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  • Marcel Proust and the 4th Dimension - October 2013

    While the concept of a fourth dimension of "space-time" is generally associated with the theory of General Relativity developed by Albert Einstein between 1907 and 1915 and published in 1916, we would like to point out in ths anniversary year of the publication of the first volume of Marcel Proust’s monumental A la Recherche du Temps Perdu ("In Search of Time Gone By") that the concept of time as a fourth dimension of space had already been explicitely and most effectively evoked in the (...)

  • How to Improve Your English (tips for French speakers) - August 2010

    06.08.2012: updated with the following word lists necessary and essentially sufficient to be able to start reading and enjoying books at the Grade 2-3 level (CE1-CE2): - Grade 2 regular and irregular verbs - Grade 2 nouns and adjectives - Grade 3 regular and irregular verbs
    Here you will find some tried and proven guidelines, exercises, tips and tidbits designed to help native French-speakers of all ages and stages - beginners, muddler-alongers, fast-talkers, whatever - to (...)

  • Good Words - March 2008

    These are some useful words that I have come across fairly recently (since my previous Good Words Register was last seen going north in a Montreal taxi in the wee hours of a morning, never to be seen again, some 4 years or so ago) that have been used to good effect by the rather top-notch writers that I have been frequenting lately to convey nuances of thoughts and things and actions that other more familiar words would no doubt have failed to do as well.
    There is something of interest in (...)

  • Shakespeare on Football - October 2007

    In King Lear, Act I, Scene IV, 76-84, there is the following dialogue:
    "O! you sir, you, come you hither, sir.
    Who am I, sir?
    My Lady’s father.
    ’My Lady’s Father!’ my Lord’s knave: you whore-son dog! you slave! you cur!
    I am none of these, my Lord; I beseech your pardon.
    Do you bandy looks with me, you rascal? [Striking him]
    I’ll not be strucken, my Lord.
    Nor tripp’d neither, you base foot-ball player. [Tripping up his heels]
    We can thus see (...)

  • My struggle to overcome the CBBS (Compulsive Book-Buyer’s Syndrome) - September 2007

    I have suffered for many years from this expensive, very time-consuming and rather frustrating affliction (the CBBS), whereby instead of just getting down to attacking the big pile of unread books that have been endlessly accumulating on my desk and bookshelves and floor space, I go out and buy yet more books - books that look interesting or that I have read about or heard about or that have been recommended to me or that are by one of the innumerable past or present authors that I would (...)

  • Conversation in the Louvre - July 2007

    Me: Look, there’s a statue of Julius Caesar!
    Him (an 8-year-old): Who’s he?
    Me: What do you mean, who’s he? Why, he’s the most famous general who ever lived!
    Him: Oh, now I remember - he’s the one who fought against Asterix!
    July 8, 2007

  • Interesting things that I have read recently and would like to share with you ... - May 2006

    Poetry is not the thing said, but the way of saying it.
    A. E. Housman
    The proper study of mankind is man.
    Alexander Pope (Essay on Man II,2)
    The ways of God aren’t as dainty as those of the Bishop of Salisbury.
    J. Cowper Powys, Wolf Solent, Vintage ed., p. 48
    It isn’t till we are old that we begin to tell ourselves we’re not.
    Henry James, The Middle Years, The World’s Classics ed., p. 146
    For evil to triumph it is necessary only for good men to do nothing.
    Edmond Burke
    A man (...)

  • "I love awfully bad writing" (2005), by James Clarke - November 2005

    I love awfully bad writing. Indeed I can say (with all due modesty) that I am quite good at it myself. This might explain why I am fascinated by the annual Bulwyer-Lytton Fiction Contest for the worst opening to a novel.
    Every year since 1984 San Jose State University has been offering generous prizes to those who compose the worst introductory paragraphs to imagined novels.
    This year marks the 21st year of the contest which was inspired by Edward George Bulwyer-Lytton’s awful opening (...)

  • "A Plan for the Improvement of English Spelling", by Mark Twain - May 2005

    An interesting contribution to the debate about spelling reform, from the author of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.
    A Plan for the Improvement of English Spelling
    For example, in Year 1 that useless letter “c” would be dropped to be replased either by “k” or “s”, and likewise “x” would no longer be part of the alphabet. The onle kase in which “c” would be retained would be the “ch” formation, which will be dealt with later.
    Year 2 might reform “w” spelling, so that “which” and “one” would take the (...)

  • About "The Continental Dream: Will the French Shatter It?" - April 2005

    by ELAINE SCIOLINO - published on April 13, 2005.
    This article is followed by Vincent’s reaction to the journalist’s analysis.
    PARIS, April 12 - Historically, the French have liked the idea of a united Europe as long as they could run it.
    France, after all, was a founding member of the six-country European Coal and Steel Community, which was the precursor to today’s 25-country union.
    But in a brutal shock to the European experiment, 11 opinion polls in France in the last month have (...)

  • Friedman and the War in Iraq in 2003 - February 2003

    Reactions to Thomas Friedman’s editorials in the New York Times in Feb.2003 about the imminent prospect of the US invading Iraq.
    Reaction to Friedman’s editorials in the New york Times, by Vincent Smith - Wednesday, February 19, 2003
    It’s really amazing to see how Friedman, an expert in Middle-East issues, put his fingers in the cogs of Bush’s brainwashing machine and conformed to his rhetorics: "the World of Order versus The World of Disorder" [Vote France Off the Island, Feb.9- see below (...)

  • "The Genealogy of Morals", by Friedrich Nietzsche - November 2001

    A discussion between Thomas and Vincent
    We agreed on a common reading that would result in short essays about specific aspects of Nietzsche’s text. As we are in no way philosophy experts, we chose to focus more particularly on educational reflections that could be developed after Nietzsche’s ideas. We based our reading on the following initial questions:
    1- Does Nietzsche’s text deny any form of projective ideal, or can one still believe in the possibility of a desirable future within (...)

  • The death penalty in the USA - February 2001

    February 2001: While the US presidential race hinged mostly on TV entertainment programs where the candidates didn’t need to talk about serious issues, the execution machinery keeps going through its dirty business. No matter how bungled the trials were, and even though new pieces of evidence have seriously challenged the death verdicts, Bush Jr would rather take the risk of having an innocent killed than of upsetting his spin doctors. Obviously, the life of a man doesn’t have the same value (...)

  • The US film industry and French protectionism - October 2000

    Oct.2000: DEBATE between Vincent and Thomas about Richard Pells’ column in the IHT: "Cinéma Vérité - why European reject US culture" and my commentary (other article)
    I have to agree with Pells. There is a long history of bias in Europe toward the American film industry. European students or quasi intellectuals- have this restrictive notion of art vs entertainment. The artists are the Europeans and the entertainers are the Americans. This is a useless division which serves no (...)

  • Cinéma Vérité in Europe: Rejecting US culture - Commentary - September 2000

    Highschool-format commentary by Vincent Smith of Richard Pells’s editorial published in the IHT on Dec.16, 1997 [You can also read Pells’ text and the debate between Vincent and Thomas about the issue of the US film industry and French protectionism]
    This article was published on Tuesday, December 1997, that is three years ago, in the International Herald Tribune, an American daily paper published worldwide. It was written by Richard Pells, an American professor who teaches in Europe, and (...)

  • Cinéma Vérité in Europe : Rejecting U.S. Culture (+ trad.en Français) - June 2000

    By Richard Pells - The International Herald Tribune - Tuesday, December 16, 1997 - [The writer, a historian at the University of Texas, is teaching in Bonn as the Fulbright professor in American studies. He contributed this comment to the International Herald Tribune.]
    BONN - ’Schindler’s List’ was not popular in Poland. The reason, a Polish student explained, was that everyone there ’knew’ Steven Spielberg was a mere entertainer. The Poles, therefore, were not taken in by his attempt to be (...)