French Horror: 3 Great TV Shows You’ve Got to Watch

I’ve been falling out of love with cinematic horror for some time, as I find most American horror uninspired, badly written, or too dependent on gore and jumpscares. (Often all of the above.) If being grossed out is your thing, more power to you. But for me, I need something a lot more sophisticated.

Fortunately, Netflix has been delivering some incredible horror TV from foreign markets, especially France. These three French shows are some of the best horror I’ve ever seen.

1. Les Revenants (The Returned)

That kid is the creepiest part of the series.

This show was originally released in 2012, but was new to me in 2014. It was even made into a completely inferior American version. While I wasn’t enchanted by Season 2, the first season of this utterly original “zombie” story was breathtaking.

People who have been dead for years — in some cases decades — start returning home, utterly unaware that they died in the first place. Most in fact died under violent circumstances. And that’s just before the story goes truly bonkers. The powerful emotions this show evokes deepen the dread of this paranormal tale in a way that one rarely ever finds in horror. For me, that’s what makes this show one of my all-time favorites.

2. Black Spot (Zone Blanche)

I’m completely wild about this show because hits three sweet spots for me:

  1. It’s a bloody police procedural with a new mystery in every episode and an overarching mystery each season.
  2. It’s unexpectedly hilarious at times with wonderful characters like the gay policeman named Teddy Bear and the hyperallergic, ultra-awkward detective Siriani.
  3. It’s pagan AF. Set in the mountainous, isolated Villefranche, which has an insanely high murder rate and a monster that resembles Cernunnos, the story blends France’s Celtic history with horror in a very satisfying way.

I also adore the main character, Major Laurène Weiss, chief of police. The women are all tough, complicated, and secretive — she more than anyone. While I was initially puzzled by her relationship with Bertrandt, the story behind their bond was eventually revealed. And, wow — c’est fou, y’all.

Season 3 is rumored to be headed to Netflix in June 2020. I can’t wait!

3. Marianne

With Marianne, writer and showrunner Samuel Bodin has created something as intoxicating and frightening as The Ring. This outstanding original horror series is about a famous female horror author, Emma Larsimon, who is lured back to her hometown to do battle with the evil spirit that has been terrorizing her dreams and that is now killing her loved ones. Every episode starts with a literary quote. You know shit’s about to get more than real when Lovecraft opens an episode.

Victoire Du Bois (Call Me By Your Name) plays the arrogant, alcoholic Emma to perfection, especially as Marianne’s bloodshed brings Emma to her knees. But as the layers are peeled back on the characters and the horror they face, it’s forgiveness and the strength of female friendship that entwine to become the twin heartbeats of this tale.

So, what are you waiting for? Dépêche-toi!

The Real Problem(s) Behind France and Its Rising Radicalization

I meant to write this blog post after the Paris attacks. I only bring it up because I often find my acquaintances have a limited understanding of the problem that France and its immigrants are facing. (If you’re already aware of this, good for you. Spread the word.) When I was living there nine years ago, I did touch lightly on the subject in an article I wrote for Thomas Roche‘s now-defunct ErosZine. Given that the violence in France and other European countries is only escalating, I want to talk about what I learned living there about what’s driving Islamic radicalization.

I’m afraid it’s going to tarnish the Tour d’Eiffel a bit. So, hold on, Francophiles.

Juste Moi (Just Me)

Please keep in mind that this is my point of view based on what I learned when I was living in France, as well as being in a relationship with a French educator for a few years. It’s by no means the definitive explanation for France’s woes. However, if you can appreciate insights from a person who’s had a foot in both countries, this is for you. I’m talking about this because I think we Americans can learn quite a bit from what’s happening in France to prevent future bloodshed in our own country and foster true peace.

Also? MURDER IS WRONG. I’m not in anyway apologizing for terrorists. I’m just providing some insight into what’s inspiring disaffection. Whatever it is after that that ignites homicidal shitheadedness is something else entirely.

The Surprising Problems with Egalité

“Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité ou La Mort” — Liberty, Equality, Fraternity or Death. That’s the national motto of France. As Americans, we can dig it. While France’s revolution was inspired by ours, it’s important to understand that France’s version of “egalité” or “equality” is very different from America’s. In America, you can believe whatever you like and (theoretically) not be discriminated against in various settings for expressing your beliefs. However, in France’s version, while you can still believe whatever you want, your faith must remain entirely private. That means you can’t wear anything that reveals your religious beliefs. For egalité to work, France secularism demands that everyone look the same. I know that sounds strange to us Americans, but that’s how everyone in France can appear equal before the state. As a result, the country bans people from wearing overt religious sentiments, such as headscarves and veils — a huge problem for French Muslims, as discussed in this great LA Times article, “In France, extreme secularism.”

Before Americans get too high on their horses about this, keep in mind that America, too, at times legally curtails the practice of religion, such as the use of peyote by Native Americans, the Santerian ritualistic killing of livestock, and Mormon polygamy. At one time, Mormons were considered terrorists or at least agitators. No small amount of blood was shed over conflicts with their communities, such as in the 1838 Mormon War.

Parlez Vous Français, Petites?

What’s not discussed in the LA Times article, nor in many articles on the subject at all, is that a lot of newer Muslim immigrants, especially second- and third-generation youth, are not learning French. When you have a country like France that values language above all else, this is a very serious problem. If you don’t know French, you’re simply not considered a citizen.

While living in France, I got to know a French high school teacher who taught in the Paris suburbs where the 2005 riots happened. She shared with me her daily challenges dealing with these youth who, due to language issues, are often at least two years behind in schooling. She said they simply didn’t care to learn French or any of France’s customs, citing religious conflicts. She often called them on their hypocrisy: they were fine with watching secular movies and listening to secular music yet they refused to learn Voltaire because he was an atheist? Yeah, right. Turn in your damned homework, kid.

calmez-vous-et-parlez-francais-3Another problem this teacher faced was that, even if they had some literacy, those same students couldn’t write a simple essay supporting an argument. I explained to her that one understandably has trouble effectively analyzing or constructing arguments if one has been taught to accept a thick bolt of religious ideas without ever unwinding it — I knew this from personal experience as a former Christian Evangelical. (The French find Evangelicals to be deeply weird for lots of reasons, by the way.) It’s a skill deficit that poses yet another stumbling block to education, albeit not as initially problematic as the language barrier. But still.

French people told me that older Muslim citizens — those in their 40s and up — tended to know French and integrate more easily. I never got clarification as to why this was the case. It does, however, line up with what M. G. Oprea writes in the Federalist: “In the 1980s, second-generation North Africans tried to blend in with mainstream French culture. They wanted to get into clubs, to drink, and to dance. They just wanted to be ‘French.’ Today, things are different.” (Her article, “How France Grew Its Own Terrorists” is mostly excellent, although I’d hardly blame France for the violence. Please refer to my earlier note about homicidal shitheads.)

Unemployment and Discrimination

By far, the language issue isn’t the only thing holding back Muslim immigrants and their children. While French people might in fact be favorably disposed to Muslim immigrants, in hiring practice, they can be outright racist. An Arabic name on a job application, especially from someone in a certain age range, means the applicant probably doesn’t know the language and therefore disrespects French culture. The results are devastating to the employment prospects of French Muslim youth in particular.

Out of despair, rage and poverty, some youth turn to crime. A friend of mine in Aix, a young woman named Aurelie, told me she’d been “jumped” (assaulted and robbed) numerous times at night leaving work, always by Muslim youth. She was ready to boot out every single immigrant, but sadly never acknowledged the vicious cycle behind the crime.

Hello, Irresistible Force? Meet the Immovable Object…

If it sounds like Muslim religious requirements and France’s secularism are in solid conflict, they are. Both contribute to the growing disaffection and radicalization happening in that country. I love my country and its melting pot values, but I don’t expect France or any country to unravel its culture in order to accommodate immigrants the way we do (and the way I hope we will continue to do after the next election). I also sympathize with minority groups. They shouldn’t be either ignored or demonized just because they’re different.

How They Can Come Together

Given that France’s immigration issues and patterns are tied directly to its colonial history, with the vast majority of Muslims coming from North Africa, France has to take at least some responsibility for how they handle these particular immigrants. They can’t just dig in their cultural heels and say, “This is not French and therefore not allowed” because, hello, these folk are French. France has a terrible history of simply not dealing or indulging in outright denial. Therefore, something must change around the current version of secularism. I think France is strong enough to handle it. Hell, man, they let in evangelical Christians and Mormon missionaries whose sole purpose is to do the one thing that most French people hate: proselytize. They can figure out how to handle their citizens wearing headscarves. Further, employment discrimination needs to be dealt with in the courts and laws, not just with nice sentiments in flimsy polls (referring back to the LA Times article). And if the headscarf ban seems misogynist, it kinda is. France is pretty crap when it comes to women’s rights, which is a whole ‘nother blog post.

That said, everyone in France needs to learn French to be literate, educated, engaged citizens that can compete in the job market and fight for their rights. Some soul-searching needs to happen around what the true integration barriers are. (And kudos to the high school teachers who are calling kids on hypocrisies.) How can everyone integrate with the culture in a positive way? Sure, there are always going to be family and belief conflicts as kids grow and make their own way, regardless of country or culture. But pretending to eschew education in favor of religion when you’re really just lazy should be called out. Too many kids are following the siren’s call to extremist violence for anyone to let that shit pass.

There must be some flexibility on both sides, though, to solve the problems of integration. This isn’t about just ISIS versus the general population. Anti-semitism is also on the rise in France, with growing violence against Jews from primarily pro-ISIS and pro-Palestinian factions. (Check out the horrifying photo in that Vanity Fair article I linked to. Drawing a swastika on the Statue de la République is both about as anti-French and anti-semitic as you can get.) French Jews are leaving France in droves, which is heartbreaking and shameful to France.

Francois Hollande had a good idea when he introduced increased employment aid for low-income youth. Ironically, the more conservative Sarkozy also had a good idea that was thoroughly blasted: funding the construction of mosques so that Muslims felt more included. Neither solution is or was enough. Both France and its Muslim population need to do more for one another if the two are to embrace. Until then, the answer to the question as to whether one can be both Muslim and a French citizen remains dangerously uncertain.

The Cat in the Fireplace

Open Fire

On November 29, 1995, I brought home a wee gray kitten to the Neo-Georgian house I was renting with my then-husband in downtown San Jose.

The first sound she heard as I set down her carrier was the crack of gunfire.

I had noticed on the way in that the street behind mine was blocked off by the police, and was grateful that my own street wasn’t closed so that I could bring home my precious cargo. I didn’t realize that there was a hostage situation (San Jose! Love!) taking place in the house behind ours. I had just set down Ophelia’s cardboard carrier box in the bathroom when shots rang out. I hit the ground, my face level with her little nose as it poked out one of the holes.

“It’s not always like this,” I told her. “Honest!”

We had asked the insane landlords if we could have a cat and at first they told as we did not “deserve” to have a cat unless we took the feral stray that they had recently found. We consoled The Crazy by reassuring them that we only had their house in mind. It would be easier to train a kitten not to scratch their vintage wallpaper than a fully grown cat that had already developed habits.

eat

Nom!

Love at First Sight

Eventually they relented and the landlord’s wife directed me to a friend of hers who was a foster mother for the Humane Society. I went to her house to see the three kittens she currently had locked in the master bedroom, isolating them from another sick cat in the house. I entered the bedroom and two kittens — one black, one calico — launched themselves from the big bed as they ran for their food dishes. The third kitten, perhaps only two thirds the size of her siblings, turned up her tiny gray face to me and walked straight toward me, mewling until I picked her up. She was so tiny that she fit easily in my palm. “The runt of the litter,” said the foster mother.

jack

Ophelia and one of her siblings nursing on a male cat named Jack. Don’t judge.

I went home and told my then-husband about the kittens but I said nothing about which one I liked. He went with me the next evening to see them with the understanding that I would stand back and let him interact with the kittens so that he could see which one he liked best. He didn’t seem to have a favorite. But later that night, as we watched The X-Files, he said, “The little gray one, huh?”

It felt like someone had turned on the sun inside of me. I nodded.

I named her Ophelia because her melodious meow reminded me of Aunt Ophelia’s singing in the Addams Family. I had loved her the moment I saw her. She was to keep me company as I was writing at home. That enormous old house built in 1906 could be drafty and lonely, not to mention more than a little bit haunted. She delighted me in every way — except perhaps the way my then-husband had taught her to climb up his thick Levi jeans. (Ahem.) But she had no faults. Affectionate and charming, she was the perfect companion.

A Fateful Night

And then one night in late March 1996, Something Very Extraordinary happened that changed my life forever. I was home when it happened and could reach no one on the phone. I was terrified and alone. But I wasn’t really alone. Ophelia was there. And what I thought was terrifying instead then quickly turned into something powerful and profound…

Who shall comprehend such things and who shall tell of it? What is it that shineth through me and striketh my heart without injury, so that I both shudder and burn? I shudder because I am unlike it; I burn because I am like it.

St. Agustine’s Confessions, 11:9:11

The experience bonded us in a dramatic and mystical way. From that moment on, Ophelia was an enormous part of my spiritual life. As more Extraordinary Thinges happened, and my life exploded with mystery and wonder, Ophelia never left my side. Not that she had a choice, but she tended more often than not to stand by me rather than flee under the bed.

godzilla

(Oooooh, no! There goes Tokyo!)

Major Changes

The marriage fell apart for various reasons soon thereafter. She moved with me to San Francisco, where I sometimes caught her playing Witchfinder General with her fuzzy mice as she dunked them in the toilet. When I was about to leave San Francisco to move to Los Angeles, the vet found a lump in her stomach that he couldn’t explain. “She’s not an outdoor cat, is she?” he asked. That’s when I remembered the evening over a month prior when two mice had broken into my in-law apartment. She had killed one before I got home, while the other ran loose in the parlor as she indulged in a nonchalant bath. I threw away the dead mouse and locked her out of the bedroom, shrieking, “You had better kill that thing! That’s your job!” The next morning, the mouse had vanished — into her belly, apparently.

Life With “Pye”

When we arrived in Los Angeles, my life was quickly plunged into immeasurable chaos and pain. I soon lost my hands to injuries and couldn’t work.

hollywood

Strutting around the new apartment — I’m sorry, HER new apartment.

As I stumbled in the darkness of disability, she saved me in more ways than I can ever tell other human being. Our pets are beacons to our souls — Ophelia so much more so than any other pet I’d ever had because she was there when the Very Extraordinary Thinge happened. She was my witness. My Pyewacket (although I would not see that movie for a couple more years). I could never deny the tender, simple wisdom in her meow or ignore the loving scrape of her tongue on my hand or cheek.

Pigeons Are Friends?

One day, I heard a pigeon cooing at the big window somewhere behind the papasan chair. When I went to investigate, I discovered it was Ophelia talking to the pigeons outside on the ledge. She had learned to mimic the pigeon coo perfectly. That’s when I declared that she needed another of her species and adopted Cairo Egypt the next day. They loved each other very much, although the prim and proper Miss Ophelia did not always appreciate Cairo’s bouncy, trouncy, in-your-face, how-many-dishes-can-I-break-tonight lifestyle.

Cairo Egypt thinks you have fucked up taste in movie stars.

Cairo Egypt thinks you have fucked up taste in movie stars.

Cato and Clouseau

Ophelia bitched out my bad lovers, put up with me smooching her silky head and ears, and was generally the easiest cat to live with I have ever known. She had this plaintive meow that seemed to say, “Is this the Complaint Department? I want to register a complaint. Complaint #1…” I was never exactly sure when the list of complaints had been fully registered, but I listened all the same. We played “Cato and Clouseau,” as she would wait for me to come in after work and then pounce on me from behind a piece of furniture.

More Extraordinary Thinges happened, although not as extraordinary as the one the year before. She comforted me when my tears soaked the carpet with grief. I did not want Extraordinary Thinges. I wanted a normal life. Ophelia reminded me with her patient, golden-green eyes that I needed to learn grace.

Painful Separation

Then the time came in mid 2006 when I was to go to France for a year with The Frenchman. I made plans to take Ophelia and Cairo with me, but the vet said no. They were too old to travel to the south of France, she said. They would never make the journey. Broken-hearted at the idea of being without my two fur babies, I talked to my parents, who agreed to take them for the year.

Every day, I missed my kittens, but most of all Ophelia. Even in my happiest moments in Aix-en-Provence and Paris, I missed her so keenly that I couldn’t stand it. I had given my family some disposable cameras so that they could take pictures and send them to me, which they did only once.

The Cat in the Fireplace

Then, like The Doctor in that episode of Doctor Who, “The Girl in the Fireplace,” even though I had promised her I would return for her at a certain time, I didn’t. When I came back to the United States, my parents refused to give back my cats. I was completely devastated. But it was difficult to argue because my mentally disabled sister loved Ophelia so much that I felt Ophelia was doing great good by being there.

hug

Mine!

The Frenchman and I moved in together and adopted another kitten — Robespierre, Le Terreur — before I discovered that my family was not taking the best care of Ophelia and Cairo. (Ophelia seemed okay, but Cairo was a total mess.) When I told The Frenchman that I wanted to force the issue and take back my cats, he told me that he did not want three cats. He refused to take them back. He would give away Robespierre if I did that. I thought I would die. I couldn’t get out of the expensive house lease that I had signed where I lived with him and wasn’t ready to give up the relationship. Maybe I could convince him over time. I waited to no avail.

His selfishness destroyed the entire relationship by the time the lease expired. But at least I was free.

gray

Reunion

Still, it wasn’t until my mother died two years later that I was able to recover Ophelia. While visiting my father I noticed that Ophelia, who was then 15 years old, was a little under the weather. Her litter box contents looked abnormal. When I informed my father, he gruffly stated that he didn’t want to have to deal with it. “Just take her,” he growled. I felt terrible for my little sister, but Ophelia was clearly ill. I scooped her up, took her to the vet for a quick check-up and blood test, and immediately drove her for six hours to Los Angeles. I cried all the way home for joy. My sweetest love, the Sweetest of Peas was with me once more. Never a day passed that I did not miss her. I loved her more than any person or animal. Four years had passed altogether. In that time, I had since retrieved Cairo, but he had died despite surgeries and thousands of dollars of the best vet care.

3 Cats on a Couch

After a slow introduction, she got along famously with my two other cats. I had since rescued Saphron, a golden Bengal, who was completely bonded to Robespierre, but who quickly adopted Ophelia, as well. The three cats so loved each other so much that I started a Tumblr account documenting the redonk called, “3 Cats On a Couch.” People could scarcely believe that three cats in one small condo got along so well. I had the world’s cutest clowder. I would show people the Tumblr account and say, “This is how we roll at my house. All is full of love.” My new boy friend — a big, tenderhearted animal lover — was completely smitten with her. She captured the heart of everyone who met her.

Sickness and Love

As her health declined near her 16th birthday, she needed so much care that I was afraid to leave her. I found an excellent pet care service that could take her whenever my new boyfriend couldn’t. The house became unruly with her messes: numerous urinary tract infections had made her permanently leery of the litter box. And she required a special diet that the other two cats loved too well. They often pushed her out of her dish so that they could gobble her food. I had to start feeding her separate from the other cats, which she hated. She was too social to eat alone and her appetite suffered. I wound up having to sit with her as she ate. It was ridiculously time-consuming.

sun

Yet I never cared that her needs were so great. I never minded cleaning up a single mess or giving her numerous medications. It mattered little to me that she was so high maintenance during meal times. I loved her more than anything. She was The Cat Who Had Witnessed Very Extraordinary Thinges. The Cat Who Had Saved My Life. My Pyewacket. Ophie-Wan Kenophie. She Whom I Loved Best. I wrote silly cat songs for her like the Calypso tune, “I Love Me a Little Gray Cat” and the Shonen Knife-inspired, “Kitties in the Kitchen (and They’re Bitchin’ Bitchin’ Bitchin’)”.

Death

After riding a roller coaster of health problems these last six months leading up to her 17th birthday, Ophelia slowed down dramatically this last weekend. On Saturday, December 1, I wrote on my Facebook timeline:

With a raspy yowl and a quivering paw, my little Ophelia is fading before my eyes. She prowls the house incessantly, confused, disoriented. She no longer knows where the litter box room is. All places are alike to her, as Kipling says, but not because she is wild. Rather, because she is frail, frightened, sinking into the mists…

By late Sunday afternoon, I knew she was going to die. She could no longer walk and her pupils were wide with death blindness. The vet offices were closed. So, I wrapped her in her favorite fuzzy blanket, placed her in an old kitten bed and lay down on the floor with her, soft music playing and candles blazing atop the piano.

bed

Remember what I taught you about grace.

I wrote on Twitter:

Oh, Grief! Death pads in softly on cat paws, yet you bite savagely while He still stands on the doorstep.

The raspy yowl diminished to a feeble cry that escaped her small wet mouth every once in a while when she soiled herself. I did my best to keep her clean and dry, all the while talking to her, reminiscing with her, telling her how much I loved her. I texted with friends. My boyfriend was working and didn’t have access to his cell phone, but I left him messages anyway. Grief savagely bit my heart, over and over. The pain wracked my body. Tears scalded my eyes and cheeks. My neighbor came downstairs and stayed with me. I continued to stroke Ophelia’s ears and head, cuddling her, kissing her as she trembled, my tears dampening her fur. Whispering in her ear sweet nothings and words of appreciation for her life, love and devotion.

Distracted by conversation, I didn’t recognize the moment that she passed until Robespierre solemnly approached the kitten bed, sniffed her and looked up at me. A hush fell over the room and for a moment everything seemed brighter. But then a cataract of darkness tore through my soul…

Some say that animals have souls and that our familiars become our spirit guides. I don’t know if that is true. I would like to think so. But one thing is for certain:

My world is much grayer without my little gray cat. And the color will never fully return.

A Veritable Post-pourri of Movie Madness

I’m here at work, recovering from a filling this morning. My mouth is still quite numb and I’m trying not to dribble espresso all over my clothes and keyboard. I’m thinking lunch will be liquid. All in all, though, it wasn’t that bad and certainly not nearly the nightmare that has been suffering. So all is good.

La Haine
The Frenchman is back now from Princeton where he was travelling on business. While he was gone, I finally watched a movie that he’s lectured on extensively and about which he’s written many papers: La Haine, also known as Hate, which was distributed by Jodie Foster’s production company here in the U.S.

It was, to put it mildly, explosive. Filmed in black and white, the story tracks three young men — Arab, Black and Jewish — who live in the suburbs of Paris in 1995 where the riots would eventually break out. The movie is positively prophetic (or inspiring, as the case may be), as it was released in February of 1995 and the civil unrest that would rock the nation breaks out the following November. With liberal dashes of humor and poignancy, the story follows the lives of these unemployed young men through 24 hours of poverty, racism and brutality as one of them comes across a gun lost by a cop during a riot that kills a friend of theirs.

I get why The Frenchman is so passionate about this film. It should have shaken awake France to its hate. It did — a little. Not enough to prevent the death and destruction of the ensuing unrest. It’s shameful that this same director went on to make Gothika and now what looks like an awful science fiction thriller with Vin Diesel. I think aliens (aka Hollywood) have abducted his brain and put it in a jar somewhere so that he can no longer make world-shaking films.

Death in Charge
I also went to AFI to see a screening of my friend Devi’s latest short film that she made during her directorship program. The very funny dark short is called “Death in Charge.” Apparently after Death kills the babysitter on her way to her next job, Death heads to the house itself to take out the Mom. But when the Mom mistakes Death for the babysitter, much silliness ensues involving violent video games, macaroni and cheese, and a toy army tank.

It rocked seeing Devi (we’ve been friends for over a dozen years) and her Indiana Jones husband, Dr. Fuentes, as well as meeting Devi’s folks. Dr. Fuentes and I lamented the number of popular science books and waxed admiringly of PZ Meyers et al. While he’s written a few books now, he’s working on a book that’s more accessible to the average reader.

Okay, back to work!

Schmapple

I’ve now had a couple of photos published by Schmap — one for their Schmap of Cannes and in the Third Edition of their Paris Schmapp for La Musée Moreau. It’s a cheap way for them to get interactive material, true, but I’m not doing anything otherwise with the Flickr photos and they do fully credit me for the photo, linking back to my Flickr account.

I queried the editor about writing a Schmap myself, but haven’t heard back. I think one of Aix-en-Provence is in order, don’t you? It’s not like I’m not qualified!

Man Date, Paris Date

Robie and The Frenchman are on a man date at the veterinarian today. It’s the first time The Frenchman has been to the veterinarian. Ever. His brief bout with Dancy the Bunny was his only brush with pet ownership. So, off they went this morning to the vet recommended by Dr. Doolittle who is too busy for new patients. It should be enlightening for him.

The writing is still crawling and I can’t seem to speed it up. I’m up to just over 29K on the rewrite. I feel like I’m just now getting the hang of this new genre. Joy! The good news is that the people I’m freelancing for have told me I’m free to reduce my hours at will so that I can write more. Once we get past this push that ends October 1, I’m definitely going to do that.

As for 2 Days in Paris, I neglected to mention that Julie Delpy made one error in the film’s content, which is that in portraying her free-spirited, bohemian family, she inadvertently strengthens the stereotype that French people are sex fiends. I’ve got tons of references — and experience — to the contrary. There was even an article published in the New York Times* about a study comparing the sexual habits of the French and Americans. The study declared the sex habits were very similar, with French women starting sexual activity later than American women, and in general French people staying married longer.

(Dammit, someone’s got to want to publish my article, “The Other France: Sex, Guns and the Sarkozy Presidency.”)

*“On Sex: U.S. and France Speak Same Language,” 2001, New York Times.

Two Neurotics in Paris

Last night, The Frenchman took me to see 2 Days in Paris, which was hilarious. It’s about a Franco-American couple who spends two insane days in the zany French girlfriend’s hometown of Paris after a two-week vacation in Venice. While I had a far better time there with The Frenchman’s friends and family, I could totally relate to the screwball anxiety that her American boyfriend goes through in the film due to the language barrier. Oh la la! Julie Delpy, who wrote, directed and starred in the film, relies a bit much on Amelie techniques toward the beginning and periodically through the film. However, the one-liners delivered by her cranky, histrionic boyfriend played by Adam Goldberg are fabulous.

And for those who care, I decided to pick up The Chamber of Secrets while I was at the airport this weekend. I’m already almost halfway through. Damn, this book is a fast read. I can’t believe how swift the plot is. It just runs along like a freight train.

My writing is not running along, but rather more like limping feverishly in the desert. I need to put on some wordage, pronto!

Bill Maher, Welcome to the Real France

France has guns.

In fact, they’ve got plenty of guns. Even handguns. Compared to other European countries, they have a high rate of gun ownership.

One of the differences between France and the U.S. is that France’s gun license requires stringent training and testing in addition to a background check for both criminal records and mental health problems as well. Let it be noted that, while there have been two cases of hostage-taking in schools (only one with a gun, and that was fake), the French have never had a school shooting. As for other gun problems, when Richard Durn killed eight people with a handgun in 2002, the mass murder incited calls for greater gun restrictions. However, some viewed it as a failure in the system to keep firearms out of the hands of a person with a history of mental health problems. The French are fanatical about preserving their privacy, but they accept this invasion as necessary to save human life. With the exception of Durn, they’ve succeeded.

Finally, the House took a step yesterday in the right direction. They passed a new gun control bill that requires states to automate reporting of mental health and criminal records to a database used to check gun buyers.

Of course we need to get the states on board with how and when they report mental health issues to said database, but one step at a time. We can’t all be as orderly and sane as France and other countries about this now, can we? We first have to run the gamut of paranoia about what mental health issues and where and when, then run around in circles clutching our semi-automatics to our chests and gritting our teeth as we swear at the liberals who are tampering with our freedums before we finally settle down and accept that arming everyone so that the Virginia Tech massacre could have turned into the Quentin Tarantino Mexican Standoff Multiple Massacre Jamboree is, in fact, a bad idea.

Like I said, one step at a time. But this is a sane one and it’s working over here. Definitely a good idea we should steal. Let’s hope the Senate agrees.

I Sailed

When we boarded, we took off our shoes and in no time I was climbing around that 30-foot sailboat like a monkey. We headed out from Le Vieux Port in Marseilles and circled the Frioul Archipelago. We spotted the Château d’If on one of the islands, where Alexander Dumas set The Count of Monte Cristo. I only regret that I didn’t take more pictures, including one of me piloting (Captain Em was very brave letting me do that, I tell ya). I’d said to hell with worrying about the camera and brought it, but I didn’t even feel like dragging it out until we were almost back to port. The ocean rocking was so relaxing that I fell asleep on top of the boat at one point. I awoke with a snap when the boat listed and I realized I was rolling off. Ha!

Last night, the land sickness set in after we’d been to the supermarket, came home, and started unloading the groceries. I’d remembered the land sickness but thought that since it didn’t hit me in the supermarket, it wasn’t going to happen. Ooooo, wrong, wrong. The world, she was a-swayin’!

A truly great day, thanks to our French friends Em and A.

L’Elfike

Today, I took the ring to the very frou-frou jewelers today, Pellegrine. They might not be able to repair the ring. If not, we’re going to wait until I return to Los Angeles and take it back to Antiquarius.

Afterwards, I hung out at L’Elfike for a few hours, talking to my goth friend Ange. She helped me understand some of the sentiments towards the Arabic immigrants. Apparently, she’s been attacked and robbed on multiple occasions by young Arabs and the police won’t do anything about it. She works bad hours, too, making her especially vulnerable to this kind of violence. She’s very happy Sarkozy is in office because he wants to clamp down on immigration and, more importantly, create jobs. She told me that the older Arabic folk — those over 30 years old — were great people because they choose to learn the language and assimilate into French culture, but that the younger Arabs were a nightmare across the board. I discussed this with The Frenchman, and he believes the reason the younger people are committing crimes is because — hello! — they can’t get jobs due to discrimination and all the other economic problems. According to Ange, they’re only discriminated against because they refuse to learn the language and the customs. She asked me how I’d feel if someone came to the U.S. and refused to learn English whilst demanding social services and committing crimes. Honestly, it would be difficult for me to accept. The Frenchman and his colleagues, however, seem to believe it’s far more complicated than that. It’s always more complicated, that’s for sure.

Meanwhile, Ange is asking the owner permission for me to take photos of the interior of the bar. You have no idea how beautiful it is. These photos will not be on Flickr, as a promise to the owner, who fears their use in magazines trashing the gothic culture in his club (sound familiar, Los Angeles club owners?). They’re for my private research when I write SECRETS FOR MELUSINE. Ange seemed to dig the story premise a lot. I’m terribly grateful for her help.

Ange also introduced me to a real live pagan! Woo! His name was Mark, and he said there were maybe three or four pagans in all of the South. However, up north there were a great many pagans, especially in Brittany and Paris. Once a year, they hold an exposition with ceremonies so that pagans can meet one another. Sort of like Pantheacon in San Francisco.

And, yes, I had all of these conversations in French. It was exhausting.

Must do more writing before I fall over and sleep another night.