France and all that Jazz.

Mais, Felicitations La France et Macron!

Let’s put on some jazz, poor some vin and eat du fromage. Allons-y!

Due to the political climate I’ve thrown myself back into French; donc, eccomi!

TSF Jazz


I discovered TSFjazz while living in Paris and now thanks to Bose’s Soundtouch I am able to listen to it anywhere simply by pushing a button (modern society doesn’t always suck, apparently the IPad does though, it’s keeping everyone awake at night. Stay away from the blue light baby) The station can be very eclectic. La musique can sway from B.B. King to Ella Fitzgerald to Mr. Sandman, (please stop playing that song) to Miles Davis, Coltrane, a Herbie Hancock vocal with Tina Turner and then to Ibrahim Maalouf which is where my ears discovered him. Turns out, Sting discovered him too. Voilà Ibrahim and Sting re-opening the Bataclan in Paris. De plus, Sting speaks French. Meow.

A propos, I still don’t get why TSFJazz doesn’t play Brian Culbertson’s Funk record but c’est la vie. For the record, Brian has played with Prince. & Elton John called to tell him he kicks ass on the keyboard. Sans the name dropping, Brian still does kick ass.

Image result for Brian Culbertson FUNKNo, I’m not partial. I wouldn’t have gotten with him if his music had sucked because I get physically ill when music sucks. If your restaurant plays bad music, I’m out. If your store plays bad music, I’m out. If you are a bad musician playing good music, I’m out.  If you like bad music, I’m out. Can’t help it, I get a stomach ache the minute the music sucks. For the Funk

Ibrahim Maalouf

images.jpegIbrahim Maalouf, does not suck. I’ve been addicted to Ibrahim Maalouf for years and got to see him live in Chicago which was great even though I had to watch a bunch of connards leave in the middle of the concert. Look, I’ve sat through some awful acting in plays & horrendous opera and even had to put up with Bill Maher’s lack of show the other night in Chicago. (55 minute set, reading off of a music stand and repeating the same shit from your HBO show? Seriously, dude? Have some integrity)  but you wait until intermission if you don’t like the show, you don’t get up and leave while it’s going on. It’s just so disrespectful. Well, unless you are pissed at Placido Domingo like I was once, then you can walk right on out. (I’ll save that histoire for another time) Ibrahim is an incredible player with incredible music. You just didn’t know the guy because you bought a series subscription to the Jazz series at Symphony Center. Give a new artist a chance.  Maalouf is a genius on classical Trumpet, has a degree in math and fled Lebanon for France. Yes, he is Lebanese. I actually dated a Lebanese guy in high school (Salut Serge) I can’t imagine the politics that would surround that innocent 16 year old version of myself. Ibrahim Maalouf will have to stick to Sanctuary cities. I would imagine he won’t get the shit kicked out of him like Miles Davis did during a break in his show in NYC. At least, I hope not. Miles did get the crap beat out of him just for having a different skin color. You all know we came from different parts of the world and the sun had to do with our skin color and that’s it. You got to be a special kind of stupid to judge someone on the color of their skin. Me? I judge people on their stupidity.

One of the cool things about living in Los Angeles is being stuck in the car for hours upon hours of endless listening opportunities. I’ve listened to so much Fusion and whatever this Jazz Moderne is coming out of France that I no longer need Shazam.  Hell, I’ve listened to so much music I’ve become Brian Culbertson’s Shazam.

The first album I got into of Maalouf’s was Wind.  Unknown-1.jpeg

The mix on Wind is butter to the ears. The good kind, the Irish butter. Maalouf’s trumpet is sultry. The piano is clear without being overwhelming. The drums are balanced perfectly. Even the saxophone’s tone glides seamlessly along with the trumpet’s which is rare especially out of Europe. Pourquoi? Saxophones can have a decidedly nasal tone in the olde world.  Usually someone’s tone sticks out even in the new world, mais, both instruments are dancing together on Wind. I’m always drawn to jazz artists outside the states, it’s not something that I do on purpose, it just happens. I think it has to to do with this: One of my great opera coaches, Charlie Riecker, of the Metropolitan Opera told me that you want to draw in the listener not push them away.

There is just something about jazz artists outside the USA, they don’t have to show off, they know when to hold back. They find music in the silence.  It’s not in your face. And their chord structure takes you on a different kind of ride; they are not predictable. Maybe they listen to more classical music which contains a wide variety of dynamics. I’m talking modern day artists, I know Miles Davis knew how to hold back but Miles listened to classical music, specifically Satie…Image result for Miles Davis SatieImage result for Miles Davis Satie

Have jazz artists in the States stop listening to Classical Music? Is that it? It’s a polarized nation now. Is it polarized in every which way? Are jazz artists in the States only making music for one another in a type of masturbatory celebration of “see what I can do”? Has it become an elitist art form and out of touch?  Like a philosophy professor locked in his ivory tower spewing his theories to other professors?

When I listen to Coltrane or Miles I know what’s up. I try out a new American Jazz Artist and I’m not feeling it. If anyone has any recommendations, great.

Unknown-2.jpegIbrahim makes people anticipate the next note, not wait for it. The listener is drawn in….

Start with the album Wind.  Image result for Ibrahim Maalouf wind

How not to be Misérables… go for a walk in Paris. (walk #3)

Leave your ‘miserables’ attitude behind, you’re in Paris…

photo 2

You go for a walk, it does wonders for the brain and keeps you from being Misérables.  Begin with The Place de Vosges.
place-des-vosges-730345-swHopefully I won’t get into trouble for posting this photo. The credit is still on there. 😉

The Place de Vosges where Victor Hugo once lived.


The man who wrote the book, Les Misérables, which I highly recommend. T’was made into a musical as well and then was born again as one of those musical movies. However, and I love a good rendition of ‘Bring Him Home’ and singing my way through ‘On my own’ just as much as anyone but however, if you really want to feel the story the best way is through your own imagination so open the book.


This is not the musical, this is the book.

This area is breathtaking so stroll about for a bit and pop into Hugo’s home; which is, bien sur, now a museum.

Head over (see map above) to the Canal St. Martin located in red on the following map. Bring an iPhone and use the maps, it is the BEST thing to have in Europe. Although getting lost was always a fun and an interesting experience. However, when you walk in circles like I did once it can get frustrating if you are late for an appointment. Luckily wandering into a Police Station is easy and they are there to help, which they did the time that I ended up in some tunnel thing. Merci… Anyway, you can easily just hang out in the Canal area the rest of the day.


It’s where Amelie skipped stones.

Film and Television

If you haven’t seen the movie yet please watch it prior to visiting Paris. It is titled “Amelie” and is streaming on Netflix right now.

Here is a video of  Amelie skipping stones.

Voilà, some detailed websites of the Canals of Paris:

From this site, GET YOUR PIZZA TO GO AT:

The Pink Flamingo

67 rue Bichat
Tel.: +33(0)142 023 170

Indulge in a favorite neighborhood treat: get your pizza delivered canalside! A Franco-American couple co-owns the Pink Flamingo, a stylish joint where the pizza is reminiscent of some of the best New York-style slices.

The bonus: You can order your pie to go, take a pink balloon as proof of purchase, and relax on the banks of the canal. The deliveryperson will find you via the balloon.

Prices: Around 8-15 Euros (approx. $10-$19) per person.

Here is a blog devoted to the Canals of Paris:

Don’t forget to bring your copy of Les Misérables to read while enjoying your pizza by the Canal. Brian just finished reading George Orwell’s  “1984” Monsieur Orwell lived in Paris and wrote the book “Down and Out in Paris and London” maybe Les Misérables is in Brian’s future. 😉

Le fin. À la prochaine!!

Une Carafe d’eau at The Editors (Paris Walk #2)


Start a Sunday morning with the Eiffel Tower.

IMG_1180Then, if you are inclined, head into The American Church that dates back to 1857 for a service that is reminiscent of the pre-war era. I always think of the film “It’s a Wonderful Life” when I sit in this church.

You can see the Steeple next to the Eiffel Tower.


Now walk over to the Musee D’Orsay. There might be a line but it’s worth the wait. See…


Go take in some Van Gogh’s. One of my favorite artists. À propos, there is speculation that he didn’t cut his ear off.  I just don’t believe that a man who studied as hard as he did and whose letters that were filled with such lucidity could have actually cut a part of his ear off. I’ll research it for another post. Poor Van Gogh was just that, poor. No one believed in his work and he died not ever having seen the kind of fame he has now. He, like most great artists, was ahead of his time.  At least he wasn’t a complete narcissist like Picasso. That guy?  Un vrai connard!  His son “did himself in” so to speak due to Picasso’s verbal abuse. Anyway…

Now you could head over to the Rodin museum from here and think for a spell…



The Thinker.

…or make your way down the Boulevard St. Germain and have  a brunch at the very famous Les Deux Magot.

Order the Croque Monsieur or the Croque Madame.  It’s basically a grown-ups version of a grilled ham and cheese. The madame has a soft boiled egg on top. I order this all. the. time.


This is where Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Hemingway, Camus, Picasso; etc.. would hang out. I can see why, this place is beautiful and you can linger as long as you want with your noisette. IMG_1228

Now head into the church, the Eglise Saint-Germain-des-Prés across from Les Deux Magot and from there take the Rue de l’Abbaye next to the church. If there is a concert going on in the church, which there usually is, see it.


Try to find the famous little square on your left. I have gotten lost before making my way here so don’t feel frustrated. But, I found it eventually. Ta-dah.


There is a little wine shop not too far from here called La Dernier Goute. Unknown A quaint little english speaking shop where you can go wine tasting.

Here is a link via this great website:

Make your way to Rue Jacob and then onto Rue de Buci.

Here is a description of Rue Jacob.

Find a coffee shop and then do a little shopping at some of the quaint stores.

Perhaps a glass of wine.

An early dinner at Les Editeurs on a Sunday is a great way to end the day. The salmon is incredible. Ask for “une carafe d’eau” which is simply tap water; i. e, a carafe of water. The water is always good and bottled water can run your bill up pretty high. À propos, I tried ordering a dirty martini here once.  I received a dish of olives and a glass of vodka on ice. Stick to the wine. 😉

Here is a link to “une carafe d’eau”’eau


Les Editeurs

4 Carrefour de l’Odéon
Saint Germain des prés
75006 Paris

Dormez Bien!

Walking through Paris, France…


A friend of mine is headed to Paris in a few weeks for the first time and so having been asked in the past for places to visit in the City of Lights and Love I thought I would put together a little walking tour of the exact walks that I take when I am lucky enough to be there…


Walk #1.


Start at Cafe de la Mairie and order a quiche and noisette, which is just a macchiato in french.  What’s a macchiato?  An actual, real macchiato is a shot of  espresso with a little bit of steamed milk on top. C’est simple. IMG_0760Noisette, which means nut  in French, eludes to the color of the noisette when stirred.  This café located on the Place St. Sulpice was a favorite of Henry Miller and is mentioned in his work “The Tropic of Cancer.”  Enjoy your quiche whilst staring out the front window or if you are lucky enough to find a seat, sit out front and stare up at the Saint-Sulpice church while pretending to read “The Tropic of Cancer.” miller-cancerPeople watching is a must as well. Just look at the dapper men.


Love those plaid pants.

Walk over to the fountain and if the church, St. Sulpice is open, head inside.   Churches are usually open to visitors in Europe and deliver a welcomed respite from the chaos of the city.  After the Place Saint Sulpice head up to the Jardin de Tuileries.

IMG_1711Some history on the Garden of Tiles can be found here:

Walk to the end and far right and you will see men playing Bocce Ball. Next time I am in Paris I am going to take photos of the playground at the Jardin, which is up near the men playing bocce ball. The park is pretty incredible and would be deemed illegal in the States. I haven’t taken any photos yet because I thought I might look odd standing there taking photos of people’s kids. I suppose that’s a bit of my American mentality seeping through.  The jungle gym looks pretty dangerous but the French kids are happily flinging themselves from a twirly spinning thing to a rotating what-cha-ma-callit all via a rope and all dressed in their Sunday Best. Once an American kid sets foot on a Paris jungle gym the child will forever be changed. Having developed a permanent case of nostalgia, he or she will continually long for the days when running across that spinning thing made of cement felt like the first taste of freedom or first taste of a concussion. Live and learn, n’est pas?

Here’s a list of great playgrounds in Paris for those bringing children.  Paris is child friendly if your children behave. If not?  Well, don’t bring the children, get a therapist and see what you are doing wrong. Or, read the following book because whatever childrearing we got going on in the states (or lack of)  sure isn’t working.

  1. 20121010-153527

Then head east and if you are lucky you will see people practicing Tai Chi which is actually quite breathtaking.  I think I saw this exact scene of tai chi in the film “Paris.”

Make your way over to Boulevard Saint Michel. From there head up to Rue Souflot where  you will see the Pantheon.


9780393318791From there you can wander over to where Hemingway used to live.

George Orwell lived in the area too. You know, the guy who wrote “Animal Farm” and “1984.”   Orwell came to Paris to experience what life as a worker in the belly or kitchens, if you will, of Paris.  You can read the tales here in “Down and Out in Paris and London”

imagesYou can make your way down Rue Mouffetard to the chocolate place Jeff de Bruges …my favorite chocolate shop in Paris.  Yes, I prefer it to La maison du chocolat. Jeff de Bruges is YUMMY I tell you!!!IMG_0685

112-114 Rue Mouffetard
75005 Paris, France
+33 1 43 36 77 82
Make your way back along the Rue Mouffetard and down towards the river. Perhaps on the way stop and get a banana nutella crepe. Don’t even think about counting calories. Trust me. You can’t imagine the amount of cheese, chocolate, bread and foie gras that I eat when I am there and I always, always come back a size smaller. It must be the combination of walking and the fact that their food probably still contains CLA, something that the food in the states is sorely lacking.

Before heading to the Notre Dame stop into the very famous English bookstore before you cross the river,IMG_2547“Shakespeare and Co.  and browse the tables. Or, pick up a tourist book on Paris.IMG_0042

Now walk across the river to the Notre Dame and then walk behind it. There is a garden behind the Notre Dame.IMG_1301 I love it behind the Notre Dame because tourists tend to hang around the front.  Relax in the garden a bit. If memory serves me the garden behind the Notre Dame is also where Carla Bruni translated a diary for Owen Wilson is Wood Allen’s “Midnight in Paris.”IMG_0667


You must be hungry again. Make your way over to the next island, the Ile Saint Louis in the 4ème.  The quiet island is home to a very famous gelateria, Berthillon Glacier, quaint shops and restaurants.

You could start with an early dinner at the Tastevin but definitely check to see what time the gelateria closes because you must try some of the famous French ice cream.

Bonne Appetit and Faites des Bonnes Reves. (Sweet dreams)

Life is absurd…or how to be happy.

albert-camus-quotes-the-stranger-e1351431227315At some point early at University I learned this phrase and took it as truth.  It could have been in my philosophy class or it could have been when I decided to read Camus because I thought I ought to read Camus.  At some point, through some avenue, that phrase “life is absurd” stuck.


The Age of Absurdity: Why Modern Life Makes it Hard to be Happy

Life is absurd, isn’t it? We are tossed about, luck happens or it doesn’t, we plan and things change. Our lives end up in an entirely different direction and violà, life is absurd. Well, unless we learn from and give meaning to every experience.  We choose our lives by choosing how we react to our lives.  If we don’t like our reactions we choose to better them the next time we are faced with a problem or a person who is causing a problem. So yes, when it comes down to it-life is absurd. Absurdity bubbles through our existence because no one truly knows why we are here, nor where we are going.

Does religion pop into your mind?  One can question life in the absence of religion. What if I made Existentialism my Religion? Would you prosecute me? Did I lose all moral center? Of course not. And some fire pit isn’t going to swallow me up for it. If you believe this, then well, your God is a mean God and I don’t do mean. This mean God that is slowly enveloping the minds of people is exhausting and drains life of its potential. How can you live an authentic life in the shadow of some great narcissist in the sky?

albert-camus-quotes-sayings-meaningful-fear-thoughts-195x175You can’t. No one can. And no one can tell me what is going to happen next, I don’t care if you saw Jesus in your tollhouse cookie and he spoke to you through a half melted chocolate chip.slide06

“Without God, in fact, there is even more need for ethics because human beings are completely responsible for themselves.” as thought by Simone de Beauvoir from the book entitled Existentialism For Beginners

An open mind to the possibilities that are out there, the ‘I don’t know,’ embracing uncertainty, finding strength through the tools that YOU have, garnering strength within yourself, making choices, being authentic, integrity… this is existentialism. This is also probably why the French know how to embrace life in a way that is lacking in a puritanical society with a bunch of little judges running around. You can’t love what you judge and if you judge people how can you ever truly love them? Everything is to the extreme in this country, one is either all good or all evil. No wonder people are bursting at the seems mentally, spiritually, physically there is too much pressure to be something that is impossible. Chill out people, it’s only life.

The pursuit of happiness…

“I didn’t understand what the meaning of life was,” he said. “I still don’t, but I thought that everyone else did, that there was this big secret that everyone was in on that I wasn’t. I thought everyone understood why we were here, and that they were all secretly happy somewhere without me.” That quote was taken by an article in The Atlantic that I read this morning entitled. “The Existential Pain of being young, white and affluent.” It’s a sad article really, the privileged, young guy in the article addicted to over the counter drugs which eventually turns into heroin can’t find happiness nor a purpose for living. Why? Is it because we never address what it really means to live NOT outside yourself but within yourself. No one will ever find true happiness always looking outward. Always seeking for someone or something else to give meaning or happiness to their life.  You turn to your partner, your money, your work, your home, your drugs, your chocolate, your exercise, your food.  When will people start looking inward at their own minds and how they work? You are always checking Facebook for those “likes” that bring a small surge of dopamine that lead to nowhere but a need for more likes.  If you are addicted to outward appearances how much money and things you have, how religious you are without ever looking inward at yourself, your journey will always remain on the outside. You will always be looking through the filter of something, a filter of money, religion, facebook friend likes. How can you see yourself clearly looking through something. Pretend you have nothing to cling to, now who are you? Who are you without religion, Facebook, money? “Many people have the silly idea, gleaned from movies, adverts and glossy magazines, that life is perfectible. The idea that other people out there somewhere have achieved the perfect life. So, they feel dissatisfied with the life they have or even downright cheated out of the life they think they deserve but don’t have, the life no one has. They yearn for a life of perfect happiness that is impossible, while failing to take control of the life they do have and make it ore rewarding through decisive, realistic action.”  How to Be an Existentialist: or How to Get Real, Get a Grip and Stop Making Excuses by Gary Cox. “…existentialism is saying, if you want to be happy, or at least be happier, stop struggling to achieve complete happiness because that way only leads to disappointment.”


Mauvaise foi: Otherwise known as Bad Faith.

Living the inauthentic life…

Ever have a waiter who seems to be playing a waiter? He or she goes around to different tables saying the exact same thing, smiling the exact same way. This person is inauthentic. Encountering the waiter is an example that Sartre gives for living in Bad Faith or in more modern terms, frontin’ or being insincere or not genuine, pretending to be cool.  This is not living an authentic life. You must live a transparent life, know who you are to the core and be that person regardless of what society says you should be or what others think. As long as you are not hurting anyone, living a life true to who you are without trying to be someone you are not is the existentialist way.Unknownimages  Did you know that some people are born with brains that can’t sustain a relationship with one person? This is biological and yet our society states that everyone should be married with kids. Who are we hurting? We as a society, by forming all these little labels and boxes, are telling people who are different that it isn’t ok to be different despite the fact that they were born biologically different. What isn’t in the majority is considered bad. We are hurting society as a whole for punishing people who can’t live in the exact same way as the majority. It’s lame on so many levels I can’t begin to write about it but I can write this: Who are we to judge what others do with their lives if it doesn’t hurt you?

Living in the now, authentically:

You can’t live outside your present reality, you can’t use convenient excuses and coping strategies to avoid your present.  Living a life blaming your parents for your misfortunes or anxiety disorder doesn’t fly in existentialism. Your parents screwed you up? OK. You and most of this world. Read something like this:

180466Children of the Self-Absorbed: A Grown-Up’s Guide to Getting Over Narcissistic Parents by Nina Brown


Another Existentialism No. I should have done this and I should have done that. Guess what. You didn’t. So learn and move on. Life is what it is. Do the best you can with it, live authentically and with integrity. And please don’t be one of those “you should” people, it is incredibly annoying to listen to someone prattle on a list of you shoulds. You should write more mainstream pop, you should be blonde, you should sing on broadway. Counter. Why don’t you write more pop? Why aren’t you blond? If I sang broadway tunes my brain will became a Dali painting. (no offense to Broadway loving people)


Thinking all women are “crazy bitches” doesn’t fly either because it’s simply not true. Ever look inward to see if perhaps you are attracting the wrong type of person?

Unknown-2I listen to women talk about how men are so horrible and then men turn around and say women are so crazy.   Unknown-6There are narcissistic men and narcissistic women so… What’s inside you that is attracting an asshole narcissist again and again? How can you understand another person’s mind without first understanding your own? Read this: “How to Be an Adult in Relationships: The Five Keys to Mindful Loving
by David Richo


Be authentic look within and change because those crazies without love in their hearts. They? They will never change, it has to be you.

Learn, fix what’s broken to the best of your ability and if you can’t do it alone ask for help and then move on. If you want change in your life you must change and live authenitcally so don’t try to be so damn cool, just be.


Being And Nothingness

What if’s

 You can’t avoid the present by living through an invented ‘what if’ future. Living a life of ‘what ifs’ is a big NO in existentialism. Living a life of What ifs? “What if” I am sick with some unknown plague. “What if” the government is going to come after me with a bunch of drones. What if the illuminati have tapped my phone. What if the New World Order is coming? This is also a way to avoid your present. What are you avoiding by not living now? Is it projects, something creative, working on yourself? It’s easy to let some website full of ‘what if’ boogie men do the thinking for you. Living in the land of what if is VERY counterproductive. It’s an avoidance of the present. Because at present you are reading this blog post and no boogie man is at your door. Live in the present, cultivate who you are in the present, be secure in the present this is the essence of existentialism.

Believing in what ifs keeps you occupied, keeps you immovable. Once upon a time I knew a brilliant mind, a poet and a painter, absolutely brilliant but unfortunately, he lived a life of wondering what would happen next. He spent countless hours on the internet researching all the things that might come get us rather than working on his art.  Now the world has lost an incredible artist, who in my opinion could win a pulitzer for his writing. For a brief moment in time I got to see new work that harkened Da Vinci and Lord Byron. Alas, his work is lost to the land of ‘what ifs’ and it makes me sad to think about it.  Regarding the ‘what ‘ifs’ my reply to him was always “what if I get hit by a bus tomorrow?”  This is a possibly.  So I live today as thoroughly and as joyfully and as authentically as I can. If something is bothersome that’s just the way it is for today and maybe tomorrow it will be better.  It is said that existentialists live in the shadow of death. This is true in a sense. I know death is there and it is a part of life. Death just sucks and there is nothing we can do about it.   This isn’t meant to be morbid it is just a fact. Existentialists like facts, pragmatism and logic, this just makes life easier. Existentialists usually get the reputation that we are melancholic. Yes, when you accept the world for what it really is one can get melancholic about it all. However, this is also a choice. I can focus on the good rather than the bad or I can use a melancholic state to create. I choose this sentence that I just read in Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina “…I rejoice over what I have and don’t grieve over what I don’t have.”

“The person who chooses to be positive and confident or, at least, genuinely tries to be positive and confident, will encounter a very different world from the person who chooses to be negative and timid.”  How to Be an Existentialist
We are suppose to make lives better for one another not worse. If your friends and/or family are making your life worse. Walk. Life is short.

In his book “The Pursuit of Perfect” Tal Ben-Shahar describes the sense of accomplishment and true happiness he felt after he became his country’s youngest national squash tournament champion. The feeling lasted for three hours.” The Myth of Happiness.   It truly is in the journey.

9781590305560_p0_v1_s260x420The Five Things We Cannot Change: And the Happiness We Find by Embracing Them

 by David Richo

Existentialists accept reality. No one’e life is perfect, all of us experience boredom, dissatisfaction, heart break, death.

1. Everything changes and ends.

2. Things do not always go according to plan.

3. Life is not always fair.

4. Pain is part of life

5. People are not loving and loyal all the time.

The above list is from the book  by the brilliant author David Richo. From what I have read by him I have come to the conclusion that he is a modern day existentialist with a penchant for Jung.  I happen to love Jung as well so it was great to find this author. David Richo approaches life in a very pragmatic fashion while still holding onto an artistic outlook. In a way he gives us a base and once that base is secure we can go off and be creative about life. Another way to put it, I studied classical singing. I worked extremely hard at perfecting my arias so they were ready for auditions at the Met with the late Charles Riecker. I created a foundation and then when I left the regular opera world partly due to losing Charlie I used that foundation to create Syren but was able to be more creative with my voice and lose some of the rules from my strict studies. Picasso studied classically but obviously went off course.



Once you create a base by knowing who you are in this world and how your mind ticks, then you can go out into the world and experience people and life from an authentic place.

“You will always be waiting for some current problem to become a thing of the past, you will always be looking for future fulfillment until death is the only fulfillment, the only possibilty left to you. This is not a bad thing, it is just the way it is so you would be wrong to get depressed about it, although many people do. A true existentialist doesn’t get depressed about it. He/she says “O.K. that’s the way it is. Never mind, I’m still going to make the most of my life…” How to Be an Existentialist

Note: there are many, many thinkers on existentialism that I did not mention here only because this would have become the length of a dissertation if I had.;-)

“To attain his truth, man must not attempt to dispel the ambiguity of his being but, on the contrary, accept the task of realizing it.” Simone de Beauvoir from The Ethics of Ambiguity

Bodies and minds collide: The Chanel & Stravinsky Affair.

“Love inspired them, passion consumed them.”


From two different worlds, but both artists in their own right, Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky struck a sultry chord together.

Coco Chanel had many affairs and one of those affairs, a very passionate extremely forbidden affair, was with the composer Igor Stravinsky. Why was it so forbidden? Igor, having been exiled from his country, took Chanel up on the offer to stay in her summer home while bringing along his wife and four children.  The thing is, Chanel was also staying in the summer home.

If you don’t see the film, at least see the trailer because it is one of the best trailers that I have ever seen.

But seriously, see the film.


The year was 1913 when Chanel attended the premier of his work “The Rite of Spring” (Le Sacre du Printemps) in Paris. A production that caused a near riot. Well, the police were called in so I suppose it was a riot. Not bad for a classical piece. It was an odd ballet that is even almost too modern for today.

I have always been drawn to Stravinsky, the first piece that I played  on the violin of his was “The Firebird Suite” and the first piece of his that I sang was from his very awesome opera “The Rakes Progress.” His work is edgy, it evokes music from a new place that we haven’t been to yet.Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky - inside-1

These are the kind of artists that I am drawn to, the ones that make you think, the ones who throw their inner world onto a page and into an orchestra. The kind of artists that don’t play it safe because they don’t know how to play it safe. Last Sunday I was able to attend the original production of “The Rite of Spring.”

I wanted to see what could have caused such a riot. Honestly, the ballet was weird and I could see why people wanted their money back. But, I could appreciate the modernity of it. The choreographer, Nijinsky, put a question to the piece; if left me with a sense of  ‘what if’, an existential angst if you will. It also left me with a sense of  seeing life in its entirety; love, passion, hate, birth, death. All facets of life were presented on that stage and you can hear it in Stravinsky’s piece. He puts himself and all that we humans feel into 36 minutes of music. I must include in this post his “Firebird Suite” which; for me, represents what Heaven could be…

Stravinsky fooled around with jazz and even rearranged  Tchaikosky and Sibelius in his own manner.  It’s an interesting thing, putting other people’s music into your own mind and rearranging it to fit who you are, what you want to bring out in a piece. Even a new subtext that only you have in your mind can be added to someone else’s piece of music. Stravinsky and Chanel came together and  influenced one another deeply. I guess one could say that they made a new arrangement of one another .

“We come into one another’s lives and change the music for awhile, sometimes we sing in harmony and sometimes disharmony teaches us to move along.” Micaela Haley


“There is not time for cut and dry monotony. There is time for work. And time for love. That leaves no other time!” Coco Chanel


For Further reading on Chanel and Stravinsky here is a great novel by Chris Greenhalgh

Side Note: As I was researching for this post I came across Disney’s animation of “The Firebird Suite” and to my surprise it is an incredible rendition of the meteorite hitting the earth way back when…

Monsieur Lazhar

A beautiful, touching film. An unpredictable film that, like most French films do, leaves you with the feeling that you just visited these people and their stories in real life. The film transports you through many emotions and allows you to be a voyeur for a few minutes into the lives of children affected by a profound life event and a teacher also affected by a similar event. They help one another heal through laughter, tears, anger and memories…

Monsieur Lazhar

Bonne Année!!


I hope this petite post finds everyone in good spirits. It’s a new year and a clean slate after all. Alors, I’ve spent the last year working on new projects. Bien sûr, of course I wish I had kept blogging in 2012 but I am the type of person to pull all of my energy into one new project at a time; donc, multitasking and I, unless I am in the kitchen, do not make the greatest of friends. This past year I have been working on, and/or being Brian Culbertson’s (also known as my husband these past 15 years) soundboard for the Napa Valley Jazz Getaway…


Then to my surprise I started writing.  Writing words not music. Although I wrote a lot growing up, received some young author awards and expected to be an English major when I was a kid, I didn’t expect to have the urge to start again & now. So I read and I read differently. I finished a few books in French and am currently on Paulo Coehlo’s “L’Alchemiste” and “L’Analphabete” by Agota Kristof and I finally got into “Anna Karenina” not to mention any narcissist book that comes my way.  I devour the narcissist books because these people fascinate me.  After an eventful day being exposed to one I came home that night and I wrote some short stories and then because I can’t stop there, I decided to translate them into French with the additional help of my Prof. Guylaine.  After working on the stories in French I have found a new appreciation for translating languages.

The Prof. & I in 2012 Image

Some phrases and some words simply do not translate so you have to rely on a feeling rather than a word to convey your thought. Speaking of words, since I am from Chicago, mainly had male friends my entire life, two brothers and grew up with a Sergeant for a Father my swearing is quite colorful. Even the mayor in Chicago is famous for his use of the F-word.

I guess I shouldn’t blame the men in my life. How narcissistic of me to blame others for my own shortcomings ;-). I am to blame because the words fly out of my brain. I know I should swear less, especially on FaceTime with my family. Sorry about that.  So, I am going to apologize now for some of the language in the short stories. But I have to say, the great thing about swearing is how one can string together words to create a feeling, a very unique feeling that is very visceral and yes at times, vulgar. Darn just doesn’t carry the same weight as Fuck. Pardon my French.


My friend, Cinzia (above circa 2005) and one time Italian teacher in Florence is a translator of books from French into Italian. It’s fun when we get together because she doesn’t speak English, well she probably knows more English than she leads me to believe.  But since we both speak French and Italian we have created our own hybrid of the deux langues. When I was in Florence recently we spoke in Italian but our emails are now in French. I still think I speak better Italian than I do French but I read and write better in French than I do in Italian. Perhaps it is the rhythm of Italian that helps me speak it or the fact that I sang more italian arias than I did French. Or perhaps it was discussing books and ideas with Cinzia for three months. I digress…

Allora, I embarked on a short story writing journey this past year.  Los Angeles is a treasure trove of stories and is definitely full of narcissists and eccentrics of which I have encountered many. Turns out that they provide excellent fodder for story writing, song writing and poetry writing as in this example from a poem written in the years 1150-1160 by Comtesse de Die to Raimbaut d’Orange,


“I have to sing, but I don’t want to sing,

I am so full of rancor against the one I love

I love him more than anything in the world.

But neither kindness, nor courtesy, find favor with him

Neither my beauty, nor my worth, nor my wit.

I find myself cheated and betrayed

As if I were ugly to behold.”

ImageI read that in the book, “How the French Invented Love” by Marilyn Yalom or even this song from Alanis Morrisette provides an excellent example. The song is appropriately entitled  “Narcissus”


Dear momma’s boy I know you’ve had your butt licked by your mother
I know you’ve enjoyed all that attention from her
And every woman graced with your presence after
Dear narcissus boy I know you’ve never really apologized for anything
I know you’ve never really taken responsibility
I know you’ve never really listened to a womanDear me-show boy I know you’re not really into conflict resolution
Or seeing both sides of every equation
Or having an uninterrupted conversationAnd any talk of healthiness
And any talk of connectedness
And any talk of resolving this
Leaves you running for the door(why why do I try to love you
Try to love you when you really don’t want me
To)Dear egotist boy you’ve never really had to suffer any consequence
You’ve never stayed with anyone longer than ten minutes
You’d never understand anyone showing resistance
Dear popular boy I know you’re used to getting everything so easily
A stranger to the concept of reciprocity
People honor boys like you in this societyAnd any talk of selflessness
And any talk of working at this
And any talk of being of service
Leaves you running for the door

(why why do I try to help you try to help you
When you really don’t want me to)

You go back to the women who will dance the dance
You go back to your friends who will lick your ass
You go back to ignoring all the rest of us
You go back to the center of your universe

Dear self centered boy I don’t know why I still feel affected by you
I’ve never lasted very long with someone like you
I never did although I have to admit I wanted to
Dear magnetic boy you’ve never been with anyone who doesn’t take your shit
You’ve never been with anyone who’s dared to call you on it
I wonder how you’d be if someone were to call you on it

And any talk of willingness
And any talk of both feet in
And any talk of commitment
Leaves you running for the door

(why why do I try to change you try to
Try to change you when you really don’t
Want me to)

You go back to the women who will dance the dance
You go back to your friends who will lick your ass
You go back to being so oblivious
You go back to the center of the universe


So if I have met a narcissist, well many many many, oh beaucoup. Apropos, women are narcissists as well.  They have gone into the stories. All the stories contain some truth. I so wish I could write the ones that contain all the truth but alas I still know some of these people and out of respect and integrity all stories have been disguised. Luckily, narcissists think they are perfect, so it is doubtful they will know that I am writing about them. Sometimes they think the world centers around them so perhaps they will think I am writing about them. Always about them, isn’t it.  If I call you my friend I will not write about you. Merde! (wink)


My friend Cinzia translated one of my favorite books “L’élégance du hérisson” from French into Italian “L’eleganza del riccio” in three weeks. That is insane. Three weeks is insane!  Then again the woman is insanely smart and her love for literature and words carried her through quite easily I am sure. Cinzia? Let’s put it this way; when I first went to Florence to study music and Italian I was suppose to be there for only one month. That one month turned into two which turned into three. Yes, I was lucky that I was able to do that but I was incredibly lucky to have met and studied under a teacher that I eventually called my friend.

I’ll be putting up more movies and music this year as well because I watched a lot of great films this past year and discovered a lot of great French music!

Happy New Year! Buon Anno & Bonne Année and may you find joy in whatever it is you are doing this 2013!
due baci,
Michelle & Cinzia Octobre 2012

Lingerie, politics and la seduction…

“Without France, the world would be alone.” Victor Hugo

Image Would we indeed be alone without France as Monsieur Hugo states? Mmmmm…he was a Frenchman and therefore could be considered a little biased. However, when you think about it, France, even though it is small in size carries a huge influence on the world. The USA was so miffed at one point that “Freedom Fries” were invented. It was as if we were annoyed at our older brother: “Well I’ll show him, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah!!!” Perhaps France is a woman and the United States a man and therein lies the problem. Some men can not handle an intelligent, strong woman. Most French probably just rolled their eyes at the thought of renaming French Fries. (at least that is what I hope) One French man in particular, Jean-David Levitte, decided he needed to fix our relations and flew 100 veterans to France in order to bestow upon them the Legion of Honor to show France’s appreciation of our involvement in World War II.  Many, many people spelled out “France will never forget” on the beach at Normandy. They gave 100 veterans the aforementioned award. an aside: Seriously though, isn’t holding the fact that we helped them in WWII over their heads a bit narcissistic? “I did this for you so now you have to agree with me for eternity? Come on….Delivering France saved us as much as it saved them. Besides, didn’t they help us fight against the British quite awhile ago in that Revolution? I say we are even. Image

“La Seduction” by Elaine Sciolino, who is the longtime Paris bureau chief for the New York Times, is a fantastic, engaging book; which gives a new glimpse into the French that I have not seen before. The book goes beyond other books about the French which usually center on how they dress, eat and don’t eat. Rather, this book gets into the mindset of the French by way of the word “Seduction.” ImageFrom the book: “Séduction and séduire are among the most overused words in the French language. In English, “seduce” has a negative and exclusively sexual feel; in French the meaning is broader. The French use “seduce” where the British and Americans might use charm or attract or engage or entertain. Seduction is bound with what the French call plaisir; the art of creating and relishing pleasure of all kinds. The French are proud masters of it. They have created and perfected pleasurable ways to pass the time; perfumes to sniff, gardens to wander in, wines to drink, objects of beauty to observe and conversations to carry on. They give themselves permission to fulfill a need for pleasure and leisure that American’s hard working, super capilatlist abstinent culture often does not allow. Sexuality always lies at the bottom of the toolbox in everyday life in business, even in politics. For the French this is part of the frisson of life.” Elaine Sciolino “La Seduction” Image

Sides of Seduction by Lilyana Karadjova

Moi: When I was shopping in the lingerie department at a most incredibly beautiful mall in Paris I noticed a much older woman looking at the same black lace ensemble that I was admiring. Here is the difference between the United States and France. In The USA we would assume she is buying it for her daughter & perhaps for her daughter’s honeymoon (which I find to be a very, very odd tradition, I want my parents no where near my lingerie) but this is France and guess what, she was buying it for herself and why not? I can’t imagine being older and simply not existing anymore as I exist in my mind right now.  What she was looking at was classy mind you and not something made out of string and fuzzy balls (no-pun intended 😉 ImageAlso, you won’t find those awful white bras and even more horrible giant tannish underwear in Paris they simply do not exist. If it does exist I have never seen it. What does exist is a sales woman coming into the dressing room with you and making sure that your new Chantelle bra looks perfect on you. Be prepared to be touched in ways that would in the States be considered sexual harassment. Luckily my sense of humor kicked in as the sales woman was making sure my breasts were perfectly balanced in my new Chantelle bra.

From the book: “On the day I met the queen of French lingerie, I didn’t expect her to show me her bra. But there I was, with Chantal Thomas in her boutique on the fancy rue de Fauborg Saint-Honoré when show and tell seemed like the right thing for her to do.” ..And then she asked me what I was wearing. I gave her a brief peak. I’ll say only that it was sporty, a neutral color and without lace.” “Okay,” she said flatly. “Well, it’s very American.”

My fascination with the French is always reignited every time I find myself in the company of one or in their country. The clothes that people where on the street, the appreciating of quality over quantity is everywhere from their chocolates to their shoes. You will not find worn out sneakers or bad sweatpants roaming the streets. Besides statistics show that when you dress well you actually feel better about yourself.


Brian Culbertson in Paris, France

“Although clothes don’t make the man, they certainly affect the way he feels about himself. No one is more conscious of your physical appearance than you are. When you don’t look good, it changes the way you carry yourself and interact with other people. Use this to your advantage by taking care of your personal appearance. In most cases, significant improvements can be made by bathing and shaving frequently & wearing clean clothes. This doesn’t mean you need to spend a lot on clothes. One great rule to follow is “spend twice as much, buy half as much”. Rather than buying a bunch of cheap clothes, buy half as many select, high quality items. In the long run this decreases spending because expensive clothes wear out less easily and stay in style longer than cheap clothes. Buying less also helps reduce the clutter in your closet.”


“Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.” Freud

 A chapter of particular interest is entitled: “La pipe and Le Cigare” Image Well, it has to do with politics and Clinton does come to mind, doesn’t he? When the Clinton & Lewinsky scandal broke out I saw the story unfold from Italy and the Italians looked at us like we were a bunch of hypocrites running after someone with torches about to pin the scarlet letter to his lapel.

True it was an actual hypocrite that asked for Clinton’s resignation. Remember Mark Sanford the governor of South Carolina who had the affair with the woman from Argentina? WEll, he happens to be the one who asked for Clinton’s resignation after the Lewinsky affair. Let ye without sin throw the first stone comes to mind. I never understood our fascination with Clinton’s affair. Obviously it was ill timed & he does swear an oath but it should have been left between he and his wife and not the media & Clinton.

From the book: The French never understood all the fuss about Clinton and Lewinsky, the young White House intern. “American are the puritan descendants of the Mayflower.”

Image I am not going to get into the meaning of La Pipe…I think the word pipe says it all.


Would the world be alone without France? You know that friend you have who is incredibly smart, who can correct your grammar, knows the latest health hazard to avoid (BPA) and has you double checking words like superfluous and looking up the definition of Cognitive Dissonance? That friend is France. The friend can be arrogant, grouchy and can sometimes treat you like your existence is a nuisance to their existence but the friend always makes up for this in one way or another and without the friend you may never have learned how amazing fresh baked croissants are. France makes up for any slights by way of their music, culture, food, art, great thinkers, architecture;etc..Oh, and giving us the word lingerie… 😉 Yes, without France the world would be alone.

Foie Gras, Napa and some wine…

Le premier soir nous sommes allés au restaurant “Bottega.” J’ai bu du vin de Michael Chiarello. C’était bon, mais le coût était un peu cher, à mon avis. En Plus, il vend son vin à son magasin pour $40. Pas mal, pas mal, mais on trouve ce vin au magasin “Oakville Grocery” pour $35. (Saligaud!)

   (Comme la ramure!)

Alors, je mangeais une salade avec des raisins; c’etait bon, mais la sauce était trop lourde. Le raviolo était superbe mais la polenta avec les champignons était parfaite!

Nous avons laissé la mer de vêtements composés d’orange lumineux et fluo électrisant.. Nous nous sommes dirigés tout droit vers la sortie.  Nous sommes arrivés à la petite cabine au milieu des vignes.

Le lendemain matin, nous sommes partis pour ‘Oxbow’ où on trouve l’espresso acclamé. L’epsresso était incroyable, absolument incroyable!

Nous avons pris une excursion au théâtre dans la ville où j’ai perdu mon chapeau. Où est mon chapeau? Je l’ai trouvé. J’ai retrouvé mon chapeau reposant sous un siège.

Du Fromage et du chocolat, du chocolat et du fromage et du vin et du foie gras occupaient mon après-midi.

Un petit hommage au foie gras

Votre texture est étonnante! Vous avez un goût comme un ciel de beurre. Vous allez parfaitement avec brioche, ces brioches floconneuses! Je me suis assise en dehors de la boulangerie Bouchon, sachant que dedans était mon foie gras. Je suis végétarienne, sauf les jours où je mange du foie gras. Je sais que je suis horrible.

Si les gens s’arrêtent de manger le hamburger, s’arrêtent de conduire les SUV, admettent que le réchauffement climatique existe et abandonnent la télé-réalité, je vais arrêter de manger du foie gras.  Vu que ça n’arrivera pas, je peux manger tous les foie gras que je veux.

Ma famille et mes amis ne savent pas pourquoi j’adore le foie gras . Je viens de Chicago, où je pense le Foie Gras a été interdit pendant un temps.  J’ai grandi dans une famille où “le soir des tacos” était élégant. Mes ancêtres viennent de Lausanne, ce qui est la seule explication pour l’amour du foie gras.

Why Foie Gras is Not unethical. 

Oui, je regardais des vidéos contre le foie gras aussi. Oui, je sais les exploitations agricoles sont particulièrement cruelles. Saviez-vous que les Canards engraissent leur propre foie chaque hiver? Si nous mangeons le foie gras durant la saison, ce serait plus sain pour tout le monde. Regardez, cela s’est passé 2500 avant JC quand on a découvert cette façon saisonnière par les Egyptiens. Plutôt que d’interdire purement et simplement une chose, pourquoi ne pas aller chercher un meilleur traitement pour les animaux?  Si on exige un meilleur traitement pour les animaux, pourquoi pas un meilleur traitement de l’eau. Ce serait formidable si on enlevait les produits chimiques dans notre eau, non?
Dr. Oz mange du foie gras. Choqué?  Anthony Bourdain à visité une ferme qui fait du foie gras et apparemment ce n’est pas l’alimentation forcée qui est cruelle comme nous le pensions.
Foie Gras avec Anthony Bourdain

Le foie gras fait signe et j’ai résisté. Je suis sortie de chez Bouchon sans du foie gras. Mais, cela n’a pas arrêté pas la tentation, alors, j’ai arrêté à l’épicerie Oakville pour du pâté. Grave erreur, c’était pas terrible. La prochaine fois que je vais acheter du Foie Gras chez Bouchon, c’est juste trop succulent.
A mon avis, lorsque les Français marient la brioche avec du foie gras, l’excellence se réalise!

Malheureusement une interdiction du foie gras entrera en vigueur en Californie, au mois de juillet en 2012. Ce sera illégal d’acheter ou de vendre du foie gras.  Je vais déménager en France.
Here is a great book on foie gras…