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Monday, 14 September 2015

Claire Chazal's classy farewell

Another page has turned in broadcast journalism in France.

Sunday evening witnessed a classy farewell from, Claire Chazal, the woman who has anchored the lunchtime and evening weekend news on TF1 for the past 24 years.


Claire Chazal (screenshot, TF1 - her last news programme)


Chazal was unceremoniously "given the boot" after returning from her summer hols.

In much the same fashion as Patrick Poivre d'Arvor (PPDA) back in July 2008, Chazal was "thanked for her services" and given just a few weeks notice.

Indeed, PPDA (among many others) even Tweeted his support and admiration after Chazal's last broadcast, saying pointedly how she had shown "an elegance most definitely missing in her boss" Nonce Paolini.

PPDA Tweet


Her departure probably didn't come as much of a surprise. In fact, it has been on the cards for some time, especially after PPDA was shown the door.

They both came from a different era in terms of news broadcasting.

Falling audiences (ah yes - the news isn't really just about "news" now, is it? Ratings...and advertising revenue also count) and a desire from the Powers That Be to "rejuvenate" the channel's news team are probably the main factors leading to Chazal's rather fast dismissal.

She'll be replaced by her summer stand-in (and 20-year younger) Anne-Claire Coudray.

Chazal's "style",  deferential and somewhat staid, has come in for a fair amount of criticism over the years and the 58-year-old, no matter how popular she might be among the French, has often been perceived as "soft" on her studio guests.

The most recent example came four years ago when  the former International Monetary Fund boss, Dominique Strauss Kahn chose Chazal's evening news programme to declare his innocence and admit to only having made a "moral error" after alleged  rape charges against him in New York had been dropped.

Chazal, a close friend of DSK's then-wife, Anne Sinclair, didn't pursue any real line of journalistic questioning, allowing her "guest" to have his say.

And that was very much her "technique" over the years: one which quite possibly endeared her to the public but didn't sit particularly well with "real news" gatherers.

Chazal's final "goodbye" and a montage of some of her moments, used to pay tribute to her by her colleagues, were fittingly graceful.

She thanked viewers and those with whom she had worked, saluting the "professionalism of the TF1 editorial team"  saying that she left her post with "immense sadness" but wished her successor, Coudray, "as much enjoyment as she had had."




Claire Chazal's classy farewell - would you really have expected anything less?

Friday, 11 September 2015

Friday's French music break - Mylène Farmer and Sting, "Stolen car"

It's seldom that Friday's French music break features an artist who needs little or no introduction - let alone two!

But that's the case of this week's choice which combines the talents of a Canadian-born French singer, with sales of more than 30 million records in France alone during her 30 + year career, and a British "legend' (the word is not used lightly) who (according to the kind folk over at Wikipedia) ranks among the "world's best-selling music artists" as both a solo performer and with his former group.

The singers (songwriters) in question are of course Mylène Farmer and Sting.




There's so much material available on the Net about both artists, that it's unnecessary to go into any potted biography.

But just in case you need some more info, here are the links to their official sites: Mylene Farmer,
Sting

The pair have teamed up for a remake of "Stolen car", a track taken from Sting's 2003 album "Sacred love" and given a new lease of life.

Where the original is mellow and mellifluous enough (almost to the point of dull - where did Sting leave his "rock" roots you might wonder), the remake is faster, has that typical Farmer ethereal and slightly over-produced studio touch that has very much become her trademark and benefits from the English-French lyric combination.

It entered the French charts this week, toppling the duo of Nicky Jam & Enrique Iglesias from the number one slot, even before the release of the official video.

But, once again, thanks to the power of the Net, you can see snippets of the "making of" in which the two "lock lips" (trust the Daily Mail)

And if you cannot wait, there are some rather "tinny" and distant recordings of the song taken from the radio.

For the moment, here's Sting's 2003 version. As soon as the duo's remake becomes available (the first week of October), it'll be posted here

Friday, 4 September 2015

Friday's French music break - Josef Salvat, "Open season"

This week's Friday's French music break couldn't be more removed - geographically speaking - from France.

Indeed, it comes from the other side of the globe. Australia to be exact.

But given that country was also invited earlier this year to participate in the 60th anniversary of the annual musical jamboree fest, the Eurovision Song Contest, it's perhaps not so surprising for one of its artists to be featured here.

And besides, Josef Salvat, who hit it big in 2014 with his remake of Rihanna's "Diamonds" (written of course by another Australian musical export, Sia Furler) actually sings a fair part of his own reworked "Open Season" in French.


Josef Salvat (screenshot "Open Season ) une autre saison" official video)

Voilà, the reason it's this week's pick.

It's a delightful version of a song that swings along, pulling the listener into it's feelgood mood with couplets which, according to music journalist, Jonathan Hamard, are "especially seductive with their percussion and almost martial rhythm" (!!!).

Whatever words you might choose to describe the 26-year-old's song, the overall effect is only enhanced by an excellent video which is a simple but effective pastiche of its own genre, the "making of".

So sit back. Hit the two links below - one for the French version,  and the other for the English.

Compare and contrast - but more importantly, enjoy!




Friday, 28 August 2015

Friday's French music break - Cats on Trees and Calogero, "Jimmy"

This week's Friday's French music break is from two artists previously featured.

The first is Calogero, is a stalwort of the French music scene who needs little or no introduction to readers in France as he has been around, writing and recording, for the past couple of decades.

Calogero (screenshot RTL performance)

The other is the Toulouse duo of Nina Goern and Yohan Hennequin who are better known as Cats on Trees and rose to prominence with their 2013 hit "Siren's call".




Nina Goern and Yohan Hennequin - Cats on Trees

 Together they've come up with a seamless match in the form of the single "Jimmy".

The 44-year-old Calogero's music is instantly recognisable and he has won several awards including three Victoires de la musique - the French equivalent of the Grammys - for best male artist (2004) and twice for Best original song (2005 with "Si seulement je pouvais lui manquer" and 2015 for "Un jour au mauvais endroit").

Throughout the years, Calogero has teamed up with, and/or (more often) written for,  a number of artists, among them Grand Corps Malade, François Hardy, Pascal Obispo and (inevitably perhaps, as just about every French composer has) Johnny Hallyday.

Given his track record as a successful writer, it's perhaps surprising, if not unusual, that Calogero agreed to accompany the duo on their own composition.

Especially as it failed to make its mark on the charts first time around when Goern and Hennequin released it in 2014.

But Calogero was definitely "up for it" as, according to Cats on Trees' official site, the trio became friends following several joint television and festival appearances.

Goern and Hennequin (who normally write and record in English)  reworked the song to include some French lyrics...et voilà, quoi.

The result - not only a delightfully melodic recording but fitting hit material too.

http://www.chartsinfrance.net/Cats-on-Trees/Jimmy-s36254.html

Enjoy et bon week-end.








Monday, 27 July 2015

Life's a beach for Saudi king






What do you do if you're the king of Saudi Arabia holidaying at your private villa on the Côte d'Azur in the south of France for a month with an entourage of around a 1,000 people and you discover there's a public beach (albeit small) at the foot of where you're staying?


The answer is simple really.

You flout the laws of the land, start constructing your own personal lift (after all, it would be too stressful to have to walk) and block access for anyone else.

It's a story that has been brewing for the past fortnight when French national media began reporting that preparations were underway for the impending one-month-long stay of the king of Saudi Arabia, Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, at his luxury villa in the town of Vallauris.




"The White Palace on the water", Vallauris (screenshot BBC news report)

 To avoid any unwanted hoi polloi upsetting the king's holiday plans and to ensure his privacy and security (and that of his family), the Mirandole beach at the foot of the villa was closed temporarily while the necessary construction work (without permits) was undertaken.

Some locals, upset by the manner in which a public beach seemed to have been commandeered without any consultation  were concerned that the closure would be extended for the duration of king's visit.

It's a fear that has become a reality as, even though  Michelle Salucki, the mayor of Vallauris, put a temporary stop to the work and wrote to the French president, François Hollande, to argue against the de facto privatisation of public property, she was overruled by higher powers with the sous-préfet, Philippe Castanet, invoking the need to provide security for a visiting head of state and Hollande...well, not reacting at all.

Yes, it's all a question of security...oh and the not-so-small matter of purchasing power.

Cash rich and shopping happy Saudis apparently come with the reputation of spending - big time.

And several reports have appeared on French telly showing how pleased local (luxury, of course) shop owners are at the prospect of all that lovely lolly passing through their hands.

Sod principles and the fact that public beaches are exactly that - public - and supposedly accessible (although there are plenty of other exceptions that prove the rule) to all.

And ditto for the petition that has so far attracted over 100,000 signatures insisting that the beach should be "available for the benefit of all".

"I'm talking about the equality of citizens before the law and the respect of coastal law," local councillor Jean-Noel Falcou said in  BBC news report (see, this story has captured the interest of media outside of France).

"A natural area, a public beach, is an inalienable. It's part of our common property. The point we wanted to make is that not everything can be bought."

Sadly Monsieur Falcou, it appears it can if the power behind the money is one authorities don't wish to offend.



Vallauris: la famille royale saoudienne veut... par afp

Friday, 22 May 2015

Friday's French music break - Lisa Angell, "N'oubliez pas"





France wins the Eurovision Song Contest after 38 year long wait.

Well, that might well be the dream of France Télévisions executives who, in their infinite wisdom, have chosen a song that could have sealed victory several decades ago.

But that "dream" risks becoming a repeat nightmare of last year's final place entry when Twin Twin (who?) managed just two measly points.

Hoping for better things (well, let's face it, they could hardly get worse) France has plumped for another act largely unknown to the domestic audience to fly the tricolore at this year's annual "music" fest to be held in Vienna, Austria.

Lisa Angell will warble her way to Eurovision obscurity with the perhaps worryingly premonitive "N'oubliez pas" ("Don't forget").

Lisa Angell (screenshot from "N'oubliez pas")


Yep, while 21 of the 27 countries appearing in the final have opted to sing in the musical lingua franca of English (or "la la" approximative versions of it anyway), France has decided steadfastly to buck the trend by insisting on sending someone along singing a "proper" French entry...and that means in French.

Not that "la langue de Molière" will help improve Angell's chances though, as the song is dated, probably lacking in real appeal and instantly forgettable the moment it has finished.

And that can be an important element in Eurovision voting (you can decide for yourselves how weighted and unfair/fair it might be, there has been much...far too much...written on that subject)

as Angell will be the second act to take to the stage on Saturday and might well have become a foggy memory by the time all 27 countries have "done their stuff".

"Gifted with a powerful voice" and "extremely proud and happy to represent her country...with a song of hope and peace, of courage and solidarity," Angell may well be.


But that's unlikely to impress the millions who'll be watching the televised marathon, and France looks set to wait a little (lot) longer for that seemingly evasive Eurovision win.

Which is a shame, as there is so much (young) talent around that could have reflected the true nature and variety of the French music scene, such as The Avener, Cats on Trees, Marina Kaye, Louane Emera, Kendji Girac, Christina and the queens...to name just a few.

But hey. This is Eurovision - and more often than not it's the lowest common denominator that counts which, come to think of it, is probably the only thing to be said in Angell's favour.

Take a listen.

Try not to yawn.

And "enjoy" this week's Friday's French music break.

Monday, 16 March 2015

Valérie Trierweiler's "non-interview" interview on France 3 TV

It was surely the most peculiar of interviews; at the same time both surrealist and seemingly beamed in from a parallel universe.

Valérie Trierweiler's first appearance on French TV since her bust-up with the French president, François Hollande, THAT ("political memoire") book and promotional tour abroad and, even more recently, the slap she gave the 33-year-old  centre-right Union pour un mouvement populaire (Union for a popular movement) politician Mohamed Rizki, when he (some might say somewhat insolently) asked her in the street, "How is François?"

Valérie Trierweiler (screenshot 19-20 France 3 Ile-de-France news)

Yet the presenter of the 19-20 France 3 Ile-de-France news, Jean-Noël Mirande, declined to pose any questions relating to any of those matters during the interviews because...well, journalistically-speaking apparently they weren't interesting enough or relevant as to why she had agreed to be interviewed in the first place.

Say what?

All right so the cause Trierweiler was "promoting" (not her own in this case) was without doubt virtuous - the work of the Secours populaire français, an association "fighting against poverty and exclusion in France and throughout the World".

But this is a woman who has made the headlines over the past year or so for all the wrong (or right - depending on your perspective) reasons.

And yet Mirande declined to ask one single question during the main body of the interview because he didn't want to detract from the serious nature of the Secours populaire's work.

Oh well, maybe he had gone to a different school of journalism to that of his colleagues.

The one which panders to the guest, doesn't ask the "burning questions" no matter how tasteless they might be and decides that news is set, not by events, but by avoiding any mention of them.

And just to ensure that viewers had completely understood why, he handed Trierweiler the most servile of questions at the end, when he broached the slapping incident by asking how she dealt with controversies whenever her name was brought up.

"It's difficult because a non event becomes a headline. And at the same time there are some serious things happening in the world," she replied.

"I just don't understand how such a fuss can be made out of something that is so inconsequential."

To which Mirande responded, in true probing style, "And that's the reason we decided not to talk about those subjects. But I wouldn't have been forgiven if I hadn't tried."



Valérie Trierweiler's truly absurd return to the French media spotlight as France 3 blows its "scoop".

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

(Not) Understanding French politics - the Macron reform




Quite an ambitious headline, but don't worry, this isn't about to become a pedagogical piece on the finer details of the French political system.

Neither is it going to be a dumbed-down version pandering to the lowest common denominator.

Rather it's a simple but hopefully informative observation as to how difficult it is, even for those who enthusiastically (try to) follow French politics let alone others who only dip into it from time to time, to get to grips completely with the machinations of the system.

Certainly France isn't alone in having its own political peculiarities, but that doesn't mean it's any easier to understand them when they are on full display.

Friday's edition of the excellent lunchtime news magazine "La Nouvelle Édition" on Canal + contains a short segement, presented by journalist Gaël Legras, called "Vu de l'extérieur".

Legras takes a whistlestop tour of other countries' news outlets to discover how they're covering particular stories about France; in other words "what they're saying about us".

Last Friday's chosen subjects were the trial in Lille featuring Dominique Strauss-Kahn who (don't groan) had denied charges of pimping. Paris Saint-Germain's match against Chelsea in the Champions League, anti-semiticism in France following the desecration of a Jewish cemetery in the town of Sarre-Union in the east of the country and the racial slur made by a former foreign minister, Roland Dumas during an interview on BFM TV  and the so-called article 49-3 of the French constitution.





Now, that last subject might not seem particularly interesting, but its application last week illustrated perfectly just how idiosyncratic the French political system can be.

It's a tool which can be used by a government to force a bill through the national assembly without a vote being taken.

It's rarely used because, apart from being perceived as out of step with the democratic process, it is invariably followed by the opposition tabling a motion of no confidence in the government.

But that's exactly what happened last week to economic minister Emmanuel Macron's bill "designed to remove obstacles to French economic progress".

Emmanuel Macron (screenshot from interview with Jean-Jacques Bourdin, BFM TV November 2014)

The bill includes a raft of reforms such as extending Sunday shopping, opening up heavily-regulated professions to greater competition, privatising certain regional airports, ending the monopoly of intercity bus routes...and, and, and.

You can read more about Macron and the reform package in this piece by Anne-Sylvaine Chassany in The Financial Times.

In short though, the reforms came under fire from a number of Socialist party parliamentarians, rebels known as Les Frondeurs, who said they would not vote through the package.

At the same time, two opposition parties, the centre-right Union pour un mouvement populaire (Union for a popular movement, UMP) and the centrist Union des démocrates et indépendants, (Union of Democrats and Independents, UDI) declared they wouldn't be voting in favour either...even though Macron's bill was largely inspired by ideas previously advocated by both parties.

It makes complete sense - doesn't it? Well, at least politically.

Understanding that this was all going to end up very messily for a reform which was supposed to be one of the most important of the second half of his term in office, the French president, François Hollande, gave his prime minister, Manuel Valls, the green light to invoke that (in)famous 49-3 article.

The outcome - UMP and UDI tabled a motion of no confidence forcing Les Frondeurs to rally behind the government because apparently "voting against a bill (introduced by their own party) was one thing, but backing a vote of no confidence submitted by the opposition was not the same."

Not easy for the world's media to understand what the heck was really happening - and just as impossible for those in France as it seemed the political world had turned upside down.

In essence though it was a defeat all round.

The bill still has to make its way through the Senate and then back (in a revised form) to the national assembly.

The opposition has shown itself unable to stick to any sort of political principles (an oxymoron?), and the Socialist party is as divided as ever.

And...oh yes...there are local elections (départemental this time around) in March when guess whose party is predicted to lead after the first round of voting.

Yep, Marine Le Pen's far-right Front National no doubt benefitting from the disillusion many in France have with the traditional political parties.

And last week's parliamentary palaver will only have helped her cause.

But that's quite another story.

Don't worry if you've understood nothing or very little of all of the above.

You're far from being alone.

It's all...well, very French politics - n'est-ce pas?

Monday, 23 February 2015

Online banking made easy - French style

Notice anything...er...ever-so-slightly out of place in the title?

Hint...the idea of a service being both "uncomplicated" and "French" at the same time - two attributes which, sadly, so often reveal themselves to be contradictory.

Of course, that's a gross generalisation.

Or it would be if it weren't for the fact that service in France - no matter in which particular domain - is not quite up to the standards of what might be expected.

The corporate cliché about the direction of a business being determined by the demands of its clientele (summed up in the maxim that the "customer is king") invariably becomes confused if not downright lost when put to the test in France.

And it's as true for online banking as it is for any other sector.

Of course it shouldn't be. The very concept of conducting financial transactions online is...well, very 21st century.

And therein lies the problem perhaps.

It's not that France doesn't have online banking.

Most of the country's main high street banks offer the service and some have even developed their own purely online affiliates: Banque Populaire has BRED,  CIC - Filbanque, Societé Générale - Boursorama and BNP Paribas - Hello bank

It's just...well, for those with regular accounts, the use of the online facilities can be...difficult.

I needed to make a transfer at the weekend.

International you'll understand, even if it meant Euro to Euro.

France to Italy (so you knew trouble would be a-brewin')

The princely sum of €150

First step was to log on to my BNP account and go through the whole  rigmarole of adding a new contact to my list of recipients.

It didn't matter that the payment would be a one-time affair (or that the amount was paltry).

The "rules" stipulate that every time you make an international transfer to a new beneficiary, the same process has to be followed.

First up, fill in the amount.

Next step - complete the recipient's IBAN (or International Bank Account Number) then the BIC (Bank Identifier Code).

Everything seemed in order - a quick double-check.

Yep.

Painless so far.

The final stage was to receive a text-message confirmation on my mobile 'phone so that the transfer could be made.

Except...the number the bank had on its file was that of my previous 'phone.

I had informed them in June last year that my number had changed. And there in the "emails sent" box was a copy of what I had written.

Time for a snotty email to the person responsible for customer relations (yes, they still have real people to answer queries at BNP - just not outside of regular working hours).

So transfer aborted and over to my account at Crédit Agricole to see whether I would fare any better there.

By now, you can probably guess where this is going.

Crédit Agricole puts customers through pretty much the same palaver to make an international transfer...amount, IBAN, BIC, reason (not obligatory) and that final page telling me that it would take three days - THREE WHOLE DAYS - for the both the new recipient and the transfer to be approved.

Result?

Well, no result.

Over 30 minutes online to use a service which the banks promise is "simple, smart, and secure"  and I had got absolutely nowhere.

Update. Heard back from my personal banker at BNP later in the week to be told that I could have changed my mobile telephone number myself online.

I simply had to log on to the page which contained my personal details (lost on a website that seems to believe user-friendliness equates with presenting the maximum information in the most complicated format imaginable) and change the number.

I would then receive - by post - confirmation that I had changed the number to which text message confirmations should be sent.

So simple.

Welcome to online banking - French style.

Friday, 20 February 2015

Friday's French music break - Keen'V, "Saltimbanque"

Friday's French music break this week has more than a feel of Bollywood about it.

It's "Saltimbanque" by Kevin Bonnet, better known by his stage name,  Keen'V.

Quite frankly, the 32-year-old might not be among the greatest singers around but that hasn't detracted from his popular appeal and he has had a string of hits over the years including most notably "J'aimerais trop" in 2009, "La vie du bon côté" in 2012 and "Dis Moi Oui (Marina)" in 2013.

Keen'V (screenshot from appearance on "Comment ça va bien", France 2 - September 2014)

From the very beginning (in 2008 when he decided to take to the Net by posting on YouTube), Keen'V's style has most definitely been dancefloor inspired mixing elements of ragga(muffin), raggae, zouk, French "varieté", electro and simple pop to come up with a sound that most certainly makes you want to...er...strut your stuff.

Probably most popular with a teenage audience (evidence of that, perhaps, is that he picked up an NRJ music award in 2012 as Révélation francophone de l'année) but has taken steps recently to broaden his appeal to the whole family with appearances in celebrity reality TV programmes such as the French versions of "Splash", le grand plongeon (season one) and "Strictly come dancing" ("Danse avec les stars" - season four).

"Saltimbanque" is the title track from Keen'v's chart-topping fifth studio album released in 2014

True to his dance music style and that of being an acrobat or "saltimbanque" (albeit a vocal one) the song is definitely one made for...well, dancing.

Its lyrics (let's not get too deep here) come across as almost autobiographic with Keen'V "proud to be an acrobat" and having chosen music because "he prefers the nightclub atmosphere".

The song might sound a little too studio over-produced, but that doesn't really matter because its real pull lies in the electro-Bollywood feel and beat.

Take a listen. The official video only features a still of Keen'V and the lyrics, which is a bit of a shame because their a real dance performance would have been a bonus.

And if you want to catch Keen'V live, you're in luck because he'll be embarking on a two-month nationwide tour of France from April with dates scheduled in a number of Zeniths including those in Amiens, Caen, Paris, Toulouse and his home city of Rouen.

Bon week-end and enjoy.


Friday, 13 February 2015

Friday's French music break - Millers Daughter featuring Nicom, "Undeniable"

Friday's French music break this week isn't exactly French.

It's "Undeniable" from the British duo (twin sisters actually) of Louise and Christie Miller -better known as Millers Daughter.


Millers Daughter (screenshot from "Undeniable" official video)

The French angle is that for the release of the song in France, they've teamed up with Nicom (an interview here with him - in French) for a version that combines all the country pop feel of the original with an almost typical Jean-Jacques Goldman sound.

Not a bad way to break into the French market and "Undeniable" (taken from Millers Daughter's debut album "So Hollywood") has been receiving plenty of radio airplay.


Nicom (screenshot from "Undeniable" official video)

Millers Daughter and Nicom are all alumni of My Major Company, the crowdfunding platform started and co-owned incidentally by Goldman's son, Michel in France in 2007,  and responsible for the launch of (now established) acts such as Grégoire, Irma and Joyce Jonathan.

There's no denying that "Undeniable" has a US twang to it - almost Taylor Swift-ish (or Shania Twain?) - and that's not surprising perhaps as Milllers Daughter name the American singer-songwriter among the artists they like (along with "Snow Patrol, John Mayer, Lady Antebellum, Mumford & Sons and many many more.."

Their influences are also very pop, country, soft-rock inspired (Fleetwood Mac, ABBA, The Eagles, Shania Twain Dolly Parton..."and pretty much anything with great hooks and melodies! so..the list goes on...") so it's not really surprising that "Undeniable" contains exactly what they enjoy most...a great hook and a very catchy melody.

"Undeniable" is immensely sing-a-longable. The duo's voices are pleasant without causing any offence (it might be going just a little over the top, as one reviewer did, to describe the song as having "crystalline melodies, mountain-air pure harmonies and solid gold choruses that you thought they didn’t make anymore) and the addition of Nicom gives the song that Anglo-French touch so popular with many trending artists in this country.

"Undeniable" is no nonsense, pure pop music at its best (or worst for some people).

It is what it is - and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that frankly - unless you're a complete misery.

So, here are both the original and the more recent version with the addition of Nicom.

Happy listening et bon week-end!



Friday, 6 February 2015

Friday's French music break - Vianney, "Pas là"

Friday's French music break this week is proof that there are a number of talented young singer-songwriters ready to make their mark on the French music scene.

It's "Pas là" from the 23-year-old Vianney Bureau who goes simply by his first name as a performer.



Vianney (screenshot from "Pas là" official video)

"Pas là" is the second track to be released from his debut album "Idées blanches" and deals with that time-honored tradition of disappointed love.

Nothing startling new there...but given its wonderfully melancholic (and at the same time very catchy) melody combined with clever lyrics, it has been getting plenty of airplay.

Just listen to the opening lines of the song and you'll soon be aware that Vianney is no ordinary songwriter but one blessed with the talent to write poetically.

And, oh yes, his voice has a gentle elegance to it and a pitch quite different from many others of his generation. Plus he has an ability to perform live that just makes you want to hear more (check out this acoustic version during an appearance on France Ô)

Vianney hasn't gone unnoticed among music critics with Yannick Delneste writing enthusiastically to say the least) in the regional daily Sud Ouest after the release of the first single "Je te déteste" that it had "a sense of an unstoppable and unifying melody, swirling vocals and clever texts"

And in L'Express, Gilles Médioni described Vianney as being "exceptional and different" not just because of his musicality but also his background.

"Polite, cheerful and stylish, he attended a military lycée (at this own request), grew up in Panama in a family of four boys, went to business school in Paris before completing a diploma at the private fashion school Esmod."

Those were experiences which Vianney himself said had "opened his mind socially and artistically" as did presumably the part time jobs, singing in the Paris métro, a hitchiking trip to Israel  (crossing the Balkans and Turkey), cycling to Stockholm and, and and.

Yes, he sure has packed a lot (of unusual things) into a short space of time, and probably is as far removed as is possible from the TV talent show route that so many of his generation take to achieve instant (and often ephemeral) fame.

Put simply, Vianney, who has apparently been writing songs ever since he "discovered music" at the age of 12 is a name to remember and, more importantly, a talent to remember.

His album "Idées blanches"  - only released in October 2014 - has already been nominated for a Victoires de la musique award (the French equivalent of the Grammys) alongside Indila's "Mini World" and François and the Atlas Mountains "Piano ombre" in the category Album révélations.

The winner will be announced on February 13.

Vianney has several dates lined up throughout France from March onwards, including one at Le Trianon in Paris and smaller venues such as Rock School Barbey in Bordeaux, La Dynamo in Toulouse and the Cargo de Nuit in Arles.

But keep an eye on his Facebook page for news of further dates.

For the moment though, here's "Pas là".

Enjoy.

You will!

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Christine Boutin's political literary flop. Or how not to write a best seller...or a seller


The late Christopher Hitchens once said (among many other things of course) that, "Everyone has a book inside them which is exactly where I think it should, in most cases, remain."

Sadly though, so many fail to heed that maxim and among those who seem to think the rest of us should benefit from their written words (of wisdom?) are French politicians.

A couple of years ago France Inter dedicated its weekly one-hour programme "Le Grand Bain" to the very question as to why so many French politicians felt the need to write and publish.

The conclusion being that while some had written something worthwhile reading and a certain talent in expressing themselves, the vast majority of them were best served leaving literature, in all its forms, to others and concentrating on what they supposedly did best.

Of course an inflated ego (which politicians must have believing, presumably, that they know best how to serve their fellow citizens in office and determine what's in the interests of the country) must play a part.

But the bottom line of (most) publishing (houses) is surely also to make money - which opens up perhaps the equally perplexing question as to how come so many French politicians manage to find an editor... because so many "œuvres" (inverted commas entirely intentional) are far from being profitable.

Quite the contrary.

Take, for example, the most recent offering from Christine Boutin, "Qu'est-ce que le parti chrétien-démocrate ?".

You remember her, surely.

Boutin served as housing minister for a couple of years during Nicolas Sarkozy's presidency before being unceremoniously sacked.

She was also at the forefront of the demonstrations against same-sex marriage in 2013, continuing her long campaign for Christian values (aka "family values" in her parlance) and boring most of us silly with her frequently ignorant and equally ill-judged remarks.

In 2014, for example,  Boutin shared her views on homosexuality with the quarterly political magazine "Charles" describing it as "an abomination".

Ah well. You can read all about that here - old news - but it'll stick around to haunt her (or more likely the rest of us) for quite a while.

Back to that book "Qu'est-ce que le parti chrétien-démocrate ?" ("What is the Christian Democrat party") her 128-page 2010 follow-up to her 2009 book "Chrétiens : de l'audace pour la politique".

Guess how many copies, according to GQ magazine, Boutin has managed to sell.

Christine Boutin's "Qu'est-ce que le Parti chrétien-démocrate ?" (screenshot Amazon.fr)


Pause for thought.

Here goes.

38.

THIRTY-EIGHT?

It pretty much tells the whole story, don't you think.

Of course Boutin isn't alone among politicians who fail to attract readers.

The current finance minister, Michel Sapin sold 346 copies in three weeks of his diary as employment minister  "L'écume et l'océan , Chronique d'un ministre du travail" (clearly few were interested).

The president of the national assembly, Claude Bartolone, fared no better with his "Je ne me tairai plus" ("I'm not going to remain silent any longer") which was bought by only 268 people in two weeks.

And the former environment minister Delphine Batho only managed to shift 715 copies of her book "L'Insoumise".

At the other end of the scale - and perhaps providing a lesson (if not literary, at least a commercial one) was that political potboiler from France's former first lady Valérie Trierweiler.

Her "Merci pour ce moment" has so far sold more than 600,000 (and counting) copies, proving that...well, a tell-all political tale about her relationship with the French president, François Hollande, really might have been a "triumph of self-obsessed raving" but it certainly earned her a bob or two.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Alain Juppé calls on UMP supporters to vote against Front National in Doubs by-election

No, not the most thrilling or exciting of headlines at face value.

But rather telling on a number of levels about the state of the opposition Union pour un mouvement populaire (Union for a popular movement, UMP).

First some background.

Last weekend saw the first round in voting in a by-election in the département of Doubs in eastern France.

It was to contest the seat made available by the forced resignation of the former finance minister, Pierre Moscovici who has since gone on to a cushy number at the higher European Commission level.

A "safe" Socialist party seat in theory.

But, as we all know, the governing Socialist party (PS) isn't exactly "flavour of the month" and the French president, François Hollande...well, although his popularity ratings increased recently after his handling of the Paris attacks in January) the road to a possible second term in 2017 remains a difficult one.

Add to that the disarray that still exists within the UMP and the far-right Front National's (FN) leader, Marine Le Pen's, strategy of combining disaffection with the two major parties with her own populist appeal, and it wasn't suprising that the FN's candidate, Sophie Montel, topped last Sunday's first round of voting in the by-election.

What was unexpected though - certainly for the UMP - was that its candidate, Charles Demouge, only finished third behind Montel and a couple of points adrift of the Socialst party's Frédéric Barbier.

UMP eliminated and Montel to face Barbier in a second round run-off.

And that has put the UMP in something of a quandary - although it shouldn't really.

Its recently-elected leader (a certain Nicolas Sarkozy - you'll surely have heard of him) had promised "unity" in an attempt to resolve party divisions of recent years.

But his slow reaction to the first round vote in Doubs, coupled with some of the party's leading members clearly stating the very opposite of what he is most likely to propose, has once against highlighted the UMP's discord.

The party's number two, Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, appeared on BFM TV on Monday morning to give her reaction to the Doubs ballot and how would recommend UMP supporters cast their votes in the second round.

"I would choose to vote for the candidate that opposed the Front National," she said, admitting that it was probably a minority position within the UMP but one she defended nonetheless.

"The Socialist party leaves the country 'desperate'," she said. "But the Front National would disfigure France."



And joining her - even though he had maintained before the first round that he wouldn't comment on the outcome, was Alain Juppé.

Writing on his blog, Juppé clearly called for UMP supporters to cast their vote in the second round to the Socialist party's candidate to "block" the FN.

"Our main political rival now is the FN.," he wrote.

"Whether it can reach power is no longer a hypothetical question and in my opinion this would be a catastrophe for our country.”

Actually his words were much more powerful that that - you can read the full text here.


Alain Juppé (screenshot Europe 1 interview)

Juppé, of course, is a declared candidate in the UMP's primary to determine its 2017 presidential candidate.

A likely opponent and his main one - if you believe political pundits - is expected to be Sarkozy who so far seems to be in favour of the "neither, nor" policy of refusing to endorse any of the two remaining candidates and instead allow (UMP) voters to decide for themselves.

Yes - the courage of convictions and political principles is astounding.

And he's taking plenty of time to come up with a grand design which might well be ignored by those (few) who bother to vote anyway.

Montel might have officially come top in the first round of voting but the big winner was the 60 per cent abstention rate.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Canada features at job fair for France's unemployed professionals

It goes without saying that unemployment is one of the major issues currently facing the French government.

The country's president, François Hollande, made tackling the problem one of his priorities, making endless promises during his first year in office that the upward trend would be reversed by the end of 2013.

It wasn't.

In January 2014, he admitted having failed, changed tack and maintained that his Pacte de Responsabilité (Responsibility Pact - agreed with trade unions and employers' organisations and which would give business increased tax breaks) would "put the French economy back on the rails".

The assumption being that a drop in the unemployment rate would be one of the results.

He went even further later in the year, when he started talking about not seeking re-election in 2017 if the effects of his economic policies didn't kick in and he failed to cut unemployment.

Well, the jobless rate is still on the rise.

The most recent seasonally adjusted figures for Q3 2014 released by the Institut national de la statistique et des études économiques (the French National Institute for Statistics and Economic Studies, INSEE) had risen to 10.4 per cent.

Without blinding you with an endless stream of figures and percentages (you can find plenty of reports on the stats by doing a simple Internet search) the bottom line is that France is still in deep economic doggy doo (now isn't that a profound analysis) .

Help is at hand though - at least for young professionals who are having problems finding the job to suit their qualifications or those who are looking to change their career, retrain or start their own businesses.

It comes in the form of the Salon du travail et de la mobilité professionnelle - a job fair organised by the weekly news magazine L'Express and with the official backing of the ministry of employment.




It's being held at the Grande Halle de la Villette in Paris on January 23 and 24, bringing together 150 exhibitors, workshops and consultants with those looking for jobs.

Among the advice given on how best to present yourself and your cv, and in spite of the special section for the handicapped, the whole shebang seems to be put a weird perspective by two factors.

Firstly, one of the posters promoting the fair suggests "mobility" - trying another region within France.

Fair enough. It might smack somewhat of the advice given back in the 1980s to Britain's unemployed by the former conservative employment (among other positions) minister Norman Tebbit to "get on their bikes".

Or go where the work is. But it's probably healthy to remind visitors and jobseekers that France doesn't begin and end in Paris.

Secondly there's  the "country of honour"  - Canada - and the poster declaring the low unemployment rate the other side of the Atlantic in Quebec.


(screenshot Salon du travail et de la mobilité professionnelle poster)

Does that mean the French government has in a roundabout way, (because it's supporting the fair) come up with a new strategy to reduce unemployment in France by encouraging people  to look anywhere - even abroad - for opportunities?

Any ideas François Rebsamen (the minister of employment)?

Monday, 19 January 2015

Peugeot - where sometimes an "open day" means "business as usual"

The French often come in for something of a pasting when it comes to business practices and customer service.

Unfair of course - because each country has its own peculiarities, although admittedly France seems to have more than its far share.

Still, no matter how much you might want to defend them, sometimes the French excel themselves in redefining common sense...and their own language.

Take the case of "portes ouvertes" or "open days" as interpreted by some car dealers in the country.

They've just taken place here with manufacturers eager to entice potential customers with the promise of special offers.

Those can include a 'manufacturer's official) dealer offering to take back your current vehicle at its market price (as defined by the "bible" of second-hand car value in France, the magazine and website "Argus")  and at the same time knocking off up to €5,000 on the purchase of some of models.

Others throw in free service for a year or more and monthly leasing rates without the need to put down a deposit.

In fact, there's almost a glut in the range of "special offers" available, limited to a certain period but repeated with such frequency that they've become almost par for the course.

And to give sales that extra boost, there are those "portes ouvertes" when dealers throw open their doors at times when they would normally be closed...or so you would think.

Because outside of the main metropolitan areas, it can sometimes be difficult to find car dealers who have understood that an "open day" is not the same as "business as usual".

Such was the case this past weekend in the southwestern département of Tarn.

The official Peugeot dealers in the towns of Graulhet and Gaillac (both with populations of around 12,000) proudly announced they would be holding "portes ouvertes".

Only you had to pay attention to the times, because in reality they weren't - "portes ouvertes", that is.



Peugeot 2008 (screenshot from video report by Malcolm Flynn on CarsGuide.com.au

The two dealers were open on Friday and Saturday - just as they always are, but closed on Sunday because, as they explained to the bemused potential buyer who turned up then and happened to find someone in the showroom not selling but simply catching up on some paperwork, "portes ouvertes had been on the previous two days."

Huh?

Now let's take a quick look at the Gaillac dealer's regular opening hours.

Um...Monday-Friday from eight o'clock in the morning until half-past seven in the evening. And on Saturday from eight o'clock in the morning until seven o'clock in the evening.

And those "portes ouvertes"? Friday 16 January and Saturday 17 January (even though an Internet search tells you initially that it was in fact on Saturday 17 and Sunday 18).

Oh well.

Never mind.

There was always a 25km drive to Albi or a 50km one to Toulouse.

Or not.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

#ouestsarkozy and #JesuisNico trend after Nicolas Sarkozy's front row appearance at Paris march

Of course it's all a matter of interpretation,

But the French media and social networks have been having a little bit of (harmless) fun at the expense of the former French president, Nicolas Sarkozy.

He was invited, in his capacity as the newly-elected leader of the opposition centre-right Union pour un mouvement populaire (Union for a popular movement, UMP) party to take part in Sunday's rally in Paris.

And, after meeting his successor at the Elysée palace, François Hollande, Sarkozy graciously accepted.

Somehow though, Sarkozy didn't seem happy to play second fiddle - so-to-speak - as he found himself a couple of rows back from the front of the march.

That highly-esteemed position was given to world leaders who had made the trip to Paris to take part in the rally: leaders such as German chancellor Angela Merkel, Mali's president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, Britain's David Cameron, Spain's Mariano Rajoy and Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu

They were all snapped by the world's cameras alongside Hollande.

In total, 44 heads of state or government turned up.

And so too was Sarkozy who, on more than one occasion, managed to worm his way through to the front...where he presumably thought he so rightfully belonged...with his "fellow world leaders".

World leaders - and Nicolas Sarkozy - at the Paris march (screenshot from Europe 1 Dailymotion video)

Such "antics" soon saw Sarkozy ridiculed on the Net with Twitter a-tweet and Tumblr a-Tumblr (well you can't really say awash now, can you?) with photoshopped images of other world events (throughout history) that Sarkozy has "attended."

#JeSuisNico and #ouestsarkozy (a play on the "Where's Wally?" series of children's books which in France are known as "Où est Charlie?") were launched.

And there was Sarkozy alongside Charles de Gaulle after the liberation of Paris in 1944.

On the moon, ahead of Neil Armstrong, in 1969

Present and participating in the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

With the French football team as they lifted the World Cup in 1998

And...well you get the picture.

Yes Sarkozy really was an eyewitness to history down the decades.


Nicolas Sarkozy s'impose sur la photo by LeLab_E1

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Charb's poignantly prophetic last cartoon for Charlie Hebdo

After the events of Wednesday, when armed gunmen shot and killed 12 people at the offices in Paris of the French satirical weekly "Charlie Hebdo", there's little that hasn't been said, written or reported, both within France and abroad.

As a tribute to those who died here are two images.

The first is a screenshot taken for the weekly news magazine "L'Obs". It's the very last cartoon drawn by "Charlie Hebdo's" editor, Stéphane Charbonnier or "Charb", who was one of those killed in the attack.

It's tragically predictive with the headline reading, "Toujours pas d'attentats en France?" "Still no attacks in France?" and an armed Islamist militant saying, "Attendez" or "Wait".
"On a jusqu'à la fin janvier pour présenter ses vœux "We have until the end of January to present our New Year's wishes" - a satire on the French (political and social) tradition of wishing others a happy New Year throughout the whole of the month.

Charb's last cartoon (screenshot from "L'Obs")

And the second powerful image is that of the front cover of Thursday's edition of the national daily Libération.

No translation needed.


Libération front cover tribute to "Charlie Hebdo"

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Valerie Trierweiler's tell-all memoir to be made into a film

We've already had the best-selling book - although we didn't really need (or want) it.

So it's perhaps not so much of a surprise that it's about to be followed up by a film...a tee-shirt, a mug and a song.

No. Those last three elements aren't true (yet) but the first part is.

The best-selling tell-all tale "Merci pour ce moment" ("Thank you for this moment") from France's former first lady Valérie Trierweiler is apparently going to hit the big screen after the actress-producer Saïda Jawad revealed that she had secured the films rights.


Valérie Trierweiler (screenshot interview with BBC's "Newsnight" - November 2014)

In an interview with the weekly glossy magazine "Gala", Jawad spoke about her plans to turn the book of her "close friend of three years" into a movie, saying that her production company was, in agreement with Trierweiler, was working on developing the film adaptation.

"In the book, Valérie embodied the struggle of a woman trying to tell the truth," Jawad said.

"The film will be a fictionalised biopic in which I envisage the main character telling her story to a close friend and allowing us to understand better the political world," she continued..

"And I can guarantee you that there'll be a lot of new things to discover."

Wonderful. Bet you can't wait.


As a book, Treirweiler's "tale" served as a (very) lame excuse for a women scorned and determined to give her side of the story after being dumped  by her former partner, the French president François Hollande - or as Hadley Freeman in "The Guardian" wrote when "Thank you for this moment" was released in English, it proved to be "a triumph of self-obsessed raving"

But of course "Merci pour ce moment" (which has sold over 730,000 copies in France and has been translated into 11 languages) is not a book of "revenge" - - even though that's pretty much how it has been interpreted -  but an attempt by Trierweiler to reveal the misogyny that exists in French politics and "to rebuild her life after the painful split."

So the film is surely a logical step in ensuring she'll be able to add an infinity swimming pool, top of the range sauna and other luxury accoutrements should she need additional resources in her rebuilding enterprise.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

François Hollande delivers a Spice Girls' "positivity" New Year speech

It seems that François Hollande has taken a lesson in politics from the former British pop group the Spice Girls.

Well, that would appear to be the case after listening to the French president's message to the nation at the turn of the year.


François Hollande, New Year's speech 2015
(screenshot France 2)

And that "2015 charm offensive", as it has been called by the French media, continued with a two-hour radio interview and the traditional endless round of presidential New Year greetings.

During his nine-minute televised New Year message to the nation, Hollande recognised the problems France had encountered in 2014 and will likely have to face in 2015, all the time revealing himself to be upbeat - without saying anything that had any real substance to it.

He stressed the need to put an end to the "denigration and discouragement" that seemed to characterise the image of France at home and abroad, stressing the size of the country, its economic status, its international responsibilities, diplomacy et yadda, yadda, yadda...you can watch and listen to the whole nine minutes here.




The essence of Hollande's message?

Well, France and the French - had every reason to be proud and have confidence - even though 2015 was likely to be a(nother) difficult year and "France isn't about nostalgia, it's about hope."

"To move forward will require audacity and a rejection of the status quo," he said.

You see. Echoes of that 1997 hit "Spice up your life" n'est-ce pas?

"Smilin' and dancin', Everything is free All you need is positivity."

Take it away, Geri, Emma, Victoria, Melanie B, Melanie C and François...



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