Damned if you do…

Being a big cheese is not what it used to be.
Many people exert themselves to become commanders-in-chief, but once in place, they find out that the job is not the cushy bed of roses they thought it would be.
In modern democracies, a head of state is seldom free to pursue what he wishes to do.
You might wear a big hat and carry a big stick, but you still need that pesky approval of Congress or Parliament to swing that stick.

poison_signDavid Cameron was willing to give his support to the US to punish Syria for its use of chemical weapons, but the British parliament had other ideas. They said no. The UK is not America’s poodle anymore.
And not much is being said in the US about their lack of resolve.
Now, (ah the irony) it is the Frog Eaters (those filthy cowards) who are willing to help Uncle Sam.
But you don’t hear much about this in the US press.
Many Americans are still in a “Freedom Fries” mood and they prefer fish n’ chips to filet mignon.

Barack Obama is now in the unenviable position of being damned if he does, and equally damned if he doesn’t.
After Iraq and Afghanistan the president would be inclined to avoid involvement in another conflict, but he is almost forced to make the unpalatable decision to go to war for fear of being accused to be a “paper tiger”.
And the US, being the champion of the free world cannot afford to make empty threats.

But getting involved in a conflict could have unforeseen consequences.

Nobody thought that the 1914 assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria in Sarajevo would have such a bloody outcome.
In four years of fighting there was about 16 millions casualties in WWI, with France alone losing 1, 357,800 men.
By comparison, as of August 2013, there have been 3274 coalition deaths in Afghanistan, with 2161 casualties on the American side.

An American intervention in Syria, while morally desirable, could trigger a chain reaction and set the entire Middle East (the world?) ablaze.

Most European nations having felt the devastating effects of two world wars are not keen to get involved in another quagmire involving volatile Muslim nations.
But if nobody objects and punishes the criminals who used chemical weapons, what will be next? Indiscriminate (accepted) use of chemical weapons?

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.




Glen Ellen Inn

Once in a while (too seldom alas) I walk out of a restaurant feeling contented. And contrarily to what you might think, I like feeling contented.
For me to feel satisfied, the food has to be decent, the prices reasonable and the service attentive.
And that’s what happened yesterday when I took the missus to the Glen Ellen Inn, in Sonoma county.

It is about a 45 minutes ride from my place of residence, but I think that this eatery is worth the trip.
Don’t settle for a place, only because it is conveniently close. A decent eating-place is worth the trouble of driving for close to an hour.

IMG_2568The Glenn Ellen Inn is nestled in a green enclosure overlooking a small waterfall, and when you dine on the patio as we did, it is a feast for the eyes and the ears.

We showed up without a reservation and were greeted and seated without any ceremony.
The busboy and the waiter were diligent and in matter of minutes we were settled on the patio.
Bread and water showed up on the table immediately and were replenished as needed.

After a few minutes of reflection, Tamara and I placed our orders.
Tamara opted for the Artichoke & Gorgonzola Ravioli and I picked the Petit Filet Mignon & Prawns.
According to Tamara the ravioli were tasty and my Filet Mignon was tender and cooked to perfection. So were the grilled Tiger prawns.

My only quibble is that meat and prawns were drowning in a heavy brown sauce. Sauces ought to be light and discreet. They should never overwhelm a dish.
But overall, this is my only criticism.

Tamara indulged in a glass of Sauvignon Blanc reasonably priced at $7.95 and I had a cup of coffee.
As I said before, service was consistently attentive without being intrusive.

Tamara ended up with a Chocolate Mousse (that I also sampled) and it was light, smooth and tasty.

Overall cost: around $70.00 (tip included).

If you want a decent meal, reasonably priced and with good service to boot, proceed without hesitation to the Sonoma Glen Ellen Inn.


Marco Foyot

As you probably know by now, Marco Foyot will be coming to America this Fall and he will be in Sonoma, October 19 and 20.
But who exactly is “Marco” Foyot?
For most of the American public the name will draw a blank, but for pétanque aficionados he is a legend.

I don’t know the man personally, but according to what I could glean on the Internet, Marco is an outspoken French pétanque player who over the years has accumulated countless titles and medals.

Marco Foyot“Marco” whose real first name is Jean-Marc is now around 60 years old, married with 2 children and has been playing pétanque since he was around 12 years old.
His father who was the president of a pétanque club in the Parisian area introduced him to the game.
By comparison, most American pétanque players took up the game after they retired, way past their prime and (sorry to say) will never be great.
To master a discipline, you need to start practicing shortly after you start walking and few of us do.

Marco is a pétanque globetrotter who preaches “have fun when you play” whenever he goes.
His favorite playing position: “milieu” (middle).
It is a position that I also favor.

He is one of the few people who managed to make a living entirely from the game and he deplores the fact that only a handful can do that.
He has been arguing (hence the controversy) that pétanque champions ought to be able to take home between 5000 and 6000 euros per month.
Needless to say that this statement of his has elicited a few raised eyebrows.

He thinks that over the years pétanque has lost some of its “joie de vivre” and that some people take the game too seriously.
He argues that pétanque ought to remain fun and not be inhibited by New Puritans who don’t want you to breathe or bat an eyelash while they are playing.
He thinks that some players are too aggressive and not friendly enough.
Exactly what I have been saying in previous columns.

Marco has a reputation for his “franc-parler” (one who speaks his mind) or as some others would say, “he has a big mouth”.

“I have sometimes teamed up with people who asked me to play with them he said, but the people you like don’t necessarily make a good team.
On the other hand, sometimes we have a good team and we still lose.”
It is a matter of luck.
And again I agree. No matter how good you are, Lady Luck has to wink at you in order for you to win tournaments.

But you never know the measure of a man until you speak with him face to face, and this is for this reason that I reserve my judgement.
I am looking forward to meet him and form an unbiased opinion.

But regardless of what anybody thinks, “Marco” Foyot is still a star in the pantheon of world pétanque and deserves your attention.

More to follow on that subject…