Au revoir

One of the last things I did for work was visit a homeless shelter with Kathryn and Miroslav in Bormes-les-Mimosas. And the following is not an understatement: Bormes-les-Mimosas is the most beautiful place I have ever been. My photos don’t do it justice at all. You should google it right now. IMG_3855

This was the homeless shelter. It was on top of this mountain with an ocean view that would take your breath away. The view was unbelievable. Everything was so green. Sadly, I only got to meet one homeless person because we were there pretty early in the morning and then we left again. On our way home we picked up my first hitchhiker. She was super nice. IMG_3878

Here I am, still in Bormes-les-Mimosas. It was so windy. You can sort of see the beautiful village behind me, but again, just google it. This place had great beaches too. The only downside was there were so many tourists. But can you blame them?

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And all too soon it was time to say goodbye to beaches like this…Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

and beachside attractions like this…
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and commutes to work like this…
Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetand sunsets like this.IMG_3907

Goodbye, Toulon! Thanks for the memories!

La Garde, Part 2

After the evening at the medieval festival, Kathryn and I went back for round two. (By the way, that festival was a lot more interesting than I led on my last post. That evening began with a drunk man lecturing me on faith for about twenty minutes and ended with a near-kidnapping. But if you want that whole story, you’re going to have to buy me dinner.)

Here are the pictures from round two.Processed with VSCOcam with m3 preset

This is the outside of my favorite shop in the South of France. It’s called Bois d’Olivier. It has hand crafted items. Everything is made by the man and wife who own the place and they work exclusively with olive wood that is over 400 years old. We got pretty friendly with the man and woman who owned this place. The old man kind of reminded me of my grandpa.
IMG_3756This is the inside of Bois d’Olivier. You can see some of their items they have for sale here. You can also see the shop itself, which used to be part of a canal system before something happened and it was turned into this shop. Processed with VSCOcam with m5 preset

We found the castle!Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset

Fit for a princess. Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

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After we stormed the castle, we crashed a wedding downtown.

The third time I went back to La Garde, I didn’t bring my camera and I met the most magical artist and his wife in their shop. He was working in his shop sculpting. He had art all around. He and his wife invited all of us in and talked to us for close to an hour. He was a very interesting man and had worked with Mother Theresa in India when he was younger. Before we left, he gave us all prints of his calligraphy.

La Garde is kind of magical.

La Garde

Perhaps my favorite little town in the South of France is La Garde. I was introduced to it at a medieval festival that I went to for work and then went back a couple of times on my own to explore further. It’s about as picturesque as it gets. Allow me to demonstrate:IMG_3671 Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset Processed with VSCOcam with t1 preset Processed with VSCOcam with a5 preset

Now is that a medieval festival or is that a medieval festival? These are all photos from the parade and it was so much fun! After the parade, we explored the city for a bit.

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And we weren’t disappointed. If I ever own a tandem bike, I will definitely grow flowers all over it.

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Please take note of the castle in the background.
IMG_3722“The Little German Tavern” It’s unclear whether this was part of the medieval festival or is always there. I think it might always be there.

14 juillet

Haaaaaappy Bastille Day! Vive la France! Liberté! Égalité! Fraternité!

I got to spend Bastille Day in France, which is sort of funny because I have this really vivid memory of being in French 102 learning about Bastille day and thinking, “How cool would it be to be in France on the 14 juillet?” And then, boom! A year later, there I was! In France, on 14 juillet. And it really was so cool.

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We woke up to find French flags everywhere! These ones are strung across the street. Aren’t they cute?

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It was pretty quiet on the streets of Toulon that day. Later there would be a parade on this street. It was in the afternoon, probably around 2:00 or 3:00, during what was probably the hottest part of the day. It was all very serious, there was no throwing of candy or anything. There were, however, a lot of military trucks and people fainting from the heat. Sadly, I didn’t get any pictures of the parade. :(
DSC_0879These are the flags on the port. Usually those flag poles have the flags of every country in the EU, but not today! Today is all about France. I took this picture while I was waiting for the ferry to take me to the next city over, La Seyne. On the ferry we ran into our very best friends, the sister missionaries! You may think I’m joking, but I’m not. It was their day off, and Kathryn and I were overjoyed to have a couple of buds to hang out with.

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It was even quieter in La Seyne than it was in Toulon. Makes sense. It’s considerably smaller. So, we just walked around the city instead. We stumbled upon this odd street art, even though it is rather high up. I remember saying that this looked like something I would have made when I was little only to have my mom be like, “Cool. Can I throw it away now?”

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Umbrellas! Also, you’ll notice that man in the background is not dressed in France’s colors. Apparently that’s only an American thing? Who knew. After walking around La Seyne for a little while, we caught the ferry back, grabbed some grub, watched the parade and then watched the fireworks from Mont Faron with my buddy Miroslav from work and the sister missionaries. It was a good day.

Tinder in Toulon

Not long after I got to Toulon, I joined Tinder. IMG_3345

I was, in a word, bored. And on top of that, I had developed a slightly unhealthy obsession with cats.

IMG_3387IMG_3386DSC_0795DSC_0688So, I turned to technology to help get me out of the rut I was in. Kathryn and I were hoping to make American friends. We didn’t realize it, and we didn’t know how to name it, but what we were actually going through was probably some mild culture shock. We were the only two Americans we knew, and we were just looking for others like us out there. When we didn’t find any, I got off Tinder. Thankfully, I never met up with any of those weirdos and Kathryn and I adjusted to a slower-paced life in the South of France just fine without them.

My First Week in Toulon

Well, I’m back in France. This time, I’m living in Toulon which is about as far South as you can get; about 800 km from Paris, right on the Mediterranean. I’ll be here for two months. While here, I’m working for an organization called Les Petits Frères Des Pauvres, which translated means “The Little Brothers of the Poor.” Basically, it’s a service organization that works with elderly people who are lonely and in need of some companionship. It’s been around since the end of WWII and it’s still going strong.

I’ve been in Toulon for a little over a week and a lot of what I’ve done so far has just been socializing. Many of the people we work for have families that have spread out all over the country or even world, and they’re just lonely. They’re independent enough to live on their own, so we provide a service by visiting those who cannot leave their homes and organizing events for those who can––meals, short vacations, day trips, we even got together and gardened one day. Our office has an open door policy, and our poor coffee machine must just exhaust itself trying to accommodate all our guests.

So, that’s work. Some days are busier than others. One day, I literally knitted all day and came home feeling pretty useless. But other days are pretty busy. I spent Friday delivering groceries to the homes of some really sweet people. It’s a really great opportunity to be welcomed into the homes of people like that, especially in French culture, and all the people I talk to are really sweet and compliment me on my French, which is nice (and probably dishonest) of them, but I appreciate it.

Speaking of Friday, go America! That was of course the Fourth of July. My roommate Kathryn and I tried to get together with other Americans from BYU in Marseille to celebrate, but due to poor planning and short notice on our part it just didn’t work out, so we spent the evening just being American by ourselves. We went to the grocery store and bought the most American things we could find which were potato chips, soda, brownies (which were awful), and these mini chocolate covered waffle things, which are probably actually Belgian, but they’re delicious, and if they were sold in America, I know everyone would love them. And then we watched Parks and Recreation. Because who is more American than Leslie Knope? Nobody, that’s who. Oh, and we went to the beach and had a sweet photo opp.

Speaking of pictures, here are some. Thanks for reading!

My roommate Kathryn tried to turn this water to wine.

My roommate Kathryn tried to turn this water to wine.

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The view from my window.

The view from my window.

I tried to be sexy once. It was weird.

I tried to be sexy once. It was weird.

Dat cat doe.

Dat cat doe.

 

Libel, Satire, and Woody Allen

Libel is defined as a type of defamation that is written and published. It is a false attack on a person’s character which damages a person’s reputation, and it is punishable by law. By this definition, The Onion, The Colbert Report, The Daily Show, and similar shows and publications should all have been buried in law suits long ago. So what exactly is going on here? Why haven’t these TV shows and publications been shut down by the cohorts of powerful people they regularly attack?

For the purpose of this blog post, I will discuss a delightfully clever Onion article published January 14, 2014 entitled “Boy, I’ve Really Put You In A Tough Spot, Haven’t I?”

A sharp-witted satire, this article examines the controversy around Woody Allen. At the beginning of this year, Allen was nominated for and won the lifetime achievement award at the Golden Globes. When word of Allen’s nomination came out, his adopted daughter, Dylan Farrow, spoke out against him. Farrow brought up old accusations against Allen, saying he molested her when she was seven-years-old. While Allen has been legally cleared of all charges, Farrow insists that the abuse happened. Her statement, which was published in the New York Times, caused quite a stir and suddenly Americans had to make up their minds. Could our beloved Woody Allen have done such a thing? And if so, what bearing–if any–does it have on his work as an artist? Can we love the films of a child molester?

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It is a delicate issue, one to approach with caution. News sources worked to report the story without assuming guilt; The Onion was under no such obligation. Similarly, other news sources dealt with sensitive ethical and philosophical issues about the value of an artistic work in relation to the artist’s personal life. The Onion did not. In short, The Onion does not operate under any sort of obligation to be politically correct.

While the rest of the world was treading lightly, The Onion published a satirical commentary in the voice of none other than Allen himself. The article addresses America’s struggle to reconcile these two conflicting Woody Allen personas: the Woody Allen who gave us Manhattan and the Woody Allen who (allegedly) molested a seven-year old. In one fell swoop, The Onion summarized the debate and tore it apart:

Oh, sure, you could try to defend me in an argument by saying, “Well, he was never convicted, and it’s possible that this little girl just made all that stuff up,” but, c’mon, anyone who says that is bound to sound like kind of an asshole, right? […] No, obviously you can’t do that. But then again, what are you going to do? Never watch Annie Hall again? […] You know you don’t want that.

We began by defining libel. This Onion article is certainly an example of written and published defamation of character. It is a very personal and very direct attack and there is no way to prove its validity. So, why isn’t Woody Allen suing? Because the article is satire, and there is not much anybody can do about anything said in the form of satire.

In 1988, the supreme court made a ruling in Hustler Magazine v. Falwell that essentially gave all satire a golden ticket. Basically, as long as it is clearly a satirical article, anything goes.

Satire has a long, rich history. For centuries, satire has been the security blanket of freethinkers everywhere. While there is certainly a time and a place for thorough, factual, and sensitive reporting, there is also a time for outrageous, offensive, and crude satire. In sixteenth century France, François Rabelais published harsh critiques of society and French government in the form of satire. His book, Pantagruel, which is crude and irreverent even by today’s standards, was banned shortly after its publication by the Sorbonne. Today, after more than 480 years, it is regarded as a literary work worthy of our consideration because of the unique insights it provides into the politics and religion of sixteenth century France.

There is something magical about satire. A portion of the official supreme court ruling for Hustler Magazine v. Falwell states, “Nothing is more thoroughly democratic than to have the high-and-mighty lampooned and spoofed.”

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I could not agree more thoroughly. The right of satirists everywhere to deal irreverently with delicate issues is essential to greatness. It essential to freedom of thought, ideas, and expression. Tina Fey was born to impersonate Sarah Palin. Matt Stone and Trey Parker had every right to come out with The Book of Mormon musical. Jon Stewart and Steve Colbert are not low culture. Rabelais’s Pantagruel is worthy of being read in French literature classes the world over.

To take away the opportunity to be crude and irreverent is to lose ourselves walking on egg shells. Satire stomps forward and holds a mirror to  society. It is almost never flattering, but it is almost always necessary.