France's Dubious Record

photo: wine shop, latin quart

A wine shop in the Quartier Latin.

Montmartre's Missing Flics

Paris:- Sunday, 7. May 2000:- The score is not final, but France seems to have broken - probably its own - records for numbers killed in road mishaps during the recent long weekends.

The first, for Easter, saw 90 killed. A tremendous campaign aimed to cajole drivers into prudence, was rewarded with 98 killed during the 1st of May weekend.

Media pressure was increased for this final long weekend. Final figures were unavailable tonight, but it was feared that the toll for the three weekends would be well above 200 killed and hundreds injured.

Police were out en masse throughout the three weekends and they used all the 'repression' available to them.

The numbers killed in road accidents has been steadily declining in France, but France still manages to have one of the worst records in Europe.

According to experts, many French drivers see no relation between road accidents and their personalphoto: shade in luxembourg responsibility for them. Nearly three-quarters think 'fate' is involved, or 'other drivers.' Four-fifths of French drivers judge themselves to be 'good drivers.'

More sitting on Friday, in the Luxembourg garden.

Thus, speeding is merely considered a minor misdemeanor, worthy of being lightly excused. Meanwhile, after this weekend, the Minister of Transport is likely to be looking closely at the idea of prison for speeders.

Throughout the weekend, TV-news has showed stay-at-homes grisly video-clips of real accidents and real victims, with lots of real blood. Also shown, have been films of the horribly handicapped survivors.

As I understand it, despite the widespread adoption of using portable phones in cars while driving, mobile TV-sets have still not caught on.

Telephone Melt-Down

France's national telephone operator France Télécom says a subscriber can expect a failure of service about once every 12 years. This is very good news.

On Wednesday, France Télécom's subscribers apparently experienced a 'mega-breakdown' in Paris. I learned about this from Thursday's le Parisien. This means the next near-total collapse of service can be expected in 2012.

Apparently many users were informed by robots that 'due to saturation, your call cannot be completed. Please try again.' Paris' two million subscribers were tearing their hair out.

This reminds me - if my modem is 'talking' to my ISP, does the operator's robot tell my modemphoto: cours st andre the same thing? In any case, the probable cause of the problem was FT's super software for managing all us telephone yakkers - appropriately named 'Sémaphore.'

Le Parisien calls it a 'petit bijou de technologie.' What Parisians may call it is unprintable. Around 10:30 on Wednesday, it 'disfunctioned.' First and worst hit were all firms using digital lines.

When it comes to sitting around in Paris, even alleys are okay.

Victims of the 'defect computer' were estimated at half the telephone users in the Ile-de-France. I must have been in the group of the other half of users.

The last 'collapse' occurred in 1992 when a football stadium in Corsica fell down and the French forced the telephone operator to its knees, by calling loved ones - few of whom were in the stadium or even on the island at the time. I also would like to point out that 1992 was less than 12 years ago.

Oddly, many telephone users seemed to think that if their wired phone didn't work, their unwired one would. The result was even more people out on the street than usual, furiously taping their tiny plastic phones and shouting "Allo Allo!" at them.

French Optimism Rises Into Plus Zone

France's statistics unit, the INSEE, regularly calculates the morale of France's residents, somehow, and last week was pleased to make an astounding claim.

For the first time since - oh, about 1992 - is this a co-incidence? - the INSEE thinks French optimism can be reliably rated at 'plus 2.'

I was unaware that this measure stood at minus 23 when Lionel Jospin became Prime Minister in 1997. I was equally unaware that the bottom was reached in late 1996, during the government of Alain Juppé, when positivism in France was at minus 39.

Zero is the state when optimists equal pessimists, and the fuzzy graph in the paper seems to show that we reached this level as the year changed from 1999 to 2000.

Going into the crowd at Etoile late on Friday, 31. December 1999 I did have my doubts; but these were much relieved when I managed to escape from the mob's clutches at about 00:15 on Saturday, 1. January 2000.

However, I do not recall seeing anybody from the INSEE taking the crowd's pulse at the time.

Place du Tertre - Crime Scene?

The sit-down painters in the Place du Tertre up on the top of Montmartre think the stand-up portrait artists may be 'disloyal' competition. The painters also think they may be worse things too.

This came out recently, during a meeting between painters, residents, elected officials and the police - held to discuss public safety problems on the 'Butte.'

The police spokesman said they have a bus full of cops parked in front of Sacre Coeur until 23:30 every night, and a manned police station near métro Abbesses which operates until 22:00 in the evening.

The spokesman also said visitors get lost because the area is poorly sign-posted. But the sit-down painters are more worried about what they see as competition from the stand-up portrait artists - some of whom are from eastern Europe.

Police maintain they hand out 900 to 1000 tickets a year; and that most of the stand-up artists are in order, paper-wise.

One of the sit-down artists pointed out that police themselvesphoto: stone seat, pont neuf calculate the 'Butte' gets six or seven million visitors annually - and asked if the police shouldn't be a bit more present, all of the time?

Some people prefer to sit on stone bridges rather than iron or wooden ones.

For example, the Montmartre Syndicate d'Initiative office in the Place du Tertre closes at 17:00, the last police leave at 23:30 - but the cafés and bars remain open until 02:00 - and pickpockets don't necessarily knock off early.

One major concern seems to be the fact that visitors don't know where to go to announce that they've been robbed - and if they did know, the police stations might be closed.

Artists must have police permits to exercise their profession on Montmartre; and this they are allowed to do from 10:00 to 22:00 from March to September; and to 20:00 during the rest of the year.

The number of permanent places for artists in the Place du Tertre is limited to 140. A new set of decrees goes into effect this coming June, but these are minor modifications of the existing rules.

The police spokesman said there wasn't really a problem after 22:30 because a police anti-criminal brigade takes over. Apparently this fact was unknown to local artists and residents.

Aprés Moi, le Déluge

About a third of the expected 300,000 spectators turned out on the Champ de Mars on Friday night for the big free concert, directed by Seiji Ozawa and featuring Andrea Bocelli.

The thunder that had been threatening the event did not actually crash down until the final notes of the third encore were dying away. With lightning flashing and rain falling from buckets, the crowd scattered, breaking all records for leaving a successful concert.

Sports News

Calais and its fourth division football team got ready for its epic encounter with first division Nantes on Sunday evening by having a pre-win party; having thousands of yellow and red scarves, t-shirts and other knickknacks manufactured, and generally having a good time.

The media fell in love with the part-time footballers, who are mostly full-time ferry-boat workers or fishermen or unemployed.

All who could bought tickets for the match, and those lucky enoughphoto: place dauphine to get them, got a big send-off when they travelled to Paris-Saint-Denis' ultra huge Stade de France for the match.

Also for sitting, the 'hidden places' only a few steps from the centre of town.

No such scenes of joy were to be seen on TV in broadcasts from Nantes, where the team's colors are yellow and green and the professional team is affectionately called the 'Canaries.'

Calais scored the first goal just before halftime. Calais supporters in the stadium went berserk with inexpressible joy.

In the second half, Nantes' 'Canaries' scored two goals; thus ending the media-dream of "Tout la France derrière Calais."

Apparently the Calais players and supporters did not understand the significance of the score, because they returned to Calais to a huge welcome and a tremendous post-game loser's party, that went on all night and was continuing towards Monday.

French Web Life: This Week's Short Version

Paris' Peace Wall, Still

The URL for Paris' Peace Wall on the Champ de Mars is: 'Mur Pour la Paix,' which is a Dot-Com and not a Dot-Org. You can also learn how to read the word 'peace' in 32 languages.

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