"My brain hurt when I was done," said one woman. "There are some completely new terms to me," said another. "I can understand everything that's been explained so far, except for the ramp," said a man. All three were enjoying one of the country's newest tourist attractions. What?
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Monday's Question (No. 94)—"Choses Que Nous Détestons":
According to a recent survey, Parisians' three biggest complaints about their city are dog droppings, pollution, and something American. What?
(Note: The Jerry-Lewis-and-his-penis-free-zone is invoked.)
"The tasty dog-droppings-and-pollution snack cracker, brand new from Nabisco."—Merrill Markoe
"The banner ads for msn.com at the top of the Mona Lisa."—Josh Kamensky
"Zelda Fitzgerald's empties."—Chris Kelly
"We miss Pamela Harriman, too."—Anthony Wright
"A desperate and confused Alan Keyes campaigning on the Champs Élysées."—Beth Sherman (Ann Gavaghan had a similar answer.)
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In between the vulgar and the enervated there's me, the happy medium. Which is to say, there is a temptation to see oneself—and one's country—in perfect equipoise between the excessively highbrow and the disturbingly low, that pathetically apelike brow where fleas may dwell. In the movies, the young breath-of-fresh-air hero wakes up and shakes up the rich, depicted as effete and sleepy, nodding through dozy Mozart and tepid sex. At the other extreme, the hero provides uplift or at least contrast to the loud and the loutish—hip-hop kids if it's an urban adventure or C&W hicks if the setting is more rural. This is what James Bond does, mocking the crude fumblings of those whose erotic delights are enjoyed leaning up against a stripped car or a compliant cow. But in the middle, between these extremes, is me, wonderful me (which is to say, you), with enough vitality to blow the dust off the snobs and enough sophistication to make unschooled farm girls yearn to run off with me to a medium-size metropolitan area. Which brings us to hating the French, on the one hand, our superiors: They eat better, dress better, enjoy more humane social programs, and cherish a leading city that is far more beautiful than ours. Ah, but on the other hand, they are so, well, French. And that leaves us in an ideal American middle. And happy, happy monkeys in that middle are we.
Raillons Tout les Français Answer
Three-dozen anti-graffiti teams are currently at work in the city, part of an effort to clean up both public and private property. More than 40 percent of the city's 90,000 buildings have been tagged, and former culture minister Jack Lang who, in the early '90s, embraced hip-hop culture, is back-pedaling delightfully: "I never said vandalism was O.K.," he insisted. "Well, O.K., I did say it, but that was when it was really popular with attractive young people, some of whom I hoped to have sex with," he did not add.
Chris Kelly's Candidates on Talk Shows Extra
Did you see Bush on Leno last night? Here's a highlight:
Leno: So, I hear tell you can be pretty stingy.
Bush: Heh-heh. Yeah. Yeah. Heh-heh.
I hate television. If not for ultraviolent video games, there'd be no reason to own one at all.
Cohen's Koan Extra
(The single best sentence in today's New York Times.)
"Dr. Albright received a small spatter."
Phone Fun Ongoing Extra
Dial (800) 578-7453, customer service number at Brown & Williamson Tobacco. They will give you something to listen to, then ask for a better substitute. Participants are invited to submit the first four lines of that substitute. Responses to run Thursday.
Americans in general, Michael Lewis in particular.