Tag Archives: france

Liberté, égalité, frappé

The traditional French café has been in decline for so long that we tend to ignore its plight. […] Last year, 2,000 neighbourhood cafés and bistrots closed for good in Paris and the surrounding Ile de France region. […] In the 1960s, there were some 200,000 in France. There are now about 30,000.

 

There were four little cafés around the corner from our old office on the Place de l'Opéra. A couple even had the flipper (pinball) and 'baby-foot' games that used to be standard everywhere. All have disappeared since 2000, replaced by fashion outlets. Two Starbucks have opened alongside. 

 

That’s Charles Bremner, a British expat, in the Times. The Starbucks thing is pretty sad, but other than that, I don’t really see anything here to be sad or protestical about. There are a lot fewer companies making tape decks than there were in the 1960s too.

 

The decline has become a talking point over the past two weeks after the Senate held a conference on saving the bistrot.  The proprietors say they are being driven out of business by taxes and state campaigns against alcohol and tobacco. They complain that customers no longer want to buy much. They order a sandwich and a glass of water rather than the old menu with wine.

 

With cigarettes banned indoors and police waiting for drunk drivers, people no longer while away the hours with rounds of apéros after work. People drink less and they do it more at home.

 

Oh the horror! Cafes are going out of businesses because their customers want to do other stuff. Quel tragedie!

 

The Government is pointing the finger at the owners' failure to adapt. An example of this came from Bernard Quartier, President of the IDCCB, an industry group. In France, the most widely consumed drink is Coca Light (Diet Coke), yet until very recently the majority of bistrots did not sell it, claiming that it is not suited to their clients, he said. The modern public no longer has an appetite for the traditional menus of leathery steaks, oeufs mayonnaise and pichets of plonk. Service also has to improve, Quartier says.

 

This type of shit is precisely why Americans make fun of Europeans, and why they should. If your national culture is threatened by people choosing to eat and drink in a slightly different manner than they did 100 years ago, then you don’t have one.

 

Whenever these ‘decline of the [whatever]’ issues appear in our newspapers, we always underestimate the extent to which culture is a byproduct of necessity. The French went to cafes (and the British and Germans went to pubs) because their houses were too fucking small to hang out in, and there wasn’t anything particularly else to do that normal people could afford. These forms of public life weren’t an expression of the French (or British, or German) psyche, they were simply a response to poverty, close living conditions and lack of entertainment.

 

The fact that we have vastly more comfort in our homes and means of pursuing happiness in our free time is a good thing. When you find shit to do that you like, you tend to do less of the things you used to do when you were bored. All of the reasons for preserving public space—dialogue, interaction, experience of culture—are not only alive and well, but aliver and weller than they were at the height of the café era. Fuck those high-backed, checkered chairs.

 

Instead of pouring money into preserving a cultural eight-track, politicians should be supporting their constituents in the shit they actually want to do. Fuck it, Voltaire's already spinning in his grave because of the Cola Light thing.   

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Europeans need more English-speaking friends

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Surely someone at an organization as large and well-organized as 'Paris Foot Gay' had a buddy from Minnesota or whatever, someone they could ask 'hey, is it normal in English to just name your human rights organization three vaguely related nouns in a row?'

Some sort of feedback-loop should have taken place here. Unless, like, Amnesty International's called 'Prison Lip Save'  in French, this probably should have stuck out to someone. 

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Eat me

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My French friend left Denmark forever

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L’unch

My French friend Clement is staying in my spare room for the next two weeks while he's between apartments. In lieu of rent, I told him he should just make me nonstop French food while he's here.

Today I woke up to the sound of duck crackling on the stove. Duck. All, like, l'orange and shit. And this was 10 in the morning.

On a normal holiday, hangover Thursday, I would be eating a Danish from the chain-smoking baker down the street, drinking microwaved day-old coffee to mask the Lucky Strike frosting. I could get used to this…

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Fun facts about infidelity

I came across this article this morning while avoiding academic obligations, and I'm finding it really interesting. This chick named Pamela did a worldwide study of infidelity. She found the following things:

  • In France and America, 4 percent of men admit to having sex with someone other than their wives in the last year. In Australia, for some reason, it's only 2.5 percent. In Togo, it's 37 percent, in the Dominican Republic it's 20 percent and in Peru it's 13.5 percent. There's a lot of stewardesses out there…
  • In Brazil, it was legal until 1991 for a man to murder his wife and her lover if she cheated.
  • "In Russia, cheating is more of a relational problem than a moral violation. Nearly 40 percent of Russians said in a 1998 survey that cheating is 'not at all' wrong or 'only sometimes' wrong. Psychologists in Moscow told me that if you live in a two-room apartment with your in-laws, as many Russians do, an affair is practically obligatory just to get relief from the constant bickering." Nice.
  • This guy's Danish at heart: "A [Japanese] businessman who frequented sex clubs — part of Japan’s 2.37 trillion yen ($1.8 billion) live sex industry — told me he never questioned his wife when she handed him divorce papers one day, after two years of what he had thought was a happy marriage." Can you believe that shit? Sitting crosslegged in front of your breakfast one morning, your wife comes in, says 'I want a divorce', and you just say 'aight.'
  • "Americans cherish monogamy, but they value honesty even more. In the 1970s and 1980s, as it became easier to divorce and couples counseling emerged as the forum for resolving marital spats, Americans decided marriage ought to be a transparent zone without any secrets. They developed a unique mantra about affairs: It’s not the sex, it’s the lying." She's right, we do have a overly-open model of marriage. I don't really know where over-sharing obsession in American life comes from, but I'm sure it's Clinton's fault somehow.
  • "Though they prefer monogamy, when the French do cheat they typically aren’t saddled with guilt. Couples give each other privacy so that they don’t trip over unwanted information." See? Why can't we be cold and distant from our loved ones, like the wonderful wonderful French? I don't know how French people got to be this way either, but if my alphabet had that many silent letters, I'd probably be aloof too. 

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