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Archive for April, 2011

An artistic genius in Montmartre

April 27th, 2011 | Posts By Devalier | Filed in: Culture, General


It is Easter Monday in Paris, a French national holiday, and in the warm light of morning the streets are calm, few cars clogging the rue and quai of the central city.

Easter Monday @ Montmartre

But by mid-day holiday revelers will have spilled into the grand parks and gardens of Paris, Parc du Champ de Mars, Jardin du Luxembourg, Jardin des Tulieres, among others. On this or any other fine spring day, Parisians love to bask in the sun in these metropolitan oases or sip espresso in the ubiquitous cafés so deeply embedded in French culture.

Downtown in Montmartre

Nowhere is the festivity more evident than in Montmartre, Picasso’s first home in Paris. In 1900 he was 19, and spoke hardly a word of French, having just arrived from Barcelona. In 1901 he began the Blue Period of his art, by 1904 the Rose Period of his genius, marvelous work in tints of ochre and faint pink that describe the quotidian life of acrobats and harlequins and evoke feelings of tenderness and vulnerability.

Musée du Louvre

In those early days in Paris, Picasso haunted the museums of Paris, among them the Musée du Luxembourg and the Louvre, where he studied the impressionist and post-impressionists painters Degas, Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec, Cézanne, Gauguin and Van Gogh, and the Spanish masters Velazquez and Goya.

Near Picasso Museum in Barcelona

On this trip, I was not privileged to view the work of Picasso in the Musée Picasso in Paris, as it is closed for renovation until next year. But my wife and I did relish our re-visits to the Museo Picasso in Barcelona and Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid, which showcases several of his paintings, including the magnum opus Guernica.

Montmartre Neighborhood

Had you been in Montmartre at the beginning of the 20th century, you might have passed Picasso near the Bateau-Lavoir (Laundry Boat) where he lived, a bohemian sanctuary for artists of a motley kind: painters, sculptors, poets, playwrights.

To the good wine in Montmartre

Had you frequented the cafés and cabarets of Montmartre—the Chat Noir and Le Zut—you would have found Picasso and his friends, the poets Max Jacob, Arthur Rimbaud, Paul Verlaine, and Charles Baudelaire, feverishly reading poetry aloud or engaged in heated discussion of the issues of the day.

Glimpse of downtown Paris

Later on Picasso met Paul Éluard, a surrealist poet with whom he collaborated to illustrate the poem “La Barre d’Appui.”

Éluard wrote this moving poem in homage to his lifelong friend Picasso:

To Pablo Picasso

Some have invented boredom others laughter
Certain ones fit life with a cloak of storm
They swat butterflies spit birds before the fire
And go off to die in the dark

You have opened their eyes that go their way
Amid natural things in every age
You have made harvest of natural things
And you sow for all times

They preached at your body and soul
You have put the head back on the body
You have pierced the tongue of the satiate man
You have burned the blessed bread of beauty
A single heart quickens the idol and its slaves
And amid your victims you continue to work

There’s an end of joys engrafted on sorrow.[…]

An end of going astray anything can be
Since the table is straight as an oak
Color of monk’s cloth color of hope
Since in our field small as a diamond
Is held the reflection of all the stars

Anything can be we of friends of man and beast
After the fashion of the rainbow

By turns fiery and frigid
Our will is of mother-of-pearl
It changes buds and blossoms
Not according to the hour but according
To the hand and the eye that we knew not ourselves
We shall touch everything we see
As well as the sky as woman
We join our hands to our eyes
The holiday’s new.

The bull’s ear at the window
Of the wild house where the wounded sun
An inner sun takes to earth

Tapestries of awakening the walls of the room
Have conquered sleep.

Is there a clay more sterile than all these torn newspapers
With which you set forth to conquer the dawn
The dawn of a humble object
You design lovingly that which awaits its being
You design in the void
As folk do not design
Generously you cut out the form of a chicken
Your hands played with your tobacco pouch
With a glass a bottle that gained

The infant world came out of a dream
Good wind for guitar and for bird
A single passion for the bed and the barque
For fresh pastures and for wine that’s new

The legs of the bathers bare the waves and strand
Morning your blue shutters close upon the night
In the furrows the quail smells of hazelnuts
Of olden Augusts and Thursdays gone
Pied harvests full-voiced peasant women
Shells of the marshlands dryness of the nests

Countenance of bitter swallows in the raucous sunset

The morning kindles a green fruit
Gilds the grain fields cheeks hearts
You hold the flame between your fingers
And paint like a conflagration
At length the flame unites
At length the flame brings salvation

I recognize the changing image of the woman
Double star moving mirror
Negatress of the desert and of forgetfulness
Source with breasts of heather spark trust
Giving daylight to the day
And her blood to blood
O hear you sing her song
Her thousand fancied forms
Her colors that make the bed of the countryside
Then go off to hue mirages of night

And when the caress takes flight
Immense violence remains

Insult remains with weary wings
Gloom metamorphosis gloomy people
Whom ill-luck devours

Drama of seeing where there is nothing to see
Save oneself and what is like oneself

You cannot wipe yourself away
All is reborn between your even eyes

And on the basis of present memories
Without order nor disorder with simplicity
Rises the prestige of giving sight.

Paul Éluard 1947
(translator: Joseph T. Shipley)

As he wanted and believed, Picasso lives forever. In his art lies immortality.

All the best,

Warren J. Devalier

©2011 Warren J. Devalier

¡Viva La España!

April 22nd, 2011 | Posts By Devalier | Filed in: General


Among the things that stick in my head about Spain are the graciousness of its people and the seemingly endless spaces of its land once you get anywhere outside of a city. And nowhere else is this more evident than in Andalucía, the land of olive trees and oranges, paella, Moorish architecture and flamenco.


I have traveled to Spain many times. I first visited this wonderful country for most of a summer when I was a graduate student. In Barcelona I stayed in a hostel in a building with a flamenco bar on the ground floor. Evenings I would munch on tapas and sip red Spanish wine, later eat dinner served in the hostel, and then enjoy the flamenco show.

Pueblos Blancos_Ubrique

On this trip to Spain my wife and I savored a unique travel experience to the Pueblos Blancos, a cluster of towns and villages in the provinces of Cádiz and Málaga about an hour’s drive from Seville. Nestled along the side of low mountains, the houses in these towns are characteristically white-washed and decorated with brightly colored potted plants that create a splendid contrast in the golden sun and royal-blue Spanish skies.

If you do not plan to stay overnight in a village—there are hotels or hostels in many of them—the best way to tour the Pueblos Blancos is by car.  I had originally contemplated training from Seville to Cádiz and then hopping a bus to the villages but realized it was a ridiculous proposition. The train to Cádiz alone takes 1½ hours and the times were not convenient for my purpose.

Pueblos Blancos_Grazalema

In a full day  (12 hours) we visited Villaluenga del Rosario, Ubrique*, Ronda*, Grazalema*, Setenil de las Bodega, Zahara de la Sierra*, and Olvera*, on a drive of about 350 kilometers. Each of the villages has its uniqueness and special flavor but the pueblos that made the greatest impression on us were Setenil, Zahara and Olvera. They will leave you awestruck.
*hotel accommodation available

Pueblos Blancos_Setenil

Setenil has houses cut from the hillside with their rooftops made from the rock itself.

Pueblos Blancos_Zahara

Zahara is cuddled high atop a mountain below a castle ruin.

Pueblos Blancos_Olvera

Olvera gives the appearance of a sugary Disneyland and is landmarked by a church focal to each of the Pueblos Blancos.

¡Viva La España!

All the best,

Warren J. Devalier

©2011 Warren J. Devalier

A “moveable feast” in Paris

April 10th, 2011 | Posts By Devalier | Filed in: General

Hemingway's 1st home in Paris

This was how Paris was in the early days when we were very poor and very happy— Earnest Hemingway, “A Moveable Feast”

I had goose bumps seeing Hemingway’s 1st apartment in Paris, on the 3rd floor of 74 Rue de Cardinal-Lemoine, located in a working-class district in the 5th arrondissement near Université de Paris. He and Hadley lived there from January 1922 to August 1923, in a two-room apartment without hot water or a toilet. On the ground floor then was a dance hall noisy in the night, and nearby the Rue Mouffetard, a marvelous neighborhood of restaurants, cafés and a public market where Hemingway would have bought the chestnuts he enjoyed nibbling on while writing his short stories.

I came to Paris with my Japanese wife to see family and to participate in the Paris marathon, one of 40,000 runners. Held in what is arguably the world’s most beautiful large city, the Paris marathon runs along some of the most culturally important and scenic landmarks, beginning before the Arc de Triomphe along the Champs-Élysées and continuing across the Place de la Concorde past the Louvre on the Rue Rivoli and further on in view of the Eiffel Tower.

There is something veritably special about a marathon: the friendliness and support of the crowds for the runners, the esprit de corps, the steady stream of humanity transcending nationality and ethnicity, the social interaction and common spirit, the light chatter in multi-languages in a truly peaceful global village.

Asics was the main sponsor for the Paris marathon. Going to pick up my runner’s ID, I was moved to see that the race was dedicated in support of victims of the Japan earthquake, and although I did not see so many Japanese runners, I was pleased to shout out “Ohayo Gozaimasu” whenever I saw any Japanese participants.

At the beginning of the marathon, the Japanese ambassador to France thanked the crowd for their support, and all the many thousands of runners and spectators paid their respects in a minute of silence. We were  running for Japan. The joie de vivre, a “movable feast” in the city that Hemingway loved.

All the best,

Warren J. Devalier

©2011 Warren J. Devalier

Impact of Earthquake: Challenge & Opportunity

April 4th, 2011 | Posts By Devalier | Filed in: Leadership

A resilient spirit

Today I attended a press conference at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan on the impact of the earthquake and tsunami on Japan. Three expert panelists addressed the topic: Kathy Matsui, co-head of Economics, Commodities and Strategy Research in Asia for Goldman Sachs, Kyohei Morita, Chief Economist of Barclay’s Capital Limited Japan, and none other than “Mr. Yen” himself, Professor Eisuke Sakakibara, formerly Vice-Minister of Finance for International Affairs, Ministry of Finance.

True to form, Sakakibara accurately had forecast the appreciation of the yen immediately following the March 11 shock, reflecting repatriation of funds to Japan. He now foresees gradual weakening from the current level of 83.84 ¥/$ spot to 85 rather quickly, and to 90/91 over the next several months.

Morita focused on macroeconomic impacts of the earthquake and tsunami, which he said are difficult to grasp because they go beyond the immediate property damage and lifeline disruptions, including planned blackouts (described as not so well-planned, and therefore unsettling, as manufacturers cannot adjust production schedules to shifting targets). After the 1995 Hanshin-Awaji earthquake, production turned up quickly but this time the downward pressure on production could be more prolonged, he reported. Morita forecast an uptick in Japan’s GDP of 0.8% for the FY 2011. Sakakibara was more optimistic in general, foreseeing 1% growth in 2011. The views of all three panelists are not inconsistent with the view of the World Bank, which predicted GDP to pick up in the 2nd half of 2011 reflecting reconstruction efforts.

Matsui believes, as do I, that as horrific is the tragedy of March 11, there is a silver lining in the dark cloud of the earthquake. Challenge and opportunity are two sides of the same coin. The people of Japan are united in their resolve to reconstruct Japan. She said that this is the time to look forward, not backward, seizing the moment to enact needed reforms in tax and immigration policy and to promote her favorite theme —“womenomics” —making better use of underutilized (if not unutilized) female resources to counter looming worker shortages in Japan.

She also believes  that a positive impact of the quake will be to stimulate Japan out of its deflationary trap, the bête noire of the economy in the aftermath of the “bubble” collapse. Pressures in this direction were already being felt in the commodity inflation evident in much of Asia.

And Matsui believes that the government should embark on an aggressive PR campaign to boost consumer sentiment and quell some of the sensationalist hype in the press about the crisis, particularly regarding the “radiation shock.” She commented that the radiation level in Tokyo is lower than in Hong Kong and is just slightly higher than in London and New York at this time, as reported by Bloomberg:

With his inimitable dry wit, “Mr. Yen” took exception to the government’s urging of Japanese people to exercise self-restraint. As a metaphor, he suggested that Japanese should be encouraged to have more (ohanami) parties. A classic Keynesian economist, he believes that the government should pass a 20 trillion yen supplemental budget, which he believes is manageable, as Japan’s public debt to GDP, while high, is mostly owed to Japanese households and not to foreign governments. Given the enormity of the crisis, all panelists favored a supplemental “reconstruction” budget of several trillion yen.

Professor Sakakibara emphasized that a key in Japan’s reconstruction and recovery is leadership, in particular focusing his comments on politics. He felt the government could and should do a much better job of utilizing the technical skills of ministry bureaucrats. He was optimistic that with Japan’s perseverant national characteristic and experience in reacting to “shocks” that the long-term impact of the quake will be positive.

Leadership is always the key. And that is where you come in. Everyone, no matter at what level or in what capacity, can pitch in and demonstrate the collaborative leadership needed to harvest benefit for Japan and manage this crisis. Without a doubt.

All the best,

Warren J. Devalier

©2011 Warren J. Devalier