Stan, the e-mail quote from your French friend tracks almost exactly with what Janedo said in her recent post on baguettes and French flour.
I think the point here is that the holes in the crumb of a baguette aren't necessarily an end unto itself but rather are more of an indicator that the dough was handled properly during mixing and shaping. A uniformly tight crumb can indicate an overmixing of the dough (intensive mix) and can result in bleaching and a loss of flavor due to oxidation of pigmentation and flavor components (carotenoids).
As to the preoccupation with making the 'perfect' baguette, as long as no innocent baguettes are harmed in the process, I'm not sure how one would differentiate a preoccupation from a passion. :)
and yes, Jane is my French friend.
true, a tight crumb can mean overmixing; it can also mean too much gluten in the flour. i think we Americans are in love with strong flours, perhaps to the detriment of taste and texture. for me, soft wheats are a whole different level of experience and pose a very different set of demands (and rewards). without getting too technical, i'm working with a mostly soft wheat blend, with just enough strong flour and whole grain to spike the gluten a bit and provide some depth of flavor.
as for perfect, who's to say what it is? for sure, there's elegance in well-executed simplicity, but that's as true of bagels, ciabatta and gugelhupf as it is of baguette. i just think that baguettes have become too much of a fixation.