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Teevee Start

🥁This week I appeared on a talk show on the TV78 📺channel broadcast to the Yvelines region where my ⚜️Versailles tour takes place!

Author Joe Start on panel of TV talk show

They also showed a teaser about my Père Lachaise 👣 tours on @VoiceMap and allowed me to speak about my book📕 French License.

Fellow expats @Paula Branco and @Tony de Souza shared their creative activities and adaptation stories. Paula runs a very active Internations group with events for expats, and she’s been kind enough to invite her members to several of my in-person tours.

A big thanks to the host 📽 @Alex Viguier and her colleagues at @TV78.Officiel for the opportunity, and for supporting programming for anglophones in the Paris region.

To watch, click on the video above, or tune in here: 

Behind the scenes…

Paula Branco and Joe Start laughing in the green room

Laughing in the green room

Oh, dear, am I ready for my close-up?
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Getting to the bottom of it: how the French wrote Britain’s national anthem


The Figaro sets the record straight: “God Save the Queen” (or King) was written and composed by the French, when another hole was found in the anus of Louis the 14th. Here’s the back story…

They operated on the fistula in Louis’ derrière, butt it wasn’t clear the king would survive. Worried courtiers, including Fanny, wrote a ‘get well, soon’ poem, and Lully put it to music. The requiem to a rectum worked, and the monarch’s plumbing problems were behind him!

An Englishman’s brown eye piqued when on a trip to Versailles he heard «Grand Dieu sauve le Roi.» He high-tailed it home and shared it with Haendel, whose cheeks smiled as he envisioned a fantastic addition to his “Water closet music” suite. He kept the catchy tune intact, translated the words, and presented it to the one holding the highest orifice on his country’s throne. In thanks, the composer received quite a booty.

Royal British buttocks have been fit ever since, some sitting for up to 70 years, due to loud imploring of the skies from subjects’ pie-holes praying for the cleanliness of their king’s kiester.

Posterior plagiarism proceeded to America, where citizens appropriated the ditty to make “My country tush of thee” praising the natural beauty of the country’s backside. In hindsight, the writer omitted obvious places of note such as the Barringer Crater, Jackson Hole, and of course the Grand Canyon.

To continue the tradition supporting heinie health, may I suggest you celebrate the #Jubilee by getting a colonoscopy!

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Hierarchy of French Compliments

When you do something well, or you make a salient comment in the US, where I’m from, you can hear all sorts of positive feedback. From “well said” to “atta-boy” to “great job,” and so on.

Not in France. You may be wondering, ‘how do you know when you’ve earned esteem in the eyes of a French person?’ This list aims to help. It goes from neutral (#10), to exceptional effusive and hearty approval (#1)

Hierarchy of Compliments in France: 



8)”c’est du pareil au même”  

7)”ça m’est égal” 

6)”Mouais…” (ou ‘oui, mais’)

5)”C’est pas con, ça”

4)”Pas idiot”

3)”Pas mal”

2)”Pas mal de tout”

1)”Rien à dire”

When they tell you ‘nothing to say,’ you know you’ve reached the top and you won’t get any higher praise from a French person 🙂

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Car taxes fill state coffers

I wrote in French License that the automobile is the Number One source of income for the French state. Many of the figures I cited have now been updated in a comprehensive article by Erwan Benezet et Aurélie Lebelle in today’s Parisien clearly demonstrating that the situation has worsened for car owners. A sample:

-Fully 36% of all revenues to the government in France come from taxes related to car ownership

-The total adds up to €83.9 Billion, of which more than half comes from fuel taxes (averaging 65% of what you pay for per liter). 

-This figure would be even higher if it included €1.7B for radars/contrôles, and another €500M for VAT on fees collected by ‘auto-école’ driving schools, and who knows how much for levies on parking.

-No wonder it costs €6000 a year to own a car, because €2 619 of that are pure taxes

That’s not a license plate on your bumper. That’s your credit card which the state can debit at will for an unlimited amount.

Some of you, especially Parisians who don’t have a car and green advocates who wish to eradicate them from the planet, might say, “Good! Tax the drivers to hell!” However, when fully 1/3 of the money which pays doctors, teachers, police, firemen and all other public services here comes from the car, you realise how dispicably dependant the state is on automobile revenues. This dependance is absolutely the top reason that the transition to an environmentally healthier economy has been so slow.

The government is already thinking ahead how they can continue to generate car-related revenues as more and more people buy electrics to charge from home. Why else would they force you to sell the energy you produce from home solar panels back to the state? Why else would they promote the installation of Linky electricity monitors to ensure citizens don’t start becoming independent by making energy that can’t be taxed? The state is like a druggie which switches to heroin when cocaine becomes inaccessible.

The fisc should go cold turkey from the car, and instead create revenues linked to labor, by generating opportunities for the populace to further enrich themselves from work.

Read chapter 15 of my book French License for complete information:

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France’s national car museum

Musée national de l’automobile

In my book, French License, I detailed in the chapter on Car Culture how little France cared about the automobile. I contrasted French attitudes toward motorised vehicles with those of their neighbours and the USA, where I come from. The differences are stark and plentiful.

So, on a trip to Alsace this week, I was stunned to learn that France claimed the world’s largest, most prestigious and valuable car museum, the ‘Musée national de l’automobile’ in Mulhouse. I just had to see it. Perhaps I had sold the French short, and this place would be the exception to the rule.

First of all, where’s Mulhouse? It’s so far East, it’s almost in another country. You could throw a rock one way and hit Switzerland. You could throw a rock another way and reach Germany. Their international airport serves the three countries. When you land at EuroAirport, you can literally walk to exit in Mulhouse, France or Freiburg, Germany or Basel, Switzerland.

In fact, Mulhouse was a part of Germany from 1871 to 1919, and a couple times before that. During this period, in the 1890s, the automobile was born. Many French manufacturers participated in creating the industry. The Peugeot factory in Mulhouse is still running.

Pulling into the parking lot of the museum, we saw license plates from Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, Italy and a few from France. Mind you, this is just after deconfinement from Covid-19, and the French plates were still a minority.

The brothers Fritz and Hans Schlumpf were brought up in this heyday of personal motor vehicle invention, and they never lost their passion for it. Swiss nationals, born in Italy, they moved to Mulhouse, Germany in 1908. They took over their father’s textile business in Mulhouse in the 1930s and became very rich. Neither ever married nor had any children, so they could consecrate their vast fortune on buying rare automobiles. They focused exclusively on European brands, especially those from the very early days of creation. Their greatest affinity was for the maker of the most luxurious and powerful vehicles in-between the two wars: Bugatti.

Ettore Bugatti was an Italian immigrant who worked for several car manufacturers before establishing his own factory in Molsheim, Germany, in 1909, now in the Alsace region of France. He obsessed over every detail, seeking perfection in both engineering design and style. While Rolls only ever aspired to luxury and Ferrari only to speed, Bugatti wanted it all for his models: class, power, beauty, sophistication and innovations galore. Bugatti vehicles were winners of races at the highest levels in the ‘teens 20s and 30s. Bugatti customers were royalty and heads-of-state across the world. Even when the depression, and war hit, he refused to make concessions, continuing to build the most exclusive cars in the world.

During WWII, his factory was requisitioned by the occupying Nazis. Ettore got back his factory, but never recovered, and died three years after the war. His brand and company changed hands several times since, today owned by Volkswagen. You can visit Ettore Bugatti on my first Chairfather tour of Père Lachaise: 

A buddy of mine from the area got to ride in several of the Schlumpf cars as a youth, including two Bugatti’s which were the most luxurious, and the fastest of their age. His parents were friends of the Schlumpfs, and Fritz would pop by and offer a trip to Seppala. The boy only found out years later just how lucky he was.

At the end of the museum tour, you’re invited to cruise in a classic car on a closed circuit. There are several Italian, German and French makes to choose from. Count minimum €40 for 7 trips around the track.  

So, to summarise, what I wrote in the Car Culture chapter about French disdain for cars still stands. The ‘Cité de l’automobile…’ 

  • is located in a border town that’s almost in Germany
  • represents the personal collection of two brothers from Switzerland
  • contains a large majority of cars from an Italian builder, whose brand is now owned by VW
  • attracts most of its visitors from outside France

I rest my case about the French attitude toward cars.

But the museum has a very, very good case to be made as the biggest and the best. More than 400 classic cars are on display, and more than 150 others are in storage, allowing the curators to rotate in some others from time to time. Nobody else has so many which can be seen at once. But what about prestige? Here’s just one example. The most priceless vehicle on the globe is the Bugatti Royale type 41 released in the late 1920s. Just one of these cars is worth at least €40M and probably closer to €100M. Nobody really knows because they hardly ever change hands through purchase. No matter which Rolls Royce or Ferrari you pick, you’d need to trade several Silver Ghosts or 250 GTO Berlinettas to get just one Bugatti Royale. They only ever made six of the Bugatti Royale. This museum has three. Oh, and 120 other Bugattis. And 14 Rolls, including Silver Ghosts. And 13 Ferraris including GTOs.

It’s well worth a visit. I came expecting to spend an hour, and ended up lingering for four hours… on an empty stomach during lunchtime. That’s how captivating I found the exhibits. I’m certain you will, too.

To plan your visit, here’s some practical information:

Cité de l’automobile

192 ave de Colmar, Mulhouse


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Album #10 of 10 albums which marked my life

Album #10: Ivo Papasov and Yuri Yunakov Together Again

I was introduced to Bulgarian Wedding music by Eddie Current through an article in Bass Player magazine when I was in my late 20s. The fusion between jazz and folk and progressive rock was bewildering and enticing at the same time. Even Frank Zappa thought the sound was ‘way out there.’ The musicianship is phenomenal. Radomirska Kopanica will forever be the song that I’m unable to clap to for the life of me. It switches time signatures routinely within the same bar: 

I was lucky to see Yuri Yunakov perform at the Balkan community center in San Francisco in like 1999 and I can attest there were no tricks or effects used. He really does play that fast and energetically… for hours nonstop.

There you have it, this was my list, and this is my life so far. I hope to discover many more gems that I will cherish as new moments, introduced by good friends.

This was in response to a challenge from Alain Cournoyer of the Homebuddies to post 10 albums which marked my life in ten days. 

I can’t wait to see and hear the list from Dan Vuletich. And Eddie Current, if you’re game, I’d like to have my ears tickled by your tunes as well.

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Album #9 of 10 albums which marked my life

Album #9: Joni Mitchell Blue 1971

What? A GIRL on this list? I was surprised as well, in my mid-20s, when a male friend turned me on to her. He said her early albums were the equal of her all-male counterparts. I was incredulous. How could that be? But as I listened, I agreed with him. I couldn’t believe my ears. Here was musicianship, and songwriting, and complex melodies that were rich and intelligent and generous. And she sang with such feeling, and soul, in a way I’d never heard before. Blue is simply a masterpiece, and was my introduction to Joni Mitchell. California is an anthem for all those who come from there, and those lost souls who find a home there, like this Canadian singer/songwriter/musician. See, Alain Cournoyer, I managed to get two Canadian groups on my list!

This is in response to a challenge from Alain Cournoyer of the Homebuddies to post 10 albums which marked my life in ten days. 

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Album #8 of 10 albums which marked my life

This is in response to a challenge from Alain Cournoyer of the Homebuddies to post 10 albums which marked my life in ten days. 

I challenge Dan Vuletich, not only because he has a vast knowledge of music, and a degree to prove it, but today’s his birthday. Also, it was his brother, Tom, who introduced me to jazz, pointing me to the all-time great recordings.

Album #8: Dave Brubeck Quartet Time Out 1959

I grew up thinking nothing good ever came out of my hometown. It was a sprawling suburb bereft of charm.

In my early 20s I was introduced to jazz and instantly fell in love with this album. I’d never heard rhythms like that before. It was like a five Legged horse going by and I could actually get on top and ride this complicated beast. And Paul Desmond‘s sweet saxophone making the whole thing melodic and magical. It was something like a decade later before I found out the Dave Brubeck grew up in Concord California just like me.

The damn town should have made a statue of the man, named streets after him, or the Concord Pavillion the ‘Brubeck Pavillion.’ Ungrateful bastards!

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Album #7 of 10 albums which marked my life

Album #7: Rush Moving Pictures 1981

Neil Peart was everyone’s favorite drummer, so he couldn’t be mine. But boy did I admire that guy. He could hit it as hard and fast as anyone. But what set him apart was how crisp his fills were. Here was a perfectionist who practiced endlessly to get it just right. He put so much emphasis on sound, from his set, to tuning, to mic’ing, to selecting which drum or cymbal he’d hit at a given moment. His set was so big, not to show off, but to accommodate all those sounds. He also made room for his band mates, only going off when there was space for it, or when the song called for it. 

I tried to emulate him, and could even play along passably to all songs on his album. But I never had his rigor, his desire to improve his technique. Few did. Now that he’s passed, in January of this year, I’m so thankful for all the effort he put into his recordings, that are pure perfection for all time.

This is in response to a challenge from Alain Cournoyer of the Homebuddies to post 10 albums which marked my life in ten days.

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Album #6 of 10 albums which marked my life

Album #6: The Clash, Sandinista 1980

I was late to the punk scene. Most likely because I was too young, and a freckle-faced kid who believed in the inherent goodness of the world. Why spoil it with a bunch of self-absorbed whining and screaming and lack of musical talent? (insert picture of Sex Pistols here)

Then came the Clash. They were some guys who could really play with fantastic thoughtful lyrics, and melodies in tune. They definitely had something to say, and an original way of getting it across. And how generous with their fans- a TRIPLE album for the regular price! Sandinista wasn’t their album I preferred, nor very punk, as they added a lot of electronic sounds. But I was blown away by the sheer volume of work they put into it. In five years of existence, they produced so much that was so good, and still sounds modern and full of life to me today. Like the Clash, I’m going to go overtime with this entry…

I only started getting into The Clash when I entered high school in 1983, just after they had broken up. I thought, High School!, finally, I’m with the big boys, and I’m going to drive to concerts, and have wild experiences with girls and drugs and be a part of the rock scene I’d heard so much about. Little did I know that 1983 was rock’s last gasp.

By the time I got to high school, rock’n’roll was dead. All the super-groups were gone. Led Zeppelin had broken up in 1980. The Who announced their ‘last’ tour in 1982. The Rolling Stones did their ‘farewell’ tour the same year. The Police broke up after their 1983 platinum album ’Synchronicity.’ There were no more ‘Days on the Green’ with multiple fantastic groups playing in a stadium.

Who replaced the rock legends? Haircut groups from LA, like RATT. Synthesizer duos like the Eurythmics. Bubble-gum pop like Huey Lewis and the News. The party was over by the time I got there. I could still smell the smoke and stale beer and the sweat of the artists, but that scene was gone.

What replaced the societal and cultural phenomenon of shared feeling, collective experience with throngs of people listening, dancing and rubbing up against one another? MTV. We WATCHED music. Alone. Music must be pretty. Nearly all the rock greats got into music because they were UGLY, and that was their only way to score. If you were already attractive, what did you need rock’n’roll for?

Think about it, did anybody from rock’s glory days put out a good, original rock album after 1983? Elvis Costello? No. Eric Clapton? No. Yes? My first concert was on their 90125 tour, (which came out when? you guessed it, 1983) and however much I adore the group, they really should have broken up before. Pink Floyd? Nope. Neil Young? You could argue that Ragged Glory and Freedom DO rock, but they’re just derivative of his earlier stuff, and trying too much to cater to the grunge fad. U2? You may have me there, as their output from ’87 to ’91 was quite good, but I could also argue that they no longer rocked, but did pop ballads, kind of like Chicago after Terry Kath died.

I call the good songs which came after 1983 ‘Zombie Rock.’ It can still do some damage, but it’s no longer alive. Examples are fleeting and far-between: The Pixies, Nirvana, Lenny Kravitz, White Stripes, The Breeders, Cranberries, Arctic Monkeys, Green Day, Offspring, Red Hot Chili Peppers. All good for a very, very short while. None capable of flag-bearing and inspiring a movement, or even getting a crowd going. Have you or anyone you know seen any of these groups in concert? 

You could literally take all the supposed ‘good’ rock songs from 1984 until now, and you still wouldn’t have as many as the absolute classics which were produced in 1966 alone. Today, we can enjoy rock, or play it, or even emulate it, but like classical, and jazz and blues before it, rock is no longer a living art form. And sadly, gut-wrenchingly, NOTHING has taken its place.

This was in response to a challenge from Alain Cournoyer of the Homebuddies to post 10 albums which marked my life in ten days. 

Rather than a greatest hits list, I chose to make this list personal. There are even albums here that I HATE. But they contributed to making me who I am. So, here goes…

I challenge Dan Vuletich

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