Snails—the Denouement, More on Art in France/Car Art/ Children and Art

OK, PETA was all over my case once they learned about the snail-abuse being planned at the annual Running of the Escargot to be held yesterday in the farm country outside of Paris. I’m afraid the outcome was far worse than anyone imagined. In a strange twist of fate a truckload of salt samples on its way to the annual meeting of the French Salt Syndicate crashed at midnight directly into the truck bearing the 100,000 live escargots that were on there way to being released for the big fete. I was going to include photos of this mishap but they are far too grisly to be included here. Perhaps once the foaming goes down….

Anyway, the cancelation of the escargot festival opened up our day and we took an epic walk through the city that was beautiful. We went by many of the usual tourist sites and ended up at the Rodin Museum. So many of his sculptures set in a gorgeous garden. They are mind boggling in their intensity and power, even the “simple” busts. I had been thinking a lot about the comment Marcy Whitebook sent me about her experience watching a group of four year olds with the giant Monet waterlilies (see comments for the 10/27 post) when this quite remarkable thing happened. Its not uncommon to be at a gallery and have art students sketching away at the various pieces they’re viewing trying to learn technique. We were walking through the mansion that is the museum and came upon this little girl, probably four year’s old and she too had a sketch pad and was intensely making her own picture of the sculpture. Her mother stood behind her with great love in her eyes. I asked for permission and got this shot:

In the U.S. we rarely ever give children opportunities to see and really experience real, great art. I think it has to do with a misguided view of developmental appropriateness. The power of any of the arts with young children is just not honored enough. This became even more apparent in this newly uploaded video of a 10-month old brought to tears by hearing her mother sing. It is quite remarkable to see this power so clearly and how it can touch us deep within, even at so early an age.

Hey, speaking of art, I couldn’t help but notice that Citroen, the French car-maker has a new model, “The Picasso.” It even has his signature in chrome on the side. While we Americans are out naming our cars after hungry animals, the French name theirs after artists.

While I am thrilled that the French honor their heritage and the arts this way, I must say they got it all wrong. As you can see by looking at this car it only represents Picasso’s cubist period, and this is something that has actually been done far more effectively by the Nissan Juke, the Kia Soul, and even the Honda Element. Further, although the car does come in blue to reflect his famous Blue Period, it is not available in Rose. Additionally, Picasso never had a Silver, Black, or White period, yet the Picasso car comes in those colors too. Finally, it seems clear to me that any car named for Picasso should look radically different from this mini-SUV. A Picasso should have 3 tires, and the tailpipe should be located on the roof pointing upwards. The headlights would obviously go on opposite side of the car and the tailights should be grouped together next to the door handle. The grill would probably be on the car parked in the space next to it.

That’s it, off to the Ile de la Cite for a crepe toss.


A Disappointment and Something to Look Forward To

Today we took it pretty easy after a couple of days of hard-charging. We decided to wander over to the Picasso Museum at the recommendation of Tamara. It’s in our hood (or Arrondissement as the French quaintly call them) but we were disappointed to learn that it was closed for the year. They’re remodeling the museum and I can’t wait to see what the new staircase looks like. They’re supposed to be modeling it after Picasso’s buddy DuChamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase.


We’re also ruling out going to a number of museums including The Edith Piaf Museum (which includes not-to-be missed pieces from her personal earthenware collection according to their blurb), The Johnny Hallyday Museum (because it hasn’t been built), and the Sartre Museum because they’re thinking about building that one. Also we’ll be sure to miss the Musee de la Poupee because it sounds too nasty. It also sounds too much like my former work in the infant center.

But tomorrow there is something to look forward to. Today, a man on a street corner was kind enough to sell us some hard-to-get tickets to the annual festival of The Running of the Escargot. It takes place about 40 kilometers outside of Paris in the town of Aix-en-D’Artagnan-sur-la-Oiseaux. We plan on taking the new nuclear-powered Ultra-Fast Train (Train Ultra-Vite) which should get us there in only 4 minutes. The highlight of this fete is when all the young men in the town drink absinthe heavily, then dress in white with red accessories (they are VERY big on accessories in France I’ve discovered) and run through streets as thousands of angry snails, not smelling of garlic and butter, are unleashed behind them, all in attack mode. While the fleet of foot are generally able to keep ahead, the slowest of the men are sometimes trampled upon and then slimed by these creatures. They must live with this ignominy for the whole year until they can redeem themselves.


A Surprise from George and More Art Than You Can Shake a Paintbrush At

Let me start by conveying my thanks to my friend George Phillip for sending me his video impression of my retirement. Without ever seeing this blog he totally captured the spirit of it. I am in awe of his telepathic powers. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. This video (along with Nancy’s comment) have inspired me to turn over a new leaf and leave my sleaze-ball ways behind me. Gone are the tacky suits, blow-dryer, and I-don’t-give-a-shit attitude. From now on I’m Mr. Engaged, Senor Culture, the Wizard of Deep Insight, Commissioner Gordon (Batman’s buddy).

So what have the Fabulous Miss K and I been up to since we got to Paris? First thing first, we attacked our jet lag, and as soon as it was conquered the French instituted their version of daylight savings time. They show no mercy, merci.

Yesterday we hiked a couple of miles downstream to the Musee D’Orsay, with its fabulous collection of art from the 1800s. This was a return visit for us and one of only 2 (or maybe 3) we’ll visit. We were surrounded by Ingres, Gaugins, and the other Impressionists and true to their name they did impress us. The coolest moment of the day was when Karen and I looked at each other simultaneously said, “I really like Pisarro.” His stuff is sometimes overlooked among the other heavy’s of that era but we liked it a lot. The other surprise of the day was how much we liked Toulouse-Lautrec’s paintings. Of course we’ve seen his work many times, but it never impressed me that much until yesterday. His portraits have such a life in them and seem to glow from within. I’m not sure why I haven’t seen it before (probably because there aren’t that many of his works at the race track.)

The big WTF moment was when I walked into one of the rooms and there was Whistler’s Mother. I’m talking about the painting, not his actual mother.) It’s the only American art in the museum and I can’t for the life of me figure out what the big deal is about that painting. It seems like it was created just to be parodied or put on every fourth joke greeting card. I even spent this morning reading about the painting to try to learn why it is so iconic. I’m still not convinced. All I can say is that it the painting strikes me as the anti-Guernica which moved me very deeply (and surprisingly) when I saw it a couple of years ago in Madrid. That painting is full of meaning, life, movement, power, and statement. Whistler’s mother mostly seems full of fatigue. I mean when you see the Girl with the Pearl Earring you can’t help but wonder what she is doing, what she is thinking, where she is going. When you see Whistler’s Mother you can’t help but wonder if she lived through the sitting. It reminds me of the closing scene of Psycho when you find the mother sitting in the chair in the basement (or attic?) only with Whistler’s mom there is no drama, suspense, or much of anything. I only wonder if she was able to stand up. Probably not, since the painting was made prior to the invention of Geritol.

All that said, the Musee D,Orsay is one of my favorite buildings of all time. It’s a converted 19th century train station and it has its own inherent beauty, that oddly enough feels warm and industrial at the same time. I’m including two shots we took, one from a peephole on the top floor, and the other from this restaurant that shows how crazy the French can be when they want to convert something old into something nouveau. Check out the lamps and chairs.


Today, we hiked across the river from the Musee D’Orsay to the Musee De L’Orangerie. Again this museum has the most amazing collection of impressionists I’ve seen yet. From Renoir’s soft paeans to the beauty of women (he actually said “If it weren’t for women’s breasts I never would have painted.”) to Soutine’s cow carcasses dripping blood hanging from hooks (he sounds like he had some “issues.”) But the centerpiece of this amazing place is the eight gigantic Monet waterlilies he painted near the end of his life. Each of these is about 40 feet long and eight feet high and just the process of painting them is phenomenol. But here’s what makes the French so great— they built a museum, at the artists direction, and designed it specifically to show off these paintings in two oval rooms. And they do this on the most valuable piece of real estate in Paris (not exactly a low-rent town to begin with.)


More later.

Like Lindbergh, We Arrive

Unlike Lindbergh, the throngs decided to skip the event.  It’s likely that this is because most of the country is having a sympathy strike with the BART workers in the Bay Area.  In any case, we forgive them.

I won’t go into the difficulties of the flight, I’ll just acknowledge that I was lucky to make this trip.  Apparently, the French are just as concerned about what we should do if we crash as the American airlines are, though the traditional buckle-up dance performed by the flight attendants (attendants de flight) was more stylish than I’m used to.  Maybe it was the scarves around their necks.  This might be something I adopt personally to go with the beret I intend to wear incessantly.

The only difficult part of the flight was semi-waking up somewhere east of Nova Scotia and seeing that I had slept through the handout of ice cream bars.  I’m not sure how this custom started but they should have woken me up.  Nothing can make a man lonelier than being surrounded by a couple of hundred “friends”, all of whom are licking Hagen-Daz bars and knowing that you can’t have one because of the literal “you snooze, you lose” (Vous empêchez-vous perdre) rule.  Oh well, like Donna Summers (may her name be a blessing) said, “I will survive.”

Made it to the apartment in the Marais.  It’s where we stayed 8 or 9 years ago and it felt great.  But we were beat.  We took a walk along the Seine which is just a block from our place, bought some food for breakfast and picnics, had a bite to eat  and called it a night.

We don’t have plans for Paris, we’ll just be taking it day by day, revisiting a few museums, but mostly I’m just looking forward to walking around this wonderful city.



Heading to Europe Today!

We’ve decided in our retirement that we should visit the Europeans.  There are several reasons why we’ve chosen this fabulous continent.  They include:

Being retired there’s a good chance we could continue with some of the sloth-like behavior we’ve had the last couple of days.  This could lead to some unsightly weight-gaining.  Europe, you may recall invented the tiny breakfast and then had the audacity to call it the Continental Breakfast.  Like other people on other continents don’t enjoy breakfast?  Anyway its smaller than it should be so we figured this would be good for us.  So our plan is to go to France and Italy and eat less because their breakfasts are small.

I’m crazy about petanque, bocce ball, and bullfighting.  You just can’t get enough of those in the U.S.  Now we’re only going to France and Italy so I won’t see much of the bullfighting this time and I’ll miss seeing the “suit of lights”, although they do dress fashionably in Italy and France too.  Besides in petanque and bocce the guys dress in all white (including their hair from what I’ve seen in San Francisco) so they represent a purity in sport that you don’t find elsewhere.  I also hope to find out on this trip what the difference is between petanque and bocce.

That’s enough reasons for now.

Yesterday I spent getting ready for the trip.  This consisted primarily of buying lots of converters for the electricity.  It is essential for my blow-dryer to operate properly before I hit the Rue each morning.  The reason for the electric converters is because of the Europeans reliance on nuclear energy.  Nuclear energy produces a lot of stray electrons and if they get into American appliances they can wreak havoc.  These little plug-in converters help to control all of this and help the electrons do their work (yes, I too have studied science—little known European fact, when Galileo dropped the ball from the leaning tower of Pisa,in his famous gravity experiment he used a bocce ball).

The other preparation for the trip of course is to bring plenty of reading material.  So I went yesterday over to Barnes and Noble and bought a lot of stuff I’ll need.  I bought all the European guidebooks and Michelin maps they had.  I want to make sure I don’t miss any of the recommended sites and restaurants.  It is also necessary to get a lot of enjoyable reading for this vacation.  So I headed to my favorite section, “Teen Paranormal Romance” and bought several updates to the young vampire and werewolves series I’m currently reading.  Unfortunately on this trip we won’t be able to visit Transylvania itself so I’m loading up on some books with characters who have their roots there.  Nice.Image

That’s it for today.   Gotta pack.  Air France awaits.  Can’t write….. must get on airporter……

First Day of Retirement

Retirement has begun

I changed out of my PJs at noon,  thought about showering but didn’t really think it was necessary yet, changed into my new retirement duds, poured some breakfast and thought about going down to the race track. Yeah,  I think that’s what I’ll do.