30 novembro 2007

BookForum

The Most Beautiful Periodic Table Poster in the World

The Secret to Raising Smart Kids


A brilliant student, Jonathan sailed through grade school. He completed his assignments easily and routinely earned As. Jonathan puzzled over why some of his classmates struggled, and his parents told him he had a special gift. In the seventh grade, however, Jonathan suddenly lost interest in school, refusing to do homework or study for tests. As a consequence, his grades plummeted. His parents tried to boost their son’s confidence by assuring him that he was very smart. But their attempts failed to motivate Jonathan (who is a composite drawn from several children). Schoolwork, their son maintained, was boring and pointless.

Our society worships talent, and many people assume that possessing superior intelligence or ability—along with confidence in that ability—is a recipe for success. In fact, however, more than 30 years of scientific investigation suggests that an overemphasis on intellect or talent leaves people vulnerable to failure, fearful of challenges and unwilling to remedy their shortcomings.

The result plays out in children like Jonathan, who coast through the early grades under the dangerous notion that no-effort academic achievement defines them as smart or gifted. Such children hold an implicit belief that intelligence is innate and fixed, making striving to learn seem far less important than being (or looking) smart. This belief also makes them see challenges, mistakes and even the need to exert effort as threats to their ego rather than as opportunities to improve. And it causes them to lose confidence and motivation when the work is no longer easy for them.

Praising children’s innate abilities, as Jonathan’s parents did, reinforces this mind-set, which can also prevent young athletes or people in the workforce and even marriages from living up to their potential. On the other hand, our studies show that teaching people to have a “growth mind-set,” which encourages a focus on effort rather than on intelligence or talent, helps make them into high achievers in school and in life.

The Opportunity of Defeat
I first began to investigate the underpinnings of human motivation—and how people persevere after setbacks—as a psychology graduate student at Yale University in the 1960s. Animal experiments by psychologists Martin Seligman, Steven Maier and Richard Solomon of the University of Pennsylvania had shown that after repeated failures, most animals conclude that a situation is hopeless and beyond their control. After such an experience, the researchers found, an animal often remains passive even when it can affect change—a state they called learned helplessness.

People can learn to be helpless, too, but not everyone reacts to setbacks this way. I wondered: Why do some students give up when they encounter difficulty, whereas others who are no more skilled continue to strive and learn? One answer, I soon discovered, lay in people’s beliefs about why they had failed.

In particular, attributing poor performance to a lack of ability depresses motivation more than does the belief that lack of effort is to blame. In 1972, when I taught a group of elementary and middle school children who displayed helpless behavior in school that a lack of effort (rather than lack of ability) led to their mistakes on math problems, the kids learned to keep trying when the problems got tough. They also solved many of the problems even in the face of difficulty. Another group of helpless children who were simply rewarded for their success on easy problems did not improve their ability to solve hard math problems. These experiments were an early indication that a focus on effort can help resolve helplessness and engender success.

Subsequent studies revealed that the most persistent students do not ruminate about their own failure much at all but instead think of mistakes as problems to be solved. At the University of Illinois in the 1970s I, along with my then graduate student Carol Diener, asked 60 fifth graders to think out loud while they solved very difficult pattern-recognition problems. Some students reacted defensively to mistakes, denigrating their skills with comments such as “I never did have a good rememory,” and their problem-solving strategies deteriorated.

Others, meanwhile, focused on fixing errors and honing their skills. One advised himself: “I should slow down and try to figure this out.” Two schoolchildren were particularly inspiring. One, in the wake of difficulty, pulled up his chair, rubbed his hands together, smacked his lips and said, “I love a challenge!” The other, also confronting the hard problems, looked up at the experimenter and approvingly declared, “I was hoping this would be informative!” Predictably, the students with this attitude outperformed their cohorts in these studies.

Two Views of Intelligence
Several years later I developed a broader theory of what separates the two general classes of learners—helpless versus mastery-oriented. I realized that these different types of students not only explain their failures differently, but they also hold different “theories” of intelligence. The helpless ones believe that intelligence is a fixed trait: you have only a certain amount, and that’s that. I call this a “fixed mind-set.” Mistakes crack their self-confidence because they attribute errors to a lack of ability, which they feel powerless to change. They avoid challenges because challenges make mistakes more likely and looking smart less so. Like Jonathan, such children shun effort in the belief that having to work hard means they are dumb.

The mastery-oriented children, on the other hand, think intelligence is malleable and can be developed through education and hard work. They want to learn above all else. After all, if you believe that you can expand your intellectual skills, you want to do just that. Because slipups stem from a lack of effort, not ability, they can be remedied by more effort. Challenges are energizing rather than intimidating; they offer opportunities to learn. Students with such a growth mind-set, we predicted, were destined for greater academic success and were quite likely to outperform their counterparts.

We validated these expectations in a study published in early 2007. Psychologists Lisa Blackwell of Columbia University and Kali H. Trzes­niewski of Stanford University and I monitored 373 students for two years during the transition to junior high school, when the work gets more difficult and the grading more stringent, to determine how their mind-sets might affect their math grades. At the beginning of seventh grade, we assessed the students’ mind-sets by asking them to agree or disagree with statements such as “Your intelligence is something very basic about you that you can’t really change.” We then assessed their beliefs about other aspects of learning and looked to see what happened to their grades.

As we had predicted, the students with a growth mind-set felt that learning was a more important goal in school than getting good grades. In addition, they held hard work in high regard, believing that the more you labored at something, the better you would become at it. They understood that even geniuses have to work hard for their great accomplishments. Confronted by a setback such as a disappointing test grade, students with a growth mind-set said they would study harder or try a different strategy for mastering the material.

The students who held a fixed mind-set, however, were concerned about looking smart with little regard for learning. They had negative views of effort, believing that having to work hard at something was a sign of low ability. They thought that a person with talent or intelligence did not need to work hard to do well. Attributing a bad grade to their own lack of ability, those with a fixed mind-set said that they would study less in the future, try never to take that subject again and consider cheating on future tests.

Such divergent outlooks had a dramatic impact on performance. At the start of junior high, the math achievement test scores of the students with a growth mind-set were comparable to those of students who displayed a fixed mind-set. But as the work became more difficult, the students with a growth mind-set showed greater persistence. As a result, their math grades overtook those of the other students by the end of the first semester—and the gap between the two groups continued to widen during the two years we followed them.

Along with Columbia psychologist Heidi Grant, I found a similar relation between mind-set and achievement in a 2003 study of 128 Columbia freshman premed students who were enrolled in a challenging general chemistry course. Although all the students cared about grades, the ones who earned the best grades were those who placed a high premium on learning rather than on showing that they were smart in chemistry. The focus on learning strategies, effort and persistence paid off for these students.

Confronting Deficiencies
A belief in fixed intelligence also makes people less willing to admit to errors or to confront and remedy their deficiencies in school, at work and in their social relationships. In a study published in 1999 of 168 freshmen entering the University of Hong Kong, where all instruction and coursework are in English, three Hong Kong colleagues and I found that students with a growth mind-set who scored poorly on their English proficiency exam were far more inclined to take a remedial English course than were low-scoring students with a fixed mind-set. The students with a stagnant view of intelligence were presumably unwilling to admit to their deficit and thus passed up the opportunity to correct it.

A fixed mind-set can similarly hamper communication and progress in the workplace by leading managers and employees to discourage or ignore constructive criticism and advice. Research by psychologists Peter Heslin and Don VandeWalle of Southern Methodist University and Gary Latham of the University of Toronto shows that managers who have a fixed mind-set are less likely to seek or welcome feedback from their employees than are managers with a growth mind-set. Presumably, managers with a growth mind-set see themselves as works-in-progress and understand that they need feedback to improve, whereas bosses with a fixed mind-set are more likely to see criticism as reflecting their underlying level of competence. Assuming that other people are not capable of changing either, executives with a fixed mind-set are also less likely to mentor their underlings. But after Heslin, VandeWalle and Latham gave managers a tutorial on the value and principles of the growth mind-set, supervisors became more willing to coach their employees and gave more useful advice.

Mind-set can affect the quality and longevity of personal relationships as well, through people’s willingness—or unwillingness—to deal with difficulties. Those with a fixed mind-set are less likely than those with a growth mind-set to broach problems in their relationships and to try to solve them, according to a 2006 study I conducted with psychologist Lara Kammrath of Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario. After all, if you think that human personality traits are more or less fixed, relationship repair seems largely futile. Individuals who believe people can change and grow, however, are more confident that confronting concerns in their relationships will lead to resolutions.

Proper Praise
How do we transmit a growth mind-set to our children? One way is by telling stories about achievements that result from hard work. For instance, talking about math geniuses who were more or less born that way puts students in a fixed mind-set, but descriptions of great mathematicians who fell in love with math and developed amazing skills engenders a growth mind-set, our studies have shown. People also communicate mind-sets through praise. Although many, if not most, parents believe that they should build up a child by telling him or her how brilliant and talented he or she is, our research suggests that this is misguided.

In studies involving several hundred fifth graders published in 1998, for example, Columbia psychologist Claudia M. Mueller and I gave children questions from a nonverbal IQ test. After the first 10 problems, on which most children did fairly well, we praised them. We praised some of them for their intelligence: “Wow … that’s a really good score. You must be smart at this.” We commended others for their effort: “Wow … that’s a really good score. You must have worked really hard.”

We found that intelligence praise encouraged a fixed mind-set more often than did pats on the back for effort. Those congratulated for their intelligence, for example, shied away from a challenging assignment—they wanted an easy one instead—far more often than the kids applauded for their effort. (Most of those lauded for their hard work wanted the difficult problem set from which they would learn.) When we gave everyone hard problems anyway, those praised for being smart became discouraged, doubting their ability. And their scores, even on an easier problem set we gave them afterward, declined as compared with their previous results on equivalent problems. In contrast, students praised for their effort did not lose confidence when faced with the harder questions, and their performance improved markedly on the easier problems that followed.

Making Up Your Mind-set
In addition to encouraging a growth mind-set through praise for effort, parents and teachers can help children by providing explicit instruction regarding the mind as a learning machine. Blackwell, Trzesniewski and I recently designed an eight-session workshop for 91 students whose math grades were declining in their first year of junior high. Forty-eight of the students received instruction in study skills only, whereas the others attended a combination of study skills sessions and classes in which they learned about the growth mind-set and how to apply it to schoolwork.

In the growth mind-set classes, students read and discussed an article entitled “You Can Grow Your Brain.” They were taught that the brain is like a muscle that gets stronger with use and that learning prompts neurons in the brain to grow new connections. From such instruction, many students began to see themselves as agents of their own brain development. Students who had been disruptive or bored sat still and took note. One particularly unruly boy looked up during the discussion and said, “You mean I don’t have to be dumb?”

As the semester progressed, the math grades of the kids who learned only study skills continued to decline, whereas those of the students given the growth-mind-set training stopped falling and began to bounce back to their former levels. Despite being unaware that there were two types of instruction, teachers reported noticing significant motivational changes in 27 percent of the children in the growth mind-set workshop as compared with only 9 percent of students in the control group. One teacher wrote: “Your workshop has already had an effect. L [our unruly male student], who never puts in any extra effort and often doesn’t turn in homework on time, actually stayed up late to finish an assignment early so I could review it and give him a chance to revise it. He earned a B+. (He had been getting Cs and lower.)”

Other researchers have replicated our results. Psychologists Catherine Good, then at Columbia, and Joshua Aronson and Michael Inzlicht of New York University reported in 2003 that a growth mind-set workshop raised the math and English achievement test scores of seventh graders. In a 2002 study Aronson, Good (then a graduate student at the University of Texas at Austin) and their colleagues found that college students began to enjoy their schoolwork more, value it more highly and get better grades as a result of training that fostered a growth mind-set.

We have now encapsulated such instruction in an interactive computer program called “Brain­ology,” which should be more widely available by mid-2008. Its six modules teach students about the brain—what it does and how to make it work better. In a virtual brain lab, users can click on brain regions to determine their functions or on nerve endings to see how connections form when people learn. Users can also advise virtual students with problems as a way of practicing how to handle schoolwork difficulties; additionally, users keep an online journal of their study practices.

New York City seventh graders who tested a pilot version of Brainology told us that the program had changed their view of learning and how to promote it. One wrote: “My favorite thing from Brainology is the neurons part where when u [sic] learn something there are connections and they keep growing. I always picture them when I’m in school.” A teacher said of the students who used the program: “They offer to practice, study, take notes, or pay attention to ensure that connections will be made.”

Teaching children such information is not just a ploy to get them to study. People do differ in intelligence, talent and ability. And yet research is converging on the conclusion that great accomplishment, and even what we call genius, is typically the result of years of passion and dedication and not something that flows naturally from a gift. Mozart, Edison, Curie, Darwin and Cézanne were not simply born with talent; they cultivated it through tremendous and sustained effort. Similarly, hard work and discipline contribute much more to school achievement than IQ does.

Such lessons apply to almost every human endeavor. For instance, many young athletes value talent more than hard work and have consequently become unteachable. Similarly, many people accomplish little in their jobs without constant praise and encouragement to maintain their motivation. If we foster a growth mind-set in our homes and schools, however, we will give our children the tools to succeed in their pursuits and to become responsible employees and citizens.


26 novembro 2007

A Língua Portuguesa ;)

[recebido por email]

Era a terceira vez que aquele substantivo e aquele artigo se encontravam no elevador.

Um substantivo masculino, com aspecto plural e alguns anos bem vividos pelas preposições da vida. O artigo era bem definido, feminino, singular. Ela era ainda novinha, mas com um maravilhoso predicado nominal. Era ingénua, silábica, um pouco átona, um pouco ao contrário dele, que era um sujeito oculto, com todos os vícios de linguagem, fanático por leituras e filmes ortográficos.

O substantivo até gostou daquela situação; os dois, sozinhos, naquele lugar sem ninguém a ver nem ouvir. E sem perder a oportunidade, começou a insinuar-se, a perguntar, conversar. O artigo feminino deixou as reticências de lado e permitiu-lhe esse pequeno índice.

De repente, o elevador pára, só com os dois lá dentro.

Óptimo, pensou o substantivo; mais um bom motivo para provocar alguns sinónimos. Pouco tempo depois, já estavam bem entre parênteses, quando o elevador recomeçou a movimentar-se. Só que em vez de descer, sobe e pára exactamente no andar do substantivo.
Ele usou de toda a sua flexão verbal, e entrou com ela no seu aposento.
Ligou o fonema e ficaram alguns instantes em silêncio, ouvindo uma fonética clássica, suave e relaxante. Prepararam uma sintaxe dupla para ele e um hiato com gelo para ela.

Ficaram a conversar, sentados num vocativo, quando ele recomeçou a insinuar-se. Ela foi deixando, ele foi usando o seu forte adjunto adverbial, e rapidamente chegaram a um imperativo.

Todos os vocábulos diziam que iriam terminar num transitivo directo.

Começaram a aproximar-se, ela tremendo de vocabulário e ele sentindo o seu ditongo crescente. Abraçaram-se, numa pontuação tão minúscula, que nem um período simples, passaria entre os dois.

Estavam nessa ênclise quando ela confessou que ainda era vírgula.

Ele não perdeu o ritmo e sugeriu-lhe que ela lhe soletrasse no seu apóstrofo. É claro que ela se deixou levar por essas palavras, pois estava totalmente oxítona às vontades dele e foram para o comum de dois géneros.

Ela, totalmente voz passiva. Ele, completamente voz activa. Entre beijos, carícias, parónimos e substantivos, ele foi avançando cada vez mais.

Ficaram uns minutos nessa próclise e ele, com todo o seu predicativo do objecto, tomava a iniciativa. Estavam assim, na posição de primeira e segunda pessoas do singular.

Ela era um perfeito agente da passiva; ele todo paroxítono, sentindo o pronome do seu grande travessão forçando aquele hífen ainda singular.

Nisto a porta abriu-se repentinamente.

Era o verbo auxiliar do edifício. Ele tinha percebido tudo e entrou logo a dar conjunções e adjectivos aos dois, os quais se encolheram gramaticalmente, cheios de preposições, locuções e exclamativas.

Mas, ao ver aquele corpo jovem, numa acentuação tónica, ou melhor, subtónica, o verbo auxiliar logo diminuiu os seus advérbios e declarou a sua vontade de se tornar particípio na história. Os dois olharam-se; e viram que isso era preferível, a uma metáfora por todo o edifício.

Que loucura, meu Deus!

Aquilo não era nem comparativo. Era um superlativo absoluto. Foi-se aproximando dos dois, com aquela coisa maiúscula, com aquele predicativo do sujeito apontado aos seus objectos. Foi-se chegando cada vez mais perto, comparando o ditongo do substantivo ao seu tritongo e propondo claramente uma mesóclise-a-trois.

Só que, as condições eram estas:

Enquanto abusava de um ditongo nasal, penetraria no gerúndio do substantivo e culminaria com um complemento verbal no artigo feminino.
O substantivo, vendo que poderia transformar-se num artigo indefinido depois dessa situação e pensando no seu infinitivo, resolveu colocar um ponto final na história. Agarrou o verbo auxiliar pelo seu conectivo, atirou-o pela janela e voltou ao seu trema, cada vez mais fiel à língua portuguesa, com o artigo feminino colocado em conjunção coordenativa conclusiva.

Fernanda Braga da Cruz


24 novembro 2007

Bear with me ;)

A couple of weeks ago, Australian prime minister John Howard was ambushed on the campaign trail by protesters holding placards that read "Save Our Planet" and "Ratify Kyoto Now". But these weren't your usual weed-addled hippy agitators. These people were serious. You could tell by the way they were dressed as polar bears. These days, once a polar bear is involved in any sort of campaign, people sit up and listen. The enormous arctic creatures have become a global symbol of environmentalism, a humble martyr to global warming. Ever since we saw those bears stranded on a melted bit of ice in Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth, the whole world has felt their pain. Every time we fill up the kettle, leave the TV on stand-by or forget to take our empty cans of Alphabetti Spaghetti down the recycling bank, we hear the agonised screams of a baby polar bear ringing in the back of our minds. These beautiful, glistening, cuddly giants of the north pole are dying because of our selfish, indulgent, plastic bag lifestyles. The upshot is that polar bears have been elevated to prestigious status in today's culture. As tragic as Princess Di, as brave as Nelson Mandela, as pretty as Alesha Dixon in Strictly Come Dancing and as rock hard as Jean-Claude Van Damme, the polar bear is all things to all men. No wonder it's cashing in.

For a supposedly endangered species, these animals are everywhere. Back in April, a polar bear cub called Knut appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair's green issue alongside Leonardo Di Caprio. This week sees the release of The Golden Compass, a Philip Pullman fantasy in which Ian McKellen voices Iorek Byrnison, a noble polar bear and protector of the film's little girl protagonist. He's one of the goodies. This follows Earth, documentary narrated by Patrick Stewart which followed the dramatic migratory journey of polar bears over a five year period. And coming next year from the makers of March Of The Penguins is Arctic Tale, in which we are invited to join storyteller Queen Latifah on Nanu the polar bear's journey from birth to adulthood in the frozen Arctic wilderness. Polar bears are big business and the undisputed mammal du jour. Kids love them, politicians love them and Hollywood loves them. Expect Nanu to turn up at next year's Oscars, stepping out of a giant stretch SUV with a couple of sexy Arctic foxes on her arms and a bottle of Cristal in one of her paws.

For Robert Buchanan, president of Polar Bears International, the appeal of the creatures is obvious. "They are majestic, powerful animals that are filled with personality," he says. "Play-fighting bears remind you of kids play-wrestling, and mothers with cubs show a tenderness that humans can relate to. Their intelligent versatility makes them endlessly fascinating to watch. Some of the interest may also come from the fact that a standing bear has a human shape. For that reason, the Inuit considered the polar bear to be wise, powerful, and "almost a man". Many tribes told legends of strange polar bear men that lived in igloos. These bears walked upright, just like men, and were able to talk. Natives believed they shed their skins in the privacy of their homes." Blimey. Certainly, the polar bear has an aesthetic appeal that's thoroughly modern. With its clean lines and brilliant white fur, it looks like it has been designed by Apple's Jonathan Ive. In reality, its skin is black and its fur is hollow and translucent, only giving the appearance of whiteness. Which, in a way, makes it cooler. This natural style, combined with the human similarities, have made polar bears a popular marketing device for decades. In the seventies, Cresta used an animated polar bear to advertise their soft drinks. Created by John Webster (the same adman who later invented The Honey Monster and George the Hofmeister Bear) it was based on Jack Nicholson's character in Easy Rider. Every time the bear took a sip of Cresta, he would launch into a joyful spasm (just as Nicholson had reacted to whiskey). The campaign ran for years and the bear's catch phrase "It's frothy man!" became a playground staple. Later, Fox's Glacier Mints used a slumbering polar bear as its brand mascot with similar success.

But it's global warming that has reinvented the polar bear as an era-defining icon. Earlier this year, viewers of BBC One's Planet Earth saw this problem up close. A desperate bear, deprived of its natural seal hunting environment, suffered the indignity of being beaten up by a bunch of walruses on camera. That, and widely syndicated pictures of bears drowning in melted ice, has had us clambering to embrace the seemingly endangered species. Edinburgh Zoo is home to Mercedes, the UK's only polar bear. "She's one of the top attractions at the zoo at the moment," says senior keeper Sharon Hatton. "People think it might be a chance to catch a glimpse before the species disappears. Films make a big difference. After March Of The Penguins and Happy Feet, everyone was rushing to the penguin enclosure. Now, it's beginning to happen with the polar bear." Mercedes' stock is rising. This year, her number of adopters has risen to 160, challenging the king penguin's status as the zoo's most popular attraction.

The polar bear is hot - both literally and metaphorically. But how much of this increased kudos is credible? A debate still rages about its endangered status. Some reports have suggested that 25,000 bears lurk in the north pole today - compared to just 5,000 in 1950. One thing is certain: these animals are far less cuddly than cinematic depictions suggest. In fact, they're the bear species most likely to hunt humans. "Most wild animals will only attack you if you directly threaten them or their children," says former SAS commander Chris Ryan, who has encountered polar bears in the wild. "But polar bears will track humans down and take a week to do it. They have an incredible sense of smell and will detect humans from miles away. In the north pole at night, temperatures become too cold for humans to move. But that's when a polar bear will strike."

It's enough to put you off your Fox's Glacier Mint. Whether their population is on the increase or not, the disappearance of their natural habitat is driving polar bears further into human communities, such as Churchill in northern Canada, where they are often found scavenging in rubbish bins. The species might be riding on the crest of a publicity wave at the moment, but fame is a fickle mistress. It may only take a few backyard attacks on innocent Canadians for them to be reduced to the lowly status of a rubbish urban pigeon. And this time next year - who knows? - we could all be going on about the Arctic leopard instead.

Animal planet: Each decade has its favourite animal...

1970s: The Lion

With its orangey brownish hue and main of extravagantly coiffured hair, the lion defined the seventies aesthetic. Prancing about the jungle like the original medallion man, the big cat was barely distinguishable from Barry Gibb. The now hard to find Lion Bar was a 1970s playground favourite.

1980s: The Tiger

Michael Jackson cuddled one on the decade's biggest selling album cover. Del Boy favoured the animal's fur print as an interior design feature. And Rocky pounded the streets of Philadelphia to the strains of Survivor's Eye Of The Tiger, the lyrics being a fierce endorsement of Thatcherite individualism.

1990s: The Monkey

While the monkey is a perennial favourite that transcends generations, it made the Britpop era its own. Rock luminaries such as Liam Gallagher and Ian Brown based their walks on the gangly primates, designer Paul Frank devised his monkey-based fashion range and took the high street by storm.

Early 2000s: The Penguin

In the grips of 21st century angst, a generation embraces the humble penguin. With thousands of miles to walk in sub zero temperatures, penguins are far too busy to worry about stuff like Iranian nuclear proliferation. Movies Happy Feet and March Of The Penguins cement the bird's iconic status. And everyone starts wearing jumpers with them little Penguin crests on them.



12 novembro 2007

Penguin's Great Loves



Translation Awards in Britain

The Premio Valle-Inclán for translation from the Spanish
Nick Caistor for The Sleeping Voice (La vos dormida) by Dulce Chacón (Harvill Secker )

The Saif Ghobash-Banipal prize for translation from the Arabic
Farouk Abdel Wahab for The Lodging House (Wikalat 'Atiya) by Khairy Shalaby (American University in Cairo Press)

The Schlegel-Tieck prize for translation from the German
Sally-Ann Spencer for The Swarm (Der Schwarm) by Frank Schätzing (Hodder)

The Scott Moncrieff prize for translation from the French
Sarah Adams for Just Like Tomorrow (Kiffe, Kiffe Demain) by Faïza Guène (Chatto)

The Vondel prize for translation from the Dutch or Flemish
Susan Massotty for My Father's Notebook (Spijkerschrift, Uitgeverij De Geus) by Kader Abdolah (Canongate)

The Risa Domb/Porjes prize for translation from the Hebrew
Dr Nicholas de Lange for A Tale of Love and Darkness (Sippor Al Ahava Vehoshekh) by Amos Oz (Vintage)

The Rossica prize for translation from the Russian
Joanne Turnbull for Seven Stories by Sigizmund Krzhizanovsky (Glas)

Speaking after the award, Sarah Adams, who won the prize for translation from French for her translation of Faiza Guène's Just Like Tomorrow, said she was "surprised and delighted" to have won.
"I think it's a bold and surprising choice for the Scott Moncrieff prize," she said. "Faiza Guène is an author who has yet to be embraced by the literary establishment in Paris. I hope this award goes some way to giving her the full recognition she deserves."

The seven awards were gathered together by the Society of Authors in an attempt to raise the profile of literary translation.

The society's awards secretary, Paula Johnson, said that the awards were part of their efforts to "support the role of literary translation".

"These prizes celebrate the best of the world of literary translation," she said, "and at the same time generate further interest in translated books and literary translation."

According to Adams the prizes have an effect both for individual translators and for wider literary culture.

"It's quite an impecunious and anonymous métier," she explained, "so it's extremely encouraging on a personal level. In terms of wider visibility these prizes are crucial in bringing new audiences to world books."


Creature Discomforts




A new campaign to challenge and change attitudes towards disability is being launched by Leonard Cheshire Disability this week and is previewed online today (12 November). The charity has teamed up with Aardman Animations to create a highly original campaign called Creature Discomforts. The awareness campaign is based on the much-loved Creature Comforts series but features the hallmark plasticine characters with disabilities, combined with the real voices and experiences of disabled people.



09 novembro 2007

Cuties of the times, or all about hibernating



from Ciência ao Natural.

You love virgin olive oil and homemade fromage de tête. These guides say you should embrace your snobby self.

First there was Horace. Then there was Juvenal. Now there is David Kamp. Horace and Juvenal, as you may recall from your undergraduate days, each gave his name to a school of satire. Horatian satires were gentle pokes at the foibles of the day. (Think Garrison Keillor, only in a toga.) Juvenalian satires were caustic attacks on human mores. (Think Bill Hicks, but in Latin.) "Kampian satire" has not caught on as a phrase yet, but in his Snob's Dictionary series -- bluffers' guides to rock, film and now food -- David Kamp has developed a new form that can only be called aspirational satire.

Satire generally instructs by counter-example, presenting an exaggerated model of behavior in an unflattering light, and serving as a warning to readers who might be headed in that direction. Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal," for example, lays out a scheme whereby poor Irish mothers might better their situation by raising babies for the English to eat. Theoretically, English landlords would read Swift's pamphlet, recognize their own cruel treatment of their Irish tenants, and by treating them better, move away from Swift's portrait of them.

Kamp's series nominally works this way; a rock snob might cringe in self-recognition on reading the entry for Brian Wilson and see a reflection of his own snobbish pronouncements on "Pet Sounds" as the greatest artistic accomplishment of the 20th century. At the same time, by providing aspiring snobs with the requisite vocabulary, the books also work to promote the same behavior they ridicule. For instance, a practicing food snob can pick up "The Food Snob's Dictionary" and recognize that it was bad manners to ask last weekend's brunch hosts if the bacon was Niman Ranch; an aspiring food snob can pick up the same book and learn that Niman Ranch is a name to reckon with in the world of meat.

Kamp's new "Food Snob's Dictionary" (coauthored by Marion Rosenfeld) appears at a moment when food snobbery is rampant. Adjectives like "artisanal" and "house-made" appear on menus, stoves can cost more than a year at Bennington, and diners gossip online about sous chefs as if they were rock stars. Kamp has a rich vein of material to mine. But as he uses the word, "snob" does not carry the negative connotation it has in real life -- it means something close to "connoisseur," even if it is the kind of connoisseurs whose refined tastes make them a burden to their less evolved friends.

By targeting two distinct kinds of readers -- those who read one of the Snob's Dictionaries to learn the information it contains, and those who read it to congratulate themselves that they already know it -- Kamp is following a trail blazed by his fellow Spy magazine alum Lisa Birnbach. Birnbach's 1980 "The Official Preppy Handbook" is the ur-document of aspirational satire. It purported to ridicule a way of life, but it also offered anxious teens from the hinterlands preparing for their first year at Colby or Vassar a guide to the Bermuda bags and Nantucket Reds they would need to blend in.

Kamp (also author of "The United States of Arugula") and Rosenfeld know the terrain of the food snob well enough to reach both kinds of readers. They write with knowledge and enthusiasm, but maintain the perspective that allows them to see the follies of the food world. Ruth Reichl, for instance, is a "Prodigiously maned gastro-sensualist and writer, known for a trilogy of memoirs ... that chart her Zelig-like journey through various food-mad locales ... as they experienced their signal moments in America's culinary coming of age. Though prone to onanistic, self-aggrandizing prose and batty flights of fancy -- wearing unnecessarily elaborate disguises while visiting restaurants, frequently invoking her dead mother as a speaking character in reviews -- Reichl has more than creditably served as editor of Gourmet since 1999."

These biographies are the most entertaining part of the book; the entry for Julia Child mentions that she was "a bawdy, fiercely liberal, whip-smart intellectual who partied harder than Anthony Bourdain." The more useful entries are for individual ingredients, and here, Kamp and Rosenfeld do some demystifying: cepe is "a cloying French synonym for porcini mushroom, used on menus to confuse diners who think porcinis are old news."

Beyond what is included in "The Food Snob's Dictionary," for real snobs a good deal of the fun of these books is seeing what is not in them. Cookbook author Elizabeth David, "who turned out two masterworks, 'Italian Food' (1954) and 'French Provincial Cooking' (1960), which though sometimes vague and imprecise in their recipes, neatly evoked a sun-dappled Southern European wonderland," gets an entry, but her more Anglo-centric counterpart, Jane Grigson, does not. For snobs keen to make their own fromage de tête, Grigson's out-of-print "The Art of Charcuterie" is the go-to reference. The less ambitious snob will make do with the recipe from snob darling Fergus Henderson's "The Whole Beast." Entry-level snobs will settle for the recipe in Ruhlman & Polcyn's "Charcuterie," which happens to be the most comprehensive and precise of these three books. Those snobs who celebrated when a university press began reissuing Grigson's cookbooks will be frosted by her absence, but pleased to have out-snobbed the snobs.

That is, they will be if food snobs can see themselves as such, for it is a label that many obvious snobs would disavow, claiming instead to be simply sensible and tasteful eaters. Is the true food snob someone who passes up the Wish-Bone dressing for the Newman's Own, or the person who disdains bottled dressing in favor of making his or her own vinaigrette -- or maybe the one who insists on using estate-bottled olive oil and house-made wine vinegar? Anyone who reads the Eat & Drink section in Salon, for instance, is likely to have some food snob symptoms, but it may be easier to recognize the snob pathology at work in different milieus, such as those covered by Kamp's rock and film dictionaries.

"The Rock Snob's Dictionary" was the first in the series, and it is here that Kamp and this book's co-author, Steven Daly, may have performed the most valuable public service for non-snobs. Compared to film and food snobs, the rock snob demographic skews younger and louder, and, as anyone who has tried to date a college radio DJ can attest, the arrogance of youth and the adulation of obscure musicians can be a lethal mix. It is not for nothing that Mark "Whatevs" Graham once characterized the denizens of Rock Snob stronghold Pitchfork Media as "indie grinches." This same intensity makes the rock snob easy to spot in the wild. If a date starts lecturing you on the vagaries of Lee "Scratch" Perry's discography, or expounds on the unheralded influence of Roky Erikson, you'll know right away what you are dealing with.

As for film snobs, they're happiest when they -- and everybody else -- are in the dark. Kamp and co-author Lawrence Levi know this, so "The Film Snob's Dictionary" trains an usher's flashlight on this shadowy sect, helpfully illuminating the differences between snob-approved Sidney Lumet ("Dog Day Afternoon") and crowd-pleasing Sydney Pollack ("Tootsie") along the way. To film snobs, "the new Cronenberg" is a film (because it has penises in it), not a movie, that must be judged against the rest of the "dystopian weird-out flicks" made by the "cheerfully depraved Canadian horror auteur."

This kind of name-dropping is the lingua franca of film snobs; see, for example the nearly Aspergerian pop-cultural patter that passes for dialogue in film snob hero/ex-video store clerk Quentin Tarantino's films. While most people couldn't pronounce "Apichatpong Weerasethakul," even if they knew who or what that was, film snobs knowingly refer to the Thai director as "Joe." Armed with "The Film Snob's Dictionary," the ambitious denizen of the multiplex can graduate to dissecting Wes Anderson's iTunes-only short, "Hotel Chevalier," and even patronize his tailor, Manhattan's Mr. Ned; the rest of us can respond accordingly when words like "diegesis" and "mise-en-scène" pop up in conversation.

If one snob can learn a lesson from the excesses of another, this series of books ("The Wine Snob's Dictionary" is in the works) may undo the very culture it seeks to celebrate/mock. By offering a witty and painless entrée into the recondite shibboleths of rock geeks, film nerds and don't-dare-call-them-foodies, Kamp has laid the groundwork for a nation of snobs. If this keeps up, will there be any philistines left for the rest of us to disdain?




Yep, this one is for us ;)

07 novembro 2007

The 5 Best and Worst Science Based Movies of All Time


The Best (Golden Eagles)

1 Gattaca (Andrew Niccol, 1997). Set in the not-too-distant future, without overt preaching or much scientific exposition, Gattaca uses the youthful dreams of Vincent Freeman (Ethan Hawke) to tell an affectingly human story about the consequences of putting too much faith into DNA, genetic destiny, and stereotypes.

2 Metropolis (Fritz Lang, 1927). “Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy builds girl” could be the tagline for this stunningly realized early futuristic film, as scientist C. A. Rotwang (Rudolf Klein-Rogge) replaces the woman he loved with an erotic female robot. But Metropolis goes much deeper than it sounds, with audacious future projections of technology and its impact on society.


3 A tie! The Day the Earth Stood Still (Robert Wise, 1951) and On the Beach (Stanley Kramer, 1959). Both films reflect the scientific and global realities of the cold war era. The Day the Earth Stood Still comments on the dangers of nuclear knowledge without corresponding human wisdom; On the Beach paints a despairing picture of a world destroyed through unbridled nuclear warfare.

4 A Beautiful Mind (Ron Howard, 2001). Apart from the cinematic qualities that won it four Academy Awards, this film pulls off the difficult feat of presenting abstract mathematics on-screen—the idea called the Nash equilibrium, which had won the film’s protagonist, John Nash (played by Russell Crowe), a Nobel Prize in Economics in 1994.

5 Contact (Robert Zemeckis, 1997). Jodie Foster believably evokes the psychology of a real scientist as rarely shown on screen when she plays Ellie Arroway, a dedicated radio astronomer. (However, not many actual scientists would bet their careers on the slim chance of finding advanced aliens.)


The Worst (Golden TURKEYs)

1 The Core (Jon Amiel, 2003). The Core’s characters include four physicists, a world-class computer hacker, and two astronauts, and the film got advice from some real scientific advisers. Nevertheless, it manages to impart record-setting amounts of scientific misinformation about basic physics (like elementary magnetism, electricity, and heat) in a mere 134 minutes.

2 What the #$*! Do We (K)now!? (William Arntz, Betsy Chasse, and Mark Vicente, 2004). Designed to resemble a documentary, this film works hard to convince us that quantum physics tells us we can change reality by our thoughts alone. This is good news for lead character Amanda (Marlee Matlin), but sadly, it’s not what quantum physicists say. Even one of the talking heads in this film was dismayed by how his comments were misconstrued. Of course, that hasn’t stopped it from becoming a New Age classic.

3 Chain Reaction (Andrew Davis, 1996). Fusion power—the production of clean, near-limitless energy by smashing hydrogen nuclei together—is a difficult process that has yet to be achieved. The garbled science in this film makes fusion power even more problematic, and the beautiful but ineffectual physicist Dr. Lily Sinclair (Rachel Weisz) doesn’t exactly help the cause of women in science.

4 Volcano (Mick Jackson, 1997). When the San Andreas Fault hiccups, a volcano grows in the heart of Los Angeles, forcing emergency services chief Mike Roark (Tommy Lee Jones) and geologist Dr. Amy Barnes (Anne Heche) to save the city. But the San Andreas Fault can produce only earthquakes, not volcanoes, making a flood of lava on Wilshire Boulevard very unlikely.

5 The 6th Day (Roger Spottiswoode, 2000). This film offers action scenes for Arnold Schwarzenegger, and it makes some sharp comments about science versus religion. But its plot device—a cloning process that produces an identical, fully grown copy of an adult human in just a few hours—is so far off-base that you just can’t suspend enough disbelief.



Discover

05 novembro 2007

So Pandas are sweet?

From Cinematical:

Cinematical is oh-so-happy to have received this exclusive teaser poster for the upcoming Dreamworks animated comedy Kung Fu Panda (click on the image above for a larger version), starring Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, Jackie Chan, Lucy Liu, Seth Rogen and Ian McShane. The film follows a fat, lazy Panda named Po (Black) who, while living in ancient China, must somehow learn how to become a Kung Fu Master in order to save the Valley of Peace from an evil snow leopard named Tai Lung (McShane). Kung Fu Panda was directed by Mark Osborne and John Stevenson. Additionally, we have some bonus treats for you: A few days ago, a promo for the film arrived online and folks were calling it the first official trailer for the film. Not so fast -- the first official trailer has just arrived today, in glorious HD, and you can head on over to Moviefone to check that out right now. Prepare your fighting stance people -- Kung Fu Panda shall kick and punch its way into theaters on June 6, 2008.

02 novembro 2007

Os Açores e a National Geographic Traveler

The world's most appealing destinations—islands—are the ones most prone to tourism overkill. Our 522 experts vote on which ones avoid the danger, which are succumbing to it, and which hang in the balance.
Guide to the Scores:
0-25: Catastrophic: all criteria very negative, outlook grim.
26-49: In serious trouble.
50-65: In moderate trouble: all criteria medium-negative or a mix of negatives and positives.
66-85: Minor difficulties.
86-95: Authentic, unspoiled, and likely to remain so.
96-100: Enhanced.




Azores, Portugal

Score: 84

"Not a beach destination or otherwise susceptible to mass tourism; indeed, its capricious climate probably impedes the flow of tourists. The islands' green volcanic mountains and picturesque black-and-white towns look set to remain unspoiled."

"Wonderful place. Built environment in good shape. Locals are very sophisticated as most have lived overseas."

"Remote and temperate, the Azores remain lightly touristed. Main visitor type is the independent traveler staying in B&Bs. The ecosystem—from the beautiful hydrangea-covered hills of Flores to the rock-bottomed bays of Terceira—is in great shape. Whales still a frequent sight. Local culture strong and vibrant. Not uncommon to be invited to a person's house for dinner, or welcomed into a communal meal during a festival."

And Madeira Islands:

Score: 61

"Despite a reputation for high-quality tourism, beautiful and diverse gardens, and walking in beautiful scenery, Madeira has suffered from mass-market hotel development spreading out from Funchal."

"Most of this Atlantic treasure seems relatively undisturbed by the tourism influx that has eaten up the coastline surrounding the capital city of Funchal."

"My favorite, full of flowers and pure nature. Wandering along the old water canals is fascinating. The nature is marvelous and very special. Religious events and churches invite visitors. Local market area is attractive, and fado music charms me. The negative features are high hotels that do not fit into the landscape and are too dominant in a townscape."

A Minor History of Giant Spheres

From CABINET

1664




The Gottorp Globe, the world’s first modern planetarium, is completed in Germany. The hollow sphere, ten feet in diameter, is turned by water power; it has a map of the constellations on the interior and a map of the world on the outside. In 1714, it is given as a gift to Peter the Great but is destroyed by fire in 1747. The reconstructed globe, stolen by the Germans in World War II and recovered by US troops, now resides at the St. Petersburg Kunstkammer.

1699



Daniel Marot completes the Celestial Sphere Fountain for the country palace of William of Orange and Princess Mary at Het Loo, the Netherlands. Marot’s spherical fountain is etched with a celestial map and spits water from a small hole in each star.

1784



Jean-Pierre Blanchard’s spherical hydrogen balloon carries him across the river Seine.

1784



Visionary French architect Étienne-Louis Boullée designs his Cenotaph for Newton, a giant sphere punctured by holes that create the illusion of suspended stars. He writes, “O Newton! … I conceived the idea of surrounding thee with thy discovery, and thus, somehow, surrounding thee with thyself. … From whatever side we look at this shape, no trick of perspective can alter the magnificence of its perfect form … as soft and as flowing as it is possible to imagine.” Similarly believing that the sphere represents the most perfect expression of the sublime, fellow French architects Claude-Nicolas Ledoux, Jean-Jacques Lequeu, and Leon Vaudoyer all design spherical buildings during this period.

1850



Baron Haussmann and engineer Eugène Belgrand design the modern Paris sewer system.The sewers are regularly cleaned using large wooden spheres just smaller than the system’s tubular tunnels. The buildup of water pressure behind the balls forces them through the tunnel network until they emerge somewhere downstream pushing a mass of filthy sludge. (Courtesy sewerhistory.org)

1851



James Wyld’s sixty-foot-tall, hollow, inside-out globe goes on display in Leicester Square, with a spiral staircase and viewing platforms running through the polar axis. Wyld’s concave projection is described by Punch magazine as “a geographical globule, which the mind can take in at one swallow."

1889



First documented appearance of the acrobat LaRoche’s “Wunderkugel” or “Bola Misteriosa” act. A hollow two-foot steel ball would ascend, apparently of its own accord, a narrow twenty-four-foot spiraling ramp and then descend just as perilously. At the end of the act, LaRoche would emerge from the sphere to reveal that he had in fact been propelling it by constantly shifting his center of gravity.

1895



French geographer and anarchist Elisée Reclus proposes the construction of the largest inside-out globe yet, on the scale of 1:100,000. It would stand 418 feet tall and be regularly updated with the latest geographical information. Though the project receives modest support from Alfred Russel Wallace (who thought the globe need not be taller than 167 feet), and enthusiastic support from Patrick Geddes (who called it “no mere scientific model in its institute, but the image, the shrine, and temple of the Earth-mother”), it is never built.

1922



Meteorologist Lewis Fry Richardson, creator of the first dynamic model for weather prediction, proposes the creation of a “forecast factory” that would employ some 64,000 human computers sitting in tiers around the circumference of a giant globe. Each calculator would be responsible for solving differential equations related to the weather in his quadrant of the earth. From a pedestal in the center of the factory, a conductor would orchestrate this symphony of equations by shining a beam of light on areas of the globe where calculation was moving too fast or falling behind.

1930s



Workers from the United Fruit Company, clearing land in the Diquis Valley of Costa Rica, begin unearthing large numbers of almost perfectly round stone spheres. The largest of these apparently man-made balls is over six feet in diameter and weighs over sixteen tons. No one is sure exactly when or how they were made, or by whom, or for what reason, but according to University of Kansas archaeologist John Hoopes, “the balls were most likely made by reducing round boulders to a spherical shape through a combination of controlled fracture, pecking, and grinding.” Today, virtually all of the spheres have been taken from their original locations. Many are now prized lawn ornaments across Costa Rica.

1933



Alessandro Dandini of San Francisco receives a patent for his spherical marine vessel, a gigantic metal ball that rolls through the water with an attached passenger cabin. Popular Science reports, “The inventor expects his vessel to be used for amusement-park purposes and in addition be valuable for transport work.”

1934



William Beebe and Otis Barton descend more than half a mile beneath the surface of the ocean in the Bathysphere, a 4.75-foot steel ball fitted with three-inch—thick quartz windows. Their depth record stands for fourteen years.

1935



The three-story-tall stained glass Mapparium, an inside-out globe traversed by a glass bridge, opens at the Mary Baker Eddy Library in Boston. (Courtesy The Mary Baker Eddy Library, Boston, MA)

1939



The centerpiece of the New York World’s Fair is a 700-foot triangular spire called the Trylon and the 180-foot tall Perisphere, a giant ball housing a model of a Utopian garden city of the future called “Democracity.” It is described in the official guide book as a “symbol of a perfectly integrated, futuristic metropolis pulsating with life and rhythm and music.”

1958



Buckminster Fuller proposes the “Cloud Nine” project, a levitating city of tensegrity spheres, each a mile in diameter. Because the surface-to-volume ratio of such spheres would be vanishingly small, Fuller calculated that if trapped solar energy raised their internal temperature by a mere one degree, they would be able to float like balloons.

1959

Physicist Freeman Dyson suggests that a giant shell of matter be constructed around a star to collect its total energy output. Dyson thought that the idea for such a sphere would be so self-evident to any advanced civilization that he suggested searching the skies for them as evidence of extra- terrestrial intelligence.

1960



NASA launches Echo 1, America’s first communications satellite. The 100-foot mylar “satalloon” is coated in shiny, radio-reflective aluminum that allows it to passively bounce radio and television signals across the Atlantic.

1979



After spending four hours a day for twenty- nine years on the project, Francis Johnson finishes the world’s largest twine ball ever spun single-handedly. It weighs 18,000 pounds, has a circumference of forty feet, and is housed in an enclosed gazebo in Darwin, Minnesota, where “Twine Ball Day” is celebrated every August. (Courtesy Minnesota Historical Society)

1982

Spaceship Earth opens at Disney’s Epcot Center.

1984



After a dispute with the Austrian government over the construction of his spherical house, Austrian artist Edwin Lipburger declares his property an independent nation and renames it the Republic of Kugelmugel. Lipburger is sentenced to jail for his refusal to pay taxes and insistence on printing his own stamps. However, a pardon from the Austrian president saves him from serving time.

1999



The Sudbury Neutrino Observatory begins operation more than a mile underground in an Ontario mine. The forty-foot sphere is filled with 1,000 tons of heavy water. Its purpose is to detect solar neutrinos.(Courtesy NASA)

2006



Rem Koolhaas offers a spherical design for the Ras al Khaimah Convention and Exhibition Centre in the UAE. Some critics note a striking resemblance to the planet-destroying Death Star from Star Wars. (Courtesy Office for Metropolitan Architecture/OMA)

All Aboard For Digestion, Excretion, and Points South



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