Friday, February 18, 2005

More about the caves

Just when I was checking out Troo this wonderful article appeared
in the SF Chronicle...serendipity or meant to be?

Now I can't wait!!

Monday, February 14, 2005

Trodgylote village - living in caves

So I'm going to be a cave dweller. The first weekend I'm in Paris we'll
take the high speed train to Vendome (1hr) then twenty five minutes away
by car is Trou...check out the village website.
I hope to hook up with Jean Francois who has many caves and will
show my friend Sarah and I around. Kate Kilbourne, an American,
who owns a cave which is also a museum has given me some
tips and I can't wait. Evidently the limestone mined from the caves
was used for local chateau in the Loire valley and people have lived in these
caves since the Romans, on and off during the 100 year war, hid Jews there
during WW2 and now is an artistic colony.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Paris webcams

This is a great site,
Paris webcams

Monday, February 07, 2005

French Word A Day (link)

Okay, time to brush up on French.
I love this.

bouder (boo-day) verb
 1. to pout or sulk

la bouderie (f) = sulkiness, (fit of the) sulks
un boudoir = a ladyfinger (finger-shaped cookie, cake)

bouder quelqu'un = to refuse to have anything to do with someone
avoir des succès de boudoir = to be successful with women

La bouderie en amour est comme le sel ; il n'en faut pas trop.
Sulkiness in love is like salt; you mustn't have too much.

A Day in a French Life...

"Do you want me to take the kids to school?" I say, sure that my
husband will do it, seeing he is almost finished shaving.
"Si tu peux le faire, ce sera bien. If you can do it, that would be

Somewhere between registering his mousse-covered cheeks and hearing
his request, it occurs to me that he is going somewhere.

"Ou tu vas? Where are you going?"
"En tournée."*
"Prospecting where?"
"In St. Raphael."
"St Raphael?"

My mind fills with visions of the foamy sea, sandy beaches, beachfront
cafés and brasseries, the boardwalk, the marché, the glamorous Belle
Epoque architecture... Suddenly a pulsion* overcomes me. The pulsion
to pout.

"I didn't know you were going prospecting today..."
"Well, do you want to come with me?"
"I can't come with you. I have work to do."
"That's what I thought."
I abruptly leave the bathroom; in my wake, a piercing silence.

In 1994 the only conseil* Jean-Marc's ailing grandmother gave us
before we married was to "ne pas bouder -- to not pout." I had to look
the word up just as soon as I returned from her modest apartment in
Lyon to our studio in Marseilles, not quite sure I wanted to ask my
husband-to-be what it meant.

"Germaine" as she was called, was a tough woman who saw the collapse
of a family fortune. In Morocco, after the war, she peddled house
linens from her Estafette (a converted military supply vehicle) to
support four children. When her husband, a prisoner of war, returned
from la guerre,* Germaine continued to "wear the pants," selling her
linens door-to-door, while her husband went seaside to cast out
horrific war images along with his fishing line.

Our first encounter had me watching the once-authoritarian-now-frail
woman eat the eyes right out of the fish on the plate before her.
Apart from her advice to "not sulk" she taught me where all those
forks, knives and spoons belong on the French table, at once
thoughtful about her bourgeoisie upbringing, and méprisante* of it.

From "bouder" comes the noun "boudoir," which originally meant "a
place to sulk in."  Though the dictionary says that a boudoir is "un
petit salon de dame"* -- it is really nothing more fancy or exciting
than a pouting room.

I return to my sulking place, and continue to work and sniff.
"We'll leave in 10 minutes?" my husband says, popping his head in from
the hall.
"I didn't say I was going."
"Well, if you change your mind, know that I am leaving in ten

I continue to "faire la tête" or "be in the sulks" while my husband
prepares for his surely glamorous tor-nay* along the French Riviera.

Pecking at my faded keyboard, staring into the hospital-room-white
screen, I obsess about his freedom with an enthusiasm reserved for a
sour, steam iron-yielding housewife:

"Mr. Espinasse goes to the sunny Riviera. Mr. Espinasse would like the
plat du jour. Mr. Espinasse has a rendez-vous. Would Mr. Espinasse
like champagne with his foie gras?"

My boo-fest is short-lived and I know that, in reality, my husband is
lugging 18-kilo boxes of wine from one cave* to another, navigating
medieval one-way roads trying to find parking in an obscure French
village, weaving in and out of traffic, struggling to get to the
basketball court in time to pick up our son at the end of the day. I
know that for lunch he will probably stop at a grimy roadside
service-station and pick up one of those preservative-rich salmon
(salmonella?) sandwiches and a bitter cup of instant coffee.

Meanwhile I will be lugging words from brain to faded key board. To my
left, a café-au-lait. Before me, the adventure of my choice, if I will
but find the words to transport me there.

"Do you know what the word 'boudoir' means?" I say, out of breath,
catching up to my husband who is loading cases of wine into the
"Comment? What's that?"
"Boo-dwaar. It's French."
"No. I don't know that word. What does it mean?" he says, opening the
car door for me.
"Nothing much."

Boudoir: a noun better used to represent sunshine-yellow, dainty
sponge cakes,* than dark, fleeting moods. Bouder, a verb to flee,
whether by hopping into your husband's Citroën, or by taking a similar
break from the train-train* of daily life.

References: une pulsion (f) = an impulse; un conseil (m) = a piece of
advice; la guerre (f) = war; méprisante = contemptuous, scornful; un
petit salon de dame (m) = a woman's sitting room; tor-nay
(pronunciation for tournée (f) = a sales round); une cave (f) =
cellar; a miniature oval sponge cake in French is also a "boudoir"; le
train-train (m) = routine

Friday, February 04, 2005

My friend Marion sent this and it really makes one think.
Marion's mother passed away this week at 89, a creative, unique woman
who'd survived WW2 in Poland.

'Remembering' Philip Johnson

By Anne Applebaum
Wednesday, February 2, 2005; Page A23

When Kurt Waldheim, a former U.N. secretary general, was found in 1986 to have served in a German military unit that may have committed wartime atrocities, his reputation was ruined. Although elected president of Austria, he was forbidden to visit the United States. Shunned by the international community, he eventually dropped out
History repeated itself as farce this month when Prince Harry, third in line to the British throne, appeared at a costume party in Nazi uniform. The full wrath of the media -- and of everyone else -- came down on his boyish head. "Harry the Nazi," proclaimed the tabloid Sun in its largest typeface. Politicians called for his expulsion from college. Jewish groups -- along with his father, Prince Charles -- demanded that he visi

In between the extremes of Waldheim, who actually fought for Nazi Germany, and Prince Harry, one of the British royal family's dimmer bulbs, lies a wide range of celebrities whose fascist sympathies have rightly brought them disgrace. Charles Lindbergh, at one time the most admired man in America, retired from public life after World War II because he had received a medal from the Nazi government. Ezra Pound, the poet who helped launch T.S. Eliot and James Joyce, spent 13 years in an asylum for the mentally ill, largely because he had made propaganda broadcasts for Benito Mussolini. Martin Heidegger, the German philosopher, was temporarily prohibited from teaching after the war because he had briefly joined the Nazi Party in the early 1930s. His work, like that of Pound, remains under a
It seems like a pattern -- but it isn't. Take, for example, Philip Johnson, who died last week just as the world was marking the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. In its obituary, the New York Times described Johnson as "architecture's restless intellect." The Post proclaimed him a "towering figure." Both articles, like most of the other obituaries, described Johnson as the "elder statesman" of American architecture. Both also mentioned, more or less in passing, Johnson's "early admiration for fascism and anti-Semitism that he soo
But read a bit more and it turns out that this "early admiration" lasted for the better part of a decade. During that time, Johnson didn't merely sympathize, like Lindbergh, or make a juvenile joke, like Prince Harry. On the contrary, Johnson helped organize a U.S. fascist party. He worked on behalf of the Nazi sympathizer and radio broadcaster, Father Charles E. Coughlin. He attended one of Hitler's Nuremberg rallies in 1938, and in 1939 he followed the German army into Poland. "We saw Warsaw burn and Modlin being bombed," he wrote afterward. "It was a stirring
In the week since his death, a few articles, including one in the New York Times, have examined Johnson's in fact elaborate and widely known fascist past in more depth. But in his lifetime -- as his obituaries reflect -- nobody was very interested. Johnson won every major architectural award, built dozens of buildings and received commissions from the likes of AT&T and the Lincoln Center. He occasionally apologized for his youthful politics, but with ambivalence. Asked in 1993 whether he would have built buildings for Adolf Hitler in 1936, he answered, "Who's to say? That would have tempted anyone." He frequently described himself as a "whore," a phrase that seems to have amused him -- he liked to shock -- and to have provided another sort of excuse for his past.
I leave it to others to determine whether Johnson's amorality bears a relationship to the chilly skyscrapers he built, or whether his politics influenced the celebrated glass-walled house he designed for himself, whose brick interior he once said had been inspired by the brick foundations of a "burned-out wooden village I saw," presumably in Poland. But his death makes me think that the rest of us should occasionally reflect a bit harder about why we find it so easy to condemn the likes of Prince Harry, a silly, thoughtless boy, and so hard to condemn Philip Johnson, a brilliant, witty aesthete. Or why it was thought scandalous when an allegedly anti-Semitic Ukrainian businessman was allowed to ride on Colin Powell's plane to Kiev last week, while Johnson, who once wrote a positive review of "Mein Kampf," lectured at Harvard University. Or why the Nuremberg tribunal didn't impose the death penalty on the urbane Albert Speer, Hitler's architect, or why the Academy Awards ceremony in 2004 solemnly noted the death of Leni Riefenstahl, Hitler's filmmaker, or why Herbert von Karajan, a Nazi Party member who never apologized at all -- party membership, he once said, "advanced my career" -- continued to conduct orchestras in all the great concert halls of Europe. We may think we believe any affiliation with Nazism is wrong, but as a society, our actual definition of "collaboration" is in fact qui
In the end, I suspect the explanation is simple: People whose gifts lie in esoteric fields get a pass that others don't. Or, to put it differently, if you use crude language and wear a swastika, you're a pariah. But if you make up a complex, witty persona, use irony and jokes to brush off hard questions, and construct an elaborate philosophy to obfuscate your past, then you're an elder statesman, a trendsetter, a provocateur and -- most tantalizingly -

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Thursday, February 03, 2005

French Red Tape

I really love this article. Jon Henley, the Paris Guardian correspondant and a friend,
really gets it right!,,1385678,00.html

Here's a taste
A brief entanglement with the charms of French red tape

Jon Henley in Paris
Saturday January 8, 2005
The Guardian

There exists, as all residents of France know, a gnomic Gallic god who occasionally decides, for reasons unclear to mere mortals, that the time has come for you to be re-acquainted with the very singular charms of French bureaucracy.

This painful but doubtless improving experience can take many forms. You will be peacefully living your life - your last bruising bout with French officialdom no more than a distant memory - when a harmless-looking letter from the Centre de Gestion de la Caisse d'Allocations Familiales will land on your doormat.

You are soon plunged into a strange and terrifying netherworld. Clinging desperately to the limp scrap of your queue number as if it were your only hope of getting out alive, you must confront ranks of pale and impatient people waving impenetrable forms and demanding why you still have not provided an officially approved translation of your maternal grandmother's birth certificate, or just when you were thinking of furnishing copies of your certificat K bis along with your last two déclarations trimestrielles aux services fiscaux. (I am not making any of this up.)

The letter can, of course, also come from the Centre Générale de Sécurité Sociale, the Service du Traitement des Demandes de Logement or, if the gnomic god is feeling particularly playful, the Union de Recouvrement des Cotisations de Sécurité Sociale et d'Allocations Familiales. Only one thing is quite sure: come it will.

Anyway. It was, as I'm sure you had guessed, my turn last week. The only consolation, when the letter stamped Direction Départementale du Travail, de l'Emploi et de la Formation Professionelle arrived, was that it was aimed only tangentially at me, concerning mainly the nice Polish woman who cleans and irons for us once a week and who, after nearly a decade as an illegal alien, has embarked on the administrative equivalent of one of those awesome obstacle courses for would-be SAS members. She wants, as the French say in such circumstances, to regularise her situation.