Monday, October 31, 2016

Electrician who worked for Picasso

In theory, when an electrician such as Pierre Le Guennec works well for a painter such as Pablo Picasso [1881-1973], it’s quite likely that he’ll receive a few paintings. The expression “a few” is vague. To be more precise, let’s say that the lucky electrician received a  bag full of 271 Picasso paintings. The electrician’s wife Danielle Le Guennec confirmed that they were a gift from the artist.

Some observers have never really believed this story about a gift from Picasso. That’s why the electrician and his wife were condemned in February 2015 for the concealment of stolen goods. Today, an appeals trial has started at Aix-en-Provence (Bouches-du-Rhône).

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Precious little bottles marked V and H

Once upon a time, a con man in France made money by flogging little bottles marked V (vinaigre) and H (huile) to naive tourists, telling them that they once belonged to the great writer Victor Hugo.

Concerning vinegar, one might imagine that everything in France that can be said and done is a thing of the past. Imaginative rural sisters in the Beaujolais region, Lucie and Chloé (what charming names!) have demonstrated that there’s still room for innovation in this traditional domain. Using their grandmother’s ancient recipe, they created a new variety of vinegar, and they’ve already put 100,000 nice little bottles of their product onto the market. Several big distribution channels have jumped upon their offer. Also a celebrated French chef in Lyon. To say the least, their business doesn’t really have a bitter taste of vinegar.

Some splendid animals, once wild, are entering human society

I wrote a very dismal blog post here, which I now regret a little (but I’ll leave it untouched for the moment). It was simply far too simple for a naïve observer such as me to deplore the fact that a huge proportion of wild animals are going into oblivion. In writing that blog post, I was behaving in just as stupid a manner as Marie-Antoinette when she said that the starving people of Paris should simply eat cake. One has no right to boast about his lucky childhood when wild beasts could be observed roaming freely through the jungle. We must never forget that the vicious fellows who destroy free animals are indeed depraved human cousins, biologically closer to us than any so-called wild animal.

From now on, the only approach that would be worthy of a serious observer consists of concluding that, since magnificent wild animals are no longer capable of surviving in the jungle, where they are likely to be destroyed by vicious humans, then the only noble solution is to protect them as best we can, by whatever means we can imagine, including the idea of inviting as many beasts as possible into sanctuaries in the heart of our human societies.

Thoiry, in France, has been doing a splendid job in taking care of many beautiful beasts, and inviting visitors to see them up close.

Alongside these big beasts running around in liberty, click here to glimpse Thoiry’s Ark of small creatures.

Television is playing a role in making us aware, if need be, that so-called wild animals have always been our fabulous cousins. This awareness creates an atmosphere in which sanctuaries can obtain necessary funds. A few days ago, for example, I was one of millions of TV-viewers who watched a group of devoted young carers handling a female bonobo who needed to provide a blood sample. I felt the same sense of drama as if we were watching a surgical intervention upon a sick child.

Software for people who can’t handle traditional verbal culture

A Dutch software manufacturer named Assistiveware has created a tool named Proloquo2go for people who are incapable of handling traditional verbal culture. The tool incorporates a virtual on-screen keyboard with pictograms, and it is only offered, for the moment, to users of English, Spanish or French. Here’s an example of a typical pictogram phrase:

As soon as the user enters a set of pictograms, a speech synthesizer produces an audio version of the phrase.

This tool belongs to the domain of AAC [Alternative and Augmented Communication], which facilitates the life of people with elocution problems : autistic individuals, those with trisomy (including Down Syndrome) and victims of strokes or Parkinson’s disease. In France, about 1.3 million people suffer from such sensory handicaps.  In the special case of the Proloquo2go product, most users happen to be less than 11 years old.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Georges Brassens died 35 years ago

Click the loudspeaker icon to unmute

Jean-Pierre Darroussin : "J'ai rendez-vous avec vous"
Karin Viard : "Mourir pour des idées"
Michèl Fau : "Le pornographe"
Guillaume Gallienne : "La prière"
Audrey Tautou : "La mauvaise réputation"
Pierre Richard : "Les passantes"
Michel Bouquet : "Il n'y a pas d'amour heureux"
Catherine Frot : "La complainte des filles de joie
Lionel Abelanski : "Je me suis fait tout petit"
Roger Dumas : "Auprès de mon arbre"
Julie Depardieu : "Le gorille"
Léa Drucker : "Les amoureux des bancs publics"
François Morel :"La non-demande en mariage"
François Berléand : "Le temps ne fait rien à l'affaire"
Valérie Bonneton : "Chanson pour l'Auvergnat"
André Dussolier : "Supplique pour être enterré à la plage de Sète"

In France, this evening, everybody's thinking about the time of day

During the night, at 3 am, French clocks that still have old-fashioned "hands" will be expected to have them turned back an hour, to indicate 2 am. In other words, if I wake up tomorrow morning and climb out of bed in an accustomed manner, after what would appear to have been a good night's sleep, my Apple computer will inform me that it's earlier than what I might have expected... if only I hadn't read all the advice that has been appearing throughout the day in French news about switching back to winter daylight hours. It's not a big problem here at Gamone, since I only have my old watch and two wall clocks to wind back. Here's a good French reminder :

Opening of the tomb of Jesus in Jerusalem

As far as big news goes, this is really Big News. For the first time in centuries, the tomb of Jesus Christ in Jerusalem is being opened.

It goes without saying (but I’ll nevertheless say so) that there is nothing whatsoever inside this time-honored hole in the ground. Besides, I can’t understand why Christians dare to even speak of the alleged “tomb” of their hero. Click here to access a National Geographic website that proposes a short video on the exposure of Christ’s so-called “burial place”. Here again, it’s time for somebody to inform that respected magazine that, in theory, Jesus was never buried anywhere. Everybody agrees that Jesus died on an atrocious wooden torture instrument. (Well, most people agree... except for those who consider that the alleged individual simply never even existed.) But Christians consider that he didn't stay dead for more than a few days, and was certainly never buried. I'll terminate my brief explanations there, because readers are surely familiar with that tale.

Negative judgment for Roybon project

This legal decision could be a major negative step in the Center Parcs project at Roybon (Isère).

Base jumping at Choranche

I have the impression that the following YouTube videos are composed of base-jumps from a site in Presles located above the Rochemuse estate in Choranche. Often you glimpse a small lake: the electricity dam located between Châtelus and Choranche.

Je serais content de recevoir des informations précises
sur ces vidéos de la part de spécialistes locaux.


Max Moret tombé à Choranche le 30 avril 2011

Corsican who changed the existence of my Australian cousin

In the early 1970s, in Paris, my good friend Jean-Paul Pagès, an ex-professor of medecine, invited me to lunch with one of his former students, a Corsican doctor named Xavier Emmanuelli. I brought along my cousin Peter Hakewill, a young Australian doctor who happened to be visiting Paris at that moment. Xavier Emmanuelli was starting to acquire a reputation through his role in the creation of the humanitarian organization Médecins Sans Frontières [Doctors Without Borders].

By the end of the luncheon, my cousin was making plans with Emmanuelli to join his organization for work in Thailand. And that was the start of a lengthy experience for both my cousin and his brother Mitchell Smith.

Friday evening, Xavier Emmanuelli made an uncommon appearance on French TV.

Much muddy water has flowed under the bridges of distressed nations (not to mention wealthy countries such as Australia) since that chance encounter in Paris between Emmanuelli and my cousin some 45 years ago. As for Xavier Emmanuelli, he had a short political career, and published a biographical book, S'en fout la mort [Don't give a damn about death].

Friday, October 28, 2016

Biggest marine show on Earth

Australia will be seated in the front row, as close as possible to the animals. The world’s greatest marine park will be located in Antarctica, just a short boat trip to the south of my native land. After years of difficult negotiations, the 25 members of the Commission pour la conservation de la faune et de la flore maritimes de l'Antarctique adopted unanimously the creation in Ross Sea of a marine sanctuary of a million and a half square kilometres.

Vertebrates are disappearing fast

The greatest show on Earth—the world’s populations of mammals, fish, birds, amphibians and reptiles—is disappearing like melting snow. In the short space of 42 years, between 1970 and 2012, over half their number has disappeared. Clearly, the show will soon grind to a halt, because the artists will no longer be there to keep it running. A few specimens will remain in zoos.  But that’s not Nature. We present-day spectators of wild life in natural surroundings will be thought of, by sad descendants of our children’s children, as the last lucky members of a disappearing world: a planet that is about to lose most of its spectacular inhabitants.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

More powerful than a Japanese robot

Click here to see a spectacular video of a four-year-old Russian genius. I have no idea how they make kids like that. Have the manufacturers published a technical manual on this amazing product?

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Healthy ecumenical breakfast food

from Think Atheist

Beginning of the end of the Cuban embargo


For the first time since the UN embargo against Cuba came into existence, 54 years ago, the USA has refrained from voting in favor of continuing the embargo. It’s not yet an all-out vote in favor of Cuba, but it’s no longer an expression of determined opposition. It’s as if the USA said “no problems”. For Obama’s nation, that’s almost like saying OK.

Let them eat cake

People who grew up in English-speaking countries often remember a school story about the French princess Marie-Antoinette. Hearing that poor people in France had no bread, the young lady said they should be told to eat cake. In the French version of this tale, "cake" is replaced by "brioche". Historians then inform us that the story is probably apocryphal.

The right-wing presidential candidate Jean-François Copé started the ball rolling recently.

Answering a journalist’s mundane question, Copé revealed that he was no longer aware of the price of the familiar children’s pastry known as a pain au chocolat (chocolate pastry roll).

I'm not suggesting for a moment that the execution of the Austrian lady on 16 October 1793 might have been connected in any way whatsoever with her words about bread or cake or any other kind of pastry.

But, just to clarify all possible misunderstandings, I take the liberty of strongly advising Copé to drop into a bakery shop and update his knowledge of current prices.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Darling little devil

A scientific report from Sydney University on the carnivorous marsupial known as the Tasmanian devil [Sarcophilus harrisii], found only in that Australian island state, reveals that the milk of this endangered animal contains an impressive antimicrobial arsenal. We humans possess a single variety of such a substance, whereas the charming little Tasmanian animal has six varieties. This means that its immune system is considerably more powerful than ours, and might even be used to guide future human-oriented research in this domain.

If the Tasmanian devil has developed such a powerful immune system, it’s because they’ve had to learn to survive in a particularly dirty environment in which its food comprises varieties of dead animals, mammals, fish and insects. Since baby devils are born prematurely, researchers simply couldn’t imagine how they managed to survive on such nasty food… and that’s why they decided to study their milk.

These days, the development of powerful bacteria capable of defending us against Staphylococcus is a major goal in medical research. The Review of Antimicrobial Resistance states that, in 2050, deaths from bacterial infections might occur at the rate of one every three seconds… which would be more than cancer deaths.

Dreamworld in Australia turns into a tragedy

A mortal accident took place in Dreamworld, the major aquatic theme park on the Gold Coast in Queensland. (Many years ago,  my grandfather from Burleigh Heads took my children and me to see a dolphin pool in an early version of the site.)  A few hours ago, four people—two 25-year-old couples—died at Thunder River Rapids in circumstances that remain unexplained.

Here’s a recent video of the pleasant raft ride, apparently far more dangerous than what innocent people imagined:

"Attention, riders : Please keep your hands
and arms inside the boat at all times."

Monday, October 24, 2016

Jungle at Calais is losing its people

The French government's plan to remove the so-called Jungle at Calais seems to be working well. Here are images from the early stages of the evacuation:

On Tuesday morning, observers had the impression that the evacuation had been carried out in excellent conditions. While it's still too early to know whether the evacuation process has been totally successful, I feel that French government authorities deserve congratulations on the professional harmonious handling of this affair.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

It is indeed quite a big place

Click to enlarge slightly
Hubble Space Telescope view of thousands of galaxies made
during the Great Observatories Origins Deep Survey.
Credit M. Giavialisco/University of Massachusetts, Amherst and NASA

The more we learn about the universe, the less we grasp. It’s simply too big and too complicated to understand… and I’m not even sure that the words I’ve just written make any sense. In any case, the central premise of William’s Treatise on the Cosmos is that we humans were not designed to understand what it’s all about. We shouldn't even try to do so.  So let’s simply forget about that would-be question, best described as a non-question

Phil Collins is alive and kicking

Next spring, he’ll be carrying out a small tour of France, Germany and England, accompanied by his son on drums. “I want to do some concerts. If the public’s happy, then me too.” Click here to access a French-language video.

Political opinion of a distinguished intellectual

Jean d'Ormesson, 91, believes that Alain Juppé will indeed be the next president of France, but that his presidency will not go down in history as a remarkable era. In a nutshell, nothing much will happen in France. The brilliant and alert member of the French Academy considers Juppé as a kind of Jacques Chirac. I tend to agree.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Cartoonist on Trump

Click cartoon to enlarge

Nicolas Vadot is Franco-British and Australian.

Random morning message

There’s a nice French expression to designate a sudden urge: une envie de pisser [wish to pee]. That’s what happened to me a moment ago, leading up to the present message. It’s a philosophical viewpoint that has been pursuing me ceaselessly for a long time. So, here it is.

Our outlook on existence is totally biased by the particular dimensions of our observations, which define a mere window. We remain incapable of adopting windows that might be more macroscopic or microscopic.

• The first weakness means that, in spite of our gigantic windows out into space-time, we remain like ants who imagine their anthill as the entire universe.

• The second weakness means that, in spite of our fondness for elementary particles and string theory, we humans are not very good at dealing with things that are far smaller than what we see through our eye-glasses.

Besides, it’s funny that we introduce a direction into these two scale differences. What right do we have to say that, in the macroscopic case, existence appears to get bigger and bigger, whereas it’s smaller and smaller in the microscopic case? Maybe we should simply say that the differences are no more than changes in our two kinds of viewpoints, without claiming that one change is “bigger” and the other “smaller”.

For the moment, it’s primarily the second weakness that has inspired my matinal philosophy message… but nothing really changes when we move to the first weakness. All our human conclusions about what is good or bad, and what is right or wrong, have been concocted from within our familiar everyday window, at the level of human organs and our devices such as eye-glasses. For example, people use their normal viewpoint to encounter all kinds of happenings, from peace and love up to war and terror. This suggests that our above-mentioned human conclusions would no longer have the same sense if we were to modify our viewpoint, by moving in an up/down direction. In other words, morality is not a universal phenomenon. It’s rather a purely relative viewpoint-based affair.

Personally, I am both awed and frightened by this conclusion. For the moment, therefore, I avoid the temptation of accepting it completely.

Ah, if only our existence were to be nothing more than watching a rugby match! Sadly, at no instant in my existence has my life ever moved an instant into such a nirvana. That has always been my major problem...

New Yorkers love French art and France

Spencer Hays and his wife Marlene have just announced a huge future donation to the Musée d'Orsay in Paris: 600 paintings from the second half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th. This is the largest overseas donation to a French gallery since 1945.

Early arrival of a future Oscar winner

Click here to view a TV-studio performance
of Jean Dujardin in December 1996.

Friday, October 21, 2016

We all know that cheese stinks

So, why do we want to eat it? There must be some kind of logical answer. Well, there is… but it’s not necessarily a simple affair.

First of all, there are many people who love cheese. But there are also a great number of folk—roughly 6% of French society—who simply hate the stuff. So, what’s happening? Click here to access a French-language article and video on this subject.

Neuroscientists at the CNRS in Lyon and a biology laboratory in Paris have published a study, here, indicating that your appreciation or your hatred of cheese depends upon a small like/dislike gadget in the centre of your brain known as your globus pallidus. When your tastes are normal, the pallidus turns on a like icon. If not, it turns on a dislike icon. Now, insofar as your pallidus seems to work a little as if it were using FaceBook, I suggest that we refer to this cerebral organ as your CheeseBook gadget.

Iraqi forces at Mosul advance more rapidly than planned

Positive news from the Iraqi prime minister Haïder al-Abadi reached a high-level Franco-Iraqi meeting in Paris via a video link from Bagdad. An Iraqi diplomat, presiding over the meeting, warned however that victory in Mosul would not end completely the war against Daesh.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

New DNA found

 Omar Raddad in 2008

Newly-analyzed biological traces related to the murder of Ghislaine Marchal data would appear to confirm the presence of a previously-unknown individual whose data existed already in the automatically-updated French National File of Genetic Profiles [fichier national automatisé des empreintes génétiques — Fnaeg]. The official outcome of this spectacular discovery will be released in the next few days. We can hope that the identity of the real murderer will at last be known, proving the total innocence of Omar Raddad.

Old and new

Yesterday evening, I watched a wonderful US documentary describing the construction of the Great Pyramid. It was simply unbelievable.

This morning, I read an article in The Daily Examiner describing the future construction of a new bridge alongside my native town in Australia. It’s simply unbelievable. Click here to access the article. Director Mark Stevenson outlined the $185 million project. The new bridge will be built in three days, and we are told that building operations will be “a sight to see”.

The rusty crumbling old bridge is supposed to survive for ages.

Painful situation for high-priced TV sets

If you believe what you see, a fellow seems to have wandered into a shop at St Austell in southern England and accidentally destroyed several high-priced TV sets. It’s highly likely, though, that he was simply a professional actor who got paid for a smart publicity stunt. Click here to see this funny show.

An alert too many

On Tuesday evening, the excellent investigation show run by Elise Lucet wanted to illustrate the problems they had encountered in trying desperately to contact the French minister of Defence, Jean-Yves Le Drian, So, they screened a fake alert message, of the kind sent out by police when a child has been kidnapped.

There was just one big problem. At that same instant, a baby had in fact been kidnapped, and the police sent out an authentic alert message. But that was neither here nor there. The confusion simply added to the atmosphere of an excellent show, whose highlight was a no-holds-barred debate between the brilliant journalist and Christian Estrosi, mayor of Nice. The right-wing politician, with financial egg on his face, was being blasted for the costly deal he had struck up with a private firm in order to obtain for Nice a luxurious sporting stadium… which appears to be half-empty most of the time. As for the baby kidnapped in Grenoble by her father, she was soon found, unharmed. So, all's well that ends well.

Funnily enough, the people being blamed are not those who were responsible for the fake alert, but rather the police who created the authentic message. They were silly enough to write that the alleged kidnapper was a man "of the black race". It's high time those nitwits learned that there's only one human race on the planet Earth, Homo sapiens. And its possible colors are, not only black and white, but all those of the human rainbow.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Tired of the fog? Try the frogs!

Since the UK’s Brexit referendum, no holds are barred. Paris started a campaign on Monday, run by the Defacto company, in an attempt to woo business and talents from London.

French ecology star fails in the primary

The French press views the defeat of Cécile Duflot as a big surprise.

The contenders Yannick Jadot and Michèle Rivasi emerged victorious from the primary.

Waiting for the murderer to show up

Two journalists, Jean-Michel Laurence and Béatrice Fontenau, have published a book about a French criminal affair that remains unsolved, at least in theory : the Dupont de Ligonnès mystery.

Beneath the rear porch of a nondescript house in Nantes, in April 2011, police found the remains of an adult female and four young individuals.

 DNA tests revealed that the bodies were those of Agnès Dupont de Ligonnès and her four offspring: three sons and a daughter.

As for the father, Xavier Dupont de Ligonnès, no trace of him has been found since 15 April 2011, when he was seen leaving a low-cost hotel in Roquebrune-sur-Argens, carrying a bag on his back that might have contained a weapon. The police are looking out for him constantly.

Copies of my Jewish novel arrive on my doorstep

My decision to use the typescript of my Jewish novel for a self-publishing experiment was intended above all as an experiment, enabling me to understand the revolutionary Ingram-Spark system. My All the Earth is Mine script was totally familiar, because I had been playing around for years with this imaginary political-fiction tale, and the only graphical stuff in the future book would be a simple diagram of Israel. So, this test enabled me to build up confidence in myself before tackling the far more complicated challenges of my two genealogy books: A Little Bit of Irish and They Sought the Last of Lands. Funnily enough, I believe today that this crazy novel—inspired by my lengthy fascination for the Hebrew religion and language, not to mention my love of the modern land of Israel—was in fact a more profound writing endeavor than my two family-history studies. Meanwhile, bringing out this novel was a memorable initiation process for Gamone Press.

Donald Trunk strikes again

I don't know whether to call it groping or just plain snatching.