Thursday, October 30, 2014

Happy (Healthy) Halloween

Trick-or-Treat just got a whole new meaning...


(Thank you Sanaa K for a great illustration!)

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

I hate Halloween

I hate Halloween. Like most adults, I hate what the holiday has become, but I also hate what it’s always been. I know it is terribly unpatriotic to confess that much. I’ll celebrate Veteran’s day twice to redeem myself. But Halloween is so terribly objectionable that one has to conclude the devil really exists.
So take a bunch of people, a whole country actually. Old and young, poor and rich, of any race creed and religion. The good and the bad. The smart and the stupid. And for the occasion, make them all stupid!
They all come together once every year to put on foolishly inappropriate costumes and gorge on candies.  I know, we all indulge in stupid behavior at one time or another. See, in France, we do many very stupid things. For example, we cheek-kiss to greet people, even at work, and every day. But we do it in private. Because what’s even more mind boggling about Halloween is that there’s a true pride in harboring such vapid wardrobe. Everybody takes to the streets, in parades, just to make sure everyone can see for themselves the display of inanity. In case you find me a tad harsh, please refer to the photo of the tampon man here, or the other tampon man there

I was once told that Halloween is an opportunity to act out our fantasies. The tamponing is rather widespread, it seems. Equally desirable on the other side of the pond, where Prince Charles told his then lover Camilla Parker Bowles that he too wanted to be a Tampax, her Tampax that is. For the tampon adverse person, you will find a plethora of alleged sexy outfits, as Halloween seems to be the opportunity for women age 30 and over to dress like sluts. This year will be no exception.

If you want to be topical, you can pick the Sexy Ebola Containment Nurse Costume. The website selling such marvel of couture goes on to underscore the great qualities of the costume: “The short dress and chic gas mask will be the talk of Milan, London, Paris, and New York as the world's fashionistas seek global solutions to hazmat couture.” The only thing being contained here is my repulsion. Barely.
The other infamous part of Halloween is the equally puzzling trick or treating tradition. But beware, you should only treat as tricking is mean and does not sell candies. If only I could electrocute a few kids once a year, I could see the charm of the holiday. I wish the Master Electricians Guild would lobby alongside the national Sugar Association just to carry a better balance. 
High Fructose Corn Syrup factory - Iowa
The supreme absurdity: It is commonly accepted as a fact that giving teeth slaying candies made out of artificial flavors and high fructose corn syrup is a treat. Children would be much healthier if they received a 100 volt choc once a year rather than gorging on cavities, diabetes and obesity causing twaddle.
Of course, if little children rang my bell (they know better), I’d love to give them electroshock nougats de Montelimarcalisons d’Aix, bêtises de Cambrai, berlingots de Carpentras, bergamotes de Nancy, dragées de Verdun, sucre d’orges de Tours. Confectionery, sweets and candies are a French invention. So is dressing up. It’s called Mardi-Gras. And it’s for grown-ups only. 

Mardi-Gras in Nice - France

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Le Scandale

You think you have a big scandale here at home with a few lane closures. Well, my French scandale is bigger than your New Jersey scandal. Let me pull a Chris Christie on you: I am sad, very sad. I am embarrassed and humiliated about the sex scandal unfolding in France.

My president, François Hollande was caught spending the night with his new ladylove, French actress Julie Gayet. The peopl(ish) magazine Closer (closer to the gutter than to the people, if you want a ranking) took photos of the president daft-punk(ed) with a helmet leaving the Elysée Palace on a Vespa. Another photo shows the president entering a building; another one shows the security detail personnel bringing croissants in the morning; then the president exiting the building, hoping back on the Vespa to return to leading the country; finally the movie star(let) exiting the same building.
And you know what the French media did? They reported on it!!! They revealed the information and they wrote an article. They even published the photos. Shame on them! Shame on the French media! Private life should be paramount. In France, the Omertà on presidential sex life is sacred. Mitterrand fathered a love child with his long time mistress and no one bothered to report on it for 20 years. President Pompidou was rumored to host partouzes, the French word for orgies. The French press, so infused in the noble principle of private life did not quip much of a word. For Napoleon the 3rd's sake, if a president of the Republic of France cannot have an affair, then, who can? And don't suggest they should move to North Korea!

It is a scandale that the Internet exists. The president should not have to take any precaution to meet his paramour. Please don't bring up the argument that different times bring different mores. Don't you know that France does not give a dam about smartphone technology, the Internet, Facebook or Twitter. They use it but how is that even relevant to the conversation? Look, Mitterrand met with his women on a regular basis. Was that ever photographed? No! It is therefore perfectly natural that François Hollande would expect the same courtesy. 

The media's nosiness is a disgrace. Why should they ask about lapses in the French president's security, or whether bringing croissants to the president's mistress is in the job description of his security detail? Why should the media ask about the owner of the apartment where the pair of sweethearts was mating? No, please, this is only François Hollande's business. Enough with the prying! If he gets assassinated on a Vespa while on his way to his inamorata, it's none of the French people's business, or the media, or anybody else.

You could make the case that it's not even his roommate's business. Valérie Trierweiler, the French First Lady who lives at the Élysée Palace and enjoys a five-person cabinet is not married to the President. They are "en concubinage", the French expression for living partners, which gave the English word "concubine". I'm sure that in François's mind: No marriage=no cheating.

It is a scandale. A somber scandale. Trierweiler, Hollande's girlfriend since 2005 is in the hospital, recovering from "gros coup de blues," or a "severe case of the blues", according to a spokesperson. In France, it's a disease. Vulpine commentators jumped to conclusions alleging that she may have attempted to commit suicide. They even claimed that this rumor had been confirmed by US media. Because of course, it's so Un-French but oh so American to report on sex scandals.

The Hunting of the President

In 2012, French actress Julie Gayet was asked to tape a segment in support of Francois Hollande, then French presidential candidate. Here's what she had to say back then of the one who's alleged to be her lover today. 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

End the Tyranny of the Turkey

My Chinese-American friend Mary, a foodie in her own right, was complaining that this year yet again, it is the season to perform mass slaughtering of Big Bird. Not that she cares for animals that much. She simply laments having to eat it.

With her eyes full of lust and envy, she sibilated "Ah! You, French people. You know better. You don't eat turkey". And she's right, at least partially. We, French people, don't eat turkey for Thanksgiving, for the simple reason that we don't celebrate Thanksgiving. I proceeded on doing a little unscientific survey and I found that more than 100% of my American friends believe that the French don't eat turkey. Ever!

My aforementioned Chinese-American friend then proceeded to telling me about this guy, Jean-Francois. "He pretends that he's French, but he's not! He claims that the French eat turkey". As I said, more than 100% of my friends believe the French don't eat turkey, and as majority rules,  Jean-Francois must be wrong. Therefore he can't be French. Jean-Francois should be guillotined for making such allegations, along with the 46 millions turkeys.

So why do you eat turkey? My little survey showed that most of you don't really like turkey that much. I suspect that some of you might have become vegan to be excused. My friend M, who required anonymity given the gravity of the topic said "I think turkey is like the Satanic Verses of meat. As with that iconic book which everyone bought but no one actually read, turkey is a must on Thanksgiving, but not something anyone ever eats other than on that day." I would venture to say that turkey is a satanic meat. No redeeming virtue to be found in this obese animal engineered to pollute our ovens at the end of November. Yet, it's the tradition.
The "first Thanksgiving" likely included 
wildfowl, corn, porridge and venison

Historians know that turkey was not the centerpiece of the first Thanksgiving feasts. Duck and goose were the pièce de resistance, together with venison. And yet today 88% of Americans surveyed by the National Turkey Federation eat turkey on Thanksgiving.

The beast is everywhere, in miles and miles of supermarkets meat counters, on TV, in ads, at a movie theater near you. Every cooking show, every food magazine is talking about it, trying to make it sound like a gourmet affair. Recipe writers offer advice such as "Ask your butcher to reserve this, chop that, add those..." which is wishful thinking, infuriating advice, because the 88% of Americans who eat turkey for Thanksgiving don't have a butcher. The recipes make it sound like you have a butcher as you have a family doctor. Butchers are not covered under Obamacare, and we don't buy our turkeys from "our butcher". Turkey is an object sold under plastic wrap in supermarkets and turned into food by overcooking.   

Yet, I feel I have to come clean. I confess. I'm not exactly proud. But we, French people, recipients of good taste, wardens of brilliance, vestals of food mastery, rulers of bon goût, we do eat turkey. And we can't even blame it on Thanksgiving! We don't celebrate Thanksgiving, because we are mostly not a thankful people.

We eat turkey for Christmas. La dinde de Noël is as traditionally French as a Gitanes cigarette, and probably as lethal. Turkey is disgusting. In French, even its metaphorical meaning is derogatory. "Ah, quelle dinde" is a very offensive way to describe a woman, conjuring thoughts of stupidity, clumsiness and a fat ass.

How do we prepare a French turkey, you're begging to ask! No bread stuffing. No cranberry accoutrement. We stuff our dinde with chair à saucisse (chair is not a piece of furniture you sit on, chair - pronounce shehr - means meat in French), chestnuts, foie gras. We also waste an inordinate amount of black truffles and Armagnac brandy on it. We try to improve it. And we fail.

Mon dieu! Why is turkey on French Christmas menus? One cynical explanation would be that we are eating the Thanksgiving leftovers from our American cousins. But it's not even the case. There's actually an embargo on American turkeys. We are just closeted turkey eaters. It is a tradition that no one confesses to following, except very unfrench Jean-Francois.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

When in doubt, blame it on Napoléon

If everybody loves Raymond, who does everybody hate? No, not Ted Cruz. Napoléon!
The French emperor and dictator has long been the subject of hatred and ridicule.
As he should be - this great man of diminutive size is exactly the type people love to hate. Even after all these years.
(I should mention that I personally love and adore Popoleon, as we affectionately call our great Emperor in France.)

Why exactly do you hate Napoléon? At this point, for anything and everything. But let me be more specific. I can tell you that Napoléon is responsible for all the affliction, torment and suffering of today's world.

 When in doubt, blame it on Napoléon.

- Why do we drive on the right and the Brits drive on the left?
Blame it on Napoléon. During the Napoleonic conquests, Napoléon, who was a lefty, forced his entire army to lead charges on their horses from the right, holding their weapon in their left hand. As he conquered most of Europe, the whole continent adopted his horse-riding  style, with the exception of the Brits. 200 years later, we still hold on to this schism.

- Why do men think they are superior to women?
Blame it on Napoléon. As you know, Napoléon was an emperor, a warrior. But he is also the man who promulgated the Napoleonic Civil Code, the civil code that still today is used in the majority of countries throughout the world. Article 212 of the Code Napoléon legislates the rights and duties of spouses. Right before the code was proclaimed, Napoléon insisted that a line be added. In 1804, the new Code Napoléon proclaimed the legal inability for married women. The Emperor famously said at a State Council meeting: "What is unfrench, is to give authority to women." Which is slightly ironic when you know that Napoléon's own sister, Elisa Bonaparte was a bona fide ruler, Princess of Piombino from 1805 to 1814 and Grand-Duchess of Tuscany from 1809 to 1814.  

- Why do Arab Muslims hate us?
Blame it on Napoléon. First, Arab Muslims don't hate us. But, if we're trying to understand the complex relationships between Arab Muslims and the Western Christian world, here's to Napoléon: in 1798, Napoléon realized that the French Navy was not quite ready to face off the Brits in the English Channel. Instead, with his Foreign Minister, Talleyrand, he decided to launch a little stroll through Egypt. His goal was to forge alliances in Egypt and Syria to reach India and get in the way of England in their possession. Nothing worked the way it was planned but nevertheless, Murad, the Egyptian ruler who led the Mameluks, engaged in a series of battles with the rigorously trained troops of Napoléon.
Murad suffered a terrible and bloody defeat at the battle of Abukir, under the pyramids. The loss was crushing and humiliating. The Mameluks, who had expressed the greatest contempt for Napoléon when he arrived, realized the extent of their own weakness and their ignorance of 'modern' European military capabilities. They developed immense resentment for that humiliation, which historians credit as the root of today's hostility.

- Why do you have your Facebook timeline polluted by ads for Rosetta Stone, which makes you feel like a cretinous moron because you have not yet mastered Swahili and Pashto during your last summer vacation.
Blame it on Napoléon. See paragraph above. Napoléon invaded and conquered Egypt. While at it, on his way to Cairo from Alexandria, he discovered the Rosetta Stone!

- Why do you suffer heartaches and believe that you should marry someone you love?
Blame it on Napoléon. You might think it's a progress to marry for love, but actually, it causes so much heartache that some argue it is cruelty. In any case, before Napoléon, people married to forge alliances and to protect patrimonial assets. But our great Emperor met a lovely lady, a widow with bad teeth. And he fell for her - his large- head over his heels, which was not too bad because he was short. He fell in love and he decided to pursue the object of his love. Breaking with French monarchs before him, he married Josephine despite her less than perfect pedigree, sending a message that marrying for love was utterly acceptable, even commendable. If you can't find a man, if your heart is bleeding because she left you, just blame it on Napoléon.

- Why do you read about scandals in magazines at the nail parlor or at the barbershop?
Blame it on Napoléon. Napoléon invented the scandal. Let's say more accurately that he was the victim of the first full-fledged tabloid scandal. While trying to conquer Italy, his heart was aching from being so far from Josephine. He begged her to join him in Milan but she was reluctant. Many rumors arose that Josy was having fun while her man was fighting for the grandeur of La France. He became suspicious and jealous. To get her pissed off, he took a mistress (or two), then decided he did not love her anymore. He wrote a letter to his brother confessing to his change of heart. The letter was intercepted by the Brits and published on the front page of the newspaper. If you don't like tabloids, don't blame Murdoch. Blame it on Napoléon.

- Baldness
Blame it on Napoléon. Previous French kings were wearing wigs. Napoléon abolished this practice, revealing his calvicie. Without Napoléon, Phil Collins would never have achieved rock star status! If you're a fan of Phil Collins, you probably don't mind. But for all of you who do like men with a full crop of hair...

- Hemorrhoids
Blame it on Napoléon. Or more exactly, Napoléon should blame hemorrhoids. He did not invent them. But he suffered a very bad case of the disgrace. Some historians go around spreading the word that he lost the battle of Waterloo because of a bad case of piles.

- Finally, you could have been elegant, refined, smart and superbly arrogant French, rather than being rough around the edges, unsophisticated, stodgy and superbly arrogant Americans.
Blame it on Napoléon, who sold Louisiana in 1803. Sly Jefferson went ahead with the transaction, although it was probably unconstitutional. Pause for a second and imagine: Bobby Jindal as a frogs-leg eater.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Boobs, Ha! What Are They Good For? Absolutely EVERYTHIN'

If War was Good for Absolutely Nothin', as Edwin Starr sang in 1969, today one has to admit that the female mammary glands are good for absolutely everythin'. From selling concerts tickets to launching human rights campaigns, the boob has never been so present, powerful, pregnant and perky in our society. For better of for worse, 2013 will be remembered as the Year of The Boobs.
Charlize Theron fake-cringing
The Oscar for best body part was celebrated by Seth Macfarlane in his now famous We Saw your Boobs ballad, in which he gave us a full source book for a little sight of our favorite actresses' cleavage, in full frontal view. In case you forgot the lyrics, let me summarize that Jennifer Lawrence has yet to show hers in a movie; as for Kate Winslet, she's made a generous use of her upstairs assets.
The little swing-y song was meant to be funny. It made humor-less feminists cringe, actresses fake
cringe, with fake horrified, pre-taped shots of their mortified faces rather than boobs. And it probably generated thousands of Google searches with key words such as Mulholland Boobs. So what's the big deal?

When I was growing up in France, I was totally accustomed to seeing boobs everywhere. You might say that French are pervs, and you might be right. In my country, women show their breasts on the beach, on billboards, in movies, in TV series, in commercials, with no restrain. It is understood that the boob is made to sell, and no one is prudish about it. My favorite boob perk was the commercial for a fruit juice brand named Joker. The slogan: The Naked Fruit. The advert: a naked girl drinking fruit juice. Simple, straightforward, efficient.

In the U.S., the relationship to boobs is more of a peep tale. The breast tissue can be shown, the cleavage can be deep, the side of the breast can be revealed and shown fairly freely. But the nipple is a big shocker. It retains this magical, powerful peekaboo effect.
Ursula Ofman, Psy. D. clinical psychologist from New York, explains that humans are hard-wired to seek and react to this fundamental body part that we all depend upon for our survival.
Of course, the boob is much more that the sum of its parts.
During the Superbowl half-time show in 2004, America reaffirmed its reprobation of the nipple flashing. Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake sang a duet. As the song reached the final line, "I'm gonna have you naked by the end of this song," Timberlake pulled off a part of Jackson's costume, revealing her outer right breast, the breast ornamented with a sun-shaped nipple ring. Janet Jackson's incident was qualified a wardrobe malfunction. It allegedly had the potential to traumatize children and grown-ups alike for a split-second sight of the nipple. It was deemed indecent.

Yet, Lady B, Beyoncé herself, launched her 2013 The Mrs. Carter Show world tour with a striking wardrobe, a highly-functioning wardrobe. At her opening concert, in Belgrade, Serbia, Beyoncé wore a gold corset with fake breasts and nipples, with realistic looking appendixes the size of cherries, or maybe simply the size of Beyoncé's own. The provocative outfit was designed by The Blonds, the brothers' duet Phillipe and David Blond, and leads one to wonder why the fake nipples are acceptable while the real ones are persona non grata, subject to fine when shown on TV.