Did I mention that Toulouse is really old (i.e., 23 centuries)? One implication of that fact is that the streets are generally very narrow in centre ville (city center), where we live. Many of the streets are 1 lane wide and are paved with brick or stone. Another implication is that the streets are definitely not laid out as a grid or in any other systematic pattern that I can detect. When you combine these two observations, you can explain many of the differences between French and American culture. On the one hand, you have a French city with narrow streets that wind all over the place; on the other hand, you have the wide avenues laid out in grids in American cities. Many implications follow from these differences, including:
I have always wondered how photographers could capture such dangerous moments in certain situations, and whether they would go all the way into those situations risking their life. Do people or enemies not harm them just because they have a press badge on? The movie Blood Diamond also made me ponder on this thought; how many photographers have died trying to capture an image representing a certain conflict? There are those people who may have given there lives in hope that they would capture an award winning photograph and then there are photographers who take a not-so-violent situation and skew it to make sure their photograph forces an award winning conflict. Watch this video below in order to see what i'm referring to.
I begin to understand why artists talk about light with such reverence. Provence is fabled for its light: A destination for artists and for sun-worshippers, en general. Toulouse is in the Midi-Pyrenees, which is immediately west of Provence and definitely southern France. So the light in Toulouse can be pretty spectacular, too. Evenings are really the best time to watch the light. It is clear and soft and the change from early evening to late is a constantly evolving show. There’s a big, old (built before Columbus sailed) church visible from my balcony. Around 8:00 p.m., it is white-washed by the sun. By 8:30, it radiates a rose color, as does the city (hence the nickname “pink city” although I prefer the untranslated “ville rose”). By 9:00, the sun is low enough that the buildings are in shadow, but the cumulus clouds are lit up – textured whites on top, blue-grays and pinks on the bottom. It will stay like that for another 30 minutes or so and be twilight around 9:30. But the most amazing light I think I’ve ever seen was on a short evening trip from Ayron to Poitiers two weeks ago. It was about 9:30 p.m.
After having a quite candid conversation with one of my friends last night over the ever popular text message, it got me to thinking a little bit about how we use this feature in our everyday lives and the impact it has had on how we communicate. I have often found myself trying to explain myself, or really anything for that matter over my handy dandy iPhone and realized that in the time it took me to compose, alter the incorrect auto-correct, and send the message, a simple phone call would have taken less time.
I think we are losing the personal touches that come with texting as well. The subtle changes in voice or inflection cannot be delivered by an emoticon. Recent studies have indicated that teens these days are sending well over 3000 texts a month. The question I raise, which has been raised by many before me, is if this style of communication and language is dominating teen’s life, what are they missing out on? Are we still connecting on a level as profound as that of speech or writing?
A note of explanation: I arrived in Toulouse, France on July 1 for a year-long sabbatical stay. I spent the first 5 weeks on my own, settling into my apartment and learning my way arround. In the second week of August, the rest of my family arrived. My wife, Betty, and youngest daughter, Rachel, will stay the year with me. Betty is also in Psychology and an Associate Dean in the College; Rachel is in the fortunate position of just having graduated from high school, so we offered her an "off year" before college to learn some French and some French culture. My oldest daughter is one year out of college and will visit 2 or 3 times this year, but will live in Lexington and keep my mind at ease because my 2 golden retrievers were left at home. With that, this is the first of several blogs that I created for my family.
#1 on my “bucket list” is arranging a private concert by Diana Krall for me and 30 or so hand-picked friends and family. (Ella is no longer available.) The playlist will be chosen mostly from her “Live in Paris” CD and her “All for You” CD. The finale will be Diana’s version of Joni Mitchell’s “A case of you.” The champagne will be French; Kentucky will, of course, supply the bourbon. Mr. Dave and Ms. Betty will put together the menu.
There must be at least one dream on your bucket list….
#2 on my bucket list is living abroad for a year. At the moment, I am two months into crossing that item off my list. I am definitely not in a hurry to get it crossed off. Toulouse is a great city in which to live and is conveniently located for one who finds Europe a generally pleasant place to spend some time. Being in France on a sabbatical leave is, perhaps, the best of circumstances in which to spend time abroad. I am expected to spend a year focusing on the part of my job for which I was trained; I am meeting new colleagues who share many of my interests but bring different perspectives to our common ground; and I have a great deal of freedom in deciding how to use my time. But the biggest advantages of living abroad are the consequences of the constant mundane challenges to routine.