Study Break: Monet and his Waterlilies

I would like to be clever and witty tonight, but unfortunately I'm studying for my Art History final and there's nothing witty about memorizing the names of and dates of the paintings of Courbet, Millet, Monet and Caillebotte. Just typing those four names tired me out. You can tell how well studying is going.

Instead, I think I'll post some pix from the Musee de l'Orangerie, found in the Tuilerie Gardens, which I visited at the beginning of the month. It's an entire museum dedicated to Monet's Waterlilies, though they do have some other works from his contemporaries. If you're a Parisien (or just living like one this year), I highly recommend checking it out.


FAT Milk

I have previously written about the Proustian experience of drinking Starbucks chai here in Paris. Naively, I've always believed that the reason it was so damn good was because it was a reminder of home, a comfort food, a little expensive piece of heaven captured in a cardboard container.

When I've ordered chai in the U.S., the person behind the counter always asks what kind of milk and I would typically choose skim milk (a girl has to watch her figure, non?). The absence of this question in Starbucks across Paris didn't even dawn on me until today, when the woman ahead of me asked what type of milk was normally used to make the drinks because she wanted to order skim. Needless to say, I basically fell through the floor when the Starbucks server responded "oh, we always use whole milk unless you ask".

I have never in my life drank whole milk. Which means that the heaven that I've been tasting for the past three months? Yeah, it's kind of just pure FAT. And yet, am I considering changing my order? Not on your life. Because pure FAT has proven that it's worth going up and down the 5 flights one more time per day.


Fun Fact 002: Paris Telephones from the 70's

Today's FF comes from one of my lit classes, where we are reading Marguerite Duras' "Le Navire Night." Reading Duras is a little like trying to watch an artsy short film festival while drunk. Really drunk. You can sense there's something amazing going on, but you can't even remember the main character's name (which, chez Duras, is usually just a letter. Like "F.")

In any event, two characters somehow meet each other over the telephone in this text and it wasn't very clear how until our prof explained it to us today. Apparently in the 1970's in Paris, there were "holes" in the phone company, which is to say that every number was attributed to a person or family, but three or four phone numbers were mathematically left out of the list. Which means that three or four phone numbers in all of existence were not attributed to anyone and therefore if you called one of these numbers, you found yourself connected for FREE to anyone else who had called that number as well. So of course, this gives way to lots of chance meetings and phone sex and people who say they're women when they're really men, etc. The two characters in "Le Navire Night" met on this phone-line situation and the BEST part of the class was when the prof admitted that he knew all three numbers when he was younger. And he knows all of this back-story because MARGUERITE DURAS was his freaking THESIS DIRECTOR!

What we can learn from this is that:
1. My prof was probably having a lot of phone sex in the 1970's.
2. My prof was possibly having phone sex with Marguerite Duras in the 1970's.
3. My prof is the shit.


Couldn't pass this one up...

Thanksgiving challenge: try looking presidential when the guy next to you has a turkey the size of a velocirapter in his arms... or at least a little like you didn't just smoke five joints.

Turkey: the bird, NOT the country

Joyeous Thanksgiving to you all! Here in the land of Napoleon and Brie, we do not have the day off, but this has not deterred me from spending the morning in my pjs on the couch catching up on all the INTERNET that I've missed in the past two weeks. What am I thankful for? NEUF TELECOM, that's what!

Middlebury organized a Thanksgiving dinner for us last night at a French restaurant. The food wasn't bad, but it was funny how fashionable it seemed to be. The turkey slices were elaborately dressed with some type of stuffing, the green beans had special spices, and the apple tart rested on a bed of English cream. It was, therefore, specifically French: just like an American, but thirty times as classy.

The fashionable food did not prevent us from having a great time and after a couple of weeks of homesickness, it felt good to be among family:

I must also make mention of a RIDICULOUS new Yahoo! mail invention. I received an email earlier this week in which the sender asked about how my sister was doing in Togo. The word "Togo" was underlined in blue and a small bubble popped up when I rolled my mouse over it. "Click here for map of TOGO" it said. I rolled my eyes and chalked this little technology gem up to the fact that the sender is somewhat of a computer magician. HOWEVER, Yahoo! mail has been invading every email that someone sends me, creating map links anytime someone mentions a city or a country. Yes, that's right- even the country of TURKEY. In the week before Thanksgiving, how many emails do you think I got with the word "turkey" in them? So Yahoo! mail, I beg you: before you go around changing people's emails and adding surprises to the words, take another 30 seconds and make sure you've figured out the glitches...

And now, in the good Thanksgiving tradition with a French twist, I am going to eat a hot dog for lunch and then go shopping for new boots. Rock out with your own turkey dinners...


Dancing bear grabbing apples? Not my day job...

Yesterday a student of mine looked me in the eye and told me that he doesn't think he's making progress with my class. At first I was really hurt and allowed the criticism to get me down for a few hours (you know how it goes: Man, I must be a bad teacher. Why do I think I should be in a classroom anyway? I shouldn't even be around HUMANS. I should just lock myself in a cubicle and NEVER SEE ANOTHER SOUL AGAIN.)

I have a tendency towards the dramatic.

Long story short, I got over it. But I must admit that emails like the following help to remind me that I'm not the only one living a life straight out of an Ionesco play:

One of our web design clients wanted a dancing bear as part of their logo so I created (one). The client wasn’t satisfied. Oh no, dancing bear isn’t good enough. I quote, “I am not sure I am crazy about this and wanted to think about it. I can see that you are struggling with the Logo... I might tuck the tree into the corner, and have the bear going across the page or trying to grab some apples or something like that.” WTF?!?! It’s not enough to make the bear move, now he has to go grab apples? LEAVE THE POOR BEAR IN PEACE !!!

I would just like to take the opportunity to mention that I am glad I do not have to worry about making graphics of dancing bears grab apples for clients. Thank you, Erica, for making me realize that graphic designing is one of the career options I will not choose anytime soon. (I can hear all of you breathing a huge sigh of relief, seeing as how this blog is the limit of my zero designing skills. Once I did figure out how to change the color of the text, but I couldn't decide on a good one and so the blog stayed as it was.)

Note: This is not the dancing bear that Erica is responsible for. Unfortunately, googling "dancing bear grabbing apples" comes up with no images (shocker!). Thus, we are left with this dancing bear, the Spanish chick and a sketchy guy in a blue suit lurking in the background. We make do.


The Call of the Wild: Life as a Double Major

It has been a particularly rough week for me here in Paris. Not only have I been sick and overtired, but a large cloud of homesicknesses has descended upon me and I feel farther away than usual. This is no doubt partially because I still have no phone and no internet, but I think it also has something to do with some big choices that have been rumbling in the distance and are now coming to a roar.

As 2006 comes to a close, I have been thinking a lot about where I will be this time next year and what I will be doing. When I couldn't decide which major to pick at 20 years old, it was good enough to say "why not both!?!" and off I went into an English/French lifestyle. Choosing the Master's program at Middlebury seemed to finally kill off the English and business side of me. I thought I'd chosen my path, that French was my thing and the only thing that mattered was to find a way to stay in this country.

Lately the desire to write, to market, to communicate has come raging back and not without response. For every job description Mike Bruckner sends me for work in the U.S., Balzac calls out from within. The mental war is taking its toll and I change directions almost daily. I openly envy those of you who are accountants, who are doctors, who have chosen directions that are not only direct but also please people like parents and in-laws and outsiders because they're easy to say.

I don't have much wisdom on the subject, so I won't try to bring things to a close on this post. Feel free to leave some pearls in the comments section, especially if you've already planned your life and have the key to doing it.


What with the upcoming wedding and all...

Last night I dreamt that I was invited to Tom and Katie's place for dinner, which was held outside with a brood of international children (see: preminition of Brangelina's future family). Everything was going alright, I felt a little skeeved out by Tom's overbearing laugh, but the terror came when I decided to leave the next morning.

The gates of their mansion opened and I stepped out onto the road, ready to find my car and leave. As I thought about my departure, golden shackles started growing on my wrists and I realized that I was a prisioner of Castle TomKat; I could not leave. I looked behind me and saw Tom playing soccer with dozens of his kids, laughing his scary-smiley laugh. The golden chains solidified like some kind of Harry Potter shit and I knew it was going to be me and Suri forever.


French boots

Kim: Did you buy your boots in France?
Me: Nope, Michael Kors, I bought them in NY.
Kim: Because I want to buy boots here, but apparently my calves are too big for women's boots in France.
Me: Join the club.


Friday, black Friday

And then there was darkness.

You remember the internet we had in our apartment? The phone line? The 60 extra cable channels? (lip-quivering pause) Well, it's gone, they're all gone, ripped away like victory from a Republican. Because our box is fried.

"What box? Why fried?" you may ask. All good questions... There is a metallic-looking box that normally connects us to the outside world and it is now apparently "grillé" according to the specialists at the phone company. I don't pretend to know how the magic of electricity works in a country where phone or electric wires never ruin the view. All I can attest to is the absurdity of life here in "cosmopolitan" Paris at times and the fact that I am PISSED about it.

In other news, MasterMan's family is descending upon us for the weekend... plans include the Disney exhibit at the Grand Palais and dinner at a Morrocan restaurant tomorrow night. And the really good news? They're bringing two huge boxes of 400 comics that Aurel is selling one by one over the internet (which we won't have for at least another week. Have I mentioned that?) If you are interested in purchasing comics (especially in bulk!), check out his account. As my Starbucks cup said today, the holiday season is approaching... and comics make great gifts for the ones you love. Especially if it means getting them the hell out of my apartment.


Good one, America!

Make a joyful noise people, because America has finally grown some balls. I skipped through the streets of la Paris today with the knowledge that the Democrats are taking over the HOR and if the voting systems in Virginia and Montana don't get screwed around with Jeb Bush-style, they'll take the Senate as well.

As I write this, I'm watching a press conference with George W. and I have to stop every few words to scream "WHAT?!? WHO WOULD SAY THAT?!?" at the screen. Here's an example:

GWB: Actually, I thought we were going to be fine yesterday. hehehe... shows what I know.

George, here's a memo: crawl out of the Republican-laden hole you live in and talk to someone who knows something. If you felt confident about yesterday's election, maybe you should talk to Mama Bush because EVERYONE AND THEIR MOTHER knew you were in for it, buddy.

Here are some other joyful losses of the day:

K-Fed and Demonsfeld booted on the same day? Things are certainly looking brighter for the world...


Very Kind

A conversation about our daily routines opened into a deep appreciation for the "Lassie" species:

Me: So, do you have any pets at home?
Student: No, but my parents have a dog.
Me: What kind of dog do your parents have?
Student: It's... this dog likes to gather... cows.
Me: Ah, a sheepdog?
Student: ...yes...?
Me: Is the dog like Lassie?
Student: OH YES! She's not a Lassie, but she's very kind.


Thoughts Blowin' in the Paris Wind...

I've been putting off writing this post for a few days, but it's been working itself out inside of me and it's Monday night, so here goes.

Aurel and I watched a documentary about Bob Dylan last week that he'd taped off tv a year ago. Bob Dylan was one of those names to me, a famous person whose songs I sort of knew, whose face I could sort of conjure up in my head, whose concerts Emilie and my old roomate Priscilla like to attend. About halfway through the documentary, the film focused on the civil rights movement and showed Dylan playing his guitar in front of thousands and thousands of people who marched on Washington in 1963. I've seen these photos before, but for some reason I was completely blown away this time by the thought of so many Americans gathering to stand up for something:

I've visited Washington a bunch of times and trust me that this is a shitload of people. When I was a senior in college, I attended an anti-war protest here (again with Priscilla) and while there were a lot of people calling Bush a liar and showing support for the cause, it didn't look anything like this. I can't believe that my parents lived through a time when Americans were so motivated towards change, so intent on making themselves heard. Watching the documentary, I became so sad because I don't know why this isn't happening anymore. Is it because my generation doesn't have opinions? Are we listening to our I-Pods and not each other? And how do I respond to future generations when they ask what I did while George W. and crew were succeeding in their agendas again and again?

I have the fortunate ability to have 1-on-1 conversations with French business people aged 30-50 on a weekly basis and I asked several of them what they thought. A lot of them nodded and agreed, offering the French youth as another example of such ambivalence. This did little to comfort me; what is going ON with people in their 20s?

It seems somehow appropriate that this post is going out on Election Day Eve. From this side of the world, it sounds like change could be coming for the U.S., but I am almost too gun-shy to believe it (enter Dick Cheney hunting joke here). Change, if it is coming, won't be coming this time from acoustic guitars and metaphors, but rather from a country weary of lies and war. The 60s are over and the Pussycat Dolls are probably not the country's best hope for inspiring political change. I'm all for the latest Ludacris and JT songs, but I think we can all agree that they aren't forward-thinking in the same way. The question thus presents itself: do folk singers still exist? And if so (for the sake of my generation), could we get them to sell their songs on I-tunes?


Picking on Pickler

When Matthew and I began working together last year, one of his first questions was if I watched American Idol, to which I responded "uh... NO." "Well, if we're going to be friends, you'll need to start watching it," he said. I therefore began watching American Idol for two reasons:

1. My desk faced his 8 hours per day and didn't want things to be awkward.
2. His fashion sense is stellar and he dresses like he just stepped off the set of Zoolander:

In any event, one of the things we liked to talk about the most (read: make fun of) was Kelly Pickler, the kind of girl that makes a bad name for other blonds, Americans, and human beings. The fact that this idiot stayed on the show for so long made me SO mad and it was a beautiful day when she was finally kicked off.

I thought my life could proceed without fear of ever hearing of this no-talent, bad-speller again, and look who just showed up on CNN.com:

American dream? Try American nightmare.


Paris Newsletter: Month Two

Dear Paris,

As I write this, I am wrapped up in a blanket and my Muhlenberg hoodie on the couch, a sure sign that October is over and winter is a-comin'. The past month has gotten progressively colder and has brought with it new wardrobe questions. What types of shoes do French women wear when it rains? When can I break out my suede boots and not look like an Eskimo? I've tried to take my fashion cues from the other metro riders, but how do you pull off wearing an evening gown with jeans and knee-high boots? French women do it. I watch in wonder.

October also brought our first house guest from the U.S., whose visit was significant enough to launch an entire marketing scheme around it. Goldfest '06! was a week of good food and using the hell out of our metro cards, as Goldie toured the city and I met up with her when I could. We're looking forward to Goldfest '07! when I'll be asking large corporations to sponsor the festivities...

Embracing the need to sing for my supper, I got myself a job teaching English to adults. As a result, I wear more professional clothes on a daily basis and don't feel as bad buying a chai at Starbucks once a week. I visited La Defense for the first time this month, which is a part of the city entirely dedicated to the big businesses in Paris. It was intimidating at first, especially when I was handed a 25 euro metro fine on my first day. I therefore showed up for my first class with pink eyes which I blamed on allergies (who has allergies in October?!? Obvious lie...) and am very happy to avoid La Defense and teach my permanent classes in central Paris.

A proud new owner of my Louvre card, I have already been there twice and like the organized-a-holic that I am, have started highlighting the Louvre map so I don't redo what I've already done. I like being able to spend a few hours at a time there; I feel less like a tourist and more inclined to take my time and enjoy the art. Aurel has also registered for his Louvre card, but has yet to receive it. He doesn't seem to mind though; when he's not in classes, he's almost always in front of his computer playing a variety of games that sound like wars or X-men cartoons. This is a hobby that I just don't get and it's scary to come home and find him sitting in the dark, his eyes sunken and robotic from hours of computer rays.

I myself prefer to spend my time outside before it gets too cold. The leaves are changing and falling here in muted colors, nothing close to an east-coast fall, but at least enough to give you the autumn feeling. Seeing old friends has been a major part of this month here in la France and I realize as I make new friends, Paris doesn't seem nearly as chilly as it did before.