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
, 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 the new game Avant-Garde
, you play an up-and-coming artist in 19th century Paris, a contemporary of Manet and Bouguereau. Carve and sell allegorical statue groups! Get snubbed by Napoleon III! Subsidize Gustave Courbet's drinking! Compose and promulgate your own aesthetic manifesto!
In America, a politician should not appear too literate; in France, he should not appear overly interested in sums. A sort of spiritual innumeracy is required to prove that he is a serious person. “Economics is considered an obstacle to ideology, a constraint politicians prefer to avoid if they can,” Chamboredon said. Politicians in France speak to “citizens,” not to “taxpayers.”
- The New Yorker: France’s anxiety about the budget crisis has fuelled resentment of the country’s most renowned tax exile.
Trailer for Michel Gondry's new film, Mood Indigo
, based on the book Foam of the Daze
(or Froth on the Daydream, depending on the translation) by Boris Vian
. [more inside]
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
(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.
has spent most of his life cultivating spies and diplomats, who seem to enjoy seeing themselves and their secrets transfigured into pop fiction (with their own names carefully disguised), and his books regularly contain information about terror plots, espionage and wars that has never appeared elsewhere. Other pop novelists, like John le Carré and Tom Clancy, may flavor their work with a few real-world scenarios and some spy lingo, but de Villiers’s books are ahead of the news and sometimes even ahead of events themselves." (SLNYT)
(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
; 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]
Jihad in the Sahara.
It is no suprrise that Mali is the latest Muslim country to experience western Intervention
. This has resulted in escalation
The north of Mali is as alien to the average soldier from southern Mali as the Alaskan tundra is to a citizen of Massachusetts or Manchester. This is the land where the local Tuareg or Arab in his souped-up turbo 4x4 is king
. A map
of the various conflicts. In October a der Spiegel journalist spent 2 weeks
in the north of the country and in November CS Monitor asked Will Mali be Africa's Afghanistan?
After a few weeks of well-reported
rumors that Lance Armstrong was going to confess, he publicly admitted to years of doping in the first of a two-part interview with Oprah Winfrey. [more inside]
Ever wanted to see rugby highlights animated in lego? Of course you have
! [more inside]
Brutal Baroque: An Ode To Midcentury Modern Churches
: French photographer Fabrice Fouillet
traveled across Europe photographing some of the most important examples of postwar churches, creating a catalogue of the spaces called Corpus Christi
. [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]
What was Of Grammatology about? When Madeleine, the heroine of Jeffrey Eugenides's campus novel The Marriage Plot, asks a young theory-head this question, she is immediately set straight: 'If it was "about" anything, then it was about the need to stop thinking of books as being about things.' That's not so far off. In all three books, Derrida's argument was that Western thought from Plato to Rousseau to Lévi-Strauss had been hopelessly entangled in the illusion that language might provide us with access to a reality beyond language, beyond metaphor: an unmediated experience of truth and being which he called 'presence'.
—Not in the Mood
by Adam Shatz is an essay in The London Review of Books about a new biography
of the French philosopher Jacques Derrida. The review does a good job of explaining Derrida's theories in simple language and putting it in the context of his life, from his childhood as French Jew in Vichy-controlled Algeria to his later years as a globetrotting academic star. For a complimentary perspective on Derrida, you can do worse than starting with these thoughts on his relevance for historians and progressives
It was simplifying. Forget your civilian reflexes. The task does not require a purpose. Do not ask questions, do not make suggestions, do not even think of that. The Legion is our fatherland. We will accept you. We will shelter you.
Tony Stark style daredevils "flying" over, under and through the water (SLYT)
This video (warning: annoying music) gets off to a slow start, but then the air ballet begins and the people turn into cormorants and dolphins. Enjoy!
How Things Fell Apart
, By Chinua Achebe - 'In an excerpt from his long-awaited memoir, the inventor of the post-colonial African novel in English discusses his origins as a writer and the seeds of revolt against the British Empire.'
I can say that my whole artistic career was probably sparked by this tension between the Christian religion of my parents, which we followed in our home, and the retreating, older religion of my ancestors, which fortunately for me was still active outside my home. I still had access to a number of relatives who had not converted to Christianity and were called heathens by the new converts. When my parents were not watching I would often sneak off in the evenings to visit some of these relatives. [more inside]
You want us to pay you for directing eyeballs to your sites?
Newspaper publishers in France want a law whereby Google (and other search engine services) have to pay for each click made from the search engine to their sites. You click on a link to a French newspaper site from a search engine, the Search Engine has to pay the newspaper for that click. If the law is passed it's likely Google will no longer
include links to French sites that require payment for said links.
Twenty-five years ago today, southern England and northern France were struck by the Great Storm of 1987
. Although the storm did not go entirely unforecast
, the exact track and ferocity of the storm were not as predicted, and the resulting devastation
killed at least 22 people, and destroyed
six of the seven oak trees that are symbolic of the eponymous town of Sevenoaks
, in Kent. [more inside]
What to do when your bees develop a taste for the residue of the confectionary process, with some rather visible side effects
. [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]
Today is the 200th anniversary of the Battle
, in which Napoleon's armies met Russian troops 75 miles east of Moscow on 7 September 1812. The huge battle, involving quarter of a million troops, was the strongest stand the Imperial Russian Army made against Napoleon's forces, and it resulted in heavy casualties on both sides. Although the Russian army withdrew, the French tactical victory in the Battle of Borodino was a Pyrrhic one, and Napoleon ultimately left Russia in defeat.
The battle was reenacted
at Borodino last weekend, as is done annually
. A cultural symbol of Russian national courage, the Battle of Borodino has been famously commemorated in Russian literature, music, art, and poetry. [more inside]
Paris in Motion
is a beautiful time-lapse stop-motion video by Mayeul Akpovi.
Perry Anderson's book length three part series on the history of India from the beginnings of its independence movement
, through independence and partition
into its recent history as a nation-state
is the latest in a series of erudite, opinionated and wordy articles in The London Review of Books by the UCLA professor of history and sociology on the modern history of various countries, so far taking in Brazil, Italy, Turkey, Cyprus, the EU, Russia, Taiwan and France. [more inside]
Charles Philippe Hippolyte de Thierry lead a storied life, and many of those stories are ones he made up
. His family was associated with the French court, though there is doubt to his claims of noble lineage. In England, he met two Maori chiefs and an English missionary from New Zealand
, and attempted to purchase a northern portion of New Zealand in 1820. He then sought to turn this land into a colony first for Britain in 1822, then the Dutch government in 1824 when the English offer fell through. The Dutch, too, turned him down, so in 1825 de Thierry made the same offer to the French government, and was similarly refused. Fleeing creditors, he left for America. In 1834, he traveled south, where he was granted concession for cutting the Panama Canal. That, too, fell through, and he sailed west, reaching Tahiti in June 1835, where he elected himself king of Nuka Hiva. The kingdom was never his, and so he continued west and south, arriving at his plot in New Zealand in 1837, where again he offered land up to France for a colony. His efforts to claim a colony and a kingdom came to an end in 1840, with the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi
, sealing a deal between the British Crown and the Māori. [more inside]
“We’re getting a lot of calls from high earners who are asking whether they should get out of France,” said Mr. Grandil... “Even young, dynamic people pulling in 200,000 euros are wondering whether to remain in a country where making money is not considered a good thing.” French president François Hollande's plan to tax income above a million euros ($1.24 million) a year at 75% is alarming some.
The Big Three of EU Foreign Policy
: Stefan Lehne on the contrasting roles of Germany, France and the UK.
James Salter's A Sport and a Pastime is one of those very rare novels that seems not so much to have been written as discovered. At its heart is a love story, an encounter, that transforms its relatively ordinary protagonists into beings around whom the entire cosmos shapes itself. The love story is delicate and ephemeral, put together out of bits and pieces, like a bird's nest. The vulnerable lovers tremble, in the most mundane circumstances, on the edge of catastrophe. Simply the way one of them moves across the room to meet the other seems miraculous and hazardous. Were they to become aware of themselves everything would be lost. But there is no danger of that. Oblivious, they tiptoe on a precipice. They do not and cannot know that their innocence cloaks them in a kind of divinity and infallibility. Actions and attitudes we expect to bring them down don't. They do things that seem so perfect, so poignant, without knowing they are doing anything at all. They arc beautifully across our path, and then vanish.
- Michael Doliner (previously) [more inside]
He is unknown. No name, no profession, no identifying details, but he looks out with the calm sternness of one who knows his place in the world. And because of this calmness, this sternness—the skeptical gaze and tight lips—we suspect it might be an image of the artist himself. Why Is This Man Wearing A Turban?
, by Teju Cole
In May new French minister caused a stir by wearing jeans
to inaugral cabinet meeting. On Tuesday she wore a floral dress
when addressing the Parliament. [more inside]
Barbed Wire no longer lines the Franco-Italian Alps
. On the 11th of July this year, after working since 2002, mainly in the Mercantour National Park
, the last of 134 tonnes of steel was finally removed for recycling by teams of volunteers. [more inside]
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
[nsfw]. He also wrote some novels, influenced by Oulipo
, 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]
In 1891 author and lecturer ”Max O’Rell
” (being the pen name of one Léon Paul Blouet) published an amusing account of his travels through the States and Eastern Canada - "A Frenchman In America
" - that, along with the charming illustrations, reflect on then popular national stereotypes and character and is presented on Project Gutenberg in its entirely. (via
Born in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, member of the French resistance and the SOE, multiple escapee from Nazi execution, RIP Count Robert de La Rochefoucauld
Two Flickr sets of 295 illustrations
and 103 illustrations
each (plus three more illustrations
), by French artist Chéri Herouard
who is most famous for his work for "naughty French magazine" La Vie parisienne
from 1907 to his death. You can find some high quality scans from La Vie parisienne and more information about the magazine at Darwination Scans
. Quite a few of the images are not safe for work. [via Kate Beaton]
", which won the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest (previously
), is a #1 in several countries, including Ireland
, and Switzerland
Of course, it's not the only song charting internationally that you might never hear on US radio. It should come as no surprise that one can readily find international hits online.
For instance -
Sweden, #4: Panetoz - Dansa Pausa
Sweden, #9: Mange Makers - Drick Den
This doesn't purport to be an exhaustive list, but rather a jumping-off point. [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".
Minitel bows out
It was France's first glimpse of an online future. But now, 30 years after it was invented, the wired experiment that foreshadowed the World Wide Web is about to lose its connection once and for all.
In advance of Euro 2012, the Guardian has made animated histories
of six of the competitors: England
, the Republic of Ireland
. (Autoplay video in last six links.)
There are some frightening looking
children's books titles in English but, it seems nobody
manages to bring them out like the French
"Nicolas Sarkozy did very little about fostering innovation — he didn’t have a clue. As for François Hollande, the strongest part of its electorate (largely composed of teachers and other public servants) opposes any rapprochement between private sector and public higher education. And let’s not mention the underlying “ideology” of venture capital, carried interest, IPO’s, flexible employment rules, etc. Hollande’s supporters will also oppose any removal of cobwebs from the 102-year-old labor code that greatly complicates the management of companies employing 50 or more people. As a result, France has 2.4 times more companies with 49 employees than with 50..."
- Francois Hollande’s Start-down Nation
Telerama Concerts Privé, recorded live in Paris: Wilco
- Bonnie Prince Billy
- The Shins
- Jonathan Wilson
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.