While blogging the most mundane details of my daily existence, there has been a plethora of more serious topics I have been wanting to discuss for many weeks now. Just never found the time or the motivation to dig up all the data and roll it into something coherent and mildly interesting. At long last, and in no small part thanks to the wonders of modern urban warfare on academic grounds, I am about to fill up my quota for heady controversial postings on France, for the whole year at once.

Hang on to your baguette and pop a few aspirins, because today we are not going to focus on recent anti-government demonstrations, nor on the ongoing work-law reform that prompted them, or the already fading debate over France’s antisemitism, its suspected racism, the fuss over the Danish cartoons or the ever recurrent theme of freedom of speech and limits thereof in the birth country of Mr. Arouet.

No. Instead, we are going to talk about all these issues at once, and even attempt to weave some sort of grand theory throughout.

We are about to set some new record for lengthy pomposity on this blog and you will soon be longing for my endless digressions on weather and French flu medication, but you must realize I currently live in France: over here, it is uncouth not to have a strong opinion on every matter political and shout it as loud as your understanding of the material is thin. Besides, I see no reason to leave the business of spouting inane drivel on foreign countries, solely to the local pros.

So let’s begin:

1. Anti-semitism and racism in France

Picture Weather_in_Paris.png I am starting to suspect that the depressingly sturm-und-drangish overtones of my late high-school years’ musical tastes weren’t as much due to post-adolescent hormonal overload as I used to think:

Go to the Bay Area or Tokyo and, on more days than not, shiny sun and cloudless blue skies practically beg you to sit on your patio, beer and joint in hand, listening to some deep house by Miguel Migs or Jenö.

Parisian weather from September to June, on the other hand, leaves you with no other options than sit in a corner of your apartment and entertain thoughts of killing yourself while listening to Saint Etienne’s entire discography.

Granted, last night, particularly its 2-to-6-am part, might not have helped on the freshness factor.

Must stop drinking Irish Coffees and stick to straight whisky from now on.

The French blogging community is currently abuzz following announcement that a high school principal, whose blog had reached a fair amount of popularity in its time, had been officially revoked due solely to his blogging activities.

Now, a few of you are probably incensed at such blatant disrespect for civil liberties, all the while wondering how you say “first amendment” in French, while others will object that employers are free to do what they want and getting dooced nowadays is hardly newsworthy stuff.

Here is where both would be wrong and what makes this situation very particular:

First off, being a school principal in France means being directly employed by the government as a civil servant (the infamous fonctionnaires). This work status implies an incredible number of particularities, both advantages and constraints. For instance, such employment cannot be terminated for any reasons other than gross misconduct on the part of the employee who is otherwise guaranteed a job for life. On the other hand, working for the State and being, in essence, representatives of the State, employees are held to what the French call “devoir de réserve“: an obligation to remain loyal to the State’s institutions and not harm its standing by one’s declarations or actions in public. Doing so being the one major ground for losing your job and status.

Ironically, this ground for termination, commonly used in countries where average work contracts do not require anything more than a notice anyway, would land any private company foolish enough to use it here in very hot water (ever heard of French labor laws? They make US HR execs wake up in a puddle of cold sweat in the middle of the night). If you are the government, though: it’s ok.

Will you help a homesick gaijin cum starving Parisian student get back with the food, drinks and music he loves?

Any assistance on where to find the items below, subject to reward in the form of a free homemade dinner (sexual favours to be considered on a case-by-case basis only).

Bonus points for stores conveniently located close to 6th arrondissement (yea, yea: anything will do, but just in case).

  • Rice cooker: will soon die of starvation if I don’t get one. Was told to check out Chinese grocery stores… Haven’t seen any at Tang Frères… Specifics, anybody?
  • Fresh shiitake mushrooms: Japanese grocery store rue St Anne only carries the dried kind… Also sure the Chinese have that: how the hell do you say “shiitake” in Chinese?
  • Fresh kinugoshi tofu: Same as above (only have very bland vacuum-sealed stuff). Tell me somebody in France is making fresh tofu out of all these GM soybeans.
  • Yellow curry paste: address of a cheap Thai grocery store anybody? (Please don’t reply “somewhere in the 13th arrondissement”: have you seen the 13th arrondissement on a map lately? it’s big).
  • Cranberry juice: WhoWhat does a girl need to do, in order to get a proper Cosmo around here?
  • Glock 10 mm. or S&W .44 in working order: to be used as teaching material in my upcoming class: Neighbouring Relations 101 – “How Much Noise is Too Much Noise at 3 in the Morning?”.
  • Used audio amp & speakers: cheapness is of the essence here, seeing how I recently unloaded 30k yens of audio material on miscellaneous friends and not about to do the same here in six months.

Am I the one with a sick mind, or would you also do a double take if, opening one of France’s leading newspaper, you glanced upon a headline reading something along the line of “Diddle: Little Girl’s Favorite”?

And just in case you thought it might be yet another unfortunate semantic collision between unrelated words in separate dialects, the article promptly informs you that it is to be pronounced in the English fashion (“dideul”, does it read in French).

And you thought Engrish would end with Japan…

I think I may have, ahem, hinted at it in past entries, but let me spell it out for the benefit of the slower ones:

I am now living in Paris: P. A. R. E. E. S!

Yep, that means no more upskirt keitai shots of underage japanese schoolgirls. Not that there were any in the first place, but how could I resist the pleasure of one last Google keywords showdown. Actually, there might still be a few views of Nippon, gently contributed by our in-house Samurai and the ever cat-obsessed Tracey dearest, but still a massive slow-down from the old rate.

In exchange, all I can promise you is a bunch of tired rants on the French, their capital city, their greasy foods and promiscuous ways.

More of the former than the latter at the moment.

Understandably, some of you might feel shafted with the deal and turn your back on this page… To those people, I have this to say:

First of all, know that I won’t be missing your fickle, treacherous, back-stabbing excuse for a readership one least bit. Second, you may want to consider the fact that my current residency will only last six months, to be replaced by a potentially much more exciting destination: unsubscribe now and you may be missing out on all the fun then. Third and last for now: pleeeaase don’t go! Oh reader! soul of my life, salt of my existence! I need you so… I promise I’ll do my best to keep posting about cat-ear-wearing people and crazy language hijinx, even if I have to make them up. Just don’t leave me now.

A few random things of note so far:

  • In France, the letter ‘C’ on heaters and taps, stands for Hot (whereas Cold is ‘F’). Will you guess how many shivering morning wake-ups and boiling hot showers yours truly has had so far?
  • Whoever elected France as the country of all things gastronomical, never had to find the ingredients to a proper breakfast in a local supermarket: I had forgotten how unduly hard it was to find something as simple as bacon here. And no, I don’t want “smoked ham”, nor “diced bacon” with my eggs, I want plain crispy bacon goodness and it’s so far dearly missing from my morning table.
  • The biggest matchmaking service in France is called CUM. I am not making that up. In subways, in magazines, everywhere: you got huge ads inviting you to log onto CUM.fr or touting CUM as your gateway to a perfect relationship…

More to come soon, be sure of that…