EppsNet Archive: France

EppsNet Book Reviews: Death on the Installment Plan by Louis-Ferdinand Céline

7 Jan 2018 /

Death on the Installment Plan is a fictionalized coming-of-age story based on Céline’s youth in pre-World War I France.

Absent are heroism, transcendence, love and the possibility of love. Instead, there is a lot of human action that comes to nothing. Death is not ennobling.

That said, hopelessness has never been described with more wit, energy and imagination or more droll, breathtaking language.

Here’s a sample of the black comedy, as the narrator remembers a local physician (all ellipses in the original):

“The most exquisite deaths, remember that, Ferdinand, are those that attack us in our most sensitive tissues . . .” He had a precious, elaborate, subtle way of talking, like the men of Charcot’s day. His prospecting of the Rolandic, the third ventricle, and the gray nucleus didn’t do him much good . . . in the end he died of a heart attack, under circumstances that were anything but cozy. An attack of angina pectoris that lasted twenty minutes. He held out for a hundred and twenty seconds with his classical memories, his resolutions, the example of Caesar . . . But for eighteen minutes he screamed like a stuck pig . . . his diaphragm was being ripped out, his living guts . . . a thousand open razors had been plunged into his aorta . . . He tried to vomit them out at us . . . I’m not exaggerating. He crawled out into the living room . . . He damn near hammered his chest in . . . He bellowed into the carpet . . . in spite of the morphine . . . You could hear him all over the house and out in the street . . . He ended up under the piano. When the cardiac arterioles burst one by one, it’s quite a harp . . . it’s too bad nobody ever comes back from angina pectoris. There’d be wisdom and genius to spare.

Rating: 5 stars


We’re Still Smarter Than You Are

7 Dec 2013 /

Teens from Asian nations dominated a global exam given to 15-year-olds, while U.S. students showed little improvement and failed to reach the top 20 in math, science or reading, according to test results released Tuesday.

Harvard emblem

Why am I not shocked by that?

Because Americans on the whole are dumb and lazy. We have lots of dumb, lazy parents raising dumb, lazy kids. The average American kid doesn’t compare well academically to the average kid in an Asian country where academics and hard work are valued, or to the average kid from a small, homogenous European country where it’s easier to get everyone pulling in the same educational direction.

The U.S. is a big, diverse country and the average academic results are pulled down by a lot of dummkopfs.

But still, the smartest people in the world are Americans. Our smartest people are smarter than the smartest people in other lands.

You don’t think so? I’m looking at the list of winners of the 2013 Nobel Prizes . . . out of 11 recipients (I’m omitting the winners of the literature and peace prizes because those aren’t academic awards), eight are from the U.S. The other three are from Belgium, the UK and France, and the Frenchman is affiliated with Harvard University.

No one in Asian countries is winning any Nobel Prizes. Q.E.D.


EppsNet at the Movies: Day for Night

10 Sep 2011 /
Day for Night (1973)

Directed by François Truffaut. With Jacqueline Bisset, Jean-Pierre Léaud, François Truffaut, Valentina Cortese..

A movie about making a movie . . .

The director says, “Making a film is like a stagecoach ride in the old west. When you start, you are hoping for a pleasant trip. By the halfway point, you just hope to survive.”

Highly recommended!


An American in Cannes

7 Jul 2011 /
On the beach in Cannes

Here’s a young man enjoying the beach at Cannes, probably as a high school graduation trip with his friends.

He looks like he’s enjoying himself, clowning it up for the camera . . .


Five Guys in Europe: France

1 Jul 2011 /

We’ll always have Paris . . .


We Live Like Baboons but at Least We Have Television

14 Aug 2010 /
Lost

Baboons who live in the African plains spend about one-third of their life sleeping, and when awake they divide their time between traveling, finding and eating food, and free leisure time–which basically consists in interacting, or grooming each other’s fur to pick out lice. . . . And as the historian Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie has shown, in thirteenth century French villages–which were among the most advanced in the world at the time — the most common leisure pursuit was still that of picking lice out of each other’s hair. Now, of course, we have television.

— Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Finding Flow

Quote of the Day

3 Jun 2010 /

You frogs can kiss my . . . how do you say “big black ass” in French?

— Serena Williams

Joyeux Anniversaire, Manet!

23 Jan 2010 /
The Rue Mosnier with Flags

History painting, what a joke! There is only one authentic thing: to paint what you see.

— Édouard Manet (Jan 23, 1832 – Apr 30, 1883)

We’ve Fallen Behind France in Moral Fortitude

18 Jun 2009 /

The President yesterday denounced the “extent of the fraud” and the “shocking” and “brutal” response of the Iranian regime to public demonstrations in Tehran these past four days.

“These elections are an atrocity,” he said. “If [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad had made such progress since the last elections, if he won two-thirds of the vote, why such violence?” The statement named the regime as the cause of the outrage in Iran and, without meddling or picking favorites, stood up for Iranian democracy.

The President who spoke those words was France’s Nicolas Sarkozy.

WSJ.com

French Engineering

13 Aug 2005 /

From Ned Batchelder:

Le Viaduc de Millau is the tallest bridge in the world, as measured to the top of the tallest pylon.

Well, monsieur, we’ve got some tall bridges in America too! Leave it to the French, though, to build one over land . . .

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Word of the Day

6 May 2002 /

sang-froid, also sangfroid \sang-FRWAH\, noun: Freedom from agitation or excitement of mind; coolness in trying circumstances; calmness.

Sang-froid is from the French; it literally means “cold blood” (sang, “blood” + froid, “cold”).


Absolutely Sweet Marie

16 Oct 2001 /

Marie Antoinette misreads the mood of the peasantry:

When we went to walk in the Tuileries, there was so vast a crowd that we were three-quarters of an hour without being able to move either forward or backward. The dauphin and I gave repeated orders to the Guards not to beat any one, which had a very good effect . . . When we returned from our walk we went up to an open terrace and stayed there half an hour. I cannot describe to you, my dear mamma, the transports of joy and affection which every one exhibited towards us. Before we withdrew we kissed our hands to the people, which gave them great pleasure. What a happy thing it is for persons in our rank to gain the love of a whole nation so cheaply.

— Marie Antoinette, Letter to Her Mother, 1773