26 abril 2006

Keeping up with the Nazis

This is the story of Louis Darquier, Commissioner for Jewish Affairs under the Vichy government in France from 1942 to 1944. During those years, at least 75,000 Jews were forcibly removed from France to German death camps. Throughout the Occupation, Darquier was a figure of terror and grim bombast with none of the heroic aura that clung so tenaciously to Pétain and his other henchmen. Contemporaries disliked Darquier in his prime, and distanced themselves promptly after his downfall. Posterity has pretty much wiped him from the record. Today he is remembered, if at all, as a figure of fun, more of a preposterous gallic Sweeney Todd than France's equivalent to Adolf Eichmann.

Bad Faith confronts the consequences of a French cultural and political divide that goes back to the Revolution and before. Right-wing conmen and bullies like Darquier flourished between the wars by exploiting a perennial xenophobia grounded in rabid hatred of democracy in general, and the Third Republic in particular. Anti-Semitism was a patriotic enterprise that had the full spiritual backing of the Roman Catholic Church. Shrewd, manipulative and unscrupulous, Darquier acted out the extremist fantasies of a whole generation whose formative experience had been trench warfare in 1914-1918.

Twenty years old at the end of the First World War, he drifted into a career as playboy and sponger, slithering from one dodgy deal to the next and being regularly bailed out by his family. At the end of the 1920s, he moved to London, married a would-be chorus girl from Tasmania, and lived from hand to mouth with her until he was hauled up in April 1930 before Marlborough Street magistrates' court for failing to pay his bills at Brown's Hotel.

By this time, he had acquired an imaginary title to go with his monocle and his stylish new wife. "What, a baron and a baroness?" said the magistrate, fining Louis £100 on the grounds that anything less would be an insult.

A daughter was born in lodgings four months later, and almost immediately given away to the unqualified nanny who answered the couple's advertisement for childcare. Anne Darquier grew up in rural poverty in Oxfordshire, unvisited by her parents, neither of whom ever treated her as anything but a lever for extracting hand-outs from their respective relatives in Tasmania and France.

Back in Paris, Darquier's credit rapidly wore thin. By 1936, his bar bill alone came to 50,000 francs (£22,000 in today's money). It was at this point that he became a professional anti-Semite.

Darquier had already established himself as a nationalist hero by being the only non-working-class hooligan wounded in a famous fascist riot in Paris in 1934. Two years later, he began calling for Jews to be expelled or slaughtered: "The weak deserve to be massacred. We French are a strong people." This kind of threat brought him instant celebrity, influence and cash. "If I want to, 10,000 men will take to the streets tomorrow and kill 100,000 Jews," he boasted, offering to arrange the assassination of the prime minister, Léon Blum.

He was assiduously groomed for power by the Nazis. He had his own bodyguard of thugs, and his various activities - youth clubs, publicity campaigns, newsletters and other publications - were secretly funded from Germany. The scientific initiatives he would later institute in the name of racial purity were prefigured before the war in lectures by his protégé, Professor Georges Montandon, who advocated branding Jews with red-hot irons and slicing off their noses. After France's defeat, Darquier was the ideal candidate to rid the country of what Pétain called "Jewish leprosy".

One of the most spine-chilling aspects of this book is its workmanlike exposé of the mundane routines of institutional anti-Semitism. France struggled to meet annual quotas laid down by Germany. Age limits had to be extended, children included and French citizens thrown in to make up the numbers. Eventually even the prime minister, Pierre Laval, grumbled that he could no longer supply Jews in pre-arranged quantities at set prices "like something from a department store".

Laval was shot in 1944. Darquier escaped to Spain, where he died a natural death 35 years later without ever acknowledging the reality of his past. On a first and last visit to her father as a teenager after the war, Anne Darquier grasped immediately who he was and what he had done. The shock reinforced her driving ambition to study medicine, and made her one of the outstanding Jungian therapists of her generation. "She understood anguish," writes Carmen Callil, who became her patient as a young woman in desperate need of help. "She could heal others… but she could not heal herself. And, the child of gamblers, she had wretched luck."

Dr Darquier killed herself in 1970. "There are some things and some people you can never forgive," was all she said about her parents to Callil. This book sets out to unravel what she meant. It began as an act of justice - part reparation, part exorcism - and has ended up many years later as a work of phenomenally thorough, generous and humane scholarship.

Like Anne Darquier, Callil understands anguish, and lays bare its causes with clarity and precision. Bad Faith exemplifies what Primo Levi called the "continuous intellectual and moral effort" that is the only adequate response to the events described here.

Telegraph


Alatriste, por Agustín Díaz Yanes

En su extraordinario y divertidísimo-como todo lo suyo- Diccionario del Cine, Fernando Trueba nos avisa de que el gran riesgo de las películas de época (como Alatriste) es perderse en la reconstrucción, enredarse en las cortinas…

Enredarse en las cortinas. Ése fue mi primer miedo cuando, muy generosa y muy insensatamente, Arturo Pérez-Reverte y su productor, el no menos generoso e insensato Antonio Cardenal, me ofrecieron en una comida no sólo escribir, sino, lo que es peor, dirigir Alatriste.

Naturalmente, a pesar del miedo a enredarme en todo tipo de cortinas dije inmediatamente que sí. Un director de cine que se precie, sobre todo siendo español y haciendo cine en España, no puede desperdiciar la oportunidad de hacer una película de las dimensiones históricas, sentimentales y cinematográficas de Alatriste. Porque, aunque nadie se atreve a decirlo públicamente, un director español siempre es una mezcla explosiva de fatalismo e irresponsabilidad.

Así que dije que sí y seguí comiendo tranquilamente hasta que descubrí en Arturo una mirada entre febril y ansiosa que me traspasó. Entonces descubrí la magnitud del problema. Para Arturo, Alatriste es su novela, y Diego Alatriste y Tenorio, su hijo más querido. Y nadie en su sano juicio debe atreverse a jugar con los sentimientos de un padre. Y más si ese padre es Arturo Pérez-Reverte.

Del primer asalto no he salido mal. El guión le ha gustado tanto al productor como al autor. He tenido que fundir las cinco novelas en un guión de cien páginas. He procurado mantener el espíritu de la saga y no traicionar al autor, quien, por cierto, jamás se ha inmiscuido en mi trabajo y se ha dedicado, en cambio, a invitarme a comer, prestarme libros y a resolver algunas de mis dudas con respecto a tratamientos y vocabulario de la época. Por su parte, el productor también se ha mantenido a una prudente distancia, ayudándome como sólo puede ayudar un productor: pagando religiosamente, y en su fecha, los plazos del guión. (También me ha invitado a comer.)

Pero si Arturo y Antonio Cardenal han sido pacientes y generosos conmigo no puedo decir lo mismo de los numerosísimos revertistas, fanáticos de Alatriste, que al enterarse de que iba a llevar al cine las aventuras del capitán me han machacado con sus consejos -bienintencionados- sobre cómo y de qué manera tengo que rodar la película.

He detectado entre ellos cierto nerviosismo sobre la elección del actor protagonista. Todos tienen su favorito y la lista sería interminable. Recibo las sugerencias con un educado silencio.

También he recibido numerosas advertencias -éstas no sé si bienintencionadas- sobre los peligros de una versión cinematográfica de Alatriste. Todas ellas apuntan a la "dificultad" que tenemos los directores españoles para hacer películas de época. Todos me remiten al cine inglés, algunos al francés y los más pijoteros me hablan de El Gatopardo, Barry Lyndon y joyas parecidas. A éstos los escucho en silencio -esta vez no tan educado- y procuro evitarlos siempre que puedo.

Sólo salgo de mi mutismo cuando alguien me pregunta cómo de larga va a ser la película. Para estos amigos y amigas sí tengo respuesta, y les remito a la página 113 del Diccionario de Trueba. A la voz "Duración", que dice así:

"La duración de una película debe estar directamente relacionada con la resistencia de la vejiga humana" (Alfred Hitchcock), o "Todas las películas son largas y todas las pollas son cortas" (Billy Wilder).

Sin más, le deseo toda la suerte del mundo a Arturo con su nueva novela de la saga de Alatriste. Novela que Arturo me fue pasando, capítulo a capítulo, mientras la iba escribiendo para que yo pudiera utilizarla en mi guión. A un acto tan generoso, y tan impropio de un escritor, sólo se puede corresponder intentando hacer una película de la que él se sienta tan orgulloso como de su hijo, el capitán don Diego Alatriste y Tenorio.

El Capitán Alatriste [my bold]

Nunca mais





Chernobyl

25 abril 2006








Abril

Endangered Languages

SOME 6,500 languages spoken in the world today. And, according to the 2000 census, you can hear at least 92 of them on the streets of New York. You can probably hear more; the census lumps some of them together simply as "other."

But by the end of the century, linguists predict, half of the world's languages will be dead, victims of globalization. English is the major culprit, slowly extinguishing the other tongues that lie in its path. Esther Allen, a professor of modern languages at Seton Hall University, calls English "the most invasive linguistic species in the world." Spanish and Hindi are also spreading, subsuming the dialects of South American Indians, and of the Indian subcontinent.

In the next two weeks, however, some of these endangered idioms can be heard at two international literary festivals that celebrate languages big and small, as well as the power and resilience of words themselves. The festivals are taking place all over town, in places as diverse as the Studio Museum in Harlem, the New York Public Library, the Bowery Poetry Club and the United Nations.

The PEN American Center is holding its second World Voices Festival of International Literature, beginning Tuesday and running through April 30. Ms. Allen is the curator of the gathering, and the novelist Salman Rushdie is its chairman as well as a participant in a discussion at Town Hall on Wednesday night called "Faith and Reason" — the festival theme — with 134 writers from 41 countries around the world.

Among the 58 events is a panel, "Writers on Their Languages," with the novelist and poet Bernardo Atxaga, who writes in the endangered language of Euskera, or Basque, and Dubravka Ugresic, whose most recent novel is "The Ministry of Pain," and who writes in Croatian. Other writers scheduled to participate include Orhan Pamuk, from Turkey, E. L. Doctorow and Martin Amis.

Then there is the People's Poetry Gathering, from May 3 through May 7, sponsored by City Lore and the Bowery Poetry Club. There will be some 60 poets reading their work in English and in their native tongues. Among the highlights is a performance of poetry and music by Kewulay Kamara, whom City Lore commissioned to return to his boyhood home in Dankawali, Sierra Leone, in 2004 to recreate an epic poem destroyed during the recent civil war. The story goes back to before the birth of the Prophet Muhammad and incorporates slavery and colonialism in West Africa.

There will also be a reading by Robert Bly of some of his translations and his own poetry, and a program on endangered languages at the United Nations, co-sponsored by the United Nations SRC Society of Writers, the U.N. Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and the World Intellectual Property Organization.

American publishers have one of the lowest translation rates in the Western world, according to Andrew Grabois, a consultant for Bowker, which tracks the publishing business. Only 3 percent of books published in the United States are translations (4,114 in 2005), Mr. Grabois said, compared with, for example, 27 percent in Italy. As a result, linguists contend, much of the English-speaking world knows little of other countries and cultures.

English may be eating up other languages, but paradoxically translation into English is vital for their survival, Mr. Rushdie said. "People are not going to learn Serbian," he said. "If Serbian writers are going to survive in the world, they will have to be translated into English."

Ms. Allen said, "The whole point of this festival is inviting these people from outside English into the conversation, and making a place for them in English."

Among those invited to the Poetry Gathering is Mr. Kamara, of Sierra Leone. Mr. Kamara's native language is Kuranko, part of the Manden language group in West Africa. Mr. Kamara's father, Assan Fina Kamara, was a farmer and teacher of Koranic studies. The Kamaras are members of the Fina caste: orators, or M.C.'s, who recite at ceremonies like weddings and funerals. The younger Mr. Kamara came to the United States when he was 18. Now 52, he teaches in the African-American Studies department at John Jay College. His epic poem "Voices of Kings" tells of the origins of the Fina caste. One part relates the story of how the Prophet Muhammad rewarded an old couple for feeding him when he was hungry:

The old man returned to manhood

The old woman returned to womanhood

The child they bore

They called Fisana

Muhammad names Fisana and his Fina descendants, "the voices of faith."

The epic has many parts, and recitation can continue for hours, even days, Mr. Kamara said. He has also interwoven it with his own story.

"It's not linear, you can start anywhere," he said. So far he has written down about 100 pages. Mr. Kamara and Abdoulaye Diabate will sing and recite "Voices of Kings" at the Poetry Gathering accompanied by African instruments, the bala (a precursor to the xylophone), tama (talking drum), flute and horn.

Another endangered language being highlighted in both the Poetry Gathering and the PEN festival is Euskera, or Basque. Mr. Atxaga, the Basque writer, wrote in an e-mail message from Spain that he is fighting to preserve Euskera because it is "a language we know well, it helps us to live."

And, he said, there are the layers of subtleties and precisions that are lost when a language dies.

In the Basque language, for instance, gender exists only in the second person. "If you're speaking to a woman to ask her, for example, whether she has a book, you say 'Ba dun libururik,' " Mr. Atxaga said. "Whereas, to a man you'd say 'Ba duk libururik.' That nuance of 'n' or 'k' can be important in telling a story. Details are always important in literature."

Yet Mr. Atxaga said he disagrees with the idea that language gives insights into a people's consciousness and culture. "Presumably, a national epic can be translated," he said.

"All you need to do is read the thinking of the Nazis," he said. To them, "the German language was unique and carried with it a singular concept of the world and life, revealing the essence of the German people," he said. "This quickly reached absurd extremes."

Ms. Ugresic noted that the same thing has occurred in the former Yugoslavia, where language has become intensely politicized. Serbo-Croatian has broken up into Serbian, Croatian, Bosnian and Montenegrin, all of them very similar but with speakers of each language claiming — sometimes violently — the supremacy of their own. Beatings and book burnings have occurred when one group objected to the language of the author. "Crazy linguists are ready to project many things into languages," she said by phone from Amsterdam, where she lives. She added that languages are always in a continuous state of transformation, and that to try and get in the way is useless.

"Some languages are dying and some are appearing," she said. "That is a much deeper and more interesting dynamic."

Maybe, Ms. Ugresic said, the new language of globalization will be "Smurfentaal," a kind of slang with bits of Dutch and other languages, among them Moroccan, Turkish, Serbo-Croatian and Spanish, spoken by young people on the streets of Amsterdam.

"Every honest linguist will tell you the preservation of language is a lost battle," Ms. Ugresic said, "because you can't deal with language dogmatically. Language is a living thing.

"So let it go."

NY Times

Deutschland Unter Alles

Nos últimos anos da Segunda Guerra Mundial, os Aliados largaram um milhão de toneladas de bombas sobre a Alemanha. No entanto os alemães mantiveram-se silenciosos relativamente à devastação que daí resultou e á perda de vidas que esses terríveis bombardeamentos provocaram, não reconhecendo nunca a terrível sombra que a destruição vinda dos ares lançou sobre a sua terra. Neste livro, W. G. Sebald, um dos escritores mais brilhantes do século XX, pergunta-se e pergunta-nos porque é que viramos as costas aos horrores da guerra e, dirigindo a nossa resposta ao passado, oferece-nos uma visão corajosa e profunda sobre a forma como vivemos.

The Great American Screenplay

1. "Casablanca"

2. "The Godfather"

3. "Chinatown"

4. "Citizen Kane"

5. "All About Eve"

6. "Annie Hall"

7. "Sunset Boulevard"

8. "Network"

9. "Some Like It Hot"

10. "The Godfather II"

"Casablanca" and a pair of "Godfathers" are among the 101 greatest screenplays, according to members of the Writers Guild of America. Film and television writers ranked the screenplays in the guild's first best-of list, released this month.

The screenplay for 1942's "Casablanca," by Julius Epstein, Philip Epstein and Howard Koch, was chosen from more than 1,400 nominated works.

Woody Allen, Francis Ford Coppola and Billy Wilder each have four screenplays on the list. Charlie Kaufman, William Goldman and John Huston earned three mentions each.

10 HIGHEST-PAID SPEC SCRIPTS

$5 million: "Unbreakable," by M. Night Shyamalan

$4.5 million: "The Long Kiss Goodbye" by Shane Black

$4 million: "Land of the Free" by Joe Eszterhas (unproduced); "Panic Room" by David Koepp; "Foreplay" by Joe Eszterhas (unproduced)

$3 million: "Basic Instinct" by Joe Eszterhas; "Medicine Man" by Tom Schulman; "Bad Dog" by Dale Launer (unproduced); "The Sixth Sense" by M. Night Shyamalan; "The Superconducting Supercollider of Sparkle Creek, Wisconsin" by David Koepp and John Kamps (unproduced)

SCREENWRITERS SURVIVAL GUIDE

Soundest advice from a veteran: William Goldman's 1983 "Adventures in the Screen Trade"

Best screenwriting software: Final Draft 7.1 (List price: $289)

Most reliable instructional manual: Syd Field's 1979 "Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting"

Classic screenplay worth studying: Robert Towne's "Chinatown"

Best local screenwriting seminar: The Film School (spring session April 29-May 20, applications due April 10, go to thefilmschool.com)

Best local screenwriting showcase: Public readings at the SIFF Screenwriters Salon (seattlefilm.org)

Best local support system: The Northwest Screenwriters Guild (nwsg.org)

One-stop rundown of script contests: The Northwest Screenwriters Guild's Contest Database (nwsg.org/resources.php).

Read all from Seattle PI

Cortiçaaaaaaa

This one is called

Alentejo (2004)

These cork bowls and dishes were inspired by the traditional drinking vessel used by cork harvesters to stay hydrated in the hot, arid fields where cork trees grow. The only liquid I would recommend for these is water, but they are also perfect for fruit, candy, keys, and in a pinch, as a bicycle helmet. Trust me- one day soon it will be very fashionable to ride your bike around town with a big piece of cork strapped to your head...







Some facts about cork:

Cork is made from the bark of the Cork Oak (Quercus Suber L.), a tree which thrives in arid plains surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, largely in Portugal, Spain, Morocco, Sardinia and Sicily.

Cork is a renewable, sustainable product. In other words, the more the material is harvested, the more is created! Cork trees have the amazing ability to regenerate bark for harvest after only 10 years (compare that with chopping down a tree and waiting 30-50 years for it to grow back). If cork is not harvested regularly, the trees will become stunted and will live a considerably shorter life. Regular harvest = healthier orchards!

Contrary to popular belief, cork is not rare or endangered. Quite the contrary! During the height of its popularity in both architectural and industrial usage (peaking around 30 years ago) there was significant over-harvesting of the material, putting orchards at risk. However, as architectural popularity has waned and synthetic (and toxic) material have replaced cork in industry, a surplus of material has developed, as the trees must be harvested to maintain good health.


Cork is:

Recyclable. The material I use originates as the waste material from the production of bottle stoppers. My supplier buys back my leftover material to grind back up and use again.

Waterproof and extremely buoyant. It has been used traditionally in fishing and hunting to make floats for net, decoys, etc.

Naturally resistant to all forms of rot and mold growth. Your piece of cork will remained unchanged for centuries to come with normal use. I wish I could say the same thing about myself...

Naturally resistant to bacterial and microbial growth. No nasties hiding in your cork furniture, I assure you!

Highly absorbent of sound and vibration. This has been its primary industrial application. I put cork pads under my air compressor at the studio to keep it from walking across the floor. Voila-problem solved!

A fantastic insulator.

Naturally heat and fire resistant. Cork will turn black under extreme heat, but will not ignite. It is even used by NASA to line the interior of the Space Shuttle's fuel tanks!

Harvested using tools and methods largely unchanged for hundreds of years.

Daniel Michalik

23 abril 2006

Mais linces :Þ





Castañuela y Camarina, duas fêmeas

The Queen and the Soldier

The soldier came knocking upon the queen's door
He said, "I am not fighting for you any more"
The queen knew she'd seen his face someplace before
And slowly she let him inside.

He said, "I've watched your palace up here on the hill
And I've wondered who's the woman for whom we all kill
But I am leaving tomorrow and you can do what you will
Only first I am asking you why."

Down in the long narrow hall he was led
Into her rooms with her tapestries red
And she never once took the crown from her head
She asked him there to sit down.

He said, "I see you now, and you are so very young
But I've seen more battles lost than I have battles won
And I've got this intuition, says it's all for your fun
And now will you tell me why?"

The young queen, she fixed him with an arrogant eye
She said, "You won't understand, and you may as well not try"
But her face was a child's, and he thought she would cry
But she closed herself up like a fan.
And she said, "I've swallowed a secret burning thread
It cuts me inside, and often
I've bled"

He laid his hand then on top of her head
And he bowed her down to the ground.

"Tell me how hungry are you? How weak you must feel
As you are living here alone, and you are never revealed
But I won't march again on your battlefield"
And he took her to the window to see.

And the sun, it was gold, though the sky, it was gray
And she wanted more than she ever could say
But she knew how it frightened her, and she turned away
And would not look at his face again.

And he said, "I want to live as an honest man
To get all I deserve and to give all I can
And to love a young woman who I don't understand
Your highness, your ways are very strange."

But the crown, it had fallen, and she thought she would break
And she stood there, ashamed of the way her heart ached

She took him to the doorstep and she asked him to wait
She would only be a moment inside.

Out in the distance her order was heard
And the soldier was killed, still waiting for her word
And while the queen went on strangeling in the solitude she preferred
The battle continued on

Suzanne Vega

Strange Days

eleven years ago.
there are no SQUIDS around, as far as I know.
«Reif» can pull anything, as far as I'm concerned.
Great cast - Angela Bassett, Juliette Lewis (practicing for The Licks?), Michael Wincott (you know his voice and baddie roles), Tom Sizemore (Hollywood's great actor, greatest addict, nevermind Downey Jr.), there's even William Fichtner, silent as a killer mouse!

Cervantes Foreshadows Freud

On Don Quixote's Flight from the Feminine and the Physical

21 abril 2006

“It is the moment of non-construction, disclosing the absentation of actuality from the concept in part through its invitation to emphasize, in reading, the helplessness — rather than the will to power — of its fall into conceptuality.”

“The move from a structuralist account in which capital is understood to structure social relations in relatively homologous ways to a view of hegemony in which power relations are subject to repetition, convergence, and rearticulation brought the question of temporality into the thinking of structure, and marked a shift from a form of Althusserian theory that takes structural totalities as theoretical objects to one in which the insights into the contingent possibility of structure inaugurate a renewed conception of hegemony as bound up with the contingent sites and strategies of the rearticulation of power.”

To ask what this means is to miss the point. This sentence beats readers into submission and instructs them that they are in the presence of a great and deep mind. Actual communication has nothing to do with it.

[Bad Writing goes on]

Alphabets are as simple as...

If there is one quality that marks out the scientific mind, it is an unquenchable curiosity. Even when it comes to things that are everyday and so familiar they seem beyond question, scientists see puzzles and mysteries.

Look at the letters in the words of this sentence, for example. Why are they shaped the way that they are? Why did we come up with As, Ms and Zs and the other characters of the alphabet? And is there any underlying similarity between the many kinds of alphabet used on the planet?

To find out, scientists have pooled the common features of 100 different writing systems, including true alphabets such as Cyrillic, Korean Hangul and our own; so-called abjads that include Arabic and others that only use characters for consonants; Sanskrit, Tamil and other "abugidas", which use characters for consonants and accents for vowels; and Japanese and other syllabaries, which use symbols that approximate syllables, which make up words.

Remarkably, the study has concluded that the letters we use can be viewed as a mirror of the features of the natural world, from trees and mountains to meandering streams and urban cityscapes.

The shapes of letters are not dictated by the ease of writing them, economy of pen strokes and so on, but their underlying familiarity and the ease of recognising them. We use certain letters because our brains are particularly good at seeing them, even if our hands find it hard to write them down. In turn, we are good at seeing certain shapes because they reflect common facets of the natural world.

This, the underlying logic of letters, will be explored next month in The American Naturalist, by Mark Changizi, Qiang Zhang, Hao Ye, and Shinsuke Shimojo from the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. The analysis is simplistic but, none the less, offers an intriguing glimpse into why we tend to prefer some shapes over others when we communicate by writing.

The team set out to explore the idea that the visual signs we use have been selected, whatever the culture, to reflect common contours, landscapes and shapes in natural scenes that human brains have evolved to be good at seeing.

"Writing should look like nature, in a way," said Dr Changizi, explaining how similar reasoning has been used to explain the sounds, signs and colours that animals, insects and so on use to tell each other they are, for example, receptive to sex.

To be able to compare Cyrillic, Arabic or whatever, they turned to the mathematics of topology, which focuses on the way elements are connected together in a letter rather than overall shape, so that fonts do not matter and nor does handwriting, whether neat calligraphy or crudely written with a crayon grasped in a clenched fist.

For example, each time you see a T, geometrical features and frills such as serifs may differ according to the font or handwriting but the topology remains the same. By the same token, L, T, and X represent the three topologically distinct configurations that can be built with exactly two segments. And, to a topological mind, an L is the same as a V. In this way, the team could classify different configurations of strokes, or segments, to boil an alphabet of alphabets down to their essentials.

Across 115 writing systems to emerge over human history, varying in number of characters from about 10 to 200, the average number of strokes per character is approximately three and does not appear to vary as a function of writing system size. Sticking to letters that can be drawn with three strokes or fewer, the team found that about 36 distinct characters is the universe of letters in a theoretical alphabet.


Remarkably, the study revealed regularities in the distribution of (topological) shapes across approximately 100 phonemic (non-logographic) writing systems, where characters stand for sounds, and across symbols. "Whether you use Chinese or physics symbols, the shapes that are common in one are common in the others," said Dr Changizi.

For comparison, the team studied the shapes found in the real world, such as the Y shapes seen at the corner of a cube, or the simpler L and T shapes found in the branches of trees, yurts, huts, tepees and simple dwellings and so on.

They analysed the frequency of the shapes in 27 photographs of savannas and tribal life, 40 miscellaneous photographs of rural and small-town life and 40 computer-generated images of buildings. Much to their surprise, whether analysing the shapes in an urban landscape, or those in a leafy wilderness, they had very similar distributions of configurations and shapes.

Most striking of all, the team found a high correlation between the most common contour combinations found in nature and the most common contours found in letters and symbols across cultures. For example, contours resembling an "L" or "X" are more common in both human visual signs and natural scenes than anything resembling an asterisk (*).

When the popularity of each shape was plotted, a wiggly curve emerged that closely matched that of the popularity of the forms and architectures found in nature: the most common letter shapes mirrored common real-world shapes.

As a check that they had found something truly significant, they looked at the distribution of shapes found in trademark symbols. Once again, they follow the same plot, again suggesting that it is looks that matter, as one would expect for a logo, not ease of writing. The idealised flower used by BP may be hard to write but is easy to recognise because it mirrors a natural shape.

For comparison, they applied the same analysis to the shapes found in the scribbles of children and six kinds of shorthand, where it is ease of writing that is paramount. Now the distribution of shapes is not the same as found in nature. The easiest shapes to scribble are not the most common. Thus, the reason the letters of the alphabet are shaped as they are is to be in harmony with the mental machinery we have evolved to analyse the patterns of the natural world, not for ease of writing, said Dr Changizi.

"Vertebrates have evolved for tens of millions of years with their visual systems having to be good at recognising the configurations that are common out there in nature," he said. "We don't have really good mechanisms for recognising shapes that don't often occur in nature." As a result, letters and symbols based on rare natural shapes are themselves rarities.

Given how the distribution of features in our world is so similar, whether from an urban or a rural environment, the team would not expect writing systems that evolved among peoples who lived in desert regions to differ much from those of tribes in tropical rainforests. Nor does he expect keyboards to have much impact: "Despite the growth in the number of fonts, almost none of which is written by hand any more, they appear to possess the same shapes as they always did."

There is a cosmic dimension to this study. Dr Changizi speculates that if there is intelligent alien life in the universe, then so long as these creatures live, like us, among "macroscopic opaque objects strewn about", they will evolve writing symbols like our own. Alphabets on a planet orbiting another sun will, if materials, light and shade are similar to our own world, have features in common with those used on Earth: if ET writes home, we may think there is something familiar about his handwriting.

[From the Telegraph]

Vodka, elixir of the masses

N FALL 1977, the state vodka monopoly of the Polish People's Republic filed suit in an international trade court claiming that vodka had first been distilled in Poland. For this reason, it argued, only Polish firms had the right to sell the clear alcohol in foreign markets under the name "vodka," just as champagne produced outside France's Champagne region usually must be labeled "sparkling wine."

An incredulous Soviet Ministry of Trade initially ignored this as a joke. Who doubted that vodka was as Russian as St. Basil's Cathedral? But it was a particularly pernicious joke, touching the tender parts of the Russian soul, not to mention Warsaw Pact solidarity.

The Soviet trade ministry grudgingly asked the Higher Scientific Research Institute of the Fermentation Products Division of the Central Department of Distilling of the Ministry of the Food Industry of the USSR to investigate. When state archives revealed little about vodka's Russian provenance, the task fell to a historian named William Pokhlebkin. After years of painstaking research, he concluded that vodka was probably first distilled in a Moscow monastery between 1440 and 1478, decades before its alleged appearance in Poland.

Etymologically, vodka in Russian means "little water." And because the average Russian guzzles a world-best 5.2 gallons per year, a little water has gone a long way in damaging the collective body politic. A few years ago, the Finnish physician directing the Russian office of the World Health Organization explained: "If you did this in Finland, half the population would be dead in a year. This is clearly not normal."

The Russian people disagreed. "It's our way of life. How can we stop drinking with a climate like ours?" said one. From another: "Our people are willing to live in poverty, but if the government tries to make them stop drinking, it might lead to social unrest. Nobody can make us stop drinking."

Not that the powers didn't try. In 1917, the Bolsheviks banned vodka and condemned drunkenness as a "social evil irreconcilable with the proletarian ideology," perhaps because they believed, as Friedrich Engels had stated, that drinking was the bane of the working classes. It is probably closer to the truth to say that work was the bane of the drinking classes. No vocation without intoxication, cried the workers, and in 1924, the ban was reversed — an early instance of Soviet utopianism succumbing to Russian reality. It was downhill from there.

Alcohol consumption rose through the decades, and not until the 1980s did the government try again to limit it. Mikhail Gorbachev's perestroika included a "war on drunkenness." Alcohol consumption began to decline. At the same time, there emerged unusual shortages of cologne, mouthwash and other alcohol-containing substances, as well as sugar, which can be employed in home brewing. Ultimately, instead of defeating alcoholism, perestroika ended in history's biggest hangover.

So, as Lenin asked: "What is to be done?" Pokhlebkin was not only a historian but a Soviet patriot, and when his research was published as a book ("A History of Vodka"), he added a chapter lamenting what he saw as Russia's descent into alcoholism. Drunkenness, he argued, is incompatible with socialist principles; it undermines worker morale and productivity.

Some of his proposals were radical by Russian standards — revoking the licenses of drunk drivers, encouraging people to attend clinics (Alcoholics Anonymous was banned under the Soviet Union) — but he did make one point that National Rifle Assn. members will recognize and all votaries of free will can endorse: Vodka doesn't intoxicate people, people do. It follows that to avoid drunkenness, the people must simply drink properly.

Today, working Russians have as much need as ever to know how Pokhlebkin's principles might answer Lenin's question. It might go something like this: A good proletarian doesn't have a drinking problem, except when he can't find a drink. Vodka, after all, is the oil that keeps Russia's gears turning. Funerals, folk holidays and festivals all require it.

The informed worker knows that vodka's therapeutic merits far surpass those of the Soviet-Russian mental health system. Nor would he tempt fate by trekking out into the snow — best known for destroying invading armies — without a fortifying swig or three. This winter, during Moscow's cold spell (-30 C and below), one circus trainer served his elephant a bucket of vodka for warmth. The ungrateful pachyderm lost his sense of decorum and proceeded to destroy the circus' only radiator.

Russia is a land that has stumbled fatefully from Third Rome to Third International to Third World, and vodka has always been there to help things along. In 1982, the tribunal appointed to decide the matter of vodka's origin ruled in the Soviet Union's favor, affirming that genuine vodka was Russian — or Russian vodka was genuine, whichever it was. A happy conclusion, followed shortly by the fall of communism in Europe, to which we can always raise a glass and say, as they do in Russia, not without a touch of irony: Na zdarovye — "To your health!"

[From the LA Times]

20 abril 2006

Inside Man / Infiltrado

How can a movie barely showing Clive Owen-in-the-lead's face be so appealing for girls? Girls are no different than boys, all we want is a good movie, one that tickles brains and...

And then there's Denzel...

For me it is a heist movie - so they said - and a film noir, epitomized by Keith Frazier's hat and Terence Blanchard's score, a movie about New York after 9/11 - so they said - and a character movie.

And then there's Jodie...

Play a Hostage Situation game and access the website
here

Magic :)

Man, I'm totally falling down on the job, here -- there are FOUR magician movies due out in the next 18-24 months, not three. I'm so sorry to have misled you the other day. The fourth, entitled The Illusionist, actually already premiered at Sundance, but it somehow slipped through our collective net while we were there, and we failed to even register its existence. That all changes here and now, however: The Illusionist stars Edward Norton as a magician in Vienna in 1900, and is an adaptation of a short story by Steven Millhauser called Eisenheim the Illusionist. (Just so you know, I just watched some clips and read the review at Variety and, despite the fact that Rufus Sewell is sporting some truly frightening facial hair, I'm now so excited about this movie that I almost wish I still didn't know about it. Dammit. All this wait!) In the movie, Norton's character falls in love with a woman above his proverbial station -- played, boys, by one Jessica Biel -- and when she marries a prince (that's Sewell),...

From Cinematical

Movie Clip from Variety

Edward Norton's website

Film of the book: top 50 adaptations revealed

From words to pictures

1984
Alice in Wonderland
American Psycho
Breakfast at Tiffany's
Brighton Rock
Catch 22
Charlie & the Chocolate Factory
A Clockwork Orange
Close Range (inc Brokeback Mountain)
The Day of the Triffids
Devil in a Blue Dress
Different Seasons (inc The Shawshank Redemption)
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (aka Bladerunner)
Doctor Zhivago
Empire of the Sun
The English Patient
Fight Club
The French Lieutenant's Woman
Get Shorty
The Godfather
Goldfinger
Goodfellas
Heart of Darkness (aka Apocalypse Now)
The Hound of the Baskervilles
Jaws
The Jungle Book
A Kestrel for a Knave (aka Kes)
LA Confidential
Les Liaisons Dangereuses
Lolita
Lord of the Flies
The Maltese Falcon
Oliver Twist
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
Orlando
The Outsiders
Pride and Prejudice
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
The Railway Children
Rebecca
The Remains of the Day
Schindler's Ark (aka Schindler's List)
Sin City
The Spy Who Came in From the Cold
The Talented Mr Ripley
Tess of the D'Urbervilles
Through a Glass Darkly
To Kill a Mockingbird
Trainspotting
The Vanishing
Watership Down

19 abril 2006

Here's how to act British (for US citizens)

I will confess that my first impression of Britain, after arriving from America at the age of 27, was neither poetic nor original. Looking out the taxi window, I did not at once apprehend the air of pervasive melancholy, or remark upon the begrimed splendour of London's glowering facades. I just noticed how easy it would be to amend all the TO LET signs so they read TOILET, and wondered why no one had bothered. "What is it with these people?" I thought to myself. "Have they no sense of humour?"

Americans don't travel well. We are one of our least successful exports, to the extent that the US State Department, in conjunction with US businesses, has issued a 16-point pamphlet telling its citizens how to avoid behaving idiotically while abroad. It advises them not to brag and not to lecture. It says it is inappropriate to tell people about the Bible "unless you are a professional missionary identified as such."

This is a good idea. There are undoubtedly some Americans who will look at the tips and decide against travelling at all - if they can't bore on about the Superbowl or walk around Paris recommending the Bible to people, what's the point? But it doesn't go far enough for American visitors to Britain. If you want to avoid being openly hated, by all means take the State Department's advice, but if you wish to escape being secretly loathed, you need to take the following extra precautions.

Don't bring along any articles about British food clipped from the travel section of your local newspaper. The information therein does not apply. People rarely eat any of those foods with quaint names - Plum Duff, Spotted Dick, etc - commonly associated with Britain. They are being laid on for your benefit, or rather as a sort of prank.

In the UK overt displays of friendliness are taken as a sign of brain damage. This sounds horrible, but actually it's a fairly good rule of thumb. Try to match your moroseness to those around you. Occasionally you will run across that rare British person who is not just friendly but outgoing, helpful, charming and loquacious. He is a con man.

Try not to walk about dressed for several competing extremes of weather. This is an insult to the natives. You're making it look as if their country is barely habitable. Also, check to see what your clothes are advertising: is it a software firm in your home state, or a local roofing contractor, or your Bible studies group's rafting weekend? Contrary to popular belief, such T-shirts are not conversation starters.

Finally, ask yourself: do you hate George Bush enough to travel? You may think you hate him a lot, but once abroad your denunciations of the man and his policies will have to be forthright and tireless. Every time you want to say, "So you guys say crisps for chips, and chips for fries, right?", stop, think, and then say "George Bush - what an asshole" instead. Soon people will start smiling at you on the bus. But don't take it too far: America has her spies everywhere.

[From the Guardian]
[I found the Guide]

So the idea is to save trees?

Pr1ce1e$$





When the English tongue we speak.
Why is break not rhymed with freak?
Will you tell me why it’s true
We say sew but likewise few?
And the maker of the verse,
Cannot rhyme his horse with worse?
Beard is not the same as heard
Cord is different from word.
Cow is cow but low is low
Shoe is never rhymed with foe.
Think of hose, dose,and lose
And think of goose and yet with choose
Think of comb, tomb and bomb,
Doll and roll or home and some.
Since pay is rhymed with say
Why not paid with said I pray?
Think of blood, food and good.
Mould is not pronounced like could.
Wherefore done, but gone and lone -
Is there any reason known?
To sum up all, it seems to me
Sound and letters don’t agree.

JK Rowling Rants Against Being Thin

Her website alone is amazing.
Click Extra Stuff > Miscellaneous > For Girls Only, Probably...
and enjoy it all :)

Erotica penetrates mainstream markets

Sigh. That headline was so good, I need a smoke.


These are the amazing bloggers

18 abril 2006

Just Say When :[

When will they be available?

«A public lecture by Albert Power to celebrate the donation of books by and about Bram Stoker and his fictional creation, Dracula, from the library of the late Leslie Shepard.

The books were donated by his daughter, Jill Shepard Glenstrup.»

Dublin City Library


«The books were collected over several decades by Englishman Leslie Shepherd, who developed a strong interest in the occult and the paranormal.

He edited books of vampire and horror stories and campaigned for recognition for Bram Stoker in Dublin, the city where the author was born in Clontarf in 1847.»

From Belfast Telegraph but no longer available for free :(

Cobain and Plath: Desire to Burn

(...) Cobain didn’t read with an open mind. He sought what resonated with his fiercely puritanical disenchantment, and with his plan to get rich and famous “and kill myself like Jimi Hendrix,” which he announced to at least seven friends in junior high school.
(...)
We can study his poetical imagination at work by reading the only poem in his published journals, “A Young Woman, a Tree,” by award-winning poet Alicia Ostriker. Cobain’s response to Ostriker’s poem demonstrates that he died by a willful act of misreading.
On page 204 of his journals, he incorporated “A Young Woman, a Tree” into a drawing.
(...)
The drawing is meant to contrast the muscular comic-book superhero head—the public myth—with the shabby private reality of what he called his “Auschwitz” body, which shamed him.

Passing that fiery tree—if only she could
Be making love,
Be making poetry,
Be exploding, be speeding through the universe
Like a photon, like a shower
Of yellow blazes—

(...) Cobain stops there, missing the ultimate point of the poem, which is one of endurance. The poem continues:

She believes if she could only overtake
The riding rhythm of things,
Of her own electrons,
Then she would be at rest
If she could forget school,
Climb the tree,
Be the tree,
Burn like that.


[From his journals]
“I used to have so much energy and the need to search for miles and weeks for anything new and different. Excitement. I was once a magnet for attracting new offbeat personalities who would introduce me to music and books of the obscure and I would soak it into my system like a rabid sex crazed junkie hyperactive mentally retarded toddler who’s just had her first taste of sugar.”

[the her amazes me]

But as the poem continues, the girl lives to learn the true lesson of creativity:

She doesn’t know yet, how could she
That this same need
Is going to erupt every September
And that in 40 years the idea will strike her
From no apparent source,
In a Laundromat
Between a washer and a dryer,
Like one of those electric light bulbs
Lighting up near a character’s head in a comic strip—
There in that naked and soiled place
With its detergent machines,
Its speckled fluorescent lights,
Its lint piles broomed into corners as she fumbles for quarters
And dimes, she will start to chuckle and double over
Into the plastic baskets’
Mountain of wet
Bedsheets and bulky overalls—
Old lady! She’ll grin,
beguiled at herself,

Old lady! The desire to burn is already a burning! How about that!

He felt he had exhausted all creative possibilities: if you think his posthumously released tune “You Know You’re Right” sounds like the same old formula, he felt the same way. In his journals, he sarcastically envisions Nirvana as a washed-up oldies act.

(...) the Cobain cult seems to me very much like the cult of Sylvia Plath as a poet. Passion and power as artists, tangled in poisonous self-contempt, contempt for the world, two sides of the same coin. Here are some lines of Plath’s, from the poem ‘Lady Lazarus’:

Dying
Is an art, like everything else.
I do it exceptionally well.
I do it so it feels like hell.
I do it so it feels real.
I guess you could say I’ve a call.

“If there’s an afterlife,” writes Ostriker, “I can picture Plath and Cobain prowling through it together.”


Read all at Poetry Foundation

16 abril 2006

Wishlist

French edition, Edition translated to English

13 abril 2006

Melancholy



"Melancholy: Genius and Madness in Art" is now showing in Berlin's Neue Nationalgalerie. Laszlo Földenyi traces the strands that make the show the foremost of its kind.

For years now, a postcard has been sitting on my shelf, propped against some books. It shows a 5,000-year-old Egyptian alabaster figurine. It is said to be the most ancient animal sculpture in Berlin's Egyptian Museum. This statuette, 52 cm high, is connected with Narmer, the last king of the Pre-Dynastic Era. Squatting down like a human being, with its legs tucked underneath it and a protruding snout, this creature stares into space with a look of unutterable indifference.

I am certain that were I capable of peering like that I would see nothing at all. My gaze would penetrate everything it met, adhering to nothing. Or I might instead perceive everything, while simultaneously sensing its sheer futility. The baboon's gaze is "bestial". Welling up within it, nonetheless, seems to be a presentment of other horizons, those that have always evoked yearning in the human soul, presumably because people were never able to conceptualize these intimations. Since the beginning of time, we have been tormented by the incomprehensible. In the form of melancholy.


Read on and find out paintings' titles and authors in Sign and Sight

Ora nunca é de mais

José Saramago has a taste for alternative realities, for the use of fiction as a form of speculation. In one of his novels (The Stone Raft, 1986), the Iberian Peninsula breaks off physically from the rest of Europe and floats away into the Atlantic. In another (The Gospel According to Jesus Christ, 1991), we read a detailed account of Christ's inmost thoughts. In yet another (Blindness, 1995), a sudden affliction unknown to science robs a whole population of its sight. There is a political edge to all these stories, and more than a hint of allegory. But none of them is as openly political as Seeing, Saramago's new novel, first published in Portuguese in 2004. In the other works things inexplicably happen to people; in this one people are what happen to a whole country, and especially to its capital.

The novel opens with an elegant deception, a form of bluff. There is terrible weather in the city on election day; no one is showing up at the polling booths. Perhaps no one will come at all, and this will be the country's first election with absolutely no votes cast. But the weather clears up, and people start voting even in the rain. Absence is not the problem. The problem is the votes themselves: 13 percent for the party on the right, 9 percent for the party in the middle and, 2.5 percent for the party on the left. The rest of the votes, more than 70 percent, are blank. The government, in consternation but still clinging to the constitution, has the mandatory second election the following week. This time 83 percent of the votes are blank. The people of the city have not abstained from voting, and they have not spoiled their ballots. They have not written in candidates. They have democratically objected to the particular form of democracy on offer.

All on Slate





Are there really 988,968 words in the English language?

How many words are there in the English language?

No one knows. But that hasn't stopped an operation known as the Global Language Monitor from proclaiming that—as of this writing—there are exactly 988,968 words in English. GLM has done a remarkable job suckering even the respectable press into believing that we're on the verge of adding the millionth word to English—at which point we'll presumably see another flurry of articles about GLM. Even so, its claim is a bogus one.

The problem with trying to number the words in any language is that it's very hard to agree on the basics. For example, what is a word? If run is a verb, is the noun run another word? What about the inflected forms ran, runs, and running? What about words with run as a base, such as runner and runnable and runoff and runway? Are compounds, such as man-bites-dog, man-child, man-eater, manhandle, man-hour, man of God, man's man, and men in black, to be counted once or many times?

Another question: What is English? The word veal, borrowed from French in the 14th century, seems to be English, as does spaghetti, a 19th-century Italian borrowing. But what about pho, a Vietnamese soup found from the 1930s but only recently common? Or the yet-more-recent banh mi sandwich? What about shurpa, a Bukharian soup, which can apparently be eaten in New York? What about words used by non-native English speakers in Singlish?

Even sticking with something that we can agree is English, what about obsolete words? Variant spellings? Regional dialects? What about words that are widespread, but only in a highly limited subgroup, such as bone, "a pre-1946 Martin guitar made of Brazilian rosewood having herringbone purfling on its top," GAS, "to ardently desire to purchase guitars" (from 'Guitar Acquisition Syndrome'), or hog "a guitar having a mahogany top, back, and sides," used among collectors of vintage guitars?

What about Frizzie, "student of Ms. Frizzle" or busigator, "the Magic School Bus transformed into an alligator," in the books I'm reading to my daughter? What about Giant, "a player on the N.Y. Giants football team"? The most comprehensive abbreviations-dictionaries include about 500,000 entries, most of which wouldn't be found in standard dictionaries. The American Chemical Society has a registry of over 84 million named chemical substances, and there are about a million named species of insects alone; surely these must count as words?

What about obvious forms? Dictionaries include great-grandfather but not great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather, which is real enough to get over 3,500 Google hits. Only the most basic numbers are typically included; Merriam-Webster, for example, includes twenty-one and twenty-two, but not twenty-three or thirty-one. In fact, if you were to count every number between 0 and 999,999 as a word, you'd have a cool million right there—and still have the rest of the English language to account for.

At the other end of the scale, estimates of the number of words that an average person uses range from a few thousand (the number a person might actively use in a week) to many tens of thousands (the number an educated person might understand) or more. College-size dictionaries typically include almost 200,000 words (using a formula that counts each separately listed word or word-form); unabridged dictionaries from 300,000 to 600,000 or so. But each of these words is listed not for any intrinsic reason, but because a lexicographer decided it was useful to include. Twenty-three is just as real a number as twenty-two, but it doesn't have a common bullet caliber associated with it, so it often gets left out. Team names, as a class, generally fail to make the cut. We could always add words to the dictionary if there were no limitations on time or space.

So, where does that leave us? It's probably possible to devise criteria that would allow us to conclude that there are about a million words in English. (The dictionary publisher Merriam-Webster goes for "roughly 1 million words" in its discussion of this particular question, although elsewhere, they suggest that the figure could be many millions.) But there's no possible way to count the actual number of words in the language, and the idea of having a running counter, as is found on GLM's home page, is absurd. So, why have journalists fallen for the claim? I think it's the pseudo-scientific nature of GLM's "methodology": The company claims to use an "algorithm" called the "Predictive Quantities Indicator," so its figures must be right. According to the company's Web site, though, the PQI's count of English words is based on the entry list of a number of major dictionaries, so from the outset we know we're just getting a summation of lexicographers' judgment calls—including scientific, obsolete, and dialect forms—rather than an accurate, independent analysis of current English. Still, it sounds impressive to some. I recently got a call about GLM from a reporter, and when I explained why the million-word claim is bogus, he practically shouted, "But they have an algorithm!"

And they'll have a good party this summer, for the credulous among us.

Slate

What's long, pale and drenched in a white cream sauce?

oh dear...
Ze Germans...
Ze Germans are obsessed with asparagus:

In the summer of 1943, the Bomber Command of Britain's Royal Air Force began what it chose to call Operation Gomorrah, "five major and several minor" aerial attacks on the German city of Hamburg, "with the aim of wiping Hamburg from the map of Europe." Most of the bombs it dropped were incendiaries, "small bombs filled with highly flammable chemicals, among them magnesium, phosphorus and petroleum jelly." The result was "the first ever firestorm created by bombing, and it caused terrible destruction and loss of life," almost entirely among civilians. At least 45,000 human corpses were found in the ruins, and more than 30,000 buildings were destroyed. A.C. Grayling writes:

"In the cellars, otherwise unscathed people suffocated to death. Police reports and eyewitness accounts later confirmed many of the horror stories told 'of demented Hamburgers carrying bodies of deceased relatives in their suitcases -- a man with the corpse of his wife and daughter, a woman with the mummified body of her daughter, or other women with the heads of their dead children.'"

[Read on at the Washington Post]

11 abril 2006

Gender Prefs for Literature

The novel that means most to men is about indifference, alienation and lack of emotional responses. That which means most to women is about deeply held feelings, a struggle to overcome circumstances and passion, research by the University of London has found.

Men:
The Outsider by Albert Camus
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald
Brighton Rock by Graham Greene
Catch 22 by Joseph Heller
High Fidelity by Nick Hornby
Ulysses by James Joyce
Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by Milan Kundera
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
1984 by George Orwell
The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien
The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut

Women:
1. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
(lenghty discussion)

2. To Kill a Mockingbird

Harper Lee's only novel is a quasi-autobiographical depiction of her childhood in the Deep South. Focusing on the adventures of the young girl Scout, her brother Jem and their friend Dill, the book depicts the bitter racism that Lee saw as a child. Scout's father, Atticus Finch, defends an innocent black man against accusations of rape by a white woman.

3. Jane Eyre

Is this a tale of a repressed, dependent woman who ultimately marries her tyrannical employer? Or is it a groundbreaking work, full of metaphorical allusions to a woman embracing her sexuality? Whichever reading you subscribe to, Charlotte Brontë's novel is an odd choice for a book that makes women "feel proud to be a woman".

4. The Women's Room

Hugely influential when it was published in 1977, Marilyn French's book now reads more as a fascinating period piece than as a timeless feminist tome. It depicts the joyless marriage between a middle-class woman and her bullying husband, and includes the infamous line "all men are rapists, they rape us with their eyes, their laws, their codes".

5. The Handmaid's Tale

Margaret Atwood's satiric novel depicts a society in which women are forced to have miserable sex with men they dislike and are forbidden from having jobs or owning any property. Quite how this book makes any woman feel proud to be a woman or changes the way she looks at herself is something to ponder.


Linking to The Guardian

10 abril 2006

This is Absolutely True

'cos these babies here belong to a friend of my friend Miguel :)

Wonder Shoes :)

Masai Barefoot Technology ...

… activates neglected muscles
… improves posture and gait
… tones and shapes the body
… can help with back, hip, leg and foot problems
… can help with joint, muscle, ligament and tendon injuries
… reduces stress on knee and hip joints

Increased muscle activity when walking:

Lower limbs ......................... + 18 %
Rear thigh muscles ............... + 19 %
Buttock muscles ................... + 9 %
Oxygen intake ...................... + 2,5 %

Increased muscle activity when standing:

Lower limbs .......................... + 38 %
Rear thigh muscles ................+ 37 %
Buttock muscles .................... + 28 %
Stresses on knee and hip joints – 19 %
Improved posture and more upright gait

Spanish/Iberian (!) website


Obrigada à Bolotinha :)

07 abril 2006

06 abril 2006


Pastor soriano, 1955

Pictures by Jose Ortiz Echagüe

05 abril 2006

Stunning Ads







Thanx to AdBlather

But Gordon Ramsay on Portuguese treats

(back on Euro 2004 days...)

Writing this, I've got no idea who will be playing in tomorrow night’s Euro 2004 final, but whoever it is, the fans are in for some real treats, and not just on the pitch. Portuguese is a largely neglected cuisine, and I think unfairly. They produce some great earthy, rustic food and make fantastic use of their coastline. My sister-in-law comes from a small coastal town north of Lisbon, and she goes back every August. It’s miles away from the golf courses and the international set of the Algarve - you don’t have to worry about bumping into Cliff Richard there - and the way of life doesn’t look like it’s changed in years. She’ll live for a month off grilled sardines, clams, mussels, cod, rich peasant stews - simple stuff but none the worse for that.

So here is my tribute to Portuguese cuisine. These are great, home-cooked and wholesome dishes and, if you want the authentic Euro finals experience, you could have it on hand to soak up the beers. Just have the steaks ready marinated or the cod casserole bubbling gently away during the first half and you’ll be tucking in in time for the half-time action replays. Make the most of it, though - it will all be frankfurters and sauerkraut next time around at the World Cup.

The Dali of Food

It’s 11pm, and outside the Fat Duck in Bray, Heston Blumenthal is being pursued across the road by a young Mancunian chef. He has brought his girlfriend down south on a culinary pilgrimage and is not leaving without a souvenir. “Can you sign this for the lads in the kitchen?” he asks, thrusting a menu into Blumenthal’s hands. The Fat Duck’s proprietor takes the menu, scribbles his name and draws a sketch of a chef’s knife. “Thanks, Heston, that’s wicked,” the gastro-fan beams and disappears off into the night.

Blumenthal is getting used to the autograph hunters. When a panel of international food pundits voted the Fat Duck the world’s best restaurant in April, the 39-year-old chef found himself elevated to the status of gastronomic messiah. In the past six years, his tiny cottage restaurant in the Berkshire commuter village has picked up three Michelin stars, wowing critics and diners alike with a menu that includes white chocolate and caviar, sardine-on-toast sorbet and green-tea and lime mousse “poached” in liquid nitrogen. After the best-restaurant title, even the tabloids sat up and took notice. The Sun sent a couple of readers along to sample the £97.50 tasting menu under the predictable headline “Snail porridge? I’d prefer a Big Mac”.

I mention this when we meet at the Hinds Head, the village pub in Bray, which he bought last year. There’s no snail porridge on the menu here, just an upmarket take on British food: oxtail and kidney pudding, pea and ham soup, lemon sole with spiced shrimp butter. It’s the approachable side of Blumenthal’s cooking, but still executed with a genius flourish. It is the porridge, though, that gets the headlines. “They always bring up that, and the egg-and-bacon ice cream,” he says. “I could have called the porridge fricassee of snails with oat risotto and nobody would have batted an eyelid. It’s all the things that classically go with snails: parsley and garlic and ham and almonds. The only contentious thing is whether you actually eat snails or not. And egg-and-bacon ice cream — the Victorians had loads of savoury ice creams. I have a recipe for parmesan ice cream that is 200 years old.”

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