Debt as a Percentage of GDP - Selected Countries

Country Gross Debt as a % of GDP
Japan 252
Italy 156
United States 131
France 115
Canada 110
United Kingdom 96
Germany 69
China (PRC) 65
Switzerland 46
Russian Federation 18

Source: IMF April 2020

TV Series: Rewatching 'The Legend'

I am rewatching the French TV espionage series ‘The Legend’ from the beginning. It amazes me how much I missed the first time around. The intrigue is several levels deep. I am enjoying the series even more as I re-watch.

The series in now in its fifth, final season on Sundance Now. Only a few episodes remain before the series finale. I will miss it once it’s over.

In time, I may watch the series a third time. That’s how great it is.

Swiss Watchmaking

Swissinfo reports on the state of watchmaking in Switzerland:

  • Watchmaking accounts for around 1.5% of Swiss gross domestic product (GDP). It is the country’s third-largest export industry behind the pharmaceuticals and machine tools sectors.

  • Switzerland produces more than 20 million watches per year, or just over 2% of global timepiece manufacturing. However, Switzerland commands more than a 50% share of the global watch industry in value terms.

  • Switzerland commands the high- and mid-range segments of the watch industry: more than 95% of watches sold for CHF1,000 (about $1,062) or more are produced by Swiss companies.

  • In 2019, Swiss watchmakers exported almost 10 million fewer watches than they did in 2016 and the trend is down. The coronavirus pandemic has hurt sales.

  • Apple is a tough competitor. Apple sold more watches in 2019 than the entire Swiss watch industry, although the company only began selling watches five years ago.

  • Since the 1960s the Swiss watchmaking industry has enlisted foreign workers to staff its factories. Today, many cross-border workers from France work in watchmaking factories located in western Switzerland’s Jura Arc or “Watch Valley”, the historic cradle of the sector.

Audiobook: 'Bruno, Chief of Police'

Om Malik recommended a series of mystery books by Martin Walker. Malik said Martin’s “tales of a provincial policeman in the South of France are like a nice glass of chilled wine.” That sounded like a great break during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Martin is a journalist. He divides his time between Washington DC and the Perigord region in the southeast of France.

Martin’s Bruno, Chief of Police series of novels depicts a village policeman named Benoît “Bruno” Courrèges. Bruno is a gourmet cook and former soldier who was wounded on a peacekeeping mission in the Balkans. Bruno loves his region of France. He’s also a compassionate and moral police officer who has a gun but never wears it.

I started with the audiobook version of the first novel in the series entitled Bruno, Chief of Police. This is historical fiction. I learned a lot about the French resistance during WWII (Le Maquis). The descriptions of life and food in rural France are fun and refreshing. The mystery is good. And there is a touch of romance to boot.

There are 13 audiobooks in the series so I am happy to have 12 more audiobooks to mine.

All the books in the series are narrated by Robert Ian Mackenzie, an English actor who did a fine job narrating the first audiobook in the series.

I’m happy that Malik brought this series to my attention through his fine blog. I needed a nice glass of chilled wine.

World War II - Total Civilian and Military Deaths in Millions

  • Soviet Union: 24
  • China: 20
  • Germany: 6.6 to 8.8
  • Poland: 5.6
  • Japan: 2.6 to 3.1
  • India: 1.5 to 2.5
  • France: 0.6
  • UK: 0.45
  • US: 0.42

Source: The National WWII Museum, New Orleans, Louisiana

Discovering European TV

The Euro TV Place is an excellent source of recommendations for great European television. Linda Jew, the founder of the site, regularly publishes detailed reviews.

I especially enjoy French television because it helps me keep up and improve my French. Modern television lets you hear the way people speak in everyday life, which often is different from what is taught in foreign language classes.

I’ve enjoyed some great television I learned about at The Euro TV Place including:

  • Le bureau des légendes, a great spy series (one of the best pieces I’ve ever watched);

  • Call My Agent, a very funny French TV series about a top rung Parisian talent agency (Netflix);

  • No Second Chance which is in French but written by Harlan Coben, a famous American writer (Netflix);

  • Deutschland 83, a funny German spy story; and

  • Engrenages (Spiral in English), a seven season police and legal drama series consisting of 76 wonderful episodes.

If you’re interested in exploring new television, The Euro TV Place is a great resource. The blog discusses many new shows each month.

Film: ‘Möbius’

I’m enjoying the French TV series “The Bureau” (“Le Bureau des Légendes”) created by Éric Rochant. I’ve started exploring Rochant’s other work hoping for similar entertainment.

Rochant wrote and directed a 2013 spy film called “Möbius” starring Jean Dujardin and the stunningly beautiful Belgian actress Cécile de France.

Dujardin portrayed George Valentin in the 2011 award-winning silent movie “The Artist”. Dujardin won numerous awards for that work including the Academy Award for Best Actor. That was the first time a French actor won that award. 

Rochant relies on familiar actors in both “The Bureau” and “Möbius.” Brad Leland portrays a senior CIA official both in both pieces. And the wonderful Ukrainian actor Aleksey Gorbunov, who plays Karlov in seasons 4 and 5 of “The Bureau,” plays a similar role in “Möbius.”

So if you can’t get enough of “The Bureau”, check out Möbius. “Möbius” isn’t in the same league as “The Bureau” but it’s a very enjoyable spy story filled with intrigue and romance.

TV Series: ‘The Bureau’

The Bureau” is a French spy TV series (“Le Bureau des Légendes”) on Canal+ created by Éric Rochant. The series concerns the daily life and missions of spies within the French Direction générale de la sécurité extérieure or DGSE. The DGSE is the French equivalent of the CIA. Its head office is in the 20th arrondissement of Paris.

Variety reports that the creators of the series had the cooperation of the DGSE and that the DGSE liked the series. The series won Best TV Series from the French Syndicate of Cinema Critics.

The series begins with the return to Paris of French intelligence officer Guillaume “Malotru” Debailly (Mathieu Kassovitz) after six years as an undercover agent in Syria. Guillaume struggles to reconnect with his former life. But after learning that his lover in Syria (Nadia, played by Zineb Triki), is in Paris, Guillaume breaks agency rules and approaches her as the man he was in Damascus: Paul Lefebvre. As Guillaume begins living a double life, he opens himself up (and the DGSE) to serious dangers.

Henri Duflot (Jean-Pierre Darroussin) portrays the head of the French clandestine service. He’s never himself been an undercover agent and this bothers him because he fears he lacks the respect of his operatives. At the same time, he’s very likable and down-to-earth. He wears garish neckties, which makes him seem more normal.

The beautiful Léa Drucker plays a DGSE psychiatrist with a top secret clearance. Marina Loiseau (Sara Giraudeau) portrays a naïve but determined young undercover operative.

The acting is first-rate and the spying seems realistic. This is among the best espionage stories I have seen on TV or in the cinema.

The series is now in season 5. It’s available on Sundance Now including the Sundance Now channel on Amazon.

Audiobook: ‘The Liberation of Paris’

The Liberation of Paris is a gripping book that is packed full of interesting details about Nazi-occupied Paris and its last commander Dietrich von Choltitz.

At the end of WWII, Adolf Hitler ordered Choltitz to hold Paris, but if that wasn’t possible, to destroy it. Although General Choltitz had been very loyal to Hitler, he could not bring himself to obliterate the City of Light. He ultimately surrendered Paris to French forces on August 25, 1944. He’s been called the “Saviour of Paris” for preventing the destruction Paris.

After his surrender, Choltitz was held for the remainder of the war in London and the United States and was ultimately released from captivity in 1947. He died in Baden-Baden in 1966.

The author of this exceptional book was the distinguished political scientist and biographer Jean Edward Smith. Smith’s work includes highly regarded biographies of Ulysses S. Grant and Dwight D. Eisenhower. He died on September 1, 2019 at the age of 86.

The audiobook is ably narrated by Fred Sanders, who has narrated many fine audiobooks including Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance.