softer foods until things stabilize again.  Mustn't get long in the tooth .... take care of your mouth and it'll take care of you. 

   In the meantime, with Passover in our midst, the idea of poached eggs was presented to us by Rowley Leigh of Le Cafe Angles in a recipe that came out in the Financial Times magazine. 
 The motif of eggs always make its appearance at this time of year,..... in chocolate shops, window decorations and recipes.   It has something to do with the celebration of Lent and the arrival of spring.  I understand passover pancakes are made just before Lent to use up all the household eggs before fasting begins. 

I myself have never observed the Lenten fast but I have always loved farm fresh eggs.  There was a time when my parents raised their own Araucana chickens which produce beautiful pastel eggs.  This is how they look right from the hen. 

                                          natural color of Araucana chicken eggs

The idea of this recipe is simple but the instructions are confusing.   You have to have done it once to see how easy it really is. 

 I must tell you that a poached egg in wine sauce is really a frightening spectacle.  I won't go into the things it reminds one of, especially if you don't have proper egg cups that keep the egg white together.  It is for this reason that I am not presenting my own photo here.  I don't have egg cups.
It helps a lot if you cut into the egg and see a bit of yolk rolling out before photographing the dish which I failed to do.  However, despite the appearance , the dish is delicious and mirth worthy. 

I will give you the gist of it all here and then I will give you the link so you can see the amounts and decide if you want to try it.  

First you will need eggs, spring onions, shallots , lardons or bacon, 4 slices of bread, a 1/2 bottle of red wine, butter, salt , pepper, garlic clove, button mushrooms, some thyme, bay leaf and a bit of flour to make a roux.  
The idea is that you will poach the spring onions in a little water after sautéing them in butter, a bit of sugar and salt.   You will saute the bacon bits .   You will sauté the button mushrooms and grill the bread in a pan with some butter.  All this will be put aside to warm in the oven to be used to set the stage for your poached eggs. 
Next you will sauté some more bacon, shallot and garlic in butter and add a heaping teaspoon of flour for your roux. 

   The following step is the poaching of the eggs in red wine.  Before you do this you will prepare a bowl of ice water to receive the eggs when the whites are firm. 
 It sounds tricky that the eggs can be so underdone and you can lift them out but it works handling a slotted spoon with care.
With two eggs for each person nesting in the ice water , boil up the wine and then pour it into your waiting pan of bacon, shallot and garlic.  Add the thyme and bay leaf and bring to a boil and allow this to simmer for about 10 minutes.   This is your sauce.

  The next instruction is to take the cold eggs and place them in the wine sauce to heat them back up again and let them cook a tiny bit more.  I was convinced that the eggs would over-cook or be cold, but if you put the lid on the pan it only takes a minute to get them warm again.  

The eggs can then be served on your warmed toast slices with the other ingredients place around.  Pour the sauce over the whole and serve. 

Let me know if you try it.  And by the way , happy spring.  

Here is the link to the article:


Tuesday, April 10, 2012


                                                                                                                      Photo National Geographic

I have been relatively lazy lately,  like these lowland gorillas from the Bronx Zoo,  I am waiting for ....inspiration.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Bonne Pâque, Happy Easter

                                                                                                                  photo by Leonette Yee Puckett

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Traffic Quintet - Divine Féminin

Last night I took the chance that the evening of the Traffic Quintet playing at the Cinematheque in Nice would have a few places available despite being told it was "complet".   My hunch was rewarded and I was treated to an interesting presentation.

I was inspired to attend this show by the recent airing of the silent film 'Napoleon" by Abel Gance done in 1927 which has just been done in America.  Apparently this restored, three screen film was shown last week in Berkeley ,California to the accompaniment of a full going for $300.  Even at that price it was a sell-out and apparently will not be shown again until next year in London.

It seems that the Traffic Quintet

has come up with a similar idea of playing live music in front of a montage film composed of exerpts of famous movie frames, interspersed with original footage, creating a "nouvelle vague" sort of film-making.

I will leave it to you to investigate their site to learn of their approach, their artists, and their ideas.  I will just say that the film excerpts and composers heard for  our show: DIVINE FEMININ were:
  1. Basic Instinct (J.Goldsmith)
  2. Vertigo (B.Herrmann)
  3. Psycho (B.Herrmann)
  4. Medeamaterial I (P.Dusapin)
  5. Fahrenheit 451 (B.Herrmann)
  6. The Misfits I (A.North)
  7. The Misfits II (A.North)
  8. I'm through with love (F.Livingston/M.Malneck/G.Kahn)
  9. Medeamaterial II (P.Dusapin)
  10. Chinatown (J.Goldsmith)
  11. The Hours (P.Glass)
  12. Virgin Suicides (Air)
  13. Medeamaterial III (P.Dusapin)
  14. Birth - Elegy (A.Desplat)
  15. Birth - Valse (A.Desplat)
  16. As time goes by (H.Hupfeld)
Quite a list of composers and quite a strange and unique experience it was.

First let me say that the music indeed was very strong and well executed.  The musicians,  mostly from Paris, with the exception of the native Nicois bass player, were all accomplished in this evocative genre of movie music.

And with the choice of a film with a woman's theme, ( such as Marilyn Monroe, Isabelle Adjani, Maria Callas, Ingrid Bergman, Sharon STone etc etc.)  came the choice also of depicting women in  scenes of terror, grief , angst or fragility in some form or other.   So the music was not a "walk in the park" and the over-all feeling of the "spectacle" was intense.

The biggest problem I had with the presentation was in the film itself.  I felt the film-maker dwelt too long on vague abstract blobs and shadowy images making it difficult to watch all of the footage .  Too much time was taken on certain images to the consternation of the viewer.  Several of us who saw it admitted that we close our eyes to avoid prolonged exposure to some of the footage.  For example an image of an unblinking eye went on for several minutes and was really annoying. The picture of Callas was up there for more than 5 minutes and it was amorphous and badly lit.  Another sequence of a girl under-water, (not breathing obviously) went on for way too long.

   And some footage did not comply with the theme.  There were a lot of car images, for example.  I was certainly hampered by not having watched all of the films that were included in the montage.  I am sure that the film-maker felt that there was a good reason for every frame he included, but the audience was sometimes not in on his thinking.   Frankly if you irritate or bore the viewer  ,he will eventually just look away.  "It's a free country " as we used to chant in grade school.

 But despite these criticisms of the film,  I would like to explore this genre further and certainly with such fine musicians and certainly with this price.    The entry was gratis for members of the Cinematheque , a membership fee which is already one of the best deals in town.   Vive la France.