目前日期文章:200707 (3)

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It's so much of a cliché, but France is famous all around the world for its creativity, culture, and so on. Let me tell you today what are France's latest trends.

Home decoration programs are developing like crazy at the French TV in these days. Almost every TV channel has its own déco specialist, and once a week, you can visit the nicest flats and houses of Paris, decorated by the most trendy interior designers and architects. C'est tellement hype, darling!

Some places they show on TV just look like the latest IKEA catalog, with black-lacquered walls and white or kaki furniture everywhere. If you like Swedish design and minimalistic experience, this is for you.
Some other places follow a completely different trend, which you might call "ethnic trend". The walls are generally white, and the only sources of color is a big exotic piece of furniture from China or Tibet, for instance.
I recently visited a shop specialized in this kind of furniture. It's the same you can find here: http://www.meubleschinois.com. Almost all the pieces of furniture there cost more than 400 Euros each, and are "supposedly" from the end of the 19th century. I wonder if all the furniture there is that old, considering how animated the 20th century was in China: shouldn't all this kind of furniture have disappeared in Cultural Revolution fires or something similar?
Anyway, this kind of chinese wedding cupboard is very expensive, altough the impact in your home is really good: imagine your Sony's lastest plasma screen on the top on a traditional tibetan richly decorated sideboard... J'adore, darling! 

Besides decorating their home with priceless tibetan shelves, (young) French people love to go to to clubs, listen to trendy music and set up new fashions. The latest craze among Parisian trend-setters is the 80's. Yeah, the 80's: bandana, fluo colors, hoses, long t-shirts, etc..  Check here if you don't believe me: http://fluokids.blogspot.com/  Fluokids is actually a group of young (around 20) Parisian trend-setters who set up their own parties in the most fashionable discos of Paris (le Paris-Paris, le Baron...), wearing 80's apparel and the music which goes well with it, electro music inspired by 80's mythical group Kraftwerk, house music and using the mythical synthetizer of the 80's by Roland, the TB-808. You can listen to the latest sound of Paris nightlife on their weblog. Their latest discovery is a French band called Justice, and they are becoming famous, as their video clips can be seen on the main French music channels. You can dowload their album here (click on "free" buttton).

So now, you can redecorate your flat with the latest trend in Paris, and fill your Ipod with the latest sound of Paris' night. You will be the new sensation in Paris as soon as you arrive here! I'm waiting for you!  A bientôt, Darling!

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 As I explained a long time ago in this post, the French went so far to the polls four times this year to elect the President of the Republic and their representatives, the députés, at the Assemblée Nationale,  the equivalent of the Taiwanese Legislative Yuan. Two votes for each election: the French election system is a two-round system, so the winner always has a clear majority of votes. To elect the députés, the system is based on constituencies, which each candidate has to win. No proportionnal representation here. If you want to know more about the French legal system, I recommend you this article.

So the conservative candidate Nicolas Sarkozy won the presidential election, and his party, UMP, won the legislative elections (they have absolute majority, although Sarkozy's UMP actually obtained fewer seats than in the previous Assembly). Since his election, although M. Sarkozy hasn't made any change in the French Constitution (yet?), the way he is ruling France makes everybody here wonder if the traditional framework of French politics, a semi-presidential representative democratic republic, is going to evolve to a fully presidential system or not. This question may sound very theorical and should interest only French constitutional law specialist, but it actually underlines a certain number a flaws and anachronisms in the existing French political system.

According to the French political philosophier Montesquieu, political power is traditionally divided in Western democracy between legislative, executive and judiciary powers. We kept this organization in France. In Taiwan, Dr Sun Yat-Sen (孫逸仙) added 2 more powers for the Chinese Republic, with Control and Examination Yuans, but kept Monstesquieu's idea, if I understood everything right from A-Kuan.
So the French 3 powers:
- The Assemblée Nationale hold almost all the French legislative power.
- The executive power is traditionallly divided in France between the President of the Republic, who mostly deals with foreign affairs, and the Premier Ministre, who deals with the rest. This why it is semi-presidential: the executive power is divided between two guys. The French president is not allowed to enter the Assemblée Nationale, and the guy responsible for driving the policy of the government in France is the Premier Ministre. The Premier Ministre is the head of the Government, made of Ministres (who can be députés or not). The Premier Ministre can be dismissed anytime, and replaced by a more popular guy. There is no VP in France, and no vice-premier either, unlike Taiwan.
The president can dismiss the Assemblée Nationale before the end of its term to organize new elections.
The president, the premier ministre and all the ministres can directly enact laws (altough they rarely do it). The normal way is usually to have the laws voted by the Parliament (Assemblée nationale and Sénat).
- The French judiciary system is under the control of the government (Ministre de la Justice), who can stop an investigation, or speed up some more "fishy" ones. That's why the French justice system has so many problems on investigating on the military boats sold to Taiwan...

So you understand that when you are the French President, you can really do what you want here, as you control almost all the political powers.
Mr Sarkozy is man who only lives for power, and thanks to his determination, he was able to crush all the guys (friends and foes) who were on his way tho the Palais de l'Elysée (the palace of the President of the Republic). Since he has been elected, he has spent a lot of time doing the Premier Ministre's job. Sarkozy chose a very plain politician as Premier Ministre (François Fillon), and since, Sarkozy is the one who decides which laws should be presented to the Parliament to be voted, in place of the Premier Ministre. Sarkozy explained his political program to the press two day before the opening of the parliamentary session, something unseen before, as it's usually the Premier Ministre who does it, through a big speech in front of all the députés on the first day of the session (the speech took place, of course, but nothing new was inside).

The president also short-circuited the French ministry of foreign affairs by sending his wife (who has no political role in France) as negociator in Libya to free the Bulgarian nurses, instead of sending the French minister of foreign affairs. Earlier, the president gave his opinion about the incoming French tax reform, so the Minister of budget and economics just had to shut up because his idea was different from the president's. Last, the President appointed a team of specialist to think about the reforms and future evolutions of the French state, and one of the expected options is the disappearence of the Prime minister function.

So many political commentators are thinking that the French political system in France is going to evolve, turning from semi-presidential to presidential: no more prime minister, increased powers for the president, a president responsible of his projects in front of the Parliament (just like in the US), etc... This change could be ok in France, because the existence of the Premier ministre is an heritage from the time when France was a monarchy, and the King could then replace the unpopular guys by new ones. But when this system was built up, it was also to avoid the concentration of powers into the hands of a single man. If this reform takes place, the other powers (legislative and judiciary) will need to be rebalanced, with more independence and control possibilities for them. For instance, the Parliamentary commissions so far are just huge jokes, as they are just good enough to make reports and nothing else. As for justice, politically risky business takes litterally years to come to court, and generally the judges in charge of these matters are moved to different departments by the minister of justice when they are a little too much inquisitorious... Change is required there too.

Although the idea of making evolve the French political system may sound good, it might become a very sensitive matter if the independence of the political powers is not respected. The possiblity it later turns into a "light dictatorship" is quite high, as the references to the French Second Empire are common in the press in these days. In this context, the last possible counterpower to the President shoud be the indepence of the press, but it's not the tight bonds between Mr Sarkozy and the French economic establishment (including newspaper owners) which makes me feel optimistic on that point... Putin and Russia' s oligarchy, a true model for Nicolas Sarkozy?

Next post to come:
France's latest trends

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It's been such a long time I haven't posted here that Gwen almost got angry at me when it came to that subject last time we talked together. I promised her I'll be more regular from now on, and I'm starting today my series of posts about France and myself with first a general update about my personnal situation.

I was in Taiwan from April 2nd to April 16th. During that period, Gwen and I flied to Phukhet, Thailand, where we had a great time there, sunbathing, motocycling, trekking in the jungle and trying the wonderful (but unbelivably spicy) Thai food. Thai people were just so welcoming, and I really wish the stay had been longer.

I also had a great time in Taipei when I came back, where I bought lots of components for my new computer (I just love the computer market), and I also had the chance to be a member of the Aiesec selection jury. It was a very interesting experience, as I've been member of the Aiesec selection jury in France several times in the past too, and it allowed me to really learn a lot about Taiwanese students. The candidates were globally quite good (few were rejected), but it was a very demanding experience, as we had to review 3 candidate at a time per session, while in France, you review just one per session. Anyway, I could relax that night by joining MAYDAY's concert at Gwen's high school, which was really good (wo ay nii, nii ay wo...). I also had a great time discussing with Connie and Ellen, two friends of Gwen. They are really good guides of Taipei, and we had a lot of fun in the snake-food (not snack-food) restaurant. My only regret about that stay is I didn't have time for a KTV session...

It was so great to have these holidays in Taipei city that I'm starting to think about the next ones. Although I have a lot of days-off to use this year (thank France's generous holidays system), I may not be able to use them to come and see Gwen, as I may start a new mission as Software Quality Assurance (SQA) Consultant soon. I'm right now training for this mission-to-come by joining a 2-month training program to gain all the necessay knowledge and methodolgy. My next holidays should be then by Christmas...

Besides, I didn't give up my project of joining NTU's English MBA program, as I got accepted by NTU! But I don't know yet when and if I'm coming to Taipei for financial reasons. Let me explain.

If you remember that post, I applied to a scholarship award from the Taiwanese National Science Council. They transferred my application to the Taiwanese Ministery of Education, which more or less rejected me (I'm on the second position on the  waiting list). I warned NTU College of management of this financial difficulty and asked them to postpone my admission for a year, which is possible by their admission rules (I already knew at that time I was accepted at NTU). The College of Management, who seems to really want me to join in September 2007, then applied for me to an NTU scholarship award, and told me I was on their waiting list with a good ranking. I should get a definitive answer by August.
So I should come if I get the funding.

BUT there is a last difficulty: my French working contract says I have a 12-weeks notice delay before resigning. I may reduce that delay to 6 weeks (more or less) using my holidays, but it means if I don't get NTU's scholarship award decision by August 6th, I will not be able to resign on time  to join NTU in September. The College of management is aware of the situation, and right now I can only pray for a miracle. I can also try to win the national lottery by next Friday, it's Friday 13th this week.

Anyway, I'll be coming for sure in September 2008, and I'm impatient to live these 14 months to come, passing my driving licence, joining chinese school and gathering enough money to face any shcolarship award program rejection. I will appy again also to these sholarship awards. What a program!

Next post to come:
The result of the French elections : will France become a presidential democracy?

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