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Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Call me! French reggae group fans dial the right, wrong number

Have some sympathy for Anthony De Sousa.

The 24-year-old plumber from the town of Evreux in the region of Haute Normandie in northern France has been inundated with telephone calls and text messages these past few days and it's not because suddenly clients have discovered his talents with a wrench.


Instead fans of the French reggae (well that's how they're described) group Tryo have been calling, hoping to be able to talk to one of the band's members.

(screenshot from video clip for "Greenwashing")

That's because the group included De Sousa's number at the end of one of the tracks of their recently released album "Ladilafé" with singer Guizmo telling listeners to 'Call me".

And that's exactly what fans have been doing according to the regional daily Paris Normandie.

"Often when I answer, the fans simply hang up immediately because they realise it's not Guizmo the other end of the line," De Sousa told the newspaper, clearly not amused that his number had apparently been used in a song but also feeling compelled to answer just in case it was a business call.

Tryo appear to be more than contrite for something which their record company said was 'an innocent mistake" with Guizmo simply coming up with a random number while in the recording studio without thinking of the possible consequences.

"We meant delete the number from the album but we simply forgot," said another band member, Bibou

According to Europe 1, they've apologised to De Sousa, offered to meet the costs of changing his mobile 'phone number and help out in any marketing campaign that might be necessary to inform existing clients and find new ones.

That should be the solution to De Sousa's problems although he's not too keen on the idea.

"I've built the business up over the past three years and clients know that they can reach me on this number," he said.

"I don't really want to have to change it."

A great media buzz for Tryo's new album (in the sense that any news is better than no news at all) but at the expense, albeit inadvertently, of poor ol' De Sousa.

Oh, one last thing. Tryo is the very same group which on their 1998 debut album "Mamagubida" included the track "France Télécom", a satirical song thanking the communications giant for the omnipresence of the mobile 'phone in everyday life.

Ah - the irony of it.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Martine Aubry ain't going until she's done

The Socialist party had its annual summer do - sorry, conference - over the weekend at La Rochelle in the western French département of Charente-Maritime.

Activists mingled with the "good the bad and the (ahem) ugly" of a party which holds power at just about every level in France.

Everyone who is anyone within the party turned up - well with two notable exceptions; François Hollande, because he's now "above" these sorts of things and...Ségolène Royal, who decided to give the place where she was electorally humiliated (again) back in June, a wide berth.

There again, Seggers had already put in a guest star appearance at the Green party's summer bash - sorry, conference - in Poitiers the week before.

So the Great and Glorious - minus the Two - were present to give themselves a collective pat on the back for all their electoral success and pay homage to the woman who had engineered victory, Martine Aubry.

Martine Aubry (screenshot Europe 1 interview)

We know that because she said as much.

"Back in 2009, here in La Rochelle, I outlined a 'road map' (don't you just love that expression?) for the future of the party," she told an attentive audience - all the more so because those present wanted to know whether she was going to stand down as leader and, if so, to whom she would give her blessing (Amen) as her successor.

More on that in a moment.

"That included being more aware of society's needs, doing away with the multiple mandates, gender diversity, the primaries and how best to get rid of that eternal pain, Seggers (all right, she didn't say that last bit, but she might just as well have done)."

Ah yes. as Libération wrote, Aubry was able to bask in the party's success due in no small measure, as far as she was concerned, to her own leadership.

All Hail Martine!

So now what?

Well, with bated (or baited, if you must) breath everyone waited to hear whether she would officially announce she wasn't going to stand again for the post at (yet another of) the party's conference in Toulouse in October.

She didn't.

Apparently everyone knows she's not going to run again, but nobody seems to have told Aubry. Or rather Aubry seems to have told nobody.


Well that's leadership for you. Keep everyone guessing right up until the last moment.

So what of the pretenders to the throne?

Well there are two of them.

First up is the wonderfully named Harlem Désir. No, not as in the dreadful 1980s single "Harlem Desire" from the British-German dance pop duo London Boys, (click on the link, if you dare, to discover just how awful it was) but the former president of the French anti-racist organisation, SOS Racisme, member of the European parliament and the party's number two.

Harlem Désir (from Wikipedia)

Désir would be the obvious choice especially as he took over the leadership temporarily when Aubry took the plunge and contested the party's primaries for this year's presidential elections, losing out in the second round head-to-head against Hollande (just in case you had forgotten).

Plus the 52-year-old is believed to have Hollande's backing.

But of course this is politics - and France is no different from any other country in having its fair share of intrigue and shrewd plotting.

Enter Jean-Christophe Cambadélis - or "Camba" as he has apparently been dubbed by Aubry - a former right-hand (or should that be left-hand) man to none other than Dominique Strauss-Kahn, whose shoes Aubry so reluctantly tried to fill in those very same primaries.

Both men were spotted at La Rochelle showing their full support for Aubry - naturally, but "Camba" was a little less subtle about it, cosying up even more closely to her supporters and earning the status of "friend" from another Aubry crony, Claude Bartolone, the president of the national assembly.

So Désir or Camba? Which of the two will it be should Aubry decide to step down?

Oh what a tough one.

Cue London Boys?

You have been warned

Just imagine the behind-the-scenes power Aubry could wield with Bartolone already perched at the national assembly and Camba installed as party leader.

Spare a thought for Désir.

Roll on Toulouse and the transparent vote.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Not yet another flippin' TV cooking programme - French MasterChef season 3

Turn on French telly it seems, and among the trash reality programmes, imported US series and sports you'll be treated to something that in recent years has become a trend - cooking shows.

Thursday sees the return to French screens of MasterChef - for its third season.

MasterChef - The contestants (screenshot TF1)

Yep the self-proclaimed home of gastronomy and the country which has, if not exactly its food then the whole business of preparing, serving and eating it as one of Unesco's intangible world heritages, has succumbed to the invasion of the culinary game show that, quite frankly, seems to put the emphasis as much on it being a contest as it does the obvious talent that some participants have.

It's not enough that there's a whole channel, Cuisine +, dedicated to food and what can be done with it in the kitchen (available without encryption to those who have the very basic Canal + subscription on channel 41)

Both M6 and TF1 have taken concepts which originated in the United Kingdom and adapted them for a French viewing public.

On M6 there's a daily serving of "Un dîner presque parfait" (based on Channel 4's "Come dine with me") which has also morphed into a "very best of" version to find an annual winner among the purely hobby cooks.

And proving there can never be too much of a good thing. the channel also has Top Chef an adaptation of the US show - this time professionals who obviously need the exposure take on each other to be crowned...well you fill in the blanks.

Both the very best of Un dîner presque parfait and Top Chef have more or less the same set of judges.

For the moment TF1 has just the one cooking game show, MasterChef - oh and the inevitable sidekick, Junior MasterChef for the highly precocious.

The original concept is of course British - so a huge round of applause to the BBC - dating from 1990 and revamped into the international monster it has since become in 2005.

Sadly France has also caught the bug

There's little need to explain how it works. Even of you're unfamiliar with the original, it doesn't take a doctorate to work out that the a panel of judges struts and tuts, nods and shakes collective heads and decides the fate of the contestants as they're put through ever more ludicrous kitchen scenarios to find the eventual winner.

MasterChef - the judges (screenshot TF1)

Chefs Frédéric Anton and Yves Camdeborde along with journalist and food critic (and thereby living by the maxim perhaps of those who can't, write about it) Sébastien Demorand
will be returning once again as the jury.

The (cough, cough) "excellent" Carole Rousseau will play host (not much to do there apart from call out names and explain to viewers what's happening in her monotonous pitch) and all the contestants of course are going to give the best of themselves - not just 100 per cent worth because that would be undestatement but 200 per cent, 500 - or hey even a 1,000 per cent. Why not?

Something like 24,000 apparently applied to take part, but thankfully the judges have whittled that down to (just) 100 among whom of course will be this year's winner.

Full of hyperbole, the promotional videos says the level of candidates this year is incredibly high (well it's hardly going to say they're a bunch of no-hopers, now is it?) there are going to be more surprises, some really difficult tests and  of course exceptional moments including - apparently - serving up a meal from a cave for some pot holers!


Well, because this is not really about cooking is it? Instead it's a game, entertainment in which, we're led to believe, the best cook wins.

To avoid the programme, be sure to be watching another channel or doing something entirely different from 20h50 on Thursday evening.

Bon appetit.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

François Hollande, back from hols and time for work - finally

The French president François Hollande is back from his summer break all bronzed and ready to get cracking with affairs of state.

Er. Hello? Isn't there something wrong with that?

François Hollande and Valérie Trierweiler  - end of summer hols. Nice tan (screenshot Var Matin)

Unemployment, economic recession, the problems in the Eurozone, Syria - all trifling concerns of government which could be put on hold, it would appear, while Hollande, sunned himself in the south of France for three weeks.

Oops, 18 days to be precise. Mustn't exaggerate now.


Those are points driven home not only in Tuesday's edition of Libération with a headline that reads as though it's taken straight from Le Figaro "L'été très moyen de françois Hollande", but also by a piece in this week's Le Point by Hervé Gattegno.

"Where else would a 'normal' employee begin a job at the beginning of May and be automatically entitled to three weeks holiday in August," asks Gattegno in his piece entitled "Hollande was on holiday for too long."

Gattegno surely has a point.

Sure he's now calling his ministers in and having detailed head-to-heads with them about how to tackle the recession (what recession?), economic hardship at home and throughout Europe, what to do about Syria, the Roma, violence and security in France and the list goes on.

But shouldn't he have been doing exactly that - or at have least given the appearance of doing so - already?

In an interview with Le Journal de Dimanche last weekend, Jean-Luc Mélenchon characterised (or rather caricatured) Hollande's first 100 days in office as "100 days of almost nothing."

Gattegno says Mélenchon was, in his usual style, exaggerating but there's also the uncomfortable feeling - even among those to the Left - that there might be some substance in what he says, and a potential sign of things not to come.

The article in Libération, a paper that is not shy in its support of the Socialist party, is surely evidence in itself that some on the Left are questioning Hollande's tactics - or lack thereof.

Hollande might want to be demonstrating that he's not as omnipresent as his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy, but isn't he taking delegation perhaps a little too far and appearing almost absent?

If he carries on at this rate his five year mandate will come to resemble those of Jacques Chirac's second term in office - a time when French politics stood still while the world moved on.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Incomplete political faction - Everything's OK between Martine Aubry and Manuel Valls even after Roma camp closures

So Auntie Barrmy, the perhaps soon-to-be former leader of the Socialist party was on her hols bumbling around the house minding her own business and thinking about how useful spanners could be - politically speaking - when the 'phone rang.

Martine Aubry (screenshot Europe 1 radio)

"Oui. Here is the perhaps soon-to-be former leader of the Socialist party and still mightily peeved prime minister-in-waiting. Who's calling please?" she purred down the 'phone, as was her usual fashion

"Hi Auntie. It's me," squeaked a voice from the other end. "Nasal Vellum, France's minister of the interior (yes you can tell Socialist party members are quickly getting used to their own self importance since adding a majority in the National Assembly elections to that in the Senate, a presidency and a government). I thought I would give you a tinkle just to let you know what I've been up to."

"Thank you Nasal," replied Auntie frostily.

"Where are you today?" she asked through gritted teeth, well aware that since assuming office, Nasal had looked towards one of his infamous Kärcher-cleaning predecessors as a media mentor and was pretty much omnipresent.

Auntie might have been on holiday, but she still read the newspapers and watched TV.

"Well Auntie," he hesitated.

"I've been hither and thither, no time for a break you know. What with my being France's Number One copper, I haven't had a moment to myself. Places to go. People to see. Things to do," he continued.

"Avignon, Marseille, Vars, Villiers-le-Bel, Amiens. Pick a place - any place in France - and I've been there.

"Lille?" hissed Auntie.

"Ah yes've been meaning to talk to you about that."

At this point it might be worth mentioning that not only is Auntie the perhaps soon-to-be former leader of the Socialist party and prime minister-in-waiting, she has also been the mayor of Lille since 2001.

"Well I was there in July after the shootings outside a discotheque, as you know," began a clearly flustered Nasal.

"Yes I'm aware of that," came the sharp response.

"You met me too."

"Um...yes. Quite."

There was a pause.

Silence, broken only by the sound of Auntie grinding her teeth.

"THE CAMPS," she blasted down the 'phone.

"What the (expression deleted to avoid offending those of a sensitive disposition) do you think you've been up to tearing down Roma camps without telling me first what you were planning?"

"You're as big a fool as that idiot Kärcher-cleaning halfwit," she thundered.

"You know how angry I was after he gave that Grenoble speech in 2010 when he clearly stirred up hatred against the Roma. And you know how I've done everything in my power to ensure they are welcomed as humanely as possible here IN LILLE. I've set up three villages d’insertion and there are another three being built," continued Auntie.

"What have you done? And how come I had to learn what had happened from the media?"

Nasal had expected such an outburst, and he was used to it. After all he knew he was far from being Auntie's favourite aspiring president.

The two of them had come to blows in the past especially as Nasal had served as a faithful lieutenant to one of Auntie's arch enemies - Seggers, in her failed 2007 presidential bid.

And he had thrown his weight behind François Hollande after being knocked out of the Socialist primaries to choose the party's presidential candidate this year.

Hollande, you might remember, went head to head with none other than Auntie in the second round.

So Nasal did what any sensible politician with would do ... he waffled.

"Respect for human dignity is a constant imperative of all public action, but the difficulties and local health risks posed by the unsanitary camps needed to be addressed," said Nasal, quoting his own ministry's official statement.

"In no case did the removals take the form of collective expulsion, which is forbidden by law."


"How do you think the whole thing makes me look and what am I going to say to the media?

Nasal thought a few moments before replying...but that dear reader is where we'll have to leave the two of them for now.

Because, as the French media is reporting, the perhaps soon-to-be former leader of the Socialist party and prime minister-in-waiting is expected to give her official response to Nasal's decision to dismantle two makeshift Roma camps near Lille some time this week.

How exactly she'll manage to make it look as though she's not in complete disagreement with the manner in which the camps were closed will be a monumental feat.

But as a seasoned and more than competent politician, she should be well up to the task.

In the meantime, Nasal isn't at all concerned apparently, insisting that everything is more or less hunky dory between the two of them.


Well maybe not quite.

Which of course provides the excuse for a song - as if one were needed - with, among others, the sublime Gladys.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Paralympic Games - France Télévisions response (so far) to lack of coverage

France's public broadcaster has given its first response to an online petition criticising it for failing to schedule live coverage on any of its five channels to the upcoming Paralympic Games in London.
Below is a copy of the email (in French of course) the organiser of the petition,  Benoit Coulon, sent to all those who have so far signed.
It demonstrates a move in the right direction with extra programming now planned daily on France 2, but there's still scope for more.
So if you feel strongly about the Paralympic Games deserving more - live - coverage, simply click on the links provided in the email and add your name.
Here's a little more background to the story from a post which appeared here earlier this week.

"En moins d'une semaine, vous êtes plus de 15 000 à avoir signé ma pétition pour demander à France Télévisions de donner aux Jeux paralympiques la place qu'ils méritent. Merci pour votre soutien.
Nous avons fait bouger les lignes : France Télévisions vient de m'appeler pour m'annoncer qu'ils revoyaient leur grille des programmes suite à ma pétition! Une émission supplémentaire de 40 minutes sera diffusée tous les jours à 17h et le samedi à 15h sur France 2. Ce programme sera un magazine “relatant la grande aventure sportive et humaine que constituent ces Jeux“.  
Votre soutien a été crucial. Notre mobilisation a fait le buzz sur internet et dans la presse et a alimenté le débat national sur le sujet. France Télévisions a été contraint de réagir directement à ma pétition et de revoir sa programmation.  
La réponse de France Télévisions montre que notre appel a été entendu. C'est très encourageant. C'est un premier pas pour cette année, mais il faut que France Télévisions s'engage davantage pour les athlètes handisport. Avec un dispositif tel que celui-ci, il est difficile de découvrir de nouvelles disciplines, et de vibrer avec les athlètes. Je reste donc mobilisé pour que France Télévisions fasse vraiment plus pour les prochains Jeux, car la place donnée aux Paralympiques sur France Télévisions souffre encore du décalage avec la surexposition médiatique des Jeux Olympiques sur les chaînes publiques.  
Je suis particulièrement fier d'avoir lancé cette pétition. Mais le combat n'est pas fini pour donner aux athlètes handisports la place qu'ils méritent, sur les stades et sur les ondes. Merci encore de m'avoir suivi dans ce combat.  
Vous aussi, vous pouvez agir pour faire changer les choses, sur n'importe quel sujet qui vous tient à coeur. Cliquez ici pour lancer votre propre pétition en quelques minutes!
Merci pour votre action.  
Benoit Coulon  
PS: Cliquez ici pour lire le communiqué de France Télévisions publié une semaine après avoir reçu ma pétition. Cliquez ici pour lire un article sur notre première victoire."

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Let's all say a prayer - for same sex marriage

Or how a majority of French favour same-sex marriage but the Catholic church doesn't - of course.

In fact it has urged congregations to pray that the government "sees the light" over the matter.

It must have been sheer coincidence don't you think?

The very day that the Catholic church in France asked its faithful to "pray for (traditional) family values" a poll was published showing that an ever-increasing majority of the French are in favour of same-sex marriage.

Cardinal André Vingt-trois, Archbishop of Paris (screenshot YouTube video)

The poll, conducted by Ifop and published by the online magazine  La lettre de l'opinion showed that 65 per cent are in favour of two guys or two gals being allowed legally to tie the knot.

That's continuing a trend over the past decade and a two point progression over a similar poll conducted a year ago.

Oh yes attitudes have changed - well at least those of the public at large. Back in 1996 only 48 per cent of those questioned were in favour.

And the same is true - to a slightly lesser extent - for the other (linked) issue which the government is expected to address with legislation tabled next year - namely that of same-sex couples being given the right to adopt.

In 1996 it had the thumbs up from 33 per cent of French. The latest poll puts it at 53 per cent.

Thankfully though for those whose hackles might be raised at very idea of such an unnatural and antisocial act becoming (shush, don't tell anyone) law, there's always the Catholic church to be relied on to uphold the moral wellbeing of the French.

And it did itself proud on Assumption Day, with the reading out during services in churches across the country of a  "Prayer for France".

Penned by the wonderfully named Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois, the Archbishop of Paris, the prayer called for churchgoers "to pray for newly elected officials to put their sense of common good over the pressure to meet special demands”.



And just in case the message wasn't coming across loud and clear there was also mention of children and that they "cease to be objects of the desires and conflicts of adults (fair enough, nobody is going to argue with that surely)" and "fully benefit from the love of a father and a mother”.


Er, yes. Quite.

Very enlightened.

You can read the full text of the prayer (in French) here.

Once again a demonstration that the Catholic church is bang up-to-date and has its finger on the pulse of what most people believe to be right.

Still it's there to offer us all guidance in our misguided beliefs.

Let's hope the Archbishop manages to get the French back on track before they - or rather the government - know it's coming...(a lame and clumsy pun) a cardinal sin.

As a reminder, the government of Jean-Marc Ayrault is committed to introducing draft legislation on both issues some time in 2013.
Over to you Aretha.


Wednesday, 15 August 2012

French handballers strip a journalist half naked on live TV

You would think being a sports journalist would carry few risks.

It's not as though reporters are putting their lives on the line covering wars or getting a little too close to violent demonstrations

And after a team or an athlete has won something the atmosphere is usually a joyful one as the inevitable questions will be trotted out about "How do you feel?" "What did you think of the game?" and "How are you going to celebrate?"

But among the obvious euphoria, the unpredictable can happen, as BFM TV journalist, Nicolas Jamain discovered while trying to interview two members of the gold-winning men's handball team at the London Olympics last weekend.

French handballers Nikola Karabatic (left) and Xavier Barachet help BFM TV reporter Nicolas Jamain bare his chest live (screenshot BFM TV)
Jamain, the channel's special correspondent during the games in London, was trying his best to remain "professional" in front team members, Nikola Karabatic and Xavier Barachet, at Le Club France the evening after Les Experts had beaten Sweden in a closely contested final 22-21 to retain their gold medal.

Somehow though things didn't quite go as Jamain planned because as he tried to pose that award-winning question to both of the players as to how it felt to win a gold medal (duh) they proceeded to pull at his jacket and shirt, leaving him almost completely topless.

Jamain persisted in spite of the jeering and cheering in the background, taking it all with good humour and finally getting both men to calm down enough to be able to have them thank their fans back in France.

It was, as the anchor back in the Paris studio said at the end of the report, an example of the delight everyone had at Les Experts winning.

And bravo to Jamain for managing to hold it all together.

Another magic moment thanks to live TV.

Nikola Karabatic et Xavier Barachet déshabillent... par rmcsport

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Paralympic games and the true Olympic spirit - according to France Télevisions

So after 17 days of almost continuous live coverage of the London 2012 Olympics, it's back to normal service as far as the country's public national television broadcaster France Télévisions is concerned.

Its channels, France 2, France 3, France 4, France 5 and France Ô will be serving up more or less the same sort of summer fare you would expect from them if you're a regular viewer.

Until the Paralympic Games begin on August 29, designed to "Inspire a generation" in much the same was (if not more) as the Olympics Games which closed on Sunday.

So France Télévisions is once again clearing its schedules to bring viewers live coverage of what's happening - right?


Television executives in their infinite wisdom have decided that very few people in this country actually give a damn and have confined the Paralympics to a less than secondary role.

Tune into the national channel France 2 from August 29 and you'll see...well absolutely no special programming.

Over on the regional channel France 3, there'll be coverage - recorded highlights lasting for around 90 minutes every day.

The opening and closing ceremonies? Well you'll be able to see them live...on France Ô - if you can find it - the channel that features programming from the French overseas départéments and collectivities.

Outrage from the government with the minister of sport, Valérie Fourneyron, and the junior minister for the disabled Marie-Arlette Carlotti, issuing statements telling France Télevisions exactly what they think?


Nothing as yet.

Of course it's not the place of public television to inform, enlighten and provide a platform for all sectors of society.

And as one comment (very much in the minority it should be said) left on radio journalist Jean-Marc Morandini's  blog so eloquently put it, "Nobody has anything against the disabled but let's stop all this hypocrisy; the sporting performances of the handicapped simply don't interest anyone."

That's all right then.

Sod the Paralympics!

That's certainly seems to be what France Télévisions' sports schedules are telling us.

Or perhaps the broadcaster felt it had done more than its fair share in granting the South African athlete Oscar Pistorius an interview during its live coverage of the past 17 days.

Just for the record and if anyone is interested, a local private broadcaster TV8 Mont-Blanc will apparently be showing a far portion of the Paralympics - live.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Spicing up London 2012 Olympic closing ceremony

All right, so the whole thing was rather cheesy and definitely too long, but the closing ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics had a few special moments.

And among them surely had to be the totally OTT but nonetheless electric performance by the Spice Girls.

Spice Girls London 2012 (screenshot from TF1)
Back together for a one-off, the five women who took Britain and the world by storm in the 90s with their manufactured "Girl Power" reminded everyone present and those watching of the contribution they had made to pop music when they were in their heyday.

It was as chaotic and almost as messy as the whole show orchestrated by artistic director Kim Gavin and designed to show off to the rest of the world the very best of British music - mainly pop but lip service was also paid to few other genres.

All in all though it was fun - as was the Spice Girls arrival"singing" from the rooftops of five separate London taxi cabs.

For anyone who missed it or wants to see it again and again, here's the clip - complete with French commentary - broadcast on TF1

Incomplete UMP leadership faction - the battle of the bus, bike and hot air balloon

You can tell it's August - and not just by the weather.

Paris is full...of tourists and it ain't so difficult to park.

Trash television in the form of Secret Story is back on the small screen - actually it has been for a while now.

And although are some very serious news stories around (what's happening in Syria for example) the media is doing its very best to ignore them as much as it can and hoist upon viewers a heap of lighter, more palatable fare.

Don't want to ruin the holidays after all.

Turtle hot air balloon (from Wikipedia - author: Tommaso.gavioli)

Yes it's the silly season - in terms of what's making the headlines at least -  and not wanting to buck the trend or break with such a fine tradition, that brings us nicely to this week's factional tale - political as it happens.

Just for your delectation - or otherwise - here's a totally unfounded story revealing some of the behind-the-scenes manœuvring as the race to become president of the opposition centre-right Union pour un mouvement populaire (Union for a Popular Movement, UMP) splutters

Actually that's probably something of an exaggeration because right now it's merely a question of preparing the foundations and each of the candidates working out how they're going to gather the 8,000 signatures from party members necessary to stand.

At stake is the presidency of the UMP - to be decided in November - effectively making the winner the party's leader and providing him or her with a potential launching pad to become its official candidate in the next French presidential elections in 2017.

But that's looking way too far ahead.

Right now the contenders - declared or otherwise - are trying to work out the best way of meeting and greeting and pressing the flesh with the party faithful.

Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet (NKM) for example has decided to go strictly normal, plumping for the good old tried and trusted minibus.

She has already begun her Tour de France apparently, so look out for the NKM circus coming to a town near you shortly.

François Fillon shouldn't have too many difficulties getting the necessary support. After all he was prime minister for all five of those very long years under Nicolas Sarkozy, is a familiar face and not disliked...too much.

And that's probably just as well because he still needs to take it easy after coming a cropper on his scooter while on his hols in Italy recently.

Fillon is still nursing his injuries and reports say that his Welsh wife Penelope, who has made him sit in front of the telly for the past couple of weeks watching Team GB's performance at the Olympics, has put a stop to any notion he might have had about conducting his campaign for signatures on a motorbike with her along for the ride in a sidecar.

Finally of course there's the self-styled front runner who hasn't yet officially declared himself, Jean-François Copé.

All the signs are there that he's more than tempted though.

There's already a support committee complete with Facebook page.

Copé also probably won't have much difficulty in collecting those 8,000 signatures but that hasn't stopped the unfounded rumour circulating that he has been in touch with François Hollande's successful presidential election campaign team.

You see, while Hollande banged on about wanting to appear "normal" there was also apparently a Bling Bling strategy in place should everything have gone pear-shaped: a hot air balloon to take the then-prospective candidate to every corner of La Belle France and beyond if necessary.

Very Jules Verne, don't you think.

As it turned out of course, Hollande was able to take the train but there's still the small matter of what to do with the balloon.

It's apparently currently stored in the basement of the Parisian apartment he shared with his partner Valérie Trierweiler before being called to serve his country and the space it's taking up is beginning to annoy his former neigbours.

And that's where the Copé's support committee comes in.

One member, who wanted to remain anonymous, has revealed that the two men have in fact been on a trial flight - together - but Copé is still hesitating.

"He (Copé) is certainly up for it as he thinks it's and original idea and a way of blending the country's past with its future," said the source.

"The only thing that could perhaps scupper plans to use the hot air balloon - apart from the weather of course - is the design choice Hollande made when commissioning it," he continued.

"What might have worked for Hollande wouldn't necessarily be appropriate for Jean-François Copé."

And there's no denying the truth in that because some bright spark at Hollande campaign HQ came up with the idea of a turtle shaped hot air balloon.


All this wannabe normality and amateurish  Bling Bling.

It almost makes you yearn for the return of the good old, bad old days.

Music maestro please

Told you it was the silly season.

Yo man!

Friday, 10 August 2012

Christophe Lemaitre disappoints but can Renaud Lavillenie deliver?

When  Christophe Lemaitre first burst on to the scene a couple of years ago the French media heralded him - without even the flutter of an eyelid - as "the world's fastest white man" over 100 metres and the "first white man to run under 10 seconds".

Christophe Lemaitre (screenshot TF1 news report)
It was true and he has since run even faster, breaking his own national record a couple more times in the 100 metres (it now stands at 9.92 seconds) and doing the same in the 200 metres at 19.80 seconds.

So far the 22-year-old has picked up four gold and one bronze medal at European Championships and one silver and a bronze at the World Championships in Daegu South Korea in 2011.

Lemaitre arrived in London for the Olympics with high expectations, choosing to miss the 100 metres and instead concentrating on the 200 metres.

As his coach Pierre Carraz told the French sports daily L'Équipe, it was the event in which they both reckoned Lemaitre stood more of a chance of getting a medal.

Not gold - because to all intents and purposes that was (as with the 100 metres) already "reserved" for Jamaica's Usain Bolt - but at worst a bronze and who knew, maybe even a silver.

The 200 metres was also the event in which Lemaitre won bronze at those World Championships last year.

So there were high hopes of a repeat performance.

And therein lay the problem, as far as media expectations in France were concerned.

In the days running up to the heats and the semi-finals Lemaitre's face was plastered all over the sports pages. He had become the great media hope for some sort of glory in an Olympic games which were fast becoming ones reporters in France would probably prefer to forget.

And after he qualified for the finals, he not surprisingly also became the main headline on television and radio news.

"Christophe Lemaitre goes up against Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake," announced, among many others, Julien Arnaud on TF1's Le Journal a couple of hours before the race.

"Does he have a shot at a medal?"

A good question.

On paper he certainly did, and if you had followed all the interviews with those who knew him  there was a belief that a medal was possible, so high were the hopes of those singing his sporting praises.

After his semi-final, while Lemaitre was waiting so see whether he had qualified for Thursday's final as a fastest runner-up, the ever-annoying Nelson Monfort was also trackside thrusting a microphone in his face, and forcing the man with the slightest of lisps and almost childlike voice to relive his semi, predict his chances and answer any other inane question that entered the veteran journalist's head.

As all that was happening, Bolt walked by having just run and won his semi and Monfort directed his microphone towards the Jamaican.

"Usain - hi," shrieked Monfort in his one-tone nasal voice.

"What's does Christophe have to do to beat you in Thursday's final (repeated by Monfort in French of course because viewers are totally unable to understand such a simple question).

Bolt looked at Monfort and then at Lemaitre before saying without the slightest touch of arrogance (this was in his pre-legend days remember)  "He needs to run faster than me."

Sadly he didn't. Nor, as we now know, did he beat Blake for silver and in fact, it was another Jamaican, Warren Weir who took bronze.

Lemaitre, running in lane 2 and therefore having to cope with his weak point of running the bend on the inside lane ( a race which is run on the bend) could in fact only manage sixth, in a time that was far slower than his fastest.

"I didn't manage to run the sort of race I wanted," he explained afterwards.

"I'm disappointed but there's perhaps still the chance of a medal in the 4x100 metres relay".

And the French media was disappointed.

Its hero hadn't managed to deliver the expected and desired-for goods.

But has a new potential target for Friday and this time the chances of a track and field gold medal in the shape of Renaud Lavillenie in the pole vault.

He's one of the favourites for the event having put in some of the best performances this year.

But the French media seems to be a little more circumspect in predicting the outcome...with the wind conditions in the Olympic stadium already being proposed as a potential spoiler to the event.

In other words if it's not the bend (for Lemaitre)  then perhaps it'll be the wind for Lavillenie.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Nelson Monfort - a French "citizen of the world"

So sometimes, as British poet Lord Byron and US writer Mark Twain (among others probably) wrote "Truth" really "is stranger than fiction".

Earlier this week there was a spoof piece here "Incomplete Olympic faction", in which special mention was made to France's most annoying sports journalist Nelson Monfort, and his excrutiating poolside interview with women's relay swimmer Ophélie-Cyrielle Etienne.

Nelson Monfort (screenshot TV interview)

Well (cue Twilight Zone music please) the Wall Street Journal has now published a piece, giving gold in terms of OTT sports broadcasting enthusiasm to none other than...Nelson Monfort.

All right so the author of the WSJ piece got his facts wrong - to fit his theory so it seems: admitting his error of "reporting" that Monfort had been commentating from the Olympic pool and amending the post somewhat (although not sufficiently) to reflect that the squeals and Marseillaise-style references had been coming from Roxana Maracineanu and Alexandre Boyon respectively and not Monfort.

But the gist of the whole piece was how sports journalists from around the world reacted when their athletes won, with the French veteran perhaps being "awarded gold" for his broadcast enthusiasm - read "chauvinism".

Monfort of course claims he's not at all "chauvinistic" but rather a "citizen of the world."

To show that has something of a hollow ring to it, here's a clip from those masters of French satire, Les Guignols de l'info.

It might be a couple of years old, but it mixes Monfort's habit of slipping from French to English with his unbridled and excessive enthusiasm for the country's

The mark of every "good" sports journalist?

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

The cost of "Immortalising" Carla Bruni-Sarkozy - 90,000 euros

Have no fears, France's former first lady is not about to be elevated the Académie française - perish the thought.

Although perhaps it shouldn't be dismissed so easily.

After all some bright spark might well decide that France's former first lady has indeed been a true pioneer in the field of music and cinema and deserves appropriate recognition for her artistic contribution in much the same way as her husband has been a bringer of peace to the world with his name being submitted as a potential future candidate for the Nobel prize.

But that of course is another story.

No the "glorification" of Carla is in the form of a bronze statue to be unveiled in the eastern Parisian suburb of Nogent-sur-Marne.

The idea was "brainchild" of Jacques Martin, the mayor of the town - not the late television entertainer who was married to Sarkozy's second wife Cécila.

Sculptor Elisabeth Cibont (screenshot from Le Parisien video)

Martin wanted to pay tribute to the contribution the town's Italian community hade made and in particular immigrant Italian women who had worked in its factories over the decades, and he commissioned sculptor Elisabeth Cibont to produce a bronze.

All well and good only Martin, who also just happened to be a member for the same centre-right Union pour un mouvement populaire (Union for a Popular Movement, UMP)  as Bruni-Sarkozy's other half (who was president at the time, as if you needed reminding), wanted to fund the project from the public purse.

That didn't go down well with opposition parties on the local council who intepreted the whole idea as simple sycophancy on the part of Martin, a personal whim and a waste of money.

And when they discovered whose face would be portraying the "average Italian immigrant woman of the early 20th century" the "polemic" began.

Yep, you've guessed it; the former model-cum-singer-and-wannabee-actress-and-now-former-first-lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy.

Martin was forced to split the cost of creating the magnificent two-metre bronze between public and private funding before Cibont was able to get on with her job.

As Cibont is keen to stress though, the whole "polemic" (there's that word again) surrounding "using" Bruni-Sarkozy as a model was completely inappropriate as far as she - an artist - was concerned.

"It's not a statue Carla, but of an Italian woman from the early part of the 20th century," she said.

"It a homage to those women," she continued.

"The only thing of course is that the the statue's face has been inspired directly by that of Carla Bruni-Sarkozy who, after all was born in Italy and as a consequence it gives a contemporary or up-to-date feeling to the bronze."

Oh right, yada, yada, yada. Bruni-Sarkozy is so typically representative of today's Italian woman just as much as she is of one from the early decades of the 20th century.

Don't you think?

You'll have to wait a while if you're desperate to see what €90,000 will buy you when it comes to a bronzed Carla.

The statue isn't due to be officially unveiled until September.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Incomplete Olympic faction - French awarded fairplay and broadcasting excellence gold medals

There have been more gold medals to add to the French haul at the London 2012 Olympics after the  Independent Olympics Observers Committee awarded the country three special awards for fairplay, sportsmanship and broadcasting excellence.

The awards were handed out on Sunday evening at a special gala dinner in the presence of the guest of honour Sir James Paul McCartney, MBE, Hon RAM, FRCM who opened and closed the proceedings with yet another inevitable rendition of "Hey Jude".

Nelson Monfort (screenshot YouTube video)
In the category Best Reporter, the gold went to France 2's omnipresent Nelson Monfort for his excellent interview of the French women's 4 x 200 metres relay swimming team after they had won the bronze medal.

"Delicacy and tact were the trademarks of yet another fine moment in television sports journalism," the Committee noted, praising Monfort for the way in which he had managed to make one of the team, Ophélie-Cyrielle Etienne, feel completely at ease by reminding her that her mother had died recently.

Monfort, renowned for his one-note intonation and simultaneous translations skills when interviewing English-speaking athletes showed particular empathy when it came to questioning Etienne.

"We love your sensitivity," Monfort said. "You have suffered over the past year after a family bereavement. I imagine that's who you would like to dedicate this medal to tonight?"

Monford wasn't the only winner representing France Télévisions on the night though.

The whole organisation was honoured with a gold for the way in which it has so far provided balanced and objective coverage of the London Olympics, regularly interrupting events to inform viewers and commentators that the remainder of a match, bout, heat or whatever would now be continued on one of its other channels - either France 2 or France 3, depending on the schedules.

"Channel hopping has brought a delight and pleasure to millions of viewers in France," the Committee said.

"And it has ensured that no crucial moments have been missed while those at home have scrambled to find the remote control to avoid the closing credits on one channel before being treated to the opening ones on another."

Special mention was made for the way in which the men's doubles final - which featured the French pair of Michael Llodra, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga losing to the American twins Mike and Bob Bryan was shown to the exclusion of the women's singles being played at the same time.

While the odd mention was made of the manner in which Serena Williams was hammering Maria Sharapova in straight sets, the only glimpse of the game French viewers were treated to was that of Williams receiving her medal.

But the night's top award for Best Loser went to French rowers Jérémie Azou and Stany Delayre.

They were competing in the final of the men's lightweight double skulls and had reportedly made an excellent start to the race when it was brought to a halt suddenly because the British duo of Mark Hunter and Zac Purchase had problems with their boat.

Purchase's seat had slipped and as is traditional and part of the rules of rowing, he raised his hand and all the other teams stopped too.

After the restart the British went on to finish second, just behind the Danish pair of Mads Rasmussen and Rasmus Quist, while the French missed out on the podium finishing fourth behind the bronze medallists Storm Uru and Peter Taylor from New Zealand.

And it was then that the French showed their true sporting colours and sense of fair play, blaming the incident on the failure of the British team for "misaligning their boat initially because of the wind" and criticising the jury's decision "for abiding by the rules and interrupting the race."

"The other teams were stronger when the race was restarted," explained Delayre

"It's always frustrating finishing fourth and is perhaps down to us being less experienced than the other teams in appearing in an Olympic final."

Which surely brings us to the time for a song, doesn't it?

Oh, go on then.

You just know you've been itching to hear it.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

French Olympic champion Florent Manaudou in BBC transgender error

Ah the joys of the Internet.

The surprise winner of the 50 metres freestyle, Florent Manaudou, certainly appears to have something of a sexual orientation issue if you read the BBC's initial report on the race.

Florent Manaudou (screenshot TV5 Monde 

Oh there's a photo of the strapping lad all right - all 1.99 metres of the 21-year-old giving what appears to be a cry of delight after winning in a time 21.34 seconds in a race that, if you blinked, seemed almost to be over before it had begun.

But then read a little further into the piece and that's when you discover that for the BBC, Manaudou - Florent that is - described as "the sister of former Olympic 400m freestyle champion Laure."

(screenshot from BBC site)

OK someone made a silly mistake and probably a person who knows little or nothing about sport - which 12 hours later still hadn't been corrected (perhaps it has by now).

But it brings a smile to the face and it's humbling that even an esteemed broadcaster such as the Beeb can make such a glaring blunder in its effort to be first and not necessarily the most accurate with the news.

Friday, 3 August 2012

Friday's French music break - Michel Berger, "Quelques mots d'amour"

Friday's French music break this week is from one of arguably France's most influential singer-songwriters, Michel Berger.

It's his 1980 single "Quelques mots d'amour".

Michel Berger (screenshot from "Paradis blanc" video)

With excellent timing TF1 broadcast a special tribute to Berger back in early June even though August 2 marked the 20th anniversary of the day Berger died from a heart attack aged just 44.

So much has been written about the man who for two decades shaped the French pop music scene as both a singer and a songwriter, and there's no need to repeat what can be found elsewhere at the press of a button.

(If you're interested, perhaps begin here in English or the official Michel Berger-France Gall site in French)

Berger had the talent, making his first recording at just 15, of someone who has been described as having "music as his mother tongue".

He played a vital role in the careers of, among others, France Gall, Françoise Hardy, Véronique Sanson and (he can be forgiven for one small error perhaps) the relaunch of Johnny Hallyday.

Berger co-wrote the musical Starmania, which was a huge success in France throughout the 1980s and as with much of his music, the songs live on as standards of French variety music.

As Radio France Internationale points out though, unlike other past greats such as Georges Brassens, Léo Ferré or Claude Nougaro, the songs of Berger aren't the preferred choice of contemporary covers versions or reworked into other musical genres.

The original versions remain by and large the ones everybody prefers; instantly recognisable to a huge number of people from the opening bars.

Well that's one interpretation of course. Another would be that they are perceived as being dated and don't lend themselves easily to being reworked into jazz, rock, folk, soul or RnB formats.

Whatever the case, ask any French person to name a Berger song and the chances are they'll come up with one - if not more - and probably be able to sing a few lines too.

And the list from which to choose a favourite is very, very long.

It includes "Paradis blanc",  "Le Groupie de pianiste", "Diego" and the list goes on and on.

Hard to choose, but here's "Quelques mots d'amour" as this week's Friday's French music break.

"Quelques mots d'amour"

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Summer camp monitors from Gennevilliers - suspended and then reinstated

The case of four temporary instructors sacked and then reinstated by Jacques Bourgoin, the mayor of the town of Gennevilliers in the northwestern suburbs of Paris, is one that has made both the domestic and international news.

Jacques Bourgoin (screenshot from AFP video)

And you could be forgiven for believing that on the face of it, Bourgoin's decision appeared to be one that, in the words of the Conseil français du culte musulman (French council of the Moslem faith, CFCM) was "an attack on religious freedom".

After all the headlines such as "Sacked over Ramadan fast" or "French Moslem suspended in Ramadan fasting row" certainly gave that impression.

There's no doubt that Bourgoin's U-turn to reinstate the four men in an effort to "avoid controversy" was more than a little late as the damage had been done.

But looking at the background to the decision, you can see that while he undoubtedly mishandled what was after all a sensitive issue and one bound to "raise indignation" once it became part of the public domain, Bourgoin had the best interests of the children at heart

Briefly, the four men had been employed as monitors to accompany children from the town to a summer camp in southwestern France.

They were sacked on July 20, the first day of Ramadan, after inspectors paid a visit, discovered they were observing their fast and, "not respecting the terms of their contracts in a way which could have endangered the physical safety of the children for whom they were responsible."

In other words, as far as Bourgoin and Gennevilliers' councillors were concerned, by not eating or drinking the men couldn't carry out their jobs properly.

And Bourgoin surely had good reason and didn't want a case of history potentially repeating itself.

Because in 2009 during a similar summer camp involving children from the town, a monitor fell asleep behind the wheel of the minibus in which they were travelling, causing an accident and seriously injuring one child.

She - the monitor - too had been fasting.

Of course there's the valid argument put forward by the CFCM president Mohammed Moussaoui that worldwide, "Hundreds of millions of people fast during Ramadan every year without it having a detrimental effect on their ability to work."

But equally, Bourgoin had a moral and legal obligation to ensure the well-being of children in the council's care and simply didn't want to take the risk.

A tricky one - not helped by the way in which it was handled - or reported.


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