Step Right Up!

February 22, 2007 at 12:01 pm | Posted in spectacle | 8 Comments

Need a cure for the February blahs? How about a trip to the circus?


Tuesday evening, Brumaire and I cashed in a late Christmas present at the Cirque d’Hiver, or winter circus. If you live in Paris, you’ve no doubt seen their posters in all over the place, but maybe you thought the circus was only for little kids. And well… Yeah, there are a lot of kids there, especially this week, since it’s school vacation. But we were surprised to find we were not the only childless adults in attendance: seated right next to us were an old mémé et pépé, and there was a gaggle of girlfriends across the way, not to mention assorted cozy couples.

Anyway, if you haven’t been to the circus since you were a kid, you owe it to yourself to check out this spectacle. The tigers were my favorite, but there were also seals…




And much, much more! Sure, it may not be the most high brow of theater experiences, but there’s something to be said for a group of people doing their damnedest to keep an audience entertained.


Gag Gift

February 20, 2007 at 11:21 am | Posted in food | 4 Comments

Brumaire went to London this weekend, and all I got was this lousy condiment. Although in this case, “lousy” might actually be too generous a descriptor.

French Mustard?

Yup, in the tradition of coals to Newcastle, Brumaire transported this packet of “French” mustard back to the land of the real thing. And how did it fare on foreign turf? Not well.


Ugh… I guess this little guy never heard the phrase “mustard yellow.” And as for the taste? Let’s just say that the good people of Dijon have nothing to worry about.

Brumaire’s previous gift went over a bit better: for Valentine’s day, he brought home a heart-shaped cheese!


Neufchatel is a mild, washed-rind cheese from Normandy, a cousin to the camembert. It was mildly tangy and slightly crumbly. And as for me, well I whipped up a delectable fondant au chocolat…


Okay, fine, so it came from a box — it was still delicious. And we all know that when it comes to love, it’s not the thought that counts, but the taste.

Looks Can Be Deceiving

February 13, 2007 at 12:59 pm | Posted in backstory, food | 20 Comments

Introducing the Most Expensive Donut I Have Ever Eaten:


Two euros. That’s about $2.60. Can you even imagine spending that on a single donut? Even the incredible donuts at Allie’s are only a buck each.

So why did I buy it? Well, those who’ve known me a while know I have a thing about donuts. You might even call me a connoisseuse. And this donut?

bad donut

Not a donut. They were so close, though, weren’t they? From the top, this really looked convincingly like a plain, old-fashioned chocolate-glazed donut. But what’s going on with the bottom? We’ve got a rock-hard protective chocolate casing here, as if they were afraid the tender donuty flesh might get damaged by the unforgiving display shelf.

And it doesn’t stop there:


The interior here is much too dense, too pastry-like to make a convincing donut. This example makes even Dunkin’s dry, dense monstrosities seem light and airy.

How could they go so wrong? I have a theory. I’ve noticed in the past that the French have a tendency to get obsessed with certain typically American foodstuffs, and go crazy trying to reproduce them. But at each turn, it’s like they’ve only ever seen them on tv or in a magazine — they frequently produce a convincing facsimile of the outside, but totally miss the boat on innards, bottoms, taste, or texture.

The last time I noticed this was with chocolate-chip cookies. I was about eight years old when we first started seeing chocolate-chip cookies in French supermarkets. At first we avoided them — we didn’t come all the way to France to eat some Chips Ahoy knock off. But eventually we succumbed to curiosity: had the French really figured out the secrets to this most American of delicacies?

Answer: no. But what was truly odd was that they weren’t chocolate-chip cookies at all. They looked like chocolate-chip cookies, but when you bit into them, there was one solid chunk of chocolate hiding in the interior. Seriously, it was as if they had wrapped some cookie dough around a hunk of chocolate, then scraped away the dough in places to give the appearance of evenly distributed chips. Crazy!

Anyway, after the donut debacle, I went looking for these cookies, but happily they are no more: I guess someone finally tipped the French off as to the nature of a “chip”. But it’s not like the French are the only ones guilty of judging a pastry by its cover — I’ve noticed that Americans do the very same thing with chocolate éclairs. Americans do an excellent job reproducing the external appearance of éclairs, but for some reason they are always stuffed with white cream (or worse, whipped cream). Where did people get this idea? Because I have never encountered this in a French éclair.

In France, the outside of the éclair always tips you off to the inside: chocolate icing means chocolate cream, coffee icing means coffee cream, etc. The proof:

eclair innards

See? Chocolate. So I hereby call on the pastry-chefs of both nations: for the love of all that’s sweet, don’t try to reproduce a confection you’ve never tasted.

Dans le Vide

February 7, 2007 at 4:25 pm | Posted in art | 15 Comments


Malévitch avait, en effet, l’infini devant lui — Moi, je suis dedans — On ne répresente pas l’infini, on le produit.

Malevitch had, in fact, the infinite in front of him. Me, I am inside it — one shouldn’t represent the infinite, one should produce it.”

Fire painting

Klein used gas and flamethrowers to produce these. The effect of an entire room of fire paintings was really striking.


Aujourd’hui le peintre de l’éspace doit aller effectivement dans l’éspace pour peindre, mais il doit y aller sans truc ni supercherie, ni non plus en avion, ni en parachute ou en fusée: il doit y aller par lui-même, avec une force individuelle autonome, en un mot, il doit être capable de léviter.

“Today, the painter of space should actually go into space to paint, but he should do it without gimmick or trickery, nor in a plane, nor with a parachute or on a missile: he should go by himself, by his individual, autonomous force — in a word, he should be capable of levitating.”


Trouvant inacceptable de vendres ces zones picturales immatérialles pour l’argent, je réclamais en échange de la plus haute qualité de l’immatériel la plus haute qualité de paiement matériel: un lingot d’or pur.

“Finding it unacceptable to sell these “immaterial pictural zones” for money, I claimed as payment for the highest quality of the immaterial, the highest quality of material payment: an ingot of pure gold.”

(This was a reference to Klein’s famous Void exhibition, in which he displayed only immaterial pictures — which is to say, an empty gallery. People wanted to know how they could buy these immaterial paintings (!), and the above was his answer. Amazingly, people actually gave him ingots of gold in exchange for nothing at all, except the receipt pictured above. Klein eventually threw the ingots in a river.)

Ci-gît l'espace

It’s supposed to represent a grave. There was a wonderful quote that went with this piece, about how Klein was learning to embrace the hyper-sentimental and tacky. Still, makes you wonder if he didn’t know he was going to die soon.


il ne faut pas craindre les petits échecs, car ils mènent vers la victoire finale – les petites victoires ne mènent que vers l’échec.

“Don’t be afraid of small defeats, for they bring us closer to the final Victory — little victories only bring us closer to defeat.”

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