Sep 30, 2010

Greenpoint Open Studios - Kelly Ann Monaghan

If any of you out there are in Brooklyn on Sunday, specifically, the Greenpoint area, you should go check out one our artists' work: Kelly Ann Monaghan. Her art is really great.

It's part of the Greenpoint Open Studios.

Kelly's studio is open on Sunday from 2-6pm and it's at 255 Calyer Street, 2nd Floor, Between Newel and Diamond: Cell 718-930-5320.

Take the G to Nassau or Greenpoint Avenue.

Sep 28, 2010

"Fastidious French Get Free Sparkling Water Fountain"

One of the great barters we've had the luck to have here, Elizabeth Ames Staudt - she has a great blog here on the Kenyon Review, just sent us this funny/French thing from The Daily GOOD : Fastidious French Get Free Sparkling Water.

Yes, they're making free sparkling water for public drinking fountains

Seemingly  the Italians are at it too!

The Medieval Cité in Carcassonne

For those who haven't been here on retreat before: the medieval Cité in Carcassonne is only 30 minutes from here.

The fortress, which was completely restored in 1853 by the architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, was added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in 1997.

About 3500 BC the hill site of Carsac (a Celtic place-name that has been kept at other sites in the south) became an important trading place in the 6th century BC. The town became identified when the Romans fortified the hilltop around 100 BC. The main part of the lower parts of the northern ramparts date from Gallo-Roman times. Skipping on a fair few centuries of history we come to 1096 when Pope Urban II blessed the foundation stones of the new cathedral as a Catholic stronghold against the Cathars. Carcassonne became famous in its role in the Albigensian Crusades, when the city was a stronghold of Occitan Cathars, the people the Catholic Church decided to, to put it mildly, get rid of, premaently.

You can find out more information about Carassonne on the Office de Tourisme website.

Or check out their funny video:

Sep 27, 2010

Canal du Midi

Residents have been asking me over the years about the Canal du Midi, so this should answer any questions on it.

Built in the 17th Century, this tranquil, tree-lined canal meanders through the French countryside from the Garonne River to the Étang de Thau on the Mediterranean, which means it goes from one sea to the other for 240 kms. It was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996.

You can find a lot more about the canal on Wikipedia.

Also, to answer a question I'm often asked- you can:
Here's a map of the Canal (Yes, the Canal de Garonne connects to the Canal du Midi at Toulouse, but down here everyone calls it the Canal du Midi):

The Canal du Midi

Sep 26, 2010

Sep 23, 2010

Why men should stand to pee...

Will this thing to the left really become a thing of the past?

Seemingly the liberated women of France, Germany and Holland have:
vowed to put their men down – on the toilet. They carry placards showing a huge red X scrawled across a man standing to urinate. They shout: “Laissez tomber votre pantalon, et asseyez vous! (Drop your trousers and sit)!” “Behalte deine Tropfen fuer dich (Keep your drips to yourself)!” “Toch niet weer een vieze plas op MIJN badkamer vloer (Not another filthy puddle on MY bathroom floor)!”
John Gamel, Professor of Ophthalmology at the University of Louisville in Kentucky writes more about it in his article: To Sit or not to Sit?

Sep 20, 2010

September Book Swap

We had crepes with cherry and fig jams made from our garden and then got more great books for the library:

First up was Katharine Whitcomb a poet and Associate Professor at Central Washington University who brought along Valley Walking: Notes on the Land by Robert Schnelle "about taking walks around the valley" in the high plains desert of central Washington State where she's from, famous for its Timothy hay which is "mostly grown for Japanese racehorses."

Kathy's inspiration book was Anne Carson's  The Beauty of the Husband: A Fictional Essay in 29 Tangos because as a book it is "a breakdown of boundaries between genres and the breakdown of a relationship."

Cathy also very generously donated two of her own collections of poetry: Saints of South Dakota and Lamp of Letters.

Kerrie Maynes talked next about how she started out in college as an art major and ended up working as an editor in publishing for the last 10 years, right now at the University of Washington Press. Kerrie is here working on her website, inspired by the idea of "quiet, beautiful spaces."

As her inspirational book Kerrie donated the "beautiful" Abstract Painting: Concepts and Techniques by Vicky Perry.

As opposed to a book about where she's from - she lives in Seattle - she donated a book that she says she's "more at home with": Owls and Other Fantasises: Poems and Essays by Mary Oliver.

Jaclynn Gereluk a non-fiction writer from Vancouver, British Columbia, was up next.

Jaclynn spoke about her love of graphic novels and the book she donated that inspires her, Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi.

For a book about where she's from Jaclynn was resolute about not giving a "drab, boring, prairie lit." novel in the vein of Alice Munro, a genre that "makes her crazy."

So, to represent the "new movement in Canadian literature" she gave the novel Stanley Park (which is a park in Vancouver) by Timothy Taylor "about the story of a foodie."

Lynne Hollander, a retired children's librarian from California, who is here "editing and weeding through discs of photos" she took 2 years ago when she was in Cuba for a month, was up last.

The Photographer's Eye by Michael Freeman is the book Lynne donated as the one that inspired her because of the fact that it "makes you aware of the artistic choices you're making or should be making."

The book she donated about where she's from was a "biography of my late husband" Mario Savio, by Robert Cohen: Freedom's Orator. As Lynne humbly put it herself, "I was a part of the free speech movement" of Berkeley in the mid 60s. Here's a clip of Lynne's husband on what are now called "Mario Savio Steps" in Berkeley:

Thanks again for all your great books!

Sep 18, 2010

Sweet land of... conformity and dumbness?

We were just sent this article from the Boston Sunday Globe last June by Claude Fischer.

The subtitle of the article reads:  
"Americans aren’t the rugged individuals we think we are"
It goes on to give research facts and figures that show a contemporary America contradicting directly the messages of Emerson, Thoreau and Martin Luther King (cf the 6th paragraph of the article).

This article in itself would not be so, well, intriguing to us if we hadn't received this article from one of our recent residents in the same week: The Dumbing of America: Call me a Snob, but Really, We're a Nation of Dunces by Susan Jacoby in the Washington Post of February 17, 2008.

The article's first sentence quotes Emerson:

"The mind of this country, taught to aim at low objects, eats upon itself."
Which leads me back to the subtitle of Jacoby's article:
"There is no quick cure for the epidemic of arrogant anti-rationalism and anti-intellectualism that has infected America."
As an aside, when I looked up the dumbing down of America online I came across this website which says nothing about the "dumbing down" but does have lots of interviews with bands? I would hazard a guess that it's an American website but as there is no "About" page, simply invitations to join their social media links, I wouldn't know.

Sep 17, 2010

The Rise and Fall of French Cuisine?

In a London Review of Books review this book (see left): Au Revoir to All That: The Rise and Fall of French Cuisine by Michael Steinberger supplies us with some interesting quotes:
"The quarter-pounded conquest of France was not the result of some fiendish American plot to subvert French food culture. It was an inside job, and not merely in the sense that the French public was lovin’ it – the architects of McDonald’s strategy in France were French."
"Chefs need prosperous patrons. Notwithstanding their other effects, the Reagan and Thatcher eras made the rich richer and spawned vast new wealth, money that bankrolled gastronomic revolutions in the United States and Britain. The French economy stagnated and French cuisine did likewise."
 And seemingly it was all forecasted by Mr. Paris to the Moon Adam Gopnik:

And so France has a unique power to let Americans down. One of the first and most influential of the disappointed was Adam Gopnik. Writing in the New Yorker in 1997, Gopnik asked whether there was ‘a crisis in French cooking’. The question was rhetorical. ‘The muse of cooking’ had abandoned France and, shockingly, ‘migrated across the ocean to a spot in Berkeley, with occasional trips to New York and, of all places, Great Britain’.
 Don't know if the French would agree with Mr. Steinberger though...

Sep 15, 2010

No Room for Science in French Wine Making

Just found this interesting article in the Washington Post about French winemakers fighting genetically modified vines.

Particularly liked the description of the concept of terroir:

"Although hard to define, the term embraces the soil, weather, skills, art, authenticity, traditions and ultimately the "feel" that come together to fill a bottle with something good to drink."

The Post also has a very cool informational link about France on their site too.

Sep 14, 2010

Festivals - Limoux, Carcassonne, Mirepoix...

Carcassonne, Summer Festival Fireworks...
Every village in the region has their own type of festival in Summer, but the Carcassonne Festival is one of the major cultural events in the South of France and is now one of France's largest festivals with nearly 110 shows each year and more than 75 of them are free!

Here's a synopsis/program of what they have going on and here's an overview:

Throughout July, in the Cité and the Bastide St. Louis. A lot of the events are on the Place Carnot. The program has opera, theatre, dance, jazz, salsa, street theatre, country and western as well as other concerts, comedy and folklore.

In August a re-enactment of the days of the troubadours happens. Knights on horses in full costume, along with jugglers, gymnasts, dancers, acrobats, mime artists and musicians entertain with jousting and mayhem.

From mid-June to mid-September there's an organ festival with concerts on the great organ at the Basilica of Saint-Nazaire in the Cite. Concerts are free and take place every Sunday and on all public holidays.

On Bastille Day -14th July- the merry madness reaches its climax with a truly amazing firework display - the Cité looks like it's about to explode.

Here's a look at the year-round events:

Carnaval de limoux sortie de toutes les troupes mars 09

January to March: Limoux Carnaval (see the video above)

March :
Beginning of March - Dame Carcas Pig Fair, Carcassonne
Storytelling Festival, Limoux
End of March, there are the antique fairs, Carcassonne  
End of March or Early April - Wine festival Toques et Clochers

July: Carcassonne Festival (see above) 

Period costume spectacle, Medieval City of Carcassonne
Puppet Festival, Mirepoix, Contact 04 68 31 54 67
Weekend in the middle to end of August: Vigne et Terroir festival

Around the 6th September. The flea market in September is in the streets of La Trivalle.

Fete du Vin Primeur: A celebration of the wine harvest celebrated in the middle of the month

St. Catherine' Fair on 25th November. Like all the fairs, there are arts and crafts and local produce on offer.

December, January and February:

Don't miss the eccentrically fun Truffle Festival in Villeneuve Minervois held one cold morning every year, with a pistol!
Sunday before Christmas:  Foie Gras Fair
Christmas market:  in the Place Carnot is great in an eccentrically magical kind of way with its stage, skating rink (3 Euro) with a big ice spectacular one of the evenings, fake icicles and snow on the fountain, Christmas trees and wooden stalls and a huge Ferris wheel with views of the town and Cite just outside the Bastide walls. There's sledging, the usual fireworks and many other things that make Christmas pretty memorable in Carcassonne, to say the least.

Please email us by clicking here if you know of any other festivals going on in the area and we'll update this post, or just leave a comment below the post. Thanks!