Marc Naimark's writing and interviews _____________________________________________________

Freedom of speech is doing fine in France, unless you think that spending is speech… or that it’s OK to make a donation

Posted in Uncategorized by marcnaimark on 2015/01/29

Dieudonn_M_bala_M_bala_et_AlaiIn a rather predictable backlash, American commentators have found “irony” in France arresting people for speech after calling for national union to defend freedom of expression following the Charlie Hebdo attacks. In doing so, they neglect very real issues of speech in France, like bans on blasphemy and an increasing threat to legal aid funds.

The arrests are for “apology for terrorism”. In at least one case, a fellow is already doing time, when he compounded his DUI with aggravating circumstances of apology of terrorism. Like laws against racist speech, the French consider the law against apology for terrorism reasonable limits on speech to promote a social good, in particular to prevent one goal of terrorism, raising public support for the aims of the terrorists. You may not agree that there is a public benefit to this, and you may think prosecutors are going too far at the moment (for example, prosecuting a teen for a clever take on the very Charlie Hebdo cover that the paper was being sued for blasphemy). But it’s not an outlandish claim, unless you believe in absolute freedom of speech. (more…)

“Reply All” looks at the Minitel

Posted in Uncategorized by marcnaimark on 2015/01/26

minitel_378Reply All, produced by the guys from TLDR is the second show from Gimlet Media, just did an episode on the Minitel.

I still have my last Minitel terminal, I think, somewhere in my cellar. It was a fairly sophisticated model with a built-in phone. I remember how excited the French were when this US bank, based in Denver if I recall, started using the Minitel. “Even the Americans have adopted our wonderful Minitel!!”.

Paper phone directories are still distributed, but in much smaller numbers. Every year there are like six left in the lobby of my building which has about 50 apartments. It’s true that the French had a very effective service with Minitel, so Internet took long to catch on. RAVEL, the online service high school grads are required to use to sign up for university, remained Minitel-only for ages.  That said, France now has much better, faster, and cheaper Internet than the US. High-speed broadband Internet, cable TV, landline for 30 euros a month.

The main for-pay services used the phone number 3615, and I spent a lot on chatrooms of the Minitel Rose. Even today, “3615 blablala” is a joking way of referring to a service, a bit like using hashtags in speech. “3615 KINENVEU” was a regular feature of a daily comic sketch on Canal Plus’s evening magazine show.

Mon samedi

Posted in Uncategorized by marcnaimark on 2015/01/24

xDSC_2065Matin, réunion de restitution sur le PLU au pavillon de l’Arsénal. Anne Hidalgo absente, c’est Jean-Louis Missika, adjoint chargé de l’urbanisme qui s’y colle. Je m’étonne du peu d’interventions des Parisiens lors de la consultation. Seulement 2000; dont la plupart ne concernaient pas le PLU. C’est vrai qu’en réunion de concertation et sur la plate-forme en ligne, des gens se foutaient royalement de la question du jour, à savoir le PLU, qui concerne avant tout l’utilisation du foncier privé, et non pas les travaux menés par la Ville, ni le fait qu’il s’agissait d’une modification et non d’une révision du PLU, ce qui exclue de droit certains changements comme les filets de hauteur. Grand flou sur les dispositifs qui vont remplacer le COS, et ma question sur le “bonus durable sur les travaux de surélévation pour créer de l’habitat” évoque par la Ville lors de cette réunion n’a pas eu de réponse. Ils ont l’air gênés de savoir comment faire sans COS, et je les comprends. C’était un outil puissant d’incitation. (more…)

More film title nonsense – Encore de bêtises sur les titres de films

Posted in Uncategorized by marcnaimark on 2015/01/23

Ugh! So it appears that a new film is being produced in France, based on a French novel entitled Défense d’aimer (forbidden to love, no loving, ban on love). The title of the film will not be Défense d’aimer, but instead, Down by love.

Perhaps they wanted to avoid using Défense d’aimer, because it’s already been used, for a 2002 film. But Down By Love is the international title of a movie whose original Hungarian title is Szerelemtöl sújtva.

I think it’s time for movies that benefit from public funding from French government entitities to be required to have French titles.


Un nouveau film français va bientôt sortir, basé sur le roman français Défense d’aimer. Le titre du film ne sera pas Défense d’aimer, mais Down by love.

Peut être voulaient-ils éviter le titre Défense d’aimer, puisqu’il a déjà été utilisé pour un film en 2002. Mais ce qui cloche, c’est que Down By Love est déjà le titre international d’un film au titre hongrois d’origine est Szerelemtöl sújtva.

Ne serait-ce pas normal qu’un film tiré d’un roman français, fait par des Français, fait en France, et surtout, surtout, bénéficiant d’aides financières françaises, ait un titre français ?

Blasphemy is indeed against the law in France

Posted in Uncategorized by marcnaimark on 2015/01/21

charliekoranWhile the Charlie Hebdo attacks are moving some democratic governments to reconsider the blasphemy laws on their books, for the moment at least, one country has expressed no such intentions. That country is France, where the only case of prosecution for blasphemy is taking place now, and involves… Charlie Hebdo.

Many in France are surprised to hear that blasphemy law exists in the country, at least until they hear where and how. The law is still on the books in three départements of continental France: Haut-Rhin (Strasbourg), Bas-Rhin (Colmar), and Moselle (Metz). These are the three départements that correspond to French territory annexed by the German Empire after the 1870 Franco-Prussian War. When they returned to France after World War I, the population was guaranteed that the laws, in particular those corresponding to the more progressive social welfare laws that had been implemented in Germany, would be maintained. This was known as the “statut local”, the “local status”.

Not only welfare laws were concerned. Religious matters in this part of France remained those of Napoleonic France and the Concordat, which aimed to put an end to the conflict between free-thinking revolutionaries and the Catholic church by authorizing and even encouraging religion, but a religion under state control. (more…)

Turnstile tales

Posted in Uncategorized by marcnaimark on 2015/01/21

I’m still laughing at the story Jimmy is tellng me.

To enter the metro in Paris, most often there is a horizontal turnstile with a door right after it. They added the door to make it harder to just jump the turnstile. The two devices are connected so that the door only opens as the turnstile turns (and the turnstile only turns when you use your pass or ticket).

When he arrived at the row of turnstiles, there was a guy stuck between the turnstile and the door, possibly because he had a large bag that prevented him from passing right away. Or possibly because he was faredodging. Either way, he was stuck, and rather than helping him, all the other passengers were just using the turnstiles on either side, leaving him there to stew.

Jimmy, a white knight and a kind heart, approached the turnstile so that the guy could get out when Jimmy used his pass. Instead of thanking him, the guy cried out: “No, not here! Can’t you see I’m stuck!”.

My interpretation is that the guy was just really, really dumb. Jimmy’s is more somber: he thinks that the guy, having seen so many people ignore his plight, couldn’t imagine that someone would come and help him.

As I write this, I’m no longer laughing.

Dear Prudence All-in-One

Posted in Uncategorized by marcnaimark on 2015/01/21

Steve-Carell-John-du-Pont-FoxcatcherWhat’s an all-in-one? Learn more at the bottom of this post, but for now, just consider it a letter asking Emily Yoffe for advice in her Dear Prudence column in Slate.

Dear Prudence,

I’m a 40-year-old man who happens to be a virgin and looks very much like Steve Carell (but in Foxcatcher, not in The Office). It’s not that I’m not into girls. I love girls! I dream of fucking a girl! I even bought an issue of Playboy once! The only reason I’ve never had sex is that I’m just too afraid of accidentally fathering a child. Yes, I know that if both the guy and the gal are using birth control that’s very unlikely, but what if the woman is lying about her BC and pokes a hole in my condom while I’m brushing my teeth before s-e-x? You know how women are, you’re one of them, and you’ve even admitted that you got married just to get your husband’s sperm!

Anyhoo, I made a pledge to the Virgin Mary, my patron saint (my middle name is “Mary” and I love Mariah Carey records) that I would share my wonderful gametes by the time I was 45, so time’s running out.

My best friend from way back in kinnygarten is married. Her husband carries a genetic flaw that results in defective kids. Their first two will die before age 20. They had genetic counseling and successfully birthed a third child free from the bad gene. But then her husband went and just had to give baby 3 a bottle while holding her in the front seat while my BFF was driving. They were just riding up to her mom’s house when… well, first, you gotta know that my BFF’s mom is a road safety expert, and she decided to do some testing on braking time for the Prius, which happens to be the car my BFF was driving. So mom stood in the street to find out just when her daughter would brake. Fortunately for the mom, it was in time. But when BFF slammed on the brakes, baby 3 popped out of her husband’s arms and splat onto the windscreen. (I know it’s “windshield”, but doesn’t “windscreen” sound so much posher?)

She decided that she didn’t want to try again for a kid with her husband, since his genetic defects seem to also include a total lack of common sense. She’s asked me to provide my semen for her so she won’t end up alone in her 70s with no child to berate. I’m quite keen on doing it, since I would fulfil my vow to the Virgin without having to… well, you know.

The best part is that she’s willing to pay a lot for my precious bodily fluids, which is great because I have discovered that my employer is getting into the water fluoridation business, which I’m morally opposed to because precious bodily fluids. I want to refuse to cooperate in their nefarious plans so I can get fired and file a whistle-blower case and get rich. Until that happens, I could really use that jizz money to live on.

I’m doing up a checklist to make sure I get all needed information about my BFF before providing her the cup of love and life. One odd thing is that while I’ve known her since childhood, she’s never mentioned her father. I’m now wondering about those strange chain-clanking noises coming from the basement when I went over to play at her house. Another odd thing is that her mother the road-safety expert would do these experiments using a crash-test dummy. One day, I’m sure I heard the crash-test dummy screaming. My question, Prudie is: Should I ask what happened to him, or is it too big a risk to get on the bad side of my future bio-mother-in-law?

Yours truly,

No fluoride in MY jizz, thank you!

An “all-in-one” is a piece of creative writing based on a Dear Prudence column from Slate. The goal is to combine all the letters into one that includes key points from each. This all-in-one is based on this column.

“C’est la faute à Le Corbusier” au Vingtième Théâtre

Posted in Uncategorized by marcnaimark on 2015/01/16

lecorbu
Spectacle intéressant, même touchant, hier au Vingtième Théâtre. “C’est la faute à Le Corbusier”, c’est une réflexion sur le passé et l’avenir de nos villes, de ces barres et tours en beton qui sont l’héritage de l’après guerre.

Bien que basés sur des entretiens avec les habitants, les archis, les politiques, etc., c’est un vrai spectacle et non une conférence. Le prétexte ? Un appel à projets pour la réhabilitation d’une cité. Les architectes candidats doivent rencontrer les habitants dans une salle polyvalente au coeur de la cité. Ils savent tout déjà, et y vont pour la forme, mais c’est sans compter avec les usagers de la salle, qui tiennent à faire partager leur expérience et leur savoir. Les architectes seront victimes d’une séquestration douce, le temps que les habitants s’expriment. (more…)

When French soldiers discover Jewish mothers

Posted in Uncategorized by marcnaimark on 2015/01/15

militaireA post on Tel-Avivre, a website devoted to news of Israel for French Jews, tells the story of what happens when French soldiers find their new Jewish mothers.

Since the attacks of last week, the protection of Jewish places of business, worship, and education has been massively increased, with soldiers assigned to guard them. Ten thousard are assigned to Jewish schools, where the soldiers eat their midday meal in the school cafeteria, where they are able to talk with the teachers, staff, and parent volunteers.

They explain that they rotate from place to place, remaining on duty only a few days at any given site, so as to avoid developing bad habits.

The parents appreciate the protection offered to their children and their teachers, and in the gloomy atmosphere of omnipresent fear, want to create some cheer. How? Like all good Jewish mothers, they now arrive each morning with food for the soldiers.

Question: Just how fat will they get?

See also this story in Libération which explains that the presence of the armed soldiers is reassuring, but also generates anxiety for children (and parents).

Film titles need therapy to return to paradise, but it’s a case of force majeure for tourists

Posted in Uncategorized by marcnaimark on 2015/01/14

snowtherap
I am often annoyed when I see films in France with English titles, especially if it’s an English-language film with a different title. For exemple that whole “Very Bad X” series, based on the success of The Hangover, whose French title was Very Bad Trip. A new entry in this mysterious world is this mostly-Swedish film, whose original title is Turist, which I guess means “tourist”. Now, Tourist, could be a good title in English, and Touriste in French, but of course we already had Anthony Zimmer and its American remake The Tourist, whose French title was Le touriste in Quebec (and The Tourist in France), so perhaps that title was out.

In a strange reversal, the French version is called Snow Therapy, while the English-language version is called Force Majeure. So Turist takes a French name in English and and Engish name in French. Weird.

Even if the French distributors wanted to use Force Majeure, they may have hesitated because of a past film, the very successful Force Majeure with François Cluzet and Patrick Bruel (which I recommend).

As it happens, this takes us to one of those strange naming chains. The French Force Majeure (1989) was remade in the US as Return to Paradise (1998). The French title of that film was Loin du paradis (far from paradise), which was also the French title for 2002’s Far From Heaven.  Return to Paradise has pretty good ratings, but I’d never heard of it.