23 June 2008

Weekend Update

It was a nice weekend in Paris which included the annual FĂȘte de la Musique on Saturday night. Every 21st of June, all sorts of musicians play in the streets of Paris and throughout France. Since the 21st fell on a Saturday this year, things were a bit more raucous than usual.

A few favorite pictures from the evening:

Today, Esther found the opportunity to do some traditional dancing before we went to her parent's house to have some belated cake for my birthday. Again, some more favorites:

And, of course, the full albums:

Fete de la Musique

Esther Dances

Kurt's Birthday Cake

Happy Birthday to Oma and Pete!

13 June 2008

Obama in Detroit

For those of you able to go, he'll be at the Joe on Monday, June 16th. Doors at 6:30pm, warm-up acts coming on at 8:30pm, main event at ???. Since it's free you probably want to show up at about 5pm, June 14th.

Here's the full info, RSVP is requested.

Throwing Confetti > Cleaning up Confetti

The parents sent me a box of birthday goodies, the packing material for which was cross-cut paper. There are some obvious advantages to this:

  1. Safely cushioned goods.
  2. Turning what used to be waste into something useful = super eco-friendly.
  3. Confetti!

Slowly, however, the reality of the act emerges:

Until finally, the full consequences sink in:

It cleaned up quicker than I thought.

I imagine a conversation somewhere in Michigan about two weeks ago going something like this:
"You know that as soon as he opens this, there's going to be confetti everywhere. Esther's not going to be happy."

"Oh come on, he's not that immature."

"It's Kurt we're talking about."

"Ah yes, perhaps it was a bad idea. At the very least it will make for a memorable experience."

Memorable indeed.

11 June 2008

Teaching English in France

Hamburger! Ahweebhah!

The Upside of $140 Oil

“We’re really fine-tuning to get to that sweet spot of efficiency,” said Mr. Edwards of Delta.

Profit-motivated corporations increasing efficiency in the face of price signals. Shocking!

It's from a NYT article about the measures that airlines are going to in order to reduce weight and save fuel which includes such tactics as washing the engines more often (obvious), taking less water aboard (potentially annoying) and bringing only one set of manuals into the cockpit to save a couple of pounds (desperate).

How long can it be before airlines go the fully efficient route and start charging passengers by the pound?

Admittedly there is some resistance to these measures. Exempli gratia:
Northwest has studied everything from providing customers with packing tips to serving soda from two-liter plastic bottles rather than individual cans. But it decided that customers would balk at that idea.

“They like the can,” Mr. McGraw said. “They want the can.” [original emphasis]

An Evening with Esther

This past Friday evening, Esther and I, in our struggle to determine what to do, decide to go out and appreciate Paris and the unique sights, sounds, and experiences that it has to offer relative to other cities. Feeling not too creative, we decided that that meant going down to the Seine, drinking beer, and taking plenty of pictures (admittedly, I was responsible for the majority of the picture taking).

Here are some of my favorites from the evening with the full gallery link below:

An Evening with Esther

10 June 2008

A Trivial Lesson Learned Abroad

If you don't spend much time watching TV channels like CNN International, BBC World, or Al Jazeera English, you likely don't realize that countries (and Michigan!) do considerable advertising on their own behalf. It's like an ad from the National Dairy Council telling you to drink milk, but instead it's Armenia or Azerbaijan suggesting that you visit.

The results are sometimes quite impressive but are more often rather laughable. In all cases it is a window into how a country sees itself and how it wants to be seen by the outside world (or at least the international traveler or expat watching these channels).

Two of my favorites come from Bahrain and feature a person smiling in hypnotically slow-motion. Unfortunately I can't embed this videos here but I encourage you to have a look at them here and here.

Here is an example from Greece that was getting heavy airtime a few months ago:

Azerbaijan's best offering:

Unfortunately I couldn't find an example of some of the cheesier "Malaysia Truly Asia" campaign. Stunningly low production values.

Finally, there is Harry, sans Lloyd, who has gotten some airtime promoting the fact that Michigan gives you the "upper hand". Get it?

09 June 2008

IHT: the French have not been this excited about America since they shipped over the Statue of Liberty in 1885

From the International Herald Tribune, an article about Obamania in France with a mention of the panel discussion from last week.

The IHT quoting Le Figaro, a major French daily:

"You can't welcome it enough, especially in this era of rampant anti-Americanism," Le Figaro, the French daily, said Thursday.

"With Obama, a certain idea of America is back: that of a generous society where equality of opportunity is not an empty promise. Hope and change, key words of his campaign, reinforce this rediscovered ideal, which resonates as much inside the country as beyond."

Kama Des-Gachons, a 28-year-old Frenchwoman, was one of about 600 young men and women flocking to a panel discussion in Paris on Tuesday about the "Obama Effect in France." Her eyes lit up when she spoke about Obama. Not because he is a Democrat or because he opposed to the war in Iraq. But because his father was an African immigrant, like hers.

"He makes me dream," said Des-Gachons, whose parents came to France from Mali. "I even bought a T-shirt with the American flag. America is the country where you can make it."

American flag T-shirts for French folk? It's the craziness!

06 June 2008

Watching History

There’s very little that I can add to the commentary surrounding the dramatically historic events of this past week but at the same time I feel compelled to say something. First, I’d like to share some of what I’ve read that I found particularly insightful or humorous and, second, I’ll add a bit of analysis of the French perspective on the happenings; perhaps one of the few aspects to which I can make a worthwhile contribution.

First, a post from hilzoy at Obsidian Wings commenting on the transformative effect that this nomination holds for a large swath of Americans. (Pointer coming from Ta-Nehisi Coates)

On a much lighter note, I second Andrew Sullivan seconding the Italian.

Finally, the little bit that I can add. I attended a panel discussion at Esther's alma mater, Sciences Po, titled The Obama Effect in France. The panelists were mainly professors of the school including a former European Union deputy (like a congressional representative), a couple of specialists in American history, as well as a real, live super-delegate (Constance Borde, the Vice President of the Democratic Party in France). What was most striking during the discussion was the level of desire among the French to respect the United States once again and how far an Obama presidency would go for achieving that goal. It's not that there is some sort of dislike of the United States that is fundamental to French identity, it's just a rather complicated relationship.

The panelists were also quite astute in noticing the essential differences and the inherent value contained therein between the politics of Bush and those of Obama. Wherein Bush there was a politics of fear cultivated, they rightly noted the politics of hope and change inherent to Obama's message. One went so far as to describe Obama as the answer to the international search for an icon of change.

It was interesting to listen to, not only because it contrasted with the streak of pessimism that I've encountered when talking with many other French people about the prospect of Obama actually being elected. The standard line is, "I would love to see him as the president, but I just don't think it's likely." Often a remark about the power of the Republican Party or the ingrained racism of the county follows. A non-negligible reason for me wanting to see Obama elected would be the refutation of these ideas. One panelist remarked that he would like to see Obama elected because that would mean that the same thing could be possible in France (though they unanimously agreed that it would be quite a long way in the future).

Finally, one more post from Andrew Sullivan that suggests that there is nothing uniquely French to this response.

01 June 2008

Back from LIlle (and have been for three weeks now...)

Back on the weekend of May 11th, Esther and I made a visit to her friend Emilie who is living in Lille. It was enlightening to see a large metropolitan area other than Paris. The most obvious difference is the size and space of things which, though still very dense by SELMI standards, is incredibly spacious by Parisian standards. Add that to the fact that everything is drastically cheaper (eating out seemed to be about 30% cheaper, housing looked to be about 40% cheaper) makes it a compelling alternative to modern day Lutetia. Also, being much closer to Belgium, the waffles, French fries, and, perhaps most importantly, the beer are all much better than what can be easily found in Paris.

But then you remember that it's not Paris. Very few cities are comparable to Paris and the opportunity to live and work here is so unique that it would seem somewhat obscene to move away for cheaper real estate and delicious waffles (though they are ridiculously good). Of course, the roughly 150 mile trip takes only an hour thanks to the TGV connection from Paris. Don't let anyone try to tell you that high speed rail infrastructure isn't an amazing thing...

Like most cities here, it's quite pretty which, combined with fantastic weather, provided for some great photographic opportunities. Have a look here, I'll be posting some photos soon (remember, that's a relative term) from our trip to Brittany which is from even before our trip to Lille. Here's to staying on top of things!

Here are some personal favorites, the link to the album is below:

Travels - Lille

I know I owe you all an explanation of why my photographic style has, uh, evolved recently. Don't worry, it's coming soon and it rhymes with Radboe Rightroom.