Archive for October, 2015|Monthly archive page

La Nébuleuse

In Animals, Artists, Current reading, Food, Hautvoir, Local projects, news coverage, proto drafts, TV on October 31, 2015 at 9:29 am

First reaction to the man’s latest stunt: how stupid can you get?

Except the man is anything but stupid. Prior to swerving to the right-wing chambers in his soul, he founded Reporters Without Borders. He knew well then what attracts media attention and what doesn’t. As Mayor of Béziers, he knows exactly which pot he’s stirring when he goes on TV to say kebabs don’t belong to France’s judeo-christian tradition. Henceforth he will deny the right to open a single other kebab shop in the heart of the town. The very same town in which one Simon de Montfort once spurred on his troops by saying: “Kill them all, God will recognize his own”. This cleared the heart of Béziers of those Judeo-Christians whose traditions Simon abhorred.

Robert Ménard uses TV cameras and billboards as his main tools of governance. “Refugees not welcome here,” he tells a family of Syrians while the cameras roll. “This town’s police has a new best friend”, the posters announce under a photo of a gun  bigger-than life and death combined. No hanging out your clothes to dry on window sills. No more kebab shops. And so on.

The true audience to these provocations aren’t the ones who ironize. The true audience shows up in La Nébuleuse – that loose conglomeration of disillusioned, disappointed, disgruntled and distempered ones who grab on to these idiotic statements as the true expressions of their own fears. There’s a huge potential for downright stupidity in humans. Asking Robert Ménard what’s so judeo-christian about Thai restaurants, or reminding him potatoes and tomatoes came from the pagan shores of the Incas can provide an amusing moment. La Nébuleuse isn’t that easy to swing over to more joyful and life-affirming issues. In fact, it reacts with predictable venom at anyone who pokes fun at Robert Ménard.

Further, La Nébuleuse is no easier to deal with in writing than it is when you encounter one of its denizens in a shop, at the market or behind the smiling mask of your neighbor, two houses down.

Voilà. One of those facts of life, reminders of which crop up with maddening regularity. I stop to smell or photograph the flowers anyway? Yep. And read on? That too. The Pequod has sailed and the reader of Melville’s Moby-Dick has now been introduced to the first mate, Starbuck for whom courage was part of the tool-kit – except at those moments when the irrational gripped his soul.

And write on ? Also, as best I can on any given day.

Under a clear morning sky with no signs of shattered car windows*

In Animals, Current reading, Hautvoir, Local projects, news coverage, proto drafts on October 30, 2015 at 8:08 am

I’ll do the rest of my morning media walk-through later. The blog entry by Centre Primo Levi resonates with a local incident yesterday; a brief attempt at sketching the relevant points here.

First, the incident: during a “case file meeting” with the head of a social service and three of the staff members – a psychologist, a judiciary youth protection agent and a social worker. Purpose: update on a family’s situation and available support for both the parents and the children. At one point in the discussion, facts were evoked about past events that led to the family’s exile. Followed by favorable comments on my part and the social worker on the girl’s commitment to a “normal adolescence”, as defined by her peer group here in France.

The psychologist’s reaction was to label the girl’s refusal to discuss the past as “denial”. The social worker and I objected strongly. Refusal to discuss degrading events has little to do with denial of them – at least in this specific instance – and a lot more to do with a determination to build or re-build a shattered sense of self-worth.

The girl did not undergo any of the more severe tortures inflicted on the asylum seekers seen at Centre Primo Levi in Paris. But the message is the same: in attempting to secure unequivocal proof on the how, the what, where and why of an asylum seeker’s claims, deeper and deeper harm is inflicted on the person’s right to intimacy – the first right stripped away in the physical and psychological aggressions.

Healthy cells have boundaries. Healthy humans have boundaries too. Denying someone access to information and/or choosing with whom, when and where to share or not has nothing to do with “denial” – quite the opposite.

I feel the need to write this down. I know it’s useful in terms of story, even if I’m not sure why or how. I would know if I wrote outlines first and stories later. But as one of my employers learned, who was an engineer by profession and a politician by trade, I could provide him an outline of his speeches – once the speech was written.

C’est comme ça. 

In less somber mode, I must add that foreign dummies come in handy at times. They provide comic relief from the more local ones. I’m referring here to one Jeb Bush who provided a tiny moment of zen yesterday with his “French three-day work week” line of attack. Believe me, Jeb, I know many a French person and many an American one too who wouldn’t mind a guaranteed three-day work week with a predictable block of hours allowing for some – what do they call it?- quality time with the family.

Be it Jeb or our local brands, you have to wonder sometimes if politics produce the brain damage or if politics simply attract those already cracked in predictable patterns.

*someone had a bad moment yesterday that caused a violent need to shatter a neighbor’s car window. Call it the parking lot version of road rage. The culprit for the flower box knocked down in front of my house is more likely to be a neighborhood cat. The investigation continues.

Point of view

In Animals, Artists, coffee, Contes d'Exil, Current reading, Hautvoir, news coverage, proto drafts, Sanford Meisner on October 29, 2015 at 9:16 am

On the right-side of this screen, next to the bowl of café au lait and sundry papers: my copy of Moby-Dick containing the last sentence I underlined last night. The first in Chapter 12: “Queequeg was a native of Kokovoko, an island far away in the West and South. It is not down in any map; true places never are.”

On the left-side of this screen, sitting on the Robert Collins Senior Dictionnaire français-anglais – anglais-français : my copy of a collection of short stories by T.C. Boyle titled Wild Child. I pulled it out of the bookshelf on returning from my morning walk with the dog. Not for the titled story. For another titled The Lie. The first line in that story reads: “I’d used up all my sick days and the two personal days they allowed us, but when the alarm went off and the baby started squalling and my wife threw back the covers to totter off to the bathroom in a hobbled two-edged trot, I knew I wasn’t going in to work.” The protagonist then proceeds to lie. First, by claiming his nine-month old baby is sick, and moving on to the baby’s death, funeral… and the inevitable fall-out when his wife learns the truth about his lie. Cringe material? You bet. Including the final sentence which I won’t quote here. Instead, I invite you to buy your own copy and let T.C. Boyle, his publisher and his agent profit from your two cents worth.

At one point yesterday, I was sorting through the papers I’d filed with a printout of one of my pieces of writing. The writing, done some fifteen years ago, has come into some heart-warming praise from a family member. And yes, I know family members don’t count as objective critics. Subjective appreciation doesn’t hurt either, from time to time.

I didn’t find what I was looking for – missing pages from the print-out, a section in the middle, another at the very end. I read some parts with interest. Some parts with more than interest. I didn’t cringe, although I no longer identified with the person I was when I wrote it.

Story. The hard art of. Whether in the tragic or the comedic vein or in a combination of both. The sniper and the sniped at don’t take the same view on either.

That much I have learned.

Life in the slow lane

In Animals, Current reading, Food, Hautvoir, Music, photography, proto drafts, Revision, Theater, Visual artists, Wine on October 28, 2015 at 10:33 am

I spent a good part of my life moving from one place to another. Lives don’t play out the same way when people spend most of their time within a two-kilometer radius from their place of birth; attend the same schools as do their future love interests and/or business partners; and know reams of stuff about one another’s eating habits, political leanings, sexual preferences etc in ways not available to virtual environments such as the web. All of which has direct impact on story-telling, as I re-discover every day.


The five-day interruption in internet service to Algeria is over. We’re told it was due to an accidental ripping up of an underwater cable. Which may or may not be the case. From other media reports, disrupting cable transmissions seems to be one of the many ways economic and geo-political warfares will sprout new means of expression. Maybe that’s why folks such as the owner of Facebook are investing in telepathic transmission?


Ah. Wise move. I catch movement outside my window and note the upstairs neighbor has carried herself outside for the next installment in her frantic phone exchanges. I would know a lot more about the nature of the problem if the level of reverb wasn’t so high when she yells to the point of cracking her voice.

The fact she’s moved herself outside suggests my Sonny Rollins approach met with some success yesterday. When she got too obstreperous, I raised the volume on Sonny’s twenty minutes and twenty-six second version of East Broadway Run Down.

Of course, I hope for her sake all the frenzy is over something of the nature of the Tea Cup Tempest. Just in case the drama rebounds for a while, I’ll invest in a pair of earphones. In one of the moves, I lost the pair I owned in the days when endless political and organizational disputations went on in the kitchen while I attempted to write fiction in the room immediately above.

Ear phones – yes. Mustn’t forget their appearance in an earlier scene in the ongoing fiction.


Herman Melville’s observation for the day : Better sleep with a sober cannibal than a drunken Christian. Food for thought. Although eating a Mohameddan lady’s magnificent brik with eggplant salad while sharing a pitcher of red wine with musicians and puppet makers puts both cannibals and teetotalers to shame. In my humble opinion.


And may the Writer’s  Force be with you.


“The breaking-up of the ice-bound stream of Time”*

In Animals, Current reading, Hautvoir, Local projects, news coverage, Visual artists on October 27, 2015 at 7:50 am

a good thing I read other things than newspapers – the French, especially seem under an obsessional need to 1) Decree the sky is falling 2) watch for signs of the fall 3) predict the extent of the catastrophe, both impending and presently experienced. If no immediate catastrophic event is ongoing in France, there’s always the possibility to seize on the biggest horror available abroad – as further proof that things have never been worse in France. Misery sells, apparently – as a soporific. Go figure.

The toothache principle, maybe. Does it hurt as much today as it did yesterday? More? Will I get a full-blown abscess? Which is worse? the pain or a dental appointment?



How prejudice can lead to procrastination and deprive you of a fabulous adventure: after clearing out the newspapers put to good use to avoid paint spillage, I set up the shelves in my room and took two books to bed with me. Opened the first at random and, on a double page, there was Little Nemo setting off to harpoon a whale after a close encounter with a typhoon.

I turned to the other book. Yes, you’ve guessed it: on my small footpath toward my seventh decade, I cracked open Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick for the first time. The experience promises to be of the long-haul variety. However, I’m in no rush since, only three chapters in, I stop to underline and savor choice bits from the smorgasbord. The title to this post being one of them.

Or how about “…being a president of a temperance society, he only drinks the tepid tears of orphans.” Or “… it was a very dubious-looking…night”. I have an additional one hundred and thirty-two chapters to go, and only one more item of furniture in need of paint.


How do the reading and the furniture-painting relate, you may well ask. The voices really get going while I paint. Walls, furniture, anything will do. Most of what comes up is useless noise. But there’s always something that insists on getting jotted down.

How to use, where to use, whether to use the jottings makes up for most of the notebooks and scraps of paper on my desk.


Scene order, plus missing information in previous scenes. Scene order.  Plus, breaking through the logjam.

* Herman Melville, Moby-Dick, in Chapter Three

A few scenes later, there’ll be the matter of content in the nameless crate. Later.

In Animals, Circus, Current reading, Food, Hautvoir, Local projects, Revision, Sanford Meisner, Theater on October 26, 2015 at 10:08 am

Maybe the carp in yesterday’s blog belongs in another story. Or – oh wait a minute – carp. The humongous ones from the Danube, that make the Loch Ness monster look like a rubber toy. The humongous ones do not make good carp dishes. Not the ones I’ve tasted anyway. Their flesh dissolved in the stew, had an unpleasant aftertaste, and the thing wasn’t even full-grown yet.

Story will have to be interrupted for a few hours today. The purpose of the visit to the family is filled with good intentions and all. But considering I’m still on unpaid holiday and considering the garrulousness of the person I’m to accompany, my enthusiasm for good works is at the low-end of the scale. C’est la vie. At least I’ve learned a bit about a character whose sudden appearance made no sense before I learned more about her. It makes even less sense now, but in a good way.

About half of the furniture painting done. Finished Hagen’s Respect for Acting last night. So very different from Meisner’s approach. Much more hands on for one – Meisner had stopped acting to devote himself to teaching. Plus what I have to qualify as feminine in its focus on objects – their handling, their layout, their emotional charge. Plus multi-tasking – how the actor can best convey what his role calls for while dealing with an onslaught of sensations and the need to respond to them.

Voilà for now. Plus a blessed if short-lived moment this morning when I stopped worrying about the various story lines reaching some meaningful and exhilarating aggregate.

France 1 and France 2

In Animals, Contes d'Exil, Current reading, Hautvoir, proto drafts, Revision, Sundays, Theater, TV, Visual artists on October 25, 2015 at 8:19 am

Funny, the visit from my upstairs neighbor yesterday. Garrulous doesn’t begin to describe her verbal output and since I’d turned on the heat, I invited her into the entrance instead of adding to global warming out there ha-ha. Eyes darting everywhere and mouth wound up at top speed, she went into a total tailspin when, to the purpose of her visit, I answered: “But I don’t own a TV.”

The eyes went on darting and the mouth went on reeling them out – expressions of astonishment and dismay, this was the first time she’d ever met someone who didn’t – you don’t own one because yours broke down, or… “I don’t own one because I don’t want one.”

Oh. Because my son said (or my  son-in-law, she was really talking very fast) I should see you and find out if I’d lost France 1 and France 2 because your TV was pulling all the power from the antenna. Because no one’s lived down here for a long time, so maybe you must have heard us talking loud last night, the walls are pretty thin. (No comment but she’s right, soundproofing isn’t a major drawing card in my current living space.)

Talking real fast. One way to race ahead of whatever emotion is right there behind you, waiting for acknowledgement, one way or another.

Sunday, October 25th. We’ve done the silly fiddling to set back clock time by an hour again. Long-ago voices calling out from somewhere on a lake in Eastern Europe. Fishermen, I think. There’s carp involved.  Does this have anything to do with the current draft? I don’t think so.



What you see ain’t always what you get*

In Current reading, Hautvoir, Local projects, proto drafts, Revision, Theater on October 24, 2015 at 7:02 am

the best way for me to describe this(these) blogs: space clearing. Meaning? Moving words or photos aside so I can get to the main purpose of the writing exercise.

Two books arrived yesterday: uta hagen respect for acting and Moby Dick. Started on the first last night. Didn’t laugh out loud, but almost, when she talks about the difference between what you see in the mirror and the inner world.

A prior incident in the day gave this passage personal relevance: a friend offered to drive me to the outskirts of town where all the heavy-duty shopping gets done. She used the time for quiet reading in her car while I bought supplies. At the hardware place, someone spotted me from a distance and took up his position for a drawn-out chat. There was no way to avoid him. I stopped. He yammered. I nodded and smiled. Happened to turn my head, and spotted a dumpling of an older woman nodding and smiling in that forced way people do with bores. Almost broke out laughing when I realized I was looking at my reflection in a mirror. Explained I had someone waiting in the car and scooted off as fast as I could.

Hence the title, and back to fiction + furniture painting I go.

*and vice-versa.

and how does your garden grow?

In coffee, Film, Hautvoir, Music, Poetry, proto drafts, Revision on October 23, 2015 at 7:54 am

I used to destroy the writing when things got to the low point. Now, I’ve discovered low isn’t low enough. Since I belong to the world of the unpublished (and I’m more than likely to stay there), this time, I’ll let the characters be the perfect fools they are.

In the film I saw the other night, titled Marguerite, the terrible truth no one wants to tell her is that she’s an absolute disaster as a singer. When somebody finally dares to tell her (by forcing her to listen to her own voice), it kills her. The script was inspired by a real-life would-be diva whose name I forget. I doubt anyone ever told her she was a disaster. The woman was rich. Had plenty of money to spread around. I guess people stuck wax into their ears, smiled, applauded and yelled ‘bravo!’.

Bore holes through a pencil. Gopher and rabbits holes. A squirrel on a tree stump, diving into one of the burrows. Plus a complicated safety latch on a security fence – except anyone could reach the release mechanism and walk right in.

Those are a few of the images the night left lying around for the awake one.

Mary Mary quite contrary

how does your garden grow?

With silver bells and cockle shells

and pretty maids all in a row.


“I wanted to be your friend”

In En français dans le texte, Hautvoir, proto drafts, Revision on October 22, 2015 at 7:36 am

All in the timing? I guess. Try it and see. A flower for a soldier. A marigold or a daisy, perhaps.

No, maybe not. Love, sweet love? Have a corny or a porny blogpost instead. Or worse, of course. Always a possibility of worse.

Say hi, get a snarl. And so on. This is at the basic, simple everyday interaction level. Ramp it up and away we go.

I only wanted to be your friend. Well, whoopy-doo. How stupid, how trite and how passé.

Je persiste et je signe. Why? Plain contrarian cussedness, I guess. Whether this makes for good story or not, who’s to know until the story is told.