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Thursday, April 06, 2006

The Arab world urgently needs Arab bloggers, who can write positively on the USA

The Arab world urgently needs Arab bloggers, who can write positively on the USA. (Its values
This is a an example to be followed.



Cyrille De Lasteyrie
De Lasteyrie blogs with the American flag behind him
One of the most popular weblogs in France is called Vingt Sur Vingt, meaning 20 out of 20.

The author, Cyrille De Lasteyrie, writes about movies, restaurants or jokes, and then rates them on a scale of 0 to 20.

The blog struck a chord with French readers and was named French blog of the year in 2005. But now, Mr De Lasteyrie has started a new blog aimed at a new audience, Americans.

Mr De Lasteyrie had been working as a copywriter for about a decade. But a couple of years ago he felt that he needed a more creative outlet and discovered blogging.

"I think French people need to talk, and to write. So, they try with blogs. In one week, I was completely addicted," he said.

Mr De Lasteyrie's humorous posts on the difficulties of getting a passport, or on his latest trip to the supermarket, won him a large online audience.

But he still was not satisfied. "We always say that the internet is a village, and in fact I think it's not really true," he said.

"American people talk about American things with other Americans. It's the same in France, in the UK, and in Germany."

Beyond France

That is why he wanted to reach out beyond his French audience to America.

Cyrille De Lasteyrie
I love a good Big Mac. But when you got to McDonald's, they always have to give you a gift for the kids
Cyrille De Lasteyrie, French blogger
"I was a bit fed up with the way the big media in France and Europe talk about the relationships with America.

"In France, we only talk about the relationship when there's a problem with Iraq, or a problem with commercial issues. And this is not the truth. This is not the real life.

"So I thought that maybe we could see what happens if I talk to the American people. It's not so crazy."

And what better way to talk to the American people, Mr De Lasteyrie thought, than with videos.

First, he bought a digital camcorder. Next, he purchased an American flag in a small shop in Paris, and hung it up in his office.

Then, he sat down in front of that flag, turned the camera on himself, and started talking.

Bonjour America

The result is a video blog called, appropriately, Bonjour America. Mr De Lasteyrie offers the short segments for viewing on his website, or as podcasts that can be downloaded.

Clint Eastwood
De Lasteyrie dreams of meeting Hollywood star Clint Eastwood
In the first 13 episodes of Bonjour America, he has done a bit of everything.

He has claimed to be related to Lafayette, the French general who helped the Americans during the Revolutionary War.

He has professed his undying love for Mary Ingalls from the American TV series Little House on the Prairie.

He has given American viewers a crash course on the basics of soccer.

And he has tried to offer an explanation of why the French army is not as bad as people think it is.

Mr De Lasteyrie said that he has tried to steer clear of touchy issues that might sour Franco-American relations.

Instead, he focuses on things that unite the two peoples, like McDonald's.

"I love a good Big Mac," Mr De Lasteyrie quipped in one episode. "But when you got to McDonald's, they always have to give you a gift for the kids."

He then holds up a small, plastic radio that plays the same song over and over. In this case, it is Aqua's smash hit Barbie Girl.

When Mr De Lasteyrie then picks up a hammer and bashes that little radio to bits, you can almost hear a cheer go up from both sides of the Atlantic.

Clint Eastwood

But the French blogger admits that improving between the French and Americans is not his only motivation for video blogging.

"I want to meet Clint Eastwood," he said. "This is my American dream. Yes, it's a bit of a fairy tale, but it could happen."

Mr De Lasteyrie estimates that his current audience for Bonjour America is around 70% French.

But more Americans seem to be catching new episodes.

And, Mr De Lasteyrie said, he recently received an e-mail from a viewer in Monterey, California who claims to see Clint Eastwood every week in the supermarket.

That news, he added, makes the six hours he spends each week making Bonjour America worthwhile.

Clark Boyd is technology correspondent for The World, a BBC World Service and WGBH-Boston co-production

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