Saturday, May 21, 2011

Musee de la Chasse et de la Nature

It is an axiom that one takes far greater advantage of available cultural opportunities when one is traveling than when one is at home. This afternoon I visited the "Museum of Nature and the Hunt", which is right in the neighborhood, on the Rue des Archives. I had a spectacular time.

The museum is housed in a gorgeous 17th century mansion, the Hôtel de Guénégaud. In addition to the permanent collection, there was a temporary exhibition of photographs, called "Animonuments", which consisted of a hundred or so extremely witty photos of animals, interacting with people, or with their surroundings, in various eye-catching ways. Here are two of my favorite photos from that exhibition:

Then there was the permanent collection. My favorite part, hands down, was the "Cabinet of Curiosities". Here are just two of the reasons why:

Catholic readers will have no trouble recognizing the first of the two pictures above as a monstrance, even if its use has been perverted to display an ostrich egg, rather than the Body of Christ. But it is the second image which leaves me, frankly, rapturous. It is a (very rare) picture of unicorn fewmets.

Unicorn fewmets. How awesome is that? If I were to die tonight, it would be with a beatific grin on my face.

Friday, May 20, 2011

A Trip to the Gelateria

This afternoon, I went with some classmates to a gelateria in the Marais, reputed to be one of the best in the city (it's on somebody's list).

Pre-gelateria anticipatory giddiness.

Taking the subway to the gelateria.

On the way to the gelateria.

The gelateria!

Difficult choices to be made.

It was a fine time (duh, gelato!). I had a delicious affogato (vanilla ice-cream drowned in espresso). Everyone was very happy.

Except later, when I got home and discovered that I no longer had my nifty little Canon IXUS 115 HS, I was not so happy. How I cursed my own stupidity, as I retraced my steps through the Marais, praying to the patron saint of terminally moronic tourists that I might be spared punishment, just this once.

As you may have guessed from the photos above, my prayers did not go unanswered. When I got back to the gelateria, all flustered and breathless, the lady behind the counter gave me a big smile, reached into a drawer, handed me the camera and said, deadpan as could be: "We've been expecting you!"

Je suis con, moi. Mais j'ai eu de la chance! Here's to happy endings.

Happy Birthday, Monsieur Balzac! How About a Nice Cup of Coffee?

Today is the birthday of Honore de Balzac, who, as previously noted, liked to fuel his impressive writing binges with interminable cups of coffee. In honor of the occasion, I reproduce here his remarks on the subject. Thanks to Jerome for bringing this treatise to my attention, and to Google-translate for the hilarity of the translation. The management of Whipping Cats would like to make it perfectly clear that these are the opinions of Monsieur Balzac alone, and are not necessarily shared by me. For instance, I have never knowingly confused a Turkish person and a toad. And, no matter how many trips to Starbucks I might make, I am unlikely ever to write an opera in 20 days.


On this matter, Brillat-Savarin is far from complete. I can add something to what he said about the coffee, which I use to be able to see the effects on a large scale. The coffee is roasting inside. Many people give the power to coffee to give the spirit, but everyone was able to verify that the boring bore much more after taking. Finally, while grocers are open until midnight in Paris, some authors do not become more spiritual.

As aptly observed Brillat-Savarin, the coffee starts to move the blood, brought forth the spirits engines; excitement precipitated digestion, sleep, hunt, and can talk for a little longer the exercise of cerebral faculties.

I would amend this section of Brillat-Savarin by personal experiences and observations of a few minds.

Coffee affects the diaphragm and the plexus of the stomach, where it earns the brain by irradiation and invaluable that defies analysis, however, one can assume that the nervous fluid is electrically conductive that emerges it is this substance activates or home. His power is neither absolute nor constant. Rossini has proven himself on the effects I had already seen me.

- Coffee, me he said, is a matter of fifteen or twenty days, the time fortunately to an opera.

The fact is true. But the time during which you can enjoy the benefits of coffee can expand. This science is necessary too many people that we did not describe how to obtain the precious fruit.

All of you, distinguished human candles, which you consume through your head, come and listen to the Gospel of waking and intellectual work.

1 ° The coffee crushed the Turkish more flavor than ground coffee in a mill.

In many mechanical things relating to the use of pleasures, Orientals far outweigh the Europeans: their genius, observer like the toads, which are still whole years in their holes taking their golden eyes open on nature as two suns, they revealed the fact that science has shown us by the analysis. The principle is deleterious coffee tannin, malignant substance that chemists have not yet studied enough. When the membranes of the stomach are tanned or when the action of tannin in particular the coffee was too dazed by frequent use, they refuse to violent contractions that workers are looking for. From there, serious disturbances if the fan goes on. There is a man in London as the overuse of coffee twisted like those old gouty knotted. I knew a writer who was in Paris five years to recover from the state had put her love for coffee. Finally, recently, an artist, Chenavard, burned to death. He entered a cafe as a worker enters the tavern, at any time. Lovers proceed as in all the passions they go from one level to another, and, as in Nicolet, harder and harder to abuse. Breaking into coffee, you spray into molecules of bizarre shapes that retain and release tannin only the aroma. That is why the Italians, Venetians, Greeks and Turks can drink incessantly without danger, the French coffee cafiot deal, word of contempt. Voltaire took to the cafe there.

Keep in mind this. The cafe has two components: one, the extractive matter, that hot water dissolves or cold, and dissolves quickly, which is the driver of the aroma, the other is tannin, more resistant to the water, and forsake the areolar tissue slowly and sentence. Hence this axiom:



2 Assuming the processed coffee by coffee in the immortal de Belloy Belloy and not from (the one with the meditations that we owe this method is the cousin of the cardinal, and, like him, the family very long and illustrious the Marquis de Belloy), coffee has more virtue in the cold infusion by the infusion of boiling water which is a second way of his effects.

By grinding coffee, you release both the aroma and tannin, you flatter taste and you stimulate the plexus, which react on the thousand capsules of the brain.

So, here are two degrees: the crushed coffee to Turkish coffee grounds.

3 ° the amount of coffee placed in the top container, the more or less water, depends on the strength of coffee, which constitutes the third way to deal with the coffee.

Thus, during a longer or shorter, one or two weeks at most, you can get excited with one, then two cups of coffee crushed an abundance graduated brewed with boiling water.

For one week, the cold infusion, the grind, the crushing of the powder and the decrease of the water, you still get the same amount of brain power.

When you have reached the most pressing and as little water as possible, you double the dose by taking two cups, then some strong temperaments come to three cups. You can still go and a few more days.

Finally, I discovered a horrible and cruel way, I would advise to men of excessive force, with black hair and hard-skinned mixed with ocher and vermilion, hand, square-leg shaped Baluster such as the Place Louis XV. It is the use of coffee grounds, crushed, cold and anhydrous (chemical word which means little or no water) on an empty stomach. This coffee falls into your stomach, which, as you know by Brillat-Savarin, is a velvet bag inside and lined with suckers and papillae, there is nothing, he tackles this delicate and voluptuous lining It becomes a kind of food that wants its juices and it's wrong, he seeks to be a witch calls his god, he manhandles the pretty walls like a trooper who bullies young horses plexus ignite, they soared and sparks are going to their brain. Therefore, all agitated: ideas begin to move like the battalions of the Grand Army field of battle and the battle takes place. The memories come at no charge, with colors flying, the light cavalry of comparisons grows a magnificent gallop; artillery of logic rushes with his train and its cartridges, and the wit come as sharpshooters, the figures rise and the paper is covered with ink, because the day begins and ends with torrents of black water, as the battle by his black powder. I recommend this drink and taken to one of my friends who really wanted to do a job promised for the morrow: he believed poisoned, he returned to bed, he stayed in bed like a bride. He was tall, blond, thin hair and a stomach of papier mache, thin. There was a lack of observation on my part.

When you arrived at the cafe on an empty stomach with superlative emulsions, and you've exhausted you notify if you continue, you will fall into horrible sweats, nervous weakness, drowsiness. I do not know what would happen: the nature wise advised me to abstain, since I'm not sentenced to immediate death. One should then put the formula, the regime of chicken and white meat, and finally relax the harp, and return to life flâneuse, traveler, and fungal silly bourgeois removed.

The state where you put the coffee on an empty stomach in conditions masterful, produces a sort of nervous vivacity that resembles that of anger: the verb stands, gestures express impatience sickly, we want everything to go, trot ideas, it is hound, angry about nothing, you come to this variable nature of the poet as charged by grocers, is ready to hire the lucidity that one enjoys. A man of intelligence must be very careful not to show themselves or allow themselves to approach. I discovered this singular state by some chance that made me lose the excitement out of work I buy. Friends, whom I found myself in the countryside, saw me and disputailleur surly, bad faith in the discussions. The next day, I recognized my error, and we were looking for the cause. My friends were scientists of the first order, we were soon found: coffee wanted its prey.

Not only are these comments are true and do not undergo further changes as those resulting from different idiosyncrasies, but they are consistent with the experiences of many practitioners, among whom is the illustrious Rossini, one of the men who most studied laws of taste, a hero worthy of Brillat-Savarin.

OBSERVATION .- In some weak natures, the coffee produced in the brain congestion safe, instead of feeling turned on, these people experience drowsiness, and say that coffee makes sleep. These people may have legs of venison, ostrich stomachs, but they are poorly equipped for the work of thought. Two young travelers, M. Combes and Tamisier have found the Abyssinians usually helpless: the travelers do not hesitate to watch the abuse of coffee, that the Abyssinians are grown in the last degree, as the cause of this disgrace. If this book goes to England, the British government is asked to resolve this serious issue on the first person he has on hand, provided it is neither a woman nor an old man.

Tea also contains tannin, but hers has virtues narcotic it is not directed to the brain and acts only on the plexus and the intestines to absorb more and faster especially narcotics. How to prepare it is absolute. I do not know how much the amount of water that rush of tea drinkers in their stomach should be counted in the effect. If the English experience is true, it would give the English moral, lay pale complexion, the hypocrisy and slander English, what is certain is that it does not spoil the woman in less moral than physical . Where women drink tea, love is flawed in principle and are pale, sickly, talkative, boring preachers. For some strong organizations, strong tea and taken in large doses provides an irritation that makes the treasures of melancholy, he causes dreams, but less potent than those of opium, as it happens in a fantasy atmosphere gray and hazy. The ideas are fresh as much as the women are blondes. Your state is not the deep sleep that distinguishes fine organizations tired, but drowsiness unspeakable reminiscent musings in the morning. Too much coffee, like tea, produces a severe drought in the skin becomes hot. The coffee is often sweaty and gives a violent thirst. Among those arriving to abuse, saliva is thick and almost eliminated.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Even More Regrettable Doggerel

A hotel proprietor in Nice
Had a terrible problem with fleas*
He cursed "Zut ! sales puces !
I wish zey'd vamoose.
From my scratching I need a release" !

A young nymphomaniac in Rennes
Was very attracted to mennes.
She said "Try as I might,
I just want, every night,
To do it agennes and agennes" !

The people who live down in Metz
Are disturbingly fond of their petz.
Metz, c'est un trou.
There's just *nothing* to do.
Fun with petz is as good as it getz !

Yes, yes! This kind of thing is inexcusable. I'll stop now.

*: Poetic licence. Get over it, already.

Oh, OK. Just one more.

A sommelier living in Nimes
While asleep gave out terrible scrimes
He said "Swear to Jesus,
It must be the cheeses,
That give me such horrible drimes" !

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Au Revoir, PB!

Paddy, seen below with an admirer, left this morning and is safely back in Alexandria.

I miss her already, but will see her again in a month, when I stop over in D.C. on my way back to San Francisco.

I forget whether or not I have mentioned the proximate cause for my return at the end of June. The San Francisco Opera is presenting Wagner's Ring Cycle in June (the full cycle in each of three consecutive weeks) and I have tickets for the final set of performances. Yes, that amounts to something like 16 hours of Wagner in a single week. But, apparently, this is the kind of thing one does in one's golden years. I am already feeling pre-performance anxiety about not being sufficiently prepared, but not to the extent that I am doing anything about it.

But even if it weren't for the operas, I think I would be ready to be home by the end of June. Though I love Paris, 15 weeks away from home is probably long enough.

A Murky Affair

No, this post is not about the regrettable events in New York this past weekend, involving the director of the International Monetary Fund and French presidential hopeful, Dominique Strauss-Kahn. L'Affaire DSK has sparked such a media circus here in Paris that I am already heartily sick of it and, anyway, commenting on a matter about which there has already been far too much speculation* seems superfluous and wrong.

There is another recent affair about which I feel free to speculate, as it has, unfortunately, direct repercussions on my financial status. I am referring, of course, to the sad sequence of events that took place in my newly redecorated San Francisco apartment a week ago Monday morning. The facts as we know them:

  • At approximately 9:45 am Brad uses the toilet in the master bathroom (upstairs).

  • Brad goes downstairs, starts a load of laundry, and begins to read in the living room, while the laundry is underway.

  • At approximately 10:15 am, hearing a noise upstairs, Brad goes up to investigate, to find the upstairs toilet leaking, and the bathroom already flooded.

  • Water to the apartment is cut off and rescue operations begin. Fortunately, damage is very limited, though rescue operations are still ongoing, due to the threat of the dreaded BLACK MOLD.

What could have caused this unfortunate and mysterious near-catastrophe. Could it be

Boris the belligerent


We may never know for sure. Personally, I favor the "shit happens" explanation, and am just relieved that the leak was detected before things really got out of hand.

Still, one wishes this kind of thing didn't happen. Poor Brad was beside himself - he had been so pleased about the way the repainting and recarpeting turned out - and now there is a whole lot of extra work to be done.

*: Though I promised not to comment, I do find it remarkable that fully 58% of French people surveyed yesterday subscribe to the notion that some kind of conspiracy was afoot, in which DSK was trapped by his political enemies. The most commonly held belief appears to be that his opponents deliberately introduced an attractive young woman into his room while he was naked in the shower, thereby triggering his irresistible animal lust. The truly bizarre aspect is that this "explanation" is presented as an argument for diminished culpability, assuming that he was indeed guilty of sexual misconduct/attempted rape, an astonishing perversion of logic that seems to me to be uniquely French. I will make no further comment on the matter except to remark that we have discussed nothing else in class for three days now, to the point that everyone is heartily sick of the subject. Even the Queen's visit to Ireland would be a welcome alternative at this stage.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Twelfth of Never

When will that happen? How various cultures express impossibility or extreme improbability.

  1. When grapes ripen on the willow.

  2. When cows fly.

  3. When pigs fly.

  4. Not in a month of Sundays.

  5. When hell freezes over.

  6. When chickens have teeth.

  7. On Saint Glinglin's Day.

  8. When the 7 - 11 closes.

  9. In the week with 2/3/4 Thursdays.

  10. On Saint Nobody's Day.

  11. When the sun rises in the west.

  12. When Easter and Whitsun coincide.

  13. When the crayfish whistles on the hill.

  14. When it snows red snowflakes.

  15. When gypsy children stream from the sky.

  16. When frogs grow hair.

  17. When I see the back of my head.

  18. On goalkeeper's day.

  19. When the linden tree bears pears.

  20. When the linden tree bears pears and the willow wall-flowers.

  21. At Easter of the horses and at the wedding of the cows.

  22. When donkeys fly.

  23. In the year of never and the month of then.

  24. At the Greek Kalends.

  25. When Easter falls in May.

  26. When the crow flies upside-down.

  27. In the year of the cuckoo.

  28. When the cow coughs.

  29. When the cactus grows on my hand.

  30. In the birch bark month, on the day of the goat.

Extra credit for the enthusiastic reader: try to figure out the language of origin of each of the numbered expressions. Check back in a week or so for the answers.

If you can't wait, most of the answers are available at this excellent link, from which the majority of the phrases are taken:

Flying Pigs and Toothy Chickens

Monday, May 16, 2011

Geek's Corner (8) : More French Expressions You May Not Learn in School

There are just too many of these to include them all, so I've picked out some of my favorites from the rest of the list. Note that, if you were to attend the ACCORD school of languages in Paris, you would learn these, because I will be making a presentation about them in class tomorrow morning:

Démerden Zie sich
German-like expression for "solve your problem yourself" (literally: "get out of the shit yourself")

Donner sa langue au chat
To give up a riddle (literally: "to give one's tongue to the cat")

Être fagoté comme l'as de pique
To be dressed any old how (literally: "to be dressed like the ace of spades")

Être habillé à la six-quatre-deux
To be dressed any old how (literally: "to be dressed like six-four-two")

Il en a bavé des ronds de chapeau
His eyes nearly popped out of his head (literally: "he dribbled hat circles")

Être comme une poule qui a trouvé un couteau
To be at a complete loss (literally: "To be like a chicken who has found a knife")

Haut comme trois pommes
About a person: small (literally: "tall as three apples")

Il n'y a pas de quoi fouetter un chat
It is nothing to make a fuss about (literally: "It's no reason for whipping a cat")

Il y une couille dans le potage
There is a problem here (literally: "there is a ball (i.e., testicle) in the soup")
[One might reasonably wonder why "couille" is feminine]

Je te vois venir avec tes gros sabots
Now we are finally getting to the point (literally: "I see you coming with your big clogs")
[This is my personal favorite]

Ne pas avoir inventé la poudre
To be a little dumb (literally: "not to have invented gunpowder")

Noyer le poisson
To confuse the issue deliberately (literally: "to drown the fish")

Peigner la girafe
To do something useless (literally: "to comb the giraffe")

Quand les poules auront des dents
Never (literally: "when chickens have teeth")

Tous les 36 du mois
Never (literally: "each 36th day of the month")

Vendre la peau de l'ours avant de l'avoir tué
To count one's chickens before they are hatched (literally: "to sell the bear's skin before killing it")

Many thanks to my friend Bill B., who sent me the entire list in the first place.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Doggerel : The French Cycle (I)

Continuing in the tradition of the Iberian cycle -
Iberian Cycle (I)
Iberian Cycle (II)
Iberian Cycle (III)

If invited to visit Bordeaux
My advice is to get up and geaux
Their luxuriant vines
Make excellent wines
You're a fool if you think of saying "neaux"

A young ballet dancer from Nantes
Was concerned with the fit of his pantes
"They're Toulon and Toulouse
And the belt's just a noose
So I dance like I've antes in my pantes!"

Woody Allen is opening at Cannes
I'm sure there'll be oodles of fannes
Europe loves Woody
I think he's no good - he
's become just a dirty old mannes.

Busy Week

Paddy has been here all week (she leaves on Wednesday morning); in addition, my friend Peter Compton stopped off for two nights on his way back to California from the south of France, where he was attending a cooking class in some luxury chateau or other. So I've been out every night this week, with no end in sight. It's a tough life, but somebody has to do it.

The weather was glorious all week, so mainly we've been amusing ourselves by roaming the city, stopping off at the occasional museum. After hitting the Balzac house and Pere Lachaise last weekend, we went to the Fragonard perfume museum on Monday afternoon. (I went to my classes every morning, but my afternoon attendance this week was fairly spotty)

Paddy and David, in the lobby of her hotel.

Peter and David, at a random sidewalk cafe.

Peter, rocking the unshaven look.

Paddy hit a few museums on her own during the week; yesterday afternoon we went to Shakespeare and Company. This afternoon we set out to go to the Musee Jacquemart Andre, in the very classy 8th arrondissement, but the line to get in was too long, so we had to console ourselves by adjourning to a nearby patisserie. It's a good thing I walk everywhere in Paris, or I'd be fat as a piglet by now.

The definite highlight this week has been all the delicious meals, especially every evening. For instance, on Friday evening, Paddy and Pater and I joined Ellen Gilkerson, a former colleague at Genentech (Ellen and I worked together for 15 years), who now lives in Paris for part of the year, for dinner at an extraordinary restaurant in her neighborhood.

Ellen and David, at dinner on Friday evening, in Ellen's neighborhood.

Then yesterday evening, Paddy and I were invited to dinner at Nancy and Gabriella's home in Belleville. Nancy is a folklorist friend of Paddy; Nancy and Gabriella also know Ellen; the other guest at dinner was a folklorist called Frank Proschan, who comes from a family that is famous as a statistical dynasty - he kept us entertained with anecdotes about his uncle Frank, a statistician who is famous for practically inventing reliability theory. It was a hilarious and wonderful evening, livened by excellent wine, great conversation, and copious amounts of Limoncello that had been made by their upstairs neighbor Rodolfo. Maybe a little too much Limoncello, it turned out this morning. But a tiny hangover seemed like a small price to pay for such a great evening.

All in all, an exhausting week, but a terrific one. Paddy and I had planned to go to Fontainebleau tomorrow, but I suspect we may end up choosing a less ambitious option instead. Possibly one involving some more great French food.

And when Wednesday rolls around, and Paddy has gone, I'll get right back to the gym - that's a promise!