31 março 2004

Billy Connolly's "14 things I hate about everybody."

1. People who point at their wrist while asking for the time....I know where my watch is pal, where the f*ck is yours? Do I point at my crotch when I ask where the toilet is?

2. People who are willing to get off their arse to search the entire room for the TV remote because they refuse to walk to the TV and change the channel manually.

3. When people say "Oh you just want to have your cake and eat it too". F*cking right. What good is a cake if you can't eat it?

4. When people say "it's always the last place you look". Of course it is. Why the f*ck would you keep looking after you've found it? Do people do this? Who and where are they?

5. When people say while watching a film "did you see that?". No tosser, I paid 10 quid to come to the cinema and stare at the f*cking floor.

6. People who ask "Can I ask you a question?". Didn't really give me a choice there, did you sunshine?

7. When something is 'new and improved!'. Which is it? If it's new,then there has never been anything before it. If it's an improvement,then there must have been something before it.

8. When people say "life is short". What the f*ck?? Life is the longest damn thing anyone ever f*cking does!! What can you do that's longer?

9. When you are waiting for the bus and someone asks, "Has the bus come yet?". If the bus came would I be standing here, Kn*bhead?

10. People who say things like 'My eyes aren't what they used to be'. So what did they used to be? Ears? Wellington boots?

11. When you're eating something and someone asks 'Is that nice?' No it's really revolting - I always eat stuff I hate.

12. People who announce they are going to the toilet. Thanks, that's an image I really didn't need.

13. McDonalds staff who pretend they don't understand you unless you insert the 'Mc' before the item you are ordering..... It's has to be a McChicken Burger, just a Chicken Burger get blank looks. Well I'll have a McStraw and jam it in your McEyes you f*cking McTosser.

14. When you're involved in an accident and someone asks 'are you alright?' Yes fine thanks, I have always been able to bend my legs in 8 different places. Just let me pick up my limbs and I'll be off.
Must Read:
"Two weeks later I had an epiphany. It changed my life, and I hope it's changed the course of psychology. I was in my garden with my five-year-old daughter, Nicky, and to make another confession, even though I've written a book about children and have worked with children, I'm no good with them since I'm time-urgent and task-oriented. I was weeding, and Nicky was throwing weeds into the air, dancing, singing and having a wonderful time -- and I shouted at her. She walked away, puzzled, and walked back and said, "Daddy, I want to talk to you."
I said, "Yeah, Nicky?"
And she said, "Daddy, do you remember before my fifth birthday" -- she had turned five about two weeks before -- "I was a whiner? That I whined every day?"
I said, "Yeah, I remember -- you were a horror."
"Have you noticed since my fifth birthday, Daddy, I haven't whined once?"
"Yeah, Nicky."
And she said, "Daddy, on my fifth birthday I decided I wasn't going to whine any more. And that was the hardest thing I've ever done. And if I can stop whining, you can stop being such a grouch."

From Martin Seligman's Eudaemonia, the Good Life, and a whole lotta tests and questionnaires to ascertain our Authentic Happiness :-)


España

Más allá de los símbolos,
más allá de la pompa y la ceniza de los aniversarios,
más allá de la aberración del gramático
que ve en la historia del hidalgo
que soñaba ser don Quijote y al fin lo fue,
no una amistad y una alegría
sino un herbario de arcaísmos y un refranero,
estás, España silenciosa, en nosotros.
España del bisonte, que moriría
por el hierro o el rifle,
en las praderas del ocaso, en Montana,
España donde Ulises descendió a la Casa de Hades,
España del íbero, del celta, del cartaginés, y de Roma,
España de los duros visigodos,
de estirpe escandinava,
que deletrearon y olvidaron la escritura de Ulfilas,
pastor de pueblos,
España del Islam, de la cábala
y de la Noche Oscura del Alma,
España de los inquisidores,
que padecieron el destino de ser verdugos
y hubieran podido ser mártires,
España de la larga aventura
que descifró los mares y redujo crueles imperios
y que prosigue aquí, en Buenos Aires,
en este atardecer del mes de julio de 1964,
España de la otra guitarra, la desgarrada,
no la humilde, la nuestra,
España de los patios,
España de la piedra piadosa de catedrales y santuarios,
España de la hombría de bien y de la caudalosa amistad,
España del inútil coraje,
podemos profesar otros amores,
podemos olvidarte
como olvidamos nuestro propio pasado,
porque inseparablemente estás en nosotros,
en los íntimos hábitos de la sangre,
en los Acevedo y los Suárez de mi linaje,
España,
madre de ríos y de espadas y de multiplicadas generaciones,
incesante y fatal.



Alhambra

Grata la voz del agua
a quien abrumaron negras arenas,
grato a la mano cóncava
el mármol circular de la columna,
gratos los finos laberintos del agua
entre los limoneros,
grata la música del zéjel,
grato el amor y grata la plegaria
dirigida a un Dios que está solo,
grato el jazmín.

Vano el alfanje
ante las largas lanzas de los muchos,
vano ser el mejor.
Grato sentir o presentir, rey doliente,
que tus dulzuras son adioses,
que te será negada la llave,
que la cruz del infiel borrará la luna,
que la tarde que miras es la última.

30 março 2004

Turning the Tide, Noam Chomsky's blog.
WOA! Wonder of the Day:

World of Awe, created by new media artist Yael Kanarek, is a multi-media narrative that revolves around the story of a traveler in search of a lost treasure. The project engages the ancient genre of the traveler's tale to explore the connections between storytelling, memory, travel and technology that ranges from the lament over the absence of a lover to a comical declaration of loyalty to a floppy disk. To expand the story, World of Awe spins a network of projects and collaborations online, in galleries and in performance spaces. Click on the capsule to enter :-)



From the dragon Fáfnir, inspiration for Tolkien's masterpieces, we arrive at a very good website about maps, ancient, modern, and captures of time: EuroAtlas, in English and French.
nepenthe

SYLLABICATION: ne·pen·the

NOUN: 1. A drug mentioned in the Odyssey as a remedy for grief.
2. Something that induces forgetfulness of sorrow or eases pain.

ETYMOLOGY: Alteration of Latin népenthes, from Greek népenthes (pharmakon ), grief-banishing (drug), nepenthe, neuter of népenthés : , not; see ne in Appendix I + penthos, grief; see kwent(h)- in Appendix I.

OTHER FORMS: ne·penthe·an --ADJECTIVE

From Bartleby
Kudos for The Word Detective



Tell me how you drive and I'll tell you what kind of an idiot you are :-)
Porto



Lisboa from a Cat's View






AUSENCIA

Habré de levantar la vasta vida
que aún ahora es tu espejo:
cada mañana habré de reconstruirla.
Desde que te alejaste,
cuántos lugares se han tornado vanos
y sin sentido, iguales a luces en el día.
Tardes que fueron nicho de tu imagen,
músicas en que siempre me aguardabas,
palabras de aquel tiempo,
yo tendré que quebrarlas con mis manos.
¿En qué hondonada esconderé mi alma
para que no vea tu ausencia
que como un sol terrible, sin ocaso,
brilla definitiva y despiadada?
Tu ausencia me rodea
como la cuerda a la garganta,
el mar al que se hunde.
Susan Sontag (all time fav of mine since Against Interpretation. She has a book On Photography:

"Most tourists feel compelled to put a camera between themselves and whatever is remarkable they encounter. Unsure of their reasons they take a picture. This gives shape to the experience: stop, take a photo and move on. The method especially appeals to people handicapped by a ruthless work ethic - Germans, Japanese and Americans. Using a camera appeases the anxiety which the work-driven feel about not working ... "
"Photographs are perhaps the most mysterious of all the objects that make up, and thicken, the environment we recognize as modern. Photographs really are experience captured, and the camera is the ideal arm of consciousness in its acquisitive mood."


My well beloved Roland Barthes too... Camera Lucida : Reflections on Photography

29 março 2004

Wishlist:

Land, As Far As the Eye Can See - Portuguese in the Old West

by Donald Warrin and Geoffrey L. Gomes

"The Portuguese pioneered everywhere on the western frontier. Their stories-emblematic of the successful lives built by countless enterprising immigrants-has never been told, that is, not until this sensitive, pathbreaking book." Richard Orsi, past editor, California History

This is a pioneering work in a field long neglected by both popular and academic historians. It is the tale of men and women from Portugal who settled the frontier in the vast American West. It is innovative in structure, mingling in its parts biographical studies, geographical focus, and occupational pursuits.

Scrupulous research from an impressive variety of sources went into this study, making it a particularly well documented, lucid, fluent, almost kaleidoscopic analysis of the topic.

Opening with an overview of Portuguese history, emphasizing migratory trends, the text gives special attention to the role of whaling as the major factor leading to Portuguese settlement in New England and subsequently California. Thereafter each chapter opens with an ample analysis of the geographic, social, and historical situation encountered by the Portuguese settling in a particular area. It is only from this starting point that their accomplishments are presented.

These biographies of Portuguese immigrants range from lengthy, carefully detailed profiles of those who stood out in some occupation or undertaking, to glimpses of obscure yet important pioneers. Through the deeds of these pioneers the book gives a rather complete history of the opening, conquest, and development of the West.

Included are the famous, such as John "Portuguese" Phillips of Wyoming who gained fame on the Bozeman Trail, to the less well-known such as Antonio Montero, the fur trader; Peter Joseph, the Taos merchant; John Enos, cattleman on the Big Bend of the Columbia River; and Thomé Luiz de Freitas, Idaho's first playwright.

Occupations and activities alien to the Portuguese experience constantly emerge from the text, such as fur trading, mining, urban real estate, railroading, and large-scale cattle and sheep raising. The book also fills a large gap in regard to gold mining by the Portuguese.

Locations never before considered by historians in this field are highlighted: Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Wyoming, Arizona, Idaho, and New Mexico, in addition to California which has been studied to some degree.

A vast number of photographs, many of them documenting activities mentioned above, make a valuable contribution to the text and assist the reader to visualize the various circumstances of the narrative. Five maps designed specifically for the work also add to its value.

Authors: Donald Warrin is Professor Emeritus, California State University, Hayward, Department of Modern Languages and Literatures. He currently teaches Portuguese at that institution. He is the author of two books and numerous articles and papers on Portuguese American literature and history. Geoffrey L. Gomes has an M.A. degree in history from California State University, Hayward, and is a teacher of history and political science at Chabot College in Hayward. He has published more than two dozen articles on the history of the Portuguese in America.

A handsome volume of 352 pages, with extensive notes, bibliography and index. Illuminated with five maps and sixty-four illustrations. Printed on acid-free paper and bound in brown linen cloth with foil stamped spine and a printed dust jacket. ISBN 0-87062-306-0

How colorful military phrases -- such as "hair on fire" -- infiltrate the English language. (Do check the Related Articles)


Viva Madrid, by Mario Vargas Llosa in The Guardian
Javier Vallhonrat, Vuelvo a Tí, Casa de Humo, Vuelvo a Tí






Hear Hear :-)
(and loooong essay)

The Abolition of Work:
The following disclaimer is reproduced from the verso of the title page:
"Not Copyrighted. Any of the material in this book may be freely reproduced, translated or adapted, even without mentioning the source."
Italicised material appears between asterisks. Typos are my own. Typed in by Kurt Cockrum, noted armchair theorist, anarcho-hedonist dilettante, curmudgeon-philosopher-king of himself and *bon* *vivant*, in the Summer of 1992, in the Duwamish River watershed of Cascadia bioregion.
Elevator space in Japan is considered both as an example of transit space generally and as an example of the practice of a particular national identity. In Japan, these variations serve to express the improvisational, private character of personal interaction possible inside elevators, over against the fixed, public character of behavior outside them.



I found this to be an awesome idea: a series of photographs of urban settings accompanied by a graphical text layout. The photographs have been digitally stripped of all traces of textual information. The text pieces show the removed text in the approximate location and font as it was found in the photograph...
Here's the main page and here's the gallery page. Decontextualization, Deconstruction anyone? Jacques Derrida, where
are you?

25 março 2004

Hubble imitating Art, as in Van Gogh's Starry Night
After much toil and compunction, and finally acknowledging that I would have to broaden the language scope of my searches, I chanced upon a Spanish translation from Russian of Hamlet y Don Quijote by Turguenev. It'll be my nighttime reading :-)
Saramago contra los políticos y medios de comunicación

La última novela del premio Nobel de Literatura portugués José Saramago, ‘Ensayo sobre la lucidez’, saldrá de las imprentas portuguesas el próximo 25 de marzo. Y, una vez más, la prosa del luso destila crítica contra los poderosos. En esta ocasión, Saramago ha puesto en su punto de mira a los gobernantes y los medios de comunicación.

Fuentes editoriales revelaron que la obra se debate entre la ironía, el humor y critica a diversas instituciones portuguesas, por lo que el propio escritor ha dicho ya en varias ocasiones que resultará "polémica".

La profecía autocumplidora del autor

Saramago, que reside y escribe en la isla española de Lanzarote (Canarias), pronosticó que el ‘Ensayo sobre la lucidez’ creará un escándalo mayor que el "Evangelio según Jesucristo", editado en 1991. El nuevo título de Saramago comienza con unas elecciones municipales, cuyo resultado causa la sorpresa del Ejecutivo, que decide tomar unas medidas que sólo al principio son legales y democráticas. El relato exhibe una galería de curiosos personajes, en la que no falta un ministro de Defensa que no hizo el servicio militar y que siempre propone medidas extremas, incluso cuando la situación está bajo control.

Contra los medios de comunicación

Las críticas de Saramago en su nueva pieza alcanzan a los medios de comunicación, que a su juicio intervienen en la preparación de las calamidades y a quienes preocupan más los titulares llamativos que el servicio a la verdad. En 330 páginas y con una tirada de cien mil ejemplares, el nuevo libro de José Saramago será presentado en Lisboa por el autor el día 29, en un acto en el que le acompañarán el ex presidente Mario Soares, socialista, y el ex líder socialdemócrata Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, lo que da buena idea del compromiso político del Nobel.

El compromiso político de un escritor

Nacido en 1922 en Azinhaga, una pequeña aldea del Ribatejo (a unos 70 kilómetros al norte de Lisboa), en una familia muy pobre de jornaleros, José Saramago fue obrero y sólo fue propietario de su primer libro a los 17 años.

Aunque inició su andadura literaria poco después, el autor ejerció el periodismo tras la Revolución del 25 de Abril de 1974, que depuso al régimen autocrático luso que encabezaba entonces Marcelo Caetano y había sido creado por Antonio de Oliveira Salazar.

Traducido en más de 30 países, y en español por su propia esposa, la andaluza Pilar del Río, Saramago es también conocido por su militancia comunista y su compromiso político que le ha llevado a criticar sin ambigüedad a la dictadura de Fidel Castro o a la represión del pueblo palestino por el actual ejecutivo israelí.
Hey now, hey now
Don't dream it's over
Hey now, hey now
When the world comes in
They come, they come
To build a wall between us
We know they won't win

Now I'm walking again to the beat of a drum
And I'm counting the steps to the door of your heart
Only shadows ahead barely clearing the roof
Get to know the feeling of liberation and relief

24 março 2004

Blog

In an upbeat Independence Day column in The Wall Street Journal, Peggy Noonan, the incurable optimist, wrote about all ''the lights that didn't fail'' America -- from cops and firemen to peach-growing farmers and cancer-curing scientists, from local churches to TV comedians to blogging.
Blogging? She explained the word as ''the 24/7 opinion sites that offer free speech at its straightest, truest, wildest, most uncensored, most thoughtful, most strange. Thousands of independent information entrepreneurs are informing, arguing, adding information.''
Blog is a shortening of Web log. It is a Web site belonging to some average but opinionated Joe or Josie who keeps what used to be called a ''commonplace book'' -- a collection of clippings, musings and other things like journal entries that strike one's fancy or titillate one's curiosity. What makes this online daybook different from the commonplace book is that this form of personal noodling or diary-writing is on the Internet, with links that take the reader around the world in pursuit of more about a topic.
To set one up (which I have not done because I don't want anyone to know what I think), you log on to a free service like blogger.com or xanga.com, fill out a form and let it create a Web site for you. Then you follow the instructions about how to post your thoughts, photos and clippings, making you an instant publisher. You then persuade or coerce your friends, family or colleagues to log on to you and write in their own loving or snide comments.
''Will the blogs kill old media?'' asked Newsweek, an old-media publication, perhaps a little worried about this disintermediation leading to an invasion of alien ad-snatchers. My answer is no; gossips like an old-fashioned party line, but most information seekers and opinion junkies will go for reliable old media in zingy new digital clothes. Be that as it may (a phrase to avoid the voguism that said), the noun blog is a useful addition to the lexicon.
Forget its earliest sense, perhaps related to grog, reported in 1982 in The Toronto Globe and Mail as ''a lethal fanzine punch concocted more or less at random out of any available alcoholic beverages.'' The first use I can find of the root of blog in its current sense was the 1999 ''Robot Wisdom Weblog,'' created by Jorn Barger of Chicago.
Then followed bloggers, for those who perform the act of blogging and -- to encompass the burgeoning world of Web logs -- blogistan as well as the coinage of William Quick on the blog he calls The Daily Pundit, the blogosphere. Sure to come: the blogiverse.


[courtesy of The NY Times]
we neeeeeed colour................







By Pete Turner
Receita para Vinho Quente

1 copo de Vinho do Porto
1 folha de louro
1 pau de canela
cravinho

Leve ao lume um tacho com o vinho e três colheres de sopa de água.
Acrescente as especiarias e deixe ferver durante 5 minutos em lume brando.
Sirva imediatamente :-)




Confessions of an English Opium-Eater

Uttering a cry of terror, but without a moment's delay, she ran off into Oxford Street, and in less time than could be imagined returned to me with a glass of port wine and spices, that acted upon my empty stomach, which at that time would have rejected all solid food, with an instantaneous power of restoration; and for this glass the generous girl without a murmur paid out of her humble purse at a time - be it remembered! - when she had scarcely wherewithal to purchase the bare necessaries of life, and when she could have no reason to expect that I should ever be able to reimburse her.
-- Thomas de Quincey (1821)

Siza Vieira's port wine glasses:









In a German Pension

As she sat there one evening, thinking, the Young Man entered the cafe, and called for a glass of port wine. Sabina rose slowly. The long day and the hot room made her feel a little languid, but as she poured out the wine she felt the Young Man's eyes fixed on her, looked down at him and dimpled.
"It's cold out," she said, corking the bottle.
The Young Man ran his hands through his snow-powdered hair and laughed.
"I wouldn't call it exactly tropical," he said, "But you're very snug in here -- look as though you've been asleep."
Very languid felt Sabina in the hot room, and the Young Man's voice was strong and deep. She thought she had never seen anybody who looked so strong -- as though he could take up the table in one hand -- and his restless gaze wandering over her face and figure gave her a curious thrill deep in her body, half pleasure, half pain... She wanted to stand there, close beside him, while he drank his wine. A little silence followed. Then he took a book out of his pocket, and Sabina went back to her sewing.

Katherine Mansfield (1911)
Salvador Dali, escultura, no Palácio Porto Côvo em Lisboa



El mundo offers a journey on some of the literary cities of Europe. Of course Lisbon is sooooooooo there...


" I lager sono i laboratori dove si sperimenta la trasformazione della natura umana[...]. Finora la convinzione che tutto sia possibile sembra aver provato soltanto che tutto può essere distrutto. Ma nel loro sforzo di tradurla in pratica, i regimi totalitari hanno scoperto, senza saperlo, che ci sono crimini che gli uomini non possono né punire né perdonare. Quando l'impossibile è stato reso possibile, è diventato il male assoluto, impunibile e imperdonabile, che non poteva più essere compreso e spiegato coi malvagi motivi dell'interesse egoistico, dell'avidità, dell'invidia, del risentimento; e che quindi la collera non poteva vendicare, la carità sopportare, l'amicizia perdonare, la legge punire. "

"La manifestazione del vento del pensiero non è conoscenza, ma è la capacità di distinguere il giusto dall'ingiusto, il bello dal brutto. E in realtà questo può impedire le catastrofi, almeno per me, nei rari momenti in cui si è arrivati ad un punto critico."

Hannah Arendt
Pablo Neruda hubiera cumplido el próximo 12 de julio cien años; una centuria que se celebrará en casi todo el mundo para homenajear a un poeta que creó algunos de los versos más recitado en el siglo XX. Ahora, y como antesala de esta efeméride, la Casa de América acoge unas jornadas sobre Neruda en España.

[...]

El premio Cervantes recordó que Neftalí Ricardo Reyes-Parral, que así se llamaba Neruda, fue un mal estudiante, por ejemplo de francés e inglés, y que se escapó con razón de Chile y de su vida bohemia a tiempo, "porque, si no, hubiera arruinado su carrera", para irse a extremo Oriente a trabajar con uno de los administradores coloniales.

"Oriente lo angustió, no le gustó nada, y siempre decía que él era totalmente occidental. De allí, sólo recordaba, según me dijo en alguna ocasión -recordó Edwards con humor-, los grandes y muchos brazos de esas mujeres diosas".

Después de esta etapa de Oriente y auspiciado por alguno de sus jefes, el poeta del amor y del compromiso marchó a Buenos Aires, donde conoció a García Lorca, y después a Barcelona, lugar en el que se encontró con Alberti, uno de los poetas del 27 que estuvo más unido al poeta chileno.

Neruda llega a ser cónsul en Madrid durante la República y al comienzo de la Guerra Civil. La convulsión política que derrocó la República y que trajo el alzamiento del general Franco, con una guerra que duró tres años, produjo en Neruda una profunda tristeza que se reflejó en su salida de España y en la creación del poemario "España en el corazón".

Here is a link in English if you feel overwhelmed by the amount of Spanish.













Me gustas cuando callas porque estás como ausente,
y me oyes desde lejos, y mi voz no te toca.
Parece que los ojos se te hubieran volado
y parece que un beso te cerrara la boca.

Como todas las cosas están llenas de mi alma
emerges de las cosas, llena del alma mía.
Mariposa de sueño, te pareces a mi alma,
y te pareces a la palabra melancolía.

Me gustas cuando callas y estás como distante.
Y estás como quejándote, mariposa en arrullo.
Y me oyes desde lejos, y mi voz no te alcanza:
déjame que me calle con el silencio tuyo.

Déjame que te hable también con tu silencio
claro como una lámpara, simple como un anillo.
Eres como la noche, callada y constelada.
Tu silencio es de estrella, tan lejano y sencillo.

Me gustas cuando callas porque estás como ausente.
Distante y dolorosa como si hubieras muerto.
Una palabra entonces, una sonrisa bastan.
Y estoy alegre, alegre de que no sea cierto.

23 março 2004





Dionisus do Douro!
Pêlos no púbis como um homem
Cachos nas mãos ossudas!
E bêbado de mosto e de alegria
É luz da negra noite e do claro dia!

-- Miguel Torga





Canção do Vinho do Porto

Oiro líquido para os olhos,
Doirados sonhos desperto:
Jardim d'Abril para o olfato,
Sou prà boca um céu aberto!

Do Chipre o clássico vinho
E a própria ambrósia dos Numes,
Nem aos calcanhares me chegam
Na luz, na cor, nos perfumes.

Velha Roma, abranda a embófia,
Desse teu orgulho eterno:
Ao pé de mim é zurrapa
O teu cantado Falerno!

Metido nesta garrafa
Por mão sabida e prudente,
Como jóia, fui passando
Pelas mãos de muita gente.

Até que um dia, por voltas
Da sorte obscura e secreta,
Vim ter, sem saber porquê,
À garrafeira dum poeta.

Sem saber porquê, não digo,
Sei muito bem por que vim:
É poeta, sou digno dele,
Como ele é digno de mim.
-- Eugénio de Castro





As Farpas, I
O vinho do Porto é um vinho aguardentado, produzido na mais antiga região demarcada do mundo, no Vale do Douro, no nordeste de Portugal. Para além dos factores naturais, como o solo, clima e posição das vinhas, o segredo deste vinho único - ex-libris dos vinhos generosos - reside na adição, durante a fermentação, da aguardente vínica da região duriense ao mosto. E, dando a palavra a Ramalho Ortigão, "Engana-se muito quem cuida que o vinho do Porto é um simples produto químico. Não, o vinho do Porto é principalmente uma obra de arte, um problema de gosto.
A matéria-prima empregada na confecção deste licor é a uva, a jeropiga, a aguardente, com a mesma jeropiga e com a mesma uva fazem-se cem, fazem-se duzentos, fazem-se inumeráveis tipos de vinhos, todos diversos uns dos outros. [...]
Abandonado a si mesmo, tal como o deu a uva pisada e espremida, o vinho do Porto seria uma bebida extremamente inferior a qualquer bom vinho do Dão ou da Bairrada. O que faz o vinho? - dizem os vinhateiros - É a educação.



A Viagem Vertical
Aproximou-se um empregado relativamente jovem, com ar sombrio. Um Porto disse Mayol ao mesmo tempo que passava revista pormenorizada ao pessoal concentrado no bar: clientes de rosto congestionado, apoplécticos, com focinhos de buldogue, faces violáceas, estúpidos olhos injectados de sangue e enormes patilhas estilo orangotango. Um panorama nada animador, uma paisagem e uma paisanagem que dava para fugir de medo.
- Não sei se tenho Porto - disse o empregado de ar sombrio.
- Pois faça o favor de verificar - respondeu muito educadamente Mayol, que tinha a impressão de estar a falar com um discípulo directo do conde Drácula, e a quem convinha não incomodar muito. - Tenha a amabilidade, a bondade de perguntar se há Porto.
Levaram uma eternidade a procurá-lo, mas a espera acabou por valer a pena. Tinham Porto. A Mayol, depois de tantos contratempos nos últimos dias, pareceu-lhe uma notícia muito reconfortante. Enquanto lhe serviam o vinho, ouviu-se o violento estrondo de um trovão, a que se seguiu um espirro e a sonora blasfémia de um cliente. Mayol fez de conta que não ouvira nada e ficou pensativo a contemplar a cor de acaju do Porto, uma cor parecida com a do vinho - por recomendação médica não podia beber outro álcool que não fosse vinho em doses muito pequenas - que lhe oferecera o filho mais velho, o seu filho Ramón, da última vez que se encontraram.

-- Enrique Vila-Matas, traduzido por José Agostinho Baptista para a Assírio & Alvim, 1999
We don't need your language lesson

Fond as I am of Germany and Germans, I do think they have an absolutely terrible national trait of telling other people where they are going wrong. Coupled with a very direct way of speaking, this often seems to the rest of the world indistinguishable from shocking rudeness.

It must be very puzzling to be German, all in all; you turn up, you start explaining to an Englishman at a party that it is time his nation stopped talking about the Second World War, that the British Empire was a wicked thing, that Britain ought to adopt the euro. What you get back is usually, "Hmm, yes, you may have a point." You are probably rather baffled when your new friend, alas, can't come to dinner this week or next or the week after because he will be washing his hair. Yes, every night, alas.

The incoming German ambassador, Thomas Matussek, was asking for the same response in an interview with this paper yesterday. The subject of the Ambassador's strictures was an old favourite, the failure of the English to speak foreign languages. This was always a hobby-horse of the outgoing ambassador, von Ploetz, who, for some reason, saw nothing odd about saying that it was disgraceful that the English never learnt German and, in the same breath, announcing the closure of the Manchester Goethe Institute.

Von Ploetz was, at any rate, a well-mannered man who gave the impression of wanting to be helpful. But this one ? cor, crikey. "I know it is more difficult if you live on an island," he said. "It is time to end the attitude that everyone in the world speaks English." I have to say, this is something you could only say if you knew nothing of the history of this country. There was an Arabic school in Oxford in the 17th century; imperial administrators routinely spoke three or four oriental languages and were very often up to swapping poetic pleasantries in classical Persian. One could go on, endlessly. The English have always been great travellers, and have always taken the trouble to acquire the necessary local languages.

Of course, there is the issue that language learning in schools is on the decline, and that is a very worrying development. But on the other hand, if everybody in Germany speaks English, there is no particular reason why everybody in England should learn German, and if Matussek went into an average London pub, he would be very surprised to discover the range of linguistic competence the English quietly possessed, from Urdu to Xhosa. There is absolutely no equivalent for that in Germany. I lived in Berlin for a time, and I never met an ethnic German who could even say "Hello" or "goodbye" in Turkish to their neighbours. Germans can generally speak some English, and occasionally French. And then they have the immortal rind to start going on about Britain being an island.

The point is that it is extremely difficult for an English person to have a conversation with European professionals in any language but English, and in the end you just give up. I speak French, German and Italian to the point where I can read novels in those languages without a dictionary, but make occasional mistakes in conversation and have an obvious English accent. The result is that I only ever get to talk in a foreign language when travelling in the provinces. Anywhere remotely metropolitan, you just don't stand a chance.

Everyone will know exactly what I mean ? I've read Proust from beginning to end in French, and still Parisian waiters take one look at me and give me the menu in English. But the encounter that sticks in my mind happened at a dinner at the German embassy under the previous regime. I was introduced to the wife of a provincial German politician, and made a pleasantry to the effect that the residence must be one of the most handsome houses in London. Alas, I gave the adjective the wrong ending. "So," she said. "Better when we on English stay then you no German speaker is." "Since we are on German soil here," I persevered. "No," she insisted. "It will be better that we on English speak then your German not so good is."

Only good manners prevented me, on this occasion, from saying "Also, verpiss dich," but I think that when Mr Matussek, in his horribly wonderful English, complains that nobody ever seems to speak German to him, he should ask himself whether he ever gives them the chance. Personally, I've met very few Germans who will patiently and forgivingly listen to an Englishman doing his best with their language; in general, at the first mistake, they interrupt, explain that it better is when you with another on English speak, and that is that. I, too, am worried that foreign language learning is on the decline in this country, but it is not entirely our fault for thinking, "Really, why should I bother?" In general, a little civility never does any harm.


(edited) [Philip Hensher, courtesy of The Independent Online]



Had to post this before going to bed
Photos from a soldier in Irak. Impressive: Part 1
and Part 2.



Viewed by David Hockney

On January 18, 1951, Picasso made a painting entitled "Massacre in Korea". The next day he went back to painting children. The Zervos catalogue raisonne shows it somewhat isolated in a number of portraits of children -innocence and the future.

The Korean war had begun in June 1950 and in December that year there were stories in newspapers of atrocities in Korea that included accounts of the shooting of women and children.

Picasso's picture was reproduced in the newspapers at the time (I remember it, I was a fourteen-year-old schoolboy in Bradford). It was generally dismissed as propaganda and compared very unfavourably with "Guernica", and was rarely discussed again.

Years later, on seeing it in the Picasso show at MOMA, I was struck by it. It stayed with me, and I began to see another interpretation.

In 1950, images from the Second World War were still vivid and shocking; recovery from the war was just under way, when news of a new conflict far away from Paris arrived -- journalists' reports but no pictures. Picasso's painting was a response.

Its sources are obviously Goya and Manet, but I think also, and more importantly, the widely seen photographs of the Nazi death camps. These had a big impact at the time (they were exhibited in Bradford, on a bomb site in the city, where I saw them as an eight-year-old).

My point is that his image is a universal one, yet Picasso realized that the photographs were after the event, indeed in a way not telling us of the terrible brutal activity of the camps but of the survivors -- the few as against the terrible number of deaths. So his subject is perhaps a painter's response to the limitations of photography, limitations that are still with us, and need some debate today.




"My books are water; those of the great geniuses are wine. Everybody drinks water"


Mark Twain observed, in a note. Was he bragging or complaining? Did he realize that two of his books, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Life on the Mississippi, were among the richest word-wines ever vinted in America? Long before the nineteenth century ended Mark Twain was a world figure—in the field of letters our only world figure. His white suit and white hair were recognized everywhere. He traveled widely and even had an honorary degree from Oxford, not to mention Yale and the University of Missouri. His cranky, abstemious admirer George Bernard Shaw went so far as to say that it was Mark Twain who taught him that "telling the truth was the funniest joke in the world." But did Twain's enormous success have much to do with truth-telling, or did he, like Shaw, treat truth like a bicycle that could be abruptly kicked aside when the author couldn't make it go as fast or far as he wanted it to go?

A huge herd of scholars, critics, and biographers have long been attempting to answer these and all other questions pertaining to Samuel Clemens/ Mark Twain. A walk past the Twain shelves in my bookshop or virtually any large bookshop is an experience likely to give even stout readers a sudden case of the languors: here's W.D. Howells, Albert Bigelow Paine, Van Wyck Brooks, Bernard DeVoto, Dixon Wecter, Henry Nash Smith, Maxwell Geismar—all these from the rapidly dimming past—plus a new wave cresting, I guess, with Justin Kaplan's Mr. Clemens and Mark Twain (1968, Pulitzer) and surging on through many short studies, the Clemens family memoirs, Twain's Letters (at last), monographs and critiques galore; and now the present bounty, which, besides Fred Kaplan's big biography and Karen Lystra's look at Twain's last years, include a very welcome reprint of Twain's Letters from the Earth,[*] an assemblage of diverse and sharply satirical odds and ends put together by Bernard DeVoto in the Thirties but withheld because of the objections of Clemens's surviving daughter, Clara. It finally saw light in the Sixties. Miscellaneous gleanings from the great archive at Berkeley will no doubt still be appearing decades hence.

There is much of value, both in critical insight and biographical discovery, in these many books, but they raise in the mind of at least this reader an awkward conviction, which is that Mark Twain is one of those authors who is, invariably, more interesting to read than to read about, which is far from being the case with every writer.

Frankly, it's day-to-day and touch-and-go whether I'd rather read Henry James or read about him. Ditto Joseph Conrad and, I fear, many other important writers—the drear fact is that many writers' lives are more interesting than their work, but this is not the case with Mark Twain, whose most casual journalism remains somehow crackly fresh. Others whose journalism has that imperishable, impeccably flippant quality would include Shaw, Stendhal, Vidal, and Waugh.

Since Fred Kaplan—author of biographies of Henry James, Charles Dickens, Gore Vidal, and Thomas Carlyle —has favored us with 726 pages about Mark Twain I wish he could some-how have persuaded Doubleday to splurge and allow him maybe ten more for a decent bibliography—and I would make the same complaint about Karen Lystra's much shorter book. Mark Twain has provoked a vast secondary literature: What's wrong with a comprehensive, straightforward bibliography? It is just possible to discover in Karen Lystra's sources that Kate Leary, the Clemenses' well-spoken, sen- sible housekeeper, collaborated with Mary Lawton on a memoir called A Lifetime with Mark Twain, which Harcourt Brace published in 1925. My review copy of Lystra's book being unindexed, it took a lot of flipping through to discover Kate's occasional snatches of commentary, which are always livelier than anyone else's, except for the Boss's himself. Here, for example, is Kate on the "country," to which the Clemens family often repaired in the usually disappointed hope of peace and quiet:

The country was pretty enough, but you can't live on country!... If there'd only been a dance hall or something lively like that—or maybe a little bit of moonshine to stir them up...but, oh!... It was dull, I tell you, dull!



Fred Kaplan's weighty book is not dull—it moves us at a fair pace through Twain's checkered life, but when he's writing about experiences that Twain has also written about, such as his days in the western mining camps (Roughing It) or his apprenticeship as a riverboat pilot (Life on the Mississippi), it's tempting to shift from Kaplan back to Twain.

Fortunately for the biographer there are plenty of parts of his life that Twain didn't write about: his almost suicidally inept business ventures, for example. Here the biographer can shine without the shadow of the author falling over him.

The most famous of these debacles was his disastrous investment in the infamous Paige typesetter, an invention as complicated as any envisioned by Rube Goldberg. It never worked and was soon outdistanced in the marketplace by Mergenthaler's Linotype machine. As James Paige, the inventor, fiddled and diddled, Twain's feeling for the man suffered a sharp deterioration:

Paige and I always met on elusively affectionate terms, & yet he knows perfectly well that if I had him in a steel trap I would shut out all human succor & watch that trap until he died...



Kaplan follows Twain or Twain and family through their frequent and ambitious travels: when traveling with his family Twain had a kind of instinct for choosing the least comfortable housing, or countries such as India where the cuisine could be counted on to produce the most devastating eruptions or distempers.

Twain and race is a slippery subject. When the Irish reformer Roger Casement and others succeeded in bringing to light the atrocities that were occurring daily on King Leopold's (of the Belgians) rubber plantations in the Congo, Twain responded with a blistering satire called King Leopold's Soliloquy, in which the King of the Belgians is made to say things of this sort:

(Contemplating, with an unfriendly eye, a stately pile of pamphlets) Blister the meddlesome missionaries! They write tons of these things. They seem to be always around, always spying, always eye-witnessing the happenings; and everything they see they commit to paper. They are always prowling from place to place; the natives consider them their only friends; they go to them with their sorrows; they show them their scars and their wounds, inflicted by my soldier police; they hold up the stumps of their arms and lament because their hands have been chopped off, as punishment for not bringing in enough rubber, as a proof to be laid before my officers that the required punishment was well and truly carried out. One of these missionaries saw eighty-one of these hands drying over a fire for transmission to my officials—and of course they must go and set it down and print it... nothing is too trivial for them to print...


On the other hand he was persuaded to withhold an equally blistering anti-lynching polemic because it would have such a bad effect on his sales in the South. Kaplan defends him vigorously, arguing that he was progressive, even radical, when it comes to race. What seems clear is that Twain never lost sight of the huge tragedy of slavery, nor did he ever discount the trauma it impressed on the nation's conscience. Not for nothing did William Dean Howells call him "the Lincoln of our literature."

In the great mass of the Twain Papers in the Bancroft Library there is an unpublished 429-page autobiographical manuscript known to scholars as the Ashcroft-Lyon document. Twain wrote it in fits and starts near the end of his life; it has been available to researchers since the early 1970s. The Ashcroft-Lyon document, plus a memoir by Clara Clemens (Twain's middle daughter, and the only one of his four children to survive him), plus Kate Leary's account of her years in the Clemens household, are the principal sources that Karen Lystra has mined for Dangerous Intimacy, a study of Twain's later years, with particular emphasis on his relations with his secretary, Isabel Lyon, and his business manager, Ralph Ashcroft.

Death, the pale rider, was also very much a presence amid this gifted, volatile company. Twain's oldest daughter, Susy, died of spinal meningitis in 1896. Twain's beloved—deeply beloved —wife Livy died in 1904. Livy Clemens, though she had gone on to bear three daughters and, with tact, humor, and practicality, hold the Clemens household together through many difficult times, probably never really got over the death of her first-born, Langdon Clemens, who died in 1872 at the age of two. Mark Twain himself lived until 1910 but it seems doubtful to me that he ever got over the loss of his wife. These deaths, and the grief that followed them, seem to be a necessary context for the messy but in no way surprising family melodrama that played out among Isabel Lyon, Ralph Ashcroft, Jean and Clara Clemens, and their father Mark Twain.

The mess was not Twain material, but either Henry James or Theodore Dreiser could have made hay with it— each in his own way. Isabel Lyon, the attractive and ambitious secretary, set her cap for Mark Twain. Was she the first secretary to attempt to marry a widowed boss? No. Were the Twain daughters, Jean (who was epileptic) and Clara, the first daughters to violently resent the hussy who was attempting to assume their mother's place? No. Did Isabel Lyon make her availability clear to her boss? Yes. Was Twain aware that she was determined to marry him? Let him speak for himself:

Was I unaware before the mid-dle of 1906 that she had made up her mind to marry me? No—I was aware of it. I am uncommonly lacking in insight, uncommonly unobservant, but I was able to see that.... But I didn't bite...



Did Twain enjoy Isabel's flirting, her obvious eagerness to seduce him? Probably he did, up to a point, but not, in my opinion, to a very advanced point. One reason for his disinterest was that he was still mourning Livy:

In all my (nearly) seventy-four years I have seen only one person whom I would marry, & I have lost her.


Isabel Lyon was an attractive woman; she thought she could make Twain forget Livy—that was one error. And she probably thought that she would have a clearer shot if she could get rid of the pesky daughters. Clara Clemens was out and about anyway. But for Jean, the epileptic, this meant being shipped off to a sanitarium in Katonah, New York, and being kept there much longer than was necessary. Did Isabel scheme to keep Jean hospitalized longer than she needed to be? Sure. Jean was an epileptic; she would never be free of seizures and would in fact drown in her bath while in the grip of a grand mal seizure. But it didn't mean that she couldn't have enjoyed many happy times with her father had she been allowed to come home.

That Twain loved Jean and that her eventual return home greatly cheered him is certainly true; and once he decided that Isabel Lyon had been chiefly responsible for denying him Jean's company, he turned sharply against Isabel, and against his business manager Ralph Ashcroft as well.

Twain's fecklessness with finances was next to unbelievable. I doubt that he was ever much deceived about his secretary's intentions, but, nonetheless, he gave Isabel Lyon and Ralph Ashcroft his power of attorney, and, for Isabel, threw in a nice cottage from which his daughters, with difficulty, eventually managed to evict her.

In the midst of all this plotting and flirting Isabel Lyon married Ralph Ashcroft, a union that at first blush produced no blush at all. Twain, observing them in the early days of their marriage, remarked that they were as cool as if they had been sitting on blocks of ice. When informed by Ashcroft that nothing "animal" was in the offing between himself and his bride, Twain was flabbergasted, concluding that, though they may or may not have been crooks, they were obviously fools.

Eventually Twain moved against the couple, recovered his power of attorney, and then the cottage, but combat continued for the few years Twain had left. Twain refused to fight them in the press, but Ashcroft used it skillfully, particularly The New York Times. In private Twain said worse and worse things about the couple, seconded by his angry daughters. As late as 1968, when Justin Kaplan suggested, in Mr. Clemens and Mark Twain, that Twain might have been swindled, Ashcroft's Canadian relatives responded with a legal threat.

It is only fair to mention, as Karen Lystra does, that another scholar, Hamlin Hill, working with the Ashcroft- Lyon document, drew conclusions from it that are opposite to her own. In God's Fool (1973) he argues that Twain was a tyrant and Ashcroft and Lyon innocent victims. Karen Lystra's indictment of the secretary and the business manager involves rather complex accounting irregularities, false promissory notes, and the evidence that Hamlin Hill, by Lystra's report, interprets differently.

I doubt that the two were complete innocents, but it is still possible to feel some sympathy for Isabel Lyon. In moments when his anger was in remission even Twain felt a rueful sympathy for her. She got a little money but she lost both the confidence and the company of the man she really loved. She also lost the society that Twain's celebrity ensured. Her marriage ended and Mark Twain, the man she really wanted, would have nothing to do with her.

As I've suggested earlier, this is a commonplace story—the only singular element in it is that it involved a world-famous writer. Karen Lystra's book is fascinating but I cannot shake off a certain nervousness about her title, which seems to me too Gothic. Dangerous Intimacy? The person in the most danger was Jean Clemens, who was sent from home and kept from home. This of course was as much Twain's fault as Isabel's. He could have investigated more thoroughly, and he didn't, though he was the parent in charge.

And intimacy? Shouldn't it be reciprocal? Twain was a man still numbed by the death of Livy, his life's companion. Probably Twain enjoyed mildly risqué banter with Isabel—he probably wouldn't have risked that kind of talk with the redoubtable Kate Leary, with whom, by her account, he had many "tough fights."

What's lacking from the many quotes Karen Lystra provides is the feel of intimacy. Twain once referred to Isabel as "an old virgin, no juice... not the way I like them." This, of course, was later, when he had turned against her—but there's just not much evidence that Isabel got close enough to Mark Twain, emotionally or physically, to be credited with dangerous intimacy. Throughout his life financial folly, not sexual folly, imperiled Mark Twain. Emotionally, he mostly rested content with his Livy, and was wise to do so. What happened after her death was one of those messes that Dorothy Parker once said were worse than tragedies (though she might not have stood by that remark on the day her husband died).

Mark Twain undoubtedly disliked the mess his own parental inatten-tion got him in, but he wouldn't have considered it worse than the deaths of Langdon, Susy, Livy, and, finally, Jean. On the day that he was informed that his daughter Jean was dead— Christmas Eve morning, 1909—he told a sympathizer that now he knew what a soldier felt when he received a bullet in the heart. But the heart-shot soldier presumably didn't have to get up and go on living the next day, and Mark Twain did.





'THE END IS NIGH' :-x




Ever Granta-ing us insightful articles, this time on the environment we've been tampering with






"The problem with children's books,"
- comic Jay Leno says - "is that they just aren't funny. They all look like Laura Ashley illustrations with one word and a boring moral at the end." Leno's book is based on a true story from his childhood, when young Jay accidentally melted his plastic comb into a roast beef at a family barbecue. "There's no real moral other than don't stick your comb in roast beef," he says.





22 março 2004

Neologizing 101

If you've ever heard yourself saying, ''He was, I don't know, squidgeral ,'' or thought, ''I wish there were a word for 'needing more than two hands to operate,''' you are probably a closet neologist. Neologizing, the practice of coining new words, may seem to be an arcane, specialized activity, but it's everywhere -- and the skillful employment of neologism is what gives English much of its verve. Each word in English had to start with a person trying to express a thought. For most words, the neologizer (or neologizers -- new words, like teenage trends or the calculus, are likely to pop up at the same time in very different places) is anonymous, although there are some exceptions. The humorist Gelett Burgess coined the word blurb in 1907. Yester-year , which sounds ancient, was in fact coined in 1870 by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, who wanted to translate a French word for which he couldn't find a suitable English equivalent. Paul Lewis, a professor of English at Boston College, invented the word Frankenfood (''genetically modified food'') in a letter to The Times in 1992. New words are being invented every day, and some of them even make it into the dictionary.
Although English has no committee or academy or board that reviews new words for suitability, there are a few loose guidelines that will help you become a successful neologist.

The most important rule is unwritten but not unspoken. It is the rule of pronounceability. Sure, xzyqt looks grand, but how do you say it? If Pat Sajak has taught us anything, it is this: be sure to buy enough vowels. If the pronunciation doesn't come trippingly off your tongue, move unfriendly tongue-twister consonants farther apart. English is pretty forgiving of the ''uh'' sound (often called schwa ) and can insert it almost anywhere. Can't say dreklistic easily? Try drekilistic .

Avoid spellings that have too many possible sounds. Consider mallough : is it ''maloo'' or ''maluff''? No one likes a silent letter, even when deployed for humorous or allusive reasons. (Old joke. Q: How do you pronounce Hen3ry? A: HEN-ree. The ''3'' is silent.) If your word is too difficult to spell, people will avoid it out of fear or irritation. Tied in with spelling is the ease of writing. Internal punctuation (like ca!met or we?zem ) is a nearly insurmountable obstacle as well as a pronunciation problem. Unless you are a major pop star (or even if), don't invent your own alphabetic characters. Very few people will want to add a new character to their fonts just for your word.

You don't have to build your word from scratch; there are many lists of word parts (roots and affixes) available on the Internet and in bookstores (thank SAT prep for that). Either choose your meaning and look for parts or choose your parts and look for meaning. If you're dying to have a new word that means ''overly eager to speak'' you might look for roots acer (''fierce, eager'') and dict- (''speak'') and then add a suffix that makes adjectives, like -ous , to get acerdictous . (Take care that your suffixes correspond to the part of speech you want. Acerdictous doesn't look like a noun, so it would be odd in a sentence like ''I saw a purple acerdictous today.'' It's much better in a sentence like ''He was so acerdictous that he took over the whole meeting.'')

If you are fond of the parts bathy- (''relating to depth'') and -ster (''a person engaged in or associated with a particular activity or thing''), you might go through ideas until you got bathyster , ''a particularly deep person.'' If you don't find parts for your meaning, find a dictionary with good etymologies and look up related words. Avoid ordinary words. If you're looking for a part that means ''angry,'' don't look up angry . Look up irate . That gets you the Latin root ira (''anger''). Can't think of a fancier word for what you want? Use a thesaurus.

Finicky word purists might tell you that your new word is macaronic . Do they mean it's cheesy? No, just that it uses roots from two or more languages, like the Latin root and Greek prefix in automobile . (In the word-coining world, words derived from just one language are seen as more sincere. However, this didn't stop automobile , and it shouldn't stop you.)

If the grandeur of Greek and the glory of Latin roots aren't inspiring enough, you may have just as much success merging ordinary words together. Humongous (probably from huge and monstrous ) and ginormous (gigantic and enormous ) are two similar and fairly recent blends of everyday words.

Be practical in choosing your meanings. It's easier for a new word to gain acceptance if it denotes something for which we don't already have a handy word. Trying to persuade people to use your word kwillum instead of the already accepted wall won't work. If kwillum means ''wall being fought over by neighbors,'' you have a better chance.

Invented the perfect word yesterday and want it in the dictionary tomorrow? Be patient. It can take years or decades for a new word to be accepted. You may not ever see your creation in a dictionary, especially if it was a word created for just one use or publication. The joy of having created a word of your very own should be enough. Set on seeing squidgeral between squid and squiffed ? Sending a letter to dictionary editors demanding inclusion isn't the way. Try to get your word used in major media sources (for example, a major newspaper -- not just on the Internet or in local or specialist publications) more than a dozen times, by people other than yourself, over a period of several years. (Or push it on your sitcom-writing friends and hope for a Seinfeldian sociological phenomenon.) Even that's not a guarantee; it just gets your word to the starting line. If your word isn't having much luck finding its way to mouths and pens, well, you can always coin another one. And another one after that.


Cheers for Boddingtons Beer :-*










Love at first sight is not something that happens only between people. In 1964, tens of thousands of car buyers were swept off their feet by the alluring shape of a sporty new Ford called the Mustang; four decades later, many of those relationships endure.
Oh yes, they do...
I fell in love in one...

21 março 2004

Corre a menina à beira do mar
corre, corre, pela praia fora
que belo dia que está não está
e o primeiro a chegar não perde
Andam as ondas a rebentar
e o relógio a marcar horas
a sombra é quente, e quase não há
e o sol a brilhar já ferve
Corre a menina à beira do mar
corre enquanto a gaivota voa
vem o menino para a apanhar
e a menina sentindo foge
Anda o barquinho a navegar
vem do Porto para Lisboa
foge a menina da beira mar
foge logo quando a maré sobe
Andam a brincar
na praia do mar
as ondas do mar
andam a rebentar
na praia do mar
andam a brincar
as ondas do mar
andam a rebentar
as ondas do mar
andam a rebentar
E é tão bonita a onda que vem
como a outra que vejo ao fundo
a espuma branca que cada tem
é a vida de todo o mundo


Why force will never bring peace
After the atrocities in Spain, Jonathan Schell's polemic on violence and warfare, The Unconquerable World

19 março 2004



Is this my future? The Home as a Hotel Room by the NYT

18 março 2004

NASA hears words not yet spoken

It says the breakthrough holds promise for astronauts and the handicapped.

"A person using the subvocal system thinks of phrases and talks to himself so quietly it cannot be heard, but the tongue and vocal cords do receive speech signals from the brain," said developer Chuck Jorgensen, of NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California.

Jorgensen's team found that sensors under the chin and one each side of the Adam's apple pick up the brain's commands to the speech organs, allowing the subauditory, or "silent speech" to be captured.

The team concluded that the method could be useful on space missions or other difficult working conditions, such as air traffic control towers and even to make current voice-recognition software more active.

"What is analyzed is silent, or subauditory, speech, such as when a person silently reads or talks to himself," Jorgensen said.
"Biological signals arise when reading or speaking to oneself with or without actual lip or facial movement."
On early trials, the program could recognize with 92 percent accuracy six words and 10 numbers that the team repeated sub-vocally.

The first words were "stop," "go," "left," "right," "alpha," and "omega."

Then, the inventors gave each letter of the alphabet a set of digital coordinates.

"We took the alphabet and put it into a matrix -- like a calendar," Jorgensen said.

"We numbered the columns and rows and we could identify each letter with a pair of single-digit numbers.

"So we silently spelled out 'NASA' and then submitted it to a well-known Web search engine. We electronically numbered the Web pages that came up as search results. We used the numbers again to choose Web pages to examine. This proved we could browse the Web without touching a keyboard."

The next trial will command a robot similar to the Rovers currently exploring Mars.

"We can have the model Rover go left or right using silently 'spoken' words.

"A logical spin-off would be that handicapped persons could use this system for a lot of things," he said, as well as persons wanting to speak by telephone without being overheard.

To reach that goal, the team plans to build a dictionary of English words recognizable by speech recognition software.

The equipment will need improved amplifiers to strengthen the electrical nerve signals, which are now run through noise reduction equipment before they can be analyzed.

"The keys to this system are the sensors, the signal processing and the pattern recognition, and that's where the scientific meat of what we're doing resides." Jorgensen said. "


Still Atahuallpa and Pizarro, The Royal Hunt of the Sun took me to the site of the day:
Internet Broadway Database

The Royal Hunt of the Sun, London, December 1964
The National conquers an empire with its premiere of The Royal Hunt of the Sun, on December 8 1964

Stage directions are not usually the highlights of a script, but it was a peculiarly laconic one that attracted John Dexter to Peter Shaffer's play. It read:

"They cross the Andes."

That line had been one of the reasons the play had been called unstageable by most of London's script readers. Dexter, though, was thrilled by Shaffer's gumption, and by his story - an adventure epic about a band of Spanish conquistadores who conquered the Inca empire, crossing not just the Andes but swamps and plains, too. Shaffer's ambitious script was all the more surprising since he was relatively inexperienced: his first play, Five-Finger Exercise, had had a West End run that was respectable rather than spectacular, and The Royal Hunt of the Sun was his second. Spurred by Dexter's enthusiasm, it would become the first new British play produced at the National Theatre.

Having cast Robert Stephens as Atahuallpa and Colin Blakely as Pizzarro, Dexter rehearsed the cast in two halves so that Europeans would meet Incas on stage almost for the first time. Michael Annals designed a set that would suggest multiple locations and the ceaseless, ravening sweep of history. Its centrepiece was a huge sun, symbolising the Inca empire. During the play the gold would be removed, leaving a dark, glowering hole. Annals collected hundreds of metal bottle tops and hammered them down to make his sun shimmer.

After a tryout at Chichester, the production was ready for London - and the critics were already excited. The Standard's Milton Shulman described it as "trailing success behind it like a fizzing rocket". He praised "the intensity, maturity and intelligence of Shaffer's writing", the "ultra-romantic events" that made up the plot, the play's "extraordinary urgency and relevance" and, most of all "the exotic, imaginative, tempestuous effect of the production", which gave the sun-worshippers' world "an eerie, mysterious glow".

The "exotic... exciting spectacle" also thrilled the Telegraph's WA Darlington, but he had doubts about the writing. He felt that the play's two strands - "a factual, though not realistic, account of Pizzarro's amazing conquest" and "an imaginative study of Pizzaro's own personal search for a faith" - did not always mix. In fact, the performances were "moving in spite of, rather than because of, Mr Shaffer's flow of language". The Guardian's Philip Hope-Wallace felt much the same way, finding "feeble moments" and "less profundity than I had expected".

The Evening News's Felix Barker sounded a rare note of optimism. "In the whole history of pageant drama, has anything more ambitious been attempted than The Royal Hunt of the Sun? Has any other spectacle achieved such visual excitement, and... so touched the historical imagination?" The key to its success was in precisely those impossible stage directions: "Mr Shaffer has not dodged one blood-stained, gold-strewn mile of the fantastic journey."

As for the cast, Barker felt that "no praise is too high". Here, he was not a lone voice. "Colin Blakely," wrote Hope-Wallace, "as the grizzled dying conqueror bears the drama magnificently to its conclusions." Shulman was equally impressed by Stephens, who "breathes warmth and passion into the majestic, transcendent husk of the Inca ruler".

Despite all this, when the production transferred to Broadway, it was recast, with David Carradine as the Inca king and Christopher Plummer as Pizzarro. Perhaps the producers could not resist the spectacle of the Von Trapp father (Plummer had made The Sound of Music seven years before) playing the conquistadore.

The play's success guaranteed Shaffer's future as a playwright - and started a fruitful relationship with Dexter, who also directed his equally tricksy plays Black Comedy (where dark and light are reversed) and Equus (with a cast formed of horses). But the production of The Royal Hunt of the Sun had a wider significance. As Barker wrote at the time: "What especially causes the heart to sing is that this time our National Theatre is not reviving a classic. It is presenting a new play by a young author, ungrudgingly, on a literally dazzling scale."

Another stage production:





from Next Stage

A blog devoted to Cats?
Purrrrrrrrrrfect ~~
Barcelona on the NYT