mercredi 20 décembre 2006

The taxi driver who was driving himself free

A white Mercedes is parked at a taxi stand near Porte de La Chapelle, Paris. The engine is off. Through the driver’s window, I can see a bearded, refined middle-aged man biting vigorously into a sandwich. It is a quarter past noon, time for lunch.
Ahmed Shoker is Egyptian. He arrived in France 32 years ago. First he worked in a restaurant, and then as a waiter in a hotel. He has been a taxi driver for 22 years now. “I wanted more freedom”, he says with his husky, gentle voice. “Being a driver, I could arrange my timetable as I wished. And at the time I wanted to have children”, he adds with a grin. Taxi driving is not such a quiet activity however. Ahmed prefers avoiding inner Paris at certain times: “Driving in Paris can be very stressful and tiring. Our mayor Bertrand Delanoë has opened corridors for us taxis, but I’d rather drive in the outskirts. For example, taking someone to the airport is just perfect for me, because the journey is worth four fares in Paris.”
The main problem is that you sometimes have to deal with odd customers. Ahmed has many an anecdote, so much so that he has to reflect upon which to choose: “For example, there are people who come and sit in my taxi and say they do not know where they want to go. They look desperate. One time I brought one of them to Châtelet and left him there.” Ahmed even looks ill at ease as he tells me about this particular story: “Once, a customer refused to pay. He took a syringe out of his bag and said it was aids infected. If ever I had tried anything, he would have stabbed me...” Thanksfully, this does not happen every so often. Ahmed reassures me. He resumes with his confidentially tone: “In general, customers are nice. Some of them are chatterboxes; they cannot help but talk about their private lives. I’m discrete, I don’t want to listen to their problems, so I just nod or answer politely. They need to talk to someone, and this someone is us taxi-drivers.”
Ahmed turns the ignition. His lunch break is over. It is half past noon, time to work, isn’t it? Sometimes freedom has a price.

© Brice 2007

lundi 18 décembre 2006

A week in Great Britain

Tom Stephens

Suffolk murders

Breaking news: a suspect has been arrested. Supermarket worker Tom Stephens was arrested by police at his home at Trimley St Martin, near Felixstowe. He is being held on suspicion of murdering prostitutes Gemma Adams, Anneli Alderton, Tania Nicol, Paula Clennell and Annette Nicholls. He’s 37.
He gave an interview this weekend to the Sunday Mirror, in which he confessed he knew the five prostitutes, but denied being their murderer. Speaking in an interview with BBC News last week for background purposes, Mr Stephens said he "was probably the closest thing Tania [Nicol] had as a boyfriend". He said he had known Miss Nicol for about six months but had known Miss Adams for 18 months - "about as long as I've known any of the girls".
This arrest is the latest development in the gloomy story that has been haunting Ipswich and the Suffolk region for the last 20 days. Five prostitutes have been found dead, and the population feared a serial killer was on the run. However, noone knows if Tom Stephens is the real killer.
The slaughter raised social issues, such as the place of prostitution in the English law: Prostitution is tolerated, but prostitutes cannot display any visible sign of their activity. As a result, they tend to lead their customers to concealed places. They are therefore easy targets for violent men with a grudge against women.

Tony Blair’s tour

Tony Blair has been much in the news this week. He condemned the killing of prostitutes, trying to calm Ipswich population as he praised the local police. After that, he put on his costume of a diplomat.
- At his monthly media briefing the Prime minister said the Iranian regime was "deeply extreme". Tony Blair declared “There is no point in hiding the fact that Iran poses a major strategic threat to the cohesion of the entire region”.
- He then began a whole Middle East tour. First destination: Turkey, where he met his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Mr Blair was set to assure Mr Erdogan of UK support for Turkish membership. Still, EU foreign ministers have decided to suspend accession talks with Turkey on eight of the 35 areas that candidates are required to complete. Blair declared: “Turkey is important in terms of its influence and its connections within the Middle East as a whole and therefore the influence it can bring to bear on Israel/Palestine.”
- Second stop in Egypt. He held talks with Egyptian President Hosni Moubarak, hoping this would boost the peace process between Israel and Palestine.
- Third destination: Iraq. The Prime minister visited troops in Basra, in the south of the country. This is a kind of farewell, as Tony Blair will not come back in Iraq before he leaves office in 2007. This visit cannot mask the difficulties British soldiers face there. A soldier who was shot and killed in Iraq died because of "unforgivable and inexcusable" delays in providing body armour to troops. He had given his armour back three days ago because there were not enough armours for every soldier.
- To finish with, Tony Blair was in Palestine yesterday, where he met Mahmoud Abbas, the leader of Palestinian Authority. Mr Blair told the Palestinian leader he backed his efforts to revive the peace process.
- Before leaving, Mr Blair became on Thursday the first sitting prime minister to be interviewed as part of a criminal investigation - but Downing Street stressed he spoke to police as a witness and not a suspect.
- Another affair: Tony Blair was accused of having a corruption probe into a Saudi arms deal dropped after commercial and political pressure. The Lib Dems argue it was "effectively blackmail" by the Saudis and the SFO decision "came from the top". Mr Blair has said the probe was dropped because of national security concerns.
- Breaking news: The Chatham House report has been released this morning. The report assesses British foreign policy since 1997. Two major pieces of information developed by Professor Bulther-Thomas
o Iraq: The 2003 invasion and the post-war "debacle" have damaged Britain's international influence, said the Chatham House report. The "disaster" of Iraq and Tony Blair's failure to influence US policy will overshadow his time as prime minister.
o Euro: the report also says Mr Blair's successor would also have to rethink Britain's role within the European Union and distance it from the US. The new prime minister would have to look again at his opposition to the euro and the Schengen agreement, which ends controls on international frontiers.
As a conclusion, it says, that “despite a number of successes, especially in his first term, Tony Blair's time in office will be overshadowed by the disaster in Iraq.”

Resignation at the head of MI5

Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller is to leave her post as director general of the British security service, MI5. Dame Eliza, 58, who has been in the post since October 2002, will leave by April and her replacement will be appointed by Home Secretary John Reid. For her, MI5 is facing two big challenges - the "serious threat" and the need to adapt to that threat.
Concerning the renewal of Britain’s Arsenal, Ministers have been warned by MPs that the skills base for building a new generation of nuclear submarines in the UK is at a "critical level". The Commons defence select committee said the shortage of engineers was a "cause of serious concern". Trident will reach the end of its scheduled life in 2024.

(Almost) a new development in Lady Diana’s inquiry

An official UK police inquiry into the Paris car crash which killed Princess Diana and Dodi Al Fayed has found no evidence the couple were murdered. Lord Stevens, who led the three-year investigation, said the 1997 crash was a "tragic accident". The inquiry report said chauffeur Henri Paul, who also died, was speeding and over the legal drink-drive limit.
A spokesman for Mr Al Fayed's father said he does not accept the findings, as questions remain "unanswered".
In Britain, this was just the necessary spark to get people gossip about this long debated issue. Who is to blame for this tragic death ...? The results of another investigation are to be unraveled next year. The story begins, again...

Prince Charles and the global warming

In the same time, Prince Charles was writing an article concerning global warming. “Climate change is now a critical issue for every Commonwealth country,” he wrote in CPQ, the quarterly magazine of the Commonwealth Press Union (CPU), adding that “[he] believe[d] that mankind ha[d] all the necessary skills, resources and ingenuity to tackle climate change effectively.”

A social news item

Work secretary John Hutton said he wanted to end the “can work but won't work” culture, saying society should expect more in return for benefits. He will therefore cut /or stop altogether/ benefits to long-term unemployed people who do not try to find a job.

Scotland and Northern Ireland

- Scotland export market tops nearly 15 billion pounds. Scotland's manufacturing export market grew by £80m last year to £14.9bn, but that is still down on the 1999 peak of almost £20bn. A study by the Scottish Council for Development and Industry (SCDI) said that high-performing sectors such as whisky had helped the 2005 figures. The electrical machinery and recycling industries also did well last year.
- Last but not least: A Sinn Fein delegation led by party president Gerry Adams has met the head of Northern Ireland's police. The meeting came as republicans face growing pressure to support the police as part of the deal to restore devolution. "We need to resolve the whole matter of the transfer of powers on policing and justice in a doable, definitive timeframe to achieve that," Gerry Adams said.

© Brice 2007

dimanche 17 décembre 2006

Grand-messe cathodique pour une poignée de fervents

La nuit commence déjà à tomber sur la Plaine St Denis. Un petit attroupement se forme devant une entrée de studio. Ce soir, les fans se pressent pour assister à l’enregistrement de 7 jours au Groland, journal décalé présenté par Jules-Edouard Moustic. Sur le pas de la porte, un vigile s’occupe des fouilles au corps. On ne rigole pas avec la sécurité des caïds du PAF. Une file d’attente s’organise. Certains impatients ne peuvent s’empêcher de jeter un coup d’œil à leur montre : « Ils avaient dit 19h ! »
19h25. Sésame, la porte du studio s’ouvre enfin. En prime, les spectateurs du jour ont l’insigne privilège d’assister aux Guignols de l’Info, retransmis en direct sur Canal +. Le décor est planté : c’est d’ailleurs la première chose que l’on voit. La blancheur du bureau en carton-pâte du célèbre avatar de Patrick Poivre d’Arvor détonne dans la pénombre du studio. Une spectatrice s’étonne : « Ca change de la télé ! A la télé, c’est plus clinquant. » Le show est impressionnant. Les marionnettes paraissent plus grandes qu’à l’écran. Quatre caméras, interposées entre le spectacle et les spectateurs, participent de l’atmosphère. Une salve d’applaudissements récompense la fin des dix minutes d’antenne. Les marionnettes disparaissent derrière le décor, sans un au revoir. Une petite minute après, on les voit ratatinées dans d’énormes sacs plastiques transparents que rapportent les marionnettistes. Vision d’horreur. Vie et mort d’un pantin.
Pas le temps de s’atermoyer pourtant. Le chauffeur de salle presse le public de transiter 10 mètres plus loin. Une autre estrade l’attend. Elle fait face au décor de Groland. Les esprits s’agitent, la tension monte : Jules-Edouard Moustic va bientôt faire son apparition. « Et le public sera filmé ! » annonce le chauffeur. Le public de répéter, les yeux écarquillés : « on va être filmés ? » Tandis que chacun se recoiffe, Jules-Edouard Moustic fait une arrivée remarquée : les spectateurs font mine de s’en aller, dépités. La farce préparée d’avance fait son effet. L’animateur vedette se prend au jeu et mime l’étonné : « Oh bah ça alors ! » Le public est ravi. L’animateur fait le spectacle, il met ses fans à l’aise. « Oh, c’est un beau bonnet que tu as là, il faut toujours avoir un beau bonnet » déclare-t-il à un adolescent encapuchonné. Celui-ci est aux anges.
Et l’émission de commencer, et le public de donner de la voix entre chaque reportage. La soirée est passée trop vite. A la sortie, certains retombent en enfance : « Je crois que je suis passé à la télé, on regardera ça samedi sur Canal ! »

© Brice 2007

samedi 16 décembre 2006

Jack the Ripper resurrected ?

The weekend was calm in Ipswich. Yet the tension is still lingering. Five prostitutes were found dead in the region over the last ten days. The police say they cannot dismiss the hypothesis of multiple killers. However Suffolk’s population believe there is a serial killer having a spree, thus reactivating the spectral presence of Jack the Ripper. The famous killer is being held responsible for at least five murders of prostitutes in London in 1888. He had not been caught. Suffolk Police are on alert, gathering evidence and drawing a psychological profile of the killer. Police in Ipswich are continuing their investigation, as families and friends of the prostitutes have been describing what the women were like. The daily newspaper News of the World offered 200,000 pounds for any piece of information leading to the arrest of the killer. In Ipswich, everyone just stay on watch, waiting for another victim to be found. The affair raises society debates. Authorities begin to wonder whether it is time to tolerate prostitution or not. Tolerating prostitution would help protecting prostitutes. For the moment, the most important thing is to stop the slaughter. Police are trying to reassure the population. Inspector Ben Cook, in charge of operations there, said: "Due to tragic events people are very concerned in this area and we're taking the opportunity of late-night shopping, so that we can send a positive message to them and give them crime-prevention advice."

© Brice 2007

Revue de Presse I

Mardi 17 octobre s’est tenu le premier des six débats qui opposera les trois candidats socialistes à l’investiture de leur parti. Ce premier débat était l’occasion pour Ségolène Royal, Dominique Strauss-Kahn et Laurent Fabius de confronter leurs positions en matière d’économie. Au lendemain de ce grand oral diffusé en direct sur La Chaîne Parlementaire et sur Public Sénat, les quotidiens français semblent unanimes sur au moins un point : l’absence pure et simple de débat. Le Parisien le titre en première page : « Des idées, des propositions, mais pas de vrai débat ». C’est sans doute Willem, le dessinateur de Libération, qui synthétise le mieux la situation en croquant les trois prétendants enfermés dans trois bocaux de verre.
La presse française ne parvient en revanche pas à s’entendre quant-à la désignation d’un gagnant. Libération titre avec humour en une de son édition du 18 octobre : « D’égale à égal », regrettant en page 4 que « La guerre des trois [n’ait] pas eu lieu ». Statu quo ? Non, Libération insiste sur la meilleure image donnée par Ségolène Royal, tandis que ses deux concurrents s’enfonçaient dans leurs costumes sombres de caciques du parti, agrémentés d’une cravate mal assortie. A l’inverse, Le Figaro et Le Parisien ont trouvé Dominique Strauss-Kahn plus convaincant. Le Figaro tempère cependant son propos en soulignant que certes Dominique Strauss-Kahn s’est montré à son avantage, mais il s’agissait d’un sujet qu’il maîtrise sur le bout des doigts. Le Parisien appuie d’avantage la prestation de l’ancien ministre de l’Economie et son « incontestable punch », le créditant d’un 16/20 quand Laurent Fabius et Ségolène Royal sont à la peine avec respectivement des notes de 11/20 et 12/20. Un spécialiste du comportement vient apporter son regard expert et confirme ces résultats dans les colonnes du régional.
On pourrait s’étonner de l’absence de tout article relatif à Laurent Fabius exclusivement. L’ancien premier ministre semble être l’oublié de ce débat. C’est sans parler du mutisme total de La Croix et de L’Humanité qui passent complètement sous silence l’information. Cette absence est particulièrement étonnante pour L’Humanité, qui, le mardi, avait consacré sa une au débat.
A noter que le jeudi 19 octobre, deux jours après le débat donc, les analyses sont plus fines et différemment problématisées. Libération et Le Figaro s’intéressent à la question des audiences, bénéfiques, à en croire Médiamétrie, pour LCI qui enregistre une hausse de fréquentation de 30 points pour son site Internet à 210000 visites. La chaîne a multiplié ses parts d’audience par 4 sur la durée du débat, à 4%. A côté de cela, l’ensemble des quotidiens, Parisien et Figaro en tête, se délectent des diverses actualisations des sondages d’opinion qui en majorité accordent une remontée à Dominique Strauss-Kahn et remarquent un tassement de la popularité de Ségolène Royal qui reste néanmoins solidement devant.
C’est à Clermont-Ferrand devant les militants que se tiendra le deuxième round, jeudi soir. La précampagne ne fait que commencer au Parti Socialiste.

© Brice 2007

Rap music and youth violence in the United States

“Music / reality / sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference / But we as entertainers / have a responsibility / to these kids.” These first words of When the Music Stops[1] raise a fundamental issue: it sets a link between music, which is a means of expression, if not an art, and reality, to which it is only remotedly affiliated. Art sometimes tends to imitate reality, however it never is reality.
Rap music appears to be clearly different. Rap is a language, it talks, and it talks about a certain reality, which is often twisted, rearranged, so that the lyrics are made more striking. In this particular song, Eminem and his rap “crew” D12 explore the border between music and reality, explaining that both are sometimes melted, and that listeners and even singers happen to get confused between the two. The message is: “When the music stops”, are we, rappers, still in character? Is there a decisive dichotomy between what we say – our lyrics – and what we do – in “real” life? The answer seems to be unsure: “Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference.” Rappers do have a mission then, they have to admit that their lyrics appertain to a form of art, and not to reality. This is indeed a “responsibility”. Rappers are “entertainers”, they have to educate “kids” who are willing to believe everything their favorite rappers say.
The problem is this remains a mere pious hope. Eminem as well as other rappers keep on singing about guns, violence, manslaughters and other “explicit lyrics” as they put it on rap albums. Hence an American tradition to brand rap music as a powder keg, triggering violence amongst young people. Many rappers themselves do have a notorious reputation, as they mix up reality and music more often than not. See Fifty Cent and his numerous gun bullets in the torso, as one example out of thousands.
Nevertheless, can rap music stand accused for youth violence? Can it be said to have even the slightest impact upon it? Such interrogations are futile, as no one has the answer to them. This report is to shed light upon those interrogations. It will try to understand them through a short history of American rap and a brief sample of what rappers can say. Links between rap music and violence, if any, will then perhaps be clearer.

Rap culture / roots and developments à the road to gangsta rap

Rap music is a style of popular music which came into existence in the United States during the mid-1970s, and became a large part of modern pop culture during the 1980s. At the very beginning, the cultural movement was initiated by inner-city youth, mostly African Americans in New York City, in the early 1970s. By 1979 rap music had become a commercially popular music genre and began to enter the American mainstream. In the 1990s, a form of hip hop called gangsta rap became a major part of American music. It caused significant controversy over lyrics which were perceived as promoting violence, promiscuity, drug use and misogyny. Gangsta rap is still what unnerves people today, as some say lyrics make violence and abusive language commonplace, and as it glorifies the law of retaliation. Gangsta rap involves a lyrical focus on the lifestyles of inner-city or "da hood" gang members and other criminals. Some of the artists themselves are gang members, or at least claim to have been – Snoop Dogg was for example a member of the Crips, and was accused of murder in 1993. He has been relaxed since. Although crime and violence have always been part of hip hop's lyrical canon, before the rise of gangsta rap the subject was not often embraced or addressed so blatantly. Gangsta rap was pioneered by Ice-T and N.W.A. Artists such as Ice Cube and 2Pac went on to further popularize gangsta rap. With the popularity of Dr Dre's The Chronic in 1992[2], gangsta rap became the most commercially lucrative subgenre of hip-hop. The subject matter inherent in gangsta rap has caused a great deal of controversy, with many observers criticizing the genre for the messages it espouses including homophobia, misogyny, lack of morality, racism and materialism – it is to be seen in the title of one of Fifty Cent’s albums, named Get Rich or Die Tryin’[3]. Gangsta rappers generally defend themselves by pointing out that they are describing the reality of inner-city life and claim that when rapping, they are simply playing a character. This is supposed to be the difference between “music” and “reality”.

What rappers actually say à offensive lyrics

In the 1990s gangsta rap lyrics were keen on supporting racial tensions between black people and white people. At the time all rappers were black, and they were admittedly suffering from a white domination.
“Kill the white people; we gonna make them hurt; kill the white people; but buy my record first; ha, ha, ha”[4] or "To all my Universal Soldier's: stay at attention while I strategize an invasion; the mission be assassination, snipers hitting Caucasians with semi-automatic shots heard around the world; my plot is to control the globe and hold the world hostage . . . see, I got a war plan more deadlier than Hitler. . . . lyrical specialist, underworld terrorist. . .. keep the unity thick like mud. . . . I pulling out gas , launching deadly attacks"[5] were typical lyrics to be found in rap songs.
The new Century has brought new themes. Now, it seems racial contempt has grown outdated. The main offensive themes are addressed to those who represent power, that is cops [there had been a prequel to that with Public Enemy who released in the end of the 1990s songs like Fuck the Police or Fight the Power], George W. Bush, and black people as well! Violence has thus surreptitiously crept into the black community itself. It is quite frequent now to hear abusive words uttered by black singers toward other black guys, and especially other black singers. The gangsta rap market defends its own territory. Rappers are huge fans of threats: they threaten other rappers, even sentence them to death if ever they have a suspicious behaviour. The contrary is true too: rappers feel inscure, such as in Fifty Cent’s I’m supposed to die tonight[6]. Gangsta rappers feel persecuted, that is why they always have a gun with them, in order to fend for themselves if they are attacked. Guns are one of the favourite issue gangsta rappers deal with: singers talk about guns (I’m gonna get my gun[7]), listeners hear gunshots in every almost two rap songs, people get killed in many songs too, and in many skits – see the opening skits of Eminem’s albums. Rappers sing of guns with almost lascivious glee. They express close to an erotic feeling about their "pieces": "glocks" (for the Austrian manufacturer), "gats" (short for Gatlings), "nines" or "ninas" (for 9- mm pistols), and so on in a long and chilling lexicon. Bullets and clips are lingered over as eyes and lips might be in love songs. Here's a sample from "Trigga Gots No Heart" by the rapper Spice 1: "Caps [bullets] peel from gangsters in my 'hood. You better use that nina 'cause that deuce-deuce [.22-caliber weapon] ain't no good, and I'm taking up a hobby, maniac murderin', doin' massacre robbery." There is no end of material like this. The rapper Notorious B.I.G., slain by gun in 1997, sang, "Somebody's gotta die. Let the gunshots blow. Somebody's gotta die. Nobody gotta know that I killed yo' a** in the midst, kid." And, "Don't fill them clips too high. Give them bullets room to breathe. Damn, where was I?" Dr. Dre had a hit called "Rat-Tat-Tat- Tat," whose refrain went, "Never hesitate to put a nigga on his back. Rat-tat-tat-tat to the tat like that, and I never hesitate to put a nigga on his back."

Rap – violence / Music – reality à two misty borders

Though rap lyrics are obviously violent, can it be said that they trigger off violence ? It seems impossible to draw a concrete parallel between music and agressions.
Music is an important part of the cultural background of youth. It is a ubiquitous medium, which follows young Americans everywhere: in their rooms, in their cars, in the street thanks to their headphones... Music is one way to shape people. Not only do listeners tend to identify their favourite singers, but they are also likely to adhere to the message those singers try to vehiculate. Young people are malleable. However, is this enough to denounce rap as being a major cause of youth violence?
An undenyable consequence of rap over youth is the adoption by listeners of a specific language. Young listeners mimick the expressions of rappers. Black people call their friends “nigga” but white people do the same: a white teenager can be thus called a “nigga” as the word has completely lost its original meaning. It doesn’t mean young listeners mimick what rappers say they do. Listeners do not take their guns out every two seconds. The majority of sales of gangsta rap albums are from white buyers, whereas the American federal government’s own crime statistics reveal that 90 percent of all violent interracial crimes are committed by blacks on whites, not the reverse. Given that blacks only constitute about 13 percent of the population, a black person is 50 times more likely than a white person to commit a violent interracial crime.
We therefore have to distinguish several levels of violence.
The first level concerns lyrics. Lyrics are violent, but rappers are not that violent, they say they are but it is often a mere posture. Rappers have big egos (see Big Egos by Dr Dre[8]], so they try to give the impression they are tough. This is part of the game, as gangsta rap is a branch of music industry, and is above all a show. Rappers are branded bad boys, so they have to behave like dangerous, prone to killing actors.
The second level of violence actually concerns rappers themselves. Some of them are real gangsters and boast about their notorious past. They have to match this reality, so they continue to behave as gangsters. Numerous rappers were assassinated. A few months ago, Kuniva (member of D12 crew) was found dead. Tupac Shakur remains certainly the most famous rapper to have been killed. Snoop Dogg was arrested at an airport last week because he carried weapons in his bag. Puff Daddy recently shot at three people in a bar but was found not guilty after a friend of his had accepted to take the blame.
The third level of violence is more interesting, as it sets a link between music and reactions on the part of the audience. Fights now occur in radios or in concert places: in an incident reportedly stemming from a feud between rap stars 50 Cent and the Game, a man was shot and wounded in 2005 just outside a top hip-hop radio station in New York City. In 2006, riots took place at Fifty Cent’s concerts twice.
Even if those “incidents” are quite revealing, rap cannot be held guilty if listeners take lyrics on the first degree. Rap participates of a general atmosphere that reeks of insatisfaction. It vehiculates thoughts that life is bleak, insecure, and that people have to be prepared to fight if they want to survive. Still, rap does not encourage violence anymore, rap talks about violence, make it commonplace in some way, but does not push listeners toward violent actions.

To conclude, links between rap and violence are multiple, but always indirect. Rappers themselves can be violent, but it cannot be proved rap music triggers off violence amongst millions of people who listen to it. Rap music is a business, and the more rappers are “hardcore”, the more albums they sell. Hence a clear escalation in provocation, the master of which is Eminem.
An unequal and insecure society created rap as it is today: indeed, “inner-cities” experience violence every day and this reality is altered by rappers who enhance the veracity of facts. The music industry promotes this type of alteration, as it is market-effective. This thus is paradoxical to accuse rap.
[1] Eminem, Encore (2002, Aftermath Records)
[2] Dr Dre, The Chronic (1992, Death Row)
[3] Fifty Cent, Get Rich or Die Trying (2001) + movie
[4] Apache, "Kill d'White People", Apache Ain't Shit (1993, Tommy Boy Music)
[5] Wu Tang Clan, Blood for Blood (1997, Priority Records)
[6] Fifty Cent, I’m Supposed to DieTtonight, The Massacre (2004)
[7] D12, I’m Gonna Get my Gun, D12 World (2002)
[8] Dr Dre, Big Egos, Chronic 2001 (2001, Death Row records)

© Brice 2007

Le prix du handicap

Tribunal pénal de Bobigny, TASS
_ « On s’en fiche de votre fils handicapé Monsieur Monge, ça n’a rien à voir ! »
La réplique est cinglante. Pas assez néanmoins pour réveiller une salle d’audience qui ressemble d’avantage à une salle d’attente. Sur les bancs s’entassent les convoqués du jour. Ils n’ont cure du sort du chétif M. Monge, seul à la barre du tribunal des affaires de sécurité sociale de Bobigny en ce début d’après-midi. M. Monge réclame des allocations à la Caisse d’Assurance Familiale (CAF) en vertu de son handicap. Il cite les textes pour assurer sa défense. Face à lui, la représentante de ladite CAF. Elle réfute point par point les arguments avancés par M. Monge avec des propos d’une rare crudité. M. Monge lui rend dix centimètres. Il balbutie, sa voix est mal assurée.
_ « L’article 48.73 me donne le droit à… »
_ « Mais vous ne comprenez pas les textes Monsieur Monge ! Les experts vous ont reconnus handicapé à 12%, qu’est-ce que c’est 12% ? »
L’envoyée de la CAF est une brune élancée, les cheveux crêpés. Ses grands yeux sont cerclés de noir. Sa robe est longue et noire. Elle porte des hauts talons. Elle parle fort, son ton dénote l’exaspération. Elle ne tient pas en place, s’agite sans cesse, au contraire de M. Monge, immobile, mal à l’aise. Il est comme pétrifié et courbe l’échine sous les assauts répétés de son interlocutrice.
_ « Mais mon fils… »
M. Monge a un fils lourdement handicapé. Il est en Belgique pour suivre des traitements. M. Monge invoque le regroupement familial. Le juge, la trentaine tout au plus, semble ailleurs, effacé. Il se redresse dans son fauteuil lorsqu’on l’interpelle :
_ « Monsieur le Juge, cela fait trois fois que je me déplace pour des prunes, c’est pourquoi je requiers 1500€ d’amende à l’encontre de Monsieur Monge ! »
_ « Monsieur Monge, un commentaire ? »
Le juge n’est pas du tout à ce qu’il fait et distribue la parole d’une voix fluette. A sa gauche, le greffier pique du nez.
Rien de neuf à Bobigny. La lumière est blafarde. La salle d’audience sent le renfermé. A la fenêtre, le ciel est une tache grise. Le procès est finalement ajourné. En février, un expert de la Commission Technique d'Orientation et de Reclassement Professionnel (COTOREP) sera appelé à la barre. La représentante de la CAF gigote de plus belle à l’annonce de l’ajournement. M. Monge part tête basse. Son bas de survêtement semble trop grand pour lui.

© Brice 2007

Bille en tête

Laura Martel n’a que 23 ans, mais on pourrait facilement lui en donner 60 à la seule vue de son parcours : elle a joué avec les plus grands (Chantal Lauby, Gérard Klein mais aussi Mimi Mathy, Charles Aznavour…), tourné pour les plus talentueux (Jean-Pierre Mocky), elle est diplômée de Sciences-Po, l’équitation n’a plus de secrets pour elle, elle a pratiqué foot et rugby, mais également danse moderne, chant ; elle a voyagé aux quatre coins du Monde, collectionnant au passage les conquêtes masculines…
Mais où diable trouve-t-elle toute cette énergie ?
Peut-être faut-il remonter à son enfance, au biberon chargé d’alcool à 70° pour ses deux mois, à sa découverte du curaçao à 5 ans. Ou bien peut-être faut-il tout simplement voir là les merveilles d’une hyperactivité maîtrisée.
Ce petit bout de femme est un volcan assoupi, une force tranquille qui chemine dans la vie sans faux cils, mais avec un marteau solidement harnaché à la ceinture pour abattre les obstacles. Derrière cette icône d’acier trempé se cache néanmoins une fillette fragile, en proie au doute.
A la scène comme à la ville, Laura Martel avance masquée, préférant bouter les idées noires en dehors de son esprit. « Autant jouer la comédie, après tout » avoue-t-elle, tout sourire, elle qui aime à clamer haut et fort sa prétendue virginité, elle qui n’hésite pas non plus à se bombarder d’extrême-droite, simplement pour le plaisir de provoquer. Non pas qu’elle soit mythomane. Elle est simplement éperdument joueuse.

© Brice 2007

Gordon Brown: a portrait of the man as a potential future PM

“The Budget that I lay before the House today represents more than an allocation of resources and an accounting of revenues. Because behind the numbers and statistics the central purpose of this Budget is to ensure that Britain is equipped to rise to the challenge of the new and fast changing global economy. Not just a few of us. But everyone.” This is the first sentence of Gordon Brown’s first speech as a Chancellor of the Exchequer. He delivered it on Wednesday July 2 1997. He was 46 at the time.
Gordon Brown is now 55, and a great contender in the race to 10, Downing Street. After having patiently waited 9 years in the shadow of Tony Blair, Gordon Brown is officially coveting the charge of Prime Minister.
But who’s this guy who will possibly govern Great Britain by summer 2007? Who can stop him from achieving his goal?
In this modest exposé, I will try to give you a few tracks in order to understand better what kind of politician he is, and who the man behind the politician is. His possible future accession to 10, Downing Street will then be matter of discussion.

Gordon Brown: the official portrait

James Gordon Brown (born 20 February 1951) is the Chancellor of the Exchequer of the United Kingdom and a Labour Party politician. From 1983 to 2005 he was the Member of Parliament (MP) for the constituency of Dunfermline East in Fife, and following a reorganisation of parliamentary constituencies in Scotland he is now MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath.
Brown has headed HM [Her Majesty’s] Treasury since May 1997, making him the longest continuously serving Chancellor since Nicholas Vansittart (1812-1823).

Early and private life

His father, John, was a Church of Scotland minister. While at Kirkcaldy High School Brown did exceptionally well and entered University of Edinburgh at the age of 16. While a student he suffered a detached retina in a rugby accident that left him blind in his left eye; for a time he faced the prospect of total blindness. Brown studied History at Edinburgh, graduating with First Class Honours. Brown stayed at Edinburgh to complete his Doctorate, titled The Labour Party and Political Change in Scotland 1918-29. According to biographer Tom Bower, Brown originally intended his thesis to cover the development of the Labour movement from the seventeenth century onwards, but evolved to more modestly describe "Labour's struggle to establish itself as the alternative to the Conservatives [in the early part of the 20th century]".
Before entering Parliament and while still a student, Brown was elected Rector of Edinburgh University and Chairman of the University Court.
Brown lectured at Edinburgh and then at Glasgow College of Technology before working as a journalist at Scottish Television. In the 1979 general election, Brown stood for the Edinburgh South constituency, but lost to the Conservative candidate, Michael Ancram. In 1986, he published a biography of the Independent Labour Party politician James Maxton, the subject of his Ph.D thesis.

Early parliamentary career

He was elected to Parliament as a Labour MP for Dunfermline East in 1983, becoming opposition spokesman on Trade and Industry in 1985, then Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury and Shadow Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, before becoming Shadow Chancellor in 1992.
After the sudden death of John Smith, Brown was one of those tipped as a potential party leader. It has long been rumoured that a deal was struck between Gordon Brown and Tony Blair at the Granita restaurant in Islington, during which Blair promised to give Brown complete control of economic policy in return for Brown not standing against him in the leadership election. Whether this is true or not, the relationship between Blair and Brown has been central to the fortunes of "New Labour", and they have mostly remained united in public despite reported serious private rifts.
As Shadow Chancellor, Brown worked hard to present himself as a fiscally competent Chancellor-in-waiting, to reassure business and the middle class that Labour could be trusted to run the economy without fuelling inflation, increasing unemployment, or overspending -- legacies of the 1970s. He committed Labour to following the Conservatives' spending plans for the first two years after taking power. Once this two-year period was over, his 2000 Spending Review outlined a major expansion of government spending (particularly on health and education).

Chancellor of the Exchequer

On taking office as Chancellor, Brown surprised many by giving the Bank of England operational independence in monetary policy, and thus responsibility for setting interest rates -- a policy devised by Ed Balls, his long-time chief economic adviser and now an MP and the Economic Secretary to the Treasury. The Conservatives opposed this as a prelude to the abolishment of the Pound and entrance into the Euro zone (until Michael Portillo's appointment as Shadow Chancellor in 1999), whilst Bank of England independence had been a key plank of Liberal Democrat economic policy since the 1992 general election.

Tax policy

According to the OECD, UK taxation has increased from a 39.3% share of GDP in 1997 to 42.4% in 2006, going to a higher level than Germany. This increase has mainly been attributed to active government policy, and not simply to the growing economy.
Brown has pointed to two main accomplishments: growth and employment.
An OECD report shows UK economic growth has averaged 2.7% between 1997 and 2006, higher than the Eurozone's 2.1% though lower than any other English-speaking country. UK unemployment is 5.5%, down from 7% in 1997 and lower than the Eurozone's average of 8.1%.
Between 1999 and 2002 Brown sold 60% of the UK's gold reserves at $275 an ounce. It was later attacked as a "disastrous foray into international asset management" as he had sold at close to a 20-year low. Prices went on to reach $700 an ounce in May 2006 - he could have raised £4bn for the public had he waited.
In October 1997, Brown took control of the United Kingdom's membership of the European single currency issue by announcing the Treasury would set five economic tests to ascertain whether the economic case had been made. In June 2003 the Treasury indicated the tests had not been met.
Brown's lengthy period as Chancellor of the Exchequer has set several records. He is the longest-serving Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer (ahead of Denis Healey, who was Chancellor for 5 years and 2 months 1974 to 1979). On 15 June 2004, he became the longest continuous serving Chancellor of the Exchequer since the Reform Act 1832, passing the figure of 7 years and 43 days set by David Lloyd George (1908–1915) / we’ll talk about that later on. However, William Gladstone was Chancellor for a total of 12 years and 4 months in the period from 1852 to 1882 (although not continuously). Brown's Chancellorship has seen the longest period of sustained economic growth in UK history, although some economists point-out this growth period started under the preceding Conservative government in 1993.
Brown has been a supporter of Third World debt reduction for some time.
In October 2004 Tony Blair announced he would not lead the party into a fourth general election, but would serve a full third term. Political controversy over the relationship between Brown and Blair continued up to the 2005 election, which Labour won with a reduced parliamentary majority and reduced vote share. The two campaigned together but the British media remained - and remains - full of reports on their mutual acrimony. Blair has stated on 7 September 2006 he would not serve out his third term and will step down before the
September 2007 Labour Party conference.

Global development and sustainability

On April 20, 2006, in a speech to the United Nations Ambassadors, Brown outlined a "Green" view of global development à good for Nicholas Stern !
"... far from being at odds with each other, our economic objectives and our environmental objectives now increasingly reinforce each other. ... Environmental sustainability is not an option - it is a necessity. For economies to flourish, for global poverty to be banished, for the well-being of the world's people to be enhanced - not just in this generation but in succeeding generations - we have a compelling and ever more urgent duty of stewardship to take care of the natural environment and resources on which our economic activity and social fabric depends. ... A new paradigm that sees economic growth, social justice and environmental care advancing together can become the common sense of our age."

Higher education

In 2000, Brown started a major political row about higher education (referred to as the Laura Spence Affair) when he accused Oxford University of elitism in their admissions procedures.
He described their decision not to offer a place to state school pupil Laura Spence as "absolutely outrageous" and implied that their decision was based on her background rather than her academic potential. This started a major and hotly argued row in the media in which Oxford strongly denied these accusations.
With his comments, Brown can arguably be credited with raising widening participation to Higher Education higher up the political agenda. However, at the same time, many of his opponents said that Brown's comments were ill founded, including Lord Jenkins (then Chancellor of Oxford University) who said that "nearly every fact he used was false," and that said Brown's speech about Laura had been a "little Blitzkrieg in being an act of sudden unprovoked aggression".

The man: a new Brown for a new Labour à rebranding one’s image

When Chancellor Gordon Brown and his charismatic boss Tony Blair arrived in Downing Street in 1997, the contrast between them was marked.
There was Blair, a married father-of-three, jovial, smiley, well groomed - and bursting with enthusiasm.
Then there was his older, single pal Brown - portrayed as a serious, brooding Scotsman, with his less orderly hair, crumpled suits and gnawed fingernails.
The more dour image, while useful for an aspiring chancellor, is not necessarily seen as the best asset for someone hoping to spearhead (= mener) a party's general election campaign.
Fortunately for the wannabe PM, the nine years since reaching Downing Street have seen a steady transformation in Brown's image from a rather studious bachelor to happy family man.
There is no doubt Mr Brown cultivated his sober, earnest image in the early years of his political career, at a time when Labour was attempting to shake-off its reputation for economic incompetence.
With his close-knit group of friends and advisers, such as Ed Balls and Geoffrey Robinson, Mr Brown could afford to be more relaxed.
But as shadow chancellor, he wanted to be seen as a model of rectitude and prudence, a fearsome guardian of the purse strings, unafraid of making tough decisions.

Devotion to duty

During the 1997 election campaign Gordon Brown was said to have worked an average of 18 hours a day, six days a week - after running on a treadmill for an hour each morning.
That devotion to duty was underlined by a comment from his former girlfriend of five years, Princess Marguerite of Romania, the eldest daughter of ex-King Michael of Romania, who said a relationship with him was "politics, politics, politics".
His continued bachelor status had, meanwhile, sparked rumours he was gay - something he politely but firmly denied when asked about it by Sue Lawley on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs.
He had in fact been seeing PR executive Sarah Macaulay at the time, but chose not to draw attention to their relationship.
And this low-key approach continued when the couple got married in 2000, after going out with each other for six years.

Mrs Brown

Theirs was not a flashy, "Hello" magazine occasion. Instead the couple wed quietly in Fife, Scotland with close family and friends, before jetting off for a honeymoon in Cape Cod.
Unlike Cherie Blair, who goes under the professional moniker of Booth, Sarah told guests she had decided to drop her maiden name, wanting instead to be known as Mrs Brown. On 28 December, 2001 the couple became parents, with the premature birth by Caesarean section of Jennifer Jane.
Overnight, Mr Brown's serious exterior was replaced by big smiles and joy as he told the world his daughter was the "most beautiful in the world".
But tragedy struck just 10 days later when the little girl suffered a brain haemorrhage and lost her fight for life in her parents' arms at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.
The image of a heartbroken chancellor, who described Jennifer as an "inspiration", touched the nation.
That meant the Browns' joy was felt all the more widely when in October 2003, the couple had a son, John - named after his grandfather.

Impressive record

Dressed down in a white open-necked shirt under a dark jumper, he could not contain his happiness as he presented the little boy to waiting photographers in a multi-coloured sleepsuit.
"Our baby is wonderful, he's beautiful, he's really full of energy and I think he's going to keep me awake for quite a number of days, weeks and months," he said.
In July 2006, the couple had a second son, James Fraser, prompting the normally reserved chancellor to exclaim: "I just love being a dad, it's great fun - there's nothing more important."
When the first studio portrait of the whole family together inevitably found its way into the hands of picture editors, after being sent out to friends and wellwishers, Mr Brown's office was happy for it to be used.
In politics, Mr Brown has shown himself as a steady pair of hands with an impressive economic record - but he has always refused to wear the official "uniform" of coat tails and white bow tie when he gives his annual Mansion House address to the world's financial bigwigs, finding the "idea of wearing such formal dress ridiculous".

Open neck shirts

Over time, Mr Brown's image has, however, undergone a considerable makeover, taking him from scruffy bachelor to groomed man about town. à Those are the needs of a media person aiming at gaining affection of would be future voters.
He has, in the process, risked accusations he is chasing photo opportunities.
He faced flak during the recent World Cup after he declared himself a staunch supporter of England, even inviting reporters to his flat to watch one of the games with him.
This seemed to be part of a conscious effort to present a lighter, more approachable image - which has also seen his traditional dark suits, white shirts and red ties make way for a more casual look with chinos, open neck shirts and the occasional pink or purple tie.
Many credit this change of wardrobe to his wife's PR-expertise - or to his backroom team's efforts to present him as a modern world-leader-in-waiting.
It has certainly been well timed after the election of the youthful David Cameron as Conservative leader.
The chancellor also smiles a lot more than he used to.
His teeth are noticeably whiter, which despite what he says, is generally seen as unlikely to be as a result of just "a few fillings".
And unlike before, where little was known about the son of a Church of Scotland Minister, no topic of conversation seems out of bounds.
In political agenda terms he has embraced subjects such as Britishness, climate change, and world poverty campaign - which included hanging out with the likes of Angelina Jolie and rock stars such as Bono.
And in an interview earlier this year, he suggested that his son John has had the controversial MMR (Measles, Mumps and rubella) jab, something Tony Blair refuses to discuss on privacy grounds.
He was also happy to tell a magazine that his underwear comes from M&S, and that he likes to wake up to the sound of hip young band the Arctic Monkeys. “The Arctic Monkeys really wake you up in the morning,” he said.
He says he owns an iPod music player and is a fan of TV's X-Factor. He also disclosed his wife believes that if anyone was going to play him in a film, it should be Hollywood sex symbol George Clooney.
Mr Brown, keen to show there is more to him than fiscal prudence, says that if he had not been an MP his dream job would have been as a football manager.
However, he swiftly side-steps a question about when he last got really drunk, by saying: "I'll be celebrating my brother's birthday soon, so let's see."
He will not reveal what he wears in bed, saying: "That's between me and the bed sheets."
But asked what springs to mind "if we say the word rabbit", he replies, with a chuckle: "Sex and the City", demonstrating his knowledge of the sex toy that is featured in the TV show.
He also has firm views on which female film star he prefers, picking Angelina Jolie over Jennifer Aniston.
But ever the diplomat, he adds: "Well, I was a fan of Friends. But I have met Angelina and Brad.
"She is very much involved in our education campaign in Africa, so I'd choose Team Jolie."
On more serious matters, Mr Brown - whose wife is expecting a little brother or sister for two-year-old John in July - hails the increased involvement of men in childcare.
"I meet fathers who talk about the issues of child care, some of them are going to parenting classes. But I believe we need this fathers' revolution," he says.
"I have a two-and-a-half-year-old son and I think it's important that we play our part and do our share."
He also outlines his belief in developing the concept of "Britishness", with the idea of "a day every year when we could come together to celebrate what makes us great as a country".
It is all quite a change from the man once mocked by opponents for talking warmly of "post neo-classical endogenous growth theory".

Brown PM ?

Blair, under pressure from within his own party, announced on September 7 2006 that he would step down within a year. Brown has been the clear favourite to succeed Blair for several years and remains so with experts and the bookmakers; he is one of the few candidates spoken of seriously in Westminster. Recent appearances and news coverage have been interpreted as preparing the ground for Brown to become Prime Minister, in part by creating the impression of a statesman with a vision for leadership and global change. After the UK Local Government elections in May 2006, where Labour lost two-fifths of the councils they previously controlled, Brown has been accused of having used the failure of the Labour Party to advance his own cause for the leadership.
Were Brown to become Prime Minister, he would be the first from a Scottish constituency since the Conservative Sir Alec Douglas-Home. He would also be one of the few university-educated Prime Ministers not to have attended Oxford or Cambridge, along with Lord Russell (Edinburgh), the Earl of Bute (Leiden) and Neville Chamberlain (Birmingham).
On the 9 September 2006 Charles Clarke in an interview in The Daily Telegraph said the Chancellor has "psychological" issues that he must confront and accused him of being a "control freak" and "totally uncollegiate". Brown was also "deluded", he said, to think that Blair can and should anoint him as his successor now.
The Labour defeat in the Dunfermline and West Fife 2006 by-election, after a campaign largely led by Brown in a constituency in which he lives, has cast doubt on his ability to win elections on his own without Blair wooing middle-class voters.
However, he remains a sure bet.

The other contenders are:
John Reid à current Home Secretary. He vowed having no ambition to be labour leader. However, he is everywhere to be seen lately. He’s noticeably the one who handled the terrorist threat in the airport.
Mr Reid is seen as being close to the prime minister – he is seen as one of few heavyweight Blairite alternatives to Gordon Brown.

The major aim is to win next elections against Conservative leader David Cameron who enjoys a popular image of a young, fresh politician.

What could hinder Gordon Brown is his now delicate relationship with Tony Blair. Blair doesn’t seem to fullheartedly back his Chancellor, as he did in the past. Brown now suffers from an image that shows him eager to succeed to his former friend, and frustrated by his long wait.
On the one hand, Brown has to build himself a warmer character. In doing this, he would appear to take after Tony Blair. On the other hand, he has to drift away from Blair, as the current Prime Minister is having a hard time at the head of State.
Brown has to embody the future of New Labour and has to give his party a new breath. Isn’t it too difficult a task for a man who took part in shaping Labour as it is now? Is he to be accepted as a credible successor?
Future will tell.

This week will be crucial for Gordon Brown as he will be trying to show himself as a definitely unbeatable 'Prime Minister in waiting'. An aide describes it as an attempt to 'show what a Brown premiership will look like', in other words the Chancellor is clearly preparing the ground to become a reliable occupant of Number 10. This will start with the launch of a new bond scheme aiming at funding the mass inoculation of children in the poorest countries. He himself suggested the Finance Facility for it in 2001; Brown asked Bill Gates to help him, and he will host a Vatican envoy and leaders of all Britain's religious communities at the inauguration. Then Mr Brown will later hold talks in London with King Abdullah of Jordan, and the Prime Ministers of Italy and New Zealand.
Delivering his new political message, Mr Brown has made clear he would focus on a few issues such as childhood and health. He wants to promote aspiration and empower people to succeed, talking of an 'X-Factor Britain'. Reality TV shows and their values are at the core of Gordon Brown's speech : he wants Britons to act as contestants do in these music or business programmes do, because the landscape has changed since 1997, he said, as if he wanted to be at war again with Blairites.
à the problem of succession : Blair is now a baited PM, Brown has to be the one who will be considered able to defeat Cameron in the future elections.

© Brice 2007

Une arme visuelle : le photomontage soviétique 1917 – 1953.

Initiés et curieux se pressent dans un hôtel particulier du IIIème arrondissement de Paris. C’est Passage de Retz que s’exposent plus de 150 documents photographiques témoignant de l’évolution du photomontage en Russie au cours de la première moitié du XXème Siècle.
Le photomontage : un genre à la frontière entre outil de propagande et œuvre d’art. Les clichés suspendus aux murs blancs exaltent la grandeur de la nation bolchevique.
Soldats, ouvriers, sportifs, autant de symboles forts. Des symboles qui parlent à une population russe alors à 70% illettrée.
Les couleurs sont sobres, efficaces : noir, blanc, parfois rouge. « C’est froid, mais c’est beau » chuchote une visiteuse. Les lignes sont épurées, reflétant l’influence du futurisme, du cubisme et du dadaïsme. Autant de courants qui naissent pendant la période, et l’ombre de Vladimir Maïakovski de flotter au-dessus des œuvres. Nombre des clichés exposés ont servi aux couvertures de ses recueils poétiques. Déçu par la révolution, Maïakovski se suicide en 1930. A l’image d’un régime qui à travers ses œuvres politiques montre un pouvoir factice, ou quand l’art transfigure une réalité moins lumineuse.

© Brice 2007

La Finul, un maillon faible mais nécessaire

« Le Conseil de sécurité (…) autorise la Finul à prendre toutes les mesures nécessaires dans les secteurs où ses forces sont déployées et, quand elle le juge possible dans les limites de ses capacités, de veiller à ce que son théâtre d'opération ne soit pas utilisé pour des activités hostiles de quelque nature que ce soit… » C’est en ces termes que la résolution 1701 adoptée par le Conseil de sécurité de L’ONU le 11 août définit la mission dévolue à la Finul (Force Intérimaire des Nations Unies au Liban).
Une telle définition jette les bases d’une Finul paradoxale, censée établir une paix durable sans s’attaquer aux conditions mêmes d’une cessation des hostilités. Les 5000 soldats qui composent le contingent international – ils seront 15000 d’ici la fin de l’année – sont chargés d’occuper le Sud-Liban, de le sécuriser et d’empêcher tout approvisionnement en armes. Pour autant, ils n’ont pas pour mission expresse de désarmer les belligérants, Hezbollah en tête. La Finul se retrouve dans une position exposée. Elle n’est pas préparée à une reprise des combats et ne dispose d’aucune force aérienne. Coincée entre Israéliens au Sud et Libanais au Nord, elle reste vulnérable à toute attaque. Ainsi celle du 21 décembre 1983 commanditée par le Hezbollah à l’encontre de soldats français, qui avait fait 10 morts et plus d’une centaine de blessés. Ce malheureux souvenir montre bien le caractère intérimaire de cette force déployée sur le sol libanais depuis 1978. Le récent renforcement des troupes n’a fait qu’accentuer son manque de coordination, tant la Finul, avec ses multiples nationalités, s’apparente à une tour de Babel armée.
Ces faiblesses incontestables ne doivent pas masquer le rôle fondamental joué par la Finul au Liban. Elle incarne la nécessité d’un engagement fort de la part de la communauté internationale. En intégrant des soldats de tous horizons et de toutes confessions, elle se dote d’une légitimité à même de réduire les risques d’une dérive extrémiste. En s’interposant entre Israéliens et Libanais, elle se pose en bouclier pacifique. La réponse militaire que représente la Finul est avant tout une réponse diplomatique au conflit israélo-libanais. Son action, aussi floue soit-elle, encourage la reprise du dialogue et des négociations qui pourront ouvrir la voie à un processus de paix durable.

© Brice 2007

Hugo Chavez ou le rêve sud-américain

3 décembre 2006. Hugo Chavez harangue la foule de ses aficionados. Il vient d’être réélu à la tête du Venezuela pour un nouveau mandat de six ans : « Le socialisme est Amour ! » La scène est belle. La foule, dans un état second. Mais qui se cache derrière cet animal politique qu’est Hugo Chavez, derrière ce talentueux prêcheur, cette icône médiatique ?
Hugo Chavez incarne le rêve sud-américain. D’origine modeste, il fait ses classes à l’armée dans laquelle il s’engage à 17 ans. Il en sort aguerri à 34 ans. Une conscience politique est née, portée par un homme ambitieux et déterminé. La révolution bolivarienne dont il se fait le théâtral chantre peut commencer.
Son parcours tourne court : il passe par la case prison après un coup d’état manqué en 1992. Le séjour est bref, Chavez est libéré deux ans plus tard. Deux années qui n’ont pourtant pas entamé sa ténacité. Il entend désormais prendre le pouvoir démocratiquement et fonde son propre parti, se taillant au passage un costume de héros des pauvres.
C’est donc un personnage haut en couleurs qui arrive au pouvoir en décembre 1998. Volontiers provocateur, il se met à dos les Etats-Unis dont il dénigre la politique hégémonique et élitiste, allant jusqu’à qualifier George W. Bush de « diable », de « menteur » et de « tyran » devant l’Assemblée Générale de l’ONU en septembre 2006. Profondément nationaliste, il exhorte ses fidèles à croire en la grandeur vénézuélienne. Opportuniste, il sait se faire l’écho de ce que la masse veut entendre.
Depuis son élection à la tête du pays, Hugo Chavez a mené à bien de nombreuses réformes sociales, s’assurant ainsi le soutien des franges pauvres de la population du pays. Il lui reste encore à convaincre les élites qui lui sont fortement opposées. Ses détracteurs dénoncent la corruption du système qu’il a mis en place. Ils attendent avant tout que sa gouaille se traduise par des actes. Habile et rompu à la chose politique comme il l’est, Hugo Chavez semble néanmoins difficile à déstabiliser. Sa confiance est telle qu’il n’hésite pas à déclarer : « Le peuple m’a donné le pouvoir, lui seul pourra me le reprendre. »

© Brice 2007

Aller à Hollywood… et revenir.

Hollywood, eldorado pour les réalisateurs français ? Le mythe, au plus haut dans les années 1960, bat aujourd’hui de l’aile. On assiste au retour des films français à petit budget pour le plus grand plaisir des vrais amateurs de cinéma.
Les cinéastes tricolores, génies en leur royaume, deviennent de véritables tâcherons lorsqu’ils tentent l’aventure américaine. C’est l’amer constat dressé par François Forestier, journaliste au Nouvel Observateur.
“Personne n’a bâti de carrière aux Etats-Unis” prévient Xavier Palud, coréalisateur d’«Ils». Le billet vert dicte sa loi. Alexandre Aja, Matthieu Kassovitz, Jean-Pierre Jeunet et autres Pitof semblent perdre subitement leur talent en traversant l’Atlantique.
“Là bas, ils réécrivent tout le temps les scènes et les dialogues” explique Florent Siri, auteur d’«Otages» en 2005. Sur la Côte Ouest, le réalisateur devient un simple employé qui fait ce qu’on lui dit de faire. Envolé le talent, envolée la liberté, reste de l’expérience américaine le pactole empoché sur le dos d’un navet.

© Brice 2007

Guitare au plancher

Yann Pusztaï a 25 ans et un idéal, vivre de sa musique. Il joue aujourd’hui dans un quartet avec lequel il se produit au Café K, à Paris, le 13 décembre. A deux jours de son concert, Yann revient sur ses débuts de guitariste, sur son expérience new-yorkaise et sur sa nouvelle vie de guitariste-étudiant.

Yann Pusztaï et la guitare, c’est une histoire qui remonte à quand ?
J’ai 13 ou 14 ans de guitare derrière moi. Petit, je faisais du piano, mais j’ai vite trouvé l’instrument rébarbatif et scolaire. Mon oncle était professeur de guitare, il m’a donc initié. Après le Bac, j’ai intégré l’école de musique ATLA. Plus je travaillais la guitare et le jazz, plus je le comprenais, et plus j’adorais.

L’année dernière, vous étiez à New York. Le retour à Paris est-il difficile ?
Soyons réalistes, New York, c’est un autre monde. J’y ai rencontré des grands guitaristes, comme Mike Sterne. J’ai d’ailleurs pris des cours avec lui. A Paris, c’est difficile de percer. La mentalité est davantage snob, le public est guindé. Aux Etats-Unis, c’est l’inverse, les gens sont décontractés. Il y a un vrai échange avec le public. Il y a des applaudissements après les solos par exemple. J’aimerais aller vivre à New York. C’était une expérience grandiose.

Aujourd’hui, vous faites des études de journalisme. Est-ce facile à concilier avec votre passion ?
J’aimerais vivre de la musique, c’est mon souhait. Pour autant, je ne me vois pas donner des cours toute ma vie. Et vivre de mon talent est aléatoire… C’est pourquoi je suis en Master de journalisme bilingue à la Sorbonne. Non pas pour écrire des articles sur la musique, non, ça c’est pour les musiciens frustrés (rires). J’ai choisi ce Master par facilité car je parle Anglais. Depuis le début de l’année, je ne joue plus que trois heures par jour. J’essaye d’être sérieux dans mes études. Je parviens quand même à me ménager un peu de temps pour avoir trois répètes par semaine avec mon groupe. C’est le minimum.

© Brice 2007

Gabriel Masurel, la trance tranquille

Gabriel Masurel, alias Blue Planet Corporation, est à l’opposé du DJ paillettes. 15 ans d’une carrière internationale ne lui ont pas fait tourner la tête. Costume sombre, pinte à la main, il me livre un regard à la fois lucide et passionné sur la musique, la sienne et celle des autres.

Le métier de Disc Jockey est plutôt méconnu du grand public. De même l’univers de la trance est cloisonné, réservé aux initiés. Comment es-tu tombé dedans ?

Ado, la musique m’a procuré des sensations particulières. De fil en aiguille, j’ai commencé à jouer d’un instrument, à savoir de la batterie. Je me souviens du clip de With or without you de U2, toute la tension qui se dégage de ce clip, qui monte progressivement grâce à la batterie justement. Ca m’avait beaucoup touché.

Et la musique électro dans tout ça ?

J’écoutais aussi de la musique électronique. Un phénomène nouveau est arrivé en France à la fin des années 80 : la House et la Techno. J’ai délaissé la batterie pour me concentrer là-dessus, j’ai acheté mon premier synthétiseur et j’ai commencé à produire de la musique en enregistrant des cassettes audio sans objectif précis. Me rendre compte que je pouvais reproduire le même univers avec mes propres moyens, c’était fou ! Ma première signature est arrivée un peu par hasard, par le biais de contacts.

Cette première signature, c’est en 1993, tu as sorti ton premier maxi vinyle de Goa. C’est quoi le Goa ?

En 1993, ça explose, et j’ai la chance de faire partie des précurseurs en France. La Trance de Goa, c’est une musique électronique psychédélique. Elle est apparue dans les années 70 à Goa, en Inde. Des Hippies s’y sont installés et le mouvement est né de cet assemblage de hippies, de musique et de drogues. Au milieu des années 80 est venue s’additionner une influence électronique arrivée d’Europe, alors qu’avant, c’était plutôt du reggae, du rock psychédélique, les Pink Floyd, des choses comme ça. Le tout qui rencontre la culture indienne, ça a donné ce qu’on a appelé la Trance de Goa. C’était joué la nuit sur les plages. Moi en fait, je jouais la musique que j’aimais, sans savoir ce qu’il se passait à Goa, et il s’est avéré que c’était un peu les mêmes sons.

Donc ce sont les étiquettes qui viennent à toi, et non toi qui va vers les étiquettes.

Tout dépend de la démarche, moi je voulais produire du son pour moi. Je ne cible pas le marché, je fais ça naturellement. Je n’essaye pas de faire tel style de musique, ou de copier je ne sais quel artiste.

Aujourd’hui, ton style est qualifié de « morning aérien », est-ce tu te reconnais là-dedans ?

C’est vrai que j’ai tendance à apporter une touche mélodique, même si c’est le principe de départ de la Trance de Goa, c’est une musique basée sur des montées, des descentes. Je joue sur des atmosphères avec des bases mélodiques, un son pas forcément très violent mais qui fait voyager. On appelle ça « son morning » en référence au déroulement d’une soirée trance, avec le lever du Soleil sur la plage, c’est le moment où on lâche la pression entretenue par le Disc Jockey pendant la nuit. Quand le jour arrive, on fait un son plus frais, plus joyeux, moi je fais plutôt ça. C’est comme une renaissance. C’est le cycle du jour et de la nuit : la tombée de la nuit, la nuit noire, et le lever du soleil.

Tu t’es toujours concentré sur du son morning ou bien ton style a évolué ?

Mon style a évolué, obligatoirement. Mon premier maxi est sorti en 1993, ça a été tout de suite reconnu, ça a circulé à Goa, ça a fait un carton, donc j’ai fait d’autres maxis. Puis un label anglais m’a sollicité pour sortir un album.

Mais cet album n’est sorti qu’en 1999[1]

J’ai mis trois ans pour le faire. J’ai voulu mettre beaucoup de choses dans ce disque, et j’ai voulu faire un disque qui dure longtemps, pas simplement surfer sur la vague.

C’est le cas, non ?

C’est le cas, oui, j’en suis assez fier. Des gens le prennent encore pour une référence. Ce premier album m’a donné la chance d’exprimer tout ce que j’avais emmagasiné depuis tout jeune. C’était une super opportunité. Je voulais que chaque morceau soit parfait. Ce qui a changé maintenant, c’est que je me mets beaucoup moins de pression. Je me suis rendu compte que, parfois, produire pour produire peut-être bénéfique, on peut aussi apprendre comme ça. La musique a continué à évoluer ensuite, et moi je me suis retrouvé à représenter une musique un peu dépassée. Je ne me reconnaissais pas dans le sens où le son a continué d’évoluer, et ça m’a un peu desséché en terme d’inspiration. J’ai moins produit à ce moment là, mais j’ai écouté beaucoup plus de musique qu’auparavant. Là je reviens avec toute cette musique emmagasinée pour essayer de la recracher.

D’ailleurs, qu’est-ce qui te plaît au fond : c’est plutôt produire ton son, faire ressortir ce que tu as en toi, ou c’est aussi la relation au public, les concerts ?

C’est tout le problème de cette musique électronique. En soirée, les gens jouent en live, mais ce n’est pas du vrai live, c’est de la musique enregistrée sur ordinateur. Ca n’a aucun intérêt pour moi. Ce qui est intéressant, c’est d’être DJ, parce qu’on peut créer un climat, une ambiance, tout au long d’une soirée. En tant que DJ, on a tous les disques sous la main, tout est ouvert, et c’est super intéressant, on peut avoir une véritable relation avec le public. C’est aussi pour ça que je me suis remis à la batterie aujourd’hui, et que je joue avec un groupe.
[1] Blue Planet, Flying Rhino Records

© Brice 2007

C’est beau, une Gare du Nord, la nuit !

_ “Messieurs, est-ce que vous pouvez éteindre vos cigarettes s’il vous plaît ? La Gare du Nord est une zone non-fumeur.”
La scène pourrait sembler banale. Elle ne l’est pas. Six policiers, matraque à la ceinture, font face à trois jeunes adultes. Deux dealers, un black et un beur, et un espèce de dragqueen tout droit sorti d’une soirée trop arrosée. Il tente vainement de regagner son lit, quelques rues plus loin. Il n’en mène pas large avec son bonnet de laine bleue claire vissé sur le crâne ; ses yeux sont maquillés. Une rose est épinglée à sa poitrine.
_ “Vazy, j’ai l’impression qu’on dérange, on bouge.”
L’un des dealers accompagne le pauvre bougre à l’étage supérieur. Il le suit en titubant. Les policiers les laissent passer sans un regard. Ils préfèrent se concentrer sur le troisième larron, plus agressif. Il n’y pas un chat dans l’escalator qui mène à l’étage supérieur de la gare. Ni dans la gare d’ailleurs. Plus aucun train ne circule, il est près d’une heure du matin. Aucun bruit non plus. Les voyageurs ont déserté. La nuit, la Gare du Nord devient une zone de non-droit. Les patrouilles de police sillonnent les sous-terrains labyrinthiques de la gare endormie à la recherche de nuisibles.
_ “T’écoutais quoi là dans ton MP3 ?”
_ “Oh, moi, rien, du rap…”
_ “Vazy, prête que j’écoute.”
_ “Euh, ouais, mais non…” Le jeune homme grimé peine à trouver ses mots. Ses yeux balayent le hall à la recherche d’une sortie. Il n’a qu’une envie, rentrer chez lui. Sa soirée tourne au vinaigre. Deux grands blacks apparaissent alors comme par enchantement. D’où peuvent-ils bien sortir ? Ils enserrent le dealer :
_ “Viens par là toi, on va t’parler !”
Règlement de compte ? Racket ? Les trois individus s’enfoncent dans un couloir mal éclairé. Un bonnet bleu clair s’efface peu à peu dans le lointain. Un panneau indique la direction à emprunter pour rejoindre l’Eurostar. Le jeune homme est bien heureux de filer à l’anglaise.

© Brice 2007

Delicate and smooth

Isabella Leland is sitting in front of me. My heart is thumping.
_ “Espresso?”
_ “Yeah, sure, espresso.”
This handsome blue-eyed brunette is dipping her lips in the hot beverage… so sensual!
Isabella’s a Bella Donna, but there is more to it than that. Belladonna may be a beautiful plant, it is also highly poisonous. Isabella is not poisonous, or is she?
_ “No, definitely not. Does every silver lining have its cloud?” she asks me with a smile.
There is no cloud about Isabella, just a hidden part. Behind her appearance of a serious, shy girl, creeps a hysterical buzzing lady. In the day, she studies journalism. At night, she is always on the run: acting, singing, partying… She is still hesitating between her two passions, which are cinema and journalism. Her model? Audrey Hepburn. Favourite films? “Old ones because they make me dream.” Isabella seems to be living a perpetual dream, as she…
_ “I’m sorry, I have to go.” She interrupts my sweet reverie.
This is Isabella, who else?

© Brice 2007

Une famille en herbe

Ca crie, ça court, ça rit. A deux pas du Canal Saint Martin, dans le 10ème arrondissement de Paris, parents et enfants profitent des derniers beaux jours de l’année. Ce jeudi, le Square Villemin a vraiment un goût de vacances : le soleil est de la partie, l’herbe est verte, même la pollution semble avoir pris congé.
Michel, la trentaine, est venu taper le ballon avec Jonathan, son jeune fils. Au bras de Michel, Sonia. Elle semble faire ses premiers pas dans la famille. Michel esquisse un baiser, et Jonathan d’entonner, tout sourire : « Ouh les zamoureux, ouh les zamoureux ! » L’après-midi débute bien.
Mais très vite le garçonnet pique une colère : « Papa euh ! Papa, vient jouer avec moi ! » Papa va jouer avec son fiston, puis s’en retourne roucouler avec sa compagne. C’en est trop ! Jonathan shoote dans Sonia, Michel élève la voix et se fâche tout rouge, Jonathan fond en larmes, Sonia est gênée. « C’est pas grave, il a pas fait exprès. »
Dans le square, la mésaventure passe inaperçue. Les matchs de football battent leur plein au rythme des encouragements prodigués par les spectateurs en culotte courte. Bambins et parents sont trop occupés à bâtir des forteresses de sable. Le soleil se couche progressivement, le chagrin est vite oublié. La famille en herbe plie bagage. Jonathan prend la main de sa nouvelle maman. « On fait la paix ? »

© Brice 2007

This week 29/11/2006

Fever among players as Euromillion jackpot to be won on Friday
180 million Euros! This is what you can win, if you play the Euromillion on Friday. Nobody has found the seven winning numbers since the 1st of September. According to the lottery’s rules, the jackpot is due to be distributed after 12 blank weeks in a row. If the seven winning numbers are not ticked, the 180 million Euros will be shared between players having ticked six. Operators rub their hands as the jackpot attracts a massive number of would-be millionairs.

Chirac smiles, de Villepin frowns
French President Jacques Chirac’s action is approved of by 45% of French (+ 3 compared with October), while Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin is credited of 38% of favorable opinions (- 4). This is what a poll by IPSOS to be published on Thursday in Le Point reveals.
Candidates to the 2007 Presidential election Ségolène Royal and Nicolas Sarkozy both lose one point in favorable opinions, with 58% and 54%.
Right-wing extremist leader Jean-Marie Le Pen records 21% of positive opinions, losing one point.

One killed in rocket attack in Israel
One Israeli woman was killed on Wednesday in a Palestinian rocket attack launched on the town of Sderot, South Israel. The woman was hit by t rocket. She succumbed to her wounds. One man was injured. Police says six rockets fell on Sderot.

© Brice 2007