Thanks for the add! Gros bisous :-)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Twins, the Queen, and the President, punk week in Dublin

For a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down, the medicine go down, the medicine go down.

Yes people, Ireland is in all the papers this week for all the right reasons, we are at last experiencing a truely surreal week.
Pretty Vacant
Jedward gets 8th place in the Eurovision song contest. YAYAYAYAYAYAYA. Those X factor twins have won the hearts of everyone. For those who never heard of them essential song hereunder.

God Save the Queen
Queen Elizabeth is visiting Ireland for the very first time ever.
Ain't she sweet?

And finally

I'm so bored with the USA
Here I have to disagree with The Clash, because look at what the impending arrival of the President of da world (23rd May) is pushing Irish people to... Creativity... Well I never!
You'll find me home, watching the events on TV, or maybe even not watching at all (but I gotta because in her old age, the Queen reminds me of my grandmother, who wasn't a twin, by heck she was presidential AND a real queen).

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Model behaviour

Poly Styrene (of the band X Ray Spex), once screamed "Some people think little girls should be seen and not heard But I think Oh Bondage Up Yours!" I had been looking for an excuse to write about the Comtesse de Ségur for a while, and Poly Styrene's untimely death 2 weeks ago, gave me an idea as to how I should breach this topic, and yesterday's about the Cinderella Making Machine in Gounjous' blog, really gave me the necessary push.

If you are not familiar with Poly Styrene's work, from this photo you can gather that she was not terribly pretty, nor elegant by TRADITIONAL STANDARDS, nor was she particularly quiet, and yet I think she was undeniably a healthy role model, a bit like Sophie, one of the Comtesse de Ségur's most famous characters, whose misfortunes are told in Les Malheurs de Sophie. And boy, was Sophie, trouble! She was the total nemesis to her exemplary cousins Camille and Madeleine of Les Petites Filles Modèles.
Everything Camille and Marguerite did was perfect, they were so obedient that they rarely got spanked, unlike naughty Sophie, who could never do anything right.
Although Sophie got some cool stuff, she was very very bad at keeping it that way, being inclined, as she was, to curiosity, and experimentation... You guessed it nothing ever worked out for her, and it often ended in corporal punishment which was then deemed harsh but fair (however this also turned Ségur into fodder for fetish literature, needless to say).

As a little girl, it was impossible for me, and for many others, to resist Camille and Marguerite's charm. They were both perfection and inspiration.  Check out this extract which remains one of my favourite text ever. It is very difficult to find English translations of La Comtesse de Ségur's books. This is by no means an official translation.
[Camille and Marguerite have just been given a present of an entire painting set (to promote their artistic talents) and a doll complete with a full trousseau (to promote their domestic skills) - Ségur had definite ideas about children's education. This is what the trousseau is made of :

A round straw hat with a small white feather and ribbons of black velvet coat a blue taffeta with pink pompoms, a green umbrella with an ivory handle, 6 pairs of gloves, 4 pairs of boots, 2 silk scarves ; a sleeve and an ermine cape. 
In the second drawer: 
6 shirts day, 6 night shirts, 6 pants, 6 skirts trimmed with scalloped lace, 6 pairs of socks, 6 handkerchiefs, 6 nightcaps, 6 cols, 6 pairs of sticks, 2 corsets, 2 flannel petticoats; 6 towels, 6 sheets, 6 pillow cases; 6 small towels. A bag containing a sponge, a comb, a comb, a brush head, brush comb. 
In the third drawer were all the dresses and coats and cloaks, and there were: 
1 dress in merino wool Scotch a poplin dress pink taffeta dress with a black dress with a blue cloth, a white muslin dress, a dress nankeen * 1 dress in black velvet gown with a silk lilac; a gray cloth coat, a black velvet jacket, a black silk Talma *; a dark blue velvet cloak, a mantle of white muslin embroidered.

Enough to make any of my vintage blogger friends swoon, never mind a little girl!
 (Illustration by Bertall)
At times, I miss playing with my dolls. Playing with dolls made me full of ambition, I really wanted to sew all the things that were in Marguerite's doll trousseau. Later on, I wanted my Barbie doll to be ever so glamorous at all the cocktail parties she attended with Ken, that I would often sew evening gowns for her, with scraps of material. I would knit jumpers for her evenings of elegant drinking at the ski station bar. I was often disappointed with the result of my effort, but what was worth it was the idea that I could invent any number of outfits, I did not need to be Coco Chanel or Jean Paul Gaultier to dream these up. 

At a later stage, my ambition turned to professional goals for Barbie, who with great cunning skill had managed to infiltrate the archives of the priest who received the confessions of the most dangerous criminals on Earth (yes there was only one of them, and - luckily - he (I that is) kept little Barbie size red-covered diaries of the confessions of the untold monstrosities that had been perpetrated.

Victor Hugo wrote this in Les Misérables (Cosette)
The doll is one of the most imperious needs and, at the same time, one of the most charming instincts of feminine childhood. To care for, to clothe, to deck, to dress, to undress, to redress, to teach, scold a little, to rock, to dandle, to lull to sleep, to imagine that something is some one,—therein lies the whole woman's future. While dreaming and chattering, making tiny outfits, and baby clothes, while sewing little gowns, and corsages and bodices, the child grows into a young girl, the young girl into a big girl, the big girl into a woman. The first child is the continuation of the last doll.

And if I may go back to the beginning of this article, despite all desires of perfections, at the end of the day its''s the little rebel girl Sophie, who- to many little girls - is more attractive than her perfect cousins, Marguerite and Camille, just like Poly Styrene in all her clumsiness should forever remain endearing to the female and the male of the species. Because Poly Styrene had ambition, she wore lipstick, but too much, and possibly not a very tasteful shade, she wore fishnets, but they had holes in them... you get me. She was a BAD GIRL, a bit like many endearing vamps of old French cinema, for example:
Ginette Leclerc in Le Corbeau
Suzy Delair in Quai des Orfèvres
Bad, bad girls...
but bully for them! They never lost the "creative freedom" that doll playing gives a little girl, When the doll goes, a new doll is born, she adorns herself in many ways outside and inside, and it is delightful, don't you think?

Who wears Prada? An angel or a demon? Who is to say!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Smoking is really bad for you but...

And maybe the worst offender of them all, Mademoiselle Deneuve (yeah her again!)
Yeah, I know, I was tired of being elegant, sexy, mysterious, possibly intellectual, so I stopped...

But you know what, you can't really smell pictures... last week a customer came to my house, and I knew immediately when I opened the front door that he had just landed on Irish territory from an exotic country such as Belgium or France, because there was a whole aura of brown tobacco cigarette smoke about him. I wish I could say that I could barely see his silhouette amongst the famous blue curls of smoke of this particular brand of poison.
But that would be a lie..., so instead I leave you with these two inveterate smokers.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Workers and flowers

Today in France it is customary to celabrate workers days by going for a picnic in the woods and pick bunches of lily of the valley (muguet) which is meant to be given for luck.
De l'autre côté du miroir. has many more of these retro-cards. Wikipedia also tells me this custom originates from Nantes.
Perhaps you recognize yours truly from this picture taken a few moons ago.

If you can't go to the countryside the muguet comes to you anyway, such is the magic of consumer society! 
Wishing all of you good luck on this 1st May, with song interpreted by none other than Danièle Darrieux, who played the mother in the movie I mentioned in my previous post.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Real royalty

Call me lucky or unlucky, but I put on TV this morning just in time to catch the new royals, heading out of Westminster to get back to Buckingham Palace, and lo and behold, didn't Alexander McQueen copy MY wedding dress? (well my mum's, seeing that I wore hers). But Alex tho, don't you worry, I won't sue for copyright infringement, as we say in French: J'ai d'autres chats à fouetter  (I have other cats to whip, really its's not that hard to decipher).

All this talk of royal wedding for some reason-unknown to myself as per ususal.made me think of Catherine Deneuve, who I think is possibly the closest we French have to royalty. And then one thing leading to another, I was soon reminiscing, as one would, about Jacques Demy's Les Demoiselles de Rochefort, and the song which is amongst my top ten sing-under the shower, sing-while-you-cook, sing while-you-think, sing while-you-do whatever, in other words La Chanson des Jumelles (video under for those of you who would have the temerity of admitting to not knowing this absolute pillar of French popular culture, and you'd better revise on Harley Davidson by Brigitte Bardot, as this assignment is likely to crop up soon. Soon is the word!)

If you want royal, this movie is IT.
Royal - The amazing score by Michel Legrand
Royal - Catherine Deneuve and sister François Dorléac.

Look how elegant they are. The costumes are so conceptual. They wear the same clothes, but observe the colour coordination and the cut of the dresses with a flare skirt, which instead of slits (too vulgar) have colour panels within the flared skirt. Notice also the bodice shape that follows the body contours, but, no décolletage, and the Ascott-worthy hats.
These girls are perfect women, not only are they beautiful but they are witty, talented, sassy, and both sexy (we are informed of their exploits in one of the songs) and idealistic. They don't care about money, they want to meet their prince charming. Awwww! Fairy tale stuff. Never mind the sailor who knows exactly what the love of his life looks life, although he has not met her yet. Classic!
Royal - Director Démy for hiring Gene Kelly and George Chakiris for this ambitious French musical. lets not forget that Truffaut and Godard held American cinema as the pinnacle of perfection, and Hollywood has repaid the compliment at times, by doing remakes of French comedies mostly (Dinner for Smucks being the last example of this phenomenon). Think about it, the achievement was incredible, in fact I think it was more or less unique. Gathering lead American actors to play second fiddle in a French movie. Wow! Plus we knew that Gene Kelly could dance, and sing.
 But who knew that his accent was perfect... maybe even ...Royal!

I mean really imagine a movie now starring Leonardo De Caprio AND Brad Pitt with say Chiara Mastroianni and Charlotte Gainsbourg, which takes place in the back of beyond! (I think the closest I can think of and that was a few years ago, is Chocolat with JohnnyDepp and Juliette Binoche).
I mean seriously West Side Story, the royalty of American cinema, brought to small town France, for an equally fairy tale-like (but less Shakesperean) movie.

So for those of you who don't care too much about the royal wedding today, but wanna stay in regal mood, why not plan a screening of this classic of French cinema. And please check out that impeccable accent!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Personal Jesus

I had all sort of plans for this Easter week, starting from the tradition of Palm Sunday in France Les Rameaux, which was like a little Easter of kinds. My grand mother would adorn a box tree branch (buis) with all sorts of sweets, all kids would walk up to mass buis in hand, and then there was the excruciating wait of looking at this promise of sugar heaven, throughout the whole mass... you see the priest had to bless this buis before you could touch the sweets. And the fact that these sweets had been blessed by the little Jesus by proxy made them all the sweetest.

For a child churches are weird places, so many statues of the Virgin Mary, and different saints with pathos on their faces which you would be hard pushed to associate with a human being. One of the things that used to fascinate me was the ange-quêteur a bit like this one here.
You can see one in action here. I think you may understand the magic of it all for a child.

Add to this the smell of encense and you can taste the mystery, glory and boredom all at once that was mass for me as child holding my little branch of buis, a week before Easter and waiting and waiting to get back home for the big sugar rush.

But today of all days is Jesus's day, son of man, son of God. No matter whether you are a believer or no, you have to wonder about what goes on in the mind, heart and soul of one who knows he is condemned, the mental suffering, the moments of doubts, and it is no surprise that visual arts can really help us to grasp this amazing phenomenon which is the passion of Christ.

My purpose today is to mention a French documentary called First Passion, by Philippe Baron.

This documentary talks about the first feature length feature made about the passion of Christ, From the Manger to the Cross, a movie by Sidney Olcott shot in 1912 on location in Palestine. The documentary covers a lot of ground going from the extraordinary ambition of this project which aesthetically wanted to replicate the imagery of French painter James Tissot, to the fact that the nuns of a nearby convent treated the actress playing Mary just as if she was Mary, to the issues that actors who play Jesus face in general after playing such a role on the big screen, the fact that it was the first time that an audience was required not to eat, not talk to one another and generally behave themselves for the duration of the movie, because of the subject matter.

To give you an idea of the aesthetic aspect of the movie, here are a few of Tissot's religious paintings.
 Jesus is betrayed
Jesus bearing his cross
Scene from the movie
And this extraordinary scene entitled What Jesus saw from the cross, where Jesus doesn't feature physically on this painting, but his presence can not but weigh heavily on the viewer's conscience. This painting in my mind gives the adjective "awesome" its true meaning. If your curiosity is piqued you see From the Manger to the Cross on line here.

And before I disappear for a few more days, I want to wish you all a very Happy Easter, Joyeuses Pâques, I hope that the Easter Bunny or Les Cloches de Pâques (depending on which country you live in), don't forget you, and I leave you in the good company of the holiest sinner of rock and roll... Johnny Cash in and his famous rendition of Dépêche Mode's Personal Jesus.

Chocolate and/or pious thoughts to all.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Yuri and the girl with the mousy hair

Is space the final frontier? In another life I could of course ask Yuri, what a guy, eh! Makes me dream of the days when I used to get into one of these and the world was mine for about 3 minutes. What a thrill, especially when you got to the top!
I was a bit too young when Yuri Gagarin became the first person to enter space, and any way we did not have TV, but I sure did not miss the landing on the moon, AND I am so looking forward to men going to Mars. The suspense is killing me. Will it be the Chinese or the Americans? All I know is that by 2030, guys, we are there! So I really look forward to seeing a rerun of the landing on the moon, but this time on Mars. 
Plus seemingly they are using the same capsule design, for ORION, and they will be landing in the desert somewhere. I remember so well when the astronauts would lose contact with NASA once they went through the atmosphere, and then you did not know whether they made it or not, the impending sense of possible tragedy, and the relief to see them come out of the capsule alive.
Testing, testing, yes we have landing...
And then to top it all, I go to my dentist who tells me that in his lifetime (and he 40ish) we will be able to regrow teeth. A true marvel. Hurrah for the human race!

So many questions in my head... when we go to Mars, is there going to be passport controls, who is going to be in charge once there, once we get there, could we actually end up living in space rather than on planets, see we only have been settled for about 1% of our time on this Earth. Wanderers we were before, wanderers we may be once again. If we fuck up too much down here we may just not have the choice anyway. What will be the spaceports like? What will it be called a spaceport, a rocketport, a Marsport? Which kind of money will they operate on Mars....

Meanwhile I love airports, hence all these questions I guess. I love airports and plane journeys, long plane journeys in particular, because you enter in a bubble where time almost stops. Once on the plane they bring you stuff, you can watch movies you would never dream of watching in ordinary circumstances. Airports are modern-day cathedrals, by the sheer scale of them. Airports are intrinsically children of the 1960's, you wont find an "old" airport that looks old, say like Grand Central, or Gare de Lyon. I love discovering new airports. Each airport has a story to tell.

Recently I had to travel to Philadephia via Frankfurt, long story. Philadelphia airport is a rather crummy airport, BUT, they decided that the International Arrivals Hall was possibly the face of Philadelphia and by extension the face of America... so when you get into Philly, this very airy space "The American Dream", designed by Robert Fisher is there to greet you.
 "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." 

“Declaration” is a ten-foot high artwork of illuminated glass, creatively divided into thirteen segments representing the original colonies. “This artwork,” says Fisher, "presents an image of the entire Declaration of Independence, enabling a visitor to read its phrases and understand why our country declared itself free." Rendered like parchment, the glass has the text sandblasted into its surface. Fisher chose to produce this aspect of the artwork at Franz Mayer of Munich, Germany, an internationally renowned stained glass atelier. (same souce as above).

On the other hand, land in Frankfurt, and it is your nose thats get the first whiff of this airport which reeks of cigarette! Yes you read this right cigarettes! YOU CAN SMOKE IN FRANKFURT AIRPORT, I thought for a minute that I was transported back to the 20th century.
Look at these people in that little booth, smoking their lungs away, and let me tell you it's not as if these were sufficient to contain the lovely smell of cigarettes. Ah the good old days when I was a smoker!
And in case you don't believe me (because it is quite difficult to conceive that you could be allowed smoke in an airport nowadays) here is the monorail platform that says Frankfurt (if you care to read backwards).
Frankfurt airport is a den of sin and turpitudes. The next thing is that you can also gamble there, see below. I was slightly pressed for time, otherwise I had in mind to look for the "SexZentrum"next, just to see if they have one in the airport, you for busy people who don't have time to get to town.
Vorsprung Durch Teknik, isn't it what they say?
Back home in Dublin, I had the pleasure to discover Dublin new Terminal 2. Oh wait, its not me! Anyway it is "boooootiful", but it also deserves a whole post to itself.

And to celebrate Yuri's day, and the likelihood of man/woman going to Mars, there was only one song, and one song only....