You may have noticed that this site has been dying a slow death for a while now. Towards the end of my Ph.D. I was too frantically busy and stressed to post very much, but even now, with more free time on my hands, I haven’t been posting often. The truth is that I’ve outgrown Anglofille. It began as a way to chronicle my life as a Ph.D. student and expat, but that phase of my life is over now.
I’ve decided to start a new site under my own name, something more professional, a place where I can write about my more “intellectual” interests, rather than my personal dramas. I want to use the new site to build my profile as a writer and academic. There is only so much time I can devote to writing each day, however, and my first priority will be working on my books and writing articles and other pieces that will further my career (and perhaps provide some sort of income). Still, I love blogging and will make time for it.
You can visit my new site by clicking here. It looks similar to this site at the moment. I must admit to feeling exposed by “putting myself out there.” At the same time, it’s nice to be myself and not write from behind a pseudonym.
When I started Anglofille 6.5 years ago, I would have never guessed that it would last this long. At the time, I had sold most of my belongings and moved from Boston to London to begin my Ph.D. and a new life. I wasn’t sure how things would turn out, but I risked everything for an adventure and the opportunity to create a new path through life. It was a leap of faith. There were many difficulties along the way, many of which I chronicled here, but I have no regrets. It was the best decision I ever made. Now I’m entering a new phase of my life and it’s the right time to let go of Anglofille, though I will miss her.
I want to thank everyone for reading this blog over the years. My interactions with my readers have enriched my life. When I felt alone, you made me feel less lonely. You offered encouragement when I wanted to give up. Thank you for that. I hope that you’ll join me at my new site.
I know I probably shouldn’t like Chris Lilley as much as I do, but I can’t help it. I’ve been watching Summer Heights High. It originally ran in 2007, but it’s new to me. I can’t stop laughing. [And right about now, I need all the laughs I can get.]
Following Chris Lilley on Twitter means I get links to gems like this:
Two of my favorite writers died this week. The Italian writer Antonio Tabucchi died on Sunday. And the American poet, essayist and feminist Adrienne Rich died today. Both of these writers meant a great deal to me as I wrote my PhD and I’m feeling incredibly saddened by their deaths.
I’m sure I’ve mentioned Antonio Tabucchi’s novel “Pereira Declares” on this blog before. [The title is often translated in different ways.] I’ve read this novel at least 4 times, each time in the hopes that I could deconstruct it and figure out how it works — a feat I never achieved. “Pereira Declares” is a wisp of a novel, around 130 pages long, but it packs tremendous power. It’s one of my top 5 favorite novels, and it’s my favorite novel about an individual’s political coming-to-consciousness. My novel is about a woman’s consciousness-raising, which is one of the reasons Tabucchi’s book means so much to me. He was a brave writer who was not afraid to mix politics and fiction, something that is all-too-rare in the Anglo-American literary sphere. His words are a gift, for which I’ll always be grateful.
Adrienne Rich (seen above) is primarily known as a poet, but as I was working on my PhD, I began to read her essays, particularly her collections “On Lies, Secrets and Silence” and “Blood, Bread and Poetry.” As I read her essays, along with those by Virginia Woolf and Audre Lorde, I found my voice. Not my fiction-writer’s voice, but my essay-writer’s voice. She provided a model for writing essays about feminism and I admired how she was able to combine being a poet and an activist. She also put into words many aspects of the writing process that I had been unable to articulate, giving a voice to what I had only felt. She was passionate and fierce and angry and I love that. I have not read all of her essays (and what I have read was in library copies that I couldn’t mark up), so I am excited to fully immerse myself in her prose now that I have more time. I’ll also revisit her poetry, which I haven’t read in depth since I was an undergrad, when I was lucky enough to hear her read and have her sign my copy of “Diving Into the Wreck.” [You can listen to her read some of her poetry here.] One of my plans post-PhD is to write a collection of feminist essays, part of which will be adapted from my dissertation. Adrienne Rich is one of those writers who helped show me the way.
Even after living in the UK for several years, there are things I will never understand about the culture. The whole concept of “royalty,” for one thing. How can anyone defend its existence and also value democracy? That’s something I will never understand. But perhaps even more perplexing is the issue of freedom of speech in the UK — or the lack of it.
Today, a young man named Liam Stacey was jailed for 56 days because of offensive comments he posted on Twitter. Let me repeat that: He was jailed for 56 days for offensive speech. This isn’t Saudi Arabia or China I’m talking about, but the UK. For those who don’t know about this case, a couple weeks ago a black football player named Fabrice Muamba had a heart attack and collapsed on the field in the middle of a game. Most people where shocked and saddened by what they saw happen to Muamba on live TV, but Liam Stacey (who claims he was drunk) decided to post some racist comments. Here’s some background on the case from the BBC and the Guardian. You won’t see Stacey’s tweets printed in the media, but here they are on YouTube.
Clearly, Stacey’s comments were vile and disgusting. There is no doubt about that. But does he deserve to be put in jail because of them? Yes, according to the judge in the case:
District judge John Charles told Stacey: “It was racist abuse via a social networking site instigated as a result of a vile and abhorrent comment about a young footballer who was fighting for his life. At that moment, not just the footballer’s family, not just the footballing world but the whole world were literally praying for his life. Your comments aggravated this situation.
“I have no choice but to impose an immediate custodial sentence to reflect the public outrage at what you have done. “You committed this offence while you were drunk and it is clear you immediately regretted it. But you must learn how to handle your alcohol better.”
Take out the reference to social networking and this could have been written in the 1800s.
Just to put this in context, in the UK, people who commit physical assault are often given suspended sentences. Rapists? Most of them are never tried. Having worked in a student hall of residence for two years, I know first-hand how lenient the police can be, at least in London. We called the police on more than one occasion about instances of serious vandalism and theft, yet the police didn’t even bother to show up. I also know two people who were mugged and the police wouldn’t send anyone to help them. Compared to the USA, the British justice system is lenient beyond belief. This makes Stacey’s sentence for mere words all the more shocking.
In the UK, you can be jailed for “inciting racial hatred,” which is what happened to Stacey. We’re not talking about inciting racial violence, but hatred, which is wide open to varying interpretations. The upshot of this law is that people can be imprisoned for offensive speech. Similar laws exist in many European countries, many of which also ban Holocaust denial (which I also think is wrong).
I’m not sure if other groups are covered by this “incitement to hatred’ law. Are gays and lesbians covered? What about women? Can we expect to see Christian or Muslim religious leaders hauled off to jail in handcuffs for inciting gender hatred, which is common in the Abrahamic faiths? Can we expect to see pornographers jailed for inciting hatred of women? Welcome to the slippery slope, which is the obvious result of laws that outlaw speech. However, the UK avoids this by being highly selective and unfair in the application of this law. From my point of view, it mostly exists for grandstanding, which this case illustrates perfectly. Racism is rife amongst football fans and football players, who racially abuse each other on the field. But now that Liam Stacey is in jail, everyone can pat themselves on the back for how morally superior they are.
In the USA, Liam Stacey would have never been tried and imprisoned for what he wrote on Twitter. There is a constitutional right to free speech, which includes vile and disgusting speech. I am perfectly willing to tolerate someone like Liam Stacey because I cherish my own right to free speech and I don’t want it threatened. To appreciate the value of free speech, one need only look at Iran or China.
I’ve been told by British friends that there is no right to free speech in the UK. British people I know are surprisingly unbothered by people being imprisoned for speech. In my Twitter feed, where people spend all day being outraged over the most minor issues, there is nothing but silence regarding the imprisonment of Liam Stacey for offensive tweets. From this American’s point of view, this is not only shocking, but impossible to understand. This morning when I read the news of Stacey’s 56-day prison sentence for tweeting, I wondered for a moment if I were reading a dystopian novel.
8:47: Another year of film ends. I hope you’ve enjoyed the live blog. Thanks to SpliceGirl for her help. Now I think I’ll go read a book…
8:37: The Artist should have its Oscar revoked because of this boring-ass acceptance speech.
8:36: SpliceGirl: “Weinstein is a fiend! He wins everything! He has a marketing machine bigger and better than any other!”
8:35: The Artist wins. What a surprise. Why does this bore me? I have no interest in seeing this film.
8:32: Of the nine Best Picture nominees, I’ve seen four: The Tree of Life, The Help, Moneyball and Midnight in Paris. Of these four, I think that Moneyball is the best film. SpliceGirl and I both think that The Artist will win. She thinks that Hugo should win. Here we go…
8:31: Strange to see a real actress win for a change. Go Meryl.
8:30: Viola, don’t be sad. You did a great job as Vincent D’Onofrio’s nemesis in that one episode of L&O: Criminal Intent. And also in The Help.
8:29: Whoa. Meryl Streep wins her 90th Oscar. I really thought Viola would win.
8:26: Best Actress. Bring it on.
8:24: Colin Firth. Snoooozzzzzzzzzzzzze.
8:20: Dujardin thanks his wife, now SpliceGirl says he’s losing his allure.
8:18: SpliceGirl is happy that Dujardin won. I’ve never seen him in anything, so I have no opinion.
8:17: GO AWAY NATALIE PORTMAN. STOP TALKING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
8:14: Natalie Portman is so full of herself! Announce the winner already.
8:13: Best Actor…here we go…
8:10: SpliceGirl thinks the dead person montage was the classiest one in decades. Thank goodness people weren’t clapping for the most popular dead person. That’s always so tacky.
7:54: SpliceGirl: “Scorsese always gets shafted. The man is a visionary!!!!”
7:52: Here we go with Best Director. The director of The Artist takes it. SpliceGirl predicted that, but wanted Scorsese.
7:50: Michael Douglas. SpliceGirl calls him “the human lizard.”
7:47: Final acting awards coming up. In the women’s category, I’ve only seen Viola Davis’s performance in The Help. She and Meryl Streep are the frontrunners. I think both of them deserve it. In the men’s category, I think Brad Pitt should win. Yes, I surprise myself, but he’s in a lot of movies I like and I think he’s a good actor and deserves it for Moneyball. But apparently it’s going to be Clooney or Dujardin. We shall see soon…
7:43: Docu about Pakistani women just won. Cool! [Called "Saving Faces."]
7:33: Did the Academy actually watch Midnight in Paris? Dan Brown writes better than that.
7:31: Maybe Woody didn’t show up because it’s illegal to marry your step-daughter in the state of California?
7:30: Woody Allen wins for Midnight in Paris…one of the worst movies I’ve seen. Woody didn’t even show up. Loser.
7:29: Best Original Screenplay…not Woody Allen, please no…! …drum roll….
7:27: The Descendants writers won…the guys are mocking Angelina’s sad f— me pose from a few moments ago. Ha ha!
7:26: Best Adapted Screenplay. Finally…the writers!
7:25: Angelina gives the finger to Jennifer Aniston. Wow, that is not classy at all.
7:24: Angelina Jolie. Queen of Hollywood and the reincarnation of Jesus Christ.
7:19: Will Arnett in a commercial! ”I’ve made a huge mistake…”
7:16: Will Ferrel with cymbals. Odd.
7:13: SpliceGirl: “Ugh, Owen Wilson, I tried to kill myself, I’m not a heroin addict who accidentally OD’d”
7:12: Ooh, I like Penelope Cruz’s dress!
7:09: I had to take a break…Tylenol desperately needed. I wonder what Angelina is on? Something stronger than Tylenol, it looks like.
7:05: I bet Whitney H. gets a lot of applause.
7:05: SpliceGirl: Who will tastelessly get the loudest applause during In Memoriam? I vote Liz Taylor!
7:03: SpliceGirl: “Angelina looks like she’s about to drop dead”
7:02: He’ll always be Captain Von T to us…Go Chris!
7:01: Christopher Plummer won!
6:59: SpliceGirl wants it on record that Kenneth Branagh is a pig for cheating on Emma all those years ago. We hope he doesn’t win.
6:58: Best Supporting Actor. We’re all predicting Christopher Plummer will win…drum roll…
6:56: Hugo wins for Best Visual Effects. I’m glad Harry Potter lost.
6:53: Ben Stiller looks like a tiny little troll next to Emma Stone.
6:52: Melissa McCarthy…yay!
6:48: SpliceGirl: “Rango was not very good.”
6:47: SpliceGirl accurately predicts that Rango takes Best Animated Feature Film. I’ve never heard of it!
6:45: Chris Rock…ha ha ha! Trashing Hollywood prima donnas.
6:43: SpliceGirl outraged at Best Docu win. I missed what it was. Yes, I agree with SpliceGirl, the winners seem like gross frat boys. Get off the stage, hosers!
6:40: Gwyneth Paltrow, my least favorite actress. But Robert Downey, Jr. is with her, so that makes it less bad. And he was mocking Tim Tebow. So, yay.
6:35: Cirque du Soleil performance…time to go downstairs to get some salted chocolate carmel ice cream. [Acrobats ain't really my thing.]
6:34: MISS PIGGY!!!!!!!!!! Love!
6:28: Hugo wins something else sound-related. SpliceGirl: “yay!!! i’m so happy hugo is getting some love, i thought it was going to get shut out”
6:27: Hugo for sound editing. SpliceGirl: “hugo is taking all the technical awards…love it!”
6:24: Girl with Dragon Tattoo for the win. SpliceGirl thinks that David Fincher’s editors are amazing. [But that acceptance speech was pretty pathetic.]
6:23: Best Film Editing! SpliceGirl’s field.
6:19: LOLZ. ‘Wizard of Oz’ focus group skit. Priceless. Featuring Christopher Guest and his usual group of actors. SpliceGirl is screaming right now.
6:15: Too bad for Octavia Spencer. Her career is doomed now.
6:14: Octavia practically hyperventilating. I would too if I were standing next to Christian Bale.
6:12: Octavia Spencer wins for Best Supporting Actress. No surprise there.
6:11: I hope Melissa McCarthy wins for Best Supporting Actress, but I don’t think she will….tense moment…
6:10: Christian Bale! And he’s speaking in his real accent. <swoon>
6:09 SpliceGirl thinks that they cut to Steven Spielberg during Iranian filmmaker’s acceptance speech on purpose, which was “tasteless.”
6:07: The Axis of Evil for the win! Iran takes Best Foreign Film.
6:06: Sandra Bullock presenting Best Foreign Film. SpliceGirl loves Sandra.
6:04: Me, SpliceGirl and William think we saw J.Lo’s nipple when she was presenting. Accident or on purpose?
6:02: Commercial break. Gee, live blogging isn’t easy!
5:58: The Iron Lady wins for best make-up. SpliceGirl thinks this is very well deserved.
5:54: Cameron Diaz. ACK!!!!!!!!!!
5:51: Too bad I missed Sasha Baron Cohen as “the Dictator” dumping ashes on Ryan Seacrest.
5:46: Hugo won another award! I haven’t seen Hugo yet, but I really want to see it. I can’t wait.
5:45: My co-commenter here is my sister SpliceGirl, film industry insider. And unlike me, she’s seen all the nominated films.
5:44: SpliceGirl: Yay, Hugo won already!!!! [for cinematography...]
5:42: My co-commenter SpliceGirl would like to acknowledge that Jean DuJardin is “hawt.”
5:38: I like Viola Davis’s green dress… [Oh, come on! I get a few dress comments...]
5:37: James Earl Jones. YAY!
5:35: I missed the red carpet — I was eating dinner, which is much more important than watching a lot of overpaid prima donnas prance around for the cameras. [I should probably mention now that my Oscar comments will be cynical and bitchy.]
5:30: Glad to see Billy Crystal hosting. He hosted it when I was a kid and he was the best. Classic.
Mark your calendars! I’m going to ‘live blog’ the Oscars on Sunday night. I’ve never ‘live blogged’ anything, so I don’t know how this will turn out, but what the heck. It’ll be a fun challenge and it keeps me off the streets and out of trouble. It’s been at least 6 years since I’ve watched the Oscars, since they don’t really show them in the U.K. (or at least not that I ever saw), so this will be a fun experience. I’ve assembled a crackerjack team of commentators and I hope others will join in via the comments. However, I know that many (most?) of my readers live in Europe and will probably be asleep. Oh well. You can still read the comments the next day, unless they are so embarrassing I decide to delete them.
The fun starts at 5:00 p.m. Pacific Standard Time. That’s…8:00 p.m. in Toronto and NYC; 1:00 a.m. in London; 2:00 a.m. in Paris and Berlin; 10:00 a.m. in Tokyo; and noon in Sydney. Set your alarm clocks now!
Well, it finally happened. I submitted my Ph.D. dissertation! 160,000 words of blood, sweat and tears. The Ph.D. nightmare is nearly over. Now I’m just waiting to hear when my defense will be.
I didn’t intend to disappear from the blog for nearly a month, but I’ve just been in a frenzy. I am so tired and burned out right now that it’s difficult to feel exhilarated. It’s such a strange feeling not to have this hanging over my head for the first time in 4.5 years. I’m not sure what my life is going to be like now. As those of you who read this blog know, I thought I would have submitted my Ph.D. ages ago. I finished the novel last March, but the revisions took nearly a year. And my academic work was extremely complex and difficult. That portion of the thesis alone is 150 pages — and I cut 25,000 words out of it! I am extremely proud of my work and I know once I recover from this grueling process, I’m going to feel happy, but right now I just want to sleep.
There is some good news regarding the novel. I queried a major New York literary agent and she responded within 20 minutes and asked to read my novel. I agreed to give her an exclusive for one month, so I can’t send it to anyone else during this time. While I don’t think it’s likely she’ll accept me as a client for a variety of reasons, I feel really good about this. Now I know that I have a well-written query letter and that my idea stands out. Regardless of what happens with this particular agent, it’s a hopeful sign. And it’s exciting to be entering this new stage of the process.
I’m taking a break from the never-ending thesis revisions to complete an application for a post-doc at a prestigious Ivy League university. This is the last thing I have time for right now, but tomorrow is the last day to apply. I had to write a course proposal, a teaching reflection, etc. etc. I’ve been working on this since 11am and it’s now 10:30pm and I’m still not finished. So…terrific.
At least 900 people will apply for these post-docs (this is the norm). Statistically I have no chance of getting it, but someone has to get it, right? Just like someone has to win the lotto and someone has to be eaten by sharks and someone has to be taken hostage by Somali pirates. You never know if you don’t try! [That's what everyone keeps telling me.] So in a nutshell, I have no chance of getting this, but I’ll spend a whole day working on it anyway. This is not good for morale. What is also not good for morale:
I just realized that all my documents are formatted to A4 paper size, which is what is used in the UK. So I had to change the paper size to US letter size and now my CV has gone haywire and is now 4 pages instead of 3 (not good).
And then I was looking over my writing sample just now, which is 25 pages from my dissertation. I chose an excerpt from my chapter on Fight Club, because that is my strongest writing. Once I was finished editing it and formatting it, I realized that the excerpt contains the word “dildo” 3 times and the phrase “F-ck Martha Stewart” and lots of other f-words because, you know, this is Fight Club. You can’t quote from Fight Club without that kind of language appearing. And now I just don’t have time to put together another writing sample, because I just don’t have time and I’m tired, so I’m stuck sending this potty-mouthed excerpt to the Ivy League.
My 87-year-old grandmother has recently moved over here from Denver. She is obsessed with the Denver Broncos and always has been, but now that she’s living nearby, we have to hear about them all the time. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to check the Broncos’ website for game times in recent weeks. Anyway, thank you for this, Jimmy Fallon.
Live women in porn being pissed on = sexually arousing
[Of course, the difference is that the women in porn "choose" this and they "enjoy" it. For men, even dead ones, this is humiliating.]
The news that U.S. Marines in Afghanistan pissed on dead Taliban soldiers is drawing comparisons to the torture at Abu Ghraib. In both cases, the soldiers filmed/photographed themselves degrading the prisoners/corpses. This is significant. The term “war porn” was often used to describe what happened at Abu Ghraib, but only in that sloppy way the word “porn” is often used to describe various things (i.e. “food porn”), which is completely detached from all critical analysis and context. Only a few brave writers (mostly feminists) drew comparisons between what happened to the prisoners at Abu Ghraib and to what actually happens to women in pornography every day. [Most commentators on the left-wing remained silent about this aspect, not surprisingly.]
Our reaction — as a nation and a public — to the use of Iraqi prisoners in amateur pornography shows that we believe this was a deeply humiliating experience for them. Our media have made much of the “special” characteristics of Arabs, to explain why this experience is so very humiliating for them in particular — whereas it is of course perfectly harmless and good for the women and girls spread, splayed, stripped and mocked throughout our commercial advertising/porn media nexus.
Structural similarities between the documented humiliation of prisoners and the conventions of “normal” pornography are many and strikingly obvious. The prisoners were made to masturbate for the camera; images and footage of women masturbating are a stock theme in commercial porn. The prisoners were made to pose in tableaux suggestive of homosexual activity such as fellatio; a large and profitable subgenre of commercial porn is “girl/girl”, in which (presumably heterosexual) models are posed in tableaux mimicking lesbian sex, or directed to engage in sexual behaviour with each other while the camera rolls. These models usually bear little resemblance to real-life lesbians, being selected (like most porn models) for their conformity to commercial and male-defined standards of heterosexual attractiveness.
In these forms of documentary porn there are surely two gratifications, one overt and one tacit. The overt gratification is the fantasy of violation of privacy, of spying on the intimate and private acts of another person. But the Abu Ghraib pictures should illuminate for us a further, tacit or covert gratification: the gratification of knowing or believing that the persons depicted were compelled or persuaded or paid to submit to a violation of privacy in reality, to strike poses and perform acts in reality which most people would not care to have seen or photographed by others. This is one sense in which this genre is genuinely documentary.
The “kick” of girl/girl porno lies partly in its catering to the fantasy of violating the privacy of lesbians, of making even sex between women — something quite threatening to male sexual prerogative — serve a male agenda; the other, tacit element is the kick of seeing “normal girls” made to emulate lesbian sexual activity. The assumption is that homosexual activity is repulsive, and that therefore the models are disgusted by it and endure it under some compulsion — whether the compulsion of money, force of personality, or physical threat.
Misogyny drips from all accounts of Abu Ghraib, and from all attempts to analyze it. The outrage of Arab men that the Americans “treated our brothers like women.” The idea that making men wear “women’s undies” is a form of torture. The overarching, stunning hypocrisy of the world’s largest pornography-exporting nation acting so dreadfully shocked when its line troops treat POWs in the same ways that its prison guards and stronger inmates treat weaker men, and that its pornography and prostitution industry treats women, every single day.
For this radical feminist the Abu Ghraib pictures merely elucidate what porn is really about. The essence is not obfuscated for once, because the victims are men, and literally prisoners behind bars and facing guns (instead of behind economic bars, facing hunger/homelessness). Therefore we can suddenly perceive that they are victims, that they have personal pride and dignity which have been assaulted, that they have rights which have been violated. The nameless, traceless women posing for websites like “See Asian Sluts Get What They Deserve” or “Farm Girls And Their Pets” — whether guns are pointed at them in the course of their work or not — arouse no such outrage or compassion.
Taking a quick break from writing to share a few links about the sex industry. Those of you who read this blog know I have strong feelings about it and that the uncritical, neo-liberalistic embrace of prostitution and pornography by so many on the left-wing of the political spectrum (including “sex-positive” feminists, liberals and even so-called progressives and radicals) has left me feeling alienated from people with whom I tend to agree on other topics. I’m not only alienated, but extremely angry and disgusted.
I also want to recommend the Canadian feminist blog called The F Word (not to be confused with the British blog of the same name, which I do not recommend). This blog deals with a wide variety of feminist issues from a mostly radical perspective, including posts about the sex industry. Highly recommended.
Finally, below is a video that shows women being abused on a porn set. Trigger Warningfor sexual abuse. I must stress this — do not watch this video if you are sensitive. I have done a lot of research into the sex industry, yet I just watched this myself and feel terribly shaken by it. If you know anyone who thinks porn is great, send them this video. Of course, any porn apologist will just say these are isolated events, but when you watch porn, do you know what happened behind the scenes? Nope, not unless you were there in person.
Happy New Year, kids! I hope 2012 is a fabulous year for all of you. Amidst all the doom and gloom in the world at the moment, I still think it’s possible to carve out some joy and success. Strength comes from adversity and all that. Yes, it’s true.
2012 is going to be a major year of transition for me. I’ll finish my PhD. And I’ve just started querying literary agents in NYC with my novel, so we’ll see how that goes. It’s finally happening!
I’m also applying for post-docs and scouring the academic job adverts in the US, UK and worldwide. I’m not going to MLA in Seattle this week — I couldn’t really afford it and I didn’t have time to prepare. To be honest, I have no idea what I’m doing in this job search. My university didn’t prepare me at all. I feel at a big disadvantage in the job market because of this. I think I need to pour all my energy into getting published. For me, a job is likely to come from that.
Anyway, I am feeling upbeat, despite having a huge question mark hovering over this year. None of us can predict the future, but I have no idea where I’ll even be living. The US? The UK? Elsewhere? I’m just living out of a suitcase at the moment. If I think about that, and looming student loan repayment, and unemployment, it becomes too overwhelming, so I won’t think about it. I just need to finish this thesis first and then go from there.
Posting will be light around here (or possibly non-existent) until I submit my thesis, which I hope will be the week after next. You’ll know when I’m done — you’ll hear my screams of joy wherever you are in the world. Yes, it’ll be that loud.
It’s been a bookish Christmas chez Anglofille. Of course, since I’m in the final stages of thesis frenzy, I don’t have time to read, but I will soon, just in time for the long winter nights to come. Here are some of the books that I received as gifts, though I should point out that I picked out all these books myself — it would be impossible for anyone to figure out exactly what I want to read. And while I’m mostly linking to Amazon here (since their descriptions are fairly thorough), I don’t buy most of my books from Amazon and try to support independent stores and websites as much as possible.
The first four books represent my female Modernist kick. I have no idea why these books all appealed to me at once. The first two are by Mina Loy:
My beautiful birthday cake! I’ve had a lovely day — breakfast out, dinner out, gifts and sweet messages, and a browse around the Sundance store, where I was bought a beautiful turquoise necklace. Now it’s time to cut the cake (though I hate to cut it — it’s too pretty).
Sorry I haven’t posted since I’ve been back in the USA. Between jet lag, catching up with family, eating all my favorite foods and working on my thesis, my mind has been elsewhere. I hope you’re all enjoying the holiday season.
Me to hotel receptionist (who said he speaks English): “Hi. My room smells like raw sewage. Can I change please?”
Me: “Yes, like a sewer. Do you know what a sewer is?”
Anyway, I’m making my way to Paris CDG tomorrow and flying out early on Friday –> back to the USA on a very long but thankfully non-stop flight to where my parents live in the western part of the country. On my way up to Paris I’ve stopped in Cannes (where I’d never been before) and Avignon (which I visited last year). I’ll share a few photos, but I haven’t taken many. I’ve lost my tourist mojo and have just wandered along the seaside in Cannes, browsed in boutiques and enjoyed the Christmas market in Avignon.
The photo at the top is La Croisette in Cannes. People have compared Cannes to Beverly Hills and I can see the similarities — a lot of snobbish designer boutiques and pretentious rich people whose skin is so over-tanned and leathery you could make a handbag out of it. But the beach was lovely:
Standing in the same spot, looking in the other direction, it looked like this:
It was a Jekyll-and-Hyde sky. The sunny and bright section was such a rich, beautiful blue — I suppose that’s why they call it the Azure Coast!
I took a day trip to Saint-Paul-de-Vence today, which is a windy 5-minute bus ride down the mountain from where I’ve been living. According to Rick Steves, Saint-Paul-de-Vence is the most visited village in France. It’s a medieval village on a hill filled with very narrow and steep cobblestone paths. Let’s just say I got quite a workout today. The town is full of art galleries, shops and cafes, though many of them were closed because this is, according to one shop owner, “the dead season.” This is one interesting thing I’ve learned about the French Riviera. I always thought of it as the Florida of France, where people would flock in the cold months to soak up the warmth and Mediterranean sunshine, but it’s not like that at all. It’s too chilly in the winter to be like Florida.
Saint-Paul-de-Vence is chic and has a history of attracting artists, writers and actors. Marc Chagall lived there. The American writer James Baldwin lived and died in the town (I was too lazy to find his old home, which is apparently dilapidated and for sale). And for horror movie fans: the British actor Donald Pleasance also lived and died in the village. It was pretty deserted for most of my visit, which was nice, I suppose, but then a busload of Japanese tourists appeared to liven things up and spend money. I actually had to translate for a few of them in a shop (imagine that!), since the only non-Japanese words they knew were in English. One guy thought nougat was soap. That was pretty funny.
I’ll share a few photos from today, beginning with a photo of my favorite moment…stumbling upon the Alps!!! This region of France is called Alpes-Maritimes, but I had no idea the Alps were so closeby. From my town, you can’t see them. It was such a thrill to see these snow-capped peaks — and from other vantage points in the village, you can see the Mediterranean sea, so it’s an interesting mix. [I should point out that this photo is through a zoom lens -- the mountains aren't as close as they appear.]
The next two photos are typical scenes in Saint-Paul-de-Vence:
I really loved this house:
A rare flat street in the village — you can see the swarming crowds too!
Sunset from one of the look-out points:
I loved this scene at the entrance to the village — the whole area is like walking into a postcard:
Autumn vines (and a little kitty if you can spot her!):
Old men playing boules:
A public water fountain, out of which fresh spring water flows — they have these all over the region, in my town as well, though I’ve never seen one this cute:
I got my hair colored today. I just couldn’t wait till I got home — my hair looked, in a word, hideous. I knew the hair colorist didn’t speak English (very few people in this town do), but I stupidly didn’t brush up on hair-related vocab before my appointment. This resulted in some funny miscommunication.
I sat in the chair and she said: “Your hair is clear. Would you like it more French?”
Of course, this isn’t what she actually said, but it’s what I thought she said. I was quite stumped by her assertion that my hair is clear — have you ever seen anyone with clear (i.e. see-through) hair? And as for her question about whether I wanted French hair, I had no idea what she meant.
“Do you want it more French?” she kept saying.
“Well,” I said. ”Ummmm….more French? I don’t know.” I kept thinking…don’t French people have the same kind of hair as everyone else? Then I thought she must have meant a French style. I started to panic, thinking that she wanted to do something cutting edge, like dyeing my hair platinum blonde.
She kept asking over and over again whether I wanted my hair French, until she finally blurted out, in English: “Darker.”
Ah. Turns out she wasn’t saying français, but foncé. I wasn’t familiar with the word foncé and the way she pronounced it sounded exactly like français to me. So of course I felt like an idiot. And she wasn’t saying that I had clear hair, but light hair. I didn’t realize clair also meant light. Thankfully I left the salon with the shade I wanted, which just happens to be trèsfoncé.
Another interesting hair-related word: brushing. In French this means “blow-dry.” I’d love to know how that happened! This word must have been imported from English, but somehow the meaning was changed.
While I was having my hair done, I browsed through a stack of gossip rags. I read one article that said Kate Middleton is undergoing psychotherapy because QE2 fears she’ll end up like Diana. And another that said Demi Moore (and possibly her daughter) are anorexic alcoholics. Apparently, Beyoncé is faking her pregnancy and her father has bought a baby for her. Some of the gossip seemed a bit reckless and what was interesting is that one issue of Closer had a white banner across 1/4 of the cover saying something about how Charlotte Gainsbourg had won a judgment against them for something. I thought it was odd this was on the cover of the magazine — I’ve never seen anything like that before. Usually corrections and things of that sort are buried in the back where no one sees them.
Almost all of the celebrities were American, Canadian and British. I went through an entire stack of trash mags and saw maybe 3 French celebs — and Vanessa Paradis was only there because of Johnny Depp. There were headlines like: “Justin Bieber est le père de mon bébé” and another that roughly translates to “Justin Bieber made my baby in 30 seconds.” There were also photos of Kim Kardashian and other z-list North American and Brit “celebs.” WHY? You French people have let me down again. Resist the evil anglophone empire!
To use a Britishism, I’ve been rubbish at posting lately. Sorry. For the past couple weeks, I’ve been in a writing frenzy. I am trying to complete the revision of my novel and academic work so I can submit my thesis and it is just consuming me. I have found time to go out everyday and walk, drink hot chocolate in cafes and browse the shops, but my life is mostly about writing. I’m leaving my apartment on Tuesday and heading up to Paris for my flight. My time here is nearly finished.
I thought I’d share a photo of what I bought this evening. On my way home from writing in the cafe, I stopped at the boulangerie and fromagerie for an “oh my god I’m leaving France soon” treat. There you can see a baguette and some very soft brie. In the middle there is goat’s cheese covered in dried cranberries (which I just tried — heavenly). And finally a pastry, which was called “sable” with raspberry. [It looks like an enormous pie in this photo, but it's actually a single-serving pastry!] I’ll miss visiting these little food shops, which are an everyday part of life here. In the Anglophone world, we’re mostly stuck with huge supermarkets.
Despite being a small town, there is a big store here that sells books, DVDs, music, electronics, etc. I like to go in there sometimes and browse around. They have some amazing cookbooks that I wish I could buy, including Laduree cookbooks and kits to make macarons. I have also stumbled upon some items that have really made me laugh, such as these two:
La Petite Maison dans La Prairie! I still can’t stop laughing over this.
This American import translated as “Le Bro Code” –
And of course there’s no escaping crap like this:
Ugh. Twilight books and DVDs everywhere. Even the small section for English language books is full of Twilight. [I wonder how Twilight is pronounced in French? Tweee-leeeet?] The store is also filled with Harry Potter and Call of Duty. It’s depressing how much American (and some British) stuff there is. What is wrong with you French people? Resist Anglophone cultural imperialism! Do you really need Le Bro Code?
Happy Thanksgiving to my American peeps! While I won’t be having Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow, I am flying back to the States two weeks from Friday and we’re going to have it on Christmas instead. Whoop!
I went for a walk around town today, my lovely Vence, which I will soon be leaving. These photos are not necessarily up to my normal standard, I don’t think (one of my photos of Paris is on the Travel + Leisure website this week!), but it’s the best I can do at the moment. I think I caught the last of the fall foliage. In most of these photos, you can see the old walled city. Vence is on a hill and I am standing on the other side of a gorge, where the river Lubiane runs through. I have actually been living in this town! It’s hard to believe.
I stumbled upon Villa Lorraine today, which I intend to purchase once I win the lottery or rob a bank. It’s not for sale – some German guy owns it, apparently (and rents rooms in it) — but one day it will be mine:
Standing right next to my future home, Villa Lorraine, there is a view of the Mediterranean Sea (it is there – you just have to look for it):