31 março 2005

The Pope's Contradictions

from Der Spiegel

Rubens, Guido Reni, Dürer, van Leyden, Altdorfer and Furini, depicting Lot and his Daughters, from «an invigorating investigation into the aftermath of the destruction of Sodom», and why young women like older men, by the TLS

The A-Z of Dr Johnson's dictionary

A is for Argument. For all his legendary conversational powers, Johnson was ruthless in debate. When he once expressed his satisfaction following a social gathering, Boswell bravely replied: "Yes, you tossed and gored several persons." Johnson's friend Oliver Goldsmith described his technique thus: "If he cannot shoot you with his pistol, he will knock you down with the butt-end of it."

B is for Boswell, James (1740-1795). A sexually voracious alcoholic is an unlikely candidate for writing the most famous biography in the English language. Still irresistibly readable, this vast work set the template for the "warts and all" portrait that includes quirky personal detail along with the great achievements of the subject.

C is for Chesterfield, Philip Dormer Stanhope, Fourth Earl of (1694-1773). He agreed to be patron of the dictionary but provided no assistance during the 10 years it took to produce. His congratulations to Johnson on the dictionary's publication earned him a magisterial rebuke from the lexicographer: "Is not a Patron, my Lord, one who looks with unconcern on a man struggling for life in the water, and, when he has reached ground, encumbers him with help?" This view was underlined by the definition of "Patron" in the dictionary: "Commonly a wretch who supports with indolence and is paid with flattery."

D is for Dictionary. Embarrassed by the lack of an English dictionary, a group of London publishers headed by Longman contracted Samuel Johnson in 1746 to complete the task for £1,575. He estimated the job would take three years. In fact, Johnson's Dictionary did not appear in print until 1755. Though generally admired, Johnson's idiosyncratic definitions were criticised, as were a handful of celebrated inaccuracies. When asked why he defined pastern as "a horse's knee" (it is actually part of the foot), Johnson replied: "Ignorance, madame, pure ignorance."

E is for English brilliance. When a friend pointed out that 45 members of the French Royal Academy had taken 40 years to complete their dictionary, Johnson breezily replied: "Let me see; 40 times 40 is 1,600. As three to 1,600, so is the proportion of an Englishman to a Frenchman."

F is for Fanny Burney. The novelist, diarist and travel writer was a prominent member of Johnson's circle of female admirers. He met "little Burney" at her father's home in March 1777 and their friendship lasted until his death.

G is for Garrick, David (1717-1779). Within a single decade, the small Staffordshire town of Lichfield produced two of the most celebrated figures of the 18th century. In 1735, David Garrick was among the few pupils to enrol at the unsuccessful academy Johnson set up with his wife's money. In 1737, the two men walked together to London to seek fame and fortune. Both arrived far earlier for Garrick than for Johnson, who was inclined to belittle his friend's acting prowess. However, he penned one of the most famous of all obituaries for Garrick, memorably asserting that his friend's death would "eclipse the gaiety of nations".

H is for Hester Thrale. Following the completion of his edition of Shakespeare in 1766, Johnson lapsed into a severe depression and was virtually adopted by Henry and Hester Thrale.

A wealthy Southwark brewer, Thrale had a country house with an extensive library at Streatham, where Johnson spent much time. The ungainly literary giant fell for the lively and intelligent Hester in a big way. She tended him during illness, possibly even shackling him during brief periods of insanity. Following the death of Henry Thrale in 1781, Hester fell in love with Gabriel Piozzi, an Italian singer. Though their marriage was happy, Johnson could not be reconciled to what he regarded as a betrayal by the second great love of his life.

I is for Integrity. Johnson's view was that: "Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful."

J is for Johnson, Samuel (1709-1784). This scruffy, ungainly Black Countryman was a mass of personality oddities, which ranged from a fear of being alone to avoiding treading on pavement cracks. Yet he was a giant of literature in a highly literary era. If he hadn't produced the first great dictionary of English, we would still be reading his Lives of the Poets. He single-handedly wrote two magazines, The Idler and The Rambler, and virtually invented the political column. For all his dark fears, Johnson was extraordinarily brave, whether standing up to a noble thug or separating a pair of fighting mastiffs. Perhaps his most endearing quality was his sense of fun. It is hard to imagine many of today's literary lions suddenly deciding to roll down Greenwich Hill.

K is for Kindness. Johnson wrote: "The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good."

L is for London. One of Johnson's most famous quotes: "He who is tired of London is tired of life." Later, he was even more specific: "I think the full tide of human existence is at Charing Cross."

M is for Marriage (second). Johnson defined a second marriage as "a triumph of hope over experience". He never remarried.

N is for Network. One of today's most fashionable buzzwords famously confounded Johnson when he attempted a definition: "Anything reticulated or decussated, at equal distances, with interstices between the inter-sections."

O is for Oats. Johnson scoffed at the fashionable breakfast cereal: "A grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people."

P is for Pension. As a lifelong Tory who detested the sinecures the Whig government paid to its supporters, Johnson defined "Pension" thus: "In England, it is generally understood to mean pay given to a state hireling for treason to his own country." This caused him some embarrassment in 1762 when George III provided him with a pension of £300 a year. For the first time, Johnson did not have to scrape a living on Grub Street, which he defined as "a street ... much inhabited by writers of small histories, dictionaries and temporary poems, whence any mean production is called grubstreet".

Q is for Quotations. Next only to William Shakespeare, Johnson is believed to be the most quoted of English writers: "Every quotation contributes something to the stability or enlargement of the language."

R is for Rasselas. Published in 1759, this is Johnson's only extended prose tale. Said to have been written in a week to pay for his mother's burial, it tells the story of a prince of Abyssinia who leaves the Happy Valley of his birth in order to travel with friends through Egypt looking for the happiest mode of life. They never find it.

S is for social success. Despite his shabby dress, Johnson was much in demand as a social acquaintance. Several clubs were created so the most prominent members of literary London could enjoy his conversation. He was even an object of fascination for young ladies, though they observed this odd figure "with more wonder than politeness... as if he had been some monster from the deserts of Africa". Johnson is alleged to have remarked: "Ladies, I am tame. You may stroke me."

T is for Tetty Johnson (1686-1752). Johnson's wife Elizabeth was years older than him and though they were undoubtedly in love at the start of their relationship, they drifted apart as Johnson forged his literary life and she took to the bottle. He scourged himself for not being at her side when she died on a visit to Bromley where her grave can still be seen.

U is for Uncle. Johnson's uncle Andrew was a boxing champion, and taught his nephew to fight. On one occasion Johnson managed to hold his own against four robbers when he was attacked on a London street.

V is for Vinous inebriation. After enjoying a drop for some years, Johnson took to tea as he got older. "Wine makes a man more pleased with himself; I do not say that it makes him more pleasing to others."

W is for the Western Isles. "There are many fine prospects in Scotland ... but the finest sight a Scotsman ever sees is the high road to England." Johnson's views on the Scots were moderated when he discovered that (in general) he very much enjoyed his perilous journey made late in life to the Hebrides with Boswell.

X is for Excise. Johnson's dictionary definition remains unarguable: "A hateful tax collected by wretches hired by those to whom excise is paid."

X is for Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese. This Fleet Street pub was a regular haunt of Johnson, who lived round the corner in Johnson's Court. His favourite chair can still be seen in the pub today.

Z is for Zed. Johnson may have been running out of steam by this stage. His definition reads: "Zed n.s. The name of the letter z. "Thou whoreson zed, thou unnecessary letter." (Shakespeare.)"

From the Independent

29 março 2005

"La ministra de Medio Ambiente, Cristina Narbona, ha anunciado que, por primera vez, se ha conseguido el nacimiento de linces ibéricos en cautividad, concretamente tres cachorros que nacieron en el Coto de Doñana. Saliega, la madre, ya amamanta a sus hijos, y se espera el parto de otra hembra para los próximos días."

"El nacimiento se ha producido en el marco del programa de cría en cautividad de lince ibérico, especie endémica de la Península Ibérica. La consejera andaluza de Medio Ambiente, Fuensanta Coves, destacó que se trata "no sólo de un feliz acontecimiento, sino de un éxito desde el punto de vista científico" el hecho de que por primera vez en Andalucía, en España y en el mundo hayan nacido linces en cautividad."

[Historia completa en El Mundo]

28 março 2005

Edward Hopper, or the Artist who became New York, from The NY Times
Working with Woody

The cast of Melinda and Melinda talk about the übermeister on The Independent.

24 março 2005

Al menos cuatro familias han localizado en las últimas semanas a sus miembros desaparecidos durante la Guerra Civil gracias a una web en la que puede consultarse el listado nominal, hasta ahora inédito, de 344 víctimas mortales de la contienda que fallecieron en la comarca de la Segarra.

"No puedo describir el agradecimiento que me han demostrado y la satisfacción que he sentido", explica el investigador Jordi Oliva, autor del trabajo.

Oliva señala que, al observar los nombres de las relaciones que presenta en la web www.mailxxi.com/guerracivil "se comprueba que a quienes va dirigida la búsqueda es esencialmente a familias de fuera de Cataluña con familiares desaparecidos durante aquel conflicto porque casi la mitad vinieron a morir a Cataluña" y casi todos los refugiados muertos no eran catalanes.

Oliva empezó su investigación en 1986 por encargo del historiador Josep Benet, entonces director del Centro de Historia Contemporánea de Cataluña. Su trabajo era enumerar los combatientes de la comarca de la Segarra fallecidos en acción de guerra, ya fuese en los frentes de combate o bien en los hospitales militares de retaguardia. Más tarde fue ampliando su investigación al resto de víctimas de la contienda.

"En aquellos momentos no tenía la tecnología para difundir los resultados pero ahora sí y, además, por fortuna, porque ya no existe memoria oral, el tema se ha revitalizado", indicó el historiador. Su objetivo es tener la web completa, con la relación de los casi 600 muertos por la Guerra Civil de 1936-1939, con nombre y apellidos, en todos los municipios de la comarca, antes de mayo.

Hasta ahora las relaciones nominales de combatientes, prisioneros y civiles fallecidos en los hospitales de retaguardia de la Segarra permanecían inéditos en los archivos, que custodian el Centro de Historia Contemporánea de Cataluña y el propio autor.

"Se estima que fueron unos 100.000 muertos en Cataluña, y debería confeccionarse un gran banco de datos del coste humano de la Guerra Civil e investigar la documentación de Barcelona y Tarragona ciudad", dijo el historiador leridano, que en estos momentos se dedica especialmente a la recogida de datos de los refugiados, la mayoría de fuera de Cataluña, que murieron en la Segarra.

El historiador considera que su investigación tiene una doble vertiente de trabajo histórico y testimonial, para contribuir al conocimiento del pasado reciente "pero tantas veces olvidado", y a la recuperación de la memoria colectiva.

[Enlace a la web]

Reading: Lázaro Covadlo, Criaturas de la noche

22 março 2005

Why are we so generous?


In 2002, a team of researchers led by psychiatrist Gregory Berns from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, used brain imaging to find out what is going on inside our heads when we cooperate. They discovered that when players work together in the prisoner's dilemma game (see Diagram), the active parts of their brain include the orbitofrontal cortex and the striatum - areas associated with processing reward (Neuron, vol 35, p 395). And, last year, economist Ernst Fehr and psychologist Dominique de Quervain of the University of Zurich discovered that we get a similar mental buzz when we punish cheats, even when it means incurring a personal monetary cost (Science, vol 305, p 1254).


Punishing others who don't toe the line can boost your reputation, as a recent study by anthropologists Rob Boyd and Karthik Panchanathan of the University of California at Los Angeles shows. Using computer simulations, they explored the benefits of a strategy of punishment that entails simply shunning others with a bad reputation and helping those with a good reputation. By doing this, individuals can enhance their own standing, they found. What's more, by altering their behaviour according to people's reputations, these individuals minimise the cost of meting out punishment and gain the edge over indiscriminate cooperators who help anyone regardless of reputation (Nature, vol 432, p 499).


Despite our altruism, generosity may not be in our genes. If true altruism has evolved through competition between groups, as some researchers maintain (see main story), then it is more likely to be the product of cultural evolution. Genetic evolution works by selecting individuals with traits that are well adapted to their environment, but it has a far weaker grip on traits that benefit the group. So altruism is more likely to be learned. After all, every human culture invests considerable effort in instilling children with moral norms that help further cooperation. Often these are enshrined in powerful religious beliefs and reinforced by promises of salvation and threats of eternal damnation.

More from the Being Human series of The New Scientist

From The New York Review of Books, another review of Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, by Jared Diamond, together with Catastrophe: Risk and Response, by Richard A. Posner, that I'd like to read, yes, and by the way, this is Jared Diamond :-)

21 março 2005


Listening to: The Weeping Meadow OST, by Eleni Karaindrou

20 março 2005

Ah, we humans, we enlightened Europeans, enjoyed an almost war-free 13th century. Peace
was everywhere in Europe. What's the catch you may ask?

It now moved through Italy, France, and Spain. By 1348, it had jumped to England. Also in that year, it crossed the Alps, and began its sweep through Germany, Austria, and Hungary. (In some places, it moved as fast as two and a half miles a day.) By 1349, it had reached Scandinavia. From there, one front hit the ice walls of Greenland and came to a stop. Another circled back to Russia, north of Caffa. “Having closed the noose,” Kelly writes, “the hangman rested.” In four years, the plague had killed at least a third of the population of Europe: twenty-five million people. In the words of the medievalist Norman Cantor, “Nothing like this has happened before or since in the recorded history of mankind.” Measured against Europe’s population today, the Black Death took the equivalent of almost two billion lives."

The Black Death had entered Europe [from the New Yorker book review]
HOW DID IT come to this? When was it decided that the dorks and the squares, the button-down mediocrities for whom a third Friday-night beer is the height of excess, would be calling the shots? Who empowered these teetotaling chumps, these jogging crypto-fascists with spotless livers and unblackened lungs, to decide where we smoke and how we drink and what we eat? The Declaration of Independence professes a commitment to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But apparently when it comes to substance abuse and foods of dubious nutrition, all bets are off. America is in very real danger from a creeping neo-prohibitionism, a systematic snuffing out of our beloved vices. It can only end badly.

[Oh yes, it can only end badly, we're stepping into a Soma-powered world]

19 março 2005



Mustafá Mandalay de Sierra Leona vive con su esposa y sus siete hijos en un campo para inválidos cerca de Freetown. Los rebeldes entraron a su pueblo y a machetazos mutilaron a varios hombres, cinco murieron desangrados. "El presidente Kabbah os dará manos nuevas", dijeron los sublevados, antes de retirarse.
A cambio de su mano, Mustafá recibió una prótesis en forma de cuchara.

El gran escultor griego Fidias, cuenta Quignard que relatan las crónicas antiguas, fue prestado
por los atenienses a los eleos para esculpir un Júpiter olímpico. Los eleos le acusaron de haber robado oro del templo para recubrir la estatua: un sacrilegio. Le cortaron las manos y las devolvieron a Atenas en una bella caja, incrustada de oro y piedras preciosas.
Fidias, aún sin manos, fue el más grande escultor griego.

"Quisiera desprenderme de mis manos, dice Mishima,
antes de suicidarse, abolir por completo el tacto".

Margo Glantz.

18 março 2005

"First they came for the Communists but I was not a Communist so I did not speak out;
Then they came for the Socialists and the Trade Unionists but I was not one of them, so I did not speak out;
Then they came for the Jews but I was not Jewish so I did not speak out.
And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me."

Martin Niemoller, 1892-1984

Capítulo LXXIV. De cómo don Quijote cayó malo, y del testamento que hizo, y su muerte

“–Las misericordias —respondió don Quijote—, sobrina, son las que en este instante ha usado Dios conmigo, a quien, como dije, no las impiden mis pecados. Yo tengo juicio ya, libre y claro, sin las sombras caliginosas de la ignorancia, que sobre él me pusieron mi amarga y continua leyenda de los detestables libros de las caballerías. Ya conozco sus disparates y sus embelecos, y no me pesa sino que este desengaño ha llegado tan tarde, que no me deja tiempo para hacer alguna recompensa, leyendo otros que sean luz del alma. Yo me siento, sobrina, a punto de muerte; querría hacerla de tal modo, que diese a entender que no había sido mi vida tan mala que dejase renombre de loco, que, puesto que lo he sido, no querría confirmar esta verdad en mi muerte. Llámame, amiga, a mis buenos amigos: el cura, al bachiller Sansón Carrasco y a maese Nicolás, el barbero, que quiero confesarme y hacer mi testamento. [...]


Entró el escribano con los demás, y después de haber hecho la cabeza del testamento y ordenado su alma don Quijote, con todas aquellas circunstancias cristianas que se requieren, llegando a las mandas, dijo:

—Iten, es mi voluntad que de ciertos dineros que Sancho Panza, a quien en mi locura hice mi escudero, tiene, que porque ha habido entre él y mí ciertas cuentas, y dares y tomares, quiero que no se le haga cargo dellos ni se le pida cuenta alguna, sino que si sobrare alguno después de haberse pagado de lo que le debo, el restante sea suyo, que será bien poco, y buen provecho le haga; y si, como estando yo loco fui parte para darle el gobierno de la ínsula, pudiera agora, estando cuerdo, darle el de un reino, se le diera, porque la sencillez de su condición y fidelidad de su trato lo merece.

Y, volviéndose a Sancho, le dijo:

—Perdóname, amigo, de la ocasión que te he dado de parecer loco como yo, haciéndote caer en el error en que yo he caído de que hubo y hay caballeros andantes en el mundo.

[I found this jewel online, in Spanish, the hidden Quixote script by Orson Welles]

17 março 2005

Listening to: String Quartet No. 3 - 1957 - Award Montage by Phillip Glass from Mishima.
Instrucciones para llorar

Instrucciones para llorar. Dejando de lado los motivos, atengámonos a la manera correcta de llorar, entendiendo por esto un llanto que no ingrese en el escándalo, ni que insulte a la sonrisa con su paralela y torpe semejanza.

El llanto medio u ordinario consiste en una contracción general del rostro y un sonido espasmódico acompañado de lágrimas y mocos, estos últimos al final, pues el llanto se acaba en el momento en que uno se suena enérgicamente.
Para llorar, dirija la imaginación hacia usted mismo, y si esto le resulta imposible por haber contraído el hábito de creer en el mundo exterior, piense en un pato cubierto de hormigas o en esos golfos del estrecho de Magallanes en los que no entra nadie, nunca.
Llegado el llanto, se tapará con decoro el rostro usando ambas manos con la palma hacia adentro. Los niños llorarán con la manga del saco contra la cara, y de preferencia en un rincón del cuarto. Duración media del llanto, tres minutos.

Camello declarado indeseable

Aceptan todas las solicitudes de paso de frontera, pero Guk, camello, inesperadamente declarado indeseable. Acude Guk a la central de policía donde le dicen nada que hacer, vuélvete a tu oasis, declarado indeseable inútil tramitar solicitud.
Tristeza de Guk, retorno a las tierras de infancia. Y los camellos de familia, y los amigos, rodeándolo y quete pasa, y no es posible, por que precisamente tú. Entonces una delegación al Ministerio de Tránsito a apelar por Guk, con escándalo de funcionarios de carrera: esto no se ha visto jamas, ustedes se vuelven inmediatamente al oasis, se hará un sumario.
Guk en el oasis come pasto un día, pasto otro día. Todos los camellos han pasado la frontera, Guk sigue esperando. Así se van el verano, el otoño. Luego Guk de vuelta a la ciudad, parado en una plaza vacía.
Muy fotografiado por turistas, contestando reportajes. Vago prestigio de Guk en la plaza. Aprovechando busca salir, en la puerta todo cambia: declarado indeseable. Guk baja la cabeza, busca los ralos pastitos de la plaza. Un día lo llaman por el altavoz y entra
feliz en la central. Allí es declarado indeseable. Guk vuelve al oasis y se acuesta. Come un poco de pasto, y después apoya el hocico en la arena. Va cerrando los ojos mientras se pone el sol. De su nariz brota una burbuja que dura un segundo mas que él.

[Obviamente Cortázar]

16 março 2005

There are many ways of recounting the history of the world - via the rise and fall of civilisations, the fortunes of nation states, socio-economic systems and patterns, the development of technology, or the chronology of war and military prowess. This book tells the story through the rise and decline of languages. It is a compelling read, one of the most interesting books I have read in a long while.

Nicholas Ostler does not adopt a narrowly linguistic approach - based on the structure of languages and their evolution - but instead looks at the history of languages, the reasons for their rise and, as a rule, also their fall. While it is a history of languages, it is at the same time a history of the cultures and civilisations from which they sprang. The book concentrates on those languages that have been - in some form or another - globally influential: they include Sumerian, Akkadian, Egyptian, Chinese, Sanskrit, Greek, Latin, and the main European languages, not least English.

[More on The Guardian]

[Cross-section of a testicle]

Células, tejidos, el cerebro y los distintos sistemas del cuerpo humano. 'Inside the body' ('Dentro del cuerpo') es el título de un libro que ofrece imágenes de excepcional belleza y valor educativo. El interior del organismo ofrece su lado más coqueto ante la atenta mirada de las más avanzadas técnicas fotográficas. El arte se rinde a la ciencia y ésta a la expresión artística.

[Pictures originally from the Science Photo Library]

Berlin historian Rainer Karlsch claims that the Nazis conducted three nuclear weapons tests in 1944 and 1945. But he has no proof to back up his theories.

The United States needed 125,000 people, including six future Nobel Prize winners, to develop the atomic bombs that exploded over Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. The uranium enrichment facility alone, including its security zone, was the size of the western German city of Frankfurt. Dubbed the Manhattan project, the quest ultimately cost the equivalent of about $30 billion.

In his new book, "Hitler's Bomb," Berlin historian Rainer Karlsch claims Nazi Germany almost achieved similar results with only a handful of physicists and a fraction of the budget. The author writes that German physicists and members of the military conducted three nuclear weapons tests shortly before the end of World War II, one on the German island of Ruegen in the fall of 1944 and two in the eastern German state of Thuringia in March 1945. The tests, writes Karlsch, claimed up to 700 lives.

[read on at Spiegel]

14 março 2005

Around the Roman Table

Columella Salad

Columella's writings suggest that Roman salads were a match for our own in richness and imagination:

Addito in mortarium satureiam, mentam, rutam, coriandrum, apium, porrum sectivum, aut si non erit viridem cepam, folia latucae, folia erucae, thymum viride, vel nepetam, tum etiam viride puleium, et caseum recentem et salsum: ea omnia partier conterito, acetique piperati exiguum, permisceto. Hanc mixturam cum in catillo composurris, oleum superfundito.

Put savory in the mortar with mint, rue, coriander, parsley, sliced leek, or, if it is not available, onion, lettuce and rocket leaves, green thyme, or catmint. Also pennyroyal and salted fresh cheese. This is all crushed together. Stir in a little peppered vinegar. Put this mixture on a plate and pour oil over it. (Columella, Re Rustica, XII-lix)

A wonderful salad, unusual for the lack of salt (perhaps the cheese was salty enough), and that Columella crushes the ingredients in the mortar.

100g fresh mint (and/or pennyroyal)
50g fresh coriander
50g fresh parsley
1 small leek
a sprig of fresh thyme
200g salted fresh cheese
olive oil

Follow Columella's method for this salad using the ingredients listed.

In other salad recipes Columella adds nuts, which might not be a bad idea with this one.

Apart from lettuce and rocket many plants were eaten raw—watercress, mallow, sorrel, goosefoot, purslane, chicory, chervil, beet greens, celery, basil and many other herbs.

Soft-Boiled Eggs in Pine-Nut Sauce

In ovis hapalis: piper, ligustcum, nucleos infusos. Suffundes mel, acetum; liquamine temperabis.

For soft-boiled eggs: pepper, soaked pine nuts. Add honey and vinegar and mix with garum. (Apicius, 329)

for 4 small eggs

200g pine nuts
2 teaspoons ground pepper
1 teaspoon honey
4 tablespoons garum or anchovy paste

Soak the pine nuts overnight in water. Then drain and grind them finely in the blender or pound them in a large mortar. Add the pepper, honey and garum. Heat the sauce in a bain-marie. Meanwhile put the eggs into a pan of cold water and bring to the boil. Let them cook for 3½ minutes, then take them off the heat, plunge them into cold water and peel them carefully. The outer edge of the egg white must be firm, but it must be soft inside. Put the eggs, left whole, into a deep serving bowl and pour over the sauce. Serve.

This recipe can be adapted easily to other eggs, such as quail's eggs. In that case keep an eye on the cooking-time: a quail's egg will be firm in 1 minute.

Lentils with Coriander

Aliter lenticulam: coquis. Cum despumaverit porrum et coriandrum viride supermittis. (Teres) coriandri semen, puleium, laseris radicem, semen mentae et rutae, suffundis acetum, adicies mel, liquamine, aceto, defrito temperabis, adicies oleum, agitabis, si quid opus fuerit, mittis. Amulo obligas, insuper oleum viride mittis, piper aspargis et inferes.

Another lentil recipe. Boil them. When they have foamed, add leeks and green coriander. [Crush] coriander seed, pennyroyal, laser root, mint seed and rue seed. Moisten with vinegar, add honey, garum, vinegar, mix in a little defrutum, add oil and stir. Add extra as required. Bind with amulum, drizzle with green oil and sprinkle with pepper. Serve. (Apicius, 192)

250g lentils
2 litres water
1 leek, trimmed, washed and finely chopped
75g fresh coriander
5g coriander seed
3g peppercorns, plus extra for finishing the dish
3g mint seed
3g rue seed
75g fresh pennyroyal, or mint
10ml garum
10ml vinegar
5ml honey
olive oil

Wash the lentils and put them into a saucepan with 2 litres of cold water. Bring to the boil, and skim off the scum. When the water has cleared, add the leek and half of the fresh coriander. Grind the spices and the other herbs, and add them with the garum, vinegar and defrutum to the pan. Let the lentils simmer until they are almost cooked. Check the pan every now and then to ensure that the water has not evaporated. At the last minute add the olive oil, the freshly ground pepper and the remainder of the chopped coriander.

Nut Tart

Patina versatilis vice dulcis: nucleos pineos, nuces fractas et purgatas, attorrebis eas, teres cum melle, pipere, liquamine, lacte, ovis, modico mero et oleo, versas in discum.

Try patina as dessert: roast pine nuts, peeled and chopped nuts. Add honey, pepper, garum, milk, eggs, a little undiluted wine, and oil. Pour on to a plate. (Apicius, 136)

400g crushed nuts—almonds, walnuts or pistachios
200g pine nuts
100g honey
100ml dessert wine
4 eggs
100ml full-fat sheep's milk
1 teaspoon salt or garum

Preheat the oven to 240—C/475—F/Gas 9.

Place the chopped nuts and the whole pine nuts in an oven dish and roast until they have turned golden. Reduce the oven temperature to 200—C/400—F/Gas 6. Mix the honey and the wine in a pan and bring to the boil, then cook until the wine has evaporated. Add the nuts and pine nuts to the honey and leave it to cool. Beat the eggs with the milk, salt or garum and pepper. Then stir the honey and nut mixture into the eggs. Oil an oven dish and pour in the nut mixture. Seal the tin with silver foil and place it in roasting tin filled about a third deep with water. Bake for about 25 minutes until the pudding is firm. Take it out and when it is cold put it into the fridge to chill. To serve, tip the tart on to a plate and pour over some boiled honey.

09 março 2005

27 de Maio e 1 de Julho em Portugal, únicas datas no estrangeiro, segundo o sítio :-D

(obrigada à Carlinhaaaaaaa)

07 março 2005

e.e. cummings on the Harvard Magazine
The New York Public Library goes Digital... for free :-)

And not a minute too soon:

03 março 2005

Praise for 'forest friendly' Potter

If Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince turns out to be as hefty as its predecessor, at least the millions who will buy it can rest reassured that no ancient forests were harmed in the making of it.

Bloomsbury has announced that the latest book in JK Rowling's Harry Potter series, due to be released on July 16 and already topping the Amazon bestseller charts with half a million pre-orders, will be printed on paper from sustainable sources. This move will make it the first bestselling book in the UK to be forest friendly.

[From The Guardian]

02 março 2005

America's forgotten atrocity
A unique hybrid people, the Acadians offered a wiser, kinder vision of settling the continent. Instead, they became the victims of North America's first ethnic cleansing campaign.

In August of 1755 an extraordinary plan went into action along the Atlantic seaboard of North America, in what is now the Canadian province of Nova Scotia. In village after village, all male householders were summoned to mandatory meetings with British authorities, where they were captured and imprisoned as hostages against the surrender of their homes and families. Houses were burned to the ground, livestock indiscriminately slaughtered, fields of crops laid waste. Those who resisted were beaten, and sometimes shot, while those who fled into the forests were hunted down like rabid animals.

Nonetheless, many people escaped into the trackless wilderness, where some had friends and even cousins among the Míkmaq, the Native Americans who had lived there for generations. Those who were captured or surrendered were jammed onto transport ships, pell-mell, without regard for family unity. Brothers were sundered from sisters, parents from children, sometimes husbands from wives.

Perhaps 7,000 people were rounded up and shipped off to points south that summer and fall, while another 11,000 were driven out of the villages and farms their families had occupied for three or four or five generations. A thousand or more would die in transit, while several thousand more would die in strange lands in the years to come, of disease, of starvation, arguably of heartbreak and homesickness. Their ancient settlements were obliterated, their property destroyed, their rights abolished; their land was given away to newcomers who spoke a different language and professed a different religion. Within four months, Acadian culture was ripped out by the roots and cast to the winds.

[Read on at Salon]

01 março 2005

Let it snow, Let it snow, Let it snow... in Barcelona

Turner in Barcelona: Turner y Venecia @ CaixaForum en Montjuïc

DW-WORLD: 60 years after the end of the Second World War, you've written a book about children born during the Nazi occupation in France who were fathered by German soldiers. What made you decide to tackle this topic?

Jean-Paul Picaper: I published an article in France about the son of a GI who wanted to track down his father. At the time, I was the Berlin correspondent for the newspaper Le Figaro. I subsequently received a reader's letter from a Frenchman who was born during WWII as the son of a German soldier, who wanted to know why I didn't write about the tens of thousands of children in France fathered by German soldiers. I told him that if there were really that many, the story was worth a book rather than just an article. Initially I couldn't find a publisher, because they all felt it was such a sensitive subject and would cause too many people too much embarrassment. Eventually I found a publisher who was interested in the issue because her aunt was the daughter of a German soldier.

How did you manage to track down these "cursed children?"

That was initially my biggest problem. But in 2002, I met Ludwig Norz, a historian at the Wehrmacht (German army) Archive in Berlin. He told me the archive had received many letters from people in France trying to locate their fathers. That's how he and I began working together. The archive then wrote to some 30 to 40 people asking them if they'd be willing to talk to me. Almost all of them agreed. So I went to France and interviewed 15 to 20 of them. Many of them didn't even know there were other people with similar backgrounds and were hugely relieved to find out they weren't alone.

Several people in the book remain anonymous. Why?

Some of them didn't want to reveal their identity because they were worried about the publicity. There was one person whose mother had been sentenced to jail as a collaborator, and she didn't want her neighbors to find out. All she'd done was fall in love with a German soldier. But that's how French courts worked back in 1944-46 -- there was no trial, just martial law, without witnesses or evidence. Then there was the senior civil servant who'd got where he was because he was the son of a famous resistance fighter. He was worried his career would be over if it came to light that he was the son of a German soldier. Four of the 16 people featured in the book have therfore had their names changed.

These children often suffered terrible fates -- abandoned by their mothers, spurned by their families and ostracized by society. Was this the standard story?

Unfortunately, yes. There was some very anti-German feeling in France right up until the late 1950s. It wasn't until the Elysée Treaty was signed by de Gaulle and Adenauer in 1963 that the mood changed.

Does the book also serve as a reminder that resistance to the German occupation wasn't as widespread as believed?

Definitely. Barely two percent of the population belonged to the Resistance. Even in early 1945, Marshall Pétain (photo above), the head of France's pro-German Vichy government, was cheered by the public in Paris -- despite the occupation, mass shootings, and widespread suffering and hunger.

Was the way the children were treated a delayed reaction to the occupying forces?

Ultimately, the majority of the French population was completely passive. But history was rewritten in such a way that the French were turned into victims and heroes, with the children made the nation's scapegoats. It was hard enough to be a child born out of wedlock, let alone to be a child of the enemy. Some of the women known to have had affairs with Germans were chased through the streets after the war. Their heads were shaved, some were allegedly executed. There are 26,000 known cases of women being punished for having relationships with German soldiers, and according to our estimates, ten times as many relationships. We believe there were 200,000 children fathered by Germans. We'll never know why these women did what they did. Maybe some of them were seduced by the material benefits -- women with German boyfriends often had jobs with the Wehrmacht, in restaurants, casinos, hospitals and so on. The relationships tended to develop in the areas where the Germans were stationed for longer periods, on the Atlantic coast and on the Channel. The incidence of rape and harassment was no higher during the war than it was during peace time.

How was the book received in France?

The media were very enthusiastic, because the issue had never been addressed before. There had been books about the mothers, but never about the children. It was interesting to realize that these victims of the war weren't actually victims of violence. And our timing was perfect: The children were over 60, retired and with time to reflect on their lives. And France is beginning to think more deeply about its past. There's a growing interest in a version of history that's free of taboos.

Does Germany have a responsibility to these people?

First and foremost, France has a responsibility. But Germany is guilty too. By 1949 it should have realized that German soldiers didn't only perpetrate massacres in France, they also left behind children. It should have set up a fund for them. They should have been given help in finding their fathers. And we want these people to be awarded dual citizenship. The issue can be seen as one of the last unresolved problems between France and Germany. The fathers never acknowledged their children, because they weren't allowed to. Many of the soldiers were sent elsewhere and never even knew of the existence of their children. But Germany could acknowledge them now. It would one way of making amends.

From Deutsche Welle
Il faut cultiver notre jardin.

Voltaire as a campaigner for human rights, from The New Yorker