mercredi 11 novembre 2009

Global Citizenship

Study Abroad: the best choice you’ll ever make as an undergraduate—so they say.  You know, it not only takes a tremendous amount of courage to embark on such an adventure, but a tremendous capacity to open the mind to new things.  As I arrived in Paris, France January 17th, 2009, I was a little upset that I had turned down a seat at Barack Obama’s inauguration in Washington, D.C.  While I roamed the boulevards of the city for two days, directionless and unmotivated, I was able to observe the daily comportment of French, particularly Parisian, individuals. 

Come the 20th of January the day of inauguration, there was commotion and, to my surprise, a sentiment of excitement.  These French, who had always been accused of hating Americans, were not following the behavioral norms I had come to expect.  During the inauguration, while I sat with goosebumps listening to the first African-American president accept his duty to my homeland; I was picked up by an African-French gentleman and kissed right on the mouth.  Quite the surprise, if you ask me!  But this was more than “getting rid of Bush,” especially to the French.  This represented a shift in the ideological foundation in Washington: the emergence of youth in social change, the new role of mavericks in politics, and the capacity to change international relations instantaneously.  In the span of his roughly one hour ceremony, Obama changed the face of America.

The point to be made here is not just a numeration of implications brought on by a new world leader of a different ethnicity (although there are many), but that the French were just as involved and occupied by happenings in America as were Americans.  This is not era-specific, as the importance of international politics has existed for centuries, but it is time-sensitive.  For me, it was the awakening of a new concept: that I was a global citizen concerned with the events happening not only in my native country of the US, but with what was happening in the EU and France as I was now to be directly affected by their current affairs. 

Now while I could not directly be employed or even vote, I was still acutely aware of my many roles as an American living in Paris.  Not only was I a student representing a group of youth with investments in higher education, I was an American student studying abroad representing an investment in foreign culture.  It was through an open-minded demeanor and international interest that I was able to converse with like-minded Parisians and Parisians who opposed many of the ideals and beliefs that I held and still hold dear. In discovering my position in a global society, I came in contact with many ideologies and paradigms of thinking.

This could be a core component to the meaning of global citizenship: understanding the microcosm of my world in the context of internationalism and globalization. Because some of my courses actually focused on these as topics, such as the “Economics of the European Union” and the “History of Islamic Art,” I was able to constantly be reminded of greater affairs and international perceptions of things that before, I had only seen from the American— or democratic or capitalistic— viewpoint.  From studying the formation of the EU, a greater political body monitoring many sovereign nations, to the transmission of cultural advancements across Orient to the Middle East, and lastly to Occident, I was able to see that the unquestioned importance of the US hegemony in the world no longer existed in my mind. 

I started to question many things at this point and was even able to discover a relatively new field within the study of economics.  I was fortunate to have the opportunity to study at French universities in Paris (specifically Sorbonne and L’Institut Catholique de Paris) and take courses in economics at these institutions.  It was in a “Contemporary Economics” course that I read the works (Vers un Nouveau Capitalisme) of Mohammad Yunus, an academic and self-proclaimed banker to the poor.  Never in American economic curricula had I found this particular theory of social business presented.  I was immediately excited at my discovery or rather new found interest, but concerned for the quality and breadth of American economic programs and their implied narrow-mindedness.  I was thrilled to see that other political systems and financial systems could adapt the concept of capitalism to fit their structural framework and political establishment.  Furthermore I was directed towards a field in which I hope to pursue a career. 

Without these sorts of realizations, understandings of the real world and its workings, I would be back where I started.  By having the opportunity to live in another country, live in another culture and assimilate into it as best I could, I was able to redefine my role as an American living in the world, and as an American living in America. 

When I had arrived in France, a friend of mine, who is French and who had recently moved to Paris, asked me, “Do you feel proud when you see your flag?”  I had answered her blandly saying, “No, not yet at least…” because I was embarrassed of America’s reputation [at the time].  It was not until I reached Normandy, months later, that I saw my flag waving on soil that had been given from the French to America (at Omaha Beach).  It was then that I realized that I was so proud of my country that I could not conceive it.  I was proud of my inherent civil rights guaranteed to me by my constitution and citizenship; I was proud of the oppression and evil that the US helped to destroy during WWII (though who knows if it created it during the post-WWI era); and I was proud to represent a global subculture of people who espouse the equality of all people and right to pursue life, liberty, and happiness.  It becomes painfully obvious as one travels more and more that these privileges that I so often take advantage of or that I rarely even think of are notrights for most of the global population. 

Turning here from my personal epiphanies to the role of globalization and global status within the French (again, specifically Parisian) society, I hope to offer some basic observations of my experience.  Simply speaking, it is obvious that globalization has enormously affected not only France, but Paris.  Walking around the winding boulevards and rues of Paris, I was able to see Pfizer (which was right down the street from my apartment), Coca Cola, Cisco, AT&T, J.P. Morgan, Pricewaterhouse Coopers Audit, Microsoft, as well as hundreds of other American based or American oriented firms.  Much employment and international business is done between Paris and countries all over the world.  Paris is increasingly experiencing an augmentation in migration, with larger and larger numbers from Arab countries or North African nations.  Aside from French, I heard Arabic on a regular basis; and if I stayed in the 14th arrondissement (in the south part of Paris proper), I barely heard any English. 

When moving from Paris to the whole country of France, the impact of globalization becomes even more apparent.  The last 50 years has represented the most liberal period for French in terms of internationalism.  The growth and development of the EU has transcended national frontiers to establish a rapport between Europeans as a collective group in an increasingly competitive global environment.  The Schengen Agreement allows for the free movement of labor across borders of any country within the EU, which means that there are more and more ethnicities and nationalities throughout the whole of France.  While in Nice and Monaco I was able to meet many people of Arab descent and while in England I actually made friends with several French and German girls. 

As a matter of fact, it was in Nice that my two friends and I, during spring “holiday,” decided to dine Moroccan.  As it was in the reputable French Riviera, we trusted the authenticity.  We spoke polite French with our garçon, saying “please” and “thank you” as one would expect.  It was then that the man, who happened to be the owner, stopped his service and sat down with us.  Actually he got us some small cakes and warm green tea first, but nevertheless…He told us to treat him, to treat any foreigner we encounter, with the same rapport and behavior as we would in our own country.  He told us that he would enjoy a broken conversation given in a good humor above cold, yet polite utterances dictated by perceived modern norms.   It was then that we broke the ice and he showed us his restaurant, brought out his kanun and played it singing in Arabic, wrote our names in calligraphy (the highest of arts in Islam), and welcomed us into his hospitality.  We never acted the same in a restaurant afterwards.

                Not all aspects of globalization and in the previous case—aspects of increased acceptance of internationalism—are so positive.  The economic crisis and eventual recession caused much discussion and melee among the French press and ordinary citizens.  It was obvious that greedy American consumption annoyed the French and that the repercussions they felt, in a socialist regime, [which regime is this?] would be of a longer duration and of a potential greater magnitude.  The actions of Americans and American banks affected millions of non-Americans.  As my “Economics of the EU” course picked up more and more the current events in the newspapers, we were able to analyze the consequences of globalization; between nations and between greater political/financial bodies.   The EU couldn’t agree on the true definition of chocolate—should it be Belgian or should it be Cadbury (English)?  The EU and the US couldn’t agree (and still cannot) on international agricultural regulations and standards—which pathogen reduction treatment should the US adopt that the EU will allow?  France even threatened to walk out of the G20 summit if its requests were not met—where does the meaning of negotiation or multilateral discussion go when this occurs?  France, Italy, Germany, and numerous other countries tried to adopt protectionist policies—is this not the complete reversal of the principles of globalization?  I gave a presentation on the new wave of economic nationalism in my “Contemporary Economics” class—highlighting the negative repercussions in a world that continues to globalize regardless of individual country’s behavior.   

France, one of the most developed of the European nations and one of the leaders of the EU, experienced political and economic tension just as the US did—in the name of a globalized and highly interdependent world.  The affairs of multiple nations became and are still becoming so intertwined the hazy line of civic proprietorship, whether in capital or intellectual property, is becoming impossible to distinguish.  Cultures are mixed; economies are inter-reliant.  Beyoncé and Chris Brown performed in Paris while Sarkozy vacationed in the US.  China and India are starting to compete with advanced economies.  While I know that I am certainly an American among all of the confusion, I personally find it more intriguing the continue exploring my citizenship of the globe.

Is the evolution of economics really progressive?

The world is increasingly realizing the importance of the study of economics and the true value of understanding complex market structures and interactions. Since the time of Adam Smith and the birth of the United States, economics has begun to transform into a scientific study, with overwhelming influences in political and economic policy.  However, scientific classification disputes are still widespread.  Is the study of economics a natural, social, or ethical science?  How does its nature as a science predetermine its inability to cease evolving?  The evolution of the field of economics is not synonymous with the idea of progress.  By being misconstrued as such, economic science can be misleading. 

The development of a study, such as economics, consists of a pure sequence of events as well as the global context in which these historical events occurred.  To suggest the word progress, one interprets a sort of change for the “better,” especially in a science that has social and ethical implications.  This is a normative suggestion, which breaks from the mainstream economic assumption of objectivity and therefore discredits validity.  According to modern philosophical theories, in order to deem any sort of judgment regarding progress, one must account for the nature of science and its compatibility with the study of economics.  In The Structure of Scientific Revolution, Thomas Kuhn defines the study of a science in the form of a paradigm, or an “accepted model or pattern” (Kuhn, p.23).  To Ward, the paradigm can be described as an “invisible college” or social network.  One trait of the paradigm is that historical economic developments have a cumulative effect, which involves two main elements:  the revolution and the “mop-up” work (Kuhn, p, 23-25).  Caldwell asks the question “[is] progress possible in science?” and agrees with Kuhn that a new definition of progress may be required when referring to the sciences (natural or social) (Caldwell, p. 74).  This new definition defines progress as the “evolution of the state of knowledge” (Caldwell, p.74), which Ward believes is always occurring.  He asks that “[despite] all those signs of Kuhnian normality, can it be that economics is in a state of permanent revolution, in which the tensions of unsolved problems continually percolate on the fringes of a discipline that studiously ignores them while continuing the development of its problems of detail?” (Caldwell, p.74).  Caldwell theorizes that the nature of science leads to the recognition of anomalies, therefore paradigm change, and that scientists never “reject an old paradigm without coming up with a replacement” (Caldwell, p.72).  Mitchell’s proposal then that economists can only “point out the shortcomings of individual behavior, [and] not change the behavior,” becomes very interesting (Mitchell, p. 3).  In Caldwell’s aforementioned framework, one can interpret Mitchell as saying that economists are not scientists who can invent or discover new paradigms because they can never control and change human behavior.   Therefore, they can never totally form a new paradigm as a replacement.

To continue with the idea that evolution does not equate with progress even today, the adoption of modern political economic theory and economic rationalism has not brought economists any closer to providing answers to some of the most prevalent economic problems, such as the difference between rich and poor countries.  Easterlin, in his book Growth Triumphant, proposes the happiness-income paradox as a timeless and unsolvable mystery (Easterlin, 131-144).  Since the birth of economics the income differential among societies has been an issue and was a focus for Marxism.  Historically, discontent over large income gaps has caused political and economic revolts.  As long as economies develop and change, certain human behaviors will prevent true global progression from happening.  Karl Marx once stated that “[a] house may be large or small; as long as the surrounding houses are equally small it satisfies all social demands for a dwelling.  But if a palace rises beside the little house, the little house shrinks into a hut” (Easterlin, p. 140).   Essentially this can be interpreted on a larger scale; that as economies develop into what modern political economic theory calls “developed,” human preferences will simultaneously continue to evolve.  Thus, true human satisfaction, an optimal pareto-efficient outcome, is never truly attainable.  This can be through the mechanism of association or by default due to the definition of economics (the study of how humans make choices with limited resources and unlimited wants, [Miller, p.2]).  Mitchell repeatedly insists that this very misconception of economics as a natural science prevents the academic realm from realizing the involvement of the “very unpredictable variable:” human behavior.  Hence, when human nature and the nature of economic science advance together, one cannot assume that the evolutional changes imply progress in the social network.

Generally large shifts in patterns of thinking are associated with large steps of progress.  Paradigm shifts, which “reveal the nature of things (Kuhn, p.25),” could be viewed as such, while mop-up work “is dependent […] upon a paradigm” (Kuhn, p.25).  One can view the shift from a Ptolemaic (geocentric) model to a heliocentric model of the universe as a step of evolution in astronomy as well as progress because it brought scientists closer to what is now regarded as accepted truth and is the basis for many prevailing theories.  However, science is not necessarily based upon truth, but is highly dependent upon the paradigm framework that surrounds it, and thus is not objective.  Perhaps this is why it was Copernicus and not Aristarchus who received credit for the heliocentric model.  If one regards the paradigm of natural sciences, which are highly dependent upon concrete mathematical and scientific experiments, and one assesses the variable of human volatility, it is evident that economics does not fit into one accepted paradigm.  Can a science fit into more than one paradigm?  If so, how then can a shift from one or several paradigms mark progress?   Easterlin proposes technology causes shifts in the paradigm of economics and that revolution and evolution are distinctively different (Easterlin, p. 15-29).  However, technology does not inherently affect the state of economics, rather the methodology.  Ward argues “methodological sophistication may often substitute for solution in the eyes of the most respected practitioners” (Ward, p.32).   Mankiw gives many examples of the multiple views of economics, many of which are from rivaling paradigms within the field.  He also raises the point that the inability to find one paradigm in which all economists can agree has caused economic science to come to a “truce” rather than a universal and “synthesized” paradigm.  Mankiw uses examples of conflicting views on monetary policy (and its applications), imperfect competition, and the nature of business cycles (Mankiw, p. 38-43).  In each of these specialized topics, when economists cannot explain a piece of economic phenomena or cannot wholly prove their own theory, Mankiw argues that there is not “so much a synthesis as a truce between intellectual combatants, followed by a face-saving retreat on both sides” (Mankiw, p.39).  Disregarding conflicting theories within each subtopic, one can still see the blatant existence of several paradigms within the field.  As Ward points out, micro and macro “remain two distinct theories, and from the propositions of one are not derivable from the propositions of the other” (Ward, p.38).  Perhaps this trait more than any other determines economics to be a field always in a state of evolution and never in a state of progression.  Until the day when science allows economists to successfully understand all needed variables (such as human nature), the science of economics will remain highly imperfect, working towards some final, synthesized paradigm.

The persistence of certain timeless issues, such as disease and the unequal global income distribution, presents the marked difference between progress and evolution.  While progress marks movement towards something “superior,” evolution marks change, but allows for the connotation of pure change without regard to quality.  Progress is upscale while evolution is unending and can be in any direction (such as horizontal or reversed).  Economics as a science can be frustrating because there is so much movement that is not forward progress.  Caldwell reiterates that by the nature of science, “normal science leads its practitioners to awareness of anomalies,” and thus, according to Kuhn and Ward, new paradigms are formed (Caldwell, p. 72).  However, Caldwell goes farther in stating that “a new paradigm rarely emerges in a fully articulated form,” and that they usually emerge due to more precise quantitative methodology or to provides a more aesthetic interpretation (Caldwell, p.73).  He even indicates that to choose between equally “objective methodological standards” is an act of faith.  Mankiw provides a concrete example of horizontal movement within the paradigm of macroeconomics such as in the theories of price stickiness and efficiency wages.   Paul Krugman, the winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2008, claims that new neoclassic theory may help Keynesian economists to explain and understand “how price stickiness could happen” (Krugman, p.33-42).  It does not provide a better, nor a more accepted, theory of macroeconomic phenomena.  Mankiw continues with the application of economics (from the scientist to the engineer) and asks, “Have the developments in business cycle theory over the past several decades improved the making of economic policy?” (Mankiw, p.40).  This touches the heart of the issue of progress in economics.  He claims that constant institutional change and the differences in the concept of “study verses application” in economics do not transcend into the scientific theory of economics nor are they always accounted for in its paradigm.  The application of economics in policy to initiate societal progress does not automatically take place.  “The real world of macroeconomic policymaking can be disheartening for those of us who have spent most of our careers in academia.  The sad truth is that the macroeconomic research of the past three decades has had only minor impacts on the practical analysis of monetary or fiscal policy” (Mankiw, p.42).  If theories of a science are not applied, is progress possible?  Or is there always a lag between the academic acceptance of theories and their entry into mainstream thinking?  Would the research of the past three decades even be applicable to modern times when aggregate human behavior has changed once again?  Mitchell points out that this is often seen as a “failure on the part of economics; that economics cannot always generate answers, but sometimes just more questions” (Mitchell, p.4).  Perhaps these questions can highlight why economics is constantly in a state of evolution and why it is difficult to perceive economics as progressive.  While methodology and quantification techniques may continue to qualitatively improve, if the data or objects being observed continuously change as well as the paradigm in which they exist (such as political institutions), one will never succeed in understanding completely.

The idea that economics is not progressive may seem rather pessimistic or even insulting.  Why do we continue to study it if this is the case?  By suggesting that economics is simply evolutionary and not necessarily progressive, one does not diminish its importance in the modern world.  Mitchell states that this may seemingly create failure “when failure is not the case” and that it is not the failure of a social science to only generate more questions, but that it is the nature of a social science.  In a world that continues to look to mathematics, science, and technology for the future, it is imperative to understand the constraints of certain sciences, especially those that emphasize both mathematics as well as human behavior.  It may be more difficult to understand the complexity of economics and the social sciences than to create, say, a “perpetual-motion machine” (Ward, p.3). 


Works Cited 

Caldwell, Bruce. Beyond Positivism: Economic Methodology in the Twentieth Century. 1982. 70-79. Print.

Easterlin, Richard A. Growth Triumphant. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan, 1996. Print.

Gordon, Robert A. "Rigor and Relevance in a Changing Institutional Setting." American Economic Review 66.No. 1 (1976): 1-14. Print.

Hodgson, Bernard. Economics as Moral Science. Berlin: Springer, 2001. Print.

Krugman, Paul. "How Complicated does the Model have to be?" Oxford Review of

Economic Policies 16 (2000): 33-42. Print.

Kuhn, Thomas. "Chapters 3,4,5,7,8,9." The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. 1962. Print.

Mankiw, N. George. "The Macroeconomist as Scientist and Engineer." Journal of Economic Perspective (2006): 29-46. Print.

Miller, Roger L. Economics Today. 15th ed. University Park: The Pennsylvania State University, 2009. Print.

Mitchell, Matt. What's Actually Wrong with Economics: Misconceptions and Unreasonable Expectations of a Social Science. Diss. The Pennsylvania State University, 2009. 1991. Print.

Ward, Ben. "Part I." What's Wrong with Economics? 1972. Print.

Implausibility of Socialism in America: One step forward, two steps back

The debate goes back to the founding days of our Forefathers—the role of government in a society of free men.  Since its birth, the U.S. ideology has shifted to and fro on the roles of political and economic freedoms and this has caused a fundamental disconnect between voting citizens and the role of their government.  While many view socialism as an attempt to create greater social and economic equality, they often do not specify whether it is the inequality of income or the inequality of opportunity that they most oppose. However, free marketers like Friedman discount the role of government in mitigating certain market failures, arguing that inequality is in fact desirable at some levels.  While the current combination of democracy and capitalism has been shifting towards a more mixed-economy form, there has been a tendency to label the economic structure as “socialism.”  This paper will attempt to enumerate implications of democratic socialism in the U.S. as a result of certain trade-offs that arise between the political and economic realms.

Socialism is an economic system in which the government owns “income-producing property” and is the “principal employer of labor” (p. 52, Okun).  A democracy is a political system that enables citizens to have an equal distribution of rights—reflected in the inherent rights specified in the Constitution and the policy of ‘one vote each’.  While Schumpeter views socialism as an inevitable result of capitalist self-destruction which will also destroy democracy, Coe and Wilber disagree in that a “democracy can survive and even thrive in a socialist state” (p.13, Coe and Wilber, 1985)1. Assuming that the U.S. transitioned into a socialist economy, what would the expectation be?  Would all citizens be equal or better off?

The simple answer is no.  The longer answer requires that first the transition be considered and then the actual system of socialism.

In order to transform the American economy into a socialist one, the transfer of property from private ownership to state ownership must be made.  Two methods of transference can occur: either the government compensates owners at market value for their assets or it confiscates them.   Okun asserts that “[socialism] could really dent the distribution of income right from the start only if it paid owners much less than the value of their assets, or, in the extreme, confiscated with no compensation at all” (p.53, Okun, 1975).  Any economic philosopher or political scientist can attest that Americans value freedom—and confiscation or under-compensation of a citizen’s assets is an infringement on their right to property.  He defines economic freedom as “a component of freedom broadly understood” (p.8, Friedman, 1962).  And he continues that “freedom as a value in this sense has to do with the interrelations among people” (p.12, Friedman, 1962).   Therefore free men face the ethical challenges of inequality—but to redistribute welfare (in this case assets, to create an equal ‘starting point’) would infringe upon political freedoms.

From this trade-off the notion of having either maximum economic efficiency or maximum social welfare is born.  Socialism opts for the maximum amount of social welfare in lieu of certain economic efficiencies.  Alleged inefficiencies could refer to the economy following the preferences of “central planners” and not consumers, the inability to measure and track measured real GNP, the distribution and production of knowledge (lack of incentive for innovation and investment in knowledge), high costs of bureaucracy, or any combination of these factors (p.51-61, Okun, 1975). 

Combining a political system designed to have complete equality of rights (and purportedly of opportunity) with a competitive capitalist economy will protect individuals’ freedoms—a concept deeply engrained in the American psyche.  However, this paradigm change to socialism will uproot and distort this belief by infringing on personal freedoms for group welfare.  Whether we deem this as ethically tolerable, the political sphere must adapt accordingly—and at this point, with the will of the people.  This equates to citizens deciding upon fewer political freedoms at the expense of economic equality. 

To no longer have certain political freedoms due to a movement towards economic equality will greatly impact the level and desire to engage in innovation and entrepreneurship.  Schumpeter’s crude acknowledgement and pessimistic ruin of capitalism sprung from social factor and it would not “fail on strictly economic grounds” (p.8, Coe and Wilber, 1985).  However, there are certain economic factors that would diminish under socialism, such as the incentive of great profits for innovation. It is the bourgeois class that instills a spirit of innovation and the principle of creative destruction.  As Okun bluntly states:

Indeed, unless special legal provisions make it feasible, the protection of private property rights in knowledge and information is inherently difficult; in the absence of laws establishing patents, copyrights, and authorizations for industrial secrecy, there would be little scope for profit by inventors, authors, and idea producers.  And hence there would be little market incentive to invest in the production of knowledge (p.58, Okun, 1975).


Some social incentive may exist to increase investment in knowledge; however relying upon the charity of humanity has proven ineffective as “men [are] imperfect beings” (p.12, Friedman).  Coe and Wilber point out that even in the lack of capitalism, “market-type economic arrangements” have been scarce among socialism societies (p.22, Coe and Wilber, 1985).  In the reality of capitalism, “it is not the kind of competition which counts but the competition from the new commodity…competition which commands a decisive cost or quality advantage and which strikes not at the margins of the profits and outputs of the existing firms but at their foundations and their very lives” (p.84, Schumpeter, 1942).  This sort of competition is one factor in what has given rise to such great innovation and achievement since the industrial revolution.  To take away the risky nature of entrepreneurship and the incentive of profit rewards, innovation and investment would be highly impacted.

Not only would lack of innovation affect economic growth in the long-run, but labor market allocations would manifest ineffective productivity in the short-run.  Because the state would be the owner of labor (in economic literary terms) and equally distribute all labor incomes, “it is doubtful” this would occur “unless the free choice of jobs were eliminated” (p 54, Okun, 1975).  Furthermore, Okun presents the question of trade-offs between economic incentives and productive efficiency by highlighting the lack of willingness to expend effort in the face of equal wages despite productive contribution (p.42-43, Okun, 1975). 

Many issues face the current system in the U.S. and as the current paradigm meshes the economic and political realms closer and closer, one needs to step back and look in the direction in which it is headed.  A mixed economy implies greater social equity and government intervention (for market failures and redistribution), yet socialism entails something greater.  It implies that certain political rights will be lost in the transition of economic systems; that certain inefficiencies will exist even in the new system (as enumerated upon above); that innovation would be hampered by lack of economic incentives; and that job choice would effectively be eliminated.  Until the political realm is willing to deal with these consequences and spell out the daunting translations of such policy for the American people, few citizens need to worry about Obama and the democrats “turning us socialist” (Yang, 2009). 


1 Schumpeter asserts a definition of democracy that includes an “institutional arrangement for arriving at political decisions which realizes the common good by making the people itself decide issues through the election of individuals who are to assemble in order to carry out its will” (p.250, Schumpeter).   Coe and Wilber consider Schumpeter’s view too narrow in that democratic politicians also “shape and guide the ‘will of the people’” (p.13, Coe and Wilber, 1985).


Works Cited:

Coe, Richard D., and Charles K. Wilber. "Schumpeter Revisited: An Overview." Capitalism and Democracy: Schumpeter Revisited. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame, 1985. 1-34. Print.

Friedman, Milton. "Introduction." Capitalism and Freedom. 1962. 1-36. Print.

Okun, Arthur. "Equality of Income and Opportunity." Equality and Efficiency. 1975. 65-87. Print.

Okun, Arthur. "Equality of Income and Opportunity." Equality and Efficiency. 1975. 32-64. Print.

Okun, Arthur. "Increasing Equality in an Efficient Economy." Equality and Efficiency. 1975. 88-120. Print.

Okun, Arthur. "The Case for the Market." Equality and Efficiency. 1975. 32-64. Print.

Schumpeter, Joesph. "The Process of Creative Destruction." Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy. 3rd ed. New York, 1942. 81-86. Print.

Yang, Carter. "Napolitano Not Talking 'Terror'" CBS News. CBS News Interactive Inc., 26

mardi 12 mai 2009

Fondue in Paris? Pourquoi didn't anyone tell me?

Just as of recent, I've made the most wonderful discovery of fondue within Paris city limits.  Let's qualify here that I am referring to GOOD fondue with an ambiance to rival any local favorite out there.  Up in the cobblestone hills of Montmartre, la Refuge des Fromages seats you along two wooden, cafeteria-style tables next to god knows know from god knows where.  My neighbor (who I ended up spilling wine on) was switching between German, French, and we just "cheered" and took a drink together.  The walls and ceiling have been written on by passer-bys.  I don't think I know what I would write to my future readers if I only had one chance.  The gruffy and slightly drunk waiters target certain dinner party members, and unfortunately it was Alex's turn.  Perhaps it was his Oxford dress-up complete with starched shirt, tie, blazer, and shined kicks.  Oh la la, as we'd assume they'd say, he was dressed to pay the bill, which is all I cared about!  The fondue itself was somewhat diluted with wine, and the wine was harder to get down because it is served in baby-bottles with nipples that have slightly larger "holes."  This is all getting very sexual...but as Katie and I was a "foodgasm."  

I then was suppose to meet up with my jeune Francais for a scooter ride and un promenade...but I turned out to be a bad person this particular day.  I made my way back across all of Paris to the 14th, where I had calculated in a forty minute reprieve in my apartment (to smoke) before my date.  However, Zach called me with a voice yearning for some time with le shit.  

This is all getting a little ahead, as much else has come to happen since my last entry.  Not only had it been the night before the fondue that I was dining on the Champs-Elysees for a friend's birthday.  We headed up towards the left of the Arc de Triomphe to hit up Dupleix...a night club that calls in all kinds of people, which provides good company and good entertainment.  Katie, Maron and I decided to meet up with some of the guys at Rex Club on the Grande Boulevard.  Apparently I was in for a very sweet night.  Boys Noize, a German dj, played until the late, late hours or early, early hours (depends on your view) in a humid, laser-lit basement bar.  Hundreds of people jumped up and down, sweating happily all over each other, grinding, and screaming for the next drop in the beat...I loved it and I danced my ass off.  The music and lights seem to take over you a little and you find your heart palpitating due to the suspense of the next beat.  I did have my feet smashed around a little, but battle wounds are always worth it.

So, because it happens to be my last few weeks in Paris (that is, on my own), I have been trying to soak up everything little thing; the lights, the breeze, the smell (and often, it is unpleasant...location, location, location...), the people, the culture, the loyalty to tradition, the inherited style, the classiness, the art, the can't even imagine how difficult it is to say good-bye.  Just after getting to know the temperament of this moody Paris, I am being dumped back in a country that, selon moi, doesn't have defined traditions and histories.  I think rediscovering my own culture will be a little difficult, sometimes unpleasant, and I will wish often to be back.  However I will never forget what she has to offer.  

dimanche 19 avril 2009


A New Meaning to "Bittersweet"

The title of this entry stems from several sources:  Firstly, the impending knowledge that even though I've just returned to Paris from a ten day "break," I will be only here for another four weeks before my life as a student abroad terminates.  Secondly, this "break," for Easter rather than spring, consisted of a trip to Nice, Venice and the Cinque Terre.  And what, you may ask, is bittersweet about this?  Last night, as Katie and I hid in our hotel in Pisa (I'll explain later, in detail) we tallied up the ATM withdraws and credit card purchases.  She almost passed out.  To be totally honest and as fair as I can be, we indulged only once in a 20 Euro gondola ride in Venice...all other money was fastidiously dedicated to lodging and food.  Thirdly, my love for bittersweet chocolate.  Just kidding :)

So the trip began after a very long and rough night of doing laundry, or attempting to do it, in my apartment.  I went downstairs to find a young man filling all of the washers with his clothes.  Perfect.  I asked, politely, if it was possible for him to spare one as I had two loads of laundry to do between 11pm and 6am before we left for a ten day period of time.  Mind you, I had been babysitting until this point, unable to move in on the laundry facilities earlier.  He told me no and that there were washers in the apartment next door.  I impolitely told him that he was an ass (in my head).  

This did, however, give me the pleasure of getting to converse with Laura, a Californian at her finest.  She let me in the building multiple times until 3am, when I was finally finished stalking my own clothes.  I was in her apartment for a time watching her leaf through a book she was to have read, scanning page by page in to her printer (which she packed up in Cali and flew with her to Paris) so that I might borrow the book for break.  Fabulous and much appreciated effort, though drastic and humorous nonetheless.  As we say, "just box it up."

So the next day we met Alex at the train, Gare de Lyon, whereupon we departed with a car-fill of sweating, greasy, loud French teenagers at the pleasant age of 14/15.  Such a wonderful time during one's life...They shouted, swore, made odd noises, and above all, engaged in disturbing mating rituals and patterns never before seen by many voyeurs sitting nearby.  The ride couldn't end soon enough as the ventilation was lacking and their body odor was starting to waft our way.  Ah, Nice...finally!

We checked in to our adorable hotel, Alex and his Easter bunnies, before heading to the beach and simply plopping ourselves onto the beach of rocks to burn for two hours.  I slept while Katie and Alex were absorbed in what seemed like a deep and meaningful conversation.  I awoke with some sign of being sun-kissed, while it seems Alex was the equivalent of "raped."  We hiked to the top of the waterfalls to view the Old Nice and new at their full glory and marveled at their beauty.  Of course, gelato ensued.

Let me just say, there are vendors with up to 96 flavors of gelato including cactus, lavender, basil, and more...I stuck with more traditional or dessert-y flavors, and enjoyed every bite.

To summarize relatively quickly for those of you who have made it this far (!!!), we relaxed.  We did enjoy an afternoon of roller-blading, or rather, Katie and I did.  Alex got to know the asphalt pretty well, but was quite good-spirited (the entire activity being his idea!).  Katie and I got some great laughs, a nice burn in our muscles, and the physical activity we had been missing and lacking for the past month.  We dined at a Moroccan/Persian restaurant, hoping only to find couscous, meanwhile discovering a pandora to never again be shut.  The owner and waiter was an Armenian man who had lived all over Europe, spoke seven languages, and had no other guests than us three to serve.  We dined and enjoyed.  He lectured us on the etiquette of being a traveler, a foreigner, and better yet, an apprentice of culture.  He offered us free cake, which we ate with alarming gluttony and when he returned with tea as its complement, was distraught to see that we had finished it and had crumbs on our lips.  We drank the tea anyway.  He showed us his hobby of calligraphy, Irish music (he knew my heritage right away and took pleasure in brining it up), as well as his celtic string instrument, which I unfortunately forgot the name of.

After three full days in Nice, we departed for Venice.  What a treat.  Late to arrive to Milan for our connection, and even later to arrive in a city that has no concept of maps and easy-to-find locations.  We arrived in Venice at 8pm and it was not until 10 that we were successfully installed in our hotel (only several hundred meters from the station) and went ravenously in search of dinner.  Delicious pasta, not expensive, but painfully small portions as pasta is only the first course.  We, on the other hand, could not afford two courses.  The next day we walked around Venice, admiring the handiwork of her craftsmen and glassmakers, the overpriced gondola ride, and hundreds of bridges and canals.  We spent the afternoon in Lido, an island across the base of the Grand Canal, at the beach.  Several people had told me that they hated Venice for its smell and pollution, but I thought it rather quaint and adorable, best at night after the hoards of tourists abandoned the main island for Mestre, a cheaper option for lodging (or so they thought).  

Next was the Cinque Terre, another three days of refuge in the Italian Riviera before heading back (today!) to Paris, where life seems all to real and fast.  Katie and I left Alex in Venice and embarked in a female adventure that was quite simply, wonderfully unbelievable.  It is where the French, Germans, and Italians reside during their vacations (as evidenced by the hundreds of Germans with their hiking poles that violently make you aware to mind your personal space).  We had hoped for time to sit on the beach, but the contrary weather of rain and clouds forced us to reevaluate and re-plan.  Not a problem.  We hiked most of the next day in a pathetic excuse for rain to the third village, Corniglia, whereupon we were forced back to Monterosso by train as the hiking path had been shut down due to land slides.  Well, certainly glad to avoid that risk...

Exhausted, we collapsed in our beds after hot showers for three hour naps before the most SCRUMPTIOUS and DELECTABLE dinner of all time.  While I enjoyed my dish, I am actually referring here to Katie's, which I got two nights later when we returned for our last dinner.  Freshly made, hand-carved ravioli bouquets drizzled in a creamy cheese sauce littered a black plate.  Upon cutting these pieces of holiness, the invigorating aroma of sweet pears crawls into your senses and almost causes temporary insanity.  You can bet your balls I will recommend this restaurant to anyone, now and forever, and I'd maybe even be willing to buy a flight just to accompany you there and sample it again.  The owner was spectacular company and joked around with us as well as neighboring tables.  

We finished the hike of the five towns, finishing Montorola and Riomaggiore the next day.  Of course, lots of reading and laying around occurred and I was pleased to have finished all of my homework goals way ahead of deadline.  I am actually quite reflecting on some of the literature I read and have had quite a mental provocation since reading some of Yunus' work.  

Don't think I forgot about Pisa (I know, Piza!).  This was simply a layover location for a cheap flight to Beavais that turned into a nightmare from Hell.  We arrived in the rain and as we left the train station, we had men pushing umbrellas into our arms in a desperate attempt to make a sale.  Little did they care that we had an umbrella out and were wearing virtually waterproof clothes.  We found the cheap and recommended hotel very close-by and settled in.  The only one thing to do in this town is to see the Leaning Tower.  On our twenty minute walk down uneven, puddle-laden streets, intoxicated with pollution and jobless men, Katie stopped me, saying, "Is that a dead animal?"  It couldn't be!  You might expect something like that in Morocco, perhaps even parts of the socio-economic losers of Europe, but surely it couldn't be...

Sure enough, a small black dog (could have been a puppy, didn't look that closely) was sprawled on the ground, mouth hanging open, surrounded by groups of young men (each group of a different ethnicity, of course).  Katie and I then decided, pick up the pace.  After arriving and enjoying the tower for a grand total of thirty seconds, we stopped at the tourist tents selling the most cheasy and horrible souvenirs.  Who in God's name would want a replica of the tower, the size of backpack, for over 20 Euros?  Well, if I had seen someone even approaching the stand to buy one, I would have kindly done them a favor and knocked them unconscious.  Better off that way.  The rest of the night we stayed in and read in fear of seeing more than we had bargained for...and to get away from the Hotel concierge who was fond of kissing, quite too close to the mouth.

Congratulations on finishing this entry!  Worthy of a prize (gelato or ravioli)...but sadly, I am lacking them to give away.  Talk soon, blog more, read less (per visit).

dimanche 5 avril 2009


Marathon de la Vie

So today was the Paris Marathon, a bubbling crowd of about 40,000 people (of which only 30,000 complete the whole 26 mile course) who range from sleekly-fitted spandex fans to men wearing kakis and button up shirts.  Makes sense for one of the biggest races in Europe.  Katie and I departed from our lovely (and quite dirty) apartment around 8 only to arrive at the Palais Royal ten minutes after the gun shot started the herd and masses of seemingly identical runners.  Contestants included a man dressed as a baby,  a man on stilts, a man dressed as a prisoner, as well as many overweight, shirtless men that had little to no chance of finishing the run down to Bastille, let alone back up again towards the Etoile.

Katie and I had a tough time getting up this morning as we were out last night until the dark hours of night closed the RER and Metro and forced us to walk home with the incredible aid of Amaresh and Zach (Amaresh is an Eagle Scout, so we generally listen to him, but we still get sick pleasure from giving him much attitude and sarcasm).   Fortunately for Zach, he beat Amaresh in direction-winning due to his enthusiasm for jogging.  We were heading home late from a Latin/Jazz bar (odd combination, I am aware) and then an attempted-hooka-smoking situation.  We were not served our hooka, just required to order 5 Euro drinks whereupon we got to sit and wait in a room full of French people who were staring at us (as we were the only white people in the bar, and Katie and I were pretty much the only females).  So, after finding out that they were refusing to serve us, we peaced out without paying and I had to tell Katie that, "Yes everything is ok, and no, we won't get shot."  In the end, we were not shot.

We spent a foggy Friday at Giverny, wandering around Monet's gardens and his house, which was quaint and cute.  I am quite jealous of his kitchen and windows.  The gardens were not at all what I expected, much smaller and situated in a neighborhood-like setting rather than an isolated countryside.  We then dined at a small restaurant just across from Giverny where we enjoyed freezing and shivering for a whole hour and a half.  Yes, we sat outside and selflessly gave the heated tables to the kind, thoughtful girls in our program.  We ate salad (mine was sad because I didn't finish it, according to Zach), chicken with potatoes (not very good) and our dessert was watered-down cafe with a slightly unimpressive tart.  Oh well, free lunch.  Then off to Rouen where we were surprised with another spectacular adventure!  A free tour of the town by local French students.  You think they would know their shit, right?  ABSOLUTELY NOT, they read off of computer pages and had to ask each other for verification every now and then.  I just wanted to say, "Ask the paper, it probably won't lie."  A drunk man stumbled over our group, fell down in the road with his cracked cigarette, got up and barely staggered away.  I really was ready to go home when the time arrived and I am glad I will get my 10 Euro deposit back Monday.

Katie and I are currently becoming depressed when we think about how much time has already passed and how soon we will have to return back to the States.  I do now understand this "downward" part of the psychological curve but I fully believe that it is due to the impending knowledge of forced departure, and not as IES so firmly attested, from being upset that we don't fit it.  We fit in though I noticed that I get looks from other Americans on the days when I wear a sweatshirt and sneakers, like I am dressing up as the Devil and running through Notre Dame hitting children with live animals.  Paris, as you can tell, has a great ambiance.

But it really does and my bitter testimony does not convey my real relationship with this city.  We've made a list trying to compile all of her elements that we have not yet seen/visited/experienced so that in our next few weeks here, we can at least finish strong.  I say this only because we have 6 weeks left, and some of this time will be spent in Italy, the French Riviera, the Basque country, and hopefully, Amsterdam.  Spring break is this Friday and I can't believe it's already here.  I've been making plans for my Mom and I, for the last ten days of travel before the dreaded US -of-A (and I admit it depresses me to see the bills stacking up), so I have been distracted from the speed of time.  On the contrary (and bright side) though, we will be staying in a castle in Dublin.  Unfortunately we will also be renting a car, so we might die before ever getting a chance to enjoy our faux-royalty treat to ourselves.

I have also been horribly lazy and not written in about three weeks (again).  Maybe longer, I actually was so lazy to not even check, so I just guessed.  I have since my last entry, ventured to the French Alps, to a small town called Annecy.  It is strewn with parochial canals (that are home to some very sweet, and beautiful swans) that take the water from the lake around the charming medieval town.  The most important thing to note about Annecy is this:  best cheese fondue ever.  Quite simply, EVER.  The Alps are a boat ride across the river away, hikes and bikes and boats, nature and forests, (NICE!!!) people and culture...But the culminating event always involves food, so it was only a matter of time before cheese fondue took the cake.  We ordered our fondue and thinking to ourselves, "Let's die from heart-attacks tonight," we ordered salads to accompany our shared treat.  We received our hot plate with fondue, a basket of bread worthy for the Notre Dame congregation, two extra large salads, a BASKET of POTATOES, and a pichet of wine.  [Note: Potatoes and bread were NOT asked for, just given to us].  And in France, it is just not the same when you unbutton your pants and yawn after a meal.  We actually had to maintain some air of civility, though French couples around us were looking at us with hideous expressions of disgust and worry.  We, proudly, did NOT finish and left quite a bit so as to appear native and to have some sense of self-control.  Though, I must say, best meal in awhile!

It was actually super cool to go to Annecy on a Saturday morning, because the Friday before, we went outside of Paris to visit Fontainbleau and Vaux-le-Vicomte (two castles that if you care to look up, are somewhat historically significant to France).  We then went out to a club called Duplex with Chioma, Shawna, Laura, and some other girls where we spent a cheap 11 Euros per drink on Lady's Night.  We also got to a watch some pretty "good" dancing.  I was just really happy because all of this lead to us going to bed at three in the morning, us getting up around 7, me feeling like I was going to die, me forgetting my 12-25 card, me getting fined by the stupid SNCF man, and then me throwing up in the train.  It was a great start.  I did however get a three hour nap the next day.  

This week we plan to have some picnic action at the Luxembourg gardens and on the lawn at the Eiffel Tower.  Tomorrow morning might be our first official picnic.  This Friday we leave for Nice, then Monday for Venice.  Next Wednesday I will be in the Cinque Terre hiking from one small town to another for five days...then back to Paris. 

Hopefully I will be able to keep up better than I have as I now officially suck at blogging and it's difficult to recount stories weeks, au lieu de jours, after something has happened.


mardi 24 mars 2009

Pourquoi tu "flick off" le Tour Eiffel?

Ajouter une image

Am I on the upward or downward "mental" curve?

When studying abroad, you are briefed before the semester as to the psychological conditions that you will experience.  Apparently you start with a momentary "infatuation" and become intoxicated with an international high.  Then, suddenly, you become aware of how different you are compared to these odd people and start the downward decline, entering a trough of depression and anxiety, questioning who you are and if  you fit in.  Then, after realizing that this is not so serious and that you can assimilate into other cultures while simultaneously retaining some nuances of individuality, you start your recovery back to a stable state of happiness and self-peace.  Where am I?

Ok, whatever.  I've been pretty fine this whole semester and I think I'll get through the rest without any severe mood problems.  It seems to me that I have been completely unmotivated the past several weeks and therefore have not blogged since February.  Shame on me, but whatever.  I had guests and midterms and (I know, excuses...).  

I was so excited to see Lisa and Kelly as I've been impatiently waiting for two months, thinking that time is passing so slowly meanwhile their Spring break snuck up on me and slapped me right across the face.  WAKE UP!  It's halfway time and I'm just realizing how fast time is moving.  I spent several hours finding Lisa at the airport, which was an hour RER ride from Porte d'Orleans including the entertainment of several accordion players, self-proclaimed singers with microphones attached to their portable speakers, and other interesting (and sometimes smelly) people.  I enjoyed a card from the Cat House and treats sent from my sister.  Lisa and I started with a tour of Ile-de-la-Cite and the Latin Quarter.  We ate out at Le Petit Pont across from Notre Dame where we enjoyed the flowing harmonies of an impromptu pianist with our beef and veal.  

Centre Pompidou, Louvre, Musee d'Orsay, stairs, walking, metro rides, more stairs...occasionaly Waffines...I kept them both pretty busy and their feet (all four, I'm sure) wanted to murder me.  Especially Kelly's.  We had cheap cocktails at the infamous Auto Passion, more well known as creeper-central, though we unfortunately missed the strip shows.  Tant pis!

After my friends spent their week here, Katie's sister came to visit for one week.  What a difference between those two women...though I place 100% of the blame of my new 24 addiction on Kelly.  Thank you...but really, thank you.  Obviously now we know Kim is a slut and Jack should rule the world.  Instead he'll probably just become a fugitive again...when will people learn that he's just Jack Bauer...can't get any better.  I did complete half a season while babysitting into the dark hours of the morning (I am referring to the grey haze between "night and day" that one experiences around 4am while still watching a 5 year-old outside of Paris proper).  Wonderful, less than 6 Euros per hour for compensation...Just what I had in mind for a Saturday night.  I especially enjoyed the walk home, alone, in the deserted streets that I've had special encounters in before.  I do carry mace though (as the guards at the American Memorial can attest), plus I have Corie across the ocean to take care of any issues (where was she when the Eiffel Tower was closed and Lisa needed a boost?).  I'm still so sorry about this Lisa!

This Friday I will be heading off to Fontainbleu and Vaux-le-Vicomte, two castles outside of Paris.  I will write more (hopefully before I forget) on these excursions after they happen.  As for this entry, I'll keep it short for those readers who get sick and tired of my rantings after the first paragraph. won't have made it this far...Tant pis~!

PS- Let's not even get started on Versailles...I could definitely live in the Chateau, the get away, the get away from the get away, or the Hamlet...that would not be an issue.  Kelly and I are considering writing our proposition for a show, The Sun King, to rival The Tudors.  We will succeed.

jeudi 26 février 2009

Is there really a "tapisserie" in Bayeux?

Although you probably have forgotten who I am or what the hell I'm doing in Paris by now, I've decided to reintroduce myself with a recapitulation of my last few weeks, complete with biting sarcasm and juicy details.  It has been three weeks since my last blog, so I apologize if my short term memory loss affects the quality of my story-telling though I will try my hardest to recall what has been going on.  Donc:

We'll start with the week following our return to Paris, from London, which involved hours of recovery for our poor, swollen feet (and I literally mean, quite swollen).  Katie and I took two days to ourselves, and class of course, to ignore the city bustle and stay  in.  Wednesday we journeyed to the Cluny Museum, a hidden morsel next to Sorbonne that houses art and tapestries from the Middle Ages.  We were to visit the museum with the intent of discovering the differences between Occidental art and Islamic Art, though we were disappointed to find only several pieces originating in Cordou.  We did, however, enojoy the Lady and the Unicorn (which apparently has many sexual connotations and comes from an unknown origin).  Up close, one can observe stitching patterns that modern technology cannot duplicate and wallow in the wonder of the Dark Age's women who sewed this masterpiece.  The next night, we decided to go out after a three hour dinner (or so) with Laura and Chiama.  

The Auto Passion it was.  The only bar in Paris that is designed for "bikers", or their version of bikers...We sat at the bar, as it is cheapest to do so (you pay more if the waitress has to make the effort to come to YOUR table), and were officially the only women in the bar that were unchaperoned by men.  Sitting and sipping our beer (clarification:  my beer, her cider), we glanced to our left where an older man was trying to play matchmaker and get us to talk to this young gentleman, who apparently spoke English.  The young man looked like a deer caught in headlights, and we were just as repulsed by the idea that we shook our heads and said, "No thanks."  When I left for the restroom, the old man badgered Katie to talk to this poor man until the bartender had to step in and tell him to "Mind the ladies;" Actually he said to leave us alone, that quote would be more expected in a city like London.  Just as I returned, a group of older men (like, my father's age) offered to buy us drinks and we politely refused arguing that we were on our way out.  But as we put our coats on, we were offered drinks from the guys on our left at the bar, who were much younger and less creepy.  What was going on?  We couldn't get a free drink for five weeks...we've been paying ridiculous sums of money to enjoy one or two drinks in a bar, and now in one night, we're getting mauled from every angle?  Free.99...How could we resist?  Enjoying beer with two brewers from Barritz, we talked to the younger gentlemen until they took their leave, whereupon the older men reappeared and offered us champagne.  We decided to accept and be kind, smiling and crossing our legs at our ankles to maintain a sincere look at lady-esque behavior.  Of course politics came up (the infamous question of, "Did you vote?  For Obama?"), and I always, when drinking, take this as an invitation to open my mouth and not shut up for about a half hour.  I apologize to those who are ever around me when and if this happens.  After the bill of 189 Euros came and one of the men paid, we were ready to take our leave back to the Marechal.  Unfortunately, fate would not have it that we ever get the chance to enjoy a smooth escape.  I was offered a free show in New York from a man with "a lot of money," to which my answer was a laugh and a tug on the arm from Katie.  We walked very quickly to get home, finally unchaperoned.

Friday we returned  to IES to watch Casque d'Or for our film courses, a wonderful French film made in 1952 by Becker, which includes a very surprising ending.  I won't give it away, but I hope that this compels you just a little...Afterwards, we got ready for a dinner at Chez Papa with Amaresh and his friend from London, James.  Dinner was incredibly scrumptious and authentic, including a bottle of red wine, brioche with egg, cheese, and vegetables with a salad that included spices, potatos, ham, and a lite oil seasoning.  I am definitely taking my friends there when they come to visit.  Quite tight, space-wise, but that is one of the reasons for which it is authentically French.  We then visited one of my newer favorite bars, the Cluny Bar in the Quartier Latin, which included live music composed of one acoustic guitar and one electric...two Frenchmen (not bad, not bad), and a plethora of music tastes that suited my tastes and needs.  I do say, I prefer the natural sounds and eclectic talent to the incessant beats of techno that move the chair you're actually sitting on every time the bass hits.  Thanks for the introduction to the bar Amaresh.

Saturday we had a quiet day just outside of Paris proper, with Marie.  We caught up on The Office and stand-up comedy.  The rest of the weekend passed without much to note about (same old, same old).  

The following week I taught my first yoga class for IES, where I was paid 3 Euros per person to teach a one hour class, hot and over-crowded, but I cannot even explain how happy I was to finally do this.  It felt great and I slept wonderfully that night.  We also bought our train tickets to Normany this day, so my mood was good and prospects were looking quite nice.

Later in the week, Katie and I took a morning trip to the Musee d'Orsay, where we utilized our student IDs that attest that we are "Histoire d'Art" students and that means, free.99.  We toured with our date, Rick (have you heard about him yet?), who showed us the impressionist works of Monet, Degas, Cezanne, Toulouse-Lautrec, Seurat, and my favorite, Van Gogh (pronounced Van Gog in France).  We will definitely be returning here, so expect more comments.  The ballroom is hidden, lovely, and looks over the Seine.  Perhaps it would make a good location for a wedding reception in a million years (or when Hell freezes over).

Friday, Katie, Amaresh, and I departed at the crack of dawn for Normandy, a trip that I have been long awaiting.  We took a train from St.Lazare to Bayeux, a small town where we would spend one day commuting to the D-Day beaches before heading to Mont St. Michel.  In the town, we dropped our bags off at the bed and breakfast, Le Petit Matin.  It is owned by Pascal and Antoinne, the cutest of men who keep the place homey and adorable.  Our "Rose" room even had teddy bears and bedtime stories.  Walking to the bus for our excursion to Omaha beach was quite entertaining as the town seems to have some kind of fascination with this tapestry.  They have sign upon sign pointing to each other to guide you to the center of all life and creation (for these people, at least), called the Bayeux Tapisserie.  This is a tapestry that was created to tell the story of Guillaume le Conquerant to the illiterate French people who lived nearby.  It runs about 100 yards and is composed of roughly 65 scenes depicting William's invasion of England and his coronation as their king.  Well, I guess it's nice to see about once, without a school of French students learning English in front of you (answering questions in a packet about the tapestry that is LITERALLY right next door to them), but we had no such luck.  What should have taken about 20 minutes turned into an hour and twenty minutes of starring at stitches and a 1000 year old linen.  

After a turbulent bus ride to the American Memorial Museum at Omaha Beach, we toured the museum and walked through the American cemetery (which is home to over 9300 white-washed grave stones) along the side of the beach.  The weather fit the mood, somber, cool, windy, and just enough sun to make it beautiful.  It was weird, you know, to see this place that is so remote today, so calm, that displays an ambiance of tranquility, but to know that over 90,000 soldiers gave their lives for the idea of freedom not only 65 years ago.  It gives you chills to know that these men left home, unaware of what they were to encounter and to give back a country they didn't know and to a people they didn't know (and who would come later to criticize Americans for our excessive adoration of liberty).  Funny how things change.  The people in Normandy, though, remember and are friendly, extremely so, and called our soldiers "their liberators," which made me smile.  The beach was gorgeously blank, just a small beach with small tides ebbing against an endless skyline.  We walked back to the bus to return to Bayeux.  This bus ride was even more fun than the first one, with speed bumps and sharp turns taken at record speeds.  Needless to say, I was feeling unwell upon our return so we returned to Pascal's for a little R & R, but for me, a good time to lay and read.  That night we dined at l'Assiette Normande, where we indulged in traditional specialties of Normandy and arguably, the best cidre in the country. 

That night, we went out to a small pub where I was to experience my first Calvados.  Like cider, but beaucoup times more alcoholic, we received little glasses that smelled quite potent.  One sip and a small fire in my stomach started to burn (I would not be cold on the walk home tonight, I thought).  It was a good thing to try, but I will probably not order this again as they serve it warm and if I am to drink any liquor straight, I will be taking it on the rocks (which generally goes against customs here in France).  We ran into some guys we had met on our way to the beaches, American studying in Barcelona, only to bar hop (mind you, this involves one hop up the one street with the two main bars in town and all 50 people who go out on Saturday) to Pub Fiction.  As we walked in, there were tables with swings as chairs (I wanted to sit at one SO badly, but they were taken) and drinks named after famous movies.  Since this was the first bar that had pitchers, we ignored the cheap cocktails and like Americans, had massive quantities of beer.  Though we thought we could escape without paying for one of the pitchers, we were caught mid-hustle and forced to pay.  Oh well, nice try anyway.

The next day we got up for the most delightful breakfast and conversation with the men of the hour, Pascal and Antoinne.  Coffee, croissants, jams unlimited, and fresh yogurt, we talked about Obama (briefly, but we had to), Mont St. Michel, and our previous day of travel.  Afterwards, we departed for the other part of the trip that I had been long awaiting:  Mont St. Michel.

Located just off the coast of France, connected by a temporary causeway, we rode up to the small town (with only about 30 permanent residents and 400 temporary Asian tourists).  Now we finally understood why Antoinne walled this Chinatown and told us to skip right to the top.  I mean, I definitely wanted to buy the Jamaican souvenirs, Barbie toys, and Pirates of the Caribbean skulls.  To my disappointment (this is some of my well-tuned, biting sarcasm), we walked up steep staircase after another to the top of the "hill" (is that what I am supposed to call this incredible mound of dirt that has been turned into a artistic piece of history?) to find the Abbey.  Again, those damn "Histoire d'Art" cards came in handy and we got in for free to tour an Abbey that defies explanation.  It is built on the top of the island and cascades down the sides of the hill, making the inside of the church quite uniquely laid out.  My favorite part was the west terrace where we could see the English Channel, flowing water with individual rivers and shallows filled with quicksand.  We conversed over how we thought that quicksand would be a rough way to go (as in death, if you couldn't guess).  After the Abbey, we dined at a small restaurant overlooking the water and enjoyed crepes just next to the part of France that invented them.  We also tried their specialty cheeses, Pont l'Eveque and Camembert.  We then walked to the bottom and along the causeway so we could get a good view and about 50 pictures of the island in all its glory.  Another beautiful day and a trip totally worth the hassle of difficult transport.  

Last night, we hosted one of the guys from Barcelona (Tony) who has an earlier flight back from Paris to Spain than his traveling companions.  We decided to go back to this Auto Passion bar, where Katie and I had already had an "interesting" night out only to step it up with an even more interesting night.  I've found the translation (one "semi-official" translation) for the word creeper: pot de colle.  They are everywhere, so I figured it was time for me to know what to call them.  We sat near the DJ at the only table large enough for the four of us, with me facing the bar.  How lucky!  There was a man starring me down, conversing with me through the air (not the right person to flirt with me through the air, that role has already been taken by someone ELSE!), who decided to tell my male friends that I was a "fille charmante" and they should take care of me tonight.  Amaresh told him to fuck off.  We also were SO lucky as to have front row seats to a strip show.  Katie was the closest, so she definitely won big time.  A slinky blonde who probably weighed about 80 pounds and whose face looked like it was painted on, strolled around dancing for men in none other than her bra looking contraption and a sheer black skirt (that of course was showing her ass cheeks as she moved) and "hid" her black thong.  Then the chair was placed next to our table and a lucky man (who willingly volunteered!) was seated down for "his" dance.  She sat on his lap and moved up and down in a disturbing recreation of sex, put his head between her legs, and even put her hands down his pants...we laughed and avoided eye contact.  Soon though, she was talking to us and my eyes opened so wide as to indicate how surprised I was that she was conversing with us while her ass what in this guys face (and my creeper at the bar was smiling the whole time and trying to get my way buddy, I am avoiding you too).  We backed up to give her more room.  Soon though, she stood up this pathetic man and surprise! started to undress him.  We didn't know both of the them were working for money like this.  His shirt was off and his pants around his ankles...she turned his back to the crowd and pulled his underwear into a wedgy, then smeared lotion on his buttocks.  Soon her excuse for a skirt came off, then the top (to expose quite fake breasts), and there were more legs in the air, bad dance attempts, and at the finale, she took a peak down his briefs, gave him a small pout, and shook her head questioningly as if to say, "where is it?"  He just threw his hands up, palms towards the ceiling, and probably muttered, "buf!"  Just when you think things are going to be relatively normal for one day or even one night...BAM, you get slapped right in the face with blonde strippers and creepers.

What a city, what a city...