Where's the Beef?

photo: creperie, les halles

Actually, there's not much 'beef' in an average crêperie.

Mad Cow Psychosis In France

Paris:- Sunday, 12. November 2000:- France is like most other countries with a population of slightly over 60 million, and Paris is like most other cities that have about 11 million residents. Being 'like' means that there is news all the time.

For both the city and the country the big news was - and is - the psychotic behavior of the people who live here. As I walk around the streets and hang out in my favorite café, I has not been noticing much in the way of any mass psychosis.

Yet the newspapers and even the TV-news say it is happening and it is all around.

The problem seems to be that France's cattle industry is producing 'mad cows.' Apparently, if you eat one of these there is a remote chance that your brain will change into a spongy mess.

Readers with long memories may recall that Britain was afflicted by the same problem a couple of years ago. The big news at the time was France's refusal to permit the import of beef from the UK because it might be tainted with this 'mad cow' thing.

That crises was somehow overcome - probably by means of a truckers' strike - but shortly after the beginning of this year I began to notice that detection of 'mad cows' in France was running at the rate of about one per week.

This was reported as random and seemingly unrelated news. Each time one 'mad cow' wasphoto: new metro entry, place colette found, the whole herd it belonged to was eliminated, destroyed, burnt to ashes, disappeared.

This would be reported and forgotten. Then about a week later another 'mad cow' would be found; and so on and so forth.

The RATP's latest creation for a métro entry - at the Place Colette.

None of these reports mentioned anything about British cattle and seemed to be unrelated to any truckers' strikes.

In late June, when the number of found 'mad cows' and destroyed herds numbered about 26, I began to wonder what was going on. Now that we are at the end of the 45th week of the year, the number of detected 'mad cows' has surpassed the number of weeks.

Relatively suddenly, everybody has noticed it all at once, and everybody in France has become 'psychotic.' Beef sales are off by 30 to 50 percent.

School canteens have banned beef. Frantic customers are running into butcher shops and shouting out orders for 'anything but beef!'

According to TV-news, perfectly ordinary cows become 'mad' by eating animal feed that is partly composed of other animals. This is not something that is found in nature, so it is not the cows' fault.

Depending on what you read or hear on radio or see on TV-news, this kind of cattle feed was banned some time ago - or - big or! - the authorities have been thinking about banning it, for about the past four years.

Some cattle ranchers - possibly the green-tendency types - switched long ago to only feeding their herds veggie things that cows like to eat; like ordinary grass.

But now that we are all 'psychotic,' this effort makes no difference because the beef-food chain treats all cows alike. Only the rancher himself knows what his cows have been eating.

Last week the government decreed that all cows about four years old or older are 'mad cows.' Labeled as such, these cows will not get into 'our' food chain; they will be 'disappeared.'

The government has yet to decide whether to ban all animal feeds containing animals. Because of our psychotic natures, we are suddenly supposed to be wary of 'mad fish' disease and 'mad chicken' disease.

This is bad news. Because all of the people who have been consciously avoiding 'mad cows' have been eating fish or chickens or both. Or pork or rabbits or lambs or even escargots.

To put it mildly, France is in a tizzy.

Imagine, the country that is the world's home of the bonne bouffe has nearly nothing left that is safe to eat - except grass.

With this going on, you'd think that you would bephoto: oyster bar, vavin, montparnasse constantly tripping over people lying in the street because they are suffering so badly from starvation that they can no longer make it to the corner café for a café and a calva.

Could oysters have 'mad cow' disease?

As an semi-expert eye-witness, I can positively state that the sidewalks are not littered with near corpses. As a shopper at my neighborhood marché I have seen with my own eyes ordinary people calmly buying all the stuff they usually buy, even rillettes.

As a habitual café-goer, I can report that they are just as full as ever at lunchtime - and a lot of people are actually eating France's national dish of steak-frites perfectly without any apparent fear.

So, 'what's the beef?' you may want to know.

Without having hard facts other than what I've observed, I have to assume that the entire 'psychosis' concerns the people who work for news organizations such as newspapers, radio and TV.

None of the farmers shown on TV-news have shown any symptoms of 'mad cow' disease - other than anger at having their cows destroyed in wholesale lots.

Is it safe to eat beef? I just ate some and I'm writing this, so I must be still alive.

Sports News

This week's 'Sports News' hasn't amounted to a hill of beans and Other Marathon Sports News got me in so muchphoto: fountain, les halles trouble last week - again! - that it has been suspended for all time, even though there weren't any marathons around this week that I know of.

If there are other Metropole readers who are marathon fans, let me know because I have the entry details for both of next year's Paris marathons.

If you ask, I will send details to you. If a lot of you ask, I will have to include the details here. I intend to do this sooner but preferably later anyway, but hope to get Thanksgiving - not a French custom - and New Years out of the way first.

And now, to wrap up, the scores. France 26, New Zealand 39. Both you and I will miss next week's game in Marseille, but the same teams are playing again for some reason and I don't really expect the score to be much different.

Web Life:URLs: You Can Help

Regular readers may recall that I have requested - nearly endlessly - that you send in your favorite Paris-related Web URLs; for publication here in return for a 'thankyou.' If you are a new reader, this applies to you too.

However, this exciting reader-action is suspended this week on account of the uncertainties caused by the uncompleted US election last week.

Obviously readers who are online 24 hours a day trying to find out who their President is, have no time to find Paris-related and amusing Web sites nor time to send me their URLs if such things could be found.

Even Metropole's server-lady is glued to her satellite-connected TV night and day - she says it is an 'incredible spectator sport.' Then in her 'PS' she has added, "Zzzzzzzzzzzzz" and I think this means there will be more undetected typos this week than usual.

So, faithful Metropole readers, you are off the hook. Therefore, here are last week's URLs once again. Give every one a hit if you have some spare time.

Inside Paris-Hollywood

The following one I checked, and forgot to notice if it has any English version. For an insider's take on the French film industry, check out Mister W, who apparently gets his information from insiders, and this includes some scoopsphoto: chez denise, les halles such as the dates that some films will be in the 'salles,' up to 2007.


'Arts Premiers' are the subject of the new national museum that is expected to open at the Quai Branly in 2004; and until then their exhibitions take place in a wing of the Louvre that has been mentioned in the 'Scene' column.

Check out the beef situation yourself at Chez Denise in Les Halles.

Since the museum is having exhibitions years before it exists, it is no wonder that it has a Web site too. This presents a history of the project, information about the new museum and its aims, and information about current exhibitions. Here then, is an avant-première of the Musée du Quai Branly.

Comics at the BNF?

By checking the problem-prone national library's Web site I learned that it intended to reopen on Thursday, 2. November, and the B.D. show is scheduled to start a week later, on Thursday, 9. November. Now it's your turn to check out the Bibliothèque Nationale.

Repeat - for the 'Mois de la Photo'

Photo Gallery is worth a look according to regular long-time reader Dana Shaw. Visuel Image is said to be especially rich. Enough words; just for looking. As a last shot, check out ArtCom's take on the Maison Européenne de la Photographie - which is mentioned elsewhere in this issue.

World Wide Poll Revisited

From Wednesday, 15. November until Saturday, 18. November, a worldwide poll will be conducted in eight languages, to find out what it is like to be a human being on this planet on the eve of the new millennium.

The poll which is modestly called PlanetProject, has been organized by 3Com, whose president Eric Benhamou wants to know about the haves and have-nots in our electronic age.

This planetary poll will seek to gather some idea of the values and beliefs of the world's population. Poll responses will be analyzed by the Harris Interactive polling organization.

This seems to be a positive and pioneering project that is only possible because of the existence of the World Wide Web, so I suggest that everyone who considers themselves to be an active member of mankind, consider taking part in it.

The 'Official' Weather: Gloomy Becomes 'Norm'

Météo France is featured again because of the rainy autumn it is giving us. This is the official source for France's TV-weather people. If you don't get French TV where you are, you can get the weather from where they get it. Because it is 'official' - meaning: as true as possible - don't expect forecasts to exceed 24 hours.

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