Oral Action

June 19, 2008 at 3:22 pm | Posted in vie quotidienne | 2 Comments
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Finally getting around to upload my leftover Paris photos, and I ran across this little gem.

Oral Action

Anybody looking for some action?


We’ll always have… well, you know.

May 14, 2008 at 1:01 pm | Posted in vie quotidienne | 7 Comments
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There are certain predictable phases in life-cycle of an expat blog.

From the timid introduction and the giddy opening posts, to the desperate self-abasement in hopes of winning more readers, followed by long hiatuses while the author struggles for anything to say…. As regularity finally sets in, you begin to look forward to the appearance of daily, weekly, or monthly posts. But then one day comes the inevitable announcement: the author has lost her excuse for residing in this exotic land — the fantasy is over, and she must return, regretfully, to ordinary, unblogworthy life.

Alas, that moment has come for me: On June 3rd, I will stop being “la petite americaine,” and go back to being just a plain old American.

But don’t write my obituary quite yet… I’ve been coming to Paris off and on since I was less than a year old, and I know I’ll be back, even if I’m not sure exactly when or how. Nevertheless, the time is approaching for me to bid adieu to this particular sejour, and so I invite you all — fellow-bloggers, commenters, lurkers, and whoever else may be wandering by — to join me next Saturday for a farewell picnic in the sun.


Saturday, May 24 from 14h until whenever (at some point in the evening, the picnic will join forces with katia and kyliemac‘s “aperi-picnic”)
At the very tippy-tip of the Ile de la Cite — square du vert galant, near the statue of Henry IV.
View Map

Bring blankets, plus whatever food and drink you prefer.

Bonne Continuation

May 1, 2008 at 11:58 am | Posted in vie quotidienne | 11 Comments
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If you’ve lived in France for any amount of time, you’ll have noticed that the French have made a national pass time out of wishing each other pleasant activities. No, not engaging in pleasant activities — wishing that the ordinary events and activities of every day will be pleasant.

In French class, you might have learned that hello is bonjour, good evening is bonsoir, and good afternoon is bon après-midi. But it doesn’t stop there, because there’s also the option of bonne journée and bonne soirée. In all these years, I have not figured out the difference between bonsoir and bonne soiree, except that if you say bonsoir to someone, they are legally required to answer “bonne soirée!”

But these are not the only things you can be wished. There’s also bonne matinée, bon weekend, bonne fin de l’après-midi, bon dimanche, bonne fête, rebonjour, bonne route (for someone taking a drive), bonne séance (at the movies), bon vélib (for bicyclists)… It’s like they sit around dreaming up new ones, just to catch you off guard.

The other day Brumaire heard someone wished a hearty “Bon scan d’identification!” as they swiped their Navigo. Maybe this hobby has gone a little too far.

The “French paradox” that isn’t

April 21, 2008 at 12:18 pm | Posted in books, food, vie quotidienne | 12 Comments
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If you follow French food and culture at all, you’ve probably heard of a delightfully regressive text called French Women Don’t Get Fat: The Secret of Eating for Pleasure. The basic gist is that French women eat pastries, fatty cheeses, five course meals, and buckets of wine, yet remain perpetually slender and never waste a minute worrying about their figures. The book further promises to show sad, dumpy, body-image obsessed Americans how a little bit of joie de vivre can make them thin, thin, thin!

Well, I’m about to let you in on a dirty little secret:

Why French women don't get fat

This is the current window display of the pharmacy down the street from me. Please note that, other than the makeup ad in the corner, every single image is an ad for some kind of dubious “diet aid” (actually, the one bottom left is an ad for control-top stockings, but same idea).

Why don’t French women get fat? Apparently, it’s the same mixture of dieting, disordered eating, and self-loathing that afflicts most western women.

Les Nouveaux Negriers

April 7, 2008 at 12:42 pm | Posted in spectacle, vie quotidienne | 2 Comments
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This was the scene outside my window Saturday:


Good thing I didn’t have any big plans that day…


Ooh, flares! Pretty.

RESF= Nouveaux Negriers

If that guy would be so kind as to move out of the way, you could see they’ve written “RESF = Nouveaux Negriers” (RESF = New Slavers) on my street. Not having any idea what this could possibly mean, I did a little research. RESF, apparently, is the Réseau Éducation Sans Frontières, itself a newspeak kind of term for a policy intended to allow children to remain in France even if their parents are being deported.

It’s pretty educational to check out RESF’s website, compare it to its Wikipedia page, and then again with the protestors outside my window. The website makes it look as if RESF is protesting a horrible government policy. The wikipedia page, on the other hand, makes it seem as if the RESF is working with the government. The protestors, meanwhile, are comparing the principles of the RESF to the atrocities of the slave trade. So… wait. This counter-government group outside my window is actually protesting another counter-government group? Now I’m confused.

It just goes to show how challenging it can be to make sense of politics in another language. In English, I’m well-practiced at disassembling the rhetoric of both sides to find the real issue underneath. In French, I still often feel bewildered.

(A propos: please feel free to jump in and clarify the details of this conflict, if you understand it better than I do — I had to wade through a lot of propaganda, which is the hardest kind of French for me to read.)



My better informed sister has this to add:

I think the Negriers comment was written ahead of time by right-wing, anti-immigrant folks, trying to speak against the RESF parade. Here are some sites that indicate the right is not happy about the pro-immigrant RESF. The RESF are “slavers”, in that they encourage immigrants, who then serve as cheap labor to undercut “real” French workers.

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.

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:


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.

Abandoned, Late Afternoon

November 16, 2007 at 12:40 pm | Posted in vie quotidienne | 2 Comments
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Abandoned, Late Afternoon

The second in what is apparently becoming a series — spotted on the Quai de la Rapée, in the 12th.


October 31, 2007 at 10:16 pm | Posted in vie quotidienne | 6 Comments
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Happy Halloween to those celebrating back home, or those who, like me, are missing it.


French pumpkins look weird, don’t they? I don’t believe these can be carved.


October 30, 2007 at 12:38 pm | Posted in books, vie quotidienne | 2 Comments
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The other day, I was browsing through Gibert Jeune and found this on their employment-prep shelf:


It’s a book on how to outsmart personality tests, presumably administered by your prospective employer. I was immediately struck — personality tests? Handwriting analysis? Wasn’t that sort of thing discredited years ago? Exactly how widespread is this practice?

Of course, flipping through the book was even more illuminating: it’s chock full of pseudo-scientific games and puzzles designed to separate the “loyal, hardworking employee” from “devious sociopath”. And how does one outsmart these wily psychologists? Well, for starters, don’t ever admit a fondness for evergreens:

Bad trees!

And don’t even think about sketching a whimsical, imaginary tree like the one on the right. Either of these are a very bad sign. Instead, stick to happy, fluffy, socially-approved trees like this one:

Good tree

But remember: no roots, no visible branches, and make sure to get the proportions of trunk to foliage precisely right — otherwise you risk being doomed to a life of professional failure.

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