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:

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Not an auspicious beginning

Dear Sorbonne administration,

I know you are French and everything, but surely that only excuses so much bureaucratic ineptitude. It wasn't as if you had promised me a lot, or that my expectations were high. But I thought it reasonable to think that you might follow through on the one little thing that you did promise -- to send me the timetable of classes by today so that I would know when and where to show up tomorrow when classes start.

I would suggest that, given the not inconsiderable fees you charge foreign students for signing up for you damned courses, the scenario in which I am forced to send the e-mail below is not an acceptable one:


Je me suis inscrit pour le semestre d'hiver 2013, pour lequel le cours va commencer demain, et je n'ai pas encore reçu aucune information concernant mon horaire (malgré votre promesse que l'on recevra aujourd'hui). Cela a comme conséquence que j'ignore le lieu et l'heure de la première séance.

Je vous serais reconnaissant de toute aide que vous pourriez apporter à cette question.
David Giltinan

(le numéro sur ma carte d'étudiant est XXXXXX, je suis inscrit au cours F010)
{I enrolled for the winter semester of 2013, for which classes will start tomorrow, and I have not received any information about my schedule (despite your promise that I would receive it today). This has the consequence that I do not know the place and time of the first session.

I would appreciate any help you could provide on this issue.}
Or, to put it succinctly, you ain't nothin' but a bunch of hound dawgs.
I loathe incompetence.
There, I feel much better now.  Thank you for your attention.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Strolling through Paris

Here are links to two albums which have been posted elsewhere (on a social media site which shall not be named). They should be viewable even by those who shun and abhor said nameless social media site; hopefully the act of doing so will not have lasting nefarious consequences for you, or your computer. Though you might want to check for crumbs in your cookies folder, you can't be too careful.

Stroll # 1 (Wednesday October 2nd) :  to the Rimbaud poetry mural and back

Stroll # 2 (Sunday October 6th)   :    to the Tuileries and back

Finally, here is a photo of Gaspard, who welcomed my friend France and me at dinner on Wednesday evening (at la Bonne Cécile):

I can't quite decide whether or not he has an extra paw. What do you think?