Friday, September 28, 2012

Some Stuff you Will Have Missed if you are not on Facebook (not suggesting that you should be, because you actually have a life)

Everything goes better with a top hat.

Or a fedora.

Things could be worse. You could have tit juice conjunctivitis.

If these confirm your prejudice that Facebook is a time-wasting sump of vapidness, well then, my work here is done.

The answer to yesterday's mystery question can hardly have been a mystery to anyone with access to a web browser (if that doesn't include you, how the heck did you get here?). Bruno Magli makes fancy SHOES.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Mystery Picture

Good heavens! What could these be? The bodies of dead Franciscans, come to an unhappy ending? No, I bear my former educators/tormentors no ill-will.

Tune in tomorrow, when the mystery shall be revealed.

'Tis the season

Yes, I'm still here, skulking around the apartment. But with a definite added quota of mental energy, even if my cold still lingers a bit.

On Monday, I received a somewhat baffling e-mail. It was from Harry and David, a corporation that would dearly love for you to think of them as just these two avuncular fruit-growers somewhere in Oregon (not the meth-lab ridden Oregon, obviously; the fruitier, lusher, more mythic part). They are kind of like Ben and Jerry, if you replace ice-cream by delicious pears, and Vermont by Oregon.

The Plain People of Ireland: Is there a point to this meandering?
Whipping Cats Management: Security! Get these rabble out of here; I thought blog policy was perfectly clear - the plebs are allowed to "contribute" only in the comments section.
Whipping Cats "Security Officer" (a pimply teen): Right-ho, guvnor!

Anyway, this missive from Harry and David was to inform me that they had prepared my "holiday gift list", and that a simple nod of acquiescence on my part (with some vital credit card info, natch) was all that was needed to send packages of happiness criss-crossing the land. As if happiness were that simple, something to be commodified and dispatched at will.

But my real point is - What the heck, Harry (and/or David)? Hold your horses there just a minute! You sent me this message on September 24th. Just what "holiday" did you have in mind here, gentlemen? Yom Kippur? Since when do I have a gift list for Yom Kippur?

I think we all know what holiday H & D had in mind. But I am going to pretend that marketing for the Christmas season is not already in full swing, and that in fact H & D were exhorting me to celebrate the arrival of autumn.

Yes, indeed. Fall is here. I wonder what the poets have to say about that. Here is John Keats, in a generally upbeat frame of mind:

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells.
Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap'd furrow sound asleep,
Drows'd with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cider-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.
Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,-
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.
How about some Rilke?


Herr, es ist Zeit. Der Sommer war sehr groß.
Leg deinen Schatten auf die Sonnenuhren,
und auf den Fluren lass die Winde los. 

Befiehl den letzten Früchten, voll zu sein;
gib ihnen noch zwei südlichere Tage,
dränge sie zur Vollendung hin, und jage
die letzte Süße in den schweren Wein. 

Wer jetzt kein Haus hat, baut sich keines mehr.
Wer jetzt allein ist, wird es lange bleiben,
wird wachen, lesen, lange Briefe schreiben
und wird in den Alleen hin und her
unruhig wandern, wenn die Blätter treiben.

Lord: it is time. The summer was immense.
Stretch out your shadow on the sundial’s face,
and on the meadows let the winds go loose.

Command the last fruits to be full in time,
grant them even two more southerly days,
press them toward fulfillment soon, and chase
the last sweetness into the heavy wine.

Whoever has no house now, will build none.
Who is alone now, will stay long alone,
will lie awake, read, get long letters written,
and through the streets that follow up and down
will wander restless, when the leaves are driven.

Translated by John Felstiner
19 February 2011
(There are many bad translations of this poem; John Felstiner's wonderful version is a jewel)
In closing, let's hand the microphone over to Monsieur Paul Verlaine, on whose home turf we will be spending the greater part of this particular autumn. Paul, what do you have for us? An "Autumn Song"? Just the ticket.
Les sanglots longs
Des violons
De l'automne
Blessent mon cœur
D'une langueur

Tout suffocant
Et blême, quand
Sonne l'heure.
Je me souviens
Des jours anciens,
Et je pleure...

Et je m'en vais
Au vent mauvais
Qui m'emporte
De çà, de là,
Pareil à la
Feuille morte...
Perhaps we could have that in (rough) translation?
With long sobs
the violin-throbs
of autumn wound
my heart with languorous
and monotonous

Choking and pale
When I mind the tale
the hours keep,
my memory strays
down other days
and I weep;

and I let me go
where ill winds blow
now here, now there,
harried and sped,
even as a dead
leaf, anywhere.
God, no, Paul is off his meds again!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Slouching Towards Recovery

I will say one thing for French cold viruses -- they are persistent. I had hoped that today would be back-to-school day, but my chest and ribs did not share this view. So it was another morning of fitful dozing, where time slowed to molasses, then accelerated in odd bursts, as if I were living in a bad Dali painting. (I know -- that's a tautology right there. I loathe f###ing Dali. Even more than that other nutjob Gaudi).
The plain people of Ireland: "Hold on, now! That's a bit strong. Sure they were geniuses, the both of them. Way ahead of their time.
Whipping Cats Management (wrestling for control): WTF? Get out of here! Ye are not allowed to be in the main body of a post ...
Anyway, as I was about to say, I am continuing on the road to recovery, and hope to get back to class tomorrow. This evening I had been scheduled to meet Ellen and Leslie for dinner at this well-known fish restaurant:
Indeed, I had already picked out what I was going to have (tomato pie with pesto, and roasted sea bass, if you must know). But, in the end, I had to bale out (bail out?), because my immune system did not feel ready for another trip in the metro just yet.
I did manage to make it to the Normandy restaurant a few blocks from home,  where the owner knows me and fusses over me and gives me free Calvados. Tonight he did all these things and it made me feel much better about life and my chances of beating this cold.
And when I got back from dinner, one of my favorite French TV programs, "Maison à Vendre" was on. There is something delightfully universal about real-estate greed.

Things are looking up.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Secret Diet Tip

Apart from getting a 3-day cold (Lord, I hope it's just a 3-day cold, because staying at home is getting old), here is my foolproof French recipe for keeping those sugar cravings at bay:

Yes, gentle reader, it is the French version of the fig roll (or fig newton, if you are American), about which I have spoken before. Their secret is that they bear just enough similarity to their juicy Irish counterparts

that having one after your meal tricks your taste buds into thinking they have had the desired sugar fix. Their "advantage" is that, unlike their juicy Irish or American counterparts, they are so mouth-desiccatingly dry that there is no temptation whatsoever to have a second. Their consumption is thus self-limiting. Addiction to the Leader Figue would be a sheer physiological impossibility.

Oddly enough, these amazing concoctions are not sold in the pharmacist's under the rubric of "diet aids" (are any of my readers old enough to remember when there was a diet aid called AIDS, broadly advertised in the Reader's Digest, in what now seems like an unimaginably innocent age?). No, they are sold on regular supermarket shelves.

The mystery of their origin (because the apparent complete lack of butter used in their manufacture seems as if it would be a crime on French soil) is partially resolved by closer inspection of the packing, which merely stipulates that they were produced "within the European Union". I think we know at least one country, just a stone's throw across the Pyrenees, that must be considered a suspect in the fabrication of the "Leader Figue". And, no, I'm not talking about you, Andorra.

Monday, September 24, 2012

A Dinner Post

I stayed home from school today because of my VILE COLD, but things appear to be on the mend. Enough for me to try a very abbreviated post about dinner on Thursday evening, which was at Chez Flottes, with my legal companions from last week's "French & the Law" class. Though Chez Flottes had the slight air of a tourist trap, a fine time was had by all.

Sonre (Norway), Elaine (Canada), and Ksenia (Russia)

The foie gras starter with mango chutney was my favorite course.

Though the chicken with mashed potatoes and vegetables was pretty good as well.

Sarina (from Switzerland) and Ekim (from Turkey) also enjoyed the evening:

Sadly, Teresa, the apellate court judge from Modena, did not join us; possibly because she didn't want her face plastered all over Facebook.

Dessert was an excellent chocolate moelleux, a little too rich pour moi.

Enormous thanks are due to Greg Butera, from Manchester, who took on the trouble of organising the whole evening.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Dinner with France and Pascal

Yesterday evening I had dinner at my friend France's home (in the beautiful 6th arrondissement), with her and her charming, super-smart son, Pascal. They live on a velibe-packed street:

The ratatouille, made from a recipe of France's grandmother, was superb. But the raspberry and rose-petal sorbet at the end, from Berthillon, was worth killing for. You may want to look into making arrangements for having it shipped weekly on dry ice to your home.

Clearly, France and Pascal are thriving on this diet of nectar from the gods

Maybe I should have scarfed down a little more, because today I am suffering from a nasty cold, which is preventing me from attending Gabriella's birthday party this evening. I am, as the French would say, desolated.

I also know exactly which vile inconsiderate metro passenger gave me this cold on Friday, and if I ever see you again, Madame Sniffly, my vengeance shall be terrible indeed.

There is a much longer post in the works, all about my exciting week with the legal eagles, but its completion will have to wait until I am healthier.