Friday, 21 December 2007

Cole, not the Dole

I'm stealing the following anecdote, which is priceless, from a comment by Kieran Healey on the Crooked Timber blog:

In his Diaries, Alan Bennett tells a story about an Oxford Don conducting Margaret Thatcher on a tour of (I suppose) All Souls in the early 1980s. Along the way he was supposed to point out some of the portraits of various college luminaries. His plan was to pause by Cole’s portrait, point out the nameplate and say, “And this is the philosopher G.D.H. Dole,” whereupon Thatcher would have to say “Cole, not Dole.” But he chickened out and didn’t do it.

Thanks to Shashank for the pointer.

Monday, 17 December 2007

Sarkozy proves his bad taste - on many, many levels...

The real reason why the French call Sarkozy l'americain is style, not substance. They are deeply skeptical of a President who prefers yachts to country estates; jogging to promenading; and Hollywood blockbusters to philosophy books.

I wasn't. Well - I was skeptical of Sarkozy for all kinds of reasons. But it didn't seem to me that among the wealth of objections you might endorse, his holiday destinations, workout method or even leisure activities ranked particularly highly.

Now, however, he has proved me wrong - and all those nagging, self-satisfied Rive Gauche intellectuals right. A few months after his divorce from Cecilia - the main selling point of whom, in Sarkozy's eyes, it seems to have been that she at one point was a supermodel - he appears to have a new girlfriend. And she is... (drumroll, close-up of professors at the College de France shocked at the news, etc.)... another ex-supermodel, Carla Bruni.

The French media, traditionally loath to expose politicians' private affairs, couldn't help running the story after they were spotted - in Euro Disney!!

Classy destination for a Romantic outing, I hear you groan. Quite... But it gets worse: given that they could hardly have expected to be all on their own in Disneyland on a Saturday afternoon, this seems to reflect the happy couple's wish for their liaison to become public in just that space.

A few months ago, Jean Clair, former director of Paris' Musee Picasso, told me: "The Louvre must of course be open to all. But, frankly, I find it pitiful that it has eight million visitors a year. Most of these people don’t even know what they’re looking at - they probably are tourists who got lost on their way to Euro Disney"

Well, at least Sarkozy did not get lost...

Oh, by the way: did I mention that Carla Bruni's former liaisons, or so it is rumoured, include real-estate magnet Donald Trump??

Whilst many observers seem to think that Sarkozy would change France profoundly, I was not so convinced. Perhaps I should have thought about style, not substance. For the stylistic self-portrayal of her political elite, at least, could not have changed more.