Thursday, May 28, 2009

Ready. Abel.

One. exam. left. Slogging through the end of Impressionism and tomorrow at 12 noon I will be done, done, done (with classes). I've loved being in Paris, but I'm finished with taking classes in French so hallelujah, amen, and au revoir.

Then, I have one last sundrenched week to soak up all of this city before it is home for the summer. Don't have enough time now to write anything substantial, but I thought I'd post some pictures I've taken over the last few weeks. Included are photos from Giverny (Monet's house and gardens) and Roland Garros (site of the French Open).

Also, I intentionally misspelled the title of this post. The National are the only thing getting me through this final and I have the song "Abel" pounding to keep to me up and at 'em.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Quiet You

We've had more than our fair share of rain this past week and with the sun out and setting I sat down at a café this afternoon with book and coffee and what I thought would be quiet. I can always tune out the French being spoken around me into a hovering white noise, all coming in without conscious thought and going back out devoid of meaning. But an Englishman and an American, these two gossiping academics of the ancien regime couldn't keep their mouths shut about their lives or their colleagues and the burdens of teaching such ungrateful undergraduates. I wish them luck with the Versailles Conference approaching in July and, yes, Mr. American you truly are a first-class gentleman for not writing a scathing review of your colleague's new book (just as honorable to bash her behind her back, right?).

Actually I'm sure they are relatively nice people and I've made them into straw men for a reason. I've probably been just as loud at other cafés and have probably annoyed other quiet Americans who just want to sit over a café crème in peace. But now I'm afraid to go home where all around me there will be conversations that I will unconsciously comprehend. Drawn into lives and stories I don't want to hear.

That is over. Sorry for being all negative. I'm burnt out from working and really wanted to sit in that café and read The Beautiful and the Damned that my friend had just lent me. Otherwise, all is well. I wanted to draw your attention to a couple of things I've found online that are of funny/cool. Here they are:

>> I love the moxie of this associate at Quinn Emanuel. Way to take on the man. And he/she is right about a lot of stuff, though he/she probably chose the wrong venue to air said grievances. And at least use capitalization. Just because it's an email doesn't mean you need to throw grammar and structure out the door. But I do support him/her in his or her use of parentheses since footnotes can't be used in email. Get on it Gmail software people. Footnotes would get rid of all those pesky parentheses All of this could have been in a footnote at the end of this blog post. Imagine that.

>> The Chicago Tribune's soccer writer, Luis Arroyave is changing posts after 3 1/2 years covering the Fire. His goodbye blog post sums up the awesome online soccer community in the United States. For all the internets's flaws -- being so wide and so shallow -- in this case, it has brought a diverse and otherwise isolated set of people together, united by one common (but not mainstream) interest: soccer. If Steve Goff ever changes positions at the Washington Post, he'll receive a similar outcry of support from D.C. United fans.

>> Since we're talking about American soccer supporter culture, here's a really good piece comparing the MLS to a certain German soccer club known for its irreverence. It's the reason why DC United needs a stadium and needs that stadium to be in DC. Not MoCo, not Ashburn.

>> UPDATE: If you're in DC with nothing to do, head down to the Wreck on the Anacostia (RFK) to see DC United take on the New York Red Bulls in a play-in game for the U.S. Open Cup. The Open Cup is the oldest continually contested sports tournament in the United States (and that includes football and baseball). It'll be lots of fun.

Monday, May 18, 2009


I took this photo in Sarajevo and it has nothing to do with anything else in this post.

So I've been listening to the new Wilco album (check out the link to the right and give it a listen) and I can't say I've really been blown away. Sure it's well-recorded and the band's as tight as ever, but the new songs are, honestly, a bit dull. With the exception of 'Wilco (the song)' and 'You & I,' I haven't wanted to push replay like I always end up doing when I dust off Yankee Hotel Foxtrot or Summerteeth. Do I fault the band for growing up? Somewhat. Jeff Tweedy's got two kids (one of whom is an astoundingly good blogger/writer/human at age 13) and I guess writing lyrics like "I dreamed about killing you again last night and it felt alright to me" doesn't float when you're busing kids to and from Hebrew school and hosting Bar Mitzvah's in your spare time. Not very rock and roll.

It's a slow Monday and I needed a break from work so I've posted a playlist I made on Included is one of the aforementioned Wilco songs, 'You & I. It borders on being Grey's Anatomy Derek & Meredith elevator montage scene fodder, but is thankfully saved by guest vocals from Feist. She adds warmth and immediacy to what could otherwise be cliché, sappy, and, well, bad. I still love the band and I really do like this song so listen.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Ghost Town

I missed the dernier metro last night. Running to change trains at Opéra, the 8 had pulled away a minute before I arrived at 2:15 AM out of breath and out of luck. While the Opéra Garnier's a gorgeous building by day, at night, all forms of life vanish and this one corner of Paris echoes the empty ghost town that many fear Paris is becoming. A living museum (or masueoleum for current Paris's vehement detractors) that when the tourists and Parisians leave for the day and go back to their homes and hotels and out to bars and cafés, the dead center of the city is deadly quiet.

So I walked down Boulevard de l'Opéra passing under the arches of the Palais Royal into its imposing (and enshadowed) courtyard, all pyramid lights off in the small numbered hours. There's a chilling quality to that part of the city at night that I hadn't felt before as I indignantly trudged across the Seine to my night bus stop. It was walking across the Seine that I realized how odd it was for me to be pissed off that I'd missed my train. Hundreds of thousands of people come to this city to see these very sights every year, to walk down Boulevard de l'Opéra, to see the Opera house framed along that Haussmannian axe and to then descend down through the pyramid into the Louvre and I, wanting my bed and toothbrush, had just marched for half an hour letting the city and one of her most beautiful and old districts slip past unnoticed.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

May Showers

Why is it raining?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Ruling Class

Hello World. I tried to write a post last night, but my scatterbrained self couldn't put fingers to keyboard. I apologize for not being a prolific blogger over the past few weeks, but it's been all coffee and rain and library and no fun. I've promised unwritten updates on the Balkans and have been a poor email correspondent, so, sorry. Replies are coming soon.

But not until this weekend as I've been busy churning out an 11 page paper on the Russo-Japanese War and now have to begin another 10-pager on the EU's role in Kosovo and another worthless paper for my French language class (on the history of Roland Garros) before I can begin studying for my exam hell week at the end of May. But I should not complain for these are temporal troubles and will be gone all too soon as my time here draws down to what will be the end of Paris.

A brief update and story: This past weekend, I went to Bourgogne (Burgundy). We stayed in Dijon and, yes, I bought a jar of mustard and ate and drank very well. The highlight of the trip was a visit to le château de Villemolin that has been within the family of the Marquis De Certaines for the past 500 years. The De Certaines are hosting a Tufts student this semester at their apartment in the seizième and had the whole group down to their immense château for a tour and hors d'œuvres. On the tour the Marquis traced their family's history, showed off a desk that had belonged to Napoléon himself, and, interestingly, told the story of how he is both a Son of the American Revolution and member of the Order of the Cincinatti, the pseudo-American aristocracy formed by leading American and French officers from the War of Indepedence. He's more of an American than I am.

Upon returning to Paris and informing my host family that I had been to another family's château, they got quite curious and, as it turns out, know the other family. In fact, the Comte De Pemille is a distant cousin to the Marquis De Certaines. Marie-Joelle pulled out a large register full of inbred aristocrats and traced the connection between the families and it was all so funny and passé that I felt woefully inadequate to not have a château to the Helms name nor a lineage of dukes or counts. In the register, each child is listed with his year of birth so the aristocrats can continue to not pollute their bloodlines with the 3rd Estate. I'm mostly kidding here, but it is quite interesting to see their history and tradition in action as they hold onto a culture that is dying away.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Support DC United

Happy Armistice Day! I have another post about the Balkans in the wings and will add photos and put that up tonight, but I just wanted to alert all those in DC/MD/VA that DC United needs yours help! Last month, I wrote a long piece on DC United's failed efforts to get a stadium built in both DC and Maryland as the decrepit RFK cannot support the team financially in the long-term. They are back to square one so lend your voice to the cause and then enjoy a MASSIVE tailgate sponsored by the Barra Brava and the Screaming Eagles and then check out first place DC United take on second place Toronto FC for the top of the table. Here's the march itinerary and plan so go, go, go. If one person attends the rally, tailgate, and match because I've written this blog post I will be thrilled and will forever love that person. I'd be there myself if, ya know, I wasn't here. Everyone have a good weekend as I'm off to Burgundy with Tufts tomorrow.

March Timeline
2:00 p.m. - RFK Stadium parking Lot 8 opens to the public
2:30-3:30 p.m. - shuttles from Lot 8 to Lincoln Park run
3:45 p.m. - initial demonstration at Lincoln Park begins
4:00 p.m. - fans march from Lincoln Park to RFK Stadium
4:45 p.m. - march participants arrive at La Barra Brava tailgate
5:00 p.m. - Kevin Payne addresses the crowd in Lot 8
7:30 p.m. - kick-off, D.C. United vs. Toronto FC

UPDATE: Here's a video from the march. Did anyone go?

Image from

Monday, May 4, 2009


So I've been meaning to finish writing about my trip to the Balkans (I've yet to write about Dubrovnik, Budva, Prishtina, Sarajevo, and Mostar), but they will have to wait since I just got back from Prague and rather than letting that city slip further down the back-burner I thought I'd knock it out right now in pictures and a few brief words.

May Day. I arrived on the First of May in Prague and the city's as gorgeous as I'd heard it would be. The Charles Bridge, the Castle, the Cathedrals, the (anticlimactic) clock. Beer is cheaper than water and the smell of sausage and fried cheese (as good as it sounds) hangs in the air from the street carts serving the hungry hearts of Prague. Many thanks to my friend Caitlin for taking me in for the weekend and showing me around!

Pictured above is the Lennon Wall named after John (Lennon) and, during Communist rule, this wall provided the only means of public expression in the city. Youth wrote lyrics to Beatles songs and continually frustrated authority figures who would paint over the graffiti only to find new messages written the next morning. People still write on it today.

At first I thought it was nice to have people signing their names to the wall, but that changed fast when I saw four girls (I'm going to assume they were from New Jersey based on accent and general surly demeanor) sign their names to the wall as they posed for a photo in identical black leggings. You know the girls I am talking about. If it had been colder I'm sure they all would have worn Ugg boots and no one who stuffs their feet into those horrendous sheep killers should be allowed to make any contribution to public discourse in my opinion.

They weren't contributing to the spirit of the walls earlier days, only detracting from its once forceful message of disobedience in the face of injustice. Today, speech is open in the city. The country's joined the European Union and within the year will start using the Euro. Moreover, twitter, blogs, and Facebook have made public expression (however minute and trivial that expression may be) available to the masses. Jersey girls -- stick to the Book. The only people I saw signing the Lennon Wall this weekend were not Czech and it struck me as just like a Che Guevara t-shirt that the wall had been sapped of all its initial power and force. What does it mean to sign your name to that wall? Is it to associate oneself with ideas of rebellion and counterculture and revolution that have been repackaged and bought and sold back to us (drawing on ideas from David Foster Wallace's brilliant essay, E Unibus Pluram)? Is the message diluted and, ultimately, gone? Or am I just over thinking all of this? Probably.

I'd just prefer to see the wall remain static and decaying, a historical (and crumbling) landmark to the horrors of the Communist period and the suppression of speech in Prague. Apologies for the digression but this post is called "Detours."