Monday, August 31, 2015


What about the devil residing in innocence and virginity?


This is an adaptation of Euripides’ play. It starts with Jason and his new wife, but on a very political tone: Creon is yielding power to Jason and to make it more powerful and official in this Greece moving towards hereditary kingship he gives him his daughter Glauce. But Creon requires – and orders – the banishment of Medea and her two sons. We all know what comes after that. Medea begging Creon for one day’s suspension of his decision. Then the hypocritical change of mind with Jason that she seduces again but he reacts violently, after yielding to the desire, and yet accepts to convince Glauce to ask her father to keep the two children. He goes with them to give her a present: Medea’s bridal crown. Glauce will die poisoned and Creon too. Then Medea will have to kill the two sons and go away. Told like that this fable is as simple as a cold draft in a heating deprived house in winter when it is snowing outside.

Lars von Trier in 1988 only had the very low definition of the television of these days in Denmark to make his film but he already had his brilliant both lethal and murderous imagination rooted in the war and the German defeat which is also the allies’ victory. But Lars von Trier could never decide which was good and which was bad and he only saw the bad side of things.

In this film he modifies some elements to adapt them to this low definition television. The killing of the children is not spectacular with blood. He wants to have them there dead hanging in front of our shocked eyes in a long lasting full screen frame. So he has them hanged to the two branches of a totally dead tree. You can imagine the silhouette of these cadavers, these hanging bodies against the sky. That’s more spectacular than some blood on a nightshirt. But that’s too static, dead in a way. He wants life in his vision of death.

So Lars von Trier has to add something a lot more odious, repulsive. The younger boy runs away. The older boy gets him and brings him back and pulls on his leg to help him die faster on the rope that his mother had tied to the tree branch. On the following morning he asks his mother to help him. He ties the rope to the second tree branch, he puts the noose around his neck and she only has to let him go and pull slightly. The final embrace of the mother letting the child die hanged by that mutual desire shared in this final act is more than frightening. It is blood curdling and yet who is at fault, who is wrong somewhere? And during that time Jason is getting crazy.

Medea goes to a ship, waits for the tide. The sail is rolled down and she unties her hair and she goes away. No god, no divine intervention, no Deus ex Machina, just a plain ship going away from Greece probably to some distant country. Maybe Colchis after all.

But where is Euripides in all that? In the final caption on the screen: “A human life is a journey into the darkness where only a God can find the way for what no man dares believe God can bring about.” Finally a reference to God but this final caption means nothing and yet so much. That’s in fact the vision of Lars von Trier about humanity. He cannot bring man out of this darkness of the cataclysmic war and the ruined Europe and the viciously hypocritical people from both sides who have to save what they can in order to get some kind of revenge, not to speak of vengeance. Lars von Trier has a totally morbid and death-bound understanding of life, though understanding is not the proper word. It should be ignorance, and yet he knows too much, so what? Errant banishment from any over-lording understating understanding! That might be it. He sure wants us to somewhere believe we understand Medea in her suffering, but in fact he probably just wants us to wonder where can she find any haven, refuge, sanctuary with a condescending and understanding God. And if it were a Goddess? Hecate for example? But that’s beyond Lars von Trier. A Godless world is his final affiliation and conviction – and the sentence will be unsuspended.



Kenjita Wurst - Travelo ( Florent Peyre )

Yagg can pritest they are wrong. That humor is fire and ice together.

Sunday, August 30, 2015


The children are transcending reality into surreality, a note on Stephen King at the end


This version of the opera sung in French is absolutely amazing and astounding. The libretto was adapted for this stage production and the recitatives have been reduced and replaced by some modern language unsung passages, dialogues most of the time. That probably shortens the opera but it gives to it a tremendous power in its condensed form. The arias and duets are kept of course with the music of course and they explode in quality and force due to the shortened and demusicalized recitatives.

Along with this modernization of the opera to present-day taste the stage production is of course in modern costumes and uses modern visual techniques to build a background referential décor to what is happening on the stage. Opening sections and other overtures are using vast video projections on a screen and such video moments are used now and then to widen the stage with elements that are either magnified or contextual. The most striking element here is the use of the two children, the two sons. First they are older than they should be because they play an active role in the opera: they even once speak. They are more young teenagers than children.

They open the opera during the overture with a screen projecting videos of Jason’s wedding with Medea. They are showing their boredom by more or less falling asleep on the stage. During the first act and the preparations of Jason’s new wedding with the local princess, Creon’s daughter Dircé, the two kids are writing graffiti on the back wall of the stage behind a glass separation. I will not reproduce what they wrote. It is in both English and French and it is gross accusations against Dircé.

All along they are present and active. In the last act they are preparing for their last night with their mother. They are in their underwear before putting on their pajamas. They are extremely active with their mother in a scene that is ambiguous in many ways: Medea is wavering ,between killing or not killing. She finally lets the children go only to run after them later with nthe fatal blade. It is also ambiguous sexually. We can wonder if Medea is not transferring her love for Jason specifically associated to his “sperm” onto the fruits of this “sperm” hence the children who are more than half nude and embracing Medea in the most intimate way. The first distance at this level is provided by the covering of this nudity with pajamas.

In this version Creon is reduced to very little singing in spite of a heavy presence on the stage and on the screen. Jason is quite present but is also densified since we only have his arias and not his long recitatives that explained many things that are today beyond any explanation since we know the details. He appears as a real fool as well as a lustful ambition-motivated social climber of some sort. He is trying to recapture his noble position in Greece by marrying a Greek princess, by rejecting his Colchian wife but at the same time trying to keep and recuperate his mixed blood children. He impersonates a very negative character and we are deprived of any sympathy for him, let alone empathy. He is repulsive.

On the other hand Medea is the very embodiment and impersonation of suffering due to an unjust brutality that is imposed onto her by the Greeks who are obviously xenophobic if not plain racist since Medea being from Colchis is from the Old European stock of Turkic language, culture and origin, whereas the Greeks are the new comers of Indo-European origin, culture and language. Though the libretto insists on Medea’s betrayed love for Jason as her main motivation, this production with the active role the children play emphasizes her motherly dimension which really makes the final decision a lot more difficult since she has to hurt her children in order to hurt her husband. Her vengeance becomes a vendetta and this is the alienation if not negation of her motherly side?

This production thus tremendously magnifies the deeper meaning of the tragedy the way we can see it with modern eyes. She then can leave the scene, though without any chariot and supernatural horses or dragons. She just steps to the foreground of the stage while the metal security screen comes down and she will exit through the small door on the right that opens onto the back stage for her.

But this music and this poetry (in the arias) is still what they always were and that is definitely the best part of this opera. French is not a tonal language but a syllabic language, meaning there are no stressed syllables, only a certain number of such syllables. The music plays on that dimension of the language by building many arias on half alexandrine lines, hence on units of six feet. But Cherubini then works on the possible variants of this six foot unit that has to ,be cut in two and it becomes most powerful when it is divided in blocks of three syllables. The music can easily emphasize this rhythm and it becomes some kind of hammering and pounding for highly dramatic scenes though it could also be very fluid for more romantic scenes, but there are very few romantic moments in this opera.

Take those instances at the end of the second act:

« Aux larmes – d’une mère
« O triste – souvenir ! »

Or again :

« Vainement – de mon cœur
« Je veux vous – effacer ! »

But Cherubini is able to vary this 3-3 rhythm with a 4-2 rhythm that sounds cold, distant, cruel like in Medea’s last pronunciamento, 4-2 / 3-3:

« Et sur les bords – du Styx
« mon ombre – va t’attendre ! »

And Cherubini can even do further and express Medea’s condescending hatred with a 2-2-2 rhythm like in:

« Par des – chemins – connus
« Pour moi – toujours – secrets. »

And the last cry from Jason is this time purely inhuman by using a 2-4 rhythm that could maybe be captured as 2-2-2:

« Mes fils – rends-moi mes fils ! »

The last note I will give here is the fact that the main singers are not French natives and the director and probably the conductor chose to have them sing with some accent making them sound unreal like foreigners in that land of hatred. This use of a slight accent now and then is of course remarkable because we feel as if we were in some other land, some other country, some supernatural empire of unethical power-hungry monsters. That gives to Medea a human dimension that is rarely captured the way it should be.



This is a small 41 line poem written by Stephen King when he was a college student, in other words a college poem for publication in the local college student daily or weekly. As such it is not worth much though on the cover only one name is printed.

Thanks god this average example of college creative writing is amplified tremendously by the graphic work of the artist whose name is not mentioned on the cover. Glenn Chadbourne he is called. These illustrations are in black and white and in ink. They are ghostly fuzzy and perfectly fascinating in their uncertain strokes and shapes. It all works on what is not clear, what is not identifiable, what is not visible.

The other theme is the misery of buildings, infrastructure and people who are living on the side, under the margin or the social rug, in the ditches along the road or crossing some waste land where they can each bugs and survive. That’s the world of Randall Flagg, the Dark Man who can turn into a crow and vanish in thin air when the fire comes too close.

That small book would be a good present for some young child or teenager who likes things from beyond the normal looks they have in everyday life. What is behind the curtain of reality? Spiders, mutants, misery with or without a diabolical nurse?


Friday, August 28, 2015


Décevant et plus que surprenant: fast food plus que grande bouffe


Les Français enfin se mettent à publier des manuels d’anglais en anglais. Cela semble naturel, et pourtant cela est une innovation récente et les cours en anglais dans les universités continuent à défrayer la rumeur et les aigreurs de tous les professeurs d’université qui ne parlent pas d’anglais qu’un enfant auvergna t de trois ans. Cela ne concerne que l’enseignement supérieur évidemment. Dans ce cas précis cela concerne les études de droit. Et pourtant les éditeurs s’arrangent à mettre l’essentiel de la couverture et de la page de titre en français. Comme quoi on n’apprend pas à de vieux singes à faire la grimace.

Je vais me permettre quelques remarques dans le désordre, au fur à mesure de mon parcours de l’ouvrage. Je mélangerai sans vergogne le français et l’anglais.

Pourquoi page 7 y a-t-il une note en français dans le texte principal ? Cette note en plus est titrée de deux expressions latines que les Anglais, mais aussi les Américains, adorent. Les notes de bas de page sont des traductions mot à mot et font donc double emploi avec le « glossary » final. C’est pratique de ne pas avoir à tourner les pages, mais c’est mauvais mnémotechniquement et donc pédagogiquement car sans effort il n’y a pas d’acquisition. En rendant facile ce travail de traduction au lieu de compréhension qui doit à tout prix disparaître on l’encourage et donc le maintient, ce qui empêche l’acquisition des sens (au pluriel) des mots.

Si on considère ici le « Bilingual Glossary » je ferai plusieurs remarques.

J’aurais nettement séparé le « legalise » ou « jargon juridique » comme d’ailleurs elle en donne un exemple pages 53-55 pour tous les composés de « here », « there » et « where ». Mais pourquoi alors retrouver quatre de ces composés dans le glossaire : « here », « hereafter », « hereto » qui donne « the hereto parties », « heretofore », concernant « here » (plus quatre composés de « there » et aucun de « where ») alors que dans les pages précitées l’auteur donne 33 dérivés de ce genre construits sur « here », « there » et « where ». Remarquons qu’il y en a beaucoup moins en français qui soient de ce genre (« ci-après » et « ci-inclus »).

Mais pour revenir à l’anglais le glossaire a un défaut important. Alors que les adverbes sont dûment identifiés, les verbes ou les adjectifs ne le sont pas. Ainsi on a « claim » : faire une demande, donc verbe mais non indiqué soit par une catégorisation comme les adverbes (vb. Comme adv.), soit par la particule de l’infinitif « to ». La traduction est trop vague : c’est le terme qu’utilisaient les nouveaux arrivants dans un territoire ouvert aux Etats-Unis pour recevoir une parcelle de terre. On voit qu’alors le « Claims Office » dans la conquête de l’ouest a un tout autre sens non couvert ici avec toutes sortes de dérivés du genre « fraudulent claims » et « land claims ».

Ce manuel ne donne pas l’histoire des mots listés dans le glossaire. Et l’index ne permet pas de les retrouver dans le texte.

On a ensuite « claim » : réclamation. C’est un nom mais on voit tout de suite que la traduction est insuffisante et négative. Il faudra alors m’expliquer ce qu’est le « State Farm – claims office » de El Paso, Texas.

On a ensuite « claim » non marqué comme verbe bien que traduit par réclamer sans plus de précision. C’est insuffisant. “You can only claim what you are entitled to getting due to a contract you have signed, a license [note “licence” is not standard at all in American English either as verb or as noun.] you have duly acquired or a law that gives you some privilege or some right.” La traduction réclamer est beaucoup trop négative. D’où le dernier « claimant » : traduit par requérant est loin de la valeur de ce mot et un requérant est quelqu’un qui introduit une requête or « claim » n’a jamais été traduit dans ce glossaire comme signifiant requête, qui n’est pas une réclamation.

Notons en plus que le terme « claimant » en Grande Bretagne a un sens propre dans le domaine social ou syndical ou simplement professionnel : quelqu’un qui a un droit reconnu, quel que soit ce droit. Sous Margaret Thatcher il existait un « Claimants Union » pour s’opposer à sa politique et aujourd’hui des « claimants unions » se mettent en place localement. L’auteure me dira que ce n’est pas un manuel de droit social. Certes mais le droit social est fondé sur des pratiques contractuelles et légales, de code ou de jurisprudence que l’on appelle « common law » dans les pays anglo-saxons.

Dans ce glossaire il y a d’autres éléments surprenants. Par exemple « fee » au singulier n’est en rien un honoraire mais un tarif de service public ou privé comme le tarif des transports en commun, et encore de façon concrète : « Two pounds is the fee I paid from Westminster to Tooting Bec. » Pour des avocats, docteurs et autres professions libérales on emploie normalement le mot au pluriel « fees » sur le modèle j’imagine de « wages » et ce n’est pas le seul mot pour le français honoraires car il existe « An honorarium; a fee for services of no fixed value » généralement au pluriel, « honoraria » ou « honoraries » employé comme nom bien sûr car en adjectif il a un tout autre sens et ne prend pas le pluriel. Notez en plus que le « h » n’est pas aspiré en anglais pour « an hour », « an heir », « an honor », et « an honest man » ainsi que tous les mots commençant par « h » et ne portant pas l’accent tonique sur la première syllabe. Ici l’accent tonique est sur la première syllabe de « honorary » ou « honorarium » ou « honoraria » mais la racine est « honor » d’où la non aspiration de l’ « h ». Dans la législation et la réglementation des salaires, revenus et fiches de paye ce terme est standard. Et « fees » avec ce sens s’emploie au pluriel, bien que la plupart du temps « fees » fera alors référence au paiement d’un service non-libéral et qu’il peut alors s’employer au singulier.

La « Latin Contract Terminology » est une excellente idée mais largement insuffisante par rapport à la quantité d’expressions latines dans les procédures judiciaires, juridiques et contractuelles tant en Angleterre qu’aux Etats-Unis. Remarquons que l’expression latine employée page 7 « obiter dictum » n’est pas listée. La traduction de « quid pro quo » par contrepartie est insuffisante. C’est un terme latin qui remonte au Moyen Âge et donc à des pratiques féodales concernant la propriété mobilières et immobilières, sans oublier que la propriété mobilière comprenait le « chattel » c'est-à-dire tous les animaux domestiques ET les serfs.

L’index est beaucoup trop court (notons que le glossaire aurait du stipuler la première page ou chaque terme concerné était mentionné dans le texte) et donc insuffisant. Mais il lui manque trois pratiques contractuelles importantes, hélas me semble-t-il non abordées dans le texte, à savoir le copyright, les patentes (ou brevets) et la pratique de la vente ou la cession  ou la location sous licence. Dans ces domaines on a un discours mixte qui concerne la pratique contractuelle générale mais aussi la pratique spécifique de chacun de ces trois domaines.

Revenons maintenant à la structure des chapitres qui est la même pour tous sauf le troisième qui n’a pas ce que l’auteure appelle des « activities » et qui deviennent à la fin du manuel des « exercises » quand elle en donne la « key »  c’est à dire les solutions (p. 117) Ces « activities » sont toutes des exercices d’application du savoir donné dans les chapitres et en rien un travail de recherche par exemple d’une jurisprudence particulière ou d’une décision de la Cour Suprême spécifique. Les étudiants sont ainsi traités – et croyez-moi je le regrette et je sais que les étudiants le regrettent aussi – comme des machines à assimiler et non des moteurs de recherche (au singulier car il s’agit de faire de LA recherche). L’auteure dira que c’est le travail du professeur. Mais je dirai que c’est le manquement de l’auteure qui à chaque chapitre aurait du ajouter deux ou trois activités suggérées qui soient des activités de recherche et d’approfondissement. On n’a plus le droit de traiter – comme cela se fait toujours en France – les étudiants universitaires comme des bachoteurs de lycée, et croyez-moi que je regrette que les étudiants de collège et lycées soient traités comme de simple bachoteurs. On sait le ou les résultat-s qui s’ensuive-nt.

Notons uniquement pour l’anecdote qu’on ne peut pas simplement définir comme l’implique l’exercice page 15 le Commonwealth comme une simple « federation of states ». Le Commonwealth n’a rien à voir avec les pays qui se définissent comme des fédérations ou des états fédéraux : les Etats-Unis, l’Allemagne, ou la Fédération de Russie, sans parler de l’es-Yougoslavie. Une telle définition pose problème, mérite débat et je suis persuadé que ce terme serait mal reçu par beaucoup au Canada, en Australie ou en Nouvelle Zélande, sans parler des anciennes colonies qui ont conservé une attache très lâche avec la Grande Bretagne, comme par exemple le Sri Lanka. Les pratiques constitutionnelles sont des pratiques contractuelles que ce soit en contrats dits sociaux ou que ce soit en lois fondamentales.

La « Part 3 » est pratique mais réserve quelques surprises. Je n’ai en aucune façon l’ambition d’être exhaustif. Page 64 « shall » n’est pas défini. Je ne peux qu’approuver le conseil d’être très prudent, mais encore faudrait-il savoir le danger. « Shall » implique une prédiction future basée sur l’existence d’une loi, d’une règle ou d’une relation d’autorité. « Shall » n’exclut en rien le non respect de cette règle, de cette loi, ou de cette autorité. La désobéissance citoyenne est même un droit universel de l’ONU. « Shall » implique donc que étant données les réglementations ou les pratiques contractuelles courantes un certain agent est pronostiqué comme allant faire telle ou telle action et que vous devez vous attendre à ce qu’il le fasse. La limite courante à la première personne est bien sûr absurde, mais l’auteure ne semble pas faire cette erreur. Réfléchissons à des exemples comme : « Of course he shall do it because I say so. » Ou encore « you shall not kill. » Il est clair que dans ces deux cas « must » est impossible. Dans le premier cas il est Presque absurde. Il n’y a aucune obligation, mais il y a une acte d’autorité quasiment terroriste. Dans le deuxième cas ne pas le faire est défier l’autorité divine, ce qui représente tout au plus un manquement éthique. Parlez-en aux forces de police américaines qui abattent des jeunes noirs comme s’ils étaient des cancrelats. « Thou shall not kill », qu’ils chantent ensuite tous les dimanches dans leurs églises et leurs temples. Il ressort alors de ce chapitre que l’étudiant ne sait pas pourquoi il ne doit pas utiliser « shall » non pas parce qu’il n’a pas compris mais parce qu’on ne le lui a pas dit.

Notons que « must » implique une obligation qui s’applique au sujet concerné mais ce sujet concerné peut désobéir. Ce sujet conserve un degré de liberté. « Of course I mustn’t cross when the light is red but I have no time to waste, so I will go on doing it, and let the cop who can catch me give me ticket for jay-walking. » D’un autre côté « have to » ne saurait accepter un manquement. « OK, let’s talk but I must catch a train in twenty minutes. . . (fifteen minutes later) Well thank you for your opinion but now I have to catch my train. » Il n’est pas impossible de trouver quelqu’un qui vous dira: « Of course you must NOT do it, you could even say you shoudln’t do it, in fact you don’t need to do it, but you have to do it because you cannot evade my order and my presence. So just do it and stop bickering. »

Le « Grammar reminder » est une bonne idée.

Page 121 concernant les adverbes, « only » dans « only because » ne se rapporte pas à la conjonction ici de subordination mais à la subordonnée conjonctive complète. Non pas « the conjunction » mais « the conjunctive clause. » De même dans « only after » l’adverbe ne modifie pas la préposition mais le complément prépositionnel qui se compose normalement de la préposition « after » et d’une groupe nominal complet. Dans « You go only after him » l’adverbe s’applique à « after him ».

Page 124 « uncountable » est possible en anglais mais serait gênant en français car on ne fait plus la diffférence oralement entre un nom comptable et un non-comptable et cela entraine des erreurs. Je considère qu’il serait plus judicieux pour des étudiants francophones d’opposer « countable » à « compact ». Il manque cependant une catégorie de ces noms compacts : ceux qui désignent un processus, une procédure, une action, un phénomène parfois naturel comme dans : « Ø walking is important », « Ø nomimnalization is fundamental in all human articulated languages », ou encore « John put Peter under Ø constant pressure till the end of his exam. »

Cela implique d’ailleurs que pages 125-130 sur les articles il n’y ait aucun système et surtout que l’opération de généricité de la détermination de l’extension d’un nom ne soit pas explicitée alors qu’en français et en anglais elle s’applique de façon contradictoire comme dans « Je n’aime pas les chats » (pluriel défini) contre « I don’t like cats » (pluriel indéfini). Encore une fois le système est extrêmement formel dans les deux langues et on ne trouve pas cela dans ces pages qui sont une suite de cas particuliers.

Page 132 il y a une erreur de « typographie » qui produit un non-sens : « A judge might a order a contract to be . . . »

Page 135 une erreur magistrale est faites sur tous les nombres à partir de mille. Toutes les tranches de trois chiffres sont marquées par une virgule en anglais. L’auteure ne respecte pas cette règle pour un seul de ses exemples. Sauf pour les dates, toutes les tranches de trois chiffres sont marquées par des virgules. Notons d’ailleurs que pour la préhistoire quand on passe à 10,000 BCE et au-delà vers le passé on utilise normalement des virgules qu’on a pu éventuellmement négliger jusqu’à 9999 BCE. Cette faute est énorme car les Français utilisent la virgule pour les décimales et qu’entre 3,141 (three thousand one hundred forty one) et 3.141 (three point one for one) il y a le fait que le second est PI un nombre plus qu’important en mathématiques car il est en fait devenu de facto un concept, celui de la circularité des choses.

Il y a une erreur dans la façon d’écrire et de lire les dates. Les Britanniques ont des pratiques qui peuvent varier et ce que l’auteure en dit est juste mais il y a une erreur du côté américain : New York Times : Friday, August 28, 2015, The Guardian et The Financial Times ne donnent même pas la date sur leurs éditions virtuelles, The Times (London) donne Friday, August 28, soit la même chose que le New York Times. Si bien que quand l’auteure dit que les Américains sont spéciaux car pour « 2nd/2 June à the second of June, June the second » « ‘the’ is often omitted in American English » elle se trompe car en américain l’ordre standard est le mois puis le jour comme dans « 9/11 » qui ne saurait être le 9 novembre et qu’alors « June 2 » écrit dans cet ordre se lirait « June second » et même probablement « June two » et au-delà définitivement « June three. . . June twenty two. . . »

Enfin pour conclure page 171 dans les ressources je suis étonné qu’elle n’ait pas mentionné le US Code (, notons d’ailleurs l’extension du domaine pour les sites gouvernementaux US qu’elle ne mentionne pas non plus), ni la US Supreme Court (, ni le site de la Cornell University ( qui a un centre de ressources sur la loi sans équivalent, le Legal Information Institute [LII] ( qui donne les lois et les décisions de justice avec commentaires faits par les professeurs de la Cornel University Law School.

Ce livre n’a pas de concurrent en France mais est loin de ce que l’on peut attendre d’un manuel universitaire de niveau licence-mastère car en anglais l’Internet regorge de ressources et avec LII de discussions et de questionnements de et sur ces ressources. Si l’auteure voulait amener ses étudiants à vraiment réfléchir et construire dans le domaine choisi elle suggèrerait tout un travail personnel d’étudiant sur la loi (constitutionnelle, commune et de code) et toutes les procédures de niveau au moins fédéral et de Cour Suprême sur les conflits contractuels concernant le copyright, les patentes (ou brevets) et les licences de session quelles qu’elles soient. En fonction du niveau des étudiants il suffit de concentrer sur un cas particulier, une décision qui fait jurisprudence particulière ou une décision de la US Supreme Court pour vraiment permettre à tous d’avancer de L1 à M2.

Si j’avais un conseil à donner aux étudiants je suggèrerais qu’au lieu de dépenser 19 euros sur ce manuel (que les étudiants peuvent acheter à trois ou quatre) ils feraient mieux de consacrer au moins huit heures par semaine à travailler sur les ressources de la Cornell University, voire les MOOC dans le domaine, et en anglais bien sûr pour à la fois pratiquer l’écoute et la lecture ou l’écriture.


Wednesday, August 26, 2015


The devil is a woman, what an invention!!!


A small film with a rather big budget travelling from New York to Spain (more or less not famous places) and to France, Paris of course. A film about the Devil or Satan or Lucifer had to be produced in the satanic year 1-999, just before the diabolical new millennium.

Apart from that the plot is so light we could think it was bought as a premium in a barrel of washing powder. The only interesting element is the suspenseful editing that makes the film have good rhythm. But the rhythm of the editing is not enough to make a good film.

 Clichés upon clichés. The best ones are the baroness in a wheel chair with a “secretary” that looks like a prison warden and goes out in the morning to buy oranges. The younger desk clerk in a four or five stars hotel in Paris who is authorizing a woman to go to the main character’s room because she claims to be his wife. The concierge will apologize later on but it will be too late. I guess that younger desk clerk had not gone through the proper vocational training.

The best cliché is the fact that the devil is a woman, white of course and blonde of course again. She is s devilish person obviously since she can move around without any means of transportation except thin  air. But she is the excuse for Polanski to put some female flesh on the screen. He is a lot more modest about male flesh. Why did he get Johnny Depp then? A fatso like Depardieu would have been just alright, and a lot more impressive.

Johnny Depp is underused indeed. He is static, unexpressive, cold like a slithering snake, badly dressed and hardly human.

Well enjoy it if you can. I guess with a good shot of vodka maybe. . .



You just can't neglect and overlook this book if you want to learn Maya


This is a dictionary and you cannot expect more than it proposes. It is organized in alphabetical order but based on the phonetic transcriptions of the glyphs. Note they use two phonetic transcriptions: Ch’olan and Yucatec.

The glottalized consonants (consonants followed by a glottal stop marked in the transcription with an apostrophe) follow the non-glottalized consonants in the alphabetical order. Thus CH’ comes after CH.

But the great advantage is that you can really understand the composition of the glyphs thanks to the transcriptions first but also because you will find the various components in the dictionary as such. The writing system is thus a composite writing system since the glyphs are composed of various glyphs associated  to build new words. We are dealing here with the morphology of the compound words and many Mayan words are compounds.

It also gives you the various categories and declension or conjugation elements of the words. Hence you have nouns, verbs, adjectives. Nominal phrases are often treated as one glyph composed of various elements showing that the syntax of the nominal phrase is treated as if it were morphology. And we have the same thing for verbal phrases. That seems to show this language is developing on the basis of the second articulation of human language, though it seems to be developing the first steps towards the realization of the third articulation which implies declensions and later prepositions to express nominal cases, and conjugations for the verbs.

To specify that language more we will enter the details of the description of its syntax. Since it is a Native American language we know today it comes from Siberia where two vast families of languages, and ethnic groups, cohabited. DNA has confirmed these dual origins. On one hand the agglutinative languages of the Turkic family mostly settled in Central Asia, South West Siberia (Urals for example), Asia Minor and the whole of Europe  before the last ice age up to the arrival of Indo-Europeans in Europe a few thousand years after the ice age. On the other hand the Sino-Tibetan family us composed of isolating languages.

Most of Native American languages are thus mapped on one pattern or the other. Further studies have to be made to check if the two affiliations are strictly respected or if some languages actually merged the characteristics of both families. The Turkic family is third articulation, whereas the Sino-Tibetan family is second articulation.

I will then have to come back to the subject after more studies.

This dictionary has many indices at the end and these indices transform the dictionary into a multilingual and a practical tool. Three languages are concerned first with the Mayan Index, the English Index and the Spanish Index. Then you have the Index of Visual Elements and then a collection of Subject Indices: Numbers, Days, Months, Long Count, Phonetic signs, Verbs/Verbal Phrases, pronouns, adjectives. T-numbers.

Per se this dictionary cannot teach you the language, but it is an indispensible tool for learning that language.


Tuesday, August 25, 2015


A great purge must have been organized to get rid of these Gnostics


This book is of course essential. But I would like to make several remarks that imply a wider opening of the perspective under which we consider these documents.

To say that these documents were written at the end of the second century or the beginning of the third century is correct but only formally? They were written then, at least 150 years after the events they speak of but from a long oral tradition from the very time when these events took place. They were transmitted orally from one generation to the next and they started from people who had been witnesses of the events and that could remember what the various characters did or said and first of all Jesus and of course Judas. The proof of this oral tradition is in the fact that there are differences between three of these documents who have other versions in the Nag Hammadi Library for example. And I find it rather easy to say it is only a question of varying translation from Greek. In fact originally all that started in Jerusalem meaning it started in a Semitic language, either Hebrew or rather Aramaic, the colloquial language of Jesus and his direct associates.

The proof is in the fact that the disciples address Jesus as “Rabbi” and not “Lord” or even “Master.” The term “Rabbi” is Jewish and from Hebrew or other directly connected Semitic languages. It is one way to differentiate the parallel verses of the New Testament: the original verses were in a Semitic language and call Jesus “Rabbi” whereas the added verses were in Greek and address Jesus as “Lord.” (Note Lord is used in the first document the Letter of Peter to Philip.) This tradition was transmitted at first in those Semitic languages, Hebrew or Aramaic over at least five generations and it was set in Greek progressively and finally written in Greek at the end of the 2nd century or the beginning of the 3rd. Then it was translated into Coptic and this time from the Greek version with maybe some older people who might have remembered the old oral Semitic version.

This is essential because these documents are not forgeries or fakes but they are truly coming from the time of the events, the time when Jesus was preaching and was crucified and then when James later was stoned to death. Note by the way the document called “James” could not come from James himself because he was not able to tell the way he ended up stoned by illegal decision of the High Priest of the temple, since the Great Sanhedrin did not meet in the temple but at the High Priest’s home. Obviously this text is from that period (62 CE) but told by a witness who could report on what James had told him about his conversations with Jesus before and after the crucifixion. It is a typical case where only someone very close to James could start the story, the telling, the memory, the oral tradition.

Apart from the first document the three others report about what Jesus actually told his disciples. That could only come from people in the inner circle around Jesus. Even Paul could not have been one of these because he had not yet declared himself an apostle since he had not had yet his vision on the road to Damascus. This remark is essential because numerous apocryphal documents contain such reports of Jesus telling one of his disciple something personal, inspired and visionary. I insist on the personal dimension because too often critics want to generalize what is being said, abstract it from the direct context and from the people it was said to. They have the tendency to dehumanize Jesus though they assert all along Jesus made himself a man to be close to other human beings. If he is a man in a man’s body then he has normal human reactions and what is says is supposed to be understood in the context and the direct environment at that moment.

The best part is when Jesus comes back after his resurrection. It is the basic debate here. Did he come back in a man’s body and Thomas could put his fingers in the holes of the feet and the hands, or did he come back as a spirit and Thomas could not put his fingers in non-corporeal feet and hands. You cannot “touch” a spirit, though you can be in contact with it, if you believe in spirits, of course. But that’s not the point here.

Was Jesus still in his human body after his resurrection or was he a pure spirit visible as if he were in his human body, hence in an image of this body. Martin Meyer says very clearly: “The Letter of Peter to Philip shares with the other three texts in the codex a commitment to a spiritual understanding of Jesus, in particular a spiritual understanding of his passion and death.” (p. 86) That does not mean his crucifixion is fictional but it means that his crucifixion and his subsequent resurrection have to be understood as a spiritual event and experience. The trauma for the people directly associated to Jesus was probably too strong to be alleviated in a minute and survival to this trauma could only be a spiritual dealing with it that made it bearable. What I say here is that the resurrection and the coming back of Jesus is not at all an illusion but it is a direct construction of the traumatized and mourning passion (in the meaning of love, attachment, fascination) nourished and nurtured in the followers by Jesus himself and the very difficult atmosphere in Jerusalem at the time. In fact I am quite ready to say that this is Post Torture and Martyrdom Traumatic Stress Syndrome, and this particular PTSS inspired the surviving witnesses into creating a whole religion out of it, out of what after all was a common death penalty in those days. This creative procedure has more to do with the charisma and brilliance of Jesus and his teachings than with the inhumane and nonhuman method used to accuse him and execute him, an obvious miscarriage of justice and vengeful retribution against someone who had dared to challenge the authority of established temple bureaucrats and executives turning themselves into executioners.

The questions asked by the disciples are typical of something that is not said by the commentators. Let me quote them: “Lord, (…) [the] deficiency of the aeons and their fullnesses, [how] are we detained [in this] very dwelling [place]? [Again, how] have we come to this place? And, how [shall we] leave? And, how do [we] have the authority [of] this very boldness? [Why] do [the] powers fight against [us]?” (p. 97) The idea that is behind these questions is that the people asking the questions, hence the disciples, the apostles are not originally from this world but are from another world and they have been in a way or another transported to this world where they are detained. The answer with the “Mother” is supernatural and sets at the original point of the existence of human beings, and these disciples or apostles are human beings, the “Mother” ’s decision to do something that was not supported by the Great One. We can interpret that Mother the way we want, humanity is thus brought into existence out of nothing at all and under a fatal sin by the Mother herself that dooms this humanity to its or their fate. If sin has brought humanity into its alienated existence, then they have to “arm yourselves with the power of my Father and express your prayer.” (p. 103) Their mission is to go and preach for the salvation of the world. “. . . ‘You will have joy and peace and power. Do not be afraid. [I] am with you forever.’ Then the apostles parted [---] sent them too [preach. And] they went in the power of Jesus, in peace.” (p. 109) But that peace comes from the knowledge of the end of this alienation on earth is in the end of life itself that enables man to merge with the divine dimension of this creation: “ ‘I often told you, you are to die, and you are to be brought into synagogues and before governors, and you are to [---]” (p. 105)

It is clear they have to integrate the spiritual dimension of Jesus’ teachings and that gives them the power and the motivation to preach for the salvation of the world that can only be reached individually when death comes as the final test of Christian peace and Christian faith. The questions then lead to the strange idea that humanity came from some other place by being created out of a fundamental disobedient sin by the Mother herself. And to correct this mistake humanity has to find its salvation in the repented sins of each sinner at the moment of their death. This repentance will be all the more effective if the power and conviction to preach salvation in the name of Jesus has been achieved as soon as possible in life.

The document called James is one more piece in the puzzle of James’ death, Jesus’ brother, though the text is ambiguous in its form on the subject of being the brother of Jesus since it says: “For not without reason are you called ‘brother,’ though [you] are not physically a brother. . . “ (p. 121) It does not mean James is not the son of Joseph and Mary (if we consider James as younger than Jesus) but Jesus is not the son of Joseph, and Mary, his mother, is only a vessel used by God to bring his son into a human body. And yet James is called “brother” “not without reason,” thus meaning that spiritually James is the brother of Jesus. But the interest of the document is it first asserts that James was stoned to death and second it gives a rather long testimony about what kind of accusations were leveled at him and what kind of defense he brought forward. This could only be known by very few people who actually took part in the Sanhedrin meeting which was an emergency meeting that was not held in the legal proper place. And that could only be after James’ death and not from him. That’s what the oral tradition is all about. The procedure in the Sanhedrin must have been in Hebrew, certainly not in Greek. And that oral tradition was kept for five generations.

The Gospel of Judas is interesting but I have already discussed it in the earlier National Geographic edition of this Gospel alone. I would like to come back on a couple of points. Page 207, Jesus calls Judas the “thirteenth daimon.” We could discuss this word “daimon” a long time especially since it is rendered in French by the word “démon.” In English the word comes from Greek and means a lesser divine being, like a dead hero, or the inner spirit of a person. The American Heritage Dictionary says: “1. An inferior deity, such as a deified hero. 2. An attendant spirit; a genius.” In French the word “démon” is definitely connected to devils and satanic beings like a bad spirit possessing a person and requiring exorcism. But the point is not there. The point is in the number thirteen. It is in those days a zodiacal sign, the Serpent holder who represents knowledge, science, medicine, healing, and many other things. On the Benedictine abbey church of Issoire, France, there used to be the thirteenth zodiacal sign at the meeting point between the choir of the abbey church and the scriptorium or library of the abbey. The meaning was clear and it was there till at least the thirteenth century. It has just been reinstated. That implies that this “daimon” is someone who has the key to healing, who is the key to healing, and Judas sure is that key since Jesus asks him to help him get rid of his body by enabling the crucifixion that could not happen since the Temple people did not know who Jesus was, but Judas did. And there the “thirteenth” reference is clear: “. . . You will exceed all of them. For you will sacrifice the man who bears me. . . “ (p. 231) “. . . And Judas received money and handed him over to them.” (p. 235) The translation into French of this last sentence is very poor by making the thing miserable and so little that we wonder where the dignity of the fulfilled mission has gone: the “money” is translated by “des sous” meaning precisely “a few pennies” or “their few pennies.” A “sou” is an old French currency in the times of French francs. In the 1950s twenty “sous” were equivalent to one old Franc of the time, and was worth nothing or so little. Note that’s the second time I wonder about the French version of this text. Without having checked it all I am surprised that on these two crucial elements the French version is from my point of view wrong.

Note the vision Judas has of being stoned by the twelve apostles is strange since at the time of this vision he is one of the twelve. But then the remark from Jesus about the “thirteenth daimon” before and the second remark after the vision this time: “You will become the thirteenth, and you will be cursed by the other generations, and you will come to rule over them. In the last day they to you, and (that?) you will not ascend on high to the holy generation.” We can see how ambiguous this thirteen becomes: a curse, and yet Judas will rule over the other twelve, and yet again he will “not ascend to the holy generation.” It is regrettable that the critics do not discuss these numbers and this Gospel contains a whole set of number: 5, 6, 12, 24, 72, 360; 5 firmaments, 6 heavens, 12 aeons and luminaries. Obviously 13 is not in that logic. It should have been discussed.

The last document, Allogenes, is about Seth, the third son of Adam and Eve to replace Abel killed by Cain, the latter banned by God. That Seth is identified with Jesus, which sounds normal if we remember that Jesus defines himself as the “son of man” and that man is Adam, derived from Adamas, the earth. Adam is the first man and his son is Seth, hence Jesus is Seth. The interest though of this identification is that Seth is the very symbol of one trend in the emerging Christian faith and church in the second and third centuries. That trend is the Gnostics also called Sethians. Here we are dealing with an essential school of Christian affiliation in those distant centuries and this trend is declared heretic by Iraneus and the documents that compose the Nag Hammadi Library and this Codex are definitely sethian and hence gnostic. These documents were stored away in the Egyptian desert by communities that were following that branch of Christianity, a branch that was banned. Were they dispersed, or eliminated, we do not know. Probably some of both.

These documents are essential if we want to understand how Christianity emerged in nearly three centuries from the crucifixion and martyrdom of one man in Jerusalem in 33 CE and then the stoning of his brother in 62 CE. This led to the destruction of the temple of Jerusalem and then of the walls of the city and the order of all Jews to disappear from the Levant. That was the radical Diaspora that is still haunting our modern world. It seems in the case of the Roman Empire and Christianity the emergence of this new faith would never have occurred if it had not been unified enough via the elimination of some trends to impress a Roman Emperor and inspire him into declaring this new religion the official and only religion of the empire. What I say here is that without the elimination of the “heretic” Gnostics and the unification behind Pauline and Petrine vision Christianity would never have been able to become the religion we know. Was it though justified? That’s another question these documents cannot answer. It is the more spiritual, philosophical and maybe rebellious side of Christianity that was eliminated in the name of the more down to earth, realistic and maybe submissive side.

A shame that specialists of this subject remain closed up in their Biblical learned erudition because there was a whole world out there and they do not consider it.


Monday, August 24, 2015


The thirteenth century is the diabolical turning point in the Middle Ages


This work from the end of the 13th century is not a masterpiece in literature. It is in no way supposed to be fictional, I mean fiction of any sort, but it is not necessarily the historical truth we could expect from an official historian. In other words this work cannot be considered as historically accurate in spite of course of its pretention to be. The notes are clear about the details on that account.

Yet it is an essential book about Hungary, the Hungarians and the Huns before them with Attila at their spear head. But it is a book that essentially lists battles, military campaigns, struggles and other types of conflicts in Europe whose stake is Hungary called here Pannonia. It very quickly becomes a catalogue of such events and the barbarity of all sides since killing enemies or plain people for the sole pleasure of killing, raiding, looting, destroying, burning, blinding, and many other sadistic, cruel and blood curdling mistreatment of the bodies, and only the bodies, of the concerned individuals who are systematically negated in their very human nature. Later on a difference is even clearly stated at the very end that the non-Christians are barbarians and pagans but they also are chattel since “Pagans should be subject to Christians. These captives were termed uheg [Note 1: . . . the term uheg . . . ‘a heathen slave’]; as far as the Church was concerned, any Hungarian could possess and keep such persons.” (p. 185)

And that brings the main interest of the work.

The author has to explain why the Hungarian society is divided among people who are nearly slaves, people who serfs and thus chattel, and various levels of freedom among the others. It is a hard task since the Hungarians are supposed to descend from a limited number of equally free people. He can only level three explanations. The first one is simple: pagans, hence non-Christians, also called barbarians are naturally subject to Christians, hence slaves. But that does not explain the other cases. So he goes back to what Charlemagne supposedly did one day when he summoned all men who were all free (that is good news about Charlemagne empire) to arms for battle and all those who refused to come without a valid excuse were turned into some service position, in other words were made serfs. But even so that did not explain the fact that the vast majority of the society was composed of such slaves and serfs. So then he went to standard Christian explanations. Those who were serfs must have committed a sin. And that satisfies him, though it should not since Jesus said that the man who has never committed a sin is the only one entitled to throw the first stone and no one did claim that honor. We are all sinners.

But this discussion leads to another which is far from being clear in the text. In feudal times the sovereign was king or emperor by decision of God himself represented by the Pope who certified those kings and emperors who owed him full respect and obedience as the representative of God on earth. This would be simple if there had been no feudal wars. They tried to solve that war spirit with the famous Peace of God movement starting at the end of the tenth century and more or less successful at the end of the eleventh century, when the first crusade was started. War was only justified against pagans and infidels.

That can explain the war against Attila and the Huns but how can it explain the wars between Hungary and Germany or Austria, or many other Christian kingdoms around Hungary once Hungary had become a Christian country? In fact it could not and we are then confronted to a second problem. The fact that the successive kings of Hungary are set on the throne by the German Emperor or some German intervention, or other foreign interventions. Even worse how can it explain that one noble faction can depose a king and elect or select another one to get on the throne? That is the pure negation of feudal principles.

The introduction suggests it is a movement that is strongly evolving in the 13th century. For sure we have the Magma Carta in 1215 in England. But in that case the king is not deposed and it is the King who accepts to decide on a few measures that had only been peacefully suggested by the joined delegates of the nobility and the Church. And that is just the point. How can the church support one faction against the others. Did the Church support the white rose of York or the red rose of Lancaster in the War of the Roses in England? The two houses were descending from the Plantagenet for sure but it was a civil war between two factions of nobles fighting for the throne of England to which they were entitled both of them at various degrees of legitimacy.

In fact in the 13th century new principles were starting to emerge in the Middle Ages. First the king was divine in nature or essence but he had to have the agreement of several institutions to be able to claim his title: first the church, second the nobility at large and third in England the City of London. In the same way this book shows how the king had in fact to be accepted by the representatives of the nobility and by the church. The book centers this evolution on the concept of “community” and even that of nation. But these words do not mean what we understand today. They mean that this community or this nation is in fact the free or more or less free people of the country who elect or appoint their representatives who have to be consulted and who have to agree with the King’s decisions for these decisions to become official. In this community of more or less free people there are levels from the top aristocracy to the plain free urban working people or landlords of anything that can have a non-noble landlord. This community excludes slaves altogether and serfs are not directly represented but only through their owners or the owners of the land to which they are attached and whose chattel they are. That’s why many of the military episodes are ambiguous when they say they killed everyone including women and children. We can never be sure that includes those who are nobody, those who are not members of the community or the nation, the serfs and the slaves, those who actually work and without whom there would be no production, no output and no riches

But this is not typical of this work or author. In the Middle Ages only those who had a certain degree of nobility and/or freedom were considered as real human beings (though of course from the Christian point of view they were all human since they all had a soul), as real members of the community. All the others were just standing on the side, working and being exploited. There was no reason to kill them in a war since they were part of the chattel of an estate. The only reason to do that was not to defeat the landlord of that estate but to ruin the landlord of that estate. But feudal wars were meant to take the control of various estates and thus take the control of these estates’ means of production: the slaves and the serfs were part of these means of production. To kill them would imply that the plunderer is not planning on conquering the land at all but only looting the valuables in churches and so on. It would be gratuitous violence but the plunderer does not give the slightest thought to what he cannot loot, and since slaves and serfs are not fighting he could not care less about them. This point of view has never been, as far as I know, explored and explained: the civilian non free casualties in the feudal wars.

This book then is interesting in the commentaries it contains because it really points out that the 13th century was crucial in Europe. All the more crucial due to the beginning of the demographic overpopulation crisis that will lead to all kinds of heresies and campaigns against such including the Cathars’ Crusade and the Inquisition and also the building of all kinds of Devil’s bridges in Europe and the starting of the burning of witches in Europe. The Black Death will come only fifty years later (1348) but it will not solve those problems either because they had been expurgated by fire and death, or because the plague was seen as a divine punishment onto a sinning population if not populace. The only problem the Black Death solved was the excess of population as compared to the resources, produced as I have said by slaves and serfs who were victims too, because the Black Death did not make any difference between the Pope or a starving homeless outlaw.


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