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The Proust Questionnaire

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Few things ring of pretension moreso than invoking the name of one Marcel Proust. Especially since the advent of Little Miss Sunshine, the French novelist's references in pop culture have flourished (and often incorrectly). Still, those who have tackled bits of his seminal work, À la recherche du temps perdu (In Search of Lost Time), will know why the memory of his description of a madeline moistened by herbal tea remains an unequivocally descriptive tease for famished writers everywhere (not to mention a reminder of our literary inadequacies). Though he lived a short life (1871-1922, dying of pneumonia) Proust's "definitive" work with evolving the novel influenced many other respected and talented writers, such as Samuel Beckett, Graham Greene, Vladimir Nabokov and Virginia Wolff. For the rest of us (the unwashed masses), Proust's influence has become perhaps more pervasive than we think, with a version of his "infamous" Questionnaire showing up in various forms all over our cultural landscape.

The origin of the questionnaire

By no means the inventor of the form, Proust did manage to keep its popularity alive. A typical parlor game of the Belle Epoch that was said to help delve into the true expressions and aspirations of those answering it, Proust was first introduced to a form of the questionnaire entitled "An Album to Record Thoughts, Feelings, etc" when he was merely 13 years old. By responding once at that age and again to a slightly different version at the age of 20, Proust was able to chart his own growth and change, and allow us to get a deeper understanding of the man and his preferences. A complete list of his answers to both questionnaires can be found here.

Other versions

lipton.jpgThe Proust Questionnaire, as it is now called, has enjoyed three major rebirths. The first was from French television host Bernard Pivot, who used a version in the 1970's-90s at the end of his broadcast Apostrophes, (a show similar to Book TV) in the hopes of allowing writers to reveal parts of their personalities while discussing their own work.

More famously for us Americans is James Lipton's version used on Inside the Actor's Studio (where certainly the questions have never been asked with such intensity, I'm sure). A list of his condensed 10 Questions can be found here, and a very special version with Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant (of the UK Office and Extras) asking the questions to the indescribable Karl Pilkington is also available for free download.

Additionally, since July of 1993, Vanity Fair has published its own version of the questionnaire in its back pages as an interview piece for celebrities, questions from which can be found on this site.

Fun for the whole family

Bored on a rainy day with friends? Looking for something to journal about? Seeing whether your date is worth your time? The Proust Questionnaire is still an interesting way to get to know people better. Anyone willing to share a few of their own answers here?

Here are five questions to get you started...

1) Where would you like to live?
2) Who are your favorite characters in history?
3) Who are your heroes in real life?
4) What is it you most dislike?
5) What natural gift would you most like to possess?

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Little Baby's Ice Cream
Pizza and Cricket Cake Are Just Some of the Odd Flavors You'll Find at This Philadelphia Ice Cream Shop
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Little Baby's Ice Cream

Ice cream flavors can get pretty out-there, thanks to the growing number of creative scoop shops willing to take risks and broaden their customers’ horizons beyond chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry. Intrepid foodies can cool off with frozen treats that taste like horseradish, foie gras, and avocado, while Philadelphia's Little Baby’s Ice Cream is pushing the boundaries of taste with chilly offerings like everything bagel, Maryland BBQ, ranch, and cricket cake.

Cricket-flavored ice cream, created by Philadelphia-based Little Baby's Ice Cream
Little Baby's Ice Cream

Everything Bagel-flavored ice cream, created by Philadelphia-based Little Baby's Ice Cream
Little Baby's Ice Cream

As Lonely Planet News reports, Little Baby’s Ice Cream launched its first signature “oddball” ice cream—Earl Grey sriracha—in 2011. Since then, its rotating menu has only gotten quirkier. In addition to the aforementioned flavors, customers who swing by Little Baby’s this summer can even try pizza ice cream.

The store created the savory flavor in 2011, to celebrate neighborhood eatery Pizza Brain’s inclusion into Guinness World Records for its vast collection of pizza memorabilia. The savory, Italian-esque snack is made from ingredients like tomato, basil, oregano, salt, and garlic—and yes, it actually tastes like pizza, Little Baby’s co-owner Pete Angevine told Lonely Planet News.

Pizza-flavored ice cream, made by Philadelphia-based Little Baby's Ice Cream
Little Baby's Ice Cream

“Frequently, folks will see it on the menu and be incredulous, then be convinced to taste it, giggle, talk about how surprised they are that it really tastes just like pizza … and then order something else,” Angevine said. “That’s just fine. Just as often though, they’ll end up getting a pizza milkshake!”

Little Baby’s flagship location is in Philadelphia's East Kensington neighborhood, but customers can also sample their unconventional goods at additional outposts in West Philadelphia, Baltimore, and a pop-up stand in Washington, D.C.’s Union Market. Just make sure to bring along a sense of adventure, and to leave your preconceived notions of what ice cream should taste like at home.

[h/t Lonely Planet]

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Warby Parker
Warby Parker Is Giving Away Free Eclipse Glasses in August
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Warby Parker

When this year’s rare “all-American” total solar eclipse comes around on August 21, you’ll want to be prepared. Whether you’re chasing the eclipse to Kentucky or viewing it from your backyard, you’ll need a way to watch it safely. That means an eclipse filter over your telescope, or specially designed eclipse glasses.

For the latter, you can just show up at your nearest Warby Parker, and their eye experts will hand over a pair of eclipse glasses. The stores are giving out the free eye protectors throughout August. The company’s Nashville store is also having an eclipse party to view the celestial event on the day-of.

Get your glasses early, because you don’t want to miss out on this eclipse, which will cross the continental U.S. from Oregon to South Carolina. There are only so many total solar eclipses you’ll get to see in your lifetime, after all.


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