Leaving France

February 3rd, 2014 | Uncategorized


I’m leaving France and heading home. Not because of the massive anti-gay protests that happened here yesterday, just because it’s time to go. There have been these big demonstrations lately where people carry pink and baby blue banners and equate gay marriage with “familyphobia.” Their slogan is “Manif Pour Tous,” which I think is short for “manifesto for all.” (Though “all” seems a little disingenuous.) Libération’s headline about it today reads, “la grande manip,” which seems to be a pun, as in manipulation. It feels like a great triumph to understand a pun in French, though of course I could be mistaken about the whole thing.

The Angoulême comics festival was amazing. I spent many hours signing books and drawing pictures in them, and met lots of people. Here is a reader from Luxembourg who wanted to take this picture because we were dressed alike. Unfortunately I was not wearing my blue checked shirt that day.



And here is the amazing Israeli cartoonist Rutu Modan, who I got to have dinner with one night. She won a big prize at the festival for her new book The Property, which I have not read yet but it looks really great.


Also I got to sign for a while next to the genial (in its original, genius-related sense, not in its meaningless “awesome” sense) Joost Swaarte. He drew astonishing things for people. And he wore two pairs of glasses-his regular ones over his reading glasses. Like Holly does! Okay. Gotta come home now.

24 Responses to “Leaving France”

  1. Aunt Soozie says:

    Is that Tintin looking appalled at the thought of your leaving? Well, we welcome you back with our big gay and lesbian and queer selves. Pink and blue… Blah. I prefer a full spectrum rainbow!

  2. John Boren says:

    Looks like you had a great time. Thanks for sharing those moments. Hope you have a safe trip home. Now I have to go look up Rutu Modan’s stuff.

  3. Safe travels. Two pairs of glasses — that makes me feel more at home in the strange, vast, beautiful world of artists, massive anti-gay demos (boo!) or not.

  4. Tony Breed says:

    “Manif” is for “Manifestation”, which means “Protest”. The push for marriage equality was called “mariage pour tous”—”marriage for all”—and this started as a counterpoint. Typical right wing, appropriating the word “all” in a way that excludes others.

    I was at Angoulême last year, when the first procedural step for marriage equality passed. Protests and counter protests were almost weekly. I stayed away from them. It’s a bit scary.

  5. Clara says:

    Hey Alison! Just writing to thank you again for the amazing drawing I got on my book and basically everything. I hope you have not yet forgotten me, even though I would really understand that. I had not been to any convention of this sort, so huge, and it was quite an experience. Maybe all this fuss I am making is because I cannot really believe that so many people were there for the sake of comic books only. In Angouleme you are definitely not a freak if you spend your money (and all of it as I did) buying comics. Thank god catalan is quite similar to french -I couldn’t find a book in english!
    AND french food is really nice (even if it is not relevant here at all, I felt like I hqd to leave his written. You know, the printed word is somehow holy).
    Down with fascists. Unfortunately they are Too many and have too much power. Just consider Spain.
    But thankfully the sun will shine tomorrow, and we’ll smile gaily 🙂
    Lots of admiration, respect and overrall a profound love.

  6. hairball_of_hope says:

    Wearing two pair of glasses… I am glad to hear I am not alone in that behavior. I was an abject failure at adapting to bifocals (I was continually nauseated and risked breaking an ankle every time I stepped off a curb), so I switch between my regular glasses and reading specs.

    On bad days (or when the item/print to be viewed is tiny) I double up on the lenses. I really don’t want to be toting around two pair of glasses in addition to the pair perched on my face, so I tolerate the funny looks I get from others when I double up.

    On another note, a strange French Connection. My secretary just came back from a week off for Chinese New Year and plopped a metal box of Chinese cookies on her desk. The cookies are called “Paris Cookies”, wafer sandwich cookies with orange or strawberry filling and an imprint of the Eiffel Tower on each. I have no idea why they are called Paris Cookies, everything else on the box is in Chinese.

    Bon Appétit!

    (… goes back to slip sliding away on the alliterative slick slushy sidewalks ..)

  7. hairball_of_hope says:

    In a return to a long-lost thread on this blog, it looks like Grade B maple syrup may become a thing of the past…


    Quoting from the article:

    Vermont, which puts maple syrup on a pedestal along with cheese and covered bridges, has long had its own distinctive syrup-grading system: Grade A Fancy Light Amber, followed by Grade A Medium Amber, Grade A Dark Amber, and Grade B, so-called, locals say, not because it is lower in quality but for its more intense maple flavor, which appeals to many tourists.

    But after a series of community “maple meetings,” the state adopted new standards. By next year, all retail syrup in Vermont will be labeled “Grade A” because the trade group believes that consumers assume anything lower on the alphabet is inferior.

    “That is just an absolute crock,” said Mr. Morse. “Over half of my customers say, ‘I like Grade B.’ ”

    (… goes back to her memories of Grade B sweetness …)

  8. Fi says:

    OK, so ahead of you now is a month for re-grounding, reconnecting and cat-patting before heading south to Australia, where we’ll see you at the Athenaeum (http://www.theage.com.au/national/a-star-is-forlorn-ageing-theatre-queen-cries-out-for-a-little-makeup-20080808-3sem.html) – now lovingly and respectfully restored to its former mid 19thC beauty. Really looking forward to your visit.

  9. Andrew B says:

    Remember when Europeans were condescendingly astonished at the role sex played in American politics, about fifteen years ago? When we had our shorts in a knot about the President having an affair and gay marriage, and Europeans just couldn’t believe the naiveté of our moral posturing? I kind of miss those days. It was nice to imagine that there was a place where people were sophisticated.

    Alison, it’s always fun to hear about your Tintinesque global ramblings. Have a good February and let us know what you find in the Southern Hemisphere next month.

  10. rachel says:

    ‘manif’ refers to manifestation– aka, protest! so then: protest for all!

  11. Kate L says:

    Bon voyage, as we say on the High Plains! And, here I thought those of us on the High Plains had a monopoly on 21st century angry anti-LGBT mobs with pitchforks. 🙁 Btw, the High Plains are currently under about 15″ of snow, which was enough to shut down Moo U for two days.While I was snowbound with my 50-pound harrier hound, I was watching the local weather channel when I saw a news crawl along the bottom of the screen that said “Kansas conservatives are concerned that recent LGBT-rights advances will cause the anti-gay marriage amendment in the Kansas state constitution to crumble”. Ya think??? 🙂

  12. Tuna says:

    I’ve tried to leave comments here on your site many times, no dice. Maybe it doesn’t accept comments from Canada?
    I left a link from a David Sedaris piece about the word geniale that I thought you’d like.
    But other people leave links.
    No comprendo.

  13. Acilius says:

    Those protests in France have utterly baffled me. Granted, opponents of gender-neutral marriage everywhere confuse me. It always seems like they are trying to make some kind of point that they can never express in words. The religious believers among them have their theologies, which may be more or less impressive in various ways but which of course will not convince anyone who does not already share the faiths they articulate. Otherwise, opponents just seem to point and sputter and end up making themselves look ridiculous.

    Anyway, every time I hear reports from France the demonstrators are making a big deal out of their lack of religious affiliation. So it isn’t theology that’s driving them. And they seem to want to be thought of as both up-to-date and intellectually serious. Now and then you hear about openly gay people in their ranks. So what on earth is going on? The Surrealists would be proud of it, I suppose, the whole thing is so incredibly bizarre.

  14. Kate L says:

    I keep having this image of A.B. catching a train in Paris, waving to her fans and holding a bouquet of roses. And, everything’s in black and white. And, A.B. is singing like Edith Piaf. 🙂

    There are now two Britishers on the Moo U geology faculty, including our new chairperson. Our most recent faculty meeting devolved into a discussion between the two of them concerning their favorite “pub food”, apparently a type of cuisine served in certain types of restaurants.

  15. NLC says:


    After following the link to your home page –and your most recent posting– you may already have seen THIS but I bumped into it recently and it seemed worth posting here.

  16. hairball_of_hope says:

    @Acillius (#13), NLC (#15) –

    Scrolling further down the page on Acillius’ blog, I was quite entertained by the range of Nativity scenes (Mermaids! Zombies! Pig products!). I wasn’t sure that the minimalist blocks Nativity would be recognizable as such without prompting.

    And now for something completely off-topic, but sure to incite the natives… Columbia University English professor John McWhorter has proposed abolishing the comma from the English language.


    Quoting from the article:

    Professor John McWhorter, an associate professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia University, believes that removing commas from most modern US texts would cause little loss of clarity.

    You “could take them out of a great deal of modern American texts and you would probably suffer so little loss of clarity that there could even be a case made for not using commas at all,” McWhorter said.

    He cited the Oxford comma, inserted after the penultimate item in a list, as an example of the mark’s obsolescence.’

    As someone who still uses the Oxford comma (I had no idea it had a name), I shudder at a comma-less world. I wonder if McWhorter’s observation that we “could take them out of a great deal of modern American texts and… suffer so little loss of clarity” says more about the writers of the texts than about the English language and commas.

    I’ve noticed the increasing “Twitterization,” “textization,”and “Powerpointization” of business communications; rare is the memo or e-mail which doesn’t read like a bunch of bullet point items or random text messages. (N.B. Note that I managed to get an Oxford comma in the list above, along with the much-maligned semi-colon.)

    Yeah, yeah, I know language is an evolving animal, and the fuddy-duddies like me who want proscriptive usage from a dictionary are seemingly in the minority. But banish the comma? Not just NO, HELL NO.

    (… goes back to seaching for her copy of “Eats, Shoots & Leaves” …)

  17. Acilius says:

    @NLC: Thanks for looking at my page! It’s been inactive for a while, I’ve started posting again in recent days.

    And thanks for linking to the “Ten Things I Wish the Church Knew About Homosexuality.” Hanging out with mellow progressives like Episcopalians and Quakers it’s tempting to forget or understate the sheer bloody-mindedness that so often thrives under the sign of the cross.

    As for the focus of the “Ten Things” on the Bible, one thing I think the Bible makes crystal clear about homosexuality is that homosexuality wasn’t a particularly controversial topic when the Bible was taking shape. The Bible is hundreds and hundreds of pages long, and the antigay crowd can find only six brief verses in the whole thing that support their position at all explicitly.

    What’s more, most of those six verses are actually about something else, and none of them contemplate anything like the same-sex relationships that exist in today’s world.

    Sure, the tone of the six snippets make it clear that same-sex sex was not well-regarded in those days, and neither the law nor the prophets nor anything in the Christian scriptures pushes back against that hostility. But so what? None of those writings push back against slavery or any of a number of other institutions familiar in those centuries, but Christians nowadays seem confident that they have disassociated their religion from those things, and in fact often propose it as a bulwark against them. I fully expect the Christians of the 22nd century to be united in a smug sense of superiority over the homophobes of that day, just as their counterparts now are quick to cite the Christian Abolitionists of the 19th century.

    @HoH: Thanks to you also!

    John McWhorter has quite a talent for being wrong in interesting ways. He used to be classified as a political conservative, I think mainly because so many left-leaning types sharpened their thinking by arguing against him. If right-wingers were as interested in looking for fresh challenges, he’d probably have been called a leftist. Anyway, the more i think about his comma thing, the more I realize that I not only dislike his opinions about punctuation intensely, but that I also share them and have for years. So I’m trying to find a way to change my mind.

  18. Cathy says:

    Re: commas, I read recently that they can save lives. Think of “Let’s eat, Grandma” vs. “Let’s eat Grandma.”

  19. Kate L says:

    After having my yearly mammogram, I received my usual letter of benefits received / denied by Moo U’s insurer. Much to my surprise, they are covering the mammography, for the very first time! Previous to this, they raised a stink about me having an incomplete set of X chromosomes. I’m wondering if I have ObamaCare to thank for this (the benefits of the law, such as a prohibition on lifetime medical insurance caps and a prohibition of denial of medical insurance coverage due to pre-existing conditions) started to kick in on January 1st.

  20. […] other day, a commenter on Alison Bechdel’s website called my attention to this list by Jim Rigby, as it appeared on […]

  21. Kate L says:

    Thanks, Acilius (#21)! 🙂 I was wondering what people would think. My own family has basically not spoken to me since finding out.

  22. hairball_of_hope says:

    @Kate L (#19)

    Surplus or paucity of X chromosomes should not matter in the case of mammograms. Males identified as males also get breast cancer. Insurance companies were/are likely doing the usual “deny claim until customer fights back” routine.

    I suspect (without a scintilla of evidence to back my idea) that the hormonal soup that MtF folks endure might be a risk factor for latent hormone-sensitive cancers, so the annual boob-squish test is certainly warranted, IMHO. Where’s Dr. E when we need him? He’d probably have some better stats on this.

    (… goes back to wondering if the mammogram squisher is just a recycled old-fashioned orange juice squeezer …)

  23. Kate L says:

    hairball (#23) I like to think of getting a mammogram as pressed me under glass!