Mass killing anew

Another mass killing! Another senseless tragedy that could have been avoided.

But in America we are kind of blasé about this sort of thing. It is common and it is happening with a sickening regularity. And what are we doing about it besides crying, wringing our hands, making emotional speeches and lighting candles?
Nothing! Absolutely nothing.

Photo by Army Amber

Let’s be realistic: assault weapons are murdering people all over the country and if we want to stop the carnage, these weapons of war have to be banned!

Never mind the convenient scapegoat of mental illness. These individuals are just a small part of the problem. To get rid of this killing epidemic, we need to eliminate the means of mass destruction. This country has been plagued by automatic assault weapons for a long time and something needs to be done about it.

Let’s not delude ourselves. We are all a bunch of sheep following a few rams. We are basically led by a small minority wielding too much power. And the driving force behind power is as usual money. A few people with lots of cash are coercing our obliging (money-hungry) politicians into preventing sane public safety measures to be implemented.

The gun lobby is wielding an unimaginable amount of power and the spotlight of public opinion should be directed to this organization and their minions.
A lot of powerful moguls have been brought down through the means of “sexual harassment” shaming. The same course of action (killing shaming) ought to be used against venal politicians and their godfathers.

You need to understand that the primary goal of a politician is survival. In order to be reelected, he constantly needs to raise money, and the life-saving donations are coming from just a few affluent dudes. If you can rely on those patrons, you reelection is assured. So let’s not rock the boat and offend these nice philanthropists who are so faithfully taking care of you.

As long as these killings are not affecting my family and my wallet, we can live with it. Right?

“When the whole world is silent, even one voice becomes powerful.” —Malala Yousafzai

In conclusion:

Speak up. Pressure your elected representative or don’t complain.



(Initially drafted in October 2005)

I am a straight shooter. Ask me how to get from point A to point B and I’ll tell you, just like that. Thirty seconds and it’s done! But for some people, it seems to be an almost impossible task.

My mother used to be such a person. I sometimes called her QAD (Queen Of Digression). This propensity of hers could be amusing or highly annoying, depending on how much time you had on your hands.

– Mother, what was the name of Madame Charpentier’s dog?
– Madame Charpentier? You mean the butcher’s wife?
– Yes, the butcher’s wife.
– The butcher’s wife… she was an odd woman… Did you know that her father used to get drunk every Saturday night? He would carouse at the tavern with his good for nothing friends, and continue drinking at home after Le Chien qui Fume had closed… But what do you expect from a Socialist? Before the War, everybody in France was socialist and look where it took us…

– Mother, the dog’s name?
– What dog?
– Madame Charpentier’s…
– The butcher’s wife?
– Yes…
– In my book, the butcher is a good lad. Always polite and pleasant. Always calls you by your name… regularly enquires about your family… not like the butcher on rue de Bretagne… you know the red haired guy with a southern accent. He must be Corsican or something like that.
And Corsica is not worth the trouble it is giving us. They want independence? Give them independence and let them starve. Look at all these African countries… they are all independent now. And what did it get them? Wars, diseases, starvation…

– Mother, the dog’s name?
– Oh you are so impatient… I am getting to it. You young people are all alike. You want everything right away. When I was young, people were more polite and more patient. Do you know that in my days, before you could kiss a girl you had to show that you were an upstanding young man? Today, young people kiss on the first date and hop in bed before even knowing the name of…

– The name Mother, the name?
– What name?
– The name of Madame Charpentier’s dog?
– The name? Oh yes… You mean the black one?
– Yes
– I totally forgot… Sorry. But you seem to be in a hurry… Anything wrong?
– No Mother, everything is fine.


People who digress endlessly are not at the top of the list of my Bêtes Noires, but some days, when it’s hot and muggy, they come dangerously close to light the fuse of my righteous wrath.


A memorable mêlée

Yesterday was not a day for the faint-hearted; it was cold and unpleasant. At 9:00 am, it was 41° with 70% humidity. But in the afternoon the weather changed for the worse. The day turned blustery with freezing gusts of wind sweeping the field and creating havoc everywhere.
How cold was it?  “It was colder than a room full of ex-wives.”
I bet that the people who had the audacity to show up in shorts cursed their macho clothing decision.

At 10:00 am a small crowd had congregated on the pétanque field. With the flu epidemic still in full swing, the “fist bump” or the “rump bump” was still de rigueur. Many participants spontaneously grabbed some tools and proceeded to groom the courts. Kudos to all of them.
I did not do any of this. As a photographer, I put my priority on recording for posterity most of the details of tournaments. I will let you judge the results.

The organizer/accountant/scorekeeper/enforcer was Noel Marcovecchio. A first-time job that he managed to accomplish very well. He registered contestants, collected fees, kept scores and put together the 12 following doublettes:

  1. Alain Efron $ Sabine Mattei
  2. T.Wetzel & Monique Bricca
  3. Mark Shirkey & Susan Wyatt
  4. Bernard Passemar & Sandra Shirkey
  5. Ed Porto & J-C Bunand
  6. Evan Falcone & Tamara Efron
  7. Rob Houton & François Moser
  8. Charles Davantes & Logan Ginzberg
  9. J-M Poulnot & Helga Facchini
  10. John Morrison & Mireille Di Maio
  11. Jonathan Dalmau & David Lindsay
  12. Liza Moran & Calvert Barron

The tournament, by the way, was open to all (newcomers and seasoned players) and the format of the event was “a la mêlée”.

One game was played before lunch and 3 games after lunch.

I was lucky to be paired up with my old partner in crime Sabine Mattei. She is a good player and above all a cool chick. We are both natives of the Parisian area and we speak the same language. We have an easy, playful relationship and there is never tension ever between us. The way a team should be.

We managed decently, winning 3 games out of 4 while losing one 11/13 and I credit Sabine’s excellent pointing for these results.

Some of the people we played with were very good, among them Charlie Davantes, François Moser, and newcomer Logan Ginzberg. The previous day I also noticed Liza Moran who is becoming an excellent shooter and a threat to male egos. Don’t be fooled by her angel face! Under her smiling face, she hides the instinct of a killer.

To everybody’s relief, the tournament was over around 4:00 pm. and prizes were awarded to the top players:

1st prize: Rob Houton & François Moser
2nd prize: Calvert Barron & Liza Moran
3rd prize: Monique Bricca & T. Wetzel
4th prize: Alain Efron & Sabine Mattei

Everybody went home for a well-deserved rest and a hot beverage.


Then, shortly after I arrived home, shazam! I received a telephone call from Noel Marcovecchio (our scorekeeper) telling me that the previous results were erroneous.

After a recount, the official results are now as follows:

1st prize: Alain Efron & Sabine Mattei
2nd prize: Rob Houton & François Moser
3rd prize: Calvert Barron & Liza Moran
4th prize: Jean-Claude Bunand & Ed Porto

Sorry folks! Poopoo happens!


I hope that you like the pictures!

Fine print

I have a beef with “fine print”.

As my old friend Andy Rooney once said, “nothing in fine print is ever good news.” I firmly believe that.

But the damn thing is multiplying like crazy, breeding like rabbits on a Caribbean holiday. It is everywhere, and like most everything that you cannot see, it is hazardous to your health… and to your retirement plan.

“Do you know the difference between education and experience? Education is when you read the fine print; experience is what you get when you don’t.”  Pete Seeger

A wise person (or a seasoned lawyer) will read the fine print before gracing any document with his John Hancock. But unfortunately there seems to be a shortage of wise men; in their eagerness to acquire something new, very few people bother to scrutinize (especially the benign last paragraph) of the document that they are signing.

Fine print basically means that the author of the document is loath to reveal what the law constrains him to do. He thus complies through the artifice of miniaturization.

I realize that my sight is not what it used to be, but even when wearing my spectacles I strain to decipher some documents.

I just purchased a Thermos bottle, and it came with a “care and use” guide. But this guide (hiding in the bottle) is barely 3 x 2 inches and the print is so small that I need a magnifying glass to decipher what it says.

Is Thermos trying to pull a fast one or am I becoming paranoid? In this climate of “fake news” everything is possible. Is a microphone hidden in the walls of the bottle? Am I going to get infected by a mysterious virus by drinking from this container? Is this a surreptitious way of converting me to Scientology? Are the Russians involved?

Washington’s paranoia has affected all. Everybody is jittery and inclined to believe the most outrageous claim.

Make America clean again and built a beautiful wall around Un-American fine print.


The big print giveth and the fine print taketh away. Fulton J. Sheen

Pensées interlopes

Ne berces-tu jamais                       Don’t you ever entertain
En tout bien tout honneur               With honorable intentions of course
De jolies pensées interlopes ?        Fetching lascivious thoughts?

Those are some of the lyrics of “Penelope », a song composed by famous French singer/songwriter Georges Brassens. This ballad was published in 1960 and as it shows, Georges was not the first person to cast some doubts on women’s declared rectitude.

Sexual Harassment deserves condemnation and should be reined in, no doubt about it. But not all men are villains and not all women are innocent victims. In view of the Sexual Harassment tsunami, we need some kind of a reset.

Yes, there has been a lot of sexual harassment in the past but let’s not turn this into the Reign of Terror or the Red Scare.

In the current climate, someone’s reputation and livelihood can be wiped out in seconds by allegations, and one needs to be cautious before casting stones and ostracizing anybody.

In some cases, women were the amorous instigators. But what if the romance goes sour and the man decides to put an end to the relationship? There is something called vengeance and it is a very tempting retribution tool for scorned women. Could then a consensual relationship suddenly become a case of sexual harassment?

The key to all of this is consensual agreement. If both parties agree to some hanky-panky there is no cause for melodrama. But the main question is “when does the woman agree to a sexual interlude?”
Some men are seemingly unable to tell.

In my ever-inventive mind, I see an opportunity for another smartphone voice-activated app. It would work like a miniature stoplight. Since most people bring their phone near or into their bed, it would be easy to handle.

During any prelude to sexual activity, the would-be seducer would have to pay attention to the phone lurking in the dark. If the light is green, there is a consensus. When it turns orange, easy does it. If the light turns red, STOP. An alarm could also be activated if the Lothario persists in his unwelcome advances. Running a red light as everybody knows is a serious offense punishable by law.

To sum it up

If men don’t see the light, the Stop Light could become the indispensable killer app for the woman on the go. What da ya think?


Do you have style?

You gotta have style. Without it you are nobody. Diana Vreeland.

In the last 10 years, I must have taken at least 30,000 pictures. I have photographed just about everything under the sun including men, beasts, and pétanque players.

Antonia Paulsen

During this time, I have shot the same individuals multiple times and I have noticed that every person has a very distinctive way of casting his/her boules. This is called style, and a photographer is very partial to form. The more graceful you are and the more the camera will like you, increasing your chances to be seen in various publications.

Style is inimitable and often defines a player. Having style though does not necessarily mean that you are a top-rated player. You can be photogenic without being effective, but generally speaking, a stylish individual is usually a good player. Style and outcome go hand in hand.

By the same token, a bland player can be extremely accurate and as capable as a flashy player; he might not be stylish, but this does not prevent him from scoring.

Skills can be learned, but style is innate. You are born with. It also partly depends on your morphology. It is also not exclusively a man’s attribute. Au contraire! Some women can be very stylish and when they are, they draw larger crowds than men players.

Style is definitely crowd-pleasing; to be popular you need to win games, but it is the way you do it that will shape your reputation.

Style is whatever you want to do, if you can do it with confidence. George Clinton

Tennis pro Anna Kournikova was not a particularly successful player; she never won a single title but she had style and the crowds cheered for her.

Moral of the story:

Winning games is great, but winning with style is the cherry on top of your achievement.



Animal house

We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals. Immanuel Kant

Absolutely! I won’t respect anybody, regardless of his/her position, who does not treat animals kindly.

Most animal lovers have pets and treat them like family members. They love them, and when you love no price is too great to provide comfort… and health insurance for your kin.

Because once in a while our furry friends are indisposed and need professional attention. You then have to take your pet to the vet, and it can be a very painful experience… for your wallet. A single visit to a veterinary hospital can cost between $500.00 and $1000.00 with no guaranty of a favorable outcome.

A trip to a doctor in comparison (providing that you have medical insurance) is usually much cheaper, and many of the costly subsequent medical procedures are covered. The only way to prevent constant financial hemorrhaging is to get medical insurance for your pet. But it is tricky. Pet insurances have a yearly deductible and will cover only a portion of your expenses. And they know very well that you might skip a visit to the doctor but never a visit to the vet.

A human can rationalize his behavior, but since animals cannot talk (yet) and explain what ails them, you will always take your pet to the clinic because you cannot bear to see your friend suffering.

In my book, pets should be covered under your own medical insurance. I would be willing to pay a little more each month to insure that my pet would also be taken care of.

If having a soul means being able to feel love and loyalty and gratitude, then animals are better off than a lot of humans. James Herriot

Pets are not just breathing playthings. They provide love and emotional support for a great number of people and if they did not exist, you would have to invent them. Pets deliver the same support (I would say superior) that religion provides for believers.

If a dog could be elected president, I would vote for that dog. I am certain that he would provide medical coverage for all, not just for his rich friends. He would deliver for all American dogs, regardless of their origins.

A vote for a dog would be a vote for humanity… and I am pretty sure that he would look damn presidential.

Alain, certified animal lover

Mano a mano

I suspect that this particular tournament (Home vs. Home) came to be when one Petalumian challenged a Marinite this way:

“Let’s step outside to have a man-to-man conversation.”

 That’s one of the reasons Petaluma met Marin in the arena last Sunday. It was a clash of titans giants gentlemen bad hombres with raging testosterones.

This encounter consisted of four (13 points) round-robin games, with accumulated wins and points determining the final outcome. The club with the most wins (and points) will take first prize.
La Pétanque Marinière fielded the following grunts:

  1. Sandra Shirkey, Mark Shirkey, Noel Marcovecchio
  2. Alain Efron, Francois Moser, Claudie Chourré
  3. Henry Wessel, Calvert Barron, Marc Davantes
  4. Brigitte Moran, Charlie Davantes, Liv Kraft

The Petaluma Valley Pétanque Club deployed the undernamed doughboys:

  1. Bleys Rose, Dennis Casad, Dennis Zerbo
    2. Albert Woodbury, Caitlin Woodbury, Hans Kurz
    3. Ed Porto, Dougie Coleville, Stu Rabinowitz
    4. David Hale, Larry Brown, Joe La Torre

The weather was sunny, a little cool in the morning, but absolutely beautiful in the afternoon. Due to the recent rain, the field remained a little “spongy” and unpredictable

One game was played in the morning and three games after lunch.

The first game was a total disaster for our team. We faced Albert Woodbury, Caitlin Woodbury and Hans Kurz and they sent us packing in a few minutes with a 1/13 score. We left the field with our tails between our legs.

After lunch, we met Bleys Rose, Dennis Zerbo and Dennis Casad. We did not fare much better, losing 4/13 to the enemy. Bleys’ impressed me with his shooting ability and handling of his team. A cool dude that Bleys dude.

On our 3rd game, we faced David Hale, Larry Brown and Joe La Torre. At this point, we were seething with pent-up outrage and we finally won our first game routing our opponents 13/1. It was a much-needed shot in the arm.

On our 4th and last encounter, we came across Ed Porto, Dougie Coleville and Stu Rabinowitz. We started well, lost a little steam midway and finally, due to the superb pointing of Francois Moser and Claudie Chourré, we scored another win 13/6.

The Petaluma folks are experienced players. They played very well and won more games than the Marinites. At the end of the day, they had won 11 games, versus 5 wins for Marin.

In 3 weeks we will meet Petaluma again (on their own turf) and the total number of combined wins of these 2 encounters will determine what club will be entitled to bragging rights.

It was an excellent day, full of action and brotherly love. Due to the flu epidemic, we avoided embracing or kissing, but some people could not help themselves and oblivious to the marauding germs smooched heartily. Containing passion is always a difficult task.

Around 4:30 p.m. it was all over. Petaluma had decisively beat us, but as we say in French “on leur réserve a chien de notre chienne” (an interesting expression meaning something like “we will have our revenge”).


PS: I managed to take some interesting pictures. Have a look.

From MIP to MAP

Last Sunday Francois Moser and I played a few rounds of pétanque against Mireille Di Maio and William Lavelle.

Colette and Mireille

Mireille’s pointing accuracy was uncanny; most of her shots landed on or a few inches away from the cochonnet. Useless to say that they literally trounced us in the first game. We managed to win the second game and lost the third game on the finish line.

Coming from a young adult, I would find Mireille’s pointing perfection annoying but normal; but (with all due respect) she is an octogenarian. According to the laws of nature, she should not be playing that well anymore.
Granted, she has been practicing for a very long time, but it is not the experience that counts; it is the person’s natural ability, and Mireille has it. Kudos then to Mireille and her achievements, and wishing her many more years of great pétanque…
William by the way also played extremely well.

Now, as you might have noticed, I like to give credit to individuals when they deserved it. But sometimes I feel that I have to update my original assessment.

Last year I gave a ringing endorsement to Wyatt (as she likes to be called) and she deserved it. I still say that she was the MIP (Most Improved Player) of 2017, but in 2018 she is quickly accumulating points to snag the MAP award: the Most Annoying Player of the year.

We all realize that she is handicapped, but even a disabled person should pay close attention to the game and abide by its rules. Susan does not seem to think so. She is a strong-willed individual who aspires to play only by her own rules.

We all know that she is hard of hearing, but this should not prevent her from being attentive to a game. Unfortunately, once she has expended her boules, she retreats into isolation and turns “a deaf ear” to the rest of the game.

She might be a nice person, but she can be exasperatingly argumentative.
Somebody has to talk to her. She is slowly alienating a bunch of players and in the future, she might find herself in a deeper isolation that she presently is.

It is a very difficult task since it almost impossible to have a heart-to-heart conversation with her. How can we handle this problem and keep everybody happy? Any shrink in our flock?


Rump Bump

The cyber world thrives on updates, and as one of the earlier proponent of the Fist Bump, I now endorse its latest version, the Rump Bump.

Due to the flu outbreak, I recently proposed that instead of smooching (and transmitting germs) we bump fists. In my latest 2.0 update, I suggest that in lieu of bumping fists, we bump booties. It is more hygienic (no direct skin contact) and more fun.

In our ever-evolving culture, the “derrière” has become an important symbol of sex appeal and social advancement, and as the saying goes “people who have it like to flaunt it.”

I want women to be liberated and still be able to have a nice ass and shake it. Shirley MacLaine

So doing the Rump Bump will please hygienists and hedonists alike.

Of course, there is a right way and a wrong way to do the bump. Keep in mind that, like a handshake, it needs to be firm and friendly. There is nothing worse than a half-hearted greeting; so you want your bump to be solid and convey the pleasure of meeting a friend again.

Just like an appealing face, an appealing booty reinforces social ties.

Elle était aussi bien de fesses que de face.Raymond Queneau
“She looked equally well from the front and from the back.”

Regarding of its shape, you need to have a pleasant derriere to do a friendly Rump Bump. If you are unsure of your “derrière’s” appeal, “Buns of Steel” exercises are available almost everywhere.

Remember, in these highly contagious times, you need to do the right thing. Whenever you meet friends, relatives or lovers, for sake of hygiene do the Rump Bump! Everybody will thank you for that!

Emeritus Professor Alain