That's all Folks

Although I am a Frenchman, born and raised in Paris, and I don't appreciate the English language that much, I have been blogging in English for more that four years.

There were many reasons for it, that I explained several times. Yet, the reasons have progressively vanished. I don't feel like writing in English any more.

If I keep on blogging, which is likely, I'll do it in French from now. I guess that most readers of B.L.O.G. don't understand French. I apologize but… "C'est la vie" *smile*.

Have a good wind, everyone.

Seeing the Music

Fences of the Jardin Public — Bordeaux, Octobre 2007.
Fences of the Jardin Public — Bordeaux, Oct. 2007
As reported in the previous blog, I saw again in San Diego those monumental sculptures by Bernar Venet I had seen in Bergen and Bordeaux.
It reminded me of that short trip in Bordeaux two years ago for yet another medical conference. I don't remember much of the conference itself, but I do remember it was a good opportunity to try a couple of good wines.

Yet the city was not pleasant at the time. A big part of it was spoiled by constructions for a new tramway. Visiting was a pain. On my last day there though, as I walked among the road works to kill time until the next train to Paris, I reached by chance the Jardin PublicThe Public Garden — a heaven of peace and greenery downtown. About twenty large photographs by were displayed on the fences of the park.


Taken during rehearsals, concerts, or in the wings, they caught various facets of life inside L'Orchestre d'Aquitaine, the Bordeaux Orchestra, freezing expressions, gazes, and gestures of the musicians, hereby emphasizing their work, stress, precision and concentration.

Image Image
Image Image
Image Image

Watching such a series of photos was a little like chasing rainbows: you try to see the music when you cannot hear it. Thanks to them, my mood was lighter when I reached the station.

Art in San Diego

Building in Gaslamp
The twin-towered Louis Bank of Commerce
The annual conference of the ASN, , was held in San Diego two weeks ago.

There was a lot of interesting stuff for a nephrologist there. No topic for this blog though. Rather than blogging about work, I will rather show photos taken while I strolled around in the city's streets and museums, either on the day before the Convention began this year, either during a previous stay in 2006, when another ASN Renal Week was held there.

Architecture. There are beautiful buildings in San Diego. In Gaslamp quarter especially, many houses are remarkable. The twin-towered building above is located at 837 Fifth Avenue. Its top floor used to be a house of prostitution and the first floor an Oyster Bar where operated for a time.

Inside the Convention Center
From inside the Convention Centre
The Convention Centre itself is beautiful work, and many skyscrapers are beautiful as well. In Balboa Park on the contrary, buildings are essentially 20th century pitiful attempts to reproduce Spanish mostly, Tuscan sometimes, buildings of the baroque style... with stucco. The California Tower of the Museum of Man is nice though.
Marriott Hotel, San Diego
              Marriott Hotel
California Tower
California Tower
Sculpture. French sculptor lived in San Diego from 1994 to 2002. She had solvent-related emphysema, and enjoyed the paradise weather of the area. Yet it did not prevent her from dying of pulmonary failure.

Two sculptures by her are exhibited in Balboa Park, in front of the : Poet/Muse and Nikigator. Children love the latter especially, some kind of dragon they are often brave enough to sit astride.
Poet and Muse — Niki de Saint-Phalle
Poet and Muse
Nikigator — Niki de Saint-Phalle
Bernar Venet's Arcs in Bergen (2006)
Bergen (2006)
Bernar Venet's Arcs in San Diego (2009)
San Diego (2009)
Another French Sculptor, , was much in evidence in several places in the city, although temporarily only. You know what? I believe this guy is following me: everywhere I go, I see his iron arcs.

When I had vacation in Norway in 2006, they were exhibited in Bergen. When I attended the annual conference of the French Society of Nephrology in Bordeaux two years ago, they were exhibited there. And at present they are exhibited in San Diego too!

Sorry Bernar, but you'll have to resign yourself: I will never buy any, my kitchen is too small.

Painting. Close to the Mingei Museum in Balboa Park, the displayed artworks by Picasso and Miró especially, in a temporary exhibition. I liked a couple, essentially a drawing by Picasso of a Minotaur stroking a sleeping woman. There was an exhibition of Calder Jewelry too. I don't like Calder's mobiles that much. I didn't like his massive earrings, tiaras and necklace either.

Anyway, the main reason why I went to Balboa park was the Museum of Art permanent exhibition, with several Renaissance paintings I had been longing for three years to see again. There are paintings by Rogier Van Der Weyden, Giotto, Titian, and others, Flemish and Italian. Here come a few words about my three favourite.

Giorgione — Portrait of a Man
Giorgione — Portrait of a Man
Oil on panel, 1506

Portrait of a Man, by Giorgione.
This painting is one of the greatest Renaissance portraits in my opinion. The composition is closely cropped around the head of the sitter. The setting or props often used at the time to animate portraits are absent, yet the man's turning gaze and ambiguous expression make the portrait wholly engaging and alive.

Giorgione was friend of Titian (who finished his Sleeping Venus after his early death, a painting that foreshadowed my beloved Venus of Urbino — see a ). He was unprecedented in his ability to describe warm flesh and soft hair. Quoting , Giorgione's 'modern manner' sought to paint 'living and natural things', several years before arrived on the Italian scene.

Hyeronimus Bosch — Arrest of Christ
Hieronymus Bosch — Arrest of Christ
Oil on panel, ca. 1516

The Arrest of Christ, by H. Bosch.
The painting depicts Jesus's arrest outside of Gethsemane. To the right, Peter raises a sword in defence of Jesus. He has just cut the ear from the High Priest's servant, who bites his arm and thrusts a lantern in his face. The grotesque figures of his tormenters contrast with the serene image of Jesus himself.

I love the way Bosch, in this painting, distorts the characters into something like caricature. Can you believe this was painted 500 years ago?

Bernardino Luini — The Conversion of the Magdalene
B. Luini — The Conversion of the Magdalene
Oil on panel, ca. 1520

The Conversion of the Magdalene,
by Bernardino Luini.
This is the moment when Mary Magdalene, the attractive and fashionable woman on the right, decides to put aside her finery (like the necklace on the table) and old life, and follow Jesus, like her sister Martha (on the left) previously. She holds an unguent jar, a symbol of her act of anointing Jesus's feet.

Bernardino Luini was among Leonardo da Vinci's closest followers in Milan. One can find a lot of Leonardo typical features in this painting: the characteristic figure types especially, with the mysterious, seductive smile of Magdalene, and the distinctive gesturing hands that animate the narrative.

So... after one day in the streets and museums of the city, I had my eyes and camera full of pictures. It was just time to go to the Convention Centre and attend the Conference.


Dying Gaul
Leonardo da Vinci – Vitruvian Man (ca. 1492)
Ink on paper. 34,4 × 25,5 cm
Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venice.
I don't usually blog about my occupation and readings as a nephrologist. Yet I'll make an exception with the present blog, that deals with a topic I have discussed for years with colleagues from the USA: the concept of 'human races'.

I read an article today in the medical review Kidney International that expresses a feeling shared by many European doctors: discomfort at seeing the word 'race' used with such a light heart in the international medical literature in English.

The average people will not use the term 'race' in Europe as they commonly do in the USA. In the mind of everyone, for obvious historical reasons, the notion of 'human races' is closely linked to racism, slavery, and the Shoah.

In medical literature though, particularly in articles from the United States, the word is still of current use.

Kidney International

I was very pleased then to read an editorial by Eberhard Ritz from Heidelberg and Sarala Naicker from Johannesburg, entitled "Race: A call to change nomenclature", in which the authors provide strong argumentation for making a systematic change in all scientific communications from 'race' to 'ethnicity'. 
             [Kidney Int 2009; 76: 807-808. doi:10.1038/ki.2009.356]

Here are some lines of their article:

In scientific meetings and literature, the term ‘race’ is still widely used to characterize the genetic background of specific cohorts. This term has become completely anachronistic with modern genetic insights and should therefore be abandoned.
It makes no sense to categorize individuals according to skin colour — the density of the skin melanocortin receptor, likely selected to provide protection against skin damage induced by ultraviolet light, bears little relation to the diversity of the genetic codes of respective individuals. Dark skin is seen in populations as diverse as African populations and Australian Aboriginals, the latter of whom have a quite different genetic background.

The use of terms that refer to distinguishing traits such as skin colour, body shape, and hair texture leads the scientific community to magnify differences and ignore similarities between groups of people. Also, these traits are no more accurate in making distinctions between human groups than any other genetically inherited characteristics. We are an extremely homogenous species genetically; all humans today are 99.9% genetically identical. 
The concept of ethnicity is related to the Greek concept of ethnos, which refers to the people of a nation or tribe, and ethnikos, which stands for national. Hence, ethnicity refers to the ethnic quality or affiliation of a group, which is normally characterized in terms of culture.
The International Society of Nephrology is a global professional society of nephrologists and renal research scientists with a multicultural and multiethnic constituency. Its goals include the development of nephrology and prevention of chronic kidney disease through education, training, research, and public awareness in both the developing and the developed world. In view of the above facts, the executive council of our society finds it is appropriate to use the term
‘ethnicity’ rather than ‘race’ in our scientific communications.

Some will think this is nothing but political correctness. I disagree. Words matter. Besides, it certainly is not merely coincidental that the article was written by citizens of Germany and South Africa, two countries where History has shown that 'race' is not an innocent word.

Thirteen at the Table

Leonardo's Last Supper
Il Cenacolo (The Last Supper)
by Leonardo Da Vinci (1495-1498)
Refectory of Santa Maria delle Grazie (Milan).

Last may, I went to Italy twice. I spent five days of vacation in Florence, then attended a Conference in Milan. Due to lack of time, I wrote only, and .

I do love Italy, and Italians. There is a lightness, a Joie de Vivre in the air of most Italian towns, you will hardly find anywhere else. Also, Art is everywhere.

In Florence first, then in Milan, I was stunned by frescoes. There's always a difference between looking at a reproduction and seeing an artwork for real. named this specificity of artwork, which is unique, linked to a special place, and part of history.

Il Cenacolo by Ghirlandaio
Il Cenacolo by Ghirlandaio (1448)

Frescoes certainly have an aura, because they are part of the place on which they were painted. Also, frescoes are impressive because they are very large. Characters painted are taller than you sometimes. You may feel as if you were a witness of the scene.

It was the case in particular in — the city with 70 museums — with frescoes by Filipino Lippi and Domenico Ghirlandaio, in and the , famous for the great Last Supper fresco, Ghirlandaio painted in 1488.

Santa Maria Delle Grazie (Milan)
Santa Maria Delle Grazie (Milan)

It was the case also in in Milan, a red brick church and monastery built in the 15th century where Leonardo da Vinci painted his Last Supper, Il Cenacolo, in the refectory of the monastery from 1495 to 1498.

Because it was a long-term work, Leonardo did not paint on wet plaster but on a dry wall. Strictly speaking, the painting is not a fresco then. It is a mural painting. Unfortunately, because of the method used, the work deteriorated quickly and its restoration has been a never-ending task.

If you want to see the painting, you must book in advance, and arrive on time. You will then be admitted among a small group of visitors (around 25 people), one group at a time, every 15 minutes. You must go through a double entrance door first, for sake of constant temperature and humidity. You wait there a few minutes, then you enter the refectory at last.

Il Cenacolo
The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci (click on the picture for a larger scale)
Here it is, painted on the wall on the right side of the refectory. Awesome, huge — about nine meters wide — painted with a perspective that continues the walls of the refectory

The characters are approximately life-sized, a little taller. Although the work is damaged,you feel as if you were there, standing at about eight meters from the table. All 13 character are in front of you, on the same side of the table. Unlike Ghirlandaio and others, Leonardo did not paint Judas apart from his colleagues.


Jesus has just announced that one of those sitting at the table will betray him. The twelve apostles react with various degrees of shock, denial, and anger.

Jesus is in the middle of the painting. Precisely in the middle. In fact, a small hole in his right temple was used by Leonardo to help define the vanishing point of the whole perspective of the painting. Around him, on his right and left sides, the apostles are grouped in four groups of three, and each of the three figures in each group reacts its own way.

Bartholomew, James the Younger and Andrew
On the left side,  Bartholomew, James the Younger and Andrew appear stunned by Jesus’ declaration. They look at him with stupefaction. Andrew raises his hands before him in a gesture of horror and incredulity — yet an apostle can hardly be incredulous, can he ?


Peter, Judas and John

In the second group, a knife in hand, Peter is ready to punish the traitor. He leans towards John, the boyish, almost feminine apostle seated beside Jesus: "Ask the Master, John! Who is it?" He pushes Judas forward, who holds a purse with thirty pieces of silver inside.


Thomas, James the Elder and Philip

On Jesus left-hand side, Thomas, James the Elder and Philip are assuring Jesus of their obedience. James the Elder expresses his indignation, and we can almost hear Philip protesting his loyalty: "You know me, Master, you know I did not do that".

Matthew, Jude Thaddeus and Simon

The last group on the right is made up of Matthew, Jude Thaddeus and Simon. They are involved in an animated discussion, and don't look at Jesus. "One of us? How is it possible?" Matthews asks Simon, while Jude Thaddeus seems to be about to clap his hands in a "didn't I tell you?"


    [BbN #13]

Note: You cannot fully appreciate such a masterpiece in less than 15 minutes. There's so little time, you must hurry, you can hardly have a look at every character. It is frustrating. If you ever go to Santa Maria delle Grazie and see The Last Supper by Leonardo, here is my advice then: book for it twice, half an hour apart. I will do that, the next time I go to Milan.

Related Posts Widget for Blogs by LinkWithin


Timeless Music
The Magic Flute
by W. A. Mozart

Timeless Reading
Les Essais
by Michel de Montaigne