Right to Humor Trumps Sarkozy’s Lack of Humor

October 29, 2008

Today, a French court rejected President Nicolas Sarkozy’s demand for a ban on a Sarkozy voodoo doll released by French company K&B earlier this month. According to BBC, the Paris judge ruled that the doll was “within the authorized limits of free expression and the right to humour”.

The voodoo kit includes a manual, a doll emblazoned with some of the president’s more memorable quotes (including “Get Lost You Pathetic Asshole” and “Work More To Earn More”), and pins for users to stick into the doll.

Sarkozy’s lawyer had argued that like any French person, Sarkozy owned the right to his own image, which was violated by the sale of the doll. According to the Guardian, the highly litigious president has been ridiculed by his critics for launching the legal action — his sixth lawsuit since his election. The doll has become a must-have.

Earlier this year, Sarkozy and wife Carla Bruni won a case against Ryanair for using their image in a Paris newspaper ad without permission. Sarkozy has also launched a legal case against another company that produces novelty T-shirts bearing his name and a target sign, saying “Sarkozy Tolerance Zero”.

Whatever happened to Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité ?

Photo: Franck Fife/AFP/Getty images
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Chanel Mobile Art Container by Zaha Hadid Opens in Central Park

October 20, 2008

“Mobile Art”, a slick UFO-like exhibition space designed by architect Zaha Hadid and commissioned by Karl Lagerfeld of Chanel, has arrived at Central Park’s Rumsey Playfield (off Fifth Avenue and 69th Street). The traveling container for about 20 Chanel-inspired projects (very kindly misbilled as contemporary art installations — don’t be fooled: it’s corporate branding) by a rotating list of international producers will be open to the public from October 20 to November 9.

The promotional-spectacle-disguised-as-art container is on a two-year worldwide tour. Launched in Hong Kong in February 2008, it traveled to Tokyo before arriving in New York. In November, it continues onto London, then Moscow, and finally Paris in 2010. (These stops probably represent the fashion house’s most lucrative markets, yes?)

Adrian Benepe, NY’s Parks & Recreation Commissioner, is ever-eager to further the corporate takeover of public space, aka public-private partnerships:

Our partnership with Chanel continues the great tradition of bringing world class cultural offerings to New York City’s parks… Zaha Hadid’s traveling pavilion will place a futuristic work of architecture and outstanding works of contemporary art in an historic setting in the heart of Central Park. The contrast will be fantastic, melding the vision of one of the world’s most important fashion houses with the beauty of one of the world’s most significant works of landscape design.

Bruno Pavlovsky, Chanel’s Fashion President, is ever-eager to equate the company’s products with art:

Mobile Art was conceived as a project that examines the relationship between contemporary art, fashion and architecture. The project pushes the boundaries of the Chanel aesthetic by joining these mediums and creating an innovative artistic experience. As envisioned by Karl Lagerfeld, the project explores the role fashion plays in the everyday life of women through symbolic evocations of the Chanel quilted handbag.

ACK. In the midst of today’s economy, this recalls Marie-Antoinette’s response when she was told that the French had no bread to eat: “Let Them Eat Cake!”


A Few Firsts: Gay Prides in India, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, and Havana

June 29, 2008

While NYC kicked off its 38th annual gay pride march yesterday, other cities were celebrating — or fighting for — their first. Another striking illustration of how uneven sociopolitical landscapes get across borders.

In India, gay rights supporters came out in the streets of Calcutta, Bangalore and New Delhi. Some wore masks, fearing persecution and violence yet wanting to participate. Activists called for an end to discrimination, seeking the “right to love”.

According to IHT, the marches are happening just 3 days before the Delhi High Court is expected to hear arguments on overturning a law against homosexual sex that dates to the British colonial era.

While India does not explicitly outlaw homosexuality, the 1861 penal code enacted by the British colonial government rules that “carnal intercourse against the order of nature between any man, woman or animal” is punishable by imprisonment of 10 years to life.

The Guardian reports on these other firsts:

Czech Republic
A gay parade in the country’s second largest city, Brno, was delayed on Saturday when the marchers were attacked by a group of rightwing extremists, who were shouting abusive slogans and throwing eggs.

The march was delayed by about an hour and took an alternative, shorter route than had been planned, under police protection.

Bulgaria
Extremists throwing rocks, bottles and petrol bombs attacked Sofia’s first gay pride parade on Saturday. Police say that they blocked the extremists from harming the 150 or so people in the procession through the city. About 60 people were detained for harassing the participants. Bulgaria’s Orthodox church says the march should be banned as it undermines the country’s Christian traditions.

Havana
Cuba’s first gay pride parade was abruptly cancelled last Wednesday.

The unofficial march, organised with Florida’s Unity Coalition, was not sanctioned by Cuba’s National Centre for Sex Education, which is headed by Mariela Castro, daughter of President Raúl Castro.

Imagine that.

So, we continue to fight until everyone’s rights are equal. This is not a gay issue. It’s a human rights issue.


Usher: Life for Sale on eBay Not Worth $2 Million

June 25, 2008

This past Sunday, heartbroken Ian Usher opened up an eBay auction for bids on his entire life’s property in Perth. In less than 24 hours, the bidding frenzy had raised the top price to over $2 Million (AU$1 = US$0.96). Interestingly, the next day, Usher decided to let common sense — not greed — rule. His property, it seems, isn’t worth THAT much. Good for him.

Realizing the eBay system was allowing non-registered bidders to place potentially fake bids, Usher issued a statement yesterday:

Apologies to all, but I guess there are a lot of bored idiots out there…

…after a long day on the computer, I have decided to pull all bids back as far as the first registered bidder, and the price is back to A$155,000 as I write this … we are back in the land of common sense and reality, so it’s over to you.

We’re happy to report that as of this posting, he now has 58 solid bids, with a top bid of over AU$383,000. We’re definitely rooting for Usher.

Which leads us to a thought-provoking NYT Op-Ed piece by Paul Krugman, posted coincidentally on the same day Usher put his home, his property all on eBay. Going against the grain, Krugman asks: Why is owning a home so integral to living the American Dream? Why is homeownership equated with having a “vital stake in the future of our country” (as the Bushites are pushing us to believe)?

Krugman writes about U.S. policies that historically favor homeowners. Non-homeowners are pretty much second-class citizens. But, he argues that we should recognize that homeownership has major risks. One of them being: Homeowners are rendered immobile by their homes. They can’t move around as much or as fast.

Which brings us back to Ian Usher. By the end of the auction, he will no longer be a homeowner. And he will have sold everything he owns. But he will have gained a fresh start. This is the future: letting go, feeling free.

Some might call it the audacity of hope. Go, Usher!


A Life for Sale on eBay

June 23, 2008

Does everything have a price? Apparently so. Ian Usher, a 44-year-old Englishman living in Perth, Australia, has had enough of his life. So he’s selling what he feels has defined his life up to this point: 3-bedroom home (valued at AU$400-420,000) and all its contents in Perth, car, motorbike, jetski, kitesurfing gear. Introductions to his friends. His lifestyle. Even a trial stint at his job at a carpet store.

Usher has published the details on http://www.alifeforsale.com and is holding an eBay auction that ends this Sunday, June 29th. As of this posting, his eBay listing (which opened Sunday) already has 115 bids. The current bid is at AU$2.2 million (approximately US$2.1 million).

Why? Apparently, a broken heart. Usher says he married “the best girl in the world”, but was “blindsided…by a shocking and awful discovery.” He doesn’t specify. He does say this though:

I now live alone in a house that was being built for us to live in together…I am still surrounded by all the memorabilia of our years together… Everything in my home is a reminder of the wonderful past we shared.

So, after a year in this house I decided that it is time to sell it and move on.

What next?

Upon completion and settlement I will walk out of my home for the last time in just the clothes I am wearing, and carrying only my wallet and passport.

My current thoughts are to then head to the airport, and ask at the flight desk where the next flight with an available seat goes to, and to get on that and see where life takes me from there!

Considering that Usher expected to get just £185,000 (US$365,000) according to BBC, he’s not doing badly. Perhaps people facing foreclosure might adapt his strategy. Why just sell the house? Hey, throw in the whole deal. And the personal narrative too.


India’s Female Feticide: Sexism Before Birth

June 21, 2008

As India grows into one of the world’s largest economies, it continues to exterminate one of its most crucial assets: women. BBC cites a report by a UK charity today:

…increasing numbers of female foetuses were being aborted and baby girls deliberately neglected and left to die.

Under “normal” circumstances, there should be about 950 girls for every 1,000 boys… but in three of the five [research] sites, that number was below 800.

Sadly, better technology may be a factor. Using ultrasound results, families are aborting female fetuses because females are considered economic burdens. This cultural preference for boys is so pervasive that adult women themselves consider the pre-selection “a rational choice”. Others are simply forced by family pressure.

Female feticide is banned in India. And the prejudice against women is certainly neither new nor unique to the country. But many hoped that better education, greater prosperity, and a stronger middle class would gradually shift this cultural bias. Not the case.

In a CBC article from 2004:

The opposite seems to be happening. The rate of girls to boys is lowest in the wealthiest states and neighbourhoods. In the Punjab, one of the richest states in India, there are only 793 young girls for every 1,000 boys.

The BBC article today has bleaker statistics: in one research site in Punjab, there are just 300 girls to every 1,000 boys among higher caste families.

inda childrenWhich goes to show: more money and more education aren’t always the solutions.

Equality — not wealth — is a basic human right that we need locally and globally. As Jacques Ranciere taught: equality is not a goal to be attained. It is our starting point, the very axiomatic point of departure.

Photo: New Delhi family by Trey Ratcliff or stuckincustoms on flickr

Man Arrested for Hiding in Woman’s Couch

June 20, 2008

Last month in Fukuoka, Japan, a 58-year-old woman was arrested for living in a 57-year-old man’s closet. This evening in Newburgh, NY, NYT reports that a 27-year-old man was arrested for hiding in a 22-year-old woman’s couch.

The trespasser, David Joe Limones, had cut a hole in the couch, hid in the carved-out space, and waited. When the woman came home, she sat on the couch, felt a bump, and jumped up.

Luckily, the woman had telephoned a friend who stayed on the line as she entered the apartment. Apparently, she had filed a complaint against Limones earlier and was worried he might be there. What do they say about a woman’s intuition.

The friend called the cops and Limones now faces burglary and other charges. Creepy. Is this a trend?