What is this blog all about?

The main purpose of this blog is to give an overview of the things I do, in my everyday life, in order to improve my English. Since I am a very lazy person, I mostly read, and watch movies, and do things which make it possible for me to improve my vocabulary, my grammar and my accent without getting bored... So this blog is going to be about the books I read, the movies I watch, and some other things which I find relevant (or not)...

I hope you'll like it! Don't hesitate to leave comments if you have any suggestions concerning what I should write about!!

jeudi 1 décembre 2011

Nothing is written

I've been to the cinema, reader. I don't know exactly what happened, but it got me all crazy. Not the film itself, more the way back... I walked, for like an hour, and upon coming home, I felt like a sock: turned completely inside out, with a few strings hanging out.

I've been to see Jane Eyre, actually, and I knew upon going that it was going to be a weird experience, and that I probably wouldn't enjoy it. But hey, it's Jane Eyre, it's my favorite book in its own way, it's important, and I wouldn't have missed it. I did not like it (big surprise there), but how could you possibly get angry at someone for failing at an impossible task? I don't actually think it could have been any better. I think probably Charlotte Brontë would have approved, and the girls next to me at the cinema had obviously never read the book and got out intending to do it. So, well, mission accomplished, I guess.

Please forgive the crappy photo-video thing I just had no idea for a picture, and I really like the song, and find it appropriate.

I personally think that filming Jane Eyre is impossible. All the details matter too much. All that she says, all that he says, all the "little" characters on the side (her nurse at Gateshead, her teacher friend at Lowood, everyone matters in their own way). I think that's what makes it such a good book, actually, there's hardly anything that's not useful (only St John, if you ask me. Not useful at all, and a terrible bully, as well as a bore. Someone should rid us of St John once and for all. He's insufferable. Yes. I said it. Insufferable.)

I would have made it differently, of course. I would have added more of this, and cut a few of these long shots of her walking under blossoming cherry trees, but honestly, there were really, really good ideas. I think what I would do is make an 8 hour long version, with EVERYTHING in it, except maybe make Lowood slightly shorter, and St John slightly less annoying The trouble is, in order to produce all this, I'd probably have to make some concessions. Like put a huge battle in it. With orcs, and elves, and someone screaming "Haldir! To the gate!", and probably she'd need a sidekick. I don't think Jane Eyre would be quite the same with Jar Jar Bings telling her to "cheer up, missi".

Two things I can't forgive, though, even though it's perfectly well cast, made me cry, and did turn me inside out, after all (that must mean something): Rochester never says "He would not rue his bloody blunder more than I now rue mine", and that's like filming Hamlet but cutting the part when he says "To be, or not to be", and also he doesn't accuse her of trying to drown him in his sleep, which is one of my favorite parts of the book, and which was exactly the excerpt that they chose to print in the leaflet that they distributed at the cinema. Why would you make me read that scene again, make me want to see it very badly, and then not put it in? Why? I do not understand it.

Anyway. Do go see it, though, it was actually good. I did not like it.

lundi 12 septembre 2011

I may tarry a while...

"If I'm late, don't wait
Go home without me
I may tarry a while
'Cause I need to know
Before I go :
How come the devil smiles"

I have not been writing here in forever, and I'm kind of missing my blog. Actually, I think what I'm missing is inspiration. And I mean that as in "I miss you" not as in "there's no coffee left" (I am making very little sense, and hope that you can read my mind...)

In any case, part of the things I do when I want inspiration is I go for a walk. Nothing new, of course, but walking tends to help me think clearer. Or maybe not clearer, but in a more focused manner.

So this summer, in order to look for inspiration, I've been going for walks in the night. Yeah, because I'm too cool for school, and walking during the day is so yesterday. Actually, here is a list of 5 good reasons to go have a nice walk by night, especially if you live in Cologne.

1. It prevents you from being reduced to a smouldering mess on the pavement. After a long, hot day of summer, when it's time to go to bed, but you don't want to get between the sheets because they're going to be sticky and you'll be too warm, just turn all the lights off, open the window very wide, put on a t-shirt, and walk off for an hour. Things will be much better when you come back (supposedly. Sometimes, a giant moth may decide to settle in while you're away, and then you'll have to chase it through the room, which will help you build out a nice little sweat, and then you're doomed to go back and have another little walk.)

2. There's no better opportunity to pretend you're a ninja fighter. Or a medieval princess. Or a gothic vampire warrior. Or a drug dealer. No one's on the streets, and you can just go ahead and be whatever you like. Depending on what your MP3 player decided to choose. (Respectively the Kung Fu Panda soundtrack, Emily Portman, weird techno stuff roommate N gave me or the "The Wire" soundtrack).

3. There's no better opportunity to be cheesy. If you're alone. Because in fact, it's not a necessary condition. Sometimes, going for a walk at night WITH someone is even cooler. But if that option's out, then you can go alone and have the cheeziest thoughts ever. You know, some of the thoughts when you're convinced you've found some Sacred Snippet of Truth. Actually, you've forgotten all about them by the time you reach your front door again, but still, it's nice.

4. It's cheap and romantic. It's actually not romantic at all, it's just walking in the night, but then you can claim that you "like to take long walks in the night". Kind of like "I'm writing a novel actually" or something. And it's sport without being sport, as well, which is wonderful. Ok, it's not sport at all, but calory-wise, it's still better than to sit on my couch, I guess.

5. It gets you acquainted with your neighbourhood in a very different way. It's in the dark, and there's no one around, so if you like you can stop and have a closer look at the grafiti, or maybe even stop and READ them (in my neighbourhood in Cologne, we've got a crazy person writing whole political pamphlets on the walls... Very strange. I don't understand anything, I just wonder where the guy came from, because he seems to know what he's talking about. I'd bet on a rogue European MP, driven mad by a 5 hours meeting on the correct length of shoe laces.) I'd say "you can stop in your tracks and look at the stars" as well, only I tried that the other day, and it turns out there actually was someone on the street and he stared at me like I was nuts (some people just don't get cheaply romantic, do they??)

Anyway. It's time for me to get back to my vocab list for my contract tomorrow (which, as it turns out, is much cooler than I expected it to be, so life's good). Have a nice night, and sweet dreams, reader!

jeudi 14 juillet 2011

Sh'PAM! PAM! PAM! Another one bites the dust!

Today, because I am, somehow, for no apparent reason, in a martial mood, I shall write a post about songs that I'd listen to if on my way to a battle. It's actually partially inspired by Anansi Boys, by Neil Gaiman (whom I love)... in the book he says that each of us is born with his or her very own song, and all you need to do is find it. Then he writes about a lady and says :

"Take Daisy, for example. Her song, which has been somewhere in the back of her head for most of her life, had a reassuring, marching sort of beat, and words that were about protecting the weak, and it had a chorus that began "Evildoers beware!" and was thus much too silly ever to be sung out loud."

I find the idea so amazingly cool, and I wish I had exactly that song in the back of my head, that's the type of person I'd like to be, I think, a little bit. It's probably one of these leftover things from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In any case, I don't. I think my song is about marshmallows and puffy blankets. That's fate for you.

In any case: I like the idea of a marching sort of beat to lead you through life's daily battles (like ordering coffee at Starbucks in German and getting the English accent on the right words. Bringing yourself to talk about something really important. Getting that stupid paperwork done. Getting out of bed. You know what I mean...)

So here are 5 songs that I think are good battle-fighting songs.

1) Another one bites the dust. Or We will rock you. I don't know what it is with Queen, really, but every time I listen to their songs, it gets me completely hyper. I'm not exactly a fan, and I don't even like everything they do (like, for example, "Princes of the Universe", which is terrible) but MAN! These two, and a few others, they are so awesome and so completely great that I find it hard to believe anybody actually wrote them. I think they must have been part of our collective imagination much earlier on.

So that would be for physical tasks, I think. Like going to Ikea and getting that 45 kg bookcase back home using only public transportation. And your roommate (eternal gratefulness, but the SHAME!!! OH THE SHAME, IT HAS NO END!!! Like a GIRL, for heaven's sake...)

2) Uninvited, by Alanis Morissette. I don't like this type of over-emotional songs, usually. I'm very easily ironic and snobbish about that type of songs. But this one? I don't know. It makes me want to punch holes in a wall and grow taller and taller until I'm big as a statue and shining and terrifying, a little like Galadriel in The Lord of the Rings movie. That would be for... getting angry at someone you like.

3) Sunday Bloody Sunday, by U2. I'm in a U2 kind of mood, these days, weirdly. That song is just great, and it makes me want to move mountains. That would be for political battles, obviously. That would be for going to a demonstration.

4) Inertia Creeps, by Massive Attack. It's a nice crescendo-type song. Really cool on the train to somewhere where you're scared to go. Matrix-type of mission.

5) Alles Neu, by Peter Fox. I don't know if you know Peter Fox, reader. He's a really cool German hip-hop (kinda) singer, and this song is about destroying things and starting a revolution, and beginning again from scratch. It's, hence, self-evident the type of battle that this is about.

With this, all I can say is: peace out (ha ha ha)

mardi 17 mai 2011

Comme envie de crever ton chat...

Reader, I can't take any more. I'm not like that, usually, I don't ever talk about politics, not here, at least, but well, this is the Internet, and on the Internet, any fool can express their opinion, whether sufficiently informed or not, so this here is mine. The opinion of an uninformed fool. Here are 5 things that, truly, really, profoundly and deeply annoy me about France these days.

1. I cannot deal with the blatant populist crap that's been vented by the people in power over the past few months. We are dealing with all kinds of troubles, these times, a terrible economic crisis, war in Lybia, it's not like it's a light news week, and yet, what do we talk about? We go on and on about state subsidies for the poor and how that's too much already. We start a 20th debate about Islam in France. As if that was going to make anything better. As if the problem with Islam and France was not that we talk about it as if it were a bloody problem.

2. Follows on 1.'s heels: Why can't they see that it doesn't work? Why can the moderate right-wing people not just wake up already: the number of their supporters are plummeting, the extreme-right party is getting more and more successful... Maybe it's time for a change in strategy, what do you think? Come on! Come on! I listen to them and they remind me of Fox News maniacs. I like my country better when it's lukewarm. The outdated racism we are dealing with these days makes me want to come home and fight. It makes ME! want to go home and fight. You might not really know me, reader, but I'm one of them half-hearted, don't really give a damn kind of people. What I'm saying is: It's bad.

3. That thing with the head of the IMF. I don't know if it's a terrible ploy against him as a person or if he just snapped, I don't really care, to be honest, it's a sad story either way. But in any case, that's one more interesting candidate for the French presidential election 2012 down, and it's depressing.

4. Follows from 1 and 2 as well: people are getting louder and louder and feel less and less guilty about voicing hateful, racist points of view. I've seen a piece on TV today, a typical xenophobic rant, things that I might have found... well in a way normal from an 80-year-old, because well, it takes time to know enough to not fear the people coming over to your country. From a bus driver. He might have been 40 something. Is that really what it's all coming to? Are we not a little bit cleverer?

5. The media, too. I'm not really blaming it on the reporters, they do their job and report, but maybe, maybe if we did not jump on every occasion to broadcast racist rants and backward remarks, we would have less of a problem with people broadcasting their own racist rants and backward remarks on the bus. But then I might be wrong about that, because, as they say, know your enemy.

Well, I sound just like the holier than thou pains-in-the-butt that I would like not to become, but it just had to come out. I just had to say it. This is NOT GOOD, and I really, really wish it would stop. Self-righteous rage is not a good look for me.

mardi 26 avril 2011

Roses are red, violets are blue...

Well, reader... I've got an annoucement to make. Also, I wanted to get rid of that previous post, which was quite lame and stayed up for too long.

I'm in love.

I thought you should know. I thought this blog might be a good way to announce it. Share the joy with you, with whom I've shared quite a lot of stuff over the past few years.

We met on the internet. He's a polyglot, like me, and that what we bonded over, at the very beginning. Well, basically, I needed someone to help me with my work, so I went on that forum, and then... I met him... And I stayed. He's always ready to help if I can't find my words, he's brilliant at communicating, he's got a load of cool friends, whom he's not afraid to share with me, and even though there is no real reason, I trust him entirely. I feel secure that he won't lie to me, he's one of the most reliable guys I've ever been around.

He's not the prettiest, granted, but he's strong as a lion, and he's very talkative, very open minded, he always looks at all sides of a problems, lists all the possible solutions for me, so that I never feel lost. He's always available for me, 24/7, always ready to listen to me and give me advice.If I'm at a loss, especially now that I'm abroad, and don't know what to say, in any given situation, I know he'll always be there to help me on.

That's love. And all you need, is love. His name's Leo. You can find him here, we're in a more... open relationship at the moment :)



vendredi 11 mars 2011

Note to self...

Dear future Claire :

Whatever happens, come wind, come rain, if you're alone on a friday night and feeling pathetic, DO NOT, DO! NOT! Decide now's the appropriate time to try listening to Radiohead's OK Computer. It is wonderful indeed. But it's giving me a blue screen (ha ha ha).

PS: In case you were wondering, I'm perfectly fine, and will be fully operating again tomorrow.

mercredi 2 mars 2011

Ja, dieses Schunkeln kann ich nicht ausstehn

Oh Lord. OK. This is probably my very last post. I'm scared. The city is under siege, shops are closing down and the enemies are about to attack. It will start. Tomorrow. Tomorrow, the end begins. I shake in my boots, and fill jute-bags with sand, I stopped showering with water three weeks ago and use Früh beer instead, hoping against hope that they might not smell me, yet I cannot but shiver at the mere evocation of the word :


Carneval is upon us, my friends, and we'll need all the support we can get. My sister's coming over with her husband V, and if that cannot trump the odds and help me have a cool week-end nonetheless, then I'm sure that nothing can.

I do not understand carneval. I am scared of the drunken packs roaming the streets. I do not like to dress up, and have a (I believe very healthy) severe dislike to Volksmusik. I do not understand it, and I do not mean that in a metaphorical way. I asked my roommates the other day about the posters that you can see all over the city, with "Kölle Alaaf" written on them. Roommate 1 said : "I don't think it means anything, I think it's just an exclamation, kinda like "yay" or something". To which roommate 2 answered "Yeah, arschloch is an exclamation too, it still means something". I feel very close to roommate 2's Carneval-spiritedness, these days.

But I'm sure we can overcome. I'm sure we can manage to avoid the worst part of it and just enjoy the fun. Because I've heard of a few sane people who actually enjoy Carneval. A few cool bars, and a few parades are supposed to be quite pretty and colorful, and even, on occasions, fun. I'm scared because when I ask people how to avoid the worst parts, I'm generally laughed at. I don't get any anwer. Just ominous giggles, and, when I'm real lucky, a look of amused pity. But I'm sure we can manage.

If we don't, well, we'll just go home and hide under my bed, all three of us. Whatever happens, I'm pretty sure we'll have a laugh!

lundi 14 février 2011

Shore to shore

I'm back from working in Dakar. I'm sick, I'm sunburnt and I'm exhausted, but it was pretty cool nontheless, when I think back on it. So here are 5 things I learnt over the week I spent there...

1. I can get culture shock. It takes me 2 days to get over it, and then I feel much better. But it has weird consequences : I get scared of everything... cockroaches, people, cars, getting my bag stolen, getting sick from the food, getting sick from the mosquitoes, getting sick from the mosquito repellent, getting lost... 2 days, then I feel much better, but it really had consequences on me that I would never have thought it'd have. It turned me into a real sissy, is what I mean. For 2 days. Then I was just a regular sissy, but at least I started talking to people and enjoying myself.
Still, I'm really angry at myself about the cockroach issue. A big, red one with large antennaes, on the wall in the bathroom. I'm NOT SCARED OF SCORPIONS, but a stupid cockroach nearly got me screaming like a girl! Ok, I am a girl, but you see what I mean. Stupid crap animal jumped on the toilet seat, then on the floor, then ran away between my feet, making awful, terrible little clicking noises on the tiles with its gross little legs. I might have gone : "meeeeeeeeeeeek", but it was just ultrasound, and I don't think my roommates noticed anything.

2. Opening the blinds, and having a gorgeous view of the sea is all I need to be in a good mood in the morning. Was that so very complicated? Is that too much to ask? Honestly?

3. I cannot negociate. I've heard on my last day that when someone offers 20 000 FCFA as a price, you need to say "5000" and then reach 10 000 in the end, halving the difference everytime. I tended to say"19000", then the guy would say "you're robbing me!" and I'd end up paying 22000 and leaving a tip. If I had stayed a few more weeks, I'd have had the GDP triple.

4. I found a cause I'm willing to fight for. I saw a guy, alone, with a sheet of paper (a sheet of paper, a regular one, not a banner or anything). He'd written "I'm fed up" on it, with a red sharpie, and was marching down the alleys screaming "I'm FED UP!". I wanted to get his contacts and become a fan on Facebook, but I was in awe, and did not have the presence of mind to go and talk to him.

5. What EVER happens : Sunscreen.

So yeah. I had a pretty good time in Senegal, ate a lot of grilled fish, talked to a bunch of really cool people that I would never have had the opportunity to meet otherwise (the interpreting team really was very, very cool, and I do hope I'll get to see them again at some point).

mardi 18 janvier 2011

I'm my own grand'pa

Hullo reader ! Well, I haven't been writing here in forever, so I thought I'd drop by, and keep you updated on my status, because, as is famously known, my life is rivetting. So here are 5 random news from Cologne.

1. I still love it here. I love my room (which is actually furnished now, and very comfy too, thanks to the generosity of... we'll say Santa Claus, but you know who you are), my flatmates are still great, and if only I could manage to drag my butt out there, I'm pretty sure I'd even enjoy the city in itself. I've been a little short on time, in fact, these days, and haven't been to the city center this week. Maybe it would be a good idea to get some fresh air. And ice cold wind. And rain.

2. I went to a techno party with flatmate N the other day. I went mostly out of curiosity, but I really did love it. I think it's not really music. And I don't mean that in a grandmother "that's not music it's noise" kind of way, obviously. It's just, it doesn't talk to your ears so much as to your ribcage. It's music that you can actually (cheesy-alert) listen with your heart. I mean that literally. Because it vibrates. Follows that you can also listen to it with your lower intestine, but that's a really cheap joke. "Bässe massieren eure Seele" I guess is what I mean, but Peter Fox said it better than I can, though it's a little pompous for my purpose, I guess.

3. I'm going to Senegal next month, to work. I'm kind of scared. I don't know what to expect, there are going to be hundreds of us out there, and I don't generally like such huge gatherings, but I'm still very excited and can't wait to be there. It's probably going to be sunny as well, which really will be a nice change, the weather here is just plain depressing. I already got my shots and my passport, and my plane ticket and all, but I still feel like there's no way I'm going to Senegal in a week or so. Still, it's going to be very cool, and my friend J is going too, so I'm guaranteed to have a lot of fun.

4. I've been watching too many stupid videos on the internet lately. Especially Muppets video. Therefore, I've had stupid songs stuck in my head for days, like the Manah manah song, or the one that goes "I'm my own grandpa ! I'm my own grandpa ! It sounds silly I know, but it really is so, oh I'm my own grandpa". It has been a constant and conscious effort not to start yelling them out in the kitchen randomly. I'm holding on. I think it may burst out of me some time, and then, though I will still find my roommates great, they might change their mind and throw me out on the streets. Thanks for nothing, Jim Henson!

5. I've bought a salad today (rivetting, I told you). One of these pre-mixed, ready to eat things with mayonnaise in them. I thought it was perfectly innocent coleslaw, carrot-free and delicious. It actually containted PINEAPPLE. PINE-APPLE in COLESLAW. Germans are mad.

Well, that's it from here, I believe. I hope you're well. As for me, I'm going to go have a look in the kitchen, see if there's something reasonable I can scavenge.

samedi 1 janvier 2011

Though it's cold inside...

2011 is here! 2010 is over!

I wish you a happy new year, sweet things to eat, soft things to wear, warm things to sleep in, and nice people all around you. I wish you love, joy, health and glory, I wish you sunshine and fresh air, I wish you all the best, and then something even better.