Friday, 29 March 2013

Pretty shop windows in Lyon's St Jean district

'Beurk' as the French say (I love that word, it reads and sounds just like what it means), the weather here in Lyon today is as drab as it gets - gloomy and overcast skies, cold, and damp. But I had cabin fever after lunch so I thought I'd go out for a longish walk anyway despite the weather and take a few pix of some of the boutique windows in Lyon's St Jean district. They looked quite pretty with their lights turned on in the dim light.

Here's a gorgeous shop window with lovely warm colours. It's a shame the owner didn't hoist the shutters up to the top though.

As I said it's been a rather damp day, and that seemed to suit these plants just fine. (Note the marijuana plan..... pretty plant that looks like a marijuana plant in the left background).

I quite like the grungy-bar-like look of this place - a candle shop. In fact it reminds me of an old Yates Wine Lodge in England of the kind that was to be seen back in the 70's before they became fashionable theme bars. At that time they were austere drinking joints where you could buy either cheap rum, cheap rum, or cheap rum. You'd see some rare old drunken sights in them there bars let me tell you. They were a favourite haunt of male students, junkies, alcoholics, and office workers who liked to hang out in bars where women were banned (but the sexual discrimination act in the 80s thankfully changed all that of course.) Oops, I digress....

Yup, a bookshop, one of what is sadly a dwindling number of bookshops in St Jean, where they used to be as common as white on rice. That was before the advent of the Internet however.....

Time for a pause and a grand (well, it wasn't exactly 'grand', but oh well never mind) crème along with a chausson aux pommes. This photo was taken on my mobile because I wanted to send it to my girlfriend.

Here's a boutique which sells 'guignols', the famous hand puppets of Lyon, which first saw the light of day back in the early 1800s. Guignol shows are still very popular here and kids love them.

This place sells, euhh... umm... kind of couloured ball thingies. Or something. Whatever, it's an attractive shop.

Lastly, here are 'The Toys of Angels'. Even the shop itself looks like a toy, or a small-scale model. Whoever designed this shop front knew exactly what he or she was doing.

Hope you enjoyed the photos, and upon that note may I bid an excellent day/evening/night to one and all.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Christine Boutin in French police 'death squads' shock horror outrage!!*"!,?²^#'!*^!!!

Screen grab of Christine Boutin after being gassed by death squad police
Haha! News stories can be so ludicrous in nature sometimes that you have to laugh at them, and this is one of those times. Here is a story I came across yesterday on French news site Rue89, about Christine Boutin. A French politician, Boutin is the leader of the small-c-conservative Christian Democratic Party, and she was present at Sunday's violent anti-gay marriage demonstration in Paris, where she 'fainted', she said, because she was 'gassed' by police tear gas. It was all rather silly but hey ho, people can be rather silly sometimes. It's no big deal.

But sometimes people can be very very silly indeed, and that's what she was earlier this week when she wrote a speech which she intended to deliver at a 'pro-family' march in Washington. Referring in her speech to Sunday's march she wrote;
"I have myself been a victim of this inadmissible and monstrous violence committed by the forces of law and order, who were sent just like death squads by the French government against French families and against the French people. It was these forces which did not hesitate, upon the orders of Interior minister Manuel Valls, to gas children whilst they were actually in their baby buggies! [France is] in the hands of absolute dictators who do not hesitate to gas children as did the worst regimes in history."
Contacted by Rue89, Boutin took full responsibility for the words but added that she didn't actually write the speech herself because she was 'snowed under' and so she had it written for her by a young radio presenter named Grégoire Boucher. She revealed that she didn't go to the Washington demo in the end because "my being gassed meant that I was obliged to remain [in France]" but she also insisted that if she had been able to go to Washington and deliver her speech she "would have left those parts out." The speech was delivered in full in Washington by someone else.

And what does young journalist Grégoire Boucher have to say about all this death-squad-police speech malarkey? He says he had nothing to do with it in any way shape or form. 

Yup, sometimes you just have to laugh at the news because it's so, well, laughable. Good day to one and all!

Monday, 25 March 2013

Children put in danger and gutter politicians manipulate the truth at the Paris anti-gay demo

Would you take your children to see this close up?
As if there wasn't enough hysteria and ugly sentiment in France already. Yesterday's demonstration in Paris by anti-gay marriage protesters witnessed the kind of abject scenes and abject statements by politicians which one would have thought impossible in a civilised country.

The 'Manif pour Tous' demo was attended by 300,000 people. The organisers had originally intended to march down the Champs Elysées, but permission to use that route was denied by Parisian authorities and police so they were forced to take another route. The organisers then issued a provocative communiqué exhorting people to march to the rallying point using any route "including the Champs Elysées" and when the march got under way the determination of a number of demonstrators to reach the Champs Elysées was such that they violently attacked police who were cordoning off streets which led to it.

Barriers were dismantled, objects were thrown at the police, punches and kicks too, and the police, fearing that they would be overpowered, used teargas aerosols to keep them at bay. This was the signal for the demonstrators to employ plan B - the hideous tactic of instrumentalising their children by placing them in potential danger near the epicentre of the violence, as was confirmed by several journalists.

This had the desired effect, as some of the children who had been placed near the violence were exposed to the lingering effects of the teargas used to ward off the rioters, thus providing their manipulators with the chance to film a couple of them as they cried and complained that their eyes hurt. Not that anyone had the decency to comfort them and dab their eyes. Also, a photo was posted on Facebook of a young boy in a gas mask 'after having been gassed twice'.

But perhaps even more cynical than the tactics of the demonstrators was that of several senior right-of-centre UMP politicians who joined this bunch of rabble on their 'demo'.  They brazenly misrepresented the facts in a deliberate attempt to mislead the press and the public for political gain.

UMP Vice-president Laurent Wauquiez claimed that " the forces of law and order have fired at children aged 2 to 5 in baby buggies. [...] It is unacceptable to use gas against infants." He then demanded that the government be sanctioned.

Christine Boutin, also a member of the UMP and a virulent anti-gay campaigner, went even further by laughably dropping to the floor a good way away from the action and staying there long enough for photos to be taken of her. She subsequently stood up and, without so much as wiping her eyes, claimed that she had fainted because she had been "deliberately gassed, twice." She called for the resignation of Interior minister Manuel Valls.

Then came UMP party leader Jean-François Copé, who said "I want to express my indignation upon learning that it seems that tear gas has been used against families who are present with their families and that a certain number of them have been gassed."

I have watched pretty much all of the news video footage of these incidents (a lot of it is in the articles I have linked to above, and here is more footage) and have also studied many photos of yesterday's events, and the only use of teargas - which was used in handheld aerosol spray form with thus a direct effect range limit of about three to five metres - was against adults who were either using violence at close quarters or displaying threatening behaviour. Although some children were taken near the front none of them was aimed at because, again, even at that uncomfortably close range they were still far out of range of the teargas' direct effects, even though the fact of being in the area meant that they risked being affected by the drifting remains of what was used at close quarters. Also, no teargas grenades were thrown or fired, which rules out the idea that they were targeted at a distance. One man took his child to the front during a lull, which is an extremely irresponsible thing to do, and another can be heard saying "let's put the children at the front." And how is it that someone just happened to have a gas mask to put onto the face of a child who had allegedly been gassed? And how can 'adults' be so stupid as to approach scenes of violence involving hundreds of people with their children instead of fleeing? One woman as much as admitted that she had approached the violence with her children because she "wanted to go through to reach the Elysée."

This demonstration was a premeditated attempt to create propaganda in order to discredit the authorities and the police and thereby gain public support, but their tactics have backfired on them, so flagrant are the lies and manipulations.

And who organised this grotesque spectacle? A failed socialite, two-bit singer and homophobic born-again Catholic who goes by the apt moniker of Frigide Barjot. She made a minor name for - or should I say spectacle of - herself in the mid-2000's with a cheap disco song called (and I'm not joking, you can listen to it here) 'Make Love to me With Two Fingers', which features a chorus containing the following lyrics: 'Make love to me with two fingers. With three, they don't fit in. Make love to me with two fingers. With just one it doesn't do it for me.'

As to Wauquiez, Boutin and Copé, their risible tissue of cherry-picking and manipulative distortion of the facts is a disgrace even by French political standards, which were already woefully low before yesterday. It is being claimed by the demontration's organisers today that the event was 'hijacked' by extreme right wing elements, and there is surely a limited amount of truth to that, but they are crying crocodile tears because a number of the groups and associations who registered to participate in it are known to hold either homophobic, extreme right wing or integrist Catholic integrist views. These three politicians should never have even gone near this demonstration and sully themselves by standing shoulder to shoulder with thousands of the sick denizens of the flabby underbelly of France's racist and homophobic community before reinventing facts and refusing to condemn the violence of many of the demonstrators.

These politicians and the demonstrators claim to be acting 'in the interests of children' by demonstrating against gay marriage and adoption. Well if deliberately putting children in harm's way is how they see fit go about it I would suggest that if anyone should be barred from having children in this country it is they.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

The Sarkozy-Bettencourt affair: the long and courageous fight by French judges to bring elites to justice

The French Ministry of Justice, Paris
French judge Jean-Michel Gentil has filed preliminary charges of 'abuse of a person in an impaired state' against former president Nicolas Sarkozy. The charges relate to  a €152,000 donation to his 2007 election campaign by Liliane Bettencourt, the ageing heiress of the sprawling L'Oréal cosmetics and beauty empire and the world's third-richest woman, with a net worth of €39 billion. Bettencourt, now aged 90, has been involved in a highly mediatised and long-running family feud over her fortune, and her failing mental health eventually led to her being put under judicial supervision at the request of family members.

Sarkozy entered the picture in 2008 when it was revealed that Bettencourt's chief accountant had alleged to police investigators that the heiress had authorised the Sarkozy election campaign fund payment after meeting him in 2007. The accountant also said that Sarkozy had visited the Bettencourt home several times and that each time he left with a brown envelope containing banknotes.

His UMP political party's offices were subsequently raided by judges looking for evidence of wrong-doing, and the next two years saw many witness statements being taken, several people being charged with various related offences, and efforts by judges to access Sarkozy's bank accounts are ongoing. 

The political reaction to the news was both instant and predictable. UMP politicians have embarked upon a virulent crusade against Gentil's decision, which is best summed up by former Sarkozy henchman Henri Guaino who told an interviewer that the judge's decision was "irresponsible", that he had "dishonoured the institutions" as well as "[French] justice." The accusations, he said, were "grotesque...unsupportable...unbelievable...intolerable". Meanwhile, Hollande and his socialist government have wisely decided to refrain from seeking to gain cheap political capital from the affair. Mind you, they can hardly do otherwise seeing as Hollande has just had to fire his Budget minister, Jérôme Cahuzac, after the latter was put under official investigation by a judge earlier in the week in relation to accusations that he has ferreted what could be illegally gained money out of the country and into a Swiss and other bank accounts.

More importantly though - and in a clear sign that the Sarkozy affair is set to be a viciously fought battle between Sarkozy and Gentil - it emerged yesterday that after being charged face to face by Gentil during the charge convocation the mood allegedly turned ugly, with Sarkozy leashing a veiled yet implicitly menacing threat, promising that "I'm going to take this matter further, make no mistake about it".

So the battle lines have been drawn. But these are no new battle lines, and there is no new front in the bitter and eternal war which has always pitted French presidents and other elites against a legal system which is doing no more than what is is mandated to do.

The unfettered independence of the French judicial system is enshrined within the French Constitution, but France is a country which is having many more problems putting the theory into practice than are many other western countries. Politicians and others in all countries try to influence their justice systems in one way or another, but the exceptionally porous nature of the relationship between the French justice system and political power is noteworthy.

Whereas it has not been uncommon in many other countries since the 70s to see politicians, including presidents and prime ministers, investigated and/or charged with alleged offences, and pay heavily for them, only one French president has ever been found guilty of an offence, with Jacques Chirac being handed down a 2-year suspended sentence for embezzling public funds after a trial which he did not attend due to illness.

There are two main reasons for this state of affairs, the first being that French presidents are immune from prosecution during their mandate. This means that they cannot be charged with alleged offences committed whilst in power until they are no longer president. And even if charges are eventually brought the French legal system permits endless legal challenges and procedurial objections to be lodged against charges as well as the possibility of endless appeals. The result is that cases become heavily diluted over time, that which makes proving guilt very difficult.

The second reason is direct political interference in ongoing cases. Judges can be removed from a case if a president fears they may be getting uncomfortably close to the truth, and governments often refuse to hand over pertinent documents and other evidence to investigating judges. Nobody here will forget how Alain Juppe's Justice minister, Jacques Toubon, tried to force a prosecutor back to France from his holiday in the Himalayas in order to persuade him to drop a case against a political ally (Paris Mayor Jean Tiberi) which had been brought by his adjoint. Toubon even ordered a helicopter to fly him down from the mountains! The prosecutor refused on this occasion. Toubon is also known for having ordered police and prosecutors who were on their way to raid the offices of another political ally to search them for evidence of fraud to turn back. He was obeyed.

Also, several high-profile cases of a very sensitive nature involving presidents - including Sarkozy - have been deliberately bogged down by endless presidential foot-dragging. They include the Taiwan frigates case, involving kickbacks to political leaders in exchange for Taiwan's agreement to buy French frigates. This case also involves the highly suspicious deaths of several witnesses. Another case is the Karachi bombing, in which a dozen French engineers were killed in the city whilst doing highly sensitive work for the government on submarines. This case has never really got off the ground either.

Sarkozy went even further whilst in power. He removed a number of inconvenient magistrates and prosecutors and used his friendship with famous Parisian magistrate Philippe Courroye to ask him to refuse to name an investigating judge for the Bettancourt case, which was making too much progress for his comfort. Courroye obeyed, much to the anger of magistrates and judges alike, and the case was thus dragged out. Sarkozy then went on to quite simply eliminate the functions of examing magistrates, thus strengthening his hold on the justice system. Other legislation was also introduced that would attempt to weaken the justice system, to the point where even his political allies were becoming afraid of the consequences of such actions.

But Courroye eventually fell into disgrace for reasons relative to other cases he was handling, and the investigation eventually got back on track after the alleged Bettencourt payments hit the headlines. Gentil was finally put in charge of the case, his work now made easier because Sarkozy is no longer president, and Sarkozy has now been charged.

This affair and the many revelations of meddling in the justice system it has led to has debunked the myth of an independent justice system in France. Sarkozy's meddling is the straw which broke the camel's back, and his being charged represents a clear victory for the many honest magistrates, judges and others who are trying to do their job despite heavy political interference. They deserve respect for their perseverence and courage.

But don't count on further improvements anytime soon. François Hollande promised to repeal and remove the system of presidential immunity from prosection during his election campaign, but now that he is in power he and his advisors have backtracked. The project as it stands today would only remove immunity for a limited number of civil offences - i.e. extremely minor cases, and even then they would be difficult to prosecute - but immunity shall remain for embezzlement, fraud and other criminal offences, that which renders the legislation toothless.

France's magistrates and judges may have won a victory by charging Nicolas Sarkozy, but the war for judicial independence in France is far from being won.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

'French secularism' is a euphemism for populist xenophobia at best, and racism at worst

Autre temps, autres moeurs ?
I posted an entry a few days ago which praised a French judge's decision to render illegal the sacking of a female creche employee because she wore a Muslim-style headscarf to work. The decision upheld the reasonable principle of French secular law (laïcité) which, although it bans religious insignia in state institutions (schools, hospital, administrative facilities), does not apply to private companies and organisations - and the creche was and still is a private association. That entry ended with the words:

"France is a country in which the state already pokes its nose into people's lives far more than is the case compared to what happens in other Western countries, but if private organisations in France were ever forced to bow to state-inspired ideology it would only be a matter of time before this ideology were imposed upon citizens in their own homes."
That blog entry expressed my view that the judgement would serve as a warning to extremist secular zealots that people's private lives are not the state's business, but it was not to be. Floods of protest followed the judge's ruling, with politicians from all parties, from the extreme left to the extreme right, leading the charge.

No sooner had the decision been announced,
Interior minister Manuel Valls took the stand in parliament to say "how much I regret the court's decision". His thoughts were echoed by other socialists, including the President of the Socialist Party's parliamentary group, and député Jérôme Guedj, who said that "court decisions must be respected, but maybe that means that we should consider the question of adapting our legislation to all situations, and preserve and sanctuarise laïcité". His words were echoed by other socialists. The opposition UMP party agreed, and UMP député Eric Ciotti announced that he would shortly be submitting a law proposal to parliament "in order to permit the necessary respect of neutrality and laïcité in private companies". Next, extreme right wing party the Front National agreed, with Vice-president Florian Philippot denouncing what he said was a "highly dangerous" decision, and extreme left wing parties followed the same reasoning.

All those words were spoken within a few hours of the court's decision, but since then there have been many other calls for strict laïcité laws to be applied to the private sector, via legislative means. The government, smelling the coffee, has already leaked the news that it intends to change the law.

The press has also been largely critical of the judge's decision to uphold individual freedoms, with this piece being an example.

But what does the average Frenchman or woman think of all this? We haven't had to wait long to find out. Poll results issued today show that a crushing majority of citizens - 84% - would like to see Muslim headscarves banned in any workplace to which the public may have access. This includes shops, restaurants, business consultancies, insurance and other related companies, and many more.

This has frightening implications. There are many thousands of Muslim-run businesses in France, and many of them are wholly or partially staffed by people who wear a Muslim headscarf. Are they to be banned from doing so? And what about mosques, which are also public places? Shall non-muslim visitors be authorised by law to visit them without head coverings and shall Muslim clerics be obliged not only to accept these visitors but also to forego their own religious insignia? There are hundreds of thousands of Muslims, maybe many more, who go to work each day wearing religious insignia, and if the law is changed shall they no longer be able to?

You will have noticed that what is being objected to here is not religious insignia in general, but Muslim insignia only. And this is another cause for serious worry.

It has been well documented that racism in general in France is rising, with an increase in racist incidents of 23% in 2012. That is bad enough in itself but if you scratch at the surface of the figures the real target of the average Frenchman is the Muslim community. This is borne out by the fact that 74% of French citizens consider Islam to be an "intolerant" religion which is incompatible with French values. Also, only a minority considers that "integrists" represent only a tiny minority of Muslims, and a majority would even like to see the Muslim headscarf banned in public.

So it's no wonder that the French government feels that it will not encounter much opposition to its plans to extend laïcité to the private sector. After all, it has the solid backing of the opposition, the press, and the public for stricter laws.

The sad and disturbing fact is that French society is running headlong towards the rejection of foreigners in general, and those of Muslim origin in particular.

'La France, le pays des droits de l'homme'? Mon cul. The France of today may be all for human rights, but only if you are of white French origin. And don't even think of getting me started on the laughable notion of 'liberté, égalité, fraternité'.

Friday, 22 March 2013

The Marseille gangland payback execution video

Marseille suffers from drug-related crime and murder just like any other lage city, and it too has its share of rappers from underprivileged areas who produce videos which illustrate how the murky drug underworld goes about its business. One of those rap groups is Kalif Hardcore, who are from Marseille, and they produced a documentary-song video last year about the cruel reality of life in the drug-dealing world. They called it 'Marseille la Kalash Liga One' ('kalash' meaning a kalashnikov assault rifle - a weapon of choice for France's gangland killers).

The video depicts the cruel reality of life in the ghettos, where drugs and violence are omnipresent, and it features a sequence in which a young drug-dealer steals a bag of drugs from a lady who was 'looking after it' for other drug-dealers. His identity is discovered and there follows a scene in which he is abducted by armed men, driven to a lonely spot outside the city after being handcuffed and beaten up, thrust down onto the the ground, and shot in the head as payback. The killers then pour petrol over his body and set it alight before leaving the scene.

The 'victim' was played by 19-year-old Nabil Sedik, a young man from one of Marseille's poorer areas, and the drug-minding woman was played by his mother.


The harrowing scenes contained in the video were of course fictional, and Nabil Sedik walked away unscathed from that fictional killing field, but real life underworld revenge killings such as that shown in it are not the stuff of fiction. They are a fact of life, and they have occurred every 10 days in Marseille since January of last year. The most recent of those executions took place a few days ago, when a young man was kidnapped in Marseille. His body was later discovered in the boot of a burnt-out car. He had been shot to death.

His name? Nabil Sedik.

His mother buried him on Tuesday.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Have AQMI executed a French hostage in Mali, and if so, why?

The AQMI logo
France woke up this morning to the news that Islamic terrorist group the AQMI (Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Magheb) has announced that they have executed Philippe Verdon, a French national who was taken hostage by them in November 2011. The alleged execution was said by an AQMI spokesman to have been in reprisal for ongoing French military action against them in Mali.

French authorities have not confirmed his death as of this evening, and there has been no independent confirmation of the killing either, but many analysts consider both the source of the information and the channels via which it was communicated to Paris to be relatively trustworthy.

But a vital question remains. Why did the AQMI make this statement and what can they hope to gain by making it? 

France, unlike Britain, America and some other western allies, is a country which is known to have paid ransoms amounting to millions of euros to free French terrorist hostages on many occasions in the past. However it has been widely speculated for months that President François Hollande has refused to do financial deals with organisations with which France is at war, and that includes the AQMI.

Which, of course, begs the question of why the AQMI, knowing this, would kill a hostage to try and obtain a ransom for those left alive which may well not be paid.

It would be tempting to think that they may be trying to outblink the French and make them cave in to their demands, but there is also another possibility.

The AQMI in Mali are cornered by French elite and other military forces who are tracking them down to their last mountain refuges and killing them at a steady, and high, rate, and their military defeat seems inevitable. But crucially there are several high-level AQMI leaders still at large in the area. Unlike their foot soldiers, many of whom are prepared to die in jihad, the leaders have more ambitious goals. They are motivated by the prospect of political, financial and long-term ideological victory, and not by fighting to the death in a short-term war which is already lost. They want to stay alive and live to fight another day.

Which is why it may just be possible that the AQMI are engaging in a process of negotiation with the French in the hope of obtaining a quick ceasefire and possibly saving their own lives, even if doing so means a prison term.

That which, in turn, makes it possible to hope that the announcement of the execution of Philippe Verdon is a negotiating ploy and not a fact.

Let's hope that that is the case.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

French appeal court was right to overturn créche firing of woman in an Islamic headscarf

Woman wearing a hijab
The French supreme appeals court has decided to overturn the 2008 decision of Parisian region créche Baby-Loup to fire a female employee because she wore a hijab - an Islamic headscarf - to work. The créche had dismissed her on the grounds of "the obligation of political, philosophical or confessional neutrality" as defined by its employee code of conduct rules, which is now de facto illegal as things stand.

In its judgement the court declared that "involving as it does a private créche" the employee's dismissal for 'serious professional misconduct' constituted "discrimination against religious principles" and that it must be declared "null and void". The judgement went on to state that a previous judgement by a court in Versailles which had declared the dismissal to be legal would also be overturned. The case will now be sent back to be judged before a court of appeal in Paris.

The court also found that the principle of 'laïcité' - the strict French version of secularity - could not be invoked to deprive "employees of private companies which do not supply a public service [...] of the protection of workplace legislation".

This judgement is a sensible one. France already has some of the strictest secular laws in the world, which ban the wearing of almost all religious insignia and clothing in public administrations, schools, hospitals and other state-run organisations. If France sees things that way so be it, but whether we agree with those laws or not French lawmakers are quite rightly at liberty to vote laws as they see fit as long as they do not transgress human and other rights.

And I even agreed with the banning of the burqua in public because I defend the principle that Western society relies on people being able to relate to others via the interpretation of facial expression.

But the idea of strict secularism imposing itself in the private sector is a step too far. Not only that, the court's decision is coherent with respect to a 2004 law which, although imposing strict laïcité in public schools, sensibly exempts private schools.

France is a country in which the state already pokes its nose into people's lives far more than is the case compared to what happens in other Western countries, but if private organisations in France were ever forced to bow to state-inspired ideology it would only be a matter of time before this ideology were imposed upon citizens in their own homes.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

A visit to Lyon's Museum of Contemporary Art

Sunday afternoon and it's cold and windy. Hmm. Okay then, 'let's go to the contemporary art museum' we said. So we did.

I mean, I'm no expert on contemporary art but I do enjoy going to exhibitions. My reactions range from 'what a load of rubbish! And he/she gets PAID for this??!!' to 'wow! That's really weird' to 'oh yes, I really like this exhibit (for some reason or another which I don't feel the need to delve into)'. I just like what I like and don't like what I don't like. Simple.

Lyon's Museum of Contemporary Art features three artists right now, two of which I quite liked, so here are some photos of their work, starting with the Moroccon origin artist Latifa Echakhch. Her work consists of reconstituting both a personal and collective memory of the history of Spain and Morocco, and her works are laid out like 'micro-territories', or, in her own words, "As soon as I start thinking about an exhibition I wonder what landscape I'm going to display".

No commentary from me needed, so I hope you enjoy them.

Here is the work of Chinese artist Huang Yong Ping, who explores the principles of permanence and change, the old and the new. He was a highly controversial artist in China in the 1980s, during which he founded the Xiamen Dada Group (in 1986) and burnt many of his works in front of the Xiamen museum as a protest against the prevailing and repressive cultural climate in China.

I enjoyed these two exhibitions very much, but I must say that the most beautiful sight of all to be seen in Lyon's Museum of Contemporary Art today was..................... girlfriend.

Have a good Sunday night folks, full of good things.

Friday, 8 March 2013

The odious arrogance of Oscar Pistorius

Oscar Pistorius
Oscar Pistorius was charged in a South African court a while back with the premeditated murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, on Valentine's Day of this year. He had shot her four times with a 9mm pistol as she cowered behind a bathroom door. He says he thought she was a burglar and the prosecution contends that he knew she was in the bathroom and that he had shot her deliberately.

After the initial court hearing Pistorius was granted a million rand - £73,000 - bail and released under strict conditions which included probatory supervision, compulsory drug and alcohol testing, an interdiction to return to his home, or to approach witnesses, and an interdiction to travel, either inside or outside of South Africa. That which appears reasonable given the gravity of the charges.

Today however it is reported that he has decided to challenge these bail conditions. All of them. Because he thinks they are "unfair".

In other words, Oscar Pistorius, a man who has been charged with cold-blooded murder, considers it to be injust that he be subjected to almost any kind of surveillance or obligation whilst awaiting trial later in the year. He wants to be able to go abroad at will (albeit with police permission), live in his home, next to those of witnesses, and he doesn't want to be under supervision.

Let's be clear about this. Here is a man who has been charged with a vile assassination who wants to have all the freedoms accorded to all free citizens, a man who, by challenging his bail conditions, has given a slap in the face to Steenkamp's memory and her family, a man with no compassion or feelings except when it comes to his own well-being.

Guilty or not of Steenkamp's murder, Oscar Pistorius epitomises the macho and sexist culture of white South Africans in a country where gun crime and the rape and killing of women have reached massive proportions. He has a revoltingly smug sense of entitlement which - and let's be honest - finds its origins in the apartheid era, and if the courts grant him his wishes then all I can say is god help women in South Africa.