Tuesday, October 26, 2004

The Two Horses of the Apocalypse: My Strange Dreams and What in the Hell they Might Mean

A few things about my sleep patterns here in Paris, for anyone who is curious, and I know that that one person lurks somewhere out there.

Typically, I have a profuse amount of incredibly vivid dreams before and after waking up somewhere around 4 or 5 in the morning and laying in bed awake for an hour. Sometimes I dream about certain aspects of my day. One night for instance, after taking the Paris Metro home late and voyeuristically eyeing a young couple bidding their prolonged adieus, I dreamt about said couple and their domestic life. I do not remember the details of this dream to well, except a picture of the two of them standing in a kitchen.

I have a couple recurring dreams as well. One involves me somehow landing on the Metro railroad tracks. I used to have this dream back in Chicago too, although the tracks in those dreams were often elevated to frightening heights, since Chicago's CTA is an elevated system. Well, in my Metro-related dreams, I usually land on the tracks not by falling unintentionally but by some sort of intentional and logical process. I never get run over or even see a train either. The Chicago railroad track dreams have been more perilous: one time I was hanging on to a pole for dear life as the wind nearly blew me off the platform.

The other recurring dream is framed around me returning to Chicago after my stay in Paris. Since I have had this dream since relatively early into my stay here, my time in Paris has always seemed short. I had the dream again last night and marvelled at how the abroad stay flew by.

A last dream, also from last night, involved me as a passenger in a speeding car on Lake Shore Drive, following behind two horse and buggy rides--the kind that one sees chauffering tourists around Michigan Avenue and surroundings--, in neighboring lanes, speeding down the Drive.

My "Semi-charmed Life," to Lamely Quote Third Eye Blind

Tonight's plan has been to lock myself in my room with the intention of researching away for my health policy project. When I'm at Northwestern, and when I'm here as well, my night feels empty if the only plan is to study. In the U.S., if I have a club meeting, plans for going out somewhere, or selling tickets at our school's cinema and watching the subsequent movie, well, I feel much more motivated work around these plans, even if I end up putting the work off in the end since I'm not one for late nights by the books (must get eight hours of sleep).

Unfortunately, living with a French host family offers no distractions. Snacking is out, because, well there are no snacks (plain bread, anyone?), I have given up on television for lack of "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" and also because I feel sort of guilty watching some channel that I'm not really interested in when I should be working, and, I have no internet to distract me, as I have no constant internet connection, rather I must sneak into my host brother's room and use it, so I feel like I shouldn't be doing that either. Though I do.

Don't feel too bad for me though. The reason I have planned to work so industriously tonight is because I went to a concert last night (great time) and have a wine tasting tomorrow plus, I leave for a weekend trip to Austria on Thursday. Yes, I've seen worse days.

Friday, October 22, 2004

...We're elated to see the Cards victorious tonight. Now we won't have to endure a final week of campaign coverage that's chock-full of annoying Massachusetts-vs.-Texas baseball metaphors. The best metaphorical part being, of course, that Team Bush has already lost.

I didn't even consider this horrible possibility!!

Monday, October 18, 2004

What's it all about Alfie?

So, I really want to see the remake of the film Alfie. Jude Law plays the title character, originally played by Michael Caine. Maybe it's the idea of Jude Law as a womanizer that piques my interest. Herein also lies the problem with many females: the idea of an attractive, male womanizer is as much a turn-on as it is a turn-off for us, I will argue. The attractiveness of the womanizer is similar to the attractiveness of the latest trend: everyone wants it, because everyone else wants it. When was it first wanted? Well, in Jude Law's case, probably when he hit puberty, but in the case of Kate Spade bags, probably when some marketing executive figured out that it's not that hard to sell bland purses to yuppies and rich high school girls for a pretty penny, as long as the name remains "exclusive" and the price high.

I digress. As I said above, I understand how a Jude Law could be a womanizer, but it's also true that there has been many a homely man who can get away with womanizers. I will propose two reasons for this: (1) The women are equally as homely or (2) The said womanizer is incredibly confident, to the point of being cocky. (Also, I apologize for my tone regarding "homely" people, which could be interpreted as insensitive; in fact, I will only defend myself by saying that the culture of womanization is a culture concerened with superficialities. I know, this is a weak excuse. I guess I'm just insensitive). When does it come to Paris, I would like to know?? I mean the character of Alfie could just as credibly be French, so I think it will do pretty well in a country where adultery is almost an institution. (Not that this deadly sin eludes other peoples!).

Classic womanizer (what d-bags they are!)

Also, hopefully the film's theme song, "Alfie," by Burt Bacharach will be featured in the 2004 remake. Sure, it dates the film, but if you want to touch a 1970s film, you gotta live its song--and there's always a song in '70s films!
So on that note, here's a little reflection on thefundamental shortcoming of the Alfie Male, courtesty of the brilliant Bacharach:
And if only fools are kind, Alfie,then I guess it's wise to be cruel.
And if life belongs only to the strong, Alfie, what will you lend on an old golden rule?
...I believe in love, Alfie.Without true love we just exist, Alfie.
Until you find the love you've missed you're nothing, Alfie.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Just have to include this quote, because I find it pretty funny:

Bush, presiding over a deeply divided country, mired in a disastrous war that he misled us into, offers only a bad Reagan imitation. Which could, in fact, describe his entire presidency.

October for Bush has been a slippery slide

I have to admit, I am quite surprised at where the U.S. finds itself today--not so much in regards to the high unemployment rate or the escalating violence and terrorism that the Iraq war has precipitated; here, unfortunately I think myself and many other Americans have become accustomed to the constant bad news--rather, I am surprised to find that the presidential candidate who is saying the smarter things about how to resolve these problems is gaining headway.

Indeed, in all three debates, it appears that Americans have overwhelmingly favored John Kerry. As a candidate, I find that Kerry has come into his own through these discourses. As for Bush, no longer can he ride high on the coattails of his predecessor's legacy of economic growth as he did in 2000. Back then, he enjoyed the luxury of an American public that was in the midst of a strong economy and relatively tranquil foreign policy situation and unending media barrages about the Clinton "scandal," using it to suggest that America was facing a crisis in moral leadership that would be resolved if he were in office. Many of us not realizing how great we had it in the 90s, especially the Ken Starrs and Newt Gingriches who earned a nice wage by conducting a witchhunt against our President, gave Bush a reasoned hearing and found what he said appealing.

Now Bush is without these luxuries, and he must to face a referendum on his leadership. He had a much easier time attacking Clinton and Gore's leadership than he has defending his own, thus he resorts to Republican epithets that only a young, neo-con could love. I wonder if others find it as off-putting as I do when Bush calls Kerry a "tax and spend liberal." Kerry's simple yet pointed response to this tired line in the second debate was to say that such labels don't mean anything. It would be much more useful if Bush would respond with why he disagrees with his opponent, but maybe he doesn't have a good reason, or maybe he thinks the U.S. public should just be targeted with stylized talking points.

In 2000, George W. Bush promised he would be a new kind of Republican, a "compassionate convservative," " a uniter, not a divider." These campaign themes implicitly acknowledged that the Republian party's image needed changing: the rabidly anti-Clinton, anti-social justice mentality that characterized the Gingrichian Republicans of the 1990s needed to be shed if a Republican were to win the White House. George Bush and Karl Rove knew this in 2000, but they seem to have forgotten it in 2004, probably because Bush was never a compassionate conservative and never intended on being one, nor was he a uniter. Now that we have concrete proof of this, well, Bush's defenses are meager, and Kerry's criticisms are resounding widely with Americans.

For more information on instances in the debates when the arguments that Bush has asserted have been wrong, visit www.FactCheck.org. For example, check out the truth behind the false claim that Kerry has voted to raise taxes 98 times.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Stage Three: Increasing Irritation Stage

When the study abroad office held a big meeting last quarter to prepare all of the students going abroad for the following year, I remember sort of admiring them for making a potentially very dull meeting only somewhat dull. What most piqued my interest during this meeting however was not the provisions on how to get requirements for your abroad classes back at Northwestern, nor was it the speech made by the girl who used her abroad experience to get a fellowship (yawwwn), rather, it was this chart that they presented entitled "The Common Stages of Cultural Adjustment."

The introduction on the Common Stages of Cultural Adjustment starts, "studies have shown that when people move to a foreign country, they generally experience a series of emotional stages that fall into a well documented pattern." Then it lists six stages: 1. Pre-departure stage, 2. Honeymoon/Spectator Stage, 3. Increasing Irritation Stage-"Culture Shock!" (cute, eh?) 4. Adaptation Stage 5. Return Anxiety Stage 6. Biculturalism Stage. I found these psychological stages and their subsequent descriptions pretty interesting and sort of humorous. When I got to Paris this fall, I recalled the Common Stages of Cultural Adjustment when I started to miss something about the states and wondered whether my knowledge of these stages would make them a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Anyway, I think I am beginning to see the viability of this chart. For instance, right now I have been experiencing symptoms of Stage Three, the "Culture Shock!" stage: disenchantment, hostility, irriation. Just like the hypothetical events that accompany this stage suggest, "lots of things seem to be going wrong."

For instance, today I went to the library to try to check out a couple of books for my research paper. I left less one book than I had come with. How does this happen when one goes in with the intention of borrowing two additional books? Well, apparently, I had a book overdue, because books at the Sciences Po library are only allowed to be checked out for one week (thus, my book was six days overdue). My habit of checking out books for three weeks and then three weeks more seemed positively luxurious in comparison. I don't think I have a library fine, but the librarian informed me that he would (a) have to take back my book (b) that I can't check it out for a week or until Friday (I don't know which!) and (c) the use of my library card is suspended for another week. Now if that isn't a by the book example of the "Events" aspect to Stage 3, I don't know what is!

Hmm, let's look at emotional responses now, since I am on a roll: "discouragement"--well I would say this library thing was pretty discouraging, but also, today I had all sorts of time after my trip to the library. My plan was actually to go to the American Library in Paris to see if I could find my books there, until I remember that it's closed on Mondays, thus, discouragement. I toyed with the idea of going to a new park or some other site like the Statue of Liberty, which always cheers me up; nah, I thought, it's too cold, and do I really feel like seeing another site?

And then there's behavioral responses. I'm doing pretty well with the "searching for security in familar activities." For instance, today I decided that I want to start making my lunch before school so I don't have to buy it everday from the cafeteria. I looked specifically for turkey, wonderful turkey. Why hadn't the French caught on to this heart healthy, and I would say tastier alternative to ham? Why is everything jambon, or saucisson, or pate? Sure, all of those are nice, on occasion, but everyday? I also got wheat bread made by a brand called "Harry's" which advertises it's "American bread." In all fairness to myself though, I did buy chocolate covered biscuits, and as I looked up and down the cookie aisle, I thought to myself, wow, the French do have better cookies than we do.

I have to point out one more amusing thing from the description of Stage Three. Their example of the verbal response includes this: "This place sucks! I hate it here. This place and these people are stupid. To make matters worse, my friends at home say the Northwestern football team is doing great and the weather in Evanston is amazing" [emphasis added]. While I think the first part is a bit exaggerated, the second part is true!! It is true! This year, NU has beat both Ohio State and Indiana University, and the weather has supposedly been sunny and in the 70s and 60s for awhile. (Here it's been mostly cloudy and in the low 50s, though I can never find an accurate weather report online). So even though I've never been that into football, so I can't say that would be my first homesick sentiment, I still find it funny that the example has proven true.

Hopefully Stage 4, the Adaptation Stage, is on its way...

Not even one mistake?

When Bush was asked to name three mistakes that he had made in the second, town hall-style debate, it seemed to present him with a chance to invoke his humble, folksy guy routine. However, Bush couldn't even name one mistake, not one. I like this:

One last thought on that "three mistakes" question that Bush ducked.
This is a really basic, standard-issue job interview question that every job-hunting college graduate learns to deal with.

...I was honestly surprised Bush was so obviously unprepared for the question.

...Then I thought about it and realized, gee, George W. Bush is a man who never in his life had to prepare for a real job interview -- one that actually would determine whether he could pay his bills. Maybe he had interviews, but you've got to figure the family name and the pedigree opened the door and sealed the deal. The interview would always have been a formality.

This is a good point as well:
In the course of his answer President Bush said: “Now, you asked what mistakes. I made some mistakes in appointing people, but I'm not going to name them. I don't want to hurt their feelings on national TV.”
I don’t think anybody familiar with this president or this White House can have much doubt about the people he was talking about there.

...In the Bush world you never admit mistakes. The only mistakes the president can think of are the times he appointed people who do admitted mistakes --- who put reality above loyalty to the president.

If I needed to be reminded why Bush needs to be voted out of office in November, his answer to the mistakes question, lacking the most basic element of humility, did the job for me.

The Intelligence That Wasn't: 'Cooking the Books' in the White House

Some of George W. Bush's reasoning, at face value, seems to make sense. He has accused John Kerry of not living up to his original vote to approve the use of force in Iraq if Saddam Hussein didn't comply with weapons inspections when Kerry voted against an 87 billion supplementary. This accusation makes sense at perhaps the most superficial of glances, but falls apart at any deeper questioning. First, just to look at the argument logically: if a congressman simply votes against extra spending, one of Bush's favorite things to demonize, this isn't necessarily a flight from his original position but can be a disagreement with how the money will be spent. This is pretty basic. Furthermore, Kerry's vote in Iraq has conformed to his position towards it in the past, which is that it has been necessary to wave the use of force as a possibility so Saddam will comply with WMD inspections, but it has not been necessary to make use of force the policy of first resort that the Bush administration ended up taking.

Furthermore, when Bush accused Kerry of seeing the same intelligence that Bush had, again, this seems to make sense at face value. In fact, it has been unrelentingly revealed since the Bush administration tried to invade Iraq on the grounds of the intelligence that Colin Powell presented to the UN and that Tony Blair presented in a televised address and the intelligence that Bush alluded to in his 2003 State of the Union Address that much of this intelligence was either doctored or patently wrong. A good, short article about this in Salon.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Is it normal for people from Paris--or people anywhere with television, for that matter--to take their cable box over to their friend's house every night? Because this is what Gregoire does: cable box and remote are detached from the TV and presumably hooked up to a TV at his friend's house.

Friday, October 01, 2004

I think as hard as people try, it won't be easy to spin Bush's performance in last night's debate, as was done in 2000. Score 1 for John Kerry.

Initial Impression of Last Night's Debate

I am currently watching the first debate between Kerry and Bush on NY Times online, and I find, just from the most superficial viewing, that John Kerry has been incredibly cool, while, interestingly, Bush has lost his cool more than a few times. Kerry didn't go over his time limit and he looked very composed and confident. Of course, this is a surface reading of the debate, one worthy of the mainstream media, soI think it's even more important to point out that Bush is using some propoganda points repeatedly as well, especially his insistence that saying Iraq is the "wrong war at the wrong time at the wrong place" is conceding defeat ( to play a drinking game to the frequency that Bush uttered this line last night would leave someone falling over by the end of the debate!). Of course, this is a line I expect that the campaign will try to use against Kerry because they think it is a good talking point: takes the offense but has no substantive value to its assertion.