Le cul entre les deux chaises

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


The best insult I’ve heard in ages

MuppetBabies-BabyAnimalIn his 2012 standup special “Dangerously Delicious,” Aziz Ansari of PARKS AND REC, tells a story about an exchange he had with a mean border control agent he came across in Toronto, Canada. Not nice things were said by both parties, but things really escalated when Ansari said* the greatest thing I’ve heard in a long time:

“Your English is slightly better than Animal from The Muppet Babies.”

As with many things, it’s the specificity that takes this from a schoolyard insult to a serious burn. According to the Muppet Wiki, Animal from THE MUPPET SHOW “speaks in a guttural shout, often repeating a few simple phrases¹,” which would be enough to belittle most people. But this poor woman was less articulate than that. Compare classic Animal with some of his younger work and see if you agree.

On a personal note, I hope you all appreciate this joke because after researching this post, my childhood was rocked by the information that Baby Animal, as he’s officially known, was initially voiced by Howie Mandel (who did Gizmo in GREMLINS) and then Dave Coulier (the annoying uncle on FULL HOUSE). I have seen behind the Muppet Babies curtain and can never go back.

I was laughing, now I'm not.

I was laughing, now I’m not.

*He surely didn’t say this and the comment was most likely an esprit de l’escalier thing but it’s still funny as hell. I am going to picture this the next time I deal with people whose speech I don’t understand.

Animal Muppet Babies

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Battlestar Galactica toilet in Paris

If you’ve seen the show, you know what I mean. If you haven’t seen it but don’t like stories that end “because God wanted it this way” or “the character was Jesus all along,” I wouldn’t recommend it. Regardless, this toilet in a restaurant near the Opéra Garnier was weird enough that I was compelled to pull my camera out in a public restroom.

BSG toilet in ParisI like to imagine that in a parallel dimension there’s a version of me who consumes all the media and then tells this version of me what stuff to avoid (like LOST and BSG).

Wait, maybe *I’m* the version who has to suffer through all the Christ parables in pop culture so that *another* version of me doesn’t have to.

Whoa, maybe *I’m* the Christ figure in this scenario, sacrificing my own happiness and need for narrative cohesion and closure so that some other version of me lives in a world of well plotted original stories. This kind of cosmic irony may definitively prove or disprove the existence of a higher being, though I’m not sure which.

Funny Things Happen on the Way to the Opera House

Like this and this and this and this.

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Mike Myers in Paris?

Lothar of the Hill People” doesn’t seem to loom as large on the Internet as it does in my head, but when I saw this poster, my first thought was of Mike Myers. Considering how his career cratered 15 years ago (I don’t count the SHREKs), a revival of a little-remembered SNL character might not be a bad idea.



Great Words: seemly / unseemly

seemly /ˈsēmlē/ — conforming to accepted notions of propriety or good taste; decorous.

unseemly /ˌənˈsēmlē/ — (of behavior or actions) not proper or appropriate.

I like them both, though unseemly might be better because it just sounds so dirty. For some reason, when I came across it recently, my mind immediately jumped to the Sesame Street character Lefty, who is every kind of unseemly.

When I was a kid, it never occurred to me how inappropriate it was that a show for children featured a creepy guy in a trench coat, trying to trick beloved characters like Ernie into buy stolen merchandise. (That “8” totally fell off a truck.) I also never realized that for the rest of my life, whenever anyone talked about a plan, I’d think or say “riiiiiiiiiiiiight” and then muse for a few seconds about Fran and Stan without remembering exactly why, but I won’t forget anytime soon.

Sesame Street was a totally weird show back in the day. There were so many segments that I remember fondly that were clearly the ideas of people who were stoned out of their minds. I mean, “Milk” which was a favorite of mine, is literally several minutes of narration-free scenes depicting how milk travels from a cow into a glass in your kitchen. [Turns out that one of the people behind “Milk” recognizes how unconventional this short film was, even at the time.]

It’s a wonder more people who grew up on the show aren’t more messed up. I can safely say that I was only partially warped by it, though it’s probably the parts of me that were led astray that are the most interesting.

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Egg on Bryan Fuller’s face


Mads Mikkelsen is Hannibal (NBC).

Take a gander at this list:

Trou Normand
Buffet Froid

You see the pattern, non? All the words are French and are food-related. No problem-o, right?

The list corresponds to the episode titles of NBC’s Hannibal TV series, which was just recently renewed after several weeks of speculation that it would be cancelled. Media reporters expected that the combo of the graphic nature of the series, about Thomas Harris’s Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter, and its existence on NBC, a network that has been imploding for several years, would be the death of the show, but an angel of mercy (or desperation) means it’ll be back to kill more people in grisly ways.

After initially being on board for the latest adaptation of this iconic character, I was hoping it would get cancelled after the fourth episode because their méconnaissance of français was insulting to me and to Hannibal, a well-known gourmand and cultured individual. You see, the episode I didn’t list above was one called “Œuf,” which the producer of the show, Bryan Fuller, spelled with a “c” (“Ceuf”) and pronounced “suhf” so that there’s no mistaking that he had no idea what the hell he was talking about.


Learn Something, Bryan Fuller!

In French, “egg” can be written œuf or oeuf, but it’s always pronounced /ɶf/. There is NEVER a sibilant sound in the word, even when it’s plural.

The diphthong of o + e (œ) is called an ethel in English and, charmingly, in French is known as an “e dans l’o” [an e in an o]. A well known perpetrator of patricide and incest (besides Lannisters) is Oedipus whose name is not pronounced “See-dipus” or “Oh-ee-dipus” because an ethel is a ligature of the two vowel sounds into one. It’s /ˈedəpəs/.

Further Thoughts

In 1990 and 1991, my friends and I probably paid to see Home Alone in the theater ten times. Nine of those times, we used our tickets to sneak into rated-R movies. One time, it was The Silence of the Lambs, the best of the Lecter movies. I had never seen anything like what happens in that movie before, nor had I known that Tom Petty could be used to ratchet up tension. It was awesome. I trace my taste for crazy murder narratives to this moment. Also possibly my daily moisturizing routine.

Even though I am so, so, so disappointed in Bryan Fuller, I still wholeheartedly recommend the first season of Pushing Daisies, a charming, whimsical, wordplay-filled show about death, pie and true love. It’s really great. You can see the trailer, which doesn’t do the show justice, here.