guns. so sexy.

On my way to work, I pass in front of a giant billboard.  Last week I saw this movie poster -


And then at the beginning of this week, I saw this movie poster -


And then a few days later, this poster -


And I thought to myself – does the man need a gun to make him virile?  Glamorous?   Sexy?   What, then?   What’s the point? 

I resent seeing images of guns – over and over – littering my landscape.

Two of my godchildren – boys aged 13 and 11 – won’t watch movies with me anymore if there are no guns in them.  (Those happy days of watching Nemo together are a distant memory now.)

Here’s what Warner Brothers, responsible for blockbuster movies replete with gratuitous gun violence, said last year when they decided to ban certain ads – “We no longer tolerate television ads showing semi-automatic weapons and guns pointed at people.”

Oh.  That’s really groundbreaking.

Wouldn’t it be great if Neeson, Reeves, Brosnan or any other major actor made an announcement saying “I’m not going to make any more films involving gratuitous gun violence.” ?

But as someone said in a BBC article I’ve just read (about an entirely unrelated topic), “People never do what’s right any more, only what lines their pockets.” 

American films can be so great.  I love American films.  It’s such a huge waste of talent, hashing out those same mindless gun movies.

the niqab, the woman, and the Paris opera house


Does anyone see the irony to this story?

A woman in a traditional veil, called a niqab, was asked to leave the opera in Paris because wearing a full-face Islamic veil is outlawed in France. The 2011 ban was upheld by the European Court of Human Rights in July of this year. 

The incident happened at the Opera Bastille on October 3rd.  The woman was given the choice of either removing the offending facemask or leaving the premises.  She and her male companion, both tourists from one of the Gulf States, chose to leave.

The couple did not demand compensation for their tickets.

So the niqab-clad woman was sitting in the front row of the Paris opera house after paying 231 euros for her seat.  The performance was La TraviataAnd what scenes were being played out on stage, mere meters from where she was sitting?  Heaving-bosomed women in deep décolleté gowns, the consumption of alcohol, dancing, multi-lovers outside of marriage, gambling, and a courtesan named Violetta Valéry.  All major transgressions in the country of the niqab-wearing woman which would have lead to a Sharia verdict of stoning or flogging to death.

These are the themes of Verdi’s opera, La Traviata which, translated into English, means “The Fallen Woman.”

The incongruity is ludicrous.

“Maybe they didn’t know,” I said to my two office colleagues with whom I enjoy lively daily discussions on a wide range of topics.  “Maybe they just wanted a night out while visiting Paris and didn’t have a clue what La Traviata was about.”

Or maybe they wanted to spend an evening watching Western decadence.

“A woman who wears the niqab,” said Amal firmly, a young feminist Franco-Algerian trainee lawyer, “Is a woman withdrawn and closed against the world.  What she was watching at the opera is in total contradiction to her supposed principles.  The hypocrisy is too funny for words.”

It’s too bad we never got to hear the point of view of the two tourists.  Had they made an error in their choice of evening entertainment?  Or is there more going on behind that veil than we think?  And this led our espresso-fueled morning discussion to the next question -

Can art and the niqab co-exist?

Art – the free expression, conception and production of man’s creative activities;

Niqab – medieval garment that prohibits libertarianism and promotes submission.

When all is said and done though, I think it’s a shame that these visitors were singled out in the audience, given an ultimatum and ended up leaving.  It appears that a handful of cast members refused to perform if a solution wasn’t found.  In other words, those cast members hijacked the performance.  And for what?  One sole woman sitting in the audience wearing a niqab?  Come on.  This is petty and unworthy of a world-class opera house.  Since when does Art exclude people?  In my opinion, those dissenting cast members should have stuck to their task of performing and not policing.

Every year in August you’ll see the Champs-Elysées and the department stores and the air-conditioned restaurants and ice-cream shops filled with wealthy Arab families from the Gulf States.  They come to escape the 50°C temperatures in Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.  And every year they stay in the same 5-star hotels on the avenue George V, the Place Vendome, avenue Montaigne, etc.

Do you think that any of these Muslim women is asked (by anybody) to remove her niqab?  Not on your life!   And lose that revenue?

Hypocrisy.  It’s all around us.

Last Tango in Paris

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Remember Bertolucci’s controversial film, Last Tango in Paris?  Wildly sophisticated for 1972!  Here’s the bridge that Marlon Brando walked across in the opening scene while the sublime Maria Schneider, only 19 at the time, strode past wearing that great fedora hat. Love that scene.  Both Brando and Schneider are now dead but nothing has changed, architecturally speaking, since 1972.

In the late 1990s I lived near this bridge and walked across it twice a day.  It’s called the Pont de Bir-Hakeim.  One end is located at Bir Hakeim metro station in the 15th arrondissement, the other end at Passy metro station in the 16th arrondissement.  Here below is the shot from the opening scene.  Bertolucci could have panned the camera more to the left to catch the Eiffel Tower in the background.  But he didn’t.

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Here’s the wooden footbridge (below) that Schneider walks across.  In the movie, an old guy is sweeping it with a broom and Schneider jumps over it.

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Here’s the door that Schneider stands in front of and then rings the bell because she sees a small note advertising an apartment for rent.  This is the door to the apartment building where they met for their trysts.  In the film, the fictional street name is rue Jules Verne, but in reality the name is rue de l’Alboni, steps away from Passy metro station.

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Here’s the café that Schneider (Jeanne) goes into to telephone her mother.  It’s located directly across from the apartment building.  Abandoned and boarded up now.  Sad.

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I love visiting film locations of my favourite movies.  If you plan to visit Paris, this is a nice area to explore. The Eiffel Tower is 20-minutes away on foot, the Seine River is right there, there’s a wonderful produce market twice a week (Wednesday and Sunday mornings) on the boulevard de Grenelle, etc.

Everything I’ve mentioned above is here in the opening scenes. Take a look -


Chocolate heaven

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The good news is that Chapon Chocolatier is located far from my apartment. Far away on the other side of town. Across the river on the Left Bank.  (I live on the Right Bank.)

The bad news is….well, there is no bad news.  Other than the fact that Chapon Chocolatier is closed on Monday mornings.

Patrice Chapon has won numerous awards for his chocolate concoctions.  But the placing of four big bowls of rich, silky mousse in his shop window deserves the biggest prize.  As I stood in the hankie-sized shop, at least 8 people pressed their faces to the window to gaze inside.  Each mousse is made from the cocoa beans of a different region: Madagascar, Venezuela, Ecuador….and each mousse has varying degrees of sweetness and intensity.

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Does chocolate make you happy?

Sunday Paris Oct 13th - 6th arr 090Studies show that eating chocolate affects the levels of endorphins in the brain, thus causing feelings of euphoria.Sunday Paris Oct 13th - 6th arr 089Sunday Paris Oct 13th - 6th arr 091Paris street April 2013 007

Here’s my euphoria:  buying some Chapon chocolate, crossing the street to the café, standing at the counter to order a double espresso and then slowly savouring the blend of coffee and chocolate.

Cocoa and coffee bean heaven.   Amen.

69 rue du Bac
Paris 75007 (7th arrondissement)
Metro: Rue du Bac

Paris coffee shops

photo courtesy of Sprudge

photo courtesy of Sprudge

As a serious coffee-lover (I drink black espressos, unsugared, all day long), I’ve been wanting to do a post on the Paris coffee scene for awhile.  

Below are two articles that wrote the post for me.  One in Sprudge, the other in The New York Times.  Now all I have to do is visit these places.  Top of my list is The Fondation Café located in the Marais that serves lemon muffins with passion fruit curd.

Studies show that drinking coffee is actually good for you, can you believe it?

Drinking coffee is associated with lower risks of developing diabetes, cardiovascular disease, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, cirrhosis and liver cancer.

in search of Kandinsky’s tombstone


I returned to the cemetary this afternoon in search of Kandinsky’s grave (see last Saturday’s post) and, like last Saturday, I was the only person there and it was blazing hot. SO HOT that after half an hour I had to leave.  But not without taking a few more photos. In the end, I never did find Kandinsky’s final resting place. But I’ll keep going back until I find it.

I find this man’s optimism, as expressed through his work, supremely uplifting.

Wassily Kandinsky, born in Moscow in December 1866 and died in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France in December 1944, was an influential Russian painter and art theorist. Credited with painting the first purely abstract works, he went on to become the master of abstract expressionism.  His work is hung in museums and public art galleries worldwide.  And he’s buried just up the road from where I live.


In 1896 Kandinsky settled in Munich and studied at the Academy of Fine Arts. He returned to Moscow in 1914, after the outbreak of World War I. Kandinsky was unsympathetic to the official theories on art in Communist Moscow, and returned to Germany in 1921. There, he taught at the Bauhaus school of art and architecture from 1922 until the Nazis closed it in 1933. He then moved to France where he lived for the rest of his life, becoming a French citizen in 1939 and producing some of his most prominent art. He died at Neuilly-sur-Seine in 1944.


The optimism just shines through his work here, not to mention his spirit of playfulness and freedom, liberated from the traditional constraints of the past. (This painting is titled Several Circles (1926) and can be found in New York City’s Guggenheim Museum).

Below are random photos of the cemetary – these yellow flowers are ceramic.

Neuilly, Sept 27, 2014 023Neuilly, Sept 27, 2014 031I can’t think of a more touching tribute of a husband’s love for his wife. Evelyne died at the age of 56.  Emiliano, ten years her senior, will be buried beside her when he dies. To my adored wife, love is stronger than death, I will love you for eternity.Neuilly, Sept 27, 2014 032What is CT, I wonder.  Some sort of sect or secret society?Neuilly, Sept 27, 2014 013Neuilly, Sept 27, 2014 025And this is about as colourful as it gets here in autumn, at least in Paris and the outlying burbs.  I miss the dramatic autumn colours of Canada.Neuilly, Sept 27, 2014 034

burgers and fries, the new gastronomie française


As a North American, I can hardly get excited over a platter of burgers and fries, but that’s exactly what Parisians are doing following the opening of a new burger chain called BIG FERNAND.

A (French) colleague walked into my office this afternoon and asked “Do you eat hamburgers?”

Only since the 1970s, I wanted to say.  Like all North Americans, my entire adolescence revolved principally around cheeseburgers, fries and milkshakes eaten at places with classy names like Big Moe’s, Johnny’s and Burger Palace.

Remember having the munchies and piling in the car with your girlfriends around 11 o’clock on a Friday night to drive off for a burger and fries while singing (loudly) to Elton John’s “Bennie and the Jets” playing on the 8-track?  

Sorry, I just had a 1970s flashback moment.  Darn, I miss those days.

“Yes, I do eat hamburgers.” I replied to my colleague’s question, “Why do you ask?”  

“I’ve just had lunch at BIG FERNAND,” she said excitedly, “You know…the new burger place up the road?”

And I’m thinking…..why would that be cause for excitement?  

Everybody’s talking about BIG FERNAND.  According to her, the burgers are amazing – they’re not called hamburgers, but rather hamburgésthey come topped with a variety of French cheeses and a meal with fries, burger and a drink costs around 14 euros.  And not only at Big Fernand, but all over town in cafés, restaurants and bistros, Parisians are heartily tucking into platters of burgers and fries, with maybe a side of slaw and washing it down with a giant Coca-Cola, as if they were in a Shake Shack in the States!

And this is why I wrote, in my August posts from London, that I found the food scene infinitely more inspiring and innovative in London than here.

Burgers and fries.  The new gastronomie française.