Sunday, September 22, 2013

Au Clair de la Lune (et d'autres chansons enfantines françaises)

During our sortie pédagogique on Thursday, I came across a little series of postcards illustrating common French children's songs, some of which are shown below:

That's a very aristocratic-looking shepherdess in the last picture. Shades of Marie Antoinette at the Petit Trianon.

Lazy Sunday

Let's open with an appropriately jentacular image:

Slightly blurred, but I hadn't had any coffee yet, so not unrepresentative of my state at the time.

This conjures up an image of a pleasant hour or two, spent leafing through Le Monde, re-acquainting myself with the amusing details of la vie en France, right? Sadly, this was not the case. As I have probably mentioned before on this blog, Le Monde is one of the great disappointments of daily life in France. It may not be one of the worst daily newspapers in the world (surely the San Francisco Chronicle is high in the running for that particular dubious honor), but it is certainly one of the most boring. We're talking excruciating tedium here, folks, this is a paper where it seems as if the reporters are in constant competition to see who can churn out the most unreadable, turgid, prose.

"Why should this be?", I hear you ask, "the French are not known for being particularly stupid". My theory is that it's a result of bad habits drilled into every French student during the last two years of high school. Not only are they forced to learn a style of writing that reached its apogee during the 18th century, they are also inculcated with the belief that this is the only acceptable style of writing for anyone wishing to be considered a credible intellectual. This brainwashing process is so effective that no member of the chattering classes ever seems to have the nerve to challenge it. The results are predictable and horrifying : page after page of pompous, leaden, unreadable prose in all the major newspapers and magazines, the nauseating spectacle of the same inner circle of bloviating, self-important, "public intellectuals" (predominantly male and caucasian) monopolizing the airwaves night after night .... you wonder how people stand for it.

To be fair, a few liberal and/or satirical publications ("Liberation", "Le canard enchainé") manage to break this stereotype, but these are rare beacons of light in a sea of fog and confusion.

But enough of this rant, let's move on to more pleasant topics. What is going on here?

Yesterday afternoon there was a great little "celebration of culture" along the Quai de Loire, which borders the Canal St Martin. This little origami boat was cruising around; the crew would throw these little origami boats (each with a poem written by a French child) onto the water. Each of these little boats had a hook on it, and there were people on the quay handing out fishing poles for passers-by to catch the little mini-boats. It was very sweet.