jeudi 3 juin 2010

Exposition Universelle de Shanghai 2010

From Do it in Paris I discovered you can visit the French pavilion at Shanghai's World Expo 2010 online. Of course you can visit the other countries' pavilions too! :)

mercredi 2 juin 2010

Si les femmes se comportaient comme les mecs?

What if women acted like men?

I found this funny silly video on YouTube.

Oh I just realised it's a Dutch ad. But there's no speaking in it so it transcends all language barriers.

mardi 1 juin 2010

L'écriture française

L'écriture française

This is a post I've been meaning to write for months and months but I just had no idea where to start.

I remember comments from people, comments on blogs and noticing myself that French (and European) peoples' handwriting is different from mine/ours. But then again, all countries seem to have their own subtle differences.

For example, in Australia, the main difference in the way I was taught to write is that we didn't have a cursive lowercase 'r', and the uppercase letters did not have a cursive version either. It was only when I was a teenager and became more and more exposed to American things (and having an American penpal) that this lowercase 'r' became more and more noticeable.

I think I even tried to use it sometimes too and well, lately, I've been trying to make my handwriting become more "French-like" because I thought, "Why the heck not?" If I'm going to live there one day I might as well try to blend in. Besides, I think it's just really beautiful.

When it comes to handwriting I can be a chameleon and mimic almost any handwriting. Also, I have so many different styles depending on my mood. I can write ridiculously neatly if I have to but then when I'm tired or in a hurry it can also be ridiculously messy and almost illegible.

When I was about 14 or so, I picked up a book about graphology in the library (by accident) and I became hooked ever since. Ever since then I amassed quite a number of books on graphology as I find it immensely interesting. I also read that French people sometimes ask you to handwrite job cover letters so they can analyse your personality from it. It may seem "wrong" but I think using graphology is far more accurate than using an interview because for most people they cannot 'fake' their handwriting, and it reveals so much about who they are honestly whereas one could say whatever they wanted in an interview in an effort to get the job.

In most cases you can also tell if that person is right or left-handed by looking at their handwriting (notably how they cross their t's) and that is another insight into their personality as left-handed people are supposed to be more creative and more this and that (although that is obviously not a hard and fast rule as 90% of people are right-handed and there are plenty of creative right-handers!)

I read on someone's blog (I don't remember which one now and I can't find it again for the life of me) of an expat mother sending her son back to school during La Rentrée and she discovered that in France little kids go straight to learning cursive writing and don't learn the printed form first. For me, I didn't learn cursive until I was in 3rd grade (aged 8).

Anyway, below I've attached some handwriting examples and my own just for fun. (yes I'm one of those people that keeps everything). The Australian copybook handwriting has changed somewhat since I was a kid (to become more simplified, more angular and uglier)!

French handwriting - Apprentissage de l'écriture en France

My handwriting in 1st grade (aged 6) 
(dictation, with line guide under the paper)

My handwriting in 5th grade (aged 10)
(Quite hilarious to read!! A mixture of print and cursive as I obviously couldn't make up my mind. I also noticed a handful of errors which the teacher didn't even pick up!)

My copybook handwriting in 5th grade (aged 10) with guidelines
(Perfect spelling from a dictation ;) )

My handwriting in 6th grade (aged 11)

My handwriting in Year 7/7th grade/6e (aged 12)
(my handwriting was incredibly small which probably had something to do with me trying to adapt from primary to secondary school)

My handwriting in Year 8/8th grade/5e (aged 13)

My handwriting in Year 9/9th grade/4e (aged 14)
(Ah.. isn't this the age where every girl tries to start experimenting with different aspects of herself (such as hairstyle) but also her handwriting. This is the first time I've veered away from the schoolbook style to form my own new style, which is entirely printed and with the typed-style lowercase a's. Usually at this age some girls will start to dot their lowercase i's with circles or small hearts).

I'm not attaching a copy of my current handwriting (maybe I will later down the track) but I will say that my handwriting has always been upright. I sometimes very slightly slant to the right but generally it's almost upright. The rightward slant is the most popular amongst the general population. 

So, apparently, upright slanters "have a way of dealing with the world and reality is more independent and rational."

"A vertical or upright slant requires self-control and self-discipline to be maintained. Try standing up straight for an hour and see what a strain it will be. Handwriting is like body language. The very straight and upright is projecting a rather austere manner and indicates how problem solving is approached. The closer to upright the writing, the more the writer curbs her initial impulses. Few women will write like this because such a writer lives by logic."

I'm not sure how true that is of me but hey, it's pretty positive :)

And now, some examples of real-life French handwriting:

(note the circles over the lowercase i's ;) )

And I've saved the best for last! My sister bought this book in France many years ago. It is a sweet book featuring scanned letters and drawings from children addressed to the president of France. It's fun to read what they have to say but I was drooling over the wonderful handwriting samples from these cute youngsters :) It's a book called Cher Président, j'ai des questions à te dire: Lettres d'enfants au président de la République. You can buy it from or

And then, watch this awesome 13 min video from about how handwriting is taught in France (in French with English subtitles).

The sad thing about all of this, of course, is that handwriting (in any language) is a dying art thanks to computers and the electronic age. I guess that's why letters from a hundred years ago are always so interesting to look at, not just for their content but for the person's beautiful calligraphic-style handwriting.

une majuscule - upper case/capital letter
une minuscule - lowercase letter
un droitier - a right-handed person
un gaucher - a left-handed person
la graphologie - graphology (art of handwriting analysis)

Useful links

RIP Handwriting goodbye
Adopting a French approach to teaching handwriting
Free French style fonts

To be continued... if I later find some more interesting examples or links I'll add them.

lundi 31 mai 2010

Books about Life in France - book reviews

Books about Life in France written by expats

* Buying a piece of Paris - Ellie Nielsen
  Review (31 juillet 2009)

* Almost French - Sarah Turnbull
  Review (6 août 2009)

* La Vie Parisienne - Janelle McCulloch
  Review (7 août 2009)

* My French Connection - Sheryle Bagwell
  Review (20 août 2009)

* A Town like Paris - Bryce Corbett
  Review (23 novembre 2009)

* Petite Anglaise - Catherine Sanderson
  Review (29 novembre 2009)

* Lunch in Paris - Elizabeth Bard
  Review (14 février 2010)

* The Secret Life of France - Lucy Wadham
  Review (9 mars 2010)

* Veuve Taylor/Escaping and Lavender and Linen - Henrietta Taylor
  Reviews (19 mars 2010)
  Amazon: Escaping
  Amazon: Lavender and Linen

* All you need to be impossibly French - Helena Frith-Powell
  Review (29 mars 2010)

* A year in the Merde - Stephen Clarke
  Review (30 avril 2010)

* Merde Happens
  Review (31 mai 2010)

* In the Merde for Love

* Words in a French life - Kristin Espinasse

* Extremely pale rose: A Very French Adventure - Jamie Ivey

* The sharper your knife, the less you cry - Kathleen Flinn

* Julie and Julia - Julie Powell

* A Year in Provence - Peter Mayle

* Paris to the Moon - Adam Gopnik

* Tout Sweet: Hanging Up my High Heels for a New Life in France - Karen Wheeler

* Foreign Tongue: A novel of life and love in Paris - Vanina Marsot

* Au Revoir: Running away from home at Fifty - Mary Moody

* Last Tango in Toulouse - Mary Moody

* Left Bank Waltz: The Australian Bookshop in Paris - Elaine Lewis

* From France with Love: A Love Story with Baggage - Nadine Williams

* Snowfall in Paris: A Young Woman's Pursuit of Adventure - Josette Laurence

* Au Paris: True Tales of an American Nanny in Paris - Rachel Spencer

* I'll never be French no matter what I do - Mark Greenside

* Blame it on Paris - Laura Florand

* Paris Hangover - Kirsten Lobe

* Paris: The Collected Traveler: An Inspired Anthology and Travel Resource - Barrie Kerper

* An Englishman in Paris - Michael Sadler

* Time Was Soft There: A Paris Sojourn at Shakespeare & Co. - Jeremy Mercer

* A Corner in the Marais: Memoir of a Paris Neighborhood - Alex Karmel

* The Piano Shop on the Left Bank: Discovering a Forgotten Passion in a Paris Atelier - Thaddeus Carhart

dimanche 30 mai 2010

Merde Happens - Stephen Clarke - book review

Previous related post

So I recently finished reading one of the sequels to "A Year in the Merde" (see my link above for my comments about that book) called "Merde Happens".

Since I skipped a book I don't know what happened in between but in this one Paul travels across the United States so basically instead of mocking France he is now mocking the US of A.

These are the chapters to give you an idea of where he travels (with Alexa and Jake, his two trusty companions who also appear in his other books):

Paris and London
New York
New York to Florida
Miami Twice
To New Orleans
Las Vegas
Leaving Las Vegas
Los Angeles

I admit that halfway through the Boston chapter I was already getting bored. Then I persisted and then got bored again by the start of the Las Vegas chapter.

I started getting a really strong sense of déjà vu (so fitting that I am using that word since it's French ;) ). Not long after the movie of the same name came out, I bought the book Forrest Gump and the sequel Gump & Co. by Winston Groom.

It seems like a lifetime ago that I read both these books but I'll give a quick overview. Stay with me. There is a point to me bringing up these books. The book is similar to the movie but is (obviously) much more detailed. Also, there are many words purposely spelt wrong to give you an idea of the way Forrest talks with his southern accent. Even without having seen the movie you can imagine the way he talks. (on that note I imagine the book would be rather difficult for a non-native English speaker to read because of all the purposely misspelt words).

The second book was much of the same, except, the situations became more and more unbelievable. All I can remember was that after he went to the moon (about halfway through) I stopped reading the book. It was just too much. If you thought the situations in Forrest Gump were a little hard to believe, the sequel is just downright outrageously unbelievable.

OK, so where was I?

It was the same scenario with Stephen Clarke's books. Merde Happens was very similar to A Year in the Merde except it was now the USA instead of France, but the situations just became more and more unbelievable. The whole time I was reading the book I imagined it as a screwball slapstick comedy movie. The situations just got more and more out of hand, so much so that it became boring to read.

Another reason it reminded me of the Forrest Gump books was because there were also many instances of purposely misspelt words from the Jake character. This was actually kind of fun to read because I had fun figuring out what the word (in French or a mixture of French/English or Franglais) was supposed to be.

In the end I did finish the book but admit I actually only skim read certain paragraphs or pages just to get the gist of what was happening and find out the main points.

So compared to his first book, this one was quite a disappointment and the ending is open-ended which of course makes it obvious there is another book to follow, in this case Dial M for Merde.

The most fascinating part of the book though (I will end this on a positive note :) ) is this Jake character who talks like an Anglophone who's been living in France for too long. Some parts I thought were interesting regarding the French language and culture (may contain spoilers):

p. 187. 'Come, Paul, we must leave the happy couple alone. Jesus has been so impatient to see his fiancée.'

I'm not sure if this is intentional or what.. but actually only about a week or so ago I remember searching online for the French equivalent of "looking forward to" which I am told is "j'attends avec impatience" (I wait with impatience). Although the sentence above makes perfect sense in English I wonder if it's Stephen Clarke's Frenchied brain causing him to write it like that, or did he want Jake to speak like that, or, am I reading too much into this???

p. 192. I'd splurged on a new shirt in one of the discount stores near the hotel. Well, it was more a tableau than a shirt...'

OK so it appears that tableau is an English word too but my first thought was, did he actually mean painting? He talks about the shirt being brightly coloured and loud.

p.251. '...I must tell her. I want to change my name to Rimbaud.'
'But he's Italian,' Juliana objected.
Again, I had to translate. Jake was not talking about the character played in the movies by Sylvester Stallone, I explained. This one was spelt differently, and was a French poet.

I didn't get the joke at first (a bit slow there, you have to read it out loud) but after I realised, I thought this was hilarious and very very clever.

p. 347. 'Me fucking up?' I turned to face Larry. 'Me? In this country where oysters and hazelnuts are considered as dangerous as bullets? Where you can't sleep with a woman without going on three dates, but you can fire a Nazi machine gun? Where you can't compliment a female colleague without getting fired for sexual harassment, but where waitresses all have to show their boobs? Where everyone books a window seat and then refuses to look out the window? You call me fucked up?'

This has got nothing to do with French but I thought it was very insightful and funny (about Americans).

p. 378. She'd said that I needed dreams. But she wanted my dreams to be planned. It was the French way. If you want a dream, you go to dream school and get your diploma in dreams.


Eurovision Oslo 2010 - Germany wins

EuroVision 2010 Song Contest

On Friday night I was watching my favourite Australian tv show at the moment, Masterchef. Actually favourite is probably the wrong word to use as it's the ONLY tv show I watch.

Out of the blue I get a call from my mother telling me to, "Quick! Turn to channel SBS" (SBS is the channel that screens international news, programs and movies) and I was like, "Why?" She was working herself up into a big excitement... "Oh there's a really good show about singers from Europe"...

I only changed the channel after Masterchef finished because, well, in Australia at least, Eurovision is considered to be very very erm daggy. It's almost a farce it's so hilariously silly with the bad outfits, dancing and backdrops. I'm not sure if it's intentional or what or that Europeans appreciate different things to Anglophones ;)

Still, I did watch a bit of it. I find it a bit boring actually as I hate waiting for the results. The most exciting part for me was hearing the female host speak French ;)

Well anyway, Germany won by a long shot. Congrats to Lena for her song "Satellite"!

(I can't help but think that Lena has a strange British-Australian accent when she sings in English)

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