Through the Glass Dirtily

I feel like I'm looking at the world through a greasy, dirty windshield right now. I stumble up this-or-that Rue de quelque chose, halfheartedly dodging people, feeling enervated and sort of half-blind. I'm drunk too much and I'm so sick of Paris.

Fortunately, as mentioned in earlier posts, I finally get to leave Paris for a few days. I'm heading out of Gare de l'Est tomorrow at 9am, bound for Germany. I'm meeting up with my friends C+S and their tiny kiddo in their village outside of Heidelberg, about three hours from Paris by train. I'm hoping and expecting that it will be relaxing, having conversation be the default for a few days instead of the exception, not having to worry about trying to say the right thing in public (since all I remember of German at this point are a few clumsy tourist phrases and some Rammstein lyrics, I can simply claim complete ignorance), and just not being HERE for a little while. Even if you think Paris is the best city in the world, I would retort that my situation is the municipal equivalent of the old saying 'you can't survive on ice cream.'

This is a picture of the funny man who writes the Chunklet zine holding a small dog while it is fed malt liquor. Apparently, he just released a book called the Rock Bible full of funny, pithy, and accurate things about playing in bands. I want this book. I will get a copy on returning to the states.

Hope everyone has a turkey day as happy as a dog all liquored-up on Colt 45.


Snowing in Paris

Picture out my window. You can't see it, but it's totally snowing.

It got very cold over the last two or three days. There was an article in Le Monde this morning about homeless people freezing in the Bois de Vincennes, the big park by my friend M's apartment in the SE of the city. I braved a short trot around the island to see how it felt, and yeah...it would be a lousy week to be homeless in Paris.

Besides meteorological anomalies, I don't have much to report on. I've done a good job being social over the last week, having peeps over for dinner, running around the city, and reducing the beer and wine surplus. Being around people serves two functions for me: it makes me less depressed and it makes the time go faster. This week I've got another professorial compu-intervention to attend to, then I leave for a long weekend in Shriesheim, the little village my friends live in near Heidelberg.

I'm not getting much done on the so-called "research" front. Gorz's 600+ treatise is like climbing one of those frozen waterfalls you see crazy people climbing on afternoon shows on the Discovery Channel. I shoot for 10 - 20 pages a day, taking notes. I started writing the other day as well, but I'm just doing the thing where I write a bunch of jumbled, disconnected paragraphs that I'll stitch together later. It's an effective approach in that you just keep shoveling text into the pile, and all of a sudden you have enough for whole pages, which leads to whole chapters, which leads to whole dissertations...

For everyone back in the states, I hope you've remembered to line up some outstanding Thanksgiving plans. Remember, it's the best holiday. Just mix up a big bowl of stuffing, dark meat, veggies, and red wine, and then hop right in.


Drunk Bunnies

Rocking it on the Parisian scene with one of my former students, looking forward to going to Germany next week to see a former co-worker and his lovely wife, counting down the bloody days until my own lovely wife arrives, ignoring everyone and everything on the stupid streets of Paris. Watch the video. It is bunnies.


Worst-Case Scenario: No Internet

Well, my internet died this morning. My cable modem has been going offline every couple of days since I arrived in August, but normally the old unplug / replug technique (known in some circles as the Microsoft Universal Fix, although in this case it's for a non-Microsoft product) would always bring it back online. Not so this morning. I'm typing this up at the UC Center and sort of walking through the scenarios that are going to be involved in trying to get it fixed (best-case: it fixes itself while I'm here. Medium-case: I have to go somewhere with free internet and e-mail my landlord and tell him to call the ISP. Worst-case: somehow I have to call the ISP. Did I mention I don't have a phone?)

So, my apologies if I'm not e-mailing, updating, or poking anyone on Facebook for a while.

God. Fucking. Damn it.

Addendum, Back at Home: So, there are phone company trucks everywhere and a notice on the front of the building that they'll be upgrading stuff until Tuesday the 25th. Looks like I'm back online for the moment, but I'd imagine it's going to be pretty hit and miss. My favorite part: someone who lives in the building wrote in bed red letters on the official notice:

Pas Confiance dans une PHOTOCOPIE! ("(I have) No confidence in a PHOTOCOPY!")

At least I share my pissy indignation with mes voisins


Human Contact, with Computers. Also: Sexy Terrorist?

ITEM 1!!!

I returned to the lovely apartment of one of the profs in the UC program to work my magic on her and her husband's computers again yesterday evening.* This is a good deal for everyone: they get free computer repair / configuration and I get to be around other human beings. I was fed foods including:
  • Green vegetables!
  • Shallots (which are so much better and more interesting than onions! Who knew?)
  • Steak!
  • Beer!
So that part was great. The part that wasn't great was the husband's new laptop's operating system. I've only had a few brushes with Windows Vista, since it was just coming on the scene as I was on my way out of the temp tech job at the astrophysics dept. two years ago. The press on it has been uniformly awful, and GOOD GOD DAMN, people, the press was right. It's a bloated, slow, confusing, convoluted sack of shit. Things that were straightforward and responsive in Windows XP take four times as long in Vista, assuming you can find them at all.

The thing that really frustrated husband was that his reliable old workhouse of a printer doesn't work with Vista, either. And no one has or is going to write a new driver for it, so now he and prof have to think about buying a replacement, on top of the money they just spent on the new laptop.

ITEM 2!!!

While making the rounds on my usual news sites this morning, I came across THIS charming fellow:

Per this BBC article, this is supposedly the military leader of the Basque separatist movement the ETA. At first I thought "my goodness, what a dashing swarthy rogue is this!" But then I noticed something: the fashion mullet. He's sporting what appears to be a teased and product-using party in the back with a fashionable close-cropped deal in front, all held together by the George Michael facial hair scene.

He was probably captured because it was so easy to track him down by the smell of hair gel and the moans of disappointment from the ladies as they realized he had a mullet. Unless Basque separatist girls are into that kind of thing.

Anyway, I'm back to the BNF this afternoon after trudging over to the Monoprix to deal with the checkout ladies this morning. I am out of wine, pesto, and cheese, you see.

* By "my magic" here, I mean magic comparable to a primitive card trick. Or anything that GOB would have done on Arrested Development - say the Aztec Tomb.


Bringing a Little FABULOUS to 64 Rue Saint-Louis en l'Ile

What is it about Bravo shows? I hate that I fall prey to them, their polished exteriors, their money spewing out of every orifice, and their endless legions of FABULOUS gay men decorating things. I just sit there watching until the episode is over, eyes wide like an eight year-old boy seeing boobs in a movie for the first time, and when it's over I click on the next one.*

These people are aliens. They're all artists in the design studio, the design firm, or the design kitchen. There might be vague allusions to hardship, but it comes off like their shit smells like potpourri on the show. They wear the craziest outfits I've ever seen in the mini reality-show interview segments, and it makes me want to dress like that. The editors make it seem like they're running out of time, but then you see the outfit, or the newly-decorated loft, or the pig cheeks with wasabi, and it's clear it was just done like that for dramatic tension. Every motherfucking time, it's impossible not to fly my one-man studio apartment spaceship right into the wormhole to planet FABULOUS.

* Thanks again, internet thieves, for doing all of my dirty work for me.



Please see my flickr site for my brief scarf fashion show. As you can see, I am befuddled by scarves. Keep those scarf-wearing ideas coming! Remember, I'm working with a medium-length, broad, plaid, acrylic scarf, so nothing that involves elaborate looping will work.


Day in the Life: Aujourd'hui Edition!

  1. Up! Coffee! Cheerios! Interwebs while I drink the coffee. With the showering!
  2. AAAAAGH! It's a "I have to go to the laverie day!" Might as well (um, finally) wash the sheets while I'm at it. Everything goes in the pillowcase (thanks for the tip, B.) Walk walk walk. 4.50 euro / load.
  3. Return chez moi. E-mails! Call the UC center: "S, do you know anything about my train tickets that I don't have. No? Ok." Call ACCENT: "ACCENT guy, do you...you do?! Hot damn!"
  4. Back to the laverie. Stuff in the dryer. Go for a walk around the island for 30 minutes. Stuff out, back to the apartment.
  5. Get tickets! Get package from my mom! Hey, it's a scarf! Now I will be virtually invisible, lost in the crowds of scarf-wearers!
  6. Still time to go to Monoprix! Walk walk walk. 28 euros for basic things to eat for a few days! Also: toilet paper and new sponges for dish-washing.
  7. Wolf down sandwich. 20 minutes to sit and stare blankly at the wall. To the BNF!
  8. Walk walk walk. Ignore spitting rain. Ignore option of taking the metro instead.
  9. Aaaaaah...Gorz's journalistic pseudonym Michel Bosquet's Critique du Capitalisme Quotidien. Light reading for a few hours. Notes!
  10. Ugh. Bored and tired. I've been here for 2.5 hours...good enough. Walk walk walk.
  11. Decide not to work out. Legs hurt. Stretch.
  12. Blog post update!
For next time: how the fuck do you wear a scarf, anyway? I will ask you, my fashion-forward readers, to chime in. Also, I will model various possibilities I can think up. Expect both Blue Steel and Magnum.


Sorry, Paris

I received an e-mail from my homie C earlier today filling me in on odds and ends she thought I should hear about. One odd/end was the fact that she knew someone who knew someone who was doing PHD work in Paris the same time I was and who, apparently, was also "hating" being here. I immediately felt like a schmuck reading that e-mail, thinking about how 80% of what I've told people about back home has been negative, about my constant complaining and chickenshit avoidance of stressful situations. I'm not crazy about returning home with the reputation of being the guy who got to go to Paris on someone else's dime and spent the whole time bitching, although that's certainly the case.

So here's an open letter to Paris expressing my feelings:

Ma Chere Paris,

I'm writing to apologize for my behavior over the last few months. It's not like an obscure graduate student from a random state university could really besmirch your reputation, but I still wanted to make sure that we understood one another.

First and foremost, you've been more than welcoming during my time here. Parisians, while curt and businesslike, are also polite, civil, and very professional. No one has been openly rude during my entire stay, and I want you to know that I appreciate it. In particular, everyone has been very understanding with my French, tolerating the mispoken word or the mangled phrase and making it clear that the important thing is communication, not perfect grammar.

The thing is, it doesn't matter that I'm here, in the Ile de France, versus anywhere else on the planet. I'm essentially a "local" - I like to hole up in a place and surround myself with familiar things. There's no way I can do that here or anywhere else outside of the United States; I'm too much an American, too much given to the blundering, overly generous, naive and bright-eyed kind of attitude that marks us off from Europeans. And I miss my wife too much; you have to know that the major reason I've been unhappy here is that she and I spend almost all of our time together, and that we like it that way. I can't be away from her for more than a few weeks and keep it together.

There's another issue. I don't blame you for this so much as I blame...well, as we academics call it, "late capitalism." You're too expensive for me, Paris. All of the ex-pat love stories about Paris, all of the literature from the 20s - 40s, the happy memories of my parents' generation travelling through in the 60s, even the generation of academics who earned their degrees in the 80s, they all experienced a Paris with a weak currency, with cheap housing, with restaurants and bistros and cafés that you could afford to eat at every day. You and I both know that that's completely impossible now. By my calculations, it costs TWELVE TIMES as much to eat out as it does to stay in, and I'm talking about a modest café meal! You really leave me no choice but to camp out in my (expensive) apartment and have pasta fourteen times per week. Again, it's not your "fault" in so many words, it's just a neutral fact that makes it tough to be here.

I don't want to ramble at you, so I'll cut this short. Thank you for your beautiful architecture, for the way the light looks different here than anywhere else I've ever seen, for the bridges and the happy dogs on walks and the efficiency of the metro. Thank you for your smartly-dressed citizens, for the helpful staff at the BNF, for the 2-euro Vieux Papes wine.

Thanks for everything, Paris, but I want to go home.

Bien Cordialement,



After two days' hindsight, I realized why I had been so terrified, in such a specific, peculiar way. It wasn't just the idea that Obama could lose. It was the memory of 2004, an election that the Dems should have won like a basketball game against a quadriplegic.* Instead, they nominated a decent, honest man with all of the charisma of a wet sock and got shot full of holes by the Karl Rove ugly-campaign machine...and they still only lost 51/49%.

This year was similar in that there was no way the Dems should have lost, but people like me, we're just too used to watching it all go to shit. After eight years of the most disastrous presidency in our history, after two horrific and pointless wars, after a total financial meltdown, there should have been no ambiguity about who was going to win...but there was. And what I was most scared of was that, if we lost this time, what hope was there for the future? How could circumstances ever recommend a Democrat more strongly than it did RIGHT NOW?

I am so grateful that they (the Dems) finally got a powerful campaign going, and more grateful that Obama himself has the most unshakeable resolve of any human being on the planet. Personally, I'm pretty sure he's a rad presidential cyborg.

* This is the only metaphor that I could think of off of the top of my head.



I checked as soon as I woke up.

Like most of you, I'm sure, I can't even express how excited and relieved I am. It looks like we're not out of the woods on the idiotic right-wing Christian ballot measures back in California, but at least the big race was won.

P.S. As usual, the Onion nailed it: nation finally shitty enough to make social progress.


I Will Be Holding my Breath...

...until the election results are in. Which, for those of us in Paris, is Wednesday morning.

Your Occidental Reporter,


It's Come to This

...I finally broke down and joined Facebook. So, if you're on there, find me and OHMYGOD TOTALLY FRIEND ME, YOU GUYS!!!

I'm going to keep the KFR online identity separate from Facebook; I'm flying under my real name there and will be keeping my identity all scrubbed-clean and sanitized, since I wanted to join in part to network academically.

This is just the latest foray in my life project to be four years behind everyone else.

Addendum: Hot damn! My submission to Cake Wrecks is online! I found this one on some random flickr person's site (saw a cake, thought "hmm...could be a wreck") and sent it to the Cake Wrecks lady a few weeks ago.