Dead Leaves Festival

I prefer the word Autumn to the word Fall, but Fall better describes the post-summer period when aging leaves break off from trees and “fall” to the ground.

In Marin County, our pétanque field is protected from the sun by a dense canopy, but at the end of the summer our canopy disintegrates and dry leaves flutter down to earth.
For some it is a sight of beauty, but this new carpeting can also become a nuisance, especially when overrunning gardens or playpens.

And talking about this, our field is now entirely covered with a thick carpet of dead leaves and will need some sprucing up before our next tournament.

When I was a young lad, I remember how much fun it was playing in this carpet of colorful leaves. Later we would gather them in big piles and set them afire in a pagan-like ritual.
In California, I don’t believe that you are authorized to burn anything.
To dispose of leaves, you have to collect them and dump them in some obscure “dead leaves” cemetery.

Instead of coaxing club members to help cleaning the field, I envision a Dead Leaves Festival where people would be enticed to congregate and frolic among the autumn leaves.
We could even have something similar to a pillow fight… or the Spanish Tomatina Festival of Bunol where thousands of people assemble each year and pelt each other with overripe tomatoes. Wouldn’t that be fun?

The Dead Leaves Festival that I envision could feature munchies and glögg, and after kicking the leaves for a while (and being fortified by the glögg) our captive audience could easily be cajoled into grabbing a rake and helping to clean the field.

It is just a thought mind you, but it is easier to catch flies with honey than vinegar and I see great potential in this festival and its outcome.

What do ya say?


Dédé and the Cup

All characters appearing in this essay are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.


Dédé always dreamed of seeing his name on the Cup. He came tantalizing close, but something always got in the way. Bad partners, biased umpires, rotten luck… Sometimes Dédé felt cursed.
This year though, he was determined to succeed. But this would require some planning and Dédé knew that it was not going to be a cakewalk.

This particular tournament was billed as a “select mixed triplette” event and it meant that at least one woman was to be part of any competing team.
Winning that cup was no small achievement, and contenders came from far and wide to vie for the honor of having their names engraved on the golden trophy.
There would be no cash prizes, but money was of little importance when compared with the glory of being recognized by your peers.

To achieve his goal, Dédé had to secure solid partners, and this would require a lot of finesse.
Dédé was a good player but this was not enough. Not only did he have to obtain the services of a solid “shooter”, but he also had to entice a woman to play with him, and this was one of the many challenges he had to overcome.
The “misogynous” label that stubbornly clung to his back didn’t help. Females had the unfortunate knack of remembering past slights, and only a precious few would be disposed to forgive and forget.
But Dédé was a reliable player he told himself, and some women might be willing to put up with past insults to achieve ambitions of their own.

Securing a good “shooter” would also be difficult. In the small world of pétanque good shooters were celebrities, and very conscious of their lofty status.
They also had a sizable ego and didn’t care to endanger their reputation by associating with minor players.
This indeed could be difficult… Just like asking a pretty girl for a date. And then there was always the prospect of being turned down… it could be very humiliating… but sometimes you have to eat crow to become top dog.

And hell with humiliation! Nothing ventured, nothing gained. He could be charming with a female player if the situation demanded it, and he could be very persuasive with male contestants, even if their stars shone brighter than his.
So he started his stealth campaign.

In the club, there were four very good “shooters”, but he ruled out two of them right off the bat. There was too much bad blood between them.  That left only two: “Le Gros Robert” and “The Corsican”.

Le Gros Robert, as his name indicated, was a stout, taciturn fellow endowed with astonishing skills. Unlike some other renowned pitchers, he didn’t need any undue concentration before firing his shots. He would simply step to the plate and let his “boules” fly. He was admired, and loathed at the same time for his uncouth demeanor.

The Corsican on the other hand, was an irascible, wiry little fellow who could hit a fly forty feet away. No small accomplishment when the average player struggled to hit a target only thirty feet away.
Both of these fellows would make excellent partners but the problem was their testy nature.

Traditionally, the “shooter” is the playmaker, the man who orchestrates the team’s strategy. He tells each player what and when to do it. He is the boss and you rarely second-guess him.
Dédé was not a shooter per se, but he liked to have a say on the strategy to follow and this propensity of his was not always well taken by his partners.

In the game of pétanque, when playing in a “triplette” formation, each player is allocated two “boules” and has a specific role to fulfill.
The “pointer” plays first. His job is to position his boules as closely as possible to the “cochonnet”, the little wooden jack that is the target.
When the pointer has played his two boules, the “milieu” (middle player) takes over. He will try to position his boules closer to the cochonnet than those of the opposing team.
If the situation demands it, he should also be able to act as a relief shooter.

The “shooter” is basically the gunslinger, the enforcer.
His task is to neutralize the opposition with surgical strikes. But since he has only two shots in his quiver, he must use his boules judiciously. He must decide when to shoot and when to show restraint and only he will make that decision.

Le Gros Robert was an aggressive player who never hesitated to shoot. The Corsican on the other hand, was a more cautious fellow who would think twice before squandering his boules. But none of these two fellows took suggestions kindly. Their decisions were not open to discussion.
Dédé unfortunately couldn’t help second-guessing the captain’s decisions and this had led to spirited exchanges in the past. He would have to control himself and keep his mouth shut… even if he knew better.

To be continued…


Le Huffington Post

Recently I came across the website of Le Huffington’s Post French-language edition. Its editorial content is under the control of Anne Sinclair, wife (now separated) of former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn. She is paid to identify and publish the most thought-provoking bloggers.

The Huffington Post is chockfull of absorbing essays written by a wide assortment of independent bloggers.
What is most interesting about those stories though is the fact that none of these writers are paid a dime.
They work or free.
We are now seeing the dawn of an insidious and dangerous form of servitude variously called internship, experience or “exposure”.

One of the most successful outfits to benefit from this new form of bondage is Le Huffington Post.
It has fired over 200 editorial staffers to replace them with unpaid bloggers.
These people will spend a great deal of time writing some interesting pieces and Le Huffington Post will publish some of them (and reap the benefits) without paying its authors a dime.
Bloggers go along with this new form of slavery to benefit from what Le Post calls “exposure”. The roundabout way of being “discovered” by the public and being properly compensated.

But it is a kind of “catch-22”. You can write forever and never be discovered, or you can write and be published but without being compensated. Lasting obscurity or recognition without monetary rewards, what is a blogger to do?
Exposure in theory should lead to great paying jobs, but it rarely does.
It is an old ploy that has been used in many fields to take advantage of eager but obscure talents.
And this way of doing business sets a dangerous precedent. “Interns” in many fields are already exploited and unceremoniously dumped at the end of their contract. What’s next? Permanent interns?

Le Post has been sued by many for making enormous profits without compensating anybody for a fair share of its earnings.
The Post is merely saying that it is acting as an aggregator: a wholesale broker of a service, who packages and sells its products to consumers.

It might be so, but when does exposure start paying the rent?
Exposure does not feed its man, and recognition without monetary rewards should not become the new norm.

Anne Sinclair, ma chère, if you want to publish my fabulous stuff, you will have to woo me and compensate me adequately.
And flowers and Champagne would not hurt!