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Nudes, Gouda or Goulash? HELP!

Would you rather talk about Gouda, Goulash or Degas’ nudes? Fascinating choice, isn’t it?

Let’s start with the nudes.

They (the nudes) were a good excuse for going to Le Musée d’Orsay — “Degas and the Nude” — “The first major monographic exhibition in Paris devoted to Edgar Degas (1834-1917) since the 1988 retrospective at the Grand Palais.” It had been a while since making a visit there…way too long.

23-4-12museedorsay-123-4-12museedorsay-323-4-12museedorsay-423-4-12hollande-sarko-byLeFigaro23-4-12marine-le-penbyPascal Rossignol-Reuters

This can be the downside to working full-time in Paris — not having enough time to take advantage of all of the outstanding exhibitions and museums the city has to offer. We get so caught up in our merry-go-round of working hard, accomplishing things, being rewarded for our efforts, etc., etc., that Sunday afternoons easily slip away at the desk catching up on paperwork or performing mundane tasks that get put aside during the week. So, when visitors come to town who have nothing to do, but run from one wonderful Parisian “spectacle” to another, it’s a perfect excuse to behave like a tourist and see the city from another point of view.

Degas’ nudes are beautiful, yes, and I realize that the exhibition focuses on this one aspect of his artistic career, but oh how I missed seeing the canvases for which we all know and love — the dancers.

Trying to look inside his head while he painted the backs and buttocks of voluptuous women, over and over again, with no relationship of the person to the artist other than the form, was the question whirring in our minds. They have no faces, no personas, no personalities with which we could relate and we wondered why. The exhibition is dotted with other artists’ works to juxtapose their influence on or by Degas and in all honesty, I personally found the others more engaging.

One such painting, “Rolla” by Henry Gervex, stole the show. I couldn’t take my eyes off it.

The painting was a scandal of its time and was excluded from the Paris Salon of 1878 for its sexual innuendoes. In the 1927 book “Degas: An Intimate Portrait” by Ambrosie Vollard, he quotes Degas as advising Gervex, “You must make it plain that the woman is not a model. Where is the dress she has taken off? Put a pair of corsets on the floor nearby. You see, nude models are all right at the Salon, but a woman undressing — never!”

The magnificent train-station-turned-museum was buzzing on a Sunday afternoon — a very special Sunday, too: the presidential election day of the first round. A president in France serves for five years and can be re-elected only once consecutively. Yesterday was the run-off between several candidates, narrowing it down to the two biggest players — in this case, Socialist Party François Hollande and incumbent President Nicolas Sarkozy of the UMP. Voter turn-out was more than 70% — one of the highest ever. (The U.S. should take notice — only 56.8% of the voters turned out in our last presidential race.)

The campaign is highly regulated in typical French style — there is a cap on spending (about 20 million euros), requirements of public funding and TV advertising is forbidden. Neither candidate did as effective a social media campaign as our own Barack Obama to sidestep the advertising restrictions, although Twitter messages managed to skirt effectively around the laws that prevent publication of voting estimates before the polls close (8 p.m.) by encoding them in French Resistance Fighter fashion — “Netherlands-Hungary qualify for return leg,” said one tweet. “Amsterdam” and “Gouda” were used, too, to refer to guess who? And “Budapest” and “Goulash” for the other.

I am sure you get this, right? My favorite was “Daddy’s girl” for Marine Le Pen, who took over from her father, Jean-Marie as head of the National Front.

It wasn’t a big surprise that Socialist Hollande took a small lead over Sarkozy, but Marine Le Pen was ecstatic with her near 20% of the vote, a historic high. While she’s dancing with joy, all of us immigrants are shaking in our boots. And the big question is, which candidate is going to get her endorsement for the final run-off on May 6th?

She’s not saying, not yet, anyway.

If you want to read more about each candidate’s policies, visit Sarkozy and Hollande Pledges — it’s a good account of each of their stands on the important issues, and I ‘gotta tell ya’ — I’m not wild about either one. Here are a few excerpts which might concern us immigrants:


*Cut by half the number of immigrants entering the country. (Better get here fast!)

*Revise the Schengen agreement for open borders to curb illegal immigration.

*Organize referendums if unions or lobby groups block changes on labor or immigration laws.

*Limit social welfare to foreigners who have been living in France for more than 10 years. (HELP! That’s me!)


*Hold a parliamentary debate on immigration quotas.

*Impose a 75 percent income tax on earnings above 1 million euros ($1.32 million) and raise the rate to 45 percent for the income bracket between 150,000 euros and 1 million euros per year. (So, who’s going to stay in the country and spend their money on French luxury goods or expensive apartments?)

*Limit pay of executives at state-owned companies to 20 times the lowest wage.

Either way — we’re ‘screwed.’ Hollande doesn’t want anyone to earn money except the State…and I don’t know how he thinks he’s going to fund all the social programs unless SOMEBODY has the ability to earn money and therefore pay the tax he wants to impose! And Sarkozy, a descendent of immigrants, seems to have lost his roots and wants to do away with us or curb our rights, even though we might be quite good citizens, but not born here!

HELP! I’ve spent most of my almost 18 years here advocating life in France only to discover I’m the enemy. On top of that, Americans are the ultimate entrepreneurs and capitalists who generally disagree with much of the socialist policies that prevent our view of free enterprise, free will, free speech, free spirit, free time…so, then I start to wonder why I’m here at all.

What is it about this OTHER point of view that makes life here so appealing? Perhaps it’s because on a Sunday afternoon all of Paris is off of work and has the time to enjoy an exhibition of nudes? Or that when I go to the doctor, the bill for the hour is the price of lunch and it gets reimbursed directly to my bank account without asking the insurance company if it’s covered? Or that our children can have a college education virtually free of charge? (There goes that word again — free.)

But I tell you — working hard doesn’t get you anywhere here. You have to work ‘smart’ and take advantage of the system so that on Sundays you can go to museums or vote for your favorite candidate — that is…if you have the right, which you may never have since one of these guys WILL get elected. Thank goodness, though, it won’t be Marine Le Pen!


A la prochaine…

Adrian 3Adrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Paris

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P.S. Tomorrow I’m winging to Nice so stay tuned for Wednesday’s Parler Nice Nouvellettre®. For those of you who are only interested in the Riviera, and not Paris, you may opt in to just Parler Nice. And for those of you who have been reading Parler Paris for a long time, you may just have to put up with a Parler Nice on occasion. If you’re not interested in what goes on on the Mediterranean coast, then just delete the issue and forget you ever saw it.


P.S.S. Mark your calendar for May 6th when The Mirror Visions Ensemble performs “Fête ses 20 Ans” at the American Church in Paris. Entry is free. 5 p.m., 65 quai d’Orsay, Paris 7th.Visit Mirror Visions for more information.


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