Tuesday, October 25, 2005

chez moi

This is my doorway. It's helpful to have a BIG MARBLE PLAQUE on your doorway just in case you ever forget where to go home.

Though I think the young Chinese men loitering outside the Christian evangelical club next door to me also do the trick.

In case you get the wrong impression of my neighborhood, three new art galleries have opened up on my block across the street from me since I moved in two months ago. I think another is opening two doors down (unless it's another leather wholesale goods shop -- but how many of those renovate with zebra-striped curtains covering their display window??). And they're not half bad: some biomorphic sculptures, some beautiful abstract paintings, and a lot of video art that I see screened at night when I come home sometimes, elegant people holding wine glasses and spilling out of the gallery space...

Not to mention the architecture firm across the way from me, and the "Secret Art Gallery" which annoys me because it's just two doors down but only open "sur rendez-vous" so I have never been inside.

Still, the most important fact about where I live is our heroicness. See here:

Even though I haven't yet been able to find out the exact exploits of Paulette Buchman, I did learn that this plaque was put up as part of a series to commemorate women in the Resistance during the Second World War, and given her name Paulette Buchman must have been Jewish. So, I honor Paulette Buchman, whoever she is.

And hey, living in the building of a former Resistance fighter -- that's got to be good karma!

Monday, October 24, 2005

le Passagxxe de Molière

Another half-roofed, half-open passage, in the Marais. We like bikes in the Marais.
Come in...

Part of the luxury of the passages was supposed to be that you could walk through Paris and have dry feet, not a drop of rain on your head, be sheltered from all the tempests of Paris' doux climate. You were also protected from the busy street, where they hadn't invented modern traffic laws yet, and there was a lot of horse manure.

Almost over-protected - didn't it get stuffy, with all those gas lights? I like the half-open passages because they are (often) so green and alive.

And the proprietaires have at least as much character as the ones in the covered passages. Note, for example, this highly useful shop.

I think they shouldn't limit themselves. Just hands and feet?

When there are so many other exciting body parts worthy of artistic immortality?

(that must be what is creepy about this shop: the death mask-li-ness of it. There was a very happy looking Tibetan shop as well as some art galleries in this passage too!)

"Robin, 5 months"
"Victoire, 1 year old, with papa's help, for mom's birthday."

look, the hands are trying to tell me something! hmm, it's like looking into a Rohrschach blot...

Benjamin: "Les passages sont des galeries qui n'ont pas de face extérieure. Comme le rêve."

Saturday, October 22, 2005

also: "boh?!" my debut as misanthrope

The question that seems to guide all this: is it better company being around other people, or being on one's own (with books and radio and e/mail)?

I have a new friend, who shall be called X, who has a boyfriend across the Atlantic but who has also taken up with a 23 year old at the school she's on an exchange with. Whenever I call her or she calls me, I can hear him in the background. What bothers me is not the ethical issues (although she tells me she hasn't said a word to her boyfriend across the seas); nor is it the fact that she and I are pushing 28 and 30, not 24; but more just that I want back the friend I was in the process of making. a) How hard is it really to move to a new country?? and, b) What is so incredibly bad about being alone for a little bit? I met the kid and he is really sweet, but he's never had an apartment of his own or supported himself or lived with anybody...different life stages. I DO NOT UNDERSTAND. And then...it is hard to be picky about friends when one has just moved to a new country and knows very few people, but: but.

Last night was dinner with two grad students from an Ivy League school that is a rival to my Ivy League school. One is lovely, but the other (a historian) was competitive. And insisted on giving me advice, one of the most tactless (and boring) dinner tactics possible if the other person has not asked for advice. Gah.

too many expat grad students! Just got in touch with an old performance artist friend in Berlin, who is in no way a grad student, and who is planning some new projects. Must go visit.

Friday, October 21, 2005

modernism vs. postmodernism, or, the post where I lose all 3 of my readers

the moment comes, I lose all 3 of my readers, but that's cool. This is a place for organizing or keeping thoughts and today I'm going to remind myself why I think postmodernism is not a "radical break with modernism" but rather A REVOLT WITHIN MODERNISM AGAINST A CERTAIN FORM OF 'HIGH MODERNISM' as represented, say, in the architecture of Mies van der Rohe. So, a passing moment or style of modernism.

Here is Hassan's schematic but handy list of differences. I like how one of the earliest "modernist" avant-gardes is po-mo in it.

modernism. . . . . . . . . . post-modernism
romanticism/Symbolism. . . . . . paraphysics/Dadaism
form (conjunctive, closed). . . . . . antiform (disjunctive, open)
purpose . . . . . . . . . . . . . . play
design. . . . . . . . . . . . . chance
hierarchy. . . . . . . . . . . . anarchy
mastery/logos . . . . . . . . . exhaustion/silence
art object/finished work . . . . . . process/performance/happening
distance . . . . . . . . . . . . . participation
creation/totalization/synthesis . . . . decreation/deconstruction/antithesis
presence . . . . . . . . . . . . . absence
centring . . . . . . . . . . . . dispersal
genre/boundary . . . . . . . . . . text/intertext
semantics . . . . . . . . . . . . . rhetoric
paradigm (substitution in semiotics)* . . syntagm (positioning in semiotics)*
hypotaxis . . . . . . . . . . . . . parataxis
metaphor* . . . . . . . . . . . . metonymy*
selection . . . . . . . . . . . . combination
root/depth. . . . . . . . . . . rhizome/surface
interpretation/reading . . . . . . against interpretation/misreading
signified . . . . . . . . . . . . . signifier
lisible . . . . . . . . . . . . . . scriptible
narrative/grande histoire . . . . . anti-narrative/petite histoire
master code . . . . . . . . . . . . idiolect
symptom . . . . . . . . . . . . desire
type . . . . . . . . . . . . . . mutant
genital/phallic. . . . . . . . polymorphous/androgynous
paranoia . . . . . . . . . . schizophrenia
origin/cause . . . . . . . . difference-difference/trace
God the Father . . . . . . . . . The Holy Ghost
metaphysics . . . . . . . . . . . . irony
determinacy . . . . . . . . . . indeterminacy
transcendence . . . . . . . . immanence

*an interesting fluttering of these categories:
Whilst syntagmatic relations are possibilities of combination, paradigmatic relations are functional contrasts - they involve differentiation. Temporally, syntagmatic relations refer intratextually to other signifiers co-present within the text, whilst paradigmatic relations refer intertextually to signifiers which are absent from the text (Saussure 1983, 122; Saussure 1974, 123). The 'value' of a sign is determined by both its paradigmatic and its syntagmatic relations. Syntagms and paradigms provide a structural context within which signs make sense; they are the structural forms through which signs are organized into codes.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

le Passagxxe des 2 Pavillonxxs

I'm starting out with a very little-known passage, just off rue des Petits Champs and near the Palais Royale. It illustrates the evolution of a passage from a little street that is gated and can therefore be closed off at night, is still uncovered like any normal street, to the famous passages roofed with glass which are the precursors of the shopping mall. Luchet said of the two types of passages: "L'une est le perfectionnement de l'autre," although the perfectibility of man has to get called into question at some point, because most of us would find the shopping mall anti-progress after having visited a passage. They are beautiful and often surprising little hidden shortcuts in the city -- part of a secret Paris, one which disappears at night.

Here are two views from inside
the passage des Pavillons, one
taken looking forwards (left) and
the other looking back towards
the exit.

Les six commandements
(de Luchet)
for what constitutes a passage:
--pedestrian only
--linking two animated streets,
offering a shortcut to whoever uses it
--being lined with stores
--having a covering which protects walkers from the elements while at the same time allowing light to pass through
--light by artificial means: first gas, then electricity

although now, I would say distinctly some old-fashionedness, not just luxe. This is the window of a cobbler who was not very happy about me taking his shop window's picture.

And out we go, back to the Palais Royale.

P.S. all material copyright 2005

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

hot chocolate and more ruins

so, right now i am making myself a BOWL of hot chocolate for breakfast because when you are in france, you are not only allowed but in fact encouraged to do things like this. and i am making it with raw, unpasteurized (but filtered) demi écremé milk which, granted, is only from my local Monoprix but when have I ever even had access to raw milk in the U.S.??

à l'ancienne apparently means that your chocolate mix consists of little chocolate squiggles, instead of powder or shavings. I have no idea if this is higher quality or not, but it dissolves almost instantaneously and is YUM.

as you can see I have finally managed to read my user's manual in Spanish (because OF COURSE the English version disappeared in the move) and soon you will be getting even more exciting pictures off my camera.

Meanwhile, a few more paintings from Robert des Ruines:

Hubert Robert, Demolition.
Camille Desmoulins has incited the crowd, which is about to conquer the Bastille, a mostly disused fortress containing very few prisoners but nonetheless a sign of the People's ability to win a battle against royal guard soldiers. If you look at the top of towers, you can see damage already being done...soon people will dismantle the Bastille, take bits of it away as souvenirs (such as keys which you can see in the Musee Carnavalet), turn some bits into novelty items like mini models of the Bastille or card tables made out of former metal doors... citizens will spontaneously take and use the rest of the Bastille ruins as building materials.

Hubert Robert, Saint-Denis.
Here, if you could only see properly, you would know that citizens have busted through the roof of the Saint-Denis cathedral and are busily throwing out the remains of various deceased members of the royal Capet family into ditches and unmarked mass graves. This (apparently) includes the bones of St. Louis, a past king who got canonized. Those citoyens are THOROUGH.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

fiery ruins -- 1790ish

also here is Paris burning down thanks to those firebrand Reign of Terror revolutionaries. Place de la Concorde, former site of the guillotine, future site of Napoleon's obelisk, and right in front of the King and Queen's palace, also known as Louvre, also known as "in walking distance from me."

I will be posting many more pictures of ruins soon, thanks to Hubert Robert, a.k.a. "Robert des Ruines" (we are not going to make any fun of his name here). Also we will be asking what the nature of the difference is between painting really old ruins, e.g. from the time of the Romans, that have the patina of age on them and destruction-by-erosion, versus really recent ruins which in Robert's case were usually created by rampaging mobs, knocking out any relics or symbols of the ancien régime. "Le vandalisme" of the revolution...planned destruction. Creative destruction? Destructive creativity? okay, enough.

ps. I note that I only seem to have that painting available in thumbnail size. Zoom? Not happening. There must be a better way to get high-quality images of paintings...any thoughts, Internet??

Monday, October 17, 2005

thank you henri cartier bresson, 1952

i am still figuring out how to get my camera and computer to talk together, and cooperate, so for today you will have to put up with a photo from Henri Cartier Bresson instead of me. The Ile de la Cite really does still look like this, and Paris is just this foggy in the morning, as I realized when I walked across the bridges to the Jardin du Luxembourg yesterday. So I waited until almost twilight to sit in the gardens facing a cool wet purple bed of flowers, a fountain, and cross-hatched geometric lines scratching the sky of jet fuel exhaust. very paul klee. this until i was booted out of the park by policemen wearing boxy charles-de-gaulle hats and blowing whistles at us all, because the sun was setting.

also here is some more Einstein, which I find very amusing...is he tongue-in-cheek or not? who knows!! the man was born in 1879; i don't understand people from other centuries...

  • "With fame I become more and more stupid, which of course is a very common phenomenon."

  • "There is only one road to human greatness: through the schools of hard knocks."
  • i thought it was just my dad who said things like this.

  • "I have never looked upon ease and happiness as ends in themselves- such an ethical basis I call the ideal of a pigsty…The ideals which have guided my way, and time after time have given me the energy to face life, have been Kindness, Beauty and Truth."
  • the worst part is, he's probably right...

  • "Although I am a typical loner in my daily life, my awareness of belonging to the invisible community of those who strive for truth, beauty, and justice has prevented me from feelings of isolation. "
  • it's hard being an introvert

  • "I never worry about the future. It comes soon enough."

  • "In the last analysis everyone is a human being, whether he is an American or a German, a Jew or a Gentile. If it were possible to hold only this worthy point of view, I would be a happy man."
  • apropos after my recent horrrendous immigration ordeal. when i walk down the street i now identify with anyone who looks like a recent immigrant, especially those of peuple du sud... probably to their immense confusion!...

    Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955) the fifties!

    Sunday, October 16, 2005

    photograph taken June 3, 1902, at 9:20pm, by M.G. Loppé

    This photo just about expresses how I feel about the bureacracies in Paris, after having been documented, stamped, measured, weighed, x-rayed, investigated, recommended, and filed -- and even made to parade about topless for about ten minutes one afternoon -- but it all seems to be over and I'm registered as a resident alien with full privileges, even at the Bibliothèque nationale.

    "Because of thermal expansion the Eiffel Tower is 15cm taller in summer."
    --Alfred Einstein

    ça bouge...things to know about the world around me here...

    Wednesday, October 12, 2005

    hello new blog

    i'm a grad student, in america, and i've just moved to paris. This is very strange for me since I usually work on German lit and live in places like berlin or sicily when I am doing work abroad, not paris. the french take some getting used to. as i am sure you will hear more about soon. but first, let me get things set up in here.

    and prepare for a lot of photos and mention of walter benjamin.

    soyez les bien-venus.