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Saturday, 28 April 2012

Dominique Strauss-Kahn: "Perhaps I was politically naive" - he's kidding right?

There might well be something to the claims made by former International Monetary Fund boss Dominique Strauss-Kahn that political opponents' handling of the events after his infamous sexual encounter with a maid in a New York hotel in May 2011 amounted to an "orchestration".
 DSK arrest in New York (screenshot BFM TV)

After all, it's not the first time such allegations have been made.

But one sentence in a piece by Edward Jay Epstein in Friday's edition of the UK daily national The Guardian surely makes a complete mockery of any arguments there might be to back up that theory and any support he might still have.

"Perhaps I was politically naive but I simply did not believe that they would go that far … I didn't think they could find anything that could stop me," he says.

Politically naive?

Strauss-Kahn might be many things, but surely "politically naive" isn't one of them.

From a man who had a long career in French politics and served as both a member of the National Assembly and two years as finance minister, ran (unsuccessfully) for the 2007 Socialist party presidential nomination and was later appointed head of the IMF after being nominated by Nicolas Sarkozy.

He's having us on right?

When will the media stop running profiles and interviews with a man who was a total disgrace and embarrassment to France and its  political system?

Friday, 27 April 2012

Miss Black France - well-intentioned or divisive?

There's an election this weekend in Paris.

No nothing political.

Well at least it's not meant to be.

Saturday will see the crowning of this country's very first Miss Black France, a competition, which as France 24 says, "Has the distinction of recruiting candidates based only on the colour of their skin."

(screenshot from trailer)


The winner will be chosen from the 20 preselected contestants appearing at the Salle Wagram in Paris on Saturday; a panel of 10 judges determining the outcome.

Now put aside whatever you might think about beauty pageants (difficult perhaps) and try to answer the question posed in a piece on the France 24 website as to whether this competition is, "An Americanisation of the idea of a Miss, an innovative idea or the beginning of a slippery slope."

The whole thing is the brainchild of a long-time magazine journalist Frédéric Royer, who says the traditional Miss France competition has never really been entirely representative of the whole country.

"There have been mixed race candidates but they've generally come from the Overseas Départements and not been of direct African descent," he says, forgetting perhaps that Miss France 2000, Sonia Rolland, although brought up in mainland France was actually born in Rwanda to a French father and Tutsi mother.

"What I hope is that this competition will make it easier for more black women to make the covers of magazines."

Ah yes. Of course that's his aim; purely altruistic.

And he has been successful in convincing Conseil représentatif des associations noires (Cran) an umbrella group representing more than 120 associations, to back the contest.

Cran seems to have been persuaded that to paraphrase Royer, the beauty pageant is a "militant act, while at the same time remaining glamorous" and "will provide a boost for a large group of women under-represented in the mainstream media"

One voice speaking out against it though is, of all people, the founder and former president of Cran, Patrick Lozès.

He thinks the election goes against the principle in French society of communitarianism, which emphasises the responsibility of the individual to the community.

"The intentions behind the idea might well be honourable," he says.

"But the logic in the thinking is completely at odds with French society," he continues.

"Does that imply that if black people are underrepresented at the top universities (Grandes Ecoles) and major businesses, it's necessary to create institutions reserved solely for them?"






Friday's French music break - Irma and Jason Mraz, "Can't take my eyes off you"

Friday's French music break this week is admittedly something of a stretch because neither of the singers is actually from France.

 Irma and Jason Mraz (screenshot montage from Taratata)

Nor is the song come to that: one that is more than 40 years old and has been heard time and time again because it has apparently been covered by more than 200 artists.

Add to that the fact that one of the artists was featured just a week ago in this same slot and...well, you could be forgiven for thinking that it's all a bit of a cheat.

Besides, it would be all but impossible to come up with a version of a song sung by so many that would impress wouldn't it?

Think again.

This live performance of Franki Valli's 1967 hit "Can't take my eyes off you" came during a screening of France 2's music show Taratata recently.

It's Cameroonian-born Irma - you remember her from last week's post - and US singer-songerwriter Jason Mraz getting together to blend voices in an acoustic version of the song.

Quite simply, it's music our ears were meant to hear.

More please.

So, click on the link below, it'll take you to the performance on Taratata - and enjoy!

IRMA and Jason MRAZ - Taratata


Thursday, 26 April 2012

French TV journalists' bloopers - after "François Sarkozy" comes "Nicolas Sortant"

It seems to be catching: the problem French some television journalists have with the names of the two candidates in the second round of the presidential elections.

 Ariane Massenet (screenshot Le Grand Journal, Canal +)

On Monday Ariane Massenet successfully managed to muddle and combine Nicolas Sarkozy and François Hollande into a not-so-inappropriate compound perhaps of "François Sarkozy".

Appearing on Le Grand Journal on Canal +, Massenet managed the composite presidential candidate not once, but twice.


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And a couple of days later it was the turn of BFM TV anchor Mathieu Coache to add another dimension to the naming of the candidates.

It came during an afternoon bulletin on the all-news channel as Coache and co-anchor Florence Duprat rounded up the day's campaign trail agenda for the two candidates.

 Mathieu Coache (screenshot BFM TV)

Sarkozy was in the eastern French town of Cernay "exalting the values of France" in the region of Alsace in which, although he had finished top of the pile in the first round just as he had done five years ago, also witnessed a drop in his support (32.92 per cent in 2012 compared with 36.19 per cent in 2007- and massive gains for Marine Le Pen (22.12 per cent in 2012 and 13.56 per cent in 2007).

He might apparently be ruling out any deal with the far-right Front National, but you can probably draw your own conclusions as to what he's up to by insisting that those who voted for Marine Le Pen in the first round "should not be demonised."

Meanwhile Hollande, was taking journalists' questions at a news conference in Paris.

And it was after a clip showing the Socialist party's candidate in action that Coache almost came a cropper with a slip of the tongue that might just have revealed how he thinks the second round is likely to turn out.

"Pendant cette conférence de presse, François Hollande a une nouvelle fois attaqué sans jamais le nommer Nicolas 'sortant'...'Nicolas sortant'- Nicolas Sarkozy - pardon."

Was it just a simple "lapsus linguae" on Coache's part or a matter of wishful thinking combined with presentiment?

Thankfully Duprat was on hand to clarify (as if it were needed) that her colleague had in fact meant to say "candidate sortant".

"Francois Sarkozy" and "Nicolas Sortant".

Of course Massenet might have been thinking of Sarkozy's younger brother who in indeed called François.

But who is Nicolas Sortant?

Are French TV journalists trying to tell the voters something?





Tuesday, 24 April 2012

The art of parking badly - in a Paris métro station


Parisian drivers don't have the best of reputations.

They tend to drive as though they own the roads, only give way when forced to and heaven help you if you enter the Boulevard Périphérique ring road around the French capital and fail to go with the flow.

It ain't for the weak hearted!



(screenshot from AFP video)


When it comes to parking, Parisians are (almost) the proverbial law unto themselves.

The space is too small when parallel parking on the street?

Doesn't matter because with the gentlest of nudging it can of course be made larger.

That's right the space fits the car and not the other way around.

Of course there are always the underground alternatives, plenty of them actually.

And that's what one motorist was aiming for on Tuesday morning as he entered what he thought was the entrance to the Haussmann parking.

Except as the 26-year-old began easing his four wheel drive down the entrance he realised his mistake.

He was in fact (as you can see from the video) trying to make his way into the entrance of a Paris métro station!











French presidential election 2012 - too many opinion polls - says survey

Now there's a headline that's bound to shock.

How could anyone imagine for one moment that the French would feel that way about opinion polls?

After all in the run-up to the first round in this year's presidential elections there were only 375 according to the Commission des sondages, the regulatory body which, as its name suggests, oversees opinion polls.

One of many, many opinion polls (screenshot BFM TV)

That figure is a record (surprise, surprise) far outstripping the total number in both rounds during recent presidential elections; 293 in 2007, 193 in 2002 and 111 in 1981.

And the commission sure has its work cut out with newspapers, television and radio constantly turning to the likes of BVA, CSA, Harris, Ifop, Ipsos, Opinion Way and TNS-sofres to question French voting intentions.

In a world that's far from being perfect those conducting opinion polls seem to be...well even less perfect.

Oh yes they might be congratulating themselves at the moment on getting it "almost right" but several of them underestimated by a couple of percentage points the support for the far-right candidate Marine Le Pen and others overestimated for the far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

The numbers aren't so dramatic according to pollsters who always give themselves that all so important "margin of error" but that doesn't stop the French from being fed up with the frequency of published polls and the perceived impact they have on voting intentions.

That's according to - of all things of course - a poll.

You just can't get away from them can you?

Even though talking to anyone on the street in France would probably give you much the same result, that would only be anecdotal of course and lacking the "objectivity" of the poll conducted by Ifop.

Anyway, according to this, in a manner of speaking, "poll of polls" 63 per cent (of those questioned) think the media publish too many of them and 60 per cent believe they have an influence on the way people vote.

But here's the thing.

By and large those questioned only consider polls can influence the way other people vote; only 15 per cent say their choice can be swayed.

As far as Frédéric Dabi, the general deputy director of Ifop is concerned, that's proof that polls have a value without distorting the outcome.

(you might need to read the following quote a few times because it seems like a classic case of doublespeak)

"Even if that percentage (believing polls can influence the way people vote) isn't negligible, the fact that the overwhelming majority believes that the surveys do not affect their vote undermines the whole discussion about the influence of polls," he says.

"It's the sort of debate that occurs every time a party or a candidate is in trouble."

Right. Understood.

So 375 opinion polls which reflect (more or less) voting intentions without having an impact on the outcome in the first round and more - many more - to follow in the second.

Whoopee!

Monday, 23 April 2012

Rachida Dati's post election cannabis fashion faux pas

So the first round in the presidential elections is over with French voters unsurprisingly choosing the Socialist Party's François Hollande to go head-to-head with the incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy on May 6

The media is now in post first round overdrive with analysis and interpretation of Sunday's results and speculation over the outcome in a fortnight's time.

As such, one of the invited guests on Monday morning's edition of La Matinale on Canal + was none other than Rachida Dati.

Rachida Dati (screenshot from Canal + La Matinale)

You remember her - the woman brought in to Sarkozy's government as justice minister at a time when diversity - both ethnic and gender - was his buzzword, and then when the honeymoon was long over, dispatched to the country's version of sending someone to Coventry (apologies to that UK city, but it is an expression) and made to stand in the European elections.

Having "served her time" without creating too much of a media stir in France, Dati was brought back into the fold as Sarkozy's official campaigning got underway.

And in spite of herself perhaps she has been something of a non-contraversial star in so far as she didn't draw too much attention to herself for off-the-cuff and misplaced remarks.

Well, let's face it, Sarkozy had Nadine Morano for that.

But the day after the night before - and things look to have gone a little wrong for Dati - at least in the vestimentary department.

On Monday she appeared on La Matinale, the breakfast show on Canal +, to put the inevitable positive spin on Sunday's results.

And as she was talking, answering questions put to her by journalist Caroline Roux, the camera kept showing her from the back.

Why?

Well emblazoned on the back of her top was a pattern which looked for all the world to be that of a giant cannabis plant leaf.

(screenshot from Canal + La Matinale)

La Matinale's presenter, Maïtena Biraben, couldn't resist asking Dati about it at the end of the interview and the least that can be said is that the former justice minister floundered.

"There have been several messages on our Facebook page wondering whether your top is smoking," said Biraben to a non-plussed Dati.

"So what is the design on the back of your top - Cannabis?"

Looking rather uncomfortable and probably realising how this could play out later in the day, Dati denied that it was a cannabis plant leaf.

"Hemp?" suggested Biraben with a smile.

"No, not that either," replied Dati. "It's something else."

"Eucalyptus," said Biraben in a pretend Euruka! moment.

"Exactly," affirmed Dati, followed by some insincere laughter.

"But you can smoke eucalyptus too," chirped Biraben

"Yes...er...no, perhaps but eucalyptus makes you calmer," was Dati's final response...er - this obviously wasn't going the way she had planned.


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Neither Biraben nor the viewers were prepared to leave it there though and later in the programme the production team provided a picture of a cannabis plant leaf side by side to one of the pattern on the back of Dati's top.

Rachida Dati (screenshot from Canal + La Matinale)

Draw your own conclusions but as one viewer wrote, "If it's not cannabis, what have I been smoking for the past 20 years?"

Friday, 20 April 2012

Friday's French music break - Irma, "I know"

Friday's French music break this week is from a young woman whose voice you might recognise but perhaps cannot immediately place.

It's Irma with the single "I know", a song that has had massive exposure by being featured in a Google Chrome commercial in Europe.

Who says advertising can't serve a purpose, especially when it helps promote such a talent?

Irma (screenshot from Google Chrome commercial)

Strictly speaking, of course, Irma's not French.

Born and brought up Cameroon, Irma Pany, moved to France in 2003 at the age of 15 to study at the private Catholic secondary school lycée Stanislas de Paris.

In 2007 she began posting homemade videos of both songs she had written and cover versions on YouTube and it didn't take long for the buzz to build.

So much so, that when the fan-funded music label My Major Company showed an interest in August 2008, it took just 48 hours for the site to gather the €75,000 necessary to finance the recording of her debut album.

What perhaps sets the Irma aside from other My Major Company finds such as Grégoire and Joyce Jonathan is the fact that she not only sings in English but has an appeal which has quickly attracted other established artists both French and international.

Tété ("Hey ya"), Matthieu Chédid, M ("Rolling in the deep") and will.i.am from the Black Eyed Peas ("I want you back") have all joined Irma to make simple acoustic cover versions of songs on her YouTube channel.

Her first album, "Letter to the Lord", released in February 2011, was enthusiastically greeted by most critics who praised her for the maturity of her approach and the refreshingly smooth, simple and effective piano-guitar voice arrangement of what was obviously a multi-talented singer-songwriter.

Before the album's release she had apparently worked in New York with Lenny Kravitz's producer but on returning to Paris decided she wasn't happy with the result and reworked the self-penned songs to make them more folksy.

The result, as far as Radio France Internationale was concerned was an album "full of promise with sensual melodies and a glimpse into Irma's own intimate universe," but one which also "lacked that little extra something to set her aside from other Rhythm and Blues or Soul singers."

There's some truth in that because although Irma has a distinctive and exquisite voice, the one track that really stands out is "I know".

The rest are good - indeed very good for a debut album - but far from having quite the same "I want to know who's singing that right now " allure of "I know" when you first hear it on the radio.

Irma (screenshot from official clip)

Its success, and the fact that it has been used in the Google commercial has given the 23-year-old tremendous exposure and the pace looks set to pick up.

She'll be stepping out of the proverbial shadows of being a warm-up act for other artists or appearing at small venues with two concerts in Paris this year.

The first at La Cigale in Paris in June is already sold out but you can still get tickets for the date at Olympia in November.

In between she'll be appearing at several of the many summer music festivals in France such as Brive Plage or Albi's Pause Guitar.

And then there's the aim - as far as Universal Republic Records, the record label to which she has signed, is concerned: to conquer the States.

Not beyond the realms of possibility perhaps.

For now though here's that single which, in the words of the blurb, illustrates her "immediate charisma and authenticity" and is an example of her songs which are "little gems of melody, a subtle mix of soul and folk music found in texts that tell a story."

In other words - it's a ruddy good listen.

Here's both the one-minute Google Chrome commercial version and, if that has left you wanting more, the longer official single version.

Have a great weekend.





Wednesday, 18 April 2012

"Tourette's Superstar" - French parody - funny or lame?

In March the BBC announced plans to launch a new kind of reality TV show - one which "will follow three Tourette's sufferers as they prepare to sing live in front of friends and family."

It was apparently no April Fool and it didn't take long for French "comedians" to latch on to the idea of parodying the idea.

Nicole Ferroni and Jérémy Ferrari (screenshot "On n'demande qu'à en rire")

The lampooning came in a recent edition of "On n'demande qu'à en rire", an early evening comedy show broadcast on France 2 public television to provide a showcase for new talent.

The whole premise of the programme, devised and presented by Laurent Ruquier, is that established comedians can help give up-and-coming ones a helping hand by telling them what they think of their sketches and voting accordingly.

The studio audience also gets its say as does the viewing public - once a week.

Contestants are given a topical story as the theme of their stand-up routine and if they secure enough points they can come back again...and again...and again.

The whole thing is a sort of wannabe factory production line for would-be comedians with professionals giving their thoughts on those that might follow in their footsteps.

So in principal, the idea has something going for it.

Except for one thing.

It's extremely unfunny most of the time.

On the whole it's not clever or entertaining but rather daft and mindless.

Take the case of that recent sketch lampooning the BBC's plans for a Tourette's TV reality show by Jérémy Ferrari.

It earned the perfect score - 100/100 - from the judges, Ruquier and the studio audience.

Ferrari is one of the darlings of the show having appeared more than 70 times and together with several other regulars, put on a performance of Tourette Academy.

He was the MC - a sort of cross between Benjamin Castaldi (Loft story and Secret Story) and Nikos Aliagas (Star Academy) - his "partners in comic crime" were the contestants.

The audience howled, the judges were full of praise and Ruquier was beside himself.

Really? Was it that funny?

Or do you think it's all...well rather lame?

It doesn't matter if you don't speak French as the sketch really is a case of one where actions speak more clearly than words.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

French-bred horse Neptune Collonges wins Grand National - but at what price?

Saturday was the 165th running of what is for many in the United Kingdom a national institution; the Grand National at Aintree.

Neptune Collonges (Wikipedia)

And just as every year since 1960, the BBC broadcast the race live.

In France it could be seen on...er the equine sporting channel Equidia live TV and there was a special reason for the French to be in front of their screens applauding because for the second time in four years a French-bred horse won.

Back in 2009 it was 100-1 outsider Mon Mome who won by 12 lengths.

This time around it was a much closer affair with another French-bred, British-trained horse, the 11-year-old grey thoroughbred Neptune Collonges putting in an amazing turn of speed to beat Sunnyhillboy by a nose in a photo finish.

And that after four miles and four furlongs of what is arguably the most gruelling of horse races.

Neptune Collonges in photo finish with Sunnyhillboy (screenshot Racing UK TV)

But somewhat overshadowing the thrill of the win has been the death of another of horse in the race, Synchronised.

Before the field was underway this year's Gold Cup winner had provided and made quite a spectacle of himself unseating his rider, champion jockey AP McCoy, but being passed fit by course vets to race once he had calmed down.

Everyone knew and knows how dangerous horseracing is and perhaps the Grand National is the most challenging race there is.

But safety measures have been tightened over the years and officials have made changes to the course and size of some of the fences and the infamous Becher's Brook, although still surely the most frightening of obstacles, isn't quite what it once was.

And it was to be Becher's that would prove to be the undoing of the nine-year-old Synchronised when he fell and unseated McCoy on the first circuit.

These horses are bred to race and jump though. They love it and live it, don't they?

That's the argument put forward by many and indeed the way the riderless Synchronised continued jumping certainly seemed to add weight to that argument.

Except five fences he fractured a leg as a result of jumping and had to be put down.

And he wasn't the only fatality during this year's race.

According to Pete, suffered the same demise after he was brought down at Becher's second time around.

In fact, a quick look at recent statistics from the British Horseracing Authority shows that 20 horses have died in races over Grand National fences since 2001 and 10 have died in the race itself in the last 12 years.

Yes the day was a great result for French-bred horses but as a sporting event - was it really worth it?

French horse Neptune Collonges wins Grand National - but at what price?

Saturday was the 165th running of what is for many in the United Kingdom a national institution; the Grand National at Aintree.

And just as every year since 1960, the BBC broadcast the race live.

In France it could be seen on...er the equine sporting channel Equidia live TV and their was a special reason for the French to be in front of their screens applauding because for the second time in four years a French-bred horse won.

Back in 2009 it was 100-1 outsider Mon Mome who won by 12 lengths.

This time around it was a much closer affair with another French-bred, British-trained horse, the 11-year-old grey thoroughbred Neptune Collonges putting in an amazing turn of speed to beat Sunnyhillboy by a nose in a photo finish.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ur_hgbhX5gg

And that after four miles and four furlongs of what is arguably the most gruelling of horse races.

But somewhat overshadowing the thrill of the win has been the death of another of horse in the race, Synchronised.

Before the field was underway this year's Gold Cup winner had provided and made quite a spectacle of himself unseating his rider, champion jockey AP McCoy, but being passed fit by course vets to race once he had calmed down.

Everyone knew and knows how dangerous horseracing is and perhaps the Grand National is the most challenging race there is.

But safety measures have been tightened over the years and officials have made changes to the course and size of some of the fences and the infamous Becher's Brook, although still surely the most frightening of obstacles, isn't quite what it once was.

And it was to be Becher's that would prove to be the undoing of the nine-year-old Synchronised when he fell and unseated McCoy on the first circuit.

These horses are bred to race and jump though. They love it and live it, don't they?

That's the argument put forward by many and indeed the way the riderless Synchronised continued jumping certainly seemed to add weight to that argument.

Except five fences he fractured a leg as a result of jumping and had to be put down.

And he wasn't the only fatality during this year's race.

According to Pete, suffered the same demise after he was brought down at Becher's second time around.

In fact, a quick look at recent statistics shows that 20 horses have died in races over Grand National fences since 2001 and 10 have died in the race itself in the last 12 years.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/horse-racing/17714060

Yes the day was a great result for French-bred horses but as a sporting event - was it really worth it?

Image

Neptune Collonges

(Wikipedia)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Neptunecollonges.jpg

Neptune Collonges in photo finish with Sunnyhillboy (screenshot Racing UK TV)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ur_hgbhX5gg

Monday, 16 April 2012

France's presidential hit parade - Les Guignols style

It's the final stretch as far as campaigning in the French presidential elections is concerned.

And before voters go to the polls in the first round of voting, those kind folk over at the daily satirical puppet show Les Guignols de l'info on Canal + have provided us with some much-needed and surely heartily welcome relief.

(screenshot from Les Guignols)

On Friday (the 13th) they served up their recipe, if you will, for a French presidential hit parade.

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Hosted by (the puppet of) Nikos Aliagas (of Star Academy and now The Voice fame) it was a collection of sketches in which four political parties and their candidates were portrayed bemoaning their fate, offering their apologies and airing their fears.

The Top 10 countdown was simple, highly amusing and very affective.

In each case a well-known song was used, the lyrics changed and the scene set to explore themes central, as far as Les Guignols were concerned, to the campaigns of Eva Joly, François Bayrou, Nicolas Sarkozy and François Hollande.

First up were the Greens in a reworked version of "Le temps des cathédrales" from Notre-Dame de Paris, the 1998 French musical somewhat cruelly described by the Independent when it opened in London a couple of years later as a "load of old bells".



Had the party chosen the wrong candidate in Eva Joly rather the potentially more popular TV documentary maker and environmentalist Nicolas Hulot?

In a version of French singer Bénabar's 2011 song "Politiquement correct", François Bayrou appeared alongside his sidekick Philippe Douste-Blazy proclaiming his centrist values but admitting that he (polite interpretation) "annoyed voters".



To the strains of the 2010 hit "Désolé" by French rappers Sexion d'Assaut, Nicolas Sarkozy, and the rest of his UMP party, apologised to the French and blamed any/all of the country's ills on the international financial crisis.

There's a wonderful moment at the end when a seemingly hyperactive Nadine Morano cannot resist having the last word.



And finally, topping the lot, was François Hollande and the rest of the Socialist party in their version of Belgian singer-songwriter Stromae's monster hit "Alors on danse" in which Hollande fears his campaign could go belly-up in much the same way as his former partner Ségolène Royal's did in 2007 and even worse Lionel Jospin's in 2002.



Just to add to the fun, it's all done karaoké-style so, if you know the tune and feel like joining in, you can.

Roll on Sunday.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Friday's French music break - Sexion d'Assaut, "Avant qu'elle parte"

Friday's French music break this week is from a group, collective, ensemble - call them what you will - that hasn't shied away from making the headlines over the years.

And not always for the right reasons.

It's Sexion d'Assaut with their most recent single the chart-topping "Avant qu'elle parte".

(screenshot from YouTube video)

A group, that from its formation in 2002 had "around" 20 members (you can see how difficult it is to categorise exactly what they are), Sexion d'Assaut now numbers (just) eight.

They were all either born or brought up in Paris or the surrounding suburbs and each, except for Adams Diallo carries a suitably "street" moniker; Black M, JR O Crom, Maître Gims, Doomams, Lefa, L.I.O., Maska.

Already the name of the group is a controversial one - you can do the Googling to find out why.

And some of the band's members have had run-ins with the country's legal system over the years.

Add to that accusations in 2010 of homophobia and a whole (to use a word the French love so much) polemic that ensued with a national music radio station refusing to promote the album "L'École des points vitaux" at the time and some towns and cities across the country cancelling the group's scheduled appearances and it would be all to easy to dismiss the group as having little or no real worth.

(screenshot from YouTube video)

But, even if tempted, don't be so quick to dismiss them as just another say-anything-to-grab-the-headlines group.

Controversy hasn't dented their success. Far from it - of course.

"L'École des points vitaux" sold more than 400,000 copies and their most recent album, "L'Apogée" released at the beginning of March has already topped the charts.

The reason is simple.

For all the bluster and invective surrounding Sexion d'Assaut, there is also some truly excellent music and outstanding lyrics: none more so perhaps than in "Avant qu'elle parte".

It might not be to everybody's taste, but the combination of rap, rhythm, strings, and...get this..."proper" singing, together with those lyrics make it well worth a listen.

Purists might say it's too commercial. Those who raise their eyes at the very mention of rap may simply snort into their coffee rather than take a proper listen.

So here are two versions to help you make up (change?) your mind.

First up the official clip and then one with the lyrics, which might help you follow more closely exactly what the song is about.






If you're tempted and want to see Sexion d'Assaut live, you can catch them at Paris Bercy on May 22.

Enjoy - et bon week-end.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Belgian commercial to launch a high quality TV channel - simply "Push to add drama"

It's another one of those videos that has gone - sorry, here's that word again - viral; a Belgian commercial promoting the launch of a new channel, TNT.

The idea was simple enough.

In the words of the channel; a big red button was placed in the centre of a small town in the Flemish-speaking part of the country with a sign saying "Push to add drama".

Push the button to "add drama" (screenshot YouTube video)

Some passers-by took the bait and did exactly that.

And what happened next was something like Candid Camera meeting a flash mob.

A brilliant commercial, cleverly effective as some viewers have commented?

Or a terrifying load of junk?

Either way, it has certainly grabbed the Net's attention - not to mention that of the poor individuals caught up "in the action".

How would you have reacted?

And what do you think of it.

Oh yes - the text in is English and the action is...er "universal".

Quevilly's footballing fairy tale - bis

You might remember a couple of years ago the team of Quevilly made it through to the semi-finals of the French Cup.

It was the stuff of dreams as the then fourth division side took on the giants of Paris Saint-Germain (PSG), dreaming of a place in the final.

Les Canaris from the suburbs of the northern French city of Rouen had already beaten three higher-ranked teams before their semi-final appearance, but in spite of a brave performance their efforts were not rewarded and they lost 1-0 to PSG, the team that would go on to win the competition.

So no fairytale ending to a marvellous cup run back in 2010 and the hopes of making only their second cup final appearance (the first and only one was back in 1927) dashed.

But guess what.

Union Sportive Quevillaise have made it through to the final this time around after stunning first division side Stade Rennes 2-1 in the semis.

And they did it the hard way, coming from a goal down and scoring a late winner into stoppage time to book their place in this year's final against Olympique Lyonnais.

"After scoring I was on cloud nine," Anthony Laup, the man who sent Quevilly into the final, told reporters.

Anthony Laup - the man who scored the winner (screenshot BFM TV)

"But I'm sure the best is still to come - that's a promise," he said.

The team, currently lying 14th in the 20-strong National, the country's third division, had already beaten another of France's most titled sides, Olympique de Marseille, in the quarter-finals.

And Rennes knew exactly what to expect from the team that had knocked them out of the competition in the last-sixteen stage two years ago.

At a press conference after the game, their manager Frédéric Antonetti congratulated Quevilly on a deserved win but he couldn't hide his disappointment.

"It was the kind of game that was lost psychologically," he told reporters.

"Fear crept into our game and although we scored first, we just lacked any sort of personality on the field."

That, of course, was far from the feeling in the Quevilly dressing room or the Stade Michel-d'Ornano in the northern French city of Caen, where the game was played.

The players were already dreaming of their appearance at Stade de France in Paris on April

And a firework display lit the night sky to celebrate what one of the regional newspapers described as the incredible exploits of the side.

The final against Lyon will be played at Stade de France in Paris on April 28.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

France's 2012 presidential election campaign begins - officially

Yes it might seem like a rather strange headline given that the French have been bombarded with politics for the best part of a couple of months (and more) now.

But campaigning in the two-round presidential elections has now officially begun with television advertising spots and posters on approved local authority notice boards up and down France.

Local authority notice boards - ready for posters (screenshot BFM TV)

And the rules are very strict - if somewhat antiquated.

As far as TV spots go, each of the ten candidates has a fixed amount of airtime - 43 minutes in total - rigorously enforced and controlled by the Conseil supérieur de l'audiovisuel (CSA), the country's broadcast watchdog.

The contents of what they can and can't talk about during their allotted 18 slots is also subject to the most "polite" and perhaps anachronistic rules with no banging the drum for donations allowed and an interdiction on "denigrating opponents".

Broadcasters have already had to provide equal airtime to all 10 candidates no matter how big or small since the wise men on the Conseil constitutionnel (Constitutional council) validated their eligibility to stand back on March 19.

Posters, which started appearing on most local authority notice boards on Tuesday, are also subject to the most stringent of rules.

They mustn't be printed on a white background because that's only reserved for official announcements, and woe betide candidates who try to use any combination of red, white and blue, the colours of the French tricolore. It's against the rules and if broken will result in a fine.

French presidential election 2012 posters - against the rules (screenshot BFM TV)

And those posters - two for each candidate - are only allowed to appear on the notice boards put in place the local authority specifically for the election - although that's not always a rule to which party supporters adhere.

The French can also expect to hear pamphlets and letters plopping through their letter boxes as the postal campaign to woo the 45 million registered voters is now also allowed, but again size and format have to be the same for each candidate.

And as "officially" as the campaigning starts, so it will end...at midnight on April 21, the day before the election, together with a ban on candidates making public statements and opinion polls being published.

Monday, 9 April 2012

French presidential election 2012 - when a citizen journalism site confuses dates and candidates

Ah the wonders of those so-called crowd-powered news sites where members from around the world contribute stories on what's making the headlines.

First up of course is the paradox that those providing their own particular take on what's happening more often than not use the very sources for stories for which they frequently show such contempt; the mainstream media.

And of course the "reporting" often amounts to little more than a simple compilation or re-write of what is already available elsewhere on the Net.

Just to spice things up, mistakes are often made because the author simply doesn't have sufficient knowledge of the facts, hasn't checked them properly or has relied on information that wasn't entirely accurate in the first place.

There's one such story at the moment on Digital Journal, a site which purports to be, "a global digital media network with 34,000+ professional and citizen journalists, bloggers, photographers and freelancers in 200 countries around the world."

200 countries?

Really?

More than are represented at the United Nations (193) and exceeding the number most generally recognised as being the correct one (196) according to other sources available on the Net.

Clever (albeit exaggerated) innit?

Whatever.

Little wonder then that readers of the site are being treated to some suitably inaccurate "reporting" of the French presidential elections at the moment.


Getting it wrong - Digital Journal piece on France's presidential election (screenshot from Digital Journal)

In a story which takes a look at one of François Hollande's proposals, the one to tax the very rich at a rate of 75 per cent (if elected), the author finishes with a flourish maintaining that, "French voters head to the polls between Apr. 23 (???) and May 6" and that," Five candidates are vying for the presidency."

So the French will be able to vote non-stop between the two dates given - right?

Wrong.

As anyone who's keeping track of political events in France will know, the French will actually be voting on April 22 in the first round and May 6 in the second round run-off between the "top two".

Nothing in between - apart from debates (probably) and endless additional polls.

All right semantics perhaps when it comes to "between" and "on" although the exact dates should have been checked.

But as for the number of candidates...well it's just plain wrong. There are 10.

Yes there are the five quoted but - just to set the record straight - there are also another five so-called "smaller" candidates all declared and validated by the "wise men" on the country's Constitutional Council to take part in the first round.

They are Eva Joly (Europe Écologie Les Verts), Nicolas Dupont-Aignan (Debout la République or Arise the Republic, a self-proclaimed "traditional Gaullist party") Nathalie Arthaud (extreme left Lutte ouvrière) , Philippe Poutou (the far left Nouveau Parti anticapitaliste, NPA or New Anticapitalist Party) and Jacques Cheminade (the rather mish-mash Solidarité et progrès party which espouses the ideology of US political activist Lyndon Hermyle LaRouche, Jr)

But perhaps they don't count.

The piece was written and published on April 3 and live on the site "informing" readers until...well it might still be there as nobody seems to have noticed that the information given is incorrect.

There again, perhaps nobody is particularly interested.

Why not waddle over for a giggle and a sigh.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Yahoo France's artistic spelling boo-boo

Isn't there just something a little disconcerting when the headline of a piece dealing with the subject of optical illusions appears inadvertently to have that very effect on the reader?

That's exactly what Yahoo France managed to do recently when it ran a feature piece on American artist Kurt Wenner.

Yahoo "tompe-l'œil" (screenshot from Yahoo)

The former designer for NASA has built up something of a reputation for an art form he invented in 1984, according to his official website, anamorphic or
3D pavement art.

Kurt Wenner anamorphic or 3D pavement art (screenshot from YouTube video)

In his own words Wenner, "Invented a new geometry to create compositions that appear to rise from, or fall into the ground."

And the results are - well, staggering.

That was clearly what Yahoo was trying to get across but the headline which used the French expression "trompe l'œil" to make its point.

Only that's not quite what appeared in the headline, with an "r" in "trompe" sadly missing rendering the sentence meaningless.

Admittedly when you click on the link the spelling is tidied up, but still...great to see Yahoo sub editors well and truly on the ball.

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