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