Tag Archives: France

Photo: Claddagh, Galway, 1913 — and Paradzhanov

24 Nov

Claddagh woman 1Screen Shot 2017-11-24 at 3.41.40 PM

One is so used to the romantic and morosely grey and green landscape of Ireland, that this photo’s opulent color outta the Caucasus or Balkans is a real jolt: the sumptuousness of the red cape and dress, the multi-colored shawl and the blinding white lace of her skirt, her own Black Irish beauty, against the barefoot poverty of the frame. I’ve always wondered how people kept clothes so clean under these conditions — like the dress of my father’s village, below — when so much of it was white.

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Too bad Paradzhanov (and here) could have never made an Irish film.  So much of his footage bleeds with the super-saturated colors of the traditional clothing (and the men wearing them), and the architecture and artifacts he used in such a fetishistic manner, against a slightly washed out background of grey-green or brown.  The contrast is so bold, as it is in the above photo of the fourteen-year-old Galway girl, that you almost think it’s hand-colored.Asik Kerib 1.jpgimage-w1280

from Sergei Paradzhanov’s Aşık Kerib (1989)

Color of Pomegranates 2 from Sergei Paradzhanov’s The Color of Pomegranates (1969)

Paradzhanov would have had a field day with just one description from Deirdre of the Sorrows, J.M. Synge‘s dramatization of the mediaeval Ulster epic of doomed love: Deirdre has the first premonition of her first and only lover, the handsome Naoise, when she sees a black, black ram having its throat cut and the red, red blood gush out onto the white, white snow.  Read the play to see what happens next; it’s gorgeous.

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

 

μαλακί/α [(malakí/a)…f., -ες” pl.] jerking off, masturbating. — Is the Académie trying to artificially stifle language change or are you trying to artificially impose it?

6 Nov

“One radical solution, of course, is for members of the academy to…eliminate masculine and feminine forms altogether. “

Oh, ok…

It’s amazing — and quasi-Orwellian, the way much stupid p.c. thought is — that the Académie is here shown up as exercising its oppressive patriarchal authority prerogatives, while the hideous gender-free plurals these dudes are asking for actually represent a much more totalitarian exercise in social engineering.

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From Guardian [disappointingly]:

Should France embrace gender-neutral words? Bien sur!

The French Academy is railing against moves towards a gender-neutral style, but language always blends and changes without any loss of expressive power

The French Academy, Paris: charged with the mission to keep the language ‘pure’.
The French Academy, Paris: charged with the mission to keep the language ‘pure’. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

Forget Brexit. Europe is facing an even more fundamental crisis: one of its major languages is en péril mortel (“in mortal danger”). If you take the French Academy at its word, within a few years 70 million EU citizens will be communicating using only grunts – or grognements, as they will no longer be able to say.

The cause? Political correctness gone mad, as usual. The academy, which is charged with the Canute-like task of preventing the French language from changing very much, is furious at the use of “inclusive language”, which attempts to get around the assumption of male superiority baked into French grammar. Because French, like many other languages, requires nouns referring to people to have masculine or feminine endings, if you’re describing a mixed-gender group, you’re forced to pick one. By convention, it’s the masculine. So a group of, say, six MPs – one man and five women – would be called députés, not députées. One way to deal with this is to have an alternative form that covers everyone: député-e-s.

That’s what the academy is railing against. But the idea that it places French in “mortal danger”, as its statement argues? Have these people gone complètement fou? It’s an optional shorthand, used only in print. It may be relevant at this point to raise the fact that, of the 34 academicians, 30 are male.

Apart from the gender imbalance, there’s the academy’s mission according to its 17th-century statutes: to make the language “pure”. Talk about setting yourself up to fail – or at least to get angry about things that you can’t change. Languages are always impure: they borrow, blend and innovate, without any loss of expressive power.

One radical solution, of course, is for members of the academy to become reformers rather than reactionaries, and eliminate masculine and feminine forms altogether. Plenty of languages, including English, Turkish or Thai, get along perfectly well without them. And the French have done radical things with language before, such as scrapping the names of days of the week during the revolution. People of France, you have nothing to lose but your gender markings!

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

France comes to the rescue of civilization again — from Guardian: “Roland Barthes famously described language as essentially ‘fascist'”

4 Nov

French language watchdogs say ‘non’ to gender-neutral style

The Académie Française, France’s ultimate authority on the language, sparks national row after describing inclusive writing as an ‘aberration’

Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo flanked by France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, and his wife
Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo flanked by France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, and his wife. Hidalgo insists on being called Madame la Maire over the masculine version of the title. Photograph: Charles Platiau/AFP/Getty Images

The Académie Française, France’s ultimate authority on the French language, is under fierce attack for describing gender-neutral text as an “aberration” that puts the language in “mortal danger”.

The “Immortals”, as the 40 academy members – only five of whom are women – are known, have sparked a national row after declaring that “inclusive writing” has no place in the country’s grammar books, or anywhere else for that matter.

In a statement full of hyperbole, the academy condemned the increasing use of new spellings aimed at making written French less masculine, arguing that it could not see the “desired objective” of the changes.

French grammatical rules give the masculine form of a noun precedence over the female. Women on an all-female board of company directors are called directrices; if one man joins the board, they are referred to collectively as directeurs. Inclusive writing has them written as directeur.trice.s or directeur-trice-s – admittedly more clumsy but representing both forms of the word. The word students becomes étudiant.e.s; a gender-mixed group of actors would be written acteur.trice.s.

For years, French presidents have addressed citizens as les Français et les Françaises instead of the strictly correct les Français, but the recent row was sparked by a new textbook aimed at primary school children that employs the inclusive style, and came into use for the first time this year.

After a vote last month, the Académie Française issued a unanimous “non” to the new style, deeming it far too complicated.

“Faced with the aberration of ‘inclusive writing’, the French language finds itself in mortal danger,” its statement read.

“We find it hard to identify the desired objective and how to overcome the practical obstacles of writing and reading – both visually and out loud – and pronunciation. This will increase the burden for teachers and even more so for readers.”

Supporters of inclusive writing say the new forms are aimed at use in written communication, not speech or literature. They also point out the Académie is hardly a model of gender equality.

Established by Louis XIII’s chief minister Cardinal Richelieu in 1635, outlawed after the French Revolution and restored by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1803, there have been a total of 726 members, only eight of whom have been women. The first, Belgian-born novelist Marguerite Yourcenar, was elected in 1980.

In 2014, the academy opposed the feminisation of job titles, making Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo’s subsequent insistence on being called Madame la Maire (and not Madame le Maire) grammatically incorrect.

Eliane Viennot, professor of literature at Jean-Monnet University in St-Étienne and author of the book Non le masculin ne l’emporte pas sur le féminin! (No the masculine does not take precedence over the feminine!), said: “They [the academy] are extremely conservative.”

“If you ask people to list their favourite écrivains (writers) they will only mention male authors,” Viennot told France24 television. “It’s not until you ask them to list their favourite écrivains and écrivaines that they think of women.”

In an opinion piece in Libération, she called for France to “pull the plug” on the academy.

“For 30 years they have never stopped trying to torpedo any evolution of the French language towards equality,” Viennot wrote.

Last month the education minister, Jean-Michel Blanquer, who described himself as a “feminist man”, opposed the use of the new style and said the row over it was “useless”.

“We must return to the basics of vocabulary and grammar and this just adds an unnecessary complication,” Blanquer told BFMTV.

In 2015, France’s High Council for Equality between Women and Men, published a guide encouraging public officials to adopt forms of communication “without sexual stereotypes”.

See also: The French protect their language like the British protect their currency from 2013 by  where full Barthes quote is cited:

Roland Barthes famously described language as essentially “fascist”, not because it censors but, on the contrary, because it forces us to think and say certain things. The idea that we are spoken by language as much as we speak through it is, I think, an important one here: French offers a different world view from English. [my emphases]  Today, the symbol of British sovereignty is an independent currency. In France, it is an independent language, and that is indeed something to be cherished.”

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Priorities, eh?

That every language offers a world view — not just semantically — but through its very structure, is a crucial observation I think.  The malleability of English is something I always tried to make my students understand and take advantage of (“Well, that’s not really right…but you could probably use it that way and if you were a native speaker no one would think twice about it…”).  The classicism and rigor of French is something entirely different, and there’s no indication it stifles expression in written or spoken discourse, like we like to think — erroneously, or at least simplistically — that Atticizing classicism stifled Byzantine literary culture; I know one grad student, now professor of mediaeval Greek literature who thinks Anna Comnene‘s 11th century Alexiad is written in a “stunningly beautiful” Atticized Greek.

My real issue with this nonsense is not just that “directeur.trice.s or directeur-trice-s” or “étudiant.e.s” are abominably ugly; or that they’re just clumsy: I had colleagues in ESL who used to force students to use “He or she” or “his or her” or the hideous “S/he” when referring to a hypothetical ungendered individual — these p.c. pedants actually used to mark a plain “he” as incorrect!  (One Polish student said to me once: “Can we just use ‘it’?”)

My problem is that, like all identity politics, it’s politically useless.  Run for office; collect signatures; root out and muckrack corruption journalistically when you can, or real injustice, or real inequality; join a union; join a street mob, for fuck’s sake, and throw some Molotovs.  Do anything but sit around discussing this kind of narishkeit.

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

“Could they make do with cheaper substitutes, like margarine? Don’t even think about it.”

30 Oct

butter

Now, unlike Confederate statues, or the children in Barcelona playing Risk, this is a real tragedy unfolding.  Butter shortages in France: France, Land of Croissants, Finds Butter Vanishing From Shelves“:

Could they make do with cheaper substitutes, like margarine? Don’t even think about it.

“There’s no comparison,” Mr. Labbé said. “If you want to preserve the quality of our products, you have to use butter — you can’t do anything else.”

Much of the attention over the shortages has focused on France’s butter bastion: Brittany, famous for its crepes and salted-butter caramel. A satirical short film released earlier this month by a collective of local artists imagined, almost presciently, what would happen if the butter ran out.

“Pénurie,” French for shortage, is a mock film about butter scarcity in Brittany. Video by La Mauvaise Graine

Most gratifying is that more and more people are understanding that butter — and fat generally — is not unhealthy:

Meanwhile, as butter has shed some of its unhealthy image, demand has risen worldwide, especially in the United States — where the fast-food chain McDonald’s promised to put butter back in its recipes last year — and in China.

Kind of surreal we’d be thanking McDonald’s for its ingredient choices; my kudos will only come when it starts making its fries in beef fat again, like it used to.

I’m engaged in a little mini-culture-war with many people here.  Most neurotic American malakies come here with a significant delay, and I’m running around saying repeatedly: “Americans, who taught you that butter is bad, are now past that stage; get over it quicker.” Hard going, especially when the supposed “Mediterranean diet”, one of those clichéd distortions of a culture by the West that then gets sold back to that culture, has everyone convinced that Greeks never cooked any-thing with butter.  “Ladera,” (λαδερά) or what Turks call zeytinyağlı dishes, comes from “zeytin” — olive — and “yağ” — fat or butter.  They refer to the essentially vegan dishes that are prepared with only olive oil; for Greeks the term has a religious connotation too, as these were foods appropriate for Lent and fast days; dunno if the Turkish categorization of such dishes into their own genre is a Christian-to-Muslim crossover.  It also means dishes that you can serve cold or at room temperature.  (To add to the general confusion, Turks are coming around to olive oil again, after decades of cooking with disgusting sunflower seed oil, which always reminds me of poor folks’ Soviet food.  Even Turks I know with sophisticated palates used to tell me that an eggplant dish like, say, imambayıldı, would be too “heavy” if it were cooked with real olive oil.)  They all were, are and should be made with only olive oil.

But every-thing else was cooked with butter.  (And not the hellish slop, Fytine…)  All stewed-meat type dishes and of course, börek and yufka-baked pastries.  (The only reason phyllo-based pastries in Greece are all so awful when compared to Turkey is that Greeks — at least commercial bakeries — make them with margarine!)  Everyone I say this to looks at me like I can’t be serious; actually scary how a public relations campaign re-packages your culture and gives it back to you, erasing your own memories.  But once again, the French come to the defense of real civilization on the things that matter.

Below, a gâteau breton, basically a couple of pounds of butter held together with some flour.  It’s richness is often overpowering, but when you cut into it your whole house smells delicious.gateu bretongateau breton slice

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

Another NikoBako I-told-you-so: Antiocheia, Idlib, Turkey and goddamn “referenda”

7 Oct

In a recent post (September 22): Do Kurds need to do this right now, just at this very moment?“, I re-examined some of the assumptions and hopes I had made and wished for in an older post from December 2015: Syria, Russia, ISIS and what to do about everything“.

From just two weeks ago, this September:

“I hate, more than anybody, to look like I’m catering to Erdoğan’s peeves, but an Iraqi Kurdish referendum on independence just at this time is a provocation for him that may turn out to be disastrous.  Erdoğan is already massing troops on Turkey’s southern borders, and though I doubt he’ll have the balls to invade what’s pretty much an American satellite, Iraqi Kurdistan, I don’t put it beyond him to send troops into the Idlib region in Syria — maybe even hold a “referendum” and annex it like the Turkish Republic did to the neighboring region of Antiocheia in the 1930s.”

Well, the man’s deranged mind functions like clockwork.  Reuters announced a few hours ago that Turkish army operations in Idlib have already begun:

ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday that a major military operation was underway in the Syria’s northwest province of Idlib, which Free Syrian Army rebel groups earlier said they were preparing to enter with Turkish backing.

“There is a serious operation in Syria’s Idlib today, and this will continue,” Erdogan told members of his AK Party in a speech.

Much of Idlib is currently controlled by an jihadist-led alliance of fighters. “We will never allow a terror corridor along our borders in Syria,” Erdogan said. “We will continue to take other initiatives after the Idlib operation.”

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The reason this is so dangerous a move is that it’s so blindingly easy for Erdoğan to justify it.  In case you’ve ever wondered why the Greco-Syrian city of AntiochΑντιόχεια, one of the three great urban centers of Greco-Roman Christianity, is today in Turkey and not Syria, it’s because in 1939, the Turkish Republic strong-armed the French Mandate of Syria (I don’t know how) into holding a plebiscite in the Sanjak of Alexandretta (see map below) in order to determine its future incorporation into the Turkish state.  And as with all such votes — like Putin’s elections, Puigdemont’s referendum — the response was overwhelmingly approving.  We’re supposed to believe that 90% of the population of this region, the hinterland of Antiocheia (Antakya), where a majority of the population were, and still are, Arab Alawites/Alevis (see second to last map at bottom) who already had a little-sister, special relationship with France like Maronites did in Lebanon, followed by Turco-Kurdish Alevis and a sizeable Arab Christian community (most of which has now long moved to İstanbul), had — even after almost twenty years of watching the vicious war the Turkish Republic had been waging against Kurds, the crazed massacres of Alevis in Turkey, and the Republic’s systematic campaign to either expel or forcibly assimilate its Christian population — voted in their delighted majority to become part of Turkey.

An independent Iraqi Kurdish state, with neighboring Syrian areas already under YPG, would only need Idlib (only 100 kilometres from Turkish Antiocheia) to connect it to the strongly Assadite, Alawite region of Laodicaea (Latakya) and give a something-like-a-Kurdish state access to the Mediterranean; it would certainly end Erdoğan’s dream of a Sunni-run Syria.  I don’t even know what to think or what predictions to make.  Hopefully Russia will say no.  Hopefully the U.S. and the EU will too and go for serious sanctions, by which I mean not bullshit sanctions, but the cutting off of military aid completely.  Erdoğan deserves a serious back-hander — not just German pissiness — from some-one, for eff’s sake, and I can’t think of a better one than to have the Turkish army, deprived of its fancy American toys, “eat its face”, as we say in Greek, against Kurdish peshmerga in northern Syria.

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Hatay, where the name comes from — Hittites, I think – Hittites who came from the Sun, I think — and how there’s been a Turkic presence in the region for forty centuries (were there even homo sapiens forty centuries ago? …hmmm…maybe that’s the point) are all contained in the sacred texts of Turkish nationalism.  Like I’ve said many times before, nationalism is always funny (if it weren’t at the cost of so much blood) but Turkish nationalism is hysterical, Star Trek as a SNL skit.  Check it out if you’re bored at work some afternoon: Sun Language Theory.

More maps:

1579px-Hatay_in_Turkey.svgThe Sanjak of Alexandretta — Antioch — “Hatay” province — little red corner of Syrian Mediterranean, that Turkey bullied out of French hands in 1939.

1024px-alawite_distribution_in_the_levantDistribution of Alawites/Alevis in Turkey (Antiocheia), Syria and Lebanon, indicating, clearly, regions of ALAWITE MAJORITY.

And Idlib governate below.

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See “Alawite”, “Alevis” and then “Kurds” tags from other Jadde posts for more on this.

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

Lebanese food: September 14th and the Feast of the Holy Cross in Ein Zebde, Shouf

15 Sep

Ein-Zebde-Peach-FieldsEin Zebde peach orchards

This is one of those photos that shore up all literary descriptions you’ve ever read of Lebanon as the land of milk and honey.

Because only that sort of blessed (but unfortunately cursed too) land could produce Lebanese food.  More than the landscape, the mountains, my personal emotional response to a still functioning society of Arab Christians, the post-nightmare joy that even a partly-Resurrected Beirut must offer, and more, even, than the boys — it’s the food that makes Lebanon one of the top entries on my list of must-visits.  The boldness of the Lebanese culinary imagination reflects such care for both the sensuality and sanctity of food that I can’t helped being moved by just reading descriptions of it.  China, India and France (mmm…yeah, ok, Iran too) are the only places that can compete, I think, with this tiny little corner of the Mediterranean in sheer kitchen creativity.

Mansoufe (below), for example: made of pumpkin-and-bulgur balls, cooked with caramelized onions and flavored with sour grape juice.  Where else would people even think of this?  (Though I think “dumplings” or something might have been a better word; “balls” makes it sound like pumpkins have testicles.)

Mansoufe

But just like there’s not really any French food without the produce of France itself, and like I’ve come to believe what most South Asian friends think: that there’s no good regional Indian food outside of India, just Punjabi versions of dumb-downed Doabi-Mughlai food cooked by Sylhetis (though I know two good Bengali places in New York, one in Sunnyside, where you have to convince them you want the real stuff, and one in the Bronx, and an even better secret, a great Sindhi vegetarian place in Jackson Heights…Indian vegetarian is the only vegetarian food I’ll eat, actually the only vegetarian food I’ll honor by calling “food”), so, it seems, that if you want something other than stale felafel or inedible tabbouleh made by a dude who had too many lemons he needed to get rid of and who needs to be told that parsley isn’t a vegetable, then you need to go to Lebanon.

In steps the Food Heritage Foundation to help you get your bearings food-wise once you’ve gotten yourself to Lebanon: a great resource for anything you might want to know about Lebanese cuisine.  Yesterday they posted photos of the Ein Zebde (the Shouf village with the peach orchards at top) celebration of the Feast of the Holy Cross, and the annual potato-kibbe-making event the women there have held for the past twenty-four years.  Check out the page for captions on the pics below:

A Ein-zebde-preps2017

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Yesterday I tweeted my kudos to the Food Heritage Foundation (above).  But actually it would have been impossible to hide the fact this is a Maronite community even had they wanted to.  Even if they felt they didn’t have to explain why the women were doing this, the women’s hair and bare arms would have been a giveaway.

Still, I’m just saying this because if certain people like Mlle I___m de M_____i had their way both the entire staff of the Food Heritage Foundation and I would’ve been thrown in jail for fomenting sectarianism, publicly shamed for being Islamophobic and made to wear a Green “I”, and the Ein Zebde post would have had to be mysteriously cleansed of its Christianess.

The feast of the Holy Cross — I doubt any Catholics remember or even know — commemorates the discovery by the Empress Mother Helen of the Holy Cross on which Christ was crucified, of which Mark Twain famously said there were so many splinters of everywhere that it was apparently a Holy Forest.  She was the mother of Constantine, the emperor who moved the capital of the Roman Empire from Rome to the city on the Bosporus called Byzantion, renamed Constantinople (that’s İstanbul for those that don’t know), and who, like a good mother-ridden Greek boy (though he was really from what’s now Niš in in what’s now southern Serbia), unfortunately made what-a-monotheist-drag Christianity the official religion of the Empire to make her happy; though also like a good Greek boy he passive-aggressively wasn’t himself baptized till he was on his death-bed.  The discovery of the Cross and the feast of Sts. Constantine and Helen, “the Equal-to-the-Apostles”, on May 21st, when Athens is paralyzed by traffic for three days because a quarter of the city is named Kosta or Helene and another half is going to visit them for their name-day, is usually commemorated in the Orthodox Church by the same image:

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But for more fun, more lyrical descriptions of Lebanese food, mixed up with some serious butch conflict-zone reporting and a hilarious Middle Eastern mother-daughter-in-law relationship, see Annia Ciezadlo’s beautiful Day of Honey: A Memoir of Food, Love and War.

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Barcelona: “No tendréis mi odio” — “You won’t have my hate.”

18 Aug
That’s the title of a book by Antoine Leiris written when he lost his wife in the Bataclan attack in Paris.
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No, sorry.  You’ll have my hate and my rage.  What you won’t have is my fear.  And you won’t make me support asinine policies or animosity against ordinary, innocent Muslims (if only so that I don’t have to hear mega-jerk Mehdi Hassan screaming ad angry nauseam: “All 1.6 biilion of us?!  All 1.6 billion of us?!  All 1.6 billion of us?!”)
But rage chanelled into intelligent action against these çoğlania, both in Europe and back in their homes, I’ll support fully.  And I’m willing to give up a few things too.  So far Spanish police have said the men who planned this attack had connections to a French terrorist cell.  And as in the Paris attacks that were planned in Brussels, they take care to conduct their attacks in a neighboring country where they’re not under the police’s radar, so that the Barcelona and Cambrils attack were due to similar failure in information sharing.
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Sorry to all Schengen idealists, but it’s ok with me to show my passport if I’m entering Spain from France or when I’m crossing any border.  If these bums can’t take advantage of no border controls then more of their plans will be foiled earlier.
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Good for Rey Católico Felipe VI and Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy (not my man politically, but…) to have shown up in Barcelona immediately.  And maybe Catalans will understand that whether or not they want to be part of Spain, for Al Qaeda and ISIS, they’re still a part of the Muslim irredenta territory of Al Andalus, since that’s terrorist raison de faire behind these actions, as ISIS clearly explained to us when it took responsibility for the Spanish attacks.

Comment:nikobakos@gmail.com

 

Antoine Leiris book cover

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