Monday, April 30, 2007

Prison Break

The 21st century is a period full of famous TV-series. Almost everyone is now accustomed to the love’s affairs of the surgeons in Grey’s Anatomy; the lives and many problems of Bree, Suzan, Gaby and the other desperate housewives living in Wisteria Lane or of two boys discovering that they are half-brothers in One Tree Hill.

Prison Break is also a famous television series. Created by Paul Scheuring, this American series is about two brothers in which one of them, Lincoln Burrows, is condemned to death penalty because of a murder he has not committed and the other, Michael Scofield, who tries to do everything possible to save him. The storyline is full of sudden changes, suspense also plays an important role during each episode. As far as the actors are concerned we have among others the handsome Wentworth Miller who embodies Michael, Dominic Purcell (or Lincoln in the series) and Sarah Wayne Callies the pretty doctor of the prison.

For those who have not yet begun to watch this series and who would like to, I recommend you the website gigiblog on which many series are free and available. (The most part of the episodes are in English so you can at the same time entertain yourself and improve your listening comprehension…)

Friday, April 27, 2007

Would you like to eat Vegemite ?

Vegemite is a dark brown, salty food paste that you get from yeast extract. This paste is eaten by Australians and New Zealanders who spread it on sandwiches and toasts and use it also in cooking. Vegemite was created in 1923 by Dr. C. P. Callister when he had to develop a spread from brewer’s yeast because there were problems of supplies of these imported yeast spreads after World War I.

The following ingredients are used to make Vegemite: brewers’ yeast extract, various vegetable and spice additives. The result is a really salty, slightly bitter taste. The texture of Vegemite is very smooth and can be compared to margarine. However, it is firmer.
You can buy Vegemite in Australia and New Zealand and also in other countries where there are large groups of Australian expatriates, but not elsewhere. Vegemite is therefore strongly associated with Australia, although it is not a “national food”.

Vegemite was copied from the British marmite, which is a similar successful product. As a consequence, Vegemite had to become more popular than its British model in Australia. The name “Vegemite” was changed to “Parwill” from 1928 to 1935 to try to achieve that aim. However, it was not really successful and the name became “Vegemite” again. Nowadays, it is the most popular spread in Australia.

‘G'day mate, how are ya?’

‘Good thanks mate! How are you?’

When you meet one of your friends, you can greet them either with ‘Good morning!’ or ‘Hello!’ or ‘Hi!’ or… – as the Aussies would say – ‘G'day mate!’ (usually pronounced /gə’dei/). This contraction of the Standard English ‘Good day!’ is particularly old-fashioned in British and American English and might sound a bit odd to you, though it is well-established and widespread in Australia (and New Zealand too). Meaning ‘Hello friend!’, this expression is part of slang language but can be perfectly used with any stranger.

Originally, the word ‘
mate’ referred to men (and was exclusively used by and between them). Losing gradually its root meaning, more and more women use it now to make reference to any men or women. It is worth mentioning that this word is closely linked to the concept of ‘mateship’, which “developed in the Australian goldfields, in the mines and the wheat and sheep farms of inland Australia”.[1]

During the industrialisation period of the country, work conditions were mostly bad, so that families and friends felt the need to help each other by sharing what they had, emotionally as well as materially speaking. In this context, the concept of mateship acquired a growing importance and had a certain impact on the
cohesion of all the ‘mates’. While ‘G'day mate’ involved at first various ideas of mutual respect, egalitarianism, solidarity against oppressive authority, equality, loyalty and friendship, it has now lost these core meanings to become a very common and traditional greeting.

Stéphanie, Vanessa & Larry


Fish and chips

Fish and chips is a typical UK take-away food. It consists of deep-fried fish in batter or breadcrumbs served with a portion of potato chips. Different types of fish are used: haddock and cod are the most common but some vendors also use other white fish such as pollock. One can trace back the origin of the fish and chips in the second half of the nineteenth century. At that time, it was a cheap and popular food among the working classes. At the beginning, it was wrapped into very absorbing papers such as newspapers. An interesting thing to notice is that fish and chips was one of the only product to remain unrationed during World War II. It is now one of the most popular take-away food in the UK, in New Zealand and also in Australia. Haddock and cod are mainly used in the UK, snapper in New Zealand and reef-cod and flake (a sort of shark) in Australia. Nowadays, there is in nearly every town a fish and chips shop. These are also called the chippies in modern English slang. The fish and chips shops sell 25% of the white fish that is eaten in the UK every year. As far as the potatoes are concerned, 10% of the UK’s production is eaten in the fish and chips outlets. Following a recent survey, one learns that the British eat 260 millions fish and chips in 8000 outlets every year, which represents half a million a week. As well as tea-time, this British invention is envied by the whole world!

Kylie Minogue: a great artist in a little body

Kylie Minogue was born in 1968 in Melbourne, Australia. She is not only known as a famous singer, but also as an actress and a songwriter. She collects awards since she began her career in the eighties. She started at the age of eleven when she was asked to play a role in an Australian soap opera, called Skyways. Six years later, Kylie Minogue appeared in the series Neighbours in which she played Charlene, a character that is still today the most popular on Australian television. In 1987, she received the Silver Logie Award for her performances on television and she recorded her first song Locomotion. The next year, she was awarded the Gold Logie Award that is given to the most popular personality on Australian television. While having new interests for music, she kept shooting movies. However, in the early nineties, her popularity began to decline and she decided to separate off from the British songwriters and producers Stock, Aitken and Waterman. Then, in 2000, her popularity began to rise again and the success of her provocative music videos brought her back to the celebrity status she had got previously. Kylie has always been the subject of intense media interest in both the UK and Australia, even during a period of lower success. After only four years of career in music, she entered the Guinness book of Records in 1991. Moreover, she was the only artist in the history of the pop-music to have thirteen songs in the top 10. A year later, she published a disc with twenty-two of her most famous songs, which became number 1 in England on the day it came out. Another interesting thing about this incredible singer is that she is regarded as a gay icon. Indeed, she “acknowledges” the gay community by singing at gay events and by supporting AIDS and gay right causes. In her native country, Kylie is the feminine singer who has attracted most people during her tour. The number of tickets that was sold in Australia for Kylie’s concerts was the highest in the history. In England, the capacity of the concert halls had been doubled in order to receive Kylie Minogue. Kylie had met her greatest public in 2000 when she sang during the closing ceremony of the Olympic Games in Sidney. The same year, her fans had discovered her album Light Years, which is now double deck record in England and fourfold deck record in Australia. With 60 million albums and singles sold all over the world, Kylie Minogue succeeded in becoming one of the most recognisable celebrities and sex symbols. Because of her height (154 cm), we can say that Kylie Minogue is a great artist in a little body!

Save the kiwi!

Is a kiwi the green fruit packed with vitamin c that we find in the supermarket? No! What you have in mind is called a kiwifruit.

The kiwi is in fact a small flightless bird, approximately the size of a chicken, only found in New Zealand. The kiwi is pear-shaped and has many mammalian features. For instance: its feathers are like hair, its skin is tough and leathery and it has cat-like claws at the end of its small wings.

Kiwis are monogamous, they can pair for life. The egg is so big that the female is unable to eat during the days preceding the laying: the egg takes 20% of the total weight of the bird. Its name comes from its shrill call: “kee-wee kee-wee”. Kiwis live in forests or swamps and eat worms, insects, spiders and snails. Why is this bird so odd? Its strangeness can be explained by the geographic isolation of the island. About 90% of New Zealand’s flora and fauna is unique.

It is assessed that this nocturnal bird has lived in New Zealand for 70 million years, but it is now endangered since mammalian predators have been introduced.

This bird only found in New Zealand has become the national symbol of the country. Kiwis are so linked to this nation that the New Zealanders are even called Kiwis. The name kiwi in reference to New Zealanders came into general use during WW1.
Despite the rarity of the bird, the symbol is omnipresent: on coins and stamps, on flags and on all kinds of products. The kiwi as a symbol first appeared on military badges in about 1886. Even the New Zealand dollar is often called "The Kiwi". The kiwi as an emblem can be found on the coat of arms and badges of many New Zealand clubs, organisations and cities.

The identity of the New Zealanders will, thanks to the Kiwi Recovery Programme launched in 1991, forever be linked with this strange bird.

Save the kiwi!

“And that’s the way it is.”

Had you been an American television watcher in the sixties, you would have recognised this picture as being one of a famous news anchor: Walter Cronkite.

Walter Leland Cronkite, Jr. was born on 4th November1916 in Missouri and raised in Texas. He studied between 1933 and 1935 at the University of Texas at Austin, but then dropped college to work on a series of reporting jobs. His official career as a journalist started with World War II, during which he was a well-known correspondent in North-Africa and Europe. He then covered the Nuremberg trials after the war. In 1950, back in America, he entered the young television division of CBS (Columbian Broadcasting System), which was one of the three broadcast networks of the country at that time. He worked there as a reporter until he became the anchorman of CBS Evening News in 1962.
There, he soon became a very popular journalist, considered as professional, and therefore a very influential figure in America. A first thing that made him popular was the little ritual sentence that he would say to end each broadcast: “And that’s the way it is.” His fame is though not to be reduced to one single sentence. Walter Cronkite is also acclaimed for his professionalism: he is perceived as being honest and objective, so that he was called “the most trusted man in America”. Moreover, he covered many important events. On 22nd November 1963, he was the first to break the news of the assassination of President Kennedy. Later, his perception of the Vietnam War has also had an important influence on the people’s mind: when he said that Vietnam War was unwinnable, President Johnson’s reaction was “If I've lost Walter Cronkite, I've lost Middle America.” Johnson’s quote says all about the anchor’s enormous influence.
Besides, Cronkite has always been very interested in science and space. During his career, he enthusiastically reported on U.S. space programs; and now he is still promoting space and science in broadcasts and productions. He was the first non astronaut to receive NASA’s Ambassador of Exploration Award.
Walter Conkrite retired on 14th February 1980, delivering a farewell speech during his last news broadcast. He has however not completely disappeared from the television world: the ninety-year-old man still gives lectures and makes television appearances.

At a time when television was beginning to dominate the news world, Walter Cronkite has been a leading figure of journalism. Today, he is still very much admired and his discourse is still very influential. He belongs to the fathers of modern news broadcast on television.

Pauline Degrave and Benjamin Terwagne

The maple leaf

There exist 150 species of maple tree worldwide, ten of which grow in Canada, where it has played an important economic role for a long time: it is useful for its food properties (that had already been discovered by the native Americans), but also for its wood, that can serve for many different purposes. The maple leaf very soon became a symbol of Canada, but how did it all happen?
Its first use as a symbol goes back to 1700, when gatherings were held in which Scottish, English and Irish immigrants would wear their national plant to be recognized. Those who didn’t feel the bond to their homeland or wanted to be considered as Canadians began to wear the maple leaf. Throught the 18th and 19th centuries, the use of the leaf as an emblem became more and more widespread: you could encounter it in many societies and on the coat of arms of Ontario and Quebec. From 1876 onwards, the leaf appeared on all Canadian coins until 1901 where it remained only on the penny.
The most important step, however, occurred when the maple leaf was used as a symbol for the new national flag. The desire to design a new flag appeared around 1925, but the project wasn’t reflected on very seriously until 1964. In that year a great debate arose in the government because the design of the previous flag began to create problems (it actually showed too strong a link with Great Britain). Prime Minister Pearson gathered a committee, who eventually chose the actual red (the official colour of English speaking Canadians) and white (the official colour of French speaking Canadians) flag with a maple leaf. Its first official use occurred on February 15th the next year, that is now annually celebrated as Flag Day.

In 1867, Alexander Muir wrote a song in honour of the emblem, Maple Leaf Forever, which became a sort of unofficial anthem of Canada: here follows the link to the related wikipedia article with the complete lyrics as well as an mp3 version of the song (in the section: external links)

Sylvie and Elise

Dr Who

Being one of the most famous science fiction television series in the United Kingdom, Dr Who has, with other series such as Star Trek and Stargate SG-1, contributed to the expansion of the genre. The growing popularity of science fiction gave birth to current series like Buffy the vampire slayer and to great movies such as Star Wars, which everybody knows.

The series was created in 1963 by Sydney Newman, C.E. Webber and Donald Wilson. It consists of 724 episodes of 25 to 45 minutes. The series lasted 26 years (so it ended in 1989...) but since 2005 it has been successfully relaunched on the BBC.

Dr Who is a mysterious character also called a “Time Lord”. He is an alien coming with his companions from the planet Gallifrey in order to solve all kinds of problems on earth. A special feature of the series is the fact that, the character of Dr Who being immortal thanks to his capacity of regeneration, he has been played by various actors who were physically different. Since the actors are not immortal, 10 of them have played the role succesively. The very first was William Hartnell and the current actor is David Tennant.

Of course Dr Who does not travel by car but with his “TARDIS” (Time And Relative Dimension(s) In Space). This machine has the particularity of changing its shape according to the environment. After its landing in London in 1963, it changed into a police box and because of some technical problems it has had to keep this appearance ever since.

The popularity of Dr Who comes from the fact that this series is a pioneer of the genre using the very first kind of special effects and electronic music. The series is also mentioned in the Guinness Book of World Records, which is due to the fact that it is, according to Wikipedia, “the longest-running science fiction television series in the world”.

==> test your knowledge of Dr Who...

Mary and Marie-Eve

John Wayne: an American icon

John Wayne, born Marion Robert Morrison in 1907, came from a poor American family, which originated in Iowa. They migrated to California where Marion was a normal pupil involved in many activities such as football. He then received a football scholarship at the University of Southern California. However, an injury forced him to give up his early athletic career and to find a job. Marion worked for production studios where he met John Ford. Shortly after, he appeared in his first film, The Big Trail, where Marion Robert Morrison became John Wayne. He acted in more than 175 films, his monumental film career lasting more than 50 years. He became Hollywood’s biggest and most durable box-office film star and won many Academy Awards such as the Oscar for ‘Best Actor’ for True Grit and ‘Best Picture’ for The Alamo.

John Wayne was considered as a real cultural icon in America and was given the status of a famous actor who symbolized American ideals and values. Since he chose roles which would not compromise his image on the screen, he refused to see a character shooting another one in his last film. Thanks to his visit in Korea during the war, Wayne became popular. He also became an icon for the U.S. Military, mainly due to the success of his movies. Furthermore, he supported conservative causes and the Vietnam War by using his iconic status such as in his film The Green Berets in 1968. The “war atmosphere” led him to produce this film containing an anti-war message. John Wayne had always been a supporter of the Vietnam War and claimed that this movie justified America’s involvement in the war.

This status as an American icon was officially recognized by the United States Congress, the legislative branch of the United States government, in 1979. He indeed received the award the Congressional Gold Medal which is the highest award given by the United States Congress. It is given to any individual performing a service for the national interest, security and prosperity.

Aurora & Elodie



The Shamrock

“The Shamrock, the unofficial symbol of Ireland, Boston and Massachusetts”[2], is known as being a three-leafed clover. The word ‘shamrock’ comes from old Irish ‘seamrog’ which means ‘trefoil’. Traditionally, Druids considered it as a sacred plant with magical power. According to a legend, the leaves of the clover stand upright when a storm is approaching. Nowadays, it is thought that the four-leafed clover – and not the three-leafed one - symbolizes good luck and that it brings happiness.

To understand why the shamrock is the symbol of Ireland, you have to go back to the fifth century AD. Saint Patrick, a Christian missionary, travelled around Ireland to preach the word of the Christian God. He plucked a shamrock at his feet to illustrate the principle of the Trinity. Each leaf represented each member of the Trinity, that is to say The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit. Another popular belief is that shamrocks keep snakes away, which is why there are no snakes in Ireland. Moreover it is said to be a remedy against snakebites and scorpion stings.

During the rebellion of Ireland against England, shamrocks became a strong symbol of Irish identity, to such an extend in fact that anyone who wore one exposed himself to death.

On Saint Patrick’s Day (17th March), shamrocks can be seen everywhere. People send shamrocks cards, they wear every possible forms of the green plant on them in order to assert their Irish identity.

The Shamrock (by Andrew Cherry)[3]
There's a dear little plant that grows in our isle,'T was Saint Patrick himself, sure, that set it;And the sun of his labor with pleasure did smile,And with dew from his eye often wet it.It grows through the bog, through the brake, through the mirelandAnd they call it the dear little Shamrock of Ireland(Irish Blessing)



The Bowler Hat

The Bowler Hat

The designers James and George Lock invented the bowler hat, first called "iron hat" for Thomas Coke, Earl of Leicester in 1850. They sent their design to the hat makers Thomas and William Bowler who produced that type of hat for Coke. Since then, the bowler hat thanks his name to the hat makers' family name, which coincides with the bowl-shape of the hat. It was used in order to protect the head from low branches during horse riding. Towards the end of the 19th century, its popularity was at its highest. It was made of hard felt and was the midway between the top hat – upper classes' hat – and the soft felt hats – lower middle classes' hat.

The bowler hat became an English cultural identifier and had at first two different meanings. On the one hand, it was associated with professional servants throughout England (a man wearing a bowler was thus assumed to be a butler) and with the working classes who worked as omnibus drivers, fish sellers, etc. On the other hand, it became the business uniform of London’s bank employees, lawyers, government officials, etc. Due to this image of “gentleman headwear”, the bowler hat became an English cultural icon and was adopted by famous British characters such as Charlie Chaplin, comedian in the early 20th century, Captain Peacock of the show "Are You Being Served?", Hercule Poirot, Laurel and Hardy, etc. The bowler hat also inspired the Belgian surrealist painter René Magritte and the English poet ASJ Tessimond, who wrote a poem called "The Man In The Bowler Hat".

In the 1960s however, Englishmen stopped wearing hats as part of their ordinary outfit and, as a result, young English people of the 21st century have never seen the bowler hat as a common trend. It is still worn, however, at some formal public events like the Armistice Day ceremonies. The few people who still wear bowler hats are divided into two groups: those who wear them for a specific job or activity, and generally elderly men, who wear them because they have done so for a long time. A small number of eccentric young people also wear them because high fashion revisits the bowler hat.

In many other countries, such as France and Germany for instance, the bowler hat was also worn, but under a different name, referring to its melon-shape. In the United States, it is known as derby hat. This name was given by an American hatter who sponsored it after noting its general use at the English Derby race.

The Mini: small on the outside, big inside

Towards the end of the 1950’s, the Suez Crisis created a fuel shortage in Great Britain and the need arose of a new kind of small car. In 1957, Sir Alec Issigonis designed the Mini at the request of the British Motor Corporation (BMC) in Birmingham. This new car had to be very small in appearance but spacious inside. The Mini has two doors, four seats and a large boot for luggage. The configuration of the Mini, characterized by transverse engine and front-wheel drive, would influence a generation of car makers. The story of the Mini started in the United Kingdom but its production rapidly spread all over the world. At the beginning, the Mini appeared under the brand names “Austin” and “Morris”. The first time the name “Mini” was used was in 1961.

In the 1960’s, the Mini became a real cultural icon and even a fashion statement. Most of the celebrities owned a Mini Cooper, including the Beatles, Enzo Ferrari, Clint Eastwood, Paul Newman and Brigitte Bardot.

This car also appears in several movies, such as Lara Croft: Tomb Raider.
The Mini has won a lot of awards troughout the years. The most noteworthy are “Car of the Century” in 1995 and “Number One Classic Car of All Time” in 1996.

In total, 5.3 million Minis have been sold since 1957. The Mini is “the most popular British car ever made”. There are several variants of the Mini, including the Mini Countryman, the Mini Van, the Mini Pick-up and also sports versions. These sporty kinds of Mini had a lot of succes as rally cars and even won the Monte Carlo Rally three times in the 1960’s.

In 2001, the production stopped and BMW took over the brand name to launch the New MINI, also called BMW MINI. The name is written in capital letters to distinguish it from the traditional Mini. Some people are very sceptical about this New MINI and think that it cannot replace the original Mini since it is not its natural successor. However, the majority of Mini drivers like the new car and even think that it is safer than the original one, according to the modern principles of manufacture. The BMW MINI is indeed larger and heavier than the classic Mini. Several models are available on the market. One example is the Mini Cooper Convertible, equipped with an automatic roof.

By Anne & Delphine

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Super Bowl

First played in 1967, the Super Bowl can be defined as the annual championship game of the National Football League (NFL) in the United States, which takes place at the end of January or the beginning of February.
After its creation in 1920, the NFL had to cope with rival leagues, such as the AFL (American Football League). The competition between these two leagues became so strong that ideas of fusion emerged. The first Super Bowl sealed the reconciliation between the two leagues: the champion teams of each league played against each other to consecrate the best team of the year. After the merger between the two leagues in 1970, the Super Bowl became simply the “NFL’s championship game”. Roman numerals are used to identify each game. (e.g. in 2007: Super Bowl XLI). The name “Super Bowl” was suggested by an important character of the American Football world, Lamar Hunt, whose children had a toy called “Superball”.
Another important figure in the history of the Super Ball is Pete Rozelle. He was an NFL commissioner and also at the origin of the fusion between the two leagues. Moreover, he was selected by “Time Magazine” as one of the hundred most important people of the twentieth century.
When the first two Super Bowls were won by a team from the NFL (the “Green Bay Packers”), it was feared that the AFL was not good enough. But the next year, the “Kansas City Chiefs” proved the contrary. 27 Super Bowls have been won by NFL teams, 12 by AFL ones and 2 by teams created after the merger (the winners of Super Bowl XLI are the “Colts”, the team of Indianapolis). The trophy awarding the champion team is called the “Vince Lombard Trophy”, Vince Lombard being the coach of the first team that won the Super Bowl.
The city that welcomes the event is chosen several years in advance and strict rules have to be respected, for example an average high temperature of at least 50°Fahrenheit (=10°C) in February, or a stadium containing at least 65,000 seats. The event takes place on a Sunday, called the “Super Bowl Sunday”. There is a strong competition between the cities to organize the event, since it is one of the most widely watched US television broadcasts of the year (with an average audience of 80 to 90 million Americans). It is so popular that there are pre-game and halftime shows and ceremonies, during which many popular singers and musicians perform (e.g. the Rolling Stones, Janet and Michaël Jackson). One might remember the scandal due to Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake’s performance, during which Miss Jackson’s breast was “accidently” - or was it a part of the choreography? – uncovered.
Companies that want to broadcast commercials between the games have to pay a lot. In 2007, a 30-seconds spot cost 2,6million dollars…

Margaux and Michael

An Australian polysemic word: the Outback

The word “outback” can refer to three different things.
Its first meaning is that of arid areas in Australia. First of all, it is important to differentiate between the outback and “the bush”. The latter is a rural area that can include agriculture and regional settlements. “Outback” is an unofficial term that is used to describe locations that are more remote than those referred to as “the bush”. It is also used as an appealing term for tourists. Indeed, the outback is typical and unique to the Australian landscape. Its main features serve the purpose of creating its mythical dimension. It has a specific fauna, of which feral camels and dingoes are typical examples (dingo movements even have to be restricted into the agricultural areas, hence the building of the “Dingo fence”). Stories of its exploration and settlement, and of men of those times, provide a particularly important contribution to the Australian mythical backdrop. Ned Kelly was one of those legendary men: he was an outlaw who resisted British authorities and various persecutors all his life, and died on the gallows for doing so. In addition to these features, the outback contains many tourist attractions and historic tracks, roads and highways.

Secondly, Outback is also the name given to the national football team in Australia. Football is a very popular sport in the country. Indeed, it is played in the 6 States and 2 Territories that form the continent.

Thirdly, we will briefly discuss the last meaning of “outback”. It was the name of a world music group that was founded in the late 80’s. Their music was a mix of traditional Australian tribal music and modern Western music.

Monty Python: team of well-educated clowns

Monty Python refers to the creators of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. It was a popular sketch comedy show first broadcast by the BBC in 1969. It was created by Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin. They had met each other at university and had decided to write and star in some British series. The Pythons played in four series containing in total 45 episodes. At the same time, they decided to shoot films. In sum, the group produced four films, of which the budget was very tiny. Monty Python’s Life Of Brian is the most controversial one because it tells “the story of a man mistaken for the Messiah - the eponymous Brian.”[1] According to the BBC, “the film was attacked by fundamentalist Christians who campaigned, successfully in some areas, to have the film banned. Despite (or perhaps because of) this, the film went on to be an enormous success.” The next film Monty Python’s The Meaning Of Life had also been criticized a lot by fervent Christians. Nevertheless, the team received the Jury Prize at the Cannes film festival.
The Pythons invented a new genre in comedy, which is called sketch comedy. It broke all the traditional rules, especially because of their use of the ‘segue technique’. The latter is the brillant use of stream-of-consciousness ideas built-up in a logical and rigid structure. Traditionally, punchlines [2] were used to finish a sketch. In contrast, the Pythons rather segued [3] from one segment to the next and integrated lots of funny ideas everywhere and not especially at the end of a sketch. (cfr.:
The Python phenomenon is undoubtedly not only confined to some sitcoms on BBC, but it also involves the release of films, several albums, books and a musical adaptation on stage.

[2] A punchline is ‘‘the final part of a joke, usually the word, sentence or exchange of sentences which is intended to be funny and to provoke laughter from listeners ” ( wikipedia).
[3] Segue means to make a transition from one thing to another smoothly and without interruption (


Lacrosse is a team sport very popular in Canada and is becoming more and more well-liked in the USA.
Lacrosse can be played either outdoor or indoor (box lacrosse).Women also have their own competitions. The aim of each team is to score goals. The stick is used to pass and catch a rubber ball. Each goal enables the team to gain one point, the team which has the most points at the end of the match wins. The field on which lacrosse is practised is a field of grass, artificial turf, or field turf which is 110 yards (100 m) long and 60 yards (54 m) wide. The field will be a bit smaller in indoor lacrosse. A team is divided through 3 attack men, 3 midfielders, 3 defenders and 1 goaltender. Even if today’s sport is less brutal than at its origins, pretty much all the parts of the player’s body need to be protected by equipment since “checking” (hitting opponents’stick or body) is allowed.
Nevertheless there are fouls for which penalty can be given: for instance, spending time in the penalty box for a personal foul (such as insults or not permitted strikes). As for a technical foul it will only be 30 seconds off the match. For women the rules are quite the same except that there are 2 more players. The other difference in comparison to men is that women’s lacrosse is less rough, so that they need less protective equipment. The time of play is also reduced in comparison to men.
The name “lacrosse” comes from french origin, the French word “crosse” is “a general word for any type of bat or stick used in a ball game”. The game was in fact invented by native North Americans. It is the oldest sport in North America: it first appeared in the fifteenth century among indigenous tribes. Yet it remaind unknown to the outside world until its discovery in the seventeeth century by French missionaries. This game was highly symbolical for Indians as it occupied an important part in their traditions. Sometimes the teams competing against each other happened to be rival tribes; consequently the game turned into violent fights. Yet, by the ninetenth century, rules were introduced and in the twentieth century colleges and universities began practising it. Several factors have been the trigger of the success of this sport. First of all the invention in the seventies of plastic heads for the sticks. In this way they were lightened, wich made the gameplay easier. Secondly, interest for lacrosse strongly increased in the late eighties, thanks to the amazing performances of the twin brothers Paul and Gary Gait. They were the first lacrosse players to achieve such a fame and this considerably contributed to lacrosse popularity. The game received large media attention and more and more players. Now lacrosse is getting known at an international level especially in Europe and east Asia. There is even a film round lacrosse to be released this year.
Jonathan and Nathalie

The Australian smash hit: Crocodile Dundee

Crocodile Dundee is a worldwide famous Australian comedy of love and adventure that was released in 1986. The two main roles are performed by Paul Hogan and Linda Kozlowski, who finally got married after the filming. The story is actually inspired by the exploits of the Australian Rodney Ansell who is well-known for having spent two months in the bush with limited resources. In the film, the central figure, Michael J. ‘Crocodile’ Dundee, is a crocodile hunter who is said to have survived a crocodile attack. This adventure makes him famous and he progressively becomes a myth. The rumour of Mick’s ordeal even reaches the USA, and a newspaper decides to send an journalist called Sue Charlton in order to interview him. Once there, she has to go on a trip in the bush with the famed adventurer, during which Mick protects her from every danger and even saves her life. Actually, the legendary exploits of the hunter turn out to be a bit overdone (if not a lot). After having spent three days together, they sympathize and Sue, who eventually has to go back, proposes him to follow her to discover New York. Mick, who has never left the Australian Outback, is confronted there with a total different way of life and feels like a fish out of water. After surviving to a new and unknown environment, the Australian hunter falls in love with the American reporter. However, he is disappointed because another man asks Sue to marry him, a proposal that she refuses. Verge on going back to Australia, Sue confesses him her love, she wants him to stay with her. The adventures of the couple carry on in two sequels, namely Crocodile Dundee II (1988) and Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles (2001).
Although this movie is regarded as an Australian emblem, it was not welcomed by the local population. Indeed, the comedy portrayes the Australian population as only living in rural and remote areas, whereas the majority of the inhabitants lives in cities and urban centres. The importation of the film in the United-States knew a huge success and Crocodile Dundee is still today an enjoyable entertainment for everyone.

Aurore and Amandine

'Stop this Punch and Judy politics!'

Puppet shows are part of worldwide folk drama tradition. They have often made young and old laugh by mocking society and conventions. In England the tradition started with the 'Punch and Judy show' when theatres reopened in the Restoration period under Charles II (1660). The figure of Punch (male chauvinist pig) discends from the Italian character Pulcinella in the Comedia Dell' Arte. Once in England, he took the name of Punch (a diminutive of Punchinello). Equivalents of Punch and Judy are, for instance, Kasper and Grete in Germany or Jan Klaassen and Katrijn in the Netherlands.

Punch embodies the Lord of Misrule and the Trickster figure found in all cultures. With his red curved nose, his hunchback he is a cunning clown who, in addition, acts like an anarchist. He traditionally takes pleasure in beating his wife, Judy, his child and the authorities (kills a lawyer, a policeman, etc.) without ever being punished. On the contrary, he would say: "That's the way to do it!" and even defeats the Devil himself at the end of the story saying: "Huzzah, huzzah, I've killed the Devil!"
Nowadays the 'Punch and Judy show' is mainly performed for children in shopping centres, at local festivities, schools, etc, whereas it used to be found in streets and later at seaside. However, Punch's outrageous and violent behaviour is still perceived by some critics as being immoral. Others would argue that, as an entertainment, the show has a cathartic effect on the audience. Even within the academic world, Punch's grotesque attitude leads drama scholars to ponder on the symbolical meaning of, for instance, his slapstick and other sexual interests the show can stimulate in adults.

This puppet tradition has led to a genre of its own namely the knockabout or slapstick comedy and Punch's expressions have also found their way into the English language. In fact, 'Stop this Punch and Judy politics' is used to express discontent towards politicians' everlasting quarrels which do not lead to any practical solutions. When we say 'Pleased as Punch' we mean to express our satisfaction or delight in the same way (or rather not!) as Punch experiences it when playing awful tricks and deeds.
Aline R. & Justine


McCarthyism is a movement named after its instigator, Joseph McCarthy. McCarthy was born in Wisconsin in 1908. As a senator, he developed the anti-communist ideas already defended by Smith. Anti-communist measures had existed in the United States since the forties. Mc Carthy’s movement was very popular during and after World War II, when people were afraid of the growing importance of the USSR and communism. A period of suspicion started in the US, which turned into a time of persecution of the alleged communists, who, at best, lost their jobs and, at worst, were executed. To achieve their purposes, the authorities, with the help of the FBI, used different ways, most of them illegal. A lot of people were denounced by acquaintances, even if not all of them were communists. Indeed, those measures also affected people with avant-gardist ideas or people who did not support the capitalist ideology. People suspected of being communists were listed on the so-called “black lists”, which could be sent to employers or booksellers, for instance. The former refused to employ suspected communists and the latter censored books defending dissident ideas. McCarthyism came to an end when those measures started to be applied to members of the army and of the government. A lot of people found that by searching state enemies among these institutions they had gone too far. McCarthy was finally dismissed by the Senate when all his measures became public and unpopular.

Paddy in short!

Paddy is the nickname of Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, but he is not only known for that. He is one of the most famous saints around the world, like Valentine or Nicholas. Just like for those other men of Church, the existence of Patrick is proved by remaining texts he wrote: a letter to Coroticus and his “Confessio”. However the legends around him are so spread that it is difficult to distinguish myth from reality.
Once upon a time in a small village in Scotland lived a deeply religious family in which a baby was newly born: Maewyn Succat. His story begins in 387 AD. Even though he was literate enough, he did not receive much education which he regretted all his life. When he was sixteen he was captured by Irish pirates who sold him as a slave. He had to herd sheep for six years during which he turned to God. Then he heard a voice telling him a ship was waiting for him and he left, believing it was God’s will. Despite many difficulties (the sailors’ refusal to let him come on board, lack of food, etc) God always heard his prayers and helped him.
While he was in France, he had a vision: a spirit from Ireland, Victorius, came to him with letters from the Irish asking him to come back and save them. He heard “the Voice of the Irish”. He arrived in Ireland in 432 AD and set up his mission of converting the Irish to Catholicism. For thirty years he used the Irish beliefs and rituals he had learned during his captivity, to introduce Catholicism to the pagans. Moreover he stood up against slavery and managed to put an end to it.
Patrick performed many miracles; here are two elements that made him famous. He used the shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity: three leaves on one stalk as three persons in one God. It became the national symbol of Ireland. He is also believed to have driven the snakes out of Ireland even if it has never been proved that these creatures were ever present on the island.
He is supposed to have died on March 17 around 460. This date has remained an important day for the Irish. It is celebrated every year as the national day during which many activities (parades, plays, concerts, exhibitions, markets, festivals) are held all over Ireland. Nowadays, on this occasion, people come out in the streets, all dressed up in green, quite similar to our mardi gras. Even if it is still Lent, Saint Patrick’s Day is an opportunity to drink alcohol and eat pork (also called Saint Patrick’s fish). Irish people make it a point of honour to celebrate this great man and drink to everybody's good health.
Flo & Aline

Peter Jackson

Peter Jackson was born on 31 October 1961 from English parents who emigrated to ‘dear’ New Zealand, a country that has played an important part in most of his films. Jackson was very much into Sci-Fi movies and started creating his own vampire films in his childhood. His first and particularly gory film Bad Taste helped him to gain recognition from professionals at the 1988 Cannes Film Festival as well as funding for his following creations. It was during the post-production on Bad Taste that Peter Jackson met Fran Walsh, the woman who would later become his wife and the mother of his two children. Jackson’s next film, Meet the Feebles (1989), is a Muppet Show parody starring a frog addicted to drugs.

In 1992, Jackson achieved a wider renown with his horror comedy Braindead. The eclectic director and producer also dealt with a real-life subject in Heavenly Creatures. This drama is based on a real murder performed by two girls on one of the girls’ mother which happened in 1954 in New Zealand. In 1995, Jackson released Forgotten Silver, a false documentary on an imaginary director that was screened on New Zealand television. The truth about this spoof was only revealed the following day. His 1996 film The Frighteners (starring Michael J. Fox) was not really a box office success but it allowed him to work in Hollywood.

In 2001, his many years of hard, non lucrative work were finally rewarded when he was asked to direct the Lord of the Rings trilogy. His adaptations of Tolkien's epic novels met with public as well as critical acclaim, and The Return of the King (part 2 of the trilogy) was obtained 11 Oscars. However, due to an ongoing legal dispute with New Line Cinema (the American society that owns the rights on the Lord of the Rings franchise), the film adaptation of The Hobbit, a prequel to The Lord of the Rings , will not be directed by Peter Jackson. Since 2005, Peter Jackson is also famous for his remake of the 1933 film King Kong.

Adrien & Guillaume.

Here follows short video shot after Peter Jackson got an MTV Movie Award for "The Two Towers".

Ruby and Cream, Black and White. Two distinct parts, One perfect pint.

We all know (hopefully!) what a Guinness tastes like but there are few who care about the origin of this beer as long as it stands shimmering and swirling in their glass. We, on the other hand, have decided to delve deeper into the history of this much appreciated and world-famous Irish product.

Let us educate ourselves with a bit of biographical background: Arthur Guinness was born in 1725 in Celbridge, Ireland. His father being already a brewer, Arthur was bound to have a promising future in this field. At age 31, he opened his own brewery in Leixlip, near Dublin. Three years later, he left the business to his younger brother and headed for the capital to set up a bigger one: St James’s Gate Brewery. Despite the problems he encountered, Arthur’s skills and utmost determination enabled him to overcome any obstacle and to be acknowledged as a professional. At first he was only interested in the brewery of traditional ales but in the 1770’s his attention was drawn to the arrival of a new beer known as the Porter. This dark beverage, directly exported from London, was improved by ten years of intensive work in Arthur’s brewery. In 1799 our favourite Irish brewer definitively abandoned the other ales and decided to focus exclusively on the porter. Perfecting it and renaming it after his own name, he gave birth to the Guinness stout. Arthur Guinness died in 1803, but his name and the beer associated with it did not: he had entrusted his son (originally enough named Arthur) with the brewery.

So much for history. It is now time to discover what a Guinness (not to be mixed up with Murphy's or Beamish) is made of.
Water, barley, malt, hops, and brewers yeast constitute its main ingredients. The Guinness owes its dark-ruby colour and characteristic taste to the portion of barley that is flaked, roasted and then added to the mixture which in turn gets pasteurized and filtered. The secret behind the smoothness of the beer is the low level of carbon dioxide, while its unique creaminess is due to the bubbles produced by nitrogen.
Despite prejudices (admittedly more often from female consumers), a pint (0.58 l) of Guinness only contains 198 calories, making it even less fattening than an equal-sized orange juice! Moreover, it is good for the heart, as it has been proved that it reduces harmful cholesterol.
All in all, there are some thirteen varieties of Guinness sold around the world, and about the same number of ways to mix it with other beverages. Largely enough to party all night without having to drink twice the same brew.

Crucial question: how to serve a Guinness?
How can we be clearer than the official Guinness website own words? In short, a Guinness Draught is best served at 6°C and it takes about 119.5 seconds to pour the perfect pint. But hey, as they say, "good things come to those who wait"!

Julie and Pitchou

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Oxbridge? What is it?

Oxbridge is a portmanteau of Cambridge and Oxford. It is used to refer to those two universities, which are the oldest universities in United Kingdom but also in the English-speaking world. The first occurrence of the word was found in a book written by William Thackeray called “Pendennis”. This book was published in 1849, but not until the 20th century did the term 'Oxbridge' become a common name. Many other portmanteaux were created such as “Doxbridge” and “Loxbridge”. The former refers to the sports tournaments for the colleges of Durham, Oxford and Cambridge. The latter refers to the cities of London, Oxford and Cambridge.

The two famous universities were founded seven centuries ago. Nobody knows exactly when Oxford was founded but it must have been in the 12th century. In 1209, a number of scholars decided to leave Oxford for an unknown reason. They gathered in a small town called Cambridge, where they founded the famous university. The flight of Oxford scholars to Cambridge can explain the friendly rivalry between the universities. Both universities want to be at the top of the national university league tables. About 35 000 people are now studying in Oxbridge. Those universities are so well-known that many British teenagers want to get in to them but not everybody is accepted. Many websites give advice to have more chance to be accepted to Oxbridge. Other websites refer to Oxbridge in a negative way, criticizing the traditional and elitist character of the universities and the behaviour of their students, who are only concerned with money, power and sex.

The meaning of the word “Oxbridge” has evolved and is nowadays used in many different contexts. Firstly, it may be used as an adjective to describe a student of Oxbridge but also someone who shows all the characteristics of Oxbridge (tradition and elitism). Moreover many companies are nowadays making use of this word to refer to their products: Oxbridge Baby, Oxbridge Cricket Ball Range, and so on. In 1984 it was even used in a BBC broadcast showing the life of of students at Cambridge and Oxford. Oxbridge was also used as a setting in some detective and mystery fictions.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Ivy League

"The Ivy League is an athletic conference comprising eight private institutions of higher education located in the North-eastern United States. The term has connotations of academic excellence, selectivity in admissions, and a reputation for social elitism".
The name of the Ivy League finds his origin in the
ivy plants that cover many of these institutions' historic buildings. The Ivy League universities are also called the "Ancient Eight" or simply the Ivies. The term was used for the first time by a sports-writer in 1933.
The Ivy League is thus composed by eight universities. These are: Brown University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania and Yale University. Those are most prestigious schools whose criteria’s of excellence are recognised all over the world.
The reputation of the Ivy is particularly predominant in the sport field. It began with the organisation of intercollegiate competitions between the different universities. Now all eight ivy schools are among the “top 20” of Division I national athletics (NCAA) in various men’s and women’s sports such as football, soccer, swimming, track and field, rowing, fencing, squash, basketball, hockey, etc. Athletics is even part of the educational programme of the students in the Ivy schools. Nevertheless sport is not the only preoccupation of the Ivy, rigorous academic standards, the nation's highest four-year graduation rates are also from huge interest for these institutions.
These institutions are thus among the best ones of the States. Seven of the eight schools were founded during America's colonial period; the execption is Cornell, which was founded in 1865. Ivy League institutions, therefore, account for seven of the nine colleges chartered before the American Revolution.
The long history of the Ivies forms part of their fame. They are very famous universities and it's often considered as an honour to study in one of them. As a result, the Ivy league has a reputation for social elitism. The Ivy League was specifically associated with the WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant) establishment and phrases such as “Ivy League snobbery” are often found in writings as a sort of criticism about the Ivy Leaguers who have even developed their own clothing style. Be that as it may, the Ivy League institutions are prestigious universities and an Erasmus stay (or more) in one of these institutions would delight more than one student of the English language.

Anaïs and Céline

"I love my gun"

NRA stands for National Rifle Association. It was created in November 1871 after the Secession War by two Union Army officers, Col. William C. Church and Gen. George Wingate, “who were upset about the poor marksmanship of their troops”[1]. The NRA claims on its website to have 4.3 million members[2] and its headquarters is established in Fairfax (Virginia). The association organizes and sponsors, among others, firearm safety training courses as well as marksmanship events involving shooting skills and other sports[3].

As far as the structure is concerned, the NRA is governed by a large board of directors, typically seventy-five members. The directors elect the president among their members, who is the leading spokesperson for the organisation. While this position was meant to change annually, Charleston Heston was an exception because he was in charge from 1998 to 2003. His longevity as the NRA president was probably due as much to his charisma (he was a famous actor) as to his enthusiasm to defend the NRA ideas. He
is now an honorary life member[4] and has recently been interviewed and mocked in Michael Moore’s famous documentary "Bowling for Columbine" (2002)[5].

The NRA, as being a
pro-weapon lobbyism, campaigns for the right to self-defence and personal protection as described in the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution (see Wikipedia link). This amendement was voted in 1791 at a time when the U.S.A still had no army. The text declares “a well regulated militia as ‘being necessary to the security of a free State’, and prohibits Congress from infringing on the right of the people to keep and bear arms”[6]. The interpretation of the NRA focuses on the last part of this Amendment, namely on the fact that civilians may carry weapons provided they are part of a ‘well regulated militia’. The problem lies in the interpretation of the term ‘militia’, which the NRA equates to “the body of citizenry at large”[7]. Since a ‘militia’ implies rules and regulations, a more objective interpretation would be to take it as meaning ‘an army’.

The NRA is considered as “one of the most influential political lobbies in the U.SA because of its ability to […] deliver large numbers of votes in elections, as well its record of campaign contribution”[8]. A recent example is the presidential election of 2000: George W. Bush is said to have won over Al Gore
in the states of Arkansas and Tennessee because of the NRA's campaign “on the theme that Gore would ‘take their guns’”[9]. When one knows which effects such a lobbyism can have, one understands certain things happening in the highest spheres of power.

Caroline and Xavier


Monday, April 23, 2007

Keywords and icons of anglophone cultures: Online and offline conference

As you may have been able to tell from some of the latest blog entries, it's assignment and deadline time! By the end of the week some thirty concepts relating to different anglophone cultures will have been discussed by BA2 and BA3 students. Topics include
  • for the United Kingdom: bowler hat, fish and chips, Doctor Who, Monty Python, the Mini, crumble, ribena, Oxbridge, Punch and Judy, David Attenborough
  • for Ireland: Guinness, Paddy, shamrock
  • for the United States of America: McCarthyism, John Wayne, superbowl, Oprah Winfrey, the Ivy League, Walter Cronkite, the NRA
  • for Canada: lacrosse, the maple leaf
  • for Australia: the outback, Kylie Minogue, Crocodile Dundee, ‘g’day mate’ and ‘mateship’, Peter Jackson
  • for New Zealand: the kiwi, the buzzy bee, vegemite
While some excellent sites already deal in some depth with these icons and keywords (most notably perhaps the wonderful Icons of England website), the aim here was to present the most interesting and noteworthy information based on a variety of sources in a concise text of about 200 to 500 words, with some relevant links and pictures and/or video excerpts.

Offline student conference

As a companion to the online conference, BA2 students will be presenting the results of their research in short presentations on Monday 7 May between 1 and 3 pm. Click on the poster to see a bigger image.

Get a buzz out of the Buzzy Bee’s buzzes... zzzzzzz!

Have you ever seen a child as busy as a bee with a Buzzy Bee? No? Then let us tell you all about this famous toy.

The Buzzy Bee is one of the many icons of New Zealand. Created by Hector and John Ramsey, it was first released in the mid 1940’s. It is a very famous pull-along nursery toy. Made of wood, it comes in bright colors and represents a honey bee. As you pull it along by its string, the wings go round and round and it makes a clicking noise. The faster you go, the louder it gets.

The Aukland brothers first started by producing wooden homeware. They then made toys and their first release was the famous Mary Lou Doll in 1941. It was immediately a great success. Afterwards other wooden characters such as the Buzzy Bee came out. The sale of the Buzzy Bee increased rapidly after the post-World War II baby boom. A that time, couples that had been separated by the war could reunite which resulted in many births. In 1989, even Prince William of Wales was seen playing with the toy, which gave it free publicity.

In the 70’s, there was a fire in the factory where the Buzzy Bee was originally produced, and the Buzzy Bee operation was sold to different companies. It was then sold to the Lion Rock Ventures Limited (a company that specializes in commercialization) which still owns it today.

John Ramsey was instrumental in designing the Buzzy Bee and sourcing the native timber – Tawa – from which it was made. The material has changed several times. The original wings tended to damage children’s teeth. They were thus replaced by plastic ones in the late 60's. The Buzzy Bee has remained pretty much the same in appearance since the 1990’s. It has had to undergo changes due to safety regulations though. It has furthermore always been entirely assembled in New Zealand.

The Buzzy Bee has given rise to a wide array of by-products from jigsaws and story books to mobiles and underwear. In addition, stories and songs for toddlers have been published featuring the Buzzy Bee as the main character. The commercialization of these products in the world shows how much this little wooden toy has influenced children and parents over time.

Deborah and Na
tassia :-)


Ribena is a blackcurrant syrup manufactured by Carters, a Bristol-based food and drink company. The drink was first commercialized in the 1930s. The name Ribena comes from the Latin Ribes nigrum which means blackcurrant. During World War II, the government produced large quantities of cordial, a non-alcoholic sweet drink made from these berries. The drink was then given to the population for free and blackcurrant syrup has remained popular ever since.

British citizens have been drinking Ribena for 70 years, which makes this beverage a landmark in British gastronomy. More than 750 million bottles are sold through the UK every year, giving to this brand the fourth place on the drink market. The United Kingdom also exports this famous drink to more than 20 countries around the world.

The ingredients contained in Ribena gave rise to several debates. Researches have shown that there is only 5% fruit in the final product. The rest consists of artificial colouring and suger. In addition, Ribena is supposedly rich in vitamin C. However a schoolgirl from New Zealand has discovered that the level of vitamin C was lower than announced. This story was broadcasted on television and aroused controversy. Even newspapers such as The Guardian reported this alarming discovery.

Ribena is available in a large variety of flavours : Cranberry, Blackcurrant, Strawberry, Apple, Orange and Blueberry. It can also be used for cocktails such as King of Denmark or Pernod. What is funny is that a vampire TV show used Ribena as false blood. Consequently, if you have nothing to do during the exam period, you can always drink Ribena and try to imitate vampires.

In conclusion, it can be maintained that Ribena, even after having suffered from various attacks, is still very famous in Britain and has kept its popularity all over the world.