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Mischief

In dreams, Food, Fun, Hautvoir, proto drafts, RLB trivia on July 14, 2016 at 8:21 am

We’re in the car, driving to the glass museum in the former mining town of St-Benoit de Carmaux, when I say something about our mother’s recoil at anything resembling humor. Yet, in the trove of photos, I see a few of her looking jolly in social settings – parties and such. But jolly didn’t fly in family circumstances. My sister’s interpretation: laughing implied a loss of control. Given some of the less savory aspects loss of control can take, you could call our mother’s efforts at self-control commendable, if misguided. Given we’ll all die anyway, I’d rather die laughing and I’d rather laugh whenever possible between now and the final send-off.

The nuns shared this dread of laughter. As for portraits done in oils (or their later interpretations in the first days of photography) – how often have you come across a formal portrait of some grandee laughing his head off, or with his teeth showing and his wig askew?  The simple answer: never.

Therefore (since this is leading somewhere) a someone given to setting off bouts of giggling in others was not invited to exercise her skills at school commencements or graduations; in classroom settings; at her grandmother’s table or during a family dinner where the main concern of all centered on the edibility of the contents in the mystery pot about to be uncovered.

Solemn was good. Mischievous was bad. Simple. Basic. Prior to the meal, we now bow our heads to ask for heavenly assistance with our digestive juices.

***

After the glass museum, we ate salade aux deux saumons (gravlax and smoked) in Albi.  Giggled over some of the more memorable culinary fiascos from our childhood. And recalled with fondness our father’s   purchase of a gadget from which he produced grilled cheese sandwiches he served with pickles, when all else was lost to the Burnt, the Raw, the… the… that thing you just lifted out of the stewpot, what is it exactly, mother? Or would we rather not know?

(Both the visit to the museum and the subsequent walk through Albi were enlivened by my attempts* to keep my pants on – the change in diet begun end of June isn’t beneficial to my limited wardrobe.)

* successful, but this added an element of suspense to the outing.

***

One boy whose papers don’t bear up under scrutiny will show up at my door at some point around ten o’clock this morning. Beyond listening to him, there won’t be much I can do to help. Who knows – there may be a hidden thread in his narrative that leads out and away, same as in a Navajo rug.

Another boy sends me three pieces of writing he’s done. Of the whole group, he’s the one with a real grasp of the French language and a real desire to use the written word. Why he’s taken to signing his stuff so-and-so President of Africa in some cases, or President of Africa and revolutionary in others, I’m not sure. Given his enthusiasm for words, the fact the authorities signed him up to learn maintenance on industrial equipment can’t sit too well on his sixteen or seventeen years of life experience.

Of the three pieces he sent me last night, the best to my mind is the one he titled Immigration. Could also be called Immigrant’s Blues. Some of the imagery in it stays in mind this morning – for instance, his comparison of the Mediterranean sea to a cold storage chest for Africa’s youth. Funny, not.

Which makes humorous mischief the better option when the weight of the world bears down too much.

(Do I add a post to keep afloat to the filing categories for this blogpost? Yep. Along with food, dreams, fun, Hautvoir, proto drafts, and RLB trivia.

Allez? Allez.

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Trivia

In Food, Hautvoir, Local projects, news coverage, proto drafts, RLB trivia, Sundays, TV on June 12, 2016 at 9:32 am

I’ll go with “A projectile is launched” for starters. This settles the inner debate on which media bit starts the parade. So: congrats to The Guardian for “A projectile is launched” instead of something like “Bored idiot throws beer bottle” as commentary for readers who want to know what’s going on in a photo where another bored idiot holds on to his beer and laughs.

The Guardian had tight competition from the Nouvel Obs on this one.  In its coverage of rampaging after a soccer game in Marseille, the Obs informs readers a man had “a malaise” that leaves him hovering between life and death at latest report. “A malaise” is the habitual French euphemism for heart failure. The Obs then proceeds to inform the reader said heart failure occurred after the man got shoved to the ground,  kicked ‘and possibly’ hit over the head with a metal implement. Hm. Perhaps he had a pre-existing heart condition?

Sunday morning. The phone works again and did not ring once, thanks to the fact this is Sunday morning. Meaning, no one at the door yet, and a quiet phone. Considering how unquiet life was yesterday at the same time, I find the quiet anything but boring.

I’m even relaxed enough to ponder the expression ‘artificial intelligence’ in a mellow and mature way – no tantrum, no throwing of the phone through a closed or an open window. The ‘artificial’ part of the intelligence becomes self-evident when you hit the glitches. Leaves you wondering about the human intelligence involved in setting up a stupid system though.

To whit: a message appears on the screen of your basic service phone. “Your phone service will be cut off in the next 48 hours if you do not pay your bill“, the message reads. A second message scrolls by: “Please call the following number to pay your bill“. Problem number 1: the basic service phone takes in messages to which I can’t respond (because of the unpaid bill). I manage to access the client service platform online and discover problem number 2: the clever human behind the artificial intelligence forgot to write the necessary instructions concerning a back payment.  Ergo, the system missed the payment for the month of May (less than 8 euro) because there wasn’t enough money in the account – the sick dog took priority over the phone bill.  The system picked up on the June payment and left the May bill outstanding. I paid; the system acknowledged payment. Reinstatement of calling privileges took longer but that’s all right. It’s Sunday morning, the phone is quiet and so am I.

Save for a passing comment, I’ll leave the rest of the trivia for fiction. Granted, an old woman getting punched and stomped for her handbag isn’t trivial for the woman; not trivial for her neighbors either. The boy made the mistake of turning his face toward her. She recognized him and identified him for his photo on file at the gendarmerie. Her right arm is in a sling and her flea-sized dog with the horizontal ears still pretends he’s a force to contend with. The woman’s local slugger/stomper is fifteen years old.

Sunday morning and the sun’s out. Late-late dinner with a Tunisian family last night.The evening continued with TV time, straight from a Tunisian channel. Soap opera involving a lot of bunched-up eyebrows and rapid fire shouting matches, followed by a Price is Right type show where a woman won three hundred thousand dinar (one hundred and fifty thousand euro) and another, ten. All of this in Arabic, obviously. A great opportunity for concentrating on facial expressions and other forms of body language.

 

 

Bleary’s a good word too

In Hautvoir, Local projects, Revision, RLB trivia, Sundays on May 22, 2016 at 7:53 am

A local journalist put up the woman’s post on his Facebook page. I shared it on mine. Until yesterday or the day before, the woman was stationed in Egypt for a French newspaper. Following the crash of the Egyptian plane, her desk chief asked her to stay away from the “factuals” and do a paper on the families’ grief, plus some questioning on potential Egyptian responsibility. She refused. They fired her.

She refused because she hadn’t met any of the families since they don’t want to meet the press. With no details on the causes for the crash, she refused to imply anything whatsoever. She did the right thing. Therefore, good luck to her. Doing the right thing doesn’t sell the evening paper. Doesn’t sell the morning one, either.

In more local news, my body went on semi-strike yesterday and seems to have the same leanings today. I spend more time nodding off than I do getting things done. Why, I don’t know. After three prolonged naps yesterday, I fell into bed at seven pm and slept through till six am. I’m just about ready for another snooze. Revision proceeds accordingly.

Meanwhile, more glitches on an email account: I receive messages but can’t reply. Comes a point when the aggravations don’t even aggravate anymore. You just nod off and snooze instead. I guess the body knows best.

(You must add a title and categories, woman.)

(Huh? What? Who’s…oh, yes, title. categories. Then, I can sleep?”

(Yes.)

(OK… Do you know I don’t even feel like having coffee?)

(That’s weird.)

(Weird. I like that word.)

Some preliminary effects of faulty wiring on jollity

In Absurdlandia, Animals, Artists, coffee, Current reading, Drafts, Hautvoir, Revision, RLB trivia on May 16, 2016 at 9:51 am

The other day, the wiring did something strange and fried the innards of two useful appliances: a computer I used as a stocking device for photos and such, and a photocopier for which I couldn’t find ink cartridges anymore but could use as a scanner.

This morning when the dog insisted that 5:45 AM was the adequate moment for a search through the fresh garbage on place du chateau, the light switch from downstairs to upstairs failed to produce the expected result. For some reason,  Fiat Lux  was operational again when we returned.

I’m typing this on a disconnected laptop because I have a fairly healthy sense of humor but losing the contents of this computer would push the envelope of my equanimity straight over the cliff. The automatic back-up feature stopped functioning a while ago. The external hard drive churns but doesn’t save. Yes, I save my writing on little plug-ins. Still. When power systems play games and fry the innards on my appliances, I don’t fall down laughing.

The more pleasant times? Pleasant indeed. Brief though. Yesterday, for instance. Several pleasant hours, all in a row. At one point, on my friend’s terrace, I imagined my dog gamboling through the countryside instead of foraging for dreck amid the smashed bottles. But I’d need a car, wouldn’t I? Not much chance of having the kind of money that buys a car again. C’est la vie.

***

Of course, I appreciate the humor in someone using a search engine that turns up websites for upholstered furniture when you type in the title of this blog. Since my small frame is now well padded in all directions, there’s something apt in said ap. But the fickle power supply does something unfortunate to my jollity. C’est la vie.

A day off. I’d like to be racing through the draft, making the sorrier parts sing and so on. I keep giving the light switches sidelong glances instead.

Allez. Maybe it’s this room that induces gloom. Allez, allez, almost finished reading through The Horse’s Mouth again, or How to make misery sing.

I’ll need a bit more coffee first before another look at my draft.

ouf*

In Drafts, En français dans le texte, Food, RLB trivia on January 1, 2016 at 2:51 pm

First, the good news: 1)water with a bit of syrup? Goes down to the stomach and does not come spewing up like Old Faithful. 2) I’ve found an old pair of non-prescription glasses, and if no one finds the glasses I lost last night, this will mean I’m due for a new, more fashionista-looking pair. Something in red or in imitation tortoise shell if I want to keep up the intellectual pretense.3) I can think and write words such as e-a-t- or f-o-o-d and my stomach remains becalmed. (But it’s best to stick to generalities, I discovered, when a friend called to see how I’m doing, and mentioned… well, specific foods I’ll name some other day.)

No, I didn’t party all night nor did I eat and drink to excess. I suspect an egg bought from an unfamiliar merchant at the market. Ergo, caveat emptor.

The dog’s morning stroll was severely curtailed. The phone just pulled me out of deep sleep. I notice I can sit without a wobble.

Voilà – all of it rather sudden and dramatic last night. My apologies to those who haven’t received detailed wishes of all the best in the new year. (The funny part: over here, when you wish someone a happy new year, they inevitably answer: hope for health, most of all.)

I agree and wish the whole world exactly the same.

Time for another sip of water with blackcurrant syrup. I’d rather be writing but chances are I’ll tumble back into bed.

* ouf: French onomatopoeia signifying relief.

A Domestic Post

In Circus, Current reading, Hautvoir, Local projects, Music, proto drafts, RLB trivia on August 7, 2015 at 6:12 am

On to the blue walls in the lav, next. A color marketed under the name of “Bleu audacieux”. The first few licks applied yesterday translate to: Definite Blue. The trim being something marketed as Abricot that I spiked up to Saffron. (Yes, I’ll have to repaint everything back down to dingy white when I leave but I wanted at least one space where bright colors ruled.) The ceiling is too high for me to do well so maybe I’ll turn the whole thing into a variation on Pakistani Truck Art by hanging a piece of fabric straight from the wilder offerings from the gaudy fabrics on sale at the open air market.

Between house painting and wiping off the rolling boulders of sweat, I read through Jim Harrison’s Great Leader and groused when someone interrupted the reading by ringing my doorbell. The person wanted to pick up his vacuum cleaner – this makes the purchase of one urgent business, considering the dog’s impressive output of detachable hairs. Two brushings per day aren’t enough.

Some folks wake to a bugle call. Others to a muezzin chant. Others still to an electronic attack of chattering from their bedside clock. Us folks up on the hill this morning woke at five forty am to a loud and angry rapper blaring out from a car radio down on the market place. I guess someone was waiting for the first bus out to somewhere and felt the need for company in the early morning calm. The air was cool, the moon was clear so I made coffee, watered the plants outside and wandered the neighborhood with the dog for a few minutes.

Story: slowly, slowly. None of the characters seem inclined to chatter. But painting walls always seems to leave plenty of available head space in which to catch something from one of them.

Snug

In humeurs, Local projects, proto drafts, RLB trivia on July 23, 2015 at 11:40 am

Well, I’ll be … Using the computer at Volubilo again, I type in my previous email address and… yep, still active, with a bunch of Facebook updates and a message from a man by the name of Rudolf promising to send me a check for 18 768 euro and 19 centimes in payment for two of my bills. The 19 centimes are a nice touch. You’re almost tempted to click for a quick response such as: gee Rudolf, I guess you have the wrong email address, I never billed you …uh… hm… Second read-through: I guess Rudolf has the wrong address. He also has one surprising grammatical deconstruction you don’t expect in a professional email. The active email account comes as a surprise but there seems to be a basic operational disconnect between me and computerized systems.

Something funny happens when I’m down to the final bits of sorting, culling, and packing. I get as obsessional and finicky as someone putting together a five-thousand piece reversible puzzle. Oh, the satisfaction of all the flat-head screws in one jar, and the roll of duct tape in a snug fit between the twine and the wire-mesh brush. Something like the packing and unpacking I did prior to my three-month solitary trek across Europe, years ago,  carrying nothing but an extra large bag I could throw over my shoulder. I had everything I needed, including reading and writing material, change of clothes, toiletries, plate, cup, cutlery, road food (replenished along the way, so that I ate British apples in Holland, and Dutch cheese in Germany; German sausage in Denmark, and Danish herring in Sweden. Etc.)

The characters. Still milling around. Some with names, some without. Some with names that won’t stick, something like post-its. An odd business, starting on a new one. Same as with pregnancies, I guess. They say no two are alike.

If I come over here first thing in the morning tomorrow, I may get a chance to roam around internet a bit. Unless things flow in an uncharacteristic way, I won’t get back to a connection before Sunday.

Snug. The word even looks and sounds the way things fit in the toolbox this morning.

More or less

In Drafts, Local projects, Music, Revision, RLB trivia, Sanford Meisner on July 9, 2015 at 7:22 am

Story-wise, the main question now: in what order. I’ve more or less settled on the longest of the four strands coming first. More or less inclined to make the Ethel strand the last. The order for the other two: not clear.

Everything is more or less at the moment. The living space combines packed belongings, give-aways awaiting clearing out, still-useful stuff huddling on the table. Plus the clutter of questionables: to keep or not to keep. Still no idea if all the admin pieces will fall into place on schedule. Still don’t know who will provide a truck, who will do the heavy lifting. But everything else is more or less on track. As François Rabelais once wrote : Mieux est de ris que de larmes escripre, and so on. True enough. Writing isn’t at issue. Layout, both in life and in story, that is the question.

allez. Other people’s lives get priority this morning, then, back to mine. Then sound check for Saturday’s concert. Then, etc.

Between Before and After

In Artists, Current reading, Drafts, En français dans le texte, Local projects, Music, Revision, RLB trivia on July 1, 2015 at 6:31 am

at the ultra-local level i.e. my personal connections through email, phone, and other services, the real question is what data I’ll lose when I change service providers. Most, if not all, my connections date back to the days when the services were under someone else’s name. This may be why I’m no longer connected to some, double-connected to others, etc.

I suspect I’ll lose my iTunes music collection, for instance. Time Machine doesn’t seem to work anymore, in any event. My list of email contacts? Hm…

And so on. Part of the list of nitty-gritty stuff – change of address, insurance, and all the sundry notifications. Those moments when a collection of task-designated robots might come in handy – but imagine the horrors, should one or several of them miss a cue. Scratch that idea.

So: practicalities, woman. One, two, three, A, B, C etc.

***

Re-reading the first chapter of Dostoevky’s The Idiot. Or the collection of essays by Camus titled L’Envers et l’Endroit. These also belong to practicalities? What can I say? For reasons I still don’t understand, that first chapter has stayed with me, even though I’ve forgotten most of the details of Dostoevsky’s novel – or rather, it has merged with bits from the Brothers Karamazov, and Crime and Punishment. Perhaps what struck me then as it did last night  was the contrast between the three characters in that first chapter.

As for Camus, I like what he writes in and about this collection of his first published writings. He was twenty-two years old when the essays were first published. In the preface, he acknowledges all the weaknesses he finds in these first  essays. And yet, everything he will attempt to say once he’s a more accomplished writer, is contained in them already.

In French? Yes, the conclusion of the preface : “Oui, rien n’empêche de rêver… puisque du moins je sais cela, de science certaine, qu’une oeuvre d’homme n’est rien d’autre que ce long cheminement pour retrouver par les détours de l’art les deux ou trois images simples et grandes sur lesquelles le coeur, une première fois, s’est ouvert. Voilà pourquoi, peut-être, après vingt années de travail et de production, je continue de vivre avec l’idée que mon oeuvre n’est même pas commencée. Dès l’instant où, à l’occasion de cette réédition, je me suis retourné vers les premières pages que j’ai écrites, c’est cela, d’abord, que j’ai eu envie de consigner ici.”

(Yes, nothing forbids dreaming… since, at least, I know this for a certainty, that a man’s work is nothing other than this long progression to seek out through the detours of art the two or three simple and great images on which the heart opened up for the first time. This is why, maybe, after twenty years of work and production, I continue to live with the thought that my work hasn’t even begun. From the moment where, on the occasion of this re-edition, I turned back to look at the first pages I wrote, this is what I’ve wanted to put down in writing here, first and foremost.)

***

Next up, writing-wise for me? I don’t know.

“Our lines are presently busy, please do not hold and try again later”

In Drafts, Fun, Games, Hautvoir, Local projects, Music, Revision, RLB trivia, Sanford Meisner on June 19, 2015 at 6:46 am

At one point during last night’s absurd wait for a phone connection, my friend decided to record the eleven-note dialing signal. This was prior to a musical rehearsal. We never managed to nail and reproduce the dissonance in the signal, just as the two hours failed to produce a meaningful exchange with someone who identified himself as Badge Number One Thousand Four Hundred and Seventy-five-How-May-I-Help-You?

Turned out he didn’t know what the hell I was talking about, had no record of the letter sent me on May 11, nor could he figure out why the voice message had given me this Government number to call. However, he added, please give me your phone number and another Badge Number will call back within the next three business days. With a six-hour time differential and several other things to do today, Monday and Tuesday, I opted for another letter-writing bit instead.

Will this lead to a reinstatement of my pension (now cut off for close to a year)? Will this reinstatement occur before I’m cut off again for not filing an income tax document I’ve yet to receive for my measly earnings in two thousand and fourteen? I’m not holding my breath.

***

Meanwhile: will a few people show up for tonight’s benefit event? I’ve stopped begging and pleading since both are useless. A fascinating (if frustrating) phenomenon: the seething indignation over the sorry fate of asylum seekers, as reported in the news. Followed by vacant eyes and foot shifting when invited to do something specific for one specific local family in need of help. Meanwhile the bureaucratic worm chomps away with no dramatic photos and videos available to record its progress.

***

Ergo? Resist. Escape. Transform. Side-step.*

Whatever works to avoid the sandbagged effect.

***

A favorite moment yesterday: finding the 15 differences between two identical-looking drawings with the eleven-year old son of a man who should earn frequent user privileges for his jail attendances. The boy also wanted to work on a sudoku but that was way above the head of the other eleven-year old at the schooling session.

***

* In real life and in imaginary circumstances because the alternatives are too depressing.

Allez? Allez.