30 outubro 2005

29 outubro 2005

The Changing Face of Ireland

At the beginning of the 1990s, monolithic Ireland, fixed fast for half a century in the thraldom of confessional statehood, began a rapid transformation. The Catholic church was the first pillar of state to totter - of state, yes, for the church in Ireland had been for centuries as much if not more a political than a spiritual institution; indeed, as we have subsequently discovered, the Holy Ghost, which for long we had thought our reigning spirit, turned out to be a rare bird indeed within these shores.

The ecclesiastical power-failure in Ireland was precipitated by media revelations of scandals within the church, scandals which the church authorities had succeeded in covering up for decades even though many people, including many journalists, knew of them. Why the long, forbearing silence over the doings of peccant bishops and paedophile priests, and why suddenly the rush to print? Besides the draconian libel laws under which they were compelled to operate, Irish newspaper editors since the foundation of the state in the 1920s had gone in fear of being on the receiving end of what used to be called a "belt of the crozier", that is, a public rebuke from one of our princes of the church, who were among the most powerful and arrogant public figures in the country, or were so until the early 1990s, at least. One could lose one's job at the wave of an episcopal wand. However, even Ireland felt a waft of the winds of change that blew across Europe after the toppling of the Berlin Wall. There is no exact equivalent in the English language, or in the Irish, for the word glasnost, but suddenly things were being said aloud in Ireland that we had thought we would never hear uttered in public.

The unfolding of events in Ireland is never a rising curve but rather a series of bumps, at each one of which we feel a jolt like that which the sleepwalker experiences on being violently awakened. Something occurs, and opening our eyes and expecting to see our known and cosy if somewhat stifling bedrooms, we find ourselves instead teetering on a vertiginous staircase in the midst of unfamiliar and electric light. The rude awakenings the Irish spirit has suffered over the past 15 years have been both unnerving and invigorating. In a country so spellbound by religious and secular authority, the shocks we experienced throughout the 1990s and into the 2000s might have been expected to precipitate a national trauma, but no: roused from the sleep of centuries, we rubbed our eyes, gave ourselves a shake, and went on down the stairs to join the wild party that had begun in the rest of Europe at the end of the 1980s, even if, on the way down, we were afflicted by an uneasy sense of all that we have lost by having gained so much.

If this sketch of how we have handled our recent history smacks of approval, it is not intended to be so. It might be suggested, to put it no more strongly, that the fact that there has been no crisis in Irish public consciousness following the revelations of clerical scandal and widespread political corruption is an indication not so much of maturity as of moral laxity. Was it ever otherwise? In the 1950s, as the writer Anthony Cronin has pointed out, it was neither the church nor the state that the intellectuals of those days considered the enemy, but the Irish people themselves, sunk as they seemed to be in "suffocating conformity and stasis".

In recent times we Irish have discovered in ourselves, to our intense bemusement, a depth of cynicism hitherto barely suspected. Or perhaps cynicism is not quite the word. We do take the long view. Contemplating the church and state upheavals of the past 15 years, many would echo what the Chinese revolutionary leader Zhou Enlai is reputed to have replied when asked if he considered the French Revolution to have been a success or a failure: it is too early to say. An Irish novelist who lives in the heart of the country reports a neighbour remarking apropos the revelation of some new church enormity, "Ah, it was always the same; first it was the druids and now it's this lot."

New wealth washes at old memories. In the lush 2000s, it is easy to forget how meagre life was before we became a major exporter of computer software and Viagra, and how that meagreness persists in the darker pockets of the Irish psyche. The people in Inge Morath's photographs of rural Ireland in the 1950s would hardly recognise as their direct descendants the partying youngsters depicted by Stuart Franklin in the Dublin of 2003, yet when one looks closely at both sets of pictures one easily sees the family resemblance: there is the same tentativeness of expression, the same faintly desperate dreaminess, the same longing, the same air of having been, to echo Philip Larkin, pushed to the side of their own lives. Part of the legacy of so long a colonisation - the first Anglo-Norman robber barons crossed from Wales to Ireland in 1169 - is our sense of deracination within our own country. The language we speak is not our own, even after a century and a half of English: listen to any Irish conversation, at whatever class level, and you will clearly hear the suppressed melodies, as well as the hesitations and disjunctions, of the deep grammar of Gaelic.

Only the dourest curmudgeon would deny the improvements that have occurred in Irish life since the 1950s - or, indeed, since the 1960s, for Ireland took a long time before it began, ever so tentatively, to swing - even if those improvements were expensively bought. At the beginning of the third millennium the young know a freedom, intellectual, spiritual, financial, that their parents would not have allowed themselves to dream of. So what, the young will say, if the price is high? Nothing will come of nothing, as Shakespeare's very old king observed.

Northern Ireland is the chronic illness that has been afflicting the Irish body politic for the past three and a half decades, and which has been there for far longer than that, if one counts the centuries before 1969 when the cancer lay more or less dormant. The Irish have a special gift for euphemism - the second world war was known here as "The Emergency" - but the Troubles were a terrible time in the North in the 1970s.

The release of energy in Northern Ireland in the 1970s had its effects in the South. Yes, we sang, some of us, the IRA recruiting songs, yes, we burned, some of us, the British embassy - but did we know what we were doing, what a terrible beauty, in Yeats's by now clichéd formulation, we were helping to unleash? The South's indignation over the North's torments did not last long. As the photographs here of the Northern struggle show all too clearly, violence has an awful sameness to it. When you have seen 10 street riots, you have seen them all. Yet something of the pathos persists even now. The pictures of all those young men and women, hardly more than children, most of them, in their flares and flowered shirts, heaving stones and Molotov cocktails at British soldiers, the majority of whom, for their part, were hardly older than their assailants, are a testament to waste - wasted energies, wasted opportunities, wasted lives.

The fragmentary moments collected here provide a kind of kinetic vision, a peep-show display, of five and a bit decades in the life of a country - or two countries, depending on the shade of your politics. The philosopher Roland Barthes suggested that the peculiar potency of the photograph rests in the fact that the people in it are dead, or soon will be. Donovan Wylie's empty rooms, pregnant with presence, have the look, appropriately, of last things, last places - us or those curtains, one or the other will have to go - the final spaces awaiting Cartier-Bresson's children of the 1950s and Stuart Franklin's young party-goers of the 2000s alike. All go into the dark. Let us be thankful for these remnants of the light of other days.

26 outubro 2005

An Opera



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at TorrentSpy, for example

Amazing, amazing pictures from Hawai






in National Geographic Magazine's Portuguese print edition.

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25 outubro 2005

You can judge a person by their book covers

The French, as usual, have a nifty phrase for it: livre de chevet, meaning the book that says something (very flattering) about you. A survey commissioned by the British Airports Authority confirmed what everyone knew: namely, that when we lay out £20 on a book we are prone to see it as not just nourishment for the mind, but a fashion accessory. Books furnish a room and - if carried ostentatiously in the right places - they decorate one's person as elegantly as anything from Nicole Farhi.

In the survey, one in every eight young readers confessed to buying a book "simply to be seen with the latest shortlisted title". Those were the honest ones. Of readers who purchased Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children (the most garlanded novel of our time), half confessed to never having finished it. Doubtless many never started. None the less, they may not have thought the purchase price wasted. A good book makes you look good.

Publishers are well aware of this. Up to a quarter of the production cost of a novel goes into its dust-jacket. It's not there to protect the book from dust - brown paper would do that better. It's there to make the book (and the book buyer) look good.

When we read in public - in the airport departure lounge, for example - we want to look smart. And, just as important, not look dumb. There are many explanations for the depressing success of The Da Vinci Code. But one is that the first readers could flaunt the book as if it were some tome on Renaissance painting. The vulgar herd followed - and will, apparently, thunder on till kingdom come.

Our quality newspapers all have literary supplements pronouncing on the merits of the books of the day. Rarely, however, do the reviewers give advice as to whether this book or that will enhance the purchaser's image ("Does my sensibility look big in this?").

So what should the style-conscious reader be toting this autumn? The novel of the moment in the UK is Bret Easton Ellis's Lunar Park - a second helping of "black candy" from the author of American Psycho. But smart consumers will have acquired the US edition, which came out in August, from www.amazon.com. By now, fashion-savvy readers will have tossed the book.

Where fashion is concerned, the only place to be is ahead of the curve, among the early adopters. Britons who want the book they carry to win admiring glances should keep an eye on the New York Times's bestseller list. A good choice this week is The Lincoln Lawyer, by Michael Connelly. It won't be out here for a month or two.

Obviously prize books, if bought early enough, signal cultural awareness. But buying the book that won a literary prize suggests a willingness to let others make up your mind for you. Don't, therefore, buy the Man-Booker-winning The Sea. Be seen instead with Banville's 1998 novel, The Untouchable ("this, my friend, is his true masterpiece").

This week sees the release of the TV blockbuster adaptation of Bleak House, and just over the horizon is the movie release of Michael Winterbottom's A Cock and Bull Story, based on Tristram Shandy. Don't risk a hernia toting those breeze-block-sized monsters. Be seen with slender books by the same authors - Sterne's A Sentimental Journey or Dickens's Hard Times. John Le Carré's The Constant Gardener is OK, but be seen with it before, not after, the movie release.

Never, never, never be seen with a book which has a "3 for 2" or "£6 off" discount sticker on it. Cheap. Like buying your coffee from Tesco rather than a specialist coffee shop or deli. If you must buy books from Waterstone's, or Borders, make sure you have an LRB Bookshop bag to carry them in. That, of course, is the bookshop that came up with the "two for the price of three" gimmick. Classy. They also sell the best books in London. Be seen there.

[from The Guardian]

23 outubro 2005

The Chemicals Between Us

The annual Organic Top 40 is Ode's international selection of sustainable products and honest companies. This year's overview is specially devoted to those that seek to limit our exposure to chemicals. This Organic Top 40 is far from complete-and that's good news. Fortunately, it's impossible to provide information on all the options that exist out there for avoiding superfluous chemicals. This overview, compiled in cooperation with The Green Guide (www.thegreenguide.com), is intended to inspire you by making you aware of the many products being manufactured around the world in the fight for a toxin-free body. It is meant to encourage you to look for and find more examples, both close to home and on the Internet. We have left food off this list, since otherwise it would be too long. But it's certain that choosing to eat organic foods is the best way of all to make sure chemicals stay outside your body.

[Examples I know:]

Living room

DVD player

Sony

Sony's DVP-NS955V DVD player isn't quite edible, but it's close. More than fifty percent of the machine's plastic parts are made of plant-based materials. Sony is taking steps to reduce and replace the use of toxic substances (also see box "Cleaning up its acts"). www.sony.net

Kitchen
Detergents
Ecover
These natural cleaners hygienically take care of whatever's dirty. All their products contain no petrochemical based ingredients, leave no residue of unnecessary chemicals in the house or body, biodegrade easily and make a minimum impact on aquatic life. Ecover, based in Belgium, is one of the world's most widely known producers of green household products. www.ecover.com

Home office

Computers
Fujitsu-Siemens
Fujitsu-Siemens' Esprimo range uses fewer toxic materials than the average computer to meet the European Union's 2006 Reduction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) law. This means that these desktops contain no lead, mercury, cadmium, hexavelent chromium, PBBs and PBDEs. www.fujitsu-siemens.com
Panasonic
The notebook computers in Panasonic's Toughbook T2 line have a lead-free solder, recyclable magnesium alloy case and reduced flame-retardants. www.panasonic.com

Scanners and printers

Hewlett-Packard
Hewlett-Packard offers the HP ScanJet 4070 Photosmart Scanner: no glue, no paint, and no embedded metal fasteners, and 100% post consumer recycled plastic. And there's the HP Deskjet 6540 Printer: no paint or plating; easy disassembly for recycling. www.hp.com

Mobile phones

Sony Ericsson
Sony Ericsson's new phones-the W800 and the K750- include circuit boards, chargers, housing and plastics that are all free of brominated flame retardants, use lead-free components, and feature plastic with no lead and chromium, as well as nickel-free surfaces and corrosion protection free of hexavalent chromium. Moreover, all new phones including charger and other accessories as well several of the phones launched previously are free of brominated flame retardants in the printed circuit boards and product housing. www.sonyericsson.com

MP3 players
Apple
Whether you chose the shuffle, the mini, or the standard, recyclable Apple iPods come with rechargeable batteries. www.apple.com
Creative
Creative Zen Micro 6GB MP3 player, holds up to 3,000 songs and comes with a removable and rechargeable battery. www.creative.com

Wardrobe

Shoes
Birkenstock
Birkenstock's foot beds are made out of recycled cork from the bottling industry that is blended with natural latex. Moreover, worn soles can be sent back for a tune-up. www.birkenstock.com
Nike Considered
Nike Considered shoes are made out of PVC-free leather, cotton and hemp. The shoes contain no chemical adhesives and are vegetable tanned. www.niketown.com

Bathroom
Cosmetics
Weleda
Weleda cosmetics are carefully produced from choice natural materials. They are particularly gentle to the skin, containing no synthetic preserving agents nor colouring, or flavouring. Weleda's shaving cream, for example contains goat's milk and almond extract, combined with pansy extract care for sensitive skin. Ideal for the face and body. www.weleda.com

From


How to Speak Southern

Ah: The thing you see with, and the personal pronoun used denoting individuality. "Ah think Ah've got somethin' in mah ah."

Ast: To interrogate or inquire, as when a revenue agent seeks information about illegal moonshine stills. "Don't ast me so many question. I makes me mad."

Attair: Contradiction used to indicate the specific item desire. "Pass me attair gravy, please"

Awl: An amber fluid used to lubricate engines. "Ah like attair car, but it sure does take a lot of awl."

Bawl: What water does at 212 degrees Fahrenheit. "That gal cain't even bawl water without burnin' it."

Bleeve: Expression of intent or faith. "Ah bleeve we ought to go to church this Sunday."

Cent: Plural of cent. "You paid five dollars for that necktie? Ah wouldn't give fiddy cent for it."

Co-cola: The soft drink that started in Atlanta and conquered the world. "Ah hear they even sell Co-cola in Russia."

Cyst: To render aid. "Can Ah cyst you with those packages, ma'am."

Dayum: A cuss word Rhett Butler used in "Gone With the Wind." "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a dayum."

Everwhichways: To be scattered in all directions. "You should have been there when the train hit attair chicken truck. Them chickens flew everwhichways.

Far: A state of combustion that produces heat and light. "Ah reckon it's about time to put out the far and call in the dawgs."

Flares: The colorful, sweet-smelling part of a plant. "If yo wife's mad at ya, it's smart to take her some flares."

Good ole boy: Any Southern male between age 16 and 60 who has an amiable disposition and is fond of boon companions, strong drink, hound dawgs, fishin', huntin', and good lookin' women, but not necessarily in that order. " Bubba's a good ole boy."

Griyuts: What no Southern breakfast would be without - grits. "Ah like griyuts with butter and sawt on'em, but Ah purely love'em with red-eye gravy."

Hale: Where General Sherman is going for what he did to Etlanna. (Atlanta) "General Sherman said "War is Hale" and he made sure it was."

22 outubro 2005

Gastronaut :-9

Last Sunday, I was busy doing something unspeakable to a fragolina grape (I leave it to your imagination) when I caught sight of the latest Sainsbury's ad on the telly.

Now, normally I wouldn't stop doing anything to a grape, especially a fragolina grape, for an ad, but this was shocking: Jamie Oliver was urging us to be more adventurous with our food, to embrace the unusual, to taste something new every week. Heavens to Betsy, I thought: our best-loved chef and our, um, third-best-loved supermarket combining forces to combat the evil axis of quick 'n' easy recipes and mimsy, rictus-grin, lifelessly cosy meals that have invaded our homes, spreading gustatory ennui. This was ground-breaking stuff.

I should declare my hand here: I've been an advocate of adventurous food for years. Call me pretentious, call me old-fashioned - call me what you will - but I've always thought that the alchemical ingredients of sex, drama, shock and laughter can transform a meal and open a higher plane of sensory pleasure. I watched with bated breath to find out what crazy, life-affirming culinary escapade Jamie was taking us on as the ad drew to its close. As he jumped, slow motion, into a sunlit pond, he yelled "Be adventurous!" and in a wild flurry of culinary excitement we cut to Jamie in the kitchen... and, oh my God... he was only... erm... grating some nutmeg on to his Bolognese.

Woo.

I know, I know, you have to start somewhere. And maybe Sainsbury's had a glut of nutmeg on its hands. But here's how I see it: you'll eat 20 tonnes of food in your lifetime and you'll spend 2,946.62 days (give or take a few minutes) eating, shopping, queueing or hunting for it. That's 16 per cent of your entire waking life. (I worked it out.) Now, you could spend that time making comfort food, eating burgers or even fussing over canapés, but heavens alive, what a waste of a life. We're a nation of dreamers, poets and explorers - surely we should use that valuable time to indulge in wild culinary adventures, like cooking an entire lamb, tasting woodlice and squirrel, or making homemade salami.

I know what you're thinking: there's no way I've got the time (or even the stomach) to make food like that all the time. But I'm not suggesting you should do this every day - just every now and then, when you have the inclination to cook something spectacular; something to remind yourself of how exciting it is to be alive.

The best meals are not necessarily the best-tasting ones - some of my most celebrated suppers have been disasters in culinary terms. What's more important is to make food that you'll remember for the rest of your life. If you've never tried cow-heel soup, headcheese (pig's head terrine), guinea pig or sea-urchin gonads, and if you've never cooked with aftershave or gold, all I can say is don't knock them until you've tried them.

I should also point out that not all culinary adventures need to be complex and time-consuming. The fragolina grapes I mentioned are a heaven-sent cookery-free culinary adventure experienced in the comfort of your own mouth. They look like mean little red grapes, but when you bite into them you discover an astounding consistency that's a cross between a wine gum and a grape, and an insanely intense flavour of strawberry crossed with dessert wine.

Once you start playing with your food it's hard to stop, and it's good to know I'm not the only one. While researching my new book, Gastronaut, a sort of manifesto for adventurous eating, I carried out a survey of 500 people and was relieved to learn that I'm not alone in my approach to food. I discovered, among other things, that 38 per cent of people don't like their pasta al dente, 43 per cent have never made a recipe from a television programme, three per cent would eat Nigella Lawson if they were cannibals, and 44 per cent have eaten their bogies. I also discovered that more people found that a take-away meal leads to sexual congress than an expensive meal at a restaurant.

But back to Jamie and his nutmeg. In the course of my gastronautical research, as well as discovering why asparagus makes your pee smell funny, why cheese makes you dream and how a hiccup works, I found out that nutmeg, when eaten in large quantities, can cause hallucinations. Erotic hallucinations. You need an awful lot of nutmeg to get really erotically airborne, but when you've got a warehouse full of the stuff, that's just dandy. It seems Jamie and his friends at our third-best-loved supermarket are a clever, naughty, fun-loving bunch of gastronauts after all.

Stefan Gates for the Telegraph

How Do They Harvest Caviar?

As of last Friday, the United States no longer permits the importation of fancy beluga caviar from the Caspian Sea. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the ban as part of an effort to protect endangered sturgeon near Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Turkmenistan. Do sturgeon die when fishermen take their eggs?

Yep. Almost all caviar is harvested from dead fish. Fishermen on the Caspian wait until the mature female sturgeon (which are at least 10 years old) are ready to migrate upstream and lay their eggs. Once caught, the sturgeon will be transferred to a large boat, where workers slit her open and remove her eggs. The caviar is cleaned to prevent spoilage and then packed up; the rest of the fish is sold for flesh.

Why can't the fishermen postpone the harvest until the sturgeon lays her eggs? First of all, the eggs would be almost impossible to gather. A female that's ready to spawn might be swollen with pounds of black caviar clumped together on her ovaries. Once she releases these eggs into the water, they're much harder to collect, clean, and package.

Second, there's no market for ovulated or fertilized fish eggs. When the female begins to spawn, the exterior of her eggs deteriorates to allow for the penetration of sperm. Even if fishermen were able to sweep up those ovulated eggs, they wouldn't be able to sell them: An egg with a broken-down lining will eventually leak and turn to mush. (The quality of caviar depends on its firmness, taste, color, and size.)

Fish farmers who raise sturgeon for caviar sometimes use a surgical procedure to remove eggs from a female without killing her. To foster reproduction in captivity, aquaculturists will induce ovulation in a female with hormone injections and then make a small incision in her abdomen. Eggs that have already detached from the ovaries can be scooped out with a plastic spoon or squeezed out into a bowl.

Most farmers use this technique only to obtain eggs for insemination, but some Russians do live-harvest eggs for food. In some cases, a farmer might perform a Caesarean on a fish that hadn't ovulated. He could cut out some but not all of her eggs before sewing up the fish and putting her back in the water. A farmer might also induce ovulation, squeeze out the loose eggs, and then use a novel process to restore the integrity of their outer coverings.

Caviar producers who harvest from dead animals can still use surgical techniques to improve their yield. Some fisheries will test the eggs of a mature female before killing her. First, an incision is made in her abdomen and then a small tube is inserted. The farmer then puts his mouth on the tube and sucks out a small quantity of eggs for examination. If they're the right color and consistency, he'll kill the animal and harvest the caviar. If they're too "ripe"—if the fish has begun to break them down for reabsorption—he'll put her back in the water and wait until her next reproductive cycle.

From Slate Magazine

THE WORLD'S HIGHEST TRAIN ROUTE IN TIBET





Check the Photo Gallery at Der Spiegel online in English.

21 outubro 2005

Bono interview by Mischka Assayas, an excerpt:

«Bush Is a Humble and Funny Guy, While Most of the Members in His Cabinet Are Not Religious Extremists

In his conversations with Michka Assayas, the rock star and champion of the poor speaks of previous meetings in the White House and Washington:

I was in a photo with President Bush because he’d put $10 billion over three years on the table in a breakthrough increase in foreign assistance called the Millennium Challenge. I had just got back from accompanying the president as he announced this at the Inter-American Development Bank.

I kept my face straight as we passed the press corps, but the peace sign was pretty funny. He thought so, too. Keeping his face straight, he whispered, “There goes a front page somewhere: Irish rock star with the Toxic Texan.”

I think the swagger and the cowboy boots come with some humour. He is a funny guy. Even on the way to the bank he was taking the piss. The bulletproof motorcade is speeding through the streets of the capital with people waving at the leader of the free world, and him waving back.

I say: “You’re pretty popular here!”

He goes: “It wasn’t always so . . .” — Oh really? — “Yeah. When I first came to this town, people used to wave at me with one finger. Now, they found another three fingers and a thumb.”

So you liked this man?

Yes. As a man, I believed him when he said he was moved to also do something about the Aids pandemic. I believed him. Listen, I couldn’t come from a more different place, politically, socially, geographically. I had to make a leap of faith to sit there. He didn’t have to have me there at all. But you don’t have to be harmonious on everything — just one thing — to get along with someone.

…What was your gut feeling the first time you came face to face with President Bush?

He was very funny and quick. Just quick-witted. With him, I got pretty quickly to the point, and the point was an unarguable one — that 6,500 people dying every day of a preventable and treatable disease [Aids] would not be acceptable anywhere else in the world other than Africa, and that before God and history this was a kind of racism that was unacceptable.

And he agreed: “Yeah, it’s unacceptable.” He said: “In fact, it’s a kind of genocide.”

He used the word “genocide”, which I took to imply our complicity in this, which I absolutely agree with. Later, his staff tried to take the edge off the word. But in the Rose Garden there was press, and I already had used the word.

He really helped us in using that word. He knew it was hyperbole, but it was effective. We get on very well. I couldn’t come from a more different place. We disagree on so many things. But he was moved by my account of what was happening in Africa. He was engaged.

I think, when I’m sitting two feet from someone, I could tell if this was just politics. This was personal. I think, for all the swagger, this Texan thing, he has a religious instinct that keeps him humble.

You mean that right-wing fundamentalist neocon scary stuff?

Actually, he’s a Methodist. It has to be said that most of the people in the cabinet are not religious extremists.

But you must have disagreed with him at some point.

He banged the table at me once, when I was ranting at him about the ARVs [Aids drugs] not getting out quick enough. I’m Irish. When we get excited we don’t pause for breath, no full stops or commas. He banged the table to ask me to let him reply. He smilingly reminded me he was the president. It was a heated debate. I was very impressed that he could get so passionate. And, let’s face it, tolerating an Irish rock star is not a necessity of his office.

You recently met Senator Jesse Helms, who as chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee in the Eighties did whatever he could to suppress the Sandinistas.

People said to me: this is the devil himself you’re going to meet, and his politics are just right of Attila the Hun. But I found him to be a beautiful man with convictions that I wouldn’t all agree with but had to accept that he believed in them passionately.»

From

A excelente ideia do Webcedário :-)

Dois dos meus preferidos:





Webcedário

Unlike most planetarium software, Celestia doesn't confine you to the surface of the Earth. You can travel throughout the solar system, to any of over 100,000 stars, or even beyond the galaxy.



(Mars, Jupiter and the Earth)


A SourceForge software ;-)

20 outubro 2005

Vivir en el 2005 implica que...

1. Accidentalmente tecleas tu password en el microondas.

2. No has jugado al solitario con cartas verdaderas en años.

3. Tienes una lista de 15 números telefónicos para ubicar a tu familia de sólo 3 miembros.

4. Le envías un e-mail a la persona que se sienta junto a ti.

5. La razón que tienes para no estar en contacto con tu familia es porque no tienen correo electrónico.

6. Te vas a casa después de un largo día de trabajo y cuando suena el timbre de tu teléfono fijo, te preguntas qué te querrán vender, porque ninguno de tus amigos lo usa ya (eso si es que tienes teléfono fijo).

7. Cuando haces llamadas telefónicas desde tu casa, marcas el "0" para que te dé línea.

8. Has estado sentado en el mismo escritorio cuatro años y has trabajado para 3 empresas distintas. O bien has estado en edificios de 4 compañías diferentes y tú siempre trabajabas para la misma.

10. Tu jefe no tiene la habilidad para hacer tu trabajo.

11. Cuando llegas a casa de alguien no le llamas al telefonillo, sino que le haces una llamada perdida para que baje.

12. No tienes suficientes enchufes en casa para todos tus aparatos electrónicos. Si pones a cargar el móvil tienes que quitar el cargador de pilas, el MP3 o la Palm.

13. Salir de tu casa sin móvil el cual no has tenido los primeros 20, 30 o hasta 60 años de tu vida te hace entrar en pánico y regresas a por él.

14. Te levantas por la mañana y te conectas a internet a leer un periódico digital antes de tomar tu café.

15. Ntnds msjs cm st.

16. Estás mirando alrededor para asegurarte de que nadie te ve que estás sonriendo enfrente de tu PC.

17. Estás leyendo esto y te estás riendo.

18. Peor que eso, ya sabes perfectamente a quién le vas a enviar este correo.

19. Estás tan distraído leyendo que no te fijaste que falta el nº 9 en esta lista.

20. Y ahora acabas de comprobar para ver que efectivamente que no está el nº 9.

20. Y ahora te estás riendo de ti mismo, de tu propia caricatura.

PD: y no digas que no.

Momento de Portugalidade?

Ceuta and Melilla belong to Spain. But they are located in Morocco. Tiny enclaves surrounded by refugees from around the world who have only one goal: Europe.

Portuguese journalist Paulo Moura has concerned himself with the fate of these people for over three years. One of his reportages was nominated for the Lettre Ulysses Award for the Art of Reportage in 2004.

Starting from a forest near Tangier in the north of Morocco where migrant men and women have hidden for years, he described their numerous strategies to leave Africa behind them. And he investigated the motivations of traffickers who deal in human life. In an interview with Christa Hager, Moura describes the changing conditions for the refugees, their desperate plight, the situation of women and the hierarchies among the migrants themselves.

Der Standard: In recent years, the EU has let it be known it has plans to create outposts for African refugees in North Africa. Haven't these outposts existed for a long time now?

Paulo Moura
: Yes, as informal camps. In general, the refugees see it as their right to solve the problem as they see fit. What is certain is that they want to come to Europe, and there is nothing that can change their minds. They live to reach Europe. So it wouldn't be a good idea to set up such camps. The last time I was in one of these "underground camps" in a forest near Ceuta, a refugee leader said that the official outposts wouldn't change the refugees' condition one bit. The money would be used for the local people of the country in question. "Official" camps only serve to give Europeans a clear conscience.

Morocco receives financial aid from the EU. What impact does this have? Are institutions in place that supervise this money flow?

The country receives money to solve problems where they occur. But the way this is done is unacceptable. Prison conditions are miserable, and the jails are filled to overflowing. Thousands of people continue to live and die in the forests and deserts, and nothing is done to stop it. And the system of corruption in Morocco pervades every level – from the government to the police to the military. So it's impossible to exercise control.

The refugees' situation hasn't changed for the past three years?

That's right. But the migrants have changed their locations and tactics, and continue to do so. The first time I went to Missnana forest, there were 3,000 refugees living there. Now they've all left and found new hiding places. It was too dangerous there because the police kept coming in and killing people. One of the new hiding places is near Ceuta. Many also flee to the south, as far as the West Sahara, and try to make it from there to Fuerteventura, although the ocean is even more dangerous there.

How many migrants manage to make it to Europe?

The numbers are vague. We know that every year several thousand people make it to Spain, and that several thousand die each year. There's a fifty-fifty chance of making it to Europe alive.

Are there no relief organisations there to help them?

By and large the people get no help at all. People die there on a daily basis. Many are very sick, especially in winter. They have no tents and no warm clothes. But the last time I was near Ceuta I saw that there were some doctors from Medecins Sans Frontieres there to help. The problem is that organisations need authorisation from the Moroccan government to work there. And they don't get it because the government doesn't acknowledge that there are refugees in the forests. So as a rule they don't permit relief organisations. For the organisations this is a very difficult situation: if they want to stay, they have to negotiate with the government. And if they do that, they're hardly in a position to apply pressure.

How does the Moroccan population get along with the black African refugees?

On the one hand, some help the refugees with money or food. But on the other hand, many take advantage of their situation. At first some Moroccans saw the refugees as a means of getting rich, and rented out their houses and rooms. Then when things got worse in Tangiers with police controls and the danger of deportation, the refugees went to hide in the forest. There they were increasingly attacked by bandits who murdered them, raped their wives, stole their cell phones and the money they'd saved up for the journey. Life in the forest is very dangerous for the refugees, not just because of the police. There's also a lot of distrust. The black Africans are often chained hand and foot on the boats to make sure no one moves – for fear they could rock it. If the boat sinks, they go down with it. Moroccans by contrast can move around freely.

Can the violence of the police and other elements be explained by the migrants' illegal status, or does racism also play a role?

The relationship of the police to the Moroccans has changed. Now informal crimes like drug trafficking and human smuggling are attacked with greater vigilance. This creates racism among the people, because the migrants are blamed for the situation. The police and the authorities also accuse the black Africans of harming Morocco's image. They aren't wanted, they say, and the police has to be informed when a black person is seen on the street. This is also one reason why the refugees hide in the forests.

Despite many failed attempts, most refugees keep on trying to get to Europe. How do they hold out?

Some live for five years or more in hideouts, many of them are deported after being arrested by the police. Some go to the desert, a no-man's land near Algeria, then go hundreds of kilometres on foot to the coast. Or once they get to Europe, they're deported back to their country of origin and then the whole process starts all over again. Religion plays a major role in all this, and helps them put up with it. Their pastors have a big influence, especially from the Protestant "Pentecostal Church". They give the refugees practical tips and offer them their help. The pastors also encourage people to emigrate to Europe. Their religion is heavily based on the promise of well-being and the will of God that humans should actively pursue riches in the here-and-now.

Isn't there something else behind the religious "motive"?

Most of the migrants are from Nigeria. In countries like that there's no hope, not only because of poverty. Nigeria is a very rich country, but there's no way to rise in the social hierarchy, to find work or earn enough money. The only way out is escape. The people who try to come to Europe are not the poorest. They have some money, in contrast to the very poor, those who stay put. Some families sell their houses to pay the Mafia to bring one of their children to Europe. Women are especially prone to signing the sort of agreement which guarantees their arrival in Europe. In exchange, they have to pay back 40,000 dollars, which means they are for all intents and purposes slaves. Voodoo rituals and threats against these families make sure that most of them, for the most part very young women, don't renege on these contracts. They're not told they'll have to work as prostitutes. They think they can earn the money as waitresses or hairdressers, or go to university. Another strategy of the Mafia is to get the girls pregnant. If the child is born in Spain, they can remain there for six months. Many Catholic priests in Spain know about this and help by providing the girls with a place to stay, and by looking after the children. They want to help, but they're part of the system.

What do these contracts mean for the girls who are still in Morocco?

Life in the forest is hierarchically structured, and there's a fully developed power structure. There are leaders who either receive or steal money, food and clothing from the others. The powerful ones often also have contacts with the Moroccan Mafia or police. All the women live within this system, and are taken care of by the men. Each girl has a "husband" who looks after her. Some of these are rewarded by the Mafia and get to come to Europe. Women are the biggest profit makers for the Mafia, especially the pretty ones. The ugly ones get left behind. Many of them end up having babies, spend their time waiting and waiting and never make it out of the forest.

Is human tragedy a fitting subject for art? Your reportages and stories make powerful use of aesthetic means. What are you trying to accomplish, especially as far as the reality is concerned?

So much information is available, but in fact people know so little. Most of it they couldn't care less about. How information is transmitted in the media today doesn't change the way people react to it. "30 die in Irak" – and then you go back to work as if nothing had happened. Information often serves to appease people's consciences: "I'm informed. But I've got nothing to do with these people." Journalism should change the way things are. To do that, I've chosen the literary route, to present things in a deeper way and prevent a black and white paint job of reality, which is not so simple. It's at least as profound and complex as a novel.

From Sign & Sight

South Park, Cultural Phenomenon

Trey Parker has a confession to make. "I've started confiding in people, other artists mostly, that I hate making 'South Park' and I always have," he said during a recent visit to New York. He continued: "It's super stressful. I'm always miserable. I want to kill myself every week."

Mr. Parker and Matt Stone, the creators of "South Park," will have that problem for at least the next three years. Over the summer, they signed an agreement with Comedy Central to produce the animated series about four foulmouthed Colorado boys through the end of 2008. (The monetary terms of the deal have not been released.) But the show's enduring success does not mean that making "South Park" has become any easier for its two creators, who met in college at the University of Colorado. Between them, Mr. Stone, 34, and Mr. Parker, 36, write, direct and edit each episode, and they give their voices to most of the main characters. The second half of Season 9 begins tonight at 10. (Mr. Stone and Mr. Parker produce seven episodes in the spring and seven in the fall.)

"South Park" has evolved from a cranky, obscene voice of 1990's slacker culture to a high-profile entertainment brand, in large part because it provides a continuous running commentary on current events. Eight years of tackling up-to-the-minute issues like the search for Osama bin Laden, the controversy over Mel Gibson's "Passion of the Christ" and the right-to-die questions raised by the court battle over Terri Schiavo have elevated Mr. Parker and Mr. Stone to a position as opinion arbiters: viewers count on divisive, newsworthy topics getting the "South Park" treatment.

Mr. Stone and Mr. Parker bristle at these expectations. "Now it's like, 'What's "South Park" going to do this week about Hurricane Katrina?' " Mr. Stone said. "I don't know what we're going to do. We should do an episode about how the town can't wait to see this show and what they're going to do about Hurricane Katrina." (They may complain, but they can't help themselves: on tonight's episode, a beaver dam breaks, causing a flood in a neighboring town. Assigning blame becomes the top priority.)

Animated series are not known for their timeliness, but "South Park" is different. When the show began in 1997, Mr. Parker, Mr. Stone and their staff would spend two weeks on an episode. Now they create each one, from start to finish, in six days, handing it over to Comedy Central on the morning of the broadcast. The process evolved from what Mr. Stone called "sheer procrastination" and Mr. Parker called "laziness."

Doug Herzog, Comedy Central's president, said: "For Matt and Trey, life is still a term paper. They put it under the professor's door at 11:59."

This crunch is what allows "South Park" to comment in real time on zeitgeist themes, from news headlines to video-game releases, but it's a harried process. Mr. Stone and Mr. Parker begin the Thursday-to-Wednesday week in the writers' room, where they throw around ideas. When they hit on ones that might work, Mr. Parker writes individual scenes so that the animators can begin creating the actual episode. As days pass, those scenes add up to 21 minutes with, eventually, a beginning, an end and a plot. As for how they arrive at an episode's larger narrative, Mr. Parker described the different approaches: "Do we come at it from, 'Remember this from third grade'? Do we come at it from, 'This happened on the news'?"

Sometimes an idea is character-driven. "Like, 'We need a Kyle story, there hasn't been much Kyle this season,' " Mr. Parker said. Those episodes, where the boys are just boys, are Mr. Stone's and Mr. Parker's favorite ones. "It feels very 'Peanuts,' " Mr. Parker said.

With three more years of "South Park" to go, its creators are trying to figure out what they will do after the show ends. They will soon be starting their own production company - probably, they said, with Paramount, for whom they made last year's "Team America: World Police."

"We need to get into producing at some point if we're actually going to have careers in our 40's," Mr. Parker said. "It's really scary, because one of the things we make fun of so much is the Steven Spielbergs, where it's like, 'Dude, stop.' "

What kinds of movies would they want to produce? "We don't know yet," Mr. Stone said. "You don't want to make your 'War of the Worlds.' "

Speaking of movies, will there ever be a sequel to 1999's "South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut"? After making a face when asked, Mr. Stone said, "If we came up with a good idea, we'd do it." But with dozens of episodes to plot, they said, thinking of a good story to put aside for a film is difficult. Particularly when they prefer doing the show, anyway. "We're so satisfied with 'South Park,' " Mr. Parker said. "We don't feel the need to do another movie."

The series continues to be Comedy Central's highest-rated show, delivering an average of 2.6 million viewers each week. The eight years' worth of episodes repeat well, also, and Seasons 1 through 6 have sold a total of more than 3.5 million units on DVD.

Mr. Herzog, in a telephone interview from his Los Angeles office, called the show the "center of our prime-time effort." "It remains the heart of the network, along with 'The Daily Show,' " he said.

Mr. Parker and Mr. Stone will not say with certainty that "South Park" will end after the current contract expires. Mr. Parker said: "If somebody actually came to me and said, 'O.K., this is it: write your last "South Park" episodes,' I'd be like, 'No, no, no.' We've worked so hard on 'South Park,' making it what it is. How can we give that up?"

Mr. Herzog said Comedy Central would be willing to extend the show's run into infinity. "If they want to do it, we want to do it," he said. "I say to them face to face that I don't see any reason why 'South Park' can't be on forever."

19 outubro 2005



On Eisenstein, Bosnia, a Ria Formosa, Beckett, General Sherman (the one, not the sequoia), the Dam of the Three Gorges in China, the Agbar Tower in Barcelona, St. Petersburg (da, lotsa Russians and Russian docs), and a Werner Herzog opus, Grizzly Man.

I find this one doc intriguing:

A Decent Factory
Thomas Balmés
79’ France 2004
Is it possible to make profit and be ethical? Ethical questions are coming more critical for Western companies when they are moving their production to the countries of cheap labour. “A Decent Factory” follows the Ethical Researcher of Nokia company on her trip to China to examine suppliers of Nokia. Clashes between cultures, between ethics and profits, become obvious in this new documentary film by Thomas Balmès. The film follows what happens when a puritan Nordic person with no historical experience of colonialism is facing the realities of globalisation through her own work.

16 outubro 2005

Saramago regresa el 3 de noviembre a las librerías con una obra en la que la muerte decide dejar de matar

La nueva obra del Premio Nobel de Literatura luso José Saramago, 'Las intermitencias de la muerte', saldrá a la venta el próximo 3 de noviembre en América Latina, España y Portugal, informa el diario 'Jornal de Noticias'.

La novela, de cerca de 200 páginas, se publicará una semana antes en Brasil, donde los fieles lectores del Nobel 1998 podrán disfrutar de la obra a partir del próximo 27 de octubre, aprovechando así la presencia del escritor en el país suramericano en esas fechas.

Saramago narra en su novela el caos que se crea en un país cuando la muerte decide dejar de matar en el último día del año, circunstancia que genera una situación incomprensible para los ciudadanos.

Las desconcertados habitantes, que comienzan a desconfiar del histórico sueño de la vida eterna, comienzan a protestar por la anómala situación y exigen medidas urgentes al Gobierno.

La esposa del escritor, Pilar del Río, es la responsable de la traducción al español de la obra, que también tendrá una versión en catalán.

Las primeras ediciones de la obra en España, Portugal y Brasil contarán con 100.000 ejemplares.

Imagine a world without copyright

Copyright was once a means to guarantee artists a decent income. Aside from the question as to whether it ever actually functioned as such - most artists never made a penny from the copyright system - we have to admit that copyright serves an altogether different purpose in the contemporary world. It now is the tool that conglomerates in the music, publishing, imaging and movie industries use to control their markets.

[From the International Herald Tribune]

13 outubro 2005

09 outubro 2005

The British Library has made available 14 great books on its website. One of them is a 1508 notebook by Leonardo Da Vinci containing short treatises, notes and drawings of a wide range of subjects from mechanics to the moon. The site allows you to view the original manuscript written in Leonardo's own handwriting.

07 outubro 2005

06 outubro 2005

Gregory Colbert

These pictures hardly do justice to the wonders available in Ashes and Snow


Crime And Punishment

The rape of more than a million German women by Russians was a strictly guarded postwar taboo. Now the world knows...

From The Nation

It is often forgotten how important translators are for the popularity and readability of works by foreign authors

On Monday, in a peculiar awards ceremony in London, six prizes were handed out for literary translation into English. Representing six languages, the prizes were mostly sponsored by the governments of the source-language countries or related institutions. Some of the awards were already well-established. But this year, in addition to awards for translations from French, German, Spanish, Greek and Dutch, a prize for translation from Russian was awarded for the first time. The winner was Oliver Ready, a former arts editor of The Moscow Times, for his work on Yuri Buida's "The Prussian Bride" (Prusskaya Nevesta).


The Rossica Translation Prize was established by Academia Rossica, a London-based nonprofit that promotes Russian culture worldwide. The prize, worth ?1,500 for the translator and ?500 for the publisher, was sponsored by a Moscow-based foundation named after former President Boris Yeltsin. Three judges drew up a shortlist of six books published between 2000 and 2004, ranging from contemporary works to venerable classics such as Nikolai Gogol's "Dead Souls" -- whose translator, Robert Maguire, died not long before the ceremony. Incidentally, this new translation of Gogol, published by Penguin, featured on its cover Viktor Vasnetsov's 1876 painting "Moving House," which has utterly nothing to do with Gogol's novel. But this is typical of paperback English-language editions of Russian classics: It often seems that anything remotely Slavic is OK for the cover of any book.

"The Prussian Bride" is a collection of short stories set in Buida's native Kaliningrad region, whose capital was formerly K?nigsberg, the capital of East Prussia. The collection centers on the town of Znamensk, formerly Welau, and its deranged, lost and crazy inhabitants. It is the second of Buida's books translated by Ready -- the first was "The Zero Train," published in English in 2001 and praised by The Times Literary Supplement for the translator's "sure hand."

It is often forgotten how important translators are for the popularity of works by foreign authors. Russian translations of Ernest Hemingway, J.D. Salinger and Graham Greene were perhaps the strongest stylistic influence on Russian prose of the 1960s. Constance Garnett, with her translations of Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Pushkin and Chekhov, did more than anyone before or since to popularize Russian literature in the English-speaking world. It is good to know that these traditions are being preserved -- and it is even better to know that a Russian foundation is sponsoring this all-important effort.

From the Moscow Times Context

Da Kat :-»




Tales from Tomorrow



Read all from Science & Spirit

Wroclaw, Poland

Wroclaw PostCrossing postcard

From PostCrossing, my first postcard received :-) yeyyyyyyy
(yes, big enough to show the astronomical clock)

04 outubro 2005

Outro Momento da Portugalidade :-)


Noite Escura na lista para as nomeações aos Oscar.

Momento de Portugalidade :-)

Inês Fontinha está em lista para a nomeação para Prémio Nobel da Paz.
Anúncio dia 7 do corrente no site do Nobel.