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Friday, 29 April 2011

Do the French really need 72-hour antiperspirant protection? Does anyone?

There's a myth - still doing the rounds apparently - that the French don't like washing and instead prefer to douse themselves with perfume.

Take a look at this dumb question posted on a health forum and answered last year.

In 2005 the BBC's Denise Winterman looked at some of the reasons the British in particular might still hold (ignorant) stereotypical notions of French toiletry habits.

It was one element in an article exploring how some British viewed "their cross-channel neighbours with suspicion and antipathy."

That the French have an aversion to soap and water or - at least are not as clean as other nationalities - is of course more than just fallacy. It's discourteous, xenophobic and has no place in the minds of any sane thinking person.

So why then do the manufacturers of antiperspirants choose to market a product to the French that promises "48 hour protection"?

And there's worse still in terms of their judgement on the perceived personal hygiene needs of the French because some also offer 72-hours-worth of "security".

Who the heck needs 72-hour protection?

That's three whole days of accumulated perspiration for men or glow for women - bearing in mind that only horses "sweat".

What in heaven's name is going through the minds of manufacturers when they come up with the idea that anybody requires such a product in everyday life?

This apparent desire not to wash and instead use a deodorant is admittedly not just a French phenomenon - at least not if the commercials are to believed

Scoot around YouTube and you'll pull up any number of ads from countries around the world all presenting the virtues of 48 and 72-hour protection.

Here are just a few - some tasteful - others less so.

What next? 96 hours perhaps.

It gives new meaning to the reaction "Hum"

Thursday, 28 April 2011

An appeal to Mr DSK - Please don't run for president

The speculation as to whether Dominique Strauss-Kahn will run in the primary to choose the Socialist party's candidate for next year's presidential election in France is just about as exciting as watching paint dry.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn (image from Wikipedia)

Everyone knows what his intentions are - at least they think they do.

But DSK's saying nothing although all the signs are that it'll be a "yes".

For the moment though at least the French can hope - that he won't run.

Because please Mr. DSK, leave it to the younger generation to fight it out and try to persuade the French that the Socialist party has a viable alternative to the current government heading ever further into the territory of the far-right Front National.

Let's face it Mr DSK, you're not getting any younger.

You have a checkered past - politically, legally and dare one say in terms of affairs of the heart (or certain appendages).

We all know in France that reputed philandering shouldn't matter - and it doesn't most of the time - in politics, but it's not exactly the best of character references for a man aiming for the country's top job, no matter what his undoubted skills and talent might be.

And wouldn't a complete break with the past and the accepted way of doing politics be good for the Socialist party?

Yes we all know that Seggers might seem as mad as a hatter to many out there, and certainly her love-in with the French media seems to have gone pear-shaped.

But one thing she did last time around - and which sparked a ray of hope - was get younger people involved with the promise that she was the answer to the party elephants.

She fair black-eyed you in the prelims - you and Fabius - but like the good sports you were, you gritted your teeth, stuck the knife in and appeared to be behind her for the presidential election.

Your aim was true. She lost.

There then followed that debacle over the leadership contest, which you weren't part of because you had already accepted a cushy number over in Washington.

But your shadow has apparently been casting its mark over the party all the way across the Pond.

And you've kept in touch with what has been happening here even if it is has been from a distance or during literally flying visits to press the flesh.

Will you beat Sarkozy? All the polls say so.

But do you really have an alternative to offer?

Can Socialists unite behind you (perhaps) and carve out a new definition and role for themselves - er...maybe not.

Let the younger generation have their say. It's time.

Throw your support behind one of them.

Act as a mentor - one full of sagacity, sound advice and support - and avoid any possible compromising dalliances.

Who knows, you might even end up as prime minister.

France's European minister Laurent Wauquiez's "17-member" Schengen howler

Once again it appears as though a French minister hasn't quite got a grasp of the essentials of the job.

This time around it's the minister for European affairs, Laurent Wauquiez - who clearly needs to brush up his knowledge on the portfolio for which he is responsible...Europe.

Laurent Wauquiez (screenshot from BFM TV interview)

When asked during a television interview how many countries belonged to Schengen, the 36-year-old managed to make a complete mess of his answer - and look a fool in the process.

Schengen is the treaty which "abolishes internal borders, enabling passport-free movement between a large number of European countries" and it has been in the news a lot recently

On Tuesday the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, and the Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, jointly requested that it be revised to deal with what they see as an overwhelming number of North Africans (Tunisians) arriving in Europe.

Appearing on BFM TV's early morning show Bourdin Direct on Wednesday, Wauquiez was slipped a question by the journalist Christophe Jakubyszyn which was seemed almost aimed at tripping him up.

And Wauquiez duly obliged.

Laurent Wauquiez and Christophe Jakubyszyn (screenshot from BFM TV interview)

"You're the minister for European affairs," Jakubyszyn said to Wauquiez in that style French journalists seem to love so much, almost assuming their guest have forgotten what daytime job they held.

"How many countries are there in Schengen?"

"17," replied Wauquiez without a moment's hesitation

"22," was Jakubyszyn's immediate response.

"There are four that aren't members of the European Union but are part of Schengen; Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein."

All right so Wauquiez's mistake is perhaps understandable as it's easy to confuse the 27-strong EU with Schengen.

But not all members of the EU have signed up to Schengen.

And just to complicate matters a little more, as Jakubyszyn pointed out, not all Schengen signatories are EU members.

So perhaps Wauquiez could be forgiven - except that he IS minister for European affairs, and really should know these things.

There again perhaps Jakubyszyn's reply wasn't exactly clear either.

22 refers to the number of EU countries that are part of Schengen, with three other non-EU countries - Iceland, Norway and Switzerland - also fully fledged and Liechtenstein "sort-of-fully-fledged" to the area (this is Europe where NOTHING is ever as clear as it could be).

Take a look at the European Commission Home Affairs site and you'll discover just how many countries officially belong to Schengen.

Then go away and have a very stiff drink.

Wauquiez had the good manners to thank Jakubyszyn for correcting him once the interview had finished.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

France grants bullfighting cultural heritage status

Think bullfighting, think Spain - right?

Well not quite. The controversial blood sport is also popular in parts of southern France.

And France has become the first country in the world to recognise bullfighting as part of its cultural heritage.

A bull and a raseteur at the 75th Cocarde d'Or, Arles, France 2006, from Wikipedia, author JialiangGao

As the French daily Libération reports on Friday the ministry of culture announced that bullfighting had been "identified as an 'intangible cultural heritage' giving it the same status as tarte tatin (an upside-down apple tart), fest-noz (a traditional Breton night festival), Aubusson tapestry and Grasse perfumers."

Its inclusion comes as part of France's obligation as a signatory to the 2003 Unesco Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage.

But as the ministry also stressed the decision did not constitute "any form of protection, promotion or special moral bond" and "there was no intention to propose bullfighting for inclusion on Unesco's Intangible Heritage list," as had been the case for French gastronomy which was awarded that status last year.

But opponents of bullfighting were quick to condemn the announcement.

"Frankly I find the decision appalling," Claire Starozinski, the founder and president of l'Alliance anti-corrida, told the regional daily Midi Libre.

"At first I wondered how a ministry in a country which promotes 'enlightenment' could also encourage such a barbaric tradition," she continued.

"On reflection though I don't see it as protecting bullfighting, but if we're ready to give intangible cultural heritage status to popular movements then why not also include rave parties?"

Others critics were less measured in their obvious disgust; among them the former actress, model and singer and not animal rights activist, Brigitte Bardot.

"Including bullfighting on the list of France's cultural heritage is a huge mistake (Bardot used stronger language)," she wrote in an open letter to the minister of culture Frédéric Mitterand on the Brigitte Bardot Foundation website.

"I'm shocked because such a bloody and barbaric activity has nothing to do with French culture," she said.

The news came on the eve of opening of the five-day Féria De Los Ninos in the southern city of Arles.

And locals seemed delighted at the move.

"Bullfighting is part of our tradition and out heritage," Alain Lartigue, organiser of the festival told BFM TV.

"We don't want in any way to 'oblige' people to come to watch bullfighting but simply to respect the liberty of those who do want to come to do so."

A bloodsport of historic, economic and cultural importance or a barbaric, shameful and contemptible activity? French singer-songwriter Francis Cabrel sums it up best perhaps in his 1994 song La corrida.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Boris Boillon hangs on as France's ambassador to Tunisia - but for how long?

Views are split as to whether it could soon be curtains for France's man in Tunisia, Boris Bouillon.

Even though rumours just won't go away that the man dubbed "Sarkoboy" by some in the French media could soon be on his way home, he's still in the job.

And that could be down to Jean-David Levitte, a high-ranking French diplomat and sherpa, or the civil servant who undertakes the preparatory political work prior to summits, to the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy.

Speculation that Boillon would be returning to France surfaced at the beginning of April with a report in France Soir that a replacement had been found for the 41-year-old.

Yves Marek, a career diplomat and "native son" would soon be taking over, the paper assured its readers.

According to the French weekly news magazine Nouvel Observateur, Marek was an "astute choice" to succeed Boillon who had come in for plenty of criticism - not least from those in his new host country - for making as much of a mess of his start to his new post as the French had in their mishandling of Tunisia's "Jasmine revolution".

But as the end of April nears, Boillon is still in his job and, as far as Nouvel Observateur is concerned, that's largely down to the support of Levitte.

Boillon made a mess of things almost immediately after touching down in Tunisia.

During his very first press conference, he appeared dismissive and aggressive towards one journalist and a video of the encounter soon made its way on to the Net.

Not surprisingly it didn't go down well with Tunisians and even though Boillon appeared on national television a day later to apologise, many wanted him out.

(screenshot from Facebook page Boris Boillon Degage)

A Facebook campaign was launched calling for Boillon to be replaced and an online petition was started urging France to appoint another Ambassador who would "meet more closely the expectations of Tunisians as they wrote a new page in their history."

Remember, this is in a country which used social networking tools so effectively to rally support during the revolution.

Not great news then for Boillon and he rather kept his head down during the visit of two members of the French government, the finance minister, Christine Lagarde, and the European affairs minister, Laurent Wauquiez, a couple of weeks later.

Marek's name began circulating as the most likely successor. The 44-year-old's diplomatic credentials were impeccable and he was seen by many Tunisian Internauts as a child of the country's resistance to the former leader Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali.

But that was also his undoing, according to Nouvel Observateur, because he was suspected of having been too much in favour of regime change during the Jasmine revolution, and besides, Levitte wanted to protect Boillon - his protégé.

The one person who perhaps could have given Tunisians what they seemed to want more than anything - Boillon out and Marek in - suggested Nouvel Observateur, was the French foreign minister Alain Juppé.

Just before Easter he was on official business in Tunisia to announce €350 million in aid to help, as TF1 reported, "rebuild a relationship undermined by the France's diplomatic faux pas and mishandling of the events during Tunisia's 'Jasmine revolution'."

It could also have been a golden opportunity to announce a change at the embassy, but it didn't happen.

As far as Nouvel Observateur is concerned that's partly because Juppé has inherited staff and advisors from his predecessor in office, Michèle Alliot-Marie, and he is also being "held hostage by a diplomatic service" unwilling to admit it misjudged the Jasmine revolution in the first place and as a consequence unable to come to terms with its mistakes.

So Boillon is to stay and Marek's services will be deployed elsewhere?

Well all is not lost for those in Tunisia who would like to see Sarkoboy sent home.

On Monday BFM TV ran a report once again suggesting France considered his continued presence in Tunisia could be too much of an embarrassment.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Carla Bruni-Sarkozy pregnancy rumours

Speculation is rife on the Net that France's first lady, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, is pregnant.

The source of course is an irreproachable one; the French weekly celebrity gossip magazine Closer, which asserts in its latest edition that "someone very close to the couple," had provided the information.

It's a story which really doesn't matter whether it's true. The very fact that it's out there in the public domain - albeit it Twitterdom and the less serious elements of the mainstream media - means that it has somewhat taken on a life of its own.

The presidential office - the Elysée palace - has reacted of sorts when questioned by the national weekly newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche with "It's a matter which touches on the private life of the president" - another way of saying "No comment' in a country which has very strict laws which are largely accepted when it comes to public figures.

Perhaps that explains why the so-called story has not really made on the sites or pages of France's main newspapers and magazines, let alone the airwaves and screens of radio and television.

As Bruno Roger-Petit points out on the French website Le Post, there has been almost complete indifference from the mainstream media (other than the usual suspects) to the speculation so far.

Perhaps that's not so surprising as this is the third time in as many years that rumours have surfaced about an impending patter of tiny feet at the Elysée palace.

Just run a Google search and you'll be able to pull up umpteen articles maintaining Bruni-Sarkozy has at one point or another been expecting.

Be that as it may, Closer is sticking to its guns this time around.

The editor of the magazine, Laurence Pieau, confirmed the "scoop" to the national daily Le Parisien, saying that she was certain the information was more than reliable.

"We would not have divulged the news without being completely sure," she said.

"It has been corroborated by several different sources and we are convinced that Carla Bruni-Sarkozy is in the earliest weeks of her pregnancy."

The next few days and weeks will tell whether the rumour is true, but in the meantime, Closer has created a buzz, ensured its sales for the following week, and taken everyone's mind away from political affairs that might actually be of some importance over the coming year as campaigning hots up for the presidential elections in May 2012.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Carla Bruni-Sarkozy parody at theatre awards - mother "not amused"

Last weekend saw the annual La Nuit des Molières in Paris, the French national theatre awards ceremony.

The event, now in its 25th year, gives thespians and fellow luvvies from the French theatre world the chance to indulge in some self-congratulatory back slapping.

It's broadcast live on French television because of course it's part of the country's cultural heritage, but sadly it doesn't really pull in very high ratings.

This year's edition, carried on France 2, attracted fewer than two millions viewers; a shame really as the show was far from being as dull as many might have feared and indeed featured something of a highlight that made quite a buzz both on the Net and the mainstream media.

It was the performance given by Michel Fau.

Michel Fau, (screenshot from YouTube clip)

The actor-director wasn't actually at the ceremony to be awarded anything.

Instead he was what might be called "light relief"

He entered dressed to the nines as an opera diva and gave a rather special version of Carla Bruni-Sarkozy's "Quelqu'un m'a dit".

The whole thing was an excerpt from his 2010 show in Paris "L'Impardonnable Revue Pathétique Et Dégradante De Monsieur Fau" in which he performed music-hall style tributes in appropriate garb of some of his favourite singers.

It was of course a parody and most in the audience seemed to find it amusing, including the minister of culture Frédéric Mitterrand and two women rather close to France's first lady; her sister, Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi, and her mother Marisa Borini.

Well that's how some initially interpreted the reaction of Bruni-Sarkozy's family.

But as the website of, among others, the weekly news magazine Nouvel Observateur pointed out, the smiles of the two women looked just a little too determined and forced for the camera.

Borini in particular was apparently far from pleased at Fau's onstage antics.

And according to the French celebrity website, the first lady's mother allowed her "displeasure to be felt backstage, after the awards ceremony was over."

Oh well, it was just a bit of harmless entertainment, and surely Borini has heard more harmful comments and statements directed towards her daughter over the years.

And let's face it, Fau's performance gives the extra.

Take a listen to both videos for a direct comparison.

Enjoy and oh yes, don't forget to smile.

Friday, 22 April 2011

"Polly put the kettle on" - but in France read the instructions first

Can boiling water to make a cup of tea really be so difficult?

Yes, if the instruction manual of one manufacturer selling kettles in France is to be believed.

Ah there's nothing like a cup of tea to quench your thirst.

Even though in Britain the tea ritual is perhaps no longer what it once was, the British are still one of the largest consumers of the beverage - milk included of course.

Not so the French.

They've never been as keen as their neighbours across the Channel on (from Astérix chez les Bretons) "une tasse de thé avec un nuage de lait" although according the kind folk at Wikipedia, they're coming around to appreciating a cuppa or two and its popularity doubled in the years from 1995 to 2005.

What was long "a social habit of the upper middle class" in France has found its way into the hearts of the hoi polloi with companies such as Mariage Frères offering a mind-boggling array of teas to its clientele.

If you've ever visited Paris then you might have paid the company a visit. It has been in business since 1854, has Tea Salons and Tea Emporiums dotted around the French capital and even a presence abroad.

Mind you, if it's a cup of Typhoo, PG Tips or Brooke Bond you're gasping for, you might want to give the place a miss.

After all how appetising does one of its most recent arrivals, Lily Muguet or lily of the valley flavoured white tea, sound?

Apparently "Mariage Frères returned from a stroll in the woodlands of France with the highly original idea of composing a tea that features the light, bright scent of freshly picked lily-of-the-valley," as they tell us on their site.

And they describe how it's always time for Lily Muguet because "The airy, tender flower with satiny sheen provides the smooth, sweet charm of its sun-kissed petals."

Enough said perhaps.

But what about brewing at home?

Whether it's the scented fruity muck of a tisane or herbal tea you're after, or something more basic and dare-it-be-said "normal" you would like, one thing's for certain.

Unless you're intending brewing Iced Tea, you'll need some boiling water.

And that inevitably means a kettle.

Now it's not as though turning the thing on is intellectually challenging in any way.

Let's face it, boiling an egg is more difficult.

But that's not what Siméo, the manufacturers of one brand of kettles available on the French market, appear to think.

Just look at this humble kettle and the instructions that came with it.

Not just one simple page, but a whole little booklet complete with diagrams and instructions on:
how to turn it on for the first time; how to use it; security tips; cleaning and so on and so forth.

All useful stuff of course, but do the manufacturers really think that the French, usually so at home in the kitchen, are really such idiots when it comes to boiling a kettle of water?


Boiling a kettle in France is obviously a complicated affair!

One woman's French Foly - regretfully revisited

We've all been there - trying to recapture a moment that brought so much enjoyment first time around and left us with a wonderful memory.

Such was the case with Liane Foly's "La Folle Part en Cure", which has just wrapped up a month-long run at the Théâtre Le Palace in Paris.

It was, to say the least, disappointing, and at times quite frankly - dull.

The problem was no so much Foly's talents as a comedienne and impressionist - they are indisputable.

Instead it was the material, and certainly the venue didn't help, which meant the show fell short of the magic from Foly's 2008 "La Folle Parenthèse" when the blues and jazz singer first revealed her talents as an impersonator to the general public and regaled audiences with spot-on impressions and biting humour.

So what went wrong this time around?

Well first up the script. The running gag was the world coming to an end in 2012 and a very special spa opening its doors to a range of celebrities enabling them and the audience to laugh away the blues.

Giving Foly a hand on stage and allowing her to slip from one voice to another was Serge Perathoner as "Docteur Loco" the psych in charge of spa.

He accompanied her on the piano, fed her lines to poke fun at celebrities and provided continuity necessary to avoid the show becoming a string of disconnected characters and disjointed impersonations.

But it simply didn't work.

Some of the jokes were lame, the vignettes a little too long and the running gag, tedious.

The sketches that opened and closed the show were cases in point.

Lady Gaga at the beginning and Geneviève de Fontenay (the woman who until recently had been the doyenne of the Miss France competition) at the end were not so much impressions as they were caricatures.

Nothing wrong with that as they both brought about an initial smile and allowed Foly to launch into some astounding impersonations of singers - male and female. The younger generation of the French music scene at the beginning in the shape of Grégoire, Zaz and M (Matthieu Chedid) were astonishingly spot-on.

And so were the late greats Joe Dessin, Mike Brandt and Daniel Balavoine at the end - allowing audience participation as everyone sang alone.

But as Lady Gaga, Foly amused only for the initial 30 seconds - and that only really in terms of her costume - and as Geneviève de Fontenay there was a joke involving an interminable and incomprehensible meeting with the Pope. Both went on for far too long.

Missing from the show was the political bite and satire of her 2008 show. Sure Ségolène Royal made an appearance - a rather long one - but the humour was as absent as the former Socialist party's presidential candidate seems to have been from the political scene in recent months. And as convincing as Foly was as Roselyne Bacholet, once again the jokes just fell flat.

French president, Nicolas Sarkozy made a brief entrance along with his wife Carla, but there wasn't really much happening apart from some shoulder shrugging .

Of course some impersonations were always going to work because Foly masters the voices and the mannerisms so well. That was the case with a couple of her favourites - Line Renaud and Muriel Robin - where it's hard to tell where Foly finishes and the character takes over.

And a duet of Jeanne Moreau singing with Vanessa Paradis was remarkable.

But there were also those that missed the mark by a mile, such as Susan Boyle and Edith Piaf. In both cases it just sounded like Foly singing. And that's perhaps how she should have left it because she has a magnificent voice and a wonderful timbre.

While the material was a bit iffy, the venue didn't help much either.

Dating from the 1920s, Le Palace is a former music hall and cinema which reopened in 2008 after having being closed for more than a decade.

But it's shabby, badly air-conditioned (in other words not at all) and the seating is uncomfortable; a far cry in terms of comfort from the Théâtre Marigny at which Foly performed back during her Paris run in 2008.

Hopefully the show will tighten up as it goes on the road around France until November, taking in dates at Arras, Rennes and Rouen and popping over the border in September to the Swiss city of Geneva.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Nadine Morano's Renaud-Renault howler - the song

You kind of knew it was going to happen.

It's barely a week since Nadine Morano, the minister in charge of apprenticeships and professional training, made a complete fool of herself during an interview on an early morning television programme.

Nadine Morano and Caroline Roux (screenshot La Matinale Canal +)

Her classic confusion of "Renaud", a French singer-songwriter with a distinctive "broken voice", with "Renault", the car manufacturer at the centre of the non-existent industrial espionage story, became an instant Internet hit and the object of plenty of ridicule.

Now though, an Internaut has come to her rescue - sort of.

Jérôme Niel aka La Ferme Jérôme (screenshot from video)

Jérôme Niel has written a song whose title uses the exact words in the question that so confused Morano, "Tous coupables sauf Carlos Ghosn" and performing it as - who else - but Renaud.

Just to refresh your memory, Morano was asked what she thought of the case of Renault in which everyone seemed to be guilty except its CEO Carlos Ghosn.

"J'aime, j'aime pas 'Tous coupables sauf Carlos Ghosn'," was what Morano was asked on an edition last week of La Matinale on Canal +.

And those words, as far as Niel were concerned, were at the nub of the minister's befuddlement.

"I watched the mistake Nadine Morano made and if you listen to the way the journalist (Caroline Roux) poses the question you can hear that it sounds like the title of a song 'Tous coupable sauf Carlos Ghosn'," he said.

"I thought why not simply use that as a starting point and I put it online and it has aroused a great deal of interest both on the Net and among the media."

Looking - sort of - and sounding - more so - like Renaud, Niel lets Morano of the hook in a manner of speaking, because her blunder is no longer as silly as it seemed!

Well that's if you can get over the fact of a politician being so ill-informed on what was the major domestic news story of the day.

Of course it's all a spoof and not the first time the web humorist has composed and performed such a parody.

There's more, much more on his blog La Ferme Jérôme and his Facebook page

No reaction from Morano herself yet - which is probably the best approach.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Nadine Morano's Renaud-Renault howler

Oh how we all love it when politicians make a complete ass of themselves.

It somehow makes them appear normal, vulnerable and heck - even renders them likeable.

Such was the case of Nadine Morano, the minister in charge of apprenticeships and professional training, when she appeared on Tuesday morning's edition of La Matinale on Canal +.

The penny drops for Nadine Morano (left) while Caroline Roux (right) can't quite believe her ears (screenshot from La Matinale on Canal +)

She was invited on to the programme to be interviewed by its political correspondent, Caroline Roux, in a segment that lasts around seven minutes.

And it was at the end of being asked how the governing centre-right Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (Union for a Popular Movement, UMP) was going to be able to put its house in order and avoid splitting that Morano made what was, even by her own admission, something of a howler.

Before reading any further you'll need to know a couple of things as background.

First of all there's Renault - as in the French car manufacturer which has been in the news over the past couple of months over the non-existent industrial espionage story.

It has all been rather a mess and an embarrassment, seeing three employees wrongly accused and this week forcing the resignation of some of its top managers.

Those resignations were one of the top domestic stories of the day. Remember that.

One person who has survived though is it's CEO - Carlos Ghosn. Remember that too.

Then there's Renaud - a singer-songwriter with a distinctive "broken voice" and some of whose songs have become popular classic in France. Here's one of his most famous ones, "Mistral gagnant"

Renault - Renaud: different spelling, same pronunciation.

For anyone one "not in the know" or who hadn't been reading the newspapers, turned on the radio or watched the telly it might be easy to confuse the two when asked a current affairs question.

But for a politician?

Here's what happened.

Roux had finished interviewing Morano and turned to the traditional round of quick-fire questions "J'aime, j'aime pas" (I like, I don't like) - a moment when she asks a guest their reaction to a major news story along the lines of "Do you like or don't you like....the role of France in the downfall of Laurent Gbagbo?" for example.

Actually that was one of the questions that proceeded Morano's "mistake".

"I like or I don't like - Renault - everyone is guilty except Carlos Ghosn?" asked Roux.

There was a moment's hesitation (presumably to collect her "thought" before Morano replied, "I like some of Renaud's songs," followed by a pause and accompanied by a growing look of incredulity from Roux.

"Not all of them," Morano continued.

"But I haven't heard that one. So I can't say whether or not I like it."

Roux, ever the professional and still not quite convinced that she has really heard what was just said then kindly but politely reminds Morano that "Everyone is guilty except Carlos Ghosn" isn't a song by Renaud.

"What is it?" asks Morano

"It's Renault which is settling scores in the case of industrial espionage," responds Roux.

Morano realises her "big mistake" as she describes it, and finally - after making excuses for her gaffe - answers the proper question.

But who cares? She had already provided the programme, viewers and Internauts of course, with more than enough merriment and proof that, once again, government ministers really have their fingers on the pulse of what's happening.


nadine morano et renaud francais 380268 mov hd par kiSScOOl1988

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

One less Johnny in the world

It's a sad day for Johnnys - or perhaps that should be Johnnies as it's plural - all around the world.

They can now count one less to their name.

On Monday a court in the southern French city of Pau ruled that Johnny Layre could officially change his name - and call himself Karim.

It was all a bit of an uphill struggle though for the 23-year-old.

As you might remember, he had been trying to rid himself of the name, he felt his mother had burdened him with when he was born, for the best part of a year.

She had been - and remains - - a big fan of the French rocker Johnny Hallyday.


Johnny Hallyday (screenshot from YouTube video)

Sadly Karim, as he may now be called in all official documentation and for administrative purposes, didn't feel quite the same; to such an extent that he said it had made it the object of ridicule and teasing from his during his childhood, and something he wanted to be rid of when a teenager.

You can hear the poor fellah in a clip from an interview he gave Europe 1 radio in Marcj.

Layre had his initial request to try get his name changed turned down because he had not supplied "sufficient grounds or documentation to support his application."

That's officialese speak for "get the proper evidence together and we'll consider it."

That's exactly what Layre did, providing sworn declarations from family and friends that he has always been known as Karim - well at least for the past 10 years.

Shucks he even had the backing of his sister Edith, who was on hand after Monday's ruling to tell journalists how much her brother had suffered.

"He hasn't been able to stand his name since he was 14 or 15," she said.

"All his friends called him 'Karim' - even those on Facebook,' she added.

Oh well that's it. The mention of "Facebook" must have swung it second-time-around with the court.

Although the media interest in Layre's case might have surprised both him and his family there is, of course, a more serious side to all of this, as lawyer Joackim Fain, who specialises in handling name changes explained to Europe 1 radio.

"At the moment there's an explosion in the number of people applying to change their names," he said.

"There are a number of reasons; from wanting to integrate better and changing a foreign name by 'Frenchifying' it to religious considerations or simply those cases where people feel the name they've been given makes them the object of ridicule."

But as Karim's lawyer was keen to point out, the court's decision would not "open the flood gates" and it was in no way meant to "stigmatise" other Johnnys of this world (that's a relief).

"These decisions are made ​​on a case by case basis, depending on the situation and experiences of those involved," said Camille Lacaze.

"The testimonies my client's relatives provided have indeed confirmed that he had suffered under his first name," she added.

"The court's decision is excellent news and it'll allow Monsieur Layre to begin a new life."


Saturday, 9 April 2011

Rachida Dati's "dildo" code of practice

Trust Rachida Dati.

The former French justice minister and now European parliamentarian has once again proven herself to be adept at unintentional sexual innuendo.

Rachida Dati (screenshot of interview clip on LCI)

Few will forget her "fellatio - inflation" slip of the tongue during a televised interview last September when talking about foreign investment funds.

The clip soon became an Internet hit and even Dati managed to see the funny side, admitting at the time that she had been talking too quickly.

Now though she has given television viewers and Internauts alike another reason to smile by inadvertently slipping in the word "dildo" during an interview.

It came over a week ago on April 1 (how appropriate you might be thinking) as Dati was a guest on Christophe Barbier's programme on the all-news channel LCI.

Up for discussion were laicity and Islam, with Dati in full flow as Barbier asked her about France's "code de la laïcité" or "code of secularism" and whether she thought it was useful.

Dati replied that it laid down a "code of practice" and started giving examples of other fields in which similar "sets of written rules explaining how people should behave" also worked.

Except she used the word "code" a little too often and at one point substituted "gode" or "dildo" before instantly correcting herself and continuing.

The slip-up would have probably have remained unnoticed had it not been for sharp-eared Nicolas Domenach, a journalist on Canal +, who happily ran a copy of the clip on Thursday.

You can hear Dati's '"dildo" reference at 14 seconds in a clip which surely - thanks largely to Domenech - has all the right ingredients to go viral.

Of course if Dati, who is undoubtedly a very bright and articulate woman, would just ease down on the speed at which she speaks, these sorts of mistakes might not be made.

But there again, what would the world be like without the occasional misplaced "fellatio" or "dildo"?

Friday, 8 April 2011

French newsreader's Borloo-Bordeaux mix-up

The leader of the liberal and centrist Parti radical (Radical party), Jean-Louis Borloo might have the reputation - deservéd or not - of enjoying a tipple or two.

Indeed his character in the satirical puppet show on Canal +, Les Guignols, is often portrayed as being on the rather jolly and incoherent side of tipsy as an even more dishevelled - if it were humanely possible - reincarnation of that scruffy TV detective Colombo.

Elise Lucet (screenshot from France 2 television)

So perhaps it was exactly that image that came to the fore in the mind of Elise Lucet as as the anchor on France 2's lunchtime edition of the news on Thursday gave a plug for a programme to be broadcast later in the day.

As she signed off, Lucet drew viewers' attention to the channel's political magazine A vu de juger, in which Borloo would be appearing in the evening and would perhaps she said, "Announce he was running for the country's 2012 presidential elections."

Except that wasn't quite what came out as you can see from the clip.

"Jean-Louis Bordeaux (as in the wine presumably) is what slipped out, quickly to be replaced by, "Borloo" and a smile.

Jean-Louis Borloo announces split from UMP - Rama Yade follows

The former ecology minister and leader of the liberal-centrist Parti radical (Radical party), Jean-Louis Borloo has announced that his party is leaving the governing centre-right Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (Union for a Popular Movement, UMP).

Jean-Louis Borloo (screenshot from France 2's À vous de juger

The declaration came during Thursday night's edition of the political magazine À vous de juger on France 2 television.

Stressing that he wanted to "create a social and humanitarian majority" Borloo said his party was leaving the UMP and would join a new Republican alliance along with former defence minister Hervé Morin's Nouveau Centre and other centrist parties.

"The formal proposal will be submitted to the Radical party's congress on May 14 or 15 but you can now consider that there will be a new formation, a Republican alliance," he said.

Borloo didn't say whether he would run as a candidate for the 2012 presidential elections but all the signs are there and he emphasised throughout the interview that the new party had an "obligation" to contest both next year's races for the Elysée palace and the National Assembly and would "represent and distinct alternative" to the UMP and Socialist Party.

His decision came perhaps as no surprise as rumours had been rife for several months that he would split with the UMP, ever since he left the government in November after being passed over for the post of prime minister in the long-awaited reshuffle.

Rama Yade (screenshot from BFM TV)

And he wasn't the only former minister to announce he was leaving the UMP.

On Friday morning Rama Yade, followed suit.

"It's a page in political history that is turning," Yade said on BFM TV in reference to Borloo's announcement the previous evening.

"The left wing of those within the UMP needs to be heard, respected and have its views considered," she said stressing that she had felt the need to be true to her own values and she could no longer accept some of the policy statements and comments being made by government ministers.

How many others from the UMP, unhappy with the party's seeming insistence to go after the potential voters for the far-right Front National, will follow?

And if Borloo decides to run for office, will he present a threat to the chances of the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, making it through to the second round of next year's elections.

Watch this space.

For the moment though, keep your fingers crossed.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Frenchman fails in bid to become Las Vegas mayor

It was so nearly the sort or stuff that the American Dream is made of; a Frenchman bidding to become mayor of a major US city.

But in spite of spending millions of his own personal fortune, 69-year-old Victor Chaltiel failed to make it past Tuesday's primary to find a successor to the incumbent mayor, Oscar Goodman, finishing fourth with 14 per cent of the vote.

Victor Chaltiel (screenshot from TV spot)

Voters chose Goodman's wife, Carolyn and a Clark County Commissioner, Chris Giunchigliani, will to head-to-head in June's run-off.

He's not an Englishman in New York but a Frenchman in Las Vegas, and Victor Chaltiel wanted to be mayor of Las Vegas.

The self-made businessman arrived in the States almost 40 years ago, but from the way he speaks you wouldn't know it.

His accent is - to say the very least - almost the caricature of a Frenchman speaking English.

Indeed even Chaltiel had doubts about how he would come across when he first considered standing. But he brushed them aside on the advice of a friend.

"At first I thought my accent would be an obstacle," he told Agence France Presse.

"But an American friend reassured me. He said, 'Victor, let me ask you a question. In all your 38 years in the United States, has your accent ever prevented you from succeeding and making your fortune?' Never. I responded. 'There you go,' he replied. 'You have your response'."

As the French national radio station Europe 1 reported, Chaltiel was virtually unknown when he entered the race and financed his campaign using the personal fortune he has accumulated over the years - to the tune of $1.4 million.

Television spots stressed his experience as a "businessman rather than a politician" and that unlike "professional" politicians, unwilling or unable to give up all the trappings that go with elected office, Chaltiel was willing and able to finance his own campaign himself and to be governed by a businessman would change everything for Las Vegas residents.

"I speak differently, I think differently, I work differently," he said in one spot, emphasising that over the years he had helped build businesses and create jobs.

"We are all different, but we all have one thing in common. We all want to see our city shine again."

Voters though didn't quite see thing that same way as Chaltiel, and in the end plumped for what they knew best in the shape of Goodman and Giunchigliani.

In spite of that, one thing's for sure though, Chaltiel's hand-kissing, heavily accented presence brought more than a smile to many on both sides of the Pond - and who knows, perhaps he'll try again.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

France nul points-bound for Eurovision?

If you thought the tale of the French entry at this year's annual "musical" (the term has to be used lightly) jamboree that is the Eurovision Song Contest was over - think again.

After deciding who would represent the country a couple of months ago, the choice of song has now been made.

Amaury Vassili (screenshot from YouTube video)

Back in February the Powers that Be at France Television decided who would sing the French entry at this year's bash.

None of that namby-pamby, letting-the-public-choose nonsense in France.

TV execs "wield the stick" and they plumped for 21-year-old Amaury Vassili, a singer with a "fine lyric tenor voice" (and lots of hair).

You know the sort of thing: not quite classical and certainly ill-suited for opera, but pleasant enough to listen to - if you're into that sort of tra-la-la-ing.

When the choice was announced, the promise was made that the song would be especially written for him and would be sung in the Corsican dialect*, which makes a great deal of sense for someone born in the northeast of the country.


That commitment has been honoured and Vassili will be singing his lungs out next month with...wait for it...this.


Yes. France - one of the stalwarts of the competition has done

Dramatic - overly so - camp and tedious are three words that spring to mind.

And even though that might describe what Eurovision has become (and perhaps always was), with such an - ahem - "unusual" entry, does the France really stand any chance of lifting a title it hasn't won since 1977?


Over the years stranger songs have been entered and even won.

Who will ever forget Norway's 1995-winning ethereal nonsense "Nocturne" by Secret Garden or Finland's laughable head banging "Hard rock hallelujah" from Lordi 11 years later.

A rhetorical question.

So perhaps there's some hope for this year's Gallic entry.

Just don't put too much money on it winning.

You'll be able to find out for yourself on May 14 when the final will be broadcast live to millions from the German city of Düsseldorf.

* If English-speakers out there thought that they would have problems understanding France's entry, spare a thought for the French.

Not even the official Eurovision site has come up with a translation into French, although it has helpfully provided the original Corsican and English

So now you can sing along too!

"Sognu di ste labbre
Di sta voce chjara è pura
Mai spentu ricordu di tè
Quella notte cui cun tè

I dream of those lips
The voice, clear and pure
I still think of you
That night, there with you"

The number of Moslems in France causes problems says Claude Guéant

He's at it again.

Hardly a week goes by - no strike that - hardly a day goes by - without France's recently-appointed interior minister, Claude Guéant, making a remark guaranteed to hit the headlines.

Guéant is proving himself to be the master of the provocative comment that doesn't just border on the racist, but is clearly meant to appeal to any xenophobic tendencies that might and do exist among some French.

And his comments have once again ignited outrage from the opposition Socialist party and angered anti-racist groups.

After saying that the "French didn't not feeling at home in France" and suggesting that "Obviously anyone working in a public service shouldn't wear a religious symbols or show any religious preference" Guéant has continued with the same theme.

"This growth in the number of Moslems and a certain number of behaviours causes problems," he said on Monday.

"There is no reason why the nation should accord more rights to one particular religion than others that were formerly anchored in our country."

Highly appropriate and timely from the interior minister given than the comments came on the eve of the debate organised by governing centre-right Union pour un Mouvement Populaire's (Union for a Popular Movement, UMP) debate on laicity.

It's a debate which is supposedly about secularism but is really more about the place of Islam in French society and comes shortly before the implementation of the ban on wearing full face veils in public places on April 11.

It's surely hard to defend Guéant's comments, even if some of his cabinet colleagues such as the higher education and research minister Valérie Pécresse have tried, when she suggested that the "Left was trying to whip up anti-Claude Guéant propoganda."

The big question remains though, where is the Omnipresent One, usually so keen in the past to rein in ministers when they step out of line?

The French president, Nicolas Sarkozy has been noticeably quiet giving the impression that he is more than happy to allow his interior minister to be his "unofficial spokesman" in making an appeal to those who might be attracted to the far-right Front National and its leader Marine Le Pen in next year's presidential elections.

Perhaps it's Eva Joly, a European Member of Parliament for the Europe Écologie party, who best sums up the sentiment many have about why Sarkozy, far from reprimanding Guéant, could actually be encouraging him.

"Nicolas Sarkozy seems determined to overtake Marine Le Pen on the Right," she said after Guéant's most recent remarks.

"He's allowing his chief spokesman to 'surf' on subjects such as national identity, the Roma immigration and Islam," she continued.

"It has become an ignoble competition with the xenophobic Right."

Hear hear!

Monday, 4 April 2011

Verdict of "neglect" for vegan couple over baby's death

A court in the northern city of Amiens has found Sergine and Joël Le Moaligou guilty of neglect and failure to provide medical care or proper nutrition for their daughter, Louise who died in 2008.

screenshot from France 2 report

They couple were both sentenced to five years imprisonment, but are unlikely to spend time behind bars as part if it was suspended and the period they've spent in custody was taken into account.

The sentence was more lenient than the one the prosecution had called for of 10 years imprisonment.

The case was one where faith in an alternative lifestyle - as well-intentioned as it might have been - came head-to-head with reality. And the results were tragic.

The couple are vegans, and had fed Louise on nothing other than breast milk up until the day she died at the age of 11 months.

When Louise started losing weight they took her to see a doctor who suspected pneumonia.

In spite of a recommendation to take their daughter to hospital for further tests and treatment, the parent's decided to care for her at home - using alternative methods.

Her condition didn't improve and by the time they called the emergency services it was too late.

Louise was just 11 months old when she died of a bronchial infection and weighed 5.7 kilogrammes.

The prosecuting attorney Anne-Laure Sandretto had argued that their alternative lifestyle wasn't on trial but rather whether the couple had "shown a lack of care and caused the death of their child.'

That somehow didn't marry with Sandretto's call for a 10-year prison sentence and her insistence that Louise had died "because of her parents' beliefs and rejection of traditional medicine."

An autopsy on Louise revealed that she suffered from a vitamin A and B12 deficiency, both of which are essential to a child's growth.

For Sandretto that suggested proof of the parents' culpability as Louise had only been fed on breast milk.

"The problem of the vitamin B12 deficiency would be linked to the diet of the mother," Sandretto said.

But the couple also had another child, 12-year-old Elodie, who had not suffered the same vitamin deficiencies and a doctor who had seen Louise at eight months had described her as being "in perfect health."

Speaking after the trial Anne-Laure Pillon, the lawyer for the plaintiff, called the decision the right one, even if it might have appeared lenient to some.

"It gives the family some hope," she told France 2 television.

"At the same time it shows limits and makes clear to the parents that they didn't react appropriately."

The couple have also lost partial parental responsibility for education and health of their older daughter.

Friday, 1 April 2011

French TV pulls the plug on Carré Viiip

The Powers that Be at France's main private television channel, TF1, have decided to stop its latest venture into the realms of reality TV after barely two weeks.

On Thursday TF1 announced that it was dropping Carré Viiip with immediate effect.

Carré Viiip RIP (screenshot from programme trailer)

Just a refresher for those of you not in the know.

Carré Viiip was launched just less than two weeks ago amid the usual ostentatious fanfare that accompanies these things.

The "concept" (if that's not exaggerating a little) was to unite eight supposéd celebrities, who had made their names in previous reality shows, with the same number of anonymous wannabes eager to take their place.

It was meant to mark the 10th anniversary of reality television programmes in France.

Except it didn't quite turn out that way.

Instead it has come to an ignominious end with TF1 dropping it completely and replacing it with imported US series.

Officially it was because of poor ratings as TF1's director of programmes, Laurent Storch, explained on Europe 1 radio.

"Yesterday (Thursday) it only attracted 13 per cent of the total viewing public for its time slot and that's far too low for TF1, " he said.

"We've been trying hard with Endemol (the show's producers) to find a solution but it's clear that after 12 consecutive days of poor ratings, it's simply not winning over its target audience," he continued.

"The programme was stopped on Thursday and there'll be no weekly prime time show on Friday because that would be pointless."

While that might be the official version, there's no getting over the controversy that has surrounded the show especially after Michèle Cotta openly criticised it.

She's a former president of the television and radio watchdog le Haute Autorité de la communication audiovisuelle - the predecessor of Le Conseil supérieur de l'audiovisuel.

And she was also a member of Endemol's ethic committee - until she resigned earlier this week.

"I like reality TV when it's programmes such as Fear Factor or Koh Lanta because they give a voice to people who are not known," she said.

"But in Carré Viiip the candidates take part to make themselves 'known' at any cost and that's just not one of the values I hold to be important."

There was of course the case of M6 cancelling Trompe-Moi si tu peux (Cheat on me if you dare) in July last year before the programme aired because one of the candidates had committed suicide.

But TF1's decision marks the first time a show using the format of cutting of candidate from the outside world has been stopped in such a manner.

It's proof that someone, somewhere at TF1 has good judgement - although perhaps real praise could only have been heaped on the channel had it decided in the first place not to schedule such a pile of rubbish.

Sadly while Carré Viiip has bitten the dust, it doesn't look as though it'll herald the end of reality TV in France.

Secret Story is still scheduled to return for a fifth series later in the year.

French man who claimed Glaxo drug made him "gay sex addict" wins case

It might appear to be an April Fool, but rest assured it's genuine.

On Thursday a French court ordered the pharmaceuticals giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) to pay Didier Jambart more than €117,000 in damages.

Didier Jambart (screenshot from TF1 news report)

Jambart had taken the company to court claiming that its drug, Requip, had led him to become addicted to gambling and sex, changed his personality and caused him psychological damage.

The 51-year-old father began taking the drug in 2003 to treat Parkinson's disease and a year later, after initial positive signs, his doctor increased the dosage, which was when the side-effects kicked in.

He began gambling, losing more than €70,000, stole credit cards from friends, became addicted to sex with men, cross-dressing and exposing himself on the Internet.

In his own words, Jambart was out of control and attempted suicide eight times.

It wasn't until a specialist took him off the drug in September 2005 that the link between Jambart's behaviour and the side effects of his treatment was established.

His lawyers had argued that GSK had known of the rare but potential hypersexuality and compulsive gambling in some patients as early as 2000 and certainly by 2003, but hadn't officially recognised the possible side effects or included a mention of it on the packaging until 2006.

"It's a great personal victory for all those victims of Requip," Jambart said after the court in the western French city of Nantes had handed down its ruling.

"The fight will go on for all those other people who have suffered similarly from such side effects and haven't dared to speak out."

Jambart's is far from being an isolated case in France. He and his lawyers, Gérard Marot and Antoine Béguin, say they in the past week they have been contacted by others now apparently willing to come forward.

It could get expensive for GSK. Still, the company can probably afford it.

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