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In my interests below, I list French language, cinema, theatre, politics, art, and wine. And while French brought me to a lot of these things, I also like all of them in a more general way. I really love languages and their connections. I also have a thing about how theatre and cinema, art, politics and wine all hook up in some way. As I think of these ideas, I can hear the thwonk of the cork coming out of the neck of the bottle, and the gentle squeak as the cork is twisted off the tire-bouchon. Ah, that oakey, musty, acidic aroma wafting, wafting and people talking and talking and talking. And, oh they found out we have some sets of boules and they want to play pétanque. "Let's pick teams and play in the shade of those plane trees." The sounds of summer resonate: the crunch of the terrain under foot, the click of the iron bocce knocking in the players' hands, and the soft kiss of the wooden cochonnet as it hits the ground scuttling down to its resting point where it will await the arrival of each team's battle-worn aggies.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

French Municipal Elections: High Abstention Rate and the Advance of the National Front

The first round of the French Municipal Elections in which citizens vote for this local representatives and mayors took place on Sunday.  The results showed a great deal of dissatisfaction among French citizens with the two leading parties.  The party that holds most power including the Presidency (François Hollande) is the Parti Socialiste (the Left) the other leading party is the UMP (the Right) - Union pour un Mouvement Populaire.  But, Sunday's elections showed that support for these two major parties is eroding with many people deciding not to vote- abstention rate was around 36% - or to vote for the National Front, which runs on an anti-immigrant platform, but which has also become something of an anti-establishment party as well.  Read and listen to these two informative reports from Radio France Internationale and France 24.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Marseille the Kaleidoscope

Often when we study a time and place we seek out primary sources to provide us with a window into society.  A primary source is “a first-hand, direct source of information or research, such as the words of a person who is the subject, official government records, or the memoirs of others; document examined that had not been amended by a third party…”

Primary sources tend to be snippets of history and studying them encourages us to look for other evidence in order to complete our investigation.  On the other hand, when we look at secondary sources - such as newspaper, magazine, TV, or documentary representations of an event or question - we don’t always look around for more since the report tends to be a synthesis of several pieces of evidence that gives us a fuller view of the situation.  However, it can be equally as rewarding to compare several secondary sources about a particular situation.   Brining together reports from a variety of sources lets us build a more complex and complete view of a situation, event, or question and deepens our understanding.  A case in point would be these three reports about Marseille.  Marseilles is known as France’s second biggest city, the oldest city in France, and the busiest and largest port on the Mediterranean.  But is Marseille France’s real capital, France’s cultural capital, or France’s murder capital?  These three reports from three different English-language sources offer a multi-pronged answer to that question while raising other questions that we can look into.  As we read the reports, we will find some themes that


This article appeared in the Real Estate section of France Today July 6, 2010.  British journalist Suzanna Chambers, who lives with her family in the south of France wrote the article.  She is a regular reporter for France Today and other British newspapers – including The Sunday Times.  She also edits the luxury real estate magazine Carpe Diem, and contributes to Angloinfo.com and various lifestyle magazines.
France Today is a magazine oriented towards an international Francophile audience interested in French travel, culture, gastronomy, society & politics, real estate for sale and vacation rentals.

This article appeared in print – 10/4/13 – in the Travel section of The New York Times, with the headline “The Real Capital Of France.”  Michael Kimmelman is the author.  He is a well-known and prize-winning architecture critic at The New York Times.

In this second link there is the same short documentary but this one is from the Journeyman web site and has the transcript in English of the documentary)

Frontline: Marseille is presented and produced by Evan Williams.  For over 20 years he has been a TV news and current affairs reporter for SBS, an Australian national television network, as well as Channel 4 in the UK, and PBS Frontline World in the US.  The documentary appears on the Journeyman Pictures channel on youtube.  Journeyman Pictures gathers documentaries and reports from producers around the world that offer high-quality and thought-provoking journalism.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Paris a city for savoring life and where that comes from

This a.m. I was cutting grapefruit and listening to NPR's "Morning Edition." The show featured a lovely incisive and succinct report on when and why the city of Paris took on some of its characteristics as a city of light and romance.  

The prompt for the story is the publication of How Paris Became Paris Joan DeJean's latest book about French culture and history.  Joan DeJean is a Trustee Professor of Romance Languages at the U of Pennsylvania.  She writes fascinating, insightful historical studies that give an entertaining and very readable account of some of the major themes in French civilization and culture.  One of her previous works is The Essence of Style: How the French Invented High Fashion, Fine Food, Chic Cafes, Style, Sophistication, and Glamour.  This morning's piece of journalism reminds us of how the pursuit of leisure and pleasure - loisir and plaisir - have molded aspects of society that we often take for granted or dismiss because they are the fun-side of life.

Friday, February 14, 2014

François et Barack - France-USA

French President Francois Hollande visits the U.S. (Creative Commons)

It’s Valentine’s Day so I was thinking about how relationships endure and how they don’t.  Given that François Hollande has just finished his official visit to the USA, I was brooding about the Franco-American relationship, its status today, and its long history – a history that was referred to by both Hollande and Barack Obama in their various speeches over the past few days. I scouted round with Google and found some insightful research.  It was on the website of the Gottman Institute whose program is dedicated to understanding relationships by using top-notch research on marriage and “down-to-earth therapy” to help couples.  In an article in Psychology Today (March 1, 1994) entitled “What Makes Marriage Work,” John Gottman, co-founder of the Institute, finds that couples resolve their conflicts in different ways:

- Validating. Couples compromise often and calmly work out their problems to mutual satisfaction as they arise.
- Volatile. Conflict erupts often, resulting in passionate disputes.
- Conflict-avoiding. Couples agree to disagree, rarely confronting their differences head-on.

Gottman points out that in years gone by psychologists probably would have thought that conflict-avoiding and volatile relationships would be destructive. However, his findings indicate that these three styles can be equally solid and predict a bright future for a relationship.

Over the past few days, there have been a variety of articles and reports documenting the French President’s visit.  I have picked out these three from the New York Times and from NPR/PRI.  Three articles related to François Hollande’s visit give us three different points of articulation of the relationship.  In the article on the sanctions in Iran and French businesses seeking economic opportunities there, we go to International relations and we see a somewhat volatile side of the relationship as Obama warns that “we will come down [ ... ] like a ton of bricks” on anybody violating the sanctions.

On a more familial note, in the world of state dinners and who sits where at the table, the relationship seems to be more validating as the Obamas and their staff work out where to put Mr Hollande, who has not leading lady with him.

Finally, we turn to economics and business as François Hollande makes his visit to Silicon Valley and here the relationship seems to resolve some of its differences by avoiding head-to-head conflict.

Taken together, the articles offer us an evolving and revolving viewpoint on the healthiness of France and the USA’s relationship.

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Quenelle
Sylvain Cypel, a former writer at Le Monde makes an insightful and informative contribution to the discussion and understanding of the Quenelle, Dieudonné and their significance in contemporary French history - read his contribution here and add your own comments.

Nicolas Anelka's Quenelle Salute (pic from Metro.co.uk)
Read Metro article here

Friday, November 8, 2013

I found this article to be informative and also close to the heart since I know Saint Etienne really well.  My wife's family is from this area and I have spent many weeks in the city, visiting its mining museum and I took students there during my days at Cleveland State University.  I think the analogy from  Louis Paris, a 25-year old man from Saint Etienne to be quite a incisive and worth discussing: “You cannot take away guns from Americans, and in the same way you cannot take away social benefits from French people.” Here is the link to the full article: The Strain and the Safety Net.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Is France in the lead ecologically?

The recent banning of fracking in France is a courageous move that moves away from a dependency on oil and towards a less damaging way of fueling our transport systems.  Here is the NY times article: