Will they dare?

I have a confession to make: when I wrote a of US citizens when they elect a new President, several months ago, I felt like most people I know: that we just simply could not trust the US people any more. Seriously, how could anyone keep confidence in people who were blind enough, and that deliberately forgetful of 'American values', to elect again a character such as Georges W. Bush as their President in 2004?

I was quite sure at the time that, whoever the Democratic candidate would be, he would not be elected, especially because John McCain is not a far rightist neocon, as G.W. Bush is, but a respectable conservative politician.

Economically, it will not necessary be good news for the Europeans if Barack Obama is elected, especially because he will probably increase U.S. protectionism. Yet I do believe it will be a good thing for the people of that country. On the economical and social grounds first: the failure of the Republicans here is obvious. Also, for the image of a country that has essentially shown its worst facets for several years.

Today, a few days before the election to be held on November 4, Barack Obama leads in the polls by several percent. It is certainly not as much a landslide as in polls conducted elsewhere in the world though, and nobody knows how many people will not vote Obama at the end because "he is not like us". Yet Obama still leads in the polls, and early-voting Democrats are outnumbering Republicans in most sites.

I will be in Philadelphia next week, a direct onlooker of this huge event. Will U.S. citizens dare to elect him? If they do, hats off.

Le Lapin Agile

Joachim-Raphaël Boronali — Coucher de soleil sur l'Adriatique (Sunset on the Adriatic)
Joachim-Raphael BoronaliSunset on the Adriatic [Coucher de soleil sur l'Adriatique]

The painting on the left induced some hurly-burly when it was exhibited at the Salon des Indépendants in Paris in 1910. The canvas was signed by a person of obscure repute named Joachim-Raphael Boronali, who had prepared the picture's appearance by drafting a manifesto about a new, dissident futurist school, Excessivism.

ImageMany specialized critics who saw the painting in the show found the work 'very interesting'. It was sold twenty Golden Louis (400 French francs, about 1,800 current dollars). And yet, its author, who appears in the adjacent photo with his best friend, was not a painter at all.

There is a famous cabaret at 22 Rue des Saules in Montmartre, named Le Lapin Agile, where, in the 1900s-1910s, unknown people called Picasso, Utrillo, Modigliani, Braque, Derain, Dorgelès, Apollinaire or Max Jacob would meet, talk, joke, sing and drink together. The owner of the place was Frédéric Gérard, Le Père Frédé as everyone called him, who is the bearded man who appears in the photo above.

ImageThe cabaret had existed since 1860. It was originally called Le Cabaret des AssassinsCabaret of Murderers — until Andre Gill, a caricaturist, painted in 1875 the sign that was to suggest its permanent name: the picture of a humanized rabbit with a top-hat, who jumps out of a saucepan with a bottle of wine in his hand.

Residents soon called their neighbourhood night-club Le Lapin à GillGill's rabbit — a name that naturally evolved into Le Lapin AgileThe Agile Rabbit.

Cora VaucaireFrédé
Pablo Picasso - Au Lapin Agile
Pablo PicassoAt the Lapin Agile
[Au Lapin Agile] 1905.
Oil on Canvas, 99 cm × 100 cm
Metropolitan Museum of Arts, New-York.

The cabaret still exists nowadays. It is still full of customers who come and listen to French songs dating back as far as the fifteenth century.

Frédéric Gérard— aka Frédé — the owner of the place shown with his donkey on the photo above, was a character. Songs have been written about him, and he is the man playing the guitar in the background, in the adjacent painting by .

In this painting, Picasso portrayed himself dressed as a Harlequin, accompanied by his model Germaine Pichot. According to the tale, Picasso once paid a lunch with this painting, that Frédé sold in 1912 for the equivalent of 20 dollars. In 1989, it was auctioned at Sotheby's for 41 million dollars.

Anyway, how about 'Joachim-Raphael Boronali'? Who hid under the nickname? You know it was not Picasso or any of the abovementioned artists since I wrote that the painter was portrayed in the photo displaying Frédé with his donkey. Yet the painter was not Frédé but... Lolo, the donkey!

The painting was a hoax by the writer Roland Dorgelès and a few friends, to make fun of art critics. They tied a brush to the tail of Lolo, which daubed a canvas with several colours in front of witnesses, official ones included. They coined the nickname Boronali because it is an anagram for Aliboron, as Jean de la Fontaine would call the donkey in his fables.

Boronali in the process of creating his masterpiece
The painting is now permanently exhibited in a museum in Milly-La-Forêt, near Paris.

Happy Unbirthday!

Well, let's see...

(Checking my organizer) Today is October 23... nothing written here.

(Checking my address book) No, no one among my relatives. None of my friends either.

(Checking my memo board) Nope, no one actually. I knew I was not mistaken! Nobody I know has his birthday today!

Happy unbirthday, everyone! A very merry unbirthday to you! (yes, you)

People of Peru

Peruvian woman and daughter - Ollantaytambo, Peru, October 2008
Peruvian woman and daughter — Ollantaytambo, Peru, October 2008

Wayayay by Ulises Hermosa
(A Cambio de Cepas)

I had planned to write a couple of blogs during my trip in Peru, and post them when I am back in Paris. Yet, I wrote a few lines only. I realized quickly it was too hard for me to write in English, while my French brain tried to format itself to think and speak in Spanish.

Women with lamas - Cuzco, October 2008
Women with lamas in Cuzco

By the way, I do love the Spanish language. Essentially because it is a Romanic language probably, and the building of sentences is the same as in French. I speak Spanish much more easily than English, because I instinctively feel where to put the stress, unlike in English. Also, you know how words should be pronounced when you read them, it sure helps!

Between Urubamba and Cuzco - October 2008
Between Urubamba and Cuzco

Anyway. It certainly is a shame that I will not post blogs about this trip at present. First, because of the wonderful sceneries I have gazed at, in Cuzco, the Machu Picchu, the Sacred Valley and Lake Titicaca. And especially because Peruvians are among the nicest people I have ever met.

Old woman in Urubamba - Peru, October 2008
Old woman in Urubamba

Peru is a very poor country. People there work a lot and earn little. However, I never felt that the gringo with a backpack and a camera was a guy from which you should take as much money as you can, as it is so often the case in many countries.

Women on a floating island - Lake Titicaca, October 2008
Women on a floating island
(Lake Titicaca)

People will try so sell you little showy stuff in tourist places obviously. Yet you can feel they are proud of what they have often made with their own hands, and if you kindly tell them 'no, gracias', they will give you a wide and friendly smile in return, and will not bother you afterwards.

I just finished to sort out the photos I took in Peru... more than 800 pics of which only four or five can be considered "good photos" in my opinion. Here are a couple of pictures that are not of great artistic value, but show the kind people of Peru.

Children defile - Cuzco, October 2008
Children defile in Cuzco

Children playing in Pisaq — October 2008
Children in Pisaq

An old woman flattens reed - Floating Islands, Lake Titicaca, October 2008
A woman flattens reed on a floating island

Peru, the White Night, and Icarus

Pieter Brueghel the Elder — Lanscape with the Fall of Icarus
Pieter Brueghel the ElderLandscape with the Fall of Icarus
[Landschap met de Val van Icarus], ca. 1558
Oil on canvas mounted on wood — 73.5 x 112 cm
Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, Brussels

I am leaving Paris this Friday morning, en route to Peru where I'll spend ten days. Not another medical conference this time, but mere tourism, with my brother and father. We shall visit , , , ... I feel pretty excited and plan to take a lot of photos there.

There's only one (very little!) fly in the ointment: they don't have the White Night in Lima yet, that will occur on the next Saturday night in Paris and many cities. The White Night is a cultural night of discovery that has been organised every year since 2002 in a growing number of cities, in Europe first, then in the whole world.

Throughout the White Night, museums, libraries, monuments, places of worship, tourist sites, cinemas, parks and gardens, hospitals, swimming pools, universities, etc. will stay open. You can go and see an exhibition at 2 am or visit a library at 5 am if you feel like... you will sleep later, tomorrow is a Sunday.

I usually manage to be in Paris on the , as it is called in French. Three years ago though, I was in Brussels, and enjoyed it a lot in this welcoming city. I walked in the streets all night long, listened to music bands, ate mussels with french fries, and went to several museums. The Fall of Icarus by Pieter Brueghel the Elder was exhibited in the Museum of Ancient Art, part of the Royal Museums of Brussels.

I don't know why I've always had the feeling that the scene in this painting occurs in the New World, instead of the Aegean sea... on the Peruvian coasts, maybe, which makes I have now come full circle in the weird associations of idea that made up the present blog.

Poor Icarus... In the painting by Brueghel, his fatal fall is of minor interest.
The ploughman is bent over the ground...

... the shepherd is looking at the sky...
... and the fisherman is watching at the sea

They couldn't care less what happens to a dreamer, a reckless person who dared to challenge the sun.

Les plaintes d'un Icare [Ch. Baudelaire]

I thought of this melancholy painting today when I read again this poem by Charles Baudelaire.

Les Plaintes d'un Icare

Les amants des prostituées
Sont heureux, dispos et repus ;
Quant à moi, mes bras sont rompus
Pour avoir étreint des nuées.

C'est grâce aux astres nonpareils,
Qui tout au fond du ciel flamboient,
Que mes yeux consumés ne voient
Que des souvenirs de soleils.

En vain j'ai voulu de l'espace
Trouver la fin et le milieu ;
Sous je ne sais quel oeil de feu
Je sens mon aile qui se casse ;

Et brûlé par l'amour du beau,
Je n'aurai pas l'honneur sublime
De donner mon nom à l'abîme
Qui me servira de tombeau.

Charles Baudelaire
Lamentations of an Icarus

Lovers of prostitutes, in crowds,
Are sated and content and cheery,
But as for me, my arms are weary
Because I have embraced the clouds.

Thanks to the stars — O peerless ones!
That flame deep in the boundless sky,
My burned-out eyes can now descry
Only the memories of suns.

In vain I sought to trace and fit
Space in its mid and final stance
I know not under what hot glance
My wings are crumbling bit by bit.

The love of beauty sealed my doom,
Charred, I have not been granted this:
To give my name to the abyss
That is to serve me as a tomb.

Transl. Jacques LeClercq,1958
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