Les Filles in Marseilles

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

les filles

bullies always pick on the wrong man



Pace of Protectionism quickens, Economic fallout could be harsh

accompanied by photo of Industry Minister François Loos, looking particularly daffy yet dashing with euro-wirebrush hair, surrounded by three very dour non-descript men. Mixture of private and public officials.

Article detailing recent tide of protectionist schemes. Though the article cites British and American examples of protectionism, Centrica (British gas company) vs. Gazprom (state-owned Russian gas company) and Unocal (US oil company) vs. Cnooc (state-owned Chinese oil company), the article hinges particular on recent French protectionist efforts: the merger of GDF and Suez to prevent a takeover from Italy. This, coupled with the recent EU intervention preventing the takeover of Arcelor (French) by Mittal Steel (Dutch based Indian company), are the central foundations of the article. Though US, Britain and France are all implicated, the focus, as told by the photo, is on the obstinate French attitude. Protectionism given negative slant.

Photo of a young duck being injected
BIRD FLU SHOTS - "A french veterinarian vaccinating a duck against bird flu Monday. Vaccination of thousands of geese and ducks has begun in France."

Page 3
In France, a meal of intolerance. Nationalists assail multiculturalism.
accompanied by picture of a man, "former day laborer who now lives on the streets of Paris," eating a pork soup distributed by far-right groups.
Far right and nationalist soup kitchens distribute pork soup to homeless. They refuse to call their acts discriminatory and have labelled the soup "Identity Soup." "Our freedom is being threatened... If we prefer European civilaztion and Christian culture, that's our choice.... In France there is little tolerance for anything that challenges the republic's egalitarian ideals. But the authorities initially left the pork soup kitchen alone, shutting it down only once to avoid an altercation with a group of indignant French leftists."

Trial opens over Paris bombings
The apparent banker of the Paris Metro bombings of 1995 goes to trial after lengthy extradition trials. Allegations that "Islamist suspects were subjected to torture by interrogators in Paris and Lyon" are currently under investigation. The story ends with "the bloodiest attack, on July 25th, 1995, killed eight people at the Saint Michel Metro station and wounded 150. Two other people were killed in later attacks and scores more were wounded."

Page 4
France starts vaccination of poultry
Vaccination of geese and ducks has begun in Landes in southwest France under fears of the bird flu virus. Two other departments, Loire Atlantique and Vendée have also been opted vaccination but have opted for confinement. The spread of the virus is updated to being unchecked in Nigeria, Indonesia, China and Egypt. The Netherlands is also considering vaccination though Britain is anti-vaccination, believing that it only masks the effects though does little to check the spread.

Page 15
Suez deal poses quandary for French labor
Suez deal with GDF is a subtle and quiet way of privatising yet another state company. From business point of view, it's a shrewd manoeuver. The deal was government brokered and under the guardianship of Dominique de Villepin. A move towards privatisation has always been on the table, but was only made politically feasible with the imminent economic threat from outside the border. "The government is using the Enel [Italian] offer as a Trojan horse."


If I didn't know better I'd say that France was a protectionist racist country which can't protect itself against migrating birds nor the dissolution of its socialist values. Pretty rough day for La France, according to this most venerable paper. Not to say that I have any arguments against the "facts" but, taken together, they do provide quite an unnecessarily alarmist picture of France. My question is was it necessary to highlight all of these stories today? Were they really of urgent international importance? Why is the international version different from the online international section, where more cogent issues like increased tensions between China and Taiwan when Taiwanese president Chen Shui-Bian scrapped the Unification Council, or the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA), a UN agency, new report saying that it has received little to no aid from Iran on its recent nuclear activity and weapons, are highlighted? I somehow feel these issues are much more important that sly threats on protectionism and economic sanctions, nor a surreptitious form of national bullying.

However, will say that that pork soup thing is a bloody huge disgrace and makes me STEAMING MAD! How can food be used as cultural blackmail?! How can anybody use starvation as a weapon for discrimination? Angry against these racist soup kitchen people, not France.

all the pleasure and none of the pain

Sunday, February 26, 2006

The other night I had dinner another neighbourhood restaurant called La Boulangerie (15 r des Panoyaux, 75020). I take it the site was an old bakery, though there's nothing that remains of the original. The floor is rather a quaint rustic french pattern, though hardly the thing one associates with bakeries.

Anyways, we had decided to go there out of Kim's suggestion. She has the most bizarre sense of food I've come across in awhile. On one hand, she swears by kaiseki, only the best bread and rather good scotch, on the other, she's dipping surimi (fake crabmeat) into cheap chinese hot sauce and mayonnaise. Rather reminds me of myself, except that I make no claims to being a gourmet... only gourmande.

Kim's suggestion, though, is a good one. We start with a nice bottle of white (I never remember what I drink because I have no head for Chateaux, dates and whatnots) and pondered the menu. I picked Utah oysters in a beet and horseradish aspic as a starter, Kim seconds the notion, Benoit picks some kind of effiloché (tangle) of fish and potatoes, Leo picks the velouté de l'étrilles (cream of velvet swimming crabs). My oysters are pretty darn happening, though quite standard as far as that kind of thing in a high-class restaurant goes. Benoit's fish is lovely, but it's Leo's soup that skins our teeth. It has that kind of pure essence of sweetness hidden beneath barbed shelled vermin one needs to have in a crab soup. But it also has something more. The sweetness of a crab is lightly mixed with something strangely green in taste which evokes the sea. It is a subtle humming from the past Sirens, and it has us in gushes, oohs and awws.

Aside: Apparently Sirens would drown themselves if they let a boat pass without successfully seducing them. Crabs, as you might know, are necrophiliacs. Which would mean they'd be pretty happy if those Siren things chucked themselves into the water... maybe we were eating crabs that had eaten Sirens... in which case, we'd still be us. But, enough with that crock. On with the show!

Afterwards I settled for a roast duck with honeyed spice bread and salsify. There was a nub of very unattractive yellowing broccoli on my plate which I managed to eat first thing. Definitely points off for letting such aged folk crawl around haphazardly. I'll eat aging broccoli in the comfort of my own home far from prying eyes, the same way I can eat Chef Boyardi when nobody's around to testify. Anyways... that duck was pretty darn good but it was the salsify that made me happy, which, when you think about, speaks a lot for the mediocrity of that duck.

Benoit had the most atrocious and ostentatious dish on the menu, a brazenly enormous chunk of pork gratineed with parmesan and served with some kind of risotto and sauced with parmesan!!! Horrific on paper, tasty on the plate. Only he could have ordered it. Anything with meat and cheese and the man hops down the aisles in ecstasy. It was a little unconvincing, though, when he winked a little too saucily at the girls while downing his heart attack special.

At this point I'm pretty liquored up already. We're into our fourth bottle of something else... I push myself into picking a dessert and such is my state of satedness that I don't even bother to touch anyone else's plate. In truth that's a bit of a lie because if I didn't taste anyone else's plate it was because my dessert was the best of all. I had a minute du chocolat served with lavender sorbet sided with some pickled orange peel. Hah! You can guess what it tastes like. I just know I pushed out my belly quite unselfconsciously for the rest of the evening and rolled my eyes around like a cartoon raven after it gets knocked out.

To properly end this kind of tale, something bad must happen. People always like the epitaph to be either winning, after a losing tale, or losing, after a winning tale. In this case, I'll just tell you that moving between metro lines the other day, I noticed a man at the head of the stairs, looking down rather curiously at a woman midway. He seemed concerned. The woman, herself, was clothed in an expensive black wool coat, almost to her ankles. Her whole body was hunched towards the wall so I was unable to see her face. Halfway down I heard the unmistakable sound of someone retching violently, and, before the smell could reach my nose, I ran fast and far away.

That should help everyone with their diet.

Par for the Course

Sunday, February 12, 2006

I hadn’t kept in touch with anyone from high school, thus it was with some surprise that I learnt recently that an old classmate of mine was involved with music through a rather prosaic message from my old bandmates. I googled his name, came up with his website and subsequently his email address. We made contact.

What followed was a quiet kind of correspondence. Polite and warm. During these emails I managed to convey the fact I now live in Paris and he told me how occasionally he would have the chance to tour in Europe and would most probably drop by to play a show. A couple of months ago, in a group email, I found out that he was playing at Instants Chavirés, a concert hall in Montreuil.

Last night was that show. I managed to drag a bunch of my drunken friends over, but really, it was for my pleasure alone. He plays guitar in a style quite close to John Fahey and it was a real delight to hear someone make a certain elegant form out of one sole acoustic guitar. Really, an undeniable pleasure. Both of us had plans afterwards so we agreed to meet up today.

What I remember about Harris: his exploding hair, his burnt Milli Vanilli tape, slamming each other into our lockers (I think we once had a locker side by side), and that I shared creative writing class with him. Harris was a bundle of energy, played in a punk outfit called Mudfish, and frankly, that’s about all I remember.

So there he was again, my high school friend, playing in front of an audience in Paris, playing well enough to cast a spell over the crowd, and looking almost exactly the same as how I remembered him. He hasn’t really changed physically.

He came over this afternoon, just as I popped out of the shower, and we had some tea to nurse our hangovers.

And that’s when we started to really talk… what we did after high school, what choices we made, how we saw people around us change, what it was like to be and work as an artist, to be and work as people, opinions, ideas, a lot of interesting parallels. Before leaving I broached the subject as to when we would realise we were adults. He said, “I think you just wake up one day in the morning, look in the mirror and realise things have changed.” For example, one day, if I had a cleaning lady and a job that required me to wear a suit, I would just look in the mirror and realise something had changed.

But we weren’t really talking about becoming adults. We are adults. We were talking about a certain freedom of spirit, a certain hope, that hasn’t yet perished. I thought to myself, well, if I’ve managed to hold onto this spirit into my thirties, it can’t be all that bad. And, I do feel like a certain line has been crossed, that I like, that keeps me away from the dullness of eyes. It’s strange to recognize in someone else, to see the same curiousness and sensitivity in someone else’s eyes that you recognize as youth.

As we walked out the light was a changing blue, right before the sun drops out. I thought to myself, as we walked down the alleyway, what could happen in the next fourteen years since these last fourteen have passed in a wink of an eye. Perhaps the sensation of compression in time is what is most striking in our encounter since neither of us has seen each other in such a long time. And yet, walking down these steps, I thought to myself, how lucky we both are, to have gone through a certain phase, parallel in fact, and come out fairly intact. And who would have guessed, fourteen years later, that he would be the only one I would be in contact with, that I would feel kindred with. How wonderful in fact.

Open Gaz de France

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Another tennis post. I spent all day yesterday inside a tennis court, watching the quarterfinals for the Paris Open Gaz tournament. The semi-final match-ups were as follows: Patty Schnyder vs. Elena Dementieva; Tatiana Golovin vs. Nadia Petrova; Mary Pierce vs. Emilie Loit; Amelie Mauresmo vs. Dinara Safina.

We got there for the end of the first match, which Schnyder won handily. It was amazing to see Dementieva up close since one never really imagines how muscular these girls really are. Dementieva's legs were a lot more muscular than I imagined and she had such an athletic style of walking... They really are like Amazon women.

Tatiana Golovin

Golovin was pretty in her little Lacoste dress, and really pushed back the feisty temperamental Petrova. Petrova could probably be in the top five if she didn't auto-destruct everytime she plays a bad point. The girl certainly has a gorgeous top-spin forehand.

happy pierce
Mary Pierce

Mary's game, up close and in real, is a lot more powerful than on television. She catches the balls early and tends to slam them from corner to corner. Though she was aggressive and powerful, I would have to say the most impressive thing about Mary is her new-found love of the game. She laughs, she smiles... she's a joy to watch and such a competitor. Really... lovely.

The crowd as Amelie came out.

Of course everyone was really waiting for the new Australian Open Champion, Amelie Mauresmo.

amelie signing autographs
Australian Open Champion 2006

Amelie Mauresmo is certainly looking very calm and relaxed. We called her the concrete wall because she seems to get everything back. Her shot-making and baseline control, the consistent depth in her baseline shots is very very remarkable, make her a bit the Ivan Lendl/Thomas Muster of her generation. However, nice to see a player that happy and confident, especially after so many years of unease and nerves. The tournament looks like it hers for the taking.

amelie swinging away

Tickets for this tournament, from Thursday to Sunday, were sold out in advance, which I guess is no small testament to the type of appreciation Mauresmo's Aussie win generated.


Thursday, February 09, 2006

Last night I was with Kim and we were talking about friendship. I don’t think I need people but, if that were really true, I wouldn’t feel so disappointed when they move off to Barcelona without a heads up. True, Voin is a kind of European gypsy but none of us expected his New Year’s vagabonding to extend to a permanent retreat.

Kim, however, didn’t seem to care. She said:

-I can’t be disappointed because I don’t really care. If someone wants to see me, they can phone me up... Well, it’s just that I don’t need anyone. I don’t need to be with anyone and I get bored so easily.

This is rather a shocking thing to hear from someone you’re feel quite close to, who you are spending an entire evening with…just joking around, gossiping, sharing a wine bottle, telling old stories and then playing online word games for three hours straight. I mean, I think I understand her quite well. And, in understanding her, I take liberties with her text and make my own interpretation.

She doesn’t think friendship is an obligation. Friendship is just for pleasure. It’s not an obligation and one doesn’t need to maintain bonds when one feels the relationship not longer has worth; friendship is the voluntary choice by two people to share something.

It’s kind of beautiful and light when I think about it… especially when I’m alone.

piece 2

I shook and trembled.

I nervously laughed at the immigration officer when she cautioned me about renewing my passport. I laughed at the light fixtures too. Then I went home and laughed even more at the stuck sink. Finally, sitting by myself at the cafe, waiting for the curators to show up, I laughed out loud at the feeble loveplay of a couple I was eavesdropping on.

Then the curators showed up and I was forced to show them the piece.

I went to the bathroom.

I tried to rinse a wine spot off my cashmere cardigan and made a right pimple out of it.

I went back and the two were sitting and grinning. We talked a bit about the piece and I feel vaguely relieved, though I think one of them is starting to catch on that I'm a bit of a punk with my work, and not at all "serieuse." Actually, she's wrong. I'm dead serious. I'm dead serious at saying what I want to say and how I want to say it. I just can't say it any other way.

Oh god... I'm hopeless.

Finnish popsicles are made in France

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Last night, I took the evening off from what has been a ferocious stretch of work. My finnish ex-roommate is in town and last night he and his brother popped over. In true finnish fashion we polished off two bottles of vodka, one lemon, one can of Israeli salted cucumbers, plus our brains. At around midnight, we went for a vodka run but my two six-foot plus bodyguards didn't make it all the way to the store. The had to go back to my place because they were frozen! How absurd. This from the guy who's going to Antarctica to write a book.... Somehow I'm starting to doubt all those naked icy-lake sauna stories.

I passed the line of screamage

Monday, February 06, 2006

At this moment, I'm watching the Superbowl at home. That's right. At home. I can't believe France 2 is showing the Superbowl on television, that I have to watch it by myself, minus screaming friends and other people who know the sport, listening to french commentary, and staying up to ungodly hours of the night. First of all, let me be the first to say that I find it very strange that France's national channel has decided to show the Superbowl. I mean, there's no American football in France to speak of. Even my husband, a sports freak, has no idea about the rules. But, hey, I'm not complaining, even after every french celebrity who shows up says he likes "baseball... oh no... football... yeah I know all the rules," or "yeah, I like football but I prefer NBAhhh" or "Of course it's should be a touchdown. It's better when there's more points on the board."

The whole experience reminds me of this summer in Toronto when I followed the Tour de France. I woke up early to listen to watch it on television. The television commentary was done by Aussie halfwits who spent half the time yelling about Lance, and the other half of the time explaining the sport of cycling. This time round, in Paris, the french television commentary is most idiotic and it's all Jerome Bettis and no one else. Last year, listening to Brady thunder home the Patriots on live American internet radio, I didn't need to suffer through the abcs of football explained to me and the frenchifying of the rules. "Est-ce qu'il a passé ze line of screamage?" I have.

And dang those Stones are dinosaurs.

That should make up for the shitty Penguins.

Gone With The Wind

Thursday, February 02, 2006

I have a major work (as in job) assignment deadline peeking over my shoulder, and, it is in this, my darkest hour, that I have finally come to grips with the power of my own creativity. Nobody else I know could pick reading Gone With The Wind as a procrastination strategy. Perhaps is the problem with working from home. With no fixed hours, and a grudging acceptation that my best work often comes after 10 in the evening, I have resigned myself to waking up exceedingly late and spending all 18 waking hours in front of the computer.... unless of course I go out in the evening... in which case I just blow chunks all over the whole stinking day!

It always starts diligently enough. I wake up, check my email, make some tea, fix something to munch on, watch the lunchtime news, and then proceed to usual fixes (blogs, sports, newspapers) before eventually moving onto more unsalient options: games.com to play Boggle online; chat; ebay; oc forums... By the time the panic sets in, it's time for dinner. At which point I fix myself dinner, eat it, write something (boring and idiotic) on my blog, and perhaps listen to music. At around 10, something clicks and I finally get to work. If we were to count it, I spend about 10 hours a day procrastinating.

This already irksome fact has further taken a strange turn. I spent all last night, from around midnight to 11 this morning reading Gone With The Wind. I don't know why. It's just such a trap because this is a helluva hard book to put down. This afternoon, bleary eyed, I spent two and half hours crying over my incredible feat of procrastination, in a fit of self-hate.

I have to admit I'm not usually this lazy. I mean, I never miss deadlines and I do a fairly good job. But, with Benoit being away, and not having anyone to around to whip my ass into shape, coupled with the multiple dinner/drink invitations I didn't refuse, this project is starting to damn well scare me. Will I be able to finish it? I hope so, I think so, but, if there's one thing I disagree on with Scarlett, tomorrow is not another day... Right now it's more like Groudhog's Day (film). What is happening to my sense of time?

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Nam June Paik is dead. Crap.