"The two most common elements in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity."
—Harlan Ellison (1934- )
(Swans - January 13, 2014) BANGUIGATE: Bangui is the capital of the Central African Republic, a country rich in natural resources and yet one of the poorest countries in the world. It was colonized by France and became independent in 1960. Since then it has been governed by a succession of military strongmen, coup after coup. In the latest civil war the Muslim minority, about 15 percent of the population called the Seleka, took over the capital, chased out the president, and their boss Michel Djotodia became the new president and his right hand man Nicolas Tiangaye prime minister. The response was immediate. Christian militias known as anti-balaka (Christians are about 50 percent of the population) went on a war path. The country was at risk of imploding and being dismembered, a bit like Sudan. Neighboring countries were quite alarmed, especially Chad. So they called daddy -- that is, France. Françafrique is not supposed to exist any longer, but the French military is located all over Western Africa. So Paris dispatched a contingent of special forces and the minister of defense had a chat with the president that could be summed up thus: Mr. President, you have a choice: Do you want to leave the country alive or dead? Then the minister visited the other heads of states. Since then Michel Djotodia and his prime minister have wisely chosen to retire and Djotodia has moved to Benin. Another civilizing mission of the white-man burden...
GAYETGATE: Here is a funny one. The French tabloid Closer revealed that comic actress Julie Gayet and President François Hollande were having an affair. Pépère would leave the garden of the Elysée Palace through a back door, hop on a scooter followed by only one secret service agent, and drive a few blocks to an apartment owned by a member of the CAC 40 club (money has no ideology) where his beauty was waiting. In the morning the secret service guy would bring croissants to the satisfied couple. Then pépère would return to the Elysée Palace through the same route and become president again. In a statement, the president said that he "profoundly deplores the violations of the respect of private life, to which he has the right, like any citizen." He added that he was thinking about going to court over this issue, which he will not do if he wants to avoid further bad publicity. His current "official companion," Valérie Trierweiler, is not particularly glad (she's been hospitalized due to stress) to have to compete with another concubine after having dethroned Ségolène Royal, a senior member of the Socialist Party, who has four children with Mr. Hollande. What women find in this man is a real puzzlement.
DIEUDONNÉGATE: This one is quite insulting to the good people of Lyon and a few other French regions. Dieudonné is a French comic who's gotten in the crosshairs of the French political and journalistic apparatus. He is accused of flagrant anti-Semitism in his jokes, some of which can be considered borderline. But, above all, he is condemned for a physical gesture, which he calls a quenelle, apparently the reverse of a Nazi salute. I have no definitive opinion on this topic. I only notice that the highest authorities in France have found a way to forbid any live theatrical representation by Dieudonné (France does not have a 1st Amendment) and that this controversy has done a great disservice to the real quenelle, a delicious dish that goes back to ancient times. It's an insult to gastronomy. As to free expression, here in the U.S. the government would not touch Dieudonné with a 10-foot pole, just let private parties sue him to death.
CHRISTIEGATE: This one should be more familiar to American readers. The question is simple: How come people in power can be such idiots? Here is the story: The governor of New Jersey, a guy named Chris Christie, is known to be a straight talker and a bit of a bully, qualities or defaults that are appreciated by the American polity -- within reason. Christie is like a bull; attack him at your own risk. He is also (or was) a contender for the 2016 presidential election. At the time of his re-election as governor, the mayor of a small town, Fort Lee, refused to endorse him. Then all of a sudden several toll lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee were closed for four days, allegedly as a part of a traffic study. It created mayhem from New Jersey to New York. People were furious and started looking into what had happened. I won't get into the morality or the ethics of these people, which are of no interest. But think about it: The top circle of the governor's office organized and put this revengeful scam to bed for purely political purpose -- for no other reason than payback. And the governor did not know!!! Yet, they communicated by e-mail. Have those people ever heard about the NSA? Are they idiots, or what? These are people who govern us.
JOTULGATE: Most of you by now are aware that we are getting out of Boonville and moving to San Francisco, which may explain our Swans drawbacks. Beside the financial loss we have to bear, the mental loss is heavy. When we lived in Menlo Park, we decided to get a gas heating stove -- the house was rather coldish. So we did some research and asked our friend and neighbor, Steve Mader, a well-known contractor, his advice. We selected a Jotul Nordic QT. We located one in Half Moon Bay, a few miles away. Steve came with us, and as I am a moron, he went through all that was needed. We brought the stuff home. Steve installed the entire caboodle. From then on, to make the story short, life went on. As we were selling the house in Menlo Park, and quickly found that potential buyers had no interest in the stove, we decided to disassemble it and take it and all its components with us. Twelve years went by. We did not make use of the stove but kept it in as-is condition with all technical information. The current potential buyers of our house have expressed no interest in that stove.
IN OUR LOCALITY, there is a weekly radio show that allows sellers to advertise their goodies in the hope that buyers will call. It's a garage sale through more modern communication. Jan early on left a message to the folks, detailing what we were trying to sell. It was relayed on line. I smiled, not believing much in these kind of operations that are nothing more than vulture venturers, as you find them in so many poor countries. Yet the phone rang. It was Steve Mader, who, listening to the radio show, immediately recognized the stove and us. He wanted to buy it for his house in Santa Rosa. Steve, the one who helped us buy the stove, the one who installed the stove -- always for free -- wanted to pay for the stove. His wife Helen told him: don't worry, knowing Gilles he must have all the parts and all the documentation. So they came on Sunday, a Swans day. They took the stove, the material, the documentation. I could not be happier. It's amazing those little links we build with people over the years. They did not spend a penny but for gas. This really was a joy of ours.
. . . . .
C'est la vie...
And so it goes...
La vie, friends, is a cheap commodity, but worth maintaining when one can.the life line won't hurt you much, but it'll make a heck of a difference for Swans.
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