Bikers Go On Strike

photo: bistro les philosophes
In this corner, you don't have to sit at
the first bistro you come to.

Dope Stories Nullify Race Results

Paris:- Saturday, 25. July 1998:- Reaction has set it to the non-stop press and TV barrage of dope news about the Tour de France.

This came to a dramatic head on Friday when the riders in the race laid their bikes down in the road and had a sit-down strike, which lasted two hours.

Star rider Laurent Jalabert assumed the role as their spokesman - for the first time in his career - to complain about being treated by the press as doped cattle. He said the press wasn't interested in the sport; its only interest was in the latest scandal.

What set off the explosion, was a TV-news report on Thursday evening. France-2 showed a film of a reporter going through the garbage cans of one team and finding empty medicine containers, with the initials of riders on them.

The film was made on Monday, but the TV channel waited until the containers were analyzed before showing the report in public.

The only time the riders of all the teams are ever together is when they are riding. So one of Jalabert'sphoto: bistro tables complaints was that there was no way for the riders to discuss the problems between themselves.

If the sun is out, sit as soon as you can. It may not last long.

He said one of the consequences now for the actual Tour, was that whoever won one of the daily stages, was as good as being known as the 'king of the dopers.' He said this was a good reason for not wanting to win.

Meanwhile, coverage of each day's racing is heavy in Le Parisien, with four to six pages every day. Each edition also features at least a page about the town or region that the Tour is passing through. This is accompanied by highly detailed maps showing the best vantage spots to see the racers pass.

TV-Set Sales Take High Jump

Appliance dealers have reported a 39 percent increase in TV-set sales in April and May over the same period a year earlier. This apparently is in the phenomena category, because such a leap has never been registered before.

TV sales have been stagnant since the beginning of the '90's largely due to most people already having TV sets and being perfectly aware of the falling quality of TV programs.

While the report says that many buyers opted for the wide-screen 16/9 format and the techno-crazies went for the surround-sound and the 100 Hz sets, and the big screens in the 70 cm range did well.

The real surprise winner was the relatively inexpensive TV-video recorder combos, with an annual increase in sales of 70 percent over a year ago. The idea here is not to record any of the endless re-runs, but to watch rental film-videos - because they come on the market very soon after their cinema releases.

Record Temperature Climb

This was recorded at Tarbes in the Hauts-Pyrénées last Monday. The day started off normally - for the summer - with 17 degrees at 7:00. But by 8:00 the thermometer had rocketed up to 30 degrees, a climb of 13 degrees in 60 minutes.

High for the day was 37.4 degrees. Paris was warm too with 33 degrees, and hot air poured out of Spain and all over France. On Tuesday Paris returned to normal, with temperatures rarely higher than 25 C.

Anatomy of a French Family

The national statistics office, the INSEE, has just published a study of the family in France. Its finding: the average family has 24 members.

This is counting mom and dad and the kids. But the family in a larger sense is equally important, so also counted were brothers, brothers-in-law, sisters and sisters-in-law; plus unclesphoto: tabac terrace and aunts, nephews and nieces, and grand parents, as well as half-brothers and sisters.

Since divorce is no stranger to France, I would imagine ex-wives and husbands should have been counted, as well as their new spouses, but the report doesn't say this. A couple of divorces though, and 24 starts looking like a low number.

If the sun is staying out, stay out from under the parasols.

The point of the study - or the angle taken by Le Parisien - was that the French family is a support group that is ready and willing to spring to any member's aid.

This also used to be a favorite film scenario - which showed the global family on vacation, for example. A variation was to portray two whole unrelated families together on vacation; possibly because this cast of thousands allowed the writers quite a lot more latitude for hanky-panky.

This type of movie may have gone out of style since the beginning of the '90's even if the family style itself has not.

France's Budget for 1999

Price hikes for all sorts of common things after everybody is supposed to be safely away on vacation are no surprise to residents of France. The RATP bumped up the price of a 'carnet' by a couple of francs and I suppose the Orange Card has gone up too.

But I was surprised that the government is still at work. The Finance Minister, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, tossed out some budget proposals on Tuesday for us to mull over and for the parliament to discuss when it returns in the fall.

Since the beginning of July, various government ministers have been doing this. I have not be reporting them because these are only proposals, and may never pass a vote and if they do pass a vote, may not be constitutional and therefore may need to be completely re-thought, and so on.

On the whole, I think it is positive to do things like this. It gives citizens and taxpayers a warning of what might be coming and time to mobilize resistance if necessary. And it gives the government a chance to see which way the wind is blowing before it can paint itself into an embarrassing corner.

Two items from Mr. Strauss-Kahn's proposals are mildly interesting. He's proposed lifting the low tax-rate on diesel fuel, apparently because it has only recently been discovered that this type is fuel is very polluting. Tax-conscious car buyers will be annoyed and the truckers will be outraged.

There is another thing called the 'Taxe Professionelle.' If I understand this correctly, this is a tax employers pay, based on the number of employees they have. French taxes are byzantine in their complexity - and this one sounds as if it were inherited from Louis XVI's time.

Gérard Takes Fall On Booze

Gérard Depardieu walked out of court in Versailles last Thursday, after being ordered to pay a fine of 10,000 francs and without a driver's license for the next 15 months.

The incident that got him into court happened on Monday, 18. May, when he dumped his Suzuki Bandit while on the way to work, as Obélix in the Asterix film being shot near Clairfountaine.

This immediately cost him a broken leg and a lot of lost film production - which has since resumed. Onphoto: arcades terrace being tested for blood-alcohol after the accident, he scored 2.55, which is five times over the legal limit.

See? This is what it is supposed to be like. Memorize this scene.

In court he was allowed to say that the night before the tumble, he had been in Cannes and had successfully wrapped up the US distribution of three films. He had something to celebrate and that is what he did. What the Champagne he said he drank did not do, was wear off by 13:00 the following day.

So he said he had behaved like a drunken peasant and got his fine and the driving suspension. No one else was involved in the accident. Gérard is still limping though.

The Tour de France: An Online Sports Event

The Tour de France is the world's number one bike race by virtue of being the longest and hardest. This year's edition is the 85th and it started in Dublin.

To get a taste of it, check out VéloCity. These are the same people who brought us the Sports Café during the World Cup. All the news you want to know, and I suppose, some you wish you never heard of.

Both VéloCity and the Tour de France's official Web site sell various bicycle-related goods online, and if you feel like getting into the swing of things by doing it in French, then give 'Le Tour' a shot.

Metropole reader Ed Grant may possibly be a bike nut, so I asked him if he had any favorite Tour de France Web sites. He offered the following: Bicycling magazine and the comprehensive site of bike fan, 'kjtar.' This guy has everything except his own name here, and he even has t-shirts for sale and maybe a low-milage - never raced, certainly never rallied! - BMW 2002 tti as well. If you like this kind of '70's car, that is.

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