If you’re gonna scream, scream with me. Monday, Apr 30 2007 


Originally uploaded by 1brumaireclxxxiii.

In one of those rare hybrid anglophone moments, I noticed that the butter means something else in another language. The butter is noisy. As little sense as that makes, its true.

There’s more hybrid moments here than just the food. The recent election has been a train wreck. Supposing this post will somehow be preserved into a post-apocalyptic world and the Omega Man is trying to decipher it, the 2007 French election began with a welter of candidates, which was reduced to two after the first round of voting.

Like all elections, there was no perfect candidate, though some of the outliers looked refreshingly quirky, if not promising.
In the end, the choice has boiled down to a nearly archetypical decision between a right-wing dickhead and a loopy moron. This is painful, and probably as it should be, because most elections end up this way. What troubles me is the ex-pat response.
I have few illusions about who becomes an expat — the independantly rich, the uselessly over-educated, the chronically dissatisfied, the ambitious — and for the most part, these same people have assuaged their French friends by claiming for years that Bush was “not their fault” and that he was “the worst president ever.” (You’re wrong. And it wasn’t Clinton. It was Johnson, followed by Jackson, then the other Johnson. Which Johnson? Hell, they were both bad, but at least Andrew has my sympathy.)

Imagine my surprise when I find how many of these expats have lined up behind the right-wing dickhead. None of these people can vote, nor can I, but I’ve never noticed that the uselessness of an opinion has prevented someone from forming it. I just wish that in the absence of having any hope of influence, people might opt for philosophical consistency. No — people tend to choose the political opinions which please their friends. Odd that they are so inclined to hang out with the right-wing dickheads they would avoid in America, but money does that to people.


Lhomond Friday, Jan 19 2007 


Originally uploaded by 1brumaireclxxxiii.

These blue signs with green trim and white letters are all the rage among tourists and those seeking to identify with the vrai Paris. Why? Perhaps because they are so canonically parisien. Nearly every corner has one. I’m not sure exactly when they were introduced but they correspond with Haussmann buildings and belle-epoque metro stations. I’m pretty sure they’re not d’époque though because they’re tinged with a false gentility – white highlights indicating non-existent stamping. Neither are they completely modern : their non-reflective nature makes them hard to see on rainy nights.

These signs always include several elements. First, the arrondissement. This lets you know that the standardization of the signs occured after Napoleon III’s 1860 reorganization of the city. Then, you get the name of the street in “big” letters. Finally, you get a “biography” in the style of the Norton Anthology. Apparently, all I need to know is that for sixty-seven years there lived a grammarian by the name of Lhomond. (Did he die in the terror? No, though he was imprisoned…)

Once you’ve gotten accustomed to the mode of discourse of parisian street signs, there’s not much there. Most people stop wondering about the honorees after awhile, too. This sign is a bit unique by virtue of its mis en bâtiment. It appears the street is doubly named. Only the canonical nature of the parisian street signs lets you know that the street is, indeed, Lhomond. (In contrast, nearly any such marker in Providence — should it exist — would have indicated precisely what a street is not called. US 44 being simultaneously US 1, North Main, RI-122, and any number of memorial plazas or parkways referenced only by internet map services.) One wonders why the modern sign was not placed directly over the old stone sign. It seems the old name was deliberately preserved. One also wonders how the name of a street gets changed. What about the “Epée de Bois” and “Arbalète” preferred by romantics? Had their names once been more pedestrian? I’m tempted to search out the original names of every street, to undo the reforms of Napoleon III, Haussmann, to fix the “real” name on a recreated map. It reminds me that the newer the walls of our houses are, the more they conceal ghosts.

New York pizza Monday, Nov 20 2006 

New York pizza

Originally uploaded by 1brumaireclxxxiii.

People believe France is the land of good food. France believes America is the land of guilty pleasure junk food. Hence, they name their pizzas things like “New York” rather than “Naples.” So what’s on it? BBQ sauce — ’cause that’s american — cheese, onions, hamburger meat — ’cause Americans can’t eat enough burgers, can they? — and pickles. Pickles? Yeah. It comes with a packet of “Sauce Picante” which would never strike an American as spicy in any way. So how is it as guilty-pleasure food goes? Perhaps the worst part was the crust — dry and chewy, definitely a frozen preformed crust but one of the worst I’ve had. I tend to like the combination of BBQ and pickle, but true to french tradition, they got each about 70% right, so the overlap was a stunning 49%. On no curve is that a pass. There was neither enough cheese nor BBQ to make the texture more pliable than cardboard.

You know how there’s that old joke about how pizza is like sex — even when it’s bad its still good? I’ve always believed that joke and I guess I still do. It’s just that this pizza is rape. Aggravated anal assualt at that.

Boulevard of broken dreams. Friday, Oct 27 2006 

MAC scrapyard

Originally uploaded by 1brumaireclxxxiii.

When I came to Paris, someone had given me a ratty old mac. The copy of OS X it came with had been “installed” via FireWire and crafty use of the copy function. Of course, I needed this computer for Unix applications and all the Unix functionalities were completely useless. I needed a copy of OS X ocelot. Sadly, Apple doesn’t view OS updates as a “patch” so much as an “opportunity for capitalism.” I couldn’t buy the most recent copy because its not supported for my old machine. (It seems the hot new trend in OSs is MicroSoft-style bloatware.) Paris thankfully lacks a Mac Store, so I went to an approved dealer. He told me I couldn’t buy an update but called a friend who could help me out. Two blocks further on, I entered the Mac graveyard. For about $40, they sold me a CD with an installer. Either it was not legit or Apple just rocks the ghetto-fabulous cd-printing and packaging. I don’t care and I’m not complaining because this little shack seems to be keeping Paris up and running. This was the “showroom.” All these guys run and are being sold at bargain basement prices–for France. Oddly, that works out to be about the same as you would pay in America after the collector’s premium. Do you remember when that little red guy was released? I do. And I played Prince of Persia on it relentlessly. The most amazing thing was that a steady stream of people flowed into this place, getting their first generation laptops that folded-up like a briefcase patched up and restored to all their 1989 glory.

Ever seen those pictures of Cuba in which everyone is driving a candy colored 1958 DeSoto? It was like that. (Imagine the fortunes those guys will net when Fidel dies and they can sell to the highest bidder…)

This dinosaur is DUMM. Wednesday, Oct 25 2006 

So it’s 2 Brumaire. And I had big plans to kick this off on 1 Brumaire, 215 A.R. Yeah, well, we all have plans. I had plans to have my paperwork in order, to have a visa, to get paid, to buy suits and a motorcycle. I screwed it up and for the past month and a half, I’ve been sans papiers. I understand how that can happen, now, not having had a birth certificate. You’d think that would be the kind of thing you’d be born having, but not really. Oh, I have a paper, but its not an official birth certificate. Not to worry — I have friends in the Registry and they can make me a birth certificate. It’ll be official, just fake.

All of this proves that even in Paris they have a short bus.


If there’s a short bus, I’m on it, people. How did I find the short bus? There was an ad in the subway. Ironic, huh?