the uglification of Paris

Paris is no longer considered, at least by Parisians, to be “the most beautiful city in the world.”

Much has been written, not only on the dirtiness, but the disfigurement of this city, a collective disgruntlement that started a year or two after Anne Hidalgo, mayor of Paris, took charge. Paris today does not resemble the Paris I knew when I arrived in the 1990s. It’s less safe, that’s for sure, and the noise and air pollution is intolerable.

The metallic whine of scooters, the klaxon of police cars, people sitting in their cars and talking loudly on amplified speakers; dog owners still allowing their dogs to poop on the sidewalks without cleaning up after them, and electric disposable scooters, abandoned, that litter public spaces. Bicycle lanes have been added to city roads, which is a good thing, albeit dangerous, and now when you cross the street you have to look both ways, several times, not only for oncoming cars and buses that might mow you down, but bicycles.

As for me, I continue to live here for one reason only: I have a good job. But the day I retire, I’ll be out of here quick, heading south to live in Spain. Better quality of life, better weather, friendlier people, fabulous fresh food and wine; just as much arts and culture as France, not to mention clean high-speed trains – all with a significantly lower cost of living.

What was once the beautiful avenue de l’Opéra is now an uglified version. No one understands why these ugly roadblocks are placed all over the city.

#SaccageParis: the hashtag that denounces the dirt and the “ugliness” of the city
depicts the French capital as “dirty”, “fouled”, which has become a “disfigured city”, “ugly” and “trashed”. Thousands of photos have been published, mixing the indignation of residents and certain political figures. Choosing to remain anonymous, the creator of the hashtag explains that everything “started out of a fit of anger”. Himself a Parisian “for twenty years”, he claims to have “seen the city deteriorating since the arrival of Anne Hidalgo at the head of the Hôtel de Ville”. Noting the extent of the phenomenon on Twitter, the capital’s town hall regretted a “distortion of reality”, while admitting a problem, and has since called for “more sanctions” against the perpetrators of incivility.

But it’s the mayor’s office who is the perpetrator of the incivility! I won’t even mention the refugee and migrant tents, not to mention homeless people, who camp out under bridges. And Anne Hidalgo claims to be a Socialist?

https://www.parisupdate.com/paris-street-furniture-breakdown

one hundred years ago – 1922

In many ways, the 1920s looked far more interesting and visionary than today. During that effervescent postwar interlude, and before the stock market crash of 1929, there was a sense of fun and frivolity, at least in the upper classes. As for this past decade and the current one? I wouldn’t characterize them as “fun” at all. We’ve lost something. But what, exactly? To answer my own question, I think it’s “fun”. When was the last time you laughed your head off, felt utterly carefree and really had fun?

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3 women in street 1920

Spring fashions at Easter, Washington, D.C. 1922. Harris & Ewing Collection. There’s a nonchalance in their body language that’s quite wonderful.

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“Seven lovelies at the Potomac bathing beach near the Tidal Basin.” 1920. National Photo Company Collection glass negative.

Women Holding The Suffragist

Three women sell copies of The Suffragist in Boston, Massachusetts. Passed by Congress on June 4, 1919, and ratified on August 18, 1920, the 19th amendment granted women the right to vote in the U.S.A.

Women’s fashion of the 1920s was both a trend and social statement, a breaking-off from the rigid Victorian way of life. These young, rebellious, middle-class women, labeled ‘flappers’ by older generations, threw away their corsets and donned slinky knee-length dresses which exposed their legs and arms. The hairstyle of the decade was a chin-length bob.

Street fashion, ca. 1920s (berlin

Thoroughly Modern Millies in Berlin

I could easily wear one of these Great Gatsby outfits with the ‘cloche’ hat, knee-length relaxed dress, and stockings worn with strapped, heeled shoes. Have you noticed how much slimmer women were back then? When did we start getting fat?

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Germany

 

IN PARIS, THE 1920s WERE CALLED “les années folles”, THE CRAZY YEARS.

Jazz, radio, literature, art, cinema. Josephine Baker, Coco Chanel, Cole Porter, Man Ray, Gershwin, Cocteau, Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald, to name just a few. Conquered by a wave of creative and liberating euphoria, many Americans took advantage of the avant-garde atmosphere in Paris before returning to their country which was in the throes of prohibition and conservatism.

Not only was it an experimental decade, it was highly rebellious and innovative.

Modern art owes much to 1920s art and its authors. Some of the most significant movements, such as Dada, Surrealism, Expressionism and the fabulous Art Deco, had their genesis during this time. Such events helped to re-define and re-shape all the major creative disciplines.

INTRODUCING THE ART DECO STYLE

Originating in Europe, Art Deco was a dominant style in design and architecture of the 1920s. In the United States, New York City’s Chrysler Building typified the Art Deco style while other examples could be found in Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. One of the most famous artists of the 1920s art deco period was Tamara de Lempicka, with her portraits of the bourgeoisie and the progress of the era. Characterized by rich colors, lavish ornamentation, and geometric shapes, the movement was celebrated for its pattern designs and poster art. In such examples, evident is the dominant rectilinear designs even though art deco artists often drew inspiration from nature and used curved lines as well.

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Tamara de Lempicka, The Sleeper

The term Art Deco derived its name from the World’s fair held in Paris in 1925. It was shorter to say and write than Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes.

expo world fair poster

The exposition toured the United States the following year, and in 1927, Macy’s department store held its own Art Deco exhibition. The Chrysler Building, designed in 1928, is one of the most iconic and most ubiquitous examples. The work of Brooklyn-born architect, William Van Alen, its stainless steel spire with a scalloped base make it instantly recognizable.

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What made the 1920s so exuberant? I think it was its feeling of being on the brink of something exciting. It was also in the midst of enormous productivity on all fronts. The rise of nationalism, World War II and the other horrors aside, that decade and future decades promised something splendid. We no longer have that feeling of being on the brink of something exciting. To the contrary. Watching the apocalyptic effects of global warming, to name just one example, we can only ask, “Is this our future?”

Sure, we’ve gained A LOT in the past hundred years, but we’ve also lost (and destroyed) some important things along the way.

The expression on this woman’s face is cryptic. If she could speak to us today from the 1920s, what do you think she’d say to us?

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Boris Johnson gets a drubbing

Oh, do us all a favor and resign, Bojo. Put the U.K. out of its misery.

Keir Starmer, the leader of the Labour opposition party, berates him as do other members of the cabinet, Conservative and Labour alike. They howl and snarl like jackals. While Bojo’s government issued strict directives to its populace to stay home, isolate, not go to work, etc. during the worst period of Covid, he and his party members were throwing “boozy parties” in the garden and offices of number 10 Downing Street.

The saddest image is that of the Queen of England standing all alone, masked and bereaved, at the funeral of her husband, Prince Philip. She was following the rules.

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II in St. George’s Chapel during the funeral of Prince Philip, the man who had been by her side for 73 years, at Windsor Castle, Windsor, England, Saturday April 17, 2021. Prince Philip died April 9 at the age of 99 after 73 years of marriage to Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II. (Yui Mok/Pool via AP)

After he apologized, listen to the blowsy, blustering Bojo as he tries to wriggle out of his wrong-doings.

Jeanne goes to the pharmacy

Here’s Jeanne buying beauty products from her local pharmacy (video below.) Jeanne is a French designer, model and founder of French fashion label, Rouje. She has gorgeous skin, and a Bardot pout.

It’s funny how some women are interested in watching other women put on and take off their makeup. Or am I being terribly naïve? Is Jeanne in actual fact an “influencer” getting paid for promoting the products she claims to use?

In any case, there are a few things in the video that made me chuckle:

Contrary to what she says, all the products she selected are full of alcohol, chemicals and parabens. (Clarins, Nuxe, Klorane, Bioderma). This gives me the idea to do a future blog post on all the wonderful natural and organic makeup products that I use. I no longer buy those big, glam names.

Living on the 5th floor without an elevator. Great exercise! When I lived in a 4th-floor apartment a long time ago in the 9th arrondissement, I had thighs like steel.

She does her morning makeup routine in the salon (living room) beside the refrigerator. Again, small Parisian apartments that we’ve all lived in. In most old apartments, there’s usually a large old mirror in the salon positioned over a closed-up fireplace with a nice marble mantlepiece. Also, the natural light is probably better in the salon than in the (tiny) bathroom. It’s also practical because the espresso machine will be close by. There are advantages to living in small spaces.

As for the application of lipstick, may I offer a suggestion to the lovely Jeanne? That instead of applying it with her finger then swabbing it with a Q-tip, that she buy herself a quality lipstick brush. Ideal for creating precise lines with a clean, mess-free finish, I can only apply my lipstick with a brush.

One question, however, towards the end of the video: is “really curly hair” a flaw?

 

4th femicide in France (and one child murder) in only seven days

Muriel, 56 years old, the first victim of the New Year with thirty (30) stab wounds to the chest by her companion. Murdered because she wanted to leave him. The killer has been placed in temporary detainment (placé en détention provisoire). What does that mean, exactly? Will he be let out in a few days? Will he be imprisoned, and if so for how long and under what charge?

Why is this felony so rampant in “civilized” countries? Because the crime of killing women is not taken seriously in rich, first-world nations.

An unnamed military servicewoman, 28 years old, the second victim of the New Year stabbed multiple times and left for dead. Her killer was also in the military, “but in a different regiment”. He has been taken into police custody and charged with intentional homicide. According to testimony from the killer’s brother whose apartment they had been weekending in, the couple had consumed a lot of alcohol and a violent altercation had taken place. While the brother telephoned the police, the killer dragged his girlfriend out to the landing and stabbed her.

An unnamed mother of three children, 45 years old, was found in the trunk of a car in Nice. The third victim of the year, she had been strangled to death by her companion.

Last night just north of Paris, a 29-year-old mother and her 2-year-old daughter were stabbed to death in their own home. The father of the child has been arrested.

Unlike in the U.S.A., knives are the weapon of choice, not guns.

113 femicides in France in 2021

102 femicides in France in 2020

146 femicides in France in 2019

For a long, long time in this country (and other European countries), the killing of a wife or girlfriend was called a “crime passionnel” (crime of passion). The killer was let off the hook for that reason.

The term “femicide” doesn’t exist in the French Penal Code. In other words, it is not officially recognized.

Femicide or feminicide is a hate crime, broadly defined as “the intentional killing of women or girls by men.”

From statistics provided by the French Ministry of Justice, 65% of killed women in 2019 had contacted the police before their murder. But the police didn’t react for two reasons: misogyny exists within the ranks of the police and because they are not at all trained to respond to this type of situation. These women could be alive today if only the police had responded correctly.

The case that shocked the country occurred only last year. A 31-year-old ex-wife and mother of three small children (5, 8 and 13) was dragged out of her home, shot and then burned alive in the street in a town near Bordeaux. Police arrested the ex-husband shortly afterwards. The man already had seven convictions, including one indictment in 2020 for domestic violence in the presence of a minor. The victim had filed numerous harassment and assault complaints against him.

But listen to this: it was revealed that the police officer who registered the final complaint of the victim had himself been sentenced for domestic violence.

What does President Macron have to say on this subject? Not much; nothing, actually. The French government, like all other governments except Spain, are accused of remaining ‘scandalously’ silent. Why? You’d think that this year being an election year, he’d get on top of the subject.

SPAIN is the first European country to officially count all femicides

It doesn’t sound like much, but it’s a start, I guess. “What is not named does not exist,” said Spain’s equality minister, Irene Montero. “We have to recognize all of the victims and make visible all forms of violence – all machista [sexist] killings – so that we can put in place policies for prevention, early detection and eradication.”

Women’s groups are asking that these violent acts be treated as “misogynist terrorism” and, as such, a State issue.

out on the town, December 31st dinner, 2019 (just before Covid hit)

Exactly two years ago, we were complaining about the transportation strike in this city. Little did we know that a viral tsunami was about to hit us in less than two months. I feel nostalgic looking at the photos at the bottom of this post: people kissing and hugging … no facemasks! How blissfully innocent we were back then.

It was a cold, clear night when I left my place at 8 pm and jumped on the metro. To my surprise, the train speeded across town in record time. Why? For reasons of crowd control, they had closed six stations along the Champs-Elysées starting from Argentine all the way to Tuileries. As the driverless, automated train sailed straight through the closed stations and hurtled across the city, the cars lurched alarmingly from side to side. Grabbing a pole for support, I felt like I was in that Sandra Bullock runaway bus movie.

Here’s the restaurant where I spent December 31st with my friend and his mother. Yes, it’s Paul Bert again, but this time its the sister restaurant up the road called 6 Paul Bert.

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This place is warm, welcoming and spotlessly clean; I love it. A few years ago, I spent another December 31st sitting at this bar with a fellow Canadian blogger. In France, most restaurants serve a prix fixe menu on December 31st. This one, without wine, was 80 euros.

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The first small dish was underwhelming. The foie gras was cold and the celery purée warm. What followed was, in my opinion, the best dish of all: plump scallops in a garlic buttery herby sauce. Delicious!

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Then came the fish dish which was a crispy lotte (monkfish) tempura served with shiitake mushrooms in an interesting sauce.

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This was the main dish, a sort of beef wellington idea, except that it was duck instead of beef. Assembled with liver pate then wrapped in puff pastry and served with a porto-based sauce, it was very good but a bit on the rich side.

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The dessert was a disappointment. When you think of all the marvellous concoctions in the dessert repertoire that could have been offered, this was totally banal (and tasteless.) A cheese tray to follow would have been nice.

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As for the wine, we chose a Minervois from the Languedoc region. It was nicely structured and had a lovely bouquet and color. When I celebrated New Year’s Eve in this same place a few years ago, we drank a stellar Saint-Joseph 2012 from the Côtes-du-Rhône region.

No one was aware that midnight had arrived until the two groups to the left of us leapt up and cried “Bonne Année!! Bonne Année!!

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Edouard, the charming manager, walked through the small restaurant and shook hands with every patron. It was fun. Here’s Edouard here standing in the middle in the blue shirt.

It was nice to see goodwill and a burst of happiness after all the stress and inconvenience we Parisians have endured due to the transportation strikes.

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We left the restaurant at around 12:30 am, it was freezing cold and damp outside. We walked briskly to the metro station and then separated. I jumped on the number one line which was surprisingly quiet. A half hour earlier there had been 300,000 revellers on the Champs-Elysées watching the fireworks. Where had they all gone? The train sped cross-town and within twenty minutes I was at my station. I headed to the escalator, but it was still shut down. Thanks, union strikers!  I trudged up 45 steps at 1 a.m., then walked home and went to bed.

Here’s the link to the New Year’s Eve dinner I enjoyed at the exact same restaurant on December 31, 2014. Was it that long ago?

2 gals out on the town – New Year’s Eve