Tag Archives: paris

Paris June 2019

Back from nearly two weeks at the Institut Henri Poincare, where we were reinventing rational points, though they actually seem pretty much as they have always been. But lots of new ideas floating around and in particular lots of problems I see as potentially rich ones for students.

Last week featured the hottest temperatures ever recorded in France, reminding one that when you move the mean of a distribution even a little, the frequency of formerly rare events might jump quite a lot. Paris was spared the worst of the heat; after initial predictions of temperatures going over 100F, the hottest day of the conference was 97 and the rest of the week was in the mid-90s, regular old East Coast US summer weather. But of course France doesn’t have regular old East Coast US summer air-conditioning. Faiblement climatisé is the order of the day. The word for heatwave in French is “canicule,” which comes from the Italian word for Sirius, thought to be a bringer of hot weather.

It’s also the Women’s World Cup. Tickets for the US-France quarterfinal, held the night before I left, were going at 350 euros for the very cheapest, but I don’t think I’d have wanted to go, anyway. The Orioles are the only team I love enough to really enjoy rooting for them as the visiting team. Instead I went to Scotland-Argentina, which looked like a laugher 70 minutes in with Scotland up 3-0, but ended in a controversial tie after Scotland’s apparent save of a last-minute penalty kick was called back when VAR showed the goalie jumping off the line a moment before the ball was kicked. The ref called end of time directly after the second kick went in to tie the game, to the confusion and dismay of the players on the field; both teams needed a win to have a real chance of advancing past the group stage, and the tie left them both out. Scottish forward Erin Cuthbert pulled something out of her sock and kissed it after her goal; later I found out it was a picture of herself as a baby. I like her style!

I ate well. I ate whelks. They’re OK. I ate thiebou djienne at this place near IHP which was much better than OK. I ate a watermelon-chevre salad that was so good I went to a spice store and bought the pepper they used, piment d’espelette, and now I have a spice Penzey’s doesn’t sell. Favorite new cheese I ate on this trip was Soumaintrain.

I went to the museum of Jewish history where I saw this campaign poster:

And I saw the computer teen Blaise Pascal built for his dad in 1642, which is at the Musée des arts et métiers, along with a revolutionary 10-hour clock:

And right there at the museum, later that night, just by my good luck, there was a free Divine Comedy concert as part of the Fête de la Musique. It was sold out but, my good luck part deux, someone’s friend didn’t show up and in I went. Great set. Sort of a beautifully multinational moment to watch an Irish guy play a They Might Be Giants song in Paris in front of a cast of the Statue of Liberty:

I also learned on this trip that when French kids play Capture the Flag they use an actual French flag:

and that “Good Grief!” in French is “Bon sang!”

Tagged , , ,

Robert Lowell would be 81

Today is Robert Lowell’s birthday. It’s hard to resist quoting “For the Union Dead,” but instead here’s the strange closing of “Beyond the Alps,” which has stayed with me, and which appears off to the side of my thoughts occasionally and unexpectedly:

Now Paris, our black classic, breaking up

like killer kings on an Etruscan cup.

What does it mean, though? I’m not sure. A vigorous debate on this point was held in the letters column of the New York Review of Books in 2003, in response to James Fenton’s essay on Lowell’s collected poems.

Via Time Magazine’s open archive, a 1964 review of For the Union Dead.

And while we’re on the subject of Alps and great, discomfiting endings to poems, here’s “Work Song,” by Mark Levine. Thanks to Daily Miltonian for putting the full text online. Astonishingly, his collection Debt, which leads off with “Work Song,” appears to be out of print. I know, I know, nobody buys poetry books — but back when I knew a lot of people who did buy poetry books, everybody was buying this one.

“Work Song”

by Mark Levine

My name is Henri. Listen. It’s morning.
I pull my head from my scissors, I pull
the light bulb from my mouth–Boss comes at me
while I’m still blinking.
Pastes the pink slip on my collarbone.
It’s OK, I say, I was a lazy worker, and I stole.
I wipe my feet on his skullcap on the way out.

I am Henri, mouth full of soda crackers.
I live in Toulouse, which is a piece of cardboard.
Summers, the Mayor paints it blue, we fish in it.
Winters we skate on it. Children are always drowning
or falling through the cracks. Parents are distraught
but get over it. It’s easy to replace a child.
Like my parents’ child, Henri.

I stuff my hands in my shoes
and crawl through the snow on all fours.
Animals fear me. I smell so good.
I have two sets of footprints, I confuse the police.
When I reach the highway I unzip my head.

I am a zipper. A paper cut.
I fed myself so many times
through the shredder I am confetti,
I am a ticker-tape parade, I am an astronaut
waving from my convertible at Henri.

Henri from Toulouse, is that you?
Why the unhappy face? I should shoot you
for spoiling my parade. Come on, man,
put yourself together! You want so much to die
that you don’t want to die.

My name is Henri. I am Toulouse. I am scraps
of bleached parchment, I am a standing militia,
a quill, the Red Cross, I am a feather
in my cap, the Hebrew Testament, I am the World Court.
An electric fan blows
beneath my black robe. I am dignity itself.

I am an ice machine.
I am an alp.
I stuff myself in the refrigerator
wrapped in newsprint. With salt in my heart
I stay good for days.

Tagged , , , , , ,

Recipe for fun revealed!

Overheard in Espresso Royale.  One young woman is showing a map of Paris to another:

OK, this is the Jewish district and this is the gay district… Here they sort of merge.  So that’s fun.

Tagged
%d bloggers like this: