May 7, 2002

In the news recently...

What Would Phoebe Do? The News Edition, by Phoebe Maltz

News Part 1: La France

Jacques Chirac would eat no gras; his wife would eat no lean.

French politics is a wonderful thing. My only complaint about the recent elections is that Le Pen's name sounds anglicized, something a conservative French politician might want to take into account when forming his public image. If I were Le Pen, I would change my name to Le Stylo. I would imagine that Le Stylo would have easily beaten J.C. That is, unless Chirac were to be known by his initials alone.

The New York Times quotes a Frenchman on his feelings about the recent election:

"I obviously voted for Chirac, but against all my values. He is a crook, but better him than a fascist," he said, a 27-year-old medical student on his way to the movies. Hmm, a medical student on his way to the movies. It is through a close examination of the details that we can best learn about the French way of life. Choose the best answer to this multiple-choice question:

If you saw a French medical student on his way to the movies, you would assume that earlier that day, he:

a) Finished a grueling exam.

b) Completed a semester of med school.

c) Had sex with a beautiful older woman; ate a three hour lunch with his immediate family, complete with red wine, red meat, and unfiltered cigarettes; opened a textbook; looked at it for a moment, said "Bof;" closed the textbook, added "Euh" to the beginning of approximately 230 sentences; and purchased a pair of close-fitting Levis.

You pick, since I refuse to partake in mindless stereotyping of entire nations.

News Part 2: Les États-Unis.

My culture has made me lively. This much I have gathered from looking at National Review Online and The Wall Street Journal. According to Chancellor Gordon Gee of Vanderbilt University, "Jewish students, by culture and by ability and by the very nature of their liveliness, make a university a much more habitable place in terms of intellectual life."

The new Jewish stereotype of liveliness will be interesting to work with. I've heard about how neurotic, clever, and rich I'm supposed to be, but lively? First and foremost, we need a precise, up-to-the-minute definition of liveliness. "Lively" is defined by Microsoft Word's dictionary as:

1. full of life and energy

2. animated, exciting, or intellectually stimulating

3. active and enthusiastic

4. full of activity or movement

5. clear, distinct, and vivid

6. bright and colorful in a good-looking way

7. stimulating or refreshing

8. bouncy or springy

9. very responsive to the helm

I will now pick from among these definitions the traits I wish to be associated with my own individual brand of Jewish liveliness. I am bouncy, springy, and colorful in a good-looking way. Some people are just intellectually stimulating and distinct. I offer them my condolences. A few are merely refreshing, like a Snapple. As for those Jews who are very responsive to the helm, well, perhaps I'll save that for a future column.

News Part 3: A Pitiful Attempt to Connect News Parts 1 and 2

OK, let's see, so we have Le Stylo, the notorious anti-Semite de l'extrème droite [of the right-wing], and Gee, who thinks that Jews are stimulating, vivid, spring-like individuals for his University. We've got a French medical student who, in all appearances, is anything but lively, who is possibly cutting class to spend time passively gaping at the latest Woody Allen movie, likely to be a hit in France. Then we've got Woody Allen, still "full of life and energy" after all these years.