Satan met his lover, at last!

Saddam and his lover
What was usually displayed in South Park
could well be true now, don't you think?
It was not a surprise the Iraqi prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, was glad with Saddam's execution. Same with Iran, two decades after a war with about two millions Iranians killed. No surprise either that many Muslims were shocked he was killed on the day of Eid el-Kbir.

George Bush said yesterday that Saddam's execution was an important milestone on Iraq's course to becoming a democracy... It appears quite strange to a European, since there are few democratic countries that still enforce death penalty! (see previous blog entry) It has been outlawed in all European countries, usually for decades. Then no surprise again that official reactions in Europe were similar to the German one: There are no doubts whatsoever about Saddam's crimes. But we are opposed to the death penalty, no matter where it is used. EU Commissionner Louis Michel even said: You don't fight barbarism with acts that I deem as barbaric.

Fully agreed: murdering a murderer puts you down to his level. Also, I cannot help but being worried the trial undoubtedly failed to satisfy international fair standards. Quoting Amnesty International:

Saddam Hussein's trial [...] was a deeply flawed affair. Political interference undermined the independence and impartiality of the court, causing the first presiding judge to resign and blocking the appointment of another. The court did not take measures to protect witnesses and defence lawyers, three of whom were assassinated during the course of the trial. Saddam Hussein was denied access to legal counsel for the first year after his arrest. The appeal process was obviously conducted in haste and failed to rectify any of the flaws of the first trial.

Therefore, this hasty killing will be seen by many as nothing else than victor's justice. Most probably, it will not help things to go better in Iraq, just the contrary.

Nice to meet you

This is a magnet I bought yesterday afternoon, in the boutique of the Museum of Photographic Arts in San Diego where I am now. Two hours later, I met three Yahoo chat friends who live in this city. None of the nice girls I had dinner with was like this scary granny, in look or character — granted, it did not surprise me.

Meeting chat friends is a pleasant experience. I hardly understand why some people don't feel like it, or are scared of it.

Chicago Blues

<em>Eddie Shaw and the Wolfgang</em> at Buddy Guy&apo;s Legend
When electricity met the Blues: Chicago Blues

All day long, I have been carrying my digital camera in Chicago streets, parks and museums. It is a good one, but it is also a big one. It's not that heavy, only it is cumbersome. That's why I decided not to take it with me tonight... What a mistake.

Being in Chicago for a couple of days, I had to go and listen to good blues music, and Buddy Guy's Legend was a few blocks from my hotel only. The guys playing in there were Eddie Shaw & The Wolfgang, good music.

Every Time I Sing The Blues
(Buddy Guy & Eric Clapton)

Since I was silly enough not to bring my camera, I took a couple of shots with my cell phone. Little light and the musicians moving a lot with the rhythm, it was a stroke of luck that one photo, although not great, was good enough not to be put directly to the bin.

From now on, I am always taking my camera when I go to a special place, I swear!


I am not a Protestant and I don't speak German, yet I went this morning to the Deutsche Evangelische Christuskirche (German Evangelical Church) in Paris, and listened to classical music by Johann Sebastian Bach and Georg Philipp Telemann. Great music.

I also learned a little about Protestantism, from a German friend was there. In particular, I learned how different the meaning of Evangelical is, whether you are in Europe or North America. I already knew there were many religious persuasions in Protestantism, but I confess I have not remembered everything about that.

Only I remember that, in North America, the word Evangelicalism refers to conservative Protestantism, more precisely supporters of revivalism, whereas in Europe, it simply means Protestantism. The German Evangelical Church where they sang Johann Sebastian Bach's cantata Herr Jesu Christ, whar' Mensh und Gott so beautifully this morning is Lutheran Church.

I loved the music. I loved the tapestry of John Evangelist taken from a painting of Albrecht Dürer that was hung up on a wall in the Church on this occasion. I loved also the modern stained glass window I photographied in there to be my shot of the day.

Terrorism works

Why so? — San Diego, November 2006

Has Osama Bin Laden heard about the recent decision by US congress to legalize torture – ooops, “coercive interrogation”, pardon my French... — in some Pakistani cave or in the Heaven of Allah?

Actually, it does not mind. Wherever he is, dead or alive, the greatest instigator of international terrorism just won another victory, because this the very reason of terrorists' strategy: inducing their ennemy to forget their own principles and show a hideous face that, in return, justifies violence.

After the invasion on Iraq based on fake reasons, and prisoners kept in Guantanamo jails for years without a trial or even an accusation, now comes the official disregard of ... where is the USA going with George W. Bush and its administration? Do they still know what the word ethics mean?

It seems now the present most powerful democracy is on the road to decline of human rights and sorry renouncement of proclamed values. It is a distressing evidence that terrorism does work.

Bulgaria, Romania, Welcome Home!

Sofia and Bucharest finally received the long awaited go-ahead from the European Commission to enter the European Union on 1 January 2007. The EU will now be made up of 27 democratic countries, institutionally opposed to death penalty, still the world's largest economy with a high level of welfare provided to about 480 million inhabitants.

Bulgaria and Romania have been accepted as EU new members under the strictest terms ever though. Especially, the European Commission emphasized that both countries will have to do a better job fighting organized crime and political corruption. Should the two countries be unable to comply with the terms, they will face consequences, some of which are directed specifically at the accession process.

Although both economies are growing rapidly, Bulgaria and Romania will be the poorest countries within the EU, with gross domestic product per capita only at about one third of the EU average.

There will now be a pause in enlargement of the EU that is likely to last for several years, since the EuropeanTreaty of Nice in 2000 mandated institutional changes within the Union before the number of members goes beyond the 27 maximum which has been reached now. Also, it is necessary to solve the question of a constitution for the EU, which was hit back in 2005 when French and Dutch voters rejected the proposal. Present official candidates to membership (Croatia, Macedonia and Turkey) might then wait quite a long time before then integrate the Union.

Cindy Sherman

Centerfolds — Untitled #83, 1981
Centerfolds — Untitled #83, 1981

For more than 30 years, Cindy Sherman has been taking photographs of which she is her own model, yet these are never self-portraits.

She has portrayed herself in hundreds storytelling pictures, using different poses, expressions, make-up, clothes, hairpieces, prostheses even sometimes.

I finally found time last week to go and see Cindy Sherman — Retrospective 1975-2005 in the Musée du Jeu de paume in Paris, just before the exhibition moved to Berlin. Funny, grating, often brutal, the figures in this gallery explore cultural and social stereotypes and their representation in the media, from magazine centrefolds to advertisements, films and classical painting.

Cindy Sherman — Untitled Film Stills #3, 1977
Untitled Film Stills #3, 1977
Sherman’s reputation was established in the late 1970s on the basis of her Untitled Film Stills, a series of 70 black-and-white photographs in which she depicted herself dressed in the guises of cliched heroines of B-movie and publicity shots from the 1950s.

In photograph after photograph, Cindy Sherman is always present, and yet never really there — her adaptation of a range of personae highlighting the masquerade of identity. I loved this series, as well as the next one, entitled Centerfolds/Horizontals.

Centerfolds — Untitled #93, 1981
Untitled #93, 1981

Centerfolds is a series of photographic double spreads initially commissioned by the magazine Artforum in 1981 — and rejected for publication at the end, by the way — where Cindy Sherman wanted to refer to the centre spreads of “men's magazines”, showing herself as a young, vulnerable woman seen from above.

The pictures suggest their subject as scared or dumbfounded, more as the victim of a sexual attack than the usual compliant, indeed nymphomaniac girl, stereotype of porno fantasy.

As I moved forward in the exhibition and in time through the 1980s and 1990s, the metamorphoses became darker with every series (Fairy Tales, Civil War, Sex Pictures, Broken Dolls...) and even macabre.

Two rooms exhibited repulsive imagery where she took herself out of the picture, using instead body parts, mutilated dolls, rotting foods and such. Yuck! although the photographs were technically irreproachable for sure...

Clowns — Untitled, 2004
Clowns — Untitled, 2004
I liked more the recent series Clowns exhibited in the last room. In these pictures, Cindy Sherman used digital photography and computers to multiply herself and integrate coloured backgrounds.

These are disturbing or threatening photographs where insane clowns seem to be closer to the clown depicted in Stephen King's novel "It" than usual sweet simpletons.

In my opinion, Cindy Sherman is undoubtedly one of the main photographers of the end of 20th century. Only, I prefer a lot photographs she took in her first years, before she touched on horror and repulsion, on the decay and dismembering of the body.

Poincaré's Conjecture


All French media have been talking mathematics last week, after 2006 Fields Medals — usually defined as the 'Nobel Prize of Mathematics' — were awarded by the International Mathematical Union.

First, because among the four awarded mathematicians, there was a French specialist of probabilities named Wendelin Werner, who is not only a high-level scientist, but a violinist, and once was a child actor. Second, because another awarded mathematician, Russian Gregori Perelman, got the medal because of his work on Poincaré conjecture... and refused it.

You know, Frenchmen as a rule are crazy about mathematics. Of course, many were not that good in maths at school, most of them barely understand anything in maths... but they do love maths anyway. Mathematics... this is so rational, so smart, so logical a matter, how could French people dislike maths?

In 1904, French mathematician Henri Poincaré forthrightly asked his colleagues:
Hey dudes! I have a funny question: consider a compact 3-dimensional manifold V without boundary. Is it possible that the fundamental group of V could be trivial, even though V is not homeomorphic to the 3-dimensional sphere?
Ha-ha, Good question indeed, Henri, other mathematician answered... for one century, until Gregori Perelman found the solution.

As for me, I don't even understand what the question means... Do you?


My rorbu in Lofoten
Lofoten Islands — My rorbu (August 2006).

I am just back from Norway, after a two-week holiday trip all around that country. What you see opposite is a rorbu, a fisherman cabin built on piles on the sea.

I lived there for several days in , Norwegian islands abroad the polar circle, all made of mountains directly falling into the Artic Ocean. It is a wonderful place, with nice and friendly people. I walked, climbed, biked, and had very good food, fish especially.

Pontoon near the rorbu
Pontoon near the rorbu
The weather was fine, sunny and rather warm, above 20°C, which is funny since it mostly rained in Paris at the same time. In August, there isn't midnight sun any more, but days are still loooong: it was about 22:30 when I took these pictures.

Before that, I travelled in the southern and western parts of Norway and saw fjords, mountains, glaciers, and nice towns such as Bergen and Ålesund. I also spent two days in Oslo, essentially to see paintings by Munch, a painter I love, in the National Gallery) and Munch Museum, and visit the Ibsen museum. I'll probably write about it some day.

I have taken about 800 photos, among which I am pretty glad of, well, about half a dozen, which is not that bad, is it?

USA — The Lethal Injection Controversy

A physician, as a member of a profession dedicated to preserving life when there is hope of doing so, should not be a participant in a legally authorized execution.

Code of Ethics of the
American Medical Association


Doctors should not be in the job of killing. Those who do participate in this barbaric act are shameful examples of how a profession has allowed its values to be corrupted by state violence.

The Lancet, 16 April 2005.

Lethal injection, now the most common way people are legally killed in the USA, is supposed to be humane, and thus not in violation of the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, that proscribes cruel and unusual punishment.

It takes place the following way: the condemned person is strapped to a gurney. Two intravenous lines are inserted and kept open with saline solution. The injection team then administers first, sodium thiopental (a barbiturate) to induce anaesthesia, then pancuronium bromide (a curare) to cause paralysis, and last a bolus of potassium chloride to induce cardiac arrest. 

It may seem to be, say... “clean”. However, a study published in the Lancet in 2005 found that despite a theoretically lethal dose of barbiturate, 21 of 49 executed US inmates had postmortem thiopental concentrations consistent with consciousness. In addition, records from San Quentin prison revealed that 6 among 13 inmates executed by lethal injection in California continued to breathe until after pancuronium had been injected.

In other words, people executed that way are probably conscious sometimes. Of course, because they are paralysed, no one knows if they die awake but paralysed, unable to move, breathe, and scream, when potassium burns through their veins. For the record, 19 US states, including Texas, prohibit the use of neuromuscular blocking agents (aka curares) to kill... animals.

Relying on the study above, a judge in California ruled out in 2006 that, in order to avoid excessive pain which would violate the 8th Amendment of the US Constitution, the state can execute a prisoner, but must either rely solely on thiopental, or else have a qualified individual confirm unconsciousness before the injection of pancuronium and potassium chloride. As a result, Californian officials have had to postpone executions after they were unable to find any medical personnel willing to participate.

Similar constitutional challenges have effectively put executions on hold in several US states, until what is usually called now the lethal injection controversy is resolved.

Death Penalty

Death Chamber

In 2006, the death penalty has not been routinely applied in any democratic country, but the United States of America. It still exists in Japan and India, yet executions are rare there (one in India in 2004, none since then). Philippines abolished the death penalty for all crimes in June 2006.

Death penalty is forbidden in all countries inside the European Union. Its abolition is even a mandatory criterion for application.

According to Amnesty International, at least 2,148 people were executed in 22 countries in 2005, among whom 1,770 people  in China. True figures are probably much higher thoug, since Chinese statistics on death penalty are classified as a state secret. Iran executed at least 94 people, and Saudi Arabia at least 86. There were 60 executions in the USA, bringing the total to 1004 executed in this country since the use of the death penalty was resumed in 1977.

International treaties prohibit to sentence to death or execute people under 18 years old at the time of the crime. Most countries whose laws still provide for the death penalty specifically exclude the execution of child offenders. Since 1990 however, eight countries executed young people: China, Congo (DR), Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, USA and Yemen. China, Pakistan USA and Yemen have now changed their law and raised the minimum age for the death penalty to 18. Yet the USA and Iran have each executed more child offenders than the other six countries combined.

Scientific studies have consistently failed to find convincing evidence that the death penalty deters crime more effectively than other punishments. Statistics show that abolition does not have harmful effect on the curve of crime; for instance, in Canada where death penalty was abolished in 1976, the homicide rate per 100,000 population fell from 3.09 in 1975, to 2.41 in 1980, and 1.73 in 2003.

The persistence of death penalty is not that surprising in countries such as China, Saudi Arabia or Iran, that are not democracies. It is a stain for the USA. Death penalty is not only barbaric, it is unfair. Whether you receive the death penalty in the USA depends not so much on what you have done, but:

— where you committed your crime: the use of the death penalty not only varies from state to state (12 US states have no death penalty) but from jurisdiction to jurisdiction within a state.
— what colour your skin is: repeated studies have shown a pattern of racial discrimination in the administration of the sentence. For example, among the 205 people executed for inter-racial murders in the USA, 193 were black defendants charged with killing a white person, while only 12 were white defendants charged with killing a black individual.
— and how much money you have: 90% of defendants are too poor to hire their own lawyer, so most rely on overworked court-appointed lawyers.

Proved lack of efficiency as a deterrent, unfairness, knowlegde that innocent people were killed, and 'simply' untenable notion of legal murder of individuals by a state on an ethical point of view: isn't it enough?


Zidane So, 2006 football world cup is finished now. The final ended in a France 1 - 1 Italy draw and Italy won the championship after a penalty kick shootout. It was the last match of Zinedine Zidane, one among the best football players ever. Too bad his last appearance in a stadium has been stained with bad behavior: headbutting Marco Materazzi in the chest was not an error, it was a shame. Granted, he over-reacted to (most likely racist) callings from that guy but, as a professional, he should not give such an "example" to the million young people who were looking at him and admire him all over the world. One will say: he is a man after all. Well, sure, but manners maketh man.

The very notion of racist calling against 'Zizou', as he is usually called, is interesting though. It recalled me what I have been told several times about him lately, as a Frenchman myself, from people with Arabic and/or Muslim culture I was chatting with.

They frequently said:
— You are probably very proud of ZZ as a Frenchman, aren't you? In my country, we are very proud of him, since he is an Arab/a Muslim.

The first time I was told this, I was amazed: Zidane is a Frenchman for sure, and a famous one, but I had never thought of him as being Muslim and/or Arab. This might appear strange in countries where communautarism is normal view of society but, in the French traditional secular way, religions and ethnic origins are not considered noteworthy features, but among far rightists.

A French President or Prime Minister would never mention God(s) in a speech, for instance. Asking someone you are not very close to, what religion he practices might be considered indicative of intolerant tendencies. In secular France, it is forbidden by the Law to ask about ethnicity, religion, or sexual preferences in any official interview, even more to register it. The very notion of "human races", which is not a biological, but segregational criterion, is not used, and French black people are not called 'African French'... but Frenchmen.

Zidane was born and raised in Marseilles, a big city in Southern France, on the Mediterranean coast. He speaks French with typical Marseilles' lilting accent, like characters in Marcel Pagnol and Robert Guédiguian's movies. His parents were born in Algeria, that was a French "province" at that time — a colony actually. Smaïl Zidane, his father, came to metropolitan France in 1952, ten years before the country became independent, and he remained here thereafter. Briefly said, Zidane family is a French family with Algerian roots. Like Canada, Australia or the USA, France has always been a land of immigration, with people coming from Italy, Poland, Armenia, Hungary, Spain, Portugal, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, etc. Whatever their roots, they are now Frenchmen.

Well, OK, he is a Frenchman actually but he is an Arab Frenchman. I am proud of him because he is an Arab, like me.

Hmmm... no, sorry, again, Zidane is not an Arab. His family was originating from an Algerian village called Boukhelifa, near Béjaïa, in Kabylie. His ancestors and family were not Arabs but Kabyles. People in Algeria are not all Arabs. There are about ten million Kabyles also, whose ancestors had been living there for long time when the land was settled by Arabs. Kabyles are part of Berber people, remembered for their insubordination to the power of Roman Empire, two millenaries ago. They speak the Kabyle variety of Berber (Tamazight language). As Zidane himself, Kabyles often have light skin, hair and eye colour.

It is interesting, I did not know there were not only Arabs in Algeria. So, OK, Zidane is a Frenchman with Kabyle ancestry. I will support him anyway, because I like him and he is a Muslim, as I am.

Yes, Zinedine Zidane is a Frenchman with Kabyle roots, as Édith Piaf and Isabelle Adjani, and many others. As for being a muslim or not, I just did not know before chat friends told me so. He could be indeed, since his family was originating from a place where main religion is Sunni Islam, and Zinedine and Yazid (his other name) are Muslim names. Does it mean he is a Muslim? Not more than me bearing a Christian name necessarily means I am a Christian myself, after all. Checking on the Internet, I found that he answered a couple of time to journalists that he has Muslim culture but does not practice. Who cares anyway, this is individual matter only.

The Coke and Mentos Experiment


This 3 minutes movie was released about two weeks ago. It displays The Extreme Diet Coke & Mentos Experiment #137. Incredible and funny, is it not? I read somewhere that Mentos company hired both guys for their next advertising campaign.

Since we are in a serious place here, it was but underhand lead-in for a lesson of physics and chemistry: how can little Mentos have such a tremendous effect on a peaceful bottles of Diet Coke? Everyone will agree on the premises: the carbon dioxide (CO2) compressed into the soda escapes so rapidly that the pressure pushes it out of the bottle. It's like shaking a bottle before you open it, but even more dramatic.

Several people theorized that a substance called gum arabic in the Mentos breaks the surface tension of the soda, allowing the CO2 bubbles to escape rapidly. This explanation doesn't completely work though, since several items that contain no gum arabic also cause soda to foam violently.

The primary cause appears to be physical, not chemical: when a liquid is supersaturated with gas, like soda is with CO2, gas is able to form bubbles on nucleation sites (that are places with high surface area in a very small volume, such as scratches on a surface or specks of dust).

Mentos seem to be loaded with nucleation sites: there are so many microscopic nooks and crannies on their surface that an incredible number of bubbles will form when you drop one in a bottle of soda. Since the Mentos are also heavy enough to sink, they react with the soda all the way to the bottom. The escaping bubbles quickly turn into a raging foam, and the pressure builds dramatically.

This mechanism is somewhat similar to the way people whose urine is supersaturated with uric acid or calcium crystals often develop kidney stones. Fortunately enough, crystals are not gas, which probably explains why people with kidney stones usually don't explode.

When I'm Sixty-Four

Sargent Pepper's
The Beatles — Sgt Pepper's  Lonely Hearts Club Band

When I'm sixty four was written by Paul McCartney, who sings it on Beatles' album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, released 1967.

Paul McCartney turns 64 today.

When I get older losing my hair,
Many years from now.
Will you still be sending me a valentine
Birthday greetings bottle of wine?

If I'd been out till quarter to three
Would you lock the door?
Will you still need me, will you still feed me,
When I'm sixty-four?

You'll be older too,
And if you say the word,
I could stay with you.

I could be handy, mending a fuse
When your lights have gone.
You can knit a sweater by the fireside
Sunday mornings go for a ride,

Doing the garden, digging the weeds,
Who could ask for more.
Will you still need me, will you still feed me,
When I'm sixty-four?

Every summer we can rent a cottage,
In the Isle of Wight, if it's not too dear
We shall scrimp and save
Grandchildren on your knee
Vera ,Chuck & Dave.

Send me a postcard, drop me a line,
Stating point of view
Indicate precisely what you mean to say
Yours sincerely, wasting away

Give me your answer, fill in a form
Mine for evermore
Will you still need me, will you still feed me,
When I'm sixty-four?

Pregnant women should not take ACE Inhibitors

Normal ultrasound - 18 weeks pregnancy
Normal ultrasound - 18 weeks pregnancy

For the first time today, I felt it necessary to post something related to my work rather than my hobbies. The issue is worth to be told about indeed, for the information of the ten thousand people who read the present blog every day, ha-ha.

In a group of 209 babies born to women taking Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme inhibitor drugs (ACE inhibitors) in the early stages of pregnancy, a recent study reported that 18 or 7.1% of the infants were born with serious birth defects.

ACE inhibitors are a class of drugs used to treat high blood pressure. They work mainly by relaxing blood vessels and they are often prescribed to people with diabetes. ACE inhibitors include benazepril, captopril, enalapril, fosinopril, lisinopril, moexipril, quinapril, ramipril and trandolapril (these are international names, brand names mostly differ among countries).

Use of ACE inhibitors is contraindicated during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy because of their association with increased risk of fetopathy and renal side effects in the newborn. In contrast, they are not contraindicated in the first trimester of pregnancy — albeit animal reproduction studies have shown an adverse effect on the fetus — because there are no adequate and well-controlled studies in humans and potential benefits may warrant use of the drug in pregnant women despite potential risks, as indicated in drug information sheets (in Europe and USA at least).

The recent study determined that infants exposed to ACE inhibitors in first trimester were about 4 times more likely to suffer cardiovascular problems and 5 times more likely to have central nervous system malformations when compared to infants exposed to other medications or no antihypertensive drugs at all. One-third of the birth defects involved the heart, one-quarter the limbs or the face, and one-tenth involved the brain or spinal cord. Some defects, such as the heart problems, might be curable with surgery or other treatment, but others resulted in retardation or permanent disability.

As highlighted in an accompanying editorial, this study demonstrated the risks of taking known and unknown drugs before and during pregnancy. Women who are considering getting pregnant should talk to their doctor before taking any medications, since "birth defects caused by teratogenic treatments are preventable" the editorial said. "A woman who learns she is pregnant while taking an ACE inhibitor should immediately be switched to another antihypertensive agent to minimize the risk of fetopathy [...]. Detailed fetal ultrasonography and echocardiography at about 18 weeks of gestation should be offered to women who have taken such drugs in the first trimester of pregnancy."

Indeed. And also, one cannot but wonder: "what did pharmaceutical companies selling ACE inhibitors already know but did not say?"

That's it, for today!


Probably few people outside France and French-speaking countries ever heard of Claude Piéplu, who died a few days ago. In France though, he was famous as the unusual high-pitched voice of the narrator in the much-loved TV cartoon Les Shadoks, droll birdlike creatures from another planet, that made Piéplu a real star here.

Started as a sort of Peanuts-like characters, these outer-space bird-like creatures were the heroes of a French TV cartoon that turned into a cult-like phenomenon. Characterized by ruthlessness, stupidity and living on a two-dimensional planet, the Shadoks would constantly try to escape their rivals the Gibis, sorts of intelligent guinea pigs wearing bowler hats, whose names had a lot to do with the initials of that country across the Channel.

Speaking a special language, the Shadoks could only use four syllables: ga, bu, zo, meuh (pronounced as: gah, büh, zoh, möh). Absurdity and fake logic permeated their world, with adages such as: “Why do simple when one can do complicated?” and “When one tries continuously, one ends up succeeding. Therefore, the more you fail, the more chances you have to be successful”.

These features have become a inherent part of French way of thinking and sometimes very special sense of humour.

Mad Cows

A Mad Cow before Saint-Germain-des-Prés Church (Paris, May 2006)

A couple of days ago, about 150 cows in fibre glass invaded the pavement of Paris. You can see them everywhere now, from the Avenue des Champs-Élysées to the Place de la Bastille.

It is supposed to be an art exhibition called Vach'Art, that is the Cow-Parade's French version. Yet it doesn't fool me: these are undoubtedly mad cows! Some believe they are Harry Potter, other ones that René Magritte is their farmer! I tell you, these cows are crazy!

I took the shot opposite yesterday evening. This green cow is named Le goût du naturel (Taste for Naturalness), whereas one can wonder how grazing in such a place could be natural, don't you think?

Well, after all, maybe it knows the church behind it, and the neighbourhood, are called Saint-Germain-des-Prés, which means Saint Germain in the fields...


Grande Odalisque — Jean-Dominique Ingres (1814)
Oil on Canvas, 91 x 162 cm. Musée du Louvre, Paris.

Jean-Dominique Ingres is viewed by many as a classical and academic painter whereas, from the very beginning of his career, he has distorted nature in the interest of pictorial effect.

A notorious example is his famous Grande Odalisque, a lascivious naked woman whose back is more serpentine than realistic (with three extra vertebrae elongating it!), breast is located in unusual place, and right arm is impossibly long. Ingres neglected anatomic reality to abtract and intemporal art.

About the present exhibition entitled Ingres 1780-1867 held now in Le Louvre Museum in Paris, British art critic Richard Dormant recently wrote in :

For an artist who is so often described as the enemy of Romanticism, Ingres here creates a parallel universe that takes us into the realms of fantasy and imagination we will not find again in European art until the paintings of Burne-Jones. What Picasso, Matisse and Man Ray found so fascinating about Ingres is the way figures such as these look as though they have been cut out of another canvas, then pasted on to the one we are looking at — an effect that resembles the yet-to-be-invented technique of collage.

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