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“One is not born a woman, one becomes one”. The famous sentence by Simone de Beauvoir has become over the years the “must-use” sentence when writing an article about feminism. Although the book was written in 1949 and the woman condition has somehow improved in western societies, the feminist ideas have outlived De Beauvoir and are still vivid today.

I have actually witnessed a surge in feminist ideas for the last 6 months in France. I can’t tell when it exactly started; I can just tell the national dispute over the ban of the Islamic veil in French public spaces has made people start to think about what is the place of the women in society today. The recent alleged sexual assault of the former IMF president on a hotel maid then fuelled the debate, as some reactions from famous French intellectuals were considered as pure machismo. The society also became aware that many women victims of sexual abuse do not sue their aggressor, as they feel their testimony as woman is not as considered as valuable as men’s one, and the police is not supportive enough. It kept on with the slutwalks, and I keep reading articles everyday on the Internet or in newspapers about the place and position of women today in the society.

The debate over feminism is the most visible in the critics from several influential female bloggers on products tailored to fit specifically a female audience: women magazines and chick lit (including comics) mostly. The critics are focusing on several points:
  • The superficiality of these products:  although not focusing specifically on fashion, appearance, cosmetics and sex, they always end up dealing with these themes
  • The image of women in these works: it appears superficial, vain, limited only to the aforementioned themes and only focused on pleasing men esthetically.
  • The quality of the works. Tailored to address a specifically feminine target audience, the production is focused only on “looking pretty” and does not want to increase the global intellectual level of its readers. Instead, it leaves them in their “comfort zone” with poor intellectual content.

Although these critics seem sound, I think the revival of the debate on feminism can be explained by 2 factors:
  • The use of very segmenting marketing methods in books and magazine publishing to face the press crisis
  • The coming of age of the Nintendo generation
For many years, France was a place where hypersegmenting marketing, i.e. designing a product only for a very specific audience, was not in use. It’s been only 10 years that mainstream books are starting to have pictures on their covers, do not have a white background or the title font may be “girly”. Magazines have followed the same evolution, the titles targeting women are pinker and pinker. In the same way, the content of the books and magazine has been adjusted to fit the target of the potential reader, in order to leave her in her “comfort zone”: no disturbing/shocking content, reassuring messages, etc… The global press crisis has accelerated this movement.

The coming of age of the Nintendo generation is interesting: now, the main generation of the children of the Baby-boomers is reaching its thirties, and is starting to make kids. Suddenly, the women of that age are realizing that it is difficult to face both a successful professional career and have a family life. They realize that there is still inequality between men and women, and although they had the same education as men had, they will never be given the same chances. The fact that most of the time they will have to take care of the kids, meaning that they will have a double day of work (once in the office, once at home) is more than enough for a revival of the feminism in the intellectual space.

In my own opinion, it’s a good thing. I believe in equality between men and women, and I deeply despise companies who pay women less because they are women, or who deter them from having longer baby holidays (yes, it exists in France in the 21st century). The French society is a bit racist, a bit macho and managed by a bunch of guys who don’t know the meaning of teamwork and who only think about the next election. The French model does not have only drawbacks, but the consequences of its flaws must be exposed and fought. Social progress can only be reached through this collective intellectual work, and I do hope some politicians less stupid than the other will carry on this movement and vote laws that will really make things change. Next year is presidential and general election. Let’s hope for the best!

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Judith was born in 1990, and join the Star Academy (the French version of France Got Talent) in 2006. She didn't make it to the finals, but the song she released last year proved to be the smashing hit of 2010, a true "scie musicale" ("musical saw": song whose tune is intoxicating and heard everywhere on the radio).

It's a real teenager's song, very idealistic and very critic against adults, yet beautiful.

Judith - Fais passer le mot

On m'a dit petite: le monde est noir ou blanc!
Il y a ceux qui font et ceux qui font semblant...
Tu n'auras pas toujours ce que tu attends!
C'est la vie!... c'est comme ça!

On m'a dit petite: descends de ton nuage...
Toutes ces illusions ne sont que de passage!
Tu t'en souviendras quand tu auras notre âge.

Mais moi,
Je sais que nos rêves sont
Solides comme du béton
A tort ou à raison
Fais passer le mot...
Je sais qu'on est nombreux
A savoir ce qu'on veut...
On baissera pas les yeux
Fais passer le mot...

On m'a dit tu sais le monde ne t'attend pas
Tu n'as pas les armes pour mener ton combat
Entre dans le rang de ceux qui marchent droit
C'est la vie!... c'est comme ça!

On m'a dit: tu sais tu changeras pas les choses!
Ne perds pas ton temps à défendre ta cause...
Tu crois tout savoir alors que tu supposes.


Pourquoi s'effacer et laisser nos voix ?
Nos rêves c'est tout ce qu'on a!...

Toi, dis leur que nos rêves sont
Solides comme du Béton
A tort ou à raison
Fais passer le mot...
Dis leur qu'on est nombreux
A savoir ce qu'on veut...
On baissera pas les yeux
Fais passer le mot...

Dis leur que nos rêves sont
Solides comme du béton
A tort ou à raison
Fais passer le mot...
Dis leur qu'on est nombreux
A savoir ce qu'on veut...
On baissera pas les yeux
Fais passer le mot...

Judith – Spread the word

I was told little girl: the world is black or white!
There are those who act and those who pretend…
You will not always get what you expect!
So is life! It is so!

I was told little girl: get back on Earth…
All these illusions will not last
You will remember it when you are as old as us.

But I,
I know that our dreams are
As tough as concrete
Rightly or wrongly
Spread the word…
I know we are many
To know what we want
We shall not lower our eyes
Spread the word!

I was told you know the world is not waiting for you
You don’t have the weapons to lead your fight
Get back into the row of those who walk straight ahead
So is life! It is so!

I was told you know you will change not things
Don’t lose your time defending your cause
You think you know everything while you’re just gessing


Why fading away and leave our voices?
Our dreams, these are all we’ve got!

You, tell them our dreams are
As tough as concrete
Rightly or wrongly
Spread the word…
Tell them we are many
To know what we want
We shall not lower our eyes
Spread the word!

Tell them our dreams are
As tough as concrete
Rightly or wrongly
Spread the word…
Tell them we are many
To know what we want
We shall not lower our eyes
Spread the word!

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Quelque chose de Tennessee (1985)

Singer: Johnny Hallyday
Author: Michel Berger

Johnny Hallyday is the French Elvis. His carreer started in 1960. His retirement tour is planned in 2009. Between these two dates, he has sold over 100 million copies, completed 400 tours and performed in front of 15 million people (including me). A kind of (French) rock'n'roll living legend. A sort of French Rolling Stone.

Michel Berger was a very successful composer and singer from the late Disco era, pretty much influenced by guys like Walter Murphy. Michel Berger studied classical music as a pianist and was a very litterate composer, his songs being very technically advanced from a musical point of view; if you are interested, look for the CD of his "Live at the Théâtre des Champs Elysées" (1980), with is considered as his best live album so far, with a symphonic orchestra and tons of guest stars. His most famous song: "La groupie du pianiste" (1980), in which he tells the story of one of his fans.

Imagine now the album that a guy who has been living for rock'n'roll since the 60's and a classical-disco fusion musician could make: this was "Rock'n'Roll" attitude (1985), which is still considered as one of Johnny's best album. On this album, one song was a smashing hit (among many): "Quelque chose de Tennessee", "Something from Tennessee", a tribute to Tennessee Williams, the famous American writer, author of plays "A streetcar named desire" and "Cat on a hot tin roof", who died in 1983. Tennessee Williams's theater characters are famous for their sudden "burst of life", which makes them follow their instincts and change their mind quickly and often. Although these characters might act completely irrationally and against their own interests, they want most of the time to change their life to feel more free and more "alive". The song sticks to these very "lively" characters.

{Intro féminine:}
"A vous autres, hommes faibles et merveilleux
Qui mettez tant de grâce à vous retirer du jeu
Il faut qu'une main posée sur votre épaule
Vous pousse vers la vie, cette main tendre et légère"

On a tous quelque chose en nous de Tennessee
Cette volonté de prolonger la nuit
Ce désir fou de vivre une autre vie
Ce rêve en nous avec ses mots à lui

Quelque chose de Tennessee
Cette force qui nous pousse vers l'infini
Y a peu d'amour avec tellement d'envie
Si peu d'amour avec tellement de bruit
Quelque chose en nous de Tennessee

Ainsi vivait Tennessee
Le cœur en fièvre et le corps démoli
Avec cette formidable envie de vie
Ce rêve en nous c'était son cri à lui

Quelque chose de Tennessee
Comme une étoile qui s'éteint dans la nuit
A l'heure où d'autres s'aiment à la folie
Sans un éclat de voix et sans un bruit
Sans un seul amour, sans un seul ami

Ainsi disparut Tennessee
A certaines heures de la nuit
Quand le cœur de la ville s'est endormi
Il flotte un sentiment comme une envie
Ce rêve en nous avec ses mots à lui

Quelque chose de Tennessee
Oh oui Tennessee
Y a quelque chose en nous de Tennessee

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Hi! Long time no see!
I was kind of busy with my job and with other activities, like... proposing Mademoiselle H.

In my very own opinion, this is the kind of thing any man should consider seriously, after 5 years of relationship between Paris, Nice, Bonn and Taipei, always in the plane or on the phone (international charge applied), when his couple finally has a chance to live together in the same city.

In the "Sex and the City" movie, Mr Big, Carrie Bradshaw's lover, says something like "We decided to get married like two reasonable adults, but there must be some romance in the process, or we won't make it". I don't want to get to much into the details, but let's say our proposing story was somehow similar: we actually applied for the mariage thing before I proposed, because we are 2 reasonnable adults (or at least I hope) and there were administrative deadlines to meet. But I really felt like something was missing, because it's all about love, you know, and filling up this kind of wedding application papers is the exact contrary of a proof of love.

So in March, I started to look at different jewellers to look for something Miss H might like (and I might like). Let's say I was rather disappointed, because all the rings were either looking cheap (and there were, but it's not a good reason) or didn't reflect the rich and wonderful personnality of my partner. Mademoiselle H deserves the best, you know.

So I went to a jeweller. Not a famous one from the Place Vendôme, as you would dream of, you innocent tourists, no, a small, young jeweller who actually has his shop just around the corner. And then, we started to discuss. Generally, jewellers start to ask you how much you are ready to invest, but he was elegant enough never to ask (except in the end, when he showed me the bill). You know, having an engagement ring is kind of special, and never speaking of money keeps the magic of the whole process. At least, it did for me.

The first thing to do is to set-up two appointments. The first one to choose stones. My jeweller works only with top quality stones (Mademoiselle H deserves it, as you already know), and according to your reactions (from "Hell, this piece of carbon cost 10 000 Euros?!" to "Ah, it's quite cute and affordable, i like it"), he will adjust the stones to your price set. So clever. What I really appreciated is that he explained the purity and color grade of diamonds, and spent some time to show the differences. He only used the natural light in his boutique for that, and no artificial light that would have made the diamonds look nicer: I was really sure the stones I was choosing would look that good in real life (which is not the case in most of jewellery chain stores). It was really nice. He also explained me the differences when he uses platinum (nice aging of the jewel, which turns grey, but very soft), grey gold (gold with palladium, tends to become yellow after several years) and grey gold with rhodium layer (so called "white gold"; the aging (yellowing) can be reverted with another rhodium layer; it's what I chose).

The second appointment was to choose the design. We started on something quite classic, but it was really too plain for me, so I made him change. After 3 or 4 more appointments, we finally agreed on a design which was technically feasable (I had to give up the idea of using platinum: to fragile and soft).

( More photos here)
I didn't want to choose those traditional engagement rings, as I think they are not really convenient: I remembered one friend of mine, she was always afraid to loose the stone from the ring...
As you notice, there is a big space in the middle: I wanted to symbolize all these years when we were not together, when there was a big space between us...

I then set up a delivery date with my jeweller, and started to plan the engagement meal, which I organized on Miss H's birthday. I booked a very nice restaurant, waited for the dessert, and proposed. One of the most moving moments of my life so far. Really, it's all about romance.

Miss H gladly answered yes, she does, to my question, and we had one of the most romantic night ever in the most romantic city in the world. Paris sera toujours Paris...

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download the mp3: Adamo & Olivia Ruiz - Ce Georges


This song is very recent (published this year), and features Salvatore Adamo, a quite out-of-fashion Belgian singer whose glorious days in Paris were in the 1960's, and Olivia Ruiz, one of the young fashionable and talented French singers of the moment, part of the musical movement so called the "nouvelle scène française" (new French stage) . The story inside this duet is simple: she is a fan of Georges Clooney, he is her husband and can't stand it anymore. The tune is very jazzy and lively, and the lyrics well-written, with some references to other songs that I explain in footnotes. Enjoy "this George"!

Mais qu'est-ce qu'il a, mais qu'est-ce qu'il a ce Georges,
A me faire sortir le cœur par la gorge !

Mais qu'est-ce qu’il a, mais qu'est-ce qu'il a ce type,
Qu'est toujours là même quand personne le bipe !

Oh là, là oui ces yeux de braise
Et sa p’tite fossette au menton !
Je n'en dors plus, j'en deviens niaise,
Oui je fonds, en pamoison, je soupire son nom !
Et elle achète de tas d'revues
Pour y découper ses photos !
Sur tous les murs l'air détendu,
On voit sourire le beau cabot !

Mais qu'est-ce qu'il a, mais qu'est-ce qu'il a ce Georges,
A me faire sortir le cœur par la gorge !

Si encore c'était Clark Gable,
Autant en emporterait le vent !
Mais je dois me farcir sa belle gueule,
De Don Juan, toute la journée, sur mon écran !
C’est quand même mieux que ton football,
Occupe-toi, lis ou bien picole !
Mais si je bois j’réponds plus d’moi,
J’supporte plus c’ménage à trois !

Mais qu'est-ce qu'il a, mais qu'est-ce qu'il a ce Georges,
A me faire sortir le cœur par la gorge !

L’autre soir en rentrant du boulot,
Avec délice j’passe mes pantoufles !
Mais vl’a qu’il rapplique aussitôt,
M’agresse, à me laisser sans souffle !
Est-ce que mon Georges se permettrait,
D’se laisser aller comme tu l’fais !
Ah il a raison Aznavour,
T’es beau à r’garder, tu tues l’amour !

Mais qu'est-ce qu'il a, mais qu'est-ce qu'il a ce Georges,
A lui faire sortir le cœur par la gorge !

Chaque fois qu’Monsieur sort son chef d’œuvre,
Faut qu’j’la conduise au cinéma !
Pendant qu’elle avale ces couleuvres, oh là là,
Moi j’tourne en rond, j’fais les cents pas !
T’as qu’à m’attendre dans un bistrot,
Ah vraiment elle me pousse au crime !
Je prendrais le dernier métro,
Puisque j’te saoule avec mon film !

Mais qu'est-ce qu'il a, mais qu'est-ce qu'il a ce Georges,
A me faire sortir le cœur par la gorge !

Vas-t-en le r’joindre à Hollywood,
C’est ça va te goinfrer de Fastfood !
Et toi fiche-moi la paix pauvre pomme,
Prends-en d’la graine, ça, c’est un homme !

Mais qu'est-ce qu'il a, mais qu'est-ce qu'il a ce Georges,
A me faire sortir le cœur par la gorge !

Mais qu'est-ce qu'il a, mais qu'est-ce qu'il a ce Georges,
Tu parles d’une exclusivité, Ton super Geoges il est Cloné !

Mais qu'est-ce qu'il a, mais qu'est-ce qu'il a ce Georges,
A me faire sortir le cœur par la gorge !

Mais qu'est-ce qu’il a, mais qu'est-ce qu'il a ce type,
Qu'est toujours là même quand personne le bipe !

Mais qu'est-ce qu'il a, mais qu'est-ce qu'il a ce Georges !

Coming soon!

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I already spoke about "la rentrée" (the come-back) in this article, but I was mainly focusing on the litterary aspect of it (this year again, 732 new books went out in the stores. I'm not kidding.). This time, as it is "rentrée" time, I would like to tell more about the school part.

For those who are lazy to read my previous article, the concept of "rentrée" is everybody is coming back from summer holidays at the beginning of September. The summer holidays are generally lasting 2 months, from July 1st, and are a kind of French tradition in the school calendar, along with the 2-weeks holidays every 6 or 7 weeks . Let me explain: French students are not more lazy than other guys in Europe. When compulsory, free and republican (not religious) school was created in France in the XIXth century by a French deputy called Jules Ferry, the French government had to take into consideration the fact that most of the French were agriculturers, and they were using their kids as workforce to run the farms efficiently (feeding animals, seizing fruits, etc...). Another aspect of Western agriculture is that is it based on wheat, which has to be harvested at the beginning of July. The harvest by hand required then at lot of workforce, and kids were welcome in the fields at that time for a big help. Same thing for the seizing of grape, to make wine, which tradionally takes place at the beginning of September. This is why, in order to cope with the needs of the French countryside, kids were originally given 3 months of holidays, from mid-July (generally right before the 14th, the National Celebration Day) to mid-October. This lasted until the 1990's, when the summer holidays where reduced to 2 months and a half, and then to 2 months from 2000. Nowadays, kids are thankfully no more needed in the fields, but the beginning of the new school year remains September.

New school year means new school notebooks. And this year, the notebook makers TV ads are really good. I especially enjoyed the ads made by Clairefontaine, a very famous (and expensive) French brand of high-quality paper. The ads are here. These two ads are depicting teenagers writing a love letter to each other - yeah, they are in love. They tell the text orally on very bad and slang French, but write the text down on their Clairefontaine notebooks in very formal French with a lot of style, sense of poetry and litterary reffinement. The spoken and written texts have exactly the same meanings, the only change is the language level. The ads ends on the motto of the company "you write better on Clairefontaine notebooks"

This is an excellent example on the different levels of French that can be used for speech. At school, I learnt (a long time ago) that there are 4 levels of French language: slang (argot), gross French (Français vulgaire), casual French (Français familier), formal French (Français soutenu). In everyday life, spoken French is a mix between gross and casual, with some expressions from slang. In litterature, most of the production is formal French, although it depends on the author's sense of style to use different level expressions. Anyway, here are the text from the ads, written one, spoken one, and translation.

Girls' ad:

Toi, qui par un sourire, a emprisonné mon coeur,
Sache que je ne serai plus jamais moi
Si tu t'en vas.
Je t'aime.
(Note: more text is actually written down the notebook, but it's not spoken and not recognizable)

You, who by a smile has imprisonned my heart,
Must know I'll never be myself (again)
If you leave (me).
I love you.

La première fois que j't'ai capté, t'as mis mon coeur à l'amende. Direct.
J'te l'dis cash: j'pars en vrille total si tu laches l'affaire.
J'te kiffe.

Boy's ad:

Je voudrais que tu saches que j'ai perdu tout le temps que j'ai passé sans t'aimer.
Mon amour pour toi est né dans un regard,
Voudrais-tu qu'il grandisse dans un baiser?
Tu me hantes.

I would like you to know I've been loosing all the time I spent without loving you.
My love for you was born in a look,
Would you like it to grow in a kiss?
You are haunting me.

C'est fou comme c'était la loose dans ma vie avant que j'te kiffe.
La couleur de tes yeux m'a grave scotché la tête,
c'est pour çà que j'ai trop envie d'un grand kiss... avec la langue.
Chuis à bloc de toi.

Yeah, French lovers are not a myth...

Edit: Tried to embed the videos. Doesn't work properly. Sekeldem.

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 Il me dit que je suis belle (1993)

Singer: Patricia Kaas
Author: Jean-Jacques Goldman

This very beautiful song was sung by one of the (then) raising French singer of the beginning of the 90's, Patricia Kaas. She became a huge star thanks to this song. She is now far less fashionable that she was then.
The author of the music and lyrics is Jean-Jacques Goldman, a very famous French musician, whose "top of the charts period" lasted from the end of the 80's to the end of the 90's. He recently issued for the French singer Patrick Fiori (made famous by the musical "Notre-Dame de Paris") a brand new album, whose first single "Quatre mots sur un piano" topped the charts. Is Jean-Jacques Goldman back?

The song, written in very litterary French (horrible to translate), tells a story from the point of view a single woman. In the verses, the woman is having a very dull life and suffers a lot from being single. In the chorus, she escapes in her sleep where a man tells her she is beautiful and she dreams about his beautiful voice and words, that even a kid wouldn't believe...
(Translation at the end)


Et quand le temps se lasse
De n'être que tué,
Plus une seconde ne passe,
Dans les vies d'uniformité.
Quand, de peine en méfiance,
De larmes en plus jamais,
Puis, de dépit en défiance,
On apprend à se résigner,
Viennent les heures sombres,
Où tout peut enfin s'allumer,
Où quand les vies ne sont plus qu'ombres,
Restent nos rêves à inventer.

Il me dit que je suis belle
Et qu'il n'attendait que moi.
Il me dit que je suis celle
Juste faite pour ses bras.
Il parle, comme on caresse,
De mots qui n'existent pas,
De toujours et de tendresse,
Et je n'entends que sa voix.
Des mensonges et des bêtises
Qu'un enfant ne croirait pas!
Mais les nuits sont mes églises
Et dans mes rêves j'y crois.

Eviter les regards, prendre cet air absent,
Celui qu'ont les gens sur les boul'vards,
Cet air qui les rend transparents.
Apprendre à tourner les yeux
Devant les gens qui s'aiment.
Eviter tous ceux qui marchent à deux,
Ceux qui s'embrassent à perdre haleine.
Y a-t-il un soir, un moment,
Où l'on se dit c'est plus pour moi,
Tous les mots doux, les coups de sang?
Mais dans mes rêves, j'y ai droit.

Il me dit que je suis belle
Et qu'il n'attendait que moi.
Il me dit que je suis celle
Juste faite pour ses bras.
Des mensonges et des bêtises
Qu'un enfant ne croirait pas!
Mais les nuits sont mes églises
Et dans mes rêves j'y crois.

Il me dit que je suis belle.
Je le vois courir vers moi,
Ses mains me frôlent et m'entraînent.
C'est beau comme au cinéma.
Plus de trahisons, de peines,
Mon scénario n'en veut pas!
Il me dit que je suis reine
Et, pauvre de moi, j'y crois,
Hmm, pauvre de moi, j'y crois.

Translated lyrics:

Note of the translator:
I emphasized on the understandability rather than on the poetry of the text. I made explicit all the litterary understatement that can't be translated, they are into brackets. The author plays a lot on the different meanings of "que" in French (which can mean "that" or "only" according to the context) and of "de"/"des" ("of" or "from" or "some" or even "these are" (in imperative form - I used the way she sing the sentence)). He plays also on the infinitive form: infinitive can be translated, according to the context, by "in order to" + verb or by gerundive form. For the same reasons, the use of impersonnal article "on" was translated by passive form or by "one" -  "I" is a possible translation, but not a preffered one.
Translation of the French expression "j'y ai droit" is a real nightmare.
About the " But the nights are my churches" stanza:  even in French the meaning is obscure. It is her dream, so it can come true, just if it were a miracle (religious symbol). A church is also a place where you celebrate, and it's what she does in her dream, compared to her dull life. Last, when people are very pleased, we say in French they go to "7th heaven" (le Septième Ciel), a direct reference to paradise and religion...
"I am queen" is not a mistake, it renders as good in French as in English: a queen/his queen. Nothing to do with American "queen size", fortunately.

And when the time gets wearied
Just to be killed,
No second elapses any more
In the lives of uniformity.
When, from sorrow to mistrust,
From tears to "never again",
Then, from spite to distrust,
It is learnt how to resign oneself,
Come the dark moments
Where everything can finally ignite,
Where, when the lives are nothing any more but shades,
Remain our dreams to invent.

He tells me I am beautiful,
And he awaited only me.
He tells me I am the one
Just made for his arms.
He speaks, as one cherishes,
Of words which do not exist,
Of "always" and of tenderness,
And I
only hear his voice.
[These are] Lies and silly things,
That a child would not believe!
But the nights are my churches
And in my dreams I believe it

Avoiding the glances, making this "absent-minded" face,
The one people make on the avenues,
This face which makes them transparent.
Learning how to look away
From people who love one another.
Avoiding all those who go by two,
Those kissing to lose breath.
Is there an evening, a moment,
When it is thought, it is no more for me
All the sweet words, the rushes of blood?
But in my dreams, I live all this.

He tells me I am beautiful,
And he awaited only me.
He tells me I am the one
Just made for his arms.

[These are] Lies and silly things,
That a child would not believe!
But the nights are my churches
And in my dreams I believe it

He tells me I am beautiful,
I see him running towards me,
His hands brush me and catch me.
It is as beautiful as in the movies.
No more treasons or sorrows,
My scenario does not want any!
He tells me that I am queen
And, poor me, I believe it,
Hmm, poor me, I believe it.

In conclusion: A very good text for advanced French learners

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 I love to jog. I generally spend one hour non-stop running on sunday morning, and if I can, on weekdays too, in the evening (it depends if I can get enough sleep during the week or not). Due to Gwen's several movings across Europe, I had to find several running tracks. Here they are:

My usual track is this one: http://www.runningmap.com?id=21867
It goes around Enghien-Les-Bains lake and horse race track (the green area on the north on the map) and Saint Gratien sports center (not indicated on the map, use satellite view to see the stadium northern to km 9.46).
The track is 10 km sharp, I didn't know it when I "designed" it. It was actually designed in several steps over the years: first, I was just running around the lake, then I added the horse race track, and last the stadium part. I generally cover the whole distance in one hour sharp, 55 minutes when i'm in great shape.
You will encounter other joggers mostly around the lake.
It's not a track I would recommend for begginers, as it's pretty long and there are quite a lot of slopes, but if you are interested in loosing weight quickly, come along, you are welcome.
The track is pretty nice to run on, as most of the streets have low  traffic, except on the eastern side of the horse race track. The scenery is definitely urban, and the only point of interest is Enghien-Les-Bains lake and casino. If you like to run in town, this should fit you.

When I was living in Paris, I had designed a rather nice track, all along the parks of the district where I was living: http://www.runningmap.com?id=21872
This 6 km track  (I didn't have such endurance as I have now), back and forth, follows the Coulée Verte, a park made on the former railtracks of the Bastille railway station (station which was destroyed to build up the Bastille opera house). You are jogging your way on former railway bridges and tunnels, and it really gives your running a special atmosphere, and all the joggers you meet are sensitive to it too. The eastern part is nevertheless rather sloppy, and I remember having have some difficulties with the Avenue du Sahel, which is really climby. But all this was 3,5 years ago. Perhaps I should try again this track and see how difficult I feel it now...

Anyway, I tried to convert Gwen to jogging back then, and also when she was living in Nice, but I couldn't succeed.
The track I designed at that time on the Riviera was anyway pretty simple: http://www.runningmap.com?id=21871
8 kms of flat running track, along the sea. The scenery is perfect, and the sun is shining most of the time.
Besides the length (which was not that ideal for Gwen, I agree, but she generally ran only one way and came back walking), the only drawbacks are its crowd (you are along the beach), and the situation, along a road with quite a lot of traffic.

The track I designed in Bonn, Germany, doesn't have this drawback: http://www.runningmap.com?id=21873
This is the first "long track" I've ever designed: once you are in, you have to finish it to come back home. Pretty motivating, isn't it? The track is also quite flat (except the two bridges on the north and south) which makes it rather average in terms of difficulty.
This 9,5 km track mostly runs along the parks on each side of the Rhein river. You can meet quite a lot of joggers there and watch the boats on the river while jogging. You really feel like being in the countryside, although you are in the city center. I think practicing on this track really gave me the taste for long-distance running, as it made me improve significantly my endurance.

My latest tracks are around here, next to my parent's countryside house.
I cannot really indicate you where I run in this wonderful piece of Brittany, as I don't know it myself exactly. All I know is there are lots of cycling and hiking tracks there, and I go running on them. No joggers, no cars, only cows and sheeps from time to time in a field, when you are not in the woods. The only things I worry about is not to get lost, which happened already once, and also not to get too muddy, which happened all the time. My favorite spot for running is along the river Vilaine (the "Ugly" river), as the land is flat and the grass is elastic: you are litteraly flying effortlessly. The landscapes are wonderful, and all this beauty around just makes you feel great. Which is why I jog.

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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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About one year ago, I discovered that the Taiwanese National Science Council (NSC) was awarding scholars to foreign students, for them to study in Taiwan. It really interested me, as I may be an IT consultant, I don't have 20 000 Euros in my savings to afford the living cost of 2 years of study in Taiwan.

After thinking about it for a long time, experiencing a shitty IT mission, missing Gwen a lot and seriously considering working in Asia, I decided to apply this year to the English MBA program at NTU, and asked for a NSC scholar.

I'm not the best applicant ever to this program. During my studies in France, my grades were not exceptionnal. I couldn't take GMAT exam in Paris, as all the test centers were booked. But my English is good, and I have interesting professional records. I also hope my projects for a future career in Asia will retain the attention of the application jury .

I'm now waiting for the answer to come in 2 months. I just want it to be positive. It has to be positive. For Gwen and I. Gwen helped me so much in this application. I wouldn't have done it on time without her. I wanted to thank you so much, dear. With all my heart. I wanted everybody to know what a wonderful person you are. Thank you again. Heartfully.

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Hi there! It's been such a long time since I haven't posted.  Dear public, I'm sorry, as I know you are impatiently awaiting my next adventures ;-)
Why did I take so long? Well, let's say my last project at work wasn't easy at all, and left me without free time at all. I'm now collaborating to short projects only, but a new big project may start soon. Anyway, I now have some free time again to tell you about France.

The big topical subject in these days is the presidential campaign, with the elections coming at the end of April.

You may not be very familiar to the French political system, so let me explain you briefly. France has a semi-presidential system. It means that the president, retains all the power when the parliament majority belongs to the same political party as him/her (presidential system).  When the president and the parliament are of different political party, the French political system turns into a parliamentary system, as the president has to negociate his/her law projects with the parliament. 
This is for the theory. Practically, the parliament and the president are elected every 5 years, and since 2002, they are elected the same year. So the winner of the elections takes all, as it is highly unlikely for the French people to elect in a very short time a president and a new parliament from two different political parties.

What is at stake in this campaign? The main point is the liberalization of French economic. As you may (not) know, the French economics is currently prettty much state-driven, due to its inheritance from the Reconstruction after World War II, when all the important industries were owned and directed by the French Republic. With globalization and all, there are lots of people who think the French public authorities should withdraw definitely from the economic field (as the withdrawal has been partial only so far). All the political parties are pretty divided on the point, and debated a lot about the subject during the primary elections (a big innovation in this 2007 campaign). (Note: For those who learnt English in the US, when I use the word "liberal", I'll be refering to "economics liberal" and not to the traditionnal use, which refers to individual liberty and other values associated to the US political left. )
So far, the other points at stake in the campaign are the control of immigration (a rather controversial issue), greenhouse gases control and unemployment, but pretty little about Europe or foreign politics.

So in these days, there are several candidates facing each other.
Let's review them according to their popularity in the polls.

There is Nicolas Sarkozy, current Ministry of Internal Affairs. He is part of the conservatives-right (UMP). Quite young, he was elected candidate for presidential election (primary elections) after a rather controversial campaign inside his party where he was in the end the only one to be candidate. His ideas are economically liberal, and he is in favor of a "choosen immigration" (France being the one chosing), meaning a very very little immigration. Quite short, he is definitely not popular in the poor district of the suburbs of the big cities, as he is considered as the one who contributed a lot, through provocative speeches, to the ignition of the Autumn 2005 riots .
You can find more accurate and unpartial information here.

The second one in the polls is Segolène Royal. She is part of the socialists-left (PS). Quite young too, she is the first lady choosen by one of the main French political parties to be candidate for the presidential election. She was elected after a long primary campaign inside the PS. Quite charismatic, she wants to keep the economic mix that has worked so far in France, between state control and liberalism. She recently included into her campaign staff the guys she was opposed to during the primary campaign. She is thinks the problem is not immigration, but integration of the foreign people. Her image so far is associated to traditionnal family values, and social equity.
You can find more accurate and unpartial information here.

The "third man", as he is nicknamed in the polls and the media, is François Bayrou. Quite young, candidate for the UDF (center), he has the project of making a cross-party team, uniting left and right parties. Rather popular, he is so far the surprise of these 2007 elections. He has an economic program rather similar to Segolène Royal's.
You can find more accurate and unpartial information here.

The fourth man in the poll is Jean-Marie Le Pen. Candidate for the extreme-right - nationalists (FN), he was the surprise of the last elections in 2002, where he reached the second ballot vote against Jacques Chirac. Rather old (78), he is against Europe and immigration, and his economic program is a paradoxical mix of ultra-liberalism and ultra-state-control.

The other candidates are unfortunately so low in the polls that they are simply not visible so far in the media. They all have 3% or less of vote intentions. It includes the communists (soviet way), communists (revolution way), ecologists, revolutionary-ecologists, royalists (yes, they want the king of France to come back), ultra-liberalists, and I think that's all.

All the candidates in the election have to gather 500 recommendations from already elected people representatives (mayors, district MPs, MPs, etc...) before March 22nd. Several of the candidates listed in the polls haven't gathered these recommandations so far. It's difficult to tell who exactly will be officially accepted by the authorities to be candidate for the election during the official campaing (from March 22nd to April 22nd).

The campaign is also quite darkened by scandals regularly bursting out in the media. Due to the very special elite system in France (the (few) best schools lead to the best functions in the best companies and the administration), it quite famous that the member of the elite are all exchanging priviledges, like helping this or that person to get a better job as a good friend in the administration, for instance. It's not corruption, but it's more ambiguoug than simple social networking. Examples of these "service exchanges" are weekly published in the media, the last one behing about Nicolas Sarkozy supposedly discounted flat...

So far, I must say the campaign is getting more and more disappointing day by day. If you don't spend hours on the Internet trying to gather some information, you really feel like the media are only reporting the most schocking or controversial speeches of each candidate. The excessive caution in the political communication of the candidates also leads them not to make any declaration which could be too ideological, as they have to gather as many votes as they could. If I were Milan Kundera (a Czech writer), I would say it's the campaign of kitsch, as kitsch is the last thing you remember of someone before this persons dies. It's a kind of caricature, or, as Kundera said, it's the last stop before forgetting. Maybe things will change when the official campaign starts, in 3 weeks. I'll then keep you informed ;-)

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 ... he can't post anything here, and neither can Miss H.

I just came back from Taiwan, after 3 intense weeks there, travelling everywhere, seeing (almost) everything, and I really enjoyed the life there. I nevertheless have to say that I was missing French food a little bit after these 3 weeks, but except this detail, I was feeling wonderfully well.

I now have to come back to my daily life, preparing my next carreer in my new company from next week, paying my income taxes (ouch!), looking for a new flat and dealing with tons of administrative stuff I couldn't deal with earlier as everybody was on holidays (August in France, you know...).

So stay tuned! More to come here soon!

Bons baisers de Paris.


the article above has been read for times. Thank You.

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Well, everybody heard about Google Earth, the online bird-eye view of our lovely planet, providing high-resolution aerial and satelitte photos of almost everywhere... even Taiwan, in spite of geopolitical problems, as you can see here.

Before Google Earth, in France, we've had for many years  the National Geographical Institute (IGN), which takes photos of every corner of France, makes official maps (especially narrow-scale ones, perfect for trekking) and is certainly a very valued French administration, as considered as not too bureaucratic (which is the main characteristic of the French administration).

Considering that Internet was developing in France, and the electronic administration was developing too,
the IGN decided to launch a kind of French Google Earth. The concept of electronic administration is already quite developped in Taiwan, as Miss H already told me, but it's quite new in France: we have a quite cute website (http://www.adele.gouv.fr/) explaining how it can help you, with cute movies explaining the different provided services, etc... But most of the "services" deal with tax collection so far, so it's not that interesting for many French people. Especially when the most "popular" tax collection site (direct income tax) crashed under the heavy load last year, delaying this tax collection in France by 3 months...

Anyway, GeoPortail came! It's like Google Earth, but just for France. It's ruled by the IGN, and every village in France is shown, with quite a good resolution. The problem is:

1. The website completely crashed the first 3 weeks of use, right after its official unvieling by President Jacques Chirac, exactly like the tax collection website. See more details here. Around 12 million people tried to connect at that time. It's now working, but its beginning was really painstaking.

2. Google Earth has dramatically improve the resolution of the available pictures of Google Earth since. You can have a quick look on the photos used on Google Maps. I was able to locate Gwen's building and my home without difficulties (OK, I cheated: I used Taipei's metro map and followed the main roads (under which the metro goes) to be sure to stay on the way).

3. Most of the classified building and military hardware are hidden on Geoportail photos (the areas are white). You can't play the popular online sport of looking from the sky at "sensitive" buildings and unusual things, like here, here (and here) and here.

Anyway, all the places of France are located on GeoPortail, even the oversea territories, and detailed maps are provided. Have fun looking at it now, and be aware that higher resolution and services improvements are expected to come in October this year!

the article above has been read for times. Thank You.

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Well, I didn't have that a big hangover (see previous post) that I had to give up posting for so many days. In fact, I've been really busy lately. Basically, I found a new job (stil as IT consultant, and still in Paris), left my current company (a kind of TV drama), and decided to join in the same time university to get a degree in law. Don't worry, I had been thinking about this for quite a long time. That's going to make year 2006/2007 (remember that in France, the "new" year starts in September - see this post) really intense and interesting. I hope I'm not overestimating myself by joining universtiy while working, and with little chance, things will turn out well. If you want to know more details about everything, just leave your comments, and if there are too many questions, maybe I'll make a special post about it.

Anyway, let's talk today about July 14th in France. Basically, it's a day off called "la Fête nationale", which can be translated as "the National Celebration". It's the equivalent of Independence Day for the Americans, except that we don't put French flags everywhere (we do this only when France wins a football match ). The history of July 14th is quite interesting. Want to know more about French history?

In 1789, France had no more money in its budget (something like today, but there was no IMF at time), mainly due to a very bad weather for the last 2 years (taxes were mainly collected on wheat at that time. The bread price was also extremely high for the same reasons, and people were mainly eating bread at that time, so there was a lot of social movements. The King, Louis XVI, concerned on how to get more money and get back social order, asked for a special assembly to gather called "les Etats-Généraux", which represents people for the whole society. The nobles, the religous and the common people elect representatives who are sent to Versailles to discuss the social problems. Each category has only one vote, meaning the common people (Tiers Etat), although representing 95% of the French population, have as much influence as the nobles (1 vote for 2% of the French population) or the religious (1 vote for 3% of the French population).

Basically, the nobles want more influences on the driving of France: since Louis XIV, they lost all their influence. The religious don't have any special will. The common people want to be able to access to jobs reserved to nobles and the extension of taxes to the nobles and the religious (who don't pay any tax so far). The king just wants more money.

The French Revolution starts with les Etats-Généraux, on May 5th 1789. The representatives start to argue on how to vote: the common people want one vote for each representative (they would have a majority), but the nobles and the religious want the old system of one vote for each social category. On June 17th, the common people ask for the nobles and the religious to sit with them in the meeting hall of Versailles. Some accept: it's a revolution in law. The National Assembly is born, it represents the whole French people, and the three traditionnal social categories are dead in the traditionnal law.

On June 20th, they gather in the room of the Jeu de Paume (now a modern art museum) in Paris and declare they will write a constitution for France before they separate. They announce it to the King on July 9th. The King, quite unhappy, fires his prime minister (he's the responsible for all that mess... that's the proper use for Prime Ministers in France: being a fuse).

In Paris, several rumors are running, one being that the representatives are going to be arrested soon. On July 13th, the rumors gets bigger as some troops are gathered near the Champ-de-Mars (where the Tour Eiffel now is. Originally, it was just a land for military exercise). The representatives of the merchants of Paris decide to organize a local police, but they need weapons. On July 14th, they go to the Invalides (a big hospital for retired soldiers at that time, now the museum of the French army. Has always been the residence for the military governor of Paris) and collect all the weapons there peacefully, as the soldiers there refuse to fight and join the crowd. The New Paris police has now weapons, but no ammunition.

A rumor spreads that ammunition is stored into the fortress of la Bastille. This fortress, in the eastern part of Paris, was used as a special prison for nobles and political prisonners (Sade was emprisonned there until the beginning of July 1789). The new Paris Police decides to send representatives there to negociate and get the ammunition. They don't get anything.

Basically, the fortress is uncatchable, the soldiers inside are few but well-trained with proper food, and the castle dominates the surroundings by 20 to 30 meters. But the commander of la Bastille is unexperienced. Outside, the castle is surrounded by thousand of hungry people shouting, afraid, nervous, etc... At one moment, the commander looses is temper and gives order to shoot in the crowd. Hundred of dead and injured ones. Some soldiers inside the crowd leave and decide to bring back cannons, which arrive 2 hours later. Before the cannons start to shoot, the Bastille soldiers surrender. The commander is beheaded and his head is shown everywhere in the streets of Paris at the top of a rod.

Beside the ammunition stored in it, the Bastille was not an important military objective. It was more like a symbol. Under Louis XIV, a new verb was born: "embastiller", which means arrested and sent to jail (la Bastille) for several years without trial, according to the King's pleasure. La Bastille was a kind of French Guantanamo Bay, if I dare this comparison. For those of you who read French, this Wikipedia article is really well written. Those who can't will anyway see pictures of La Bastille on the page.

One year later, on July 14th 1790, the French Revolution was keeping going. The Assembly decided to celebrate the event of the "catching of la Bastille" on the Champ de Mars and organized the "Fête de la Fédération". The king was there, and the whole society was represented. It was supposed to be a moment of national reconciliation. It worked, but didn't last long, as the French revolution soon became quite bloody (If you are interested, I can make more posts on that. Tell me your opinion in the comments).

Anyway, in 1880, under the Third Republic, it was decided that July 14th will be the National Celebration, as a very symbolic both in 1789 (against arbitrary power) and 1790 (gathering the society).


So, what do French people do on that day? Nothing, as it's a day off. This one is really respected, and it's very hard to find shops opened on that day (but not as hard as on May 1st).

Well, if you are not too lazy in bed, you can watch the military parade on the Champs Elysées in the morning, as tt's broadcasted live on 2 TV channels. My grand-dad used to be a fan of the parade (he was a former military). Right after, there is the traditionnal interview of the President of the Republic, by 2 journalists, where the president gives his opinion about tons of subjects which interest people and unveils the program for the coming year (and if it doesn't work, the prime minister leaves... French politics). If you are an important person, you are generally invited to the garden party in the presidential palace (called l'Eysée).

In small town, there is generally a ceremony with the local mayor next to the monument to the dead ones. This is quite special to France: in even the smallest French village you'll find this kind of monument; it celebrates the memory of all the French soldiers who died during World War One and Two, and also the Indochina (Viet-Nam) and Algeria Wars. The name of the soldiers is generally craved into the monument. Each town would crave the name of the deads who were living in the town.

In the evening (or the evening before, it depends), there is a ball, organized by the local firemen. Girls generally love to go there, as they love uniforms (and especially firemen's). There is generally a band, and DJ, drinks, etc... Originally, it was to help firemen to collect money to buy equipment against fire, before the French state gave them a budget in the 1970's. Anyway, the tradition remained intact.

And at night, it's the firework. Very traditionnal, too. This year, I had the luck to have dinner by the Champ de Mars, and to see the firework form the 6th floor of a Parisian building in a friend's very nice flat. Another friend brought his new EOS 350D camera, et voilà:

The rest of the pictures can be seen here: http://www.wretch.cc/album/album.php?id=H95210&book=3

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kuanh 發表在 痞客邦 留言(1) 人氣()

(litterally: wooden face - hangover)

So France lost the World Cup. The Italians were the strongest, maybe not for attacking and trying to score, but at least for defending their goals. Considering that the Italians also wear blue, you can really tell the Blues got the blues...

Somehow, people were expecting something like this. Nobody could tell (except of course the real fans of the Blues (the French ones, I mean)) wich team was the strongest. The Italian had benefitted from an incredible luck since the the beginning of the cup, against Australia and Germany. France was incredibly good against Brazil, and well-above average against Portugal. It was indeed a real World Cup Final-class match, worth all the shows, with smiles and tears.

France scored first on penalty at 10'. Italians scored 10 minutes later. During most the following 100 minutes, France would hold the ball and try to score. During the extra time (as there was a draw), all the players were exhausted, but the French ones were keeping attacking.

Suddenly, the unthinkable happened. Zidane committed a deliberated fault on an Italian player and gets expelled. How come? The captain of the Blues, the living legend, the man with the "Ballon d'Or" (the highest prize for a football player, who already won everything, how come he could have done such a thing, and leave the ground directly?

Well, the referee didn't see that the Italian player Zidane attacked made a big fault on him before (which would have normally meant a penalty for France), and was keeping provoking him verbally. Considering how exhausted all the players were, Zidane's reaction, altough unanimously condemnable (and condemned), is understable.

Today, in all the French press, everybody is trying to understand, to analyze, to give his opinion, not about the match, but about what the Italian player must have said to Zidane to make him loose his temper. And I must say that Zidane is a person who really knows how to keep his temper: when you are an athlete with such a high level, the control of your mind is the first thing required.

For all these reasons, this morning, all the French have a hangover. We were defeated, our best payer lost face, and many players from the generation that won the 1998 World Cup (8 years ago already! I still feel like it was yesterday) are retiring. How the next generation will be? Well, nobody knows for sure, but some of them are already there: Malouda, Ribery, those are the names you should remember for the next World Cup, in 2010 in South Africa. See you there!

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 I still live at my parents' place, mostly for financial reasons: although I'm earning a decent salary, renting a flat alone has become simply unaffordable in Paris in these days. The other reasons of my staying are convienience and a certain form of laziness: the laundry service is just too perfect here

Anyway, living with your parents includes tons of drawbacks, the first one being... my mom.

Her last "wonderful" idea came while she was talking with neighbour's wife.
Let me introduce you to my neighbours: they are young (he's 30, she's 28), they bought the house in front of ours and completely renewed it (what they bought was more or less a ruin), and in 4 years they made 3 kids, a boy and a set of twins (a boy and a girl). Contrary to what you may think, they are not very rich or educated. They are just hard-working persons.

So, my mom was talking with my neighbour's wife, and this lady was complaning that she was having problems with Internet. "No problem", said my mom, "my son is into computer business, he's gonna come and solve everything!"

Mom...  Why? What did I do to deserve this? Don't you think I have enough work as a consultant?

Well, as you might have guessed, things DIDN'T turn out AT ALL like she said.
It first took me 2 months to have a free afternoon on week-end (meaning: not being too tired on that Saturday so I don't have to have a nap in the afternoon). When I came to my neighbour's place, his wife welcomed me, and after usual chit-chat talk, I went to the computer. Just a few minutes of seeing it running, and things were clear: the computer was full of viruses, spywares, adwares, etc...

I tried to determine what were the infected files, and deleted some manually. Unfortunately, XP didn't like it at all: blue screen of death and computer stuck. Impossible to restart it afterwards, a blue screen appeared all the time and blocked the computer. Not other solution but reinstalling XP. Spent time: 1 hour.

Of course, the neighbour wanted to save his own files on the hard disk. So I brought the hard disk  to my home, installed  it on my  computer, saved the whole content on a DVD, and brought back the disk. Spent time: 1h30

I tried to reinstall XP from my neighbour's original CD. Impossible: the version was too old, and had no boot sector, meaning I couldn't make a fresh install with this CD. I came back to my home to take my XP CD, and restarted an install. The problem is there was another problem in that computer, and I didn't know yet what it was.

The neighbour had told me that sometimes the display was becoming blank for 2 seconds, or the computer was freezing, randomly. But he never told me that his computer would refuse to install XP completely and restart the install from the beginning 15 times. There was also a problem: if a file was bigger than 10 MB, the computer was making errors when acessing it. A very very strange behaviour. I left their home around 11pm, with the computer still not working correctly. Total spent time this saturday: 9 hours.

The next week, of course, the neighbour's wife told my mom that she was so sorry for making me work so hard, but the computer was still not running well. I knew it, of course. I was guessing that the problem came either form the network card or the motherboard.

The week after, I came to make neighbour's and said that, considering how serious the problem was, I had to take the computer with me. He accepted, and I started to work on it at my home, in an environment working correctly. It was this Saturday. The network card was tested and passed my check. I manage to resintall Windows Xp correctly, that time, but I started to have these 2 seconds blank screen right after it. The input/output errors when accessing a file started to occur again. An update of the graphics card drivers didn't change anything. Trying the last chance to solve everything, I decided to update the bios of the motherboard.

Bios update is the kind of thing computer freaks are reluctant to do, because if there is a problem during that process, the motherboard goes directly to the trash collector right after. Well, the BIOS update turned out to be fine, and all the indicators were ok right after it. I then decided to restart the computer.

And.. nothing.

Yep. Nothing. The computer starts and  initialize the hard disk, and then remains like that. No picture at all is displayed on the screen. I tested the graphics cards, and it's working perfectly well.
There is still a chance, though: all the settings of the BIOS are stored into a special electronical component called CMOS. It might be a faulty setting... There is a possibility to reset it and try to start the computer again. I'm gonna do it tonight, but this my last chance: if I don't succeed, I'll have to buy a new motherboard (around 35 euros) to my neighbour.


Mom, sometimes I hate you.

Edit: I had to buy the motherboard in the end. It costed me 37 euros. I then reinstalled the computer from scratch, and brought it tonight at my neighbour's, who paid me 45 euros. I wonder if I should start to calculate the average wage per hour that this story allowed me to "earn"...

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kuanh 發表在 痞客邦 留言(9) 人氣()

 Good news: France won against Brazil 1 - 0. We are qualified for semi-finals against Portugal (who defeated England). The other semi-final will be between Italy and Germany.
The mood here was incredible: firecrackers, cars klaxonning in the streets, people with French flags... I can't imagine how things will be the day of the finals.

On a much more serious field, France has started since yesterday (July 1st) to collect money on plane tickets. This special tax is designed to help development in the poorest countries in the world. French President Jacques Chirac is the one who made the tax adopted, but the tax law is still incomplete and nobody knows exactely how it will be collected. The price paid is propotional to the distance of the flight. I am coming to Taiwan in August, but I paid my tickets a long time, so I should escape this tax.
The idea behind the tax is good, but airlines really don't need that. In a country who has almost lost all its national airlines except Air France, taxing hardly surviving companies is just stupid. Many say here that it's a little bit crazy that a guy who never pays his plane tickets (the French President has his Air Force One, too) makes normal passengers pay higher prices.

The associations who fight AIDS are of course asking this money to help distributing medecine against AIDS in developping countries. Although the disease is almost under control in France (meaning the number of new infections is decreasing every year), AIDS keeps spreading, especially in Africa and in the Chinese world, as you can see here, here and here. So every year, during summer, the associations and local district administrations launch campaigns against AIDS (because it's in summer that people are the most sexually active). In Paris, there are ads in the streets to promote the use of condoms: "Paris protects love"/"Paris protège l'amour". There are also TV ads, for heterosexuals and homosexuals, to tell people that AIDS still kills. I think these ads are very good, as they really show how an action as simple as using a condom can make life really easy.

Well, I hope I won't schock my dear Asian readers by talking about AIDS and condoms, as Gwen is telling me that Taiwan is quite a conservative society. But I wonder how come there can be such videos with naked men, and no bikinis on the beaches...

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Gwen is 26 today!
Happy Birthday!
Sweet kisses from Paris!

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