No more utopia

Pont de Bercy, May 2006

Pont de Bercy, June 2006

This is almost untranslatable, but my best guess is "Let's present utopian grievances."



Allez les Bleus

A nice way to end (almost) my time in France: watching France beat Spain in the 1/8 finals of the World Cup in a stadium full of 10,000 French people (well, 9,800 maybe; there were probably a few other non-French like me). How, you ask, did I do this in France, since the World Cup is happening in Germany? At the Stade (stadium) Charléty, in the far south of the city, they let people in free during the World Cup to watch all the matches on what was described to me as a "giant screen." Well, from where we were sitting it was more like a cell phone screen, but that's OK; you could more or less see what was going on, and the real action was in the crowd, with flags and fireworks and kids playing soccer. As if to underscore that l'équipe française wasn't winning just because of referee error (unlike just about everybody else), Zinedine Zidane, my favorite player, made a beautiful goal in the 91st minute of play.

But I know a certain team from South America that's going to try to keep Les Bleus from advancing any further.

As for me, I'm not going to get much sleep tonight: the noise outside is still going on. It was kind of scary leaving the stadium. People weren't allowed to bring glass bottles inside, so they were all stacked helter skelter right outside the doors for when all the fans came rushing out screaming....



"Paris, je t'aime"

I really do. But I'm not sure how I feel about the recently released film, made up of shorts by twenty different filmmakers. This phrase has a history for me -- I'll always remember it as the thing Prince said when he walked on stage at Bercy in 1988.
There are some really good bits in this film. But [SPOILER! hell, I don't care] Harry Potter the vampire is not one of them, and I wish it didn't have to end with typical Alexander Payne contempt for middle America.


Let's Bring Back The Patriarchy

Warning: political post ahead.

I could write a Modest-Proposal-style post heaping ironic praise on patriarchy, but really what I want to do is bring back the concept of patriarchy as an analytical tool. Whenever a feminist uses the word, s/he's immediately branded hysterical. Maybe it's because the term has expanded to appear to mean something like "how men rule women." Actually, to get to the root of the matter, patriarchy is the rule of fathers. And it doesn't mean that every father is a ruler; it might just mean that most rulers are fathers. Maybe it's because I've spent all day looking at propaganda for Louis XIV, but I wonder whether we've progressed much beyond him. What better prerequisite is there for influential office in the US government (and any other government, for that matter) than to be a male with children? Why else did Elizabeth Edwards undertake two pregancies after age 47? Why else did John Roberts adopt two children in the same year Bush was elected? (By the way, why are three out of five of the "sponsored ads" on this page gay themed?)

I came to this conclusion when commenting on this rather irritating article on Salon. My irritation began with the flippant title (the article means well, but the title convinces me all the more that the American punditocracy, even on the leftish side, is totally out of touch with the realities much of the world faces) and continued with the comments -- a flood (ok, it was a small flood) of disgusting racists brought out of the woodwork by the article to express their outrage at "savage" practices in Africa. (The story is about girls whose mothers "iron" their breasts to slow down breast development in order to allow them to continue going to school, not be forced into preteen marriage, not get HIV, etc.)

Yes, it's horrifying to think about, but so are a lot of other things people go through. Among the responses was someone who wrote that "if you can't see the difference between pillage in war and holding down your daughter and sewing her vagina closed or ironing her breasts, you're either stupid or crazy or both..." His (I assume) point being? Pillage in war is really pretty much OK, but this practice is abominable.

My sneaking suspicion is that the people so vehemently expressing so much horror are actually more interested in their own fantasized enjoyment of young girls' developing bodies than anything else about their well-being.

So I commented that the root of the problem was not the practice itself but "patriarchy, in one of its more brutal forms." But now I'm reconsidering. Actually, that phrase might just be a better description of the US government, at least in its imperial activities.

There's a postscript to this: certain psychoanalysts (following Freud's Totem and Taboo) have argued that what we have now is not the rule of fathers but the "regime of the brother." I don't know quite what I think about this; it's hard to imagine George W. Bush, in fact, as anything but a son (a #$%^&*ed-up one at that). But I think it doesn't matter whether he's convincing as the Father Of His Country to those of us who aren't convinced by him. To the core right wing supporters, he's the "Father" because he fills that function, not because of anything else about him. He just is (kind of like any fascist ruler, in fact).



In the streets

Silvio Berlusconi, the recently ousted Italian Prime Minister, is fond of taking pages out of the Bush family playbook, but here he's being outflanked, it appears, on the right: his party's poster for his referendum (which certain on the left call a bid for neofascism) has been covered over by this:

Translation, approximately, "Never in Italy! No to gay pride! No to civil unions! Let's defend the family! National Movement" I wonder how many people in Italy think the family is threatened by civil unions.

I'm back in Paris, where life is easy: reasonable temperatures, and high-speed internet on my own computer. I went out to do some grocery shopping and found myself in the middle of the remnants of some kind of parade. It was such a diverse crowd that I could not for the life of me figure out whether it was a celebration of France's qualification for the next round of the World Cup, or whether it was a gay pride parade. It turns out it was the latter. (France has civil unions, which has not kept it from having a higher birth rate than Italy.)

Speaking of things seen in the streets, I find that, in my absence, a graffito I wanted to photograph near my metro stop has been painted over. I remember that it said "Ici regulièrement contrôles d'identité racistes" (which means, more or less, "racial profiling happens here") and it also said something about revolution.

The revolution will not be advertised...



Where I was on Sunday (the Ponte Santa Trinita in Florence).


Where I was on Saturday (Città di Castello).



Jeez Louise

What would the world be like if Louis XIV had been Louise XIV?

This site will regender all pronouns and personal (first) names for you.

The only problem is, it thinks a lot of things are first names that we don't tend to think of as first names.

Like, say, France. Or, well, Paris...


Ode to Coffee

Hot on the heels of the mention of the "Ode to Joy," here's my translation of a seventeenth-century song in praise of coffee that I found in my researches today. It sounds about right to me.

Air Nouveau by Mr. de Bacilly

Delicious Coffee, whose sweet bitterness
Has so often kept me safe from a pitiless Cold,
Intent on ruining my voice.
I would be an ingrate
If I did not sing your glory,
Scoff at Chocolate,
I don't want any ever,
Fie on Tea,
And long live Coffee.

from the Mercure Galant, August, 1686



Larouche goes international

Yesterday at my Metro stop a group of "young Larouchists" were singing a very well-organized rendition of the "Ode to Joy" and passing out flyers warning that Cheney is planning an attack on Iran in August.

Sigh. I wanted to run around telling all the people who took the flyer that Larouche exists only to suck all the useful energy from people concerned that Cheney is planning an attack on Iran in August.

I was confused about why the "Ode to Joy," but then I looked it up and discovered it's the European Union's (supra)national anthem! I didn't know Larouche was an internationalist. I thought he was always going on about how Al Gore, Madonna, and Jesse Jackson are running some kind of international conspiracy or something.

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