True News For Skeptics

photo: bistro le grand carnot
Depending on the management, any place named
'Carnot' around here will do.

After Exorcist, Charge Is Laid Against 'X'

Paris:- Sunday, 25. October 1998:- A couple of weeks ago, 15 of the good villagers of Delain, were readying their parish church for a planned concert, to be performed by the Philharmonic Orchestra of Besançon the following Sunday.

photo: pumpkin, to leftWhen they moved the old altar a lot of other things started moving too. For the three days at the end of last week, the Saint-Hubert church of Delain was scene of flying tapers, falling statues, bouncing lights and dancing vases.

One large candle flew 20 metres horizontally, before being sliced lengthwise in two. No one was hurt by the flying objects, but there were close calls.

The church in the village of 200 inhabitants in the valley of the Saône was so afflicted by 'events' that a part-time professional exorcist was borrowed from the Archbishop of Besançon.

The good Franciscan brother explained that there is no official post as exorcist, but that the 'demand was so great' that one had been assigned to each bishopric. He has already dealt with 'a hundred cases.'

No sooner inside the church, than a brass double-candlestick fell right in front of him, and then retired by itself. After spending a couple of hours in the church, he said he'd never seen anything like it before.

Fortunately the 'events' seemed to have stopped sometime on Saturday, and the planned Sunday concert by the Philharmonic Orchestra could take gophoto: golden october ahead. Sixty ticketholders declined to attend the musical evening.

This is a rare moment of 'golden October,' not the Saint-Hubert church spire.

On Monday, the altar was replaced in its original location by the parish priest. Before the eyes of the parish priest and some gendarmes, candles broke apart and fell to the floor. On Tuesday, new odd signs were found; but these had the look of work by Halloween tricksters.

The mayor of Delain went to the police station and lodged a charge against 'X.' This is common in France in cases were the victim doesn't know 'whodunit.' Now gendarmes are inside the church conducting an investigation and Europe's media circus is outside it, waiting for official word about its spookiness.

One witness said that if he'd been alone, he would have said he was unscrewed. Church authorities also had a charge laid against 'X,' along with the mayor. An official said, "Being a believer doesn't exclude one from being intelligent."

French Students On Strike, Part II

Last Tuesday, students held their marches again throughout France and in Paris. The estimated number of those taking part was about half the number of those in the first demonstration just over a week ago - about a quarter-million.

Intensive talks were held by the students and the government which went on between the two walks, and a large number of the issues had been tentativelyphoto: F2-TV, strike security settled. All the same, many teachers were on strike for the day and joined the student marchers.

Union security member, protecting students. Photo: F2-TV.

Wednesday's edition of Le Parisien says the students are disorganized, and were afraid of the 'casseurs.' The police had vastly increased manpower and much stricter control of the situation in Paris, and some labor unions lent their organized security people to the students.

Despite a gigantic police presence throughout France, there were 300 arrests and 85 were slightly injured.

The education minister, Claude Allègre, addressed the National Assembly on Tuesday evening, with a whole basket of propositions.

He continued on Wednesday, with a promise of an extra four billion francs for the 1999 education budget, plus 14,000 new positions in the schools, including the immediate addition of a thousand foreign language teachers.

Besides Le Parisien, many students remained skeptical. They've heard all this before; four years ago. The problems of French schools are not ones to be put right with temporary bandages and what seems to be really desired, are fundamental reforms.

Geezers Take Their Strike Turn

On Thursday, it was the 'old folks' turn to march in Paris and throughout France. This was only good enough for page four of Friday's Le Parisien, even though the seniors had 70,000 out on the streets of France.

What with all the 'early' retirements and much retirement in general beginning at age 55, about 20 percent of the population in France falls into the 'retired' category.

What was the strike about? The pensioners want a raise of course. Not only have pensions not kept up with the rising cost of living, but they've been beaten on the head by new taxes. Some pensioners claim to have lost 42 percent of their purchasing power in the last four years.

This is serious. Here is a fifth of the population which does not earn, but does consume; this is a serious factor affecting the whole economy.

While the average pension in the private sector was 11,160 francs, about 20 percent of these received no more than the minimum of 4,200 francs a month. The average for women is 6,702 francs.

Being a civil servant may not pay well until after retirement. The average for male retirees is 13,347 francs a month and 10,848 for the ladies.

Although most of the figures above are 'averages,' many pensioners in France are more familiar with sums around the minimum.

The surviving member of a couple getsphoto: pumpkin, to right 50 percent of the deceased's pension. Many people who have worked and saved all their lives to buy a modest house, find on retirement they can't afford the fixed costs of the two standard sets of property taxes and other such items as the annual TV license fee.

In contrast, the average starting salary seems to be around the minimum wage of about 6,000 francs a month. This does not seem to be a great incentive to work 45 years towards a pension, when an apartment rent in the here and now can easily be 33 to 50 percent of this starting salary.

Taking A Break In the Strike News

The minister of the interior, Jean-Pierre Chevènement, has left hospital. On Wednesday, 2. September, while undergoing a fairly routine minorphoto: future musee forain, bercy operation, he had an adverse reaction to the anesthetic, which put him into a coma.

Future location of the Musée des Arts Forains.

These are dangerous and political circles in France were about to count him out - in private. However, Mr. Chevènement has made a strong recovery - after eight days in the coma - and was reading the papers at the end of September, and writing congratulatory messages to the new German Chancellor, Gerhard Schröder.

Shortly after leaving the Val-de-Grâce hospital, he paid a short visit to his ministry, to thank his staff for their support and perhaps to say he'd be back to the office at the beginning of the new year.

The Bibliothèque at Tolbiac Is On Strike

No sooner did the last part of the Bibliothèque François-Mitterrand open to impatient researchers on Friday, 9. October, than the library's employees went on strike last Tuesday - or possibly on Monday.

Right from the beginning, not much has worked smoothly. Researchers, used to being able to see 30 volumes a day at the antique but well-worn Richelieu site, were lucky to get five at the new 'trés grand bibliothèque;' partly because some of they books and documents they want are still at... Richelieu.

The new library's system of remote stockage in the towering silos does not work well either. For the five books that may be available, it might take two to four hours for them to arrive at the researcher's work station.

The direction rightly points out that the books for the researchers were moved in a few days from Richelieu to Tolbiac, and once there the staff had to figure out how to make the whole new thing work. It just won't turn at high rpm as it's being run-in.

I'm not sure what the labor action is about. Thinking about going into bigtime French libraries is a lot more formidable than actually going in to them. In each of my cases, once past the initial battle-axephoto: pumpkin, to left of a filter, the reception was professional, if not warm as well.

If the initial labor action at Tolbiac is a result of concern for the library's 'clients' - its 'user' friendliness - then it is misplaced. Everybody has seen this big upheaval and move coming for a long time and anybody who expected it to be smooth is crazy - given the colossal size of the operation.

But now there are hints about a lack of communication between the management and the staff. Maybe the management expects the library to work by 'magic' - it's full of computers after all! - but at the point of delivery, where the researcher meets the librarian, there are just two little people at the very bottom of a very high silo of books.

Gerard May Lose Honor for Undignified Behavior

Heard on radio: Gerard Depardieu, fresh from the exportable cultural success of the recent four-part TV-series, the 'Count of Monte-Cristo,' is in danger of losing his red ribbon - the dignity symbol of the Légion d'Honneur - which was awarded to him by President Jacques Chirac, on 2. May 1996.

Reason: Depardieu's recent conviction for drunk driving. For this he got a three-month suspended sentence. Gerard is currently filming 'Balzac,' another cultural two-part TV-series for TF1, most likely also to be exportable. Ex-culture czar, Jack Lang, reportedly said that taking back honors is undignified.

Winter Sports News

Paris' very own football team, which it shares with Saint-Germain-en-Laye and is therefore known as PSG, has recently gottenphoto: halloween swag a new manager; an ace from Italy. He is supposed to turn the fortunes of this lack-luster club around and I hope he can do it while he still has the job.

The premature Halloween tricksters are short on 'traditions' and long on fun.

However, the games are often referred to as 'game 89' of the French championships - which continues until July 1999, I think. In other places this series of games might be called the French Division One League; and only at the end of it will there be a competition for its championship.

All of this 'championship' is too early for me, so I am declaring football 'not a winter sport,' and will use this space instead to not report on real winter sports.

In the absence of actual 'news' I therefore direct you to the winter sports Web site, which is appropriately sponsored by Miko ice cream. It contains a lot of useful information in French and English about weather, snow, equipment, ice cream, accommodations, resorts and facilities available in France's more vertical areas.

As far as this type of 'sport' is concerned, I have always preferred getting no closer to cold and snow than ice cream and luckily I can get this across the street, along with some tropical fruit drink with warm-looking vacationing polar bears on the label.

Send email concerning the
contents to: Ric Erickson, Editor.
Metropole Midi © 2014
– unless stated otherwise.
logo, metropole sml midi logo No matter how good it tastes,
there is no such thing
as a free lunch.
Waldo Bini