Across Borders: A Parkour Generation

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Human motion need not be delimited by carefully-set sidewalks nor inhibited by obstacles. Leap over walls, swing from the rafters to get to your next destination via le method naturelle. The spectacle often leaves average pedestrians awestruck in the dust. Parkour enthusiasts, called traceurs, draw unique lines of approach to this sport of urban free-running and develop their philosophies from the spirit of it. The movements evoke practitioners’ primitive sides while the discipline places them vis-à-vis with moments of fear and truth about the psychological and physical limits. The conceptualization of parkour breaks down ideas of spatial and social confinement, which have restricted our harmony with our environment. As one enthusiast put it, “The idea that the only way to get to the second floor is from the inside of a building is preposterous.”

Nicola

The community’s consensus is that this adrenaline-pumped martial art was born in Lisses, France, where modern legends-in-the-making like Sébastien Foucan and Jérôme Ben Aoues expressed their free-flow style by jumping, flipping, scaling, leaping along their own paths with exceptionally acrobatic, and distinctly defiant, French flair since the 1990s. Here, skateboarding was not allowed and public playgrounds had rules against this type of play. They developed a sport that complemented surrounding architecture in creating alternate, and often impressive, routes of transit for the nonconformist traveler. The style quickly spread throughout the United Kingdom, Europe, and the Americas. Parkour Generations America started in 2005 with a runabout rendezvous – here is their showreel: http://youtu.be/lD3_Fn0erPw

 

The most spectacular stunts are done among rooftops, but fundamentals should be learned at ground level. Today, online organizations like ParkourGenerations.com and Monkeyspirit.org seek to inspire young French traceurs by providing tips, tricks, and testimonials from those who have become proficient in the art of creative movement. The masters teach use of fundamental and natural motions, mental rehearsal, and hard work to become fluid in the art of manipulating your horizon, because after all, “the art of moving is about hard training.” Exercise regimes challenge cardiovascular systems, build core strength and improve muscular endurance. The essence is in the footwork, the hand placement, the unique flow of the individual in their route and how they assess obstacles. Uncontested sensei Sébastien Foucan explains that, in his experience, “practice is best done alone…to be focused in yourself. When you are alone you’re a little bit afraid and you need to find why and the solution.” And Monkeyspirit.org urges hopefuls in its introduction not to put the cart before the horse. “The flow comes from years of hard work. Even apes and monkeys practice all the day long during their childhood learning from their parents.”
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Groups like UrbanFreeFlow and Freemouv display skill at international competitions, most recently this July in the French Alps and in August in Wisconsin, USA. Their talents have also been displayed in such recent films as 007 James Bond: Casino Royale and Jump Britain. Foucan recently helped K-Swiss develop the Ariake, the first freerunning and parkour shoe. Nikon and GoPro have contests to sponsor amateurs in creating parkour videos for the web.

To date, the writer has personally adopted many movements of Animal Planet in conquest of free-running basics. Visualize me at 25, meditating at dawn and practicing throughout Missouri’s karst landscape during my frequent hiking trips. I still get the urge to climb to the top of the playground tower and every other imposing structure I come across. As a novice, I hurt my ankle while leaping between platforms last month and haven’t been as spry since. I should have been wary of encouraging instructions that included the phrase, “various opportunities to jump off the roof.”

 

Ultimately, parkour is for hard-chargers, fast runners, young kung fu masters, trapeze artists, and those kids who grew up having the most fun on the school playground. It continues to be rapidly embraced by a generation of unprecedented physicality and philosophy: a parkour generation.

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(Shades of) Grün – From LA to Gorleben, Germany to Durban, South Africa

While Americans are occupying LA,

Occupy LA

Credit: OccupyLosAngeles.org

German protesters are occupying the street to Gorleben, Germany, which is used to transport nuclear* waste from France to the depository in Gorleben.

Anti-Nuclear Protest

Photograph: Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images

At the same time, in Durban, South Africa, the United Nations climate change conference, is taking place.

Americans are protesting the unsustainable political system. And the grassroot effort is spreading around the world. Alongside, Germany is taking the lead in fighting for environmental sustainability. Political and environmental sustainability are actually entwined. Environmental sustainability is restricted by politics, and changes in environmental policies are part of the structural change.

The Kyoto Protocol, the agreement on reducing greenhouse gas emission, will expire next year.The climate change conference this year is expected to picture the future of world climate change. Representatives from governments and organizations all over the world try to “assess progress in dealing with climate change” and “adopt decisions and resolutions”, according to the Durban conference website. But it doesn’t seem promising.

Before anything else, are we leaving the future generations a clean place to live in? In an interview discussing the Durban conference and Germany’s environmental policies, German Environment Minister Norbert Röttgen said that “the environmental mountain of debt is a bigger problem” compared to the financial debt,. “When a financial bubble bursts, you can always resort to bailouts and pull back again from the brink. When ecosystems collapse, you can’t just approve a bailout package. Indeed, there is a danger that you can’t return these systems to a healthy state.”

How soon is a global grassroot environmental movement coming? Or shall we just wait for good news from Durban?

*Know more about the nuclear situation in Germany here.

Oceanic Windmill farms, what will they think of next?

Daily show Talking about EU wind farms

If you would for a moment, take yourself to the realm of the divine imagination where anything can happen. Now start to fill out your visual understanding by providing yourself with a model of earth, specifically its oceans. As you look out across the ocean, you notice vertical white lines seem to be sprouting from the ocean, and on these vertical sticks are mounted propellers. Now that you have exercised your imagination, you have caught up with certain EU engineers who have essentially planted windmills in the ocean to generate energy for cities. But don’t worry, if you haven’t imagined such a thing as offshore wind farms you are in the same boat as the US.

These offshore wind farms offer the potential of trillions of watts of untapped energy being transmitted to our shoreline and inland cities everyday. It will be interesting to see how quickly these places turn into political capital as…

Pioneering farms in the EU and China have already begun to harvest a small fraction of this power, and these nations have made large investments in capturing even more.

Early success in offshore wind farms are affording the EU enough energy to provide for even more magnificent projects, enough so that they could potentially suppy a continents energy needs. The implications of continental energy being afforded without fossil fuels being burned are astounding!

Machines powering other machines 🙂

Interestingly enough

While EU nations and corporations have worked together to build dozens of successful wind farms off their coastal shores, the United States has produced exactly zero so far. This is in spite of about 21% of the world’s wind energy being produced in the US. Look at a list of the world’s top 25 onshore wind projects and the USA is dominating. Look at the same list for offshore sites and we don’t even appear. Despite the great similarity between the two types of renewable energy resources, the US is lagging years behind the EU.

Nysted Wind Farm in Denmark

Early reports on the recently built wind farms have been successful. In fact Europe is considering the option of exponentially expanding these energy farms. One of my only questions is why people aren’t working together in order to a grid-like energy lattice network to power the world off the energy of the world. These mills smell of sea-salt and opportunity, so lets dive in and see what happens…………….ahhhh! shaaaaaaaaaaaaaark!

quotes from singularity hub bloggers/discussers

Who you gonna call? Ghost Busters!

picture taken from www.immediateregret.com

I fear no ghosts! When watching TV in the U.S., however, I might easily get an eerie feeling. TV shows like Ghost Adventures make us believe that we’re surrounded by ghosts and that paranormal activities happen anytime anywhere. Even History Channel reports matter-of-factly that aliens have evidently erected many of the world’s finest buildings such as the pyramids of Giza or Machu Pichu.

If these are proven facts (as TV makes us believe) why didn’t anyone in Germany tell me about it? It seems like Sir Simon and his peers have vacated medieval castles in Europe to settle in more modern American homes – and who can blame them. Apparently, Europeans spooked the ghosts, who then fled over the Atlantic. And Americans seem to welcome them with open arms. If the Otis Family isn’t scared – Zak Bagans “didn’t believe in ghosts until [he] came face to face with one.

But why are Americans more perceptible to hauntings, ghosts, and aliens? To me, there doesn’t seem to be an apparent reason why Americans should be more superstitious than Germans. In a poll executed by CBS in 2005, one in five Americans claims to have seen a ghost themselves and almost half of the people in the study admitted to be believers. According to FOX (2007) one third of Americans believes in ghosts and UFOs. These findings are supported by the large number of blogs that deal with the topic. In Germany, only about 10 % believe in paranormal activities.

What I found most striking though, is that according to CBS, the younger the people are, the more susceptible they are to these beliefs. This made me wonder how much influence the said TV shows like Ghost Adventures and the like have on the results of these polls. Halloween and the media obviously make paranormal appearances pop culture in the US, whereas you hardly have any mentioning of ghosts on German TV. To the uncritical viewer of American TV, it really may seem like ghosts, ghouls, and extra-terrestrials are among us. You may not even be aware of how close they actually might be –  the Missouri-based Kindred Moon Paranormal Society has recorded “something unexplained” in MU’s Ellis Library. Now this might be a good excuse for a missed research assignment.

If you want to watch the Ellis Library Episode, follow this link. Then select Kindred Moon Productions, click on Season 1, Episode 3 and you can start the video above.

France’s Workout Plan

Just before writing this post, I was driving in my car and Lo! – a radio advertisement about a new and practically pain-free way to shed unwanted pounds pulsed through the speakers. A woman’s voice repeatedly said something along the lines of, “Call 1-800-588-SLIM today to get the body you’ve always wanted!”

Image courtesy of dreamstime.com

Image courtesy of dreamstime.com

After a silent laugh, I wondered if you’d hear an advertisement like this while driving through French cities and towns. My intuitive answer? Probably not. “Probably” being the key word…

Anywho… whether it’s diets, diet books, diet pills, protein shakes, exercise regiments, personal trainers or the like, Americans seem to have an obsession with fitness in a way that is foreign to the French.

In an article on FindArticles.com the author writes, “The French don’t need to don lycra bike shorts or join a gym — exercise is a way of life. And because it is, it seems they can pass the beurre (butter) and secretly laugh at our American obsession.”

(Note: This “obsession” probably has something to do with the popularity of Barbie, GI Joe, Michelle Obama’s arms, and the $33 billion Americans spend every year on diet books.)

So, what seems to be different about the French fitness attitude?

Some call the secret to the naturally healthy French way of life the French Paradox – an idea comprised of about four key cultural differences from the American way of life: a varied diet, portion control, red wine consumption and daily exercise (i.e. riding a bike or walking instead of driving – but no gym)

In a Salon.com article, Claude Fischler, a nutritional sociologist at INSERM (the French equivalent of America’s National Institutes of Health) says some of the paradox is myth. Nonetheless, he says the French eat “Comme il faut”“As it should be.” He adds that unlike American women, French women eat exactly what they want and don’t spend hours at the gym trying to get in or stay in shape.

However, from one French blog I came across, this American diet/fitness obsession seems to be infiltrating the non-chalante attitude of the French…

Valerie Orsoni, French fitness guru, CEO and Founder of MyPrivateCoach.com and LeBootCamp.com said on her blog: “Votre coach et vous – blog minceur – maigrir vite et bien” : translation :Your coach and you – slimness blog – lose weight fast and well,” Orsoni discusses her life, companies and most recently, a new television fitness program based on her last book, “Secrets de Coach.”

One of the subheads of this book, as well as her blog is “…sans régime stricte.”

Translation : “…without a strict diet.”

Hmm…sounds a bit like the “practically pain-free” weight loss radio advertisement I heard in my car earlier.

So, to all American women (and men) bombarded with “how to get fit” books, diets, pills and media in hopes to achieve the perfect body, or to perhaps unlock the secret to French attractiveness, internalize the words of one young, French, Marie Claire intern:

I’ll tell you the secret of the French sexy way of being: Everybody thinks that we are. We call it an idée recue, an accepted notion. No matter if we are blonde, brown, tall, or small, from the moment we start to speak with the accent, we become the natural daughter of Catherine Deneuve and Coco Chanel. We aren’t. Really.”

Now You Can Cop the Parisian Attitude!

FRENCH.

What words just came to your mind?

Before you read further, take minute to let the various nouns and adjectives flow freely.

Okay…

"The Shrug"

"The Shrug"

If you’re an American, there’s a good chance some of the negative words that just popped in and out of your mind were ones like arrogant, lazy, coward, dirty, anti-American, socialist (maybe even communist?), hairy and rude.

Now, I’m sure words like food, wine, fashion, Eiffel Tower, romance, cheese, art, tradition and maybe even fries came up as well.

But, for now we’re going to take a look at the role these negative descriptors play into France’s – specifically Paris’ – tourism industry.

Big surprise to me and maybe to you as well: Turns out, there are actually tourist manuals that help educate the Paris-hesitant traveler on how to “cop” the Parisian attitude.

Yes. It’s true…you too can now be as rude as some deem the French to be!

According to tourist agency, Gadling.com, “Parisians are well known for their rudeness to tourists and other foreigners. This has always been very frustrating, however, to the Regional Tourism Committee of Paris whose job it is to attract foreign visitors to the French capital. They’ve discovered over the years, however, that many tourists simply don’t want to go to Paris and be accosted by this legendary rudeness.”

So, several years ago, the Committee launched a “tongue and cheek advertising campaign [that] could best be described as an ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’ approach,” according to an article on ScienceDirect.com. The article’s author goes on to criticize the campaign saying, “Such an approach is so, well…French,” and asks, “When, exactly, did the lowest common denominator become ‘best practice?'”

The campaign is directed toward Brits who’ve turned to other tourist destinations where they can more pleasantly spend their spare pounds.

While offensive to some, some heavy-hitters in the tourism industry have welcomed the humorously helpful travel tips through the “if you can’t beat them, join them” approach.

Fodor’s, for example, says, “The Web site, created as a marketing tool by a cheeky French tourist agency, is a clever attempt to make light of the quirks and tics that have come to characterize our friends across the Atlantic.”

Here are some examples of “Parisianisms” that can help you cope and blend in with the stereotypically rude culture:

1. The Pout: “Start by looking bored, then pucker your lips and shake your head slowly for impact.”

2. The Shrug: “Stick out your lower lips, and then reaise your eyebrows and shoulders simultaneously.” (See Image Above)

3. The indicator that someone should shut up (a.k.a. “tait-toi!”): “Hold your hand in the shape of an ‘L’; then bring your fingers and thumb together.”

Personally, I never felt the need to use any of these gestures, nor did I find it necessary to “cop” the Gallic, French attitude while visiting the City of Light.

However, for the nervous or hesitant tourist who is debating whether or not to visit Paris, humorous tips like these may help you make light of any rudeness you may encounter.

To take a peak into more aspects of French culture, please visit TheSecretLifeofFrance.com for an Englishwoman-now-living-in-Paris perspective.