Sanity Savers 11: Whimsy

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Paris 19, Bassin de la Villette (Canal de l’Ourcq) Thank you to the local resident who set up this reading nook beside one of our canal bridges 🙂 Happened upon it yesterday with delight for the surreal humor, statement about the lives we lead, our neighborhood’s conviviality… A stray aluminum can caught the sunlight… To be continued xxxxx Aliss

French Religion?

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(Came across some notes I wrote a few years back for a friend who wanted to do stand up. Relevant?)

France has heart, and it has other body parts, like noses and taste buds. No matter what you’ve heard, the truth is the French are not Catholic or Protestant or Muslim or Jewish or Buddhist. They’re Foodist. Fundamentalist Foodist.

You may have heard of those people in Northern Scotland? The Findhorn Community? They caused a stir in the 70’s when they grew these humongous vegetables in very extreme and inhospitable climactic conditions because they could communicate with the spirits of plants, which the French have always known how to do.

They have a special relationship with their food. They worship food. Food is God. And the way they recognise the presence of the Divine is through their sense of smell.

Here’s another difference between the French and the Americans:

Americans won’t eat something that smells. The French won’t eat something unless it smells. It has to have an odor to get their attention. Think of the several hundred French cheeses, each with its genetically diverse flora and fauna.

Americans have all these obsessions about food and actually the defining quality of a person now when they enter a room is they announce what they do and do not eat, it’s part of their persona. Americans, when they introduce themselves, tell you right off the bat what they will and won’t eat. It used to be horoscopes. “Hi, I’m Lisa, I’m a Libra, Hi I’m Linda, I’m a Capricorn.” Now, it’s, “Hi I’m Joe, I’ve completely eliminated carbohydrates.”

Everybody in North America is on some kind of wierd dietary experiment. Forget about being vegetarian and vegetalian and vegan. That’s old hat. We’ve gone to a new level of hardcore food obsessions.

Americans evaluate their food in terms of chemical compounds, like their bodies are some kind of mechanical assembly line that will only take specific elements in specific orders. It’s becoming harder and harder to have a meal with a group of Americans. You just can’t come up with a menu that can be eaten by more than yourself. It’s a nightmare. I had this experience of being at the table with a mixed group of French and Americans and it was really incredible. French people lovingly peruse the menu, trying to figure out all these arcane terms that not even French people understand, it takes forever, it’s like foreplay….. The French were lovingly swirling their wine in their wine glasses and admiring the robe, the thigh, deeply inhaling the bouquet .. This is before even tasting it. The Americans were saying, “Could you pass me some more of that red anti-oxydant with tannin?” The French are spreading goat cheese on their crispy baguette, they’re savoring every bite and talking about things like terroir, tracing the origin and the ancestry of the goat, all the way back to Charlemagne…. The Americans were saying, “I’d really like more of that calcium with the high lipid content, but I have to cut down on animal fat.” “Those carbohydrates look very crunchy but I go into anaphylactic shock at the sight of gluten.”

 So food is really a problem. Beyond mad cow, beyond genetically modified organisms… no one is talking about the human problem. The real problem might not be the food, it might be the people….

 

One Divine Quality

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It’s been said that humor is humanity’s one Divine quality*… it’s definitely one of our more transformative creative faculties and one of the things I love most in my fellow human beings… Case in point:

What’s the real name of the famous Metro station pictured above, anagrammed for April Fool’s? Answer, “Opera” of course. I was one of millions of people in transit doing double takes from our seats on the trains and hopping off to laugh and take pictures of the unexpected and festive signs (“ApĂ©ro” loosely translates as “Happy Hour”). In all, 13 stations were renamed, my other fave being “CrimĂ©e (Crimea) et Châtiment (and Punishment),” this from an organization known more for its reliability and staunchly leftist union activity than for its sparkling wit (esprit). Coming so soon after the Brussels attacks, it was perfect timing, lightening up the atmosphere for all of us who gird ourselves psychologically before embarking on public transportation.

Another encounter with French humor was the Slip (underpants)-themed wrap party for Season 4 of the animated series Titeuf, based on the highest selling comic collection in France. Champagne flowed freely at the spacious new offices of Go-En productions, located in a former denim cloth factory downtown. Director Gark sporting his briefs over jeans…DSC02636

Right to left, creator Zep, Ivan, a big fan, Lewis Primo, music director, Nathalie Homs, voice artist..DSC02634

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If you want a good laugh over wine with bilingual Franco-American friends, try asking, “What’s the difference between French humor and US humor?” Vast subject, enough material for a doctoral thesis. Am compiling notes to share…. To be continued xxxx

PS Have decided to write separate post about US vs French humor, too big a topic to piggyback on to this one…. 🙂

*by famously grouchy 19th century German philosopher Schopenhauer