Archive for September, 2004

Chantilly, more than whipped cream ;-)

Last Sunday, on what turned out to be the last sunny day of summer 2004, I visited the Château de Chantilly. Beyond being the place of origin of whipped cream (in french : crème Chantilly), Chantilly, which is about 40 km north of Paris, was also the home of that great line of french nobles : the Princes de Condé. This was where they built their castle. The castle I visited is however the result of the many modifications that a quintessential nineteenth century gentleman brought to it. This gentleman was Henri d’Orléans, Duc d’Aumale and fifth son of King Louis-Philippe d’Orléans. The career of Henri d’Orléans was all that one could expect of a gentleman in his days. He was first a soldier, then a businessman, then a scholar and art collector, and finally a generous donor as, upon his death, he bequeathed the castle and all it’s impressive content to the French State. The castle has remained the home of his great collection and is now visitable by the public. Amongst works shown, one can find masterpieces by such great artists as Rafael, Fra Lippo Lippi, Van Dyck and Corot to name but a few. The library is also very impressive and has a very scholarly feel to it with all it’s old leatherbound books and gas lighting. Last but not least, the gardens, “à la française” of course, also make for a nice walk.

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Blast from the Past

Browsing through my iTunes library on my computer, I came across the “I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-To-Die Rag” by Country Joe & the Fish which was performed to memorable effect at the legendary Woodstock festival in 1969. I used to watch the Woodstock documentary with my sisters until we knew all the songs by heart even though all three of us were born after the event. And this song was one of our favorites. We didn’t however really register the nature of the protest or the feeling that could permeate an audience and make them all sing along. We just thought it was a catchy tune and that must be why everyone knew the song. Well today, in september 2004, with the daily depressing news coming out of Iraq, the bombs, the hostages, the chaos, the casualties, I find the song is just as relevant as ever. The atmosphere that surrounds what’s going on in Iraq seems to me as depressing as Vietnam (though without the draft). The political process in the USA and the debate about Iraq seems even more stifled than that surrounding Vietnam. One feels demoralised by it all and just feels like yelling that old infamous Fish cheer all over again: “Give me an F. Give me a U. Give me a C. Give me a K. What’s that spell ? What’s that spell ? What’s that spell ? ”

Given the newfound relevance (in my eyes) of the song, I also found updated lyrics to it on the Country Joe site:

Fixin’ to Lie Rag
by Randall Bart

Come on all you Americans.
Bush is President again.
He found a guy who’s really bad.
The name’s Saddam. He’s in Baghdad.
So show some ID, take off your shoes.
What have you got to lose?

And it’s one, two, three,
What are we searching for?
George said it, it must be true.
I believe in W.
And it’s five, six, seven,
Tell me who I should hate.
There’s no need to wonder why,
‘Cause Presidents never lie.

The USA’s the worldwide cop,
And evildoers must be stopped.
Saddam’s got nukes and poison gas.
Let’s go kick him in the ass.
Conquer the land, sell off the oil.
To the victor goes the spoil.

And it’s one, two, three,
What are we searching for?
George said it, it must be true.
I believe in W.
And it’s five, six, seven,
Tell me who I should hate.
There’s no need to wonder why,
‘Cause Presidents never lie.

Now there’s rebuilding to be done.
Halliburton is the one.
Cheney says they have the skills.
We’re the ones who pay the bills.
So give up your rights. Write me a check.
We’ll make the whole world a wreck.

And it’s one, two, three,
What are we paying for?
Dick said it, it must be spent.
He’s our Vice President.
And it’s five, six, seven,
Tell me who I should hate.
There’s no need to wonder why.
Vice Presidents never lie.

Bergdorf Blondes

I just finished listening to another book from AudibleBergdorf Blondes by Plum Sykes. This is not at all my usual fare but as I work in fashion, every so often, I decide to read up. It’s a fictional account about a twenty-something New York fashion journalist (Plum Sykes herself works for Vogue and is one of Anna Wintour’s protégés so she knows what she’s writing about…) who is well integrated into New York high society. She’s a stereotypical wannabe Park Avenue princess who obsesses about ATM’s (rich boyfriends), rides on PJs (private jets), Manolo’s, Marc Jacobs, diamonds (preferrably Harry Winston) and who’s life has about as much depth as the champagne bubble to which she sometimes compares herself. But I couldn’t help being charmed by her. The story is really funny escapism and reminded me a bit what we in the fashion business are actually trying to sell: dreams of the perfect life. This audiobook was absolutely wonderfully read by Sonya Walger and really makes for a perfect example of how a book can be enhanced a hundredfold when it’s well read. Like with any good book, I was sad when it ended and I had to leave the characters behind. I had fun with Moi. I think I even miss her a little 😉

Sensoji Temple and Japanese Candy

Since I’m not traveling for the time being, I’ve decided to catch up on some of the subjects I’ve hadn’t had time to publish during some of my recent trips. What better way to start then that favourite destination of mine : Tokyo. One of Tokyo’s great temples is Sensoji Temple which is located in the Asakusa area.

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Tokyo’s temples tend to be hidden between two skyscrapers. Not this one. It’s too large for that. It has a nice little japanese garden with all the micro vistas the japanese enjoy so much, a large pagoda, and a huge incense burner where joss sticks are burnt and which you can see smoking away in the central courtyard.

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Like other temples that I’ve seen in Taiwan, Bali or Hong Kong, Sensoji Temple is not exactly a place of religious fervor and doesn’t impress in the same way that a church, synagogue or mosque does. People here are busy having their fortune told or buying favor from the gods. No deep meditation here, just a lot of catering to superstition. I have to admit that in the country of Zen, Haiku, the Tea ceremony etc… I have not yet had the chance to come across these intensely spiritual activities. My japanese friends tell me it’s because I haven’t been to the right places yet (they’re hopefully right). I aim to redress this next time I go to Japan.

Back to Sensoji and one of the nicer features that make it worth going there : the very long covered gallery that serves as access to the Temple. You can find a large sampling of traditional crafts at cheap prices and, best of all, numerous candy shops. Japanese candy is a little “weird” for us westerners (a lot of it is made out of rice…) but, passed the initial surprise, like any candy, it’s really quite delicious. They offer samples at every shop so you can taste before you buy (absolutely necessary for us gai-jin ;-)).

Bumper Sticker of the day

Bumper stickers often capture the spirit of the moment and express opinions about the driver’s take on things. They can be cruel, venomous, hilarious, ironic, cynical… They’re our modern equivalent to the Roman’s lapidar phrase. I came across one I particularly enjoyed yesterday :

Bush : like a rock, only dumber.

Which neatly captures all the issues surrounding this presidential election 😉