In this movie by Chen Kaige (Farewell my concubine), Xiao Chun is a 13 year old violin virtuoso from somewhere in the chinese countryside. He comes with his father to Beijing to find a teacher to help him develop his gift. It’s a tale of fatherly love and sacrifice in a China divided between the old and the new, a society in rapid change where good and bad is to be found on both sides of the development barrier. The language of this film is music which pervades every aspect of the story. The emotions conveyed by the masterful violin solos are incredibly strong and lend wings to the entire movie. I was moved by the film. And I ordered the soundtrack … 😉
P.S. The image is the french poster of the film where the title is translated as “L’enfant au violon“. “Together“ is the english title and in chinese it is “Han ni zai yiki“.
Album of the past few months for me, Lynyrd Skynyrd – All Time Greatest Hits is the ultimate classic rock album. The usual standards Sweet Home Alabama and Freebird (in a great live version with the celebrated 5 minute guitar solo) are present but this is one of those rare cases where every song on the album is good giving you over one hour of non-stop pleasure. Often when I listen to this (and the same is true for Otis Redding, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, Aaliyah who all died way too young), I wonder about all the great music we might have had if Ronnie Van Zant (lead singer and song writer) had not died in a tragic plane crash in 1977. It’s labeled southern rock and KKK music by some. Except for the confederate flag they have on their sets and albums, I found nothing controversial in their lyrics and from an instrumental point of view (guitars !!!), this is milestone stuff. In every style of music there are a few must-haves, this is one for Rock.
During my short stay on the Opal Coast, I went to see an interesting exhibit about one of Boulogne-sur-Mer’s famous citizens : Auguste Mariette a.k.a. Mariette Pacha. Anyone familiar with egyptology will know the name. He is the father of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo and discoverer of quantity of tombs and sites across all of Egypt. He was a sort of visionary pre-Indiana Jones type, a passionate, fearless egyptologist in the early days of egyptology (1850’s) where there was as much treasure hunting as archaelogy going on. A teacher who becomes an archaeologist, adventurer and first Bey then Pacha makes for a great story and the exhibit entitled Gods, Tombs and a Scholar – in Egypt in Mariette Pacha’s Footsteps tells it well. However it ends next week. The website which is quite informative will hopefully stay up longer.
I took this impressive shark’s photo while standing little more than a 40 cm from him… behind a glass wall at one of the giant aquariums of Nausicaä, the French National Sea Experience Centre. It’s a very large complex made up of several interconnecting exhibits aimed at promoting awareness of the marine environment and focused on the relationship between man and the sea. With a mix of entertainment, science and spectacular displays, Nausicaägets it’s point across very well. They insist they’re not an aquarium (they’re much more…) but the aquariums themselves are of course the highlight and are the largest I’ve ever seen. Well worth the visit if you’re in the Pas-de-Calais.
4 days ago, not having had my fill of surfing after Bali (note: I never have my fill of surfing 😉 ) and having seen on Swell-line that a storm was busy churning waves in the Atlantic, I decided to go to the nearest beaches I could find. Those happen to be the beaches of the Opal Coast : the portion of french coastline directly south of Calais (in other words, the most northern beaches of all of France). I had once been to Calais as a kid before taking the ferry to England but I didn’t remember much so the whole region was new for me (the cold water of the channel never seemed to me to be very attractive for surfing which is why I never went…). I ended up having a really good time.
I started off my first day (thursday) at Wissant, a little village with a beautiful beach which is one of France’s most popular funboard sites. Not really a place for surfing but I had a decent session anyway (in a really rough sea) and then went to the hotel I had booked at the last minute : the Hotel du Parc in Hardelot. I booked here with many misgivings but it’s august (high season) and the region didn’t offer that much choice to begin with. I was happily surprised to find a hotel that was significantly better than advertised on their website. It’s smaller than it looks on their site and has quite a lot more charm. I extended my stay for a second night.
Friday started very rainy so I did some sightseeing (more on that later) in Boulogne-sur-Mer. Really a contrasted city with a very ugly modern part and a very nice old town. This is the place where Napoleon spent quite some staring at England and preparing his invasion which never happened. He did leave his mark on the city though and it made for a very interesting morning. With the sun’s return, back to surfing and a really good session at la Pointe aux Oies (between Ambleteuse and Wimereux).
On saturday, I spent the day visiting Le Touquet – Paris Plage, which is the major resort of the area. It has a large typical North Sea beach and a quite animated center with lots of shops and restaurants and, on this sunny summer day, a very nice ambience.
Three days in the Opal Coast. Just enough time to get acquainted… and seduced 😉
For some more info on the region, check out:
– http://perso.club-internet.fr/mvaradi/choix/opale.htm for some nice pix
– A summary overview of all the places along the coast (in french…)+ maps
For those of you coming to Ride Lightning today, you can’t fail to see the obvious changes in the look of the site. The change is more than cosmetic though. I have changed my publishing platform and switched to Movable Type. I want to explain why in this post.
I used to use iBlog, an elegant little desktop application for Mac that gives anyone the possibility to have a blog up and running in about 5 minutes. A great interface, perfect integration with key apps like iPhoto and iTunes, external partners (like Haloscan, Blogsnaps etc…) with which to enhance the functionality, all made me think I had found the perfect blogging tool. No hassle to get the aesthetic I wanted and a solution focused on me getting my content up there the way I want fast.
Why the change and for what ? I moved to what I guess is the most widely used platform : Movable Type. It’s a server side application, a lot more complicated than iBlog. While I’m at it I would like to thank two people specifically here for the invaluable help they gave me in this transition : Guy at Wakatepe (my host) and Elise Bauer who unwittingly gave me tons of useful tips through her wonderful site Learning Movable Type. I moved for the following reasons :
1) I wanted more control over advanced features such as trackback, comments, the html in my posts, pinging, xml etc…
2) I wanted to able to post from anywhere on Mac and Windows. iBlog is Mac only and bound to the computer it’s installed on (I never managed to get blogsnaps to sync correctly between my desktop and my notebook).
3) I wanted a platform that has possibilities for extensions (plug-ins), customisation, evolution and that has a community behind it to support me through the trials and errors that inevitably come with anything related to computers.
4) I wanted safety and easy backup possibilities for the posts I had already written (iBlog started to have a tendency to crash a bit too often for my comfort).
Movable Type seems to be the answer to most of my problems and though I have had to learn a lot fast, I’m quite satisfied for now with what I’ve been able to do with it. I will be adding new functionality and features to the blog as I learn more about this platform. Meanwhile the pleasure of blogging can continue 😉
On a final note, all the previous articles have been imported into the site so nothing was lost during this transition 😉 If you have any remarks about the site’s new look and feel, features you miss or anything else, please do not hesitate to post your comments !
Today I decided to add a section in my menubar with links to blogs I really like. Nothing special about this but I would like to take some time here to comment on the first blog I decided to put in this section : Give me spirit fingers dammit !
One thing I haven’t mentioned until now is that I work in the fashion industry. I don’t have a fashion section on this blog (though who knows, one day….) because by the time I get home I’m usually all fashioned out and prefer devoting my attention to other subjects. Yesterday while looking at the new blogs section on blogcatalog, I saw a new listing Give me spirit fingers dammit ! in a new category : society – trends. I decided to take a look and …. I loved what I saw. Here is a funny blog on trends and fashion seen from the Hong Kong point of view. Anyone who works for a french fashion company knows that asians are very fashion conscious and in cities like Hong Kong, Tokyo and Singapore, they are very sophisticated though they tend to take it all a little seriously. This site is incredibly refreshing taking it all with a grain of salt and sometimes a quite wicked sense of humor (whilst showing a very high level of fashion/trend awareness). I really had a lot of fun reading the posts and I look forward to reading more. Really a highly recommended blog !
OK. It’s been almost two weeks since I returned from Bali and I think I’m ready to write my conclusion. Bali is a great destination. The people are friendly, the island is beautiful, exotic but without the striking poverty which sometimes afflicts this kind of destination. The restaurants and hotels (specifically in the Oberoi district) are at the height of trendiness whilst offering an unbeatable value/price ratio. The shopping is fun and cheap though mainly oriented towards furniture, jewelry, decorative objects and surf wear. From a cultural point of view, there is some stuff to see but it would not justify all by itself going to Bali. For those of you who surf (and this is the reason I went to Bali), Bali is the ultimate destination. The water temperature (no wetsuit 😉 ), the wave consistency and the beauty of the beaches (and sunsets) all make for incredible surfing. The beach break around Seminyak and Legian is good for all levels of surfers and I had a great time. One of the best vacations of my life… I will definitely return !!!
This week, I received my latest Macintosh computer : a dual processor 2Ghz Powermac + 23″ screen. I have been a Mac user since 1991 and have owned about 30 different Macs since then. I’m something of a fanatic (though show me a Mac user who isn’t). I buy high-end Macs and don’t keep them too long which gives me the possibility to stay abreast with technology. I always have one desktop and one notebook (and yes, I also have a PC….).
This latest Powermac is a real beast. It’s huge and it breathes power in it’s aluminum body. And the specs are truly incredible : two 2 Ghz G5 processors, 2 Gb RAM, 128Mb graphics card, 250 Gb hard disk, bluetooth, WiFi, 8x DVD burner. I haven’t really done anything very intensive on it yet so I can’t really say if it’s as fast as it looks but all the benchmarks on this machine seem to be promising. One very good thing about it (definitely compared to earlier powermacs): it’s very quiet. The screen is a real joy to use. It’s bright. It’s huge. On the picture, I put my notebook (12″ screen) next to it so you can compare. It took me a few moments to get used to it’s sheer size. I’ve never had this big a screen and I can still remember what it was like to work on 640×480 resolution so imagine 1920×1200 😉 . But as the nature of progress requires, you immediately adapt your way of working to what you have available to you and enjoy the newfound advantages.
One last thing. The coolest feature that this machine came with is the migration functionality. When you start it up for the first time, it asked me “Do you own an older Mac”. Upon answering yes, it then proposed to transfer all of my existing documents, apps, settings etc… by simply connecting the old mac to the new one with a firewire cable. It worked flawlessly and one hour after having set up the new machine, I was ready to go. My applications, documents, bookmarks, passwords, email accounts, digital photos etc… had all been transferred and set up. Anyone who has changed computers often can identify with the huge hassle it represents. Not this time 😉
I named this blog Ride Lightning mainly as reference to the Metallica album Ride the Lightning and as metaphor for the pace of technological change. I can’t however deny that lightning, being part of the title, has become something of a keyword for me, a trigger for my attention. And today my attention was triggered 😉 There is an article in Wired about a place in New Mexico where the artist Walter De Maria has set up a mile-long grid of 400 steel poles to attract lightning. It’s a permanent work of land art called Lightning Field and you can actually go there on holiday and wait for lightning to strike (happens often in the summer…). It’s apparently quite a spectacle (though I didn’t find any pictures).