Monday, January 1, 2024

The New Year, and the Olympic farce

Only two posts a year; I guess I’m not the most prolific blogger around. But nobody reads the blog anyway.

Last night was New Year’s Eve, and 1.5 million people were expected on the Champs. In fact, “only” about 800,000 showed up, perhaps because of very tight security and predictions of rain (that did not seem to materialize). The security was sort of a practice run for the 2024 Olympic Games, which will afflict the city this coming summer. There were no incidents, so I guess the draconian security worked.

I didn’t attend the festivities, as I am wary of crowds and firecrackers. I don’t want to be trampled or end up like Pete Townsend.

The festivities apparently made allusion to the 2024 Olympic Games, a farce of astronomical proportions that will cost the taxpayers billions and will make Parisians prisoners in their own homes. And unfortunately it will make Paris even more attractive to terrorists. But a handful of rich people will be further enriched by them, and that’s all that counts.

I recommend that anyone contemplating a trip to Paris defer it or at least avoid it anywhere near the Olympic Games. Even prices in the Métro are being hiked to profit from them.

Thursday, May 25, 2023

The Price is Wrong

Inflation is rampant this year, and my fixed subsistence income is not keeping pace, despite occasional cost-of-living increases.

Electricity has gone up by 20%, split into two increases this year. Fifty euro of groceries, carefully selected to maximize value for the money, now covers less than two dozen items, enough for a week of very frugal meals (mostly oatmeal). I’ve read that fuel costs have increased greatly, but fortunately I don’t have or need a car, so I haven’t been directly affected by that. I did see a greater-than-usual rent increase this year, however.

I mainly try to save money by eating less. Grocery costs are the one variable that can be adjusted within a substantial range. In addition to oatmeal, I eat a lot of other cheap carbs, such as pound cake, which provide a lot of calories at a low price. Protein, fruits, and vegetables are usually not affordable. It is hardly ideal, especially in view of my health issues, but it beats starvation.

Inflation would be a lot worse if the government were not intervening right and left to subsidize price controls. I don’t know how long that can continue. I’ve read that this is largely due to a war in Ukraine, but I don’t know how true that is.

Sunday, January 1, 2023

Clean and unclean

This year, France is vying for the red badge of courage by banning the use of disposable packaging for fast food consumed on the premises. That is, if you eat at McDonald’s, the restaurant is required to serve your food in reusable containers rather than paper or plastic containers that are thrown away after use. Like a conventional restaurant.

At first glance, it seems like a good idea. Maybe it is. But questions soon arise. It’s ironic that a country that was hysterically paranoid only a year or two ago about spreading a virus with a mortality of less than 0.5%—to the point of locking people up at home with prison terms for escapees—now wants everyone to share food containers with strangers in fast-food restaurants. How well will these containers be washed?

How many infections of all types will be spread by inadequately cleaned containers? That remains to be seen. If you’ve ever noticed the condition of the reusable trays in fast-food places, you can understand my concern—and trays don’t actually touch the food.

The rules don’t apply to take-out food, thank goodness. If and when I can again afford fast food, I think I’ll limit myself to take-out food.

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Heart of darkness

Lighting in Paris has been reduced to save electricity.

France has long had plenty of electricity, thanks to extensive investment in nuclear power, but in recent yearsn, its nuke plants—which provide 80/ of the nation’s electricity—have been shut down for maintenance that has not been forthcoming, such that over half of the plants are offline at the moment. I suspect environmentalists have had something to do with this neglect. Anyway, that, plus the Ukraine war, and the Covid hysteria, have backed the country’s grid into a corner. There’s even talk of rolling blackouts during the winter, although that risk seems to be receding. Many have commented that this makes France sound like a Third-World basket case that can’t even ensure electrical power twenty-four hours a day. It surprises me that things were allowed to slide for so long.

Anyway, the Eiffel Tower is going dark earlier than normal at night, the Christmas lights on the Champs are not kept on as late as usual, and merchants are being asked to turn their lights off completely at night.

Hopefully someone will get on the ball and bring all the nuke plants back online soon.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

The leper colony

I haven’t been to the Foire des Tuileries, and now it looks like I won’t be able to go this year, as the Reich has now transformed all unvaccinated persons (about half the population) into pariahs who are prohibited from participating in most “non-essential” activities of society. These modern-day lepers are prohibited from entering restaurants and cafés, gyms, shopping centers, amusement parks, theaters, cinemas, concert halls, exhibitions and fairs, conferences, discotheques, bars, clubs, and many other venues. They are also prohibited from using most forms of collective transportation.

I am not vaccinated for several reasons. First, the Deadly Virus isn’t actually deadly—not by a long shot (and that includes the Deadly Delta Variant). Second,  the virus mutates regularly, and is just one of a great many similar viruses, and logically, if I were paranoid enough to seek vaccination for one, I’d have to get vaccination for all. Third, the mRNA vaccines are experimental, and I’m wary of new drugs (thalidomide and fen-phen spring to mind, as well as prion-like delayed-action pathogenic processes). Fourth, while infection rates are increasing, hospitalizations, ICU occupancy, and deaths are not.

I don’t really have any money, anyway, so I only go outside for groceries. Being introverted helps, too, as it has throughout this hysteria.

Rainy day on Champs
It’s interesting that, initially, the government threatened any business that required a vaccination passport without authorization with a year in prison and a €45,000 fine. Now it has completely reversed itself, and threatens the same penalties for businesses that are required to check vaccination passports and fail to do so. But the virus has not changed. And I wonder how everyone is to be made aware of laws that change every day.

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Current events

The iron hand has loosened its grip a bit, at least until the government finds a new excuse to trample civil liberties. More and more places are reopening, and Paris is again accessible to tourists, albeit not without numerous restrictions. It remains to be seen how long it will take for the tourists to return. Paris was breaking records for tourism before the Deadly Virus hysteria began. My intuition tells me that there are many potential visitors who can’t wait to return to Paris. But things have changed, and not for the better.

• • •

Last Saturday, the Foire des Tuileries, a yearly summer carnival in the Tuileries Gardens (the park next to the Louvre), opened for its 2021 run. I haven’t been there in several years. It has the usual assortment of thrill rides, a big Ferris wheel, and lots of places selling food that is very tasty. I’ve never been a fan of rides, but the atmosphere is nice, and so is the food. Usually the same rides and concessions appear year after year. There’s a place that sells gyro sandwiches that I really like, plus some stands that sell decadent things like fruity granités (slushy drinks made of frozen fruit-flavored syrups), and fried donut holes and churros. The carnival is on Line 1 of the Métro, making it convenient for tourists. I don’t know if I’ll be able to go this year; we’ll see.

• • •

After an incredible sixteen years of “renovation,” the La Samaritane department store has been reincarnated—in a different body, alas! La Samaritaine was one of the iconic grands magasins of Paris, along with Printemps, Galeries Lafayette, Le Bon Marché, and Bazar de l’Hôtel de Ville, as well as the late Aux Trois Quartiers and La Belle Jardinière.

The slogan of Samaritaine used to be “On trouve tout à La Samaritaine” (“You can find everything at Samaritaine”), and this was very nearly true. It catered to the needs of everyday Parisians, in the days when everyday Parisians actually existed in significant numbers. It had great gardening and home improvement departments, and a huge selection of toys at Christmastime. But with increasing gentrification of the area, and everyday Parisians being replaced by absentee foreign millionaires with no need for washing machines or light bulbs, revenues dropped. For this reason, and also in part (supposedly) because of building-code issues with the ornate but aging Art Deco and Art Nouveau buildings occupied by the store, it was closed nearly two decades ago, for renovation and repurposing.

Now it’s open again, but a bit like Aux Trois Quartiers, it has been diced and sliced and reworked so that its owner, luxury retailer LVMH, can make more money. In addition to a much smaller department store concentrating on the type of luxury trinkets that tourists prefer, it includes a boutique hotel, and I think also some offices and housing, and a day-care center (no doubt because the city insisted upon it). At least some of the original architecture has been restored; parts of the complex, at least, have historic landmark status.

Only a few days after it reopened, some external walls of the building were vandalized with graffiti, which aroused considerable public indignation.

• • •

Discotheques and clubs have now been permitted to reopen by the Reich, after being closed for sixteen months. They reopened on Friday—or at least some of them did. Many have stayed closed, in part because of their anticipation of another wave of sweeping restrictions imposed by the Reich, and in part because of the draconian restrictions on how they operate that threaten to make them unprofitable.

And indeed, the dreaded “Delta” variant of the Deadly Virus seems to be producing a new surge in hysteria, just as baseless as its predecessors. Despite an even lower mortality than the standard virus, Big Brother is mumbling about mandatory vaccinations and extensions of the vaccination passport, as well as yet another prolongation of the perpetual state of emergency.

I'm not a clubber myself, but there are several clubs in my neighborhood, and I haven’t noticed any increase in traffic this weekend. I wonder how much business they are doing.

• • •

The Eiffel Tower is set to reopen on the 16th, according to its web site. I only go there when accompanying visitors. The rules are a pain and the cost is too, at €26 per person—price increases have far outstripped inflation.

Louvre in the old days
The Louvre and Orsay museums are both open, with the ubiquitous “health measures” in place. Both require masks, and admission slots must be reserved in advance. I don’t go to these places without visitors, either. Both are much cheaper than the Eiffel Tower, at least.

Disneyland is open now, but a one-day ticket costs €116, and once again, you have to reserve a slot in advance, even with an Annual Pass—and those aren’t being sold yet, so who knows what they will cost? Although I’ve always been a strong Disneyphile, I’ll be forced to refrain for the foreseeable future. It’s no fun in a police state, anyway. I still have my memories of far better days.

• • •

All in all, things are far from business as normal. Will they ever be normal again? Who knows? The future is extremely uncertain these days. Society is dominated by fear, intolerance, extreme attitudes and hysteria. I predict it will get worse before it gets better.

Tuesday, May 18, 2021


Tomorrow the Reich has promised to again respect a handful of rights that it had lately treated as forbidden privileges, such as being able to go to a store or restaurant. The 7 PM curfew will be pushed to 9 PM. Movie theaters, live theaters, and museums will reopen. The Eiffel Tower is supposed to reopen on June 16, after a nine-month hiatus. Disneyland is supposed to reopen on June 19. Hotels will be open from what I understand, but I don’t know where they will find customers.

No word on when mask mandates will be lifted, if ever.

We shall see how this first day of fewer restrictions on fundamental freedoms will work out. I don’t personally go to theaters or restaurants, so I won’t really be affected by most of these changes, but public excitement appears to be building, as usual, or at least that’s the impression the media seem to be trying to create.

Roofless Notre-Dame
For the first day or perhaps longer, I suspect that restaurants will be occupied by all the problem drinkers, and then increasingly by normal people thereafter. There may be a lot of shopping, too, with all retailers and shopping centers now open after months or a year or more of inactivity. As for myself, I’ll continue with my routine, to which I’ve adapted.

• • •

In other news … the plaza in front of Notre-Dame has been closed again, due to high levels of lead again being detected. The fire at Notre-Dame two years ago melted and burned away its 300-ton lead roof, which resulted in some light lead residues in the  neighborhood. With the hysterical overreaction that is a hallmark of our times, the entire area was sealed off for a while. Now the plaza is blocked off again, until further cleanup can be carried out.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Promises, promises

Well, the government has lately been mumbling about restoring the freedoms that they illegitimately canceled more than a year ago, and about gradually allowing the peons over whose liberties they’ve run roughshod to gradually crawl back with respectfully bowed heads to a more normal life. Ostensibly this is because the heroic and unerring efforts of the Dear Leaders of society have saved us all from the near-apocalypse of the Deadly Virus pandemic. The reality, I think, is however somewhat different.

First, this magnanimous gesture serves as a bone thrown to the masses as a reward for their obedience and submission.

Second, the natives are increasingly restless. It seems that, more and more, they are comparing what they’re being told with what is actually happening; and as the hysteria—and the hypnotically compelling effect it exerts—begins to show signs of weakening in consequence, more and more people brazenly question the restrictions imposed by the Reich and come closer and closer to just chucking them all in massive civil disobedience.

Third, I daresay that, even as impaired in their reasoning as the powers that be apparently are, they must realize that the scary Deadly Virus theater cannot extend its 14-month run for eternity; and finding a way to bring down the final curtain gracefully—without actually admitting what a farce it was from the start—must begin somewhere.

And so the government has made known its ridiculously complex plan for allowing the proles to throw off their chains between now and the end of June. In the best tradition of French bureaucracy, it is awash with pages of dates, figures, and other arbitrary details and constraints—none of them supported by any type of science, of course. I haven’t been able to summon the patience to read this plan in its entirety, but I note that reopening of restaurants, museums, gyms, and some other businesses (but not discotheques) is mentioned, for specific dates—with all sorts of limits, naturally.

The good old days
We shall see whether the government sticks to these promises on this round. Whatever happens, I’m sure the government will take credit for all good news, and will blame all bad news on all those hordes of disobedient, retarded everyday citizens who refuse to obey every command they are given with all their hearts and souls.

 • • •

Meanwhile, back at the Palais Bourbon … the French National Assembly has rejected a plan by the goverment to create a “vaccination pass” that would be required for travel and for admittance to certain other venues under vaguely specified circumstances. It’s the vagueness that made the Assembly wary. I hope this means that members of the Assembly are regenerating the backbones that they’ve resorbed over the past year. Even so, I suspect they’ll cave soon enough. The pass will take the form of a QR code; I guess yellow stars are technically passé these days.

 • • •

I’m still looking for work, after being laid off late last year by my employer, who was faced with an 80% loss in revenue due to Deadly Virus hysteria. I submit applications but nobody replies. And I wonder how I’d get to an interview or job, anyway, since my physical condition has deteriorated dramatically after over a year of sitting at home and it’s hard to walk more than a short distance. That’s a consequence of the DVH, too.

(Note: I don’t call the DV by name because anyone who doesn’t toe the party line precisely with respect to it risks being forcibly silenced. Orwell’s prophetic novel, 1984, entered the public domain not long ago, and it seems to have been taken as a model for public policy now as well.) 

I keep busy with job searching, along with small, sedentary projects in my chosen fields of  IT, graphics, and audio-visual arts. It’s unfortunate that nobody seems willing to pat for any of the latter.

The weather has remained generally excellent. The days when I could go for long walks seem far away, even though they were only a bit over a year ago.

Saturday, May 1, 2021

The more Paris Changes

Not much to report lately. Paris is largely in suspended animation, still mostly paralyzed by hysteria over the Deadly Virus. A third lockdown is in effect, although it is more bureaucracy than substance this time. The streets are not as deserted as the were during the first lockdown. There are still no tourists, however.

Some major hotels are laying off staff. Fauchon, next to the Madeleine, is closing that iconic store and others (its major competitor, Hédiard, went out of business several years ago). Disneyland is still closed, but has converted one building into a giant vaccination center. Most places are closed, in fact, this being imposed by the lockdown. Hairdressers (but not beauty salons in general) and barbers are allowed to remain open for this round, for some reason. The Louvre and other museums are closed. The Eiffel Tower is closed. Shopping centers are closed (I think—it’s hard to keep up). And schools are a mess, with policies changing daily. Each lockdown is more complex and absurd and bureaucratic than its predecessor.

Everyone must still wear a mask everywhere. There is a push to get everyone vaccinated; I suppose at some point everyone refusing vaccination will be rounded up and shot. About 30,000 people a day test positive for the virus; at that rate, the entire country will be contaminated … in six years. And with the current mortality, everyone in France will be dead in just six centuries.

You still need your “papers” to go outside, and there’s still a curfew at 7 PM. But with shops and restaurants still closed (except for take-away and delivered meals), there aren’t many places to go. The weather in Paris is excellent—as it usually is in April—but there’s no easy way to profit from it.

On a recent visit to the Champs-Élysées running errands, I noticed more people out and about than during the first lockdown; and considering that they’re all locals—tourists are still conspicuously absent—I guess it was a reasonable crowd. A fair amount of vehicular traffic, too, although less than normal (insofar as I can still remember what “normal” was like).

I’d like to shoot more videos for my YouTube channel, but with the city currently resembling a wax museum, topics are in short supply. I suppose I could document stores closing and going out of business. In the past year there has been an uptick in gang violence n Paris which is unusual … but everything happening these days seems to be unusual. Strikes, demonstrations, gun violence, virus hysteria, hysterical reactions to relatively trivial events: it’s all very strange, a bit surreal.

I should try to document the newly renovated place de la République, place de la Bastille, and place d’Italie, but with so much hysteria and uncertainty these days, it’s logistically challenging. I have a very long list of things t do when and if society ever returns to normal. I haven’t even had my hair cut in almost two years and it’s down to my shoulders.

The artists are disappearing from the famous square at the top of Montmartre, the place du Tertre. Already, 80% of the square has been taken over by tourist-trap restaurants (currently closed, but their terraces are still there), and another 25 artists’ spots have been removed to make room for still more restaurant terraces. A famous, huge wisteria tree near the square (place du Calvaire) has been cut down by the city, too, raising a local outcry—but trees do get old and sometimes sick and must occasionally be replaced. This 129-year-old tree was dying, so it had to go. When you look at the trees on the boulevard Clichy or the square du Vert-Galant, you see how quickly they can grow to a large size, so it’s not that big a deal to have to cut one down from time to time.

The Reich is now mumbling again about resuming the respect of civil liberties. It has mentioned gradually reopening society starting this month. But policies change daily and promises ring hollow.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Déjà vu, third act

Almost exactly a year after entering its first useless lockdown, France has just entered its third useless lockdown, and it’s the most complicated yet. Citizens must again carry special forms to show to the police in order to venture outside their homes; and failure to have one's papers at hand can lead to fines or jail time. The form is now two pages long. Here's a (translated) sample of some of the text:

Persons residing in departments not subject to reinforced measures may not enter departments subject to reinforced measures beyond a perimeter defined by a 30-kilometer radius centered on their place of residence except for items marked by an asterisk in this declaration as well as within the context of long-distance movements leading only to transit through a zone subject to reinforced measures.

Got it? “Reinforced measures” is the official euphemism for lockdown, the latter apparently sounding too much like what it actually is. The list of businesses that must close (or remain closed), those that can open (or remain open), distance and time limits, and other restrictions is very long. And there's still a curfew, too, for which a different form (sometimes two) is required, ony now it starts at 7 PM instead of 6 PM. Elementary and junior high schools remain open, but high schools close. Some large stores (below a certain size that varies depending on several criteria) may remain open, but with certain aisles closed. And so on. I wonder how the government expects every person in France to keep up with these restrictions, especially since they seem to change before they are even officially published.

Museums, cinemas, bars, restaurants and hotels are still closed, and several large hotels have finally laid off most of their staff. Disneyland Paris is still closed, and its competitor, Parc Astérix, will not reopen for the season on the usual date; nobody knows when either venue will open. People try to go for walks, but then the police claim that they are forming forbidden groups and chase them home.

Official color of Eiffel Tower
Oh well. I just stay at home except to go out for groceries. It’s easier. It’s increasingly exhausting to go anywhere. It’s a pity, especially since the weather is very nice, and spring officially begins in three hours.

In other news … the Eiffel Tower (which is also closed) is being repainted. It is repainted every seven years. This repainting is special, though, because instead of just painting over the previous coat of paint as is usually done, on this pass all previous layers of paint are being removed and the new coat is being applied to bare metal. Nineteen coats of paint—130 years’ worth—are being removed. The work is going slowly because many of the older layers of paint contain lead, which these days is considered a hazardous material that must be carefully disposed of. But there’s plenty of time, as the tower is unlikely to reopen any time soon. Anyway, the tower’s official color is Pantone® Eiffel Tower brown, 18-5210 TCX, a kind of grayish brown.


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