It's a winner is a turkey!

Saturday, December 31, 2005

This year’s Christmas Eve Dinner poll may have revealed something interesting about 2005: this was one weirdly normal year. From people having turkey turkey turkey, always dressed with mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy and cranberry sauce, to someone running out for pizza, Christmas Dinner was normal in that it is unpredictable for some families, and comfortably repetitive in others.

From participants in different countries representing where my friends are based: France, Canada, US, Malaysia, Singapore and England, I managed to glean some pretty funny results. First, here’s what the breakdown was:

Results
Turkey is in orange, fish is grey at the bottom, chicken is top right in greyish green


I apologize, in advance, for the difficulty in reading the small font... but there were a lot of results. Click on image, and click on different sizes on the bottom right of the flickr page to see the image clearly.


I had 49 contributors this year, up from last year, which I forget. At first, it looked like duck was going to rule the roost, but then I started getting turkeys in the fold (hyuck nyuck!). Later on, we had a late surge of fish. It's nice to see people taking fish seriously, though it's not a traditional Christmas centreplate. This was due, in part, from the french, who show no aversion to having fish as the main when they come from a region famous for seafood, and some pasty english types who were caught eating whitebait and tuna steaks.

What really became apparent, though, is the structuring of the meal. For example, Christmas Dinner in France is a multicourse affair. One expects to have canapes, amuse bouches, oysters, smoked salmon, fois gras and heaven knows what else before the main course. After the main, one might have cheese and salad, even before the dessert. North Americans, in general, don't go for the multi-course operation. It all lands at the table at the same time: meat, potatoes, stuffing, dressings, boiled or roasted veggies and, wow I love it, cranberry sauce.*


North America vs. France

Of interest from FRANCE:

1. Pork is not seen as festive or "high-class" food in France.

2. Falafels were the choice of my old vegetarian friends in France.

3. If the field was only limited to France, duck would be our winner. Little Canard Farcis were the birds of choice.

4. Surprisingly, no game.

5. Bread, and bread related food (boudin blanc) had a surprise showing. The bread, however, was an anomaly. This comes from one of my dearest friends who had decided to join her boyfriend in Naples for Christmas Eve. Everything was fine until they realized that Italy, being desperately Catholic, closed up at sundown as everyone went back to their families and houses to feast in private. All the restaurants were closed and they were left nibbling on bread and cheese from the afternoon. So, important lesson, folks: Christmas in Catholic countries is only possible if you already know a family to stay in, or your hotel has a kitchen.

6. Annual Christmas flu results in some people taking Doliprane (painkillers) instead of eating. Very very very sad.


Of interest from NORTH AMERICA:


1. People like their turkey (ha! surprise!)

2. Chicken scored high with first generation immigrants.

3. The Tofu came from another one of my cute little vegetarian friends. She's a second-generation Chinese immigrant and their family ordered Chinese take-out for dinner! The SHAME!

4. From the Oshawa Liberace: My family ordered a party size pizza with pepperoni and green peppers from Pizza Pizza and I had to pick it up.

5. Nice to see lasagne on the list. That's the new America for you.

6. What's with people from California eating Clam Chowder?


The FOODIES

I managed to get a few results from people who are actually professionally involved with food. Of the four asked, three had the simplest meals. The last one, of course, just blew the whole house up.

1. Rice porridge with steamed fish, butter crabs, cereal prawns and fruit.

2. Roasted lamb with truffled risotto.

3. A salad of jumbo shrimps and mango with ginger/ Goose thighs with roasted chesnuts and pureed celery-root/ Christmas Yule Log filled with chestnuts and pears

4. Bouillon de cèpes, pappardelle ("maison" ndlr!) à la farine de chatâigne, coquilles st jacques rôties
(Broth with cèpes, wide flat noodle pasta ("homemade" ed.) made from chestnut flour, and roasted scallops)

Risotto à la truffe blanche, copeaux de vieux parmesan.
(White Truffle Risotto, served with copious amounts of old parmesan)

Dos de bar de ligne, des coquillages, des oursins, sucs citronnés.
(Roasted back of bar, served with cockles, sea urchin in a citrus soup)

2000 feuilles (confiture comme 1 pan forte siennois / riz au lait à la vanille / chantilly de cacao du venezuela...
%$#*! A cake that's presumably twice the fun of a 'millefeuille'; Jam from a Sienna pan forte (kind of Italian cake)/ rice pudding/softly whipped cream made from Venezuelan chocolate)

MADNESS!**


Of interest from Singapore and Malaysia:

1. Popiah is king. Even if people aren't eating it for Christmas, they're eating it after the turkey has died and gone to bird heaven. I love popiah, one of those street foods from the Malaysian/Singaporean area. Actually, I would be hard pressed to find another place where people are as obsessed with food as they are in those areas. It's the original fusion hotbed.

Why is this important? If you want to spend a lot of money and go hopping around the globe in search of the best meal, you could just stay in Singapore and go to one exotic haut-cuisine restaurant after another. From Argentinian grill to the best Kaiseki, you can have it in Singapore, for the right price.

Finally, here's a breakdown of where my respondants came from:

Nationality of Participants

Bloggers who participated:
Umami, Stellou, Jermunns, Petite Anglaise, Tym, Yuhui, La Dauphine, La Coquette, Wondercorky, Chantel, Laurie, Eric, Juhana, Mike, and... the inimitable Clotilde Dusoulier.
Thanks so much to everyone, bloggers and non-bloggers, for participating, and happy eating in 2006!

____________________________________

*Cranberries are not native to France. At first I thought 'groseilles' were cranberries, since there were tart and similarly coloured, but I later found out they were currants. In fact, cranberry, in french, is 'canneberge,' and I've only found cranberries grown in Belgium and the Netherlands. That's it.

** I'm going to start a little association in the New Year dedicated to the art of good cooking without relying on truffles and fois gras. It's as if everyone thinks, with the addition of these two items, they can turn something from daily to divine. It doesn't always work that way. I love truffles, but simply. Of course, with risotto and Parmesan, it's correct. But, couldn't he have found another more creative and unique way to dress up his risotto?

One of the most expensive meals I ever had in my life was a full on Kaiseki meal. After sixteen plates of the most divine and exquisitely prepared dishes, dessert was a tomato. One single, perfect and very sweet tomato. Still, one of the most memorable meals of my life, easily defeating other truffle-laden and more top-heavy meals.

My Year of Bad Taste

Thursday, December 29, 2005

The Christmas Dinner Poll comes out tomorrow, and there's still time to participate. In the meantime, I offer you my best and worst of 2005.

1. The Most Amazing Performance I Never Saw


Araki at Palais de Tokyo.
Sometime in the early in October, Araki passed by the Palais de Tokyo for the inauguration of his expo. He had conceived a sublimely simple performance for the opening. One of his favourite models, a nubile Japanese girl-woman, danced before an Araki, armed with Polaroid camera in his usual costume of iconic circular glasses, bowtie and suspenders. Araki weaved and dodged up and down with her movements, taking Polaroid after Polaroid. She danced, delicately, like something that could never be placed and captured, slowly stripping off her clothes, to the music of Barbara. Finally naked, she swept in and out with long arm reaches and twirls, playing both shy girl and tease, as Barbara sang her eternally mystic song, L’Aigle Noir. The whole thing was performed in front of the hordes of branchés (cool kids) in the art scene, hidden in the dark.

I only saw the documentation video installed in a space next to the framed Polaroids. The video was enough. It’s in the act of recording the thing that we see how bitter-close we can come to touching what can never be touched. And the recording is a testament to the beauty of distance that is romanticism at its best.

2. The Most Amazing Art I Never Saw

Rirkrit Tiravanija at Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (ARC)
The Musée is currently under renovation so ARC has been using various satellite spaces. For Tiravanija’s exhibition, we find ourselves in the Couvent des Cordeliers.

At first glance, the space was cavernous. Almost empty except for a glassed-in room at the front, some white on white writing on the wall, and a freestanding wall built on the back. I poked my head into the glassed-in room where one actress, dressed all in white, was standing, her back to the corner, reciting some very elliptical text. People looked simultaneously serious and bored at the same time. You know, seriously bored.

Almost ready to give up, I suddenly noticed there were little groups of people receiving lectures around the gallery. Eavesdropping, I realized that this was a tour. A group tour. So I hitched myself along for the ride, and lo and behold, it was a tour, moving from space to empty space in the gallery, describing past works of the artist: “In 1990, Rirkrit Tiravanija made a performance called Untitled (Pad Thai) where he made Pad Thai for his audience.”

In fact, the exhibition was composed of three things. Guides describing his past works as if they occupied the space itself, the actors reciting their elliptical texts which referenced past work, and speakers hidden in the walls where Bruce Sterling, a science fiction writer, had been invited to collaborate on a scenario. The whole thing was so beautifully open. And that's the thing with conceptual art: we don't really need to see it. It's the idea and the way it is described that is gorgeous...

3. A movie that slapped me hard and kept me begging for more

Rois et Reine
I won’t fuss with the words. I like vicious films. The more ruthless, the better. If I could pick one cinema film I wished I’d written in the last five years it would be Dogville. Not lagging far behind would be Rois et Reine.

Many people mistake Desplechin’s films as lunatic fringe portrayals: extreme=intensity=good. I think Desplechin has a finer bone to pick. Desplechin’s chief concern has always been what is the correct life (in the Platonic sense).

In Rois et Reine, he sets his subject down beautifully. We see Nora, a woman, her life fairytale-like: the perfect wife, co-worker lover, mother and sister. It’s almost banal. Then we see her ex-husband, Ismael, a musician, a madman, incapable at money, incapable at life. A man seemingly derailed and hell-bent on seducing the pretty nurse into his bed.

But, halfway through the film, something drops so cleanly on the film that sends the whole story spinning around backwards. One has to reread everything set forth before.

What I like about this film is both Desplechin’s keen sense of a search for jouissance and liberty that we see in Ismael, coupled with his unfailing ability to question how we read conformity. That surfaces are questioned is already hinted with the naming of Ismael: the spurned and expulsed in the Bible vs. the blessed in the Qur’an. What punches the film home is Desplechin’s ability to blur the line between socially acceptable and unacceptable behaviour in his two main characters. It doesn’t make them more human, but it deals with a complex issue with a fine and delicate hand.

4. And now for something subtle

King Kong, Potter, Narnia… STOP IT ALREADY
Really, that Potter film and Narnia could have been the same film. From witless heroes to mindless and bad CGI fighting, I could care less. Poor Tilda even looked liked she needed to be in a separate movie.

As for the Kong… I LOVED the first two hours, but the last hour drags. It reminded me of Cyrano de Bergerac where the guy takes like half the film to die. Plus, those natives are just whities painted black. We haven’t see Hollywood do that since John Wayne in the 60s.

And then everybody else going on about A History of Violence, Sin City (which featured a rather wicked Mickey Rourke), Brokeback Mountain, The Life Aquatic… WHATEVER…I rather preferred Palindromes and Land of the Dead myself.

Most annoying film: Me, You and Everyone Else
Saccharine coated toxic glop posing as art film. Besides the pooping scene, and a really cute John Hawkes, the film bugged me. As film critic Kristin M. Jones so aptly put it, “July has made her career by seeming to be part of the art and film worlds while suggesting she's too good for both (note the clichéd curator-bashing) and making work that doesn't hold up in either realm.” Plus, how can she afford $400 jeans when she barely works as a cab driver in a small town?

5. The End of an Era

Lance retires, Alonso and Nadal win, oh Larry…
Lance Armstrong won his seventh Tour de France, with no real surprise. Then it was revealed several months later that he was apparently doped. No further samples exist to confirm this finding so it remains circumspect, much like the lab testing itself. The whole thing matters not. Lance will always hate France and France will always hate its greatest cycling champion.

Alonso won the F1 Championships, making Renault, along the way, Manufacturer’s champion as well. Then he said, Adios Amigos, I got me a better ride.

Nadal and Federer cleaned house in the ATP this year. Nadal just turned 19 when he won his first Grand Slam title at Roland Garros. I liked many of the new players on the block, Berdych, Blake and Nadal. I’m really looking forward to the new ATP season.

I managed to catch the finals of the NBA Championship this year. It broke my heart. I had just started to love the Pistons, a team I’ve never liked, with the monster play of Big Ben Wallace, Rick Hamilton’s fireworks (and Jason mask!), and Chauncey Billups’s swaggering. Even good’ole Larry O’Brien had my vote. But noooo, stone-faced Duncan and froggie Parker won it in the last quarter of game 7, which is, well, really, chapeau guys. And, wow, Ginobili is awesome.

Finally, there wasn’t any hockey to report about, and don’t ask me about baseball. That’s a sport for guys who like to sit down.

6. Mystical and Old

Goblin
I like all those Giallo soundtracks from the 70s. In fact, all those strange synth orchestrations done by Italians in the 70s rock. Stelvio Cipriani and Goblin, I love all that kind of stuff. Of course, your average music geek will start spouting off about Goblin. But how many of them actually listen to the shit 24/7. I ain’t got the time for modern pop because I’m so stuck on my Goblin. Between poncy guys in Fred Perry shirts playing prog rock/electro and whatever goes for cool these days, and some hairy Italian men churning out Baroque badness on synths, I stick by my taste.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, go watch yourself a Dario Argento film.

7. New Music that came out this year that didn’t suck


8. I’m still stuck on the island, but, well, not really for eternity, right?


Curb Your Enthusiasm, Lost and The O.C.
I’m not part of the “24,” “Six Feet Under,” “Desperate Housewives,” or “Sex and the City” crew. Homey don’t play that way. I like my soap operas puerile and, as everybody keeps reminding me, I’m not an adult yet. Hence, my continuing viewership of the O.C.

Yo, you’ve got it all. An anorexic ex-millionaire’s daughter with a really bad habit of playing dumb, a tough kid from Chino who’s now the only smart guy among the richies, a Jewish wisecrack and his cute almost JAP also wise-cracking girlfriend. All the drama and dysfunction of the WASPS mixed with all the wise-cracking chutzpah of the Jew. Of course, I was more down with it in the first season. Now, it’s totally derailed. Hell, a Chrismukkah Bar-Mitzvakkuh and Taylor fucking Townshend? And I thought we couldn't get worse than Trey and his drug-dealing whore Jess.

Lost was great. Lost is great. There are more stray story-lines to tie up then hairs on King Kong. I have no idea how they’re going to do it but I’m still stuck on the island. Yes, they killed off Shannon, and almost killed off Sawyer, Walt’s creepy and wet and Mr. Eko is delicious. I’m still stuck. But, seriously, somebody better get it on with Sawyer. They guy is such a serious hottie I can't imagine anyone being stuck on a desert island with him for over a week and not jumping his bones. Let's gets some credibility back into the story.

And Curb Your Enthusiasm, I think loyal readers of my blog will have come across my obvious devotion to Mr. Larry David. I haven’t seen this year’s season yet, but I can’t stop laughing to some of the old ones… especially the Turette’s Opening and the Survivor.
__________________________________

Now, I must curb my enthusiasm and stop. Bye bye 2005.

Famous Chairs

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Besides the Christmas Dinner Poll, which I'm still hoping to get a sizable response on so keep the emails coming, I managed to leave the apartment last night, just to go down the street to a house. We were supposed to discuss a new joint project but once I got through the door, all I could think about was the imminent champagne (wow, you just can never get enough of the bubbly!).

It's rare to find houses in Paris. Most people live in apartments because there just aren't many houses built inside of the Periph. This house, for example, is such a surprise. It's tucked into a laneway just off Menilmontant and it's basically a four-storey affair all in bare minimalist concrete. I was laughing my pants off at the industrial metal doors hiding the cupboard underneath the sink. They made this house to withstand a nuclear bomb!

Anyways, so there we were, in the living room, when I noticed one of the chairs looking funny.

-Hey? Isn't that a famous chair?

-Yeah.

-What famous chair is it?

-It's a Macintosh chair.

-Oh. Yeah, I think I saw it in a book once. Do you sit in it?

-Yes. Do you want to sit in it?

-No! It's a famous chair! What would I do in a famous chair?

-Look. I'll show you. (He goes and sits in the chair)

-Oh...

-You're sitting in a famous chair too.

-I am?

-Yes.

-Who's?

-Le Corbusier.

-OH MY GOD!

But it ain't everyday I roll off plastered from furniture more famous than me. Ah, la vie est belle!

Annual Christmas Dinner Poll

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Well, Christmas is done. But, hopefully everyone hasn't been too traumatized to talk about it. So, once again, it's the annual
CHRISTMAS DINNER POLL.
Take the time to email me and tell me what you had for dinner. I'll post the results up in a week. Ouch, my stomach is still killing me.

_____________________________

Meanwhile... Here's some pics from my Christmas Eve experience. Thanks Mom for the great camera!

Roland
It all starts normally enough, with a little joking around at the table. The Original Forgeard was, as usual, in fine form.


the party starts
Somebody's got their party hat on...


OMG
Then, something strange started to happen.


too much to drink
Finally someone ends up on the floor. That's his son who's hitting him on the head with the aluminium foil.


me
Actually, I LOVE Christmas!

more pics from thibault's party

Thursday, December 22, 2005

thibault and his angels
Thibault and his angels (l-r standing) Julia, Eve, Thibault, me. (l-r kneeling like they should!) Christine and Kim.


voin and kim
Voin and Kim contemplating a ride that seems to replicate the experience of a cat inside a washing machine.


voin's cotton candy face
"In Bulgaria, you only need a little cotton candy to make Santa Claus."


spinning on the ferris wheel
Spinning our teacup on the Ferris Wheel, aka The BARF Machine


birthday boy bumpers
The Birthday Boy on the Bumper Cars. Get ready to meet your MAKER!


girls in the parking lot
Dancing in the Parking Lot


voin and treeface
Voin and his best friend Simon


at stefan's
Stefan's sweet pad off the Champs Elysees


end of the night
You know the night is finished when the Bulgarian starts sliding onto the floor.

Perfumed Palate

Hungover. Accidentally sprayed perfume on my lips. Now everything tastes like perfume. Ugh. Can't even do something simple like drink tea without gagging.

Happy Birthday Thibault

too tired... photos first... post later...
started at the Fair inside of the Grand Palais, then moved onto the parking lot near Place Concord for some wine and dancing, finally ended up at Stefan's, where drinking and smoking finally takes its toll. Love you gals and guys... Happy Birthday Thibault, y'ole sonofagun.

themansays
The MAN!


cottoncandy
Me, Melinda and Thibault


voin'sass
In case you need verification, this is a boy's ass.


thibault
Happy Birthday, King Konger.

'Tis the Season

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

'Tis the season to be grumpy... fa la la la laaaaa... and watch "Best of the Year" specials, It's a Wonderful Life, and converse politely with people who might be part of the same species. Many people hate this holiday. I don't mind it so much because I usually don't have to lift a finger, not being the host of my own special family Christmas.

Anyways, I know what's on the programme already for Christmas Eve: 8 hours of eating, 3 hours of Karaoke, 2 hours of dancing, 13 hours of solid drinking. Yay! After that you can roll me over, and stick me on a spit, broil for 5 hours and call me Drunken Idiot. Serve with a good side of ham and sour grape juice.

GEEK!

Monday, December 19, 2005

I geeked out this weekend, running away to La Rochelle for a little DVD Blind Test (basically "name that film"). After a series of very exhausting travels, up and down the country, I managed to pack in an hour nap, and a killer round of Mario Kart, before heading off for the competition. Now, you might think, being an english speaker and all, that I'd be at a disadvantage. Well, it's true I haven't seen a ton of french films, and that directors such as Lubitsch may be big in France, but rest completely unknown in North America. Nevertheless, I managed to get a fair share of films, and, I think, finished in third place.

What this test did reveal, however, is my taste in films. Apparently, when it comes to shitty Hollywood films, I am the queen. You can show me a picture of some dog running on a beach and, for no rhyme or reason, I'll scream out "Lethal Weapon." I also displayed no problems finding other similar shits like Free Willy and The Perfect Storm. However, throw a little Bergman in the mix and I'm lost. I've only seen one Bergman in my life. Sad but true.

Another thing I noticed, I don't watch things like Bowling for Columbine or the new release by the Dardenne brothers. Perhaps it is my reaction to the uniformity of good taste. Why, of course one has to watch all the independant and auteur films that rush out onto our cinemas! Only way to battle Hollywood!

I make films, so I don't really take care in what I watch. I mean, sure, one can learn from Tarkovsky, Bela Tarr, Fellini, Kieslowski, Kurosawa, Huston etc etc etc.... and I love these filmmakers too. But, don't ask me to explain the first sentence in this paragraph. Suffice to say Brakhage never passed a summer without indulging in every single blockbuster available, and Argento never studied the ancient masters. If I can make it through the first ten minutes of a film without stopping it, it has succeeded. If I don't, the movie has failed. I apply the same logic with books.

Secret proudest moment: Getting "Repulsion." Why? Because I can recognize Deneuve from the back based only on her hair. That's twisted and useless.

Anyway... thanks to Sonic Eric for preparing the blind test, his lovely daughter Anna for lending me her room, Armelle (I hope I'm spelling it right) for all the great food, and big shout-outs to everyone who played. It was fun!

must stop

Friday, December 16, 2005

must stop smoking and drinking with complete strangers. of course, strangers become friends, but is it really worth it when you have to wake up early to go to work, still smelling like a sour ashtray? no. I have a responsibility problem. but this job doesn't pay me enough to be responsible anyways. I want to stay home. I want my mother.

Why? Stupid. But I wasn't born to be smart anyways. I was born to sleep at odd times and talk about nothing for hours. I should be a newscaster.

The Bush Family Cookbook

Monday, December 12, 2005

George Bush Sr. lied when he said he didn't like broccoli. He should have just said he didn't like any vegetables that didn't come from a can or the freezer department. The Bush family cookbook is a miracle in this modern age of cookbooks. Here, you can find all those ancient recipes from bygone days which feature powdered soup mixes, ring molds and frozen vegetables. Imagine throwing together cream, sugar, egg yolks, gelatin, then frozen vegetables and chopped celery. That's the Bush version of a salad. Much like the Bushes themselves, the cookbook is a veritable freakshow. I'd put this on my wishlist, but I'm skinny enough as it is.

sleeping wolf

Sunday, December 11, 2005

I know I talk about reading, every now then. But, the last thing I want to encourage is a certain chore-like need to upkeep one's moral and cultural obligation of reading. Reading, for me, is a pleasure in careful measured doses, intermittently broken by binges. Like an addiction which needs a small amount of cultivation, and which life sometimes reproaches deeply. If it weren't for all the subway, train and airplanes I took, I'd never be able to finish reading all the pap I'm inevitably drawn to. It's something to fill in the in-between times of living. And reading too many nasty things will leave you with a stomach ache not unlike after a Doritos binge. It's a dirty dirty thing, reading is.

"God, the bitter misery that reading works in this world! Everybody knows that - everybody who is everybody. All the best minds have been off reading for years. Look at the swing La Rochefoucauld took at it. He said that if nobody had ever learned to read, very few people would be in love. There was a man for you, and that's what he thought of it. Good for you, La Rochefoucauld; nice going, boy. I wish I'd never learned to read. I wish I'd never learned to take off my clothes. Then I wouldn't have been caught in this jam at half-past four in the morning. If nobody had ever learned to undress, very few people would be in love."
-- Dorothy Parker's "The Little Hours."

What a nice thing it is to read a real bitch. Her double sense of irony keeps me going. Like a double rape, or a man who rams his cock up your ass while telling you he'd like you to bear his babies. The shocking truth of both can make you tremble.

I'd like to say that I read for pleasure, but it's not always true. (It's half-true!) I'd like to think we live in a world where we should resist what we are compelled to do, but half of those things would be met with that age-old adage that discipline is what separates man from beast.

Last night, I found myself in the front row, extreme left, in a dark theatre watching the new Potter film. The position was excruciating. The film was excruciating. The man sitting beside me must have had the same feeling. He gradually slid off his chair and lay himself out on the ground in front of me. At odd points he turned his head to watch the film, followed by groans of discomfort and irritation. Finally, towards the end, he rolled into a ball and fell asleep. Maybe he was too tired to leave the theatre, maybe he was hoping for something more. Either way, a man stretched out prone in the front of a cineplex theatre will do nothing for your appreciation of an otherwise lacklustre film.

Still, he was a man who did what he wanted to do: not leave the theatre out of programmed response. Just rolled his eyes deep into his lids and played out his miscontent, much to the embarassment of everyone else. Perhaps he was simply a reader unhappy with the adaptation. Somehow I doubt it. If he was a character in one of my stories, he would be a rather hirsute man who howls at stop signs and shoots blindly into the sun. A real existentialist. What an embarassment these wolves are to the rest of us civilized beasts.

two halves

Oh Pinter my Pinter

Thursday, December 08, 2005

I have to confess that I have never read any of Harold Pinter’s plays, nor seen one of them. Of course I know the name, as most semi-educated university graduate in the arts will. But, the actual content, what he stands for, I have no idea. However, having read his Nobel acceptance speech in the Guardian this morning, I feel positively galvanized to find out more about his work, and not necessarily because the Nobel accolade is attached.

He starts out simply:

Harold Pinter – Nobel Lecture
Art, Truth & Politics

In 1958 I wrote the following:

'There are no hard distinctions between what is real and what is unreal, nor between what is true and what is false. A thing is not necessarily either true or false; it can be both true and false.'

I believe that these assertions still make sense and do still apply to the exploration of reality through art. So as a writer I stand by them but as a citizen I cannot. As a citizen I must ask: What is true? What is false?


This alone will stand clear and beautiful in its clarity. The art of good writing is to render what is sublime and poetic, what seeks to evade comprehension, into language. I have often thought that situations are often so complicated that one has to marvel at those who can tell you flatly what’s right and what’s wrong: I tend to laugh at these aunties, full of the type of commonsense advice that on closer examination often reeks of absurdity…. absurdity and fear.

For, what are we capable of saying in the face of the nameless horror other than niceties? (No, we are not animals, and we are capable of some better response, I believe.)

Pinter’s speech, though, reaches back out towards reality, revealing an interesting aspect of his thought: often in his speech, his poetics are deeply coloured by political and social motivations. For his acceptance speech, the full breadth of his marvelous use of rhetoric, timing, pacing and sarcasm are put to a social cause: the full dismissal of the US as a country representing anything other than rapacious dictatorship. In short, the speech lays waste the image of the US as the leader of the free world.

And so I begin my rant:
I have American friends, and there are many American things I’m quite fond of. However, I would be amiss if I didn’t also include that the American notions of justice and democracy are mocked to no end by its actions both abroad and domestically. I would also hasten to add that some of its best critics are now dead. The golden generation, the George Plimptons, the Susan Sontags, that wonderfully erudite and socially conscious minority is slowly slipping away. They are being replaced by shrieking political pundits, late night sarcasm (often laced with nihilistic debauchery), a formerly fat woman waving Prozac flavoured books, and an idiot laced into political office by his father’s bootstrapping cronies. Men replaced by clever monkeys. They smirk, and simper, but offer none of the courage so desperately needed right now, the courage to say that it stinks, and we’re not going to be cool anymore. We’re going to be uncool and talk about the problem.

And the problem is difficult to talk about because it is very complicated. I think Pinter does a fair job in pointing out the facts behind some of the US’s political manoeuvers. His first-hand account of what the Contra-Sandinista disaster in Nicaragua is grounded in concrete facts. But, I think the problem with the US is not so one-sided as that. The US is not a government hell-bent on raping the world. There must be some good will in there to have created institutions which make apathy so ripe in our generation. There must be some good in a social system that makes millionaires out of blond pre-pubescents begging for more one more hit. And there definitely must be some good in a generation where we can call in sick because we have iPod finger.

I'm making myself sick, and perhaps I'm becoming a bombastic blathering socialist. This subject deserves a better critique than the unresearched shouting I'm performing. So be it. I stand where I stand, and perhaps tomorrow I'll learn a little bit more.

Please, consult the original speech or video for yourself on the Nobel website. Predictably, none of the major online media sites, such as nytimes.com, bbc.co.uk, and cnn.com, with the exception of the Guardian, are carrying the transcript to the speech or any video footage. Who wants to see a dying man in a wheelchair call you a pussy, even if he is one of the greatest writers on earth?
__________________

addendum (excerpt from the last paragraphs of the speech):

When we look into a mirror we think the image that confronts us is accurate. But move a millimetre and the image changes. We are actually looking at a never-ending range of reflections. But sometimes a writer has to smash the mirror – for it is on the other side of that mirror that the truth stares at us.

I believe that despite the enormous odds which exist, unflinching, unswerving, fierce intellectual determination, as citizens, to define the real truth of our lives and our societies is a crucial obligation which devolves upon us all. It is in fact mandatory.

If such a determination is not embodied in our political vision we have no hope of restoring what is so nearly lost to us – the dignity of man.


The question is how to enact our political vision? How to make ourselves into resourceful and active agents in our struggle for a better world? I think, I make art, I write, I do what I can, but it never feels like enough.

Bon Anniversaire Forgeard!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

C'était l'anniversaire de mon mari, le Forgeard, l'autre soir. Comme il y avait du champagne et que des grands spécialistes du vélo étaient présents, la soirée s'est terminée tard et bourrée, remplie avec des cris pour Jalabert. Hélas, quand on veut une soirée tranquille, les veillards, armés par des elephants en bois, des lunettes Versace et une coupe inoubliable (on est tous gagnants quoi!), sont venus en force. Mais, pas de grande surprise parce que quand on commence avec une double cravate obligatoire...

double cravate
Premier example de la double cravate, porté par Laurent (aucune relation avec le Jalabert)


un bon brochette
Une belle brochette de connards: Le Pacemaker, Guillaume, Emmanuel, le Forgeard, Laurent


Le Pacemaker
Le Pacemaker: "Moi aussi je fais du vélo! Je fais l'étape du Tour l'année dernière. Je m'entraîne à Paris... Je monte Ménilmontant en sifflant Bob Marley."


leo
Leo!


tower of power
La Tour pour le Tour


tour podium
"Pour le prochain podium, c'est Ullrich troisième, Basso deuxième, et Rasmussen premier!" Guillaume descend dans le délire de Rasmussen. Pourtant, il a vraiment choisi un bon moment parce que Emmanuel et Nicolas sont bien dans le jeu.


guillaume
Guillaume!


bum rush
LAURENT JALABERT!!

And... how can I make this any clearer...

Monday, December 05, 2005

CHRISTMAS IS COMING!

All Nardac wants for Christmas is a ton of books. Not exactly a difficult guess given she's an anglophone in gay Paris. And, while she may read, write and speak French fluently, the poor thing still needs to upkeep her mother tongue.

cut me some slack

This is going to be a horrific week so don't expect a lot of posts in the next couple of days.

The blogpoll revealed that black, the new classic, is everybody's runaway choice for favourite colour in undies. Not really a surprise, but, you know, I like white myself. Being a Catholic girl and all. Hats off to those who go commando though. I once knew this guy who went commando so much he wore two distinct imprints in the crotch of his jeans.... the shadow of his balls I guess. I'd love to go commando, but I'm always afraid of updraft, or zipper choke.

A final bit of news, my delectable girlfriend Kim is not only a femme fatale, she's also mighty mean with the drawings. We took time off from our busy party schedule to make some superimpositions this weekend. Another example of how my new camera is making life more interesting.

kim's

Oh, and my neighbours are getting repossessed so they asked us if we could hold on to some of their stuff while the nasties come by to take away Ikea furniture. They left us a chockful of DVDs and most of them are really great. Like, Fellinis, old Woody Allens, M, Amadeus, wacky old French stuff, Prizzi's Honor, and Tati. You know, I had never seen Playtime before, and, now that I have, I know the film I'd show my kids in their sponge-phase to prevent them from turning into vulgar little trolls. Playtime is playtime... there are scenes I just erupted in giggles because it was so delightful (all the revelry at the end of the film). It's not the slapstick stuff of Lewis, nor the choreographed puppet of Chaplin. It's so delightfully light, and elegant, and beautiful, and visually witty... and and and... oh oh oh... I can't write at 3 in the morning.

Oops, and sorry for my behaviour on Friday night. I didn't mean to mock the coke-snorting couple in the bathroom by faking a screaming orgasm at their neighbour's door. I honestly thought that's where the bathroom was.

and today's pointless question is...

Friday, December 02, 2005

the golden peanut

No easier way to kill chatter on a blog than to post something chilly about philosophy and irony. So, I'll sway your attention and introduce a new topic: why is it that some girls get away with wearing paper thin sweaters and miniature embroidered Chanel blazers while the rest of us are wearing two cowl neck sweaters, one over the other, just to stay warm? Do I just have bad circulation or are they mutants? Personally, I just wait till I'm inside to strip to my skanks. That way, I'm like a Christmas present at a Viennoise orgy, lurking inside a three-tiered cake, waiting for my aged billionaire to find the golden peanut....

oops! how did that come out?

Knowledge isn't Power

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Irony is rarely innately funny. It might provoke a strange acknowledgement that lurks in the corners of our mouths, but it doesn’t actually unleash unbridled irrational guffaws. It lurks too shallow in our consciousness and derives from knowledge: that somehow we have become too cognisant of the submission before forces beyond us. This does not mean that irony cannot be humorous to some extent, but it lacks something.

I'm not prepared to deal with a full exegesis of irony of yet, but I am curious as to humour. I like a good laugh. Recently, reading Andy Warhol’s Philosophy of A to B, and back to A again, I found myself smirking and amused in the strangest places. Andy’s humour, like his work, is so transparent, so frank, that we are unprepared to deal with it. His irony is a kind of anti-irony. So honest it’s rips apart the façade and leaves absurdity.

For example, a couple of weeks ago I wrote a post that was highly inspired by Warhol. My own plagiarism of his particular form of honesty. It was, in my opinion, half-successful. Half only because nobody can really imitate anyone else with any sincerity. Half because in order to achieve that kind of frankness, one has to believe it absolutely. I have neither reached his level of sensitivity, nor chemical imbalance, to fully grasp in the interior of my being the full absurdity of life. I don’t and can’t say “so what” to all the things I know I should. I was ironic. Irony is intellectual without deeper understanding. It is, in fact, the purely animal response of a vaguely cultured person to the modern world.

A blazing intellectual conception of contemporary life, devoid of emotion and replete with needfulness, would be what Andy prescribes. In short: convergence of body and mind.

Why all this gobbledygook all of a sudden? I’m reading a stunning book. A book I only swallow at four or five pages at a time it leaves me so breathless. It’s Peter Sloterdijk’s Critique of Cynical Reason. Thunderbolts and lightning, very very frightening… please. It’s what’s there.

And yet, I can’t recommend the book. At least not to everyone. Pretentious though it may sound, I don’t think everyone is prepared to receive this book. It’s that dangerous. It’s not a work to be absorbed solely with the mind, but with teeth and blood and soul mixed with the mind. For Sloterdijk talks about convergence: the imposed separations between needfulness (body) and thought (mind) that are central to our malaise. Why is it that being an adult means submitting our willful consciousness to the animal necessity of survival? It’s the violence of our everyday laid bare; of animal instinct mistakenly cloaked as common sense.

I cannot do justice to this topic. I’m just stuffing a sandwich into my mouth, and pattering away on the computer on my lunch break. I’ll leave you with these words from his preface:

“The violent, antirationalistic impulse in Western countries is reacting to an intellectual state of affairs in which all thinking has become strategy; this impulse shows a disgust for a certain form of self-preservation. It is a sensitive shivering from the cold breath of a reality where knowledge is power and power is knowledge. In writing, I have thought of readers, have wished for readers, who feel this way; this book, I think, could have something to say to them.”

Thank goodness! Someone who writes for the love of an idea, and not for strategy.

note to self - writing about humour is humourless