Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Kuchipudi dance rocks

Along with some friends, we were honored to be invited to a recital by the students of a renowned teacher of of classical Indian dance. Our friends are experts in Indian music - including our friend Arundhati, who is Bengali and studies women's culture in India.

Photo by Daniel Neuman

Srimathy Sumathi Kaushal is a choreographer, performer, and teacher of Kuchipudi dance. This form of dance comes from and is named for a small village in South India, in the state of Andhra Pradesh.

The dance form traditionally was practiced by village men and boys, but in modern times, it has become increasingly dominated by girls and women. Guru Kaushal says she first came to learn the form in the 1960s, and since then has taught hundreds of students in her Southern California school in Rancho Cucamonga.

This recital took place in a small auditorium in Duarte, California. The ensemble's costumes were wonderful, rich iridescent silk saris with gold sashes, and pleated aprons that spread like fans with the sweeping leg-work and arching steps. Each dancer's hands and feet were marked with red that emphasized the beautiful hand gestures, and they wore anklets of bells that jingled with their steps.

Photo by Daniel Neuman

The performance begins with short ritual pieces that are salutations to Lord Ganesha. Then, in a series of episodes or scenes, the ten descents of Vishnu are acted out onstage. The dancers mime the drama, which includes great powerful fishes and turtles, the disembowelment of a demon, fierce battles between armies, and the romantic idylls of Krishna. The dancing is expressive, athletic, and the principle dancers were almost constantly onstage, requiring considerable stamina.After the performance, Svetha, one of the lead dancers in the ensemble allowed me to take her photo.

She is a college student, about to go to grad school. She is interested in choreography, and in addition to her expertise in Indian classical dance, she also likes hip-hop.

Her skill and grace in Kuchipudi was unmatched. But what was even more interesting, and emblematic of Southern California's diverse culture, took place at the beginning of the show.

The performance began with one of the dancers singing the national anthem of India. The anthem is called Jana Gana Mana. It was originally composed in 1911 to be sung to the British King George V in honor of his coronation, and his assumption as the imperial ruler of the Indian colony. Many years later, after the struggle for Indian independence, the song was adopted as the new nation's anthem, and its lyrics evoke all the regions of India. The audience of South Indian ex patriots sang along.

Then, Svetha, in her gorgeous pink and green sari, her kohl-rimmed eyes, her traditional headress, stepped to the mic and sang the national anthem of the United States, "The Star Spangled Banner."

Photo by Daniel Neuman

Our national anthem sets a poem written about the War of 1812 to a popular British tavern song, and it was made the national anthem in 1931. Most nations' anthems are derived from European hymns, and most, when performed at official ceremonies, are pretty square.

But here in the U.S. - maybe because the song is now sung by celebrities at celebrated national events, it's no longer the thumping dull anthem it used to be. In 1968 Jose Feliciano famously sang a pop version of the anthem. Although Jimi Hendrix had performed a rock version at Woodstock, Feliciano's version was shocking because it was performed at a mainstream event, the World Series. Other artists followed, including Marvin Gaye in 1983 and Whitney Houston in 1991. They set the style of the modern pop version. We now have pop divas' voices soaring and trilling, with melismatic vocal elaboration derived from African-American gospel tradition and rhythm and blues styling.

So how did Svetha do?

Well, she rocked the house. She rocked it bigger than Beyonce at Super Bowl XXXVII. She nailed every note. She totally handed Christina Aguilera, Kelly Clarkson and Mariah Carey's asses to them.

It made me smile, and it also reminded me to avoid pre-judging people and situations. What, I wondered, had I expected? A classical hymn? Sing-song Bollywood intonation? It's easy to look at an ensemble of exotically costumed practitioners of a traditional discipline and dismiss them as precious, naive, and not part of the modern world.

But these are young American dancers. And they know damn well how we sing our national anthem!

Young performers like Svetha - as much an expert as Darci Kistler in a particular, venerated ancient classical art - are also polished young professionals, poised to enter the entertainment industry, able to compete in the mainstream, skilled in multiple performance genres.

This is the face of today's all-American entertainment star. And she's a powerhouse of talent. Best wishes, Svetha, I know you'll go far, whatever your choice of musical style.

But you know what was equally surprising to me?

As we drove back to West L.A. with our friends, I mentioned how disconcerting it was to hear a full-blown 2009 American-style pop rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner" from a costumed Indian classical dancer.

And our friend Arundhati laughed, and said that what surprised her was how non-traditional the students' version of the Indian national anthem was. It is normally delivered in a very official, British hymnal square style. At this event, it was delivered in the style of South Indian carnatic music - with its own elaborations and unique vocal stylings. Very unusual, according to our friend, and very different from what you'd hear in India.

Photo by Daniel Neuman

So that was another example of young people, growing up in a multicultural world, mixing, shaping and enriching their traditions to reflect the world around them. And it was something that, though unknown to me, added yet another layer of complexity to the interesting cultural mix of Los Angeles.

Don't you just love this place?

UPDATE: be sure to click on Dan's photos to enlarge them - they are really fantastic.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Thematic Photographic - Cloudy

Every week Carmi at Written, Inc. poses a theme for photographic inspiration. This week's theme is CLOUDY.

January afternoon, almost dusk. From the Topanga Canyon East Fire Road, hiking toward Eagle Rock. The pale winter sun bursts through the clouds, and lights up the meadow below.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Thematic Photographic - Cloudy

Every week Carmi at Written, Inc. poses a theme for photographic inspiration. This week's theme is CLOUDY.

Cloudy skies above a small town in East Texas. Dynamic and moving, while the town is in a kind of stasis.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The meadow

There is a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean where huge eucalyptus trees shade a grassy meadow. It's the perfect place to picnic on a blanket, bathed by the cool ocean breezes and sheltered from the sun by the dappled shade. Perhaps as you lie there looking up at the summer sky, your thoughts turn to the infinite magnitude of the universe, and how small a place we hold in it. Or perhaps you observe a blade of grass, and marvel at the complexity of the microscopic world.

In 1945, a young couple from the Midwest enjoyed picnicking in this meadow so much they decided to build a house here. It would be a modern house, affordable, and made of inexpensive industrial components. Their architect proposed a design with a cantilevered wing that stretched out over the meadow. Wartime scarcities delayed delivery of the manufactured steel parts, and while they were waiting, the young couple had second thoughts. Why destroy this beautiful meadow?

Charles Eames and his wife Ray redesigned the house together to make a more gentle impact on the site. It was built in 1949.

The house is tucked up alongside a rising slope at the north side of the lot, beneath a 200 foot long retaining wall. The house is really two boxes - a long oblong box with the living quarters separated by a paved courtyard from a square box housing the design studio. The facade is livened by an irregular grid of steel frames and panels, with blocks of color - it feels a little like a painting by Mondrian.

We were thrilled to be invited by a friend to the annual fundraising tour by the Eames Foundation, to support the continued preservation of the house. We were introduced to Charles's daughter Lucia and to her daughter, also named Lucia, who heads the Foundation and the Eames Office, which continues the designers' work. We also met film-maker Eames Demetrios, grandson of the designers.

Best of all, we were treated to a rare guided tour of the inside of the house and studio, now sixty years old.

The Eameses were much more than designers. They made a mark on every aspect of life. They designed comfortable furniture made to fit the human form. Ray designed fabrics and graphics. They created toys. They compiled slide shows from a collection of over 350,000 photographs of their works and travels, and made presentations. They created over 80 short films, including the well-known "The Power of Ten."

The Eames House site and exterior can be seen by appointment only - instructions are here at the website. A tour of the interior is offered only once a year to members.

Our tour started with the studio, which is being used today as an office by the Foundation. Because work takes place in the studio, it is not preserved in its original state, although most of the furnishings belonged to the Eames and were used by them both here and at their office in Venice.

We crossed the courtyard to the main house, which is kept as close as possible to the way it was.

Unlike the stereotype of a modern home being minimalist and sterile, the Eames home is filled with objects and items the designers found interesting. Ray in particular liked to display her things - tables and surfaces are covered with flower arrangements, arrays of candlesticks; collections of small dolls and figurines, toys, fabric throws and books. The house looks lived-in and loved. There are works of art and furnishings from artists - Isamu Noguchi, George Nelson, or the Indian folk art they loved. You can see Ray's style if you look at the images available at the Foundation's website.

A kitchen table is set for breakfast. The 50's era stove is backed with a wavy glass divider separating the cooking area from a utility area. Little collectibles are ranged along the backsplash.

A spiral staircase - purchased by catalogue from a marine supply company - leads to a sleeping loft upstairs. The double-height living room includes built-in cabinets as room dividers, and a cozy nook with built-in banquettes on one side. The windows are floor-to-ceiling glass, opening onto a patio sheltered by the overhanging roof.

When I spoke to Lucia she told me about the efforts to preserve the garden. Again, breaking with the stereotype of modern design as something spare and minimal - Ray liked displaying her flowering plants, and brought pots of whatever was in bloom to the front of the house. Plants out of season or in need of rehab were kept in the narrow pathway behind the house. Traditional flowers like roses, foxgloves, and geraniums cheerfully bloom away.

This is one of the geraniums - notice its unusually shaped flowers and deeply cut leaves? Yet another interesting collectible that must have caught Ray's eye.

Like the designers themselves, the Eames House is playful, fun, quirky and interesting. As Charles Eames once said, it "takes pleasure seriously."

Pink Saturday - Overblown roses

Pink Saturday - Beverly, at the blog "How Sweet the Sound" hosts Pink Saturday. Let the color pink inspire you!

My desk is in a little alcove off the kitchen, and in front of me hangs an oil painting of a vase of roses, against the deep blue wall. The painting is small - perhaps eight inches square. It depicts a small vase, brown pottery or perhaps old brass, stuffed with almost a dozen full-blown roses in shades of pink. On the table beneath the vase lie a few fallen petals.

I bought it years ago in an antique shop - really a flea market - and it is unsigned. I like the frame it came in. I also like the composition - I like the fact that the image is cut off at the top; we are looking at the vase from its own level, and we've lost the overhead. I have no idea who painted it, or how old it is.

The other day I picked a bouquet of roses that were in bloom in my garden. The June bloom is the second flowering of the year, less lush than the first in April and May. The deeper pink rose is a Meilland Romantica named "Comtesse de Provence", and the paler pink flowers are a David Austin rose called "Sharifa Asma."

"Sharifa Asma" has large, quartered flowers in the style of the old roses. And in my garden - at least in our foggy June Gloom - she tends to get a bit of mildew. But the special thing about "Sharifa Asma" is the scent - she is a strongly fragrant rose, with a sharp scent rosarians describe as "myrrh" - likening it to the strong, camphor-like incense of the ancient world.

The blooms I picked were a bit overblown, and just like in the painting, they dropped their petals onto the table.

In Grenoble, France, in 1836, a portrait painter and his Russian-born wife had a baby boy. They moved to Paris when the baby was five. As he grew up, he studied drawing and painting and as an adult he worked in several studios.

Henri Fantin-Latour hung out with Impressionist painters Edgar Degas and Edouard Manet, and an American painter named James Whistler, who was playing around with odd takes on light, shapes, and perspective.

Henri liked to paint small domestic still-lifes - often pictures of flowers in vases, particularly roses. Between 1864 and his death in 1904, he became famous for his lush, loose still-life paintings of flowers, sprawling and abundant, richly detailed and intimate.

You can almost smell the scent as you look at them.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Thematic Photographic - Cloudy

Every week Carmi at Written, Inc. poses a theme for photographic inspiration. This week's theme is CLOUDY.

Where we live, in the Santa Monica Mountains, a cloudy day comes pretty close to home. The fog rolls up the canyon, piles up in the hills, and rolls over the top of the mountain. Here, we are IN the cloud.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

And we danced, on the floor, in the round

In 1983 I shared a house in the Wallingford district of Seattle with my best friend, her boyfriend, and a couple of other people who were friends of friends.

It was a 1920s bungalow, with a cobbled-together remodel enlarging the second floor, and a tiny backyard that could accommodate a barbecue. It was on N.E. 51th Street, a half block from a little corner store. The front porch had a wrought iron railing that was overgrown by a wisteria vine.

My friend and I worked as stagehands, being dispatched to jobs by our labor union. That summer work was slow, and my friend and I were low on the seniority list. We spent a lot of time at home together, collecting unemployment.

My friend's boyfriend bought a big TV, and subscribed our household to cable. It was the early years of MTV, and we had a lot of time on our hands.

My friend's mom had just given her an odd gift - an antique mah-johng set. We set up a card table in the living room, and taught ourselves how to play it.

I remember we used to walk down to the corner store and buy half-racks of generic beer (the kind with the white paper labels that said "BEER" in black letters). They came in squat brown glass bottles, and the bottle caps were printed underneath with rebuses - goofy jokes.

We'd play mah-johng and drink generic beer in the torpid heat of a Seattle summer, while in the background MTV played.

And throughout that summer, there was Michael Jackson on TV, dancing to "Thriller" and "Billie Jean" - tipping his hat, rising up on his toes, swiveling his pelvis far more than Elvis ever did, going "ooh hoo!" and glaring at us under a carefully corkscrewed ringlet falling over his eyes. There were staring corpses. Lit-up sidewalk squares. Clean white spectator shoes.

Can you believe he got Vincent Price to narrate "Thriller"?
Darkness falls across the land
The midnight hour is close at hand
Creatures crawl in search of blood
To terrorize y'all's neighborhood

And whosever shall be found
Without the soul for getting down
Shall stand and face the hounds of hell
And rot inside a corpse's shell.

The foulest stench is in the air
The funk of forty thousand years
And grisly ghouls from every tomb
Are closing in to seal your doom

And though you fight to stay alive
Your body starts to shiver
For no mere mortal can resist
The evil of the Thriller.
I never saw Michael Jackson perform live - although I saw a lot of shows. But I remember that summer, when he was on my TV everyday. Whenever I hear those songs, that summer comes fully up in my memory.

Pod People

In this economy, everyone's cost-cutting, even Hollywood. Think how expensive it is to film a movie about a special event - you need a lot of people to fill the seats. And even if the extras work for free, you still have to give them coffee, donuts, and parking. It can really hit your budget hard.
So these days Hollywood is looking for solutions, and what could be better than having your own Crowd-in-a-Box?
Inflatable people can fill stadium seats, creating the impression of a full house.
They have life-like faces, and come in all ethnicities and genders!
They pack compactly into bins and inflate in minutes.
They're legless, so they always stay where you put them.
They don't eat, argue, and don't pester your stars for autographs.
They don't even need porta-potties!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Thematic Photographic - Cloudy

Every week Carmi at Written, Inc. poses a theme for photographic inspiration. This week's theme is CLOUDY.

Pastis is a distilled spirit flavored with herbs, primarily anise. It's a popular apertif in France. The French dilute the spirit with water. The name, "pastis" comes from a word in Langue d'oc, the early language of Provence, that means "hazy."

Here, a jigger of pastis - brand name Ricard - is poured into a glass of cold water - which immediately turns cloudy.

Thanks to my devoted production assistant, I was able to capture the moment.

À votre santé!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Pot Luck

I was invited to a potluck recently at the home of a kind person who happens to be a generous supporter of the arts. The address was in a cul-de-sac, down a winding residential road off a coastal canyon.

What was my first clue this wasn't an ordinary potluck? Seeing something like this arching over the house, beyond the gate:

No, not this one, this one belongs to the Museum of Contemporary Art downtown. But our hostess has one like it by the same artist. (Actually, I like hers better than MOCA's).

We were greeted kindly by our hostess and offered a glass of wine. Then we were invited to tour her home and garden - but finish your wine, please before entering the galleries.

The party included art scholars, curators and several artists themselves, so as we toured we learned about the pieces we were seeing - a priceless course in art education.

This collection outgrew the striking wood and glass Ray Kappe house several years ago, and a gallery was built to house new acquisitions. Some years later, a second gallery space was built - they face one another across an elegantly paved courtyard displaying a Chris Burden lamp-post and a horse sculpture by Deborah Butterfield.

Among the pieces in the second gallery were a Pae White mobile and a Murakami diptych.

The house itself is a work of art, and we marveled at what we found there. Multiple levels connected by pathways, staircases, and decks created frames through which to view the artworks. Standing in the living room, one can view a Dale Chihuly piece framed through a doorway into the other room. Descending a stair from the sleeping wing, one can view two leopard sculptures mounted atop the woodwork that holds the kitchen cabinets.

The master bedroom is a cube of glass among the treetops - the stars must look wonderful overhead at night, and the little deck off the room perches over the lower courtyard - a magnificent view.

In addition to the artwork, there were collections of things deeply personal. I spotted shelves of glittering crystal from across the room. As I came closer, I realized the pieces were fragments. Another visitor explained that a collection of fine crystal had been shattered in the Northridge earthquake and, unable to throw it all away, our hostess had saved what remained of pieces she'd loved.

In one room there is a collection of hats bought by our hostess on her travels - including one she bought because her hotel in Rome was right next to the shop that made regalia for the Vatican. She smiled naughtily as she told the story of how she talked them into selling it to her.

A massive wooden beam flanking a long gangway holds a collections of rocks - simply rocks picked up as souvenirs from all over the world. Most are small - she probably slipped them into her handbag - and each is labeled with the name of its origin. Together, ranged along the walkway they look like a sculptural work themselves.

There is so much art and beauty in the house that I felt I lost the boundary we often put between art and our lives. Was this a beautiful scupture that I hesitated to touch, or was it the banister I should grip as I climbed the stairs?

We were called to dinner, and ate on the deck surrounding the pool. For potluck, it was pretty swank - cold grilled salmon, heirloom tomatoes, roasted vegetables and a delicious pasta salad. In the center of the table was the head of a pick-axe, so thickly rusted it looked furred.

Again, I felt the boundary slip. Was this also a sculpture, I asked my dining companions, or was it simply an old pick-axe found on the property, perhaps while excavating the pool or laying the flagstones or digging the caissons for the odd redwood structure above us on the hill?

I don't usually say much when I'm with people from the Art World, because I don't know enough about it. But on that evening, perhaps the wine had gone to my head, or just the sheer immersion in so much art did it to me. I found myself comfortably talking about art - while in the company of some pretty serious artists and art scholars. And if I was naive, they were kind enough not to point it out.

After dinner and before dessert, just as dusk was falling, we were herded up the hillside toward that hillside structure, through an oval portal into a grey-walled room fitted with a wooden bench that curved beneath us as we settled in.

This is a Skyspace, an installation by artist James Turrell. You can read about these installations at this New York Times article. The ceiling has an opening to the sky. The indirect lighting that washes the plaster ceiling is computer programmed to change slowly as the sky itself changes at dusk. What's amazing here is the contrast between sky and ceiling, the two-dimensional quality it has before your eyes, and the subtle change of colors. As you watch, it goes from gentle blue to electric blue to deep midnight blue - and when you step out of the womb-like oval the sky looks nothing like it looked inside.

Our hostess said it was often a spiritual experience, and it was - but we were with artists and like car mechanics, they like to look under the hood. So instead of lapsing into awed silence, we marveled aloud at what we saw, how it worked, and discussed the stagecraft of the trick. The sculptors in the crowd checked out the drainage, and talked about the structure's geometry.

Then we all had ice cream.

You know what I liked best, though? The guest powder room had a ceiling that looked like this one:

Photo from Dale Chihuly website

Only it wasn't exactly that one. But it was by the same artist. My friend's ceiling is even better.

Art Burn

I have seen a lot of incredible art this weekend. It's been almost too much richness.

I think I've come down with a bad case of Art Burn.

More later.

Update: ACK!! Why am I continuing on this orange and green theme?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Little Lions

Here in the Santa Monica Community Garden in the Ocean Park neighborhood, the flowers are in bloom.

And in one corner, hard up against the chain-link fence, a huge, rangy plant with brilliant, shaggy orange flowers twists and bursts out, its exuberant energy barely contained. It's like a fierce muscled animal in a cage - a lion, if you will.

This is Leonotis leonurus, also called Lion's Ear or Lion's Tail. It's a member of the Lamiaceae, or mint family, and native to South Africa.

You can always tell a member of the mint family when you see it, because the stems of the plant are square-shaped. This is something I learned as a child, and always remember.

Many mints also have flower structures like the Leonotis, where clusters of tubular flowers range up each stem. The emerging flowers are like bright orange puffs swelling from the grey-green sepals.

Mints are rich in aromatic oils, and because of this people have used them for healing wherever they grow. The Lion's Ear plant has been used in teas and infusions to treat respiratory ailments, and also as an external remedy for skin diseases and itching.

In South Africa, the plant was used by the native Xhosa people as a mild intoxicant, smoked through a water pipe. It's often called Wild Dagga, and is used in shamanistic rituals - you can find dried leonotis blossoms sold on the internet for this purpose.

Leonotis is attractive to bees and butterflies - and, here in Southern California, hummingbirds - and it's also drought tolerant, so it's good for water-wise gardening.

I like the idea of a wild lion bristling fiercely orange behind the fence as I walk past. I always think of Brazilian singer Caetano Veloso's song, "Leozinho," or "Little Lion."

A rough translation of the lyrics:

I really like to watch you, little lion
Walking under the sun
I really like you little lion

To unsadden, little lion
My lonely heart
It’s enough to meet you on my path

A little lion, morning ray
Attracting my gaze like a magnet
My heart is the sun, father of all colors
When it tans your naked skin

I like to watch you under the sun, little lion
To watch you getting into the sea
Your skin, your light, your mane

I like to stay under the sun, little lion
To wet my mane,
Be close to you and get into the sea.

UPDATE: I've noticed that when I embed a YouTube video, sometimes the comments link doesn't show at the end of the post. This seems to be a Blogger glitch. If you'd like to comment, and you don't see the link, doubleclick on the title to this post "Little Lions" - you should see the comment link at the bottom of the post. I welcome all your comments.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Thematic Photographic - Green

Every week Carmi at Written, Inc. poses a theme for photographic inspiration. This week's theme is GREEN.

A delicate lacewing fly sits on an orange painted wall.

Her name was Neda

Neda Agha Soltan

She was standing on the street with her father music professor. They were on Karekar Avenue, at the corner crossing Khosravi Street and Salehi Street in Tehran. I don't know why they were there. Maybe they were protesting against the government, or maybe they were just curious, wondering what was going on. Or maybe they lived there.

But because they were out in the street after warnings had been issued, someone shot her.

The bullet hit her in the chest. According to a doctor who was at the scene, it went straight to her heart.

The video catches her falling. Someone - maybe her father, maybe someone from the crowd - pulls her off the curb and eases her down to lie flat on the pavement. You can see her face, her mouth show a feeling - what is this, what has happened to me? Her rescuers' hands press and push onto her chest, to close her wound, or to resuscitate her.

As the video plays, she opens her mouth and gasps, then her eyes glance toward the camera. She knows we see her.

As the camera rolls, blood pours from her mouth - indicating the terrible injuries to her heart and lungs. Her rescuers' bodies fill the frame as they bend to save her, then the camera focuses on her face again. Blood flows like paint from her mouth, then her nose, down both sides of her face to the pavement beneath her. Blood collects into the hollow of her left eye, filling the socket. Her right eye, vacant yet pure, stares at the sky, her shaped eyebrow above, her mouth so perfect, so beautiful except for the blood. Now she is gone, she has passed.

It's on the video.

She was a real person, just like me, just like you. Her name was Neda Agha Soltan. Don't forget her.

UPDATE: The video links are no longer valid. You can probably find a video on the internet if you search. I've decided I can't watch footage of her death anymore. I've posted a photo of Neda as she was when she was alive. Although I would like to remove the photo of her death, I can't. It's what we have to remember.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Pink Saturday - Parisian Pink

Pink Saturday - Beverly, at the blog "How Sweet the Sound" hosts Pink Saturday. Let the color pink inspire you!

This Pink Saturday, I'm thinking of Paris. There are many Pink Saturday-ettes who dream of Paris, and some who have been there, and some who actually know Paris well.

I speak passable high school French when I'm not nervous, and I can read French fairly well. I've read books about France and Paris - Collette's naughty novels, MFK Fisher's exquisite books of gastronomy, even Jean Rhys's sad sagas of depressed drunken damsels of the '30s.

But I've never been there.

This small boutique on Main Street in Santa Monica is called Paris 1900. Its home is an old brick storefront with a custom bay window fitted with Arte Nouveau woodwork. When you step inside - and it's only open a few days a week - you step into another world.

Here are vintage clothes and lingerie. Antique toys and accessories. Modern French toiletries.

There is a collection of mosaic jewelry.

A black straw hat you might see Eliza Doolittle wearing, with cherries and jasmine on the crown.

A comfortable armchair with elegant French lines.

It's in Santa Monica. And it's only the start.

Because in July, [The Man I Love] is taking me to Paris!!

And I need your help.

I'd love to hear from those of you who know Paris, with tips and ideas for making our stay special. Please tell me what we should not miss. Leave your comments or email me your recommendations.