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Showing posts from March, 2018

Dessins de Paris: 5

At a restaurant in Montparnasse, just off the Boulevard de Montparnasse, where three of us went one evening for a faculty meal. A small place with fewer than ten tables, and a waiting list that meant we had to book more than a week in advance. The food was classic French cuisine with some Vietnamese touches. One of the waiters was the chap in this memory-drawing: tall, athletic build, with a beautiful rich burnt umber skin tone, and his head shaved into concentric circles ascending to a curling tuft right on the top of his skull. It's the sort of hairstyle that might look ridiculous on some people, but which mysteriously some people can carry off well. The waiter also smiled a lot, and seemed like a nice person. I can remember him more than the food I ate that night.

I Did Nazi This Coming

Metropolitan Opera, New York: Parsifal Act III
Despite being a lifelong lover of and listener to opera, I've never had the ear for Wagner's music. I love hearing everything from Gluck up to John Adams, but skirted around or jumped over Wagner whenever the temptation presented itself.

I used the provocative 'N' word in the title of this post because one of the things that has always made me wary of the Bard of Bayreuth is the stain laid on it by its National Socialist admirers. That's not the only reason.

Reasons why I never liked Wagner:
The enormous length of his operas, often five hours plus. And my objection was not to the length per se, but to what it said about his musical language. For example, if like me you are steeped in Mozart's operative language, with its brilliance and variety and liveliness, Wagner's music can seem turgid and static by comparison.
The ridiculous medieval stories. Given the chance to watch Mozart or Puccini or Richard Strauss…

Dessins de Paris: 4

I am sitting on the Paris Metro on one of the fold-down seats near the sliding doors. The train is travelling between the Grands Boulevards on the Right Bank, and Denfert-Rochereau on the Left Bank. At one of the stations, the doors open and a woman walks in wearing a coat of expensive looking dark blue cloth with a billowing white cold-repelling collar. She has a string of pearls around her neck, and her face glows with lots of immaculately applied make-up. She sees someone she knows, and her mouth and eyes open wide at the coincidence of meeting a friend or acquaintance at that time of day, in a Metro system that ferries more than four million people around and beneath Paris every day.

(Medium: pen, Neocolor water-soluble wax pastels.)

Dessins de Paris: 3

This woman was walking down the Rue Daguerre in Montparnasse. I noticed several things about her. First, she wore heavy blue eye make up and wore tight fitting black clothes that made me think of the down-at-heels lefties I used to see walking around London in the 1990s. The second, more obvious thing was that she was carrying a baby in a sling, and smoking from a vaper directly over the baby's head. And not just smoking, but allowing clouds of nicotine-infused smoke to billow over and around the baby's face. French people are among the last resolute holdouts to anti-smoking crusades in Europe, and seem to take pride in smoking defiantly wherever they can get away with it, even if there's a big non-smoking sign displayed right next to them. So I'm pretty used to seeing cigarettes all over Paris. But this really takes the biscuit, as we English say.