The Big Social Experiment

photo: cafe le cervoisier

The café Le Cervoisier on the Boulevard de la Villette.

Stabs At Big Photos

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Monday, 31. January 2000:- The city has not gotten over its winter 'grey.' While I was, and you were, away from the window, Paris had a cold snap and it was pretty chilly outside for a few days last week.

Temperatures have jumped from minus to plus in the last couple of days, and last night the TV-weather lady was even saying conditions are 'nearly springlike' - in southern France.

Wherever it is, it is welcome and I hope it is a long-term trend. If Paris is lucky, it will get a high and some clear weather in mid-February, which will light up the whole city and fill up the outside terraces.

These have not been empty, even in the coldest weather. Most open terraces have some form of heat. I have been amazed to see people sitting outside and huddling over cafés in near-zero temperatures. I imagine they have built-in solar systems or are penguins on holiday.

In general, Paris is quiet and the only activity consists of trying to catch-up on the winter sales, which are two weeks old and have another four weeks to go.

In particular, Paris is experiencing a frenzy of labor turmoil plus about a half-dozen of other assortedphoto: bouquinistes, pont neuf turmoils. Tomorrow, the 35-hour work week law goes into effect and this is the day that has been chosen for a semi-general public transport strike - in Paris and throughout France.

Bouquinistes and Pont-Neuf, in winter light.

The long-distance truckers started their blockades last night and this morning's radio-news said they had barricades set up all over the place. Their 'action' has been initially planned to last 48 hours; but, who knows?

The 35-hour work week law is a major piece of social legislation. It will be a lot easier to grasp when it has become history. Right now it is terribly confusing. It is going to change when and how people work in fundamental ways, so it is going to be bumpy for a while.

Getting details of it in daily installments is like the trees in front of your face hiding the forest behind. It has upset a lot of people, becausephoto: auxerrois it makes the future unclear. No one can tell at this point whether it will be an improvement on the past and present.

But the big ship of it has been given its name; its had the ritual Champagne bottle crashed against its side, and it is sliding down the rails towards the water.

There doesn't seem to be much question about whether it will float - but will it be a good sailor? Will it list, will it wallow?

The romanesque belfry tower of Saint-Germain l'Auxerrois church.

Most likely it will do both until it gets trimmed and gets its engines synchronized. If France's new nuclear aircraft carrier is an example, getting the new law up to stable cruising speed is going to take a lot of fiddling over a fair amount of time.

While this is going on, Paris and France will appear to be normal to outside eyes. Strikes, demonstrations and protests look pretty much the same if you aren't directly involved in them. Since these are a fairly common part of French life, more of them won't seem too strange.

While residents in France will get throughphoto: hotel du nord this 'experimental time' as best we can, you may be inconvenienced. Like residents, if you know France a bit, some random inconvenience should come as no surprise.

One thing is certain, once a ship slides down the ways, it doesn't go back up them. Like a trip to the dentist, it's only over when it's over.

As pretty as a post-card, the movie-famous Hotel du Nord.

So then, if you are standing outside your hotel with your bags and are wondering how long it will take to walk to the airport, just try to remember that you have been visiting a grand social experiment.

You may have been witnessing the beginning of a social change that will eventually reach your hometown. If you do not care for being involved in 'history' and all of this is merely annoying, please remember that not all of us like it either.

We will just live through it because it is happening where we live.

Metropole Took a Break

There was no new edition of Metropole last Monday because I decided to take a week off. As a 'week off' it didn't amount to much because I didn't leave town.

Because of freezing temperatures, I holed up like a bear and replied to a lot of emails. The seven other projects for the week, have remained 'projects.' Stabs were taken at several of them but this is all they got because my brain kept telling me to turn it off.

A Stab At High-Rez Photography

Last summer I upgraded Metropole's camera from an ancient Apple QuickTake to an Olympus 1400XL. If you have been looking at Metropole's photos closely, you will probably have noticed a general improvement in their quality.

Like many of you I don't have a lot of spare time for reading user manuals, so this new camera was set to its lowest quality level and left there.

For Metropole, this level has produced acceptable photos, and the storage overhead hasn'tphoto: ex-av d'orleans been too high - except that instead of taking 24 new photos for each issue, the numbers have gone up to between 50 and 100.

The Avenue Leclerc - ex-Avenue d'Orléans: the photo exists in two versions.

One of my little 'stabs' last week was to replace the 4MB memory card with one rated at 16MB. Then I switched the quality setting from 'SQ' to 'HQ.' This produces photos that measure 1280 by 1024 pixels. This is about 50 percent larger than my standard monitor size - and about 400 percent larger than any photo published in Metropole.

With the large memory card installed, I can shoot a whole week's worth of Metropole photos without downloading - or in one session. This doesn't matter because I go out several days a week anyhow.

But the big plus, is that I can mix the lower resolution 'SQ' photos with higher resolution 'HQ' photos. if I happen on a particularly apt subject, I can shoot it at both resolutions.

The difference in detail resolution is remarkable. The higher setting seems to improve the color resolution as well - and the larger-than-monitor size is pretty impressive.

Too bad these photos are far too big to go in the magazine.

Café Metropole Club's 15th Session Re-Nothing

The 15th weekly meeting of the 'Café Metropole Club' ran off as a sort of surprise solo party last Thursday and I managed to get home quickly after it, in order to find a plumber. No new members, no old members showed up, which set a dubious record of sorts, but was not all bad either. Read all about it on last week's 'Club 'Report'' page. This link should be operational now, after replacing '1999' with '2000.'

This Was Metropole One Year Ago:

Issue 4.05 - 1. February 1999 - The Café Metropole column was titled by its 'Ed' - 'Paris Fête - Year 2000.' 'Au Bistro' had '45 Million Is Looking for Somebody.' This issue had two features, I think, entitled 'Cocktails With the Mayor' and 'Paris - The Movie.' This issue also had 'Paris' Scene' - '1999's Big Expos Begin.' photo: resistance plaque at denfert There were four 'Posters of the Week' and Ric's Cartoon of the Week was captioned 'No Absinthe, Vincent!'

This Was Metropole Two Years Ago:

Issue 3.05 - 2. February 1998 - The Café Metropole column had 'Readers Respond to 'Help.' The 'Au Bistro' column was headlined 'A New Suspension for the Papon Trial.' This issue had two features, entitled ''Egyptomania!' Rages in Paris' and 'Bob Sends Me to the Pig Restaurant.' There were four'Posters of the Week' and Ric's Cartoon of the Week was captioned 'The Game's Tomorrow!' This meant there were no jokes in either of the two issues.

The Metropole Paris Countdown to 31. December 2000:

For unknown reasons, this silly countdown continues with the fifth issue of 2000, even though readers have not demanded any countdown to the real beginning of the next century and even more importantly, to the next millennium. This new countdown will last only 366 days, minus the days already gone. The reason for doing this is to give the Tour Eiffel a new chance to 'get it right' - because so many count-down fans missed shouting 'Zéro' on Friday, 31. December 1999.

There are about 336 days left to go until the 3rd Millennium.
signature, regards, ric

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