28 November 2005

Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon

Apparently, this is an old and popular game on the other side of the Atlantic ocean. And I who thought I was pretty up-to-date with American pop culture. How mistaken I am! Because I only recently discovered it... (but then again I saw Footloose and Flatliners only this year!)
I must say I was quite surprised such thing could exist... The idea, inspired by the "theory" of the Six Degrees of Separation consists of linking any actor/actress you could think of to the actor Kevin Bacon. For instance, there are 3 degrees of separation between Vivien Leigh and Kevin Bacon:
Vivien Leigh was in The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone (1961) with Jill St. John
Jill St. John was in The Player (1992) with David Alan Grier
David Alan Grier was in The Woodsman (2004) with Kevin Bacon
Can't really explain why I'm so fascinated by this highly social game: it's totally crazy when you think of it, a mix of refinement, sophistication, cinema culture and absurdity. I became quickly addicted to its calculated version by the departement of computer science at the University of Virginia: the Oracle of Bacon at Virginia. Make sure to check the "Bacon numbers" and the "How it works" sections. I also recently discovered that this engine is a famous Internet culture classic.
The only thing I could not find out in my further research on the game is why Kevin Bacon in the 1st place? Even the interesting wikipedia page on the subject doesn't provide a satisfying answer.
For the publication of 'Degrees', a book of photographs by Andy Gotts inspired by the game, the Guardian had the opportunity to ask the subject himself about what he had to say about this phenomenon: "I felt as if I was the brunt of some massive joke at my expense: "Can you believe this loser can be connected to Marlon Brando and Katharine Hepburn?""
Well, Kevin, you're no loser to me!! It was a long time ago, in Miami, I was watching TV and saw "She's having a baby" and since then, I've a crush on you, babe...

-- Joëlle.

23 November 2005

Existence preceeds the essence

I visited this evening the exhibition 'Mélancolie', currently at the Grand Palais in Paris. Honestly, if my friend Martin didn't drag me in, I don't think I would have seen it. That would have been a mistake. 'Melancholy' is a wonderful subject but I really didn't know what to expect. Sad paintings all over? Gloomy feeling all the way? Depression waiting for me at the exit? Well, I went anyway - to please a friend. And I enjoyed myself a lot. The exhibition was organized for most part chronologically, from the Antiques to nowadays (yes, it took us 2 hours to go through) but the path was actually pleasing. We saw the meaning of the word evolving through time. From a sin in the Middle Ages to a mark of free-will in the Elizabethan era, from a romantic posture in the 18th century, to a pathology in the 19th century and at the end of it shifting slowly from an urban lonely stance with the Baudelerian Spleen to an existentialist nauseous awareness...
For me, in our contemporary world, melancholy is the necessary symetrical axiom of happiness which could not be sustainable if it was not balanced. This is why I enjoy crying when I go to movies, or listening to sad songs sometimes. And this is also why a Lynch or a Cronenberg dark movie puts me in an exhilarating mood.
As for the exhibition, it would be worth to go if only for the delicate Corot painting of a woman in a white dress, or a series of Odilon Redon drawings (including my favorite - "Le Boulet" - which is an enormous reference for Peter Greenaway). Other interests include a variety of geometrical objects (mostly the Sphere and some sort of muti-facets stones reminding me of 2001 Space Odyssey), skeletons all over of either foetuses or bats, a 16th century portrait drawing of Henry Percy in a symbolic garden (see picture below), 2 masterpieces of Edward Hopper, the Nabuchodonosor of William Blake, Charles Le Brun metamorphosis series (man/wolf, man/fox and man/bear), a Temptation of Saint-Anthony by Jerôme Bosch and I'm going to stop here...
The big question: was it a depressing exhibition? Well, not at all. It was quite playful to actually travel in time and see how artists tried to show the unbearable feeling of living (most of the time though, it's depicted with a man bending his head on the side and holding it with his hand, looking at nothing).
Last bit of fun: in the museum shop, you could try out some fortune telling cards. You'd wonder a question and unveil 2 cards. I did ask a question. And the 2 cards that showed up were "Promotion" and "Success"! Now, could you guess what my question was?...

-- Joëlle.

21 November 2005

The last culinary territory to conquest

Who would have guessed that to convince us to eat worms and ants we just needed an efficient packaging?
Maybe a visionary marketer and/or a gifted designer would have told you one day that anything’s possible, especially the most unexpected.
Well then, use and mix:
1. A good font
2. Colours black and white and/or Transparency
3. Familiar food semantics (lollipop, vodka, crisps..)
4. The reassuring chocolate ingredient
5. Exotic name dropping (thai/green/curry/pearl/mopani/monkey..)
6. Photogenic creatures
7. Prices that make you feel special when you match them (but that are still reachable)
And you get yourself something like “Toffee Scorpion Candy”, “Cheddar Worm Crisps”, “Antlix Lollipop”, “Chocolate Coated Ants”, “Thai Green Curry Crickets” and more, all available at Edible.com and very soon at your local grocery store. Needless to say, it comes from the UK and the products are fascinating to look at. It’s sold in Paris at the very bourgeois La Grande Epicerie du Bon Marché, more familiar for importing Aunt Jamima syrup, good old Tiptree Orange marmalade and all kind of pasta from Italy.
I haven’t tried the Edible food range although I kept taking pictures of the products with my phone but a friend bought two of their lollipops as a birthday present. And that’s how it starts: first you buy novelties for a friend to try them out, then you end up being the main consumer…
Beware of the insectivore in you!

-- Joëlle


20 November 2005

A riot for art in Paris suburbs ...

It was a different kind of riot that i witnessed yesterday in the surburban town of Vitry-sur-Seine, south of Paris, for the opening of the new MAC/VAL, the first museum of modern art to set foot in the outskirts of the capital: a one hour long queue outside in the freezing cold of winter.


There are many interesting works inside, and a magnificent opening exhibition on french painter Jacques Monory with a greal deal of work done on the display of paintings. This may become a major stop-over for art lovers in Paris.


I have doubts that we'll be able to resolve our difficulties by putting museums in the suburbs, but yesterday definitively had a very good feel of tolerance and mixity...

16 November 2005

Google always strikes twice

Within a week, Google was slashdoted twice for launching two interesting services (free of course): Analytics to get inside the stats of your website and Google Base, a content search tool that " enables content owners to easily make their information searchable online". I'm eager to try them both and Google is obviously very good at getting betatesters to jump on their new tools like on the last chocolate candy coming out of the Chocolate Factory.

Meanwhile, in another part of town, the site boingboing lists a revealing timeline of Sony confounding operations which doesn't augur anything good for their future products (in particular the PS3).

-- Joëlle

14 November 2005

Bitter dream

I'm generally boycotting all CD's that bear a copy-controlled protection.. It's just a matter of principle because the record company assumes consumers are potential hackers. It's definitely not the way to go to stand for author's rights to stamp all over that this is before all a standalone commercial product. First, because it's actually not doing its "job", and second because this copy-control system always comes with a bunch of unidentified elements introduced quietly in our computers, which testifies of a very questionable business method...
The recent case of Sony illustrates well the latter issue. An article from Wired calls for the boycott of Sony (at least their CD's) and I'm quite convinced that this is a reasonable argument, which is why I strongly recommend its reading and the consequential action to take.

-- Joëlle.

09 November 2005

A fruitful French-American chat session

Some evenings ago, I was chatting with Steven. At some point, we ended up wondering if Sumos could have sex or if their lifestyle implied that they abstain from it, like monks (because they're so sacred and iconic blabla). Can't really remember how we got to that point (something to do with Las Vegas... obviously). But anyway, sometimes, it feels good to wonder such questions. Especially when you come across a really cool website after you searched "Can Sumos have sex?" on Google. This website provides all kind of news on Japan, posted by all kind of people and categories are ranging from the addictive "Arts/Culture" to the informative "Stock Market". Two of my favorite sections are "Not exactly news but it’s news to me" and the one that reaches in Japan the high essence of its meaning, that is of course: "Pop culture". On top of that, news.3yen.com is actually the tip of a web iceberg: in front of .3yen.com, you can replace "news" by "everyday", "cinema", "work", "anime", "food", "fashion", "travel" or dozens of other keywords and find countless precious information related to your necessary topic.
Finally, as you might have noticed from one of the previous links, apparently Sumos DO have sex... Now, to know if they enjoy it it's another matter... For that, you have to check an Israeli website found in the same Google search... [Yet, in all fairness you should know that this published statement has its convincing contradictor and I think it's absolutely beautiful to see that the Internet allows people to always find a way to publish a public disagreement].

-- Joëlle

Under my feet..

... runs a river.
Well, that is, only if i'm wearing Paul Smith shoes, but hey, this is a not such a bad option...