19.12.10

The Saturday shot #8: stranded



Since I am stranded (yet again) in the US I hesitated with the right picture to illustrate my weekend.
I thought of these tshirts stating 'Houston we have a problem' which are sold all around me, but I settled on this one. instead. It may be the hope to get these reluctant flights under my boot, or the unspoken yet unsuppressible desire to crush the airlines which are preventing me to see my son and wife.
Anyway...

11.12.10

The Saturday Shot #7: looking back

It is this time of the year again. Journalists, politics, random people reflect on their annual achievements as we get close to the end of December. That is why I felt this picture would be a great analogy for my weekly "Saturday Shot" blog post.

"I love mirrors. They let one pass through the surface of things."
Claude Chabrol (1930-2010)

And whilst I am at it, here is a short selection of the too many pictures I took this year. Another way to look back, beyond a mirror, is to look at it through the prism of a camera roll. Enjoy.

5.12.10

Rhyme time, happy time?

Exploring the ward

"Wandering the ward", picture from my photofolio on Flickr. More here.

Happiness is a warm gun.

I once wrote an article about France's renewed passion for melancholy. Centuries after Baudelaire started to praise Spleen as an Ideal, sadness was the new high again in the Hexagon. Ironically, I entitled that blog post Shinny Happy People as I dessicated the influence of that low mood across poetry, art, advertising and music.

Personally, even if my passport states that I am French, I am proud to say that I am everything but melancholic. On the contrary, I am quite a positive guy... And even more since a little one joined the family. However a baby also implies responsibilities. Soon enough you have to provide him with some sort of education and the question is whether, as a French immigrant, you want to introduce your heir to the local or French education.

Because of the above-mentioned trend back home, we were tempted to blend in the indigenous customs and to go for a more positive attitude... Yet that was before we started listening properly to the rhymes that were sung all around him.

Happily ever after.

You would assume that children stories are all rosy and happy, but if you listen carefully it is not that obvious. Let me take a few example to illustrate my assertion. Do you know the "
ring around the roses" song? Well, it is nothing but the story of how plague wiped off large parts of the London population who after coughing they "all fell down", dead... Not very positive. One off you may object, but that is not the case. Let me expand with another very famous nursery rhyme.

The English version reads: "Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream. Merrily, merrily, life is but a dream". Note how the story concludes on a realistic letdown: "life is but a dream", meaning, boy enjoy it for now, but beware of the rapids that will shake your skiff soon enough.

The same song in French reads: "Petit bateau, p'tit bateau descend la rivière. Petit bateau, p'tit bateau ira jusqu'à la mer". This would translate into "little boat, l'ttle boat goes down river. Little boat, l'ttle boat will reach the sea". Interestingly no anticlimax in the French version which on the contrary delivers a more positive conclusion to this analogy. In the end, life is a blossoming achievement: you reach the sea and its endless possibilities.

But maybe it is simply me... I may have been contaminated by the French Sadness Syndrome and consequently start to see evil everywhere. So tell me which is your favourite rhyme, and what is its positive message conveyed by these apparently fatuous lyrics. I am keen to learn and in turn teach my son. After all, as George Santayana (1863-1952) coined it once, "Knowledge of what is possible is the beginning of happiness."

To read further:

Seasonal delight

Heaven or Hell's kitchen?

Every December it is the same. At this time of year, mountains come to town. Christmas villages are popping up around the city, with their lot of freshly cut Christmas trees, sweet flavours of mulled wine, marzipan and other sugary treats...

Wandering through these stalls activate what
Proust once called it's Madeleine Syndrome. I wrote already about that topic, when the scents of the Christmas trees brought me instantaneously back in the forest of my childhood. But this time, the stimulus was of a different nature. I walked past a stall that was selling earthy food from back home, in particular Tariflette. This dish is simply divine as I wrote about it a few years back. And like Eve and Adam, I could not resist the temptation.


Divine recipe.

Back at my place, I pulled out a couple pans, a bag of potatoes, a few more ingredients... and 25 minutes later , voila! A delight ready to be swallowed... Really worth any spoonful. The potatoes literally melts in your mouth, with double cream elevating the flavours of cured ham and onions, whilst the melted cheese strengthena the whole experience... OK, I know that at this stage, you are already salivating. Like Pavlovian subjects, you are already envying me, so let me fulfill your newly discovered dream, and share with you the recipe of this Alpine delight (as reported by the not-so-alpine Waitrose, yet with my own twist as those weirdoes started to tweak the real thing):

Serves: 4 to 6 (but let's face it, more likely 4 than 6

Ingredients:
50g unsalted butter, softened
175g bacon or pancetta, cut into 1cm lardons
1 onion, sliced
1kg waxy potatoes, such as Cara, peeled and sliced to a 3mm thickness
Salt and freshly ground pepper
250g Reblochon cheese, cubed
568ml carton double cream

Method:
1.Preheat the oven to 150°C/gas 2. With half the butter, grease a shallow baking dish, about 25 x 30cm.
2.Heat a frying pan over a medium-high heat. Add the bacon. Sauté for about 5 minutes until crisp and brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper.
3.Pour off all but 1 tbsp of the bacon fat. Return the pan to the heat and add the sliced onions. Sauté for about 5 minutes. Season.
4.Layer half the potato slices and add salt and pepper (remember the bacon brings already quite some salt). Sprinkle with the bacon and onion. Put the rest of potatoes on top, and add the rest of onions and bacon. Pour enough cream over the top to just cover the potatoes - you may not need it all. Dot with the remaining butter.
5.Bake for about 1¼ hours, or until the potatoes are tender. Slice your cheese in two, lay it on top of your potatoes crust upwards, and return to the oven until brown and bubbling (about 15 minutes). Remove from the oven, cover with foil and leave for 10-15 minutes before serving (if you can resist).

SadlyI have no left-overs from my latest cooking to extend the pleasure beyond reason... But trust me, it was worth it. Enjoy, and take care.


To read further:

4.12.10

The Saturday Shot #6: buns

To accompany this week's Saturday Shot which is a topical/typical seasonal pastry that was brought home by a French Friend from Alsace, I looked for a topical/typical quote. Bon appetit:

"Christmas? Christmas means dinner, dinner means death! Death means carnage... Christmas means carnage!" Ferdinand the Duck in 'Babe' (1995)

28.11.10

I want to ride my bicycle...

On the road again.

Over a year ago I wrote about the talented Danny MacAskill, an acrobatic cyclist who excels at turning a urban landscape into a playground. I have seen on French blog London Calling that his flatmate, Dave Sowerby, has directed and published a new video about his performance: Way Back Home. This road trip brings us in the stunning landscapes of Scotland back country and demonstrates that "urban landscape" is a very loose concept. From Edinburgh Castle to North Berwick, Inchgarvie and even Isle of Skye, no rock remains unturned.



To read further:

27.11.10

The Saturday Shot #5: biting cold

Biting coldTo accompany this week's Saturday Shot, how could I miss this quote from UK most famous writer of all time. It both pictures the frosty weather which has hit the UK for a couple days, and makes a highly contextual reference:

"Well could I curse away a winter's night,
Though standing naked on a mountain top,
Where biting cold would never let grass grow,
And think it but a minute spent in sport."
William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

20.11.10

The Saturday Shot #4: locked door


To accompany my saturday picture this week, I have decided to associate it to an inspiring quote from a French poet and philosopher:

"A man who is 'of sound mind' is one who keeps the inner madman under lock and key." Paul Valery (1871-1945)

Palindrome

A palindrome is a sequence of units like words or figures that can be read the same way in either direction... I found this advert for Windows 7 on a friend's blog and could not do anything but to relay it.

As the header at the top of this blog says, I love to take a different perspective on things... And without spoiling the ad, I can only say that the brand does too.

Enjoy:


To read further:

19.11.10

Merry what-mas



Politically correct.

Recently I launched a marketing campaign for online retailers to market themselves properly this Christmas. It should help them better understand how consumers search online ahead of the Year-End holidays, and address those needs. This in itself would be worth an article as consumer behaviours are extremely versatile at this time of year, with unique patterns surfacing through the search engines. As John Battelle once coined it, search engines are data bases of intents, and as such a very good proxy to what people think, feel and do.

I might come back to this in a later article, but what I wanted to expose today was the reaction of some of my colleagues on the other side of the pond. Reviewing my work, some reached out to me, almost panicking... "Are you sure? I mean isn't that campaign offensive?". "Offensive"??? I double-checked all my assets, obviously no porn, no dodgy play-on-word, no sexism... Really compared to some of the communications out there my emails and website looked like children books. Plain and safe. I was really puzzled by what triggered the doubt from my North American colleagues.

And then one of them explained to me: "over here we are not referring to Christmas, to respect the different religious opinion and beliefs. We refer to that period of the year as 'the holiday season'."

Really? Christmas would be offensive, disrespectful? Certainly not on the Old Continent. Christmas is now so ingrained in our history and culture that it has lost for many any religious connotation. Historically, December 25th is the celebration of Jesus Christ's birth and the presents delivered by the fireplace are evocations of the Three Kings' presents to Joseph, Mary and their newborn. Yet nowadays, Christmas is for the great majority a family reunion, a time during which the members of nuclear family congregate to celebrate a moment together. The word Christmas is all over: on cards, on shopping windows, in magazines, even on invoices...


Play it by the book.

However I appreciate the intention behind the US trend of political correctness (PC). You want to respect cultural differences by suppressing any overt references to one or another social group.

But this calls out three questions for my foreign and certainly uneducated brain.

First the US has been for long the country of the melting pot. Is this type of behaviour nothing else but the acknowledgement that the historical blending does not happen any more (has it ever worked one may ask)? In fact, this is a probably a cliche as this statement is really obvious, yet you could wonder if PC attitude does not ironically exacerbate the differences by indirectly pointing out what is out of the norm, instead of normalising them.

The second question for me relates to this PC trend and its integrity. If you genuinely want to apply such a philosophy, you must respect it to and fro. I am therefore wondering why the US motto remains "In God we trust" with a capital G at God, and not "In a god we trust" which would respect the different religions or even "In a god that may or may not exist we trust" which would also respect atheists.

An upcoming American holiday is Thanksgiving which according to Wikipedia is:
A harvest festival celebrated primarily in the United States and Canada. Thanksgiving was a holiday to express thankfulness, gratitude, and appreciation to God, family and friends for which all have been blessed of material possessions and relationships.
Here again you could wonder why the Christmas rule does not apply. I appreciate Thanksgiving is no literally a religious celebration, but the connection clearly exists historically...

Finally, why are American citizens and even the President taking an oath by placing their hand on a Bible? After all if you are not a Christian, this book has got no value to you. It would be like swearing by the Yellow Pages, the second most wide-spread book. Since the US seem to be keen on change, maybe one day we may see a Muslim leading the country. Would that elected representative of the entire nation take the oath with a Bible? After all the religious codicil is not a legal requirement.

My two-cent assumption is "probably", because in that specific case, the Bible has a different vocation: it is no longer the embodiment of a dogma, the material sign of a religion... It is a cultural reference. A totem, if you want, that refers back to centuries of political legacy. You could argue that they should pledge allegiance to their country through a more representative and inclusive artifact, like the constitution, the charter of the human rights...

This is a broad, and certainly bigger conversation than this simple blog. The implications are sociological, ethical, etc. And I have no ambition to provide even the beginning of an answer to the correlated questions. I was just amazed, and in fact probably amused, by the schizophrenic stance of my colleagues. On the one hand really adamant , and on the other hand utterly self-contradictory. But that is probably the reason why I enjoy engaging with North American... They are multifacetted, even if they are not always aware it.


To read further:

6.11.10

The Saturday Shot #3: pinch of salt


A pinch of sun, in a soup of clouds... (as seen in Kensington Gardens).

31.10.10

A warm welcome back

Mea culpa.

In the recent week I have been very quiet on this blog, and the main culprit is... me. Too busy to fulfil my duty to unload my brain from all these things that amaze me. But this state of intense activity is great as it has allowed me, on three continent to accumulate a nice little backlog of thoughts that I am at sharing with you in the next few months. Spain, Canaries Islands, Washington state, Tunisia, London, Munich... were indeed all on the agenda of my last trips.

One thing though that I am keen to share immidiately is how gloomy an airport can, especially when your luggage get lost, a fellow passenger has a heart attack and dies in the plane, or that you have a long transfer and not a single penny/euro/dirham/cent to offer a bit of entertainment (all true stories I am afraid).

That is only if you don't arrive in the London Heathrow Terminal 5, where T-Mobile recently performed another of their flashmobs:




I don't know you, but the warmest and most personalised welcome I have received in an airport in the recent years was closer to "Passenger Cedric, passenger Cedric, please contact security regarding your unexpectedly damaged luggage".

Flash Mob(ile phones)

Let me dwell a bit more on this marketing campaign orchestrated by T-Mobile and their agency Saatchi&Saatchi for the third time (first they danced, then they karaoke-ed, and now they mix). Flash Mobilisations consists in secretely organising a congregation of people to share a moment of pure random fun. Organisers seed the remour using the web, texts to friends, and keeping the details secrets until the very last minute... letting the word spread until it is the right time. Famous flash-mobilisations included pillow batlles in front of the Tour Eiffel, farewell posh cocktails in the London's Circle Line tube as this itinary stopped being a circle...

Of course, T-Online's are slightly less amateur and more polished than the genuine one, but heck... that is great fun to watch and eventually participate. You just have to be at the right time in the right place!


To read further:
  • In this article Burger King made burger discovery an ethnologic experiment.
  • In this article, Ford makes you find the hidden arts scattered around london

26.10.10

French lesson...

Two stand up comedian on French stereotypes... No doubt my country of origin is a great source of inspiration:


3.10.10

The Saturday Shot #2: kinky nun

Too busy these days to keep up with the cultural differences happening around me, I have shamelessly forgotten to pay my tribute to this blog... and to my prior commitments to publish more regularly.

So wikthout further a due, here is a picture captured this week end in a shop down the road. This nun was doing her groceries and it seems that she had some kinky plans ahead... Her figure reminded me of this cartoon character, Soeur Marie-Therese des Batignoles.

28.8.10

The Saturday Shot #1: scotts in the park

Inspired by fellow blogger Fabienne, I have decided to publish every Saturday a new picture...
This one was shot today, Saturday, in Hyde Park as a Scottish band was entertaining the crowd of passers-by, teaching them how to move on the sound of "Up-North" music.

15.8.10

I want to marry you, Bitch

Walking around Notting Hill and Maida Vale, we bumped into this shop... Bemused by the sign, I was wondering who one earth would buy some bride cakes from such a bakery. Then I realised that the owners must have identified a brilliant market niche: the ultimate, and delicious way to tell the groom that his future wife is a bitch!

(NB: Les Couilles du Chien translates into The Dog's balls/testicles)


To read further:
  • Good signs, an article on how signs in a street reveal your very own culture
  • Forbidding is forbidden, or how a sign brings us back to May 68 and its street philosophers.

14.8.10

Despite us...

Mein Freund.

France and Germany have had a serious history for centuries. Every now and then the troops from one side of the border got across and marched forward, before being pushed back. As a result, the region separating the two archrivals, the Alsace, turned French or German depending on who won the last battle.

This part of France faced some strange situations, and this short animation by Sophie Nau describe with much emotion the fate of two French brothers who had to join the Nazi ranks, despite them. Enjoy.

29.7.10

Never stopping evolution

And... Action.

I have already shared on this blog a few examples of stop-motion, a creative concept which consists in recreating movement by a succession of still images.

The following short video brings it another level. This time, the pictures are not capturing an object which would be moved a frame at a time by a dilligent director. Way too easy.

No, this time, every frame is a different graffiti. A cartoon where pages are swapped for city walls, buildings, streets, etc. And what a story line: the theory of evolution...



"Big Bang, Big Boom" is in my eyes nothing but a heroic creation by graphic designer BLU and a bunch of graffiti artists from Italy. It has been produced over the course of a year and you can easily understand why. One frame at a time, ca. 24 frames per second (probably less in that case since stop motion does not replicate real film fluidity), 9'55'' in total... That is a lot of pictures and a lot of spraying.


Only one word come to my mind: bravo.


To read further:

23.6.10

Moving anthem



Continuing on the football theme, this ad from Umbro really struck a chord, and touched me... Is this a sign that I am starting to blend into my host culture? Com'on you England.

To read further:

2.6.10

Logo, No logo

Moment of revelation.

After the photo exhibition I took part in a few months back, I received some proofs in a bag from FujiFilm. The plastic bag has been sitting in the middle of my living room for weeks, and something was bothering me without I could put my finger on it. And one day I took a step back, literally.


Hot POOThat is when I saw the truth... This bag was in reality a value judgement about my photographic work. Three green letters and I realised what people may think about my pictures! No wonder I prefer usually other photo brands like Ilford or Kodak.

Logo are like words.

I obviously hope that Fuji's tactlessness is not intentional, but the mere reflect of a lack of international acumen. There are numerous examples of such design bugs like the Saab 900 SE for example. This was a classical Scandinavian car but also a questionable choice for a model name: once spelled out on the back of the cab you could clearly read that the car was a 900se (goose). I wonder if that was some kind of a private joke when the Germans re-baptised the VW Golf into VW Rabbit for the US market...

But some logos are just brilliant. They convey smartly some messages that are subliminally influencing the eye of their viewers. Let's share today some of these hidden secrets:

Let's start with a reference to my dear Alps. Hidden in the rocky alpine landscape of this famous chocolate packaging can be found the silhouette of a bear standing on its back paws... A tribute to Basel, the original city of Toblerone.



Galeries Lafayette is a department store in Paris. The desire of this megastore was to establish itself as an iconic landmark, a synonym of the Parisian touch. That is probably what inspired the graphic designer to turn the two "t" into a graphical representation of the Eiffel Tower, the international symbol of Paris.


"Carrefour" means the crossroad in French. It is also a major retail chain in the world, the place where the offer meets the demand with a tremendous choice of goods... This encounter was represented in the logo where a white C for Carrefour is enshrined in two arrows, a red one pointing to the left and a blue one pointing to the right. It may take you a while to see the C (it took me 30 years) until you see it, and then you cannot see anything else but that letter.


Whilst talking about arrows, here are two other famous examples. The first one is FedEx, which is a company that goes forward whatever it takes to deliver your parcels. Remember that super long commercial with Tom Hanks called Cast Away (well, Robert Zemeckis may argue it is a movie... for me, it is a 143' long tribute to the courier company). Anyway to embody this determination, an arrow is hidden in the logo. Right here between the E and the X.



Amazon too has got an arrow in his logo. This one is not hidden, but it conveys a strong message. More than an arrow it's a smile, and a smile that brings you from A to Z, implying that the extensive catalogue of goods and services offered by the Seattle-based company is a source of consumer joy.


And finally what is probably my preferred logo story. The TGV, or Train Grande Vitesse (High Speed Train), is the jewel of the French railways. Super fast, it is the exact opposite of a snail, the symbol of slow motion by excellence... Again, this idea can be literally visualised, and if you reverse the fluid and forward projected logo, then a snail logotype appears in front of you.

As you can imagine, I love signs and symbols. And logos are nothing but signs applied a commercial message. If you want to unlock more mysteries behind brand logos I recommend these two articles (1, 2). Until then, check out around you, there may be some subliminal messages influencing your behaviours.

To read further:

31.5.10

Quote of the day

"To err is human, but to really screw things up it takes a computer" Anonymous

22.5.10

Game is on

The new Nike commercial specially produced for the World Cup ahead of us. Why that ad here? Well a very loose relationship with my editorial line: you see different nations celebrating football glories with their own style... Or simply because it is well executed. I like the self-mockery of Rooney and Canavaro. Enjoy.



To read further:

4.5.10

British food for thoughts

I have already touched base a few times on this series of funny, caustic videos from David Mitchell, the British standup comedian who drops some acid on the weird traits of Britishness... This one is about one of my favourite topics: food. So enjoy.



To read further:

25.4.10

Views of Chicago

Here is a short selection of the numerous pictures I shot whilst being stranded in Chicago, Illinois. Enjoy the slideshow, and feel free to comment:


More of my pictures can be seen on Flickr.


To read further (or in that instance, view further):

  • Japanese pictures: a bunch of pictures from my 3-week trip across the Japanese archipelago
  • Still moving, an article on photographies that can move you by being innovative (including some of my panographies)
  • Found it, a note on street art including my own personal collection of street art pictures.

21.4.10

Faith for sale

The United States of America: home of liberalism, shopping channels, advertorials... Here everything is for sale. I was warned. And yet it struck me to see this "for sale" sign posted by this Chicago church.
In my eyes, churches are a symbol of faith, a cultural patrimony, and certainly not an asset to market. But I tried to picture the associated advert, and came up with something that could read like:

For Sale because of worshiper defection. The property offers a large cross-shape floor plan with spacious, though gregarious living accommodations. Great opportunity to elevate. Small interior swimming pool and wine cellar. Ideal for social gathering. Comes fully furnished for large receptions, though guests would need to accommodate with wooden benches. Former landLord could offer repayment through Devil Soul Bank. Visits on Sundays.

Tough to say if I would manage to sell this property... But if I were not, I could always try my luck on eBaysilica!


To read further:

19.4.10

A mountain dweller in the Great Lake valley

Rounds and grids
After Seattle earlier this year, I have had the opportunity to discover another iconic American city, Chicago Illinois. This town has accompanied my childhood through my television set. Michael Jordan or Al Bundy have introduced me to the Windy City, but through their own peculiar angles. A few years later, it was my turn to walk the banks of the Lake Michigan and to discover a few more differences to share in this blog.
  1. It's all about food. As you will read below Chicago boasts some iconic dishes such as deep pan pizza or hot dogs. And yet the city most interesting sandwich is not available to eat. Walking down the streets you could be amazed by the little amount of traffic for such a big conurbation. Avenues should be packed with cars and cabs, and yet I found the streets almost peaceful... Until I realised that the traffic that was not visible on the surface was happening under the upper crust of the city. In some places, you can encounter up to three levels of traffic, two of which are semi-underground. What is even more amazing is that these underground streets happen to go under the skyscrapers or even through buildings like this four-lane highway that literally goes through the former central post-office. I am calling that the urban sandwich.
  2. Emasculating pizzas. Whilst writing about food, let me close the topic by sharing a painful experience... One of these nights I went out with a couple female colleagues and we landed in one of the local culinary landmarks: Giordano's. When my friends suggested to share a deep pan pizza, I hesitated but behaved... and in the end agreed (you certainly don't want to be seen as an ogre by your colleagues). We opted for what sounded at that time a very reasonable, medium-sized pizza that the three of us would share. "Easy job" my gut said, already thinking about a complementary dessert... until the bespoke pizza landed on our table. In spite of my legendary Italian cravings and the precious help of my two sidekicks, we never saw the end of the cheesy dish that was taunting us. I felt I failed my peers. This was an indent into my manhood! In my defense, who else than Chicago-based Italians call a pizza a 5cm-thick quiche comprising of 0.5cm of crust, 4cm of melted mozzarella cheese and 0.5cm of tomato sauce and other toppings? Seriously! I must confess that a few days later, I had another go at it... On my own this time. I conquered the small-sized pizza all by myself, and regained some self-esteem.
  3. The magic box. In the US, everything is big. I am always amazed by the skyscrapers. After my first flight was canceled I went to our local office to work. It is located in the Aon Center, a 346m high building in the financial district (the third highest building in Chicago). One evening, as I was leaving the office I headed towards the elevators to see a guy stepping in. I rushed, but the doors closed right in front of me. I pushed frantically the button and the same lift opened... Empty. The guy before me had vanished. I suddenly remembered two things: first some elevators are super fast and second Houdini was half American. It was impossible for the lift to have gone down, unloaded its passenger, and returned to the 31st floor in a couple seconds. That left us with the second option: the lift was magic. I felt like a kid... I knew there was a trick, a hidden panel, a sliding door, something. But I could not find it. And trust me I could not refrain from knocking at the walls to see if I could crack it. The solution was revealed to me when we stopped at ground level and whilst the doors remained closed the robotic voice announced "Unloading lower deck". In this massive building, not only do you have a myriad of lifts to cater for the 83 floors, but they are also double-decked to load twice more people each time! The mystery of the magic lift was solved.
  4. Bears or bulls. I am a sports-fan, but I also appreciate symbols and economics... A weird mix I would say, but which proved handy in Chicago. When looking for some entertainment I was struck by the fact that the city was home of two major franchises, the Chicago Bulls and the Chicago Bears. These two animals are also the symbols of the stock markets: the bear represents a conservative, wait-and-see trend, whilst the Bull refers to a buoyant stock frenzy. Chicago being also a reputable finance markets with its stock exchange, its mercantile exchange... I could not really fathom if the two were connected in a subtle in-joke at the sport business and the millions of dollars transacted every season. And what to think about the White Sox... Is this hope that a bright colour will encourage Santa Claus to finally drop some good players in the local baseball team stockings?
That's it for now, but there will be probably more since my flights get canceled one after the other. That will leave me a bit more time to explore in greater depth this city and its local oddities.

To Read further:

9.4.10

Pixelised your world - a great video

I like video, I like games, I like creativity...

Well, this short movie by Patrick Jean from
One More Production got it all, so no wonder I loved it. Enjoy this visual treat, and remember the good old days you spent playing Arkanoid, Donkey Kong and Space Invaders on various consoles.




To read further:

  • Life is a game, an article on how video games handle political correctness nowadays
  • Bunn-Invasion, or how play-doh and space invaders are taking over cities
  • Found it, a note on my passion for the hidden art in our streets

6.4.10

A classic... And I don't mean the burger.

A little extract from my best film ever... Pulp Fiction.

I have just rediscovered its brilliant soundtrack tonight after years gathering dust on my CD rack. And I could not avoid sharing the following cult quote from Vincent (aka John Travolta) and Jules (aka Samuel L. Jackson) on cultural differences:
Vincent Vega: You know what the funniest thing about Europe is?
Jules Winnfield: What?
Vincent Vega: It's the little differences. I mean they got the same shit over there that they got here, but it's just, just there it's a little different.
Jules Winnfield: Example.
Vincent Vega: Alright, well you can walk into a movie theater in Amsterdam and buy a beer. And, I don't mean just like a paper cup, I'm talking about a glass of beer. And, in Paris, you can buy a beer in McDonald's. You know what they call a Quarter Pounder with Cheese in Paris?
Jules Winnfield: They don't call it a Quarter Pounder with Cheese in Paris?
Vincent Vega: No, man, they got the metric system, they don't know what the fuck a Quarter Pounder is.
Jules Winnfield: What do they call it?
Vincent Vega: They call it a Royal with Cheese.
Jules Winnfield: Royal with Cheese.
Vincent Vega: That's right.
Jules Winnfield: What do they call a Big Mac?
Vincent Vega: Big Mac's a Big Mac, but they call it Le Big Mac.
Jules Winnfield: Le Big Mac. What do they call a Whopper?
Vincent Vega: I don't know. I didn't go into Burger King. But you know what they put on french fries in Holland instead of ketchup?
Jules Winnfield: What?
Vincent Vega: Mayonnaise.
Jules Winnfield: Goddamn!
Vincent Vega: I seen 'em do it. And I don't mean a little bit on the side of the plate, they fuckin' drown 'em under that shit.

For more of these brilliant dialogue and a great non-linear story telling, simply put your hands on the DVD...




To read more:

1.4.10

Around the world in 80 seconds

Those who read regularly this blog know that I am a keen traveler, a photo-enthusiast, and a bit of a geek. So whenI stumbled upon this stop-motion film, I got my passions reunited at once. Enjoy this quick Around the World tour in 80 seconds and you will probably recognize places you have been. I did.

To read more:

  • Still moving! an article on how still images can be touching, moving with a twist of creativity

13.3.10

Truth of the day

A woman can deliver a child in nine months, but I have never seen nine women deliver a child in a month.

Anonymous (but most certainly a project manager in a consultancy firm)

4.3.10

Child's plays do not mature well, do they?

Back to the playground.

There is a jubilating pleasure about being parents... It is called "regression", or this possibility to go back in time through the alibi of your child. When our son came to birth, my wife and I looked at kiddy stuff to decorate his room and that is when we had a double-revelation: we had grown up and we had in a different culture! Jubilancy goes hands in hands with frustration.

All our referential scheme was turned upside down. The heroes of our own childhoods have long retired and they have retired under the sun, not in wet England. Nobody in this country seems to have ever heard of Barbapapa the polymorphic, eco-friendly, pink blurb or of Casimir, the orange dinosaur and master of the Children Island. Simiarly, for me, George had never been Curious... He was one of the Beatles. Peter was not blue, he was eventually Pan.

And even when we thought sharing a common hero with host nation we got fooled.

One of the UK iconic child book is indeed Where is Wally?. This series of books was invented by illustrator Martin Handford who decided to hide his hero in crowded environments and to challenge his readers to find him... Finding Wally is hard but feasible in the UK, but it is simply impossible in France. Why? Because Wally is not Wally in France, he was renamed Charlie for some reason. And guess what, Charlie is also Waldo in America, Walter in Germany, Holger in Denmark, Willy in Norway, Valli in Iceland, and Effy in Israel... Man, this guy in the red shirt is more elusive than a SAS agent with all these passports at reach!

Peek-a-boo.

My son is not even 6-month old and he already teaches me things about cultural differences. The Wally/Charlie discrepency was one, but reminding me that animals do speak English too was a second lesson.

As a matter of fact, and despite his young age, we are already playing nursery rhymes and reading image books to our little one. Obviously, as grown-ups, we are alwas keen on exposing how bright we are. We of course know the name of that pink domestic quadruped that lays in the mud... But when we wanted to further boast our zoological expertise that we felt the backlash. The French animals do not speak the same language as their British counterparts and we failed page after page to speak the words of the creatures depicted in this book. Our pigs do not "oink-oink", they "gruik-gruik" ; ducks do not "quack-quack", they say "coin-coin" and our stalions do not "neigh-neigh"... no, they say "bonjour mademoiselle, voulez-vous coucher avec moi?".

So yes, you can learn at every age, and there are opportunities to expand your horizons in every single piece of culture you might be in touch with. And some may change your life for ever by the way. As mentioned before, one of the people who has had a major influence on my life to date is Shizuo Koizumi, a Japanese anime designer I never met but whose "Attacker Yu!" (Jeanne & Serge in French) made me discover volleyball as a young boy and live magnificent moments with great fellows until very recently.

And you, who are your childhood heroes, wherever they might be from? Drop me a line about them, I am dying to introduce them to my little one.


To read further:
  • Und-art my skin, an article based on an art performance who revealed the sources of inspiration of a painter
  • The bad education, or how the children tv programmes can prove to be very subversive

6.2.10

Terry, Tiger, Iris... And the other sex witches.


What happens on the pitch remains on the pitch.

You can hardly have missed it. It is all over the press now, and on both sides of the Channel: John Terry, captain of both Chelsea and England football squads, is due to have had an affair with the wife of a teammate... And guess what, I don't care. Unlike a great majority of the press, I don't bother about what football players do outside the stadium, because after all they are just football players.

What I do care about though is how this story is approached by the media, and how it reveals in depth cultural differences between France and other Anglo-Saxon nations. Because Terry's alleged affair is just the last episode of a series of sex scandals that have been reported largely across the press. Tiger Woods, a few weeks back, was put under the spotlight because of a so-called sex addiction. Before that Iris Robinson, wife of the Northern Ireland's First Minister, led his husband to resign because she confessed an affair with a 19-year old...

Private privacy or public publicity

All this noise stupefies me as a foreign witness. As a matter of fact, with my own referential scheme, these events belong to the private sphere and are totally dissociated from the public face of these people. As Bill Maher nailed it in his brilliant tirade about the French, we have this weird concept about privacy... We think it should remain private.

What does Tiger Woods' sex life tells me about his golf skills? Nothing (expect maybe that I should no longer bet on him performing hole-in-one). Is Peter Robinson's political programme worse now that his wife is having some extramarital entertainment? And what about Terry's defending excellence? Probably not either.

Ultimately, these are private facts that have more to do with moral than anything else. So I hear that these public people are due to be examples. I agree, but they should be in their own expertise. Terry and Woods should embody values such as resilience, fair play, dedication, personal achievement... But you would not expect them to comment on bioethics or have a view on neuroscience, so why should we expect more from them than what they really are? Because they earn a lot of money? I am personally obfuscated by the paycheck these people get every week, but they reflect the individual sports skills and some economy dynamics, not a moral contract for these sports people would be bound to. After all, accordingly to the Journal of Couple and Relationship Therapy, approximately 50 percent married women and 60 percent of married men will have an extramarital affair at some time in their marriage... Shocking I agree, but why would our above-mention examples differ from the norm. After all, they may well be examples, example of a real truth that people are to blind to accept.

The clear line.

In my opinion, moral is something that is very personal and as long as it does not imply unlawful behaviours, your private life and choices should remain your own business, and not be made public. You just have to be in peace with your consciousness. As far as I am aware, in Western societies, having an affair is not illegal and certainly not a crime. You can condemn it morally, but not legally. It is at the utmost a contravention to a contract, the marriage, which can lead to the dissolution of the contract. But here again, this should be a matter of interest for the only two parties, and certainly not the general public.

On the other hand, there is for me a very clear line when privacy should no longer remain private. In the French Constitution, which is largely inspired by the universal declaration of the human rights: "an individual's freedom ends where someone else's begins". And the law defines this framework very well. As a result, if in the exercise of their privacy citizens are infringing the law, then they make an indent to their contract with the Society. It is then normal for the Society, i.e. the general public, to be exposed to the contravention and its punishment. Had John Terry used of his status to force a juvenile person to perform a sex act with him, I would agree that the public scrutiny would become legitimate. But as far as I am aware all of the above-mentioned witches that have been hunted in the press for their sexual exactions where adults having an affair with a consenting partner...

The French touch.

Now that you know my opinion on these non-events, I would like to share with you some cultural facts around them, and try to cheer you up (whilst you start wondering why your partner is coming home so late, and whether she/he is part of the 50% stated earlier).

Terry's alleged mistress is Vanessa Perroncel and former partner of Wayne Bridge, another English international. I found interesting that the tabloids had to underline the fact that she was a French model, as if her nationality could explain the situation. This kind of unsaid statement is not uncommon in the English low quality press, but surprisingly enough it was echoed in more reputable titles. On the other side of the Channel, the French newspaper have started covering the news, under a very different angle. First they are talking about the un-understandable witch hunt that Terry is facing... And second they also refer to Miss Perroncel's nationality. The main difference though is that her French passport is almost a pride. Maybe it is some kind of a comforting thought that if French strikers cannot get around Terry during the upcoming World Cup, at least a French can get on top of him...

Another thought, this time for Mister Robinson and a comforting one I must say. I must acknowledge that I am not too au fait with his policy line. And I am neither too familiar with his person nor with his wife (although I have read a few statements from her that definitely do not encourage me to dig further). And yet, there might something comforting in how love affairs and public affairs can work positively too. At least in France.

During the last presidential elections, candidate Nicolas Sarkozy was facing Ségolène Royal. And despite running for the highest position in the République, neither of them was the perfect marital archetype. The later for instance had been living with her partner for over 30 years without having been ever married. They had four children together and split shortly before the elections because he would have had an affair with a journalist.

On the other side of the ballot box, mister Sarkozy was married to Cécilia with whom he fell in love as he... married her to a French celebrity. He was then the mayor of a small town near Paris. He managed to seduce her and to marry her a few years later... And yet, he built a reputation of charmer, with countless affairs. As Sarkozy started his campaign, his wife fell for the CEO of the company which was organising her husband's meetings and left him. She finally came back to her husband only to divorce officially a couple months after the elections and to return to her lover (rumors say that it was part of a deal to look good in front of the electors). And guess what, Nicolas remarried nine months after being elected, to a former model and singer Carla Bruni...

Now that is what we call a rich (extra)marital life, and mister Robinson's little hiccup suddenly looks very mild. And yet, Sarkozy came out on top to win the election with 53.06 percent of the votes ahead of Ségolène Royal with 46.94 percent. So one could then argue that to lead the French nation you have to have the most extensive adulterous record. Or with more honesty, you could argue that the private life of any one should not interfere with their career. Whoever you are.


To read further:

30.1.10

A mountain dweller in the Washington Lake valley

Seattle SkylineI have recently had the opportunity to fly to almost the other side of the planet. This was my first time on the West Coast of the USA and my first time in Seattle. No matter how much people had told me about this major city of Washington state, I must admit that I bumped into a few surprises that I am keen to report in this blog post in form of questions/answers:
  • Is Washington State a republic where salmons are king? I must admit that before visiting Seattle I did not know anything about their local salmon. I eventually knew about the Alaskan, but there are so much coming from Norvay and Scotland over here that you may not know the full diversity of this species. But let's face it, you cannot dissociate Seattle from these pink-fleshed fishes as they seem to rule the place. For instance, there are two bridges crossing Washington Lake and they are quite unique. First they are floating and not laid on the ground because the lake is too deep and too big pillars might have blocked the natural flow of the salmons. Second, they are not wide enough to support the amount of traffic that goes through, and are consequently a constant traffic jam nightmare. Guess what? They cannot be expanded because the work and extended shade may disrupt the salmon migrations! A bit further sewage grids are accompanied with a sign: do not dump anything in the sewage. Why? To avoid polution? Yes... of course, but primarily to avoid bothering the salmons as the visual clearly priorities. Lucky enough to have a boat? Your boarding deck will have to be in transparent material... to avoid disturbing the swimming kings. And the list goes on and on.
    More about the king of Seattle and fun around it here.
  • Are you really green when you drive a 4x4? Seattle is renown for being one of the most eco-conscious city in the country. Most taxis travelling around the city are Toyota Prius with hybrid motors. People have a very high consumption of organic products (and this translates in an average wasteline way below Fatlanta's). And yet, Average Joe's car is a SUV. This type of car does match well with the topography of the city where streets have been drawn straight regardless of the ground inclination, and the wild countryside thirty minutes away. But on the other hand, it seems to be antinomic of a green mindset.
  • Do we know each other? The people in this city are just too friendly, and that can take you aback. Waiters, shop staffs... Everyone is so friendly that, coming from Europe, you may feel that it is over the top, or even malicious. It took me a while to adjust to this mindset. An example? I was shopping for some presents to bring home in the baby aisle of a department store. The sales rep comes to me and engage into a conversation:
    "- who are you shopping for today?" she says with a smile on her face.
    (obviously not for me as I have stopped wearing 6-8 month babygros for a few years) "- My son"
    "- And where is your son?", looking around for a pram.
    "- Back home."
    "- Ah... And where is home?"
    "- In London, UK"
    "- Great, enjoy shopping"
    I could not quite figure out whether she was genuinely interested, or just attempting too hard to be friendly to sell, or even if she was an under-cover FBI agent conducting an investigation to figure out if I were a paedophile...
  • Are you aware that you are on latitude 47? The great thing about Seattle for someone like me is the immediate proximity of both snow-covered mountains and sea. The earlier attribute should be an hint of the current weather in that area. Seattle is in the Northwestern region... Like NORTH western... When you walk around, you really wonder if people really clicked about the fact that they are on the same latitude as Ukraine, Romania, Kazakhstan... Non of which is really reknown for its sunny beaches. So it is fair to say that it is not the sunniest and warmest place in the world, and this translates in numerous outdoor clothing chains like North Face, Patagonia, etc. Seattle is thus probably the best place to shop for warm fleeces or snowboard gears. And yet, when the above-mentioned Average Joe parks is SUV downtown, he is very likely to wear a simple T-Shirt or even flip-flops.

And finally, is this the best example of name dropping or what?

Bill Gates???
(Seen at Seattle Airport. Seattle home of Microsoft...)

2.1.10

Exhibited, I am exhibited...


A few months back, I announced that I was now published and that my short story was available to the public... Well, a good news does not come alone, and I have now the chance to have some of my pictures exhibited in France too.

From January 8th to February 20th, alongside Juliette Robert and Jean-Remi Baudot, we are exhibiting a series of portraits at Centre Culturel Jean Villar in Marly-le-Roi, France. So if you are around, feel free to drop by. You will have a nice dive in South East Asia, Japan, Africa and other faces from some more exotic places like the UK.

Full details:
Centre Culturel Jean Villar, 44 allée des Épines / 78160 Marly-le-Roi / 01 39 58 74 87
Free entrance - Monday to Friday 2pm to 7pm, Saturday 2pm to 6pm
Map to there.

To get a closer look at my portfolio, just have look at my flickr account.

EDIT: the exhibition book is available on Blurb. To preview or order a copy of it simply click here http://www.blurb.com/books/1111429