Zut alors! MONKEYWRIGHT interviews FRANC TIREUR!!
Tell us about yourself. Where were you born? Grew up?
My name is Ludwig. I was born in 1972, in Niort. My parents are from the same village in western France. My father’s father was a barber and my mother’s father was a wine producer. I have a brother (Cyprien) who is now married, has two young daughters (Sidonie and Céleste) and lives in Paris. During my childhood and teenage I lived in Reims, Limoges, Chantilly, Bordeaux and Marseille. After high school I studied in Nantes and Lyon, and graduated in marketing. After my military service in a Navy air base, I spent the following 10 years in La Roche sur Yon, first as a newsagent, then briefly as a schoolteacher. Since last december I live in Germany with Barbara (scerpica).
You've obviously got a love for the martial arts - let's talk cinema. Favorite martial arts epic? And why?
We can distinguish the films where martial arts are the main theme and those where they simply appear.
In the first category, I'd recommend The 36th chamber of Shaolin, that shows the whole process of learning kung fu. Director Liu Chia Liang was a master in the lineage of legendary Wong Fei-Hung, and his choreography shows great expertise and knowledge. So if you want to explore the more realistic side of chinese kung fu movies (as opposed to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon for example), pick this one.
On the japanese side I found Ame Agaru in the bargain bin. It's a little known film, written by Akira Kurosawa who passed away before directing it. His faithful team took over and made the film as a tribute. It has the very human side typical of Kurosawa's themes, but it also stands out because it shows real moves of japanese martial arts. Watch out for a wonderful flick of the wrist during a duel with wooden swords ! Also, a special mention for Ong Bak, that demonstrates very nice Muay Thai.
The second category : Ashes of Time, directed by Wong Kar-Wai, is a very beautiful meditation on the generic themes of the martial genre. The 7 Samurai is of course considered as a masterpiece of world cinema, and for good reason. I will also add the Baby Cart (aka Lone Wolf & Cub, or Kozura Okami) films directed by Kenji Mizumi, where Tomisaburo Wakayama plays an incredibly ruthless hero in a terrific story of vengeance in medieval Japan. This series is the equivalent of spaghetti westerns for the samurai genre.
Bruce Lee never fascinated me, even though he kicked the door open for asian action cinema and was a very skilled fighter. It's just that his character was too one-dimensional and he took himself very seriously.
Your username, franc tireur, I understand to roughly mean fighting outside the laws of war (ie guerilla tactics). Yet you are a practitioner of aikido (the way of the harmonious spirit), something that seems to require strict discipline. How has the practice of aikido influenced your life and philosophy? Do you study any other forms, or does aikido attract you because of the way it requires you to use your opponent's energy against him?
My username : when I joined I wanted a name that could endure time, something that defined me nicely and would also identify me easily as french. The idea of the franc-tireur is that of the soldier without a uniform who uses unconventional means but maintains his integrity intact. It also has the meaning of the sniper, which characterises my posting style, trying to be short and precise.
Aikido : Doing something you like a lot does not require much self discipline, it’s just that when you really want to get better at it, you have to work on it regularly , like any other art form. The main reason I practise aikido is curiosity, because every time it reveals another layer of depth. As a distillation of old japanese martial traditions (budo), its philosophy is based on forging mind and body in the context of combat. It is a process of self perfection that starts from the inside (actual experience), the acquisition of a « body wisdom », that in turn transforms the person and the way one interacts with the world. It is a long path because you have to get rid of illusions and fight your own demons (which are actually the many faces of one opponent : fear) but at the end of the road, when you reach absolute sincerity, there is no more enemy to fight. Of course it is very easy to write and understand intellectually, but very hard to learn and put in practise. There is no guarantee of success in the end, but it seems to me that it is worth the effort.
Obviously, the Cult has impacted your life in a deeply profound way. We’re all tremendously excited about the upcoming nuptials. There will be much written on the story of Franc & Pica at a later date, so I won’t dwell too much on it. BUT, a certain Cultie recently said the following:
“i´m waiting for june next year, when i´ll be getting married. mostly because right after that event i´ll hopefully be getting pregnant soon. these days i want to be a mommy real bad.”
This might relate to you! How do you feel about this? How many little snipers should we expect? You mentioned Lone Wolf & Cub earlier. If you have a son, will he face the same challenge that Ogami Ittō posed – the ball or the sword? And by that, I don’t mean “will you kill your son if he doesn’t choose the sword” but rather – what kind of father do you envision yourself becoming? Will you push your children towards anything? Arts? Sports? Literature?
That quote makes me feel very happy because we have reached a point where we can see our life together with enough confidence to try the adventure of having children. This is a big commitment, and I see Barbara as my ideal teammate for that challenge and for the years to come. She’s already my pride and joy, and whe will be a wonderful mummy. We already agreed on three kids tops, but I guess we’ll see how things develop along the way.
As for myself, I don’t have preconcieved ideas about what kind of a father I will be, but I have a preference for the Cliff Huxtable style. If I had an objective in raising children, it would be to help them develop their own qualities and interests, so they can find and engage in activities, professional and personal, that they will have the most pleasure practising. It is very hard to « push » a kid to do something in particular, because in my opinion a child’s mind does not develop through specialisation, but on the contrary by the proximity with inspiring examples and attractive opportunities. It is not only an idea about education, but also about life in general. The most radical evolutions in existence come from encounters we don’t plan, time between them is just preparation.
Speaking of books – I always see you going through a varied amount of topics in the “What are you reading” threads. What are three books that you would insist everyone read? What have you read that has improved the quality of your life?
It is a bit pointless to prescribe books. I very rarely follow recommendations myself, I don’t see why it would work the other way around. And when I offer books as presents, it’s always stuff I haven’t read.
Anyway, some books have been landmarks for me.
The first one (I read it when I was 14) is The Art of War (Sun Tzu), the chinese classic of strategy. Its philosophy is that of pure realism, emphasising skill and efficiency over abstraction and ideals.
At age 20 I was a bit disenchanted with fiction and mostly read documentary stuff. Reading James Ellroy’s violent epic of Los Angeles in the 1950s (The Black Dahlia, The Big Nowhere, LA Confidential, White Jazz) was a punch in the face and convinced me again of the specific power of fiction. Crime fiction is now my literary home base, a territory of uncompromising integrity and the language of everyday people. Apart from Ellroy, the authors I admire most are Dashiell Hammett, the founder of the hardboiled style (check out his short stories !) and Jim Thompson (Pop. 1280, The Killer Inside Me), the desperate roughneck.
Now there’s a book that has intrigued me for a long time, it’s the I Ching. I have studied a few versions, but it’s definitely a hard nut to crack. So if anyone could help me with it I’d be a happy man.
Let’s talk sports - Joe Montana's an evil bastard who ruined my childhood by defeating the Bengals in the Super Bowl. Why do you like him? WHY?! Actually, I think he's great as well. What's your take on American Football?
The Bengals were just lucky to reach the big game that year. I discovered the NFL in 1986 with a Rams-Falcons match, and I was immediately interested : the action, the helmets, the uniforms, the nicknames. But as I got more and more information I found it’s a very deep sport. Those guys display incredible skills, and the strategic dimension of american football is developped like nowhere else. So now I’ve been following pro football for over 20 years, watching the Super Bowl live in the middle of the night and supporting the 49ers.
And Rugby? Do you play? Any thoughts on Chabal?
I played, extremely badly, between the age of 12 and 14, mostly at the right wing, occasionally as a hooker. It allowed me to appreciate rugby as a spectator now. I love its simplicity, its values and traditions, the combination of power and finesse it requires, both collectively and individually. Unlike american football, one of the key principles is the continuity of action, « to keep the ball alive ». It is a complete sport, challenging and open to all at the same time. Chabal was the key figure of the french team during the past world cup last year, but he started rugby too late to develop his abilities to the max, and he was often poorly used by the coaches. Anyway, rugby is above all a team sport, and my fave teams are France of course, and the New Zealand All Blacks.
The Cult! What a strange time we live in. going through Jane's banishment in the middle of this interview was a bit like the Kennedy Assassination. Well, perhaps not to that extreme, but the conspiracy theories, drama, the back and forth. The dust has settled on yet another tempest in a teapot. You've been through a few, I'm sure, and for the most part you seem to keep that sniper style, hitting at the perfect moment...what's your take when things like this happen on the Cult?
In this case I didn’t hit anything at all. My working hours are a bit crazy these days, and due to the time difference, I wasn’t really in sync with the latest developments. I can just give you a couple ideas that came up along the way.
My philosophy as a a chatroom mod is the de-escalation of conflicts and to make sure they don’t go out of hand. Online anonymity allows people to take liberties with respect without fearing the logical consequences that would occur if they talked face to face. Here is my personal criterion : I make an intervention if I feel a discussion would end up in a fistfight in real life. It seems Ironman made significant breeches in that department, although not in my presence. I won’t comment any more about him, for lack of information.
The second area of responsibility is the protection of the site’s integrity, which allows us to meet and exchange online. This is what Spike and Jane’s case were about.
In my opinion Mirka’s initial decisions were taken in an atmosphere of exasperation from the admin team, in the wake of frequent (and often justified) criticism of the Drupal system. I am satisfied with the way things finally ended up. The penalties were more appropriately applied, both in their process (collective rather than individual decision) and their nature. Spike and Jane’s past histories were also taken into account.
The members’ responses were in general very impressive by their number and their variety. However I want to criticise Nate for deleting his threads. Even though he was entitled to do it according to the rules, it was a despicable method. This shows a complete lack of respect for the other people and their posts, and it borders on terrorism (« Do what I want or I destroy all I can without consideration »). It doesn’t even have the excuse of advancing a cause any further, because this past crisis showed that more reasoned methods were much more efficient. In my opinion he owes us an apology.
If you had to choose between two superpowers (Invisibility or Flight) which would you choose and why?
Invisibility, because it is both fun and not too spectacular. I’m sure flying superheroes get harassed by envious people, asked to do all kinds of stupid things and shot at all the time.
Let's finish with the awful questionnaire by Bernard Pivaut...quick answers...
1. What is your favorite word?
2. What is your least favorite word?
3. What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
A solid sense of humour.
4. What turns you off?
5. What is your favorite curse word?
Bordel de merde.
6. What sound or noise do you love?
Barbara’s voice, especially when she speaks french.
7. What sound or noise do you hate?
The telephone ringing.
8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
Screenwriter. I would also like to sit down one day and write that book on Dashiell Hammett I’ve been thinking about for long.
9. What profession would you not like to do?
10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
« It was just a joke, you can return down there and go on with your life »
What's the best thing about your soon-to-be-wife?
It's hard to pick one thing, because being with Barbara is enjoying many little wonderful things she does all the time. All I can say is that she is beautiful inside and outside.