VIVE LE MINITEL!
Believe it or not, the clunky Minitel, the forerunner of the Internet introduced by France Telecom 26 years ago, lives on. A million of the networked boxes, now used mainly as telephone directories, are still in use, appreciated for their sturdiness, simplicity of use and lack of viruses. France Telecom, which planned to decommission the Minitel this month, has given it a reprieve and decided to keep it in use.
Paris now has its own version of the Venetian vaporetto: Voguéo, a line of pretty green, blue and white water buses running between the Gare d’Austerlitz and the suburb Maisons-Alfort, with stops at Bibliothèque François-Mitterrand, Bercy and Port d’Ivry. Tickets cost €3, but holders of RATP subscriptions can use their cards at no extra cost. Following a two-year test, the city will decide whether to make it permanent and add other lines or not.
Handicap.fr has launched a new tourism section for people with disabilities, listing over 600 sites and associations, with evaluations from visitors.
The French seemed to have accepted the smoking ban in restaurants and cafés with surprising ease, but it turns out that a resistance movement has sprung up: members of a guerilla group calling itself “Happy-Nicotines” have taken to dropping into cafés, lighting up and leaving before the police get there. Other résistants are covertly passing around the addresses of establishments whose owners are willing to let their customers smoke (sometimes in a back room) at the risk of a €750 fine. Meanwhile, anti-smoking groups are demanding that smoking be banned on café terraces, the new turf of puffers.
Will people really take time to read an advertisement on a condom wrapper? Perhaps the effect will be purely subliminal: Brand X = pleasure. That’s what a company called French Card (condoms are called “French letters” in the UK, by the way), which will print your ad on condoms for a fee, is hoping.
LIKE MOTHER, LIKE SON
Anyone who has read Michel Houellebecq’s The Elementary Particles knows that he despises his mother. Now maman, Lucie Ceccaldi, has written a book, L’Innocente (Scali) defending herself, in which she gives as good as she gets. He called her a “slut”; she calls him a “parasite,” etc., etc. Sounds like they deserve each other.
WHERE THE FILLES ARE
A new book, Le Guide des Jolies Femmes de Paris (Robert Laffont) by Pierre-Louis Colin, a speechwriter for French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner,offers a neighborhood-by-neighborhood guide to attractive women in Paris: where to find the best legs (Madeleine), bra-free breasts (Ménilmontant) and femmes d’un certain âge (lingerie shops). Colin advocates appreciative observation only.
REVOLTE DES HANDICAPES
Between 16,000 and 30,000 (depending on whom you ask) people from all over France flocked to Paris on March 29 to demonstrate for the rights of the disabled and chronically ill. Adults who are unable to work are given a monthly allocation of €628, which they understandably claim condemns them to lifelong poverty. Although the government announced a 5 percent increase last week, the demonstrators saw this only as further incentive to take to the streets.
PARIS DOCUMENTS HEROISM
Following an international colloquium on the subject of rescuing victims of genocide, held at the Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris (a.k.a. Sciences Po), the City of Paris commissioned a research project on the rescue of Jews in Paris during the Occupation. The resulting booklet, “Le Sauvetage des Juifs à Paris 1940-1944,” which includes testimony from Jews who were protected from deportation thanks to the efforts of ordinary Parisians, is available for free online or from the Hôtel de Ville (49 rue de Rivoli, 75004 Paris) and the mairies of Paris’s arrondissements, along with a number of other interesting brochures on the city and its history.