C’est la guerre

by jemma margaret

Today is the anniversary of the Liberation, or as we like to say in the states, VE-day. For me, this means that all the libraries are closed. So after a few too many hours of staring vacantly at a computer screen I decided to take a walk to Luxemberg Gardens and back.

On the way, I passed by the festival of bread that is going on next to Notre Dame. Inside a long tent was a cheerful assembly line from making dough to selling sandwiches and pastries. I entered from the wrong end, and so got to watch an interesting reversal from laying apple slices, to cutting out individual sized portions of puffed pastry dough, to enveloping and folding butter, to shaping baguettes, to kneading, to mixing. The bakers (Boulanger: c’est un métier!) worked together in quiet, but content organization, ranging in age from about 14 to 84. The dramatic age range was striking, but perhaps more so was the fact that among roughly a dozen bakers (perhaps a baker’s dozen bakers?), there was not a single woman.

Speaking of women, I went to the Musée de Quai Branly last Sunday where there was an exhibit on hair. You might think this would be a light topic, but you would be wrong. Hair is some heavy stuff.

The most interesting part was definitely the shrunken heads. In the head shrinking process there is a concerted effort made to keep the hair in its natural state. At first I thought that they had shrunk the heads with the skull intact–which astounded me–however, Wikipedia informs me that the skull is removed and then the skin is molded to keep a head like shape.

Disturbing in a different way was footage from the 1930s and 1940s of women having their heads shaved by the German government for not being Aryan, by the Spanish government for being too republican, and by the French government for having friendly relations with the occupiers. The last example is perhaps the most unsettling. We can all unequivocally agree that Nazis and fascists were bad, but the French victory in World War II ushered in the third, and current republic. I understand that some retribution over aiding the enemy is expected, nevertheless the end result was a bit too Homeric for my taste.

It’s complicated. Bottom line, wars are the pits and that’s why we celebrate the ends and not the beginnings.

Now that you’re all feeling sombre and introspective, as a parting absurd but still political note I observed this morning that Barack Obama is the new advertising face for Brisbane, Australia. I imagine this kind of “use the president as marketing” is illegal or at least deeply frowned upon in the United States, and I seriously doubt the Brisbane marketing team has White House approval. I also, and this could be a lack of knowledge about French vocabulary and Australia, fail to see the connection. To make things more confusing, the exact same ad was originally targeted to Chinese investors. A new world city, and perhaps also a whole world city.