Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Tag: France

Happy Bastille Day!

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I’ve always had a love for things French, from Rabelais to my favorite movie director, Eric Rohmer. I have a few blogging friends in Paris, and I love to read about their beautiful city. But sometimes I wonder — has there ever been a positive thing said about Israel by a French leader? And why not?

I support Israel’s current bombardment of Lebanon, although I’m sad that civilians are being injured and killed. But why is Jacques Chirac always the first out of the gate to call Israel’s offensive as “totally disproportionate”?

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Bachar El Assad and Jacques Chirac

“One could ask if today there is not a sort of will to destroy Lebanon, its equipment, its roads, its communication,” Chirac said during an interview.

What would he do if Spain went into France tonight and kidnapped some French soliders? Wouldn’t the French people want to take action? Was the storming of Normandy by the Allies a “totally disproportionate” action? Or was the Nazi presence acceptable? Was the storming of the Bastille disproportionate?

France has a long history in the Middle East, including past colonies in Morocco, Lebanon, Algeria and Tunisia. Millions of Arabs murdered by French soldiers in the past. Maybe that explains French guilt over the Arab world. Does it also explain why Chirac was the only western head of state at Syrian despot Hafez el Assad`s funeral?

These two men had a long relationship. After being pressed by Jewish groups, Chirac finally questioned Assad about former Nazi Alois Brunner, who was living in Syria. Brunner, a top Nazi operative, is believed responsible for the deaths of more than 100,000 Jews deported to death camps between 1942 and 1945. He once was commandant of the squalid French transit camp at Drancy. Assad’s simple answer to Chirac’s question: he would “examine the issue.” I guess that was good enough.

President Giscard d’Estaing provided asylum to Ayatollah Khomeini who resided in Neauphle le Chateau near Paris and, on 1 February 1979, arrived in Teheran on a special Air France flight. Two generations earlier, France extended similar hospitality to the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, a close friend of Heinrich Himmler and enthusiastic advocate of the “Final Solution.” Although the French government was obligated to detain this war criminal and bring him to law, they lodged him in a villa in the fashionable Paris suburb of Rambouillet.

General de Gaulle was well-known for using the phrase: “le peuple juif, sûr de lui meme et dominateur” (the Jewish people, self-confident and domineering). De Gaulle was an admirer of Charles Maurras, a monarchist-nationalist-Catholic thinker and politician with strong anti-Semitic feelings.

According to the Canadian historian Henry Weinberg, “De Gaulle implicitly characterized the Israelis as arrogant, expansionist war hawks who seek every opportunity to achieve their imperialistic aims, as militarists spoiling for a fight. He also ‘invited’ the Jews to keep a low profile, implying that Israel’s right to live in security was linked to the ‘humility’ of its political behavior.

Which basically meant that Jews were OK, as long as they remained wimpy. You know, like the nice non-aggressive ones who agreed to go onto the friendly trains to Germany.

A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month: Life is a Cabaret

Double Entendres and Croissants

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I had the cold first.  Then, I went over to Sophia to get some TLC, and got her sick.  So, by the end of the week, we were both miserable.

Friday, I took some pills and ventured out, mostly because I was excited to meet two bloggers coming to town from San Francisco — Kristy of She Just Walks Around With It and Ish of The Original Pawns of Comedy.  I really enjoyed meeting them and talking about blogging, writing, comedy, and all sorts of things.  We had lunch in Hermosa Beach and then took a walk on the beach right up to the waves. 

Being with people new to the area helped me look at LA in a new way.  I complain about living in Los Angeles a lot, but there is something to be said for living right by the beach, even if I sometimes feel like a fish-out-of-water in the beach culture — with the surfer dudes, the professional volleyball girls, and the ubiquitous fish tacos.

On Saturday, Sophia and I, still under the weather, spent most of the day inside, watching TV.  We especially enjoyed watching old game shows on the Game Show Network.  The highlight of the day was "The Newlywed Game," especially when Bob Eubanks asked the "wives" this question:

"Which of the following game show titles best describes your husband’s behavior lately in the whoopie department?"

A)  Concentration
B)  Make Me Laugh
C)  Beat the Clock

I thought I would have some fun with Sophia and ask her to play along.

"So, what’s your answer?"

"Whoopie meaning sex, right?"

"Yes.  So, which game show title best describes your husband’s behavior?  Concentration?  Make Me Laugh? Or Beat the Clock?"

"I never heard of any of those shows."

"They’re old shows.  Just pick one."

"I don’t know them.  Can I pick one I do know?"

"Sure."

"Wheel of Fortune."

"Wheel of Fortune doesn’t make sense."

"Who Wants to be a Millionaire?"

"Millionaire doesn’t really work either.  It only works if it’s a double entendre."

"Millionaire could be a double entendre.  Like "My husband is worth a million bucks in the sack, or should I phone a friend?.""

"But it’s supposed to be funny.  It should be something making fun of the man’s inadequacy."

"Ok, if you insist.  How about, "My husband’s lovemaking is so blah, that every time we make whoopie, there’s a "Family Feud.""  That’s not bad.  Or my husband is so boring in the bedroom, he’s the ultimate "Hollywood Square."  Or "Let’s just say that when I make whoopie with my husband, the words "Weakest Link" always come to mind."   Better now?"

"OK, OK, I get it.  Let’s watch something else."

On Sunday, Sophia and I spent most of the day like Saturday — watching TV.

At some point, I got lustful feelings and tried to get flirty with the sniffling Sophia, who responded by hitting me in the head with a tissue box.  Sophia promptly fell asleep and I started watching one of those poker shows on TV. 

It was a high-stakes tournament going on at the Aviation Club in Paris.  There was a lot of excitement in the air.  As the players battled each other with their cards and chips, some ordered drinks from an attractive waitress.   Not that this was unusual for a casino.  But I was very surprised when one player asked to be brought a croissant.

A croissant!

How French I thought!  He’s playing for a million dollars, but still has time for a croissant!  I’ve always been fascinated by the French.  Their culture.  Their art.  Their wine.  Their beautiful woman.  My all-time favorite movie director is Frenchman Eric Rohmer.   One of my greatest joys with this blog is that I actually have readers in France.  I’m not sure how they found me, but I’m glad they did.  Like a lot of Americans, I was pissed at the French government’s siding with the Iraqis a couple of years ago, but I never went so far as to change the name of my French toast to Freedom toast. 

And what is more French than a croissant? 

Suddenly, my lustful feelings became focused on French baked goods.  I had a deep yearning for a croissant that just had to be satisfied.  I threw on my clothes and headed for the supermarket. 

But Vons Supermarket proved to be a big disappointment.   Their store brand of croissants looked awful.   A true croissant is much like a perfect bagel — there must be a perfectly modulated juxtaposition between the toughness of the exterior and the softness of the interior.   Vons Supermarket’s croissants looked like cut pieces of cardboard.

But now I had a problem?  Where the hell am I going to find a good croissant in Redondo Beach — where Tito’s Taco Shack is considered fine cuisine?  Luckily, I was able to find a foodie friend at home, who directed me to a bakery in Hermosa Beach.

An hour later, I returned home, holding a bag with two croissants, one for me and one for Sophia.   I thought about the intense pleasure that eating this croissant would give me — like a night of passion in Paris with the most beautiful French woman.

"Why do you go out for croissants?" asked Sophia.

"It was like inspiration.  I heard player in a poker tournament in Paris ask to be brought a croissant."

"No one asks for a croissant in the middle of a poker tournament."

"In France, they do.  You just don’t understand the French.  They have a lust for life.  When they want a croissant, they get a croissant."

"Let me see."

The game was still on Sophia’s Tivo.  She zoomed back to the exact moment I was talking about.   She started laughing.

"He didn’t say "croissant!"" said Sophia, who happens to speak French.   "He said "troi cents!"  He was asking another player if he had "troi cents" — three hundred [thousand] in chips."

"Oh," I said, feeling like an idiot.

We ate the croissants anyway.  Sophia loved hers, but it just wasn’t the same for me.

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