These are the things I say or do. While in France or some other country in the neighborhood. Enjoy.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Vegetarian Technology

My friend Dan asked me about why I became vegetarian, and also why I feel somewhat of an aversion to blogging. Since these were excellent questions, I thought I'd respond with somewhat lengthy responses. Here's part of my reply, as I haven't posted in quite awhile.

"As for going vegetarian, I'd have to say it's a good idea. I'm not one
to be preachy about such things, just encouraging. It made me realize
that there is a whole other world of good foods besides hamburgers and
potatoes. I still eat a lot of french fries, however...I first went
vegetarian about, oh, 6.5 years ago. I was vegetarian for three of
that, then vegan for the rest. I became vegan right when I was able to
begin cooking for myself (after I got out of the dorms and a meal plan
and into an apartment), so the only good cooking I know how to do is
that without meat and cheese and eggs. Why did I start? A lot of it
was ethical reasons to begin with: I didn't like the idea of
subjecting animals to such tortures merely to have a good hamburger.
It sort of morphed over the years. My main reasons now are
environmental. I think it's a very wasteful and unnecessary process of
production. I still think it's wrong to inflict pain on animals in
such a manner, but the arguments that I've found are mostly
utilitarian on this subject, and I don't really lean to heavily
towards that outlook on life. Also, it's pretty healthy for you, too,
though if it were discovered that it were more healthy to eat some
meat, I don't think I would do it. On top of that, I really don't like
how meat tastes, as well as milk and such. When people ask if it's
difficult, or if I miss the stuff I used to eat, I respond with a
definite "No." I like the stuff I eat and the way I cook very much. So
there's a half-assed summary of that. Why are you thinking of doing
so? If you want a list of some decent books, I can definitely arrange
that. It was Peter Singer's "Animal Liberation" that made me decide to
become vegan. He's an alright philosopher, though again, a
utilitarian, but I think the facts in the book are pretty solid and
some of his other arguments pretty strong.

As for blogging, it's difficult to express. I guess over my writing
"career" as a student, I always had a specific person/audience in mind
when crafting something, and it was rarely about myself. With
blogging, anyone can read what I'm writing, and it's a bit more
personal. I also have the same worries as you, that the
accomplishments or thoughts I have aren't really that important in the
scheme of things, so what's the point? I mostly started it because I'm
bad about emailing, but wanted my family and friends to know what I'm
up to, so it's more a matter of convenience than anything. I hope to
expand it and include more personal stuff/insight, as this is what a
writer should do, but we'll see how that goes. There is also the
element of my distrust for technology, at least as some sort of
panacea for the ills of the human condition. With paper and books, I
guess there is the idea that there is this tangible thing in the world
that you can hold. The blog is a bit more ethereal to me, so maybe I
have this idea that I am a bit detached from what I write there.
That's why I like doing 'zines (which I have finished by the way. I'll
be sending an email to everyone I know with instructions on how to get
one very, very soon, so I'll let you know about that). I can write a
'zine, print it and it's this thing that I actually give/send to
someone. Also, being a lifelong reader, I have a hard time absorbing
information in an electronic form. I like to read the newspaper on
paper, not on the internet. I get more out of it for some reason, and
have a better attention span. I ascribe it to television – it's given
me a short attention span in the first place, and secondly, my brain I
think is conditioned to accept electronic visual media as somehow less
important than paper. Yeah, that's a decent description. Do you feel
the same? How do you feel about technology? I must say that I'm not
ignorant of it, and on ocassion give my computer a loving caress. But
my faith is limited by the same I have in literature and philosophy
and art to improve humanity. I see technology solely as a tool to
disseminate information and feed people. Sure, it is our rationality
that helps define us as humans, but also our ability to create
something in the world that has an exterior meaning outside of the
matter or symbols it is composed of."

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Teetotalling and Huxley

I've been trying to think of a way to concisely sum up the last week or so. Teetotalling and Huxley sounds about right. I don't drink in the month of January, and it's almost half over! Grandpa Jerry must be proud...I finished Huxley's "Eyless in Gaza" yesterday, and loved it. I think I might do a book review 'zine, since I like writing book reviews and, well, I have to have something to fill my time here...
Other than that, I've been going to a lot of movies at this cool little theater called "Le Studio" here in Le Havre. The other night I saw the wonderfully fucked up "Blue Velvet", and last night went to a couple of films they are showing by a Le Havre director. They were from the late 60's, and were his first films. One of them was set in my Lycée, and it was interesting to see how much it has changed in thirty years. There was a scene at a party full of 60's French youth, and their clothes and they way they danced were hilarious. The sound quality was crap so Jon and I couldn't hear a word they were saying, but it really wasn't to important. They're showing 12 more of his films there, so we might go to a couple more. It will be interesting to see how a director progresses from 50min films about high school life to other, more broad topics, over the course of his life. He was there, last night, too, but there was some film critic asshole that looked like a ferret and kept answering the questions people in the audience were asking the director. Jon and I were really pissed off at him, mainly because he pretended like he knew everything about the films created by a person that was standing RIGHT NEXT TO HIM, and could answer things much better. I hate that. When people act like they know more about another person's creation, life, etc. when they honestly have no clue, and bandy about this information as if it's something they discovered on their own.

Friday, January 06, 2006

How does Mike do it?

Teaching is seriously hard work. Anybody who says otherwise is a moron. You go from kids calling each other whores to kids that love to learn and know what "fashion victim" means in the same minute. Sometimes it's all yelling and discipline. Others it's pure elation at the difference you are making in some kid's life. Oi!

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Portait of a city as an old port

I promised pictures of Le Havre earlier on. I borrowed my friend Anne's camera and went around for an hour or so on my bike trying to capture what I see almost every day.
This is my view of the city from my window. Pretty, ain't it?

Ah, the sea.

A broader view of the sea.

This is the actual port where boats go in and out.

The Hôtel de Ville, in the center of town. All of the assistants usually meet here when they are going out together.

They decorate the Hôtel de Ville for the season. This means "Happy Holidays."

A picture of my very humble abode in disarray. To the left is my "bathroom".

These little signs are all over the sidewalk in Le Havre. The idea is that your dog poops here, instead of just anywhere, so the guys that clean it up can find it and you're less likely to step in it, being that it's next to a big blue arrow on the ground. Let me just say that it doesn't work; you find dog shit everywhere BUT next to the signs.

My bike! How I love thee. Sigh.

Yes, Eric, I hacked them off myself, using a hacksaw blade with a towel wrapped around it and my brute strength. Boo ya!

This isn't all, but I have to go, so I'll try to get others up soon.

Happy New Year and such!

I spent the last week in Paris, which is why I haven't updated my blog. I should get some pictures up sometime soon, but my friend Rachael has them all on her camera, and that is in Rouen. Someday, perhaps, I will put up the video of us slugging back Champagne in the shadow of the Arc de Triomphe on New Year's. Here's some details about what I did.

Sheng and Lisa, friends from Ames, were in Paris for the week as well, so we split a hotel room. Most of what we did was go to museums and such, like the Louvre and the George Pompidou center. The Louvre was overwhelming, really. So much art it makes your brain hurt. I believe we spent about seven hours there, and by the end we were dragging ourselves through it. The history of human artistic and technological achievement all in one place is a difficult thing to comprehend, but the Louvre is fantastic nonetheless.

The Pompidou center, a huge warehouse full of more contemporary art, was great as well. They had an exposition on Dada, and there were pieces as well as journals and writings from Man Ray, Marcel Duchamp, Tristan Tzara, and every single other dadaist. It was really inspiring to see so much creativity and cleverness from a time when, sadly, a lot of oppression and hatred was manifesting itself through war and propaganda. I got a lot of ideas about where I want my own art as a writer to go from this exhibit, and it's the intellectual highlight of Paris for the week. It made me think a lot about Mike, who recently attended a Dada party in a very sexy pink costume. Check out his blog to learn more.

We ate really good falafel in the Jewish quarter, twice, at this place called L'as du Fallaffel. I also introduced Lisa and Sheng to French wine and baguettes and croissants, which they wholeheartedly enjoyed.

Lisa left Friday to go home, and Sheng, though he stayed in Paris, went to a different hostel for the next few days. He's there until the 4th, when he flies home. So, on Friday, my friend Rachael came down. We went to an Indian restaraunt that was in this covered alleway called Passage Brady that had lots of Indian restaurants and grocery stores and clothes shops. It was delicious, and afterwards we went to a little Indian food store where we bought incense and soap and other such things. I never thought Nag Champa soap could be so wonderful...

That night we went out drinking with Mirja, the German assistant at my school, and her boyfriend who was visiting from Cologne, Philip. There was a crazy guy at the bar that the owner was trying to kick out, so he pretended to close the place down with everyone still in it at about 11pm. At 12, the crazy guy came back and shouted a lot, while all of the other drunk people in the bar tried to calm him down. We ended up leaving because the place was closing, and the bar owner (who was tanked, by the way) attempted his best to kick out the guy and everyone else once again, for real this time.

Saturday Rachael and I started by picking a metro stop we hadn't been to before and just going there, seeing where the day took us. We walked around, found a bookstore full of Chinese and Japanese literature, and a street that was full of outdoor food vendors and fresh fruit. Afterward, we went to Chinatown and looked around, bought some teacups and ate lunch at a so-so Chinese restaurant.

That night we decided to go to the Champs Elysees and see the craziness. Beforehand, we met up with Anne and Meg and briefly hung out near the Bastille monument. It was all craziness. We tried to buy some Champagne at one store, but a bottle was 26 euros, so we booked it for somewhere else. The store had put some tables in a barracade around the door, and had a huge doberman behind them. That way, you could only enter into a small area of the store with no merchandise and ask them for what you wanted. It was like they were preparing for war...

We finally found some Champagne at another place and then headed to the Champs Elysees. The metro was free all night, so everybody in Paris was on our train. I could feel the vibrations from the guys chest in front of me when he talked, we were so packed in. A group of teenage boys was in our car, jumping up and down, screaming, and pushing people off that wanted to get off. It was crazy/scary at the same time.

Once at the Champs Elysees, we went to find Sheng in front of some store by the Arc. We eventually found him, a few minutes after midnight. Note: there is no countdown in France, nor is there some huge ball dropping. As usual, Americans tend to overdo stuff. Mostly it was just hundreds of thousands of people drinking in the street and lighting off fireworks. After awhile we found some guys selling champagne on the street out of a shopping cart, and I bought a bottle. Sheng, Rachael and I stood around and drank it, watching the perpetual traffic jam around the Arc de Triomphe. People were dancing on cars and in the street. Eventually, some guy heard us talking in English and struck up a conversation with us. His name was Tibere, and he was from Guadaloupe. He wanted to practice his English, so he hung out with us and we bought another bottle of champagne, passing the bottle around and getting increasingly drunk.

After two hours of being on the Champs Elysees, Rachael called another assistant from Mexico that was in town, he came and found us and we all went out to some bars at another metro stop. The metro was again packed, and we started talking to an English guy with blond spiky hair that had a few wounds on his face. Apparently, somebody flicked a cigarette in his face and he tried to beat them up. All he had to say about that was, “There were two of them…”

I had to pee really, really bad, so Sheng said he’d stand guard while I went behind this little shack that was on the street. I peed, and when I came out some security guard was talking to Sheng, asking him in French if I was going to the bathroom back there. Sheng, not understanding French, just played dumb, saying “I dunno. I’ve just been standing here,” and the guy let us go. If I ever have to pee anywhere on the street again, I want Sheng watching my back.

The bars were too expensive, so we ended up going home after trying a couple of them. I think Rachael and I got back to our hotel about 4:30 in the morning.

I think I will forever remember my New Year’s in Paris. I got to know some old friends a lot better, and make a few new ones. How I think about art and culture were bolstered by the literature I discovered (Aldous Huxley, again, with Eyeless in Gaza) the hundreds of works of art I saw. I hope Poland in February is just as fun.