Monday, July 29, 2013

The Stein Salon~ 27, rue de Fleurus

This weekend (July 27) marked the date of the passing of Gertrude Stein in 1946. 
And it was here at 27, rue de Fleurus near the Luxembourg Gardens
that she lived with her brother, Leo, who was the impetus behind their shared collection of art
from some of the best 20th century painters. 

As a very young woman,
Stein had attended the Saturday night salons of Baltimore's Cone sisters, Claribel and Etta,
wealthy socialites and collectors of modern French art,  
and here at 27 rue de Fleurus, where she and her brother lived together 
from 1903 to 1914, Stein began her own literary salon.

On Saturday nights here in Paris,
one could expect to see the paintings of
 Bonnard, Picasso, Cezanne, Renoir, Matisse and Toulouse-Lautrec among others. 

As well, one could hold conversation with regulars like
Picasso, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Lewis, Joyce, Pound, Wilder and Matisse. 

Alice B. Toklas moved in and became Gertrude's lifelong partner in 1910.
She also became the hostess for Gertrude's literary salons,
keeping the women guests in the kitchen 
because Gertrude refused to have them in the same room with the men, 
where she spent her time. 

 While Leo was the more discerning art critic and buyer
(though it's said that Gertrude later took credit),
Henry McBride, Art Critic of the New York Sun, was quoted as saying that Gertrude
"collected geniuses rather than masterpieces. She recognized them a long way off." 

Unfortunately, when Leo and Gertrude decided to part company
in terms of their co-habitation,
that included their contact with each other. 
When Leo left in 1914 and they split their collection, 
they did not see each other again for 30 years, 
and then briefly meeting accidentally on the street. 
They never spoke again.

As always when I decide on a post topic
(often according to my Paris photo collection),
I learn something new about my subject. 

Among the many comments about Gertrude Stein's writing
(her brother called it 'an abomination'),
some deem her inept in her ability
while others consider her apparent inability to communicate a deficiency
"to deal effectively with language, so that she made her greatest weakness
into her most remarkable strength."

What higher praise for an artist!?

For more American Writers in Paris Tour posts,
Click Here, Here,  and Here

(Photos copyright: Kirsten Steen) 
Info details thanks to Wiki

Monday, July 22, 2013

Happy St. Magdalene Feast Day

Mary Magdalene
(Painting by Quentin Massys)

In Saint Maximin today in Southern France,
there is a parade using the likeness of Mary Magdalene 
to celebrate her feast day. And celebrations are occurring all over the world. 

Every year on July 22nd, 
she is remembered as one who stood at the foot of the cross that day
and the first to witness Jesus' resurrection, his most loving and beloved follower
and constant companion.

Mary of Magdala is making a re-emergence and makes an appearance in my upcoming novel
so is a part of my reading and researching and frequently on my mind.

Here she is shown with the ointment jar, a frequent symbol in artist's renditions of her.
Now known as 'The Apostle to the Apostles', in the past Mary has been a victim of mistaken identity,
wrongly called a prostitute.

One author who has written a novel about a journalist researching an ancient mystery involving Mary Magdalene which she says is only fictionalized to protect loved ones and that many of the protagonist's experiences were actually her own (see The Expected One by Kathleen McGowan), has recently sent out a newsletter asking for support for her favorite cause, Made by Survivors, an international non-profit organization employing, educating and training survivors of slavery and human rights abuses.

"100% of profits go to support rescue, aftercare, education and employment."

In honor of Mary Magdalene's Feast Day, if you are so moved, make a donation to help save the life and future of a woman who has been forced into slavery. And under tonight's Feast Day full moon, remember there are many others looking at that moon who don't have the rights and choices that we enjoy.  Be a part of "Empowering Women Worldwide to Design Their Own Bright Futures."

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Fougeres, France~ Travelin' Tuesday

Just a quick trip today 
to the little Brittany town of Fougeres
where we can take in the castle,
or rather the Chateau de Fougeres,
which was once a medieval stronghold... 

walk the old wall...

...where, true to this old medieval likeness,
the citizens lived outside the wall... 

and snack on beloved crepes. 

Fougeres was the birthplace of the French actress, 
Juliette Drouet
who gave up her career to become the mistress of Victor Hugo,
as well as his secretary and traveling companion,
and to whom she wrote twice a day, 
creating literally thousands of letters. 

Ooh these quick traveling sojourns 
always teach me a little something
and leave me wanting to learn more. 

(Photos copyright: Kirsten Steen)

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

'The cultural mall we call America'~ Teaser Tuesday

Hosted by MizB at should be reading.

Here's how to play:

*Grab your current read,
*Open to a  page,
*Share a few “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page,
*Please no spoilers!
*Share the title and author.

My pick for today's Teaser Tuesday is Peter Coyote's Sleeping Where I Fall:

"From within, every culture appears as seamless as a dream. To Jivaro warriors, for example, head-hunting is a high social and religious duty, not the barbarity it appears to us. If you accept without question premises of profit and private property and if you pursue those ends, even in the best of faith, then eventually the cultural mall we call America will stand before you, the product of your cumulative actions. No one will know precisely how it was built or for what purpose, and like goldfish in a bowl, we will no longer be able to imagine living outside the aquarium." ~ Peter Coyote 

For memoir-writing purposes, I've been trying to get some idea of how other writers describe growing up/coming of age in San Francisco in the 70's and Peter Coyote's wildly rich and full tale of an actor's/Digger's/Free Family communal life in and out of the City is by far the most interesting! I spent my holiday weekend doing almost nothing else but living in his wild but purposeful youth. Every time I tried this weekend to re-enter my life and visit with people from the year 2013, my mind was fogged with 1970's people/places/pictures. Now that I've finished the book, I feel a little lost and wonder how he manages in present life with that many people and experiences riding his memories X 100! (The original manuscript was 700 pages long!) I suppose the way many of us do. Compartmentalize. And then write to open.

He is a man I have always felt a great affinity for and now I know why (though many of his actions throughout the book are less than admirable but...they are his truths and that comment is my stance of judgement, a thing he was trying to stave off at the time. I find him brave to tell them). Besides now being a respected actor and writer, he is also a Zen Buddhist Priest. 

Probably the most moving part of his story comes at the end as he takes his young son back to Olema Ranch near Point Reyes to show him where he spent time with the people he writes about. So much happened there, so many tribes came and went, creating stories, music, love, tension. But as he walks the land in the 90's, there is nothing left to hold the memories. No buildings, no foundations, not a scrap of wood to show that any of it existed. Just fields of grass (and one old truck carburetor.) But with beautiful writing and insights, he gently melds past, present and future with the dirt, hills and sky still holding and offering up those memories. 

If anything, I feel more intimidated at the prospect of telling my little bit of 'growing up hippie' next to this book of Who's Who in the 60's/70's. But as I let it filter and acclimate, process into my experiences, I know something is percolating. While I may feel lost (partly from just having been submerged in his world and now being suddenly without it, thrown back into the present), something is found. Though I don't know quite what it is yet, I'm trusting the process. (And hoping for Book 2: those other 350 pages!) 

Friday, July 5, 2013

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory~ A.K.A. See's Candies

I don't usually do posts on local events but here's the deal:
Last week I was invited to our new See's Candies grand opening blogger-only party.
And I learned a lot about See's. 
As I told the one who invited me (Thanks Ann!), 
I've never really had a feeling about See's Candies before...
but I do now. 

A family-owned business through much of the 20th century,
See's Candies was opened in 1921 by Charles A. See 
using the original recipes of his mother, Mary Wiseman See.

The originals consisted of: 
Chocolate Walnut Fudge, Victoria Toffee, Hand-Dipped Bon Bons, and Maple Walnut Creams. 

When the Depression hit, See's slashed prices 30 cents a pound
and Charles asked his landlords to take a cut in rent,
less being better than nothing,
so they could survive together. 

During the Second World War's toughest times,
See's was faced with butter, cream and sugar rations.
But rather than change the quality ingredients,
See's bet the farm that customers would rather have less of top quality
than an inferior product.
They rationed their candies. 
When stores ran out, they closed early. 

And while others were forced to close,
See's expanded into the San Francisco Bay Area. 

In the Roaring Twenties, 
Employee Hugh Fry would deliver candy all over Los Angeles
on a Harley Davidson fashioned with a lace-curtained, tiny cottage over the side car
which served dual purposes: 
as delivery storage 
and billboard. 

In the '30's, deliveries were made by Model A. 

Today, See's Candies creates more than 23 million pounds of confections a year
and over 800 million pieces of candy. 

In June 2012, it joined the Guinness Book of World Records
with the world's largest lollipop weighing 7,003 pounds. 
The Root Beer lollypops below
are seasonal, summer favorites. 

And for those who need to go sugarless,
there are options. 

They've expanded their stores to over 200 across the US,
Japan, Hong Kong and Macau.
And expanded their creations.

Another endearing feature is just how many employees
have remained dedicated to the company for 10, 25 and 50 years.

Our grand opening even brought the mayor in for a ribbon cutting.

But the most intriguing aspect to the story for me,
besides a family-owned business that survived and thrived for 50 years
and a business that has now kept their doors open for nearly a century,
was learning that in 1972, the family sold to someone who exemplifies
 their own family, business and moral ethics.

A man known as 'The Wizard', 'The Oracle', and 'The Sage of Omaha';
A man who has pledged 99 percent of his immense wealth to philanthropy,
particularly the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation;
A man who believes that his children should not be 'given' the kind of money he has amassed
but that our world could better benefit from his good fortune, wise decisions and investments.
(The Gates Foundation and their work to globally better healthcare and reduce poverty
also aim to increase education and technology access in America.)
A man I feel so positively strongly and strongly positive about,
I created a character who saves the day in my upcoming novel
based on him and using his initials.

The family sold to Warren Buffett.
I mentioned that I've never had a feeling for See's Candies before
but this knowledge changed everything for me.
When I buy now,
it will be See's.

(BTW~ WB's favorite is the Peanut Brittle!) 
(Photos copyright: Kirsten Steen) 

Monday, July 1, 2013

Baguette less popular

Popularity of the traditional baguette seems to be on the wane. 
According to The Telegraph, the French are less inclined to consume these days. 
While I'm a fairly gluten-free eater most of the time,
I do reserve the right to a few delectable hunks of baguette with my cheese when in France. 
And there's nothing like typical baguette street sandwiches made with
 fresh butter, fromage and jambon to be eaten on a park bench. 
I typically buy the Pain Cereale
for its healthier properties. 
But with cheese, it must be baguette. 

The French swear that they never snack between meals
but on every single day of the week, 
one can see them walking down the street, 
baguette under arm, top chunk missing and chewing vigorously.  

 It has just the right outer crunchiness and spongy interior 
to make it perfectly acceptable to be eaten alone. 
And its subtle taste leaves each rather-too-large slice of cheese
to be enjoyed in all its pure flavor
without being overpowered. 

France is beginning a national campaign 
(to help out those 26,000 boulangeries) 
similar to our milk industry's "Got milk?" campaign. 
So, if you suddenly have a strong desire
for some of that spongy goodness, 
someone is behind it. 
Go with it. 
Save the boulangerie! 

(Photo copyright: Kirsten Steen)