26 setembro 2005

Pig in Heaven? :-)

Location Fort Greene
Rent $1,300 Square feet 600 [studio apartment in tenement building]
Occupants Kelli Miller [master's student in architecture] ; Jason Loewenstein

Well, a pig. [Pig] Snork, grunt. [Jason] Come on, Bub. [He goes to his water bowl.]

That's a big one. [Kelli] One hundred and five pounds. When we found him, he very easily fit on your lap. It was on the streets in Louisville. He was just in the gutter.

Lying there. He was standing up nosing through the leaves. We found him two homes. They returned him each time. [Jason] Within a day. [Kelli] At that age, he required a lot of attention.

What kind? He pees for a very long time. [Jason] We're talking minutes, five at least.

Is he housebroken? [Kelli] Yes. [She smiles.] When he lived with the dogs, they didn't let him mess up. They taught him the ropes. When we moved here, they all slept together. When the dogs died, he slept with us for quite some time. That was three years ago. [Jason] For farm pigs, he's well over the offing point. [Kelli] He's not a farm pig. [Jason] The Jamaicans up the road totally want him. At first it was a joke. Now it's relentless. They'll be chopping a coconut: "Come here, pig." [Kelli] They don't even eat meat.

What's he thinking about mostly? He talks to us all the time. He just stands in front of us and yells—urrrg, urrrg, urrrg, urrrg.

How long does he go on? A long time.

Do you have to clean him? I bathe him once every month and a half—in the bathtub. He doesn't have an odor of his own.

Like an actor. He picks up the odor of dryer sheets, whatever the blanket smells like. He's a little territorial about the apartment. [She shrugs.] He kind of doesn't like people.

Right now he's in his cage snoozing but what would he do?
He'd kind of lunge. It's just sudden—as soon as you cross our door. Outside, he's very sweet. Little kids surround him at the park. He has two sets of tusks. We have to have them cut every month.

Do you know others who have pigs? [Kelli to Jason] You know one in DUMBO. [Jason] Just rumored.

Let's get him off his blanket. [He works his way over and lies at Kelli's feet, eye open.] I don't understand why pigs are so fat. I'm not saying that your pig is fat or anything. [ Kelli] He only eats a cup and a half of kibble a day. They have young formula, adult, and mature. [Jason] His favorite fruit is pears. [Kelli] He won't eat the florets of broccoli. The Jamaicans on the corner give him mangoes. [Jason] Sometimes he'll run off with them like a dog.

The pigs were the organizers in Animal Farm. [Kelli] He's such a higher thinker. We got the crate in June. Before, if we weren't here, he'd open the refrigerator and take what he wanted. He'd get very angry at us. Once we walked in on him. [Jason] He had built a ladder and he was climbing on it. [Kelli] He'd wedged a chair and the gate to where he could get up on the table where we kept his food. If we don't pay attention to him, he'll take CDs out of the cabinet.

How long does it take him to get up the stairs, with that big bottom of his? He's just like lightning when he wants to be. [Jason] Three flights in five minutes.

Was he ever a father? [Kelli] I had him neutered the day after I found him. The smell!

Can I pet him? Yes. [Pig] Arrrugh. [Kelli] He's always moody. The first three years were really hard. I'll call it the terrible twos. He was angry all the time. I even looked for a pig psychologist. There's one in Texas. [Jason] The thing about it was he was so far away.

From the Village Voice, check the piggie :-D oink!

25 setembro 2005

100 Intelectuals

Chinua AchebeNovelistNigeria
Jean BaudrillardSociologist, cultural criticFrance
Gary BeckerEconomistUnited States
Pope Benedict XVIReligious leaderGermany, Vatican
Jagdish BhagwatiEconomistIndia, United States
Fernando Henrique CardosoSociologist, former presidentBrazil
Noam ChomskyLinguist, author, activistUnited States
J.M. CoetzeeNovelistSouth Africa
Gordon ConwayAgricultural ecologistBritain
Robert CooperDiplomat, writerBritain
Richard DawkinsBiologist, polemicist Britain
Hernando de SotoEconomistPeru
Pavol DemesPolitical analystSlovakia
Daniel DennettPhilosopherUnited States
Kemal DervisEconomistTurkey
Jared DiamondBiologist, physiologist, historianUnited States
Freeman DysonPhysicistUnited States
Shirin EbadiLawyer, human rights activistIran
Umberto EcoMedievalist, novelistItaly
Paul EkmanPsychologistUnited States
Fan GangEconomistChina
Niall FergusonHistorianBritain
Alain FinkielkrautEssayist, philosopherFrance
Thomas FriedmanJournalist, authorUnited States
Francis FukuyamaPolitical scientist, authorUnited States
Gao XingjianNovelist, playwrightChina
Howard GardnerPsychologistUnited States
Timothy Garton AshHistorianBritain
Henry Louis Gates Jr.Scholar, cultural criticUnited States
Clifford GeertzAnthropologistUnited States
Neil GershenfeldPhysicist, computer scientistUnited States
Anthony GiddensSociologistBritain
Germaine GreerWriter, academicAustralia, Britain
Jürgen HabermasPhilosopherGermany
Ha JinNovelistChina
Václav HavelPlaywright, statesmanCzech Republic
Ayaan Hirsi AliPoliticianSomalia, Netherlands
Christopher HitchensPolemicistUnited States, Britain
Eric HobsbawmHistorianBritain
Robert HughesArt criticAustralia
Samuel HuntingtonPolitical scientist United States
Michael IgnatieffWriter, human rights theoristCanada
Shintaro IshiharaPolitician, authorJapan
Robert KaganAuthor, political commentatorUnited States
Daniel KahnemanPsychologistIsrael, United States
Sergei KaraganovForeign-policy analystRussia
Paul KennedyHistorianBritain, United States
Gilles KepelScholar of IslamFrance
Naomi KleinJournalist, authorCanada
Rem KoolhaasArchitectNetherlands
Enrique KrauzeHistorian Mexico
Julia KristevaPhilosopherFrance
Paul KrugmanEconomist, columnistUnited States
Hans KüngTheologianSwitzerland
Jaron LanierVirtual reality pioneerUnited States
Lawrence LessigLegal scholarUnited States
Bernard LewisHistorianBritain, United States
Bjørn LomborgEnvironmentalistDenmark
James LovelockScientistBritain
Kishore MahbubaniAuthor, diplomatSingapore
Ali MazruiPolitical scientistKenya
Sunita NarainEnvironmentalistIndia
Antonio NegriPhilosopher, activistItaly
Martha NussbaumPhilosopherUnited States
Sari NusseibehDiplomat, philosopherPalestine
Kenichi OhmaeManagement theoristJapan
Amos OzNovelistIsrael
Camille PagliaSocial critic, authorUnited States
Orhan PamukNovelistTurkey
Steven PinkerExperimental psychologistCanada, United States
Richard PosnerJudge, scholar, authorUnited States
Pramoedya Ananta ToerWriter, dissidentIndonesia
Yusuf al-QaradawiClericEgypt, Qatar
Robert PutnamPolitical scientistUnited States
Tariq RamadanScholar of Islam Switzerland
Martin ReesAstrophysicistBritain
Richard RortyPhilosopherUnited States
Salman RushdieNovelist, political commentatorBritain, India
Jeffrey SachsEconomistUnited States
Elaine ScarryLiterary theoristUnited States
Amartya SenEconomistIndia
Peter SingerPhilosopherAustralia
Ali al-SistaniClericIran, Iraq
Peter SloterdijkPhilosopherGermany
Abdolkarim SoroushReligious theoristIran
Wole SoyinkaPlaywright, activistNigeria
Lawrence SummersEconomist, academicUnited States
Mario Vargas LlosaNovelist, politician Peru
Harold VarmusMedical scientistUnited States
Craig VenterBiologist, businessmanUnited States
Michael WalzerPolitical theoristUnited States
Florence WambuguPlant PathologistKenya
Wang JisiForeign-policy analystChina
Steven WeinbergPhysicistUnited States
E.O. WilsonBiologistUnited States
James Q. WilsonCriminologistUnited States
Paul WolfowitzPolicymaker, academicUnited States
Fareed ZakariaJournalist, authorUnited States
Zheng BijianPolitical scientistChina
Slavoj ZizekSociologist, philosopherSlovenia

A Prospect / Foreign Policy poll. Voting is open till October 10.

23 setembro 2005


September edition of The New Criterion is laden with articles on Britain =)

20 setembro 2005

Oil prices

Heard on Jay Leno:
Do you know who's really happy about the soaring oil prices?
The Amish

18 setembro 2005

Mirror mirror, on the wall
Who's to be showered with roses fair?
Of whom should you take particular care?
Who brings peace to all mankind?
Who is naughty, sometimes kind?
Who may one day be a queen?
Who's sixth sense's so very keen?
And who's about to enter here?
It's only a pussycat

New Ryan Adams Album, announced on his Blog


17 setembro 2005


Myths of American exceptionalism

The notion of American exceptionalism—that the United States alone has the right, whether by divine sanction or moral obligation, to bring civilization, or democracy, or liberty to the rest of the world, by violence if necessary—is not new.
Those that escaped the fire were slain with the sword, some hewed to pieces, others run through with their rapiers, so as they were quickly dispatched and very few escaped. It was conceived that they thus destroyed about 400 at this time. It was a fearful sight to see them thus frying in the fire and the streams of blood quenching the same, and horrible was the stink and scent thereof; but the victory seemed a sweet sacrifice, and they gave the praise thereof to God, who had wrought so wonderfully for them, thus to enclose their enemies in their hands and give them so speedy a victory over so proud and insulting an enemy.

Expanding into another territory, occupying that territory, and dealing harshly with people who resist occupation has been a persistent fact of American history from the first settlements to the present day. And this was often accompanied from very early on with a particular form of American exceptionalism: the idea that American expansion is divinely ordained.
Invoking God has been a habit for American presidents throughout the nation’s history, but George W. Bush has made a specialty of it.
Not every American leader claimed divine sanction, but the idea persisted that the United States was uniquely justified in using its power to expand throughout the world. In 1945, at the end of World War II, Henry Luce, the owner of a vast chain of media enterprises—Time, Life, Fortune—declared that this would be “the American Century,” that victory in the war gave the United States the right “to exert upon the world the full impact of our influence, for such purposes as we see fit and by such means as we see fit.”
The existence of the Soviet Union, even with its acquisition of nuclear weapons, did not block this expansion. In fact, the exaggerated threat of “world communism” gave the United States a powerful justification for expanding all over the globe, and soon it had military bases in a hundred countries. Presumably, only the United States stood in the way of the Soviet conquest of the world.
The idea that America is different because its military actions are for the benefit of others becomes particularly persuasive when it is put forth by leaders presumed to be liberals, or progressives.
The terrible attacks of September 11 gave a new impetus to the idea that the United States was uniquely responsible for the security of the world, defending us all against terrorism as it once did against communism. President George W. Bush carried the idea of American exceptionalism to its limits by putting forth in his national-security strategy the principles of unilateral war.

It seems that the idea of American exceptionalism is pervasive across the political spectrum.

The idea is not challenged because the history of American expansion in the world is not a history that is taught very much in our educational system. A couple of years ago Bush addressed the Philippine National Assembly and said, “America is proud of its part in the great story of the Filipino people. Together our soldiers liberated the Philippines from colonial rule.” The president apparently never learned the story of the bloody conquest of the Philippines.
After the horrors of the first World War, Albert Einstein said, “Wars will stop when men refuse to fight.” We are now seeing the refusal of soldiers to fight, the refusal of families to let their loved ones go to war, the insistence of the parents of high-school kids that recruiters stay away from their schools. These incidents, occurring more and more frequently, may finally, as happened in the case of Vietnam, make it impossible for the government to continue the war, and it will come to an end.

Obviously not to put the entire article here, as I so very much wanted to, but since it's still available from The Boston Review, you absolutely positively gotta read it. Nothing new - we're Europeans, for f*** sake - but very articulate.

Reading "The Prince"

...it should be noted that when he seizes a state the new ruler must determine all the injuries that he will need to inflict. He must inflict them once and for all, and not have to renew them every day, and in that way he will be able to set men's minds at rest and win them over to him when he confers benefits. Whoever acts otherwise, either through timidity or misjudgment, is always forced to have the knife ready in hand and he can never depend on his subjects because they, suffering fresh and continuous violence, can never feel secure with regard to him...

[A prince] will be despised if he has a reputation for being fickle, frivolous, effeminate, cowardly, irresolute; a prince should avoid this like the plague and strive to demonstrate in his actions grandeur, courage, sobriety, strength.

It's for this reason that I decided to read Niccolo Machiavelli's "The Prince." No one else is more closely identified with the idea of self-advancement than Machiavelli; the man's name is literally synonymous with naked, calculating ambition. So much so that the adjective "machiavellian" -- like "quixotic," "platonic," "pyrrhic" and "Kafkaesque" -- belongs to a select class of modifiers. These words are employed so commonly, and their meanings are so presumably eminent, that people do not hesitate to use them even if they have never studied Machiavelli, "Don Quixote," Plato, King Pyrrhus of Epirus, or Franz Kafka. And when I say "people," I do not exclude myself. Though I've done some research into King Pyrrhus, I have never finished "Don Quixote," I've read only a small selection of Plato and not much more of Kafka, but this has never stopped me from dropping a "quixotic" or a "platonic" into conversation. I've probably also used "machiavellian" -- though the conspicuousness of its many syllables does have the effect of reminding me of my lack of intellectual rigor.

For some time now, it has been my intention to mend this gap in my education. "The Prince," after all, is a very short book (the recent Penguin Classics text runs to 85 pages, and that includes Machiavelli's introductory letter to "the Magnificent Lorenzo de Medici"). Divided into 26 unambiguously titled chapters (e.g., "Military organization and mercenary troops"; "Generosity and parsimony"; "How princes should honor their word";" How flatterers must be shunned"), it has been praised for its compact, unembroidered prose. And intended for a busy Renaissance prince, it was conceived as a quick and painless read. Which is all to say that I have no legitimate excuse for not having read it.

Continue on Salon, on the Summer School series featuring War and Peace, Jane Eyre, The Art of War, Anna Karenina, and many more, read by students and thus making us remember those days. Yep, those were the days.................
Now, Salon has developed a system for accessing its content that I never thought I would approve of and actually use extensively, which is to accept a Site Pass, watch a commercial for much less that a minute, and goooo! So please don't feel deterred and do enjoy the very interesting and valuable content.

The Story of the Iraq Museum

Picking up the pieces of 40,000 years of cultural life

We all know what happened, or think we know. When American troops entered Baghdad in April 2003, hordes of looters rushed into the Iraq Museum, repository of the world's greatest collection of Mesopotamian antiquities, and stripped the place while our GIs were busily pulling down Saddam statues for CNN.

The truth, wouldn't you know it, is a bit more elusive. About 15,000 objects were stolen, not 170,000 as first reported (actually the size of the museum's entire collection), an exaggeration resulting from misunderstandings between the first journalists to reach the shattered museum and distraught Iraqi curators. Some objects were irretrievably damaged, but nearly half those stolen have since been recovered, as museum director Donny George writes in this absorbing book. Its editors aren't interested in raking over old coals or giving a definitive account of how the looting happened. Instead they offer an eloquent, moving and abundantly illustrated history of an institution housing the remains of 40,000 years of Iraqi cultural life, from Neandertals to Ottomans.

Twenty-two writers, including curators and archaeologists, tell the story in essays that evoke the excitement of digging up the world's original civilization and a wistful nostalgia for Iraq's bygone days of field research and camaraderie. The Gulf War, U.N. sanctions and, finally, the explosion of pillage on America's watch all took a devastating toll on museums and archaeology. The only artifacts being found these days in Iraq are those dug up by looters to feed the antiquities trade, and no one in this book ventures a guess as to when, or even if, fieldwork will ever happen again. But slowly, the museum is picking up the pieces.

The Iraq Museum, as it is now known, was created in a room in Baghdad in 1923 by Gertrude Bell, a British amateur archaeologist and Arabist given to rhapsodic gurgles about the objects under her care, writing: "Isn't it fantastic to be selecting pots and things four to six thousand years old!" She died three years later, succumbing in the blazing Iraqi summer at the age of 58, and it took 40 more years for the collection to reach its present location, a hulking box of brick and cement that looks like what it is, a warehouse of history. Because Iraqi law barred the export of antiquities, the place filled with objects excavated by archaeologists all over the country, among them a stunning array of gold jewelry found in 1988 in tombs at the palace of Ashurnasirpal II at Nimrud. Scholars came from around the world, and the museum became one of the Middle East's most prestigious cultural venues.

A string of disasters began in 1991, when, during the first Gulf War, a bomb hit a government building across the street and broke the museum's glass showcases. Curators hurriedly wrapped objects in cotton and rubber padding and closed the museum, and it has remained closed almost uninterruptedly since. The gold of Nimrud was packed off to underground vaults at the Central Bank, which were subsequently flooded, possibly intentionally by Iraqis intent on preventing Saddam diehards from stealing it. (The vaults were finally drained in 2003 and the gold recovered intact.) By the eve of the current war, the museum was a sad and demoralized place, its employees hunkered down behind steel gates bracing for the next disaster to strike. The museum's story of early promise erased by war and Saddam's megalomania becomes here a kind of metaphor for the recent history of Iraq.

Even after the looting, no institution in the world can tell the story of writing like the Iraq Museum. Cuneiform, the world's first script, was born in southern Iraq, and carbon dating indicates it originated between 3400 and 3300 B.C., writes Robert Biggs in one of the book's finest essays. There must have been quite a burst of innovation, because within a century or two the wheel appeared as well. It was quickly put to use in war, on chariots pulled by recently domesticated donkeys. Cuneiform found its first use in record keeping: receipts for barley bales, notices of gold shipments, more the work of accountants than poets. But before long, people went wild for cuneiform. Clay tablets with its spindly arrangements of flicks and crosses started to appear by the thousands, recording paeans, epics and incantations.

Cuneiform tablets became so common in ancient Iraq that they were used as packing material in building foundations and tossed into trash pits with animal and fish bones. In the 1980s archaeologists found a library of 800 tablets arranged on their shelves at a site called Sippar and sent them to the Iraq Museum, where they were widely and mistakenly reported to have been lost in the 2003 looting. The museum currently holds more than 100,000 tablets, and thousands more circulate elsewhere. Biggs recounts how the Chicago department store Marshall Field's was selling cuneiform tablets from Ur for $10 each as late as the 1960s.

Bad as the theft was, something even worse was happening. Journalists Micah Garen and Marie-Hélène Carleton surveyed sites invaded by bootleg diggers after Saddam fell, and their account in this book suggests not so much looting as industrial-scale leaching. Hundreds of men were digging for treasure, by day and by night with shovels, generators, lightbulbs and trucks. Five Sumerian cities (there are only 18) have had the top nine feet of their surfaces completely sifted by looters, an "unimaginably grim reality, a scene of complete destruction," they write. Just as shockingly, Columbia University's Zainab Bahrani writes that American troops have set up camp atop the ruins of Babylon, removing layers of archaeological material to create a helipad and laying a parking lot on the remains of a Greek theater dating from Alexander's day. Iraqi authorities asked the troops to move, but as of September 2004 they were still there.

The writers of this book try now and then to sound optimistic but, like grieving widows, keep slipping back into despair. It can get a bit weepy, this "requiem for a departed companion," as one calls it. Still, there is plenty to weep about. Two centuries of research into Mesopotamian civilization have been stopped in their tracks by war, looting and lawlessness. A stone excavated at Nippur carries a long invocation to the goddess Inanna to protect a temple and ends with a humble plea to mortals: "The governor who keeps it permanently in good condition will be my friend." Whoever wrote those words wouldn't have many friends now.

From Scientific American

14 setembro 2005


MARADI, Niger, Aug. 7 - In the crowd of riotously dressed mothers clasping wailing, naked infants at a Doctors Without Borders feeding center just west of here, Taorey Asama, at 27 months, stands out for a heart-rending reason: she looks like a normal baby.
Many of the others have the skeletal frames and baggy skin of children with severe malnutrition. The good news is that a month ago, so did Taorey.
"When she came here, she was all small and curled up," said her mother, Henda, 30. "It's Plumpy'nut that's made her like this. She's immense!"
Never heard of Plumpy'nut? Come to Maradi, a bustling crossroads where the number of malnourished children exceeds even the flocks of motor scooters flitting down its dirt streets.
At this epicenter of Niger's latest hunger crisis, Plumpy'nut is saving lives, perhaps including Taorey's.
Plumpy'nut, which comes in a silvery foil package the size of two grasping baby-size hands, is 500 calories of fortified peanut butter, a beige paste about as thick as mashed potatoes and stuffed with milk, vitamins and minerals.

Read more on Race Matters

08 setembro 2005


obrigada à Joanicas e ao seu blogue familiar, Calais-Pedro
Nueva Yol n. In Caribbean Spanish, New York (City). Also Nueba Yol.

Dominican Republic. Associated with or special to Dominican Republican or Dominican people, places, or things. Dominican Republic. NYC. Puerto Rico. Associated with or special to Puerto Rico or Puerto Rican (or Boricuan) people, places, or things. Puerto Rico. Spanish. The "yol" is due to a clipped final consonant, characteristic of Caribbean Spanish. In most dialects of Spanish, the "V" and "B" are both pronounced as a voiced labiodental plosive, sometimes resulting in the common spelling or transcription nueba for nueva 'new' (also seen in the variable spelling of Havana/Habana).


love-cum-arranged marriage n. matrimony between a mutually acceptable and consenting couple that has been facilitated by the couple’s parents.

English. India. Associated with or special to India or Indian people, places, or things. India. [Cum is Latin for “with” or “together with.”]

[As long as there's cum...]

Mr. Jeavons Said That I Was A Very Clever Boy

Mr. Jeavons, the psychologist at the school, once asked me why 4 red cars in a row made it a Good Day, and 3 red cars in a row made it a Quite Good Day, and 5 red cars in a row made it a Super Good Day, and why 4 yellow cars in a row made it a Black Day, which is a day when I don't speak to anyone and sit on my own reading books and don't eat my lunch and Take No Risks. He said that I was clearly a very logical person, so he was surprised that I should think like this because it wasn't very logical.

I said that I liked things to be in a nice order. And one way of things being in a nice order was to be logical. Especially if those things were numbers or an argument. But there were other ways of putting things in a nice order. And that was why I had Good Days and Black Days. And I said that some people who worked in an office came out of their house in the morning and saw that the sun was shining and it made them feel happy, or they saw that it was raining and it made them feel sad, but the only difference was the weather and if they worked in an office the weather didn't have anything to do with whether they had a good day or a bad day.

I said that when Father got up in the morning he always put his trousers on before he put his socks on and it wasn't logical but he always did it that way, because he liked things in a nice order, too. Also whenever he went upstairs he went up two at a time, always starting with his right foot.

Mr. Jeavons said that I was a very clever boy.

Mark Haddon, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time
Saving the industrial age from oblivion, through photography
Read more on Sign and Sight

05 setembro 2005

Through Andalusia, in Search of Gazpacho

SPAIN is a matrix of themed routes - rutas as they are known in Spanish - carefully mapped out for those looking to follow a lead. There is the Catholic pilgrimage route of Santiago de Compostela, the Ruta del Quijote, trailing Cervantes's beloved character from windmill to windmill in La Mancha, and, in season, there is even a Strawberry Train.

So doesn't gazpacho, perhaps the country's most persuasive gastronomic goodwill ambassador, deserve the same? Cold soup was addictive long before the actress Carmen Maura tossed a fistful of Valium into a blender of gazpacho in Pedro Almodóvar's 1988 film, "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown." Perhaps the ultimate indication of its appeal today might be that for just one euro, a McDonald's meal in Spain can be supersized with a refreshing cup of the stuff.

A little research conducted among chefs, food critics and historians suggested that tracing the regional origins of some of Spain's most popular cold soups - gazpacho andaluz, and its chilly culinary cousins, ajo blanco malagueño and salmorejo cordobés, among others - would form the basis of a route for travelers through Andalusia, going bowl to bowl across the lovely patchwork landscape of olive groves and jagged mountain ranges dotted with castle-crowned hilltop towns. But along this Ruta de la Sopa Fría (Cold Soup Route), which took me from Córdoba to Carmona, near Seville, and down through Antequera to Málaga, I soon learned that I was probably the only person pausing to ponder whence cometh the cooling concoctions.

According to the historian and writer Inés Eléxpuru, who has written extensively on both historical Andalusian "rutas" and the region's rich culinary legacy, "Gazpacho and other cold soups have always just been part of the gastronomic mix" for Spaniards.

From Córdoba in the north of Andalusia to Málaga on the Mediterranean coast in the south, this proved to be the case. Gazpacho, which started out neither red (tomatoes and peppers didn't make the culinary scene in Europe until brought from the Americas at the start of the 16th century) nor cold (given the lack of refrigerators in the Middle Ages), has never stopped evolving.

Food historians trace antecedents of gazpacho at least as far back as the Romans in the third century B.C. though these were further refined by 800 years of Moorish presence in the region. Most versions evolved as a means by which peasants could make a meal using old bread, olive oil, nuts or vegetables as well as bits of ham, hard-boiled eggs and other ingredients that were either torn up into a salad or puréed with a mortar and pestle. In Andalusia, these versions developed into subtly refined soups, but in other regions, like neighboring Extremadura, they remained salads and are, in fact, often served that way, and described as gazpacho extremeño or en trozos ("in pieces").

So what we may think of as the classic gazpacho of tomato, cucumber, peppers, garlic, day-old bread, olive oil, water and salt - all blended up and iced down - was itself an arriviste not so long ago.

It's no wonder that so many distinct recipes evolved. In a less humble way, the process continues today in the age of nueva cocina, when Spanish chefs garner Michelin stars by making cold soups with unexpected ingredients - watermelon, cherries, mango or even sardines, for instance.

The celebrated Andalusian chef Dani García, whose restaurant Calima, opening soon in Marbella, will dedicate an entire section of its menu to both traditional and interpretive cold soups, explained some of the current trends. "Traditional malagueño ajo blanco was a slightly bitter soup of bread, almonds, olive oil, garlic, vinegar and water, so it was served with grapes or melon to add a note of sweetness," he said. "Today, chefs may use that melon or other fruits to make sweeter soups and so then garnish them with something savory."

Córdoba, the mythic capital of Al Andalus - as Moorish Spain was known - remains one of the most romantic cities in all of Spain. In the maze of narrow streets in the ancient Jewish quarter, in the shadow of the monumental Mezquita, or Great Mosque, one is transported back to the 11th century, when Jews, Muslims and Christians shared the city in relative harmony. With its forest of nearly 850 marble columns, the Mezquita is one of the great architectural wonders of the world and reason enough to visit the city.

But I was in town for cold soup, since the city lends its name to a dish known as salmorejo cordobés - a sturdy form of gazpacho that, depending on whom you consult, includes more bread and less (or no) water than gazpacho and also has both hard-boiled and raw eggs for added texture and richness. In fact, it's sturdy enough that it is usually served on a plate rather than a bowl and traditionally arrives at the table topped with morsels of succulent jamón serrano and some chopped egg.

The salmorejo at El Churrasco on Calle Romero, a charmingly overdecorated Andalusian mesón, did not disappoint. Advised of my interest tracing the origins of Andalusia's cold soups, the affable waiter Paco suggested I order some crisply fried eggplant as a vehicle for the creamy salmorejo.

Salmorejo was not the only dish I tried at El Churrasco. Though I was not meant to sample it until Málaga, the ajo blanco tempted me, and for good reason. It was a luscious purée of pine nuts instead of almonds, topped with a chunky dice of acidic green apple and sweet sultanas. It quickly became clear that cold soup respects no traditional borders.

Just down the street, Casa Pepe, a lively jumble of small rooms on two floors, with a shaded patio at its heart, offers its own inspired version of ajo blanco in which a scoop of tart green apple ice cream and four translucent cubes of raisin confit float. The chef, Juan Carlo Muñoz, also offers a gazpacho of cherries with a drizzle of chive oil - maintaining the sweet-savory balance - on top, served in a short glass to be drunk.

Since gazpacho andaluz is the patrimony of an entire province and no one particular town, I was free to select the next stop on the Ruta and chose Carmona, a town most likely as old as gazpacho itself. Perched on a highly defensible hill overlooking the vast Andalusian plains, Carmona was for millennia an important stop on the trade route between Córdoba and Seville, as seen by the picturesque town's high density of Roman and Moorish ruins as well as splendidly ornate Baroque churches and grand palaces.

Restaurant San Fernando occupies an airy second-floor dining room with large windows overlooking the treetops and giddy wrought-iron pavilion in the Plaza San Fernando below. While the luxuriantly creamy soup was about the closest thing I would sample on my journey to a classic gazpacho, it was served in a bowl made of decoratively interlaced cucumber slices.

Heading southeast out of Carmona across the wide-open fields where centuries before, gazpacho's early practitioners perfected their recipes between shifts picking olives or harvesting wheat, one passes such picturesque towns as Marchena and Osuna en route to Antequera. The namesake of a soup known as porra antequerana, Antequera is perhaps even older than Carmona, given the Bronze Age complex of vast cave chambers on the outskirts of town. The Municipal Museum includes more recent cultural relics, most notably the famous first-century Ephebe of Antequera - a beautifully preserved Roman bronze sculpture of a youth.

According to most recipes, porra is basically gazpacho to which no water is added, creating a soup that is denser and slightly more acidic than most gazpachos. Most recipes call for topping it with bits of jamón serrano and hard-boiled egg, but in Antequera I didn't meet a porra that didn't also wear some tuna and tomato wedges as well. The best I had was at La Espuela, but it may have had to do with the romance of the location since the restaurant is inside the city's historic bullring.

Just 45 minutes south of Antequera is Málaga, cradle of ajo blanco. José Carlos Capel, perhaps Spain's leading food critic, suggested I go to the Michelin one-star restaurant Café de Paris to try the ajo blanco, which is allegedly garnished with a frozen red wine granita, "giving the soup a touch of nobility." I say "allegedly garnished" because Café de Paris was unexpectedly closed, so I booked at the recently opened Trayamar, where there were four cold soups on the menu - two gazpachos and two ajo blancos. The best of the bunch was a richly smooth, more or less traditional ajo blanco of almonds, but at the bottom of which floated diced mango macerated in anis-flavored liqueur.

Like Málaga itself - its historic center being rapidly revitalized - it seems that cold soups are preserving the best of their traditional incarnations, but freely updating. Five hundred years after the introduction of the tomato, it's worth considering that the Ruta de la Sopa Fría might be more about where the road is leading than where it's been.


04 setembro 2005


(a) Alfonso se descarga una canción de Internet.

(b) Alfonso decide que prefiere el disco original y va a El Corte Inglés a hurtarlo. Una vez allí, y para no dar dos viajes, opta por llevarse toda una discografía. La suma de lo hurtado no supera los 400 euros.


La descarga de la canción sería un delito con pena de 6 meses a dos años. El hurto de la discografía en El Corte Inglés ni siquiera sería un delito sino una simple falta (art. 623.1 CP).

[El test del disparate o cómo engañar a un pais]

03 setembro 2005


Men, women and Darwin

Can evolutionary psychology take the mystery out of how we meet and mate?

"Falling in love," he said, "is basically a process where both sides feel they're getting a good deal."

Read all about it on LA Times

Un-American about animals

WHAT COUNTRY has the most advanced animal protection legislation in the world? If you guessed the United States, go to the bottom of the class. The United States lags far behind all 25 nations of the European Union, and most other developed nations as well, such as Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. To gauge just how far behind the United States is, consider these three facts:

# Around 10 billion farm animals are killed every year by US meat, egg, and dairy industries; the estimated number of animals killed for research every year is 20 million to 30 million, a mere 0.3 of that number.

# In the United States, there is no federal law governing the welfare of animals on the farm. Federal law begins only at the slaughterhouse.

# Most states with major animal industries have written into their anticruelty laws exemptions for ''common farming practices." If something is a common farming practice, it is, according to these states, not cruel, and you can't prosecute anyone for doing it.

Together these last two points mean that any common farming practice is legal. If you hear farm industry lobbyists trying to tell you that there is no problem in the United States because unhappy animals would not be productive, ask them how it can be good for a hen to be kept with four or five other hens in a cage so small she couldn't stretch her wings even if she had the whole cage to herself.

To measure how far ahead other countries are, we can first look at British animal protection legislation. British law makes it illegal to keep breeding sows in crates that prevent them from walking or turning around -- the way in which about four out of every five US sows are kept. In Britain, law does not allow veal calves to be denied adequate roughage and iron, as is common in the United States to help produce the gourmet veal often served in restaurants.

Nevertheless, it is not Britain but Austria that has the most advanced animal protection legislation. In May 2004, a proposed law banning the chicken ''battery cage" was put to a vote in the Austrian Parliament. It passed -- without a single member of Parliament opposing it. Austria has banned fur farming and prohibited the use of wild animals in circuses. It has also made it illegal to trade in living cats and dogs in stores and deems killing an animal for no good reason a criminal offense. Most important, every Austrian province must appoint an ''animal lawyer" who can initiate court procedures on behalf of animals.

Why are Europeans so far ahead of Americans in protecting animal welfare? I doubt that it is because Americans are more tolerant of cruelty. In 2002, when the citizens of Florida were given a chance to vote on whether sows should be confined for months without ever having room to turn around, they voted, by a clear majority, to ban sow crates. Most Americans, though, have never had the chance to cast that vote. The animal movement in the United States has not succeeded in turning animal rights into electoral issues about which voters seek their candidates' views.

As a result, the American animal movement has shifted toward targeting corporations rather than the legislatures. For example, in 2001, the organization Viva! launched a campaign accusing Whole Foods of selling inhumanely raised duck meat. Whole Foods responded by exploring the issue and setting new companywide standards for raising ducks.

Other sets of standards will follow by 2008, Whole Foods plans to have in place a set of standards for all the species of farm animals it sells. By addressing an individual corporation, animal rights activists are hoping that other retailers will follow suit and this pressure will influence legislation changes in the United States.

Judged by the standards of other developed countries, over recent decades the United States has done little to improve the protection of the vast majority of animals. We should direct our energies to reducing the suffering of farm animals and put pressure on our corporations and our legislatures, both state and federal, to bring the United States at least up to the standards of the European Union in our treatment of animals.

From the Boston Globe

02 setembro 2005

Sifting Dresden's Ashes

Sixty years after the Allies’ bombing of Dresden enveloped the city in flames, controversy persists over whether the attack was militarily justified or morally indefensible. But another question, no less crucial, is seldom asked: Did wartime conditions allow military leaders to look away as they violated their own principles?

Lenghty article from The Wilson Quarterly