Dumb script + bad casting x Joel Schumacher = lame
You know what’s scary? War in the Middle East. Rabid junkyard dogs. Current pictures of Britney Spears. You know what’s not scary? Numbers.
You know what’s scary? War in the Middle East. Rabid junkyard dogs. Current pictures of Britney Spears. You know what’s not scary? Numbers.
Earlier this year, in a show of its space combat prowess, China obliterated one of its own satellites 500 miles above the Earth’s surface with a ground-based missile.
The term “space colonization” has been declared off-limits in polite society. The “c-word” is supposed to invoke all the terrible aspects of old-fashioned imperialism, particularly European imperialism. One notes that neither the Japanese nor the Turks nor the Russians feel particularly guilty about their now defunct empires. Even in Europe, the epicenter of the guilt trip questions now being asked, there was a major debate in France last year over whether the “positive aspects of colonialism” should be taught in schools.
The new Mexico Museum of Space History--the jewel of Alamogordo--sits perched at the foot of the Sacramento Mountains, looking over a veritable sea of decaying corrugated metal.
Earlier this month, the Alibi ran an article that focused on a single child support case in New Mexico, the case of Jessica Sanchez and her two children [News Feature, “Show Mom the Money,” Feb. 8-14]. The New Mexico Human Services Department (HSD) did not respond to calls before the article went to print, but later contacted the Alibi with their comments. Katie Falls, deputy secretary of the HSD, and Betina Gonzales McCracken, HSD communications director, spoke with us about the article and child support in New Mexico.
Before David Schmidly looms a large and daunting goal: solving UNM’s “diversity problems.”
I’m writing this at the Flying Star in Downtown Albuquerque. I came to get a slab of their awesome strawberry rhubarb pie and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. I ended up with a headache instead.
At the Feb. 21 meeting, Councilor Don Harris sponsored an extended moratorium on construction in Tijeras Arroyo and a bill authorizing a study of whether the speed humps in his district actually work. Both bills passed unanimously.
I knew Ritchie McKay’s father, Joe, when I was a UNM undergrad living in the Mesa Vista dormitory back in the early ’60s. I and all of our fellow residents liked Joey.
Ed Mazria takes global warming seriously. The Santa Fe architect is taking carbon emissions so seriously he’s brought his fight to reduce carbon emissions to the rest of the planet.
John Bear Loses His Head--So I'm mad at the televison news again.
Dateline: Serbia--A routine appendix operation in the Serbian capital of Belgrade turned into a knockdown, drag-out brawl after two surgeons abandoned a patient on the operating table to settle their dispute outside. Surgeon Spasoje Radulovic was operating when his colleague Dragan Vukanic entered and made a remark that started a quarrel, said the anesthesiologist on duty. “At one moment, Vukanic pulled the ear of the operating doctor, slapped him in the face and walked out,” she told the daily Politika. Radulovic followed Vukanic and an all-out fight ensued, resulting in bruises, a split lip, loose teeth and a fractured finger. The routine appendix operation was eventually completed by the attending assistant doctor.
Adventures in Birdland—Suzanne Sbarge once again uncages her otherworldly birds for a one-woman exhibit opening this week at Mariposa Gallery (3500 Central SE). Her collage paintings conjure up dreamy sequences that are simultaneously homey and adventurous. The new show is called Breathing Space. If you haven't seen Sbarge's work, you're advised to attend the reception this Friday, March 2, from 5 to 8 p.m. If you have seen her work already, then I'm guessing your calendar is already marked. The show will run through the end of the month. For details, call 268-6828.
On the surface, the premise of Craig Wright's Orange Flower Water sure sounds like a big fat bore, doesn't it? Two couples live in a tiny, suburban-esque town in Minnesota. Inevitably, two of them begin an affair, and all four begin taking long turns at the pity machine, wallowing in either guilt or victimization, depending on their mood from moment to moment.
This witty and useful guide to a gentleman's etiquette runs the gamut from pickup basketball (don't call ticky-tack fouls) to ’do rags (if you're white, don't) to eating sushi (don't rub your sticks together). Long sections are devoted to eating and office life, with shorter chapters focusing on relations between the sexes, social events and, thank god, techniquette.
Writing and Film--“1000 Palabras,” a film screening/discussion, will kick off the National Hispanic Cultural Center’s Women & Creativity festival (a collection of films, concerts, dance performances, book readings, panel discussions and more running March 1-11). “1000 Palabras” is an attempt to interrelate the fields of film and literature. Venezuelan writer Silda Cordoliani (Babilonia, Simon Bolivar: Un Relato Ilustrado) will speak about how the classic 1945 Mexican film Canaima, directed by Juan Bustillo Orohas, influenced her creative process and shaped her work. The screening will begin at 7 p.m. at the NHCC’s Bank of America Theater (1701 Fourth Street SW). Discussion to follow. For complete information on Women & Creativity, log on to www.nhccnm.org.
One of the few small surprises dotted throughout last Sunday’s 79th Annual Oscar telecast was that the obscure German film The Lives of Others (Das Leben der Anderen) surged past its category’s most high-profile entrant, Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth, to nab the Best Foreign Language Film award.
When this particular TV season started, back in September/October, NBC raised eyebrows for programming not one but two shows about the behind-the-scenes action at a “Saturday Night Live”-esque sketch comedy. One, “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip,” was an hour-long drama by TV wunderkind Aaron Sorkin (“The West Wing”). The other, “30 Rock,” was a half-hour sitcom by former “SNL” writer Tina Fey.
The Disco Balls Come Down—The bar door was wide open when I arrived at the Albuquerque Mining Company (AMC) one bright Sunday afternoon last October. Peering in, I saw a small gaggle of men in cut-off jeans and high-top sneakers, armed with brushes, rollers and buckets of paint.
One hour after Albuquerque alternative-pop sensations Ki broke up, ex-members Orio, Powell and Bradshaw, along with other former "lynchpin" musicians from HATEengine, Aisling and This Life (both from El Paso), created Mechanism Of Eve. See their first show ever Thursday, March 1, at the Launchpad. (LM)
Search for "August Spies" and you're not going to come up with an Albuquerque band bent on smart, tight songs—songs that kick over the genre trashcans as they run rowdy down Pop Ave.
I like to believe that, in my daily life, I exercise at least a small degree of free will and have some say in what my body does or does not do. So you can imagine my surprise when I found myself in a dive bar on my hands and knees, waiting for the Red Elvises' Igor Yuzov to sing the chorus to "Rocket Man," which would serve as the audience's cue that it was permissible to stop wallowing on the filth-coated floor. It is rare to see a band with that much control over a crowd (of 200-plus people, no less), but for these surf-rockabilly purveyors, it happens every night they put on a show.
Joan La Barbara hasn't been nervous about getting up in front of an audience and doing unusual things for many years. In the old days, the early ’70s, sometimes people would giggle. "I haven't gotten that reaction in a very long time," she says.
Petroleum Requiem—For a little more than half a century, the Petroleum Club served as a central gathering spot for ladies who lunched in neat, white cotton gloves; bridge games with high social stakes; and steak-and-martini business lunches that had historic consequences for our city. The members-only restaurant was at one time attended by the city's most well-heeled and influential people, making the Petroleum Club a well-oiled social machine of the first order.
“Drink what you like” is an old adage in the wine community, meaning you should drink the type and kind of wine that you enjoy. What nonsense! You want to know what all the cool kids (mainly me) are drinking and what great wines I collect and drink, so let’s change that adage to: “Drink what I like.” It’s only natural for people to want to know what the fabulous people are doing. And now that I have obtained my allotments from the local stores, I am happy to let you fight over what's left. Let me give you an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at what I bought this past year to grace my fabulous wine cellar.
The year was 1991. I was parked on the couch in my hammer pants (they made great jammies) waiting for my dad to return from his bimonthly trip to Sam’s Club before I was forced to eat my brother (also wearing hammer pants) with a side of honey mustard sauce. Our household food supply was at a critical level. Dad finally came bebopping through the door and threw something in my lap on his way to the kitchen. It was a clear plastic packet filled with red and white strips of … krab?
Scotch-style ale is a blessed rarity. Not too many breweries endeavor to make their own variation, and those that do generally do an amazing job. With the exception of one ill-fated, super-sour bottle of Moylan's Kilt Lifter, which seemed a bit past its prime, every time a bottle with the word “Scotch” on it has been opened, it has been greedily devoured. AleSmith’s Wee Heavy is exactly what it claims to be: Scotch-style ale. What lies within the flawless packaging of this $7.99 wonder is akin to The Clash playing Junior Murvin’s “Police and Thieves,” or Kim Gordon singing Iggy Pop: the perfect cover. This is not an attempt at making archetypal Scotch ale. Instead, there is a righteous conciliation of old and new. AleSmith makes intensely high-octane beers: This is McEwen’s on really pristine speed. This brew looks almost like a porter in the glass—deep and limitless with glints of red trying to escape the void. The flavors are familiar to both the roots and the revision. The distinct sweet caramel and molasses flavors that sent us back to our first taste of Scotch ale preempt strong, roasted malts and an aftertaste that is equally alcoholic and complex … weed ghee and whiskey in front of a parlor fire. Heavy.
You can bet on one thing at this year’s 79th annual Academy Awards (literally, as it happens): Helen Mirren will win the Oscar for Best Actress for her performance in The Queen. Online gambling site bodog.com has put her odds at 1/25 (as of press time). Slap down a hundred bucks on Mirren to win, and you could rake in a whole $4 profit!
Academy Awards for outstanding film achievements of 2006 will be presented on Sunday, Feb. 25, 2007, at the Kodak Theatre at the Hollywood & Highland Center.
Global warming, as a concept and point of dialogue, has been reborn. Over the last two years, thanks to hurricanes, rising gas prices and Al Gore, the public discourse about global warming, like so much carbon dioxide in our atmosphere, has risen exponentially. What a few years ago existed simply as an “environmentalists’ issue,” receiving no more attention than topics like deforestation and recycling (which are certainly linked to global warming), is today recognized as the next lurking catastrophe. Suddenly, society is paying attention.
The walls of Andre Infante's bedroom are plastered with rejection letters, but he's no sadist. The form letters are badges of honor in a budding writing career—stepping stones in his journey to publish any one of his seven novels.
We got a couple of good questions from readers on the red-light camera feature ["No One Likes a Ticket," Jan. 25-31]. We also got some answers for you.
What are some interesting sea mammal facts?
Journal of an Aging Ass—Don't give up on that old braying beast known as the literary magazine just yet. Albuquerque's got a new one that's worth a kick or two.
All right, class, listen up. Today, in place of our scheduled lecture on American culture at the start of the 21st century, we’ll instead have a brief pop quiz. So put down your BlackBerries, unplug your iPods and shut the lids on your laptops.
Dateline: China--Local officials in China have been criticized for spraypainting a barren mountainside green. Laoshou Mountain, near Fumin in the Yunnan province, was left an eyesore by quarrying. Instead of reforesting the mountainside, officials simply hired seven workers for 45 days to spraypaint it green. Nearby villagers have been driven from their homes by the strong smell of paint, reports City Times. “At first I was glad to see the green mountain, thinking the government was paying more attention to the environment,” local businessman Huang was quoted as saying. “But then I noticed the great contrast with the surrounding mountains.” Another villager complained, “We thought the workers were here to spray pesticides before planting saplings. But it turned out to be green paint.”
Africa in America--The fifth edition of the African Effect Film Festival comes to the CCA Cinematheque (1050 Old Pecos Trail) in Santa Fe this weekend. From Friday, Feb. 23, through Sunday, Feb. 25, the CCA will host a series of films, lectures and concerts, all centered on African culture and the African diaspora. Six films will be featured, spanning the globe from Senegal to South Africa, from Kenya and the United States. Subjects range from a South African adaptation of Bizet’s Carmen to a documentary about New York teens who use hip-hop as a vehicle for self-development. This year’s special guest is legendary Senegalese musician/film composer Lamine Konte. For a complete schedule of films and events, log on to www.ccasantafe.org. Tickets are $8.50 general admission/$7 members, students and seniors. Festival passes are available for $45/$30 members.
Twin brothers Mark and Michael Polish burst onto the indie film scene in flamboyant fashion, writing, producing and starring in the 1999 drama Twin Falls Idaho. That off-kilter film fest hit focused its cracked lens on a pair of Siamese twins (Mark and Mike, who are not quite joined at the hip in real life) falling in love with a hooker. Following that freshman effort (cranked out for around $500,000), the Polish brothers produced another couple cult-leaning ensemble films, 2001’s gambling comedy Jackpot and 2003’s biblical allegory Northfork.
Amazing Grace is a spectacularly well-intentioned film. So selfless are its motivations, though, that it threatens on multiple occasions to degenerate from movie to outright moralizing. Fortunately, helmer Michael Apted (Coal Miner’s Daughter, Gorillas in the Mist, The World is Not Enough and the Seven Up! series) is on hand to keep things from crossing the line between story and sermon.
Why do we watch the Oscars? It’s a valid question. The telecast itself is rarely riveting television. The opening monologue is sometimes funny. The “who died last year” tribute is always worth a look. But aside from that, there isn’t a whole lot of entertainment to be found. Not even the red carpet arrivals are particularly interesting, as stars gave up wearing crazy crap years ago.
CABQSXSW—The rejection notices have been doled out. Just in case you had any lingering doubts, we regret to inform you that your band didn't make it. We can say this with complete confidence because only one Albuquerque band was accepted onto this year's official South by Southwest Showcase roster. That band was Beirut.
As clichéd as punk covers have gotten these days, you'd be hard pressed to find a better cover, punk or otherwise, than Whole Wheat Bread's rendition of Lil Jon's "I Don't Give a Fuck." The song even drew the King of Crunk's attention himself, which led to a collaboration on several tracks for an album due out this spring.
Quality time with grandma—it's a beautiful thing. A few hands of pinochle. A game or two of Scrabble. Longs hours of breakdancing to the kickin' beat. For this month's quality time sesh, she's taking on other b-girls at the annual Breakin' Hearts competition and you're her moral support. Damn, your nana is cool.
After 10 years together, proggish art rock five-piece Isis knows when to expand an instrumental interlude and when to pull it back. They know when to create tension and then release it in an instant, only to build the anxiety anew. Listening to an Isis song is an exercise in perpetual capitulation and catharsis. Most enticing is the band's uncanny ability to understand just how to keep the proverbial ball rolling, never surrendering to drone or monotony.
Pack up your peg legs, matey: Zombies are the new pirates. Starring Poloroid Pornography, Unit 7 Drain and The Dead Electric, this Saturday, Feb. 24, at Burt’s Tiki Lounge (free, 21+). Long live the undead! (LM)
Roll Over Beethoven—Imani Winds is a five-piece chamber music outfit aimed at exploring the intersections between European, American and African music. The quintet has been around since 1997, building a passionate base of loyal fans. Luckily, Chamber Music Albuquerque is bringing them to town for a performance on Sunday, Feb. 25, at Albuquerque Academy's Simms Center. This definitely isn't your standard Hayden and Beethoven classical music event. Don't miss the opportunity to witness this exciting ensemble. A preconcert lecture will be held at 2 p.m. Show starts at 3 p.m. Tickets are $19 to $38 in advance and $21 to $40 at the door. Student discounts are available. 268-1990, www.cma-abq.org.
Jennifer Newby is always surprised when her tattoos draw her negative attention. Women, she says, get more strange looks because of their ink, even in Santa Cruz, Calif. "I can go to the grocery store and I get asked about my ink or I get dirty looks," she says. Growing up in an open environment means the questions—“What are you going to do when you get older?”—catch her off guard.
Salman Rushdie once noted that the societies that emerged from colonial rule in the ’50s and ’60s soon became hotbeds for literary invention. “The Empire Writes Back,” he called the phenomenon, punning on George Lucas’ Star Wars film.
Why do we love pho so much? I remember when I was a kid I used to call it “everything” soup, because it appeared to contain pretty much everything. I’ve heard it called “weird noodle stuff,” “the stuff with the bean sprouts,” and my personal fave, “the limey-noodle-sprout thing in the great big bowl.” I took someone out to eat at a local Vietnamese place a while back who, after a few big bites, proclaimed, “this has a lot of vegetables—it’s like a liquid salad.”
Más Cinema, Por Favor--Cinemás, the Albuquerque Latino Film Festival, will take place Thursday, Feb. 15, through Sunday, Feb. 18. Film screenings are spread between the KiMo Theatre in Downtown, the ARTS Lab Garage at UNM, the Guild Cinema in Nob Hill and the National Hispanic Cultural Center on Broadway. Features, documentaries and shorts from Brazil, Mexico, Spain, Argentina, Panama, Chile, Venezuela, Peru, Uruguay and the United States will be featured in the four-day fest. Organized by UNM’s Arts of the Americas Institute in the College of Fine Arts, the festival includes an emphasis on filmmakers, scholarly work and generating an atmosphere for discussion.
Now, granted, I am not from ’round here. I was born a poor and upwardly mobile working class “colored” child (says so on my birth certificate!) in August of 1963, in the South, in segregated Portsmouth, Va., in an integrated military hospital that sits to this day along the Elizabeth River. You can see the city of Norfolk on the other side of that river. Until the transcontinental slave trade ended legally in the U.S., Virginia, and Portsmouth in particular, was also an essential part of a triangle of the trade in human misery from West Africa to the Caribbean.
Mahalo, Freddie—Freddie Kekaulike Baker, the Hawaii-born singer and multi-instrumentalist who entertained a couple of generations of Albuquerqueans, passed away suddenly on Feb. 5, two days shy of his 86th birthday, leaving a hole in the city’s musical heart that will not be filled.
Suspend yourself in a perfumed cloud of digital frequency. Local electrolytes AudioBuddha, Diverje and Brian Botkiller perform Saturday, Feb. 17, at the District Bar and Grill (21+). $8 gets you in. (LM)
In this day and age, if you can keep a quality big band together for going on two decades—with many of the charter players still aboard—you deserve a measure of respect. If you are also an exciting arranger, a versatile composer and a top-notch player, respect begins to nudge against awe.
Although the boys in Mike Got Spiked hail from Dublin, you’d never know it from their music and their patterns of speech, which are highlighted by a frequent use of American colloquialisms. The way they approach a multi-instrument solo with the double bass pedals and hammer-on guitar leads of Pantera or slap bass leads á la Primus indicates a strong American rock music influence; something the band happily admits. This fondness for the States has led MGS to venture away from their homeland in search of an American record deal and a chance to win the hearts and minds of those who like a little NOFX with their Incubus. The band certainly has something to offer America’s music scene with a low-pressure stage presence and three- and four-part vocal harmonies on every song. “Unlike some bands, we actually sing our songs live,” explains frontman Gavin McGuire. “We don’t just scream at the crowd.”
Whether your interest is spiritual, scientific or just in the unique physical aspect of it, here's a beginners' guide to harnessing your throat-singing voice. Throat singers produces two or more tones of equal volume simultaneously. Maybe that sounds impossible, but the practice in the small Russian republic of Tuva goes back at least a thousand years, though it's probably older than that. Placitas resident and throat-singer Michael Crofoot gave the Alibi some tips on how to start. Remember, what you're trying to do is "find the most natural sound that your body's all set up to do," as Crofoot says.
While the Orange County power-trio The Irish Brothers are about as Irish as, well, any American with an Irish surname, that doesn’t mean they have a disadvantage against the aforementioned Celtic challengers. Any band that can write a surf-rock riff with serious horsepower like the one in The Irish Brothers’ “How We Are” deserves a slot in our faux competition. With gasoline-soaked vocals and a sound that is equal parts Social D and Johnny Cash, The Irish Brothers seem poised to set the Los Angeles punkabilly scene ablaze.
Back in Black—Your very last chance to check out James Black's eye-poppin' solo show will be at a closing reception this Saturday, Feb. 17. The exhibit, called Ink, consists of Black's images of faces and figures, two entire walls of which were composed in house at the Trillion Space late last month. At the closing gig, your art-viewing pleasure will be enhanced with performances by Alla Faders and Zach Freeman. Come on down! The Trillion Space is at 510 Second Street NW. The reception runs from 7 to 11 p.m. www.thetrillionspace.com.
It’s always a little embarrassing to be a tourist, camera hanging from your neck as you hurriedly check sites off your list, getting glimpses of only the things visitors are supposed to see. Looking back through the vacation photos, it’s like you were fooled a little, as though a palm tree-print curtain was pulled across the less pleasant aspects of the city, leaving only the cliché of G-rated sunsets and tourist-ready beaches.
The Fusion Theatre Company is putting up the Southwest premiere of Craig Wright's play Orange Flower Water starting this Thursday, Feb. 15. Wright was the lead writer for HBO's “Six Feet Under.” His play is about two couples wrestling with the torment of infidelity. This Fusion production runs Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m., with matinee performances at 2 p.m. on Sunday. $22 general, $17 students/seniors. Aside from the opening night show, Thursday performances feature a $10 student rush (with valid ID) and a $15 actor rush (with pro résumé). 766-9412.
In recent years, no one has done more to shake up the classical music scene in Albuquerque than Joseph Franklin, the charismatic executive director of Chamber Music Albuquerque. Franklin has just released a memoir called Settling Scores, which details his rise from a working-class family in north Philadelphia to the cutting edge of modern American music. He'll be signing the book at Page One (11018 Montgomery NE) this Sunday, Feb. 18, at 2 p.m. Stop by, grab a copy and listen to some of his tales from the fringes of contemporary music. 294-2026.
In Albuquerque and along the interstate, people are turning blue in the face. Among them are Al Franken, Orbit (the Isotopes’ furry mascot), a pound puppy and a pigtailed child buckled into a car seat. On billboards throughout the city, these and other personalities are featured literally blue-faced, and for no clear reason. So, we wonder, why the blue faces?
Shawna Campbell-Rosenthal tried to save the building, tried to make sure there wouldn't be a gap in services for the women who come in every day seeking treatment, counseling, sanctuary.
Not only did the Feb. 5 Council meeting lack pitchfork-toting, cell phone-brandishing mobs--almost no one showed up at all. Deferred bills included training day care staffs to detect sexual abuse and a cost-benefit analysis of a streetcar system. Councilor Michael Cadigan's memorial encouraging the State Legislature to support school board elections on the same day as municipal or state elections passed unanimously.
Edward Abbey’s The Monkey Wrench Gang is only three months away from movie production. After many fits and starts, the film will be made here in New Mexico and probably released next year. Hat tip to local blogger Coco for the news.
Dateline: New York--A wallet belonging to a Korean automobile factory worker has been found--in upstate New York. The worker lost his wallet last year while checking out the wiring on a Chevy Aveo that was bound for sale in the U.S. It wasn’t until the car left the GM-Daewoo assembly plant in suburban Seoul that J.W. Joh realized his wallet was missing. Several months and thousands of miles later, the Aveo was delivered to the Fuccillo Chevrolet dealership on Grand Island, outside Buffalo. An employee at the dealership was getting ready to deliver it to a customer when he found the wallet in the backseat. He handed it over to his general manager, complete with credit cards, driver’s license and $43 in cash. The wallet was passed up the company chain until a GM executive delivered the wallet to Joh during a recent business trip to South Korea.
For as long as I can remember, I have loved post-apocalyptic survival movies. It feels like only yesterday that I stood gawking in wide-eyed youthful exuberance at the poster for The Road Warrior at the Pueblo Drive-in. Nuclear obliteration? I’m in. Worldwide famine? You got me. Apocalyptic pandemic? Now you’re speaking my language! So imagine my joy when I discovered that not one, but two of my favorite post-apocalyptic thrillers were coming to DVD on a double feature disc. The films? The incredible one-two punch of Panic in Year Zero and The Last Man on Earth.
Let’s face facts: Romantic comedies were a worn-out genre back when Howard Hawks was coaxing screwball chemistry out of Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant. Seventy years on, the boy-meets-girl/boy-loses-girl/boy-gets-girl conventions are about as rigidly defined as you can find in film. The best praise you can heap on just about any modern romcom is the same noncommittal description that The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy reserves for planet Earth: “Mostly harmless.”
Thanks to strict censorship and the bad timing of commercial breaks, broadcast television is rarely a scary affair. Classic horror series like “Dark Shadows” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” aren’t particularly remembered for their bowel-loosening terror. Even a truly frightening movie like The Exorcist is rendered tame when all the curse words are edited out (“Your mother sews socks in hell”?) and the puke-spewing is interrupted by an ad for Maalox.
As our plane made its final approach into the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan, the wings nearly scraped the trees off the hills beneath massive snowcapped mountains.
C’est Si Bon!—Halfway through a meal at La Quiche Parisienne Bistro, which I enjoyed on their first day of business in late November, I pulled my head out of my soupe de carottes just long enough to realize that every table around me was ablaze with patrons, and every last one of them was speaking French.