Friday, May 14, 2010

The Snarkly Three: Special Nostalgia and Dumpsters Edition

1. At words poetic, I'm so pathetic
Someone asked me the other day to describe the "bouquinistes" I mentioned here recently. The best I could come up with is they look like Dumpsters by the Seine. But that seems inadequate, non? Sure enough, as this picture proves, they're so much more than that: they're more like Dumpsters by the Seine with racks of postcards in between. And you can find everything at them from London travel guides (©1978, sunbleached beyond recognition) to Tintin porn. Lest you think them frivolous.

2. Nothing like nostalgia for remembering the past sentimentally
Lately, I've noticed a real surge in blogs celebrating kiddie culture of the '80s and '90s -- advertising, toys, books.* I tend to dig these blogs myself, but what astounds me is that most people seem to enjoy them on a level beyond euphoria ("OHMYGOD!!!! My sister and I TOTALLY had that My Little Pony / box of cereal / (insert thing here)**!!!!") What is it about these sort of reminiscences that gets to us so much? If I had to guess, I'd say -- call me a softy, but this is how I really feel -- our brains are fried from having spent those decades looking at one too many Lisa Frank products.

This is somebody else's photo, but I once had that dolphin notebook myself. At age 12, I used it to write a story called Four Days in Heck, which I still think showed promise despite its lack of small details like making sense.

3. And speaking of....
I realized this morning, following a memory trigger not worth relating, that I still remember all the lyrics to Pocahontas, a film which I have not thought about consciously since about 1996. Yet there they are, all salted away for the day when the only thing standing between me and starvation will be my remembering the words to "Colors of the Wind." Why?? WHY???? Not as in "WHY DO I REMEMBER THEM????" but as in, "WHY ARE THEY SOOOO BAAAAD?????"

Continuing on this here nostalgia theme: I had a Pocahontas doll, whose dress was supposed to do magical sparkly things when you took her out in the sun. The manufacturers didn't count on the fact that, for certain consumers, this would translate to the FLORIDA sun, which would instead cause the doll to burst into magical flames.*** Although I guess this counts as a sparkly thing.

* Seriously, how many kinds of girl-groups could there BE?
** Ha ha
*** Okay, okay, technically this never happened, but she did become sunbleached to the point of resembling Casper the Friendly If No Longer Ethnically Diverse Disney Princess.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Snarkly Three: Special Good Bad Worse Edition

Il faut que je make this one quick. Sorry. Fortunately, my Facebook news feed provided me with today's motif:

  • GOOD
David Hyde Pierce on Broadway. I saw him in Accent on Youth the year before last. He's a force. I'll watch whatever he does.
  • BAD
Courtesy of Figure Skaters Online: "What to look for in Lysacek's cha cha and waltz." This article would make me believe that he has a cha cha and a waltz.
* I would prefer not to know about them.
* I would DEFINITELY prefer not to look in them.

I can't find the link now, but they're casting in California for "Love's Labour's Lost: The Musical," a funky mix-n-match of Shakespeare and the television show Lost.
Because LandaGOshen! THAT'S what that play needed!
I have very strong feelings about very few things, but when I am ruler of Earth, no one may touch Love's Labour's Lost. Also, no one may talk to anyone about ANYONE'S cha cha and/or waltz. That is all. G'night.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Study Abroad Advice

Today's words of wisdom go out to all you fresh-faced underclasspersons who wish to follow in the Snark's fashionable Parisian boot-steps and study over here (where I'm sitting). I expect you have a great many questions about Study Abroad, which I will be all too happy to answer for you as soon as I finish partaking of the local culture by watching these attractive men play rugby at the Esplanade des Invalides. Uh, that is, "going to the Louvre." Yes, "going to the Louvre," that is what I meant to say. Hahahaha! Whoops! I am always making that little typographical slipup. Too easy. Mmmmmm ... Louvre.

Anyway, this installment was inspired by the department of study abroad at my home university, which recently sent me the following questionnaire. Their questions are italicized. My answers are bold.*

* Have you gotten involved in your host culture? It is not too late to find activities that will get you out there and mixing more with the people of the country. Are you getting everything you can out of your living experience?

I am lucky enough to be living with some of the finest people I have ever met. Endlessly kind, hospitable and sociable (please note the omission of second comma, per French university regulations), they have assisted me in all those little “foreigner-abroad” matters such as how best to travel around Europe and how best not to blow up their house by using their gas stove incorrectly. Living with them has allowed me to attain more fluency and comfort with French than I ever dreamed possible. For example, many people told me that no matter how comfortable I got in French, when it came to counting, I would still count in English. Whereas now I find that when I count, it is certainly not in English. It is not in French, either; in fact, it is not in ANY known language, but by gum, it is something. Instead, I find I only revert to English for cursing out drivers. On the other hand, on those occasions when I find the family dog has messed around with my garbage, I am heartened to find that I am now increasingly able to erupt in vile French words without a second thought. That was when I knew I had truly “gotten involved.”

* Reflect on the regional course you took in preparation for the semester abroad. How has it shaped your experience? Can you define one or two themes from your regional course that you see “in action” while you have been abroad? Are there other courses you’ve taken that have helped shape your experience?

My “regional course” was the formidable (for-mee-dable: that’s French) French Cultural Workshop, and while this was one of the two best courses I have ever taken in college,** I must say that while our professor imparted volumes on the political, social, and cultural climates of this country*** - on governmental figures, on ethnic unrest, on artistic predilections and educational methods and familial relationships – I do not believe he mentioned on any occasion that the dog would try to eat my trash. So I suppose I will have to chalk this up to an oversight. Next question.

* What are the main differences you see in the educational system abroad? Do the differences in teaching or learning styles tell you anything about the culture as a whole? Who are your classmates? Do they represent a certain socioeconomic segment of society or does education in your host country cut across these boundaries?

I’m glad you asked. This particular Cultural Disparity was perhaps best “driven home” for me by my literature course at Paris IV, for which I had to write a “dissertation.” This is a French word meaning “academic document you have to write for literature courses at Paris IV, pronounced ‘dis-ser-tah-tion.’” Since I’ve been meaning to get this off my chest anyway, je vous hereby prĂ©sente the Official National Structure of a university dissertation:

• Introductory Statement

o Say what you are about to say.
o Say the thing you just said you were about to say.
o Confirm that you have just finished saying the thing which you have just finished saying.
o Now, lay out the following parts of your document as follows: Here is what I will say in Part I. Here is what I will say in Section I of Part I. Here is what I will say in Section II of Part I. Here is what I will say in Section III of Part I.
o Here is what I have just finished saying about Part I.
o Now do the same for Parts II and III.
• Part I
o Here again is what I have just finished saying I will say in Sections I, II, and III of Part I.
o Here again (but just by itself this time) is what I will say in Section I.
o Section I (omitted for reasons of length constraints)
o Here is what I have just finished saying in Section I.

I omit Parts II, III, and the Conclusion because no known student has ever gotten to them, for reasons of death. Depending on length, it can take as long as 87 years to write a single dissertation. So you can understand why I don’t elaborate on who my classmates are: I’d ask them, but they are too busy writing their dissertations. So far they have been in the library since February, betraying no signs of life except for the occasional twitch, which I think I might have been imagining anyway.

Obviously this is very different from the American style of learning, in which we just “compare-n-contrast” everything, including calculus, with 20th-century feminist theory and have done with it already.

Thank you. I hope it was as good for you as it was for me. On which note I close by saying to you, study-abroad hopefuls, from the very bottom of my heart: leave me alone. I am trying to enjoy the Louvre here.

* And dynamic, yet with a touch of girlish charm.
** The other being a psychology class in which I learned the scientific foundations of why people act like Whonko McNutasses.
*** France.

©2010 Nicola McEldowney

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Snarkly Three: Special 12:46 P.M. Edition

1. "The Fantasticks" pays back (via the N.Y. Times)
My personal favorite quotes from the article:

“A lot of money is being made on ‘Phantom’ and ‘Wicked,’ but it may never reach the profit margin of ‘The Fantasticks’ because they are such big and expensive productions whose costs eat up profits,” Mr. Googe said. “ ‘Wicked’ could run as long as ‘The Fantasticks’ and pay its investors back handsomely, but it’s hard to imagine a rate of return ever again like this. Inexpensive, popular shows like ‘The Fantasticks,’ ‘Stomp’ and ‘Nunsense’ have proved to be unexpectedly good investments.”
  • As if we needed more proof that today's big-ass Broadway spectacles don't benefit anyone, except of course the estimable hair-care industry, and midtown singing coaches named Bobby who specialize in "belt" AND "superbelt" techniques, oh yes, and whatever planet's warlords got the small creepy human-like child in "Billy Elliot" to smile so freakishly in gala photos that the sheer force of weird ACTUALLY SUCKS OUT YOUR EYEBALLS INTO YOUR COMPUTER FSCHOOMP FSCHOOMP ow ow.
  • "Mr. Googe" is funny.
"If $1,600 a year hardly seems like much of a windfall, several of the original investors said in interviews that their “Fantasticks” money went a longer way in, say, 1970, by which time profits from the show were steadily increasing. That year the New York City subway fare was 30 cents; the average ticket price to a Broadway show was $8; the best suit at Brooks Brothers cost about $200; a Harvard undergraduate education cost $4,070; and the median American income was $8,734."
  • As opposed to nowadays, when these figures have simply shifted: the subway fare is $4,070 (one way), the average ticket price to a Broadway show is $8,734 (visibility extra), and the Ivy League education should cost 30 cents. Haha! Joke! Just kidding, of course!* I can't speak for the Brooks Brothers suit.

2. The Internet is for corn

Ha ha! Get it? Because this has to do with salsa. I'll be here all week.
I bring this up only because it's amazing what you can find by Googling "salsa terms" (which, long story, I searched for purposes of a song lyric). Behold! "Understand the Different Types of Salsa: Page 1: Salsa Terms from A to C." Inclusive?

3. And finally, my morning Google Ad:
"Do you think you're ugly?: It might not be true."
Thanks for the boost. I "might" leave the house without a bag over my head now.

* It should be 25 cents.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

The Snarkly Three: Special Back In Town Edition

1. Like, omigod, what a bummer
Legally Blonde in London really did not "cut the mustard," in the sense that we think we actually lost the will to live multiple times during the show, plus 2 badly needed sips of Diet Pepsi at intermission cost one-pound-eighty, or $37 American. On the other hand, the lead, Sheridan Smith, was a powerhouse, and we ended up chatting with her at the stage door afterwards, AND she liked our earrings.

And .... okay, so if we are to be totally, brutally honest here, wewerekindofsecretlyreallynotsothrilledwiththeperformanceofourbelovedMr.Davison, but we can get into all that another time, and meanwhile enjoy his performance in this recent video so kindly posted in the comments the other day by faithful reader Rob. (Thanks!)

2. Speaking of plays: Stuff White People Like: Plays
Now, for a change of pace, read some comedy I don't write. It's the third paragraph that really spoke to me.

3. I don't really have a third one
So go watch Fozzie Bear and Rowlf play some Percy Grainger. Go! It is time well spent.