Archives for category: Frivolity

I had coffee with an artist named Matthew Rose on Sunday (actually I had an Orangina—it was really hot). It was the first time we’d met, and it came about because I tweeted a link to an exhibit poster that Matthew had made available for free download. Which I discovered because I’ve subscribed to one of his blogs for a few years. Which I found googling business card designers in Paris.

I love the Internet. Have I mentioned that?

Anyway, I figured the francophiles who follow Francophilia on Twitter would like it. And I liked it and wanted to share. The poster shows a number of his collages from the exhibit, many of which have a decidedly French flavor.

So one of the things we talked about was how it benefits all concerned when artists give the masses, who can’t necessarily afford original works, access to their art. Matthew is a big champion of this approach, one that appeals to my SoCal hippie – Civilization 2.0 – share the love mentality (and one shared by Vincent, who makes his music available to stream on his blog and to download all over the Web, not to mention his Geeks In Love).

Our discussion covered a lot of ground, and one thing Matthew mentioned really intrigued me: the One Page Book concept (les petits papiers in French). He said it’s something kids do in school, but I never did… I don’t know who started it, but it seems to have caught on, and artists from all over have participated, creating free artwork that can be downloaded and turned into little books.

roseverybadyear.jpgAnd you can do the same. All you need is one piece of paper and some inspiration.

Click the image to get to Matthew’s It Was a Very Bad Year, the shortest—and sexiest—user manual I’ve ever seen. And it also happens to be a work of art.

So of course the next day, I decided to create my own One Page Book, with one of my favorite poems of those I’ve written in recent years.

<RANT> I got an e-mail from Lulu today congratulating me because my poetry book was “selected” to be sold on Amazon Marketplace. Which is, of course, a bunch of bullshit. It’s just a business move on the part of Lulu, and my book will be as much of a needle in a haystack there as it is on Lulu, more probably, even though they tell me now I’ll have more search engine visibility. But it doesn’t matter anyway. The only reason I made it in the first place was to give it to my mom for Christmas. Plus Amazon will be charging 30% more for the book than Lulu, and I don’t get a penny of that. What a racket. Boo. Hiss. So if, by chance, you want a copy, get it from Lulu. It’s selected poems and photos from the turbulent year or so after my divorce, full of despair, flowers, sex and, finally, love. The usual. </RANT>

[Lulu changed their mind. Got this mass e-mail on June 5th: "Based on your feedback and after reading the policies of several marketplaces, we've decided to match your titles listing price on Lulu with the listing price on Amazon by removing the 30% markup. ]

So here, ladies and gentlemen, is my first attempt at a One Page Book using a poem from the Love section of the aforementioned book:


Click the image for the full size PDF (without the lines). It’s in A4 format, so it won’t exactly work on 8.5 x 11. Folding and cutting tutorial here. You can see what a number of artists have done with their One Page Books here and here.

Use it as an art medium. Make a party invitation or a get well card. A great rainy day project with the kids. Use crayons or Photoshop. Print it on inkjet fabric, quilt it, sew the edges together with embroidery thread or ribbon, and make a cloth keepsake gift for baby or grandma. I was thinking of maybe making some shabby chic Francophilia brochures. Unlimited potential for fun, creativity, and therapy.

If you make a One Page Book, upload the PDF and send me the link and I’ll link to it from this post!

True story. I stood on a street corner in Waikiki, 18, wearing a tiny white tank top with a sparkly star on it and tiny denim cutoffs, asking tourist men if I could have a quarter to call my mom. I only asked the ones who were with women (didn’t want anyone to get the wrong idea). The women all scowled. But I got $16 in quarters in a couple of hours, and then my angel-faced, long-blond-haired boyfriend and I went to a nearby hotel.

To play Space Invaders in the lobby.

There was a very old man sitting there, on a couch not far from us, watching as we played. I looked over at him, smiled and said hi at one point, and he asked what we were doing. I explained and convinced him to give it a try. So he came over and played a few games on the tourists’ quarters. Younger people, his kids I guessed, showed up to collect him, eventually, and looked rather concerned that he was fraternizing with street urchins. As he stood, he took a wad of 20s out of his wallet and held it out to me. I said no, but he insisted. Just because he was so grateful that we’d acknowledged and included him. Because we’d treated him like a person and not an old person.

I liked playing Pong with my dad when I was a kid. But I was pretty much over video games by the time Space Invaders went out of style. For the most part, I despise them.

My poor son Trevor will attest to the fact that I wouldn’t allow them in the house when he was growing up (except for a GameBoy, which we often deprived him of out of spiteful parental revenge for misbehavior and stuff.) We limited TV time too, for that matter. He is scarred, I’m sure, because all of his friends were allowed to have video games.

I just wanted him to be a reader and a thinker and I was convinced video games (and TV) did not foster, and probably even hindered that kind of mental development. It was my call. Now 23, Trevor plays WoW and others regularly, and that’s fine with me, because he is also a reader and a thinker. And he writes damn well too.

(Imagine my shock and dismay when I moved in here and found that Vincent’s ex-wife had just bought their 12-year-old son San Andreas to play on his brand new laptop. Over-compensation issues and total cluelessness? Clearly. But not my call.)

So when Vincent was out of ideas for his kids’ Christmas presents this year (at 15 and almost 13, they’re at a hard age to buy for), he thought he’d get them a Wii.

Video-game Scrooge that I am, I said, “Fine, whatever, I have earplugs.”

So the day comes, the kids are thrilled. And so was I. The Wii is fun. Yes, you can play the same dull games on it (where little people or monkeys or whatever run and fly and jump and dodge things and go through things and shoot things and bump into other things for points) that you can play on other consoles. Those bore me to tears. And they make me hostile. Really.

But the little sports games that come with the Wii are a total blast. Bowling, tennis, baseball. There’s boxing too, which doesn’t do anything for me. In general, it’s wholesome family entertainment. For young and old alike. And so on. I actually told my brother, a fairly regular gamer who surprisingly doesn’t have one yet, that he should get one and that I thought even his wife (like me, not a big fan) would enjoy it. Never thought I’d see the day.

What hooks you right away is the Miis, little characters you create in your own image that then play the games. (Very crafty, Nintendo.) And since we have a resident geek artist, Vincent made all of our Miis and did a marvelous job of it. I asked him to make me a Trevor so I can play tennis and go bowling with him even though he’s a million miles away in California. Vincent boxed with his daughter, at her request, but when his Mii KO’d her Mii he felt like a horrible father. (He was so guilt-ridden and contrite. It was adorable.)


Vincent gets beside himself with excitement watching my little Mii playing tennis in a green miniskirt. It is flattering on some twisted level… And I find his little Mii irresistible too. I wish we could make keychains out of them! And t-shirts! And coffee mugs! (There’s that all-American merchandising instinct.)

It’s a French Wii, of course. (So those buttons don’t say the English word “quitter.” It’s the French word for “quit.”) The only problem is, now I want the Madden NFL game. Vincent got his son a soccer game that is really cool. But the Wii games made for American Wiis don’t work on French Wiis, and I’m not sure they’ve made an NFL game for this market. Not a lot of American football fans among the Frogs.

When you play the baseball game, the Wii automatically puts the Miis you’ve made (along with other random characters) on the teams. So I get to see Trevor come up to bat. I’m kind of tempted to make Miis for other people I miss. Like my dad, who left the building 10 years ago. Mom, brother, sister-in-law, nephew. Buddies back home… Maybe I’d enjoy the boxing game if I made an ex-husband Mii…

Nah. Wouldn’t want him around. And Vincent probably wouldn’t go for it anyway.


Ten years ago, I came to Paris just before New Year’s for a friend’s wedding. Another friend of mine flew to Paris to pal around with me for a week. I got in touch with a French guy, an acquaintance I’d met through a friend a few years before in L.A., and he invited me and my friend to a fête des rois. I had no idea what it was, but I was game. My first genuine Parisian party with genuine Parisians!

(I discovered later that it’s a celebration of the Catholic holiday of Epiphany, which I’d never heard of, being an atheist of Protestant-ish origins. In case you’re like me, it’s 12 days after Christmas, on January 6th—the twelfth day of Christmas (so that’s what that means!)—which is supposedly when The Three Kings (and the little drummer boy), guided by what the latest theory says was a conjunction of Venus and Jupiter (in June), got to The Manger.)

So I asked an American francophile friend who was there for the wedding what the fête des rois was. Turns out it is primarily about this galette made of buttery puff pastry with a layer of marzipan in the middle. (Very tasty.)

galette.jpg(I’d been wondering why all the bakeries in Paris were overflowing with these rather plain-Jane pastries with the Burger King crowns on top…)

My friend told me that the galette has a ceramic figurine baked into it (called a fêve). He said whoever gets the piece with the fêve gets to be king or queen for the rest of the night and that there were games or something. That gave me pause, because what if I got the fêve and the games required that one be brilliant and biting like the French aristocrats used to be in their salon games (à la Ridicule)? What if it was like Truth or Dare? I was apprehensive.


The day of the thing, I went into a bakery and asked the boulangère what one would traditionally bring to the hostess of such a party. She said “cider” and sold me a galette too.

So we got there, and we were a few minutes early, but we went up anyway because it was freezing outside and there was nowhere to go. (Note: Don’t ever show up at a Parisian party early. Or even on time.) The hostess was clearly annoyed because we were early, but also probably because her boyfriend, the one who’d invited me, had had to come up with some explanation for who this American was and why he’d invited her. I have no idea what he told her, but it clearly it wasn’t convincing enough to make her even remotely happy to meet me. She sneered when I gave her the cider and the galette. (Had the boulangère intentionally tried to make me look like a dork? I never did find out.)

Not long afterwards, people started arriving. They walked over to us, shook our hands, said bonsoir and their first names and sat down. (The appropriate response is to say bonsoir and your first name.) Every person who came in did the same. When there were 15 people there, the new ones came in and shook 15 hands and said their name 15 times. It looked pretty silly to my American friend and me; so formal and stilted for such young people (20s and early 30s). At our parties, you walk in and your host(ess) says “Everybody this is so and so,” or you introduce yourself to the room, or you just wander in and mingle (or not), grab a beer and a chip…

There was no munchie table to hover over, to anchor the thing, to get people to move around, to serve as a conversation starter. (“I must have the recipe for this dip!”)

We were served champagne. (No wonder she had snubbed my cider. That must be what you take to a fête des rois for six-year-olds…) Everybody was sitting around in a couch-and-chairs semi-circle. Nobody was standing or moving. Not much talking. They were pale skinned and dark haired, all thin, wearing mostly black, their movements languid, voices low. I felt like I had walked into Interview with the Vampire. I felt very pink. And I was wearing kelly green velvet pants, the loudest outfit in the room, despite the black turtleneck and boots on either end of the pants.

Then the moment of truth: the cutting of the galette. It was giant. (The one I’d brought was smaller and it sat there on the table, untouched.) (Note: Bring flowers and/or champagne to Parisian parties.)

There are rules to the fête des rois. The youngest person at the party is supposed to get under the table the galette is sitting on. With every piece the hostess cuts, that person tells her who should get the piece. (They did not make the youngest person get under the table, since she was a chic and sleek Parisian law student in her 20s wearing a short, tight black dress. Although she did have to call the pieces.)

Turns out there were two fêves in this galette, and it came with two crowns because it was so big. Oddly, I got the first fêve, and the friend I’d come with got the other one. I suspected that they’d rigged it, but I couldn’t figure out how… They made us each put on one of the Burger King crowns. Then I really did feel like a dork, surrounded by all these vampires, wearing a gold paper crown.

I expected them to start feeding on me and my friend at any moment.

So I said, “Now what do we do?” and one of the girl vampires laughed and said “La pauvre, elle pense qu’il y a une suite!” (Poor thing, she thinks there’s more to it!) And I’m thinking, “Don’t poor thing me, you vampire bitch, I’ll kick your scrawny ass.”

But I just laughed, and explained that a friend had told me there were supposed to be games, etc. It was a relief, on a certain level, but at that point, I was thinking that, as Queen, I’d really like to give the vampires some dares. Like hold your nose and sing Frère Jacques while hopping on one foot… I pictured them all playing Twister, the way you’re supposed to picture your audience naked when you’re nervous about public speaking…

When the first couple got up to leave, they went around and shook everybody’s hand again on their way out. My friend and I leaped up, waved to everyone, said bonsoir/merci and left. I’m sure they were scandalized.

(A few months later, I asked a woman who gave classes in intercultural etiquette to business people why the hostess didn’t introduce anyone. She explained that the French don’t like to be the center of attention. The whole experience was utterly fascinating and educational.)

There’s one thing you should know. There are pretty distinct class lines in French society. I’m still trying to figure it all out. Thank gawd I have Vincent (and Claire) to guide me now. I’ve now been to a number of Parisian parties and they are not all as vampirish as this one was. It depends on the crowd. But they are all more sedate than American parties.

I can pretty much guarantee you will never see anyone at a Parisian party playing Twister.


I felt it when I wrote the words. Vincent felt it when he read them (and was compelled to write hot, throbbing music). And Ruthie felt it when she heard the song (and was compelled to create a tasty video montage of vintage bump and grind).

If you don’t feel it, you need hormone supplements.

Vincent puts his creatively uncommon music up on the Web under a Creative Commons license. Somehow Ruthie found it and made a creatively uncommon music video for our song Under Her Dress.

Although this is his first music video, it’s not the first time Vincent’s music has been used by others. It’s been picked out of the haystack that is the Internet and bundled in a Linux release, used by college students in their film project, put on a startup’s website, and used in the soundtrack of a movie about snowboarding, among other things.

Click Betty to go to Episode 1 of Ruthie’s Super Short Saturday Morning Video Reveal on YouTube!


I wrote the poem—with fridge magnets—right after I’d decided to move to Paris to be with Vincent…

You can also listen to the song and play with the nifty music player Vincent made on his site. Needless to say, he gets a lot of hits on Under Her Dress on his website. (Buncha pervs. Speaking of which, this is the post I get the most hits on. Buncha pervs.)

But who am I to talk? ;-)

Thanks Ruthie!


When faced with a layover in an airport this is my general routine: browsing the paperbacks and magazines (rarely buying), checking out the tacky souvenirs (especially the fridge magnets just in case there’s a really kitschy one I need), buying something to munch on, usually M&Ms or pretzels, and either a Coke or a bottle of water to drink. All of this takes approximately 30 minutes, at which point I’ve exhausted all the entertainment options, so I settle down in the bar or at the gate for the duration.

The French, ever conscious of quality of life issues and firm believers in the pleasure principle, know that traveling and layovers suck. So last winter, they offered free UV light therapy to passengers traveling through the capital’s airports to lift their spirits and ease their pain.

This summer, they thought it would be nice to offer free dance lessons to travelers at Orly and Charles De Gaulle, the two Paris airports:

Summertime passengers can use their wait time at the airport to learn any one of 15 dances offered by the airport’s resident trainers from “L’Ecole des Vacances,” including Afro Jazz, Disco, Hip Hop, Mambo, Modern Jazz, Rock & Roll, Salsa, Samba, Tango, Cha-Cha and more. Music and trainer instructions are broadcast through cordless headsets so as to minimize the disturbance to other passengers, and lessons last 10 to 15 minutes each.

How cool is that?

Via Springwise.


I have a francofetish, anything French being for me “an object of irrational reverence or obsessive devotion” since about kindergarten.

But you all knew that. I am still mad at my mom for disappearing that shirt with the poodles and Eiffel Towers on it when I was 11. She said it was in tatters, but that’s not how I remember it.

I am doing myself and other francofetishists a favor and making some francofetishes (as in “material objects regarded with superstitious or extravagant trust or reverence”) available for purchase on the Francophilia site soon, via my FrancoStuff shop on CafePress.

I bought the FrancoMug just to check out the quality (don’t have it yet). There’s also a women’s (tiny) FrancoTankTop and a men’s (tight) FrancoT-shirt, both white.


Here’s the FrancoToteBag.

I am very attached to this big, red coq, even though he may not end up being the definitive Francophilia logo.

I already have a big, red rooster trivet my mom got me at Williams-Sonoma (doesn’t make up for the poodle shirt, Mom) and a glass cutting board with roosters all over it.

One can never have too much—rooster.

I’d like to know what you think (not about that). Should he be our logo?

I’m going to buy the other three items and do some QC. If you happen to get any of them, please give me some feedback about the quality of the image (and what it’s on), the size and placement of the design, etc. Also, I can add all kinds of products, so if you have a request, let me know.

Merci, mes amis !


Early on in my relationship with Vincent, I coined the term culture bumps to describe those minor communication breakdowns that trip you up in an intercultural couple. The kind of things that make you just go “what the hell are you talking about?”

I’m referring to little stuff; crossed wires that usually make us laugh and are surprisingly enlightening. (We do run into some culture walls occasionally, too. Those can be brutal, but it’s fascinating to deconstruct them.)

Lately I’ve been maxed out, stressed out and burned out. I am in dire need of a basket weaving class.

But what I decided to do, to give myself a daily moment of zen, was to subscribe to icanhascheezburger, home of the LOLcats, which my 23-year-old son turned me on to last summer. It’s a guilty pleasure. (Very guilty.)

If you don’t know about the lolcats, basically the site is set up so that people can upload cute/funny cat and other animal pictures and add silly captions to them. Some of them are stupid. But frankly, I’m surprised to see how clever some of the captions are, even though they’re all written in some kind of illiterate, gawd-knows-what form of English.

Here’s the problem: Vincent can’t abide the Lolcats. It’s partly him and partly a culture bump.

I saw this one today (translation: Crazy Cat Lady Starter Kit), and I laughed out loud. I got such a kick out of it that I described it to Vincent, trying to convey the hilarity (he hadn’t leapt up to see it when I said what it was that had made me laugh). No dice. He didn’t have a cultural reference for what a crazy cat lady is, for starters. I explained. Blank stare. I guess they don’t have them here…


Then he launched into a mini diatribe (a very French thing) about how he hated them because they were the lowest of lowbrow, the online equivalent of paintings on black velvet, the epitome of bad taste, that he hated the cutesiness because it’s the basest form of sentimentality, that they’re barely one notch above fart jokes… And he can’t stand the anthropomorphism.

(I don’t know where he got that high horse; he watches Prison Break, which you wouldn’t catch me dead in front of.)

Then of course, there was the requisite disparaging comment about lolcat language and the captions. Now, the language thing I can understand, but I can overlook it. I defended the captions saying that we (Americans) are really good at one-liners.

To which he responded “Short,” which was a thinly disguised barb directed at Americans’ level of discourse, command of language, and attention span.

To which I responded “Succinct,” which was a thinly disguised barb at French pomposity and verbosity.

It ended with him saying that none of his criticisms would matter if the lolcats made him laugh. But they don’t.

Oh well. The French have a different idea of fun and funny. As I’ve said before, they tend to be a serious bunch. But I need a little shot of good old dopey humor every now and then. It’s in my genes.

If you’re in a Franco-American couple or have any other reason to want to understand la différence, I recommend French and Americans: The Other Shore by Pascal Baudry (a psychoanalyst, among other things). It’s a serious work, but accessible; certainly not the usual why-are-the-French-so-French pap.

I haven’t read the whole thing, but what I have read is excellent (and useful). You can download a free PDF of the English translation, or buy the book on the author’s site.