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August 10, 2006

Off on hols

I know I've not been the most concientious of bloggers lately, but it's going to get even quieter!

I'm off on hols to Turkey for the next two weeks. I won't have internet access unless I want to go to cybercafes, which doesn't appeal that much, so there'll be no blogging for the next fortnight.



August 7, 2006

Not so zen tennis

I'm struggling to stay awake today - we've taken advantage of the empty city and booked as many tennis courts as we can possibly get. Unfortunately I think our eyes have been bigger than our stamina muscles, as I'm already starting to feel the strain!

We played for only an hour yesterday in the jardins du Luxembourg, which was delightful as ever. As usual we were surrounded by tai chi enthusiasts, all wobbling around trying to be meditative. I've noticed that there's been more and more of them wanting to use swords and fans and things, and yesterday was no exception. I saw a guy turn up with a long black sackcloth bag, which I assumed was a fishing rod (ok, strange assumption, but it felt better than assuming it was a high powered rifle). It turned out it was actually a stick. Pretty much a broom handle really. Obviously a super-duper broomhandle, since it needed it's own bag. Either that or the owner was just trying to avoid looking like a BHV shopper.

After a while there was a whole bunch of broom-stickers, a veritable coven of tai-chi fanatics. It was definitely broom-stick day (much safer than oversized shiny sword day). It cynically struck me that all this paraphernalia was quite ironic in a way - all the totally zen tai chi chinese people are happy (blissful?) with nothing at all, just a small patch of open ground is enough. Here in our materialistic west, we need gadgets! We need things that do stuff, and in the western tai chi world, that means fans, swords, and broom sticks!

So, they all zenned away next to us, while I happily un-zenned them with every expletive I could think of (my tennis was not on-form that day I'm afraid). If they were really good, then they wouldn't have noticed.

One thing I'm sure we're all glad were not in the park that day, was the happy clappy brigade. Some misguided gang of oddballs have been meeting recently there to do 'laughter' exercises. At least I think that's what they're doing, although if it's not it must be some seriously good drugs. I'm sure they feel better for it, but everyone else in the park probably wishes it was high powered rifles in the sackcloth bags...



August 3, 2006

Machines at Grand Palais

There's something going on at the Grand Palais at the moment called 'Le grand répertoire'. It sounds like an annual event, but I've not noticed it before. This year the showcase piece is a bunch of machines which do wacky things like applaud, or catapault grand pianos across the room. I just caught a piece about it on the midday news, and it looked pretty cool!

I couldn't find any detailed info about it, but here's what the Paris tourist office says (I'm sure I'm not allowed to reproduce this, but whatever...);

The highlight of the 2006 edition is a unique exhibition to be held in the nave of the Grand Palais, displaying about a hundred machines specially designed for shows, some of them functioning. Among these spectacular machines is one that gets costumes swirling, a percussion machine called the “girodoumdoum”, a machine used to spread Nutella and the “tartapult”, which launches tarts and pies. Technique is often of secondary importance in the creation of these machines; what counts is the effect the object produces and the way in which it influences the story.
Some of these machines have actually been used, while others are prototypes or sketches; their weight ranges from a mere 150 grams to over 11 tons. While some machines have only ever been used on a single tour, it is interesting to note the way they operate and the sheer inventiveness of their creators.
The Grand Palais provides a magnificent setting for this 5,000 sq.m. “ideas factory”, for the visitor to stroll through in his own search for inspiration.

On the news it looked like plenty of machines which exploded water over everyone, or blew things up - so great for the kids I should imagine.

Oh, and here's a link to the official site of the Grand Palais, which says nothing about the exhibition of course...

August 1, 2006

Tiddly om pom pom

Another big gap between entries! A combination of not having internet access at home and a lack of anything useless to say...

I did actually go down to Paris Plage the other day, so that ought to have inspired me. Particularly as it was better than I expected. I've been a bit dismissive of it to be honest - mum phoned me the other day saying how a UK newspaper had a Paris special, and was enthusing about how the mayor was doing so much for Paris. Their key point was the beach by the Seine, and what a wonderful thing it is. I told her not to believe anything you read in the press, and that it was still just a road with a kitty litter problem.

As you can tell I've never been that impressed by it. If a truck dumped a load of sand by a busy highway, you wouldn't think - ah, a nice spot to catch some rays. It always seemed to be still 'too much tarmac, not enough beach' to escape being a gimick.

However, the other night we sat in the cafe area which was right on the bank of the Seine. Some grubby sand on the floor made it beach-ish, but it was actually pretty good (I was not about to take off my shoes though). A river side bar has always been an area lacking in Paris - when thinking of where to go for a drink in Paris, you often think by the river would be nice, but really there's virtually nowhere that is actually right there by the water. A couple of floating bars, but they're a bit touristy (and small. And they don't sit still). The closest you can get is by doing it 'a la vagrant' style.

So we sat there and watched the tourist boats go by, blinding us with their floodlights. It was very nice indeed. So my dismissiveness of the Paris Plage has now been downgraded to 'mostly crap' :-)