Wednesday, November 27, 2013

I am outraged, I tell you, OUTRAGED!!!

OK. So at dinner I really thought I was suffering some kind of mental breakdown. Right there, in my little "Mieux rédiger" (write better) manual was the unequivocal sentence "les pingouins nagent et volent. Ils peuplent les régions arctiques (le pôle Nord)". That is to say, "pingouins" swim and fly and live in the arctic, by the North Pole.

This seemed implausible, not to say downright wrong, so I checked my trusty Petit Robert (dictionary of the froggy language, for frogs). There it was again:

Pingouin: gros oiseau marin palmipède, à plumage blanc et noir, habitant les régions arctiques. (A fat marine bird, black and white in color, living in the arctic regions).

WTF, French people? What the hell are you going on about? Does everyone in France actually believe that penguins live at the North Pole?

Would you like to know the resolution of this little riddle? Well, would you?

Here it is. And I swear I am not making this up. Because, really, how could anyone? It is because

I'm sorry, people of frogland. Normally I quite enjoy battling with your strange froggy patois. But enough is enough. I AM OFFICIALLY F***ING OUTRAGED.

And just what IS the French word for "penguin", I hear you ask. Well, it might be "manchot", though the primary meaning for that in Petit Robert is "someone who has lost one or both arms".

I myself will be carted off in a straitjacket if this kind of thing keeps up, I swear to God.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Scholastic Progress

So, following long-established Parisian tradition, I have had this very nasty cold for going on 10 days now. The kind where your ribcage hurts from all that coughing.

"But David", I hear you ask, "is this likely to have a negative impact on your learning experience at the Sorbonne?".

Maybe it will, but so far things are going just fine, I think.

When interpreting those 19.5/20 scores, please bear in mind that, by constitutional amendment, French teachers are not allowed to give 20/20, certainly not to mere foreigners.
If I might be permitted a word of spontaneous elation : BOOYA !!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Book "Review" : "Le Cid" by Pierre Corneille

So, Le Cid, whose real name was obviously le Kid, before he fell into the hands of those lithping Cathtilians, doesn't quite have superhero-level powers, but he's a pretty bada$$ mofo all the same. I thought he was going to go all Hamlet-y on us about avenging the insult to his papa's honor, but heck no - he has polished off that pesky duke before we're even halfway through Act II. Then it's time to go off and fight those dusky Moors to protect the kingdom, home in time for a few laurel wreaths and to deal with rival suitors (because his lady-love, Chimène, has fallen victim to the dramatic requirements of the genre, and though she loves him dearly and no other, is obliged to petition the king to have him killed because see escapade 1 earlier, he killed her papa in a duel, which he clearly had coming to him, and she is generally forced to come up with all kinds of love-thwarting objections to spin out the plot, until thankfully the king himself intervenes and tells her to get over it already, so that the two lovebirds can be united, which is I suppose what makes it a tragicomedy, and here we go with my parenthesis problem again).

Anyway, this is a poor excuse for a book report, but I enjoyed the heck out of Le Cid, and who knew 17th century French drama could be so much fun. 
That dude slapping the older dude in the picture (the infamous "soufflet" that is the McGuffin for the whole piece) is Don Gomès, papa of Chimène, and he gets his comeuppance satisfactorily quickly.

There's also a bunch of technical stuff about switching from regular rhyming couplets to other, more complicated, rhyming schemes, but I figure we will learn about that in class tomorrow.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Montmartre (just pictures, really)

On Monday afternoon I decided to walk all the way to Montmartre (Sacré Coeur) and back. I think it was my favorite stroll so far this trip.

Many more pictures at this link:


Let's not be coy. We all know that, just before coming to France for the first time, I did the unthinkable and joined Facebook. It seemed like a good idea at the time, and to be fair, I think it does serve a purpose. But one negative side-effect has been that this blog has suffered, languishing at times for long periods of neglect. (I am making a conscious effort to do better this trip).

Facebook has its pros and cons, and I certainly don't want to exaggerate its benefits. The great majority of my posts over there represent nothing more than banal commentary on the quotidian details of my life, dressed up in a kind of brittly amusing, see-what-a-witty-guy-I-am prose, all the while conforming to the unspoken rule of Facebook, which is that everyone is out there CONSTANTLY DOING EXCITING INTERESTING MEANINGFUL THINGS AND HAVING ENORMOUS AMOUNTS OF FUN AND/OR RAISING INCREDIBLY TALENTED, PHOTOGENIC, DELIGHTFUL OFFSPRING WITH WHOM THEY SHARE AN INFINITE SEQUENCE OF ADORABLY GOLDEN MOMENTS. Because people don't go on Facebook to share their defeats.

So you can be thankful that you are spared most of the nervous chatter that makes up my Facebook feed. With that caveat in mind, I am now going to cheat, and copy a few recent FB posts directly into this post. Because I'm lazy, and because I think they do convey something interesting or potentially amusing. For you FB users, it will be déjà vu from here on out.

Thursday October 10th:

From an e-mail to Paddy right now:

"I am noticeably less anxious than at any time since coming to Paris. Because today finally confirmed that my plan, hatched what - about 15 or 18 months ago - is NOT suddenly going to turn to shit or crash in flames. Which I suppose my inner demon had been secretly fearing all this time. Now he can just shut the f### up for a while (not that he isn't skilled at 
conjuring up other things to obsess about, but he has been put in the corner for now)."

And if you are thinking "only a bozo could be anxious in Paris", you're not wrong. And it's not that I haven't had a good time this past month, it's been great. But there was that niggling worry* that maybe this Sorbonne thing might not have been such a good idea. That worry is now gone. So, yea!

* My capacity for niggling worries is stupidly large.

Friday October 11th:

My phonetics placement test today was hilarious. About two sentences in, the prof asked me if maybe my mother had been French, because usually anglophones had all kinds of problems which I didn't seem to have. The rest of the time she kept racking her brains for sentences to stump me with, eventually she had to call over two of her colleagues and we all had a hilarious time. Finally they decided that my nasal consonants could use some work, so with obvious relief were able to assign me to a group that would be working on that.
Also, mercifully, I got bumped up from "advanced" to "superior" (or will be on Monday). In the new group I will have the same teacher, but there are only six students, many of them adults like me (nobody in the previous group was over 24). 
I have been accused of many things, but never - until today - of having a French mother.

Friday October 11th:

Went to see a bunraku performance at the Theatre de la Ville tonight. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. However, 25 minutes is an awfully long time to watch two marionettes die in a tragic suicide pact (particularly when part of theritual involved them ripping her sash-thingy and then tying themselves together with it; this gets difficult when each marionette is being manoeuvred by three not-so-unobtrusive ninja-type handlers, so now you had six people trying to make us believe the knot was being tied by dainty puppet fingers - it was like some kind of hideous topology problem gone horribly, horribly wrong, and given that they were going to die by stabbing anyway, what was the point really, though I did enjoy when the music sped up to a nice jaunty rhythm to accompany the frenzied stabbing part, and it's way past time to close these parentheses). So anyway, it was quite unlike anything I had seen before, but did manage to be quite moving and here is a link:

First World Complaint

This picture exemplifies a trend in product development that can only be deplored by sensible consumers everywhere:

On the right is a bottle of Desperados, a delicious beer available here that is rendered all the more delicious by the addition of just a tiny soupçon of tequila. The pleasure of a nice chilled Desperados can be even further enhanced by the addition of a slice of lime. A fact apparently not lost on the manufacturers, because the related product, shown on the left, does indeed involve the addition of a little lime to the mix.

If only they had stopped there, the only debate would be about the relative merits of fresh lime versus added "lime" flavoring. But this debate turns out to be purely academic. Because, as is so often the case, SOME GENIUS IN MARKETING JUST COULDN'T LEAVE WELL ENOUGH ALONE. No, they had to go ahead and add MINT to the whole concoction, thereby entirely wrecking the delicate interplay of beer, tequila, and lime on the tastebuds and MAKING THE WHOLE THING TASTE PREDOMINANTLY OF MOUTHWASH.

Enough already! We don't want chocolate-wasabi rice Krispies, or beetroot-peppermint corn chips.
Sometimes less really is more.

Thank you for your attention.


Gaspard et Charles

So my first day at the Sorbonne turned out just fine, and now they have my correct e-mail on file. More about this later, but as I am just on my way out the door to class (and to have my phonetics test this afternoon, to see how much remedial work will be necessary throughout the semester), I will leave you with two new pictures of Gaspard. Yesterday evening I had dinner with Ellen and Leslie, went back to La Bonne Cécile. The menu had changed from summer to autumn (so no more delicious gazpacho), but Gaspard was still there to welcome us.

He really is a very cute doggie.

And finally, a few words from General De Gaulle: