Species Change Alert

Overnight, I went from being a Lowly Insect to being a Flappy Bird in the TTLB Ecosystem. I thought it was because of my recent mention of marijuana. But no: I think it's because Slithering Reptile Goatdog (who gets a whole lot more traffic than I do) was finally noticed by TTLB.



In Which Comparisons Are Made Between European Cities And Chicago

Something Chicago has in abundance that Paris has hardly at all:


Something Paris has in abundance that Chicago has hardly at all:

Gothic churches.

Something Amsterdam has in abundance that Chicago has hardly at all:

Cafés where people openly consume marijuana.

Something Chicago has in abundance that Amsterdam has hardly at all:




BBC World Sucks

As an American MSM (mainstream media) hater, I had high hopes for BBC World, the CNN-inspired version of BBC television that we get here in Frogland. No such luck. While it's a respite from the incredibly fluffy French TV news (do they even have TV news? no, but they have philosophical débats) it is mostly just slapdash propaganda for capitalism. I'll throw up, honestly, if I have to hear one more time about how Airbus has produced the largest airplane in the world, some environmentalists have qualms, but really it's very energy efficient and isn't that grand. And in Pakistan they have breast cancer and those backward people, they don't talk about it, but now Cherie Blair is visiting and everything's going to be better. Then there was the story about how Taiwan doesn't want China to give them pandas, because gosh, there's some little political difference, and look--the Atlanta zoo can't afford their pandas because China charges such high fees for them so they might need to give them back too! And then there's how Leonardo was such a great genius and designed war machines that counterterrorism experts are now rebuilding and testing and lo, they work! What a great achievement for his time, though ours are better.

And now I remember why I don't watch TV. Or, anyway, I don't watch TV when I'm not alone in a foreign country...




So, I finally watched all of Jean-Luc Godard's "miniseries" (not like any miniseries you'll ever see in the US!), "Histoire(s) du cinéma." They're having a retrospective at the Centre Pompidou and I sat through all 5 hours in one day. Having watched the "morceaux choisis" (selected bits) shown in the US recently, I can say that Hitchcock comes off as a less central figure in the long version, and Italian cinema more so. What else can I say? It's a lot of layered imagery that requires a better cinematic education than I've had to really appreciate. It's beautiful (but, as Godard keeps reminding us -- it is a "fatal beauty"). It integrate film history, art history, and political history, and not in any simple way. Did you know Marcel Pagnol invented the close-up and was inspired to do so by the faces of kings on coins? I didn't.

It's impossible to convey in English the fact that the French word "Histoire" means both story and history. What you can do in English is convey the fact that all these (hi)stories -- despite some valiant retrospective efforts by Godard, who includes female narrators and interlocutors, Marguerite Duras behind the camera, Emily Dickinson and Virginia Woolf quotes -- all, or almost all, are his-stories, stories told by men.




So, we know Berlusconi's out, and maybe Thaksin too. And Blair says he's leaving... eventually. But is anyone in the US paying attention to the fact that there's a scandal in France that's threatening to bring down not only Dominique de Villepin but maybe Chirac too? All to the benefit of...Sarcozy?

I guess the scum's what rises to the top, no?



Dog days

Dog radio comes to Thailand.



Great White French Men Fought Slavery

Today is the first annual commemoration (sorry, non-French-readers) of the end of the French slave trade, which occurred on May 10, 1848.

On the news this morning, all the talk was of the Great French Men who fought slavery. Hooray for them!



Triumph of Capitalism: Crappy French Bread Now Available in France, Too

So, my first day in Paris I strolled down to the local bakery, bought a "pain de campagne," had a taste, and said to myself "why is it that at any random bakery in France you can get excellent bread, while even in fancy bakeries in the US you can only get halfway decent bread? What is wrong with us?"

Then I got an email from a colleague who stayed in this neighborhood last year mentioning the "two excellent bakeries" down the street. Hm, I thought. Maybe that wasn't just any random bakery.

This was confirmed today when I bought pain de campagne from a different bakery because the first one was closed. Yes--it is crappy.

Hurrah! American products, not quite so dismal compared to France after all.



Adventures in Babysitting

It's been over a month since I last posted here--in that time I have been to the east coast and the west coast and across the Atlantic. (I'm in Paris for the next month--still getting over jet lag--and then Italy for a few weeks thereafter.) Also during that time, Goatdog and I decided to stay in chilly Chicago after thinking long and hard about moving to warmer climes.

I'm not really "babysitting" for the next few weeks--I'm teaching one (intensive) class to college students. They probably know the city better than I do by now, since they've been here for six weeks. But with all the intensity of the experience, sometimes these study abroad programs feel like babysitting to faculty. But I don't have to handle any of the social events, logistical arrangements, or any of that. So it's totally optional to hang out with them in cafes talking art and politics. I do imagine that even in an afternoon class I may occasionally encounter some of the aftermath of kids turned loose on legal alcohol for (for some) the first time in their lives...

Before the class starts, though, I'll be heading to the local Festival of Resistance happening this week in the City of Lights...

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