We’ve had some very mild weather recently in Quebec City. A rainy day in the middle of winter melts the snow at an accelerated rate and creates widespread fog over the region. Just before nightfall, this weather phenomenon combined with road traffic and the imposing trees on Grande-Allée prompted me to take a photo from the moving car. Digital processing was then applied to achieve the desired effect.
Here’s another shot of rue Saint-Louis in Old Quebecin the rain in the middle of winter. I took the photo at the end of 2023, when the Christmas decorations added a little cheer for lack of snow, which is fairly rare for Quebec City. Many tourists had to readjust their plans for outings with children during this period.
The photo above shows two ferries shuttling between Quebec and Lévis through the ice in winter 2024. It doesn’t take much to immobilize a ferryin ice, but this year the layer is fairly thin due to a very mild January.
Bonhomme Carnaval regularly strolls along the Dufferin Terracein Old Quebecto greet passers-by, and he never fails to attract many curious onlookers who rush to give him a hug. Further along the terrace is the famous slide, so popular with tourists. You have to queue for a long time before you can get your place on a toboggan.
The photo above shows the Dufferin Terrace slide in the early evening. I used a tripod to keep the ISO at 200 for a sharper image.
You can see the fun in the children’s and adults’ eyes when full speed is reached. For the photo above, the focus was taken on a precise point on the slide before the festival-goers were visible in the camera lens. When people reached the predetermined spot, I triggered the shutter. This made it easier for the autofocus system to focus on a fast-moving target.
This passer-by faces the high winds near Quebec City’s Dufferin Terrace. Behind her, the Québec Winter Carnival is advertised, taking place between January 25 and February 11, 2024. The ad invites people to get outdoors, using a local expression: “Déguédine pis sors“, which roughly translates as “Stop procrastinating and go play outside!
Tourists have started arriving in Old Quebec for Carnival. It is not easy to find everyone’s luggages, but the bus driver is having a crack at it, literally.
Frédéric Pierucciis a senior executive at Alstom, a gigantic French energy company. Thanks to a US extraterritorial law (FCPA Foreign Corrupt Practices Act) which allows the US government to prosecute any foreign firm targeted for corruption, he was arbitrarily arrested in 2013 as he got off the plane in New York.
Pierucci had not received any money from these operations, but he was aware that Alstom was targeted for embezzlement and that the company used “intermediaries” to secure contracts. He was incarcerated for months, and Alstom finally abandoned him, believing that the Americans would be satisfied with the imprisonment of this high-ranking executive. Pierucci must now try to extricate himself from the quagmire into which he has been plunged.
Even if he is not directly implicated in the bribes, the American justice system wants to pressure Pierucci into revealing details that would incriminate Alstom’s management, including CEO Patrick Kron. Pierucci’s harsh judicial treatment is also intended to intimidate the firm’s other top executives, showing them what awaits them if they do not cooperate in rectifying past mistakes.
The primary aim seemed to correct unfair schemes that were damaging American companies and, by the same token, to obtain very substantial monetary compensation. The operation was a success: the effects of Pierucci’s arbitrary arrest paved the way within a few years for the sale of a strategic Alstom subsidiary to General Electric, its main competitor.
The maneuvers also allow to obtain information that would otherwise remain confidential. This U.S. extraterritorial law works well and is used to attack numerous corporations around the world, including the German international group Siemens. Each time, the offender is obliged to pay substantial fines and must submit internal documents considered confidential or even secret to the prosecutor.
It’s hard to know who exactly will have access to these documents. Is it possible that agents (we won’t call them “spies” for the sake of politeness) are passing on trade-secret information to people working outside the U.S. Justice Department? Such actions would enable American companies to improve their competitiveness at little cost. But these are questions that the executives of the targeted companies are asking themselves.
Be that as it may, not everything in this story is squeaky clean. Author Matthieu Aron writes: “In autumn 2018, after Frédéric [Pierucci] was finally released, we finished our book. But again, it was not without difficulty. The day after we sent our manuscript to our publisher, my home was ‘visited’ and my computer disappeared. Simple burglars, spooks, or action by a foreign service? We’ll probably never know.”
My view on the subject.
China is watching and learning.
The effectiveness of this American extraterritorial law has not escaped the attention of China, which is planning to devise a similar law that would allow it to lay its hands on otherwise inaccessible information and archives.
Faced with these two behemoths, the United States and China, Europe has fallen behind, and it too will have to create its own law enabling it to extend its judicial power outside the continent. For no one is fooled: bribes to obtain contracts involve multiple countries. Prosecutions under extraterritorial legislation give access not only to large sums of money, but also to documents containing important data and possibly industrial secrets.
The Alstom experience will at least have had the effect of better preparing France for the moment when, a little later, the giant Airbuswas targeted for malfeasance by the same American law. Airbus manufactures not only airplanes, but also many strategic military products protected by secrecy. This time, the widespread collection of the company’s confidential information was refused, without a French citizen being named as intermediary and the documents handed over to the Americans being reviewed to ensure that they did not contain military secrets or other information not directly related to the corruption charges.
Today, Airbus is a great success, selling more aircraft each month than Boeing, which is experiencing difficulties with the way it builds its aircraft. And we have every right to believe that senior management at Airbus has improved its business practices.
“When you’ve got nothing left to lose, you can take all the risks…”. This is the sentence [translated] on the back of the comic strip “13 h 17 dans la vie de Jonathan Lassiter” (13:17 in the life of Jonathan Lassiter), which best sums up this French-language work published in 2023.
Jonathan Lassiter works as an insurance agent in Keanway, a small, remote town in Nebraska. Overnight, his wife leaves him, he loses his job and his wallet is stolen. In short, his life suddenly takes an unexpected turn. He has two choices: either he feels sorry for himself, or he changes. His chance encounter with Edward, a “distinguished, cultured and cynical” man, forces him to take a stand.
It was the quality of the graphics that caught my eye. This isn’t one of those publications where you wonder whether the design can be done in a month, and which pretends to be original through the absence of detail, and therefore of work. A great deal of effort went into this album, and it shows at first glance.
It’s got it all: the judicious choice of angles, the refined, masterful drawing, the skilful maintenance of atmosphere through well-dosed, under-saturated colors, the well-crafted script. This comic strip keeps the reader’s interest from start to finish, with no downtime.
The main character reminded me of the famous actor Vincent Price.
It didn’t start well. Right from the start, the director was unable to convince well-known actors to get involved in his film. In turn, actors such as Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino, Robert Redford and James Caan refused to join the adventure. Coppola continues his research and interviews.
As readers, we go behind the scenes of the production and hear from those close to the filmmaker. Filming begins in the jungle of the Philippines, even though Coppola has no idea on how the film will end. This would haunt him throughout the production, causing him sleepless nights when he was already quite exhausted.
Cost overruns followed, and the pressure on the director from financial backers increased. He was asked to complete his film as quickly as possible, which he proved unable to do. Coppola came to guarantee the required funds by pledging to pay off the debt himself if box-office receipts failed to reach $40 million.
In addition, it was taken for granted that the U.S. government would provide the helicopter gunships required for the film’s action. But in the aftermath of the Vietnam War, the interest of American politicians in such requests waned. The director had to turn to the then President of the Philippines, Ferdinand Marcos, to obtain helicopters and personnel, in return for certain fees and compensation. But these aircraft sometimes left the scene on Marcos’s orders to go hunting for the regime’s enemies. Coppola was falling behind again…
They thought that Harvey Keitelwould be the ideal actor to play Robert Duvall. Many sequences later, the obvious becomes clear: the man just didn’t cut it for a number of reasons. On the verge of disaster, they urgently contacted Martin Sheen and beg him to replace Keitel. Multiple scenes had to be reshot with the new actor, and the delays and associated costs continued to mount.
All sorts of other pitfalls awaited the director and his crew throughout the shoot, including the language barrier with the Filipinos and a storm that destroyed the set. The widespread use of drugs and alcohol by staff and helicopter pilots didn’t help matters either.
The mosquitoes, the heat and Coppola’s constant demands took their toll on the actors. Martin Sheen fell seriously ill, and his brother had to be used for some of the secondary scenes. Rather than use only actors to simulate deaths, a staff member went to the morgue and returned with a corpse. This prompted the arrival of the police force, and the problem was solved with generous sums of money.
There were many other factors that delayed the end of the shoot and increased costs. Marlon Brando’s demands were a case in point. They managed to get him back on set for an extra day, provided that he received $70,000 more than planned.
Shooting finally ended in 1977. The team chartered a private plane to fly 381 kilometers of original film to the United States. Editing the film proved to be an ordeal. There was too much material to analyze. In 2001, Coppola presented a modified version of his original 1979 production. In 2019, he finally delivered a final 182-minute version, Apocalype Now “Final cut” , more than forty years after the initial release.
Earnings met the director’s expectations, and he ultimately won his bet. In all, the film generated $140 million from a total budget of $30 million.
On the way to Matane, a stop at Parc national du Bic is a must. The unique morphology of the region immediately catches the eye. We photograph this scene from the promontory set up at the park entrance. In early September, the deciduous trees take on an orange hue. These colors provide an interesting contrast to the bluish background.
A wooden staircase recently built along the Matane beach could not withstand the onslaught of storms. The same thing happened at Percé several years ago, when ice movement quickly destroyed a superb promenade erected for tourists.
We need to rethink seaside construction in the light of climate change.
Some forty birds move together in search of food on this Matane beach. I captured the scene with aCanon EF 11-24mm f/4 USM zoom lens. When motionless, these birds blend in perfectly with the surrounding rocks, as shown in the photo below. There are no fewer than thirty-four of them on the ground.
A final shot shows the river’s discharge onto the shore at each tide. I imagine that someone could make use of these sea products by transforming them into something marketable. Bretons are already doing this successfully on Ouessantin France for certain types of seaweed.
Through drawings and superb photographs, this graphic novel recounts the events that contributed to the creation of Magnum, the famous international photography agency.
Before Magnum, there were only photographers trying to make a name for themselves and earn a meagre living in the face of media giants like Time. These big companies reframed original images, did not recognize copyright and made gigantic profits on the backs of photographers like Robert Capa, David “Chim” Seymour, Gerda Taro, Henri Cartier-Bresson and George Rodger. It was in reaction to this abuse that these photographers created the new agency.
The book makes us aware of the enormous risks involved in bringing back images of the world’s various conflicts. Robert Capa and Gerda Taro lost their lives in the heat of the action.
Magnum’s evolution, its internationalization and the change in its primary vocation are brought to life. From an initial focus on war coverage, photographers gradually turned to diversifying their activities, to accommodate the specific needs of both the media and film productions.
The agency now protects them from abuse. However, photographers remain mindful of the need of support from contractors to survive financially. Still, they reserve some leeway for pure creativity, depending on each photographer’s personality and the mood of the day.
Keeping this agency alive, made up of professionals with different ambitions, is no small task. There are crises, schisms and reinventions, all essential to the evolution of this internationally renowned institution.
For those who know nothing about Magnum, this graphic novel offers a very accessible first approach.
Gou Tanabepresents H.P. Lovecraft‘s masterpiece “Les montagnes hallucinées” (the French version of “At the Mountains of Madness”) as a two-volume manga. Leafing through Lovecraft is in itself a journey into the strange, but to do so by starting at the end of a book and reading from right to left adds to the weirdness of the experience.
This transposition of Lovecraft into manga is a success. And the statistics prove it. The 382 reviews left on Amazon show clear customer satisfaction, with a total of 4.9/5 stars at the time of writing.
I normally prefer color comics and graphic novels, but the black-and-white interpretation of Lovecraft’s work is a perfect match for the fantasy world into which Tanabe plunges us.
Lovecraft makes a phantasmagorical work credible by integrating a well-balanced mix of real and fictional elements into the plot. Unless you’re an archaeologist and paleontologist yourself, it’s hard to tell which data really belong to science. This helps to frame the reader. You recognize moments of pure imagination, but you’re still hooked.
I put myself in the shoes of someone who lived in Lovecraft’s time, when Antarcticawas still a mysterious continent, unexplored in its entirety. A story filled with elements of fiction would gain in credibility, while no one could really confirm or deny some of the author’s statements.
In “Les montagnes hallucinées”, we read about sailing, aviation, extreme weather and survival in icy, isolated spaces. Readers witness the problems experienced by the various crews exploring Antarctica. The scientists’ increasingly startling discoveries force them to make risky decisions that plunge them into an unknown world. In short, themes that still appeal to most people today.
The two volumes total around 650 pages, which can be flipped through with interest in a single day, since many plates include no text at all.