Sunday, April 30, 2017

THE CLASH 1980 on Youtube

A whole bunch of black and white concert footage from the 1980s from The Capitol Theater in Passaic. Starting with The Clash.

I technically could have gone to this concert being (barely) an adult. But I wasn't into the Clash yet and I was dirt poor at the time. Glad I can watch this now.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Oh oh oh oh oh Tel Aviv

I don't know if it was the poor quality of my radio back in the day, or what, but I used to mishear the refrain of this Emerson Lake and Palmer song as "Tel Aviv."

The only reason I can think for why Tel Aviv is because Israel was much in the news in the 1970s. But still. Pretty dumb. But then I didn't know any French and didn't know that accordion music always means France.

Anyways, I haven't heard this song in probably thirty years. But here it is handy on the Internet.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Seen around Manhattan recently

Going to or from French class.

Chelsea Handler amuses me. East 60th Street.

This Madison Avenue store appears to have  genuine taxidermied ostrich.

I tried to get a picture of myself standing in front of the ostrich. This was the best I could do.

Also on Madison. Je voudrais beaucoup de chocolat! So could you refer to this as Chez Chocolat?

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Secrets of the alt-right 4-Chan Trolls

A Buzzfeed contributor on Twitter shares a conversation from alt-right 4-Chan Trolls. Apparently supporters of Putin and Le Pen and Trump can't decide if they want to make Macron gay or doing his daughter-in-law.

Monday, April 24, 2017

WAT homestretch

Finished another Women in the Age of Trump video - only one more left!

I enjoyed doing this one a lot, and Keona Welch gave me exactly what I wanted in the dual roles of "Pippy" and "Dippy" - we completed the whole thing in under 30 minutes.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

The coolness of Laurie Anderson

I've been aware of Laurie Anderson since the 1980s, and she's just very cool. Always was, and is. I was thinking about Laurie Anderson lately because the NYTimes ran an article about her.

So I did some googling and I found this really cool image of her from 1977 (above). I would love to find the original image and make a poster out of it.

And also this really cool video. You just have to love the openminded engagement of Laurie Anderson.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Crêpes Nanette

The course in French I am taking at FIAF makes good use of Youtube videos, and an especial Youtube French lessons channel favorite of my teacher is Francais aver Pierre.

We were instructed to watch a video of Pierre making crepes. So now I know how to make crepes. Although admittedly I used the recipe of Alton Brown of Good Eats fame (for whom I have a disturbing semi-conscious desire which I have documented on this blog over the years.)

Admittedly I knew very little about crepes. They are like very flat pancakes, and they cook much faster than pancakes. But the tricky part about cooking crepes is flipping them. Unlike with regular pancakes you don't use a spatula, traditionally, with crepes, you just flip them with the pan.

I used up an entire batch of batter trying to get the hang of flipping crepes. The result was a plate full of undercooked, half-flipped and generally badly-fried egg and milk-based specimens.

But with the very last scraps of batter I managed to completely cook and flip one single small crepe. YAY. I feel so accomplished.

But then there's this guy.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Oui nous pouvons!

French presidential contender Macron checks in with everybody's favorite ex-president Barack Obama.

Lovers of democracy must stick together to oppose the Putin puppet show featuring Trump and the Nazi Marine Le Pen.

Meanwhile the NYTimes ran a big article about Macron yesterday:

If the ever-precocious Mr. Macron is to succeed, his first challenge is to sell a product still largely unfamiliar to almost everyone: himself.
That Mr. Macron is such an unknown underscores his unusual position in a French election that, to some degree, is a referendum on the future of Europe. The far-right leader Marine Le Pen threatens to take France out of the European Union. By contrast, Mr. Macron is ardently pro-Europe and has portrayed himself almost as the anti-Le Pen.
Le Pen, of course, is a big fucking Nazi and a crook too.

Even before Ms. Le Pen’s remarks this week denying France’s culpability in a notorious wartime roundup of Jews, recent revelations in the French news media, including a well-documented new book, revived nagging concerns about the sympathies of the woman who would be France’s next president.
Two men in her innermost circle — Frédéric Chatillon and Axel Loustau — are well-known former members of a violent, far-right student union that fought pitched battles with leftists and took a turn toward Hitler nostalgia in the mid-1990s.

Mr. Chatillon’s company, Riwal, served as the exclusive supplier of campaign materials to the National Front in elections from 2012 to 2015. Prosecutors suspect it of systematically overcharging for posters, fliers and the like sold in campaign “kits” — and then, milking giant reimbursements from the state.
Under French law, the state reimburses the campaign expenses of candidates who earn more than 5 percent of votes. Mr. Chatillon had refined the system to an art, according to a high-ranking French campaign finance official and Mr. Chauprade, as well as two new books that closely examine the National Front’s finances.The official and one of those books, “Le Procès Interdit de Marine Le Pen,” or “Marine Le Pen’s Forbidden Trial,” by Laurent Fargues, describes how that system worked.
A printer would charge Riwal, say, 180 to 220 euros, or $191 to $233, for 400 posters; Riwal would then charge a small front party affiliated with the
National Front, called Jeanne, €500 for the posters. Jeanne, in turn, would charge the candidates the inflated price.
After the election, the candidates would claim reimbursement from the state for the inflated amount, and that reimbursement would be turned over to Jeanne.
At least some of that money would wind up in the coffers of the National Front, according to the French campaign finance official, who requested anonymity because of the continuing presidential campaign.
“They’ve constructed an economy out of reimbursements from the state,” said Mr. Chauprade, who has been interviewed by prosecutors about the party’s financial affairs.
Mr. Chauprade said he had been pressured by Ms. Le Pen herself to buy a kit, but refused, to the fury of party officials.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Ma timonerie française

Good times in my French class ce soir - one of our exercises was to look at a comic strip about a couple out at a restaurant: there is a problem with the woman's dish - instead of a cooked snail (yummy) there is a live slug (icky!). Our task was to enact our own version of this story.

Our class was divided into three groups and I must say that my group was the best. Our group, two other woman and myself, were not content to merely borrow phrases and concepts from our lesson book, we did some serious improv - I played the man and I opened with "bon anniversarie, je t'aime! And the woman playing ma femme ordered salad from the other woman in our group, who played the waiter. The man (me) ordered three bottles of the Beaujolais and then we saw the slug on the plate de ma femme. "Quel horreur! C'est un scandal! I'm never coming back to this restaurant again!"

And then our waiter offered us a refund.

And scene.

Not bad considering none of us is exactly fluent in French and we had to do free-form dialog all in French. It was loads of fun. Our teacher declared us les trois actrices.

Speaking of speaking French and fun, the titular story in the David Sedaris collection "Me Talk Pretty One Day" is available online. I sent the link to my French teacher and she seemed to like it. Luckily my French teacher isn't a terror like Sedaris's teacher. In fact my French teacher is a heroine. Which is much better for learning French, although not quite as funny. An excerpt from Sedaris:
Over time it became impossible to believe that any of us would ever improve. Fall arrived and it rained every day, meaning we would now be scolded for the water dripping from our coats and umbrellas. It was mid-October when the teacher singled me out, saying, “Every day spent with you is like having a cesarean section.” And it struck me that, for the first time since arriving in France, I could understand every word that someone was saying.

Understanding doesn’t mean that you can suddenly speak the language. Far from it. It’s a small step, nothing more, yet its rewards are intoxicating and deceptive. The teacher continued her diatribe and I settled back, bathing in the subtle beauty of each new curse and insult.

“You exhaust me with your foolishness and reward my efforts with nothing but pain, do you understand me?"

The world opened up, and it was with great joy that I responded, “I know the thing that you speak exact now. Talk me more, you, plus, please, plus.”

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Cassis & Orange

I discovered what I could do with all the leftover creme de cassis I had after failing to enjoy kir - turns out that five parts orange juice to two parts creme de cassis is absolutely delicious. And it's the simplest possible cocktail to make, only two ingredients. Much like the ever-popular screwdriver which is orange juice and vodka, except for creme de cassis and orange juice tastes much better than vodka and orange juice.  Also it's more French than a screwdriver. Most cocktails hardly seem worth the effort to me, they usually have five or six ingredients, and the results are not always delicious. I think cassis and orange might be the best cocktail ever. 

Speaking of French alcohol, I recently discovered The Local, aka "France's News in English" which provides this informative Ultimate Booze Map of France.

Also handy, this cheese map of France.

Monday, April 17, 2017

The Global Alt-Right Movement

It seems pretty clear that Putin always favors the most extreme right-winger in any country's national election. Not only is it increasingly undeniable that Putin gave all kinds of assistance to Trump in winning the election, he's also clearly hoping that friend-of-Nazis Marine Le Pen will win the French presidential election. Le Pen met with Putin in March.

And it's clear that there is a well-funded network of right-wingers aiding and abetting Putin's campaign of destabilizing the West.

Here is a response by Gerald Butts to a tweet by Mike Cernovich praising Ezra Levant. I have blogged about Levant over the past few months, primarily focusing on his insane obsession with Justin Trudeau (which I suspect is partly fueled by homoerotic desire.) Cernovich is a deranged nut job who pushed the deranged Pizzagate conspiracy that almost ended up getting people killed.

Meanwhile Alex Jones, the deranged nut job who also pushed Pizzagate has his lawyer claiming that he's a "performance artist." 
“He is a performance artist,” attorney Randall Wilhite told a judge, according to the Austin American-Statesman.
The radio host has been known to peddle conspiracy theories without any evidence, including that 9/11 was an inside job, Sandy Hook was “completely fake with actors” and the government is using chemicals in the water to turn people gay.
He also perpetuated the “Pizzagate” theory that Hillary Clinton and other Democratic leaders were running a child sex trafficking ring run out of a Washington, D.C., pizzeria, before eventually apologizing.
I immediately thought of Mike Daisey, an actual performance artist who dabbled in hard reporting before being repudiated by This American Life. Daisey's excuse for why he should be forgiven for making up stories about Chinese employees of Apple was that he is a performance artist and nobody should have ever taken him literally.

Now I despise Mike Daisey, a hateful Berniebro and all-around asshole, but not even I think he's as bad as Alex Jones. Nobody almost got killed thanks to Daisey. But Jones and Daisey both feel they can say anything they want and then refuse to be held responsible for it. And they get away with it. Neither seems to have suffered in his career in the least from this behavior. But Alex Jones is a monster, Mike Daisey is just an asshole.

So who is Gerald Butts? He's "Principal Secretary to PM Trudeau" according to his Twitter profile. I first heard of Butts while reading Trudeau's autobiography. They go back to college. According to his Wikipedia page:
Stemming from a two-decade-long friendship, Butts became the senior political adviser to Justin Trudeau in 2012.[2] Therefore, he is among the five people with whom Trudeau consults regularly.[8] He assisted on the vast majority of policies on which Trudeau campaigned.[8]
And according to Trudeau:
Butts & Trudeau in college about 1993
(a mutual friend) beckoned to a long-haired guy standing nearby, and introduced him as Gerry Butt, Vice-President of the McGill Debating Union. Today, almost twenty-five years later, Gerald is not just still a best friend; he is my closest advisor as leader of the Liberal Party of Canada. 
[obviously the team went onto bigger things after Trudeau's autobiography was published.]

On Gerry's invitation, I joined the Debating Union, where we became fast friends and I spent the next year honing my skills and traveling to tournaments. It was an education on its own, focusing my ability to think on my feet, to spot a weakness in an opponent's argument and exploit in with the right combination of logic and turn of phrase.

Probably we have Butts to thank more than anybody except Pierre Trudeau for mon premiere ministre d'amour.

But also, if Butts believes there is an interconnected, international far-right movement, chances are Trudeau believes it too, although it's not guaranteed since Butts does explicitly say in his Twitter profile that "Tweets are personal views."

But this is important. The Canadians are fully aware of the danger of the far-right network. Something I'm not sure American politicians are paying enough attention to.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Esquire Archives

You can click the image to view the
amazing line-up for this issue.
Yes I find old magazine archives interesting and they are incredibly accessible now thanks to the Internet.

I never had any interest in Esquire though, it always struck me as a kind of New Yorker for men, or perhaps a cross between The New Yorker and Playboy. It had a cartoon face as its mascot, like the Playboy bunny logo, I suppose, except the cartoon face seemed to exist to leer at women. Which makes this cover from December 1959 pretty creepy given that the face appears, on the left leering apparently at a reindeer - who looks appropriately nervous.

But look at the line-up of literary greats in this issue. Arthur Miller, Dorothy Parker, George Bernard Shaw. In a magazine aimed at men. Did men really read so much sixty years ago?

 Shaw was the reason I ended up buying access to the Esquire archives because I discovered, while researching the latest topic for the weekly NYCPlaywrights email, that he had written a tiny playlet in French called UN PETIT DRAME.

Esquire published it here for the first time. It's interesting to note that Shaw had died only nine years earlier in 1950 at the age of 94. I was ambitious to try out my French translations skills but they provided an English translation - I still might try it anyway.

It's interesting to contrast the Esquire archives from this period with those of the New Yorker. Strangely I think there are fewer sexist and xenophobic cartoons in Esquire. The ads are very similar, except that the New Yorker didn't include this very curious page devoted to hobbies called "Hobby Den: which features opportunities to buy stamps, musical instruments, all kinds of things. I guess men in those days had to fill up those long hours outside of work, which were certainly not being taken up by childcare. It was either foreign stamps or reading great literature I guess.

Arthur Miller was one of the subjects of Esquire's March 1961 issue with the story of the making of the Misfits. I read it, it contained little I hadn't already heard about.

One of the articles listed is "Cast Your Own Broadway Show"
Straight men were certainly different back then.
The magazine probably felt a little proprietary, and possibly defensive about the movie, which was based on a short story that Miller published in Esquire in 1957.

According to the 1961 article:

The basic story appeared in Esquire in October, 1957, Arthur Miller's tale of three cowboys who take mustangs from the Nevada mountains in order to sell them for meat. Miller had gone on a roundup with three such cowboys when he was obtaining a Nevada divorce fro this first wife. What had caught the imagination of the Manhattan-born playwright was the mechanization of catching wild horses in the West: one man flew an old plane into the mountains, flushed the herd down a canyon to a dry lake bed the two other roped from the rear of a trick. Miller ws displayed by the fate of America's feral horses ("misfits" because they are too small to ride), but was even more haunted by the lives of the cowboys who killed them. As soon as he got away from the public hysteria over his marriage to Mairlyn, he settled down and wrote the novelette.

I will say I was impressed that instead of including photos of Marilyn Monroe, they instead used illustrations, even on the cover. I might have to reassess my impression of old school Esquire.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Like a Surgeon

I've bitched about New Yorker covers before but I do miss subscribing to the print version of the magazine in part because I miss the covers. They are posted on the New Yorker site, but not right at the top, you have to scroll way down the home page to find them.

They aren't all great but some of them are masterpieces of illustration, and I have praised them - and bought large framed versions of them (this one hangs in my kitchen) and been told I look like a character in one.

This recent New Yorker cover is a case in point - well done graphic but also ground-breaking. The New Yorker didn't make a big deal about it, but all the medical personnel preparing to operate are women (using the standard graphic short-hand of well-manicured eyebrows and long eyelashes to signify female.)

They didn't make a big deal out of it but people did notice which resulted in the Twitter hashtag #ilooklikeasurgeon

Here are a few examples below.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Canadian Road Trip

It looks like I'm taking a Canadian road trip in August!

Brooke Johnson, who does a one-woman show about her friendship with Pierre Trudeau (I blogged about it in January) emailed me to let me know that she's doing the show in Wolfville, Nova Scotia. Coincidentally I recently noted that my great-great grandfather Alexander Wolfington was born in Halifax, which makes me at least 1/32 Canadian.

So I plan to go to the show and then travel from there to Montreal by way of Quebec city where I can practice my French. I'm into the third week of French class and hope to be semi-fluent by August. So it will be a 3-province trip: Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Quebec.

Brooke also asked if I could host some Canadian theater women at the end of May. They happen to be working with Jeanine Tesori, the composer of the songs from FUN HOME, and of course I said yes. I'm excited to be able to further the cause of US-Canadian theater exchange. Justin Trudeau has been inspirational in that regard as in so much else, inviting Ivanka Trump to join him to see the Canadian musical COME FROM AWAY about helping refugees. More about these Canadian theater women later.

Oh Canada!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Working my side hustle

In the latest NYCPlaywrights email I asked readers to offer any advice they might have about the web site.

I expected complaints, of course - if you ask for feedback in this kind of situation the people who are mainly motivated to write are the ones with complaints. And while some of the complaints were valid some were ridiculous.

One guy in particular, a college professor in his 70s (we have several mutual Facebook friends), sent me a list of complaints that were especially absurd. One of the complaints was that there were occasional non-calls for submissions items in the blog, which were according to him, "just free advertising."

Actually they are not free advertising - they are paid advertising.

But the best part was him whining about the fact that some of the calls for submissions are targeted to certain ethnicities, or have a women-only stipulation. He wants me to post on such calls for submissions: "This call may be in violation of Equal Opportunity Employment Protection guidelines."

Somebody needs to retire.

The most ridiculous feedback came from another guy, in his 60s at least who said that there are just too many words in the calls for submissions and the words should be in exciting fonts and there should be graphics. Apparently he thinks the function of the NYCPlaywrights calls for submission are not simply to provide information but to be aesthetically pleasing too.

On the positive side, several people wrote in to say they like the web site and everything I do. Not that I was primarily motivated to fish for compliments but that was a nice bonus.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Another video from the Women in the Age of Trump series

The monologue for this one is quite short and doesn't actually mention the Trump presidency, but I made sure there's a clear connection, which you will see by watching it.

Listening to Trump supporters chanting "Lock her up" absolutely enraged me every time I heard it, so I had to make sure to work it into this video to represent one of the ugliest aspects of the Trump campaign, which is really saying something, since Trump's was the ugliest campaign ever.

The video and audio quality of this one is much higher than the other two, since instead of shooting it with my iPhone, actor Diane Quinn's husband Bill, a professional sound engineer, recorded it.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Paternal great-great grandfathers

My family thinks of themselves as Irish, and certainly my father being a McClernan and my mother being a Maguire helps that belief, but we seem to be at least as much other nationalities as Irish. As I noted on my mother's side, although there are plenty of Irish ancestors, there are also as many who appear to be English (Smith) or from other UK countries and territories.

It's the same story on my father's side. Of his paternal grandparents, certainly the McClernans are Irish. One of my great-great grandfathers is John McClernan, a "milk dealer" from Ballymena, County Antrim, Ireland. But my Grampop McClernan's maternal grandfather, Alfred Hall (could that name be any more English?) is from Yorkshire England (like the Brontes) although his mother at least was Irish. Patrick Bronte, the father of Charlotte, Emily, Ann and Branwell was from Ireland originally.  Alfred died in 1918, possibly another victim of the 1918 influenza pandemic.

One of my father's mother's grandfathers was John Francis Dalton, born in Ireland in 1843, moved to Pennsylvania at the age of 4. started out as a coal miner but became a tea salesman. The other was Daniel Dreyer from France. He was a "laborer" living in New Jersey from around 1853. I've already written about the Dreyers who can be traced back to the late 1600s in north-eastern France. My grandmother's grandmother was Gertrude Pfeiffer from Germany.

So the tally of my great-great grandfathers is:
  1. John McClernan, born in Ireland, milk dealer (his son William my paternal grandfather's father was an entrepreneur who owned two bars.)
  2. Alfred Hall, born in Yorkshire England, occupation unknown
  3. John Francis Dalton, born in Ireland, coal miner/tea salesman
  4. Daniel Dreyer, born in France, laborer
  5. James Maguire, born in Ireland, Union soldier, liquor magnate
  6. Alexander Wolfington, born in Nova Scotia, son of a sea captain, carriage/auto magnate
  7. James Lawrence Wert Smith, born in Philadelphia, worked for the Reading Railroad
  8. William H. Young, born in Philadelphia, Union soldier
Of course there are also eight great-great grandmothers, but less information is available about them so I stuck with the great-great grandfathers.

So based on this tally: three great-great-grandfathers were from Ireland; two were from Philadelphia, probably of English descent (Smith, Young), one from Nova Scotia (probably Welsh), one from England and one from France.

So yeah I'm only about half Irish. Which is fine with me, I'm not interested all that much in celebrating ethnicity, which seems to be one more way to keep people apart.

Monday, April 10, 2017

My other maternal great-great-grandfathers

As I mentioned in a previous blog post, two of my maternal great-great-grandfathers were an odd couple. Although both fought in the Union during the Civil War, one ended up as a captain of early 20th Century industry, becoming a millionaire through liquor distilling and distribution and the other was a ne'er-do-well alcoholic who left his family destitute except for his Civil War pension.

But that still leaves two other great-great-grandfathers on my maternal side, and four more on the paternal side. So let's have a look.

My mother's father's mother's father was Alexander Wolfington and he was also a captain of industry. My cousin dug up a whole bunch of info about the company he founded, which started out as a carriage company and then became a bus company. Apparently he was a Canadian(!) from Nova Scotia, which explains why he didn't fight in the Civil War. Like my maternal grandfather's other grandfather, he started from virtually nothing and worked his way up
Alexander J. Wolfington, the son of a sea captain, was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1850. Following a single trans-Atlantic journey with his seafaring father, he settled upon a land-based career as a blacksmith, and became apprenticed to a local master of the centuries-old art. Following the War Between the States, he traveled south to New York City, where he accepted a job at Brewster & Company.

He worked as a journeyman blacksmith for the New York City coachbuilder for three years, then followed his newly-betrothed sister to Philadelphia, just before the start of that city’s 1876 Centennial. He had saved enough money to purchase a small building at the corner of North Twentieth and Filbert Streets (now John F. Kennedy Blvd). Due to a bit of luck, his blacksmith shop was located right next to the new Pennsylvania railroad spur and he turned around and sold it for a $500 profit, a substantial amount for the time.
Perhaps not surprisingly, my grandfather, the grandson of an auto company owner and a liquor distributor/distiller started his working life as a truck driver for breweries. He became a Teamster leader but in his forties quit to start his own business. But unfortunately he got lung cancer and died at age 47, leaving my grandmother with a  pile of debt which she eventually discharged through her secretarial work. Perhaps if he had had any sons, the son would have been another go-getter, but my mother is one of seven daughters, and not a one of them seems to have had any serious career ambitions. Career ambitions were not so unheard of when they were young - Gloria Steinem is two years older than my mother. But they all seem to have been content to be wives and mothers, except of course for the nun.

My brother Brian, the right-winger, is a truck driver so I guess that counts as continuing a family tradition.

Of the fourth maternal great-great-grandfather, very little is known except that James Lawrence Wert Smith worked for the Reading Railroad. So he was as working class as my grandmother's other grandfather, although hopefully not also the victim of alcoholism. And whatever else you can say about my grandmother's family, they were in Philadelphia for a long time. My cousin traced the Smith side back as far as the 1700s. They probably go back to the days of Benjamin Franklin at the very least.

Tomorrow I will look at my paternal great-great-grandfathers.

Sunday, April 09, 2017

The Lord is on the Broadloom

Here he was at the age of 22.

Speaking of comedians, I had a relationship for over a decade with a man who was seriously funny. He could have been a professional comedian, I guess, except for his extreme manic-depression.

And he also appreciated when other people were funny so he told me an anecdote from a guy with whom he was once in a band, a guy named Russ.

As I remember, Russ was once an altar boy and participated in a Mass wherein a consecrated host (the "body of Christ" that Catholics consume in ritualistic cannibalism) was dropped during a Mass.

And according to Russ this was a major disaster in the chapel. I should mention that Russ, John (the comedian) and I are all atheists so we were unimpressed by the magic of ritualistic cannibalism and dropping "the host" - which by the way tastes like cardboard - is no big deal to us.

It was the way Russ described the horrified reaction of the faithful to this event that was so funny: "oh no the Lord is on the broadloom!"

I first heard this over twenty years ago but it still makes me laugh when I think about it. So I thought I would share it with the world - or the twenty or so potential people who will ever read this blog post.

Speaking of "the host" it's fun to watch French Canadian films like "Les Grande Chaleurs" because they frequently use "sacres" - the religious paraphanalia-based set of swear-words unique to the Quebecois. Luckily I heard about "sacres" prior to seeing Les Grande Chaleurs because if you only study the French language you won't normally be told  about the sacres: French people from France use the traditional swear word concepts (shit, bitch, etc.) So if you don't  know about sacres you will be very confused when the English subtitles for the French Canadian film say things like "tabernacle" and "host" and "chalice" (tabernak! osti! calice!) for no apparent reason.

Nowadays almost anything goes on television but when French in Action was made in Paris, in the 1980s, several people are portrayed in typical quotidian scenarios using words like shit (merde) and salope (bitch). But then again they are French. When I was growing up and going to the Jersey Shore you could always tell who the French Canadians were - they eschewed bathing trunks for men and instead went with banana hammocks. Osti!

Saturday, April 08, 2017

Stand-up Comedians are Geniuses

I don't think anybody has ever stated this as a fact publicly, so I'm going to go ahead and be a pioneer: all successful comedians, meaning people who make a good living as a stand-up comedian are geniuses.

That includes: Kathy Griffin, Margaret Cho, George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Robin Williams, Steve Martin, Amy Schumer, Hannibal Buress, Sarah Silverman, Eddie Izzard, Ellen DeGeneres, Joan Rivers, Stephen Colbert, Dave Chappelle, Wanda Sykes, Ali Wong, Louis C. K. etc. etc. etc. And yes, even Bill Cosby. Being a genius doesn't make you  a good person. Just smarter than most of humanity.

I saw Louis CK's most recent special 2017 and that reminded me of this fact. Louis CK made me laugh hysterically by doing a riff on the fact that Christians "won" because all over the world human cultures observe the current date as the number of years since the birth of Jesus Christ.

Everybody knows the date thing is true. It takes a genius to make it funny.

Louis C. K. is especially brilliant, which I've said before. He's so brilliant that his comedy walks a very thin line between humor and philosophy. The same is true of Stephen Colbert. So when the two of them get together, the purest truth cannot help but explode into the world. Watch.

Friday, April 07, 2017

Black Currants & White Wine

During several episodes of "French in Action" the leading characters Robert and Mirielle are at a cafe drinking Kir. For the longest time I had assumed that Kir was a brand name for a French liqueur because the waiter in the episode also mentions Dubonnet when listing, at Mirelle's request "typical French" offerings. I know Dubonnet is a brand thanks to the many classic French posters associated with it.

But it turns out that Kir is the name of a cocktail that combines one part creme de cassis (black currants) and four parts dry white wine - or in the case of Kir Royal, the white wine is swapped out for champagne. 

I finally got around to buying creme de cassis and trying it out. I'm actually not that crazy about it, I find the creme de cassis is a little bitter for my taste. I'm really not a cocktail person, I prefer my alcohol to be unmixed. Although it looks pretty, the diluted creme de cassis: it comes out of the bottle as a thick syrup but becomes a light crimson when mixed with the white wine. But really, I felt like I just ruined a perfectly good class of Sauvignon Blanc. Well at least I gave it a try.

But now I have a $26 bottle of creme de cassis that I really don't have any use for.

Luckily it turns out the NYTimes has a bunch of recipes for Creme de Cassis.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Another French Canadian Connection

Well it seems that Xavier Dolan, the actor/director of Les Amours Imaginaries also made a movie J'ai Tue Ma Mere, in the same year 2009 and look who is in the movie with him - Francois Arnaud the guy who plays the love interest in Les Grandes Chaleurs. All Canadians know each other and there's your proof.

This clip is not especially safe for work.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

En March à New York

The French really seem to like New York. The video I mentioned last week about Marcon and Trudeau has a section on Macron coming to New York which is amusing - they kick off that section with a little jazzy number as Macron sits talking strategy in an airplane headed for NYC. It starts at 13 minutes in on this video.

In other nouvelles français, my French class started last night. It was quite an experience to get to talk to other people in French so much.  Siri just is not much of a conversationalist - she will answer questions but then she's done. She doesn't continue the conversation.

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Quel petit monde du Canada

Cast members with the director of the movie
and the author of the play Les Grand Chaleurs
So last blog post I mentioned two Canadian movies as well as a video of the Trudeau/Brazeau boxing match and scenes from the TV show Sensitive Skin. And I observed it's a tiny world in Canada. Well it turns out even tinier than I thought.

I've been watching the movie Les Grande Chaleurs with both English and French subtitles in order to help figure out what was being said. The English subtitles weren't shown over the credits - but nevertheless I managed to make out that it said the movie was originally a play first performed in Quebec in 1991. So I did some Googling and discovered the play was written by Michel Marc Bouchard. And on reading his entry in Wikipedia discover this:
The adaptation of his play Tom to the farm produced by Xavier Dolan in 2013 and scripted with the author received several awards including that of the international critic (FRESCI) at the Venice Film Festival in 2013. The Girl King , written by Michel Marc Bouchard for Finnish director Mika Kaurismäki and shot in Finland will be presented in 2015.
The name Xavier Dolan rang a bell - and that's because the other movie I mentioned in the same blog post as Grande Chaluers was directed by (and performed by) none other than Xavier Dolan. 

Do like a hundred people live in Canada?