Je ne sais quoi…

Things I see people reading…

Posted in Uncategorized by jenesaisquoi on March 20, 2015

2015-03-20, paperback, For one more day, Eric Alborn, Female, 30s
2015-03-24, paperback, Trigger Warning, Neil Gaiman, Female, 20s
2015-04-02, hardback,The Buried Giant, Kazuo Ishiguro , Female, 40s
2015-04-09, paperback,Still Alice, Lisa Genova, Female, 30s
, Pergilah Air Mata, Hanni Rams
2015-04-30,paperback,Thirteen hours,Female,30s
2015-05-09,paperback,No way to say goodbye,..ina …artlin,Female,40s

Notes from Meetup visit to Opera Gallery

Posted in Uncategorized by jenesaisquoi on August 10, 2013

I joined the group on Meetup.com and I attendeed the Visit To Opera Gallery event, which turned out to be amazingly interesting and fun.

I’ve always been attracted to modern art, ever since I started buying some of the first copies of Catherine Millet‘s Art Press manazine during the mid-80s.

As a teenager or a young adult, I mostly always hated art in the way it was taught at school, or in its most socially prevalent forms (either churches, or landcapes, portraits, still life, on the walls of rich and mostly dull people I could not relate to.) I initially didn’t realize there was something else out there… until I started reading Art Press.

Art Press was an amazing magazine because it would cover an ecclectic mix of graphic arts, music, architecture, photography, sculpture, litterature, philosophy, movies and had none of the stuffiness and pedantism I hated in “conventional art”. It could also cover classic pieces, or art forms, but with enough irreverence and audacity that it really made these things interesting.

So it really blew my mind.  Some examples: (from memory, so may be somewhat factually innacurate, but reflecting my recollection of that time and the influence it had on me)

  • Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain
  • articles on Picasso, all out of print now, but here or there, some by Philippe Sollers, an avant-garde essayist and writer, explaining how at the end of his life he basically turned to just painting pissing women (example). I think we can all agree that this was not the Picasso lawyers and real estate agents talked about during golf and tea parties, right? So it really opened my eyes.
  • an article about Norman White’s Helpless Robot. (an interesting experiment playing on people’s expectations of robots)
  • articles about Michelangelo Antonioni movies I loved to watch
  • … and many more…

So anyway, I wanted to write a few notes about the gallery visit, a quick word about the visit itself and then notes about the group discussion afterwards.

The visit itself: The artists exposed at Opera Gallery are really interesting and mostly completely aligned with my intests in art, as briefly hinted above.  The young lady from the gallery,  who gave us the tour, made things enjoyable, with her nice and unassuming introduction to the place and the pieces  (and her cute Australian accent?). I will need to go back for a second visit, because besides the already famous artists I already knew about, there were quite a few interesting ones I did not know about… and of course I couldn’t remember the names!

After the visit, we had dinner. Congratulations to Catherine for managing to herd us all to a place where there was both enough space and food. (I am not sure if that was art, but it was definitely an achievement). During and after dinner, Catherine was really good at bombarding us with questions, which got the conversation going at our end of the table.

So, I learned a bit about Pissaro, who was mentioned by Amy: wikipedia has him down as an impressionist and neo-impressionist, and then also about Caravaggio who was mentioned by Catherine.

After the discussion on Caravaggio and Catherine’s mention of the sometimes brutal aspects of his pieces inspired by mythology, I commented that even children’s litterature in it’s original form can be pretty violent, and I took the example of the Grimm fairy tales. As a coincidence, I happened to be listening to a BBC News podcast the day right after our meeting, and they ran a segment just on that topic! They explained how the original version of these “children stories”, copied and sanitized by Walt Disney and told to many kids around the world, is actually pretty much all blood, murder, sex and violence. If you want to hear it, here the link to the audio of the BBC segment, (This is the complete 30 minutes BBC News podcast so you will need to skip to the end, 23 minutes into the podcast, to hear the part about Grimm).

I also wanted to explain a bit my comment about “Taxi Drivers and modern art”, since I think I might have shocked a few people. I picked “taxi drivers” as an example of “laymen” or “the every day people around”, who would usually not have an education or an interest in art. (It is kind of easier to pick taxi drivers as an example, because in my experience, they are sometimes talkative and rarely shy about their opinions.)

The classic reaction I wanted to explain is the typical one when you tell them that Marc Rothko paintings like this are worth millions:

  • “My three year old kid could paint that!” (to wich my answer is “Sure. Let your kid try, and maybe you won’t have to drive a cab anymore”)
  • “I don’t understand this kind of art” (“OK…. but why do you think there is something to understand in the first place?”)

So anyway, I want to make it clear that I have nothing against taxi drivers in particular or as individuals… as long as I don’t have to ask them to drive me somewhere or have an opinion about art, they generally are just fine people.

I apologize if you happen to know taxi drivers as friends or family. Maybe you just need to teach them how to use the GPS/Radio terminal they all have in their taxi to enter a postal code or find an address, and then people will gradually have a better opinion of them? Over time, people might stop complaining and unfairly using them as examples of dumb people? Or… maybe I will learn the location of all the brothels, horses or football betting places in Singapore, and then I will be able to clearly explain where I want to go relative to these locations, at wich point I will have no more gripe about taxi drivers because I will have learned to speak their language!

Interestingly, there is a parallel but musical version of my point made by the band Dire Straights in their song “Money for nothing”. Do you know that song? Read the section called “controversy” and the quote from Knopfler: “The singer in “Money for Nothing” is a real ignoramus, hard hat mentality – somebody who sees everything in financial terms. I mean, this guy has a grudging respect for rock stars. He sees it in terms of, well, that’s not working and yet the guy’s rich: that’s a good scam. He isn’t sneering.”

There is no such thing as a “croissant au chocolat”!

Posted in Uncategorized by jenesaisquoi on September 3, 2012

Do I sound annoyed? Well, I am!

A new bakery has opened in Singapore. Yes, yet another “French bakery”.

According to the advertisement, it is supposed to be all authentic, real French, “Gontran Cherrier” and all that. I like places like that, (the more choice the better!) so I was pretty excited.

They opened two locations in Singapore. One at 56 EngHoon Street#01-70 Singapore 160056, and one in Raffles City Shopping Center (City Hall MRT), at the basement.

So I tried it, and I loved it. The place even sells a (relatively) obscure Breton cake called “Kouign Amann“! Kouign amann in general is an amazing thing, and I must say that theirs is excellent. So are the croissants, and so are the… wait a minute… what the $%@*& is that? “Chocolate Croissant”?

A photo of pains au chocolat with the incorrect name tag

My dear Gontran, do you know what they are using your name for in Singapore? They are calling the pains au chocolat “chocolate croissants”!

I need to set the record straight.

There is no such thing as a “Chocolate croissant”!

A “croissant” is a “crescent“, named after the shape of the viennoiserie. Like the shape of the moon, or the sign you see on the top of mosques.

The pain au chocolat is not in the shape of a crescent and is therefore not called a croissant. It is simple, really. There are “croissants aux amandes” (almond croissants) and they are in the shape of a croissant. But a pain au chocolat is a pain au chocolat, not a croissant.

It is quite amusing to see this business cashing in on the French image of the “boulangerie”, presumably licensing the recipes, the name, training the staff (maybe?)… and yet they can’t even be bothered to get the names right. It feels a bit like Asian factories writing Engrish on their clothes, or Americans incorrectly adding “le” or “la” in front of anything they wish would be food or love related: you don’t know if you should be amused or annoyed, and end up being both!

Is it that they somehow feel that they have to simplify the name for the American influenced Singapore consumers, who all watch “soccer“, think Oreo or Milo are actual flavors (and swear on their childhood memories that this is such a Singaporean thing), and so obviously can’t be challenged to learn the new word “pain” when they already worked hard to learn “croissant”? But then… I don’t think so: Gontran! You also sell properly named kouign amann, right next to the offending “Chocolate croissants”! You did not try to rename these, even though kouign amann pronunciation competitions are spreading in office pantries all around Singapore as fast as the word gets out!

It is even more amusing, when you notice that Starbucks sells the same viennoiserie, and they managed to almost name and label it correctly! Gontran, are you not ashamed? Outdone by Starbucks (Note that Starbucks seems to have a knack for languages: I can hardly order anything there, because I don’t speak Italian! The difference is that a “large coffee” (even a bad one) is not especially Italian, whereas a “pain au chocolat”… well, it may not be originally French (what is?), but  it’s still quite distinctively French I think.

Correct name at Starbucks

Starbucks: correct name. Work on the actual product looks and taste still required.

So anyway, for the record, the ridiculously named “chocolate croissants” from Tiong Bahru Bakery by Grontran Cherrier taste much better than the correctly named “pains au chocolat” from Starbucks. And you can even buy wonderful kouign amann there. Enjoy!

Fuck the future, who cares? We’ll be dead!

Posted in Uncategorized by jenesaisquoi on December 11, 2010

In reply to my dear friend.

Look, this may sound a bit offensive, but what is this mad race to have babies, more babies, ever more babies about, when we don’t even know how to educate, feed, and generally provide a healthy life to the ones we already have?

  • We don’t have enough food.
  • We don’t have enough energy.
  • We don’t have enough drinking water.
  • We don’t have enough teachers to educate children.

Hell, we can’t even control the whole thing anymore!

Many of these kids born in the “tough luck” parts of the world (with fewer flat screen TVs and Hollywood movies) are already waking up to the truth of their condition.

We thought we could cut corners, just not care, avoid spending the money on their education. (They are far away, in another country, you know, just let them read this or that holy book, deal with their “government”, sell them kalashnikovs and let them prosper).

So they pray instead of learning, and they procreate instead of eating, and there are more and more of them, and they are HUNGRIER and come in LARGER NUMBERS than your kids.

And now they too want a flat screen TV, and an ipod, and a share of that clean water and that same burger you thought you could buy just for your kid. And they want to sit next to your kid at school.

They start boarding our cargo or holiday cruise ships. They are done using guns on each other, they switch to weapons-grade uranium and turn to one brand of jihad or the other.

So, what do we do?

Well, we change the design of our refrigerators so we can stick a “green compliant” label on them. WONDERFUL!

Oh, we also install security scanners at the airport, to keep all these bad people out. SAFE!

And then… we try really hard to have MORE KIDS so that they consume ever MORE resources and create MORE shit and everybody just has to ever WORK HARDER and find ways to create MORE food, MORE mind numbing entertainment, MORE pure water, MORE techniques to keep the bad hungry 50% of humanity out of the peaceful playground where OUR kids play with bambi dolls and jingle bells.

Do we seriously think this is going to work out?

Do we really think it matters at all, if we have 2.x or 2.y kids per family in — where again? — Singapore?
Does our lipstick color match with our dress?

In the real world, outside of the walled gardens and narrow minds of our political systems, the birth rate DOES matter.

Check this out.

Then, I suggest that instead of worrying about the birth rate in Singapore, we apply our mind to something like:

  • how are we going to safely recycle the nuclear fuel that will be used to generate the electricity to power the car that your kid will drive? or
  • What are we going to do with all these people when they get old and can’t work?

I find these to be both more interesting and relevant questions. Until someone can articulate an answer I will agree with, as a personal choice, for the time being, I stick to this.