Numéro 37 Du 05/03 au 18/03/14

LIBERTÉ, PARITÉ, QUOTAS.

Deux femmes, deux hommes : la parité fait son entrée au Panthéon. Quatre résistants, au mérite, au courage, reconnus de façon équivalente, par-delà leur différence de sexe. Parité à la vie, à la mort.

Mais, au fronton de cet immense tombeau, que va signifier désormais le fameux «aux grands hommes, la patrie reconnaissante» ?
La même chose, pour l’instant. Parce que le mot homme englobe l'être humain sans distinction de quoi que ce soit. Le Petit Robert est formel, là-dessus. Comme quoi il faut toujours revenir aux origines, à la source. L'homme, l'humain, l'humanité…
Il en va de même, d’ailleurs, pour le mot individu qui veut dire une personne en général, sans exclusion de personne, justement. Le dico le confirme également, même si, dans ce cas, entre la théorie et la pratique, il y a un petit problème dû à l'usage. On imagine mal lire : «une femme a été décorée, hier… Cet individu…» Quelque chose cloche, ne sonne pas bien.
Cela nous pousse évidemment à nous interroger sur la façon dont la parité sera, un jour ou l'autre, appliquée à la grammaire. Pour l'instant, et depuis des lustres, on le sait, le masculin l'emporte sur le féminin en cas de pluriel. Extraordinaire illustration de cette primauté ancestrale d'un sexe sur l'autre (bien qu’elle ne cesse de battre de l'aile depuis une cinquantaine d'années).

Alors ?
Les conséquences des parités et autres quotas ne sont pas toujours entièrement anticipées. Actuellement, le Conseil supérieur de l’audiovisuel s'interroge sur la nécessité de revoir le pourcentage de chansons françaises imposé aux programmateurs (40 %). En effet, de plus en plus d'artistes français s’expriment en anglais, ce qui brouille les ondes, les comptes…
Casse-tête moins complexe que notre masculin féminin, certes…
Heureusement, le terme parité est féminin. Ce qui pèse tout de même dans la balance.

Maurice Achard

 

Numéro 36 Du 19/02 au 04/03/13

ROLE PLAY

Two famous actors have brought out books at the same time.
Philippe Torreton speaks of his grandmother in «Mémé».
Francis Huster in «Family killer», takes a look at Xavier Dupont de Ligonnès, the central character in the family tragedy we all know.

And it is hard not to wonder why they turn to writing when they excel in their own careers?
Philippe Torreton could just as easily have told us of his grandmother on stage, as Philippe Caubère  does so well, telling tales of his family in his one man show.
And Francis Huster who is trying out the thriller, could also have taken inspiration from the Ligonnès tragedy to transform it into an eternal tragedy for the 21st century.

It is true, after all, why did neither one write a play? Huster’s crime novel is essentially written in dialogue…
Is the theatre not enough?
Is it not a complete art, with its own rhetoric? 
Writing… Words to be read, not spoken. There is the explanation. An irresistible need. The need to not be the character one is playing for the audience but to give life, in silence, to a character one has inside, for diverse reasons. With one’s own words. To “get off the stage” for a while.

Maurice Achard

 

Numéro 35 Du 05/02 au 18/02/13

LOST IN TRANSLATION

Do you speak fluent Montebourg?
Not yet perhaps, the language is in its infancy. Our minister pronounces the word people (celebrities) as “Pé-ople”, in the name of the productive rehabilitation of our heritage. But isn’t there already a perfectly good French expression that harks back to the days of “France-Dimanche” or “Ici Paris”: “presse à sensation” (tabloid press)? 

It must be said, things have changed since then. In the fifties, the gossip column in “Life” magazine was copied a little later on by “Paris-Match” with the title “les gens”, which translates literally as people. Except it meant nothing, it signified nothing, it even meant the opposite. The crowd, the anonymous… So the weekly magazine adopted the English term “people” and its readers got progressively used to it and when “Voici” came along it became positively popular. Today, in French celebrities are even referred to as “les people”. Evidence of how things have been turned around… But how did we get from that to “pé-ople”… We could even say that by taking the accent off the “é”, it would almost sound like “people”. Well… The term “Presse à sensation” won’t be making a comeback. No more than the expression “Fabriqué en France”, as our minister prefers to say “Made in France”, which is pretty half-hearted.

It’s just like when he agreed to lend his voice to an animated series that goes out on ARTE. Arnaud Montebourg accepted to do so and kept his word, on the pretext that the series was 100 % French. The only thing is, the series is entitled «Silex and the city»… 
Arnaud Montebourg, champion of the new franglais? Sacré bleu…

Maurice Achard

 

Numéro 34 Du 22/01 au 04/02/2014

FUTURE NOW

The inverted curve?
There are others apart from the one we talked about so much. Others that didn’t follow the experts’ predictions to the letter…

The TGV and its futuristic line that was supposed to make all other trains look hokey is losing speed: 50 % of the lines are in the red (higher prices, delays…)
However, the CD, another symbol of modernity also born at the start of the eighties was perhaps given a premature retirement date as it was considered to be the main loser in the download revolution. Result: sales up by 9% in 2013. Fans of Stromae or Maître Gims are responsible, as they seem to prefer a concrete contact with their idols, through the disc.
Finally, the 3000 independent bookshops who were expected to cave when faced with the ogre Amazon will not be abandoned by the powers that be. A legal loophole, added to the one Jack Lang instituted in 1981 will protect books from the price cutting of dotcom retailers. Sales of digital books that everyone will soon have in their pockets or bags only increased 1.5% last year.

And we wonder if the “commentators”, whether they belong to the media, advertising or trend bureaux, haven’t forgotten to leave things to the present. To do whatever it likes.

Maurice Achard

 

Numéro 33 Du 08/01 au 21/01/14

WARS OR PEACE ?

“Here we go again like in 1914” as the French say.
Even though the expression is used to express a state of mind that is reluctant to go back to work, school or any other unpleasant event or meeting, the “comparison” with the departure for the frontline in 1914 is inappropriate to say the least.
All the more so when the war itself didn’t turn out as planned. It was much longer, harder, more terrible, nightmarish and unimaginable.
And for the six months of the start of this year, we will be celebrating the declaration of the First World War. Up until July 14th as a final bouquet. But we will not be celebrating the victory of November 11th in 1918. A little strange? It would have been less paradoxical, more logical, happier, without of course forgetting to tell the story of those four horrible years. 
Thankfully, if we can say that, another military anniversary is coming up this summer: seventy years since the liberation of Paris in August 1944 with the famous speech from De Gaulle. The problem with that is that Paris was freed but not the whole country and the final victory had not yet been won. The Nazi concentration camps were still going strong. 

Of course the recurring “duty of memory” is not being called into question here. Just the haste in choosing some dates over others gives the impression that it is a question of garnering media coverage to take the emphasis off the uncertain present.
And, after all, all’s fair in love and war…

Maurice Achard

 

Numéro 32 Du 24/12/13 au 08/01/2013

HEALTH OR PROGRESS

No-one likes to hear talk of needles in general. Or drips, or blood tests. However, they are all for our good, even though it might hurt a little when the needle goes in.
Might?

Take a drip for example. They keep people alive when seriously ill or dying. A recent conference in Beaune in the Bourgogne region of France, gave a presentation on a replacement process for palliative care, which involves a real meal with the patient’s favourite dishes and wines. Bringing pleasure back in small doses to people who had thought it lost forever. Keeping desire alive… In Beaune, everyone agreed. Doctors, nurses, psychologists, retirement home directors etc.
However, blood tests remain stubbornly irreplaceable. There were even used as the basis for an amazing invention revealed by Professor Yvon Cayre a few weeks ago: a tube that isolates cancer cells so that their evolution can be followed and their treatment personalised, when they are caused by genetic anomalies. This is a fantastic discovery, if only because it will replace the anguish and pain of the biopsy. With this method, checking suspicious cells will take less time. The tube could be on the market in six months.

Life is not so simple for medical progress. It needs to know its limits, know when to stop, to leave space for the human. But also to continue to searching, going beyond, for the same reasons.
In fact, this should be the case for progress in general. To perhaps stop digitising everything when relations between human beings are altered. But to continue to exploit the good side of the Internet when the web helps to wedge open the doors of knowledge a little further.

Maurice Achard

 

Numéro 31 Du 11/12 au 24/12/2013

LOSER STORIES

The loser has lost none of his aura in the world of the auteur. Filmmakers and novelists.  

In “Inside Llewyn Davis”, the new film by the Coen brothers, the eponymous hero (played by Oscar Isaac) is a gifted singer-songwriter who wants to modernise American folk. Except he does nothing to increase his notoriety, he doesn’t know how to “sell” himself, or doesn’t want to, hanging out in the Greenwich Village of the early sixties. Just before the arrival of Bob Dylan who, inspired by the same musical approach, will completely take over.
In “Jason Murphy”, a new book from writer Paul Fournel, Jason Murphy is the object – and the subject – of all his searches. Because he is supposed to have given Jack Kerouac, the Beat Generation’s key figure, the idea of using a long roll of paper in the typewriter instead of having to change pages all the time. The roll of paper is a famous as Kerouac himself now. But not Murphy, who appeared to have preferred to remain in the shadows.

Llewyn Davis’ real name is in fact, Dave van Ronk . Never heard of him. And Murphy… Murphy. Same. It is possible, we know, to be talented without being successful. And the opposite is also true: successful despite the obvious absence of talent. In other words, they are not necessarily travelling companions… To which we must add fame, which in recent times has become an end in itself.
You create a buzz, and that’s all it takes!
As if knowing how to become famous had become a new… talent.

Maurice Achard

 

Numéro 30 Du 27/11 au 10/12/13

BEAUTY SPOT

At Georges, a restaurant in Paris, the waiters have been accused of seating better-looking clients at the more visible tables and relegating the others to the dark recesses of the room. This has led to an outpouring of opinion on beauty as a criteria. Can it be one openly? The “blind” sessions for the next season of “The Voice” currently taping with the jurors turning their backs to the contestants so as to avoid being influenced by their appearance is one way of dealing with the issue, at a time when this aesthetic-based injustice is getting worse.

Being good-looking opens many doors today. Not only in restaurants but in companies, the media. “Having a nice appearance is worth years of studying” according to the sociologist Jean-François Amedieu.
What about the less pleasant to look at? Are they ignored?

We wonder how, in this context, people like Serge Gainsbourg, Eddy Mitchell or Djamel Debbouze ever managed to impose their charisma, talent, intelligence and humour.
This trend, according to the same sociologist, is linked to the fact that the image has taken over everywhere. 
But resistance is building to this shocking trend. In the same way as racial segregation, this type of segregation is not inevitable.

You can be “the man or the woman for the job”, but do you have to have “the face for the job?”

Maurice Achard

 

Numéro 29 Du 13/11 au 27/11/13

THE OLD AVANT-GARDE

71 years old.
With the death of Lou Reed, the memory of a certain New York avant-garde has been resurrected and feted. First of all, his band the Velvet Underground that came to be in the middle of the sixties. Extreme, dark rock n’ roll, gigs that doubled as artistic happenings, provocation, alcohol, drugs, with Andy Warhol in tow. 

Avant-garde… In the days that followed his death, the term popped up strangely, in the homages to Edith Piaf and Jean Cocteau on the fifty year anniversaries of their respective deaths. All of a sudden, the “avant-garde” was everywhere.
Piaf? Wasn’t she the first to invent the concept of “celebrity” in France by controlling the rumour mill around herself, confirming the true ones, feeding the false? Didn’t she put together the first ever “press release” by providing the stunned New York Times with a full press package before her first trip stateside?
Cocteau? The multimedia artist par excellence, ahead of his time... Dubbed a jack-of-all-trades by those who didn’t like him, was he not writer-poet-playwright-artist-filmmaker all rolled into one? 
Luis Mariano was just as avant-garde by in the way he opened up opera to songs such as “Besame mucho” or “Volare”. This is according to Vincent Niclo who has dedicated an entire CD to him.

Lou Reed was the same age as Paul McCartney who has just brought out a new album filled with the trademark melodies we know so well.
The Beatles were never considered avant-garde, apart from a few exhibitions by John Lennon and Yoko Ono. Maybe that’s because the avant-garde of yesteryear is behind us, while “Yesterday” is still very much with us.

Maurice Achard

 

Numéro 28 Du 30/10 au 12/11/13

STAY AWAKE!

During a recent promotional trip to Paris for her book “Envie de vérité”, Cécilia Attias, Nicolas Sarkozy’s ex-wife claimed that France was “switching off, going to sleep”, when talking about a socio-economic situation that goes back many years. The previous day a big daily paper ran the headline: “Paris s’endort” (Paris is falling asleep) about something else altogether, the 9 p.m. limit on closing times for supermarkets and small grocery shops.

So the country of the Enlightenment and the City of Lights find themselves suddenly in the dark through the metaphorical effect of the same words, making it essential to clear things up.
Where are we going? Where are our benchmarks?
Lights please!
So everyone is searching for a new perspective for a possible light source. In teaching, most notably. For example the re-publishing of old-style reading manuals is all the rage. And a school in Perpignan now begins with a dictation every morning.

The true is that culture is attracted to another source of light these days, the new screens. Even Bret Easton Ellis, the literary wunderkind of the eighties and nineties, has declared that the novel is dead and is tweeting as though his life depended on it…
Light?
It hasn’t gone out, it has just changed direction.

Maurice Achard

 

Numéro 27 Du 16/10 au 29/10/13

FACT-CHECKING

We are not here to give lessons or correct homework. But it is important to recognise that some mistakes or approximations are at times so blatant that they are harsh on the eyes or ears. On the radio, for example, or in the press.

On France Info this summer, the music journalist Bertrand Dicale told the story behind an old song or hit record every day. When he evoked the famous “Oh les filles!” by Au Bonheur des dames, that was released early in 1970, and adaptation of “Sugaree” de Rusty York, he reminded listeners that the American track was first covered in French by the Pingouins in the early sixties. Wrong, the Chaussettes Noires got there before them with the hit “Chérie oh chérie”. As if that weren’t bad enough, Dicale pointed out that on the same record by “Au bonheur des dames” there was also a cover version of the famous “Twist à Saint-Tropez” by the… Chaussettes Noires when in fact it was by the Chats Sauvages. That makes for a lot of mistakes in such a short time and it is intolerable even though it seems anecdotal. Especially coming from a music expert like Dicale.

A few weeks later in Le Parisien, on the subject of the omnipresence of sex, in the new literary season (see L’Acharnoeur n°1 from last year), blockbuster films, exhibitions, etc. the in-house literary critic took as an example of this change, a book published by Joëlle Losfeld, daughter of Éric Losfeld who, straight after the war freed up erotic literature from its restrictive legal status. Not a very convincing choice. By searching a little more, certain sexy pages from Flammarion or Lattès would have been less banal and annoying for readers in the know.

The problem is in fact that it casts doubt on everything one reads or hears afterwards.
But just for that moment, luckily…

Maurice Achard

 

Numéro 26 2/10 au 15/10/13

SIDE EFFECT

SMR. Service Médical Rendu. (Medical Service Rendered) These are the initials and the title of a plan from the Minister for Health that would oblige laboratories to stamp a code on every box of reimbursable medicine that evaluates its effectiveness. They would go from “major” to “weak” through “important” and “insufficient”. The idea still has to be approved by the Élysée and then go to a vote in parliament. But it is already expected to pass into law in the New Year.

It may seem like a strange law to some: how can a medicine that is reimbursable have been officially passed while at the same time being considered to be only “slightly” effective? Why not just put “rubbish”? There is sure to be a debate about certain products. Didn’t we just see a ninety-year old claim in «le Parisien» that Prozac had saved his life?

But it is a law that could be extended to other forms of packaging. Like video games for example. Imagine, the code could go from “extremely violent” to “entertaining” via “brutal” or “stressful”. As for GTA V, the most recent version, the classification needs to be taken up a notch. How about “dangerous” or “traumatic” given that it is a block of ultra-violence resulting in a traumas that need then to be treated, in certain users – it is normally recommended for over 18s only -, with psychological supervision and pills. This time marked «Service Mental Rendu».
SMR…

Maurice Achard

 

Numéro 25 Du 18/09 au 01/10/13

DUBIOUS LIAISONS

There would appear to be a touch of the “cold war” in the air.
There would appear to be a touch of a “return to the mines” underground.
In the newsstands, there are re-launches of old titles such as “Lui” and “Jours de France”.
Presented thus, one gets the distinct impression that we’ve taken a big step backwards. But of course, this is an illusion.

A Cold war? Nothing like the post-war ideological stand-off between the USSR and the United States. In fact, Obama and Putin just sulked at one another at the G20 summit, each wrapped up in their own commitments and interests.
Back to the mines? Nothing like the time when coal was extracted in the dire conditions we all know. Simply, the state is progressively launching the mining of metals that are increasingly in demand (gold, copper, zinc etc.) from the earth’s crust using today’s sophisticated methods.
The monthly erotic magazine 
Lui is back. But it is nothing like the one we used to hide between the pages of the “Figaro” or the “Equipe”. Today, there are no “risqué” photos to cover up and its extremely stylised silhouettes are even to be lauded in these times of generalised vulgarity.

“Jours de France” is back. But it is nothing like the magazine of our blue-rinse great-grannies and crazy aunts. Today, housewives “over fifty” still believe in true love.

So really, the over-use of nodding references to the past to evoke the present doesn’t throw any light on the dead ends, hopes and rebounds we face now. On the contrary, it can be misleading and merely maintain confusion to the point where it satisfies and reinforces those who want to keep thinking that things were better “in the good old days”.

Maurice Achard

 

Numéro 24 04/09 au 17/09/13

CATASTROPHE SERIES

So this summer was one disaster after another. Train crashes, drownings, mountain accidents.
With each event, the idea of disasters happening together is mentioned. But what could be the reason? Bad luck?

Why on earth? Because of an old tradition that says that bad things happened in threes, that disasters cluster, as if the sky was unleashing its anger, hitting out more than once, without premeditation or impunity… Well.
Let’s take things a little further to the unconscious side of things. Yes the unconscious side: what if the first event influenced the second, even when the circumstances are totally unrelated? The Brétigny train-driver cannot be blamed for what happened while the Spanish driver was entirely responsible. 

But then, what was he playing at when he drove at extreme speed coming up to a dangerous bend just before Santiago de Compostela station, while on the phone? Was he not just unconsciously unnerved by the events of three days previously and found himself attracted or sucked in by the same crash? Only to declare minutes later: « I just hope no one died».
To a certain extent, the same goes for the swimmer or the mountain climber. The same confusion sets in suddenly, an unspeakable doubt pops into their minds after hearing the worst as they are setting off. They are ambushed by the same disarray, thinking “it only happens to others”. Those other people who are always at fault.
Those other people who are not only hell, but from whom hell comes.

Maurice Achard

 

Numéro 23 04/09 au 17/09/13

E=MC GOD

Issue 3 from 14/11 to 27/11/13

«La pensée de Dieu» (God’s thoughts), the new best-seller by the Bogdanov brothers, that are to receive an award in Belgrade on November 16th, is named for an answer Einstein gave one of his students after a class:
- What are you looking for? 
- God’s thoughts, the master answered.
Meaning: a sort of divine arithmetic equation explaining the creation of the world.

In fact, it’s not just a question of believers and non-believers; there are also those who think God’s existence can be proven scientifically. This is the thesis, in any case, of another recent publication by the Portuguese writer José Rodrigues dos Santos, entitled «God’s formula».
The coincidence of these two publications with similar reflections would end there but for the announcement of the amazing discovery of a new particle, as infinitely tiny as infinitely hoped for by the scientists. It is a kind of missing link in the theory of the elementary particles that are supposed to have led to the Big Bang. And what did the scientists name this particle? «God’s particle»! Good God!

It’s as if the scientists, locked in their extremely rational experiments, still can’t shake off the idea of God. Thought, formula, particle… Anyone would think that they were trying to flatter God into fessing up…

Maurice Achard

 

Numéro 22 Du 07/08 au 20/08/13

DEAR MICK JAGGER…

  • 22- Bilard

For days now we have all been saying: “The lead singer of the Rolling Stones is 70!” What a feat, as if you had managed to make time stand still. 
Well, we have Johnny – he turned 70 a few weeks before you and he doesn’t know how to stand still… 

Maurice

Numéro 21 Du 24/07 au 5/08/13

SOUTH AFRICAN LEGENDS

While Nelson Mandela hovers between earth and heaven and the country that owes him so much waits with bated breath, a South African wears the yellow jersey in the Tour de France for the first time ever. A black man leading the Grande Boucle. A black man at the head of the world’s most famous cycling race. 

Until the very last, the champion Mandela will have helped his compatriots demand respect worldwide. The cyclist in question is Daryl Impey, he chose his moment well. Not just the hundredth Tour de France, but also the year when South Africa is being celebrated in France.

The Maison rouge, near Bastille in Paris, renders an appropriate and colourful homage to the city of Johannesburg. An exhibition of almost fifty artists with themes often linked to the people’s history.
This is another way of making a mark in this before and after period, hanging on a last breath. In fact, the after-Mandela period has already begun with a yellow jersey and creations full of life. Good vibrations.

Maurice Achard

 

Numéro 20 10/07 au 23/07/13

HANDS OFF!

They are untouchable.
Whether they are the guilty one or the victim. The violent or the “provocateur”.
Whatever they do, they are in the right and can never be called into question or have the finger pointed at them.

One is called Bertrand Cantat, the other was called Clément Méric.
They are entirely unrelated. One killed Marie Trintignant. The other was killed in a fight for which he appears to have been partly responsible.

The minute the Trintignant tragedy went public, it became clear that that in certain circles it was inappropriate not to immediately defend the lead singer from Noir Désir. A sort of protective cordon was created, notably in the pages of the «Inrockuptibles». To the extent that some articles even cleared the singing star with subversive lyrics. Ten years later, a book has just been published claiming that Cantat, once he was released from prison, pushed his wife to suicide.

On the subject of Clément Méric, the protective cordon comes from «Libération»: it is forbidden to ask «who started the fight», the far-right militant or Méric, the far-left militant, despite a posthumous video that doesn’t work in his favour.

Because, only the ideas count? The fight for ideas, regardless of the actual fight.
It’s a well-known fact, looking at things straight seems 
«reactionary».

Maurice Achard

 

Numéro 19 du 26/06 au 9/07/13

REST!

Do your back-to-school shopping now! By asking teachers not to make next year’s bags too heavy, meaning to limit the demands in terms of books, if only for reasons of cost and weight, the Minister for education has gone straight from June to September. Did we just skip the summer ?

This is an annoying habit that involves bringing up back-to school/work before the holidays have even started. Before we even get a chance to breathe.
Just like the letting us know what to expect in terms of TV, presenter changes, films with the new releases due out, music with new albums. At the end of the month, the trade magazine «Livres hebdo» will publish its annual list of French and foreign novels coming out in September.

September ! More than ever this year, we are in no hurry to see it come. The apparent insistence on telling us about it constantly is all the more disheartening due to the general climate. And not just the meteorological climate with the endless winter that seeped into spring, but also the psychological one, with the never-ending economic crisis that is blocking out the sun in our heads.

So, let’s make room for what we want to do, for those who are singing another tune, all together now: «School’s out for the summer !»

M.A.

 

Numéro 18 Du 12 au 25 juin 2013

DSK THE END

Every time, we say we’re not going back to it. But the New York DSK affair has gone into extra time and we can’t ignore it any longer.

After Marcela Iacub’s book, another name we thought we had finished with, now we have a song and an upcoming film. The song is on Anne Sylvestre’s latest album. She doesn’t name Strauss-Kahn directly but admits when questioned that he was clearly an inspiration. With his «paunch» etc. While pointing out that through him she is writing against violence perpetrated on women in general.
The film is in production and is directed by Abel Ferrara, not one to shy away from controversy. With Gérard Depardieu as DSK. We’ll probably see some «method» acting…

So, what’s next?

A play? A seven-minute « huis clos », with only one show nightly? The revolutionary length would have all of Paris queuing up. 
An exhibition? From a more abstract rather than figurative painter, to keep things under control.

Because what is really happening is a sordid event being salvaged for artistic gain. Which, in addition, can make it captivating, attractive, and seductive. 
Like Bonnie and Clyde, the Bonnot gang, Mesrine… Except Strauss-Kahn didn’t kill anyone.

Really?

Maurice Achard

 

Numéro 17 29/05 au 12/06

SON OF A...

In French they are called « gros mots » or big words, as if there were little ones… A linguist, Gilles Guilleron, has listed 300 in a little dictionary that has just been published. Three hundred curse words, insults etc. It begins with abruti (fool), and ends with zonard (thug). Expletives that often provide a release, freeing up tension so as to avoid a punch up… And they don’t necessarily mean to harm the person they are used on. The word con, for example, can be used affectionately. However, there are others that can do irreparable damage. Let’s bypass them.

Then there are words that are not just big, but enormous, with too many interpretations, uses, insinuations possible for one word.
For example, the word race (the same in English), that some would have erased from the Constitution, an others wouldn’t. The debate is heating up. It is bubbling under at the Assemblée Nationale. The issue is to decide whether the term is applicable to the human species or just to animals. In the Robert dictionaries it is used in both cases. And it is used in the European Convention on Human Rights and in the United Nations Charter. Which proves nothing, but will doubtless help to clear things up a little.

Race, is like con, it is not necessarily negative. Racist is however, truly a gros mot. Truly a gros con.

Maurice Achard

 

Numéro 16 15/05 au 28/05 /13

ANIMAL DECIBELS

Pig is not a nice word. The very fact of saying it has dirty connotations. Literally and figuratively. 

In her recent book entitled «Belle et bête», Marcella Iacub did her best to highlight the term by using it to name her main character, DSK. A Romanesque role, unlike anything it had been given before.  

But the poor word has a new charge to answer.

A 59 year old man, who spent twenty years working eight-hour days on pig farms in the Jura and the Doubs, claims he has gone deaf due to the squealing of between 1500 and 2000 pigs. The social security court is dealing with the case on May 15th.

In other words, like the Parisien’s headline said, «le cochon rend sourd» (pigs make you deaf)… An allusion that might not surprise Marcella Iacub, as her famous partner apparently nearly took her ear off! 

In fact, pigs are not that stupid: they may have mud slung at them, but they know how to get their rocks off!

Maurice Achard

 

Numéro 15 01/05 au 14/05

HISTORY COUNTER

The year 2013 is filled with anniversaries that are remarkable thanks to the huge space between the numbers being celebrated – from 40 to 400! - and the diversity of the areas involved…
Every dog must have his day. Let's begin with the hundredth anniversary of the birth of Albert Camus. Time to reread «L’Etranger» or to discover « Le Premier homme ».
Then let's mention a few in decreasing order:
-400th anniversary of the birth of André Le Nôtre, Versailles' gifted gardener. To be seen as an invitation to visit or to go back.
-300th anniversary of the "Petits rats de l’Opéra de Paris". Called the "little rats" as the gifted children used to run all around the dark corridors of the old institution.
-150th anniversary of the establishment of the "kiosques de Paris". The famous newspaper kiosks that, like buses with platforms, were proof that one truly was in Paris.
-100th Tour de France. Or the "Grande Boucle" with different heroes according to generations from  Anquetil to Laurent Fignon…
- 80 years of Jean-Paul Belmondo who just hit eighty with a smile. The guy we thought was "à
bout de souffle" (at the end of the line) is still "magnifique".
-70 years of Johnny Hallyday. Still the "youth idol", however ridiculous it may seem for the person who actually brought rock and roll to France.
-40 years of "Libération", the paper that brought a youthful breath of fresh air to the French daily press, even though it has never managed to reach 200 000 in sales.
This varied list of the highlights of our ancient and contemporary history clearly tells us that an anniversary is not just a routine homage but can be seen as a stage, a pause, a time for calling into question (or for discovery), a chance to take a step back, for some new thinking to remember... It is like a booster jab, so we don't forget anything on the way when we don't know where we are or where we're going.

Maurice Achard

 

Numéro 14 17/04 au 30/05

FRONT PAGE

If it were a press review it would be the shortest, the fastest, the most succinct, the most telling of them all. In two papers on the same two days.

First paper. On April 2nd. The Parisien (banner headline, front page) says: «Faites-nous rêver !» (Make us dream) It reads well, like a breath of fresh air. The headline was about the famous PSG-Barcelona match but the daily added that it was «much more than just a match».
The following day, in the same space, «Le Parisien» blew the whistle on the end of our illusions: «Le scandale qui éclabousse Hollande» (The scandal that taints Hollande), following on from Jérôme Cahuzac’s confession, killing the general buzz.
Second paper. Still April 2nd. Libération headlined: «La poésie n'est plus digne de ce monde» (This world is unworthy of poetry), quoting the Michel Houellebecq interview inside. The following day in the same space, in huge letters, Libé confirmed: «Indigne» (Unworthy), after the same confession.

Two papers with very different editorial lines thus, in two days, took away what was left of our dreams and worth. Through the simple use of certain words and chance. Unintended puns, for once (the press loves to use them).
And this chance is easy to blame: Houellebecq’s declaration and the Parisien’s request are telling of much more than a simple coincidence. If Houellebecq, the visionary poet and the Parisien, the working class daily start to pair up, to play on the same team… Then perhaps on April 2nd, the most urgent message was not to lose hope.
Time to hang on.

Maurice Achard


Numéro 13 03/04 au 16/04/13

RAYONS X (2)

The publishing world is no longer afraid of getting wet. Its erections, of a different nature, show a certain vitality.

We’ve had the famous «Shades of Grey», an erotic book for young women in search of secret sensations. Then there is Marcella Iacub’s sultry book on DSK, where the «cochonneries» (dirty stuff) appears as a literary metaphor. 

And now, to general excitement we have the launch of «La masturbation rend sourd» (Masturbation makes you go deaf); by a gynaecologist and sex specialist that lists all of the myths and falsehoods about sex. We find out what is true and what is false. True: «Making love is good for the heart». Phew!
There is also a passage where the writer explains that if a man has trouble getting going, the couple should hold one another, talk about life, their plans, in short, change the subject to relax.

So let’s relax! Because with all these books that keep us talking about «it», it would be a pity if this sexual liberation, a victory over taboos, ends as a damp squib.

M.A.

 

Numéro 12 20/03 au 01/04/13

FRANÇOIS AND FRANÇOIS

We appear to be surrounded by men named François. One is on a temporary contract, our Président de la République; the other on a permanent contract, the new pope. One, the French Head of State started almost a year ago; the other, of Argentinean origin hasn’t wasted any time making his mark.
They are both playing the same register: «normality» for François Hollande and «simplicity» for just plain François…

The Président de la République began his term by taking the train or car just like everyone else, sleeping at home rather than at the Élysée palace and doing his shopping in his neighbourhood.
The pope went to pay the bill for the pensione for priests where he stayed before his election and took the bus with the other cardinals instead of the official car that was waiting for him. Clever and symbolic displays.
Faced with the hyper-personalisation of the greats of this world by television that, in a short time, imposes their image on the entire planet, we can understand that proximity becomes an issue in their communication. As if to take them off their pedestal.

Président Hollande wants to stay close to the people.
Pope Francis wants to stay close to the poor.
They can’t be blamed for this…
But the other day in Dijon where the Head of State went on a visit we did see that this doesn’t last long: barriers, security tape, police presence… The illustrious visitor has become untouchable again.
The inaccessible «François de France» while we wait for the inaccessible «François de Rome»?

Maurice Achard

 
 
Numéro 11 06/03 au 19/03/13

BIO
PICK

As a cinematic genre, the biopic is doing quite well at the moment. The current crop is both rich and instructive.

It  covers famous people from diverse eras and worlds. From Marie-Antoinette to Claude François («Cloclo» nominated for a César) not to mention Edith Piaf. Shooting on «Grace de Monaco» (by the director of «La Môme») has just ended, with films on Yves Saint-Laurent (two competing versions on the way!), Steve Jobs and Steve McQueen in the works…

But the biopic is an ambitious species that, in recent weeks, has shown its will to broaden its visual field of investigation. Two films, «Lincoln» and «Hitchcock» do much more than merely tell the story of two great men. The former teaches us about the end of the American Civil War and the abolition of slavery. The latter about the shooting of Psycho, one of the film-maker’s masterpieces and notably on the complex process of making the famous shower scene work. 

«Lincoln» (Oscar winning) by Steven Spielberg is a lesson in history.
«Hitchcock» by Sacha Gervasi is a lesson in film.

And what if the biopic was the new school? 
- What biopic do we have this afternoon?
- History.

Maurice Achard

 
Numéro 10 20/02 au 5/03/13

THUS
THEY ARE

One had to accept the resignation of its head, which hadn’t happened for 600 years. The other lost its famous logo which had never happened before. Almost the same day! Some days, pages get turned so fast it feels like a very strong wind is blowing…

And it is blowing!

It all seems as if the two churches – the Catholic one and the French communist party – only just realised, or just barely understood that they couldn’t keep going on as if everything was alright. Refusing to acknowledge subjects such as contraception, protection against AIDS, priests marrying, things like that. Hanging on to one’s hammer and sickle while the rest of the world is running on a different gear since it invented new tools, new codes.
Since the world no longer speaks Latin or Stalin (even though, Pierre Laurent, the only candidate to his own succession was re-elected with a 90%, Soviet style…).

So, we will just say that what will remain of Benedict XVI will be his resignation and the rubbing out by Pierre Laurent of his party’s «brand» is his first «globally positive» gesture. Let’s hope for some more wind…

Maurice Achard

 

Numéro 9 06/02 au 19/02/13

HUMOUR CODE

Finally, we have proof that it is not true that happy people have no story to tell.

We’ve only just learned of the existence of a 127 year-old Chinese woman! She was born in 1885 in the Barna valley in Southern China, an area that boasts hundreds of centenarians…
When she is asked for the secret to her longevity, she answers without hesitation: «Good humour». Years of being happy and smiling despite burying her five children and the ill-health of her great-great-great grandson…

Good humour ? Our prose poet Christian Bobin who has just published «L’homme-joie» referes to it also as «l'humeur bonne» (the humour good) and lists it as an essential ingredient in the antidote to everything that poisons our daily lives. In his stride, he gives some very simple examples of those moments where it takes so little – a face, an overheard word, a sentence in a book, «a daisy in a field» - for us to breathe easier.

Soppy ? The naysayers can always say that «le bonheur écrit blanc» (happiness writes in white) on paper, white on white that makes it unreadable, thus hard to capture.
What about on a black background ? Like the snow on the sidewalk that brings happiness back and puts smiles on our workaday faces, if only for a few furtive minutes ?
Furtive minutes that add up, by the way, to 127 years. 

Maurice Achard

  

Numéro 8 Du 23/01 au 05/02/13

PUBLIC RELATIONS

«Journalism leads to everything, as long as you get out of it» is something we’ve heard for years. Claude Sérillon, a television personality has just been named advisor to the President and Sylvie Pierre-Brossolette, editor of the «Point», has joined the CSA (Conseil Supérieur de l'Audiovisuel). Obviously, Sérillon has always been overtly left-wing, but with his appointment, we now have an ex-primetime news anchor in the Élysée. The symbol is huge. As for Sylvie Pierre-Brossolette, further to the right, the elegance of her discerning mind has always shone brightly. She is a remarkable debater and she will be missed from the ranks of the profession.

These two transfers maintain the level of role confusion and cross-pollination. Journalists and politicians have always been close. The issue here is, in the context of what we refer to as «communication», the term that covers a multitude of cases, the boundaries are blurred. The comings and goings between the media and official institutions encourage ambiguity.

Comings and goings? «Journalism leads to everything…» And now it will take anything as long as you can get in… Roselyne Bachelot, ex-minister, has just converted to television presenting on D8, beside Laurence Ferrari and Audrey Pulvar. A move in the opposite direction which would lead us to believe that the shift from one job to another only takes one little step when in fact the state of mind needed is the complete opposite. Being a journalist means being a professional sceptic. Being a politician is being a professional militant. 

By the way, aren’t François Hollande and Valérie Trierweiler the worrying incarnation of this cohabitation?

Maurice Achard
 
 
Numéro 7 09 au 22/01/13

GOLDIES BUT OLDIES

«Elle court, elle court, la maladie d'amour…» (Lovesickness is going round… ) while it wears out, according to Michel Sardou that just re-recorded it for his new greatest hits album. Indeed, it does seem all the better for the refined listening comfort, in the musical range that envelops the voice, in the general amplitude. But where’s the point?

Among the ex-young singers, quite a few are bringing out re-recorded versions of their big hits from times gone by. A way of forgetting their 50 year careers and and finding long-lost emotions in the warmth of the studio? A real sickness. Serge Lama has just fallen «malade, complètement malade» (sick, totally sick) on his new album, «La balade du poète» pushing the perfectionism to the point where he actually changes a verse of «D'aventure en aventure» ! «Elles m’ont même trouvé beau» (They thought I was handsome) replaced by «Je leur ai même fait l’amour» (I even made love to them): a poetic ellipse sacrificed for a banal specification. Absolute madness. One should never touch the words of songs that represent moments that, without them, would disappear forever. 

On a recent album with other sonic remakes Hugues Aufray sailed away again on the «Santiano» but the wind has died down and he is singing it from the pier.
Not to mention Enrico Macias who chose, like others before him - Delpech, Lenorman -, to go down the route of the celebrity duet with the stars of today. As if this could hide their attempts at a comeback. The result is a cutesy version of «Gens du Nord» with Carla Bruni…

These new versions show their age, much more than the originals whose lively heart is still beating. 

So to all the granddads who don’t want to stop, and why should they, repeating yourselves is not the answer!

Change the record…

Maurice Achard


Numéro 6 26/12/12 au 08/01/13

LETTER FROM SANTA

26/12/12

Hello everyone!
Well, that’s it for another year. I must admit, this year’s tour was a strange one. First of all, I found out that I couldn’t get in to a school in Montargis as the principal wishes to «respect the beliefs and values of the secular school». Thankfully, the mayor reminded her that I have no religious connotation. But this was a first… my white beard went whiter… 
And then, there was the story of the 8500 chocolate mousses from the school canteens in Le Havre that were thrown in to the bin. The reason given was that they contained pork gelatine and as such could not be considered suitable for all religions. So be it. But the other option was to keep them chilled so that I could redistribute them to other kids who would have been overjoyed to eat them. Throwing chocolate out in December! Am I running the risk of having my sleigh checked for papilottes !

Well, I just kept doing what I was doing. Even when I heard that more and more French people were selling off their presents to be able to pay for Christmas. Do I need to become Santa Claus for grown-ups too ? To bring a little red and white when they are feeling blue…
All the more so when in a collège in Charente, third year students were asked to write a composition entitled : «Put yourself in the shoes of a young eighteen-year old man who decides to commit suicide». An alternative Christmas tale ? I would have had him hanging himself from a Christmas tree…

Seriously, I have never had such a depressing 24th of December. But I held on and did the job, to make sure some still believe.

Happy New Year!

Santa (pcc. Maurice Achard)

 

Numéro 5 12/12 au 25/12/12

WHO'S WHO

Bertin Nahum has just been named the «4th most revolutionary high-tech entrepreneur in the world» by a Canadian magazine. Just behind Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and James Cameron.
Who? A 42 year old French man who runs a little company near Montpellier that employs about twenty people. He invented a surgical robot that can operate on brain tumours. However, his name hasn’t made headlines. He is known in professional circles, even abroad.

Not surprising. This is the thankless, even unfair fate that scientists and inventors to whom we owe so much usually suffer: public indifference.
Take Tim Berners-Lee for example who, we found out in a book published last year, invented the Web (without which there would be no Internet today). Who knew? This British scientist born in 1955 put the first website online on August 6th 1991. The term «World Wide Web» (www) is his. At the time websites were not registered under .com but under .ch!
The same goes for Steve Sasson, the inventor of the first digital photo. Total unknown. This is what we also could call Nobel prize for Economics, Physics or Chemistry syndrome: unrecognised, finally recognised, and promptly forgotten. 
Steve Jobs, Marc Zuckerberg and James Cameron, all geniuses turned superstars, are the exceptions that prove the rule. 

Tim Berners-Lee, even though he was voted «greatest living Briton» in 2004 and was congratulated by Barack Obama, shouldn’t hold his breath waiting to be mistaken for the new Gutenberg.
Gutenberg?  Forever illustrious, he managed to get his name out there…

Maurice Achard
 
Numéro 4 28/11 au 11/12/12

AMERICANO, AMERICANO

Everyone has their own Americans. 

For Philippe Labro there are fifty. For Philippe Séclier there’s only one.

Labro’s «Mon Amérique» by the journalist-filmmaker-writer, is a long gallery of portraits in which we come across the inevitable icons. From Fred Astaire to Orson Welles via Humphrey Bogart, Marilyn Monroe, Ernest Hemingway, John Kennedy, Edward Hopper, Elvis Presley, Ralph Lauren… A magnificent album. A sort of visitor’s book with all of the author’s favourite visitors from across the pond.
Séclier’s «Un voyage américain» by the journalist-photographer, is a 20 000 km-long journey on the trail of one 88-year-old man, Robert Frank. Or more to the point his mythical book of photos «Americans» published in 1958. Anonymous Americans this time, at the time of racial segregation. The DVD comes with a booklet on the backdrop to the low-budget, high-talent documentary. And there is a map of the U.S….
Because the road is the real hero in Séclier’s epic. Following in the steps, or the wheels of the beat generation. The road you take to find yourself. Or to run away. Like all those road movies depicting the wanderings of the American dream.
Of course Jack Kerouac springs to mind. Strangely, he isn’t on Labro ‘s list.

Everyone has their own America.

Maurice Achard

Numéro 3 14/11 au 27/11/12

E=MC GOD

«La pensée de Dieu» (God’s thoughts), the new best-seller by the Bogdanov brothers, that are to receive an award in Belgrade on November 16th, is named for an answer Einstein gave one of his students after a class:
- What are you looking for? 
- God’s thoughts, the master answered.
Meaning: a sort of divine arithmetic equation explaining the creation of the world.

In fact, it’s not just a question of believers and non-believers; there are also those who think God’s existence can be proven scientifically. This is the thesis, in any case, of another recent publication by the Portuguese writer José Rodrigues dos Santos, entitled «God’s formula».
The coincidence of these two publications with similar reflections would end there but for the announcement of the amazing discovery of a new particle, as infinitely tiny as infinitely hoped for by the scientists. It is a kind of missing link in the theory of the elementary particles that are supposed to have led to the Big Bang. And what did the scientists name this particle? «God’s particle»! Good God!

It’s as if the scientists, locked in their extremely rational experiments, still can’t shake off the idea of God. Thought, formula, particle… Anyone would think that they were trying to flatter God into fessing up…

Maurice Achard

Numéro 2 31/10 au 13/11

WHAT'S IN
A NAME!

There are two ways to be an Armstrong on earth. The heroic but discreet way and the spectacular, show-off way.Neil Armstrong died on August 25th last and will forever remain the first man to have walked on the moon. Lance Armstrong was stripped of his 7 Tour de France titles on October 22nd last for organised cheating and banned for life from the cycling world he has so tainted. The moon was spotless when Neil it.
Two ways of living life, the opposite extremes of human nature.

Neil Armstrong detested celebrity, fled from photographers, rarely gave interviews and even more rarely autographs after learning that his barber used to sell on the autographs he signed! On the other hand, Lance Armstrong liked to display himself as above others, wanting to be seen as a champion, idol and businessman…
Neil Armstrong became an icon despite himself, a bit like in «Super Star», a film that came out just after he died where the main character flees the celebrity he acquires from one day to the next (for no reason). In these times of celebrity and social networking, where notoriety has become an end in itself, the theme seems to be going against the flow. 
Lance Armstrong thought to avoid his own end for eternity. It caught up with him eventually and has left him a zombie.

Neil, our modest lunar pioneer, left us serenely and perhaps on the other side has met up with a third Armstrong, Louis, who might sing «What a wonderful Moon»… Leaving Lance’s world far behind.

Maurice Achard


Numéro 1 17/10 au 30/10

X-RAY

So, sex has become the norm in literature.

Pure literature, that of high-brow authors has lost its virginity over the years. We no longer have to put up with the tortuous prudery of an Albert Cohen or the meaningful silences of a Françoise Sagan. We can now call a pussy a pussy and all modesty has been dispensed with! This literary season, in books by Olivier Adam, Florian Zeller or Philippe Djian, it is obvious that the use of direct vocabulary comes naturally to today’s writers when talking about bodies, sex, fantasies, even violence. Even if the reader who might still be fond of the tone of such writers can still surprisingly be surprised… 
Indeed, erotic literature has always been with us. But it was always considered a «specialist category», the path taken by de Sade’s offspring, the great stylists such as Bernard Noël or Pierre Bourgeade, to name but two. Today, their universe appears to have been «confiscated» as such. We shouldn’t forget that they were the ones who won the censorship battle. And that was no mean achievement.

So the liberated machine is up and running and quality doesn’t seem to be an issue. This season sees the launch on October 17th of the French translation of the first part of the «mummy porn» trilogy. Worldwide sales of 40 million so far mainly to women aged between 30 and 50 prove the popularity of this story of an S&M-loving billionaire and his young virgin mistress in this particular tick box. The hero is called Grey, hence the title Fifty Shades of Grey
Rather delicate, given the title of the Zeller is La jouissance (The Orgasm)… One wonders which boob, sorry book to turn to.

Maurice Achard