30 junho 2004

A Resignação?


o nosso.

Há uns anos, nos momentos mais complicados de dissolução da URSS, nada funcionava na Rússia. Todos os dias de manhã, no Hotel Ukraina, o pequeno almoço era uma saga. Chegava o samovar com o chá e não havia chávenas lavadas. Chegavam as chávenas, não havia colheres. Chegavam as colheres e não havia chá outra vez. Os estrangeiros recém-chegados protestavam em vão. Os russos e os velhos habitantes do Hotel Ukraina, que já conheciam todas as rotinas, iam buscar chávenas à cozinha, acumulavam duas ou três chávenas em cima da mesa para armazenar o precioso chá, etc. Um amigo meu disse-me: “vais ver, ao quinto dia já estamos como eles, a ir buscar chá à cozinha, muito caladinhos”. Ao terceiro dia já íamos buscar chá à cozinha.

[roubado ao Abrupto]
The Queen has returned:

Boudicca (also known as Boadicea and Boudica) is back... on a movie (but of course):

There are some lines of William Cowper inscribed on the plinth of the bronze statue of Boadicea near Westminster Bridge in central London: "Regions Caesar never knew/Thy posterity shall sway." The words have never been truer. Hollywood has four films in development about the British warrior queen. One of them, Warrior, is being produced by Mel Gibson, partly with money from the proceeds of his film The Passion of The Christ (a rare example of fundamentalist Christian money backing a project with a pagan heroine). Along with a DreamWorks project called Queen Fury, Paramount's Warrior Queen and another called My Country, the race is on to get what Variety magazine called "Braveheart with a bra" to the screen first.

What Hollywood will make of the life and times of the flame-haired, 1,950-year-old rebuffer of Romans is anyone's guess. A Celtic Madonna, perhaps, with great muscle tone and a weirdo religion? A proto-feminist as ballsy as Germaine Greer but handier with spears? A skimpily attired, anti-slavery Xena, Warrior Princess, with cross-demographic appeal to rad-fems and FHM soft-porn fetishists? The legend can flourish so richly because we know so little about the real-life warrior queen. We're not even sure how to spell her name: is it Boadicea, Boudicca or Boudica?

What we know about her is confined to a few pages of triumphalist Roman history by Tacitus and some equally tendentious stuff by another historian, Dio Cassius. But every British schoolchild knows (one might hope) that Boadicea was the warrior queen from present-day East Anglia who rose against her Roman oppressors after they appropriated her Iceni tribe's estates and then flogged her and raped her two daughters for good measure. She mobilised her subjects, galvanised other British tribes in anti-imperialist war, sacked Rome's greatest British city (present-day Colchester), routed a well-trained legion, barrelled down the A12 with a huge army of spear-wielding tribal British toughs and burned London, then laid waste to St Albans before finally being crushed by the Romans in AD62.

Beyond this, however, things get sketchy. How did she die, and where? Did she fight in battle? Was she responsible for war crimes? What were the names of her raped daughters? Was she gay, straight, bi, lusty and/or busty? Did she really wear a bra? These are the questions preoccupying Hollywood.

[read on]
Elliot Erwitt

Here's to one of the saddest and darkest Studio Ghibli movies: The Grave of the Fireflies
(got this one meselfa on DVD):

"War does not only involve soldiers. During WWII, Seita and Setsuko flee from their homes one night when the air raid alarm sounds. With the fall of the fire bombs, they become orphans and homeless. This film, based the semi-autobiography by Akiyuki Nosaka, relates the tragedies of war as Seita and Setsuko struggle to survive with only each other to hold onto."

29 junho 2004

The name Laputa comes from the name of the floating castle in the sky in Jonathan Swift's classic novel Gulliver's Travels. Miyazaki apparently liked the name and the idea so he borrowed both. However, Swift, being a satirist, had used the Spanish slang word for "whore" ( "la puta" ) as the name of the original castle in the sky. (The people in Swift's Laputa were absent-minded technologists who oppressed the lands below them by cutting off the sunlight to them. In that sense Swift's choice of the name does not make any sense, and I have not been able to find anything which explains why he chose that particular name.)

It is not clear whether Miyazaki understood the origin of this word or not when he chose it. However, Isao Takahata, Miyazaki's mentor and the producer of Laputa, did know and said so in an interview in Animeland #6 July/August 1992. Apparently neither of them realized how obscene the word is in contemporary Spanish.

Ironically, Miyazaki almost avoided the problem altogether. Since there is no "L" in Japanese, they pronouce the name as "rap-uh-ta". The picture above shows an early production sketch (taken from The Art of Laputa) of the opening credits where they have respelled it as Raputa. But for whatever reason, they decided to stick with the original.

Because of all this, the English language version of Laputa released by Disney is titled Castle in the Sky which is a shortened version of its full Japanese title: Castle in the Sky: Laputa. There are just too many bilingual folks in the US for them to risk the hassle of angry parents wanting to know what this movie is doing in the children's video section.

28 junho 2004

Puro Sangue Lusitano

de Yann-Arthus Bertrand
Spanish Pure-Blood

by Yann Arthus-Bertrand
"Better to be deprived of food for three days, then tea for one." (Ancient Chinese Proverb)

Ah, the benefits of green tea:

* A cup of green tea enhances health
* Green tea prevents cancer
* Green tea restricts the increase of blood cholesterol
* Green tea controls high blood pressure
* Green tea lowers the blood sugar level
* Green tea suppresses aging
* Green tea refreshes the body
* Green tea deters food poisoning
* Green tea stops cavities
* Green tea fights virus
* Green tea acts as a functional food

(this one I have...)

"What makes green tea so special?

The secret of green tea lies in the fact it is rich in catechin polyphenols, particularly epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). EGCG is a powerful anti-oxidant: besides inhibiting the growth of cancer cells, it kills cancer cells without harming healthy tissue. It has also been effective in lowering LDL cholesterol levels, and inhibiting the abnormal formation of blood clots. The latter takes on added importance when you consider that thrombosis (the formation of abnormal blood clots) is the leading cause of heart attacks and stroke.

Links are being made between the effects of drinking green tea and the "French Paradox." For years, researchers were puzzled by the fact that, despite consuming a diet rich in fat, the French have a lower incidence of heart disease than Americans. The answer was found to lie in red wine, which contains resveratrol, a polyphenol that limits the negative effects of smoking and a fatty diet. In a 1997 study, researchers from the University of Kansas determined that EGCG is twice as powerful as resveratrol, which may explain why the rate of heart disease among Japanese men is quite low, even though approximately seventy-five percent are smokers.

Why don't other Chinese teas have similar health-giving properties? Green, oolong, and black teas all come from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. What sets green tea apart is the way it is processed. Green tea leaves are steamed, which prevents the EGCG compound from being oxidized. By contrast, black and oolong tea leaves are made from fermented leaves, which results in the EGCG being converted into other compounds that are not nearly as effective in preventing and fighting various diseases.

Other Benefits

New evidence is emerging that green tea can even help dieters. In November, 1999, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published the results of a study at the University of Geneva in Switzerland. Researchers found that men who were given a combination of caffeine and green tea extract burned more calories than those given only caffeine or a placebo.

Green tea can even help prevent tooth decay! Just as its bacteria-destroying abilities can help prevent food poisoning, it can also kill the bacteria that causes dental plaque. Meanwhile, skin preparations containing green tea - from deodorants to creams - are starting to appear on the market."
[I feel thin... sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.
I need a holiday. A very long holiday. And I don't expect I shall return.
In fact I mean not to.]
I'm usually disgusted at politics (we have Blog de Esquerda
for the dirty job, don't we) but somehow this seems important:
Durão Barroso seems to be headed as the European Commission
Chief. Here's The Guardian on it, El Mundo, El Mundo on Durão Barroso,
Unsuprisingly, in their usual masturbation-like attitude to anything that is not star-spangled related, the US press doesn't stir at the nomination. Ah, who cares anyway...

25 junho 2004

Another take on Unfairenheit 9/11.
Yep, since it's the talk of the global village, it's never too much to shed further light on its impact.
A Bandeira
"Será demais pedir a taça?"
Está tudo pronto? Dá-lhe gás!

Três, dois, um, vai arrancar
uma espécie de hino em versão popular
sem essas coisas de mão no peito e ar pesado
Em 2004 o campeonato vai mudar o nosso fado
do coitado, do comido
Porque é que o país se queixa do que podia ter sido?
Mas nunca é. E a culpa nunca é nossa
é do árbitro, é do campo, é de quem nos deu uma coça.
Chega. Queremos mais, é um murro na mesa.
Um grito do Ipiranga em versão portuguesa.
Porque até hoje, quase marcámos, quase ganhámos, quase fizemos…
Mas porquê quase? … Passemos à próxima fase.

Marca mais!
Corre mais!
Menos ais, menos ais, menos ais!
Quero muito mais!

O conceito é muito simples: não desistir.
Mas será que é chato aquilo que acabamos de pedir?
É chato agora, acreditem no que digo:
nós jogamos em casa e contamos com o Figo,
o Rui Costa, o Deco, o Simão e o Pauleta.
Razões para querermos muito mais que um lugar que não comprometa.
Será de mais pedir a taça?
Nada que um adepto com o mínimo de orgulho não faça.
Bonito, bonito, é dar o litro,
É não passar a vida a pôr culpas no gajo do apito.
Vá lá gritar noventa minutos, cento e vinte, o que for
do princípio ao fim, por favor.
Vamos lá, afinem-me essa voz
No fim, só ganha um… e temos que ser nós.

Marca mais!
Corre mais!
Menos ais, menos ais, menos ais!
Quero muito mais!

Joga mais!
Sua mais!
Menos ais, menos ais, menos ais!
Quero muito mais!

Nem custa tanto assim imaginar a vitória
no fundo, é só uma soma de momentos de glória.
Era bonito… Um abraço aqui, um abraço ali…
Abraço toda a gente, abraço quem nunca vi.
Vamos lá transformar isto numa grande festa
Sem pressão, Selecção, és a esperança que nos resta
Por isso, escuta: não te esqueças que a sorte protege os filhos da luta.
Não nos levem a mal a exigência
Mas p'a empates e derrotas não há grande paciência.
Queremos mais, muito mais, menos ais
Scolari, já vimos do que cê é capais.
Cê sabe que para ganhar é preciso ter fé.
E a bola no pé.

… querem mais?

Então vamos lá outra vez
Quem não salta, não é português
Sempre com o desejo de cantar na final
"levantai hoje de novo o esplendor de Portugal".
Tudo a postos,
vamos ter fé uma vez na vida
e acabar o europeu de cabeça e de taça erguida.
Se temos saudade, temos vontade, temos saúde, temos atitude
Se temos tudo, de que é que o português se queixa?
… Era esta a vossa deixa.

Marca mais!
Corre mais!
Menos ais, menos ais, menos ais!
Quero muito mais!

Joga mais!
Sua mais!
Menos ais, menos ais, menos ais!
Quero muito mais



24 junho 2004

Why Is Religion Natural?

Lengthy and thorough explanation from the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal.
Brains and Butts
The Joys of ADvertising

Everybody's All American:
The American Film Institute presents 100 Songs: America's Greatest Movie Music.

Including As Time Goes By, Hakuna Matata, When You Wish Upon A Star, Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend, I Could Have Danced All Night, Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, Come What May, Lose Yourself (two of three from XXI), and Bond themes.

Movies with more than one song: The Wizard of Oz (1st place), Singin' in the Rain, The Sound of Music, A Star is Born, Funny Girl, West Side Story, Meet Me in St Louis.

Lemme just paste here the criteria:

Feature-Length Fiction Film: The film must be in narrative format, typically more than 60 minutes in length.

American Film: The film must be in the English language with significant creative and/or financial production elements from the United States.

Song: Music and lyrics featured in an American film that set a tone or mood, define character, advance plot and/or express the film's themes in a manner that elevates the moving image art form. Songs may have been written and/or recorded specifically for the film or previously written and/or recorded and selected by the filmmaker to achieve the above goals.

Cultural Impact: Songs that have captured the nation's heart, echoed beyond the walls of a movie theater, and ultimately stand in our collective memory of the film itself.

Legacy: Songs that resonate across the century, enriching America's film heritage and captivating artists and audiences today.

Bloom, a new movie about Ulysses* (not the one for Dummies, we hope).
*[bloody good website, by golly]

The pictures from Abu Ghraib are fated to join a peculiar class of objects and images for which someone coined the useful term Americana: the quintessential, familiar and recognisable stuff of US identity. Americans have a unique capacity for creating unforgettable visual icons, and here are another set, to join Marilyn, Elvis, the stars and stripes and Edward Hopper's Nighthawks.

Hopper was the first great painter of Americana, of the idiosyncratic rituals and customs of his country. A white lighthouse in dead sunlight, a forgotten mansion by the railroad tracks, a shirtsleeved figure at a tenement window - his America is shocking, perplexing and surreal.

Hopper's America is a cartoon country, caricatured, exaggerated, impossible, and real. He can paint the most banal moment in a Manhattan lunch room, where a waitress works in numbed solitude while the saddest collection of fruit in the history of art sits unwanted on a side counter, and say as much as TS Eliot in The Wasteland.

More in The Guardian

This beautiful lady has a website, a recently released face powder by Physicians Formula and she'll be driving a Volkswagen in no time (still unavailable :-(

Here's a Telegraph review of the book previously posted about, titled

Marylin unadorned
In his beautiful free translation of Villon's elegiac Ballade des dames du temps jadis, Christopher Logue ends by bringing the medieval poet's catalogue of legendary women up to date. The line, which stretches back to Helen of Troy and Salome, ends, in Logue's version, with Marilyn Monroe, the 20th-century sex symbol who has become as resonant in our cultural memory as her classical and biblical predecessors were in earlier times.

Sarah Churchwell's book on the Marilyn Monroe phenomenon is as concerned with its subject's posthumous image as with the facts of her life. Indeed, one of Churchwell's purposes is to show how few undisputed facts there are about this woman whom everybody thinks they know.

Churchwell's sophisticated take on her subject – she is an English literature academic – analyses the ways in which this uncertainty has sparked lurid apocrypha from Monroe's biographers, who have usually been mired in a confused bog of downmarket psychobabble and literalistic interpretation of metaphor – and that's before you get to the conspiracy theories.

One of the standard clichés – encapsulated in Elton John's "Candle in the Wind" – has to do with Monroe's split persona: the innocent young "true" self, Norma Jeane, destroyed by the artificially created persona of "Marilyn Monroe". In some versions, the taking on of a stage name – hardly an unusual occurrence in Hollywood – becomes the basis for misplaced psychiatric diagnoses of schizophrenia.

Yet there isn't even any agreement on the actual name of the girl who was born in California in 1926: "Norma Jeane" or "Norma Jean" "Mortensen" or "Mortenson" or "Baker", depending on whether you trust her birth certificate, her baptismal certificate or her first marriage licence.

For some writers, this very uncertainty becomes fetishised as metaphysical proof of Monroe's fluid, volatile character. But, as Churchwell commonsensically retorts, it simply derives from the fact that Monroe's mother was twice married, though neither of these husbands was in fact the actress's biological father. "Monroe", the supposedly "fake" pseudonym, is, ironically, a truer reflection of her genetic identity, as it was her mother's maiden name.

The fact that no one knows for sure who Monroe's absent father was would become heavily symbolic in the pop-Freudian accounts of her life. In the eyes of her admirers and detractors – and it is often hard to distinguish one from the other, such is the love-hate response she inspires – everything about Monroe's life, from her periods to her hair-dye, is massively, even pathologically, overdetermined. This is as true for the portentous cultural studies monographs that have appeared as it is for the pulp biographies and the fictionalisations.

As she is the ultimate sex symbol, it is no surprise that Monroe triggers some misogynistic fantasies in male writers such as that shameless fictionaliser Norman Mailer; what is more interesting is Churchwell's convincing analysis of women commentators, such as Gloria Steinem and the novelist Joyce Carol Oates, whose feminism proves in the end to be as patronising and perverse as the attitudes taken by men. Oates, in particular, lets her imagination run unattractively wild on the subject of sodomy. Biographers' obsessions with Monroe's womb reveal how long-lasting crass Victorian assumptions about femininity have proved.

Churchwell is right to be intellectually suspicious of those who forgo the hard labour of researching a proper biography and choose to write fiction instead. Oates comes over as pious and fatuous in her postmodern defence of her Monroe novel Blonde, as if the idea of factual truth had no status whatsoever.

One wishes that, rather than limiting herself to the literary analysis of already published sources, Churchwell had taken the biographical plunge into primary research. Even if a biography concluded that there was disappointingly little that could be documented for certain, it would be well worth while.

When it surfaces, Churchwell's own take on Monroe as far more "grown-up" than she is usually given credit for is convincing. She emphasises her shrewdness, wit and ambition – it was professional competitiveness rather than sexual jealousy which, she suggests, drove the wedge between Monroe and her second husband, the baseball player Joe DiMaggio – and her political courage in supporting Arthur Miller, her third husband, against the House Un-American Activities Committee.

By not offering her own straight version of the life, Churchwell makes it harder for us to find our bearings within the confusing world of Monroe biography than it might otherwise have been. Nevertheless, her book remains a rewarding critique, full of fascinating insights.
Ansel Adams

Why Have A Gay Pride Parade?
by David Nava

"When do we get our parade?"

The question was asked more in fun than with envy, more in joking than with malice, but it struck a chord with me. I had casually mentioned to a couple of my straight friends that the Gay Pride Parade was coming up and I was looking forward to it.
"What about Straight Pride Day?" the female of the couple asked with a grin.

"Everyday is Straight Pride Day," I answered, also grinning. "This culture celebrates it with gay abandon." She laughed.

"When do we get our parade?" demanded her male counterpart.

"Turn the television on." I said. "There's your parade." We all laughed and went about our business but the brief exchange kept coming back to me through the week. The more I thought about it the more serious it became.

Why have a Gay Pride Parade? It's a question many straight people might be asking in the next few weeks. Gay people, I believe, inherently, intuitively know why we have a parade. We have a Gay Pride Parade because 25 years ago a bunch of drag queens at a bar called The Stonewall fought back for the first time when the police overstepped the bounds of their authority for the millionth time, thereby launching the Gay Liberation Movement. We have a Gay Pride Parade so that at least for one day in a year we can walk down the streets of where we live and show our numbers for all the world to see. We have a Gay Pride Parade to celebrate our defeat of The Closet, to have a day when we can proclaim, without reservation, who we are and who we love.

So, when do the straight people get their own parade?

When straight people are prevented from marrying the people they choose to marry, precluded from enjoying tax benefits available to married people, then they should have a parade. When straight people are barred from serving their country in the military, then they should have a parade. When straight people are routinely fired from their jobs because of who they love with or live with then they should have a parade. When straight people are blocked from holding sensitive jobs in the government merely because of their sexual orientation, then they should have a parade. When straight people are forbidden to raise their own children or to adopt others, if they so choose, then they should have a parade. When straight people are beaten, harassed and shot at for holding hands in public then I'll march in their parade.

A man who lives in my neighborhood was shot on our street 2 years ago by a carload of young thugs because he was bidding a companion farewell with an embrace. The companion was another man. The Human Rights Commissioner of this city publicly intimated that the men were "asking for it" through engaging in "provocative behavior" by embracing to say good-bye. That's why I'll be at The Gay Pride Parade. Unless we stand together, march together, care together, no one will do it for us. We Gay and Lesbian people are on our own and we must depend on each other.

So, when some well meaning, or not-so well meaning straight acquaintance of yours questions the need for a Gay Pride Day Parade, educate the poor soul. I'm picking up the phone to call my two friends now.
The Toxic impatience with democracy in Latin America:

"Latin America is paying the price for centuries of inequality and injustice, and the United States really doesn't have a clue about what is happening in the region," said Riordan Roett, director of Latin American studies at Johns Hopkins University.

"These are very, very fragile regimes," he added. "Increasingly, there's frustration and resentment. The rate of voting is going down. Blank ballots are increasing. The average Latin American would prefer a very strong government that produces a physical security and economic security, and no government has been able to do that."

These at-risk governments stretch thousands of miles from the Caribbean and Central America through the spine of the Andes to the continent's southern cone, and increasingly the problems associated with weak governments are spilling beyond Latin America and affecting United States interests in the region."

[read on]

23 junho 2004

God's Number Is Up

In his 1916 poem "A Coat," William Butler Yeats rhymed:

"I made my song a coat
Covered with embroideries
Out of old mythologies
From heel to throat."

Read "religion" for "song," and "science" for "coat," and we have a close approximation of the deepest flaw in the science and religion movement, as revealed in Yeats's denouement:

"But the fools caught it,
Wore it in the world's eyes
As though they'd wrought it.
Song, let them take it
For there's more enterprise
In walking naked."

Naked faith is what religious enterprise was always about, until science became the preeminent system of natural verisimilitude, tempting the faithful to employ its wares in the practice of preternatural belief. Although most efforts in this genre offer little more than scientistic cant and religious blather, a few require a response from the magisterium of science, if for no other reason than to protect that of religion; if faith is tethered to science, what happens when the science changes? One of the most innovative works in this genre is The Probability of God (Crown Forum, 2003), by Stephen D. Unwin, a risk management consultant in Ohio, whose early physics work on quantum gravity showed him that the universe is probabilistic and whose later research in risk analysis led him to this ultimate computation.

If faith is tethered to science, what happens when the science changes?

Unwin rejects most scientific attempts to prove the divine--such as the anthropic principle and intelligent design--concluding that this "is not the sort of evidence that points in either direction, for or against." Instead he employs Bayesian probabilities, a statistical method devised by 18th-century Presbyterian minister and mathematician Reverend Thomas Bayes. Unwin begins with a 50 percent probability that God exists (because 50–50 represents "maximum ignorance"), then applies a modified Bayesian theorem:

The probability of God's existence after the evidence is considered is a function of the probability before times D ("Divine Indicator Scale"):

10 indicates the evidence is 10 times as likely to be produced if God exists, 2 is two times as likely if God exists, 1 is neutral, 0.5 is moderately more likely if God does not exist, and 0.1 is much more likely if God does not exist.

Unwin offers the following figures for six lines of evidence:

recognition of goodness (D = 10), existence of moral evil (D = 0.5), existence of natural evil (D = 0.1), intranatural miracles (prayers) (D = 2), extranatural miracles (resurrection) (D = 1), and religious experiences (D = 2).

Plugging these figures into the above formula (in sequence, where the Pafter figure for the first computation is used for the Pbefore figure in the second computation, and so on for all six Ds), Unwin concludes: "The probability that God exists is 67%." Remarkably, he then confesses: "This number has a subjective element since it reflects my assessment of the evidence. It isn't as if we have calculated the value of pi for the first time."
Indeed, based on my own theory of the evolutionary origins of morality and the sociocultural foundation of religious beliefs and faith, I would begin (as Unwin does) with a 50 percent probability of God's existence and plug in these figures:

recognition of goodness (D = 0.5), existence of moral evil (D = 0.1), existence of natural evil (D = 0.1), intranatural miracles (D = 1), extranatural miracles (D = 0.5), and religious experiences (D = 0.1). I estimate the probability that God exists is 0.02, or 2 percent.

Regardless, the subjective component in the formula relegates its use to an entertaining exercise in thinking--on par with mathematical puzzles--but little more. In my opinion, the question of God's existence is a scientifically insoluble one. Thus, all such scientistic theologies are compelling only to those who already believe. Religious faith depends on a host of social, psychological and emotional factors that have little or nothing to do with probabilities, evidence and logic. This is faith's inescapable weakness. It is also, undeniably, its greatest power.
Super Rich Can Afford Their Own Language

With the rich not only getting more numerous but richer by the year, a new language of wealth-speak has been created by bankers who are desperate to get a slice of their lucrative business.

Readers of the Eighth Annual World Wealth Report, published this week by investment bank Merrill Lynch & Co. (MER.N) and consulting firm Capgemini, get full exposure to this euphemistic new-age language.

The word millionaire shows up only twice in the report --in the footnotes. Instead, individuals with more than $1 million in financial assets, excluding their main home, are called HNWIs, or high net worth individuals by the authors, using a term coined by the banking industry.

Ultra-HNWIs are the super rich, defined as a small but rapidly growing group of 70,000 individuals with more than $30 million in assets. It was Merrill who pegged the ultra threshold at $30 million, a few years ago.

The report estimates there were 7.7 million millionaires around the world at the end of 2003, up by half a million from 2002.

The head of Capgemini's securities industry, Alvi Abuaf, in an interview noted intense competition among banks and asset managers to snag these clients and get access to a larger part of their wallets. However, the study isn't quite as straightforward.

It prefers to frame the question in terms of helping financial institutions «solve» the world's 7.7 million millionaires' «financial problems.»

Fortunately, along with Sofia Chappuis and Robert Low, both managers at Capgemini who helped compile the data and write the report, Abuaf spent considerable time explaining the report to those who have never considered writing a family mission statement.

The report, for example, suggests that financial advisors should target the HNWIs in their lean years for cross-generational planning.

Translation, according to Capgemini: Some wealthy people have children. Those children might not have much to invest today, but, once they inherit their parents' money, they may be tomorrow's mega-millionaires and will make their bankers very happy. By any other name, the strategy is simply one of sales' basic tenets: start small, finish big.

A lot of the suggestions «are based on common sense,» acknowledged Capgemini's Chappuis.

Holistic reporting and dynamic re-valuation are among the other ideas discussed in the study. These are not as revolutionary as they might sound. They mean putting all assets and liabilities in one report rather sending the information out piecemeal, and adjusting clients' financial portfolios as market conditions change.

The report says that even the reasonably wealthy are always looking to the treatment handed out to those with a few million more dollars above them in the pecking order.

The mass affluent -- those with $500,000 to $1 million -- want financial planning, a service offered only to HNWIs just five years ago, according to Abuaf. Those with between $1 and $5 million, meanwhile, want the red carpet usually saved for those with more.

Those whose art collections and oil wells put them in a category of their own expect platinum treatment, once reserved for institutions. That could include offering sophisticated financial tools, such as those that measure a portfolio's risk in the face of market swings.

These ultra-HNWIs have, according to the Chappuis, «multi-jurisdictional needs.» This might mean they have a villa in Tuscany and an apartment in London, as well as a mansion in Connecticut.

They get their own Family Office, a team of professionals serving their accounts under a single umbrella (sometimes referred to as a virtual network). It's as cozy as it gets for the super wealthy -- the new aunts and uncles are tax accountants and trust and estate lawyers.

This has to be a joke:

Slate vs Michael Moore (cover story)


[To describe this film as dishonest and demagogic would almost be to promote those terms to the level of respectability. To describe this film as a piece of crap would be to run the risk of a discourse that would never again rise above the excremental. To describe it as an exercise in facile crowd-pleasing would be too obvious. Fahrenheit 9/11 is a sinister exercise in moral frivolity, crudely disguised as an exercise in seriousness. It is also a spectacle of abject political cowardice masking itself as a demonstration of "dissenting" bravery.]

22 junho 2004

Since her death, Marilyn Monroe has been the subject of some 600 books, scores of which claim to be biographies, and all of which promise to uncover the ‘real Marilyn'. But the biographies can't agree on many of the most sensational details of the life of the twentieth century's most famous woman. Rather than offering another 'definitive life', Sarah Churchwell's book looks at the writing of Marilyn Monroe's many life stories, comparing the competing versions of some of the key moments in her life including: her father's identity, her mother's mental problems, her alleged childhood molestation, her teenage marriage, stories of prostitution and the casting couch, abortions, narcissism, her own psychological problems, her marriages to two other legends, her difficulties on the set and with directors, her affairs with one or both of the Kennedy brothers, and of course the highly charged debates about her death.
Churchwell looks at how these stories have continued to trivialize a woman we supposedly 'worship', and explains what the stories reveal about our attitudes to sex symbols and icons, to women, sex, and death, to biography as an enterprise and to Marilyn herself.

Roubado ao Gato Fedorento, que está cada vez melhor :-D, a respeito das ofertas da TV Shop e quejandos (já sei, tinha que meter esta palavra a talhe de foice)

«Reconheço que isto pode ser polémico mas, na minha opinião, o produto mais curioso actualmente à venda na televisão é a baixela Titanic. Pergunto-me se não será um bocado incomodativo jantar na baixela Titanic. Tenho a impressão que estaria sempre à espera que, de repente, rebentasse um cano e a sala ficasse completamente inundada. Agora, uma vez que já existem pratos, travessas e copos com nome de drama cinematográfico, bonito mesmo seria a baixela Titanic trazer o faqueiro Psycho. E as primeiras quinze pessoas a encomendarem a valiosa baixela Titanic, com o espectacular faqueiro Psycho incluído, receberiam, totalmente grátis e para repousarem tranquilamente depois de uma faustosa refeição, um conjunto de cama Misery

21 junho 2004

O Senhor dos Anéis, de J. R. R. Tolkien — o romance mais lido em todo o mundo. O Senhor dos Anéis, de Peter Jackson - o filme com maior audiência na história do cinema. Imagine agora que um jornalista português consegue entrevistar o realizador Peter Jackson, todos os principais actores de O Senhor dos Anéis, o compositor da banda sonora e vários membros da equipa técnica. Imagine que ele consegue desvendar os principais segredos por detrás das filmagens — os locais, efeitos especiais, dificuldades de produção, o que todos pensam da obra de Tolkien, e muito mais. Com introdução do próprio Peter Jackson À Conversa com os Senhores dos Anéis é um rigoroso exclusivo para Portugal.

We have had little books in search of cocoa and chocolate, coffee, cinnamon - that's all the Cs, then - as well as nutmeg and assorted other spices. Now is the turn of vanilla. It, like so many others that catch the imagination of the gastronomic traveller, was a New World discovery: ten-a-penny to the Aztecs, Inca and Maya, but gold dust once it reached Europe.

[read on]
Hilarious... (from Janela) [snif]

[Batalha de Aljubarrota, iluminura da Crónica de Inglaterra de Jean Wavrin, Museu Britânico.]

20 junho 2004

If we shadows have offended,
If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumber’d here
While these visions did appear.

And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream.

Gentles, do not reprehend:
if you pardon, we will mend:
And, as I am an honest Puck,
If we have unearned luck
Now to ‘scape the serpent’s tongue,
We will make amends ere long;

Else the Puck a liar call;
So, good night unto you all.
Give me your hands, if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends.

18 junho 2004

«O meu avô salvou 30 mil e agiu por conta própria, contra a lei do Estado Novo, sem ajuda de ninguém e fê-lo em 1940, no início da Guerra», disse à Agência Lusa Álvaro de Sousa Mendes, neto do diplomata e presidente da Fundação Aristides de Sousa Mendes.

Para a investigadora Yehuda Bauer, especialista na história dos refugiados judeus durante a II Guerra Mundial, Aristides de Sousa Mendes protagonizou mesmo a «maior acção de salvamento levada a cabo por uma só pessoa durante o Holocausto».

A acção de Aristides de Sousa Mendes, sublinha também o neto, foi de «total e absoluto desinteresse», tendo havido famílias que lhe ofereceram «fortunas por um visto e de quem o diplomata nunca aceitou um tostão».

Aristides de Sousa Mendes era, em 1940, cônsul de Portugal em Bordéus, no sudoeste de França, onde chegavam diariamente centenas de milhar de refugiados de toda a Europa, onde eram perseguidos pelos exércitos Nazis.

Originário de uma família rica e burguesa de Viseu, profundamente católico e conservador, o diplomata não terá sido indiferente às enchentes de refugiados na cidade, que se iam instalando onde podiam, com as condições previsíveis naquelas circunstâncias.

A estação ferroviária da cidade era já um autêntico dormitório, bem como a residência do próprio cônsul, que albergara diversas famílias, por compaixão pela sua situação.

O diplomata recebia aliás diariamente centenas de pedidos de vistos daqueles que, para sair de França, precisavam de atravessar Espanha e chegar a Portugal, de onde partiriam depois para os seus destinos finais, geralmente no continente americano.

No entanto, a Espanha franquista tinha pouco interesse em albergar os opositores a Hitler, pelo que só deixava entrar aqueles que provassem, por meio de um visto de entrada em Portugal, que tencionavam apenas atravessar o território espanhol.

Em Portugal, por outro lado, a posição oficial de «neutralidade» não impedia que Salazar, então ministro dos Negócios Estrangeiros, proibisse a concessão de vistos a judeus, exilados políticos e cidadãos provenientes do Leste Europeu.

Perante o dilema entre a sua consciência cristã, que apelava à solidariedade e compaixão, e a educação conservadora, que o habituara a obedecer às ordens do regime, Sousa Mendes fechou-se no quarto durante três dias, a reflectir.

Dos seus pensamentos não terá estado ausente a preocupação com as eventuais consequências de uma desobediência para a sua carreira e para o sustento da mulher e dos 12 filhos que tinham então.

Assim como não terão sido esquecidas as cartas que lhe enviara o seu irmão gémeo, diplomata em Varsóvia, que lhe relatava a situação de ocupação na Polónia, diz o jornalista francês José-Alain Fralon, que acredita que, em 1940, Aristides de Sousa Mendes tinha já uma ideia muito clara do rumo que seguia o nazismo.

No dia 17 de Junho daquele ano, a decisão estava tomada e foi de «forte ruptura consigo mesmo e com a autoridade», disse à Lusa José-Alain Fralon, autor de um livro sobre o cônsul.

Entre 17 e 19 de Junho, trabalhando dia e noite, emitiu vistos de entrada em Portugal a todos quantos o solicitassem, estimando-se hoje que tenham sido cerca de 30 mil os que o obtiveram, 10 mil dos quais de origem judia.

A 24 de Junho, Salazar chama urgentemente o cônsul a Lisboa, onde o acusa de concessão abusiva de vistos a estrangeiros e lhe instaura um processo disciplinar que acaba por resultar, na prática, na «expulsão da carreira diplomática», diz Álvaro de Sousa Mendes.

Nesta situação, Aristides de Sousa Mendes, um homem «cioso da sua família», que acompanhava de perto o crescimento dos seus filhos e dinamizava a actividade familiar, vê-se obrigado a pedir aos filhos que abandonem o país, a maioria dos quais acabou por se radicar nos Estados Unidos e Canadá.

A incapacidade financeira para os sustentar e a consciência de que, com o seu nome, não teriam grande futuro em Portugal terão contribuído para a decisão de se separar dos seus filhos, diz o seu neto.

A 03 de Abril de 1954 morreu em Lisboa, no Hospital da Ordem Terceira, na miséria e praticamente sozinho, um «homem intrinsecamente bom», diz José-Alain Fralon, com uma «força de vida extraordinária».

Extensive information in English from the Jewish Virtual Library

Proust and Neuroscience at the table:
Marcel Proust lived in his memory. He would close his eyes and disappear. This is understandable: His life was a feeble thing. He rarely left his room. He read train schedules to fall asleep, and he slept a lot. He dutifully informed his mother of his bowel movements and thought he was allergic to the sun. Faced with this claustrophobic reality, wouldn't you live in your memory?

But Proust's sense of memory was no idle exercise in nostalgia. He believed that memory was life: We exist only in a remembrance of things past and are made up of those fragile details that somehow defy the corrosive passage of time. Indeed, Proust's fiction, full of languid and precious sentences, was a virtual case study in the idea of memory, its peculiar habits, and particular properties.

From his eight self-centered and exquisite novels, three basic truths of remembering emerge:
1. The sense of smell has a unique relationship with memory;
2. Memory is a simultaneous stab at truth and a lie;
3. Some memories persist unconsciously, without our even knowing we remember them.

While Proust was writing his rich soap opera set in Combray, starring himself in the role of Marcel, science pursued its own intuitive concepts of memory. It took a while to escape the influence of Freud, but once modern science discovered the concept of the neuron, consciousness soon became a summation of kinase proteins and ion channels. The soul vanished and the brain became a swollen gray source for everything. The search for the molecular details of mind and memory is an ongoing process, a Sisyphean struggle of scientific reductionism against unimaginable complexity. But to the endless surprise of science, it was not the first to faithfully describe memory. Instead, a writer with a taste for the precious and the buttery had, by sheer force of adjectives and loneliness, beat them all. Proust was a neuroscientist.

Proustian revelation #1: "No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shudder ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, something isolated, detached, with no suggestion of its origin. And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory. It was me." In other words, Proust ate a cookie. He had a cup of tea too. But what Proust discovered was that the madeleine, via the sense of taste, summoned a once hidden memory to the conscious surface. The memory was not some sepia-colored Kodachrome, but something visceral, complete, and three-dimensional. The memory was a novel. Eight of them, to be precise.

Proust's intuitive idea of cerebral structure was absolutely right. The sense of smell is unique. It synapses directly on the hippocampus, the center of the brain's memory, whereas all our other senses are first processed by the thalamus, the source of language and logic. This neurological anomaly explains why something delicious creates silence at the dinner table: Faced with the divine, we have nothing worthwhile to say.

Proustian revelation #2: "Our senses, at least as they are instantly transferred to memory, falsify for us the real nature of the world.ŠOur memories are true to us, and perhaps that is all."
The scientific method, firmly invested in objectivity, has never excelled at explaining subjectivity. This is why we have art. But as science searches for the patterns of consciousness, it is forced to confront the idea that our sense of being is defined by its privacy: Each one of us sees the world differently. Memory exaggerates these subtly distinct views, refashioning reality's disorders and discrepancies into a coherent drama. In our sentimental daydreams, we are all unconscious fiction writers, the heroic protagonists of our own star vehicle. Our narratives, however, come at the expense of verisimilitude.

In a recent set of experiments by the labs of Joseph LeDoux at NYU and Karim Nader at McGill, scientists demonstrated that long-term memory requires protein synthesis (the neuronal equivalent of creativity). The injection of a chemical, which stops new proteins from being created, prevents the act of remembering from occurring. (This is diagnosed medically as retrograde amnesia, but what amnesiacs might lack is the ability to misremember.) Every time we remember, the neuronal structure of the memory, no matterhow constant it may feel, is delicatelytransformed. If you prevent the memory from changing, it ceases to exist.

So the purely objective memory, the one "true" to the original taste of the madeleine, is the one memory forever lost to you. The moment you remember the taste is the same moment you forget its true flavor; the present is constantly corrupting the past. To put it another way, memories are like photographs, vulnerable to the grease of our fingertips. You touch them too much and all you see are the markings of your own hand.

Proustian revelation #3: "But when from a long distant past nothing subsists, after the people are dead, after the things are broken and scattered, taste and smell alone, more fragile but more enduring, more unsubstantial, more persistent, more faithful, remain poised a long time, like souls, remembering, waiting, hoping, amid the ruins of all the rest; and bear unflinchingly, in the tiny and almost impalpable drop of their essence, the vast structure of recollection."

Some memories exist outside time, like magic carpets folded delicately in our mind. But even as our memories define us, they exist without us. Science has never understood how untouched memories persist. How do we continue to know what we don't remember? How does the mind remain hidden from itself? How does an entire novel, or eight of them, just lie away waiting for a madeleine?

Scientific rumors (also known as gossip with acronyms) are emerging that might unlock the molecular details of this Proustian paradox. Because the theory is still an unpublished hypothesis, it lacks the sterile significance of "scientific truth," but the eloquence of its logic is tantalizing. A researcher (he insists on anonymity until the data is complete) believes he has found the "synaptic mark" of memory, an invisible linger that endures in the far electrical reaches of neurons. This molecule could be the reductionist answer to Proust's search for the origins of his past.

This avant-garde theory is based on the memory molecule's strange structural properties, which can change its shape without any genetic instruction. Like a sculptor molding clay, repeated stimulation with serotonin, a chemical released by neurons when you think, changes the form of the molecule. Once remodeled, this new molecular sculpture is cast in a metaphorical bronze (resistant to all the cellular weathers) and goes on to "mark" a specific neuronal connection as a memory. The protein's shiny new bronzed state recruits the requisite synaptic architecture needed for long-term remembrance and voilà! The memory is born in the brain.

This molecule (if the theory is true) is the synaptic element that exists outside time. Its presence explains how sentimental ideas endure, how idle experience can become a perpetuating pattern of neuronal connection. It is why the details of Combray could exist silently below the surface, tucked behind the curtain of consciousness. This theory feels true, illuminating a possible cellular reality so beautiful, so elegant, an artist could have dreamed it.

Proust would not be surprised by any of these scientific discoveries. He fancied himself a teller of truth, insisting: "It is the task of art to travel back in the direction from which we have come to the depths, where what has really existed lies unknown within us." Even at his most decadent, Proust was still deductive. He described the world as he saw it, the sensitive reality he felt. Though science has unraveled many rainbows, when it comes to understanding the meanings of the mind, scientists might benefit from a close reading of some beautiful prose.

The horrors of Cat pee
(I know, I know, what kind of post is this)
('Tis terribly important, I have a cat meselfa :-)
In search for the face that launched a thousand ships (yep, still Troy :-)
This is not one of Helen's many depictions, though :-)
The Iliad offers little help for casting directors. The Homeric text seldom describes what Helen looks like. (When it does, she's "white-armed" and garbed in "shimmering linen.") Instead, the poem attends closely to how men respond to her. When Helen first appears, the Trojan elders murmur: "No wonder the men of Troy and Argives under arms have suffered years of agony all for her, for such a woman. Beauty, terrible beauty! A deathless goddess—so she strikes our eyes!" A Greek man, listening to a bard sing these lines after dinner, was free to lean back and imagine his own version of extraordinary, unsettling beauty. Legend has it that Homer was blind, so sculptures of him tend to have an uncanny expression: It looks as though he, too, is picturing something unfathomable in his mind's eye.
See here a slideshow of depictions, drawn from History, Art and Cinematography.
Ever imagined having your surname erased from all recognition by politics?

For more than 80 years, everyone in Mongolia was on a first-name basis. After seizing power in the early 1920s, the Mongolian Communists destroyed all family names in a campaign to eliminate the clan system, the hereditary aristocracy and the class structure.

Within a few decades, most Mongolians had forgotten their ancestral names. They used only a single given name -- a system that eventually became confusing when 9,000 women ended up with the same name, Altantsetseg, meaning "golden flower."

By the mid-1990s, Mongolia had become a democracy again, and there were growing worries about the lack of surnames. One name might be enough when most people were nomadic herdsman in remote pastures, but now the country was urbanizing. The one-name system was so confusing that some people were marrying without realizing they were relatives.

Serjee Besud, director of Mongolia's state library and a leading researcher on surnames, has spent years poring over the dusty archives of the state library to compile a book of possible surnames for the nameless. He obtained access to the highly secret archives of the country's Communist Party, which included detailed lists of the names of noble families who were prohibited from party membership.
He discovered his own long-lost surname, Besud, by finding his grandfather's name on a 1925 list of conscripts in a Communist army.
Read more on Mongolian Surnames
A Fulbright grant recipient living in Madrid and on behalf of The New Criterion claims that the civilizational importance of the Madrid bombing was lost on Spain. Looking around Europe, terrorists were smart to choose the weakest wildebeest of the herd.
[I'm sure we Portugal are not included in the herd herein][hah!]

A Jewish Madonna? Is That a Mystery?

So on the one hand, she wears a Jewish star, says she attends synagogue, performs with a version of the prayer accessory known as tefillin and with Hebrew letters flashing across a screen, and has let it be known that she won't have concerts on the Jewish Sabbath; Madison Square Garden will be dark tonight and tomorrow.

But on the other hand, Madonna is not Jewish. And her name is the least of the problem, although she appears to be addressing that issue as well. In an ABC interview that will be broadcast tonight, she says she has taken on the Hebrew name Esther. But Liz Rosenberg, her spokeswoman, denied that she was dropping the name Madonna. "Sometimes people have their secret name, a dream name," said Ms. Rosenberg, adding: "If someone calls her Esther she wouldn't turn around."

[Read more on the NYT]
It's Dragon Boat Festival here in Taiwan

The festival commemorates the death of the statesman-poet Chu Yuan of the Warring States Period (about 300 years before the birth of Christ), who, frustrated with his attempts to gain a favorable response from the king for much-needed reforms, threw himself into the Milo River and drowned. His followers jumped into their boats and rushed out to try to save him, and today's Dragon Boat races commemorate this vain attempt.

Another tradition of the season, stemming from this event, is the eating of a delicious rice dumpling called tsung tze. After the poet had thrown himself into the river, the people wanted to preserve his body from being eaten by fish, so they made dumplings of sticky rice which they wrapped in bamboo leaves and threw into the river. Eating tsung tze is a part of the celebrations of every Dragon Boat Festival.

Zebra Woman, 1942, Werner Bischof image

Who didn't know about this? :D

"How would we remember Shakespeare if he had died at 29? His career as a playwright would have lasted only a few years, starting in 1590 with the crude popular success The First Part of the Contention Betwixt the Two Famous Houses of York and Lancaster (now known as Henry VI, Part II). His last and best play would probably have been Richard II; scholars would study the fantastically violent Titus Andronicus and the intellectual burlesque Love's Labour's Lost. But the creations that make Shakespeare Shakespeare—Romeo and Juliet; Falstaff and Hal; Hamlet, Lear—would be lost forever. Shakespeare would take his place as the second most promising of the Elizabethan dramatists—behind his exact contemporary, the prodigious Christopher Marlowe."

"To put it another way, Marlowe himself seems like a character out of Shakespeare—a real-life Hamlet, or perhaps Iago. Certainly his life, from the little that is known about it, was almost preposterously dramatic. Born on February 26, 1564, the son of a Canterbury shoemaker, he earned a scholarship to Cambridge in 1581; he would remain there, on and off, for six years, more than a fifth of his life. Like the courtier Baldock in his Edward II, Marlowe could claim, "my gentry/I fetched from Oxford, not from heraldry."

[read on]