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Reflecting on France’s “malaise”

I hope you all had a very good Bastille Day!
As for me, I’m in a Parisian jazz outfit here in Chicago called Keops. We played the Bastille Day celebration at the Daley Plaza. It was a lot of fun.

As France celebrated its Bastille Day, it’s perhaps an opportune time to reflect on what the modern French Republic means, and the attitudes of its citizens.

Roger Cohen of the New York Times penned a poignant, if somewhat controversial, column the other day in reflection about France’s national attitudes. Excerpts below, but it’s worth the full read as these quotes could be taken out of context.

While I witnessed this feeling of “malaise” that seemed to permeate the national consciousness, I also had friends there who were positive people and looked for the bright side of the problem. There are problem solvers in the country, like any country. And the French also have a well-known “joie de vivre”. So I’m afraid Cohen’s column paints a picture that may be too dark. Nonetheless, when comparing France to the US, there is more optimism in general in the US. But in Cohen’s view, a French person would just paint this as blind ignorance.

Do you agree with his analysis?

“…Tell a Frenchman what a glorious day it is and he will respond that it won’t last. Tell him how good the heat feels and he will say it portends a storm. I recently asked in a French hotel how long it would take for a coffee to reach my room. The brusque retort: “The time it takes to make it.”

This surliness is more a fierce form of realism than a sign of malaise. It is a bitter wisdom. It is a nod to Hobbes’s view that the life of man is, on the whole, “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.”

Nothing surprises, nothing shocks (especially in the realm of marriage and sex), and nothing, really, disappoints. Far from morose, the French attitude has a bracing frankness. No nation has a more emphatic shrug. No nation is the object of so much romanticism yet so unromantic itself. No nation internalizes as completely the notion that in the end we are all dead.

Now, it is true that France lives with high unemployment in a depressed euro zone; that it is more vassal than partner to Germany these days; that it is chronically divided between a world-class private sector and a vast state sector of grumpy functionaries; that its universalist illusions have faded as its power diminishes; and that its welfare state is unaffordable.

Still, moroseness is a foible in a country with superb medicine, good education, immense beauty, the only wine worth drinking, an army that does the business in Mali, strong families and the earthy wisdom of “la France profonde.”

Malaise and ennui are to France what can-do is to America: A badge of honor…”

Ikea to decorate & furnish Paris bus stops Dec. 15-21

December 13th, 2010 No comments

According to French PR and communication news, the Swedish furniture specialist, Ikea, will decorate and furnish 12 bus stops in Paris in a promotion from Dec. 15th to Dec. 21st, at the following areas: Place de la Bastille, rue de Rennes, Opéra, Etienne Marcel, Sèvre Babylone, Saint Michel. Enjoy the couches and take pictures, it’s part of a promotional campaign and you can get prizes. See below for more information.

La célèbre marque suédoise de meuble IKEA, habillera les abribus de la capitale aux couleurs des salons cosy. Prenez une petite pause pendant les vacances de Noël en vous vautrant dans les canapés installés du 15 au 21 décembre dans Paris. Une opportunité et une opération visible susceptible de briller auprès d’une cible parisienne mais également plus largement internationale. Où ? Place de la Bastille, rue de Rennes, Opéra, Etienne Marcel, Sèvre Babylone, Saint Michel soit près de 12 abrisbus scénarisés pour cette fin d’année.

La course aux abribus : Shootez-vous tranquillement installés sur ces canapés et gagnez des chèques cadeau, les 10 premières photos publiées sur la page facebook d’IKEA France remporteront les gains. La photo la plus décalée se verra également attribuer le chèque cadeau… Ouch, on s’attend au pire.

This article from Stratégies (a French magazine specialized in PR, communications, media and marketing)

Ikea va transformer les Abribus en salons
Le distributeur Ikea transformera des Abribus parisiens en salons équipés de canapés. Conçue par l’agence événementielle Ubi Bene, cette opération se déroulera du 15 au 21 décembre et constituera le quatrième détournement réalisé par l’agence pour la marque suédoise de mobilier, après ceux de la gare de Lyon en 2008, du métro parisien début 2010 et de L’Olympia au mois de juillet.

Bastille secrets revealed: exhibition until Feb. 11 in Paris

November 25th, 2010 1 comment

The BBC reports on new artifacts on display from the historic and notorious Bastille prison that was the focus point for the storming of the Bastille at the heart of the French revolution on July 14, 1789. Excerpts below. Video available on the link.

To learn more about the exhibition, click here (in French).

It is called La Bastille ou l’enfer des vivants (“The Bastille or the living hell”) and is open from now until February 11, 2011 at the Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal.

Free visits Tuesday thru Sunday, noon to 7pm, and guided visits (3€) every Thursday at 3pm (registration required, +33 (0)1 53 79 49 49).

25 November 2010 Last updated at 06:46 GMT Help
More than 300 years after it was stormed by a furious mob, the Bastille prison in Paris still holds a special place in the heart of many French people.

Anger and resentment at the rule of King Louis XVI prompted the revolutionaries to invade the jail on 14 July 1789.

It was the start of the French revolution and is still celebrated as the birth of the republic.

A new exhibition has opened in Paris close to where the Bastille once stood, revealing some of the prison’s secrets.

The BBC’s Christian Fraser reports.

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