Le cul entre les deux chaises

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



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.



Inside a Spaniard’s mind

Warning: generally speaking, you don’t want to be aware of the inner workings of a Spanish person’s mind because that shit will corrupt you and make you into a bad person. (I’ve mentioned before that they’re assholes, but as a populace, they’re also criminal.)

And yet, it can be instructive, illuminating and interesting to glimpse what the hell is going on in there. One of the most intriguing things I’ve read in a long time is this story about the leaked phonetically written speech given by the mayor of Madrid. I read the transliteration first, keeping in mind the Spanish rules of pronunciation and accessing my memories of how they e-speak the Inglish, and it took me right back to a place I never wanted to be again. But it was still fascinating.

how do you esay?

On a related note, my own mother is always complaining about how poorly [enter name of prominent Spanish person, especially a politician] speaks English and I always have to ask her what damn country she’s been living in for most of her life as Spaniards are habitually among the WORST English speakers in all of Europe.

Another terrifying look into the Spanish mind comes courtesy of a court ruling which was apparently inspired by that one episode of HAPPY DAYS where Potsie and Mouth are living together and get in a fight. Their solution, prompted by advice from Richie, is to draw a line down the apartment so that they don’t have to deal with each other anymore. Well, a judge in Sevilla has ordered a couple to do basically the same thing since they claim they’re too broke to actually file for divorce. (The weirdest thing about this story is that it happened in Sevilla, was reported from Paris and quotes a Catalan lawyer. Something very fishy going on there, but I can’t figure out what.)

Just ’cause three is a magic number, here’s a little Vanity Fair profile about my king’s penchant for women who are not his wife and how his whole family is scandal-bait these days.

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Spanish: the basics

Spanish is one of the easiest languages to pronounce. The basic rules are incredibly simple, but people still manage to totally mangle it. These offenders fall into two pretentious camps.

The first, I call The Dan Rather Effect. This is where you pronounce a foreign word as if you were from that country, but you actually speak English. Dan Rather used to do this so much that I suspect his favorite thing was to say Nicaragua. Another example of this would be if I were to say, “My parents are from España.” I would never do this because I don’t like intentionally sounding like an asshole.

The second group is comprised of the d-bags who think they’re really smart but prove otherwise by doing shit like call Luis Buñuel “Louie” because they clearly don’t know that Spanish and French are different languages and that Luis [Loo-ees] is not the same as Louis [Loo-ee]. I hate these people the most since the first group is merely exaggerating actual language competence whereas the latter are just totally misinformed ignorant assclowns.


1. Every letter must be pronounced. Exception: the letter “h” is always silent. FUN FACT: The letter “w” doesn’t exist in Spanish. All “w” words come from Anglo-Saxon like “whiskey.”

2. If a word has an accent that’s to indicate — a. that the accented syllable receives the stress EXAMPLE: Almodóvar could be pronounced ALmodovar, alMOdovar, almoDOvar or almodoVAR. The presence of the accent tells us that almoDOvar is correct ***OR*** b. that it is a homophone (pronounced the same but with different grammatical function) which is not important here

3. The stress in most Spanish words (accented ones excepted) fall on the second-to-last or last syllable. Try a word out both ways if you aren’t sure.

And those are the essentials. Of course, there are way more rules (and tons and tons of exceptions), but for the most basic things like pronouncing a Hispanic person’s name right, this is enough to make you sound like you made an effort, but aren’t some kind of jackass.

I’m including a blurb I pulled from Spanish “Vanity Fair” about Terence Malick since it has lots of good words with which to practice. No more excuses!

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Author’s Note

entre deux chaisesI used to be a storyteller but I’m out of practice. I used to make up stories or tell true ones or adapt others to my life, but I did consistently tell them. I even went to college to learn how to write good ones. In my first professional job, what we did every day was called “stories” though people used “pieces” interchangeably. Now, without a due date or a deadline, I find that I’m just not compelled to do so and this makes me kinda sad.

Many people have told me that I should still write, so here I am. I’m going to follow some good advice and try to come up with something every day, though realistically, I’m going to bank a bunch of little things and then only post once a day.

The name of this blog comes from my French friend Anne who was intrigued by my unusual life story. I grew up in two different cultures, in two languages and, in a real sense, in two different eras and yet am simultaneously 100% from both places. Anne says that this makes me le cul entre les deux chaises [the ass between two chairs] since I straddle two worlds at once. Leave it to the French, who, after all, came up with the idea of le mot juste and knew just what to call it, to know how to peg me.