31 janeiro 2008

New Dictionary Highlights Nazi Words to Avoid

Dozens of words in the German language, from "degenerate" to "final solution," have become taboo because of their use by the Nazis. A new dictionary of Third Reich terms provides a guide through the linguistic minefield.

As if German weren't hard enough. Three genders, endlessly long words, verbs coming at the end of impossibly rambling sentences.

But there is another, more subtle, linguistic trap which both Germans and non-Germans can easily fall into -- and which is far worse a faux pas than a mere slip of the article. Mention that you've found the "Endlösung" ("final solution") to a problem you've been grappling with, or that you've made a "Selektion" ("selection") from a number of possible alternatives, and you will quickly find yourself the target of disapproving stares.

The reason is simple -- the aforementioned words are so tainted by their use by the Nazis that they are now completely taboo. To modern German ears, "Endlösung" will forever be associated with Hitler's genocidal "Final Solution to the Jewish Question," while "Selektion" is now verbum non grata due to its use to refer to the death camp practice of "selecting" inmates to be executed.

Now a new dictionary examines just what roles such terms play in the collective German psyche. The "Wörterbuch der 'Vergangenheitsbewältigung'" ("Dictionary of 'Coming to Terms with the Past'") examines around 1,000 words and phrases -- everything from "Anschluss," used to refer to the 1938 "annexation" of Austria, to "Wehrmacht," the name of the Nazi-era armed forces -- looking at how the meaning and usage of the terms have developed since the end of World War II.

Taboo Nazi Terms

German studies professor Georg Stötzel, who co-authored the dictionary together with Thorsten Eitz, explains how the words disappeared from the language after the end of the war. "There are very few terms associated with the Nazis which continued to be used with the same meaning after 1945," he told SPIEGEL ONLINE in an interview. In fact, as early as the late 1940s, German intellectuals like Dolf Sternberger and Wilhelm Süskind -- father of Patrick Süskind, author of the bestseller "Perfume" -- were writing essays examining the newly taboo Nazi terms.

For many, the simple power of the words and their associations made them literally unspeakable. That applied especially to victims of the Nazis. "Survivors simply couldn't bear to hear the word 'Lager,'" says Stötzel, referring to the German term for concentration or death camp.

Another reason for avoiding Nazi terms in public discourse is the fact that the speaker runs the risk of being accused of harboring Nazi sympathies. Often such a usage is enough to land the speaker on the front pages of Germany's newspapers. The late head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Paul Spiegel, courted controversy in 2005 when he criticized German policy on which Jews were allowed to immigrate from the former Soviet Union by saying that Russian Jews were being "selected." Similarly, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Cologne, Joachim Meisner, was heavily criticized last year (more...) when he used the word "entartete" ("degenerate") in a speech about art. The word is taboo -- particularly in that context -- because of its use by the Nazis to condemn modern art.

As it happens, the Catholic Church is one of the institutions which is quickest to make comparisons with the Third Reich, another linguistic phenomenon which Eitz and Stötzel's dictionary examines. Other groups which have few qualms about comparing their opponents with Hitler, or undesirable phenomena with Auschwitz, include environmental and peace groups, Stötzel explains. "These groups feel they have the moral right to make explicit comparisons with the Nazis," he says.

'Holocaust on Your Plate'

Such comparisons also get instant media attention -- and frequently condemnation. The controversial Archbishop Meisner was also the target of criticism in this regard when he made an implicit comparison between an abortion pill and the Zyklon B poison gas used by the Nazis in the gas chambers of Auschwitz, while other Catholic campaigners have coined the term "Babycaust" by analogy with "Holocaust" to condemn abortion. Meanwhile German animal rights activists attracted attention with an anti-factory farming campaign entitled "Holocaust on Your Plate."

But you don't even need to use Nazi-tainted terms to get into trouble. Just using the same rhetorical techniques as Joseph Goebbels, king of Third Reich propaganda, and other leading Nazis can land you in hot water. Former Vice Chancellor Franz Müntefering found this out the hard way in 2005 when he described hostile foreign investors as "locusts." Müntefering, who belongs to the left wing of the Social Democratic Party, was criticized for comparing people with animals, a trope considered deeply problematic due to the Nazi practise of portraying Jews as parasites and vermin.

"Sixty years later, people are still being compared to animals and plagues which have to be destroyed," wrote historian Michael Wolffsohn in a damning essay.

Where Is Eastern Germany?

Interestingly, it's precisely those groups who presumably most admire the Nazis who take the most care to avoid using specifically Third Reich terms. Far-right parties such as the National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD) flirt with Nazi ideology while avoiding taboo terms. "You can recognize the implication but you can't accuse them of using Nazi terminology," says Stötzel.

For example, senior NPD politician Holger Apfel has talked of his party's ambition to win seats in the "Reichstag," using the pre-1945 term for the German government instead of the modern "Bundestag" -- today, "Reichstag" can only be used in politically correct German to refer to the historical parliament building, not the institution. Similarly, far-right German politicians like to refer to the states of the former East Germany as "Mitteldeutschland" ("Central Germany") -- the implication being that present-day Poland actually comprises the eastern part of the country.

But perhaps the taint of at least some Nazi terms may fade with time. Take the word "Mädel," for example, a dialect word for "girl" which was favored by the Nazis. Its Third Reich connotations appear to be lost on young Germans today, many of whom use the word -- often ironically -- without a second thought. "Young people don't know it was used by the Nazis," says Stötzel.

The "Wörterbuch der 'Vergangenheitsbewältigung'" by Thorsten Eitz and Georg Stötzel is published by Georg Olms Verlag, priced €29.80.

“You can now buy Indulgences to offset your carbon guilt”


Here in the West, the so-called ‘war on global warming’ is reminiscent of medieval madness. You can now buy Indulgences to offset your carbon guilt. If you fly, you give an extra 10 quid to British Airways; BA hands it on to some non-profit carbon-offsetting company which sticks the money in its pocket and goes off for lunch. This kind of behaviour is demented.


Likening the soul-saving Indulgences sold by the medieval Catholic Church to today’s carbon credits, Cockburn traces his subject through the ages, showing how fear is used to distract us from real problems and real solutions. Skewering doomsters on both the left and right, A Short History of Fear tackles: 9/11 conspiracy theories; the twentieth-century witch craze of ‘satanic abuse’; eugenics; the Kennedy assassination, Pearl Harbor, and other ‘inside jobs’; terrorism; the ‘Great Fear’ of the eighteenth century; today’s eleventh-hour predictions of planetary decline; and much more. Scathing, often hilarious, and always insightful, this is Cockburn at the top of his controversial game.

Fabuloso... ;)

29 janeiro 2008

Fragments of the Tocharian

Between 1902 and 1914 the German Ethnological Institute sent repeated expeditions into the great Taklamakan desert of Central Asia, in search of ancient manuscripts that had survived destruction due to the arid climate of the Tarim Basin.

One expedition brought back fragments of a manuscript written in a hitherto unknown language but employing a familiar North Indian script. Later dubbed Tocharian A, the language was deciphered by two linguists at Germany's Gottingen University, Emil Siel and Wilhem Siegling. The parchment turned out to be part of the Maitreyasamiti-Nataka, a Sanskrit Buddhist work in the Mahayana canon that foretells the coming of the Buddha.

In the mid-thirties a budding Chinese linguist, Ji Xianlin, arrived in Gottingen to study Sanskrit with Siel. Before receiving his Ph.D. in 1941, he also mastered Tocharian and a handful of other obscure languages. After the conclusion of World War II, he returned to China and began a long career as one of China's top specialists in ancient Indian languages and culture. In the late '90s, he published his own analysis and translation of newly discovered fragments of a Tocharian-language Maitreyasamiti-Nataka discovered in 1974 in the city of Yanqi in China's Xinjiang province.

Only a handful of people in the world can read Tocharian; mastering the language is not a path to notoriety. But Ji, the author of numerous books and monographs, has other claims to fame. Perhaps most amazingly, he secretly translated the entire Indian epic, "The Ramayana," from the original Sanskrit into Chinese, while experiencing the travails that afflicted nearly all Chinese intellectuals during the Cultural Revolution.

Earlier this week, the Indian government bestowed one of its greatest honors, the Padma Bushan award, on the 97-year-old Ji, in honor of his contributions to cross-cultural understanding. In the realpolitik of Chinese-Indian diplomacy, the move was immediately interpreted as as indicating a positive direction in the relationship between the two countries.

Symbolically speaking, the theory has some merit. Ji has long been a believer in the transformative virtue of translation. When he received a lifetime achievement award in China in 2006 for his contributions to the field of translation, he observed that "The reason our Chinese culture has been able to remain consistent and rich throughout its 5,000 years of history is closely linked to translation. Translations from other cultures have helped infuse new blood into our culture."

How the World Works applauds such sentiments. And although, to be honest, I had no idea that the Tocharian language even existed 24 hours ago, after becoming curious about it when reading up on Ji, I now see the mysterious Tocharians as prototypical agents of globalization.

Why mysterious? Because hard evidence on who the Tocharians were or where they came from is scarce. Ethnically speaking, they are believed to be a Caucasian race that flourished for thousands of years in Central Asia before before being swallowed up almost without a trace by their Turkic neighbors, sometime around the end of the first millennium (Recently discovered well-preserved corpses of European-looking bodies have even been cited by present-day Uighur Turk separatists as proof that China has no claim to Xinjiang.)

Tocharian belongs to the Indo-European family of languages, but is distinguished by having traveled further East than any other Indo-European subgroup. Intriguingly, it shares some similarities with the most far-western Indo-European languages, such as Celtic. For early 20th century linguists, incorporating the new Tocharian data required a complete rethinking of theories of Indo-European linguistic migration.

With a civilization clustered around the oasis entrepots that marked the Silk Road connecting West to East, the Tocharians are thought to have played a major role in spreading Buddhism from India to China. That alone is an earthshaking event. Much earlier, theorized one archaeologist, the Tocharians might have introduced the wheeled chariot into China. The Mandarin words for lion and honey are thought by some linguists to be loan words from Tocharian (The word "Mandarin," incidentally, is Sanskrit in origin.)

Much more than that, we really don't know, although we can hope that somewhere in the desert caches of as-yet undiscovered manuscripts hold more clues to how culture and language spread across the globe in ancient times. The more we know about such interflows, the closer the ties that bind us all together. Or, as Ji Xianlin put it:

The river of Chinese civilization has kept alternating between rising and falling, but it has never dried up, because there was always fresh water flowing into it. It has over history been joined by fresh water many times, the two largest inflows coming from India and the West, both of which owed their success to translation. It is translation that has preserved the perpetual youth of Chinese civilization. Translation is hugely useful!"

Food Force

Food Force é um jogo educativo apresentado pelo Programa Alimentar Mundial das Nações Unidas (PAM).
O jogo foi concebido especificamente para explicar às crianças o que é a luta contra a fome a nível
mundial e a importância do trabalho de ajuda humanitária. O jogo está disponível em mais de dez
línguas, podendo ser descarregado gratuitamente no seguinte endereço: www.food-force.com/pt.
Destina-se a crianças dos 8 aos 13 anos de idade. O Food Force , lançado em inglês em 2005, foi o
primeiro jogo humanitário do mundo. Obteve rapidamente grande êxito a nível internacional, com mais
de 6 milhões de cópias em circulação em todo o mundo, até à data. O Serviço de Ajuda Humanitária da
Comissão Europeia (ECHO) financiou a versão portuguesa do Food Force.

Where Did All Those Gorgeous Russians Come From?

There was a particular historical moment, round about 1995 or so, when anyone entering a well-appointed drawing room, dining room, or restaurant in London was sure to encounter a beautiful Russian woman. Though the word beautiful doesn't really capture the phenomenon. The women I'm remembering were extraordinarily, unbelievably, stunningly gorgeous.

These women were half-Kazakh or half-Tartar with Mongolian ancestors and perfect skin; dressed in the most tasteful, most expensive clothes; shod in soft leather boots; and perfectly coiffed. They were usually accompanied by an older man, sometimes much older, to whom they were perhaps married, or more likely not. They spoke in low, alluringly accented voices and towered over the lesser mortals in the room. I distinctly remember gazing upon one such creature while in the company of a friend, an old Russia hand who'd spent much of the previous decade in the Soviet Union. He stared, shook his head, and whispered, "But where were they all before?"

In the aftermath of the Australian Open, a tennis tournament whose final rounds featured a parade of notably stunning ex-Soviet-bloc players, it is perhaps time to make a stab at answering my friend's question. Whatever you may say about the Soviet Union in the 1970s and '80s, it was not widely known for feminine pulchritude. Whatever you may say about women's professional tennis in the 1970s or '80s, it did not feature many players who looked like Maria Sharapova, the latest Australian Open victor.

Where were they all before?

Though this is a fairly frivolous question (OK, extremely frivolous), I am convinced it has an interesting answer. To put it bluntly, in the Soviet Union there was no market for female beauty. No fashion magazines featured beautiful women, since there weren't any fashion magazines. No TV series depended upon beautiful women for high ratings, since there weren't any ratings. There weren't many men rich enough to seek out beautiful women and marry them, and foreign men couldn't get the right sort of visa. There were a few film stars, of course, but some of the most famous—I'm thinking of Lyubov Orlova, alleged to be Stalin's favorite actress—were wholesome and cheerful rather than sultry and stunning. Unusual beauty, like unusual genius, was considered highly suspicious in the Soviet Union and its satellite people's republics.

This doesn't mean there weren't any beautiful women, of course, just that they didn't have the clothes or cosmetics to enhance their looks, and, far more important, they couldn't use their faces to launch international careers. Instead of gracing London drawing rooms, they stayed in Minsk, Omsk, or Alma Ata. Instead of couture, they wore cheap polyester. They could become assembly-line forewomen, Communist Party bosses, even local femmes fatales, but not Vogue cover girls. They didn't even dream of becoming Vogue cover girls, since very few had ever seen an edition of Vogue.

Instructive, in this light, is the career of a real Vogue cover girl, Natalia Vodianova. Born in Nizhny Novgorod to a single, impoverished mother, Vodianova ran away from home at 15 to run a fruit stall in the local street market (successfully, according to her official biography). At 17, she was spotted by a French scouting agent and told to learn English in three months. She did—after which she moved to Paris, married a British aristocrat, and went on to become "the face" of a Calvin Klein perfume and to earn $4 million-plus annually. The fashion world is ludicrously silly and superficial, but it did get Vodianova from Nizhny Novgorod to London, far away from her mother's abusive boyfriends, which wouldn't have happened before 1989. Though tennis was, for some, a way out in the past—remember Martina Navratilova—it's all much easier now: Sharapova and Australian Open semifinalist Jelena Jankovic both left their countries as children to train at a tennis academy in Florida, while losing finalist Ana Ivanovic moved to Switzerland at 15 where she was sponsored by a businessman who is now her manager.

Ultimately, what goes for the fashion world goes for other spheres of human activity. In the past, you had to play chess or be a champion gymnast to come to international attention if you were born in the Eastern bloc—chess and competitive sports figuring among the few party-approved export industries. Nowadays, stars in fields previously unsanctioned by the party—crime novelists, conceptual artists, computer whizzes—from Russia, Hungary, or Uzbekistan have a shot at fame and fortune, too. As for talented entrepreneurs, the sky's the limit.

Beauty is a matter of luck, but the same could be said of many other talents. And what open markets do for beautiful women they also do for other sorts of genius. So, cheer up next time you see a Siberian blonde dominating male attention at the far end of the table: The same mechanisms that brought her to your dinner party might one day bring you the Ukrainian doctor who cures your cancer or the Polish stockbroker who makes your fortune.

The Tao of Screen

Illustration by Robert Neubecker. Click image to expand.

If your computer desktop is anything like mine—and, brother, it is—you've paved over every spare pixel in an iconistan of clutter. Desktop design originated in a wistful visual metaphor, the clean, still work surface, encouraging users to productive ends. Leaps forward in computing horsepower and the rise of constant Internet use has transformed the tabletop terra firma into a cockpit, an antic terminal for the networked self. Our desktops are now a thick impasto of tabbed windows, pull-down menus, dashboard widgets, and application alerts. No possible distraction gets left behind, no link, feed, IM, twitter, or poke unheeded.

It's blindingly obvious to note that disarray is one of the defining aspects of the frequent Web user. (I could cite some pertinent statistics, but I don't trust myself to get back to this word processor window.) Ask any designer: Without white space, humans have difficulty focusing. Chances are, you're reading this alongside a flurry of other twinkling points of attention splayed across your monitor. But it doesn't have to be that way. There's an emerging market for programs that introduce much-needed traffic calming to our massively expanding desktops. The name for this genre of clutter-management software: zenware.

Spaces. Click image to expand.

The philosophy behind zenware is to force the desktop back to its Platonic essence. There are several strategies for achieving this, but most rely on suppressing the visual elements you're used to: windows, icons, and toolbars. The applications themselves eschew pull-down menus or hide off-screen while you work. Even if you consider yourself inured to their presence, the theory goes, you'll benefit most from their absence.

Zenware promises to help the ADHD user who lurks in each of us. But does any of this stuff actually work? As every freelance writer is a trusted authority on the powers of distraction, I decided to put a range of programs through the paces to see if they helped complete my daily computing tasks more punctually and efficiently.

Deep within the steamer trunk of features in this fall's Mac OS X Leopard update is an innocuous-seeming application called Spaces that is designed to extend desktop real estate. The goal is to parcel your applications into task-specific groups. I use Spaces to divide my desktop into three areas: word processing, spreadsheets, and dashboard-type applications (e-mail, newsreader, and calendar), with each screen a quick keystroke away. (In a winningly antique way of transitioning between tasks, the screens shuttle across like a ball bouncing along a roulette wheel.)

I've found this approach to screen expansion—making more with less—works nicely, acting as a natural encouragement to concentration and organization. Deep-surfing RSS feeds is my most frequent vice. With this system, when I start reading something I know will blow away my five-minute break, I click to minimize it to my dock for retrieval later. Rather than indulge my worst surfing habits, Spaces encourages fastidiousness. Every time I use Spaces, though, I'm forced to remember VirtueDesktops, an antecedent application for the Mac that allowed a greater range of configurability. (As old-school Unix and newer Windows users can crow, virtual desktops have been around the PC market for years.)

The most common zenware programs are the mini-apps that act to quiet the desktop in tiny ways. Widely available for PC or Macintosh, they variously dim the menu bar, highlight or isolate an active window, darken an inactive one, or minimize inactive applications completely. Most of these are niche-marketed to microscopic groups with particular screen annoyances; in combination, they are all a bit much.

Writeroom. Click image to expand.

In trying out these various widgets, I learned that some zenware holds unexpected benefits. One program I tried, called Spirited Away—the PC equivalent is Swept Away—works by automatically hiding any program that's been sitting on your screen unused. Unfortunately, this feature assumes that you're always staying on task. If you get distracted and, say, start surfing RSS feeds, the pressing tasks that you're supposed to be working on drift away to help you focus on your procrastination. Even so, I've stuck with Spirited Away because it enforces a happy habit: alertness to the task at hand. If one of my important windows disappears, I know it's time to start working again.

If the word processors WriteRoom (Mac) and DarkRoom (PC) are any indication, the virtues of the zenware approach shine brightest when it comes to full applications. Almost immediately upon starting up WriteRoom, I felt a kind of aesthetic arousal normal people reserve for, say, tattoos or kung fu movies.

Part of this is nostalgia, as WriteRoom tosses its user into a monochrome void that's lit only by the blinking green cursor. But the true charm here is the configurability of the user interface, which allows you to craft an ideal composition space. The key is that, unlike in Word, the choices are kept shrewdly off-screen: WriteRoom's blank slate reduces the urge to twiddle with margins and other formatting gewgaws. Instead, I find myself forgoing cosmetic changes for more functional ones, like bumping up the type size when my office window light starts to falter.

Unlike practically everything else in our digital lives, WriteRoom's minimalist interface implies a truly flattering proposition: It's you, not the software, that matters. After repeated use, I found a pure joy in writing that my computer mainstays—from basic notepad apps to Word—had siphoned away years before. Part of this could be novelty, so I'm remaining cautious. I can't quite say it's made me a better writer, but then neither can any technology. But WriteRoom has me composing more quickly, and it's brought back the elemental thrill of assembling thoughts by tossing words onto the screen. As outrageous and premature as it sounds, programs like WriteRoom could have the kind of impact for this generation that The Elements of Style had for another, by distilling down the writing process and laying bare its constituent parts.

A little screen simplification can go a long way. For those keeping score, the computer is supposed to be the thing with the electrical plug, not the wired drone operating it. So try dialing down the Twittering itch for a moment and see where it leads you. The pundits have told us about the dangers of info glut and data smog, how our screens are accumulating noisy riots of data. But with zenware, the cure is right at hand—for those who really want it.

How Do You Learn a Dead Language?

Last week, Chief Marie Smith Jones, the only remaining native speaker of the Eyak language, died in her home in Anchorage, Alaska. Chief Jones' death makes Eyak—part of the Athabascan family of languages—the first known native Alaskan tongue to go extinct. Linguists fear that 19 more will soon follow the same fate. Fortunately, starting in 1961, Chief Jones and five other native-speaking Eyaks worked with Michael Krauss, a linguist at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks, to document Eyak in case future generations want to revive it. How would you go about learning a language that nobody speaks?

It depends. A well-documented language would have a dictionary, grammar book, a body of literature (such as folk tales or religious texts), and, in some cases, videos and recordings that a dedicated student could learn from. Eyak, for example, has all of these. Ideally, the grammar book and dictionary would spell out the sounds of the vowels (and tone, if there is any). If there isn't good documentation, linguists must reconstruct the language using whatever written stories or religious texts remain, and then borrow words, grammatical structures, and pronunciation from closely related languages, patching together their best guess at what they think the language sounded like.

In some cases, a language that's classified as "extinct" is still spoken in certain contexts. Latin, for example, is considered extinct, or dead, but is taught in schools and used in religious ceremonies. A language is generally considered extinct if it's no longer used in daily conversation. To be a living—or native—language, people must use it as a primary means of communication.

For almost 2,000 years Hebrew was extinct, but Jews around the world continued to use it daily in a limited capacity in prayer, religious ceremonies, and writing. The rise of Jewish nationalism in the 19th century spawned the movement to revive Hebrew as a native language. Because no Hebrew dictionary or grammar books existed (the only written documentation was the Old Testament and a few other pieces of literature), people had to borrow words from other languages or create new ones to fill in gaps in the ancient Hebrew. Proponents of reviving Hebrew realized that the health of a language depends on children speaking it. In the 1890s, parents in Palestine started using Hebrew exclusively at home and sending their children to schools that used only Hebrew. By the early 1900s, couples that had attended these schools started to marry, and their children became native Hebrew speakers.

Sometimes linguists must borrow liberally from a family of languages. Cornish, the language of Cornwall, England, went extinct in the 18th century. It was revived starting in the 1920s using only a collection of Cornish passion plays and words and pronunciation borrowed from Breton and Welsh—two closely related Celtic languages. A few hundred people now speak Cornish, and some children are raised with it as a first language. When filming The New World, a movie about the founding of Jamestown, Va., director Terrence Malick hired a linguist to recreate Virginia Algonquian, which had died nearly 200 years ago. Using a skimpy 550-word vocabulary that settlers had recorded, and borrowing heavily from other Algonquian languages, the linguist recreated enough of the Virginia Algonquian for the actors to perform.

28 janeiro 2008

How to get the perfect shave

Shaving is an ancient art, but is one that many men simply fail to master. Kamil Ozturk, the barber who taught Johnny Depp to use a razor in preparation for his role in Sweeney Todd, reveals the tricks to a perfect shave

The barber’s art is thought to date back many thousands of years with relics resembling razors having been found as early as 3,500 BC. And though throughout the centuries short-cropped facial hair has gained and lost favour many times over, the art of shaving has endured. But it is an art that many men simply fail to master. So what are the steps involved in a good shave? And what are some of the most common mistakes men make?

Geo F Trumper is the longest continuous barber in London dating back to 1875. The current Head Barber, Kamil Ozturk has 24 years of experience to his name and counts among his pupils Johnny Depp, who, in preparation for his role in Tim Burton’s new cinematic adaptation of Steven Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd, came to Trumper’s to learn how to wield an open razor.

“Depp was very shy,” says Ozturk, “and a very serious student.”

Johnny Depp learnt the basic techniques in a single day of tuition, in a course Trumper’s runs to help men learn more about personal grooming. The barber also sells a range of men's products and accessories including shaving creams and soaps, aftershave balms, moisturisers and razors. All of which combine to form the basic arsenal for a perfect shave. The Trumper's technique follows a straighforward five step program.

1. Wash the face with hot water or apply a warm towel.

2. Prepare the face with a glycerine based gel, moisturiser or ‘skin food’ massaging against the grain of the beard to help lift the hairs in preparation for the shave.

3. Lather the face with shaving cream which may be rubbed into the beard with the fingers or a shaving brush. When using cream, place a modest amount in the palm of one hand, dip the brush into hot water and using a circular motion in the palm, build up a rich creamy lather on the brush. Wet the face, and again with a circular motion apply the lather to the beard, allowing the brush to lift the hairs.

4. Shave using a good blade that has been warmed in the sink or under hot running water, shave the face in the direction of the beard growth, rinsing the blade in hot water frequently. Never shave against the grain of the beard and always use short strokes keeping the blade perfectly horizontal, not turning as it moves around the face. Rinse the face thoroughly with cool water and pat dry with a soft towel.

5. Use an after-shave moisturiser. Products containing alcohol should not be applied to the skin directly after shaving as this may inflame the skin and cause dryness. For best results cologne and other fragrances should be applied behind the earlobes and on the sides of the neck not directly to the area that has been shaved.

General shaving tips

- Never pluck ingrown hairs with tweezers, as this will only break them, never extract the hair in its entirety. Rather push the hair out with a needle and then shave over it as normal. Within 6 weeks it should have gone back to normal.

- Shower or bathe before shaving, or warm the face with a hot flannel.

- Use plenty of hot water and shave in a warm environment.

- Brush in a circular motion to lift the beard.

- Shave with the beard, never against the grain.

- Rinse the blade frequently in hot water.

- Rinse face well with cool water and gently pat dry.

- After shaving use a moisturiser or skin food.

- Avoid applying alcohol-based products to the face after shaving.

- After shaving, rinse your brush and razor thoroughly to remove soap and flick to remove most of the water.

Daniel Day-Lewis dedicates best actor award to Heath Ledger

There was no picket line preventing Daniel Day-Lewis or Julie Christie from the red carpet last night as they picked up the top prizes at the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards.

The two British-born stars underscored their status as Oscars front-runners at the ceremony, which was the first major Hollywood award show of the year not to be affected by the screenwriters' strike.

Day-Lewis was crowned best actor for his performance as a tyrannical oil prospector in There Will Be Blood while Christie earned the best actress prize for playing an Alzheimer’s sufferer in Away From Her.

In his acceptance speech Day-Lewis dedicated his award to Heath Ledger, who was found dead in New York last week, saying the Australian actor was someone whose performances inspired him to keep working.

“There are many actors in this room tonight including my fellow nominees who’ve given me that sense of regeneration. Heath Ledger gave it to me,” he said, to loud applause. Ledger’s performance in 2005's Brokeback Mountain as a homosexual cowboy, had been “unique”, the actor said.

“That scene in the trailer at the end of the film is as moving as anything I’ve ever seen and I’d like to dedicate this to him.”

Christie meanwhile paid tribute to the cast and crew of her drama about a woman slowly descending into dementia and joked: “If I’ve forgotten anybody it’s just that I’m still in character."

The British actress was one of the few stars to mention the writers' dispute. "It's lovely to receive an award from your own union, especially at a time when we're being so forcefully reminded how important unions are," she said.


No to ethical living

Euan Ferguson


It was the light bulbs which finally did it. Until the stupid, ghastly, stupid news about the light bulbs, I was on-side. I recycled. I separated. I cared. Before putting the bins out at night I would go through them. Move the bad plastic stuff to the little bin marked by the council with the one word 'plastics' because they didn't have space to spell out 'Bad plastic finger-cutting packaging, pointless, all you wanted was a carrot or a pen mate, never worry, me and Wilf'll still eat it, with our pigtails and big teeth, hurr hurr', and then move the papers to the paper bin, and the potato peelings would get dug in. And when I got terribly terribly caring about the environment I would spend an hour sifting the coffee grounds from the salt and the rest of the - is this a word? I do hope so! - moritz in my bin. Start my own bins and label them accordingly. 'Salt'. 'Coffee'. 'Things I've just seen around here which I have no further use for: the charger thing for the thing that broke; lone crampon; saxophone; her number; my ego.'

That was all, of course, an utter hairy lie. I have been the most savage avoider of anything involving the word 'ethical' when combined with the word 'living'. Ethical living to me meant, basically, helping your friends when they were in trouble (as long as that didn't involve money or too many calls during Father Ted or anything, or having to hear a bloke crying) and getting out of the bath to go for a wee. Everything I eat or use I throw out, fast, and I have never wanted to learn to bake bread in rabbit holes or wipe my bottom with a sock or whatever it is they want me to do.

But I wasn't averse to those good souls who wanted to try. I could begin to see, at least in principle, the use of a bottle bank, would give it benign good-on-you-chum glances as I walked past, even though I had the same intention of using it as stopping in Oxford Street to have my brain futtled by Scientologists, or suddenly buying a pelican. There was no malice against the manic recyclers: it just wasn't for me. On, I think, the same basis that I hate weeding, and my flat is often less than uncluttered, the constant drip-drip of tiny, minuscule, repetitive and infinitely dull actions never seemed to hold quite the force of the (my) counter-argument that you're dead for an awful long time. Wait until the garden's a mess, till I can't get in my own door, until the risen seas are lapping us: and then I'll whirl and spray and dig and hoe, and blitz the place, and be first down to the Thames Barrier with my sandbags, because I can then see the difference.

Anyway. It was a benign antipathy. But then came the light bulb stuff - and now it's active, frantic dislike. We are to be no longer allowed to buy 'proper' light bulbs. Soon, supermarkets will stock only those low-energy, low-watt things apparently designed to invoke, on passing at dusk any house where they're employed, an ancient, infinite, weary sadness for the tears of mankind. And we will all have them. We will all be sobbing quietly indoors, all our happinesses on half-wattage, squinting in sepia. While planes belch overhead and a million machines chunder away in east London to one day let 10 people run quickly for 10 seconds (and don't you normally sort of stop school sports when you, sort of, leave school?), the rest of us are back in the Fifties. Doing our bit. Biding our time. Knowing our place. In the dark.

It's rather, I'm afraid, like those Leftie councils, suddenly crossing the line, suddenly losing us all. Do you think, they would ask (or not), it would be an idea to translate some of our leaflets into Urdu? Hmm, yes, sort of. Should there be a drop-in centre for single parents needing a bit of help? Absolutely. Should we open a Slovak creche for glutenintolerant flat-earthers - no, no, that's mad.

The Right will have your knackers, twirl them like inflated pig bladders on sticks, and rightly so, because it's mad and unfair, and you're about to undo everything, no no no.

Similarly, this time, the ecobunnies have lost us, and there will begin a vast backlash. When ordered to use ugly happy-sappinorld just whag light bulbs, to live a dull yellow, when refused the choice, we will suddenly not quite find the time nor the will to recycle. Or even to cycle. Muesli Martha will buy an SUV and roar about in fur. I will buy dull light bulbs, yes, but 50,000 of them, to light the street with a big sign telling the wt composting toilets and Zac Goldsmith are full of. My telly will be on standby every night. The little red light will help me read.

Vote for Lisbon!

27 janeiro 2008

Money: It's still a hit

On July 24, 1968, in an event still shrouded in mystery, Pink Floyd appeared onstage at the Summer Music Festival at cavernous Municipal Stadium in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. They were not onstage for long.

The lineup that night, at least as it is reported officially, included the Troggs, two forgettable folk-pop ensembles, and the Who, who were not yet huge stars (that would come the following year, after Tommy was released). I attended the concert with bandmates from the Phase Shift Network, a tragic, acid-pop ensemble in which I, like current Republican presidential contender Mike Huckabee and Sting, played bass. But I have no recollection of the Troggs, Mandala or the Friends of the Family being there that evening.

As I recall it, the lineup included the Box Tops (headed by future Big Star cult hero Alex Clilton), Country Joe & the Fish (good-natured Frisco weirdos) and the soulful, homegrown Delfonics, with Pink Floyd the headliners who took the stage immediately after Wilson Pickett wrapped up his scintillating rendition of Mustang Sally. I have no recollection whatsoever of the Who being part of this extravaganza. But in saying this, it is possible that I have conflated one, two or even 30 events, in the way that people who may have attended one too many Pink Floyd concerts so often will. For those steeped in the lore of Pink Floyd are nothing if not addled.

Municipal Stadium, later re-christened John F Kennedy Stadium, then finally torn down to make way for a sports complex, was viewed as a white elephant from the moment it was built in 1925. Hideous, vast, hard to get to, the faux gladiatorial venue was a promoter's nightmare; except on rare occasions, like the day Gene Tunney fought Jack Dempsey for the heavyweight championship of the world in 1926, or the night Phil Collins sang In the Air Tonight at the end of Live Aid in 1985, its 110,000 seats were never filled. Though the Rolling Stones played there quite often - presumably because they could sell a lot of tickets - it was a terrible place to hear music even in the best of times. And on July 24, 1968, it rained.

The Who, whether they were ever even slated to appear, did not perform that night, but Pink Floyd did. Armed with enough equipment to be heard on Alpha Centauri, the band launched into a loving, deafening rendition of one of those trademark Floydian numbers that started on Tuesday and ended at Christmas. It may have been Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun or Interstellar Overdrive, as the band was touring behind its Saucerful of Secrets LP, but I cannot say for sure, as I could never tell any of Pink Floyd's songs apart. Pink Floyd started playing the song around nine in the evening and would have finished it seven weeks later except that the rain intensified to the point that the feisty lads had to wrap things up and vacate the stage. It was a truly unforgettable concert, though most of the details provided here are gleaned from interviews with old friends and Google searches, as I remember nothing about the show except that folks all the way out in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, could hear the guitars, and Wilson Pickett, who was probably not there, gave a performance I will never forget.

Pink Floyd, more than any other arena act, more than any other of the great dinosaur bands of the Sixties, achieved titanic success without having the things in place that were seemingly needed to achieve success on that level. They did not write catchy tunes. They did not have a flamboyant showman fronting the band. Their lead guitarist was a bit puffy. They were neither lovable like the Beatles and the Beach Boys, nor saucy and irreverent like the Stones, nor did they evince an air of danger and menace like the Doors and Led Zeppelin. They were spooky, enigmatic, strange, recording songs with names like Take Up Thy Stethoscope and Walk.

As the psychedelic era that spawned them faded and the West's mood and values shifted, theirs did not. They continued to make somber, ethereal music you could not dance to, putting the "lug" back in "lugubrious". True, they gradually became less eerie and weird and pretentious and daring than they would have been had the whack-job visionary Syd Barrett stayed in the band, but his exit did not precipitate an overnight sellout like Genesis, a snooty art band that went completely mainstream and down-market a minute-and-a-half after Peter Gabriel scooted out the door.

There was always something resolute, uncompromising, implacable about Pink Floyd. They started out as the kinds of guys who would come to gritty places like Philadelphia and play their rambling, otherworldly, interstellar overdrive material in a blue-collar city where intergalactic zaniness was frowned upon, and they pretty much stayed that way. The most remarkable thing about Pink Floyd, a band whose actual name may be The Pink Floyd, is that they didn't go in much for fast songs, and didn't sound like they'd listened to much black music, at a time when everyone played fast songs and everyone tried to sound like they were black. Well, everyone except the Grateful Dead.

This is what makes Pink Floyd's 1973 hit Money such an oddity. The highest-charting single from The Dark Side of the Moon, the brooding concept album that would stay on the Billboard charts for 14 years, Money isn't like any other song on the album and isn't really like anything else Pink Floyd ever committed to vinyl. Though it is not truly fast, and is played in a choppy time signature, it is, by the standards of Floyd's dozy catalogue, so zippy it almost seems that Jerry Lee Lewis was filling in for the band the day they recorded it. Sung by David Gilmour, but written by Roger Waters, Money does not deal with such perennial Pink Floyd themes as paranoia, insanity, the meaning of life, the passage of time, or how long it's going to be before the band finally breaks up; it deals with crass materialism. It is to the Pink Floyd canon what Ruby Tuesday is to the Stones' songbook: it may be a great song, but it doesn't quite fit. Money is the only Pink Floyd song I can identify as soon as I hear it on the radio, and it is the only Pink Floyd song my kids do not hate.

Even though the permanent damage to my hearing probably resulted from the three Pink Floyd concerts I attended between 1968 and 1973, and even though I never really cared all that much for the group, I will never forget the performance they gave at Philadelphia's Municipal Stadium on July 24, 1968. They were almost as good as Wilson Pickett.

25 janeiro 2008

Wishlist: Gemstone Globes

For a true unattainable wish :)
And Africa always looks good...

23 janeiro 2008

Odd Fish, delightful

Estes Americanos... ;)

Welcome to CastleMagic!
We build custom stone dream castles from start to finish using methods of old and new. We strive to use all natural materials to produce a structure that is strong, lasting, and healthy for the castle dwellers. This involves combining the old castle building methods with modern reinforcing steel, non-toxic materials and finishes, and a few physics tricks and knowledge to produce a warm and dry castle interior.

19 janeiro 2008

5 Smart Uses for Your Freezer (Besides Freezing Food)

  1. Remove odors -- If you've got a plastic container that smells like fish, a musty-smelling book, or other small item with a bad odor, just stick it in the freezer overnight. By morning, it'll be smelling fresh again.
  2. Unstick photos -- If you've got a bundle of old photos that were stored someplace damp, they might be stuck together. Pulling them apart will ruin them, but if you stick them in the freezer for 20 minutes first, you'll be able to salvage them. After they're frozen, use a butter knife to carefully separate the photos (if they don't come free, put them back in the freezer and try again when they're colder).
  3. Extend candle life -- I love burning candles, but the nice ones are so expensive. However you can extend a candle's life by putting it in the freezer for a couple hours before burning it. This will make it burn more slowly.
  4. Clean the impossible pot -- If you've got a pot that has all sorts of burned-on food that's a pain to remove, even by scrubbing, just stick that pot in the freezer for a couple hours. Once the burned food is frozen, it's much easier to remove.
  5. Eliminate unpopped popcorn -- Are there always a lot of unpopped kernels in the bottom of your popcorn maker after you pop a batch? You can eliminate duds by storing your unpopped popcorn supply in the freezer.
Home Improvement Ideas

18 janeiro 2008

"Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."

That's the advice journalist and author Michael Pollan offers in his new book, In Defense of Food.

"That's it. That is the short answer to the supposedly incredibly complicated and confusing question of what we humans should eat in order to be maximally healthy," Pollan tells Steve Inskeep.

'Eat Food'

The implication of Pollan's advice, however, is that what we're eating now isn't food.

"Very often, it isn't," he says. "We are eating a lot of edible food-like substances, which is to say highly processed things that might be called yogurt, might be called cereals, whatever, but in fact are very intricate products of food science that are really imitations of foods."

Pollan acknowledges that distinguishing between food and "food products" takes work. His tip: "Don't eat anything that your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food."

Take, for example, the portable tubes of yogurt known as Go-Gurt, Pollan says. "Imagine your grandmother or your great-grandmother picking up this tube, holding it up to the light, trying to figure out how to administer it to her body — if indeed it is something that goes in your body — and then imagine her reading the ingredients," he says. "Yogurt is a very simple food. It's milk inoculated with a bacterial culture. But Go-Gurt has dozens of ingredients."

'Not Too Much'

A large part of the conversation about food — like debating low-fat and low-carb diets — serves as a way of avoiding the idea that maybe we're just eating too much, Pollan says. He says his advice about how to limit consumption is based less on science, which he says "has failed us when it comes to food, by and large," and more on culture.

"Cultures have various devices to help people moderate their appetite," he says. "Once upon a time, there was scarcity. We don't have that anymore; we have abundance. But if you go around the world, you find very interesting tricks and devices."

One is small portion sizes, Pollan says. "The French manage to eat extravagantly rich food, but they don't get fat, and the reason is that they eat it on small plates, they don't have seconds, they don't snack."

In Okinawa, Japan, a cultural principle called "Hara Hachi Bu" instructs people to eat until they are just 80 percent full, Pollan says. "You do know when you are full, and the idea of stopping eating before you reach that moment … if you do that, you will actually reduce your caloric intake quite a bit," he says.

'Mostly Plants'

Finally, eating plants is very important, Pollan says. "There is incontrovertible but boring evidence that eating your fruits and vegetables is probably the best thing you can do for preventing cancer, for weight control, for diabetes, for all the different, all the Western diseases that now afflict us," he says.

But can you follow Pollan's advice and avoid processed foods without spending a ton of time and money?

"You're going to have to spend either more time or more money, and perhaps a little bit of both," Pollan says. "And I think that's just the reality. It's really a question of priorities, and we have, in effect, devalued food. And what I'm arguing is to move it a little closer to the center of our lives, and that we are going to have to put more into it, but that it will be very rewarding if we do.

"And if we don't, by the way, we are going to suffer from this — you know, we hear this phrase so many times — this epidemic of chronic disease. But the fact is, we are at a fork in the road. We're either going to get used to chronic disease, and be … in the age of Lipitor and dialysis centers on every corner in the city, or we're going to change the way we eat. I mean, it's really that simple. Most of the things that are killing us these days — whether it's heart disease, diabetes, obesity, many, many cancers — are directly attributed to the way we're eating."

Excerpt: 'In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto'

'In Defense of Food' Cover
In the years following the 1977 Dietary Goals and the 1982 National Academy of Sciences report on diet and cancer, the food industry, armed with its regulatory absolution, set about reengineering thousands of popular food products to contain more of the nutrients that science and government had deemed the good ones and fewer of the bad. A golden age for food science dawned. Hyphens sprouted like dandelions in the supermarket aisles: low-fat, no-cholesterol, high-fiber. Ingredients labels on formerly two- or three-ingredient foods such as mayonnaise and bread and yogurt ballooned with lengthy lists of new additives — what in a more benighted age would have been called adulterants. The Year of Eating Oat Bran — also known as 1988 — served as a kind of coming-out party for the food scientists, who succeeded in getting the material into nearly every processed food sold in America. Oat bran's moment on the dietary stage didn't last long, but the pattern now was set, and every few years since then, a new oat bran has taken its star turn under the marketing lights. (Here come omega-3s!)

You would not think that common food animals could themselves be rejiggered to fit nutritionist fashion, but in fact some of them could be, and were, in response to the 1977 and 1982 dietary guidelines as animal scientists figured out how to breed leaner pigs and select for leaner beef. With widespread lipophobia taking hold of the human population, countless cattle lost their marbling and lean pork was repositioned as "the new white meat" — tasteless and tough as running shoes, perhaps, but now even a pork chop could compete with chicken as a way for eaters to "reduce saturated fat intake." In the years since then, egg producers figured out a clever way to redeem even the disreputable egg: By feeding flaxseed to hens, they could elevate levels of omega-3 fatty acids in the yolks.

Aiming to do the same thing for pork and beef fat, the animal scientists are now at work genetically engineering omega-3 fatty acids into pigs and persuading cattle to lunch on flaxseed in the hope of introducing the blessed fish fat where it had never gone before: into hot dogs and hamburgers.

But these whole foods are the exceptions. The typical whole food has much more trouble competing under the rules of nutritionism, if only because something like a banana or an avocado can't quite as readily change its nutritional stripes. (Though rest assured the genetic engineers are hard at work on the problem.) To date, at least, they can't put oat bran in a banana or omega-3s in a peach. So depending on the reigning nutritional orthodoxy, the avocado might either be a high-fat food to be assiduously avoided (Old Think) or a food high in monounsaturated fat to be embraced (New Think). The fate and supermarket sales of each whole food rises and falls with every change in the nutritional weather while the processed foods simply get reformulated and differently supplemented. That's why when the Atkins diet storm hit the food industry in 2003, bread and pasta got a quick redesign (dialing back the carbs; boosting the proteins) while poor unreconstructed potatoes and carrots were left out in the carbohydrate cold. (The low-carb indignities visited on bread and pasta, two formerly "traditional foods that everyone knows," would never have been possible had the imitation rule not been tossed out in 1973. Who would ever buy imitation spaghetti? But of course that is precisely what low-carb pasta is.)

A handful of lucky whole foods have recently gotten the "good nutrient" marketing treatment: The antioxidants in the pomegranate (a fruit formerly more trouble to eat than it was worth) now protect against cancer and erectile dysfunction, apparently, and the omega-3 fatty acids in the (formerly just fattening) walnut ward off heart disease. A whole subcategory of nutritional science — funded by industry and, according to one recent analysis,* remarkably reliable in its ability to find a health benefit in whatever food it has been commissioned to study — has sprung up to give a nutritionist sheen (and FDA-approved health claim) to all sorts of foods, including some not ordinarily thought of as healthy. The Mars Corporation recently endowed a chair in chocolate science at the University of California at Davis, where research on the antioxidant properties of cacao is making breakthroughs, so it shouldn't be long before we see chocolate bars bearing FDA-approved health claims. (When we do, nutritionism will surely have entered its baroque phase.) Fortunately for everyone playing this game, scientists can find an antioxidant in just about any plant-based food they choose to study.

Yet as a general rule it's a whole lot easier to slap a health claim on a box of sugary cereal than on a raw potato or a carrot, with the perverse result that the most healthful foods in the supermarket sit there quietly in the produce section, silent as stroke victims, while a few aisles over in Cereal the Cocoa Puffs and Lucky Charms are screaming their newfound "whole-grain goodness" to the rafters. Watch out for those health claims.

Wishlist: 100 Futures from Nature

Futures From Nature: 100 Speculative Fictions is an anthology of 100 short-short science fiction stories originally published on the back page of the prestigious weekly science journal Nature. The stories come from all matter of writers -- science fiction professionals, working scientists, science writers (there's even one -- rather good -- story written by a scientist's 12-year-old daughter!), and take all manner of approaches to the challenge.

As is inherent in the short-short story form, the pieces are often comic and conceptual, rather than fleshed out narratives -- it's quite a trick to cram a full-blown story with realized characters into a mere 700 words. Many of these stories are flat-out brilliant, and not all of those come from professional writers (though sf pros like Bruce Sterling, Ben Rosenbaum, Joan Vinge, Kathryn Cramer, Robert Charles Wilson and Toby Buckell all have superb little gems here). Clearly, many scientists have a frustrated sf writer lurking within them.

100 short-short stories make for a very strong cup of tea indeed. The opening paragraphs alone are something of a masterclass in the rapid establishment of a story: setting, person and problem all nailed up within a few words. Plunging into -- and emerging out of -- 10 worlds in a day's reading can be a genuinely disorienting experience.

But it's a good kind of disorientation. These stories take on the big and small problems of science, from grant-writing to debunking pseudoscience, from Frankensteinian techno-apocalypses to the brightest utopias. Considered purely as an exercising in finding out what sort of thing captures the imagination of a working scientist, this is a fantastic little journey.


Os Franceses é que sabem!

Os negritos são meus, porque ainda por cima fez-se jurisprudência, sacré bleu!

Foto: Marinha Francesa/Reuters (arquivo)
O navio Erika naufragou a 12 de Dezembro de 1999

Grupo francês Total dado como culpado pelo naufrágio do petroleiro “Erika”

O Tribunal Correccional de Paris deu hoje o grupo francês Total como culpado pelo naufrágio do petroleiro “Erika”, em 1999, no Golfo da Gasconha. O derrame de 20 mil toneladas de fuelóleo poluiu 400 quilómetros de costa e matou mais de 150 mil aves. Quase nove anos depois, a Total – com o armador, o gestor e a empresa que atribuiu os certificados de navegabilidade - vai ter de pagar 192 milhões de euros às vítimas.

Os quatro culpados terão de pagar 154 milhões de euros ao Estado francês e 38 milhões de euros às regiões e comunas afectadas pela maré negra – Bretanha, Pays de la Loire, Poitou-Charente, Finisterra, Loire Atlantique e Vendée. Entre as organizações, a Liga para a Protecção das Aves (LPO) vai receber cerca de 800 mil euros e a WWF e Greenpeace 33 mil euros cada uma.

O capitão indiano do “Erika”, Karun Mathur, foi liberto de qualquer responsabilidade no naufrágio.

No entanto, 101 partes civis reclamavam um total de mil milhões de euros de indemnizações pela destruição da natureza e da vida selvagem. Mas a decisão foi satisfatória para as partes. Citado pelo jornal “Le Figaro” online, o presidente da LPO, Allain Bougrain-Dubourg, considerou que este é um veredicto “histórico”.

Além do pagamento de indemnizações, a Total terá de pagar uma multa máxima de 375 mil euros. O Tribunal Correccional de Paris anunciou que a Total, que fretou o “Erika”, com pavilhão de Malta, para levar fuelóleo para Itália, se deu como culpada de “poluição marítima” e de crime de “falta de prudência” por ter fretado um navio com quase 25 anos.

“Esta imprudência teve um papel causal no naufrágio e, como tal, provocou o acidente” do petroleiro a 12 de Dezembro de 1999 ao largo das costas francesas, segundo a decisão lida pelo presidente da 11ª câmara correccional, Jean-Baptiste Parlos, citado pelo jornal “Libération” online.

Também a empresa que atribuiu os certificados de navegabilidade, a italiana Rina, terá de pagar 375 mil euros de multa por ser dada como culpada de “poluição marítima”. O armador Giuseppe Savarese e o gestor do petroleiro Antonio Pollara foram dados como culpados e deverão pagar uma multa de 75 mil euros. Segundo o tribunal correccional, os dois italianos não podiam ignorar que os trabalhos de reparação do navio foram realizados de forma a “reduzir os custos”.

O advogado da Total, Daniel Soulez-Larivière, disse que vai aconselhar a companhia petrolífera a apelar da condenação porque considera que “não foi justa”.

Este é o primeiro grande processo judicial relativo a uma catástrofe ecológica em França. Além disso, é a primeira vez que um juiz admitiu um prejuízo ecológico “resultante de um atentado ambiental” e deu o direito a duas organizações de pedir a recuperação de espaços naturais, mesmo que não tenham sido lesados interesses económicos.

Cat time

leo-designer-scratching-post.jpgWe pet owners love our pets, but it can be a bit embarrassing to explain why guests are sitting on half-eaten chew bones or tripping over cat trees that look like they've been through the garbage disposal a few times. Here's one pet toy you won't be embarrassed about at least:

The Leo Scratching Post is made from an exotic African wood called Zebrawood (we've talked about zebrawood countertops and floors before, but it's not something one usually sees as a material for pet toys), which is handsome enough to be displayed in its own right, and the sleek shape is sure to have guests assuming it's a piece of sculpture and not just a scratching post for Mr. Wiggles. The weeble wobble design should be fun for your cat too.

17 janeiro 2008

The Most Beautiful Bookshops in the World

1) Boekhandel Selexyz Dominicanen in Maastricht

What does a city do with an 800-year-old church with no congregation? Well, it could make like the Dutch and convert it into a temple of books. The old Dominican church in Maastricht was being used for bicycle storage not long ago, but thanks to a radical refurbishment by Dutch architects Merkx + Girod it has been turned into what could possibly be the most beautiful bookshop of all time. The Boekhandel Selexyz Dominicanen, which opened just before Christmas, retains the character and charm of the old church, while being fitted with a minimalist and modern interior design that overcomes any suggestion of fustiness. From the images you can find on the web you can see that it is a bookshop made in heaven.

2) El Ateneo in Buenos Aires

All the world's a page at El Ateneo, a bookshop converted from an old theatre in downtown Buenos Aires. As you can see from this photomontage the El Ateneo has retained its former splendour, with high painted ceiling, original balconies and ornate carvings intact. Even the crimson stage curtains remain part of the show. Comfy chairs are scattered throughout, the stage is utilised as a reading area and café, and even better, the former theatre boxes are used as tiny reading rooms.

3) Livraria Lello in Porto

Proving that purpose-built bookshops can be every bit as beautiful as converted buildings, the divine Livraria Lello in Porto has been selling books in the most salubrious of settings since 1881. Featuring a staircase to heaven and beautifully intricate wooden panels and columns (see for yourself with these gorgeous 360-degree views), stained glass ceilings and books - lots of lovely books.

4) Secret Headquarters comic bookstore in Los Angeles

A mere profiterole to the fabulous layer cakes of Porto and Buenos Aires, but the Secret Headquarters more than holds its own. Nestled in the creative cluster of Silver Lake, just east of Hollywood, this boutique store offers a sophisticated alternative to most of its rivals and has a reputation for being one of the neatest, friendliest comic stores anywhere. Canadian science fiction author Cory Doctorow rates it as the finest in the world.

5) Borders in Glasgow

The might of the Michigan-based megastore may make a lot of independent booksellers fearful, but few book lovers can fail to be beguiled by the neo-classical architecture of its behemoth Glasgow branch. Originally designed by Archibald Elliot in 1827 for the Royal Bank, Borders has occupied a prime spot on Royal Exchange Square since the millennium and won over many of the city's book lovers. People reading on the steps outside have become as much a feature of Glasgow as the traffic cone on the head of Wellington's statue. Well, almost. Would have been higher on my list if the aesthetic magnificence of the building had in any way been matched by the interior.

6) Scarthin's in the Peak District

Of course, others might prefer the altogether more earthy beauty of a shop like Scarthin Books in the Peak District. Scarthin's has been selling new and second-hand books since the mid-1970s. It has rooms full of new and old books, a delightful café and what can best be described as a small exhibition of curiosities on the first floor. It is a bookshop so beloved, that it advertises local guest and farmhouses on its websites where devotees can stay overnight.

6) Posada in Brussels

Located in a dear old house near St Magdalen's church in Brussels, Posada Books is as famous for its pretty interior as it is for its collection of new and second-hand art books. Has a remarkable collection of exhibition catalogues, which goes back to the beginning of the last century, and holds occasional exhibitions too.

8) El lugar de la Mancha in Mexico

The Polanco branch of Pendulo in Mexico City has long been known as one of the best ways to beat the heat in the largest city in the world. Although it only has a small English language section, its open architecture populated with several trees makes for an excellent afternoon's escape. In honesty, as popular for its excellent cafe as it is its books.

9) Keibunsya in Kyoto

If you love bookshops even where you can't read the language, then Keibunsya in Kyoto needs to be on your list too. Some say it's the lighting, others the well-proportioned panels around the walls. Or perhaps it's the little galleries embedded in the bookshelves. Most agree it's just the quiet dignity of the place that's hard to beat. Lots of pretty Japanese art books to marvel at and a few English language ones as well.

10) Hatchards in London

Although the bookshop of Cambridge University is technically the oldest bookshop in Britain, Hatchards of Piccadilly, which has been trading since 1797, is definitely the most aristocratic. Not only does it boast three royal warrants, meaning it supplies books to Her Majesty, it has counted Disraeli, Wilde and Byron among its regulars. Today it retains the spirit of days past, with an interior described by one follower as "reminiscent of being inside a rambling old house, with six floors of small rooms all linked together curling around a central staircase."

15 janeiro 2008

Average Erect Penis Lengths for 10 Species

1. Humpback whale 10 ft [3 m]
2. Elephant 5-6 ft [1,5 - 2 m]
3. Bull 3 ft [90 cm]
4. Stallion 2 ft 6 in [80 cm]
5. Rhinoceros 2 ft [60 cm]
6. Pig 18-20 in [45 - 50 cm]
7. Man 6 in [15 cm]
8. Gorilla 2 in [5 cm]
9. Cat ¾ in [
1,90 cm]

SOURCE: Leigh Rutledge, The Gay Book of Lists (Boston: Alyson Publication, 1987)

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