i am from the heartland of the united states of america
i live in paris but also i go other places, too

i write about all those things when i can and then when i remember i put it on this website so other people can read about it if they want to

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

cassoulet festival, i hate math, first inklings of paris

i moved to paris eight days ago.

while the first, say, five or six days were just a whirlwind of spacially and physical reorientation and constant stimulation, the last two or three have been the first few in what i assume will be manymany of a psychological and existential reorientation of self.  a medicore analogy to help visualize:  think about when you put a new address in google maps on your iphone and it goes temporarily haywire and spins around and changes direction NESW and altitude etc. before finally pointing in the direction that you’d set.  but then, this time, you look on the maps and everything behind you is filled in but all that lies before you is blank, ‘sorry, road not recognized.’  null territory ahead.

but before that a quick recap of the absurd spectacle that was the fete du cassoulet in my grandpa’s town.  had i not been working the days during the festival, there is little doubt that i would have tried to write a david-foster-wallace-at-the-illinois-state-fair-esque-esque (i say esque twice because i only seek to be as good as someone who feels confident enough to imitate david foster wallace) piece about it.  in short, think of it as the love child of oktoberfest and a county fair, except in the context of rural france and centered around a six-times-baked bean/duck/pork/sausage dish invented during the 100 years war.  let that percolate for a moment.

a regionally-revered and nationally-known celebrity (think, say, e-40 in the bay area) opened the festival with a concert on the first night.  this singer, patrick sebastien, is absurd.  he frequently made incredibly obscene and offensive jokes to a crowd that was about 20% pre-adolescent, including dressing up as french president francois hollande and talking about having an affair with former french president nicolas sarkozy’s wife or replacing a similar sounding word in one of his songs to make his chorus go ‘and we twirl our dicks’ instead of ‘and we twirl our napkins.’  but everyone knew his songs, which were dumb (i mean very dumb) but wildly catchy and everyone danced.  think collab album between raffi and weird al set to drinking songs with a dance beat.  i know.  i know.  just trust me.

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old men in street bands wearing hawaiian shirts with scarface on them

i ate cassoulet three times over the course of long weekend, which was, like, too much.  on saturday night i ate in one of the big tents where the dj plays local traditional favorites and after the wine has sufficiently flowed, people get up and link arms and start singing and people walking by the tent stop to watch the show.  i pretended like i knew the words but mostly just wanted to yell along to a melody.  i went with a group of friends who’d adopted me (this has not yet happened in paris, fyi) and felt absolutely outside-looking-in.  all these kids had just finished their master’s or thereabouts, and had come back to their hometown for a few days to celebrate before getting spat back out to various locations around the globe; among this small group, london, san francisco, paris, toulouse.  from the tone of their conversations, it didn’t seem like a lot of kids necessarily got out of there, or felt the need to.

we watched a muse cover band (cover bands were ubiquitous here, reminiscent of the state fair: abba, muse, beatles (complete with french-pretending-to-be-british-trying-to-speak-french accents, which were hilarious) and observed the young people music dj stage sponsored by castelnaudary’s only dance club, which interestingly/troublingly featured relatively equal numbers of kids aged 14-26 dancing in the same area.  bizarre.  but customary here.

also i finished 206th out of 432 in the festival’s 8k race, which took place on the first night and before i ate any of the three dishes of cassoulet that the weekend would bring.  thank god.  i'd been doing the course, two beautiful loops through town around the canal/basin/up the hill to the windmill in just under 39 minutes averaging about a 7:50 mile pace (which is very good for me on a five mile), and that day, i just got caught up in the first big push and ran the first two miles in 13 minutes like yooooo going fast as fuuuuck then crumbled in the finish and ended up finishing at like 39:45.  had a like 80 year old pass me on the last uphill, which was unbelievably demoralizing, especially with crowds cheering him on then looking at me like smh smh and looking the other way.

before and after

during my last week in the south, i visited a friend (made so many friends in the south it was great) in toulouse as she had just gone back to classes at the toulouse school of economics.  it was a great few days.  toulouse is a fantastic city, and i highly recommend you visit.  there are tons of young people, and walking through downtown feels like you’re walking through a college campus.  it’s not very expensive, it’s on a river, and the weather is beautiful.  on friday, my friend skipped class and we walked through town all day, which was having a first fridays type of event and everyone was out, all the shops had stands outside their stores.  it was unbelievably pleasant.  i had a fantastic lunch on cute square with a fountain.  also i found these two amazing finds for a combined 15 euros at thrift shops.

i wrote this while sitting in on her math class, which was meant to be a separate post:


five years after mr. tournoux’s post-ap test ‘fun classes’ on differential equations and two years after limping to a B- in multivariable calc in college, saved only through exploiting my freshman as an RA, i still fucking don’t like math.

i say this as i sit in toulouse school of economics’ one week math boot camp for their master’s students to refresh them on the past three years.  currently a prof is teaching the equivalent to week three of math 51, in english.  although, it’s more like a 3D printout of english -- it’s all there, it’s present, but it’s not really english.  he consistently pronounces ‘unique’ as ‘eunuch,’ which i find hilarious and no one else notices.

junior year i thought i was going to minor in econ in order to get a ‘practical angle’ to my studies in history.  long story short, i ended up minoring in creative writing, so you know, completely in the other direction.  my bc test placed me in the highest intro class, which may have made sense coming right from it as a freshman, but made no sense two years removed.  it was, however, conveniently a prereq for the econ core (which i had planned on taking at the time) but i was wildly overmatched by the eager freshmen, but, perhaps more importantly, tremendously unmotivated, except by the fact that i had to complete a math course to graduate and if i dropped i’d have to complete another ten weeks of mathematics, in another quarter, which was the academic equivalent of choosing to knee myself in the groin repeatedly.

i went to lectures back to back.  BACK TO BACK.  first a lecturer who undoubtedly did a lot of drugs, not in a you’re-chill-i-would-be-down-to-hang-with-you way but in a this-is-quite-troubling way.  and i retained about 50% of what i’d just learned, so i would sprint to another part of the main quad and attend a lecture with either a nervous eastern european woman or a prof who was basically khan academy and one of the best profs i had at stanford, although it’s an apples and oranges kind of things between math and the humanities and mostly i was stoked that he smiled at human things and checked for understanding.  this is not to say that i did not also watch hours of khan academy as well.  or do every problem set with my very intelligent freshmen in something that was NOT a give-and-take relationship, unless you count ‘i will TAKE all your help and explanations and GIVE you my assurance that i will not master key into your room and pour hot syrup onto all your electronics’ as a give and take relationship.

point is, i pulled out all the stops to stumble to passing this class and i didn’t get much satisfaction from passing it.  i still remember a question on the final that i left blank that had to do with hilly terrain and changing surface in three dimensions.  i think i was actively mad, like steaming, scoffing, looking around at other people in the exam to be like ‘can you believe this shit?  who do they think they are?’

point is, i don’t fuck with math anymore unless it deals with basketball or my immediate finances, and, in the words of talking Barbie, math class is tough.

i’ll write about paris very soon.  tomorrow, maybe.  tonight.  i don’t know.

reading list (up to now, whatever):

scott hutchins, ‘a working theory of love’ -- hutchins tells a millenial gen bay area story about a man looking for love, theoretically and in the traditional sense.  his narrator is a divorcee working as the writer/rhetorician (is that a word?  googledocs says YES) at a start up trying to create a sentient robot from the meticulously documented journals of his late father, who committed suicide.  great set up already.  the protagonist is wry, observant, and almost indulgently self-aware.  hutchins doesn’t as much tackle big questions of life/love/artificial intelligence, but rather outlines their existence, feels them out, and occasionally takes humorous swipes at them.  it’s great.  it’s a great read, addictive and well-paced.  it never lags.

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