Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Choosing Just One

Nique wants to know what my favorite film is. What should I tell him? I love watching movies; I can escape for a few hours in the middle of my day and just feel something else. Make new friends, make new enemies, appreciate the art, become embittered at the loss of 2 hours and 8 bucks. Unlike a book, there is no real commitment of time or energy. Just have a seat and look forward--dazed and confused for a few hours. If it's a good movie, you feel something, you have a physical and emotional reaction-- not a mental one. A good movie doesn't allow me to think until after the ride is over, until after I have had time to process the content. A good movie puts me in the moment.

I have been thinking and searching (because I don't have my video/dvd library with me in Paris, I can't just look through it and weigh each film's merits, but here is a list of films I absolutely couldn't survive without. They come from all different genres, all different eras and movements, and I know I have left several out (but that's why we have a comments section! Let me know what you think of my random list and tell me what you think should've made it.).


Big Lebowski, the (1998): Dude! This has one of the all-time greatest casts in filmdom.

Bottle Rocket (1994): I really believe Dignan to be the most endearing film character of all time. In high school, my 3 best friends would join me for Bottle Rockets nights. I miss them.

Clue (1985): If you have not seen this film, you are not allowed back to my sight until you have.

Fargo (1996): BRILLIANT! I have since perfected my mid-western accent. Oh yea, you betcha!

Goonies, the (1985): I grew up vacationing next to where they filmed it, but more than that, I still love this movie! Note: Sean Austin is in three of my all time favorites (four if you count Encino Man, but let's not).

Groundhog's Day (1993): most people I know hate this film. I love it, and the more I see it, the more I love it.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975): "I fart in your general direction" I know most people prefer The Life of Brian-- I am embarrassed to admit I've never seen it.

Pink Panther, the (1963): It's the first one and the best one. But sign me up for anything with Peter Sellers.

Princess Bride, the (1987): "Stop that rhyming and I mean it! -Anybody want a peanut?"

Resovoir Dogs (1992): IMDB lists this as a crime drama/thriller, but I'm a pretty sick fuck and I laughed the whole time. Steven Wright on KBILLY, Michael Madsen dancing and singing to 'Stuck in the Middle With You' and lopping a cop's ear off? How could anyone not? This is also one of my favorite Harvey Keitel roles of all time, and by far, my favorite Taratino movie.

Secretary (2002): James Spader, how I love thee, let me count the ways! This is about as far as I'll venture into the romantic comedy genre-- and it's one of the better ever made. Low budget, smart, sexy, funny.

Spaceballs (1987): And they say the 80's was a bad decade for film! So, Prince Valium, Joan Rivers and a Mog walk into a bar...

Waiting For Guffman (1996): I love Christoper Guest. I love Best In Show, A Mighty Wind, and, of course This is Spinal Tap, and I am considering them all one entry ( and dispute me on this one if you will) but of the four Best In Show is my favorite.

Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror

Dune (1984): This was the first VHS my family ever owned.

Killer Klowns From Outer Space (1988): This is my all-time favorite movie about alien clowns who terrorize a small town by putting people into cotton candy pods then drink their blood with silly straws.

Lord of the Rings, the trilogy (2001-2003): duh!

The Matrix (1999): sorry, the other two sucked and there is no place for them on my list.

Omega Man (1971): "Soilent Green is People!" Okay, wrong movie, it's just that that is much better than any of the quotes from this film. But I do love it, Heston is so cool and he does 'Jungle Fever' much better than Wesley Snipes.

Poltergeist 1 & 2 (1982, 1986): "Go into the Light, Carol Anne." The third one was awful. I still flinch when I watch these films.

Red Sonia (1985): I wanted to be her! I grew up watching this movie again and again, and as I grew taller, I knew that someday, my destiny was to star in a hip buddy-cop movie with Eddie Murphy and, later, marry Flavor Flav.

Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975): Tim Curry-- my first major crush! Okay, it's still going pretty strong.

Scream the Trilogy (1996-2000): All three are brilliant, all three are worth watching several times.

Total Recall (1990): I remember being 10 years old and going to see this film in the theatre. Forget the Terminators, this is the best Schwarzenagger film of all time.

Zombie Flicks (they get their own category-- I love them too much!)

28 Days Later (2002): The zombies were fast, violent, and the make-up was awesome.

Dawn of the Dead (2004): Maybe it's because I saw Romero's for the first time when I was younger and couldn't fully grasp his genius (and I do believe the man is a genius), but I prefer the remake.

Reanimator (1985): good ole fashioned gore fest.

Shawn of the Dead (2004): A smart, funny homage to Romero. Look for filmmakers Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright's zombie cameos in Romero's new flick: Land of the Dead.

Drama/ Musicals

7 Brides for 7 Brothers I just love the oversimplified take on love and 'courtin'' And the songs are amazing.

The BBC's Pride and Predjudice (1995): It's seven hours and I think I've seen it twenty times. I loved, loved the novel and Colin Firth is the most perfect Darcy in the whole world.

Easter Parade, the (1948): Favorite Fred Astaire movie-- yes, I like it even better than Swing Time.

In The Name Of The Father (1993): I sob when the father dies and the prisoners drop their burning papers out the window. Sob. And, again, anything with Daniel Day Lewis is for me.

Rudy (1993): one of the greatest sports movies of all time.

Singing In The Rain (1952): I had a big crush on Donald O'Connor. I was a weird little kid.

Sound of Music (1965): The sentimental favorite.

Tombstone (1993): Val Kilmer should've gotten an oscar out of this.


The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993): possibly my all-time favorite movie. Ever.

Elf (2003): fairly recent, but an instant classic.

A Christmas Story (1983): "Fragilé- that must be Italian."

Foreign Language

Anatomie (2000): there are parts of this film that make me wonder what the director was thinking and other parts that leave me awestruck.

Commitments, the (1991): "Don't sing with your accents: It's ride, Sally, ride-- not roid, Sally, roid." This is in English, but was too charming and smart for me to consider it as anything else. Waking Ned Devine also falls into this category.

Couching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000): I (heart) kung fu, and this film is just too phenomenal. Also, Chow Yun Fat is so pretty-- cannot. resist. hot. chinese man. He is more of a gangster in a hot suit in most of his other films, but silk frocks and swords work for him too.

Fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain, le (2001): I am listening to the soundtrack right now. How do you not fall in love with Jeunet's films?

Lola rennt (1998): Even my mother (who's tastes tend to be very conservative and vanilla) loved this movie.

Monsoon Wedding (2001): Mira Nair's use of color and photography are phenomenal, acting is strong and the end product left me wanting more.

Nikita (1990): Luc Besson should have murdered John Badham for Point of No Return.

Quatre cents coups, Les (1959): I am including the entire collection as one entry. The life of Antoine Doniel changed the way I watched movies. Truffaut's oeuvre is quite remarkable, but these remain my favorite.

And now that I have taken the trouble to write all of that out, I realize there are about 100 more that I should add. I feel torn and slightly disloyal. This is too hard. You'll notice that most of these films are fairly recent-- within the last two decades. I like classic, older films, but rarely do they fall into my 'favorites' list.

(see full animation with sound)

So, comments section is officially open for feedback and criticism.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Blast Off! Shuttle Discovery Rides Into Space, I dine on cheese.

That's right folks, America has once again shown the world how superior they are by sending their best and brightest into outer space (where, apparently, they will be of more use). After the Columbia tragedy in 2003, everyone was a bit nervous (I assume; like the Tour, I was not able to attend this landmark event), but thankfully, Jeb Bush was there to quelle fears with his expertise in aeronautiques and engineering. The ascent went off without a 'hitch' (that one is for you, Jeb) and over the next few days NASA will be replaying video footage on as many networks in as many countries as possible to illustrate the point that we really do do things better out west (and by west, I mean back Florida). NASA is planning on bringing their fly boys down in 12 days (that's the eighth of August to you and me) and in one final desperate PR move, said astronauts, perhaps their wives, and certainly any other NASA employee remotely involved in the launch capable of supporting ten whole minutes of their own 'human interest' segment on the TODAY show will be paraded around with their patches, voyage photos, and heart-warming, patriotique tales. Coming to an elementary school near you!
It is an exciting acheivement-- not because they somehow managed to make it into space without any of the on-board hair dryers malfunctioning, but because, there are people in outer space! I forget that there are people, humains (okay, lets give credit where credit is due-- the monkeys made it up there first) living in and exploring outer space! And an event like this reminds me of what's going on up there. Mars, anyone? Lance Bass? That's right, members of NSYNC can go follow in the footsteps of Capt. James Tiberius Kirk, er..umm, NSYNC is breaking the way for Capt. James Tiberius Kirk?
Anyway, I do find it exciting, and I am glad they all made it there safely. Can I say how shitty it must've been for the crew of the Columbia to realize seconds into their trip-- the trip they had waited their entire lives for, the trip that would bring them fame and glory (and put their faces on countless commemorative porcelin plates and maybe a few postage stamps) that they weren't going to even break through the atmosphere? No. Too soon? Okay, well let me just say this, then: I admire astronauts,b/c much like Navy SEALS, these men and women must be both smart and athletic-- no pudgy computer technicians for the shuttle, just intense, focused, disciplined astronauts. I will never be an astronaut. You see, the claustrophia doesn't cancel out the acrophobia, so, being that high, and trapped inside a small tube for several hours would render me 'Here come's Johnny' insane! Compris? But, how cool would it be-- if ever, for the rest of your life, you had to fill out a form-- be it a credit card application, membership savings card at the dry cleaners, or pledge sheet for the March of Dimes, to write under 'occupation:' Astronaut?

Today was a lazy day at La Maison Danoise. I woke up around ten and ate my muesli as usual. I read for a while, cleaned my room, finished my laundry and did some grammar excercises in my workbook. Very exciting, very thrilling stuff. Around 4 p.m. I heard singing coming from the building across the street. A choir was practising and because their window were open, I have been listening to them for the past few hours. So beautiful, so peaceful.
For dinner tonight, I had a mushroom and tomato tart with bread, camenbert (one of my favorites), a peach, and some chocolate mousse.

Warning: If, having read all the way to this point, you have reached your limit and are not capable of handling anymore excitement, do not read on.

Tomorrow, I have a few errands to run, then, I will picnic in the Tuilleries and spend drop by the louvre. I might-- if I am feeling particularly adventurous (hold your breath) catch-up on some e-mails!

Ah, life in the fast lane.

FYI: the comment section is open for, well, comments. But it is also a good place to leave tidbits found in the news (to which I have no access) that you find particularly interesting or, perhaps, a waste of the news media's time.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Layer Cake, ummm, Cake.

Today, while out running errands, I saw Layer Cake. It's a new film out of the UK with one of my new favorite actors Daniel Craig*. I saw him in The Mother last year and I thought he gave a spectacular performance (overall, an amazing film) and when I heard he was touring the festival circuit with this film, I knew I had to see it. He is both our narrator and nameless main character. He is a drug dealer about to retire with millions when things (as they tend to in all of the modern gangster dramas coming out of the UK) go farcically bad. Craig gives strong performance, and just like its counterparts, the film features a mad, edgy score/soundtrack, hot photography, and humourously dark death scenes. Was it better than some of its predecessors? No, but it was smarter. The script and plot-- even for the jaded film student offers a few nice surprises, strong dialogue and great characterization, but features a less than stellar ending that felt a bit forced-- filmed to somehow shock the audience and give the script a bit more of a realistic, credible feel. Right, because that always works.
I give it 4 out of 5 Etoiles. Go see it.

If you've seen it, I would love to hear what you thought.

* For more info of Craig or Layer Cake or any other film for that matter, see Int'l Movie Database link at right.

Je l'Ai Rate! Merde!

I am angry! For some reason, I thought the Tour de France ended next Sunday (remember folks, I am without t.v. or radio) and I missed Lance win his 7th and final! I am depressed. Yesterday, I did my laundry-- actually, I only did part of my laundry, I talked to my mom, and read for a while!!! I could've been on the Champs! Merde! I had absolutely nothing better to do.
Je suis déprimé!

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Smart People Are Stupid

I couldn't sleep last night and spent way too much time exploring the realm of the world wide web. I encountered a couple really well written, original and insightful blogs that shamed me and Serena These were writers-- like me, who are actually using their blog to write. I know, but the obvious tends to escape me at times.
Contary to my last statement, I am of above average intelligence (and modest to boast), but I don't have a talent for anything in particular. I like Math; my obsessive-compulsive brain is calmed when forced to do long, drawn out equations. There is an order that I find safe and calming. But math is too confusing for my dyslexic and ADD mind and my self-defeating personality gets frustrated and gives up. Science I love. I love biology--especially genetics, atoms and other small things not visible to the human eye (bacteria, virus, cells, ect.) and I love Science Fiction (no sci-fi here, please). I love to read. I love literature, plays, not so much poetry, and even good magazines. But, I am not a one of those recreational readers who can recite several meaningful passages/quotes from the book and-- here's the kicker, retain them for eternity. I rarely remember the author's name (unless they are very famous or the book was particularly spectacular). I was raised on television (and I am living proof that it is an addictive medium that should be much more closely regulated by parents). When not with my nanny, I was supervised by the t.v. and allowed to watch whatever I wanted. Thanks Mom and Dad, by the way, I am stll, to this day, scared of Trolls--both the sad excuse for a horror movie and the mythical creatures.
In fact, my parents thought I was some kind of savant when I was little because I had a freak encyclopedic knowledge of television and film (in particular of the cheap 1980's B genre), most of which is now lost in the haze left lingering from the cocktail of perscription drugs I injest every morning. But, in truth, movies and television were my domain. I was in charge and could escape to any world I wanted with the click of my remote.
So, there are many things I am okay at, many things I enjoy, but nothing that sets me apart or makes me feel particularly prideful, and I really felt inadequate while surfing last night (maybe I should wait a few days before taking my USB for another ride). On the flip (I know, very cool and effortless use of hip, if slightly dated slang), I ran into some awful blogs: illiterate, politically extreme, cutters, pedophiles, photographers lacking skills in photography, ect. That made me feel much better. You see, I am completely aware that there is no real need for my blog (it's truly the ultimate form of self-indulgence), and I am okay with that. In fact, as much as I don't expect anyone to care, let alone read some of my more dry postings, I love getting your comments. Comments, comments, comments!-- like Candy, Candy, Candy at Halloween*., yeah. Just a few thoughts.

And here's a Deep Thought/travel tip:
If you drop your wallet into a river of molten hot lava, don't jump in after it. Because, man, it's gone.

*Hope you're all familiar with the comic stylings of Jerry Seinfeld.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Living in an IKEA: I want a Burrito!

I put a counter on my blog last night! There will be no prize for the 100th visiter (except maybe a wonderful sense of accomplishment and pride).

I am living in a house for Danish students, academic researchers, professeurs and their families. I am the only American. No, I don't speak Danish, but there is no need as all of them speak English and most of them speak French.
The house was built in the twenties in the Danish Modern style. Everything is Danish blue. My furniture all serves more than one purpose and is either on wheels and/or collapsible and very...well, Danish.

I have my own sink (which is hidden inside a tiny closet-type room), but share a WC and showers with the rest of the people on my floor. They are co-ed. Now, in theory, I have no problem with this. And even if I did, the toilet and shower stalls are all very modest. However, the first time I took a shower, I realized just how deeply ingrained I am with the North American idea that men and women should not share facilities. I was showering and heard someone come in. This was not strange, but then: a cough, a manly cough (yes, I am aware of how stupid that sounds). There was a man showering in the stall next to me. I could see his feet! I then looked up to make sure the sky hadn't begun to fall and down to avoid any fissures opening into hell. The world was not coming to an end, but what a strange sensation it was. It shouldn't have been. It shouldn't have been anything at all noteworthy, but for about one minute, I felt a bit out of place; panicking that I had gone into the wrong shower room, ect. One of the many cultural differences between Scandinavia and the US.

Since I arrived last May, there have been very few things I miss about the States. Actually, I am doing okay without everything, everything except Mexican food. You cannot find decent Mexican food here, at all. I am fine without bleach in my laundry detergent (I'm a bit of a germ freak), I can do without my car (although I do miss 'White Lightning' [a 1993 Pontiac Grand Am!), I don't need access to the grocery store 24/7, nor do I desperatley need a television or radio (I've got Wi-Fi in my room). But I do miss authentic tortilla chips, arroz con pollo and flan (well, the French have flan, but it's just not the same).

Now, there are a few Mexican establishments that I patronize at home, and I am not really a fan of any of the chains (although props to Chevy's mango salsa and steak quesedillas [I have no idea how to spell that). But, I would settle for greasy, reheated tacos from Taco Bell at this point, I have been to a couple Mexican food restaurants in Paris (no, not TEX-MEX), restaurants off the beaten-- filled with locals, who claim to be authentic, but in reality are just overpriced and disappointing.

Mexico has a house down the street with the same concept as mine. I wonder if I can get someone to make me a meal-- maybe if I promise them hard, manual labor for less-than-ethical-standard wages, ignore them and/or make jokes about how dirty they are-- then, we'll both feel at home (oh, wait, I guess that would only work for the Mexicans from the U.S. Nevermind).

And speaking of famous South American revolutionaries:

Every tourist stand, kiosk and boutique in this town is selling Che Guevera merchadise. Normally, the famous T-shirt we've all seen, but with "Paris" scrawled across it, or some idiotic tag line on it. Why? Anyone? Did he spend some time in France? Does he have some kind of cultural significance unique to France? Paris? Or, are these venders simply capitalizing on his now, very recognizable face? They do, afterall, sell 'Paris' thong underwear, novelty Penis cigarette lighters (everyone is getting one as a souvenir), and anything else you could never want.

So, in looking for an IKEA picture for this post, I ran across the following photos. Kinda funny.

Also, I am pretty sure this is photo shop, but so funny.

(In the best Stewie voice I can muster)
"Yes, yes, that's very original. Taking a photo and changing it to look like someone else as a joke. Oh, yes. That's very clever. Ha. Ha."

Okay, I miss "The Family Guy," too.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Louis was never content to 'keep up' with the Jones. He insisted on royally showing them up, then having them guillotined.

I spent the afternoon at Versailles, that is to say, the Chateau Versailles. I was only in town to briefly walking to and from the train station. It seems like a beautiful, quiet little place that I would've liked to spent more time in, but I got started late and spent the day walking...and walking...and walking around the Chateau.

D'abord: If you plan on making this day-trip from Paris, get the Versailles Passport which is avaiable at any SNCF Ile-de-France boutique (or really at any ticket counter on the RER C line). It cost me 21 euros and included round-trip train passage, priority entry into all of the Chateau self-guided tours with free audio guides. It also included priority entry to the Queen's Hamlet, The Grand Trianon Palace, The Petit Trianon Palace, the fountain show (which, sadly, was not running today), and the gardens. The pass more than paid for itself, I can't imagine seeing this sight any other way-- it was well worth the time it took to seek a SNCF boutique that sold them (I had to trek all over the city b/c most of the stations on Line C are closed for construction from now until August!).

Ensuite: I went through the Chateau first, and it was nice. A giant, guilded castle where lots of famous people lived and lots of famous stuff happened. Cool. I like history. There weren't so many people that I couldn't enjoy the different tours. The one place I wanted to see-- the Opera House-- was closed for some reason and the Hall of Mirrors (open but under restoration) was not as magnificent as I was lead to believe. I was much more impressed with Fountainebleu, which is another of France's royal palaces just outside of Paris.

Puis, I traipsed through the garden just to the head of the grand canal. Now, at first glance, one really only sees the edge of the stone balcony that leads out into the open grounds (not at all impressive). But at my left, I saw a group of people standing/gawking at something just on the other side of the balcony rail. I went to join them and saw a beautiful topiary garden, behind which was a man-made lake. Very ornate, very Louis XIV.

But, surely, I thought to myself, this isn't it. I had done my research and I knew all about the Grand Canal which had a fleet of over 30 boats, there were famous fountains, a botanical garden-- but where were they?
A few steps later, I got a look at what the hype was about. From where I stood to the horizon, well kept gardens stretched into a long river (canal really doesn't do it justice), forests, labyrinth-like hedges, and it just went on and on and on. A truly awesome sight (it was bigger than the mall in Washington D.C., these gardens are bigger than my entire university campus!) I cannot begin to describe how large they really are. This-- for the first time since I've been here, was impressive, really impressive.

I rented a bike for an hour (5 euro) and took the jaunt around the grand canal. It was so peaceful but energizing and the same time. I haven't been on a bike in a while (and it's never any fun going slow) so I will be in pain tomorrow.

I walked up to the Grand and Petit Trianon Palaces. Not thrilling, just more of the same (you can skip the Petit all together). The Queens Hamlet is even less exciting, but the grounds are very nice; rustic gardens if you will.

And I just loved spending the afternoon walking around, surrounded by green instead of dark, dank, smelly metro or side-stepping dog shit on a too-narrow sidewalk.

As I walked back to catch a train, I noticed it was getting late and that I would never make it back in time to eat dinner at home (I prefer to frequent the very cheap caféteria for dinnertime meals just next to my house), so I stopped at the MacDonald's across the street from the gare. Now, this is not something I am proud of (nor something I particularly enjoyed), and I really regreted it later. I rarely eat fast food at home, and I haven't since I've been here. Ick!

Alas, Versaille took up the last of my cash and I am afraid it is going to be an uneventful week of animations gratuit instead of going on tours, or eating nice meals (Oh, well. My ass can afford to miss a few).

Bah-humbug to love, bah-humbug to Francophilia.

Yesterday, I planned to go to Versailles. As I am sure, everyone already knows, it is the famous, opulent home of Louis XIV (the sun king). He modeled it after Vaux-le-Vicomte and spent twenty years making sure it was better and bigger in every way. I have never been and as much as I wanted to go, not really looking to going by myself. I had had the opportunity to go with a group of kids from school (but at the time I had had my fill of over-priviledge Americans intent on eating at a MacDonald's in every European city they go to [sadly, I'm not joking), but opted to hit the Musée D'Orsay and the Musée Rodin that day instead.

Well, today, for reasons beyond my comprehension I was not able to make it out to the Chateau today (hopefully tomorrow-- knock on marble, as the french say [according to them, it's much more clever b/c marble is harder than wood...whatever.).

So, I picnic'd in the Luxembourg Garden--so beautiful-- and started HP #5 in french. Shakespeare and Co. still hasn't received the US Scholastic edition! It was a lovely afternoon and I got an odd-shaped sun burn on my left arm and right leg (don't ask).

I feel the need, at this point, to offer a bit of a disclaimer. I am not a francophile. Unlike most of my peers (among those in the States and those abroad in France), I am not a lover of all things French. I do not swoon at the accent, watch old films set in Paris with hopes of someday buying a trenchcoat and a thick pair of heels to tour the city in. I am not passionate about the culture or the people. So many friends and family members continued to remind me (before I left) that I was single-- but not to worry b/c I was going to get over here and meet a hot, greasy frenchman.

Well, whooo-fucking-hooo! Finally, a reason to study abroad. And here I was content to simply learn the language during my time here. What the hell was I thinking.

You see, there are so many girls, women-- even men, who see this city/culture/country as this magical place where-- if only they could get there, it really would be just like the movies. Pretentious Americans who hide behind their knowledge of wines and wine culture, fashion, cuisine, ect. have renounced the barbarism that is the North American lifestyle because they feel it's somehow much better here. It is not that these things do not interest me or are beyond my comprehension. Not at all, in fact I rather enjoy all of the aforementioned nuances of French life. However, I do not derive any sort of power from my knowledge of them nor do I feel somehow more accultured or refined by it. And I am not passionate about them-- or anything else French for that matter.

I chose to study French by default. It's a long story that starts with me as an agri-business major (hoping to one day become a resource lobbyist "friend to both the environment and the farmer") and ends with me simply wanting to graduate before I turn 30 with some kind of degree. Well, here I am. I have been given-- you know what, scratch that, I have worked my ass off to get here. It's a great opportunity (and thank you to those who've helped out along the way), but I am not here to change my life (perspective, maybe learn some lessons? Yes), or to find a mate. This was not ever my hope, and remains far from it. I am content to be single at present. It's true, there are times when taking care of business would be much more fun with someone else, and touring the continent would feel a little less far away from home if I had a companion, but when did I suddenly become surrounded by cretins who believe a woman's worth begins and ends with her spouse (and the number of children they produce). Is it so scandalous, I ask you, that at 24 I am single (and by this, I mean both unmarried and--scandal!: unattached) and not looking to become involved with someone?
From time to time, I am reprimanded by my father for not being feminine enough (read: whore-ish [my dad's idea of beauty is very different from my own). He wonders if I am gay (he doesn't share with me stories about his personal life and I refuse to offer up ones about mine just to appease his homophobia and ancient concepts of femininity). Who knows, maybe someday, I will bend to a different standard. But, until then, I. AM. NOT. LOOKING. STOP. PESTERING. ME. ABOUT. IT.*

And that takes care of the ranting portion of today's post.

Elsewhere on Serena today, I added a couple links to other blogs. Be sure to stop by "Disgusting Girl I Work With." I spent three solid hours crying and peeing and falling off my chair. Madman is hysterical and offered some much needed comic relief after a particularly disappointing phone call home.

*If you are a family member or friend who is lucky to receive one of those very expensive phone call-thingys from me after not hearing from me in weeks (or possibly months), don't-- I repeat-- do not let the first words out of your mouth be: "So, are you seeing anyone?" or "Have you met any cute guys?"

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Things I ain't...

I am not a fast runner, or a particulary competitive person.
I am not easily unnerved or quick to anger.
I am not a fighter.
I am not in dire need of money, fame, glory, love.
I am not intrigued by strangers (tall, dark, or handsome).
I am not hip. I never know the next, biggest, greatest and I don't really care.
I am not a good dancer; I am not comfortable enough in my own skin.
I am not easily affected by sad, depressing, unfortunate stories, nor do I cry often
(however, thanks to a hyper-sensitive gag reflex, I vomit often).
I am not (as I have said before) do all.
I am not happy most of the time that I am awake, I am not happy about this.
I am not good at remembering things.
...wait, what was I saying?
I am not a bad person to have on your side.
I am not an unloyal, selfish friend.
I am not a person who turns their back or can walk away.
I am not always capable of saying the right thing.
I am not always in control of my tongue--to which, sadly there is no filter for the information being sent from my brain.
I am not a novice at giving mea culpas.
I am not vain, except when it comes to reveling in my beauty.
I am not very good at setting boundaries and/or protecting my own interests.
I am not street smart.
I am not like most people. I don't like most people.
I am not as quick to heal from words as I am from sticks and stones.
I am not open-minded when I am the only one in the room.
I am not maternal, but I am not cold.
I am not as good at speaking French when I am force to do so out loud.
I am not gracious in receiving compliments. I am not ugly.
I am not poetic or sentimal or romantic. But, I am not easy.
I am not good at math.
I am not good at punctuation (the comma splice being my arch nemesis).
I am not convinced this posting is worth the effort it requires.
I am not going to sit at my laptop any longer; I am hungry.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

St. Sulpice at Sunset

Here's one of my favorite photos I've taken thus far. It was the night of Fete de la Musique. It's the longest night of the year, the metro stays open and on every block in the city-- yes, every block, a band, a singer, an orchestra is playing. The square in front of St. Sulpice was host to a Punjabi band and Indian food booths.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Homesick...for the Sixth.

For the month of June and part of July, I lived in the sixth arrondissement in Paris. I lived with a wonderful family in their penthouse. I was surrounded by art-- real art, people, antiques and walking distance from...well, everything. I loved this neighborhood; Catherine Deneuve lived just down the street! There are cinemas, markets, shopping (ridiculous shopping [Yves Saint Laurent and Lacroix were both on my corner), and I was situated right between Saint Germain and Saint Sulpice. At the top of the hour I could hear both sets of bells ringing and could see one from my balcony and the other from my kitchen window. Alas, I am no longer living with this family in their beautiful home, but in the more affordable 14th.

But tonight, I found myself back in the sixth, back on Rue Bonaparte. And as I walked to the Luxembourg RER station, I stopped at Saint Sulpice. The large square in front of this church is typically filled with booths; each week a different type of market (antiques, used books, chess tournaments) take over the square. But tonight, it was empty and they turned the fountain on. After six weeks of living one block away, tonight was the first time I saw the fountain with water gushing from the strange little faces and the lights were turned on. I asked an italian couple to take my picture in front of it and spent about a half an hour enjoying the ambiance of the square like I'd never seen it before.

The fountain, itself, is enormous: the bottom lip comes up to my waist (I'm 6'2"). What a wonderful end to a very pleasant afternoon.

As I posted yesterday, I had plans to hang out with Doug. He is returning to the States after a whirlwind trip of Northern Europe. He went everywhere and had some great stories. I met him at Shakespeare and Company (I wanted to pick up my reserved copy of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince [which sadly was not in-- they had only received the UK edition and I am waiting for the US Scholastic edition] and he had never been there). I love S&C. It is one of my favorite places in Paris. I love the smell of the books and the buckling of the shelves underneath them (see link at right). It is an institution and you should make the trip if ever you find yourself in the City of Lights.
S&C is also in Lutece and Doug wanted to do some souvenir shopping for family and friends. This is, in my experience, the best place for souvenir-y souvenirs in Paris. You can buy shot glasses, spoons, pashminas, g-strings (ick!), berets (I'm still searching for one that says Rusty* or, at the very least, a place where you can get them personalized), posters, keychains, and anyything you could ever want to find with a picture of the Eiffel Tower on it. After browsing the boutiques, we headed for Avenue Saint Germain-des-Près and Les Deux Maggots. Les Deux Maggots is a very, very famous café/restaurant in Paris. It was frequented by Hemingway and his crowd and is still very popular with Parisiens. We drank hot chocolate and people-watched (I love, love this neighborhood! Have I mentioned that?).

It was a beautiful day in Paris and a nice afternoon. And, it's strange to think of going home right now. Doug is headed back to Texas (America x 10), and I am still just getting started; I feel like a resident of this city-- not a tourist. I am just getting acquainted with the 14th. I live by the stadium (a stadium, but I have no idea what they play there), I might try to get tickets, "I love tickets." I know where the supermarket and bakery are. There is a great park, but that's about it. It's very residential and quiet at night-- so much so that I had trouble falling asleep the first few nights. But it is nice, and the money I am saving allows me to eat three times each day, so it's got that going for it.

*Nat'l Lampoon's European Vacation: Clark buys the family personalized berets. Rusty hates his and throws it off the Eiffel Tower. If you have not seen this movie, you must!

Monday, July 18, 2005

Needles in Haystacks and other adventures or, I hate Charles De Gaulle Airport!

My friend Eric is living in Aix-en-Provence for the summer (he has a pool-- I hate him). Eric and I go to the same university in the states and are both French and Film Studies major/minors. I haven't been able to see a lot of him, but I have talked to him quite a bit since I've been in Paris (and it's been a real help to have a friend nearby). So, Eric calls me late Saturday evening. His sister and her best friend, visiting family outside of Paris) had missed their flight and no one had spoken with them in several hours-- they were missing. Eric asked me to go to the airport and find the girls (they are 16 and 17 years old).
Now, the last time-- okay, only time, I was at Charles De Gaulle airport I was arriving in Paris. I left the arrival gate, picked up my baggage and walked out the front door. I encountered no customs officers or any other employees for that matter (I had to search for someone for information about the shuttle!). So, I had no idea where I was going or even what train to take to get there. When I finally got to terminal 2E, after missing my station, hopping a couple ticket barriers, and wandering around a few hallways (random, blank, white hallways leading nowhere), it was completely empty. I was the only person there, aside from 2 security guards and a bomb-sniffing dog (who was so cute in his little uniform!). In France, even large int'l airports close at night and I had to walk down to terminal 2C to find someone from Air France.
But here's the snag, the girls weren't flying Air France, they were flying Delta (and on stand-by), I had no idea what flight they were trying to get on, what flight they missed and I wasn't a family member so even with then, no one would give me any information. I was finally able to convince security I didn't want to cross their barrier, but would only like to speak with someone in English regarding my emergency (two missing girls!) and had them sweep terminals 2C and 2D-- they assured me that no one was in any of the others. The girls were nowhere to be found and their families were really getting worried (this was going on 12 hours!) but I had no idea what to do-- in fact, I was convinced they just got on a later flight and would be arriving in the states at any minute.
But that was not the case. I had to take a taxi home that night; I missed the last RER (and got home around 1:30 a.m.) and I felt awful that I hadn't found out any information about the girls, no one had seen them, they weren't in the system, ect. and I didn't have any good news for Eric or his dad. Around 8 a.m. the next morning, Eric calls me and tells me they are still missing!
And so, I return to Charles De Gaulle-- an old hat by now. Just as I arrive, Eric's father calls me and tells me he received a phone call from the girls, they are safe and will meet me at baggage claim in terminal 2E (which is now buzzing with people-- hundreds and hundreds of people). I head down to baggage claim and wait...and wait...and wait. They never showed up! So I frantically begin to re-search the terminal (and can't help but think there is something very wrong with me, that I can't find two very American girls in the middle of a French airport! It should not be that hard!). Finally, I walk out of the elevator (my sprained ankle is killing me), and I hear, "Serena! Oh, thank God!"
Neither one of these two girls speak French (and I think this is the first time either of them has traveled alone), so after missing their flight, they were kicked out of the airport (I have no idea), and directed to a shuttle bus that took them to a hotel (for around 30 euros/night, it can't have been a wonderful experience), but their phones weren't working and they couldn't figure out how to use the public phones-- which are a pain in the ass in France, and spent the afternoon and rest of the night there.
They then proceed to share with me that even thought they never got on a flight, their baggage is lost and have to meet someone at baggage claim in two hours. So, after getting an overpriced snack (in a different terminal), we walk back to 2E to meet up with the family friend the girls had been staying with, Gerard.
In order to get the girls' luggage, we need to talk with someone at Delta. So we get in the only Delta line there is, and wait...and wait...and wait.
We are directed to two more places, each time waiting a little longer than the last, and finally, scared that I might miss the RER again, I left the two girls in Gerard's hands and wish them luck.
When it rains in Paris, it pours, and Sunday was no exception.
I got on an RER and headed back into the city. But, the train stopped and made an annoucement that there was an accident on the tracks and that we would be heading back to the last station.
To get to my house, you have to take the RER. There is no metro station or bus nearby-- just the RER. I can either take the RER all the way home or take the metro and change at the last RER stop before my own to get home. That's it. But in order to get to the metro, I had to walk about 10 city blocks (again, my ankle is killing me and I haven't eaten or had anything to drink in several hours).
Ahhhhh, finally I got home, took a shower (which I didn't get to do that morning), eat and go to bed-- immediately; I was so exhausted and it was around 7:30 p.m. by then.

I can only imagine how tediously boring this posting must be to read, but hold on, it's about to get worse...

Last Friday, I had an appt. at some official building (I have no idea) to pick up some official papers I had submitted with my carte de séjour application. I wanted them back, and for some reason, had to go to an office on the other side of the city than the one I submitted them at. Well, I forgot all about it. And, today, I was hoping they would let me just walk up to the window, explain my situation and, then, give me my papers. But no. First, this awful woman refused to speak slowly (and I asked her politely several times). Then, she scoffed at me, and asked me why I even bothered showing up today. I explained to her I wanted a new appt. and she just glared at me. I asked to two more times before she spoke to me and then it was just to tell me where to exit. I finally got my appt. but it's in late August (that Bitch!), and, hopefully, I won't forget this time.

And so, today, three hours was wasted traveling across town (it's so fucking hot in the metro! [sorry, I've been swearing like a sailor, lately), waiting in line and having a staring contest with a very unhappy frenchwoman.

All I wanted to do today was my laundry, and maybe go for a walk (but thanks to my earlier excursion, my ankle is fat and in pain).

But, tomorrow, Doug (the first person I met in Paris) will be in town, and we are going to hang out. Probably just a beer at our Irish pub, but I haven't had a beer since the last time he and I hung out (woman don't really drink beer in France), so that should be fun.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Cowardice mixes well with Geeky.

So, I am not a big animé fan. I am a geek-- and proudly so. I like science fiction and some fantasy stuff, but I really, really don't like animé-- much to the chagrin of my friends Sueann and Shane. I just can't get over the animation-- something about it disturbs and violates some part of the center in brain that receives and processes moving pictures. Samurai Champloo, however, is an exception. I love it. I am thinking about buying it for my very own (nevermind that, it was just the sound of Sueann falling out of her chair, probably landing on her deaf dog-- who sadly, received no warning). J'adore Samurai Champloo, and in particular, I love Jin. Now, I have had crushes on animated characters before (Trent from Daria, anyone?), but Jin (mmmmm). Now, I am willing to admit that Mugen is also very appealing, but there is something so much more attractive about the strong, silent type.
But, I digress. My real intent in posting this today, was to draw your attention to my sidebar. You see, in order to have links one must code the template. Now, I have taken two courses on coding and never, ever did I think I would ever use it in life-- ever. I have a mac. I don't really need to know anything about my computer. I just turn it on and go.
And while it's been a long time and I was never that good at it anyway, there is something so satisfying about coding. I feel like a construction worker w/o the hard labor. I am building something and the results are immediate! I also feel like it gives instant credibility to my claim that I am a geek. A sort of-- "okay, she's cool: she's got her coding badge."

In other news, I started this blog never planning to tell anyone I knew personally about it. It was going to be an anonymous page out on the web. I have decided there are things I want to share with some friends and (possibly some family), so I did a little redesigning. But, it is very important to me that I not let the fact that I know some of you censor what I write. I don't intend on telling most members of my family about Serena b/c they tend to take information about my personal life and use it against me. I am setting a boundary (that was the sound of my therapist falling off her chair). This is my blog, and dammit! If I want to write about deeply intimate, personal things, I will (just as long as it remains out of their peripheral).

Yes, I am aware of how pathetic it is for a 24 year old woman to live in fear of the psychological warfare (otherwise known as family dinners) she has been battling all of her life-- but we all have our quirks.

So, onward Christian soldiers! (and a little Saint Crispen's Day speech [it doesn't get better than Kenneth Branaugh), and I am ready to go...

Friday, July 15, 2005

Fire in the Sky, Poo on the Streets

I went to the Eiffel Tower last night to watch the Bastille Day festivities. I thought it was going to be a fire works show above in the tower sky, but it was actually fireworks, lazer lights, and music all coordinated on the tower itself. You have to go to my homepage for the pics. They are amazing! I consider myself somewhat difficult to impress-- But. I. Was. Peeing! It was one of the coolest things I've ever seen in my entire life (see "Quatorze Juillet" at right for Photos).
Getting home, however, was an absolute pain in the ass!
All of the metros downtown were closed for security during the show and the police at each entrance were telling people they could wait for possibly an hour or more (and then chance not making it home before the system closed down for the night) or walk. I walked-- in a parade of people, for blocks until I got the first open metro station. Thankfully, I only had to change trains once (but of course that train broke down). Two hours later (normally 15-20 mins) and after being preyed upon by 3 (!) different men, I made it home exhausted. I didn't even wash my face or brush my teeth, I just fell on my bed and went to sleep.
So, yes, I am having a big problem with the men one meets on the streets and in the metro.
I was warned before I got here, that French men-- and especially men from the Meditterenean countries are very forward and flirty. But, I haven't had any problems with them. No, Serena gets picked up by-- and it's not 'picked up' as much as it is being preyed on b/c they know I am not French-- evident just on seeing me, and they are assuming I don't speak the language-- by the afrikana population (because of France had so many African colonies, they have an immense afrikana and arab immigrant population).
So, they make a point to sit down as close as possible to me on the train or at the station and begin try to get me attention. When I refuse to look at them (and it's the same fucking thing everytime), they say, "excusez-moi?" "Madame?" "Mademoiselle?"
When I continue to ignore them, they position themselves right in front of me and ask, "Do you speak English?"
Now, if I am walking on the street, I simply continue to walk away without a second glance at them (which is considered a flirtatious invitation), and sometimes to profanities being shouted behind me-- one man, after approaching me with lewd gestures about the size of my breasts, spit on me as I walked by him. But if I have no escape, I pretend not to understand them and with the most confused look I can muster and the worst possible accent. I say, "je....j'ai no comprendre passe" (I, I had not to understand). But this never works, and they always try to determine where I am from (surprisingly, I always get Spain, Russia, or Germany-- okay, Germany isn't so surprising-- but Spain!).
Finally, after repeating myself a few times, they retreat (the worst, though, was the porter at my hotel when I first got here. He gave me his phone number, grabbed me and tried to kiss me on the mouth. Thankfully, he was about 5 and half feet tall and I easily swatted him away, but really! I am disgusted that this behavior is allowed to continue!)
This happens about twice everyday.
Now, I have no problem with these men b/c they are immigrants and not white (and therefore, the underbelly of Parisian society-- France's almost institutionalized racisim is an almost impossible system to crack). These men aren't looking for anything but money and sex-- which are two things they automatically assume I have to give them b/c I am American.
And, I really dislike being picked up by men in bars and on the street in the States, I find it vulgar and don't want anything to do with it, so here, it's 10x's worse! And I am getting really tired of it. Plus, with my personality, I always end up feeling guilty afterward that I was mean or rude to someone-- even though I was forced to b/c of their treatement of me!

Thursday, July 14, 2005, I guess.

Hi, I don't know if anyone will ever read this, and maybe I prefer that no one ever does. But there certainly is something liberating about writing something-- anything, and sending it out to be judged, analyzed, criticized, and devoured by the overwhelming world of the web.

Well, it's Bastille Day in Paris and already the city is coming alive with it's own version of Independence Day (we did it first and I think we continue to do it better). But, the fireworks should be fun and watching the military (which thanks to some very unfortuanate events in London last week is now everywhere) go crazy every five minutes b/c a tourist decided to take a picture of the American Embassy-- don't try it, it's really, really not worth the effort.

I was going to hang out with a girl from one of my classes, but the truth is, per usual, I could really care less about doing anything today. I am perfectly content to lay in bed and finish reading the fourth Harry Potter book (I am re-reading the series in French), maybe get dressed in order to get something to eat, but really, I have a box of muesli in my room-- ça suffit.

So, introductions:

I am an American girl living in Paris. I am 24 years old. White. Protestant-ish. A student; I study French and Film (and not grammar so many of my postings will be riddled with errors and probably a little franglais).

So,, I guess.