Monday, November 28, 2005

Thank you for the music!

It is well worth turning older if this implies getting such wonderful gifts! I had the loveliest time listening to all the great songs my dear friends sent me - it made the whole day much nicer!!!

I stayed with a friend in Stockholm (which is a very interesting city, by the way, I discovered I really liked its atmosphere even in November, arguably the worst month in the Swedish calendar) and he, with Martin's help, put together a friendly little party, with good food, good drinks and my soundtrack as the musical entertainment. I even got a surprise cake, which made everything festive without being excessive. We stayed up late and chatted and enjoyed our time together - I fell asleep on the last song on the playlist (Clair de Lune, merci Magali) and woke up older but not much wiser the next day, ready for my visa interview at the US embassy.

All went well, so I am preparing to come for a brief visit to the East Coast sometime early next year (not sure yet of the dates). Am greatly looking forward to catch up with those still in Washington or New York (sorry, don't think I can make it to Boston as finances are thin). Till then there is the whole of Christmas holidays to go through - but more on that later.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Walt Whitman and Bob Dylan

It hasn't occured to me before that there should be a common tradition that links Walt Whitmand and Bob Dylan, but I just recently re-read a collection of verses by the first author, only to be reminded of the revolutionary ethos of young Dylan.

Read this fragment from Walt Whitman:
"Beat! beat! drums! -- blow! bugles! blow!
Over the traffic of cities -- over the rumble of wheels in the streets;
Are beds prepared for sleepers at night in the houses? no sleepers must sleep in those beds,
No bargainers bargains by day -- no brokers or speculators -- would they continue?
Would the talkers be talking? would the singer attempt to sing?
Would the lawyer rise in the court to state his case before the judge?
Then rattle quicker, heavier drums -- you bugles wilder blow."

Doesn't it remind you of "The Times They Are A-Changin'"?

"Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don't stand in the doorway
Don't block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There's a battle outside
And it is ragin'.
It'll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin'."

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Politics: Riots in the French Suburbs

After a week of serious rioting, street fights and more moderate confrontations, it has become clear to me that the people living in the suburbs have had enough of what they perceive as french exclusion. I find it unsurprising, especially after having seen the movie "La Haine" directed by Matthieu Kassowitz - even though it was done in 1995, it managed to capture both the inherent violence in the everyday life at the banlieue and the hope against hope for a normalized relationship with the rest of the French population.
As one of the interviewees in a BBC News story said, "I do not know a single youth in my estate who does not want to leave," to integrate, to not be primarily Arab, or Muslim, or Maghrebin, but just French. It is usually the rejection, the prejudice, that lead young French of foreign origins to revolt against the state institutions, especially the police (not exactly the friendly type). This is why the reaction of Mr Sarkozy to send more troops and reinforce the strong stance of the government is likely, in the long run, to leave the center of the matter untouched and only to provide temporary relief.
The long-term perspectiev would require the French society to become literally more open, more mixed, and to give up the idea of one monolithic people in favor of cultural diversity. (The same BBC article said that the French government refuses to make statistics which distinguish along ethnic and religion lines, closing its eyes in front of reality).