Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Important Neglected Artists, No. 16

Jos Albert


Jos Albert was born in Brussels, Belgium, on May 22, 1886, into a family of artists. He began his studies at the Académie de Saint-Josse-ten-Noode in 1903 where he trained as a painter. He married Louise Méchant in 1908 who became his favorite model. A year later his only son, Emile, was born.

In 1912, the year he left the Academy, he was awarded Gold medal. His early works  (between 1909 and 1918) show the influences of both Impressionism and Fauvism. In 1914,  Albert was invited by a group of Fauves from Brabant to take part in their last exhibition at the Salon de la Libre Esthétique in Brussels. In 1919, he spent three months in Paris. On his return, he took up a teaching post at l’École de Pierre Logelain in Brussels (until 1927). In 1920, Albert settled permanently in Brussels-Uccle where he bought a small house. He lived there until the end of his life. Albert embraced Cubism and Expressionism for a few years. One of his major works of that period, Nature morte aux poissons,1922, is today in the Musée de Grenoble. In 1923, he had an exhibition at the influential Brussels avant-garde gallery, Le centaure. By that time, he had turned towards Realism, the style he favored for the rest of his life. The featured painting, Le Déjeuner (1926), is considered one of his masterpieces. Albert died on October 8,1981.

Albert is renowned for his interiors, still lives, landscapes and subjects of daily life. His paintings show great precision of the line and a meticulous treatment of details. He is regarded as the pre-eminent Belgian realist painter. During his lifetime, Jos Albert was one of the most treasured artists in Belgium. His paintings can be found in every major Belgian museum as well as in many public and private art collections.

*         *        *


The Supper

Snowy Landscape

Still Life

Still Life



Le Gateau de la Rois

Still Life

The Eggs

Still Life with Flowers

Church in Brabant

Still Life with Eggs

The Aberljkirt te Grimbergen

Winter in Brabant 

Monday, September 28, 2015

Ideas to Ponder, no. 2: Life and Death

All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first, the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms.
Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress' eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon's mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

*         *          *

from WilliaShakespeare's Macbeth

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
Signifying nothing.

*        *         *

from William Shakespeare's Hamlet

To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them: to die, to sleep
No more; and by a sleep, to say we end
The heart-ache, and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to? 'Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep,
To sleep, perchance to dream; aye, there's the rub,
For in that sleep of death, what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause. There's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life:
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,
The pangs of despised love, the law’s delay,
The insolence of office, and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? Who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscovered country, from whose bourn
No traveler returns, puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have,
Than fly to others that we know not of.
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er, with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pitch and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Quotes by Yogi Berra

Lawrence Peter "Yogi" Berra (1925 - 2015) was an American professional baseball catcher, manager, and coach who played 19 seasons in Major League Baseball (1946–63, 1965), all but the last year for the New York Yankees. An 18-time All-Star and 10-time World Series champion as a player, Berra had a career batting average of .285, while compiling 358 home runs and 1,430 runs batted in. He is one of only five players to win the American League Most Valuable Player Award three times. Widely regarded as one of the greatest catchers in baseball history, he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972.
A native of St. Louis, Berra signed with the Yankees in 1943 before serving in the U.S. Navy in World War II. He was one of seven managers to lead both American and National League teams to the World Series. As a player, coach, or manager, Berra appeared in 21 World Series and won 13 of them. The Yankees retired his uniform number 8 in 1972 and honored him with a plaque in Monument Park in 1988. Berra was named to the MLB All-Century Team in a vote by fans in 1999. For the remainder of his life, he was closely involved with the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center, which he opened on the campus of Montclair State University in 1998.
Berra, who quit school after the eighth grade, was also known for his unintentional and humorous malapropisms as well as pithy and paradoxical quotes.

Yogi Berra

*          *          *
I never said most of the things I said.
It ain't over till it's over.
It's like deja-vu, all over again.
You better cut the pizza in four pieces because I'm not hungry enough to eat six
When you come to a fork in the road, take it.
If you don't know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.
Baseball is ninety percent mental and the other half is physical.
A nickel ain't worth a dime anymore.
The future ain't what it used to be.
Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded.
You can observe a lot by watching.
I wish I had an answer to that because I'm tired of answering that question.
It was impossible to get a conversation going, everybody was talking too much.
He hits from both sides of the plate. He's amphibious.
I'm not going to buy my kids an encyclopedia. Let them walk to school like I did.
You should always go to other people's funerals; otherwise, they won't come to yours.
I never blame myself when I'm not hitting. I just blame the bat and if it keeps up, I change bats. After all, if I know it isn't my fault that I'm not hitting, how can I get mad at myself?
Congratulations. I knew the record would stand until it was broken.
If the world were perfect, it wouldn't be.
I usually take a two-hour nap from one to four.
Half the lies they tell about me aren't true.
I'm a lucky guy and I'm happy to be with the Yankees. And I want to thank everyone for making this night necessary.
If people don't want to come to the ballpark, how are you going to stop them?
It ain't the heat, it's the humility.
Okay you guys, pair up in threes!
I'd give my right arm to be ambidextrous.
It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future.
You have to give 100 percent in the first half of the game. If that isn't enough, in the second half, you have to give what's left.
It's getting late early.
He must have made that before he died.
Even Napoleon had his Watergate.
If you can't imitate him, don't copy him.
I just want to thank everyone who made this day necessary.
Ninety percent of all mental errors are in your head.
We have deep depth.
I don't mean to be funny.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Three Poems by Raymond Knister

Biography of Raymond Knister

John Raymond Knister was a Canadian poet, novelist, story writer, columnist, and reviewer, was known primarily for his realistic narratives set in rural Canada. Knister was a highly respected member of the Canadian literary community during the 1920s and early 1930s, and recent criticism has acknowledged him as a pioneer in establishing a distinctively modern voice in Canadian literature. 

He was born at Ruscom (now part of Lakeshore), Ontario. Knister attended Victoria College at the University of Toronto, but had to drop out after catching pneumonia. He worked on his father's farm until 1923. In 1919 Knister began writing and publishing stories and poems about Canadian farm life. He worked in 1922 and 1923 as a book reviewer for the Windsor Border Cities Star and the Detroit Free Press. He moved to Iowa in 1923 to become associate editor of literary magazine The Midland in Iowa City for a year. During the same time he took courses in creative writing at Iowa State University. 

By 1924, Knister was a taxi driver in Chicago, as well as a reviewer for Poetry magazine and the Chicago Evening Post. "In 1926 he moved to Toronto, where he freelanced; his work appeared in the Toronto Star Weekly and Saturday Night." In Toronto he became acquainted with writers Morley Callaghan, Mazo de la Roche, Merrill Denison, and Charles G.D. Roberts. 

Knister had work published in the Paris literary magazine This Quarter in 1925. In 1926, Knister put together a collection of nature poetry, Windfalls for Cider. Toronto's Ryerson Press accepted the book for publication, but later had to cancel because of the company's finances. 

Knister married Myrtle Gamble in 1927. They had one daughter, Imogen, born in 1930. 

In 1928, Knister edited the anthology, Canadian Short Stories. The Encyclopedia of Literature in Canada (2002) calls the book a "trend-setting anthology." And, he published his first novel, White Narcissus, in 1929. The book is still in print as part of McClelland & Stewart's New Canadian Library series of classic Canadian literature. 

In 1931, Knister moved to Montreal, Quebec. There he became acquainted with the poets of the Montreal Group and with poet Leo Kennedy, he began planning an anthology, similar to his Canadian Short Stories,of Canadian modernist poetry, an idea that eventually resulted in the  book New Provinces in 1936.

In 1932, Ryerson Press, which had picked up the rights to My Star Predominant, offered Knister a job as an editor. Before he was to begin working there, Knister drowned in a swimming accident on Lake St. Clair while on a picnic with his family. In a memoir published in the 1949 Collected Poems of Raymond Knister. Livesay maintained that Knister had committed suicide. His wife and daughter strongly disputed that allegation. His second novel, My Star Predominant, was published in 1934. He is buried in Port Dover, Ontario. His poem, Change, is inscribed on his tombstone

*         *          *

Poems by Raymond Knister

Reverie: The Orchard on the Slope
by Raymond Knister
Thin ridges of land unploughed
Along the tree-rows
Covered with long cream grasses
Brown sand between them,
Blue boughs above.

Row and row of waves ever
In the breaking;
Ever in arching and convulsed
Roll of muddy sea between;
Low clouds down-pressing
And pallid and streaming rain. 

*       *       *

by Raymond Knister

1. I shall not wonder more, then,
2. But I shall know.

3. Leaves change, and birds, flowers,
4. And after years are still the same.

5. The sea's breast heaves in sighs to the moon,
6. But they are moon and sea forever.

7. As in other times the trees stand tense and lonely,
8. And spread a hollow moan of other times.

9. You will be you yourself,
10. I'll find you more, not else,
11. For vintage of the woeful years.

12. The sea breathes, or broods, or loudens,
13. Is bright or is mist and the end of the world;
14. And the sea is constant to change.

15. I shall not wonder more, then,
16. But I shall know.

*        *        *

Plowman's Song
by Raymond Knister

Turn under, plow,
My trouble; 
Turn under griefs
And stubble.

Turn mouse's nest,
Gnawing years; 
Old roots up
For new love's tears.

Turn, plow, the clods
For new thunder.
Turn under, plow,
Turn under.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Religion in American Politics

The U.S. presidential is not until November, 2016, but it is full swing and has been since January. At this time (September 22, 2015) the Democrats have a hand-full of candidates but the Republicans have 16 candidates, 4 more potential candidates and 2 candidates who have suspended their campaigns. Among the current front-runners for the nomination are millionaire Donald Trump and neurosurgeon Ben Carson. Both have no experience in politics.

Could there be a more ironic backdrop to the debate over Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson's comments about Islam and the presidency?  It rages as Pope Francis prepares to speak this week to the U.S. Congress, in a nation where Catholics were once banned from holding public office for fear their allegiance would be to Rome. Asked Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press" whether a president's faith should matter, Carson said, "I guess it depends on what that faith is. If it's inconsistent with the values and principles of America, then of course it should matter." Then, Carson added, "I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that."

Carson was, of course, expressing his personal view and did not call for barring Muslims from the presidency. But, many constitutional scholars say Carson's view is at odds with the design of the nation's founders. Such a sentiment would very likely have surprised Thomas Jefferson, who wrote in 1821 that Virginia's religious freedom law was meant to apply to "the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and the Mahometan," a term then used to mean Muslim, "the Hindoo and infidel of every denomination."

Says Akhil Reed Amar, a constitutional expert at Yale, "One of the most striking features of the Constitution is how it goes out of its way to insist that the federal government is open to persons of all faiths or no faith in particular." Article VI of the U.S. Constitution requires public officials to be "bound by oath, or affirmation, to support this Constitution." Then it adds, "But no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States." At the time of the founding, a dozen states  had already imposed religious qualifications for holding office, and some explicitly barred non-Protestants. New York required an oath disavowing allegiance to a foreign prince, meaning the Pope, to disqualify Catholics.

The Constitution doesn't define the term "religious test," and the Supreme Court has never ruled directly on what Article VI means, though it has referred to the provision as banning "religious oath tests."  However, Oliver Ellsworth, a delegate to the Constitutional Convention who became the Supreme Court's third Chief Justice, wrote in 1787 that a religious test "is an act to be done, or a profession to be made ... for the purpose of determining whether his religious opinions are such, that he is admissible to a public office."  And, John Kennedy, the first and only Catholic US president, referred to the provision during his 1960 campaign, saying advocates of a religious test "would work to subvert Article VI. If this election is decided on the basis that 40 million Americans lost their chance of being president on the day they were baptized, then it is the whole nation that will be the loser," he said.
While Article VI is seen as banning only religious oaths, the First Amendment's guarantee of religious freedom goes much further. In 1961, the US Supreme Court struck down any kind of religious standard for public office even a requirement to profess a belief in God.

The court also acted in the case of Roy Torcaso, a man who sought appointment as a notary public in Maryland. The state constitution required "a declaration of belief in the existence of God" to hold "any office of profit or trust." Because he was an atheist, Torcaso refused to make such a statement, and his appointment was revoked. In ruling for him, the justices said "we repeat and again reaffirm that neither a state nor the federal government can constitutionally force a person to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion." The court ruled unanimously, relying on the First Amendment's guarantee of religious freedom. Taken together, says Yale scholar Akhil Amar, these constitutional provisions were "absolutely revolutionary. This is one of the biggest ideas in the Constitution, that we're going to have a system open to all.... In a nation founded by Protestants, the current US Supreme Court consists of six Catholics and three Jews, and two of the four men on Mt. Rushmore, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln, were not... churchgoers." Finally, he notes that in the last presidential election, of the four candidates for president and vice-president, only one was a Protestant, Barack Obama. Joe Biden and Paul Ryan are Catholics, and Mitt Romney is a Mormon.
Carson came under fire for remarks he made on TVs “Meet the Press” when he said that  he would not support a Muslim president. But the Republican presidential candidate’s answer and especially his follow-up responses are more than just a dashed-off opinion about a hypothetical president. They’re common talking points among many far-right activists in Carson’s political orbit, and are used to sow doubts about individual Muslims’ loyalty to the U.S. no matter how patriotic they might outwardly appear.
And, in an interview with The Hill after his “Meet The Press” TV appearance, Carson repeatedly brought up the concept of “taqiyya,” a concept in Shia Islamic law that’s historically given dispensation to Muslims to conceal their religion if they’re facing dangerous persecution. Carson defined the word as “a component of Shia that allows, and even encourages you to lie to achieve your goals. Because obviously if a Muslim was running for president, there would be a lot more education about Sharia, about taqiyya,” Carson said.

The implication was very clear. Even an otherwise politically acceptable Muslim candidate who embraces American values should be viewed as a potential extremist. And, the logical extension is that the average Muslim citizen may be suspicious as well. Carson’s campaign spokesman Doug Watts spoke about American Muslims in blanket terms on Sunday, telling NBC News that there is “a huge gulf between the faith and the practice of the Muslim faith, and our Constitution and American values.”

Carson’s theory of “taqiyya” is a popular idea in anti-sharia political circles. But Devin Stewart, a Middle Eastern studies professor at Emory University who has researched the history of the taqiyya, told MSNBC Carson’s interpretation was contrary to its historic use in Shia Islam, which was similar to other religions. Many Jews, for example, converted to Catholicism during the Spanish Inquisition under threat of expulsion or violence, but secretly maintained Jewish traditions in their home. Stewart also likened taqiyya to “mental reservation,” a doctrine invoked by some Catholics at points to protect the church’s adherents under Protestant rule as well as similar cases of Protestants hiding their religion to avoid Catholic persecution. “Singling Muslims out as duplicitous is unfair,” Stewart wrote in an email. 

Anti-Islamic leaders like Frank Gaffney, who has been barred from the conservative gathering CPAC for accusing its organizers of being part of a radical Islamic conspiracy, frequently argue that Muslims who are outwardly fine with liberal democracy are using “taqiyya” to conceal their true views. Carson attended a summit co-hosted by Gaffney in Iowa this year along with Donald Trump, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, and Louisiana Govenor Bobby Jindal.

“Carson is perfectly happy playing footsie with people who have very extreme views about Muslims,” Heidi Beirich of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks extremism, told MSNBC. “This idea that Muslim loyalties lie somewhere else and that they can’t be trusted as Americans because their religion hampers their ability to be democratic or civilized. This is nothing new.” 
The Anti-Defamation League, which was founded to combat anti-Semitism and other forms of discrimination, issued a statement from national director Jonathan Greenblatt on Monday denouncing Carson’s “deeply offensive” remarks.“Remarks suggesting that all Muslims follow extremist interpretations of Islam have no basis in fact and fuel bigotry,” Greenblatt said.

At  a town hall meeting in New Hampshire, a questioner denounced Muslims as a "problem" in the U.S. and said President Obama is a member of the religion and was not born in the U.S., and asked "when can we get rid of them?"  Donald Trump, a twice divorced Catholic, said only, "We are going to be looking at that and plenty of other things," As a result, a Trump spokeswoman was forced to issue three different statements clarifying his response.

Asked whether Trump should have corrected the questioner, Carson said: "I suspect that if he gets that question again, that's exactly what he'll do." He also said he'd have corrected a question like that if asked.

Ben Carson gave Donald Trump the benefit of the doubt on his decision not to correct a man who questioned President Obama's religion calling him a Muslim and questioning citizenship in New Hampshire At that time, Carson suggested that Trump simply misheard the question and would handle it differently in the future. "Certainly, one must always analyze the questions carefully. That's something I have come to learn, because sometimes you just go into answering mode without thinking about it," he said. 

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Facts about France

France’s official name is the French Republic (République Française). It became a republic in 1792, after centuries of royal rule, as a result of the French Revolution.

The Revolution started with the storming of the Bastille fortress on 14th July 1789, an event that is celebrated every year all over France on Bastille Day.

Liberté, égalitié, fraternité meaning ‘liberty, equality and fraternity’ (or brotherhood) is the national motto of France. It first appeared around the time of the Revolution. It was written into the constitution of France in 1958. Today it can be seen on coins, postage stamps and government logos often alongside ‘Marianne’ who symbolizes the ‘Triumph of the Republic’.

France is the largest country in the European Union (EU) with an area of 551,000 square km, it's almost a fifth of the EU’s total area.

About a quarter of France is covered by forests. Only Sweden and Finland have more forests.

France is also know as ‘the hexagon' because of its six-sided shape, France is sometimes referred to as l’hexagone.

France still retains 15 territories overseas . These includes Martinique, Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Réunion and Mayotte.

France (including the island of Corsica) is divided into 22 regions and sub-divided into 96 départements.

The country’s colonial past is one reason why there are more than five million people of Arab and African descent living in France.

About 85 percent (65.5 million people) of the French population live in urban areas.

The French capital, Paris, has 2.2 million inhabitants and metropolitan Paris has a total of 11.9 million people.

France has the second largest population in Europe after Germany, making up 13 percent of the EU.

French is the official language and the first language of 88 percent of the population, however, there are various indigenous regional dialects and languages, such as Alsacian, Basque, Breton, Catalan, Occitan and Flemish. About one million French people living near the border with Italy speak Italian.

The 500-year-old Académie Française aims to preserve the French language. It seeks to preserve the French language by attempting to ban, somewhat unsuccessfully, foreign words such as blog, hashtag, parking, email, and weekend.

The oldest university in the world, The Sorbonne, is in Paris.

More than 80 percent of the population are Roman Catholic. Another 10 percent are Muslim, 2 percent are Protestant, 1 percent are Jewish, and 4 percent are not affiliated to any religion.

Perhaps surprisingly for a predominantly Catholic country, three-quarters of women of childbearing age use contraception.

A French woman was the world’s oldest  human being. She lived 122 years, 164 days, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. Jeanne Louise Calment was born on February 21, 1875 (the year before Alexander Graham Bell got his patent for the very first telephone and Custer’s Last Stand) and died on August 4, 1997.

France is rated sixth in the world for life expectancy at birth, an average of 81.5 years (86 years for women and 79 for men).

France has the second largest economy in the Eurozone with a GDP of EUR 1.9 trillion (USD 2.613 trillion) according to figures from the World Bank, France's economy is only second to Germany's. France is one of the largest exporters of luxury goods in the world, with the top four companies Cartier, Chanel, Hermes and Louis Vuitton alone worth around EUR 30.8 billion. Its main exports are far less glamorous: aircraft, food, chemicals, industrial machinery, iron and steel, electronics, motor vehicles and pharmaceuticals.

In 2013 France sold more electric cars than any other European country. It sold 8,779 registered vehicles.

The French health care system has traditionally been one of the finest in the world.  From the founding of the U.S, until the 1860s, health care was of very low quality. Because many American doctors went to France to study, when the return to America, gradually heath care improved.  

In France today there is universal health care largely financed by government national health insurance. In its 2000 assessment of world health care systems, the World Health Organization found that France provided the "close to best overall health care" in the world. In 2011, France spent 11.6% of GDP on health care, or US$4,086 per capita, a figure much higher than the average spent by countries in Europe but less than in the US. Approximately 77% of health expenditures are covered by government funded agencies.

The world’s first artificial heart transplant and face transplant both took place in France. The heart transplant occurred in December 2013 at the Georges Pompidou Hospital in Paris. The bioprosthetic device, which mimics a real heart’s contractions, is powered by external lithium-ion battery, and is about three times the weight of a real organ.

French surgeons performed the first face transplant in 2005.

France has one of the highest average ages for women having their first child. And France has Europe's second highest birth rate.

French workers retire younger than in other OECD countries – in the last report in 2012, the average age was 59.7 years for men and 60 for women, compared to the OECD averages of 64.2 and 63.3. People can claim a state pension at 62, which is one of the lowest retirement ages in the world.

France legalized same-sex marriage in 2013 when French President Françoise Holland signed the bill into law on May 18, 2013, France became the ninth country in Europe and 14th in the world to legalize same-sex marriage. Although polls at the time showed that between 55 and 50 percent of French people supported gay marriage, not everyone was happy about it..

Europe’s highest mountain is in the French Alps. It is Mont Blanc (White Mountain) at 4,810m.

The Louvre Museum in Paris was the most visited museum in the world in 2014 with about  9.3 million visitors.

French citizens actively participate in French politics with voter turnout at recent elections at 80 percent.

At 29,000 km, the French rail network is the second largest in Europe (after Germany) and the ninth biggest in the world. And, France was one of the first countries in the world to utilize high-speed technology when it introduced the TGV high-speed rail in 1981. Today, France has more than 1,550 km high-speed track.

The French invented the metric system, the decimal way of counting and weighing, in 1793. It is used in every country except the U.S.

The legal system in France is still largely influenced by Napoleon. French law is still based on the principles set down in Napoleon Bonaparte’s Code Civil back in the 1800s.

The world’s greatest cycle race, the Tour de France, has been around for more than 100 years. Tthe first event held on July 1, 1903. Every July, cyclists race some 2,000 miles (3,200 km) primarily around France in a series of stages over 23 days, with the fastest cyclist at each stage wearing the famous yellow jersey.

Throughout its history, France has produced some of the world’s most influential writers and thinkers. For instance, Descartes and Pascal in the 17th century, Voltaire in the 18th, Baudelaire and Flaubert in the 19th and Sartre and Camus in the 20th. 

To date, France has won more Noble Prizes for Literature (15) than any other country.

French wines and champagne are popular around the world. They are also among the highest priced in the world.

There are over 1,000 different types of cheese made in France. The blue/green-veined Roquefort is the oldest variety. Its ripening process, which takes place in natural caves, dates back to the 17th century.

Traditional and modern sports are popular in France. The most popular sports in France are football (soccer), rugby, tennis and cycling while older people still enjoy the traditional game of pétanque  or boules (a game played with heavy metal balls) in the town square. Le trotter Français is a type of horseracing where the rider sits in a two-wheeled buggy.

France is the most visited country in the world. In 2012, 83 million tourist visited France.
Paris was originally an Ancient Roman city called Lutetia.

The French government gives medals to parents who have "successfully raised several children with dignity".

France was the first country to issue automobile license plates.

There is only one stop (French: arret)  sign in the city of Paris.

In France, it is legal to marry a dead person.

One in five people in France has experienced depression making France have the highest rate of depression in the world.

During World War II, the mosque in Paris help Jews escape the Nazis by giving them Muslim identification cards.

Potatoes were illegal in France from 1748 to 1772.

In France, it is illegal to name a pig Napoleon.

In France, about 96% of high schools have condom vending machines.

Beauty pageants for children in France are illegal and punishable by a fine and up to two years in prison.

France has always had strong ties to the U.S. going back to 1776. France was the first ally of the new United States because of its 1778 treaty and military support in the American Revolutionary War. The France-American relationship has been generally peaceful and is one of the most important for both nations.

In 2002, 62% of French people viewed the United States favorably; this number dropped below 50% for each year between 2003 and 2008, due in part to differences between the two countries during the Iraq War. The number has remained consistently above 50% since the election of Barack Obama. As of 2013, 64% of French people viewed the U.S. favorably, increasing up to 75% in 2014.

      According to a 2015 Gallup poll, 82% of Americans view France favorably