Thursday, March 13, 2008

It's keywords & icons time again

The latest instalment of what is developing into a series of online conferences on keywords and icons of anglophone cultures has been taking shape on this blog over the past few days (see also the announcements of the first and second instalments in the series). Topics this time round included
  • for the United Kingdom and Ireland: Rolls Royce, The Women's Institute, Jeremy Paxman, and Baileys;
  • for the United States of America and Canada: John D Rockefeller Sr, Sunset Boulevard, Chevrolet Corvette, and poutine;
  • for Australia and New Zealand: Clive James, The Flying Doctors, Ned Kelly, and Edmund Hillary.

Offline student conference

As a companion to the online conference, BA3 students will be presenting the results of their research in short presentations on Monday 17 March between 3 and 5 pm. Click on the poster to see a bigger image.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Flying Doctors

The flying doctors is an Australian drama series based on the everyday interventions of the RFDS, which stands for Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia. This service provides health care and emergency assistance to the people living in the Outback (understand the remote areas of Australia).It was created in 1928 by Reverend John Flynn , an Australian priest who deplored the lack of medical help for the sick and injured of the Outback.
Although he was tipped off by a soldier (who unfortunately did not witness the institution grown out of his original idea, as he was KIA in France in 1918), it was him who developed the necessary means for the project to take form. Indeed, he combined medicine with two budding technologies, namely the radio (replacing the then most common way of communicating: the telegraph) and the aircraft. This resulted in the first air ambulance service in the world. According to recent statistics, the RFDS helps on average 600 patients each day, its 50 aircraft covering 45.000 km per day. And all of that for free, since it is a not-for-profit organization. That is why the first few decades were tough, financially speaking, and the service relied heavily on volunteer support and donations. The government also gave Flynn’s people a helping hand from time to time, but not until the 1960’s did it become an established practice. Not surprisingly, it is around that time that the RFDS began to purchase its own equipment and to employ its own pilots and engineers, eventually becoming this much respected Australian icon (which, as the smart ones among us will have noticed, celebrated its 80th anniversary this year).
Anyway, to return to our muttons, it is the series we are talking about. The flying doctors is actually the informal name given to the members of the RFDS, and as has been said above, it basically revolves around the everyday missions of the Australian medical service, only much more romanticised (after all, love stories between doctors do not exclusively happen in House MD ). The programme ran from 1986 to 1993, with an effort to revive the declining ratings in that last year, in vain. However, it was quite successful during those seven years, its 221 episodes having been broadcast in over 50 countries. And more importantly, it also helped popularising the real RFDS, which resulted in an upsurge in donations to this worthy organisation.
Sybille & Pitchou

John Davison Rockefeller

John Davison Rockefeller, born in 1839 in New York, managed to fulfil his childhood dreams, namely, to become a wealthy and philanthropic man. Indeed, when he was sixteen he already promised to give 1/10 of his fortune to charity. In 1873 he founded the Standard Oil of Ohio which encountered an immediate success and became one of the largest shippers of oil and kerosene in the United States. As time went by the company absorbed the majority of his competitors so that it gained almost complete control of oil production in the United States. In 1882, he set up the Standard Oil Trust which was one of the world's first and largest multinational corporations. This multinational brought advantage to people: kerosene products were cheaper, of better quality and more available. But it should be noted that his policy was also criticized by journalists and politicians and as a consequence of the various press campaigns against him he became one of America's most hated men. He remained at the head of the Standard Oil Company until 1911 which also corresponds to the date of the multinational’s dissolution. He ended his career with a fortune estimated to $900 million.

Aside from his career as a leader of the petroleum industry he devoted his time to philanthropy. His donations and his organization (General Education Board) were aimed at promoting education at all levels everywhere in the country. He also founded the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research which later became the Rockefeller University. More generally the main objectives of his foundations were to support public health, medical training and the arts.

To conclude, John Rockefeller had two great ambitions, namely, to reach a fortune of $100,000 and live until his 100th birthday. It would be an understatement to say that his first wish came true since he died with a fortune estimated at 1.4 billion dollars which made him one of the wealthiest men in the world. As for his second wish only three years were missing because he died in 1937. John Rockefeller is a perfect illustration of the American dream. Indeed he belonged to the working class but managed to reach a place among the icons of the United States.

Cindy & Jonathan

Clive James

Clive James is a versatile Australian cultural icon who is born in Sydney in 1939. He studied in Sydney and became literary editor for the student newspaper Honi Soit. After his graduation he worked one year as assistant editor of the magazine page of the Sydney Morning Herald.

In 1961 he moved to England. In London he shared a flat with Bruce Beresford. Three years later he managed to enter Cambridge University where he read English literature. During that period he also became president of the Footlights and wrote lyrics with Pete Atkin, who was also involved in the Footlights. Clive James received a second degree and wrote a PhD on Percy Bysshe Shelley.

From 1972 to 1982 he worked as a television reviewer for The Observer and wrote his weekly column. Next to that he also performed on television in programmes like the Granada Television pop music show and Clive James on TV. He got more and more attention of periodicals such as The Listener and the New Statesman and he was nicknamed after his first book: The Metropolitan Critic. In the same period he wrote Peregrine Prykke's Pilgrimage through the London Literary World.

In 1979 he wrote the first volume of his autobiography: Unreliable memoirs which was reprinted about 60 times. It was soon followed by three other volumes: Falling towards England, May week was in June and North face of Soho. Each volume represents a particular periods of James’ life; the first part is about is upbringing in Australia, the second is about his moving to England, the third is about his life at Cambridge University and the last volume is about the period between his stay at Cambridge University and today.

In addition to this he also wrote novels (e.g. The silver castle), and poetry (e.g. The book of my enemy). He also was interested in travel writing and introduced the postcard style on television. At the same time he wrote series like Fame in the 20th Century which was distributed in most of the English speaking world (through BBC, ABC and PBS network). In 2007 he presented the BBC radio programme Point of View and now he concentrates on the development of his personal website.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A sweet creamy drink galvanized by whiskey taste…

Baileys is the first liqueur to blend cream and whiskey. It combines two Irish traditions: dairy farming and distilling.
It was in 1972 that R. & A. Bailey from Gilbeys of Ireland had this revolutionary idea. However, they were impeded in their endeavour since cream and whiskey do not mix naturally. But the recipe was perfected and Baileys was finally launched in 1974 by Gilbeys of Ireland. Diageo, that now owns the trademark, argues that the unique and smooth taste of Baileys Original Irish Cream is fundamental to its success.

Baileys has become extremely popular since it was introduced. The production of 2005 has reached 6,7 million 9 litres cases. In addition, Baileys is sold in 130 countries and 2,260 glasses are drunk every minute of every day. This widespread popularity is mostly due to the large promotion attached to the brand. Indeed, strong investments are made in advertising. At the moment, the campaign of Lewis and Kelly is being broadcast around the world. It shows the couple on different occasions enjoying Baileys with friends.

What is the secret of Baileys’ delicious taste?
Baileys is a liqueur which combines Irish cream and whiskey. The milk used to make this cream is preciously selected from specially chosen Irish farms sheltering somewhat 40,000 cows. These cows are kept outdoors, where they enjoy the fresh air for nine months of the year and are fed with the green and fine grass found almost everywhere in Ireland.
The second essential ingredient of Baileys, the whiskey, was discovered by the monks almost 10,000 years ago. Not surprisingly Ireland was the first country getting the licence to distil whiskey in 1608.
To prevent the separation of whiskey and cream during storage, Baileys makers use an emulsifier containing refined vegetable oil. During the process of emulsion, cream and whiskey are mixed: one substance is dispersed in the other.
The last step in order to get the original taste of Baileys is to mix chocolate flavour, caramel and sugar with the cream and the whiskey. The exact quantities of these three additional ingredients are kept secretly.
The drink has a shelf life of 24 months: the whiskey alone is sufficient to preserve the cream.

How to serve Baileys?
The Irish cream can of course be drunk by itself; but there are more fancy ways to appreciate the drink. Blended Baileys, Baileys Latte, Baileys Over ice and Baileys Shaken with ice are easy to prepare and can be served and enjoyed at every moment of the day.
Finally, remember to drink Baileys responsibly since it has an alcohol percentage of 17 %.

Marie- Amélie and Julie

Jeremy Paxman

Jeremy Paxman was born on 11 May 1950 in Leeds. He wrote non-fiction books, but he is mainly known as a TV presenter. After having graduated with a Master of Arts, Jeremy began his career on a local radio. Then, he worked in Belfast as an investigating journalist before joining the BBC in London in 1977 to work as a reporter on Tonight. Two years later he became a reporter on Panorama, traveling to places such as Beirut and Uganda. Five years later he received an invitation to present the Six O’Clock News, which he accepted and presented for two years before moving to Breakfast News in 1986. He became a presenter of Newsnight, which is his current job, in 1989. He also presented other TV and radio programmes, such as “Did you see?”, “University Challenge”, “You Decide” and “Radio 4's Start The Week”.

He won several awards, such as the Interview of the Year award for his questioning of Michael Howard (1998), the Broadcasting Press Guild's award for Best Performer (Non-Acting), or the Royal Television Society TV Journalism Presenter of the Year award (2002 and 2007), and many others. He was also elected the fourth scariest celebrity on television in a Radio Times poll. A lot of people find him scary because of his incisive and aggressive interviewing style. Tough questioning is so characteristic of him that it is often called “Paxmanesque” in the United Kingdom.

One of his most famous Newsnight interviews took place on 13 May 1997. His victim was Michael Howard, to whom he asked the same question no less than 12 times. Howard gave a qualified and evasive answer each time. Paxman later admitted that he was trying to prolong the interview because the next item was not ready. After the General Elections in 2005, Paxman interviewed George Galloway, a winning candidate, asking him the following question: “Are you proud of having got rid of one of the very few black women in parliament?” Paxman refused to go further until he got the answer, so Galloway put an end to the interview.

He also showed his brusque manners in other contexts. For example, when Newnight decided to broadcast weather forecasts instead of financial reports, he reacted, saying “And for tonight’s weather – It’s April, what do you expect?”.

Paxman had his own puppet, which made regular appearances between 1984 and 1996 on the satirical TV show “Spitting Image”. He also appeared in films (e.g. “Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason” (2004)) or in British TV shows in which he was asked to play his own role. There is also a funny anecdote about his surname. The BBC genealogy series “Who Do You Think You Are” reported that his ancestor from the 14th century, Roger Packsman, was a politician who had changed his name to Paxman (“man of peace”) in order to impress the electorate.
Morgane & Michael.

Monday, March 10, 2008


If you think of the Russian president when hearing the word “poutine”, you are right, but poutine also happens to be the perfect example of Canadian comfort food (food that makes you feel better). The dish consists of French fries topped with cheese curds and covered with gravy (a brown sauce made by adding flour to the juices that come out of meat while it is cooking).
The origin of poutine is uncertain. Different areas of Eastern Canada claim to be the birthplace of the dish. Yet, the chosen version is the one related by the inhabitants of Warwick, a town in Quebec. According to them, the creation of poutine can be traced back in 1957 in a little restaurant The Laughing Elf, runned by Ferdinand Lachance. One day, a take-out customer ordered French fries and cheese curds in a bag and asked Lachance to mix them. The restaurateur was rather surprised and said: “ Ca va faire une maudite poutine” (“That’s going to make a damn mess”). From then on the name has remained in English too and poutine became a popular dish. The word poutine is slang for mess in Quebec French.
In order to make poutine more of a gastronomic food, Martin Picard, a successful chef from Montreal, changed some of the ingredients. For instance, he added foie gras to the dish. At first, some chefs were ashamed to prepare it because it was looked down upon as being junk food only to be eaten late at night after a party. But thanks to Picard, poutine is now becoming more and more appreciated as a standard menu.
There are many variants of poutine, one of them is the Italian poutine, which replaces gravy by Bolognese sauce. Another example is the Greek poutine, which consists of fries, feta cheese and a warm Mediterranean vinaigrette. You can also find some restaurants in Montreal, which serve more upscale Poutine with three-pepper sauce, Merguez sausage, foie gras or caviar and even truffle.
Poutines are found with a wide range of styles; they are sold by fast food chains such as McDonald’s, KFC and Burger King and popular restaurants serve them as well. It is easy to prepare at home (it only takes 25 minutes) and it is also a popular dish in high school cafeterias and at ski resorts.

Nathalie Blouard

de Broux Eléonore


The Rolls Royce

Defined as a luxurious car, the Rolls Royce first appeared at the Paris Salon of 1904. As its name indicates, two major men contributed to its production, namely Charles Rolls and Frederick Henry Royce. The latter is the designer of the car. Interested in engineering since his childhood, he was by 19 at the head of his own manufacturing company and created the first model of Rolls Royce in 1903 on the basis of the Decauville. He began to sell a few of his cars but his business only flourished after his meeting with Charles Rolls. Indeed they agreed that while Royce produced the car, Rolls had the exclusive rights to sell it.

From 1906 to 1922, the sole model produced by the newly founded Rolls Royce company was the Silver Ghost. Showing a mighty capacity and a quiet engine, it was described by the Daily Mail founder as “the best car in the world”. The company was soon well known all around the world and extended to the United States where the business prospered. Unfortunately, Rolls died in a flying accident, leaving Royce at the head of the company. The latter continued to work and created aero engines while a certain Johnson produced the cars. A new model came out after the first World War, namely the Phantom. In 1931, the Rolls Royce company acquired Bentley, a famous sport cars manufacturer and its former rival. Two years later, Royce passed away which prevented him from knowing the alliance’s success.

Today, the Rolls Royce car company is owned by BMW and prospers independently from the areo engine company. Needless to say that this extremely luxurious car is a privilege for those who can afford it. Indeed, buying the latest model, the Rolls-Royce Phantom Coupe, revealed in Geneva on February 17, would cost you 614.850 € - the price of a house! But what could be the reason for such a high price? Maybe it is the little Rolls Royce mascot’s presence on the top of the bonnet that can be retracted into the car bonnet by means of a button for safety reasons. This stainless steel figurine, called the Spirit of Ecstasy, represents a woman leaning forwards with her arms outstretched behind and above her. It symbolizes "The spirit of the Rolls-Royce, namely, speed with silence, absence of vibration, the mysterious harnessing of great energy and a beautiful living organism of superb grace..." (

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Sir Edmund Percival Hillary

Sir Edmund Percival Hillary was born in 1919 at Auckland, in New Zealand. During his youth he was shy and hid himself behind his books and his dreams of adventure. He began to be interested in climbing when he was 16 during a school trip to Mount Ruapehu which is located in New Zealand.

In 1939 he achieved his first big climb when reaching the top of Mount Ollivier, in the Southern Alps of New Zealand. At the beginning of the Second World War he joined the air force and in 1943 he joined the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) as a navigator.
In 1951 he became a member of the British reconnaissance expedition which had as purpose the climbing of Mount Everest. In 1953 he finally reached the top of Mount Everest with Hunt as leader and 399 other people.

They climbed via the Nepal-side and set their first camp in March 1953 and their final camp a few days before reaching the summit. When they set the final camp the climbers had to reach the summit within two or three days otherwise bad weather could force them to descend. The group in which Edmund Hillary took part succeeded in reaching the summit of Mount Everest on 28th May. They spent only 15 minutes on the summit.

Hillary became more and more popular and was made Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1953, he also became a member of the Order of New Zealand in 1987 and a Knight of the Order of the Garter in 1995. He also received the Polar Medal due to his participation in the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition. Nowadays there are also schools, streets and organisations in New Zealand which have taken his name. For example: Hillary College in Otara and Edmund Hillary Primary School in Papakura.

In 1992 Hillary was such an icon for New Zealand that he appeared on the $5 note; thus making him the first New Zealander to appear on a bank note during his life. This is of course against the traditional conventions which normally used portraits of dead icons. In 2003, he became an honorary citizen in Nepal for the 50th anniversary of the climbing of Mount Everest. He was the first foreigner to receive this honorary citizenship. The same year, a statue of Sir Edmund Hillary was erected at Mt Cook village, in New Zealand. He died in January 2008.
Charlotte and Aurora

Friday, March 07, 2008

Sunset Boulevard

The term “Sunset Boulevard” can refer to several things: a street, a film, a musical and a song. In this short presentation we will mainly focus on the street and the film.
First, Sunset Boulevard is an icon of the Hollywood legend. This famous street in Los Angeles connects Hollywood to Malibu. It also passes through Beverly Hills and Bel-Air, among others. The boulevard is 22 miles long, which corresponds to 35 kilometers. From this street, tourists can contemplate the sunset on the Pacific Ocean, hence its name. The streets in Los Angeles are usually straight, but this one is particular because there are many curves. This winding form sometimes leads to car accidents and often to traffic jams at rush hours. Since the 1970s, a part of the Sunset Boulevard has had the reputation of being a “prostitution street”. For the anecdote, it was in this street that Hugh Grant was caught with a prostitute in a public place and he was arrested for lewd conduct. What can you find in Sunset Boulevard? The most famous part of the street is Sunset Strip, the nightlife centre in Los Angeles. The University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA) is located there too. Finally, Sunset Boulevard is also known for its many music shops.

Second, “Sunset Boulevard” is the name of a film launched in 1950, directed by Billy Wilder. The two main actors are William Holden and Gloria Swanson. Let’s start with a short summary. It begins with the view of a dead man, Joe Gillis, lying in a swimming pool. The rest of the film is based on his flashback of the last six months of his life. Joe Gillis was an unsuccessful screenwriter. By chance, he met Norma Desmond, an ex-star of the silent cinema. As they both wished to achieve fame again, she proposed him to make a new film with her. He agreed, but very soon became financially dependent on her. Things got complicated when Norma told Joe she had fallen in love with him. Hearing this he left her and went to a friend’s where he met Betty. Joe was told that Norma had tried to kill herself and decided to go back to her, but carried on his secret romance with Betty all the while. Norma discovered it and threatened to commit suicide. Joe did not take it seriously. Furious and jealous Norma shot him and he fell dead in the swimming pool. The media arrives to report the sudden death of the screenwriter. Norma, lost in imagination, acts as an actress in a new film. Her dream to appear on the screen again has finally come true, but in an unexpected way (final scene). The film was named after the famous Sunset Boulevard because the street appears in several scenes and the whole story takes place in the surroundings of the boulevard. The film shows the devastating influence that the studio system of Hollywood can have on stars.
Anne & Delphine

Thursday, March 06, 2008

The Women's Institute

The Women’s Institute (WI) is an organisation which has been present in the UK since 1915 and which today counts more than 205,000 members all over England, Wales and the Islands. There also exist such independent organisations in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Initially, the Women’s Institute Movement was a Canadian one, founded at the very end of the 19th century (1897), but it spread in the UK especially during WWI when women were encouraged to produce more food. The preoccupations of the WI have evolved over the time and the changes that it has brought. The current goal of the WI is to help women to get a more important voice of their own in the fields of education and to defend issues which are important for them and their communities. They have also started several campaigns, as, for instance, the “Climate Change Campaign”, the “End Violence Against Women Campaign”, “Love Food Campaign”, campaigns about renewable Energy and so on. If you feel like supporting one of these issues or the many others they defend, take a look at their official website and who knows you will maybe want to become an active member of this association...

The Women’s institute is nowadays the largest women’s organisation in UK, where it has been for long an institution, but it is mainly since 2003 that it has become famous in the rest of the world thanks to the film “Calendar Girls”. This film tells the true story of the Rylstone Women's Institute in North Yorkshire, whose members decided to change the traditional themes of their annual calendar and to pose nude instead. Their goal was to sell as many copies as possible in order to raise funds for the hospital where one the members’ husband, John Baker, who suffered from leukaemia has just died. The photographs represent the naked women performing the activities that they teach at the Women’s Institute. It turns out that the calendar becomes a best-seller and to make almost one million dollars of benefits for the local hospital.
Maud Michel & Anaïs Noël

Sunday, March 02, 2008

An all-American legend: the Chevrolet Corvette.

(By Justine Vanderschueren and Vincent Guillaume.)

In this article we will deal with the legendary Chevrolet Corvette, the very first all-American sports car.

The first series of Corvettes (C1) was produced from 1953 to 1962. Only 300 cars were made in 1953, all of them meant to be offered to VIPs (presumably for prestige as well as testing purposes). In 1955 the 6-cylinder motor was replaced by a more powerful V8 engine. As for the 1958 model, it is considered to be the flashiest Corvette ever.

The C2 line came out in the 1960s. In 1963, a model of Corvette called “Corvette Sting Ray” was designed, which was for the first time available in a coupé variant. This car did dynamic improvements such as the introduction of a four-wheel independent suspension. According to the Motor Trend, the new Corvette was "far in advance in both ride and handling of anything now being built in the United States".

C3 models were put up for sale from 1968 to 1982: they featured a new design, which had the nose lower to the ground and carried a quite muscular look. In the 1980s, despite the facts that general automobile sale numbers were low, that the price of the Corvette was constantly rising and that the new models had lower performances, the C3 generation sales remained quite good.

The years 1983 to 1996 were the time of the C4 generation. Among others, three famous C4 models were the ZR-1, the Grand Sport and the Collector Edition. The ZR-1 was an ultra-high performance vehicle which resembled another powerful car, the Lotus. In 1996, the Grand Sport and the Collector edition were released; the latter had a specific purpose, namely the commemoration of the C4’s final year.

The C5 line was produced from 1997 to 2004. Two special editions resulted from this fifth generation: the Z06, a kind of retrospective model (with respect to the C2 generation), and the C5-R, a racer. In 2003, the Corvette’s 50th anniversary was celebrated: this event led to the restoration of many Corvettes and to a gathering of 10,000 Corvettes at the National Corvette Museum (Kentucky).

As far as the C6 models are concerned, there are currently three of them: the Chevrolet Corvette C6 Coupé, the Chevrolet Corvette C6 Convertible and the Z06.
The Chevrolet Corvette is also one of the “Bond cars” featured in a 007 movie, namely “A View to a Kill” (1985), the last Bond movie starring Roger Moore. After discovering the evil plans of the villain, Max Zorin (Christopher Walken), James Bond escapes with the KGB agent Pola Ivanova, who drives a Corvette.