Andre Glucksmann died recently — his comments about the attacks in Paris would have been most welcome. Paul Berman eulogizes him here. One great thinker writing about another — you cannot go wrong.
There isn’t much to say about what happened Friday, only ten months after the Charlie Hebdo massacre. When the horrors began unfolding on Friday, I wondered how long it would take for the “but brigade” to start blathering. I knew they’d need a little more time to find a way to blame people who were simply out for dinner or at a concert or soccer match than they needed to blame cartoonists and writers, but I had faith that people that stupid would still find a way. And yes, the bleating about France’s foreign policy and all the usual drivel has begun. I am even related to someone who thinks this might have been a false flag operation — mind you, this is the same person who thinks 9-11 might have been one, and who has the usual attitudes about Jews…er, Israel.
It’s utterly awful. I will leave you with three links — first, the brilliant Niall Ferguson, whose message isn’t exactly full of promise, but whose message should be taken seriously (btw, this link appears to be behind a subscribers’ wall — see if you can find it elsewhere if you can’t get the whole thing here). I wonder if it is too late for the West. We have, in a way, allowed this to happen, as Ferguson points out in the afore-linked article and one does wonder how free societies can defend themselves against nihilism.
Second link is from the also brilliant Mark Steyn. I am not sure I agree with all of his conclusions, but he is spot-on that we need to target ideology and “the self-segregation” that goes on in our own countries. And I definitely agree when he suggests we “screw the candlelight vigil.”
Third link is from the not-brilliant me — my Charlie Hebdo piece from January, which tackles some of these issues.
And finally, I shall leave you, for now, with this very lovely version of L a Marseillaise.
I have visited France twice in the last year. Those visits came after an absence of 22 years on my part, my last visit having been in 1992, though I had lived, studied and worked in Paris for five years previously (i.e., 1986-1991). I always stayed abreast of French politics, though, and kept my language levels up, and stayed in touch with friends living in Paris and Lyon.
So what was the first thing that struck me in November, 2014, when I got off the plane at Orly? Well, given that I had been in Italy for a couple of months, it struck me that it seemed I had landed in a Protestant country where everyone was whispering and everything was super well-organized. Everything is also relative, of course. And once I adjusted from my “Italian voices/Italian ways” settings, what struck me was how incredibly popular Starbucks had become.
When the first Starbucks opened in France (in Paris) over a decade ago, the doomsayers were out en force, promising an early death. And while Starbucks follows a rocky economic path in Europe, what I saw in Paris indicated that at least with a youthful demographic, it is extremely popular. First of all, most all Starbucks in Paris are often, if not always, bustling…with younger people and yes, some foreigners. For us, there is that sense of familiarity and, of course, the free wifi. Free wifi is more common in France now, but still nothing like in North America.
The crowds (and at certain Starbucks I do mean crowds) of people I saw in Parisian Starbucks were mostly French young people — under 30-year-olds — and in the after-school hours, under 20-year-olds. I think younger French people like feeling cool, like the celebrities they see carrying Starbucks cups on TV and in movies. At some locations the lineups tried one’s patience.
And some locations were right on the much-vaunted Places – the parts of the city where four or five main streets meet and one can find restaurants on almost each corner. When I lived in Paris those spots were always taken by the classic French brasseries with their red awnings, their steak frites and their omelettes or Croque Monsieurs. Now one can get a pricey Starbucks coffee or pastry (as in North America, it ain’t cheap), slightly changed in flavour or name to accommodate the locals.
I may be reading too much into all of this, but I think it is positive and another indication that the French are becoming less parochial. I think it kind of goes hand in hand with something else I noticed both during my last two visits and also from watching a lot of French news in the past decade or so. What I noticed is this: far more integrated French people of Maghrebin background; integrated into jobs where one would not have seen them, say, 25 years ago. For example, news anchors. That might sound silly, but I remember when I came back to Canada in 1991 after five years in France, I found it odd to see so much diversity on news shows. Now one sees that in France.
In fact, when Dominique Strauss-Kahn was arrested in the States a few years ago, I made a point of watching French news and what was interesting to me was how many correspondents had Arab last names. It was a refreshing change. One also sees far more French people of North African/Arab/South Asian origin in politics and law, in academia and so forth. Far from being oppressed (as the apologists for the Charlie Hebdo massacre would have you believe), Muslims in France are at home.
I am not convinced Jews are, unfortunately, but that is for another post.
Oh, and on the matter of Starbucks in France, I just found this article.
Happy Bastille Day, French people!
I am very proud of self, because I managed to do a nearly five-week trip in France and Italy with only a carry-on bag! It is what Rick Steves recommends, and he is right. It isn’t easy, of course, but once you’ve done it you realize it is the only way to travel.
That said, were I to return to Italy to study for a semester (a possibility in future) I would not be able to manage that. A carry-on bag for three months? I don’t think so. One would end up buying too much and then have to buy a bigger bag with which to return home.
Still, it is terrific to not have to wait at the luggage carousel, and not have to fear losing one’s luggage. Better Half had his bag lost on the trip back, though he did — thank goodness — get it returned six days later. I’ve had my luggage lost twice: once coming back to Canada from Turkey, once coming back from Israel. Both times I got the luggage back, but it taught me to pack light.
Or a wood pigeon. The bird in my previous post, that is (scroll down). I got two answers, one from someone who told me it was a wood pigeon, one who said it was a culver. I looked both up and they are the same bird, but “culver” kind of sounds better, though I have nothing against pigeons. I defend them all the time. (I took many pictures of pigeons in Italy and will post some of those photos later.) All I can say is, the birdie in question had a voice such as I have never heard come out of a street pigeon. But then, it was a French wood pigeon, so maybe that was a reflection of its attitude. At any rate, thanks very much to the two readers who sent in answers. I’m just amazed I have two readers. The internets are marvelous that way.
Don’t laugh if it’s a really dumb question, but what is this UFO? We saw him/her in Paris in late March, outside our little flat, flying about with a buddy. Very large, with a LOUD voice that it was using an awful lot. I’m sorry I couldn’t get a better picture, but it had lovely markings which you can sort of see here. So what birdie is this, dear readers? One of you must know.
I took this picture on Palm Sunday in Paris, a short walk from our little (borrowed) apartment. We had gone for a walk that day and noticed people carrying greenery everywhere — very lovely, though clearly, someone discarded or dropped theirs on the rain-soaked cobblestone. When I was a kid, Palm Sunday was something that made me envy my Catholic classmates. To me, it seemed very meaningful, remembering the crowds waving branches at Jesus when he entered Jerusalem.
We were reminded, by the way, that Notre Dame is an operating church, as we saw crowds even larger than usual leaving it that day, and leaving it with (not sure what kind of) leaves in their hands. I imagine that today, as well, it is packed to the rafters with tourists of all faiths, now all able to say they attended Easter Mass in such a famous place (though between you and me, I prefer Italian churches. Far more beautiful, both outside and inside).
Happy Easter and/or Passover, dear readers.
We spent a few hours wandering around Montparnasse Cemetery yesterday and today — peaceful and yet full of surprises. (I’ll post more pictures on this site later, I hope, but do check my instagram and Twitter feed, as well.) I wanted to post this picture not because I admire these two dead souls — I rather don’t, thinking them to be contenders for two of the top spots in my Gallery of the Overrated — but because I find it so bizarre that there are lipstick marks on the headstone. Yes, those marks are from girls (and maybe guys) slathering on gloss or lipstick and kissing the headstone. Ew! And really, do these two clowns deserve it? I think not. (Still, rest in peace and all that.)
Dear readers, I am in France. Paris. Parigi. My better half (he is here, as well) asked me why I always call it “Frankreich” and it is because when I was a student at the Sorbonne, many moons ago, I had nowhere to be at Christmas one year and a Swiss-German classmate invited me to come to Switzerland with her and stay with her family at Christmas. So I did. And as our train pulled past the French border she screamed out — in contempt — “auf wiedersehen, Frankreich!” I might have forgotten that but for what ensued when we arrived at her family home. “Judgment at Nuremberg” happened to be on TV that first night and when I expressed a desire to watch it — her mother asked me what I wanted to watch — the entire family went bonky and were all, like, oh wow, the war ended over 40 years ago, why do we still have to hear about Jews and how bad they had it?
It was truly creepy. I could not get out of there soon enough, but unfortunately, I had to wait till December 27th. Have never spoken to that girl or her Jew-hating family since. (I had the good manners to send them a thank you note, though.)