Viva la France Week

February 20th, 2007


So I finally got around to working on my summer theme party. For recent readers of this blog, I host a party every summer celebrating some random cultural cast-off from our collective past. Last year’s party was dedicated to the great American truck driver – focusing on trucker culture’s high water mark in the ‘70s. I’ve also had parties around the theme of Brazilian Bossa Nova and Polynesian Pop. Every party also has a companion compilation CD sent to guests prior to the event. This year’s disc is going to be a collection of ’60s French pop songs including tracks from France Gall, Serge Gainsbourg, and Brigitte Bardot. As you might imagine, the party will revolve around the theme of France in the ‘60s. It was in interesting time in French cultural, political, and economic history. Coming out of the Second World War, France had managed to rapidly transform itself into a modern industrial society. The essay included inside the CD booklet will talk about this in more detail, but what basically happened was economic prosperity and political liberalism lead to an explosion of French culture, from the movies of Goddard to music of Gainsbourg. Today also kicks-off Viva la France week here at Wildfreshness. Each day we’ll be profiling something uniquely French and totally awesome from the ‘60s.

Oh, one other thing, if you think you’re not on my current mailing list for these compilation CDs and would like to receive one, please send an email to the following address: ned.howard(at) Please put “Viva la France” in the subject line and make sure to include your full mailing address. I anticipate sending out CDs toward the end of March, so it will be a couple of weeks before you can expect to see something in the mail.


OK, now on to our first entry in the Viva la France week: an appreciation of explorer, mariner, and filmmaker Jacques-Yves Cousteau. My grandfather was a member of the Cousteau Society, so I was exposed to the world of Cousteau at a pretty early age. In fact, I remember having a cut-away poster of Cousteau’s ship Calypso on my bedroom wall for years.


Cousteau started his aquatic career in the French navy during the Second World War. It was during this time he invented, along with Emile Gagnan, the first personal underwater breathing system, or the aqua-lung. In 1950, Cousteau began leasing the ex-Royal Navy minesweeper Calypso leading to a string of adventures that would birth a series of films winning him three Oscars. But Cousteau is probably best known here in the States for his long running TV series The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau which hit the airwaves in 1966. In 1973, the Cousteau Society was founded – an organization that now includes around 300,000 members worldwide.

One of the most interesting and overlooked aspects of Cousteau’s career was his political activism. Cousteau spoke against the dumping of nuclear waste at sea and later received the UN international environment price. He was also awarded with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1985 by President Ronald Reagan, showing his charismatic appeal crossed political boundaries. Quite simply, Cousteau was an all-around pimp extraordinaire of the undersea world.

Entry Filed under: ’60 France

6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Peter  |  February 20th, 2007 at 8:43 pm

    I miss The Undersea World so much. It was one of the few things our entire family would watch together. Last year, Krista and I visited MIT to hunt down Harold Edgerton’s “Stobe Alley”. He was the father of high-speed photography - the bullet in the apple - the droplet of liquid - birds in flight, etc. But, his work with Cousteau on sonar, seafloor penetrating sonar and underwater cameras was unknown to me. Sadly, the “Alley” was the top floor hallway that did not look loved. Everything was covered with dust and most of the exhibits were peeling away. It was still f’ing cool.
    I’m very happy that the Discovery Channel and others run a lot of wildlife, exploration and shark shows. However, they all seem to have about 50% filler, 25% commercial and 25% information.
    I also miss the Jaguar Shark.

  • 2. Brain  |  February 21st, 2007 at 9:16 am

    I grew up on that show; I couldn’t count the hours. And I agree with Peter that there has been a general dumbing down of nature shows over the years; at times I feel they think I’m either 4-years old or an idiot. Crikey!

  • 3. Ned  |  February 21st, 2007 at 11:38 am

    Edgerton worked w/ Cousteau? Wow, that is really cool. You could buy the camera Cousteau created, sold by the Nikonos (Nikon) company, up until about 2001.

  • 4. Peter  |  February 21st, 2007 at 8:59 pm

    I should actually go check out the library for more info. I felt like a little kid fiddling with his hands-on strobe exhibits.

    I tried to borrow one of the old black and red(?) Nikon underwater cameras from some photographer when I lived in Eastern Ore, but he wanted to come along and watch me take photos. This was after I explained I was going to submerge a female friend’s lower body wrapped in sheets and rope in a shallow lake to take photos. He got really creepy and I ended up almost ruining my old Pentax, in a bag. C’est la Vie.

  • 5. Ned  |  February 22nd, 2007 at 8:48 am

    So, I was thumbing through a new B&H camera catalog last night and what should I find, new Nikonos V bodies for sale. Guess they didn’t go out of production in 2001. They’re also still making lens. The V body lists for $299.00 which ain’t all that bad. Lens (all primes) seemed pretty reasonable as well.

  • 6. Jeff Jones  |  February 23rd, 2007 at 11:59 am

    You should see if you can get the band Les Sans Culottes to play.

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