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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Bested by Science

09.03.02.02Man, the scientific method is the worst. By removing the factor Blog Writing from my life, I immediately saw changes. Day Two set and I’d read a whole novel. Week Two elapsed and I’d seen more movies than in the previous two months combined. Month One ended and the amount of time I’d spent socializing with people in the real world had exploded.

Using Science, I have concluded that the way my life is currently structured can not support daily blogging. Using my eyes, I have realized that my current sublet ends at the end of the month and that all my spare time needs to be focussed on finding a new, hopefully long-term, roof to put over my head. The only good news I can share is that my work contract got extended so I don’t also have to be looking for a job at the same time.

What this means for you, dear reader, is that I may be occasionally posting stuff, but not every weekday because I just can’t handle it. All month long, I was collecting ideas and storing away facts to share with you, so the content is in my brain, just not yet on a virtual page.

Please bear with the changes. It’s not my ideal scenario — which would involve not actually commuting anywhere and living in a cinema — but I do hope to get back to this soon as I really did get a lot of enjoyment out of interacting with you all.


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Today is my 9th birthday

On this day nine years ago, I emancipated myself from the US.

I don’t have science, so I can’t remember what it’s called, but one of Stephen Hawking’s theories about space-time is that every possible choice or action creates an alternate universe. I also don’t really have regrets, but I do sometimes think about who I’d be today if I’d made different choices when it came to the Big Decisions in my life — where I’d gone to college, where I’d moved to after college, what jobs I accepted.

Staying in the US isn’t an alternate life I dwell on as I was immensely unhappy when I was there and would have likely remained that way for a long time.

But I left so now I’m free! And I’m nine years old again! Nine was the end of my childhood for me, so I am happy to be back here, just on the cusp of becoming jaded and sarcastic. Yay for my birthday!

Next week

It’s Christmas in July! I don’t like Christmas (maybe I’ll tell you why) but when it’s removed from all its associated trappings (hellish music, screaming children, fake jollity, etc.) I don’t mind it so much. Plus, many learning opportunities ahead!


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Word Mystery: blackout / apagón / panne d’électricité

Wednesdays, I explore the linguistic origins of the same word in different languages.

Things I was forced to learn learned recently include:

1. French fuse boxes don’t look like any fuse box I’ve ever seen.

Curious.

Curious.

2. French fuses come in different wattages (or whatever), look like bullets and live in little Japanese-pod beds.

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3. Spent (or used or broken or whatever) French fuses literally blow their tops off, revealing a tiny red mark that indicates they’ve gone to illumination heaven (which I imagine is actually a really dark place where they can all rest for once).

French busted fuse.

4. Those things from IKEA that look like surge protectors are actually not protecting anything.

EN → blackout — a failure of electrical power supply. ORIGIN Darkness is black. It’s not hard to figure out, people.

ES → apagónInterrupción pasajera del suministro de energía eléctrica. [Temporary interruption of the power supply.] ORIGIN Noun of apagar [turn off], from Latin pacāre [calm, mitigate].

FR → panne d’électricité — Arrêt momentané et accidentel du fonctionnement d’électricité. [Momentary and accidental shutting down of electricity.] ORIGIN Variation on penne [pen] from Latin penna [wing].

General note: all three terms refer most commonly to large-scale power outages. What happened to me recently, I remembered after thinking long and hard, was that I “blew a fuse” but that wasn’t Word Mystery fodder so out it went!

So angry, Howard. Why don't you calm down?

You’re so angry, Howard. Why don’t you calm down?

Sad note: I actually lived through a big blackout in Barcelona in July 2007 that made international news. I filmed a video of the immediate aftermath (which I’d love to share with you but WordPress wants me to pay to upload video and I refuse) because Catalan people be crazy.

Imagine the oddest reaction to massive electrical failure that you could possibly think of having. Now let me tell you what the citizens of the whole affected area did en masse — hang out their windows, just like Howard Beale wants you to, and bang on pots with wooden spoons. Other people uploaded their videos to YT and you can check some out here and see that I am not lying.

English note: disappointed again.

Spanish note: A thing about me is that telling me to “calm down” makes me super angry. This is because it’s a common thing Spanish people do and they mean it in the most condescending way possible. Suggesting that someone else is in hysterics is a great way to make oneself look infinitely superior which is a national pastime. Spain loses just for that and may get put in the penalty box for being such a jerk.

French note: I understand how “wing” became “plume” but am a bit confused about its jump to meaning cut or rupture. Maybe ’cause a wing has an articulation in it? I don’t have science, so I can’t say if that’s even true.

Today’s winner is nobody since all of these stunk. Next week better improve or I’m going to get as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!


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The Rape of Europa, 2006

The notsohot reviews of George Clooney’s all-star THE MONUMENTS MEN prompted me to watch the documentary on the same subject. THE RAPE OF EUROPA is the story of art during WWII — how Hitler coveted it, how the Nazis stole it and how a group of American soldiers were tasked with trying to protect the cultural history of Europe. (The doc is based on a book of the same name which has an excellent website of its own.)

The documentary is really powerful, but the most shocking revelation to me in the whole Joan Allen-narrated thing was just a few seconds long. Hitler only came to Paris once, early in the morning after it fell in June 1940. One of the places he visited was the church de la Madeleine. They show footage of him jauntily running up the steps.

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I took this pic on the same steps.

I took this pic on the same steps.

I have sat on those exact same stairs on several occasions so that I could enjoy an American-style hamburger from France’s first food truck, Le camion qui fume, which frequently parks nearby. According to some theories of spacetime, this means that he and I exist simultaneously on those stairs. Me and Hitler, sharing space, under circumstances neither of us could have imagined.

Living in Europe is incredible. Colonial Williamsburg and Springfield, Illinois can say whatever they want, but History is Alive in Europe and it’s phenomenal.

Other interesting insights from THE RAPE OF EUROPA

→ My opinion that the Nazis are, were and will always be the worst people in the history of all things is unchanged. They make the greatest on-screen villains, but in reality, they were such unspeakably horrible people, committing such tremendously heinous acts, that it’s hard to believe they were human.

→ I hadn’t realized that the Jeu de Paume‎, a fairly innocuous museum tucked in at the end of the Tuileries Gardens and above the Concorde métro station, played an integral part in salvaging important artifacts. I will have to revisit it with this new appreciation for the space in mind.

→ When the Louvre needed able bodies to help crate and cart away the contents of the museum, they employed shop workers, old men and women since all the young men were fighting. The story about the moving of the Winged Victory is one of those human-spirit-triumphs-over-adversity that I don’t usually like but it was one of the times I was moved to tears.

→ Lots of Nazi art and some of Hitler’s original artwork is stored under a building in Washington, DC. (The works are deemed too controversial to exhibit which is probably true, but is still sad as I think it’d be interesting to see them.) I’d never actually seen any of the Führer’s paintings before and was surprised to see that they look exactly like streetscapes people sell in tourist areas. They appear to be accurate representations of things and have no artistic vision, flare or unique technique. The doc makes a pretty compelling subtle argument that much of Hitler’s motivation came from not getting into art school and that his systematic campaign to destroy and ridicule “degenerate art” was really his way of trying to teach people to value his uninspired style.

burt-lancasterFurther viewing

John Frankenheimer (THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE, RONIN) directed a fictional version of this story in 1964. THE TRAIN stars Burt Lancaster as a Parisian station master who helps the French Resistance spirit a train full of French art away from the Nazis. Unlike Steve McQueen, no one needs to tell me why Lancaster was appealing.

I can’t science but I can Google

→ A theory of compressed spacetime was recently highlighted on HBO’s TRUE DETECTIVE. I don’t really understand what Matthew McConaughey’s talking about, but you can see if it makes any sense to you here.

→ Apparently, it’s a form of M-theory which I also can’t make heads or tails of.


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Word Mystery: eat / comer / manger

Neon_sign_EatEvery Wednesday, I explore the linguistic origins of one word in different languages I speak.

I’ve done almost 70 Word Mysteries and have a list of nearly 130 waiting to be researched on my computer but this week’s entry doesn’t appear on it because I am an idiot. No other possibilities exist.

EN → eat — put food into the mouth and chew and swallow it. ORIGIN Dutch eten [food, eat] and German essen [eat].

ES → comerMasticar y desmenuzar el alimento en la boca y pasarlo al estómago. [Act of chewing and making smaller of food in the mouth and passing it to the stomach.] ORIGIN Latin comedĕre [consume, devour].

FR → mangerAbsorber un aliment, par opposition à boire. [Absorb food through means other than drinking.] ORIGIN Latin manducare [chew, masticate].

French note #1: the second definition for manger is the one you’d expect (it includes chewing) but the example provided is “to chew one’s nails,” which is not what I think about when eating. (Nail chewing is totally disgusting, on par with people who clip their nails in public. What makes anyone think that’s okay? That is *not* okay.)

French note #2: I took enough science classes to understand that food is actually absorbed by the body during the process of digestion, but I still feel like the French is suggesting that osmosis is a viable way to take in calories.

Today’s Winner: I’m going to go with English as that definition is the only one that didn’t make my stomach turn.

Just for funzies

"Dear God, what is that thing?" = nauseous

“Dear God, what is that thing?” = nauseous

Nauseous — causing nausea.

Nauseated — affected with nausea.

Both come from the Latin nauseosus [seasickness] but the difference in usage is one that’s important (to pedants like me, at least).

I am nauseous = I make people vomit.
I am nauseated = I am going to vomit.