Thursday, October 29, 2009

DP Oct 29: All-in-one

Read letters HERE

Dear Prudence,

I'm a recent graduate of a prestigious PhD program at a prestigious Ivy League school. I saw all these undergrads I had to TA who seemed really at ease with all the social graces, and now that I've got my first job and my first real grown-up apartment, I'm trying to show off the things I learned by imitating a bunch of privileged wankers.

The thing is, my degree was in the humanities, so my first grown-up apartment is barely bigger than my study carrel in the library back at grad school. I'm about to have my first dinner party (no paper or plastic for the first time!), and need to decide whom to invite.

There's my birth mother, who's recently come back into my life. My birth mother was a drunken whore who neglected me for the first five years of my life. I was fortunate enough to be adopted by a wonderful couple, who gave me a lot of love and a great education. I know they're very proud of my achievements, as they're always going on about their daughter the PhD, who they rescued from a life of poverty, neglect, and fetal alcohol syndrome (although they do sometimes say that if my birth mother hadn't been a drunk, I might have become a real doctor… although if my birth mother hadn't been a drunk, they would never have been able to adopt me, so that's neither here nor there, is it?).

My birth mother has been sober for a whole six months, and is keen to catch up on our missing 25 years. She's been treating me to a series of lunches and dinners, during which I have to give a recap of a year in my life. At every meal we've had together, she rolls a pair of D&D dice to determine the year I will recap. While I don't mind this so much, I really don't think my very first grown-up dinner party should be the place for another year-in-review.

I also think I should invite my adoptive parents. They did their best to be very modern about my adoption, and kept taking me on visits to my birth mother and her crazy family until I was 12, when I finally put my foot down and told them I didn't want to do that anymore. I didn't mind visiting my biological family that much: they were a refreshing change from my very PC, very regimented, very straightlaced adoptive family. But I just couldn't bear the sighs from my adoptive parents for days after our visits, all focused on how lucky I was to be taken from such a dreadful environment. My adoptive parents haven't seen my birth mother for over 10 years, and I don't think they'll appreciate the fact that birth mother has cleaned up her act, depriving them of the satisfaction of knowing they're better human beings than my birth mother.

Then there's my boyfriend. He's perfect in every way, except that he enjoys stabbing me with red-hot knives. He says that I must enjoy it, because I make exactly the same screams when he pokes me the knives as when he pokes me with his cock. The argument does seem strong, but I'm thinking that I've just about had enough of his impromptu cauterizations.

I also want to invite some grad school pals, as well as some of my new colleagues. I can just about squeeze everybody in, but at least one person has to go.

So my question to you, Dear Prudence, is:

Should I just wait for my birth mother to show up and borrow her dice to determine who needs to be instantly disinvited?


Not Julia, Not Julie, Just Juliette

No one wants to be seen as a Parisian

Marc explains the news from France

Read the story HERE

Some background: in France, license plates identify your car, but have nothing to do with payment of tax. You can buy the physical license plate anywhere you want (often you'll get them from your car dealership or from a key-making shop).

An annual tax was imposed many years ago, with the aim of financing programs for the elderly. Of course, none of this money was given to the elderly, and it simply became a revenue source for the départements.

A few years ago, in one of the delightful pranks played by the national government on local governments, the central government simply eliminated the car tax, obliging the départements to raise property taxes and professional taxes to compensate. This same sort of prank is being repeated this year, with the professional tax being eliminated on order of the central government, but without any financial compensation to local governments.

Because proceeds from the car tax never actually went to the elderly, and had been eliminated anyway, when the right-wing wanted to make the French people feel guilty for having neglected the elderly during the recent heat wave that brought a few thousand seniors to an early death, the central government imposed a new payroll tax on employers, corresponding to a day's wages. Employers were authorized to make up for this tax by making their employees work for one day without pay. That has proven to be a fiasco, but the tax remains. No one knows is the money collected is actually going to help the elderly, but history leads us to believe that it's not (not when there are 250,000-euro showers to install for Nicolas Sarkozy).

Anyway… licence plate numbers used to be attributed to one owner for one car by the prefecture (the central government office in each department). When you sold the car, the new owner had to get a new number and have a new plate made up. The code number of your département was part of the licence plate number, and served as handy identification for the origin of the car owner. Those bearing a 75 for Paris were treated to insults ("Parigot, tête de veau, Parisien, tête de chien" was particularly popular). A popular département was 54, because that provincial département had a particularly low car tax, and was used by rental car companies for registering their vehicles (like US credit card firms being based in SD or DE). Once the car tax was eliminated, this practice ended, and the code 54 as the "mark of the tourist" disappeared.

Last year a reform was introduced to associate the license plate number with the car, not the owner. Thus, a car would have the same license plate number throughout its lifetime, and whatever the location of the owner. A single national registry was created, eliminating a role for a département number on plates.

This caused a furore among local politicians. The département as an administrative unit is under constant attack, with the conventional wisdom being that France has too many administrative units, with regions that are too small and too weak (the German Laender are the only reference in this debate). So the officials from the départements were furious that their code numbers would no longer appear on plates. After months of lamentation, the following compromise was reached: owners would have the option of adding a regional emblem and the code number of département (as long as the département was within the region shown). This is totally symbolic, non obligatory, and a major wankdoodle.

Now, to our story. New cars are being registered under the new system, and used cars will soon be subject to it too. And new car dealers are observing that many Parisians are refusing to use the 75 code on their car. They prefer to show the region from which they and their family come. This is part of a great tradition of refusal of Paris from Provincials. They may have to come to the capital for their studies or their career, but they dream of going home. Young postal workers and teachers are exiled to Paris, dreaming of the day when they have enough seniority to request a transfer "back home". Life-long Parisians prefer to register to vote in the village of their country house, despite the fact that they often miss out on an election (there are no absentee ballots in France). And so, Parisians can now pretend that their cars are really from back home.

Even worse is the case of the northeastern suburbs of Paris, the département of the Seine-St-Denis. Their code number 93 has shown the greatest decline in use, with a strong movement to replace it with the code from the West Indian départements from which many suburbanites come. Others prefer a 75 plate, hoping that will lead to fewer traffic stops by the police.

The codes showing the greatest growth are for Corsica and Brittany. For Corsicans, it is a sort of cheap activism. And for Parisians, having the code of the place where you have your vacation home is a good way of appearing more like a local, and less like a target for vandalism or terrorism.

DP 29 Oct: One-by-one

Read letters HERE<
LW1: First sign of a problem; guy is merely "great", not "wonderful". Clearly he's not up to snuff. The advice is fine: DTMFA. This guy is a dolt at best, an abuser at worst. For me, I call this assault, and if he ever tries it again, I'd call the cops. (That said, I did learn not to be ticklish. It was a great advantage in my relationship with my sibling.)

LW2: No comment. But I do give the mother the benefit of the doubt, and will assume this is a clumsy but sincere way for her to try to make up for the harm she caused.

LW3: Please. Couples are invited together socially, and the dinner party is the most social of occasions. If you managed grad school, you should be able to figure out that if 10 guests is your limit, you invite 5 couples. And then you do it again with 5 others. And then again, mixing and matching, bringing in new people to your social circle. And you include your single friends, and even try to invite someone they might like to meet in the hopes of fixing them up. That's what grown-ups do.

LW4: Ah, "wonderful" AND "amazing". But it's a daughter, not a BF/husband, so I'm not sure what to make of that. This sensitive woman is really kind of stupid and insensitive, it seems to me. Her daughter has given her the clearest possible message that she doesn't want to deal with these people now, yet you seriously consider imposing them on her? She didn't choose her birth family, she didn't choose her adoptive family, but she can choose the family whose life she wants to be a part of. Just be happy thatit's yours.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

PepsiCo judgment

From the National Law Journal. My comments at the end.

Price to PepsiCo for Not Being in Court: $1.26 Billion

What's the cost of not showing up to court? For PepsiCo Inc., it's a $1.26 billion default judgment. A Wisconsin state court socked the company with the monster award in a case alleging that PepsiCo stole the idea to bottle and sell purified water from two Wisconsin men.

Now the company is scrambling to salvage the situation. The damages award was handed down on Sept. 30. PepsiCo filed motions to vacate the order and dismiss the claims on Oct. 13, saying it wasn't even aware of the lawsuit until Oct. 6.

The litigation began in April when Charles Joyce and James Voigt sued the soft drink maker and two of its distributors, alleging they had misappropriated trade secrets from confidential discussions the plaintiffs had with the distributors in 1981 about selling purified water. The information was illicitly passed to PepsiCo, which used it to develop and sell Aquafina bottled water, the plaintiffs allege in the case filed in the Circuit Court of Jefferson County before Judge Jacqueline Erwin.

In court documents, PepsiCo argues it was improperly served with the Wisconsin lawsuit in North Carolina, but also asks the court to excuse the corporate bureaucracy that buried a legal document for weeks. While plaintiffs say they served the lawsuit in June on PepsiCo's registered agent in North Carolina, where the company is incorporated, PepsiCo says its law department at the company's Purchase, N.Y.-based headquarters was not notified until September.

"The bottom line is there was a defect in the process for us, but also for" the plaintiffs, said PepsiCo spokesman Joe Jacuzzi, who called the case "highly dubious."

Robert Roth, a lawyer for PepsiCo at Menomonee, Wis.-based Niebler, Pyzyk, Roth & Carrig, couldn't be reached for comment. Another lawyer for PepsiCo, Dean Panos, a partner at Chicago-based Jenner & Block, declined to comment.

In court papers, PepsiCo claims it first received a legal document related to the case from the North Carolina agent on Sept. 15 when a copy of a co-defendant's letter was forwarded to Deputy General Counsel Tom Tamoney in PepsiCo's law department. Tamoney's secretary, Kathy Henry, put the letter aside and didn't tell anyone about it because she was "so busy preparing for a board meeting," PepsiCo said in its Oct. 13 motion to vacate.

When Henry received a forwarded copy of the plaintiff's motion for default judgment on Oct. 5, she sent that to Yvonne Mazza, a legal assistant for Aquafina matters. Remembering that she still had the other document, Henry passed it to Mazza too. The next day Mazza sent the documents to David Wexler, a department attorney, and he "immediately" called the agent to get a copy of the complaint.

Lawyers for PepsiCo distributors Wis-Pak Inc. and Carolina Canners Inc. made court appearances in June and July. PepsiCo was at a loss to explain why it hadn't heard about the case from them. "It's just another unfortunate thing that didn't come together," Jacuzzi said.

In seeking to dismiss the case, PepsiCo argues that the statute of limitations should preclude the lawsuit, brought 15 years after the company started selling Aquafina and more than two decades after the alleged confidential talks. Moreover, "the $1.26 billion judgment that has been entered is unprecedented in size and justice requires that PepsiCo have a chance to defend itself," the company said.

The lead plaintiffs lawyer, David Van Dyke of Chicago-based Cassiday Schade, said Wisconsin courts have been "pretty clear that they don't like" vacating default judgments. "There is a possibly that a judge may say we're going to litigate the damages aspect of it," Van Dyke said.

A hearing is scheduled for Nov. 6.


PepsiCo argues it was improperly served with the Wisconsin lawsuit in North Carolina, but also asks the court to excuse the corporate bureaucracy that buried a legal document for weeks. While plaintiffs say they served the lawsuit in June on PepsiCo's registered agent in North Carolina, where the company is incorporated, PepsiCo says its law department at the company's Purchase, N.Y.-based headquarters was not notified until September.

Is this the fault of the plaintiffs? No. And just why is PepsiCo headquartered in New York, but incorporated in North Carolina? Might it be for tax avoidance? If so: tough shit, Pepsi.

The information was illicitly passed to PepsiCo, which used it to develop and sell Aquafina bottled water, the plaintiffs allege in the case filed in the Circuit Court of Jefferson County before Judge Jacqueline Erwin.

This actually sounds perfectly plausible.

"The bottom line is there was a defect in the process for us, but also for" the plaintiffs, said PepsiCo spokesman Joe Jacuzzi, who called the case "highly dubious."

Sorry, but if you're named "Joe Jacuzzi", you're in no position to call anything dubious.

In court papers, PepsiCo claims it first received a legal document related to the case from the North Carolina agent on Sept. 15 when a copy of a co-defendant's letter was forwarded to Deputy General Counsel Tom Tamoney in PepsiCo's law department. Tamoney's secretary, Kathy Henry, put the letter aside and didn't tell anyone about it because she was "so busy preparing for a board meeting," PepsiCo said in its Oct. 13 motion to vacate.

Yes, this too is plausible. But maybe you "right-sized" a little too far, Pepsico?

Lawyers for PepsiCo distributors Wis-Pak Inc. and Carolina Canners Inc. made court appearances in June and July. PepsiCo was at a loss to explain why it hadn't heard about the case from them. "It's just another unfortunate thing that didn't come together," Jacuzzi said.

Ummm... lawyers for your distributors didn't contact you directly to discuss a case where you were jointly cited? Puh-leeze.

In seeking to dismiss the case, PepsiCo argues that the statute of limitations should preclude the lawsuit, brought 15 years after the company started selling Aquafina and more than two decades after the alleged confidential talks.

That sounds like a good argument. For you to HAVE MADE IN COURT.

Moreover, "the $1.26 billion judgment that has been entered is unprecedented in size and justice requires that PepsiCo have a chance to defend itself," the company said.

Well, you have been selling a lot of very expensive tap water, dudes.

The 250,000-euro shower (that was never used)

Marc explains the news from France.

Read the story HERE.

Until the Lisbon Treaty comes into effect, European Union countries take turns presiding the EU, with a new country taking over every six months. A report from the Cour des Comptes (think General Accounting/Government Accountability Office) to the Senate criticizes the extraordinarily high cost of the recent French presidency, where our belovèd President Nicolas the Short blew the bank.

The cost of the 6-month presidency? 175 million euros, over twice the price of any previous presidency in France or elsewhere in the EU. Sarkozy spent an additional 16 million on the Mediterranean Union summit (the MU is his "brainchild"), where the dinner cost over 5000 euros per person, and the installation of a shower for Sarkozy's exclusive use (and which he never used) cost 250,000 euros.

And the crap logo supposedly designed by Philippe Starck for the sum of 57,000 euros...

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The "inhabitants" of the Fréjus quarter are unhappy

Notice how they're all young men? Where are the indignant women?

Pauvre "importateur" d'Halloween en France

Marc explains the news from France.

Read the article from Le Parisien below.

(And more about Halloween in France HERE)

So there's this guy who "discovered" Halloween in the the early 1990s, and had the great idea of registering "Halloween" as a trademark in France (this would be illegal now, I think, under UE intellectual property law).

And for a while, thanks to heavy promotion, Halloween, previously mostly a holiday for the Anglo-Americans in France, (sort of) took off. Trick or treating was attempted, but it's hard to get enthusiastic about begging for candy when most people aren't prepared to give you any. And is there really a demand for jack-o'lantern cakes from the bakery? The Catholic church got into the act, condemning this foreign devil's holiday, when we all know that Halloween is just the prelude to All Saints Day, a public holiday in France, and the trigger for a 10-day school vacation that allows children and teachers to make it to Christmas intact.

According to the "importer" of Halloween, it was the Iraq war that killed off any hopes for Halloween in France. The US Congress decided they weren't going to eat any French fries, and the French nation decided they could live without an American holiday. The fact that it was a totally artificial marketing ploy, of course had nothing to do with this reaction.

The guy's hoping that a post-recession Obama regime will lead to a rebirth of Halloween in France.

Good luck... but don't you dare ring my doorbell, kids!


M. Halloween a laissé tomber les citrouilles

RAPPEL DES FAITS. Il a importé dans notre pays la fête anglo-saxonne des sorcières et des citrouilles chaque 31 octobre. En 1995, Philippe Cahen dépose la marque Halloween en France de retour d’un voyage à New York, et la décline en guirlandes et bonbons. Aujourd’hui, le phénomène est moribond dans l’Hexagone.

Quatre ans déjà que les citrouilles ne lui rapportent plus d’oseille. En 2005, il a fermé son entreprise de conseil et d’exploitation de brevets industriels, propriétaire de la marque Halloween.

« Le brevet n’a pas survécu à l’abandon de la société. Personne ne l’a racheté. Depuis, je ne tire plus aucun revenu de cette fête. Il ne me reste plus que le grand plaisir égoïste d’avoir senti venir les choses. Grâce à Halloween, j’ai eu mon quart d’heure de célébrité, comme dirait Andy Warhol », résume-t-il.

Ce Géo Trouvetou jure que les royalties Halloween ne l’ont pas enrichi. « J’ai investi, sans grand succès, les bénéfices dans d’autres brevets, notamment de jouets, et en particulier une boîte mystérieuse », confie-t-il.

Aujourd’hui, l’expert âgé de 59 ans, qui signe encore parfois ses courriels d’un nostalgique « Cordialloween », est un « prospectiviste indépendant ». « Je fais de la prospective à l’horizon 2020-2030 pour le compte de grandes entreprises », explique-t-il. Il s’intéresse par exemple à la voiture d’après-demain.

En ce moment, il se pose une question qui fait trembler les vendeurs de masques de Dracula : « Halloween va-t-il ressusciter ? » « Ce qui a tué cette fête en France, c’est le développement du sentiment antiaméricain, anti-Bush au moment de la guerre en Irak, en 2003. Avec Obama, ça change. En outre, après la sortie de crise, les Français vont avoir envie de refaire la fête. Dans deux ans, ça pourrait repartir », espère-t-il…

Monday, October 26, 2009

QCM (que de clichés mornes)

Du Télégramme :

Dimanche après-midi,
a) un jeune homme
b) un homme mur
c) une jeune femme
du quartier de La Gabelle, à Fréjus, s'est tué
a) à moto.
b) en voiture.
c) à cheval.

a) 20 ans,
b) 40 ans,
c) 60 ans,
selon Var Matin, aurait tenté
a) d'échapper à un contrôle de police.
b) d'éviter d'écraser un petit lapin.
c) d'amener une femme en train d'accoucher à la maternité.

Il aurait percuté un arbre dans sa fuite.

La nouvelle de ce décès a entraîné
a) une montée de violence dans le quartier.
b) une prise de conscience des risques de la moto.
c) un soulagement du fait que personne d'autre n'ait été blessé.

a) Des vitrines ont été cassées et des poubelles brûlées.
b) Une collecte de fonds pour la famille du défunt a eu lieu.
c) Les jeunes sont restés chez eux pour réviser avant leurs examens.
Ainsi que "des engins du chantier de rénovation de la cité", indique la préfecture, citée par Le Parisien.

a) Il n'y aurait eu aucun contact entre le deux roues et les véhicules de police,
b) La voiture de police aurait volontairement renversé la moto,
c) Les policiers auraient descendu le motocycliste grâce aux tireurs d'élite,
toujours selon la préfecture.

(On apprendra aussi que la moto n'était pas immatriculée, et son usage était interdit sur la voie publique.)


Guess what? You cancel a stupid football match that attracts stupid hooligans and you do it only 7 hours before the start of the match and you get a bunch of hooligans with nothing better to do than to hooliganize. 

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Equality in the board room: Copé's a dipshit

Marc explains the news from France

The story HERE.

Jean-François Copé, near the top of anybody's list of the politician they would like to slap, has just proposed a bill to ensure that at least 40% of a public company's board members be female. He cites Norway as a model. That's probably a very good model, but he neglects to note that Norway also has a very good record for equality in politics, which is not the case in France.

Copé is the head of the majority in the French National Assembly. His party, the UMP, and its predecessor the RPR, were dragged kicking and screaming to gender parity in politics when such laws were enacted under Socialist governments.

These laws have been somewhat effective. They apply to all elections which take place by list of candidates. In such elections, male and female candidates must alternate. Men tend to be at the top of each list, giving them a slight advantage. Incentives to gender parity also apply to legislative elections, by means of financial penalties for parties that do not present 50% of each sex nationally. Here, women tend to be assigned to seats that the party knows it cannot win, decreasing the presence of women in the National Assembly. Some parties (including Copé's UMP) simply prefer to pay a fine -- or rather, receive fewer taxpayer subsidies (yes, parties are subsidized by taxpayers in France... it's supposed to decrease corruption: HAH!).

In bodies elected by list, women represent:
48% of members of regional councils
44% of Members of the European Parliament
47% of members of city councils (cities of more than 3500 inhabitants).

In bodies not elected by list, women represent:
10% of members of departmental councils (conseils généraux)
12% of Members of the National Assembly
17% of Senators.

A recent reform of the Senate electoral law will result in a significant drop in women Senators.
As stated above, parties prefer to take a hit on their subsidies than guarantee the presence of female candidates for the National Assembly.
And just a few days ago, Copé's boss, Nicolas Sarkozy, proposed a reform of the regional and departmental councils that would combine the roles of regional and departmental councillor into a single elected official, elected under the rules of the departmental council (single-member constituencies) rather than the regional council (regional party list).

So, for the sake of Monsieur le Député Jean-François Copé, I will translate a famous English saying: "les gens qui habitent des maisons de verre ne devraient pas commencer à lancer des pierres".

DP 22 Oct 2009: All-in-one

Read the original letters HERE

Dear Prudence,

I'm writing to ask for some decorating advice. I know I might be better off writing Martha Stewart or Brini Maxwell, but after seeing the lovely interior of your home in those SlateV letters, I figure you might be a good person to ask.

The problem is this painting. My wonderful boyfriend of 14.5 months is about to move in with me at last. He's something of an artist, and he wants to hang one of his paintings on our bedroom wall. I have a large but open plan home, where even the bathroom is separated only by a net curtain from the rest of the place, so anything hung in the bedroom is visible throughout the apartment.

I have no issues with the artistic qualities of the work, but it happens to be a nude portrait of his only sister. I'm sure this will raise some eyebrows among visitors to my home, especially since his sister and I look remarkably alike, particularly from the neck down. I am reticent to have this work hanging in my home, and have told my boyfriend this. He began by correcting my English, and telling me that I should have said "reluctant" rather than "reticent". You can see how I can't help but be crazy about this guy! He's so smart!

He continued by insisting that his sister was beautiful, and her naked body was something anyone would enjoy seeing. I don't want to be a prude, but I can't help thinking there is something more here than a simple decorating issue. For example, I spend a lot of time with my boyfriend's father. He's quite old and can no longer drive, and I end up running a lot of errands with him. I've appreciated spending time with him, especially because my mother got herself knocked up by this creep who abandoned her, and never managed to find another guy to serve as a father figure for me. So being treated like a daughter by this kindly gentleman has been a great joy for me.

The joy wears a little thin, however, when we go grocery shopping. He enjoys scarfing down anything unpackaged, and says that as long as it's on its way to his duodenum by the time he gets to the checkout, it's free. This is of course quite silly, but I haven't been able to get him to stop. At least, not until last Monday, when security caught him. I was able to explain everything, but when I called my boyfriend's apartment to get him come and post bail, it was his sister who answered, right away. That's kind of important, because the only phone in my boyfriend's place is in his bedroom. When I asked my boyfriend what she was doing there, he said she was helping him pack up the portrait of her he wants to hang in my apartment. And when I asked why they were both panting, he said that they had had to turn it every which way to get in in the packing crate. So you see, he's pretty serious about going through with this.

I think the best solution may be to make it clear that the painting isn't of me by going back to my natural brunette hair color, but my boyfriend, who got me to go blonde in the first place, refuses.

As I see it, my options are:
  • Dump the BF (but I love him so much and he's wonderful in every way except this one)
  • Dye my hair back to brunette (but he says he'll leave me if I do)
  • Have him cut down the painting to remove the head (but he says that would make a travesty of his art)
  • Refuse to hang the painting (but he says if the painting doesn't come, he won't, which means that now that he's given up his lease, he'll have to move in with his sister)
  • Refuse to spring his father the next time he gets caught pilfering, which would allow us to move into his father's spacious and non-open-plan house, where we can hang the painting in a disceet location (I don't really see a "but" here, so this may be the way to go).

I really don't know what to do! Help Prudie!


Lady of a Portrait

Swine flu nixes Paris St Germain-Olympique de Marseille football game: World's smallest pig plays its violin

The match was scheduled for tonight, with some of France's most violent and stupid fans set to face off in the streets of Marseille. Will the "fans" return to Paris, or will they spend the night rioting as planned?

Friday, October 23, 2009

‘Friends’ to be revived as period drama

From the satirical NewsBiscuit website, with my comment below:

ITV has announced a co-production deal with US television channel NBC to revive hit 1990s sitcom Friends as a period drama.

‘We’re delighted to be bringing one of the great love stories to a new generation of viewers,’ said a startlingly young ITV spokeswoman. ‘Sunday night has always been the slot for costume dramas – pedestrian love affairs, social ineptitude, bouffant hairstyles and old-fashioned clothing. Friends has all these ingredients in a charming period setting.’

ITV confirmed that the original cast would all be returning to the revival, which will be set in eighteenth-century Hertfordshire but otherwise use the same scripts and characters as the original. ‘The Beeb has flogged Jane Austen and Charles Dickens to death, so this is pretty much all we have left. It’s so going to be, like, oh – my – God.’

I could see Rachel as a penurious young aristocrat, who flees her home to avoid a loveless arranged marriage designed to restore her family's fortunes. She seeks refuge with old schoolmate Monica, the daughter of a well-off tradesman, who keeps house for her lawyer brother, Ross, and their infirm father. Chandler, who works in the same firm as Ross, is in love with Monica, but needs to prove himself a success before he can dare propose marriage to Monica, who he knows will never leave her infirm father unattended. Will the growing fondness of Ross for their new houseguest solve everyone's problems? Will Rachel be tempted by Joey, the hunky gardener? Will Phoebe, paid companion to a wealthy but tempermental old widow cum catlady ever stop that dreadful singing?

Pro athletes want to protect their tax breaks. Duh.

Marc explains the news from France.

Read the story (among others) HERE.

A few years ago, the French politico-athletic-bizness establishment was in a tizzy because the French football (soccer) clubs couldn't keep up with their foreign competitors during bidding wars. No French team would be able to attact top talent, and French pro teams would be relegated to the bottom of the rankings. An affront to the honor of France!

The solution, as is typical in France, was a tax break. In fact, two tax breaks. The first one actually seems quite reasonable: it allows certain professions to average out their income over several years for the purpose of income tax. For professions with irregular incomes, this seems eminently reasonable, as exceptionally high income one year may put you in a higher tax bracket that doesn't correspond to your real long-term financial status.

The second was more clever. It allows 30% of players' salaries to be considered as payment of "image rights", which are not subject to payroll taxes. Payroll taxes are equivalent to more than 50% of take-home pay, so by removing 30% of pay from the tax base for payroll taxes, pro clubs saved a great deal of money, and players had more cash in hand.

Now, the country is in debt (even more than usual), and it's time to create new taxes (or new taxes on taxes, a French specialty), or to remove or limit tax breaks. Well, if you listen to the clubs and the French Football Federation (FFF, for Fuck, Fuck, Fuck), eliminating these tax breaks means the end of professional football in France.

No more OM? No more PSG? Bon débarras !

Thursday, October 22, 2009

DP 22 Oct 2009: One-by-one

Read the letters HERE.

LW1: I'm guessing Prudie's been reading too much mythology. But the advice remains sound. If fiancé can't deal with a not-unreasonable question, then he's too crazy to marry.

LW2: You live in a studio apartment? If not, what's so bad about the bedroom? And if that's not possible, just hang that "beautiful" artwork and get on with it. There are people who spend good money on "conversation pieces", and here you've got a doozy for free. (Is Top Chef still on the air? You would never know it here in France, where they're just rebroadcasting season 2 for the fourth time. Guess what: I still hate Ilan. And despise Elya. And hope Cliff is rotting in jail. And lust over Sam. And wonder how Marcel does that stuff to his hair.)

LW3: You didn't see this question coming? The best you could do was "he's dead"? You are pretty lame. Prudie's advice seems good.

LW4: Two options: let her get caught stealing. That will make the point quite clearly. Or else pay at the checkout for the estimated value of the filched goods. Perhaps the best way to do that would be to pay for your purchases, then give back a certain number of items corresponding to the value of the stuff she's eaten en route. That's a pretty good message: keep eating the grapes, mom, and you're not gonna have those Pop-Tarts (I used to long for Pop-Tarts, but the last time I had them, I realized they're not worth the longing. Ranch dressing, on the other hand...).

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

"Use the yellow wastebaskets please"

Marc explains the news from France. And bitches about it, too.

En français ci-dessous.

Read the article HERE.

So it appears that the RATP, the operator of the Paris public transportation system, is jerking us around when it installs those yellow wastebaskets on the metro platforms. The yellow wastebaskets are intended for waste to be recycled, but it turns out that the RATP simply puts the contents of the yellow wastebaskets in with the regular trash.

The RATP blames the city of Paris, which only collects recyclables twice a week. The RATP collects far too much of the stuff to be able to store onsite pending collection.

So far... not so good. If you know you can't recycle the stuff, asking people to sort their trash is simply a big lie aimed at giving the firm a better image. It's worse than "greenwashing".

A bit farther... not good at all. Where does this huge bulk of recyclable waste come from? Almost all of it is paper, and almost all the paper comes from free newspapers distributed within the metro itself. The RATP publishes its own free weekly paper, a large-format publication entitled "A nous Paris!". It also has a lucrative contract with the morning and evening free papers published by the group owned by Vincent Bolloré (the friend of Nicolas Sarkozy, on whose yacht the man of the people spent his post-election holiday).

Recap: RATP generates huge amounts of waste paper. RATP pretends to collect the waste paper for recycling. RATP doesn't recycle. RATP is a big fat liar, and we are all chumps.

Vous avez lu l'article ? Alors je serai bref. La RATP se donne une bonne image de marque comme entreprise verte en installant des poubelles jaunes sur les quais du métro. Mais au lieu de recycler leur contenu, elle le mélange avec les déchets non-recyclés. Ca coûte pas cher une poubelle jaune, et ça rapporte bien en image.

Pire, le plus gros des déchets des poubelles jaunes, c'est du papier, et le plus gros du papier, c'est les journaux gratuits. Lesquels journaux gratuits sont distribués... par la RATP elle-même : son hebdo gros format "A nous Paris!" et les deux quotidiens gratuits de Bolloré, qui paie à la Régie le droit de s'installer dans l'enceinte du métro. Bravo !

Chers voyageurs, nous sommes encore une foie le dindon...

Monday, October 19, 2009

Slate V: Dear Prudence

Video letter HERE

Green. Recycling. Wasteful inlaws. Blablablablabla.

My take: a six-week visit from the inlaws EVERY SUMMER?????

Sunday, October 18, 2009

"Even a goat could get elected in Neuilly if it was running on a UMP ticket".

Marc explains the news from France...

The story HERE

The background:

Jean Sarkozy, age 23, the younger son of Nicolas Sarkozy's first litter, is a rising political star. He's a taller, better looking version of his father. (He's quite tall, quite good looking, and is not half bad shirtless...). He has yet to complete a university degree or hold a job.

Until about a year ago, he was best known as the victim of the theft of his motorscooter, the investigation of which involved unheard of police resources (his father happened to be minister of the Interior, and thus the police, at the time), including DNA testing. In another case involving his scooter, he was tried for a hit and run accident in which he damaged a car while driving his scooter. He was let off, and the car driver was fined for abuse of the legal system (a fine that was thrown out on appeal).

He began his political career by a successful coup against his father's communications advisor, who was running for mayor of Neuilly, the most upscale city in France, just west of Paris. He himself was not a candidate for city council.

He was however elected to the Conseil général, the elected assembly for the Hauts de Seine département, the most upscale of France's nearly 100 départements, and the one in which Neuilly is located (it's worth stating that, since French politicians are regularly elected to jurisdictions in which they don't reside; thus Jacques Chirac simultaneously served as an MP from the Corrèze in central France, while serving as Mayor of Paris). Despite having no political experience, he was chosen as the head of the group of UMP conseillers généraux on the council, which gave him a great deal of influence, as the UMP have a large majority on the council, and sets him up as a rival to Patrick Devedjian, the UMP president of the council.

Just west of Neuilly is the business district of La Défense, France's answer to Manhattan, or more closely, to the London Docklands. The district is run by a public entity called the EPAD, rather than by the mayors of the three cities in whose territories it lies (Courbevoie, Puteaux, and Nanterre). The EPAD is headed by Devedjian, who is forced to retire from his post this year because of the age limit of 65. For some reason the expected waiver to this age limit was not included in recent legislation, leaving the position wide open for... Jean Sarkozy.

His almost certain designation as president of the EPAD, which has a budget of some 150 million euros, has raised eyebrows and caused protests. He has no professional experience, little political experience, and has no higher education degrees (he's currently repeating his sophomore year of university, having failed the first time).

To these criticisms, his defenders respond that his legitimacy as a candidate for the presidency comes from the fact that he was elected by the people of Neuilly to the Conseil général. To which Socialist MP Arnaud Montebourg replies: "Even a goat could get elected in Neuilly if it was running on a UMP ticket".

Saturday, October 17, 2009


At an FGG meeting in Cologne, at some sort of meeting center in the country just outside town. I read in the local paper that the Oessel, some sort of symbolic traditional object, will be leaving Cologne for a procession-type trip to Glasgow. "Oh, we must go see the departure ceremony", I say. Just then, we hear the sound of bagpipes coming from outside the meeting room. The departure ceremony is taking place right here!

There is music, a speech, which I don't understand, and we accompany the Oessel, carried on a flower-bedecked ass-drawn cart on its journey into the city. When we arrive at the station, the people put the Oessel in a shipping case (much like the one for the WC, but smaller) and toss it into the passenger train, for what is just the first step of its trip. No one seems to be in charge of the case, so at the last minute EF and I jump aboard and carry the case to a compartment on the train.

After catching our breath, we discuss what we need to do. I find a stewardess in the corridor, and try to explain that we have the Oessel, and we need to hand it over to someone at the next stop. She doesn't understand the situation, so I go to the bar car, where there are about a dozen stewardesses, some who claim to speak English, but none of them who understand what I'm talking about. "The Oessel! We're accompanying the Oessel to its next stop on the way to Glasgow!", I cry. The only thing they're able to tell me is that this train isn't going to Glasgow, which of course I already know.

In a panic, I phone ER. She suggests I get off the train at the next stop in order to go to the police to get help. The train stops for a moment in a warehouse district and I get off. But where are the police? I follow a street out of the warehouse area, and find myself in a residential neighborhood. It's now dusk, and I can clearly see the flashing lights of police cars from nearby. When I reach the police cars, I see there are hundreds of police officers surrounding a house. There's something going on, like an escaped prisoner holed up with hostages in the house. The police are all wearing bulletproof vests.

I manage to find a police officer who is willing to talk to me. Alas he doesn't speak English, but I manage to convey to him in broken German that the Oessel is on the train, and that we don't know what to do with it. He puts me in his car, and we race to meet the train at the next station. We collect the Oessel from EF, who was in tears, not knowing what the hell she was supposed to do with it.

On the race to the station, the policeman explained that the Oessel was a reliquary, containing the bones of someone. I never knew whose bones they were.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

DP 15 Oct 2009: All-in-one

Dear Prudence,

As an infant, I was traumatized by a confusion induced by my aunt and uncle. In order to conform to their decision that my mother's father should be addressed soley by the name adopted by their child (my cousin), I was forced to call our mutual grandfather "Gwumgwum". My inclination was toward greater formality, and I tended to call him "Mister Grandfather Sir", but whenever I did so, my aunt and uncle slapped me across the face. Because I spent many weekends and holidays with them, they had ample opportunity to indoctrinate me.

Much as lefthanders forced to use their right hand become dyslexic and physically maladroit (literally), I became dysphonic and verbally clumsy. I also developed a bit of a thing for older men, especially ones who let me call them "Mister Grandfather Sir".

I think it was because of this that I had a short but intense affair with my undergraduate economics professor. The affair is over, but we remain close, and he is now my grad school thesis advisor. No one knows about our relationship, including my boyfriend of one year, who thinks I was a virgin when we met.

Alas, during a recent love-making session with the BF, I happened to notice his first gray hair, and I inadvertently fell into a practice my professor described as "curve bending" (you can imagine how odd it is for me to read Mickey Kaus going on about this practice in a totally different context). My BF was astounded by my obviously practiced moves, and asked me wherever I had learned this particular sequence of contortions. The fact that I cried out "gwumgwum" when I came didn't help, especially since "gwumgwum" has a very special meaning in my BF's native language (let's just say that it has something to do with expressing satisfaction).

Reluctant to tell the BF the truth (I would be devastated if he learned about my grand-daddy fetish), I told him that I had seen the "curve bending" on a porn video a friend played at the bridal shower of a mutual friend. In fact, I couldn't be bothered to go to the shower, since the bride is a bridezilla and her friends are not much better. But now that've I lied (twice), my BF is wondering why I'm not going to the wedding (which he now expects to attend himself as my plus-one).

The problem, Prudie, is that if I go, she expects me to be a bridesmaid, and to pay for not only my own revolting orange bridesmaid dress (I have red hair: can you imagine?), but to chip into paying for her wedding dress. As she got knocked up to force her own BF to marry her, and there have been a series of delays in the wedding date, her dress has had to be altered four times already, and the bill has skyrocketed.

I'm a graduate student without much money. My question is: who do I hit up for a loan? My grandfather or my professor, that is to say, Gwumgwum or Mister Grandfather Sir?


"Up in the gwumgwum tree"