se tromper


Oh, those French love their art. They tuck it into every nook and cranny. Photo of Madonna and Child in a corner niche in the village of Villedieu (Vaucluse).

CONTRETEMPS (con-truh-tahn) noun, masculine
    : mishap, mischance
    : hitch; delay, inconvenience
    : syncopation (music) ... and see story, below, about "a shifting of the normal accent, usually by stressing the normally unaccented beats...." (

Expressions & Examples:
  arriver à contretemps = to arrive at the wrong moment
  jouer à contretemps = to play out of time

AUDIO FILE: hear Jean-Marc pronounce the word "contretemps" and the related expressions (please check back later... having computer mishaps, or "contretemps," this morning!)

Today's Topic: Art
Share your thoughts about art. Read the story column below, watch the videos, and respond, via the comments box, any which way you like.

Would anyone like to translate the following quote, about art, into French? Thanks for using the comments box. Do you agree with the quote?:

Art is a kind of innate drive that seizes a human being and makes him its instrument. To perform this difficult office it is sometimes necessary for him to sacrifice happiness and everything that makes life worth living for the ordinary human being. --Carl G. Jung

The French word "contretemps" means, among other things, "a note played against the beat". I wonder whether that is why art means more and more to some of us lately, enough to dare us to put meaningless obligations aside in order to pursue creative activity (or "creativity"), and so make a swift turn, marching to another drum beat: our own.

Break apart the word "contretemps" and you get "against time" which explains why artists find it difficult to dabble in their division (you know, the art department). Who's got "temps" to sit quietly, waiting for the muse? And so we must make it (time and art): we shove a few things aside, allow the dust to build up, let the cat eat dog food, don't care about our hair... wear holes in our socks and dive into design when and where we can. If the muse is present, great!, if not, then ainsi soit-il!* Nothing's stopping us now.

Contretemps: Part Deux...
As commitments creep in, and you feel like your plate is too full, duty dripping over at the sides, you might be tempted to invent a contretemps* in order to excuse yourself from the whirlwind. Who wants to be in a crowded, cacophonic room, when one's own soul-centering salon beckons? A reading lamp with a warm golden hue dancing beneath the dusty lampshade, a pile of favorite books, a jam jar full of colorful felt markers and a sketchbook by one's side... music musing in the background. When's the last time you were there, in that cozy chair?

Contretemps: Intermezzo
(We'll now take a break in the midst of this dilemma, its theme having to do, we think, with "art 'against time' or 'time against art'"--whether that be the art of writing, of painting, of singing... or simply the art of living...)

Contretemps: Conclusion
My mom* sent me a video the other day. "For Jackie and Max," her note said. I clicked open the link and found myself carried away by a quirky Canadian creator: a filmmaker, in all due respect. And I *do* respect the dues and bad days that an artist pays to get to such freedom. For isn't that the end result
of art
: when the viewer (reader, or listener) is liberated, from time and space? Off we fly, if not contre le vent,* then, somehow, "contre temps" and time's constraints.

I hope you'll enjoy these videos by Andrea Dorfman,* my current muse. The thoughtful lyrics, by Tanya Davis,* which accompany the first video, will have you clicking the replay button again, and again.

Please forward this post to your favorite artist.

And this, another by Andrea Dorfman, is a short film about bicycling and love:

Love these lyrics from the above video:   There's no such thing as Happy, like some people like to think, it's a trick to make you buy stuff to go with your kitchen sink.

Did you like these videos? Leave a message in the comments box.

ainsi soit-il
= so be it; un contretemps (m) = an unexpected circumstance (preventing one from making it to an appointment, etc...); my mom = Jules, aka MamaJules; contre le vent = against the wind; Andrea Dorfman = ; Tanya Davis =

~~~~~~~~~~~~Gifts & More~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Words in a French Life: Lessons in Love & Language

In French music: ZEN by Zazie!   

French for Kids: Learn French (DVD)  

French film: La Vie en Rose

In books: Christmas in the Trenches: In 1914, British and German troops were dug into trenches in France, facing one another across the barbed wire and barren ground called No Man's Land. On
Christmas Eve, the British soldiers heard the Germans singing Stille Nacht and joined in. --From School Library Journal

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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


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Where IS that bike of mine?!


thank you Kristin for those inspirational videos. As a Canadian, I am aware of Andrea Dorfman, but never saw either of these. I'm going to play them over and over again. They made my day and i will pass them along to other people who need to be reminded of the beauty of life and how art is everywhere if you care to look.

Jules Greer

I always thought I was your #1 muse - I have
so much to say about your powerful post that
I must collect my thoughts before I comment.



How can you not enjoy these videos. Right now I feel like drawing for no reason. Got to get paints. I do a lot of hiking but, you know, biking seems like fun after seeing this video. Great videos. Don't miss them.


Yes, I do love those videos. Merci beaucoup for sharing!


Those are two of the best videos I have ever seen - I am forwarding them to all my friends - especially the wanna be artists! Jeanne

Jim Boring


The flock rises as one from the tree
a single cyclonic entity swirling
with purpose and direction each
bird resonating in harmony with the rest
a communal mind pleased with itself
happy in its vigorous virtuosity,
in the glory of its performance.

One separates from the throng
hovers awhile on the edge
shudders, hesitates, realizes
it is alone, a grace note,
composes a radical new choreography
darts and dives to its own dance
that complements, defies and defines
solo and ensemble, both we and me.

Jim Boring
December 3, 2008

Kristin Espinasse

Mom, Thank you for the bike, in case I haven't told you lately. The "Art" video that you sent ("great ideas come from great bike rides") if proof that you are THE MUSEst with the mostest!)

Jim, I love your poems! I was watching similar birds, high up in the plane tree, this afternoon. As I looked up, their chatter (hundreds of birds!) came to a halt. How they do these things, in unison, never ceases to amaze me.

Jules Greer

Why don't you post that wonderful photo of
you riding your new bike through the vinyard
last Dec. 22nd on your birthday.

I am just the typical MOM promoting her daughter...forgive me, I can't help myself.

Kristi always got the short-end of celebration on her birthday three days before Christmas - her Birthday presents pulled out from under the tree.



Wonderful videos. I've been following you for a long time and am glad to be posting for the first time.

Nancy LoBalbo

Love these..Can't get the song out of my head!
Regards, Nancy L

Ann Olsen

liked the videos a lot, but really loved what you wrote. I'm getting off this computer right now! THANK YOU


Thanks for sharing those videos, I'm passing it along right now. And thank you for sharing the beautiful poem, Jim.

Karen from Phoenix, AZ

Loved the videos, will play them over and over.

Jules Greer

Karen K - could you please contact me -
[email protected]




Super videos! Merci!!!

Elizabeth Jones

I can not stop replaying the first video (though i enjoyed both). I have sent it to all my kids' art teachers and all my art-loving friends (which is about all my friends)...There is something about the lyrics, music and imagery that just touches one at the core.
Thanks so much for sharing that, Kristin (and thanks to your Mom!)

Jennifer in OR

I LOVE that first video...I have a dear artist friend I'll send this to tonight. Another poem by my mom (one of my very favorites) that fits so perfectly with your fabulous post:


Art is a mixture of paint and oil,
The color of forgotten soil;
The smile of loveliness long dead,
The coffin waiting in the shed,
A face against a windowpane,
A lover in a country lane,
A looking in and a looking out
The silence of an unheard shout,
The sense of an impending doom,
The unreality of a room,
The lights and shadows of all our days
Pinpointed in infinitesimal ways,
Fixed in a painted pantomime
Plucked from the gutter of merging time.

Art is a mixture in the mind
Of images that twist and wind;
Evidence of an exploring heart
Tentative, lest it be torn apart.
Here is a smile, received over there,
Coloring two bits of separated air.
Here is the shadow for this degree of light.
Some form of shading makes up our sight.
Here is the height, and the depth below,
And here is the horizon that makes it so.
Our lives are so bound in intricate ways,
Bordered with gold and indigo days,
Flushed with the sun’s most fetching red,
Of art enough cannot be said.

B.P. Daniel (1929 -)


Jennifer in OR,

Please tell your mom that she has a fan in France.

Eve Robillardrobill

Kristin--I adore that little statue. It's so like you to find it. And I also love, love, loved that video. Very inspiring for me, and I've forward this to my sons & have begged them to take the time to watch it!!!
merci, merci, eve


The first video (Art) was quite clever--wry and witty. The second video (Bicycle?) was REALLY corny. Honestly, rhyming "dress" with "asparagus". What a painful waste of time.

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