Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Undisputed Truth

Poor smiling face.

You got left out of last weekend's smiling faces fest because nobody has bothered to deck your window out with red paint.

But as a consolation prize, you can help me reveal the answer to the trivia question embedded in that blog post:

"Who made the song "Smiling Faces Sometimes" a hit?"

In asking that question I was, of course, confronted with the fact that a lot of my readers are too young to remember that song. Never mind. If you had your transistor radio turned on every night in your room in 1971, you know it. So I'm talking to you. Can you dig it?

Originally recorded by The Temptations, the song became a number 3 pop chart hit in 1971 re-recorded by the little-known "psychadelic soul" act "The Undisputed Truth."

Despite the veracity of their name, The Undisputed Truth never made it back into the Top 4O. In a strange twist of fate, they were the ones who first recorded "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone" in 1972. Their recording of the song hit a modest #62, but it was re-recorded shortly thereafter by guess who: The Temptations. That version reached number one on the pop charts and is considered an all-time soul music classic.

One of my commenters mentioned that "Smiling Faces Sometimes" used to scare her when she was a kid. She may get scared even now if she watches this:

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Wordless Wednesday 14

(Photo courtesy of Thierry Jouanneteau. Click on image to enlarge.)

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Smiling Faces

"Smiling faces sometimes pretend to be your friend:

Smiling faces show no traces of the evil that lurks within:

Smiling faces, smiling faces sometimes they don't tell the truth, uh:

Smiling faces, smiling faces tell lies and I got proof:"

The lyrics are an extract from the song "Smiling Faces" by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong.

No links provided because here's a fun trivia question instead:

Who made this song a hit?

Obviously, no online research allowed!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Room with a view

It's probably been quite some time since anybody checked out the view from this window. But someone who went up there now -- and you know how much I'd love to -- would be able to gaze down on this courtyard:

Astute observers will recognize the strange, run-down garden that I featured in my last Wordless Wednesday.

One can find plenty of similar sites in the South of France, but what especially intrigues me about this funny little yard is that it's right smack in the town center of Rodez...and clearly visible from a pedestrian street.

Yes, Rianna, those are probably rabbit coops in the back -- years ago, someone perked them up with a coat of Provençal blue paint, which actually isn't typical of Aveyron.

On the left, you can see what likely used to be "the facilities" -- as late as 1993, friends talked to me about homes that still had their "WC" outside the house, and I'm sure there are still plenty in the countryside all over France.

It's another funky little corner of Rodez that I'm sure will be gone one of these days.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Live in Paris; Read More?

In my ever-active mind, I have been bemoaning the fact that I don't read nearly as much as I used to. I was a huge reader in my pre-motherhood days, and even when my kids were small I managed to get through quite a few books since reading was about my only personal hobby.

Now between work, the house, cooking, driving my kids all over the place and yes, of course, the computer, the only time I find to read is right before going to sleep -- and if you're a busy parent, you know how long that lasts.

This year I have had the chance to go to Paris a few times for work, and was impressed by how many people I saw reading in the metro and RER. As you can see above, there are even poems posted in the trains just in case you don't have anything to read on you -- how Parisian!

When I'm in Olympia for the summer, even though there's no subway, I often see people carrying around books in order to devour a few pages if they find themselves with nothing constructive to do. And I've realized that here in Aveyron, I never see people dragging books around to read on the bus, in cafés, or in doctors' waiting rooms. I wonder why that is?

I'm not saying people don't read here. Au contraire! The main local bookstore does a booming business, as a recent article in Télérama points out:

La Maison du livre,avec son fonds sans défaut (30 000 titres) et ses conseils avisés, dégage un chiffre d’affaires annuel de 3,5 millions d’euros, qui, rapporté aux 272 000 habitants du dépar­te­ment, en fait une des librairies les plus dynamiques de France.

But reading seems to remain a private activity here, carried out in the
confines of readers' homes.

What's the "reading in public" situation where you live?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Retour de saison

After an unseasonably warm and dry February, winter made a comeback last week.

My daughters found themselves sprinkled with snow as they went back to school after the two-week winter holiday; my colleagues and I all bundled up at work as suddenly the heating system didn't quite keep us warm enough.

I've experienced this retour de saison many times in March. Just two years ago, it was also snowing during the first week of the month. And last year we fretted about making it up to Clermont-Ferrand to see Michel Polnareff in concert because it was snowing all over the area on March 19th.

I also remember one year when we had a huge snowfall on Easter Monday -- about a foot here in the Rodez area and at least three feet on the Aubrac mountains.

Winter lingers in Aveyron.

(Photos courtesy of Thierry Jouanneteau)

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Montpellier under a different light

While many families are off skiing, my daughters and I often take advantage of a day or two of their two-week February holiday to enjoy shopping, sun and cinema in Montpellier.

It is exhilarating to cross the Millau viaduct, sense the dreary isolation of the Larzac plateau, descend the precipitous and infamous pas de l'Esacalette, and suddenly find ourselves surrounded by vinyards and glorious warmth.

This year was the first time that the weather didn't play the game, which allowed us to discover Montpellier under a new light:

We hadn't come for shades of black and beige, but the tones left us with a new impression of the city.