rock, and reading glasses

Last night was a pilgrimage, of sorts. After taking a few deep breaths, forking over a good amount of Euros, and pretending this wasn't really happening, we renewed our vows to the temple of rock that is Sonic Youth. Yah, that sounds overly dramatic. But John summed it up well last night, walking in the rain some time around midnight, the feedback and grinding guitars still buzzing in our ears, that "Daydream Nation" caught us right around the adolescent throat (circa 1988) and gave us a savage soundtrack for the transition forward. I can't say that I've found musicians since that can speak to me, in such raw, pulsing language (although TV On The Radio does come, at times, somewhat close.) So, yah, the show rocked.

And made us laugh, too, in case we forget that while Time can seem frozen during the beginning chords of "Teen Age Riot," it definitely moves forward all too rapidly. Thurston Moore has a bad memory for lyrics; his roadie, between songs, would swap large lyric sheets on his amp. At one point, the squinting in the poor light I guess became too much. Already into a song, he put his guitar down and wandered around on stage, looking for something on top of the stacked amps. He then walked off stage, to return a minute later with reading glasses perched at the end of his nose, his arms raised in a victory salute, fingers in double-Vs. And then, they played on.


first china, now...

This is brilliant. As so many Polish citizens have moved out of the country for jobs that pay pounds or euros, rather than zlotys, the government is, it claims, faced with a worker shortage and is considering using prison labor to refurbish stadiums for the European Cup, scheduled in both Poland and the Ukraine, in 2012. The prisoners, rest assured, will be transported from jail to the work sites under armed guard. How about a scheme where volunteer labor is rewarded with a better standing in the ticket draw? I'll take a couple of first round picks for laying a cement block or two.


terroir, or terrorism

What a difference a little "i" makes. A group of angry wine-grape growers in the Languedoc-Roussillon have had enough. For a while now they've been involved in smaller acts of outrage: scrawling angry graffiti on local wine shops that sell "foreign" wines, tossing a couple of bombs, and tipping tanker trucks carrying grape juice not grown in France. Now that Sarko's in charge, this group -- the Comite regional d'action viticole, or CRAV -- says it wants action, or else. "Nous sommes au point de non retour." (We're at the point of no return.)

Question is, what, or where, exactly would that point be, if one could return? The Languedoc grows a lot of grapes, and makes a lot of wine. Not all of the wine is great; a lot of it, however, is improving. "Foreign" competition, whether from colonies or from the nasty "new world," (with bottles often better suited to grab eyes on supermarket shelves) has been a scourge. During the turn of the century, growers suffering through a depression in wine prices on the world market revolted en masse, requiring the French army to come in with the goal to calm the crowds, but ended up shooting a few people in the process. It was, as this well-researched article points out,
a very French affair: a mixture of moderation and extremism; a contest between local pride and suffering and central government arrogance and neglect. The solution, initially part-muddle, part-confidence trick, led eventually to an elaborate system of classification of wines which did much to make the international reputation and success of French wine. (The Independent, June 20, 2007)
And so now CRAV says it's acting in the spirit of those 1907 revolts, but it's unclear whether they've got serious traction with the locals or whether they're just a bunch of guys armed with spray paint and a couple of non-lethal explosives. Because really, we've got enough terrorists in the world right now. I support raising a local drinking quota; might mellow tensions, at least for the time being.


in the asylum

So after two months' worth of workers peeking in our bedroom while the apartment's useless elevator was raised, the building scaffolding is down and we are freed, at last.

There's a celebratory mood in the air; I'm back at my desk (also in the bedroom, yes, I know, bad to mix both work and play) sipping wine and gazing out our window at the already-drooping chestnut tree, who seems, as we are, to be a bit deflated from 30+ degree heat so early in the season. Other natives, however, are restless. Our resident child (one floor down) is screaming, a shrill, hiccuping yell that bounces from window to window in our courtyard. Our resident developmentally disabled man, who hides somewhere behind a half-opened window on the other side of the courtyard, howls along. He seems to get especially cagey in the late afternoons -- we've never seen him outside -- so I can only guess that a sultry day indoors must make him a little stir-crazy. But then I look at the clock and realize I've got another three hours behind this desk, and I think: Should I start yelling too?


duck is the new drug

So 24 hours or so after spending time with a 4-year-old and his father (my old college roommate), hours underground in Paris on the metro and overground in rainy parks, and a stint on Easyjet with other sniffling passengers, I now have a slight cold. Not enough to justify a complete retreat to our bed-on-the-floor, buried in Economists I haven't yet read (two months' worth) or re-read the odd Russian novel.

Enough, however, to seek out some sort of medicinal remedy to keep the nasty nose-dripping and cranky-bones feeling at bay. Before my departure in Paris (old college roommate already sniffling was enough to sound the alarm) I wandered into a drug store and explained in broken French that I wasn't quite sick but only "un peu" and perhaps they had something to fix me up? The nice French lady reached for a package of Oscillococcinum; relieved and convinced I had seen this on friends' shelves before, I happily purchased and ran out the door for the nearest cafe to pop pills with perhaps a chaser of wine. Because it helps the medicine go down.

I've never played with homeopathy much, but I can see the attraction. Taking these pills is fun. First, they come in little special tubes with little twisty tops. You twist off the top, and inside is a veritable hive of little white beady sugar pills, about the size of tobiko roe eggs. I dunno how the cool kids do it, but I've dosed by placing the tube between my lips, tip my head back and let all the balls run over my tongue and teeth. Crunchy and sweet. Sure beats biting down on an aspirin, or, say, choking on a nasty antibiotic the size of a NYC cockroach.

So take pills, ask questions later. I realize I have no idea what's in these sweety little spheres, so I ask the Internets. And the Internets tells me that Oscillococcinum is basically a pseudo-scientific cocktail of duck hearts and liver.


This may explain why the French love it. I don't know if it's kept me from contracting the latest strain of TB, but I do know this: duck confit is a miracle. Fois gras should have a church. If the French tell me to take my medicine in the form of fowl, who am I to question?