Thursday, January 31, 2008

As the duke said to the actress

Cate Blanchett is accustomed to playing the part of a monarch. She was the elf queen Galadriel in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Recently, she portrayed the great Tudor queen Elizabeth, for which she has received an Oscar nomination. Apparently, though, Cate's talents at being a queen have made no lasting impression upon a man who's quite at home in this domain. Upon being introduced recently to Prince Philip, Cate told him that she worked in movies. Philip must have thought that this pregnant woman was some kind of a technician, for he immediately started to tell her about his DVD player: "There's a cord sticking out of the back of the machine. Might you tell me where it goes?"

Cate was obliged to point out that her specialty in movies was acting, not handling machines. [I can't help imagining that Cate, if she were less of a lady, might have told the duke exactly and curtly where he could put it: this dangling cord.]

I recall a similar misunderstanding on the part of an old lady in the flat next to mine in Paris, back at the time I was making science shows for French TV. "Monsieur William, you work in TV. Would you mind having a look at my set. The image is all blurry."

Facts versus fantasy

Before rushing to sit down for a meal such as last Saturday's annual lunch for the senior citizens of Choranche and Châtelus, I like to spend a little time observing who is seated where, to make sure that I'll be surrounded optimally by charming fellow citizens. The kind of lunch-table neighbors I attempt to avoid are those who have the habit of talking enthusiastically as soon as their mouth is full of food such as sauce or vegetables. My appetite disappears instantly as soon as I find that my face or plate is getting spat at. There can also be problems concerning neighbors who have either too much to say about uninteresting topics, or nothing to say about anything at all. Consequently, the choice of a table and chair is the outcome of a series of rapid observations and decisions. Above all, I avoid sitting down alongside or opposite chairs that are not yet occupied, because you never know who might slide into such an empty slot. In general, for a single person such as me, sitting down in the midst of married couples is a fairly sound strategy, because you can usually count on them—if the worst comes to the worst, as it often does on such occasions—to talk among themselves. But this kind of situation is risky, because you can never be certain beforehand that individual members of the various couples will soon get around to talking to one another, which means that you can be caught up in the crossfire.

Skillful hosts and hostesses at bourgeois dinner evenings place potentially sympathetic individuals alongside one another, in the hope that congenial communications might ensue. The French publicity chief Jacques Séguéla revealed his mastery of this art when he recently invited along to his Parisian apartment two single individuals named Nicolas Sarkozy and Carla Bruni for a dinner among smart friends. As far as we can ascertain, the conversation was lively, and no one complained afterwards about getting spat upon.

Getting back to last Saturday's lunch at Le Jorjane in Choranche, I made a beeline for an empty chair between two couples, diagonally opposite the mayor of Châtelus. This jovial fellow amuses me. Besides, I had heard a rumor that he would not be contesting the forthcoming municipal elections, and I thought he might be prepared to come out with some frank talk about his years of experience of local politics. Things got off to a good start when I asked him if he was affiliated to a political organization, whereupon he made it clear that he was a fervent socialist. He immediately asked me where I stood at a political level, and he appeared to react positively when I told him that I too was a partisan of the French Left. But then, all of a sudden, my hopes for an interesting discussion were demolished by his next out-of-the-blue statement (which I shall translate into English): "William, you're Australian. Well, you could never guess what I'm reading at present. One of the most fabulous novels I've ever unearthed: The Thorn Birds. Last night, I reached the turning-point in the story where Ralph de Bricassart finally gets into bed with Meggie Cleary!"

This intriguing saga crammed with outback passion has attained fame in France through the movie version. Exceptionally, the French title is more catching than the original. A thorn bird is described by the author, Colleen McCullough, as a magnificently-plumed creature that impales itself on a spike and sings beautifully while it dies. In French, the expression "birds who hide to die" evokes a mysterious elephantine graveyard, and attracts readers to a great fable. The only minor fault of this exceptional literary work is that many readers (such as the mayor of Châtelus, for example) are likely to believe that tales like that really unfold in a commonplace fashion in Australia. In other words, readers end up imagining that a handsome Catholic priest in a desolate outback setting could indeed inherit a vast fortune from an infatuated female parishioner, and then use this newfound wealth within the context of his employer, the Church, to purchase eventually a title of cardinal... while seducing, along the way, a young lady of the "ranch" (American term used by McCullough to designate what we Australians call a sheep or cattle station). Funnily enough, this popular TV series (aired regularly in France) that is supposed to present viewers with an awesome vision of outback Australia was actually shot in California!

Personally, I've always been bored by most literary constructions set in my ancestral land. I far prefer authentic Australian biography, history and (in my privileged case) genealogy. My attitude is summed up perfectly by these words from the great American writer Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain [1835-1910]:

Australian history is almost always picturesque; indeed, it is so curious and strange that it is itself the chiefest novelty the counry has to offer, and so it pushes the other novelties into second and third place. It does not read like history, but like the most beautiful lies; and all of a fresh new sort, no mouldy old stale ones. It is full of surprises and adventures, and incongruities, and contradictions, and incredibilities; but they are all true, they all happened.

If Twain's judgment is correct (as I believe), then, instead of The Thorn Birds or Riders in the Chariot (Patrick White), we would be better off reading ordinary factual stuff such as Kings in Grass Castles (Mary Durack), Squatter's Castle (George Farwell), Islands of Angry Ghosts (Hugh Edwards) or simply The Fatal Shore (Robert Hughes) and The Great Shame (Thomas Keneally), not to mention The Bloodiest Bushrangers (John O'Sullivan). The only problem is that none of the books I've just mentioned could be adapted easily, preferably by Americans, into a movie that would be immensely popular, say, in France.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Amazing song-writing experiment

The blog of Scott Adams (creator of Dilbert) is a constant source of surprises.

Recently, Adams evoked the nonsensical nature of the lyrics of many popular songs, including those of the Beatles. He went on to suggest a collective experiment in song-writing. To start the ball rolling, Scott proposed two delightful lines of nonsense:

She had runaway eyes and marshmallow kittens.
My heart heard a dream like ten thousand mittens.

Then he asked his blog readers to submit similar couplets of amusing gibberish, to complete the lyrics for a song. Scott weeded through all the stuff that reached the blog in the form of comments, and ended up with plausible lyrics [display]. A few days later, a German group named Rivo Drei composed music for these lyrics, and recorded the song. As of today, there's even a music video:



Personally, I'm highly impressed by the style and outcome of this amazing song-writing experiment... even though it's imperfect. I'm convinced that it proves something, but I'm not quite sure what.

Truffle story (continued)

Sunday's yield of truffles from my lawn amounted to 67 grams, but even this small quantity would cost a hundred euros or so if I purchased them at a truffles market. I stacked most of them in rice (to eliminate moisture) and put them in the freezer.

Yesterday, I cooked myself an excellent truffle omelette, and today I used a couple of small truffles in a pâté made from grilled fowl livers and onions fried in goose fat (Jewish recipe).

There are no spices or condiments whatsoever in this pâté, merely the truffles. I've just tasted it. Absolutely delicious! All in all, I eat very well here at Gamone... in spite of the fact that I don't have a loving little wife to prepare my meals.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Don't eat red tuna!

The WWF [World Wildlife Foundation] has demanded that the sale of red Mediterranean tuna be halted, so that fish colonies have time to get back to a satisfactory level. It was a reassuring surprise to learn that several European supermarkets have agreed to enforce this recommendation: Auchan (France), Carrefour (Italy), Coop (Italy and Switzerland) and ICA (Norway). European supermarkets are not however the major outlet for this product, which is a basic ingredient in Japanese sushi.

Google is good for you

I never set out intentionally to take control of the title of my blog: the term Antipodes. Consequently, I'm amused to discover that, when you use Google with the expression antipodes blog, six of the ten findings on the first page refer to my blog. The explanation, I think, is obvious: the Antipodes blog is in fact hosted by Google. So, by drawing attention to my blog, Google is kindly keeping things in the family, as it were. Thank you, Google! In politics, I believe that this phenomenon is called nepotism.

Incidentally, since I'm talking about the term Antipodes, I take this opportunity of pointing out explicitly that I do not limit the sense of this word to its conventional usage, as a synonym for Australia and New Zealand. To my mind, this term designates "the other side of the globe". The Greek etymology is "having the feet opposite". That's why I tend to use the adjective "antipodean" to designate generally any kind of upside-down situation. What this means is that, for every spot on the planet, there's a specific place on the other side of the world that could be referred to as its Antipodes. When I was a youth in Australia, I imagined (rightly or wrongly from a strict geographical viewpoint) that the Old World of Europe was my Antipodes. And now that I actually live in this particular Antipodes, the term has reverted in a sense to its familiar meaning: the Australian continent. For me, I like to consider that my birthplace (Australia) and my present homeplace (France) are linked by means of an antipodean relationship... which is often of an upside-down nature.

Death of a bloody Asian dictator

I was amazed and sickened to find a reputed journalist in The Australian coming out with a lengthy and laudatory obituary for Indonesia's Suharto. In praising the way in which Suharto slaughtered opponents after he came to power in 1965, Greg Sheridan writes: "It is difficult to imagine what Australia might have been like had Indonesia become a communist nation in the mid-1960s. Everything we know of Southeast Asian development and success would have been absent from history, and tyranny and social failure on a massive scale would have replaced it. Australia’s defence budget over three decades might have been three or four times as high as it was. We could have developed as a fearful, isolated and perhaps even militaristic society. This is all speculation, but a communist Indonesia would have fundamentally changed Australian history."

What a curious style of thinking aimed at justifying retrospectively the emergence of a bloody tyrant. Sheridan paints a depressing picture of Australia standing apathetically on the sidelines and applauding the efforts of a dictator doing his appalling dirty work in a neighboring nation. Is that really the spirit of foreign affairs in Australia?

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Truffles at Gamone

I hesitated for a moment before writing this article, because I don't wish to find myself obliged to use my vicious self-defense gadget to chase away intruders who might decide to start digging up my lawn. Maybe, one day, I'll write an article about this gadget, which happens to be perfectly lethal at point-blank range. There was even an article in the local press, following an accident, asking why such a weapon should be authorized. I was so disturbed by this article, and my personal testing of the weapon in question, that I went down to the local police station to make doubly sure that I was in fact legally entitled to possess such a gadget, and the gendarme said yes.

Let's get back to the story, which is quite amazing. A fellow dropped in at Gamone this afternoon and asked me if I would allow him and his two dogs to wander over my ten acres of sloping land in a search for truffles. Knowing that he's a descendant of an old Choranche farming family, I immediately said yes. A few hours later [during which time I completed my new electric fence for the donkeys], the fellow returned to my house, and we started talking about odds and ends. Suddenly, he asked me: Do you mind if I take my dogs under your big linden tree? I replied laughingly that the idea of searching for truffles under my bedroom window was a little like looking for fairies and elves under the flowers in the garden. Well, I was wrong.

The splendid little Pyrenees shepherd dogs [a mother and daughter] halted a minute later with their snouts fixed to the ground. The fellow used a screwdriver to unearth a first truffle just a couple of centimeters underground. Within a quarter of an hour, my lawn had produced the following yield:

After each discovery, the two delightful dogs would sit up proudly to await a reward from their master, who had a little bag of goodies in his pocket. My dear Sophia got the message immediately. Realizing that she was in on a good affair, Sophia raced around with the two shepherd dogs, searching for an ethereal but undefined treasure. Each time a truffle was unearthed, Sophia would line up alongside her two companions to receive a reward.

After this fascinating session of truffle discovery, I was disappointed to find that I had run out of eggs. So, I'll have to wait until tomorrow to stock up on eggs and cook my first truffle omelette.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Celebrations

On this 26th day of the month of January, my parents were married.

Armed with this date, smart readers will be able to calculate that the foetus whose presence would erupt upon the universe under the name of William Skyvington, on 24 September 1940, was already a few weeks old (bless the poor little bugger) when Dad and Mum walked up the aisle at Christ Church Cathedral.

On this twenty-sixth day of the month of January, in 1994, I signed the legal documents concerning my purchase of Gamone. So, I've been here for fourteen years.

This afternoon, we oldtimers of Choranche and Châtelus got together for our annual dinner. Among other things, I got back in contact with my English friend Patricia, CEO of Photonic Sciences, widow of our friend Adrian who piloted his jet aircraft into the English earth a few years ago [a long and touching story, which I must relate one day].

For me, personally, it was a momentous day of celebrations. Somebody said it's called Australia Day.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Aussie cowboys

In the space of a few days, Australian media have displayed images of two local cowboys. Heath Ledger, co-star of The Secret of Brokeback Mountain, was found dead in Manhattan last Tuesday. Today, in a more joyous context, country singer Lee Kernaghan was proclaimed Australian of the Year. And here's an old photo of an authentic Aussie cowboy:

This is my brother Don Skyvington (a year younger than me) at Wave Hill cattle station in the outback, in the company of Aboriginal stockmen. This photo was taken in the early '60s. Don has had major health problems for most of his adult life, possibly as a consequence of hepatitis that he picked up out in the bush. He now resides in Brisbane (Queensland) in a fine and friendly home with disabled Aboriginals, which I visited when I was out in Australia in 2006.

Prick in the works

In my article of 4 December 2007 entitled Subliminal phallic stuff [display], I described the curious TV publicity of a French bank named Société Générale. In their ads, an animated thing, the same size as a human being, is supposed to be a friendly thumb, constantly giving a helping hand to bank customers. To me, though, this alleged thumb has always looked more like a big prick. Well, it would appear that my hunch was right. Within the context of this major French bank, there was indeed a prick—a so-called rogue trader—who succeeded in stacking up losses for the bank of 4.9 billion euros ($US 7 billion).

Funnily enough, in the case of this astronomical spiral of losses, there is a winner: the little-known business college in Lyon that had trained the trader. On TV last night, one of their female professors, as proud as punch, explained that, to teach students how to manipulate effectively the banking system in the hope of helping their employer to earn colossal amounts of money, these same students are obliged to acquire knowledge that might enable them, theoretically, to operate as crooks. QED. It's rare, these days: teaching establishments that offer a sound education in this kind of domain. I'll bet that college will be inundated with enrollment requests next year. Serious youth who want to learn how to become pricks.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Fences

When I was a child in South Grafton, and my father was developing his initial beef-grazing activities at a nearby property named Deep Creek, I had the impression that he was obsessed by the challenge of building and repairing fences. I felt that, if my father were truly a cowboy, then he should be spending far more time on horseback. Instead of that, he was perpetually digging holes to plant eucalyptus posts, and tightening barbed wire. Today, my small property at Gamone has taught me a lot, retrospectively, concerning my father's preoccupations at Deep Creek. And I too, at my humble level, have often been concerned by the all-important question of fences.

Yesterday, I finally got around to using steel rods to support the electric fence, instead of wooden posts or plastic spikes. The advantages are their robustness and low cost, combined with the fact that they're easy to plant and move from one spot to another. By the end of the day, my two donkeys were fenced in behind a ribbon supported by steel rods. But I didn't have time to connect the electricity to the new fence.

In the middle of the night, I was woken up by Sophia's furious barking. Looking out the bathroom window, I distinguished the silhouette of a large animal in the dark, and I imagined that one of my donkeys had broken through the new fence. Later on today, I discovered that this was not the case.

Neither of my donkeys had broken out. On the contrary, a neighboring animal had broken in! This mare was tired of eating hay and being alone in a wooden cubicle up at Bob's place, so it broke loose and came down to visit my donkeys and dine on real grass. The animal belongs to a charming young lady named Angélique, who's a producer of goat cheese in Châtelus, on the other side of the Bourne. She's wondering why her elegant mare would wish to join up with a pair of lowly donkeys. As for me, I like to think that this fine animal came down to Gamone in the middle of the night because it wanted to be there, as soon as the sun came up, to admire my new electric fence.

The future first lady is a tramp

When the citizens of a great republic elect their president, the future first lady is part of the packaged deal, at no extra cost... particularly if the president himself has lots of wealthy friends with jet planes, luxury yachts and Mediterranean mansions. Normally, voters can't complain if they were to discover that the first lady likes to be photographed in all kinds of interesting situations.

In France today, there's a minor irregularity in the sense that voters had no idea that the president they were electing would be switching first ladies during his first six months in office. So, a disgruntled citizen might grumble bitterly: "We thought we would be getting lady X, and now you're forcing us to accept lady Y." But, as I said, only a miserly voter would lodge such a complaint, because the nation gets the first lady for free (in theory), as part of the global bargain.

There's another approach to this question. Few people would feel like leaving their children in the care of a couple who've never succeeded in keeping their own kids off the street. How should we feel about confiding an entire nation to a guy who apparently can't keep his female off the front covers? And a female who can't keep her clothes on?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Shockumentary film

In 1962 [the year I arrived in Paris], I was greatly impressed by a weird and notorious Italian movie, Mondo cane [dogs' world], which presented viewers with an anthology of all kinds of exotic and more-or-less shocking cases of human behavior throughout the world. Part of the charm of the movie came from its romantic theme music: the famous song entitled More [play].

It was in this film that I first heard of a fabulous belief system in the Pacific island of Vanuatu: the so-called cargo cult, whereby the natives had transformed their recollection and interpretation of recent military US military operations in the region into the foundations of a mythical religion. Their adoration of a mysterious American hero known as John Frum is amazing.

An article in Télérama reminds me that documentary films have been produced recently on this fabulous subject. The idea that the great US war machine could give rise to a religious cult, with all the appropriate symbols and iconic paraphernalia (including mock weapons and aircraft), appears to me as a modern page of Greek mythology.

Major environmental decisions in Brussels

A draconian plan for climate action was presented today in Brussels by the president of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso. Basically, the proposed challenge will consist of a 20% reduction in greenhouse gases by the year 2020. Theoretically, the annual cost of achieving this result should amount to half-a-percent of the GDP [gross domestic product], but it is likely that the true cost will be double that figure. José Manuel Barroso stated that the plans proposed by Brussels constitute "the most complete package of measures in the world". Europe—the so-called Old World—wants to be the world champion in saving the world.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Expensive, aesthetic and nasty

An inspired TV journalist once asked the Dalai Lama: "Can your beliefs in reincarnation and your unbounded respect for all forms of life be reconciled with the case, say, of a mosquito that's intent upon settling on your arm and sucking your blood?" The grinning Dalai Lama said he would try to shoo the creature away. The journalist insisted: "But what if the mosquito fails to go away, because it's determined to bite you?" The Dalai Lama broke into typical laughter and made it clear by a few unmistakable gestures that, in such circumstances, the creature stood a good chance of being squashed to death. I admired the Dalai Lama's suggestion that it's all very well to have lofty principles... but, if an alien creature is attacking you, then it's perfectly normal to exterminate the vicious little bugger. [On the other hand, maybe I totally misunderstood what the wise man was saying.]

I can't say I've ever felt the need to respect religiously all forms of life, because I grew up in an environment where it was quite normal to kill various animals: snakes, rabbits, hens, ducks, etc. It's true, though, that I was overcome by pangs of guilt for several days, at around the age of ten, after having shot an unsuspecting bird with a catapult. [Even today, I remain so marked by that anecdote that I recently wove it into my fictional biography of Master Bruno, the medieval hermit who founded the Carthusian order of Christian monks.] I'm not cynical to the point of saying that rules are made to be broken, but I believe that we have the right—and the obligation, at times—to stretch them to their breaking point... and what the hell if they snap! That's why I like the Dalai Lama's loose attitude towards offensive mosquitoes, as opposed, say, to the dogmatic outlook of many Christian prelates concerning aborted foetuses or human stem cells.

In a neighboring moral domain, I've never been an all-out pacifist, either. For example, I've always been horrified by the alleged "turning the other cheek" principle of Christianity [which, I believe, has rarely been put into regular practice]. If I had been a Christian in one of Rome's martyrdom arenas, I would have used every possible means at my disposal in order to kill the beasts before they killed me.

And that brings me to the subject of the present post: modern machines of destruction. I was happy to see that some privileged Australian military personnel have been undergoing training in France in the context of the purchase by my native land of several Franco-German combat helicopters of the Tiger class. Now, if you haven't seen these diabolical but fascinating beasts in action, you might take a look at the following spectacular video:



Jumping from helicopters to submarines [metaphorically], I feel obliged to add a few remarks concerning the subject I tackled briefly in my article of 2 January 2008 entitled Australian arithmetic [display]. Otherwise, I could be accused of expressing opinions and then leaving them hanging up in the air, without following them right on through. Let me repeat rapidly the essential points of my reflections concerning the high price of Australia's future submarines. The Australian press had announced that our country would be spending 25 billion dollars to build six diesel-powered vessels, and I made the remark that French nuclear-powered combat submarines of the Barracuda class can be purchased for 36% of that outlay: a billion euros per submarine.

At the same time that I made those remarks publicly in my blog, I got into direct contact with Ross Babbage, chairman of the Kokoda Foundation in Canberra. He's the man who actually signed the Kokoda paper #4 of April 2007, which was the main source of the media articles that had presented this submarine affair to the public, as explained in my article of 26 December 2007 entitled Australia's submarines [display]. Ross Babbage reacted kindly by sending me (airmail to France) a complimentary copy of his report, along with helpful explanations that clarify the situation considerably. Here are the precise words on this subject from the Kokoda paper #4:

... simply replacing the Collins Class submarines with a new class of six submarines would probably cost $12-$15 billion. Modernising and adapting Australia's total underwater capabilities to meet the needs of potential defence contingencies in the 2025-2050 timeframe would probably require expenditures in the order of $20-$25 billion.

In other words, we are down to a unit price of $2-$2.5 billion per vessel. Expressed in European currency, that's a unit price between 1.2 and 1.5 billion euros. It's still 20% to 50% more expensive than the ultramodern French nuclear-powered Barracuda submarine, but we're down to sensible figures. Incidentally, the expression "Australia's total underwater capabilities" includes, besides the six future submarines, such costly matters as RAN anti-submarine warfare capabilities and RAAF underwater-surveillance capabilities.

Now, the Antipodes blog is hardly the right place to get deeply involved in affairs of this kind. All I wish to say, by way of a conclusion, is that I was rather surprised by the relatively "lightweight" nature of the Kokoda paper, which is a tiny printed booklet of no more than 64 pages. I had been expecting that the so-called "paper" would be a dense fact-filled report stored, maybe, on a set of DVDs. On the contrary, it skims through the domain of submarines with no attempt whatsoever at attaining depth. Astonishing in the case of a report on submarines...

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Components are good for us

Imagine a skilled cabinetmaker who has always considered that the only way of installing good furniture in a new kitchen is to build each cupboard and table from scratch.

Intrigued by new kinds of hinges and drawers available in big hardware stores, he tries to incorporate them into his constructions, but something seems to have gone wrong. His cupboard doors no longer close correctly, and his drawers get stuck, because the woodworker is incapable of correctly integrating these new elements into his old-fashioned construction procedures. Then, one day, a friend invites the cabinetmaker along to an Ikea store, enabling him to discover a revolutionary approach to the installation of kitchens.

Today, concerning my operations as a Flash website developer [links], I'm very much in the same situation as the old-fashioned cabinetmaker. Since 2001, when I started to use Macromedia Flash, I've become quite proficient in the construction, from scratch, of websites based upon this approach. Meanwhile, the Flash tool has become considerably more complex. When I attempt to patch up certain aspects of my old websites, they refuse to function correctly in the new Flash environment. So, I tend to leave them alone, in their old operational state. Fortunately, today, there's an "Ikea solution" to problems of this kind. Instead of trying to patch up one of my antiquated tailor-made website elements, I can simply replace it by an off-the-shelf Flash component.

The reason I'm writing about this technical hitch [a non-problem, thanks to the concept of components] is that I've been held up recently, through bugs of the above-mentioned kind, in my preparation of two Flash websites that should interest Antipodes readers:

— One is an interface that will make it easier to access the Antipodes archives in a user-friendly fashion.

— The other will consist of free online access to my novel All the Earth is Mine, whose 16 chapters will be released on a weekly basis.

I'll provide precise details of these two services as soon as I've got them up and running.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

The woman who wrote about women

Over the last few weeks, the French media have been reminiscing a lot about Simone de Beauvoir, because she was born in Paris exactly a century ago.

Countless female admirers throughout the world have described how Simone de Beauvoir's ground-breaking study entitled Le Deuxième Sexe, published in 1949, helped them become aware of their profound nature and feminine specificity. Indeed, it's so common to hear women extolling the merits of this female intellectual that observers might be lulled into believing that her celebrated book about women was intended exclusively for female readers. Well, as a male, I insist upon the fact that a mediocre American translation of Le Deuxième Sexe happened to be my unique personal guide book back in the days when I was an awkward youth in Sydney, striving constantly and somewhat vainly to gain insight into those exotic creatures known as "girls". Consequently, in the beginning, I naturally imagined naively that all females surely thought and behaved in much the same style as Simone de Beauvoir. By chance, at the age of 21, I left Australia and settled down in Paris. Not surprisingly, from my Australian viewpoint, many of the splendid young women I encountered in France were indeed not all that different to the mysterious creatures who had seemed to emerge, back in my Sydney days, from the pages of Simone de Beauvoir's guide book. So, all in all, I had the privilege of receiving a relatively coherent introduction to individuals of the First Sex.

Sunday, January 20, 2008
ADDENDUM


This is the amusing juxtaposition referred to by cm in her comment [see below]:

On the left, there's the actual front page of the French weekly Le Nouvel Observateur. Simone de Beauvoir is adjusting her hair in front of a mirror and a washbasin, while offering the photographer a charming view of her backside. The document on the right is a publicity poster of the kind displayed by French news agencies, designed to persuade people to purchase a copy of the weekly. The message of the ad is clear: If you want to read about two outstanding women (Simone de Beauvoir and Benazir Bhutto), then you should purchase the latest issue of Le Nouvel Observateur. In the poster, insofar as the graphic stuff concerning Bhutto is now hiding most of de Beauvoir's buttocks, the ad designer seems to be saying, too: The only way you'll get the full picture of Simone's arse is to buy the weekly. My own guess is that the publisher of Le Nouvel Observateur may have been a little upset to discover that so many observers expressed their surprise that such a serious (?) weekly would resort to the marketing strategy of putting the photo of a naked celebrity on the first page. In that case, the poster might be thought of as a last-minute attempt to attenuate the shock of Simone's bare bottom.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Pope unwelcome in academia

Normally, today, Benedict XV should have gone along to the Sapienza University of Rome as a guest of the rector. But he decided, two days ago, to stay at home, since a group of 67 teachers and researchers of the physics department had made it known that the pope was a persona non grata in their ivory tower of science. Why didn't the academics wish to welcome the head of the Catholic church? A spokesman explained: "Ever since the condemnation of Galileo by the Inquisition in 1633, physicists are particularly touchy about the Catholic church meddling in scientific matters." For staff members of La Sapienza, Galileo's trial is looked upon as a relatively recent happening, since their prestigious university was founded (by a pope) in 1303.

Now, scientists have had ample opportunities to express their opposition to religion in general, and Christianity in particular. So, why today's sudden surge of aggressiveness, in the Italian capital, concerning the latest pope? It gets back to Galileo. Delving into the declarations of the theologian Joseph Ratzinger long before he became pope, the physicists of La Sapienza have unearthed an oration in which he attempts to justify the trial of Galileo by a fuzzy reference to some kind of "greater rationality" than that of science.

Let us hope that the decision of Benedict XV to refrain from visiting La Sapienza will set a precedent. Popes, cardinals and tutti quanti would do well, from now on, to remain on their time-honored terrain: that of the Church, with all its wishy-washy thinking and bloody history. Today, in the citadels of science, there is no longer any room for those who persist in believing in antiquated falsehoods and childish magic.

Tennis police

Australian vice-prime minister Julia Gillard is right. It's a pity ("bad for the nation's image") that disturbing photos and video sequences of incidents at Australia's great tennis tournament have just gone all around the planet.

Seeing ordinary spectators (often bystanders with no links to unruly elements in the crowd) suffering from the after-effects of pepper spray, many bewildered potential tourists are likely to ask, in Aussie parlance: "What the bloody hell are they wailing for?"

My personal opinion about Aussie cops has never evolved much over the last half-a-century. For me, all too many of them act like brainwashed self-righteous zombies. I remember them above all in Fremantle, in 1987, for the America's Cup regattas. One evening, I was pulled over while driving away from a social event, and taken along to the station where I was asked to take my coat off, empty my pockets, etc. Half an hour later, one of their team told me I could put my coat back on, place my money and belongings back into my pockets, and continue on my way, for they had no reason whatsoever to keep me there.

Concerning the cowboy cops and their pepper sprays at the Australian Open, many observers have pointed out that police behavior of this kind would be unthinkable in most civilized countries... particularly since it appears retrospectively that the spectator disturbances that provoked the police intervention were perfectly harmless, indeed banal at a spirited sporting match.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Tech marvels

Apple aficionados were thrilled as usual by the announcements made by Steve Jobs in yesterday's keynote presentation at Macworld Expo in San Francisco. After last year's introduction of the revolutionary iPhone, many observers weren't sure that the Apple CEO would be able to surprise the world in a comparable fashion today. For me, the most striking aspect of today's keynote was the emergence of a coherent and integrated approach to computing, multimedia and the Internet that might be designated as the wireless philosophy. To see what this expression means, let's start with the most spectacular product presented today: the world's thinnest notebook, called MacBook Air. Steve Jobs actually extracted a specimen of this amazingly compact silver computer from an interoffice Manila envelope.

Much could be said about several splendid qualities of this machine: its LED-backlit display, its black backlit keyboard, etc. [Click the image to visit Apple's site, where you can find a lovely ad concerning this product, along with a guided tour of the new laptop.]

But I prefer to draw attention to a familiar component that is totally missing in this computer. It has no CD/DVD drive! At first sight, that sounds pretty crazy, because we've all become accustomed to using removable disks on our Macs to install new software, perform backups, play CDs and DVDs, etc. You can, of course, attach an external CD/DVD drive, but the absence of an inbuilt device sends out a new message. As far as the all-important question of backup is concerned, Macs running Leopard will henceforth be able to get backed up constantly and automatically by means of the extraordinary Time Machine software tool, which will store our precious data through a wireless connection on a delightfully simple piece of hardware called the Time Capsule:

This new approach to backup will be truly a godsend for a Mac user such as me... who has been struggling with the ugly Retrospect tool for too long.

As for other exciting announcements made by Steve Jobs, such as the possibility of renting movies through the Internet, they affect a spectators' multimedia universe that doesn't really concern me greatly. Maybe I'll end up giving in to the gadget charm of the iPhone, whose new software will make it possible to ascertain the user's geographical location by means of an ingenious system that has nothing to do with GPS. [See Apple's website for details.]

Right from the start, back in the early '80s, I became a fan of Apple products for the simple reason that they were usually ingenious, powerful and friendly. Over the last few years, I haven't been too astonished to discover that Apple's imagination and superiority are soaring exponentially. I can understand perfectly why Steve Job is looked upon, throughout the planet, as an exceptional visionary.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Warm penguins

I find this image beautiful and moving, but terrifying. In the penguin domain, I'm an ignoramus... but I have the impression that those poor animals on their melting iceberg are just as puzzled as me concerning the future of their domain, and the planet Earth.

It would appear that Antarctica, due to global warming, is dissolving into the sea. I'm aware that these beasts know how to swim. So, if and when their flossy island disappears into the depths, they won't drown. But where will they swim to? Up until now, the penguin paradise was named Antarctica. For penguins, there's no other El Dorado. For us humans, it's more or less the same thing.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Liberation of two Columbian hostages

The release by the FARC of Clara Rojas and Consuelo Gonzalez was, to a large extent, the outcome of the intervention of Hugo Chavez, president of Venezuela.

Fabrice Delloye, the former husband of Ingrid Betancourt and the father of Mélanie and Lorenzo, has indicated publicly that the French president Nicolas Sarkozy also played a role in this event. On the other hand, Alvaro Uribe, president of Columbia, appeared to be absent from the context in which this liberation finally took place.

Personally, I find it hard to understand Chavez when he suggests that the FARC should be considered, not as a terrorist group, but as a "true army". Normally, legitimate soldiers don't kidnap hundreds of hostages and kill civilians with roadside bombs.

Clara Rojas judges severely the organization that held her captive in the jungle for six years: "Taking hostages is a crime against humanity. I am most worried by the fact that they call themselves the people's army, and that we see them training people for kidnapping."

Valley on the move

Yesterday afternoon, the wind at Choranche was strong enough—as they say in French—to blow the horns off a cow. At six o'clock, I told Sophia, settled snuggly in her huge wicker basket on the kitchen floor, to "guard the house". That's our code phrase (in French) informing my dog that I'll be absent for a moment. Then I left for the annual January get-together of the citizens of Choranche in the municipal hall.

The mayor told us that 2008 will be a year of vast projects within the commune: a new sewerage system for residents on the eastern side of the village, a totally-reorganized village square and even a new bridge over the Bourne between Choranche and Châtelus. For a commune of about a hundred individuals, that's not bad. In this electoral year (for municipalities), we're a valley on the move, and you can't stop progress!

In a corner of our municipal hall, alongside tables heaped with food, drinks and even multi-colored sweets for Choranche's rare kids, a tiny group of concerned individuals talked enthusiastically about political strategies and possible technical methods for bringing the Internet to the totality of our citizens. I even met up with two new neighbors: a dynamic and intelligent administrator who works in the ski country up on the Vercors plateau, and his charming Brazilian wife, who teaches marketing. Yes, at such rare moments of conviviality, I do indeed have the impression that the valley is moving.

After a period of a few wet and chilly weeks, the sudden arrival of warm rays of sunshine makes the valley "boil", as it were. Huge steamy clouds ascend rapidly from the damp vegetation and disappear into the sky. In astronautical terms, you might refer to this spectacular phenomenon as a thermic shock. And the oldtimers know that such a happening is likely to leave traces in the valley. Like this:

At about the time I was talking with my fellow citizens about Internet in the valley, a rock fell onto the road below Gamone. This uncouth and uncommunicative mineral mass didn't even bother to send us an email announcing its intention to abandon its archaic location and slide a few meters down onto the road. It just fell, spontaneously. And woe betide the occupants of an automobile that might have been driving at that instant along the one-kilometer stretch between Pont-en-Royans and Gamone. In this case, nobody was present when the rock fell.
Mindless rock, rolling without spectators! You must have made a big noise when you hit the road, but nobody was there to hear you. Your big noise disappeared into nothingness. A waste of audio resources. We might pose a fabulous philosophical question that intrigued me when I was young and silly: If nobody was actually present to hear the sound of your fall, do we really have the right to assume that such a sound did in fact shake the hills last night? We think so, but how do we know? What proof persists of this hypothetical audio event?

Neighbors with whom I've spoken on the phone this morning feel that Choranche might indeed be entering into a permanent rock 'n' roll age. When I was taking the above photo, I looked upwards and realized in an instant that the worse is still to come. We have seen now that rocks can fall, not only from the summits, but from primordial contexts just a few meters above the road. There are violent falls, and there are gentle falls. There are obvious falls, and there are unexpected falls. But, when a rock falls, it falls... and the potential damage depends, not so much upon the rock's height and weight, but upon the unfortunate presence of folk whose itinerary happened to intersect that of the rock. Mathematical, my dear Watson.

Tineke Bot, an artist and a philosopher [visit her website] said: "William, we must not look upwards in anguish towards the rock-strewn summits. We must stroll through our valley like children, looking solely at the road ahead of us." Through our moving valley.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Old house in Brittany

[This happens to be my 600th post in the Antipodes blog.]

Christine has always been so much in love with her ancestral Brittany (in a simple but profound paternal family fashion that has no apparent links with silly Celtic folklore) that it's only right that she should reside there today in a beautiful house.

Christine's splendid dwelling is an ancient presbytery: that's to say, the residence, once upon a time (when the Church was rich), of the village priest. The least that can be said is that her house (which I know quite well) has a soul. The question, of course, is: What kind of soul? Breton Catholic? Celtic? Maybe even Druidic? Now, I don't expect that my ex-wife will necessarily agree with me... but I'm totally convinced that, whatever old souls might have been hanging around there up until recent times, in the ancient stones of this delightful village, Christine has finally chased them away and replaced them quietly and calmly by an intriguing new soul: hers.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Neighboring department and village

As soon as I leave Choranche and drive to the south, I move from the Isère department into the Drôme. The first village, just over the border, is Sainte-Eulalie, whose simple church looks down on nearby Pont-en-Royans, on the opposite side of the River Vernaison.

At first sight, it looks like an old construction of Romanesque style. In fact, it's a relatively modern church, completed in 1859. Opposite the church, there's a municipal laundry trough, whose non-stop gushing fountain receives water from a vigorous mountain spring.

With its elegant roof of flat scallop-shaped tiles, the wash house looks as if it's straight out of the Middle Ages. The fountain, trough and cylindrical columns may well date from the early 20th century, when local folk really washed their clothes in public. As for the timber-framed tiled roof, it took about a week to construct, and it's exactly a fortnight old. I was able to follow the work with interest whenever I drove past on my way to the small supermarket at Saint-Jean-en-Royans.

Village records are much more ancient than the church and the public wash house, since Sainte-Eulalie was first mentioned in 1086.

Ever since Napoléon, France has been divided into about a hundred geographical and administrative areas known as départements. When you drive over the border between one department and the next, it's a little like changing states. For example, although Sainte-Eulalie is no more than a couple of kilometers below Gamone, I have the impression that I've left the Alps and moved into southern France. Today, if I'm somewhat nostalgic about this notion of departments, it's because a brilliant intellectual named Jacques Attali has just published a white paper, for Sarkozy, suggesting that this old-fashioned breakdown should be abolished.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Zealous missionary spirit

For ages, we white Australians have been going through a puzzled period of repentance concerning the terrible phenomenon of the so-called stolen generations of Aboriginal children who were removed from their families by government agencies for over a century, up until 1969. Missionaries of the most zealous (and dangerous) kind believe that their vision of the world is not only pure and perfect but unchallengeable, a dictate of faith. This is a nasty narrow-minded criterion, even in the best of circumstances. And stealing generations of indigenous children can hardly fit into the "best of circumstances" category. It was a national crime. A state-perpetrated crime. And national apologies to the Aboriginal people are long overdue.

In France, a fuckwit group of missionary zealots named Arche de Zoé, managed by Eric Bréteau and his mindless blonde bird named Emilie Lelouch, decided that any pretext was justifiable for extracting certain African children from their parental village environment and marketing them out to wealthy but naive French bourgeois do-gooders.

Late last night, an excellent TV documentary revealed the details of this affair. The proverbial truth of the matter, as I see it today, is that various zealots such as Bréteau and his accomplices were convinced that the current African environment in the vicinity of Darfur was essentially Bad, and that everything in metropolitan France was necessarily Good. So, the only way of easing the difficulties of African children was to airlift them into paradisiacal France. Now, not everybody (not me, in any case) would agree with this analysis. Most normal observers are convinced that African kids will be best brought up in their native Africa, even if they've lost parents and relatives through fighting.

Next week, the French judicial system will examine the case of these illuminated Arche de Zoé would-be life-savers of lives that were never crying out to be saved.

Old blog articles

Within the concept of blogs, there are weaknesses.

— In particular, while it's relatively easy to see what the blogger has just said recently, it's harder to follow him back in time. For example, if the author of a typical blog such Antipodes wre to talk today about a heroic person such as George W Bush, readers throughout the planet might cry out for specimens of the way that blog author spoke of this same hero in the past. How has the adoration of Bush aficionados evolved from one Iraqi event to another, from one catastrophe to the next?

— Another problem. Blog readers don't necessarily realize that there might be interesting discussions going on in the recent past between the blog author and commentators.

I am currently working on a possible solution to the first problem: an adjacent Flash website that would enable visitors to explore easily the archives of a blog author. Naturally, I'll talk more about my project as soon as it materializes.

Concerning the second weakness, there's no better solution than the duplication of all that occurred. My article entitled Fragile existence [display] provoked a reaction from a certain Anne Skye:

If this does not convince you of "His" existence, then nothing will, dear Bro. Next time you have a bug in your blog, try NOT doing the Hail Mary's and see what happens. Just kidding, you can't apply double blind control trials or any sort to the existence of "God", 'cos it's all a matter of a quantum leap of faith. But... I still can't help thinking, when I read your powerfully moving story, how "He" moves in such mysterious ways!

I replied as follows:

Anne Skye: I was relieved when you corrected instantly the suggestion that we humans can verify the effectiveness of Hail Marys by performing two tests upon identical situations, one with Hail Marys, and one without. The stumbling block, of course, is the concept of "identical situations". As Heraclitus said: "You cannot step twice into the same river, for fresh waters are ever flowing in upon you." And he sums up his vision of constant flux with one of the most profound and lovely declarations ever made by a mortal: "The sun is new every day." Between the initial test, with Hail Marys, and the following one, without Hail Marys, time has passed, and the world is no longer the same place. Even God has grown a little older. To put it roughly, He's no longer the same man He was a little earlier on. Has He grown wiser? Or has He maybe shown the very first symptoms of some kind of divine Alzheimer's? Has He simply changed His mind, for reasons that are known only to Him? I wouldn't be surprised to learn that God no longer repaired computer bugs of any kind, for moral and business reasons, because He realized that His interventions of this nature were unfair competition with respect to human specialists who depend upon fixing computer bugs to buy bread and shoes for their poor children. So, I see no way of testing the Hail Mary solution in a sound scientific style.

Now, your metaphor of a "quantum leap of faith" is another kettle of fish. I hasten to add that I would be disappointed to learn that you were using the expression "quantum leap" merely as a synonym for "big"... which it isn't, since quantum leaps are infinitesimally small, between one shell of orbiting electrons and a neighboring one, either up or down. Within the context of David Deutsch's fascinating conception of parallel universes, founded largely upon a certain way of interpreting quantum physics, it's perfectly conceivable that an individual's decision to have faith in God could be the outcome of a certain quantum value. [Don't get me wrong. I'm talking merely of an individual's having or not having faith in God. I'm certainly not talking of the hypothetical existence of God.]

Finally, you evoke the sentiment that our Cosmos behaves "in mysterious ways". I couldn't agree more with you. For a long time, up until the arrival of quantum theory, the scientific outlook on things was rigorous, logical, austere, Cartesian, cold, calculating, etc. In a nutshell, relatively simple for an agile mind, but as boring as hell. Then quantum theory upset the old Newtonian apple cart. Quantum theory is so extraordinarily bewildering that I wonder constantly whether I've truly understood the first word of it. Be that as it may, overnight, science became a synonym for Lewis Carroll's wonderland, since it encouraged us to explore the weird nature of things as they are seen through the looking-glass provided by intellectual tools of a new kind. Today, the challenge of scientific researchers, scholars and thinkers who wield these new tools consists of attaining what they often refer to as the theory of everything, referred to by the acronym TOE. I consider your "quantum leap of faith" as nothing more than the use of slightly different letters: GOD. But there's a significant detail: Those who talk today about TOE know what they're talking about...

Foreigners in France

In the current French political climate, I often feel that, every time I dare to throw the term "naturalization" into my Antipodes articles, it's as if I were pronouncing a nasty four-letter word. The naturalization of foreigners is not exactly, at the present Sarkozian instant, the most glamorous topic in France. I don't know whether there are opinion polls in this domain, but I would say, as a guess, that the question of naturalization has a global popularity rating in France down around the level of subjects such as genetically-modified shit, nuclear wastes and global warming. Somebody with my background and accent would normally score much higher in present-day Sarkozy Land by saying "I'm a compatriot of Nicole Kidman" than by indicating that he hopes to become a citizen of France.

Be that as it may, it would be appalling if my only hope of receiving a French passport were to admire Sarko and his methods. No, in that case, I would prefer to sell Gamone and move out to Queensland. One of the countless things that stops me pursuing this line of reasoning is that it would be unthinkable for me to return to Australia without my dog. So, it's Sophia who's playing ceaselessly a silent role in holding me in France. Sophia probably doesn't realize this, but she's an everyday living symbol, for me, of everybody from Vercingétorix up to Yannick Noah, without forgetting Joan of Arc or Charles de Gaulle. Then I have another French heroine, intimately responsible for my presence in France:

Christine celebrated her 65th birthday yesterday.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Above-the-limit Labrador

My daughter Emmanuelle cares for the well-being of our Labrador Sophia with the same kind of intensity and love as for me.

An ad hoc principle is accepted by the world's medical highlights: When a dog's fine, so is the animal's master. And vice versa.

In Austria, a three-year-old Labrador named Dingo was recently found to have 1.6 grammes of alcohol in its blood. The veterinary said that the animal emitted the smell of an alcohol distillery. Normally, it should have been dead. It was merely dead drunk. Why? Dingo had consumed inadvertently—insofar as a dog is capable of devouring anything in a supposedly inadvertent manner—no less than half a kilo of fresh baker's dough, prepared by her master, a baker. And baker's dough, in the belly of a dog, is rapidly transformed into something with the effects of prime whisky. Now, I hope and pray that Dingo survived this ordeal.

Let me be quite clear about this whole problem of canine inebriation. If ever my Sophia, for one reason or another, were to attain the same alcohol reading as Dingo, it goes without saying that there's no way in the world I would allow her to take the wheel of our old Citroën.

I have a theory

I love this deliberately-distorted image (by Jason Reed) of the Democratic candidate Barack Obama campaigning at Exeter High School in New Hampshire on January 6, 2008. He's aspiring to great heights, like a Gothic cathedral.

Yes, I have a theory... not just a dream. America might at last be fed up with dynasties... like the Ancient Egyptians, once upon a time. The Kennedy clan. The Bush father and his mentally-inadequate son. Now the legal wife of the big Clinton fucker.

Obama appears to us all as a new message from our primordial land of Africa. Personally, I love and admire the guy. He sounds solid.

French love song

Do you believe that Bill Shakespeare, before penning his great love tragedy entitled Romeo and Juliet, took the trouble to verify that the son of Lord Montague and the daughter of Lord Capulet had indeed been linked in an amorous relationship? I don't think so. I would consider that the Bard of Avon simply pulled this particular couple out of his magic hat because he imagined they would be great personages for a love story. I find it difficult to visualize Shakespeare in the role of an investigative journalist, peering in through bedroom windows in order to be absolutely certain, before daring to say so publicly, that the Capulet nymph was indeed getting laid by the randy Montague lad. William Shakespeare was such a good story-teller that spectators were willing to believe his tales without even bothering to ask whether or not they were factually true. Wow, what an artist! These days, I would say that the only cultural creator who gets anywhere near Shakespeare is Steven Spielberg... or maybe George W Bush back when his public performances used to refer to weapons of mass destruction.

In an adjacent domain, should we waste time trying to determine whether Nicolas Sarkozy and Rachida Dati [present minister of Justice] have really been lovers? Or maybe still are?

Even without a factual Department-of-the-Interior-type answer to this question, French art and culture will continue to evolve. I'm persuaded that French creators, deprived of nitty-gritty dirty details about Nicolas and Rachida, can still produce romantic masterpieces. Here's the proof:



The artists, Alec and Clément, are known as Beaubourg, and this exquisite lyrical composition belongs to a series entitled La chanson du dimanche [Sunday song]. Don't worry if you can't catch the subtle meaning of the words. Just let yourself drift into a marvelous romantic world like that of Romeo and Juliet, and imagine a utopian setting in which Nicolas and Rachida might indeed be Shakespearean lovers.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Friend on the rock

Bruce Hudson is no ordinary Australian friend. During my childhood in South Grafton, although our respective educational establishments were strictly antipodean [Bruce at prestigious Knox Grammar School in Sydney, and me at the public school in South Grafton], I got to know and admire this fellow as if he were a friendly icon of urban civilization, with profound attachments to my family, and a symbol (with the help of his father and uncle... with maybe a little push from my own father) of the great old-fashioned pioneering spirit of Australia. Bruce became my mate and hero. Meanwhile, he also turned into an authentic man of the bush. What I'm saying is not idle poetry. Bruce learned to live in the bush, and he has stayed that way. Today, he and his wife Debbie are operating three hundred acres of beef-cattle land out near Young.

Bruce Hudson has just sent me a fabulous series of photos of Australia's sacred rock, Uluru.

The aerial nature of these shots reminds me that Bruce's splendid father Eric Hudson [businessman, town councilor of South Grafton and great friend of my father] once invited me to fly, for the first time, in his Tiger Moth aircraft at South Grafton.

Australia's sacred mountain is a mystery. A rock that just happens to have appeared there in the distant past, in the middle of nowhere, like the black slab in Kubrick's Space Odyssey. Like my modest but magic Cournouze, opposite Gamone [see the photo at the top of my blog], Uluru changes color in a mysterious manner.

Several years ago, when talking with my friend Natacha Boudoul about the fabulous mountain of Mary Madeleine alongside Marseille, I evoked the crazy idea that sacred sites of this kind might communicate with one another, as it were, through some kind of terrestrial radiation. In receiving Bruce Hudson's images of Uluru, I'm convinced that this magic mountain-to-mountain radiation does in fact exist. And it functions perfectly. It's called the Internet.