On July 31, 1760, L'Utile, a ship of the French East Indian Company loaded with an illegal cargo of about 160 Malagasy slaves, was shipwrecked on a barren, windswept islet now known as Tromelin Island, 500 km east of Madagascar. The French crew, with the help of the surviving Malagasy, built a makeshift boat and set sail for Madagascar two months later, leaving behind 60 Malagasy with three months’ provisions, a letter recognising their good conduct and the promise that someone would come back for them. Weeks passed, then months, then years. Since 2006, archeological teams have gone to Tromelin to examine the wreck site and learn about the lives of the marooned Malagasy: diary of the 2010 campaign. [more inside]
365 Parisians by fellow Parisian (born in Kazakhstan, raised in Spain) photographer Constantin Mashinskiy: I decided to take one street portrait, every day, of a random Parisian stranger until I had reached 365 pictures, and met 365 people. Mashinskiy at work in the streets of Paris and short interview.
The wetsuitman. Last winter two bodies were found in Norway and the Netherlands. They were wearing identical wetsuits. The police in three countries were involved in the case, but never managed to identify them. This is the story of who they were.
The next king of Westeros gets governing advice from the (real, not a joke) French governement in order to build a "stronger, fairer kingdom". House France's sigil is a rooster. The text is in French so here's a quick & dirty summary: 1) Less centralization and a more efficient territorial organization 2) Less tournaments and feasts and a responsible Master of Coin 3) A well-deserved and early retirement plan for the hard-working brothers of the Night's Watch 4) A fairer justice with no death penalty or trial by combat 5) No more youngster without education 6) Winter is coming! Let's build shelters for the poorest. [more inside]
Everyday is Sunday (Tous les jours dimanche) is a series of surreal pictures taken by photographer Manolo Mylonas in the poor and tumultuous Department of Seine-Saint-Denis, where he lives (interview in French). For those who wonder about the sheep herd on a concrete ramp, they are part of an experiment in urban agriculture (in French, other pictures). There's no explanation for the horse on the balcony, but this is probably how it got there.
Featuring Jerry Lewis, Gladiator's Connie Nielsen and a score by The Avengers' Alan Silvestri, Par où t'es rentré on t'as pas vu sortir (How did you get in? We didn't see you leave) - available with subtitles on YouTube in its blurry VHS glory (poster 1 2) - is one of the two movies starred by Lewis during his one-year (1984) French career (the other is Retenez-moi ou je fais un malheur also known as the The defective detective). In the early 1980s, after several failures, a bypass surgery and nothwithstanding Scorsese's King of Comedy, Lewis tried to revive his career in the country where he was supposedly beloved: France. Alas, he chose the two worst French directors of the time, Michel Gérard and Philippe Clair, the latter known for cinematic jewels such as the Nazi-themed comedy Le Führer en folie (The crazy Führer), a Warner production that can actually make clowns cry. (all links below potentially and blurrily NSFW) [more inside]
Travellers passing through the Beauce region in France may have noticed this strange, lonely concrete structure raised on pillars over the fields. This is the 18-km long elevated track built in the 1960s for testing the Aérotrain (WP, video compilation turn off your speakers unless you love Queen), a propeller or jet-and-rocket driven high-speed (400 km/h) monorail that was supposed to revolutionize train travel (a visit by Rhode Island Senator Claiborne Pell). However, the French government preferred the less expensive and less futuristic TGV and the project was mothballed in 1975. The Aérotrain's inventor, Jean Bertin, died a few months later. All Aérotrain prototypes were destroyed except one.
In July 1939, French authorities started building a 120m² bomb shelter under the Gare de l’Est (East Railway Station) in Paris so that traffic controllers could keep on working if the station was attacked. However, it was not completed in time and the Germans used it instead. The bunker, which includes a pedal generator, is still there, in near perfect condition. Other images and video (in French). Bonus underground Parisian bunker: this Cold-war era bunker under the Ministry of Transportation (equipped with tandem pedal generators) will become a datacenter early 2014.
Albert Dubout (1905-1976) was a highly popular and prolific French cartoonist and illustrator, whose works were ubiquitous in France from the 1930s to the 1970s: Dubout illustrated books, film posters (notably those of Marcel Pagnol), magazines, advertisements, postcards and some of his cartoons were eventually adapted as a movie. Today, Dubout is best known as the creator of the Dubout couple (movie version; figurine version), consisting of a very large, full-bosomed, dominating, angry-looking wife with a diminutive, hapless and mustachioed husband in tow. Dubout's work is often highly detailed, and images larger than the tiny ones available on the official website are shown under the fold. [more inside]
In the early 19th century, a man named Charles Fanaye and his lover Marie-Hélène sought to wed in Southern France. He was a former Napoleonic soldier, back from the Campaign in Egypt. She was an Ethiopian woman who had rescued him from the Mameluks and followed him to France. Like many other interracial couples, Charles and Marie-Hélène begged for an exception to the 1803 decree that banned marriage between blacks and whites. It was only after 16 years, when the ban was silently lifted in 1819, that they could finally marry. A (long) paper by Jennifer Heuer on the arbitrary definitions of race in post-Revolutionary France and on "the persistence of certain couples in legitimizing their bonds".
"OK. HOLY COW! OK, that's fine, two big camels just passed me by... (giggling) Yes... There are camels on the highway. There's a circus somewhere and there are camels on the highway. Yes, Yes. No, no, no, there are two camels and I'm filming them." French drivers meet a couple of stray camels on a Normandy highway and try to capture them.
French hospitals have rooms where medical students (internes) can rest, lunch and vent off steam between calls, but these salles de garde are not your usual staff room. They are brightly decorated with lively mural paintings showing the current internes, the doctors and other hospital staff engaging in very (very) explicit sex acts. The frescos are done by the students themselves or commissioned from local artists, and are replaced on a regular basis. Here are some choice examples (sorted by hospital): Ambroise Paré, Cochin, Widal, Louis Mourier, Saint-Louis, Saint-Vincent-de-Paul, Institut Gustave Roussy (ibid) (ibid), Lariboisière, Robert Debré, Saint-Cloud, Tenon. Many other images can be seen on the website of an association of former internes. [Totally NSFW unless you're a medical student training in France] [more inside]
Sex: wot's the big deal is a sex exhibition for kids currently taking place at the Cité des Sciences in Paris. Pre-teens can learn about love, puberty, making love and making babies, and they can also experiment a little bit. The show is based on Willies: a user's guide (in French: Le zizi sexuel) by Swiss comics creator Zep, and features the rising star of French playgrounds, Titeuf (NSFW unless you're a French preteen)
Pardon my French: after (allegedly) showing up drunk at the G8 (Mefi), walking out from 60 minutes, and almost getting in a fight with angry fishermen (translation), French President Sarkozy, while visiting the Paris International Agricultural Show, snaps at a man who refused to shake his hand "Casse-toi pauvre con". But what exactly does this mean in English? He hasn't (yet) slapped a kid, unlike his presidential rival Bayrou, but he's still not in the same league as De Gaulle, who answered to a heckler shouting "Mort aux cons!" ("Death to the idiots!") the sublime "Vaste programme, en effet" ("Tall order, indeed").
September 11, 2001. It's 10:15 am and the South Tower just went down. Millions of French people are watching the live coverage of the events on TF1, France's major TV channel, with star anchorman Poivre d'Arvor doing a running commentary. Then, for a split second, a character from a famous movie happily tells us (in French subtitles) that he "did it" (18 s in the video) (Dailymotion video). [more inside]
Secret information concerning the Black American Troops. We must prevent the rise of any pronounced degree of intimacy between French officers and black officers. We may be courteous and amiable with these last, but we cannot deal with them on the same plane as with the white American officers without deeply wounding the latter. In August 1918, the French liaison officer at the American Expeditionary Force Headquarters gave his fellow officers a primer in US-style racial segregation, urging the military and civil authorities to implement similar procedures on French soil, as the local populations were felt by US authorities to be much too friendly towards American Black troops (PDF, page 13) (see also the first chapter of Paris Noir: African Americans in the City of Light). This memorandum, however, was never distributed and other similar leaflets were eventually destroyed by the French government. One soldier of the 93rd Division wrote his mother: These French people don't bother with no color line business. They treat us so good that the only time I ever know I'm colored is when I look in the glass.
The French experience of counter-terrorism (PDF): from the "sanctuary doctrine" to active prevention, a detailed history of how France learned counter-terrorism the hard way. Since [the French revolution] France has been on the bleeding edge of terrorism, confronting terrorism in all its guises, from bomb-throwing anarchists to transnational networks. In the last 20 years, France suffered repeated waves of terrorism of both domestic and foreign origin, each which spawned a variety of reforms to an already complex system for combating terrorism. As a result, France has developed, largely by costly trial and error, a fairly effective, although controversial system for fighting terrorism at home.