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Cannes Journal: Monday

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Notes from Cannes on Monday, Part I:

As I take the train from Nice to Cannes, I eavesdrop on a group of American tourists. They are making a day trip to Cannes in the hope of seeing celebrities. Thus far, they have already had one celebrity sighting during their European tour: Matt Lauer stepped on their feet in Barcelona.

In Cannes itself, the streets are mobbed. It is easy to distinguish between two groups: the lucky festival goers, with their festival passes hanging around their necks everywhere they go in town, and everybody else. Since I decided to come to Cannes after the registration deadline, I will have to apply for late registration, and there is no guarantee I will be given it. I therefore look longingly at the lucky passholders. I feel like an ordinary sneech gazing upon a star-bellied one.

More to follow; I'm typing this on a public Internet kisok at the UK Film Center, a tend along the beach. The breeze from the sea is tickling my neck as I write it--but so are the gazes of other people waiting for the computer. I don't want to monopolize it.

Where most Americans would say "You're looking well," residents of Los Angeles say "My God, you look so young."

Truffle in Paradise: The Followup

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Three years ago, Lauren and I made a daring voyage to the frontiers of chocolate-eating knowledge by sampling the wares of every single chocolate shop we passed in Bruge, which may well be the chocolate center of the universe. We were proud of ourselves for our scientific approach to the process, but I have recently heard from David B. Sherwood, a man whose devotion to eating chocolate in the most scientific manner far surpasses our own. I'm particularly concerned by the fact that we may have been unfair to Chocolatier Sukerbuyc, which of course invalidates our entire experiment and requires that we return to Bruge and once again gorge ourselves on chocolate. Such are the terrifying consequences of the selfless pursuit of knowledge.

Here is Mr. Sherwood's professional response to our adventures:

I think that you have committed four carnal errors (well okay, not
carnal).

1. Mixing chocolate with beer (really not to be recommended)

2. Not drinking enough water (necessary to clear the palate between shops)

3. Through being inconsistent between shops, you should have kept to the
same one at each for a scientific comparison

4. Eating the Chocolate Waffle thing REALLY damaged your chances of proper
tasting afterwards

Paging Warren Specter

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Last week, I visited the laboratory of a friend who is a chemistry professor. It was a narrow room, with two doors--the one we had entered in, and another one at the other end. We couldn't reach the other door, though, because about two thirds of the way down, the lab was blocked by a large desk which, for no visible reason, had been wedged in place there.

My first thought was, "This is rather clichéd level design."

My second thought was, "I've got to stop spending so much time playing first-person shooters."

Innovación y tradición

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Ferran Adriá is quite possibly the most influential and innovative chef in the world. His culinary creations are like something out of a science fiction novel, and if you wish to sample them, you must compete with compete with 300 thousand other culinary devotees as you attempt to secure a reservation, and then--should you obtain one--you will need to pay about 150 Euroes ($172) per person, not counting drinks.

Or you could just go to the grocery store and by Adria's new Lay's potato chips for 1.15 euros ($1.37). Your choice.

Yes, that's right--the greatest chef on the planet is now making Lay's potato chips.




No, that's not Señor Adria on the front of the bag. But he does appear on the back:

(You can click on either image if you want to see a larger version.)

Lauren and I spotted these chips in a small convenience store when we were in Spain, and, realizing this might be our only chance to taste Adriá's cuisine, bought them at once. Having eaten the entire bag, we can now report that they were noticably better than your average potato chips; the crispiness was just a little grainier than usual, if that makes sense, and the flavor more pleasant. They were not earth-shattering revalatory chips by any means, but they were certainly a notch above average.

Now I just have to go find myself one of those new Ferran Adriá twinkies...

The Power of Flamenco

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*****
Report from Spain, Part III

If you want to see flamenco in Spain, we are told, you have two choices. You can go to a tablao--a flamenco spectacle organized for tourists--and be guaranteed a polished, professional experience that is likely to be somewhat soulless. Or you can go to a more authentic flamenco bar, and take your chances; you might be there for an off night, or you might see something spectacular. Lauren and I have decided to take our chances with authenticity.

And thus it is that we end up at Casa Patas at midnight. We're lucky that there's such an early show that evening; in many flamenco bars, things apparently don't get started until about 2AM. (Tablaos tend to start earlier, since foreigners have an odd tendency to go to bed before sunrise.) We pass through a crowded, smokey cafe to a long and narrow back room, where tables and chairs have been set up facing a small stage. We're seated towards the back; it seems that most of the locals knew to make reservations.

While we wait for the show to start, we scope out the crowd. Seated next to us are two women--one in her late 20's or early 30's, and the other perhaps in her 40's. They're dressed up for a night on the town, and they've managed to attract the attentions of a young Spanish man in a getup that is, shall we say, striking. The unbuttoning of his black shirt has not quite reached his navel, but it's not for lack of trying. Gold medallions nestle in his chest hair. And to top it all off, he's wearing a long white doctor's coat. He's paying just enough attention to the 40-year-old woman to make it clear that he's really interested in her younger friend, but the two women are responding with polite indifference.

I, Spanish Robot

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Report from Spain, Part II

The Spanish word for "I" is "Yo". Every once in a while, this makes for an eye-catching movie title translation...

La Comida de Gran Bretaña

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On our trip to Spain earlier this month, Lauren and I arrived in Madrid to realize we had forgotten one of the most important tools in a traveler's arsenal: a menu translation dictionary. We both speak good enough Spanish to distinguish jamon from salmon, but neither of us can get more than an entry or two into a tapas menu without discovering a word we don't know.

After searching through a few bookstores, we finally find a Spanish/English dictionary of food. Not surprisingly, though, it turns out that it's meant for Spaniards traveling in Great Britain; it consists of Spanish translations for "bangers and mash" and "chips". Que lastima!

A Dispatch from China

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Here at Yankee Fog, our goal is to provide you with up-to-date coverage of the entire world. That's why, at great personal expense, we have sent correspondant Eric Peng to China for a first hand account of life there. (Note: for purposes of this article, "sending a correspondant to China" means "republishing an e-mail sent by my old college roommate who happens to be visiting Shanghai.") Here is what he has to say:

I've been here two weeks now and it's my first extended visit to China in ten years. The pace of change here is almost incomprehensible. Almost the entire side of the river where I'm staying was farmland the last time I was here, and now it's like the Manhattan skyline. The street I'm on doesn't even appear on maps dated 1999. Everywhere you look, there are new high-rises or skyscrapers going up (and old neighborhoods being bulldozed). If you think there's a property bubble in the US, try Shanghai ... typical occupancy seems to be around 40% so all the empties (and to some degree the rentals) are pure speculation.

Getting Louvred

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All travel disasters are not inevitable. You may visit Mexico City without gastric distress. You may safari through Tanzania without being mauled by a lion. But if you visit Paris, no matter how careful you are, you will ultimately end up visiting the Louvre. This last disaster happened to me on my most recent trip to France, and, having made it out alive, I hereby report on my discoveries from within that most terrifying of places.

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