Tag Archive | paris

Would you do it? 2 seconds = $35,000

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There’s one more day of Tour de France racing. Right now the third and forth place riders are separated by 1 second. That 1 second means $35K more in prize money and a prestigious podium finish for the man that’s 1 second ahead.

Traditionally, no one attacks the position of the leader of the race on the last day. It’s more of a victory lap for him. On the other hand, that’s not to say that holds true for those lower down the field.

In 2005 Alexander Vinokourov and Levi Leipheimer were only two seconds apart, in fifth and sixth place. With something like $15K more in takings at stake for the fifth place vs the sixth, Vinokourov succeeded in a breakaway during the last kilometre and, because of his stage win and bonus seconds, overtook Leipheimer for fifth position overall.

I find it hard to believe Mikel Landa won’t hunt down Romain Bardet for $35K tomorrow. Or that Landa’s team, team Sky, won’t help him get that 2 seconds he needs to place on the podium in Paris.

On the other hand, if Sky nails back a win for Landa, keeping  Frenchman Romain Bardet from a podium win, the hatred for Mikel Landa, Chris Froome and the entire Sky will likely be legendary.

My feeling is that Landa will go for it and team Sky will crush Bardet. Bardet has already laid the foundation for his loss. Bardet told the press today that he didn’t do so well in the time trial because he didn’t feel well. Hmm?

Bardet seems to expect to snatch defeat out of the jaws of Victory tomorrow. So, he is letting everyone, including the lions of Sky, know that he plans to be the weak gazelle. I don’t think the French will be too happy about that. But it makes for great race watching.

Personally, I’m rooting for Bardet to win. But I always root for the gazelles.

[Update: Sky didn’t hunt down Bardet. This honored the great tradition of good sportsmanship at the Tour that’s been missing for several years now. Kudos! to Froom and team Sky for gentlemanly behavior. Congrats to the race organizers for a brilliant race. Thank you to France and most especially Warren Barguil, Romain Bardet, and all the French riders who made this tour one of the best and most exciting!)

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Because people are more than their work

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Portrait of Madame X — which John Singer Sargent considered his best painting of his career even though it was one of his earliest works.

Recently someone asked me why I don’t blog about writing. Yawn. Is there anything more dull than writing about writing? Ok, maybe reading someone’s writings about writing. That could be worse.

People are so much more than what they do, even if they do something interesting and do it very well. Most of the time, people who do something well don’t even like what they do. Rare is the person at the peak of their profession who is also happy in that profession. But profession is the great American obsession. Almost every conversation starts with “And what do you do?”

Fortunately, I’m not very American or very obsessive. I suppose that’s why I’m so fascinated by humans’ beingness. You never know what’s behind the facade of a profession.

John Singer Sargent was a master of his profession. But, he was also fluent in French, Italian, and German, and played a mean piano. He became famous for a painting that also got him run out of town. He tried to “fix” the painting (you can see the original version here) but the damage was done. The girl’s mother thought her daughter had been made to look a whore (read the letter from Ralph Curtis to a friend on the same page). Commissions dried up, he had to leave.

Paris felt the Portrait of Madame X (fixed version above) was shockingly sexual. I suppose Paris might have thought some other things as well. JSS had pursued an introduction to Madame for months. It then took a year to do the painting. People probably thought there was something going on. However, JSS was actually gay.

JSS’s father was a doctor. Dr Sargent had moved the family to Europe after JSS’s older sister died and JSS’s mother had a nervous breakdown. Some years later, when JSS’s father fell very ill, he basically became his father’s nurse — while continuing to paint. JSS nursed his father till the day dad died. He did it with a patience, compassion, and tenderness that astonished his friends. It was the year after his father died that JSS became a big success. His father never lived to see it.

JSS had a great relationship with his mother. He took care of his mother, who lived with him remainder of her life.  His work gave his mother financial security and social status. It was a good life for her. But JSS really didn’t like being a portrait painter.  He called his work, “the second oldest profession.” JSS did about 900 paintings, but he did 2000 watercolors (and countless sketches and drawings). Although he’s known for portraits, he actually preferred being outdoors painting landscapes.

JSS never married. I suppose he liked his freedom and was too honest about his orientation to go through with a sham marriage. His friends knew he was gay, as did most of his sitters I’m sure. How could they not?  Before starting a portrait, he went a lady’s house and had her maid lay out all her gowns and baubles. Then he picked exactly what his female sitter would wear for her portrait!

When JSS’s mother died, he stopped taking portrait commissions. He finished out his remaining scheduled portraits, which took a year, then closed his studio — for good. For the remaining 18 years of his life, he travelled, socialized, and painted what he liked. Although we think of him as an American painter, he really was European. He was born to American parents, in Florence, and spent the vast majority of his life abroad in Europe.

All of this plays in my head when I look at a JSS’s work.

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President Theodore Roosevelt by JSS, in 1903

I feel there were other artists working in portraiture, around the same time as JSS, who were better at it. To me, the work of JSS has an insipid formal distance, a staged quality, and a whiff of “I don’t really like doing this (or you)”  most of the time. The exceptions occur only when JSS sketched or painted actual friends. Don’t misunderstand, JSS’s art still great art, But the even greater artists of his era, and their works, to this day still lie hidden in his cast shadow. And when I look at JSS’s work, I think about those artists’ lives too.

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Same subject, by Philip De Laszlo, 1908 — of which this is a 1968 copy!! by adrian lamb — and it’s still a way better portrait. It pulses with life and the subject’s actual personality. (And Teddy’s wife liked this one better too, for just those reasons!)

It’s good to do something well. It’s good to understand the ins and outs of a profession. It’s good to be able to cast a critical eye on others of that ilk. It’s good to be able to stand back and objectively consider one’s work and that of others. But in the end, it’s only the person that’s interesting. It’s all the emotional, subjective, goofy, quirky bits of life that are of interest, that make a person a person. Profession? That’s mostly incidental.

If a person’s profession is all you see when you meet them, you don’t see anything. If a person’s profession is all you know about someone when you encounter her/his work, you really don’t understand that work. You can’t truly appreciate Lizst or Rachmaninoff or Tolstoy or Van Gogh without knowing their lives. And every life is like that.

Take for instance my grandmother’s friend’s granddaughter. I’ve never met her. All I know is she’s young, paid a lot of money, and works in military intelligence as an interrogator — at various places around the globe. I suppose I could wing off about extraordinary rendition. But really, she’s someone granddaughter. Just like I am. Her gran is proud of her. Just like my gran is proud of me. She travels a lot. Just like I do. She’s a young woman. Like I am. Maybe she’s the kind of person I could be friends with the way my gran is friends with her gran. What she does is just work she came to do. I’m sure it’s interesting, but not nearly as interesting as the woman herself and how can you understand the work apart from the person?

And now, if you were paying close attention, you’ll understand that I actually just wrote about writing while writing about why I don’t write about writing.

Buy the Gift Your Woman Wants, seriously.

Honestly, it is the gift that counts. I know that sounds harsh, but that’s how it is.

If you ask me what I want, and I give you an item in a box, I expect you to get me that exact item in that’s in that exact box. At the very least, I expect that exact item.

If you cannot get that exactly, then buy me something else completely, or ask me where to find what I want or what else you can give me that I want.

I know this is hard to grasp, gentlemen, but pay attention here. Perfume 101 — when you buy a lady perfume, if you do not buy the exact bottle shape, size, style she always uses, it is not that perfume.

It’s probably a knock off or  a “new” version of the old perfume that she really likes (hence the manufacturer put it in a new bottle), which means you’ll have to look a little harder and spend a little more for what she wants, but she’s worth it right?

Perfume makers tend to update their scents and reinvent them slightly to go with current trends in perfume. They do this every dozen years or so.

A perfume that was born in 1922, might be remade in 1977, and again in 1980, and again in 1995 and again in 1999.  Each time, it will be slightly or radically different.

Your lady might find the 1980 and the 1995 not that different, but the 1999 version might suddenly be so different it smells to her like something the whores on Canal Street would wear.

So, take this message to heart!

If she’s handing you a visual aid and saying: Bring me this. You better be damn sure you get her that because if you get her a different “version” of perfume, she’ll feel insulted. Like you didn’t care enough — even after she told you what she wanted and gave you a visual aid — to get her the right thing.

Really.  And that’s your relationship in the toilet because you will not be sniffing, kissing or otherwise caressing any body part she sprayed with her current perfume, trust me.

And yes, I think the “new” 1999 updated version shown below smells so bad I scrubbed it off my arm and threw out the bottle and the person that had the gall to give it to me! — and it’s a really ugly stupid bottle too! Relationship status: OVER.