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All You Need Is Louvre

[Yet another dispatch from Paris.]

The Louvre is to art as the Mall of America is to shopping. The Louvre (French for "humdinger") is the museum that will not quit. It goes on for miles. It claims, on its Web site, to have 35,000 works of art, but that is actually just the number of Cupids. When you visit the Louvre you may become so saturated in great artwork that you'll suddenly crave a Charles Bronson video or a Jackie Collins novel. (This is known in art circles as Masterpiece Fatigue.)

The ambitious Louvre patron must sprint through the halls in track shoes, gulping Gatorade, just to have a prayer of seeing one small section, such as the Italian Mannerist collection. On numerous occasions thieves have tried to steal the "Mona Lisa," only to collapse in exhaustion as they looked for an exit.

On this vacation, I've made three trips to the Louvre and seen about 1 percent of it. I plan to go back once more, and if I don't reappear by the end of the month, please look for me in 18th-century French sculpture, the crypt with the Sphinx, the Babylonian room with the Code of Hammurabi, or the food court, respectively.

Not everything in the Louvre is a masterpiece. Some of the art is in the category of Moderately Priceless. And often you come across something that you know, on first glance, is just a piece of crepe, as they say. Look at the Sumerian relics with their cuneiform tales, and you'll see that a lot of the writing is hackwork. Puns, cliches. Editing and revision are just so difficult when you write with a chisel.

The Louvre captures the collective genius of the human species, but it is a genius that long struggled to overcome artistic rules and regulations. Artists for centuries lived in monarchies and theocracies. In the Louvre you get the feeling that, for much of the history of Western Civilization, the main occupations were martyred saint and madonna with child. Every artist had to paint the "Flight Into Egypt" at least once. They had to paint the king almost weekly, in different wigs. To be an artist was to be told by a royal courtier: "Today, His Highness would like to pose in the wig that makes him look like Cher."

Certain artistic quirks lasted centuries. In the Middle Ages, painters packed their canvases with so many people that you would think they were getting paid by the head count. In the Renaissance, a disproportionate amount of human activity took place on the steps of Greco-Roman temples, as though no one would go inside because of the lack of air conditioning.

Within these restrictions, the artists still try to one-up one another, often by ramping up the gore. There are people getting hacked, eviscerated, cleaved, bludgeoned and, of course, decapitated like there's no tomorrow. It's a palace of mayhem! But it's all beautifully rendered, like a Sam Peckinpah movie. Clearly we've always been a civilization obsessed with violence, and also celebrity, which is why artists loved Saint Sebastian -- he was famous, and he got pincushioned with arrows.

Some artists compete by producing ever-larger paintings. This one cat, Le Brun, the favorite of Louis XIV, fills an entire room with four giant paintings of the life of Alexander the Great, a narrative of people fighting and dying on the steps of Greco-Roman temples. There's more Le Brun in other rooms. The man obviously had a lot of palace wall space to fill up. You kind of wish you could go back in time and confront him: "Drop the brush."

The great revolution was to paint ordinary people. Or, as Caravaggio did with the "Death of the Virgin," paint a sainted figure as though she were an ordinary person -- her plain, bare feet sticking out from the end of her deathbed.

Which brings up the "Mona Lisa." I pointed out to my kids how the painting has all these unfinished elements (she has no eyebrows; she has six fingers on her right hand; her left ear is protruding from her neck like a goiter). Across the room looms a massive Veronese, a painting that could cover the side of a barn. It shows a raucous "Last Supper." The Veronese screams: Look at me! But no one does. Everyone crowds around Mona.

Therein lies a mystery, because it is hard to detail precisely why, in a museum jammed with countless masterpieces, this one painting became the icon. Maybe it's partially because she is, in a place of kings and saints and messiahs, just a woman, rather plain, but full of depth, full of life. No scriptural back story is necessary. It's as though Leonardo had discovered something new, the individual. She's interesting, even noble, even though she is not a queen or a saint, and doesn't ride in a chariot.

She alone, on her little canvas, would make the Louvre a great museum.

By Joel Achenbach  |  August 27, 2006; 7:43 AM ET
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Next: Certain Doom Averted Again


RD: You're right again. The kit was worth the wait. Having only been through the American side of the National Gallery, I can only imagine how expansive the Louvre is. Joel paints the complete picture. "Carnage [as beautifully] rendered as a Sam Peckinpagh movie"...ROFL.

Posted by: jack | August 27, 2006 8:41 AM | Report abuse

I guess the Mona Lisa is like a beautiful unknown who crashes a Hollywood party.

Posted by: RD Padouk | August 27, 2006 8:55 AM | Report abuse

I prefer the Musée D'Orsay. Smaller with a beautiful collection of Renoir. Louvre is too massive, the line-up to get in is awful, and the dust was like ragweed... we had to leave due to sneezing. The Mona Lisa is like a postage stamp---we never got close enough to see it. Overall, it was rather disappointing.

Posted by: Miss Toronto | August 27, 2006 9:10 AM | Report abuse

This morning I send you a comment regarding to your trip in France , well I got it on the wrong post.
I put it on the insanity column by accident anyway I hope that you read it.
Regarding to the Louvre I have not seen it since I lived in France 40 years ago. This is the place where I went by myself and enjoyed the paintings and art in general.
It is also the place where I took the dates that would not get the message that I was not interested in them. I would spend as much time as possible in the most boring sections and skip the most interesting ones...
It worked and they never asked me out again....There is so much more to Paris than the Louvre, you need weeks to see it all, and when I go there I like to discover new things , and go places that I have not seen before.

Posted by: Christiane | August 27, 2006 9:32 AM | Report abuse

This morning I just read your article "An american road trip... in France". It was fun to read, for me it was a deja vu.
Last November I did the exact same thing except that my trip was two weeks long with a canadian friend of mine.My trip took me from Paris to the Mont Blanc down to the french riviera back up to Brittany, Normandy and back to Paris driving for five hours in the fog. I drove 3990 km in two weeks, I am sure that you can figure the millage...
My friend had this grand plan of where we were going to be and when we were going to be there. I like to travel and make plans as I go along. She admited later that the trip was a lot more fun the way I went about it. We did visit places that she never would have even thought about. We visited some castles like Fontainebleau and of course Versaille,and my theory is after you see one it is very much of the same thing over and over.I am french and I know about that part I have seen a lots of castles in my life... But by taking the trip that we did we saw places that are not on any tour guides like medieval cities that are being rebuilt , or some 8 century castle that are crumbling and are still fun to go into. Driving into the Burgundy region we sampled some of the best wines, got lost and tried to find a place to stay for the night and end up in one of the nicest gites de France (equal to a B&B in the US) for $45.00 for the night including a great breackfast.
I drove in the fog and misty clouds on our way to the Mount Blanc,cringed at the idea of another tunnel (I hate tunnels)and finaly see the Mount Blanc emerge in the sunlight. We spent the day in Chamonix . My friend took the cable car to go to the top of the Pic Du Midi while I waited nursing some hot chocolate I don't like hight.When we left Chamonix we took some pictures of the glaciers that came all the way to the edge of the highway,it was impressive.
From there we made our way To Lyon to see the textile museums. We had to stay in Lyon longer than expected. Before I left the U.S. I had bronchitis which was turning into pneumonia. Finding a doctor was easy, and the cost was minimal $20.00 for the visit and $18.00 for the prescription which would have cost me $100 plus dollar in the US.
People never mention having any emergencies on their trips, those things happen, and in this case it is worthwhile to know that if you are in France you are not going to go broke because you have to see a doctor.
We finally made our way to Marseille after stopping at Avignon,Valence,and Nimes where we visited the arenas and the square house,Plus few other places along the way. The two days we were on the french riviera in Marseille it rained but it was still very nice and pittoresque. After leaving Marseille I decided to go to St Marie De LA Mer. Our detour was worth it it was outside of the tourist season and the shopping was good, the place had so much charm that I would go back anytime.The area is very rugged with rice patties, white horses and bulls raised no doubt for the bull fights with a sprinkling of pink flamingoes here and there, just beautiful...
Of all the places that I had gone to this was my favorite, we still did not have much sun but we love it anyway. The food was great and the price was unbeatable $10.00 for bull steak, frenchfries, salad cheese coffee and mineral water included and the sound of the Gypsy kings in the background....
The rest of the trip was rushed we had lost a day here and there. we still took our time to go to Limoges and see the Porcelain factories, St Malo in Britanny , go to the Mount St Michel which I have seen so many times. We stop to pick up some oysters at Concarneau so we could have them for dinner at my mother's place in Normandy. Are you out of breath yet.
We had to be back in Paris by Saturday night I had to return the car in Paris .Sunday and Monday we visited Paris. Renting a car was not a problem for I had made my reservations in advance from the U.S. I dont drive standard it was of course more expensive but it was worth it. Next year I will take the same trip again but this time with my husband and instead of staying in hotels we will stay exclusively in the Gites for they were the best value and were really charming.

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Posted by: christiane.w | August 27, 2006 9:41 AM | Report abuse

I've never visited the Louvre. (Heck, I've never even seen the Da Vinci Code.) However, from what I hear it shamelessly under-represents many significant schools of artistic thought. Where are pictures of little puppies doing cute things? Further, I have heard no mention whatsoever of the expected Hall of Elvis on Velvet. In addition, it is my understanding that many of the naked ladies shown are sorely lacking in muscle tone. And big-eyed clowns of the school of Red Skelton? Totally absent. I mean, a shocking under-representation of Cubism, and other non-Euclidian rejections of post Renaissance perspective-based representational art I can live with. But no clowns?
That just ain't right.

Posted by: RD Padouk | August 27, 2006 9:54 AM | Report abuse

I saw Mona in 1976, as part of my pilgramage around Europe to celebrate my 30th birthday. Started out in London with cheap seats (and, yet, right out in front) for Rudolf Nureyev and the Scottish ballet dancing Le Sylphide, then Paris and Mona (I agree, entirely too small for the hype, but I was able to get pretty close (I still had knees then) - despite the hype, however, it was all very beguiling, even though I could have used a magnifying glass), and then the Alps -- saw the Matterhorn from the first base camp, just as it shook off the last vestiges of fog. Ended up walking down to Zermatt. Bad decision -- could barely walk at all the next day. Then off to Salzburg just in time for three glorious evenings during the Festspiel. Saw Benjamin Brittain's War Requiem in the Mozarteum. After 30 years, I still have not forgotten it.

Travel, perhaps like death, is a great equalizer. Too bad my knees and my back aren't up to it anymore. Although I'd willingly give up convenience to get back to Africa.

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | August 27, 2006 10:51 AM | Report abuse

Hall of Elvis on Velvet... like your ideas RD! Maybe they should recreate the Louvre in Las Vegas... oh, they could have some fun with that :)

Posted by: Miss Toronto | August 27, 2006 11:04 AM | Report abuse

No mention that Leonardo may have been a Cathar, or that the Mona Lisa may have been Leonardo's self-portrait. *sigh*

Posted by: Loomis | August 27, 2006 11:30 AM | Report abuse

I may have one working eye, but I ain't the one with the vision problems. For those who would like a short course on "how to see" I'd like to recommend two books among many any artistically inquisitive person could purchase:

Ian Chilvers' 2003 "The Artist Revealed: Artists and Their Self-Portraits"
(I've done my self-portrait--a nude--twice, with two different backdrops. Have you?)

Although Caravaggio never, as far as is known, painted a conventional self-portrait, he did depict himself as Bacchus, and in one of his final works, as the severed head of Goliath. In all likelihood predominantly homosexual, Caravaggio was intensely original in that he imagined familiar religious stories taking place among real flesh-and-b1ood people. Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio had many second-rate imitators.

The second book is Martin Kemp's 2000 "Visualizations: The Nature Book of Art and Science." It is a compendium of how artists painted or created according to the science of their day. Durer, for example, painted according to the four temperaments.

Some of my favorite images are the rapid stop shutter images of Brit Arthur Worthington, who, in 1908, was researching the dynamics of projectiles and the behavior of water. Those images have been stylized and in 1999 appeared as the "splash of milk" logo on a British Milk Marque Tanker.

Don't they teach art history at Princeton? And to think, Joel, that your Parisian trip was probably tax-deductible!

Posted by: Loomis | August 27, 2006 11:56 AM | Report abuse

Joel, You didn't mention the best part of the Louvre on a summer day, rolling up your pants legs and soaking your feet in the most practically designed fountain in the world. Perfect to recharge you feet after walking over from the left bank and then again after the march from the Mona Lisa to the Venus de Milo and back to the exit.

christiane.w, you would know the place. The old place is boarded up and everything now is under ground.

Posted by: bh | August 27, 2006 1:20 PM | Report abuse

SCC: christiane.w, you would NOT know...

Posted by: bh | August 27, 2006 1:42 PM | Report abuse

The next time that I am in Paris I will make apoint to go to the Louvre. I really enjoyed going there when I was young also it was not crowded which was also real nice. The Renaissance paintings were so overwhelming, they were bigger than life. this was my favorite area at that time.
In November we went to the Museum of Cluny it has a lot of the tapestries from the Medieval period one of my favorite time in history. I was there before and the museum had not changed much.

Posted by: Christiane | August 27, 2006 2:06 PM | Report abuse

The next time that I am in Paris I will make apoint to go to the Louvre. I really enjoyed going there when I was young also it was not crowded which was also real nice. The Renaissance paintings were so overwhelming, they were bigger than life. this was my favorite area at that time.
In November we went to the Museum of Cluny it has a lot of the tapestries from the Medieval period one of my favorite time in history. I was there before and the museum had not changed much.

Posted by: Christiane | August 27, 2006 2:07 PM | Report abuse

Sounds like the Mona Lisa is worth the wait and the walk. With so much to look at, I suspect it might all start to come together as one thing? The Louvre sounds like Wal-Mart with art.

Posted by: Cassandra S | August 27, 2006 2:51 PM | Report abuse

I was almost thrown out of the Louvre due to uncontrollable laughter over Rubens' paintings for Maria di Medici. The one that really got me was "The Government of Maria di Medici": Herself sits serenely, surrounded by cherubs stabbing one another in the back, while gold coins rain down from heaven.

Posted by: allbetsareoff | August 27, 2006 2:55 PM | Report abuse


The "Mona Lisa" is painted on wood, not canvas, as is the portrait by Leonardo we have in the National Gallery here in DC.

Jackie Kennedy brought the "Mona Lisa" here to the National Gallery in '62 or '63. I remember standing in line to see it although the painting itself barely stuck in my 7 or 8 year old mind. Hmmm, can you imagine the Bush administration making a similar deal with the French these days?

Posted by: pj | August 27, 2006 4:06 PM | Report abuse

The closest I've come to the Louve is to go by the Eurostar terminal at London's Waterloo Station, while going to Eltham Palace (Art Deco atop Elizebethan), Rochester, or Canterbury.

There's a lot to be said for smaller museums. The Corcoran or Phillips in Washington have an entirely different quality from the Mall monsters. Same for the Courtauld Gallery in London, where at least on a quiet day, you can get a close look at the beautiful surface of a Van Gogh. Or the Banqueting House, where the ceiling's a Rubens production and the IRA launched rockets at 10 Downing Street from near the front door. Over at John Soane's house, they'll show you the bullet hole near the front door. And, best of all, Dennis Severs' house has exactly one electric light, but lots of candles. One room replicates a Hogarth painting you saw at Mr. Soane's place.

Of course, visiting New York for the first time as an adult, I spent most of my time at the Museum of Modern Art and the vast Met. No Guggenheim, no Frick . . .

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | August 27, 2006 4:19 PM | Report abuse

The elusive road trip article to which Christiane alluded:

"Freedom's just another word for not knowing which way to go." Ha!

Posted by: mostlylurking | August 27, 2006 5:06 PM | Report abuse

From today's magazine piece:

"The United States has the infrastructure to support such spontaneity. You can pull off the highway, grab chow, spend the night, hit the road again."

That's what London photographer John Freeman (who has a nice website) said when I asked how he'd managed to rent a helicopter to take a photo of a Los Angeles freeway. Easy, he said, like so much else in the US. You just don't have to plan as you do in Europe.

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | August 27, 2006 6:04 PM | Report abuse

Excellent story, but I have a question. Does Joel write Achenblog, as the attribution to the story says? I kinda thought the rest of us had something to do with it.

Posted by: Slyness | August 27, 2006 7:00 PM | Report abuse

Good day to be reading Achenbach, both the kit and the Rough Draft were well written.

Or is it well-written?

Or does the latter mean written in a well?

Posted by: nellie | August 27, 2006 7:36 PM | Report abuse

'twixt this RD, and the road trip piece, I'd say Our Man Joel is on a hot streak.

Great stuff. I wonder, though, if the Lourve has a "La Salle de Bains de Dada".

I am, after all, Dadaist at heart.


Posted by: bc | August 27, 2006 7:37 PM | Report abuse

probably not, bc, but how about this:

in color:

Posted by: L.A. lurker | August 27, 2006 7:52 PM | Report abuse

When I go out with artists
They talk about language and the cubists and the dadaists
And I try to catch their meanings
And keep up with all of the martinis
I don't know which should be my favorite paintings

If I could see, if I could see, if I could
See all the symbols, unlock what they mean
Maybe I could, maybe I could, maybe I
Could meet the artists, and get to know them personally

If I were David Byrne
I'd go to galleries and not be too concerned
Well I would have a cup of coffee
And I'd find my surroundings quite amusing and
People would ask me which were my favorite paintings

The artists of the future
Will make up new things and different nomenclatures
And they'll stand among their pictures
And they'll sing and laugh and quote from scriptures and
When they go home they'll dream of brilliant paintings

-- Crash Test Dummies

Posted by: Dreamer | August 27, 2006 8:21 PM | Report abuse

I agree with Miss Toronto that the Musée D'Orsay is a much nicer museum, both in the scale, decor and style of paintings. I really don't care for much before the 18th century, which is the bulk of the Louvre.

Back in college, we went to the Uffizi in Florence and if I never see another Madonna and Child, it will be too soon.

I do think the Mona Lisa is an amazingly intriguing painting that has to be seen to be appreciated. Every one talks about the smile. I found the eyes haunting.

Posted by: yellojkt | August 27, 2006 8:43 PM | Report abuse

I just read that the Florida Keys were evacuated today. I hope kbertocci's return home from Key West diidn't turn into the road trip from he11.

Posted by: TBG | August 27, 2006 9:38 PM | Report abuse

My only comment: How hot can be the Louvre if it doesn't have a prize-winning children's book all about it?

In other words, you want a famous museum that kids might actually want to go see? Try the Met in New York City, thanks to "From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler" By E.L. Koinsberg.

Two kids run off to live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art for a whole week.

That book made the Met the ONLY place in NYC I actually want to see. Everything else I can see on TV, there's such an overwhelming influx of NYC and LA on TV that I'm actually not sure I know what the world outside NYC or LA looks like-- wait, I do live there, so I must.

On the other hand... sit your boys down and say this:

In the days when Paris was still a walled city, wolves very often came right up to the city gates, especially during the winter months when they could find nothing to eat. Wolf hunting was, therefore, not only a sport, key to safety. There used to be a louverie, a wolf-hunter's lodge with kennel outside the city gates. What more logical explanation, therefore, than the one which tells us that there used to be a louverie just outside the city gates, back in the days of the French king Philip Augustus (twelfth century AD), and he built his place nearby and that palace is now the Louvre, still carrying the name of the home of the wolfkillers.

Then MAYBE they'd be more jazzed about the Louvre, but probably let down to see miles of paintings and statues instead.

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 27, 2006 10:47 PM | Report abuse

To Mr. Achenbach: about your use of a very old-fashioned stereotype as an illustration for your road trip column:

Posted by: superfrenchie | August 28, 2006 12:00 AM | Report abuse

thanks for a lovely post.

Posted by: kt | August 28, 2006 12:28 AM | Report abuse

There is a beautiful DaVinci at the National Gallery in DC. I go see it every chance I get. The girl is sitting for her engagement portrait, she's sixteen, and you can see the sadness all over.

Joel, every artist also feels they MUST paint Judith holding Holofrenes' head. Another grisly scene. Still, after seeing Caravaggio's version of David with Goliath's head in Vienna, they all seem rather tame.

Today is my first day back at school. I won't meet the kids until next week, and I already can't sleep thinking about it. I'm always so excited about starting the school year. Ask me again in May, and my attitude will be reversed.

Wilbrod, I read that book in the 4th grade. Didn't make it to NY until about 15 years later. I wandered around the museum wondering where the restroom was that the kids used for hiding. I've added that title to my kids' reading list.

Posted by: a bea c | August 28, 2006 5:52 AM | Report abuse

Congratulations, Joel: Superfrenchie (above) has declared that this column is "largely stereotype-free." He doesn't like the illustration, and he hasn't forgotten your previous transgressions, but you seem to be on the road to redemption. It's possible you may be allowed to enter their country again some day.


TBG, not to worry: the drive was lovely, no traffic jams at all.

Posted by: kbertocci | August 28, 2006 5:53 AM | Report abuse

Superfrenchie, welcome, it's nice to have you here. Just fyi, not only did I not pick the illustration, I just now saw it for the first time. Art is above my pay grade. I have yet to see the article but I hear it got big play in the Travel section. I've been in the woods in the Blue Ridge Mtns of North Carolina. No Internet, no cellphone, certainly nothing as exotic as The Washington Post. I'm working on a story.

Travel stories have a Comments function, so if you go to my Road Trip piece you can see instant reviews, including the usual umbrage.

I can't remember if there's a policy about writers responding to comments on a story. In general I think it's a bad idea -- that the story should speak for itself and the writer shouldn't then get in a squabble with commenters who misrepresent what the story says. But it's tempting!

I am going back to the woods.

Posted by: Achenbach | August 28, 2006 6:57 AM | Report abuse

The one thing that I found very frustrating with my trip in France was the fact that sometimes we had some beautiful vistas and we wanted to stop and take pictures,but there was not any place to park because of lack of shoulder along the smaller roads.
Also so long as you stayed on the main highways directions were fine, as soon as you were in the country the sign to turn somewhere was at the place were you had to turn, so you passed it and had to turn around .
This is how we go lost in Burgundy looking for a place for the night and went in circle for an hour or so following directions that were incorrect. We ended up in a small town asking the grocery clerk about lodging and this is how we ended up in the nicest "gite" for our whole vacations.
Most of the time we stayed in a hotel chain called "Campanille" the price was always about the same $60 per night some were better than other. There is a chain that was very inexpensive like $35 a night with double bed a bunk on top and shower, we wanted a little better than that.
I spent a lot of time on the Autoroute , I really appreciated the number of rest stop that were announced along the road well in advance, which make it easy if you have children and need to stop. You had the choice between a regular rest stop or one that had all the accomodations like hotel restaurants and small shops.The price in the stores were actually cheaper than some of the touristy places that I went to and for the same item, same brand. We could use some of those type of rest stops here....
After traveling for 3 weeks with my friend , we are still friends, so the trip must have been pretty good. The only thing that I will not do again is standing outside of the Eiffel tower for one hour in the cold. My friend had to go there and I hated every minutes of it I have been there too many times.....I feel like a tourist guide at this point...

Posted by: Christiane W. | August 28, 2006 7:39 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, friends. I see we have lots of comments for this kit. Perhaps everyone is still doing the weekend. Hope that was good. Everyone got some rest and enjoyed themselves.

Getting ready to do laundry. And try to do some reading today. Today is the anniversary of my mother's death. Tomorrow is my g-daughter's birthday. Amazing this thing call life.

I do hope it's a good story you're doing in North Carolina, Joel. The mountains are beautiful, so they tell me, I've never been there.

Good morning, Nani and Error.

Please know that God loves you so much more than you can imagine through Him that died for all, Jesus Christ.

Posted by: Cassandra S | August 28, 2006 8:03 AM | Report abuse

If it's Monday, it must be time for French Umbrage. Let's hear it, Francophiles!

Hi, Cassandra.


Posted by: bc | August 28, 2006 8:13 AM | Report abuse

Joel, I see what you mean about the travel section comments. Some people just don't get it. But don't fret, all they do is display their own ignorance. Can't be much fun to read, though, after producing such a clever article.

How did you get everyone in such a small car? Just how compressible is your youngest?

Posted by: RD Padouk | August 28, 2006 8:13 AM | Report abuse

RD: The young are quite plastic. In a pinch we can still wedge the five of us into a Beetle for a road trip providing it's less than two hours. By the time we're reaching our destination, fun has given way to ..."he's breathing on me"..."she's looking at me"..."do you want to walk home?????"

Posted by: jack | August 28, 2006 8:39 AM | Report abuse

Joel's not the only one with interests in France. When we moan about the issues of homeowning in 'Murrica, we should think about this and be grateful for the problems we have:

Posted by: slyness | August 28, 2006 8:40 AM | Report abuse

I'm sure it was a little tight, RD, but the Focus has a decent amount of interior room for a "small" (by US standards) car.

I find it a little amusing that the French (and other contries inContinent) would rent cars with manual transmissions. That practice disappeared in the US decades ago, since Americans fell in love with the ease of the Automatic slushbox. These days about 5% of new cars are sold with manuals, IIRC. Sadly (IMO), it's becoming a lost art.

If a US company handed out manual trans cars as if there were no difference to consumers, they'd likely end up replacing clutches every month, so it's probably just as well.

Sorry for *that* trip into McWeingartenLand, as well.


Posted by: bc | August 28, 2006 8:49 AM | Report abuse

Artists are visionaries, scientists can be, as well. A Texas zoology professor with an apocalyptic vision of the future gets reported to the FBi as a terror threat? I'm not making this up, folks:

Meet the pleasant, if apocalyptic, 'Dr. Doom'

Web Posted: 08/26/2006 10:41 PM CDT
Lisa Sandberg
Express-News Austin Bureau

AUSTIN -- When classes resume at the University of Texas at Austin this week, 90 impressionable undergrads will file into an ecology class taught by a chatty zoology professor known -- not always out of earshot -- as "Dr. Doom."

His real name is Eric Pianka, and students enrolled in his ecology, evolution and society course will hear a sad synopsis of Earth's vanishing species and habitats -- coupled with an apocalyptic warning about humans racing obliviously toward the edge of a high cliff.

If he models his lectures on previous ones, Pianka may remark that the planet would be better off without 90 percent of the humans who now populate it -- no offense to anyone in particular.

"We should have done something about our population 25 or 30 years ago," the Denton A. Cooley Centennial Professor of Zoology said during a recent interview at his university office.

"Now we're going to have to go into a collapse. It's going to be very painful. The death rate is going to have to exceed the birth rate. We're going to have famines; civilizations are going to fall apart," he added.

Such views have turned Pianka, a 67-year-old lizard expert, into one of UT's biggest public relations headaches.

It started in the spring, when Pianka gave two academic audiences the same doomsday speech he's been delivering for years. Only this time, a reporter happened to be present, and turned Pianka's remarks into a story in the Seguin Gazette-Enterprise.

News services picked it up, the blog world and airwaves went crazy, and soon Pianka was being reported to the FBI as a terror threat. The FBI saw no need to launch a formal investigation, but agents did meet with the professor to discuss the death threats that poured in.

Unflattering op-ed pieces and news stories appeared nationwide. The Boston Globe likened him to a "zealot in scientific garb."

Loved or hated, Pianka is a scientist with stellar credentials who uses his lectern to advance ideas that can challenge, enlighten, frighten and offend -- sometimes all at once.

In March, just before the headlines erupted, the Texas Academy of Science named him its Distinguished Scientist for 2006; now the organization won't comment on his selection or any aspect of the controversy, said its president, David Marsh.

Pianka's employer has stood behind him. In a sense, Pianka states what many scientists have been saying for decades: Exploding human populations, particularly in developing countries, coupled with voracious consumption patterns in developed ones, put great strain on Earth and its resources, which in turn create conditions ripe for wars, famines and environmental catastrophes.

Pianka might be more blunt than others, said his boss, Robert Jansen, UT's chairman of Integrative Biology, who called Pianka one of the department's "most senior faculty members with a long and distinguished career in both research and teaching."


Posted by: Loomis | August 28, 2006 9:43 AM | Report abuse

wow, i'm up early, almost on east coast time. good morning all.

joel, i was tempted to leave a comment on superfrenchie's blog, but thought of better of it. i mean if they're still on things like french people and nachos...

it's funny what people remember from childhood and then really want to see as adults. i loved "from the mixed up files of mrs basil e frankweiler" and had a similar desire to see the met (grew up in nj, so we had a class trip at some point). i've been in france several times, but the only place outside of paris that i had a really strong interest in seeing was le mont saint-michel because its description caught my imagination as a kid.

Posted by: L.A. lurker | August 28, 2006 9:45 AM | Report abuse

I wouldn't mind having a room in a chateau. Just saying, can't be any draftier than the old house I grew up in as a kid.

In India many old forts and palaces etc. are also being converted to hotels or tourist spots. It makes economic sense. They're not really meant for single-family dwellings.

Since castle owners can no longer tax the peasantry, it's time to bilk the tourists instead.

And should there be a real estate slump, I wonder how many people in McMansions will be taking on lodgers to pay the mortagage? Serves the zoning snobs right.

I'm surprised at the trend of couples and tiny families inhabiting houses easily large enough to house a family of 10 and miscellaneous pets.

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 28, 2006 9:47 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, all -- is it just me, or does anyone else think that the excerpt below was a clear shout-out from the Boss to Curmudgeon? On account of hos he (Mudge) was there at the time, etc.?

"[O]ften you come across something that you know, on first glance, is just a piece of crepe, as they say. Look at the Sumerian relics with their cuneiform tales, and you'll see that a lot of the writing is hackwork. Puns, cliches. Editing and revision are just so difficult when you write with a chisel.

Posted by: annie | August 28, 2006 10:08 AM | Report abuse

Wilbrod, I sat in on a process this spring to address neighborhood concerns about immigrants. The fire code doesn't say anything about how many people can live in a place, but the current housing code here allows 11 adults in a thousand square foot house. One of the recommendations was to drop that to 8.

Sad to say, immigrants are attracting a lot of negative attention for overcrowding, noise, trash, and parking too many vehicles around their homes. Neighborhood representatives want the City to solve these problems, but their proposed solutions are unconstitutional. Getting newcomers to fit in is really where the rubber meets the road, and it's not a pretty process to participate in.

Posted by: slyness | August 28, 2006 10:13 AM | Report abuse


Yeah, I smiled when I read that paragraph and thought the same thing you did. I hope Mudge caught it.

Posted by: pj | August 28, 2006 10:14 AM | Report abuse

Associated Parody News Report:

Concerned locals of the Blue Ridge Mountain region of North Carolina are continuing to report the sporadic sightings of an unidentified wild man. Based upon the state of his hair, it is suggested that the man has been living a feral existence for a prolonged period of time. Although clearly disturbed, the individual can be lured out of the woods for short periods with the promise of large quantities of Starbucks Coffee. During brief interviews the man is reported to mutter incoherent phrases that seem to make passing references to humorless French people and a secret plot to deny him reliable wireless access. He is also under the delusion that there exist imaginary people who commnicate with him through the internet. Citizens are advised to approach with extreme caution.

Posted by: RD Padouk | August 28, 2006 10:15 AM | Report abuse

Slyness, I said family of 10, not 11 adults. That's not a family, that's an frat house ;). McMansions are more like 10,000 sq feet or more.

They are NOT 1,000 sq feet, which is the size of a moderate 2 BR apt.

I know what you mean, I've seen those tiny houses hosting a lot of immigrants, and the odds are some or all of those people are illegal as well, the one person that actually has the legal means rents or buys the house and the rest are simply unregistered renters.

It's a crime hazard-- anybody will target a house that seems to have a lot of immigrants who might not have bank accounts.

Not to mention that you can't tell if human rights are being violated or not (slavery, prostitution, etc.) because the immigrants are very unlikely to talk to others for fear of deportion.

"Noise, cars, and trash" is the least of my concerns.

11 adults in 1,000 sq feet is too many. Most single-person studios that rent are at least 350 sq feet minimum in this area.

But what are you gonna do if housing prices are so expensive even americans with real jobs and families have to shack up that small?

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 28, 2006 10:33 AM | Report abuse

Yes, annie, I caught that graf, laughed, but thought, "Oh, crap, I've BOOO'ed one of Joel's punchlines." (Because he almost certainly wrote his column before I posted my little thing the other day..)

Posted by: Curmudgeon | August 28, 2006 10:41 AM | Report abuse

Wilbrod writes: "I'm surprised at the trend of couples and tiny families inhabiting houses easily large enough to house a family of 10 and miscellaneous pets." We are in the early stages of house-hunting, and the builders out there are mostly responding to what the market wants--big walk-in closets, media rooms, eat-in kitchens (along with the formal dining room), home office, catherdal ceilings, etc. We look at one house yesterday that you could easily sublet the basement and never even see the tenants. The living area was like 3,000 square feet, not counting the basement. Frankly, we don't want anywhere near that much house, but on the other hand, the tax laws say we have to buy more than we sell the old house for, so what are you going to do?

Posted by: ebtnut | August 28, 2006 10:47 AM | Report abuse

People are idiots, Bad Sneakers.

But how was the concert? I've never seen them; how were they? What did they perform?

Posted by: Curmudgeon | August 28, 2006 10:52 AM | Report abuse

Wilbrod, therein lies the problem. On one end you have 3 or 4 people living in a 10,000 sq. ft. house with rooms they never use, or rooms built exclusively for washing the dog, eating up tons of heating oil or gas and electricity. Then you have people who can't afford even a small 1,000 sq. ft. house without bringing in the relatives or friends to help pay the overhead. Thank you Republicans.
While I'm ranting, I have a question. I don't go to a lot of concerts, but was at one last night (Steely Dan, who else). Why do so many in the audience seem to spend most of their time getting up and down to get more beer and/or spend the whole concert talking with each other or phoning friends? I popped off at the people next to us for talking continually, I realize I should have been more calm about it (my Irish was up) but it was very annoying to try to listen to one of my favorite songs with the constant drone of voices in my ear.

Posted by: Bad Sneakers | August 28, 2006 10:54 AM | Report abuse

Uh oh. We're experiencing Posting Timewarp Syndrome again. It's spooky.
I agree with the poster's to Joel's Travel piece. It's a much better idea to take a train to somewhere close to your destination and then rent a car. Much less hassle. And European passenger trains are the best!
RD, your parody today was priceless.

Posted by: CowTown | August 28, 2006 11:00 AM | Report abuse

People are so used to experiencing entertainment in their homes that they forget, when in public, the other people who are also being entertained at the very same moment in the very same place; or else they just don't care. Thus the prevalence of bad manners. This is more true some places than others. Movie theaters are bad because it is dark and seems a little like home; rock concerts are by definition loud, often in places also used for sporting events, and have a casual feel. Outdoor theater may pose the same problem (particularly with cellphones). Formal, indoor concerts and performances tend to be in more intimidating surroundings. Then of course there are places like the Louvre, where truly bad manners can still get you expelled or, maybe, shot. Art with teeth.

RD, you compel me to remind you of "Happy Kitty Bunny Pony". Perhaps we could send the Louvre a copy. With its history as a wolf-catching hub, it might appreciate some fresh prey.

Posted by: Ivansmom | August 28, 2006 11:00 AM | Report abuse

Ha, funny, RD.
Wonder if Joel's actually working on a story while on retreat, or in some sort of exile like Napoleon being sent to St. Helena?


Posted by: bc | August 28, 2006 11:00 AM | Report abuse


I agree with you (and countless others) about train vs. car travel in Europe. I never needed a car to get where I wanted to go in England or on the Continent. When my husband and I wanted to visit Chambord, we took the train to Blois and rented bicyles for the last part of the trip. That was really fun and a good way to see the surrounding countryside. We stopped at a little store to buy cheese, bread and fruit, and had a picnic on the grounds with a perfect view of the chateau.

I do sympathize with Joel's situation, however--being the dad with a whole family in tow, he would understandably wish to be "in the driver's seat"--if not figuratively, at least literally.

Posted by: kbertocci | August 28, 2006 11:12 AM | Report abuse

Kber, glad you got home okay from the Keys.

Hubby and I have always done the railpass thing in Europe, but we've had the conversation about what to do if there are more than 2 of us. Would it be cheaper to rent a car if we have four? Of course, we've been pretty lucky about our rail trips as well. Wish the US had the passenger rail infrastructure. The only time I've been on a train in this country, it wasn't a pleasant experience.

Posted by: slyness | August 28, 2006 11:18 AM | Report abuse

Bad Sneakers - That's an ancient problem. I attended many a Greatful Dead concert in the seventies, and never failed to get stuck next to some idiot who could not have a good time unless he screemed "AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH" at the band every five minutes.

Posted by: CowTown | August 28, 2006 11:26 AM | Report abuse

"D' ya hear that? That's my SKULL!"


Posted by: bc | August 28, 2006 11:40 AM | Report abuse


Hate to say it, but builders have realized they with a relatively small increment in building material costs, they can charge ridiculous rates for homes far too big for the average buyer. They're not interested in "modest, affordable" because the profit, while there, isn't large enough.


'Mudge, I'm sure your hieroglyphics memoir pre-dated JA's comment. Can't wait to see what he does with your Kit.


Posted by: Scottynuke | August 28, 2006 11:47 AM | Report abuse

SCC: that with a relatively small...

*looking for more coffee*


Posted by: Scottynuke | August 28, 2006 11:51 AM | Report abuse

LA Lurker: //joel, i was tempted to leave a comment on superfrenchie's blog, but thought of better of it.//

Feel free to tell me here. I'm flexible :)

Posted by: superfrenchie | August 28, 2006 11:56 AM | Report abuse

Monsieur le Achenbach, Allemand swine-pig person:

Once again, have you resort to le essay full of le cliché, to speak nothing of the very great insult to the gloire that is Paris that you are so bored with it you must get into American-made Detroit Ford car and travel away from her. The Eiffel Tower is too good for you out your window? The lights too bright in your eyes? Ah, too bad! Now we must ride somewhere else where the beauty of Paris is not such as offends our stunted Americain sensibility and go live in Comfort Inn and eat the pizza of the Irish. Ptooie!

And to make matter more badly, then you compare our beautiful basilica of Sacre-Coeur with your paltry, broken-down Spanish mission of Alamo in San Antonio, which you most incorrectly described as being in Lax, wherever that may be. We have the city of Aix, and Aix-en-Provence, but this place Lax I have not heard. But it is probably near Crawford where Le President Buisson has his chateau d'ete, since I have heard President Buisson is most Lax person when it comes to repairing hurricane damage. Ha-ha! I make le joke at your expense now!

Other wondrous and beautiful places we have are Aix-en-Pains, which has many fragrant bakeries that make the baguettes, and Aix-Marques-Le-Spot, which is where a French treasure is buried, of course. And there is Aix-Baux, which is where Le GameBoy is manufactured, and Aix-Calibre, where swords and pistol barrels were once made. There is Aix-Taci, where Hedi Lamarr once swam in le bouff, and Aixes-Anose, where le game of le Tic, le Tac et Le Toe was invented by M. Jean-Paul Parchesi in 1638. And did you, silly boy, go to any of these place? Main non!

Once further, your Alamo place has plaster falling off walls and le bullet holes in walls that has not been patched, this is you call a national monument? This you compare to the most beautiful church in Montmartre? In this place your M. David Croquette and M. le Colonel Travis were miserably defeated by le Mexicanos, and yet you Americains have nerve to make le joke about French military skill? (Since he lost so badly, does that make him Le Chicken Croquette, eh? Ha-Ha! He was too coq-sure! Oh, today I am slaying of myself!)

You write the cliché about tanks in streets of Normandy; this you should save for your memoirs instead of newspaper travel story. To quote your own Monsieur Beaucaire person (Le Bob Hope), "Tanks for the memoires."

You should stop being travel journalist and go home to America and go into piney woods of North Carolina someplace and become wild nature person.

Posted by: Le Curmudgoise | August 28, 2006 11:56 AM | Report abuse

I just knew this was coming Mudge.
I just knew.

Posted by: RD Padouk | August 28, 2006 11:57 AM | Report abuse

Before I left for France I checked the price for railpasses. For 2 people it was going to be more expensive than renting a car for two weeks.
We got an Opel automatic, unlimited millage 12 days $750.and we were not limited to where the railroad system was going to take us. Plus the rail system was not feasable for the western part of the country. the car was absolutly great. When I came back to the U.S. I looked for one but guess what they are not available in the U.S.. (too good of a gas millage)heaven forbid.

Posted by: christiane w. | August 28, 2006 12:04 PM | Report abuse

Padouk, I keep tellin ya, you're just wasting your money dialing that Psychic Friends Network.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | August 28, 2006 12:06 PM | Report abuse

Le Curmudgoise, c'est magnifique. Or qu'elle fromage. Comme ci comme ca.

Posted by: Ivansmom | August 28, 2006 12:13 PM | Report abuse

Monsieur Le Curdmurdgoise

Tres bon commentaire , je n'ais jamais autant ris. Bonne facon de continuer la journee.....Love your sense of humour.

Posted by: christiane w. | August 28, 2006 12:14 PM | Report abuse

Le Curmudgoise: Your humor has again caused me to fall from my chair, to my great embarassment. Please stop at once.

Posted by: CowTown | August 28, 2006 12:14 PM | Report abuse

Mudge that's an all-timer. That's your best ever. I want Le Curmudgoise to stop in at least once a week. Or he should start his own blog!

[Returning to woods and wild-man agenda.]

Posted by: Achenbach | August 28, 2006 12:26 PM | Report abuse

christaine w., actually, some Opels are sold in the US, badged as other GM cars (since Opel is a General Motors brand, like Chevrolet, Hummer, Pontiac, GMC, etc.). I don't know what model you drove, but if you do remember, I could tell you if that model made it to the US in one guise or another.


Posted by: bc | August 28, 2006 12:27 PM | Report abuse

Wonderful, Mudge.

Whatever happened to the three-part blog that you and bc were working on?

I want to know where in the Blue Ridge Joel is! North or south? Hey, I can take you to the Appletree group campground, where Eric Rudolph eluded the feds.

Posted by: slyness | August 28, 2006 12:33 PM | Report abuse

Slyness, I think at last word they were up to an opus in four parts (not to be confused with an Opel in four parts, which is the ending to another travel story)

Posted by: SonofCarl | August 28, 2006 12:45 PM | Report abuse

It has been reliably eported that the Wild Man has taken up residence in the Biltmore mansion. He apparently keeps babbling something about separation anxiety and French chateau.

Posted by: ebtnut | August 28, 2006 12:46 PM | Report abuse

It's undergoing renovations, slyness.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | August 28, 2006 12:49 PM | Report abuse

For just a moment I was taking deep umbrage, Mudge, but as I scrolled down the answer became clear. Thank you for keeping that till my cup was empty.

I am mired in year end reportage, lists of endless lists of details. You have inspried my motto for today. "It will all become clear if you just scroll down."

Posted by: dr | August 28, 2006 12:54 PM | Report abuse

I'm not surprised Le Curmudgoise left Aix-Hauste off the list... Very poor air quality.

Or Aix-Chequer, where all the francs come from.


Posted by: Scottynuke | August 28, 2006 12:55 PM | Report abuse could I? And ya know, sotty, I was wracking my brain, too. I shall probably spend the afternoon wracked in self-Aix-amination.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | August 28, 2006 12:56 PM | Report abuse

I'm shocked, SHOCKED, that Fisher's horning in on JA's territory:

And to make matters worse, K-guy left a comment there!! :-O

Posted by: Scottynuke | August 28, 2006 12:59 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: ebtnut | August 28, 2006 1:00 PM | Report abuse

Le Curmudgoise est magnifique.

Posted by: vestejaune | August 28, 2006 1:01 PM | Report abuse

dr, would that be a BOO (Boodling Out of Order), or the acronym I have to remind myself of before I start writing some silly boodleage after reading halfway down: Read All The eFffing Comments - RATFC.

I'm too polite to tell you how I pronounce that when I'm talking to myself.


Posted by: bc | August 28, 2006 1:05 PM | Report abuse

I'm glad to know I haven't missed it. Having been out of pocket for a few days, I was a bit worried. The world awaits the masterpiece, Mudge and bc!

Posted by: slyness | August 28, 2006 1:07 PM | Report abuse


first explain to us the humor in the recent post by monsieur curmudgoise.

then, if you're feeling up to it, explain the literary technnique of an unreliable narrator and how this might be humorous, especially if the writer is a journalist.

or do think that the author and the narrator are the same person? (hint, see post on the "cafe society" blog by bc, August 14, 2006 05:14 PM)

for my comment on joel's cliches, see the August 15, 2006 03:37 AM post on the cafe blog (and i should have added that the fact that nachos are mexican makes it even funnier).

Posted by: L.A. lurker | August 28, 2006 1:10 PM | Report abuse

Issss aright, ebt, sssumtahms ah drink too deeply from da Boodle...



Posted by: Sottynuke | August 28, 2006 1:30 PM | Report abuse

Pardon moi, this is, how you say, SCC: sometimes les fingers, they get so confusement, and omit les letters from les mot (viz. Sotty instead of le Scotty). And sometimes they put in mistaken letter altogether (viz. "main non" should be "mais non").

Bad fingers! Bad!

Posted by: Le Curmudgoise | August 28, 2006 1:41 PM | Report abuse

Anyone ever been part of an FDA clinical drug trial? Especially, anyone ever been subject to a "sham procedure," part of a control group within the study? Your overall experiences, positive or negative?

Posted by: Loomis | August 28, 2006 1:45 PM | Report abuse

If you want bulletholes, forget the stinkin' Alamo! Sacre Couer, Sacre Bleu!Go down to the front of Mission San Jose and look how Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Riders used the front of the church for target practice.

Posted by: Loomis | August 28, 2006 1:49 PM | Report abuse

LA Lurker, I have nothing about using cliches for humor purposes, when it is clear that it is indeed humor. Monsieur Curmudgoise's piece is indeed funny.

All I have said was that the cafe piece was full of stereotypes (or cliches). It's also funny. Apparently we agree on that. I did not make any negative judgment on that piece.

I did criticize the use of a DS for the illustration to the "treep" piece. I did not see any attempt at humor there, just a reliance on the (incorrect) stereotype of the French as being low-tech. The car has not been sold in 31 years, and at a time when Renault is worth more than GM and Ford combined and might buy either one of them at any time, I just said that it was time for some Americans to update their stereotypes.

Stereotypes and cliches in and of themselves are not the problem. How one uses them is sometimes a problem. That's all.

Posted by: superfrenchie | August 28, 2006 1:50 PM | Report abuse

Careful Superfrenchie. For that critique, the next cartoon of France will involve tourists trying to ride burros (aka Equus asinus) and bicycling into panels of glass toted by people with berets and striped sweaters.

Never provoke an artist with a theoretical sense of humor, mon ami.

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 28, 2006 1:51 PM | Report abuse

bc, its a good thing you can't hear what my mind's voice says when those numbers at the bottom of those lists and lists of details are not the number I need them to say.

Είστε το οπίσθιο άκρο ενός γαιδάρου does not even come close.

Even mild things look so much more vituperative in another language.

Posted by: dr | August 28, 2006 1:54 PM | Report abuse

Correction: I have nothing *against*, not nothing *about*...

Posted by: superfrenchie | August 28, 2006 1:55 PM | Report abuse

Loomis -- one of my four brothers has schizophrenia (NB: I cannot STAND it when people are described as "schizophrenic." I mean, we don't say that someone is "cancerous" do we, as though they were no more than their disease)?

Anyway, our mom found an NIH study through her work with NAMI. It required (a) our brother to be an in-patient for a year; (b) all of us full-blood siblings to spend a few weekends on site taking a bunch of tests, being interviewed, and giving blood samples; (c) our parents to give blood samples.

It was *really* tough on our brother (and frankly, the time I spent there wasn't much fun). But . . . it was so worth it. Between the time he was diagnosed and the time of the research protocol (1999), an entire new class of drugs had been developed. They had to experiment with various combinations of the new drugs, and some of the experiements weren't so pleasant. But in the end, he has the drugs that work for him, and he has been symptom-free now for seven years. Before the drug trials, he had episodes requiring hospitalization at least once a year.

If anyone had told me eight years ago that the day would come when my brother would live in his own house, run his own gardening business, manage his own finances, and live a relatively happy normal life, I never would have believed it.

It is one of the things I am absolutely most grateful for, in a life full of blessings.

Taking part in the research trials was a gutsy move on our brother's part, but he IS SO GLAD HE DID IT.

Not sure how applicable this is to your own situation, but hope it helps.

I thank God every day for NIH and the FDA, and for the doctors and scientists whose work they test.

Posted by: annie | August 28, 2006 2:10 PM | Report abuse

Public Service Announcement:

Dave Barry almost never writes paragraphs on his blog, usually just short comments with links to funny news items or internet sites. But today, in honor of Tropical Storm Ernesto, which is heading straight for Dave's chateau, as it were, he came up with some humorous remarks. I'm not sure they are as funny to those of you outside the Cone of Death--

--but I, myself, found them very amusing.

(scroll to 10:11 a.m.)

Posted by: kbertocci | August 28, 2006 2:13 PM | Report abuse

Florida: one state I won't live in.

I liked the link to the vermont newsarticle on the nude teens.

We all know what should be done. Instead of telling teens they're doing wrong... we should bus up some AARP-aged members, the less fit the better, for some nude role modelling.

Either the whole town'll become a nudist camp, or the teens will start putting clothes on the minute they see wrinkles n wings coming their way to praise them for joining the nudist revolution.

I might go up there to do some sketching, but I doubt I can do it before the frost forms and the teenagers decide blue butts ain't worth it anymore.

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 28, 2006 2:24 PM | Report abuse

With all due respect, superfrenchie, when you say you "did not make any negative judgment" on Joel's piece by remarking that it was full of cliches and/or stereotype, that is indeed a negative criticism all by itself. Perhaps there is a language difference or something going on, but over here, when you say somebody's writing is full of cliches, that's definitely a slam. To then acknowledge that the use of a cliche was used humorously doesn't much take the sting out.

In English, the word "cliche" is itself a sign of poor writing, and is (theoretically) frowned upon. The word "stereotype" is somewhat more acceptable. Yes, many writers, including Joel (and I humbly add myself) deliberately like to play with stereotypes, but it is understood when someone is doing that, it is gauche to mention it. On the one hand, it is "understood," and not worthy of comment one way or the other. It's like saying, "Cezanne painted nudes." Yeah, we know that; so what? What about the nudes? Do you like them? Do you like the colors? What else is Cezanne saying? What is the mood of the painting?" There are lots of things to say about Cezanne, but saying he painted nudes isn't usefully one of them. Similarly, saying Joel wrote about stereotypes is pointless. Yes, we know he did. Many, many writers do. What's the point, though?

If, on the other hand, you didn't think something he wrote was funny, that's fine, that's your prerogative. But if it wasn't funny (to you), it wasn't because it was a cliche. That's like saying you didn't like a particular Cezanne because he used oil paint. Yeah; so what? You didn't like it, fine. You didn't like it because he used oils is pointless. The greatest paintings of the last thousand years are nothing BUT "cliches" and stereotypes, for crying out loud: nude women, flowers, madonnas and babies and cherubs. But jeez, do you look at one and say, well, it's just another naked lady, how stereotypical of Rubens. Couldn't he paint something else? Even Duchamp's "Nude Descending a Staircase" is just one more naked lady; how cliched.

Regarding the Citroen DS: no one, repeat no one, on this side of the Atlantic is aware that the car is out of production, nor do they give a crap. Not one in a million could even IDENTIFY it as a Citroen DS. It just isn't relevant to anything. It's a freakin' cartoon, fer crissake. You might as well object that the "real" Citroen DS never came in a metallic teal color, that they only came in darker blue or something.

If you somehow think the Citroen is "low-tech," then you are reading something into the cartoon that simply isn't there; it sounds like your own inferiority complex doin' the talking. But my own (very) limited knowledge of Citroens is that de Gaulle had one for a limosine in the movie "The Jackal," and my understandong of them is they were much better cars than Renaults or Peugeots. But what do I know. The point is, to us, it was a French-looking car. What did you want, a tumbril?

Posted by: Curmudgeon | August 28, 2006 2:25 PM | Report abuse

Ha, Loomis you should have seen what a friend of mine did to his Renault Le Car when it became too expensive to fix.

Took it out to the back forty, looked like it was Bonnie et Clyde's Last Ride when he was done with it.


Posted by: bc | August 28, 2006 2:26 PM | Report abuse

Actually the cartoon should have shown a 4-seater bicycle. That'd have been very hip, very modern. Especially if every Achenbach was wearing striped sweaters, berets and eating baguettes in unison.

I'm with Superfrenchie (for a different reason)-- that cartoonist missed the boat.

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 28, 2006 2:31 PM | Report abuse

Scc: Each Achenbach.

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 28, 2006 2:33 PM | Report abuse

Superfrenchie: I was hoping to spot a Citroen when I was in Paris. Of course, I was also hoping to see someone wearing a black beret playing the accordian. Though I saw neither, I was very much impressed with the Smart cars and pocket-sized Renaults we saw everywhere. And I did see one terrific cellist in the Metro one night. Talk about stereotypes, if you visit New York City, you may see a white-hatteed cowboy wearing (other than the hat) only boots and underwear (Jockey briefs) play the guitar and singing country western songs. So there.

Posted by: CowTown | August 28, 2006 2:43 PM | Report abuse

How did it miss, Wilbrod?

Posted by: Curmudgeon | August 28, 2006 2:47 PM | Report abuse

That's "white-hatted," as in "wearing a white hat." Sheesh.

Posted by: CowTown | August 28, 2006 2:50 PM | Report abuse

Actually, the Citroen DS would never have been considered "low-tech". That particular model was technically very advanced for it's time with disc brakes, very good aerodynamics, and a complex and reasonably effective hydraulic system that served a vairable ride height self-leveling suspension and a semi-automatic transmission.

It's always amusing to see a DS start up and watch it rise as the hydraulic suspension pressurizes.

As a car guy, I call the DS complex and interesting, but *not* low tech.

And cool. Very cool.


Posted by: bc | August 28, 2006 2:51 PM | Report abuse

Superfrenchie, have you ever seen "Le Ballon Rouge?"
A good deal of American kids were made to watch it when very young. If you have an impression that Americans ever seem to see France as stuck roughly 1956, that's why.
Like salmons always remember the rivers where they spawn, that movie made an indeliable image of France. I believe I first saw it around age 4 or so.

Cheap, tawdry, hastily shot pictures of France on the news seen as adults versus strong childhood memories of Oscar-winning images of France 50 years ago.... which one will arise from the subconscious?

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 28, 2006 2:52 PM | Report abuse

Curmudgeon: //Regarding the Citroen DS: no one, repeat no one, on this side of the Atlantic is aware that the car is out of production, nor do they give a crap.//

Well, this the Travel section of the Post, not the Comics. So I would think that if no one knows that the car is out of production, it would be a good idea for whoever chose the illustration to remedy that.

No one gives a crap? Why do they even want to travel, then? Stay home, it's a lot cheaper to learn nothing there and the food is familiar. Not to mention that French TV doesn't even carry Bill O'Reilly.

//it sounds like your own inferiority complex doin' the talking.//

Ah, the "complex of the day" accusation is inferiority. I never know which one it will be. Sometimes I get accused of having a superiority complex (aka Napoleon complex), and sometimes it's the inferiority one. Talk about getting confused with stereotypes!

About Joel: I have read his pieces since Why Things Are. I still remember his (hilarious) explanation of why men automatically spit when they get to a urinal. I've always found him funny. If that puts any of his writings beyond criticism, then I'm sorry.

Posted by: superfrenchie | August 28, 2006 2:55 PM | Report abuse

O.K., here's the deal.

The spot welding of the veins in my eye staunched the bleeding, but now I have macular edema. I can see 20/200 with my left eye, and with great strain can correctly read 20/100. When I see the giant E with my right eye it appears about five feet away (normal); when I see the giant E with my left eye it appears about 10 feet away because the macula inside the retina is swollen.

Retina doc wants to enroll me locally, through his office, in an FDA clinical trial for new drug "delivery" system. It involves shooting a small thread of dissolvable slow-release material, like the new dissolvable sutures, into the macula once every six months--so two procedures total.

Every three shots go something like this: high dose, low dose, no dose. Every third shot is a fake or a dummy--you're prepped for the procedure, but the doctor does some fakey motions above your eye (apes the real procedure), but inserts nothing.

Here are the options:

You may be helped by the new drug/procedure.

You may show diddly-squat improvement from the new procedure.

The new drug/procedure may make your eye worse--including cataracts and glaucome. Doc says, "Hey, if it's cataracts, I can fix that." Glaucoma--tough luck. Down side: If things get effed up in your eye as a result of this clinical drug trial, then your own insurance plan may not cover the costs of the clean-up or follow-up procedures that may be necessary to fix the damage.

The "old" drug causes high interocular spikes in pressure in the macula and can also cause adverse effects. Or I can wait and continue the expensive eye drops, which have not been particularly effective for me in reducing the swelling of the macula.

Most problematic for me are the odds. A one-in-three chance you'll get the sham procedure with the Allergan drug. Have to have the eye numbed, then the novacaine shots to the whites of the eyes, then a feint as though something is being injected into your eye. (Doctor has discussed administering Valium so that I don't have a vaso-vegal reaction during the procedure--no matter which of the three options I receive.) "Rules" don't allow for the truth--that you may be part of the control group--and with the sham procedure your eye could get much, much worse. In the two-event trial, you would only get the sham procedure for the first injection, to be followed by the real deal the second time.

There are dollars involved to be part of the clinical study--a nice perk, but the least of my worries.

Sure would like to know the "success rates" for Phases I and II of the clinical trial.

annie, thanks for sharing your story.

Posted by: Loomis | August 28, 2006 2:55 PM | Report abuse

I thought Napoleon had an inferiority complex due to his size that led him to overcompensate by conquering everything that moved. Didn't he once conquer a whole boatful of donkeys for the glory of France?

But yes, the American habit of slapping easy psychology labels on stranger is a very bad habit.

I daresay it's a symptom of our national ego-bloated maniac narcissium, agoraphobia, obsessive-compulsion and/or psychopathy.

But at least we do not suffer from existential angst or import our vigara from the Swiss. So there!

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 28, 2006 2:56 PM | Report abuse

wilbrod: //Cheap, tawdry, hastily shot pictures of France on the news seen as adults versus strong childhood memories of Oscar-winning images of France 50 years ago.... which one will arise from the subconscious?//

That's a good point.

Actually, most of the stereotypes associated with the French are pretty much all dating back from decades ago, regardless of the current reality.

For an eye-opening experience, take a look at this:

This was your army trying to dispel the exact same stereotypes that are still in use now... in 1945. Talk about being stuck with cliches!

BTW, make sure not to miss #50...

Posted by: superfrenchie | August 28, 2006 3:07 PM | Report abuse

Loomis -- EEK! Does your doctor assign any percentages to the possible outcomes? (Yeah, I know, they don't typically like to lay odds.) But the fact that there's a chance -- even if he says it's a slight chance -- that your condition could get dramatically worse makes this a completely different situation from my brother's. He had no where to go but up.

I hope your doctor(s) can give you some candid advice about what they would do, or would recommend a family member to do, given your own situation. I just shudder to think about it. I wear glasses instead of contacts because it freaks me out to think about putting anything, even something benign, in my eyes. Cannot *imagine* what it would be like to be confronting what you are confronting.

Good luck.

Posted by: annie | August 28, 2006 3:15 PM | Report abuse

Eh bien!
But it is the culture, as #50 describes.

That is as much a stereotype as saying Americans always eat popcorn at the movies, when the lights come on you see an endless crunchy carpet of corn kernels, oil, and salt, all at outrageous prices.

Mais oui, French cinemas are much better because you can smoke and drink wine during the movie (or whatever you do in France.).

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 28, 2006 3:18 PM | Report abuse

OK, here are my two cents on the French umbrage issue. All the French have to do, if they can't get a sense of humor implant, is live their lives so they are examples that contradict the cliches.

Many people I meet assume that I know Juan Valdez, bring cocaine in my luggage whenever I visit my family, lived in the jungle until I moved here, have relatives who kill for hire. I do my best to prove them wrong as often as I can. They might think I'm the exception to the rule, but at least they know there ARE exceptions, right?

Usually, when people ask me if I've met Juan Valdez, I answer, "As many times as you've met Ronald McDonald."

When I was in college, I was asked by so many people if I could get them drugs from Colombia that I decided to make up a whole new persona for myself. Since my English is mostly unaccented (except when I fly into a rage), I started telling all the new people I met that I was from Kansas City, Kansas. I picked KC because nobody knows much about it (apologies in advance to KC residents who will boodle their umbrage). All my friends went along with it. Then, one day, I got elected Colombian representative to the Latin American Student Association, and the campus newspaper blew my cover. It worked most of the semester, though. When I had my final interview to become an American citizen a couple of years ago, I had to tell my interviewer that I had, at one point, claimed to be a US citizen. I was terrified of being deported. The lady was very nice and laughed at my story. She said if I'd tried to vote or cross a border, it would have been a different story. Still, I was under oath and felt I had to tell her, even if it was silly.

Posted by: a bea c | August 28, 2006 3:27 PM | Report abuse

I wouldn't assume anything about you a bea c.

Of course, I would hate to incur the displeasure of any homocidal relatives by assuming you are anything but the finest, most moral lady around.

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 28, 2006 3:27 PM | Report abuse

Wilbrod, I'll make sure not to send any of the cousins your way.

Posted by: a bea c | August 28, 2006 3:30 PM | Report abuse

a bea c, I'm deeply disappointed that you don't know Juan Valdez.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | August 28, 2006 3:38 PM | Report abuse

a bea c: // OK, here are my two cents on the French umbrage issue. All the French have to do, if they can't get a sense of humor implant, is live their lives so they are examples that contradict the cliches.//

Well, don't I wish it was that simple.

Here is the problem: the clichés are not about what we do; they're about our [supposed] character.

Not about our judgment or our taste or our physical attributes. About our character! The French are cowardly, lazy, backstabbers, ingrates, filth lovers, collaborators, inherently racist. The men are effeminate, and the women are promiscuous. That sums up French-bashing, no matter what we'd do or say.

Look at Iraq: we told you not to go. OK, you may not have agreed with us at the beginning, but at this point in the game, how come we're still being called "backstabbers"?

Or look at the French being criticized for asking tougher ROEs in Lebanon. We get criticized for "refusing to fight," when all we're doing is making sure we can fight! And who are the biggest critics: Americans and Brits, who are sending a grand total of... 0 soldiers.

Or anti-Semitism: your own polls show that the country with the least anti-Semitism among western countries (excluding Israel, of course), is France. Significantly less anti-Semitic than Americans even. And yet, we still get regularly accused of anti-Semitism.

Just look at what curmudgeon said: no one gives a crap what the facts are.

Stereotypes are so much more comfortable!

Posted by: superfrenchie | August 28, 2006 3:42 PM | Report abuse

As I'm following in the footsteps of Mudge (trying to keep my sandals out of the, well, um, "mudge" that seems to be out there), are we still on for Thursday for a BBH? My domino topples tomorrow, the celebrating began on Friday and continues pretty much all day tomorrow. Don't know if I'll even have time to lurk. That being said, Mudge seems to be in good form and high spirits (so to speak). Thanks for paving the way for me, M.

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | August 28, 2006 3:43 PM | Report abuse

loomis -- yikes, yikes, yikes!

I was in a study at Hoppkins in 1988. Double blind placebo gig for a potentially new drug to help facilitate colonic parastalsis.

I was not very emotionally stable at the time. Did not handle the whole thing very well.

My experience was with doctors who seemed to have little empathy. I felt objectified, and I onjected to that.

If anyone ever took a drug called Propulsid (it's now off the market) you can thank me for my sacrifice.

Annie -- thanks for sharing about your brother. I work (volunteer)with a woman at Easter State Hospital (part of the state mental hospital system) who is paranoid schizophrenic. She is stabilized on her meds, and should be released in the next 6 months. I'm hoping she can have a productive life now that she's had medical intervention. To read about your brother gives me hope for her -- and some of the others I've worked with.

Now, about the Mona Lisa -- do I have a faulty memory? I am pretty sure I saw her at the National Gallery in 1992 -- does anyone remember the big exhibit curated for the 500th anniversary of Columbus' first voyage? 1492 was the name of the exhibit.

I know I saw "Woman with Ermine" and of course many of Leonardo sketches. I have a vivid memory of standing in front of the Mona Lisa, in awe . . .

My memory can stumble sometimes, but I'm pretty sure Mona was in DC in '92.

Anyone else remember this?

I don't get the print edition of the Post, so I missed out on the infamous cartoon sketch of the Achenbach family in a Citroen. Guess I missed a work of art of museum quality. :-)

Posted by: nelson | August 28, 2006 3:46 PM | Report abuse

As I'm following in the footsteps of Mudge (trying to keep my sandals out of the, well, um, "mudge" that seems to be out there), are we still on for Thursday for a BBH? My domino topples tomorrow, the celebrating began on Friday and continues pretty much all day tomorrow. Don't know if I'll even have time to lurk. That being said, Mudge seems to be in good form and high spirits (so to speak). Thanks for paving the way for me, M.

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | August 28, 2006 3:47 PM | Report abuse

nelson, that illustration is on the front page of the at the fold, towards the right with a link to Joel's story in the Travel Section.


Posted by: bc | August 28, 2006 3:52 PM | Report abuse

nelson: //I missed out on the infamous cartoon sketch of the Achenbach family in a Citroen.//

Here it is:

Posted by: superfrenchie | August 28, 2006 3:56 PM | Report abuse

I met Ronald McDonald several times. He used to do a lot of kids' parties. I'm pretty sure Juan has a coffee shop in the Penn Quarter.

Posted by: yellojkt | August 28, 2006 3:57 PM | Report abuse

superfrenchie -- please be a bit careful with the mudslinging about Iraq. "Look at Iraq: We told you not to go . . ."

Painting all of "us" as being in unison on Iraq is certainly a cliche.

I wonder if you noted that America is divided over Iraq -- even before it turned into a disaster.

Not sure at all where you're coming up with the stereotype of the French as inherently racist, or filth lovers.

Vichy France was a very long time ago. I don't know too many people who, when asked what they think of the French, roll the word "collaborators" off their tongues.

Step back and take a breath my friend.

Posted by: nelson | August 28, 2006 4:02 PM | Report abuse

Still on as far as I'm concerned. I can probably speak for bc, too, since we've been e-mailing about it.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | August 28, 2006 4:03 PM | Report abuse

thanks to bc and superfrenchie for the link to the Achenbach family's Citroen.

I usually don't have enough time to take in much more than a quick scan of the news and editorials when I read the

Posted by: nelson | August 28, 2006 4:06 PM | Report abuse

Nelson -- does this mean that you live in the Williamsburg area? I went to college there, and Eastern State was right on the road to the dormitories to which sophomores got banished unless they drew an unusally good (for sophomores) number in the housing lottery. I myself developed a sudden intense interest in Italian so that I could live in the conveniently-located Italian House.

I will keep in my prayers the woman with whom you volunteer. Schizophrenia is brutal, no doubt about it, but my brother's new life is nothing short of miraculous. And the staff at NIH treated him, and all of us, with such dignity and kindness, and humor, even. I am sorry for anyone who gets the bad bedside manner. It's hard enough to take part in medical experimentation, even voluntarily, without the full-on objectification.

The scariest part of it, in my view, is how much of it just comes down to luck. My brother happened to have a disease that NIH was studying. He happened to have a mother who knew how to work the system. He happened to meet some pretty specific criteria (they wanted at least one full-blood sibling, and he had four; both his parents were still living; everybody was willing to participate).

We had to work on him for months to get him to Yes. Not suprisingly, he had terrible associations with being in the hospital, and the idea of being on a locked ward FOR A YEAR voluntarily was not an easy sell.

Sometimes things just work out. I hope they do for your friend, too, Nelson.

Posted by: annie | August 28, 2006 4:11 PM | Report abuse

Yup. I'm in.

Of course, some would consider my attendance a detriment, but there it is.


Posted by: bc | August 28, 2006 4:12 PM | Report abuse

hey a bea c - have you noticed that we hispanics seem to get blamed for all the natural disasters? first "el nino" and now "ernesto"... sheesh!

and superfrenchie - chill, boy (girl?), chill! i love the french, loved france and even have a french ex-boyfriend (he moved to brooklyn when he was a teenager so he had this great new yawk accent but could then break into the most beautiful french! ooolala!)

Posted by: mo | August 28, 2006 4:12 PM | Report abuse

Nelson, look no further than... the Washington Post:

That's John Kelly, the Metro columnist, calling us "cheese-eating surrender monkeys." He'd have done the same about blacks and he would have lost his job the next minute. The French? That's alright! (why don't they develop a sense of humor?)

Want more? Turn on late-night TV. Here are a few choice ones from Leno, Letterman and a few others:

Posted by: Anonymous | August 28, 2006 4:13 PM | Report abuse

Okay -- I just looked down the front page of -- saw the sketch under the Travel section. Amazing what I can miss when I simply focus on a quick check of headlines.

I guess if I still had a job that put me at a desk all day with a computer, I'd have more time to check out all the nifty sections of this paper and others.

There's a lot to be said for being connected to the work-a-day world. As crazy as it was, I do miss the old 8-5 (+) routine.

I actually miss my wardrobe most!!! :-)

Posted by: nelson | August 28, 2006 4:13 PM | Report abuse

Superfrenchie, thank you for the link to the 112 Gripes About France. What breathtaking common sense and factual information -- from a government agency, geared to people with a high school education and not much sense of history. They should have reprinted it and handed it out during the brouhaha around our Iraqi invasion.

Thanks also for the infamous Citroen link. I'm impressed that so many of you knew what it was, either to take umbrage or not. I thought, "Look, a cartoon car." Of course, I wouldn't have been able to identify it in real life either.

Posted by: Ivansmom | August 28, 2006 4:14 PM | Report abuse

yeah! party for me on the 31st at the bph! yeah!!

(oh, and snuke and 'mudge too... )

Posted by: mo | August 28, 2006 4:15 PM | Report abuse

(Jumping up and down, madly waving arms)I rode several times in a Citroën D as a young person. The doctor in our community had one. Riding in the back seat of that car was unforgettable.

It was unheard of in the late 60's for anyone to drive an new import car where I come from. Even Beetle's were rare. A brand new car was big news around town. It became a little less rare when farming was better in the early 70's and today, you can tell the guys who work in the oil patch from the people who only farm by their trucks.

Posted by: dr | August 28, 2006 4:16 PM | Report abuse

1. Haven't seen any mention of the Emmys here yet, but I have to say that the funniest line of the night came from Steve Colbert - "I lost to Barry Manilow!" Priceless. :-)

2. To go to South Carolina or not to go, that IS the question. We're supposed to drive down on Friday, current forecasts have Hurricane/Tropical Storm/Rain Band Ernesto making potentially a sort-of landfall type action on maybe South Carolina or maybe North Carolina sometime in the general vicinity of Friday morning. Hmmm.

3. But then again, when I was younger, we didn't evacuate for Hurricane Hugo. Hugo's eye made landfall 20 miles south of my hometown. Not something I'd like to live through again.

Posted by: PLS | August 28, 2006 4:17 PM | Report abuse

Yikes -- multiple posts. Not intended. But, well, it is a Monday after all.

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | August 28, 2006 4:20 PM | Report abuse

I won't be able to join you on the 31st for the birthday celebrations because of, well, a birthday celebration. That is my mom's birthday and we are getting together that night. Have fun, though (not that I need to tell you that!) and I'll catch you on the next one.

Posted by: pj | August 28, 2006 4:23 PM | Report abuse

annie -- yes, I live in the Williamsburg area.

Eastern State (ESH) has since moved from the downtown area near William and Mary out to Ironbound Road.

It's fighting a tough battle to keep open. The state wants to shut it down. I don't know where the paitents would go.

The woman I work with is an "NGRI patient (Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity). As a recoering acoholic (I sure haven't hidden that fact here) I work with other alcoholics. She has the double curse of schizophrenia and alcoholism. She commmitted a violent crime, which caused the intervention.

Your brother is indeed blessed to have a persistent, loving mother and to have the right attributes that got him into the study.

All the folks I've worked with at ESH have the sad background of parental neglect, drug and alcohol addictions, drift and eventually, some criminal act that finally got them the intervention they needed.

So many of them are badly damaged. Most will never be released. My friend is the highest functioning person I've worked with from ESH. She is driven to get her life together. She is smart, and does all the right things.

I really think she'll do well upon release.

Posted by: nelson | August 28, 2006 4:23 PM | Report abuse

Nelson: //Not sure at all where you're coming up with the stereotype of the French as inherently racist, or filth lovers.//

Here is one about "filth lovers," in prime time on MSNBC (Tucker Carlson):

"I mean, look, Europeans in general are hairy and smelly that goes for France, Italy, all over Europe. They are, let's face it. The women with the hair underneath, they don't wear deodorant. Germany just fits into that picture, Tucker, there's really no difference."

Would changing what we do contribute to anything about that perception, as a bea c implied. Well, France is the country in Europe that buys the most bathroom products per capita. Do you think Tucker Carlson bothers to read industry reports? Do you think it would change his mind if he did? I didn't think so!

OK, now if you'd excuse me, I have to go take a shower (yes, always on the last Monday of each month)

Posted by: superfrenchie | August 28, 2006 4:26 PM | Report abuse

This just in: Drudge and some others are reporting that John Karr's DNA did NOT match that in the JBR case, and that he won't be charged. So you're going to see it all over the news tonight, along with massive coverage of people who confess falsely. Hey, that would make a great game show! Have three people come out and confess to some fact about themselves, only two of them are lying...celebrity panelists try to guess...

Jeez, I get some good ideas.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | August 28, 2006 4:28 PM | Report abuse

a bea c said:
"my English is mostly unaccented (except when I fly into a rage)" - mine too! My English turns into kind of an Appalachian hillbilly kind of thing when I'm really ticked off. Not very attractive, or effective, probably.

CowTown, I liked "hateed" - sort of like "sauteed", no?

Posted by: mostlylurking | August 28, 2006 4:38 PM | Report abuse

ok superfrenchie -- I'll concede that there are a number of foolish people in this country that have access to the media and wear ignorance as a badge of pride.

Tucker Carlson -- well, consider the source I guess. At many points in my life I have been in the same unshaved category that he loathes (as recently as last Saturday, until I shaved, finally).

If it's any consolation, Coulter wrote about the smelly, hirsute, ugly, hippie women that supposedly made up the majority of females attending the 2004 DNC Convention that nominated Kerry for president. Made up whole cloth of course. Needless to say her article was not printed (Kurtz reported it in his media coverage here at WaPo).

I'm guessing Tucker Carlson thinks most Democrats are also French. :-)

Time for me to go get cleaned up as well. I may even shave again.

My folks are getting ready for Ernesto. they live about 170 miles north of Miami.

I hope the damn thing stays a tropical storm and just delivers a lot of rain.

Posted by: nelson | August 28, 2006 4:38 PM | Report abuse

living in France, and learning to understand the way people think, the politics, the culture gave me a great appreciation for the vast misunderstandings that arise from our interpretations of the French language and their reaction to things. There are gross misinterpretatios that lead to all sorts of misguided opinions about the French.

anyway, it's too bad that so few people take the time or interest to learn other languages and understand other cultures. If we could step outside our ethnocentric little suburban worlds for a micro second we might begin to appreciate the richness that other cultures have to offer including the French. It's nice to visit the museums but it's even better when you can interact with real people who live in these places and try to understand their world. That's real travel!

Posted by: Miss Toronto | August 28, 2006 4:41 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the DNA update on Karr Mudge. Not surprised.

Does anyone else see the resemblance between Karr and Lee Harvey Oswald? guy probably had nothing to do with JBR -- but boy is he creepy looking!!

Posted by: nelson | August 28, 2006 4:42 PM | Report abuse

superfrenchie writes: "Well, France is the country in Europe that buys the most bathroom products per capita."

This might just be the best straight line I've ever seen.

I stopped counting the number of products that French people might not be so proud of.

Might add simply:
1. The History of Cologne: What, when, and why.
2. Tucks. Way to go, people.
3. [The generic name for A Certain Feminine product goes here]

I know what you're thinking: Touché, no?


Posted by: bc | August 28, 2006 4:44 PM | Report abuse

This is very cool - tennis is honoring Billie Jean King:
The article mentions Zina Garrison too - an African-American player from Houston, who learned tennis on the public courts.

Posted by: mostlylurking | August 28, 2006 4:47 PM | Report abuse

Is there a lawyer in the boodle?

I know that making false *accusations* can get a person into a lot of trouble, but is there any law against making a false *confession*?

If not, there should be.

I am guessing that the American taxpayers picked up the tab for Karr's business class flight back from Bangkok (complete with shrimp and champagne). I am sure the police have had to waste a lot of time on a wild goose chase, and (not least) I am sure that poor child's family have been made to relive the horror all over again for no reason.

Can he be charged with anything? If not, can we ship him back (coach class) to Thailand, where the jails I suspect are even less wholesome than ours?

Posted by: annie | August 28, 2006 4:49 PM | Report abuse

nelson: //I'm guessing Tucker Carlson thinks most Democrats are also French. :-)//

Probably does! Wasn't the biggest insult against Kerry that he "looked French"?

(a bea c, any suggestion on "living my life differently" so I can change that one?)

Posted by: superfrenchie | August 28, 2006 4:49 PM | Report abuse

You might try wearing a sign saying, "I didn't lose the 2004 American presidential election." That would at least identify you as not-Kerry to these folks who don't seem to be able to tell people apart. If you're willing to stretch the truth you could wear a sign saying "I'm French and I'm Republican" or "Please ask to visit my bathroom" or even "I'm not French, I'm Belgian".

Of course all these signs would have to be in English, since these same ignorant folk can't read French. In fact, you could wear a sign saying "I don't speak French". Or you could just be extremely polite to everyone, in both French and English, to shame their bad behavior. Whoops, I bet you do that already.

Really, the problem with a media stereotype is that one person usually can't correct it through behavior. A bea c could correct misapprehensions among the people she encountered regularly, and you no doubt do the same. It is the aforementioned idiots who are the problem. I know -- don't watch their shows! Don't buy the products they advertise! Write to the networks and tell them you're doing it! Gosh, that sounds subversive -- almost French.

Posted by: Ivansmom | August 28, 2006 4:52 PM | Report abuse

a bea c, I think you sound like a really nice person.

Mudge, read both of your post, the French one, and the answer to superfrenchie, loved them both. As always, you my friend, are in good form.

I don't know one thing about the French, Paris, the Louvre, art, or any of that stuff, so I probably shouldn't have commented on the kit. The description of the Louvre does make it sound like a huge place. A place where one could get lost looking at so much art. It sounds endless.

Posted by: Cassandra S | August 28, 2006 4:52 PM | Report abuse

I don't suppose it would do any good to inject into the discussion THE *&%$#@*^$%% FORDING FACT that Tucker Carlson didn't, in fact, make that quote?

Go to the g-d link, and read the transcript. A guy named Max Kellerman, who apparently is some ESPN boxing commentator (I never heard of the guy, but so what?) said the quoted paragraph above.

So...Tucker Carlson is supposed to read industry reports on European Ban Roll-on consumption statistics, in anticipation of something that a deliberately provocative Howard Stern-type *might* say on his show? He's supposed to have a researcher at his elbow at all times to fact-check something a big-mouth French-baiting talk show guest might say?

Uh huh.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | August 28, 2006 4:53 PM | Report abuse

Oh, and superfrenchie, please don't judge all Americans by cable and late-night TV. They're paid to say outrageous things and make stupid jokes. Many of us envy the French, especially all that vacation time, after all.

My sister's birthday is the 31st, so have a virtual toast for her and for me at the BPH!

Posted by: mostlylurking | August 28, 2006 4:53 PM | Report abuse

[Yes, I know that Cologne is in Germany, that was an intentional "bc is dumb American" double entendre.]


Posted by: bc | August 28, 2006 4:54 PM | Report abuse

bc: //I know what you're thinking: Touché, no?//

Not sure I got exactly what you meant, but let me be clearer:

According to this industry report,

in Europe, the French are:

First in shampoo consumption (see page 18)
First in deodorant consumption (see p 19)
Third in toothpaste consumption (see p 20)
Second in laundry detergent consumption (see p 11)

Here is how the report concludes: "In France, coffee and biscuit consumption is above average but it is in the bathroom where the French really splash out. They spend the most on deodorant and shampoo and are just behind Germany in terms of bath and shower product spend"

Posted by: Anonymous | August 28, 2006 4:55 PM | Report abuse

bc: //I know what you're thinking: Touché, no?//

Not sure I got exactly what you meant, but let me be clearer:

According to this industry report,

in Europe, the French are:

First in shampoo consumption (see page 18)
First in deodorant consumption (see p 19)
Third in toothpaste consumption (see p 20)
Second in laundry detergent consumption (see p 11)

Here is how the report concludes: "In France, coffee and biscuit consumption is above average but it is in the bathroom where the French really splash out. They spend the most on deodorant and shampoo and are just behind Germany in terms of bath and shower product spend"

Posted by: superfrenchie | August 28, 2006 4:55 PM | Report abuse

annie -

I don't believe that false confession is a crime, but perjury is. Depends on how far a defendant takes it, I suppose. (Though I've yet to hear of a case like that.)

Posted by: PLS | August 28, 2006 4:56 PM | Report abuse

Curmudgeon: yes, it was Tucker Carlson's show, not Carlson himself. Sorry.

mostlylurking: //please don't judge all Americans by cable and late-night TV//

Yes, I'm well aware of that.

And sorry for the double post.

Posted by: superfrenchie | August 28, 2006 5:00 PM | Report abuse

Gosh, Mudge, I assumed from the excerpt that someone else was talking to Tucker Carlson, since the quote contains "Tucker" and speakers usually don't insert their own name. Well, that's a broad generalization, but highly paid network commentators rarely talk to themselves on air. No, that won't do either. Well, anyway, I figured someone was talking to Tucker during the course of an interview or meaningless chitchat. The larger point still stands -- insulting remarks like this get made. In fact, I read the transcript and Tucker Carlson didn't say hey, wait a minute, that's extreme. In fact, the larger context was legal German brothels and he went on to suggest that the German social policies were in effect forcing German women into prostitution. Feh.

Posted by: Ivansmom | August 28, 2006 5:03 PM | Report abuse

Ivansmon: //You might try wearing a sign saying, "I didn't lose the 2004 American presidential election." That would at least identify you as not-Kerry to these folks who don't seem to be able to tell people apart. If you're willing to stretch the truth you could wear a sign saying "I'm French and I'm Republican" or "Please ask to visit my bathroom" or even "I'm not French, I'm Belgian".//

I sell (and have one on my car) anti Bill O'Reilly stickers that I designed myself. Will that work?

Posted by: superfrenchie | August 28, 2006 5:03 PM | Report abuse

As a recommendation for Joel for next year, Canada is an excellent summer vacation destination. Umbrage-free since 1814.

As an added bonus, not only do we have a thick skin about our stereotypes, we actively encourage them.

mo, not all weather gets blamed on hispanics. Every cold front comes from Canada, you know (it is a little known fact that they are made from scratch in Weyburn, SK).

Posted by: SonofCarl | August 28, 2006 5:09 PM | Report abuse

Further to my last, I will readily concede that Moose Jaw is less attractive as a girl's name than Paris (unless you wish to encourage a very down-to-earth personality), so travelers are recommended to continue on to Regina if they think they might name their offspring on the basis of conception location.

Posted by: SonofCarl | August 28, 2006 5:14 PM | Report abuse

SonofCarl: //As an added bonus, not only do we have a thick skin about our stereotypes, we actively encourage them.//

How about being called a "retarded cousin"?

That's Carlson again:


CARLSON: Here's the problem, Max. Here's the problem with telling Canada to stop criticizing the United States. It only eggs them on. Canada is essentially a stalker, stalking the United States, right?

Canada has little pictures of us in its bedroom, right? Canada spends all of its time thinking about the United States, obsessing over the United States. It's unrequited love between Canada and the United States.

We, meanwhile, don't even know Canada's name. We pay no attention at all.


CARLSON: First of all, anybody with any ambition at all, or intelligence, has left Canada and is now living in New York.

Second, anybody who sides with Canada internationally in a debate between the U.S. and Canada, say, Belgium, is somebody whose opinion we shouldn't care about in the first place.

Third, Canada is a sweet country. It is like YOUR RETARDED COUSIN* you see at Thanksgiving and sort of pat him on the head. You know, he's nice, but you don't take him seriously. That is Canada.


* my emphasis

Posted by: superfrenchie | August 28, 2006 5:16 PM | Report abuse

superfrenchie, the best one was Letterman's Top Ten calling Canada North Dakota's gay neighbour.

Posted by: SonofCarl | August 28, 2006 5:18 PM | Report abuse

hi everyone, been trying to skim today while I do last minute packing, lots to do, bunch of stuff going wrong and may possible own two homes in a few days but other than that completely stressfree holiday!

Good thing we have thick skin up here.

Isn't Tucker Carlson going on Dancing with the Starts - enough said.

Posted by: dmd | August 28, 2006 5:21 PM | Report abuse

I, too, recognized by the inclusion of Tucker's name that he wasn't the speaker. But then several following posts pretty clearly got the impression that he was, in fact, the speaker. I think this arose because superfrenchie didn't make it very clear himself who the speaker was. Perhaps not his fault--but then he went on to criticize Tucker for failing to have read industry reports on French bathing habits, which is the dumbest thing I ever heard.

What people are missing is that humorless people are getting bent all out of shape by stuff people say on TV--especially people who deliberately bashing somebody or other, ostensibly for humor (whether you happen to appreciate that specific humor or not). It's like some idiot telling a dumb blonde joke and then a critic whipping out statistics to prove blondes, in fact, have the same IQs as anyone else. And that in fact, lawyers really down have fins, jaws, cartilege instead of bones, nor do they refrain from eating each other oput of professional courtesy. Or that Polish people aren't dumb after all, and one of them is perfectly capable of screwing in a lightbulb.

We might not like some spcific types of bashing and stereotyping, and if it gets too far over the line it's fine with me to call somebody on it; get fairly bent out of shape with some antisemitic and very many anti-black jokes myself. But you don't deal with those jokes by whipping out statistics about the false nature of the underlying premise. It's not only super-ultra-PC, it simply doesn't work.

You don't respond to "Your mother wears combat boots" by replying seriously that in fact she wears a simple pair of size 8 low-heel pumps from 9 West and showing people the receipt.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | August 28, 2006 5:22 PM | Report abuse

*sigh* You're not helping here, slyness.


Posted by: Curmudgeon | August 28, 2006 5:35 PM | Report abuse

Actually, Mudge, my mother DID wear combat boots and was heartbroken when they wore out. They were honest-to-goodness GI issue, circa 1944, and she had them till the early 70's. Yes, she was a WAC and we had a flag on her casket at her funeral, just as she requested.

Posted by: Slyness | August 28, 2006 5:36 PM | Report abuse

curmudgeon: //But you don't deal with those jokes by whipping out statistics about the false nature of the underlying premise.//

Perhaps, but those are not always jokes. People saying them are often dead-serious.

Besides, I have had to remomve my daughter from American public schools for being bullied by all kinds of kids who no doubt did not make up those jokes themselves. And while bullying is severely punished in Montgomery County Public Schools, in this case they did not really say anything, because, as someone said earlier, "the French should just get a sense of humor."

Look, that's exactly the answer to a bea c: it does not matter what we do anyway! Fight back and you're called humorless. Don't fight and you're called weak and capitulating. Can't win!

If the idea that fighting stereotypes with facts is stupid, my gosh, what do you suggest will work?

Posted by: superfrenchie | August 28, 2006 5:39 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: CowTown | August 28, 2006 5:50 PM | Report abuse

I must say, being a blonde, I chose my profession partially for the protection and flexibility I get from my jaws and cartilage. Also for the courtesy of not being eaten by colleagues who might otherwise take advantage of me (being a blonde).

Posted by: Ivansmom | August 28, 2006 5:53 PM | Report abuse

oh come on superfrenchie - normal intelligent ppl don't believe the stereotypes! i love french people sheesh! and how many jokes do you think we hispanics get allll the time!

Posted by: mo | August 28, 2006 5:54 PM | Report abuse

Regarding the Citroën DS issue: I think that it's the only car ever made by France that most Americans might recognize as looking French. That's all. Despite not having been manufactured in 31 years, you can still see them rolling around over here, although not in large numbers. Renaults, Peugeots, whatever-other-makes of French cars may exist in the ordinary consumer market are still here, but they look like econobox cars, like almost everything else on the road. The Citroën had visual character. Not many other cars have that. A Citroën cries out: "I am a French car!"

For comparison: what car would Europeans immediately recognize as an American car? For a visually-distinctive and quintessentially American car, I'd expect you would think of an enormous Cadillac with tail-fins and a longhorn hood ornament. No car like that has been manufactured in 40 years (the hood ornament is an after-market addition; still available, I'd bet), but that would remain the car that you would draw if you wanted the viewer to think instantly "American car!"

This is not a stereotype, precisely, but more an expression of the apotheosis of a particular design affectation peculiar to one country beyond any other. U.S. cars had tail fins, and gigantic size. France has the Citroën DS. Sweden has that oogly-lookin' Saab from the late 60's, the one that looked like it was made from leftover roofing tin. England has enormous Rolls Royce sedans. Germany has VW Beetles and anything with the Mercedes insignia. Italy has the Alfa Romeo and teeny-weeny Fiat death-boxes. Egypt has horse-drawn chariots equipped with a driver, an archer, and blades on the hubs (pharaoh optional). Nobody has made most of these in ages, but they remain iconic. The triumph of image over engineering.

Posted by: ScienceTim | August 28, 2006 5:54 PM | Report abuse

ScienceTim: //I think that it's the only car ever made by France that most Americans might recognize as looking French. //

I agree with that, although one might suggest the 2CV or the Le Car.

But at any rate, does that mean we have to get stuck with the beret, the little mustache and the striped shirt for the remaining of times even though you may spend an entire year in France without ever seeing one of those?

Look, my beef wasn't that much about the image as it was with where the image was used: in the Travel section of the Washington Post, where one presumably goes there to learn facts about the country, not outdated stereotypes.

It's a little bit like someone would do a review of the French TV scene and would illustrate it with a picture of Jerry Lewis, even though there hasn't been a movie of his shown for decades.

Posted by: superfrenchie | August 28, 2006 6:06 PM | Report abuse

Well, despite the inexplicable popularity of Jerry Lewis in France (at least, at some time in the past), we still take credit/blame for his existence. He's our fault.

I love the striped shirt! I used to have one, but it wore out. I could never carry off a beret: I'm just not a hat-wearer. Same for the mustache. They never looked right on me.

Posted by: ScienceTim | August 28, 2006 6:09 PM | Report abuse

superfrenchie, so now I have a grudge against Tucker Carlson. Hmmph. I had always assumed he was Canadian with those ridiculous bow ties, but he's off the Christmas card list now.

Your blog was quite interesting.

This was an interesting link I picked up over there - declassified document from March, 1962 with proposals on how to manufacture a pretext for the invasion of Cuba:

Posted by: SonofCarl | August 28, 2006 6:10 PM | Report abuse


I don't agree with Curmudgeon on this issue, and I think French-bashing is just as offensive as anti-semitism.

I think it is useful, in combatting prejudice of all kinds, to speak up for the truth, with specific examples if possible. I appreciated your input, the facts and examples, and I think it was effective.

I'm sorry about your daughter and I hope she is able to forgive and move on. Plenty of Americans, plenty of people of every culture, are friendly and open-hearted and willing to get to know people who are different from themselves. There will always be those who are afraid or defensive or close-minded. We just have to join together, the rest of us, and defeat them with truth and love.

Posted by: kbertocci | August 28, 2006 6:13 PM | Report abuse

SonofCarl: Thanks for the kind words about the blog.

The document is probably a fake. It's Canada they want to invade, not Cuba! ;)))

Posted by: superfrenchie | August 28, 2006 6:15 PM | Report abuse

My youngest daughter wore combat boots, for real. I'm darn proud of that fact. :-)

Posted by: Don from I-270 | August 28, 2006 6:15 PM | Report abuse

For what it's worth, humor always has a bit of ridicule behind it. Nevertheless, the response to criticisms of insensitivity has always been "get a sense of humor." ("North Country" comes to mind.) The secret is balance. I think Joel is furlongs away from being offensive, but if somebody disagrees, that's their perogative. It must be respected even if not endorsed. But it's also not an argument that either side can often win.

Posted by: RD Padouk | August 28, 2006 6:20 PM | Report abuse

To take your answer quite seriously (because it is in fact a very fair question, viz. the bullying your daughter received), there are lots of answers, SF.

First, what exactly is your objective? If it is to "fight back," there are lots of ways to do that, and several definitions as to what that means. Very often in the insult game, you gain your opponent's respect by (a) showing that you can take some ribbing, and (b) by firing back with your own counter-insult. In black street culture, there is a whole heirarchy of call-and-response; when one guy starts with "Your mama is o fat that..." the approved response is to come back with, "Oh yeah, well YOUR mama is so fat that..." etc. You either play the game that way, or take out a gun and shot the first guy, so being able to take some ribbing and return verbal fire is much preferred.

If you've been paying attention to this boodle over the last few months, you'll have noticed a lot of ribbing back and forth between us Muricans and the Canucks. It is without exception good-natured--and nothing, but ABSOLUETLEY NOTHING in this boodle is better than the back-and-forth. If I say something about Canada and SonofCarl shoots back with a better put-down, nobody is more delighted than me. That's how the game is played. The person who looses is the person who says, "Uh, wait a minute, Mudge, statistics show that only 28 percent of Canadians eat poutine." (*sound effect of quiz show looser buzzer*)

Nothing in that Tucker Carlson quote is any worse than anything you'd hear on Colbert Report, or Jon Stewart, or any stand-up comedian, and failure to recognize that a lot of that was tongue-in-cheek marks you as the guy who just doesn't get it. No, TC probably doesn't think Canadians are in fact retarded cousins. (In fact, if you deconstruct that quote a little bit, you'll see he is saying that Americans are condescending to Canadians; he isn't criticizing Canadians, he's criticizing Americans. But you missed it, guy--it went right past you.)

If the insult is actually pretty deep and pretty serious-- full-blown racism, say, or anti-semitism, or whatever -- I don't know how you "fight" it. But I'm pretty sure that if you hear somebody say (seriously) "All them [N-word] people are just a bunch a lazy, watermelon-eatin'...blah-blah-blah" crap, I'm pretty sure that citing the statistics on African-American produce consumption ain't gonna win you the day. In fact, you simply cannot win any kind of rational argument with such people. So your choices are limited: walk away, tell him he's a sphincter and then walk away, or whatever. But you can't argue with a serious bigot, and you can't win. And if they aren't really serious, then what's the point?

I'm sorry about you daughter's experience. I don't know how old she was, and the circumstances, etc. But bullying is endemic in school systems in general, and school authorities don't do enough to stop it. And kids get bullied for all sorts of reasons: race, culture, heritage, overweight, underweight, thick glasses, braces, handicaps, too tall, too short, too uncoordinated, too smart, too dumb, too ugly, too cute, too blond, too ditzy, too dull, and a thousand other reasons. It doesn't help you or your family to add "French" to the list, but it would have been the same if she was Vietnamese, or Columbian, or Polish, or German, or English, or Alabaman, or a Valley girl. And it doesn't help anybody to say, "well, maybe she should be a little less thin-skinned and over-sensitive," or maybe she should think faster and come up with better responses, or deal with it, or whatever. I sometimes I think bullies have a sixth sense about who they can victimize and who they can't, and exactly how to push somebody's buttons. I don't mean in any way to second-guess your decision to pull your daughter out of that school, but sometimes the solution to a bully is to stand up to them and punch them in the mouth. Bullies are frequently cowards, and sometimes if you stand up to them (even to the point of getting the crap beat out of you) they may come to respect you and then leave you alone. (But also, my experience with bullies are guy bullies and guy responses. I know gangs of girls are vicious, but I have no instictive knowledge or experience of how to deal with them, singly or in groups, or if guy-type responses (humor, standing up/fightingback, etc.) work or not.)

But I do think the issue of bullying is very different from what we started talking about.

What mystifies us Muricans about your French umbrage is that we know Joel's stuff, and there is/was nothing whatsoever in that was anything other than good-natured kidding (and most of it directed back toward Americans)--and that you guys plain missed it, and can't take a joke, and can't shoot back (metaphorically speaking). Maybe my point is, when you asked how I'd recommend you fight back, perhaps my answer should be (a) don't; you haven't been insulted, or (b) learn to tell some anti-Murican jokes. God knows, there certainly ought to be some. But this umbrage...we just don't understand it or where it's coming from. And the reason we don't like it is because we think we haven't earned it. And people on these boodles have been telling you guys that over and over again, and you just don't seem to be listening.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | August 28, 2006 6:26 PM | Report abuse

Just to verify: my amateur etymology has me thinking that "your mother/sister/daughter/cocker spaniel wears Army boots" is a reference to a time when these persons were not able to enlist, and in fact were not permitted to be around active-duty soldiers in the field. The only women in those circumstances, I'm guessing, would have been "camp-followers." Does anyone know if that is the source of the insult? Or is it just a reference to the possession of unappealing looks and a penchant for sensible shoes?

Posted by: ScienceTim | August 28, 2006 6:29 PM | Report abuse

kbertocci: //I'm sorry about your daughter and I hope she is able to forgive and move on.//

She has. Thanks. But it does show that "little harmless jokes" have consequences.

//Plenty of Americans, plenty of people of every culture, are friendly and open-hearted and willing to get to know people who are different from themselves.//

I am well aware of that. The problem is not the number of people who think that way (you're right, it's not the majority), it's the number of people who don't think it's a big deal, and therefore won't speak out. Look the school just thought that it was no big deal to be called a surrender monkey. Why would they? After all, John Kelly used it in his Washington Post column, and absolutely nothing happened to him. Whereas everybody knows that would he have written the same thing about blacks, he would have been fired the next minute. So it just becomes acceptable.

BTW, the reason it's not acceptable to slur Jews or blacks or Mexicans is that everybody knows they would get condemned right away: there's just way too many of them to not notice. But the French? there aren't any, and the few that are around are not organized! So anything goes! Talk about being cowards!

Posted by: superfrenchie | August 28, 2006 6:29 PM | Report abuse

BTW, I think Tucker Carlson is a moron. (And I never watch him anyway.) But that wasn't the point.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | August 28, 2006 6:31 PM | Report abuse

"The document is probably a fake. It's Canada they want to invade, not Cuba! ;)))"

This might be true, but the true nefarious power of Canada and Candians is we are going to take them by stealth. We gave them Celine Dion (They kept Brittany Spears, and Paris Hilton).

Posted by: dr | August 28, 2006 6:36 PM | Report abuse

ohmygod SonofCarl. You found a declassified document that is STILL declassified. Do you have any idea how rare that is?

Posted by: RD Padouk | August 28, 2006 6:43 PM | Report abuse

Curmudgeon, I repeat that I was not offended by Joel's cafe column, and he did explain that the Citroen picture in the Road Treep column was not chosen by him.

I do have a thick skin. And a sense of humor occasionally. And you can insult me personally all day and probably never get a response.

But spit on the tombs of my ancestors, or humiliate my daughter and I'll fight back. The fact that you don't like the way I fight back is probably a good indication that it may just be the right way to do it. I'm sure you'd prefer compliments, or presenting the other cheek. Tough luck!

Posted by: superfrenchie | August 28, 2006 6:44 PM | Report abuse

Sup, if any of us was around when somebody tried to humiliate your daughter, every damned one of us here would be standing with you shoulder to shoulder. Every one. No exceptions. No argument. They'd have to get through a couple dozen of us before they got to you or your daughter.

As to spitting on the grave of your ancestors, I don't think anyone here has done anything remotely like that. And I don't think any of us would tolerate that for a second if we thought that's what it was.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | August 28, 2006 6:50 PM | Report abuse

curmudgeon: //As to spitting on the grave of your ancestors, I don't think anyone here has done anything remotely like that. And I don't think any of us would tolerate that for a second if we thought that's what it was.//

I know that and I appreciate that. Believe me, it happens all the time elsewhere. I'm grateful that it doesn't happen here.

Posted by: superfrenchie | August 28, 2006 6:52 PM | Report abuse

OK, now, let's have a group hug!

And an appropriate song (now, Loomis, don't get all riled up by the rampant use of "Lord" and the praying reference):

Kumbaya my lord, kumbaya
Kumbaya my lord, kumbaya
Kumbaya my lord, kumbaya
Oh lord, kumbaya

Someone's singing lord, kumbaya
Someone's singing lord, kumbaya
Someone's singing lord, kumbaya
Oh lord, kumbayah

Someone's laughing, lord, kumbaya
Someone's laughing, lord, kumbaya
Someone's laughing, lord, kumbaya
Oh lord, kumbaya

Someone's crying, lord, kumbaya
Someone's crying, lord, kumbaya
Someone's crying, lord, kumbaya
Oh lord, kumbaya

Someone's praying, lord, kumbaya
Someone's praying, lord, kumbaya
Someone's praying, lord, kumbaya
Oh lord, kumbaya

Someone's sleeping, lord, kumbaya
Someone's sleeping, lord, kumbaya
Someone's sleeping, lord, kumbaya
Oh lord, kumbaya
Oh lord, kumbaya

Posted by: mostlylurking | August 28, 2006 6:52 PM | Report abuse

Canucks (SCC, Canadians, sheesh) are also going to take over Murica with the fine quality of our spelling.

Posted by: dr | August 28, 2006 6:53 PM | Report abuse

I think Mudge's overall point is the key one here. It is a matter of intent. Those of us who have read Joel's work for, like, eons have come to understand that nastiness is not in his nature. Now this is not a Carte Blanche (hey, I can do French) as any spouse who tries to be funny will tell you, but it does mean we have learned to interpret Joel's words in a certain way - a way that we feel is valid.

Yet I am still sensitive to cultural smears. Being an Italian-type person I have been known to write sternly worded humorless letters to certain restaurant chains who dare to stereotype all Italians as loud mouthed big eaters.
For I eat quite daintily.

Posted by: RD Padouk | August 28, 2006 6:54 PM | Report abuse

Superfrenchie: Mudge's point is well taken. We'd stand by you as sure as blood is thicker than water. I'm glad I haven't let any one know of my Luxembourg/Irish heritage, and that I'm a second generation american. I'd REALLY be in for it. Without backskimming to read posts that have surely been made by now, you'll find this area of the ethernet quite interesting and a place for rather civil discourse. Dark matter, time warp and all.

How can anyone be taken seriously when wearing a bow tie, a la Carlson? Too Pee Weeish.

Posted by: jack | August 28, 2006 7:00 PM | Report abuse

Howie's back! Interesting column today, including some thoughts on humor (by a certain Republican candidate for senator in Rhode Island) that hasn't gotten better over time:

Posted by: mostlylurking | August 28, 2006 7:15 PM | Report abuse

jack: I understand all that. But my daughter's problems did not happen in a vacuum. They happened because insulting the French is pretty much acceptable in American culture (witness late night TV, which is the bellwether of what is and is not acceptable), and the fact that the continuous use of more or less idiotic stereotypes such as Jerry Lewis or the beret or the general technological backwardness (as in the DS illustration) or the supposed laziness (as in the cafe piece) constantly go unchallenged.

But it does happen every time: when I challenge them, I'm called thin-skinned and humorless. So I can see how other people with a lot less of a dog in that fight would become quite discouraged and would just shrug it off.

And believe me, I pick my battles.

Posted by: superfrenchie | August 28, 2006 7:39 PM | Report abuse

People can claim a Luxembourgian (-ean??) heritage?? Who knew??!?!?! I thought the whole country was one small family anyway!!

DISCLAIMER -- The preceding was a blatantly unfunny attempt at humor. Rotten tomatoes thrown in response will glady be accepted, as opposed to rotten fish. -- END DISCLAIMER

And of COURSE I'm in for the 31st!


Posted by: Scottynuke | August 28, 2006 7:48 PM | Report abuse

I can't wait for the Kit where JA insults Fiji, either.


Posted by: Scottynuke | August 28, 2006 7:55 PM | Report abuse

I'm a third-generation French-Canadian American myself. My grandma speaks Canadian French, my mom has no clue and I had to learn French in school. I built the Arc de Trioumphe when I was a child.

I have never watched Tucker Carlson and I would suggest not watching anybody who raises your blood pressure.

That said, I unfortunately thought "cheese-eating surrender monkeys" was funny. Which is why John Kelly wasn't fired, I hope. I'd be more than happy to wear a T-shirt that said that. And of course, putting an anti-american insult on the back. Running dogs of captialism, wasn't it?

... And that's the flip side to fighting a stereotype. Embrace it, make it your own, and take the sting out of it. Black Pride was all about taking pride in exactly the feature that made them targets of racism.

Now I'm kind of worried if I wear a beret in Montgomery county I'm gonna be taken apart by irate French inhabitants for playing to the hitherto-unheard of stereotype of the French-American as fat, beret-wearing cheese eaters.

The problem is I just happen to look good in berets. it's one of the few hats I can wear without looking broody or a dancing mushroom.

The fact that public discourse during the prelims in Iraq was so coarse, it wasn't very good, I agree. America will be paying for it for a long time. It's not enough the French now feel specifically persecuted for disagreeing with America, Bush had to go grope the German Chancellor (anybody catch that on

Next he'll be showing his ten little piggies at a meeting with a lot of significant muslim leaders. And then handing Sharon a BBQ pork sandwich. "Try this, it's texan and good." I just hope he doesn't meet the Pope, I shudder to think what he'd cook up. I think I will hide in a bomb shelter until 2008 and whimper.

That the school system didn't take a bullying/teasing incident seriously is not good news. Did you talk to any lawyers about leaning on the school system to do a remedial French-culture sensitivity assembly?

I'm sure that you would be good at putting together an collection of images, famous French Americans, good kid-friendly french cooking recipes, and other interesting facts about the French and America to stir up your daughter's national pride and also share with the kids.
Then they'll go home all excited and saying to their bigoted, racist parents they want to go to France.

NOW that's what I call sweet revenge.

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 28, 2006 8:00 PM | Report abuse

Nelson -- you have my respect and admiration. State mental institutions scare most people. Your willingness to share your experience, strength, and hope with the patients there is inspiring. I mean literally. It's inspiring me to volunteer in the same way, as a means of expressing my gratitude for my brother's continued stability. I am sure your visit-ees appreciate it very much. I used to go up to NIH (which is like Versailles compared to Eastern State) after work a couple of times a week and on the weekends to just hang out and play ping pong with my brother. He said it made a big difference.

FYI (he would not mind my sharing this information, he's quite open about it), my brother also had serious alcohol and drug issues. It's apparently very common for people with undiagnosed schizophrenia to self-medicate that way. Not surprisingly, it made things terrifyingly worse. Now that he's got the proper nutrition and medication plan, thanks to NIH, he's also been clean and sober for seven years.

It's as if my sweet baby brother just disappeared at age 17 and was replaced by some frightening, violent stranger. Now he's back! It really does just seem almost biblical, like the Lazarus story to be precise.

FYI, I choose to focus on how excellent the NIH experience was, but I can't help sometime getting angry at other parts of the medical establishment. I know a psychiatrist who insists publicly that there is NO biological basis for any mental illness, including schizophrenia, and that it should be treated with talk therapy instead of medication. (Talk therapy has been proven to make people with schizophrenia worse, not better.)

He's a quack, but he still has a license, and heaven knows how many patients and families he has harmed.

I am also disgusted with the deinstitutionalization movement. As you pointed out, not everyone with schizophrenia is blessed with a family with a lot of love and other resources. Our nation's cities are filled with people with tattered clothes and shattered minds, whose families either can't or won't help them. We should be building more and better facilities to help them. The fact that instead anyone is even *thinking* about closing Eastern State and letting those people fend for themselves as best they might . . . unbelievable. Just unfreakingbelievable.

But leaving that aside, you've made my day, Nelson. God bless you.


Posted by: annie | August 28, 2006 8:07 PM | Report abuse

Wilbrod: //NOW that's what I call sweet revenge.//


//Embrace it, make it your own, and take the sting out of it.//

How do you take pride in being constantly called a coward? But I get your point. That's why you'll see so many frogs on my site :)

//It's not enough the French now feel specifically persecuted for disagreeing with America//

They don't. For the huge majority of them, they're not even aware of it. They don't live here and pretty much never hear anything about it. That's one reason it's so infuriating: the only people that are actually affected are those who have in fact chosen to live here.

Posted by: superfrenchie | August 28, 2006 8:21 PM | Report abuse

Dear Ultrafroggie
What's so funny about a priest on a bicycle, every french comedic effort seems to have one.
Rest assured that the next time I receive a postcard of the Effiel Tower I will reply with a sharp rebuke castigating my corespondent for spreading stereotypical images of France.
Voltaire was the Messiah you fools!

Posted by: Agronomous | August 28, 2006 8:50 PM | Report abuse

With all due respect, bertooch, I think there is indeed a difference between French-bashing (or Polish-bashing, or Irish-bashing, or pick your nationality-bashing), and racism and antisemitism, and that it is both possible and necessary to rank them in some sort of order. To me, racism and antisemitism have some things about them that make them significantly worse than the other stuff. We've all known some heavy-duty bigots and racists, and one thing they have in common is that there is a real base of underlying hatred there that is missing in, say, French-bashing.

Second, the "real" bigots and racists tend to obsess quite a bit on the object of their problem; it colors everything they think about that area, and what they say and how they talk.

I know people who French-bash, and while it may be both serious and unpleasant, it really isn't some deeply held, obsessive belief with hard-core hatred.

Third, serious anti-black racism and antisemitism have a long and ugly history of murder, lynchings, and gas chambers--not only is that some serious s--t, it is THE most serious kind of stuff there is. Lots of people died, by the millions and millions. To me there is a hell of a lot of difference between lynchings and gas chambers and somebody running their mouths and calling somebody a cheese-eating surrender monkey. I have no trouble differentiating between the two, and seeing one as being whole magnitudes worse than the other.

Last, there are lots of people who just run their mouths, sometimes just to hear themselves talk, and yes, they say some ugly stuff. And yes, when I hear it, I think, OK, that guy's a sphincter, and I mentally write him off as a moron, and not worth my time.

I have trouble taking a lot of French-bashing seriously, partly because the people who do it are (IMHO) morons. I mean, really, that whole "freedom fries" crap, and the insult, "cheese-eating surrender monkey." What kinda half-assed, lame insult is "cheese-eating," fer cryin' out loud? I don't even know what it is trying to say. At least I understand what "surrender monkey" is supposed to be about. But cheese-eating? How can you work some serious outrage over "cheese-eating"?

If it is said to a kid, sure--but it's not the content that's bothersome, it is simply the fact of it being some sort of insult. Nobody really cares about the actual nature of it, and whether it is true or not. If you want to argue that facts disspell stereotypes, then how the blue blazes do you deny that French people eat cheese? C'mon, let's get real about this. Does it matter that the French eat more cheese than the Swiss? Maybe the Swiss eat more. Maybe people from Wisconsin eat more than both the French or the Swiss. The whole thing is patently absurd--and to equate it with true racism just trivializes racism.

To my knowledge, nobody has ever killed anybody over French-bashing, or Irish-bashing, or dumb-blond-bashing, or lawyer-bashing. Gay-bashing is a bit different, and worse, for the obvious reason that in fact, a few a--holes have in fact murder gays, such as that kid that got dragged behind the truck etc. In addition, there are other serious societal consequences--people unable to get or keep a job (such as in the military), etc.--all much more important than thinking "all Irish are drunks." But certainly less lethal, historically, than antisemitism or racism.

So, no, I don't think all bashing is morally equivalent. Your mileage may vary, and that's fine. Unless you're a dumb pollack, of course.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | August 28, 2006 8:55 PM | Report abuse

I'd say "You are insulting a person smaller than you. Who's the coward here?"

But then that works because I can play the runt card, and because my body language works for me.

When I was around 11 I tried to beat the beejesus out of a guy 3 years older, nearly 8 inches taller and about 40 lbs on me because I didn't like being called a certain height-related nickname. He held me at arm's length and told me to chill. He must have put the word out (he was a pretty cool and popular guy) and I stopped being teased by the older boys about my size.

I don't remember if that was about the same time I whupped three boys older, bigger and heavier than me at wrestling during recess. That could have helped.

So your strategy on this blog isn't too bad actually, but you should be going nose-to-nose on Leno or somebody with the face-time to influence the idiots out there. And of course that Kelly moron.

Alas, here nobody listens to Joel but us chickens (Species: Gallus gallus domesticus)

...and, of course, the Fighting French Capons, aka Gaullus gaullus frothingus internet-connectedus.

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 28, 2006 8:56 PM | Report abuse

SCC: Or would that be Polack? I was never sure how to spell that. Can't keep my ethnic slurs and stereotypes straight.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | August 28, 2006 8:57 PM | Report abuse

No, "Dumb Pollack" is right. Jackson Pollack was a pretty stupid artist, but a marketing genius. I can't believe he sold that paint splatter merde.

And if you refer to the Polish, an Polish catholic priest who SURVIVED the holocaust in one of the worst German concentration camp married my parents.

Maybe the anti-Polish propaganda against the French and the Polish is still sticking. One does wonder if we'd be calling the British limp-wristed ballet fancying poufs to this day had Germany succeeded in conquering England and controlling the information flow about the British' courage in facing the London Blitz.

So... while the issues are different, it's not of a completely different origin than institutionalized anti-semitism.

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 28, 2006 9:03 PM | Report abuse

SCC: German (or Axis), not Anti-polish.

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 28, 2006 9:06 PM | Report abuse

>And if you refer to the Polish, an Polish catholic priest who SURVIVED the holocaust in one of the worst German concentration camp married my parents.

Catholic polyandry? Now I've heard everything.

Posted by: Agronomous | August 28, 2006 9:11 PM | Report abuse

Science Tim,

"Your mama wears combat boots" sounds like a WWII construction to me. There really isn't a suggestion that the women involved weren't of "easy virtue" or necessarily fashion-impaired. It was probably a sexist comment about women's involvment in the war effort and then became a kidding comment of the same. It would have then merged into the joke/insult form called "Playing the Dozens" which deals with a wide variety of personal insults, such as "Yo' mama so fat..." or "Yo' mama so ugly" jokes. One of my favorites is "Yo' mama so fat she keeps her diaphragm in a pizza box." In the movie "Roxanne" Steve Martin's character (the one with the big schnozz) is challenged to produce 20 big-nose jokes and does so. It's a great scene in a fun, fun movie. (And filmed in Canada.) That's the same principle.

superfrenchie will probably be offended by the previous paragraph. But he really needs to come up with better examples that a one-line joke in a 2-year-old John Kelly column that is clearly told ironically and a Tucker Carlson program, about which the less said is better, in order to be taken seriously.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 28, 2006 9:21 PM | Report abuse

I should probably just keep my mouth shut, but...

When I was growing up in western PA, there was plenty of anti-immigrant ugliness. Italians and Eastern Europeans had come in to work in the mines and steel mills, and the prejudice against them, and against Catholics, was virulent, even in the '50's and '60's. One of my uncles (who worked in a steel mill) would not go to my cousin's wedding, because she married a guy of Polish descent. I remember the names they called Italians - and Pollock was as polite as Polish people got called. Lots of Scots-Irish - of course, there was lots of discrimination historically against Irish Catholics, but I never experienced it personally till I came to the NW and heard Irish people referred to as "potato eaters". Certainly lots of ugliness to go around - I've never understood it.

Posted by: mostlylurking | August 28, 2006 9:22 PM | Report abuse

The above post was originally hung up by the censor. I used a five-letter word beginning with 'sl' and ending with 'uts' in place of the "of easy virtue" construction I ended up with. Oh, well.

Posted by: pj | August 28, 2006 9:24 PM | Report abuse

SCC - excessive use of "lots of" - a thousand apologies.

Posted by: mostlylurking | August 28, 2006 9:27 PM | Report abuse

Aarrggghh, I am responsible for the 9:21 post. Sorry about that.

Posted by: pj | August 28, 2006 9:29 PM | Report abuse

Curmudgeon: // To my knowledge, nobody has ever killed anybody over French-bashing, or Irish-bashing, or dumb-blond-bashing, or lawyer-bashing.//

Point taken. However:

1. if you'd fight racism only for people whose history is that of being killed by the millions, then why would you fight, say anti-Indian (from India) racism?

2. Lynching is no longer occurring, and by most accounts would have little chance of ever occurring again in the US regardless of what some bigots might want to do. Does that mean it's no longer relevant to fight it?

3. Incidents DID happen. True, nobody killed us by the millions. But, read this account of a guy who has received threatening letters and a rock through his window:

I did receive my own threatening emails and death threats. Some of them were actually very funny (just ask). Others weren't.

4. Can you think of a single nationality for which advocating to "kill all of them" on a moderated national web site such as MSNBC would be tolerated for more than a few minutes? Well, this thread was on an MSNBC discussion board (about the Tour de France) for almost 5 days before it was taken off, despite complaints from the beginning:

5. And no, it's not the cheese-eating part that's a problem... ;)

Posted by: superfrenchie | August 28, 2006 9:32 PM | Report abuse

pj: //superfrenchie will probably be offended by the previous paragraph. But he really needs to come up with better examples that a one-line joke in a 2-year-old John Kelly column that is clearly told ironically and a Tucker Carlson program, about which the less said is better, in order to be taken seriously.//

pj, I could come up with a ton of examples if I started citing Fox News or talk radio. I am concentrating on examples from the so-called "liberal media" because I know that as soon as I start bringing up Bill O'Reilly, everybody's going to tell me that he is a nut anyway. Yet, he is the most listened-to cable show host in America.

But here is another example: how about a global American company, with more than 26,000 outlets in 85 countries, including some in France, advertising a sandwich by calling us "chicken"? Yet, that's what Subway did!

I have plenty more if you wish, but it really starts looking like a big ad for my site... ;)

Posted by: superfrenchie | August 28, 2006 9:42 PM | Report abuse

This has been exhausting to read. The only thing that keeps me from running into the forest is being reminded that a light year is the same as a regular year, except it just has less calories.

Thanks pj.

Posted by: RD Padouk | August 28, 2006 9:52 PM | Report abuse

And Science Tim, I do know about "Roxanne" and the big nose thing. Before it was a movie with Steve Martin, it was a play called Cyrano de Bergerac, which was written by French playwright Edmond Rostand.

Posted by: superfrenchie | August 28, 2006 9:56 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, I meant the post about Roxanne to be addressed to pj, not Science Tim. My bad.

Posted by: superfrenchie | August 28, 2006 10:00 PM | Report abuse


And your examples are all lame. You are correct that citations of Bill O'Reilly will not carry much weight in this crowd. Neither will Fox News or talk radio. Being the top-rated cable show means you are still a small number. Please note that the knuckle-head who changed the name of "French Fries" to "Freedom Fries" is not running for Congress and the name has been changed back.

I have a question for you. Lenny Bruce, a decidedly non-practicing Jew, cracked a joke that "We Jews killed Christ and if He comes back, we'll kill Him again." I think that's a great cold, cruel, nasty, and incredibly funny joke. What do you think of it?

Posted by: pj | August 28, 2006 10:06 PM | Report abuse

Golly gee, superfrenchie, somehow I knew about the relationship between "Roxanne" and "Cyrano." But I'm just an ingorant 'Murican.

You guys also gave us the Statue of Liberty. I think we all thank you for that. Not to mention Champagne. :-)))

You also gave us invaluable support in our revolution after the battle of Saratoga. We would not have won our independence from Britain without the help of the French.

Posted by: pj | August 28, 2006 10:19 PM | Report abuse

pj: //I think that's a great cold, cruel, nasty, and incredibly funny joke. What do you think of it?//

I'm all for anti-religion jokes. There's nobody more anti-religion than me. I could go on and on religion-bashing all day, and I have actually done that before. I even consider knocking down beliefs in imaginary beings, whether through jokes, mocking or otherwise scornful comments to be some sort of a sacred duty! ;)

Although I will admit to choosing my settings for such bashing, such as avoiding, say somebody's funeral, I happily practice it all the time.

Here is the difference: religion is a choice. So one has to assume their choices, and be ready to be bashed for it. It's like politics.

Ethnicity, or nationality, is not a choice!

Posted by: superfrenchie | August 28, 2006 10:20 PM | Report abuse

You can change nationality, too. Lots of my ancestors did. You can change religion. You can even change sex. Lots of choices are available.

Posted by: pj | August 28, 2006 10:28 PM | Report abuse

pj: //We would not have won our independence from Britain without the help of the French.//

And 62 years ago today, you liberated Paris. And we certainly couldn't have done it without you. So a big thanks for that. Un prete pour un rendu.

Posted by: superfrenchie | August 28, 2006 10:31 PM | Report abuse

Salut, superfrenchie et tout le monde. Superfrenchie, est-ce que vous avez lu un livre ecrit (sorry, don't know how to make the macros) par un americain, Robert Kagan, avec le titre "Of Paradise and Power?"

Posted by: annie | August 28, 2006 10:34 PM | Report abuse

Annie, yes I've read that some time ago. The original neocon and neoconnerie! ;)

Posted by: superfrenchie | August 28, 2006 10:38 PM | Report abuse

PJ -- my brother -- I must bash you (which is what we Irish do to each other) -- yeah, maybe the Revolution could not have been won without the French, but it's a mistake to think that they allied with us out of some sort of warm fellow-feeling. They wanted to stick it to England, and we were a convenient proxy.

Analogies spring to mind, but I don't want to go there. I'm right there with the Kumbaya poster.

Bummer that you can't come hoist a point on Thursday. Superfrenchie, are you in? Do you even live around here?

Posted by: annie | August 28, 2006 10:47 PM | Report abuse

Wilbrod, I would be then a second generation Canadian. Previous to that all my grandparents came from...(duh duh duh daaaaaaaa)America. All of my grandparents were first generation Americans, so I am not sure, but I may have been wrong thinking that my heritage was German all these years. Does this mean I have to start celebrating Thanksgiving on the wrong day? I am so confused.

Actually for me religion was not a choice, and even if I formally left, that relgion still influences who I am, how I think and what I choose to do. I may not practise it, I may not agree with a whole lot about it, and I may have been pissed off at it's rules since I was 6 and was told that girls could not do stuff, but I am still at my heart connected to the way of thinking my momma raised me with. I can be agnostic, I may even not believe seriously and logically, in a superior being, but the framework of the faith I was brought up in remains. I still say an Our Father when I pass car wrecks and ambulances, and I still pray in the dark of night.

It may be a choice for some, but its not for all of us.

Posted by: dr | August 28, 2006 10:53 PM | Report abuse


Yes, you are absolutely correct. There were no warm and fuzzy feelings involved. Geopolitics was alive and well back then, too. In fact, aiding us helped bankrupt the French government and led to the French Revolution. So Louis XVI by helping us in order to take a poke at the English helped do himself in.

Posted by: pj | August 28, 2006 10:53 PM | Report abuse

And in the stupid things I saw today, I went to the book store. A sign by the check out counter said " We do not accept returns of magasines and newspapers."

Now I ask you seriously...

The clerk told me that some guy came in, bought a magasine and then tried to return it the next day. The manager was being called when an alert clerk noted that all the game and contest stuff had been filled in. Who thinks up this kind of thing?

Posted by: dr | August 28, 2006 10:54 PM | Report abuse

annie: //but it's a mistake to think that they allied with us out of some sort of warm fellow-feeling.//

But then that would also be a mistake to think that Americans came to our rescue in WW2 out of some warm feeling for the French.

We can move beyond that. Fact is, we owe you our freedom, and you owe us your independance.

If it weren't for the French, Bush would be speaking English today!

What's up Thursday? And where is "around here"?

Posted by: superfrenchie | August 28, 2006 10:56 PM | Report abuse

BPH, Address will follow, via a local, but must warn you, tinfoil hat is recommended.

Posted by: dr | August 28, 2006 11:05 PM | Report abuse

SF, you are a sneak and a word-weasel, and you use "straw man" arguments. Regarding your questions:

"1. If you'd fight racism only for people whose history is that of being killed by the millions, then why..." But I never said that I'd "only" fight etc. You said it, and then asked the loaded follow-up, about Indians. It assumes nobody kills or killed Indians, unlike say, blacks or Jews. But I don't accept your premise. In point of fact, you ignore the fact that I took some pains to define racism as having an underlying hatred and obsession against the target class. I like to think I'd fight all racism, but it seems reasonable to me that people who are getting killed (i.e., Rwanda) should have priority over people who are merely being insulted. But you twisted that all around. Shame on you.

"2. 2. Lynching is no longer occurring, ... would have little chance of ever occurring again in the US ... Does that mean it's no longer relevant to fight it?" Another twisted question, and I don't accept the premise (and I sure as hell never said anything close to it). It is pernicious of you to restrict the question to just lynching, and then say it has largely disappeared here. I remember vividly the assassinations of ML King, Medgar Evers, Viola Liuzo, and Goodman, Chaney and Schwerner, among others. So don't tell me racism has disappeared or is no longer lethal. I live about 10 houses down the street from a racist skinhead a--hole who set fire to something like 20 homes of black people near here.

And notwithstanding that, why make the assumption that because lynchings have disappeared "in the US" I would cease to care about racism elsewhere, viz. Rwanda, etc.? Another loaded question. You gotta knock that stuff off, dude; you lose credibility and respect.

"3. ... read this account of a guy who has received threatening letters and a rock through his window." No, I'm not gonna read it. We're talking about murder and gas chambers, and you're outraged about somebody who got a rock through the window. Gimme a freakin' break.

4. No, I'm not gonna read about some stupid message board where somebody said something stupid about the Tour de France. You want outrage, but you're not gonna get it from me. Yes, there's idiots out there in the world. And...?

Jon Stewart's on; he's getting my attention now, not you. Then I'm going to bed.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | August 28, 2006 11:27 PM | Report abuse

The DC area Boodlers are getting together Thursday evening for a Boodle Porching Hour, i.e. beer and burgers. Or just beer, I suppose. I'd go, but I'm about 3000 miles away.

Posted by: ac in sj | August 28, 2006 11:28 PM | Report abuse

"If it weren't for the French, Bush would be speaking English today!'

superfrenchie, that had me falling out of my chair laughing!

Posted by: Dooley | August 28, 2006 11:36 PM | Report abuse

ac: Ah, cool. Thursday evening? That's a possibility. Where is it? Should I show up in tights, or is it superhero casual?

Posted by: superfrenchie | August 28, 2006 11:39 PM | Report abuse


glad you get the humor here, and sorry about what happened to your daughter.

i personally prefer ignoring people that annoy me, so being a watchdog for all insensitive comments made against one's nationality seems like a depressing pastime and not worth the time and effort.

my recommendation: spend less time policing the blogosphere and more time goofing off here. ;)

Posted by: L.A. lurker | August 28, 2006 11:41 PM | Report abuse

i believe the official attire is superhero casual, tinfoil hat optional.

but i've never been made since i'm on the left coast with ac.

Posted by: L.A. lurker | August 28, 2006 11:44 PM | Report abuse

LALurker: //i'm on the left coast with ac.//

And I'm in Paris without A/C!

No seriously, I'm in the MD burbs.

Posted by: superfrenchie | August 28, 2006 11:46 PM | Report abuse

scc: never been OR never made it, but not "never been made" :)

which reminds me, superfrenchie, you've got to read up on the achenfaqs if you're going to hang out with the gang.

courtesy of mo:

Posted by: L.A. lurker | August 28, 2006 11:53 PM | Report abuse

Expressing anti-french sentiments is a form a chauvanism not racism. Chauvan was an arrogant xenophobe of the French persuasion. Ironic? Mais oui!

Posted by: Agronomous | August 28, 2006 11:53 PM | Report abuse

la lurker: boy, that sounds complicated. I did see the SAO-15 is now defunct. Sorry you're losing members like that... What is it now, SAO-5? ;)

Posted by: superfrenchie | August 28, 2006 11:56 PM | Report abuse

Agro, that's Chauvin, not Chauvan.

And chauvinism is supposed to express ardent and zealous nationalistic passion for your own group, not necessarily hate of others or xenophobia, although that's not excluded either.

Posted by: superfrenchie | August 29, 2006 12:02 AM | Report abuse

Snuke: Thank you for acknowledging my heritage. At least it wasn't with "Luxemwhat???"

Posted by: jack | August 29, 2006 12:13 AM | Report abuse

SF- thanx for the spelling tip. Made finding the following so much easier.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Chauvinism is extreme and unreasoning partisanship on behalf of a group to which one belongs, especially when the partisanship includes malice and hatred towards a rival group.

Posted by: Agronomous | August 29, 2006 12:54 AM | Report abuse

Superfrenchie -- happy hour is Thursday at McCormick & Schmidts (sp?), 16something K Street. According to someone, PJ I do believe, you go into the restaurant, and then to the right, and then to the back, and there's a separate party room. Hope you can make it.

"Around here" is a very elastic term that means "anywhere you can be persuaded to drive to." LA Lurker and AC in SF, if you set out now, you could probably make it in time. Will miss you if you can't make the trip, or decide there might possibly be better uses for your time :-) >

Speaking of driving, I went for the first time to Nissan Pavillion on Saturday, to see the Goo Goo Dolls/Counting Crows show (which was fantastic). But from downtown, we're talking a 70-mile commitment round-trip. You really feel like you've done something when you drive that much.

That's one of the things I love about Europe. Put in that kind of behind-the-wheel time over there, and you're in a completely different nation. Even an island nation like Ireland, you can drive across the whole thing in three hours and you go from the wild, woolly, Irish-speaking lands of the west (where my family is from, a little village called Taughmore in Galway) to the bright lights of Dublin, and everything in between.

Three hours in the car (OK, round trip but still) in my own country, and I haven't even left Virginia!

The show was incredible, though.

Posted by: annie | August 29, 2006 5:56 AM | Report abuse

Agro: Look, I've had that debate a million times. Some call it racism because it's exactly the same thing: irrational hate towards a group not for what they may have done, but simply because they exist.

On the other hand, some believe strongly in the concept of race and reply that the French cannot possibly be a race. I would argue that the concept of race doesn't really exist scientifically: none of us is really white or black or yellow. We're all some kind of mix, and thus the term racism simply designates hate towards a group.

So if you prefer chauvinism and it makes you feel better that French-hating cannot possibly be associated with being a racist, then fine, although I think the words bigotry and xenophobia would be more appropriate.

Posted by: superfrenchie | August 29, 2006 5:59 AM | Report abuse

Annie: On Thursday, I'll be at a client's in Bethesda until around 5. As home is in Darnestown, MD, if I can make it, that will be without first changing into my superhero outfit. What time is happy hour?

Posted by: superfrenchie | August 29, 2006 7:10 AM | Report abuse

Joel, Jooeel! Are you still in the woods? Please come out and give us a new kit, we have beat the old one to death!

Posted by: slyness | August 29, 2006 7:10 AM | Report abuse


Yer welcome. :-)


l'homme francais superbe;

Actually, this particular gathering is a sorta collective birthday party for many of us Boodlers whose special days are clustered fairly close together. Although many would say it's the cheap cheeseburgers that keep us coming back. Hey, that would make us "cheese-eating Boodle monkeys," right?


Posted by: Scottynuke | August 29, 2006 8:07 AM | Report abuse

Oh, the Boodle (Birthday) Porching Hour normally starts somewhere around 5...


Posted by: Scottynuke | August 29, 2006 8:11 AM | Report abuse



Posted by: Scottynuke | August 29, 2006 8:12 AM | Report abuse


Happy hour technically begins for a BPH at 5, but we keep straggling in and out all evening. Please join us!

I'm not sure if we've seen evidence of whether you are a he or she, but we'll certainly find out if you show up at McCormick & Schmick's at 1652 K Street NW--superhero garb is encouraged but not required. Cheeseburger platters (and other delicious fare) are $1.95 until 6:30 or so, so it's usually best to arrive before then.

Annie... I'm looking forward to meeting you, too!

I've heard nightmares about driving to and from Nissan Pavilion. We drove this summer down to the Cumberland Gap, where Virginia meets Tennessee and Kentucky. That was almost 500 miles all in Virginia--that part of the state is west of Detroit.

Posted by: TBG | August 29, 2006 8:29 AM | Report abuse

TBG: //I'm not sure if we've seen evidence of whether you are a he or she//

I'll let you guess, but here's a picture of your servitor superhero, with some protection with regard to the fact that I am drinking red wine with a straw and out of a plastic glass, an offense which has brought me guillotine threats in my home country:

Posted by: superfrenchie | August 29, 2006 8:40 AM | Report abuse

OK, since this thread seems about to wrap up, I don't want it to end without adding a couple of trivia things about the "Road Treep" piece:

//The United States has the infrastructure to support such spontaneity. You can pull off the highway, grab chow, spend the night, hit the road again. These freeway-exit retail villages have no character, of course, and at 3 in the morning it is impossible to recall if you're in a Comfort Inn or a Motel 6 or a Red Roof Hampton Courtyard AmeriSuites by Ramada.//

Even in America, you may in fact encounter French hospitality: both Motel 6 and Red Roof Inns are owned by Accor, a French company.

//The brochure informs me that Francis I had it built in the early 1500s, though it wasn't finished until Louis XIV did his Sun King magic the following century. The thing is impossible to look at without thinking of Cinderella's castle. It definitely could use a roller coaster and maybe a flume ride.//

No surprise to think of Walt Disney there: he did in fact model the Sleeping Beauty castle after the Loire Valley castles.

We'll just add the fact that the DS, while it sold 38,000 models in the US, was in fact too advanced for US regulations of the time, such as hydraulic mineral fluid for the suspension and aerodynamic headlamps, and so these features were banned and had to be removed.

Posted by: superfrenchie | August 29, 2006 8:55 AM | Report abuse

And another pic, ready for Bill O'Reilly:

Posted by: superfrenchie | August 29, 2006 9:02 AM | Report abuse

Superfrenchie, don't you ever sleep ?


Posted by: Coyote | August 29, 2006 11:19 AM | Report abuse

Mr. Achenblach, while enjoying your mainly well-written post about the Louvre, I was still saddened to read that you would like to go back in time and confront an artist because you feel that he has "overpainted".

Is this serious or supposed to be funny? Either way it falls flat in the middle of a moving piece. Surely the world is big enough for you and all the prolific artists throughout history, yes? Or is there not a quiet place that you can find, where you can be alone with the art of your choice? such violence necessary...even as humor? You do switch back between a classical style and contemporary humorist, with a smattering of hip-hop or MTV in your face culture now and then...the cultural irony obviously appeals to you...but here you don the suit which you otherwise mock. It looks just as bad on you as it does on them. Or maybe you miss the underlying message that is carried in so many songs. That is how they used to deal with it.


Posted by: cc | August 29, 2006 6:25 PM | Report abuse

"She has. Thanks. But it does show that "little harmless jokes" have consequences"

Everything does.

One question is are they major, or just minor. The second question is are you going to blow them up from minor consequences into major ones, simply because there *are* consequences.

In life there are three types of people, those who start trouble, those who enjoy it while it lasts, and those who end it. It is very easy to be all three, and blame everyone else for the trouble that goes on around you, when, really, *you* are the one who is the problem.

Not to say that's the case but don't act as if you couldn't be. Or your daughter couldn't be. That might help.

Posted by: cc | August 29, 2006 6:29 PM | Report abuse

"Besides, I have had to remomve my daughter from American public schools for being bullied by all kinds of kids who no doubt did not make up those jokes themselves"

(the ultimate surrender ;)

Posted by: cc | August 29, 2006 6:38 PM | Report abuse

While I really enjoyed your piece about Louvre. I'd like to point out, as a quirky arts lover, that the Veronese painting on the opposite wall of Mona Lisa was the Wedding Feast of Cana, not at all related to Last Supper except the presence of Jesus.

Posted by: CB | August 30, 2006 10:18 PM | Report abuse

I'm with Dooley: No matter what his/her/its other views, superfrenchy has one of the better-timed lines of the week with:

"If it weren't for the French, Bush would be speaking English today!'

Posted by: Bob S. | August 30, 2006 11:40 PM | Report abuse

Re Joel Achenbach's article on the Louvre : Veronese's painting is not the Last Supper but The Wedding Feast at Cana - Christ's First Miracle when he turned the Water into Wine.

Visitors to the Louvre often mistake it for the Last Supper. Some think it is Leonardo's Last Supper which of course is in Milan.

They say if you look for thirty seconds at each work of art in the Louvre you will be there for several months! But the Veronese happens to be the largest canvas in the Louvre, about 66m2, which is the size of an average Parisian three roomed apartment !

Veronese must have had a diificult job sorting out the iconography as Christ is in the centre with Mary to his right. This leaves the problem of placing the Bride and Groom. How does Veronese solve this ? He puts them on the extreme bottom left of the painting. But how does he draw attention to them and the miracle ? Look at the dogs ! In the centre are two lurchers straining at the leash. One of them is distracted either by a cat or by the miracle of the water being turned into wine . This is replicated by the dog on the extreme left who is looking at the wine cup being handed to the Bridegroom. So Veronese has deftly transferred the wine goblet from the right to the left of the canvas by certain visual tricks. Originally the steward in green on the left was painted facing us but Veronese changes this to accentuate the direction of the wine goblet. Veronese also paints the Bride looking directly out at us ,the spectator ,and draws us in to the picture.

One of the reasons many people mistake this picture for the Last Supper is the central position of Christ . He is the focal point of the painting and he is looking straight at you ,as he would have done to the monks who commissioned the painting for their refectory in 1563. Just above Christ's head they are chopping meat, a reference to the lamb of God and Christ's sacrifice. A woman's arm is seen trailing over the balcony on the right side, follow the column downwards and you see she has been dropping White Roses, the emblem of Mary. Below the woman's arm a man in yellow with a grey beard looks up and next to him a man in a brown cowl looking remarkably like Phil Collins twists around. This man's head is actually a separate piece of canvas stuck on at the last minute and represents the new Abbot of the monastery of Saint George the Major (San Giorgio di Maggiore- sounds better in italian) who did not want to be left out of the picture. It took 15 months to paint and contains around 130 characters. The ambiguity of Christ's central position in this picture cleverly allows Veronese to link Christ's first miracle to his eventual destiny.

Next time Joel Achenbach comes to Paris I would be happy to explain the other artworks in the Louvre to him - it's my job !


James M'Kenzie-Hall
conférencier-official guide-lecturer

Posted by: James M'Kenzie-Hall | August 31, 2006 4:33 PM | Report abuse

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