Work among the penguins? France is looking for candidates

In this file photo taken on September 06, 2012 shows the Kerguelen archipelago which forms one of the five districts of the territory of the French Southern and Antarctic Lands (TAAF). (AFP)
Updated 07 February 2018
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Work among the penguins? France is looking for candidates

BREST, France: Fancy a job at the North or South Pole? A French research institute is looking for you.
The Paul-Emile Victor Polar Institute in northwest France has launched a public appeal to recruit around 40 French-speaking people for a wide variety of jobs at its six bases in the Arctic and Antarctica.
From chemists and carpenters to bakers and pastry chefs, the institute is stepping up its efforts to reach potential candidates for 12- to 14-month stints at its bases with endless summer days and winter nights.
“We get lots of interest from the biology fields but not enough mechanics or tool operators, because these people don’t know about us,” said Laurence Andre Le Marec, hiring director at the institute named for a French polar explorer and pioneer.
It operates at the Spitzberg base in the Arctic and the Dumont d’Urville and Concordia bases in Antarctica, as well as three bases on France’s sub-Antarctic islands of Amsterdam, Crozet and Kerguelen.
Women in particular are being sought in this year’s recruitment drive, which includes six testimonial videos from female alumni.
At the Dumont d’Urville station there are just six women compared to 24 men. “I haven’t been able to get balance” among the sexes, Andre Le Marec admitted.
The 40 successful candidates — 30 of whom are reserved for France’s corps of Civic Service volunteers — will have to pass a medical exam that includes psychological evaluations.
“We make sure they are physically apt for this type of mission, and psychologically ready to live in a small group on an isolated site under conditions that can at times be extreme,” Andre Le Marec said.
The mechanic being sought for the Concordia station, for example, will have to mesh with a group of about 60 people in summer and just 14 in winter — when temperatures can plunge to minus 80 degrees Celsius (minus 110 degrees Fahrenheit).
“There’s no going back over winter,” the job posting on the institute’s website warns.
Concordia, which houses a French-Italian team, is one of three permanent bases maintained in the interior of Antarctica, one of the most isolated and inhospitable places on the planet.
“Not all the bases have temperatures this extreme,” Andre Le Marec assured, adding that a biologist sought on the island of Amsterdam, in the southern Indian Ocean, would be able to work “in a T-shirt.”
“It was incredible,” said Claire Le Calvez, who spent a tour at Dumont d’Urville as a chemist and glaciologist in 2003 and eventually joined the roughly 50 permanent employees at the institute.
What one discovers in the natural world of Antarctica is amazing, she added.
“These are memories that last a lifetime.”


Chip Wickham ushers in winds of change on the jazz scene

Updated 22 May 2018
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Chip Wickham ushers in winds of change on the jazz scene

PARIS: The hotly hyped “British jazz invasion” has been the toast of international scenesters for some months now, with breathy adjective-heavy sprawls penned on both sides of the Atlantic paying tribute to a fresh generation of musos who grew up not in the conservatoires but the clubs, channelling the grit and groove of grime into a distinctly hip, 21st century strain of freewheeling, DIY improvised music.

Now the Arab world has its own outpost in the form of Chip Wickham, a UK-born flautist, saxophonist and producer whose second album grew out of extended stints teaching in the GCC. “Shamal Wind” takes its name from the Gulf’s primal weather patterns, and there’s a distinctly meditative, Middle Eastern vibe to the title track, a slow-burning, moody vamp, peppered with percussive trills, with hints of Yusef Lateef to be found in Wickham’s wandering woodwind musings.

There’s rather less goatee-stroking to be found across the four further up-tempo cuts, which swap soul-searching for soul-jazz, soaked in the breezy bop of a vintage Blue Note release. Recorded over a hot summer in Madrid, a heady Latin pulse drives first single, “Barrio 71” — championed by the likes of Craig Charles — with Spanish multi-percussionist David el Indio steaming up a block party beat framing Wickham’s gutsy workout on baritone sax.

Having previously worked with electronic acts, including Nightmares on Wax and Jimpster, one imagines the dancefloor was a key stimulus behind Wickham’s rhythmically dense, but harmonically spare compositional approach. Phil Wilkinson’s sheer, thumped piano chords drive the relentless nod of second single “Snake Eyes,” Wickham’s raspy flute floating somewhere overhead, readymade to be skimmed off for the anticipated remix market.

In truth, Manchester-raised Wickham is both too thoughtful, and too thoughtless, to truly belong to the London-brewed jazz invasion — Shamal Wind yo-yos between meditative meandering and soulful strutting with a wilful disrespect for trend.