Thursday, August 28, 2008

A sad day in Clichy

Several weeks ago, three to be exact, a 26 year old black Clichy resident was found dead in a parked car in Clichy. Since suspicious deaths must be investigated, his body could not be released until today.

Late morning, close to mid-day, returning from my daily shopping routine at Casino, the sight of hundreds of silent marchers heading toward my street stopped me cold. Bus drivers stood chatting - their buses idled, as the crowd snaked around the corner of Victor Hugo and rue Villeneuve. People of all colors, shapes and pursuasions silently marching. Not wanting to seem rude, I hesitated to ask but finally joined the parade at several different points and managed to gleen some info. The marchers were on their way to the cemetery. I asked if he'd been beaten but the woman marching beside me said no, he was just found dead.

No one voiced a supposition as to the cause, they were only sad at the untimely death of another young black man.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Ah, for a second life!

Yesterday I sat with several other people viewing Second Life on a wide screen. We actually had a presentation by Miriam, professional Second Lifer exponent, love that word.

I was one of the few attendees to have an Avatar, in fact, I have three: Yahoo, Meez and Second Life.

Second Life is fascinating in that, as the title says, one can really live a second life maybe even better than your first. You can own a store, a home, buy clothing, have friends, fly, see I said a better life, to places you've only dreamed of. The possibilities are endless.

I thought of fulfilling my dream of owning and hosting my own club where I would be the resident singer. Of course, friends would be invited to sing too. Checking this project out on SL the cost is only a fraction of the cost offline! Bien sûr.

Our host tried visiting a nudist colony (several exist in SL) and succeeded flying into one but as soon as the one occupant on the beach saw him, she ran away. He still had his pants on, not that he didn't try to take them off. Unfortunately, the 'take your pants off button' wouldn't do it. So there he was, hovering over the nudist camp with his pants on! Tsk, tsk.

The first time I tried SL was immediately after a telewebinar with the same Miriam, hosted by Bernadette Martin, branding expert. I had fun making and naming the avatar but got scared when I had to put my money where my heart was and give up my credit card info. Oh, oh, I thought, sistasinga, you'd better think twice. Now, after testing the life, I'm tempted to try again though it won't be my second life. 'Seems like many other artists, I've already had two or three.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Weathering the weather

Friends may have noticed my hangup with the temperature. In over twenty years of living in Paris, France, I can count hot summers on ten fingers, maybe less. We all howled in pain during the heatwave a few years back. Elders died and heat prostration overcame some of us, not me, I was in my glory. Knowing that very few apartments and homes in France are air-conditioned and most people don't even have fans is the tip-off. Although since that heatwave, fans are on sale and available but not really necessary this year. Summer is just not hot here.

A friend asked in mid-August, "Do you think it'll warm up again or is Summer over? My answer is no one knows whither the weather but judging by my past experience, I'd say Summer is basically finished by August fifteenth when the vacationers begin winding their way back home, jamming the highways. I've felt humid heat in Manilla & Singapore to name a couple of places that are not lukewarm. And how about Tokyo and Osaka? Consistent heat like I like it: up in the 90s...hallelujah! Last Spring I toured in both cities and the weather approximated Paris' but not so the summer weather. I'm vowing to spend time next summer in Tokyo or Osaka. Kind of far huh?
Maybe I'll go back to Budapest instead.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Sunday afternoon in Paris

Sunday afternoon, instead of dancing by the Seine or museum hopping, I met with S. a Cameroonian math teacher/tap dancer and a Senegalese clothing designer/ cafe owner for shop talk and tropical drinks. I drank natural ginger with fresh mint and cracked a thousand peanut shells.

The cafe Au Theranga, decorated with African fabrics and statuary, is located on Rue des Dames near Place Clichy and open daily from six pm. Genial owner and host, Mike, presents a site for cultural exchange with a varied acoustic program from African music to Slam. No alcohol served in this intimate setting, just as well, I'd already had my one red wine at a nearby brasserie while waiting for the Theranga opening.

Monday, August 11, 2008

What's the first film you remember?

In article by Alex Dobuzinskis (read today): LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Holy politicking, Batman, where Obama and McCain gave their best pop hits, closed with this line: "Obama said his first movie memory was "Born Free," the 1966 film about African lions. McCain remembered the 1942 Disney animated feature "Bambi." "
This made me think of the time when I heard my mom and sister talking about the Walt Disney movie "Dumbo, the Flying Elephant". I hadn't seen a movie yet.
"Boy, an ephafant with wings! Mommy let me see the ephafant too!"
"Oh, baby, too late, he's gone now."
I tugged at her skirt. "Pretty please. With sugar on top! Ask God to bring the ephafant back, Mommy!
PS: I never did get to see the film.
Music to soothe the soul.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The French way (Second in a series?)

My favorite work-ridiculous experience happened early on during my first singing engagement at a club in Saint Michel on Paris's Left Bank.
First, one should know that Chamomile is made in an herbal tea and principally used for a good night's sleep and in general, its calming effect. I had already given up caffeinated tea and switched to herbal tea, mostly to avoid staining my teeth.

This night I arrived early and when asked if I'd like a drink, ordered herbal tea. Herbal Teas on hand were Verveine and Chamomile. Since Verveine reminded me of elephant's p_ _ s although I'd never drunk any (don't ask), I ordered Chamomile. It came, I drank, end of story. I thought. Later, as I sang onstage, the sound of my voice got progressively thinner and without presence until I was practically shouting and still hearing nothing. At the end of the set, I stormed offstage to confront Laurent, the sound technician --- this was before I knew of the velvet glove approach. Anyway, I accosted him with my favorite question, "Are you crazy? Then, "What happened to the sound?"
He told the following story which astounded me:
The boss wandered into the club to listen and thought my voice sounded weak. So he said, "What's happening with the newbie? She sounds weak."
"Boss, if you ask me, she's not feeling well tonight," says Laurent.
"And how did you arrive at that conclusion?"
"Yeah, well, I heard her ordering Chamomile tea before the show."
"Mais oui, good thinking, Laurent. In that case, turn the volume down onstage, this way she'll be forced to sing louder. "
Results: the louder I sang, the less sound I heard in my monitor.

I simmered and sputtered but the damage was already done. Finally, it dawned on me to suggest he check the main volume, located in back of the soundboard which sat flush with the wall behind it. He moved the board away from the wall with some difficulty, looked at the main volume indicator and discovered it was turned down to the lowest level possible.

So, someone had sabotaged my show. Since I was the first act and any irregularity would surely be caught out either during or at least after my passage it was obviously a way to show me in a bad light, make that, in a bad voice. As the 'new girl in town' and latest gleam in the boss's eye, I already had enemies at work and soon learned that this sort of petty behavior is not that rare. Now it's laughable but at the time I saw purple!
Apparently, any sneaky trick is better than confrontation.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

The French way

What do "French or Foe" by Polly Pratt, "A year in the Merde" by Stephen Clarke and "French Toast" by Harriet Welty Rochefort all have in common? Each one is written by an ex-pat who has lived or is living in France, who dealt or is dealing with the French on a daily basis. Each is written in good fun showing the comic side of the situation. It's a cinch that one should laugh to keep from crying when faced with the ridiculous situations caused by the culture conflict. Having finished these books I'm tempted to write a few of my own experiences as an American alive and living in France.

One of my favorites is the time when shopping for a pair of shoes I spotted a style in the window of a popular store. Carefully noting the style number because the same style came in mid and high heel, I entered the store and in answer to a polite, "May I help you?", gave it to the clerk and then settled on the low stool provided for clients patient enough to wait while the clerks tripped to the storeroom and back. Soon the young lady returned with, to my surprise, the high-heeled version of the style asked for. When I expressed my disappointment and said I'd asked for the mid-heel, she replied, "Madam, you don't understand. You see, your foot is long, size nine. A lower heel would be out of proportion. As the shoe gets longer, the heel gets higher. This is the design."
To which I replied, "That is the most ridiculous..." I couldn't finish my sentence because I began laughing hysterically and had to leave the store.

All jokes aside I wish I'd read these books or something like them before venturing to live in France. It wouldn't have changed the experiences only my way of dealing with them. A friend of mine when confronted with the French illogic, just laughs and says, "It's the French way."

Saturday, August 2, 2008

On the sunnyside of the street

Once upon a time, streets in France were concave letting used water run down to the bottom, make that the middle. Citizens of high social ranking walked alongside the houses that is, at the top of the street, to avoid soiling their clothing. Could it be possible that some collective memory rests in the French of today, making them against all odds walk on their left instead of staying right as people in countries where one drives on the right normally do? Well, strangers to this phenomenon should know that this habit or lack thereof might hark back to another inherited memory and remember that during the French revolution, high society was brought low, chopped off and done away with and each member of whatever social standing could now take the high road. If this is the case, then what is the excuse of those other people who walk willy-nilly in the middle, on the right or on the left of the street with no rule in mind?