World Cup of Nutbutters, Hazel vs. Pea

June 6, 2008 at 8:38 pm | Posted in food | 5 Comments
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So, I’m back in the States again, for the summer and maybe longer… But never fear — I have such a backlog of restaurants and exhibits to share from my last two weeks in Paris, I can probably put together a couple of months worth of Paris-based posts without breaking stride.

Right now, though, I have to share a change I’ve noticed since last time I was in the US: commercials for Nutella on tv!

Nutella has been available in America since at least the 80s, but in my memory it was always a specialty item, sold in the “international foods” section of gourmet supermarkets, and regarded as a mark of sophistication among fans, who might say things like, “Could you pick me up some Nutella? I developed a taste for it back when I spent a semester in Florence.”

The new marketing campaign, however, is all home-grown. The tv spot emphasizes Nutella’s properties as a fast and healthful breakfast food, rather than a nostalgic sweet from the old country. And instead of baguettes and crepes, the website shows Nutella spread on classic American breadstuffs, like english muffins, whole wheat bread, and bagels. The only hint of Nutella’s European pedigree is in the history section, which notes that Nutella was first sold in Italy — and subtly snarks that Nutella “outsells all brands of peanut butter combined worldwide!”

Take that, peanut butter. American kids may think you’re tops, but the rest of the world scarfs Nutella.

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Picnic?

May 24, 2008 at 12:04 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Picnic?

Well… It’s noon right now, and the sun is shining, so I’m going out to buy some wine and snacks and calling it a picnic!

Saturday, May 24 from 14h until 17h (at some point, I’m planning to meet up with katia and kyliemac‘s evening adventures).
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.

If, come 2pm, you’re worried about the weather, call me and I’ll let you know what’s up.

Psst!

May 21, 2008 at 12:49 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Just popping in for a minute to say I’m alive….  My parents are in town and keeping me very, very busy, so there’s not really time for careful, considered, typo-less blogging.  I did see the Babylone exhibit at the Louvre, and about a third of the Touches de Sacre exhibit at Pompidou (it’s terrific — I’ll definitely be going back.), plus a lot of shopping and eating.  I’ll blog it all when I can, but for now, I just wanted to remind people about the picnic Saturday!  See the post below for details.

I just realized the meteo is saying rain for Saturday, so….  if it rains, it rains, maybe we’ll try again the following weekend.  I’ll post something here the morning of to let you know.

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.

Details:

Picnic!
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.

Ozymandias

May 7, 2008 at 1:18 pm | Posted in art, Uncategorized | 7 Comments
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Johann Heinrich Füssli (1741-1825)

Le Désespoir de l’artiste devant la grandeur des ruines antiques, 1778-1880

The despair of the artist before the grandeur of ancient ruins… And honestly, what artist among us hasn’t felt like this some days?

This sketch is from the exhibit L’Âge d’or du romantisme Allemand: Aquarelles et dessins à l’époque de Goethe, currently on at the Musee de la Vie Romantique. It may not be the most fashionable style these days — the people will have their realists and impressionists — but the passion and drama of Romanticism has always had a strange attraction for me: the desolate landscapes, the fascination with overlooked periods of art and architecture, the easy familiarity with death and the supernatural… The idea is to be swept away by the visceral impact of art, instead of dispassionately admiring the skill of the artist.

While the style may sometimes veer into base sentimentality, I’m nevertheless drawn to its ideal of privileging subjective experience — as Casper David Friedrich put it, “The painter must not be content to paint what he sees before him, but also what he sees in himself.”

P.S. Since the exhibit was devoted almost entirely to pen and ink drawings and watercolors, it might be of some interest to the illustrators in my audience.

Musée de la Vie romantique
Hôtel Scheffer-Renan
16 rue Chaptal – 75009 Paris
until June 15th

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.

Cellar Door

April 29, 2008 at 12:22 pm | Posted in art, Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Forest of Gunpowder Trees

Friday afternoon I finally made it to the mesmerizing Cellar Door exhibit at the Palais de Tokyo. I’d been a bit hesitant about this show, because they were promoting it as the first time the PdT had given over the entire museum to one artist under the age of thirty — I worried that, with a description like that, it had a lot of potential to go horribly wrong, plus I’ve gotten kind of bitter and resentful about people who are massively creative/successful and younger than I am. But the show won me over! Because it was amazing.

The concept for the show was that the entire space would be re-imagined as a sort of 3-D map of the artist’s brain. To me, the experience was most like waking up in an obscure avant-garde art film featuring a lot of surrealist dream imagery — see, for example, those bare trees lit by a glowing red orb.

Map

This is a mini-map of the mind map. #8, the spectacle of a sculpture, consisted of some people in a cage shooting paintball guns at each other. #1 was a neon sculpture representing the balled-up blueprints of the Palais de Tokyo. #5 was an empty movie theater playing blurry abstractions. And my personal favorite was #9:

Celador, the candy with a taste of illusion

Celador: the candy with the taste of illusion. (“A candy whose indeterminate taste appeals to the consumer’s imagination. On sale in supermarkets, using the conventions of mass marketing. Celador is a contamination of reality.”)

Did the whole show hang together? I’m not sure — some of the elements felt a little thrown together, and some were downright annoying (the signs that faded to black as you were trying to read them, for example). Still, it imparted a sense of wonder and surprise, and a feeling of leaving the real world behind for an hour or two, which is mostly what I look for in contemporary art these days.

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.

Underwear and Identity Politics

April 18, 2008 at 9:23 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Underwear and Identity Politics

This doesn’t have anything to do with Paris, but those of you who enjoy my occasional deconstructions of European advertisements (see here, here, here, and here) might be interested in this discussion about the new Hanes underwear campaign in India.

Not completely sure how I feel about it yet, but my gut reaction is to agree with those who say it’s okay as art/cultural criticism, not so great as commerce.  But I might change my mind…

süßer duft

April 17, 2008 at 1:06 pm | Posted in art, Uncategorized | 11 Comments
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Okay, that was terrifying.

I just got back from the Gregor Schneider exhibit at the Maison Rouge, and let me just say: scariest museum visit ever. Kind of like a cross between a nightmare and a graphic adventure game. Seriously, as exciting and awesome as it was, I’m not sure I can recommend in good conscience that anyone follow in my footsteps. Particularly not if you are remotely claustrophobic, or afraid of the dark, or anything like that.

If you do want to go and have the full experience yourself, don’t read any further, since I’m going to describe it in a fair amount of detail.

Continue Reading süßer duft…

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