Le cul entre les deux chaises

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


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It’s Memorial Day!

Thanks to a practice which really annoys me, I am now going to be able to remember which holiday marks the beginning of the summer season and which one ends it. The key came in the form of a movie I will never see called LABOR DAY. Here’s the US poster:

labor-day-poster

And here’s the French one:

last-days-of-summer-poster

 

Can you guess what, under normal circumstances, would bother me about this? It’s changing an English title into another English title. I mean, I get it: no one in Europe knows what Labor Day is but this practice is generally dumb and confusing.

Even before I heard and read the positively dreadful reviews for this movie (notice complete absence of reviewer quotes!), I wouldn’t have seen it for one big reason: it’s based on a book by Joyce Maynard and I don’t like her at all. I was studying writing when her book At Home in the World came out and one of my professors was exactly the kind of hippy-dippy person to eat it up and she made us read it too. I found the whole thing to be in poor taste and indicative of a person who was still not mature enough (then aged 45) to own up to any decisions she’d ever made. Other opinions are available but that’s the nice version of mine. The mean version is quite nasty and includes lots of foul words used to describe women of whom of I have a very low opinion.


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Portandia Loot

A friend of mine from college gives the best hugs I’ve ever gotten and is also one of the few people who can consistently give me gifts I like. This is the care package he sent from Portland, Oregon over the holidays (the furthest any love has ever travelled to get to me).

Portandia Loot
Contents

plain Cheerios
Hostess cupcakes
2 marbled composition notebooks

I am not at all ashamed to admit that not one of the eight cupcakes lasted longer than 24 hours in my presence. I felt so sick afterwards, but it was totally worth it and I’d do it again.


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Links / Enlaces / Liens

One Link...

One Link…

On this day, God said, “Let there be links!” and there was much rejoicing.

→ France’s continued problems assimilating immigrants into the culture is against the founding principle of the Republic; Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité. But, writes Justin Smith in a NYT Op-Ed piece, the French can justify everything:

“…when equality is invoked … it is understood that this is equality *among equals*.”

Other interesting thoughts on the perceptual differences between expats and immigrants in France follow. (Spoiler: one group is welcomed, the other reviled.) 

→ David Crystal is my new Richard Lederer! If either of those names mean anything to you, you are a word nerd and we can be friends. Leonard Lopate reran an interview with the former over the holidays. Crystal’s books The Story of English in 100 Words and Spell It Out are currently top-lining my ebook reader. Tl;dr — the French are to be blamed for everything wrong with the English language (see 1066). 

→ Stefan Stasse, the German co-host of my favorite ASOIAF podcast, posted the second in a series of occasional podcasts he’s doing with a history PhD candidate about different cultural perspectives vis à vis Important Historical Events. In this most recent episode they discuss what Europeans know about the American Civil War and how Americans understand WWII. Asking Germans about the war (even though you’re not supposed to mention it) is a hobby of mine, though you really have to get to know one before you broach the subject. They’re pretty touchy about it. 

→ Speaking of die Deutschen: “Not one frown in the place, which is exceptionally rare for such a large gathering of German people.” The blog Oh God, My Wife Is German is consistently amusing to me.

Two Links!

Two Links!

→ Boston neighborhoods corresponded to their Manhattan equivalents (based on median rent). Interesting to compare the two and see what the locals value most in each city. Freakishly (or maybe totally predictably), my dream neighborhoods in each city are counterparts.

→ Do you ever get totes emosh about something and think, “I can’t EVEN handle this because”? If you have no idea what any of that means, you need to read “A Defense of Internet Linguistics” cuz it’s amazeballz. 

→ Wikipedia “is like walking into a mental hospital: the floors are carpeted, the walls are nicely padded, but you know there’s a pretty good chance at any given moment one of the inmates will pick up a knife.” 

→ My brother, the only other person I know who also loves podcasts a lot, told me that 60 Minutes is available in an audio-only format. I got crazy excited about this since the show was, as the NYT once said, “one of the most esteemed newsmagazines on American television.” The writing is significantly less good than it used to be — any given story has copy filled with clichés or misuses of words like “literally” — but they still report some fun things. 


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The Postman Rang Twice (with the loot)

Because I am an experienced traveler and have developed a keen sense of when a suitcase is overweight, I took the precaution of sending myself some things from the US. As usual in such cases, I chose wisely as the package in question weighed 13.25 lbs. (6k) and my luggage allowance was 50 lbs. (23 k).

Here’s what the mailman came twice to deliver (really! He left a note the first time and the package the second):

2013 Loot from USA

→ Envelopes filled with the few actual photographs I still have. Many of them will be scanned and then shredded because I don’t believe in keeping lots of stuff.

→ The only love letter I probably won’t ever throw out. In keeping with my own twisted logic, it’s not from anyone I actually dated, nor does it contain any declaration of love but that’s why it’s my favorite.

→ A whole stack of my original Super López comics, including my favorite issue! You can tell they’re the real deal because they cost 395 pesetas! (That was just over 3 bucks back in the day.) These books have traveled more than many people.

→ An Italian phrasebook I bought in 2003 as my one defense against the rudest people on earth. It didn’t make them any nicer to me, but at least I knew I was being polite to their asshole faces.

→ On Writing Well, William Zinnser. I’m gonna master this whole expressing-with-words-on-pages thing.

→ The Big Screen, David Thomson. Books about movies are two of my favorite things in one! The only way to make them better was if they were edible.

→ Mythologies, Roland Barthes (2012 translation). I will most likely not understand anything, but I’ll try.

→ Complete Works, William Shakespeare. It is possible I have three different versions of this but I won’t know for sure until I finally unpack all my belongings and take stock.

→ My name tag from college when the locally owned video store I worked for got bought out by a chain. A friend of mine called me Brain and that’s his crappy writing on the tag.

One night, a young guy and his girlfriend came up to the counter and he looked at me, then my name tag, then to his companion and finally back at me and smirked, “Hi, ‘Brian.’ Do you have [some stupid movie I didn’t bother to register in my memory]?” To which I had to say, “Actually, it’s Brain,” and I very condescendingly ran my finger under each letter so that he could see how un-Brain he was. “And we currently have multiple copies of [whatever Hollywood crap fest] on the New Release wall. It’s that huge wall that runs the length of the store. With a neon sign. That says ‘New Releases.'” And then I smirked right back at him. God, that was the best job.