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Archive for the ‘Artists’ Category

Keeping House

In A post to keep afloat, Absurdlandia, Artists, Current reading, dreams, Rejection on July 20, 2016 at 8:13 am

The walls are lined with books, all in French. The literature sorted by period – the well-known classics, most of them from the nineteenth century and early twentieth. I pick up some of the more recent, read a few chapters, and set them down. Uninteresting? No. Predictable. You turn to the last page: sure enough the landing, as expected.

The boy comes back from his shopping expedition with two others in Toulouse. Tells me about his purchases and the highlight of their foray – a kebab shop where they ate so much, he says, that at nine PM, he’s not hungry yet. Large eaters they are not. He heads back to my place for the night, proud to have his own key, his own room – and the envy of some of his friends, still in the Home. Before leaving, he wonders how I can spend entire days alone. Reading and writing, I explain. The notion strikes him as too odd for response.

In fact, the writing is at an utter standstill. Something like a stunned silence with brief interjections from time to time. “I thought I knew, but I didn’t,” –  that kind of thing. Totally off track, in fact. Imaginary friends are tricky that way.

Recent writings in French don’t appeal much so I revert to a battered old find. The lives of famous seamen, offered in the year eighteen seventy-five to a young lady, as first prize in religious instruction. Instructive indeed in terms of the White Man’s great mission of spoil and plunder. The racism so blunt and blatant it could be lifted straight off some contemporary twitter feeds and Facebook comments.

Dispossessed and at sea. Basic theme: I thought I knew and I didn’t. A familiar place. I’d like to visit other spaces where some of the people keep some of their promises some of the time.

I’ll find my footing again? Of course I will. But I expected better and will have to find some way to make it so for myself and for others.

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Vendredi matin, le roi, sa femme et le petit prince…*

In Absurdlandia, Animals, Artists, Food, Hautvoir, proto drafts, Sundays, Visual artists on July 17, 2016 at 11:03 am

*the title refers to a traditional French song in which the king, his wife and their little prince come visiting the singer on every day of the week. Since the singer isn’t in, the little prince says: in that case, we’ll come back tomorrow. And so on, until the singer runs through the days of the week.

Friday morning my sister and I went to the supermarket in Gaillac. So did a whole bunch of people on holiday for whom the supermarket visit was something of a family outing. Crowded parking lot, impatient parents, blocked alleys while grandpa waited for grandma to choose the one essential flavored tea among the seventy-eight varieties on display. All par for the course – and the main reason why I visit supermarkets as little as possible.

Can you call it a moment of zen when the experience borders on disgusted amazement? Zen of sorts, I suppose, that landed on me in the yogurt section.

Yogurt. A double alley lined with refrigerated containers. Yogurt for children, one label read (this meant either slurpies  with cartoon characters on them or containers with – yes, cartoon characters). Next, you had organic, health (different from the organic kind, presumably), lo-cal, flavored, with fruit at the bottom or fruit mixed in. Did they have yogurt for boys and yogurt for girls? Not that I noticed. Maybe I should complain.

In other words, senseless glut, aisle after aisle after aisle.

Yesterday, before she left for Canada my sister and I took in a exhibition of ceramics in neighboring Giroussens. With all due respect for the potter who finds fulfillment in reproducing stones out of clay, my preference went to a large amphora in the courtyard. Shaped like a traditional receptacle for oil, wine or grain, it is decorated with leaping goats, flying fish and fowl blowing on trumpets and other friends of dance and music. A small sample?

DSCN3076 With thanks to the potter Thierry Basile, whose name lurks at the bottom of the jar, along with a pair of used work gloves.

Assumptions

In Artists, Circus, Food, Hautvoir, proto drafts, Sundays on July 10, 2016 at 8:19 am

All traces of the street festival gone, this morning. Stalls going up for the Sunday market. I’ll do a quick run down before it opens. My sister arrives from Canada at some point between ten and noon. Someone wants to see me before that. One of those someones who may or may not show up. If he does, he will have unrealistic expectations. Some people cave in when the notion sinks in of what unrealistic means. Some don’t. Either way, the paths they follow are unpredictable.

Details. Over and over again. What makes this one tick and that one balk? What crucial detail am I missing in someone’s life story that may provide a few answers to puzzling behavior?

Assumptions in need of airing. Disappointments in need of mending. Connecting back to family – maybe some folks get too much but then, some folks don’t get enough.

***

Everyone tells me I missed the best show of the entire festival. A tight-rope walker who’s perfected the art of the stumble. Who balances his balancing bar on the wire, then sits off-center on the bar and so on. From a height of some seven meters, I’m told – each meter corresponds to some three years of training. So the man has been at it for some twenty-one years or so.

I wanted to see this but the boy who crossed the Meditteranean in a crowded dinghy and doesn’t like green bean salad, doesn’t like circus acts either. The two of us reach temporary understandings on some issues. Then, I discover the words we exchanged had different meanings at their landing site. Understanding someone across  cultural and personality divides – it’s a slow process.

For now, market, then whatever comes next.

 

Both unexpected and predictable

In Artists, Current reading, Hautvoir, Local projects, proto drafts, Visual artists on July 6, 2016 at 8:35 am

Sorting through electronic files about local refugees this morning, trying to get some grip on my sloppy filing habits, I have to smile at the persistence of another habit: my decision to shelter the one who’s annoyed me the most – and, in all probability, will continue to do so. I’m a bit old to change some of the more basic attitudes in my makeup. In this instance, my need to understand what annoys or jars or disturbs. Plus, as Henri Michaux once wrote: don’t be too hasty in discarding your bad habits because, what will  you replace them with? (this being an extremely loose translation from the French).

***

My main problem as a writer right now: reality is proving more interesting than my fictional take on it. More interesting, and invasive too. This is a high-class piece of annoyance, obviously. At some point, the fiction writer will rebel and insist on telling it her way. So I guess I’ll let the fiction writer stew until she starts sputtering or breaks loose as she is wont to do. Beddy-bye for now, fiction writer, the door’s unlocked, you can walk in or out anytime you please.

***

So, for this next bit of living, a seventeen-year old joins me and the dog for a stretch of the trek. He’ll stay with one of my friends next week while my visitor arrives from Canada.

***

Reading two things in tandem at the moment, as I often do. The first, Boris Cyrulnik’s Parler d’amour au bord du gouffre and Kandinsky’s Du Spirituel dans l’art, et dans la peinture en particulier. 

The first part of the Kandinsky isn’t an invitation to read on. Writing in the Russia of nineteen ten, he seems quite taken in by the theosophists. My personal appreciation of the likes of Madame Blavatsky doesn’t lead me to any rush to further enlightenment. While I understand Kandinsky’s dislike for materialism of the acquisitive kind, I’m not a huge fan of mystical eye-rolling either. So why don’t I put down the book? Because it annoys me? No, because I’m getting to the good part: his reading on the language of forms and colors and his insistence on what he calls the principle of inner necessity that makes an artist’s work resonate with something basic in humans which he calls the soul. I don’t know what a soul is, but that part of what he writes makes sense to me anyway.

***

So, back to this business of annoyance. Better annoyed than bored? Yes. Especially when annoyance is just another name for curiosity. What’s causing the ruffled feathers? What is it about so-and-so that grates so much? Why can’t you let that particular sleeping dog go on snoring?

Story, in other words. Out in “real” or in fiction.

For now, back to real I go.

While a silly tune plays havoc with my head

In Absurdlandia, Artists, Circus, Dance, dreams, Hautvoir, Local projects, Music, proto drafts, Theater on July 3, 2016 at 8:35 am

This is serious. Come on. Look at the mess on your desk. Look at everything you must get done before nightfall. Plus, the horrors, the miseries, the emergencies. Plus, you must take some time for yourself, as they say. Relax. Wind down. But Think Of Others! But don’t stress out. But…! and so on.

Tragedy/Comedy. An impossible balancing act? But so is the simple act of walking.

Few of us will ever push the act of walking up to the level of walking on point, one foot at a time, on overturned glasses. And, indeed, what is the use or the purpose of achieving such a level of strength, grace and daring? No purpose. The notion must have appealed to the circus artist* the same way a crawling baby decides he’s going to manage that trick of walking on his hind legs no matter how many times he lands on his bum.

Impossible. The tragedies, too deep. The comedies, too superficial. “Not funny,” say the mourners, and of course, they’re right. Except for the fact laughter doesn’t ask anybody’s permission to show up, even at a funeral. Laughter breaks forth – in churches, in schools, in hospitals. It can even break forth while having sex or visiting a sorely afflicted friend stranded in dire circumstances. How? Why? Because of something incongruous. Something that breaks the solemnity. A fly on the solemn speaker’s nose. A piece of savage wit. Anything, anything at all that interrupts the narrative and sends it spinning off in another direction.

Something silly enough to interrupt even horror?I don’t know, although some of my characters keep on trying to break through that barrier too.

For now they’ll have to take the back seat while I tackle another bout of paper sorting, laundry and house-cleaning, prior to various visits – official and otherwise –  to my humble home. (The official part happens on Tuesday. Can I greet two persons from Aide Sociale à l’Enfance with my living-room in this condition? And my kitchen? And – gad – the bathroom. Will you look at this mess in the office? )

and so on.

*La danseuse sur verre (Lucie Boulay). You can see her performance on youtube or visit this page of Le Boustrophedon’s website.

this is a blog version of Kilroy was here

In Artists, Circus, Food, Hautvoir, Local projects, proto drafts on July 1, 2016 at 9:00 am

I hope we won’t drown in a surfeit of good intentions over here. At fifteen minutes before nine AM, I’m thinking of switching off the phone for a few hours. Text messaging is a long and tedious process.

However. Almost done on the translation of a circus act’s publicity material and about to break the morning fast. Fiction writing feels like the good little girl’s treat, these days. (If you’re good, mommy will let you play with your imaginary friends, sort of thing).

I’m intrigued by the meet-up point building up ever-so-slowly between two characters who clashed in a previous novel set in Hautvoir. How the meeting will happen – if it happens. How it will go. How it will affect the outcome of the story: all mysteries at this point.

This is it, blog-wise? Yes, for now.

 

“I was walking down the road, minding my own business…”

In Artists, coffee, Film, Food, Fun, Hautvoir, Local projects, Music, or juice, photography, proto drafts, Tea, Wine on June 30, 2016 at 8:47 am

Those are the first words I speak in Ed Maurer’s composition, Pérégrinations. Yesterday, I spoke them – and other bits used in the score – while the camera rolled. Others did the same. The shots will provide material for a clip. We laughed a lot – including after others helped me off the floor when a chair broke under me. Because of my weight? I doubt it, heavier bodies than mine occupied it first. No real harm done  but maybe I should take a refresher course in shoulder rolls and tumbles, as learned years ago in a judo class.

“I was walking down the road, minding my own business…” And then? A cat dashed across the path? A cop car appeared? A group of marchers? No one other than a buzzing fly? A squadron of stingers? Had it rained during the night? Were the fields and spider webs covered with dew? Or was this a path through a forest? What kind? A path well-trodden or a push through scrub and thorny bushes? A street? Industrial, residential…

Characters, take your pick.

***

Behavior modification. Basic observation: you can’t modify eating habits the same way you quit smoking because you can quit smoking altogether but you can’t quit eating. Obvious? Yes. Not so obvious: the how-to. A trip to the small downtown supermarket now involves a mental blanking out of some nine-tenth of the displayed food stuff. Some of those I ignored already, some I bought on occasion, some I considered staples. I won’t be counting grams of ingested protein or salt forever but I’m doing so now to get the notions straight – including when eating out with friends.

I’ve reactivated a long-time companion for this purpose: a notebook I’d bought in Montreal a month before leaving for Europe. Jottings, drawings, notions about food. Fancy meals, simple ones. One recent entry shows cartoon figures at a café table in Gruissan. Date: May 28 of this year when I went to the seashore with friends. Comment added yesterday: “I didn’t know it but I was eating my last hamburger with fries. Delicious, luckily.” Better to end something on a great memory than on a lousy one.

So. Re-training the taste buds. Including when the jollity of a morning photo shoot peaks over wine and pasta with home-made pesto.

Yes, stomach? What’s that you said? ’tis time, I agree. I’ll have breakfast now.

quip, quack?

In Artists, Current reading, Food, Hautvoir, Local projects, news coverage, proto drafts, Theater on June 24, 2016 at 8:14 am

Looks like rubber duckies are in for a hard time. Should they retire? Commit rubber ducky hara-kiri (a swift puncture on a rusty nail, rubber ducky fills with water and sinks in a dead faint, investigated by fishes in search of a tasty snack).

***

I promised my neighbors a moussaka dinner for tonight. Cooking early to avoid an overheated kitchen. A Greek dish, as the next scene in the European drama opens on cheering Britons (and despondent ones too). Plus cheering right-wingers across Europe chafing at the bit for their share in the dismantling of the European so-called union. The distance between symbols and their underlying reality: astounding, at times.

The words “the people”, for instance. Has anyone ever met an entity called “the people”? No. Collective swings in mood happen, some more enduring than others. The way some cloud formations persist longer than others. But “the people”? Whose? Where? Which one?

***

Meanwhile, King Lear grows ever more befuddled, poor dear. What can a poor fool do when his employer loses his grip? Observe, comment, quip. A good name for a fool, that. Quip. “I quip therefore I endure.” Until the curtain falls – in a stately manner, or in a heap.

So. Moussaka. Phone calls. Appointments. New story, bit by tiny bit. Plus Shakespeare, still my favorite Briton.

Whatever you do, make sure you re-arrange the truth

In Artists, Current reading, dreams, Hautvoir, Music, notes, photography, proto drafts, Theater on June 20, 2016 at 7:00 am

The estrangement is subtle. Subtler things are easy to pass by. When you do, they leave an impression, a dis-ease with no clear name stamped on it, except that of estrangement.

A group of people. Some you like more, some less, but you are linked together by a common task. At some point, one of them evokes a childhood memory – a song, a popular figure or even, the names of Snow White’s seven dwarves in their childhood recollections. The stories tumble out – first one, then another, in the usual way groups react to something meaningful. To some of the memories you wish to react with your own, except…

Except you know you’ll interrupt the flow. Why? Because you’ll need to provide context – another country, another culture, a different way of relating to what the group is sharing. Sometimes, you join in with this bit of yours and modify the flow. More often than not, you don’t. A camera’s a good thing to have in those moments. You’re the one in the group who clicks the shutter every so often, the way one of the dwarves is called Sleepy and another…whatever – the names of the seven dwarves never meant that much to me.

Meanwhile, it’s Act Three in the days before King Arthur’s time (at least, in Shakespeare’s play) and King Lear feels his sanity reel and sway. He counted on Regan after Goneril’s betrayal and lo – here they are, his two daughters, joining hands against him while he’s cast away the third.

Of course, once the betrayals begin they won’t stop until the play ends. The play isn’t called a tragedy for nothing and good king Lear could be called But, I thought

I wake from the dream with thoughts of James Joyce’s The Dubliners this morning. Of all those real-life encounters you can’t tell without at least a smidge of transmogrification.  Finding the one thread to pull so as to get away from what really happened: not always obvious.

Late morning. A young man lies in the grass, complaining that his head hurts. The story tumbles out of why he and the group leader arrived so late.

Medicinal, my dear Watson

In and other spirits, Animals, Artists, Current reading, Music, notes, proto drafts, Sundays on June 19, 2016 at 3:58 pm

I suspect we were the grungiest bunch of people seen in Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges in recent times. Traveling in the grungiest jalopies seen (or heard) in its vicinities too. For one, the pilgrims travel on foot (with excellent walking shoes and telescopic walking sticks). Their rain gear and backpacks: first rate. From what we saw of the locals, some favored traipses through the village with a faithful dog and a flock of sheep or resided inside medieval homes in a state of impeccable upkeep and drove cars better described as recent-model vehicles.

The music took them by surprise too. Many of the older residents who came to the concert looked stunned and attentive during the first set. But since they called in some friends to join them for the second set, I gather they found the experience a change from the usual Occitanian choir group or the classical ensemble in from Toulouse. (Although we discovered a fabulous gospel choir during the after-hours part of the evening).

The highlight, singing-wise: two songs inside the cathedral during an improvised stop (too windy and rainy outside, a few pilgrims followed us inside). Exceptional acoustics. For once, we could hear each and every one of the voices. Total harmony.

Four of us left the all night after-hour early (i.e. two AM).  For the time being, words fail in describing the home in which we slept – something like a museum, with the old woman who lives there in the role of caretaker of her family’s history.

She was born in that house, she told me as we left. Both she and her husband trained as pharmacists – the source of one of the collections in her  home. The old apothecary jars have names like laudanum or ipeca but also opium, cocaine or haschish “*but those were strictly for medicinal purposes then,” she said. This goes without saying.

For non-medicinal purposes, some of the singers brought bottles of rum and I lugged a large six-pack of mineral water. The rest of the spirits were free of charge – which goes part of the way in explaining why musicians may be poor but poor or not, they’re usually well soused and pickled by early morning.

My upstairs neighbor is singing right now. Off-key, as usual. I have some photos to download, some reading in want of doing, some laundry and some scribbled notes to sort through.

Next concert: Tuesday night in Albi. Final week of school coaching for this year.

*Almost forgot: and arsenic too.