Sunday, March 30, 2008


Holy Moses! Now The Globe and Mail is openly talking about the "decline of America" and polling their readers about whether or not a better President could regain the country's "lost status". For those of you who live elsewhere, The Globe and Mail is the conservative paper in Toronto, although let's say "conservative" in the vein of a sober English conservative, not in the vein of Sean Hannity. But, they're definitely not raving left-wingers.

A few things are startling about the article: I'm somewhat surprised to see that the US still has the highest standard of living. I could've sworn that England had taken the lead. That's a good surprise. The bad surprise is just seeing Canadians talking openly about the belief that America is in decline. Are corners of the US now the only places where it's still not acceptable to talk about this?

(Incidentally, here's someone else who moved to Canada)


Movie Notes: Lou Reed: Berlin (2008)

Jim and Caroline fell in love, probably in Berlin. They had children together and lived together. But there were problems: he was on speed and had some lousy friends and she did too. Plus she was making it with everybody she met and he was beating her. But, in the end, they took away her children and she killed herself, so it sort of has a happy ending. Jim's still around.

It's not hard to see why Lou Reed was reluctant to play Berlin live or why it recieved mixed reactions when it was released. Some writers accused Reed of mysogyny and worse. To me, this is like accusing Dostoyevsky of killing old women: Berlin is an extended, and very dark story. It's sort of what might happen if Kurt Weil and William Burroughs played together in a rock band. That's a pretty lame description, but maybe it captures how weird, dark, musically-complex, and literary Berlin is. It's probably Lou Reed's masterpiece, although I prefer Transformer.

Anyway, along with every other old rock musician, Reed is now willing to give his old songs another chance. With Brian Wilson, the dream-come-true of hearing his brilliant Smile played all the way through was perhaps a bit marred by his current voice, which reminded me of Bill Murray's lounge singer character. With Lou Reed, it's hard to imagine a diet of sulfuric acid changing his voice any, and besides, he's still Lou Fucking Reed, so I'm all for letting him play whatever he wants to.

The movie was filmed by Julian Schnabel live at St. Ann's Warehouse in Brooklyn. In addition to the band, complete with string section, horns, and choir, there are short films projected throughout the concert. Finally, we get to see Jim and Caroline, although mostly Emmanuelle Seigner as Caroline. Jim was really just the waterboy anyway. The set design is also by Schnabel and his daughter Lola shot the short films.

Berlin is still a somewhat overwhelming experience. Two people left the theatre in Marseille, not to return. I suspect it might have been the content, as one left after the line "beat her black and blue and get it straight". Lou Reed didn't really write a lot of happy songs. Oh, but his sad songs are so beautiful! And the euphoric playing by the live band makes Berlin transcendant- especially since many of the songs here are in the longer versions not included on the original record (the company refused to issue Berlin as a double album). And when I got to see Lou Reed losing himself in "Men of Good Fortune" or "Caroline Says (II)", well, "honey it was paradise!" Even if it is a story about hell.


Saturday, March 29, 2008

Cultural Education on the Cheap

Let me try to explain the magazine give-aways. This is probably the wrong thing to call them: they're not really free, just cheap. Okay, so Le Monde is the most popular newspaper here. Now the weekend edition, which comes with an additional magazine, costs 2.50 euros. But this week, if you want the additional CD, it's 5.50 for the whole package. The CD this week is Handel, I think, beginning a series of great composers. Last week, it was a DVD for 4 euros and a book on Bresson, which ended the series on great directors. There is also a series of books by the great philosophers, also available from Le Monde.

And most of the magazines do this. Le Nouvel Observateur just finished a series of Truffaut DVDs. La Province is also doing classical CDs. Mad Movies offers recent horror films on DVD. Note to Claire: So far, I have obstained. And it tends to be a bit Francophilic, but only a bit. Currently, Patti Smith is the toast of Paris, so she's in every journal. And the end result of all these offers and the programming on tv channels like the excellent Arte or even Canal+ is that it is just very easy to get a cultural education here.

And the fact is that it is seen as very important to get a cultural education here. In my job, I encounter many North Americans, including many professors, who see cultivation as a waste of time or as somehow frivolous. Yet for my grandparents' generation, and even my parents', it was a key component of a good life. The other day, I was watching a French television program interviewing a New York woman who founded a business school for elementary-age students. "You have to understand," she patiently explained to the interviewer, "in America, life is a business." Of course, they chose this clip because it played to the French belief that Americans are Philistines. But, I was reminded of everyone I met in university who patiently explained to me, "No, you don't understand. Don't study Proust- study computer science. That's where the money is."

Of course, the French aren't perfect. They're snobbish, often close-minded, and can be infuriatingly petty. Like most Anglos who have lived here, there are times when I want to strangle them. There's something ridiculous about getting scoffed at on Parisian streets for wearing the wrong clothes, of course, but having countless clerks behave as if it's some vague wound to their pride to have to serve someone with an accent tends to enervate one.

But, alas, even when I hate France, I love France. And most Anglos who have lived here will also say this. Because, after all, I take the same things too seriously that they take too seriously. They're passionate about art, and food, and fashion, and all of the other things that, when added to a life, subtly enrich one's experiences in that life. I mean, it's hard for me to explain why these things are so important to me, but they are. Maybe it's nonsense, but I feel that, having spent a summer looking at the world through Proust's eyes, and countless days looking through Dostoyevsky's eyes, or Melville's eyes, or even Patti Smith's eyes, that my experience of the world has been altered, just slightly, but in ways that have rewarded me.

So, I don't know. Maybe life is a business; but it's definitely a series of moments, and if I can find ways to take pleasure in those moments than it will be worth having them, even though they all end eventually. To me, this is the good life, and to the French, this is the good life. So, it's hard to hate them. Even though they take things like scarves entirely too seriously.


Friday, March 28, 2008

Leaders should be seen and not heard

As you've probably guessed, I believe that national figures should look good and do nothing; if we could replace them all with models or robots, I'd be happy. So, naturally, I was overjoyed with Carla Sarkozy's Jackie O turn in London this week. Wearing an elegant grey Dior dress with black gloves and a grey beret, she passed her trial by fire as the new First Lady with flying colors, approaching Audrey Hepburn in some moments. And her manners were impeccable. The French-on-the-street have so far not been as impressed with her as I was, but they probably take style and charm for granted. Let them eat cake.

By comparison, Nicolas Sarkozy looks more like a background character in Grease every day. He's still fairly unpopular here; he was elected as a reformer and, so far, he hasn't reformed much. Not to mention the fact that he ran on the slogan "work more to earn more" and unemployment levels have barely changed while food prices have increased. In Londo, he called for a closer alliance with London and more troops in Afghanistan. So, she played Jackie O and he played George W.

Maybe the lack of style is why I can hardly stand to look at the US right now, as Hillary Clinton goes into her Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? phase in which no one can convince her that the dream is over. I thought the Clintons sucked back in the 90s, before it was cool to do so, and now Team Clinton is set to ruin Michelle Obama's chances of being the first classy First Lady in decades. The end result of course will be President McCain, already a laughing stock over here for acting like such a stooge in public over the last months, and with a wife who's a complete fashion nightmare, more importantly.

Seriously, why can't Tyra Banks pick the next President?


Thursday, March 27, 2008

The US economic problem explained

Okay, here's the short version of the American economic crisis, as explained to me by the GSM economic expert (Claire's father): Real estate prices were low in 1998. At the same time, mortgage fees were low due to the competition allowed as the mortgage business globalized. People were looking for the best possible mortgages for quick gain, and many people took out "subprime" loans hoping to quickly turn over their mortgages. These loans are intended for high risk borrowers and so they have high interest rates, although not at the start.

Okay, so we all understand this so far. Now, here's why the crisis goes so deep: the mortgages were then sliced up and packaged into Collaterized Debt Obligations, which were sold to investors, perhaps all over the world. The investors then used the debt they'd bought as leverage for other investments, higher risks bringing higher returns after all. But homeowners were also taking serious risks, all of them betting on the fact that American home prices had never fallen before. And they got so high that they had to fall. So, the combination of bad investments and highly leveraged investments explains why the crisis is mushrooming.

Hopefully, that's a coherent short version of the crisis. And hopefully for those of us whose finances are tied to the US economy (like all of Canda, basically), there won't be a long version of the crisis.


The Arab Street

On the news they will often talk about how events will be "recieved in the Arab street". Well, I'm currently living in the Arab street and it seems to me that most events are recieved with inexplicable shouting. I've never seen anything like it. My room is situated on an alley/ parking lot, and in the evenings young men will hang out there and have entire conversations by shouting across the parking lot instead of walking over to each other. Why? I have no idea. Maybe they smell.

Luckily, the shouting seems to die down around 9:00 when I go to sleep. Unfortunately, it occasionally starts up again around 2:00 am after the bars let out. I get up and go to the window to yell taissez-vous! and they're already gone. Is it wrong to assume they're unemployed. France has high unemployment; maybe as much as 8 percent of the population. The Arabs here find it especially tough to get hired by the French. So, maybe they hang out in the alley and drink and shout.

I tried for weeks to figure out what unnerves me about walking around here in the evenings. It's that 95 percent of the young people on the street are males: there are almost no women to be seen. When polled, young French Arabs complain that French culture lacks "modesty". I guess that means women; I've never heard a male called "immodest". Maybe this is why the women aren't out, but to me it reads as a "bad neighborhood". Conversely, I see the pictures of nude women all over France as a sign of "freedom" or "sophistication", while some people apparently read them as "immodest" or "immoral". Lastly, it's hard for me to escape my North American belief that work is a moral duty and that men who hang out all night are the "immoral" ones, while streets without women are "dangerous".

So, who knows... maybe we're all just getting our signals crossed here.


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

HAPPY (actual, official) BIRTHDAY to CLAIRE!!!


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The All-Pastry Diet

Strangely enough, I seem to have lost almost 20 lbs since I got here about two months ago. It's actually pretty funny to me because I've been on the all-pastry diet since then, although I have been eating more apples than ever before. I am an adult male living alone, so my diet is largely structured by the "I dunno, give me the cheap stuff" principle. Apples are really cheap.

Also it's a lot easier to walk around here than it is in most parts of North America. I remember living in Virginia and the idea of walking to the store was unimaginable. Here, I think the crazies are the people driving. So, there's more walking. But they definitely don't eat health food here either.


Best French Road Sign

Okay, so the funniest road sign I have seen in France is one that features a slogan reading "Obligatory Exit", basically, and an image of a car exploding. I'll try to get a picture.



Aside from the discussion of Michel Foucault on the happy morning show yesterday, here's a pretty good indication of the differences between the media here in France and in the states: currently, the lead story on Yahoo France is an in-depth discussion with Joseph Stiglitz about the financial crisis in the US. On Yahoo America? It's "Celeb Spring Fashion Fling"!


Monday, March 24, 2008

Sarko, pire que Ségogo.

Oh lo lo! While American politicians are pretending to be shocked and appalled that Barack Obama knows someone who once said some politically incorrect things, or some such nonsense, in France they're still a bit shocked that President Sarkozy said "Casse-toi alors, pauvre con" to a man who insulted him. I'm not entirely sure how best to translate that, but something like, "Well, then piss off, you jerk!" is about right. Sarkozy tends to be a bit arrogant, juvenile even. Of course, I can't imagine what it would be like to have an arrogant, childish President...


Sunday, March 23, 2008

More Assorted Graz

From a local coffee house, a multipurpose sugar packet:

Flirt much?

A sugar packet is more than a sugar packet, when you can write your contact info on it and leave it with that cutie at the next table... or the important business contact, who will surely be impressed that you're so resourceful as to leave your actual calling cards behind, and instead foist off condiments on new acquaintances...

Since getting our TV license, we've been exposed to all manner of informative broadcasting, such as this ad which made us laugh a lot, primarily because "schmecktakel" is what you get in German when combining the words for 'taste' and 'spectacle'. It is probably extra funny to native English speakers, because in English that portmanteau would be 'taste-acle'.

Also from the TV, this is a newspaper cover from Serbia during the Kosovo separation vote uproar in Feburary. The general non-separatist sentiment boiled down to two, short, emphatic words, perfect for headline splashing... Definitely something we've never seen on the US news, even in reference to Canada's last Quebec separatist vote, or the move to fence off all of the US-Mexican border.

Turns out fans of the Turkish market cheeses can buy it in large cans, just like tennis balls. Only tastier, and less covered in weird yellow hair. Yes, we ate all that cheese. It was good, too.

And, it's flower box season again, they are showing up everywhere. This one was particularly eye-popping on a gray day. There have been a lot of gray days lately--seems like late February and March are the rainy/windy/gray season. January and December were mostly clear, sunny, cold, blue-sky months. Fortunately, most of the rain is happening at night, and then it warms up to pleasant during the day now. (Except today. Today was Not Warm & Pleasant. This was to be expected, as we now have both been immunized against tick-borne encephalitis, and wanted to go hiking today. How do the clouds know??)


By the way

Incidentally, HAPPY early BIRTHDAY to my wife, who I miss terribly right now!


Moving up the language ranks

Here's a phenomenon that other expats and migrants might have noticed. My French is definitely improving, to the point that I can have decent conversations with people here, even if I'm less chatty than usual! I've noticed though that it's much easier with people that I've just met because they don't expect my language to be at any particular level. Of course, my accent still gives me away, and "Anglais?" is usually their first question. But I seem to have moved up the ranks a bit with the French.

However, I've noticed that people who met me when I first got here still think of me as barely speaking any French. Remember that, for all intents and purposes, I began speaking French in January. So my landlady and the people in the archives are sort of frozen in that moment. When we get new researchers in the archives and I start carrying on with them in French, the "old timers" look quite surprised. Hence I prefer meeting new people here.

Have others had this experience?


Northern Lights

Claire sent me these pictures, which her grandfather forwarded her. She said they are "typically Canadian". I haven't seen the Northern lights yet, but hope to this coming winter. Everyone else in Canada seems to have seen them. Note that at this camp, the temperature was apparently -35!


Friday, March 21, 2008

Movie Notes: The Bride Wore Black (1967)

I don't know about that dish served cold cliche, but revenge makes for good drama, as countless examples, from Hamlet to I Spit on Your Grave, have shown. The Bride Wore Black is another 60's classic starring Jeanne Moreau as the force of vengeance in a film that Fançois Trouffaut wrote so that he could give her a role totally different from her character in Jules and Jim. Here she's mean, malicious and pissed off as a woman whose husband was shot dead on her wedding day, who has made a list of the five men responsible with the intention of picking them off one by one.

If this sounds a bit like Kill Bill, it's worth remembering that Quentin Tarantino is a huge Truffaut fan, and it's easy to see why. I had forgotten what fun Truffaut films were at one time. La Mariée était en noir is snappy, trashy, pop pleasure, sort of a French take on Hitchcock. While we're drawing connections, let's note that Truffaut was a huge Hitchcock fan and even got Bernard Hermann to do the score here. The web of connections from artist to artist is its own language, and there's a real joy revealed in a clever homage. The Bride Wore Black is fun because we get to watch a great director, with a strong visual sense, having fun telling a dark story.


I'm not alone

Apparently, Glenn Greenwald was also a little freaked out by Obama's speech for exactly the same reasons.


Thursday, March 20, 2008

Movie Notes: Eva (1962)

Camille Paglia asked whither les femmes fatales?, who really do seem to have wriggled out of American cinema in recent years. Well, they can take a lesson from Jeanne Moreau, who plays the most fatale of femme fatales in this 1962 classic. Eva is the story of a suddenly-successful writer whose fame is undeserved and who gets his comeuppance in the form of a married minx who slowly destroys him. The two of them ultimately wind up damned to be together.

At first blush, neither character is particularly likeable; sort of a putz for a twat. But, watch the film again. Notice how Stanley Baker's character goes from supremely self-assured male to quivering idiot simply by making every possible wrong choice, as if subconsciously punishing himself for his sin. Notice also the melancholy of Jeanne Moreau's character and her contempt for men as she tries to carve out a corner of freedom in a time and place that is perhaps more patriarchal and bourgeois than our own. And then there's that sultry thing again- check out Jeanne Moreau's introduction, in which she's vamping alone in a bedroom to Billie Holiday singing Willow Weep for Me. There's very little going on, but you could put a child through puberty by showing them that scene!

Maybe this is the strength of the femme fatale story: the idea that the innate sexual superiority of women is powerful enough to upend masculine civilization. Maybe that's why the stories have been powerful enough to reoccur repeatedly in Western art and literature. And maybe it's why contemporary films tend to reduce women to harmless little girls.


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Groland - Vedettes de stars

This is from Groland, the French equivalent of Saturday Night Live. It's very popular here. Is this skit funny in French? Well, I don't really know...


The Anti-American Issue: Or "Let the Flaming begin"

I think it's time to discuss the hardest question in American-French relations (aside from the famous "body odor question", which I promise to address soon), which is the question of French "anti-Americanism". Of course, the term "anti-Americanism" has been warped beyond all recognition, to the point that disagreeing with the US position on the Coke or Pepsi question gets you tarred with the anti-American brush. It's certainly not a sign of confidence.

And yet, there are indeed some French people for whom my nationality is clearly a negative; I start speaking French with my accent and a chill descends. They're not rude, but it's clear that they're not happy. Or, maybe, that they're wary. Again, it's a negative with, maybe ten percent of them.

Even more troubling is that it's a positive with none of them. I'm sort of used to that. Canadians are almost supernaturally polite, and when they learn that you're from the states they will automatically tell you about their American cousin. But, I can "pass" for Canadian, and when there are supposedly no Americans around, well, let's just say that being American is not a positive with them either.

I know that Americans hate hearing the lecture about "our image in the eyes of the world". It sounds like you're telling them that they can't just live their own lives without worrying about Germany finding out they have spinach in their teeth. And yet, I am a history geek, and I think I can say with some assurance that something has happened. America is one of the great nations in world history, along with say France in the 1700s, Germany or Great Britain in the 1800s, classical Greece, Rome, etc. And now, I think it has lost its status, I'd say completely. Of course, it still has the strongest economy in the world, in spite of the current recession. And it has the strongest military in the world, in spite of the problems in Iraq. And yet, I meet no one from any other country that wishes their country was more like the US, and I know people from everywhere. Thy name is mud.

It's a historic shift and I'm wondering if it's total. Of course, if you live in the states and never go elsewhere, it's probably no big deal. But, it is for me. And if the rest of the world decides to stop bitching about the US and start competing seriously with the US, it will become an issue for others in America.

I think that this is what's so gut-wrenching for me about this Obama campaign. (Okay, hear me out here!) We haven't heard anything over here about this "issue" with his preacher, which is, in my opinion, stupid manufactured shit. The French press has a strict rule: they will only cover stupid shit if it has to do with Carla Bruni. So, it hasn't even been mentioned. I only know that there even was a controversy through the Internet, where stupid shit is King.

For me, his speech was particularly gut-wrenching. Strong, moving, and extremely intelligent, yes. But also gut-wrenching because Obama confronted the biggest taboo about Americans for me. And I don't mean race. In the speech, he refused to pander or talk down to Americans. He talked to them as if they are adults who can think seriously about race. And that's terrifying to watch. It's a gamble. Because (and this is seriously the hardest sentence I've ever written here), Americans often seem to be unwilling or unable to think seriously at an adult level about anything.

I know that's harsh, but I fear that the fustercluck in Iraq can be explained as "they never thought seriously about it". And the literacy issue, and the massive debt issue, and the environmental issue, etc. etc. etc. Over and over, there's an unwillingness to behave as if these things matter. Someone else can deal with them. Maybe Daddy.

Obama's speeches are terrifying because he's betting that Americans can think at an adult level even though they haven't been asked to in decades. And it's gut-wrenching for me because I hope that he's right, but I fear that he's wrong.

(Okay, let the flaming begin)


Today's French

éclosion: Blooming, hatching

"Let poets ont chanté la brèvité de la séduction féminine mais voilà, aujourd'hui, apres l'éclosion de la rose, il se passe encore quelque chose!"
-Jeanne Moreau, who recently celebrated her 60th year in films


Monday, March 17, 2008

Les Quotidiens

Here's some good news- it's apparently not a worldwide decline in reading. While American newspapers are fighting to survive, French journals have gained readers in 2007, with a growth of 1.2%, especially the free dailies, unsurprisingly. Perhaps it's the "Sarkozy effect". Here's an incredible fact: 97.2% of the population of the age of 15 years and over reads at least one newspaper or magzine per month!

Postscript: I keep thinking that can't be true. I've read the Le Monde article five times now and that's what it says, but they must be leaving out the illiterates, because there is indeed illiteracy in France, about 8 percent by some counts. Anyway caveat lector.


Friday, March 14, 2008

Apropos of Nothing

Originally uploaded by oferchrissake


Thursday, March 13, 2008

Ooh la la!

Recently, a French journal published an extensive study of French sexual habits which found that the current generation of femmes are quite sexually aggressive. In a related story, Camille Paglia has found that French women are really sexy. This raises an interesting question: if French women really are both sexually aggressive and very hot, are the young American males that claim to hate the French like stupid or something?

I can't say whether or not French women are sexually aggressive, of course, but I suppose they are sexy. Maybe that's the wrong word- plenty of women are sexy; they're sultry. And Paglia's right: by comparison, American actresses seem like little girls. Many of them are. I keep thinking, " well, maybe Reece Witherspoon and Kirsten Dunst will be sexy after they finish puberty."

I've spent some time thinking about why it is that so many people find French women to be sultry and seductive, not forgetting of course that I'm married! Here are some suggestions:

1. They dress really well. Of course, dressing badly is a punishable offense in France, along with things like eating Wonder Bread, whistling excessively, and public sobriety. Wear sweatpants with "Juicy" on the ass and they give you the guillotine!

2. They're in good health. In North America, it's easier to drive to most places. In France, it's easier to walk most places. 'Nuff said. However, French women are not overl arobicized, like for example Hillary Swank who seems as if she could crush walnuts in her vagina.

3. Joie de vivre. They seem to enjoy being alive. This has a great appeal. One thing I love about Claire is her passion for living. Naturally, it makes me think of sex.

4. Most importantly, there is something inaccessible about French women. Even when French actresses do nude scenes, they're never naked. There's always a mystique to them. Like a good teacher, they seem to know many things that they aren't quite revealing. This applies equally to French women in the street. There is some sort of mystery there, which is a large part of their charm.
Of course, it could be the scarves.


French Housing Crisis

Just came across this article in the BBC News about how French people can't get housing for any amount of money, but sometimes if they put out a bit, the landlord will cut them a break. I commented to Greg that I thought France's housing crisis was over, since all the old people died in that heat wave in 2003, but he says that France has filled up with Muslims (since then, apparently?). I find myself suspicious that it's all about cost, because getting tail from the tenants does not pay the tax or get the roof fixed or whatever, so.... what's actually going on there?

Someone who knows should comment.


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Les Sectes

Mon Dieu! A French government official recently stated in an interview that cults are a "non-problem" in France and the merde has hit the ventilateur! The outcry has been very loud, particularly from the government, which considers cults to be very much a problem in France. They have issued several statements sharply criticizing groups like the Church of Scientology, but have stopped short of actually banning them.

The fellow was criticizing the government's stance from the position of religious freedom. Interestingly enough, the US government has also complained to the French government about its anti-cult statements, also from the position that they go against religious freedom. One also suspects that they're a bit less afraid of Tom Cruise than the neighborhood imam!

Maybe the answer would be to oppose certain cultish activities instead of opposing specific groups. For instance, religious organizations could be forbidden to require payment as a condition of membership or "enlightenment", to pressure members to break ties with their friends or family, or to harass non-members or "apostates". And perhaps they could lose their protected status for repeated violations, or be fined. Because it seems to me that the problem with these groups isn't their goofy sci-fi beliefs, as much as the way those beliefs seem to crowd out all other ideas in their members' heads.

What say you?


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Monsieur Obama

Hiromi has a great article about Japanese Obama tee-shirts. He's actually very popular here too- nobody tell the American voters that the French like Obama or he'll be doomed!

When I first arrived here, the French were convinced that a black man couldn't become President. Now, they believe that it will be "an automatic and radical change for the image of America" if he does get elected. But, they also think he'll be assassinated!

I think part of the reason the French prefer Obama is that he'll actually talk to them. The foreign press has been following his rival, Veruca Salt, but her people keep manhandling and yelling at them, God knows why. They're probaby part of the "vast right-wing French conspiracy" or something. But Obama not only talks to the French press; he also remembers their names. The only mistake he has made was speaking highly of Sarkozy to them. Otherwise, if the elections were held here, he would be Le President.

(Incidentally, I sent an email to Andrew Sullivan, suggesting that since the Clinton campaign has become so cynical in their general message, their new campaign song should be "Stop thinking about tomorrow". Sullivan was apparently not amused, but I think it's a decent gag.)


Saturday, March 08, 2008


Holy shit! It now costs 1.54 American to buy a single euro! I wonder if I can open a bank account here before I wind up sleeping under a bridge!


Les BéDéistes

Claire and her brother would love the comic book stores in France. Here, comic books, or Bandes Dessinées are treated like art, at least by their readers. Most of them that I've seen are hardbound, and often shelved in the library, in their own section. In fact, BDs make up 10 percent of the books sold in France. Recently, the BéDéistes had a festival in Angoulême, and here are some of the BD artists who have sites online:

Marie Margo
Manu Delente

Even if you don't read French, go and check out the gorgeous artwork. For Claire, bonnes à lire !


Thursday, March 06, 2008

lola loves you (kinda)

so holly posted about their cat demanding furniture, lola has an apartment. we have a built-in linen closet that lola loves to hang out in. when she hears me opening the drawers or opening the top part she scuttles up the stairs to make sure she can get in on the action. i wonder if it's the smell of the cedar?



for rufus

well honey, there is the homestead. i took this picture yesterday while in the middle of digging us out of *another* fucking storm. note the enormously high banks, it's been a bad winter. we get hammered again tomorrow and i've decided not to shovel anymore, it's time for mr. snowblower across the street to make some money. it was a pretty day though.

**to everyone else: the house is much more charming on the inside. i swear.


Snatching victory... etc. etc.

It's kind of nice to have very little idea of what's going on in the outside world. I will stay out of it, for the most part. You don't want to hear about the endless Sarko chronicles.

But, I do want to say how incredible it is that the Democrats have actually seemed to figured out how to lose to a boring old fart who nobody really wants after 8 years of Bush and in the middle of an unpopular war. It's inspiring in a strange way. I really think they'll pull it off and lose again. Just wow.


Glad to be here

In Paris, I was trying to explain to Emily how public discourse differs in other countries. I suggested that, when kids get shot in other countries, or people hear about school shootings in the US in other countries, you never hear any stupid ass holes suggesting that the answer is to have more guns in the schools.

Et voilà!


Tuesday, March 04, 2008

French Culture: Dead?

Quelle horreur! Time Magazine has proclaimed the "death of French culture", making the same argument that I've leaned towards in my more irritated moments: the French can be high and mighty about their culture, but have you listened to the new Cali album? Did you enjoy the latest Emmanuel Mouret film? Hmmmm? Ezzzackly!

The Old Grey Marianne just 'aint what she used to be. And yet, the problem with this argument is that it implies another one that goes something like- The latest Claude Chabrol film made a fraction of what The Chipmunks brought in. Therefore, it must be a lot worse! It's even less convincing when you talk about pop music. I'd much rather listen to Cali than Fergie; actually, I'd much rather punch myself in the face than listen to Fergie. But the point is well-taken. Cultural dominance and market dominance are not measured the same way.

The article also seems to suggest that French films, books, and music could stand to be a bit less intelligent, sort of dumb it down a little. Maybe Claude Chabrol could shoot a scene in which the funny man gets kicked in the balls by a CGI panda... On the other hand, French films, books, and music does tend to be a bit self-absorbed and a bit twee. That's where the article rings true- mass culture in general is in the pits right now. But, the French really do make too many films and write too many books about bourgeois Parisians having droll conversations about their love affairs. Dinner with Andre? Non, merci.

It's never a good idea to proclaim the death of anything, aside from dead people. The French still have fashion and gastronomy to their name. And with so much French attention, thought, and money focused on their culture, it's hard to imagine that it will wither away. Also, to be honest, the strangeness and difficulty of French culture is part of its charm. That's not a bad thing. Even if it doesn't play in Albuquerque.