Archive for the ‘Guest Editor’ Category

Letter from France: Time is on our side

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

Café, Paris. By Jean Ruaud.

Dear DB’s readers —

The perception of time varies wildly from culture to culture, time is not an absolute, time is culturally variable. In France the perception of time is very different than in Northern European countries or America. Exhibit one: this morning I had a meeting at work at 9.30am. I arrived at the office around 9, said hi to everybody, fixed me coffee and began to check my e-mail. At 9.25 I proceeded to room 415 where the meeting was scheduled. At 9.30 we were two in the room. Another guy was already there and was checking his e-mail on his laptop. We talked leisurely, waiting for the others to show up. People began to come in at 9.35, some were carrying on a conversation begun several minutes before in the corridors or at the coffee machines. At 9.45 everybody was there and the meeting began slowly. Nothing unusual this morning and nobody was shocked. We are living on French time. The meeting was due to end at 12.00 but at 12.30 we were still chatting. I assume that the same situation in Germany, say, or in England or in the US would be unthinkable and considered very rude. Northern or Anglo-saxon cultures are monochronic, time is rigorously scheduled, punctuality is important. In France we are generally much more polychronic, time is more elastic and less strict. Lateness is not an insult (as long as it is not too much, and the notion of “too much” in this case varies in circumstances and contexts). Nevertheless, French people have the tendency to be more punctual than Southern European people (Spanish or Italian). I seldom saw a meeting at work beginning on scheduled time. When you are invited to dinner at a certain hour, to be 30 minutes late is nothing. It is frequent that the TV shows are 10 to 15 minutes out of schedules. But punctuality is sometimes suitable it all depends of a series of different factors, circumstances and personalities, very difficult to guess if you’re not used to the culture. Deadlines have the tendency to be flexible (but not in all circumstances). Generally speaking, French are a little less rigid on time and schedule than Northern Europeans. And things get done nonetheless but at a different pace!

Things are changing these days in France, I noticed. More punctuality is required, the deadlines are much more rigid. Consequence: more stress. We slowly are changing or Mediterranean culture for an Anglo-saxon one.



Hôtel Meurice, small car, Paris. By Jean Ruaud.

Letter from France: On assignment

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

A famous tower and clouds, Paris. By Jean Ruaud.

Dear DB’S readers —

The next four months I’ll be on assignment on a big photographic project. A little French publishing house commissioned me for doing the illustrations of a book about Nestor Burma, the central character of a series of crime novels by French author Léo Malet. I have a long list of places and buildings in Paris to photography under the supervision of the book’s author. Each published picture will receive a quote from the mystery novels as caption. The pictures will in black & white. The book will be on sale next October.

Nestor Burma is a fictional character created by Léo Malet in 1942. There are 33 novels with Nestor Burma as the central character. All novels are set in Paris, each in a different arrondissement, each of a different atmosphere. Burma belongs to the tradition of the hard boiled detectives like Philip Marlowe. It’s a French Marlowe if you like, but less depressed and bitter than Chandler’s Marlowe. He is a private detective working on his own in the “Fiat Lux” detective agency in Paris with his secretary Hélène Chatelain, who is hopelessly in love with him. Each novel describes the Paris neighborhood where it is set in and the surroundings mood.

The book will be a fictional biography of Nestor Burma, with many chapters devoted to other topics related to Burma and Malet. It will be included in a series of books dedicated to fictional biographies of popular heroes. There are already Fantômas, Maigret, Sherlock Holmes, Arsène Lupin, Nero Wolfe, Dracula, Frankenstein, Miss Maple, Conan, James Bond etc.

I look forward to do this commission. It will bring me in all places in Paris and help me rediscover and re-visit the city I love. It’s a really challenging assignment and my first that I will be payed for!



“Monde festif”, Jardins des Tuileries, Paris. By Jean Ruaud.

Letter from France: Nerdism

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

Red dress, Paris. By Jean Ruaud.

Dear DB’s readers —

Yesterday night I went to the hairdresser. It was a futile attempt to clear my ideas, a kind of magic thinking. My hair was cut but my ideas were not cleared, magic thinking seldom works. I’d rather go to a traditional-style hairdresser, there are some in my neighborhood, but yesterday it was an emergency, suddenly at the end of the day I couldn’t bear my hair anymore, had to cut it. I was in Montparnasse, had to go to a hairdresser still welcoming customers at 7 pm, in the mall below the Montparnasse Tower. It was a fashion hairdresser close to the Galeries Lafayette. Now, these hairdressers would like to be considered as doctors, highly skilled professionals who execute their deeds in a thoroughly sterilized environment. There is an incredible division of labor, there, with a plethora of personnel, the hostess and cashier, the hair washing lady, the cutter, the dye and dry specialist… The lights are white and bright and almost like in a surgical unit. Unfortunately when I go to the hairdresser it is for having my hair cut, period. I don’t need any treatments for my hair, I don’t need any model photography to look at to choose my hairdo, I need my hair cut and that’s it. A non-nonsense cutting. No hair-spliting either. Hairdressers doesn’t like to cut hair, they want to do your hair. They make me look like an unsophisticated person, tacky, rustic. It’s depressing.

For excuse, wether I need it one or not, I’d say that I’m a nerd. Not the kind you see in the movies, acne-ridden and awkward, in which “nerd” is a derogatory characterization, no, my type of nerdiness is much more civilized. What are my characteristics as a nerd? Well, I don’t like change for instance – unless it’s a new application to test on a computer, in this case I’m eager to try it. In life I like habits, daily or weekly routines, I don’t like to travel – except to the US because my nerdery is very much US oriented – I don’t even like that much to go outside of Paris city limits. What I like is being at home, or at work, and be with my computers doing my things, writing things, reading, integrating information and knowledge, tinkering pictures endlessly in Photoshop… When I go outside it’s with a purpose, taking photos mostly, working on a photographic project. I’m a good walker and like it but I need to do something beyond walking, exploring, making pictures, looking at architecture or urban features. I have low social skills, I’m mostly unable to chit-chat but I can and like to have conversations, real conversations, with people – except when these people are anglophone, in this case I’m quite able to chit-chat because it is part of a larger project: learning the English language, be fluent in it. The thing is: I’m quite able and like to do things that otherwise I hate to do if it is part of a larger project that interests me at the time. I like to interact with people, but my preferred mode of interaction with them is by the way of a computer. I hate the telephone. I’m interested in nerdy, arcane things, that I focus on, explore thoroughly, and I move on suddenly to another thing. I postpone to go to the hairdresser, or to buy clothes, appliances or furnishing until I cannot bear it anymore, and then I go to the next hairdresser, clothes, appliances or furnishing shop, do a burst buy and get rid of these chores, move on to something really interesting.

It’s not easy to be a nerd. Very few people understand you, other nerds mostly.



My nephew Pol. By Jean Ruaud.

Letter from France: The Art of Looking Sideways

Monday, February 1st, 2010

The Tour Montparnasse from Montmartre, Paris. By Jean Ruaud.

Dear DB’s readers,

If I was going to the proverbial desert island and if I was allowed only one book to carry with me (God forbid!), it may well be “The Art Of Looking Sideways” by Alan Fletcher. Unfortunately the mere weight of this mammoth volume would certainly prevents its transportation on the “Lost” island, if one exists!

The late Alan Fletcher was a British graphic designer, the co-founder of Pentagram Design firm and the creator of many beautiful realizations among them the Victoria & Albert Museum’s logotype, the curious Reuters dotted logo and many more. And he is the author of “The Art Of Looking Sideways”, a huge book about… well, everything! The book is a work of art in itself, beautifully and meticulously crafted and designed. It is difficult to describe, a “wunderkammer”, a collection of ideas, images, thoughtful quotes from artists, philosophers, writers and scientists, memories, visions, stories, brainwaves, discoveries, found objects, a treasure of knowledge and curiosity, a manual of visual awareness… It’s a book that you’ll never read from beginning to end, but that you are happy to own and browse when things are a little bland and when your curiosity falters or when you’re in need of some inspiration (you can use it as a doorstop if you like, its size and weight are appropriate for!).


I can’t help but think of this book as a kind of “paper-blog”, a precursor of the quality and highly personnal blogs, the best and the brightest of all blogs perhaps and a huge one. Alan Fletcher’s visual curiosity and deeply original mind would have made a wonderful blogger. One wonders what Fletcher would have made with the Internet of today, perhaps one of the projects he was working on at the time of his death (2006) had something to do do with the web. Maybe we’ll know one day.



Montmartre in winter, Paris. By Jean Ruaud.

Housekeeping Note: Let's have a hand

Saturday, January 30th, 2010


For over five years, I have never taken a real vacation from The Daily Blague. I don’t know what the longest break between entries is, but I had the idea from fairly early on that “daily” means “every day” — or at least every week day. I think that I’ve earned a rest.

Letting the site just sit without fresh copy for a week would be unthinkable, though. Very kindly, my good friend Jean Ruaud (Mnémoglyphes) has come to my aid, and agreed to guest-edit The Daily Blague while I take a break. Jean will open the windows wide and let in some fresh air. I want you all to breathe deeply. And whenever you feel moved to advise Jean of a typographical error or the like, I hope that you will observe the guidelines that I have set forth here. I will leave it to Jean to provide an email address; corrective comments will be expunged.

Let’s have a hand for Jean Ruaud!

From the Guest Editor: Greetings

Sunday, January 24th, 2010


(A little “café” in Paris, by Jean Ruaud)

RJ asked me the other day to guestblog at the Daily Blague during his vacations which will be next week. I should say that I’m at the same time, daunted, humbled and grateful, at the prospect of this task. As a try-out I will now present myself to the Daily Blague’s readers.

My name is Jean Ruaud (Jean is John in English and is pronounced Jan, and is not the feminine Jean), I’m a frenchman of fifty two years old, working and living in Paris. I’m an amateur photographer and blogger.

Once upon a time RJ read my blog (ô, the magic of the Internet), which was, at this time (2004), L’Homme qui marche and contacted me by e-mail. We became Internet friends, RJ and me, and I visited him and Kathleen in 2007 during one of my visits to New York City (and again last year). RJ and I share, I think, the same cultural interests and the same sense of what is important in the world and in life and a great friendship.

I’m a veteran blogger, I opened one of the first blogs in France, in 2001. I began with Douze Lunes (Twelve Moons) and now I write in Mnémoglyphes (which means glyphs or prints or tracks of memory and is a neologism invented by a friend in a book devoted to the philosophical meaning of prints).

I have a job, wich is doing criminal analysis and criminal maps for the French Railway’s law enforcing and security unit.

English is not my maternal language, as you can guess by this post, French is. I was born in a little town, Chinon, in the center of France, some fifty years ago. Close to my little French town, when I was a kid, was something special: a US Army camp and military hospital, right there, at the edge of town. “Les Américains” were everywhere and participated a bit to the life of the city. A number of French citizen were employed at the camp and at the hospital and the city’s pubs and saloons benefited greatly of the American soldiers patronage, as you can figure. Thus, I was exposed early to “les Américains”, to their language and the American popular culture. Some officers and doctors lived with their families in little American villages at the edge of town and before that they even lived in town, in rented french houses or appartments. They had a very different way of life, different products and appliances in their houses, even different cars, and they listened to a different kind of music: jazz and rock’n roll. They were wealthy, athletic and healthy, at least for us! It was exotic and very enticing for us french kids and it gave me a natural fondness for all things American. “Les Américains” were sent home by the General De Gaulle in 1964, much to my dismay.

I learned English in high school but the language I learned there was a literary language not a spoken one. At the time of my first visit in the US, in 1993, I became aware of my incapacity to understand what people said and, more seriously, I was not able to speak in a coherent fashion. Back in France I was seriously commited to learn the English language and I undertook to read, learn the vocabulary, listen to English language TV (thanks CNN and BBC World) and see all the films and TV shows only in original version. Gradually I became almost fluent in this language I love.

During the recent years I visited parts of the United States, above all Manhattan, where I went five times out of ten visits, California (two times), parts of Colorado and Arizona (one) and Houston, Texas (two trips) where I have family working in the oil industry there.

I’m interested in the US culture, politics and history, and, of course, in the Internet and what is called the web 2.0, but my prime hobby is photography. My images were reproduced in some books here in France and you can see them on Flickr. I’m a proud member and reader in the famous American Library in Paris, a venerable institution and a wonderful place of culture and civilisation.

Well, I look forward to write here next week and do my best to entertain you while RJ is busy resting in the sun. See you when? Saturday? I’ll be there!