Uncle France Is Rich

photo: resto, il duca

An Italian bistro, without the usual red, white and green -
on Montmartre.

New Decade Buzzword

Paris:- Sunday, 20. August 2000:- After nearly a decade of economic stagnation, France decided to turn itself on again. Some of the stagnation was due to severe budgetary belt-tightening to meet the fiscal standards required for France's entry into the Euro-zone.

The French paid dearly for it in the form of increased taxes coupled with more efficient tax-collection, and France made its point.

But this has produced a continuing snow-ball effect, and the tax revenues keep merrily rolling in - with the added plus that the economy has picked up and unemployment has dropped - adding yet more taxpayers.

Some numbers have just come out for the first six months of this year. Compared to the same period in 1999, income collections have increased by 9.6 percent; which is a plus of about 16 billion francs.

Even with a minor reduction in the top rate of value-added tax - the TVA - this tax on consumption hasphoto: art squat, rue rivoli brought in another extra 16 billion; partly due to a three percent increase in consumer spending.

Motorists are currently bleeding money to pay for gas; due to a combination of a miserable dollar-euro equation and record prices for crude. The tax on gas has collected an extra two billion in the first six months of this year.

Rue de Rivoli 'art squat' passes unnoticed up close. Is it an improvement?

But the most spectacular of all is the increase of receipts of taxes on businesses. These have jumped a whopping 21 billion francs. Exports alone have increased by nine percent over 1999.

Le Parisien says businesses pay only about a quarter of the amount paid by a combination of income-tax, sales tax and tax on petroleum products - so, if the government starts looking around for new sources of moola, they know whose door to knock on - not mine.

New Decade Buzzword

Consumer Warning: Don't believe everything you read in the newspapers and don't believe hardly anything you read here - regardless of its source.

Technically I can't say 'I'm not making this up,' because Dave Barry has patented the phrase; just as he has his 'alert readers.' But practically, I don't know what else to write - except the following info isn't from 'alert readers,' it is from Le Parisien.

The word from the fashion central of Bastille apparently says - all of this is 'apparently' because this is the first time I've read that Bastille has or is a 'fashion central' - the word is - hold your breath - is 'bobo.'

Yes folks, 'bobo' is the new hype word. 'Bobo' replaces the '60's 'hippie' and the '80's 'yuppie.' The first carried over into the '70's, without conviction; and the second is still with us - I think; although I call them 'Minitel-millionaires' sometimes.

'Bobo' people are forward-looking personalities such as Madonna, Yannick Noah, Bill Gates and Philippe Starck. 'Bobo' is supposed to stand for 'bourgeois bohème.'

It doesn't stand for what happens to kids' knees when they fall down in schoolyards' asphalted playgrounds or have a roller upset without suitable protection - like my Petit Larousse entry says: "bobo [bobo] n. m. Petit mal (langage enfantin)."

From the short list of 'forward-looking' names above, I'm sure you are confused as I am. Bill Gates is a 'bobo?' Yannick Noah is a great guy, but could he be a mere 'bobo?' If Madonna isn't retired, I hardly think she's a 'bobo.' Philippe Starck is a successful and well-known designer; but 'bobo' is really stretching it.

'Bobos' wear informal clothes - but chic! - incroyablement chic! - and have laid-back but crucial accessories, 'like portable Wap.' This is like saying they carry around kiddies' toy-telephones without any batteries in them.

'Bobos' also have plenty of money - Bill Gates, really? - but do not show their designerphoto: rue pilon, montmartre labels. If true, I'm glad this lowball trend is over. But I thought uncle Bill was a pure-suit guy anyway - if he wasn't otherwise outfitted by Walmart.

For food, 'bobos' love carrot soup. This is their ecological side. They think this is better if they dribble some into their computer keyboards.

For 'quiet days on Montmartre,' check the Rue Pilon.

Otherwise, 'bobos' are over-diplomaed human beings, who sell their services to the Web, communications or the cable-TV, for 'fair prices.' The Internet itself is almost a synonym for 'bobo.'

'Bobos' also work like demons - for a minimum of time - the 35-hour work week! - and a maxi of cash and options, because they want 'to see their kids grow up.'

As far as I'm concerned, none of this hype flies. 'Bourgeois bohème' doesn't sound too bad, if you are describing young commercial insurance guys who get out to do some salsa on weekends, but the rest of it should be labelled 'dodo' and tipped into the nearest trashcan, as soon as possible.

If you don't agree with me, just ask Madonna.

Today's Traffic Report

Once upon a time all the French went on holidays on the same day and returned from them together on the same day. Then some bright spark invented the 35-hour work week.

Actually, the 35-hour work week is used to explain everything in France that doesn't operate like 'once upon a time.' Everything different is caused by this recent explosion of increased idleness.

On the national holiday front, it means that part of the French don't go on holidays for the four weeks of July; to be replaced with the other half of the French who do the same thing for August's four weeks.

Instead, some people go from mid-July to mid-August, and the rest just go any old time that's handy. To kind of guide motorists on these migrations, 'Bison Futé' was invented in 1975 when traffic jams reached record 600-kilometre lengths.

The original idea of the roadway 'Indian guide' was to get the French out of the habit of all driving to or from their holidays on the same day.

Nothing was ever done about the habit of holiday rental operators - to be more flexible about the Saturday check-in and check-out times; these still apply.

'Bison Futé' is still in operation and it has 25 years'-worth of traffic statisticsphoto: metro abbesses to back up its predictions for heaviest-traffic days or periods of them. The French being the French, confound them, so today 'Bison Futé' is wrong half the time.

One way of doing this is to announce that, for example, Sunday, 27. August will be classed as a 'rouge' day for driving. Everybody who is still left on holidays will be packing up this weekend - to return to their 35-hour work weeks.

Light, shade, at the métro Abbesses beginning to Montmartre.

The clever French, hear or see this prediction on TV, and make their plans accordingly. Some really clever residents, set off right in the middle of the worst 'rouge' time, because they know most other drivers will be avoiding it - planning to turn 'orange' Saturday into an effective 'rouge' day.

Result: the predicted 'rouge' day and time become 'green' and the contrarians scoot home, only slowing down to throw money at the toll booths.

Warning: Funny Money

Starting on Saturday, 15. December 2001, ordinary people in Europe will be able to equip themselves with Euro coins and banknotes. On 1. January 2002 the Euro will become the common currency for all transactions.

For a long time - until today in fact - I thought the change-over was to be this coming January. This means the familiar franc won't be suppressed in France until February, 2002.

This is a joyous bonanza time for the boys in the fake money business. For the first time in the world's history, 200 million new banknotes will be thrown on the market in several - 12 in all - countries simultaneously.

Since consumers will have had only two weeks to get familiar with the look and feel of the new currency, the official introduction is also a one-time 'window of opportunity' for counterfeiters.

Experts think the first fakes will be in circulation on 1. January 2002, but they should be easily detectable 'artisanal' models.

Experts also think counterfeiters may have budgeted 30 to 50 million francs to produce fake Euros, for France alone. With the technology available, counterfeiters can make copies that will be acceptable to 90 percent of users. The biggest hurdle is making reasonable copies of the paper itself.

Another problem - with the perfectly good notes - will be that they are produced in different countries, ensuring that there will be slight differences in any case.

What is at stake is user confidence in the money. But since the date of introduction is fixed, both the good guys and the bad guys know when the crime is likely to take place - and they are making their appropriate arrangements.

Web Life In France:

If you are faced with TV-reruns because you happen to be sitting in front of your TV and it is turned on, you may be able to improve the situation by switching to your trusty computer and turning its dial to 'CanalWeb.'

However, your 'trusty' computer must have 'Real Player' orphoto: le chinon, rue abbesses 'Windows Media Player' installed in it somewhere. I'm pretty sure I've got one of these, but I know for certain that I have a very slow connection - so I didn't actually see anything myself - or wait long enough for something to happen.

More light and shade, on the Rue des Abbesses.

I wanted to tune into CanalWeb's 'Barrio Latino' channel to see - anything. If your connection is faster than mine - almost certain! - I'm sure you'll be interested in how Paris is turning itself into Habaña Oriente.

La Chaine Météo

To bring an umbrella, to bring a hat - this is the question and last week the answer was: bring both! Check out the 'La Chaine Météo' for French weather forecasts - up to six days in the future. If your trip is planned for six months in the future, don't worry. By then it will be winter and there will be no doubt about it..

The 'Official' Weather

Météo France is the official source for the TV-weather people and for other professionals who are concerned with the state of France's skies. If you don't get French TV where you are, you can get the weather from where they get it, before they put their version on TV. Because it is 'official,' don't expect forecasts to exceed 24 hours. Since they can't do anything about it, they don't talk about it much.

Summer Festivals - Almost Over

Take a look at the Ministry of Culture's Web site for the section "Organismes" and then look for the Festivals category, and should find nearly 1000 events on this summer throughout France. Festivals are better than TV; a lot better.

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