Face the anonymous

Back to the agora.

Blogs, Facebook, Flickr, LinkedIn, YouTube... Internet is amazing. All these tools have largely contributed to bring the private sphere in the open. You have a digital existence that replicates, or rather shadows your real life. But like in Plato's Myth of the Cave, some only know this shadow and assume it is the reality. Your reality. They have such an insider view of your privacy (or at least the one you accept to display) that they think they know you...

Except that sometimes you don't. You may know their music tastes through their LastFM profile, appreciate their photographic style on Flickr, follow their intrepid groceries on twitter... and yet have no clue what their author looks like.

Moment of loneliness.

Recently, for instance, I met up with Jerome, a blogger that I have intensively read for a semester. I knew he was a fellow citizen who works for one of the greatest British ad agency as an engagement planner. But is that of any help to recognize him in a crowded street of Soho? Fortunately, if I dare say, we have a friend in common and I was armed with an explicit description of my target when stepping in the pub: "dark hair, sometimes short but when worn longer they tend to curl, my size... and he looks French!" Great. Easy.

This funny event amused me as I remember that old TV commercial for Wanadoo, now Orange, powered by this exhilarating song by David Bowie:

We could be heroes.

Yes, Andy Warhol was right. Everyone can have his 15 minutes of glory or, as he might put it nowadays, his 15 Rss feed subscriptions. And yet, even a shy guy like me cannot be totally fulfilled with this digital alternative. If I appreciate exploring the binary world through my laptop, I also appreciate to put a face on a html code. Therefore I tend to participate to some Blogger Meet Ups like the one that took place a few days ago in Waterloo and which allowed me to enrich my own experience. Every time I learn a little bit more about myself, about cultural experiences, about new interesting topics... The diversity of the bloggers is a source of enlightenment.

For instance, here is a brief overview of the few people I talked with:
  • Linda Hartley, a great Flickr enthusiast, who runs a number of exciting Flickr groups, like classroom displays, but who shares with her partner Andy a passion about Paris. With them we discussed Parisian life and its flip side, but also how Welsh and Scotts can also feel alien in London.
  • Pete, another London photo-freak, who had set his reader the task to point him to a place where he would and make a photo reportage of, always looking at these places through a different angle
  • Elodie, whom I bumped into on that event just a couple days after meeting her in a different environment. She also writes about cultural differences, but more specifically about the relationships between France and Lebanon, inspired by her household.
  • Camen, the Italian sustainability consultant, blamed my company for its dominant position, whilst Pamela, the Canadian research officer, welcomed its philanthropic engagement in the Third World... Just before digressing to lighter topics my restaurant recommendations in London and Paris, and the role of Ratatouille in the promotion of cuisine and French tourism.

As you can see, lots of random topics, each more interesting than the other... In other words, the charm of the Internet but without clicks for a background noise, just tinting glasses.


Quote of the day

About UK and US:
‘Two nations separated by a common language.’
George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)


What else?

Choose your priorities.

Today Barrack is almost confirmed as the Democrat candidate for the next US elections. Burma and China are rampaged by typhoons and earthquake... Nonetheless what really matters (sorry!) is that today
GF38, the football club of Grenoble, has finally secured its promotion to French Premier League. The last time this happened was just 47 years ago.

This even more impressive that 10 matches ago, the club was 12 points behind the third and last qualifying place. It seems that the anniversary of the 1968 winter Olympic Games have stimulated them, to the point that they decided to commemorate the May '68 with their own little revolution. But beyond the sport results, there are a few stories to be told around this performance. A different point of view on my region...

Grenoble - Feb. 68
May 68Grenoble - May 08

First of all, this club was almost bankrupt in 2001 when a Japanese business man, Katzutoshi Watanabe, decided to suggest its company, Index Corporation, to invest in this local club. The Japanese multimedia consortium arrived in Grenoble to benefit from the French silicon valley like HP, Sun Microsystems, CapGemini... All these groups have major operations in the Isere valley, and so has the French nanotechnology governmental research arm.

Japanese chips and French football.

But let's be fair brain drain have usually little impact on football results. To boot (excuse the pun), the main sport attraction in this place revolves more around skiing and eventually hockey with a well-performing professional team,
the Wolve Burners, than around a football. Anyway this year seems to have been the year of football in Grenoble. The players stopped playing with ski boots and the region started to back them up in a beautiful stadium, the Stade des Alpes (Stadium of the Alps, or Stadio delle Alpi as the Juventus fans will have recognised their little brother on the other side of the mountains).

From green to glass.

There has been a few stories around this brand new stadium which was only inaugurated in February 2008. Some of which made their ways to the national news... The stadium has been built in the middle of the city where the former derelict stadium was sitting since the 1930s. The ambition was to encourage access via public transportation. A green initiative could you think, except that this 20,000 seat-strong stadium needed to sacrifice some centennial trees on the altar of architecture and sport.
Local green activists refused this decision, especially for a club languishing in the depths of the second division with little appeal and supporters. They complained that this construction was illegal due to lack of consultation. To demonstrate their opposition, they climbed the bespoke trees and settled up there. Eco-citizens, as they were nicknamed by the media, started overnighting between branches, preventing the construction to progress.

Interestingly enough, Grenoble citizens have been famous in French History for their role in revolts. The French revolution started here when the representatives of the people signed a pact to overthrow nobles and thus encouraged the crowd to start throwing tiles at the army from the roofs of the city.

This time no projectile was thrown down, and ultimately the trees gave way to the bulldozers after months of negotiations. And let's be fair the result is beautiful. The new stadium is a real architecture beauty which can be virtually visited in 3D through this little download.

Now the question is: will the club manage to avoid relegation next year and will spectators come to support their team even during the cold winter months? Not sure... Especially if the snow is deep. Unless we start playing football-joering.


Love dispenser

In front of the mirror.
I am amazed by what is happening in the UK toilets. Not that I am a fan of scatological stories, but you must admit that what is going in these white spaces are insightful. If the eyes are the mirror of the soul, maybe your arse is the reflection of your eros...

As a matter of fact, my wife reported me that in most club ladies room you are offered a great choice of tampon, lollies, mints... On my end, I am more used to the condom machines that you can find in pretty much every pub. And this is totally understandable, and advisable. In a country where the keystone of social life is the counter, you'd better be armed in case you bump into someone. Literally. But would you expect such machines at work? What a message that would be from corporate institutions to encourage their staff to copulate on premise...

And then this week-end, whilst visiting a friend of mine at work, I had to use their toilets and found this dispenser. The bespoke company is a highly respectable TV channel that evolves more certainly in the business spheres than in dating industry... No condom are to be found in here. No encouragement to lust: this company is for respectable family guys. And to be fair, the machine reflects that.

Prevention instead of healing.

No condoms but a pain killer distributor. And believe me this has nothing to do with their employee getting headaches because they would work on tough and complex topics. No. This machine, like those in pubs, is here to ensure that their male staff will have a blossoming sexual life, at home. Not sure to follow me? Now imagine that you are a TV Producer stuck in studios for hours with the most Italian gorgeous presenter in the next cubicle. Now imagine you cannot even talk to her. Not a linguistic barrier, no, only by sheer lack of time because you have the ultimate mission of covering how the ├╝ber-exhilarating index of tin toys is performing in the West-Turkmenistan region.

The stimulus is on par with your frustration. So when finally you get home and that your girlfriend is there waiting for you, there is no migraine to be claimed. No escape. This is a hierarchical order, miss, you have to obey... And yet, as stated on the machine, you utterly "feel better".


Hate... France.

La Haine, redux.

I have just come across the latest video of French electro band
Justice on Jerome's blog, another French writer based in the UK. The soundtrack called Stress is illustrated by some hyper realistic video images of French gangs rampaging the capital during their raids.

At a certain point of time it even becomes very hard to make up your mind on whether those images are fictive or a reportage, but in any case that is an insightful view at another side of Paris and some other French cities. Less glamorous than a couple of tweety birds smiling in front of Le Louvres...

Chilling fall.

La HaineBack in 1995, young director Mathieu Kassovitz came up on the cinema screens with a black and white film about the real face of Les Banlieues. La Haine, hate, was depicting the determinism of three friends in the Parisian suburbs who are trying to cope with their life. No job, no money, no consideration... and ultimately, whatever you may try, they end up being caught back by the dramatic reality.

Funny sometimes, dramatic, brutal, this film was an eye-opener, a smashing hit and consequently a must-see. It starts with a slow motion image of a Molotov cocktail sent on a billboard featuring a picture of planet earth. The voice over says:

This is the story of a man who falls from the 25th story of a building. As he is falling, he repeats for himself, as if to reassure himself: "so far so good, so far so good, so far...". But what really matters is not the fall. It's the landing.

I think that what we can perceive through Justice's video is that we are closer to the ground than ever. Sadly.