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Category archive: France

Tuesday October 21 2014

There I was, lying in the bath, listening to Radio 3.  Some music had ended, and I was now being subjected to a programme which I do not usually listen to, called Words and Music.  And I heard the actor Jim Broadbent saying these words, by Michel de Montaigne:

I take the first subject that chance offers.  They are all equally good to me.  And I never plan to develop them completely.  For I do not see the whole of anything.  (Nor do those who promise to show it to us.) Of a hundred members and faces that each thing has, I take one, sometimes only to lick it, sometimes to brush the surface, sometimes to pinch it to the bone.  I give it a stab, not as wide, but as deep as I know how.  And most often, I like to take them from some unaccustomed point of view. Scattering a word here, there another, samples separated from their context, dispersed, without a plan and without a promise, I am not bound to make something of them, or to adhere to them myself, without varying when I please, and giving myself up to doubt and uncertainty, and my ruling quality, which is ignorance.

Sounds like a blogger, doesn’t he?  A blogger, that is to say, like me. Especially where he says “without a promise”.  I keep saying that. Above all there is that “this is what it is and if you don’t like it you know just what you can do about it” vibe that so many bloggers give off.  With Montaigne, we are arriving at that first moment in history when writing and publishing new stuff had become easy.  Not as easy as it is when you blog, but a whole lot easier than it had been.

I transcribed the above quote from Broadbent’s reading of it.  The punctuation is somewhat uncertain, and at one point assertively creative on my part.  I added some brackets, around what is clearly a diversion from his main line of thought to which he immediately returns.  It’s a sideswipe at others and it is then forgotten.

Such is the wonder that is the internet that I had little difficulty in tracking down the quote.  It is near the beginning of Montaigne’s essay entitled “Of Democritus and Heraclitus”, in volume three of his essays.

image

The BBC used a more recent translation, which I much prefer the sound of, it being less antique and long-winded.  And if Montaigne himself was also antique and long-winded, then I still prefer intelligibility to stylistic accuracy.

Friday October 03 2014

Yes, dezeen (Dezeen?) continues to be a favourite wwwspot for me.  Here are some recent dezeen postings that got my attention, for this or that reason.

First, news that there will be a viewing platform on top of the Walkie Talkie:

The Walkie Talkie Skygarden has yet to open and will, I’m sure, come with a catchier name. But already it is in obvious competition with the Shard – pricey versus free, ascetic steel and glass versus sylvan repose, supreme height versus not being able to see the Walkie Talkie. ...

Very droll.  The original was about how you couldn’t see the National Theatre from the National Theatre.  But me, I am warming to the Walkie Talkie, and I don’t just mean I’m standing under it and being fried.  I especially like how it looks from a distance.  The point being: it looks like the Walkie Talkie.  Not just some anonymous rectangular London lump, no, that particular Big Thing.  Yes it is not properly beautiful.  But neither is London.  Besides which, anything that just might compete down the price of going to the top of the Shard has my vote.  I’ll definitely make my way up there, as soon as they’ll let me

Next up, isn’t fun when someone hitherto impeccably cool suddenly turns into Grumpy Old Man:

Speaking to Dezeen, the 85-year-old English designer said tech products like the iPhone and Apple Watch were turning people into zombies, adding: “I’ve got a certain cynicism of Apple and their motives. It’s a bit of a monster.”

“It’s a game they’re playing and it’s an absolutely straightforward, commercial, ruthless game, and it’s dressed up nicely because they’ve got some talented people in their employ,” he said.

Grange, who was knighted in 2013 for services to design, believes that the tech giant has successfully turned Modernism into “good commerce”, using aesthetics to dress up a self-perpetuating product cycle.

“There are probably few companies around now that absolutely answer the prospect that Modernism is good commerce,” he said. ...

Modernism is good commerce?  Can’t have that.

… “They’ve been so bloody ruthless that you almost get no choice in the matter.”

“Almost” there means “not”.  (See also: essentially, basically, fundamentally, etc. etc. etc.) Because actually, you get plenty of choice about whether to buy Apple stuff or not.  Apart from one rather nice keyboard, I never have.

People always talk about the behemoths of capitalism like this, just as they are starting their long slide down into moderate size and moderate success, into business as usual.  How do I know Apple is now at the top of that slide?  Easy, they are building a custom-designed headquarters.  It absolutely yells: from now on, all Apple-persons will talk to each other and keep everyone else out.  And what they will be talking about, to an appalling degree, will be their own living arrangements inside this huge circular corporate burial chamber.  They’re doomed, I tell you, doomed.  Someone tell Sir Grumpy (above) that he can relax.

Next: what a driverless car might look like.  Not.  But, it looks very pretty.  The basic point, that driverless cars will in the longer run utterly transform the look of the outdoors is, I think, a very good one.  Maybe that is how some of them will look.

I really do not like the way this floating bikeway along the River Thames looks, in the pictures there.  At the very least, I say, find a way to avoid having those obtrusive shapes above the level of the track, which makes it look like an infinitely extended item of tasteless garden furniture.  I get it, that crap is there to enable it to float up and down on the tide.  Well, find another way to do that.

Next, some excellent photos of the High Line, in New York.  I especially like the distant aerial view of it curving its way over the Rail Yards, with the spontaneous architectural order of Manhattan’s towers in the background.

I do like this rectangular block of a house, but with one end lifted up.  Usually the rectangular block houses featured at dezeen are impeccably, terminally tedious.  But this one, I like.  Apart from the fact that whenever the damn architect called round, you’d have to tidy up all your domestic crap all over everywhere, and turn the place back into the dreary corporate office it resembles in the photos.  What is it with architects not wanting homes to look, inside, like homes, but instead like some kind of dystopian hell with nothing in it besides a wooden floor?

Here are some impeccably, terminally tedious rectangular type houses, in Japan.  To me, by far, by several hundred miles, the most interesting thing about these photos of them is the amazing amount of electrical crap in the sky over the street outside.  If I was photoing in Japan, I would be all over that.  More Japanese sky clutter here, in photos of another impeccably, terminally tedious block house with an interior that also looked like a corporate office reception area when the photos were taken.

Google drones.  Spooky.

A weird footbridge in Paddington.

Parisian blocks become wavey.

Finally what with this being Friday, some black cats with bronze bollocks.  I kid you not.

Friday August 22 2014

I loved them when I photoed them last January.  Now the chimney pots and rooftops of Paris get serious Real Photographer attention, from Michael Wolf:

image

One of David Thompson’s latest clutch of ephemera.

Friday August 15 2014

Yes, I’ve been in France, and now I’m back.  Have been for several days actually, but I spent my recent blogging time doing this, which is a photo-decorated ramble on various things I saw in France, or thought I did, for Samizdata.

I really want to get back into the swim of things over there, after a recent dry spell, and was accordingly determined to finish that ramble before I resumed rambling here.

Since this is Friday, here are some French cats.

Cat number one stands outside Vannes town hall:

image

Cat number two is impressively perched on an impressively high ledge, somewhere or other.  Cat number three, the cat of the friends I was staying with, is shown here, not being very impressed with cat number two:

image

This photo was taken by Tony, to whom thanks, and to whom thanks also for emailing it to me.

Here, on the other hand are two further photos that I did take of cat number three:

image image

No, I don’t know why his right ear is green on the inside.  I only noticed this when I got home.

His name is Caesar (sp?), and he actually does answer to that name.  It’s not tone of voice, it’s the name, because when I said this to him for the first time, he immediately looked up to see what I had in mind.

There is another cat, Basil, who drops by at the home of Tony et famille from time to time, but he is more shy.  He was otherwise engaged, on my last day there which was when I finally decided I wanted to photo the two cats.  Caesar showed up, but not Basil.  Another time, maybe.

Caesar is now very old, and I may never meet with him again.  We got on well.

Friday August 01 2014

Trawling through the archives this evening, I came across this fine feline:

image

Photoed by me, in Battersea, about two months ago.

In other cat news, pet cats in Vietnam are being stolen and sold to restaurants.  And not because the restaurants want cats for their customers to mingle with.  Oh no.  This is Vietnam, not Paris.

Back here in evil Britain, hundreds of black cats are being abandoned by their owners because, according to the Daily Mail, these black cats don’t look good in SELFIES (their capital letters):

Today the RSPCA announced a rise in the number of black cats being abandoned by their owners, and attributed it to them not photographing well.

A spokesman for the animal welfare charity said that more than 70 per cent of the 1,000 cats in its care were black, and blamed the trend for people taking pictures of themselves with their phones.

He said: ‘There are a number of reasons for us having so many black cats, including the fact that black animals tend not to photograph as well as other cats with more distinctive markings.

Other cats are also easier to tell apart, he said.

The spokesman added: ‘There is a national problem with rehoming cats of this colour.

‘We really are puzzled as to why this still happens but we would urge people to never judge a cat by its colour and look at its personality instead.’

This story is everywhere.  I sense hostility towards digital photography, and in particular towards the evil practice of taking photos of yourself, an evil practice which now has its own word.

However, a selfie is when you take a photo of yourself.  Owners are including themselves in their cat photos on incidentally.  Often only the cat is in the picture.  These photos are not being taken by cats, so they are not selfies.

Cats don’t take photos of themselves.  If they had been caught doing this, on video for instance, I would definitely have learned about it and passed the news on to you people.  All that is actually going on here is that black cat owners are finding it hard to photo their black cats and are consequently abandoning their black cats, and obtaining other cats, more like the one in my picture above, that are easier to photo.  That’s a wicked enough story as it is, without misreporting it and put your mistake in capital letters.  Socks, Daily Mail.  Pull yours up.

Next up, an Italian shooting champion is on trial for using live cats as target practice.  I sense hostility towards shooting champions, but it may just be towards Italians.

Finally, Cats is being revived, in the Millenium Centre, Cardiff:

The highlight of the evening was the singing which included lots of harmonies ...

Which is what you want.  What with Cats being a musical show, consisting mostly of people dressed as cats, singing, and trying to be harmonious about it.

Rachel Howells continues:

Cats is at the Wales Millennium Centre until Saturday 9th August and includes many matinee showings so you have no excuses not to miss it.

Once again, we see the mainstream media getting their facts in a twist, this time because of faulty grammar.  No excuses not to miss it?  It would appear that, at least when it comes to their online content, the writing and/or editing at the South Wales Argus has gone to the dogs.

Thursday June 12 2014

I plan to be going to the land of the foreign people.  Quite soon.  Early August.  The air tickets are already bought.  But, have just discovered that my passport needs renewing.  It gave up the ghost in about February.

Bugger.  Passports are just now being particularly delayed.  Questions are being Asked In The House about it.  So I guess they are now throwing money at the problem.

There is also a throw money at it option for us punters, about an extra hundred quid, which I have in mind to use, just to make sure that all goes well.  But first I have to get a haircut and then I have to get some “passport photos” done.  I know how to take photos of myself.  I do not know how to take “passport photos”.  This is why God invented shops.

Thursday June 05 2014

About every other day Google sends me news of Emmanuel Todd, news in French.  Sometimes it is news of him talking on video, in French.  I can just about order a croissant in a French shop, but that’s as far as my French goes.

So, imagine my delight on learning about this video, of Emmanuel Todd talking … in English!

What he is saying is that the different family systems of Europe mean that the different nations of Europe are politically incompatible, and accordingly that the Euro is doomed.  Worth a watch, if that kind of thing interests you.  In particular, the way that the Euro is putting Germany in charge of France is not at all what the French elite had in mind, and this means that sooner or later the French will have to dump the Euro.  But first, their elite has to explain why it made this hideous blunder in the first place.  Because dumping the Euro would mean admitting they should never have done it in the first place.

Tim Evans recently gave a talk to the End of the World Club (silly name, great talks) about politics, David Cameron’s politics in particular.  He said that Cameron has no problem with Britain leaving the EU, while he remains Prime Minister.  Sure enough, about two days later, an email from Tim arrives, complete with the link, saying: And so it starts ...

Moments intéressant.

Wednesday May 28 2014

Goddaughter 2 is at the very early, tadpole stage of becoming an opera star.  She has already been identified as possessing operatic superpowers, but there are, of course, many obstacles for her still to overcome.  So, fingers crossed.

This summer she will be performing at a Festival in Belle-Île, which is off the south coast of Brittany.  Her family, who live in Brittany, are kindly including me in their expedition to see and hear GD2 in action.

Obviously, there is a Festival website, and equally obviously it is basically a French thing, but it also supplies an English translation:

Welcome to the Festival lyrique international de Belle-Île-en-Mer.

With much excitement, the preparations for our 2014 season are well underway, with artists from all over the world preparing to travel to Belle-Île to rehearse and perform two dramatic masterpieces, Leoncavallo’s I Pagliacci and Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi.  Meanwhile the Festival Choir is busy rehearsing Haydn’s sublime oratorio The Creation, heard for the first time on the island.  There will be an orchestral Mozart evening, the ever-popular Ad Libitum gala concert, early-evening recitals by our young artists at the Café Bleu in Sauzon, and a series of masterclasses.

As the excitement builds, we hope you will join our festival family, and be a part of this rich, unique and inspiring season.

Which is fine.  But before reading that, on account of having not at first realised that they offered their own English version of the above, I accepted an offer from a little window at the top right of my screen to do a translation of the French original of the above, with some sort of mechanised-computerised process.

It went like this:

Welcome to the International Opera Festival of Belle-Ile-en-Mer.

The preparations for the 2014 season are progressing well, with joyful excitement.  Artists from around the world are preparing to come to Belle-Ile to rehearse and perform two masterpieces lyric, Leoncavallo Pagliacci and Gianni Schicchi by Puccini which will be donated to Arletty room.  Meanwhile the choir festival works and repeats Creation, sublime oratorio by Haydn, which will be given for the first time on the island, in the churches and the Cathedral of Vannes.  Also on the program, the Citadelle Vauban, an orchestral concert of Mozart and the ever popular concert Ad Libitum.  Finally, two concerts of our talents in the late afternoon at Café Bleu in Sauzon and a week of master classes. 

While riding the excitement, we hope you will join the family of opera festival and be this rich season unique and exciting.

Which I prefer.  It’s actually not that bad.  Most of the mistakes seem to consist of getting words in the order wrong.

The Salle Arletty is mentioned in the original French version, so it also gets a mention in the mechanised English version as a place to which musical performances will be donated.

For the original French version, go here.

My family used to go on holidays to the southern coast of Brittany when I was small, to a place from which you could see Belle-Île, but we never actually visited it.  Expect Belle-Île photos here, when all this happens.  Are you already riding the excitement?

The joyful excitement of the Festival lyrique international de Belle-Île-en-Mer
Bennett and Lotus on how Emmanuel Todd’s family provoked his Grand Theory of Everything
Omaha dead
Selfies of me – 2001, 2007 and yesterday
Three more Paris pictures
Eiffel Tower with chimney pots – La Défense ditto
Fat bastard!
Eurostar before St Pancras
Craig Willy on Emmanuel Todd
A Fleet Street lunch
Little Lady Liberty - still in France
Mon chat se tient debout tout seul
I’m Charia Hebdo!
Les Rillettes Henaff
Summer blogging break
Empty tables and empty chairs
Quimper cat on Harley-Davidson
Quota frogs
Infrequent flyer
Signs from the Frenchosphere
Paris signage
Rugby shirts on drugs
Pronouncing on the Six Nations
Another link enema
Great speech by Kevin Dowd in Paris which should be available to listen to soon
France falls in love with Hugh Laurie
Sailing photos – and another bridge for the collection
Happy New year (if possible)
The Fat Man is not alone
French cats
Flat viaduct and spiral bridge
Talking about St Pancras at St Pancras
Millau Viaduct with goats
Australia out! – New Zealand out! – pass forward!
Wildlife news
Antoine Clarke on the French National Assembly elections
Lots of links
Antoine Clarke on Sarkozy
Somebody else photos Billion Monkey photo-ing Notre Dame!
Volte-face
Antoine on Sarko’s win
Serious tax cutting
If they don’t get who they would have preferred then silly them
“What do YOU think?” - “More -isationisation!”
“It’s a shame that copyright was infringed in a thesis about copyright itself”
Other people’s photos (6): More bridges
Other people’s photos (5): Red balloons on a monochrome bridge in Paris
Deceiving the eyes of Paris
Singing Frenchmen in stripey T-shirts
A dangerous development