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Friday, 11 April 2014

Friday's French music break - Compagnie Blanca Li, "Robot!"


Friday's French music break this week is something a little different.

First of all it's not French.

And second of all (don't you just hate it when people say that?) it's not music.

Instead it a performance of "Robot!" (with music of course) from the Blanca Li dance company.

It's the Spanish choreographer's latest creation and one which premiered at the Festival Montpellier Danse 2013 and then ran for a series of 11 dates at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris at the end of last year and the beginning of 2014 before going on a national tour of France.

Images (screenshot from video trailer of "Robot!" on Blanca Li official site)

Li sets out to explore the relationship between human beings and machines - in all their forms including robots, computers, vending terminals, cash distributors, barcodes and GPS.

And in the process she poses questions such as "whether our robotic alter egos will one day express feelings?" And if so, "would they be a reflection of what humanity unconsciously wants to represent?"

To help her explore these (and other) issues, Li enrolled the help of the most bizarre and "wonderfully whimsical" music composed and played by the Japanese art group Maywa Denki and their "elaborately over-engineered electronic and mechanical instruments and devices".

And the miniature NAO robots (provided by the French robotics company Aldebaran), taking their very first steps, "dancing" in unison or giving a rendition of "Besame Mucho" (with Li's voice).


Images (screenshot from video trailer of "Robot!" on Blanca Li official site)

In the midst of all this are the company's eight dancers who put on a sometimes graceful, often gymnastic and always exhausting physical display.

Sure, "Robot!" isn't everyone's choreographed cup of tea but it's entertaining and innovative nonetheless.

And there's something rather thought provoking surely about the idea of those in the audience perhaps pondering (or not) as to what the heck they're doing watching a robot "sing and dance".

There are still a handful of dates scheduled in France for both ""Robot!" and another show the company is currently performing, "Elektro kif".

You can find out when and where on the official website.

For the moment though, here's a glimpse of what you might have missed...possibly without regret. But there again dance, just any other art form, is a matter of personal taste.



Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Human rights group given the heave-ho by far-right Front National mayor


He promised during his election campaign that he would do it and Steeve Briois, the newly-installed far-right Front National mayor in the town of Hénin-Beaumont in the northern French département of Pas-de-Calais has proven true to his word.


Steeve Briois (screenshot AFP report)


In his first political act since taking office, Briois has suspended the grant to the local branch of the Ligue des droits de l’homme (Human Rights League, France - LDH) and ordered the association to vacate the premises it had occupied free of charge under the previous mayor.

"For years, the LDH (in Hénin-Beaumont) has benefited from grants and has been allowed the free use of local government-owned office space," said Briois.

"No lease been had ever been signed between the extreme left association and the previous mayor and the grant was completely illegal."

Hello? The LDH an "extreme left" assocation?

Well apparently so, as far as the FN is concerned because during the recent local election campaign, the president of the Ligue des droits de l’homme - Pas de Calais, Alain Pruvot, had warned "of the danger of the FN" and of the need to "block its way".

"We are quite aware of the danger there could be from the Front National gaining power in  Hénin-Beaumont and we want to make voters aware of that," Pruvot said at a press conference back in March.

"We want to counter ideologically the FN and show how dangerous it potentially is."

http://www.bfmtv.com/politique/henin-beaumont-ldh-met-garde-contre-dangerosite-fn-735092.html

For Briois, that was tantamout to a non-governmental organisation meddling in politics, and cited a 2002 ruling by the Conseil d'Etat which declared that "organisations that fought a political party whose existence was legally recognised could not be subsidised."

In reality though, Briois was probably just following a line set down by the party's leader, Marine Le Pen, during the run-up to the local elections when she had said in an interview with Le Monde that associations should be "put up against the wall, to show them that they mustn't  interfere in the political debate."

As far as the LDH is concerned, the FN's arguments might be legal but they also come "with a whiff of a witch hunt."

"The LDH is a political organisation but not a partisan one," its regional delegate, Georges Voix, said.

"We're not fighting a political party but an ideology."

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Christine Boutin, "Homosexuality is an abomination"

No prizes for guessing which particular ex-minister came up with that delightful sentiment.

None other than Christine Boutin, housing minister for two years in François Fillon's first two governments under Nicolas Sarkozy.

The founder and, until last year leader, of the  Parti chrétien-démocrate (Christian Democratic Party, PCD) is well known for her tolerance and understanding of all things gay.


An "outraged" Christine Boutin refuses to answer questions about being married to her first cousin (screenshot LCP May 2013)

The now 70-year-old made her name on the national political stage during the parliamentary debate in 1998 when the government of the day, under Socialist party (PS) prime minister Lionel Jospin, introduced legislation to allow civil union between same-sex or opposite-sex couples; the  pacte civil de solidarité (civil solidarity pact) or PACS.

Boutin was vehemently opposed, most famously giving a five-hour speech during which she said (among many other things) that the legislation was unacceptable because it would  (paraphrasing) "put homosexuality and heterosexuality on the same, level, leading to the demise of society and seriously jeopardising the education of children."

Fast forward 15 years and Boutin was back on her soapbox, spouting her family values, predicting "civil war", the end of (French) society and marching at the front of the "Mariage pour tous" demonstrations against legislation to allow marriage between couples of the same sex.

She was in her element once again, insisting she was not a homophobe while also talking about (shortly after the legislation passed) what appeared to her to be "an invasion of gays".

So the editors of the quarterly political magazine Charles must have known Boutin would be good for a quote or two when they invited her to answer questions about her "vision of sexuality and morals" (and her views on Dominique Strauss-Kahn) in their most recent issue.

That's when she seized the opportunity to make, what she sees, as an important distinction between a homosexual or lesbian and the sexual act.

"I have never condemned homosexuals," she said. "Homosexuality is an abomination. But not the person," she continued.

"Sin is never acceptable, but the sinner is always forgiven."

Yes, Boutin at her "best" - and too much even for the leader of the centre-right Union pour un mouvement populaire (Union for a Popular Movement, UMP) and the man she had backed in the battle to win that position in 2012, Jean-François Copé.

He turned to Twitter to give his reaction to Boutin's views, calling them, "intolerable, unacceptable and unforgivable."






Although Boutin no longer holds elected national office in France, you can expect to hear more from her during the upcoming campaign for the European parliamentary elections.

She has launched the list "Force vie" with candidates (including herself) offering an anti-system alternative to the established parties, which for Boutin includes the PS, UMP and the Front National.

Watch out Strasbourg!


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