Sunday, November 28, 2010

Welcome home to Paris!

Arrive at Gare de Lyon at about 15.10. Want to take bus 20, whose terminus is, helpfully enough, Gare de Lyon. Get to bus stop at about 15.15 (my guess, not wearing a watch). Two number 20s there, lights on, empty with no drivers. Sticker on bus stop says that stop is not in service, and to go somewhere else that is not located on the neighborhood map. Fortunately, just a bit farther down the street is a stop for the 65 bus which will also get me home, but where the display says that the bus won't be leaving for 8 minutes.

See a driver approach the first of those number 20 buses (the ones at the stop that supposedly is not in service) and open the door. I approach and ask him:
"Please, can you tell me when you're leaving?"
He replies but I'm sure I can't have heard him properly, so I repeat the question. This time, the answer's clear:
I beg his pardon, and he repeats:
"Not tomorrow, today. You want to know when I'm leaving? I'm leaving today."
No smile on his face, no sparkle in his eyes. This is not a lame attempt at humor. The guy's just a major asshole.
So I rephrase my question:
"Please, can you tell me what time you're leaving?"
He replies: "At 15.19."
And so, I must ask yet another question:
"Please, can you tell me in how many minutes you're leaving?"
"In two minutes."
"Thank you ever so much, kind sir."

Welcome home to Paris, the land of the asshole.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Advice Illustrated, 24 November 2010 "Give thanks for no Thanksgiving"

Tomorrow's Thanksgiving, but there's not a single mention of the event in this week's letters. Hurrah!

Read the original HERE.

Letter 1 is from a sibling who is worried about their younger brother, aged 22, a victim of an overprotective mother. Prudie says to engage the support of their father, if she can, and get some professional help to let her brother grow up.
I say, have you ever had him to stay with you? Meet new people among your friends? Etc., etc.? Perhaps before getting the shrink in, you can already help him share your independent life.

No new video letter this week. So let's hear a plug for The Sporkful.

Letter 2 is from a bearded guy who's to be the best man at his sister's wedding. Sister insists he shave off his beard. Prudie says to tell her to stuff it. It's him and the beard, or not him.
I say, this is a great excuse to avoid the whole horrible experience of a contemporary wedding.

Letter 3 is from a woman who was cheated out of a job and had a bit of a cry in the parking lot, where the organization's director saw her sobbing. She's embarrassed. Prudie says the real issue is why she was cheated from the job, and the explanation she deserves for that.
I say that if she gets so worked up (not about her disappointment and dismay, but about being seen crying), she is not suited for a position of responsibility.

Letter 4 is from a woman whose husband is a fledgling doctor who shows disrespect and unethical behavior regarding (particularly female) patients. Should she narc him? Prudie says yes.
I say yes and DTMFA. If he's talking like this about women whose confidentiality he has a professional obligation to respect, what is he saying about you?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

World Fencing Championships

I have since learned that my tax euros are subsidizing this, but it was still fun! Thanks to Jochen F. for inviting me to view a bit of the finals in the Tribune présidentielle. Fencing is pretty cool.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Advice Illustrated, 18 November 2010: House rules!

Do people need a reminder that the host chooses the guests and sets house rules? I guess so...

Originals HERE.

Letter 1 is from a woman who told her sister that she would be bringing her BF of 5 months along with BF's daughter and granddaughter (!) to the family Thanksgiving sister hosts. Sister is freaking out because while the rest of the family would tolerate BF, they can't stand the thought of having his brood there, too. LW offered not to come, but sister wants her and BF there. What to do? Prudie says LW should drop in, with various configurations suggested.
I say, why are you inviting guests to another person's social occasion? You say: "I said that I would be inviting a gentleman I have been dating for about five months, as well as his daughter and granddaughter". It's her house, and even on a special case event like TG, she chooses who comes to her house. I can't help wonder if there isn't more going on here than meets the eye, when what meets the eye is that you are a pushy broad. Your sister, however, is a loony if she breaks down and suggests cancelling TG. Back to the rule above: it's her house, her dinner, and she can invite whomever she wants, including your BF's progeny, and barring any horrible past behavior or criminal record, they have nothing to say about it. I suggest having dinner at the IHOP; where you can all have separate booths.

The video letter is from a young woman who works in a small firm where her colleagues are all trying to fix her up with an available male colleague. She would ignore it, but she's into the dude. Prudie says go for it.
I say, yawn. I'm having trouble with my internet today, and I am annoyed having to start and stop and reboot and reload and all sorts of crap to hear this dumb letter.

Letter 2 is from a person whose widowed mother has met a new guy. He now comes to every family celebration, and for reasons undisclosed in the letter, all mention of dad is now off the table (supposedly out of deference to new BF). She complained about this (not sure what) to mom, and they had a fight. Prudie says to apologize to mom but to say that if LW feels she wants to speak about her dad, she will.
I say that there is a problem here... you clearly resent your mother's new partner being part of your family. Tough toenails, girl: he is, so deal. Has your mother asked you not to speak of your father because you are unable to do so in a fashion other than one in which new BF is attacked? Yes, on principle you should of course be talking about your father. But I think there's more going on here.

Letter 3 is from a woman who made the mistake of moving in with a guy and waiting around for him to ask her to marry him. He's not going to (because she's snooped around looking for a ring, and nada). Now, while she's invited to his folks' for TG, her parents aren't, because they're not married. Prudie says it's time for her to use that piehole for something other than the pumpkin variety (and BJs) and to SPEAK TO THIS GUY. First, about his rude parents, then about their future.
I say, hell yes! Or maybe go on a sex strike. It's the perfect passive-aggressive response to such situations. (Although an explicit sex strike would be fine: something like: "If we're not enough of a couple for my parents to join us for TG, we're certainly not enough of a couple for you to put your penis in my vagina".)

Letter 4 is from a woman who hosts the family TG. She doesn't like smoking in the house, so has told the smokers that they'll need to go outdoors or in the garage. She's made an exception for her 91-yo grandmother, and that has opened the door to all sorts of whining from the smokers. Prudence very stupidly says that grandmother needs to follow the rules.
I say: HUH? It's her house, she sets the rules, and she can create the reasonable and non-capricious exceptions to the rules. This is why we need laws creating non-smoking areas: because smokers are often boors who don't respect other people, including their guests. And this is why people can't stand militant non-smokers like Prudie, who are unable to get over their loathing of the cigs to allow an old lady a little pleasure in comfort.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Advice Illustrated, 11 November 2010: Let's give thanks

The original are HERE.

There are Christmas chocolates in the supermarkets, and Thanksgiving letters to Prudie. Happy holidays!
Letter 1 is from a woman who lies, lies, lies. She recently lied to her husband about spending money at a day spa, and now he thinks she's lying about the paternity of their future first child. Prudie says she needs to get help, and to convince her husband that she's serious about breaking the lying habit.
I say LW should give thanks for such a patient husband. LW is too immature to bring a child into this world. Give it up for adoption or leave it with your husband and go far, far away until you can learn to face "confrontation".

The video letter is from a young woman whose boobs are too big. She's going to have a breast reduction. What should she tell people? Prudie says it's not polite for people to notice any change. Ignore any untoward comments or questions.
I say you should give thanks you have the means to get the breast reduction. And that if anyone asks what happened to your boobs, you reply: "What do you think?" and turn your back to them in a move that will now present fewer issues with rotational inertia.

Letter 2 is from a parent whose teen daughter has just been diagnosed with Asperger's. LW realizes why family Thanksgivings have always been so trying for her, and wants to have a small nuclear family version this year. But how to explain their absence from the big family bash? Prudie suggests saying what she has just written, but to find a way of letting her be part of the family do.
I say you should give thanks you have a loving family, and that you should listen to Prudie and stop treating your daughter as if she had suddently become this fragile flower to keep in the hothouse. What's the big difference now that you know? If you managed to get through Thanksgiving before the diagnosis, why not now? And with your knowledge, you should be able to make it much more enjoyable for everyone.

Letter 3 is from a woman whose mother refuses to let her host Thanksgiving, because people like to eat "good food" for that festive meal. Prudie says not to boycott T'ing, and to be sensitive to her mother's fears of becoming a useless old hag.
I say let's give thanks we live in a country where we're free to stop celebrating Thanksgiving. It seems to provide as much tsuris and strive as joy and good-feeling.

Letter 4 is from a woman who's boss had an affair with a coworker and left the firm for a while. Now he's back, which is better for the firm. But at LW's workplace shower, LW blurted out a comment about manager's qualifications to offer marriage advice. Everyone laughed but she feels horrible. Prudie says that it's no big deal, but she should apologize.
I say let's give thanks this is the only problem you've had holding an inappropriate social event at work. Enough with Thanksgiving, enough with bridal showers, enough with mixing the personal and the professional. You may continue to celebrate Christmas.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Assembly of Non-European Parisians

Today I sat for the first time on the Assembly of Non-European Parisians (Assemblée des Parisiens Extra-Communautaires). I have already served on the equivalent body for the 20th Arrondissement. They are a consultative council that exists mostly in left-wing cities, to offer representation for residents who don't have the right to vote.

France is one of the most backward countries in Europe in terms of the right to vote for long-term residents. The bare minimum required by European treaties applies: EU citizens who reside in France can vote in local and European elections. A Romanian who have lived in France for 6 months can vote, while an Algerian who have lived for 60 years in France cannot.

This would not be such an issue if it were easy to become a French citizen, but it's not at all the case. And so there are large numbers of people who have lived for years in France without the right to vote. These foreign residents councils are designed to defend the rights of foreign residents and promote their right to vote.

Anyhoo, the 20th Arrondissement has 10 delegates to the Parisian Assembly, which met for its new term for the first time today. Things were handled very well. We were welcomed at the entrance to City Hall and sent up for coffee and breakfast pastries in one of the splendid reception rooms overlooking the Seine.

When it came time to open the session, the bailiffs came to lead us to the chamber of the Paris City Council, a room full of wood and history. The deputy mayor for local democracy gave the welcoming speech, followed by the deputy mayor in charge of foreign residents, who ran the meeting.

The main business of the meeting was the choice of the executive committee, made up of one rep from each Arrondissement. We also had to vote on setting up various committees, and choose the committees we'll be serving on. I chose urban planning and development. Will see what happens with it!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Advice Illustrated, 4 November 2010 "Do I have to?"

The original are HERE. The quality of letters seems to be improving a bit. Good job, Slate interns!

The question du jour seems to be "Do I have to?". The answer, usually, is "no". Unless it's "Yes, but fake it".

Letter 1 is from a guy who got away from a drug-addict abusive mother and saved his half brother from a similar fate. Now Mom is indigent, and her parents want LW to support her financially. Prudie says he would be a fool to go without even the most extravagant luxury to help that nasty person.
I say: ditto.

The video letter is from a "sex-starved newlywed". She wants lots of it with her husband, who's only up for it three times a week. She hates initiating. Prudie says that three times a week is OK, but he should be wanting it, not be pushed into it. They need to talk and he has to be encouraged to initiate. If not, get help.
I say: you're newleyweds. It's time to find a man who can meet your needs. I'm sure the Fray can provide many self-proclaimed champs at that.

Letter 2 is from a woman who's tired of the putdowns from her hosts when she attends her husband's cousins annual Thanksgiving dinner. Her husband won't defend her, and she doesn't know if she can defend herself. Prudie says to at least get the husband to acknowledge the hurtfulness of his cousin's behavior. Then she needs to either speak up or put up, or go elsewhere for Thanksgiving.
I say that unless we know just what this dig is, it's hard to know if LW is oversensitive or not. I like Prudie's suggestion for a response. I like even better the suggestion of going elsewhere for Thanksgiving.

Letter 3 is from a woman whose otherwise successful daughter has gone soap-free, because she just loves her natural body oils (and can no longer smell her natural body odor). Should LW butt in? Prudie says yes.
I say: if your mother can't tell you, who can? (And if she really wants to reduce her carbon footprint, she can jump in front of a Prius.)

Letter 4 is from an employee who just can't join in during the motivational pep rallies her employer puts on. Prudie says that she's fine there in the back of the room, and just needs to up the feigned enthusiasm a notch to be considered as a low-normal rather than an asocial misfit.
I say: Between iPhone apps, Facebook, the Fray and pep rallies, when do Americans actually work?

Photoshopped ministers

Marc explains the news from France:

Christine Lagarde is a former lawyer with one of the top US-based international corporate law firms. She's now the French Minister of Finance. And like just about every minister, she is also an elected official to one or more local or regional offices. In her case, she is a member of the Paris City Council and the Municipal Council of the 12th Arrondissement. And like just about every other minister, she never actually does much as a local elected official.

Given that she rarely visits the 12th (too low-end for her?), how to give voters the impression that she actually represents them? The solution found by the publishers of her right-wing party's local newsletter was to Photoshop her into a local scene. And along the way, to remove her bling, so as not to offend the poor working folk of the 12th.

This reminds one of the cover photo of Rachida Dati in Le Figaro (published by Friend of Sarkozy Dasault), where her expensive rings were Photoshopped out of the picture.