29 agosto 2009

Wuthering Heights in modern times ;)

Twilight fans are apparently driving up sales of Wuthering Heights — Edward and Bella's favorite book. This led us to wonder what other classic books could be endorsed by contemporary bestsellers.

Apparently undeterred by the creepiness and tragedy of Emily Brontë's love story between Catherine Earnshaw and the foundling Heathcliff (who at one point hangs another girl's dog), Twilight author Stephenie Meyer even has Bella quote Brontë at one point to describe her feelings for Edward. Taking Wuthering Heights as a model for your love is a little like walking down the aisle, to, say, "Heart-Shaped Box," but that doesn't seem to bother Twihards. They're gobbling up a new edition of the book, complete with a very Twilighty cover and the tagline "love never dies." However, some readers are annoyed with the content. One reviewer wrote on the publisher's website,

I was really disappointed when reading this book, it's made to believe to be one of the greatest love stories ever told and I found only five pages out of the whole book about there love and the rest filled with bitterness and pain and other peoples stories.

People were such downers in 1847. Also, they talked funny. Another reviewer asked if the book was "in old english or mordern understandable english?" Public service message: people stopped speaking Old English in the 12th century. Still, classics like Wuthering Heights may seem inaccessible to "mordern" readers. What better way to make them new again than to have today's books endorse them? And why stop with Twilight? We thought of a few more glossy bestsellers that could be shilling dusty tomes:

How Not To Look Old: The Picture Of Dorian Grey
Harry Potter: David Copperfield
Eat This, Not That!: Alice in Wonderland
Jim Cramer's Mad Money: The Grapes Of Wrath
Confessions of a Shopaholic: Madame Bovary
Bob Greene's Total Body Makeover: The Metamorphosis
The Berenstein Bears: The Bear
What Not To Wear: The Scarlet Letter
Anything by Rush Limbaugh: Heart of Darkness
Eat, Pray, Love: Titus Andronicus
Lauren Conrad's LA Candy: The Portrait of a Lady

We're sure you can think of more.


25 agosto 2009

A Suspeita

e viva o YouTube, caraças!

The 10 biggest Wikipedia hoaxes

Titiangate : Eton old boy David Cameron admonished Gordon Brown during Prime Minister’s Questions for not knowing the date of the Renaissance painter’s death. Unfortunately the date offered by Cameron was wrong. When this became apparent an over-eager Tory apparatchik attempted to make his leader correct by amending Titian’s Wikipedia entry. This rather obvious piece of revisionism backfired and resulted in Cameron’s minor slip being more widely reported.

Senator Edward Kennedy: After the venerable senator had suffered a seizure during President Obama’s inauguration, one rather over-enthusiastic contributor amended Kennedy’s status to "dead". Currently serving his eighth consecutive term in the US Senate, Mr Kennedy is still – at the time of writing – alive.

Vernon Kay: It’s not just elder statesmen that are listed as dead before their time. Vernon Kay, the TV presenter, was listed as having met a watery grave in a yachting accident and was obliged to call dozens of relatives and colleagues to assure them that he was still alive.

Robbie Williams was briefly listed, before Wikipedia enthusiasts excised the somewhat surreal slur, as “eating hamsters for a living in and around Stoke".

In September 2008 the site claimed that the toothsome teenage star Miley Cyrus had died in a car crash on the way to filing of her all-conquering Hannah Montana TV show. Her legions of pink-clad fans were relieved to hear that the report was a hoax.

Relatively unknown in the Britain, John Siegenthaler Snr, a USA Today journalist, acquired an undeserved notoriety in 2005 when he was the victim of one of the longest-running examples of Wikipedia vandalism. For about 132 days the encyclopaedia listed him as having had a hand in the assassination of his former employer, John F Kennedy.

Alan Titchmarsh, the green-fingered TV personality, was dismayed earlier this year to discover that he had written an update of the Kama Sutra. “I wish I knew how to change Wikipedia to make it correct," he said. Reportedly.

The teenage Tony Blair had, it was fleetingly asserted in February 2006, posters of Hitler on his bedroom wall.

The claim that David Beckham kept goal for an 18th-century football team is one of the most-quoted examples of wiki-vandalism, but its sheer silliness meant that it fooled no one.

It isn’t always individuals that are targeted: The village of Denshaw in Greater Manchester fell victim to a Wikipedia contributor with a grudge who wrote that it was "the home to an obese population of sun-starved, sheep-hurling yokels with a brothel for a pub and a lingering tapeworm infection".


17 agosto 2009

Lesser Carnivora ;)

He may be best known for his mellifluous tones and gentle manner, but for one group of botanists Sir David Attenborough clearly conjures up different associations. Explorers who discovered a new species of giant rodent-eating carnivorous plant have named it after the TV naturalist.

Nepenthes attenboroughii, a previously unknown variety of pitcher plant discovered on a remote mountain in the Philippines, is so big that small rodents could be trapped inside and slowly dissolved by flesh-eating enzymes.

It is thought that only a few hundred of the plants exist, growing only on one mountain on the island of Palawan. The species was discovered by a team of scientists who had heard reports from missionaries who got lost in the dense jungle.

Stewart McPherson, Alastair Robinson and Volker Heinrich decided to name the plant after Sir David as an “expression of gratitude” for his decades of work celebrating the natural world.

“He has inspired a generation into protecting the world and developing greater understanding diversity of the planet,” Mr McPherson said.

“We really wanted to name this particular plant after him as an expression of gratitude. This is a very special one because its so big, there’s really been nothing found like it for a long time.”

Sir David told The Times that it was a great honour to have the species named after him. He said that the nepenthes family were “very dramatic plants. I’ve always thought they are remarkable things, very elegant and charming.”*

Mr McPherson said it was likely that the new species occasionally digested rats and mice. “It is without a shadow of a doubt big enough,” he said. “I found a species in Borneo with pitchers half the size with dead mice in it.”

Nepenthes rajah, the only species of pitcher plant bigger than N. attenboroughii, has been known to digest rodents since the British naturalist Spencer St John was astonished to discover a drowned rat in a specimen in Borneo in 1862.

Sir David featured that species in his early TV series Zoo Quest and also The Private Life of Plants in 1995. “I’ve seen them in the wild a bit, mostly in Borneo. They’re lovely things,” he said.

The naturalist already has several species named after him, including a spiny anteater in New Guinea, a rare tree in Ecuador and a marine reptile, the Attenborosaurus, that lived during the Jurassic period.

But he downplayed the scientific significance of such names. “You have to have names for things and and you run out after a bit,” he said. “It’s just a compliment, but it’s very nice to receive compliments."

Mr McPherson has spent the past three years cataloguing the 120 known nepenthes species. N. attenboroughii was discovered in 2007 but formally described only this year.

Mr McPherson mounted an expedition after hearing about missionaries who tried to climb the mountain on Palawan in 2000 to install a radio relay station. They got lost in the uncharted jungle and had to be flown out after 13 days without food.

They reported seeing giant pitcher plants on the mountain and Mr McPherson said he was trying to follow up on that lead.

He believes that the expedition discovered about 30 new species, only a few of which have been published.

* I love this description ;)

Urban animals: unexpected animal visitors to the world's urban jungles

Although these ones are expected and cheered ;)

New York I Love You

Who designed this poster? Who came up with the idea for this heart? Please...

16 agosto 2009

Mary, Mother of Christ

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Portuguese actor Diogo Morgado has been cast as Joseph in "Mary, Mother of Christ," an action drama about the biblical journey of young Mary and Joseph during the terrible reign of Herod the Great.

He joins Camilla Belle, Al Pacino, Peter O'Toole and Julia Ormond in the indie movie, which is scheduled to begin principal photography in October.

James Foley ("Glengarry Glen Ross") is directing from a script by Barbara Nicolosi and "The Passion of the Christ" co-writer Benedict Fitzgerald.

Morgado turned up at the end of a global search to cast the lead. "We saw a huge amount of young actors and a couple were great," Foley said. "We thought we had finished our search when a tape appeared with this incredible guy. A major future star walked in the room, and I knew we had found the one."

Morgado has been one of the most recognizable actors in Portugal since his debut as a teenager 15 years ago. "Mary" marks his first role in an American production.

13 agosto 2009

What if you don’t really have anything to express?


It has never been easier to express yourself in public. Whatever you might want to say, the online tools to let you say it to a (theoretically) worldwide audience are innumerable. Say it long, say it short, say what you want, when you want and how often you want. As the title of a forthcoming book about blog culture puts it: “Say Everything.” You have the technology. The only thing the technology cannot do is solve this problem: What if you don’t really have anything to express?

Ah, but technology can solve that problem for you. Plinky.com, which officially went online in January, exists specifically to offer what it calls prompts, meant to inspire interesting thoughts to share with the world. Users respond on Plinky.com and can feed their answers to their own blogs, or to their Twitter or Facebook accounts. Its chief executive and founder, Jason Shellen, worked for the company Pyra Labs, which created the pioneering software Blogger, and stuck around when Google bought that firm. Blogger continued to attract more users, but “people were struggling with what to say,” he says. “They could create a blog; we’d made it easy enough to do that piece. But they were struggling with what to put out there — ‘Do I talk about personal things? Do I talk about work? What do I do?’ ”

Frankly, this sounds unfathomable. The Web is a vast sloshing sea of individuals, sharing what would seem to encompass every conceivable thought about foreign policy, financial bailouts, the N.B.A. playoffs, delays at O’Hare, the new “keyboard cat” video, that jerk in the next cubicle and being bored. There’s a reason the word “oversharing” has entered the vernacular, yes?

That’s not the whole story, Shellen insists. While the history of the Web is at least partly the development of a Moore’s Law of expressive ease — it seems to take half as much effort to say twice as much every couple of years — this has had side effects. With so much chatter, how do you say something that will be part of a conversation rather than a monologue in a virtual empty room? “There’s been a little bit of the death of the shared experience,” is how Shellen puts it. He points to the popularity of gimmicky questionnaires that circulate widely on Facebook, like “25 Things You Don’t Know About Me,” “5 Cities You’ve Lived In” and “5 Albums You Love,” (or my personal favorite, “5 People You’d Like to Punch in the Face”). Similar tropes have circulated among bloggers as they tag one another; the upshot seems to be that sociability demands structure.

Thus Plinky’s daily prompts: Which movie’s characters would you befriend in real life? What will you do when the zombies come? Who would win a fight between a bear and a shark? Plinky users responded to that last question by the hundreds. A prompt about songs for a road trip got more than 2,000 replies, making it the most popular query to date. The intentionally innocuous nature of the prompts makes them reminiscent of canned cocktail-party conversation starters. The difference is that while a tongue-tied party guest can at least try to cultivate an air of brooding mystery that might lead someone else to start the conversation, the Internet wallflower is totally invisible. Chime in, or you’re forgotten. Thus a Plinky slogan: “Hey, didn’t you use to have a blog?” Poignant.

Nicholas Carr, who is at work on a book, tentatively titled “The Shallows,” about the culture of instant information, points out that blogs evolved from something to be updated on occasion to being updated daily, then many times a day; now social media services invite updates hourly, or constantly. “There’s a subtle, or not so subtle, form of competition,” he says. “You’re getting this constant stream of updates of whatever everyone else is doing; it kind of creates pressure that if you want to be in the flow, you also have to contribute. Frequently.”

Like the various “Top 5 Things” on Facebook, then, Plinky is an automated version of the person at the party who takes an interest and asks you a question. Shellen says his company has more projects in the works that are “centered on conversation” but for the moment has been learning more about what sorts of prompts are effective. He is not even bothered when users chime in to criticize a question. “It still got them to write,” he says. “We’re grist for the mill. We’re just trying to elicit some kind of response.”

In Praise of Urban Dictionary

The first time I used Urban Dictionary, the online open-source dictionary of slang, I was looking for “timbos.” I thought I knew what the word meant — Timberland boots — but I hoped to discover whether timbos were still part of hip-hop style or had reverted back to being the farmwear I’d known as a kid. (The usage example put to rest my query: “Man when we was runnin from the cops my timbos felt like air nikes on me.”)

At the time, my larger question was whether timbos, or anything else, could ever go back to the farm once they were anointed in song by the Wu-Tang Clan. Maybe the dictionary would also give my childhood’s unprintable but banal barnyard slang for the same boots. It didn’t. I found a related entry that defined “tools” as people who wear Timberlands stylelessly and “think that they are ghetto when they are actually quite white.” After only a few minutes and some minimal triangulation of entries, I felt pretty confident about where the boots stood between farm and ghetto, the ’80s and the ’00s, tool and cool.

That’s a lot of service from this exquisite and unorthodox resource, and it’s not atypical. With more than four million definitions submitted so far, and 2,000 more coming in every day, Urban Dictionary is a stunningly useful document that unlike most media is made and used by actual young people — in droves. The site had 15 million unique visitors in April. In a typical month, 80 percent of its users are younger than 25. The population with the biggest ego stake in slang — divining it, protecting it, practicing it, spreading it, declaring it over — actually creates and patrols the content.

Almost perversely, Urban Dictionary avoids most of the standard dictionary apparatus. You won’t find information about parts of speech, etymologies or even standard spellings in it. Its sensibility, in fact, borders on the illiterate, which must be a first for a dictionary. It’s also packed with redundancies and made-up entries. This chaos seems to please Aaron Peckham, the company’s founder and chief executive. “Wikipedia strives for its N.P.O.V. — its neutral point of view,” he told me by phone. “We’re the opposite of that. Every single word on here is written by someone with a point of view, with a personal experience of the word in the entry.”

Better, then, to accept at the outset that Urban Dictionary is not a lexicographical project at all. Its wheelhouse is sociolinguistics. It’s a quick way for 9-year-olds to learn without embarrassment what “T&A” is and an equally discreet way for boomers to study the nuances of “booty.” A ranking system means that the best definitions make it to the top of the list. Clunkers swiftly fall to the bottom.

But this community policing doesn’t mean that Urban Dictionary contains only actual words. Far from it. An entry is often likely to be an ad-hoc neologism, invented just for this dictionary. Many contributors, then, aren’t defining pre-existing terms but rather suggesting communities in which impressive, funny or complex experiences are so common that they demand a shorthand to designate them. Language groups whose arcane customs are hinted at in Urban Dictionary include corporate travelers (“ghetto upgrade”), pinball fans (“going multiball”), social networkers (“inbox rot”), dinner-party hosts (“buffer guest”), beer drinkers (“déjà brew”), laid-off workers (“canniversary”) and observant socializers (“you wastin my minutes”).

These neologisms serve to crystallize and critique entire experiences or social subsystems. A “pornocchio” is someone who exaggerates his sexual experience; post this “definition” and you’re one up on the world’s pornocchios. A “manicorn” is the mythic female-friendly hero of romantic comedies like “Say Anything.” Coining the word doubles as ribbing the genre and debunking the fantasy.

Peckham started Urban Dictionary in 1999 when he was a freshman at California Polytechnic State University. Among the first definitions on the site was “the man,” which the site now defines this way: “The man is the head of ‘the establishment’ put in place to ‘bring us down.’ ” Urban Dictionary has chugged along through Web booms and busts. As an online linguistic resource, it now rivals the supremely self-conscious Wikipedia. And though Urban Dictionary is widely considered the best place to privately educate yourself about indelicate pop phenomena, it also has no trouble attracting ads, including ubiquitous Google links to sites like Timberland.com.

The home page has a backward-running catalog of the site’s Word of the Day, which Peckham chooses himself. Most evoke social scenes through inside jokes. Or not so inside; not anymore. The dictionary has cleverly incentivized subcultures to show their hands and publish their snickers and asides.

Why would so many kids want to give up their jargon? Maybe they’re chasing a “neologasm,” which was the Word of the Day on Jan. 14: “the pleasurable feeling from having coined a new word.”

12 agosto 2009

Hayao Miyazaki moves beyond good vs. evil plots

Once the standing ovation died down, anticipation among the 6,500 people packed into a Comic-Con convention hall in San Diego was almost electric as they waited for the first words from the silver-haired alchemist of animation, Hayao Miyazaki.

To the opening question from Pixar leading light John Lasseter about how he develops his stories, the white-jacketed, 68-year-old director replied, "My process is thinking, thinking and thinking -- thinking about my stories for a long time." Then with an impish smile, he added, "If you have a better way, please let me know."

His answer sparked laughter and affectionate applause, if little revelation, and foreshadowed much of what was to come in Miyazaki's ensuing West Coast tour before thousands of fans in the last week of July, a visit that provided rare U.S. exposure for the reclusive Japanese creator of "My Neighbor Totoro," "Princess Mononoke" and the Oscar-winning "Spirited Away."
Before a sold-out crowd of 2,000 at UC Berkeley, "Japanamerica" author Roland Kelts asked Miyazaki about the perception that "true evil . . . if it exists, is very hard to pin down in your films."

The good-guys-versus-bad-guys formula often falls through the rabbit hole in Miyazaki stories, particularly the ones that suggest a moral philosophy in their portrayals of individuals caught in conflicts between destructive civilization and a mysterious powerful Nature. Kelts pointed to the wizard father in Miyazaki's newest film, "Ponyo," comparing him to Shakespeare's Prospero as "more of a troubled man than an evil one."

Miyazaki responded: "To have a film where there's an evil figure and a good person fights against the evil figure and everything becomes a happy ending, that's one way to make a film. But then that means you have to draw, as an animator, the evil figure. And it's not very pleasant to draw evil figures. So I decided against evil figures in my films." Again, laughter and applause.

Miyazaki, who refused to come to the U.S. to receive his Oscar in 2003, came this time, a bit reluctantly, to help promote Disney's Aug. 14 release of "Ponyo," about a goldfish princess who falls in love with a human boy and strives mightily to become human herself. Tickets quickly sold out for the man Lasseter has called "the greatest animation director living today, the greatest director living today." Many American children have spent hours on repeated viewings of "Totoro" -- featuring a cat-bus and a forest creature shaped somewhat like a giant pear with fur.

Many settings

Miyazaki's settings vary -- a contemporary Japanese seaside town in "Ponyo," a European-type village of the late 19th or early 20th century in "Castle in the Sky," and a post-apocalyptic community clinging to a medieval existence in "Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind."

But all his films share a painterly aesthetic, hand-drawn with nuanced colors and exacting frame composition, to enhance his fantasy worlds that often blend myth, environmental destruction, shape-shifting spirits and complex human characters. The leading roles belong to independent-minded, resourceful young females, and several films reflect conflicted views of technology, partly embodied in fanciful flying machines seemingly dreamed up by an eccentric genius from the Industrial Revolution.

He has also spawned a growing body of academic analysis. "There are more people writing papers on Hayao Miyazaki in the United States than any other Japanese artist that I'm familiar with," said Frederik Schodt, a manga expert and co-translator of the newly published English version of Miyazaki's book "Starting Point." Miyazaki's "films are both popular and subversive, especially in regard to conventional gender coding," writes Tufts University professor Susan Napier.

While Miyazaki "bristles" at being described as the Walt Disney of Japan, Napier finds similarity but also key differences in the animation pioneers. Both sometimes draw on stories from other cultures, but unlike Disney's tendency to imbue the characters with American values, Napier says, Miyazaki creates "characters that, while retaining certain characteristics linked to Japanese society, are distinctively more independent in thought and action than the group-oriented characteristics traditionally celebrated in Japanese culture."

Similarly, Miyazaki himself reflects and stands apart from his society. His enormous popularity in Japan stems in part from his unsurpassed mastery of animation, a medium embraced by the culture at large and, at its best, regarded as more intellectually ambitious than its American counterpart. At the same time, in an environment that stresses group harmony, the outspoken director can be sharply critical of others in his field and unafraid of challenging traditional views, whether related to women's roles or espoused by the ruling political conservatives.

And if you want to avoid his disfavor, don't call his films "anime." He calls them animation or manga films, saving the term "anime" for quickly made products of lesser quality, largely for TV.

One reason for fascination with Miyazaki may be his contradictions. The director whose films typically end with an uplifting affirmation of humanity suitable for children is the same director who told his Berkeley audience, "It would be wonderful if I could see the end of civilization during my lifetime." The man who is able to entrance children, and adults, with his animation is the same one who complains about children spending too much time with virtual reality instead of being outdoors in nature.

UC Berkeley honored Miyazaki with the Japan Prize, first given last year to writer Haruki Murakami, for contributions to the understanding of Japan. Miyazaki provided further fodder for academics in his brief acceptance remarks, which consisted of an extended metaphor about those in the entertainment field needing to insert a pipe down through the sheets of paper full of data and figures that fill our daily lives. "We have to start fishing from way down below where there is no paper," he said through an interpreter. "And the only way that we can really justify our presence and our work is to continue to make this effort to make this hole and go deeper and deeper."

He is highly revered in Japan, where the top-grossing films are typically American, except in years when Miyazaki's work is showing. "Ponyo" led last year's list, grossing about $160 million, nearly triple the amount pulled in by the top U.S. film, "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull."

Limited U.S. audience

And though he's also popular in the world at large, his work has seen only limited release and ticket sales in America. While "Howl's Moving Castle" grossed $230 million internationally, it pulled in only $4.7 million in the U.S.

But this time Disney is staging its largest ever Miyazaki debut with "Ponyo," in more than 800 theaters, and has assembled a constellation of talent for the dubbed voices, including Cate Blanchett, Matt Damon, Tina Fey, Cloris Leachman, Liam Neesom, Lily Tomlin and Betty White. The leading children roles, the goldfish/girl named Ponyo and the boy Sosuke, are voiced by Noah Cyrus (Miley's younger sister) and Frankie Jonas (kid brother of the popular singing trio). The dubbing is the only difference from the original, in line with the policy of Miyazaki's Studio Ghibli that no cuts or other changes be made for the international market.

But is "Ponyo" representative of his work as a whole? The G-rated film seems targeted to young kids, with 5-year-olds as the two leading characters. GhibliWorld.com, a fan site, notes "an obvious change" in "Ponyo," where "character designs are clean and simple and shadows seem to have disappeared."

Asked if he is concerned about American audiences seeing "Ponyo" as typical of his work, Miyazaki said in a brief interview, "What I've been doing in a sort of haphazard way without much thought before, I've tried to clarify in 'Ponyo.' " For example, he said, Studio Ghibli returned to sole reliance on pencil drawing in "Ponyo," abandoning limited use of computer graphics in some films to supplement Ghibli's trademark cell animation. He didn't mention that he did a major part of the drawing himself.

What about those who see deep meaning and mythology in his work? "I don't intentionally make deep movies," he said. "It's not that I set out to make films that deal with myths, but as I develop the story, aspects of older stories or myths enter into the story."

Nor does he seek inspiration in the contemporary work of others in his field. "I don't read manga anymore, I don't watch movies, I don't even watch the animation of my friends these days," he said. When he did watch films, he says in his book, he was "hardly a high-brow person," preferring the Charlie Chaplin film "Modern Times" to art-house movies. He makes films, he says, for Japanese audiences, particularly children, and is happy when audiences abroad also enjoy them.

And if he seemed at times like Coyote Trickster during his visit, he can also be frank and refreshingly honest. Why didn't he come for the Oscars in 2003 but came this time, including appearing at a sold-out tribute to him in July at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences? "In 2003, I didn't want to come to a country that had just started bombing Iraq," he said. "This time it's an order from my producer that I come." He chuckled and added, "Combined with my friendship for John Lasseter."

LA Times

Lego to get its own toy story movie

The enormous 100ft Lego tower thought to have broken the world record for the tallest tower was made from 500,000 bricks at Legoland, Windsor in 2008.

A 5,922-piece Lego replica of the Taj Mahal, considered to be so tricky that only those over the age of 14 are recommended to tackle it.

It's Salvador Dalí and his Lobster Phone by The Little Artists, who've also created other miniature artists like Damien Hirst and Gilbert and George.

Great moments in Lego history

Transformers sparked Hollywood's love affair with toy-based action movies two years ago, followed by current box-office hit GI Joe. Now another playtime favourite is to get the big-screen treatment – yes, it's Lego: the Movie.

The film is being put together by Warner Bros in association with the Danish toy manufacturer, Variety reports. Lego has famously been fiercely protective of its property in the face of regular Hollywood overtures, but warmed to the idea of a family-oriented flick embracing its key values of fun, creativity and boundless imagination.

The Lego System of Play was born in the small town of Billund back in 1955, but it wasn't until the patented studs-and-tubes mechanism that we know and love today was launched in 1958 that the toy really took off. It has twice been named Toy of the Century and today, seven sets are sold per second.

The Lego movie will be a mix of live action and animation – presumably CGI, though the idea of a stop-motion take has a certain appeal. Dan and Kevin Hageman, who wrote forthcoming CGI feature Hotel Transylvania, about a rooming house in which Frankenstein, the Mummy, Dracula and the Werewolf hide out after the 21st century casts them into irrelevance, are penning the script. There's no director yet attached and no cast, though the red spaceman from 1985's Lego Space Shuttle Fuel Truck Kit is said to be angling hard for one of the main roles.

Apart from Transformers and GI Joe, other toys set to invade the multiplexes (if Hasbro and Mattel have their way) include He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, Monopoly, Candyland, Battleship, Stretch Armstrong, View-Master, Max Steel and Hot Wheels.



We belong to a remarkably quirky species. Despite our best efforts, some of our strangest foibles still defy explanation

But as science probes deeper into these eccentricities, it is becoming clear that behaviours and attributes that seem frivolous at first glance often go to the heart of what it means to be human.

1. Blushing
Even Darwin struggled to explain why we would evolve a response that lets others know that we have cheated or lied

2. Laughter
The discovery that laughter is more often produced at banal comments than jokes prompts the question, why did it evolve?

3. Pubic Hair
Scent radiator, warmth provider, or chafe protection? The answer to why humans have clumps of hair in private places is still open for debate

4. Teenagers
Even our closest relatives, the great apes, move smoothly from their juvenile to adult life phases – so why do humans spend an agonising decade skulking around in hoodies?

5. Dreams
Today, most researchers reject Freud's belief that dreams are expressions of our unconscious desires – but if that's the case, what are they for?

6. Altruism
People still debate whether humans are genuinely altruistic by nature, but if we are, most agree it doesn't make evolutionary sense

7. Art
Sexual display, learning tool or form of social glue? Art still refuses to be pinned down

8. Superstition
Many of us have superstitions – odd, reassuring habits that make no rational sense – but there may be an underlying reason for such behaviour

9. Kissing
The urge to kiss is not brought about by genes, so why do we find it so pleasurable to share saliva?

10. Nose-picking
Many of us do it, but eating bogeys offers little nutritional reward – could there be a health reason for the unappealing habit?

New Scientist

Lost in fashion? Consult this A-Z

Since clearly I am not Lost in Translation(s), why not?

A is for ARGOT Nothing makes you feel more like a tourist than not understanding the locals, and fashionland has a language all of its own. Viz: anti-fit (definition: clothes that don’t fit); “channelling” (copying); “investment bag” (expensive bag); “pieces” (clothes); “product” (clothes and accessories); “editing” your wardrobe (throwing away old clothes); “pricepoint” (price); ferosh and/or fierce (rather nice). Some terms are beyond translation — “directional”, for example. Nobody seems to be entirely sure what that means.

B is for BLACK “The new black” became the new shorthand for “the next big thing” in the early 1980s, when minimalism and Kraftwerk ruled, and lots of people wore black. The phrase stuck, even when only undertakers wore black. Soon, though, “the new black” will once more be literally accurate: 2010 promises to be a very black year, hue-wise. So right now, “black is the new black”. Once that passes, something else will be.

C is for CATWALK In The Times, “catwalk” only acquired its fashion sense in 1967. Before then, it was used to mean any vertiginous walkway, referenced in stories about anything from unfortunate construction workers to up-for-auction, fattened cattle.

D is for DESIGNERS Designers are fashion’s prime movers, around whom all various satellite species — stylists, photographers, models, PRs and journalists — cluster. The role of these subordinate castes (except on occasion the journalists), is to make the clothes look good. The top-tier designers — Giorgio Armani, Karl Lagerfeld, Miuccia Prada and Dolce & Gabbana — have created brands that will endure beyond them, as Versace and Chanel did. The mid-level superstars, such as Alexander McQueen, Matthew Williamson, Stella McCartney and Marc Jacobs (see J, for Jacobs) are approaching immortality. And then there is a third tier, whose stars rise, then fall again. Two years ago Sophia Kokosalaki was golden. Now, after an extended maternity leave, it’s Phoebe Philo (the former Chloé mastermind) who is about to rocket back to prominence with her new gig in charge of Celine this autumn.

E is for ELEGANCE The watchword of Coco Chanel, who said “elegance is refusal” — a more elegant way of saying less is more. She may have had a Nazi moment, but hey: Coco is (fashion-phrase alert) having a moment right now, thanks to two competing French biopics.

F is for FASHION WEEK Almost every city has a fashion week, from Asunción to Zagreb, with scores more beginning B to Y in between. The biggies, though, are New York, London, Milan and Paris, which have two fashion weeks per year. In the spring, designers present their collections for the autumn/winter season ahead. In autumn, it’s time to focus on spring/summer. This lead time allows buyers to choose what they want for their shops in six months’ time. The upshot for journalists is an unfortunate temporal dissonance; they get to tell the world about winter coats at the beginning of summer, and come September it’ll be about next year’s floaty dresses. This is either “fashion forward” (directional) or confusing, depending on your interpretation.

G is for GRAZIA Less expensive, more accessible and with a higher (weekly) turnover than its monthly competition, the fleet-footed Grazia has undercut its rivals to become the Topshop of fashion mags. That, as well an unswerving dedication to gracing its cover with Kate Moss, Victoria Beckham, Madonna or Angelina Jolie has made it Britain’s best-read fashion magazine. Yet Grazia itself is soon to be undercut by Stylist — the Primark of glossies? — a new, free weekly fashion/gossip glossy due for its debut later this year.

H is for HIGH STREET MEETS HIGH FASHION There were catfights at the cash-tills when some of the most successful fashion collaborations of recent years — Celia Birtwell for Topshop, say, or Stella McCartney for H&M — went on sale. Expect more unseemly consumption when Jimmy Choo for H&M, Jil Sander for Uniqlo and Roksanda Ilincic for Whistles go on sale in the next few months. These high street/high fashion collaborations have been (here’s another fashion phrase) very now for a few years (now), so fashionable celebrities (Kate Moss for Topshop, Madonna for H&M) got involved too. It’s not an entirely new phenomenon, though: back in the 1960s Twiggy had her own line and Pierre Cardin designed a branded collection for Miss Selfridge.

I is for INSPIRATION The September issues of all the big glossy fashion mags were published last week, and the fashion calendar dictates that this is when the new year’s trends are identified. Before identifying a trend, though, the mags try to pinpoint what has “inspired” the clothes.Vogue says: “designers are being inspired by the metropolis, with tarmac-black leather, architectural lines and barbed-wire details”, which sounds like a young offenders institution by Le Corbusier.

J is for JACOBS, MARC The most influential fashion designer of the decade, according to lore, Jacobs is the creative director of Louis Vuitton, has two lines of his own and proudly sports a SpongeBob SquarePants tattoo. Victoria Beckham once said that his collections are “diametrically opposed, yet completely signature,” which does, if you unravel it, kind of make sense: same-same but different.

K is for KIDSTON, CATH Profits are up 58 per cent to £4.6 million for the queen of pseudo-homespun comfort consumables. Soon you really will be able to make it yourself: her new book on sewing will be out just in time for Christmas. Kidston is design’s chintzy personification of the middle classes’ new Keep Calm and Carry On mindset.

L is for LONDON The subtly belittling orthodoxy is that alongside New York, Paris and Milan — the other three in the big four of fashion capitals — the main attraction of London Fashion Week is its “wit”, “energy” and “fun”. This is a polite way of saying that we lack Paris’s pure fashion credentials, the economic brio of Milan, or the slick production and marketing know-how of New York. Pshaw: who wants to be the quirky underachiever? But this year, London is aiming higher.

M is for MODELS Fashion still likes its human canvases very tall and extremely narrow. The newsflash in model-land is Simon Fuller’s acquisition of a majority stake in Storm Model Management, the agency that launched Kate Moss and represents Lily Cole and Eva Herzigova. Fuller has said that he hopes to “push the boundaries, blur the lines and redefine what a model agency should be in this fast moving world, where fashion is playing an increasingly important role in setting and reflecting cultures and tastes.” So expect new modelling reality shows and model-manned girl groups.

N is for NEW TRENDS Big shoulders, slim trousers, animal prints, minimalism, and velvet are all ongoing trends that show little sign of receding. This slow turnover of trends might in itself be a trend as designers try to offer customers clothes that represent long-term value – and not pieces that next year will be hopelessly last year.

O is for OBAMA, MICHELLE That hair, that on-the-money fondness for cardigans – those arms. The First Lady has been the most referenced fashion cipher of 2009, and that doesn’t look like changing.

P is for PRONUNCIATION Even if you’re starting to master the language of fashion, getting the pronunciation wrong will instantly mark you out as a hopeless parvenu. And there are minefields everywhere, from Kinder Aggugini to Junya Watanabe, via Dries Van Noten (it’s “dreece”), Anna Sui (Swee), Hedi (NOT Heidi) Slimane. Then there’s Ann Demeulemeester (take a deep breath and go for it), Nicolas Ghesquière, Proenza Schouler, Loewe, Hussein Chalayan and Azzedine Alaïa.

Q is for QUILTING Those Coco Chanel films are having their effect: quilting is having a mini-moment on the high street — as per Peacocks’ £15 quilted wellington boots.

R is for RECESSIONISTA Along with chiconomics, recessionista is the key fashion phrase used when doffing one’s fascinator to the inconvenient and unglamorous global financial crisis. Christian Lacroix is the highest profile credit crunch fashion victim so far — but he’s not quite down and out yet. And as Lisa Armstrong recently reported from Paris, there are apocalyptic rumblings about the prospects for haute couture itself.

S is for SOMERSET HOUSE For five days in September this Palladian masterpiece will be home not only to the Inland Revenue, but the 25th anniversary London Fashion Week, shaping up to be the grandest on record. Headline shows include the return of Burberry, Jonathan Saunders, Pringle and Matthew Williamson, who are revisiting London after earlier defections. The question is, will they stick around beyond the brouhaha of the anniversary celebrations?

T is for TELEVISION Fashion TV is the world’s only channel dedicated to following fashion. It broadcasts via satellite from all the big fashion jamborees to millions of households in 192 nations. It could have proved a useful teaching aid, had it not focused so fixatedly on certain areas of the models’ anatomies.

U is for UNIQLO The British high street’s most recently arrived fast fashion (that means affordable) retailer is responsible for the virulent outbreak of multicoloured jeans on our streets. Founded in Hiroshima 25 years ago, this “Japanese Gap” combines a cheap (but not morally troubling, Primark-cheap) pricepoint with accessible, pared-down minimalism.

V is for VOGUE The September 2007 edition of American Vogue ran to 840 pages — the biggest issue in the magazine’s history. Two years on and it’s more dash than cash: advertising is down and the August 2009 issue highlighted “steal of the month” and “fashion’s quick fix for $19”. But get ready for a happy flashback to those decadent days: The September Issue, a fly-on-the-wall documentary following its notorious editor, Anna Wintour, as she put that 2007 milestone together is released in cinemas next month.

W is for WAITING LISTS People are still lusting after must-haves that they can’t yet get. There’s still, apparently, a waiting list several years long for the £30,000 Hermès Birkin bag in crocodile skin. At the other end of the scale, a hefty queue is already signed up for a new line of Gap sheepskin boots.

X is for X-FACTOR The “x-factor” used to be a common enough phrase, especially when applied to zeitgeist-capturing models.Since the rise of Simon Cowell’s talent show format, however, there has been a notable downturn in its usage. Try using “wow-factor” or — why not? — “directional” instead.

Y is for YESTERDAY Call it recycling, call it “channelling” or call it uninspired, much of today’s fashion is about rediscovering yesterday’s. Designers are often inspired by the “archive” (old collections), and their formative years. Skirt suits, which were big in the 1940s, are a trend for autumn/winter 2009.

Z is for ZOOLANDER Forget Pret-a-Porter or The Devil Wears Prada: Zoolander is the most inspiring fashion film out there. Personally I'm channelling Owen Wilson’s character, the male supermodel Hansel, who says: “Do I know what I’m doing today? No. But I’m here, and I’m gonna give it my best shot.”


11 agosto 2009

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus - First Trailer

Find Equilibrium ;)

below is an example, not functional on this page, click on
TRANSLATION PARTY to start partying ;)

Start with an English phrase:

let's go!
Screw you, guys, I'm going home
into Japanese
back into English
Screw, Everyone, I'm going to go home
back into Japanese
back into English
Screw, Everyone, I will go home
back into Japanese
back into English
Screw, Everyone, I'm going home
back into Japanese
back into English
Screw, Everyone, I'm going home
Equilibrium found!
Shame on you, by the way.

Found thanx to JC via Twitter

Festival Sudoeste: Coverage in English ;)

Go to Mawalien Invasion

Or to Já Cheiro o Samádhi

I just stole this:

09 agosto 2009

As Divinas Comédias - Raul Solnado RIP

Primeiro episódio já online:

A RTP-1 decidiu mesmo antecipar a transmissão integral da nossa série As Divinas Comédias, o último trabalho do Raul Solnado, que apresenta os episódios com o Bruno Nogueira. Ontem foi transmitido o primeiro episódio, que fazia um breve historial da comédia na televisão portuguesa; hoje fala-se de personagens e bordões que ficaram para a História; o episódio de amanhã, 2ª feira, fala de autores e actores e, finalmente, no episódio final, na 3ª feira, fazemos uma lista, construída com base em opiniões de pessoas ligadas ao humor, de elementos do público e da própria equipa do programa, contendo os melhores e mais emblemáticos sketches de 50 anos de comédia televisiva nacional. Estes sketches do último episódio passam quase todos na totalidade, o que, vistas bem as coisas, faz do episódio 4... o programa de humor definitivo da História da TV! Parece-me que é inédito ver uma corrente imparável de sketches reunindo numa hora, e em grande forma, os talentos de Raul Solnado, Herman José, Ivone Silva, Camilo de Oliveira, Nicolau Breyner, Gato Fedorento, José Pedro Gomes, António Feio, etc...

Encaixar em quatro horas cinco décadas de humor televisivo foi uma tarefa titânica de pesquisa, escrita e montagem, quase levando esta equipa a um esgotamento colectivo, mas ficámos felizes com o resultado. Dedicamo-lo ao Raul: durante as gravações dos episódios mandou a doença às urtigas e deu o litro, quase como se tivesse a idade do Bruno.

Há Vida em Markl


07 agosto 2009


Methinks this is my first post about a videogame, but it is, in and of itself, different ;)

(and it proves my Poetry and Technotronic labels are not conflicting...)

The developer that brought you the award-winning PLAYSTATION Network title flOw is back with another concept that challenges traditional gaming conventions. Flower expands the team's tradition of delivering simple gameplay, accessible controls and a medium to explore emotional chords uncommon in video games. In Flower, the surrounding environment, most often pushed to the background in games, is pulled to the forefront and becomes the primary "character." The player will journey through a beautifully vivid and changing landscape in this fresh and genuine game only on PS3.

The game exploits the tension between urban bustle and natural serenity. Players accumulate flower petals as the onscreen world swings between the pastoral and the chaotic. Like in the real world, everything you pick up causes the environment to change. And hopefully by the end of the journey, you change a little as well.

The goals and journey in each level vary, but all involve flight, exploration and interaction with the worlds presented to you. Using simple SIXAXIS wireless controls and by pressing any button, the player controls the lead petal and accumulates a swarm of flower petals as he moves at his own pace within the environment, causing the on-screen world to change. Flower's gameplay offers different experiences, pacing and rhythm to all players. Along the way, the environment will pose challenges to the player's progress.

Both pastoral and at times chaotic, Flower is a visual, audio and interactive escape on PS3.

One thing in common

All Creatures

Des Bijous Parfumés, quelle idée!


A farmer in Utting in Germany has turned a field of hemp into a giant maze that looks just like comic book characters Asterix and Obelix

Self Energy

What a delightful logo!
And, yes, it's a brilliant idea ;)

I want to watch it LIVE

Don't forget to click on Watch Footage :)

Expo 2010 Shanghai

06 agosto 2009

This Woman Is Dangerous

The essential American soul," wrote D.H. Lawrence in a celebrated description, "is hard, isolate, stoic, and a killer." Of course, he was talking about Natty Bumppo and similar rough-and-tumble frontier spirits. By contrast, the amoral Tom Ripley—novelist Patricia Highsmith's most famous character—is easygoing, devoted to his wife and friends, epicurean, and a killer only by necessity. By my count, necessity leads this polite aesthete to bludgeon or strangle eight people and watch with satisfaction while two others drown. He also sets in motion the successful suicides of three friends he actually, in his way, cares about. Yet aside from an occasional twinge about his first murder, Ripley feels no long-term guilt over these deaths. (Tellingly, he can never quite remember the actual number of his victims.) He was simply protecting himself, his friends and business partners, his home. Any man would, or at least might, do the same.

Tom, as his indulgent creator tends to call him, first appeared in The Talented Mr. Ripley (1955). This was Highsmith's fourth published book, preceded by three highly original novels. In Strangers on a Train (1950)—later filmed (and softened) by Alfred Hitchcock—two men, hitherto unknown to each other, "exchange" murders, Bruno agreeing to kill Guy's estranged wife in return for Guy doing away with Bruno's hated father. Each will consequently possess a perfect alibi. In The Price of Salt (1953, published under the name Claire Morgan) the nineteen-year-old Therese falls in love with the married Carol—and perhaps for the first time a novel about lesbians ends happily. In paperback this story of "a love that society forbids" sold over a million copies. In The Blunderer (1954) Highsmith fully established what would become her trademark theme: the blurring of fantasy and reality, usually reinforced by some sort of folie à deux, in which two very different people, almost always men, grow symbiotically obsessed with each other, ultimately to the point of madness and mutual destruction. In this case, a successful murderer is undone because a blundering fool hopes to emulate him.

By the time Highsmith (1921–1995) came to write The Talented Mr. Ripley, she was just entering her thirties. Born in Texas to an overbearing mother whom she grew to loathe, Highsmith attended Barnard College during World War II, where she studied Latin and modern languages, edited the school newspaper, and read widely in American and European literature. From an early age, she drank hard, fell in and out of love with various women (and one or two men), and rather quickly came to understand her own severe and private nature. Far more than Tom Ripley, she fits that Lawrentian description of being hard, isolate, and stoic, especially in her later years, when she grew increasingly cranky and notorious for her caustic remarks and prejudices. In her youth, though, the novelist was more outgoing and distinctly attractive, albeit in a slightly butch way. In Highsmith: A Romance of the 1950s her one-time lover, Marijane Meaker, describes her as "tall and thin. Black, shoulder-length hair, with dark brown eyes. She looked like a combination of Prince Valiant and Rudolf Nureyev."

Highsmith lived all her life by her pen and typewriter (an Olympia manual), starting off by producing copy for comics and later turning out a steady stream of suspense and horror stories, many of which appeared in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine. Her novels never became popular in the US. Here she might sell only four thousand copies of, say, Edith's Diary (1977)—and ten times that number in France or Germany. Little wonder that she preferred to spend her later years in Europe. The English-speaking world might casually slot her as a writer of crime fiction, but Europeans honored her as a psychological novelist, part of an existentialist tradition represented by her own favorite writers, in particular Dostoevsky, Conrad, Kafka, Gide, and Camus. (That astute critic Brigid Brophy once called her a Dostoevsky "whose gifts include humour and charm.") Highsmith's books, after all, explore human souls in extremis, chronicle men and women sliding toward breakdown, probe the fluid nature of identity, and generally conclude that life is little more than an absurdity and a cheat, when not a downright horror.

Such a bleak outlook makes even Highsmith's best work upsetting and, to some readers, distinctly unpleasant. Yet she's seldom graphic in her brief descriptions of violence and she never depicts the details of sexual encounters. The hallmark of her work is a calm, hallucinatory intensity built on sentences of unemotional plainness and clarity. Her hypersensitive protagonists, logically, inexorably, spiral downhill from ordinary anxiety to murderous rage and madness. Like animals keenly alert for invisible traps or New Yorkers in the first uneasy months after September 11, Highsmith's characters move through their lives with an ever-increasing and sometimes justified wariness. Graham Greene famously called her "a poet of apprehension" who had "created a world of her own—a world claustrophobic and irrational which we enter each time with a sense of personal danger."

The Talented Mr. Ripley opens like a classic suspense thriller (with a subdued echo, in fact, of the first sentences of Graham Greene's Brighton Rock): "Tom glanced behind him and saw the man coming out of the Green Cage, heading his way. Tom walked faster. There was no doubt the man was after him." Tom, who at this time is little more than a jumped-up petty crook, has been defrauding people of Internal Revenue payments, and is naturally worried that the police might be onto his scam. It turns out, however, that the stranger merely wants to talk about his wastrel son Dickie Greenleaf, who is idling his life away in Mongibello, Italy. After Tom plays up an extremely tenuous connection to Dickie, he is offered a free trip to Mongibello, with all expenses paid. His commission, like that of Lambert Strether in The Ambassadors, is to bring home the wayward scion of this wealthy family.

Highsmith actually refers twice to Henry James's novel, which provides the general plot line of the book's first half. But the reader soon starts to pick up on other, darker, literary and psychological associations. In Mongibello, Tom grows enchanted with Dickie's lifestyle and rich-boy nonchalance; before long, he unconsciously begins to mimic his new friend, copying his mannerisms, even trying on his clothes. And he's very good at all this, having first come to New York intending to launch an acting career. Before long, it's hard not to be reminded of doubles and doppelgängers, of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, of Poe's "William Wilson," of back-stabbing theatrical understudies and Jungian shadows. Nothing good, it's clear, can come of this mirroring, this psychological vampirism. At least nothing good for Dickie, who—shall we say—just happens to die rather suddenly. For Tom, it's another matter.

On the simplest level, the second half of Highsmith's book describes an elaborate con game, in which clever Tom contrives to pass himself off as the dead Dickie Greenleaf. This requires some elaborate masquerading. But Tom has developed a taste for the high life, for fine clothes, expensive objets d'art, first-class travel, and various other amenities, and he'd rather die—or kill—than give them up. Meanwhile, Highsmith ratchets up the tension as Tom twists and turns, struggling desperately to outwit the police, while we are insidiously made to sympathize with him, as if he were Richard Hannay on the run in John Buchan's The Thirty-Nine Steps or the unnamed hero of Geoffrey Household's cat-and-mouse pursuit classic Rogue Male.

Yet despite all its suspensefulness, The Talented Mr. Ripley when viewed from a slightly different angle approaches the comic: Tom must switch from one persona to another like a vaudeville quick-change artist, even as the plot complications start to recall classic farces about the mixups resulting from mistaken identities. In the later Ripley novels Highsmith will play up this mordant gallows humor. Thus it's oddly pleasing to remember that when she worked at Yaddo (on Strangers on a Train ), two of the other young artists in residence there would become famous for a similar kind of grotesque comedy—the anarchic crime novelist Chester Himes and the Southern Gothicist Flannery O'Connor.

Between 1955 and 1970, Highsmith produced nine novels, including two of her best: This Sweet Sickness (1960), about a man who leads an increasingly vivid fantasy life with his imaginary lover, and The Tremor of Forgery (1969), set in Tunis, about the tensions between some expatriates and a deeply alien Arab culture. As in work by Camus and Paul Bowles, the action unfolds against a landscape of heat and mirage and fuzzy moral ambiguity. The Snail-Watcher and Other Stories, Highsmith's first and best story collection (of eight), appeared in 1970. That title story is something of a classic among aficionados of gruesome horror, while another, "The Terrapin," is an almost unbearable portrait of a callous mother driving her sensitive young son to murder.

In 1970 Highsmith also brought out Ripley Under Ground, and thus established Tom Ripley as a series character. Set five years or so after the death of Dickie Greenleaf, Tom has settled down into the quiet, cultivated life he had always dreamed about. He owns a beautiful house called Belle Ombre some forty kilometers from Paris. He has a treasure of a cook-housekeeper named Madame Annette. More surprisingly, he is happily married to the beautiful twenty-five-year-old Heloise, though their relationship seems more companionate than passionate. Tom quietly spends most of his time gardening and listening to music, improving his French and German, and occasionally visiting neighbors for dinner. In the evenings he sips Margaux while admiring the art on his walls—a Soutine, drawings by Cocteau and Picasso, two Magrittes, and a pair of exceptional paintings by (the fictional) Derwatt, whose intensely expressionist vision resembles Francis Bacon's.

Of course, one of Tom's Derwatts—Man in Chair—is a fake.

Despite payouts from a Greenleaf trust and Heloise's allowance from her businessman father, Tom has become a silent partner in a lucrative art forgery operation. He also occasionally assists a shady American named Reeves Minot, who works as a fence and smuggler in Hamburg. Besides the useful income, these associations provide Tom with occasional excitement, allow him to meet new people, and generate the plots of this and the three subsequent Ripley novels.

Ripley Under Ground focuses directly on the question of what, if anything, is authentic, whether in personal relations or art. After the rising young painter Derwatt quietly committed suicide, a small group of his friends schemed to pretend that he had merely emigrated to Mexico. (This is, in essence, a variant on Tom's old trick of convincing people that Dickie Greenleaf was still alive.) Gradually, the "reclusive" artist's work was sold off for ever-escalating sums. Then at Tom's suggestion, Derwatt's friend and disciple Bernard Tufts was reluctantly persuaded to start producing a steady stream of "new" paintings. These prove virtually indistinguishable from actual Derwatts.

With understandable annoyance, Tom hears from the Buckmaster Gallery—operated by the little syndicate—that an American collector named Murchison believes his Derwatt to be a forgery. He's starting to make a fuss and risks exposing everyone linked to this lucrative scam. So Tom travels to London, where he disguises himself as the bearded Derwatt and attempts to allay Murchison's suspicions. His acting skills haven't deserted him: "Tom smiled the worn, philosophic smile of a man who had gazed upon Mexican mountains, alone, for years." Still, Murchison senses that something fishy is going on, so Tom—now out of disguise—persuades the collector to come take a look at his two Derwatts at Belle Ombre. Murchison is never seen again.

All this, essentially, provides the frame for our antihero's interactions with the forger Bernard Tufts. Just as Tom once copied Dickie Greenleaf, so Bernard copies Derwatt. Alas, over the years Bernard has grown increasingly moody and despondent, convinced that his forgeries have betrayed both his idol Derwatt and his own talent. Yet Tom reminds him that his imitations are so good—and they give their owners genuine aesthetic satisfaction. Why should anyone have qualms? Besides,

if one painted more forgeries than one's own paintings, wouldn't the forgeries become more natural, more real, more genuine to oneself, even, than one's own painting? Wouldn't the effort finally go out of it and the work become second nature?

Clearly, this is Tom's own case: he may have started out by imitating Dickie, but he has ended up the cultivated and artistic self he longed to be.

While Tom revels in masks and disguises, the deeply troubled Bernard yearns to escape from his divided and suffering self. He despises all this sham. By contrast, Tom actually prefers his phoney Derwatt to his real one. And isn't pleasure the only real criterion that matters?

Fakery, though, suffuses every page of Ripley Under Ground. Tom pretends to be Derwatt. Murchison appears to catch a plane at Orly. An effigy of Bernard is found hanging by its neck. A supposedly dead man rises from his grave. Bernard is haunted by what seems a ghost. In this counterfeit world only the pragmatic Tom thrives, for he alone recognizes that there is no distinction that matters between what is real and what is only apparently real.

In 1974 Highsmith brought out the third volume of her loosely connected sequence, Ripley's Game. Six months have passed since Ripley Under Ground, and Tom has resumed his civilized, easygoing life as a country gentleman. But one night at a party he's snubbed by a local art framer named Jonathan Trevanny. Trevanny, Tom knows, is suffering from leukemia and has between six and twelve years to live. He also has a French wife and a little son to provide for. So when the smuggler and fence Reeves Minot needs a favor—a matter of killing a couple of Mafiosi—Tom immediately refuses, but insidiously suggests that the respectable Trevanny might be tempted.

Unlike the other four Ripley novels, this one isn't presented wholly from Tom's point of view. Much of the first half of the action follows Trevanny, as he goes about his daily life, worries about his health, and mulls over Reeves's crazy, devilish proposal. It's just impossible. He's no killer. Still, close to $100,000 would provide for Simone and little Georges. And doesn't he have a responsibility to them? Slowly, Highsmith traces the corruption of an ordinary man. In essence, she implies that any of us, however moral and upright we think ourselves, might become a Tom Ripley, given the right incentive.

Alas, as so often happens in a Ripley novel, after the first murder, another is required. But the second, Trevanny learns, can only be committed on a train, up close, with a garrote. Convinced that he will fail, Trevanny nonetheless agrees to try and—to his surprise—succeeds, albeit with some unexpected help. Unfortunately, a bodyguard survives and before long the Mafia comes calling on Reeves, Trevanny, and Tom.

Much of the action in Ripley's Game occurs in Hamburg, even as other novels in the quintet take the reader on whirlwind tours of Italian seaside towns, Salz- burg, Berlin, and Tunis. Repeatedly, Tom responds to that common feeling—I experienced it strongly when living in Marseille during my early twenties—that once we step away from our familiar circles, we grow exuberantly, amorally free. Even crimes don't seem quite real in Italy or North Africa.

As a result, the Ripley novels can sometimes appear more fantastic than realistic, as artificial as commedia dell' arte, as unlikely in their vertiginous plot developments as a P.G. Wodehouse novel. After a double murder in Ripley's Game, Tom can temporarily abandon the corpses in his living room and settle down to a steak and a glass of beer. In the midst of general mayhem, he can pause to appreciate his backyard:

He took a stroll around the garden, gazed with some pride at the strawberry patch which he had recently snipped and weeded, and stared at three burlap sacks of dahlia roots that had been kept over the winter and were due for planting.
Even when preparing to defend his house against attack, he preserves an enviable insouciance:
Sorry, but I'm not used to discussing my plans. I usually play it by ear. But if you're willing, would you hide yourself in the shrubbery to the right of the door here—it's thicker on the right—and clout anyone who walks up and rings the doorbell?

It could be Bertie Wooster speaking.

Neither Bernard Tufts nor Jonathan Trevanny can achieve a comparable nonchalance or blitheness of spirit: they are respectively the earnest art forger and the down-to-earth art framer. Tom alone is a supremely confident artist, a master of improv. While everyone else leads a derivative life, shaped and bound by the actions of others, he remains utterly free. One never quite knows what he will do next. The man actually laughs during times of crisis, even in the middle of a murder. He's sometimes made to seem like a folkloric trickster or a pagan god, living in the moment, beyond good and evil. In Ripley's Game Tom actually functions as a deus ex machina, first setting the so-called game into motion, then appearing from out of nowhere at crucial times; he's depicted as bathed in a celestial light and finally even glimpsed speeding along in a car "like God himself."

In The Boy Who Followed Ripley (1980) Highsmith describes yet another unsuccessful Tom Ripley wannabe. Sixteen-year-old Frank Pierson has actually pushed his rich, disabled father over a cliff, though the world thinks the hateful old man's death an accident. Still, Frank is racked with guilt, and, having read about the old Dickie Greenleaf murder, unexpectedly turns up at Belle Ombre looking for sympathy and guidance. While Tom had been the corruptor of Jonathan Trevanny, here he becomes Frank's protector and alternate father.

After learning the truth about the death of the elder Pierson, Tom comforts the boy by telling him:

The act shouldn't be devastating—to the rest of your life. There's no reason to collapse.... Do you understand what I mean? You either let some event ruin your life or not. The decision is yours.—You're lucky, Frank, in your case the decision is yours, because no one is accusing you.
Later on, Tom further clarifies his principle of personal freedom:
Every mistake in life, Tom thought, had to be met by an attitude, either the right attitude or the wrong one, a constructive or self-destructive attitude. What was tragedy for one man was not for another, if he could assume the right attitude toward it. Frank felt guilty, which was why he had looked up Tom Ripley, and curiously Tom had never felt such guilt, never let it seriously trouble him. In this, Tom realized that he was odd. Most people would have experienced insomnia, bad dreams, especially after committing a murder such as that of Dickie Greenleaf, but Tom had not.

Alas, Frank—like Bernard Tufts and Jonathan Trevanny—finds his burden of guilt almost impossible to bear. Only what is clearly his growing love for Tom keeps him from buckling under.

In Ripley Under Ground and Ripley's Game, Tom's sexuality had been presented as tepidly conventional: he and Heloise make love, though not often. As Tom says,

He couldn't have borne a woman who made demands several times a week: that really would have turned him off, maybe at once and permanently.

That he can even support a woman's touch shows a kind of progress. In The Talented Mr. Ripley the least hint of lovemaking between Dickie and his girlfriend Marge would drive Tom berserk. In three of the later novels, Tom simply prefers the company of men, some of whom are probably gay though few are identified as such.

But in The Boy Who Followed Ripley, the homosexual subcurrent becomes manifest: Tom reads Christopher Isherwood's Christopher and His Kind, Frank prefers to sleep in Tom's bed without changing the sheets, both want to be in the other's company all the time. Even Heloise suspects that there's something odd going on. In the middle of one particularly idyllic day, Frank speaks of his happiness in language that Highsmith deliberately compares to "the words of a lover."

Still, after kidnappers target the young heir to the Pierson fortune, Tom persuades a reluctant Frank to return to America and restart his life. For a final treat, though, they decide on a short holiday in Berlin. There the two happily visit gay bars and nightclubs. Tom—who has already played many roles in life—finds himself fascinated by the drag queens. "No wonder Berliners liked disguises! One could feel free, and in a sense like oneself in a disguise." Before the novel's end Tom dons a dress and heels—but ostensibly for reasons other than sexual excitement. The criminal, like the artist, must wear a mask.

Throughout these Berlin chapters, Highsmith celebrates the camaraderie and high spirits of homosexual life, deliberately contrasting its sensitivity and affection with the selfishness and careless extravagance of Frank's upper-class family. Social satire of this sort is common throughout Highsmith's work, but most contentiously in her later novels, in which she savagely depicts America as a land of sanctimony and barbarism. A Dog's Ransom (1972) presents New York as an urban cesspool; People Who Knock on the Door (1983) shows small towns as seats of hypocrisy and religious fanaticism. By contrast, her very last book, the fairy-tale-like Small g: A Summer Idyll (1995), again depicts the caring relationships among a group of Zurich homosexuals and bisexuals.

Highsmith's penultimate novel was also her final Ripley book. In Ripley Under Water (1991) Tom has reached his late thirties. He still lives in comfort with Heloise, enjoys delicious meals prepared by Madame Annette, gravely discusses his compost with gardener Henri the Giant, and looks forward to his weekly harpsichord lessons: "The thing about Bach," as he says, "is that he's instantly civilizing. Just a phrase...." Aside from the occasional favor for Reeves, Tom's sordid past seems far away. And then the Pritchards appear.

While many of Tom's earlier victims had been louts or vulgarians, David Pritchard is certainly the worst of the lot. He's crude, abuses his wife Janice, and lacks even a modicum of taste and all sense of propriety. Pritchard is, in effect, Tom's grotesque opposite, the dark-half embodiment of everything he hates and yet might have become without Dickie's money. When Tom visits the couple in their rented house, "the canapés were melted cheese bits stuck with a toothpick." There are even hints of a sadomasochistic marital relationship—a whip and chains are later found in the house's basement—and Janice frequently seems on the verge of hysteria. As Tom remarks, with delicious irony, "I don't understand cracked people."

In general, the five Ripley novels present a theme—the obsessive Tom–Dickie relationship of the first book—and four variations on it. While young Frank Pierson revered Tom Ripley and wanted, in some sense, to become him or at least win his approval, David Pritchard arbitrarily, impulsively decides to make Tom's life a living hell, to harass him with phone calls ostensibly from Dickie Greenleaf (who has been "found and resuscitated"), and, finally, to stalk his every move. As Janice Pritchard tells Tom, "David just likes to see people wilt—if he can. If he can make them wilt."

In due course, Tom attempts to escape from Pritchard's unwanted attentions by going on holiday to Tunis with Heloise and her friend Noëlle. (I have sometimes wondered if Highsmith means to hint that Heloise, as well as her husband, is drawn to her own sex; she is constantly visiting and traveling with Noëlle.) There Tom—who over the years has disguised himself as a rich expatriate, a grizzled painter, a French police officer, and a drag queen—slips into an Arab djellaba and deals, temporarily, with Pritchard. But the madman is indefatigable, and when Tom returns home he learns that his nemesis has hired a boat and is dragging all the local waterways for the body of Murchison, last seen in Ripley Under Ground. One morning a burlap sack is deposited on the doorstep of Belle Ombre. It contains a headless skeleton wearing Murchison's ring.

By this time, Tom's sigh is almost audible to the reader: Pritchard has simply given him no choice. And so he acts.

Ripley Under Water concludes Highsmith's strangely lighthearted thrillers examining the unstable nature of modern identity. Of the five novels the first is certainly the strongest and this last by far the weakest. Any of them can be faulted for improbability. Nonetheless, Tom remains such a wickedly attractive figure that it's always a treat to pass a few hours in his company. After all, he's been called the most charismatic psychopath in modern literature. To me he seems rather like a dapper criminal in an Ernst Lubitsch film: while he may occasionally resort to violence, Tom also knows that "courtesy and politeness were seldom a mistake." Even now he doubtless continues to reside in placid, civilized comfort at Belle Ombre.

Of course, the talented Mr. Ripley had his predecessors—"The Thrill Boys," one of the preliminary titles for the first novel, suggests the notorious Leopold and Loeb case of the 1920s—and critics have compared Tom to the dream-haunted and criminal Jay Gatsby, as well as to Dreiser's Clyde Griffiths, who drowns his girlfriend in An American Tragedy. I myself wonder about the possible influence of comics. The young Highsmith wrote copy for Batman, who—like nearly all the other superheroes—leads a double life: dapper man about town by day, but with a darker, more complex night life than the neighbors realize. As for Tom Ripley's successors, they are like the sands upon the seashore: all psychopaths are charming and well-mannered nowadays. In fiction, at least.

There was a time when readers were outraged that Highsmith never judges Tom, indeed quite likes him, even identifies with him as a fellow artist. (She occasionally signed letters or books "Tom/Pat.") Like Oscar Wilde, Highsmith insisted (in Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction, 1966) that

art essentially has nothing to do with morality, convention or moralizing.... I find the public passion for justice quite boring and artificial, for neither life nor nature care if justice is ever done or not.

In this regard, Anthony Minghella's 1999 film of The Talented Mr. Ripley not only shows the young Tom as motivated largely by homosexual feelings (rather than envy and cupidity) but also further distorts the character by making sure he's punished and his spirit broken. This isn't the Tom of the novels, who never feels anguish or regret about anything. The best approach to life, Highsmith seems to say, is a kind of blithe nonchalance. Those whom the gods wish to destroy they first burden with guilt.

Over the last thirty years there have been several attempts to establish Patricia Highsmith as a major American writer. Unlike the successful campaigns for the once neglected Dawn Powell and the once marginalized Philip K. Dick, this hasn't quite happened. Still, the English critic and novelist A.N. Wilson has speculated that

when the dust has settled and when the chronicle of twentieth-century American literature comes to be written, history will place Highsmith at the top of the pyramid.

That seems exaggerated, but The Talented Mr. Ripley and its companions should at least rank among the most perversely entertaining novels of our time.

The NY Review of Books

I translated several short-stories by PH,
collected under the Portuguese title
Contos Póstumos
, in 2005.