Saturday, September 20, 2008

My New Favorite Web Site

I'm about to go to the event. Before I leave, however, I want to share what is undoubtedly the coolest Web site I've come across in a while:

http://www.writeinmyjournal.com/

This guy just goes around asking interesting-looking strangers to write in a journal. About anything. And then he takes a picture. I feel like this is how the Web is supposed to be used. I wish he still lived in New York so I could run into him.

-Josh

Drag Queens at NYU

Today I'm going to some drag circus music show in Washington Square Park. That should scare those Hayden kids! Ha ha, I'm so totally older and superior now.

Anyway, I'm hungover and crabby but I have to do it for NYULocal. I haven't covered an event for them before yet, so I don't know how snarky I'm allowed to be, but if my predictions are correct then I'm going to be giving a watered-down report for them. But you guys, on the other hand, will get it uncensored. So stay tuned for the red-band write-up.

-Josh

EDIT: Okay, I'm not actually editing what I just wrote, but as it turns out, the event has nothing to do with drag queens. Rather, it addresses such issues as "immigration, public schools, affordable housing, healthcare access, police brutality, the environment, and the war in Iraq.” LOL. Why did I think drag queens were involved? I wish they were. They're like an issue, right?

Chez George

Whenever I go to cool places in Paris I'm going to write about them, so that if any of you are in Paris, or care the slightest about my life, or are thinking about going to Paris, then you can potentially use these posts as a mini travel guide.

To that effect, I went to the most amazing bar last night, as recommended to me by the lovely Lauren Elkin. It was called Chez George, located in the 6e arrondissement near the Mabillon metro stop. We recognized the place by the swell of loud French students swarming outside in the alleyway smoking cigarettes and laughing. I have to say, I've never seen so many good looking guys that I would promptly categorize as "my type" squished into one small space, but it was... delightful. And they love American girls, though as my new friend Michel pointed out, it is because of the discriminatory stereotype that we are "easy," and perhaps not because they think our accents are "cute." Within literally a minute of walking in, Rebecca and I had a free drink in our hand and attractive men fawning over us. It felt like a movie. It's a blessing and a curse, here, how guys are unafraid to approach you: when they're creepy, it feels unwelcome and scary, but when they're sweet it's just plain flattering.

The upstairs has some tables but is generally too packed to find a seat. The downstairs is cavelike and bathed in red light. The DJs spin Klezmer and everyone was drunk and smiling and twirling around. It was spectacular. I left not having paid for a single drink, happily wine-drunk and exhausted. The bouncer, Ryan, is a really cute American from California who moved to France to become a writer (such a cliche, but I love it) and now has three novels published. The fact that he's forced to make his money by yelling at drunk Sorbonne students to not bring drinks outside kind of speaks to the sad state of the literary world these days.

Ryan and Rebecca trying to look like angry French people, and me just being generally drunk

-Jess

Friday, September 19, 2008

Happy Friday!

I miss my friends back home a lot, especially this one guy I was what I like to call "pre-dating" (aka going out to dinner and making out with) before I left for Paris. He sent me this amazing clip from some 80's movie which should serve as a good weekend send off:



-Jess

Folgers: Right Coffee, Wrong Message


Folgers is apparently unveiling a new, expensive ad campaign for their new method of drying pre-roasted beans. As Gawker points out, in this troubled economy, cash-conscious consumers may elect with increased frequency to purchase relatively inexpensive brew-at-home brands like Folgers instead of going to places like Starbucks each morning.

But watch the ad embedded in the New York Times article. They probably made the spots months ago, but there is not one mention--or even subtle allusion--to Folgers's big sell: THAT IT'S CHEAP. Their new advertising message has practically been written for them over the past week or so, if not the past couple of years: That Folgers Coffee not only tastes good but also saves you a lot of money. They really should just bang out another ad quickly that addresses this, because, you know, in all honesty, the best part of waking up isn't Folgers. Take it from me, I've been drinking the stuff for two years.

-Josh

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Fleet Capital M

This truly is the slapstick for our generation.

My only qualm is that if dude posted this himself, he must be in on the joke. Like, if he were earnestly trying to show how easy the speech-recognition software is, wouldn't have have done a second take?

Or maybe the footage leaked somehow. And if that's the case, I'm so grateful it did.

-Josh

Comment Moderation

We're moderating comments now so if they don't show up right away it's because we haven't checked our e-mail and approved them yet! Or it's because you called us dickheads or something, which is fine, but write that shit on your own blog. But by all means, polite dissent is welcome!

Addendum:

Here are some things you cannot say. I mean, you can say them all you want, but we're not gonna approve them.

1) Telling us how self-absorbed we are: We know. We have a blog. We have a blog with our names in the title. We post pictures and videos of ourselves and share our thoughts with the world. Saying that we're self-absorbed is about as astute as saying that Oprah is reckless with her weight, which is to say, not astute at all.

2) Being mean for no reason: To us or to other commenters. If you're passionate about something and disagree with a point we've made, or an argument posed by the commenter above you, then by all means say something. But just plain lashing out, or calling us names for no reason? Nope, we don't have to put that on our site. Sorry, Charlie, free speech lives on but being an asshole is gonna get shut down every time.

3) Hateful speech: So you're not a homosexual/feminist/Democrat. That's fine! Feel free to tell us why Sarah Palin is awesome or why gays shouldn't get married. But using offensive racist, homophobic, or demeaning terms when making comment is totally not fine. Find an intelligent way to make your point.

4) Spam comments: And we don't just mean spambots, either. We're glad you're so excited about your ringtones, but frankly, we don't care, and saying that one of our posts was "Awesome! Go to this site for cool downloads, cheap and easy!" isn't going to make us change our minds. Besides, I'm happy with my Madonna ringtone, thank you very much.

25th Hour




A few days ago I went to La Cinematique Francaise for a Spike Lee retrospective they're putting on this week. They were playing 25th Hour, a film I had never heard of but was willing to drop 5 Euros on because I liked Do the Right Thing so much. I'm so happy that I did.

The theatre was located in the 12th arrondissement next to a little park with children eating crepes and riding a carousel with plastic painted horses bobbing happily up and down while their parents looked on smoking Gauloises. It was a gorgeous autumn day with the smell of dried leaves mixing with spices from the food carts and the shouts of adorable French children. As for the film, I didn't really know what to expect. I thought it would be a film from the late 80s/early 90s, a la Do the Right Thing, but instead I discovered it was made in 2002 as a cinematic response to 9/11. There's one scene in particular - an angry, racist rant - that stuck out for me:



It's just so poignant. It might be confusing out of context, so for a brief overview: Edward Norton's character is going to jail for 7 years the day after this scene occurs, so he's expressing all of his hatred for the city and the circumstances that landed him in that situation. But at the end he realizes that he can only really blame himself, so instead the scene ultimately serves as a portrait of New York City after 9/11: the deep racial divisions, the sickening blame... but mostly the sheer humanity of it; how human it is for us to seek out the familiar and to blame each other in the face of fear. The descriptions of the cliches were so apt, too, as I'm sure New Yorkers would attest: it's not that the people he describes are like that in real life, but instead the cliches are startlingly realistic.

This film must have packed quite the punch when it was released in 2002, but I think with a lot of the tension continuing to diffuse, it provides an important retrospective window into the consciousness of a nation at a tumultuous and painful time in its development.

-Jess

A New Hope

Next time you think that all hope is lost for our ravaged society...fear not! Here be hope. Britney's new album, out December 2, will be called Circus. One confirmed producer is Danja, who also turned the knobs on "Gimme More" (he's the one who says "You're gonna have to remove me" towards the end of the song.) And she's releasing the new album on her birthday! Awww.

-Josh

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

My Mom Uses the Word "Interwebs" in an Ironic Way

ME: look, the observer actually did something really funny.
MOM: that's hilarious! i love it!
MOM: did you see the video of sarah silverman on the jimmy kimmel show singing about she's fucking matt damon?
ME: haha yeah, that came out like six months ago
MOM: yeah, well i'm behind the times, apparently.
MOM: my goal is to send you something you haven't seen yet
ME: haha aw good luck
MOM: you live in pop culture on the interwebs
MOM: although i did send you that thing about using lysol as a douche. i'm sure you can't find THAT everywhere.
MOM: of course, those were ads from the 30's, so maybe that says something about me :)

-Jess

Getting Better

Look how French I'm trying to be

Things are getting better. Everyone says that when you move to a foreign country, particularly for an oddly short but long-feeling period of time like a college semester, it takes awhile to adjust. I've been here for 10 days and it seems as if I've been away from my friends, family and fellow English speakers for months. I have the suspicion it's because all the little things you take for granted at home here are much more difficult, if only because you're in a foreign place and don't know how to navigate every day life. For example: In New York, I wake up, make coffee, almost crumble to my knees while taking a shower because I frequently edge to the brink of sleep, and then pour my coffee and drink it while I get ready, then walk 15 minutes to school.

Here I couldn't find any bags of American coffee, so I accidentally bought espresso. I don't have an espresso machine. I've been essentially making "coffee" by using a 1 scoop of espresso to 5 cups water ratio, and it tastes like tar. Someone told me they have a version of Splenda here but I forget what it's called so I put sugar in my coffee, so it tastes like sweet tar. In the shower I have to be awake because it's handheld and must use effort to actually wash myself, as opposed to genuinely zoning out beneath a sheaf of steaming water. My commute is 45 minutes, so I leave an hour before school starts, and have to take two (overly crowded) Metros.

It's not bad, it's just different; I've always been married to my routine, which I think is one of the reasons it's good that I came here. I needed to break out of my comfort zone in a way that I hadn't really done since I moved to New York. I have to make little adjustments to finally bring myself into stride with the way my daily life functions here.

Of course, aside from the minutiae, there are the significant changes: mainly, the language. I've already started to think and dream in French, but understanding, writing, and reading a foreign language are a lot different than speaking one. As a writer, and a person who generally enjoys deep human connection, do you know how difficult it is to be unable to express yourself in a sophisticated manner? I imagine it's how children feel, or, to a lesser extent, those with "locked in" syndrome: you have so many things to say that you feel are important, that could contribute to the conversation or the subject at hand in a meaningful way, but you are literally left sputtering because you don't know how to form the words. I'm essentially learning what it's like to be an immigrant here for four months, only I'm an American in Europe and so am treated much better than other immigrants who come to the US. You have to learn new customs: kissing in Paris, for example, is considered a friendly and polite gesture, whereas hugging is considered too intimate to do in public or with someone you're not close with-- in the states it's essentially the opposite. You have to learn new foods: "Avez-vous un sandwich sans viande?" -- do you have a sandwich without meat? My boulangere is getting tired of hearing that, I'm sure. You have to learn new directions: I take the 7 to Place D'Italie, and then the 6 to Passy. But most of all, you have to learn patience. Firstly, because there is a total lack of urgency here. People amble everywhere, even off the Metros in the morning. For someone born in the New York state of mind, it is absolutely infuriating, especially if (when) I'm running late. But I think ultimately it will help to teach me to relax, which is something I'm not very good at.

And for those of us chained to and spoiled by our computers (and/or New York locale), there isn't a place to go online for random things you need: There is no HopStop or Delivery.com or OhmyRockness. So you have to be patient: you have to read the subway map yourself and pick food up on your way home from school and physically go to the newsstand and buy a Pariscope when it comes out each Wednesday. It has made me realized (even more) how utterly indulgent New York has made me and and other American youth.

But patience transcends simply abetting immediacy: you have to learn to be patient mostly with yourself, which is difficult, especially if you're say, a neurotic perfectionist. It gets really fucking frustrating when a cute guy strikes up a conversation with you and all you can do is go all doe-eyed and shrug and mutter, "je ne sais pas." It gets really fucking frustrating when you're standing alone in the grocery store and can't find a single item in the frozen food aisle (the only aisle where you can afford anything!) that doesn't have meat in it, mostly because you can't understand what the products say. And it gets really fucking frustrating when someone waves his dick in your face on the subway and you don't know how to say "this guy is a perv please make him stop" so you just gasp, jump up, run to a different section of the car and start uncontrollably crying. But you just have to remember that, with time, not only will you have the verb conjugations memorized, but they'll roll easily off your tongue. You'll meet people and learn slang so you don't talk like a professor constantly. It's just a lot of waiting and restraint, two things which I am also not good at.

In short, it's lonely, but with patience, it won't be that way for long. My roommate Rachel and I got out of our lease with this shitty apartment and are moving into a beautiful (but tiny) loft with a little balcony overlooking the Luxembourg Gardens on October 1st. Our landlords are an adorable French couple - the woman was already bugging my roommate and I to get boyfriends, and the man is a philosophy professor at the Sorbonne. It's near Montparnasse, which is a lot like the Broadway of Paris, with cute shops and restaurants. It'll just feel good to be in a safer and more centralized area. We put the deposit down today so I can finally breathe a sigh of relief. I also bought tickets to go to Amsterdam Nov. 20-23 for the Cannabis Cup, which should be... amazing.

Frankly, I'm surprised I haven't had a mental breakdown yet, what with all the change and constant movement and the fact that I haven't smoked pot in 10 days. But sometimes we surprise ourselves.

-Jess

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Who Needs a Boyfriend When You've Got a Pillow?


So, this happened a few months ago. I don't know how I missed it; after all, I was single then and I'm single now.

=(

I am so tempted to just end this post now, but I think I've subjected you guys to enough self-pity on this blog already, right?

Right. With that in mind, I think this is actually a pretty clever product. Sure, it might be a little "depressing"...but at the same time, if I'm already not getting any, but I want that cuddly feeling, you know, why not? It makes a great gift for someone in a relationship as well. If one partner has to go away on business, or has too much homework to hang out that night, well, maybe this pillow isn't such a bad substitute.

I'm really thinking about getting one. The only thing holding me back, in fact (besides my dignity) is the 45-dollar price tag. That seems a little steep for an item that I will surely soak with my tears each night; like, a pack of tissues costs a dollar and change at the drug store, and Kleenex won't make me confront my romantic loneliness. At least not obviously. WOO.

By the way, could the product description on that Web site be any creepier? It tells us about "his safe and warm embrace" (note the "his" instead of "its"), and then it lays this gem on the reader:

"Singles who want to feel the touch of a man without actually have to have one love it too."


Wow, they totally nailed their demographic! I've been wrong all along--I don't want a boyfriend, I just want to hold a piece of fabric that's shaped like one. Thanks, Boyfriend Pillow!

-Josh

P.S. I still want one.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Things You Can't Do Without Electricity




1. Blog
2. Use the internet at all
3. See
4. Make tea
5. Watch TV
6. Catch up on episodes of Mad Men on Surf the Channel
7. Write
8. Read
9. Shower with hot water
10. Cook
11. Use your computer, especially if you depleted the battery because you legit fell asleep watching old episodes of The Hills
12. Listen to music, especially if you depleted the battery on your iPod listening to it on the Metro while praying someone else doesn't jerk off on you.
13. Skype
14. Study
15. Do laundry

Things You Can Do Without Electricity
1. Smoke cigarettes and drink cheap wine in the dingy hallway of your apartment building while trying to do your homework in the light of the emergency generators. OMG lolz, France is so 3rd world.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Tina Fey as Sarah Palin, Amy Poehler as Hillary Clinton

When I first saw Sarah Palin I totally thought she looked like Tina Fey. I'm glad the execs at SNL agree: