French farewell ‘the biggest rock star you’ve never heard of’

Updated December 10, 2017 12:55:00

France bid farewell to its biggest rock star Johnny Hallyday with an extravagant funeral procession down Paris’ Champs-Elysees Avenue, a presidential speech and a televised church ceremony filled with the country’s most famous faces.

Key points:

  • 1,500 police were on duty to secure the area around the funeral procession
  • French President Emmanuel Macron delivered an eulogy
  • Hallyday died age 74 after a battle with lung cancer

Few figures in French history have earned a send-off with as much pomp as the man dubbed the “French Elvis,” who notched more than 110 million in record sales since rising to fame in the 1960s.

Hallyday died at 74 after fighting lung cancer.

In an honour usually reserved for heads of state or literary giants like 19th-century novelist Victor Hugo, Hallyday’s funeral cortege rode past Napoleon’s Arc de Triomphe monument and down the Champs-Elysees to the Place de la Concorde plaza on the Seine River.

Hundreds of motorcyclists accompanied the procession in a nod to the lifelong passion that Hallyday, born Jean-Philippe Smet, had for motorcycles. His biker image included signature leather jackets and myriad tattoos.

French President Emmanuel Macron — a Hallyday fan himself, like three generations of others across the French-speaking world — delivered an eulogy on the steps of Paris’ Madeleine Church for the star known to the public affectionately by only one name.

“Johnny belonged to you. Johnny belonged to his public. Johnny belonged to his country,” Mr Macron said.

“He should have fallen a hundred times, but what held him up and lifted him was your fervour, the love,” add Mr Macron, referring to the star’s health troubles and famously excessive lifestyle.

Hallyday’s death unleashed a wave of emotion across France, where he had been a symbol of national identity and stability for more than half a century — even though his private life had been far from stable.

Aside from the drinking, smoking and partying chronicled in juicy detail by the French press, Hallyday had been linked to a string of glamorous women and had married five times.

About 1,500 police officers secured the area in Paris, a police helicopter flew overhead and emergency vehicles filled nearby streets as tens of thousands of fans lined the procession route.

Many dressed to emulate Hallyday’s flashy, rebellious style. Some climbed on fences, stoplights, and even the roof of a luxury hotel to get a better view.

Dubbed by some as “the biggest rock star you’ve never heard of” — Hallyday’s position as one of the greatest-selling musical artists of all time is unusual as he remained largely unknown outside the Francophone world. But in France, he influenced styles, music and even children’s names.

Laura Dublot, a 30-year-old Parisian, and her brother David are among many who were named after Hallyday’s older children, Laura and David.

“He’s a national icon. This scale of funeral is not surprising — he’s united three generations of French,” Ms Dublot said.

Hallyday likely would have approved of this send-off, having told French media he dreaded the idea of an isolated funeral like the one he attended for his father in 1989.

He is survived by his wife Laeticia, two of his former wives, four children and three grandchildren.


Topics: death, community-and-society, arts-and-entertainment, music, history, art-history, france

First posted December 10, 2017 12:51:19

Melbourne Museum turns itself ‘inside out’, displaying usually hidden items

Posted December 09, 2017 06:00:46

It’s easy to get lost in the maze of hallways and rooms which contain Melbourne Museum’s hidden archive of treasures.

Some of the items in the 17-million-piece collection are so precious, finger print technology is used to open locked doors.

But once you’re in, there’s no telling what you might find.

“The museums are like an iceberg, there’s only the very, very tip ever on display,” Museums Victoria’s chief executive Lynley Marshall said.

“Most of the public never get to see what is stored in this museum, because there’s not more than 1 per cent of the collection on display at any one time.

“So when you get to see all these objects, you have a sense of ‘I wish more people could see more of this’.”

A new exhibition called Inside Out aims to display some of the most special items re-discovered by curators.

Some pieces have never been seen by the public.

Among them:

  • A cabinet of more than 200 taxidermied humming birds collected by famous English ornithologist John Gould.
  • An collection of 13,000 eggs from Australian birds, collected by Henry Luke White.
  • A silver dress designed by Prue Action in 1985.
  • A taxidermied collection of rare birds and other animals.
  • Precious stones which have long been hidden in the geology department.

A taxidermied Tasmanian tiger which was acquired by Hobart Zoo is also going to be put on display.

Steven Sparrey, the manager of the museum’s preparation department, has spent weeks restoring the specimen.

“The actual specimen itself is in quite good condition, and tells a lovely story about how taxidermists would have worked on and prepared these specimens a long time ago,” he said.

“We haven’t got a huge amount of these specimens as part of our collection, so it’s really important what we do have is in the best possible condition they can be in.”

The public will be able to see the 350 carefully selected items when the exhibition opens just before Christmas.

“You are going to see the most incredible collection of objects,” Ms Marshall said.

“That’s what bringing the behind the scenes out, turning the museum inside out, means for us.

“Bringing those beautiful items out so everyone can see them.”

Topics: arts-and-entertainment, library-museum-and-gallery, community-and-society, history, melbourne-3000, vic

First Nations Australians don’t have to imagine an apocalypse — we survived one

Posted December 08, 2017 07:30:00

There is a shield in the British Museum, taken by Cook on his 1770 landing in the place he named Botany Bay, in what was to become New South Wales.

Called the Gweagal shield, it has a bullet hole near the centre. Oral history held by the Gweagal people says the man who owned that shield was shot.

Carved of wood, it was incapable of withstanding a threat his people had never experienced and almost certainly had never imagined.

It was never my intent to write apocalyptic fiction, to write about dystopias.

It was my intent to write a novel that would explain and contextualise the invasion of Australia in 1788 in such a way that it would help white people understand what the invasion meant for my people. I wanted people to have empathy for my people if they had not before.

But while writing that novel, Terra Nullius, I experienced a revelation that was to blow my mind.

Novels about the history of Australia are post-apocalyptic, because all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people alive today are the descendants of people who survived an apocalypse.

Modern Australia is a dystopia if you look at it from our point of view — it’s only the “lucky country” for everybody else.

While writing my novel I came to the understanding that the only way to tell the story truthfully and with the impact I wanted it to have, was to embrace the post-apocalyptic imagery.

In 1788 boats arrived in Sydney Cove, and started unloading soldiers and prisoners, transportees on this continent, now called Australia. That is when the apocalypse began.

Over nearly 230 years the First Nations Australian people went from controlling the continent to constituting only around 3 per cent of the continent’s population. These were end times, the ending of a civilisation, of a culture, of a people.

More people died than you can imagine — most of the population died, and those of us living now are the descendants of a small number of survivors.

We can only imagine now, the violence, the pain, the suffering of my First Nations people.

Diseases imported from Europe would have been decimating and terrifying. Most of the white people were men and we know rape was commonplace. Many of those who survived the epidemics were massacred, the survivors of the massacres were rounded up, forced into concentration camps, had their culture destroyed and were often enslaved.

There were hundreds of languages spoken on this continent before white people came. Many of those languages and the information encoded in those languages are now lost. Things cannot be explained or remembered if there are no words to talk about them.

As a Noongar woman, my ancestral country is the south coast of Western Australia. I can say with certainty that I am alive only because my ancestors survived.

That is true of all people, everyone only lives because their ancestors survived.

In my case survival was a miracle. There were few survivors, and the attempted genocide of my people was almost successful.

I am a product of the resilience of two women — Binyan, also known as Fanny Winnery, and Harriet Coleman, her daughter.

However, it is not just how many people died, or the low chance of survival that defined the arrival of white people as apocalyptic.

An entire civilisation was destroyed along with our language and a lot of culture. It was destroyed because the people who invaded Australia — and it was an invasion — had no respect for the people who lived here.

White people brought their own culture, their own religion. Seeing ours as completely lacking in value, they used their military might and their control of the resources they stole, to force their culture on us. There are survivors, there is living culture — but so much, so very much, was lost.

In summary: white people stole our land, stole our children, attempted, and nearly succeeded in the complete destruction of our culture.

We, the Indigenous people of this continent, now live in a dystopia.

We are a tiny proportion of the population, only 3 per cent, therefore we do not have the political power to enact change within a democracy. This is one of the reasons why First Nations Australians have a life expectancy decades shorter than white people, often live in third-world conditions, and are on average significantly poorer than the national average.

Indigenous affairs are something done to us, not with us. Our small numbers and a history of hostile government has kept control of our affairs out of our hands.

We don’t have to imagine an apocalypse, we survived one. We don’t have to imagine a dystopia, we live in one — day after day after day.

Topics: indigenous-culture, indigenous-aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islander, community-and-society, history, books-literature, fiction, arts-and-entertainment, australia

Year’s lowest tides reveal secretive shipwrecks

Updated December 05, 2017 13:13:28

Darwin will be geographically bigger at 1:13pm local time today when the tides reach their lowest point of the year.

For Doug Wade, the 0.2-metre tide will be celebrated with his favourite pastime.

Mr Wade is a tide walker, so he regularly wanders far out on Darwin’s mud flats during the small window that a low tide provides.

“I love snorkelling but up here with the stingers and the crocs you don’t really get the opportunity,” he told ABC Radio Darwin‘s Richard Margetson.

“At low tide, you get to go out on the mud flats, on the reef and see everything that’s under the water, minus a few of the big fish.”

Mr Wade’s expeditions have revealed blue-ringed octopuses, stonefish and stranded stingers, but the low tides also expose another mysterious feature of the sea.

It is one of the few opportunities to see the many shipwrecks within walking distance of Darwin’s shoreline.

“At low tides like this, it’s the only time,” he said.

“But today’s a pretty special day where all the corals and those special places that are normally right under water, under six metres of water, you can get down and see those really spectacular things.”

Maritime archaeologist Dr Silvano Jung has been surveying the degrading shipwrecks that become visible during especially low tides for more than 10 years.

He said today’s tide was welcome news to archaeologists because exploring submerged shipwrecks was a logistically challenging task.

One ship, Ataluma, met its end during Cyclone Tracy on Christmas Day in 1974.

But little is known about some of the others, many of which were victims of vicious storms.

“There’s a wreck of the Dutch bomber at Nightcliff on Sunset Park,” Mr Wade said.

“Tragically it just took off from Darwin and crashed and seven people lost their lives.”

The tale is a tragic one, but it has become fodder for other history enthusiasts searching Darwin’s shores.

“There’s a bit of the fuselage and some of the motor you can see out there now,” Mr Wade said.

Topics: human-interest, photography, maritime, history, archaeology, cyclone, cyclones, darwin-0800

First posted December 05, 2017 13:02:47

Tackling old technology to keep digital archives alive

Posted December 01, 2017 09:00:02

We usually think of digital records as accessible, up to date and easy to store.

But for the preservation staff at the State Library of Western Australia, saving this type of content has proven far trickier than simply keeping mildew away from books.

“If you think about keeping a book, what you need to do is ensure it doesn’t have any mould or pests and then store it somewhere safely in the stacks where we have a climate-controlled environment,” David Ong, manager for digital preservation, said.

“Digital content is much more fragile than that, specifically through obsolescence.”

The library, in addition to books and records, holds a large collection of digital material, some of which dates back decades and much of which is not as easy to access as, say, flipping through a book.

“The State Library is interested in collecting West Australian content of historical value, and that content can come in a range of formats from a range of places,” Mr Ong said.

Format change a formidable challenge

Although it might have been safely stored on floppy discs or CD ROMs when it was created, the ability to look at digital files can and is undermined by rapid changes to formats and technology.

“There are so many different types of computers; if you think about the different operating systems, you have Mac and Windows, [those] are the main ones, and those operating systems have gone through multiple iterations, and each of those has a different piece of functionality that they bring along,” Mr Ong said.

“We have seen different types of floppy discs, different sizes, there have been CDs and DVDs, and now we are transferring a lot of files over the internet.

“With any kind of digital file we need the software to be able to open it.

“The software has to run on a specific operating system which may need hardware to run.

“So unlike picking up that book off the shelf and flipping through it, I need a whole lot of bits and pieces of technology in the same place at the same time to be able to open and read a digital file.”

Mr Ong said there could sometimes be a lengthy process to simply see if a single photograph was worth preserving.

And sometimes opening the file is impossible.

“Our first step would be to go back to the donor and say, ‘Can you provide me with another copy?'” he explained.

In some instances, however, that will be the only copy of the file.

Detective work to unlock an old image

In one such instance Mr Ong ran an image file through two pieces of software; the first told him the file was not well formed, the second showed him lines of characters that were the raw contents of the file.

With some detective work he was able to identify where the error was, fix the broken tag and then output the file again.

But after all that effort Mr Ong discovered the image was a low-resolution scan of a photograph the library already had in the original printed format and decided not to keep the file.

Although it can be disappointing to do painstaking work for an insignificant record, Mr Ong was also assured the library had not lost anything valuable.

The importance of personal archiving

Mr Ong’s work has fed a keen interest in taking care of his personal photographic collection and encouraging others to think about how they stored their images.

“Once you have all your photos in one spot, think about describing them at a very high level,” he said.

“I have a mental picture of my kids cringing as I hand them 500,000 photographs which are labelled 001, 002, 003.

“Files that are out of context will not have any meaning at all, so any effort I can make now will make a huge difference in the future.”

He also regularly backs up his images in several places.

“I have my photos on my laptop at home, I have a second copy on an external hard drive at home, and a third copy on an external hard drive that I have left at a mate’s place.

“If a piece of equipment fails, or my house burns down, or someone breaks in and steals my laptop and my hard drive, I will at least have one other copy somewhere else.”

Topics: library-museum-and-gallery, digital-multimedia, history, internet-culture, human-interest, perth-6000

A short history of the high heel

Posted November 13, 2017 09:00:00

It’s a dilemma many women face when they go out — do they want to elongate their legs by wearing high heeled shoes for an event, or still be able to feel their feet at the end of the night?

After events like the Spring Racing Carnival, it is common to see many women abandon their shoes and limp home barefoot.

And while men are perceived to be well turned out at any event in flat shoes, the high heel trend, believe it or not, began with them.

“The origins of the heel relates to horse riding and warriors and the ability to hold tight to the saddle,” podiatrist and shoe historian Cameron Kippen told ABC Radio Perth

“Subsequently you had these macho men swaggering about in boots with heels, but they very quickly became fashionable for rich courtiers and kings in particular.”

The first recorded instance of a high heeled shoe being worn by a woman was by Catherine de Medici in the 16th century.

She was about 150 centimetres tall and it is said she wanted to appear taller at her wedding.

Up until that time, women had been wearing platform shoes, some as high as 60 centimetres, in 16th century Europe.

“Platforms predate heeled shoes, but because many women would fall over their platforms, and pregnant women would miscarry, they had to be legislated against,” Mr Kippen said.

“Shoemakers realised they could give women height but they needed to make them safer, so they carved out the front of the platform and created a high heel which was biomechanically more sound than platforms.”

During the reign of King Louis XIV of France, some 200 years later, wearing heels really began to take off — but again, among men.

“After de Medici died, that was the end of heeled shoes for women in terms of fashion,” Mr Kippen said.

“Women started to wear lower heels, but men liked this idea of towering above everyone else — and no one more than Louis XIV, who of course gave his name to an actual heel itself.

“He would parade around with very tight fitting high heeled shoes, very highly decorated.

“His critical badge of honour was a red heel, and he wouldn’t allow anybody else in the French court to wear them.”

Heels in the French court at Versailles were an important status symbol and restricted to the nobility.

“Wearing heels without permission — you would lose your head, literally,” Mr Kippen said.

“In those days there were fewer people wanting to be fashionable.

“Ordinary people would go about their business with no trouble at all, whereas it was the courtiers and those that had privilege and money that would want to outdo each other.

“Therefore, trying to emulate the royal family in whatever country you were in was something that was governed against.”

The right to wear heels eventually extended to the general population, but they remained chunky until after the end of World War II.

“We had to fight two world wars to have the technology to be able to make a stiletto heel,” Mr Kippen said.

“The secret of the stiletto heel was a small piece of metal which joined the inside of the shoes sufficiently that the heel and foot of the shoe could operate separately. It could actually bend and twist.

“It’s known as a shank.

“Once a shoe designer managed to work that out, then heels became more like what we see today.

“In the past heels were more like arch supports. They sat much closer to the middle of the foot, whereas now they can sit right at the end of the shoe.”

Initially, the creation of the stiletto heel was a cause of great consternation.

“In all the ballrooms at the time, the owners were very much concerned,” Mr Kippen said.

“These new stiletto heels could actually bore a hole in the floor.

“There was much warning and health foreboding about the things that would happen if you wore stiletto heels.”

Blisters aside, Mr Kippen said there was little evidence that high heeled shoes caused long-term health problems for wearers.

“We have lived half a century past that time and there is no evidence to show that people who wear these for a prolonged period would have foot or back problems at all,” he said.

Topics: fashion, history, women, perth-6000

The science behind Flinders Street Station’s new look

Posted November 10, 2017 13:38:10

The scaffolding is slowing coming off Flinders Street Station, revealing the Melbourne icon’s brand new colours.

Or should we say old colours? After all, the repaint is designed to be as close as possible to the station’s first paint job from 1910.

But how do we know what colours the station was painted in if all the photos of it are in black and white?

Science, that’s how.

Layers ‘like a liquorice allsort’

The architects in charge of the station’s refurbishment, Lovell Chen, determined from newspaper records that Flinders Street Station had been repainted at least five times.

Melbourne University’s Grimwade Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation was tasked with determining the historic station’s original colour scheme.

Grimwade Centre’s senior paintings conservator Cushla Hill said the architects provided them with at least 20 samples of paint chipped from walls throughout the station.

“We embed that chipped paint into a polyester resin tube and then we cut into it,” she said.

Cutting across the paint chip allowed the conservators to examine the layers of paint using a powerful microscope.

“It’s like a liquorice allsort. You can work down through the layers to the original layer,” Ms Hill said.

“The original layer was a more subdued beigey yellow colour, which is what has been reinstated.”

Project director Graeme Kay said the team believed the colours “are as close as we could possibly get”.

He told ABC Radio Melbourne‘s Rafael Epstein that the more subdued yellow was used by the original painters in an effort to replicate the look of sandstone.

“The red is a much more vibrant red,” he said of the restoration.

‘Ray gun’ detects elements

The Grimwade Centre was able to find out more about the type of pigment the century-old paint contained by using a technique called X-ray fluorescence, or XRF.

“The XRF is like a ray gun that you just point at the sample,” Ms Hill said.

“It’s a non-destructive technique … that will detect the elements in that sample.”

The XRF detected chromium in the original green paint used for the station’s trimmings, which suggests the paint was a chromium green oxide.

Topics: painting, architecture, design, history, science-and-technology, melbourne-3000