Christmas in California at our house means comedy, Jewish comedy, in the form of Kung Pao Kosher Comedy. This mix of Jews, comedy, Chinese food and Christmas has been going strong in San Francisco for 22 years. It draws Jews and non-Jews from all over Northern California, from Sacramento to San Jose. It's a relief to escape all the Christmas crap and laugh your ass off. This year featured 14 year old Simon Cadel who calls himself a "Jatheist" (Jewish atheist) and made great jokes about the cult of Apple product afficianados; Ophira Eisenberg from NPR and The Moth storytelling program; and razor-sharp Jeremy Hotz who has a sad sack face and is known as "The Master of Misery". Host Lisa Geduldig eschewed her traditional tux in favor of an outfit to celebrate the thawing of US/Cuban relations.
We had the good fortune to be seated at a table with a Pulitzer Prize winning investigative journalist and his family, which made for interesting dinner conversation.
As I was walking around Chinatown and looking at vegetables and chicken parts I don't usually eat,
I started thinking about comedy in Paris. Despite the presence of comedy clubs, standup doesn't seem to have the same presence in Paris as it does in urban USA. Parisians are as cynical as New Yorkers and complain as much, so you would think standup comedy would be as popular as Brooklyn burgers are right now. Pariscope doesn't have a separate section for comedy; the clubs are listed under théâtres. Or is it just an American perspective, because our French language skills are often inadequate to keep up with the fast pace of comedy?
I like to sew, but it doesn't require your whole brain. If I'm not sewing with my quilting group, I'll usually put a mystery on the TV to keep me company . And British mysteries are the best.
Many of you who are of a certain age will remember the British TV series 'Inspector Morse'. Not long ago, American TV showed the followup series about his partner, 'Inspector Lewis', and a prequel series about the young Morse, 'Endeavor'.
It's hard to find original Inspector Morse episodes without buying the costly box set. Netflix and Amazon Prime have Inspector Barnaby in Midsomer Murders and Inspector Lynley, but no Inspector Morse. So it's with great joy that I can share with you today, a free trove of 34 Inspector Morse episodes on YouTube.
They were uploaded by Nick Max and are listed as M(1)RSE, M(2)RSE, etc. up to number 34. Here's a link to his playlists which include many other British mysteries as well.
And here's a very interesting program about John Thaw who plays Inspector Morse. I was pleased to see that he appears to have been a very nice man as well as a good actor. If you're a Morse fan, you'll enjoy this.
Now, dig into the first episode and enjoy! And thank you for reading this blog and sharing it with your friends.
La Liberté éclairant le monde or 'Liberty Enlightening the World' is how the Statue of Liberty is known in France, where she originated. The Statue was reopened on the 4th of July after extensive Superstorm Sandy repairs. My local area newspapers discussed the beauty and wonder of Lady Liberty and the 77 million dollar repair pricetag, but they did not mention her French connection at all.
It seems that Americans prefer to forget that our symbol of Liberty is actually a French ex-pat, born in Paris, who emigrated here on the French steamer Isère in 1885. Sculptor Frédéric Bartholdi began construction in his Paris workshop before full funding was available. The French provided money for the statue and the Americans were to provide the island site and build the pedestal. We dragged our heels and almost neglected this gift. Grover Cleveland, when he was governor of New York, vetoed a bill to provide $50,000 for the statue. The democrats in Congress turned down a $100,000 appropriation to complete the project. It was early version of crowdfunding that financed completion of the pedestal after construction was stopped in 1884. Publisher Joseph Pulitzer of the World newspaper in New York sponsored a drive and printed the stories of small donors to the fund. Can you imagine Americans contributing today to have a French statue built in the US?
And now for a bit of trivia:
How many Statues of Liberty are there in Paris today?
#1: Île aux Cygnes
This statue was donated by American ex-pats living in Paris and sits on a man-made island in the Seine near the Pont de Grenelle. Originally she faced the Eiffel Tower but was later turned to face her sister in New York.
#2: Jardin du Luxembourg
This version also experienced a switcheroo. Until last year, the statue was the very first Lady Liberty, the original model Bartholdi used for his later and larger New York statue. However, in 2011 she was vandalized and her flame was stolen. The city was embarassed to have allowed her to deteriorate and so had a mold made and then a new bronze cast to replace her in le jardin du Luxembourg. The original then went to Tours for resoration and cleaning.
#3: Musée d'Orsay
The statue 'Napoleon waking to immortality' was moved to the Louvre to make room for the restored Luxembourg Gardens Lady Liberty where she now stands in Napoleon's spot on the first floor central walkway.
#4: Musée des Arts et Métiers
This is one of the most underappreciated museums in Paris. It has been housed in the old priory of Saint-Martin-des-Champs in the 3rd arrondissement since its founding in 1794. It's a celebration of scientific invention and the place to go to see the original Foucault pendulum, Daguerre's camera, the Lumière brothers' Cinematograph, Pascal's calculating machine from 1642 (!) and many more important discoveries. They have an original plaster of the Statue of Liberty, a bronze casting from it and exhibits on the engineering issues involved in its construction. If you are travelling with children in Paris, this is a must-see museum that will prove far more interesting to them than the Louvre.
#5: non-official Ladies of Liberty
Of course, you'll find her featured for sale and in advertisements throughout Paris, like at Le Fil Rouge, an 'American' café in the 10th arrondissement.
In the US, we often give small monetary gifts at Christmas time to certain people who supply services, such as hairdressers or housecleaners. In France, this is done at New Year's and the gifts are called 'les etrennes'. Some of the recipients are similar: the concierge or guardienne (in large cities this would correspond to the doorman or super of the building or maybe the security guard) or the coiffeuse (hairdresser). But in France the postman (facteur/factrice), the fireman (pompier) and the garbageman (éboueur) expect their etrennes. Sometimes they offer a calendar in return. The custom is ancient; it dates back to Roman times. For an article (in French) about the history of this practice, click here.
I don't know anyone who offers Christmas money to firemen in California, given that their employee benefits are better than most. Have you given les etrennes to anyone this year?