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7 décembre 2007 5 07 /12 /décembre /2007 07:59
Something to make you smile !

These are from a book called Disorder in the American Courts, and are things people actually said in court, word for word, taken own and now published by court reporters who had the torment of staying calm while these exchanges were actually taking place.

ATTORNEY:   This myasthenia gravis, does it affect your memory at all ?

WITNESS:        Yes.

ATTORNEY:   And in what ways does it affect your memory ?

WITNESS:       I forget.

ATTORNEY:   You forget ? Can you give us an example of something you forgot ?


ATTORNEY:  What was the first thing your husband said to you that morning?

WITNESS:    He said, 'Where am I, Cathy ?'

ATTORNEY:  And why did that upset you?

WITNESS:    My name is Susan!


ATTORNEY: Do you know if your daughter has ever been involved in voodoo?

WITNESS:     We both do.

ATTORNEY:  Voodoo?

WITNESS:     We do.

ATTORNEY:  You do?

WITNESS:     Yes, voodoo.


ATTORNEY:  Now doctor, isn't it true that when a person dies in his sleep, he doesn't know about it until the next morning?

WITNESS:    Did you actually pass the bar exam ?


ATTORNEY:  The youngest son, the twenty-one-year-old, how old is he?

WITNESS:      Uh, he's twenty-one.


ATTORNEY:  Were you present when your picture was taken ?

WITNESS:     Are you kidding me ?


ATTORNEY: So the date of conception (of the baby) was August 8th ?

WITNESS:      Yes.

ATTORNEY:  And what were you doing at that time ?

WITNESS:     Uh.... I was gett'in laid !


ATTORNEY:    She had three children, right ?

WITNESS:      Yes.

ATTORNEY:    How many were boys ?

WITNESS:      None..

ATTORNEY:    Were there any girls?

WITNESS:     Are you kidding me? Your Honor, Can I get a new attorney?


ATTORNEY:   How was your first marriage terminated ?

WITNESS:     By death.

ATTORNEY:   And by whose death was it terminated ?

WITNESS:  Now whose death do you suppose terminated it ?


ATTORNEY:  Can you describe the individual ?

WITNESS:     He was about medium height and had a beard.

ATTORNEY:  Was this a male or a female?

WITNESS:  Guess.


ATTORNEY:   Is your appearance here this morning pursuant to a deposition notice which I sent to your attorney ?

WITNESS:     No, this is how I dress when I go to work.


ATTORNEY:   Doctor, how many of your autopsies have yo= performed on dead people?

WITNESS:      All my autopsies are=20 performed on dead people. Would you like to rephrase that?


ATTORNEY: ALL your responses MUST be oral, OK ? What school did you go to ?

WITNESS:      Oral.


ATTORNEY:  Do you recall the time that you examined the body?

WITNESS:      The autopsy started around

ATTORNEY:  And Mr. Denton was dead at the time?

WITNESS:      No, he was sitting on the table wondering why I was doing an autopsy on him!


ATTORNEY:   Are you qualified to give a urine sample ?

WITNESS:  Huh....are you qualified to ask that question ?


And the best for last:

ATTORNEY:   Doctor, before you performed the autopsy, did you check for a pulse?

WITNESS:      No.

ATTORNEY:   Did you check for blood pressure?

WITNESS:      No.

ATTORNEY:   Did you check for breathing?

WITNESS:      No.

ATTORNEY:  So, then it is possible that the patient was alive when you began the autopsy?

WITNESS:      No.

ATTORNEY:   How can you be so sure, Doctor?

WITNESS:      Because his brain was sitting on my desk in a jar.

ATTORNEY:  I see, but could the patient have still been alive, nevertheless?

WITNESS:      Yes, it is possible that he could have been alive and practicing law. 

(1) Julia Bennett-Everington
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26 novembre 2007 1 26 /11 /novembre /2007 14:24
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16 mai 2007 3 16 /05 /mai /2007 19:35
Justice in da buff

   by Azouz Begag


         At this moment, a truth forces itself upon me: every citizen can be in this situation, with his back turned to onlookers, representing civil society, mainstream people, facing a judge and a public prosecutor, representing the supreme interests of a lawful society.
          Sometimes the situation gets laughable when the judge drives the accused to the wall, to seek the truth, and forces him to answer his questions. The atmosphere becomes absurd. But most of the time, there is no place for humour, the faces are severe, grey, barely lit by wan lamps, the judge’s gown is black, so are the prosecutors’ and the lawyers’. A smell of death hangs over the courtroom. Besides, even the setting is filled with seriousness. If judging is human, it does lack warmth.
          We are in the basement of society. In the engine room of the Titanic. You meet so many misfits, poor people of all kinds, immigrants, ghetto kids. Here, when you don’t master the French language, you have a hard time. It’s common to see some accused, sitting on the dock, who don’t even understand the judge’s questions, or who speak in a language legal practitioners will never have access to. We don’t speak the same language at the stand. The truth-searching judge, who spent many years in Law School then in the School of Magistrates, asks the offenders why they lied, why they stole, why they cheated. He wants to know. He demands explanations. But the poor fellows can’t explain the things of life. They don’t have the words. All their lives long they tried to trifle with the facts, to create a diversion, to escape from the grip of misery and exclusion.
          Every time I leave the courthouse, I feel depressed. It rains on the city as it rains on society. The iceberg frosts the atmosphere. But I am happy to have a breath of fresh air. Happy and punch-drunk. This afternoon, I almost got hit by a streetcar, I was so absorbed by what I experienced in the Courthouse’s basement. The driver smiled. He told me “Watch where you’re treading!” He had no idea he was perfectly right.
          One day, for three hours, I watched the public prosecutor. A lady prosecutor. A beautiful woman in her forties. Her blond hair and blue eyes strongly contrasted with the darkness of her courthouse gown. She noticed I was staring at her and probably wondered why. It was odd to see this young woman rise after the judge had given an account of the facts, and methodically, coldly pronounce the penalties the Republic claimed to the judge.
Afterwards, I didn’t see her beauty anymore, but above all her drooping mouth, her pointed lips, the lines falling in the bottom of her cheeks when she was pronouncing the indictment. She was there to enforce the law, protect the foundations of the Republic. At the right of the judge. The heart was not invited to the hearing. No sentiment. No affection. When she done speaking, it was already a verdict coming through. I looked at her to try to guess some of her inner feelings, does she like what she does? Does she enjoy applying the legal provisions of the penal code? She didn’t let anything come out. Automatically carry out the laws. Democratically. Same meal for everyone. Rich or poor, French or foreigners, Catholic or Moslem, men or women. We’re in 1789. The Revolution just laid down its Declaration of Equality. The lady prosecutor sits down again, perfectly straight, the exact way she stood up. Now the judge speaks, he has a quick glance at his papers. A few seconds of silence, then the sentence comes out. Prison sentence, suspended or not. Driving ban. Fine… He closes his folder. And puts it back on the pile in front of him.
          Next file.
          The most extraordinary thing is the force of the sentence the judge passed. He has full powers. He decides of the life and the death, at least socially, of every accused who sits before his desk. Against a young recidivist who “never gives a damn”  about the driving bans the Court imposed on him, the prosecutor demands two years of disqualification from driving. The judge thinks about it for a few seconds and finally pronounces an eight-month ban. Why this did he pick this specific number? We don’t know. It’s his own personal opinion. He thinks, sizes up, observes, asks questions to reach the final goal: to punish a person for a breach of the law. He noticed the young man was running a small company. He wanted to give him another chance. But he warned him: next time, he would go to jail. Ok ? The accused was Ok.
          The Law, it’s all of those red codes that are on the judge’s desk. The common reference to all citizens. The token of a democratic functioning of the institution. Legal practitioners throw out their words, which will determine the rest of people’s lives, the people who are standing in front of them, meaningful, heavy words, while they’re looking at the accused in the face. He writes down the sentence on a sheet of paper, and closes the folder. It’s over. The case is settled. The accused can’t turn back the hands of time. Not even throw himself at the supreme judge’s knees, implore his mercy. Nothing. The sentence is inescapable. To steer clear of those outpourings of sentiments, the judge and the prosecutor freeze their faces. Their analysis and their judgements are like scientific matters. Reason guides the sanctions, the general welfare the wish to protect society from the outcasts.
          It’s total nudity.
          You don’t leave the courthouse totally unhurt. Since I started to go to these court hearings, I am even more scared to cross the line, to turn out badly. I always fasten my seat belt when I take the wheel.
          I got out of the courthouse, one more time, paralyzed by the machine functioning. I rise to the surface of life, to the surface of the city. A gigantic ship that makes its way across the ocean, thanks to powerful engines located in the storage room, operated by experienced engineers. On the deck the travellers don’t know what’s going on under their feet, in the mesh system. Sometimes, some of them misbehave and they are caught in the act by the police. They go down the hole. They are sent down. People in black seal their fate. They are the ones who “are at the helm”.
          Avenue de la République, I’m walking while sweeping with my foot the dead leaves away, that had already dropped off the plane trees. I think about the words justice, truth, democracy, while observing the quiet passers-by who go about their daily business. I feel vulnerable, alone against the machinery. A brilliant idea comes to my mind: it should be compulsory: have every citizen go to Court, to a courthouse, to see the steamroller in motion. So you can not let this thing be thought out apart from reality. I found another word that goes very well with truth: reality. Here’s my suggestion: we talk about “educational establishment” to refer to a school, it would be a good thing from now on to call the courthouse the TRUTH ESTABLISHMENT.
                                      The End
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12 mai 2007 6 12 /05 /mai /2007 18:12

Justice in da buff

   by Azouz Begag

   (5) Establishment of the truth

Here, in the North, everything has to be written. It was a whole new world for me. In the country where my cultural references come from, eloquence matters. Spoken words are more powerful than the written ones. For the act of marriage, old men of the spouses? families meet round the table and, using words, make the match. Then words are the characteristics of a sacred ritual. They are literally rooted in the mind of the person who says them and the one who hears them.

          I am a dreamer. My country is a place where the youngsters who get married only think about love and nothing else. A country where don't need paper, but just water, when the words are pronounced. Magical words echo through the borders of generations. And they last. I often ask myself why in the North, people make prenuptial agreements?
I found the answer: to protect themselves. They are scared. Scared of the future, of what they will become. They're getting married, yes, but what if one day they don't love each other anymore? Who will get the fridge, the washing machine, the savings? The car? The kids? Then you call a solicitor.  As far as my marriage goes, I never got to know which settlement was picked for us. I have never been interested in those things. I am off-settlement. To me, marriage and settlement don't match. I love, I marry, in Ernest Hemingway's passionate way. We talked about solicitors during the wedding. They invited a solicitor to my wedding! They asked me who was mine? I laughed. I didn't have any. To manage which assets? The three thousand franc retirement pension my father used to get during his lifetime?
          The culture shock took shape in the idea of time. They day I was getting married, I didn't want to think about the day I would get divorced. The day you come into the world, you don't think about the day you're going to die. When the weather is nice, I don't dread the cloud and the rain. But the justice system, solicitors, lawyers, judges, solemnly declare that even though it's great to be carried away by the heat of passion, and the youthful horses, still you shouldn't forget to protect your rear. To protect yourself. To guarantee. To secure. And for all those verbs, the words themselves are not enough. They ought to be written in a formal contract.
          It's amazing the extent to which Justice is based on formal written language, formulas, technical and obsolete words? Justice kills love the day she was born.
          In the North, safety is not to be trifled with. I am a dreamer. Dreams don't give a damn about the lack of safety. I was told a piece of my shirt was stuck in the mesh. My body slipped into the mudflat.
          In the criminal courtroom I've been frequenting regularly for several days, for the first time of my life, what I find the most striking are the games (the looks between the judge, the prosecutor, the lawyers, the clerk and the defendant). Or the accused. The den of Justice is a telescoping place for meaningful looks, eloquent looks, alternating with the words  spoken between the one and the other. Mechanical words, that are procedural, implacable. Words of democracy, because everyone here is looking for one valuable thing: the establishment of truth. Justice has to be done. You meticulously analyze the facts. You classify the evidence. You study the argumentation of the accused, his counsel, the victim.
          An accused appear at the stand. A young man, alone. He didn't have a lawyer. He caused a car accident when he was drunk driving. He maintains he didn't drink that much. He swears he's telling the truth, that's it. He can't say anything else. Quite obviously, he is unable to find the words for a proper defence. He speaks fast, his voice sounds strangled, quivering. Behind his big round black glasses, the judge says to him those are not relevant arguments. He asks him to defend himself more seriously because there are heavy charges against him for which he will have to answer. The young man got flabbergasted, staring at the judge. He said once again that his spoken truth constituted his arguments, and then he stopped, floored, without speech. He has the feeling he defended himself by simply maintaining that: "it wasn't me".
          The judge grabbed his pen again, immerses himself in the file one more time, and passes the sentence: he conforms to the Public Prosecutor who demanded a suspended three month imprisonment and one year driving ban. The young man doesn't understand anything. He flies into a rage. He is told that it would be all, he might go. "This is not Justice, this"?
No matter how hard he can cry inside, there's nothing somebody could do for him. In the courthouse, the audience murmured a little to protest. "That's a bit much!", whispers a young man sitting next to me.
          Here you track the truth down. By all means: with the eyes, precise questions, deep silences. Most of the time, the accused tries to foil the judges? fierce questions, which are usually binary, he was told his answers would have big consequences on the sentence. So when the judge asked him how many glasses of alcohol he had before he took the wheel, he answered two or three, hesitating, nodded, stuttered. He probably had more, but he couldn't admit it. He swayed between the numbers, before he declared that, actually, he didn't remember, the events dated back to several months ago, sometimes several years and the memories faded away. The judge looked at him straight in the eye to see the truth. He ended up nodding along. He is used to this kind of blocked behaviour. He often must be frustrated to be unable to get it, this tremendous truth.
Sadly, the accused don't willingfully cooperate. He has the responsibility for settling without knowing everything, following his conviction.



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8 mai 2007 2 08 /05 /mai /2007 17:12


Justice in da Buff

                               by Azouz Begag


(4) Justice, Echo


          If I had to draw Justice, I wouldn?t pick a scale as a symbol. It would be a notched wheel. Metallic. It is stacked into another twin wheel, and another one, and one more, in an implacable layout, the whole thing resulting in a mesh.
Or it could be a mudflat, like those you find by the arms of the sea n Brittany, at low tide. Mesh or mudflat, it's the same: when there's a piece of your shirt that is stuck in the cold steel, the fall into the system's mechanism begins. And when your two feet are caught in the mud, you inevitably sink. Therefore the best you can do is to let yourself be dragged down while saving your strength. Only then you can hope to plunge little by little, while counting the seconds is the only thing to do. Those are the first images that come to my mind when reference is made to Justice.
          Justice. The word also makes me think, not of the balancing pole stability, that weighs the pros and cons to the nearest gram, but of a loss of balance. A wreck. What kind of wreck, I don't know exactly, but something that sinks, because when a man enters a court'house, he never leaves unharmed. He's transformed. He will never be the same. Courthouse, tribunal, Crown Court ' every time you enter this man-judging temple, this thing that supposedly guarantees modern countries' democracy, is set under the seal of anxiety. The life of the person to be tried is at stake. His psychological, mental, social and economical balance as well. Fundamentally, I'm afraid of this justice which determines men's lives, of these fishermen's nets that have been given the power to punish the evil-minded and the law infringers. I'm afraid because I am a dreamer. A child, forever and ever. Son of poor people, shantytown and ghetto survivor, I've always considered that the Justice of France ? welcoming land of my parents and my birth country- was not supposed to protect the rights of people like me. An intimate alarm always led me in this belief: the best way to respect justice was never to deal with it. Stay as far away as possible from the mudflat, the mesh.
          I held on for many years. One day, sadly, a painful divorce made me fall into the cold steel. In the Courthouse's mudflat. As a consequence, this experience has proved me that my personal "judgement" on this machinery functioning justifies all the fears I was intuitively fostering. I spent twenty years in a ghetto housing estate in the Northern part of Lyon, I remember dozens of friends who got caught up in the Saint Paul jailhouse's mesh- that is located right before the freeway you take to go on holidays!- all of those strongly participated in the idea I had oh the way judges treated ghetto kids. So depressing. Even for a dreamer. I picture those judges bending under dozens of files drowning their desk, working these cases on the production line and, finally, they pack them out, because they don't have time, money or energy. And your dreams of human justice will be dissolved.
          Ever since I was a kid, I?ve always been afraid of Justice. I've always been afraid of the police. In my mind, justice and police are synonymous. And when I think of the word "police", I see repression, control, harshness and fear. The thing that will find the failings in me, investigate on me, see me as an outlaw, and hand me over the Director of Prosecutions.
Send me to the ban of society. Of course, many people are socially raised to fear the authority the police represents, the power it embodies under its uniform, but I'm still convinced that immigrants, especially the swarthiest ones, have a more acute fear of the police than the natives. My father passed this burden on me.
So, instinctive fear of the police, and instinctive fear of White justice. For years I had a passionate interest in the racial discrimination issues that were raised in the Unites States in the sixties. Especially in the Martin Luther King's and the Civil Right Movement's struggle. I read appalling testimonies about the way White judges judged the Blacks during the dark period of the racial equality struggle.
The clashes between the WASP and the Afro-American communities were so deep that the Blacks refused to be judged by the courts where there were only white people on the bench. And they were right. To limit the risks of a racist reading of the facts, it seems much safer to promote racial equality among judges in the courts of the countries longing for multiculturalism. In France, I also think it would be better if the divorce court judges were not all women.
          In the history of the Black liberation movements in the United States, I liked to notice the controversial differences between Martin Luther King and Malcom X, the first one chose to believe in a multicultural society and state justice, the second one didn't trust white society at all and spoke in favour of racial separatism. Finally, the two leaders were murdered each in turn. I don't remember if the American police force found the murderers ?
          Will a white judge have the tendency to be stricter on a Black than on a White? How come almost all the men in the Lyon prison are of North-African descent? Is it because those people are culturally more inclined to be criminals than the natives? Or is it because judges are hasher on them in the Courthouse ?
I'd like to carry out an opinion poll in the ghetto districts? What kind of sensibility towards ghetto issues and their residents can you expect from a judge who's never been there? What does the system require to be a judge? To know the law perfectly, the statutes, the interpretations. To know them technically, the names, the numbers and the codes. You don't expect him to be sensitive. To increase democracy in the functioning of the justice system, they should stop recruiting the judges in Law schools. They should diversify the breeding ground of recruitment. They should ask the applicants to live two or three years in the city's most dangerous areas, for an intensive training period in a precarious environment. The suggestion is also valid for the recruitment of the "Ecole Nationale d'Administration?". It is not good for all the high-ranking officials to come from the same breeding ground, modelled on the same curriculum. When we talk about justice, you also talk about other institutions. And in the end you talk about society in general. It's impossible to talk about Justice itself.
          Pierre-Alain once told me, to apologize, that to judge is human. He smiled when saying the last word. I understood I was supposed to finish his reasoning by referring to the old saying: ?to err is human?. Justice would be allowed to make mistakes because men and women are the actors in the courthouse. Could it be different? I close my eyes, I try to imagine another world. I say to myself -what if there were- machines, computers in which you would embed these data? But who would embed the data? It could only be men and women. The problem is back to square one. Then? If there were animals, who would judge by the snout? Or children, who would judge "innocently"?
          It's an important matter. Questions are suddenly asked from all sides. It's an important matter because it?s an emergency: we have to increase the citizens? feeling that they have a real justice, the one that fairly decides, without any failing. I know nothing more painful than the anguish of living in a system where the citizens' relationships with the police and the justice system are unpredictable. To me, the height of terror is arbitrariness in the couple formed by the police and justice.
          If I lived alone on an island, like Robinson Crusoe, would I need policemen and judges to control my social life? The question may seem laughable, but it shows that as soon as people live in a community, their relationships have to be organized, codified ?that is written in some -codes-, civil code, criminal code, family code, highway code? But, its precisely this organization that puts me off actually. It is also a way of fixing social things. Everything that fixes, anticipates, irritates me. I am aware that development of men's lives requires a justice system. But it is inconsistent with the life of men.
There is, like for photography, the nude, a cultural debate between Southern people and Northern people. In the north, you draft contracts for every relationship men have. To contractualize, the word is meaningful. If I take marriage as an example, the idea of establishing a contract for this matter related to the love between two people and nothing else, was a culture shock. To go to the city hall, so that the mayor could read the French Marriage Law to the parties seemed violent to me. To find ourselves in this administration,' cold, old, dusty, didn't match our ceremonial dresses, our twenty year-old gourmands- smiles lightning up our life-discovering faces. Did we have to go through this ?
They had to explain to me that the law served the protection of our personal and common interests, that I had to see it like a system which helps citizens in their intimate and social relationships. It wasn't my thing. Not my idea of marriage. I had to do it. I had to get used to it. I signed a prenuptial agreement.



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4 mai 2007 5 04 /05 /mai /2007 16:01
                        by Azouz Begag
          To me, to go on a trip without taking pictures, it’s is to give ourselves the possibility to create mental pictures, in the darkroom of our imagination, never to have them developed on paper but to let your encounter-gleaned pictures have their own life, live their life, develop themselves, the way they want it to be, a poem, a travel story, a pencil drawing, a movie we will shoot one day, a story told to some friends on a winter night.
It looks like a garden in motion, a wanderer’s praise, a body who has its own organization inside of us and who will express itself one day, in any way. This is the reason why I don’t have a camera when I travel. I already know that with all the wonderful characters I will necessarily meet on my route, on my way, off the beaten track, thousands of pictures will try to rent a dark room in the hotel of my imagination. I am the receptionist of this house, but there are no room keys.
Actually the rooms have no doors. And if you look closer, there is no room either. Every picture is free to be in harmony with anything. It will give birth to something. One day.
          Then, for lack of pictures, I always bring words back from trips, even if I don’t record them in notebooks, but in the crossroads, the street corners, somewhere in my brain. I wish I could also bring sketches, rough drawings back. I’m jealous with envy of the strip cartoonist Jacques Ferrandez. A few years ago, we found ourselves in Lebanon, on a terrace of a house in Biblos, overhanging the sea. A beautiful bay was lapping against the house’s legs.
She was the one Jacques was sketching. He was drawing and I couldn’t take my eyes off his fingers. I like this environmental, natural relationship to the landscape, to the people.
When Jacques worked, he was taking the time to talk to us, to laugh with us, to tell us about his experience in some other cities, some other trips. The words were coming with his pencil strokes. He was dreaming up a drawing, with us, he was fully with us, here. At present. A good man. I share an essential value with him: hospitality.
          Time. Here it is. Here we are. In the Arabian cities’ streets where he often likes to go, Jacques stops, takes his notebook and his pencil out, starts to sketch, and all of a sudden, humans are bustling around him. This is the happy people bustle. Happy to be living his creation with him, because they are the living witnesses of what he’s been creating right before their eyes, in their company.
You can tell the difference with what happens when you have a camera, that is, technical, expensive. The photographer has to establish a distance between him and the others, to centre them, to frame them[s8] . Photographed people have to stand before him, it’s the only way. When there’s a drawer, they are all around him, the kids flopped on his shoulders, their eyes glued to his pencil lead which is embarking upon the magic of creation. With photography, click, one snapshot and it’s over. The thing is settled is less that no time. A time of nothing I’d say. The matter is locked in the technical thing’s memory.
Photographed people will probably never get to see the result of their pose, of their participation. We’ll exchange addresses so that the artist, once he’s back home, can send the souvenir pictures to the people. But often, the addresses get lost because promises have holes in their pockets. Back in his darkroom, the photographer is immersed in another time space again, and the taste of human encounters has dimmed. There are no scents anymore.
          Smells. Oh, smells stink! You could gladly do without them when you take a trip to poor countries. People are welcoming, smiling, the colours are splendid, but the smells! Intolerable. If there weren’t this plague, it would be heaven…
How many times have I heard this thing coming from a tourist photographer during a friendly evening while he was showing his set of slides and pictures, taken when he did Morocco, did Turkey…he thinks he went abroad, but he stayed in his own world. He remained intact, spotless, with no one but himself. His pictures prove it. See: they have no smell. With Jacques’ drawings, it’s one of the first things you notice: the paper has a strong smell. It captures the country’s smells. And these scents come back with him when he returns to the South of France. Jacques’ paper stinks and like it, because life stinks. And we are so used to living in sterilized worlds. Even a cow dung or goat droppings shock the city kids nowadays.
          I hate those slide shows at my friends’. Besides, all the friends who invited me to those aren’t my friends anymore. It’s a bar. Now, I associate with the amazing travellers, Magellan, Vasco de Gama, Ibn Batouta, Ulysses. The history of Men always keeps them deep inside its memory. These great travellers from the Past have kept Humanity’s stories alive.
          This book is also a storyteller’s journey. I didn’t like photography and I find myself writing page after page to say how ill I think of this art. Have I been caught by a mystery? I’m not surprised. Since I know Pierre-Alain, I’ve noticed that he doesn’t have the regular lawyer’s eyes…
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1 mai 2007 2 01 /05 /mai /2007 09:55

Justice in da buff

              by Azouz Begag


          I never liked taking pictures. To me, it's almost a natural defense, which has its reasons in the heart of my own foundations. It's been inside of me ever since I was born, in the mists of my time. Of course there is a "cultural" explanation to this defense, and I have to try giving it some substance, by having an endoscopy of it.
Is it my Arabian, Muslim origins that make me feel suspicious when it comes to photography? Maybe there's something about it, since any representation of God is forbidden in Islam.
But I would like to go further than this first explanation, that is not always true, as I noticed it myself on a trip to Syria and Lebanon, a few years ago while I was accompanying a photographer. People, and especially children, had lots of fun when seeing photographers and they spontaneously asked to stand before the camera to be "shot".
Sometimes, after the shooting, some of them came back to ask for a present or money for their pose . But generally, I haven't noticed any reluctance towards photography itself in these Muslim Arabian people.
          Therefore, what restrains me? Many reasons, related to my traveler, scientific research worker, writer status.
          First, it's all about the movement. To me, life is movement and death is fixity, stillness, steadiness. It is in the movement the liveliness- that we regenerate, meet the otherness that changes the way we see people and, in return, the way we see ourselves.
Movement is fluidity, a journey, a human adventure. On the contrary, I associate fixity with plant life, supposed to remain in the same pot or territory. The human being, because of his amazing ability to move in space, has the supreme privilege of changing his "point of view", then improving his relation to the world.
By discovering the multiple distances of observation between him and his environment, he is able, gradually, to become more tolerant.
Movement is the experience of time. Men's ageing process slowly leads them to humility. Silence.
        All of these explanations suggest me to say that, for a globe-trotter, I never took any picture. I still don't.
Photography is attraction, capture. The straight-jacket for emotions, splendors. Taking a picture is like picking a poppy. You break the stem and it?s over, you kill the beauty.
          And there is the "burden" of the camera. A camera is a strain on me. It forces you to have a bag, or a shoulder bag ? of course I know there are compact cameras nowadays- and even to carry it across your shoulder with the strap around your neck.
That's where the shoe pinches: the thing itself prevents me from walking around, casually , freely, in the streets of the city. It saddles me, in every sense of the word. If I think about this, I realize that what I'm actually trying to avoid, when I'm abroad, is to be "seen" like a passenger by local people because of my camera.
This thing bothers me because it's meaningful. It says I don't belong here and don't wish to, my camera and I are just passing by to take something, pictures of you and your environment, which we are going to bring back home and display. This interpretation does not square with the idea I have of my own representation in other people's space.
          I always travel with a free hand, no camera, open to things and to people. I have the illusionary feeling to be more available for people, more attentive to them. And above all, I feel fully here. The camera coldly reminds me of the country I come from and to where I will probably return, even just to have my pictures developed.
With no camera and no film, I give a different meaning to my trip, my presence. I am totally dedicated to the local people, to meet them. I accept the risk of becoming one of them, of staying with them. Of staying there. Of never coming back to where I come from. This is what is at stake on a trip. It makes a person out of me, who can be completely transfigured by the others.
The real trip is the one from which you never return the way you left. We move on, is spite of everything else.
          I always laugh when I see Japanese tourist groups, in Europe, who are meticulously circling a monument while shooting it frenetically.
Each one of them is equipped with a camera, more or less bulky, more or less sophisticated. I laugh, but deep inside, I find it irritating. The relationship is one-sided. Unbalanced. It smacks of factories and it immediately reminds me of those big Japanese brands which have tourists as ambassadors, sandwich-men in a way. I think they don't see the people around them, the Natives , who are going about their daily business, and that's precisely what I like most to see when I travel. I don't see the "monuments", but only the people. The tourists I'm thinking of usually have the monument as their one single goal. The steady thing that fully dedicates itself to the picture. They shoot it, box  it, go back home, show the picture to their friends and say: I've been there. In the landscape of course.
          The picture slots in between the locals and the visitors. When you take pictures like that, you don't speak, you don't speak to people. You don't need to meet the inhabitants, to learn their language, to understand them. The camera protects the visitor from the risk to face the otherness. It allows you to go back home totally spotless.
One exception: when the visiting tourist  get jostled by the native when their cameras are swiped by snatch theft, like people say in the robber jargon.  I saw many funny scenes in Naples. Then I start to appreciate the camera. It caused human beings to get in touch.
          I don't want to draw a caricature. Having said that, I know that the photographers who take, on their own, pictures of people in public places have to meet them, talk to them, explain what they're doing, translate, so they can share with people. I know many of them... 

(1) translation from French to English by Noémie Southamavong. This text is part of the book "Justice and its Double", published by Editions ALEAS, 15 quai Lassagne, 69001, Lyon, France, where it can be purchased. www.aleas.com   
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30 avril 2007 1 30 /04 /avril /2007 09:32
by Azouz BEGAG
(1) Me, posing nude ?
                   In principle, the idea of posing nude before a camera doesn’t bother me. I like to see and to admire bodies of naked women, in these I find soft lines, curves, fineness and grace. I don’t appreciate men’s bodies half as much. I usually find them rough, muscular, angular and bony.
                    And the idea of posing nude in front of a camera does not bother me, especially when I’m not involved! Other people, yes, they can do it, I will not judge them.
On the contrary, nude models are necessary, the world thanks them. But me, posing nude? No, thanks.
                     The question rekindles a peculiar violence in me.
                     One day, Pierre-Alain Gourion called me to ask if I happened to know people of North-African descent, men or women, who would be willing to pose nude before him.
Without thinking, by western instinct, I looked around me, I searched, I could not find one single person to make such a request to. No, the question itself was inappropriate.
Besides, I didn’t even know how to put it into words: to pose for a photographer or before him? The answer is probably both.
                     Pierre-Alain could not manage to find “that kind” of model among his acquaintances. After thinking it over for a few seconds, I faced the facts: it was impossible for me to ask a friend to do that, he would burst out laughing. For others, I already sensed it, the question would be considered provocative, people would think I am a “sleazy individual”, a weirdo, a sadist, an adept of shady internet groups.
                     How strange. I never thought about that before. When I take a look at my acquaintances, I can’t think of any model of North-African descent who would be willing to pose nude before a camera. I’ve been searching in art books, magazines, but nothing. To “us”, you’re not supposed to show your body to people. There is so much shyness regarding our relation to the body itself that we have it wear the veil, from our hair to the tip of our toes. I don’t know where this total concealment of the body comes from, as if there were a permanent risk of skin cancer under the Eastern sun!
But there’s one thing sure, it is deeply rooted inside of us, into our cultural being. You should not trust photographers, or their cameras.
                     I also have this reflex of distrust deep inside of me. Because when Pierre-Alain, who knows my taste for provocation and subversion, happened to ask me the fatal question: and you? What about me? Would I pose nude for him? At first I burst into laughter. The thing that was buried deep down inside  started to rise to the surface of my senses. I thought it was so strange, this fear coming from the depths of ages past. But I am not going to get drown, I am going to repel it. On the phone, Pierre-Alain was still here. For one moment, he thought I had disappeared, hung out, melted. I finally said, bravely, that I had no problem with it, I would go to his apartment and pose for those pictures, precisely those that would complete his exhibition project. We scheduled an appointment for the following day, at six pm.
                     I couldn’t sleep a wink all night. A fear, a terrifying anguish made my heart flutter for hours, till it definitely woke me up at 3.12 am, the fateful moment when all the depressive French people awake. I read this trivia matter in the 3.12 am novel! So I was depressive because of this unnatural acceptance to pose nude before a camera and to display my image in the lounges of an exhibition room. But why the hell did I accept? To change? To change the way I see myself by exposing my body to people’s gaze, to everybody’s gaze?
          At 8 am, that Sunday, I went jogging to relax. I grabbed my phone, I called Pierre-Alain. Luckily for me, he was probably still sleeping, I preferred that. I apologized for my withdrawal, I was scared to keep my word. I didn’t feel the thing anymore. And I had very good reasons: it really was an odd idea! Why would I display my body to the others? To make them like it, to serve my photographer friend’s talent? How could I be sure that people would look and not stare? That they would not just be attracted by the roughness of my body, its flaws, its flattering parts as well, but how could I prevent them from having an opinion on “me” and not on the picture? Everything was beyond my control. This is exactly what I hate most. Expose myself? In this expression, there was the word “myself” and I really didn’t want that.
          I was in a state of panic.
          When I hung up after I explained I wouldn’t pose, I felt relieved. I had never run the 10-km distance of my usual itinerary that fast before, because I felt light-hearted, and proud of myself to have been able to tell a truth against which I couldn’t go without bending.
          To display my nudity, was that what terrified me? No, since I recall the locker room showers I took in the soccer stadiums when I was a kid and had no feeling of embarrassment towards the others. We were there to wash ourselves, not to display the body itself. It’s like you’re at the doctor’s. That’s the difference. Why am I taking my clothes off? To take care of myself, wash myself… alright. But for pictures, no way.
          Who needs to see my skin, my genitals? Isn’t it a secret part of my anatomy that should stay in the dark, because it’s just a good thing, not to show everything. Otherwise, why don’t we take a picture of the inside of the mouth, the intestines? Photography intrusions must have limits.
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18 février 2007 7 18 /02 /février /2007 08:22

Travel a new world

Fly Marijuana

HEALTHEFFECTSJ'ai regardé les publicités publiées par ce blog, et je me suis souvenu d'un poème écrit en anglais en 1989, lors d'un voyage aux Etats-Unis, patrie de la pub.

Tout s'est mélangé, mélé : hier et aujourd'hui, rèves et réalités, droits et interdits, désespoirs et rèves cheap. Consommation de biens virtuels ou concrets. Le monde ne s'est pas arrangé depuis. Ben Hash.

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Skyscrapers frightened me

And the ways and the cars

and the strengh the money



Did I do my duty

Af well-thinking tourist ?

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Do I know ?

But the famous new world

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Far from the postal cards

And the coca colaBillet avion moins cher, vols moins cher

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Travel a new world

Fly marijuana



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13 décembre 2006 3 13 /12 /décembre /2006 12:13

I’m not set on one particular model: naked, not naked, beautiful, ugly . I don’t mind , I would put myself in the jurors’ shoes! 

                                                                     François La Phuong, Avocat

Don’t shoot judges
What a strange and difficult job it is to be a judge. At the very beginning of this project I had an idea which seemed natural to me: to take lawyers and judges as my clothed models, so complementary are those two professions in a democracy. No lawyers without judges, no defence without a man hounded by public wrath. No true legal system without cross-examination. And to the question which we are so often asked :
-          How can a lawyer defend such heinous criminals ?
It is easy for us to answer by asking another question which elicits a positive answer :
-          Do you agree that every man, whatever he has done, has the right to be defended ? (13)
I had no trouble with the colleagues I contacted: after some explaining, they all, men and women, willingly agreed, often in a warm, amused and gratifying way.
The reaction of the magistrate friends I contacted was quite different. One of them, albeit a former lawyer himself replied :
-          I only express myself through the judgments I pass !
Hell, this razor sharp answer left no room for comment. Mezzo voce, I thought to myself, with that hint of rebelliousness which characterizes lawyers whenever they come up against judges, an essential function of theirs, that his way of expressing himself somehow lacked variety and humour. But never mind.
Another one, a former youth worker, now President of the Magistrates’ Court, explained that although he thought the project was fun, he couldn’t take part :
-          Can you picture me questioning or bawling out a sniggering prisoner who says to me: you’re the one who posed next to a naked woman, aren’t you ?                                                
All right.
Yet another, who has no hesitation in playing music at night with an Arab –oh my goodness!- explained to me by day that the obligation of restraint which applies to every public servant made my suggestion – tempting though he found it- impossible to carry out with judges. Maybe he was right : lawyers have more freedom and although they are bound by law to their professional order and confidentiality (which are meant to protect their clients and function and not them), they only have to answer to their clients and the President of their Bar in the case of professional misconduct.
(13) Alas, the America of Mr. BUSH and GUANTANAMO has not given the answer to this question that one might have expected from that democracy… It is being debated.
So I had to make do with them, considering them to be symbols of the whole legal profession. That was the reason why my friend VERNERET and I wanted to photograph François La Phuong and his mug (this brilliant lawyer had a stroke which robbed him of the power of speech, he from whom words used to flow like water): he embodies a social function that is pivotal and present all over the world – wherever free defence, true journalism and multipartism exist, often threatened, an everlasting quest. The quest for democracy is never ending, that’s how it is and it will go on!
Yet I would have liked to shoot a portrait of BURGAUD sitting on his chair, twisted, tortured, in front of his tormentors, our Members of Parliament and cameramen. On the left-hand page there would be lots of children naked in their lies and their false innate innocence. Paradoxes.
Stolen pictures
It was at the flea market, one Sunday morning round about the year 2000. The stalls were shining with a thousand odds and ends, spare parts, printed circuits, socks, kitchenware, make-up, all kinds of exotic products from the technical Western world, from the Muslim Maghreb, from the depths of Africa. We were in France, in Algiers, in Mali. A colourful, loud-mouthed, buoyant rabble. I was shopping, some tea here, a box there, lipsticks for the models, why not this cheese-grater…
Around noon, I went to the local bistrot, next to the tent where the head of security, a huge mountain of a man, a bearded North African, an integrated fundamentalist cop, kept an eye on things. A pint of lager, and a merguez sausage, swallowed in haste. It was raining on the bar window, hey, why not take a shot of the droplets meandering all the way down the window pane, with the souk in the background. And the atmosphere in the bar too, on an impulse, just as you take a few notes, draw a sketch or have a fag. A kid came up to me, about fifteen years old, good-looking and aggressive, as they are at that age.
-          Whatcha doin’?
-          ….
-          Taking pictures ?
-          Well, yes !
-          But you got no right to take pictures, you fucking sod ! You a copper or what ?
-          No, I’m not a cop, I’ve just taken a few shots, the window pane, the cafe, that’s all, nothing wrong with that…
-          Yeah there is you cunt ! You didn’t ask the women who’re there ! You’re a fucking paedophile!
It was obviously the worst insult he could think of. I burst out laughing (not being a paedophile) and asked my neighbour, a thirty-year-old Arab who was watching the scene with some embarrassment and a hint of compassion for me if I had done something wrong.
- Listen, you don’t bother me. But I’m an Algerian tourist, so the problems between Arab French people and French people are none of my business.
The teenager was at it again, insulting me even more; the bar owner didn’t say a word and neither did the customers, who were discreetly watching the row.
-          You’ll see, you bastard, as soon as you get out of here, me and me mates over there, we’ll crack your head open and nick your photo gear, I swear!
Outside, through the window, I could see over a dozen teenagers, the aforesaid mates staring at me aggressively. I turned to the bar owner, who had kept a cautious silence:
-          Is it not allowed to take snapshots in your bar ?
-          You should’ve asked, Mister, it isn’t done …
I had to go and see Mr. Bearded Mountain security man and demand that one of his men walk back to my car with me. Didn’t feel like getting beaten up by a mob of fifteen against one and having my Nikon Coolpix nicked into the bargain. Big Beard okayed it but rather grudgingly, he wouldn’t have minded that voyeur getting thrashed in fact…
I had made a mistake: not getting accepted in the environment first of all. The hazards of stolen pictures. A failure.
What a strange and wonderful job it is to write. I entrust my quill, sorry, my computer and its well-meaning software, with snatches of memory, attempts at thinking (legally an attempt is punishable), wishful thinking, a hotch-potch of warmed-up leftovers. I do it in the night, words bring more words, you’ll see whether they may suit you a little. I’ll make a show of modesty. Make an attempt at fantasy.
What a strange and wonderful job it is to publish. You can bring out some authors, spread ideas, launch new debates or old refrains. You can sing with the world, create your own little music.
Have a look at our photographs, at Marie-Ange LE SAINT’s masks,
 read the astonishing improvised speeches of our model lawyers / (which, reading between the lines, paint a broad picture of the function of defence),
Lawyer: Béatrix de ROCHETTE
Nude: Roberto SCIRRI
Rather a rebellious young man, rebelling against society, rebelling against all corruption and holding that Justice doesn’t have the opportunity – I’m not saying it’s at fault – isn’t always given the opportunity to fulfil its role. It isn’t given the wherewithal.
It would be an acknowledgement of failure.
The boy would express aggressiveness, revolt, because he would not be able to realize his ideal at all: he is surrounded by people who have none. His youthfulness would contradict his aspirations. People would try to pick quarrels with him over trifles.
His ideal would be solidarity, equality.
He would be twenty years old. He would express aggressiveness towards himself (he wouldn’t like himself enough) and towards society. He would display surliness on the outside– when he is soft at heart, and a mocking attitude, because he is disillusioned. People would misunderstand him and, as a result, he would be even more at odds with them. When in fact he is quite idealistic and refuses to compromise with his conscience. But he reads the papers and finds nothing but mean compromise, judgments are questioned, corrupt politicians are exposed. We can wonder where he could find an answer to his aspirations.
Hence a huge sense of disappointment.
I was brought up in a remarkable school, here in Lyon, inspired by a spirit of loyalty and fairness. When I left it, I was bitterly disappointed. I found people mean, their concerns base. Many young people have to deal with this now.
He would have brown hair, he would express aggressiveness, disappointment, a certain degree of sadness even. And a measure of contempt if he doesn’t meet people who understand him and have an ideal too. He would shut himself off. Young people crave ideals but seldom find them around.
His mask would indicate the many-faceted aspects of his face: he looks all around him and finds nothing.
Lawyer: François LA PHUONG
Nudes: Kata and Judit HORTOBAGYI, Marta SZABO
I don’t know. I don’t know. A woman. Not a man, no. A young and old woman, both, all three. It would be an evolution.
She would express bliss. She would be happy, happy…
I’m not set on one particular model: naked, not naked, beautiful, ugly . I don’t mind , I would put myself in the jurors’ shoes!
Lawyer: Jean-Pierre LERICHE
Nudes: Katarina E. and her children
A woman, not because she‘s naked, but because I get the impression women are more naked when facing the court. They’re less prepared for this kind of fight.
Of no particular age, neither too conventional, nor over the top. Women have a greater thirst for justice than men. Men use the legal system as a tool, as in sport, in a match. Whereas women reach for something deeper, hence higher expectations and greater disappointment because they idealize the law and expect a lot from it.
To start with, she feels a kind of awe, she believes in Justice, in the legal system, it’s an almost religious attitude. Then, once she’s been through the experience, she becomes disillusioned. In the end, disappointment prevails.
It’s a passionate relationship, even for a businesswoman. She’s very happy or very tough. She has no time for weakness. She finds a hasty judgment unbearable.
I’m surprised to find myself such a feminist!
She has a certain charm, as in a painting, without going as far as Rubens ... She’s forty-five and still quite attractive.
She is worried, as a mother can be.
No props. She is facing the court, naked, with her children. They have taken off their masks.
14. AWE
            Lawyer: Jean-Pierre MAISONNAS
My alter ego?
Someone who would be me and at the same time not me?
Justice and its Double?
A counterpart?
I wouldn’t mind choosing a nude who appeals to women, I’d like to take Myriam P.!
It would be a form of absurd, slavish submission, a total lack of understanding of what goes on in court, in the judicial world, in the institutions, a submission to decorum.
It’s a sexless feeling and yet it’s two-sided. For some people who need lawyers, we are nothing but a tool, some kind of raw material. They don’t give a shit about justice. They’re a small fringe.
The others are submissive. They expect to suffer. It’s a High Mass with a few high priests officiating.
It’s not necessarily a man. It’s not necessarily a woman. Not necessarily old. Not necessarily young. Nor rich. Nor poor. It’s a cross-section.
 OK, given the choice, I’d prefer a female body, young, unruly, attractive. She would be attracted to the judicial body and fear it at the same time, a feeling of awe which would make her wear a mask.
I once pleaded against a very beautiful female colleague, before some old fogeys, and lost when I ought to have won! I didn’t stand a chance!
The Court of Appeal had their tongues hanging out…
Attraction, repulsion, seduction too… 
 Gilles VERNERET’s text and Azouz BEGAG’s too, not because he is a minister, but because he is a writer.
Hail, citizen reader, it’s your turn to judge.
                                Villeurbanne, 9th October 2006
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