Thursday, January 28, 2010

Howard Zinn

I cried a lot today, thinking about this world without Howard Zinn, but end up feeling happy for all he generously contributed and how much of the world has heard him and will continue to listen. My dear friend Lisa Ross (thank you!) sent me these photos from Cooper Union a couple years ago, when I introduced him and he spoke so eloquently and profoundly about and against war.

One of my favourite heroes and comrades, HOWARD ZINN, died at the age of 87. He was a great and angelic man, humble and brilliant, kind and handsome, nice and open, smart and radical, a feminist, pacifist (even though he dropped bombs during WWII - he lived to understand and regret what bombs do to people, innocent people), humanist, historian and more. I am so sad and can not seem to stop crying because he can not be replaced. He is unique. He WAS unique. I knew this would happen, as it will to all of us, but I am still stunned that he has left us here - to carry on his work! I am so happy that I knew him, heard him tell great jokes, had the chance to introduce him at Cooper Union, that he wrote the foreword to my book and seemed to love me at least half as much as I loved him, that I was able to feast with him at CHARTA's Tribeca home-office, taking a cab together and talking about art, politics, our families. He was a wonderful man and we should all do something in his honor - work towards peace, justice, truthful history and generosity of spirit. LONG LIVE HOWARD ZINN!

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Day After David's Birthday

Here is the amazing Chocolate-Pear Mousse Cake that David found yesterday afternoon at a neighborhood patisserie for his birthday celebration:

Here he is making a wish. Guthrie lit the match and the candle on the cake!

David blowing out the candle:

Here are the fabulous paper lanterns that the kids made for Daddy's birthday. They were Guthrie's idea. We used paper posters from the street, watercolors, recycled cardboard, string and candles we found in the apartment and sticks from the backyard:

Here is David opening up one of his gifts "to share": a bag full of licorice string, gummy snakes and sugary, sticky treats:

Guthrie and Harper partaking in birthday licorice JOY!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

David's Birthday!

Here is David on his Birthday Eve with the paper jewelry Harper made him: a crown, 2 bracelets, 2 rings and necklace.

Today is David's 41st birthday and we went to the market. Here is what we bought: a lemon tart with candied lime; a Mont Blanc (a tart filled with chestnut cream); 2 loaves of fresh bread; Spanish strawberries; sausages and boudin blanc with sauerkraut for supper; bananas; hummus; stuffed grape leaves; 2 spinach-feta popovers; mesclun mix; lemons; apple-cassis juice; pure olive oil soaps - plain, verveine (verbena) and rosemary; green beans; sesame stick crackers. We came home to a feast and now the kids are napping. David is venturing out this Sunday afternoon to find a proper birthday cake! I offered to go, but he wants the challenge. Most shops are closed today and every day between 12-2:30 and sometimes on Mondays and whenever there is a strike or "social movement".

Yesterday we walked over to Vieux Lyon again and had a delicious crepe lunch. The kids had nutella and banana crepes and David and I had ham, emmenthal and egg crepes, with the egg sunny side up on top of the melty and delicious crepe. On our way over the pedestrian bridge, some birds sat on the wires, which always makes me think of Leonard Cohen. You can see the Fouviere Cathedral that overlooks Lyon through the wires:

After the crepes, we treated the kids to some cotton candy or "papa's beard":

This morning, while David slept in, Guthrie dressed Harper up in an old Julia Margaret Cameron sheet.

Friday, January 22, 2010


The Assembly Stage:

On Tuesday, Harper's kindergarten class performed for about 40 minutes in a school "assembly". The theme was weather. They had a "weather channel", sang songs in English and French and some of the kids told jokes. Harper stood up and told one loud and clear, "Why did the lady go outside with her purse open?" Why? "Because she expected some change in the weather." Here are some cute pictures of the event:

Harper getting ready for something:

Harper's joke telling moment:

Harper singing at the top of her lungs, "The sun is out, it's a lovely day....." Some kids were "summer" and others were "winter". Harper was winter. Hence, the hat.

Singing another song to the Beatles tune of "I don't know why you say goodbye, I say Hello Hello Hello...."

Our courtyard entranceway wall in the morning sun:

The public swimming pool, or "Nautical Center of the Rhone", downtown along the Rhone river. This always reminds me of Chris Marker's amazing film La Jetee:

This is a sculpture outside the entrance doors to the Center of Deportation and Resistance. (I will try again next week to get in!)

This is a Joseph Cornell store, Antiquites Marilyn, specializing in dolls and silverware. I never want to touch anything.

A Different store window, where they repair antiques -

A magical view of Hotel de Ville from my car window driving the kids home from school. We see this every day as this is where we turn to climb the hill up to our neighborhood of Croix Rousse.

David leaves these little surprises for the kids before he goes to work so when they come home from school they are happy. Here are Harper's piglet and two blue bears going for a ride on Guthrie's motorcycle with a sidecar.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Looking at Lyon

The International School of Lyon in Ste. Foy les Lyon on a foggy day and looking out two windows.

I tried to go to the Center of Deportation and Resistance (I can only imagine the long and bureaucratically poetic meeting in which they decided on this name for what I call "The Museum of Resistance") again today but "due to a social movement, the center will be closed today." So, I walked around for a few hours before picking up the kids. Here are a few photographs from the past few days (not from today which was a gloriously sunny day):

For Godard -

God and Work, a sign on a building on our block. I believe it is a school building.

What David picked up at the bakery for dessert a couple nights ago, for the kids, a meringue.

A tree in the kids' schoolyard -

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


I finished reading Agnes Humbert's amazing book last night, Resistance: Memoirs of Occupied France, first published in French in 1946. She was an art historian in Paris and one of the founding members of one of the first Resistance cells. She survived French prison and German labour camps and continued her work against fascism after the war until her death in 1963.

Here are some passages that I find particularly interesting - this from William Boyd’s Preface: Agnes Humbert was 43 years old in 1939 when the war began, a respected art historian, left-wing ‘intello’, and the divorced mother of two grown-up sons. She wasn’t a ‘firebrand’, or young; she was comfortably off and had a reputation, a good job in a museum, yet she simply could not stand by and do nothing. She became one of the first members of one of the first resistance cells in France, and the journal she kept at the time charts her slow evolution from angry, unfocussed patriot to active Resistance member: disseminating black propaganda, publishing an underground newspaper, passing on military information and sheltering Allied airmen.

From Agnes Humbert’s Chapter 1, The Fall of the Third Republic, Palais de Chaillot, Paris, 7 June, 1940 – The entire population is leaving Paris; we are living in an atmosphere of panic; people seem to have lost all capacity for reasoned thought…

Vicq-sur-Brueil, 20 June 1940 – My heart, meanwhile, is filled with the scenes of savagery I have witnessed over the last nine days, on a journey that defies belief. [This reminds me of Irene Nemirovsky’s harrowing account of the Nazi occupation of Paris in her unforgettable book Suite Francaise.]

From Chapter 2, Paris Under the Swastika, Paris, 6 August, 1940 – The only remedy is for us to act together, to form a group of ten like-minded comrades, no more…I don’t harbor many illusions about the practical effects of our actions, but simply keeping our sanity will be success of a kind…

Paris, 7 August 1940 – Stefan Zweig’s latest book, Spinoza

Paris, 15 August 1940 – Will the people who produced 33 Conseils a l’occupe (33 Hints to the Occupied) ever know what they have done for us, and probably for thousands of others? A glimmer of light in the darkness…now we know for certain that we are not alone. There are other people who think like us, who are suffering and organizing the struggle: soon a network will cover the whole of France, and our little group will be just one link in a mighty chain.

Paris, late December 1940 – We can’t let it happen. And to stop it happening we have to kill. Kill like wild beasts, kill to survive. Kill by stealth, kill by treachery, kill with premeditation, kill the innocent. It has to be done, and I will do it. ..What a filthy business!

Paris, January 1941 – Many of us will be shot, and all of us will go to prison.

Paris, 20 January, 1941 – He thinks propaganda is more important in the free zone than in the occupied zone, Vilde agrees with him: they argue that in the occupied zone the Germans do our job for us, whereas in the free zone the plague is less noticeable to ill-informed eyes, ears, nostrils and – most important of all – minds.

Paris, 8 April 1941 – He said that he hated Nazism for three reasons: because he is French, Jewish and a socialist.

Paris, Easter, 13 April 1941 – Together we are the tiny, insignificant characters in these illustrations to a ‘footnote to history’. My memoir will be one among many: its one virtue will be its absolute faithfulness to the truth. My comrades who were there will know the palette I have used to paint these pictures is deliberately muted, les lurid than the reality. That is my choice. These are images like old prints, clumsily engraved so that here and there the colours leak and run.
Images without art; images of truth.

From Chapter 3, In the Prison du Cherche-Midi, 17 April 1941 – Now and then a small shadow passes overhead and is outlines against the wall. It takes me a long time to work out where these come from: they are the shadows of birds as they flit over the yard. The shadow of a bird is a thing of beauty, especially against a somber prison wall.

Prison de Fresnes, 17 February 1942 – The judge is pale; I’ve never seen a man so pale: he has said that his duty as a German is harsh. Today it is clear that his words were genuine. Passing these sentences is painful to him. He respects and admires the men whom he is about to condemn to death.

From Chapter 6, In the Communal Cell, Prison de la Sante, 19 February – 16 March 1942 – Rachel was the heroine of the dorm. She was recovering with difficulty from her frostbitten feet, which were black to the ankles. It was thanks to the incessant demand as of the nurse, “Sister” Lia, that Rachel had been transferred to the heated fourth section from the freezing cold first section. When she arrived at La Santé, Rachel was hemorrhaging badly. Naturally, according to the custom here, she was not given so much as a scarp of cotton wool to mop up the blood, and for five days and five nights she had nothing to either eat or drink. None of which prevented them from dragging her off every day for interrogations. She was forced to watch as her elderly father and her brother were beaten up by French policemen. Rachel never gave in, never talked. Her brother Fernand Zalkinoff was a group leader and a remarkable character. He was eighteen and there were seven in his group, all the same age. They derailed trains carrying German Soldiers going home on leave and set fire to the fodder for German Horses, before they were caught, tortured and shot. I was there when the captain came into our cell to inform Rachel officially of the death of her beloved brother. It was he, the German, who was forced to lower his gaze, deeply moved by this admirable little Jewish communist, just twenty-three years old. The German would have preferred tears, screams, insults – anything rather than this contemptuous silence. When the cell door closed behind him, Rachel said simply: ‘I can’t believe that Fernand isn’t thinking any more.’ She didn’t say another word.

From Chapter 7, Forced Labor, Krefeld, Whit Monday, 1942
– Oh, what a great and wonderful feeling! It’s a magnificent day. Just before we leave for work, I go back up to the dormitory. In the quietness I hear the drone of an aeroplane, and instinctively I look up at the sky, so blue and not a cloud to be seen. And yet – what is that white shape there that the aeroplane has just traced? A hammer and sickle! Will he ever know, that unknown airman, how many hearts welled with joy on this spring day because of him? Will he ever know how much this emblem of work – of work freely consented to – means to a humiliated prisoner exhausted by slave labour?

Krefeld, May 1942 – Alone at last, I doze off to the sound of the intensive bombing of Cologne, musing mournfully on how many people’s lives will be extinguished tonight. Yet this massacre has to be…..

Krefeld, July 1942 – Another firm belief to which most of subscribe is that it is categorically out of the question that bombs dropped by friendly aeroplanes could possibly ham us.

From Chapter 8, At the Phrix Rayon Factory, Krefeld, 5 October 1942
– Yesterday the British and American bombers missed the works yet again. Yet you’d think it’s big enough for them to spot, and it’s right by the Adolf-Hitler Bridge, which also seems to have escaped the attentions of our allies. Although they missed the works buildings, they completely destroyed one of our shelters. Everyone inside was killed, German and foreign civilian workers alike.

Krefeld, 21 June 1943 – Watching all this, I feel my heart and mind split in two. One half of my heart aches for all this misery, weeps for all this destruction. But then I tell myself for the hundredth, perhaps thousandth time, that this is the only way we can destroy the monster. Who started all this butchery, who kindled these infernos throughout the world, who torched London, Rotterdam, Dunkirk? The monster was all-powerful, all-powerful though cowardly even then. But now his enemies are strong, and they must kill, kill, kill to live. In the struggle between barbarism and civilization killing is a necessary and unavoidable evil. Civilization has to use the weapons of barbarism in order to prevail. That is the great tragedy.
Krefeld, 20 August 1943 – Some of the women claim that Phrix shares are to be found in too many British portfolios, and this is the reason why this lousy dump has been spared.

From Chapter 10, Hunting the Nazis, Wanfried, 15 April, 1945 – Last night I was told that a couple of SS men in uniform were seen strolling through the streets of Wanfried. ‘Yup, we have SS swanning around here too,’ he [U.S. soldier] replies with a laugh. He finds this highly amusing, but it’s a type of joke that neither we nor the German anti-Nazis can see. For most Americans, war is an abstract, theoretical activity. They are waging this war and doing so extremely well – they are winning it after all – but in their hearts and souls they haven’t suffered its pain. They haven’t seen their young girls carried off by the tens of thousands, their hostages shot, their wives imprisoned, their houses destroyed, their possessions looted. They’ve heard about it all, but it’s happened to other people, not to them.

Wanfried, 8 May 1945 – A globe catches my eye, and I pick it up and start to play ball with it. It’s up to us now to handle the world as we see fit, and we toss the whole world from one to another, joking all the while. Afterwards, I explain to our friends where we are and to whom this mansion belongs. It is the residence of Arthur Kalden, who until 1929 was known by his real name of Israel. But Herr Arthur Israel was inspired to become a Nazi, disowning his origins in order to retain his immense wealth, his castle, his factory, his hunting domains, his servants and his parkland. He became a Nazi, sporting a fine uniform decked with eight stars. Today Arthur Kalden, formerly Israel, is living in his gardener’s cottage, while the Americans disport themselves in his castle and entertain French women political deportees. Tomorrow (I have been solemnly promised) Herr Arthur Kalden will be in prison. And tonight we are going to dance in his drawing room!
We resolve to shatter the globe in a thousand pieces, and build a new world in which Nazis like Kalden will have no voice.

Wanfried, 15 May 1945 – As for anti-Nazis, Catholics, democrats, communists or others – the world is only now beginning to understand what they have suffered.
Everywhere I go I hear the same cry: ‘We hated Hitler!’ Often, too, this is a declaration of faith and completely sincere. But when I ask why didn’t get rid of this hated figure, the reply is always the same: ‘We couldn’t! Our hands were tied!’ To which I reply, ‘Were your hands tied more tightly than ours?’ I know that the circumstances were different but I can never resist the satisfaction of telling them that we preferred to risk our lives rather than continue to live under Hitler.

Kassel Displaced Persons Camp, 9 June 1945National frontiers exist only as lines on maps. These are just people: those who fight for civilization, and those who fight against it. Just those two camps, no more.

11 June 1945 – I think of the words of the prophet Isaiah over three thousand years ago, “They shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” This is what we have been fighting for, for what we shall continue fighting for, so that one day there will be no more war.

As Julien Blanc says in his afterword, Humbert’s memoir is “an antidote to oblivion.”

And in the Appendix, On Agnes Humbert’s absence and her return from deportation, by her son Pierre Sabbagh (from Encore vous Sabbagh! 1984), [While searching for my mother as a war correspondent] I advanced into Germany. What I saw I tried to forget. What I experienced I prefer to deny. Back in Paris, dazed and worn out, disillusioned with man and his destiny, I went home; in other word’s, back to my mother’s apartment. I opened the door. There she was, surrounded by long-haired, transparent creatures, deportees like her. They had been delivered home by the Americans. She was alive. Sunlight filled the room. I was alive again.
Alas, the horrors that my mother had endured had ravaged her health, and we lost her tragically early.

The trees outside the closed museum, resisting, fighting fists, begging for the French flag to fly, rather than hang there defeated, tired and thin. Fly for Agnes!


Again, like all the bombs the U.S. has dropped on innocent civilians, resistant fighters, mothers, children, comrades, including Little Boy and Fat Man on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and again like the 2 African-American citizens shot to death in Fayetteville by neo-Nazi Fort Bragg soldiers, how do respond to this? How do we imagine-image it? How do we remember it, memorialize it, change it, stop it from happening again. Howard Zinn implores us to unearth our empathy and hope, our IMAGINATION of a better world in order for ir to be a possiblity. I feel up against a wall. Maybe this is because I went to the Center of Deporation and Resistance today and it was closed. It is an intensely historical museum full of artefacts and information about the damned Vichy goverment, the occupying Nazi forces, the collaborators, the Resistance, the victims and more. I was there 10 years ago and it has stayed with me, especially the enormous leading role the communists played. Like Humbert's hammer and sickle woven in the sky by a airman's allied plane, I was not alone.

But today, the doors did not open. Instead, I photograhed all the engraved markers mounted to the exterior of the building. I have an idea to rub them, as I rubbed surfaces in Hiroshima, but this time in black or gold wax on paper and then make etchings from selected parts. Just a thought. There is a permanence to these memorials here, a heavy dead weight, unlike the breathing, transfroming, alive memorial city of Hiroshima. Here are photographs of the few I have so far, scattered throughout this entry. I am about to go on reading France: The Dark Years, 1940-1944 by Julian Jackson - a heavy, badly designed weight.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Haiti and 50 States

Please submit art to this benefit for Haiti - to relieve some of the suffering as a result of the catastrophic earthquake and the ongoing poverty there - and forward the call far and wide:

Completely unrelated, (but perhaps not, since the U.S. is the #1 contributor to climate change conditions and is very much responsible for the political situation in Haiti), please check out the link at the top right of this blog for the 50 States Project, for which I represent and contribute images of North Carolina. The project has now come to a close, with the last images for the theme of "American Dream" recently uploaded to the site.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Pig Cheeks!

We had our first SUNNY DAY today! The tree above sits at the end of our street and at the top of the grand stairs (Grande Montee) up to Croix Rousse and down to town. I didn't even need to wear these "glittens" for most of the day:

Okay, forgive me, but so much of our experience here is about EATING (shopping at the markets, going to divine restaurants and peoples' homes, preparing food, feasting, fromages, desserts...) that you must indulge me as I describe a couple meals. We had our sweet French babysitter, Colin, again on Friday night and we had reservations at one of Paul Bocuse's smaller, less expensive restaurants (Nord, Sud, Ouest, Est), Le Sud. We strolled downtown, picking up a cool bright orange corduroy skirt for Harper and an irridescent blue-green slip dress for me at a Depot Vente (thrift shop) for 2 Euros (3-4 $), on the way. Le Sud is right near Bellecour, one of the big plazas in Lyon with a huge ferris wheel. We had delicious tapenade and fresh bread with Kir Royales (champagne with creme de cassis), escargots, and David had a lamb tangine and I had delectable scallops with a fondue d'endives risotto surrounded by velvety vegetables = delicious:

I then had one of my favourite desserts, Fromage Blanc with a coulis of red fruits. Fromage Blanc is a heap of soft-sour cheese - somewhat like Greek yogurt - usually served with fruit compote or coulis or honey.

Then we walked back home, through the nightlit streets. Here is Hotel de Ville (City Hall):

A poster for the new Gainsbourg movie at the Place Croix Rousse (these are forbidden on buses due to a new anti-smoking law-campaign):

Last night we went to the house of Anne and Emmanuel, friends of our good American friends, Will and Christina. I did not bring my camera. They have 3 girls, Elodie, Juliette and Adele. We had such a great evening. They are both from France originally but have lived in Canada and New York City for over 10 years and are now U.S. citizens. They are now back in Lyon, living in Caluire, the little town north of Croix Rousse. They are so nice and generous and we hope to go hiking with them some day or help them renovate their new-very old house. They served a perfect cotes du rhone red wine with cashews and dried cranberries, an amazing creamed pea, shallot and ravioli soup with bread, Goue de Porc (PIG CHEEKS!) stew with carrots and pearl onions served on spiral pasta, fantastic goat and roquefort cheese and salad and then homemade apple compote from their own apple tree and homemade Madeleines, fresh from the oven! This was truly a spectacular meal. I must admit that the pig cheeks were melt-in-your-mouth delicious. We didn't leave until 10:30 - Harper asleep in one of the upsatir beds and Guthrie comatosed watching Tom and Jerry.

Today was incredible because it was our first full day of sun after a month of grey, cold, snowy rain and such a loud driving rain last night that woke us all up. We walked downtown, along the river,

looking across to Vieux Lyon,

and looking up to our neighborhood Croix Rousse:

passing the most famous trompe l'oiel that includes Paul Bocuse

and the Lumiere Brothers

through the art market where we bought 2 paintings, including one of a green car that looks so much like the green car parked on our street that I photographed in the morning:

to Vieux Lyon (Old Lyon - the historic Jewish quarter),

stopped into Cathedral Saint Jean that houses a clock from 1370 that still keeps time. We waited until 12 noon to see the rooster on top flap its wings and the cupids pump their batons and an angel drop down to Mary,

took the funicular up the steep hill to Fourviere (the white white cathedral that overlooks Lyon).

We had a picnic of jambon buerre (ham and butter) sandwiches and chocolate croissants on a sunny bench with an incredible panoramic view of Lyon

and when the sun went behind a cloud, we went inside where girl scouts were playing pictionary and then a troop of boy scouts came in, carrying this crazy wooden dog with ribbons.

They sang a sweet prayer before their picnic and then their girl leaders asked me if I spoke French and then proceeded to bark at me, "You do not have the right to take pictures of people in France." I told them that I had asked the boy if I could take his picture and he had said yes, (not pictured here), but I was tempted to lose my temper and explain the history of French photography to them and point out the fact that I was just taking a picture of the wooden dog against the wall anyways, but I bit my tongue and walked away.

We popped over to the Greco-Roman Amphitheater (where we saw the Cranberries 10 years ago) for a bit, where they have built the museum into the hill and the kids climbed and collected rocks.

After visiting the Greco-Roman Amphitheater, we took the funicular back down the hill and walked all the way home, stopping at our favourite little ice cream place, Les Enfants Gates (Spoiled Children) where the kids waited for their well-deserved treats:

Harper chose vanilla with red fruits. Guthrie chose chocolate with chocolate chips and David chose chocolate-orange with orange sorbet, whipped cream, ribbon curls of chocolate and a whole slice of candied orange.

This place sits on the quaint Place Sathonay and up the stairs is the Salle des Mariages, where David and I tried to be married 10 years ago, but the required paperwork was impossible to produce before we left France:

As soon as we got home, the kids tool a 2 hour nap.