Monday, October 31, 2016

Lausanne, Switzerland

Brief visit to Lausanne, Switzerland, to talk with Ceruleum, Visual Arts School, about a planned visit to UArts by interested students in the spring.

Sitting in the train, watching hills turn gradually into mountains, you feel a lightening of your mood, as you start looking up. Switzerland always feels like a little jewel, a well-tended garden, above the fray of things.

Here is the covered stairway to the cathedral. Lots of texture here, too, but mountain clean.

Panorama from the cathedral.
Golden hour on the cathedral.

The organist stepped in and gave a free recital. He played at floor level, so everyone had a front row seat to the performance.
I was in Lausanne nearly thirty years ago on a winter break vacation from being a student in Normandy. The town is a very livable size, and you get a lot of exercise, because you can only go up or down - the old part is not flat! Will head out before I leave to have a look at Lake Geneva and see if I can find the metal sculpture I took in a photograph during my last visit.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Swimming, singing, and stuff.

Yesterday evening, at the suggestion of Jerrn Kern, the Philadelphia Musical Achievers Meetup leader, I checked out a Parisian Meetup group of musicians, with guitar in hand.

These people were nearly all younger than myself (the one exception, an older jazz singer from New York, left quickly after sussing out that this crowd may not be Frank Sinatra-oriented, I suspect), and several of them impressed with their performances, especially one girl with a huge blues voice, though there were others. I played "The Beat" by Elvis Costello, hung around a bit after that, and left before the last metro. These Parisians singing English blues and pop in a local bar are nothing to sneeze at.

Finally got some non-skipping-through-Metro-tunnels-exercise today. Found the local public pool, Bernard Lafay, where for 3 euros you can change into your swim tights (no surfer shorts) and swimming cap (they're very hygiene-strict in France) and swim to your heart's content in their big pool. It was good to get the muscles moving - being in water is like being in another world.

Otherwise, worked on "the wave" shot (sequence 10, shot 08), which is something of a tedious challenge, as it involves working in TVPaint 11 on this laptop, and the two don't seem to get along, with the animation program slowing everything down, including saving, the internet (somehow, the license comes from the school server?), and just making the experience a slow-motion one. Nonetheless, I aim to finish this shot tonight and get on to other things.

Spent a few hours the other evening working on recording a new song. Hoping to re-record the rhythm track and send it off to friends to help make it into a real thing.

Time's evaporating like smoke. It seems to accelerate as it passes by.

ps...and these guys are wunnerful:

Former Philadelphia (now Los Angeles) band who lost their lead singer and primary songwriter but are still coming up with new singles polished off from material previously in the can. I hope things work out for them. Benignly irreverent humor, their drummer is a throwback to mime and silent movie actors, with his Marx Brothers-like pantomime (slightly reminiscent here of the wizards scene in Magical Mystery Tour):

 ...the bass player, since having let his hair grow to old-growth forest-like proportions, an exemplar of zen-like cool, and their guitarist, an "undercurrent of angst" may be too strong, but something seems to be brewing in there. The missing member, singer/songwriter/rhythm guitarist, still present in these recent releases, seemed to be hitting his creative prime just before his unfortunate departure from the band, with more tightly-honed structures, clever harmonic shifts, and tasteful studio experimentation. Raw energy, intelligent chord progressions, creative instrumentation, increasingly interesting lyrics, completely infectious hooks, and loads of clever harmonies, and those award-winning, indie band hairdo's...why aren't they famous?! It's tough being a young band, now more than before, even, with Spotify, Apple, and the rest squeezing musicians dry to feed their own capitalist ends.

Sigh. But on the other hand, their getting "famous" may not be a path to happiness. I just hope they find a way to make music a sustainable career path for a long time. How often do you get to play music with and hang out with friends (and a cousin) you've known since kindergarten? It's cool enough being in a band - this must be even more like a marriage of sorts.

Happy to hear the new releases, and looking for new compositions from the guitarist to see if these guys can keep it going forward into the future. Here are a couple of previous strong offerings from him:

6th & Girard - live performance here of a nicely harmony-inflected tribute to Philadelphia.
Falling Out - a great potential beer commercial and smart phone crowd-waver, with ambiguous angst in the lyric.

And here's some solo demo work he posted on SoundCloud. Maybe that's what Cheers Elephant will sound like in the future.

I've never been a groupie before - it's kinda fun (though also a good way to procrastinate). These guys remind me of when I played in bands. New song in the works - demo recording stage, and enlisting the help of a few friendly.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Kid's drawings brought to "life" by father.

Well, this has nothing to do with anything except waking up, turning on the computer, and wasting several minutes.

By far the best use of Photoshop I have ever seen, in any case.  ; )

(I'm only half-joking...maybe even less than half.)

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Japanese traditional/contemporary music at Tenri.

Last night I went to TENRI, where I'm taking japanese lessons, for a concert of traditional japanese music. It was really a mix of traditional with contemporary styles, but very entertaining. Emiko Ota is the leader of several groups who play in France and abroad. She is spunky, full of energy and personality, and a little wild, with her pink-dyed hair and drumming (she plays a regular kit but last night was on traditional instruments, such as taiko). *photo from Ota's website.

Accompanied by Julien Omeyer, a French guitarist with whom she performs as the duo Kirisute Gomen, were complemented at various times by other artists, including flautist Mayu Sato (really good! website here), taiko drummer Nori Kajio (here, too...also excellent!), and an uncredited Noh theatre performer who stepped in, literally, for one piece.

I most enjoyed the moment where all performers were onstage together. The women in particular had strong stage presences, were musicians of a high caliber, and were interesting simply to watch, exuding energy, personality, and craftsmanship. The French guitarist provided a contemporary aspect to the sound,  with the addition of multi-pedaled guitar (he appeared surrounded by a fortress of effects, stands, and equipment), along with his inward and calm (though not unfriendly) stage demeanor. I was sitting next to an audience member who seemed very interested in the guitar pedals. Even though it appears that Kirisute Gomen's overall priorities lie within the realm of contemporary blending of traditional and electronic genres, to me the most convincing moments, musical and performance-wise, played themselves out with the acoustic instruments. The highlight of the evening was the moment when several performers were onstage together, with strong, contrasting personalities playing off one another and a highly engaging musical blend was created.

Overall a very engaging and exiting performance!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

"Provoke" at Le Bal

A day of slogging through seq01_sh06 cleanup and then going to "Provoke", an exhibition of japanese avant garde photographs from the period 1960-1975, held at Le Bal gallery.

The gallery itself is located on an unassuming side street off a main drag, far from, seemingly, other art venues, surrounded by cheap clothing stores, kebab houses, etc., on the fringes of the 18th arrondissment of Paris.

The exposition, treating the unusual topic of renegade artists in Japan during the mid twentieth century fighting the effects of consumerism, American military occupation, and  a stifling government, throws a very interesting spotlight on a small group of artists influenced by Da Da, Surrealism, and French movie directors such as Jean Luc Goddard. Easier now to understand the appearance of berets and round glasses on Osamu Tezuka (see previous post).
Quite surprising to become aware of such a movement in Japan, which seemed more easily characterized at this time by strict government control, burgeoning consumerism and material success, and conformism. It was interesting to see how protest and art reflected, at least in the work of this group of photographers, the atmosphere of rebellion and unrest that gave such a vivid and vital feeling to much of the world, especially during the mid-late 1960's.
Using the camera as a tool to capture the subjective, the fragmentary, the violent, the chaotic, and the absurd, Provoke's vehicle of an underground publication to foment intellectual and socio-political rebellion provides a surprising and unanticipated window into Japanese society during this time period.
One film concerned protests instigated by farmers who built underground tunnels to live in in an attempt to prevent the building of Narita Airport on their farmland. The fresh contrasts and sense of meaningful protest of the '60's come to life in this informal film.
And the Beatles and Yoko Ono figured here as well, if only briefly. The 1960's were exciting times.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The View From Here.

Autumn clouds, linear tones, floating above the red-tiled roof, smokestack behind.

The view from here.

Went to a couple of dance performances yesterday at my Japanese language school, which also serves as a cultural center. The first performer, a solo man, offered a tense and drawn-out piece accompanied by sounds that might be described as organically unpleasant (dog whistle tones, crackles...). The second performance involved a series of short pieces representing different countries, with seven or so dancers. It was good to attend, though I had to leave right after the end to catch the metro back because I wasn't sure when service stops. Music performances later in the week look good, from traditional japanese to contemporary things.

Just got back from an evening group yoga session. I have shied away from this activity in the past, and although it takes a little gumption to work up the nerve to go, once you do it's grounding (and challenging), and Nadine is warm and disciplined and makes every effort to ensure that everyone feels comfortable, included, and welcome. After a long day of working on the computer pushing pixels around for the film it's good to make a positive connection with human beings. Here's her Facebook page, should you find yourself in Paris in need of some yoga sessions.

But now it's time to review Japanese grammar!

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Warm October Sunday.

Today was a wonderful fall day, sunny, and up to around 70 degrees (F). It was the perfect day for an afternoon trip to the Jardin du Luxembourg, a multifaceted and highly civilized park, one element of which is the circular pond on which children sail wooden boats.

I took my lyrics sheets along with me and came close to coming up with a complete set before it was time to go.

Chestnut on the steps.

The Jardin du Luxembourg, on the Left Bank side of the Seine, is a haven in the middle of the city. Put down sometimes by locals as being too bourgeois, I don't mind, because this place always feels like an intelligent oasis of repose, with people reading books on the green, metal chairs, looking like that's the way to use the park.
Designed by Marie de Medici after her native italian gardens, this park has its royal touches. There are several parts to it, including the bandstand area with lots of shade trees, the basin with the circular pond, the italianate (I guess) fountain, the tennis courts, the pony ride area and children's jungle gym, the Statue of Liberty side, the beehives, and the broad sweep of manicured lawn and large trees in one of the prime sunbathing and book reading areas. There are also the long, narrow lawns with their "Pelouse Autorisée" and "Pelouse Interdite" signs, depending on which section they are trying to protect from people.
 Here's a happy kid on a pony.
And I forgot to mention the pétanque players. The game is also known as "boules", and used to be a male-only past-time, but these days one sees women out there as well, performing for the audience of passersby who watch the meticulous goings-on (tape measuring, individual tossing techniques, etc.) of the players.

It's something not so serious that one can take very seriously. Watch out for when the tape measure comes out.
 Fancy shoes and pants aren't exclusively for the younger set.

And here's a nod to my Finnish friend Sari - I passed this sign on Blvd. St. Michel on my way back, getting some fries close to Shakespeare & Co. bookstore. This is close to the Sorbonne. Believe the Irish cultural center is also closeby.

A warm and happy Sunday.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

La tortu rouge, les nouilles, et le palais royal.

Outside the Grand Palais, exposition site and equipped with a small cinema, the MK 2(?), where my friend Carole, her son, and her high school friend took me to watch "The Red Turtle", by Michael Dudok de Wit. This film, a co-production between Dudok de Wit and Studio Ghibli, is about a man marooned on a deserted island who encounters a red turtle who prevents his escape by raft. Magical things happen. The hard shadows on the characters, the dots-for-eyes, the birds in the sky, the floating sequences, the elegant, water-color sky textures, and the general soft mood all betray the filmmaker's imprint, and touches such as the cute, silent bit-part-playing shore crabs show Ghibli's.
Just outside the MK2.
Texture everywhere, often clean compared to a grittier Philadelphia.

After the film, we went to eat Japanese food near l'Opera Garnier - rue d'Antin, like a little Sushi House Row.
 Le Palais Royal.

A sunny, warm fall day - one appreciates those once autumn comes, knowing that cold and grey are around the corner.

Friday, October 14, 2016

The Bank, Paul Jacoulet across from the Eiffel Tower.

I haven't purchased an umbrella yet, but won't be weather-lucky for much longer. It's been lightly sprinkling the last couple of days.

Went to the bank to inquire about opening an account in France. Lots of rules:

1. Letter of recommendation from a  real French person.
2. 5,000 euros deposit to start.
3. Passport.
4. Proof of domicile.

After that, had a really nice ham & cheese galette/crepe in St. Germain at this little place, "Culture Crêpes", just off the Boulevard St. Michel.

Went to the exhibition recommended by Feng Shen before she left, "Paul Jacoulet: un artiste français au Japon 1896 - 1960", gravures sur bois. He was a French kid raised in Japan who learned art from Japanese masters, traveled through the Pacific, Japan, China, and Korea, making these interesting prints that are a cross between traditional flat japanese graphic linearity and some sense of western personality, character, and perspective. Some look almost surreal to this contemporary eye.
To be honest, what I liked was the nearly "Yellow Submarine"-esque quality of some of the prints.

The horizon line here looking Folon-esque.
And here is another Western artist interpreting Japan: Elizabeth Keith, with a nod to Noh theatre.

Finally, I don't know this author, Edogawa Ranpo (a take on "Edgar Allan Poe", one of his favorite authors), but the beret reminded me of Osamu Tezuka, grandfather of japanese anime (Astro Boy, Kimba the White Lion, Jumping). Must've been a french fashion craze in Japan during the '60's or thereabouts.

The Maison de la Culture du Japon à Paris is more or less next to the Eiffel Tower.
So though I may not wander nearer to the iron giant this time, there it was.

This is Osamu Tezuka  See the beret/glasses costume going on here...definitely a "thing"...

Something to Watch All Day Long.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Short Notes on Thursday.

This is the statue from a previous post, now uncovered. It appears she is not having a good time.

Definitely cooler than when the first image was taken. Weather changes quickly. This was on the way to Japanese lesson #2.
Maybe will go to have a look, in spite of myself. You can't help but admire the drawing process in Disney's old films.
This little guy was a star in the line at the train station.