President Macron – a new French revolution?

A big thanks to My French Life for publishing this article on their website. My French Life is a must-read for English-speaking francophiles. Do check it out! 

With the election of Emmanuel Macron, France has entered a true political revolution that had been brewing for months, if not years. “Revolution” was the title of the 39-year-old’s book in which he laid down his vision for the country with the launch of his new movement En Marche! (“Onward!”). The choice of words seemed a little presumptuous at the time. After all, France has had its fair share of revolutions. And yet, in electing someone without a membership card from either of the two main historical parties, the French people have thrown their country into a state of unprecedented uncertainty — the kind of chaos reminiscent of any significant upheaval.

With Brexit and the election of Donald Trump in the past year, liberals can finally rejoice. For once, the growing wave of protectionism has been crashed down in a western democracy — it’s not all bad. Marine Le Pen very much embodied the same rejection of the status quo that we saw in Britain and the United States. She undoubtedly felt emboldened by Trump’s success and employed some of her fellow blond’s — let’s say — unconventional tactics. However, there is a point here that is lost, and that will be important to learn from. Macron was also born out of the rejection of the same system. Where Macron’s position is groundbreaking, is that he translated this rejection into an internationalist, inclusive and optimistic voice.

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[R] Plotting results from extRemes package – Extreme Value Analysis


Something a little different to my usual posts and targeted to people interested in Extreme Value Analysis (EVA).

I have been working on an analysis of extreme sea levels as part of my PhD on flooding risk. If you are familiar with EVA in R you will have likely come across the extRemes package, written by Eric Gilleland. While I am not (yet!) an expert in EVA, I have found this package to be quite accessible.

The package’s main function, ‘fevd()‘, fits an extreme value distribution to data. Methods for plotting are available for objects of class ‘fevd‘ to produce diagnostics and result plots, such as a return level plot.

My issue is the restricted control you seem to have over the plot’s layout and general look. You can choose which plots to show, or to add a custom title, but not much else. What if you want to customise the plot to your liking, plot the results in another software/package or display two EVAs on the same figure as shown above?

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Hosts & Replicants

Zhora (Blade Runner, 1982) and Armistice (WestWorld, 2016) sporting a similar snake tattoo.


Hosts, Replicants, androids, robots…call them what you wish. Considering WestWorld is layered with countless visual and musical references, it is not surprising for Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (1982) to feature among that list.

COP21: The Anchor to the Storm in Paris

This post was originally written for the EnvEast Doctoral Training Partnership student blog. EnvEast is a collaboration between three UK universities, including University of East Anglia where I am carrying out my PhD. The blog can be found here

The Paris motto is painted on the Place de la République following the shootings in the capital (credit @LucieSoullier)
The Paris motto is painted on the Place de la République following the shootings in the capital (credit @LucieSoullier)

Fluctuat nec mergitur

“Battu par les flots, mais ne sombre pas. Tossed by the sea, but not sunk.”

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The environmental paradox behind the Tianjin explosions

From water scarcity to air pollution, without forgetting world-leading greenhouse gas emissions, China is facing a multi-faceted environmental crisis. I was able to witness the extent of the issue first hand when I studied Environmental Management at Tsinghua University in Beijing as part of a joint program with the French university Mines ParisTech. The resounding blow of the August 12th explosions in Tianjin – which killed over a hundred people – has now pulled me back to that time spent in the “Middle Kingdom”. Amidst the apparent lack of available information about the disaster and fears of cyanide pollution, a memory that stands out is my field trip to Tianjin in 2013, which highlights a revealing paradox.

Tianjin explosion aftermathRead More »

The Jinx is 2015’s True Detective

The Harrelson-McConaughey duo was always going to be a tough act to follow. Last Sunday’s finale of True Detective concluded an overall disappointing second season, which predictably never reached the highs of its predecessor. Despite its redeeming moments – most of which you would only have seen if you were brave enough to stick by past episode 5 – this L.A. Convoluted was messy in its delivery and ultimately unsatisfying. For anyone yearning for a worthy sequel, I wanted to share my appreciation for another HBO show that aired this year but went somewhat under the radar: The Jinx.

The Jinx

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Delving into Dreams

The portrayal of dreams in movies and books is a challenging task which often leads to fascinating results. Here I look at the links between Inception and Shutter Island and how a short poem by Edgar Allan Poe could very well have inspired both.  In the summer of 2010, like many others I was captivated by the mind-bending storyline and visuals of Christopher Nolan’s Inception. Following Leonardo DiCaprio as Cobb on his struggle to get back to his children, the film introduced the unique concept of navigating through dreams – and dreams within dreams. At the time I saw the movie, I was staying at a rented holiday house in Falmouth, Massachusetts on the southern tip of Cape Cod. It was the appropriate New England setting for me to stumble upon Dennis Lehane‘s novel, Shutter Island, as I was shuffling through a stranger’s bookshelf. Shutter Island had just been adapted to the big screen by Martin Scorsese a couple months before Inception and also starred DiCaprio, this time as Teddy Daniels, a U.S. marshal investigating a missing patient case at a hospital for the criminally insane off the coast of Boston Harbor.

Two films with drastically different tones and plots, and yet deeply rooted similarities – beyond just the Leo-connection! – which didn’t come to mind until I opened Lehane’s book. The first thing I saw was the epigraph. A short and deceptively trivial extract from Questions of Travel, by Elizabeth Bishop.

… must we dream our dreams
and have them, too?

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Psychos & Lambs

Norman Bates, played by Anthony Perkins (Psycho, 1960)
Norman Bates, played by Anthony Perkins (Psycho, 1960)

Looking aimlessly for something to do on a Sunday afternoon, I finally found myself watching Psycho by Alfred Hitchcock. It wasn’t the first time I had seen the classic horror-thriller but for some reason the film grabbed my attention and did not let go for the rest of that day. As Norman Bates presented his collection of stuffed birds to his would-be victim, I couldn’t help but feel I had already come across this somewhere else. Slowly coming into focus, this fleeting memory led me into a frenzied research through psychological horror literature and cinema. Not the most comforting hobby before going to bed! Despite how unlikely – and slightly eerie – some of them are, the connections I stumbled upon speak a great deal for the success of the themes portrayed in this genre.

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