Just Above Sunset Archives

November 30, 2003 Odds and Ends

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Selected items from the daily weblog (blog) As seen from Just Above Sunset

Ah, those odd people in Europe...
Item 1: "We're tall on our blades, and very fast." Odd news from Paris.

My good friend, the software magnate, recently returned from Paris, with a question about all those rollerbladers.  Yes, Paris has this thing on Sunday afternoons and Friday evenings when thousands of rollerbladers take to the streets en masse.   It is odd, no?

You can watch or join a group at Friday Night Fever starting from Gare Montparnasse.  At 22h00 (that's ten at night) rollerbladers take off for an eighteen mile tour around the city (with police escort).  If in town, give a call for details - Rollerbladers Association: Loi 1901  23-5 Rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau Tel 01 44549442 but I think you can just go join in.

But if you think that's odd, check this out.  The Paris Police now have a rollerblade unit.  Really.

Paris police battle crime on rollerblades
Reuters, Sun Nov 23, 2:53 PM ET (this link will take you to a photograph of an actual arrest) ... by Kerstin Gehmlich
If you don't go to this item, consider the following quotes and tidbits:
The unit's creator is Marc Bella, a forty-two-year-old former speed-skating champion.  The unit initially numbered eight and its main job was to monitor the weekly processions of rollerbladers, which can number in the thousands, through the streets of Paris.   Today, the officers patrol the streets, teach schoolchildren traffic rules and help fight crime.  Competition to get onto the team is tough: applicants must pass demanding fitness tests and convince the unit's trainers of their rollerblading skills.  About a dozen of some forty candidates are taken on each year.
This is all part of the training program for the Paris police's latest weapon in the fight against crime - a 50-strong rollerblading police squad.  "Criminals are totally taken aback," said rollerblading officer Stephane Ajuelos. "Some don't even try to run away when they see us. We're tall on our blades, and very fast. They know they don't have a chance to escape."
"Each week, we catch at least one criminal on our skates," said officer Pascal Fubini, recalling how his team caught a mobile phone thief on the busy streets.  "Someone was shouting 'Catch the thief!', and we were racing after him, passing people on the pavement, and going in between cars.  We had the guy within seconds. I t would have been much harder on foot or with a bike.  We are extremely mobile."
... Officer Michel Ghesquiere, who traded in his motorcycle for rollerblades a few months ago, said he believed the skates had not undermined his authority.   "You don't have the same reputation as an officer on a motorbike, but it's a very positive image too.  When we go to rough Parisian suburbs, the young guys really respect us when they see that we're as good on our blades as they are."
Well, there are small units like this in Amsterdam, London, Miami Beach and Stockholm.  Perhaps one day we will have a similar unit in Venice Beach out here.
An idea whose time has come?
Item 2: France's art world is in a flap!  Claude Monet's legendary "Water Lilies" causing trouble once again!

Odd news from l'Agence France-Presse (AFP).
France's art world is in a flap. The discovery of a massive 16th century wall buried under the Tuileries gardens flanking the Louvre, has halted a vast and costly scheme to revamp the old Orangerie museum in order to give Claude Monet's legendary "Water Lilies" a better home.
The Orangerie, set in an obscure corner of the Tuileries gardens by the Seine, was closed in 2000 and due to reopen late next year after a 25-million-euro facelift aimed at putting Monet's mammoth works back in the limelight - precisely by giving them new light.
The museum, originally a 19th century hothouse for oranges, was to be given a newly refurbished glass roof and galleries for the "Water Lilies" as well as freshly-dug underground exhibition space for its other prestigious collections.
But workmen scraping away to clear room for the new underground space last August hit a major obstacle - two metres (six feet) sticking out of the ground of a fortified outer wall almost three metres (nine feet) thick that is 59 metres (yards) long and a total seven metres (21 feet) high.
"L'horreur!" (Horror!) reportedly exclaimed museum curator Pierre Georgel, who was forced to suspend the works the following month pending a decision by the authorities - expected by year's end - on whether to maintain or to raze the wall.
All the details at the link provided, of course.
AFP Background:
Monet was over 80 and losing his sight when he put the finishing touches to the eight giant panels making up the "Water Lilies" in the early 1920s, works inspired by his water garden at Giverny, outside Paris.
Hailed by critics as the culmination of his life's work, he donated them to the French state to celebrate the victory of World War I.
The government in turn offered Monet a special museum to house them - the Orangerie - placing the panels in two spacious oval galleries opening onto the gardens, with natural light pouring through the glass dome overhead.
But in the 1960s, the Orangerie was given one of the most fabulous private collections in existence - the Jean Walter and Paul Guillaume collection comprising 144 works by Cezanne, Renoir, Rousseau, Matisse, Picasso, Derain, Utrillo, Modigliani, Soutine and others.
The donation however was made on condition it be exhibited permanently and in its entirety at the Orangerie. So a concrete floor was put in above the "Water Lilies", shutting out their sun but providing an extra floor of space for the new treasures.
Visitors from 1965 thus had to go upstairs first to see the Walter-Guillaume collection before descending to see the former centre-piece of the museum, the Monet panels, deprived of natural light and airy exit-ways, relegated to a kind of backstairs second-best position.
Oh well.  My first wife and I drove down to New York City see these famous "Water Lilies" at the Metropolitan when they were on tour in the seventies.  I did not drop by the Orangerie to see them again on any of the last trips to Paris.  Now, could I see them there?
Item 3: Car Passenger Convicted of Drunk Driving -  
Fri Nov 21, 8:55 PM ET
OSLO, Norway - A 19-year-old Norwegian has been convicted of drunken driving, even though he was a passenger, had a sober designated driver and didn't even have the keys to start a car that was turned off.
"I think it's unreasonable," said Oysten Haakanes, whose case made national news on Friday. "It makes you lose faith in the courts and police."
The full story is at the link.  He was drunk.  He leaned over and accidentally released the handbrake.  The car rolled into traffic.  I suppose he should have been convicted.  Maybe.