Paris : La Bohème Expo at Le Grand Palais

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Wikipedia: Bohemianism is the practice of an unconventional lifestyle, often in the company of like-minded people, with few permanent ties, involving musical, artistic, or literary pursuits. In this context, Bohemians may be wanderers, adventurers, or vagabonds

“Je sais quand je suis né, mais pas pourquoi…” – Proverbe Rom

Walking through the archways of Le Grand Palais is sort of creepy. Nobody expects to find themselves in a damp wooded labrynth with gilded paintings and burgundy tapestries. La Bohème Expo in the Grand Palais gallery is coordinated to match the Bohemian lifestyle, which is to constantly be living in tune with nature, and to always be on the move.

Ceiling

Artists started recreating Bohemia right around the plague— in other words, the mid-15th century. The paintings featured a chaste virgin/tempting gypsy dichotomy. Gypsies, or Roms, had been around in Europe for centuries before art made them famous, though. Their traveling lifestyle formed the foundation of the philosophy based on living off of the good intentions or naiveté of others. Roms found their way to Western Europe through Bohemia, or what is now called the Czech Republic.
The Bohemian

“La Bohèmienne” – Pierre Auguste Renoir
PHOTO: Gilles Nèret

The exhibition begins with plaques written in French and English, explaining the history of Roms in Central and Western Europe. The first statue is a marble bust of a chaste Bohemian woman. The following paintings show gypsies and women who wore their hair down and curly (gasp), defying social norms and rendering them rebels of the times. Renoir’s “La Bohèmienne” has a girl with long wavy hair and a worried look on her face, probably due to the auspicious bulge in her stomach. Audio guides go into further detail about the alleged inspiration behind each painting.
Van Gogh

“A Pair of Shoes” – Vincent Van Gogh
PHOTO: Leslie Parke

Vincent Van Gogh’s painting resonates with the traveling spirit of Bohemianism. It’s not about the quality of the shoes, it’s about where the person wearing them has been and what they’ve experienced.
“Qui voyage beaucoup, apprend beaucoup…” – Proverbe Rom
At one point or another, every Bohemian gets the travel bug. But this is a specific kind of wanderlust, the kind that makes people crave crépes and hot wine. The Montmartre neighborhood in Paris has aging cafes and cabarets that draw artists like flies to honey. Le Chat Noir is the family crest for people that used to thrive in these social boxes, whether it was to philosophize, commiserate, or participate in some harmless debauchery. The painter, Théophile Alexandre Steinlen, was born on the hill in Montmartre.
Montmartre

“Le Chat Noir” – Theophile Alexandre Steinlen

Glorified by counter-culturists to this day, the Bohemian era is still not over. Each decade, the creative milieu reinvents it to incarnate the sentiment of the times. The beatniks, the hippies, the squatters, and the ravers of today all have one thing in common: a reverence for all things Bohème.
A bunch of people at the exhibit were dressed up like the museum was a themed party. No one else got that memo. I guess the freedom of La vie Bohème is too attractive to pass up.

Paris : Edward Hopper Expo at Le Grand Palais

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It takes a prestigious exhibition to make the French miss their leisurely lunch break. The Edward Hopper exhibition at Le Grand Palais in Paris attracted throngs of hardcore fans when it opened to the public on October 10, 2012. Le Grand Palais is an haute-gamme gallery located in the 8th district of Paris near the Champs-Élysées with display halls that are vaulted and angled like veritable culture caves.Walking up the gilded staircases, at least three different languages were being spoken amongst the crowds gathered in the towering arched doorway.

Two security checks later, we entered the first room, whose high ceilings give the impression of an endless treasure trove. Excited whispers scurried past my ears like mice on a cheese-hunt. These were die-hard art lovers who lied to their bosses to come see an expo an hour after it opened with their Cartes Sesames, which grant them full access and line-cutting privileges to the most popular museums in Paris. The Louboutin heels and glistening watch bands say it all : we were made to critique. And critique they do.

Born in Nyack, New York, Edward Hopper struggled for recognition before leaving to expand his perspective in Paris. When there, he associated with the likes of Charles Burchfield, Alfred Stieglitz, and Reginald Marsh. The progression in his style is obvious; Hopper’s painting got better and bigger after he studied in the City of Lights. Eerie lighting gives off a Tim Burton-esque vibe that only intensifies in grim pieces like ‘Night Hawks” and “Soir Bleu”.

"Nighthawks"

“Nighthawks” – 1942

"Soir Bleu"

“Soir Bleu” – 1914

As one of the most famous realist painters of the 20th century, Hopper takes unexpected scenes from everyday life and turns them into masterpieces. In “Gas”, a row of petrol pumps near the highway are showcased in all their ordinary splendor.

"Gas"

“Gas” – 1940

Oil painting was Hopper’s medium of choice, but Le Grand Palais reserved a room just for his etchings. Regardless of where it was completed, his work is so relatable that it serves as a bridge between American and French culture.

house

“The Lonely House” – 1923

Comprising over 100 pieces, Hopper’s oeuvre evokes a plethora of moods by illustrating the tension between tradition and modernity, cities and nature, men and women. His work is immensely appreciated by people of various backgrounds in French culture. A woman I spoke to at the museum said : “I think Hopper has a rare talent. He can make people marvel over the greatness of a house standing in a prairie, or gas pumps on the side of the road.” For the French, Hopper’s work is an enlarged exoticism of American culture, with just the right touch of nostalgia to reach beyond the retinas of Old World residents.

The Hunger Games Trilogy: New Era of Science Fiction

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Imagine a dystopian future in which North America is Panem, a land of districts subjugated by the Capitol located in the former Rocky Mountains. All of the districts have a special trade, and the Capitol exploits poverty-stricken workers by rationing their food supplies. Every year since the rebellion of District 13, the Capitol has held the Hunger Games to make the people its puppets. On reaping day, a boy and a girl from each district are chosen to fight to death against the other districts in an ever-changing arena. Only one victor may win.

I spent months bashing this young adult series only to have myself reprimanded for not having an open enough mind to give it a shot. I tend to reject anything that’s a fad, but there’s a reason why it’s so popular. The Hunger Games trilogy has something to offer to almost every potential fan. For people with a 6th grade reading level and a short attention span, there is simple prose and a riveting story line. For bored people on spring break, there is the time-consuming task of reading all three books, which takes about four days on average. And for intellectuals, there are political undertones and sociological allegories interspersed with just enough romance to cushion the deathly blows brought on by continuous theoretical application. Not everyone will be a fan, but everyone can and should try reading the books, which are available on the internet and at local bookstores.

When introduced to Katniss, it’s hard not to notice that for once, you’re reading a children’s book featuring a strong female protagonist with a will to stay alive. No matter what critics say about the violence in these books, Katniss is a rare example for young people reading the series that girls, too, can be strong, and that having conflicting emotions is acceptable. In juxtaposition to the nature and love infused throughout the story, the violence is politically contrived and wrong. Within District 12, things are more or less calm until the Peacekeepers intervene. Much like NATO troops, these white-clad SWAT teams are anything but peaceful.

The next thing I noticed was an almost immediate focus on animals, wildlife, and food. Katniss lives in tune with nature by hunting and gathering for her family, and Collins describes the food and the environment in detail. By the end of the first book, I have a clear picture of District 12 in my mind.

The second part of the series, Catching Fire, is an elaborated version of the jeux politiques in the first book. It gives a new spin on the games, showing what teamwork and community can provide to competitors, even when they are fighting to the death. It also develops the overarching plot of the trilogy by illustrating the civil unrest among the poorer districts. By the end of book two, Katniss ascends to Peeta’s level when she realizes that they are just puppets in the Capitol’s game. This realization is not only pivotal to the plot, but shows Katniss evolving from a girl concerned with elementary needs into a young adult with heightened political awareness. Just like in our world today, solidarity and opposition are intertwined. Is all fair in love and war ? That’s up to you to decide.

Mockingjay is the last book, and probably the goriest. It’s a sad read, as many of the heroic characters are either killed off or tortured into submission. Katniss goes through ordeal after ordeal; just when her obstacles seem insuperable, the flame in her burns on, conquering the Capitol’s death traps. Katniss reminds me of Assata Shakur, the poster woman for the minority revolution in the United States. Her autobiography, Assata, is a must-read. To see the film, click here.

The Hunger Games have turned into a full-scale war of the districts against the Capitol, but the sides aren’t so clearly defined. Katniss’s family endures the likes of World War II and what I imagine to be the next Armageddon. The concept of the Hunger Games reminded me of the Holocaust and recent genocides in Sudan and Rwanda. When asked whether or not you would inflict the same pain on your torturers, would you pick vengeance, compassion, or something in between ?

Be careful what you assume about this trilogy. It’s different from other sci–fi novels in that it’s not that hard to imagine. This could be thousands, hundreds, or even tens of years down the line. It’s shockingly similar to the world today, and that is what makes it a best-seller. The best sci-fi stories are relatable and fantastical.

If you’re not looking to kill time, you can apply theoretical musings to every facet of the story. Unemployed college graduates, put those 4 years of liberal arts and sciences to good use.