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Thursday, 13 October 2005

Media / Water / Smells / Clean


So I've had 6 or so hours of lab now. I recorded a piece on Tuesday night, gave it a silly title and posted it to my podcast. The first 1:30 are REALLY low and won't play through the built-in speakers on your powerbook, (if you happen to have a powerbook with built-in speakers), but the rest is in a higher range. It's inspired by my refrigerator (no really) but doesn't quite sound as good as the fridge.

I'm listening to "FG Radio" right now. FG used to stand for «Fréquence Gaie», but it seems to have turned into just a commercial radio. . . . And just as I type this sentence, "We Are Family" comes on. So Snoop Dogg, R&B and the occasional gay anthem. I was hoping it would be talk radio. I had the idea that if I listened to talk radio while sitting at my computer, the French would sneak into my brain through osmosis.

I understand that philosophy is important in educated society in France, so I bought Meditations by Descartes. I wanted to buy Camus or Foucault, but the bookstore I was at didn't have any. Anyway, Descartes writes about the luxury of getting to sit by himself for a day in a room with a stove. During this one day, he came upon the idea of radical doubt, wherein he was able to prove his own existence "I think, therefore I am" and the existence of God (The idea of perfection is itself perfect and thus must originate from something perfect, which, if perfect, would be omnipotent, omnipresent, etc.) The mere idea of god proves that god must exist. Whatever. The whole inventing the scientific method thing was putting him in danger of the inquisition. Showing that he started with a proof of God was insurance against being put in jail. But the "proof" has a few problems, so I was re-reading it closely, trying to see if maybe I wasn't following because it was complicated or it really was like saying the idea of purple hamsters proves they must exist. And I missed my metro stop, because I was concentrating on Descartes. I may not be educated by French standards, but I'm hella pretentious by California standards.

However, I can't help but notice that I often have the great luxury to get to sit by myself in a heater room and I've never come close to inventing a new system of thought or proving my or anyone else's existence, despite being free from distractions and potentially having the entire collected knowledge of the internet at my fingertips (maybe that's the problem). If I could just stop day dreaming and turn my mind to rational inquiry!

In other news

I think I have located a conversation partner via the internets. I'll keep you posted.

And Shakespeare and Co never emailed me about me playing some text sound at a "reading," so I'm going to go by today or tomorrow afternoon with another CD and see if it just got displaced or if I'm too weird.

My computer spell checker is now set to multi-lingual which is just strange. It makes me feel so cosmopolitan.

Water / Smells / Clean

The water here is rather hard, in that it tends to generate hard water type stains. This is rumored to be very hard on clothes, but I have not yet experienced a problem. There exists a water softening device that people hang inside the rim their toilets. As the water goes rushing past, it's softened and hard water stains are prevented. It also emits a smell which is probably thought to be preferable to smells more naturally occurring in that environment. The same perfume is also lurking in my dish soap. And the floor cleaner. And my clothes washing soap. It clearly is a social signifier of cleanliness. As a foreigner, I can't stand it. I want my own culture's signifier of clean. Or better, no scent.

I don't know if it occurs in human soap, as I've managed to find a source of hippie soap which seems to be unscented. It may be the case that humans are not subject to the same indicators as the inanimate. My mother came to France twice in the 1960's. At that time, there was a discrepancy in how often Americans and French people bathed. My mom used to say that Europeans called the US "the land of soap and water." Therefore, when, as a 7th grader, I decided to only bathe once a week, I met with disapproval from my peers, but not my parents.

As people here have increased their frequency of bathing, appliances such as the bidet have been disappearing, as it's sort of a between-showers kind of thing. There is widespread ignorance in the US about this device, so I will describe it here: it is a very low sink with a stopper for the drain. Under a porcelain outcropping, there is a faucet which points down into the bowl. The faucet is constructed in such a way that it can only be used to fill the sink, and does not squirt upwards or in any other direction aside from down. Paris to the Moon reports that in place of bidets, people are installing electric toilets with garbage-disposal-like grinders built-in. I can report that I have actually seen one of these, at an internet cafe. It was alarming when I flushed it, as enormous, loud motors sprung to life and built up so much pressure in the drain, that water squirted from the drain trap of a nearby sink. Yikes.

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goat said...

when i was a kid mom used to go off on angry rants about americans showering too often - which is to say, once a day. she still thinks that's fucked up. in fact, i myself think that's a bit of an exageration unless you've been all sweaty or something. anyway. i was taught that you showered every other day and that was that. she also was dead-set against deoderant for children under a certain age (say 10 or 12 minimum). she considered it an adult thing, along the lines of makeup, and those were things that came with the gendering that occurs when kids hit puberty.

so yeah, i was /really/ not popular in my peer group, as a kid.

also, i'm still hazy on the uses of bidets. we only ever used ours to wash our feet.

Polly Moller said...

The French are not the only ones with questionable hygiene in the past. My parents were from the Midwest and swore by the whole "Saturday night bath" thing. You can imagine how confused us kids were once we found out this was not normal in California.