John Laurenson: Tonight, what with the financial crisis, it’s pig’s foot for dinner, not the seafood platter. But in France, people are used to living on a budget. Partly because it’s much more difficult than in Britain or the United States to spend money you don’t have.
Bruce Antolovich is an American who’s been living in France for seven years:
Bruce Antolovich: Most of the things we call credit cards in France actually are debit cards which debit directly from your account. And usually the negative balance that they allow you is much, much lower than the credit limit you’d have with a typical credit card in the U.S. I would say about $1,000.
Easily enough to afford the mountain bike Antolovich rides several times a week. He got seriously into cycling when his bank made him pass a medical to qualify for a mortgage. He had to take out life insurance, too.
Bernard Vorms is general manager of France’s housing information board. He says guarantees like these plus fixed rate loans go a long way to explaining why there hasn’t been an increase in mortgage defaults in France despite a bearish housing market.
Bernard Vorms: We are not risk lovers. It’s easy to get a mortgage if you have a full-time, regular job, but if you have irregular income it will be difficult.
That conservative approach extends to the relationship between investment and retail banking.
Christine Lagarde is France’s Finance Minister. She says that is helping French banks weather the storm.
Christine Lagarde: They generally operate on a business model which is 75 percent retail, 25 percent investment and market..
The waiter serving me my pig’s foot would be the first to say all is not well with France’s economy — 3,000 restaurants and cafes went out of business in the first three months of this year. Compared to the U.S., salaries are lower and more people are out of work. But in these panicky times, France’s banking system looks a lot more trustworthy.
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About the Flaneur
I walk through my blindness the way I wander down streets in Paris: unfettered and alive, alert to the raw material of the senses. I am a flaneur. Come along with me. Just don’t try to take my arm, unless I ask. What’s a flaneur? Read the first post, Return of the Flaneur to Galerie Vivienne. After that, try Foot Rage and the Blind Flaneur. Then stay tuned.
Letting Go of Sight
I’ve canoed on Lake Superior for almost as many years as I’ve been losing eyesight. I return year after year like a migrating loon to learn the other side of a slow, uncertain process that we could call “going blind.” After 35 years with the lake as my teacher, I know what lies on the other side. I call it letting go of sight. Read Big Water. See more about the Great Lakes.
Not This PigIf there is an emerging genetic underclass, I could run for class president or class clown. Read more in Not This Pig (2003).
Media in Transition @ MiT
Disabled Americans today have to negotiate for the kinds of accommodations made for FDR, and the caveat “reasonable accommodation” is built into the law. President Franklin Roosevelt did not have to negotiate. He could summon vast resources of the federal government – money as well as brains – to accomplish the work of disability. And it was accomplished with such thoroughness and efficiency that its scale could be called the Accessibility-Industrial Complex had it been directed toward public accommodations and not solely the needs of a single man. Read FDR and the Hidden Work of Disability [MiT8 2013]
Shepard Fairey claimed that his posterization of a copyrighted AP news photo of Barack Obama was a transformative work protected by the fair use doctrine. In other words, it was a shape-shifter. I claim fair use, too, when I reproduce and transform copyrighted works into media formats that are accessible to me as a blind reader. Read Shape-Shifters in the Fair Use Lab [MiT6 2009]
The social engineers who created a system for licensing beggars in New York never imagined that a blind woman had culture or could make culture. She herself may not have imagined it, either. In the moment when Paul Strand photographed her surreptitiously on the street in 1916, he could not have expected that one day blind photographers would reverse the camera’s gaze. Read Curiosity & The Blind Photographer. [MiT5 2007]