Former Associate editor Margret Aldrich on the hunt for happiness, community, and how humans thrive
Wednesday, January 18, 2012 10:45 AM
The tiny house movement is undeniably romantic. Toss out your nonessential belongings, leave the responsibilities of your sprawling suburban home, and embrace the freedom and clarity of an unfettered life. Need more romance than that? Make your tiny home a real-life gypsy caravan.
In nineteenth-century Europe, elaborately painted wooden wagons, or vardos, were used by the Roma people (pejoratively called “gypsies”) as living quarters and work spaces. Several companies today, including Gypsy Vans, Windy Smithy, and Ingham & Fallon, produce modernized or replica wagons for sale.
Perhaps most appealing is Roulottes de Campagne, who offers caravans for rent in more than 75 windblown and wildflower-thick locations throughout the French countryside. “Roulotte de Campagne has redesigned the circus caravan, country caravan, or so-called gypsy caravan as a high-comfort way for city-dwellers to get away from it all and tap into their Bohemian spirit,” writes Kirsten Dirksen for *faircompanies.
“The Bohemian spirit is definitely a growing trend,” concurs Roulottes de Campagne. “More than ever before, caravans are the symbol of freedom without frontiers.”
Watch a video tour of one of their diminutive 10-foot by 26-foot dwellings below, and start cultivating your own bohemian dreams:
Images via Roulottes de Campagne.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009 3:24 PM
American audiences were shocked last week to see a photo of their commander-in-chief with French President Nicolas Sarkozy giving what looked like lecherous glances toward a young woman. French audiences, on the other hand, likely knew what they were getting into when they elected their president. Sarkozy’s electoral victory displays “the collective desire of the French people to be represented by a dominant libidinous male,” Lucy Wadham writes for Prospect Magazine. The French people elected Sarkozy because he is a “libidinous sex dwarf.”
The lascivious French attraction to Sarkozy goes back to Napolian Bonaparte, according to Wadham. She writes, “Sarkozy, like Bonaparte, has all the characteristics of a sex dwarf: he is short, shamelessly flirtatious and tireless in his pursuit of women.”
Newsweek leapt to Barack Obama’s defense, saying that he was “in the midst of an entirely gentlemanly maneuver,” while “proving again that chivalry is not dead.” Sarkozy’s leering appears less defensible. The video below allows people to draw their own conclusions.
Thursday, July 02, 2009 12:33 PM
In June, French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced his support for the banning of wearing burqas in public. Speaking to the French National Assembly, Sarkozy said that “The burqa is not welcome on French territory. In our country, we cannot accept that women be prisoners behind a screen, cut off from all social life, deprived of all identity...It is a sign of subservience, a sign of debasement. It will not be welcome on the territory of the French Republic.”
Needless to say, in the blogosphere these comments have set off a round of fiery debates reminiscent of the conversations about the 2004 French law that banned Muslim head scarves, Jewish yakamas, and large Christian crosses in public schools.
Writing for the Huffington Post, Liesl Gerntholtz, the director of the Women’s Rights Division at Human Rights Watch, argues that we need to look beyond controversial burqas: “Women's oppression is universal. Those who want to help address this sorry state of affairs should start not by telling Muslim women how to dress, but by tackling the root causes of this oppression both at home and abroad: discrimination, lack of access to services, and unequal economic opportunities.”
Newsweek senior editor Lisa Miller and a professor at the Chicago Theological Seminary, Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, warn on the Washington Post blog On Faith that any government decision about which religions’ traditional clothing is offensive and very dangerous.
Over at the fantastic blog Muslimah Media Watch, Krista points out that the problems surrounding sexual oppression aren’t going to simply go away with the burqa:
So when these women make the “choice” to wear the burqa, they are not necessarily choosing between imprisonment and freedom, or between subservience and empowerment; they may be making this choice between multiple forms of imprisonment (symbolic or otherwise), or multiple options that still place them in subservient positions, or they may even be making this choice in a context where the burqa represents the positive side of those dichotomies.
Sources: Huffington Post, Newsweek, Washington Post, On Faith, Muslimah Media Watch
Image by fabbio, licensed by Creative Commons.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009 5:37 PM
What are they listening to in Paris? Gareth Murphy at the new and impressive Journal of Music fills us in on the expansive playlists of Parisian radio stations:
Classical, jazz, electro pips and boinks, apocalyptic gangster rap from the Paris hoods, gay house, Congolese rhumba, chanson française, Hebrew religious songs, arty hip-hop from New York, Zouk from the Antilles, salsa from Havana, crooner slows from the 1980s, accordion cheese, Arabic trad, Algerian raï, French R&B for suburban girlies, weird cinematic soundtracks about geese flying to Moscow. Parisians approach music rather like food: they want to taste every dish that human civilisation has ever invented.
Murphy attributes this wild eclecticism to several factors. France is better known for painting, literature, and cinema than for music; hence its relatively small music industry “does not possess the arrogance and influential export market that the pop music scene in London is renowned for” and is free to play what it wants. He also posits that theater is a subliminal artistic reference point for the French, resulting in a strange combination of musical tastes:
Caught in a split personality between the brooding of Northern Europe and the simplicity of Mediterranean culture, it’s almost as if the French still don’t know whether music is supposed to be stupid or serious, ironic or first degree.
Murphy notes that many talented artists who failed to launch their careers in their homelands end up being the toast of Paris. For example, have you ever heard of the U.S. folk singer Alela Diane? Neither had I. But Murphy reports that this “rising genius” has gotten huge exposure through repeated plays on France Inter, the country’s news, society and culture broadcaster, launching her on national tours. “The Paris music scene does not have any special secret to teach the world’s musicians,” he writes, “except maybe that the expectations and values of your audience will denote the ambitions and content of your work.”
Source: The Journal of Music (subscription required for full article)
Friday, January 23, 2009 12:49 PM
Freedom fries may be gone, but George Bush's resentments toward the French are not forgotten. As he prepared to leave office, Bush seized the opportunity to lob a departing, symbolic food bomb at the French, according to Foreign Policy:
Apparently one of George W. Bush's last acts as president was to triple tariffs on French Roquefort cheese. This was meant as retaliation for the longstanding French ban on U.S. beef imports. But as Charles Bremner notes, many French were quick to see it as Bush's final shot at the “cheese-eating surrender monkeys” who had so aggravated him during the run-up to the Iraq war.
American hormone-treated beef is actually banned by the entire European Union over health concerns, and while Bush raised tariffs on a host of EU products, he singled out Roquefort for a particularly extreme hike.
The French took notice, and made sure Barack Obama knew they weren't happy, sending him what Foreign Policy calls “a deluxe box of Roquefort” to welcome him to the White House and a letter asking him to lift the "shocking" tax. They’re now busy plotting their next move, Telegraph reports, taking hefty new tariffs on Coke products into consideration.
Image by star5112, licensed under Creative Commons.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008 12:35 PM
Yesterday at the United Nations, France’s Nicolas Sarkozy held out the carrot of immunity for Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir if he implements “radical and immediate change in Sudanese policies.” Britain is reportedly in agreement with staying the International Criminal Court’s war crimes investigation. (China, Russia, the Arab League, and the African Union were already on board with the immunity deal.)
And so the organ of blind international justice is being reduced to just another political bargaining chip in a disastrously long conflict that’s proven immune to such wheeling and dealing. Just as bad, the approach could be completely misguided by removing what might prove to be one of the few effective pressure tactics on Sudan to date. An interesting piece in Britain’s new Standpoint magazine argues that ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo’s much-maligned campaign for war crime charges against al-Bashir may actually be rattling Khartoum toward change.
Here’s Justin Marozzi, who spent the summer as a communications adviser for the joint U.N.-African Union force in Darfur, writing for Standpoint:
Many commentators fear [Moreno-Ocampo’s] decision will wreck any chances of peace, failing to note that there is no peace process to spoil. With his back to the wall, there is no accounting what Bashir might do, they argue, ignoring the fact that he has had carte blanche to do what he likes in Darfur since 2003. In fact, although it is early days, the fallout from the ICC’s landmark move towards the indictment of Bashir looks positive. A friend with access to the highest levels of the regime reports unprecedented conversations at the presidential palace.
“The government’s in meltdown,” he reports. “They just didn’t think it would ever happen. They can’t believe it. The four or five people who run Sudan are now saying to Bashir, look where your policies have got us. They’re telling him, you can go to your rallies and demonstrations, you can shake your fist and rattle your walking stick, but you shut the hell up.” ...
Now a national cross-party committee has been created to address the Darfur issue and end the conflict. Bashir has suddenly rediscovered an interest in Darfur, promising security, schools, roads and water. Window-dressing while the ICC judges ponder Moreno Ocampo’s evidence? Quite possibly, but these are suddenly interesting times. “There’s going to be a real push now for peace,” my palace mole reports. “Bashir’s got nothing to lose.”
Far from emboldening the Sudanese president and destroying a peace process that doesn’t exist, in other words, the ICC’s potential indictment may have been the best news for Darfur in years. Sudan watchers wonder whether Khartoum will finally ditch the president, who came to power in a 1989 coup, noting that the regime dropped the Islamic ideologue Hassan al-Turabi in the late Nineties in a bid to end its international isolation. Turabi, they note, was a far more important figure to the ruling National Congress Party then than Bashir is today.
Late last month, the Institute for War & Peace Reporting noted “rumblings of dissent” in Sudanese media and among fringe political circles in the wake of Moreno-Ocampo’s announcement to seek an arrest warrant for al-Bashir. Marozzi, however, goes further, placing dissent in the mouths of those with influence. Removing this key instigator of dissent—the threat of prosecution—could very well restore the status quo, which translates to more death and disaster for the people of Darfur.
Side note: If you’re interested in reading one of the best pieces written on Darfur in recent memory—yes, the genocide has tragically gone on long enough to justify that statement—check out this piece from Richard Just in the New Republic. A snippet:
No genocide has ever been so thoroughly documented while it was taking place. There were certainly no independent film-makers in Auschwitz in 1942, and the best-known Holocaust memoirs did not achieve a wide audience until years after the war. The world more or less looked the other way as genocide unfolded in Cambodia during the 1970s, and the slaughter in Rwanda happened so quickly—a mere hundred days—that by the time the public grasped the extent of the horror, the killing was done. But here is Darfur, whose torments are known to all. The sheer volume of historical, anthropological, and narrative detail available to the public about the genocide is staggering. In the case of the genocide in Darfur, ignorance has never been possible. But the genocide continues. We document what we do not stop. The truth does not set anybody free.
Image of displaced mother and child in North Darfur from USAID.
Wednesday, May 07, 2008 11:57 AM
Objectivity is boring. The determined even-handedness of “GMOs: The Seeds of Discord” at the Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie in Paris is stultifiying after a few placards for anyone familiar with the issues surrounding genetically modified organisms. The interest of the exhibit, then, lies in unearthing the careful concession France is making on the topic.
The exhibit portrays the controversy over GMOs as a dispute between two camps led by the modification-happy United States, on one hand, pitted against “a line of resistance in France and a few other European countries, brandishing the precautionary principles.” So why would principle-brandishing France allow any GMOs within its borders?
France has hope in “second-generation” GMOs, which could increase the protein or omega-3 content of crops, allow crops to grow in arid regions or saline soil, and increase the storage time for grains. Unlike current GMOs, which are portrayed as profiting seed and pesticide companies like Monsanto, second-generation GMOs hold promise for the greater good. North America dominates current second-generation research, according to the exhibit, but France set aside 45 million Euros for research in 2009-2011.
It’s a contradictory move for France when it claims to be in the anti-GMO vanguard. After all, the nation recently outlawed the cultivation of Bt maize, a Monsanto seed that produces its own insecticide. Rather than categorically dismissing GMOs, then, the French seem to be cautiously awaiting GMOs that can combat serious food shortages rather than just individual pests and weeds.
review of a book critiquing scientific support for GMOs
in the May/June issue of Utne Reader.
Image by Féron Benjamin, licensed under Creative Commons.
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