10 junho 2018

Once Upon A Time

Walter Crane, Beauty and the Beast, 1875.
We take the phrase “once upon a time” for granted, but if you think about it, it’s quite oddball English. Upon a time—? That’s just a strange construction. It would be pleasant to know its history: When, more or less, does it get up on its legs? Around when does it become standard procedure? My researches into this question, however, have yielded nothing conclusive.
Forget “upon a time.” Look at the “once.” That part really is standard from the beginning, and not only in English. Just this past weekend, I paged through fifteen volumes of the Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library, and I’m here to tell you: The word once is in the first sentence of almost every single folktale every recorded, from China to Peru. There is some law of physics involved.
Folktales get right down to business, no fooling around. Once there was an old king who had two sons. Once there was a poor lace merchant who decided to make a trip. And if it doesn’t say “once,” it will say “a long time ago.” A long time ago, the fox and the hen were good friends. A long time ago, there was a man who had a shaving brush for a nose and who had two daughters, et cetera.
Why should it always be a long time ago. That’s easy. If you said, “When I was a girl, there was an old man in this village … ” you’d be opening yourself up for interruptions. Where is that old man now? Where are his two sons? But if the story took place a long, long time ago, or simply in undefined and undefinable history (“once”), interruptions will be … fewer.
I want to mention that not one story in Grimms’ Fairytales actually begins “once upon a time.” German doesn’t have that expression. They just say “once.” (The term is einmal. Es war einmal ein Mann und eine Frau … ). Italian, pretty much same thing. C’era una volta …(literally, “One time, there was … ”). All this counts as formulaic.
Carlo Collodi plays with this in the famous beginning of Pinocchio:
C’era una volta …
—Un re!—diranno subito i miei piccoli lettori.
—No, ragazzi, avete sbagliato. C’era una volta un pezzo di legno.
(Once there was … “a king!” cry my little readers. But no, children, you’re wrong. Once there was a piece of wood.)
But why is a formulaic beginning desirable. Ah, here we go deep into an insight that my guru taught me. She and I call it the cartoon insight. Consider: when a child is exposed to a cartoon, even before anything happens in the narrative, the kid knows a lot. Front and center, there’s the fact the presentation is intended for children. That’s huge. The fact of the thing being a cartoon means that almost all the dreariness of adult affairs, and the curdlingness of adult ambiguity, will be excluded. Instead, the presentation will be geared toward enjoyment. There will be humor and animals and other good things. Indeed, there’s nothing more disappointing in childhood than when this convention (cartoons are for pleasure) is violated. It’s like when old people put stuffed animals in their cars, in the space under their rear windshields, where the toys can be played with by nobody and will only become sun bleached. To a child, the waste of a toy is sickening.
Anyhow, to begin a story with a set phrase or set construction that signals the onset of a cartoon-like thing is obviously a good idea, and so the more predictable the opening flourish, the better, it seems to me. I was feeling surprised more languages don’t have some piece of rock-solid arcane lala at the beginnings of their folktales, like English does. But then, as I say, I paged through that pile of books last weekend. I made a number of pleasant discoveries.
For starters, it does make a difference if your source for a folktale is someone’s mouth rather than a piece of paper. Ethnographers who make oral recordings and then transcribe ’em will tend to give you a taste of the scene of storytelling, and such tastes are often charming. For example, the 1983 book African Folktales by Roger Abrahams is full of formulaic beginnings, many of which function something like the Hwæt! of Old English.
Apparently in Hausa (forty or fifty million speakers in Niger, Nigeria, and all over West Africa), you launch a folktale with, “A story, a story. Let it go, let it come.” Every single Hausa story in the book starts like that. For this formula, I experienced love at first sight, but I must confess I don’t understand it. I get the “let it come”; I don’t know what they mean by “let it go.” Yoruba meanwhile (thirty million speakers, Benin and Nigeria and elsewhere) has a similar seesaw formula: “Here is a story! Story it is.”
But now switch over to South America—Chile in particular. There, the basic once-upon-a-time formula is, “Listen to tell it, and tell it to teach it,” but the storytellers often put in all kinds of curlicues. The following specimens are all from Latin American Folktales: Stories from Hispanic and Indian Traditions (2002), incidentally the very last book published under color of the Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library:
If you ask to hear it you’ll listen and learn it, and any who can’t will have to drink tea; for sleepy wits it’s a mother’s remedy. There was an orphan boy, his name was Antuco …
Listen and learn it, learn to tell it, and tell it to teach it; if any can’t learn it they’ll buy it if any can sell it. The shoe fits, yes? No? Ouch! It pinches my toe.  There was once a gentleman who …
If you learn it you’ll know it, so listen and learn how to tell it; now, don’t pick the fig until it’s big; if you want a pear you’ll need a ladder; and if you’d like a melon, marry a man with a big nose. There was an old woman called Dolores who had two children …
If I tell it to know it you’ll know how to tell it and put it in ships for John, Rock, and Rick with dust and sawdust, ginger paste and marzipan, triki-triki triki-tran.  It’s about a rich widower and his daughter …
Speaking of curlicues, Inea Bushnaq records case after case in her wonderful Arab Folktales(1986). Again, there is a basic formula: “There was or there was not [a man who, et cetera].” But look at the embellishments:
This happened or maybe it did not. The time is long past and much is forgot.
There was or there was not—is anything sure or certain but the greatness of Allah?—a king so powerful that man and Djinn bowed before him.
There was or there was not (is anything sure or certain but that God’s mercies are many, more numerous than all the pebbles on the land or the sum of the sea’s sand?) a rich man and his wife who had one son …
And then, late in the game, the “or” turns into “and” …
There was and there was not a man burdened with years who saw the Angel of Death, snatcher of souls, hovering near.
There was and there wasn’t, O Ancient of Days, a king who had one daughter [italics in both these quotations are mine].
All of this is fairly irresistible, I should think. But I’ve saved a special treat for last. I’ve been speaking about formulaic beginnings, but we must give a glance to the weirdest formulaic endings in the world. I mean those of the Russians.
My source text here is a classic: Russian Fairy Tales, by Alexander Nikolayevich Afanas’ev, translated by Norbert Guterman, 1945 (the oldest book in the Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library). This book is of special interest, in that its editor was basically the Russian equivalent of the Brothers Grimm. Nineteenth century, same kind of work… only I think Afanas’ev did six volumes, with thousands of stories, compared to the Grimms’ roughly 250.
Now, on the one hand, Russian folktales, more than any others I looked at, showed a strong tendency to end on the same note as Victorian fairytales: “And then they lived happily ever after.” That’s not as standard an ending as you would think; Russian and English seem like sisters on this point. But then it turns out there’s this extremely recurrent “nonsense” ending, where the storyteller suddenly reveals that he (it’s assumed to be a “he” for reasons that will be clear in a moment) had a walk-on part to play in the end of the narrative. For instance:
When Ivashko got down off the eagle, the eagle spat out the piece of flesh and told him to put it back into his shoulder. Ivashko did so, and the shoulder healed. He came home, took the maiden of the golden kingdom from his brothers, and they began to live happily together and are still living. I was at their wedding and drank beer. The beer ran along my mustache but did not go into my mouth.
“I was at their wedding”—? “The beer ran along my mustache”—? Keep in mind these are the very last sentences of the stories in which they appear:
The fisherman made a fish soup out of him, ate it, and praised it highly, for the flesh of the pike was quite succulent. I was there and ate the soup with him; it ran down my mustache but never got into my mouth.
They went, and lo and behold, the children were alive. The father and mother were overjoyed and in their joy gave a feast for all. I was at that feast too, I drank mead and wine there; it ran down my mustache but did not go into my mouth, yet my soul was drunk and sated.
The brothers were so frightened that they jumped in the river. And the knight married the princess Paliusha and gave a most wonderful feast. I dined and drank mead with them, and their cabbage was toothsome. Even now I could eat some!
And here, friends, I close with the granddaddy of ’em all:
The king received him hospitably and gave him his daughter in marriage; they celebrated their wedding, and are still alive to this very day and chewing bread. I was at their wedding and drank mead; it ran down my mustache but did not go into my mouth. I asked for a cap, and received a slap; I was given a robe, and on my way home a titmouse flew over me cackling, “Flowing robe!” I thought she was saying, “Throw away the robe,” and I threw it away. This is not the tale, but a flourish, for fun. The tale itself is not begun!

28 maio 2018

Lisbon, wartime

Found at Crime Reads:

The 1942 movie Casablanca begins with a voiceover:
With the coming of the Second World War, many eyes in imprisoned Europe turned hopefully, or desperately, toward the freedom of the Americas. Lisbon became the great embarkation point.
Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid) and Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman) take that late night plane from Casablanca to Lisbon; Rick (Humphrey Bogart, or more informally, Bogey) and Captain Louis (Claude Rains) do not. In the final scene Louis suggests to Rick that they head for Free-French controlled Brazzaville—maybe they did. However, Michael Walsh’s imagined sequel, As Time Goes By(1998) has Rick, Louis, and piano player Sam (Dooley Wilson in the movie), follow Victor and Ilsa to Lisbon and then on to London to resist the Nazis.
Lisbon was the capital of neutral Portugal in World War Two. And is now a remarkable honeypot of intrigue and murder for crime writers looking for an extraordinary location. Lisbon was the only European city in which both the Allies and the Axis powers operated openly and spied on each other constantly—MI6, the Abwehr, the Soviet NKVD, Franco’s Spanish spies…It was also home to several of Europe’s exiled royal houses, as well as a million refugees seeking passage to the US or the UK, bankers looking to profit from the war, prominent Jews looking to wait out the Nazis, escaped POWs, and black marketeers galore. They were all watched over by the country’s secret police (the much feared PVDE). While Lisbon hid spies in the shadows it was one of the only European cities not cloaked in blackout; a party of sorts rolled on. Hence Neill Lochery’s Lisbon: War in the Shadows of the City of Light, 1939-45 (2011), a great history of the machinations, murders and the tricky balancing act of neutrality that Lisbon maintained during the war. Ronald Weber’s The Lisbon Route: Entry and Escape in Nazi Europe (2011) is also a compelling retelling of the desperate measures to which refugees had to resort in just getting to Lisbon and then securing the necessary visas to move on to freedom.
In fiction, Irish journalist and author Joe Joyce takes a tour through the backstreets and bars of wartime Lisbon in Echowave (2015), the final book in the Echoland trilogy. Each book in the trilogy (starting with Echoland in 2013 and then Echobeat in 2014) is excellent, featuring Irish military intelligence officer Paul Duggan (Eire also being neutral in World War Two) walking the balancing wire between the Brits and the Germans in Dublin. Echowave sees Duggan visiting wartime Lisbon to try and negotiate the intense pressures on Dublin’s government coming from both Berlin and London to join one side or the other. On similar ground is Tom Gabbay’s The Lisbon Crossing (2008), which sees a Hollywood actor accompanying a California-exiled German actress to Lisbon in 1940 to search for her lost friend with the help of a private detective. The PI winds up dead and the two are left alone in Lisbon trying to discover the truth. Both are good reads.
But it is Robert Wilson’s A Small Death in Lisbon (1999) that exquisitely captures the febrile atmosphere of wartime Lisbon. Wilson’s award winning thriller starts with two seemingly unconnected cases: the contemporary investigation by Inspector José “Zé” Coelho into the murder of a young girl in Lisbon and the tale of Klaus Felsen, a Nazi officer sent to the city to gain crucial supplies to support the German war effort. The two stories eventually weave together into a complex but rewarding plot and a fantastic evocation of the city in the 1940s. Wilson revisited wartime Lisbon in his novel The Company of Strangers (2010) set in the sweltering summer of 1944 and the endgame of the Intelligence war. Once again, Wilson recreates the dark alleys and grand hotels, luxury casinos and cheap bars of Lisbon superbly.
A more recently published novel on wartime Lisbon deserves a mention—Yugoslavia-born, and now a Portuguese citizen, Dejan Tiago-Stanković’s Estoril (2018). Estoril is Lisbon’s sophisticated coastal resort and was in the war, where so many spies, deposed royals, assorted members of the European demi-monde and wealthy industrialists playing one side off against the other, gathered at the sumptuous beachfront casino-hotels. Tiago-Stanković weaves together a series of mysterious tales of spies, former kings and abandoned children all trapped together awaiting transit visas in the room-serviced splendor of Estoril’s Hotel Palácio. A few real Lisbon characters make an appearance, like Ian Fleming (who did spend some time spying in the city), King Carol of Romania, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and, of course, the marvelous Hotel Palácio itself.
Enough of World War Two. Jumping forwards and backwards, here are some more Lisbon-set crime novels:
  • The Last Kaballist of Lisbon by Richard Zimler (2000). It’s 1506 and Catholicism sweeps Portugal as the country’s Jews are forced to worship in secret. If caught they are killed. This novel follows one young Jew’s search for his uncle’s murderer and claims to be based on a real case.
  • Lisbon has long been a spectacular setting for novelists. John le Carré sets much of the action of his 1989 novel The Russia House in the city, recreated memorably in the 1999 film with Sean Connery and Michelle Pfeiffer.
  • David Ebsworth’s The Lisbon Labyrinth (2017) is a novella about a murder that takes place against the backdrop of Portugal’s 1974 “Carnation Revolution,” which was really more of a military coup against the long running fascist regime in the country.
What do all the crime writers featuring Lisbon so far all have in common? Unfortunately none of them are Portuguese. Though the number of European crime writers being translated into English is growing (thanks largely to publishers such as Europa and Pushkin Vertigo), there is a distinct dearth of Portuguese writers available to the English language reader. But they do exist. For instance, Francisco José Viegas has published at least half a dozen crime novels featuring detective Jaime Ramos set in his hometown of Lisbon as well as in Portuguese speaking Mozambique and Brazil. Ramos is a classic European detective character—he lives alone in a small city center apartment, he likes his food, and he smokes too much. The novels are available in several European languages but not yet English. They certainly deserve to be translated.
One last Lisbon recommendation. Pereira Maintains (1994) is set in 1938 Lisbon, so the country is in the grip of Antonio Salazar’s fascist government, but the war has not yet started. Sostiene Pereira is a Lisbon journalist who loves literature. He comes into contact with a young man, Monteiro Rossi, of decidedly Leftist anti-government inclinations. The police hunt Rossi; Pereira tries to protect him, but the authorities kill Rossi in an act of political violence. Written by the Italian author Antonio TabucchiPereira Maintains is not exactly a crime novella (though murder is at the heart of it), but does raise questions of individual conscience under fascist regimes (and, in Tabucchi’s case while writing the book, of how to resist the then government of Silvio Berlusconi in Italy).
Lisbon, especially perhaps wartime Lisbon, will undoubtedly continue to be a popular setting for crime writers. What is to be hoped in the future is that English readers will be able to get translations of Portugal’s own crime writers and start to see Lisbon from the inside, as presented by the locals.

25 abril 2018

Abril!

AS PORTAS QUE ABRIL ABRIU 

Era uma vez um país 
onde entre o mar e a guerra 
vivia o mais infeliz 
dos povos à beira-terra.

Onde entre vinhas sobredos
vales socalcos searas
serras atalhos veredas
lezírias e praias claras
um povo se debruçava
como um vime de tristeza
sobre um rio onde mirava
a sua própria pobreza.

Era uma vez um país
onde o pão era contado
onde quem tinha a raiz
tinha o fruto arrecadado
onde quem tinha o dinheiro
tinha o operário algemado
onde suava o ceifeiro
que dormia com o gado
onde tossia o mineiro
em Aljustrel ajustado
onde morria primeiro
quem nascia desgraçado.

Era uma vez um país
de tal maneira explorado
pelos consórcios fabris
pelo mando acumulado
pelas ideias nazis
pelo dinheiro estragado
pelo dobrar da cerviz
pelo trabalho amarrado
que até hoje já se diz
que nos tempos do passado
se chamava esse país
Portugal suicidado.

Ali nas vinhas sobredos
vales socalcos searas
serras atalhos veredas
lezírias e praias claras
vivia um povo tão pobre
que partia para a guerra
para encher quem estava podre
de comer a sua terra.

Um povo que era levado
para Angola nos porões
um povo que era tratado
como a arma dos patrões
um povo que era obrigado
a matar por suas mãos
sem saber que um bom soldado
nunca fere os seus irmãos.

Ora passou-se porém
que dentro de um povo escravo
alguém que lhe queria bem
um dia plantou um cravo.

Era a semente da esperança
feita de força e vontade
era ainda uma criança
mas já era a liberdade.

Era já uma promessa
era a força da razão
do coração à cabeça
da cabeça ao coração.
Quem o fez era soldado
homem novo capitão
mas também tinha a seu lado
muitos homens na prisão.

Esses que tinham lutado
a defender um irmão
esses que tinham passado
o horror da solidão
esses que tinham jurado
sobre uma côdea de pão
ver o povo libertado
do terror da opressão.

Não tinham armas é certo
mas tinham toda a razão
quando um homem morre perto
tem de haver distanciação

uma pistola guardada
nas dobras da sua opção
uma bala disparada
contra a sua própria mão
e uma força perseguida
que na escolha do mais forte
faz com que a força da vida
seja maior do que a morte.

Quem o fez era soldado
homem novo capitão
mas também tinha a seu lado
muitos homens na prisão.

Posta a semente do cravo
começou a floração
do capitão ao soldado
do soldado ao capitão.

Foi então que o povo armado
percebeu qual a razão
porque o povo despojado
lhe punha as armas na mão.

Pois também ele humilhado
em sua própria grandeza
era soldado forçado
contra a pátria portuguesa.

Era preso e exilado
e no seu próprio país
muitas vezes estrangulado
pelos generais senis.

Capitão que não comanda
não pode ficar calado
é o povo que lhe manda
ser capitão revoltado
é o povo que lhe diz
que não ceda e não hesite
– pode nascer um país
do ventre duma chaimite.

Porque a força bem empregue
contra a posição contrária
nunca oprime nem persegue
– é força revolucionária!

Foi então que Abril abriu
as portas da claridade
e a nossa gente invadiu
a sua própria cidade.

Disse a primeira palavra
na madrugada serena
um poeta que cantava
o povo é quem mais ordena.

E então por vinhas sobredos
vales socalcos searas
serras atalhos veredas
lezírias e praias claras
desceram homens sem medo
marujos soldados «páras»
que não queriam o degredo
dum povo que se separa.
E chegaram à cidade
onde os monstros se acoitavam
era a hora da verdade
para as hienas que mandavam
a hora da claridade
para os sóis que despontavam
e a hora da vontade
para os homens que lutavam.

Em idas vindas esperas
encontros esquinas e praças
não se pouparam as feras
arrancaram-se as mordaças
e o povo saiu à rua
com sete pedras na mão
e uma pedra de lua
no lugar do coração.

Dizia soldado amigo
meu camarada e irmão
este povo está contigo
nascemos do mesmo chão
trazemos a mesma chama
temos a mesma ração
dormimos na mesma cama
comendo do mesmo pão.
Camarada e meu amigo
soldadinho ou capitão
este povo está contigo
a malta dá-te razão.

Foi esta força sem tiros
de antes quebrar que torcer
esta ausência de suspiros
esta fúria de viver
este mar de vozes livres
sempre a crescer a crescer
que das espingardas fez livros
para aprendermos a ler
que dos canhões fez enxadas
para lavrarmos a terra
e das balas disparadas
apenas o fim da guerra.

Foi esta força viril
de antes quebrar que torcer
que em vinte e cinco de Abril f
ez Portugal renascer.

E em Lisboa capital
dos novos mestres de Aviz
o povo de Portugal
deu o poder a quem quis.

Mesmo que tenha passado
às vezes por mãos estranhas
o poder que ali foi dado
saiu das nossas entranhas.
Saiu das vinhas sobredos
vales socalcos searas
serras atalhos veredas
lezírias e praias claras
onde um povo se curvava
como um vime de tristeza
sobre um rio onde mirava
a sua própria pobreza.

E se esse poder um dia
o quiser roubar alguém
não fica na burguesia
volta à barriga da mãe.
Volta à barriga da terra
que em boa hora o pariu
agora ninguém mais cerra
as portas que Abril abriu.

Essas portas que em Caxias
se escancararam de vez
essas janelas vazias
que se encheram outra vez
e essas celas tão frias
tão cheias de sordidez
que espreitavam como espias
todo o povo português.

Agora que já floriu
a esperança na nossa terra
as portas que Abril abriu
nunca mais ninguém as cerra.

Contra tudo o que era velho
levantado como um punho
em Maio surgiu vermelho
o cravo do mês de Junho.

Quando o povo desfilou
nas ruas em procissão
de novo se processou
a própria revolução.

Mas eram olhos as balas
abraços punhais e lanças
enamoradas as alas
dos soldados e crianças.

E o grito que foi ouvido
tantas vezes repetido
dizia que o povo unido
jamais seria vencido.

Contra tudo o que era velho
levantado como um punho
em Maio surgiu vermelho
o cravo do mês de Junho.

E então operários mineiros
pescadores e ganhões
marçanos e carpinteiros
empregados dos balcões
mulheres a dias pedreiros
reformados sem pensões
dactilógrafos carteiros
e outras muitas profissões
souberam que o seu dinheiro
era presa dos patrões.

A seu lado também estavam
jornalistas que escreviam
actores que se desdobravam
cientistas que aprendiam
poetas que estrebuchavam
cantores que não se vendiam
mas enquanto estes lutavam
é certo que não sentiam
a fome com que apertavam
os cintos dos que os ouviam.

Porém cantar é ternura
escrever constrói liberdade
e não há coisa mais pura
do que dizer a verdade.

E uns e outros irmanados
na mesma luta de ideais
ambos sectores explorados
ficaram partes iguais.

Entanto não descansavam
entre pragas e perjúrios
agulhas que se espetavam
silêncios boatos murmúrios
risinhos que se calavam
palácios contra tugúrios
fortunas que levantavam
promessas de maus augúrios
os que em vida se enterravam
por serem falsos e espúrios
maiorais da minoria
que diziam silenciosa
e que em silêncio fazia
a coisa mais horrorosa:
minar como um sinapismo
e com ordenados régios
o alvor do socialismo
e o fim dos privilégios.

Foi então se bem vos lembro
que sucedeu a vindima
quando pisámos Setembro
a verdade veio acima.

E foi um mosto tão forte
que sabia tanto a Abril
que nem o medo da morte
nos fez voltar ao redil.

Ali ficámos de pé
juntos soldados e povo
para mostrarmos como é
que se faz um país novo.

Ali dissemos não passa!
E a reacção não passou.
Quem já viveu a desgraça
odeia a quem desgraçou.

Foi a força do Outono
mais forte que a Primavera
que trouxe os homens sem dono
de que o povo estava à espera.

Foi a força dos mineiros
pescadores e ganhões
operários e carpinteiros
empregados dos balcões
mulheres a dias pedreiros
reformados sem pensões
dactilógrafos carteiros
e outras muitas profissões
que deu o poder cimeiro
a quem não queria patrões.

Desde esse dia em que todos
nós repartimos o pão
é que acabaram os bodos
— cumpriu-se a revolução.

Porém em quintas vivendas
palácios e palacetes
os generais com prebendas
caciques e cacetetes
os que montavam cavalos
para caçarem veados
os que davam dois estalos
na cara dos empregados
os que tinham bons amigos
no consórcio dos sabões
e coçavam os umbigos
como quem coça os galões
os generais subalternos
que aceitavam os patrões
os generais inimigos
os generais garanhões
teciam teias de aranha
e eram mais camaleões
que a lombriga que se amanha
com os próprios cagalhões.
Com generais desta apanha
já não há revoluções.

Por isso o onze de Março
foi um baile de Tartufos
uma alternância de terços
entre ricaços e bufos.

E tivemos de pagar
com o sangue de um soldado
o preço de já não estar
Portugal suicidado.

Fugiram como cobardes
e para terras de Espanha
os que faziam alardes
dos combates em campanha.

E aqui ficaram de pé
capitães de pedra e cal
os homens que na Guiné
aprenderam Portugal.

Os tais homens que sentiram
que um animal racional
opõe àqueles que o firam
consciência nacional.

Os tais homens que souberam
fazer a revolução
porque na guerra entenderam
o que era a libertação.

Os que viram claramente
e com os cinco sentidos
morrer tanta tanta gente
que todos ficaram vivos.

Os tais homens feitos de aço
temperado com a tristeza
que envolveram num abraço
toda a história portuguesa.

Essa história tão bonita
e depois tão maltratada
por quem herdou a desdita
da história colonizada.

Dai ao povo o que é do povo
pois o mar não tem patrões.
– Não havia estado novo
nos poemas de Camões!

Havia sim a lonjura
e uma vela desfraldada
para levar a ternura
à distância imaginada.

Foi este lado da história
que os capitães descobriram
que ficará na memória
das naus que de Abril partiram

das naves que transportaram
o nosso abraço profundo
aos povos que agora deram
novos países ao mundo.

Por saberem como é
ficaram de pedra e cal
capitães que na Guiné
descobriram Portugal.

E em sua pátria fizeram
o que deviam fazer:
ao seu povo devolveram
o que o povo tinha a haver:
Bancos seguros petróleos
que ficarão a render
ao invés dos monopólios
para o trabalho crescer.
Guindastes portos navios
e outras coisas para erguer
antenas centrais e fios
dum país que vai nascer.

Mesmo que seja com frio
é preciso é aquecer
pensar que somos um rio
que vai dar onde quiser

pensar que somos um mar
que nunca mais tem fronteiras
e havemos de navegar
de muitíssimas maneiras.

No Minho com pés de linho
no Alentejo com pão
no Ribatejo com vinho
na Beira com requeijão
e trocando agora as voltas
ao vira da produção
no Alentejo bolotas
no Algarve maçapão
vindimas no Alto Douro
tomates em Azeitão
azeite da cor do ouro
que é verde ao pé do Fundão
e fica amarelo puro
nos campos do Baleizão.
Quando a terra for do povo
o povo deita-lhe a mão!

É isto a reforma agrária
em sua própria expressão:
a maneira mais primária
de que nós temos um quinhão
da semente proletária
da nossa revolução.

Quem a fez era soldado
homem novo capitão
mas também tinha a seu lado
muitos homens na prisão.

De tudo o que Abril abriu
ainda pouco se disse
um menino que sorriu
uma porta que se abrisse
um fruto que se expandiu
um pão que se repartisse
um capitão que seguiu
o que a história lhe predisse
e entre vinhas sobredos
vales socalcos searas
serras atalhos veredas
lezírias e praias claras
um povo que levantava
sobre um rio de pobreza
a bandeira em que ondulava
a sua própria grandeza!
De tudo o que Abril abriu
ainda pouco se disse
e só nos faltava agora
que este Abril não se cumprisse.
Só nos faltava que os cães
viessem ferrar o dente
na carne dos capitães
que se arriscaram na frente.

Na frente de todos nós
povo soberano e total
que ao mesmo tempo é a voz
e o braço de Portugal.

Ouvi banqueiros fascistas
agiotas do lazer
latifundiários machistas
balofos verbos de encher
e outras coisas em istas
que não cabe dizer aqui
que aos capitães progressistas
o povo deu o poder!
E se esse poder um dia
o quiser roubar alguém
não fica na burguesia
volta à barriga da mãe!
Volta à barriga da terra
que em boa hora o pariu
agora ninguém mais cerra
as portas que Abril abriu!


José Carlos Ary dos Santos (1937 - 1984)

10 abril 2018

RIP Isao Takahata, magician extraordinaire 1935 - 2018

Obituary from The Guardian

For more than 50 years, Isao Takahata, who has died aged 82, played an instrumental role in forging the international reputation of Japanese animation. He was one of the two key figures behind Japan’s leading animation house, Studio Ghibli, which he co-founded in 1985 alongside Hayao Miyazaki, and the director of such poignant works as the antiwar film Grave of the Fireflies (1988) and the Academy award-nominated The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (2013), based on a 10th-century folktale and realised in a style influenced by traditional Japanese ink-wash painting.
Yet in contrast to the freewheeling and design-based approach of his more prolific colleague, Takahata never put so much as a pen to paper during the animation process. Nonetheless his sophisticated, character-driven animations explored a diverse range of themes and aesthetic styles, often confounding expectations as to what was possible within the medium. Grave of the Fireflies presented an emotionally harrowing account of a young brother and sister left to fend for themselves at the tail end of the war after their mother is killed in an allied bombing raid.

Adapted from a short story by Akiyuki Nosaka, the film contained several sequences drawn from Takahata’s own memories as a nine-year-old of the night-time raids over the city of Okayama, running barefoot through the night in his pyjamas with his sister. In Only Yesterday (1991), a Tokyo office girl’s nostalgic recollections of her childhood in the late 1960s bubble to the surface when she returns to the mountainous Yamagata area where she grew up.
There were more fantastical works too. His feature-length debut at Toei Animationstudios, The Little Norse Prince (1968), about a boy’s quest to defend his village from an evil sorcerer, anticipated the style and ambition with which Studio Ghibli would become associated. Pom Poko (1994) was a colourful tale of a community of tanuki, the mischievous, shape-shifting environmental guardians of Japanese folklore who take the form of a raccoon dog, as they rally together to protect their natural habitat from falling prey to a new-town development.
Born in Ujiyamada (now Ise), in Mie Prefecture, the youngest of seven siblings, Takahata moved with his family to Okayama in 1943. After graduating from Okayama prefectural high school, where his father was the headteacher, he enrolled at the University of Tokyo in 1954 to study French literature. It was at this time that he encountered the work of Jacques Prévert and, more crucially, a film that would change the course of his life, Paul Grimault’s animation Le Roi et l’Oiseau (1952; released in Japan in 1955), for which the French poet had written the screenplay. In 2006, Studio Ghibli would distribute Grimault’s extended director’s cut of the original film, while Takahata published a collection of his own translations of Prévert’s poetry into Japanese in 2006.
After graduation, in 1959 Takahata entered Toei Animation, a company that aimed to produce animations of the scope and quality of Disney. He worked as an assistant on the feature-length Little Prince and the Eight-Headed Dragon (1963), before making his directing debut that same year with several episodes of the television series Ken the Wolf Boy (1963-65).
The younger Hayao Miyazaki joined the studio the same year, initially in the lowly position of an “in-betweener”, drawing the intermediary movements between the key images. Takahata and Miyazaki immediately formed a close friendship and working relationship that would endure for more than five decades.
Both shared the ambition to create more dramatic, spectacular and cinematic animation than the kind of children’s-oriented films and TV programmes the studio was increasingly focusing on. By the time of Takahata’s debut with The Little Norse Prince, Miyazaki had been elevated to scene design and key animation duties. Nevertheless, the production went over budget and over schedule, and failed to pull in audiences. Toei withdrew the film from distribution after just a couple of weeks and Takahata was demoted to television assignments.
Frustrated, the two left, along with another Toei animator, Yasuo Ōtsuka, working together to join A Production on the first animated television series of Lupin III, based on the popular manga series created by Monkey Punch, about the adventures of a suave swindler who is the grandson of Maurice Leblanc’s fictional master thief Arsène Lupin. Takahata also directed the short children’s film Panda! Go Panda! (1972) and its sequel the following year.

For much of the 1970s Takahata and Miyazaki would work together on animated TV adaptations of classics such as the popular Heidi, a Girl of the Alps (1974) and Anne of Green Gables (1979), with Takahata directing and Miyazaki responsible for the artwork.
Takahata returned to feature directing with Chie the Brat (1981) and an adaptation of Kenji Miyazawa’s Gauche the Cellist (1982), while working as a producer on Miyazaki’s breakthrough animated version of his own manga, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984).
The film’s huge success led to the establishment of Studio Ghibli, the name, due to Miyazaki’s love of aviation, taken from an Italian second world war plane, with Takahata producing Miyazaki’s first work for the new enterprise, Castle in the Sky (1986).
Takahata directed just five features at Studio Ghibli, beginning with Grave of the Fireflies. The critical and commercial failure of My Neighbours the Yamadas (1999), with its rough sketch style and vignette-based narrative derived from a popular newspaper cartoon strip about an everyday Japanese family, saw him move to a more behind-the-scenes role at the studio at the same time that Miyazaki’s films were gaining international acclaim.
He returned to directing in 2013 with the critically lauded The Tale of the Princess Kaguya. In 2016 he produced and provided significant creative input into Ghibli’s first non-Japanese production, The Red Turtle, directed by the Dutch animator Michaël Dudok de Wit. Takahata’s suggestion that the film would be more powerful without dialogue turned out to be absolutely right.

08 março 2018

Dia Internacional da Mulher 2018



MULHER
A mulher não é só casa
mulher-loiça, mulher-cama
ela é também mulher-asa,
mulher-força, mulher-chama

E é preciso dizer
dessa antiga condição
a mulher soube trazer
a cabeça e o coração

Trouxe a fábrica ao seu lar
e ordenado à cozinha
e impôs a trabalhar
a razão que sempre tinha

Trabalho não só de parto
mas também de construção
para um filho crescer farto
para um filho crescer são

A posse vai-se acabar
no tempo da liberdade
o que importa é saber estar
juntos em pé de igualdade

Desde que as coisas se tornem
naquilo que a gente quer
é igual dizer meu homem
ou dizer minha mulher


ARY DOS SANTOS

07 março 2018

From Book to Great Song

Did you know Kate was born on the exact same day and month as Emily Brontë, 140 years apart?



The Master and Margarita, Mikhail Bulgakov’s Russian satire about the devil and the Soviet Union, first by the Rollling Stones, then by Guns' n 'Roses - my favourite:




The following text is from Billboard magazine.

George Orwell’s legendary dystopian novel 1984 was the central thesis for Bowie’s 1974 glam rock album Diamond Dogs. It’s present in tracks such as “Big Brother” and, of course, “1984.” It’s haunting, timely and ahead of its time -- just like the book it was inspired by.




Led Zeppelin are hardly the only J.R.R. Tolkien nerds in rock n’ roll history (Rush certainly gives them a run for their money) but The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit soundtracks could have very well been set to the sounds of “The Battle of Evermore,” “Misty Mountain Top,” and, of course, “Ramble On.” Gollum with that precious name drop from Jimmy Page and Robert Plant!



Like Papa before him, James Hetfield has had some things to say about war. In addition to the song “One” (which took cues from Dalton Trumbo’s film Johnny Got His Gun), Metallica paid homage to Ernest Hemingway’s honored Spanish Civil War novel with their own hard rocking take on who time marches on for.



For a children’s book released in 1865, Lewis Carroll’s legendary fantasy novel Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland has some seriously trippy elements. The book, which raises some pretty heady questions about life and death and time and space (and, you know, features a hookah-smoking caterpillar), has inspired countless artists over the centuries. However, nothing captures the “Whooooooa” nature of Alice and her wild adventures quite like Jefferson Airplane’s psychedelic tune.  



Named after the seventh chapter of William Golding’s essential novel Lord of the Flies, U2 closed out their 1980 classic Boy with this rattling musical translation of youth and chaos.




21 fevereiro 2018

6 things you don't know about the AXOLOTL (yes, I love it)

From Mother Nature Network:

Amphibians aren't exactly charismatic, but, somehow, the axolotl attracts a lot of attention from people who may normally get squeamish around frogs. Perhaps it's their goofy smile and cute little frills that disarm people.
But these salamanders have a number of other special traits that may explain such keen interest all around, from scientists to conservationists to folks who just really love animals.
1. Axolotls stay 'babies' for their whole lives. Axolotls are neotenic creatures meaning they achieve sexual maturity without losing any of their larval features. So while many amphibians, like the salamander, will eventually develop lungs and head to land, axolotls keep their trademark feathery external gills and remain aquatic. This also means that their teeth never develop and that they must rely on a suction method to consume food.
2. Axolotls, however, can be given a little boost to become 'full' salamanders. Scientists discovered that if an axolotl is given a shot of iodine, it will experience a rush of hormones that triggers the animal's growth processes, and it will "grow up" and resemble a mature tiger salamander, their closest relative. However, this is not the axolotl's natural state. "Grown-up" axolotls are typically listless and die about a year after the injection.
A gray-black axolotl at the bottom of a tank Four genes affect the colors of axolotls. (Photo: Faldrian/Wikimedia Commons)
3. Axolotls are native to one spot in the world (and they may not even be there any longer). These aquatic amphibians are only found in the wild in one location: Lake Xochimilco, located in southern Mexico City. They once also resided in Lake Chalco in central Mexico City, but that lake was drained to avoid flooding. Xochimilco is only a shell of it former self, reduced to a series of canals. Given Xochimilco's diminished state, the axolotl is considered critically endangered, and a 2013 survey failed to find any specimens in the wild.
4. Axolotls come in a variety of color patterns. Four genes control the pigmentation of axolotls and can result in significant variation in their colors patterns. Typically, however, they're brown or black with specks of gold or olive. The white axolotls with black eyes are more common as a result of breeding among pet traders, so they are rarely seen in the wild.
A white axolotl with black-blue eyes and pink frills Axolotl have a huge genome that we are only now beginning to decipher. (Photo: Ulmus Media/Shutterstock)
5. Axolotls can regenerate pretty much any body part. A number of amphibians are capable of regenerating limbs, but axolotls take this habit up a notch by regenerating jaws, spinal cords, skin and even portions of their brain. Axolotls can also receive organ transplants and will not reject the new organ. Their regenerative abilities are obviously of interest to researchers hoping to understand how it works and if this amazing quality could translate to humans.
6. Axolotls have a genome 10 times the size of the human genome. Across organisms, genomes have plenty of junk, repetitive DNA that doesn't have a function, and the axolotl, with its 32 billion DNA bases, is no different. But this also means sequencing and isolating the genes that may help us understand the creature's regenerative abilities is difficult. A 2018 study in Nature finally made a small breakthrough, identifying five genes that aren't present in other reptiles, amphibians or humans but are active in regenerating limbs.

09 janeiro 2018

Axolotl

Amphibians are not often considered charismatic. The axolotl is different.

With its ear-to-ear grin, pink feathery headdress of gills and frantic underwater dance, this amphibian has captivated generations of admirers. Once revered by Aztecs, today the axolotl appears in many forms. It is a symbol for Mexican national identity in anthropologist Roger Bartra’s book La Jaula de la Melancolia (The Cage of Melancholy); Mexican muralist Diego Rivera includes axolotl swimming near a male figure’s genitals—the center of creation—in his mural “Water, Origin of Life.”

You may have heard of the axolotl because its image is so ubiquitous—and so, it seems, is it. Millions of the creatures thrive around the world. The axolotl is a popular pet, particularly in Japan, where they are bred so widely that they are also served deep-fried at some restaurants. They are also distributed so commonly to labs for research that they are basically the white mice of amphibians, thanks to their unique genetic profile and their potential to unlock the secrets of evolution and regeneration.

But few realize that, in nature, the axolotl is in peril. It is native only to Lake Xochimilco, a UNESCO World Heritage site outside Mexico City, where it has long played a role in Mexican tradition. And there, it is on the brink of extinction.

In 2006, the species was declared critically endangered due to habitat degradation and the pervasiveness of invasive fish in the lake, introduced decades ago in a well-intentioned attempt to create fisheries and alleviate food insecurity. In 2009, experts estimated that the axolotl population had fallen 90 percent in the past four years, a decline further exacerbated by urbanization. In 2015, scientists briefly believed that the critter might have gone fully extinct in the wild—only to find one a few weeks later.

When Luis Zambrano started working with the axolotl in 2002, he knew only a little about the curious critter’s cultural significance to Mexico and their popularity throughout the world. Zambrano, a biologist at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), had previously focused on food webs of fish; he started working with axolotls when fellow researchers in his lab asked if he would help them find axolotl in his by-catch. He was eventually instrumental in designating the axolotl as a threatened species and is now the leading expert on their conservation.

At first, Zambrano dreaded working the amphibians. Axolotls are frustratingly difficult to catch (besides that, there are very few left) and the local people initially didn’t seem keen to work with him, he says. But as he learned of the animals’ rich cultural and biological significance, he quickly grew entranced by the amphibians. He even found a connection to his prior research: as aquatic predators, axolotls are highly important in food webs. Zambrano started to explore how they interact with different species, how they predate, and how they are preyed upon.
“It was like starting with a bad date and falling in love,” he laughs now.

According to Zambrano, axolotls face a variety of threats in their natural habitat. They are only found in Lake Xochimilco, but Lake Xochimilco is suffering. The lake system is highly eutrophic, meaning it is so rich in nutrients from agricultural runoff that the booming plant life kills the endemic species by depriving them of oxygen. Invasive Asiatic carp and tilapia, introduced by the government to increase food security in underserved communities, have now supplanted the axolotl as the top predators, and are known for picking off the scrumptious juveniles.

Pollution from Mexico City is also an issue: strong storms can cause the city’s sewer system to overflow and release human waste into Lake Xochimilco. With their permeable amphibian skin, axolotls are particularly vulnerable to the ammonia, heavy metals, and other toxins carried by human excrement.

At the same time, Mexico City is rapidly expanding, and outlying areas like Xochilmilco become hotbeds for legal and illegal development. Developers view areas like Xochimilco opportunistically and have been grabbing up permits for large-scale developments in critical areas. As people migrate to Mexico City for work, those who cannot afford to live in the central areas look for places to live on the outskirts. Zambrano has observed that not only is the axolotl stressed by noise, but the rapid urbanization also presents untold threats to its only habitat.
 
The problem is, having captive populations of axolotls is not enough, says Randal Voss, a biologist at the University of Kentucky. Voss, who maintains a collection of axolotls for distribution to labs around the world as Resource Director of the Ambystoma Genetic Stock Center, knows the problem intimately. When he looks at his pedigree records, he knows the stock is inbred and thus has less genetic diversity due to the mating between related animals.

In one sense, a homogeneous stock can be good for science, as it is much more likely to facilitate reproducible studies. “On the other hand, it can compromise the health of a captive population,” Voss explains.

Captive populations are more vulnerable to catastrophe. Disease, or even an accidental fire, could wipe out an entire lab population almost instantaneously. Between the inbreeding and efforts to cross the axolotl with the tiger salamander to introduce some genetic diversity, the collection is also very different than the wild populations; not only are their genomes different, but they are highly domesticated and adapted to humans.

Researchers like Voss are working on sequencing the wild axolotl genome, but the sheer size of the genome and the lack of access to wild populations means they have not yet completed it. If the animals went extinct before they could complete the sequencing, they would lose the groundwork for many studies that use the axolotl’s unique molecular toolbox.

That’s key, because axolotls are one of the most important animals we have for studying regeneration. When an axolotl loses its limb or crushes its spine, it is able to regenerate the lost or damaged body parts with stunning perfection. Scientists have seen these creatures regenerate an entire limb in as little as 40 days, with immune cells called macrophages building up tissue until a new limb is formed. As scientists are now learning, certain microRNA groups give axolotls and other salamanders this superpower.

They aren’t unique in this trait. “Regeneration is not special or specific to axolotl,” Voss explains, “It’s just that the axolotl is the best model amongst all the salamanders for doing this research.” Moreover, axolotls have enormous embryos, the largest amongst amphibians, which are useful for stem cell research.
Yet perhaps the axolotl’s most crucial trait to scientists goes back to that adorable baby face. 

B8C6TT.jpg 
Few realize that the lovable, cotton-candy-pink amphibian is on the edge of extinction.

1920px-Ambystoma_mexicanum_at_Vancouver_Aquarium.jpg Axolotls are richly represented in captivity. These two, at the Vancouver Aquarium, are leucistic, meaning they have less pigmentation than normal.
.....
Axolotls are neotenic, which means that unlike other amphibians, they reach sexual maturity without undergoing metamorphosis. Frogs, for example, are aged tadpoles; axolotls maintain their youthful, larval visage throughout all stages of their lives. Axolotls evolutionarily shed the thyroid hormone that triggers metamorphosis to adapt to habitats with low levels of iodine and other resources necessary for maturation.

And because axolotls don’t go through metamorphosis, they don’t depend on the seasons and other environmental factors for breeding. That means scientists can breed them throughout the course of the year. Axolotls may also offer insight to the genetic controls that regulate the switch in life for processes like puberty.

With the race against the clock growing ever pressing, the axolotl conservation efforts ramped up in the early 2000s with a proposed captive breeding and species reintroduction project. Richard Griffiths, professor of biological conservation at the University of Kent and leader of the axolotl conservation efforts for the Darwin Initiative, the UK Government’s funding program to assist with biological diversity projects in the developing world, recognized early on that reintroduction was a long shot given the threats to the species in Lake Xochimilco.

“There really wouldn’t be any point to doing captive breeding and reintroduction,” Griffiths explains. “One of the rules of captive breeding is you have to sort the threats out first.”

Thus, the team developed an action plan in 2004 to raise the profile of the axolotl in the local community through education programs, workshops, and public meetings. They focused on integrating the axolotl into the tourism in the community. One of Griffiths’s favorite projects was the training programs for romeros, or boatmen, to become guides for tours about the axolotl for tourists visiting the lake.

“It’s the best captive audience,” Griffiths jokes. “You have eight people in a boat, and they can’t get off!”
Local businesses like La Casita del Axolotl breed axolotls for sale and conduct tours with their guests and clients. “We work with the tourism that we see at the traditional piers,” explains Karen Perez, one of the managers of La Casita del Axolotl. “We give our guests an explanation about axolotls and what they can do for them.”

The local community was always essential for the axolotl conservation efforts. The difficult method of collecting axolotls—searching for subtle bubbles and casting the net just right—that is needed for censuses is hard to teach, but it is a skill that is passed down through generations of local fishermen. 
It wasn’t always smooth sailing in Xochimilco. “When I started to work in Xochimilco, it was not easy,” Zambrano says. Locals distrust scientists, who have historically exploited the community for data in the past without coming back or paying them sufficiently. Zambrano approached the relationship differently. He knew the community had all the knowledge he needed, so he offered his data collecting skills and credibility as a way for them to have their voices heard—and to help their livelihoods.

These efforts have scaled up in recent years as Zambrano involves local farmers in the process. Local farmers are encouraged to farm with traditional chinampas, or “floating gardens” constructed with aquatic vegetation and mud from the lake, to create sanctuaries for the axolotl. The productive and sustainable agricultural system does not use chemical pesticides—they have even experimented with grinding up invasive tilapia for fertilizer—and creates a semi-permeable barrier to provide refuge for the axolotl with clean, filtered water.

“We are not discovering anything new that wasn’t discovered 2,000 years ago,” Zambrano explains.
It may not be enough. “Despite all this work, there is no doubt that the axolotl is in decline within the larger system,” says Griffiths, pointing out that the threats to the lake system are simply too great. Zambrano is hopeful. He has seen a steady increase in interest in the axolotl, which he hopes to leverage into local government action. The first step, he says, is to save Xochimilco.

In Julio Cortázar’s 1952 short story “Axolotl,” the narrator writes that “the axolotls were like witnesses of something, and at times like horrible judges,” before turning into one himself. If history doesn’t change, experts warn, real life axolotls may witness is their own demise.

 “I think that we are in a threshold in this moment,” says Zambrano. “But if we follow the path that we have followed for the last 50 years where the government is trying to rescue Xochimilco through more human development, then [the axolotl] will definitely be extinct in the next 10 years.”

Smithsonian Magazine