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September 19, 2004: Ces filles jumelles, sans des talents reconnaissables ...

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I fear for France, because of this.


Olsen twins hawking Happy Meals
McDonald's hires famed 'Full House' twins to sell children's meals, complete with branded toys.
September 17, 2004: 12:51 PM EDT


NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - McDonald's has hired Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen to pitch its Happy Meals in France, complete with the twins' own line of purses, coloring sets and photo albums.


The move to employ the twins, who gained stardom on the television show "Full House" and went on to create a series of children's movies, comes as the world's largest restaurant chain struggles with its European sales.


… McDonald's French site shows the twins and the various branded items, including the "sac en jean Mary-Kate and Ashley."


Mary-Kate Olsen had been receiving treatment for an eating disorder this summer.


See Les soeurs Olsen s'affichent chez McDo too from Canal Stars 

Les voies du business-marketing sont parfois impénétrables... Depuis quelques jours, Mary-Kate et Ashley Olsen s'affichent dans les McDonalds de France, figures de proue du nouveau menu pour enfants. Les jeunes fans des jumelles milliardaires de 18 ans seront heureux de pouvoir acquérir ainsi quelques babioles à leur effigie, album photo, sac ou boîte à crayons. Mais le plus incongru dans cette histoire, c'est que Mary-Kate est récemment sortie d'un centre spécialisé afin de soigner son anorexie ! On est pas à une contra(t)diction près...

The French site for McDonalds has more - and if you click on ENTREZ you can watch the commercials.  I particularly like the one in French, the one without the twins, about eating at McDonalds in Manhattan.


But Ric, our man in Paris, sends along this reality check….


Les jumelles Olsen?


This story has caught me offside for two reasons - the McDonald's in the quartier is closed for renovations, and I have never heard of Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen. For all I know they are the Booby Twins.


What I can say is that the national direction of public schools decided to yank vending machines out of French schools - just as interested parties were deciding to fill them exclusively with fresh fruit and plain water, so somebody had to backtrack to allow the vending machines to stay.


This is typical of life in France. Every 'reform' almost immediately requires its counter-reform, because nothing is ever perfect. At least here one can say that even semi-good ideas are on shaky ground - such as suppressing the public holiday of Pentecost and putting the entire value of a day's extra work towards social services for old people.


Until two days ago everybody thought, grumpily, this was a done deal - that next year everybody is going to work on the Monday of Pentecost, next 31 May. All the kids and their teachers are going to go to school, all their moms and dads to work - all are giving up a valued public holiday and a holy three-day weekend.


Until yesterday - when the Prime Minister, Jean-Pierre Raffarin, contradicted the Minister of Education by saying that school principals can decide whether there will or won't be school next 31.  May - or - the suppressed holiday will or will not be on some other day.


Major crises! Consider that the French are just getting over the annual heavy stress of returning to school after the summer holidays, and a good number of them have taken note of the calendar of public holidays from now until next summer, and have already made firm plans for next 31 May - to wit - no long weekend, kids in school, parents at work, no yes no yes, and now nobody knows what next 31 May means.


The planning for an entire school year has just been rendered a total shambles.


The 'why' of it has nothing to do with Nicolas Sarkozy, but was apparently the result of some of his party's UMP members in the Assembly National. They thought suppressing the Monday holiday of Pentecost was a bad idea - even though May already has other long weekends. No other public holiday is a candidate for suppression, so no other has been proposed. Are some UMP deputies against helping out old folks? Are some UMP deputies unconditional fans of Pentecost? Is this France?


And speaking of dear little Nicolas, fans of democracy will be cheered to hear that even the UMP has some of it in its young bones.  Reports say Christine Boutin and Nicolas Dupont-Aignan are gathering signatures for the race for president of the UMP, and Minister of Health, Philippe Douste-Blazy, who says he isn't in the competition, also has 4000 signed supporters.


The government majority has another problem. It seems incapable of winning any elections except the sole one that put it in power. Next up to bat are elections for the Senat on Sunday, 26 September. This isn't decided by a popular vote, but by just over 50,000 various office holding 'grands électeurs.' According to calculations the UMP will have great difficulty maintaining its absolute majority against an onslaught by diverse lefties and its nominal allies of the centrist UDF led by Francis Bayrou.


Prime Minister Raffarin is said to be thinking of running for re election to a warm seat in the Senat to represent Vienne. But he shouldn't be thinking about trying for the presidency of the Senat because he hasn't been minding his fences there. Four other government ministers are also in the race for seats in the Senat. A cabinet shuffle is expected after this election - well, may be necessary, after the government loses ground in three elections in a year.


Laws passed by the Assembly National are scrutinized by the French Senat and if it doesn't like the handiwork they are sent back for correction. After a law has passed in both houses, then it goes to the Constitutional Council and if it conforms it become law. If it doesn't, back it goes for a rewrite. A law is not the same thing as a wobbly decree suppressing a public holiday.


Other news from France this week was equally unexciting. Some driving schools were discovered 'fixing' written driving tests, by rigging up candidates with buzzers in their socks to give them clues for the correct answers to multiple-choice questions on the test.  Theory in France has it that driving is as obscure as quantum mechanics so it requires an unholy amount of lessons and costs a fortune, which can easily double or triple when 40 percent of candidates fail the test on the first try.


If you add the fact that all sorts of people taking the lessons and the tests don't understand French too well - some who already know how to drive - you can understand that some would be willing to pay cash under the table for a guaranteed short-cut. The papers are howling that this is cheating - 'Le Scandale.'


The actual scandal is making the test so fraught with angst that all drivers who do pass it immediately refuse to remember everything they're learned as soon as they are in possession of the pink license.


Finally I'm happy to be able to report that the strikers at the Eiffel Tower have gone back to work today after picketing the closed tower for the past three days. The city of Paris owns the famous meccano set on the Champ de Mars but puts out a contact for its operation. This expires next year and the employees apparently had no guarantee from the city that their working conditions would remain unchanged with a possible new employer.


The city is currently a large shareholder of the semi-private operating company, and according to a recent law must become the major shareholder - so, in effect, the employees were striking against the city. About 6 million tower fans a year pay to visit it, and since it opened in 1889 it is estimated that 210 million have been up it.


Which is not bad for an exposition attraction that was originally scheduled to be demolished after 10 years. The Eiffel family operated the tower until 1979.


Ah, on this winter’s day a few years ago it wasn’t closed – even if they were repainting it, as they do every seven or eight years.

Click here...
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And as the fellow at a fancy school in Rochester, New York who, in the seventies, got to hire and fire and generally oversee driver ed teachers - one of my odder tasks when I wasn’t teaching English - Ric's comments on French driver ed classes are amusing.  To modify Woody Allen’s comment – Those who can’t do, teach.  Those who can’t teach, teach Driver Ed. 


The Brits covered the French driver education scandal here:


Gallic cheats in the driving seat
Amelia Gentleman in Paris, The Guardian (UK), Friday, September 17, 2004


A basic news story on the Tower closing here:


Relief for tourists as tower strike ends

John Lichfield in Paris, The Independent (UK), 17 September 2004



But be sure to check out Ric weekly in MetropoleParis.


And Ric’s good friend Heather Stimmler-Hall says September has always been her favorite month - and in her Secrets of Paris newsletter she gives you the skinny on what’s up this month over there.




Political Notes:


Just what you would expect...  The theme of this week’s Le Nouvel Observateur   

Pour les Etats-Unis, pour le monde, pour nous, la réélection de George W. Bush serait une catastrophe

Semaine du 16/09/2004 au 23/09/2004

And it has an amusing photo on the cover.


If your French is up to it…


Pourquoi il doit partir

Les forces en présence

Le croisé de l’ultra-droite

Le juge préféré

Les 17 états qui feront la différence

Le Docteur Folamour des baisses d’impôts

Le ravi de l’effet de serre

Le pompier pyromane de la haine

Quelques ouvrages de référence

Comment s’en débarrasser



  «Bush-Kerry, les deux Amérique»


Copyright © 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
The inclusion of any text from others is quotation
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as permitted by the fair use doctrine of U.S. copyright law. 
See the Details page for the relevant citation.

This issue updated and published on...

Paris readers add nine hours....