Friday, May 22, 2020

celebrating mbira

The mbira made it to the Google Doodle stage yesterday!

The feature was made to commemorate Zimbabwe Culture Week and it's just awesome news that this wonderful instrument got this level of attention.

Click on the image below to check out the Google Doodle, and to learn about — and even play — the mbira.

celebrating mbira

I became charmed after discovering the soft, melodic, and hypnotic sounds of the mbira during a world music introduction class in college.

Twenty something years later, I learning to play the instrument to remain charmed.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

why i love san francisco (2)

When you try to let go of the past and live in the present moment ... without success.

We all know that it's hard.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

why i love san francisco

Yes, I love Paris, but I love San Francisco too.

One of my favorite things to do when I return to the San Francisco Bay Area is to head to the Marin Headlands for breathtaking views of the Golden Gate Bridge. It only makes sense; it was something that I loved doing when I was living in the area long ago. The bridge in its splendor. The immense body of water. The wide panorama of San Francisco. The high hills of the Headlands. It all offered a feast for the eyes and moments of serenity, far away from the traffic and hustle and bustle in the city.

As I was in the area earlier this month, I looked forward to keeping this tradition. This pilgrimage was going to be a bit different though this time. I wanted to reproduce the view on paper for the first time ever, so I brought along my pens and sketchbook.

I managed to make not one but two sketches, each from viewpoints only half a mile apart along Conzelman Road in Marin County. The first was from the Golden Gate Observation Deck, the second from the Golden Gate View Point. Part of the joy of the experience was sending my sketcher friend Anne just a photo of my first sketch with the view of the Golden Gate Bridge in the background,  on WhatsApp. She was not expecting it ; she must have assumed that I was in Paris as usual! But no, I was far, far away.

Views of the Golden Gate Bridge

Before leaving, I discovered and scouted a third viewpoint, also on Conzelman Road but even closer to the famous bridge: Battery Spencer.

I can't wait to go back!

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

the mastery of love

Hands down one of the discoveries of the year, if it is not THE discovery ...

It's all in the title, of this book by Don Miguel Ruiz.

My favorite quotes are several in number, and they include the following two:

Love in action can only produce happiness. Fear in action can only produce suffering.

The whole world can love you, but that love will not make you happy. What will make you happy is the love coming out of you.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

my red nose (3)

Ever since picking up the red nose again, I opened my mind up to new places where I could take it to.

With each new place visited, I felt more comfortable with the nose in public. Naturally, I started dreaming up other uncomfortable situations. As a guide, I chose those situations where I did not completely give in to that thing that made me really uncomfortable. For example, consider the following question: When is a good time to leave the office for lunch wearing the red nose? Around 1pm, when most colleagues have already left for their break? Or just before noon, when the office space is pretty much still full? I will let you guess which situation is more uncomfortable. If you are having difficulty, here is a hint: my desk in the open space is the farthest from elevator area.

My adventures in discomfort included (in chronological order) :
  • a lunchtime walk from one end of a mall to another, in the business district where I work
  • a trip to the bookstore to buy some language learning material
  • a lunchtime visit to the cafe inside my work building (I queued up for a salad to go)
  • a trip to the open-air market where I usually buy fruits
  • a wait at the bus stop with other people
  • a stop at the supermarket to buy some groceries
  • a lunchtime visit to the cafeteria inside my work building (I sat down to eat in the middle of the dining room full of people)
  • a trip to the pharmacy to buy some prescribed medication
The idea behind the above adventures was to expose the red nose to as many people as possible while doing everyday things, such as waiting for the bus and shopping for groceries. I wanted to put myself out there, people often say. Myself in the red nose, of course.

The adventure at the bus stop was a breakthrough of sorts. I could not remember the last time I had felt as free in public. I played around with the red nose, putting it on and then off and then on again, receiving some strange looks in the process. But I couldn't care less about that, because in that moment, I was free. And with that same feeling of freedom, I boarded the bus when it arrived. Once I got off in my neighborhood, I greeted people whose paths I crossed with smiles and thumbs up. Such bliss I was in.

As I got the red nose more exposed, I got some unexpected reactions from familiar people, including the following.
  • A fruit seller at the farmer's market thought that I had caught a cold
  • A colleague thought that I had drunk a little too much and gone cuckoo
  • Several colleagues thought that I had lost a bet
  • A random lady told me : "C'est très beau"
And then one morning, after arriving at the office in costume, I decided to put the red nose to rest.

What happened?

What happened was that I discovered that I had become very self-conscious. That is to say, my mind was too occupied with the idea that I saw myself different from others when I wore the red nose. I felt like the red nose pushed me to channel too much of my attention inward, and that bothered me. Moreover, I got the impression that I was creating a distance with people, since wearing a red nose in public was something that people could not relate to and I was not really open to interactions that could make that more understandable. In other words, it was as if I was telling myself: "Yes, you stand out, but you are all alone." I felt even more alone than I was when behaving "normally" in public without talking to anyone.

Since the morning that I made this discovery, I have not worn the red nose, with no regrets.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

views of the outdoors from indoors in courbevoie

La Défense

Almost a year after publishing a blog post on outdoor sketching near my work building in Courbevoie, I did not expect to write a companion piece showing other sketches of the Courbevoisien outdoors, but this time from indoors.

Yet after finding myself with three such sketches, the opportunity to bring them all together and to share the fruits of the labor was too exciting to pass up.

I took my time on these sketches, which were done inside my work building over several days, at lunchtime or in the evening after work hours.

Immeuble en chantier, Courbevoie

Above is a building in construction along the train tracks joining Paris (terminus Saint-Lazare train station) to La Défense.

Boulevard de la Mission Marchand, Courbevoie

Above is the track for Tram 2a along Boulevard de la Mission Marchand. This tram line joins Paris (terminus Porte de Versailles) to La Défense.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

dead flowers

Five months ago, I brought home a bouquet of hortensias from the local florist.

Today, they are dead.

Actually, they have been dead for while. If I had to guess, 4 months?

But ... they seem to be holding up quite well. I mean, just take a look at them at five months old.

I'll admit it, I am not a pro with flowers. Habits to keep my apartment floral on a regular basis have been difficult to put in place over the years. Each time, I start off with a lot of enthusiasm and get some momentum going, and then somewhere along the line, I get swamped up by other "more important" things in life.

Truth be told, I have always been lucky with hortensias. I bought one of my first ones, a single stem, about seven years ago. Would you believe that I still have that same stem in my apartment? It stands tall in a transparent single-stem vase. Dry, yes. Very. But tall. And proud.

That makes me a proud owner of some pretty dead flowers.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

les sacs des parisiennes (2)

After starting again a few months ago to take photos of bags in Paris, I have become a more sensitive and almost desperate character.

My eyes are always out and about, darting from left to right and back to left, focusing on the slightest sighting of any bag carried by a woman. What is on it? Are there words, or just a bunch of images? What are the words? Are they saying something interesting? How do I feel about the message? Have I already taken a picture of this bag before? These are questions that I ask myself often and very quickly in order to decide whether to act or not.

Paris might very well be the world capital of all things French, yet the majority of bags that one finds on its streets have inspirational messages written in English. Granted, that is the case for the bags that I see and the messages that resonate with me. On one occasion, the girl carrying the bag did not seem to know what the words in English meant (see bag no. 9 below). She must have paid little attention to the message, the bag merely being a tool for her. She even admitted that she was "nulle" in English. Fortunately, I was able to convey the message after translation. "Ah, c'est beau", she said.

Here is a second collection des sacs des Parisiennes.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

several weeks, 100 people (1)

As a member of the Urban Sketchers community, I have become familiar in recent years with an annual global initiative called one week, 100 people.

The goal is to draw 100 people in 5 days (Monday to Friday).

Sounds simple, right? Indeed. Except that I could never get around to drawing just one person in a whole week. I do not draw people in general, and besides my workweek is too busy to try drawing something I prefer not to draw.

Yet, in the past several months, with a will to improve my technique, I started a habit of drawing one hour per workday. As it turns out, it's easy (and quite interesting) to fill up minutes of that hour sketching people in the metro, train, or bus during my commute to and from work. It is actually a matter of killing two birds with one stone.

Armed with a Fabriano sketchbook and a few Staedtler pencils, I went hunting for drawing subjects every morning and evening. Drawing in the subway and other public transportation vehicles will undoubtedly draw reactions from nearby passengers. Whether it was muted curiosity, verbal praise, a "thumbs up", or simply indifference, I just kept piling 'em heads up. At some point, I realized that I had gathered a bunch of them in several weeks.

Below is a collection of 100 of them.

Which ones are your favorites?