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.
You too can sound like tedious Second Empire bourgeois making small talk if you follow Flaubert's Dictionary of Received Ideas! A satrical collection of cant, cliche, and "expected" opinions of the French middle-classes around 1870 - List Of Entrees alphabetical - List by subject.
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]
For non-anglophones, the English names of worldwide brands, music bands and other cultural items are both ubiquitous and slightly mysterious. Here what the English (plus some German, Spanish and Japanese) names of 52 brands/logotypes and 30 musicians/records look like when very loosely and somewhat lazily translated in French. Some extras can be found in the comments (note: annoying pop-up at the start).
To say that Messiaen's Vingt Regards sur L'Enfant-Jesus (Twenty Contemplations on the Infant Jesus) is a masterpiece is a gross understatement. Over sixty years after its composition, it has rightfully earned the recognition of being one of the most important piano works of the 20th century. ... [It] is one of the most personal and intimate pieces Messiaen ever wrote, and it gives the listener a close look at Messiaen the person. Messiaen was a deeply religious person, and although his faith influenced every single piece he wrote, the Vingt Regards is almost like his own personal spiritual diary. - Keith Kerchoff [more inside]
Polish names are hard for Germans. The Danish language is hard for the Danes. Singing in French is hard for New Zealanders. (MLYT) (Previously: An English-esque song that is hard for English speakers.) [more inside]
In 1960 humorist Georges Bernier, author François Cavanna and comic artist (and artistic director) Fred Aristidès began publishing the satirical magazine Hara Kiri, which attacked the French establishment, including politicians, the government and Catholic Church. In 1961 and 1966 it was temporarily banned by the French Government. The magazine's covers were often tasteless, NSFW, "famously perverted, bizarre and highly creative and at the time, and in fact even by today's standards in a league of their own." [more inside]
Cambodian Trees by Clément Briend. "La culture cambodgienne est habitée par une spiritualité qui crée une conscience du monde peuplée de génies et d’esprits. Dans le paysage d'une ville endormie, la nuit fait apparaître ces figures divines sur les arbres, permettant ainsi leur incarnation. Par ces projections nocturnes, nous pouvons alors toucher la magie qui illumine leur regard sur le monde." [Via]
The Global Language Online Support System (or GLOSS), produced by the Defense Language Institute in sunny Monterey, CA, offers over six thousand free lessons in 38 languages from Albanian to Uzbek, with particular emphasis on Chinese, Persian, Russian, Korean, and various types of Arabic. The lessons include both reading and listening components and are refreshingly based on real local materials (news articles, radio segments, etc.) rather than generic templates. [more inside]
Like all shrines, this one is on a hill, and built into solid rock. Richard Olney saw it first in 1961 on an excursion south from his adoptive home in Paris. Olney, whose The French Menu Cookbook was recently judged the best cookbook ever by this magazine, immediately knew he had found his proper place on earth. [more inside]
By general consent, Jean-Siméon Chardin was one of the supreme artists of the eighteenth century and probably the greatest master of still life in the history of painting. - Robert Hughes [more inside]
While Quebec’s status as the only primarily French-speaking province in Canada has resulted in a distinct cultural industry—particularly with regard to film and music—the province still enjoys many cultural products from English Canada. While movies and TV shows are often subtitled or dubbed into French, it is rare that the same is true of music. A notable exception is the music of Toronto-based Big Sugar. [more inside]
Tomorrow would have been Julia Child's 100th birthday. To celebrate, PBS Digital Studios offers: Julia Child Remixed. They also have created a celebration page, complete with an infographic, recipes, quotes, videos and more. [more inside]
The Seven Deadly Sins in Animated GIFs (via Cartoon Brew) Also in French. From usually-not-animated cartoonist Boulet (French site) (English site) who has recently translated some funny comics about 'insect-brain' influences (ponies & DIY), aging and dying (and 'The Mortal Tango'), human memory defragging, the 'movie of your life', imagination (childhood vs. grown-up), how geeks will save/take over the world and things that threaten New York
A liquor store in Amsterdam. A veteran in Bagdad. A family in Rome. A WWII veterans memorial in Berlin. A house in Oxford. Edouard Levé photographed towns in the United States that shared names with famous cities. He photographed fully-clothed actors reenacting scenes from rugby and pornography [nsfw]. He also wrote some novels, influenced by Oulipo. Autoportrait, describes his life in 120 pages of unordered vignettes and brief, declarative sentences—"The girl whom I loved the most left me. [...] I am uneasy in rooms with small windows." and so on. His fourth novel, Suicide, is a one-sided conversation between an anonymous narrator ("I") and his friend ("you"), who committed suicide twenty years ago. It's a painfully intimate meditation on the act and its fallout on its own merits—"Your life was hypothesis. Those who die old are made of the past. Thinking of them, one thinks of what they have done. Thinking of you, one thinks of what you could have become. You were, and you will remain, made up of possibilities."—but few will read Suicide unburdened with the knowledge that Edouard Levé killed himself several days after completing it, at the age of 47. [more inside]
The irony in a way is that Messiaen used this great romantic organ for his most modern experiments. For Messiaen, this was a great sort of sonic paintbox, if you like, and he would come here and experiment with the extraordinary sounds that he could conjure out of this amazing instrument. [more inside]
France has a new president. With 51.9% of the second-round vote, François Hollande has beaten Nicolas Sarkozy to become the first Socialist president of France since 1995. In his victory speech, Hollande declared that "austerity is not inevitable," but international business interests have already started rumbling about Hollande's plans for higher taxes on the rich and large-scale public sector investment. The change in power is to be effected in next ten days, with Hollande scheduled to appear at the G8 and NATO summits on May 19 and 20.
Heavily influenced by samurai films from film makers such as Akira Kurosawa, French/Burkinabe filmmaker Cédric Ido produced a short award winning film, Hasaki Ya Suda (The Three Black Samurai) set in the future. Its synopsis reads: It is 2100. In the world engulfed in chaos and war whose residents are consumed by terrible hunger, the last fertile land became the subject of fierce battles. Three warriors: noble Wurubenba (Jacky Ido), Shandaru (Cedric Ido), who wants to avenge his father’s death, and Kapkaru (Min Man Ma) craving for power, will face one another in a fight for life and death. Watch the full 25-minute Hasaki Ya Suda short film (available only with French subtitles at the moment) or the 1 minute teaser. Interview with Cedric in English.
"The Threat to Proust" by Roger Shattuck: When Proust’s novel fell into the public domain in 1987, three Paris publishing houses were ready with new editions that had been in preparation for several years. They all carry the same basic 3,000-page text with few variations. The differences lie in packaging and presentation. Laffont-Bouquins chose to publish three fat volumes prefaced by elaborate historical and biographical materials. Garnier-Flammarion produced ten pocket-sized volumes competently edited by Jean Milly. The new Pléiade edition, published by the original copyright holder, Gallimard, made the boldest, most ambitious, and most expensive bid to claim the market. In a combination of editorial, literary, and commercial decisions, Gallimard proposed to influence the way we read Proust and, to some degree, the way we approach all great literary works. [more inside]
Incredibox v2.0 has been released. A free Flash-based looping animated beatbox of FUN! In French and English. Previously on MeFi, and a direct link to v1.0.
Files have been released showing that the MI5 investigated Charlie Chaplin's origins at the request of the FBI, attempting to check claims that besides being a communist, he might be Jewish, and/or French. His life story by his own account has him born in London, but no birth certificate has been found and last year evidence emerged that he might in fact have been born in a gypsy camp.
Last year it was Amy Chua, Tiger Mother (previously on mefi). This year, Paula Druckerman has written Bringing Up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting, inspired by a trip to a coastal town when her daughter had temper tantrums and French parents didn't. French kids eat the same food as their parents, and aren't constantly snacking. And "when French friends visited [...] the grownups had coffee and the children played happily by themselves." It's about patience -- let the kids cry it out a bit, let them learn how to play alone instead of hovering. And perhaps obsess a little less -- the French don't even obsessively buy books about how to parent. Wall Street Journal article, and video interview by WSJ's Gary Rosen.
Le Blues De Memphis — behind the scenes at STAX & FAME Recording Studios (1969) and Hollywood Blues, a 1969 Hollywood Recording Session. Just a sample of the vintage 50s, 60s & 70s music, movies, microcode and high-speed pizza delivery at Bedazzled.tv. [sacré bleu]
Both an ingeniously choreographed crime film and a moral drama influenced by Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, Pickpocket marks the apotheosis of Bresson's stripped-down style. There’s little or no psychological realism or conventional drama at work in Martin La Salle’s portrayal of a master thief who plies his trade at the Gare de Lyon and easily outwits the cops who seek to ensnare him. See it once to appreciate the spare elegance of the pickpocketing scenes, and then a second time to appreciate how subtly Bresson accomplishes the story of a man’s self-willed corruption, his liberation through imprisonment and his redemption through love, all in less than 80 minutes.
Last week, the NHL's Montreal Canadiens, struggling with numerous injuries, underperforming stars, and a 13-11-7 record, fired head coach Jacques Martin. They replaced him with Randy Cunneyworth, the head coach of their farm team in Hamilton, Ontario. Cunneyworth is a former NHL defenseman and a blue-chip coaching prospect, but there's one problem: he doesn't speak French. [more inside]
Here is the pilot episode of Les Mondes Engloutis (Part 2), a French animated sci-fi/fantasy televison series from 1985. Here is its iconic theme song. In English it translates into "The Sunken Worlds," but English-speakers know it better as Spartakus and the Sun Beneath the Sea. More information can be found on Tripod fansite The Lost Archives of Arkadia. [more inside]
Reading Blaise Cendrars is like stepping into another universe. His fiction is unlike anything else I've ever read. His poetry influenced the mighty Guillaume Apollinaire and helped shape the face of modernism. But it is his mockery of biographical detail and the very notion of literature that fascinates me the most. If, like me, you're not a fan of autobiography, then Blaise Cendrars is the memoirist for you.
Birdy Nam Nam is four f*cking guys, named for a reference from the 1968 movie The Party. They are a quartet of French turntablists, consisting of Crazy B, DJ Pone, DJ Need, and Little Mike. They've spun solo and together at the 2002 DMC competitions, where they took the team championship title. In 2005, they released an album made from turntable-manipulated samples, but they weren't studio-only tracks. They were also performed live, though some tracks featured additional live musicians. A 2007 live album followed, keeping the same over-all turntablism sound as their first album. Their second album was largely produced by French produceder/DJ Yunksek, and the sound changed accordingly into an album of delightful French dance music, but they kept (generally) to the turntables to create their songs. The band has released their third album, now working with Para One, another French producer/DJ. Their sound has gone on a slightly new path, with another bizzare music video to accompany their sound. [more inside]
Food Fight: Does Healthy Food Have to Be More Expensive? In which the blog Get Rich Slowly chronicles an argument about nutrition vs cost and then invites readers to chime in.
The French romantic thriller “Diva” dashes along with a pellmell gracefulness, and it doesn’t take long to see that the images and visual gags and homages all fit together and reverberate back and forth. It’s a glittering toy of a movie... This one is by a new director, Jean-Jacques Beineix... who understands the pleasures to be had from a picture that doesn’t take itself very seriously. Every shot seems designed to delight the audience. - Pauline Kael, 1982 [more inside]
In 1989, invited to an open air theatre, late at night, I first experienced the 6 hour long screening of Peter Brook's Mahabharata, a much revered Hindu epic which includes the complete Bhagavad Gita as a central part of its narrative. Brook's multiracial casting and innovative treatment received criticism yet its impact has been acknowledged anyone who sat through the 9 hour play, the 6 hour TV serialization or only the 3 hour DVD. [more inside]
It's the late 1970s, you're in France, and you're not quite sure what this whole Star Wars hype is about. Let René Joly tell you about it. If your French isn't so good, someone was kind enough to overlay a translation in English, of course in the Star Wars Crawl style. If you can't find the original record from 1977, you can also hear the b-side: Enfant de l'univers (French lyrics). More French Star Wars? Behold: a dance spectacular on French TV (previously). If you like your cheese 100% American, check out the Donny and Marie Star Wars musical number, with very some special guests. For a little less cheese, and a bit more swing: Darth Vader and his jazz combo. [more inside]
Mortys. (Vimeo) A short, animated film in French with English subtitles. Also on YouTube and DailyMotion [more inside]
Pierre Bonnard died in 1947, after a lifetime of producing a great many intense and beautiful paintings, in keeping with his philosophy of domestic bliss, idealised and frozen in time if not realised in real life. A calm and intelligent man, he pursued his purpose doggedly and left behind an enduring legacy of visual joy. Surely as great an achievement as any painter could wish for. [more inside]
Batman: Delivrance a french video (with subtitles) about the return of Batman from retirement featuring special guest: Wolverine.
After Kad & Olivier sign off and the Satisfaction production logo fades, viewing audiences are oftentimes treated to a cold open of an empty talk show set... one that quickly becomes the impromptu dance floor for a shameless Frenchman making an absolute giddy fool of himself while lip-syncing pop songs alongside a menagerie of... wait, *what*?! That's right. The Late Late Show's Craig Ferguson appears to have a not-so-secret French admirer -- one who's not above ripping off both his opening titles and his signature dance sequences (including the iconic animal puppets): "ABC" by The Jackson 5, "Flashdance" by Irene Cara, "On the Floor" by Jennifer Lopez and Pitbull, "Waka Waka" by Shakira, "Men in Black" by Will Smith, "Let's All Chant" by the Michael Zager Band, "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" by Wham!, "It's Raining Men" by The Weather Girls, and "Vive Le Vent (Jingle Bells)" by Tino Rossi. Luckily, Ferguson's sense of showmanship is more prodigious than litigious -- he responded to Arthur's "homáge" by booking a pair of translatlantic crossover shows, with Arthur visiting LA that week and Ferguson flying out to Paris just last month. Video of both shows (plus lots more) inside! [more inside]
Blockbuster: DSK may be freed Friday as the rape case against him collapses The NYT reports prosecutors found the chambermaid was involved with drug dealers, possible extortion. previously
The story begins in 1879. Cheval, then 43 years old, had been working as a rural mail carrier in the southeast of France for 12 years. Because his daily routine involved walking about 20 miles (32km), mostly in solitude, he did a lot of daydreaming. One day (perhaps while his mind was elsewhere), he tripped over a small limestone rock. He picked up that stone and over the next 33 years went on to build his dream, Le Palais Idéal, an amazing fantasy palace. [more inside]
Safari Disco Club / Que veux-tu double-feature music video for two tracks from Yelle's second album
"Maxims and axioms are, just like summaries, the work that spirited people do, it seems, for the use of mediocre or lazy spirits." Presenting maxims, axioms and more from the Philosophes: Vauvenargues! Chamfort! Fontenelle! La Bruyère! Galiani! La Rochefoucauld! Saint-Évremond! [more inside]