Saturday, March 24, 2012

Busy Week

Just a quick post to catch up before I head out to see "Uncle Vanya" at 16:00. Things have been quite busy, but in a good way.

Brad arrived on Tuesday morning, bringing the good weather with him (as he always does) - the man has excellent meteorological karma. Here he is, on the street outside the apartment, last night:

On Wednesday morning we had our improvisation class instead of normal lessons. Not to brag, or anything, but I was quite proud that the person voted as having given the most convincing Carla Bruni impressions was moi! Despite some stiff competition from my charming Italian classmate Ilaria (who, one would think, had the a priori advantage, what with having the Italo-French accent down and all).

Wednesday evening I was invited to dinner at my friend France's apartment in the 6th arrondissement. Among the other guests were Doug Bates, former professor of statistics at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, and his wife Mary Ellen, both Canadian. France embarrassed us completely by toasting us with champagne, telling us that our books (Bates and Watts, Davidian and Giltinan) had played a seminal role in her statistical education, and that she never dreamed that we would actually be dinner guests in her apartment some day. It was embarrassing, but let's face it, also really kind of flattering. A very nice ego boost - I only wish my partner in crime, Professor Davidian had also been there to savor the moment. France has been extraordinarily kind to me on many occasions since the start of my Parisian adventures and it was a lovely evening.

Thursday afternoon was the regular sortie pedagogique with Anne. We visited various remnants of medieval Paris in and around the 6th:

Yesterday afternoon I wandered over to the Pompidou Center where I visited the Brancusi studio and stumbled across a potential clue to future career options. More about this in a subsequent post, but here's a hint:

Class this week was a lot of fun. As always, the quality of the discussion largely depends on the particular mix of the people in the group, and this week we had an especially lively bunch. For me the definite high point was yesterday morning's discussion. Earlier in the week we had talked about the French-Algerian war, as the 50th anniversary of the peace agreement was on March 19th. One of the more interesting guys in the class is called Manne from Sweden. A former personal trainer and mixed martial arts competitor in Sweden (in the U.S. the closest description would be "cage fighter"), he looks very much the part, stocky muscular build, reset nose, cauliflower ears. About a year ago he decided to undergo a career change and came to Paris to study philosophy at the Sorbonne. So, in the class discussion about the difficulty of pinning down a single version of history, it was hilariously disconcerting to have him chime in with Habermas's critique of Foucault's views on history. One of the other students is Ben, a very smart, very sweet, Chinese guy in his twenties who had spent two years in DC as a reporter. Hearing the two of them discuss Fukuyama's "The End of History" in (extremely good) French was a slightly surreal experience, and a memory I will long cherish.

Last night Nancy and Gabriella came by to see the apartment and to meet Brad and the four of us went to dinner at the excellent Italian restaurant at the corner. It was lots of fun, and I think Brad was glad to have dinner companions who spoke English.

Right now (Saturday 15:00) he is out and about, enjoying the sunshine, and it's time for me to head out to see "Uncle Vanya". I loves me some culture!

A la prochaine !

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The arms of Morpheus

What a difference 24 hours can make. Up until last night, this was me -

But, thanks to the wonders of melatonin, I fell right asleep at 11:30 pm last night, woke up once at 4:00 am, drifted right back to sleep, and woke at 7:45 am totally refreshed.

So I'm hoping to do the same right now, and let the big old world just keep on turning without my actively worrying about it -

Bonne nuit, mes enfants.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Out and about in the Neighborhood

A few pictures from my recent ramblings:

Faith, Hope, and Charity.

If we can have a "Rue du Croissant", why not a "Bagel Boulevard"?

I love that there is a bookstore dedicated to the horse!

Note how I manage to sneak in a cat picture here.

Insomnia is improving slightly. I have high hopes for quitting the cycle this evening, due to some melatonin that I managed to score earlier today (no need to go into the details, but in the end your true friends are those with the good drugs). Brad arrives tomorrow morning, so I am excited about that. And tonight it's "Top Chef, France" !

In other news, on the political front, the slate of 10 candidates for the first round of the presidential elections on April 22nd has been finalized
. The three front runners are Sarkozy, Hollande, and the vile Marine Le Pen. In general, nobody gets an absolute majority in the first round, so that the final selection will be decided on Sunday May 6th, in a runoff between the two front-runners in the first round. I have already been invited to an election night party at Rodolfo's (the charming upstairs neighbor of Nancy and Gabriella). And I fully intend to go.

The whole country is stunned by the assassination in cold blood, earlier today, of a teacher and three students outside a Jewish school in Toulouse. People seem genuinely horrified -- even the politicians are showing an unusually united front in condemning the atrocity.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Only 14 weeks of Parisian bliss left

Not that I'm one to rub it in. Nosiree, Bob, not me!

Today was a nice lazy day. I've been having difficulty sleeping since I got here and last night was no exception. I finally drifted off around 5am, didn't make it out of bed until 11am. But then I basically walked all over the city (stupidly forgot my camera), to try to tire myself out for tonight.

I may, however, have sabotaged myself by going to see "La Dame en Noire" at the Rex at 22:00. (Or, if you prefer, "Harry Potter and the Woman in Black") The good news - apparently this is the "weekend of the cinema" all across Paris, so tickets to everything were a uniform price of 3.50 Euro. Further good news - the movie was pretty damned good; once you bought into its creepy Gothic-horror logic, it was very well done.

The bad news -- it scared the bejasus out of me. So now I am sitting here, sipping Sancerre, trying to screw up my courage to turn out the lights and go to bed.

In the meantime, here is another fine cat poem for your amusement:


You expect, Puss-in-Boots
to go on treating my house
as your house
after treating my pet partridge
as a comestible?

No, pet partridge!
Over the bones of his treat
the cat shall be slain,
and you honored in blood rite:
as Pyrrhus, recall,
(rightfully) slew
over the corpse of Achilles.

(Agathias, translated by Peter Whigham)