The 'Shroom:Issue 157/Critic Corner

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Director's Notes

Written by: Hypnotoad (talk)

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Aaaand it's finally April! Whew, that felt like years! Being an 'essential worker' I haven't been stuck at home like everyone else probably has, and have actually been busier, but on my days off I can't do much of anything other than finally chip away at my immeasurably large backlog of review material. How are you spending your time trapped at home in absolute fear over death floating invisibly alongside the most basic daily interactions? Watched new shows or movies? Played games you've neglected? Tell us what you think of them!

Congratulations to The Only Positive Review of Super Paper Mario for having its first edition making Critic Corner's Section of the Month!! Be sure to give your love to all of our sections here, and give a shout out to our writers whether in chat or in their forum threads dedicated to their sections. Be sure to vote vote vote!

To reiterate from last month, we've decided to implement in Critic Corner something similar to News Flush over in Fake News, where no formal sign-up application process is required for one-time or limited sections. From now on if you just want to send in a single review for something you just read, watched played, tried, whatever, you just have to send me your review privately either to me directly in chat, or in a message to me on the forum at least one week before each 'Shroom is to be released! There's no commitment or obligation to provide a full monthly section (although you absolutely can shift it into one if you so choose), just send us your thoughts on a thing and we'll feature it here! If you have any questions or curiosities about this, please feel free to ask!

Additionally, awards season is now upon us! To begin preparations for the Mario Awards XIV and our wiki's Anniversary events, the Awards Board has opened up on the forum. Please check it out!

As always, if you would like to help Critic Corner, we always have openings for more writers! You are free to write for sections such as Character Review and Movie Review, or really anything you'd like to do! There's no pressure to have a huge section; they can be shorter and concise! The application process is very simple, starting with reading the Sign Up page, and sending your application to Ninja Squid, our Stats Manager on the forum. Any idea you have is welcome, and if you have any questions or need help signing up, please feel free to reach out to myself or other 'Shroom peeps!

Section of the Month

Critic Corner SECTION OF THE MONTH
Place Section Votes % Writer
1st The Only Positive Review of Super Paper Mario 12 52.17% TheDarkStar (talk)
2nd Anton's Half-Baked Reviews 8 34.78% Hypnotoad (talk)
3rd Movie Review 2 8.70% Yoshi876 (talk)

Reviews / Opinion Pieces

Which records did DJ MCD spin this month?
[read more]


'Shroom FM

Written by: MrConcreteDonkey (talk)

Welcome back to 'Shroom FM, where I - MCD - look at some albums and tell you if you should like them or not! Remember that opinions about music - and art in general - are not subjective, they are in fact objective, and since I am writing it down this means that everything I am saying is a proven fact. I'm the art decider now. Art. Art. Not art. Damn, this is easy.

MARCH 2020
SFM31520.jpg CHILDISH GAMBINO - 3.15.20
Really, really lazy. I'm not really the biggest Gambino fan, I thought his last album was okay and have liked various other tracks over his career, but haven't explored much of his stuff otherwise. I don't know if what he's doing with the album art (blank)/album title (date)/track titles (their timestaps on the album) is some attempt at an aesthetic or genuine laziness, and if it's the former then that's worse because why do two of the tracks have names? And that's somehow not the weirdest decison on this album, that's the bit where he tacks on his 2018 hit 'Feels Like Summer' somewhere near the end, but not before retitling it to a timestamp! Why? I have spent my entire review complaining about the aesthetic and it's not even the worst thing about the album - the production is so off throughout the entire thing, there's maybe a handful of interesting songs and even those that are good are ruined soon after by some out-of-place noise or effect... it just feels unfinished. It was unfinished, wasn't it? It got Cooking Mama'd and then released a week later. Was that part of the aesthetic???
Tracks that made me mad 0.00, Time, 19.10 (best on the album tho), 24.19, 32.22, 39.28, 47.48
SFMpurplemoonlightpages.jpg R.A.P. FERREIRA - PURPLE MOONLIGHT PAGES
My favourite album of the year so far. Ferreira has been involved in a number of projects, but is probably best known for the stuff he's released under his previous stage name, Milo (which I'd also highly recommend checking out). Purple Moonlight Pages is a big step forward from his previous work, carrying and improving upon his strengths as an excellent lyricist and engaging performer. The production here from the Jefferson Park Boys is excellent - very calm and mellow - and pairs up perfectly with Ferreira's delivery. Overall, this is a real thoughtful, chill and jazzy hip hop project - and yes, his initials genuinely are "R.A.P."
Best Tracks U.D.I.G. (United Defenders of International Goodwill), Doldrums, Laundry, Mythical
SFMcommontask.jpg HORSE LORDS - THE COMMON TASK
It's alright. There's definitely some inventive sounds and instruments at play here, but everything just sort of feels under-utilised. Like, 'The Radiant City' is centred around bagpipes, which sounds cool (to me, at least) until you actually listen to it, and they're... not doing anything interesting. Just sit there and imagine, for a second, the concept of bagpipe music. That's it. Whatever you're hearing, that's the track. 'Integral Accident' is another big missed chance on this thing, a 20 minute-long track that could serve as a climax to the whole thing, but it just falls completely flat. Honestly, everything on here just feels like it's building up to 'People's Park'. But it's not a terrible album, and if you've never listened to experimental, complex, math-y rock and want to get into it, this could be a good starting point.
Best Tracks People's Park
SFMcenizas.jpg NICOLAS JAAR - CENIZAS
Yes, this is the same Nicolas Jaar, as in Against All Logic Nicolas Jaar, the one I reviewed an album by last month. There aren't just like fifty dudes with the same name making electronic music, as far as I know at least. Cenizas is the fourth project he's released this year, after the AAL EP, DJ mix and album. It's Jaar year. Cenizas is very different from his other projects this year, it's a very minimalist and subtle ambient project. The atmosphere here is huge, even though there isn't always a lot happening everything's really calculated and precise, and it does a great job of conveying mood with minimal focus on lyrics. It's not perfect - some tracks or sounds don't work as well as others - but it's an intriguing listen.
Best Tracks Faith Made of Silk, Sunder, Cenizas, Garden
SFM100yes.jpg MELT YOURSELF DOWN - 100% YES
I'm, like, 65% YES on this. Maybe 70% at a stretch. If you've listened to Melt Yourself Down before, you know what to expect - fast, chaotic jazz-funk-punk fusions, lotta weird and avant-garde stuff going on - and there's a lot of places where this doesn't disappoint. The opening track, 'Boot and Spleen', is really fun and full of energy, and blasts through a lot of different styles, and there's a great section where the vocals and brass sort of meld themselves together. But overall, I was expecting a bit more chaos from this, which unfortunately it couldn't always deliver. Not to say it's a bad album, I can't recall any of the songs being outright bad, I just wish it did more with what it had. If you love fun, mad and energetic stuff then be sure to check these guys out, though.
Best Tracks Boot and Spleen, This is the Squeeze, Crocodile
SFMheavylight.jpg U.S. GIRLS - HEAVY LIGHT
I struggle with U.S. Girls. I wasn't a massive fan of In a Poem Unlimited but there's a lot of great individual tracks from that. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for Heavy Light - this album is a big ol' mess. I thought the first single ('Overtime') was bland and rushed when it came out and I didn't bother with the second ('4 American Dollars'), and the context of the album doesn't improve either. The songwriting is generally dull, if not outright bad, and there's a few interesting moments but also some very odd decisions in the mix. The backing vocals sound... really weird in the mix, often clashing with Meghan Remy's lead vocals - and even if they didn't sound basically the same on all of the songs. Not to mention, of course, the absolute worst part of the album: the three spoken word interludes about memories, or something? which contribute nothing to the general vibe of the album, and even in the realm of spoken word don't... say anything interesting. It just sounds like a bad community theatre project.
Best Track...? The Quiver to the Bomb
SFMafterhours.jpg THE WEEKND - AFTER HOURS
I thought the first half of this was a bit underwhelming and predictable, especially if you’ve heard any of the singles (one of which being an international #1 hit). Songwriting-wise the only thing that really grabbed me was 'Snowchild'. This half also generally felt a bit overproduced: everything felt a bit too obsessed with keeping up the album's spacey and ethereal vibe, and also derivative of the retro "80s" sound everyone has been trying to evoke in the last few years. The second half, however, is a huge energy boost, with a lot of songs that still feel massive but much sharper songwriting and production, and more varied instruments. All in all, if you can get past the rocky start, this album is worth it.
Best Tracks In Your Eyes, After Hours, Snowchild
FURTHER LISTENING
Disclosure - Ecstasy ~ Fun little EP (that's actually from February but who cares?)
Dua Lipa - Future Nostalgia ~ Great singles, album tracks less so but still pretty good.
The Garden - Kiss My Super Bowl Ring ~ Chaotic and fun, not quite as sharp as some of their earlier stuff.

Anton's Half-Baked Reviews

Written By: Hypnotoad (talk)

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Paris - Part 1

Probably my most expensive review yet, because I couldn’t just do a huge thing and then not milk it for content! This all starts off with my brother having a binder full (read: literally 100+) of credit cards, which he alternates between to maximize sign-up bonuses and rewards points for flights and hotels and stuff. Now, I do the same thing, but he’s wildly more invested in it, and also is in a position to take advantage of it more. So last spring, about a year ago now, he came to me and my other brother and said something along the line of “hey we’re going to Paris in July, do you wanna go?” Like, uhhhhhh, YEAH, the opportunity to take an international vacation as funded mostly by pooled credit card rewards points doesn’t happen every day. After adding our card points together and doing some capitalism trickery, we got most of our flights and hotel bookings funded, and all we’d need to take care of are the everyday expenses like food, entertainment, souvenirs, whatever, which really helps when the flight itself was roughly $1200 and the hotel about $600. The timing was also magical, as I put in the vacation time at work while I was part-time, where management is required to grant me whatever time off I want because it’s not like they’re paying for it, then took my vacation and logged the hours a few months later after I had been granted full-time, making it so my time off was untouchable but they still paid me for it.

Getting around

Flights

Preparing

Booking the flight was a bit touch-and-go. There’s a million booking websites out there, including just Google itself. It makes sense, but the pickier you are, the harder it will be to find a flight that works for you. I had to be picky in regards to when my initial flight departed as I worked the morning of the same day, picky in terms of whether it was direct or with connections and then where the connections were, and then arrival time so I didn’t get there too early to be picked up or too late and waste a whole functional day of my vacation. I was picky over the connecting flights because a lot of them were from Tampa to DC or Chicago then to Paris, but I chose a connecting flight out of Amsterdam because I wanted to linger around a foreign airport for a bit. The trick to it is find the flight you want on a website that’s a lot easier to navigate (I used Google) and then go directly to that airline’s website to magically discover a cheaper rate. I ended up booking through KLM which cut my price by about $100. If you live close to several airports that’s even better, as it gives you more selection. Being near MCO and TPA I had two lists to work with. Give yourself ample time to explore your options.

It’s key to arrive early to the airport; 2 hours early for domestic, 3 hours early for international. I know it’s a common joke about dads being early to the airport and events exceptionally early, but in the case of an international flight it’s critical as you have to consider wait times for immigration and customs, on top of waiting in lines to check in your baggage and get your booking ticket and then navigating the airport to get to your gate. If you do have a job where you can have flexibility in hours, try to work your vacation so you work the morning of when you’re leaving to compress any time spent getting there and getting situated into a day that doesn’t count, saving your actual vacation days for actual vacationing. If possible, also try to cram your work week onto the ends; for example: I worked 30+ hours at the beginning of my work from June 29th-July 2nd, then used some normal scheduled days off to pad my 3 days of vacation time into a decent 5-day trip, then had a regular schedule day off on the 9th to recuperate and get over any potential jet lag, then got back to the grind. Doing this not only can maximize your time off, but still get you a paycheck for each work week, which can be critical if you don’t get vacation pay. To get to the airport plenty of people just use Uber or Lyft nowadays, as it leaves one less thing for them to have to worry about. I like the control and privacy of driving myself, plus I scoped out the long-term parking garage rates and it would’ve been about the same price (actually ended up paying less), especially since the airport is about 2 hours from me.

Airports

Check out how the bathroom stalls are perfectly sealed, not one chance for someone to look through an opening!
International flights are a bit more intimidating of a beast than domestic if you haven’t done one before. You need to be aware of customs and immigration processes, be aware of what you can and can’t bring to and from wherever you’re going, you need to be prepared to be comfortable in English (or whatever your native language is) not being widely used. Don’t fret, though, airports are the place where there’s lots of people speaking lots of languages, so you won’t ever be in total trouble. My favorite feature of this is lots of names being mispronounced horribly over the loudspeakers. So, you’re into the airport now and at your airline checking in. Weighing your bag is a game to play with splitting up the mass between your checked luggage, carry on, and accessory, as well as those of anyone else you’re riding with. You’ve got your boarding pass and you’re on your way to the gate, but hold up! Security checkpoint, no big deal; have nothing in your pockets, don’t have any sketchy stuff, take off your shoes, strike a pose while getting scanned. Next is customs and passport control. This was easily the most stressful part of the entire thing, thanks to that phenomenon I think everyone experiences; you know the one that’s like...you hear sirens in the distance and immediately think “the cops found out about me, I’m done for!” even though you’ve done absolutely nothing? Customs, passport, and immigration, whatever you gotta go through is just a long waiting line with that anxious feeling eating away at you. “What if they find a gun in my bag?” Just have your passport open, boarding pass out, make sure you’re in the right line, and be prepared to be grilled by some guy who’s taking his job way too seriously, asking where you came from, where you’re going, what you do for a living, where you’re going for what reason, follow-up questions, trying to catch you in a lie or trip you up, but making you so nervous about it that you forget what you’re doing or stumble through words. They could also ask what the address of your hotel is and other specific information, so it helps to know and rehearse that. I found it good to bring a folder with me that had all of the information for my entire trip inside; addresses, times, literally a walkthrough guideline of how to get through the airport, all of my confirmation numbers and flight numbers, everything. Don’t have ANY open food at all, even if it’s allowed, because it’s just another thing to hassle you about. For example, beef jerky is a good source of energy on trips, is small, and lasts long, but it is meat and subject to inspection; just keep it closed until you’re on the plane. Take pictures of all of your information and plans, including your passport and the passport of everyone you’re going with just in case any of it gets lost. It’s better to be neurotic and over prepare than it is to be missing one thing after it’s too late.

The reason I wanted to have my layover in a foreign airport is because each airport has their own stores. Sure, there’s the same ones in each one, the basics; coffee, newsstand, sandwiches, a little overpriced electronic shop selling headphones and neck pillows, a place for rich people to buy jewelry for some reason, but there’s also regional specials. I know the Buffalo airport has an Anchor Bar and a gift shop filled with unique Western New York food and trinkets. Orlando has some Disney shops in case you didn’t get your fill. Schiphol has everything you’d need from the Netherlands: a tulip shop, gouda, gouda, more gouda, and several shops that specialize in everyday Dutch groceries and snacks. I never really had time to explore the CDG Roissy Airport in Paris, but from what I personally saw and can see online it doesn’t seem like anything more than a trip to a high-end mall with a couple of ham on baguette shops tossed around. Airports are a neat thing to experience, feeling beyond boundaries with a strange anxious but calming transitory nature, but act as token microcosms of their host city. Next time you have a flight somewhere and there’s a layover, I recommend you opt for the flight with a little more wait time to give you the chance to do a cursory speedrun of a vacation to where you’re sitting.

Significant reason for always picking the window seat
Flight Details:
  • Depart Tampa TPA July 2 7:52 PM, Arrive Amsterdam Schiphol AMS July 3 10:50 AM
  • Depart Amsterdam Schiphol AMS July 3 12:25 PM, Arrive Paris CDG July 3 1:40 PM


  • Depart Paris CDG July 8 8:20 AM, Arrive Amsterdam AMS July 8 9:40 AM
  • Depart Amsterdam AMS July 8 1:20 PM, Arrive Tampa TPA July 8 5:42 PM

Flight Experience

I can’t say that I’m an expert on reviewing plane rides, but the Delta flight from Tampa to Schiphol was pretty ok. Better than Southwest as you sorta do get what you pay for. As my initial flight was at night after I’ve been up since 5am and worked 6am-2pm and then panic-packed up final things and rehearsed my entire way through the airport thanks to anxiety, so I was exhausted. The seats were comfy enough for me to fall asleep semi-comfortably, especially thanks to the blanket and pillow they provided. I lucked out and didn’t have anyone next to me in any of the two seats, so I got all of those blankets and pillows and constructed a fort of coziness and solitude. Delta also included a hot towel in their service, but it was more like...a warm wet wipe? Not exactly sure what you’re supposed to do with it, I just kinda rubbed it on my hands, which is what everyone else did. I can say that I’m not a tiny person, but I am smaller than average, which was probably a critical aspect of what allowed for my comfort.
I stared at this for probably 6 hours.
If you are larger or taller you are going to be a lot less comfortable, and I’m not sure there’s anything to do about it. Perhaps check other flights and what their seating arrangements are, and never fly Southwest as their seating is first-come-first-serve. Sucks that accommodations are only made for people who can pay for it. Overhead compartments are whatever, I prefer to have my carry on luggage with me as it’s just an over-the-shoulder laptop bag that I cram a bunch of stuff into, but if you actually bring a duffel bag or a suitcase you’ll need to use it. Unfortunately in my experience people just throw their belongings wherever and irrespective of their actual seating location, so prepare to be placing your overhead luggage like five rows away from you. The KLM seats were a lot comfier than Delta, but unfortunately that flight was just a couple hours. The leg room was pretty similar; I had enough space to put my bag underneath the seat and sit regularly, but it’s not comfortable to do that, so I ended up kinda curling up on the seat with my knees pressed into the sea in front of me (gently, of course). There’s really no room to stretch except for when you get up and go to the bathroom, so that’s of course a benefit to aisle seats. I like the view too much, though.

One critical part of that coziness that may go against preconceived notions is to remove your shoes. Travel blogs will tell you to just wear comfortable footwear, but no footwear will be comfortable for a 9 hour flight. Practice some common sense: Keep your shoes on during takeoff and landing; If your feet stink and you know it then either try to remedy it beforehand or bring some slippers; Keep your socks on because the plane is full of germs, and while you may dismiss it because the trays have germs, the seats have germs, the air has germs, you can at least avoid carrying an infection on your feet; If you get up and go to the bathroom or wherever just put your shoes or slippers back on; and for heaven’s sake PLEASE don’t invade peoples’ personal space with your feet, socked, but especially bare. On my Delta return flight back home from Schiphol to Tampa I was seated next to a guy who took his shoes and socks off which, fine, whatever, keep them under a blanket. But he didn’t. He crossed his left leg over his right, placing his foot pretty much on me, taking over my arm rest with it, and I swear he kept edging it closer and closer to me and I could see him checking out of the corner of my eye. Was it a test? Was I being punished for my first flights being perfect? He kept talking to me, too, asking what I did for a living and everything. What do you do in that situation? I don’t know, I sat and suffered for a grueling 12 hours on that flight, squished against a wall with Foot Guy doing his best to press his sole against me like some kind of sky pervert.

Food and Entertainment

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A more specific look into the flight experience aside from the physical features is the food and entertainment. Don’t do what I did and decline the free drinks each time the attendants walk by; I did it out of some misplaced courtesy with a “no thanks” as if accepting it would bother them. Take it, it’s free, you’re going to want it, you’re going to be dehydrated with a crappy taste in your mouth without it. Luckily for me, though, Delta’s regimen includes several sweeps, of which there’s a pretty sizable meal. Into the flight a little more the flight attendants came around and plopped a Biscoff onto everyone’s tray along with some Sprite. There’s a surprising amount of discourse regarding the Biscoff cookies that’s going on as I’m typing this review up. Tl;dr, Biscoff has been a staple on flights for basically forever and have become more than a staple and instead more of a cult and tradition; United Airlines stopped serving them, people got REALLY upset, and airlines had to reassure that they still served them. After a while the flight attendants came around and asked everyone what they wanted for their meal from a small menu available. I got the ‘Seared Rosemary Chicken Breast Fillet with Truffle Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans, and Carrots’. It sounds pretty fancy but it’s ultimately just a small TV dinner just absolutely drowned in what I guess was supposed to be gravy. It’s hard to complain about this because it’s more than what I expected and was actually a real meal, but it’s a 9 hour flight and a meal is what’s to be expected. The meal included a small salad, some grapes, and a couple hunks of cheese, crackers, a roll, and some butter to spread on whatever you want. It’s adequate. To rate it for what it was, a meal on an economy flight, it was the best I’ve ever had. Set your expectations for that. KLM had a decent meal for the just-over-an-hour flight from Schiphol into Paris: a chicken sandwich with thyme and lemon mayonnaise (which was probably the most fresh tasting sandwich I’ve had out of something that was pre-packed), a stroopwafel, and some water. On the return flights I don’t recall getting really anything. Air France offered a drink only, and Delta’s return just got me like a small bag of Oreo Thins and a bottle of water. I KNOW I didn’t sleep through any of the services, so what’s the deal?

Both Delta and KLM had on-board flight trackers; Air France easily could’ve but I didn’t pay attention. From these screens you could check out maps, which excited me A LOT because I’m gay for maps. You can see flight speed, estimate time of arrival, total time, all kinds of information about the actual plane you’re on, lots of info. I fiddled around with these for a few hours each time. On the same screen on the back of each seat you can watch a bunch of tv shows and movies, as well as play games and listen to music. Delta provided a cheap pair of headphones which didn’t work for long, so be sure to include your own pair in your carry-on. I didn’t watch any movies on my departing flights because I was just too mesmerized by the maps or hiding under a blanket trying to sleep without having people looking at me, but on my return Delta flight I watched Captain Marvel, Hellboy, Ant-Man, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Mirai. I gotta say, the only thing that made me more uncomfortable than Foot Guy putting his foot on me for 9 hours was him turning and watching me watch the tickle scene in Mirai. To end my commentary on flights, I’ll bring up an important aspect: toilets. There’s always a line for them, always. Always. They’re just a cramped Porta Potty. It’s really tiny and smells really bad, and you can just feel how everyone can hear every little splash you make. It’s embarrassing. Just go before you take off or after you land, airport bathrooms are pretty nice.

Vehicles

As I said in the beginning, I prefer the control of driving myself as opposed to Uber or Lyft, but getting off a plane you don’t really have much of an option, and driving a car through Paris just already seems like a complete mistake; not just from a navigational sense, but because a significant bulk of enjoying Paris is walking around, seeing stuff, and stopping by places as you go by. Thankfully a mobile ride hailing services have become prevalent enough to make it so I wouldn’t have to go through the anxiety of getting a cab. Each trip from the airport and back cost a few cents under €50. The unfortunate part is that Uber drivers are just regular people for the most part, not denizens of the Airport, and thus have a greater language barrier. I know a moderate amount of French; I can speak at a level to perform basic functions if I can at least rehearse what I’m doing for a little bit first, and I can read it very well. I have a hard time listening to it, though, with speed and accent being almost insurmountable barriers. Despite telling my driver ‘Je parle anglais, mais je parle un peu français’, he still typed and spoke in only French. Great, that’s fine for him, I’m literally in France right now, the onus is on me, but it was nonetheless a bit of a barrier when he couldn’t direct me to the airport exit he was waiting at, which was on him as he went to the wrong one. I still paid in full and tipped, though, as he’s a service worker in an industry that does not pay fairly! My Uber driver departing, though, knew enough English to confirm I was who he was looking for, a couple basic greetings, and then just shut up because it was like 4am. On the way from CDG to my hotel, it was the ride of my life. Zooming down the A3 Autoroute and into the northeastern suburbs Aubervilliers, Aulnay-sous-Bois, through Bagnolet, and to where I was staying in the 11th Arrondissement right by the Opéra Bastille. Lots of honking and reckless driving through very narrow streets and claustrophobic architecture. I would’ve been a bit more scared if I didn’t feel like my driver knew what he was doing, and without my observation that everyone else was driving just as erratically. It was also neat seeing the parts of Paris where people actually lived, places that didn’t look so tidied up for the international audience, that just looked like every other city I’m familiar with. I wouldn’t say that made me feel at home, but it definitely made me feel more comfortable, that this was just another place on the map like everywhere else. It’s also notable that I took this trip in summer, during a record heatwave that killed 868 people in France, and these drivers drove with their windows up and heat on. All of them.

While I didn’t personally do it, everyone else I went with at some point used one of the Lime scooter rentals. Basically, a bunch of motorized scooters are littered all over a city and can be unlocked with an app that charges you to use it. Scan the scooter, get on, go fast. My brothers described it as ‘mostly fine’ and ‘terrifying’. Pedestrians don’t move out of the way at all, other people on bikes or scooters are going faster and have no concern or care about their surroundings. They don’t obey signs or stop lights, which ends up making it more dangerous for you as they present a clear danger. Cobblestones are terrible, as are basically any minor blemishes in the roadwork. It is cheaper than an Uber, though, usually, like $6 for a decently long trip. Also a lot more fun, and cooler given there’s no windows to keep up and heat to leave on. More instantaneous than Uber. It’s notable that my brother crashed into the ground to avoid a bigger accident due to another person on a Lime scooter zooming way too close past him at an incredible speed.

Paris Métro

The absolute best way to move around Paris, whether you’re a tourist, local, on a business trip, escaping assassins, any reason at all, is the Métropolitain de Paris. It’s much like the New York City subway system, except it’s more aesthetically pleasing and less claustrophobic, and basically better in every way aside from NYC’s specific brand of culture if you so choose that. I appreciated how unobtrusive the performers in the area were, how everyone just tried to stay away from each other as possible, no one talked to each other but when they did it was ‘pardon’ or ‘excusez-moi’. Paris has a reputation of rude locals but the only pretentious snobs I saw the whole trip were some young American couple being all elitist about how to properly use the Métro and trash talking about how you can tell who is a tourist by how they stand on the train, blissfully unaware that they were the ones standing out the most. Like, I was a tourist and it’s really just common sense how to grab the pole or sit down, and by the time I came across these dweebs I was only in the city for like 2 days. Like, wow, you can tell when someone comes across a feature of their environment that they are new and unfamiliar with and given no time to study or observe it and must instead do whatever their instinct tells them to to avoid falling over when it starts moving. You’re so cultured and worldly what’s your blog name so I can add it to my RSS feed.

Literally the only halfway decent image I got of the Métro since I was hustling too much to focus or just didn't want to be rude.
The Métro is operated by the Régie Autonome des Transports Parisiens (RATP) which has a cute rabbit mascot that is always in some kind of peril. They also run parts of the Réseau Express Régional (RER) which is another commuter rail that I’m unsure if I used or not and didn’t matter if I did since my ticket covered all of it, as well as bus services and light rail lines. The Société nationale des chemins de fer français (SNCF), France’s state-owned railway company, runs the other parts of the RER, and I’m guessing I did actually use that as that’s the company of the train I rode to get into Versailles. If the distinctions between which railway company or whatever is confusing to you as it is to me, just get the ticket I did where you don’t need to know. Selecting a proper ticket may be confusing, as access is based on which zones you want to visit, spreading radially out from the city center, but if you’re in Paris to visit the typical Paris stuff right in Paris, then you really only need a ticket for Zone 1-3. I recommend just getting a Paris Visite pass for however long you’ll be there because you will be using it all the time. You can get your pass any time at any station at a kiosk, and for the most part there’s also an office there with someone in attendance who can help. I can’t guarantee they’ll speak English, but my experience is that everyone in Paris who regularly interacts with the tourist public will be able to communicate in English at least well enough to accomplish what you need. I became really familiar with at least the central portions of Line 5, 7, and 8, but if you’re a regular tourist doing touristy things around Paris you should get familiar with Line 1 and 4, specifically around the Châtelet–Les Halles hub as that’s where most of the hot places to go are--The Louvre, Champs-Élysées, Palais Royal, Notre-Dame, and is itself an enormous shopping mall. Let’s take a moment to appreciate just how detailed Wikipedia’s Paris Métro pages are, giving us the ability to go station-by-station along each line and see pictures of each one, and also has this map. It would be more impressive if you were able to click each station and also see landmarks on that map, but, _. Check out this, too.

I never got a picture of the art nouveau Métro entrances because I never really stopped to take pictures, but I can assure you that they’re kinda breathtaking, just such a fluid and natural design growing out of the concrete, and are hard to miss should you be sorta lost. I brought my big fancy DSLR and everything and just used my crappy phone the whole time. Unfortunately not every Métro entrance has a big display, some just have the rails, and some have none of it. There is signage all over the city directing you to whatever nearby Métro entrance there may be, and actually entering through the gates with your ticket is pretty self-explanatory. Just don’t lose your ticket; it’s really small and just some flimsy paper. I’m not sure if I wasn’t intimidated by the Métro ticket gates like I was in NYC due to my experience with NYC, or if Parisiennes just aren’t as much of jerks in an unexplained hurry. It also helps that the corridors aren’t nearly as cramped. The tunnels and stations were also pretty unique, which I also never got a picture of because I didn't want to look like That Tourist. Luckily there's a lot of blogs that post quality pictures and give more useful practical overviews as well as this Wikipedia page should you ever be bored enough to not only have read this far into my review section, but to click the links, and then meander further.

The Paris Métro is fantastic compared to every other city that I’ve experienced with a commuter line, a sentiment expressed by my brother who’s been around more places than me with huge Métro systems like London and Munich. It’s very easy to understand. You can follow only your line pretty easily, and the transitions are also easy. User friendly. The speakers would say what major attractions were at each stop, of which a language barrier is no issue because everyone knows ‘Louvre’ and ‘Notre Dame’. Ease of navigating and getting around. When in doubt, just follow the big exit signs that say ‘SORTIE’. The only reason to avoid using the Métro is if you have significant trouble going up and down stairs, as not every station has been upgraded to include escalators and elevators to aid disability access and ease of use, which in that case opt for a bus. With that you’ll also stay above ground and see the sights as you drive past. To each their own ability. There’s a lot of talk about how Paris is a walkable city, and it absolutely is in the sense that it’s safe to do and easy to explore in that way, but it would be irresponsible and a waste of your time and energy to not take advantage of such a good metro system.

There’s a lot I could say about the Paris Métro but it’s mostly about how much I love the map and navigating it, which I’m sure would qualify as some kind of infodumping and not really anything of genuine value for the format of this section. Instead, come with me on a trip to Paris sometime!

Walking

These alleys in Le Marais were probably the most cramped, but felt more ripe for exploration with everything so tucked in.
Street art was all over the place, adding quite a modern flair to an otherwise ancient city.

After getting to the general area of where you want to be with the Métro, walking is just simply the only way to properly explore Paris. Yeah sure go ahead and take those tour buses that drive you to the top museums and dump you off at the Louvre to wait in lines, but the real Paris is in the alleyways a street over. Even with the Métro it’s sometimes just easier walking straight to a location than through the underground maze with their set locations; the city is pretty dense and compact, so if where you want to go is just a couple stops down the line, you can probably just walk to it. Just be careful to not get too tired or dehydrated, and to wear proper footwear. You can bring a refillable water bottle with you and absolutely get some free water from a Wallace fountain if you can find one and want the thrill of experiencing Parisian history, but there’s also a Monoprix, Franprix, Carrefour, or any other grocery store about 20 steps away from you at all times that sell big liters of water for a Euro or two. I found that the more practical route as I was interested in going to stores frequently to check out what kind of snacks they got that I can’t get back home. As for walking comfortably, go ahead and wear flip-flops if you want to, lots of people did as it was just so unbearably hot to wear much of anything at all, but walking on cobblestones really hurts your feet fast if there’s no extra cushion. Yeah, yeah, flip-flops are as much of a fashion faux pas as wearing shorts in Paris, but honestly it was 1 billion degrees out and the only people who give a crap are the snobs online who write travel blogs for a living. Who are you trying to impress? Why do you need to look like an office worker on their way to La Défense when all you’re doing is ogling some croissants and taking pictures of The Seine? Just try not to look like garbage, as is standard everywhere else. There were plenty of just flat-out barefoot people hanging around the bank of The Seine in the afternoon, and Claquettes-chaussettes are in style, anyways. Inside each block are winding paths that are lined with all kinds of specialty, clothiers, shops, cafés, bakeries, restaurants, galleries, boutiques, outlets, just all kinds of neat things that you really wouldn’t know were there unless you walked past it. The downside of all these winding paths inside of blocks is that I’ve found myself walking in circles a couple times. It’s also somewhat detrimental that there’s just so much to see in every direction that wandering towards something interesting just brings you further and further away from other stuff. It also doesn’t help that the street layout is less Manhattan and more Boston; aside from the circles dotting the 20 arrondissements with their massive Haussmann boulevards jutting out in all directions it’s otherwise just a mess of small streets. That’s not necessarily BAD, like, two whole separate days of my trip were dedicated to literally just going to one thing we wanted to go to and then just walking in a direction from there until we got tired.

Pretty much every other road looked as spacious as this.
Plenty of room to breathe and take things in, catch your bearings, relax.
P.S. Please read about Haussmann’s renovation of Paris, it’s very interesting and also about maps and the form and function of city layouts which I like a lot.

I didn’t do any walking tours because I hardly see any value in them, to me they’re a horrible time sink and commitment sticking myself to a solid plan when everything else going on is fluid. That’s not to say I won’t ever be interested in one if there’s a specific kind out there. Like, there’s a couple food walking tours that I’m casually looking into right now as I type this up that I’m curious about simply to see if there’s something I missed on my own, and to explore more into districts I’ve already visited but may not have seen every alleyway or known what I was looking at. At easily $100 a pop I would hope to get a better experience than I can build myself with an afternoon of research on Google Street View.

I can’t say this with absolute and perpetual certainty for all future visitors, but I never once felt unsafe walking alone, even at night. Nervous because I got lost and knew my ability to find my way back was limited, especially after finally finding a Métro entrance only to discover it’s under construction? Sure. But I never felt any instinct to clutch my belongings or flee, and nothing was pickpocketed. I’d still recommend taking all usual precautions, like carrying little cash, keeping your wallet and important belongings in an interior pocket of a bag you can protect, etc., because there absolutely are pickpockets out there especially near the higher-concentrated tourist areas, as well as gang activity and hate crimes. Just walk with confidence, like you belong there, and if you start getting skittish to just duck into a shop for a while to collect your senses and gather yourself. Actual travel blogs will have better recommendations than me, I’m just some dude babbling on about how my own trip went on a Mario wiki.

I realize that this is a somewhat dry section in terms of a vacation review, but I felt it was appropriate to split it up and deal with each concept in an ordered fashion.


SORTIE! Also, tell me what to review next! You can tell me to do can also be movies, shows, physical actions, trying new foods, music, literally anything and I’ll cover it eventually if it’s not too ridiculous. Just send me a message here on my talk page or PM it to me on the forum. Don't like what I have to say? That's fine, and probably bound to happen because I've been told about how much people like Super Mario 64 and how they feel about any criticism of it! We at Critic Corner will welcome your alternate review of it as a new section for the next issue!

The 'Shroom: Issue 157
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