Saturday, July 14, 2012
I feel like I should be in Paris today because, for the past three years, MrB and I spent Bastille Day (aka quatorze julliet) there. Here’s a little video of last year’s fireworks. The twinkling in the beginning is the Eiffel Tower.
This year, our travel plans got pushed up and we went to Paris in June. I figure Bastille Day is a good excuse to share a few more photos from that trip, like this one of gazpacho served in a giant ice cube.
Here’s a closer shot of the peonies I pinched.
We had a drink at a famous cafe.
We had macarons, of course.
We checked out some art too. I enjoyed the Helmut Newton photography exhibit. I’m not sure why some people find his work to be objectifying of women. His nude ladies look like they will chew you up, spit you out and use your bones for toothpicks. Even the gal with a saddle on her doesn’t look like anyone to be trifled with.
Every time I’m in Paris, I take dozens of photos of the Eiffel Tower, to MrB’s amusement. I told him that I imagine that someday I will take the perfect picture — the best Eiffel Tower picture OF ALL TIME, as Kanye West would say — and I’ll never have to take another. But that day hasn’t come yet.
Speaking of Kanye West, he and his pal Jay-Z were in Paris for their Watch the Throne tour at the same time we were there.
I’d already been to one of their concerts in New York last November, but I thought it would be highlarious to see them again in Paris. They have that one song about Paris, you know. I’m not going to write the name of it. I don’t want to get myself in trouble like Gwyneth Paltrow did for quoting the title of a hit song. I’ll let Kanye and Jay-Z tell you themselves, in the larger-than-life lettering they used at their show, where they encouraged people of every color to sing along as they performed the song a record 11 times.
I believe artists should express themselves freely. At the same time, it’s impossible to authorize one group of people to use a certain word while forbidding others from using it because, unlike some countries, we don’t have thought/speech police. So, if you’re going to go there, you have to be okay with others following you. The “I can use this word but you can’t” people have lost the battle. The word used in the song title (the word that is neither “in” nor “Paris”) is everywhere — music, books, film, comedy and, most of all, in regular conversation. If you ever find yourself surrounded by a diverse group of teenagers on the New York subway, you’ll hear every kid saying it to every other kid, regardless of race. Or you can waste a lot of time on Twitter, like me, and see how many tweets it’s in. That word won’t go away with all its negative connotations till everyone voluntarily stops using it even in an empowering or politically pointed way — especially artists, who might read up on the late comedian Richard Pryor’s regrets about his groundbreaking use of that word. I was thinking of this when a (white, Jewish) friend — who was appalled by Gwyneth Paltrow’s tweeting the name of the ‘Ye/Jay song — asked me, “What if you heard someone say ‘kike‘?” I nearly fell off my chair. “But no one would say that except a psycho,” I laughed, “because Jews don’t say it to each other.” So there you have it.
Speaking of racial slurs in songs that mention Paris … no, really, there is another example! As a fancier of Pekingese dogs, I enjoy pop-culture references to them, but I was unaware that the Cole Porter song “Let’s Do It” includes the lyric “Pekingeses at the Ritz do it” until I read Vanity Fair’s article on the The Ritz hotel in Paris.
Then I realized that not all recorded versions of the song include the Pekingese verse (and a number of other possible verses). Phew. I started searching YouTube for a recording that included the Peke line. When I came upon Cole Porter’s rendition of his own song, I figured I was in luck. Indeed, the Peke line is in his version, but my enthusiasm was deflated by another lyric. I had to listen to it twice, but he really does sing, “That’s why [slur for Chinese people] do it, [slur for Japanese people] do it …”
Holy crap! I haven’t heard those words used so casually in decades. (People were rightfully outraged about this recent usage of one of them.) Hearing them in a happy, classic song was as traumatic as revisiting an old Disney movie. I’m going to have to stick to these Pekingese songs:
Let me know if you have any other Pekingese songs for me.