Posts tagged “wall street journal

Monday Reader: 4/21/14

Posted on April 21, 2014

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There are a lot of goofy quizzes on the Internet. Among other things you can find out which 1970s music star you are (I got Olivia Newton John) and where you’re really supposed to live (I got Paris, bien sur). My recent favorite is “How French Are You?” which features some of the worst stereotypes about the people, from how much you strike, to how much you complain or cut in line. Of the 90 questions on the quiz, I clicked 65, which apparently makes me:

as French as Jean Dujardin eating camembert on the Canal Saint Martin. You’re pretty French. You know good food and good wine and although you’re a pessimist who complains a lot, you always know how to enjoy life.

I can’t argue with this.

Some reads:

France Marks 70 Years of Women’s Voting Rights (France24.comToday marks the 70th anniversary of women’s suffrage in France, a measure signed into law by General Charles de Gaulle, who headed the provisional government at that time. Women cast their first ballots a year later, during the country’s first elections after German occupation. There’s a great video on the France 24 website of women casting those first votes, and a roundup of Western countries where women were already voting before les femmes joined the fray. The role of women in French politics has grown slowly. In 1993, only 5.7 percent of seats in France’s Parliament were occupied by women – barely more than that after the end of World War II. The lack of women in politics prompted France to pass a law in 2000 requiring political parties to present an equal number of men and women on voting lists, making it the first country to do so. But men still heavily dominate French politics. Seventy-three percent of the National Assembly is comprised of men, while the Senate is 78 percent men.

France’s Silent Tea Revolution (BBC NewsWhen I worked in Washington, D.C., I had a French roommate. When her mother came to visit, we used to make sure we were well-equipped with Lapsang Souchong tea, her morning drink of choice. Up until this particular point in time, I thought the French were more of a coffee-oriented people, but I learned that wasn’t the case. Ever-resourceful, my roommate would brew mint leaves from our backyard for a mid-afternoon restorative. And, we’d go tea-shopping in Chinatown even when her mother wasn’t coming to town. So I enjoyed this story about how tea culture is strengthening in the hexagon, between the delicate and refined French blends and wonderful tea salons that dot the City of Light. What you find is that tea has been in France longer than it has been in Great Britain. The reason why more people associate it with Brits is because it was a popular drink instead of a drink for a wealthy few, as it was in France. News that coffee was bad for you changed all that, and more of the French began looking for a replacement. They rediscovered tea and, as you might figure, began putting their own Gallic twist on it, pairing it with cheeses, among other things.

Paris’s Haut Marais: From Shabby to Chic (WSJ.comWhen I was in Paris finishing my thesis research a couple of years ago, I rented an apartment in the Marais. My first favorite memory of staying in that neighborhood was walking to picture-perfect Jacques Genin, buying a finger-sized eclair and almost weeping when I sunk my teeth into that first, perfectly creamy bite. My second favorite memory: Discovering the Repetto store on Rue des Francs Bourgeois. The Wall Street Journal looks at how real estate prices are skyrocketing in this part of town, once ground zero for the French nobility. “Five years ago nobody wanted to be here,” says Nicolas Wibaux, a Marais-based agent for Paris real-estate firm Daniel Féau. “Now everybody wants to be here.” In the past five years, the average Paris apartment has increased by about 25%, to $1,056 a square foot. In prime areas of Haut Marais, prices in the same period jumped by 35.2% to 41.2%, reaching as high as $1,535 a square foot.

French Village Fights for Right to Use Its Name (rfi.frThe Laguiole council is appealing to France’s 36,000 local councils to come to its aid, claiming that it is the victim of a “supernatural catastrophe” following a Paris court’s refusal to uphold its case against Gilbert Szajner, who lives in the Val de Marne département just outside Paris. Szajner patented the Laguiole brand in 1993 for 38 different types of products, among them knives, tableclothes and cigarette lighters. But Szajner has had his wares made in China and Pakistan, while the town itself has been making its own distinctively designed knife since 1829. In 1997 local officials took Szajner to court, accusing him of dishonest trading practices and carrying out “harming its name, its image and its reputation”. After a long legal wrangle, the court threw out the case a few weeks ago and ordered the village to pay 100,000 euros in costs to Szajner.

 

Blackfish

Posted on November 8, 2013

blackfish This week, a group of San Diego high schoolers filmed a video called “Dear Sea World” where they thanked the tourist attraction for all the memories and stuffed animals, before taking it to task for cheapening those memories by its now well-documented poor treatment of killer whales, as captured in the critically acclaimed Gabriela Cowperthwaite documentary “Blackfish.” For more about the backlash, see this David Kirby article at TakePart.com.

But the film’s impact is being felt beyond a group of camera-savvy youngsters on the West Coast. Sea World went public in April, just three months after “Blackfish” debuted at Sundance and memories of senior trainer Dawn Brancheau’s death in a killer whale attack were still fresh in the public’s minds. After the company’s stock debuted at $27 a share, it has since dipped by 25 percent, according to recent reports, leading some to believe that the eye-opening documentary may be to blame for that. Sea World says poor weather is behind the dip, and has written off the film as mere animal rights propaganda.

“Blackfish” or not, the theme park is facing a lot of “headwinds,” according to MarketWatch columnist Al Lewis. It is heavily leveraged. It is selling expensive tickets (adult single-day tickets are $82, while youth tickets are $74) in a down economy, and it is still facing legal and regulatory problems in the wake of Brancheau’s death. Throw the film into the mix and, as Lewis told The Wall Street Journal, you have a lot of people out there who think “it’s not so cool keeping these whales in a fish tank for their whole life.” Still, Lewis admits that America is a country that could see “Blackfish and be outraged by the treatment of killer whales and still visit Sea World.

I finally saw the movie this week and thought it was well-done overall. But I did have a small issue with how the filmmaker used some of the sources at her disposal. Although she interviewed whale experts, whale behavioral experts and a variety of workers from OSHA, the bulk of the interviews she used were with former Sea World trainers, who admitted you didn’t really have to be a whale expert to get the job. Although I understand the need to turn to people who have first-hand experience with these whales, and first-hand knowledge of the way they were kept and treated at the park, I would have liked more explanation in the film about why they were former Sea World trainers. Were they fired, or did they leave because they realized the ethical problems in capturing these large, sensitive, and highly intelligent creatures? That sort of context was never made clear, and having it in the film would have enhanced what was already a good story.

It will be interesting to see how Sea World continues to deal with the fallout the film and with its own struggles to weather a bad economy as a newly public company. If you’ve seen “Blackfish,” what did you think about it? Please let me know in comments below.