Posts Tagged ‘Paris’

Tell It To The Marines

May 6, 2015

This year’s May Day celebrations in France exhibited a bit more novelty than usual: an inter-generational, cross-gender family feud within the country’s leading neo-fascist clan … and a new graphic style for Femen body art!  All in the same place, at the same time!  Zut!

The far-right Front National’s traditional Paris May Day rally –its annual tribute to Joan of Arc–  was disrupted by women from the Femen activist group, who made mock-Nazi salutes from the balcony of a [four]-star hotel and disrupted a speech by party leader Marine Le Pen.  The topless activists wore blonde wigs and had “Heil Le Pen” and “Stop fascism” [sic] written across their chests, unfurling banners linking the party’s logo with the Nazi party.  For five minutes, they drowned out Le Pen’s speech with a bullhorn, chanting anti-Front National slogans while the crowd booed.  Three men from the party’s security service then forcibly pulled the women inside before one of the men raised his fist to the crowd in an apparent sign of victory.

They will be forced to get dressed,” Le Pen said of the protesters as she resumed her speech.


Quite a novelty!  It’s customary for French politicians to employ force while undressing women!

One thing that wasn’t novel: the classic Femen sloganeering style of uppercase block lettering in black body paint.   But an earlier diversionary foray at ground level unveiled the spring look from the House of Femen.  Black mixed-case lettering on a rectangular red-bordered white background … with a red accent: “Le Pen top fascist”  Lettering that breaks the boundary of the imaginary protest placard emblazoned on the living-body-as-living-placard.  Good to see a graphic designer’s influence at the heart of the message.


And note the symbolism at work in the streetscape background — the signboard of the Hotel Regina.  Do you need to know Latin (or be a latent royalist) to understand that Regina = Queen?  Many, many intersecting cultural vectors impinging at Place des Pyramides, not least of which are those radiating from the statue of Jeanne itself, originally commissioned in 1874 by Napoleon III.  Clearly intended to commemorate the obliteration of the 1871 Paris Commune, the statute is the work of sculptor Emmanuel Frémiet.

Born in Paris, he was a nephew and pupil of Sophie Frémiet, and later he became a pupil of her husband François Rude. He chiefly devoted himself to animal sculpture. In times of adversity he served in the gruesome office of painter to the Paris Morgue.  Named an Officer of the French Legion of Honor in 1878, he became a member of the Académie des Beaux-Arts in 1892.


If you’re an American not in Paris, replicas of this statue can be found closer to home –in Portland, Oregon and the Big Easy –New Orleans, Louisiana.  Frémiet being who he was, it’s more a statute of Jeanne d’Arc’s horse than of the rider herself, but the notion of a woman borne away by an animal was almost an idée fixe with him:

In 1887 Frémiet had exhibited his “Gorilla Carrying off a Woman” which won him a medal of honor at the Salon.  Although praised in its time, this work now evokes ridicule from some observers for its depiction of a gorilla abducting a nude woman, presumably with the intention of raping her.


Which brings us back to the racist, xenophobic platform of the Front National.  Beneath all the economic, religious and cultural argumentation advanced by the FN to support its project, the underlying message is profoundly simple: “Those black monkeys want to fuck ‘our’ women.”  By which they actually mean, “these foreigners want to fuck the women I claim to reserve for my own exclusive fucking.”  Control over the means of reproduction is what’s at stake; the battle remains just as ugly as the endless struggle over the means of production itself.

But eventually the aging patriarch no longer has the strength to exercise coercive enforcement of his “right” to dominate:

On Monday eighty-six-year-old National Front party founder Jean-Marie Le Pen was summoned to a disciplinary hearing at the headquarters in Nanterre, just west of Paris, but stubbornly refused to attend, calling it “detrimental” to his dignity.  [In his absence] Le Pen was suspended from FN for violating party discipline, by last month repeating his view that the Nazi gas chambers were a mere “detail” in history.  He had also defended the historical legacy of Philippe Pétain – leader of the Vichy war-time government that cooperated with Nazi Germany.

Papa Le Pen’s reaction was predictably vitriolic:

“Let her get married as soon as possible. I do not want her carrying my name anymore,” he told Europe 1 radio.

La fille had her own perspective on the situation:

“I get the feeling that he can’t stand that the National Front continues to exist when he no longer heads it,” she said.

So is Marine Le Pen actually … a Trojan Horse feminist at the core of France’s neo-fascist patriarchy?  Naaaaaah.  Probably not.  More likely she’s a textbook example of an archetypical Daddy’s Girl … on testosterone.


May Day in Paris was definitely a bizarre spectacle on so many levels:  21c patriarchal zealots honoring –even revering– a 15c transgender activist.  The sight of foreign legionnaires protecting a xenophobic ideologue.   A father rebelling at his daughter’s usurpation of patriarchal power.  The lingering 19c specter of helpless womanhood subjected to bestial violation.

Only May Day in Moscow could have been more jarring.



Il Est Bibi

January 11, 2015

It has been simultaneously impressive, instructive, disheartening and a bit disgusting to witness the way in which the usual suspects and their logistical auxiliaries have mobilized, deployed and orchestrated their resources and minions to (re)produce “je suis charlie” as a ubiquitous global phenomenon of rather dubious virality. It’s even more repellant to observe the way in which these tragically futile attentats are being recruited into the service of Bibi Netanyahu’s propaganda agenda and his campaign for reelection.  And Cousin Nicky? Trop de trop!


Red lines point out the bodyguards in Sunday’s march of solidarity.  Yellow lines point out the guys who need bodyguards the most.  Just sayin’.


September 24, 2014

You may not have noticed, but twice each month –in the days immediately preceding the full moon and new moon– human behavior often takes an unusual or erratic turn.  Automobile accidents occur with slightly greater frequency, sexual appetites intensify, and ‘impulse crimes’ such as assault, petty theft or vandalism increase.  But don’t just take my word for it:  go crunch the data. It’s out there.

This isn’t just something that happens only in the United States –it’s a worldwide phenomenon.  Case in point: Paris.

Eight topless Femen protesters brandishing plastic Kalashnikov rifles swathed in flowers marched on the Champs-Elysées in Paris on Wednesday urging ‘infidels’ to rise up against Islamic State militants who have seized large parts of Syria and Iraq.  One of the women shouted:  “All those who are threatened by ISIS jihadists, show your hostility towards ISIS’s ideas. It’s only by criticizing them publicly that we can destroy them. Infidels, rise up against ISIS.”

The protest comes days after an ISIS spokesman urged all Muslims to kill “dirty” and “spiteful” French citizens, [whose government] has joined the US-led coalition to fight the jihadist organization.


I’m going to guess that the journalist who wrote that article wasn’t really looking very closely at Femen’s faux weaponry, because photos of the event appear to show two pink plastic Beretta 9mm pistols, three or four Uzi bouquets, and maybe one folding-stock AK-47 adorning Place de la Concorde.  But who’s actually counting?  What really matters is that each protester has two breasts apiece, and that Femen’s message is: unite, rise up, speak out, stand up, fight.  Furthermore, the Arc de Triomphe looming in the background asserts the promise of ultimate victory.  Allons enfants de la patrie(-archy), etc.



So, does the presence of so many Uzis in Femen’s arsenal indicate that the organization is now sponsored by the state of Israel?  Inquiring minds want to know.  It’s a credibility issue.


Hall of Mirrors

July 23, 2014


A recent online image … of photographers … taking pictures … of a painting … from 100+ years ago … that features the bare breasts (and torso) of a Parisian “artist’s model” who was (with conscious irony?) … portraying the inmate of a 19c Turkish seraglio.

Where to even begin with something like this?  Where will it all end? Après toi, le déluge.


Treat of Breast-Litovsk

July 9, 2014

Really, I’m curious: why is it that the Associated Press news agency suddenly considers the image of a silkscreened representation of human breasts to be acceptable/suitable for publication, distribution and dissemination to its customers and the general public … but hasn’t distributed prior news-event photographs of the actual breasts themselves?  What’s the doctrinal basis for this hair-splitting editorial policy?  Please enlighten me.

credit? Associated Press

credit? Associated Press

Is the image acceptable because the breasts and their bearers are shown being punished by a government institution, rather than being depicted asserting political opinions as individuals (and as insubordinate representatives of a subordinated social group)?


Make Art, Not War

June 19, 2014

Lunghu has previously written about the combination of message and medium chosen by the European activist group Femen, and its waning effectiveness.   He’s still waiting to see whether Femen will merely continue to deploy minor twists and tweaks in their traditional tactical repertoire, or whether they can make the quantum leap to an entirely new strategic approach.  Meanwhile, the game is changing  –art once more imitates life in order to further commodify the novelty of a formerly shocking spectacle.

Compare and contrast:  European media outlets take a starkly different approach to covering female public nudity … depending on the message intended by the body in question.

Exhibit A.  Femen chooses a soft target at the Musée Grévin waxworks as Merkel, Hollande, Obama and Juan Carlos look the other way.



Exhibit B.   Performance artist Milo Moiré displays her hidden assets to show the Basel Art Fair what transparency in Swiss banking should look like.



Looks to Lunghu as though she’s riffing on the classic Femen signature style:  black ink, block letters, bodacious boldness.  But her message isn’t outrage and anger.  Instead, it seems to be a silent, ambiguous commentary on consumerism, eroticized marketing schemes, and the importance of sturdy shoes.  Reflect deeply upon this.


Weird Al-liance

December 6, 2013

You may have heard:  Ukrainians are revolting.  No, no — Lunghu’s not referring to their cuisine or the diminished standards of cleanliness often imposed by a long, cold winter.  Here we’re talking about the current social upheaval (public protest, its attendant repression, etc.) that has resulted from Comrade Bear and Comrade Wolf’s proxy war to control the breadbasket of Europe.  But if you’re seeking a conventional analytical discourse about generational conflict, divergent social aspirations, democracy and so forth … what are you doing here?  Lunghu will almost always cede the strategically-insignificant low ground to the Beltway blitherati and their mainstream media mouthpieces: go read the Washington Post and New York Times if you must.


Instead let’s briefly explore an obscure tangent, one of the little-noticed (perhaps deliberately ignored?) casualties of the Ukraine conflict.  Femen.  Harassed into exile, largely isolated from other political movements in the Ukraine, herded to the margins of social discourse in Europe, almost completely ignored in the world beyond.  Not so long ago, Femen’s protest actions would at least receive (modest) media coverage [irony intended] in Europe, if only because bare breasts beyond Page Three can sometimes help sell newspapers too.  But Femen’s relationship with the Fourth Estate began to head downhill after early 2013 cameo appearances in Davos, Notre Dame, and Tunis.  It’s one thing to focus political ire on the usual villainous suspects (Putin, Yanukovych, et al.) and quite another to publically challenge the patriarchs of capital, church and petro-islam.


Editors and publishers in many media outlets began to characterize Femen demonstrations as ‘stunts’ or stopped reporting them altogether.  Perhaps it was merely that the novelty had worn off, or perhaps it was just the inexorable process of Propaganda Model journalism at work: Femen’s message probably isn’t something that broadsheet and tabloid advertisers want delivered to their target audiences.

Unfortunately, Femen hasn’t been agile enough to adapt.  Over-reliance on mass media dissemination of their message has become an organizational weakness and a strategic vulnerability.  In response, they’ve tried to double-down (or is it “up the ante”?) – card-playing tactics that sometimes reveal a gambler is substituting escalation and blind hope for careful analysis of the underlying mathematics.   In the past several months, Femen actions have become increasingly strident, scattershot (aimed at an ever-wider variety of targets), and outrageous —all in an attempt to regain media attention.  Wake up – it ain’t happenin’.  How far beyond topless can you go, anyway?  Zombie topless? Maybe once. Then what?  A music video with Weird Al Yankovic?

Here’s the latest, briefly covered only by the French press:  rather than burning in effigy, pissing on Viktor Yanukovych in the streets of Paris.  The law of diminishing returns is definitely in full effect.

Five women from the Femen feminist movement gathered in front of the Ukrainian embassy in Paris on Sunday, bared their breasts and urinated on photos of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych to condemn a crackdown on protesters angry about his rejection of a key EU deal.  The EU agreement would have opened borders to trade with Europe and set the stage for an easing of travel restrictions but Yanukovych reneged at the last moment, saying his country could not afford to sacrifice relations with Russia.


This counts as a media splash? Only in the smallest possible sense of the term.  In Lunghu’s none-too-humble opinion, things at Femen have gotta change. It’s time for a new strategic plan, a new communications campaign, an improved mode of discourse.  And don’t count on Facebook and Twitter to get the job done, either.  This is an organization in crisis that urgently needs an internal coup d’etat, a revolt by the palace guard, an ideological purge … or perhaps a far more boring democratic/egalitarian reorganization.  Lunghu’s got some ideas.  Call him before you’re desperate.  He’d love to meet you in Paris.


Trunk Line

September 10, 2013

An elephant never forgets … and holds a grudge, apparently:

An 84-year-old man was killed in Lizy-sur-Ourcq near Paris when an elephant belonging to a local circus escaped from its pen and hit him with its trunk, police said. The elephant grabbed a tarpaulin and placed it over the electric fence surrounding its pen, before breaking through barriers and trailers that formed a second enclosure.  The elephant then moved toward the elderly man and struck him with its trunk, slamming him to the ground. The unidentified man was taken to a nearby hospital but died from his injuries overnight Sunday.


En francais:

Un retraité de 84 ans participe à un concours de pétanque sur la place de la république, à Lizy-sur-Ourcq. ‘Tanya’ a jeté une bâche sur les fils électriques avant de s’échapper. C’est là qu’elle s’est dirigée vers les boulistes. L’animal a alors asséné un coup de trompe à la victime. Souffrant d’un traumatisme thoracique et d’une fracture à la jambe et malgré le fait que le retraité ait été héliporté rapidement vers l’hôpital du Kremlin-Bicêtre (Val-de-Marne), il est décédé pendant la nuit.

At its most prosaic, this could be a cautionary tale about disturbing an elephant’s slumber with the low-frequency clank and clatter of pétanque. But it also seems as though there could be a backstory worthy of Georges Perec hidden somewhere here.  But we’ll probably never know.  Three key questions come to mind: how old was the elephant?  And had she originally roamed free in the forests of what used to be French Indochina? Had victim and pepetrator met previously?


But this story has even stranger dimensions, ones that take the form of ‘unusual coincidences’. Lizy-sur-Ourcq isn’t just some sleepy rural commune on the fringes of Paris:  it’s the final resting place of France’s pioneering circus dynasty.

La cimetière de Lizy-sur-Ourcq regroupant de nombreuses tombes des gens du cirque, dont une grande nécropole rom, celle de Bouglione. … Les Bouglione, roms Sintis de la branche pakistanaise, sont montreurs d’ours au XVIIIe siècle en Italie.”

At the turn of the 20th Century, after generations of the Bouglione clan had plied their trade throughout Europe as itinerant exhibitors of trained bears, an enterprising scion of the family spotted posters for Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show in a French railway car.  He decided to adopt (copy) the concept, and France’s first circus was born.  The rest is histoire.


So: a cluster of gypsy circus spirits haunting the environs of Lizy-sur-Ourcq. Steer clear. Arouse them at your peril.

We’ll Always Have Paris … Hilton

April 26, 2013

When Rick Whatsizname tells Ilsa Whatshername “We’ll always have Paris,” he’s not talking about the actuality of present-day Paris, nor about the imagined Paris of an indefinite future.  Instead, he’s harking back to a hazy, passion-tinged memory of Paris  — a city glimpsed in the peripheral vision of thoroughly besotted lovers, awash in an invisible cloud of pheromones, who have eyes only for each others eyes.  Ahhhhhhh!  Love!  Paris!

But I digress.  This blogpost isn’t about the City of Lights, nor about love (more’s the pity).  It’s just a slapdash, kneejerk reaction to a tiny morsel of infotainment media hype, a tiny ripple in the vast heaving sea of data in which we’re all increasingly immersed.

Earlier this week, a minor news item reported that Paris Hilton has taken the next big step in building her personal brand by opening her first bricks-and-mortar boutique … in Bogota, Colombia.  Lunghu had had no idea, but apparently PH (through distribution channels known only to the cognoscenti) has been selling a line of handbags, shoes, perfume, and whatnot for the past few years.  Once you’ve savored The Simple Life, it seems, moderate complexity has a whole new allure.  Leaving aside –for the moment– discussion about how moderately complicated things might become if this nascent commercial venture becomes enmeshed in La Vuelta, let’s just confine ourselves to taking a look at the Paris Hilton brand logo.  Does something seem sorta familiar?




Just sayin’ … Who’s gonna be first in line to sue for trademark infringement:  Bellagio or Louis Vuitton?


April in Paris

April 8, 2013

If you need a venue to stage a protest against the cultural boundaries imposed by strict-constructionist Islam, Paris is the city to do it.  Really, if you want to protest just about anything, go to Paris. And, as always,  April is the time to do just about anything in Paris.

Even in Paris, however, Europe’s most visible protest movement doesn’t make its presence felt with mass marches through city streets. A few vocal activists suffice to ensure that the message is heard.


Its message is not the most broadly accepted, nor is it particularly representative of European cultural attitudes.


Its protests are nominally non-violent, but only in the sense that they provoke unilateral use of force by police as a vehicle for demonstrating the ultimately coercive nature of state power.


And while it’s one thing to denounce a faceless, amorphous patriarchal oppressor like fundamentalist Islam, protest is much more tangible when you’ve got someone like Comrade Bear conveniently right in front of you as the very personification of 21st Century dictatorship.  Almost makes the sidetrip to Hannover worthwhile.


Lunghu has only one complaint about this recent spate of direct action from Femen:  media editors in Europe have apparently decreed that full-frontal photographs of Femen protests will henceforth be rationed to a limit of one per week.  American editors just ignore the story altogether.  Fuck their morals, too.