Sunday, October 17, 2010

It's Greener

I will declare that it is elemental to human nature to strive to possess something other than what you already have or to exist in a state other than your present situation.  Of course there are exceptions to this rule, individuals who are ‘being’ just for the precise moment and uninhibited by social constructs.  However, for the sake of argument, most people are indefinitely seeking a greener grass, a lawn where upon their arrival seems rather brown and not nearly as luscious as that yard several houses further down.  I for one am guilty of this dogged nature, living forever an hour or two down the line, planning how to make the next moment absolutely perfect and inevitably elevating my expectations to an unattainable height. 
I’ve found though, that language can in fact offer an implicit hope—though language does not promise to rain upon a desert land, it can in its own right shed a different kind of light so that at least the barren ground beneath your feet is cool enough to traverse.  I’m thinking of two linguistic examples in particular when I suggest that language provides hope.  Both examples are grounded in the verb avoir (“to have”).  Think for a minute, that which you “have” in the English language: you’ll “have” a coffee; you “have to” go.  It expresses a need or a possession.  In French its usage is much the same but in certain cases, instead of ‘being’ you will use ‘having’.  “J’ai tres faim” means directly translated, “I have hunger.”  Similarly, “J’ai peur” means directly translated, “I have fear.”  Obviously in English these statements make no sense because in English hunger and fear are states of being not items to be possessed.  Why does this grammatical structure shed a shade of hope on a condition?  Because if something is had it can also be lost; it is much more difficult to misplace an abstract concept like what it is ‘to be’.  Hasn’t the question of ‘not being’ been contemplated yet left unanswered since the 1500s (come on Shakespeare fans)?  Loss on the other hand, is associated with tangible objects.  Of course one can ‘experience’ loss—i.e. the loss of a family member—but the experience of the act of losing (the act of losing being the death; the experience being the emotions afterward) is yet separate from the moment of loss.  The loss of a person precipitates certain emotional states which have become defined as loss in the course of linguistic developments.  In fact, subsequent emotions are separate from the moment of loss, at which point a thing or person is passing from our realm of possession, be it through the grates in the sewage drain (as with keys) or the golden gates in the sky (the cat). 
“To be hungry” and “to be afraid” suggests certain durability—that is how you are.  To have these things is not pleasant but at least there is an implication that one day they may be discarded.  The language suggests one has control over his or her own poverty and anxiety, much more so than in the English language.  Of course, I’m not by any stretch of the imagination trying to suggest that an abstract concept like language (the arbitrary construction of symbols that create sound which provoke meaning to be melded into ideas) be the remedy for hunger and fear.  However, I will suggest that language can allow for a certain positive outlook which may encourage one to cultivate his/her own garden instead of running immediately to the neighbor’s only to find the tomatoes have been eaten by the squirrels.

On another note, another thing the French [youth, at least] have a lot of is affinity for the idea that 9/11 was a conspiracy by the US government.  Feel free to deliberate in my comments section.
Feel free also to leave me messages of love.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Easy Like Sunday Morning

What better way to discover the real, unfettered Paris than to befriend squatters, right? 

Squat [skwot]: to settle on or occupy property, esp. otherwise unoccupied property, without any title, right, or payment of rent, as per

I can envision the expressions of my disgruntled parents as I type…but have no fear.  You may imagine a squat to be inhabited by hobos, unfurnished, carcasses of McDonald’s trash strewn about the floor or else crack pipes.  In fact, it was apparent to me quite fast that squatting is not a practice reserved for the riff raff, street rats—at least not at this squat.  This one was filled up with young people, students trying to put themselves through school and needing cheap living in an expensive city or else artists trying to make a living off of mixed media expositions—clearly without much success.  The rooms are surprisingly clean, and I say surprisingly because kids these days so often have little concern for old fashioned values of tidiness.  The common space is well furnished and decorated with various art pieces; the basement is decked out in strobe lights fit for an epileptic fit and space for bands to play or art expositions to be exposed.  The dwellers make a meager living off of entrance fees to art shows and by running open bars at their social events.  Still, these night-life activities are much cheaper than the cost of any ‘legal’ Paris museum or club.  Another friend of mine told me that in other European countries if a building is left vacant for more than 30 days, in fact the people have the legal right to inhabit the space without paying.  Perhaps this is the case in France as well, although my friend’s apartment is getting repossessed…so perhaps not.  Either way, the whole notion of squatting drips of youthfulness and communist fervor—ah Paris!
One night this week, a rainy one begging for the world to hole up in a cozy apartment, I was at the squat with yagirls and our friend Andre was designated DJ for the night.  We listened to everything from Liszt to Damian Marley & Nas to Django Reinhardt.  Sometime in between the classical and gypsy jazz, Andre put on an artist named Georges Brassens.  His sound is akin to Reinhardt but with more folk influence.  His peak was in the 60s from what I’ve heard, but he’s remained an icon in the eyes of the French (in fact, google George Brassens and you find the park in the southern corner of the 15eme arrondissement--that’s my hood!).  I’m not quite expert enough in the French language to understand all that he says, I think a lot of his lyrics are jeu des mots (word play); but he was described to me by one of the squatters as being ‘really hardcore’.
I’ll leave it to you to decide:

To cap off my ultra-French weekend I tried my hand at cooking.  I made a simple and also well-known French dish, ratatouille.  It’s a little on the salty side but why bother pointing that out when the pictures are so pretty!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

What's Hot in the Fashion Capital Du Monde

So, I've been waiting all week for a little rant about Joan of Arc and the colorful tradition of scapegoating to come spilling out onto the page here...
Mais franchement, je trouve que je prefere discuter les possessions materielles (i.e.: frankly, it's time to talk fashion.)
If you're traveling to Paris, the following are wardrobe must-haves--and boys, you better heed this advice as well, because European men feel no shame in putting thought into their appearance. 

oxford wedges!

a military vest!

Then of course, if you can pull off lookin' as hot as Christina or Rihanna, you should be set.
Also, on the Fashion Front, went exploring today withya girl Emma for some vintage--because we've all been hearin' so much about cheap clothings and have been getting a whole lot of nothing cheap.  But we found a few cute places.  Generally speaking, the Marais and Montmartre are the neighborhoods with the most hits.  As we found, if you're in need of a good sex-shop the next vay-cay, Montmartre is also your go-to place for that.
See for yourself:

Coiffeur Vintage
32 rue de Rosiers
75004 Paris

Free ‘P’ Star
8 rue Ste-Croix-de-la-Bretonnerie
75004 Paris

Come On Eileen
16 Rue des Taillandiers
75011 Paris

Magasin MERCI
111 Blvd Beaumarchais
75003 Paris