Category Archives: Social Commentary

French Food

Some thoughts.

I have to confess that I’ve never eaten in France, though I have traveled through it on the train. I didn’t find this problem in Belgium or the Netherlands. But I do find European hours annoying, as well as the fact that I have to almost send out a search party for someone to get me a check when I’m done eating, and want to go. I don’t consider eating out a leisurely social event, to be stretched out as long as possible. That’s one of the many reasons I’m glad that my ancestors left Europe.

[Update late evening]

In response to a comment from Andrea Harris:

It’s not even about taking leisure over courses. Even after dessert, they won’t bring you a bill until you almost hold a gun to their head, because they think it impolite to do so any sooner. It drives me nuts.

I had an argument with a European (my sister, who has become a European, having lived there too long) about this.

“Look, it’s not about making someone leave. In America, bringing the bill isn’t a sign that they want you to leave. It’s a courtesy to allow you to leave if you wish.”

“No, no, that’s so rude. They’re just trying to clear the tables when they are in such a rush to bring the bill.”

Well, that may be true in some cases — they do, after all, and unlike the Europeans, want to make money. But as I told her, my way, and the dreaded American way, I can leave as soon as I want, if I want, and if I don’t want, I don’t have to until they actually are rude, and come over to ask us to leave. The European way, I’m a hostage to the wait staff (or, “the state”) until they deign to provide me with the bill (as an aside, I’ve never understood why it’s called a “check”).

I know which one I like. And it seems like a microcosm of the difference between the US and Europe.

For now, at least.

Cultural Imperalism

How McDonalds conquered France:

In the battle for France, Jose Bové, the protester who vandalized a McDonald’s in 1999 and was then running for president, proved to be no match for Le Big Mac. The first round of the presidential election was held on April 22, and Bové finished an embarrassing tenth, garnering barely 1 percent of the total vote. By then, McDonald’s had eleven hundred restaurants in France, three hundred more than it had had when Bové gave new meaning to the term “drive-through.” The company was pulling in over a million people per day in France, and annual turnover was growing at twice the rate it was in the United States. Arresting as those numbers were, there was an even more astonishing data point: By 2007, France had become the second-most profitable market in the world for McDonald’s, surpassed only by the land that gave the world fast food. Against McDonald’s, Bové had lost in a landslide.

As Hitler discovered, it helps a lot to have Frenchmen on your side. It’s a very entertaining read.

[Via Veronique]

[Update a couple minutes later]

The best take, from Michael Goldfarb:

In the course of Donald Morrison’s review of Au Revoir to All That by Michael Steinberger, we learn that McDonald’s is the largest private employer in all of France, which is sort of like being the largest provider of health insurance in North Korea, but nonetheless, it feels like a major triumph for American culture and cuisine. I once ate at the McDonald’s right next to the Arc de Triomphe. My quarter pounder tasted like hegemony.

Even better than the smell of napalm in the morning.

[Via Mark Hemingway]

Things That You Think Will Make You Happy

But won’t.

I’ve never wanted to be famous — it looks like a miserable life to me. But I would have no problem being rich. The problem with most lottery winners is that they don’t have any sort of higher purpose to life, and don’t understand how to handle sudden wealth. I have no interest in making people envious of my possessions. I’m not a very materialistic person in general. I buy things that will provide enjoyment to me, for practical reasons, and give very little thought as to what others will think about them. But the main thing is that I know exactly what I’d do if I became suddenly wealthy. I’d do the same thing that Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos did, but I’d do it right, because I already know what I’m doing, and wouldn’t have to hire other people to figure it out.

Oh, and the one about power?

The thing is, it’s the desire itself that’s poisonous. You find that need for power most in the type of person who hates having to obey all of society’s social contracts, particularly the ones that require them to not act like cocks all day. These are the people who are only nice guys because of fear of retribution if they do otherwise, so their main goal is to become strong enough that no retribution is possible (this is why sociopaths tend to seek positions of power, by the way).

Anybody who wants to be president badly enough to go through everything that it takes is intrinsically not to be trusted. I think that we’d be a lot better off with a search committee, who sought out someone for their competence and character, and who didn’t really want the job, but was reluctantly willing to do it. He’d probably still get corrupted eventually, but at least he wouldn’t start off that way right out of the box. Actually, I think that a Fred Thompson would be a good candidate in that scenario.

The First Weightless Wedding

Back in the early nineties, when I unsuccessfully tried to get a weightless experience business started, this was one of the markets for it. It took a lot longer than I hoped or expected back then, and I didn’t make it happen, but I’m glad that someone did. And I see that she used one of the designs that Misuzu had the contest for as a wedding dress.

Of course, as usual, almost everyone gets this wrong:

The idea of these flights seems to be that the plane makes 16 huge dips from 36,000 feet to 24,000 feet to simulate zero gravity.

The weightless effect doesn’t just occur on the descent — it occurs through the entire parabola, up and down. If it only happened on the way down, the weightless period would only be half the time that it actually is.

Goat Meat

It’s not what’s for dinner, generally, in the US, but it’s pretty popular in the rest of the world. I’ve only had it a couple times myself (in Ethiopian restaurants).

But an interesting space-related point is that goats are a lot better for space colonies than beef, being easier to manage, more efficient producers of meat from carbs, needing less room, having more protein (and good milk). Keith and Carolyn Henson raised them in Tucson (in town) in the seventies, along with rabbits. They wrote an early paper on space colony agriculture, presented at the first Princeton Conference, based on their own experiences.


Thoughts from Lileks on Letterman:

What’s amusing is how unamusing he is in the clip. How sour he seems. Compare him to his predecessors: Carson was all midwestern charm, with unreadable yet mannerly reserve; Steve Allen was almost as smart as he was certain you thought he must be, but he was cheerful; Parr was a nattering nutball covered with a rich creamy nougat of ego, but he was engaging. Letterman is empty; he’s inert; he stands for nothing except disdain for people foolish enough to stand for anything – aside from rote obesciance to all the things Decent People stand for, of course, all those shopworn assumptions passed around in the bubble.

This posture was fresh in ’80; it even had energy. But it paralyzes the heart after a while. You end up an SOB who shows up at the end of the night to reassure that nothing matters. I think he may have invented the posture of Nerd Cool, an aspect so familiar to anyone who reads message boards – the skill at deflating enthusiasm, puncturing passion with a hatpin lobbed from a safe distance. The instinctive unease with the wet messy energy of actual people.

Yes, reading too much into it. Really, it’s just a rote slam: If your mother is a loathed politician, and your older sister gets pregnant, famous old men can make jokes about you being knocked up by rich baseball players, and there’s nothing you can do. That’s the culture: a flat, dead-eyed, square-headed old man who’ll go back to the writers and ask for more Palin-daughter knocked-up jokes, because that one went over well. Other children he won’t touch, but not because he’s decent. It’s because he’s a coward.

I’ve never had any use for him, myself. But I’ve never been much into late-night “comedy,” period.

[Update a few minutes later]

Why aren’t feminists upset with Dave?

Because they’re leftists first, true feminists a distant second. And besides, Sarah Palin isn’t a real woman and of course, by extension, neither is her fourteen-year-old daughter. So they’re fair game.

[Mid-morning update]

Little Miss Atilla pulls no punches:

This is American Sharia, a**holes. The practitioners of Sharia in Muslim countries are at least consistent in their contempt for women and in their practice of gender apartheid: you, on the other hand, want sexual slavery for some women in this country; others, whose opinions you prefer, can live in relative peace and freedom. You will allow it.

If you are giving women and girls the “gift” of not being badgered for being female, and threatened with misogyny and sexual assault, they are not truly free—only living in a state of grace, contingent upon performing the right tricks, spouting leftist verbiage like seals at Sea World, balancing balls on their noses in the hopes of getting fish thrown into their mouths.

And any woman who doesn’t understand this fundamental truth about the misogynists living among them could be in for a rude awakening at any point, because that attitude will infect those who harbor it.

The leftist men in the sixties were notorious for their sexism and misogyny, considering women only useful for cooking and sex, while they wrote their manifestos. In fact, the feminist backlash in the seventies against “male chauvinist pigs” was a direct result of the experience of many of the women in the sixties with their “progressive” male cohorts. Some of them never grew up. Letterman is of that generation.