Month: February 2011

A vulgar display of humanity

I have long thought about this piece of poetic genius and whether or not I should consider writing an article about what is essentially a vulgarity. In the meantime, the graffiti has been removed from the steps at the end of rue Descartes, leaving the water fountain demon to himself. So no-one else will ever see it, unless I publish it here. So what is it about this phrase that makes it worth mentioning? Take a moment to contemplate what it could mean. Stop to fuck your humanity.

The faulty grammar makes it enigmatic. Should there be a pause after “stop”? Are you supposed to stop doing whatever you are doing to take the time to ruin your human characteristics? How would you do that? If you would become a beast, perhaps? So if you would keep moving (up the steps) you would not have the time to become an awful beast of a person? So the message is move along to stay sane? Not very likely.

You may be contemplating the possibility that the author thinks we are already trying to transform ourselves into beasts and that we should stop doing so. In that case it could be: “stop fucking up your humanity?” that does not make a whole lot of sense either, it just invokes more questions? Do we even have a “humanity” we can mess up? And how, exactly, does that affect the author? He is not telling us he does not like us (eg “fuck you”), no he feels he knows us at an intimate level, the part of us which makes us a human being and at that level we are not being who we are supposed to be. This does not sound right, it is too far fetched.

Perhaps we are not the target but the actor: “stop fucking up humanity”. Although possible, that  suggests that we are powerful agents capable of undermining the future of our species. But could that be the message to the humble people who walk up the stairs near place Monge? It does not seem very likely either, or the graffiti artist is seriously over-estimating us. The fellow needs to go back to the drawing board. If we are to change the text for him, I think there is only one true route to take: “Stop to fuck our scholarity”. Still beautifully ungrammatical to stay true to the spirit, but it makes a real point, doesn’t it?



On bld Sebastopol, home of cheap junk shops, dubious gay bars and a Microsoft cafe, you can now have your old VHS videos, if you know what that is, converted to another outdated format, the dying DVD. Now I would not doubt the utility of having someone convert them for you, but a boutique all by itself? How do they think they can keep enough business in there to keep the boutique running? In their defence, they wisely work together with the FNAC and the Carrefour and such to get their orders in. That is good news for the company, but what about the boutique and the poor girl who has to stand in it?

Just in case they read this, what would be great would be if they added a Photoshop bar. That would justify a live presence. They could offer to not only digitise old pictures, but to have Photoshop kids patch them up for you too. (Freelancers, if the company does not have any money.) Who does not want a good digital copy of their grandparents’ wedding? Or their father looking on terrified as the waves bring down his sand castle! To wrap it up, a patchwork of those old remastered patched-up shots would make for great window dressing…

(If you are interested:

When free wifi just isn’t enough

Remember how at Odeoen, in St Germain, you could borrow a netbook to surf the Internet while you drink your coffee? No doubt it was other places as well, but that was the most in view. Well, that has now been outdone on boulevard Sebastopol. At Dupont you can now borrow an iPad to surf on while you sip your coffee! And that seated on big leather couches, in their excellent double leveled cafe with wooden floors. How comfortable does that sound?

Open from 7 am to 2 am, every day

25, boulevard de Sebastopol, 75001 PARIS

Metro Chatelet

Why we need an ugly Paris

When you walk into a poor area of town, you will notice straight away that it is ugly. But why? Surely nobody wants to live in an ugly area, so why should it be that way? This question may seem so easy to answer that you might consider it rhetorical. A poor area is ugly because the residents do not have enough money for its upkeep, so it will be subject to the natural decay and fall into ugliness. As simple as this sounds, so does the reply. Why does the city not help with the upkeep of less fortunate neighbourhoods? After all, some paint, planting trees and flowers is not that expensive. And this is where it becomes strange: they can not do it and it is not because of the money.

If the city pays for the maintenance of an area, beautifying it, the area will become attractive to gentrification. The new arrivals bring along new demands for a certain type of shop, schools and so forth. The people who used to live there will be slowly chased out by the increasing cost of rent. So implicitly, by trying to make people’s lives more pleasant, the municipality will have chased them out of their neighbourhoods.

Some kind of middle way can of course be found to balance out the possibility of housing everyone, but it does imply that a municipality has to be sparse in its brushing up of an area and embrace ugliness. A peculiar price to pay to keep the city diverse.

And three bottles of Martini please

The next time you pop into the supermarket in the morning because you ran out of cornflakes, notice that there are people buying wine and Martini when you can only think of a cup of coffee. What better way to shout out “I’m an alcoholic” then stocking up early! I have heard old ladies saying “it’s for the sauce” (perhaps the standard excuse) when they buy a couple of bottles of cheap white to the nodding and understanding look of the cashier. Well, however you twist or turn it, you are still buying wine at 10am. Why, you can not help but wonder, do they not drop by in the late afternoon, when they will disappear into the mass of the general public buying wine to take along to dinner parties? Your purchase will pass easily without the condescending look which, however inadvertently, must be thrown their way.

You must be thinking, if embarrassment was important to them, they would have ordered it online or sent the kid next door to go and buy it. But presumably,  even if they even use online supermarkets, they are like a lot of smokers in that they think that they might not drink anymore tomorrow. So no buying in advance: it has to be on the day itself. And what about the kid? Perhaps the embarrassment of asking the neighbour is worse than the look in the shop. And then why in the morning, when you are sure to be identified as an alcoholic? I think because it is better to be caught sober buying bottles in the morning than drunk in the afternoon buying more. The scale of embarrassment: how to stick to the lowest rung. You need a moment of sobriety to stay on it though.