Thursday, December 19, 2013

It's A Real Big City

I don't know why I never published this:

I'm finally getting that "real" big city experience that I'd been so idealistically pining for all these years.  No, New York didn't count.  New York is too nice these days.  But the moment I step out of my apartment in Marseille, I get the real deal - the trash, the stink, the drooling drunks and the hollering insane people.  Walking down the street can be a chore.  "Non!  Je ne veux PA-PA-PA-PA-PAAAS!" screamed a woman in my face a propos of nothing.  I ducked away to be accosted by two gypsy girls who grabbed my arm and demanded coin.

A stroll through town is actually a dance around sleeping hobos, panhandlers, illegally parked cars, slowly waddling wide-assed old ladies, and dog shit.  Slick-haired 20 year-olds obstruct the sidewalk like Algerian James Deans.  Your presence cannot break their far away gazes.  Crossing the street is not for the inattentive.  Expect the unexpected from the diesel death-machines since they've just been stuck in a traffic jam for an hour, so when they find open road, they go for it with gusto.  After an hour outside, my nerves are jangled, my eyes burn, and my nose and lungs are insulted.

Sunday, November 10, 2013 ???

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Deli-cious tears

A homely midwestern couple approached, she a confused regard attached to a tear shaped body, him a taciturn lump. From behind the deli counter I exclaim my usual "Hello!"

"So here's the thing," she says, mercifully disposing with any pleasantries, "we went to Italy not long ago..."

"Oh that's wonderful!" I say.

"Yeah, well, when we were about to leave, everybody else was stuffing their bags full of Eye-talian food... sausages and cheese, you know... but I said to myself, why should I waste all that space in my baggage when I can get good Eye-talian food at Russo's?"

"Uh, ahem, well, yes..." I'm afraid I did a poor job of masking my shock/incredulity.

"So I'm lookin' to get some Eye-talian salami from Idilly that I can give to my daughter."

"That's going to be a problem." I'm not going to lie for what they pay me. Russo's carries no imported salami, only the American, nitrate-filled kind. Probably because of regulations. Also, no one in Grand Rapids is going to care.

Honestly the closest thing we have to European-style dried sausage comes from San Fransisco. It's pretty good, but for the sake of fuck, it has nothing to do with what you could get in Italy, you dumb cow!

It was painful. Russo's has a few good Italian cheeses albeit, and the imported prosciutto di Parma is nothing to sneeze at, but... how can you... what the... ugh!

"I guess we should've stuffed our bags with food too," she summarized, after my pained explanations.

"Well," I said, "what's done is done. Next time."

Friday, October 11, 2013

I feel sick

Shortly after getting up I told my Mom, "Ugh, I feel sick." She responded, "Oh, well I AM sick, I don't just 'feel sick.'" I think I quickly muttered something like, "Well usually being sick is the root cause of feeling sick," and slinked back upstairs. Ten minutes later I realized how fucked it is that she would respond to me saying "I feel sick," like that. Is it lack of empathy, one-upsmanship, or distrust of my word? Or a combination?

Saturday, September 28, 2013

I think Allia is a good name. I love onions. They're sweet, they're strong, they give great flavor to everything. And they are multilayered....

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Dumb dumb

I just saw this image on the blog I love to hate, Boing Boing.

It reminded me of how putting things in to rubrics does not guarantee a refining of understanding, nor does it necessarily add any value. While it's possible that this simple double-dichotomy reflects the way people think about themselves, it does not describe any deep epistemological divide, or explain anything really.

But most irritatingly, on the face of it this cartoon seems to be criticizing 'gnostic' versions of theism or atheism, making them equally ridiculous. But what is more absurd, asserting that something that has no evidence exists, or that it doesn't exist? The standard argumentum ad absurdum (sorry to bore you) says that I know that God does not exist the same way I know that Leprechauns don't exist, or that a magical tea-pot is not orbiting the Sun near Jupiter, or that the Flying Spaghetti Monster is not real. I know that all these are not real for the same reason - not a single shred of evidence has been given to even marginally imply that they do.

But this is the way all human knowledge is based. I know that the sun will rise in the east and not the west. This is a gnostic belief. A scientific assertion. But like all scientific assertions, it will be quickly repealed or ammended in the face of new facts. The sun rising analogy is a proper one. Just as there has never, ever, ever, been any reason to think that the Sun will not appear to rise in the east, there has never, ever, ever, been any reason to think that a supernatural deity is governing the affairs of the universe.

What does it really matter if you say "I believe that that sun will rise in the east, but it could end up rising in the west for all I know." Of course, in any understanding of the world, new information could upset the status quo. You "know" what you think you know right now, and of course it could (and most certainly will) change, sooner than you think. That's what's important to realise.

Monday, August 5, 2013

First Stand-Up

I did my first ever stand-up routine last night. Several other comics were somewhat surprised it was my first time, and were kindly complimentary (mostly about my Japanese dick joke: "Have you ever seen a Japanese cock? It's all pixels!" I guess they were expecting the tired asians-have-small-cocks spiel). For the first half minute of my act, I could tell the room was thinking that I was most likely nuts. I started off talking about regrets, and how people should regret putting decals of Calvin pissing on a Ford or Chevy logo, since nowhere in Bill Watterson's œuvre (pronounced with a french accent) is there any mention of one automobile manufacturer being better than another. "I don't like that," said I. What the fuck am I talking about?!

But I managed to break the ice and started getting a steady roll of laughter, especially after the pixel bit. My finale got screwed up because Brian flashing the light in my face distracted me. I suddenly felt like I had to get off immediately, and after rushing though "and before you know it we're blowing each other" I just hung the mic up and walked off abruptly. Oh well. It was fun.

Another highlight was the biggest douche in the world doing sound effects. He started off by ham-handedly comparing a woman's hair to a giant dump, complete with loud shitting noise. Some other great moments: "wika wika wika wika wika wika! That's a helicopter! Beeeeeoooooooooeeeeeeeooooooo! And when you hear that shit, you better get in the basement because that means a tornado is coming!" "22 year old girls tits sound like this: (clown horn sound). Old saggy lady tits sound like this: (nothing). That's cuz that flat chested bitch ain't got no tits!" "Blacks! I ain't racist!" He kept insisting that "it's jokes, people." The most offensive thing he said was that he's a comedian, quipped another performer.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

How to make an Uncle Martarita

2 parts Tequila
2 parts Rose's Triple Sec (or DeKuyper's)
1 part Rose's Sweetened Lime Juice

Add ice, blend, drink, repeat.

According to Uncle Paul, the right amount to drink is "all of it."

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Quartre Expressions Françaises

À bon chat, bon rat.
L'appetit vient en mangeant.

À beau mentir qui vient de loin.

L'air ne fait pas la chanson.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Yes this really just happened.

On my street everyone parks on the sidewalk, and as a pedestrian one is often obliged to walk in the street.  So I was walking down the street when a huge truck turned the corner and started towards me.  I just assumed that he would slow down or stop to let me get to a portion of the sidewalk not packed with bumper-to-bumper cars, but I was wrong.  I had to use my hand to snap closed his giant side mirror to prevent it from clocking me.  That angered him, he stopped, ran towards me, yelled a bunch of bullshit, and slapped me.  A passer-by intervened to stop the fight.  I laughed all the way home.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


A GVSU psychology professor friend just posted this on Facebook:

"I enjoyed reading this." 

That's right... Blowing A Whistle... by Thomas Friedman.  My heart immediately sunk.  Here's what I wanted to reply:

"I didn't. 

Friedman sets up the usual tiresome dichotomy of "less Government power" OR "more 9/11's." Then he adds some tortuous logic: IF you get too worried about your civil liberties THEN you shouldn't be surprised when another 9/11 happens AND another 9/11 would make Thomas Friedman sad since another 9/11 would inevitibly lead to even fewer civil liberties.

Did I mention 9/11?

He writes that "we don’t live in a world any longer where our government can protect its citizens from real, not imagined, threats without using big data."

Citation needed.  No professional terrorist is dumb enough to hatch a plot on Facebook.  They use courriers who need to be tracked by men on the ground, not by a digital Panopticon.

And PRISM clearly failed to prevent Baby's First Bombing in Boston, probably because one can carry out such an attack without picking up a phone, or logging on to the internet, just as terrorists have been doing all this time before the Internet existed. 

So we're being asked to shrug and go about our business, and just trust the government and all future administrations to do right thing, and never abuse for political reasons its practically unfettered ability to collect and store the personal information of everyone (well, only people who have a phone or use the internet).

By the way, anyone with clear eyes would see that this is a blatant violation of the Fourth Amendment, but hey, that's just the Constitution talking.
All this because we have to live in fear for the rest of our lives that evildoers are lurking around the corner. We don't know why they want to hurt us, but they do.  And that's all I need to know.

So go on, spend billions on the gigantic data centers needed to house all of this data. Pay contractors like Snowden $200,000 a year to sit at a desk and determine if you're more than 51 percent foreign.

Remember, you can’t have 100% security and also then have 100% privacy and zero inconvenience!  And since 100% security is an attainable, realistic, and necessary goal, go right ahead! Hey, I wasn't using my privacy anyways."

I'm going to wait until I get home to talk to her about it in person. 

David Brooks has lost all remaining respect

David Brooks just published an opinion piece on Edward Snowden.  It has the borderline-inappropriate title The Solitary Leaker.

A summary for those pressed for time:

The lazy bum couldn't even finish community college.  I heard he doesn't visit his mom either!  He was rude to a neighbor.  Apparently he'd rather play with his beeping gizmos than talk about lawn care.
Kids these days!  They have no respect for their elders!
Despite all his lollygagging we gave him the benefit of the doubt and gave him a good job.  Then he betrayed us!  This is the thanks we get for your six-figure salary? 
Back in my day we were happy to have a job at all!  Spoiled brat!
You really think you're going to change anything?  Fat chance.  Probably just make things worse.  We'll probably find a better way to lie to you.  Why do you even try?  Give up.
In conclusion, do what you're told no matter what.  Disobeying orders is THE WORST.
Honestly, the second paragraph opened with, "According to The Washington Post, he has not been a regular presence around his mother’s house for years."  A non sequitor brimming with innuendo.  But wait, isn't not living with your mom for years when you are 29 exactly what society expects?  Had it been otherwise, Brooks would've assuredly pointed out how odd it is that a fully grown man still sponges off his parents because of his sense of entitlement and poor morals.

It just gets worse from there.  It's shameful, ham-handed mud-slinging that exploits boomer angst about the "atomized" society that their kids live in - you know, the world that they fucking created.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Partisan morons.

It must be partially due to the fact that I have lived in France for 2 years straight, and I was quite removed from the day-in-day-out Dems vs. GOP media narrative.  Sure, I still read the NYT regularly, but every time I walked outside or turned on the TV or the radio I was treated to a much different media environment.  By comparison the Democrats are actually "The Right" and the Republicans are "The Extreme Right."

But my usual weary bemusement of those who fervently attend the pep-rallies for the Blue Team or the Red Team has turned into disgust, particularly given the popular response to Edward Snowden's truly heroic actions last week. 

If you carefully read the articles published in the Guardian (and to a lesser exent the NYT) and your first response was to defend President Obama, you have a serious problem.  If the first thing you share on Facebook is something meme-ish from "LOLGOP" saying that "GOP furious about security leaks, unless it's the identity of a spy whose husband proved W lied us into war... do you remember the Valerie Plame ACTUAL scandal! Not a peep from our conservative friends," I just... I don't know what to say.  So the Plame affair was an "ACTUAL" scandal but this isn't? Everything isn't a puerile competition!

And why, O why, would anyone feel so compelled to go to any length to defend a man who is rightly deemed the most powerful on Earth?  How ironic that these poor partisan hacks feel the need to defend someone, when they should instead be defending themselves against him! 

Now I know that the invasion of privacy in the US has been a long, systematic process that Obama himself did not cause.  But he occupies the Executive right now, and he must bear all of the responsibilities of this highest of functions.  He is the figure that gets all the praise when things go well, and also gets all the criticism when they don't. That's what being the President is all about.  I really hoped that this would be obvious to more of my internet acquaintances. 

Let's get over the "us" versus "them" mentality.  Isn't that what Obama preached?  This isn't about partisan bullshit.  This is about the government collecting all of our data, and then retroactively being able to do what it pleases in a completely opaque environment.  A 29-year-old contractor had it all at his fingertips!  This is about thinking long and hard about the consequences for all of us if this practice is allowed to continue to expand. 

I think I might have made a mistake

Dreams in which I am taken back are becoming more and more frequent.  Waking up is a bitch.  It was so pleasant, but why?  Why am I torturing myself?

It ended with the scalpel precision.  No major fights, no reconciliations, no make-up sex.  It wasn't working for a long time, lamely, so we said goodbye, and that was that.  (And it really should have happened a while ago.) 

My natural distaste for reducing complicated things into digestible categories means I'll just have to remember the misshapen mess of all the aspects of our relationship in suspension, not forgetting everything that made me miserable, or the things that brought me joy.

But now my tired and lonely mind just wants to curl up in her soft motherly safety. 

Monday, June 3, 2013

I gotta get me one of those non-job-type jobs.

I just met a couple of British blokes who fly a private 10 seat jet for a living. "What's it like flying around all day?" I asked. "Well, it's better than working," said the jolly chap.  By all outwards appearances they live a simple, relatively care-free life.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Coucou, coucou.

When someone makes an improbable shot, one often hears "Ho, le cocu!" which literally means "oh, the cuckold" which as you may know is a reference to the cuckoo bird which notoriously dupes other species of bird to care for its young by laying eggs in their nests.

Why this expression?  It was explained to me that when something really lucky happens to a man, other men gibe him by saying that it means that his woman is surely being fucked by another man... cosmically all lucky and unlucky events must balance out, you see?

I'm not sure of the accuracy of this account etymologically speaking, but it seems to make sense. I'm sure they rarely think of the literal meaning of the phrase.  It's just something you say.  When a guy gets lucky, we say "ho, le cocu!" perhaps subliminally tapping into a funny male superstition that whenever things are too good to be true, the chances are someone is fucking your wife.

I asked my French interlocutor if he thought that French people were superstitious, and he responded, "No, we just understand women."

Tuesday, May 28, 2013


Some times I feel real down. Yet when I think of the stars, I feel joyful.  I imagine this feeling might be similar to the way religious folk do sometimes.  My god is a gay god, in the strictest sense of the word.

I feel myself slipping into a sort of archetypical priest or shaman persona.  I can't be bothered by worldly contrivances.  I prefer to look at the moon - really examine it - and try to feel its gravitational pull.  I unabashedly worship the sun - the giver of all life as we know it.  That wonderful miasma of plasma has allowed a thin film of goo to form on the surface of a large rock.

My ex didn't like thinking about all this.  Space scared her. The evolution of man (my specialty) bored her.  No wonder it didn't work out!  Just thinking about the immensity of the galaxy was perturbing to her.  I agree that it's a strange feeling, but it always was a positive one for me oddly enough.  I'm somehow comforted by the appalling, suffocating insignificance of me.

But not enjoying the understanding of human evolution is something I will never understand.  These are the questions we all want answered!  Who am I, and why am I?  I admit we answer these questions poorly and only provisionally, but we do our damnedest!  Damnedest?

That reminds me that I was going to try to remove any language related to religion or superstition from my vocabulary.  Damnation is impossible, and is a sloppy approximation for what I'm trying to say.  There are no gods damning anyone.  No need to yell Jesus Christ!  Blasphemy is wrong on all counts.  Nothing is a "sin." Nobody is "blessed."  All of these references are obfuscating and baloney.

I know it can be taken too far.  I know language is ever evolving, and meanings are meaningful no matter where they originate.  But language is powerful, and I believe not using certain stupid words can help us psychically.  I think a good analogy is my use of the word "gay" in highschool.  Throughout my life I was never against homosexuality, yet for an embarrassing amount of time in my formative years, "gay" was the go-to word to mean anything negative.  You're gay, that's gay, this's gay, school's gay, we're all gay.  Part of me still wants to defend the use of the word... getting so upset about it would be pretty gay, right? But another part wants to banish the word forever.  A meaning borne out of an idiotic intolerance of a sexual lifestyle has no merit in my eyes.  If it could simply go back to where it was before then I would be, well, gay.

Le Vilain Petit Canard

Yesterday I went to an "open mic" (though there is no microphone). It's a nice little place that recalls and older, Frencher France. Most everyone seems to know one another, but they are kind enough to make an awkward American feel welcome. The owner is a solid man whose no-nonsense demeanor is leavened by flashes of a kindly smile. His wife animates the circle of guitar players and flautists and occasionally accompanies old ballads with her beautiful voice.

I like listening to the old guys sing Brassens, politically charged laments, and Gaelic tunes. An Argentine was there last night, and sang some really beautiful songs... I forgot to ask the titles. Then a young m'as-tu vu came in and sang John Mayer, and "un chanson que j'ai écrit (je me fais de la pub)" which sounded suspiciously like something John Mayer would've come up with. He was technically good.

I was definitely in the lowest quartile talent-wise, but I rapped "Loose Lips" by Kimya Dawson and sang a goofy version of "I Threw It All Away" by Dylan. I did an earnest "Hard To Be A Girl" by Adam Green and "Gut Feeling" by Devo. I think people appreciated the otherness of it at least.

People I meet are always interested in finding out what I think about Marseille. I had to mention that I was assaulted on my way to the bar. A vagrant scurried up to me yelling "M'sieuh! M'sieuh!" then tried to grab me with his filthy hands. I esquived him, and informed him that he should not lay hands on me under any circumstances. He then lifted his 1664 bottle over his head as a threat. I brandished my pool cue bag (which is truly a shit weapon) but it scared him off. Little dumb piece of shit.

But Marseille is a great place. I'm going to miss the sea. I'll miss the Calanques. The boats, the fish. The spices of Africa. Les arabes! I mean, those lucky bastards that have a nice little place between centreville and the Calanques... maybe a little sloop to take out on the weekends. They have a nice set-up. I can dream.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Impromptu street art

Last night I got good seats at a Quai Rive Neuve Improv Comedy show.  It featured flying leaps, karate kicks, chair throwing, girl slapping, and it rolled up and down the sidewalk for a good 10 minutes.  We were kept on the edge of our seats as the drunken slurs would tumble off stage right, only to surprise us with an encore performance even better than the last.  When the curtain fell a few of the players were so exhausted and emotionally spent that they decided to take a short nap on the pavement.  Twas a splendid evening indeed!

Thursday, May 9, 2013


A few days ago I was playing against some aixois who didn't know a pool stick from a tapir dick.  One was having problems shooting, and I told him that in a pinch rubbing the blue chalk on your hand can reduce friction.

"But then your hand will be all dirty!"

How do I describe this guy without offending various genders and/or sexual orientations?

Monday, May 6, 2013


Sautéed asparagus and garlic with smoked salmon, comté and carrots for the hell of it.  Basic basalmic dressing.  Brut chardonnay mousseux.  Obrigod Shabim.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

The (Recent) Human Evolution Project

The year is 2013, and we know more than ever about human evolution.  Most recently, technological breakthroughs in the analysis of ancient DNA (aDNA) has given us fascinating new insights into how we came to be, and has illuminated our controversial relationship with Neanderthals.  It is an exciting time to study human evolution by all accounts.

But during my 21st century odyssey to study the fossil record, I ran head-long into a frustrating 19th century problem - data from fossil finds are guarded jealously by academics instead of being rendered public for all to see and interpret.

These days human fossils are increasingly being repatriated to their countries of origin on the basis that they are a rightful part of a nations patrimony.  While a noble effort, this too can have the effect of further reducing access to fossil data.  (Can afford a trip to East Africa?  Great!  Hope they're not having a civil war now!) Let's take this idea one step further: human fossils are undeniably the patrimony of all of humanity, and should therefore be "repatriated" to a place where everyone can see/study/marvel at/ all of the relevant data. 

Let's create a website that has 3D scans, photographs, drawings, and interpretations of all of the human fossils discovered in the last 150 years. Current technology would make this a relatively easy task.  All that is needed is a genuine desire to share knowledge. 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Un rat!

I saw my fair share of rats in NYC. Hell, one even died in some unreachable place in my wall. For a month we just waited out the decomposition process - we didn't dare take a hammer to the place. But now that it's gotten warmer in Marseille, even I am shocked by the number of rodents scurrying in the streets. I see at least 5 whoppers a day. Just now as I was walking home I saw a big'un hauling half a baguette down the street.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013


I listened to this song throughout my childhood. It was on one of me and Alida's favorite LPs when we spent the weekends at my dad's. Being a kid I just liked the sound, but now the lyrics have some impact on me. It's a weird feeling. I'm having a sort of delayed pubescence where love songs (i.e. all songs) have actual meaning for me.

I also just realized that the Flying Pickets LP we played nonstop came out the year of my birth. I guess my parents must have listened to it when I was a little red ball of shit tears and piss. My mom has largely evacuated her life of any music from that era. My dad, a more sentimental person, maybe took more pleasure in reliving that time.

EDIT: I just noticed they're clearly lipsynching the album version of the song.  Nice invisible microphones!

Monday, April 22, 2013

You want mirrion dorrar?

I clicked on this NYT blogpost on income inequality in the US, read the first few paragraphs, then closed it.  Reading more would have made me upset, and I'm trying to go for emotional stability these days. 

Why are we addicted to self-sabotage?  Is it because Americans love to identify with the rich, and while they're eating their Hamburger Helper and slugging a Natural Ice they imagine how they'll spend their future riches? Because they're cowboys that play by their own rules, and cowboy code prevents them from accepting "hand-outs," especially from the Government? Everybody, stop deluding yourselves!  You're never gonna be mega-rich.  Most of you will never even be sorta rich.  So increasing taxes on the rich will only benefit you.

I tire of the usual rose-tinted argument that the rich have a moral duty to pay more in the spirit of human solidarity etc.  Does anyone really buy that?  And even if you do, the rich always have a nice charity they can point to, as proof that they've already contributed more than their fair share to society.  This is a scam.

So let's unshackle ourselves from the slave-ideology that tells us what we "deserve" or "don't derserve."  No! Let's tax the rich the most possible for one simple reason: it benefits YOU.  Call it the tyranny of the majority if you want.  I'll call it altruistic egoism (collective egoism that benefits the whole), and it's certainly better than the pathetic self-flaggelation that the american poor and working-class seem to prefer today.

I know these are complicated economic problems, but when the mega-rich, an increasingly vocal group of economists, and, well, all of Europe think that considerably raising taxes on the rich is a good idea, maybe we can at least give it a try.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

three thawts

I was almost home when I decided to just stop on my street to enjoy the last few minutes of sun.  Why do I feel self-concious for doing something completely innocent?  Everyone looks sideways at a guy alone just standing on the sidewalk.  Weirdo.

I have a room mate that does a terrible job of rinsing the soapsuds off of the dishes before putting them in the rack.  He leaves serious mounds of bubbles on the glasses.  I ribbed him for it, but he laughed and said that a little soap is not going to kill me.  True, but in my life I try to aim a little higher than being not dead.

Last night Louis Szekely's new HBO special aired.  The beginning was lame but the ending was great.  Huh.  It's almost like he saved his strongest material for the last half of the show.  Here's a clip that's not from the new special:

I want to fuck your face. from Andrew Perrine on Vimeo.

Monday, April 8, 2013

A bag of lies

There was recently some hubbub in the potato chip world over the "Chicken and Waffles" flavor proposed by Lay's as part of their Do Us a Flavor ad campaign. My world-weary eye could not be impressed by this, since France has some of the most avant-garde potato chips in the West. Once you've had Oyster-flavored chips, it's hard to be shocked by much. But today I saw Truffle-flavored chips.  I had to try them out!

I hesitated before opening them. I can't say that I love truffles, and I was a little anxious about encountering their heady aroma.  I imagined what I would write about these chips: "Truffle-flavored chips smell exactly as you would expect - like semen."  Finally I poured myself a glass of wine, opened the bag, and... nothing.  No truffle smell at all.  I put a chip in my mouth.  No truffle taste at all.  I was astounded.

I tried to remember the last time I had been so let down by a potato chip.  Cheeseburger flavored chips do not taste like cheeseburgers, but more like cheesy pickles and ketchup.  But their addictive goodness makes you forget about the initial deception.  That's all I can think of.  Oyster chips taste like oysters, Caramel chips taste like caramel, Roasted Chicken and Thyme chips taste remarkably like the food they claim to mimic.  Truffle chips taste like vaguely smoky Salt and Pepper chips.

As I kept eating I tried hard to find the trufflish flavor.  The problem is, it's a flavor that's hard to mistake, at least for me.  Scientists have found that people react to the smell differently.  I don't believe I ever ate any chips from "Sibell" and I'm afraid these will be my last. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013


Today we started off with a slide show of deaths by stab wounds, the perfect continuation of the string of events since Sunday.  We saw many women who were stabbed in the face and chest.  This is typical of women killed by ex-lovers the doctor said - the face is often the object of stabby attention.

I started to relate my story about being menaced with a knife to my "colleagues." I managed to say a few phrases before being interrupted by everyone's dumb stories about being almost robbed.  They didn't once think to return the floor to me, or ask what happened after he pulled out his knife.  They chattered without pause until the prof returned 5 minutes later.

What's so sad about Walid not having an attorney is his perception that "the law of the street" and the Law corresponded in some way.  He earnestly said in his defense, "Yeah I pulled out my knife and pointed it at him!  I just wanted to make him keep on walking. I wasn't going to hurt him." 

Why did he admit to pointing the knife at me?  It was my word against his!  But he seemed to think that since his reason for pulling the knife wasn't malicious, that would somehow convince the cop to let him go.  

In the afternoon we saw a hastily planned presentation from one of the forensic doctors.  "Sorry," he said, "they told me I was doing this just a couple days ago and I didn't really have time to prepare.So he just showed us a bunch of pictures from things he's been doing lately, including crime scene photos from yesterday's headlines: "Dentist Murdered for 99 Euros."  The story is that an elderly man of 71 years was charged 399 euros instead of 300 euros, so he came into the dentist's office armed to the teeth, told everyone to leave, and then shot the dentist lady eight times.  After an hour holed up in the office he was shot to death by the police, who found many clips of ammo on him and two handguns.  So I saw everything there was to see and more from that grisly scene. 
Then we moved on to suicides.  The worst was a family that decided to kill itself.  The mother, the father, and the son (aged 19) all wrote separate suicide notes, and the doctor said there was no reason to suspect that they hadn't all participated willingly.  The reason was that they were financially ruined.  So I got to see all that too.  

I'm so fucking tired of this Masters program.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Che cosa è?

I often wake up to the upstairs neighbor's baby wailing, but not today!  Instead I woke up to a wailing baby from Italy in the background of a loud Skype conversation next door.  I've been listening to non-stop droning italian for three hours now (and smelling cigarettes).  Beautiful language they say.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Ders Kerds Ern Brerklern

Two years after shooting ended, I finally got to see the NYU student film in which I play an unbelievably naïve appartment hunter.  I hesitated before clicking the link to vimeo, anticipating the discomfort and embarrassment of hearing myself say stupid things stupidly.  But the pangs of self-hate were quite moderate, either because my state of ennui, weltzshmerz, apathy etc. is nearly complete, or because I knew for a long time that the film was likely going to suck and could therefore not be disappointed.

It all started when I took a intro improv class at the Upright Citizens Brigade theatre in New York.  I was initially wowed by the talent of my classmates, and most of them had agents and real experience and intense aspirations to be professional actors.  So when another student asked me to be in a short film, my first response was, "Why me?"  Did the others refuse?

I actually thought I did OK and "kept up" while doing improv with the clearly more polished performers in class.  I think that my only strength was precisely in my lack of polish, and my avoidance of over-acting or taking over the scene. 

The director said she wanted us to do a lot of improv, but we would be shooting on film... and she was poor.  So... erm.. clearly there's a conflict (she couldn't just leave the camera rolling and hope some improv gold comes along).   We did do several minutes of improv but none of it made it in the movie.  At one point I made the real estate agent snap out of character because 'I wasn't respecting her' during some improv (I had innapropriately put my head on her shoulder as she was rambling... not funny.)  I stayed in character during and after her outburst... a tiny victory for my craft.

The whole on-set ambiance was just weird.  We had only done one rehearsal (which went way better than the actual shoot).  There was not enough time to establish any kind of rapport.  When I showed up on set at the buttcrack of dawn (as instructed) the director barely acknowleged me.  Her eyes were half closed as she grumpily slouched around.  An hour later the other actors showed up.  Then I had to wait even more while the college crew figured out how to load the camera.  Free bagels!

The director had literally nothing to say about the takes.  I understand she was preoccupied by the technical aspects, but no feedback at all?  I should make it clear that I made a lot of mistakes, and horrible noob mistakes like looking directly into the camera.  Everyone was stressed, and the fatality of the whirring film only added stress.  I remember at the end feeling incredibly worn out.  I had been there for 12 hours, and most of it was feeling hot and sweaty, unfunny, and self-conscious.

I sometimes feel like I shouldn't criticise anybody involved in this shameful display, but that would be to pretend that I have some sort of future doing this type of stuff.  Freed of that burden, I can say that the writing stunk, the shot composition was questionable, and the editing was sloppy.  And I'm a crappy actor!  I'm still happy I was a part of it, and look back at that time with strange fondness.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Bite + Bite = Ouch

I was looking desperately for a little market in Lyon (it was 8 o'clock on a Sunday) when an "arab" caught my eye. I was so excited I failed to notice the "bite" and slammed my bite into the bite, if you catch my drift. That's the first time that has ever happened (surprisingly enough) and it hurt like hell! My balls are still tender. A young lady saw my slapstick routine and couldn't help but laugh. I had to laugh too.

Saturday, March 2, 2013


In the past two days two people tried to rob me. First on the bus, a teenager tried to lift something out of my backpack and beelined out the front entrance of the bus (cleverly preventing me from getting at him because of the impending crush of boarding passengers), but another passenger stopped him. At first I thought the good samaritan was rooting through my bag, and I felt ashamed for yelling at him.

Then, late last night as I was walking home a group of 18 year olds drinking mousseux on the street asked me to come have a drink with them. They seemed like they were just drunk and having a good time (as I was) so I went over for impromptu good cheer. Within seconds one of them had his hand in my back pocket... and he wasn't flirting with me. I gave him an elbow and got the hell out of there.

Both attempts failed. The first punk, if successful, would've made off with a glorious booty of pencils, erasers, and used kleenex. The second insulted my intelligence by thinking I'd keep my wallet in my back pocket (not that this wouldn't have worked on me before). A shameful display all around.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Rue Consolat

I was looking for the apartment on la rue Consolat. I took a side street towards where I thought it was, and passed a portly woman sitting on a stoop and asked her for directions.

"Rue Consolat?" she pondered. "Non, je ne connais pas" she said deliberately. "Pardon!" she erupted, surprising me with her seeming inability to modulate her voice.

I continued to the next intersection and looked up at the corner of a building to see a blue sign that sure enough read "Rue Consolat". I looked over at the woman on the stoop who was less than 20 meters away. I waved and yelled "C'est ici!" but she didn't notice me.

After having established the location of the appartment I went to a small café I know to wait for the landlady who is notoriously late. It's a café I've gone to several times, mostly while waiting for Audrey who taught classes nearby last year.

The waiter brought me a pastis. The proper way to serve pastis is to pour a shot over an icecube or two and present with a bottle of water, allowing the customer to add the amount of water he prefers. My pastis came premixed, which is more and more common these days, and is surely an indication of the eroding morals and eventual descent of western civilization.

I was pondering the mysterious black specks floating in my glass when a drunk man in his 60's sat next to me. He opened his packet of cigarillos and asked me if it bothered me if he smoked. I acted surprised, since at least in France they haven't yet outlawed smoking outside.

"Je suis respectieux!" he explained. I appreciated that! He licked his finger and held it in the air. "Tu vois, le vent vient de ce côté, donc ça pourrait te gêner!" You're right, I said. I'm asthmatic I said. But I didn't say that I just don't like people breathing smoke on me, no matter what the associated health risks. He obviously didn't expect me to actually ask him to not smoke, and reluctantly said, well, I guess I'll go over there... No, no, no, I said, let's just switch seats. That way the smoke will blow away from me and you'll still be in the sun.

At first he was reluctant, but then his ruddy cheeks beemed, clearly pleased that we could come to such a civil and mutually beneficial agreement, and we congratulated ourselves for our sensitivity and politeness. Not a common sight these days, he'll tell me.

Now he was on my right. "Oh! Je vais commander" he said. He came back with a small glass of red wine. Since I engaged him before, he now felt comfortable to chat me up. He asked me what I do, and he told me he had heard about ancient DNA before. He told me about his cats and their names. He talked about how young I am and how old he is. I found out that he was a diesel truck mechanic. He punctiated all of his phrases by prodding my arm with the back of his hand.

He was a prodder. This inebriated exagerated tactile need that can be found worldwide. His hands were tough and dirty, and frankly I didn't like it at all. Relax, it's just your overcoat. Just the other day you scraped pigeon shit off of it without a second thought. The outside of my coat had become part of the public urban landscape.

Finally he remembered that he wanted to light his cigarillo. It was quite windy, and even someone with all of their senses would have a hard time. He failed miserably 4 times.

Then another customer's dog jumped on a passerby, who was drooling drunk. He was a poor, poor bastard, and decided to stop and slur indignations on the dog's owners. He told them that the dog damaged his pants. His hobo pants had so many patches that there was practically nothing left of the original set of jeans. He called the dog names.

The drunk next to me derided the other drunk, and if he wasn't such a nice guy he'd pop him one. Poor dog, he said.

Ah, just another beautiful Saturday afternoon in Marseille I thought.