I MOVED I moved.
pictures of new apartment forthcoming!
I MOVED I moved.
pictures of new apartment forthcoming!
…and talks to Timothy Garton Ash there, who warns that in Iran at least, Europe must wield its own stick.
Maybe I should limit the focus of this blog to phallic imagery in the political criticism of Friedman and Garton Ash?
Tony Judt, in this past week’s New York Review of Books, tells us that America and Europe are “actually quite distinct places.”
The opportunity for such wise and learned pronouncements is Judt’s review roundup of T.R. Reid’s “The United States of Europe: The New Superpower and the End of American Supremacy,” Jeremy Rifkin’s “The European Dream: How Europe’s Vision of the Future Is Quietly Eclipsing the American Dream,” and my personal idol, Timothy Garton Ash’s “Free World: America, Europe, and the Surprising Future of the West.”
This brings into collusion one of my favorite and one of my most hated critics (see Judt’s alarming “Israel, the alternative”, published back in October 2003, though occasionally he is lucid enough– see “Anti-Americanism Abroad”, NYRB, May 1, 2003).
Judt cites some statistics which I often use when defending my recent move to Europe, nost notably the difference in paid vacation days (30 a year in Sweden, 4-10 in the States). His point, though, is to underscore that Americans work more than Europeans. Our work days/weeks are longer, and unemployment rates are lower. But in return for all these hours logged in the workplace, Judt suggests, we don’t get much in return from anyone, not even Mother Nature: “As a consequence, Americans live shorter lives than West Europeans. Their children are more likely to die in infancy: the US ranks twenty-sixth among industrial nations in infant mortality, with a rate double that of Sweden, higher than Slovenia’s, and only just ahead of Lithuania’s—and this despite spending 15 percent of US gross domestic product on “health care” (much of it siphoned off in the administrative costs of for-profit private networks). Sweden, by contrast, devotes just 8 percent of its GDP to health.” This is alarming. Our children are dying at the same rate of Lithania’s? Do they even have electricity in Lithuania, the Americentric perspective is tempted to ask. My ancestors fled Lithuania for a better life in the States; apparently they might have done just as well to stay behind, according to Judt’s scenario. Except for the whole scourge of the Cossacks thing.
Judt continues his tirade against America: “The picture in education is very similar. In the aggregate the United States spends much more on education than the nations of Western Europe; and it has by far the best research universities in the world. Yet a recent study suggests that for every dollar the US spends on education it gets worse results than any other industrial nation. American children consistently underperform their European peers in both literacy and numeracy.” Well, I never thought to blame the government for the fact that I am for all intents and purposes innumerate, but neither would I credit them because of my above average level of literacy (you might even say I’m compensating for the fact that I can’t do much more than add single digits).
As to the books themselves: Reid and Rifkin argue that America had better watch its back: Europe is gaining in productivity, thriving where America is “decaying,”; part of this Judt, via Churchill and Nicholas Barr, attributes to the innate value of the welfare state. Judt, for his part, finds the unabashed Europhilia of Reid and Rifkin “absurd.” The European Union is “the largely unintended product of decades of negotiations by West European politicians seeking to uphold and advance their national and sectoral interests. That’s part of its problem: it is a compromise on a continental scale, designed by literally hundreds of committees.” But bureaucracy is to Europe what democracy is to America: more than just a way of life; an entire value system. Is anyone suprised that at the heart of the European Union there should lie nothing but a serious of committees? And should it be otherwise? We’re talking not about a collection of states bound together by one culture, but a collective of various cultures with a very long history of warring with each other. America needs its democratic values, its rhetoric of liberty and freedom, to unify its disparate peoples. The EU needs its committees “to regulate the size of condoms and the curvature of cucumbers.” A set of universal European values is thus going to take some time– it has to be approved by a hierarchy of civil servants in associated cities none of whom speak the same language. And this is perhaps all to the good; as Judt writes, “Actually this makes the EU more interesting and in some ways more impressive than if it merely incarnated some uncontentious utopian blueprint.”
He is nowhere more insightful, however, then where he is pointing out the flaws in the rhetoric that make America consistantly lose to Europe in the “who’s better” competition: “It seems silly to write, as Rifkin does, about the awfulness of American “cookie-cutter housing tracts” as yet another symptom of American mediocrity without acknowledging Europe’s own eyesores. This is a man who has never stared upon the urban brutalism of Sarcelles, a postwar dormitory town north of Paris; who has not died a little in Milton Keynes; who has avoided the outer suburbs of modern Milan. Reid is right to insist that Europe has the best roads, the fastest trains, the cheapest plane fares. And yes, the EU is indeed closer, as Rifkin notes, “to the pulse of the changes that are transforming the world into a globalized society.” But it isn’t perfect by any means.”
Europe’s real problem, Judt proposes, is figuring out how to “integrate its ethnic and religious minorities, regulate immigration, or admit Turkey on workable terms.” In this respect, Europe and America diverge greatly; American culture has traditionally evolved as it assimilates various cultures in its “melting pot” (or salad bowl, depending if you’re on a diet). Look at the progress of American letters, from the waspish Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry James to the Jewish Saul Bellow and Philip Roth to Indian-American Jhumpa Lahiri. American voices, all. Europe, however, or to speak specifically of the one European country I know well, France, is fighting to defend centuries of white European culture against the onslaught of non-Europeans who, like it or not, are demographically going to be the France of the future. To continue using the champ litteraire as the site of assimilation, the Maghrebim have carved out a literary niche for themselves, with the Prix Goncourt going to Tahar Ben Jalloun in 1987 and to Amin Maalouf in 1993, post-colonial literature gaining a foothold in French universities, and–perhaps the surest sign of integration and mainstream acceptance– Francophone novels being sold in Fnac.
Garton Ash takes Judt by surprise with his optimism not only about both America and Europe, but about the fate of the Western Alliance: “what Garton Ash has in mind really is a new Atlantic Alliance and it is not by chance that Winston Churchill occupies a prominent place in his argument.”
By this point you should be jumping to read the article by yourself. Go ahead, you can do it. Nothing else to see here. I’ve overstepped my bounds far enough already. I authorize you to read tony Judt, just this once. But if he says anything else about dissolving the Jewish state, you tell him I want a word with him.
I just had myself a listen to the new "Phantom of the Opera" soundtrack– you know, the one attached to the film treatment that came out last month. I still haven’t seen the movie, mainly because I’ve been ridiculously busy with work, but I really am impatient to see it.
I’ve been wary, however, of the casting of this young upstart Emmy Rossum in the role of Christine Daae. Her saucer-eyes have been staring out of the cover of Elle magazine for a month, and her nubile figure in the film poster has been adorning the metro for the past month. I’m quite admittedly jealous of her– I would maim and injure anyone necessary in order to play Christine in the film adaptation. But in all of my jealousy, it never entered into my mind that she might not actually have a strong enough voice for the part. In the few interviews I’ve read with her she’s come off as very full of herself. All the interviewers say about her is basically well, she’s a bitch, but the bitch can sing.
You know what though?? Her voice is weak, the timbre of it creaky. She has a nice vibrato and some bell-like topnotes. But for the most part– I can happily, snarkily say that while she can sing ok, I’m unimpressed. Even Sarah Brightman, with her manufactured soprano, did it better. Rossum might be a "classically trained" soprano, as all the press packets boast of her. But that’s not saying much.
1. Samaritaine during the sales
2. the 90 degree temperature at Samaritaine because of the sales
3. wearing a heavy jacket and Uggs because the weather report said it was 40 degrees out, then getting outside and feeling how warm it is and seeing all the little frenchies in their lightweight jackets and ballet slippers, conscious of the fact that I look like a bear (or a moose??).
4. not knowing where to buy an affordable yet stylin’ duvet for my new bed. if anthropologie sells french imports in NY, and I am now in france, I should be able to find the kind of duvet I’d go running to buy at anthropologie for a lower price. right? so far, no dice. lecteurs francais, renseignez-moi svp!
5. the twenty-person checkout line at monoprix
1. the cutie tank top I got at claudie pierlot
2. scoring a *baguette tradition* just out of the oven at the good boulangerie (the one that lets me bring baxter in)
3. daft punk
4. cyndi lauper
5. the cashier who set up shop and shortened my monoprix wait by 15 minutes
6. finishing the articles I needed to read (John Brannigan on surrealism and derrida, Benjamin on surrealism, Claude Cahun’s "Les Paris sont ouverts")
7. getting email from my boy in portland
8. attaining the perfect bruschetta
9. finding I do in fact have a lot to say about Terry Eagleton, just in time to write the review I have due of After Theory on monday
10. it’s only saturday– still another day left in the weekend!
So the good outweighs the bad by 2:1. It’s good to remind yourself of that sometimes…
I don’t know why I’m all into lists lately but it’s easier than writing something coherent!
look for my name on this webpage! Do I know this person??
I know, I know, I’m on a blogging rampage today, but I’m sitting in front of my computer trying to write a paper and I don’t wanna.
god help us all.
He offers the blandest most predictable set of analyses on the Europe-US divide (did you know that Europeans are complex thinkers?) but ends with (as usual) a provacative and pithy summary of the Mideast-US divide. "Iran," he quotes an Iranian student at Oxford, "is the ultimate red state."
Well, there you have it. Really Mr. Friedman, you should stick to reporting east of the Mediterrannean. You’re on much more solid ground there.
Elsewhere in the Times, apparently French patriarchy is being threatened by a new law that lifts the requirement that the father bestow his name on his issue. Now, the baby can bear the mother’s name or a hyphenated combination of the two names.
French names are a subject that I find somewhat interesting to contemplate. For example, apparently, the French can tell if another French person is from Bretagne by their last name (witness the film "Diner de cons," in which the patronymic "Le Guirrec" inticates Breton lineage). Maybe one day I’ll be inoculated enough into French culture that I too will be able to tell someone is from Bretagne. But I met a girl from Nantes the other day whose name is Reisdorfer. How am I supposed to know then? She’s not even Jewish, although in New York a name like that would be tantamount to wearing a giant Star of David around her neck.
The article points out that last names with a "de" or "du" or some other "nobility particule" usually indicate a noble lineage. So I discovered on Bastille Day a couple of years ago when a friend of a friend (whose last name is Ducellier) informed said mutual friend that his family doesn’t celebrate on July 14th because if the Revolution hadn’t taken place, they would be royalty. Sheesh. Sorry about that whole barricade thing. I guess he’s not a fan of "Les Mis," either.
Then there’s the hyphenated last name issue. For example, my landlady’s last name is Herpe-Voslinsky. The first name is her husband’s name; the second is her father’s name, contrary to the American practice of putting one’s maiden name first, then one’s married name.
This opens up all kinds of possibilities; I’ve always assumed that I would not take my husband’s name, but maybe if I could wedge it into my real name, I might consider it. Then again, what’s the difference if I have my father’s last name or my husband’s? either way it’s still "le nom du pere" (in Cixousian terms). It’s still some guy’s name, not mine. Even if I took my mother’s maiden name– all last names are still patronymics, up to this point. Does that make Madonna the ultimate feminist for shedding her last name? And what exactly are the implications of passing on "matronymics" instead? Does that only replace patriarchy with another hegemonic ideology?
Any ideas? or should I stop jargoning and get back to working on my paper?
and still manages to look attractive. Mr. Darcy, how do you do it? “All in the pursuit of fair trade, my dear Elizabeth.”
stoplights…cars…strangers…dirt…his leash…commands…english…french…new york…privacy…silence…
toys under the bed…mommy leaving…his leash…water…getting dried off…getting brushed…
mommy…treats…other dogs…other species…mommy…friendly people…paris…sleeping on the bed…running around in circles…toys…mommy…
[courtesy of La Rochefoucauld, in my daily newsletter from Evene . Translation for everyone who took Spanish in high school: one ought to keep a resolution because it is good, and not because one has made it]
So here it is, only January 17th, and already I’ve kept my New Year’s Resolution: I found a new apartment! If all goes well with the lease-signing I’ll be moving on February 1st. Everything about it is supercool– the apartment itself, my future roommate, anna, my bedroom with its antique mirror and fireplace, the calm courtyard my window looks onto, the bed I’m buying from Ikea, the fact that the kitchen will actually be a SEPARATE room from my bedroom, all the space Baxter will have to run around in, the neighborhood (the 9th, near the apparently branché Rue des Martyrs and the less branché synagogue on Rue de la Victoire)…. I can’t wait.
There are other "resolutions" that I have for this year, but honestly, what’s the difference between a resolution and a goal?
Anyway, in case the lease and the ikea bed didn’t give it away, I’m staying in Paris for the foreseeable future. I guess we all saw this coming. What can you do but yield to the inevitable?
Well, there’s a new maxim for La Rochefoucauld. Il faut tenir à l’inévitable parce qu’il est bon, et non parce qu’il est inévitable.