28 maio 2005

Airline stops all live trade for use in experiments

British Airways has been accused of setting back medical research in the UK by enforcing a blanket ban on the transport of live animals for use in experiments. Government officials and leading scientists have expressed their dismay to the airline about the toughening of its stance which they fear will send the wrong message to scientists and pharmaceutical companies involved in animal testing, and could encourage s extremists who have been running a high-profile campaign to shut down the live animal trade.

[At the Guardian]

25 maio 2005

Brezo y Brisa, los dos cachorros de lince supervivientes de la primera camada nacida en cautividad, han posado por primera vez 'oficiamente' ante la prensa.
Russia, alongside the USA, the glorious victor of the Second World War, stands sixty years on as the great loser. After the collapse of communism and the fall of the Soviet Union, the phantasm of the Russian superpower has not only evaporated into thin air, but hopes for a better future in a civil society are still in vain. The only thing to cling onto is the old dream and its triumphant figure – Stalin.

[Read on at signandsight]

24 maio 2005

Lot and His Daughters, by Artemisia Gentileschi, to pick up where I left off on a post long gone :-)

18 maio 2005

Siempre hay que tener presente cuál es la naturaleza del todo
y cuál es la mía y cómo se relacionan entre sí, y saber que
nadie te puede impedir comportarte o hablar conforme a la

Marco Aurelio
Meditaciones, II-9

17 maio 2005

Ya Eto Videl ... Noviye Pisma o Voine

In a searing new book, Soviet veterans challenge the official mythology of World War II.
from The Moscow Times, no less

From The New Yorker, very larky today :-)

Buy a pie at a pie shop, carefully remove the upper crust, and then gently lower a family of live gerbils into the pie. Replace the crust and storm back into the pie shop, indignantly pointing out the five little heads poking up through the crust. Collect ten million dollars and appear with the gerbils on “Larry King Live.” Repeat in all fifty states, with different pastry-rodent combinations so as to elude detection.

Go to a frozen-yogurt shop, order a medium cup of vanilla, and then punch your index finger through the bottom of the cup so there appears to be a human finger in the yogurt. After demanding to see the manager, threaten to sue the yogurt chain for ten million dollars, making sure to tell him that you know Larry King. Note: Keep your finger very still during all of this, because if it wiggles even slightly this hoax has no chance whatsoever.

Order a bowl of chili at a fast-food restaurant. When the chili arrives, angrily complain that there is no human finger in the chili, despite the fact that you specifically ordered one. In the ensuing argument with the manager, shout the words “chili” and “human finger” for all in the store to hear. You will probably not get ten million dollars this time, but if you play your cards right the manager may pay you a little something just to get you to leave.

Get a bunch of your friends together, ring O. J. Simpson’s doorbell, and tell him that you are “the real killers” and that you are surrendering to him so that he can finally stop searching for you. Get his reaction on videotape and sell it over the Internet.

On the eve of your bar mitzvah, tell your parents that you are converting to Catholicism. Say that you no longer want to be referred to as Seth Graubman and insist that they call you Francis Xavier Graubman. Force them to cancel the reception at the Lefkowitz Jewish Center and tell them you want to fly to Rome for an audience with Pope Benedict XVI. Just as they are pulling into the psychiatrist’s driveway, tell them it was all a big joke and that you were Jewish all along. They will be so relieved they will finally break down and buy you a PlayStation Portable, which is all you really wanted in the first place.

Tell the authorities that you were held at gunpoint and abducted by a nationally famous runaway bride. Say that during the hostage drama that followed you read to her from “The Purpose-Driven Life” and “The Da Vinci Code,” and that during a particularly boring chapter of the latter book she finally let you go. It will be her word against yours, and since her credibility is already shot, everyone will believe you. Testify at her trial and score a book/movie deal; become best friends with Ethan Hawke after he plays you in the film.

Convince the leaders of the world’s only superpower that a Middle Eastern nation is loaded to the gills with weapons of mass destruction. Tell them that some broken-down old vans there are “mobile weapons labs,” and persuade them to spend billions of dollars on an invasion and an occupation. After they scour the country for the weapons and come up empty, shrug your shoulders sympathetically and take over the oil ministry.

Tell the international community that you are merely performing a “routine cleaning” of your nuclear reactors and that you have no intention of harvesting nuclear material for the purpose of making weapons. Then, when no one is looking, lob a test missile into the Sea of Japan. You will not get ten million dollars or a book/movie deal or an appearance on “Larry King Live” for doing this, and you will not become friends with Ethan Hawke, but sometimes you have to do a hoax just because it’s so damn funny.

he was probably young, stupid and easy to catch

When European settlers sent back a specimen of this bizarre creature, scientists were baffled and concluded it was probably a fake.

It was only when more examples arrived from "Down Under" that the issue was resolved.

But what happened to that original specimen that so famously bamboozled the experts?

Well it's still intact in a London museum, and in surprisingly good condition.

The first photographs of it were published in an Australian newspaper on Saturday.

The Natural History Museum is understandably protective of the delicate specimen, but recently agreed to photograph it under special conditions.

Because this was the individual used for the first scientific description of a platypus ( Ornithorhynchus anatinus ), it has become what is called a "holotype" or "type specimen".

Every creature on Earth has one "type specimen", and it is used as the standard to determine if later discoveries are a new species or sub-species.

Despite its status, the platypus holotype is not typical - mainly because it is so small.

"Actually, it is a juvenile male," explains mammal curator Daphne Hills.

It is perhaps not surprising that a young animal was the first to be caught and shipped to London.

As Ms Hills suggests, "he was probably young, stupid and easy to catch".

The platypus holotype is too valuable to be put on public display.

Instead, it is kept in a sealed box in a cupboard on the third floor of the museum's north-west block, dubbed "The Mammal Tower".

It is a humble resting place for a fascinating piece of Australia's natural history, but it ensures the holotype is protected from changes in temperature or humidity.

There is a bit more to the tale of the "first platypus" - and the clues can be found on a paper tag attached to its right hind leg.

The platypus was first classified by the museum's acclaimed naturalist George Shaw (the man who was sceptical about its validity).

After that, it became "lost" among other specimens until it was uncovered by another of the museum's legendary figures - Michael Rogers Oldfield Thomas.

Oldfield Thomas' notes include an observation that a spur has broken off from one of its feet (all platypuses are born with spurs on their hind feet, but females lose theirs early in life).

And he noted something more significant was missing - the animal's skull.

When type specimens are preserved, it is common to keep skins and skulls together, and Shaw's description from 1799 indicates this was the case with the platypus.

However by the time Oldfkull was gone. Its whereabouts are still unknown.

Check pictures at BBC News

Jared Diamond Bashing Time:

"The more important reason why Diamond’s rhetoric doesn’t play well any longer is that it presents only one side of the balance-sheet: it ignores the human benefits that accompany environmental damage. You build a road, but that destroys part of the local ecosystem; there is both a cost and a benefit and you have to weigh them up. Diamond shows no sign of wanting to look at both sides of the ledger, and his responses to environmental sceptics take the form of ‘Yes, but . . .’ If someone were to point out that chemical fertilisers have increased food production dozens of times over, he would reply: ‘Yes, but they are a drain on fresh water, and what about all that phosphorus run-off?’

Diamond is like a swimmer who competes in a race using only one arm. ‘In caring for the health of our surroundings, just as of our bodies,’ he writes at one point, ‘it is cheaper and preferable to avoid getting sick than to try to cure illnesses after they have developed’ – which sounds wise, but is simply misleading bombast. Technology brings out the worst in him. At one point he claims that ‘all of our current problems are unintended negative consequences of our existing technology,’ to which I felt like shouting in exasperation that perhaps at some times, in some places, a few of the unintended consequences of our existing technology have been beneficial. Reading Diamond you would think our ancestors should all have remained hunter-gatherers in Africa, co-evolving with the native flora and fauna, and roaming the wilds in search of wild berries and the occasional piece of meat."

"The many people who will be reading Diamond’s book will be fascinated by the historical case studies, but they will also be left with the impression that there is still no intellectual toolkit with which to deliberate over the most significant issue facing humanity today. Worse, they may not even notice they haven’t got the tools. So readers will continue as either environmentalists or environmental sceptics, each locked into their own perspective. It is a great pity."

[From the London Review of Books no less!]

14 maio 2005

Good news for kids and kidults everywhere. The first trailer for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the next instalment of the film franchise, is now available on the internet. You can see it here. You will need Quicktime to view the clip.

Set to booming, epic music, the trailer begins with shots of Harry, Ron and Hermione at different ages from the previous movies, before cutting to their current incarnations. The boys are now sporting Beatles haircuts: Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) especially looks like a young George Harrison, while Ron (Rupert Grint) comes across more like a ginger Kurt Cobain, only cleaner. Meanwhile, Hermione (Emma Watson) is turning into a prom queen.
There are also shots of the wizard tournament Harry participates in, including a dragon that is looking a bit feisty, a menacing underwater creature and Harry's adversaries in the tournament. And bizarrely, Dumbledore (Sir Michael Gambon) is wearing his beard as a ponytail.The fourth of JK Rowling's enormously successful novel series to be filmed, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is being directed by Mike Newell.
Woody Allen ha confirmado en Oviedo, donde se encuentra para pronunciar una conferencia, que trabaja en una "fantasía muy cómica y muy romántica", que tendrá la ciudad de Barcelona como escenario, y precisó que sus productores "ya tienen muy avanzadas" las negociaciones para concretar el proyecto.

El director y escritor, nacido en Nueva York (EEUU) hace 68 años, ha ofrecido una rueda de prensa en la ciudad ovetense, donde va a participar en los actos conmemorativos del 25 aniversario de la Fundación Príncipe de Asturias, que le distinguió en 2002 con el Premio de las Artes.

El autor de 'Manhattan' o 'Match point', que acaba de presentar con gran éxito en Cannes, no quiso adelantar más sobre el posible rodaje en España, porque afirma que le cuesta mucho hablar de sus proyectos, pero sí recalcó que la idea que tiene en la cabeza "se adaptaría muy bien a Barcelona", ciudad por la confesó sentir predilección.

Si este proyecto finalmente se materializa, Allen declaró que aprovecharía la oportunidad para rodar algunas escenas en Oviedo, ciudad a la que se encuentra muy vinculado desde que hace tres años la visitara por primera vez para recibir el Premio Príncipe de Asturias de las Artes.

Sin concretar plazos, el realizador que mejor ha plasmado en la gran pantalla la ciudad de Nueva York señaló que espera rodarla "uno de estos veranos", porque tiene que aprovechar el periodo estival debido a que sus hijos pequeños van todavía al colegio y le gusta trabajar acompañado de toda su familia.

También avanzó que el equipo técnico sería español, así como algunos de los actores, pero que su desconocimiento de la lengua le obligará a contar para los papeles protagonistas con intérpretes que hablen inglés.

[De El Mundo]

We Germans confront the guilt and shame of our past daily, and more thoroughly and obsessively than probably any other nation on earth has done. Even 60 years after the end of the horrors, we are still preoccupied, perhaps even more so now than before. In the heart of the capital a Holocaust memorial in the shape of a forest of grey cement posts has just been inaugurated.

Every German schoolchild knows the tales of German atrocities. But in England, Prince Harry parties with a swastika arm band. Eighty per cent of youngsters don't know what Auschwitz was about, but each one will be familiar enough with heroic films about the "Battle of Britain" to believe they had personally kicked the Hun up the backside.

Where does this giddy pride come from - and the lack of sensitivity toward the victims?

The Russians in the meantime consider us friends, even though they lost 25 million people in the fight against the Nazi horde. They respect us as a hard-working, peace-loving people who have emerged renewed from the devastation.

The British, who only survived thanks to the Russians and Americans, behave as if they had conquered Hitler's hordes single-handedly. And they continue to see us as Nazis, as if they had to refight the battles every evening. They are positively enchanted by this Nazi dimension.

[from Spiegel Online]

12 maio 2005

English is a crazy language. There is no egg in eggplant nor ham in hamburger; neither apple nor pine in pineapple. English muffins weren't invented in England or French fries in France. Sweetmeats are candies while sweetbreads, which aren't sweet, are meat.

We take English for granted. But if we explore its paradoxes, we find that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig. And why is it that writers write but fingers don't fing, grocers don't groce and hammers don't ham? If the plural of tooth is teeth, why isn't the plural of booth beeth? One goose, 2 geese. So one moose, 2 meese? If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of them, what do you call it?

If teachers taught, why didn't preachers praught? If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat? Sometimes I think all the English speakers should be committed to an asylum for the verbally insane. In what language do people recite at a play and play at a recital? Ship by truck and send cargo by ship? Have noses that run and feet that smell? How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites?

Have you noticed that we talk about certain things only when they are absent? Have you ever seen a horsefull carriage or a strapfull gown? Met a sung hero or experienced requited love? Have you ever run into someone who was combobulated, gruntled, ruly or peccable? And where are all those people who ARE spring chickens or who would actually hurt a fly?

You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language in which your house can burn up as it burns down, in which you fill in a form by filling it out and in which an alarm goes off by going on.

Assorted quotes:

"I wish there was a knob on the TV to turn up the intelligence. There's a knob called 'brightness,' but it doesn't work."


Q: How do you tell if you're making love to a nurse, a schoolteacher, or an airline stewardess?
A: A nurse says: "This won't hurt a bit." A schoolteacher says: "We're going to have to do this over and over again until we get it right." An airline stewardess says: "Just hold this over your mouth and nose, and breath normally."

"The History of every major Galactic Civilization tends to pass through three distinct and recognizable phases, those of Survival, Inquiry and Sophistication, otherwise known as the How, Why and Where phases. For instance, the first phase is characterized by the question 'How can we eat?' the second by the question 'Why do we eat?' and the third by the question 'Where shall we have lunch?'"

Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Booze may not be the answer, but it helps you to forget the question.

Lt. Henry Mon, USAF, circa 1961

Living on Earth is expensive, but it does include a free trip around the sun.


What is a committee? A group of the unwilling, picked from the unfit, to do the unnecessary.

Mark Twain


I am not a vegetarian because I love animals; I am a vegetarian because I hate plants.

A. Whitney Brown

11 maio 2005

El presidente de las víctimas españolas en Mauthausen confiesa que nunca fue preso de los nazis

Enric Marco, de 84 años, ha pasado los últimos 30 años contando un dramático pasado como víctima del nazismo en el campo de concentración de Flossenburg. Tres décadas después ha confesado, para consternación de los deportados españoles, que inventó este relato en 1978 porque "así la gente le escuchaba más y su trabajo divulgativo era más eficaz". La asociación que presidía, Amical de Mauthausen, le forzó esta semana a presentar su dimisión.

[Already-battered national pride flushed online at El Mundo website]
"Most parents stop reading aloud to their kids when they are six or seven. We never did. Our many hospital stays kept us in good practice. Of course, our son is an avid reader himself, but you try reading while you're flat on your back with drainage tubes, heart monitor wires, and an IV in your arm.

Just after dawn, I opened the pages of The Fellowship Of The Ring. Josh had read the series before, but that didn't matter a wit. I launched into the story and we were pulled into the adventure. Never did we need Middle Earth more than we did then. The book took us from Bilbo's birthday party in Hobbiton, to the Council of Elrond, and onward with Frodo and company to the golden wood of Lothlorien."

[How we turned a hospital into Hobbiton]

The Holocaust Memorial in Berlin

10 maio 2005

I like this picture, and it goes with the post below :-)
"More Frenchmen collaborated than resisted, and during the course of the war more Frenchmen bore arms on the Axis than on the Allied side. Against those grim truths, Charles de Gaulle consciously and brilliantly constructed a nourishing myth of Free France and Resistance that helped heal wounds and rebuild the country.

Other myths about the war have grown up less deliberately. For Americans, the first national legend concerns the very definition of World War II. In recent decades it has come more and more to mean the war against Hitler’s Germany. But for the American people at the time, ‘‘the war’’ meant the Pacific war. That was where the first and last American blood was spilled, where America was engaged in combat the longest, and where Americans for most of the time watched the war unfold."

[How good was the Good War? from the Boston Globe]

07 maio 2005

Sebastião Salgado's Genesis

06 maio 2005


The mirror I find hard to face
'Cause I fear its a long way down

Got to get away from hre, I think I know
which hemisphere
Crazy me don't think there's pain in Barcelona
They dance you 'round a waltz confound
But I fear it's a long way down
Even if that straw I pull
and I got to fight that bull
Nothing really compares to Barcelona
Besides in Spain Don Juan's to blame
But I fear it's a long way down
And I fear I won't be around
Make sure I have all my papers
laying out my summer clothes
Search for traps in vain like scratching
so my suitcase I can close
"Fuggi Regal Fantasima"

Rufus Wainwright, Rufus Wainwright, 1998

This too is translation and interpretation:

Natalia Dmytruk did not have to learn sign language at school. Her first words had to be mimed. Both her parents are deaf.

On Nov. 25, she walked into her studio for the 11 a.m. broadcast. "I was sure I would tell people the truth that day," she said. "I just felt this was the moment to do it."

Under her long silk sleeve, she had tied an orange ribbon to her wrist, the color of the opposition and a powerful symbol in what would become known as the Orange Revolution. She knew that when she raised her arm, the ribbon would show.

The newscaster was reading the officially scripted text about the results of the election, and Dmytruk was signing along. But then, "I was not listening anymore," she said.

In her own daring protest, she signed: "I am addressing everybody who is deaf in the Ukraine. Our president is Victor Yushchenko. Do not trust the results of the central election committee. They are all lies. . . . And I am very ashamed to translate such lies to you. Maybe you will see me again -- " she concluded, hinting at what fate might await her. She then continued signing the rest of officially scripted news.

In the days that she has been in the United States, Dmytruk said her inability to speak English has left her feeling isolated. "I know now what it must feel like to be deaf," she said. "When Ukrainian Americans addressed me in my own language, it was like someone had poured me fresh water."

Read the whole article at The Washington Post

Judging a Book by its Contents

Name that famous book from just these phrases: "pagan harpooneers," "stricken whale," "ivory leg." Or how about this one: "old sport."

Yes, it's Herman Melville's Moby Dick and F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, respectively, but the words aren't just a game. They are Statistically Improbable Phrases, the result of a new Amazon.com feature that compares the text of hundreds of thousands of books to reveal an author's signature constructions.

The haiku-like SIPs are not the only word toys on the site. Customers can also see the 100 most common words in a book. Penny pinchers -- or those with back problems -- can check stats on how many words a volume delivers per dollar or per ounce. (Bargain hunters will love the Penguin Classics edition of War and Peace that delivers 51,707 words per dollar.)

Customers can also see how complicated the writing is (yes, post-structuralist Michel Foucault's prose is foggier than Immanuel Kant's), and how much education you need to understand a book. (To understand French philosopher Pierre Bourdieu, you'll need a second Ph.D.)

While such services seem to have little value and have generated scant publicity, except from bibliophilic thrill seekers, web watchers say the madcap stats aren't just for kicks.

"(Amazon CEO) Jeff Bezos was born on numbers," said Nathan Torkington, an editor and conference coordinator for O'Reilly Media. "Before starting Amazon.com, he was a Wall Street analyst. They will be looking at this thinking, 'What can we do to drive the bottom line?' There's no way they will be regarding this as, 'We are math geeks and you will enjoy the numbers, too.'"

Torkington thinks Amazon is currently just experimenting, but it will soon find intriguing ways, such as using authoritative texts to answer user questions, to wring profit out of what may well be the largest collection of electronic books in the world.

Bill Carr, Amazon's executive vice president of digital media, confirms that this is a serious attempt to sell more books.

"We've been spending a lot of time thinking, 'We have this rich digital content, how can we pull info out and expose it to customers that makes discovery even better?'" Carr said. "What you are seeing here are the fruits of a lot experimenting and brainstorming."

Carr points to the "adaptive unconscious" SIP from Malcolm Gladwell's best seller, Blink, as an example of how improbable data mining can get a curious reader into the long tail of Amazon's catalog.

"That distinctive phrase gets to the heart of the book, but also allows customers to discover books that range from topics like psychology to psychotherapy to how a smart woman can land her dream man in six weeks," Carr said. "One of the cool things is getting people to discover books that are not only related, but that they would have a hard time finding anywhere else."

Amazon is also crunching data to automatically categorize books and make related book suggestions, which complement its popular people-who-bought-this-also-bought-that feature.

Benjamin Vershbow, a researcher at the Institute for the Future of the Book, sees Amazon's SIPs as an automated version of tagging, a concept that fuels sites like del.icio.us, a bookmark-sharing site, and photo-sharing site Flickr. Both rely heavily on users attaching descriptive names to websites or photos so others can discover them.

Vershbow found, however, that Amazon's SIPs work much better for nonfiction than for novels.

"I don't see in Moby Dick's SIPs 'whiteness of whale,'" Vershbow said. "This is a big poetic trope, and I don't know why it isn't picked up. Perhaps it's because there are different ways you weave metaphor and tropes into a novel than you do in a theoretical book."

Still, Vershbow sees Amazon's data mining as part of a trend on the web where sites are learning to weave data sources together to create a new web experience. Amazon's Carr agrees.

"We are pioneers here ... in that we have this amazing corpus -- no one else has a corpus of this magnitude -- and are finding exciting ways to leverage that content to make a better discovery process for customers."

From Wired

Booker Prize to award translators

A new award honouring translators has been announced by the organisers of the international Booker Prize.

The £15,000 honour has been created to recognise the role translators play in bringing fiction to a world audience.

The author of a work translated into English will collect the new award, and decide who should win if several people were involved in the translation.

Potential recipients of the first prize include Colombian author Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Czech writer Milan Kundera.

'Unsung hero'

The majority of this year's shortlist have been translated into English and will be eligible for the new honour.

Margaret Atwood, Muriel Spark and Ian McEwan are among the nominees for the £60,000 Booker Interational Prize, which will be announced next month.

The inaugural translation award will follow shortly afterwards.

Chairman of the international Booker judging panel John Carey said: "We became increasingly aware of the huge role translators play in making first-rate fiction accessible to a global audience".

"I am delighted that this separate award has been announced to recognise their unique part in readers' enjoyment of their work," he added.

Harvey McGrath, chairman of Man Group who sponsor the Booker prize, called the translator the "unsung hero" of international literature.

from BBC News

Definition of irony:


  1. A statement that, when taken in context, may actually mean the opposite of what is written literally
  2. Colloq. The quality or state of an event being both coincidental and contradictory in a humorous or poignant and extremely improbable way.

[60th anniversary of the liberation of Mauthausen camp]

05 maio 2005

The Up Side Down of Mount Everest, elsewhere, or the Basement of the World
from Der Spiegel International

President Merkin Muffley: [to Kissoff] Hello?... Ah... I can't hear too well. Do you suppose you could turn the music down just a little?... Oh-ho, that's much better... yeah... huh... yes... Fine, I can hear you now, Dmitri... Clear and plain and coming through fine... I'm coming through fine, too, eh?... Good, then... well, then, as you say, we're both coming through fine... Good... Well, it's good that you're fine and... and I'm fine... I agree with you, it's great to be fine... a-ha-ha-ha-ha... Now then, Dmitri, you know how we've always talked about the possibility of something going wrong with the Bomb... The Bomb, Dmitri... The hydrogen bomb!... Well now, what happened is... ah... one of our base commanders, he had a sort of... well, he went a little funny in the head... you know... just a little... funny. And, ah... he went and did a silly thing... Well, I'll tell you what he did. He ordered his planes... to attack your country...

Ah... Well, let me finish, Dmitri... Let me finish, Dmitri... Well listen, how do you think I feel about it?... Can you imagine how I feel about it, Dmitri?... Why do you think I'm calling you? Just to say hello?... Of course I like to speak to you!... Of course I like to say hello!... Not now, but anytime, Dmitri. I'm just calling up to tell you something terrible has happened... It's a friendly call. Of course it's a friendly call... Listen, if it wasn't friendly... you probably wouldn't have even got it... They will not reach their targets for at least another hour... I am... I am positive, Dmitri... Listen, I've been all over this with your ambassador. It is not a trick... Well, I'll tell you. We'd like to give your air staff a complete run-down on the targets, the flight plans, and the defensive systems of the planes... Yes! I mean i-i-i-if we're unable to recall the planes, then... I'd say that, ah... well, ah... we're just gonna have to help you destroy them, Dmitri... I know they're our boys... All right, well listen now. Who should we call?... Who should we call, Dmitri? The... wha-whe, the People... you, sorry, you faded away there... The People's Central Air Defense Headquarters... Where is that, Dmitri?... In Omsk... Right... Yes... Oh, you'll call them first, will you?... Uh-huh... Listen, do you happen to have the phone number on you, Dmitri?... Whe-ah, what? I see, just ask for Omsk information... Ah-ah-eh-uhm-hm... I'm sorry, too, Dmitri... I'm very sorry... All right, you're sorrier than I am, but I am as sorry as well... I am as sorry as you are, Dmitri! Don't say that you're more sorry than I am, because I'm capable of being just as sorry as you are... So we're both sorry, all right?... All right.

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, 1964
Die Zeit publishes a comment by Nobel Prize winning author Günter Grass on theme of "liberation". "I experienced May 8 in Marienbad, as a seventeen year old dummkopf who believed in the final victory right up to the end. So mine was not feeling of liberation, but of total defeat." The feeling of liberation only came slowly: "When the anniversary of the end of the war is celebrated in fine speeches as a day of liberation, this can only be retrospectively, especially as we Germans did little or nothing for our freedom."

But Grass, taking up the recent "critique of capitalism" launched by Social Democratic Party chairman Franz Müntefering, sees in today's economic context only the illusion of freedom. "What has become of the freedom given to us sixty years ago? Is it only to be calculated in stock market takings? The highest values enshrined in our constitution do not primarily serve our civil rights, but rather the market economy that likes to call itself 'free', with low prices to suit today's neo-liberal mindset. But the fudged, fetishistic term 'free market economy' conceals the anti-social behaviour of banks, industrial associations and stock market profiteers with difficulty."

[From SignandSight]

04 maio 2005

Snow in the Compound of the Kameido Temman Shrine, Famous Places 1830-31

Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858)

03 maio 2005

The Mongol devastations

The Americans and British practised the systematic annihilation of entire cities and their populations in the Second World War. Their main goal was to impress Stalin. The burning of Dresden was the first act of the Cold War.

Again from Sign and Sight
The Second World War is still being fought. Sixty years after it ended, almost every anniversary stirs up arguments and emotions: D-Day, the Warsaw Uprising, the liberation of Auschwitz, the bombing of Dresden, Yalta, the taking of Berlin, and Potsdam. There can be no single version of this war. When the heads of state stand side by side at the ceremony in Moscow on May 9, each of them will be remembering something different.

As many wars as nations, originally published in Polish and in German,
here in English courtesy of Sign and Sight.
El Quijote de José Saramago

José SaramagoCuando Sancho oyó las palabras de su amo...

“Mi favorita –explica José Saramago– es la escena de los batanes, que está en el capítulo XX. Por el miedo de Sancho, por la simulada valentía de Quijote, por creer que la cosa es una y al final es otra; por la carcajada que di cuando la leí por primera vez. Y también por la noche, por la soledad de los dos pobres diablos de quienes la realidad se está riendo.”

Cuando Sancho oyó las palabras de su amo, comenzó a llorar con la mayor ternura del mundo, y a decirle: Señor, yo no sé porque quiere vuestra merced acometer esta tan tenebrosa aventura; ahora es de noche, aquí no nos ve nadie, bien podemos torcer el camino y desviarnos del peligro, aunque no bebamos en tres días; y pues no hay quien nos vea, menos habrá quien nos note de cobardes: cuanto más que yo he oído muchas veces predicar al cura de nuestro lugar, que vuestra merced muy bien conoce, que quien busca el peligro perece en él: así que no es bien tentar a Dios acometiendo tan desaforado hecho, donde no se puede escapar sino por milagro; y basta lo que ha hecho el cielo con vuestra merced en librarle de ser manteado como yo lo fui, y en sacarle vencedor, libre y salvo entre tantos enemigos como acompañaban al difunto; y cuando todo esto no mueva ni ablande ese duro corazón, muévale el pensar que apenas se habrá vuestra merced apartado de aquí, cuando yo de miedo dé mi ánima a quien quisiera llevarla. Yo salí de mi tierra, y dejé hijos y mujer por venir a servir a vuestra merced, creyendo valer más, y no menos; ; pero como la cudicia rompe el saco [18], a mí me ha rasgado mis esperanzas, pues cuando más vivas las tenía de alcanzar aquella negra y malhadada ínsula que tantas veces vuestra merced me ha prometido, veo que en pago y trueco della me quiere ahora dejar en un lugar tan apartado del trato humano. Por un solo Dios, señor mío, que non se me faga tal desaguisado; y ya que del todo no quiera vuestra merced desistir de acometer este fecho, dilátelo a lo menos hasta la mañana, que, a lo que a mí me muestra la ciencia que aprendí cuando era pastor, no debe de haber desde aquí al alba tres horas, porque la boca de la bocina está encima de la cabeza y hace la media noche en la línea del brazo izquierdo."


[As a post-scriptum, Saramago read an excerpt of El Quijote in Portuguese during the Dia del Libro festivities in Barcelona]

A world of dew,
and within every dewdrop
a world of struggle


At the ancient pond
a frog plunges into
the sound of water