The Illusion of Beauty

Detractors would call it contrived and yet Francophiles would call it designed. The Anglo-Saxon and Russian would say the Frenchwoman is not “naturally beautiful” with that dark-haired, chisel-jawed slight masculinity which they try to overcome by heavy emphasis on deportment, the tricks of the trade, grooming, dress and cosmetics.

Some of those tricks can be seen in the photo on this post, where the girl is actually wearing a dress and a modest one at that [I know this from the other photos] and yet, photoshot in that way … well, you see what I mean. The bare lower legs and the cheeky smile do it for her.

That’s why most women admire the French and the Italians, the way they do it, with that panache, that style. Interesting that in the current retrospective on Bardot, le Figaro mentioned:

C’est vrais – la France créa Bardot. Celle qui fut vingt ans durant une star internationale et un symbole de la France des années 50-60 fêtera ses 75 ans lundi prochain.

N’oublions pas, par exemple, Edwige Feuillère dans Lucrèce Borgia – elle est aussi une rétive, une insolente, une fille qui a beaucoup d’esprit, le sens de la repartie.

Audrey Tautou – too twee for French tastes?

For those who don’t read this language, it roughly means that she was both a creation and a symbol of France, of what she stood for but we shouldn’t forget that there were others and Bardot wasn’t the first.

Interesting, to me, was “une rétive, une insolente, une fille qui a beaucoup d’esprit”, much admired in France, just as the Italians admire “furbo” and “bella figura” or looking and playing the part with panache.

The cosmetic and fashion industries would maintain that beauty can be manufactured or at the very least, greatly enhanced but I would argue that lack of cosmetics and well cut clothes, along with deportment and that indefinable character can carry all before her.

A woman I saw the other day would have been described by the English as “without artifice” and by the French as “without style”. She was quite gauche but at the same time, seemed a fun loving person. As I live in the land of my ethnic group, then its take on what constitute good and bad qualities must rule. Solid values and sensible shoes also tug at my heart strings, along with the tweed and the Barbours and so on.

Zeroing in on the French concept of beauty

The French fixation with Bardot seems strange to me. For a start, she looks more nordic, more Britt Eklundish than French but it was the sensuousness really, with her – Carla Bruni also practices the studied look into the eyes, the deep, sensual voice and so on.

Far more seductive, IMHO and far more Gallic, was Françoise Hardy, [don’t forget to sound the s, drop the h and sound the last syllable] who perfectly embodied the sultry, melancholy and reserved femme fatale. An example of one who was almost completely Frenchified was the English Jane Birkin. No beauty in a classical sense, she adopted the whole culture as far as she was able and so produced this with Serge Gainsborough:

While real Frenchwomen like Sophie Marceau, Eva Green and Clémence Poésy could never be taken for Anglo-Saxons, they’ve diluted their Frenchness to appeal to a wider public and in In Bruges, Poésy, in the restaurant scene, sounds “American youth”.

Less so in France and more in Russia in my experience, there’ve been women who’ve filled the space the eyes take in and later, I’ve always wondered what it was that that particular woman had which overpowered the senses. I could only conclude that it was the little gesture here, the disconcerting but flattering way she studied you and the attention to detail – everything had to be perfect in order to make demands herself.

So now I’m back here with an eye out for the English Rose but I suspect the English Rose has finer fish to fry than your humble correspondent.

Beauty – what is it?

Self defence – many are preparing


Angus reports on the ammunition shortages in the U.S.:

The shortages are so bad that retail globocorp Wal-Mart has been forced to introduce rationing at the ammo counter in many of its stores. Depending on calibre, customers may be limited to purchases of just 50 rounds at a time.

Apparently, classic .45 ACP pistol ammunition is especially scarce – a fairly good indication that it is in fact conservative Middle America rather than, say, inner-city criminals buying up all the ammo.

Joe Huffman does the mathematics on the issue:

Nine billion rounds in one year with about 80 million gun owners in the U.S. works out to about only about 112 rounds per gun owner. I went through that many rounds both last night and the night before.

I’ll go through probably another 200 rounds tonight and then another 150 on Sunday. What the heck is going on here? I’m figure I’m just doing my civic duty here and it turns out I’m doing the job of about 100 other people as well.

If every gun owner were going through just 100 rounds a month that would be nearly 100 billion rounds a year. That is a way to stimulate the economy and have something to show for it afterward–an armed and well practiced citizenry and respectful politicians.

To say that we, in the UK, are not doing the same thing is partly so but there are still a lot of people on the ground that are quietly preparing. To not allow a citizen in his own home to defend his family, on pain of criminal charges being brought and the intruder getting off scot-free is the UK way these days but it can’t last forever.

The pics top and bottom are my weapons of choice.


Israeli ministers – crime seems par for the course

Lots of fun in Israel:

A former finance minister and Olmert associate, Avraham Hirshson, recently began a five-year prison sentence for embezzling funds. A former health minister, Shlomo Benizri, is serving a four-year term after being convicted of bribery, fraud and obstruction of justice in the spring.

The former president of Israel, Moshe Katsav, is on trial, accused of rape and indecent assault against women who worked for him when he was the tourism minister and president. Mr. Katsav resigned the presidency in mid-2007. Benjamin Netanyahu was suspected of fraud during his previous term in office in the late 1990s but was never charged.

Into this steps Mr. Olmert, of Kadima, looking as if he could be in some trouble. Of all of them, Netanyahu is the one who seems the greatest worry:

On the day of the 9-11 attacks, former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was asked what the attack would mean for US-Israeli relations. His quick reply was: “It’s very good….Well, it’s not good, but it will generate immediate sympathy (for Israel).”

What’s in a name?

He held dual citizenship, which enabled him to travel freely between both countries, study in the U.S., receive federal loans to cover his education costs at MIT and work legally. Like every U.S. citizen, Netanyahu has a social security number, a credit account, and numerous other files in a variety of government offices.

Nevertheless, Netanyahu’s files differ from those of most U.S. citizens. The Israeli weekly Ha’ir reports that four requests for credit approval appear in U.S. social security file number 020-36-4537. Under each request one finds a different name: Benjamin Netanyahu, Benjamin Nitai, John Jay Sullivan and John Jay Sullivan Jr.—one man, four names.

Biranit Goren and Einat Berkovitch from Ha’ir tried to find out about him.

Netanyahu’s security file [in the U.S.] has a different classification than most … a “confidential” classification. Goren and Berkovitch have explained that such a classification only applies to five categories of people: those who work for one of three federal agencies—FBI, CIA, IRS—or those who are considered to be terrorists or criminals. Since it is unlikely that Netanyahu fits the latter two categories, or that he worked for the IRS, it appears that he was on the payroll of a security agency—the CIA or FBI.

July 7th, 2005

Netanyahu was scheduled to participate in an Israeli Investment Forum Conference at the Grand Eastern Hotel, located next to the Liverpool Street Tube station — the first target in the series of bombings that hit London on July 7 … The Israeli Embassy … ordered Israeli Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to remain in his hotel on the morning of July 7.

Amy Teibel, of Associated Press, wrote on the day:

British police told the Israeli Embassy in London minutes before Thursday’s explosions that they had received warnings of possible terror attacks in the city, a senior Israeli official said.

His criminal charges themselves are no different to those which would be brought against our crooked pollies, if the law in the U.K. and U.S. were to be enforced as it should be and as it seems to be in other countries. Just bribes, corruption, dodgy appointments to office – that sort of thing.

Finally, what’s the difference between the Israeli politicians and the Arab politicians? The Israeli politicians are subject to due process and can serve time. The Arab criminal leaders are lauded as heroes.

Ikebana – the art of floral arrangement

Ikenobo Moribana [freer] arrangement

People have long appreciated beautiful flowers and arranged them in vases. However, in Japan, the way of arranging flowers and plants has been carefully systematised and this is called ‘Kado’.

In the Kamakura period (1192-1333), the Samurai (elite warrior class) wrested the power of government from the aristocrats and brought great lifestyle and fashion changes into the whole of Japanese society.

At this time it became fashionable to create a Tokonoma, a small sacred alcove, in a zashiki (Japanese room). The Tokonoma would contain a flower arrangement, incense and a candle. It is because the space is an alcove, that traditional styles of Ikebana are designed to be viewed only from the front.

Ikebana, the art of floral arrangement, is simple in the basic materials and tools it requires. All you need is a shallow wide-mouthed container and some metal frogs. A metal frog is a holder with spiked needles into which you stick stems and twigs. In a shallow vase, add a little water and put in the metal frog and the container is ready to take in any flower arrangement.

The upright is the most basic structure and this arrangement looks good in shallow pots. The slanting, which is an ideal composition for beginners looks beautiful in tall containers like bamboo or pitchers. Again, in ikebana, the lines described by the elements are considered more attractive than the form and colour.

A branch or a twig in a gentle flowing line is preferred or considered more aesthetic than a group of flowers in full blossom. The arrangement is necessarily asymmetrical and the empty spaces that the arrangements circumscribe are equally important as those the materials encompass.

Basically, there are three triangular spatial groups – the higher level is upright central, the intermediate level which is slanting, and the lower level which is inverted, around which the materials are arranged. Thus the above-mentioned three levels signify heaven, earth and mankind!

Ikenobo is a school of Ikebana. It is the oldest school of Ikebana in Japan, having been founded in the 15th century by the Buddhist monk Ikenobo Senno. The school, currently headed by its 45th generation headmaster, Ikenobo Sen’ei, is based in the Rokkakudo Temple in Kyoto.

Space quiz – try these five

1. On January 31, 1958, Satellite 1958 Alpha was launched. What was it more commonly known as? Hint: E…..

2. To be fair, the Soviets had been first with the First intercontinental ballistic missile in 1957. What was it called? Hint: Letter and number or the Russian name S…..

3. On May 5, 1961, which astronaut, one of the seven Project Mercury astronauts selected as pilot for this mission, became the first American in space when he piloted Freedom 7 on a 15-minute suborbital flight? Hint: AS

4. In 1960 the first dogs went into orbit aboard Sputnik 5. We often erroneously say that Laika went into space but that is the type of dog. There were actually two dogs – what were their names? Hint: B&S.

5. On December 11, 1972, who were the last astronauts to [allegedly] land on the moon? Hint: EC & H[J]S


Explorer 1; the R-7 Semyorka; Alan Shepard; Belka and Strelka; Eugene Cernan and Harrison H. “Jack” Schmitt