Doubtful Effect of a Little Rain

L'Européen, in Sévres

Where Not to Get Fresh Eggs

Paris:- Saturday, 25. April 1997:- It is the time of the count-downs. From today, 29 days until French voters go to the ballot boxes for the first round. I can't see the Tour Eiffel's countdown clock from where I'm sitting, but there must still be about 980-odd days until the reason for the election becomes reality on 31. December 1999.

For the duration of the current elections, I will report on these in another column in Metropole. If you don't like politics, just skip it. If you don't trust me to be not opinionated, not biased, not a fanatical left-wing, slavering 'Euro'-crazy, just skip it.

To bring you this week's news from France, I turn to page eight of Tuesday's Le Parisien. But first, the important news:

The Rain Came - a Little Bit of It

Yesterday afternoon, a bit of humidity fell from the grey sky. Was it a tickle, a tease? By the time I got home, my coat was soaked. But what all France requires is a good couple of centimetres of it, and soon.

Farmers were watching their unplanted fields carefully; others were digging into their pockets and turning their sprinklers on to help things along a bit.

The Internet Limps Into France

"I wish in the year 2000 that all secondary schools are connected the network..." is a loose translation of a recent speech on television by President Jacques Chirac.

Le Parisien thinks fulfilling this wish will cost about five billion francs, and dryly notes that the budget allots 23 million francs towards this goal this year. It leaves two short years to find the remaining 4.77 billion francs.

Back in 1985 there was a government initiative called 'Informatique Pour Tous' that foresaw putting The scouts have lost a ball computers in every classroom. A contract was awarded to one of the huge state electronics firms. They concocted an inexpensive machine and some software to go with it, and the grand plan eventually dropped dead like a dodo; possibly because it lacked compatibility with anything on earth.

It is a colorful fence to kick a ball over. But it's a high one.

Since then, the score now stands at one machine for 45 primary students, one for 28 in high school, one for 12 in the lycées, and one for eight in professional lycées. Only 12 percent of schools are connected to the Internet. The remaining 88 percent are not.

In contrast, private schools in France have ordered 10,000 computers* from Apple, to be delivered by 2000. A private ISP, 'Infonie,' has offered free access for a year to any school that asks for it. State-owned France Telecom, the head-cheese of all French ISPs, has offered nothing.

In some cases, individual schools or individual teachers have gone out begging for used equipment and donated software. Often, it is even parents who donate something; and there have also been attempts to restart old junk left over from the 'Informatique Pour Tous' era.

Microsoft has just equipped the classes of grades 3-5 of 11 French schools for free. The report does not say how many, with what, but does mention CD-ROM several times to give an idea of the 'why.' But they are also connected to the 'net and students are exchanging email.

Meanwhile, in garbage dumps and recycler plants, old PCs are rotting away or being vaporized - all perfectly good PC386s or Macintosh LCs - machines that may not run the newest CD-ROMs, but can connect to the net with no problem. East Europe would not mind having these, and they wouldn't be without use in Africa either.

Of course, putting these machines back in order might cost a little bit, and shipping them where they can have a useful life wouldn't be free either; and we mustn't forget software - surely it can't be too illegal to sign over a well-used license for 'Word 3' after you've upgraded to version six... or?

*Le Parisien's report says, "equipment for 10,000 schools," rather than 10,000 computers, as I have written. There may very well be 10,000 private schools in France; but a contract for Apple to equip them, is too good to be true - so I guess it is 10,000 machines.

First the Chickens, Now the Eggs

Last week's suggestion in the feature 'Paris is Not Chicken Crazy' that the reason for buying chickens is to get fresh eggs, seems to be borne out by a reader's letter to Le Parisien last Tuesday.

Fruits et legumes

The reader's supermarket is selling loose eggs without a date-stamp on every one and the reader wants to know if they are fresh.

This place might have fresh eggs; it is nearly in the country.

Le Parisien's answer includes the information that - if you can do this in a supermarket - if the egg floats, it's no good. If it half-floats, it's half-good. If you didn't bring equipment for floating eggs with you, you can try rattling the egg. If it rattles, it's no good. If it sounds sloshy, it's no good.

Eggs in egg-crates, labelled 'extra-fresh,' can not have spent more than seven days lying around between the chicken and the package; after seven days they are merely 'fresh.'

Some producers put the date the egg was actually laid on the package. If they put on a phoney date and get caught, they face two months in jail and a fine of 50,000 francs.

Conclusion: if you absolutely must have fresh eggs while you are in Paris, be sure to read last week's Metropole to find out where you can get fresh chickens.

'My' Clint Eastwood has had a Voice Change

Foreign films shown in France are generally 'dubbed' into French. For general distribution, the original sound track - 'voice' track to be precise - is replaced by one in French, spoken by French actors and actresses. This is quite exacting work, because the new voice has to synchronize as closely as possible with the screen images.

From October 1995 to January 1996 the people who do this in France were on strike, and this made some rich moguls angry and some of these people are on a 'black list' and have since had no work. The existence of the 'black list' is denied, and it is also suggested that the replacements hired during the strike, could not be 'fired' merely because the strike is over.

For French film fans this has resulted in hearing a lot of their favorite foreign film stars suddenly House in Sevres sprout new voices. For some obscure reason, Clint Eastwood's regular dubber got a holiday for the job on the 'Bridges of Madison County,' and his fans came out of the cinemas wondering who they had paid to hear.

The other side of the coin is the fact that the good 'voices' often do many actors; the same 'voice' did John Travolta, Nick Nolte, Tom Waits (!), and Mickey Rourke. This particular 'voice' did 70 to 100 films a year, but since the strike has done none. So these actors all have new 'voices' now and the old 'voice' has to sell his furniture.

An old house on the avenue de l'Europe in Sévres.

The dubbers wanted a piece of the 'rights' and went on strike for it. It is claimed that dubbed films account for 87 percent of French cinema receipts, and the claim that French dubbers are good, is one I can agree with. Whether they should be 'stars' or not, is another question. Whether the ex-strikers should be on a 'black list,' is out of the question.

I'll have to think over carefully whether listening to the next Bruce Willis movie in French will be an anti-labor act.

The Public's Choice for 50th Cannes

For the day of the 50th anniversary of the Cannes Film Festival, Sunday, 11. May, an election was conducted by Minitel, from 10. to 20. April - from a selection of 20 winning films.

For a French film, the public gave the most votes to 'Cyrano de Bergerac' by Jean-Paul Rappeneau. Frederico Fellini's 'La Dolce Vita' was voted best foreign film. Cinema operators voted for Robert Altman's 'Mash' as their favorite. The three films will be shown in 100 cinemas throughout France on the day of the anniversary.

Paranoia in Saint-Germain-des-Prés

Armani has taken over the place of the Drugstore, the bookstore Le Divan has been sold by its owners, the publisher Gallimard, to Christian Dior, and the citizens of Saint-Germain are up in arms against the thread merchants.

The owner of an antique shop, who had her rent quadrupled by the city, did a survey street by street, and discovered that 22 shops selling textiles had replaced art galleries, bookshops and antique stores. She is appealing the rent hike.

The fear is, that as the population of this left-bank quarter becomes more middle-class, right-bank boutiques will attempt to set up shop to be closer to these potential customers. The city of Paris seems to play a role here as it appears to be the principal landlord and is not hesitating to raise rents - to levels that low-margin shops dealing in cultural goods can not support.

A large number of art, theatre, music, film, and literary figures still live in and around Saint-Germain and they are resolutely against this development. There is a neighborhood association, and it is calling for the creation of a special category of protection: a 'national label of shops with a cultural utility' - a sort of historic monument status.

Although not a resident, Juilette Greco is on the scene, as are Charles Aznavour, Laurent Terzieff, César, Carlos - but Catherine Deneuve failed to show up at a recent meeting at the Nesle Gallery.

René Monory, Président of the nearby Sénat did appear. He came to support his cabinet director, Jean-Dominique Giuliani, also a centrist council member of the sixth arrondissement, and the instigator of the local association.

Especially on the boulevard, I always thought there were a lot of clothing shops - but I never saw the boulevard in the old days. Unless you are blind, you can't miss the Armani development at the corner of the rue de Rennes - there is a textile shield hiding the renovations going on behind. It is about six stories high and it has a big logo on it.

You can not help but see it from in front of the church, but if you sit at the very rear in the Deux Magots it might not be visible, but I'm not sure.

No Sports News Again

Due to not watching any TV-news except for election video-clips, there is no new Sports News this week.

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