dimanche 29 août 2010

A year's worth of reading, recommended by the Super Librarian

I've always thought that back-to-school, post-Labor Day was the natural beginning of the year. La Rentrée littéraire is a French tradition that honors this vérité.

Earlier this summer, everyone's favorite librarian Nancy Pearl (author of Book Lust)offered up a list of lesser-known books that should be on everyone's to read list. It's always humbling and challenging to come across a list of books that sound like they are worth reading and not see one familiar name or title! Click on the title here for a look at the Lusty Librarian's List.

Right now, I'm reading Le dernier mort de Mitterand by Raphaëlle Bacqué. It begins with the suicide of François de Grossouvre, a member of François Mitterand's political entourage, in 1994. He was not the only Mitterand proche to end his life: who can forget the sad story of Pierre Bérégovoy (and his outraged widow, who clearly blamed Mitterand for the death of her husband)? But his suicide was kept more in the shadows for a long time. Bacqué does a great job of telling the story of a friendship that had all the markings of a love affair and that became as worn and frazzled as the power wielded by the enigmatic, mysterious François Mitterand. Details about Mitterand's double life are recounted here too, since Grossouvre was instrumental in attending to its details: Anne Pingeot, Mitterand's mistress, the mother of his daughter Mazarine, hidden away for so many years and then thrust into the public eye when Mitterand died.

mercredi 25 août 2010

Best shoes! Ever!

I don't like object worship, fetishism for possessions or the tendency to turn compulsive shopping into a noble pursuit. But I do like well-crafted things, especially shoes. Good craftsmanship is not enough, however. And being beautiful is not enough in a shoe. A shoe has to be more than tolerable or comfortable to wear. It has to be heavenly to walk in. I walk a lot; I enjoy the feeling of walking and like to be conscious of what my feet are feeling when I walk.

This may be why I have never been a fan of super high heels. They are uncomfortable to walk in. Anyone who tells you otherwise is a liar. Women wear high heels because they think this will attract men. Wearing high heels is a desperate act. At least in my opinion. So there.

The rant above is just a lead-in for the photo of my new shoes. They are made by CYDWOQ (see video). They have a slight negative heel, but any resemblance with "earth shoes" ends there. Remember earth shoes? My dentist and I were laughing about them today -- both of us are old enough to have worn them and dumb enough to have bought an original pair. Man, the pain! The tendonitis! And what ugly suckers they were!

Compare earth shoes

with my CYDWOQs:

dimanche 22 août 2010

New tenant, new lamp, broken dryer

I decided yesterday was about time to get ready for Mathilde, who will be living in our mother-in-law apartment for several months as she does an internship at Alliance française. Mathilde is 22 and from Perpignan, France. I started my clean-up with a load of laundry and immediately broke the dryer. I didn't do anything special to break it; it just started making a really strange noise, like someone had dumped about 15 dollars worth of quarters inside. In fact, this was my first thought: that a pocket (not mine, mind you) containing an extraordinary amount of change had not been emptied before the article of clothing it was attached to was thrown in the washing machine. That would have been great, in retrospect. No such luck. So the next thing I did was take out two items with zippers, in the vain hope that the noise was coming from some innocent metallic object and not some vital inner mechanism. In the meantime, I should add, I had put a very expensive, very loved pair of trousers in the wash on the "delicate" hand wash setting. I was petrified they would shrink or lose their exquisite shape. I took the extra precaution of reducing the number of rotations on the spin cycle. I got so distraught over the impending dryer disaster (Month of August! Repair guy on vacation! Intern coming from France in a week!) that I wasn't really paying attention to the wash cycle in progress. When the washer stopped I tried the door but it wouldn't open. Thinking the cycle was done, I turned the setting to "off" and then waited a minute before opening the door. When I did, a ton of water came spilling out onto the floor. Water, water everywhere! That's right, the reason the door would not open was that the cycle was still in progress you idiot! I was so dumbfounded and distracted by the dryer problem that I just held my trousers in my hand and looked on as the water continued to spill onto the floor and my shoes.
The important thing is that my trousers look fine -- they have their same basic shape and color. They were pretty water logged, though, since the spin cycle had not been completed. So I wrung them out as delicately as possible, which is actually impossible, and now they are hanging to dry for the next three days....

After I hung them up, I did the most sensible thing I could do: I decided to put off the apartment clean-up for a day and took the wet clothes from the broken dryer up to the coin-op laundromat. Neko and I went for a walk while they were drying, and we happened to go by Click! Design That Fits, a really great little shop in West Seattle owned by a couple that makes beautiful jewelry (Smersch, check 'em out). My favorite lamp in the universe, which I have wanted to buy ever since I first saw it there at least two years ago, was beaming at me from within. It was on sale. Finally! So I bought the last one in stock and ordered another. The lamp is so beautiful. I was an avid lamp collector when I lived in France. I love lamps, beautiful lamps. What makes a lamp beautiful? It's a mystery. The shade on this one is called "hot dog". Ain't that cool?
It looks great by the side of the bed.

Today I got throught the big clean-up, which included taking scary things out of the refrigerator and freezer. Caroline left some food items behind, thinking they would get eaten. I could not tell what any of them were. I also sent a couple of huge spiders packing. I vacuumed the whole place. Now it looks really cozy, don't you think?

vendredi 20 août 2010

Have a nice day!

I can see clearly now

I finally got a new pair of glasses. I love them. They're kind of ugly betty type glasses, with frames designed by one of France's emerging talents in the field. I got them at Eyes on Fremont. This is one of my favorite small businesses in Seattle: hip and knowledgeable salespeople, all of whom are wearing groovy glasses with a smile; a wonderful but not overwhelming selection; terrific after-sales service; consistently high quality product, selected with an EYE for aesthetics. Sure, you'll pay less at Costco or Sears, as my ophthamologist said; but you won't find the same groovy frames or get a pair of glasses crafted with the same care.

It's amazing how the world lights up and comes into focus when you have a pair of glasses adapted to your eyesight. What I love most about this latest pair is the coverage they offer. I took my oldest pair of glasses in with me because I had broken them while they served as a replacement for the lost pair (boo hoo on that; they were great designer frames by YSL that I bought just two years ago from another great small business in Paris). They're about 25 years old and I got them at one of the Lissac outlets in Paris. Here's a historical detour for anyone interested in the history of eyewear:

Georges Lissac crée son premier magasin, rue Dauphine avec deux de ses frères, à Paris, en 1919. Le premier « mégastore optique » ouvre,rue de Rivoli en 1938. Cette succursale devient le siège social de la SARL Frères Lissac créée en 1931. Ce magasin demeure aujourd’hui encore le plus grand magasin optique d’Europe.
Précurseur en matière de communication dans l’histoire de l’optique, Georges Lissac lance, en 1932 la première campagne publicitaire de l’histoire de l’optique avec le slogan : « Des lunettes toujours parfaites à prix honnêtes ».
Précurseur, Georges Lissac propose un examen gratuit de la vue quand, à l’époque, la majeure partie des consommateurs choisit ses verres en les essayant.

Anyway, when the guy at Eyes on Fremont saw me old frames, he went nuts. Wow, he said, those are really back in style right now. I had figured this out myself given the number of hipsters who have commented on them in the past two months of so. He suggested I have them made into prescription sunglasses.

The world looks clear now and Puget Sound was like glass last night, so we went for a little pre-dinner kayak ride We put in (that's what the pros say) at Salty's and went out to inspect the seal raft. No seals last night! But the air was so clear; there was no haze at all. Every line and detail, every nuance of color in the downtown skyline stood out like an image in a viewfinder. Okay, maybe that was because of my new glasses, whatever. We went down to Jack Block Park to see if the seals were hanging out there. They weren't, but we had fun photographing barge 255. Then we headed back toward Salty's and popped open our beers offshore. I'm not a beer drinker, but there is something so satisfying about sitting in a kayak and drinking a beer while gazing alternately at the revelers on the deck at Salty's and the Seattle skyline.

mardi 17 août 2010

Tuesday music

Piers Faccini

vendredi 13 août 2010

Birthday Month (July 10-August 10) Winds Down

This deserves a pause for a nice long Ohm.....

This action-packed month has included unexpected travel to foreign lands and a spontaneous hike along the Dosewallops River. Most importantly, it began with my birthday gift to myself: 20 yoga classes at 8 Limbs in West Seattle.

One evening while in Paris I was rushing along my usual back-street routes to get somewhere when I came upon this group of yoga practitioners, finishing their class en plein air.

I stopped to take a couple of pictures. The location is Place des Pères, which is just in front of the stunning and secretive Basilique Notre-Dame des Victoires, which lies hidden behind the flashier and more famous tourist magnet known as Place des Victoires.

The last time I hiked the Dosewallops I was on my way to climb Mt. Anderson. That was about 35 years ago...