• Liquidations à la grecque : un polar pour plonger dans la Grèce en crise

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    Pour moi, le polar de l’été (bon OK je n’en ai lu qu’un, mais quand même). Ca s’avale d’une traite et nous laisse avec l’envie d’enchainer immédiatement sur la suite (« Le justicier d’Athènes », de Petros Markaris). C’est en Points poche à 7,30€, un prix de crise.

    Un petit extrait pour le plaisir (qu’on retrouve dans l’extrait pdf gratuit ici):

     

    « Adriani, décryptant mon aveu tacite, a poursuivi l’offensive.

    – Par moments tu es une énigme, mon chéri. Quand tu parles de ta fille, tu es tout sucre tout miel. Et maintenant elle ne mérite pas un petit sacrifice pour son mariage ? Tu ne peux vraiment pas la quitter, ta Fiat ?

    Elle n’avait pas tort, nous étions inséparables. La Mirafiori était la chair de ma chair, je ne pouvais pas la sacrifier. Mais Adriani n’a pas cédé.

    – Plutôt que prendre ta Fiat, je préfère mille fois y aller en pick- up !

    Katérina, qui cherchait toujours des compromis, a proposé la voiture de Phanis.

    – Et qui va la conduire ? demanda Adriani.

    – Phanis.

    – Ma chérie, c’est le père qui conduit la mariée à l’église, pas le marié.

    Pour finir, je me suis persuadé que la Mirafiori ayant quarante ans, mourir dans son grand âge n’était pas un drame. Cette décision apaisait, ou du moins estompait, les tourments de mon âme et en suscitait d’autres plus matériels. Je ne savais quelle marque choisir. Or, quand on ne sait pas, on demande. Et quand on demande, tout s’embrouille.

    – Monsieur le commissaire, ne cherche pas, me conseillait Dermitzakis. Prends une Hyundai. C’est le meilleur rapport qualité- prix. Sans compter que la moitié de la maison roule en Hyundai et que le concessionnaire nous fait des ristournes.

    – N’écoute pas ce que te disent les gars sur les Hyundai et les Nissan, me disait Guikas. Prends une européenne pour être tranquille. Une Volkswagen ou une Peugeot. Ça, c’est de la voiture.

    Finalement, c’est Phanis qui a résolu le problème.

    – Prends une Seat Ibiza.

    – Pourquoi ?

    – Pour être solidaire entre pauvres. En ce moment, les Espagnols et les Portugais en prennent plein la gueule, comme nous. On est les PIIGS[1], les porcs. Donc un porc doit aider l’autre, au lieu de courir après les requins. Jusqu’à présent on a essayé de vivre comme les requins et on s’est noyés, puisque les porcs ne savent pas nager. Par conséquent, tu dois prendre une Seat Ibiza. »

    Incidemment, il a obtenu le prix Le Point du polar européen 2013.

     


    [1] Acronyme formé par les initiales des pays d’Europe les plus fragiles économiquement : Portugal, Italie, Irlande, Grèce, Espagne (Spain).

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  • Our horror trip with British Airways

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    It all started as we sat for 24h in Heathrow, after missing the Sao Paulo connection that was supposed to take me and the whole family to a month stay in Paraguay, where we would enjoy some holiday with the family (my wife is Paraguayan and my older daughter was born there) as well as set the stage for a randomized study on the determinants of corruption.

    Actually, now I remember that it happened to me before. When I lived in Edinburgh, around 2007, BA already had me missing this same connection and staying a whole day at the airport thanks to a 3+ hours delay on an Edinburgh-London connection, and in another opportunity they lost our whole set of luggage for 9 full days, and we had to go to an obscure private depot in the suburbs of Edinburgh to force them to give us our belongings back (remember that was the great “new Heathrow” meltdown). Looking back, I am not sure I remember a single time when I flew BA and they were on time. Well, I promised back then that I would never fly with them again. It’s my fault after all.

    So on July 18th, the Toulouse-London flight was only two and a half hours late (not bad for a flight that last 1h30 overall)… I mean, I flew all over Europe with Air France, Lufthansa, KLM, Alitalia, etc., and I never experienced such delays with any of these companies.

    And the service is so professional. Staff in Toulouse, they don’t know… Staff on the plane, they don’t know, but they think you may not make it, and they are kind of sorry. Staff at Heathrow, well they don’t really know, but if you have been rebooked 24h later it must be that this is the only flight, and they have all these great compensation for you. At 11 pm, you get this generous £40 voucher for four people, which you can spend at Marks & Spencer, or maybe at Costa, on delightful triangular carton sandwiches and lemon tarts.

    Definitely, getting cheap can be very costly. At that point, I promised this would be my last time on Bristish Airdelays. I thought the worst was over, but I wrong big time.

    We finally took off from London on July 19th at night (on time!). After settling in our seats (we got premium economy seat for the price of an economy ticket, that was our lucky day!), my younger daughter started watching Rio 2 in the French version. Alas, halfway through the picture, all the airplane screens went dark. Moments later, the cabin lights died out too. We got slightly worried at that stage, especially when we started seeing the cabin crew wandering around with torch lights. Finally the expected announcement came: we would be forced to make an emergency landing in Lisbon because the electric inconvenient (the visible part of the technical fault iceberg for us) could not be readily fixed. The captain also told us that we could not land right away because of the quantity of fuel we were carrying, so they would have to burn some of it first, and it could be a bit noisy for a while. For the next 45 minutes, we were caught in the middle of an impressive roaring noise and plane shaking that was not really reassuring. My two daughters kept their eyes shut while we were holding their hands. As we finally landed in Lisbon at 2 am, we discovered dozens of firefighters trucks with all lights on rushing alongside the landing track. We did not really know how close we got.

    This was the start of a new and long wait.  We sat on the plane for around 2 hours, before they finally told us that we would be taken to local hotels. But Bristish Airways has a quite specific and class-related view on how to accommodate distressed passengers. Business class passengers were asked to disembark first, while the staff blocked remaining passengers on the plane. A tout seigneur tout honneur… I suppose they were afraid these select people would feel somewhat packed on the bus that would take them to the terminal. Quite a while later, the same operation was repeated with premium economy passengers, while the economy “plèbe” was again retained in the plane. So we found ourselves quite relaxed in a half empty bus. But once in the terminal, we were questioned again, because the ground staff mistook us for economy passengers, the like of which were supposed to wait more.

    We finally reached a hotel at 4:30 am. On the next day, discussing with other passengers, we learned that some of the economy group, including a group of Brazilian school children coming back from a European exchange, had to wait until 6:30 am to be provided with a place to sleep.

    On July 20th, around 5pm, a bus came to take us back to the airport. So far, we have had no news from British Airways, not even a text message or email, but we were somewhat hopeful that at the airport we would get some basic information about the rebooking and the new connections to complete our trip. This again proved very optimistic.

    At the counter, an airport  ground staff woman (not from BA) explained that she could not give us any information, but that we had to go through controls, after which at the gate the BA staff would give us all the needed information. When we reached the gate, however, the BA staff, a quite unpleasant woman, proved unwilling to answer our question. The new moto was now that we would have to fly to Sao Paulo and that only there we would get complete information on what to expect for the rest of the trip.

    In short, when faced with passengers’ requests, British Airways staff preferred technique is to kick-in-touch. I must say that I got a bit nervous at that stage, after 48h of travel with two kids that had only taken me from Toulouse to Lisbon. As a made my request a bit more forcefully, this person told me that they had no way to make rebooking arrangements at that airport (the ICT revolution has obviously not reached BA management), and that they were not prepared to deal with an aircraft failure of that magnitude. I told her that if they were indeed not prepared to do that, they should perhaps change business and go into something technologically slightly simpler, such as the textile industry. The dialogue proved useless, but did let her know that the way they were handling passengers was an absolute shame.

    We boarded the aircraft, a replacement 747 that was supposed to be in better shape than the previous one, although the cabin itself was no proof of that, as can be seen from these pictures.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    At that stage, I guess one feels a sense of resignation and starts relying on irrational thoughts of luck and the like to stop from running away and going back home by train. We reached Sao Paulo at 1am the next day, and were sent to a hotel for the third night (well, half night…) in a row. The ground BA staff told us we would first have to get our (8 pieces!) luggage back and carry it to the hotel, but when I firmly refused (it was booked to the final destination in Paraguay after all), they did not insist. I had the impression they had heard about our discussion in Lisbon.

    We reached Guarani airport in Paraguay on Monday 21st after 72 hours of travel. That’s the moment when magically you forget about all previous hardships.

    But, wait a second, there was still a return trip ahead… You will not believe it, but it went so well! We were on time, and they only lost one of our suitcases.

    It’s now one month from this infamous trip and one week from our return. So far, we have not received a single message of apologies, let alone a compensation offer.

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  • Chile: terremoto y corrupción

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    La corrupción y el acaparamiento de los bienes destinados a la población, ya en el terremoto de 1939 en Chile, descrito por Isabel Allende en La casa de los espíritus:

    “Los destrozos del terremoto sumieron al país en un largo luto. No bastó a la tierra con sacudirse hasta echarlo todo por el suelo, sino que el mar se retiró varias millas y regresó en una sola gigantesca ola que puso barcos sobre las colinas, muy lejos de la costa, se llevó caseríos, caminos y bestias y hundió más de un metro bajo el nivel del agua a varias islas del sur. Hubo edificios que cayeron como dinosaurios heridos, otros se deshicieron como castillos de naipes, los muertos se contaban por millares y no quedó familia que no tuviera alguien a quien llorar.
    (…)
    El resto del mundo, demasiado ocupado en otra guerra, apenas se enteró de que la naturaleza se había vuelto loca en ese lejano lugar del planeta, pero así y todo llegaron cargamentos de medicinas, frazadas, alimentos y materiales de construcción, que se perdieron en los misteriosos vericuetos de la administración pública, hasta el punto de que años después, todavía se podían comprar los guisos enlatados de Norteamérica y la leche en polvo de Europa, al precio de refinados manjares en los almacenes exclusivos.”

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  • Darkened cities

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    In Darkened Cities, Thierry Cohen shows us what some of the world’s cities would look like without all the artificial lights that illuminate them from within but also blind us from seeing the stars lights and the night sky.

    As Francis Hodgson explainsCohen is also a fine technician, who has practised digital photography for longer than almost anyone else. But he is not practising for virtuosity alone. Cohen does not merely replace one sky with another for convenient photographic legibility. By travelling to places free from light pollution but situated on precisely the same latitude as his cities (and by pointing his camera at the same angle in each case), he obtains skies which, as the world rotates about its axis, are the very ones visible above the cities a few hours earlier or later. He shows, in other words, not a fantasy sky as it might be dreamt, but a real one as it should be seen.

    This is a very powerful treatment. It is laborious in the extreme. To find places with the right degree of atmospheric clarity, Cohen has to go – always on the latitudes of our cities – into the wild places of the earth, the Atacama, the Mojave, the northern wastes of Mongolia. Who among us beyond a handful of professional astronomers would know if Cohen cut the odd corner by finding a good sky not quite so remote? But photography has always had a very tight relationship to reality. A good sky is not the right sky. And the right sky in each case has a huge emotional effect.

    47 years ago, “René Burri, the great Swiss photographer, rushed out into the New York blackout of 5th November, 1965 with only 8 rolls of film and made 40 of the greatest pictures of a city at night that you will ever see.” (Hodgson) See the gallery here.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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  • Les vacances de la Toussaint, mode d’emploi

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    Vous voulez profiter des vacances pour lancer votre groupe, mais vous n’avez pas de quoi acheter les instruments?..

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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  • Away from blogging

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    In the next three weeks I’ll be taking a break from blogging. Thank you to those, who visited this site in the last few months, and see you in September with (hopefully) a fresh, renewed look on things.

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