“To Eat Alone”

Some recent events in my life made me a lonely man, and therefore a lonely eater.

When I was a father in a family, I was really happy to have dinner-togetherness, to cook for my tribe, to talk, listen, laugh, and feel the family’s energy around the table.

I’ve been very skeptical when I read about how Americans were losing these daily gatherings of all the big cats around the table. “Everyone is having snacks when they want, everybody’s picking things in the fridge, watch TV or eat in bedrooms”, they said. My feelings were like between “it’s not true, it’s impossible” and “oh these Americans!”.

When my daughters were little, some days I went home late, it was almost time to go to bed : I told them stories, kissed them goodnight, then I was happy to have dinner with their mother, but also alone.

I remember good summer evenings. Two cat babies sleeping, mother cat watching a movie, and me papa cat, with a cassoulet, two slices of bread and half of a bottle of Bergerac wine, eating on a tray, on my bed, in front of a wide open double-window (or should I say “French door”, really?), watching and listening birds and trees in the dusk, sshhh.

Not working on thursdays, I remember I was happy to have meal time alone, eating in silence in the kitchen, listening to the rain outside. On my table : a candle, a corner lamp, and a magazine (about movies). Maybe some Brahms chamber music too. Bliss!

Now I eat alone, but I don’t snack. I never snack, and I’m always questioning my snacking friends in America, opening different little colored bags to crinch crunch and croonch while we Skype. I’m like “Where’s your plate, dear?”. They know I eat alone, thus they’re somewhat amazed by HOW I’m eating alone. Well, that’s nothing special, but I… I’m sorry… I can’t snack. It would kill me under a blanket of depression. It’s almost : “I’m French therefore I need a plate”.

I know better, OK : I have more time, in France. We work less, we move less (distances are… different here – I go to work by bike), and… errr… I think we think that food time is worth it, too : I eat alone but it’s cooked, sliced, prepared, organized. Just a bit. I need it.

Awweee sorry for my bad English. I’m wobbling, I know it. Pardonnez-moi !

Have a nice day! Bon appétit !

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Babette’s Feast, a Frenchization

In a remote 19th-century Danish village, two sisters lead a rigid life centered around their father, the local minister, and their church. They take in French refugee, Babette Hersant, who agrees to work as their servant. After winning the lottery, Babette wants to repay the sisters for their kindness and offers to cook a French meal for them and their friends on the 100th anniversary of their father’s birth. It proves to be an eye-opening experience for everyone.

As they say, Babette’s Feast is “still the gold standard of food movies”. I use it here because I find it’s a good example of… well… the reasons why people love the French – when they do 🙂

Babette is the perfect example of the Intruder/Revealer type. She disturbs a system, here a rigid grey life, with her “way of being”, which is here the love of food, et la gourmandise.

Nothing is the same after her…

Gourmandise is the French word for “love of good food”. I think you don’t have this word in English, which is maybe cultural (Mayflower spirit?). It’s like a positive, smiling way to talk about… greed. Yum!

On this pattern, there’s another movie, with Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp : Chocolat.

I agree : this spirit can be a bit disturbing for obedient Anglo-Saxons. Each time I’ve been in France with an American friend, this person was like amazed (in many ways : surprised, annoyed, afraid) about our freedom, our “not following the rules that much” ways, our casualness, our inefficiency too – and the food. The food, always, and again.

Here (like in other countries like Italy), c’est un Art de vivre, an Art of living. And we fight for that! Many of our cheeses are and will stay forbidden in America : not “safe” enough, not enough disinfected, sanitized…

Here I pity the French who live in America : they’re all missing… the cheese! And also, I will now search for “cultural differences movies”, where Anglo-Saxon’s culture irrigate our exhausting Frenchiness.

 

Tool : what from other country’s culture thing do you need in your job, in your life? What if you ask a Japanese expert about your company? What for? Where are the axis of progress?

Have a nice day!

OK, here’s a little Camembert to say goodbye.

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Acceleration & Ways of laughing : Chronicle 14

Why are my friends mostly women? Because men always want to win. As a man, talking to a man always leads to competition. This is really boring…
And, of course, my female friends almost all say that they prefer to talk with… men. It’s the way the world goes, I suppose…

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Today I learned about the word “Culprit“, and in my mind there’s a confusion with “Guilty”. In French, the word is the same : coupable. It’s a weird feeling to discover two words in a language while you have just one in yours!

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A few days ago I saw a guy I know coming in the street. He didn’t see me, then, as I was parking my bike, he did the Store Front Escape. What I read in this “sudden interest” is “I don’t want to talk to this person”. So be it. Me neither maybe, voilà.

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There’s a Virilio simple dial : “Acceleration leads to accident”. What does that mean? When you examine this pattern, do you think about the guy who drives too fast, progress, or about the whole civilization?

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In this blog I claim to be a pecker , like a bird lacking of culture, casually (and randomly) finding microscopic ideas to share. This strange freedom, weaved with the uneasy but comforting idea that my-english-is-not-good-but-I-try-though… makes it what it is!

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There’s a seesaw (we call this in French un tape-cul : a hit-ass – makes sense?) I find in many authors or artists : it’s a swing between 1/ the anxiety of losing some time and 2/  go with the flow and do nothing special. Always interesting to see how people deal with that, and what maturity brings them (guess in which way)…

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We have this word for “shell”, in French : un coquillage, which seems more magic to me. Une coquille d’œuf : an eggshell. Une coquille d’escargot : a snail shell. What do you find on the shore? A shell or a shellfish? Shells, of course. I wonder if in English it’s “charged” like in French : a word full of the sea, the salty taste, the texture and the frame of shells… Maybe it is! But the word itself is delicious, right? Coquillage…

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Some French words in “age” (pronounce not “age”, but “aj”) are like dreaming in the air at the end of the word : nuage (cloud), sillage (the wake behind a boat)

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You’ll always read that other people “can’t really know you”. We are islands, etc. In fact, I’m sure that it’s not true. Some rare people are able and will “know” you (ha, like “I see you” in Avatar!), or a part of your personality. There’s nothing like someone who gets you. Immediately, love is around, or at least a kind of magic bond, intensity. And I think that one of the tragedies of life is to have someone who is able to see you… and you don’t realize it. You don’t listen…

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There’s this little trick between French and English about this phrase : “I miss you”. We say : “Tu me manques”, because this verb is used the other way round in France. It’s a little like “You miss to me”, or worse : “You lack to me”. I’m sorry, it’s uglily said, but it’s true! And I can’t stop plunging into a meditation about how language structures our reality. “I miss you” is very different, in fact, than “You now are lacking to me”… well… sort of. Just imagine that “miss” in French is the other way round. So sorry 🙂

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Sometimes you know someone very well, but you’re surprised to see this person with unknown people. There’s one thing to watch, then : the way she laughs in front of others. Countenance or composure laughing… where people hear joy, and where you hear timidity, hidden rushes, panic, a way to shut up, a given time to think about things to say and, her eyes constantly checking you, a need for help, support, hand in back, come next to me, I need you, friendship and deep bond reaffirmation. All this… in a laugh.

 

Thanks for reading!

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The French “Qu’est-ce que tu deviens ?” is our way to ask “What have you been up to?”…

When you meet a friend, you can say “What’s up?”.

It’s clear and simple for a French, with the fascination we have for English’s conciseness : what is “up”, after all? 🙂

I think there’s a slightly different color in “What’s up with you?”, saying “What have you been up to?”, which is “How have you been busy these days?”. I’m good?

Well, we say in this case “What’s new?” : Quoi de neuf ?

After a long-time no-see, we often say : “Qu’est-ce que tu deviens ?“, which means “Who do you become?”, or “What are you turning into?“.

Yessss you see me coming, there’s a cultural difference here showing on the surface :

USA asks “What have you been up to?”, France asks “What are you turning into?”. One friend is asking about your actions, the other one is asking about your inner transformation. Isn’t it revealing? I don’t know, it makes me think, in any case…

 

Thanks for reading!

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Instagram : clairemahoney

Fuir -> To Flee/To Leak – a #Deleuze word game

Fuir is a French verb, well, TWO French verbs, which are homonyms :

  1. Fuir : To flee
  2. Fuir : To leak

Therefore, it’s the same for “la fuite”, two homonyms :

  1. Fuite : a flight, an escape
  2. Fuite : a leak

So I suppose you understand it’s a bit “weaved” in our French brain. And if I ask “Fuite” in http://www.wordreference.com/, I find interesting things to prove it :

  • Fuite de capitaux : Capital flight (a leak, a flee)
  • Fuite des cerveaux : Brain drain (idem)
  • Ligne de fuite : Convergence line (in French, so, more like “a lign of flight”)

Gilles Deleuze is a playful philosopher. He likes to play with concepts to make tools.

He notices that to flee is NOT to renounce, or to give up, it’s a real action. To fly away is going on a line which stays like a symbol. It’s fuir (to flee) but also faire fuir (to “make a leak”). To run away is sometimes like to puncture the place you leave. You leave a hole, maybe… Therefore, a leak…

Fuir/Fuir : Flee/Leak.

Yeah I know, it’s a game of words, but it can give birth to ideas, right?

I like this idea too : to run away is to draw a line. Where you ran away, you have to do something else, the place you “leaved” (OK, left) does something else too. Flee as a disturbance. Each of them draws new lines, more lines. It’s like inventing new maps. To flee is quitting a territory A to go to another territory (B). Is it a “go back”? A flee & discovery? If there’s a leak on B, what is its nature? What happens, then? Can the runaway bird be replaced? By what? If you fly away, are you forced by something, pushed away, is it a choice?

More Territories games : you can see here.

Have a good day!

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Because of “you”, this French Verlaine’s poem can not be translated in English.

1 Tu or Vous?

You know that in France we have two different “YOU”.

  • It’s “VOUS” for the people you don’t know very well, your teacher, strangers, etc.
  • And we say “TU” to siblings, lovers, parents and good friends.

I know, it’s a bit complicated when you speak English. Your “How are you?” becomes “Comment vas-tu?” to my brother and my friends, and “Comment allez-vous?” to my neighbors, my mother-in-law, etc.

Sooo…  How are vous? or How are tu? See?

Of course you get that it’s very important in France, because vous is more polite, creates a safe distance, etc. As a French, we are easily offended by the wrong or too early “tu”. Some web pages targeting teenagers use the “tu” communication (in emails, for example), which can be tricky and over-familiar to many.

 

2 Verlaine

There’s an classic poem in France, named Colloque Sentimental, which begins like that :

Dans le vieux parc solitaire et glacé
Deux formes ont tout à l’heure passé.

In the lonely old park’s frozen glass
Two shadows lately passed.

Ha! You see the mood! These two were lovers, and they now talk about the past. Of course it becomes a cruel game between the wax lyrical guy and his cold ex.
So here is a part of their dialog :

– Te souvient-il de notre extase ancienne ?
– Pourquoi voulez-vous donc qu’il m’en souvienne ?

– Ton coeur bat-il toujours à mon seul nom ?
Toujours vois-tu mon âme en rêve ? – Non.

Ah ! les beaux jours de bonheur indicible
Où nous joignions nos bouches ! – C’est possible.

‘Do you recall our former ecstasies?’
‘Why do you want me to remember that?’
 
‘Does your heart still beat at my name alone?’
‘Is it always my soul you see in dream?’ – ‘No’.
 
‘Oh the lovely days of unspeakable mystery,
When our mouths met!’ – ‘Maybe.’

 

3 Translating the You?

Look closer at this one (you see me coming). The man asks :

– Te souvient-il de notre extase ancienne ? ‘Do you recall our former ecstasies?’

“Te souvient-il” is a formal way to say “Tu te souviens”. It’s the TU form of a close relation.

The woman’s answer is :

– Pourquoi voulez-vous donc qu’il m’en souvienne ?

She uses the VOUS form, speaking to him as a stranger. Putting a distance between them, saying “I don’t know vous very well”. So, the real answer is more like :

Why the fuck do you want me to remember that?

…but this is not poetry, right?

On the web I found :

  • “Why should I remember it at all?”
  • “Why would you have me rake up memories?”
  • “Why ever should you wish me to remember?”

All are correct, and we get her point, right?

BUT there’s no way, in a translation, you can feel the distance she puts using VOUS, instead of the TU she used to say in his arms, in older times.

Now, do you feel the guy tightening heart?

Aaawweeee!

Thanks for reading!

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Paintings : Joseph Lorusso

Sad Heart, Merry Spirit : Chronicle 9

I read in a Claude Roy diary, as he’s around 70 years old, that he would like to reach this season, this state : “Le temps du cœur triste et de l’esprit gai” – the time of the sad heart and the merry spirit.

Here I have a vocabulary problem : is “gai” happy, merry, gay, jolly? I don’t know. I chose merry.

But I’m very fascinated by this “goal”, from an aged author I liked very much. As if he knew he could never heal his heart. But, knowing this, building his own happiness, a “merry spirit”. This touched me, a lot.

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Just read an article evoking Robert Osborne, a TCM Television Presenter who just died at 87 years old. It is told that Olivia de Havilland had with him :

One phone call a week, for decades.

Awwweeee! (-> this was the sound of my merry spirit). I wish I had a friend so close that she would call me once a week until I die at 87. Like a whatever-happens-I-want-to-talk-with-you. Awwweeee again (my merry spirit if very merried by this idea).

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I read (but where, is it Casanova or Jünger?) about the Venice Purse, a knack which says that when you have to go to a “dangerous” place (which was Venice at the time), you needed to have two purses, one with a little money in case you’re robbed, attacked, knocked out, and another one with the main part of it – well hidden.

It’s just funny to know, but then you realize that when you travel abroad you really have to think about what you do with your passport, the amount of money you have with you, etc. I wonder what this concept can tell us about life in general : Be cautious? Watch the exits? Don’t put all your eggs in the same basket? But also : GO to places where you need to think about the Venice Purse, right?

Venice, in French, is VENISE. A perfect word to say : Venizzz. Elegant as a swan, right? Venice is more like braking at the end. No good. French better, sorry.

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Elmore Leonard says somewhere about novels writing : “If it seems written, I rewrite”.

What a beautiful idea, right? Writing Style Dissimulation Efforts.

And a paradox many artists know well : work, work, work, until nobody sees you worked. It’s an interesting goal, and the path itself is enthralling too. How to reach?

There’s a balance to find, I suppose. It means you have the eyes to know when it’s not OK, when it is OK. Experience.

Well I have a vocabulary problem again. When do you use “enthralling“, dear? Can you say that about a person? How is it radioactivitied? Thrilling? Fearful? Exciting? Or more like “plainfully satisfying”?

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I watched the Iowa episode of Aerial America yesterday. It’s amazing how many times I hear “French” in these. Detroits and Illinois were “frenchised” words, and how Iowa is a piece of this territory called Louisiana, the US bought to the French 214 years ago.

These TV programs tell me how BIG are the United States. Tonight I’ll watch Illinois, following the path of Bill Bryson’s book across America in car (cf Fixin’to traveling in the USA).

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OK, it’s too long. I seize the run-up since a few weeks (is “seize the run-up” a good title?), like making the most of an epistolary energy…

I stop here. Next Chronicle next week. Here’s le hug by Ze French :

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Have a nice day!