Monday, April 30, 2012

Campaign Images


Can it be that “a picture is worth a thousand words” – can it tell a story – describe a personality-  show you who will make a good leader?
That is the work of a campaign poster – subliminal descriptions, nuanced by cunning ad men…
I won’t even try explain the politics of France or the system for elections. But when something major like a presidential election is happening in the foreign culture you’ve moved into, you think of how it would be done at ‘home’. For Tom and me, it wasn’t the two rounds of voting or the names of the political parties-- Socialist, Green, the National Front, the Communists—that got our jabber wokkies jabbering, it was the campaign posters posted outside Bourdeilles town hall.
During an American election we would already have preconceived notions of the candidates personality when we viewed photos. A sense of affection or mockery might come to mind as soon as we saw an image, but here we know very little about the candidates and so the composition and wording of the campaign posters intrigued us.
Ignorant of the politics of the face staring at us, each photo could be regarded as a person, not as a packaged party. What was this candidate’s photo trying to say about him or herself? Why had they chosen an ocean behind them, a broad valley behind another? Why the need for a lot of text? What nationalistic ideas were being expressed in that simple slogan?   

During an American election the posters would most likely bring to mind words like: liberal, capitalist, bigoted, spendthrift, entrenched, deluded, stiff, inexperienced, out of touch, entitled, fundamentalist, simplistic…

A different type of describers came to mind as I regarded the various unfamiliar French candidates: aggressive, intelligent, thoughtful, compassionate, inclusive, hip, modern, conservative/stiff, silly goose, sincere…
Other than that each photo was, of course, of a different individual, the only other major difference in the posters was the amount of print each incorporated.  The bigger the party, the fewer the words.  The posters for Workers Party and the Communist Party had the expected long manifestos.  After reading them both, one wonders what kind of personality conflicts at the top led to two identical yet separate parties.
The most intriguing poster was that of the ultra ultra right-wing party the National Front.  A party whose members pretty much don’t seem to like anyone except multiple generation French people.  The poster shows the looming face of Madame Le Pen and the words, “Oui, La France.”  The contrast of the sight of her innocent smile with the awareness of her message of fear and anger makes for a creepy experience.  Better to enjoy the ocean and the landscape which comfortably frame the two front runners.
This Wednesday is the one and only debate between the two remaining candidates.  We saw Sarkozy vs. Royale six years ago.  It was an astonishing event for us two Americans.  This wasn’t your scripted, nothing new, nothing daring debate.  This was a mudbowl, cat-fighting, scorched earth political RRRRRRRumble!  We hope this year’s is just as fun.


Friday, April 27, 2012

Friday's Petite Aquarelle The Dordogne France

SOLD
12" x 16" matted ready for framing
SOLD
available at www.tomviethsketches.com

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Monday, April 23, 2012

OohLaLaFrance Winetasting

Bordeaux and Saint Emilion are the two best-known wine regions that lie not too far from Bourdeilles. Cognac can be included if you push the boundaries. A little past not tooo far.  However, before the botrytis blight (1929) killed off the vineyards in France we also had two very important vineyards in Bourdeilles. Both built very impressive chateaux, barns and grounds. One, just over the ridge of our valley, was Chateau de la Cote.  Now it is a very nice hotel. The other, just on the way out of town, was called Chateau Les Granges de Valeuil. Which is now the home of OohLaLa France! The fading light of an evening stroll lets you easily conjure up the lost grandeur of the former vineyard.
Now the closest wine production is a bit south of us in what is called the Bergerac Region. This region is made up of 13 appellations. (Meaning a registered vintner)
The very closest appellation to us is called Pecharmant, Charming Hill. I love these rich wines that taste of the earth and are hard to find, even in France, outside of this region.


Within this appellation I have chosen Chateau Terre Vielle, a seventh generation run vineyard, for our OohLaLaFrance wine tasting outing. This 400 hectare area, producing A.O.C. wine (wine of controlled origin) is northeast of the city of Bergerac and spreads across the sunny hillsides of the Dordogne River valley. It is the oldest vineyard in the Bergerac wine area, dating back to the 11th century. The Pécharmant winegrowers here produce a good red wine for aging, of a very distinctive taste that combines strength and aromatic intensity. This highly specific, unique taste of Pécharmant wine comes from the particularity of its soil, composed of layers of gravely sand and iron, known as "tran". The wines are a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Merlot grapes.
The literature on the currently available wines reads:
"Strongly recommended in the Hachette Wine Guide- Silver Medal at Concours Agricole de Paris " A brilliant wine of an attractive crimson color enhanced with ruby tints.  A highly powerful nose creates a strong first impression, marked by vanilla aromas and toasted bread note. On opening the aroma of black fruits (cherries and blackberries) can be distinguished. In the mouth, its attack is mild and, despite its youth, the tannins are already mellow and refined. To accompany cheese, game and conserves of duck.
“On stirring, aromas of toasted bread and red fruit (cranberries) can be perceived. Expressive, fresh "nez". The tannings are silky: a velvety sensation invades the mouth. This wine can be appreciated as from now with great pleasure.
On this same day out we will visit another more famous vineyard, the Chateau de Monbazillac, but I’ll save that story for another day.

Even if one does not drink wine a visit to a French vineyard is a moving experience. An hour here is a glimpse into the intense pride and elegance of the French culture.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Friday's Petite Aquarelle Dordogne Region, France


Bouquet and Lace in Window
12" x 16" matted
$120 including shipping

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Dandelion Salad Season


Dandelion Salad Season in France
"Ever get the urge to go carnivore?"

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Dandelions or Pee in the Bed




“Do you have dandelions in the United States?”

I wish I could convey the earnest curiosity that was in my friends voice when he asked this innocent question. Dandelions, a weed covering fields for as far as the eye can see.  To a Frenchman, a wild thing like this must be too rangy and invasive to dull the shining vision of America.  And when he heard that indeed they are just as prolific there as in our gardens here there was a fleeting look of glee as I could see him picturing NYC with dandelions peeking out of the cracks in the curbs and the NJ Turnpike being swathed in a golden robe. Because this is the U.S. that many of our French neighbors picture – there is no way that the home of Dallas and JR, the Empire State Building, suburban Desperate Housewives, could have rural corners like the rolling hills and valleys of Vermont or Virginia that are covered in the bright, bright yellow of dandelions that create their interminable carpet with the first sign of spring warmth.

Even though in our corner of France dandelions are also considered a weed there are those among us that take full advantage of this convenient, vitamin filled, free greenery. (I know a few of my American readers are also good about using this handy green, but they are a rare type.)

Dandelion season starts when the greens have begun to extend their angular arms, but before the flower buds start to form. This is the time to gather the greens and eat them. A simple salad of dandelion greens is good, but even better is the smell of a pan of bacon frying and garlic simmering.  Add the greens to this for a little wilt and you will never think of dandelions in the same way again. This is a springtime delicacy that we were introduced to last year. Once you can see the flower buds it is too late to make this delicious wilted salad.

As the inevitable buds do appear it’s time to gather this nutritious ‘weed’ for the rabbits. Helping to weed the community garden the other day I had just about loaded up the wheelbarrow to the brim with dandelions. When I asked where this year’s compost pile was going to be I got an incredulous look – don’t you want those ‘piss in the bed’ for the rabbits or chickens? I’ll bet no one’s ever asked you that seemingly shocking question before. But en France the name of this yellow invader is ‘pissenlit’ – piss in the bed – and once you’ve heard this that’s exactly what you see. Yellow fields with the edges of yellow spreading seeping as liquid would seep into the edges of the bed covers.
Unlike French parents, Americans don’t get the endless snickers of their children by calling a dandelion a dandelion – but they still have the problem of seeping yellow throughout the land……








Saturday, April 7, 2012

Friday's Petite Aquarelle Dordogne Region, France


April Fields 
 12" x 16" 
 $120 including shipping 
 available at www.tomviethsketches.com

Thursday, April 5, 2012

"I Love You"

"She said, 'I love you.' "

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

A Charming Evening



Gerard Depardieu, Audrey Tattoo, Jane Fonda and Tintin have all been to Bourdeilles. These movie personalities have found there way to our hidden corner of France not for some grand awards ceremony, or to turn a period piece in our glorious chateau. They arrived here in two very large tin cans, well movie reels to be more exact, and courtesy of our county government.

Every two weeks a white van pulls up to the school auditorium and one man sets up a one-night stand cinema.  This is not just a small time big screen TV deal. We get an enormous screen and the movie comes as two large reels played on a mammoth-sized projector. When things get going it sounds just like a movie ought to, tchk tchk tchk, as the teeth pull the enormous reels along.

Villagers have walked up the hill from their various corners of the village. The audience is a gaggle of regulars, those of us that drop in when it suits us, and the women from the town ‘Fun Committee’ that put out the concession stand. The movie cost 4 euro’s. We are seldom more than 12, and yet the movie van continues to come. The amount of people attending is not the point. The point is that there has been something offered to the village where some people might not have been able to afford a movie or the cost of transportation. A lot of this is a throwback to a time when many people in the village would not have had a car.



The movie rolls and we fall into the illusion that we are in a grand theatre. The screen is big, the volume is just at that point of too loud and the audience gasps and laughs at appropriate moments.

At the end of the first reel the lights come on for intermission. Time for a visit with neighbors, “what do you think of the movie”, “so and so is a great actress”, “so and so has no business being in that role”, “you must be having a hard time understanding-- even I can’t understand the accent and city slang.” A few people wander over to purchase a sugary snack. The French even prefer popcorn with sugar on it. Then the lights go out and the movie resumes.
After the happy ending (a Hollwood flic) or an open-ended ending (A French film) the lights come back on again we hop up and begin to stack our chairs. No reason for the poor Fun Committee to have to do everything. Once the stairs are stacked the movie man looks around for some long, strong arms and gets help lowering the screen and hefting the monster projector back into the truck for the next evening’s showing in another village on down the road.

And now comes my favorite part – the walk home. There are usually two or three of us that talk about the movie on the way back down through the village. Lampposts light the way and the village is eerily quiet. Shutters are closed and our echoing footsteps are the only sound unless one of lets out a sparkly laugh in the crisp evening air. One by one we split off as we reach our path home. I cross “my” medieval bridge and listen to the water flowing underneath. Most nights the grey heron will cry out a warning that someone is afoot in the dark. How wonderful to take advantage of such a charming evening out.


ps - wonder what the response to our next film is going to be?? ---mine for seeing my life sitting in a foreign country - and the french audience for seeing a life they have not known.....