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.

→ I’m not the only person who likes vegetables that grow in unexpected ways. It turns out that carrots hugging is a thing people document.

→ Mark Bittman also like artichokes. He makes a good case for them being easy to prepare, despite how unfriendly they look.

→ FYI: European festivals are designed to confuse foreigners. Octoberfest? Happens in September. La feria de abril? It’s in May. Mark your calendars accordingly (which is to say one month early or one month late).

→ Reading about the root of the word owl reminded me that in Spanish, “hoot” is ulular (FR : hululer). This is a crazy-fun word to say. Eew-luu-lahr. Makes me want to yodel from the mountaintops.

→ I’m not the only one who prefers Samsung products to Apple’s iPhone. Sales of phones at the Korean company are through the roof. Somewhere, the ghost of Steve Jobs laments that he can’t haunt his successors Jacob Marley-style. I’m sure he’s pissed.

→ Gatsby-love abounds, at least in all the parts of the Internet I frequent. I wouldn’t mind except that it seems everyone has a T. J. Eckleburg’s eyes thing. I thought he could only see into *my* soul!

→ What would it have been like if someone else wrote The Great Gatsby? According to The New Yorker, if Theodore Dreiser had taken a stab at it, the novel would have focused on the years when James Gatz became Jay Gatsby. I would have read the hell out of that.

→ I had to search through my inbox to find my Zappos password recently and was surprised that I signed up back when I had an Earthlink account. God, remember when you had to pay for email? Turns out that Microsoft sure does as they killed their Hotmail service recently. Fun fact: I had dial-up Internet access when I left the US. My reasoning at the time was that I sat at a computer nine hours of the day, why the hell would I at home?

→ Falling down an Eddie Izzard YouTube worm hole, I came across another gem (truly, the man is almost as pithy as Stephen Fry) where he talks about multilingualism:

I think the whole world should be a big melting pot, like Manhattan, a massive Manhattan. This is my simple idea for the future of the world.

Yeah, what he says! This is where I mention that my nephew, who lives in Brooklyn and goes to a bilingual school, pronounces the best borough as mahn-há-tán, with a weird accent. It’s very funny but not très sophisticated.

→ Finally, there’s always money in the banana stand dance:

Banana challenge

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Watched from on high by TJE’s eyes

T. J. Eckleburg’s eyes follow me. If that name doesn’t immediately bring an image to mind, it’s on a billboard in The Great Gatsby. Here’s how F. Scott describes them

“The eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg are blue and gigantic—their retinas are one yard high. They look out of no face but, instead, from a pair of enormous yellow spectacles which pass over a nonexistent nose. Evidently some wild wag of an oculist set them there to fatten his practice in the borough of Queens.”

I first read Gatsby in a high school English class and as part of our final project, I convinced my friends to make a short film version of it. While we were shooting our movie, we found a huge, old, hand-painted sign of a pair of eyes wearing eyeglasses in a friend’s house. His grandparents had run an optometrist’s shop and the family had thrown the sign into a corner of their storage room.

We edited our movie in my basement over a weekend, daisy-chaining three VCRs together and when we needed to make a tough transition or imbue a preceding scene with capital-I Importance, we’d cut to our Eckleburg eyes. Our movie was glorious.

Over the years, I’ve thought about Eckleburg a lot — both in terms of what his faceless eyes represented in the novel (as well as in Life) and also as just a giant pair of eyes because it turns out that they’re everywhere.

One of my earliest neighborhoods in Barcelona was around Plaça Tetuan and as I was crossing a tricky intersection one day, I thought of Eckleburg and looked up, up, up to the top of the highest building at the crossing and there he was.

Avinguda Diagonal amb Passeig de Sant Joan

Avinguda Diagonal amb Passeig de Sant Joan

(The logical explanation was that I’d subconsciously seen the sign before, possibly while day-dreaming on the bus, but it’s much more fun to think of T. J. always being just out of sight.)

Learn something

Keepin' it real since 1925. Art by Francis Cugat.

Keepin’ it real since 1925. Art by Francis Cugat.

The original cover of the novel is iconic, famous and controversial. No less an ass icon than Ernest Hemingway thought it was crass. Pot : kettle : Hemingway.

There’s always been backlash against movie tie-in versions of books, but the new Gatsby cover has elicited a write-up in the paper of record. Personally, I’m against putting a poster on a book because the posters are almost always tacky and aren’t as thoughtfully designed as the book art.

The trailer for the newest filmed adaptation of Gatsby features a shot of Baz Luhrmann’s take on T. J. Eckleburg’s eyes (@1:01). Will his be as good as the one me and my buddies spent over a month putting together? Doubtful.

Ma version du Gran Gatsby en français decided to change the cover (bad form!) but at least they kept with the spirit of the story. The dedication is the best, though, as it reads “À mon old sport.” In Franglish. Genius.


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Salad Days

I don’t always chomp down on my Babybel cheese; sometimes I put it in salads. This one has mâche lettuce, Pink Lady apples, raisins, fresh ground pepper and balsamic cream. If you’ve never had it, the latter is about 1000 times more tasty than you can imagine.


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The first time I came across the term “salad days” was probably while watching Monty Python.

(This same sketch may have been my introduction to Peckinpah too, come to think of it.) The phrase refers to a happy, simpler time, usually related to youth and inexperience. “Halcyon” means basically the same thing, though I think it’s a cooler-looking word — something to do with the Greek-influenced juxtaposition of the letters. Both terms make me think of The Great Gatsby, though a quick word search through the book reveals that neither appears in the text.