Saturday, January 31, 2009

Obvious Site To See In Paris

The Arc de Triomphe de l'Etoile, the world's largest triumphal arch, forms the backdrop for an impressive urban ensemble in Paris. The monument surmounts the hill of Chaillot at the center of a star-shaped configuration of 12 radiating avenues. It is the climax of a vista seen the length of the Champs Elysées from the smaller Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel in the Tuileries gardens, and from the Obélisque de Luxor in the place de la Concorde.
Since 1920, the tomb of France's Unknown Soldier has been sheltered underneath the arch. Its eternal flame commemorates the dead of the two world wars, and is rekindled every evening at 6:30. Here, on every Armistice Day (November 11), the President of the Republic lays a ceremonial wreath. On July 14, the French National Day (also known as Bastille Day), a military parade starts at the arch and proceeds down the Champs Elysées. For important occasions of state, and on national holidays, a huge French tricolor is unfurled and hung from the vaulted ceiling inside of the Arch. The last leg of the Tour de France bicycle race also culminates here on the third or fourth Sunday in July.
Inside the Arch, a small museum documents its history and construction. The price of admission includes access to the top of the Arch. From the roof, one is treated to spectacular views of Paris. Looking eastwards, down the Champs Elysées, toward the Louvre, there is the Place de la Concorde, the Tuileries Gardens, and the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel. In the opposite direction - westwards - in the distance is its larger and newer cousin, La Grande Arche de la Défense.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Answer To Yesterday's Guess Who

Answer to yesterday's guess who:

Jean Reno (born July 30, 1948) is a César Award-nominated French actor. Working in both French and English, he has appeared not only in numerous successful Hollywood productions such as GodzillaThe Da Vinci CodeMission: Impossible and Ronin, but also European productions such as Léon and the 2005 Italian film The Tiger and the Snow.

Due to his tall, hulking frame (188cm, 6' 2"), he mostly played villainous brutes early on in his career. Thanks to his skills as an actor, he has broken away from this stereotype and has played everything from romantic-comedy leads to action heroes. Reno's career began in French cinema, where he appeared in many of Luc Besson's films, including Besson's first short filmL'Avant dernier. The two have continued to work together throughout their careers, in films producedwritten or directed by Besson, though the films in which he has done all three have proven to be the most popular, including Nikita (1990), and the English-language films The Big Blue (1988), and Léon (1994) (known as The Professional in the United States) featuring a young Natalie Portman. Additionally, he dubbed over the character of Mufasa in the French-language version of The Lion King, a role originally occupied by James Earl Jones.

Reno has starred in such high-profile American movies as French Kiss (1995) with Meg Ryan and Kevin KlineMission: Impossible (1996) withTom CruiseRonin (1998) with Robert De Niro, and Godzilla (1998), for which Reno turned down the role of Agent Smith in the The Matrix. He has not neglected to continue making French productions either - e.g., Les Visiteurs (1993) (which was later remade in English as Just Visitingin 2001) and The Crimson Rivers (2000). In 2006, he had a prominent role in the remake of The Pink Panther, playing Gilbert Ponton, the partner of Inspector Clouseau opposite Steve Martin, and also portrayed Captain Bezu Fache in the Ron Howard film The Da Vinci Code.

Children's Word of the Day - Pen

Kids, when you see a pen, point to it and say "un stylo".

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Guess Who

Guess who this famous French person is.

Answer will be posted tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Jean Dubuffet -French Artist

Jean Philippe Arthur Dubuffet (July 31, 1901 - May 12, 1985) was one of the most famous French painters and sculptors of the second half of the 20th century. Dubuffet was born in Le Havre. He moved to Paris in 1918 to study painting at the Académie Julian, but after six months he left the Académie to study independently. In 1924, doubting the value of art, he stopped painting and took over his father's business selling wine. He took up painting again in the 1930s, but again stopped, only turning to art for good in 1942. His first solo show came in 1944. He approached the surrealist group in 1948, then the College of Pataphysique in 1954.Influenced by Hans Prinzhorn's book Artistry of the Mentally Ill, Dubuffet coined the term Art Brut (meaning "raw art," oftentimes referred to as outsider art) for art produced by non-professionals working outside aesthetic norms, such as art by mental patients, prisoners, and children. He amassed his own collection of such art, including artists such as Aloïse Corbaz and Adolf Wölfli. The collection is now housed at the Musée de l'Art Brut in Lausanne, Switzerland. Dubuffet sought to create an art as free from intellectual concerns as Art Brut, and his work often appears primitive and child-like.Many of Dubuffet's works are painted in oil paint using an impasto thickened by materials such as sand, tar and straw, giving the work an unusually textured surface. From 1962 he produced a series of works in which he limited himself to the colours red, white, black, and blue. Towards the end of the 1960s he turned increasingly to sculpture, producing works in polystyrene which he then painted with vinyl paint.

Children's Word of the Day - the Sun

Kids, when you see the sun, say "le soleil"

Monday, January 26, 2009

Study Tip

One of the things I do, is write down the Quick Phrase, Vocabulary Word of the Day, or the Lesson of the day, on a piece of small piece of paper, and I carry it around with me all day long so I can constantly look at it.

Étienne Bacrot - France's #1 Chess Player

Étienne Bacrot (born January 221983 in PicardieFrance) is a French chess grandmaster.

He started playing at 4; by 10 young Bacrot was already winning junior competitions and in 1996, at 13 years of age, he won against Vasily Smyslov. He became a Grandmaster in March 1997 at the age of 14 years and 2 months, making him the youngest person to that date to have held the title (later in December, Ruslan Ponomariov took his record).

He has won several competition and notable games. He first passed the mark of 2700 inElo rating in 2004. In January 2005, he became the first French player to enter the top 10. His highest Elo rating ever was 2731 in April 2005. On the January 2009 FIDE list, Bacrot had an Elo rating of 2721, making him number 21 in the world and France's number 1.

Bacrot scored 6/8 in the 37th Chess Olympiad in 2006 against opponents averaging 2640, gaining 13 elo. This earned him the bronze medal for the third best individual performance in the Olympiad. One of his notable wins was against top American grandmaster Gata Kamsky.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Victor Hugo the Artist?

Many are not aware that Hugo was almost as prolific in the visual arts as he was in literature, producing more than 4,000 drawings in his lifetime.

Originally pursued as a casual hobby, drawing became more important to Hugo shortly before his exile, when he made the decision to stop writing in order to devote himself to 

politics. Drawing became his exclusive creative outlet during the period 1848-1855

Hugo worked only on paper, and on a small scale; usually in dark brown or black pen-and-ink wash, sometimes with touches of white, and rarely with color. The surviving drawings are surprisingly accomplished and "modern" in their style and execution, foreshadowing the experimental techniques of Surrealism and Abstract Expressionism.

He would not hesitate to use his children's stencils, ink blots, puddles and stains, lace impressions, "pliage" or folding (i.e. Rorschach blots), "grattage" or rubbing, often using the charcoal from match sticks or his fingers instead of pen or brush. Sometimes he would even toss in coffee or soot to get the effects he wanted. It is reported that Hugo often drew with his left hand or without looking at the page, or during Spiritualist séances, in order to access his unconscious mind, a concept only later popularized by Sigmund Freud.Hugo kept his artwork out of the public eye, fearing it would overshadow his literary work. However, he enjoyed sharing his drawings with his family and friends, often in the form of ornately handmade calling cards, many of which were given as gifts to visitors when he was in political exile. Some of his work was shown to, and appreciated by, contemporary artists such as Van Gogh and Delacroix; the latter expressed the opinion that if Hugo had decided to become a painter instead of a writer, he would have outshone the artists of their century.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

A Word About Pronunciations...

A few people have commented to me about the pronunciations I've been providing. I realize that when I speak french it is not with the exact pronunciations that some words require. I know I will be sounding like an American speaking french. I don't mind sounding that way, I just want to be understood somewhat if & when I go to France, & be able to read signs, directions & such. But I don't want to instill the wrong soundings for people who would later have to unlearn the sounds I have been teaching. So I will continue to post phrases & lessons for reading & writing, but I will only post the phonetical sounds (as if you were reading them from many of the French teaching books. If you want to know how French should really sound, I encourage you to buy any of the audio lessons available in bookstores, or listen to the many french podcasts available on I-tunes.

Once again I will give you the main reason for this site:
1. For me to keep studying my French.
2. For you to learn with me at a relaxed & non structured pace. (No grades or report cards :)
3. I will not teach unnecessary phrases or words that you will probably never use if you visit France (such as drain-pipe, soil, grasshopper, oboe, etc). We will only concentrate on words & phrases that we might need if we go on a vacation to France.

I will not dwell on grammer, or thousands of verbs and every possible past present and future combinations that they teach in the books. My purpose is to learn needed words and phrases so we will not stumble around Paris trying to find someone who speaks English. We will not be fluent in french from this site, but we will be able to somewhat communicate to people when we get there. Where I work we have thousands of tourists visit our store, and they do not speak perfect English, but I can understand what they are trying to communicate to me. That is what I want to be able to do if and when I ever go to France.

How to use this site:
Write down or print out each lesson or Phrase Of the Day posts. keep it with you all day. Look at it whenever you can. Keep saying the phrases to yourself (don't worry if people think you are crazy talking to yourself). Keep a notebook or a blank piece of paper so you can repeatedly write the phrases & words over & over. Repetition is the key here. Don't worry if you miss or skip a lesson or phrase. There is no order to the things I post here. It is not like a book where you have to start from page 1. All we are doing here is trying to keep adding to our own vocabulary of the french language. Also, do check the day after a post, as we have a few people from France (most notably our friend Isabelle) who help keep this site accurate, and who also advise us on better ways of saying certain phrases.  

Children's Word of the Day - Duck

Kids, when you see a duck, point to it & say "un canard" (oon canard)
Click below to hear the word.

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Thinker - Famous French Sculpture

Yesterday we did a piece on Rodin. "The Thinker" is his most recognizable work.
Originally named The Poet, the piece was part of a commission by the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris to create a monumental portal to act as the door of the museum. Rodin based his theme on The Divine Comedy of Dante and entitled the portal The Gates of Hell. Each of the statues in the piece represented one of the main characters in the epic poem. The Thinker was originally meant to depict Dante in front of the Gates of Hell, pondering his great poem. (In the final sculpture, a miniature of the statue sits atop the gates, pondering the hellish fate of those beneath him.) The sculpture is nude, as Rodin wanted a heroic figure in the tradition of Michelangelo, to represent intellect as well as poetry.

Rodin made a first small plaster version around 1880. The first large-scale bronze cast was finished in 1902, but not presented to the public until 1904. It became the property of the city of Paris – thanks to a subscription organized by Rodin admirers – and was put in front of the Panthéonin 1906. In 1922, it was moved to the Hôtel Biron, which was transformed into a Rodin Museum.

More than any other Rodin sculpture, The Thinker moved into the popular imagination as an immediately recognizable icon of intellectual activity; consequently, it has been subject to endless satirical use. This started in Rodin's lifetime.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Rodin - French Sculptor

Auguste Rodin (born François-Auguste-René Rodin; 12 November 1840 – 17 November 1917) was a French artist, most famous as a sculptor. He was the preeminent French sculptor of his time, and remains one of the few sculptors widely recognized outside the visual arts community.
Although Rodin is generally considered the progenitor of modern sculpture, he did not set out to rebel against the past. He was schooled traditionally, took a craftsman-like approach to his work, and desired academic recognition, although he was never accepted into Paris's foremost school of art. Sculpturally, he possessed a unique ability to model a complex, turbulent, deeply pocketed surface in clay.
Many of Rodin's most notable sculptures were roundly criticized during his lifetime. They clashed with the predominant figure sculpture tradition, in which works were decorative, formulaic, or highly thematic. Rodin's most original work departed from traditional themes of mythology and allegory, modeled the human body with realism, and celebrated individual character and physicality. Rodin was sensitive to the controversy about his work, but did not change his style, and successive works brought increasing favor from the government and the artistic community.
From the unexpected realism of his first major figure—inspired by his 1875 trip to Italy—to the unconventional memorials whose commissions he later sought, Rodin's reputation grew. By 1900, he was a world-renowned artist. Wealthy private clients sought Rodin's work after his World's Fair exhibit, and he kept company with a variety of high-profile intellectuals and artists. He married his life-long companion, Rose Beuret, in the last year of both their lives. His sculpture suffered a decline in popularity after his death in 1917, but within a few decades his legacy solidified.

Answer To Yesterday's Guess Who

Julie Delpy 

(born December 21, 1969) is a French/American actress, Academy Award-nominated screenwriter, and occasional singer. She studied filmmaking at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, and has directed, written, and acted in more than 30 films. 

Delpy was born in Paris, the only child of Albert Delpy and Marie Pillet. Both her parents were actors in feature films and the avant-gardetheater, and her father was a theater director.

On the stages of Paris, Delpy's parents were involved in underground theater. At an early age, Julie was exposed to the arts. "I couldn't hope for better parents.At age fourteen Delpy obtained a role in the film Détective, directed by Jean-Luc Godard. Two years later, Delpy was cast in the title role in the 1987 film La Passion Béatrice (Beartrice), and used the money she earned to pay for her first trip to New York City. Delpy continued to make regular trips to New York during the next few years, before finally moving there in 1990. Delpy became an international celebrity after starring in the 1990 film Europa Europa. In the film, she plays a pro-Nazi girl, Leni, who falls in love with the hero, Solomon Perel, not knowing that he isJewish. She had to speak fluent German for the part.

Delpy was subsequently given offers to appear in several Hollywood and European films. In 1993, she was cast by director Krzysztof Kieślowskito play the female lead in Three Colors: White, the second film of Kieślowski's Trois Couleurs trilogy; Delpy also briefly appeared in the other films in the series in the same role.

Since then, she has starred in many American and European productions, including Disney's The Three Musketeers (1993) and Killing Zoe(1994). Delpy may be best known internationally for her co-starring role with Ethan Hawke in director Richard Linklater's 1995 film, Before Sunrise. The film received glowing reviews and was considered one of the most significant films of the independent film movement of the 1990s.

Delpy has also had an interest in a career as a film director since her childhood, and enrolled in a summer directing course at New York University. She wrote and directed the short film Blah Blah Blah (1995), which screened at the Sundance Film Festival. She made her feature length directorial debut in 2002, with a film entitled Looking for Jimmy, which she also wrote and produced. 2007 saw the release of 2 Days in Paris in which Delpy not only starred in the film (with Adam Goldberg), but also directed, wrote, edited, co-produced it and wrote the original music. The film also features Delpy's real-life parents, Marie Pillet and Albert Delpy, as her character's parents

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Guess Who

Guess who this famous French woman is.

Answer will be posted tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Georges Auguste Escoffier

Georges Auguste Escoffier (28 October 1846–12 February 1935) was a French chefrestaurateur and culinary writer qui popularized and updated traditional French cooking methods. He is a near-legendary figure among chefs and gourmets, and was one of the most important leaders in the development of modern French cuisine. Much of Escoffier's technique was based on that of Antoine Carême, one of the codifiers of French Haute cuisine, mais, Escoffier's achievement was to simplify and modernize Carême's elaborate and ornate style.

Alongside les recettes he recorded and invented, another of Escoffier's contributions to cooking was to elevate it to the status of a respected profession, introducing organized discipline to ses cuisines. He organized ses cuisines by the brigade de cuisine system, avec each section run by a chef de partie. He also replaced the practice of service à la française (serving all dishes at once) with service à la russe (serving each dish in the order printed sur la carte).

Escoffier published Le Guide Culinaire, which is still used as a major reference work, both in the form of a cookbook and a textbook on cooking.

qui (kee) -who      mais (may) -but    les recettes (lay reh seht) -the recipes

ses cuisines (seh kwee zeen) -his kitchens        avec (ah vehk) -with

sur la carte (soor lah kahrt) -on the menu  

Children's Phrase of the Day - Cake

Kids, when you see a cake, point to it and say "le gâteau" (leh gah toh).
Click below to hear the word.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Kids Review of the Week

une chaise ( oon shayce) -a chair       une pendule (oon pahn dool) -a clock
un nuage (uhn noo ahzh) -a cloud     un doigt (uhn dwah) -a finger
le jardin (leh zhar dahn) -the garden        ma poche (mah pohsh) -my pocket

Danielle Darrieux - French Actress

Danielle Yvonne Marie Antoinette Darrieux (born 1 May 1917) is a French actress and singer. Her career of eight decades is among the longest in film history.

She is the daughter of an army doctor who died when she was seven years old. Raised in Parisshe studied the cello and piano at the Conservatoire de Musique. At 13, she got a part in themusical film Le Bal (1931). Her beauty combined with her singing and dancing ability led to numerous other offers.

She signed with Universal Studios to star opposite Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. in The Rage of Paris(1938).

Under the German occupation of France during World War II, she continued to perform, a decision that was severely criticized by her compatriots, but the manager of the German Continental threatened to deport her brother to Germany.

She returned to Hollywood to make the 1951 MGM musical, Rich, Young and Pretty after several years in EuropeJoseph L. Mankiewicz lured her to star opposite James Mason in 5 Fingers(1952). Back home, in 1953 she starred opposite Charles Boyer and Vittorio de Sica in Max OphülsThe Earrings of Madame de..., and she appeared in The Red and the Black (1954). The next year she starred in Lady Chatterley's Lover. Due to its content, the film was banned by the Catholic censors in the United States.

Approaching 40, she played a supporting role in United Artistsepic Alexander the Great (1955) starring Richard Burton and Claire Bloom; it was her last American film. In 1961 she went to England at the request of director Lewis Gilbert to star opposite Kenneth More in The Greengage Summer. In 1963, she starred in the romantic comedy La Robe Mauve de Valentine at the Chatelet Theatre in Paris. The play was adapted from the novel by Francoise Sagan.

Darrieux replaced Katharine Hepburn in the Broadway musical, Coco, based on the life of Coco Chanel. Darrieux's reviews were positive but the play, essentially a showcase for Hepburn, soon folded without her. In 1971-72 she also appeared in the short-lived productions of Ambassador. She has continued to work, her career now spanning eight decades, most recently providing the voice of the protagonist's grandmother in the animated feature Persepolis (2007) which deals with the impact of the Iranian Islamic revolution on a girl's life as she grows to adulthood.

"Petite Fleur"

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Hélène Ségara - French Singer

Hélène Ségara (born Hélène Rizzo, on 26 February 1971) is a French female singer.

She always wanted to become a singer when younger, so she left school and family at the age of 14.

Then she had many successive jobs including performances in the piano bars of the French Riviera. At 18, she gave birth to Raphael, her first son. Her repertoire was expanding, with many musical influences and over a thousand songs. In 1993, a first single entitled "Loin" was released, but didn't meet success.

In 1996, accompanied by her young son, she moved to Paris where she met Christian Loigerot, who became one of her composers. She also met the famous producer Orlando, Dalida's brother, who supervised and gave new impetus to her career. Almost she was marked by the experience and professionalism of this mentor, she remains under contract with her first producer.

Ségara began to have success with "Je vous aime adieu", the first single from her debut album, Cœur de verre (1996), and the duet "Vivo per lei", performed with Andrea Bocelli. She then played the role of Esmeralda in the musical Notre-Dame de Paris, composed by Richard Cocciante. While she was auditioned for this role in 1997, she was selected in 1999, following the withdrawal of the Israeli singer Noa. "When the fate knocks at the door for a second time, we must not let it get away", said Ségara.

However, her career was jeopardised when Dr. J. Abitbol diagnosed her a cyst on the vocal cords, while she continued to perform in a show. During a show in Canada, she lost her voice. Her producer then resold her contract to Orlando while Dr. J. Abitbol carried out a laser operation to treat the singer's vocal cords.

After her convalescence, she recorded her second album, Au Nom d'une femme in 2000. The album topped the charts, and became Diamonddisc. Five singles from this album were all successful. Ségara then began a concert tour that lasted about two years. A video recording of the concert she gave at the Olympia in Paris on this occasion was released. According to a poll made by the IFOP, Segara was at the time the favourite French singer of the French people.

Children's Word of the Day - Clock

Kids, when you see a clock, point to it and say "une pendule" (oon pahn dool).
click below to hear the word.

Friday, January 16, 2009

13 Tzameti - Must See French Triller

The film follows twenty-two year-old Sébastien, a Georgian immigrant living in France and working construction jobs to support his poor family. Sébastien works on the home of Godon, a feeblemorphine-addict who is under police surveillance. After Godon dies of an overdose, his widow informs Sébastien that she is unable to pay him. Sébastien then overhears the widow talking with one of Godon's friends, describing a mysterious "job" that Godon had lined up before his death. The destitute Sébastien steals an envelope containing the instructions for the job. The police begin following Sébastien as he uses the train ticket contained in the envelope. Following the instructions, the young man unwittingly becomes trapped in a dark and dangerous situation.

A very low key, but excellent thriller.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Sonia Rykiel - French Designer

Sonia Rykiel (b. 25 May 1930Paris, France) is a French fashion designer.

Ethnically a Polish Jew, Sonia Rykiel was born in Paris, France in 1930. At the age of 17, she was employed to dress the window displays in a Parisian textile store. Sonia was married to the owner of a boutique which sold elegant clothing. In 1962 she just couldn't find any soft sweaters to wear when she was pregnant. So she used a supplier to her husband from Venice to design her own.

Sonia Rykiel created her first maternity dresses and tiny sweater. The sweater is her symbol and she was crowned "Queen of Knits" by the Americans in 1967. The sweater went back 7 times for alterations before she was satisfied with it. From then, she has experimented with seams inside out, took away the hem and lining, and created a range of fragrances of which '7e Sens' was the first. This first creation was called the Poor boy Sweater, and she started selling it from her husbands label "Laura". It made the cover of ELLE fashion magazine, and brought her fame.

She later became the first designer to put seams on the outside of a garment, and to print words on her sweaters. In particular, she favours long clinging sweaters or small cropped pullovers, large rolled-back cuffs and long shawls. Her colours are usually beige, grey, dark blue and charcoal.

Rykiel has written many books, including an A to Z of fashion, and a collection of children’s stories.

In 1980 she was voted one of the world's 10 most elegant women.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

L'Académie Française

L'Académie française, or the French Academy, is the pre-eminent Frenchlearned body on matters pertaining to the French language. The Académie was officially established in 1635 by Cardinal Richelieu, the chief minister to King Louis XIII. Suppressed in 1793 during the French Revolution, it was restored in 1803 by Napoleon Bonaparte (the Académie considers itself to have been suspended, not suppressed, during the revolution. It is the oldest of the five académies of the Institut de France.

The Académie consists of forty members, known as immortels (immortals). New members are elected by the members of the Académie itself. Académicians hold office for life, but they may be removed for misconduct. The body has the task of acting as an official authority on the language; it is charged with publishing an official dictionary of the language. Its rulings, however, are only advisory; not binding on either the public or the government.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Tin Tin Celebrates His 80th Birthday

Some people just age well...

AFP - Cartoon legend Tintin, a rare reporter to rise to world fame having barely written an article, celebrates his 80th birthday this weekend as popular as ever.     The immortal boy reporter -- the most beloved figure in cartoon-mad Belgium's history -- first appeared on January 10, 1929 bound for the Soviet Union, in a supplement to the Roman Catholic Brussels weekly, Le Vingtieme Siecle. Since then, 24 comic books about his adventures have been translated into more than 50 languages, with over 200 million copies sold and new young fans attracted to what appears to be a timeless and certainly ageless character. It has been a long career that the death in 1983 of his creator, Georges Remi -- alias Herge -- has not compromised, with his descendants refusing to hand over the rights to Tintin. Yet he may be immortalised on screen soon. With the agreement of Herge's wife, Fanny Rodwell, US film-maker Steven Spielberg plans to make a trilogy of cartoon movies, the first expected out next year. This could finally give the character so well-known to Europeans the acclaim he never had in the United States, even if Tintin, his faithful companion Captain Haddock and trusty little dog Snowy have travelled the world.