Thursday, February 26, 2009

And all the wine is all for me

Off to Bordeaux for the weekend with my friend Winston. I'm happy to be getting out of Paris for a few days. As I cram for my art history exam tomorrow morning, my mind wanders South and I cannot wait to get on the train tomorrow and see trees and fields and sun.

Will report back Sunday with a belly (and backpack) full of wine.

But before I go, I am happy to announce the first Sacrebleu reader contest. The title of this post comes from a song by one of my favorite bands. Be the first to post the name of the song, the name of the band, and the names of both albums the song appears on in the comments section and you will receive a brand new bottle of Bordeaux to enjoy. No googling allowed (on your honor). Only catch is you have to pick it up in Paris before I drink it.

Happy guessing (though I have a feeling I know who is going to win) and if any readers have been to Bordeaux and have any travel advice, let me know!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Ici, C'est Paris

Last week, I took in Paris St. Germain's 2-0 victory over VFL Wolfsburg of the German Bundesliga. The match, in the UEFA Cup round of 16, filled the decrepit Parc des Princes, a 1972 relic not unlike R.F.K. Stadium in Washington, D.C. It wasn't the prettiest match I have ever seen. Both P.S.G. goals came off set pieces and neither team could dominate the run of play, each choosing to send long through balls toward their forwards rather than build attacks through the midfield. I've seen prettier and more entertaining soccer in MLS. Wolfsburg actually had the majority of possession before shoddy marking and goalkeeping gave Paris the advantage late in the 2nd half.

But as much as I went to see the football, I went to witness firsthand the P.S.G. supporters, notorious for being some of the most boisterous, racist, and anti-semitic in all of Europe (read about them here, here, and in French, here). Just like in the picture above, the stadium hung in a fog of smoke bombs and flares for most of the match.

With Paris being a cosmopolitan city, one would not think the same hooliganism and racism that plague many working class English clubs could break through the glitz of the Champs-Elysees or the café driven intellectualism of the Boulevard St. Germain. But out at Parc des Princes last week, the anger and frustration of much of Paris's working class poured into the stadium as chants of "Ici, C'est Paris" echoed into the February night. The P.S.G. supporters, specifically those who are members of the Kop of Boulogne, remind us that you can write "liberté, egalité, fraternité" on all French public buildings and support a French national football team composed almost entirely of players of African descent, but by and large, the problem of race in France has been pushed away to les banlieus to fester.

That's all I have for now on this subject. For my French language class, I plan to do a more thorough exposé on racism and French football and I'll post that here when I get the chance.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Good Reads

Another rainy morning. Thought I'd post a few links to things I've been following the last few days for those interested. Definitely check out the first link.

>>New York Times Magazine Feature on Neko Case. Be sure to check out the interactive songbook documenting the progression of her musical career, too. A great read.

>>D.C. United gets a home? In Prince George's County? You take what you can get it. Au Revoir Poplar Point.

>>The inspiration for this week's music came from the passing of Estelle Bennett, a singer from the 60's girl group The Ronettes. I challenge you to find me a better song than "Be My Baby."

>>In other soccer related news, I'm going to see Paris St. Germain play Wolfsburg in a UEFA Cup knock out round match tonight. Allez Paris!

I Wear a Beret

My friend George recently emailed me asking if I was "drinking wine and eating unpasteurized cheese?" I've posted my response.

I wear a beret. I hate all things American. When I speak in English, I go out of my way to pronounce French words in an exaggerated French accent.

Just kidding. I do drink wine and I'm not sure if the cheese my host family gives me is unpasteurized (it hasn't killed me yet), but otherwise I'm still an American. Consciously, I make an effort to assimilate in my appearance and accent, but I know I'll never be a Frenchman nor do I want to be one though I do appreciate and enjoy all French culture (especially the women and the wine).

Last night, I went to a party with my host brother and for the first time felt like I got to really interact with the youth of France. It was tough, but the rum and wine washed away reticence and I made a few friends. I'm working on a little homework now and listening to Bob Dylan so you can put the American boy in France, but you can't take the Americana out of him even if you ply him with baguettes and souffles and bottles of blood red Bordeaux.

Photo: View from my window on a snowy day

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Coming Up Roses

There were brief patches of blue sky today and yesterday, punching through the normally gray winter skies. I can't wait for the Spring to arrive so I can walk through the streets and gardens of Paris without coats and umbrellas, mittens and scarves.

The weather reminded me of something Mr. Piazza (the younger) said once in high school. After having been in bleak, dreary Oxford, for a few months, Piazza took a flight to Spain and coming up above the cloud line he remembered seeing the sun, yellow and golden, and realized that for the last few months he "had been divorced from color." At the time, I laughed at the expression, finding it overblown and pompous (much like I found him), but after weeks and weeks of dulling gray, I do see the appeal of the warm sun and blue skies. Only a few months until Croatia!

As for school and classes, my class at the Université Paris I Pantheon-Sorbonne did not go well. The first 45 minutes, the professor lectured as to why he is on strike, only yielding the floor to a representative of the student labor union. After all that, a student went up and gave a presentation and I realized that the course started not in February, but in September. They were already through half the course packet. I won't be taking it.

As a replacement, Tufts offers a course on France and the European Union since 1945 (taught in French). Although I would have preferred a course on the French Revolution, to learn about contemporary French politics and the changing role of the European Union will be useful reading French newspapers and around the dinner table.

My class on the Third Republic is going extremely well. I've banded together with a group of Germans and a few French students making comprehension easier. One thing I've noticed so far is the terrible quality of French student oral presentations. Every class requires them, but French students know little about dynamic presentations. No visual aides, no PowerPoint. They sit at the front of the classroom and read off a sheet of paper. I'm actually relishing the chance to get to do my own expose and bring in a well-done PowerPoint to show them how to actually present on a topic.

I did stay up to watch the US Men's National Team take down Mexico 2-0. A good start to 2010 and South Africa. Anyone else catch the game? Loving Baby Bradley's brace?

Highlights for those who missed the match:

Hope all is well with everyone back home and keep in touch!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

It Starts Here

Wednesday, February 11, 2009.
U.S.A. vs. Mexico
7:00 PM E.T. Columbus, Ohio
live on ESPN 2

I may try to stay up and watch online, but if you are in the States, wear red tomorrow and support the U.S. Men's National Team as they attempt to qualify for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

The US is 8-0-2 in their last 10 meetings with "El Tri" and look to extend that streak tomorrow night in chilly Columbus.

Friday, February 6, 2009


Hey all. It's snowing! Had planned on getting to play rugby with my host brother, Aldric, but with the field being in the Bois de Boulogne and wet Parisian snow falling I think I'll check out the Robert Frank exhibition at the Jeu de Paume or see the new(ly released in Paris) Joy Division documentary instead.

So I've been quite busy of late as classes are now underway. With the Paris public university system hanging under a cloud of prolonged strikes, I decided to take one class at l'Institute Catholique to make sure I get at least one history course credit out of this semester. Glad to be on the Tufts program and have that option. Here's a rundown of what I'll be studying this semester

1) 19th and 20th Century French Art History. Meeting once a week at different museums, this class has (and will continue to) provide guided tours to some great museums and galleries. Also, the period matches the period I'm studying in my French history courses, offering an interesting comparison between the artwork of the period and the socio-political climate of France under Napoleon III and the 3rd Republic.

2) French Language. Hopefully this course will teach me the French university writing style. Taking it pass/fail since I don't need it for any requirements.

3) French Foreign Policy of the IIIe Republique. This my class at the Catho. It's small and has a few other international students (mostly Germans). Right now we are covering the leadup to the Franco-Prussian War and all of Bismarck's wheeling and dealing. My professor's been friendly and inquisitive. He has a thorough website and great mustache.

4) History of the French Revolution. Focusing on religion and its influence on the ideas and politics of the French Revolution, this course is up in the air since it is at Paris I and may be affected by the strikes. But the class is taught at the Pantheon and is in a beautiful old classroom (I'll get a picture of it when I can) and I'd love to have the experience of being down in the Latin Quarter so I'm holding out hope.

That's all for now.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Special One Returns!!

Be Champions!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Stade Français Paris

Went to the Stade de France yesterday to see Stade Français Paris take on Union Sportive des Arlequins Perpignanais (Perpignan -- small city in French Catalonia). The match featured two of the worlds best players in Juan Hernandez for Paris and Dan Carter, All Black and reigning World Player of the Year, for Perpignan. Game itself ended in a draw, 13-13, thanks to a last second penalty converted by Dan Carter. But what really grabbed my attention was the BIZARRE pregame festivities. This spectacle included, but is not limited to the following:
  1. Weightlifters flipping over cars
  2. A band that sounded (and looked) like a French mix of Sting and Genesis
  3. A giant float carrying multiple gladiators and scantily clad women
  4. A pink limosine
  5. Two floating giant octupus like creatures
  6. A man doing trapeze work from a floating globe
  7. Nipple clamps
  8. A story line that ended with the defeat of one gladiator and the man who was once doing trapeze work descending from the sky to claim the fairest of the nipple clamped maidens.
Upon further inquiry, I learned that this is in fact normal for the Stade de France and that before every game they put on some form of spectacle. With the Super Bowl today, I just have to hope that the NFL steps up their game. I love the Boss, but I'm not sure if he can top this.

Upon searching Youtube, I found two pertinent clips. The first shows a rehearsal of the spectacle/play/opera. The second features men flipping over cars.