Le cul entre les deux chaises

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


More adventures in Parisian real estate

Do you think you’re efficient? Are you able to keep an eye on your breakfast while taking a shower? I didn’t think so, but now you can! For only 699€ a month, you can do everything in one space instead of wasting all that time walking across rooms. Toilet sold separately. (Really. It’s in the hallway.)

Appart Adventures kitchen shower 699€

Do you ever take a bath and wonder, “Man, I really wish I could look at the lower half of my body while I’m wet and naked”? Well, now you can! This bathroom comes equipped with the latest in vanity technology — a mirror at crotch level!

Appart mirror

Ladies and gentlemen, look at this kitchen! It’s a chef’s dream! The completely renovated space has all-new appliances including a dish washer, oven with electric cooktop and a full-size fridge! There’s ample storage for all your gadgets and culinary tools. It’s a perfect space! Except the living area is the size of a full mattress and a twin mattress squeezed together. (That is to say, there is no space for actual living.)

Appart Parfait 2

This one may be a personal choice as I don’t like humanoid anythings — dolls, puppets, mannequins, clowns, etc. — possibly due to mean tricks my asshole siblings pulled on me when I was little … but this poorly translated ad totally bothered me for days since I couldn’t stop imaging the horror of what it depicts: a puppet greeting you at the door every day. It’s like some sick Stephen King business.

Pantin is a town outside Paris…and a kind of articulated shadow puppet thingy.

Pantin is a town outside Paris…and a kind of articulated shadow puppet thingy.

Finally, two places that actually have many things going for them. In the first, sadly, one of those features was not an elevator (it’s a sixth floor).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In the last, the problems are that I can’t afford it and I also hate spiral staircases, but man, those windows are something.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.



Cold calculations at the cinema

Scanning the list of movies playing in town, I regularly try to guess what their original titles were and am usually right. Confronted with something called COLD SISTERS, I figured it was some little-known B-noir probably starring two women fighting over a man and read on down the list. It wasn’t till I was cross-checking with an actual list of English-language movies that I saw that Alfred Hitchcock’s VERTIGO was playing and had to double back to see how I’d missed it in the French listing.

It turns out that my brain, in its infinite wisdom, had read SUEURS FROIDES [Cold Sweats] as SOEURS FROIDES [Cold Sisters]. It was an easy mistake to make.


Thinking of Madeleine and Judy as “sisters” puts a whole different spin on the story.

Consider something

Translation, something I do on some level every waking hour of my life, is an art not a science. I am frequently frustrated with people whose approach is word-for-word or who don’t appreciate nuance, intention and meaning. As a professional endeavor, it’s not easy work (though it can get easier) but it requires a lot more effort than most people would think.

Douglas Hofstadter, a guy who’s way smarter than me (he’s a cognitive scientist at Indiana University and a Pulitzer Prize-winning author), agrees. In a story over at ESQUIRE about what real AI will be like and how many fake AIs are out there, he cites GoogleTranslate (a modern Towel of Babel) for not performing as advertised.

“Real translating involves understanding what is being said and then reproducing the ideas that you just heard in a different language. Translation has to do with ideas, it doesn’t have to do with words, and Google Translate is about words triggering other words.”

Granted, Google wouldn’t have made the same Hitchcock mistake I did, but it would never have been able to puzzle out that 7H58 CE SAMEDI-LÀ [7:58 This Saturday Morning] is BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU’RE DEAD which I guessed immediately because I am a human whose brain, while frequently frustrating, is better than a computer swapping words for other words.