Category Archives: mood

The value of coffee in research

The past nine months have been spent working from home, and it has now become clear that what I miss the most is the casual interactions with colleagues in the coffee room.

It is a place where ideas sparks, and where information flows from one scientist to the other. The importance of this liminal space should not be understated. It provides a safe space where ideas can be freely challenged and developed, owing to the generally low number of participants, the low stakes and the general mood.

Over the years, I’ve developed several coffee clubs in my buildings (I’ve changed buildings three times), adding an espresso machine wherever I could (often on my own funds, though coffee beans where purchased collectively.)

Elementary Table of Coffee (Berkeley Lab building 2 coffee room, 2013-2016) (@awojdyla, Feb 4 2018)

The importance of the mood component became apparent as we switched to online meetings and we started to lack this kind of space (thankfully my colleague Diane B. organized regular coffee zooms!), though nothing replaces the in-person interaction, with a white board where people can share their thoughts.

Saul Perlmutter casting a definitive vote on the planet-ness of Pluto in our coffee room (Berkeley Lab building 2)

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A fine year

January–March 2020: Streaming along

April–May 2020: Zoom background

June–August 2020: Getting cosy despite the circumstances


September–October 2020: Forrest fires

November 2020: Elections

December 2020: Vaccine and holiday wishes

Jonas Mekas & Tiktok

It just occurred to me that Jonas Mekas, a pioneer of new-york cinema avantgarde was so much ahead of his time that he was posting Tiktok content long before it was cool.

(Excerpt from “As I was Moving Ahead I saw Brief Glimpses of Beauty”, a must-see movie . It’s hard to find, but I have a digital version I can share with you if you ask me kindly)

Broken Berkeley social scene

I haven’t had a drink in a bar for four months now, so I’m trying to remember where are all the places I used to go… All these great places that I miss dearly (if you’re looking for things to do in the meantime, check out you hikes in the East Bay and the Bay Area.)

Berkeley Art Museum / Pacific Film Archive during the Covid-19 pandemic


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Brutalism in Berkeley

One silver lining of the shelter-in-place is that you get to go out with no other goal than going out, and you discover new things about your city. I was always intrigued by the Brutalist architecture in the Bay Area – the first time I encountered it was at the Berkeley Art Museum during the Uncharted Festival in 2013. This kind of architecture, promoted by Mario Ciampi in the Bay Area, is often maligned, and while I can’t say I like, I definitely recognize its esthetic impact.
The name brutalism comes not from the word “brute” (though it could!), but from the French word “brut,” where it signifies “raw” as in raw concrete. Here are a few buildings I stumbled upon who may qualify for the category. Enjoy!

Woo Hon Fai Hall, in Berkeley, CA (former Berkeley Art Museum, BAMPFA)

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Antoine’s insider guide to Paris

Because we’re in time of covid, it’s good to look back at the beauty of a vibrant city and all the things we miss. Here’s guide I made for a friend, and shared with a few others when they asked me what should the absolutely not miss in Paris. Enjoy!

Here are a few addresses you might want to look up during your stay in Paris, that will not be in tourist guides:)

Centre Pompidou

Breakfast at Ladurée

Christmas lights

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I trawl the terahertz

Last year I’ve discovered Paddy McAloon’s re-edition of “I Trawl the Megahertz” (published as Prefab Sprout) in happenstance. I was listening to Spotify, and this beautiful instrumental piece showed up, with hesitating strings and a cold voice, which was not too dissimilar to Woodkid’s On Then and Now which I had been drawn to earlier in the season.

This gradually became my favorite album of the year (other great songs are in there, such as I’m 49.) Now that the virus is crawling and the internet functions at the Terahertz speeds, we’ve gone full circle.

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The new gaze

Perceptions about women seems to have changed fast in the last few years. Of course I don’t mean perception of women in their essence, but the expression of their experience. This experience seems to surface, with movements such as #metoo, but also works of art which that replace the male gaze with the female gaze. On this topic, I really enjoyed this piece in the Guardian  by Gwendolyn Smith :”Like a natural woman: how the female gaze is finally bringing real life to the screen” (the piece is about the movie by Celine Sciamma “Portrait of a lady on fire.”)

It is worth noting that the main actress in Sciamma’s Movie, Adele Haenel, has an acute vision of the many things that go wrong in French society (“Adèle Haenel: France ‘Missed the Boat’ on #MeToo“, New-York Times), and left abruptly the French equivalent of the Oscars when Roman Polanski, a movie director who has been accused many times of sexual assault (and inexplicably gets a pass from the French movie society – like Harvey Weinstein did for years.) The movie “Portrait of a lady on fire” reminded me in some ways Luca Guadagnino’s “Call me by your name,” where both movie describe a new way at looking at a lover, which is less predatory, less transactional than most man-women relationship as depicted in movies (or even same-sex transports when filmed by a male director, such as in “Blue is the warmest color.”)

The female gaze also expands further, in TV series such as the celebrated “Fleabag,” or in music, with artists such as Angel Olsen, Sharon van Etten, Jenny Hval on Mitski. They bring a different view than the one that sprung up in the late 90s, with Alanis Morissette and Fiona Apple.

There’s still a long way to go, but the soft power is finally getting steam, thanks to the courage of some and the efforts of many.

(I also very much enjoy reading “This Week in Partriachy” by Arwa Mahdawi and various pieces by Jia Tolentino, on Millenial feminism, which seems to bring intersectionality into the spotlight.)


While France is not very open about bisexuality (a friend of mine told me all the pains she went through in Paris), it is happenstance that I realized that few of the books I read recently had been written by bisexual authors: André Gide, Marguerite Yourcenar, Susan Sontag and Emily Dickinson.



It’s unclear who else in the early parts of the twentieth century where part of that invisibile society, but the description of Hugo von Hofmannsthal by Stefen Zweig or “Les cloches” from Apollinaire hint at something which cannot be said (Wovon mann nicht sprechen kann…)

Mon beau tzigane mon amant
Écoute les cloches qui sonnent
Nous nous aimions éperdument
Croyant n’être vus de personne

Mais nous étions bien mal cachés
Toutes les cloches à la ronde
Nous ont vus du haut des clochers
Et le disent à tout le monde

Demain Cyprien et Henri
Marie Ursule et Catherine
La boulangère et son mari
Et puis Gertrude ma cousine

Souriront quand je passerai
Je ne saurai plus où me mettre
Tu seras loin Je pleurerai
J’en mourrai peut-être

Guillaume Apollinaire, Rhénanes, Alcools, 1913

Valentine’s day blues

A few words for the solitary lovers, longing for the other, there, distant, imaginary or adversary.
Feelings come in many flavors, and women tell it best.
You’re still a young man/woman.
It’s not too late to learn how to unwind.
Who said
you have to take it on the chin?
Let me have your abyss.
I’ll cushion it with sleep.
You’ll thank me for giving you
four paws to fall on.
Sell me your soul.
There are no other takers.
There is no other devil anymore.

Wisława Szymborska – Advertisement

Ben Aronson

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