• Arrival: Plane is 2 hour late. A dozen obnoxious sunburnt thirty-something, straight from Club Med Pataya, manage to ward 200 people off the whole luggage area thanks to their skillful use of carts and an utter disregard for basic courtesy. Oblivious to the sign reading “Information” hanging over his head, counter guy basically laughs in my face when I show up to ask where bus #305 departs. Finally sends me in the opposite direction. Welcome to France.
  • Caffeine consumption for last 3 days before turning in paper: Regain Black (3 bottles), Black Black chewing gums (2 packs), Red Bull Extra (1 can), Pure Arabica ground coffee (approx. 2 gallons).
  • Monkeys: Of course, aforementioned caffeine dosage made it somewhat difficult to sleep, even after report was finally completed. You wouldn’t believe the sort of useful stuff you learn, watching French TV at 4 in the morning. Did you know that, when you put a baboon in front of a large mirror, said baboon will never tire of attacking or threatening its own reflection, whereas the only other primate, beside Man, able to finally realize it is standing in front of itself, are chimpanzees. These critters are so smart, it’s crazy! Never will I call the POTUS, “chimpy”, ever again: that’s just mean to our brother chimpanzees.
  • Schoolmates from way back then are all finished or finishing with their studies. Most of them have embarked on lucrative careers in finances abroad. Some are getting married. A frightening number has already started investing in real estate. All in all makes me feel like I’m growing old backwards.
  • Picnic: The monastic life ended just in time for a delicious picnic organized by a bunch of French bloggers, blessed by one of the last few days of sunny Parisian weather for the year, and amidst the gorgeous setting of the Parc Floral de Paris. The oddities of my own internal clock, conjugated with the counterblow of two months of frenetic studies suddenly screeching to a halt, made for a rather contemplative, slightly sleepy and altogether not very talkative dr Dave, but it was nice to see the sun again after all this time.
  • Partying did take place. Maybe it was jetlag kicking in, or maybe my body had learnt to metabolize caffeine on its own by then, but I finally regained enough energy for a couple long evenings, busy arguing over world domination plots, drinking champagne and checking out the mind-blowing view of the city from Pierre’s terrace (technically the highest appartement within the limits of Paris, and definitely showing). Some much-needed comforting that Parisian life can be more than grey skies and malcontent cab drivers.
  • Language: Pierre noted that my French was substantially better this time around. Granted, “better” here, is the difference between a masterfully trained foreign spy and an authentic native, but Pierre’s notorious anal-retentiveness toward the French language gives extra importance to such compliment. I hang it on spending my entire month in French textbooks and going additional lengths to stay immersed in the language, so as to avoid some of the distracting back-and-forth that usually goes in my head when I try tackling a Math question in French. It’s a sad reality that, no matter how fluent a language, you will lose it if not practicing daily. Conclusion being that I ought to do something to keep things going in that direction, especially if I’ll be residing there in three months. Expect a special announcement very soon.
  • Airport: I now officially hate Paris CDG airport with a passion. I might even contemplate running over a few employees with my cart, next time I’m there. On the other hand: props to the lovely Cathay Pacific airline employee who did her best to get me on next-day’s flight back, at no cost, and even though they were in no way responsible for the retarded information counter agent who sent me to the wrong terminal on the other side of the airport (a grand total of 80 minutes to get there, realize his mistake and rush back to the correct one: enough to miss my plane).
  • Home sweet home. It’s good to be back in Tokyo. Three more month to come to terms with it and prepare psychologically to move to Paris for a more substantial duration.

Watching a small online condensate of worldwide TV programs, I stumbled upon a bit of French national news wherein a journalist comments, in French, over footage of flooded NOLA streets.

At one point, the camera stops on a man laying on the ground, zooms in, and we can hear the following voice-over:

Voiceover: “… Un homme a terre, qui dans un souffle parvient à peine à dire à une équipe de reporters…” [“… a man on the ground, barely manages to tell a team of reporters…”]
Offscreen (in English): “Are you alright?”
Man on the ground (in English): “I got a kidney stone…”
Voiceover (allegedly translating from English): “… qu’il est affamé.” [“… that he is starving.”]

Yea… Next time I see somebody with a kidney stone, I’ll just cook them some food, ’cause they must be hungry…

Could they actually hand their reporters a dictionary before they send them abroad?

Dans le “Zapping” d’aujourd’hui: un extrait du Journal Télévisé de France 2 (édition de 20h du Samedi 3 septembre, environ à 13 minutes 25 s.).

On y voit des scènes filmées en Louisiane, après passage de Katrina. Commentaire-bateau sur fond porno-médiatique standard… Puis, la caméra s’arrête et zoom sur un homme au sol, visiblement pas en bonne santé, alors que la voix hors-écran continue:

Voix hors écran: “… Un homme a terre, qui dans un souffle parvient à peine à dire à une équipe de reporters…”
Voix interviewer hors écran: “Are you alright?”
Homme au sol: “I got a kidney stone…”
Voix hors écran: “… qu’il est affamé.”

Est-ce que quelqu’un peut offrir un dictionnaire Anglais-Français aux journalistes de France 2 avant de les envoyer à l’étranger la prochaine fois?

A défaut, s’ils cherchent d’autres volontaires pour scénariser les dialogues de leurs prochains reportages: j’ai plein de supers idées originales…

Small quid pro quo today reminded me of an old conversation:

Tomomi: But Dave-san, is there really a difference between English and American?

dr Dave: Of course there is. British are civilised people. Americans are ruthless barbarians: they couldn’t make a cup of tea to save their life.

T: Maajii-de?!?

drD: When Americans try to make tea, they use cold sea-water and don’t even bother taking the leaves out of the box. And that’s Boston we’re talking about. The further west you go, the worse it gets.

T: Aa, so-ka, so-ka. It all makes sense now.

Anything I can do to bring greater cultural understanding between people.

You know you’ve lived in Japan too long, when…

  • … you keep complaining that nobody serves real rice anywhere in Europe (only that crappy non-sticky thai version). Yea, I’ve become a rice snob.
  • … you manage to find yourself with two slices of whitebread and scrapes of Nutella for sole dinner, because it’s Sunday evening and you forgot that there isn’t a 24h combini on every streetcorner in Paris.
  • … you burst into inextinguishable laughter, to the stupefaction of everybody else on the bus, when that big stocky white dude gets in with his cool-ass Japanese t-shirt proudly proclaiming「ホワイトトラッシュ」in bold letters on the back.

Otherwise, it’s good to be back home. I think I even missed the mushy weather.

ただいま!
夕べに帰って着いた。
ヨロッパにいつもご飯を食べたと「本物じゃなくて」文句を言って、長くてドライご飯だってから:ほとんどヨロッパで大国ぽいご飯を食べられてるね。ヨロッパ人は短いご飯があまり好きじゃない。最近に僕は日本ご飯の方がとても好き。うん。多分日本で住むすぎたね ^ー^。
あの、パリにバスを乗ってあの人のシャツにカタカナで「ホワイトトラッシュ」と書いてあった!ずっと笑えた。

[Cue upbeat music, engaging footage of miscellaneous means of locomotion blended over map of Europe, traveling red dot drawing a sinuous line toward the southern edge of the continent…]

Barely surviving death at the hands of an army of vicious Nazi doctors and their merciless, yet incredibly well-endowed, Bavarian assistant nurses, the fearless dr Dave has been making way to the now familiar refuge of the southern territories, hoping for a quiet convalescence, auspicious to the urgent completion of his secret scientific research on immortality through the use of quantum superfluid vortices and hourly onanistic practice.

The town is peaceful and the sky is blue. For now! [cue ominous strings]

Two miles away: the sea and endless sandy coastline on both sides. Every single step of the way there: nubile locals, in various states of undress, their tan bodies for sole modesty, the casual languor of their demeanour, their ambiguous latin pilosity… all an overt invite to endless combination of amoral leg intertwining.

But the brave doctor mustn’t falter: the fate of the free world (and his already suboptimal academic curriculum) are in his convulsively shaking hands.

Fortuitously perhaps, the amount of gauze and surgical thread currently holding his body together would provide enough prop supply for the next twelve sequels to Bubba-ho-tep vs. Frankenstein: while the tender heart of a complete sleazeball beats softly on the inside, his figure is now that of a deformed freak. He has become a monster to the outside world! [cue flashback footage of the Creature, poignant in his desperate rage, trashing the laboratory of the mad scientist that made him so]

Beside, the strict interdiction to expose any part of himself from the waist up, to the nefarious action of the sun, makes casual beach courtship extremely awkward: the Doctor knows how incredibly ridiculous he looks in full upper-body suit and aerodynamic swimwear.

The Doctor vows to summon the best of his incredible scientific abilities to find a remedy to the conspicuously clinical paleness of his hairy legs. Then realizes it’s kinda late already and he has yet another 300 pages of fluid mechanics to read before supper.

[cue beach sunset slowly fading into the horizon. fade to black]

[…]

My medications run out tomorrow.

This is an automated post, logged on the 05/25/05.
If, by any chance, thermonuclear war has already taken place and you belong to the surviving race of mutating cockroaches that is now ruling the world, please accept my most sincere congratulations and sorry if the following has lost most of its relevance: can’t plan for everything, now can we…

Of the many places where I am eligible to cast a vote, I am no longer registered anywhere. I am not particularly proud of that, but beside endless hours of bureaucratic confrontations, this unforgivable civic apathy is also saving me many painful choices these days.

Last month was the commons election in the UK, and while voting abroad for this particular election is not that difficult (I did it in the past), I wasn’t exactly subdued by enthusiasm: like a sizable share of the British population, I only suffer the sight of this frizzy-haired prick out of my even stronger contempt for the tories and their stuffed joke of a party (need I even mention what abysses of disgust the BNP and their nauseating 1930’s rhetoric drags me in). All in all, I’d rather impale my own penis on a union jack than ever cast a vote for the British right, but it would physically hurt to give so much as a napkin of support to Bambi, still messy from his marathon blowjob session across the pond. Abstention was, arguably, the only option.

This month, another election, down south in Froggyland, is tearing the masses apart. And ironically, I am also entitled to cast a vote there. Or rather: would be, if the usual French bureaucracy had not quickly and effortlessly convinced me that I really don’t need to spend a week gathering papers and fighting sexually-frustrated clerks to express my electoral opinion on matters that affect my life about as much as the variations of the local French R&B billboard top 10 or the cast of the next Froggy Idol.

And by the way, I don’t know if you’ve ever heard French R&B, but believe me: you don’t want to.

Yesterday, a session of the French senate was interrupted when a young man suddenly jumped from the public balconies, onto the actual senate floor, wearing but a thong, adorned with the colors of the French flag.

This [somewhat prudish] streaker managed to briefly voice his position on an upcoming national referendum, before being manhandled to the door. For added visibility, said position (a very unequivocal “NON” to the adoption of a European-wide constitution) was written all over his body, including his bare buttocks.

The man got out with only a few bruises (it’s a good 10 feet drop), a stern warning from the authorities and a newfound popularity on the evening-show circuit. Quite a good deal, if you consider how many bullets the coroner would currently be extracting from his corpse, had he tried a similar trick in the US.

Laurent, tu sais ce qu’il te reste à faire

In the US, when dealing with customer service reps, it is of utmost importance to be authoritative: show them who’s the boss and ask to speak to a manager every time something doesn’t go your way. Customer is King, even when customer is an asshole, even when he’s wrong. Especially if he’s wrong.

At least, that’s what any wise American will teach you, with a conspiratorial look that’d make you think he is letting you on the secret masonic handshake of the customer support guild. Equipped with these conceptions, he will then proceed to use them abroad, wherever he goes, perpetuating the accepted worldwide standard for Ugly Americanness…

Will I come out as an insensitive cold-hearted bastard if I publicly lament here the fact that all things interesting and exciting only happen in Japan when I’m not there, stuck six thousands miles away, in a city where major earthquakes, flood and other cool natural disasters are about as likely as a shred of human soul mistakenly finding its way into Dick Cheney’s corpse…

On that count, Paris is quite boring.

I am told the floods of yore, when the as-of-then-undomesticated Seine river expanded its bank to all surrounding neighbourhoods, were a vision of surrealistic awe. What with the people, bank clerks and congressmen alike, having to swim their way back from work, French baguette in one hand, cigarette in the other and beret on top.

OK, perhaps the congressmen didn’t have to go freestyle swimming, but surely there couldn’t be enough boats for everybody…