Amoeblog

A look at French writer and thinker Paul Valery on the anniversary of his birth

Posted by Eric Brightwell, October 30, 2013 02:04pm | Post a Comment
Paul Valery

Paul Valéry
was an essayist, intellectual, journalist, philosopher, Symbolist poet, fiction writer and polymath who was born 142 years ago today.

Ambroise-Paul-Toussaint-Jules Valéry was born 30 October, 1871 to a Corsican father and Genoese-Istrian mother in Sète (or Cette) -- a small town in Occitania. There he attended school at Collège de Sète before the family moved to nearby Montpellier, where in 1889 he began studying law. At the same time he began writing Symbolist poetry, some of which was published in La Revue maritime de Marseille. Symbolism was in many ways a response to Realism -- particularly inspired by the writings of Edgar Allan Poe and Charles Baudelaire. It particularly flourished in Belgium, France, and Russia.

In 1890, after completing his law studies, Valéry met Belgium-born poet Pierre Louÿs. Louÿs introduced him to the writer André Gide, who in turn introduced him to France’s preeminent Symbolist poet – Stéphane Mallarmé, whose “L'Après-midi d'un faune” inspired Claude Debussy’s wonderful symphonic poem of the same name (composed in 1894).

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Visiting LACMA's Bing Theater for a Tuesday Matinee

Posted by Eric Brightwell, October 23, 2013 05:17pm | Post a Comment
A recent viewing of The Shining reminded me of just what a good idea it is for people who work at home (and perhaps have a bit of a tough time pulling themselves away from work) to forgo all work for occasional play. I also regularly suffer from a sort of paralysis that occurs when I try to figure out which of the hundreds (maybe thousands) of daily cultural events and then stay home. A good place for cineastes to check out is Film Radar, a website which lists most of the special film events taking place around town. After checking the site and seeing the names Samuel Fuller and Douglas Sirk, I decided before paralysis could take hold to take the Metro to LACMA’s Bing Theater (incidentally one of the few local movie theaters that doesn’t go for the pretentious, supposedly (because it’s nearly ubiquitous) “chiefly British” spelling of “theatre”) to see Shockproof (1949).


Shockproof Halfsheet


I’ve been to the Bing Theater a few times before. On the most memorable occasion I saw Mother (마더, 2009) there, a film directed by masterful genre-blender Bong Joon-ho (who, it also transpired, was sitting next to me. On the other side, by the way, was Charles Reece). That film screened back when the Bing Theater still had regular weekend screenings of films by the likes of Andrei Tarkovsky, Hong Sang-soo, and William Wellman. Sadly, the current CEO and director of the museum decided to pull the plug on the screenings -- faced as he was with declining attendance and the inability to find sufficient funding to continue what his predecessors had successfully done for more than four decades. (Here’s a thought: concession stands provide 85% of the profits for most successful cinemas and it’s frankly perverse watching a movie without popcorn or Jujyfruits).

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Show-Me Hollywood -- Missourians in Hollywood on Missouri Day

Posted by Eric Brightwell, October 16, 2013 12:00pm | Post a Comment
Happy Missouri Day! I was not born in Missouri but I count myself fortunate to have grown up there, moving to the Show-Me State from Kentucky when I was four and staying until I was sixteen. Of course, I ended up moving west (St. Louis is the Gateway to the West after all) to the great state of California, following in the footsteps of many before me. For this blog entry, I'd like to honor Missouri natives who worked in Hollywood film.

Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's Map of Missouri
Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's Map of Missouri

Also, there's some sporting event involving a cricket-derivative going on right now between Los Angeles and St. Louis -- arguably the greatest cities in their respective states (well, arguable in St. Louis's case). So forgo your animal-style friesCool Ranch tacosFrench Dipskogi tacos, and Mission burritos for one day and prepare a feast of BBQCherry Mashesgooey butter cakeOzark PuddingSt. Louis-style pizzaSt. Paul sandwiches, and toasted ravioli as we honor the Missouri-Hollywood connection.

San Clemente -- The Spanish Village in OC

Posted by Eric Brightwell, October 10, 2013 03:28pm | Post a Comment
INTRODUCTION

San Clemente postcard
Mid-20th century postcard from San Clemente

Until the visit that Una and I took to San Clemente this past weekend, I don’t think that I’d ever visited the place. I’m not entirely sure because nearly all of my trips south on the 5 have ended in Mexico and the stretch of freeway between South Orange County and San Diego County has blended together in my mind into white-walled, red-roofed blur. I may very well stopped in San Clemente to refill the gas tank on at least one occasion but, again, I have no recollection. Now, however, after having spent a weekend there and exploring mostly on foot (the best way to explore) I promise that I won’t confuse San Clemente for any other red-tile community.

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San Clemente is the southernmost city in South County. This is inarguable in a geographic sense and arguable in a symbolic sense as well. South Orange County is generally and night entirely inaccurately characterized as a predominantly white, politically conservative, and wealthy place.

Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's map of South Orange County
Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's map of South Orange County

San Clemente is predominantly white -- 76% white (compared to 44% for the county as a whole) although to me it seemed even whiter. However, slow change is afoot and in the past thirty years, the Latino population has more than doubled whilst the Anglo population has shrunk by 14%. According to the 2010 census, the population of San Clemente is 17% Latino but that seemed to me much lower. My perception versus the facts might have to do with the fact that I stayed near North Beach and spent most of my time exploring Downtown and the area next to the ocean -- areas that are possibly much whiter than others. In two days I only heard Spanish being spoken on three occasions, including once in the kitchen of a Mexican restaurant. Asian-Americans make up just 4% of San Clemente's population, and blacks and Native Americans both make up less than 1% of the population. 

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Lucien Levy-Dhurmer -- Artist, explorer, and autumn son

Posted by Eric Brightwell, September 30, 2013 02:52pm | Post a Comment
Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer was a Symbolist and Art Nouveau artist who was born on this day in 1865. In France, he is still celebrated in some quarters for his work -- which includes paintings, drawings,Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer ceramics, furniture and interior design -- but he remains obscure, especially outside the Francosphere. Even though there aren't any films about him that I know of -- or even any books that I've found -- I'm hopefully wrong. In that case, let me know so that I can add them to this entry and tell fans to seek them out. In any case, he's also a great artist to look at because he was born in autumn, died in autumn, and most of his most recognizable work has a great, autumnal, crepuscular quality which is perfect for viewing as the nights grow longer and summer fades.


CHILDHOOD AND EDUCATION

Lévy was born 30 September, 1865 in Algiers (then part of occupied French Algeria) to Salomon Lévy and Pauline-Amélie Goldhurmer. In 1879, when he was fourteen years old, Lévy began studying drawing and sculpture at École communale supérieure de Dessin et Sculpture in Paris. He first exhibited in 1882 at the Salon de Paris, where he showed a ceramic piece, La Naissance de Vénus, d'après Cabanel -- a reference to painter Alexandre Cabanel). 
A Iridescent and Lustre Earthenware Vase by Lucien Levy, circa 1887
EARLY CAREER 


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