I arrived in Paris yesterday, after about two weeks in Lisbon. I will miss Lisbon’s tile and cobblestone, hilly streets that challenge those of San Fracisco, humble strangers who speak more English than they think they do, and especially our hosts from Universidade CatÃ³lica Portuguesa. For more info and for images of our visit to the Presidential Palace, see the page for the Annenberg Scholars Program and the official page of the President of Portugal (photos 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6). Photo #6 features the whole group, and photo #4 has a closer shot of me and Mike (my roommate here in Paris) with the First lady.
By the time I left Lisbon, I had chatted with people at four stores selling comics, one selling board games, two selling video games, one specializing in science-fiction figures and paraphernalia (though several of the above also sold various anime and/or sci-fi figurines). Several of those people told me they could set me up interviews with some English-speaking customers. I also got a friendly and helpful email reply from JoÃ£o of the Lisbon Gamer blog (a proud geek whose wife also blogs at Geek By Proxy).
The students at UCP were also quite helpful; I know now, for example, that while they know the word “geek,” they also have two separate words for someone who seems strange, like a Star Trek fan, and for someone who is excessively studious. The first is toto (which I may be misspelling), whose other meaning refers to the ponytail hair style; I think that’s probably not a coincidence, considering that many geeky fans wear their hair long (see also the Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons). The latter term escapes me, but it compares a person with nose buried in a book to a bull charging, head-down. I’m getting an interesting picture of what it means to be a geek in other cultures, and I hope to work that into the dissertation and/or an additional paper. I’ll probably write more here on the topic after my travels and proposal are behind me.
I’m looking forward to exploring more of Paris, having spent my first day here walking from the Latin Quarter to the Arc de’Triomphe to the Eiffel Tower (and about halfway back before I came to my senses and got on a bus). My hotel in the Latin Quarter is directly across the street from a comic store and a video game store, around the corner from another video game store and a gambling/gaming store, and not too long a walk from a store that seems like an importer; I have yet to visit, but I noticed on the bus ride past last night that it advertised (in English) “Comics,” “Science-fiction,” and “Manga” on the awnings, with windows full of models and action figures. I had not been planning on writing much in my dissertation about toys/figurines, but they occupy such a common and prominent space in fan/geek-oriented retailers that the subject probably deserves some attention in future interviews.