Le cul entre les deux chaises

An American Spaniard in France or: How I Learned to Make an Ass of Myself in Three Cultures


My summer song (2012)

Summer has officially ended here with the closing of Paris Plages (where sand is trucked in and dumped on the side of the river) on the 19th. Ironically, that was the weekend that temperatures hit 100° and just didn’t stop until mid-way through the following week. In the US, summer is over on Memorial Day or Labor Day, whichever is later. I have never been able to keep track of either date or holiday. I blame my parents for shipping us off to Spain every summer, heedlessly disregarding American customs (both the traditional and the border control kinds). For me, summer stops when I don’t worry about sweating every day, so I’m callin’ it and announcing my Song of Summer: Lykke Li‘s “I Follow (The Magician Remix).” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oS6wfWu0JvA You can keep your Carly Rae Jepsens and all the cover versions (though the Cookie Monster one was incredibly cute).

Learn something, maybe

In Spanish, a “cover” of a song is called una versión and in French, it’s une reprise. Both of these are logical and therefore acceptable.

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Come with me, Ro-man, to the sea

One of the first classes I signed up for in college was Intro to Roman History. I did this simply so that if anyone ever asked me if I’d studied Agrippa, I could respond, “I have.” My professor was a bad lecturer, but I did love a lot of the stories (like Remus and Romulus) and connecting Important Historical Moments to places I had visited just months before with some high school friends was entertaining.

Now, I live in a place where evidence of their existence is everywhere, in big and small ways and the Romans are even making their way into my reading. Guys with names ending in -aunus and -ius, or with titles like Maximus feature heavily in the first chapters of Winston Churchill’s A History of the English-Speaking Peoples (Vol. I The Birth of Britain) in ways that are interesting enough to warrant a mention. Something intrinsic to the Roman people was a total surprise to me. As Churchill clearly states

The Romans hated and feared the sea. (pg.4)

Sure, the seat of their empire was a peninsular land, but the Romans weren’t seafarers. Additionally, the Mediterranean as a body of water has totally different properties from, say, the North Sea. They tried to invade Britain many times but were beaten back again and again by tides and storms that they didn’t understand. On a couple of occasions, fleets departing France from the modern Calais area, within sight of their destination only 26 miles away, were blown completely off course and beached miles and miles off course on the French side.

In my mind’s eye, I see a whole wave of those armored centurions yelling, “Aw, belanus!”

Learn something

Of course, the Romans eventually did successfully invade Britain. Caesar first made it over in 55 BC, but after all the difficulties getting there and not being able to immediately subjugate the native Celts, the Romans gave up the desire to possess the island for a hundred years. It’s impressive to think that after their initial failure, they went back and gained control over so much of Britain, especially when you think about how little they cared for traveling across water.

The Roman Empire, 117 AD

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Shock and Awe

In the buildup to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the phrase “shock and awe” was used by the Bush administration to describe the monumental can of whoop ass that the US was going to open all over the Middle East.

Today, I use it to describe the feeling I had when fellow blogger anglophonism left me a comment saying she was giving me a Reader Appreciation Award.

Shocked. Flabbergasted. Incredulous. The famous Anglophonism, a Freshly Pressed blogger, chose me? Not possible. Unbelievable.

Awed. She was going to write something about me on her blog. Probably something flattering. Was I going to be able to handle the cyber compliment? She’s actually studying to be an expert in things I only pretend to know about (like making with the language and the writing and the talking of words). How the hell could she find anything I say amusing enough to recommend? And yet…

Of course, like Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben says, “With great honor, comes great lists that need to be completed,” and this honor is no exception. Here are the conditions:

  • Identify and show appreciation of the blogger who awarded you. — Have you been adequately thanked, anglophonism? If not, I will redouble my efforts!
  • You must add the award logo to your blog. — Thanks to dlaiden for explaining how.
  • Tell your readers 7 things about yourself. — See below.
  • You must nominate 5-10 of your favorite bloggers for this award. — See, um, further below.
  • Inform your nominees that you nominated them. — I will make it so.

Seven things about me

  1. Movies (to me, the apogee of storytelling) are what I’m really passionate about but everyone’s got an opinion about them. Not so the trials and tribulations of multilingualism, so here I am.
  2. Even though I know there are better books, movies and soundtracks, The Princess Bride, The Princess Bride and “The Princess Bride” (OST by Mark Knopfler!) are among my favorites.
  3. If I could get Coke Zero pumped into my body intravenously, it would save a lot of time.
  4. Sleeping is one of my hobbies which may sound lame until I tell you that I’m a lucid dreamer. Every night, there’s a multiplex in my head where I’m having awesome adventures on all the screens. Real life is kind of a let down.
  5. Baseball is a great game. It’s like The Odyssey — one hero (the batter) faces a series of challenges (crazy pitches, running the bases) against a host of (nine) adversaries before he can make his way home to his beloved (um, the bat boy?). It’s fun to play and to watch, a feat not matched by many sports. Go Red Sox!
  6. I don’t eat mollusks and don’t understand why any does. Consistency-wise they’re all gristly and a ton of effort must be put in to get the “edible” part out. Basically every other living thing on earth is easier to eat and tastes better.
  7. For almost a year of my life, I only ate hot dogs; breakfast, lunch and dinner.

If you like me, you’ll probably like these people

  1. Thefrancofly — Jessie makes beautiful watercolors to illustrate the stories of a Chicago girl married to a French guy, living la vida Vincennes.
  2. Breadispain — So, so funny. Another American girl with a French significant other, this time in Grenoble (which is not Paris). I also like to think that her blog name is a secret Princess Bride reference.
  3. Paris? Really??? — An American whose husband announced one day that the family was moving to Paris.
  4. IAmYourCanadianBoyfriend — As an American, I think all Canadians are suspect, but Jason Sweeney is an exception. I cruise over to his site when I need little pick me ups, like the little guy at right.
  5. Suzanne et Pierre à Paris — A (French) Canadian couple in Paris who write very informative, fun posts in English and French. It’s double le travail for them, but double le plaisir for you!

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Holy crap, am I liberal


Knowing that an election was coming up, I’d decided not to vote, partly because I just didn’t care and partly because I didn’t want to update my expat voter registration info. A quiz that I took online testing my political beliefs has led me to reconsider. It turns out that I do care about stuff (who knew?) and that I overwhelmingly agree with Obama‘s policies. Of course, my one vote isn’t going to make a bit of difference since expats are lumped in with their last US address, and DC’s three electoral college votes always go Democrat anyway.

Learn something

One of the best lesson plans I ever did as a teacher was during the run up to the 2008 election where I explained the (unbelievably archaic) electoral college system. “The Economist” has a nice version that’s all flashy-flashy and much faster than mine which took almost an hour.


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So many updates!

Hey! Do you remember that time I wrote about bobos and how the term has been (mis)appropriated by the French? The NYT just got the memo and used the information to open a recent movie review, describing the film as

… a two-and-a-half-hour scolding to so-called “bobos,” the term in France for affluent people who embrace a fusion of bourgeois and bohemian values. Although the word “bobo” has been used by David Brooks, a columnist for The New York Times, to describe “members of the new information elite,” in France it refers to overgrown Parisian yuppies in their 30s and 40s…

What film are they talking about? Why, Les petits mouchoirs, a movie that came out here two years ago. You may have heard of it since I also wrote about it, using it as an example of what makes a French movie French.

The NYT has apparently been busy following my lead (pun!) since they’ve made not one, but two corrections to the story I posted about last week which offended me. Something they haven’t corrected is that Prince Harry was playing “billiards.” Given that the action happened in the US and was reported in an American newspaper, surely the third in line to the crown was playing “pool.”