August 4th, 2014

Chris Brooke has been reading The Sleepwalkers, Christopher Clark's book on the outbreak of the First World War.

[What…] I was repeatedly struck by were the sheer number of quite extraordinarily belligerent actors that I encountered along the way, and I ended up a bit surprised that continental war didn't break out much earlier than 1914. […]

[French diplomat…] Paul Cambon takes the prize:

Underpinning Cambon's exalted sense of self was the belief – shared by many of the senior ambassadors – that one did not merely represent France, one personified it. Though he was ambassador in London from 1898 until 1920, Cambon spoke not a word of English. During his meetings with [Foreign Secretary] Edward Grey (who spoke no French), he insisted every utterance be translated into French, including easily recognized words such as 'yes'. He firmly believed – like many members of the French elite – that French was the only language capable of articulating rational thought and he objected to the foundation of French schools in Britain on the eccentric grounds that French people raised in Britain tended to end up mentally retarded.

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Spin, spin, spin…

February 12th, 2014

From the [pen|keyboard] of The Yorkshire Ranter: Dave from PR in the French Revolution

Being a Salmagundi from the Talking-Pointes of the late Sieur Davide du Camerone, Gentleman of the Privy and Counsellier upon the Fourth Estate to his most Catholic Majesty, the late King Louis XVI

An unexpectedly large forecast error in the Budget leads Finance Minister Necker to call an emergency Estates-General:

We’re all in this together. Only a balanced parliament reflecting the national consensus to deal with the debt can keep us from ending up like Spain. M. Colbert didn’t fix the roof while the sun was shining, but His Majesty is determined to get our finances in surplus by 1792. That’s on a rolling five-year cash basis excluding interventions in North America and royal mistresses.


[FX: Applause]

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'Pay attention to the cat.' Not that they ever do.

July 17th, 2013

Feline ennui, in French: Henri 2, Paw de Deux

[Via Memex 1.1]

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Unidentified and unspecified

January 25th, 2013

Could this be the best doping denial ever attempted by an athlete?

Fatima Yvelain, a middling middle-distance runner from France, tested positive for EPO after competing in the 2012 Perpignan half-marathon. Yvelain was 42 and her best days (she once won three consecutive French national 5,000m titles) were long behind her. Caught out, Yvelain decided to concoct an outrageously improbable explanation, presumably on the grounds that the authorities would refuse to believe that anyone would have the brass neck to try and con them with such an unlikely tale. Like all good shaggy dog stories, it started with a kernel of truth – there had been torrential rain on the day of the race – and then span wildly off into the realm of farce. The water streaming over the road, Yvelain argued, must have washed through "unidentified medical waste" which had been discarded "at an unspecified location" on the course. While she was running, this EPO-tainted water had splashed up from her shoes and soaked her shorts, which had then run off into her urine when she was asked to give a sample after the race.

At this point, I hope that the appeal panel hearing her case rose to their feet and gave her a round of applause. I mean, how do you even start to prove her wrong?

"But of course!" agreed the French Athletics Federation. And then they banned her from competing again for two years.

C'est la vie.

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Quantified Self 1 – 2 Paris (aet)

October 17th, 2012

Craig Mod versus a Fitbit:

I bought a Fitbit on a whim. It was spring 2012. I bought it to understand how devices like this worked. If they worked. What it meant, precisely, for them to work. Between JawBone's Up, Nike's FuelBand, and now Fitbit, the entrepreneur in me wanted to understand this emergent product space and know how these devices affected awareness.

I assumed our relationship would proceed like this: I'd use the Fitbit for a few weeks, think it was neat, and then forget to wear it. One forgotten day would turn into a week would turn into a month. It would start off as a novelty, devolving quickly into another well-intentioned, dust-covered tech product.

Boy, was I wrong.

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Paris In Motion (Part I)

August 16th, 2012

Paris In Motion (Part I):

[Via feeling listless]

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April 23rd, 2012

Ferdinandea will rise:

In the Mediterranean Sea southwest of Sicily, an island comes and goes. Called, alternately and among other names, depending on whose territorial interests are at stake, Graham Bank, Île Julia, the island of Ferdinandea, or, more extravagantly, a complex known as the Campi Flegrei del Mar di Sicilia (the Phlegraean Fields of the Sicily Sea), this geographic phenomenon is fueled by a range of submerged volcanoes. One peak, in particular, has been known to break the waves, forming a small, ephemeral island off the coast of Italy.

And, when it does, several nation-states are quick to claim it, including, in 1831, when the island appeared above water, "the navies of France, Britain, Spain, and Italy." Unfortunately for them, it eroded away and disappeared beneath the waves in 1832. […]

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A trivial affair

December 3rd, 2011

Having lived in Paris for almost a decade, Simon Kuper has come to the conclusion that happiness is a table for one:

[On lunch…] By now I've worked out the essential elements. For me, the first is solitude. As a married person with children living in a cramped city, loneliness isn't the problem. Rather, you're always drowning in loved ones. Happiness is a table for one with something to read. I don't go as far as the man I know who says he's happiest when eating dinner alone with a book about war, but nearly. As I once had to tell my wife: "Nothing you could say could be as interesting as this article that I'm reading." (After some thought, she offered the correct response: "I'm pregnant." Luckily it was a joke.)

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More like immediately after and long after…

July 29th, 2011

Before and After Shots of Joggers:

Last summer, Sacha Goldberger decided he would take on a very interesting project. He assembled a team who helped him create an outdoor studio at Bois de Boulogne, a park located near Paris that's 2 1/2 times the size of New York's Central Park. He stopped joggers, asking them for a favor – would they sprint for him and then pose right after for his camera? Many obliged. Out of breath, these joggers showed an overwhelming amount of fatigue on their faces.

Goldberger then asked these same people to come into his professional studio exactly one week later. Using the same light, he asked them to pose the same way they had before.

"I wanted to show the difference between our natural and brute side versus how we represent ourselves to society," Goldberger tells us. "The difference was very surprising."

[Via MetaFilter]

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The Year of 'G'

July 27th, 2011

I did not know that:1

French law requires that a purebred dog or cat – that is, an animal belonging to one of the breeds listed in the Livre des origines français or the Livre officiel des origins felines – be given a name beginning with a prescribed letter of the alphabet, determined by the year of its birth, rather like the way British car registration plates used to be organised. The alphabetised system began in 1926, with Z omitted. In 1972 the Commission Nationale d'Amélioration Génétique further regularised the system, and K, Q, W, X and Y were also taken out of contention. […]

  1. #376 in an ongoing series.

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