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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Housekeeping

Updates on stuff I’ve written and your comments.

Paul Klee's The Angler is there. I <3 Klee.

Paul Klee’s The Angler is there. I <3 Klee.

→ Don’t know if anyone actually reads these things, but I’ve updated my About page and added a Features page that collects all the recurring stuff. I’d appreciate any input on if this was a good use of my time or if people prefer to navigate with tags.

A recreation of the famous “degenerate art” show held in Munich in 1937 is at NYC’s Neue Galerie through the end of June 2014. An interview with the curator on WNYC gives lots of historical perspective and is worth a listen. A review of the show, with more context is here. Finally, the NYT on the making of the exhibit.

→ Speaking of Nazis and their art-thieving, VANITY FAIR reports on that trove of art stolen by a Nazi found in a Munich apartment.

→ A BBC reporter and film crew got a tour of the art. Can you imagine having this stuff in your house?! We had art in my house growing up, but this stuff is ART. Like, super serious good stuff by actual masters. A. R. T.

Pollution→ The Paris smog situation was really dire. On the days that it was worst, I got home and felt like I’d smoked a pack of cigarettes without any of the actual fun of smoking a pack of cigarettes. Since the pollution was higher than in Singapore, I guess I wasn’t exaggerating (see left). An explanation via Gizmodo says that, in addition to the weird weather patterns we were having, France’s love of diesel engines is at the root of the problem. (Lots of interesting links in the story.)

→ The NYT hasn’t gotten my memo about Catalan cooking; their story about fideuà is mostly correct… except that they spell the name of the dish wrong. It’s made with fideus [noodles], not called that. This would be like calling paella “rice” or a cheeseburger “meat patty.” Angry sigh.

→ My sister suggested that maybe the translation of the Latin mulĭer to “mistress” is less sexist than I thought. My dictionary has the primary definition as “a woman in a position of authority or control,” so maybe it’s my mind that’s corrupt and not the Spanish language. (Regardless, Spanish wouldn’t have won that day.) (Also, Spaniards are totally sexist, so I doubt that she’s right but concede that it’s possible.)

Look at the # of retweets/faves!

Look at the # of retweets/faves!

→ I love how the “fact” at right is presented, as if there’s ONLY ONE place in ALL OF FRANCE that does this. I’m sure variations on this happen all over. For instance, I know that MOST places in the tourist-frequented areas of Barcelona charge foreigners more on principle, so I’m not sure why UberFacts thinks the French would be so different. I mean, the French are better than Spaniards, but not by that much.

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Housekeeping

Updates on stuff I’ve written and your comments.

Simply the best (game).

→ I stopped playing Candy Crush. I got to level 169 without paying for any upgrades and, after a couple days stuck there, I decided I was out. Additional proof that I’ll never be a bona fide nerd: I don’t really get into video games. (N64 GoldenEye and Tetris excepted.)

→ Benedict Cumberbatch offers the famous person’s version of “Leave Me Alone” face:

“If you pick a point far behind [people on the sidewalk] they perceive you as not seeing them, and you’re the obstacle they have to get around. The greatest disguise is learning how to be invisible in plain sight.”

→ This year when I finally found a copy of the Oscars online to watch, I already knew all the good and bad moments, significantly lessening my enjoyment. Maybe next year I’ll try to play The Knowledge and just wait till I can see the whole thing for myself.

An episode of RADIOLAB made me “Rabies!” at my iPod since they mentioned that “right” also means “correct.” Another way that “left” is demonized.

→ Google Translate continues to be the worst and to do more harm than good. To wit, when it’s used to translate menus.

→ Complaining about lack of editing on the Internet is a bit like being angry at the sun for emiting light. That I’m not the only person to poke fun at those who don’t right the write word makes me feel better.

I will always love you.

→ An interesting take on why some of my favorite retailers went out of business from THE NEW YORKER. It wasn’t my fault and is instead due to Americans wanting to buy high-end goods in a luxury environment and low-end goods in a warehouse. Huh.

→ On a related note, I realized why I liked those stores so much: there were no salespeople. I hate being asked if I need help, if I’m finding what I want, if I’d like to see another size. This is another way in which I’m well suited to life in France.

→ More ways to clear out your life. I especially agree about the microwave. “Science ovens” aren’t worth the counter space they take up and make your food taste worse.

→ Elizabeth recommended I read the comments on that NYT article about tortilla and I did. Many were very angry, which amused me, but I’d like to think that part of the ire came from a translation misunderstanding. Spanish doesn’t allow for the distinction between must / should / have to. In English we know that these are degrees on the same spectrum, but Spaniards have a hard time with them, thus, when they give instructions in English, they often sound like commands. More on modal verb forms here.

Topics -> Hot Topic -> Hot Probs -> poor little Heather (McNamara).

→ But the person who was railing against “TOPICS!!” regarding Spanish people and their cooking was digging their own grave. They meant “clichés” which are “tópicos” in Spanish. Sigh.


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Housekeeping

Updates on stuff I’ve written and your comments.

Citymapper Paris→ The CityMapper app I raved about has added Paris! Everything’s coming up Milhouse in 2014! You can get it here!

→ Even though I am of the female persuasion, my feelings about stuff like Title IX and gender diversity on company boards are at odds. When dealing with historical figures and their cultural importance, I have even more uncomfortable feelings because I do think it’s important to recognize the roles that people played in making the world what it is today… but I don’t like the idea of digging people up and burying them somewhere else just to make a political point. This is something that’s being suggested at the Panthéon here in Paris, which I wrote about a while back, specifically citing that I liked the male-centric wording of the engraving over the entrance. (To be totally clear, partly what I liked about the sentiment is its Lady-doth-protest-too-much exceptionalism about French men.)

→ Speaking of exceptionalism, I wrote about the American kind ages ago and “The Atlantic” reports that its era is over. What’s the opposite of chanting “U-S-A! U-S-A!”? “Boo-hoo for us”?

→ An alternate take on purging is to buy better quality things. I used to do this regularly, but since I’ve been living out of suitcases for over eight years, I realized that buying excellent new versions of stuff I already owned was foolish. Hence, lots of repeat crap. Kelly’s point about French women is true though — all the closets I’ve seen personally have very little clothes in them but those things tend to be très nice and more expensive.

→ Some dude picked a fight with me over on Suzanne and Pierre’s blog about, get this, SPAIN. At least he shut up once he realized that, in addition to not getting involved in a land war in Asia or going against a Sicilian when death is on the line, challenging me when I talk shit about Spaniards is a classic blunder which is best avoided.

→ I am not crazy. This is a thing which bears repeating, if only in a low voice to myself. My love of The Great Brain book series is apparently a *totally normal* thing. It’s so within the realm of not extraordinary things that Brian Koppelman is comfortable making an off-hand reference to one of the characters in the books and Seth Myers just goes with it, apparently knowing that being compared to the Brain’s little brother is an epic insult.

Labyrinth_Worm→ I got into a LABYRINTH appreciation party over on “Bread is Pain” and then a stupid BuzzFeed quiz* proved that I am, in fact, the Worm.  I *am* generally good about giving directions (except when I’m not).

*Is this redundant? Is there any kind of BuzzFeed quiz that *isn’t* stupid?


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Housekeeping

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→ There’s a whole cool-sounding book about fun punctuation marks, like the @, called Shady Characters: The Secret Life of Punctuation, Symbols, & Other Typographical Marks by Keith Houston. I will have to √ it out.

→ Almost as good as being able to sleep while doing other stuff: getting paid by science for sleeping. Science!

→ There is a Dairy Queen in New York! There is a Dairy Queen in New York! At this rate, I’ll never have to go back to the Midwest ever again.

→ Reading about the behind-the-scenes drama and near disasters surrounding the unveiling of the original iPhone reminded me of Francis Ford Coppola’s TUCKER: A MAN AND HIS DREAMS. It also helped me possibly identify the root of my many problems with the device. According to one of the engineers on the project,

“The story was that Steve wanted a device that he could use to read e-mail while on the toilet — that was the extent of the product spec.”

→ No good, except this SNL commercial for the “Bathroom Businessman“, ever came from an idea that capitalized on being able to multitask while defecating.

→ My sister sent along this story, rightly suggesting that I probably want to learn German because of all their awesome word-building. When I first learned Schadenfreude (deriving pleasure at the misfortune of others) I thought, “That’s a culture that understands me.” Now there’s a book coming out with some great (satirical) examples of German ingenuity which I may have to acquire because it looks like exactly the kind of thing which will amuse me forever.

→ Living in Barcelona as I did for five years, I’ve been to the Sagrada Família more than a few times. For over a year, I went by it at least ten times a week as it was on my way to work. I’ve foolishly climbed all the steps in it and taken lots of pictures of the inspired-by-the-natural-world details. But I’ll probably never see it completed because life’s too short and it’ll never get finished. Thankfully, there’s now a video of what it’ll probably (maybe? eventually?) look like, so I can pretend.


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Housekeeping

Updates on stuff I’ve written and your comments.

→ In case you missed it, expatlingo asked me to expand a recent Word Mystery and I did. More about ways to bandage wounds here.

→ I frequently joke that the US started to go to shit after I left, but I do suspect that the lack of my patronage directly led to the end of Linens ‘n Things and Filene’s Basement since they were both stores that I went to monthly and rarely left empty-handed. Now, there’s a new building going up where the original Filene’s used to be in Boston’s Downtown Crossing and I wonder if the guy who ran a cart called Boston Red Dogs (the only grilled hot dog cart in the area) went out of business too.

→ I haven’t read any Junot Díaz yet (Pulitzer winner for The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao), but his place on my list moved up several notches when I saw this:

Junot Diaz quote

→ For the record: this motherfucker will not read a book that’s in Elvish because that shit is BORING. Also: We’re totally taking over.

→ Mavis Gallant is apparently going to be an annual thing. The destitute divorced Canadian writer who lived in Franco’s Spain and who I first heard about last summer is worth another look. Someone quoted in an Atlantic story about her work said,

“The first story I read is called ‘The Ice Wagon Going Down the Street.’ It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that it changed my reading life forever.”

Even though I don’t generally like short fiction, I’ve picked up a couple of her books. The mentioned piece appears in a collection called Paris Stories, so I’ll clearly be starting there.

→ Coming across “jejune” recently, something struck me about the word and I dug a little deeper. Turns out that the modern meaning of “naive, simplistic, and superficial,” comes from the Latin jejunus [fasting] and that “without food” became “not intellectually nourishing.” There’s my old rabid friend! You won’t get by me so easily anymore! I’m onto your tricks.

→ Presented without comment: this Buzzfeed list of things that you love about America after you’re not living there. I will say #1, #5, #13 and #34.

→ While I was offline, so many fun things happened on the Internet, including this gem which will have me laughing forever:

the ham is melting, the turkey is suspended in midair, the salami is hatching from its own egg. why did we even come to the salvador deli.

→ After lots of soul searching, I have definitively decided that my favorite activity is sleeping because I can do all my favorite things while dreaming, like watch movies, eat yummy things and go on adventures. Imagine my astonishment at learning that sleeping could be even better! If I were, say, a sea lion, I could sleep with only half my brain while the other half was awake. This ability is called unihemispheric slow-wave sleep and I would do almost anything to have it. I could sleep while actually being productive which is what I will dream about tonight because that would be AMAZING.

→ Possible evidence that everything in the US really did go to shit after I left: nowhere I’ve ever lived ranked on this beer consumption index. Had I been around, I would have certainly impacted the results. New Hampshire may come as a surprise to people who don’t know that it was illegal in Massachusetts to sell alcohol on Sundays (boo, Puritans!). When I lived in a house full of men, someone always made the drive up to get provisions, so, in a way, I’m pretty sure that I *can* claim that first place ranking. [Ed. This blue law was changed in 2004 (yay, libertines!) so I’m back to being confused.]