Planet 2003
by Georgina Oliver

"It's a small planet." Where school mates you haven't heard from for "light-years," suddenly send you flashy e-greetings, from some "place in cyberspace." And, you reply, virtually instantly... Where Santa's stockings are filled with digital "toys," like Palm's zingy 150E "Zire" PDA — able to "beam" your "visiting card" to another "handheld" user, just met at a cocktail party. Electronically, as you speak... Apropos, what's new on planet Paree?

Ray Women
This capital is fast becoming the "planet" of a handful of lucky ladies, admitted to the freshly founded "Woman Ray Club." Every Monday evening, possessors of its red membership card — businesswomen, actresses, fashion designers, media buffs — rendezvous at the Man Ray club/restaurant, just off the Champs-Elysées. In a candlelit "lounge/loggia" overlooking its vast oriental dining room, they actively seek contacts for their various projects. These free — if select — get-togethers are a French take on "networking." The idea is "Be enterprising, in style." In the background, DJs Thomas Erber and Emmanuel S produce "ambient" remixes, while Marc Cantaloube's ultra-relaxing massages are another attraction. To each “Ray woman” gathering, its freebees. For instance, Moët et Chandon champagne rosé. Or, Caudalie's grape-based beauty products.

Man Ray Parties
Owned by a bunch of notoriously francophile Hollywood celebs — such as Johnny Depp and John Malkovich — the Man Ray is beset with "Saturday night fever" at the weekend. However, beyond its 16E (first drink included), Friday DJ fiestas... a couple of special holiday mise-en-scènes have been concocted. Starting at midnight, a soirée Sainte Lucie (Dec12-13) – spotlighting a choir of 30 white-robed, candle-bearing children from Paris' Swedish church — is to observe a Nordic tradition, paying tribute to the flaxen-haired Saint reputed to bring comfort during the winter solstice's long, dark nights... For New Year's eve, the theme is "Diamonds." Entry is 50E (first glass included), while chef Georges Vernotte's gourmet dinner costs 250E (not counting drinks). The music? "easy-listening," followed by "happy house," in a film set atmosphere. (34 rue Marbeuf, 8e, tel: 01 56 88 36 36)

Cool & Crazy
On screen here from December 18, a Norwegian "reality movie" focuses on a community of seafarers who started a choral society some years ago, in order to combat their collective "blues" in the face of harsh winters and growing unemployment. Titled "Cool and Crazy," Knut Erik Jensen's documentary was a runaway success in Norway. Perhaps, because it manages to give local — unabashedly personal — issues a "planetary" voice.

Planètes Musiques
The popular Planètes Musiques fest dedicated to updated traditional music with a "mondo" edge, ends on Saturday, December 14 — with a concert by Nord-Sud, a "swing trad" foursome mixing Scandinavian sounds with African sanza. Also scheduled, the Michel Macias Quartet creates a synergy between Cajun, Bulgarian... and musette rhythms. (8:30pm, La Maroquinerie, 23 rue Boyer, 20e, infoline: 01 40 33 30 60)

Paris Odysseys
Two spectacular expos are museum "musts." At the Musée des arts et métiers until January 5, Les Trois Révolutions du Livre traces the evolution of writing and publishing, surfing from antiquity to the "digital revolution," (292 rue St-Martin, 3e, tel: 01 53 01 82 77). Then, as of February 5 2003, the Musée national de la Marine focuses on naval sculpture through the ages, notably amazingly voluptuous prowheads... (Les génies de la mer, Palais de Chaillot, 17 pl du Trocadéro, 16e, tel: 01 53 65 69 53)

Art Galaxy
A sea change is underway in the Parisian art world. During the vernissage of his one-man show at Galerie Karsten Greve, established French painter Pierre Soulages — as tall as his chiefly black, yet lusciously light-refracting... abstract canvases — was enthusiastically "saluted" by his next generation colleagues, generally more into "conceptual" artworks. (To Feb 15, 5 rue de Debelleyme, 3e, tel: 01 42 77 19 37)
Photo installations are “in.” At the Colette concept store — 213 rue St-Honoré, 1er, tel: 01 55 35 33 90 — Japanese photographer Rinko Kawauchi catches the viewer's eye with pictures of firework displays, a summer ritual in her country, and presents "Utanane," an "intimate" series about both everyday life and death. At Jungle Art, a purple-fronted gallery on a street corner by the Canal St-Martin — great for bikers and in-line skaters... as it's a "no cars" zone (Tue-Fri 12:30-6:30pm, Sat & Sun 1-730pm) — Eric Bottero proposes "De Profundis," pix that reflect upon life-death experiences in the pixel era. (To Dec 29, 3 rue Eugène Varlin, 10e, tel: 01 40 37 60 97)

Luxury Now
In the wake of creative sparks like John Galliano, at the helm of Dior... France's purveyors of luxury goods have acquired a dash of self-derision. To launch its Champagne brut-Rosé sauvage, Piper-Heidsieck relooked the ultra-stately Maison France-Amériques, on avenue Franklin-Roosevelt, in "pink is so beautiful!" mode, while former Chanel model Inès de la Fressange has designed a bright-hued "coffret surprise" for Mumm. And, the A. de Fussigny cognac firm devised a "three dose" metallic cigar case presentation for its "XO for men/fine champagne" line. Fun for clubbers...

Topflight Watches
Tag Heuer's latest sports watch “ambassador” is golf champion, Tiger Woods. A timely choice... Though, publicity or no publicity, the sheer perfection of ultra-precise "Place Vendôme" timepieces is quite irresistible... Take Patek Philippe's "sky's the limit" 16-250 PS LU-caliber model — at all times, in phase with moon, as well as... men of means who've managed to remain poetic.

Treasure Planet
Taking your tykes to see Disney's "Treasure Planet"? Or fancy a planet-friendly activity? Passage de Retz, a revamped toy factory/arts space on rue Charlot (M° Filles-duCalvaire), hosts a kids workshop/exhibit, masterminded by Sarkis — a mainstream artist known for his Ikones watercolor experiments. In charge of the "junior cobblers section," Françoise Riganti gets youngsters to design and make wacky shoes or sandals, out of newspaper and multicolored sticky tape — all to be sold in aid of Handicap International. Admission free/atelier bookings: 01 48 04 37 99.

The Man Ray club, on rue Marbeuf

Former Chanel model Inès de la Fressange with her “Mumm” design


Les trois révolutions du livre poster illustration

Patek Philippe’s Ciel/Lune watch