Posts Tagged ‘France’


>The Curious Journey Of Curious George
Intelligent Life
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The little storybook monkey had many big adventures, but none so dramatic as what his German Jewish creators experienced, writes Erica Grieder …

Special to MORE INTELLIGENT LIFE
The little monkey had a happy life in Africa—eating bananas, swinging on vines. When he was captured, by a man in a yellow hat, his distress was written on his face. He gaped at his body, clearly shocked to find it trapped in a brown sack, winched at the neck. But the little monkey quickly recovered his equanimity. By the time he boarded the rowboat, he was sad to be leaving Africa, but a little curious, too.

Thus began the adventures of Curious George, one of the most popular and enduring children’s characters of all time. During the course of seven original stories by H.A. and Margret Rey, he moved to America, joined the circus, and became an astronaut. Those are big adventures for a little monkey. But none was quite as dramatic as what had happened to his creators in real life. “Curious George Saves the Day”, an exhibition at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco through March 13th, makes that much clear.

Hans Augusto Reyersbach and Margarete Waldstein were German Jews from Hamburg. Hans, born in 1898, lived near the zoo and taught himself to draw there (also, how to bark like a seal). After the first world war he tried to scrape together a living drawing posters for the circus, but soon packed up and moved to Rio de Janeiro. He was there, selling bathtubs, when Margarete arrived. She was working as a photographer, and knew Hans as a family friend.

Hans and Margarete married in 1935, and shortened their name to make it easier in Portuguese. The next year, they packed up their pet marmosets for a honeymoon in Paris. Louise Borden, in her short biography of the couple, mentions that the marmosets died during the cold and rainy crossing, even though Margarete knitted them a pair of sweaters.

They planned to stay for two weeks. That turned into four years. The Reys, working together, were becoming established as the authors of children’s books. He drew the pictures, and she wrote the text (and occasionally modelled the animal poses). The monkey who would become world-famous made his first appearance as Fifi, in stories about a giraffe called Raffy who made friends with nine little monkeys. There was a brave one, a strong one, a good one; all were without tails, the Reys explained, because the illustrations were already cluttered with the monkeys and the gangly giraffe. Fifi was the curious and clever one. The Reys decided he should have his own book.

As the decade drew to a close, no Jews in Europe felt safe. The Reys were working, but in letters to his publisher H.A. made it clear that progress had slowed. In September 1939 the couple left Paris for the Chateau Feuga, tucked away in the Dordogne region. ‘It feels ridiculous to be thinking about children’s books,’ wrote H.A. Rey. At one point French police turned up at the castle—they were suspicious about what the strangers were up to—but finding the illustrations scattered around, left them in peace.

The Reys returned to Paris several months later to find that the situation had grown more ominous. Refugees were streaming into Paris, and streaming out for safer destinations farther south. Ms Borden describes the preparations the Reys made for their escape: they tried to buy bicycles, but the only one they could find was a broken tandem. Hans bought spare parts, and spent an anxious few days fixing up a couple of single bikes. On June 12th 1940, the couple left Paris. The Nazis arrived less than two days later.

The Reys made their way to the south of France, and spent several weeks in a makeshift refugee camp in a high-school gymnasium before proceeding to Lisbon. From there they arranged passage to Brazil, and months later to New York. They carried with them the first drawings for the Curious George books, and showed them to police as proof of their occupation. The first book, ‘Curious George’, was published in 1941. The little monkey arrives in New York and strolls off of the ship with a smile, holding his papers in one hand and a little red valise in the other. A policeman salutes in welcome.

Curious George has his share of troubles in America. For example, he had to go to the hospital after swallowing a puzzle piece. The emotional clarity of Hans’ illustrations is brilliant in these scenes of setback. Sitting alone in his hospital bed, with a single fat tear rolling down his cheek, the little monkey is the picture of distress. And he is occasionally naughty. The exhibition displays a hand-written list, from Hans, of Curious George’s infractions: obstructing traffic by sitting on a light, escaping from jail, monkeying with the police.

But these were just bumps in the road. George’s intentions are never malign, and order is quickly restored from chaos—sometimes with an assist from the man in the yellow hat, sometimes with reassurance from other understanding adults. Over time, George becomes fully integrated. He goes to Hollywood. In 1957 he travels to outer space, just weeks before Laika became the first animal to actually do so. He visits the circus, an interesting venue. Janet Davis, a sociologist, has explored the circus as a place where 20th-century Americans worked out some of their feelings about social and cultural change. George’s adventures there bring out his status as both outsider and insider. He’s a monkey, sure, but he’s also a hero, and a highly relatable character.

The Curious George stories were an international hit, allowing for a few cultural variations. In Britain his name is given as Zozo; the publishers thought it would be disrespectful to have a mischievous monkey named after the sitting king. Whatever the case, children around the world were taken with George’s unwitting mischief, and charmed by the cheerful, brightly coloured illustrations. But his story of travel, migration and cultural collision has a paradigmatically American dimension.

Against the backdrop of the Reys’ own dramatic travels, these children’s stories assume a poignant cast. The Reys became American citizens in 1946, and stayed in New York the rest of their lives. They never talked much about their narrow escape, and even today the story is not widely known. This is perhaps because, despite the direct biographical parallels, the Curious George stories give so little indication of their dark historical backdrop. The outlook is resolutely cheerful. George explores his new world fearlessly, and his confidence is justified. Strangers are kind to him. Authority figures are corrective, not punitive. The inevitable misunderstandings are quickly sorted out and forgiven. He is just a fictional monkey. But those would be good standards to help any newcomer feel at home.

‘Curious George Saves the Day: The Art of Margret and H. A. Rey’ was organised by the Jewish Museum in New York. It is on view at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco until March 13th

Erica Grieder is the South-West America correspondent for The Economist. Picture credit: Curious George, and related characters, created by Margret and H. A. Rey, are copyrighted and trademarked by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. © 2010 by HMH.

THE CURIOUS JOURNEY OF CURIOUS GEORGE | More Intelligent Life

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Rosh Hashana Recipes Routed Through Africa


Nanda Gonzague for The New York Times
From left, Carole Chaouat, Cathy Levy, with makroud, and Corynne Mas share recipes for the High Holy Days. Like many Jews in France, their holiday meals have North African influences.

August 31, 2010

Rosh Hashana Recipes Routed Through Africa

Perpignan, France
CORYNNE MAS said the pastries she makes for Rosh Hashana were like teiglach, Eastern European cookies covered with nuts and honey.
But the version she’ll give her family when the holiday starts next Wednesday night will be stuffed with spiced dates and scented with orange flower water — Middle Eastern touches her mother, a French Jew with Eastern European roots, would not have recognized. They are called makroud, something she learned from her mother-in-law, an Algerian Jew.
Most of the dishes Ms. Mas cooks are North African. And when she gets together with her good friends Carole Chaouat and Cathy Levy, North African Jews, the food they share is more likely flavored with harissa, cumin and honey, than horseradish, dill or sugar.
The culinary transformation Ms. Mas experienced would feel familiar to many French Jews. About a quarter of the 300,000 Jews in France before World War II died in the Holocaust, and others later left for Israel or the United States. But as independence came to the former French colonies of Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria in the late 1950s and early 1960s, many more Jews emigrated to France. The customs they brought came to define French Jewish food.
Ms. Mas, 54, said she was not raised with an appreciation for her Jewish background. “I have learned everything from my Algerian mother-in-law,” she said. “The Sephardic Jews are attached to their religion and are refueling Jewish life in France.”
Many of these Sephardic dishes actually have centuries-old roots here in southwestern France and Catalonia, from before Jews were expelled and settled in North Africa. Jewish cooks here still use the ingredients of those ancestors — anise, olive oil, rose water, and pine nuts — reimagined on stovetops in Marrakesh, Oran and Tunis.
The physical traces of these traditions here are literally cast in stone in the remains of Jewish quarters in nearly every town — Hebrew letters on a grave, the indentation on the right side of an ancient doorpost indicating a once-posted mezuza, names like Rue de la Juiverie or Rue de Jérusalem found on cobblestone streets.
But new synagogues in Perpignan, or nearby in Narbonne and Béziers, have only initials in French outside the door: A.C.I.N., for Association Culturelle Israélite de Narbonne. There is no clear indication to the passer-by that these are Jewish houses of prayer.
Ms. Mas; Ms. Chaouat, 54, born in Tunisia; and Ms. Levy, 45, born in Morocco, grew up in Perpignan, a center of Jewish culture during the Middle Ages. It now has about 450 Jewish families.
As the women gathered beneath an almond tree on the patio of Ms. Mas’s home, Ms. Chaouat served a potato salad, dipping two fingers in a jar of harissa and dabbing at the potatoes she had prepared, as she would do with other cooked vegetables.
“This is the way we share recipes,” Ms. Chaouat said. “Food is our identity, tradition and our roots.”
Each group of immigrant Jews brought its own influences.
“Moroccans like sweet and salty in everything,” said Ms. Chaouat, who works as a caregiver for the elderly. “Tunisians eat couscous, but it is always savory and we serve everything on the table at once.”
Vegetables stuffed with meat are a popular holiday dish. The stuffing sometimes is made with parsley or eggs, sometimes with nuts, and always cooked slowly. Ms. Levy’s version, a Moroccan dish with roots here, includes cinnamon, turmeric and nutmeg and is cooked at low temperature overnight to be ready on the first night of the holiday. (But it can also be cooked more quickly at a higher temperature.)
Ms. Levy, a deputy mayor in her village outside of Perpignan, is usually in charge of food for synagogue events, gathering her friends to cook with her.
“We cook everyday and our children like to eat our food,” she said. “Living in a small town, we don’t lose time in traffic. So we have time to cook.”
Ms. Levy added: “If you don’t make traditional recipes at Rosh Hashana or the Sabbath, it is the revolution. Every holiday meal starts with at least two dozen tapas. Once my son said: ‘Why do you work so hard at cooking? Why don’t you make just one salad for Rosh Hashana!’ ” The next holiday, she brought out one salad. Her son looked chagrined and said, “Where are the other 23?”
So she brought out the 23 other dishes that she had hidden in a cupboard.

Rosh Hashana Recipes Routed Through Africa – NYTimes.com: “

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August 15, 2010

Environment and Business Clash in Saint-Tropez

PARIS — Of all the places to part with fistfuls of money in St.-Tropez, few have more cachet than Le Club 55.
Perched on the white stretches of Pampelonne, one of the Côte d’Azur’s most stunning beaches, Le Club offers a private patch of sand where habitués can pay around $255 a day to rent a couple of lounge chairs with an umbrella and enjoy a light lunch — not including wine.
But that traditional St.-Tropez luxury is in danger of being upended there, and at 27 other clubs and restaurants that have catered for decades to famous Côte d’Azur visitors from Brigitte Bardot to Paris Hilton.
The mayor’s office says the establishments pose a threat to the environment. Officials have proposed dismantling existing beach amenities and shrinking the area allotted for private beaches to protect delicate flora and what officials say are dunes worn down by the crush of manicured feet. As a result, despite the August atmosphere of hedonism, an unusual air of rebellion is stirring in St.-Tropez, with businesses contemplating their first ever “strike.”
“It’s completely stupid — everybody thinks so,” said Patrice de Colmont, the owner of Le Club 55 and a leader of the local fight against the government’s plans.
“If we said buildings in Paris couldn’t be above a certain height you wouldn’t cut off the top of the Eiffel Tower,” Mr. de Colmont said. “Well, this is the Eiffel Tower of the French Riviera.”
The mayor is seeking a compromise, but has not backed down. The town hall at Ramatuelle, where Pampelonne is situated, is planning to open its doors, starting Monday, to receive comments from the public.
“We all want to be here for the long term,” said Guy Martin, the chief of staff for Mayor Roland Bruno. “That’s why we need to make sure there’s a sustainable equilibrium between the environment and the community.”
Like much in France, though, the dispute is not so simple. Opponents of the move claim that it is really an effort to clear the way for big, well-connected companies to move in on the local businesses’ turf. Officials respond that the ruckus being raised by Mr. de Colmont and his colleagues is mostly in defense of their own form of crass commercialism.
French law prohibits private development on public beaches. But decades ago, residents built on Pampelonne by obtaining renewable one-year permits that allowed them to offer “public services,” like Jet Ski rentals and lifeguards, if the construction was dismantled when the contract expired.
If applying annually for permits was a nuisance, it at least protected small business owners, since no large company was willing to put up with the risk of losing a substantial investment, said Carole Balligand, the chairwoman of Save Pampelonne, a group that represents the local businesses that are in danger.
From the government’s perspective, however, all the activity stemming from the permits has hastened the erosion of an important dune on Pampelonne filled with rare native plant species. In 1986, the French Parliament passed a law to restore the area. Four years ago it ordered those in the area to strike a better balance between the environment and commercial activity.
Under the government’s plan, the commercial operators would be allowed on 20 percent of the beach rather than 30 percent, meaning their plots would be reduced to 23 from 28. As for the dune, it would be cordoned off to let nature do its work.
Local people are upset at another proposal, to require commercial beach activities to end on Sept. 1 every year — still the high season — rather than sometime in October, and to allow new businesses that build behind the restored dune 10-year operating permits. That, they suspect, is less about protecting the environment than attracting mass vacation companies with deep pockets, like Club Med.
What is more, Mrs. Balligand’s group, after digging up photos from the Allied landing on Pampelonne beach in August 1944, contends that no large dune ever existed. She accuses the government of using environmental arguments as an excuse to bring in bigger businesses.
In summer, about 20,000 people frolic on Pampelonne beach every day. While Paris and Nicky Hilton, Tina Turner, Bono and a constellation of other stars frequent its playground, so have a number of international artists, intellectuals and politicians. Many mix with the coterie of low-key, wealthy local residents whose families were here well before Ms. Bardot put Pampelonne on the map in the 1956 French film “And God Created Woman.”
Before Ms. Bardot, St.-Tropez was more like the Saint-Germain des Prés quarter of 1920s Paris. It was an eclectic beach town that drew few rich people. These days, “the gulf of St.-Tropez is covered with yachts, pretty much all of which are registered in tax havens,” Mr. Martin said.
The prospect of losing those clients and their free-flowing cash has Mr. de Colmont alarmed. His private beach plot is small, but it has been the stuff of legend ever since Ms. Bardot and the director Roger Vadim came during filming to seek food at what was then an outdoor dining table set up by Mr. de Colmont’s father for his family.
Last Thursday, Mr. de Colmont called off his planned one-day strike, he said, after the mayor’s office gathered him and other residents to discuss the matter “more reasonably.” But he is not ruling out a shutdown if the government digs in.
As he presses his fight, Mr. de Colmont will have at least one heavy hitter at his side. “Joan Collins left me a message the other day to ask what she could do to support me,” he said. “She has proposed to come give her point of view” to the mayor.
Such celebrities, of course, attract plenty of gawkers. Mr. de Colmont wants to be sure that the riffraff doesn’t get out of control, scaring the big spenders away. On a recent day, he said, 300 clients paid to use the amenities on Le Club 55’s plot, while only 100 people sat on the larger public beach next to his. “I would prefer,” he said, “not to have Club Med people crowding out those who are already here.”

Environment and Business Clash in Saint-Tropez – NYTimes.com










Not so pretty Sarkozy.. 
Nicolas Sarkozy’s approval ratings

L’Oréality check

Nicolas Sarkozy’s approval ratings have hit a record low in recent weeks

Jul 13th 2010 | From The Economist online
“CALUMNY and lies!” was how a defiant President Nicolas Sarkozy countered the allegations against him and Eric Woerth, his labour minister, in an hour-long interview on July 12th. By appearing on live prime-time television, Mr Sarkozy hoped to defuse apolitical crisis prompted by a party-financing and alleged tax-evasion scandal centred on Liliane Bettencourt, heiress to the L’Oréal cosmetics empire. In recent weeks, the Bettencourt affair has dragged Mr Sarkozy’s poll ratings down to a record low. Dire as Mr Sarkozy’s poll numbers seem, however, they are not yet as bad as those of Jacques Chirac, his predecessor. In 2006 Mr Chirac’s approval rating sank to a miserable 16%, four years into his second mandate.


                  





Click below for the interactive chart

http://www.economist.com/research/articlesBySubject/displaystory.cfm?subjectid=7933596&story_id=16580631

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It’s not just the third world where they like unmarked envelopes….

Sleaze Factor

Is there an epidemic of corruption in the world’s democracies?

BY JOSHUA E. KEATING | JULY 12, 2010

From Angola to Uzbekistan, Haiti to Zimbabwe, in far too many countries around the world, blatant official corruption not only goes unpunished — it’s the norm. But while we normally associate bribery, cronyism, and extortion with fragile developing states, the leaders of some of the world’s most stable and prosperous democracies have recently been investigated on criminal charges. Is this a case of those in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, or does it mean that we’re getting better at catching powerful crooks?
FRANCE
The target: President Nicolas Sarkozy
The alleged crimes: Illegal cash payments
The investigation: French prosecutors recently investigated allegations that Sarkozy illegally received cash in unmarked envelopes from Liliane Bettencourt, France’s richest woman, as a presidential candidate in 2007. According to Bettencourt’s former accountant, the L’Oreal heir’s financial advisor gave €150,000 to the treasurer of Sarkozy’s campaign — an allegation denied by both parties. The former treasurer, who is now labor minister, was officially cleared of wrongdoing, but opponents say the investigation by France’s finance inspector was not impartial.
“L’affaire Bettencourt” is just the latest scandal to hit Sarkozy’s administration, including the resignation of two junior ministers who spent thousands of dollars on cigars and Caribbean vacations, and a corruption scandal involving one of Sarkozy’s closest friends and political allies who was implicated in a multimillion-dollar insider-trading scheme in 2007. But in the wake of the financial crisis and an unpopular pension-reform plan, this time the president might be fighting for his political career: On July 12, Sarkozy took the unusual step of appearing on national television to deny the charges.
Sarkozy’s allies have denounced the allegations as a left-wing “political plot,” and indeed there seem to be some large holesin the allegations made by Bettencourt’s advisor. But Sarkozy’s opponents will likely have little sympathy. His longtime political rival, former Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, was the subject of a five-year investigation and trial over allegations that he faked documents that linked Sarkozy to bribes while the two politicians were angling for the presidency. De Villepin was cleared of the charges — though three of his colleagues were convicted — and has maintained that the investigation was nothing but a political vendetta by the president.
ITALY
The target: Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi
The alleged crimes: Corruption, organized crime
The investigation: Berlusconi claims with pride that he is “the most legally persecuted man of all time.” More than 109 cases have been brought against him, ranging from nonpayment of taxes to false accounting, bribery to prostitution. By his own count, he has been subjected to more than 2,500 court hearings. But despite the best efforts of prosecutors and political opponents, the 73-year-old Berlusconi seems unlikely to ever see the inside of a jail cell or be forced to step down.
The Teflon prime minister has managed four times to pass laws granting himself immunity from prosecution, though each of which has been judged unconstitutional by the courts. For his part, Berlusconi has accused the Italian judicial system of having an ingrained left-wing bias.
The most recent legal scandal involving Berlusconi concerns his longtime friend, business partner, and political ally Marcello Dell’Utri, who has been convicted of serving as a liaison between the mafia and Italy’s political elite. In the course of the trial, a convicted Mafia hit-man testified that senior Mafia leaders had boasted of their ties to Berlusconi during the 1990s.
ISRAEL
The target: Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert
The alleged crimes: Bribe-taking
The investigation: With internal probes into the 2008 offensive in Gaza and the controversial boarding of a pro-Palestinian flotilla earlier this year, Israel certainly doesn’t lack for high-profile investigations. But the country is riveted by the ongoing corruption investigation against former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who was plagued by corruption charges throughout his term. New York businessman Morris Talansky claims he gave Olmert more than $150,000 for his campaign for mayor of Jerusalem in 1997, but the money was spent on fine hotels, cigars, and watches.
Perhaps more shockingly, Olmert is accused of charging multiple nonprofit groups — including a charity for the disabled and the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial — for the same fundraising trips. Olmert announced his resignation in 2008 and wascharged with fraud a year later.
He has yet to be convicted, but investigations are ongoing. Most recently, Olmert was questioned over accusations that he accepted bribes in exchange for helping win contracts for a Jerusalem real estate developer. His administration didn’t come off looking that clean either: A finance minister was investigated for embezzlement, a justice minister resigned after being convicted for sexual harassment, and President Moshe Katsav resigned amid scandal after allegations of sexual assault.
Olmert is the first Israeli head of government to be indicted on corruption charges, though current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been the subject of investigations in the past. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman is also under investigation for a number of crimes, including bribery, fraud, and money-laundering.
TAIWAN
The target: Former President Chen Shui-bian
The alleged crimes: Corruption, embezzlement
The investigation: Chen was named as a suspect in a $450,000 embezzlement case within hours of stepping down as president of Taiwan in 2008 and sentenced to life imprisonment less than a year later — an ignominious end to the political career of the once renowned human-rights-lawyer-turned-politician.
Prosecutors had long been gunning for Chen, who enjoyed immunity from prosecution as president — his wife and son-in-law were arrested on charges of forgery and insider trading while he was still in office. Chen’s political opponents also maintained that Chen faked an assassination attempt in 2004 to win voter sympathy in his reelection bid.
Chen and his wife, who was also given a life sentence, continue to appeal their convictions. Their sentences were reducedfrom life imprisonment to 20 years in June when the court found that less money was involved in the corruption than previously thought. The former president remains in detention as his appeal continues.
But the current administration isn’t squeaky clean either: President Ma Ying-jeou, Chen’s political rival, was twice tried and acquitted on corruption charges before taking office.
* A deleted section of this article implied that President Lee Myung-bak of South Korea is being investigated in connection with allegations of illegal surveillance. While several senior South Korean officials are being investigated, including several in the prime minister’s office and one in the president’s office, Lee has not been named as a suspect. FP regrets the error.

Sleaze Factor – By Joshua E. Keating | Foreign Policy

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