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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What’s in a bodega?

An interesting international discussion cropped up around my shop Word Mystery post regarding what exactly a bodega is. For me, it falls into the category of words (I should come up with a name for them) that mean totally different things or are completely unconnected in my mind depending on what accent they’re pronounced in. Reading it in an English context, I immediately think of New York City corner stores. In a Spanish voice, I go to wine cellars or pantry-type rooms.

GIF by Nathan Pyle

GIF by Nathan Pyle

By a weird coincidence, The Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC did a segment about bodega cats that I heard right around the time this conversation was happening. It’s more cute than informative but if you’ve been to an NYC bodega, you’ve met one of these cats.

If you’re not familiar with the concept, these are cats who live in convenience stores. Many NYC bodegas have them (the one near where my sister lives likes to sit on my nephew’s head) and they are, in fact, illegal. During the course of the conversation, it’s revealed that the fines for having a cat in a food shop are essentially equivalent to the ones for having rodents so it’s a wash.

If you have a few moments, you should scroll through the listener-submitted photos of their favorite bodega cats — it’s such a funny and weird collection and I somehow love the hashtag #bodegacat more than anything else right now.

Other amusing things for the day

Today’s GIF was part of a promotional campaign that Nathan Pyle did for his book about how to be in NYC. He has also designed some of my favorite things online, like another Schrodinger’s cat joke and a clever ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT joke. If you need a laugh, you should look through his stuff. Bonus: so many PRINCESS BRIDE jokes.


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The greatest thing about Paris

Everybody loves Paris for different reasons. I’d guess most people like the art or the food or the fashion. Some might opt for the light or the architecture or the general ambiance of romance or loucheness. What I really love about the city is the movie theaters.

If you’ve ever lived in a Real City, you might have experienced something like this.* Every week, there are dozens of old movies playing all over the city. (To be fair, they are mostly playing near la Sorbonne in the 5è and 6è, an area filled with students and expats, but not exclusively.) You can check out the list of only English language movies and see what you’re missing out on, but if you love all kinds of movies, there are too many wonderful places to sit and worship at the celluloid altar, though the cathedral of cinéma is a good place to start.

Some of my favorite moments from the past year include:

→ Seeing FIGHT CLUB on the big screen again and hearing French people love the idea of space monkeys too.
→ Watching GOODFELLAS and hearing a young couple gasp and poke each other as actors they recognized from THE SOPRANOS came onscreen.
→ Hearing people titter during VERTIGO, highlighting both how old-fashioned and how sexually perverted it was.
The time I saw BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID and you could hear people smiling practically during the whole thing.

But the best moment for me (so far), a highlight of the last five years of my life really, was seeing GREMLINS on the big screen for the first time in my life at the end of December. If it’s been a while since you’ve seen it, you may need reminding that, along with DIE HARD and LETHAL WEAPON, GREMLINS is one of the great Christmas movies of all time.

Probably the only time I will ever take my phone out during a movie.

Probably the only time I will ever take my phone out during a movie.

He deserved what he got for being a bigot.

He deserved what he got for being a bigot.

It’s another one of those movies that I’ve seen a million times and I quote it all the time but seeing it projected bigger than I ever had made it so much funnier and scarier and more impressive. The effects, which were mostly practical / in-camera ones (not computer-generated) still looked great and were convincing as hell.

But the best part of this best moment was an older French guy who was guffawing at all the xenophobic comments Mr. Futterman (Dick Miller), the hero’s grumpy old neighbor, makes. I’ve always been a big fan of Mr. Futterman’s character but it was so great to hear the very people he was railing against laugh at him. It made me crazy happy to see that we, the foreigners Futterman hated so much, got to have the last laugh.

And that’s what Christmas is all about.

* The only Real Cities of my connaisance are New York and London. Not even Boston counts, as much as I love it, since the only good old movie houses were all by Harvard which is in Cambridge. I was a member of the Brattle Theatre (the cult of Humphrey Bogart was born there), so I still went over the Charles, but I didn’t like it.


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Links Day

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

→ The most miserable US states, according to a 2013 Gallup poll. I admit that I’m disappointed that the state I grew up in is not number 1. Makes me think they didn’t collect enough data ’cause that place is the worst.

Links!

Links!

→ What would the world be like if ads were replaced by art? Pretty great, I’d say after looking over Etienne Lavie’s “OMG who stole my ads ?” project.  [h/t]

→ Apparently, everyone else in the world is washing their hands wrong. If I were still as germphobic as I was when I lived in the US, this would seriously disgust me. As things stand now, I’m just disappointed in you.

→ People have always (weirdly) been drawn to me, and Mike White (actor / director / screenwriter / AMAZING RACE contestant) may know why. He says he wants people to see him and think,

“Oh, he seems like he’s having a good time. Maybe he has the secret to something that I haven’t figured out.” 

(I’m totally not telling you the secret.)

→ National flags made out of each country’s typical foods. Warning: this will make you hungry. 

→ Jenny Lawson, blogger extraordinaire and author, is someone you should be reading. She’s funnier and more foul-mouthed than I am though we feel the same way about the Important Things In Life, like The Princess Bride.

“I used to think that it was a small sin to waste time rereading silly books you’ve already read. . . but then I grew up and realized that those things were the only things that mattered. . . I’ve decided to give up on caring about wasting time and, in doing that, I’ve suddenly saved so much time I would have spent hating myself for reading The Princess Bride for the 89th time.”

Amen, sister. 

→ British actors with fantastic voices reading aloud. They make even the poetry palatable. 

desmoinespolice→ Buildings that used to be Pizza Huts were featured on the great 99% Invisible podcast. I ate so many free pepperoni personal pan pizzas in buildings just like the one pic’d at right as RIF / Book It! rewards. I wish I could still get free stuff just for doing things I like. 

→ I don’t have tattoos because I think they’re a bad idea. My friends who have them all regret the decision to varying degrees, the most mild being, “I don’t really mind this one too much.” A column in the NYT Magazine nailed my issue with scarring yourself with colors:

“Getting a tattoo is a way for your past self to exert power over your present self.” 

Your past self is always an idiot compared to your now-self. Knowing this when you’re younger helps prevent mistakes in the future. This is the reason I’m not on Facebook.

Next Week

In honor of the Academy Awards (which are this Sunday), I’ll be doing all movie-related posts next week. I can’t keep track of basic holidays (or even my birthday) but I mark the Oscars and the BAFTAs in my calendar because those are important (to me). Priorities, people. We’ve all got them.


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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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William Goldman knows what’s what

Until recently, THE PRINCESS BRIDE was my favorite movie. It’s still one of my favorite stories and a favorite soundtrack. I saw the movie twice in the theater in 1987 and have read the book at least half a dozen times. Since its release on home video, I’ve seen it (or been in a room where it was playing) significantly over 100 times. Give me a line of dialogue from the film and I can quote the rest of the movie from that point on with a high degree of accuracy.

And yet, William Goldman somehow managed to elicit a new chuckle from me. I was reading through my new 40th anniversary illustrated edition and the scene just before the epic sword fight atop the Cliffs of Insanity jumped out at me.

The Princess Bride SpaniardsIf you don’t see why this is funny, you haven’t been paying attention.

Apropos of nothing

I had a friend growing up (who’d never left the state) who’s go-to phrase when he didn’t know the answer to a question was, “Lo siento pero no tengo papel” [I’m sorry but I don’t have paper]. I always thought that was really funny.