As a journalist in Paris, I am lucky enough to meet a lot of people, both locals and otherwise. I get to become a specialist for a day in all sorts of topics, like eco-friendly sex toys or frozen yogurt – far more eclectic than I ever imagined back at NYU as a journalism undergrad.
Sometimes I think to myself, “How am I ever going to find a new topic to cover?” But Paris is far more dynamic than a lot of people give it credit for, despite what a lot of people write. Much of the English-speaking press about the city focuses on food, a decaying quality of life that apparently has always existed, or how globalization is ruining the city. Thinking with our stomachs and looking behind us – well, neither has ever been an entirely wise choice.
Like it or not, Paris is changing, but it’s not all in in the direction of “doom” or “Americanization.” Three of my favorite start-ups have been bringing some fresh air to Paris in ways that neither mar the postcard image that most people hold nor threaten the age-old traditions that people imagine have always, and will always, be so utterly “French.”
Sure, people here eat fatty foods and cheese while smoking more than most cultures should – but a Sunday morning at the Parc Buttes Chaumont or along the Canal tells the story of another culture – runners. Maybe you don’t run, but thousands of French people do. Record numbers of marathon sign-ups and weekly group runs indicate that the French are running and keeping fit, despite the waif-like stereotype of the Frenchman we often envision, with a cigarette tilted from the lips.
Jogg.in is a new social network that is looking to help runners meet up and enjoy the sport together. I scheduled my first event this past weekend and four of us spent an hour talking, laughing, and running along the Canal St-Martin. Call it a new sort of flânerie, but running is certainly in and this French-run website is on my list for favorite websites. It doesn’t hurt that it kills a lot more calories than browsing my Facebook newsfeed.
|Jogg.in session 1...|
Paris gets cold, and we all complain about the winter as if it were a surprise every January that we need hats and scarves – we’re all guilty of it. But Qarnot is doing something about it. This tech start-up, based in Paris, is creating electric heaters that double as computing processors. Essentially, they take the processors from a data center (the part of your computer that burns your lap) and they put them in people’s homes, connecting them via the Web.
They have recently installed the heaters in a housing project, offering free heating to inhabitants generated by the computing of other people – a really innovative concept that could change the way computing services are provided. Read more about it here, if you’re interested, but don’t let anyone tell you that Paris is just food, fashion, and art. There are a few smarty pants here as well, and they’re doing some amazing work.
AMT Paris Live!
People complain about cupcakes and hamburgers “taking over” the Parisian food scene, but these people clearly don’t go to see much French theater. Sister Act, Beauty and the Beast, and My Fair Lady are just some of the Anglo-inspired productions that have embarked in Parisian theaters, musical version of the cupcake and hamburger that are stealing the shine from locally-produced French productions (NB I am not complaining).
I speak French. I understand French (usually). But I don’t always want to sit through a Molière play or an Opera. High culture is just fine, but let’s not pretend that every Parisian wants a night out the Opera.
AMT Live! Paris is a start-up theater troupe made up of American and French actors who are looking to inject the Paris theater scene with a little bit of musical fun. They are adapting off-Broadway shows (thinkThe Last 5 Years, Edges, Songs for a New World) by lesser-known composers who do well for themselves in New York, but less-so abroad. Entirely niche, their productions are still chockfull with energy and entertainment, as well as a few tears, which woo both Anglo and French-speaking audiences.
|AMT behind the scenes at rehearsal...|
Change isn’t the end of the world, unless you want it to be, but a few revolutions have proven that, all things considered, this culture isn’t quite as stuck as outsiders would like to think…