Femen….the Sunday departmental elections in France….the return of Sarkozy

Never a dull moment in France.  There are many strident voices in this country (including my own, I guess) which is why I needed to take a break yesterday and put up the Rita Hayworth post.

AP Photo/Michel Spingler

AP Photo/Michel Spingler

Today, however, is a new day and as I write this post at 8 pm on Sunday evening, the first results of the second round of local elections are coming in. They are the departmental elections to elect the membership of the councils of France’s 101 departments   The centre-right political party UMP, headed by Nicolas Sarkozy, has won the majority vote.  French voters have rejected the current Socialist party representatives and overwhelmingly rejected the far-right National Front representatives.

Earlier today in the north of France, Femen activists were holding up posters that didn’t say “I am Charlie”, but rather “I am Fascist”.  They were protesting the presence of Marine Le Pen and her party, the National Front.

What exactly is this radical feminist protest group that calls itself FEMEN?  Exactly two years ago, in March 2013, I wrote a blog post on these courageous, tough women.  The link is below.

Inna Shevchenko, the 24-year-old leader of Femen in France

Inna Shevchenko, the 24-year-old leader of Femen in France

Ukrainian activist Inna Shevchenko, from the topless women's rights group Femen, poses in Paris


lovely Rita, silverscreen goddess

Let’s take a weekend break from this coarse, brutish world and travel back to the mid-1940s of Hollywood.

rita bw one

Since watching the 1946 film, Gilda, for the very first time in January of this year, I have become subjugated by the beauty (inside and out) of Rita Hayworth.  Why it took me so long to see Gilda is beyond me, but everything about the movie blew me away, including the controlled, gritty performance of Glenn Ford.  Gilda is the role that defined Rita Hayworth.



But what a sad personal life she had.  Rita’s real name was Margarita Carmen Cansino and she started dancing at the age of 6 to support her family.  Throughout her teen years she was subjected to sexual and physical abuse by her father who was also her dancing partner.  She would be exploited by men for most of her life – in her personal life, her professional life and even in the onscreen characters she played.  Her five failed marriages included Orson Welles and playboy Prince Aly Khan.  She would maintain a lifelong friendship with Glenn Ford.  Her later years were marked with struggles with alcoholism and then the disease that ultimately took her from us in 1987 at the age of 68 – Alzheimer’s.

I wonder how Rita’s life would have been had she been born 20, 30 or even 40 years later.

Such was her talent, she could dance with the best of them (Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly) as you’ll see in this uplifting video set to the music of “Staying Alive” by the Bee Gees.  Below that is the link to the classic, now-cult film, Gilda.

Très bon week-end.

the impact of Israeli politics in France (and the world over)

“But what do Israeli politics have to do with Paris or France?” you may well ask.
Here’s what.  These photographs are dated January and February 2015.

twofourthreeonemore soldier school

These are French soldiers (partially paid for with the tax revenue of French citizens) standing in front of Jewish schools and institutions all around France.  Closer to home, here are machine gun-toting French soldiers on my street.

French soldiers secure the access to a Jewish school in Paris as part of the highest level of "Vigipirate" security plan

Yes, the end of my street has turned into a combat zone complete with metal barriers and army trucks parked on the sidewalk.  In January there were dogs.  I’ve changed my route to work because of this.  Back in January when I walked past the soldiers, the machine guns and the dogs, here’s what I was thinking -

Catholic schools (in this country) do not have soldiers guarding them.  Secular schools do not have soldiers guarding them.  Private British or American schools do not have soldiers guarding them.  Why is it that Jewish schools and institutions require these elaborate security systems?  Why?

I had hoped that opposition candidate Isaac Herzog would win the Israeli elections and, as a result, the soldiers here would dismantle their military hardware and leave.  But that’s not how things turned out.  It looks like they’re here to stay.  And possibly reinforced.


Surely it must be “beschert” that Netanyahu won the election Tuesday, but not for the reasons his jubilant constituency might think.  (“beschert” is Yiddish for “it was meant to be” or “it was guided by heaven.”)  He has antagonized so many people now the world over – Jews and non-Jews alike – that the time has come for pressure to change.

Recommended reading -



Just who exactly are the Neoconservatives?



And lastly, an interview with Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Chris Hedges on the complicity of the U.S. government in Israeli military actions (as brought to light by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden).


New York, capital of the world

New York, Capital of the World – a documentary film.

I stumbled across this gem of a documentary film on You Tube while searching for footage of the Brooklyn Bridge.  It is, hands down, the most edifying and historically interesting film on the origins of a city that I have ever seen.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.  It comes in 8 parts and spans decades/centuries.  This one is entitled The Power and the People.



New York magazine – An urgent, visually striking film.

The Guardian – Searing and brilliant.

The New York Times – Breathtakingly beautiful.

Rotten Tomatoes – Gracefully assembled and ultimately disquieting, Timbuktu is a timely film with a powerful message.

Juliet in Paris – Wow.

Sissako’s passionate and visually beautiful film Timbuktu is a cry from the heart – with all the more moral authority for being expressed with such grace and such care. It is a portrait of the country of his childhood, the west African state of Mali, and in particular the city of Timbuktu, whose rich and humane traditions are being trampled by fanatical jihadis, often from outside the country.

Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian

If you see this film in Paris, I suggest you go to the beautiful and independently-owned movie house, Le Balzac, just off the Champs-Elysées.  Below is a trailer of the film and below that, Le Balzac website.


la journée internationale de la femme

Below is an article from today’s Guardian that lists, in their opinion, the ten best feminists.  As I was reading it, I thought to myself – why are there no men on this list?  And then, at the very bottom, I saw that one man had been selected.

There are many, many men on this planet who are feminists.  Just as there are many, many women who are not (one extreme example – women who perform FGM (female genital mutilation) on young girls.)

My father was a feminist, bless him.  “You can do anything….and your mother and I will support you” is the message I received growing up.  I was encouraged to travel, broaden my horizons, see other cultures, learn other languages, and, in general, get an education.

“l’émancipation des femmes passe par l’éducation”

“women’s empowerment involves education”

That’s my message on International Women’s Day and in that respect I pay homage to Malala Yousafzai who, while on her way home from school in 2012, was shot in the head by a member of the depraved Taliban group; medieval brutes who, among other things, force women to wear sacks over their bodies.  At age 17, Yousafzai is the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate and an activist for female education.

But males need to be educated too.

Education, for both girls and boys, women and men, is a first step to freedom from oppression and ignorance.  Because oppression and ignorance are prisons.  As is poverty.  As are those sacks that women are forced to wear over their bodies.

Plus les hommes seront éclairés, et plus ils seront libres.

The more enlightened people are, the more they will be free.  (Voltaire)

Education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom.

George Washington Carver