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The art of living in France

It's common knowledge that many artist's are starving. So what better place to head than the Salon International d'Agriculture where you'll be stuffed with cheese, wild boar, and other produits du terroir - (regional produce).

Surpisingly, given the historically protectionist sentiments of french producers, there is also a section for world produce (offering freebies galore) with stands from Italy, Switzerland, Turkey and Mali.

The best thing is for foreigners, it's free. Just take your passport to prove you are not French. Perhaps in anticipation of the non-French visitors there is even a McDonald's France (pronounced "Mac-Dough") stand. The French really believe that all Americans want to do is eat burgers, even the sophisticated Americans visiting Paris. Be warned when asking directions to the nearest resto, you may well be pointed in the direction of McD or KFC.

25 February - 5 March

Battle of the Bands

I saw my new favourite band last night and they rocked the Gibus in rue faubourg du Temple for their very first performance in public. Like a mini Led Zeppelin (but better looking) CRUTIAL DEATH played a fantastic set and as value for money goes I think it was better fun than than BECK at the Zenith for 35 euros. They have a great career ahead of them and I can't wait until their next gig.

The line-up:
Max Winter-Rousset (15) DRUMS
Jordan Setruk (16) LEAD GUITAR
Sergio Lopez (15) RHYTHM GUITAR/VOCALS
Kevin Setruk (13) BASS

Septième art

Some people say LA is the antithesis of Paris but the cities do have one thing in common. An addiction to the "7th art".

Paris' cinema library at 112 rue des rennes, Metro Rennes, is a realm where clocks keep both Paris and Hollywood time. It's staffed by some real ciné-philes and you'll find a great selection of literature for professionals and film-buffs alike.

It's free, just sign up for your library card by taking 1 piece of ID.

Contingent relationships suck. So there.

The 20th century's most controversial public intellectuals do not disapoint. I couldn't put it down for 5 days and it seriously curtailed my nocturnal activities, or just leaving the house in general. Not because of her writing, Hazel Rowley is too much of an existentialism groupie and I'm sure she'd have been one of the star struck vestal virgins tumbling into bed with J-P S in a pinch.

Tête-à-Tête is the story of Sartre and de Beauvoir's world famous open relationship and an undeniable page-turner. It rakes in the muck good and proper, uncovering some pretty shocking behaviour about what really went on at the (Cafe de) Flore and chez "the family". Namely, procurement of young acolytes, "incest" amongst said family members, corrupting young minds with filthy Lesbianism and other juicy stuff.

But mainly, the myth of "contingent relationships" - yeah, it's fine if you're a guy, doesn't seem to work for us Dames, (we witness de Beauvoir's deep anguish throughout her life). She was beautiful, talented and possibly more intelligent than he was, how and why did she put up it? She loved him no matter what? I'm sorry but this is NOT what I want to hear from the woman who penned The Second Sex. And why didn't she give it a proper try with Nelson Algren (author of The Man with the Golden Arm)?

Despite Sartre and de Beauvoir's admirable careers and support for numerous just causes (notably the Algerian War of Independence but let's forget Stalinism) it tainted both their myths for me - as of course they are inextricably linked. Summed up by the husband of Evelyne Lanzmann/Rey (who shot herself):

"Today I can say that Evelyne was the consenting victim of a misogynous frivolousness which, until 1968, characterised the Left Bank intelligentsia".

The book doesn't explain how the hideous Sartre managed to pull all these young lovelies, even late into his life. Only one or two seem to have put up much of a fight and the rest capitulated and slowly but surely, each one went bonkers.

From a political history it was facinating and I loved sitting in on the editorial meetngs of "Les Temps Modernes". Sartre's affair with his Russian interpreter, Lena Zonina, during the Cold War was one of the highlights of the book. During the four years of his affair with Zonina, Sartre "fell into line with Soviet propaganda almost completely," says Rowley. Tsk. Men.

ZonErotikon

It's nice to have a surprise. At a signing for a lovely boutique I have found for a jeweller client on rue Jacob, yes, Carré des Antiquaires, I know, it's a FABULOUS address, I was handed a flyer by the ex-owner.

I think she's a bit of a dark horse. Seems she's now running "cabarets de cirq'conférences érothématiques" - 5 soirees aimed at exploring the erotic and it's effect on art, culture and literature.

The last Monday of every month. The next one is 27th February.

I noticed at the next meeting one of the Notaire's looking over my shoulder at the flyer for the event which was tucked in with my notes.

Mon Hôtel (cheri) Amour

I had to give up my obsession with staying in boutique hotels because I rarely leave Paris. Except for long-haul trips to far flung places where they don't have boutique hotels. But it would be fun to head across town on Tuesday and have a romantic evening in the 9th arrondissement, the area once known as Nouvelle-Athènes (around métro St. Georges, and the churches Notre-Dame-de-Lorette and Sainte-Trinité). This is where George Sand, Chopin and Gustave Moreau lived and worked, and where you will find the Musée de la Vie Romantique.

Not far away at 9, rue Navarin, you’ll soon find Hôtel Amour, the latest venture from Andre (Paris-Paris, Le Baron etc), with rooms by Marc Newson and French artist Sophie Calle, who famously masqueraded as a Venetian chambermaid for three weeks in her 1981 piece, "The Hotel".

The downside is I’m not sure if it'll be open in time for this year's slush fest .

Sedaris came to town

I like observational humour and I like David Sedaris so I braved the crush and wiggled myself into a front row seat (well, the floor) next to David Mccairley who was trying to get some photos and thus gave me an excuse to push my way to the 2nd floor, - "I'm looking for my friend".

The event was to launch Sedaris' French translation of "Dress your Family in Denim and Corduroy". The glamorous French lady translator, pictured, seemed to keep the audience, especially David, (Mccairley, not Sedaris) almost as rapt as the star. Almost all the men, maybe some of the woman too, were fantasising about what they'd like to do to her. She was a perfect example of a very charming French lady of a certain age. Great eyebrows and haircut with a low cut but tasteful neckline.

Some of the stories were read in French but the audience was manly anglo-types, lot's of college kids and one lady who asked him if in the light of the Mo*hammed cartoons he'd still choose to publish hs story about the Anne Frank house. His spirited reply left us in no doubt. He really was absolutely taken with that apartment in Amsterdam. I can understand why because I know that his search for the perfect Parisian pad was hell.

Ruscha at Jeu de Paume

Ed Ruscha was in town for the opening of his show at Jeu de Paume. He gave a talk on the eve of the opening night, illustrated with slides, which covered his influences since boyhood. He told us his favourite ever piece of art is "Endless Mussolini", a futurist bust of Il Duce to be found in London's Imperial War Museum.

The diversity of objects and artworks were facinating in themselves; ink bottles, gearsticks, gas stations (biensûr) Spike Jones, (a Dada-ist band leader who used to pelt his audience and band members with eggs), romantic landscapes.

My favourite anecdote - when legendary dealer Leo Castelli showed Ruscha an early 60's Roy Lichtenstein his first reaction was intense. "Oh my god it's awful, it goes against aesthetics, good taste and has a complete disregard for art history!" . But of course, he grew to like it.

His current show features vintage prints from the 50’s to the 90’s. As well as those gas stations and car parks there is a selection of works from his 7 month voyage in Europe in 1961 featuring signage and typography.

The long walk home

Not being the type who frequents ex-pat bars I had never visited one of the 3 Scottish bars in Paris. In fact I have rarely met any of my brethren here in Paris. Why would I seek them out?

But last night, or should I say, early this morning I had my first "Highlander" experience.

If you are deperate for a drink in the Latin Quarter you can always count on this bar, it's a Mecca for anglophone bar staff from other pubs in central Paris. It has litttle to recommend it other than it serves beer in pints and not demie.

The other option is The Old Navy, 150 Bld Saint-Germain, which also sells cigarettes and is open 24/7. It has much more atmosphere and also serves simple food.

Better than a sandwich greque anyway.

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