From Paris to Berlin

July 23, 2010

.. well, not really, but close. From Paris to Dusseldorf, in fact, where Pa(s)risienne spent half her life!

Ooh yes, je pars en weekend, and like 1/4 Parisians I saw in the metro this morning, I have a small weekend bag on wheels to prove it (except mine was much fuller and heavier than everyone else’s because of my lack of decision-making skills when packing, sigh).

Honestly though, it felt kind of nice to finally be one of those people that comes to work on a Friday with their weekend bag. These people have what I would call The Summer Friday Look, the haha-I-may-be-in-a-suit-today-but-tomorrow-I’ll-be-poolside-and-you-won’t look that annoys the hell out of Parisians stuck in the city for the weekend. Today I went for the type of Summer Friday Look that says I’m-dressed-nice-enough-for-work-but-comfortable-enough-for-my-train-ride. I think I pulled it off pretty well.

So happy weekend everyone, Auf Wiedersehen until next week!



July 19, 2010

Via Hip Paris Blog

I am still recovering from the World Cup final. And no, I didn’t have too many beers (only one!), it’s just that after the interminable match I stopped to watch Spanish madness of the Champs Elysées. Although admittedly I didn’t care too much for either team, I was glad that Spain won because I knew the Parisian fans were going to give us something to watch on the Champs. And happiness is contagious, to the extent that I even caught myself singing along with a bunch of men going “yo soy español, español, español” (repeat to infinity). What can I say, sometimes it’s fun to party for absolutely no reason. So in the spirit of true sportsmanship, I put aside my bitterness and jealousy (wouldn’t it have been incredible if Italy had won again?) and pretended I was a Roja until it was time to snap back to reality and go to sleep.

Unsurprisingly, the media today is loaded with analyses and retrospectives of the first World Cup in Africa, and I’m having a hard time reading it all. Here are a few of my highlights:

* The New York Times notes that South Africa is not better off than before the World Cup came to town. What a surprise.

* Kickette gets all girlie and swoony over Iker Casillas’ post-match smooch with his sports reporter girlfriend. I give him ten points for spontaneity and charm!

* CNN reports on Sepp Blatter’s defence of Referee Web’s performance during the final. I thought he did great although the infamous chest kick probably deserved a red card!

* South African political cartoonist Zapiro gives us a few ideas for what to do with our vuvuzelas after the World Cup

Okay that’s all from me for now. Must get my beauty sleep in preparation for tomorrow night’s Bal des pompiers! The Bal des pompiers (literally, “the dance of the firemen”) are dances held in the inner courtyard’s of fire stations all over France on July 13 to celebrate la Fête Nationale on the 14th. According to this blog this dance is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Paris, with live orchestras,  DJs a fun crowd and great atmosphere. “Could you imagine this happening in London, New York or anywhere else in the world? No way!”

So Klose

July 8, 2010

Paul the octopus was right….again!

*UPDATE* It’s official: Paul the Psychic Octopus is a real psychic”: Math genius Hamilton Nolan tells us the probability of Paul correctly guessing the results of all six matches is less than 2%.

Hup Oranje!

July 6, 2010

Just finished watching the great semifinal between Uruguay and The Netherlands. I have one word to say to you Uruguay: karma. Sometimes (though rarely), it bites.

As for tomorrow’s even more exciting semi opposing Germany and Spain, here’s something that might influence the choice in team you support:

Bon appetit everyone!!!

P.S. Even Paul the psychic octopus has some doubts over Germany. And Paul the psychic octopus is never wrong!

The Real v. Fake debate

June 30, 2010

To those of you who were worried that I had gone on a writing strike since Italy got kicked out of the World Cup, fear not. Despite the inevitable disappointment with my favourite team followed by another upset when my number 2 (England) got kicked out too, I haven’t decided to take it out on my blog. I have simply been a bit busier, including enjoying the first few days of REAL summer heat with a visitor from college (hi, Frenkel). It’s always lovely to have visitors… in fact, the number of people that have come to visit me or “swung by Paris” since I moved here 2 years ago is really incredible, I never knew Paris was such a crossroads! And weekend visits are the best; I enjoy playing tour guide and re-exploring Tourist Paris, which every Parisien knows is just as beautiful, though much more crowded than the Real Paris, the one only the locals know. More on this topic soon.

One of the highlights of my weekend (apart from assisting an awesome Gay Pride parade, watching Team USA’s deserved defeat and nervously stuffing my mouth with chips through the horrible referee errors in the England v. Germany and Argentina v. Mexico games) was watching Portuguese football fans go absolutely crazy on the Champs Elysees on Friday night (after their tie with Brazil which led them safely to the knockout round). (Note: Currently, they are being  surpassed by Spanish fans, who are causing an impressive ruckus on the streets after making it to the quarter finals).

One of the first things I thought when I witnessed a swarm of Portugal fans stop traffic, dance in the middle of the Champs and jump on moving cars (crazy!) was wow, these people must be real fans, they’re dressed head to toe in Portugal gear. Although the picture below only shows a (very adorable) fraction of the crowd that night, you still get the idea of the sea red-and-green in which I found myself.

Call me crazy, but my next thought was this: how much of this sports gear is real? (official jerseys v. marketplace knockoffs)

According to an entry in the US Chamber of Commerce blog, not much of it is real.  In fact, to date, the South African government has confiscated roughly $2.5 million worth of knock offs.”

Big deal, you might say. Official team jerseys are expensive, and it’s not buying a counterfeit hurts anyone. Well, the blog entry contains some pretty straightforward replies to such questions. Here is an excerpt:

As soccer fans gather in South Africa and around their TV sets for the 2010 FIFA World Cup…, more than just the hearts of nations and the pride of the teams are on the line. Corporate sponsors have invested three years and millions of dollars in preparation for what is the biggest international sporting event outside the Olympics. In fact, the last World Cup, which was held in 2006 in Germany, had a combined record of 26.29 billion total viewers.

An event of this scale takes thousands of hours of planning and large sums of money. FIFA gets a large part of its funding from the many corporate sponsors who hope to profit from the advertising and merchandise sales.

As such, the counterfeiting of World Cup merchandise—like hats, jerseys, souvenirs, etc—and the illegal online streaming (when viewers watch the match via the internet) of the tournament threaten the foundations of this great event. The streaming of games through illegal channels not only steals jobs from the very people who work in the advertising business but this practice discourages the innovation and creation of new technologies which enable consumers to legally stream the games. U.S. content companies have invested over $100 million dollars to bring the World Cup to the living rooms of Americans this year and in 2014, and illegal streaming impacts the everyday employee who goes to work at these companies each day.

Counterfeiting is not only illegal, but it robs the Cup’s sponsors of their investment, cutting into any revenues they hope and need to make on the games in order keep employees and create new jobs. And not only do workers in these companies suffer, but so does everyone else involved in the design, production and distribution of team and World Cup products. These are people just like you and me, trying to make a living based on our hard work, good ideas, and time invested in these efforts.

Fake team jerseys are available for pennies on the dollar in comparison to the genuine article…Often the counterfeit jerseys are poorly made and won’t last nearly as long as a professionally made jersey. Mementos of a once in a lifetime event are not only cheap shams that don’t last, but are stolen goods that steal jobs.

This illegal activity is serious business, and the repercussions are felt here at home. Thanks to the internet, counterfeiters can sell their fake products without ever leaving the comfort of their home – fooling unaware consumers with seemingly legitimate web sites.

As noted numerous times, the problem of counterfeiting is not a victimless crime. The true victims of this criminal activity are the authorized workers who make, package, distribute, and sell these products.”

Before going any further, I should say that in my mind, buying a knock-off jersey and watching a soccer game online are two entirely different things touching upon different issues and legal implications, so it’s best not to get them confused (not least because I have well-developed position on counterfeiting but am still ambivalent about illegal downloading and streaming).

So Internet issues aside, I would like to hear your thoughts on counterfeiting during the World Cup. Do you agree with the reasoning behind in the article? Should we care about the investments FIFA has made in the World Cup? Or do you think that is a bunch of crap made up to protect the interests of sports and advertising corporations? Do you agree or disagree that counterfeiting is not a victimless crime?

Looking forward to getting some replies, especially since I know some of you feel very strongly about this topic…

…which is not all that surprising. There has been much talk about real v. fake at this World Cup, especially now as Sepp Blatter prepares to reconsider the possibility of letting referees’ use of video during matches. Here too, many people argue that relying on video footage would dehumanize the game, removing all spontaneity and authenticity and turn it to a 3D video game. To be perfectly honest, I think we should leave things as they are, or how they’ve always been, with soccer being a real game of skill and fitness and surprises and, let’s face it, luck. I would be sad to see soccer lose its charm and become more robotic for the sake of standardized fairness. I’ll take a soccer player crying real tears of frustration to watching boring televised post-match debates anytime (people will have nothing to complain about if the game suddenly becomes fair!)

In any case, I look forward to hearing your opinion on those fake jerseys. In case you hadn’t guessed, I’m not a knock-off supporter (and with good reason). But despite the origin of their gear, I couldn’t take my eyes off of this gorgeous Portuguese family the other day. They may not have been wearing authentic jerseys but they were die-hard Portugal fans nonetheless! Wonder how they’re feeling tonight after their Iberian neighbours woke them up from their World Cup dream.

Haters gonna hate

June 24, 2010

Dear Azzurri,

Please don’t mess up today.

Your game against Slovakia is in six hours. Are you ready? Calm? Confident? Style that hair however you like and come and show us a good game.

Unfortunately, this year being Number 1 is not enough to be respected. I’m sorry to tell you this Azzurri, but you’re one of the most despised teams of the World Cup. Really, just ask the Germans. Or anyone else. I am sure the French would be especially happy if  you went down with them.

Judging by past experiences (which savvier football fans will be able to cite), your game tends to slip a little bit when under pressure. Despite what the haters day, I believe you play with your heart, and as soon as something goes wrong you let the situation spiral out of control. So try and avoid that today, please. Yes you need to win, and yes Slovakia shouldn’t give you a hard time, but that is no reason not to give 150% from the very start. Don’t wait until they score to do something amazing. Real concentration and effort pays off, just look at Team USA.

All in all, don’t let what people are saying get to you. Jealousy is an evil, penetrating emotion that I hope you have been shielding yourselves from. Whether you win or lose, people will say negative things about you, so just push it all aside and play your best today. You deserve to be in the final 16!!



That’s more like it

June 24, 2010

Today, Wednesday June 23rd, was a great day for soccer, and not only compared to yesterday’s disaster.

It included Terry’s head-first dive to block a shot by England’s opponents, Slovenia….

… Fabio Capello’s jubilant pride when England won…

… the pay-off for USA’s unfaltering determination…

… Ozil’s fantastic goal for Germany…

… and Ghana’s qualification despite defeat.

Thank you, soccer gods, for a great day of real football, suspense, motivation, and hard-earned victories. Sounds like the American Dream is live and kicking in the soccer world too.

Let me tell you a story. It is a very recent story that will become legendary,  told from generation to generation….

“Once upon a time, there was a football team called Les Bleus, or “the blues”, a reference to the colour of their jersey, but curiously enough, in 2010 this name came to define their performance quite adequately.

Given their noteworthy result in 2006 and one World Cup title on their CV, Les Bleus were considered as one of teams most likely countries to win the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. But sadly, it was not meant to be. With a widely disliked coach, a near-sighted (and aging)  national football federation and categorically unsupportive countrymen, Les Bleus were crippled from the start.

One day, the players themselves started going crazy.

After a tie and a defeat in the first round of the World Cup, one of Les Bleus, Anelka, turned against his coach, taking his frustration out on him the team’s locker room by telling him to ********************,**********************.

Someone in the locker room at the time (a very mean villain, the meanest villain this whole story) then leaked these words to the press. The newspaper L’Equipe needed money, so they printed the phrase in its graphic entirety on their front page the next day.  People were shocked. To make matters worse, French fast food chain Quick even canceled an advertisement campaign featuring the controversial Mr. Anelka. The situation had taken a fatal turn.

Because of the gravity of Anelka’s words and his refusal to apologize, the coach decided to send him off the team. The plane took off from South Africa, and back to Europe he went. This profoundly irritated the other Bleus, who by this point had started acting much like a bunch of teenagers with authority and ego issues. As  a show of support for their teammate, they decided to go on strike on their last day of training before their final match (their last chance at the World Cup) against Bafana Bafana, the South African football team.

Unsurprisingly, the game was disastrous for Les Bleus from the very beginning. After letting in one goal in, heart breaker Gourcuff elbowed an opponent in the throat and received a red card, leaving Les Bleus one man short.

After that, there was little hope for victory. Bafana bafana scored another goal, making Malouda’s neat and only goal for the French team during the World Cup utterly useless. The match ended as  miserably and disgracefully as it had begun.

To make matters worse,  coach Domenech proved to be a very bad loser, refusing to shake the hand of the South African coach, Carlos Alberto Parreira. The scene, pitiful to say the least, had every French fan covering their eyes in shame.

And that is the story of how Les Bleus’ World Cup dream quickly crashed and burned in 2010. In a rare show of correctness, the French football federation decided that the players will not receive their bonus, and the money will instead be given to amateur football associations. Maybe justice exists after all? Ireland will certainly argue it does…

Sadly, Les Bleus’ defeat was not enough to allow Bafana Bafana to continue their World Cup dream. Their bittersweet victory was the final touch to a long day of failures that will have sports pundits and and Frenchmen talking for generations to come.

La fin.


What, in your opinion, is the moral of this story?

Music in the air

June 22, 2010

Between the copycat vuvuzelas, honking on the boulevards, sound blasting from the cars, and huge cheers I think I can hear from the whole west coast of Europe (both Spain and Portugal are celebrating their World Cup victories tonight), it is easy to forget that today is La Fête de la Musique!

La Fête de la Musique is one of my favourite days of the year, and as it is on Summer Solstice (June 21) it falls on a different day each year, this year, a Monday. This is really unfortunate for me because there’s really nothing better than a street music festival in Paris, and I wasn’t able to catch any of it today because of work. Dommage.

The whole concept of la Fête de la Musique is really great: it is a entire day in France devoted to promoting the work of amateur and professional musicians and making such music available to the public. Free concerts are organized all over the place, and a stroll around Paris allows you to sample tons of different types of music, from jazz to rock to electro, etc. The clubs organize special, (mostly) free-entry nights, the metro runs all night and the streets are swarmed with people dancing and having a good time. Some of my greatest memories of my time in Paris are from the two Fêtes de la Musique that I have attended, and if it weren’t unseasonably cold and I didn’t have to wake up an hour earlier tomorrow, I would be out there dancing right now.

So, how are our favourite miserables doing today?

Well, apparently, some of the players regret not training before their match against South Africa tomorrow. Crocodile tears, I say! Starting tomorrow we have one more game a day, or rather, two simultaneous matches per day, so I hope the media will have more to cover than France’s childish bickering.  Today, Portugal’s seventh heaven and Spain’s well-played game weren’t enough to shelter me from the media frenzy surrounding les Bleus. Enough!

Off to bed now, car horns on the Champs Elysées permitting. They say everyone in Portugal has a cousin in Paris, and seriously, it sounds like they all decided to gather near my house tonight.