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6 Christmas Traditions

December 20, 2018

For most of us the traditional French Christmas characterizes itself by the opening of the presents , brought by Santa Claus to whom we often leave a clementine next to the chimney, on 25th December in the morning. The meal is always composed of a big turkey and Yule logs. But do you know that many more traditions exist all around the world ? Let’s uncover six of them, from their traditional meal to their symbols…

     1. Portugal : the presents are opened the day before the 25th and until this day, they are hidden in boots put over the fireplace. In this latter, we often burn a branch of olive tree or of chestnut. The parents add the little Jesus in the Nativity set at the last moment to surprise their kids. We eat a lot of codfish and also a special cake of candied fruit, called the Bolo Rei.

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     2. The United Kingdom : British send themselves Christmas greetings cards well decorated until January. They also have their special tradition of the crackers, kind of big sweeties of glittering paper hiding presents and a crown, that we “crack” during the meal, ending up with the famous Christmas Pudding. They are really fond of decorating their Christmas trees, thanks to Prince Albert.

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     3. Germany : or the land of the best Christmas markets. The Germans are really creative concerning the Advent Calendar; they always have multiple ideas to innovate it more and more each year. Children are asking presents to the Christkind, a little girl often symbolized during the parades in the town. They also give presents on Saint Nicholas’ day, on 6th December. Their traditional dessert is the Stollen.

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     4. Spain : the big presents are opened on 6th January. They eat a lot of touron nougat, really appreciated by families. They have two special traditions: first, the Tio de Nadal, a log stuffed with trinkets and wrapped  on 8th December and that they open on the 25th. Then we have the Caganer, a santon that pees in the corner of the Nativity set.

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     5. Greece : the emblem in Greece is a boat so the Greeks decorate their house with one instead of a Christmas tree. In the islands, boys sing Christmas carols while walking in the streets and holding a big boat in group. Greeks go to mass and eat dried fruits and “Vassilopita“. Until January 6th, they keep a branch of basil next to them to keep safe from bad spirits. The presents are brought on January 1st.

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     6. Poland : parties here begin when the first star is seen by the impatient kids. People share a bread called the “oplatek” and in the countryside, they also share it with the animals which are said to be able to understand the human language after midnight. They eat 12 plates without any meat and the presents are brought either by Santa Claus or other traditional characters.

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Other traditions:

Gingerbread in Estonia, Pannetone in Italy, Lussekatter in Sweden, Kutya in Russia are also very appreciated on Christmas Eve…

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Lila-Marie

Drifting, an original motorsport discipline

December 15, 2018

There are many different types of races in the world of motorsports, with various terrains and styles of driving. The most famous of them are Fomula One, track races, or rallyes. But there is one that caught my attention amongst all the others : drifting.

In traditional races you have to make your car grip to the road to be the fastest, especially in corners. Drifting is the exact opposite goal : the driver intentionally oversteers to lose traction and grip on the rear wheels of the car to make the car slide, and maintains this position until the end of a corner. Whereas other racing discipline scores are based on the final position or best lap time, drifting is judged on the smoothness of these car slides in the corners of the track. Many other parameters are also taken into account, like the angle of the car, the longevity of the drift, or even the amount of smoke generated by the tires. Drift cars are built with very specific parts and tunes, with strong mechanical elements, and a better weight balance. Most of drift cars are Rear Wheel Drive (RWD), since the rear of the vehicle gives the motion to achieve a drift, but some of them are All Wheel Drive (AWD). They are more stable and easier to control, but require a powerful engine to make the four wheels spin without gripping to the road.

Drifting was born in Japan during the 1970’s, created by Kunimitsu Takahashi. He invented the concept of making intentionally tires smoke, due to the friction with the ground. Later, Keiichi Tsushiya (named today as the “Drift King”) became interested in the techniques of Takahashi and wanted to make them evolve. He decided to practice his new skills in the mountain roads of Japan. In 1987, he decided to make a video, which became a hit and inspired many other street racers of the time. However, even if this new discipline gained in popularity, it was absolutely illegal; this is the reason why drift events were organized mostly at night. Drift began to spread outside Japan at the begining of the 1990’s, and many racers in the world began to train their skills. Many films and video games contributed to making drift even more famous, like “Fate of the Furious” (Fast and Furious in France). Nowadays, some racing clubs let drivers to drift on their tracks, and sometimes organize competitions.

Many drifting techniques and tricks exist, but the most basic and common one is the “E-brake” : The driver pulls on the hand brake for a very short moment and releases it while slightly turning the steering wheel in the direction of the corner. This will lock the rear wheels and make the back of the car slip. Right afterward, the driver turns the steering wheel to the opposite direction and steps on the gas to make the wheels spin, which makes the car drift. To maintain this position while moving, the driver needs to know how to dose between streering angle and throttle – that’s the trickiest part of a drift, because too much will make the car oversteer and spin, and not enough will make the car grip back again on the road.

During the late 2000’s, an American rally driver named Ken Block had the idea to bring drifting discipline to a whole new level with very tight corners, obstacles and objects to drift around. He called this “Gymkhana”, and posted each year a video on youtube to show his skills, each time more spactacular (The 10th should be published in 2019). My personal favorite is the 3rd, but the others are also very impressive.

Dimitry

A charitable event framed by humor

December 13, 2018

Who said video games don’t go along with charity?

Two French professional gamers decided to break the clichés about their jobs and showed they were ready to use their fame for the good cause. In fact, Alexandre Dachary and Adrien Nougaret, aka Zerator, threw up a charity project in 2016, called the Z event, with the complicity of many other gamers and streamers well-known on platforms like YouTube or Twitch. They organized three marathons so far, in which all the guests gathered to stream continuously for more than fifty hours. And during those lives each participant invited his viewers to give donations to the independent charity they wanted to support. At the end of the marathon they gathered all the money they earned and gave it directly to the association.

Each year this event gains more popularity and so the sums won are more and more important. For the first edition of this project, the organizers supported the NGO Save the Children and they ended up with more than 170,000 euros. In 2017, they worked with the Red Cross and won more than 500,000 euros. This year they finally succeeded in reaching a million euros. As a matter of fact, from 9th to 11th of November 2018, almost 40 gamers participated in this event with the aim to support Doctors Without Borders and collected 1,094,731.34 euros from 36693 donations. To that is added the 21591 T-shirts sold to the profit of the charity. One manager from Doctors Without Borders explained the whole association was very surprised but above all thankful for everything the gamers had done for them. They got the opportunity to talk about their project during some lives and so they explained what project the money they earned would help.

To encourage the donations some people of the team had decided to bet with the same pledge: if they reached the million they would shave their heads. One week after the event the sixteen gamers who agreed to this challenge gathered one more time to take two pictures: a before/after to show to their community they respected the terms of this bet.


But besides the money they earned, the organizers want to give a new image of the gamers’ community. They wanted to show they could use their humor and friendliness to help the disadvantaged ones.

Marie-Amélie.

Steven Spielberg’s movies

December 9, 2018

Movie director, screenwriter and producer, Steven Spielberg definitely revolutionized the cinema industry of his time. He directed so many movies it is starting to be hard to name them all: Jaws, Jurassic Park, E.T the Extra-Terrestrial, Indiana Jones, The Colour Purple, War of the Worlds… So many different movies in which we can find similarities and differences.

There are some topics and elements that you can find in every Steven Spielberg’s movie. Let me tell you three of them, the most obvious ones.

First of all, in every movie Spielberg directed he shows his own personality. Steven Spielberg’s parents’ divorce really affected him (he was 19 when it happened). In many Spielberg movies, like Indiana Jones, Close Encounters of the Third Kind or Jurassic Park, fatherhood is something feared, avoided and run away from during the whole movie until the end of it, when they finally find answers to their issues. It is definitly an important subject for the director. He even once said that had he been a father at the time, he would have thought twice about having the main character in Close Encounters of the Third Kind abandon his family so quickly.

Then, the lighting is also something you can find in every Spielberg’s movie. The director has always relied on intense lighting, from above or outside. He loves streams of light. In the 1990s, Spielberg worked with the cinematographer Janusz Kaminki. At that time, his movies have become more frequently full of interior scenes characterized by their backlit windows, with streams of light that pour in and leave the characters in shape. Spielberg once said that the shot in Close Encounters of the Third Kind of the small boy standing against a doorway blasted out with an alien light is one of the key images of his career: “That beautiful but awful light, just like fire coming through the doorway. [Barry’s] very small, and it’s a very large door, and there’s a lot of promise or danger outside that door.” That way, Spielberg builds up a suspense in each movie he directs.

Now if you listen to the music Spielberg uses in his movies you’ll notice it is something very specific. The music is chosen very carefully. John Williams, the most famous composer of movie music of our days, has worked with Steven Spielberg on each of his films except The Color Purple. His main themes for the Indiana Jones series, Jurassic ParkE.T the Extra-TerrestrialClose Encounters of the Third Kind and Jaws are some of the most memorable of the post-Hollywood blockbuster era (not to mention the Star Wars and Harry Potter films).

There are a lot of other elements you can find in Steven Spielberg’s movies but if you find those elements in a movie, you can be almost sure you’re watching a Spielberg movie.

Spielberg is also very influenced by classic movies, the “black and white movies”. He thinks it is very important to watch movies from the old days, “the black-and-white days” as he calls them from the 30s and 40s. It is important to him, he thinks only studying the movies from the 1970s isn’t a lot because all those movies learnt from “the masters of the 30s and 40s and 50s,” and those movies probably learnt from “the silent movie masters so we’re all handing influences down and inspiring from generation to generation,” he once said in an interview. He also said: “I kind of am a little bit sad a lot of the young people today kind of have a cut-off point for their own personal influences and that’s like they don’t know a lot about the pictures in the pre 60s.”

Now let me tell you about the last movie Spielberg directed, his last blockboster: Ready Player One. The movie is actually an adaptation of Ernest Cline’s novel of the same name. The movie is screenwritten by Ernest Cline and Zak Penn (who co-wrote X-Men: The Last Stand). It is a science fiction movie which takes place in a dystopian world in 2045. Everyone is poor and everyone lives in a virtual reality entertainment universe: the OASIS. In the OASIS you can be whoever you want, and you can do whatever you want. There is a money in the OASIS different from real money so anyone can be rich in virtual reality but poor in actual reality. This is why people love the OASIS so much: you just need to put your virtual glasses on to forget about all your problems. The Oasis was created by James Halliday, a crazy scientist. When Halliday died, a pre-recorded message left by his avatar announces a game: there are keys hidden in the OASIS that permit you to find the Golden Easter Egg. Whoever finds the Golden Easter Egg becomes the owner of the OASIS. That gives the right to that person to either update new games in the OASIS or to close the OASIS. They can do whatever they want with the OASIS, the winner gets a complete control on it, which also means a complete control on the future.

If you are interested in this movie, this is the link of the trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cSp1dM2Vj48

As a fan of pop culture the director got inspired by it and we can actually find many references to pop culture in the movie. For example: King Kong, the DeLorean from Back to the Future, the gates from Jurassic Park, the logo of Elliott wheeling E.T. in front of the moon, the Dark Knight from Batman, Harley Quinn and the Joker, The Iron GiantMad Max, Minecraft, Pac-Man, Rubik’s Cube, The Shinning, etc. The list is very, very long and pop culture is also a specific aspect that comes back in a lot of his movies.

As a conclusion, we can say that Steven Spielberg always succeeds in making us laugh or cry, to scare us and to amaze us in each of his movies.

Emma

Tokyo’s street fashion

December 6, 2018

“It is ever so much easier to be good if your clothes are fashionable.” said Lucy Maud Montgomery in her book Anne of Green Gables. Fashion is an art, or a business ; sometimes it’s luxury, for others it’s ready to wear; it can be vintage, chic, street wear or grunge, there are so many different looks. You can create it, reinvent it or just decide to break all the rules. It’s sometimes a way to claim physically your opinion or to support a cause. Japan is also famous for its excentric way of life and all those incredible things we can find there. And Fashion is not an exception. Let’s take a look at those amazing styles in Tokyo.

Tokyo is a capital, and like the others, has it own fashion district : Harajuku. If you walk in the street or just do some shopping you will meet fantastic creatures and find mysterious clothes. Fashion is a thing out there and you will quickly understand that you don’t know anything about this art. In Tokyo styles come and go, everything is moving fast and a new trend can become old-fashioned in a short time. I’ll only introduce you to some of the most popular and represented styles which survive in this jungle.

The Lolita fashion is definitly the one you should know. This style was born just after WW2 when Japanese women were forced to take their role of wives, or mothers really young. The Lolita was created to fight against that and gave woman a kind of liberty, to enjoy their youth. It’s inspired by the Victorian style in England during the 19th century and the Rococo in France during the 18th century. So this is a really pure and elegant style with a lot of rules to follow. There are so many derivatives like the Gothic lolita or the sweet lolita. Every single derivative of this general fashion has its own rules and specificities. This style was promoted by Alice Mizer who is the creator of a lolita brand and a guitarist of the famous band : Moi-même-moitié.

The Decora fashion is also a must. This style was born during the early years 2000 and is a kind of revolt against the Japanese strict society. The style is defined by the curious and extravagant structure of the outfit: you just have to wear colourful clothes, neons are better, and to accessorize a lot. It’s not a joke. The goal is to be cute and colourful; you’re like an alive candy. This fashion was promoted by the famous singer Kyary Pamyu Pamyu.

The Visula Kei fashion is really popular too. Visual kei is a style created in the mid-1980s by Japanese musicians consisting of striking makeup, unusual hair styles and flamboyant costumes, similar to Western glam rock. The aim is to have a real and original visual. Like the lolita, there are a lot of derivatives such as the Angura kei or the Fairy kei, and they all have their own specificities. This fashion was promoted by famous bands like : the Gazette, Diaura or Royz.

As you can see, Tokyo’s street fashion is of importance: another world where art and originality are the final aim of fashion. Creating something with clothes, make up,accessories and your body is important for them.  They have a universe, their own rules for each style and that is amazing. This free spirit about creativity can be explained by the strict social rules of their society.  As a form of compensation, they are not afraid to try something new or to be out of the cast. This strength and this fresh movement is the future of fashion.

Fleur-Lou

The Greatest Showman, 2017

December 4, 2018

 The Greatest Showman is a musical directed by Michael Gracey and distribued by Twentieh Century Fox. This film received 1 award and 3 nominations.

It’s inspired by a true story: the life of P.T. Barnum.

Phineas Taylor Barnum was born on July 5, 1810, in Bethel, Connecticut. P.T. Barnum became a successful promoter after moving to New York City.  He became famous thanks to  Joice Heth, a slave who was the star of his first attraction. She was registered as  the oldest specimen of mortality ; she was told to be 161 years but her true age was in fact 80 years. From 1841 to 1868, he ran the Barnum American Museum, which featured the “Feejee Mermaid,” “General Tom Thumb” and other oddities. In 1871, he launched the traveling spectacle that would eventually become the Ringling Bros.   After an illustrious career, Barnum died in Bridgeport, Connecticut, on April 7, 1891. He named himself ” The Prince of The Charlatans”.

The movie tells the story of Phineas Barnum, who works for a trading company until his boss tells everyone that they are shutting the company down. Barnum comes back home to his wife Charity and their daughters Caroline (Austyn Johnson) and Helen (Cameron Seely). He brings home a spinning lamp, or “wishing machine”, for Caroline’s birthday. Charity and the girls all make wishes, and Barnum hatches an idea…..  He thinks that humans love strangeness, mystery.  He will hire people with different features like woman-jaguar, dogman, man-snake, bearbed lady, dwarf, giant, siamese… He will face difficulties  and danger…  But the show must go on!

The actors who play the characters are:

  • Phineas.T Barnum:  Hugh Jackman
  • Charity Barnum: Michelle Williams
  • Phillip Carlyle: Zac Efron
  • Anne Wheeler: Zendaya
  • Lettie Lutz: Keala Settle
  • Jenny Lind: Rebecca Ferguson

I wanted to speak about this movie because the plot is not just  a love story, it’s also a movie which tells about the love of a family, the rejection of disabled people.. The themes of the movie are topical because different people are rejected.  We can emphasize that the people  in this film  judge every human. In one scene, which takes place in the circus during new star and opera singer, Jenny Lind’s performance, Anne Wheeler a former slave, now a trapeze artist, is seen hands interlocked with Phillip Carlyle, P.T Barnum’s new co-worker.  But as soon as Phillip’s parents see them together the judgement   in their gazes is so rude that we can imagine the pain of Anne. Phillip is unable to face his parents’ condemnation so he gives up Anne’s hand. We just have the time to see Anne’s sadness and pain before she leaves the dress circus. This movie shows a segreagated America  during the 19th century.

The film The Greatest showman is original, hopeful in the dark events; the symbolic of the songs is particularly positive.  Hope, freedom and love are the essence of songs.

The song  I like the most is “This is me” interpreted by the circus’ troup. I like it because it’s a  valuable and hopeful song . Pains and fears of different kind people is transformed into hope, pride and joy. It shows the strength and the power of the mind. If we are proud of ourselves , we can accomplish marvelous things even if we are different.

You can watch the clip thanks to the following link:

And as P.T Barnum said: ” The noblest art is that of making others happy”.

Julie

Who is Dorothea Lange ?

December 1, 2018

Lately, I went to an exhibition at the Museum of the Jeu de Paume in Paris about Dorothea Lange, a photographer who moved me deeply.

She was born in 1895, in Hoboken, New Jersey. She began photography at the age of eighteen and she was the daughter of German immigrants. She moved to San Fransisco in 1918 as a portrait photographer. In 1932, during the Great Depression, she began to take scenes showing the impact of the recession and the social unrest in the streets of San Fransisco.

The exhibition is a set of 130 pictures which show us her social commitment. In 1934, Paul Schuster Taylor began to use her pictures in order to illustrate his articles. They worked together for 30 years and they were co-authors of the famous book An American Excodus (1939)  the purpose of which was to show the social conditions in rural states.

Her principal goal was to denounce injustice and change public opinion. In fact, it was a “form of oral history for future generations”, she wanted people to be conscious of the condition of the country . Her pictures show to the viewer a socio-economic disaster in order to dive into the period of destitution, famine, poverty, unemployment, … In fact, in her work she documents the victims of the Great Depression in a realistic way. She traveled the United States in her car and crossed 22 states. She stopped as soon as she saw improvised accommodation, tent, hut and went to the meeting of migrants. We clearly saw the psychological violence felt by people in her works, and their distress. It made me discover a new face of the United States.

During this exhibition, we can discover different types of her work: the Great Depression (1932-1934), a selection of work from the Farm Security Administration (1935-1941), the Richmond shipyards (1942-1944), the Japanese American internment camps during the Second World War (1942), and a series on a public defender (1955-1957).

She was the first woman photographer to get a personal exhibition at the MoMa, one year after her death in 1966.

In my opinion, this exhibition was very interesting and shows us the real life of Americans during The Great Depression. It made me realise that I was lucky to have an education, no material problems,…. Through the portraits, Lange tells us personal experiences, we see in the people’s faces the harshness of their life and thanks to her, we discover the real world in which we live.

You can see this exhibition until January, 27th 2019.

http://www.jeudepaume.org/index.php?lang=en

Alice