Monday, January 30, 2006

Shameless Self-Promotion: it's the American Way

Sometimes, I just can't help it: At the end of the day, I'm still American. I'm also an extrovert, which means I thoroughly enjoy making a fool of myself in front of others. I relish every letter I have published in the paper, every time I'm singled out at the piano bar and every time I get up to sing karaoke. So, it goes without saying that I'm very proud of having managed to get through to David Lee Roth this morning on his new syndicated radio show. (I was on at the top of the 7:00 hour.) I even got a mention in the show's corresponding blog: (The topic of discussion was band members touring under their original names despite having broken up. PA has a new piece of legislation called the "Truth in Music Advertising Act", and I called in to bring it up.)

"Another caller says that in Pennsylvania, there is a bill that states that bands can only be called their original name, if the original members still have a stake in the claim."

The only way this could have been better is if I would have gotten a chance to try to convince Dave to have the G-Bros. on his show when he broadcasts in the 'Burgh.

Too bad he doesn't speak French...

Cherchez la femme...

Where has La Dauphine gone?? I can't find your blog and Neillou doesn't link to you anymore. Boohoo! If you're reading this, let me know where I can find you!! I don't like to lose track of blogs I like...that almost happened with Librarian Extraordinaire (now Happy Villain).

[Sniff] 'suis triste sans toi...

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Taisez-vous, already!

The stories are true: Pittsburgh's famous three rivers have started running black and gold, replacing their usual hue of brownish-blue. The entire city has caught Steeler Fever, and, despite the ubiquitous UPMC, there is no vaccine in sight.

All this craziness over the Steelers going to the Super Bowl this year makes me think back to January 2004, when I was living in France and missed perhaps the biggest Super Bowl uproar ever: I missed the whole of America not-quite-witnessing Janet Jackson's nipple. That's ok, because there are plenty of real nipples floating around the French media...just pick up a 3 Suisses catalog or tune in to a bath soap commercial. Maxim in France is no different than's a wonder the two are able to coexist in the newsstands.

...but I digress. France is a nice respite from sports talk. I never had to listen to anyone talking about touchdowns, boneheaded refs or their weird sports superstitions. Even during soccer conversations, I was able to stop the gabbers right in their tracks when I'd announce that the only thing I know about French soccer is that Bernard Tapie tried to fix the World Cup one year.

I'm getting sick of the talk already...actually, I've been sick of it since we won the first playoff game. People seem to think that the entire fate of our city is irreversably linked to the success or failure of the Steelers: when they lose, our city is terrible: horrible at retaining young people, lousy tax structure, too many bad neighborhoods, numbskull politicians...the list goes on. But when the Steelers win, suddenly everyone is SO proud to be from Western PA: There's so much to do here! Look at all we have to boast about! We have George Romero! And Donnie Iris! And Andy Warhol! And great sammiches! And we have a great regional accent, yinz guys n'at!

And I'm not exaggerating the exclamation points, here, folks. I just want us to win the Super Bowl so everyone will just SHUT UP. I'm always proud to be from Pittsburgh, whether the Stillers are good or lousy...the city itself has more "fair-weather fans" than the Seattle Seahawks. Sheesh.

Photo: A friend of mine posing with the indispensable Terrible Towel. Yes, we were scathingly drunk at the time.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Dirty Little Secrets, Part I

I hate to admit it, but sometimes I think of my French as a chore. I've always hated reading French...the occasional newspaper article doesn't bother me; neither do poems, modern plays or children's books, but I've always hated reading classic French literature. This creates a problem, because the thing about admitting to people that you've got a degree in French is that they then expect you to have an extensive knowledge of Guy de Maupassant or Baudelaire.

I could probably name a few things each of these men have written, but I couldn't tell you much beyond that. There are a few French authors I enjoy, namely Victor Hugo, Sébastien Japrisot and Marcel Pagnol...and from the African set, Ousmane Sembène, but for the most part, I regard having to read French books as a bothersome chore. I'd much prefer to listen to a radio broadcast or converse with actual Francophones than bury my nose in a book (actually two books, since frequent trips to the dictionary keep me hopping back and forth, especially for Japrisot).

It's not that the stories are bad; on the contrary, French literature is home to some of the most engaging, exciting stories ever written. I guess I've just always had a deep suspicion and dislike of so-called "classics". My mother has an extensive library of books from her teenage years, the likes of which I don't think I'll ever pick up. I can't believe she was reading Ivanhoe at 14...voluntarily. I never understood what led one book to be labeled a "classic" and another to be cast aside. Surely this was the brainchild of some marketing dope somewhere down the line. Well, I didn't fall for it! I've never read a book simply because it was a "classic"...I have, however, read books that happened to be classics because I was curious about them, like East of Eden. And, just for the record, my curiosity has absolutely nothing to do with Oprah Winfrey and her stupid club. I've already read Night, thank you very much! (Excellent book, by the way.)

I think that what I've written above wrongly paints me as a "non-reader" of those "I don't know art, but I know what I like"-types. I'm actually quite the opposite: I love to read, and spent many hours of my childhood collecting and reading books by Beverly Cleary, Lynne Reid Banks and Roald Dahl. I sought out books by these authors based purely on the fact that I had enjoyed the book read immediately prior; there was no idiot from the New York Times writing up lists and telling me which books to read.

...but I digress. I never really had a desire to read classic English literature, let alone classic French literature. Perhaps this is why graduate school didn't really appeal to me. There is far too much emphasis in foreign language departments at American universities these days on literature, and not enough emphasis on language. Many of my classmates graduated with a French degree on paper, but they wouldn't be able to wash their socks in France. I guess what really bothers me is that studying literature alone has no basis in practicality; being able to recite Racine won't get you fed and clothed in a foreign country.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Ceci n'est pas un urinoir

There is something to be said for participatory art, but this is just ridiculous:

PARIS - A French performance artist was arrested for taking a small hammer to Marcel Duchamp's "Fountain," the factory-made urinal that is considered the cornerstone of conceptual art.

The porcelain urinal was slightly chipped in the hammering, which took place Wednesday during the final days of a Dada exhibition at the Pompidou Center. [full article]

The article goes on to report that at least three of the other "original replicas" of this piece have been urinated on by men over the years. I wouldn't even give them credit for "making an artistic statement"; I'd just attribute the whole thing to laziness. Walk a few extra feet to the sink, buddy. Let's face it: after one person's done it, it's no longer an "artistic statement", it's just copycatting.

Photo: My photo of "Fountain", pre-vandalism, taken in 2002.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Decorative Accents: First in a series

Pardonnez-moi for being really French about this blog lately...and by "really French" I mean "taking a long-ass break during which I did not give one thought to my poor neglected blog".

So, Happy New Year...Bonne Année.

I received a pre-printed Christmas card from some friends a few weeks ago. Below the usual cutesy greeting inside, it had the family's names neatly typed in all caps (another pet peeve of mine):


Note the misplaced accent on "Desirée". This is a major pet peeve of mine. Americans have, for the most part, realized that there is an accent in the name Desirée. They cannot, for the life of them, seem to figure out exactly where it goes. At least the accent was over an actual letter and not as I usually see this girl's name spelled:


I have seen this mistake countless times, and every time it never ceases to annoy me. You've probably seen hundreds of instances of this on everyday signs:

Rhythm House Cafe'
Cafe' Paris

I wouldn't even go so far as to give these people credit for confusing their Italian with their French; this is just pure uneducated stupidity. I wish Lynne Truss would find a French alter-ego to write a book as filled with rage about French punctuation errors as she did about English ones. She's sort of the Lewis Black of grammarians, if you know what I mean. Needless to say, I greatly admire her approach to the subject...