Saturday, June 13, 2009

Gallic Troubles

JoeThose of you with particularly long memories may remember a time when I was a regular contributor here, a time I like to call "before the spring semester." Well, the semester's over now, and I appear to have survived it, so perhaps I'll be appearing here a little more frequently in the future. I've had a week now to recover from my surfeit of projects, papers and exams, and metaphorically things are looking much brighter now (although if you've read Jennifer's missive on the weather, you'll know that the brightness is, alas, only metaphorical).

I don't want you to think that my semester was without its highlights, though. I did in fact learn two very valuable lessons. The first is that I have finally learned to make myself a decent pot of coffee, a fact which I fear will be met with disbelief by all those who might remember my tenure as café manager for a certain midwestern chain bookstore. The second lesson is this: when choosing partners for a class project, do everything in your power to avoid getting saddled with the French exchange students. The greatest portion of my woes this spring have stemmed from dealing with no fewer than two of these, whose greatest contribution to our slightly massive project was to vanish utterly for the last 6 weeks of the semester, relieving the rest of us of the need to wonder whether or not the pair of them would in fact do any work.

Not that I'm bitter.

I'm not the only one done with school for the summer here—last Friday was graduation for the local high school students, which means that once again the city center was filled with bunches of nattily attired ex-high school students, hooting and hollering from flat-bed trailers or dump trunk beds. I have to say, the whole thing felt like an exact repeat of last year, the same tractors pulling the same trailers, presumably with new students. The only differences were that this year it was quite a bit colder, and this time we happened to be downtown with a decent camera, so at least there are some pictures this time around. Oh, and the signs made more sense this time—that one on the left reads, Ikväll redslös, imorgon arbetslös.

At the same time, the city was gearing up for the EU Parliamentary elections. Oddly, every party running was given an identical little stuga right in the main square downtown, from which to hand out their literature, and hold little impromptu front porch speeches.

Well, not quite identical: the Pirate Party either supplied their own stuga, or painted the standard one purple. The Pirate Party, incidentally, is not a joke, it's an actual political party founded on a platform of internet piracy. They've been around for a few years now, but this spring they saw a massive surge in popularity, following the passage of a Swedish law illegalizing file sharing, and the extremely unpopular prosecution of the Pirate Bay Four. There has been just enough populist outrage to give the Pirate Party an unexpected victory: their 7.1 percent of the vote secured them one of Sweden's parliamentary seats.

The new law, of course, just brings Sweden into line with (most of) the EU's anti-piracy requirements, so I don't think the government really had much choice in the matter; Swedes are rather proud of their civil rights record, though, and tend to view the EU's current French-led position on piracy as falling somewhere between misguided and despotic. No matter what your stance on intellectual property might be, the stance of the French government right now is fairly draconian: not only are all ISPs required to keep track of your browsing history, but Sarkozy also created a new governmental department which could review those records without a warrant and then summarily cut off your internet access (while still requiring you to pay your monthly internet bill). At least it could until a couple of days ago, when the French court overturned it (incidentally, why does it seem so quaint to have a court overturning a new law by citing the Declaration of the Rights of Man?).

And so, having come full circle from, "Don't trust the French," to, "Don't trust the French," I will bid you all a fond adieu. Well, au revior, at least.

No comments:

Post a Comment