A snapshot’s ephemeral opportunity

A good snapshot is an informal photograph taken rapidly, sometimes without the subject’s knowledge. It is a photo opportunity with an extremely short lifespan, available only a brief moment. A snapshot is a metamorphosing, emotional instant. It glows a briefly and disappears like a ghostly apparition. It is up to the photographer to catch that ephemeral moment at the right time and memorialize it.

“Photographers deal in things which are continually vanishing and when they have vanished there is no contrivance on earth which can make them come back again.”Henri Cartier-Bresson

I am a self-taught photographer without pretensions. I just like to take pictures and what I know I today was instilled in me by my numerous failures.
A snapshot to me is different from a “conventional” photograph by the mere fact that it is taken on the fly, often surreptitiously. No serious photographer is keen to show people staring at the camera with a frozen smile on their faces. He wants to catch them unaware of the camera’s glaring eye.

The best way to take candid snapshots is by using a zoom lens. This way you can catch people in a natural state, totally unaware that their faces and their actions mirror their most inner emotions.

A lot of things can go wrong when shooting with a zoom lens. The most obvious is unwanted people or animals bursting into your field of vision. That’s why, when I spot a potential target I keep my finger on the trigger ready to unleash a volley of shots.

The light is also extremely important. Shadows will maim faces and limbs. My favorite time to shoot, especially sporting events, is under overcast skies. It gives you a clear view devoid of camouflaging shades of your subject.

A resourceful photographer should not be afraid to use creative camera angles. Shooting from the rear of the subject rather from the front can reveal some interesting aspects of a person.
If you can catch emotion in a shot, even if the picture is slightly blurred, you can call it a good snapshot.

No use running away; some day unbeknownst to you, you will find yourself in my gunsight viewfinder.


NorCal Inter-Regional Tournament

Sunday July 23rd 2017 will remain a glorious day in the annals of local pétanque. On that day, the 6 major pétanque clubs of Northern California met in San Rafael to compete for their annual inter-club tournament.

Petaluma, Fresno, Sacramento, Sonoma, Lamorinda and San Rafael sent players to defend their respective colors and vie for the coveted cup. Ultimately, the total number of competitors came to 68.

This pétanque tournament, let’s not forget, was organized by the Petaluma Valley Pétanque Club and under the aegis of Ed Porto and Rob Everett they did an excellent job. They even managed to get the show on the road no later than 9:30 am.

Three 50 minutes games were played in the morning to determine everybody’s individual ranking and who would play in the Concours and who play in the Consolante. According to each individual score, eight triplettes teams were then selected to play in the Concours and 8 teams in the Consolante.

A slight digression here if I may…
One the problem afflicting this reporter was to identify all players and even though I am familiar with many of them I could not recognize them all. So please excuse me in advance for misspelling your (sometimes unfamiliar) names.

The second major problem for my alter ego was the weather. It was sunny and bright but there was a catch. In San Rafael we enjoy a fabulous shaded playing area but it is a blessing and a problem at the same time. It is very difficult for a photographer using a zoom lens to take decent pictures in “clair-obscur” conditions. So I apologize in advance for the quality of certain shots.

In the tournament’s Concours finals, Sacramento faced Petaluma. Two good teams. A balanced game. Each side could have won, ultimately though thanks in good part to Brendan Cohen, Sacramento won by a final score of 13/9. The losing team has absolutely nothing to be ashamed of.

Mone Lee, Brendan Cohen, Kue Lee

In the Consolante, despite our warriors’ best efforts, the Fresno juggernaut demolished La Pétanque Marinière 13/2.

A great day for pétanque lovers!

1st place: Brendan Cohen, Mone Lee, Kue Lee (Sacramento)
2nd place: Bleys Rose, Albert Woodbury, Dennis Zerbo (Petaluma)

1st place: Jer Thao, Bruce Yang, Janice Bissonnette (Fresno)
2nd place: Henry Wessel, Mark Shirkey, Charlie Davantes. (Marin)


PS: Our good friend Gustave Foucher who just celebrated his 90th birthday was recently hospitalized. He will be released soon. Please wish him well. He will appreciate it.

To look at photos of this event, click on the “My Photos” link located on the right side of this page. For best viewing, go Full Screen. Feel free to send me comments.


Anger is a bad advisor

Anger is a raw emotion that drives humans and animals alike to be hostile and aggressive. In Greek mythology, Lyssa was the goddess who personified that emotion and she was volatile and destructive.

Lyssa, Actaeon and Artemis, Athenian red-figure krater C5th B.C., Museum of Fine Arts Boston

Some people, under Lyssa’s influence, let fly an indignant tweet when they are angry. It is a bad idea for Lyssa is a notoriously bad advisor. She will compel you to make hasty pronouncements and bad decisions.
Anger like revenge, is an intricate dish that should simmer for some time and be consumed cold to be really gratifying.

A juvenile will tweet his anger, a grownup will hesitate, a president should not. The leader of a large organization should turn his tongue 7 times in his mouth before uttering anything. Saying something stupid is the role of the vice-president who can be conveniently disavowed when putting his boot in his mouth.

A leader shouldn’t talk before carefully reflecting on what he is about to say. Once set free, a tweet is like a wild bird that will breed, multiply and could become a destructive flock.

It does not mean that he should not get angry, but he should never tweet his indignation. A smart man should learn to slowly digest his anger and use it later in some smart, constructive way. It has been said, “anger is a condition in which the tongue works faster than the mind.I believe that. A fast tongue is like a double-edged sword. It can cut both ways.

Insecurity and impotence are often the driving forces behind anger. Showing rage is like revealing your hand in a poker game. It is a sure way to lose.
Leaders should speak sparingly and carry a big Taser. When accusing and showing anger too many times, they become laughable comic characters that cannot be taken seriously.

“It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.” Mark Twain


A hot Bastille Day in Sonoma

Yes it was hot indeed in Sonoma last Saturday; 100 degrees Fahrenheit according to the weather bureau. It was so hot that the best parking places were determined by shade instead of distance.” 

Don’t know the name. Sorry.

Despite this inauspicious condition, between 80 and 100 people attended this traditional Bastille Day picnic/tournament sponsored by The Valley of Moon Pétanque Club.
Granted, everybody did not play but many did in spite of the tropical heat. The VOMPC wisely set up 4 large tents throughout the field to provide some cooling spaces for players and guests alike.
Due to a persistent back problem, I declined to play.

The “mèlée » tournament was organized by Peter Mathis, assisted by Shannon Bowman. Two 11 points games were played in the morning and two in the afternoon. Despite these supposedly short games, some contests lingered and lunch (prepared by chef Marco) was only served around 1:00 pm.
To avoid long waiting lines, tables had been numbered and were called 3 at a time at separate intervals. An excellent idea that worked out very well.

All the attendants were too numerous to be mentioned but I spotted Brendan Cohen, Antonia Paulsen, Patrick Vaslet, Mike Cooper, John Morrison and his wife Linda, Bernard Passemar and his son Robert, Jean-Claude Etallaz and Minette, Gustave Foucher, Bleys Rose, Teri Sirico, Holly Sammons, and a bunch of people whose names I don’t know or escaped me.
Talking about Gustave Foucher, this sturdy gentleman is 90 years old and still going strong. Wish him well.

Jean-Michel Poulnot a.k.a Le Facteur donned his tricolor outfit and (entre la poire et le fromage) sang La Marseillaise with his usual enthusiasm. His fiery call to arms was fortunately ignored.

I don’t know what happened after lunch. Around 2:30 pm, to escape the heat, my wife and I boarded our sweltering batmobile and headed back to the relative coolness of Marin.

If you are curious, you can probably find the results of this tournament on Facebook. Congratulations to the “hot” winners whoever they are.

In the meantime, enjoy my pictures.

Au revoir et a bientôt!


PS: The winners of the tournament

Bernard Passemar, Robert Passemar, John Morisson

To look at photos of this event, click on the “My Photos” link located on the right side of this page. For best viewing, go Full Screen.

What is it like to live in Russia?

Lately, compliments of our commander-in-chief, Russia has been mentioned almost daily in the evening news. So what is it really like to live in Moscow or St Petersburg?
To get a better idea, I have turned to YouTube and I have screened a large quantity of Russian series and movies. I realize that they are only movies, but they often closely mirror reality.

Russian matryoshki

Russian productions can basically be divided in 2 distinct categories: films made during the communist era and those produced in the post-communist period. During the Communist era, the country produced an abundance of war movies featuring the undeniable prowess of the Red Army during the Great Patriotic War.
When the country transitioned from socialism to capitalism, the emphasis shifted from patriotism to the pursuit of happiness wealth. Love took second place.

The first time you watch a modern Russian movie, if you didn’t hear the soundtrack, you could easily believe that the protagonists live in an affluent European or even American environment. Everybody (especially the women) is well dressed, live in nice quarters and drive fancy cars. All the women are unabashedly flirty and looking for a “good man” (unmarried and wealthy… married will also do). Look is not too important. A man driving a fancy foreign car looks good in any environment.

Status and wealth are extremely important and one needs to be “well connected” to be respected. Elbowing with oligarchs is a must.
What is also very apparent in Russian movies is the almost daily practice of vzyatka (bribe, payola). If you want anything done, you need to grease somebody’s palm. It can be anything, money, vodka, but something has got to switch hands for things to happen.

In Russian movies men also seem to consume a considerable amount of vodka and they usually drink it in one gulp, or as the French would say “cul-sec » (bottoms up). They also all seem to have maids, “chauffeurs” and bodyguards. Ironically, 100 years after the Bolshevik Revolution, due to the income gap, modern Russia bears many similarities with tsarist Russia.

It seems that life can be very good in the Russian Federation. All it takes is a few lousy billions. But for the millions of “budgetniki” does not look so hot.


For interesting insights about Russia, follow Alexey Mikheev at


Literate in computer language ?

In the Middle Ages very few individuals were literate.  Reading or writing was the uncontested prerogative of the nobility and the Church, and their common bond was Latin.

The masses of yesteryear saw very little usefulness in written materials and were purposely kept in the dark by the ruling classes.
Nothing much has changed since that period. Today, a few men and women are computer language literate while most are not. And as in the old days the uneducated are easy preys for swindlers.

Xerox 820 My first personal computer. 64K RAM, external floppy drive, CP/M 2.2

Computer driven devices are now ruling the world. With proficiency in programing a hacker in Uzbekistan can penetrate any network in the world and wreck havoc with its infrastructure. He also can ransom individuals and businesses and do all of this while sipping a cup of tea in his yurt.

As yesterday the world belongs to a new priesthood, the computer literate minority that speaks the coded language of secret societies. Today it is not good enough to be able to read and write. You must also speak a foreign language and be able to understand computer syntax. When seeking gainful employment you will most likely be asked, “Do you speak Sequel (SQL) or JAVA?” And your answer better be yes.

A few decades ago people were politely asked to sign a document; today they are directed to click on a link, but few people understand the hidden dangers that lurk under that innocent looking line.
Even if you have bucolic aspirations, beware of phishing and pharming. Contrarily to what you might think, these two innocent sounding activities will harm you. Think twice before you commit. The key to safety is to pay close attention to the URL you are about to click on for it could be booby-trapped.
If in doubt, abstain… or ask your junior high school children to check it.

Coding is the new Latin of the elites and it would not hurt you to become familiar with the rituals of their mass.


July 9th select mixed triples

I happened to socialize in the East Bay last Saturday where the temperature soared well above 100 degrees. Anticipating similar weather next day in San Rafael, I dreaded the idea of playing pétanque mixed triples in such conditions. But lo and behold, the climate turned out to be almost perfect although a little chilly in the morning. Later on a slight breeze kept things cool and it was a pleasure to meet and play with friends from all over the Bay Area.

The contestants for the July 9th mixed triples meet were as follows:

  1. Mark Shirkey/ Sandra Shirkey/Evan Falcone
  2. Henry Wessel/Calvert Barron/Marc Di Maio
  3. François Moser/Alain Efron/Claudie Chourré
  4. Liza Moran/Jacques Rattaire/Bernard Rattaire
  5. Marc Davantes/Lori Davantes/Mike?
  6. Charlie Davantes/Brigitte Davantes/Noel Marcovecchio
  7. David Lindsay/Doug Coleville/Julie?
  8. J-C Bunand/J-M Poulnot/Mireille Di Maio
  9. Teri Sirico/David Katz/Jim Donahue
  10. Peter Mathis/Holly Sammons/Hans Kurz

Holly Sammons, Hans Kurz, Peter Mathis

Early that day, coffee and various pastries were offered to the participants.

As usual, 3 timed games were played in the morning to determine who would compete in the Concours and who would play in the Consolante. My partners (François Moser & Claudie Chourré) and I were very unlucky (or more likely played poorly) and were swiftly expedited to the Consolante division. Ultimately six teams qualified for the Concours and four teams for the Consolante.

In the afternoon elimination games took place and a trend developed. The Sonoma team (Peter Mathis/Holly Sammons/Hans Kurz) and one the San Rafael team (Henry Wessel/Calvert Barron/Marc Di Maio) clawed their way to the top and appeared ready to face each other in the finals.

One of the cardinal rules of pétanque by the way, is to never upset or argue with your teammates during a game. If one player fails to deliver, it is better to keep quiet and not further perturb that person. Failing to do so can lead to violent outbursts and that’s what unfortunately happened Sunday during a game.
Understandably, everybody wants to win, but invariably it always the coolest team that will prevail. It would be wise to always remember that “a closed mouth gathers no foot.

My mixed triples team and I had the pleasure to play against the Rattaire brothers (true gentlemen who don’t quibble about a point) and utterly charming Liza Moran and even though they beat us, I would never hesitate to play with these delightful people again.

In the Concours finals, Peter Mathis/Holly Sammons/Hans Kurz predictably faced Henry Wessel/Calvert Barron/Marc Di Maio. It was an uneven game mostly because the LPM team failed to emerge from a deep slump. Their pointing was erratic and the shooting uneven.

As usual, Holly Sammons’ steady pointing was a big factor in the Sonoma’s team victory. Peter did not fail to amaze us with one of his stunning signature shot, and ably assisted by Hans Kurz, they dominated the game. They won the match by a final score of 13/5.

Former club president Louis Toulon offered the club a bottle of Pastis that was shared by everybody at the end of the tournament. Un grand merci Louis. Thank you as usual to Liv Kraft and Christine Cragg who organized the tournament and kept scores.

1st place: Peter Mathis/Holly Sammons/Hans Kurz
2nd place: Henry Wessel/Calvert Barron/Marc Di Maio
3rd place: David Lindsay/Doug Coleville/Julie?

1st place: David Lindsay/Doug Coleville/Julie?
2nd place: Francois Moser/Alain Efron/Claudie Chourré

And that’s the way I saw it.


To look at photos of this event, click on the “My Photos” link located on the right side of this page. For best viewing, go Full Screen.

Don’t take me to a parade

Yesterday was the Fourth of July and there were parades all over my neighborhood. As a matter of fact, one of these celebrations prevented me from lunching at one of my preferred watering holes.

Boobs on bikes parade, Christchurch, New Zealand. Photo by Gabriel Pollard

On my way to the restaurant I came across two consecutive police blockades and had to cancel my midday gastronomical project; one more reason to add to my long list of grievances against parades.

The above does not sound patriotic but I always thought that patriotic was a loaded word. “My country right or wrong” is not my cup of tea. I prefer by far “if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right.” Carl Schurz.

I never understood in the first place why anybody would want to be part of a parade. Isn’t it anything but a pathetic attention-seeking plea? Look at me, look at me dammit… Nobody pays attention to me… I am starved for compliments…

One of the few parades that I at least understand is a smart military parade. It could have two purposes; the first one would be to honor and thank the soldiers who fought in forgotten wars. The second would be a big display of military hardware to deter aggression.

My aversion to parades might have its roots in ochlophobia (from the Greek “fear of crowds”).
I relish my independence too much to be sucked in any large group. Crowds are notoriously dimwitted and too easily led. A single speaker can inflame a crowd at will and order it to destruct or kill and without thinking the empty-headed herd would most probably roar its approval; an individual would not be as easily swayed.

Group conformity scares the pants off me because it’s so often a prelude to cruelty towards anyone who doesn’t want to – or can’t – join the Big Parade. Bette Midler

As far as parades are concerned, I could watch Boobs on Bike, or The Black Watch parade. It is at least exotic and entertaining.

Going to a local parade? Don’t count me in. J’ai d’autres chats à fouetter! (I have other cats to whip).


The Holy Grail of Perfection

Let me start by saying that perfection does not exist in any form or shape. It is a myth and it is absurd to look for it. Period.

By Vang of the Fresno Petanque Club – Photo by Alain Efron

“Near perfection” can be found, but it has a short lifespan. Unbeknownst to you it has an expiration date stamped under its hood.
What was perfect yesterday will be laughable 2 years later. Perfection, like knowledge has no boundaries.

For almost 75 years, the English longbow reigned supreme. It was the perfect killing machine equally feared by everybody. And then appeared the musket, then the canon…
For another long period, the horse was the perfect mode of transportation.Then the bicycle and this silly contraption called automobile materialized…

Nothing is ever final. Even death, the ultimate frontier, is now questioned. Some people have put their trust in Cryonics, the practice of deep-freezing the bodies of people who just died, in order to revive them in the future.
Impossible? I would not bet the house on it.

Is a man or woman ever perfect? Hardly.
Perfection you must know is not impervious to time. Your perfect fiancée might well become a defective wife. And your near-perfect man is susceptible to rust. After a few years he will need a new paint job and be retrofitted with new hardware and software.

A perfectionist (i.e. Steve Jobs) is hard to live with. He might produce some innovations but who wants to live in permanence in a pressure cooker?

Actually, I can’t imagine anything more tedious than a perfect person, especially if it was someone who also demanded perfection from me. Hugh Mackay

To live happily, shy away from Goddess Perfection. She is too demanding and will turn you in a very short time into a pitiful version of your old happy go lucky self.

Settle for “damn good” and you will live happily ever after.


Strive for continuous improvement, instead of perfection. Kim Collins

The White House petulant brat

The world used to be in awe of the White House. Not anymore.

Photographer: David Everett Strickler

Due to the childish outbursts of the current occupant, the White House appears to be greatly in need of a regent (a person appointed to administer a country because the monarch is a minor or incapacitated) or a Mentor.

When attaining the highest office in the land, a man ought to cast his personal demons aside and try his best to represent his country with gravitas. He should look and sound dignified, and be worthy of the nation’s confidence.
Such is not presently the case.

« Chassez le naturel, il revient au galop. » You cannot stop your true colors from shining through.

The present tenant of the White House is flighty, thin-skinned and vain, eerily taking after the crowned heads of yesteryear. The monarchs of the past were egomaniacs, surrounded by submissive minions eager to preserve their exalted positions. In today’s White House (like in the Kremlin) old servile practices have been restored.
Praise, but not a dissonant peep can be heard from the Casa Blanca.

A responsible president traditionally communicates with the country through regular press conferences. The press should never be considered an enemy, but a dependable channel to keep the nation informed. Bypassing the “fake news” press with impulsive digital tweets is childish and irresponsible.
It is absolutely impossible to articulate any presidential position through 140 characters or less. More importantly, it is beneath a president’s position to personally attack or ridicule people who disagree with him.

The president as a national standard bearer ought to inspire respect and not lend himself to ridicule in the (home and foreign) press and late night shows.

The commander-in-chief has frequently mentioned an 8-year reign.
He will be extremely lucky to crash-land without serious injuries at the end of a single term.