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Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Emmanuel Macron quits the French government

There’s little surprise in France that (former investment banker), Emmanuel Macron has quit his post as Minister of Economy (Industry and Digital Affairs) to (according to many political pundits) prepare for a shot at the top job in next year’s presidential elections.

It has been on the cards for quite some time, and especially so, since the founding of his own (good Socialist, that he isn’t) Centrist movement, En Marche, in April 2016.

Emmanuel Macron (screenshot BFM TV)

But there might well be a few raised eyebrows over the choice of his replacement.

It’s none other than the current Minister of Finance, Michel Sapin, a long-serving politician who was a classmate of the French president, François Hollande, (and Ségolène Royal, come to that) at the École nationale d'administration (Voltaire promotion of 1978-80).

Michel Sapin (screenshot BFM TV)

Yes, the two men go back a long time. Not only did they study together, they also shared a room during military service back in 1977.

If such a thing as friendship exists in the weird (and not so wonderful) world of French politics, then maybe that term can be used to describe the relationship between the two men.

And that means Hollande has an ally and someone he can trust to tell him the truth, if not of his chances of being re-elected next year (pretty slim to nil would be the wise man’s bet) then about the outcome for the Socialist party in the National Assembly elections slated for June 2017.

Because, as the managing editor of the weekly news magazine “L’Express” (and proud wearer of scarf)  Christophe Barbier, pointed out at the end of his slot on BFM TV’s "Première Édition", it’s not the first time Sapin has held the post.

Get in your time machine and travel back to  1992 when Sapin was similarly appointed to the “super ministry” of Economy and Finance.

And then fast forward - ever so slowly (if that’s not a contradiction in terms) just one year later - March 1993, to be precise - when the governing Socialist party suffered its worst electoral meltdown returning just 53 members to the National Assembly.

“The worst electoral defeat for the Left - apart from that perhaps in 2017,” commented Barbier.

Food for thought - n’est-ce pas M. le President?

Friday, 26 August 2016

Friday’s French music break - Imany, “Don’t be so shy”

August 26, 2016

It hasn’t been easy to find a video to accompany this week’s Friday’s French music break that isn’t, well,  almost semi pornographic.

Little wonder really given the title, feel and not exactly concealed sexual nature of the song.

But hey.

It’s worth sharing because “Don’t be so shy”, the latest single by former French model Imany (Nadia Mladjao) and remixed by Moscow-based House and Deep House DJs Filatov & Karas (Dmitry Filatov and Alex Osokin) to become an upbeat European-wide hit which has topped the charts in several countries, is both contagious and a sumptuous delight.

Imany (screenshot Le Grand Studio, RTL)

This version (you can listen to it here) of “Don’t be so shy” combines class of her sublime and evocative voice with the remix which does the song complete justice.

The song originally featured on the soundtrack of the 2014 film “Sous les jupes des filles” (or “French woman”) and you can hear an excerpt towards the end of this trailer (yes, you’re really being treated to three different versions of the same song this week).

This isn’t the first time Imany has featured on Friday’s French music break (FFMB).

Back in 2011, she exploded on to the French music scene with her debut single, “You will never know”, a song which brought parallels with US singer-songwriter Tracy Chapman and had both commercial and critical success.

Enough words though.

As ever, FFMB is all about the music and the artist - sometimes good, sometimes bad.

Or in this case…excellent.

And here’s Imany with an acoustic version of "Don't be so shy" recorded in the studios of RTL radio.


You will.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Nicolas Sarkozy’s non-shock presidential election candidacy announcement

Well that’s a turn up for the books.

Former French president, Nicolas Sarkozy has announced that he’s to run in the primary to choose the candidate who’ll represent the Right and Centre-Right at next year’s presidential elections in France.

Screenshot Nicolas Sarkozy Twitter

Yes, the same man who, back in 2012 assured viewers, during an interview with Jean-Jacques Bourdin on BFMTV, that he would “retire from politics” if he lost that year’s presidential elections, has joined 14 other hopefuls - a decision which surprises absolutely nobody.

Archive 2012 - Quand Sarkozy assurait qu'il... par BFMTV

The announcement was the kind of political non-event which pretty much sums up politics in general in this country, and the tradition whereby those defeated in earlier elections, along with disgraced politicians, attempt a comeback.

You know, “Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose”. Or in the case of French politics, the same old faces keep popping up all the time.

Take a look at just a few of those on the list for the primary.

Ex prime minister Alain Juppé who has made his way back from a criminal conviction for abuse of public funds to become the man most likely to be able to beat Sarkozy.

Jean-François Copé, the former president of the Centre Right Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (Union for a popular movement, (which under Sarkozy’s second stint as chairman renamed itself Les Republicans) who was forced to resign from that post following the Bygmalion invoices scandal (about which he knew nothing of course).

François Fillon - another former prime minister (under Sarkozy). Squeaky clean (in French political terms although there was that “storm in a teacup” scandal in 2014 when he reportedly encouraged one of François Hollande’s closest advisers at the Elysée Palace, Jean-Pierre Jouyet, to “accelerate” judicial proceedings against Sarkozy) but rather…er…dull.

Nadine Morano - no criminal convictions - but plenty of - let’s be polite - “barmy” Tweets (she’s an adept at Social Media) and controversial statements (such as France being  “a Judeo-Christian country, of white race")

Then there’s…

No, to list all of them would increase the yawn factor inexorably. And besides, with Sarkozy’s entry into the race, some will more than likely drop out.

Ah yes - that entry. Long expected and accompanied by a book (of course) “Tout pour la France” in which he outlines his “ideas” for the future of this country, and a scheduled appearance on prime time TV news.

Sarkozy has his work cut out. He might well be popular among his supporters (pretty much a foregone conclusion as it would be disastrous if he weren’t) but, if those never-ending opinion polls are to be believed, among the general population he’s unpopular and a majority have said they would not like to see him stand.

Oh well, too late now.

Affaire à suivre

Monday, 22 August 2016

Tears, jeers and a touch of farce as France celebrates Olympic "success"

So they’re over - the Rio Olympics that is.

And French headline writers are celebrating the country’s “record haul” of 42 medals and seventh-placed finish overall.

Heck, even the French president, François Hollande, took time out to bask in the glory and congratulate France’s sportsmen and women saying they “were more than champions, they were role models”.

But while politicians can be forgiven for having selective memories and choosing only to use statistics that fit their own perception of the world, it surely only takes a few clicks of the mouse for even the most inexperienced of journalists to check the facts and figures.

Sure, the 10 Golds, 18 Silvers and 14 Bronzes the French team brought home was collectively more than London (35), Beijing (41) and Athens (33)  - the last three host cities - and the highest post World War II cluster (well ahead of the paltry five in Rome in 1960 or nine in Montreal in 1976) but still way behind the total when the Olympics was still about competing and not just winning.

Back in 1900, when Paris hosted the Games and a certain Pierre, Baron de Coubertin was president of the International Olympic Committee, France claimed…wait for it…101 medals in total (26 Gold, 14 Silver and 34 Bronze) finishing top of the table.

All right, so as everybody’s online friend, Wikipedia, points out, in 1900 Gold medals weren’t actually handed out (first place received Silver and second Bronze).

But apparently the IOC has since “retroactively assigned Gold, Silver, and Bronze medals to competitors who earned first, second and third-place finishes respectively to bring early Olympics in line with current awards”.

So there.

And bedsides, should the French really be feeling so smug about their overall performance?

While US swimmer Ryan Lochte (along with a few of his team mates) made a complete jackass of himself and embarrassed his fellow countrymen and women by “fabricating a story of being robbed at gunpoint”, some French competitors were also proving they could be equally farcical and unsportsmanlike..

After finishing fifth in the 100 metres backstroke final, French swimmer, Camille Lacourt,  decided he would take a pop at China’s 200 metres freestyle Gold medallist, Sun Yang.

Swimming is becoming as tainted as athletics, he told French radio “with two or three doped in each final.”

“Sun Yang, he pisses purple," said Lecourt, a reference to the Chinese swimmer having faced a three-month doping ban in 2014.

Lacourt later apologised saying he had been “frustrated” and “upset” with his own performance and his failure to secure a medal.

Apologies too from French pole vaulter (and world record holder) Renaud Lavillenie as he had not only to battle with home favourite Thiago Braz da Silva, but jeers and boos from fans in the stadium.

“I’ve never seen that before,” he told French television during the event. “Something like that has probably not happened since Jesse Owens appeared in Berlin in 1936.”

The clumsiest of remarks (to say the least) made in the heat of the moment, no doubt. And one Lavillenie regretted by Tweeting his apologies later.

But the crowd during the medal ceremony was equally unforgiving; once again booing Lavillenie and moving him to tears as he took Silver behind da Silva.

French pole vaulter Renaud Lavillenie in tears during medal ceremony (screenshot YouTube video)

No sign of an apology though from French tennis player Benoit Lepaire.

Quite the opposite really after he lost his second-round match and was then asked to “pack his bags” and effectively excluded from the French team at the Olympics by the French tennis federation's technical director Arnaud Di Pasquale.

The 27-year-old  Lepaire. had apparently decided his place was with his girlfriend (pop singer Shy’m) rather than fellow team mates at the Olympic village - as required by the French tennis federation.

Lacking both grace and humility, Lepaire retorted. "I have a different view of what is happening at the Olympics. I keep my opinions to myself. The federation, they are non-existent, so it is not very serious.”

Finally, throughout the Olympics, the French media simply couldn’t help itself.

While talking up this country’s performance, there was also the constant look to what was happening to “that lot” from across the Channel - Team GB.

Final medal table (screenshot France TV)

“How come the British were winning so many medals?” they asked innocently.

“How did a country with a population more or less the same size as France produce so many more medalists?”

“Lottery money, investment (time and professionalism), precise preparation for the Games, the exclusion of many Russians and the poor showing of the Chinese” were the sporting conclusions of a nation which, let’s face it, put in a pretty mediocre performance overall.

Friday, 19 August 2016

Friday’s French music break - Freedom Fry, “Shaky ground”

Feel like a “Na na na, Hey hey, Na na na” singalong?

Well this week’s Friday’s French music break can happily oblige.

It’s “Shaky ground” from the American-French duo “Freedom Fry”  comprising husband and wife Bruce Driscoll and Parisian-born Marie Seyrat.

Freedom Fry (Marie Seyrat and Bruce Driscoll) - screenshot from “Shaky ground - behind the scenes” video)

The single isn’t exactly new - it was first released in 2015 - but with its revamped French/English version now available (at least to listeners in this country) it has been getting a fair amount of airplay.

Described as an American Indie pop band, Freedom Fry’s music apparently (according to the blurb on their official site) “heavily bleeds the warmth and sunshine of their home state of California” and “skirts the lines between pop, folk and indie rock” while “always (being) blended with danceable rhythms and a singalong chorus.

Yes, well.

In brief that means while they’re unlikely to set the annals of music alight with originality (not-so-eager ears will probably have cottoned on to the similarity - in sound and style - between “Shaky ground” and The Lumineers’ 2013 hit “Ho Hey”) Freedom Fry are immensely easy to listen to and the singalong factor (no matter how annoyingly simple it might be) of the “Na na na, Hey hey, Na na na” chorus is undeniable.

Anyway it’s late August here in France, so who wants to listen to anything too challenging?

So, here you go. Ready? It’s a two-in-one video: first the English version followed by the French-English one…a total of seven minutes and 14 seconds with plenty of…“Na na na, Hey hey, Na na na’s”

Bon week-end!

Friday, 12 August 2016

Friday’s French music break - Céline Dion, “Encore un soir”

You know you’re in trouble when you have to admit that a song from a singer you normally can’t stand actually catches your fancy.

It happened several months ago when…er…(hang head in shame time) Justin Bieber’s “Love yourself” ear-wormed its way into this listener’s head.

A catchy, gentle number that, once Shazamed, revealed itself to be by the 22-year-old Canadian and ergo (apparently) totally inappropriate to anyone over the age of 15.

Still, it’s never a bad thing to admit to having questionable taste, and besides, it would have been churlish (in the ungentlemanly sense) and feeble to have pretended the song no longer appealed simply because it was from The Biebernator.

And…gulp…it has happened again.

No not another Bieber song, after all there’s only so far an adult man can accept to have become (albeit temporarily) a “Belieber” (where’s this vocabulary coming from) and this is Friday’s French music.

This time around it’s…wait for it…from his fellow Canadian and global super shrieker , Céline Dion.

Céline Dion (screenshot Celine Dion - Live in Montreal - “Encore Un Soir”)

OK, so she’s not French either, but “Encore un soir” (the title track of her soon-to-be released album) marks a return to her working together with the Grammy Award-winning French singer-songwriter Jean-Jacques Goldman.

Now, you might be expecting the usual wailing, belting Las Vegas high notes from the 48-year-old mother of three. But no. This has Goldman’s talent written all over it, even if it was reportedly Dion who approached him rather than the other way around (as had been the case in 1996).

Best perhaps not to read too much into the death of her late husband René Angélil in January 2016 and the impact it might or might not have had on her choice of tracks on her new album OR her discernible fashion “relooking” or “transformation” (and let’s be frank, that could only take an upwards direction)

“Encore un soir” is unadulterated middle-of-the-road adult listening…and not unpleasantly so either.

So, sit back. Forget all those pre(mis)conceptions you might have about Dion (or Goldman, come to that), stop being so incredibly snooty about your musical taste credibility…and enjoy!

After all, the worst that could  happen is that you might like it….and if you don’t, you can always hit “stop”

Bon week-end.

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