The Guardian ran a series of articles looking at the state of high-speed rail travel today. France intends to double its length of track over the next decade, and China is planning a massive rail-building programme, including a high-speed line which will halve the travel time between Beijing and Shanghai to 4 hours. In Germany, domestic air travel is rapidly going extinct, and Spain's network has made day trips between Madrid and Barcelona a possibility. The USA, which has long neglected its rail network, is planning up to 10 high-speed lines. Meanwhile, Britain's only high-speed line goes to France, but there is talk of a 250mph line from London to Birmingham and beyond, possibly by the early 2020s. Meanwhile, the CEO of France's rail operator, SNCF, weighs in on what the UK should do.
'Artisanal butters' are favored and appreciated by cooks and gourmands -- especially those crafted by "garage entrepreneurs" from Maine [video]* and Vermont (churned by Diane St. Clair and favored by Thomas Keller at his noted restaurants, The French Laundry and Per Se). Butters from Canada, France, Ireland and elsewhere are also cherished. [more inside]
"Kill them all. For God knows His own." Today is the 800th anniversary of the massacre of the inhabitants of the town of Beziers in Languedoc, in the south of France, known by the Romans as Gallia Narbonensis. Beziers was the first town to be sacked in the Albigensian Crusades to extirpate the Christian heresy of Catharism, which flourished in Languedoc. The Albigensian Crusades represented the initial application in Europe of religious warfare sanctioned by the resurgent medieval Papacy, and led directly to the institution of the Inquisition and rise of the Dominican Order.
Emily Loizeau's Je Suis Jalouse was for me the kind of song that immediately makes you want more. Emily's debut album L'autre bout du monde (The Other Side of the World) was released in 2006. She began studying piano at the age of 5, and cites Georges Brassens, Bob Dylan, and The Beatles as her primary influences. Listen to more wonderfulness with Sister, Je Ne Sais Pas Choisir, or the title track from her debut album. More listening if you are at last.fm
The Paris-Roubaix is about to start. With an average of two punctures and one prang per competitor this a an exciting bike race.
Chartres: Cathedral of Notre-Dame offers photographs, diagrams, antique prints, and maps of Chartres Cathedral. And that's not the only virtual Chartres site: there's a tour courtesy of San Jose SU and a more elaborate tour (requires Quicktime) offered by the Art History department at Ithaca College. Among other things, Great Buildings features some 3D models (additional, albeit free, software required to view). Speaking of virtual experiences, you can walk the Chartres labyrinth (see here for a more technical description). And don't forget video, including this National Geographic short on the cathedral's architecture; you can also listen to the bells.
The sales of a book by Madame de Lafayette, "La Princesse de Clèves", are up in France and there have been public readings of it in theatres and universities. The reason? Sarkozy hates it. As Sarkozy's popularity plummets, the "17th century tale of thwarted love" gets unexpected attention beyond the classroom. Badges inscribed with "I am reading The Princess of Clèves" were the most popular item at the opening of the Paris book fair this week. [more inside]
The French UMP party are being sued by the duo MGMT over the use of their song Kids. UMP paid a standard €53 fee to France's music licensing body, but MGMT's lawyer Isabelle Wekstein says that this was not enough to cover subsequent uses of the song, particularly on the Web. UMP has admitted using it, but said it was a mistake and has offered a symbolic gesture of one euro (£0.89). The story is getting more coverage as the UMP has been pushing hard for a 'three strikes law' that would banish pirates from the Internet after two ignored warnings, which may be close to passage in the French National Assembly.
The Napoleon Series has been collecting Napoleonic scholarship since 1995. Its monstrously replete archive includes articles on Napoleon's role in Jewish emancipation, the Institute of Egypt and its investigation of the Rosetta Stone, obscure British generals, the Malet Conspiracy, and the never realized North American Empire; memoirs from the Russian Archives; and a massive collection of maps and battlefield tours.
Anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss turned 100 on Friday. NPR's Frank Browning offers an appreciation of his work (audio). Anthropologist Dan Sperber (at OpenDemocracy) offers a succinct appraisal of his influence. Patrick Wilcken (TLS) writes about "the century of Claude Lévi-Strauss." [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)
A complete archive of French magazine L'Officiel de la Mode, from 1921 to 2008. It's a treasure trove for fans of fashion, photography, advertising and design. [more inside]
Tunnels no Minasan no Okage Desu is a Japanese game show where contestants strike poses to fit through cutouts in pink foam walls. International reproductions of this game show reveal much about national character; reproductions exist in Italy, Russia, France, Denmark, Hong Kong, Korea, and Australia. [more inside]
Anti-French sentiment still runs high in the USA. Thankfully, Miquelon monitors French bashing activity since 2003. To gain some perspective, some even venture into the belly of the beast...Oh Paris Paramus, where art thou? [more inside]
The Vinkhuijzen Collection of Military Costume Illustration has drawings of uniforms and regimental regalia from all over the world. Assembled by one of these great, eccentric collectors of the late 19th Century, Dr. H. J. Vinkhuijzen, a Dutch medical doctor who started out as an army physician and eventually rose to the position of official court physician to Prince Alexander of Netherlands. He pulled plates out of books, colored in black and white drawings and painted his own watercolor illustrations. His collection includes pictures of the soldiers of many different nations and eras, from military superpowers like the Roman Empire, France and Great Britain, to lesser known, but no less formidable forces, like Byzantium and Persia and even taking in such minnows as Luxembourg, Monaco and Montenegro. Due to Vinkhuijzen's unusual classification system it can be hard to find some of the more interesting images, such as pictures of Etruscan cavalry, Spanish military musicians and 1830's Belgian ambulance.
for your delectation are the Web Flash Festival 2008 finalists and winners. I know we are supposed to post the best of the web. I know we are not supposed to editorialise. But… but… CRIKEY! Even the best is execrable. What's going on in the Flash world? [requires flash]
"There is no reason that the Internet should be lawless," President Nicolas Sarkozy told his cabinet, as Culture Minister Christine Albanel presented a new bill designed to encourage responsible use of the Internet. The legislation would set up a new administrative body that would receive complaints from the music and film industry and track down offenders through Internet service providers. An e-mail warning would be sent to suspected downloaders followed by a registered letter. After two strikes, offenders would risk losing their Internet subscription for up to a year. "We know that we are not going to eradicate piracy 100 percent, but we think that we can reduce it significantly," Albanel told a news conference. [more inside]
1200 kilometers southwest of Acapulco lies the only atoll in the eastern Pacific: one of France's most isolated overseas possessions. First named for an English pirate/buccaneer/privateer, written about here by one John Harris in 1744, the island has changed hands numerous times: claimed by France as part of Tahiti, claimed by the US under the Guano Islands Act of 1856. The island remained uninhabited until 1906, when a British and Mexican mission began mining guano (still in demand today, though sources can now be found a little closer to home). The atoll was thought to have been polished off entirely by an earthquake rumored to have sunk the islands outright in August of 1909. [more inside]
Once home to the Naval Shipyards, L'Ile de Nantes now houses the workshop of Les Machines de l'Ile. The 12m high Elephant made its debut last year (although a predecessor was spotted 3 years ago) and is the first of 3 major projects to be undertaken. [more inside]
The Morgan Museum currently have an exhibition featuring the 1517 Prayer Book of Claude de France, a gorgeous miniature (2.75 x 2 inches) illuminated manuscript, together with the Prayerbook of Claude's mother, Anne de Bretagne. [via]
Rachida Dati, France's Minister of Justice, faces a difficult position after a judge annulled a Muslim marriage because of lies over the wife's virginity. [more inside]
A positive energy building is one that produces more power than it consumes (yes they have been around for a while). The Masdar Headquarters in Abu Dhabi – due for completion in 2010 claims that it will be the first to do this on a substantial scale (mainly thanks to use of solar energy). David Fisher's spectacular “Dynamic Architecture” building in Dubai will aim to achieve the same goal using wind. Scaling up on the ambition stakes France has pledged all of its new housing will fit into this category by 2020.
But is it art? Apparently so - A page of original Tintin artwork by Belgian artist Hergé becomes part of the Pompidou Centre's permanent collection of Modern Art, the first comics artwork to do so despite Frances vibrant comics culture.
Wall stickers to stick on your wall (or furniture, or other stuff).
One man. Six horses. Together, they do crazy stuff.
@mateurdart is a French-language blog on erotic art in a wide variety of eras and styles. (NSFW)
An interactive audiovisual tour [flash, audio] of the student protests in Paris in May 1968. Part of a larger look at 1968. [Previously]
The hippest of today's French youth can't get enough of Tecktonik--a dance (YT), cultural movement and apparent marketing ploy (in French), Tecktonic is a style of dance characterized by its lack of footwork and embrace of various ridiculous arm gestures. Coupled with a strong fashion sense (in French) involving copious amounts of neon, pseudo (or full-on) mullet haircuts and jeans that could be painted on, Tecktonik is a dance craze that, since its birth in 2000 at a Parisian nightclub, has only increased in popularity. [more inside]
Mark Boyle should either take language lessons, read some Peter Jenkins, or wear a better jacket...and yet he blames it on the French!! [more inside]
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").
Some time this month, French wine will once again be transported by sail. As the Guardian reports today, French vineyards concerned about climate change are about to make life much easier for oenophiles wishing to reduce their carbon footprint. Later this month, the Belem, a 19th century barque will sail from Languedoc to Dublin with 60,000 bottles of Bordeaux. [more inside]
Flirting with the Forbidden, for centuries, Romans and French have enjoyed the pleasures of a unique songbird. Once caught, this tiny bunting is kept in a small cage, where its eyes are poked out. It is then force fed oats, millet, and figs until it's plumped up to four times its size. It is subsequently drowned alive in cognac, roasted at high heat, then served as an exquisite - and illegal - meal. Traditionally the diner enjoys this delicacy - approximately the size of a human thumb - underneath an embroidered napkin. The head is bitten off, the entire body eaten in one crunchy bite. Said to embody the "soul of France," it was, reportedly, the last meal of Francois Mitterrand. Writer Michael Paterniti recreates the experience of dining on l'ortolan, superbly told in an episode of "This American Life."
Alain Robbe-Grillet, French author, member of the Académie française and subject of this recent Mefi post, has passed away at age 85.
YouTube user lightning49 has 160 of videos of French singers which she has subtitled with her translations. Her biggest collection is of Jacques Brel videos but there are also songs performed by George Brassens, Charles Aznavour, Edith Piaf as well as a smattering of other stuff. To start you off with a few songs here are three of my favorite songs by Brel, Je suis un soir d'éte, Le moribond and La valse à mille temp along with Charles Aznavour's La boheme, Edith Piaf's Milord and Georges Brassens' Les passantes.
Head over to Cheikha Rimitti's MySpace page and listen to the first tune up on her player (starts when you open the page), called Saida. Whoa! Is that badass or what? Well, there's 5 other tunes of hers there for your listening pleasure, covering a wide swath of stylistic territory within the Algerian music tradition she was such an important part of. Yet another MySpace page pays tribute (with 4 more songs!) to this powerful singer, and you can also learn more about her at the Cheikha Rimitti website, which is in French, but with links like "Musique" and "Vidéos", you shouldn't have too much trouble with it. There's an informative English-language video biography of this "Mother of Raï", not to mention this performance footage (with those fantastic flutes!) of Saida. [more inside]
Popcards.fr is a collection of kitschy French postcards from the 50's, 60's and 70's. Kitschy barely does justice to this collection. Categories abound, including pets, humor (and I use the term loosely), lovers, cuisine and perhaps the two most interesting sections, guys and gals. [via I like via sit down man, you're a bloody tragedy]
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]
The late-fifteenth/early-sixteenth century French publisher Simon Vostre was renowned for his Books of Hours. [more inside]
Agence Eureka is a French language image-blog with hundreds or even thousands of scanned illustrations, mostly from mid-20th century French schoolbooks, educational material, magazines, and ephemera. The current front page is slightly NSFW. Some of the categories include anatomy 1 & 2 (mildly NSFW); chocolate wrappers/trading cards; bricolage; decoupage (cut-outs); math education; playing cards; books and magazines; cars; cinema; orientalisme; sport; mild pin-ups; and many others (scroll all the way down the right to see the tags). [more inside]
The Roma Journeys - contemporary photographs of Roma life in Hungary, India, Greece, Romania, France, Russia, and Finland by Joakim Eskildsen. For more photo essays and info on the Roma, see two superb prior posts by plep and taz.
Four scanned pictures of the French nuclear test codenamed Canopus, which was fired on 24th August 1968 in the Fangataufa Atoll. The photographs are amazing.
Sarko l'Americain addresses US Congress. French President Nicolas Sarkozy has told the US Congress it can count on France's support against terrorism in Afghanistan and Iran's nuclear plan. [Full Text here PDF]. Here also, is a recent take on Franco-American relations [more inside]