Thursday, September 29, 2005

Tough Interview Questions

Having recently gone through a few job interviews, and still feeling slightly traumatized, I have come to realize that the interview themselves are ok, the anticipation and sand-bagging is the worse. Going through book after book on interview techniques or reading through material sent to you by a recruitment agency, you will always find the same questions…

- Tell me about yourself
- Why do you want to work for us?
- What can you do for us that someone else can't? / Why should we hire YOU?
- Why are you leaving your present job?
- How would you evaluate your present organization / boss?
- If I spoke with your previous boss / your best friend / your colleague, what would he or she say are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?
- How do you resolve conflict?
- What are your strong / weak points?
- Some stuff about team management etc…
Or even sometimes, you are told you can expect something like this:

Those questions are the worse and I find are usually asked by the HR person, not the hiring manager. The hiring manager wants to know that you’re clever enough for the job, enthusiastic and not afraid to get your hands dirty, not trying to psycho-analyse you by asking you what your favourite book was. Cause of course in interview situations, your real favourite book is not your favourite book…

Anyway, I guess my point is that most people in fact do NOT ask you those kinds of questions. And it’s probably due to the fact that it has become very rehearsed and therefore fake. The applicant prepares those questions in advance and since he or she knows what to say and is regurgitating rather than giving an honest answer, what’s the point? Your real weakness is that you can’t help it, you can’t get up in the morning? Well, that’s not going to get you the job, is it? Now, your weakness is that you love getting involved and love a challenge, which some people might consider barging in but you like a job well done, you’re a perfectionist. That’s it… your weakness is that you’re a perfectionist. Only during interviews does this make any sense...

The key, I guess, is to have those answers ready just in case HR (wo)man is there but I have decided to no longer fret about those questions, relax, drink plenty of water and not forget to go to the bathroom before the interview and all will be fine!

PS: If you wanna check out Hans Bjordahl's newly launched website where is is showing some of his cartoons, please visit Beware: geek humour!! LOL

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Brown receives new Village Idiot award

Looks like the Americans got themselves a new village idiot. Move over W! Here comes Michael Brown!!!

The former FEMA director is currently under fire from the special congressional panel investigating the US government's handling of Hurricane Katrina. Here is a sample of his best answers.

- When accused to not have been experienced enough for the job: "I know what I'm doing, and I think I do a pretty darn good job of it."

- He said he made “specific mistakes” in responding to Hurricane Katrina. Which mistakes would that be, Mike?

- "It is inherently impractical, totally impractical, for the federal government to respond to every disaster of whatever size in every community across the country," Brown said. "It breaks my heart to think about the disasters we respond to as FEMA and to think about the disasters that we also don't respond to," he added. Maybe so, Mike. But that one was a pretty big one, don’t you think? But maybe poor Black people dying because you didn’t lift a fucking finger’s not considered a disaster where you come from…

- "FEMA is a coordinating agency, we are not a law enforcement agency," he said, also suggesting that the Federal Emergency Management Agency was criticized because many people incorrectly believe it serves as something of a federal rapid-response force. So now, "Federal" doesn’t mean "federal" and "emergency" is no longer synonym to "rapid response"? Jeez, maybe I should buy that new dictionary you’ve got yourself there, Mike.

The congressional memo goes on even further… It would transpire that:

- Brown admitted he should have called the cavalry (i.e. the Pentagon) sooner and regretted “that he did not start screaming" for the military's involvement. I guess 5 days IS a long time, isn’t it?

- Brown did not take any official notes during conference calls he ran with state and federal authorities and "just assumed that agencies would follow up on taskings resulting from the calls." Well, isn’t that what secretaries are for?

- Brown said a federal takeover of emergency management responsibilities would be a "crutch" for local and state governments and could lead to future lapses in preparedness. Yeah… God forbid FEMA did ANYTHING to help anyone… What are they, God? “Help yourself and the Lord will help you” type of reasoning has never been the panacea of survival, has it?

Now what you have to understand is that this is the guy who now has a two-week "transition period" remaining at FEMA, time during which he will advise the department on "some of his views on his experience with Katrina," Homeland security spokesman Russ Knocke said.

Oh and incidentally… he is receiving full pay.

Pandora’s blogs

Are traditional medias threatened by blogs, those personal websites that are multiplying all over the Web at exponential speed? The European Parliament recently showed its rising interest in the blogosphere at the launch of its new website ( with a series of round table talks on the information society, the first of which was about ethical questions arising from the emergence of millions of weblogs.

The discussion, entitled "Weblogs - competition, challenge or chance? Who's afraid to open Pandora's blogs?" took place on 12 September 2005 and was chaired by Guido Baumhauer, the editor-in-chief of Deutsche Welle's online service. Guido Baumhauer noted that there were currently 31 million blogs online and that 80,000 were created every day, many of which aim at providing additional or contradictory information to the traditional media’s.

At the round table, Labour MEP Richard Corbett (who was the first Member of the Parliament to launch a blog) said that he first started his blog as an online dairy, illustrating what an MEP's life was like. He has however now switched to a more topical approach, reaching out to voters and rebutting eurosceptics. Some of the journalists attending admitted that they had been known to use blogs to gather information, especially in occasions when official information was not available like during the tsunami last December.

Of course, this is not to say that traditional media like the BBC or CNN will become obsolete in years to come as people will always want credible and trustworthy information, which is where most blogs fail as many mix information and advertising or do not reference their sources.

This issue is fast becoming even more complicated as many journalists start blogging themselves, editing news that do not get published by their employers. Do they then become a threat to them? Aidan White, Secretary General of the International Federation of Journalists, himself regularly updates his blog. For him, blogging is a positive development, as long as this additional information is of the same standards as the one found in standard media. According to him, the problem with blogs is that they do not operate within any ethical framework, a statement that Karlin Lillington from the Irish Times agrees with, adding that bloggers could behave like cowboys in the Far West blogosphere ,especially when it comes to ethical issues and defamation.

Personally, I am acutely aware that whatever I read on blogs out there is a personal take on an event, that it is by definition tainted with personal beliefs and opinions and that’s one of the reasons why I read them. For entertainment purposes and yes, I admit, additional information sometimes like during hurricane Katrina. I do take them with a pinch of salt as they are what they are: a space for individuals to express their views freely with no constraints or consequences (unless, of course, you bitch about your employer and they find out)… It does raise, however, the issue of the right to a private life for the “victims” too…

Monday, September 26, 2005

Ô joie, ô désespoir...

A few of my friends went to San Francisco for their holidays a couple of weeks ago. The chancer that I am asked whether a complete season 1 DVD set could be purchased on my behalf whilst over there because well... one episode a week just ain't cutting it any longer. I could have purchased it myself on the net but that way, I figured I wouldn't have to pay taxes. I could also wait for the release of the FIRST half of the series on Region 2 DVD (which of course would happen after all the episodes included were broadcasted on TV which quite frankly defeats the purpose)

My trusted friend C indeed purchased the DVD. The DVD was placed in her suitcase, the suitcase on the plane and at that stage, I was already salivating profusely and was ready to kiss aforementioned friend’s feet, dirty socks and all. But of course, her luggage got lost (oh, the irony) and when recovered, several items were missing. Including my DVDs. I blame Homeland Security and the fact that you travelers are not allowed to lock their luggage prior to check-in in the States because of course they might want to search it on top of having scanned it, and sniffed it. You never know…

Unfortunately, this leaves the poor traveler open to robbery at any stage of luggage handling. On a San Fran to Dublin via London trip, that’s a lot of people, especially if you consider the fact that the luggage was missing for 2 days. A lot of people who have the potential to steal anything from anyone without any worry of being caught. Who’s to say where and when it happened? Who’s even to say what you claim has disappeared was indeed there in the first place? I mean, is there no respect for people’s property anymore? Or maybe they were considered potentially harmful and swiftly removed so as not to endanger the innocent passengers… Yeah, that must be it…

Anyway, after spewing a string of invectives at X and reassuring C that it was OK, that it was not her fault and that I was sorry lots of her stuff went missing, I relented and bought the DVD set on eBay today (I’m big on the tax evasion thing). I just hope it’s not the one that was stolen from C in the first place cause I’d be quite pissed off.

Saturday, September 24, 2005


I wasn't quite sure whether to share the story of the Polish 18-month-old who ran over 3 family members in a car or the one below... As you can see, I made my choice in the end...

Iran plans to weave world's largest carpet
Saturday September 24, 01:24 PM

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran is seeking to revive its carpet industry by weaving the world's biggest rug, weighing in at 35 tonnes. The mammoth rug from the spiritual homeland of Persian carpets will cover almost 6,000 square metres and will fetch some $8.2 million, its makers told Reuters on Saturday.

"We will have two working shifts of 1,000 weavers working for 14 months non-stop to deliver the carpet on time," said Karam Reza Haseli, a deputy manager at the state-supported Iranian carpet company. Work is due to start in three months.

The carpet has been ordered by the Sheikh Zayed mosque that is being built in Abu Dhabi, after Iran scoured its Gulf neighbours for contracts that might help revive business for local wool merchants, dye makers and weavers.

Although hand-woven carpets are normally Iran's top non-oil export, the industry has been hit by cheaper Pakistani, Chinese and Indian copies of traditional Iranian patterns.

Iran is hoping to break its own record for Gargantuan carpets, which it says is currently held by the 4,400 square metre carpet woven for the Sultan Qaboos mosque in Muscat.

Haseli said the quality of the workmanship would be maintained by paying some of the master craftsmen up to $7 a shift, far more than the $1 going-rate in areas near the Afghan border. "We intend to monopolise the market with expensive delicate carpets and leave the cheap fake carpets market for others to fight for," Haseli said.

Now if only this could distract them long enough to abandon their nuclear programme, that'd be great...

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Inspiring confidence, as always...

Thanks, Alice!!!

Innocent in London

Oh how easy it is to get a criminal record these days... All you have to do is get dressed, get out, get the tube without staring at everyone you meet and check your text messages. This story also appears in today's edition of the Guardian.

Crocodile Rock

On my way to work in the morning I tend to listen to the radio in the car. It passes time and generally puts me in a better mood than I was when I first left the house. I’m not a morning person by any stretch of the imagination. I’ve never been and probably never will be.

My good mood is due to Colm & Jim-Jim on the Strawberry Alarm Clock (FM104) and this week particularly to their Strawberry Pick of the Week. The “Strawberry” is entertaining, dynamic and truth be said… rather brainless: just what a girl who doesn’t reach her maximum brain potential before 10:30am needs on a bleak September morning.

Anyway, for those of you who do not listen to it, the Strawberry Pick of the Week (around 8:40am usually) is a single the team thinks will be a big hit in the future. However, the DJs are not averse to picking really quirky songs that have made it to the number 1 spot abroad. This week, they delight us with this marvelous German title: Schnappi – das kleine Krokodil.

Now, I lived in Germany for a year. You don’t fool me… Their taste in music is generally…. Well… Shite. Between Scorpions, David Hasselhoff (whose singles are only released in Austria, Germany and Switzerland), the Kelly Family and the home-baked Schlagers, it’s enough to break the defenses of the best-trained Intelligence agents. Indeed, there are ways to make you talk… (I am perfectly aware of the fact that some German music is good like Die Toten Hosen, Die Fantastischen Vier and even Rammstein on small doses but… that’s not my point. I am also aware that the Kelly Family and David Hasselhoff are not German, but we’d all agree that they are REALLY bad… and yet, they are loved over there…)

Now take aforementioned Rammstein and imagine the complete opposite. You get Schnappi, the little crocodile. It's disturbingly catchy like most kids songs and it WILL stick to you like a bad smell if you listen to it more than 3 times in a row. Even if you don't know a word of German, you WILL sing along (then again, how hard is Schni Schna Schnappi / Schnappi Schnappi Schnapp / Schni Schna Schnappi /
Schnappi Schnappi Schnapp
to pick up? Anyway, I love it like cigarettes... the first time it's minging but then you get used to it and without you knowing how it happened... you're hooked.

While you listen to it here, you can sing along!! If you're feeling adventurous, here are the full lyrics:

Ich bin Schnappi, das kleine Krokodil.
Komm aus Ägypten, das liegt direkt am Nil.
Zuerst lag ich in einem Ei,
dann schni-,schna-,schnappte ich mich frei

Schni Schna Schnappi
Schnappi Schnappi Schnapp
Schni Schna Schnappi
Schnappi Schnappi Schnapp

Ich bin Schnappi, das kleine Krokodil,
hab scharfe Zähne, und davon ganz schön viel.
Ich schnapp mir was ich schnappen kann,
ja ich schnapp zu, weil ich das so gut kann.

Schni Schna Schnappi
Schnappi Schnappi Schnapp
Schni Schna Schnappi
Schnappi Schnappi Schnapp

Ich bin Schnappi, das kleine Krokodil,
ich schnappe gern, das ist mein Lieblingsspiel.
Ich schleich mich an die Mama ran,
und zeig ihr wie ich schnappen kann

Schni Schna Schnappi
Schnappi Schnappi Schnapp
Schni Schna Schnappi
Schnappi Schnappi Schnapp

Ich bin Schnappi, das kleine Krokodil,
und vom Schnappen, da krieg ich nicht zu viel.
Ich beiß dem Papi kurz ins Bein,
und dann, dann schlaf ich einfach ein.

Monday, September 19, 2005

May The Force Be With You

For the Star Wars fans, this is a little clip that will undoubtedly make you smile as the Organic Trade Association spared no expenses to shoot the remake of the first (well, fourth, to be exact) episode of Star Wars... with vegetables, exhorting us in this galaxy far far away to join the Organic Rebellion. It sounds weird and it is. Enjoy!!! (click on the picture to start)

Vacation is Over

It IS a bit dated and perhaps some of his supporters are getting a bit tired of him but one thing is for sure, you can always rely on Michael Moore to spill the acid in a rather entertaining way, leading his anti-Bush crusade with everything he's got...

Vacation is Over...
an open letter from Michael Moore to George W. Bush

Friday, September 2nd, 2005

Dear Mr. Bush:

Any idea where all our helicopters are? It's Day 5 of Hurricane Katrina and thousands remain stranded in New Orleans and need to be airlifted. Where on earth could you have misplaced all our military choppers? Do you need help finding them? I once lost my car in a Sears parking lot. Man, was that a drag.

Also, any idea where all our national guard soldiers are? We could really use them right now for the type of thing they signed up to do like helping with national disasters. How come they weren't there to begin with?

Last Thursday I was in south Florida and sat outside while the eye of Hurricane Katrina passed over my head. It was only a Category 1 then but it was pretty nasty. Eleven people died and, as of today, there were still homes without power. That night the weatherman said this storm was on its way to New Orleans. That was Thursday! Did anybody tell you? I know you didn't want to interrupt your vacation and I know how you don't like to get bad news. Plus, you had fundraisers to go to and mothers of dead soldiers to ignore and smear. You sure showed her!

I especially like how, the day after the hurricane, instead of flying to Louisiana, you flew to San Diego to party with your business peeps. Don't let people criticize you for this -- after all, the hurricane was over and what the heck could you do, put your finger in the dike?

And don't listen to those who, in the coming days, will reveal how you specifically reduced the Army Corps of Engineers' budget for New Orleans this summer for the third year in a row. You just tell them that even if you hadn't cut the money to fix those levees, there weren't going to be any Army engineers to fix them anyway because you had a much more important construction job for them -- BUILDING DEMOCRACY IN IRAQ!

On Day 3, when you finally left your vacation home, I have to say I was moved by how you had your Air Force One pilot descend from the clouds as you flew over New Orleans so you could catch a quick look of the disaster. Hey, I know you couldn't stop and grab a bullhorn and stand on some rubble and act like a commander in chief. Been there done that.

There will be those who will try to politicize this tragedy and try to use it against you. Just have your people keep pointing that out. Respond to nothing. Even those pesky scientists who predicted this would happen because the water in the Gulf of Mexico is getting hotter and hotter making a storm like this inevitable. Ignore them and all their global warming Chicken Littles. There is nothing unusual about a hurricane that was so wide it would be like having one F-4 tornado that stretched from New York to Cleveland.

No, Mr. Bush, you just stay the course. It's not your fault that 30 percent of New Orleans lives in poverty or that tens of thousands had no transportation to get out of town. C'mon, they're black! I mean, it's not like this happened to Kennebunkport. Can you imagine leaving white people on their roofs for five days? Don't make me laugh! Race has nothing -- NOTHING -- to do with this!

You hang in there, Mr. Bush. Just try to find a few of our Army helicopters and send them there. Pretend the people of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast are near Tikrit.


Michael Moore

PS: Thanks to the little bro for the heads up!

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Pride (In the name of...)

A lot of people have been talking about hurricane Katrina and the devastation it brought, the death, the rapes, murders, lootings; race and class issues were highlighted as well as the personal failures of George W Bush who was nowhere to be seen, Dick Cheney (who?) and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice who was spotted shopping for shoes (retail therapy still the way to go apparently) and going to a show on Broadway. On a more practical note, the very poor responses of local and federal governments and agencies such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency have already sent heads rolling and will continue to do so under popular pressure. However, as I said, a lot of people have already talked about this, very often more aptly than I ever could.

One thing that has been rarely talked about (and I guess that’s the price to pay for following US / US owned news papers / TV channels) is the blatant and damaging unwillingness on the United States’ part to accept international help. Of course, even in the face of such a disaster, most countries are reluctant to provide help in the first place, especially financial. As someone put it on Questions and Answers last night, if your rich Uncle is going to hospital for surgery, you’re hardly going to put a 50c coin in a get well card to help with the cost. Watering the plants or walking the dog IS indeed more useful.

As well as financial aid from Europe and the world at large (Kuwait pledged 0.5 billion dollars) and big corporations like Whirlpool, Microsoft, GlaxoSmithKline etc, material and human help has been offered. The United Nations offered its emergency response system, including disaster relief teams, equipment and expertise. Overall, as many as 90 nations have deluged the State Department with offers. .Fidel Castro (hardly a US fan if there ever was one) offered to send 1,100 Cuban doctors and nurses carrying over 26 tons of medication wherever they were needed. Even tsunami–hit Sri Lanka promised a $25,000 donation to the American Red Cross.

But even offers of walking the dog have been refused. Last week, according to Der Spiegel , a German military cargo jet carrying 15 tons of food destined to help feed the victims of Hurricane Katrina was refused permission to land by US authorities and turned back to Cologne still fully loaded. Reason? Out of fear the beef may contain bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), responsible for mad cow disease. It would be good to note that those rations were originally prepared for NATO troops and had been certified by aforementioned NATO as BSE-free. Moreover, the same type of meals is regularly eaten by American troops, in Afghanistan for instance.

On a cynical point, Hurricane Katrina is an opportunity like no other for the United States to start rebuilding bridges. International relationships with the States have been damaged by the Iraq war amongst other things. Countries like France or Germany who are now offering their help are being turned down in the name of national pride. Yes, America is the superpower, the giver not the receiver. Yes, accepting help from countries who need these resources a lot more than the States ever will would be humbling and yes, it would be a blow to the American belief that they are self-sufficient. But international relationships are above all else human and interpersonal relationships and when someone is taking the first step towards you after a time of rather chilly climate, the last thing you want to do is refusing that helping hand. They have their pride too, you know.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Debriefing and update

Well well well...

What a night!
France won against the Republic of Ireland 1-0.
Did we deserve to win? Hmmm, that may be debatable. The Irish were over us like a rash and defended rather well. The only great opportunity we had, we took and scored. At this stage of the competition, it doesn't really matter to me how we win, to be honest!

Oh a different note, t looks like my other predictions were good too. Pierce and Mauresmo (see previous post) met in the quarter finals and Pierce came on top. In 2 sets 6-4 6-1. In 66 minutes. Trashed poor Amélie.

"You know, I'm really happy to be in the semifinals," said Pierce when asked about her next opponent. "This is the best that I've done at the US Open in my career, which I think is amazing. I'm just really happy, so, you know, anybody I play, I'll be looking forward to it. I'll be excited. I'll be giving everything that I have." (source: US Open)

It's the passion, you see.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Allez Les Bleus!!!!

Well, the match is tonight and as a good French citizen living in Ireland, I shall sit myself down in a pub tonight (starting early because we have to get seats / it's an Irish tradition to start drinking early) and watch the match in the company of lovely people, even if they will be supporting the other team. However, I feel I need to tell you a little bit more about the context I will support my team in.

You see, such things are taken seriously around here. Pubs, people... everything is green on important match days. TV sets are brought in to work to follow matches, big screens in Board Rooms / auditoriums are switched on and phones go unanswered. Tumbleweed is commonly found on the streets. The only people who are busy are the ones pulling pints.

As I have lived in Dublin for a few years now and I am an avid sports fan following both football and rugby, my sporting life here hasn't always been easy as a result. The French contingent in Dublin is nothing to be sneered at, however we cannot compete with 1 million + people. So we DO wear our colours with pride, we DO clap (albeit politely and out of nothing but sportsmanship) when Ireland gets one over us and for the sake of survival, tend to make our own manifestations of joy rather discreet. Whatever the score, if France won and an Irishman (let's face it, most woman don't care enough to talk about the match afterwards so for arguments' sake and because of the law of probability, I shall use the term Irishman) starts taking to me, it ALWAYS was a close match and yes, Ireland played well and YES, you could have SO won that one.

Given France's rather poor performance in the qualifiers so far, I understand that the Irish think they have a shot at it. They do, in fairness. Well, they would have had a better one if we hadn't called back the Old Guard, namely Zidane (a.k.a. Zizou), Thuram etc... Now? I know you all think you're going to win it. I have seen a score of 2-1 to Ireland mentioned several times. And I'm sure it will be a close match and yes, Ireland will in all likelihood play well and YES, you could SO win that one.

But you won't.

Allez Les Bleus!!!!!!!!

PS: This post will self-destruct should Ireland win 2-1 tonight

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

To the Irish TV viewers

So, the long awaited Ireland vs. France clash in group of the World Cup qualifiers (that’s football, by the way) is nigh. Kick – off was scheduled for 7:30pm GMT and everything was going fine. Until French TV channel TF1 muscled in, flashed the cash and got its way… Kick-off is now 25 minutes late, at 7:55pm.

TF1 is the biggest TV channel in France. In fact, I hear it’s the biggest TV network in Europe. It is also the Chelsea of terrestrial TV: what they want, they pay for and pay for well, whether it is TV rights or presenters in order to be the “best” although their definition of what the “best” is remains somewhat dodgy.

Something else worth bearing in mind is how sacrosanct prime time slots are in France. One of the things that amazed me when I first moved to England and then Ireland were the one hour programmes after 8pm. In France, on both major channels, the “Grande Messe du 20 heures” (big 8pm Mass) is pivotal. Programmes ahead of that slot are probably some of the most watched, despite the fact that it’s dinner time in most households and programmes in the 9pm are usually big 2 hour shows (either news – related or entertainment), or movies. You see, French don’t seem to “flick” that much and most people will watch the same channel all evening… Apparently…

Of course, this has a big impact on advertisement since it is THE cash cow for TV networks such as TF1. If you think you have it bad in Ireland, with 3 minutes breaks during and in between your favourite programme, breaks that last exactly 3 minutes and you know you can turn the kettle on, make it up the stairs to the bathroom and back before it ends? Think again.

In France, the news is over by 8:30pm and the main evening programme used to start around 8:35pm. A little bit of commercials, a little weather forecast and that was that. Grab your beer, dim the lights, get comfy (no feet on the coffee table, though) and we were set. Well, that was that 10 years ago. It progressively slipped to 8:45pm, then 8:45pm, 8:50pm… Now, we’re somewhere between 8:50pm and 8:55pm. Thing is, they haven’t slotted in another programme in between, oh no. Lucky French viewers are privy to 25 minutes of ads, trailers, and still a bit of weather forecast (with a sea weather forecast in the summer and snow forecast in the winter as a bonus). You might think that with 25 minutes of commercials during peak hours, TF1 would not need to interrupt its programmes to add even more brain-washing… Oh but they do. Every 25 minutes for about 5 minutes, sometimes more.

Patrick Le Lay, the 'Oh-so-wise’ CEO of TF1 was quoted in a book called Les dirigeants face au changement in 2004 and what he had to say was absolutely enlightening. “TF1's business is to help Coca-Cola sell its products” he said. “For an advert to be effective, the viewer's brain has to be available. Our programmes are made so that their brain becomes available, that is to say to entertain them, make them feel relaxed to get them ready between two commercials. What we sell Coca-Cola is available brain time.” In other terms, TF1 is nothing big a giant, continuous commercial break, barely interrupted by TV programmes.

You understand, dear Irish TV viewer, that priorities are priorities and that since TF1 are reported to be paying €1.6m to show the game in France, the FAI could do nothing but oblige. Now we understand that YOUR programme will end around 7:30pm GMT. Since you have 25 minutes to fill and since millions will be watching… could we suggest a big commercial break?

Saturday, September 03, 2005

What's up, Doc?

As a reply to a couple of comments I received on my previous post about Chirac and his health, I would have to say that the matter is more complicated than that.

Dominique de Villepin (French Prime Minister) has commented on Chirac's health twice already, first to formerly announce it after AFP leaked the news at the UMP Convention in La Baule and later this evening, saying he had had a lengthy conversation with president Chirac and that he "couldn't wait to get out". With the Presidential elections looming (in 20 months time, 2007), a 3rd term has been mentioned (Chirac would be 74) but only to say it was rather unlikely, which I would agree with. The official press releases from the Val-de-Grace hospital only mentioned a minor vascular accident which resulted in a minor loss of sight and that's about it.

In terms of what actually happened and how serious the condition is, it is somewhat shrouded in mystery. This is however a regular occurrence in the 5th Republic. Georges Pompidou's illness was not revealed until he died in 1969 and despite regular health updates on during Mitterrand's 2 presidencies, his cancer was not made public until shortly after he was re-elected when in fact, he had been ill (and known to be ill) since before he actually ran for Office in 1981. The health of French Presidents while they are in office are often kept secret and i don't think we'll know how he actually is for a good while now.

As for the media's response it has been very cold I have to say, very matter of fact. Their main concern was to enquire about who was going to run the country and what the Constitution said about such instances...

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Will she, won't she?

Tennis has always been a passion of mine and watching Steffi Graf and Stefan Edberg in the mid to late 80s convinced me I had a calling and that the WTA tour was mine to own. Unfortunately this was not to happen and like every disgruntled sports person or artist or generally failed dreamer, I have become bitter and highly critical of the performance of those who made it higher than I ever could, especially my fellow country(wo)men.

Since her final in the Australian Open in 1999, the news of her coming out and the jibes she received have all been forgotten and been replaced by what seems to be more founded criticism. Here lies the question: does Amélie Mauresmo have what it takes to win a Grand Slam title? If yes, when is she going to finally show it?

Us French are always very critical. Ask Marie-José Perec, the football team (post 1998 - 2000 high), or really, anyone who has carried the hopes of a nation on their (sometimes frail) shoulders only to be torn apart when those hopes have not been materialised by gold medals or other silverware. Mind you, when you see the treatment poor Paula Radcliffe received from the British after the Athens marathon, I wonder if we're actually THAT harsh...

But anyway! Amélie... Little darling of French tennis now that we're "ok" with her being a lesbian, an icon like we haven't had one since Yannick Noah and maybe Henri Leconte in the early 80's, maybe even since the Musketeers (Lacoste, anyone?) and Suzanne Lenglen before them in the 20's. Try to imagine that... First female tennis player since Suzanne Lenglen to REALLY have the potential to go all the way and go all the way more often than not. Of course, the pressure is on the poor girl and the longer it takes her to win one, the worse it's going to get!

It's not the draw that matters. She's been beaten by much lower-ranking players, even if not often. What Amélie does, is hold just be as good as her ranking is, no more, no less. Her track record in the US Open? 1/4 finals in 2001, 2003 and 2004, 1/2 finals in 2002. It's good, steady, but by no means brilliant.

I'll tell you who IS brilliant, even if inconsistent and certainly no longer at the peak of her tennis abilities: Mary Pierce. She's never been Number 1 (unlike Amélie) but she holds 2 Grand Slam titles and her recent final in Roland Garros was a fantastic achievement from someone nobody longer expected this kind of performance from.

Even now in the US Open she's there, ready to attack every ball she gets, enjoy every point and create a surprise... Amélie rested in between Wimbledon and the US Open, probably desperately looking for a new game plan since the failure of the "Noah Effect" in Roland Garros and her first round match was a nice warm-up.

Will Amélie reach the 1/4 finals? I have no doubt. Will she reach the semis? Well, she might just. Will she win it? I'd love to say yes but probably not. Will she send our hearts racing, make the whole country stand behind her, encourage her and just want to hug her? Probably not. If someone's going to give us the passion... it's going to be Mary.

Oh... And that one is for Suzy...