Vintage letters from a sign at the French restaurant AU COQ DE BRUYERE, photographed on my dining table. I purchased these wooden letters from Agape in Paris, along with the letter "B" and three large zinc letters, unrelated to the restaurant. Each letter is nearly two feet tall, with faded red paint; the backs are painted green!
Am hoping to eventually collect enough old letters to decorate one wall. The word "DARE" is the short version of my philosophy of life - dare to open your heart; dare to take a risk and dare to try something different.
My friend Gabrielle has recently closed her antiques shop to concentrate on decorating and design projects. Among the antiques up for sale is this magnificent Neoclassical Empire bureau (circa 1801-1815, the French First Empire under Napoleon).
The photo of the trim on a drawer shows the fleur de lys-shaped lock. Without the original key, the cabinet would be impossible to open.
Many of Gabrielle's items will soon be offered for sale in Tara's Treasures in my sidebar. If you are interested in purchasing the grey marble-topped Empire bureau, email me for further details.
For Poetry Thursday, recollections of a long-ago sultry summer fever:
It's only a fever, I tell myself.
It will pass, this fire of longing
that has me firmly in its grip.
I will forget the words of love
you whisper in my ear
and the poetry you write
across my heart,
tracing the words on my body
as I tremble with desire.
I won't remember these sensations
consuming me with passion,
making sleep impossible.
Soon it all will be a distant dream:
it's only a fever, after all
or possibly delirium.
Fever either burns itself out
or its victim succumbs.
The U.S. Congress is renewing efforts to force the privacy-invasive and unfunded REAL ID mandate, even though 16 states and thousands of individuals have asked the government to abolish the act. A provision smuggled into the immigration reform bill would effectively force every American to present a standardized national ID in order to get a job. Further, the provision would establish a huge "employment verification" system filled with personal information.
The proposal is set for a floor vote next week. Please telephone your senator now to stop the national ID expansion.
This bill highlights a main concern about REAL ID: that once in place, uses of the IDs and database will expand to facilitate a wide range of tracking and surveillance activities. While the Social Security number started innocuously enough, it has become a prerequisite for a host of government services. Further, it has been co-opted by private companies to create massive databases of personal information.
The proposed employment verification system is bound to contain errors impacting millions of Americans. Along with inevitable delays implementing REAL ID, that could present unnecessary hurdles when applying for jobs. The verification system would also make private information more vulnerable to government misuse, security breaches and identity theft.
The more uses created for REAL ID, the harder it becomes to get the Act off the books entirely. Tell your senators to fix this part of the immigration bill by supporting Senate Amendments 1236 and 1441. To learn more about REAL ID, visit the Electronic Frontier Foundation's issue page and the American Civil Liberties' Union REAL ID webpage.
The United States Senate has subpoenaed the White House to release documents related to its surveillance of domestic terror suspects. The Senate Judiciary Committee asked Bush administration officials to provide the papers for an inquiry into the controversial spying program.
The administration has refused a series of requests to release the documents. President George W. Bush rejects claims he broke the law by ordering surveillance without first securing warrants. Initiated after the 9/11 attacks, the program enabled the government to monitor overseas e-mail and telephone communications of Americans suspected of ties to terrorists. While the President claims wartime powers allowed him to authorise surveillance without a warrant, critics contend he violated Americans' civil liberties.
The secret program became public in 2005 and is the focus of several lawsuits. "This subpoena authorization is a critical first step toward uncovering the full extent of the NSA's (National Security Administration's) illegal spying and the role that telecommunications companies like AT&T played in it," said Electronic Frontier Foundation Staff Attorney Kevin Bankston. "Considering that it's been almost six years since the NSA started spying on Americans without warrants and over a year since that spying was revealed publicly, these subpoenas are long overdue. It's high time for Congress to get to the bottom of this mess."
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is suing AT&T for illegally assisting in the NSA spying. The government has asked the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to dismiss the case, claiming that the lawsuit could expose state secrets. "Our case against AT&T includes evidence from a former employee that points to a massive spying program impacting millions of people -- a program far broader than the government has admitted to," said Bankston. "Americans deserve to know the truth about the NSA program."
Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told reporters the committee's attempts to obtain information through testimony of administration officials have been met "with a consistent pattern of evasion and misdirection. There is no legitimate argument for withholding the requested materials from this committee."
The White House has until July 18 to comply with the demand. A White House spokesman told the Associated Press that the White House is "aware of the committee's action and will respond appropriately. It's unfortunate that congressional Democrats continue to choose the route of confrontation." It's unfortunate that the Bush administration continues to choose the route of deliberate obfuscation and denial.
Alas, this painted hanging cabinet was already sold by the time I arrived at Agape's special showing two weeks ago on Boulevard Raspail, Paris. Then again, I wouldn't have had room for it. The cabinet is resting on a zinc-covered industrial table.
This must have been George Bush's idea. Because the words Iraq, false evidence and complete denial of the reality on the ground come to mind when I think of Tony Blair. When he first became prime minister, many people had high hopes he would lead Britain with intelligence and make thoughtful, measured decisions. Instead, his checkered record as prime minister - particularly once he aligned himself with George W. Bush - speaks for itself.
In six years, he has been unable to persuade George Bush to do anything about the Middle East. Why would anyone think - with the terrible legacy of Iraq and Blair's consistent practice of spinning the story - he could be even remotely successful in achieving anything in the Middle East, much less peace? After his unfailing support of war in Iraq, few Arabs will trust him. His appointment would mean little, if any progress would be made towards Middle East peace; just more spinning of the status quo.
The majority of his own countrymen no longer respect Tony Blair; why would the Arabs? Some Israelis might support the idea of Blair in the role of a peace envoy, since Blair did nothing when Israeli cluster bombs were raining down on Lebanon last year. But the Arabs? Why on earth would they want their fate linked to Tony Blair's so-called diplomatic skills? Blair seems delusional, even when faced with the facts. On so many levels, his appointment would be a bad idea. Please say it isn't so!
Perhaps it was to be expected that nothing would be easy for a woman who had endured so much. After all, Vanessa Valencia's Strange Beautiful Lady II is a woman accustomed to facing - and overcoming - challenges. By her nature, she's a survivor, determined to rise above her circumstances and circumvent all obstacles. Thus the curious adventure she embarked upon when arriving in Paris might have been predicted.
After clearing customs at Aeroport Charles de Gaulle, the Strange Beautiful Lady should have been chaffeured toute de suite to her new home. Instead, after being released from the restricting confines of "the Foreign Delivery Unit," she spent a week touring various French venues, her whereabouts a mystery.
Meanwhile the artist and the Lady's new hostess fretted and worried, commiserating via multiple emails and wringing their hands over the leaden effects of Mercury in retrograde. So concerned was she about the Lady's whereabouts, the artist fell asleep dreaming about painting another Strange Beautiful Lady. But of course, the real one, undaunted, was exploring a new country. She practiced her French while learning about La Poste's sudden aversion to speed, maps and door entry codes.
On Saturday morning, her anxious hostess received a glimmer of hope. La Poste telephoned to say la colis had been found, but the delivery person couldn't find the recipient's name on the door panel. Obviously the name couldn't be seen as the delivery person had not asked the code to enter the building, behind which doors the panel in question awaited. La Poste's representative laughed, agreeing the delivery person hadn't tried very hard to deliver the package. But she promised la colis would be delivered Monday morning.
Jubiliant that it appeared the Strange Beautiful Lady soon would reach her destination, the hostess hung up the phone. Then she remembered another, smaller package was en route to her residence. Perhaps la colis was that package and not the Strange Beautiful Lady? Another two days and nights of worry commenced.
But the Strange Beautiful Lady was unphased by the latest twist in this long saga. She spent the weekend languishing in a crowded room at La Poste, conversing with other foreign travelers awaiting transport.
Late Monday morning, at last the Strange Beautiful Lady arrived at her new home. Swathed in glamourous pink and black polka-dot tissue paper, she took a long look at her surroundings. She noticed her hostess's collection of bejeweled and sparkly Madonna crowns. Surely, if one had to leave behind the stark beauty of the Arizona desert, at least an eccentric fashion sense would be appreciated here?
Perhaps she could try on that faux sapphire-encrusted crown, a colour that matched her eyes? Or maybe the simple elegance of the laurel wreath entwined with gold leaves would best suit her style? And so the Strange Beautiful Lady began settling into life in Paris.
Strange Beautiful Lady II, acrylic on canvas painting by Vanessa Valencia; photo courtesy of Vanessa Valencia.
By now you've probably heard that BBC correspondent Alan Johnston's kidnappers have videotaped him wearing an explosives vest. His captors have threatened to detonate it, if any attempt is made to rescue him. In a short video, Johnston's kidnappers - a Palestinian splinter group calling itself "Army of Islam" suggest recent negotiations with Hamas were making progress until Hamas threatened force to obtain Johnston's release. Johnston has been held for 105 days, allegedly by the Dogmush clan in Gaza.
All too often, journalists are pawns in a dangerous game. This weekend in Iraq, a female journalist, an activist and a teacher were shot dead. Were any of these murders widely reported? No. One is barely able to process one death before another occurs in such a violent, lawless place. Today an Iraqi television anchorman was among those killed in a bomb blast at a Baghdad hotel.
Freedom of Information Act still threatened in Britain
Meanwhile a Constitutional Affairs Select Committee is urging the British government to scrap its "unnecessary, unpopular and undesirable" reforms of the Freedom of Information Act. Under the proposed changes, an estimated 17,000 requests for information could be refused. This would mean that Members of Parliament, campaign groups and journalists would have to ration requests or risk their inquiries being rejected.
The Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, is said to be committed to FOI Act changes to "reduce the burden of administration on civil servants." But critics say the changes are a cynical ploy to undermine the media, as well as opposition MPs who use FOI legislation to help uncover information about the government. The Constitutional Affairs Select Committee concluded there is "no objective evidence that any change is necessary. There is clear evidence that the proposed amendments could be open to manipulation and abuse."
Photo of refugees in Sudan by Mark Brecke. Learn about Brecke's new film They Turned our Desert into Fire, view a video interview with Brecke and get information about a traveling exhibition of photographs of refugees fleeing the violence in Darfur.
Read more about Darfur and see how you can help in the "Not on Our Watch" campaign. If you maintain a weblog, consider joining Bloggers for Darfur. And read about Amnesty's Instant Karma campaign for Darfur.
I have many secrets - and most of them will remain secret. But for Sunday Scribblings, I'll spill one:
Some of you are familiar with my breathy, little-girl voice. Previously, I've written about the effects of my voice on the telephone: either the caller asks to speak to my mother or is intrigued and wants to know more about me. I've told you about a man in San Francisco who liked my voice so much, he kept phoning me on silly pretenses. One day he showed up at my office, hoping to meet me. It wasn't the first time that had happened. What I didn't tell you is that a man I met in the course of a news story found my voice appealing and offered me a job as a phone sex operator.
He and his girlfriend took me out to lunch and tried to tempt me with a) money; b) the stories I could regale readers with and c) the interesting things I'd learn about men. A newspaper editor tried to encourage me to masquerade as a phone sex operator for the story value. Posing as my concerned boyfriend, he went with me to the company's upscale offices off Market Street. We were both curious to see how their business was conducted.
Predictably, women - some of them hugely fat; others dressed chicly in the styles of the moment - sat in cubicles, moaning "Oh,baby," etc. etc. into the phone, while knitting a sweater or filing their nails. They seemed jaded and bored, as they murmured whatever the men on the other end of the phone wanted to hear. It was a sad environment, with the business owner raking in tons of money from apparently lonely and needy callers.
I told the editor - and the owner who'd offered me the job - I couldn't do it, even for a day. The business owner couldn't believe I wouldn't take advantage of my "sexy voice," to "make lots of money," but the editor was relieved. He seemed disillusioned by the matter-of-fact business-like environment at the phone sex office. Perhaps he was expecting women to be sitting around in various stages of undress while talking about sex to strangers?
Ironically, in New York my voice once proved detrimental in a job interview. A female executive at a public relations agency wouldn't hire me because she thought my voice "wasn't strong enough or authoritative enough." She had a raspy cigarette-fueled voice, so I told myself she was just jealous.
Nature's powers of renewal continually amaze me. This hortensia (aka a hydrangea) on our balcony has survived five springs. It suffered a dousing of toxic chemicals when the building was sand-blasted and in 2006, some sort of terrible blight appeared to infect even the roots. I thought the plant had finally succumbed to disease. So imagine my delight when bright pink blossoms and lush green leaves recently re-emerged, helped along only by sunshine and rainwater. A reminder never to lose hope, whether the regrowth of a plant is involved or anything else in life.
My guess is that 99.7 percent of all these people protesting about the author Salman Rushdie's knighthood and calling for him to be beheaded have never read The Satanic Verses or any of Rushdie's books. These organised protests are clearly a deliberate ploy to incite emotion and inflame hatred against the West and detract from serious problems in their own countries (i.e. Pakistan and Iran). I'll say it again, ignorance, poverty and oppression - the root causes of all these troubles.
Iran previously has accused the United Kingdom of attempting to interfere in their internal affairs. Queen Elizabeth's recognition of Rushdie's body of work by bestowing a knighthood or any other honour is her right and has nothing to do with Iran, Pakistan or any other country. The traders and protesters should focus on fixing problems in their own countries, rather than interfering in another.
And so George Bush's ill-conceived troop "surge" begins: in the past 3 days, 14 American soldiers died in Iraq. The US military said the death toll for the month-to-date is 59.
The Associated Press reports at least 3,545 Americans have died since the war began in 2003 and thousands more have been seriously injured.
Thousands of Iraqis, including civilians, have been killed in the conflict. And many British soldiers and journalists of all nationalities have fallen victim to war in Iraq and Afghanistan.
An excerpt from Alice Walker's poem "Not Children:"
"War is no
"...It is something
A cowardly servant
to be spread out
"The only thing
For 125 euros, your child or grandchild could have a taffeta dress based on designs during Marie-Antoinette's days at Versailles, France.
This dress trimmed with white satin ribbon and wide lace is one of the more imaginative souvenir items for sale at gift kiosks in at least four locations in the main buildings at Versailles. It might serve as a "flower girl's" dress worn in a spring or summer wedding.
Update: NBC has reportedly pulled out of a scheduled interview with Paris Hilton. CNN reports that Hilton will be interviewed Wednesday on Larry King Live.
As a journalist and as an American, I find this story a sad commentary on our society, where it seems it's all about the money. The rich get richer (Paris Hilton, who has never done anything newsworthy with her fame or money); serious news is outmuscled by "celebrity lite" and a major television network is willing to pay a million dollars to talk to a troubled young woman who has accomplished nothing. Surely they don't regard Miss Hilton as a positive role model for their younger viewers?
If NBC has that kind of money to throw around, why don't they donate it to charity, where it might do some good? Whatever Miss Hilton has to say, it's not worth $1 million or the blow to the reputation of NBC News or The Today Show for airing such a segment.
The US government needs a search warrant to seize and search emails stored by email service providers. The landmark ruling Monday in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals determined that email users have the same reasonable expectation of privacy in their stored email as in their telephone calls.
Over the last 20 years, the government has routinely used the federal Stored Communications Act (SCA) to secretly obtain stored email from email service providers without a warrant. But the court's ruling - closely following reasoning in a brief filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and other civil liberties groups - determined that the SCA violates the Fourth Amendment.
"Email users expect that their Hotmail and Gmail inboxes are just as private as their postal mail and their telephone calls," said EFF Staff Attorney Kevin Bankston. "The government tried to get around this common-sense conclusion, but the Constitution applies online as well as offline, as the court correctly found. That means that the government can't secretly seize your emails without a warrant."
The case Warshak v. United States was brought in the Southern District of Ohio federal court by Steven Warshak to stop the government's repeated secret searches and seizures of his stored email. The district court ruled that the government cannot use the SCA to obtain stored email without a warrant or prior notice to the email account holder, but the government appealed that ruling to the 6th Circuit. EFF served as an amicus in the case, joined by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Democracy & Technology. Law professors Susan Freiwald and Patricia Bellia also submitted an amicus brief and the case was successfully argued at the 6th Circuit by Warshak's counsel Martin Weinberg.
Judge orders FBI to release records
Meanwhile, a judge has ordered the FBI to release agency records about its abuse of National Security Letters (NSLs) to collect Americans' personal information. The ruling came a day after the Electronic Frontier Foundation urged the judge to immediately respond in its lawsuit over agency delays.
In April, EFF sued the FBI for failing to respond to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request about the misuse of NSLs, as revealed in a Justice Department report. This week, the Washington Post uncovered more evidence of abuse. On Thursday, the EFF urged the judge to force the FBI to stop stalling and release its records on the program.
"The reports we've seen so far about NSL abuse are just the tip of the iceberg," said EFF Staff Attorney Marcia Hofmann. "FBI officials told the Washington Post that there have likely been several thousand total instances of misuse. Americans deserve answers about this scandal and how the FBI has abused its power to spy on ordinary citizens."
Under the US Patriot Act, the FBI can use NSLs to obtain private records about anyone's domestic phone calls, emails and financial transactions without any court approval -- as long as it claims the information could be relevant to a terrorism or espionage investigation. Without a judge's oversight, the law is ripe for such abuse that has been uncovered in these recent reports.
"The law itself is the source of the problem. It's time for Congress to repeal these expanded NSL powers and protect Americans from this abuse of authority," said Hofmann.The judge's order requires the FBI to process 2500 pages of NSL-related records by July 5 and then 2500 pages every 30 days thereafter.
Poster from Micah Wright's Propaganda Remix Project
He haunts her, this ghost
a gentle apparition of pain
that wafts through her dreams
stirring emotions best undisturbed
in waking hours.
She didn't want to believe
what the mystic told her in Arabic
about the one she could never forget,
who would keep her heart engaged
and her emotions detached.
Four men, he said
would remain constant friends.
But that true mirror of her soul?
The opportunity was lost
in this lifetime.
She could not imagine
that all these years later
his words would ring true.
And there was nothing to be done
about continental divide.
But when two strangers met
on the Ides of March on an island,
they recognised each other instantly.
Even as love blazed a trail,
Their journey once written in the stars
soaring above the moon's shadow;
then the map vanished and
their path was abandoned.
From exile, desolate hearts remember.
Taos Pueblo photograph by Howard Ranier, courtesy of the Blue Rain Gallery, Taos, New Mexico. Poem written for Poetry Thursday.
It seems I've done this meme before. But here's another eight random things, by request of my poetic friend Rob Kistner:
1. I am mad about Art Nouveau and Arts and Crafts design (in case you couldn't tell by all the photos above). I could look at it for hours without getting bored. The organic swirls and patterns of Art Nouveau and the simple yet sophisticated lines of Arts and Crafts and William Morris patterns delight me. If I suddenly came into lots of money, I'd have an Arts and Crafts style house, with a room or two full of French furniture. As it is, I'm lucky to have a few pieces of both styles - but no permanent abode. Then again, is anything really permanent? Lately I have been struck by just how fragile antique pieces of furniture can be, as I applied woodworm killer to yet another wooden cabinet.
2. I have a near-phobia of going to the dentist or periodontist. It isn't helped by the fact that as I have a minor heart problem, I must take two antibiotics one hour before arriving at my appointment. This means I start anticipating pain well before the appointment and feel ill all the way there. I had a periodontist visit today - he is like a sweet but eccentric mad scientist, who laughs and jokes as he digs into one's gums, without anesthesia. I felt like one of those cartoon cats that is upside down, clinging to the ceiling, digging its claws in to hold on (as I gripped the arms of my chair, to keep from leaping out of it).
Afterwards, I went to get sushi for lunch and discovered Douglas Kennedy was at the local branch of FNAC, signing his new book, The Woman in the Fifth. Recently I bought the English version and didn't want to buy another copy in French, just to get him to sign it. Plus the line to meet him was long and I didn't feel like standing there for an hour.
3. I love to travel, although I dislike the actual flights and the incredible hassles involved in reaching a destination. There was a time in my life when I took planes the way many people hail cabs, but no more. If at all possible, I take a train or a short flight.
4. I wish a piano would fit in our bijoux Paris apartment, as I miss playing it, particularly the blues. At one point I could play well, but am woefully out of practice. My daughter showed early talent for the violin, but schoolwork took precedence. As a senior at the American School of Paris, Jordana and her friend Bridgette, who plays guitar, sang in some Paris pubs and bars. In Savannah, Jordana recorded a song with the band Passafire.
5. Champagne is my favourite drink; I despise beer. You know the old saying "champagne tastes and beer pocketbook?"- the story of my life. Recently at an antiques fair a dealer showed me five Italian silver prayer ornaments from the 19th-century. I collect these, along with crosses and other religious artifacts and icons, so was thrilled to see such choices. When I pointed to the one I wanted, the guy smiled and said, "You've picked the most expensive one." "Of course I have!" I responded.
Once in New York I was preparing for a long assignment in the Middle East. In an optician's, I was looking for glasses frames that would clear my high cheekbones and suit my round face. After trying on probably 100 pairs - no kidding - I finally found the perfect frames. The assistant said, "These are the most expensive pair in the store!" My mother says when I was a child I would choose the most pricey dress or pair of shoes. I never looked at the price tags, but I recognised quality when I saw it (although if something is expensive, it doesn't mean it's necessarily the best).
6. When I am "on a roll" writing, hours will pass without me realising it.
7. I have traveled so much and moved so often, I cannot imagine finding one place and staying there the rest of my life. I used to joke that I had suitcases and belongings scattered all over the world and that if I ever got everything in one place, there'd probably be a fire. Despite my appreciation for art and antiques, I try not to become attached to things. It's only in the last seven years that I've started to "nest" and accumulate collections. Prior to that, I was always moving and couldn't carry much with me, other than a few favourite books, CDs and photographs and a collection of stones from wherever I traveled. Then those stones became an airline security issue, so I stopped. Things can be replaced; people can't. It's better to collect friends.
8. My philosophy about life is probably best summed up by the quote "Two things stand like stone: kindness in another's troubles; courage in your own."
So the meme's "rules," are that I tag eight people. But I'm a rebel at heart, so will suggest that anyone who wants to participate in this meme do so on their own blog. Merci bien!
Today the BBC will conduct a vigil to denote the 100th day of captivity for reporter Alan Johnston. Numerous efforts to secure his release from a shadowy splinter group calling itself The Army of Islam have proved futile.
Johnston's colleagues at the Glastonbury festival, on drama sets and in newsrooms in the UK and around the world will pause at 1315 GMT and Johnston's parents are due to release 100 balloons. Johnston's abduction has triggered appeals for his release from lawmakers, the United Nations and many human rights groups. Palestinian journalists based in Gaza have conducted a series of strikes calling for his release. Johnston has been the only Western reporter permanently based in Gaza.
Regular readers of Paris Parfait will recall I studied Spanish last fall in Seville, Spain. At the time I bought a copy of Isabel Allende's just-released novel Ines del Alma Mia. I am a big fan of Isabel Allende's magical realism. Since reading Tales of Eva Luna in 1992, I've read every book Allende's written. So I tried to read her latest book in Spanish, but I am impatient and my Spanish isn't up to it. Hence the subsequent purchase of the English version of Ines of my Soul.
If you know a native Spanish speaker in Paris - who gives lessons and speaks English, please email me. But he or she must speak English; I can't face being instructed in Spanish by someone speaking French, then having to translate both languages in my head to English.
Today is market day and walking down the street, I noticed several French women obviously have spent long weekends at the beach (usually they wait until August), as their skin is tan, but their faces and hands are looking disturbingly leathery. One woman who's probably ten years younger than I looked 20 years older, because of the deep lines on her face. A reminder that nothing is more aging than the sun - please use sunscreen, people and wear hats to protect already over-bleached hair from looking like straw!
Speaking of skincare, isn't it annoying when a product you've come to rely on is suddenly discontinued? My skin is sensitive and I've been using the Body Shop's Cucumber Water since 1983. Now they've stopped producing it and are pushing what sales clerks in Paris and London insist is "the same thing," Jojoba Hydrating Toner. But it's not the same thing, as the new product is very oily (it contains "organic jojoba oil" and "peach kernel oil)." Maybe this is fine for someone with very dry skin, but it doesn't work for combination skin like mine.
The French are remarkably relaxed when it comes to getting things fixed quickly or construction projects completed. They've been renovating the building across the courtyard for months, as many rental apartments are now up for sale. Yet the building maintenance staff hasn't bothered to trim the hedges or maintain the courtyard's appearance.
Two weeks ago I asked the gardien for our building to take a look at the hot water tank in our apartment, as it is seeping water into the carpet in the hallway. He climbed on a ladder and looked at the tank, then said he'd phone a plumber. We've heard nothing since and must now write a letter to the building owner to request a plumber, as well as a letter to our insurance company in anticipation of a claim to replace the carpet.
It took workers six weeks to "modernise" the elevator, during which time the lift was unavailable and everyone - including a heavily pregnant woman - had to walk up and down the stairs carrying groceries, bicycles, etc. I shudder to think if anyone had to move in or out of the building during that time. When the elevator was finally back in service, the only thing that seemed different was the elevator call button.
Meanwhile, for nearly three months I've been boycotting the local Shopi supermarket. After shopping there for six years, one day I walked in with my little cart on wheels. Practically every Parisienne resident has such a cart, to carry around groceries and heavy things. The security guard stopped me and asked to look inside the cart. I showed him that it was empty, but he insisted I leave the cart by the doorway. I argued with him that it was too heavy to lift bottles of water, etc. in the little handbasket they provided - their aisles are too narrow for regular shopping baskets to manuever easily - and that I'd been shopping there for six years using my cart, so why should I stop now? But he ignored my questions - he was only the messenger, after all - and ushered me towards the entranceway.
This incensed me, as yet another example of French bureaucracy with the manager having nothing better to do than make up new rules. So I shook my head and said, "No!" and grabbed my cart and stormed out of the store. And I haven't been back. Now I have to walk further to the next supermarket - which is not as nice as the Shopi I'm boycotting - but it's a matter of principle. After all this time here, I cannot understand French "logic."
Mais oui, the French press is not supposed to talk about politicians' private lives. The new president Nicolas Sarkozy created an uproar when trying to suppress reports that his wife Cecilia did not bother to vote in the second round of the presidential election. When he was interior minister, Sarkozy had the editor of Paris Match fired for writing about his wife living in New York with another man. But Sarkozy and his wife have reconciled. Madame Sarkozy is often photographed at her husband's side; indeed she accompanied him to the G8 Summit in Germany.
On Monday French newspaper headlines were screaming about "le rupture" of Sarkozy's Socialist challenger Segelene Royal and her partner Francois Hollande, after 27 years and four children together. It is alleged that Madame Royal asked Hollande to leave their home, due to his relationship with a young blonde journalist. During the presidential campaign, Hollande often undermined Royal's statements and there were widespread rumours of a rift between the couple. Madame Royal has conveyed her version of events in a book to be released Wednesday. She also has announced her intention to challenge Hollande's leadership of the Socialist party.
On a brighter note, today I received a letter from the dean of my daughter's university, congratulating Jordana for making the Dean's List with a 4.00 gpa. She also earned kudos for a school project for Betsey Johnson. So please indulge a mother's pride, as Jordana really has had to do all this on her own, with us being so far away. She hasn't been able to come home for weekends or every holiday, like most of her classmates. She's had to be independent and I'm so proud of her. Am hoping her senior year will go equally well.
Before - Vintage French school cabinet, found at Julie Isore's Agape special showing last week on Bd. Raspail, Paris.
After - French school cabinet in my dining room, now serving as a buffet cabinet. I finally have a place to display my small collection of Native American pottery from Santa Fe. The oil painting above the cabinet is by Carole Whitmore, a Santa Fe artist. It was a birthday present to myself in 1999.
These three haiku are linked into a collective poem:
Gaping wounds exposed
but we want pretty pictures
truth is hard to take
Even if we close
our eyes to what's happening
the truth will emerge
Believe it or not
we all are responsible
save us from ourselves
One minute she's with us; the next she's gone, unexpectedly and without warning. Many of you knew Daisy, if not in person then through her beautiful whimsical blog posts, her poetry fest, exchanges she organised and her "glitter sisters" art.
While I never had the privilege of meeting Daisy, I admired her intellect, humour, kindness, enthusiasm and boundless energy. We exchanged a few emails about politics in the UK and the US and she wrote encouraging words about my poetry.
Thanks to the internet, Daisy touched the lives of many people she never knew in person. She will be sorely missed, not only by her family and all those who knew her, but by those whose paths she crossed in the blogosphere.
This week many Hamas militants have proved themselves to be killers and thieves. How can they treat their Palestinian brethren with such hatred and contempt? And if they think what they're doing is right, why are they wearing black hoods over their heads and carrying guns, everywhere they go? Why won't they show their faces?
From the Jerusalem Post:
The Gaza Strip home of the late Yasser Arafat was ransacked on Saturday. Frenzied Hamas members carted away furniture, wall tiles and Arafat's personal belongings - even his cherished Nobel Peace Prize. "They stole almost everything inside the house," Fatah spokesman Ahmed Abdel Rahman told the Jerusalem Post," including Arafat's Nobel Peace Prize medal. "The Palestinian people will never forgive the Hamas gangs for looting the home of the Palestinian people's great leader Yasser Arafat."
Six men who once worked in Arafat's presidential guard later came to protect their old leader's house from further damage. "[What's left] is all worthless, but I have to do something," said Abu Mustafa, tying the house's gates shut with string. "No one could stop them. ... We don't have weapons, and we have no power."
Do you know why the French elections have an 85 percent voter turnout? All candidates are given equal airtime and nasty and misleading television advertisements are not permitted. Voters actually make up their minds based on issues and facts, not on negative smear campaigns, events or actions taken out of context and deliberate attempts to distort and manipulate the truth.
If American television networks and cable channels actually cared about Americans - rather than the money the stations rake in from all those mean-spirited political ads - then they would give all candidates running for president equal time and refuse to accept political advertising. They stopped running advertisements for cigarettes and beer for health concerns; why not refuse political advertising, which arguably could be viewed as a mental health issue?
Why can't candidates stand on their own merits, rather than resorting to mud-slinging against their opponents? Why are they afraid for voters to make decisions without negative influences? I'll say it again: we need Al Gore as the Democratic presidential candidate in 2008. The Republicans couldn't get very far in their attempts to tarnish his character or reputation. As Paul Harris writes in The Observer, London, Republicans are already using the internet, books and a film to try to derail Hillary Clinton's White House campaign:
"She's ahead in the polls and on course to become the Democrats' presidential candidate for 2008. So it is no surprise that a right-wing smear campaign is gathering speed to derail Senator Hillary Clinton's bid for the White House. Conservative groups and political figures are planning a film, books and a concerted media campaign to demonise Clinton, who is already one of the most polarising figures in American politics.
"Top of the list of projects is a planned movie, being filmed by veteran Republican operator David Bossie. Bossie is raising money for the film through his conservative group Citizens United, which is appealing for video footage, stories about Clinton and money. It plans a release by the end of the year, just as the first primary elections are held in New Hampshire. Bossie is being helped in the project by Dick Morris, a former top Clinton aide who has become a leading Clinton critic.
"The film aims to delve into past Clinton scandals, such as the Whitewater real estate deals, and to dig up new dirt. 'This project aims to expose the truth about her conflicts in the past and her liberal plot for the future,' said a statement on the film's website. Bossie did not return repeated calls for comment.The film also has the backing of other veteran Republican dirty-tricks campaigners. The chairman of Citizens United is Floyd Brown, a Republican media consultant who worked on the Willie Horton TV ad in 1988 that helped destroy the campaign of presidential candidate Michael Dukakis.
"Citizens United and other Republican groups are set to model their anti-Clinton operation on the notorious Swift Boat campaign that derailed John Kerry's 2004 bid for the White House. That aggressive smear campaign focused on Kerry's Vietnam war record and was seen as critical in President George W Bush's election victory. 'The Swift Boat campaign is going to be a direct model. They have openly come out and said that,' said Terry Krepel, editor of Conwebwatch, a website that monitors the output of conservative news media."
On Friday, I had lunch with a friend at a quiet, lovely restaurant that's also a brocante! First you dine, looking out onto a lovely cobblestone entryway bordered with flowers. This gives the impression you're in a quaint village, not in Central Paris. Then you get to browse in a huge space with a timber-beamed roof. For 36 years, the jovial proprietor has been collecting items for his shop, so there's a wide selection of antiques and collectibles for sale - including an Art Nouveau piano mechanique and an Empire bibliotech! And no, I'm not showing photographs or printing the name or location, as I don't want the restaurant/brocante to lose its charm by being beseiged with customers. But if you're coming to Paris and want to go there for lunch, email me and I'll provide details.
If you're planning a trip to Paris in September or October, be forewarned: it may prove difficult to book a hotel room or apartment. France is hosting the Rugby World Cup 2007, which begins September 7th in Paris and continues through October 20th. During this time, practically every hotel room in Paris will be booked and any free ones may be priced exhorbitantly. Some international organisations have rescheduled meetings originally planned for September, because of the lack of available hotel rooms. So plan ahead and book now!
A hairline crack runs through the lid of this 18th-century pichet at the Foire aux Antiquaires at Place Saint Sulpice, Paris. But I think the pichet's exquisite detail is admirable, despite the damage it's sustained in the last 200 years.
I found these creamware dessert or salad plates from the 1930s at Agape. The plate for June features the Longchamp flat race course, including its distinctive windmill. Longchamp is directly across the street from our apartment.
"...But it had been the battle for the headquarters of Preventative Security in Gaza City which was the bloodiest as well as the most decisive in Hamas's relentless four-day campaign to take control of Gaza. This was not least, according to witnesses, because of a murderous aftermath in which several Fatah activists were dragged from the building and executed in the street." - The Independent, London in an article about violent upheaval in Gaza
Do not underestimate the importance of these news events. What has happened this week in Gaza may change the course of the entire Middle East. By arming Hamas with weapons and funds, Iran - a non-Arab country - continues its attempts to destablise the region and broaden its own power base. Syria, too is believed to be supporting Hamas.
And now front-line moderate states like Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia have a new threat to contend with, as Hamas - who consistently has refused to recognise Israel and decades of peace accords with the Palestinians - has announced it aims to establish an Islamic state. Jordan has concerns that Palestinian in-fighting could spread across the river into its territory, where at least half the population is Palestinian. And Israel certainly won't welcome the prospect of an "Islamic state" virtually on its doorstep.
La Colombe by Pablo Picasso, 1958
Update June 14: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has declared a state of emergency, fired the prime minister and called for new elections. Hamas is reported to be in control of Gaza and infighting is spreading to the West Bank.
These poems written for Poetry Thursday were fueled by news reports that Hamas and Fateh factions continue to kill each other in a bitter struggle for control of the powder keg that is Gaza. Meanwhile chaos ensues, residents live in hardship and fear and any semblance of a Palestinian unity government collapses.
All these years you've fought
and struggled to regain your land,
living as refugees in other countries
at the mercy and kindness of friends
while the West Bank's maps were redrawn
and your homes and farms disappeared.
Many have died for your just cause:
the focus of hundreds of meetings
and United Nations resolutions
and human rights campaigns.
Yet in just a few days of armed conflict,
you unravel decades of hard work.
Your power struggle a violent clash of egos and wills:
where is your respect for your compatriots
and their numerous attempts for peace
You kill each other like gangsters in a turf war;
you reject the good will extended
and soothe your antagonists,
aware that your weapons and hatred are diverted
away from your longtime occupier
into petty squabbles turned into deadly force.
The world's patience wears thin,
watching both sides of the gun.
Where is the honour if you won't help yourselves?
Thousands of people born and died in refugee camps
waiting for the day they could return home;
still an elusive quest,
hindered by political infighting
and ineffective government.
Has constant strain and suffering
while living under occupation
taught you nothing?
Is war the only thing you understand?
Why won't you channel your energies
into positive action; strive for common ground?
Like the ground from which you were forced
the homes that were bulldozed;
your cousins who were arrested;
your friends and colleagues who were killed;
the activists who died trying to ease your plight and
the journalists kidnapped while reporting your stories.
Have you forgotten all those who have gone before you?
Have you so little regard for their efforts
that you would destroy your countrymen's good name
in weeks of madness and mayhem?
Where is your humanity?
Shameful to affirm you are your own worst enemy.
Both sides of the gun II
Ghosts drift through these corridors
all those felled in a fight for justice
their noble efforts mocked by gunmen now
as children cower in corners
and women try to comfort them
while brothers shoot each other
in a violent power struggle
no concern for what's right
or care for their people
no religion fuels their fervor
just rage and anger
and a growing sense of futility
Powerless to change
a festering wound
slowly leaking its poison
until a firestorm ignites
as salaries remain unpaid
and innocents go to bed hungry
Comfort a distant dream
residents shelter in their homes
hoping to wait out the crazed actions
of two militant minorities
determined to have their way
no matter the cost
to life and limb or reputation
blustering little boys in men's bodies
making a bloody last stand
as a fragile government collapses
in ruins at the hands
of those who divide and conquer
But no spoils, whoever the victor
only losers here in this deadly game
on both sides of the gun
undermining the hard-fought gains
achieved after years of struggle and pain
of a nation of refugees scattered abroad
Trying to reclaim their homeland
while the occupying force
remaps the region and seizes their farmland
building walls to keep them out
but such walls unnecessary
when the real divide lies within
The factions fight each other
while their antagonist sleeps soundly
secure in the knowledge
the Palestinians are their own worst enemy
self-destructing at an alarming rate
as the world watches in disbelief
Ed. note: Each of these poems contains 48 lines, a reference to the Arab-Israeli War in 1948. Roots of the current conflict stem from that defining war.
Am interrupting the stream of brocante photos to bring you pictures of autocollants currently featured in Le Bon Marche's window displays. Fish, lily pads and ripples of water comprised entirely of autocollants (stickers) replace a rug in this shop window. The Paris department store has a new line of autocollants in several tendances.
A 1940s crystal chandelier and a plaster bust are among the beautiful items for sale at Sophie Pretelat's Anges et Demons at the Foire aux Antiquaires currently underway at Place Saint Sulpice, Paris.
A collection of seashells, starfish and coral, a seasponge and the amusing touch of manmade pearls decorating one shell. Many of the decorative gifts from the sea are arranged in alabaster, stoneware or ironstone platters. More brocante photos to follow.
A Guignol puppet theatre complete with marionettes is for sale at the Foire aux Antiquaires at Place Saint Sulpice, Paris. The brocante continues from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m daily through June 18th.
Photo of a stone Buddhist figure holding a pyramid of spices at a travel agency on rue Mabillion, Paris.
I grew up longing for something exotic
perhaps a little spicy
anything but my plain white bread upbringing
So I set out for the big city
where I surrounded myself with colourful characters
sampled international cuisine
Developed a taste for the exotic and unusual
visited open-air markets in the Middle East
where the beauty of stacks of bright spices
arranged in towers or pyramids
rivaled the intoxicating smell
in an overwhelming fusion for the senses
Like a child, longing to dip my hands
into the enticing colours
and cover myself head to toe in powders
I sat on a cushion in a Bedouin tent
watching as women deftly mixed spices by hand
like an alchemist's elixir
Tantalising smells wafting past me
as the food slowly cooked to perfection
nothing written down
Recipes shared only within their tribe
I coaxed and cajoled, but all pleas refused.
"The secret's in the spices."
For more spicy tales, visit Sunday Scribblings.
These sculptures at Saint Sulpice are meant to be the focal point of a fountain. No water runs through it at the moment, as extensive renovation on the church nearby continues. The brocante currently underway at Saint Sulpice is arranged around this fountain.
Flowers, enamel light fixtures, jelly glasses and wooden potato baskets are featured in this arrangement at the 30th Foire aux Antiquaires, currently underway at Place Saint Sulpice. The event continues from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily through June 18th. On June 15th, the brocante will remain open until 10 p.m.