Showing posts with label France. Show all posts
Showing posts with label France. Show all posts

Monday, August 27, 2007

Rugby World Cup

I can't imagine the place or circumstances in which this charming photo was taken. In any case, there won't be any immediate conflict between the two supporters, because Australia and France are starting in different pools.

On the elegant official website [display], there's a countdown to the start of the opening match on 7 September, at Saint-Denis on the edge of Paris.

In the neighboring village of Pont-en-Royans, rugby is a popular sport. The village even has a team, which competes in local competitions. The main village café, called the Picard, is preparing for the forthcoming World Cup matches. The owner, my friend Jean-Noël, has installed big TV screens on his roadside patio, and crowds will no doubt be gathering there to watch the broadcasts. Everybody recalls the tremendous fervor in France associated with the World Soccer Cup, staged and finally won by France, nearly a decade ago, and people are naturally wondering whether things might happen in a similar fashion for the rugby. We'll see.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Pipole

That's a new French word: pipole. In fact, it's a humorous French phonetic spelling of the English word people. And this word designates talked-about individuals in general: celebrities, aristocrats, politicians, criminals, etc. Consequently, the expression presse pipole designates magazines that earn their living by tracking, photographing and chronicling such individuals. In fact, my post yesterday entitled Photoshop surgery [display] was typically pipole. And reports reveal that people magazines are immensely popular in France. A recent survey indicates that French vacationers scoop them up at the same time, and with the same regularity, as summer ice-creams.

For the moment, I don't have any new photos to display, but they're surely coming up... Don't forget that Europe is still globally on vacation. Apparently, one of France's leading pipole publications has just published paparazzi photos of François Hollande—general secretary of the Socialist party, and former companion of former presidential candidate Ségolène Royal—in the intimate company of his new flame: a journalist from the very pipole weekly Paris-Match. Not so long ago, the editor of that prestigious weekly got kicked out, inexplicably, after the publication of romantic photos of Madame Sarkozy with a gentleman in the USA. Today, it's less likely, of course, that anybody will lose their job as a consequence of this latest scoop pipole. I'll do my best to keep you informed...

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Apple's iPhone will be Orange in France

There has not yet been any official announcement on this question, but it is becoming increasingly probable that Apple's iPhone will be handled in France by the national operator Orange, subsidiary of France Telecom.

I take this opportunity of pointing out, once again, that Orange happens to be the French ISP [Internet service provider] that has been blacklisted for over a year now [quasi-systematic refusal to deliver French emails from Orange] by the Internet idiots at BigPond in Australia.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

French road sign

I wonder how foreign drivers in France react when they see this sign:

Accotement meuble. What on earth might that mean? To obtain a satisfactory translation, I think you would need a good and rather big French/English dictionary... unless, of course, your automobile guide book provides you immediately with the meaning. The noun accotement is a technical term, used by road builders, that designates the earth and gravel "shoulder" between the macadam and the adjoining land. But it's an unusual term. In French, if a driver wanted to say, for example, that he parked his vehicle on the edge of the road, it is rather unlikely that he would use the term accotement. Normally he would speak of the bord de la route: literally, the edge of the road.

Beginners in French will recognize the common noun meuble, meaning "furniture". For example, a furnished flat, in French, is an appartement meublé. So, is the road sign telling drivers to watch out for discarded furniture on the roadside? No, meuble is also an adjective meaning "moving", in the sense of "unstable". That explains why meuble is used for "furniture", that's to say, the mobile part of your residence, as distinct from an immeuble, which is the immobile building in which a residence is located.

So, this complicated road sign is simply warning drivers that the edge of the road was probably laid down recently, and hasn't had time to settle down yet. That's to say, it's unstable. If drivers were to park there, their vehicle might sink down into the earth and get bogged.

Instead of expecting foreign drivers to carry a dictionary with them, I think it would be more reasonable to invent some kind of a graphic sign. Here's a suggestion:


It could surely be improved by specialists, but I think it's already more easy to understand than the expression accotement meuble.

It's interesting, I think, to compare the two approaches from a sociological viewpoint. The verbal road sign is in fact very French, in an intellectual way. The roadbuilders are talking to the motorist as if he were an old fellow-student of their civil engineering school, and explaining the current situation in technical language: "You have to understand, my dear friend, that we've only recently laid down this macadam, and reinforced the shoulders of the embankments on either side. You'll appreciate therefore that the earth and gravel mix we've used as fill is not yet totally stabilized." My graphic approach is more down-to-earth, in a pragmatic New World style, and I don't seek to explain anything whatsoever: "If you don't want to get hurt, get your arse out of here." To be perfectly honest, I adore that old-fashioned expression: Accotement meuble.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

European show on the Champs Elysées

Most observers of this morning's 14 July parade on the Champs-Elysées will award top marks, I'm sure, to the new producer and director: Nicolas Sarkozy. He had the excellent idea of transforming this French event into an unforgettable and spectacular show dedicated to Europe. While there is not yet any such entity as a united European army, we certainly had a chance of admiring colorful specimens of the various armies of Europe. No less than 27 different European nations had representatives of their forces participating in today's grand parade.

Perhaps the most striking aspect of the super show was its music and its military choreography. It was amazing to discover the variety of different ways in which soldiers can march! A naive observer might imagine that marching is simply a matter of, well, striding along in a stately style. Not at all! There would appear to be countless different ways in which soldiers can move their legs and arms. Marching, for imaginative military choreographers, is much more than simply... marching. In Monty Python talk, you might say it's a matter of doing your particular kind of funny walking. The weirdest thing of all was that everybody, from gallopers to goose-steppers, appeared to be marching to the same music, and advancing at roughly the same rate, even though they seemed to have a whole range of different styles of locomotion. For me, there's some kind of a mathematical enigma there, which I haven't yet solved.

There were three fabulous songs, performed by military choirs assisted by the Little Singers of Paris: the Marseillaise, of course; the haunting Chant des partisans (hymn of the Résistance), which inevitably causes me to burst into tears of emotion every time I hear it performed in such solemn circumstances; and finally Europe's anthem, Beethoven's Ode to Joy, exceptionally with French lyrics.

After such a morning TV show, I was worn out emotionally when the Tour de France came around, later on in the day. At times, living daily in a land such as France can be a really exhausting experience.

PS In France today, even Google got on the Bastille bandwagon:

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Nice TV spot

Areva is a large French state-owned company in the field of nuclear energy. They handle the three fundamental aspects of this domain: the processing of uranium, the construction of nuclear reactors, and the transmission and distribution of electricity. The president of this company, with 61,000 employees throughout the world, is a French woman, Anne Lauvergeon.

The reason I'm talking about Areva is that I love their TV spot, which presents an animated display of the entire energy production cycle. To see the TV spot, you first have to display the following box, then you click the button I've indicated:

So, start out by clicking the above image.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Neighbors who dwell in castles

Here in France, authentic ancient castles abound. And all kinds of manor houses and stately homes have the look and feel of castles. So, in countless villages, it's not unusual to have neighbors who dwell in structures that we might refer to as châteaux. During my recent excursion to Provence, I was particularly impressed (among many other surprises) by the mysterious white castle in Lacoste that once belonged to the famous Marquis de Sade.

Today, it is inhabited by the equally famous Pierre Cardin, genius of haute couture, who is both a familiar neighbor for the village people of Lacoste (including many US students) and the organizer of a summer music and theater festival.

Not far away from Choranche, in a village named La Sône, on the banks of the Isère, I recently visited a fairytale castle that belongs to a friendly ex-pharmacist from Avignon.

The adolescent novelist Françoise Sagan was a friend of the daughter of the former owner, and the present owner informed me that the novelist used the La Sône castle in 1960 as the setting of her play entitled Château in Sweden.

Talking of castles, believe it or not, back in my native Clarence River region in Australia, in the vicinity of Grafton, there's a kind of castle, called Yulgilbar, constructed by German craftsmen for wealthy cattle men named Ogilvie between 1860 and 1866. Historians of architecture would refer to it as a mock-Gothic folly, because it has crenellations of the kind that once played a role in defense.

Here's an old photographic glimpse into the courtyard of Yulgilbar:

During my adolescence, I often heard my father and his beef-cattle friends referring to the huge and prosperous Yulgilbar affair, owned by a great rural pioneer: Samuel Hordern [1909-1960], member of a wealthy Sydney merchandising family. Today, the immense Yulgilbar estate belongs to Hordern's daughter and her husband Baillieu Myer.

If I understand correctly, the original name of the rich land on the banks of the Clarence, belonging to the Bunjalung Aboriginal tribe, was Baryulgil, and the Ogilvie pioneers decided to invert the syllables to obtain a name for their huge property. Much later, in about 1940, descendants of this Aboriginal community were employed as laborers in local asbestos mines. And today, there is distress in this community because of asbestos pollution and poisoning.

Yes, sometimes we have rich neighbors who dwell in castles, while neighbors on the other side of the castle walls lead very different lives. It has always been that way with castles.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Busy Sunday

Every year, I watch the TV coverage of the Grand Prix de Monaco. I'm not exactly a fan of automobile racing, which can be quite boring on TV, but the legendary Monaco event is inevitably exciting.

For me, there's also an element of nostalgia. Shortly after my arrival in France in 1962, an Australian friend drove me down to watch the race. At that time, tourists could wander around the circuit at ease to find a vantage point. I recall that we spent most of the race at the famous Mirabeau hairpin. These days, of course, the famous race is a gigantic event that paralyzes road circulation on the French Riviera.

As if car racing wasn't enough to draw a crowd on the shores of the Mediterranean, the red carpet of the 60th Cannes Film Festival will be rolled up this evening after the announcement of winners.

Finally, for those who love to spend hours in front of their TV [on a par, I suppose, with spending hours in front of a computer screen], there's the French Open in Paris, which starts this afternoon.

At a personal level, to put the events of this busy Sunday in their proper perspective, I should point out that the Monaco supershow on my wide flat TV will be relegated to the status of a background blur and noise. I don't intend to spend time at Cannes, and the ball is out at Roland Garros. In fact, if it's sunny this afternoon, I plan to build a fence around the patch of Batavia lettuces I planted yesterday.

The future enclosure [of the sheep fence style] will protect my lettuces from Gavroche the billy-goat. But what about snails, which are presently thriving just a meter away from my lettuce patch?

My ex-neighbor Bob, who dropped in yesterday to pick up his mail, is an experienced vegetable gardener. He made an interesting suggestion: "Grow your lettuces to feed your snails. Then collect these lettuce-fed Burgundy snails from time to time. They're far more tasty than lettuce." Bob's right. A few years ago, I used to prepare regularly a stock of Gamone's excellent Burgundy snails, but the dry summer of 2004 seemed to eliminate them. I see now, at exactly the same time I'm planting lettuces, that the snails appear to be back in force. Gastronomical days ahead...

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Elysian fields

In spite of their curious reputation of arrogance (akin to the ridiculous notion that they wear berets and eat frogs' legs), the French don't normally boast too much about themselves. Even though they might consider themselves the most intelligent people on Earth, the French rarely evoke nationalistic concepts such as lifestyle, pride and welfare to anywhere near the same extent, say, as Americans and Australians. If the French are indeed chauvinist, they keep this fact relatively quiet. They're a tactful people. It's not by chance that French has always been labeled the language of diplomacy. The sense of intellectual nuance has always impressed me greatly in this magnificent land of Descartes, Voltaire and Sartre. I love a subtle country...

In Greek mythology, Elysium was the homeplace of the gods. In France, TV journalists rarely resist the temptation of designating the Champs Elysées as "the most beautiful avenue in the world". In reality, it's a symbolic central axis of the French capital... like Oxford Street in London, or Martin Place in Sydney. The difference is that the Champs Elysées is not only symbolic and central; it's aesthetically splendid!

As I write these words, Nicolas Sarkozy is moving towards the "Elysian fields" of France to display himself (there's no other way of putting it) in front of the population of Paris. It's more than an image. It's a symbol.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Death of a singer, birth of a legend

Popular French singer Grégory Lemarchal was 23 years old when he died a week ago of a terrible hereditary disease, cystic fibrosis, for which there is not yet any permanent remedy. In 2004 he was the winner of a French TV talent quest called Star Academy.

The sudden death of this angel-faced youth, which could well transform his brief glory into a legend, will hopefully play a positive role in the constant quest for body-organ donors, not to mention the collection of financial donations to aid in the on-going research in the domain of cystic fibrosis. [Click here to visit the Grégory Lemarchal website.]

Friday, April 27, 2007

Rugby cup: worth its weight in gold for France

The main French campus of the prestigious Essec Business School is located less than an hour away from the heart of Paris, at a place named Cergy-Pontoise. [Click here to see their English-language website.] Recently, this beehive of bright business experts received an interesting assignment: calculate the likely global income, for France, resulting from the forthcoming World Rugby Cup. Well, the result is huge: some 8 000 million euros! In US currency, that's roughly 11 billion dollars. In Australian currency, nearly 13 000 million dollars.

Where is all this money coming from? Let's carry on the discussion in euros, using the US definition of a billion as a thousand millions.

— The Essec wizards inform us that half the estimated income, 4 billion euros, will be deposited in cash before the end of the matches, which will be taking place in September and October. More than 350 thousand foreign visitors will be arriving in France for the rugby festivities, accounting for income of 1.5 billion euros. The matches will ne watched on TV by 260 million viewers, generating revenue of 2 billion euros, whereas ticket sales for live spectators will have generated a non-negligible income of 250 million euros.

— The other half of the projected revenues are of a more ethereal nature. The French "rugby economy" will receive a huge boost, estimated at 417 million euros a year, from the presence of the World Cup. And French tourism, as a consequence of the World Cup, will receive a boost of some 625 million euros a year. So, if you carry out the multiplications, that gives us, for a period of four years, 4 billion euros.

In old-fashioned French village talk, there's a celebrated dictum: Un sou est un sou. In US English: A dime's a dime. In other words, we should respect frugally every penny we might earn or possess, and not spend money lavishly.

Economic and political experts have pointed out that money from the forthcoming World Rugby Cup can be seen already as a fabulous welcome gift to the future president of the French Republic. The funny thing about this whole affair is that the Essec people don't seem to give a screw about who might or might not actually win the golden trophy.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Thin line between facts and Fascism

We're four days away from the first round of the French presidential elections. Since I'm not French, I won't be voting, but I have my personal aspirations and apprehensions. I would like to see a great victory for the Centrist François Bayrou, rather than the lightweight Socialist Ségolène Royal, because he appears to envisage French politics in a new light, without the eternal split between the Left and the Right. My vital hope, above all, is for the massive defeat of the Extreme Right of Jean-Marie Le Pen.

For the moment, the super favorite would appear to be Nicolas Sarkozy. I can understand this preference in the sense that many people would like to see France governed by a ferocious little bull terrier, which is exactly the image of Sarkozy. The possibility of a resurgence of Islamic terrorism in nearby Algeria promotes the case of a strongman such as Sarkozy, who doesn't beat around the bush when it comes to pointing a finger at societal outlaws, designated spontaneously as scum in need of Karcher-style cleansing.

In a recent interview with a philosopher, Sarkozy dropped an intellectual bombshell that was picked up immediately by everybody. First, in speaking of pedophiles, Sarkozy said: "One is born a pedophile. Besides, it's a problem in that we don't know how to handle this pathology." Then the pit bull turned to an adjacent subject: adolescent suicides. Here are the words of Sarkozy (my translation): "Some 1200 to 1300 young people commit suicide every year in France. They did so, not because their parents weren't taking care of them, but because they were genetically fragile, victims of a precursory pain." Programmed genetically to die. This is strong language, which brings to mind the terrible theme of eugenics.

Today, few people remember the unexpected but profound collaboration between the French Nobel prize-winner Alexis Carrell [1873-1944] and his young disciple, the American aviator Charles Lindbergh [1902-1974]. Carrell was a believer in eugenics: the science and potential technology of breeding humans like stud cattle. Hitler, among others, was fond of this theme.

Nicolas Sarkozy is a smart guy, and he knows where to stop, before going too far. He's perfectly aware (I hope) of the thin line that separates facts from Fascism.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

America didn't listen to France

It has just been revealed publicly, in the prestigious daily newspaper Le Monde, that the DGSE [French secret service] submitted to the CIA chief in Paris, on 5 January 2001 (eight months before the destruction of the Twin Towers), a precise report concerning the threat of aircraft hijacking by Al-Qaeda terrorists. This note even included an organizational chart of the senior Al-Qaeda hierarchy.

Since France had been the target of terrorist attacks at an early date, French intelligence concerning Oussama Ben Laden was far in advance of US knowledge in this domain. The report sent to the CIA by the DGSE mentioned seven airlines that might be targeted by Al-Qaeda hijackers, and this list included the two that were finally chosen: American Airlines and United Airlines. The January 2001 report spoke of timing, explaining that the hijacking project, initially prepared for 2000, had been postponed.

Bush invaded Iraq without paying attention to warnings from France concerning the grave consequences of such an idiotic act. Today, we learn retrospectively that, well before Iraq, ignoring French advice had already become a style of foreign affairs "thinking" in the USA. It would be well, I feel, if this situation were to evolve soon in a positive sense.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Maybe a whitewash for Chirac

Everybody in France is familiar with the time-honored satirical weekly named Le Canard enchaîné (the duck in chains)... including people who've never actually read it. Long ago, tabloid newspapers were referred to disparagingly as ducks because their content was likened to a quacking noise. [In English, too, fake doctors are called quacks, probably for the same reason.] The great statesman Georges Clemenceau [1841-1929] edited a newspaper called L'homme enchaîné (man in chains). When the Canard enchaîné was founded in 1915, its name was a humorous allusion to Clemenceau's newspaper. These days, in the title of the newspaper, the "ears" on either side of the name (which generally present a topical pun) feature ducks.

The Canard enchaîné has just thrown a spanner into the electoral works by suggesting that, "according to informed sources" (as the saying goes), the candidate Nicolas Sarkozy has promised Jacques Chirac that, after his re-entry into civilian life, the ex-president will not be pursued by the law for misdemeanors allegedly committed back in the days when he was the mayor of Paris. Naturally, both Chirac and Sarkozy immediately rejected this allegation, but there's a good chance that it's true, because claims made by the Canard enchaîné usually turn out to be based upon factual information. In any case, it's true that Chirac will have some serious explaining to do when the law starts to ask him questions. So, the idea that he might have bartered his support for Sarkozy, against a legal whitewash, is perfectly plausible. It's an interesting hypothesis. All we can do is to wait and see.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Comparing the candidates

I've translated the thumbnail descriptions in this banner that points to an excellent website, the Comparotron, created by the newspaper Libération, which makes brief point-by-point comparisons (in French only) between France's twelve presidential candidates.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Angels

Maybe I have a distorted way of looking at things but, when I first saw this image, I had the impression that the red-haired angel was handling a roll of toilet paper. When you think about it, that would be a great question for Byzantine theologians: Do angels use toilet paper?

Sometimes, in the middle of a spirited conversation between several people, the talking stops abruptly, for no particular reason, and there's a gap of maybe ten seconds or so of spooky silence, up until somebody takes up the conversation once again. In French, there's a quaint expression to designate such an incident. They say: An angel just passed by.

You might be wondering why I've brought up the subject of angels. I hasten to add that this has nothing to do with Easter Monday or the alleged resurrection of Jesus. On the contrary, I wish to mention a down-to-earth affair: a white paper with a curious title, République 2.0, on the challenges of digital technology in French society.

A few weeks ago, the presidential candidate Ségolène Royal called upon a distinguished Socialist personality, Michel Rocard, to produce a report on this highly topical subject.

And angels in all this? In browsing through the report this afternoon, I was intrigued by the following recommendation, in the section of Rocard's report that deals with technological innovation in France:

Encourage logic of a "business angels" type.

Here, the abstract term "logic", which is highly popular in technocratic French, simply designates a way of doing things. The expression "business angels" appeared as such in Rocard's report, in English, and the inverted commas ("twitch twitch") were no doubt inserted to underline the author's awareness that he had switched momentarily into less than academic French. And what exactly does this recommendation mean, when translated into everyday language?

In case you didn't know, so-called business angels are wealthy individuals who get a kick out of operating as venture capitalists, using their personal cash. They're the sort of individuals who are capable of being so enthralled by the great ideas and ambitions of a talented innovator (who knows how to sell him/herself) that they're prepared to bury him in bags of money (like in a Dilbert cartoon) enabling him/her to set up a business. It goes without saying (but I'll say it all the same) that Michel Rocard is convinced that, in the domain of digital technology, there are many brilliant young French innovators who would be able to achieve marvels if only they had the financial resources enabling them to get into action. Who knows? Maybe he's right...

I've never thought of France as the kind of country where it's easy to start off with a brilliant idea and build it into a business. First, the competition's stiff, in the sense that, in a brilliant country such as France, there are hordes of bright individuals with brilliant ideas. But the real problem is that, in France, the concept known elsewhere as free enterprise turns out to be a terribly expensive affair. As soon as an individual decides to set up a business, to do anything at all (or even nothing in the immediate future), the entrepreneur is hit with a massive volume of charges of all kinds, and it's hard to survive. Either you have to make piles of money rapidly, or else the charges drag you into bankruptcy. That's France.

Years ago, I had a brilliant idea (in the course of a lifetime, this can happen), and I would have loved to be discovered by a business angel hovering in the skies of Paris. I remember writing down a neologism, wearware, on a piece of paper, and trying to explain to friends that it was a matter of designing exotic garments incorporating various kinds of digital devices, maybe coat pockets that flashed messages of a kinky kind with graphic and audio effects. Just imagine it. If only I had been able to develop the brilliant idea of wearware, I would have become filthy rich, and I wouldn't be here today in my modest Alpine abode typing this silly blog message. Retrospectively, I believe it's quite likely that my guardian angel stepped in, fortunately, and saved me from spending my life as a filthy rich developer of wearware.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Fast track

Millions of TV viewers were no doubt glued to their screens today, watching the latest French wonder train setting a new world speed record of over 574 kilometers an hour. At the start of the thirty-minute broadcast, I said to myself that the media people had no doubt assembled dozens of helicopters to follow this much-publicized event. I soon realized the stupidity of my thinking about helicopters, which might be great for cycling races, but totally inadequate for a TGV [train à grande vitesse: high-speed train]. Media people followed the record-breaking train in a low-flying jet aircraft. The event was, of course, a prestige affair. Among the guests inside the train, there was a Californian member of congress, representing potential purchasers of Alstom equipment. Although the manufacturer and French railway engineers learn a lot from high-profile experimental stunts such as this, it goes without saying that no ordinary trains are likely to be operating at anywhere near such a speed in the foreseeable future, because all sorts of costly modifications and precautions were required in order to stage this record-breaking event. Even ordinary road bridges take an unacceptable hammering when a train goes underneath at such a speed. Everyday TGVs will soon be crawling along on this new line from Paris to Strasbourg at no more than 320 kilometers an hour.

Monday, April 2, 2007

William's theory of leaks

The above title mustn't give you false hopes. I'm not about to expound a set of principles and proofs that might earn me a Nobel Prize. In fact, my "theory" on leaks might be summed up in a three-word aphorism: Nobody leaks innocently! All I mean to say is that, whenever we hear of journalists suddenly having access to information that's normally supposed to be of a confidential nature, it might be a good idea to ask questions of the following kind: Who in particular might have reaped benefits from the divulgation of this information? What kinds of benefits? And why?

Another way of putting it is that press leaks are generally organized, indeed engineered. They're like the celebrated French miracle aimed at promoting today the saintlike qualities of the late pope. [Click here to see my article on this subject.] Leaks, like miracles, don't just happen, out of the blue. They're put into circulation purposely, like rumors, with precise aims in view.

I don't yet know who exactly made the decision to leak the information about a Thorpe doping query, but I imagine that this mysterious leaker [Let's call him Monsieur Leak] was seeking to achieve certain ends. Meanwhile, all Australia has started to go mad. The national director of swimming is even yelling out about the idea of hiring a private investigator to collar Monsieur Leak, as if that might solve anything.

When in trouble, when in doubt,
Run in circles, scream and shout!

For the last 24 hours or so, that's what Australia has been doing: running in swimming circles, screaming and shouting. I have the impression that Monsieur Leak [whoever he is] may have been awaiting these reactions. Maybe they tell him something about the fundamental but murky question of whether or not Ian Thorpe really is guilty of doping. Organized leaks aim to obtain information.

It would be good if everything were to calm down, as in an Olympic pool. Meanwhile, the procedures evolve...

Leak in the pool

Contrary to what naive observers might believe, the prestigious French sporting newspaper L'Equipe surely did not dream up, in one way or another, the story about Ian Thorpe. What happened was quite ordinary from a journalistic viewpoint. The information behind the story was leaked to the newspaper by an unknown source, whose identity we may never know. Everyday journalism in many domains depends heavily upon leaks. In the case of a serious and time-honored newspaper such as L'Equipe, one would normally expect that they only print leaked information from reliable sources. So, it would be foolish to insinuate that L'Equipe might have invented their information about Ian Thorpe.

Richards Ings, chairman of ASADA [Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority], spoke this afternoon to a Sydney radio station on the event referred to by L'Equipe, which stems from a urine test in May 2006. Although nothing has been asserted yet on this question by the WADA [World Anti-Doping Agency], it appears perfectly feasible for L'Equipe to imagine that Ian Thorpe's raised testosterone levels might have been unacceptable... which is all—no more and no less—that the newspaper claimed. The world swimming body FINA [Fédération internationale de Natation] would appear to know that a Thorpe affair has indeed been simmering, because they have apparently called upon the CAS [Court of Arbitration for Sport] to evaluate the situation. In doing so, FINA did not reveal explicitly the name of the swimmer in question. Finally, the only real scoop created by the leak to L'Equipe concerns the identity of the implicated swimmer: Ian Thorpe.

Is there any point in trying to determine the precise source of the leak, maybe in the hope of taking legal action against either the leaker or the newspaper that published the leak, or both? I don't think so. Good journalists, like good detectives, don't normally reveal the identity of their sources. One would suspect, though, that the leaker was probably somebody with French links... As far as the newspaper is concerned, is it really a crime to print leaked information?

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Boring spectator sport

Back at the time of the Olympic Games of 1956 in Melbourne, I remember my aunt Nancy telling me excitedly that one of the amazing surprises of their new tool called TV was the fact that it brought swimming races right into your living room, because you could actually watch the swimmers in the pool. Big deal. For me, TV swimming remains the most boring spectator sport that I can imagine, because you can't understand anything apart from the excited words of the commentator. And you simply wait for the times in hundredths of a second. I should be super-excited about the prowess of Laure Manaudou, whose first name sounds like gold in French. The truth is that this mindless love-struck youngster is just as boring as the sport in which she excels. French commentators, with nothing to say about this silent juvenile wonder woman, complained that Laure might have at least inscribed AMOUR rather than LOVE on her left palm.

There's an even more boring sporting phenomenon than swimming. It consists of wandering into a Sydney pub, say, on a Saturday around midday and being confronted by dozens of video screens relaying matches of all kinds (rugby, horses, dogs, etc): the object of betting. Last year, shocked by this spectacle, I was tempted to cease considering myself as an Australian. Sport as gambling commerce. It's simply all too boring.