31 julho 2007

I'm a Sucker for Rescue Stories ;)

Abandonned bebe ducks swimmin' in a teacup

People, The Daily Mail is reporting that an alert canoeist (is there any other kind? - Ed.) found a pair of tiny abandoned ducklings battling against waves after being washed out to sea.

Now, those ducklings are being nursed back to health—IN A TEACUP OMG!

Cute Overload, most naturally >:)

Fascinating: The Carpathians

The Carpathian Mountains (Romanian: Munţii Carpaţi; Polish, Czech, and Slovak: Karpaty; Ukrainian: Карпати (Karpaty); German: Karpaten; Serbian: Karpati / Карпати; Hungarian: Kárpátok) are the eastern wing of the great Central Mountain System of Europe, curving 1500 km (~900 miles) along the borders of Romania, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Ukraine, Austria, Serbia, and northern Hungary.

The name 'Karpetes' may ultimately be from the Proto Indo-European root *sker-/*ker-, from which comes the Albanian word kar (rock), perhaps by way of a Dacian word which meant 'mountain,' rock, or rugged. Polish archaic word karpa mean rugged irregularities, underwater obstacles/rocks, rugged roots or trunks. Common word skarpa is sharp cliff or other vertical terrain.

Yep, crossing Europe from the Black Sea to the Portuguese language ;)

Homage to Antonioni, Homage to Bergman

(July, 31, from a Guardian blog)

Ingmar Bergman left in the early hours of yesterday morning. Within a few hours, Michelangelo Antonioni had followed him through the exit door. It remains to be seen whether this signals the onset of some art-house apocalypse - some Biblical purge of revered European auteurs - but the omens are hardly encouraging. How are Godard, Resnais and Rohmer bearing up? Can we urge them to stay indoors, wrap up warm, and maybe put on some old DVDs. Anything to keep them out of circulation until the curse has run its course.

From the Comments :-D

They always come in threes..?

Though relatively unknown in the West, the Japanese master Kon Ichikawa is over 90 now. Even more venerable -- 100 next year, possibly -- is Manouel de Oliveira (don't think I've spelt him right).

CagedHorse, although the common spelling is "Manuel", the name is "Manoel de Oliveira" and he'll be 100 next year, having just premiered one film, finished shooting another one and started the production of the next film.


Zabriskie Point's soundtrack is unforgettable

"To say I was good or bad or not in an Antonioni film is like saying I like the colour yellow in a Van Gogh," wrote David Hemmings of his starring role in Blowup, and such a pithy description of the Italian director's methodology speaks volumes. For Antonioni, film wasn't about such minor considerations as plot, dialogue or character development; instead, it was about the big picture, allowing the viewer to glory in the surrealistic beauty of his chosen landscape. The perfect films to soundtrack, then.

And film soundtracks don't get any better than 1970's Zabriskie Point. Set in the sit-in centric world of late 60s California, Zabriskie Point aims for a complete disorientation of the senses. If the casting of photogenic unknowns Mark Frechette and Daria Halprin as the leads proved Antonioni's fondness for risk-taking, there would be no such gambles with the music. Having commissioned Pink Floyd to provide the soundtrack in late 1969, an unimpressed Antonioni included only three of their songs in the film - to give some idea of the quality of the rejected tunes, a re-titled Us And Them ended up on Dark Side Of The Moon.

The Floyd weren't alone in falling short of the irascible auteur's expectations. Despite visiting The Doors in the studio while recording LA Woman, the band failed to make the final edit, while John Fahey's Dance of Death, which was scheduled to accompany the orgy scene in the desert, was scrapped from the movie following an artistic dispute. The Grateful Dead's Jerry Garcia then stepped in with some hasty acoustic improvisations.

Yet from such inauspicious beginnings, the soundtrack to Zabriskie Point - reissued in 1997 to include the additional recordings by both the Floyd and Garcia - captures the dystopic mood of late 60s California in the same way as Performance reflects the murk of London.

"It was hell, sheer hell," recalled Pink Floyd's Roger Waters of the sessions. Maybe, but anyone who's seen the use of Come in Number 51, Your Time Is Up in the final climactic scene in Death Valley will know that as rock soundtracks go, Zabriskie Point is unforgettable.

28 julho 2007

Reinventing the whale

'I can promise you the trip of a lifetime." It was my first evening on board Searcher and the speaker was the vessel's captain, Art Taylor, a rugged 50-year-old Californian. Four times a year for the last 15 years, Art has been taking a maximum of 24 passengers on board his 95ft vessel on 12-day whale watching and nature tours around Mexico's Baja peninsula, at 800 miles one of the longest and narrowest in the world.

During that first briefing session, Art ran through the essentials. The accommodation would be comfortable - with air-conditioned cabins. The food would be plentiful, the crew skilled and knowledgeable. For those of us who wanted to see a desert environment, Baja California was sans pareil. On half a dozen occasions, we would be landing from skiffs on the mainland or on one of the islands and we would have a chance to hike through the wilderness, keeping a wary eye out for rattlesnakes, scorpions, tarantulas, centipedes and sandflies.

As for those of us who wanted above all to observe marine wildlife, we would, Art hoped, return home satisfied.

He ticked off the species we would be most likely to encounter. Seals and sea lions, dolphins, pelicans, ospreys, humpback whales . . .

"You may even get to see a blue whale," he said. "We usually do on these trips."

I have to admit, when I heard that last claim I was incredulous. As far as I knew, the blue whale, the largest creature ever to exist on the planet, was effectively extinct, its population driven to such low levels by decades of commercial whaling that it could never recover.

Was Art joking, I wondered?

Five days later, we had just finished lunch in the salon when we heard the captain's voice over the loudspeaker.

"Blue whale on the surface. Two hundred yards at one o'clock."

As I rushed to the bow, I heard a great swooshing noise. In the water just in front of the boat, I saw an immense blue-grey shape. The column of spray must have reached 30 or 40ft into the air, rising straight up like some gigantic geyser.

We stayed with that blue whale for three-quarters of an hour that afternoon. It spouted two or three times more as it moved slowly through the water ahead of us. Rob Nowajchik, Searcher's resident marine mammal expert and on-board lecturer, told us what was happening: "After three or four spouts, he'll be getting ready to dive."

I could see that the leviathan now seemed to be hunching its enormous back. The head was already under the surface and the dorsal fin had appeared.

"He's going to fluke!" Rob said.

A blue whale fluking at a distance of not much more than 100 yards is one of the most awe-inspiring sights I have ever witnessed. Ahead of us, the water boiled and churned and then, suddenly, we found ourselves once more looking at an empty ocean.

There is luck in this, of course. But there is also judgment. Experienced whale watchers look for the whale's footprints, unnaturally smooth and glassy patches of water caused by the upward pressure of the flukes on the water column. With clear seas and an animal the size of the blue whale, you can actually see the outline underwater long before it rises to the surface.

Still, as Searcher continued south, rounding the Cabo San Lucas and entering the Sea of Cortez, I found myself wondering whether that one sighting of a blue whale had been an accident. Seeing one specimen, however splendid, didn't mean that the species as a whole had been clawed back from extinction.

The Sea of Cortez, otherwise known as the Gulf of California, runs up on the inland side of the Baja California peninsula. Biologically, it is one of the richest bodies of water on the planet, supporting 900 species of marine vertebrates and 2,000 invertebrates. Searcher steamed north among some of the many islands that, collectively, have been designated a world heritage site. Around 4pm on Sunday April 1, we were off the northern end of San José island when we had a blue-whale experience that made that first afternoon's sighting seem like nothing more than the hors d'oeuvre. We found ourselves in the presence, not just of one blue whale but as many as 20.

At one point, a whale actually swam right under the boat. Its head emerged one side of the vessel while passengers were still leaning over the rail on the other side watching the tail.

"Must be a juvenile," Rob said, standing next to me. "It's not big enough for an adult."

I found myself uttering a quiet prayer of thanks. Here at least, I thought, in Mexico's Sea of Cortez, the blue whale must be breeding. If the species could bounce back here, maybe it could bounce back in other parts of the world as well.

During our time on the Sea of Cortez, we didn't just see blue whales. We saw humpbacks and sperm whales as well as fin and bryde's whales. The whole enchilada.

And the two days we spent with the grey whales in their lagoon breeding grounds on Baja's Pacific coast were, for many of those on board, as memorable as that magical afternoon we spent with the blue whales in the Sea of Cortez.

On our way south from San Diego, Searcher had encountered at various times at least 10 grey whales, heading north on their annual journey from the lagoons of Baja where they mate and breed, to their feeding grounds in the Bering Sea, 6,000 miles to the north off the coast of Alaska.

This is one of the world's most spectacular migrations. The grey whale may not be as large as the blue whale (around 40 or 50ft in length as opposed to 100), but it is nonetheless one of the great denizens of the deep. Hunted virtually to extinction in the 19th and 20th century, the grey whale has made an extraordinary recovery, and the population is now around 18,000.

Around 10am one morning, after waiting for the tide to rise, Searcher crossed the sandbar which separates San Ignacio lagoon from the open sea. Here each year, the grey whales come to calve, the warm waters of the lagoon providing an ideal nursery for their young who, as it were, find their feet here before accompanying their mothers on the long journey north.

Almost as soon as we had entered the lagoon, we could see whales spouting around us. The funnel of spray as a grey whale "blows" does not rise as high into the air as that of a blue whale, but it is still a dramatic sight. And the closer you get to them, the more remarkable these whales appear.

For a species that has absolutely no reason not to fear and loathe the human race, the grey whale seems remarkably forgiving. Indeed, one of the remarkable features of whale watching in San Ignacio lagoon is that quite often this seems to be a two-way process. You can be out on the lagoon with a local boatman in one of the licensed pangas when a grey whale, often with her calf, will push alongside the boat. They will raise their huge heads right over the side of the panga and you can find yourself, literally, eyeballing a 50-tonne monster, which could, if it so decided, send your frail craft to the bottom of the sea with one flick of its enormous tail.

I held out my hand to one animal as it approached us and felt the strange rubbery texture of the hide.

There seems to be no evidence that the whales object to this close contact and plenty of reason to suppose the opposite.

Our Mexican boatman that morning told us how a few years earlier, Mexico's then President Zedillo came to the lagoon with his wife and family. This was a crucial moment. The Japanese giant Mitsubishi was pressing very hard for permission to open a huge salt factory on the lagoon that could have threatened the very survival of the gray whale.

"The President and his wife and kids, they come out in my boat," Ernesto told us. "The President's wife, she kissed the whale right on its head that day. I saw it. I was there. So the president, when he saw his wife kissing the whale, he said 'Right. No more salt factory. We keep the lagoon just for the whales.' And he announced the end of the salt project that very day!"

This was not some apocryphal story. The Mitsubishi threat had been a real one. With an $80 million investment, the company hoped to generate annual revenues of $85 million. President Zedillo's intervention came in the nick of time. He left office the next day.

Whatever Mexico may have lost in terms of direct investment as a result of his brave decision, it has - I am sure - more than made up through the income generated by whale watching in Baja.

But the story doesn't end there. The international ban on commercial whaling, which has been in force since the mid-80s, is coming under increasing pressure. The battle between pro-whaling and anti-whaling nations was joined again in May this year in Alaska, when the International Whaling Commission held its annual meeting.

The Mexican government, proud of all that is has achieved in Baja, once more took the lead among nations determined to keep the ban in place. As a result, moves to end the moratorium on commercial whaling were defeated. As the importance of whale watching as an alternative to whale catching is now increasingly being recognised, we must hope that those countries which still ignore or subvert the ban - such as Japan and Norway - will finally realise that killing whales has no economic, moral or environmental justification.

Looking back at those 12 days on board Searcher off the coast of Baja California, I can't help thinking that Art Taylor's talk of a "trip of a lifetime" was amply justified. Eco-tourism is a term much misused. But in this particular case, I think we all of us felt that we were somehow helping to strike a blow that might in the long run - perhaps the very long run - restore the whales to their rightful place in the ocean.

What I will tell my son about cannabis

Consider it from the plant's point of view. At some point in its evolution, cannabis discovered that giving animals a buzz was a great way of ensuring the distribution of its seed.

It turns out that no animal likes a buzz as much as humans, who have employed our legendary ingenuity in amplifying the high and propagating the weed.

Now we find ourselves divided over the consequences. The majority of smokers try it, like it or don't, and move on. Some of us get into it and give it a lot of our time. Of those, some find ways of fitting lives around it, as fans, growers, dealers or all three. Others get into it and end up in terrible trouble: either because we start too young, or do too much, or have fragile minds, or all of the above.

Even a second's psychosis is no fun, as anyone who has had even a moment of the Fear will know. A week, a month or a year of it is a kind of living hell.

So we stand now in a weed field of paradoxes: cannabis is both quite safe and very dangerous. It would be better if no one did it but lots will do it, and morally, that is their right. It's the drug we use most and understand least. Its charm is its peril: everyone has a different response.

The debate now is reminiscent of a roomful of smokers, some laughing and high, some blushingly silent (difficult to contribute if you have an employer, a media, an entire society who will do you for "drugs"), some apathetic, and some in the corner, unwell. Looking in from the doorway are the legislators, wondering what on earth they should do.

The answer may well be clear to them: legalisation and education. It is the only approach, worldwide, which has ever been shown to work. But can you imagine what talk show TV and the tabloids would say? The public and the politicians are ahead of the media on this, and we all know it: complexity does not sell papers, while simple headlines do. (I know, I have tried to tell a complex, truthful story about dope, and seen it reduced in the papers to mush.)

Since hitherto we have acquiesced in what cannabis wanted from us, let us now consider our needs. Since the politicians cannot or will not help us, we must help ourselves. I have had the best and worst of times with dope, and have thought about what I will tell my son.

I will tell him that while he is young he is vulnerable, because his brain is growing. I will say that thanks to me, there is a history of instablility in his family: he must be twice as cautious as his friends. He should be protected, I will tell him: there should be a minimum age (I have never met a smoker who wished they had started earlier) but there isn't, so I will advise him to avoid it, and at the very least that he should wait.

I will explain that cannabis is a health issue that has been criminalised. I will not find him morally wrong, or rebellious, or stupid or self-destructive or incomprehensible if he decides to try. I will describe what psychosis is like: not because he will get it, but because there is a chance that he will. I will explain that the problem is like roulette: you only know the gun is loaded for you when it fires. I will tell him what it feels like, to have a shattered mind.

If and when he does try (and hell, he'll have my genes) I will roll him one thick with common sense. A little of what you fancy is probably fine. The more you use it, the more chance there is of it using you. The stronger it is, the more dangerous it is: skunk is just not worth it. The dangers are much greater, and the high, while more intense, is also less fun than gentler strains of weed. And of course it will all kill you, just like cigarettes do, in exactly the same ways.

And I will apologise to him. We knew so much but we refused to speak up. Our newspapers did not reflect the experiences of their writers. We knew what was best but we failed to push for it. Our politicians chose power over responsibility. We looked across the channel, at the honesty and maturity of Dutch policies, and we turned away. We saw a link between the most unequal society in Europe (ours) and the most drug-hungry (ours again) and failed to do anything about it. I will tug on his sleeve, and tell him my tales, but until it is uncool, clearly licensed and labelled, I will forgive him for going to find out my way, the hard way, the young way: for himself.

27 julho 2007

House of bamboo

It’s a miracle plant – a member of the grass family with more than 5,000 uses, from scaffolding to surfboards, fuel to furniture, musical instruments, food, cosmetics, aphrodisiacs and medicine. It’s part of the daily lives of up to half of the world’s population and more than a billion people overseas live in houses made from it. Bamboo – it’s one of the fastest growing plants on Earth, and adaptable enough to grow on every continent except at the Poles.

Bamboo is rated highly among architects and designers. ‘Bamboo is strong, flexible, durable and beautiful,’ says American architect Gale Beth Goldberg. Colombian architect Simon Velez, who has built sports stadia and enormous factory roofs from bamboo, calls it ‘steel from nature’. But it’s lighter than steel or concrete, and has a natural flexibility that they lack – which is why bamboo buildings fare better in earthquakes and hurricanes. ‘Bamboo is subtle, elastic and tenacious,’ says Goldberg. ‘It’s a survivor. It bends but it doesn’t break.’

The market for bamboo products in the UK is small, but a number of companies are pioneering its use…


At least six companies in the UK now offer bamboo flooring. Paul Robertson of London-based Urbane Living says, ‘It’s a fantastic product and it’s eco. Bamboo floors are easy to install and very durable: harder than oak and half its price.’ (His prices for bamboo start at £16.49 per square metre, compared to £31.64 for sustainable oak.)

David Burns, who runs Panda Flooring near Newcastle, says that ‘the biggest advantage is its sustainability. Nearly every customer is interested in that aspect.’ Housing developers are also catching on: Burns recently supplied 8,000 sq m of bamboo flooring for 110 new apartments in Manchester.

Furniture and furnishings

Bamboo furnishings are cheap and widely available: you can pick up a Bambu roll-up blind at IKEA for £1.59, or a Ken Hom Connoisseur Bamboo Steamer for £9.99 at Argos. Further upmarket, London-based designer Oliver Heath, renowned for his ‘urban eco chic’ approach, sells bamboo towels (spun in the UK) and chopping boards in his online store Ecocentric. Other stockists include Urbane Living (worktops and rugs), Bamboozled (beds, coffee tables, chairs, shelves and stools), OKA (bathmats), One Village (placemats and lampshades), Nigel’s Eco Store (towels), The Pier (placemats, rugs, bowls and vases) and UK Bamboo Supplies (tables, indoor screens and more).


The bamboo textiles market is growing. Bamboo fibre works well for towels as it is soft, durable, anti-bacterial and three times as absorbent as cotton. Interest in bamboo clothing is mushrooming. ‘We’ve had over 1.5 million hits on our website since launching in July last year,’ says David Gordon from Bam: Bamboo Clothing, who sells bamboo fibre T-shirts in the UK.

‘In theory, bamboo fibre can be spun anywhere,’ says Graham Berry of Yorkshire-based company Camira, which is developing a ‘very durable’ bamboo/wool mix for office furniture.

Outdoor furniture

‘In the garden, bamboo furniture will last at least 10 years if looked after properly,’ says Chris Tilly of UK Bamboo Supplies, near Newcastle. He sells outdoor tables, screens, garden benches, planter boxes, gazebos and bamboo poles online. Many garden and outdoor centres sell bamboo screens and fences.

Gracing your garden

Paul and Diana Whittaker have more than 15 years’ experience of growing bamboo, and have 200-plus species at their Hardy Bamboo nursery in East Anglia. ‘It’s relaxing to have around as it’s so soft, graceful, light and airy – it’s always moving in the wind,’ Diana says. ‘And birds love it – it’s a bird haven.’

You can frustrate nosy neighbours by growing a living privacy screen – watch and be amazed at how much the plant can grow in just 18 months. But, living screens aside, you can’t build with bamboo grown in this country. ‘Nobody in the UK is growing bamboo for anything other than ornamental living plants,’ says Paul. ‘Here you can only grow temperate bamboo – you’d be lucky to get a diameter of two to three inches. You can’t grow the tropical bamboo that’s needed for construction.’


Herein lies the biggest obstacle to bamboo being a totally green option in the UK. To build anything you have to import 40ft container loads of the thick, tropical variety. Most of the bamboo used here comes from China, where it’s been grown for thousands of years and they are experts in its use. And although some companies, such as UK Bamboo Supplies, manufacture in this country, most bamboo products sold here are also made abroad. ‘The cost of manufacturing over here would put me out of business,’ says Panda Flooring’s David Burns.

Some of the processes used to transform the plant from its raw state to products such as floorboards (eg. laminating or sometimes bleaching) are further potential flaws on bamboo’s otherwise sustainable CV. Some adhesives used for floorboards contain the toxic chemical formaldehyde, although Panda Flooring and Urbane Living both use non-toxic alternatives.

So, bamboo may not be the future building material of the temperate world. However, as an aesthetically pleasing and sustainable alternative to wood, plastic and metal, it’s hard to beat. Whether we admire it as a living plant or use it as a fibre, flooring, furniture or a fence, bamboo deserves to be called a miracle plant.

Bamboo Facts

  • Giant bamboos shoot up at the rate of more than a metre a day, reaching heights of 30m (98ft) or more and diameters of up to 25cm. An 18m (60ft) bamboo cut for market will take a mere 59 days to replace, whereas the same size oak tree will take from 40 to 70 years.
  • Bamboo releases 35 per cent more oxygen and absorbs at least four times more carbon dioxide than a forest of rees.
  • Construction-grade bamboo is ready to harvest in just three to five years, compared with 10 to 20 years for timber; and its yield is up to 25 times more. A single bamboo clump can produce up to 15 kilometres of usable pole (up to 30cm in diameter) in its lifetime.
  • Harvesting bamboo does not kill the whole plant, so there’s no need for replanting – it just grows back.
  • It’s good for the soil: the underground network of bamboo stems knits it together and prevents soil erosion. Bamboo can even grow in soil that has been damaged by erosion, overgrazing or commercial agriculture and is typically grown without fertilisers or pesticides.

26 julho 2007

Questions for Matt Groening

“The Simpsons Movie,” opening on Friday, reminds us of your substantial role in giving masterpiece status to cartoons and animation. Do you see yourself as an A-level artist? No. Cartooning is for people who can’t quite draw and can’t quite write. You combine the two half-talents and come up with a career.

How much of the movie is hand-drawn? We used a combination of cheap labor and computers.

What does that mean? You outsourced the film to animators in China? No. When I say cheap, I mean there’s no amount of money that an animator can be paid — they deserve our eternal gratitude. I would give them back massages if they would take them.

One highlight of 20th-century art is surely Marge Simpson’s blue beehive hairdo. That was inspired by a combination of my own mother’s hairstyle in the 1960s and, of course, “The Bride of Frankenstein.”

Marge’s hair also puts one in mind of Queen Nefertiti and makes her seem regal beside her husband. Any woman would seem regal in comparison to Homer.

In its 18 years on Fox, “The Simpsons” has taken more than a few swipes at Rupert Murdoch, the network’s politically conservative owner. Do the two of you ever hang out? Not really, but he’s been gracious every time I’ve met him. He played himself on the show, and we wrote the line, “I’m Rupert Murdoch, the billionaire tyrant, and this is my skybox,” as his entrance line. He performed it with great zeal.

Would you like to see him buy The Wall Street Journal? I think he owns enough.

In your film, a character named President Arnold Schwarzenegger occupies the Oval Office. How did that happen? We needed a president that would make people laugh. And Schwarzenegger was the obvious choice.

You’re known to be a fairly active Democrat. I’ve rarely voted for a winner in my political life, with the exception of Al Gore.

For all its supposedly subversive humor, “The Simpsons” is basically pro-family and celebrates the consolations of domestic togetherness. The show is celebrating the people who drive you crazy, and that’s basically been it from the very beginning.

It’s unimaginable that Marge and Homer will ever divorce. No, they love each other — they’re nuts about each other. I guess there is a little bit of wish fulfillment on the part of the writers. We want it to work out for somebody.

Your own family has not remained intact. Is there anything to say about your divorce? The demise of marriage and the breaking up of a family is a big drag for everyone.

Do you enjoy fatherhood? It’s a blast. My sons are 16 and 18. We enjoy so much of the same garbage.

What did your dad do for a living when you were growing up in Portland, Ore.? He did single-panel gag cartoons in magazines, the kind featuring starving men crawling across the desert. Later, he turned to surf movies. That’s where he made his mark.

Your movie has a premiere this weekend in a 200-seat theater in Springfield, Vt., winner of a national contest among 14 identically-named towns. I’ll be there.

In what state is the Simpsons’s fictional Springfield located? Certainly not Vermont. You’ll find out in the movie. We actually reveal the states that Springfield borders on.

Can you tell me now? Maine, Kentucky and — I can’t remember what the others are. The point is that Springfield is in your heart.

Why did you decide on a small-town setting instead of the big city? Big cities are harder to draw.

21 julho 2007

Não sou profeta, mas Portugal acabará por integrar-se na Espanha

I seem to have missed this in the Spanish media although it was everywhere. I have looked for the source in order to avoid likely mistranslations o biased opinions in the Spanish papers:

Este foi o regresso mais longo de José Saramago a Portugal desde que a polémica que envolveu a candidatura do seu livro O Evangelho segundo Jesus Cristo ao Prémio Literário Europeu o levou para um "exílio" na ilha espanhola de Lanzarote. A atribuição do Prémio Nobel parece tê-lo feito esquecer essas mágoas, mas não amoleceu a sua visão da sociedade e da História, que continua a ser polémica. Como se pode ver nesta entrevista.

Durante dois dias, o Nobel da Literatura português sentou-se no sofá e analisou o estado do mundo.

Na única entrevista que concedeu durante a temporada passada na sua casa de Lisboa, falou muito de política, mais de literatura e também da vida e da morte. Pelo meio ficou o anúncio da criação da fundação com o seu nome e a revelação de que está a escrever um novo livro.

A união ibérica

Este regresso a Portugal é um perdão?

O país não me fez mal algum, não confundamos, nem há nenhuma reconciliação porque não houve nenhum corte. O que aconteceu foi com um governo de um partido que já não é governo, com um senhor chamado Sousa Lara e outro de nome Santana Lopes. Claro que as responsabilidades estendem-se ao governo, a quem eu pedi o favor de fazer qualquer coisa mas não fez nada, e resolvi ir embora. Quando foi do Prémio Nobel, dei uma volta pelo país porque toda a gente me queria ver, até pessoas que não lêem apareceram! E desde então tenho vindo com muita frequência a Lisboa.

Vive num país que pouco a pouco toma conta da economia portuguesa. Não o incomoda?

Acho que é uma situação natural.

Qual é o futuro de Portugal nesta península?

Não vale a pena armar -me em profeta, mas acho que acabaremos por integrar-nos.

Política, económica ou culturalmente?

Culturalmente, não, a Catalunha tem a sua própria cultura, que é ao mesmo tempo comum ao resto da Espanha, tal como a dos bascos e a galega, nós não nos converteríamos em espanhóis. Quando olhamos para a Península Ibérica o que é que vemos? Observamos um conjunto, que não está partida em bocados e que é um todo que está composto de nacionalidades, e em alguns casos de línguas diferentes, mas que tem vivido mais ou menos em paz. Integrados o que é que aconteceria? Não deixaríamos de falar português, não deixaríamos de escrever na nossa língua e certamente com dez milhões de habitantes teríamos tudo a ganhar em desenvolvimento nesse tipo de aproximação e de integração territorial, administrativa e estrutural. Quanto à queixa que tantas vezes ouço sobre a economia espanhola estar a ocupar Portugal, não me lembro de alguma vez termos reclamado de outras economias como as dos Estados Unidos ou da Inglaterra, que também ocuparam o país. Ninguém se queixou, mas como desta vez é o castelhano que vencemos em Aljubarrota que vem por aí com empresas em vez de armas...

Seria, então, mais uma província de Espanha?

Seria isso. Já temos a Andaluzia, a Catalunha, o País Basco, a Galiza, Castilla la Mancha e tínhamos Portugal. Provavelmente [Espanha] teria de mudar de nome e passar a chamar-se Ibéria. Se Espanha ofende os nossos brios, era uma questão a negociar. O Ceilão não se chama agora Sri Lanka, muitos países da Ásia mudaram de nome e a União Soviética não passou a Federação Russa?

Mas algumas das províncias espanholas também querem ser independentes!

A única independência real que se pede é a do País Basco e mesmo assim ninguém acredita.

E os portugueses aceitariam a integração?

Acho que sim, desde que isso fosse explicado, não é uma cedência nem acabar com um país, continuaria de outra maneira. Repito que não se deixaria de falar, de pensar e sentir em português. Seríamos aqui aquilo que os catalães querem ser e estão a ser na Catalunha.

E como é que seria esse governo da Ibéria?

Não iríamos ser governados por espanhóis, haveria representantes dos partidos de ambos os países, que teriam representação num parlamento único com todas as forças políticas da Ibéria, e tal como em Espanha, onde cada autonomia tem o seu parlamento próprio, nós também o teríamos.

Há duas Espanhas

Os espanhóis olham-no como um deles?

Há duas Espanhas neste caso. Evidentemente, tratam-me como se fosse um deles, mas com as finanças espanholas ando numa guerra há, pelo menos, quatro anos porque querem que pague lá os impostos e consideram que lhes devo uma grande quantidade de dinheiro. Eu recusei-me a pagar e o meu argumento é extremamente simples, não pago duas vezes o que já paguei uma. Se há duplicação de impostos, então que o governo espanhol se entenda com o português e decidam. Eu tenho cá a minha casa e a minha residência fiscal sempre foi em Lisboa, ou seja, não há dúvidas de que estou numa situação de plena legalidade. Quanto aos impostos, e é por aí que também se vê o patriotismo, pago-os pontualmente em Portugal. Nunca pus o meu dinheiro num paraíso fiscal e repugna-me pensar que há quem o faça. O meu dinheiro é para aquilo que o Governo entender que serve.

Mas não pode negar que o olham como um deus...

Não diria tanto...

Mesmo sendo a crítica espanhola tão positiva em relação à sua obra?

Também já foi uma ou outra vez um pouco negativa - talvez devido às minhas posições políticas e ideológicas - mas de um modo geral tenho uma excelente crítica em toda a parte, como é o caso dos EUA, onde é quase unânime na apreciação da minha obra.

[Articulo al respecto en El País]

How to ... fix a computer

When your computer fails, it's like being returned instantly to the 70s. Post Offices, record players and board games become important again.

You then have three options: the first is to buy a new computer; the second is to embrace a preindustrial lifestyle; the third is to attempt to fix it. Of the three the last is the most expensive, most stressful and least likely to succeed.

The most effective way to fix a computer is to restart it. This is the technical equivalent of a detox weekend. It's important to switch the power right off, and that doesn't mean pushing only the button on the front, it means shutting down the power to the whole street.

One of the main causes of breakdown is that computers and printers hate each other. The causes of conflict are: computer won't talk to printer; printer ignores computer; computer has never heard of printer; printer doesn't take computer seriously; computer recognises other printers you don't have.

Losing your internet connection is the big fear of all computer users. Fortunately there are lots of online help sites that will give you all the information you need to get back online. That's as helpful as having drive-through car repair centres.

If you can't get online, you may have to speak to a computer expert. Sadly, computer experts aren't usually good at speaking, especially not to other human beings.

Technical support lines will ask you to restart your computer and, when that fails, they will talk you through every stage of taking your computer apart and welding in a few new bits. When you have your computer in 17 bits on the carpet, the phone helpline will go dead.

That's why a vital accessory to any computer is a friendly techie. Techies know that as long as your machine is down, you are in their power. They will use this brief window of popularity to make impossible demands such as pizza, coffee and marriage. A techie's first question is always, "Have you backed up your data?" This is to highlight the fact that they automatically back up their own data every 30 seconds. It's also to warn you that the resuscitation technique they're about to employ will wipe everything from your computer for ever.

20 julho 2007

Sven Lindqvist's Terra Nullius recounts Europe's disastrous collision with the peoples of Australia,

Many great thinkers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries looked to the Aboriginal peoples of Australia for answers to core questions about what it meant to be human, as if they were so close to the beginnings of society that their ways of life could reveal its starting point or its very essence. Engels looked to them for the basic forms of property relations; Emile Durkheim and James Frazer for the meaning of religion; Freud for the original human trauma; Kropotkin for original human equality; Malinowski for the fundamental structure of family life.

In retrospect, the speculations range from fanciful to fatuous. And the one thing all these theorists have in common is that none ever saw an Aboriginal Australian or set foot in one of their societies. One anthropologist who did spend time with real live Aborigines was Alfred Radcliffe-Brown. In 1911, he embarked on research in Australia, working at first with an inland group of Aborigines. This was disrupted by a police attack on the people he was working with. So great was the destruction that Radcliffe-Brown moved to an island where the authorities were imprisoning Aboriginals suspected of suffering from venereal diseases. This was a barren place where the inmates were more or less left to die, if not of diseases then of desperation and malnutrition.

It was here that Radcliffe-Brown did his "field-work". In his fascinating new book, Sven Lindqvist notes that at least no one was able to sneak off to avoid being questioned. In his published work, Radcliffe-Brown failed to explain that his data came from a brutal and compulsory prison, and that the people there came from a wide range of different cultures and language groups.

These glimpses of how European intellectuals responded, and failed to respond, to the Aboriginal peoples of Australia come about halfway into Lindqvist's Terra Nullius. From the early killings of Aborigines as if they were some kind of bizarre irrelevance, to their exploitation for sexual indulgences or cheap labour, to the seizing of children by authorities so half-castes could be raised to be servants - there is a flow of cruelty that runs through Australian history. Lindqvist urges the reader to see it.

His starting point is the hideous notion that Australia, at the time of first colonisation, was terra nullius, the land of no one. This colonist legal myth established that here were millions of acres available for European settlement. The actual owners and occupiers, the people lumped together under the term Aborigines, were not human enough, or present enough, to be someone. So there was no need to work out any deal, either for purchase or compensation. Each group of settlers, each section of the settlement frontier, sorted out its own relationship to any peoples they encountered.

The history of settlement includes a pattern of massacres where groups of Aborigines were surrounded and murdered, often as a reprisal for actual or perceived resistance to settlement. At times, those guilty of organising or carrying out± these killings were identified and even charged - and acquitted - at some rough and ready court. In reality, the settlers' view was that killing Aborigines was an inevitable part of settlement; and part, also, of their inevitable extinction. In an earlier book, Exterminate the Brutes, Lindqvist gave an overview of European murders of so-called primitives; here he takes us to one of the worst cases in point.

The idea of terra nullius is Australia's version of the self-serving racism of European empire. As the United States of the new America emerged, their legal theory set up the idea of manifest destiny - the doctrine that endorsed the inevitable displacement of indigenous tribes by European settlement. In the 17th century, Spanish theorists urged that the "Indians" of newly conquered South America were "natural slaves", and could only gain from actual enslavement by Catholic settlers from Europe. The African slave trade depended on an equivalent, if less articulate, division of humanity into "us" who were real and fully human, and those others who were not. Today, indigenous peoples live with the consequences of the doctrines used to dehumanise and dispossess them.

Lindqvist's new book is also a reflection on guilt and responsibility: many Australians have welcomed the idea that the nation as a whole has to say sorry for what has been done to the Aborigines, while no government in power has allowed any such official apology. He recalls a visit to Norway where, because he was Swedish, he was blamed for Swedish collaboration with Nazi Germany, even though he was a small boy at the time. Were they right to blame him, he asks?

He answers with a simple reflection: those who have benefited from the crimes must live with the burden of guilt. He ends by suggesting that there can be penance and restitution - so that the crimes in Australian history can be given "a new setting and a new significance". However optimistic this sounds, humanity, properly understood, has no alternative if it is to achieve its full moral self.

Terra Nullius
by Sven Lindqvist
translated by Sarah Death

19 julho 2007

The Africa Cookbook Project

At TEDGLOBAL in Arusha, Tanzania in June, 2007, we launched the "Africa Cookbook Project," whose goal is to archive African culinary writing and make it widely available on the continent and beyond. A database is being developed and copies of hundreds of cookbooks are already being catalogued at BETUMI: The African Culinary Network. Google has offered assistance in eventually digitizing some of the information.

The enthusiasm and tangible support both at and after the conference is wonderful. Issa Diabate has already e-mailed that he's sending an Ivorian book, Dominique Bikaba that he's searching for one from DRC, and Jens Martin Skibsted has scanned the covers of several books in his collection. People have promised to send books from Angola, Mozambique, Zambia, etc. I'm thrilled that others recognize the urgent need to protect these books, whether for their value as a record of popular culture, social history, or, my specialty, culinary creativity.

What If You Could Record Every Second Of Your Life?

UK science fiction writer Charles Stross, author of novels Accelerando and Singularity Sky, posits a future in which all human experience is recorded on devices the size of a grain of sand.

We've had agriculture for about 12,000 years, towns for eight to 10,000 years, and writing for about 5,000 years. But we're still living in the dark ages leading up to the dawn of history.

Don't we have history already, you ask? Well actually, we don't. We know much less about our ancestors than our descendants will know about us.

Indeed, we've acquired bad behavioural habits - because we're used to forgetting things over time. In fact, collectively we're on the edge of losing the ability to forget.

For the past 50 years we've become used to computers getting cheaper and more powerful exponentially - doubling in performance (or halving in price) roughly every 18 months.

The core trend, described by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore, describes the transistor count in microchips.

But a parallel trend in data storage means that storage space is becoming twice as plentiful on a similar time scale - and our ability to generate data to store is also increasing, as witness the 4m CCTV cameras around the UK, and about 70m cellphone accounts, of which maybe half are associated with camera phones able to record video.

Sooner or later they're all going to be switched on, all the time and our data storage capacity is growing so fast that we need not delete anything ever again.

There are huge legal, ethical, and privacy issues connected with recording this much information, never mind sharing it; as security expert Bruce Schneier has said: "... managing data privacy is going to be the big legal problem of the 21st century".

But I'm assuming, for the sake of argument, that we will find answers or compromise solutions to these questions. We'd better, because those cameras aren't going to stop recording and go away.

How far can it go?

Moore's law has an end in sight, dictated by physics. We can't build circuits out of components smaller than atoms.

But we can envisage building data storage devices that use individual atoms to represent one bit of information.

Consider a carbon crystal, created (and edited) one atom at a time by nanomachinery; there are two stable isotopes of carbon, and we can use a Carbon-12 atom to represent a binary 0 and a Carbon-13 atom to represent a binary 1.

One gram of this substance could store 10 to the power 21 bytes (887,808 petabytes) - the equivalent storage of more than 11 billion typical PCs.

By way of comparison, in 2003 we as a species recorded 2,200 petabytes (2.5 x 10 to the power 18 bytes) of data - enough to fill the hard drives of more than 28m typical PCs.

If we can figure out how to read and write data on the atomic scale, you could store the sum total of all the data we recorded in 2003 on a grain of sand.

We're only a few years away from the cost of data storage dropping so far that we can record "everything" that happens to us: our location at any given time, what we are hearing, what we are seeing, and what we are saying or doing.

The storage requirement for a video stream and two audio streams, plus GPS location, is only about 10,000 Gb per year - which will cost about £10 by 2017.

With your phone converting all the speech it hears to text (and storing that, too, and indexing it by time and location it becomes possible to search it all - like having Google for your memory.

You don't ever need to forget a conversation again, even if all you can recall about it is that it was with a stranger you met in a given pub about two months ago and someone mentioned the word "fishhooks".

If you're a police officer, it means never forgetting a face and always logging all your interactions with the public.

If you're suffering from the early stages of dementia, or if you're simply over-worked and expected to keep track of too many tasks at the office, it means you've got a memory prosthesis to help you keep track of things.

And if you're a student, it means you can concentrate on understanding your lecturer, and worry about making notes later.

This technology is available now -- some researchers are using it - in a few years' time, it's going to be as cheap as owning a mobile phone, and a few years later it'll be just an extra feature of your mobile phone.

It sounds strange right now, but there are too many uses for it to remain an eccentric niche. In the long term, almost all human experiences will be recorded. And in the very long term, they'll be a gold mine for historians.

Using nanoscale diamond as data storage, six hundred grams (about one and a quarter pounds, if you're my generation) can store a lifelog, a video and audio channel, with running transcript and search index, for six billion human beings for one year.

Sixty to a hundred kilograms is all it takes to store an entire 21st Century of human experience.

And some time after our demise, this information will be available to historians.

And what a mass of information it will be. For the first time ever, they'll be able to know who was where, when, and what they said; just what words were exchanged in smoky beer halls 30 years before the revolutions that haven't happened yet: who it was who claimed to be there when they founded the Party (but didn't join until years later): and where the bodies are buried.

They'll be able to see the ephemera of public life and understand the minutiae of domestic life; information that is usually omitted from the historical record because the recorders at the time deemed it insignificant, but which may be of vital interest in centuries to come.

For the first time ever, the human species will have an accurate and unblinking, unvarnished view of its own past as far back as the dark ages of the first decade of the 21st Century, when recorded history "really" began.

Zimbabwe crisis: a view from South Africa on data intercept laws

Following up on a previous BB post about internet-related aspects of the current meltdown in Zimbabwe, BoingBoing reader Bretton Vine writes:

I'm in from South Africa, currently experiencing what the popular media calls a 'human tsunami' of illegal immigrants from Zimbabwe across our borders for everything from work to medicine and even basic foodstuffs which are smuggled back into Zimbabwe for resale.

The recent enforcing of price controls has left Zimbabwe shelves empty, militia going ape, major cross-border escape (5000 captured in last two weeks, and that's barely a dent in the number that make it though).

Add to this is bittersweet irony that the 'Rainbow Nation' of South Africa is experiencing a form of African xenophobia historically unparalleled despite more than a decade since apartheid become the past. But this is another heated discussion not related to my email.

I just wanted to point out that the Internet Service Providers' Association of South Africa hosts an annual free Internet conference every year, with this year being out 6th.

Back in 2004 we had Declan McCullagh out for one of the talks[1, 2]. While he certainly seemed to enjoy himself, he also left a huge impression over interception issues (and made some government people quite uncomfortable in the process). At last year's event (10th anniversary for ISPA, 5th for iWeek) we even had vendors for lawful intercept technology exhibiting and giving talks [3] along with talks from Wim Roggeman[4], Prof Michael Rotert[5] and representatives from the OIC (central interception spooks, not clearly functional yet) trying hard to remain inconspicuous in their suits among geeks of varying shapes and sizes.

With regard to the whole Interception in Zimbabwe issue it's a little bit of a non-event given so few people have access to either phones or the Internet in that country, and that no Zim ISP can afford to purchase the equipment necessary to implement anyway.

It's a slightly similar situation here in South Africa, except for the following...

* our legislation is older :-P

* we have 30+million cellphone users

* we have ~5 million internet users (give or take a few)

* ISPs/ISOC have been fighting the fight for a decade, and especially with regard to issues such as forcing ISPs to pay for interception equipment from the ISPA perspective

* we *didn't* more than 50 stories within 7 days in all the world's major newspapers (online and off) despite having just as draconian an attempt at legislation.

* we're hosting the FIFA world cup in 2010. If you have a cellphone, and are an international visitor you either won't be able to use it, or if you try and obtain local cellular/internet access you'll have to prove identity (original and certified copy) plus understand that the providers are forced to provide intercept capabilities as well as other inane things.

* the ECT act requires authors/developers/publishers of cryptography software to register and make themselves available for 'decryption assistance' or 'decryption warrants' (clearly the repeated attempts at explaining public-key crypto were ignored ...)

There's a mountain more relevant information, but the following is from sites I maintain: Link 1, Link 2, Link 3, Link 4.

And this site needs an update, we're just for workload to drop but the relevant legislation is there: Link.

At the moment due to uncertainty over ETSI standards and overseas policy it seems that the OIC is sticking to real-time intercept capabilities as opposed to data retention, but unrelated legislation places onerous requirements for the keeping of records, financial or otherwise, in electronic format.

So yes, Zim is quite fscked, but the people affected by the interception legislation (which essentially just makes legal an established practise and passes to the costs to business) are in the thousands, while in this country it's in the the millions.

This year's iWeek is a smaller, more intimate & member focused affair. But the lawful intercept guys are back, especially since this applies to small members who may have to share a pool of equipment. Plus the local police are getting more and more jacked in terms digital forensics for problem crime (a good thing surely) but then so are the relevant authorities who want intercept capability for reason not entirely known yet. (Local politics appears to be the primary victim of no-warrant abuse of existing systems)

Please note: comments in my personal capacity, and not on behalf of ISPA/ISOC despite being 2 of many hats I wear down south.

From BoingBoing

Stop Trying To 'Save' Africa

Last fall, shortly after I returned from Nigeria, I was accosted by a perky blond college student whose blue eyes seemed to match the "African" beads around her wrists.

"Save Darfur!" she shouted from behind a table covered with pamphlets urging students to TAKE ACTION NOW! STOP GENOCIDE IN DARFUR!

My aversion to college kids jumping onto fashionable social causes nearly caused me to walk on, but her next shout stopped me.

"Don't you want to help us save Africa?" she yelled.

It seems that these days, wracked by guilt at the humanitarian crisis it has created in the Middle East, the West has turned to Africa for redemption. Idealistic college students, celebrities such as Bob Geldof and politicians such as Tony Blair have all made bringing light to the dark continent their mission. They fly in for internships and fact-finding missions or to pick out children to adopt in much the same way my friends and I in New York take the subway to the pound to adopt stray dogs.

This is the West's new image of itself: a sexy, politically active generation whose preferred means of spreading the word are magazine spreads with celebrities pictured in the foreground, forlorn Africans in the back. Never mind that the stars sent to bring succor to the natives often are, willingly, as emaciated as those they want to help.

Perhaps most interesting is the language used to describe the Africa being saved. For example, the Keep a Child Alive/" I am African" ad campaign features portraits of primarily white, Western celebrities with painted "tribal markings" on their faces above "I AM AFRICAN" in bold letters. Below, smaller print says, "help us stop the dying."

Such campaigns, however well intentioned, promote the stereotype of Africa as a black hole of disease and death. News reports constantly focus on the continent's corrupt leaders, warlords, "tribal" conflicts, child laborers, and women disfigured by abuse and genital mutilation. These descriptions run under headlines like "Can Bono Save Africa?" or "Will Brangelina Save Africa?" The relationship between the West and Africa is no longer based on openly racist beliefs, but such articles are reminiscent of reports from the heyday of European colonialism, when missionaries were sent to Africa to introduce us to education, Jesus Christ and "civilization."

There is no African, myself included, who does not appreciate the help of the wider world, but we do question whether aid is genuine or given in the spirit of affirming one's cultural superiority. My mood is dampened every time I attend a benefit whose host runs through a litany of African disasters before presenting a (usually) wealthy, white person, who often proceeds to list the things he or she has done for the poor, starving Africans. Every time a well-meaning college student speaks of villagers dancing because they were so grateful for her help, I cringe. Every time a Hollywood director shoots a film about Africa that features a Western protagonist, I shake my head -- because Africans, real people though we may be, are used as props in the West's fantasy of itself. And not only do such depictions tend to ignore the West's prominent role in creating many of the unfortunate situations on the continent, they also ignore the incredible work Africans have done and continue to do to fix those problems.

Why do the media frequently refer to African countries as having been "granted independence from their colonial masters," as opposed to having fought and shed blood for their freedom? Why do Angelina Jolie and Bono receive overwhelming attention for their work in Africa while Nwankwo Kanu or Dikembe Mutombo, Africans both, are hardly ever mentioned? How is it that a former mid-level U.S. diplomat receives more attention for his cowboy antics in Sudan than do the numerous African Union countries that have sent food and troops and spent countless hours trying to negotiate a settlement among all parties in that crisis?

Two years ago I worked in a camp for internally displaced people in Nigeria, survivors of an uprising that killed about 1,000 people and displaced 200,000. True to form, the Western media reported on the violence but not on the humanitarian work the state and local governments -- without much international help -- did for the survivors. Social workers spent their time and in many cases their own salaries to care for their compatriots. These are the people saving Africa, and others like them across the continent get no credit for their work.

Last month the Group of Eight industrialized nations and a host of celebrities met in Germany to discuss, among other things, how to save Africa. Before the next such summit, I hope people will realize Africa doesn't want to be saved. Africa wants the world to acknowledge that through fair partnerships with other members of the global community, we ourselves are capable of unprecedented growth.

Uzodinma Iweala is the author of "Beasts of No Nation,"
a novel about child soldiers.

Hooray for the Bidet! (2)

Japanese Airlines First to Install Bidets in the Air

Japan's All Nippon Airways have announced they will be installing bidets in the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner, set to be delivered in May of 2008. This is a first for any commercial airline. (Vladimir Putin had a bidet in his private jet, however.)

With over 60 percent of Japanese households sporting a bidet, this makes sense. But I can't help but wonder just how much larger the lavatory will have to be to accommodate this. Will the bidet be built into the toilet, or will it be separate? Or will it be a hand-held spray bidet that are common across Asia? The bidet-toilet combo makes the most sense due to the constricted space, but the Dreamliner is a big plane, so who knows?


18 julho 2007

Ten Politically Incorrect Truths About Human Nature

Men like blond bombshells (and women want to look like them)

Humans are naturally polygamous

Most women benefit from polygyny, while most men benefit from monogamy

Most suicide bombers are Muslim

Having sons reduces the likelihood of divorce

Beautiful people have more daughters

What Bill Gates and Paul McCartney have in common with criminals

The midlife crisis is a myth—sort of

It's natural for politicians to risk everything for an affair (but only if they're male)

Men sexually harass women because they are not sexist

The Perfect Trip Planner for The Underage

Encyclopedia Prehistorica: Mega Beasts

16 julho 2007

BookForum on Fiction and Film

Reflections, by James Ivory, Elmore Leonard, Tracy Chevalier, Patrick McGrath, Jerry Stahl, Michael Tolkin, Susanna Moore, Time Krabbe, Irvine Welsh, Barry Gifford, Alexander Payne, Myla Goldberg, and Frederic Raphael

Best Adaptations

And much more.

Unmissable ;)

12 julho 2007

Global Warming: from my translation

Em Outubro de 2000, numa escola secundária em Barrow, Alasca, houve uma reunião de representantes das oito nações árcticas – Estados Unidos, Rússia, Canadá, Dinamarca, Noruega, Suécia, Finlândia e Islândia – para conversarem sobre o aquecimento global. O grupo anunciou planos para um estudo tripartido das alterações climáticas na região no valor de dois milhões de dólares. Em Novembro de 2004, as primeiras duas partes do estudo – um enorme documento técnico e um resumo de cento e quarenta páginas – foram apresentadas num simpósio em Reiquejavique.

No dia seguinte à minha conversa com Sigurdsson, assisti à sessão plenária do simpósio. Além dos quase trezentos cientistas, atraiu uma quantidade considerável de residentes nativos do Árctico - pastores de renas, caçadores de subsistência e representantes de grupos como o Conselho Venatório dos Inuvialuit. Entre as camisas e as gravatas, vislumbrei dois homens com as túnicas garridas dos Sami e vários outros com coletes de pele de foca. Durante a sessão o tema esteve sempre a mudar – da hidrologia e biodiversidade às pescas e florestas. A mensagem, contudo, permaneceu a mesma. Para onde quer que se olhe no Árctico, as condições alteram-se, a um ritmo que até surpreendeu os que esperavam encontrar sinais claros de aquecimento.

A sessão de abertura do simpósio demorou mais de nove horas. Durante esse tempo, muitos oradores salientaram as incertezas que persistem sobre o aquecimento global e seus efeitos – sobre a circulação termoalina, a distribuição da vegetação, a sobrevivência das espécies que preferem o frio, a frequência de fogos na floresta. Mas este tipo de interrogações, tão básico no discurso científico, nunca se estendeu à relação entre dióxido de carbono e aumento das temperaturas. O resumo executivo do estudo afirmou, inequivocamente, que os seres humanos se tinham, tornado no «factor dominante» de influência sobre o clima.
A terceira parte do estudo sobre o clima do Árctico, ainda inacabada aquando do simpósio, era o chamado documento de política ambiental. Este devia esquematizar acções práticas a tomar em resposta às conclusões científicas, dentre as quais – presume-se – reduzir as emissões de gases com efeito de estufa. O documento de política ambiental permaneceu inacabado porque os negociadores americanos tinham rejeitado muito da linguagem proposta pelas outras sete nações árcticas. (Semanas depois, os Estados Unidos acordaram numa declaração indistintamente redigida a pedir acções «efectivas» - mas não obrigatórias – de combate ao problema.) Esta relutância deixou os Americanos que se tinham deslocado a Reiquejavique numa posição constrangedora. Alguns tentaram – sem grande entusiasmo – defender a posição da administração Bush perante mim; a maioria, incluindo muitos funcionários governamentais, criticava-a fortemente. Em dado momento, Corell observou que a perda de gelo de água do mar desde finais dos anos 70 equivalia ao «tamanho do Texas e do Arizona juntos. Esta analogia foi feita por razões óbvias».

10 julho 2007

Did Cervantes And Shakespeare Meet? ahhhhhh

A new film suggests Shakespeare and Cervantes met in Spain and gave each other literary help.

Did Shakespeare work as a Catholic spy during his 'missing years', between 1586 and 1592? Or did he simply lie low and teach in a Welsh school for a little extra money? Perhaps, as one school of thought has it, he joined a troupe of travelling players, or even enjoyed a prolonged holiday in Italy.

Each of these rival theories has been proposed by historians and academics over the last decade alongside another serious proposition: that Shakespeare spent this time working for the English embassy in Spain.

A new Spanish film has developed this solution to the biographical mystery and come up with a plotline that the producers argue is entirely feasible and will also shed fresh light on the playwright's creative process. William and Miguel, to be released in Britain later this year, stars Will Kemp, the British actor and former classical ballet talent, in the role of Shakespeare.

The screenplay tells of the Bard's imagined encounter with Miguel de Cervantes, Spain's greatest literary hero and the creator of Don Quixote. Cervantes and Shakespeare were contemporaries and are believed to have died on the same date, 23 April, 1616, although the Spaniard was 16 years Shakespeare's senior. The film, which has been written and directed by a rising star of Spanish cinema, Ines Paris, suggests that these two extraordinary writers met and influenced each other before Shakespeare finally returned to England and began the most successful phase of his career in London.

'We did a lot of research during the screenwriting and there is very strong evidence that Shakespeare was well-versed in Cervantes' work,' said producer Antonio Sauro, who will be in Britain this week to talk about the film. Scholars have frequently noted the nautical references in Shakespeare's plays and poems and some say they are proof that he made at least one sea voyage. 'Going to Spain at that time was like going to New York or perhaps Shanghai now. It was the centre of things, so it would have made a lot of sense,' said Sauro. 'Our story is something of a fiction based on facts, but it certainly could have happened.'

William and Miguel concentrates on a point in the late 1580s when both men had left their wives, and it brings an entirely invented element of romance to the story in the form of actress Elena Anaya, who plays their shared lover, Leonor. It was her spirited intervention, the screenplay has it, that brought the literary giants together and effectively changed their writing styles. Sauro explains that whatever happened in Spain, whether the two men ever met or not, something clearly did happen to their creativity. Cervantes, played by Juan Luis Galiardo, is shown to be suffering from writer's block when he meets first Leonor, then Shakespeare. 'Cervantes was very sad prior to this period. He was living as a tax collector and yet, after this, he writes his epic work of black humour, Don Quixote,' said Sauro. 'For Shakespeare too, this time marks a change,' Sauro believes. 'He was writing mainly comedies before this time and then he began to write more of his tragedies.'

Competing theories that Shakespeare spent his time working in schools in Lancashire or Wales, or with a troupe of theatrical players, are based largely on a network of textual references. The truth of his missing years may never be known, and perhaps in this case hard proof does not matter. As the tag line of William and Miguel has it, 'In art and love everything is possible.'

· William and Miguel will be discussed at the International Screenwriters' Festival (3-6 July at Cheltenham Film Studios). For more information visit: screenwritersfestival.co.uk

A tale of two writers

Miguel de Cervantes

Born: Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra in Alcala de Henares, Spain, in 1547.
Died: Madrid on 23 April, 1616, aged 68.
Faith: Possibly studied with Jesuits in Cordoba or Seville.
Love: Married Catalina de Salazar y Palacios, the much younger daughter of a well-to-do peasant, in 1584 and left her in the late 1580s.
Derring do: Fought at the Battle of Lepanto, was captured by Barbary pirates and spent five years as a slave in Algiers before being ransomed by his parents.

William Shakespeare

Born: Stratford-upon-Avon in 1564.
Died: In his home town on same date as Cervantes, aged 52 after retiring in 1613.
Faith: Dangerous Catholic sympathies inherited from his mother, Mary Arden.
Love: Married Anne Hathaway, 26, at the age of 18. She was three months pregnant. Left his family in the late 1580s.
Derring do: Might have been a recusant Catholic spy or joined a troupe of travelling actors. Or both.
Nicknames: The Swan of Avon, or the Immortal Bard.

· This article was amended on Sunday July 8 2007. We pointed out that Cervantes and Shakespeare died on the same date, 23 April 1616. We should clarify that this wasn't the same day. Spain used the Gregorian calendar, but Britain used the Julian calendar until 1752, when a correction of 11 days was made.