Boyzone

March 31, 2008 at 12:26 pm | Posted in art | Comments Off on Boyzone
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Last week I headed over to the Musee d’art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (and yes, that’s the longest museum name *ever*) to see Clarisse Hahn’s “Boyzone”. Really, with a title like that, how was I to resist? Here’s the description:

This series of videos is a study of the male body, sometimes isolated but more often in groups: squatters drinking beer with their shirts off, teenagers training in martial-arts in a public garden, boyscouts, bodybuilders, a dog-handler training his dog…

Stereotypes are questioned here: how much are we susceptible to them? Boyzone questions the rapport of the individual to the group: how does one become integrated in it? To what extent do we model our behaviour on that of the group we belong to? What signs of our belonging to this group do we exhibit?

I’m always fascinated by the examination of cultural constructions of masculinity, so I was pretty excited about this, but I’m sorry to say the exhibit itself was a bit of a disappointment, and I suspect the biggest problems were due to the curator, rather than the artist. True, it’s hard to build an art exhibit around video and still have it be visually and spatially engaging. But did they have to scatter the tv sets in such an irritatingly random manner? Some were on the floor, some were on pillars, and one tiny set was perched way up by the ceiling, where it was pretty much unwatchable. Also, each of the video pieces had sound, but instead of having headphones, each tv was set at a frustratingly low volume, so you could hear it only if you listened really intently and ignored the cacophonous noises coming from all the other tvs.

I was also somewhat annoyed by the artist’s decision to include so many “isolated” male bodies, which didn’t seem to contribute much to her thesis. Especially since these supposedly isolated males were not actually alone, but obviously interacting with the artist behind the camera — who is female. If the piece is supposed to be about how men act around other men, how useful is it to see them interacting with a female documentarian?

Despite these flaws, there was still a lot of interesting commentary on/documentary depiction of masculine behavior. The artist’s choice to use very short, highly edited clips with low sound helped to frame and highlight the physical interactions of men in groups — how the soccer players playfully slapped at each other, the squatters nodded obliquely, or the teenagers wrestled and spit… Even the video of a group of men and boys slaughtering a goat was illuminating, if a bit gross.

Clarisse Hahn — Boyzone
Musee d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris
Ends April 6 — free

Super Acid

March 25, 2008 at 11:14 am | Posted in food | 5 Comments
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Pasta Frutta

Hmm — brightly colored candy tabs marked as “super acide”. Something tells me this labeling wouldn’t fly in the States.

And that’s not even going into the unfathomable Italian imagery…

TF hein?

March 19, 2008 at 3:45 pm | Posted in vie quotidienne | 10 Comments
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This post is probably going to make me look like a tremendous idiot, but there’s something that’s been bothering me a long time, and I need to know what the deal is:

What is wrong with European TV sets?

Because they aren’t like American sets, are they? I’ve been in homes and hotels across this continent, and all the sets have the same, mysterious, frustrating problem. It’s so bizarre, I don’t even know how to convincingly explain it to an American audience, but here goes nothing: it’s basically impossible to turn on a European television using a remote control. But in fact, it’s more complicated than that.

Euro TV

See, this is what the sets look like. When the TV is off, the little red light is out. And when you press that big power button, the red light goes on, and the TV seems to awaken. So far so good. BUT… nothing else happens. The screen remains tauntingly blank.

No, in order to get any real action, you have to now switch to the remote control:

Euro Remote

At this stage, if you press the channel up/down buttons, or punch in a number, the screen will at last flicker to life, and you can proceed to watch TV as normal. But wait — there’s another twist. See that pinkish power button at the top of the remote? You might think that turns the TV off and on… but you’d only be half right. Pressing that button will indeed turn the screen off, but not the TV. And if the power button on the TV itself hasn’t been pressed, the button on the remote will do nothing.

Why, God, Why?! In America, this process is so blissfully simple! Sit down on the couch, pick up the remote, press power, and voila: you have TV. Obviously, we have the technology — we’re not talking rocket science here. So why, throughout Europe, are viewers forced to deal with the box before they can settle in and relax on the couch?

This mystery torments me.

Now, I should note that I hardly ever watch television in Europe — in truth, the internet entertains me far more than dubbed versions of American soaps and sitcoms ever will. So it’s possible there’s some totally obvious trick to turning on Euro TVs that I’ve simply missed. But still — why is it different at all? Does it have to do with the different voltages, or some other historical or scientific anomaly? Please, someone out there, explain this phenomenon to me.

A bout de soufflé

March 12, 2008 at 1:52 pm | Posted in food, writing | 11 Comments
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Back when I started the blog, I created a category called “writing“, which was supposed to contain musings and observations about my attempts to launch a career as a novelist. If you click that category, you’ll see I haven’t used it much — my thoughts and struggles as a writer turned out to be too personal (not to mention tedious) to share in such a public space. I’m happy to report, though, that now I have at least a small tidbit of news fit for public consumption: I have acquired representation for my novel!

This means (in lay terms), that the odds of my novel actually landing in a bookstore near you some day have gone from “wildly improbable” to “vaguely within the realm of possibility”. Which is good news!

Good enough news to celebrate with a dinner out, certainly. I knew it would be premature to binge on an elaborate three-star feast, but I wanted something that felt a little indulgent, a little out of the ordinary. So what better choice than the decadent all-soufflé menu at Le Soufflé?

Grand Marnier souffle

The only problem with soufflés is, if you’ve seen one, you’ve more or less seen them all. I’ve got a few more pics available for completists, but as far as this post goes, I think I’ll exercise my writerly skills and stick to textual descriptions.

So, soufflés tasted monday night:
Foie gras — a fluffy cloud infused with the most delicate aroma of foie gras, complimented by a molten puddle of the stuff in the middle.
Forestier — earthy, mushroom flavors whipped up lighter than air
Sanglier — the lightness of souffle meets the robust, gamey flavor of wild boar. Although in fact, the boar chunks hiding at the bottom were so tender it was hard to believe the animal was raised in the wild.
Volaille — This was actually the pinnacle of the meal: nothing but chicken, mushrooms, and gravy, but it was like the most divinely inspired chicken pot pie you’ve ever eaten.
Pommes aux Calvados — drunken apples doused in Calvados
Grand Marnier — the most traditional of all soufflés, but still difficult to pull off as perfectly as they did last night.

So there you have it — the perfect celebratory meal for a most happy occasion. Oh, and they change their soufflé menu regularly… Good thing, in case I get any more good news in the future.

Restaurant Le Souffle
Phone: 01 42 60 27 19
36, Rue du Mont Thabor
75001 PARIS 01 er

At Least They Can’t Vote

March 5, 2008 at 2:12 pm | Posted in spectacle, vie quotidienne | 9 Comments
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As my readers may or may not have noticed, there’s a presidential election going on back home right now… and yesterday, my tiny state (not to mention a giant state and two normal-size states) had its primary.

Of course, since I’m currently in absentia, I actually cast my vote about a week ago, by mail. My darling little state chose to enclose this rather excitable note along with my ballot:

Warning!!

Y’hear that? Two exclamtion points. Don’t mess with the democratic process.

I don’t know if you’ve been following the race, but it’s currently a pretty close one, at least on the Democrats’ side. The French press, however, seem to have already picked a winner:

Hillary in France

To be fair, most of the books in that display are merely English books translated into French. Still, I looked around quite a bit, but found nary a copy of The Audacity of Hope, or Dreams from my Father — to say nothing of McCain’s Hard Call. Yup — looks like as far as the French are concerned, this is a one woman race.

The Other “Petite”

March 3, 2008 at 4:09 pm | Posted in books | 24 Comments
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book cover

Like pretty much every other Paris blogger this week, I recently finished reading Catherine Sanderson‘s engaging blog-to-memoir, Petite Anglaise. And so, some thoughts:

Petite Anglaise, the book, focuses on one wild year out of Ms. Sanderson’s life in Paris — a year in which she started a blog, overshared about the unsatisfactory state of her relationship, and ultimately abandoned her longtime boyfriend and the father of her child to take up with a man she knew only from his comments on her blog. These sketchy details were, of course, already known to those of us who regularly followed her website. The book picks up, however, where the blog left off.

I admit, I had expected little more from this memoir than a patched-together version of Ms. Sanderson’s best posts: charming anecdotes about her young daughter, wry observations about expat life, and the occasional oblique yet tantalizing reference to the ever-swirling drama of her romantic life. I was surprised and delighted to find Ms. Sanderson’s usual coyness all but eliminated in this format — if you ever wondered exactly what went on behind closed doors and glowing screens as Petite left her babydaddy for an internet stranger, this book will satisfy your every voyeuristic impulse.

For readers new to the Petite Anglaise character, there should be much to enjoy as well. Who, after all, can resist a salacious tale of love, lust, and technology, with all the delights of bohemian Paris as a backdrop?

That said, the memoir, for all that it was enjoyable, was perhaps a little schizophrenic — was this the story of one girl’s love affair with Paris? An object lesson about the dangers of blogging? The sordid confessions of an adulteress? A light-hearted kvetch about young motherhood? Of course, the book is all of these things, as reflects Ms. Sanderson’s real life. Still, it might have benefited the story to have a stronger focus, and let the other threads spool into subplots.

Perhaps this is an indication of my own prejudices, but I would have built the plot around the blog, as I think that’s the most unusual element of this tale. Ms. Sanderson does muse occasionally throughout the book on how easily a blogger can slip from merely documenting her life to actually living life for the blog. If only she had taken these musings a little further, Petite Anglaise could have moved beyond the merely diverting to make a strong and original statement about love in the modern world.

Petite Anglaise
by Catherine Sanderson
available now on amazon.co.uk and amazon.fr, coming soon to amazon.com
signed copies available at WH Smith in Paris.

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