I know it’s trendy to fight the system and cry that we are all becoming slaves of technology, but this attitude overlooks that computers and phones are tools for communicating. When someone thinks I’m an idiot smiling at a machine, I’m actually smiling at my girlfriend who is 10000 miles away and whom I would have never met if not for these newfangled electronics. As they say: when the wise man points to the moon, the fool looks at the finger.
This is a topic that I’ve been wanting to tackle for a while now; much credit to this excellent post for bringing it to the front of my brain.
the other day in PE we were playing volleyball and so when the match ended we all shook hands
THIS JUST IN: DUE TO SHAKING HANDS NOT BEING A THING NORMAL FRENCH PEOPLE DO, FRENCH PEOPLE ALL SHAKE HANDS WITH HORRIBLE SPAGHETTI WRISTS
IT’S LIKE BEING HANDED A DEAD FISH
THIS MUST BE FIXED
so in my english lit class we read the opening of there will come soft rains by ray bradbury, the extract ending at “the house was clean.” (two paragraphs above the inexplicably highlighted portion at the link there), then we had to do a little exercise that was, obviously, designed for people who do not speak english as a first language and was therefore pretty useless for me (“underline all the verbs that describe the mice’s actions”, etc)
then we talked about how we felt about the house
if you’re not familiar with the story and you don’t feel like reading it (even though you should since it’s only four pages long and i even GAVE YOU A LINK), the main subject of the story is a futuristic, fully-automated robot house that does things like make breakfast and wash dishes and stuff, and continues to do those things even though the inhabitants are mysteriously not there
anyway so we had to decide whether we felt the house “made its inhabitants’ lives easier,” “took all the control away from the inhabitants,” or “was unsettling,” or something like that, and then explain why. the class was basically split 50/50 or 40/60 between “made its inhabitants’ lives easier” and “took control away,” which is understandable, but when we started discussing it i noticed that a lot of the kids who said the house took control away were just???? super assuming stuff. they said that the people couldn’t choose what to have for breakfast, or what time to wake up, or when to leave for work/school, and that having a house that automatically does menial labor such as making breakfast or doing the dishes for you— and i quote— “takes the human-ness out of humans.”
i mean for one thing, there is nowhere in the short story that states or implies that the people can’t choose what they have for breakfast/what time to wake up/etc— it’s just that they made those choices before the story starts. if it were a normal day, presumably they would have made those choices the evening before, or whatever. (it’s not a normal day, so that’s not really applicable, but you get the idea: the house is heavily implied to be customisable, or else what would be the point of a house like that?)
but the idea that having stuff in your life to make things easier or go faster is a bad thing, that just seems really sad. i think that’s a really sad point of view to have. my ability or desire to make myself breakfast is not what makes me human, and it’s not what makes me a worthwhile or interesting person. pretty much everyone is capable of making some sort of breakfast (particularly if you have a really loose definition of “breakfast”), but not everyone is capable of sitting down and drawing cheerfully for three straight hours. basically, my general opinion is that the time i spend doing everyday stuff like the dishes is time i don’t spend doing stuff that i enjoy, or stuff that makes me a better person, or stuff that makes the world a better place.
i mentioned this to The Only Other American In Nantes the other day, in between taking pictures of poorly taxidermied canines, but i am of the opinion that the idea of “guilty pleasures” is an incorrect concept. essentially, as long as your guilty pleasure doesn’t involve hurting people, then you shouldn’t be guilty about it: it caused you happiness, however fleeting, and it didn’t hurt anyone, so its net impact on the world has been positive.
which is why i think technophobia is so sad: it stems from the idea that doing anything unpleasant or difficult is inherently emotionally worthwhile, which is just not the case. people who get snobby about reading paper books over digitalized books, or writing paper letters over emails, or using exclusively traditional media instead of seeing if they like photoshop or SAI or whatever— and people who’d prefer to wash up their own dishes, regardless of whether the result is that their dishes are less clean than if they had been done by a machine— they sadden me! paper books, paper letters, traditional media, and the ability to hand-wash dishes are all super great, and they all have an important place. but a kindle is a zillion times easier to port around than a library— not to mention it’s cheaper if you read a lot— and an email is faster, often more accessible, and of no more or less emotional value than a letter with the same content, and photoshop and SAI give you the ability to do stuff with art that you just can’t do with traditional media, and machine-washed dishes are just cleaner.
we need to stop thinking of inconveniences as being inherently worth something. it’s the ability to deal with inconveniences, not the inconvenience itself, that’s worth something. living in an automated house (at least the kind featured in this story— there are definitely cases where automation can go too far) creates room and time for doing things that are genuinely important, such as picking flowers or playing catch. (that was a reference to the original text. in case you did not catch that.)
back to my dismay with my classmates’ reactions: i get that you can read the extract and think, oh my god, the house went hal, it’s killed them all, but you can also take it at face value and think, wow, something happened here and left this computer with no reason to turn itself off, as i did. idk, i’m just!! bothered by that assumption. SIGHS.
do u ever feel/ like a plastic bag
the plan was to (re)watch hannibal in french, because hannibal and all associated personages are a GIFT TO TELEVISION, but apparently i will have to resort to slightly less legal means, because heck the police
assuming i can figure out which french streaming sites are trustworthy and which are not
hhhHHH I AM VERY MUCH OUT OF MY ELEMENT
i feel a strange mix of solidarity and competitiveness about other people with mohawks, like, i kind of want to be their friend but also i feel threatened by people whose mohawk game is stronger than mine
there are a lot of other people with mohawks in nantes— although rarely do i see someone with a mohawk as long as mine— and i’m constantly stuck between going over and saying hi, and going over and telling them that they are WEAK and their inch-and-a-half-long mohawk is WEAK and they will not survive the winter
this is the last time there will be 3 consecutive numbers that go up by units of 1 in a date until 2103
ENJOY IT, BECAUSE YOUR PROGENY PROBABLY WILL NOT
Every day you learn something new. You don’t feel stupid for not knowing it before, because now you can use that little mannerism or verb conjugation to your advantage, right?
Fast-forward to two weeks later. Why do you keep messing that word up? Why is your pronunciation off? It’s been a month, you should know that! It’s been three months, why can’t you remember what to do! And so on and so forth.
The problem is that at the beginning, everything is progress. You’ve got so much to learn and so much ahead of you that every little accomplishment is the best thing in the world. You made a mistake? Happens all the time. You used a new phrase right? Go you!
After a little while though, it gets hard. Sure, not being able to understand anything past ‘Where are you from’ was difficult, but at the beginning you could ask questions. You’re curious, you’re not embarrassed because you want to learn, absorb, and listen. The tough part is wanting to speak. Really talk, like you can in English. Being able to fully express your ideas without using the same word overandoveragain and not translating in your head first. Once that came, I started to realize.
I will never be happy will my level in French.
Now that things are coming easier to me, there is so much embarrassment when someone can’t understand my pronunciation or I KNOW that I messed up a verb two seconds after I said it. Asking questions is the hardest thing ever because I have no desire to be the American in class with a cute accent who doesn’t understand. I am an academic. I am articulate, intelligent, and motivated. I am not here to stare off into space in class or pretend that I don;t understand in order to avoid work. The hard thing is admitting that I don’t have the competence to be that same person while living my life in French.
Even if I stayed past January 25th, I would know that I had progress to make. If I was here for a year, two, three years, I would know that there’s still corrections to be made and I will never be able to fix them. As hard as I try, I can’t change the fact that I was born in an anglophone country and started “learning” French at 15.
I have no conclusion or solution to this problem. I have such a strong desire to be better and better and better at everything I do, and it’s hard to admit that I will never achieve that goal with one of my passions.
i SUPER get this— i still accidentally conjugate something REALLY SIMPLE wrong every once in a while (“j’ai allée— oH MY GOD, NO, JE SUIS ALLEE”) which after 6 years of french makes me feel pretty dumb. but i object to your stance that your existence as an academic means that asking questions or making dumb mistakes should be frowned on! being an academic is not, and should not, be about knowing everything. it’s about wanting to know, it’s about being curious, and it’s about learning from every dumb mistake, even if it takes the same dumb mistake a hundred times in a row to remember it.
of course you can’t experience classes in the same way as you do in the US— that’s not the point! it’s an inherently and profoundly different experience here. the fact that you know to ask questions at all should be celebrated: if you know to ask what one word out of a sentence means, that means you know what the rest of the sentence means. and if you don’t understand the whole sentence, that’s still fine! i have spent multiple two-hour class periods just trying to understand what the text we’re supposed to be doing a literary commentary on is about. (meanwhile all my classmates are like, three pages into their essay, and i’m looking up the fifteenth word in a row.)
i guess my point is, don’t beat yourself up for not knowing stuff that you feel you should know. it’s the wanting to know that’s important. the rest will come with time.
bisous from nantes!! i wish you bonne chance UuU
OH RIGHT YEAH ALSO IT’S BEEN THREE MONTHS OFFICIALLY
TIME FLIES!! WOO
i assume you’re all familiar with the oxford comma, but if not, the oxford comma is the comma that you put before the “and” in a list:
"i like cats, dogs, and cake,” or “he woke up, yawned, and stretched.”
the oxford comma is, for WHATEVER REASON, somewhat debated in english: we can’t decide whether or not it’s necessary. my opinion— and the opinion of ANYONE WHO READS A LOT, FRANKLY— is that it’s absolutely necessary. here’s why:
you’re welcome! USE THE OXFORD COMMA.
anyway i bring up the oxford comma because i have discovered that in french, NOT ONLY is the oxford comma not debated, but it’s actually considered improper. at first i wondered if that was because maybe in french you can’t use commas to be declarative, as if you’re opening a parenthesis: “the strippers, jfk and stalin” is basically the same as “the strippers (jfk and stalin)” in english, but i thought perhaps not so in french— and if that were the case, i had been been probably confusing a lot of people.
HOWEVER, that is not the case, and you CAN use commas be declarative in french, which leaves them no goddamn excuse. sure, when the sentence is spoken you can almost always tell the difference, but it can get pretty tricky when it’s written down.
in short, this post is a FORMAL REQUEST to l’académie française to RECONSIDER THIS ABSURD DECISION. rules in grammar exist to make things more clear, not less. FIX THIS, I SAY!
thursday is the class photo, which is NOT AT ALL THE SAME as it is in the US
i’m not even sure who’s taking the photo, we’re going to the cathedral to take it (??), and we’ll all be in costume, the theme being fairy tales
i’ll be dressed up like baba yaga, who’s PERFECT AND GREAT and one of the best figures in european fairy tales EVER
how to tell if you’re piera magpieras: even with the better part of your wardrobe an ocean away, you are still able to cobble together a halfway-competent baba yaga costume
GO ME, i will post pictures